on faith.

Yesterday I was sitting in my Doctor’s office waiting for her to come in to see me. I have been to the doctor’s office more times in the last year than any year ever before. I am not a scheduled person, so appointments and check-ups are rarely on my radar. I’d rather be doing anything than visiting the doctor. But this year has been different…

I have been very open about my struggles with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. For the last year, I have battled fear and worry daily. I would love to share my whole story, but it would take up too much space and I want to talk about something else. The main points are as follows:

-I made some major life decisions to correct and turn from some unhealthy things happening in my life last summer.

-After taking some necessary, but extreme measures to get my life back on track, my mind and body started to go down hill.

-After failed attempts to go to counseling, I decided to try medication.

-The medicine sent me into a complete nervous breakdown. I was waking in fear and nothing could calm me down. I couldn’t be left alone and I couldn’t leave my house.

-I stopped the medication and began taking Xanax daily for my anxiety.

-While the Xanax has helped, I have never returned to my old self.

This brings me to my doctor’s visit yesterday. I have been agonizing over this decision for months, but I finally decided to ask her for more help. I finally decided to try a new medication.

I cannot tell you how scary it is to put your mind into the hands of a small blue pill. A pill in a class of drugs which has failed me already once before. What am I doing?

On the wall hanging in my doctor’s office is a picture with a quote. I sat there yesterday, curled up in the chair and read this:

“Faith is not thinking God can. Faith is knowing God will.”

Um, excuse me? I beg to differ!

For anyone out there battling with faith and doubt and worry and anxiety and all of the “what ifs”, hear this. Faith is not a measure of how certain you are. If it were than it wouldn’t be called Faith…it would be called certainty. I have no idea how my body will react to this new medication and I am scared!!!!! I am scared because I tried a similar medication already and it broke me. It left me in a pool of tears, doubts, worry, and misery. And do you think I didn’t pray that it would be the answer I was needing? My husband and I prayed everyday to no avail.

The truth is that we have few guarantees in this life. We are guaranteed that God loves us and we are guaranteed troubles. We are guaranteed sunshine, but we are also guaranteed rain. And it’s not God who is controlling or manipulating the hurts and losses in our lives. No, its the result of a broken world. A world infected by darkness, evil, and violence. And we go through fire sometimes. For many it feels like the fire will never end.

I think about my friends suffering in chronic pain, or those who are unable to have a baby. Those who have lost loved ones. And those who, like me, seem to have lost their umbrella.

So what is faith? All I can say on the subject of faith is that for me it means I keep taking steps forward. I might have days of standing still or stepping back, but when I am being faithful, I know it means being brave, keeping my focus on the One who never leaves even when the rain just keeps pouring down. It means doing things afraid sometimes.

This morning I woke with the usual fear rushing through my body. I sat up, grabbed my husband’s hand as he prayed for me and I swallowed that first little blue pill. I took a step. And as tiny as that step might seem, it was a pretty huge one for me.

We shall see what tomorrow brings…

Yesterday was my Birthday, but today is my Rebirthday!

Today is a marked day for me. One year ago today I decided to change my entire life. One year ago, I decided that I wanted my marriage to be more than what it was. I decided I wanted my life with my kids to be more than what it was. One year ago today, I looked at my gaunt, lifeless, battered self and decided I had finally had enough.

The thing about making the right decisions in life is that what follows isn’t always a reward. In my circumstances, this day marked the beginning of a long journey towards health. I had no idea what kind of undoing lay ahead and this year has been the scariest year of my life.

There are times in our lives when we find our security in unhealthy things. These things can be habits, people, misbeliefs… And I had found security in all of these in one form or another. I was headed down such a path of destruction, but was blinded by all of the misleading notions I encountered along the way. I was dying. I was dying physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was hurting and hiding and on this particular day, I decided to change my course.

When I came face to face with all of the ugliness going on around me and how I contributed to the destruction, the overwhelming waves of pain and guilt were almost unbearable. I have lost a brother, my mother, and have experienced loss on all kinds of levels. Nothing compares to what I have gone through over the last 12 months of my life.

But as things die, space for resurrection is made available. And this is my resurrection story… Today is my Rebirthday!

By nature, I want quick fixes. I am not patient. I cannot stand mundane tasks or any amount of time spent on anything that seems meaningless. From the get go, I tried to fix everything in my life at once. I quit smoking, carved out quality time with my family, purged my whole house (and I mean crazy-person purging), signed my husband and I up for marriage counseling, and also tried to get myself back into counseling as well. All of this within a couple months’ time span.

I eventually hit a wall. I had started experiencing panic attacks and this led to a full blown breakdown. My life literally came to a screeching halt. I couldn’t leave the house, couldn’t be left a lone, and I was afraid ALL of the time. Panic was rushing through my veins from morning to evening. I suffered from nightmares and insomnia and there were moments where suicide seemed like a good back-up plan.

