Already Included #71 – Who Told You?

By: Sarah Nyhan

Would you even know if there was the concept of such a place as the interpretation commonly referred to as “hell” if nobody ever told you?

In that logic, what happens to you if nobody ever tells you about this “hell”? That’s it? Off to the eternal BBQ pit for you?

That doesn’t sound like a Shepherd that leaves the 99 to go find the last little sheep. Or The One who submitted to our twisted call for “justice” executed through an unfair trial and the torture and murder of an innocent Man. Just to prove we have nothing to be afraid of. Perfect love casts out fear.

Is the god you worship so impotent that He just gives up and leaves it up to us? Jesus said to focus on love and be as children. And yet your god expects us to get it right or else? For ourselves? For others?

I used to preach that, but I couldn’t even live it. And I’m not buying it anymore. I need God to be bigger than me. Than anything I can bring to the table.

Is it possible to experience God for real? Or did Trinity stop being personally interested in us when Jesus ascended? Does God only check in to correct us or to give us the infrequent attaboy? To drop by and bounce out after giving us a bone every now and then? Or is God right here, right now, caring about the things that concern me? Concern you?

Do we worship a book or do we worship The Creator? Is it possible that God could even personally speak to our hearts? Our minds, our spirits? Not just through a few men and their interpretations?

Whenever I go outside the city, I start to see and hear again. My peace returns. My joy. Not to turn that encouragement into yet another element of dogma. Just saying.

And I do believe in hell – don’t have to go very far to find it these days. Just not an eternal literal BBQ pit for all of those kids that didn’t get it during this human experience. Pastors and preachers INcluded.

Already Included #69 – Old Shirts

By: Sarah Nyhan

I wanted to wear my shirt from yesterday just for a few minutes this morning because I didn’t want to dirty up a new shirt before I showered.

When I went to put the old shirt on from yesterday, I couldn’t even keep it on for more than a few seconds. I took it off immediately.

There was no problem with the shirt yesterday when I put it on. But it’s a new day and I could just feel yesterday hanging onto that shirt like a second skin. Ugh!

Made me think about wineskins again. And manna. How we grow and change as people. And in our relationship with God. Just like babies and children biologically change and grow. What was yesterday’s was meant for yesterday. Today is a whole new thing.

I’m that person who appreciates comfort. I don’t understand the concept of feeling shame for wearing an outfit more than once. On the contrary, I wear my favorite jeans and t-shirts once a week. They have to literally be falling apart for me to get rid of them.

I’m like that with life sometimes also. With people more specifically. I’ll hold on until it’s tearing me apart too much. But sometimes the people for yesterday aren’t today’s people. Sometimes the way we thought yesterday is not where God is leading us today.

Not that He changes. No, this is about healing. And no condemnation; Trinity is well able to reach everyone. What I’m focused on is my business. My healing. One step at a time.

What is the manna for today? Will I embrace the mysteries from the safest place inside my Father’s heart? Is my trust in “certainty” or is my trust in Jesus? Is my trust in an intellectual knowing or is my trust in Trinity’s heart? Is my trust in my understanding or is my trust in my God’s love?

Already Included #68 – In Action

By: Sarah Nyhan

Things were overall going well today. Then I exposed myself to some people from a past life per se. A life that currently appears all but dead.

And at first there were a lot of good things. But slowly, just like before, a word here, a word there… Before I even knew it, even though I was trying to watch out, I rapidly slipped and fell down the slope.

Thankfully not very far and not for very long. Which is a miracle, really. I think it’s endurance. Trial by fire. The more I choose life, the more aware I am when death comes knocking. It’s repulsive to me now when I realize it.

This time it only took a few minutes to get through the mess. I was having such a good day and then my mind did a 180 after the exposure. It was so jarring. I didn’t want the feelings and thoughts at all. They were unfortunately too familiar. I had no desire to do yet another round in the ring with them.

So I followed my own advice from yesterday. I cried out in brutal honesty. And faster than I could get the words out, Comfort swooped in to wrap me up in assurance and perfect love! Unlike the hours, days, and weeks I can spend if I insist on spinning my own wheels.

