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*

Brave

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It’s okay to be different.

Some of my most favorite people are the ones who challenge me to think differently—to consider a different angle, a different perspective. It’s as if I am being blessed with the opportunity to examine a treasure anew.

I may argue with them a little. For me, it’s a bit of a playful exercise. I want to grow—to learn. I am quite fond of the proverb “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Each person is a work of art, a masterpiece. As I study each, I grow in wisdom.

I am quite fond of the hidden ones, the ones who are at home in silence. As another proverb says “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter—and the glory of kings to search it out.” The hidden ones . . . wow. It is an honor when one of them chooses to trust you. Value that confidence. Do not think lowly of the quiet.

Be aware that not everyone is as they appear on the surface. Choose to look deeper.

Remember the stories of Saul and David.

 

Prophets or Madmen?

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Each culture has a certain set of what we call “norms.”

That means that in one culture a person who is considered “gifted” or even a “prophet” may be considered worthy of being medicated, institutionalized or even killed in another. It all has to do with these “norms” we put forth as a society.

What do our norms say about us as a culture?

Do we even want to look?

I have been thinking about how certain segments of society treat people who have been diagnosed with what is commonly called “Down Syndrome.” Extra chromosome, right? Maybe looks a little different, right?

Me, personally?  Some of the sweetest humans I have ever been blessed to meet!

And yet, how do we treat them? Pregnant women are frequently urged to have their unborn children tested for Down Syndrome. Why? Well, apparently if they do have Down Syndrome, we can simply flush the kid and try again.

Umm . . . this is okay, why???

What are we being taught about the value and the worth of a human being?

Is not perspective a blessing? Do we truly value diversity?

I think we see a truer form of mental illness in people who believe that it is okay to wreak havoc and destruction in the lives of others than we see in all these extraneous labels we are pumping out now-a-days. If you think that it is okay to hurt the innocent, oppress the poor, and rub the faces of the orphan and the widow in the dirt—-that, my friend, is real mental illness.

 

 

I Challenge You to a Duel

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“Don’t mess with Mama-Bird!”

If you grow up in a bubble and are suddenly confronted by a difficult problem or situation, it can be easy to start quoting platitudes. Anything to make that discomfort go away. If you are taught to always say, “Yes, ma’am” or “No, sir” in response to everyone and always to be “polite” and “respectful,” it may be hard to practically function when a crazy person comes at you with the clear intent to harm, spouting racial slurs and swear-words you never knew existed until he showed up. If you were taught that in all circumstances, defer to and obey authority—and all of the sudden you are transported to the age of the Third Reich in Berlin . . . . well, it may be time to question all that stuff you learned.

Now, let’s be clear: in most circumstances, I am in favor of deferring to authority. Proper order and all. (I also like to be polite and respectful—in general.) But there are certain instances where authority seems to have forgotten who it is and is acting as something it ought not be. There are also certain instances where individuals do the same thing. And in those cases, I think that the most respectful thing that can be done is to call it out. Don’t be a jerk about it, but call it out. Do it from a heart that wants the best for all involved.

I know that we are all peace-loving people here, but it is really okay to be willing to fight if necessary. If someone tries to invade your home and attack your spouse and kids, I really don’t think that God is going to be angry with you for protecting them. Conversely, don’t think it’s okay to go and invade someone else’s house with the intent to “steal, kill, and destroy” and believe that you are under His protection when you do so. That’s just stupid.

I’m a woman. If a man comes at me and tries to rape me, I believe that I am perfectly justified if I incapacitate him so that he does not succeed. That’s self-defense. Conversely, if I stalk a man with the intent to pull something equally destructive, he is justified in defending himself against me.

I think that it is important that we do not mistake apathy and passivity for a “kind, gentle, peace-loving spirit.” That opens to us up to all kinds of wickedness. Not just anyone ought be allowed to influence us. King Ahab did alright when he was under the influence of Jehoshaphat, but under the influence of Jezebel . . . awful. Killing people and stealing their vineyards. Not okay.

I was recently given two pictures of a clearing. In one, there were either no guards or completely passive guards who stood by and did nothing while a whole bunch of angry skeleton monster-things came at me with clear intent to do harm. In the next, the clearing was surrounded by guards who did their job and did not allow any of the creepy skeleton creatures inside.

I felt like I heard the Lord ask, “In which scenario did you feel more loved?”

I responded, “The second.”

Love protects.

 

Release From Shame

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This article is written or anyone dealing with that one secret that keeps your head bowed. That one memory that keeps you feeling like you are not worthy.

“Jesus sees you.”

For some, that is a terrifying phrase. Why? Because they have been taught a Jesus whose character is more akin to the devil.  A Jesus who accuses and is keen to call out sin. Not a Jesus who sees the beauty in a person and seeks to call it out.

People run away from a God who looks down upon them. No one wants to feel condemned. No one wants to feel ashamed. For some people, it’s even just easier on their consciences to claim that they believe that God doesn’t even exist or that God’s existence is highly doubtful.

Oh, but you are so beautiful! You were not meant to be kept in the dark. You were created to dance in the light and know love!

I remember reading a story about a man who lived in a graveyard and had a legion of demons inside of him. Did Jesus look at him and say, “Too far gone?” No. Jesus loved that man who was tormented. He cast those spirits out. The very presence of love cast torment out. Jesus saw past the blasphemous muttering to the man. He knew of the man’s pain and had compassion on him.

May you know love and no longer hide.

Hugs,

The Joy Detective