Getting off the boat

 

I am trying to run away from everything lately. Last year, I was walking on water, but now I am sinking. While I have been sinking, all of you have been holding out your hands to pull me back up. I never have experienced community like I have at Wilshire.
I hear the Peter story differently now. A friend mentioned we are hard on Peter for sinking when he tried to follow Jesus on the water, but we forget he at least got out of the boat. It was scary. Jesus was there when it became too much. Taking risks knowing someone will be there when you fall is life everlasting.
The Houston Chronicle reportson sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention are causing me to relive some of my past trauma, but I am also living in hope we are going to cast it out. This problem is so large and heartbreaking and went covered up for so long by both the SBC and the Catholic church. This is real. What happened to me is real. The system made this a breeding ground for abuse.
The SBC and Catholic church are large and easy to spotlight, but this is happening in so many churches not affiliated that we must address it. My biggest concern is I am not hearing leaders of these organizations repent of their theology and grieve. I am hearing men explain what went wrong and what they will do better next time. Conservative theology in this way is blinding their sight to how this is playing out in public life.
They call the #MeToo movement secular but fail to connect it to #ChurchToo. These are related. Theology plays out in public life.
There is no separation of spiritual and secular. When the dominant faith organization in society is patriarchal and abusive, so is the society. The church is supposed to be counter-cultural by being the conscience of society, not the one grabbing for power and authority. The only authority we should live by is love. If love feels like hate to someone, then it isn’t love. Throw it away.
One faith leader said we needed less gloating and more grieving. Since when is faith a competition that we would gloat at someone’s demise? Who is gloating over massive abuse in a faith organization?
I think to start changing the narrative for women in church is to start telling the stories where Jesus was liberating them. This past Sunday, I got through my panic and led the class discussion on Mark’s Resurrection story. So much stood out to me, but the moment that makes me cry is when the woman (unnamed in Mark’s Gospel) is so moved by Jesus that she pours expensive perfume on his feet and wipes his feet with her hair. Her heart was overflowing with gratitude, and she gave everything she had to say, “Thank you.” The men wanted her scolded for wasting what could have been given to the poor. But Jesus responds by saying: “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
The woman anointed Jesus. Jesus lifted her up. Her faith believed in abundance. She gave everything for Jesus, and now her story is told forever. Jesus was there for this woman. He also was there for Peter.
Do we believe Jesus enough to give him everything — in gratitude and when we are scared?

 

Advent Thought

I’d join the movement if there was one I could believe in, yeah I’d take the bread & wine, if there was a church I could receive in, cause I need it now…..Bono

As I meditated on this passage of Deuteronomy, I felt my own story in the words.  Finding Wilshire came after a period of mourning.  I thought we were losing everything, but as I laid down in green pastures- strangers came to me and guided me through the night.  Our mourning turned into dancing Psalms: 11-12

Years ago, a friend and I would sit in church and say, “There is a better story than this”.  Little did we know the Spirit was listening to us, because she sent us on the ride of our lives not long after we started having these conversations.  Our journeys are very different now, but they are alive and full of gospel.  It took suffering for both of us to break free from the chains.  We had no idea we were enslaved, but not in the sense we usually think of being enslaved.  We knew there was a better story, but life was too comfortable for us to do anything about it.  People who are comfortable rarely change willingly.  It usually takes pain to take us to new territory.

When I was crumbling, not many around me knew what to do about it.  They felt for me, and were kind and would listen- but they had no idea how to handle what was happening.  I was surprised to find pastors on Twitter who did know.  They heard my pain, and walked me through it.  I listened to so many different points of view (not just from the christian faith) I had never heard before.  These views did not wreck my faith, they made my faith stronger.  There is a whole story that needs to come together.  When we get too familiar -we lose the plot.  We need the “other” to guide us back home.

These pastors and authors led me to the Moxie Matters Tour.  When I heard Mark Wingfield speak about Wilshire, I felt something in my soul move.  Could this be deliverance? I had heard a story I desperately wanted to tell, and I wanted a church home so badly–but there wasn’t a movement I could join yet .  I needed this to be true.  Our family showed up a month later, and I rushed to Mark to find out if this is true. It is true! We are at the place we can rejoice before God at God’s chosen dwelling place for us.