Some of the helpful thoughts: “Start with what you know.” Well, I sometimes feel like I don’t know much else than Jesus loves me. “That’s a great place to start!” If Jesus loves me then I matter. And what I want matters. Then remembering that I don’t have to be strong enough; I can trust God to be bigger than me. Back on track.

The specifics really aren’t the point so much as sharing it as an example of yesterday’s encouragement worked out in real life. Hope in that respect. Sometimes seeing it in another can help when we’ve yet to experience it for ourselves. Me included.

But back to the beginning, a few things came to mind.

More and more I understand not being able to put this new wine in the old wineskins. It just doesn’t work.

And also even further back to the first garden. Maybe it was a real tropical paradise. But I choose to see it more as a picture for us. (Easier to remember in a culture that passed on information orally. I find more freedom in reading the stories more literarily than literally these days.)

And so I am now leaning to the garden being a picture of our mind. Maybe even our hearts. And the directive? Guard it. Take care of it. Kinda be jealous over this space given to you by God. So we’re not deceived. Only for our good – individually and collectively. (Not at all about an ego.)

Religions take this to the next level. Mostly good intentions gone too far, in my opinion. I don’t think it has to get that crazy or complicated. I think the answer is much more simple. Just like they initially did in the garden story: simply be with God. No formulas.

This is about relationship. Real relationship. The kind you crave but don’t even dare to let yourself think about after so many disappointments.

People say be with Jesus and then they turn that into a list of stuff to do. Like even go to church, pray, or read the Bible. No, I’m talking even more simple than that. I’m talking simple enough for a child.

What do you do when you want to spend time with someone? You just meet them and usually talk with them. That simple.

You don’t even have to believe. Trinity will gladly take even your unbelief. Very welcome as more honest than most, I would bet. Don’t we long for those we feel safe enough to be our real full selves with? God is that big. Even bigger. You were already fully known and loved before you even could disappoint youself. God does not change. We are the ones constantly invited to return Home.

I think this is about healing. I think this is about love. I think we’ve got a lot to learn. But never any condemnation.

Ask and you shall receive. And then hold on for the ride. 😁 The adventure of really living out loud and in color. New and fresh every morning. I haven’t experienced any other option that remotely comes close to satisfying. By design.

And yet there is a lot of hope. Not willing that any perish. Not content to leave even one little stinky smelly sheep behind. Preparing a table for us. Finishing what He starts! That, my friend, will give you wings to soar, to risk taking flight.

How little do we think of God? Where did we fall down along the way? What is He doing even now?

God, thank You! I want us to see as You see, hear as You hear, know Your love for us, experience it so personally that the intellectual is unnecessary, and then be able to share that hope starting with those we love. Healing this amazing gift You have given us. One beautiful person at a time. A real rEVOLution.

Already Included #65 – Forsaken

By: Sarah Nyhan

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the primary question we as the human race struggle with is: are we alone? Did our Creator spin us out into the cosmos and leave us to ourselves? Is He a deadbeat dad who sends occasional greetings, takes us on a few weekends, and sends the minimal amount of support to keep us surviving? Or is our Abba more?

We treat others the way we believe God treats us. I think of many men in my life who treat me how their fathers treated them. They seem quite unaware that they have understandably but incorrectly confused the character of the god their fathers represented with the character of their true God the Father.

Picture the plot as a movie.

The first scene is Job. Doing his best. Thinking he has to appease a diety in order to secure the well-being of his loved ones. Surely a man of his means would be well-acquainted with hard work. And things go well enough for awhile. But then disaster strikes. After years and years dedicated to trying to stay on top of things, loss after loss. And to add insult to injury, the others that seem to live a life of flippant disregard stand in judgement and maybe even comfort as we seem to be drowning in suffering. I think Job, like I imagine most all of us, judged God and said at least in his heart, “You have forsaken me. You have left me alone.”

That sets the theme for the movie. The bulk of the rest of the movie fleshes out the problem for us. We get very invested as it progresses.

