God is Not Out to Squash You (A Progression of My Christian Faith)

bug__s_eye_shroom_by_bendianna


I grew up believing that God loved me dearly.

I also grew up believing God was very angry with me.

I was taught that God personally created me and was immediately displeased by my sinfulness.

So my very earliest identity was forged in the crucible of this unsettling duplicity: I was both adored and resented by my Creator.

As a child I lived in the tension of being the potential object of both the wrath and the love of God simultaneously.

As I grew, I was told I needed to find and do and believe what would tip the scales from punishment to reward, from damnation to salvation, from abandonment to blessing.

I had to remove the massive barrier between me and God, to bridge the wide expanse between the two of us—which somehow was me. For simply being, the problem was me.

Apologize for my inborn transgressions and I earned the right to be God’s child. One wrong move, one doctrinal deviation, one errant belief though, and I would be toast.

Living always in paradox, I learned that I had a tender, caring Maker who knit me together in my mother’s womb, numbered every hair on my head—and was never far from squashing me for the birth defect I’d inherited somewhere in the process.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” they told me. “You’re just dirty.”

“God adores you”, they said. “Just say you’re sorry.”

Through adolescence and adulthood I stumbled and strained, trying to win the affections and approval of a Creator who’d given me life without my consent, and then required me to spend that life figuring out how to earn forgiveness from something I’d never done—other than take my first breath.

And I was to be grateful. I was taught to have joy in my rescue, to find good news in being pardoned, to celebrate dodging a fatal bullet. 

I was told to sing songs of praise to God for rescuing me from what this same God had wanted to do to me in the first place. I was to celebrate that Jesus was the gift and sign that God didn’t really want to punish me; that his blood was a substitute for my own.

I was first pronounced guilty before God, and then made to feel guilty for the Cross: responsible for Christ’s death because of my filthy mess.

And into this terrifying journey came the endless parade of gatekeepers and finger-pointers; the ones so willing to assess my performance from a distance; to point out my failures, to correct my conclusions, to critique my behavior, to determine my destination.

They gladly placed themselves between me and God; magnifying the distance, adding to the obstacles, amplifying the guilt, compounding the difficulty.

For most of my life, this has been my God story. 

For much of my life it had left me fairly exhausted.

But I am slowly but surely walking into a new story, gradually but most definitely jettisoning those things that don’t ring true anymore and traveling much lighter.

My reverence for God has never been greater, my wonder never more full, my desire to know my Maker never stronger.

The difference is, I now see God through the lens of one who is beloved, not one who is beloved with conditions. Life now is not a test to try and reach God, but an opportunity to notice God.

I am seeking Jesus more deeply than ever; not to escape punishment, but to discover life as it is to best be lived.

My faith is not about fleeing something horrible, but running toward something beautiful.

I am daily responding in gratitude for the beauty of the gift of this world, not in the hope I can eventually escape it.

I come to the Scriptures now, not as Divine dictation but as the journal entries of those who came before me and who have walked this road of asking, seeking, and knocking. They are not a road map, but a traveling companion.

And in all that I do not know, I am walking in the safety and security of trusting that I never was the enemy of God; that I am made of whatever God is made of, part of whatever God is.

The gatekeepers and the finger-pointers will keep doing what they do and I will keep moving, steadfast and resting in the love that I know firsthand, casts out all fear.

They will snicker and condemn and dismiss. 

They will name this heresy.

They will call this a rebellion.

To me, it is a progression.

It is the move toward Truth.

Keep going and be encouraged, dear friend.

God is not out to squash you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

107 thoughts on “God is Not Out to Squash You (A Progression of My Christian Faith)

    • If there were actual Reconciliation…I could see your point….but in most Catholic parishes (and I am in the Diocese of San Bernardino), people flock to a mass Reconciliation service before Christmas and Easter, where 20 priests gather at one time (the service is rotated among local parishes during the 1-2 weeks before each holiday), in ‘stations’ …. it resembles the ’15-minutes-or-less-your PPO/HMO-physician-spends-with-you’ more than an actual Reconciliation between human and God. And just telling someone to pray so many Our Fathers and so many Hail Marys as an Act of Contrition -I’m sorry, but I’ve never really gotten the point of that.

