Check Your Source

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I learned an odd lesson as a college student. (I started out as a Religion Major and switched over to an English Major.) It was about checking sources. Generally, in very official-type papers where you want to make an argument to convince people of your point, you quote a well-respected source. Now, depending on what crowd you are catering to, you will—of course—choose a certain type of source.

The goal is persuasion.

Now, who decided which sources were well-respected and which sources were not? Far from riding on who the experts actually were, I discovered that this primarily hinged on who the actual experts were thought to be by a select group of choice members of the academia. It was curiously political. Very “who-knows-who.”

Sometimes this could be helpful. They set certain quality standards like “use correct grammar and punctuation” and “don’t use Wikipedia because anyone can put something on there.” For that, I am quite thankful. Good job!

The rest of time it could be a little irritating. I don’t like when people talk out of both sides of their mouths—simultaneously claiming Christ and knocking the Bible. This is usually accompanied by intimidation tactics and comments designed to make anyone who disagrees feel like an absolute unintellectual dunce. Look, I love some good hermeneutics. I love some good exegesis. That’s all good and well, but I’m not into cultural Christianity with its impeccable church attendance and closet atheism. There persecuted people out there dying for their faith. Quit the bs.

It’s like watching an incredibly macabre dissection of a heart. When one is in love—and I mean head-over-heels-all-in, there is this little thing called trust. You are not combing through your love letters trying to find proof that “he must be cheating.” Call it what you want, that is not love; that is paranoia. Who you trust is up to you.  Trust isn’t earned; it is given.

There are a lot of people with a lot opinions out there, and some even have titles to go with them! When you grow up with little to no sense of identity, sometimes you can be tricked into thinking that these titles matter, of their own right. You want to get your own, so you jump through all those hoops . . . so that you matter. Because human opinion is a big deal, right? Because I couldn’t be that dearly loved by the God of the Universe, right? Because He couldn’t be that good . . .  right???

Maybe not for the guy out his mind dancing naked before the Ark of the Covenant. Man, that dude was in love with God to the point that he didn’t even care what his wife thought. Because if this is real and I’m in love, who really cares what anyone else has to say about it? I will dance. Like. A. Freakin’. Madman. King David went through his ups and downs and questions with God. You can read about it in the psalms. But he allowed his questions to serve his relationship instead of making his relationship serve his questions. He bared his heart to lay it all on the table before the One he loved.

Sometimes Western culture forgets about this little thing called the “spirit realm.” It can be quite chatty, and it contains some spirits with some real agendas. Some are super kind and want to release love and encouragement and all sorts of heavenly things. Others are a bit pirate-esque: pillage, plunder, rape and kill. Many times this realm communicates through what we commonly refer to as “thoughts” and “feelings.” So . . . maybe if you’ve been hit with random suicidal thoughts lately, guys, it isn’t you! Congrats. You’re not crazy. Tell that thing to take a hike! You only empower cranky spirits when you believe them.

Oh, and by the way . . . if you were wanting to get to know Jesus Christ, the Beloved Begotten of Daddy God . . . that’s totally doable. You don’t have to be scared of what people think. Consider this one of many of God’s invitations to a never-ending, very-much-hug-filled conversation.

Selah.

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Risk: Exploring Light and Shadows

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Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of judgment. 

These have been a source of paralysis to many, afraid to live their lives.

Why?

It’s a question over the years I have been learning to apply a variety of these different fears, and believe me—I have no short supply of encounters with them!

I started to push back against fear after I was challenged in college with repeat encounters with God’s goodness. Why did I believe what I believed? Why did I have it as my normal? Could my normal be wrong? I had lived so much of my life under  . . . dread.

My instinct as a child was to run towards my Creator before religion taught me that He was scary and that I should be afraid of Him. I wanted to explore God in this place of innocence. It was the most natural thing. But then I started hearing stuff like “sin separates you from God” and “make sure you are right with God.” I thought the pastor of my childhood and other church-going adults were the God-experts, so I listened to them. I listened to them, and I became afraid. There was this consistent chipping away at my sense of security in my relationship with God. Was I ever doing enough? Was I ever believing enough? On top of that, I heard people talking about the rapture and end-times and judgment, and I became even more afraid.

Now, somehow deep inside, I knew that God was good. Walking out on God was never an option for me. I wanted to please Him. I wanted to obey. But that closeness, that safety, that trust . . . somewhere deep down inside–-it felt violated. I suppressed questions I had because I mistakenly equated asking questions with “doubting” and “unbelief.”

The trap that religious people often fall into is that of believing that by preaching fear and converting by fear, we are somehow serving God well. We way underestimate God’s goodness and live afraid that He’s more concerned about number-crunching. We make Him out to be so small and so dependent on us. But what kind of God are we leading people to?

Ever try to have an intimate moment with someone who you think could snap at any second based off of your performance and kill you? Or worse, throw you in a torture chamber? Ummm . . . hell, much? And yet, we are extolled in worship to have intimacy with such a being. No wonder it is so half-hearted at times! No small wonder we deal with hypocrisy! It is the equivalent of sending a woman back—time and time again—to an emotionally (and potentially physically) abusive husband and saying, “Go on, then! Make love!” Yeah . . . she’s really going to put her heart into that, isn’t she?