My only option was to slow way down. I have never lived such a slow life. I couldn’t read books or even watch T.V. It was just too stimulating for my body to handle. My husband worked from home for about four weeks and my life consisted of allowing time to pass before I could fall asleep and watch more time pass tomorrow.

I eventually honed in on my kids and home life. I had to face some fears if I was ever going to give them the life I wanted them to have. It’s crazy how fast time flies and how slow it can be all at once. While my days were long, the realization of how fast my babies were growing was hitting me in new ways. Days seemed like years and years seemed like minutes.

Everyday I would wake up and do the same things. Every few weeks, there would be a slight move towards progress, but it never seemed fast enough. I wanted to be back to my normal self so badly, but the only thing that would get me there was time.

Sitting here now, I can see my growth in leaps and strides. I am not completely myself yet, but I am better. My marriage is the best it has ever been. My kids and home-life are full of joy. And I have a strong support system full of amazing friends who have loved and cared for me over these last few months. Even in the pit, I have found things to be grateful for.

Now hear me, it’s not pretty. My life isn’t wrapped in some beautiful packaging with a neatly tied bow. It’s messy. And my husband and I still fight and my kids get on my nerves and sometimes dinner doesn’t get made and the pee on the floor in the upstairs bathroom stays there a little longer than I would like, and the list goes on… But that is real life.

And I still get scared. Everyday is a battle, but the battles are being won more than lost. I think when my life fell apart, my prayer was usually that the battle would go away. “Not today, Lord. I am so tired.” But you never taste victory by walking off the field. And in this case, that wasn’t even an option. And so, I am learning to arm myself. I scan my environment constantly and I am ready to kick fear in the ass. And most of the time I win.

What I have come to realize the most through all of this is that even when we make the right choices, even when we choose to do what is in the best interest of others, to be transparent, suffering should be expected. I lost A LOT over the last year. My friends, my church…and my mind. We aren’t promised a life without suffering. In fact it is pretty much guaranteed to us. But we are promised rebirth, renewal, and transformation. Our suffering will never be in vain. God doesn’t waste it. He works in and through it.

So Happy Rebirthday to me, to my marriage and family, and to the start of my Resurrection Story.

Supreme Court, LGBTQ, Rights, and do Kingdom people have a voice on the matter?

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am one of “those” Christians who supports the LGBTQ community. My journey into affirming same-sex relationships began about four years ago. I had just left a very conservative Christian church due to Spiritual Abuse and my Faith was barely hanging on by a thread.

Because of this abuse, I was suffering from severe loneliness and had been for some time. And because my Faith was all but gone, I decided to step outside of what I had thought to be true and attend a church which was not so conservative.

During this time, an old high school friend and I reconnected on Facebook. As we began to catch up we engaged in a few back-and-forth messages where he disclosed to me that he was gay. He was reluctant to tell me this piece of news because he knew I was a Christian and he had been cut off from some of his other “Christian” friends. At this point, I was still believing that homosexuality (defining the terms was completely off my radar) was sin. Essentially, to identify as LGBTQ was just wrong.

But now it was personal and as most of us know, our understanding of God, Faith, and Scripture usually come into question when the ideas we have in our mind don’t seem to line up with reality. And they should. What I thought was a simple, cut and dry issue-“the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”-became so much more complex…because this was my friend. This was my friend being brave. This was my friend trusting me with who he was to the core of his being. And I knew that this identity was attached with years of pain, hiding, and mental/emotional torture.

Christians disagree on the biblical interpretation of the few verses that mention the word ‘homosexual’. And I am perfectly okay with Christians disagreeing on the meaning of these words. What I am not okay with is when Christians disagree on how to love members of the LGBTQ community, particularly when they stray from the example we have in Jesus and begin protesting funerals with obscene and hate-filled signs, when they refuse to bake a cake, and when they insist that “rights” deemed by the state are only for those who believe in the Bible.

I cling to the Anabaptist tradition of Christianity which believes that Separation-Between-Church-and-State is essential to following Jesus. This belief is lived out in many ways and not all Anabaptists agree on how to live this out. But we tend to agree that it is something that needs to take on a form in some way throughout the lives of Christ-followers. With that said, I have chosen to opt out of the voting process. I find that placing my hope in any system that isn’t moving the Kingdom forward is simply false-hope on my end. You can read more about my position on this issue here. But because I live in a world where I am on mission to bring the Kingdom (God’s ideal for His creation), I am constantly faced with the tensions of the social-climate I am surrounded by.

These tensions beg the question: what might be the Kingdom’s voice; what hope or offer can the Kingdom bring to this world and the conflicting realities we live in?