The next scene in the movie is Adam and Eve. Maybe Adam first. Standing in the garden. Naming the animals. This beautiful garden. These amazing animals. But no physical partner for himself. Maybe it was then that Adam judged God and said, “You’re not good, God.” Maybe God then said, “It’s not good that Adam be in this state of feeling separated from Me.” Maybe Eve was sent to help Adam come back to realizing who and Whose we truly are.

This is not necessarily Biblical, but many Bible teachings paint Eve as this beautiful supermodel, and I now wonder if Adam, who was and is very good, woke up to an Eve that was less than he hoped for. Maybe he was unimpressed. Maybe he resented God for giving him THIS woman to take care of. Maybe he wanted to be worshipped instead of doing any work. Maybe he wanted a mother more than a wife.

And maybe in the excitement of the newness of it all, Eve, who was and is still very good, was unphased for awhile. But maybe Adam’s attitude grew on her after awhile. Maybe the hours she spent with him grew more weighty in terms of the time she spent with God. Maybe she got lost in Adam’s treatment of her.

And maybe they both, eyes focused on the appearance of things, eventually turned to their own strength. That turning being the turning away from God; and more to the point – unto themselves. And each other.

Maybe Adam’s feelings of abandonment cried out as, “You’re not good, God. You left me alone with all this work and then you gave me THIS woman! Look at her. How could you do this to me? After all I’ve done for You. I trusted You. I guess You don’t care. I guess it’s all up to me. So fine, forget You. I’ll go take care of myself.” Out of his mind. Literally. Off to futile attempts to save himself by working the wrong gardens.

Then we have Eve. Maybe her feelings of abandonment looked like, “I thought I knew You loved me, Lord. I thought I knew where We were going with this, where You were taking me. I followed You here. I trusted You. But look how this man is treating me, how he is hurting me. Do You even care? How am I supposed to save him? How am I supposed to save myself? I know I am here for a reason. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I will do better next time.” As she follows Adam out into his delusions. Both of them buried in the work of their own hands.

And so it continues. The next scenes of the movie are more of the same. Each character, each generation wrestling with the same question in different ways. All getting right up to that breaking point between logic and… And what? I like to think of it as THE deep calling in our souls. The jump. To welcome the mystery. To let go. I feel like the rest of our joy, the real explosion of the full manifestation of our existence, lies just over that line. Of holding onto ourselves versus letting ourselves be held.

But I cannot do even that on my own. I am just a child. My faith in my own faith has been proven inadequate time and time again. Where is this Jesus I hear about who can save me? Who can save us?

He hung on a cross we constructed for Him. He did not arrive and lead us out of Rome. He did not bring back our children. He did not give us the spouse of our dreams. He did not give us dominion over our oppressors. He did not feed and clothe us so that we could sit at His feet and watch the world go by.

No, this Jesus’ arrival was very different. I call it healing now. But it rarely looks that way to my broken heart. It looks a lot more like work. Like the painful practice of digging shattered glass out of a wound and sewing it all back up again. One stitch at a time. Coming back and back and back again to soothe the pain and nurture life back into what was torn and ripped apart. Making sure the slightest burn of a wick is not snuffed out. Righting and rehabilitating every bruised reed.

But I find myself woefully inadequate for this, God. That seems more like Your department. I am only Your child.

And that is the point. The pinnacle of the story. The climax of the movie.

The camera pans to Jesus hanging on a torture and annihilation device that we constructed for OUR JUDGEMENT of Him. His head torn apart by thorns we ripped into His skin. The blood soaking His hair and pouring down His face. Strips of skin and muscle torn off of his torso, back, legs and arms as He stood while we whipped Him mercilessly. “Here, after all that, carry our murder weapon on Your back all the way up that hill where we will humiliate You by hanging You naked for all to see. This is what we think of You.”

Naked. Just like in the first garden. Redeeming every last bit. Willing that none should perish.

And He stood there. He took it. He could have called down legions of angels. But he walked towards us. He embraced us in the midst of OUR rejection.