      Even those who come to Reconciliation…or as many older Catholics know it…Confession…on Saturdays or the appointed day during the week…people standing in line to get their 15-minutes-or-less….

      What is true Reconciliation? It is a bruised, battered, despised woman rushed to a place of execution by men with stones in their hands waiting to throw them at her, looking into the face of The One Person who had the absolute right to condemn her (and everyone else) and seeing love, mercy, forgiveness and acceptance…I think she carried that memory with her for the rest of her life, of the Man who accepted and forgave her; I think she saw His eyes looking upon her as if she were a REAL HUMAN BEING….and I think she was forever different.

      Yes, as a Former Protestant, there are MANY aspects of Roman Catholicism I struggle with (certain forms of Marian devotion, the Rosary (sorry, this is another thing I simply do not see the point of, but I recognize that it brings comfort to many, and I would never dissuade anyone from it – it does not do anything for ME), and Reconciliation – sitting in a small room with someone who seems bored/annoyed is supposed to bring me closer to God????

      • Yattwood, I just want to say thank you for your retelling of the “woman taken in adultery” story. Yes, that’s at the heart of my faith also.

      • Raised Lutheran, became Catholic. . . Now, a Jesus follower. I love some of the Catholic tradition — the Hail Mary, the Rosary, the Saints, even Reconciliation.

    • Mr. Seeber, I think more than a few of John’s readers are on to you. You seem to be just waiting for John to write a post so you can come up with something snarky to say. I believe it is called “trolling”. However, even in Trollville you are entitled to your opinion. I for one don’t take you seriously, I call it stirring the pot just for fun.

    • –its unfortunate that John had the unbiblical idea about God all those years –that he thought he had to strive to be ‘good’ for God’s approval.

      Being in a relationship with God is about the condition of our heart [broken, contrite, circumcised] . But maybe for some people, that feels like guilt to them? [I don’t feel guilty about my sin, but I definitely know my position –very, very, low, the worst in fact. ]

      • I feel so sad for you LGMarshall. So many times in my church life, I have heard the phrase “God loves us more than we love our own children”. If that is the case then (if you have children) do you consider them very, very, low, the worst in fact? For their sake I truly hope not.

        • YFrith ….next to a Holy God, I am very low. [Next to man, I’m near the top.]

          I’m just noting (like Paul the apostle did) that my worldly accomplishments i.e., significant wealth, higher education, social status, family ties, physical attractiveness, artistic talent, high intelligence, good marriage, successful family, etc., amount to nothing in God’s Kingdom. Because none of it was my doing.

      • What is unbiblical LG? Is it compassion for another being? What about freedom, equality, not stoning your disobedient children to death? There is such a wide range of “biblical” offenses, how does one rightly and lovingly aspire to such a quality? Why would we?

        • cmelton …. John’s previous belief that he ‘wasn’t good enough, that he had to earn God’s approval & affection’. [That’s unbiblical, meaning it does not say that in the bible. ] And it’s impossible! We can’t earn God’s affections. He just loves us because we belong to Him. [The question is…who belongs to Him? ] The bible is clear on that too.

            • God loves everyone, but not everyone loves God.

              God is coming back to judge. He will separate the sheep from the goats. His sheep that know his voice will be with him for eternity. The goats who hate him, will be cursed and sent into everlasting fire. (Jesus said this in Matthew 25:31-45).

              • LG I am not so sure that is the meaning of the parable, this is something I read from a bible study about that parable:

                “In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, we are looking at man redeemed and saved, and man condemned and lost. A casual reading seems to suggest that salvation is the result of good works. The “sheep” acted charitably, giving food, drink, and clothing to the needy. The “goats” showed no charity. This seems to result in salvation for the sheep and damnation for the goats. …[But the point is ] …The good works mentioned in the parable are not the cause of salvation but the effect of salvation. As Christians we become like Christ….[and take on] the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Good works in a Christian’s life are the direct overflow of these traits, and are only acceptable to God because of the relationship that exists between…the saved and their Savior, the sheep and their Shepherd. ”

                I find that interpretation resonates with me more than yours.