To answer this question in regards to marriage and the LGBTQ community, I think a good starting point would be to examine marriage from a Kingdom point of view. Marriage is a covenant made by two persons to live a life of Faithfulness, Self-Sacrificial Love, and Commitment to one another. This covenant is one of the last remaining covenants we as Christians celebrate and take seriously. I think that if more Christians understood what exactly a “covenant” entails, marriages within the Church would be flourishing. This covenant is a picture of the relationship God has with His people. It demonstrates the “giving up” of one’s rights in order to love and care for the other. Christ-followers are in a covenant-marriage with God when they choose to surrender their lives (setting aside their own agenda) in order to bring the Kingdom to this world.

It’s interesting to me, how subverted the idea of covenant has become among the North American Church. Once Christians grabbed a hold of the idea of a “Christian” nation (which doesn’t exist) we began to cling to our rights rather than sacrifice them. Our merge of Faith and Politics has disrupted the very essence of how we were intended to demonstrate Christ’s love to the world. It is by laying down our rights, picking up our cross, and following the road of suffering that we show the world the kind of love Jesus extended when He gave up His rights, picked up our cross, and suffered on our behalf. This is the length that God was willing to go to in order to bring us back to Him. And when you think about it, it’s mind blowing. It’s beautiful and contagious and attractive and out of this world…and it is also our calling to do the same.

Ouch! Tough words. They are especially tough when living in a society founded on Independence, Individual Freedom, and which birthed the attitude of entitlement among us. But Jesus showed us a different way to go:

Philippians 2:6-8:

Though he was God,[a]
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
    he took the humble position of a slave[c]
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 

It’s pretty clear that entitlements and rights were not a part of Christ’s mission. Instead, He entered into solidarity with us, with our sin, with our suffering and hurts, with our second-class-citizenship status; and continued to manifest the Father’s love all the way to and through His death on the cross. And we see all throughout the New Testament that suffering is part of the package deal. Both Paul and Peter talk about suffering in their letters to the early church, and there is something about suffering that cannot be separated from the call to bring the Kingdom. They just go together.

The promise is that our suffering will not last forever…but that discussion is for another time. The question now, is how can I (a non-political participant) enter into solidarity with the pain my friends in the LGBTQ community have had to endure due to the right of “state” marriage not being afforded to them? I have a few thoughts:

1. While it was practical and beneficial at one time for the state to determine marriage (mainly in protection of women and children), it does not seem to be the role of the state (from a Kingdom perspective) to hold such authority. Christians believe that it is God who joins us together (Matthew 19:6). He determines marriage and we take our vows before Him. Therefore, while the state may continue (the Supreme Court Ruling is still out) to not recognize same-sex couples as “legally” married, the Church can and (in my opinion) should recognize couples as “covenantally” married; welcoming same-sex couples and affirming the covenants made before God.

2. An option for us heterosexual couples to consider as we enter into solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, would also be to abstain from “legalized” marriage, but rather allow the Church (community) to hold us accountable to the covenants we have made with our spouses before God. Somewhere in our fallen human makeup, we gravitate towards laws, rules, and boxes. We find safety in knowing that a law protects us from the consequences of those who break them. But this goes directly against the very idea of covenant. These legalities reduce the covenant of marriage down to a mere legal contract. Contracts are lists of rules and stipulations signed by two parties which essentially bind them to each other. The requirement for getting out of the contract is simply based on one or both parties not adhering to a stipulation. Furthermore, if one or both parties become unhappy, we can simply search for loopholes.

A covenant, on the other hand, is not just the ceremony of taking some vows (although important and beautiful in-and-of themselves), but it is a daily choice we make to take on the committed, faithful, and other-oriented posture we find in Jesus. It is not a matter of slavery, or being locked-in. Each one is free to leave, but that is the point. Cross-shaped love is not coerced; it is a self-giving, self-sacrificial choice to love and care for the other.

By leaving the state out, however, we leave behind the rights that come along with “legal” marriage. This sends the message to the LGBTQ community that they are not alone-that we are willing to take on the same suffering out of free will. The freedoms in which they are not afforded, we can freely give up on their behalf. This is what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. It is to use the freedoms we have been afforded in order to benefit others. It is to no longer cling to the “things” (promises, freedoms, possessions, etc.) that this world offers and instead cling to the promise of the Kingdom.

There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom and it’s time Christ-followers search for alternative ways to live this out in the here and now. I think this begins with the Church choosing to no longer seek hope from a worldly system, but rather seek first the Kingdom of God.

Because Everyone Else is Talking About The Duggars…I guess I should Too???

I have been trying to collect my thoughts on the recent Duggar Scandal for over a week now. I have read news articles, blog posts, as well as the many Facebook threads going on among Progressive Christians regarding the tragic failings of Josh Duggar, his parents and the strictly fundamental Quiverfull Movement. The story broke on or around May 21, 2015 and since then the reaction has been filled with pain, anger, and the resurfacing of memories of personal trauma for many people.

There is a time and place for Christ followers to use their voice whether via social media or within their personal relationships to stand with the oppressed. It is necessary that the Church speak out against sexual abuse and abuse of all forms as we are here to represent Jesus our King.