I had no idea this would turn into more than finding a church home.  I have been invited to write remembering where I have been, and feasting with those who had been rejected previously.  This is a holy experience. I feel Bono’s words deep in my soul too.  I remember this feeling all too well.  I want to pour my life out joining the movement too many like Bono are still craving.

 

 

 

 

Seeing the person more than the disease.

On Jan. 19, I attended A King Teach-In for the second year in a row — hosted by Wilshire and Friendship-West Baptist Church.
The first year I was brand-new to Wilshire. It was the same weekend Rev. Barber had come to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. We were not just honoring the legacy of “the dreamer,” we were speaking of the “drum major for justice” — and his work is not done. I was on fire. Finally, I had found my place that talked about this world, justice and participated in the larger family story.
The Teach-In has been equally powerful for me both years. The first year, I came by myself as I didn’t know anyone really yet. I sat at a table with members of Friendship-West and fell in love. They get excited like me. We jump up and down, hug and get all excited when truth is spoken. It is a balm to our souls.
Funny how just hearing truth spoken frees the spirit even before anything has been done to move forward. I think it is because we see each other face to face. We are saying, “I see you,” “I know the system is wrong,” “People from our community have hurt you and are allowing it to continue.” There is nothing like sitting together with a group of people who all want something better. We want life, and we want to do it together.
The most powerful moments both years were when a soul needed their pain personally spoken. I witnessed both moments sitting next to both people, and it is so holy it is hard to write.
The first year George spoke on white supremacy and privilege with boldness and courage. There was no watering it down to make it easier to digest. A sweet woman sitting at my table stood up and asked George: “What does your church think of you preaching like this?” It hit me hard how little the black community thinks white churches care about racism. She hugged me so tightly. She asked if I went to Wilshire. She wanted to come see a church that lets a white pastor preach like this. I hugged her right back.
The tiny glimpse of her pain and joy that I could imagine was knowing my own joy being at Wilshire after searching for someone who would speak against sexual assault. Hearing over and over again that it is wrong broke me free from the chains that had held me down in shame. So this hug was one of the most powerful I have ever experienced, and I will never forget it.
This year, the talk about government and advocacy was educational and enlightening. But when Freddy Haynes and George were taking questions, my friend mentioned how she wants to help ethically, but needed a creative way to do it based on her circumstances. Freddy caught what she meant. “Let’s talk about the immorality of a country that doesn’t pay school teachers enough to take a vacation,” he said. It was a moment. My friend tried to pass it off, but I was on my feet saying, “No, he is naming your pain.” I was hugging her.
This got me thinking — and when I think, I often go to Patch Adams. This movie is full of wisdom, and it is has guided my life in many ways. The joy Patch brought to the medical field (namely bringing light to the wisdom of those we label mentally ill). It is what I want brought to our world of faith. We have the best story, but so many are walking around in chains versus liberation and joy.
Patch Adams said; “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, you win every time.” I can’t help but think that is what we have done the last two years. We are naming the disease, as we should. We can’t ignore the disease. But maybe the most powerful way to treat the disease is seeing each other. It is infectious.
I know it changed me. It has set my soul on fire. I had to hold myself down from running laps. Do you hear the truth being spoken? Do you see joy coming from people longing to be free? It is the best story

Facing My Complicity

We have participated in a faith that seems to think Revelation is absolutely clear, but the Sermon on the Mount is fuzzy and needs charts and graphs to figure out.