So, back to my encounters with God’s goodness in college. The Christianity that I thought I knew was completely turned on its head, and I have been exploring this topsy-turvy world ever since. Or rather . . . should I say I lived in a topsy-turvy world, and now it’s right-side up?

But who else know that paradigms are paradigms?

The God of my innocence—the playful Creator God—knocked to tell me that He isn’t what religion had made Him out to be. His very essence is relationship—Trinity. He is more about relationship than legalisms. He absolutely adores humanity! He is joyful and does happy-dances! He is not someone I have to be afraid of—at least not like I was taught! If I fear Him, it’s that His goodness might very well overwhelm me!

I have had  to toss out some of the paradigm that was handed down to me. I did keep some good core stuff. The basic Nicene Creed—awesome. No problem there. The living in fear of God’s wrath bit? I can’t with it anymore. Especially now that my paradigm says that God’s wrath is for me, not against me. Especially now that I see God’s anger directed at that which would destroy and molest me (a. k. a. sin and whatnot), not me. I am dearly loved.

Knowing that, I can risk. I can tell fear to get the hell out of my life. I can start challenging it every time it rears it’s ugly little head. I can stop giving a flip about whether or not I look like a trembling little idiot when I choose to share my heart and be vulnerable. I can process through rejection and judgment and realize that while people are fantastic, loveable little things—at the end I answer to Jesus. I am not bound to human opinion.

Besides, people often judge each other out of not knowing how loved they are . . .  so, it’s pretty much a write-off 🙂 We can forgive that silliness and have a good laugh at it later on. (“You thought I was a cantaloupe? No way, man! I love you; you’re hilarious!”)

There’s a lot you can be brave about when you know that you are loved.

Until next time,

The Joy Detective

Thank You!

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Alrighty.

I was feeling “should-on” recently. This is something I do not like very much. In the words of Dug from Disney’s Up: “I do not like the cone of shame.” I think I pull away from people who do this to me frequently enough, even if I think they are amazing.

I hated feeling “should-ed.” Apparently, if you “should” me, it tends to bring out my dark side. I maybe start to act like that crazy guy Andy Samberg plays who’s always throwing stuff on the ground . . . I think at some point, I go “screw that; I’m done.”

I love learning from other people. I love listening to the wisdom God has spoken into their lives. I know He has done likewise in my life. I know I have something to offer. The idea of ever being placed on a pedestal for that purpose sounds scary and unhealthy, and I don’t ever want that. The idea of nobody listening and acting as if I have nothing of value to say makes me feel just sad.

I like balance. Balance feels healthy.

Do you know what happens when you start to internalize the “should’s” and the shame? You start hiding. “Hey, Adam and Eve! You’re not good enough. You should eat this piece of fruit. You will go from sucking and being inadequate to being godlike and amazing. You’re welcome.”

Cue fig leaves.

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?'” ~Isaiah 45:9, NLT

What funny beings are we that we are so affected by mere opinion—be it that of another human or even an angel! Why do we care so much?

I know why.

Day after day we are bombarded by messages of communicated worthlessness. Maybe we start believing those messages. We internalize them. So, we start to walk around like little affection and affirmation-starved puppies. So needy! We forget how rich we are. We forget the value imputed to us. We forget that we are children of the Most Amazing and Creative Being that ever there was—the Glorious Trinity! Not only are we loved, we are bombarded with love from a least three different angles. That’s only the beginning.

I absolutely love other puppies, but at the end of the day, I cannot have even the most adorable and fluffy defining me. They’re in the same boat I am in! There are some limitations there . . .

But, anyways . . . thank you!

Thank you to all the fluffy puppies out there in all their delightfully messy puppy-glory whose puppy-love simply doesn’t cut it. I wouldn’t have learned to ask for or even look for more if you hadn’t simply been you right where you are at. It wasn’t enough, but that’s okay! Puppies are meant to be played with and adored— not stuck with all that pressure that comes with a judge’s seat and gavel.

Also, thank you, satan, for being a ding-bat and showing me what God’s voice doesn’t sound like.

Thank you, Holy Spirit and Papa God and Jesus for this absolutely awesome learning adventure. I’m starting to get over the bs and am learning to receive love in its purest form.

Yay!

*Cue happy-dancing*

Raise the Bar

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I have come to the conclusion that there are certain things that I am okay with and certain things I will not allow to stand. That comes from me valuing myself and desiring the best quality life for me and the people around me. Out of this, I have come up with a list of declarations:

  1. I will believe in myself. If God thought I was a good idea, then I rest my case.
  2. I will not settle for mediocre relationships.
  3. I will believe in everyone’s inherent royalty.
  4. I am a no-fly zone for shame, manipulation, co-dependency and narcissism.
  5. I answer to God first and foremost. I love people; I treasure and honor people, but I answer to God.
  6. My voice matters—as does that of every human being. We are powerful!
  7. Faithfulness and loyalty are a must in romantic relationships. Put a ring on it, or take a hike!
  8. I will not abide the hatred of children.
  9. I will not abide predatory behavior.
  10. I am going to live an epic life and thank God for every second of it!