But the question that I have yet to see addressed is:

What, instead, is our actual message? 

In all honesty, I am tired of the online bashing of The Duggars, of Michelle’s out-dated hair style, of their openly opposition to the LGBTQ community, their tight connections to politics, etc. These things aren’t new. Yes, they are a public family. Yes, they have exploited their faith, their children, and have compromised some basic teachings of Jesus in exchange for a platform, an agenda, and profits. But we knew ALL of this before the molestation/abuse story came out. And while I completely understand the need to point out their hypocrisy, and I realize that there is a time and place to say to the world, “We (Christ followers) are not like that”, that message has been spoken loud and clear. And I am not sure anyone even cares. It’s not like we are saying anything different from the MANY articles on Huffington Post.

You see, the message goes so much further than “we aren’t like that”. It is unfortunate that as Christ followers, we have become defined more by what we are against, rather than Who we are following. We allow these stories to suck us in to the point that we forget to actually point others in the direction we were created for. Progressives are just the “liberal” version of “conservative fundamentalists”. And there’s just a whole lot of noise going on back and forth with little to no inspiration for how to move forward.

And perhaps I have skipped a step-the step in which acknowledging and validating the victims of abuse is so necessary. Abuse of ANY kind was not what Jesus was about and I am so sorry for the pain and trauma of those who have been touched by such evil. I have experienced different forms of abuse over the last eight years of my life and I know the battle of survival that comes with trying to heal. I am with you and you are not alone. I wish I had advice or steps to take, but for victims, you know as well as I do that there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all path to healing. It can take a lifetime for many, but I encourage you all to keep fighting for life and health. Don’t let the enemy take anymore from you than he already has. (And yes, that is so much more easier said than done.) What’s more however, is that I acknowledge the necessity of doing less talking and more listening as survivors tell their stories. THAT is something I want to be better at offering those I encounter on a daily basis.

As far as my thoughts on the tragic news of the Duggars and the sect of Christianity they have come to represent, I cannot stand with Conservatives or Progressives on this matter. If you have read my past blog posts, you know that I tend to not identify with either side of the spectrum. Any form of Christianity that seeks identity from a political venue in some way, shape, or form isn’t really offering anything new. It’s just politics with the name of “Jesus” stamped all over it. And it seems that the conversation quickly turns to lowering the debate to the level of the Duggars and how they link their faith to the Republican party. Let me just say that the opposite of Conservative-Christian Republican should not be Progressive-Christian Democrat (or insert whatever political term you wish to). The opposite is Jesus.

So what can I offer? What does it mean to follow Jesus and why is He such good news to the victims AND screw-ups in the world?

Jesus came and loved like no other. There are many stories of women in the Bible who were either victims of their cultural/political/religious environment (actually they all were) and/or suffering from physical ailments. From the woman in a constant state of hemorrhage, to the prostitute with the expensive jar of perfume, to Mary and Martha, and many others; they all were under pressures to submit to the different forms of neglect and abuse or conformity imposed on them by their culture and/or religion of the time.

There are similar stories of men who found themselves as outcasts in which Jesus chose a friendship with.

These life changing stories are ones of validation, hope and triumph. THAT, my friends, is the good news that people need to hear today. That just like I don’t identify with the Duggars or their supposed “Christian” views, I also (and you also) don’t have to identify as dirty, trashy, worthless, shameful, guilty, disgraced. Christ offers new identities for us such as chosen, loved, esteemed, valuable, unique, wanted, and worthy. He took all of those legalities, those abusive misrepresentations of God, and turned them on their head. He said the last shall be first, the broken will be uplifted, the hungry will be fed, and resurrection is ours for the taking.

There is a time to be angry and a time to speak out, but let it not stop there. My prayer is that we get better and better at sharing and representing the One whom we follow with those who might be looking for Him. This world (politics included) can’t match what we find in Jesus. He has called us to follow Him, to imitate Him. This means opting out of situations that turn mean-spirited and unproductive. This means speaking/listening more to those who are hurting rather than engaging with those who oppress. This means being a refuge, not an army-not when it comes to flesh and blood.

I pray for Josh Duggar and all of the people involved in what seems to be a harmful form of religion/idolatry. I pray that I am always mindful that Jesus died for our enemies too. I pray that people will see that Jesus isn’t pro exclusion, hierarchy, abuse, or ugly hairstyles (hahaha! Sorry, I had to.) But more than that, I pray that people will see more of what He is for-love, hope, justice, friendship, empowerment, freedom and the list goes on.

*For more on what I mean by all of this, stay tuned for a blog post on my journey of swinging the pendulum from one end of the spectrum to the other and how I am finding my center…

What is Christian-Anarchy, Micky?

image

About four years ago I stumbled upon Christian Anarchy. I was in the midst of rebuilding my Faith and found a lot of contradictions with trying to merge my faith with my political voice. The word ‘anarchy’ tends to scare some people, so let me explain a bit more about what this is and why I have come to adopt this way of living.