BY LINDSAY BRUEHL
I spent this Advent contemplating what it really means to repent. The world is on fire, and I am hearing so many Christians saying, “Live in peace with everyone.” We want the joy without addressing the pain — and sometimes we label righteous anger as outrage. It feels like too much to bear, I get it.
It is easy to get mad at the absolute crazy but fail to see how we are complicit in what led to the craziness. I would not understand this if I hadn’t gone through my own dark night. I was mad at those who hurt us, but when I went deep into my pain I noticed our own complicity had led to what happened. That is the hard part, facing our own darkness.
I want to talk about Jerry Falwell Jr. He was recently interviewed by the Washington Post, and what he said is absolutely horrifying. I encourage you to read it, because while it seems so far out there — and the absolute opposite of anything Jesus ever said — we have on some scale participated in this narrative.
It is not uncommon to hear people say our faith is unrealistic in public life. We have spiritualized it for the next life so we don’t really have to carry the cross Jesus invited us to carry. We have participated in a faith that seems to think Revelation is absolutely clear, but the Sermon on the Mount is fuzzy and needs charts and graphs to figure out.
The reason people are entertained by people like Falwell Jr. (and his father) is because what they say and do is interesting — even if terrifying. The rest of us “good” Christians have been largely absent from the public sphere and are not telling an interesting story at all. That is why no one is listening.
Jesus’ life was a counter-narrative to Caesar. Jesus was mostly funded by women. He had no money, but he caught the attention of the powerful. He was telling a story people wanted to hear — except the powerful who were going to lose. Zaccheus is a great example in the Bible of someone who had been participating in empire economics but wanted to change. Repentance is clearly shown in that story; he was going to change and pay back what he had cheated people by giving it back fourfold. He showed a heart that was transformed by the gospel. Repentance is a changed heart and life.
Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz wrote about setting up a confessional on the Reed College campus where most are hostile to Christians because of how we have treated them. But the catch was this wouldn’t be a place for outsiders to come confess their sins. Instead, the Christians were going to confess their own sins against the nonbelievers — how unloving they have been, their bitterness, the crusades, televangelists. It was really powerful, and the response he got was similar to what I am hearing from our skeptical friends who are seeing what’s happening at Wilshire.
People know Jesus is better than the story we have told but don’t want to participate with Christians because we have been exclusionary — and we reject wonder. Being stuck in time is killing our imagination, joy and wonder. The world is looking to us to humble ourselves and repent for what we have created. We were warned and did not listen.
The world really does want to see Jesus and believe this world matters too. It isn’t some escapism to another world. We can all flourish and participate in this world God invited us to co-create together.

Why development and community should be the focus of competitive soccer instead of winning and playing games.

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Most of my life has revolved around competitive soccer.  Starting in 1987 as a 10 year old player to the present as I continue to be involved as a coach.  So much has changed over this period of time, most notably the financial burden on families now.  When I started playing, we did not pay any dues to our coach or team.  The only costs were for uniforms, leagues and tournaments.  Now families can expect to pay at least $2,000 per year and in extreme cases upwards to $8,000 per year to play competitive soccer.  The financial costs are usually to biggest complaint of families, but I want to tell you that the monetary costs are the least harmful that these families will end up paying.

Soccer used to be a sport made up of local players from the community that formed teams and went and played teams from other communities.  Players wanted to win to have the bragging rights at school and around town, but the game was also about having fun.  Good coaches focused on developing a player’s skill and also a love for the game.  This is the soccer that I love and this is why I coach.

I have been the varsity boys’ soccer coach at Sachse High School since 2007.  In the time I have been the coach, our team has seen great success, but we have also been at the bottom.  I love coaching high school soccer.  The game is played for all of the right reasons and it is basically free to play (except for socks…always need new socks).  The team is formed from boys from the community who play because they love the game.  They work hard to win because they take pride in wanting their school to be the best.  There are bragging rights when they win that they can take back to their club teams which are made up of boys from multiple schools.  There is not a better example of what this game is supposed to represent, a love for the community and a love for the game, than school soccer.

I chose to stay away from club soccer when Lindsay and I moved to Texas in 2004 because I didn’t like all of the politics that went with competitive soccer.  It wasn’t until 2007, when my daughter started to show a desire to play club soccer, that I thought about coaching club again.  Mutiny FC was a local club whose mission statement focused on community, families, and development.  They chose the Mutiny name because the leadership wanted to be different than the other pay to play clubs and not just focus on winning.  This all sounded great to me and my daughter started playing for one of their teams.  The team she joined was very good.  The players were athletic and very skilled and Kimberlyn was just trying to find her role on the team.  She was loving the team and playing with these talented girls, but then the top players left just one season after we had joined reminding me of the dark side of club soccer.