      • LG I think there is a difference between feeling guilt for your sin (which you should feel bad about because it is something you did, you sinned own it! ) and being told you are dirty (or thinking you are the lowest of the low) which you shouldn’t feel if you are loved by God. It’s the difference between taking responsibility for your actions or living a shamed based life.

        You have backwards in my opinion.

        • I’m not ashamed of myself. Just realistic about who I am. I think we do not recognize God as the Holy God that he is. I’m talking about comparing myself to Holiness. I am a filthy rag — COMPARED to God’s Holiness.

          [An example might be… I have played the cello for 50 years. I’m OK at it, and enjoy playing in community orchestras. YoYo Ma is a world class cellist. Even if I practiced every day for 8 hours a day, for the next 10 years, I would NEVER approach the level that Ma has attained. Cause, I’m lousy compared to him. I don’t hate myself. I’m honest. ]

          Note: it’s good to be in an on-going inductive bible study. that is how we learn who God is, what he cares about, what he says…who we are, why we are here, where we are going… I recommend http://www.communitybiblestudy.org

          • I know you have caused a bit of a “stir” with your comments about not being worthy LG. But it does show the contrast between old time religion and a more progressive view of God, Jesus and the bible. One thing I would add to the discussion is this. In Genesis God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
            reflecting our nature.
            We were made, according to God himself in his image. With that said it is not productive or necessary to self-flagellate. These interpretations of scripture were written during the dark ages, with all of the social constraints of that time and culture. Thank God Christianity is taking on a more progressive view. There will one day be children who will never have to hear terms like “filthy rag, abomination, evil, etc. when describing who they are in relation to God.
            A new wind is a blowing, and I thank God for that.

            • I’m curious Yvonne, you said that one day our children will no longer have to hear terms like “filthy rags, abomination or evil” when being compared to God. Just how is this possible? What has/will change to make this type of thinking outdated? Is it man’s way of thinking or something else that will bring about this change?

              • Why is anyone “comparing” anything to God? And why is the scale of measurement good to evil? There is no comparison. We are what we are. No one compares jellyfish to Jupiter, but at least Jupiter we have seen. I know God is goodness and love on a level no one can define and we can’t comprehend the magnitude, but that doesn’t make humans filthy rags. Birds probably can’t comprehend our humanity, but that doesn’t make them lowly imbeciles.

                • Carmen, you said ” I know God is goodness and love on a level no one can define and we can’t comprehend the magnitude, but that doesn’t make humans filthy rags.”
                  First of all, the term ‘filthy rags’ is used out of context here. Nowhere in the bible are we humans ever outrightly called filthy rags. Our righteousness is compared to filthy rags when compared to God’s righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). There is a big difference there. And yes, that comparison is one that has to be made whether you like it or not. In fact, you just made it in your post by stating that God’s qualities are on a level we cannot define. You seem very angry in the fact of being compared to anything of God. Why is that? It is in comparing ourselves to God which shows us our deficiencies and points us to God as being good and just and loving as the main draw for us towards Him. That’s a good thing. If that bothers you, then that is a problem within yourself and not of God.

                  • Hey Edward,

                    God didn’t write those words but a man who believed in God and it was the best he could do, at the time, to relate to others and maybe he felt that way. Even Peter said , when Jesus went to wash his feet, ‘No wash all of me’ but Jesus said, ‘those who are already clean don’t need to be washed again.’ So ‘filthy rags’ is more of an exaggeration- not factual. (I am using scripture here because I know you relate better to Biblical discourse)

                    The thing is we can
                    re-imagine our faith in our own words from our own experience in relationship with Christ. What do you think ?

                    • Kathy, the thing is, why would you want to re-imagine faith in someone who is perfect?

                      Peter’s problem was pride, not hygiene.

                    • I don’t think there is anything wrong with reimagining our faith. Some great authors and thinkers have done that. Perhaps how we express God’s love in our own unique way; with our own words, poems, songs, stories, is pleasing to God.