Christian Anarchists believe in the Kingdom in which Jesus spoke and taught about. We find these teachings in the New Testament in which the Kingdom is described predominantly by the Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5-7, Luke 6), but not to be isolated to those passages alone. In fact, it is my understanding that the entire New Testament is pointing us towards the Kingdom which is antithetical to any other form of “power”. From Jesus we see the apostles writing, preaching, and sharing this Kingdom way of living to all they come into contact with.

One example of how the ‘anarchy’ piece is highlighted in this philosophy is the way Jesus approached (or chose not to approach) the governing structure of His time. For example, in Mark 12:13-17 we read:

13Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?15Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin,c and I’ll tell you.” 16When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply completely amazed them.

Christian Anarchists view this passage as Jesus making a public declaration that He is not about the two systems at odds with each other-that of religious legalism nor that of government legislation. What makes this so radical is that the Romans were taxing and oppressing the Jews in extremely harsh ways. The Jews were often forced into “working” off their tax debt through slave-labor, having a child and/or livestock taken in the form of payment, imprisonment, etc. This only perpetuated the cycle of oppression since many were losing the only means they had to earn money (including enough to pay taxes in the first place).

And yet we find Jesus saying, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. This was not what the Jews were expecting from their long awaited Messiah. Instead they were hoping for a Messiah who would take over the Romans in order for the Jews to take their rightful seat of “power over”.

This is only one side of the story, however. Jesus was also renouncing religious legalism when suggesting that Jews would not only pay their taxes, but also handle such currency bearing the face of Caesar and the words “Son of God”. It was considered unlawful and unholy to pay taxes to someone claiming falsely to be God.

And yet we find Jesus saying, to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. In essence, Jesus was pointing out that earthly rulers and money were far from a concern for Him and had no bearing on the Kingdom.

What is going on here? What are we to learn? How does the Kingdom come (as Jesus prayed in Matthew 6)? There are a few points all throughout the Biblical narrative that I am going to try and connect in order to explain the position of Christian Anarchy .

If you remember, back in the book of 1 Samuel, the Israelites were begging for a King. Chapter 8 begins:

As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

After a King is appointed, Samuel gives his farewell speech. It can be found in 1 Samuel 12 and I recommend everyone go and read this passage. It is both heartbreaking and beautiful and reflects what a merciful and faithful God we have.

But for the sake of keeping this post less lengthy (ha!), here is the portion that stands out for the Christian Anarchist:

12 “But when you were afraid of Nahash, the king of Ammon, you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. 13 All right, here is the king you have chosen. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request. 

Note:

-The Israelites asked for a king from a position of fear. We are called out of fear. The opposite of Love is Fear and Christ demonstrated Love to us on the cross and then calls us to take up our own cross–essentially living a life in service to others. Fear of what the Government might do to us is not reason enough to raise up any other king other than Jesus Christ.

-The Lord their God was already their king. Jesus showed us how to live by coming to this earth. He lived always listening and being guided by the Father. He had no other authority other than God and calls us to do the same.

-And yet, the LORD conceded. It is so important that as we read the Old Testament(OT), we understand the difference between concessions and ideals. God’s ideal was to be their one and only King. But out of faithfulness to His people–a people who were still misunderstanding their vocation–God bent down, met them where they were at and gave them a king.

This is not to be confused with God’s ideal. In fact, we see the continued demise of Israel throughout the rest of the OT. Eventually, God withdraws completely, leaving them to their own ways of living. He does, however, promise a Messiah and a few hundred years later, the Messiah is born…

The King had finally come…and yet He came in need–needing to have his diapers changed, needing to be fed, needing to be picked up when he fell as he learned to walk. THIS was how God chose to begin Christ’s inauguration as King.

Throughout the life of Christ, we read about His radical ways of turning religion on it’s head. Instead of putting religious rules above all else, He demonstrated what it meant to put people first. He showed us how to love by serving, feeding, healing, and befriending.

Here’s where it gets even more radical:

Most progressive Christians would agree that social justice is a huge factor in being a Christ-follower. If you follow Patheos, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, Justin Lee of The Gay Christian Network, and many others you will see that all of them (while they may have disagreements) tend to stand up for the rights of the marginalized. And I am right there with them. I think that Jesus calls us into a life of self-sacrificial, other-oriented love for our friends, strangers, and even our enemies. I think the Church needs to be a voice for racial reconciliation, caring for the LGBTQ community, women in leadership and so much more.

The difference, however, that Christian Anarchists desire to point out to the Church is that LOVE is NEVER COERCED. All of these issues are vital to the Kingdom, but the means by which they are solved or accomplished looks nothing like that of a political venue. You cannot force anyone to change their ways and the Kingdom doesn’t invite people in by forcing them to sign a contract first. No, instead we follow in our Leader’s footsteps, by serving, giving, feeding, and befriending those who are in need, those who are different, and those who are feeling unloved.