The hardest thing for independent clubs like Mutiny FC which focused on community and development is keeping players once the teams start getting noticed by the bigger clubs.  Kimberlyn’s team was beating the teams from the bigger clubs.  The beginning of the end for her team started when the coach was offered a job at one of the big clubs where winning was a focus and he chose to leave.  These same clubs then started offering the top players spots on their teams.  Parents were sold on these other clubs because they were convinced that their daughter would be a better player if they played for a bigger club.  I had a hard time understanding why these parents were buying this nonsense!  The only reason why our players were being recruited was because those teams were not as talented as our team, and they chose to leave when these big clubs waived their fees in order to entice the parents to move their kids!  It made no sense to me.  We chose to stay even though we knew the team was starting over.  I helped the new coach find new players and we struggled for two years.  I helped find another new coach when the other coach started to get discouraged with the players who were still leaving instead of focusing on developing the ones who were choosing to stay.  It took a lot of work, but we finally put a group of girls together who played for each other and went through enough hard times that they finally were finally on the edge of taking the next step.  The team entered classic league qualifications as the lowest seed and with only 12 healthy players, but shocked everyone but themselves by qualifying for classic league!  They finished in the middle of the standings, one spot out of a guaranteed placement the next year.  I had no concerns about qualifying again, but once again success brought problems.  Just like before, other clubs came calling on our top players and offered scholarships and the promise of success.  Instead of sticking with the team that had stuck together through the tough times and the become like a family, those players chose to leave the day before tryouts were to start for the next season.  This left several girls without a team and no time for us to try and find new girls to replace the ones leaving.  Once again, we chose to stay because we loved the community more than the opportunity to play for teams just wanting to add players to win.

That same year my daughter’s team was enjoying their success, I was asked by seven families if I would help put together a team for their daughters.  I did not know any of these families.  All I knew was that these girls were not chosen to play on one of the other teams in our club.  I was impressed by their desire to try and put a team together after just having been turned away at tryouts, so I agreed to coach them.  The first practices were nothing like I have ever been a part of before.  The girls didn’t know me, I didn’t know them, and we were all trying to figure out what our roles were going to be with this new team.  Only having seven players made it impossible to practice game tactics, but it was perfect because the low numbers allowed me to focus on teaching these girls the skills they were lacking.  It truly was about development.  We had to borrow girls from other teams in our club in order to play games and we lost most of our games by a wide margin, but the girls were having fun and getting better.  The girls started to invite their friends to practices.  We were growing.  The next season, we went grew from 7 players to 12 players.  The girls continued to get better and I was getting excited about tryouts for the next year.  We had 5 girls choose to not tryout again the next year for various reasons, but still ended up with a roster of 13 girls.  This included my daughter and one of her teammates from her classic league team that also chose to stay.  We had decent success playing a new league as we continued to focus on development instead of wins.  Now entering our third year as a team, we have 15 players on our roster.  We still have 2 players from the original 7 that started this team.  We have also had several players asked to join other teams that have been more successful than us in terms of wins and losses and the level of league play, but they have all chosen to stay.  Currently, this team is on the top of the standings in the same league that we finished 9th out of 10 teams last year.

I also coach a second team made up of younger girls about 10 years of age.  I started this team the same time as my other team, about 3 years ago, but this team has gone through the same growing pains as my daughter’s first two teams.  We started with 5 girls.  This was perfect because the game were 4 versus 4 and all of the girls would get to play a lot.  We had decent success which attracted more players.  We added 2 more players the next season and continued to focus on development instead of wins.  We had a lot of change to start our second season when 4 girls decided to not play with our team, but we added 7 players for a total of 9 girls.  We still focused on development over wins, but this team grew quickly and the success came just as quickly. I was hoping this team would be like my other girls, but instead it turned out more like my daughter’s teams.  The bigger clubs came calling and convinced some of the parents that the girls would improve faster by playing more games at a higher level of competition and more tournaments and the result was 3 of our girls choosing to leave.  This left our team a little disheartened because we only had 6 players and our new league required us to have a roster of at least 10 players.  Once again, our girls talked to some friends and other families from the community heard about our players improving and our team grew from 6 players to 14 players.  We continue to develop and the girls are getting better every game and practice and new players are visiting all the time.