                  • Hey Ed, it’s interesting that you derived anger from my words. I’m about as far from anger as you’ll ever know! Seriously, I mean I’m like the gentlest, thing you can imagine. My curiosity is inexhaustible though. I wonder what other emotions you get from people that aren’t really there? I’m sure I do that too. See, now I’m all sidetracked. Did you do that on purpose?

                    Anyway, so it’s our righteousness, not us, that is like filthy rags compared to God. Sorry but how is that different? Still sounds like we’re being degraded for being human. I know I know, the bible says it so it’s true. No point in arguing that.

                    But just so we’re clear, I don’t have any problems with God at all. Or with his people, I love all you guys!
                    Which is why I don’t like seeing them made to feel like crap for merely existing. But we’ll probably never agree so maybe we should just move on?

                    Thanks for engaging with me & my incessant questions.

                    • Carmen…
                      Implying that someone is not valuable based upon a condition is what catches some off guard. For instance, if you had a car that was in good working order but was rusty, the rust did not diminish the usefulness of the car, only its appearance, and how it was viewed by onlookers. What one person might see as a total wreck, God sees as a restoration project. You would not fix up a car and leave the rust. Neither does God. The only problem is that we can do nothing about our broken righteousness (rust). Only the spilled blood of Christ can fix that condition within us. There is only one source of righteousness and nobody without a completely reflective mirror of our inner self can see or will see the need if someone doesn’t hold the mirror up for us. The Gospel is that mirror. Take a look and see what God sees. Don’t look for my sake, look for your own sake.

                      No apology needed for the questions. Find the truth and live it.

              • Historically Edward there are upheavals in Christianity. One example, Martin Luther and the 95 thesis.

                He questioned what he saw as misinterpretations in the way he did “church”. He made huge changes in the world of Christianity.

                I believe we are seeing some huge changes in the way we do church today in what is being called Progressive Christianity. A new and fresh way of looking at God, scripture and Jesus.

                Progressives are not changing God or his “word”, just re-framing it.

                When words like re-framing pop up in Christendom, it does cause many a knee jerk reaction.

                That’s ok, God moves us at different times and in different ways Edward.

                Here are some resources if you might be interested. John Pavlovitz is obviously a fantastic resource for what Progressive Christianity looks like. A couple of other resources that are amazing are Rachel Held Evans, Stan Mitchell of Grace Pointe Church and Kathy Escobar and her book” Faith Shifted”.

                Peace to you Edward.

                • Yvonne, thank you for the references, I appreciate the effort on your part. I’m not looking to “be” progressive and trendy as much as being progressed by God himself, towards the Truth.

                  I don’t agree with your argument with ML and progressives. While ML and progressives were/are both involved in making changes, I don’t see the changes being made in the same direction, and that’s the problem.

                    • Edward it’s true that progress has its ups and downs and it is entirely man made but this is the mantle the God of Gensis laid upon us; it may not have been what God planned or the ideal I don’t know what God intended except for a few ancient words handed down and translated by imperfect human beings. But I do know love.

                      I leave room for the realty that you, that article and I may be wrong but God has redeemed us all. His work is to take us and not just fix our rust but make us more that cars or pots or utensils we are living breathing beings made in his image who have a spiritual potential which is precious to God; we must respect and tread carefully in people’s lives. Hoping the best wanting the best for those who believe in God and equally for those who believe in good

                      Science helps me appreciate God’s creation; doubt helps me appreciate Gods mystery; Poetry helps me see Gods humanity and art helps me see Gods beauty; as long as my heart is directed towards God I am grateful and yielded to his grace pouring into the lives of all; I am more receptive to his love. It is freeing; a freedom which leads my heart to love more.

                  • God moves each individual as he sees fit. I have let go of fear and now focus on faith. May God richly bless you Edward on your spiritual journey. Progressive and trendy are not synonymous. Peace.