The secular government, on the other hand, only knows laws and legislation. Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. I see the need for laws and safety, and paved roads, etc. However, I must always be mindful that the world will solve it’s problems by worldly means. And much of the time this includes violence, greed, and “power over”.

What Jesus showed us was how to opt out of the game of “power over”, “one-uping”, and living in the “rat-race” of the secular world. Christ-followers have been called to do the exact opposite. We have been given the vocation of peace-maker, holding a loose grip on money and possessions, turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and coming under others. “Power under” looks like Jesus. It looks like setting our own agenda aside (even if well-intended) and putting the needs of others above our own.

We all have a vision of a better world. It’s not that we don’t share the desire for something better, it’s that we probably disagree on what exactly that is (for me, it’s the Kingdom) and how exactly we get there. Personally, I cannot reconcile how Jesus showed us His way of bringing about the Kingdom and the political sector of bringing about a “better world” (which always seems to step on and/or squander people in some way, shape, or form). The two seem to be headed in different directions.

Okay, so now that we have a bigger picture of the Kingdom and what it means to follow Jesus, the complex questions come into the equation. What about healthcare? What about gay marriage? What about racial profiling and police brutality? Or ISIS? Or war in general? What about all of those things that seem to only have solutions found in the political sector? The answers to each of these questions would require multiple discussions and many more blog posts for me to attempt to explain. It’s tough. Claiming Christian Anarchy does not mean I have all of the answers, but a few points on how we might attempt to find answers are as follows:

-Life is always done better in community. I may not know how to solve the problem of healthcare from a Kingdom perspective, but I trust that God is stirring and bringing vision to others in the Kingdom who will or already do.

-Look for alternative ways to love people. One of the most under talked about efforts among the Christian communities are all of the non-violent peace teams going on right now. Check this link out for just one of many organizations doing real spiritual battle all over the world. 

-Learn to see the problems/solutions of the world outside of laws/legislation. Often times we get stuck in seeing things through a narrow lens (particularly because it has been so indoctrinated in us) that we fail to see any other kind of creative solutions. If the solution isn’t “Kingdom”, keep looking for one that is.

I could write so much more on this topic (how Christian Anarchists view jobs/careers, vegetarianism, simple living, and more), but I want to close with this last point. I do value my country, my freedom as an American, and the ways our country has attempted at making all people free (not that they have done an excellent job all the time, but by comparison to so many other nations, we are afforded so much here). Paul talks a lot in his letters about how to use our freedoms to demonstrate Christ’s love to others. What are some ways we can do that in our everyday lives? Don’t waste what you have been given, but also never count it as an entitlement, especially when it comes at the expense of others. We are to respond as missionaries to whatever environment we are in, being grateful for what we have, but using it to further the Kingdom and not our ourselves.

If you have ANY questions, please leave a comment below. I would love for this to be an ongoing dialogue.

Jelly Donuts, Grief, and Something New

  

Yesterday, I went to the store to grab a few items we were in need of and ended up buying four donuts which didn’t even survive the drive home…yeah. I’m so ashamed, but that’s not what this is about. As I was scarfing down the donut covered in powdered sugar (lets say this was donut No.3), I was suddenly pulled back in time.

I grew up in a small church in our town which wavered between 75-150 people over the course of about 15 years. I loved my church growing up. The smallness of it really allowed us to be a family. I grew up with extra brothers and sisters, mother figures, and role models who worked alongside my parents. The saying, “it takes a village” was simply a lifestyle for us. It was the only life I knew.

On many Sunday mornings, I would walk over to the church with my dad (we lived right next door in the parsonage as my father was the Pastor). He was always there early, helping to prepare whatever was needed-folding bulletins, adding/straightening chairs, and/or preparing the coffee and donuts! I would help him only because I knew I could sneak a few sugar cubes before anybody arrived to notice, and I could have first pick of the donuts set out for everyone.

I always chose the Chocolate Old Fashioned. I would rip it apart, piece by piece and dip it into my coffee. It was delicious. But what I also remember is that my dad would usually choose the Jelly-Filled donut covered in powdered sugar. I think my love for donuts began with my dad.

What makes this memory so special was how simple, innocent and child-like it was to watch someone I loved and looked up to, someone who was about to pour his heart and soul out to so many people as he taught from the pulpit- to watch him enjoy his jelly donut was…human.

There is a scene in the movie The Sandlot where the whole neighborhood comes out to have a community block-party. It was in celebration of the Fourth of July and the men were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, while the women were minding children, visiting, etc. The main characters in that movie-a bunch of pre-teen boys- were running around scarfing down their food and racing over to the ball field to get in some playtime before sundown. Again, it painted a picture of innocence, safety, and the freedom to enjoy simple times.