I would like to say that I don’t take things personally as a coach when families choose to leave and play for other teams, but that is just not the case.  So much time and energy is invested in developing these players and watching them improve so quickly and use their skills to find success in games is awesome.  To see these families leave because they were convinced that playing more games at a higher level and more tournaments would develop the players faster is hard.  Is there a benefit to playing at the highest level?  Yes, but only if the players are getting an equal opportunity to play and make mistakes.  Players improve and develop in training that focuses on development.  The idea that players improve by playing more games make no sense.  That is like a teacher saying students improve by taking more tests instead of doing practice work and homework?  I love the families I get to work with and the girls I get to coach, even the families that chose to leave.  My dream when all is said and done is this, I hope families will start to understand that other teams would not be trying to take our players unless we were doing things the right way by focusing on developing individual players that love the game.

See also Lindsay’s post on Youth Sports  It is OK to slow down- YOUTH SPORTS! and Our Mutiny FC Story

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September 2018 Part 2 (Saul/Paul:his story-my story)

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I am finally getting around to writing the second part of my wild September. I will link Part 1 right here, September 2018 Part 1. After the amazing couple of days at the Preaching Practicum, I led the discussion in my Bible class on Paul the following Sunday.  First of all, I still can’t believe I was hanging out with legit preachers, and they saw me as one of them.  Totally new feeling, and I love it.  Second, I can’t believe I signed up for Paul.  I have reasons, but once it came time to do it–it was a monster narrowing down what angle I wanted to take.

I need to back up a bit.  My final semester at Oklahoma State, I had to take a final elective to graduate.  I took Paul and the Early Church with Dr. Cate.  He was well known on campus as “the whistler”.  He walked around campus whistling and it was loud, but there was something very spiritual and out of this world about it too.  He was also a retired Baptist preacher – ironic knowing my journey now.  Dr. Cate could tell the story.  He wasn’t fancy or charismatic or anything like that – he just told the story, and I felt I was on Paul’s journey with him.

When I completed the class, I remember thinking if I knew the Bible was this interesting I would have minored in Religion. I had no idea what a Church of Christ girl would have done with the minor, but I loved it.  It is because I am a woman that I did not know what to do with a minor in Religion if I got one. The church uses Paul to say I can only fulfill certain roles in church – preaching and shepherding were out.  This is why I signed up for Paul when I saw the slot available – and I signed up never having taught a class before.  I knew it was a crazy and an out of character move for me, but that seems to be all I am doing these days.  This Spirit is taking me on a really wild, fun, hard, amazing journey.  Jonah was coming, but I had not taught it yet. Oh, Jonah! I felt Paul wanted me to tell a better story about his life.  He isn’t a misogynist, and he actually does value women as leaders, preachers, and pastors – however we are gifted right along with men.  Also, racism.  We have to address that too, because Paul’s letters were used to justify slavery, and our slave holding theology isn’t over yet in America.  It just took on a different form.

I want to start off by saying that no matter our views on Paul – if we think we should keep the traditional roles of men and women as they are in too many churches because in our heart we feel that is what Paul was saying – Jesus will upset our narrative.  Jesus valued women and wanted people to believe the women- and he still does.  Mary sat at his feet.  In the Rabbinic tradition that is the posture of teacher and student.  Jesus was equipping Mary for her calling after he was gone.  She proclaimed his resurrection!  We usually tell this story as if this was a Bible study, and Mary made a better choice to study than Martha who was too busy working –not even paying attention to the fact that Martha was running a household instead of Lazarus (parents are presumed to have passed away).  That was out of the cultural norm too.  So many layers that I am just waking up to, and still waking up to.  So with that said, back to Paul.  I did not lead the class addressing these letters as you think I would have based on what I am saying in this blog post.  I talk about his conversion.  I was told the class had not discussed the conversion at length, and this was a good starting point for me to take the angle of what is Paul doing versus what is Paul saying.  This matters a great deal.  The book of Acts is where I spent our time studying.  This is the beginning of the early christian church, and it is fascinating to look closer at what is going on. I realize Paul and I have a lot in common. So without looking at the letters, I realize Paul’s experience feels like my own in many ways.  I was not a murderer or scary, but who I am now is not who I was a year ago.  I am not the same today as I was a month ago.