And then AS US, he hung on that tree. Cursed by us. And he shouted out what we shout out: “My God, why have You forsaken me?!”

Plot twist! “No one knows the Father except for Me.”

All of Psalm 22. Not just the first few verses.

No one knew the REAL Father, the REAL Abba except Jesus. He hung on that tree AS US. To show us we have nothing to fear! Not death, not each other, not even ourselves, and certainly not our Creator God. Who took it all when we gave Him our worst. When we give Him our worst. He wasn’t mad then. And He isn’t mad now. We threw our worst punch and He didn’t flinch. He doesn’t flinch. We are just toddlers who don’t understand. He knew that and He knows that. We are still very good. He has never been done with us.

Jesus came back. He lived a life we can live. He showed us what Life is available for and to us. A more abundant Life. That WE are invited to step into. To grab a hold of. To enjoy. To reclaim what has always been and always will be ours for the taking.

Not that His sacrifice was insufficient and He expects us to lay ourselves upon the altar of everyone else’s abuse and depravity. No, I am not suggesting that formula or any other. There will be trouble, but I think it’s a lot more simple: start by receiving God’s love. We can practice this even now. Even if it means calling out to a Father we maybe don’t even yet let ourselves acknowledge we long for and asking Trinity to help us know, see, hear, and more importantly experience Truth and Love.

If it is true what they say, He is The God who sees, who hears, who listens, and who does not turn away. I can’t do that for you. Maybe my words are sometimes beautiful. But I’m just a messenger. This God, this life, is about relationship. Real relationship. And all the messiness that entails. You are already included. As you are. Because of exactly who you are. Not in spite of.

This Abba does not do abandonment. This Dad never stops scanning the horizon in anticipation of celebrating our re-turn-ing. Yes, His servants have it good. But Jesus doesn’t call us servants. He calls us friends. Spirit longs to have us rest in Their embrace. Are we willing? What will it take?

We live this story collectively. We live this story individually.

What else changes if Jesus came to show us what more is available to us? That how He lived in union with Father and Holy Spirit is exactly how we can also walk on this earth. That what He did, we can do. And more! Not through our own strength of course; but as we say what we hear OUR Father say, as we do as OUR Father does. Would that change the narrative?

I am just here to tell you that God loves me. And Trinity loves you also. And once you get it, once you really get it, once you’ve lived it and really experienced it, you will want everyone else to experience the same. It won’t feel like a chore. You won’t feel pressure or guilt. You won’t have to fake it. Your questions will be welcome and your honesty will be wanted.

You are wanted.

And just like most movies, there will be a final scene. Rarely the end of the story; most times a new beginning. And as for the Bible, I think the books after the Ascension showed very real humans wrestling with how to go forward. Highly likely that there were mistakes, if we go back to the judgement paradigm, along the way. But it’s all about relationship and healing.

So what if we look at Revelation in that light? Letting Jesus define everything. And letting Revelation be just the last scene of that particular movie. Like a good essay: Job telling us what we are going to be told. Genesis and all the other books doing the telling. Jesus the crux of the chiasm. His “why have you forsaken me” even more so. And then for all the love of God, Revelation just being symbolism (much lost on this culture) that simply tells us what we have been told. That simply unveils what happened in and to us.

There is no fear in love.

My friends, will you join me? I long to sit at the table in union with you. The celebration that never ends.

Already Included #59 – No Condemnation

What an adventure. Trinity never ceases to amaze me.

I pictured Peter tonight. It sounds to me like he left his day job to follow Jesus. Jesus who looked like a human man, but Peter undeniably saw something different about this man. Peter probably heard all the gossip, all the naysayers, all the arguments against Jesus. And he tried his best. He dove in head first. He knew there was something Divine about this Jesus. Who leaves their day job to follow someone around without a plan? Surely Peter experienced God.

But then they are sitting in the garden and here is his Hero giving Himself over to the bad guys. To all the people who were fighting against them. Jesus just gives Himself up. I imagine Peter must have been so confused.

