seminary

Unearthing...

Unearthing...

One professor, one I trust as a friend and mentor, noticed this and decided that I needed something different. I needed space: space in which to experience respite from fighting against something. He felt that, in all my efforts of fighting against, I'd been afforded little time to discover what it was I've been fighting for, or more importantly, what I've been standing on

Red light special Jesus...

Red light special Jesus...

My Jesus doesn't hang out with the cool kids, with the best dressed. He hangs out in the slums, on the corners with the tranny prostitutes and the meth addicts. He spends time in the psych wards and the VA hospitals. He loves all people, and it's not an easy love. It's a love that takes something out of him, that leaves him feeling drained and depleted at times. He spends time with those who don't know how to receive love much less love themselves. The whores. The junkies. The thieves. The criminals. The poor.

Know and be known...

Know and be known...

The fact is that to know yourself and to let your self be known by others is a gut-wrenching, vulnerable, nerve-wracking process. It often includes tension, drama, and conflict (all three of which I despise greatly). But rarely does this conflict come up, I think, because we inherently dislike or detest someone else. It surfaces because we see something in them that makes us feel something about ourselves. Yet when we refuse to be vulnerable, to "risk engagement," we put ourselves at risk for emotional atrophying and decay.

Can I be both...

Can I be both...

There are days where I just want to force myself to let go of the label of Christian, and there are days where I can't help but hold onto it white-knuckled. It is a label, an identifier, that means the world to me, yet it comes with so much baggage some days. I love Jesus. I love talking about him. I love asking questions about the meaning of his teachings, about the significance of his life both for those in his immediate presence and for us today. I love the idea of a community gathering together around the table, learning to love each other amidst the messiness of life, learning to show grace, to forgive. A community whose mission and identity is wrapped up in the idea that God loves all of creation and invites creation to reciprocate that love. A community that recognizes the brokenness that exists in the world, and who wants to be a part of the ways in which God is working to redeem that brokenness, heal the wounds of the world.

Making nice with Moody...

Making nice with Moody...

I love talking theology, but over the years as my own theology has been transformed and become broader in scope, I've been hesitant to engage those whom I believe to be more conservative than myself, fearing rejection or ostracism. However, these new friends were nothing short of kind and loving, even as I made statements and theological claims that most "evangelicals" would consider staunchly blasphemous. One of the group members asked me about the tagline on this site, the whole "thoughts and ramblings of a self-avowed, practicing heretic." I told him that, as I understand it, heretics are not necessarily wrong in their beliefs. They simply came out on the losing side of a theological debate. They are the minority, the marginalized, and as such, I'd prefer to align myself with them than with the doctrinal majority, even if we disagreed. That is why I identify the way that I do. It's about empathy. It's about solidarity.

Unexpected Gifts: doubt

Unexpected Gifts: doubt

Life does not happen without questions. They're inevitable. Communities that make space for questions are often healthier, more vibrant, and certainly more nurturing than those who stifle them, burying them beneath the surface of our collective consciousness. More important than questions, healthy communities must make room for something else, for a word that has become riddled with connotations of weakness and failure...

Plagiarizing prayers...

Plagiarizing prayers...

I've been plagiarizing my prayers for a while now, taking a little from here, a little from there. I purchased Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. I found the knotted-twine Anglican rosary given to me by my in-laws and found a series of prayers to accompany them. My friend Abe loaned me his copy of Book of Hours by Thomas Merton. At first I felt bad about this, but then I realized something...

The necessity of change...

The necessity of change...

We live in a world that is constantly changing, and not always for good. But the reality, the inevitability of change, gives me hope that someday, our world can be transformed into what it can be, what it should be, and what it needs to be for us to see God's kindom fulfilled and made wholly manifest. I want to be a part of change, not just sit by and watch it walk past me unnoticed. I want to facilitate it, and I recognize my inability to do this alone. We need change. Our world needs change. We need each other to make it happen.

Innards...

Innards...

My innards are on the outside, and I don't know how to take the next step. Do I walk forward with them hanging on the outside, or do I try to stitch myself before progressing? Can I do the stitching, or do I have to rely upon the God who ripped me open in the first place to perform surgery? What should I expect of those around me while I'm undergoing this change, while my guts collect dust and dirt? Do I tell them to keep walking—I'll catch up. Do I ask them to wait? Do I let them go altogether? I honestly and sincerely don't know.

Perspective...

Over the past few years, I've learned something really intriguing. For many of us, we learn who we are through the eyes and words of others. Some of us are able to develop a sense of self in a mostly independent fashion. The rest of us need a little bit of help. Unfortunately, our own brokenness often keeps us from seeing others as they truly are, especially those part of them that we might envy or feel missing within ourselves. When someone else's wholeness makes us more aware of our own lack of wholeness, we have a tendency to put on blinders.

I strongly believe that every single person suffers from some level of brokenness, but I also strongly believe that every person is capable of wholeness. Even more importantly, I think we all carry a piece of the Divine within us... a God-mark. I've been blessed to have a number of people in my life who could see that God-mark within me and told me so, most often during times where I was really struggling to see it in myself. When I can't see it in myself, it's often harder to see in others. In fact, when I don't feel it myself, I tend to project my lack of self-worth onto those around me. Thankfully, over time, I've learned to become more cognizant of this tendency and become more able to stop it mid-process.

Being in seminary, something about the environment tends to bring the depths of our brokenness out. It takes a lot to endure having your beliefs and presuppositions deconstructed and torn down. Sometimes, it gets the better of you. Now in my third year, I've witnessed a good amount of frustration in myself and in my peers during this journey of deconstruction. Often, it ends up getting directed at others (I do this as well... I'm not placing blame). The stress of being transformed turns us into something other than who we are... something angry, violent, judgmental... something weary, worn-out, burdened...

The biggest danger we face is a lack of self-awareness... a lack of perspective. When in a place that's strange and unfamiliar, we can't see who we are, and by proxy, we can't really see who others are. It's like being in a funhouse, full of mirrors that distort us and make us feel discombobulated. We have to be careful... we have to know that we're all on this journey together, and that we still all have that divine breath inside us. Everyone feels shattered from time to time. We can't take that out on others, especially those who seem more whole to us. When we speak to each other, we need to do so in love. When we make another person aware of a way in which they are manifesting brokenness, we need to do so gently, with compassion and understanding... even when we don't want to. Let's face it... one reality of being human is that we don't always like everyone we meet (for various reasons). But we are called to love them... a call that is not always easy.

Imagine what the world would look like if we engaged with others from a place of love and a presupposition of worth. Imagine if we put our whole selves out on the table, and in kind we respected and valued when others do the same instead of attacking their vulnerability because we're fearful of our own. Imagine being able to trust the ways others perceive us because we trust their love for us. Imagine telling others of the wholeness we see in them... both a wholeness already present, and a wholeness prophetically spoken into existence by the hope we carry within us. Imagine being a part of making someone else whole... of making everyone else whole...

How's that for a change of perspective...