Saul/Paul was present when Stephen, the first christian martyr, was stoned.  Saul was present and approved of the stoning.  Several things jumped out to me in what went down here

  1. 1 when Stephen is addressing the Sanhedrin Acts 7:6 he quotes Genesis 15:13 saying this… God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated.  America – misogyny and racism are coming up on 400 years (400 year old principalities).  I think there is something going on. Can you feel the ground shaking for deliverance?  Look at how these principalities are handling being named.  It is is so ugly  and getting worse right now. .  God has left us to our ways, and now our day of areckoning is coming.  God’s judgement is mercy.  We must repent.
  2. Right before the stoning, Stephen’s face-because he was full of the Holy Spirit- became like an angel. He saw heaven open up and he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.  Stephen asked God to not hold this sin against them.  Sounds like Jesus on the cross.
  3. Now the church is persecuted and scattered, but by scattering the word spreads.

Acts 9 is when we get to Saul’s conversion.  Saul was still murdering and uttering threats against the disciples.  He asked to go to Damascus to find anyone (man or woman) who belonged to “the Way” and bring them back as prisoners to Jerusalem .  On the way to Damascus Saul hear’s “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  This echoes 1 Samuel 19 when David was being persecuted by Saul.  There is so much depth to the Bible. He is then finds out the voice is Jesus and hears he is persecuting Jesus.  Saul is then blind for 3 days, and is led by the hand to Damascus by the men he is traveling with.  They heard a sound, but could not see what happened to Saul.  We are not exactly sure what led to the conversion.  I have read he was most likely meditating on the Torah – possibly meditating on the vision of Ezekiel.  Saul was incredibly faithful, so this makes a lot of sense to me–but who knows what actually happened.

This gets really good.  God sends Ananias to Paul to lay hands on him and bless him.  Ananias is rightfully hesitant.  He knows who Paul is and what he has come to do, but God says to go because Saul is his chosen instrument, and God will show him how much he will have to suffer for his name.  Ananias goes and says this, ““Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.  9: 10-18  This is beautiful.  God sends a human being to bless Saul, and then the scales fall from his eyes and he can see.  Then he goes to Damascus and confuses everyone, but he is the exact opposite of who he used to be.  He not only is not taking prisoners, but is saying Jesus is the Christ.  It was baffling.  It took Ananias laying his hands upon him, and then Barnabas has to vouch for him to the apostles who were too scared to let him join them.  Barnabas heard him in Damascus and believed him.  It took humans believing God and Saul for us to have Saul/Paul we have in the Bible.  It is quite a journey.

Paul is quite open after his conversion.  He welcomes Gentiles, the outsiders, and says they do not need to follow the Jewish law. Why would they need to if Jesus already fulfilled the law. He and Peter squabble over this a bit when the Jerusalem Council gets involved.  Peter initially ate with the uncircumcised, but then gets scared when the Jerusalem Council questions him.  The Council was concerned with all of this freedom.  There must be rules.  Sound familiar?! But eventually they write a letter to the Gentiles saying this 15:28 “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”.  This is the best line!  This shows the story moves forward and can change, and it did not stop there.  This is still true today.  The Holy Spirit is wild and free. No one knows where she came from or where she is going- so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.  John 3:8

So, I wanted to prove Paul wasn’t racist or misogynistic, but what was revealed to me was his story of change.  I feel like he wants me to understand his story first.  His conversion speaks so much to my own conversion and how different I am now. I have done a complete 180.  Before I even studied Paul’s conversion more closely, when I first joined Wilshire, I wrote George Mason an email telling him when he hugged me and said he sensed the joy in me, and thanked me for sharing my heart with him he will work to be worthy of it– I felt something in me heal.  All of the sudden my breathing changed and my eyes could see more clearly.  It echoes Ananias’s blessing.  God uses humans to bless us.  Now George, Mark, Heather, Tiffany, Geri, Debby, a host of Wilshire residents (Jakob, Aaron, Matt, Ryan and Jared), and Wilshire members are working with me to become something I never set out to be – some kind of minister.