      • If you are “wonderfully made” and you believe that, if “God so LOVED” you, if you believe that he gave up His most precious Son for your sake, if to God you are worth all of that, why in the world would think of yourself as “very, very, low, the worst in fact”? Do you believe that God is wrong about you? God sees you as a precious pearl, as a treasure (read those parables again, Jesus said “the Kingdom of God is like” the merchant, not that YOU are the one selling all to possess the treasure. He is the Merchant) You underestimate God’s opinion of your worth.

        • Finally, someone else who GETS this parable. I’ve had people look at me like I’m nuts, but it’s clear as a bell. The KINGDOM is like the merchant. <3

    • Why are you here Theodore? What is your motive? Is it to be right? To show us your authority, your knowledge of man-made theology?

      What do YOU know? Anyone can read, study, and regurgitate the written knowledge of others. But living is a very different, very personal matter. I hear nothing of your heart, your source of divine love and compassion. It seems you don’t have any interest in actually connecting with people, but rather putting them in their place. Is that your purpose? Just curious, it is my nature.

      Please forgive me if I have misunderstood you.

    • I would say the owner / author of this blog is kind and patient. As evidenced by his not blocking you from his comments. While your frequent comments – as far as I have noticed them – seem acerbic and sarcastic, keep reading. Love wins. In the end, love wins. Blessings.

        • Ah, Brian Nagel….sometimes love is too much, too wild, too radical – Jesus cannot be the Magnificent Lion of Judah that would give little girls rides on His back (Aslan in C.S Lewis’ Narnia stories), or romp with His Creation in a delightful wild picnic, but a stern Drill Instructor demanding that humanity ‘drop and give Him 20…’ – Following The Rules, The Dogma, The Doctrine becomes a substitute for loving…. and for some, BEING CATHOLIC is MORE IMPORTANT than following Jesus….because, gasp, horror, shock ….He just might lead one somewhere that is NOT ROME (or Fundamentalism of any sort)

          I became a Roman Catholic in 1999, because there is a respect for the intellect in certain Catholic circles (Jesuits, for example, are very bright boys, and they tend to be quite mischievous)…but I am more of a Stephen Colbert kind of Catholic (I wish I had one tenth of his intellect and humor)…..

          I hope someday that Aslan will take Theodore Seeber on a wonderful, wild ride and to a great and delightful feast……..

  1. John, once again, thank you for sharing your soul with all of us. I think a lot of people view God as a reflection of their own relationship with their earthly parent(s)… even when it reflects abuse. I believe that Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally – Christ offered Himself unconditionally – and They are patiently waiting for us to sort ourselves out down here on earth and learn to love each other with that same beautiful type of love. That’s OUR purpose on earth.

  2. Hmmm, me too. No wonder I lived most my life turned halfway away from God, hoping he wouldn’t notice how awful I was. Then I learned the truth about Grace. And I’m Grateful, not fearful!
    Thank you John!

  3. I needed this. More than anything.

    Thank you. I really admire your work and it has helped me a lot.

    You’ll never know what this means.

  4. Keep on keeping on John! When enough people see the true Light this thing will break wide open and the masses will finally realize how power, money, control; ignorance in seminary teaching plus ignorance of the minister’s, priest’s and pastors have reigned supreme over the lives of billions of people.
    Perhaps that will be the “second coming”, that the scourge of repression, guilt and shame will finally turn into the Truth that God is the only Power in the Universe and everything created is expression of that creation. That nothing is bad or corrupt except that which we make so in our thinking by not knowing we are the expression of God.

    • Hi Ellis, I agree w what you are saying but not sure what you mean when you say (paraphrased)…’if we could just correct our thinking, then we would see that nothing is bad or corrupt. ‘

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  8. I identify completely, John. Over 40 years knowing the love of Jesus but always striving to be closer to God and clean up my act was my story. A few years ago I discovered that I was already clean and in his lap of delight. Separation was in my mind not God’s. So my story now is walking in the freedom of discovering just how wonderful is the love of Jesus for me and for all of humanity.