The world has changed so much from the days of community block-parties. I hear that years ago, entire businesses would shut down on Sundays so that everyone could attend church and spend the rest of their day resting and being with family. It all sounds so lovely.

But we don’t live in that world anymore. Our society has changed and evolved and with information at our fingertips, the changes have seemed to be on the fast-track. And for some, they may not come soon enough.

The days of a predominately “Christian-American” society are gone. They are dying a slow but certain death and this is causing some major tension both online as well as among interpersonal relationships. I think I see it most obviously on social-media, but also have experienced the tension within my own heart.

All day long, plastered on my Facebook news feed are stories and articles going after those on the opposite side of the spectrum. From vaccines to Gay marriage, the wars rage on and I think many people are starting to wonder where the Church is in all of this.

Unfortunately, the Church is in the middle of their own tensions. The Faith of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s can no longer stand in the face of the new realities we find ourselves in. What used to be so simple is now so much more complex. Take the issue of Gay marriage, for example. Questions like: What is sinful? The act of living and starting a family with a person of the same gender? Or is it the act of sexual relations? Or is it sinful at all? What does scripture really say about it? Is it as clear as we once thought?

The questions are pervasive and we are now a culture defined by questions, tensions, and nuances rather than simple answers, jello-salad, and late night baseball games.

What I find in the midst of all of this is the loss of perspective among Christ-followers. There is this need to cling to what was, to fight for what was right, and to use our vote to force this country into a backwards motion…a fight that will only end in defeat. There will be no going backwards. There will be no return of Donna Reed, Sunday-best, and mantras such as “the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”. The world just won’t work that way anymore.

For many people who call themselves Christians, this news is hard to swallow. The country is being flushed down the toilet, sold to the devil, and we will reap the consequences. And maybe this is true. But here’s where perspective comes in.

The country is not the Church.

Whenever we suffer a loss, we go through a grieving process. As the walls of comfort and tradition come crashing down, we weep over what once was. We remember the mornings of sneaking sugar cubes, folding bulletins, and for me, watching my dad wipe powdered sugar off his chin. The days of taking those offering envelopes from the pews and using them to pass notes to my friends during the sermon. The moments of coming together over a potluck and feeling like one huge happy family. I miss those days.

But the essence will always remain. God will always be at work and rather than fight for what WE think the right way is, we need to be ready for new life to be birthed from the rubble. Jesus prayed that the Church would be unified, but right now I see a lot of discord and judgement. There are those celebrating the changes and there are those who are angered by the destruction. And it doesn’t take much listening to understand that many Christ-followers are at each other’s throats.

The questions we are faced with are: How are we to come together as one body? and How are we to move forward as missionaries in a land which seems so unfamiliar?

1. The country is not the Church. This has to sink in if we are ever going to gain perspective and find hope again. There is always a time to grieve. The tearing down of anything we have invested in is sad and painful, but when the Church can finally make a clean break from politics, the rebuilding of something life-giving will be worth it. The Church was never meant to rule over the earth the way political leaders and nations do. We have been called out of that way of using power and have been called into servanthood. Coming under the world. Washing feet. We are called to look nothing like the things this world is currently putting their hope in…and as the Political Church comes crashing down, something beautiful is about to emerge.

2. Learn to let go. As we let go of what was, as we loosen our grip of our own ideas of how to bring the Kingdom, God will reveal to us and create new avenues of how we can reach others. It’s the letting go, the releasing of our idols which sets us free. We no longer have to play the political game of who can out-smart who, who can one-up the other, who and how can we win. The battle is won the moment we opt out of the game. The world, the nations have their own agenda (no matter how much it may “seem” to line up with yours). The Church is about bringing God’s Kingdom and His Kingdom is upside-down.

Think about that for just a moment. Think about everything you know about what a “leader” should look like, what this country “once was” (although, I tend to believe it never was God’s ideal to bring about a “Christian-nation” by laws and legislation) and now think about how Jesus subverted all of those notions. He set aside His glory and power, and became one of us. He showed us that His way of ruling and using His power was by sharing life, serving others, and suffering…even at the hands of His enemies. This looks NOTHING like what we see today in any political leader.

3. Keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground. The coolest part of opting out of the game is now we can look in from an outsider’s perspective. I recently started a Bible study in my home. I am not affiliated with any church. I don’t have a degree. All I did was share my life with my friends, listen to the stories of their own lives, find some common ground and suddenly we have a community-group meeting in our home. And the things God is doing… I am blown away all of the time with how much love and support come into my home as we simply share our lives with one another. Tune into this new thing that God is wanting to do here. Listen and observe as He guides and directs and be open to new ways of ministering. Each week, I ask myself “well, I wonder if everyone will come back next week” and for now, we continue to have a full house. And I am going to keep being faithful as long as there are people. And if/when it comes to an end, my eyes and ears will remain open for the next new work that God has for me.