It is all so surreal.  When my life fell apart, and I thought I was running away, Jesus met me in the storm.  I heard a different story, and now it is all I can talk about.

 

America First is Nationalism

 

One of the most vital things an American Christian can do right now is resist the hijacking of Christian faith by American nationalism.  —Brian Zahnd

I want to start off by saying that I don’t hate Trump.  I feel quite sorry for him actually.  He is a deeply wounded soul that is hurting others because his pain has never been transformed.  In the words of Richard Rohr (my favorite author, writer, speaker, mystic, spiritual guide) – “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

Trump tapped into many wounded souls and grew a platform based on fear.  I was shocked white christians not only supported him, but championed him as their guy who will save America #MAGA. He was called God’s chosen one despite saying he has never asked for forgiveness, which is foundational to the christian faith.  The sexual assault, the vulgar language, the name calling, racism, xenophobia, building a wall Mexico would pay for, saying I could shoot someone and I would still get elected, etc. did not matter and only seemed to boost his popularity.  People in pain liked seeing those of us with a different point of view being called names. I won’t write too much more on this because I have written about it in previous blog posts.  Trump captured the American fear.  Fear is a beast.  What happens is we become what we fear.  People are now talking and saying things I don’t think would have publicly come out of their mouth before.  I can say the same for myself as well.

Trump was happening at the same time my own personal life was falling apart (I have written a lot about this in previous blog posts).  I wasn’t alone.  Jonathan Martin said to not be surprised that while the world is falling apart, your life is falling apart too.  Jonathan spoke words almost daily that hit the pain of what I was feeling that day.  He had been there and was guiding so many of us.  I learned God is doing something new, and America is in trouble.  We are doing what all empires do when they are about to fall, try to go back to the good old days.  There is this belief America was perfect at one time, or close enough to perfect that we should return there.  What got overlooked was American history has another point of view other than white male.  We forgot we got started by stealing people from their homeland, made them slaves and believed they were better off serving as our slaves than living in their homeland.  We forced them here – we did not persuade them.  This statement is directed at Senator Ben Sasse.  We also did not persuade the Native Americans to let us kill them, rape them, take their land, or if merciful we let them assimilate and lose their heritage to be white.  We also did not persuade women to let men do all the voting, decision making, and tolerate abuse because “boys will be boys”.  I will list books I have read that give the point of view of others who experienced America a bit differently in the “America again” phase of life.  I am not saying America hasn’t done anything good, but we have a really hard time talking about our sins.  This continues today.  I understand why we have a hard time confessing these sins.  It is painful.  Losing the full narrative is hard.

I grew up Church of Christ.  I guess we were patriotic, but we did not talk about it that much. We were pretty good about separation of church and state.   I said the pledge of allegiance at school, but my honor for those who have served wasn’t from my pledge to a flag.  Honestly, I always thought I don’t pledge allegiance to a flag–I pledge allegiance to God.  When people were upset because some people did not want to stand for the pledge for religious reasons – I thought we should be sensitive to them and allow them to sit out.  Freedom of Religion should make room for this and does, but people are not allowing it.  Strange because to me that is freedom when we have the freedom to choose. This was before I knew the flag was going to be the American idol draped over a cross.  I thought it was genius the Founders (who are not God and made many mistakes) made it legal to protest the flag-even burn it.  That is a really good thing they thought important, provided they were escaping their own nationalism!  I am not promoting burning the flag, but when I see the flag coming before human lives it pisses me off.  We honor those who served by taking care of them.  We help them assimilate back to life with anything they need (mental health, money, food, shelter, etc), and work like hell not to go to WAR.  Also, we need to remember those who built America – black lives.  The president calls their countries shitholes.  Those shitholes built America.  They worked for our freedom, and then had to work for their own freedom and still are.  It is disrespectful we won’t let them kneel during the anthem to honor their lives.  Their lives built America, and their lives are being taken unjustly by police and the justice system.