  9. I have always wondered what Jesus meant by the truth will set you free and yet much of what churches teach have led us to believe God’s love is conditional and we are not truly free until we die; which leads me to wonder what he meant about an abundant life. The primary concern of so many Christian is a lack of assurance in thier salvation yet it is the church that is priming our conscience with messages that dwell on our unworthiness eh? It appears to me it takes a strong person to balance those boulders above thier head while others cannot quite manage to ensure there is enough income to pay thier bills this month and have enough food in the cupboard let alone take on a complicated theology which requires us to jump through hoops.

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  11. Hi John,

    Thank you for this post. Ironic for me that you mention this:

    “Living always in paradox, I learned that I had a tender, caring Maker who knit me together in my mother’s womb, numbered every hair on my head—and was never far from squashing me for the birth defect I’d inherited somewhere in the process.”

    Having a child who was born with a literal birth defect, and died, this passage was the first that came to mind. It was also the one that propelled me into uncertainty and doubt. If this “knitting together” was literally true, as I had believed, He created my baby this way- on purpose. I absolutely do not believe God is actually knitting together a baby, and deciding to put the organs on the outside, not complete the skull, forget a few chambers of the heart, or switch up the chromosomes (whatever the fatality may be) for some sort of divine purpose. So, this very idea of how mind-boggling and unfair it is for a child being born having to absorb not only men’s sinful nature before him, as well as a fatal physical defect, began my transformation out of a literal and conservative faith.

    I now believe that conception is a result of natural law, and it’s nothing personal. Infertility isn’t personal (as it was in the Bible when women were punished and rewarded using this very thing). This is how I explain a pregnancy that will end in abortion, a 12 year old impregnated by her father, a rape victim getting pregnant, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and a beloved baby dying of a birth defect. Nature, biology, chance.

    I’m not sure how to reconcile this new God with what I’ve always been taught, though. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for a “personal relationship”. A God who is not squashing us, (and not rewarding us), seems to me less present in what happens in the daily lives of His people, but more present in the hearts of men. This isn’t suitable with most christian thought process, however. But it’s enough for me.

    • Agree with you Ellen. The personal relationship thing doesn’t add up for me either. I think people reflect the nature of God based on the quality of their own hearts. And maybe divine love doesn’t flow freely from some, due to their clogging fear that allowing it to somehow isn’t “biblical”.

  12. I was raised Mormon. I was told that being gay is a grave sin. I struggled to be straight. Finally, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t me who had the problem, and it wasn’t God who had a problem either. After all, just who do you think decorates all those heavenly mansions?

  13. This is exactly how I feel … I am really upset by the very unchristian language of the right wing fundamentalists’ in the media. However, I determine to believe in a loving God who created us all, whatever our orientation, which feels just right to me.

  14. You’ve hit the nail on the head again John, good post. I’ve begun reading and following Richard Rohr a Franciscan priest at CAC.org, even with me being Lutheran. His Franciscan Alternate Orthodoxy rings true for me in my heart. Basically saying the same thing as John, in that Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about men, but to change men’s mind about God. To know that our goal in this life is to discover that God’s spirit lives within each of us already and to live out of that spirit, which is love (the true self as he calls it) which is who we were created to be. To learn to recognize the ego (false self) in us, the part that wants to compare ourselves to others, yet not allow ourselves to live out of that ego. To come to understand (it’s a process, a transformation) what is true for ourselves is true for all others as well, we are loved, and accepted by the Father who created us and we need not fear. True love casts out all fear.

    • Reply to Tom Splayt,

      I agree with you. There’s a lot of good messages coming from people like Richard Rohr, Brennan Manning, and others who emphasize God’s affection for us. Sure, we have basic rules of conduct, but they aren’t the emphasis in our lives. Getting rid of the shame releases us to love and serve well.

  15. Good point. And yes, some of us are still struggling at the circus entrance, letting others go through the turnstile ahead of us. Unconditional vs. Worthy can be difficult to navigate. I always thought if I were an actual performer I could go through the back entrance, participate in the Big Show, empowered by Jesus’ love, blessed that I just showed up and gave my performance my best. I am taken aback but the number of performance critics out there. I guess I’ll have to wait for the reviews.