Here he left his job, defended Jesus to probably so many, maybe even his loved ones doubted his decision to join this rough group of followers without a plan. Just going here and there without any concrete outcome.

I mean these people come from and are surrounded by and were born into a very concrete religious community. Their entire society revolved around this monumental structure of a religion. Every facet of their lives were defined by the religion.

And Peter has the audacity to break away from the system. Peter has the audacity to throw away everything he’s ever known. Peter has the audacity to stand up to the pillars in his society.

And then his Jesus, this man he was so sure about, just gives Himself over and seems to throw in the towel.

I imagine Peter watching from a distance thinking, “Any time now my Jesus is going to throw these dogs off His back and show them who is boss. Show them who the real God is.” But then he watches them beat Jesus mercilessly.

Maybe as they place the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, Peter says, “Surely my Jesus will save Himself now. He saved everyone else.”

Maybe even when they placed the cross on Jesus’ back.

Maybe even when they stabbed the nails into Jesus’ body on the cross. Maybe even then Peter still held to His Jesus saving the day.

But then the cry. Then the water from Jesus’ body as the spear was thrust inside.

I imagine the sick feeling in Peter’s stomach as the people took Jesus’ body down from the cross. Maybe the doubts screamed so loudly inside of him. Maybe all the memories of the gossip and the naysayers and the religious arguments came flooding back to him. Maybe the most insidious of all flooded his mind: logic.

Maybe the other followers stood looking at Peter for an explanation. Maybe he had to go home to his family who were already past their last bit of patience with him. And then this.

The darkness of the night settled in. The stone was rolled over the tomb. And Peter’s Jesus looked very much like a human man who was dead. And Peter may have thought he looked to many like a fool following a crazy man.

But the miracles? But all the experiences with Jesus? Peter had been so sure. But now his Jesus lay very much dead. And with Him all that Peter had invested. Everything. His entire life. His reputation. His friendships. He had been so sure. Why did Jesus let him down and leave him? Alone.

The silence the next morning must have been unbearable. The deafening roar of a million questions. Of all his doubts coming true: “What if I was wrong? I probably took it too far like they told me. I probably should have just watched from the sidelines. Now look at me. I have nothing. How can I ever recover from this? And more – my heart. How will my heart and mind ever recover from this? Who on earth will have me now?!”

The looks in the street. Maybe haughty. Maybe filled with disgust.

Maybe it felt like a giant kick to the gut back to square one. Starting all over again except this time even farther down. “Look at me. I’m not a young man. I should have known better. Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Maybe I made it all up. Maybe I should have listened to them and just settled down and into place.”

Where was his Jesus to protect him now from all the people with power? Where was his Jesus to provide for him?

Where did you go, Jesus?! Why did you let them do what they did? How will anyone believe in You now?

Peter didn’t know his Father. We don’t know our Father.

No condemnation. But maybe you can relate. I can relate.

No sin was committed. This has happened so that people may believe. And be free.

Trinity has the last Word! Not death. Not “logic”. Not earthly powers. Not even our doubts and especially our failures.

The grave could not hold Him!! All was not in vain! For Peter or for us.

But I imagine those three days of silence must have felt like the end of almost everything. And maybe it was the end of one of the most important things: all of Peter’s well-meaning strength. All of our well-meaning strength.

I want to believe enough, but I can’t. I want to trust enough, but I can’t. Even the strength of our faith is not needed.

I cried out in anger and frustration, “God, if You are really God then….” God showed up. God saw me. God heard me. Alive for another day. Not just in body. But I mean really alive. Another monument. Another deposit into my trust account.

I cannot manipulate God with my belief. It is not needed. Again, the Father’s heart, Trinity’s heart. Or otherwise it will never work out. If anything is dependent on me.

“Peter, lead my sheep.”

“But I failed You, Lord.”

“I never needed your strength, Peter. Go tell them how much I loved and love you. Even when you thought you had failed and screwed everything up. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them that their strength is not needed.”

Help us see, Father. Help us hear. Thank You that You already and always are!