My point is that there is a time to grieve. Allow the memories, the hopes and the dreams that once were, to make their way (painful as it might be) in and out of your heart. Tuck the beautiful things away, but let go of the things that are keeping you from moving forward. And then, even in fear and trembling, take the next step. Step into unchartered territory. Be brave and trust that no matter where the nations of the world end up, God’s Kingdom is already here as well as on its way. He’s calling you into this partnership. And THAT is something to be excited about.

When Facebook Seems Like It’s All You’ve Got

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It’s not really much of a secret that I am a Stay-At-Home-Mom. If it was a secret, well then…Surprise! I remember when I gave birth to my first-born. Of course, as a new mom it was a struggle. I was learning about car seats, breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding in fitting rooms, diapers, sleep schedules, best clothes to wear for breastfeeding, and that pretty much sums up the first few months of being a mom.

Okay, there was a bit more to it than that, but if you are a mom who breastfed…you so know what I am talking about. It was a mess at times to say the least.

But I loved it. I loved staying home with my babies. I loved watching them grow and hearing the funny things they would say. I loved taking them for walks and out for ice cream in the summer. I carted those kids everywhere.

And when it was time for them to start school, I loved that too! My husband and I had decided early on that we would send our kids to public school. It wasn’t that we were anti-homeschool, but we did want our kids to be involved in mainstream life. We wanted them to be exposed to teachers who had different personalities, kids with different backgrounds (religious and culturally), and we wanted them to learn to question the world around them…including the one contained under our very own roof.

Our oldest has proven to be the most headstrong. He has opinions about everything and if he doesn’t, he will find one in about two seconds. It’s true. He loves to argue and debate and while it can feel like a losing battle when I’m in the midst of it with him, it’s one of the things I love about him the most. I hope and pray my younger two will learn by his example that it’s okay to be yourself…even if it’s different.

This is the second year I have spent at home while all three of my kids go to school and it’s proving to be boring and a bit lonely. I mean there’s only so much cleaning a girl can do. My kids are pretty self sufficient too. They can do homework, grab snacks, and entertain themselves with very little intervention on my part.

And yes. I have thought about getting a part time job. I have even made a few attempts at it, but generally speaking, I need a degree to do anything that would come close to satisfying.

A few years ago, my world opened up in a huge way. I didn’t plan for it. I wasn’t looking for it. It just happened. The floor of my faith fell out from underneath me and I suddenly found myself questioning my entire existence. And by existence, I mean all of the things in my life that contributed to where I was at that point in time.

It was scary at first. I thought that maybe I would end up an atheist which sounded crazy to me. Especially since my Faith in Jesus was basically the reason behind every major decision I had ever made in my entire life. And I didn’t really know where I was going to find answers or how I would find them. I wasn’t really expecting sufficient answers at all. I just remember feeling a lot of anger and a lot of confusion and it was as if someone had sold me a giant lie.

Eventually I discovered a whole community of people who were not only asking the same questions I was asking, but had been living out these questions for some time. It was such a relief to find people who had rebuilt their faith and wanted to talk about it online. Most of the conversations were through social media and blogs. I would have some of the best discussions and I remember learning so so much from these conversations/debates and also my love for reading became a rediscovered passion. I couldn’t get enough.

But something happened over the course of about three years. The conversations have seemed to grow smaller. Sure, there are still a ton of online resources and bloggers/writers that I continue to learn and read from, but they have grown in popularity which makes online interaction tough. For the most part, the discussions are either non-existent or boarder line argumentative/ugly.

I often wonder “where are my peeps at?” And perhaps I missed some boat that everyone else is sailing away on. I’m not sure. But what does seem apparent is that most people just simply have better things to do than sit around and discuss “stuff” on Facebook. In other words… I have no life. Ha! I also have found that most of what I believe now seems to be the minority view among those I do interact with, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it can feel isolating when I know that most of my supporters are at work during the day living their dreams…or at least trying to and I am sitting at home thinking, dreaming and not really having an outlet for all of the stuff going on between my ears.

So what’s a girl to do? I am considering going to school. There are a few options/paths I’m exploring when it comes to furthering my education and that might be a great outlet for me. I’m also wanting to start writing more consistently here on my blog. I’m hoping to be somewhat of a voice when it comes to the tensions felt among many Christ-followers and the plurality of…well everything in our world today.

I used to blog a long time ago and it was so good for me to give words to all of the things floating around in my head. And I know that there are so many out there who are struggling with life and faith and wondering how to do them both. I’m here to say, “You aren’t alone!” So what are some things your are questioning these days? Maybe you have been hurt by the church? Or maybe there are passages in the Bible that just don’t seem to line up with reality anymore? Or maybe your struggles have nothing to do with the Bible, but you struggle with relationships or anxiety/depression? Whatever it is, I want to know about it.

Let’s engage. I want this place to be a place where I not only continue to chronicle my own journey, but I invite you in on it. So shoot me a message or leave me a comment and lets do this thing together.

-micky