      • @ your 4/7/16 @7:52 pm comment.
        Amen. And Amen again.
        And don’t you ever apologize, EVER, for your uniqueness. You are precious in His sight. You ARE a gift and this planet is the better for your presence on it. No matter your current struggle, no matter the uphill road you face today and tomorrow and the next… You are His voice, His true voice… Not some half-arsed, dimwit, damnation-spouting freak preaching from a pulpit that wouldn’t know Christ if he came up and introduced himself. I’ve not known one other person in my life that had a truer grasp on faith in action as you. Don’t stop… Ever. There… I said it.

        • Okay I won’t stop. So grateful for your encouragement. So grateful we connected here. Wish I could hug you and hope you are in a good place. So grateful for all the people I connect with. My hope is that Christians will start talking from their hearts rather than battling with theological theories calling it truth – as fact – instead of leaving ourselves open for him to shed his light and reveal truth which is our authentic selves given to each other and to him. He desires our heart a heart motivated by love, desire for goodness and peace , it is so simple and yet we make it so murky and complicated; as Carmen said somewhere in this thread or another thread ‘clogged up’ because we focus on sin and fear and distractions rather than figuring out how we can best help each other yielding ourselves to each other, sacrificing for each other, being real and gritty with life. Not being a hindrance to people rather challenging each other as we cheer each other on Thank you again SA 🙂 all my best

            • Yvonne Frith you are so joyful and encouraging , this made my day, we LGBTQ folk desperately need affirmation of our existence and worth but I know you understand that, thank you so much 😀

          • Kathy often wanted to sit with you and have a meaningful conversation. It will likely never occur; how unfortunate for me. I’m the poorer for circumstances. Regarding ur comment, it’s my understanding that in order for something to catch light it must have surface. There are far too many that come to this blog who are too porous; in mind and heart. His Light has nowhere to land. In their vain emptiness they try to throw that light to many who are already beautifully illumined… and then blinded further. I can’t help but geel a little pity. You keep your brilliant
            surface.

            • SA, I know it seems that way. It’s beautiful how light reflects off the facets of a beautiful gem or diamond. Yet I seem to remember a time when I thought I had it all figured out and then I heard someone’s story which didn’t fit with all I had figured out. It broke my heart and cracked me wide open and that is when the light flooded in, that’s when it all started to look different. I was like the Grinch when his heart burst out of it’s cage. This is what we all need; to have our stony hearts turn to fleshy feely hearts. I don’t know why some Christians cannot understand us; how we struggle to fit in, how our reality is so alien from the world we live in, not by our choice; how our feelings are discounted and compromised before we even have a chance to begin. I don’t know what it will take except a change of heart and that is what I am hoping for. I know we would have a meaningful conversation in person. I have no doubt about that, I am always been open to it.

              • You make forget where I am.

                I believe I have a better understanding of the circumstances. I’ve hurt you enough already. I’ll continue to stand over here. But I meant what I said. You’re a Gift.

                And with God all things are possible… we’ll continue to be prisoners of hope.

                Go… get your hands dirty today. Enjoy the earth.

                • No, you have helped me. When I see you standing there I will come over and say “Hey” We will have a great conservation full of silliness, surprise and sublimity, it will be great.

                • You would love it here. We have rabbits in the city. They make cute little bunny eared prints in the new fallen snow. We are all waking up after a long winter. Waking up up from our napping underneath thick blankets, a tumble of scarves and mitts, furry boots and thick parkas; like the buds popping out of bare branches on the trees. Two robins dropped down from a tall pine near where I was standing. I made myself very still and watched them; to find out what they were up to. One found a wee patch of grass and was poking it with its beak. Poor thing was hungry. The other found a puddle sunk into a deep tire tread made by the snowplow. It beat its wings and splashed about.

                  My father taught me, when you tell a story don’t just tell it— paint it with words. Now there is a poet. It makes him chuckle the strange ideas people get from his words. He said to me once, “No one really understands Ginsberg either, or Dali, but my words have people fighting in the streets. My words? Do you believe it?” ‘Elizabeth I’ wrote a speech to inspire her army; to strengthen them so they could face a bigger army sent by a leader that presumed he had permission to conquer a sovereign nation. While ‘Alexander I’ kept on his knees and prayed through the French advance on his capital— both using their wits.