If this struck a chord with you, I would challenge you to make your own list of declarations. Be powerful. Use your voice. Believe in yourself!

What’s Your Story?

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The messages that we internalize as our reality have a profound effect on the way we live our lives. If you have a miserable narrative, you often experience a miserable life. If you have an epic, amazing narrative, you probably experience an epic, amazing life.

I am going to hit on some lies I believed growing up.

  1. Perfection is something you must strive for.
  2. Father God only loves me because Jesus bribed Him with His death.
  3. When guys lust after me or act inappropriately around me, it’s my fault.
  4. God doesn’t trust women; He won’t let them lead in church except with their husbands or as a children’s pastor.
  5. My sexuality is bad, and I would be better off without it.
  6. “Left Behind” portrays an accurate representation of what God is like and what our future looks like.
  7. If I don’t confess all my sins to God—even though I prayed “the prayer”—I will go to hell. #peformperformperform
  8. God only does miracles when you are doing stuff for Him, like mission trips.
  9. When you mess up, God is disappointed in you. #performperformperform
  10. I’m a sinner.

So, add all that up . . . and crap self-esteem. Very performance-based. Up and down. Up and down. A bit misogynistic. A bit doomsday. Umm . . . anxiety, much? Talk about running day and night on a hamster-wheel of religion. I was in a relationship with a divinity with multiple personalities and narcissistic tendencies. (Jesus loves me; Father hates me, but blood appeases Him?!? Also, it’s all about Him and serving Him and doing stuff and jumping through hoops for Him so I won’t be eternally tortured. That sounds like a nice, healthy foundation for a relationship!)

I was miserable, but I was told  this was it . . . so like it.

I knew I was created for love. I knew I was created for worship . . . but dang. Not like this.

Since then, I have learned some different messages. It makes for a better life story.

  1. God really thought I was a great idea and made me perfectly; I am freakin’ awesome!
  2. Women are amazing, display a beautiful part of the heart of God . . . and are born to co-lead!
  3. People acting dumb has do with whatever’s going on with them; they’re better than that anyways and just haven’t figured it out yet.
  4. Jesus and the Father have the same heart towards me. The Father was always 100% for me.
  5. God is not a narcissist; God is relationship.
  6. God is not a hierarchy; God is a Divine Love-Dance.
  7. Holy Spirit does fun stuff like miracles because Holy Spirit likes to and is really, really good.
  8. The theology of abandonment is a bunch of satanic b. s.
  9. I am fully included; the cross was basically a giant God-hug. He used our rejection of Him and turned it into a great display of His acceptance of us. He is in no way disappointed in me.
  10. I am a saint.

My life feels a whole lot better now. I like it a lot more. Guess it matters who you let narrate your story! Now, I have this whole wide world filled with goodness to explore. I have a Trinity I can’t but help fall head-over-heels in love with. I like being a woman. I’m not scared of hell. I like who God made me, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge other people—no matter what whack-a-doodle stunts they pull! I feel happy.

Love you! Hugs!

The Joy Detective

Speak

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Speak.

Speak one way,

speak another.

What are you saying?

Paint a picture.

Would you grow?

Would you cultivate

a garden?

It is not enough

to hide—

to remain concealed

in the shadow

of half-truths.

But does the raw

beauty of truth

astound you?

 

Is it

too much?

Or can you

look it

in the eye?

Speak.

Speak one way,

speak another.

If you seek

to tear me down,

will you not also

destroy yourself?

I,

who am

your mirror.

Do you despise

the beauty within?

Do you consider it

weakness?

Frailty?

Are you afraid

to love

with depth—

depth being

the point of no return—

depth being

the nail of Jesus,

not the kiss of Judas.

Either you are hot

or you are cold.

I cannot love

halfway.

It is all

Or nothing.

Speak.

speak one way,

speak another.

 

Unexpected Journeys

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So, it’s been a bit since I last wrote. I recall feeling psyched about an article I was writing about one of my best friends who is a fantastic artist and who was doing an art show. There are some people so amazing that you just want to show them off to the whole world, and she is one of them. Brilliant, frickin’ awesome human being.

She moved. One of my best friends in the whole world moved. Back to Texas. I know that she is stepping out and doing what she is called to do with her life, and this is part of it. I am happy for her, but I also feel a little sad because I miss her.

And then I moved—about at the same time, actually. I left some highly familiar settings and ventured off into another city. So, it’s been a bit of a full last few months. Maybe sometime I will get around to publishing the article I wrote. I have it on dock; I just want to go over it with my friend first to check some stuff for accuracy.

I have been learning things and doing things that I don’t know that I would have previously imagined learning or doing. I have some things that I have been pondering as a result that I think will be quite worth writing about.

Until Next Time . . .

The Joy Detective