I did not write that above paragraph to make myself sound great and others the bad “other”.  I had hang ups.  I have written about some of them in previous blog posts.  I just never was particularly moved by the flag.  During the Olympics – yes, or during the funeral of someone who served – yes.  Those instances can move me to tears.  But even in the Olympics the flag can be protested, and I have written about some who have protested and then are sent to exile–Vera Caslavska to name one.  We get confused on loyalty.  All countries do, but I am going to focus on America because America is my home.  Those who say “America First” will say they are doing the same thing.  That is a great argument, but the world is on fire.  We cannot run away from it.  American has the biggest military in the world.  We are occupying places – like Yemen- and we never ask why.  We go to wars that don’t make sense – George W. Bush took us to war even though we did not find weapons of mass destruction.  This sent ISIS into full throttle when we could not help Iraq rebuild.  ISIS was coming, but we destroyed a nation and left them to dry and in danger.  We have to say when we make horrible mistakes.  Bush is now an artist honoring those who served.  It is a great start, but I am still waiting on repentance.

What we don’t see is fear leads to nationalism.  We want to feel safe.  It is understandable.  We read the Bible and the ones we view as “bad” we do not typically picture ourselves as one of them.  We have always viewed ourselves as the hero, maybe not Jesus hero, but the ones we think are “good”.  Even the ones we think are “good” upon closer look have some major hang ups, horrible hang ups actually–makes me wonder why we think they are the hero.  This is not an excuse to act like any of them, but to take comfort we are all deeply flawed, but God uses us – even the ones we view as “bad”- we are them too.  The Bible is complicated and I love it.  It is a messy human story, just like us.  It is easy to demonize the people who cheered for Barabbas and let Jesus die.  We call out Pilot who we might view as weak when he did not really want to kill Jesus, was warned by his wife not to, and said the blood would not be on his hands.  Ouch!  That actually sounds a lot like us.  The people cheering for Barabbas and Pilot.  Jesus scared them- Jesus scares us.  He was and is different. Jesus’s sermon on the Mount is quite clear, but they/we act like it is a puzzle because it requires dying to ourselves.  Jesus was and is telling us about a living God who was and is moving to new territory, and the empire wanted and wants the good ole days.

Barabbas reminds me a lot of Trump.  He is someone we know isn’t who we think a moral person should be, but the change that is happening is far scarier than letting them loose.  They speak the language of their/our country they/we remember, and they/we explain away everything we know is absolutely horrible for our “safety”.  In the process of doing this we kill Jesus again (people are dying).  The Pentecostal movement, when healthy, know they are serving a living God, a God who moves.  Jesus was killed because he moves too fast.  The Spirit moves too fast for us.  Where the church is wrestling – that is exactly where the spirit is.

I have more to say that I will say in another blog post.  I will talk about my journey listening to pastors on what nationalism is, and why they believe Barabbas was a good ole boy nationalist vs the image we previously had of him.  I had to write this first before I can get there.

From the movie A Star is Born, the lyrics from the song “Maybe It’s Time” speaks to America right now.

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change a man, hell it takes a lot to try
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

Nobody knows what awaits for the dead
Nobody knows what awaits for the dead
Some folks just believe in the things they’ve heard and the things they’ve read
Nobody knows what awaits for the dead

I’m glad I can’t go back to where I came from
I’m glad those days are gone, gone for good
But if I could take spirits from my past and bring ’em here
You know I would, you know I would

Nobody speaks to God these days
Nobody speaks to God these days
I’d like to thank He’s looking down and laughing at our ways
Nobody speaks to God these days

When I was a child they tried to fool me
Said the world lament was lost and that the hell was real
But I’ve seen hell in Reno and these walls want big ol’
Catherine wheel spinning still

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change your plans, hell of train to change your mind
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Oh, maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

My favorite picture of Blake!  Kids teach us we cannot hold on forever.  They change and grow, and that is exactly how God planned it to be.  We change.

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