                  It’s all good, you know, in the end. No matter what we do, we do it because we breathe, we yearn inside our skin to know one another. Thirst motivates us, curiosity progresses us, passion drives us; we get up when the hard summer rain beats down all the flowers. We know tomorrow somehow they spring back up and open their faces to the sun again. There is pain in it, but pain is a color like any other on the palette, waiting for its time of expression. I won’t glorify it but I understand it well. We bear pain for those we love and we never understand that kind of sacrifice until we have loved. No one should be denied love mixed with their cross to bear. It’s the most beautiful act of all.

                  • Just something I wrote today after working an eight hour shift but wanted to share it because it doesn’t fit anywhere else 🙂

  16. John,

    You always articulate what needs to be said. I grew up in the Presbyterian church and loved the people, but never got good answers when I asked these kind of questions. I was told just to accept things on faith. I couldn’t swallow that. I have been a member of the Christian Science church since high school and have found God’s unfailing love for me and all mankind. Mary Baker Eddy points out the absurdity of the very dilemma you mention. If God created us with the intention of us sinning, whose fault is that?

    We were not born miserable sinners. That was and is the theology of the Pharisees. Jesus said concerning little children, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” He did not say they were all sinners. He appreciated their innocence.

    Of course, we do have to deal with the sins we have committed, but even in the midst of our sins and mistakes, God loves us dearly and is nurturing our coming closer to Him.

    I am grateful you are finding your way to the absolute and unconditional love of God.

    If you have not read the works of Mary Baker Eddy, I highly recommend it. She said some things over 100 years ago that deserve our attention today. She has been maligned by those “finger pointers” you talk about, but in my book, that’s a good endorsement.

  17. Again, thanks John. As you have pointed out, one of our main problems is, we just haven’t decided on what/who/how God is. For me, above all, God is loving. That is the God I’ve felt inside, the One I talk to. Forgiveness is part of love. Even my very imperfect father forgave me, and I forgave him. Then, of course, God forgives us, from the start, to the finish. The Jews knew/know this. Most people do. Except for traditional Christians. We somehow (Augustine) forgot this and warped the message of Jesus (as The Christ) into being forgiven only by our believing that God killed Jesus because we were so bad and unforgivable.
    It doesn’t make sense, of course. Since we are more and more thinking (finally) about these things, people are increasingly staying away from churches. The world needs a God of love and a Way of love that meets the challenges of our times. How sad it is that the Way of Jesus fits the bill for our needs, but that the doctrine of Christianity is keeping that message and call from being heard.
    Is it time for us to leave Christianity and start becoming simple disciples of Jesus? I think so. Most churches are keeping people from growing in love, allowing and encouraging them to settle for mere belief. The world and God need much more.

  18. John I’m not sure if you ever read ex christian Neil Carter’s writings. But ironically, a few days ago he wrote a post discussing this very issue. His conclusions are obviously different to yours, but I’d love some feedback on what you/and or others here think of his article. If you’re not comfortable letting this comment and link thru moderation, I’ll understand tho. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2016/04/03/so-long-self/

    • That article hits it home for me. I have always been disturbed by the kind of self loathing that Christianity teaches. Not to mention, how it absolves personal responsibility. Blame for devil, praise for God, we are sheep puppets. More and more I think this way of thinking is a serious detriment to our society. I want to say to people, look, you are inherently wonderful! You are so loved, you are so splendidly capable of anything! You are magnificent and you matter. We all matter. And we matter equally. I want to convince people of this, but they are so brainwashed they think I am the devil. They truely can’t tell good from evil. How messed up and sad it is.

      • You’d make a great Humanist Carmen, if you’re not already not one. 🙂 I deconverted from christianity around 20 years ago, but those messages of self loathing even now haunt me at times.

          • Oops Sean, my other comment replied to the wrong spot somehow.

            Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for all of your encouragement. It’s people like you – too many to list I’m grateful to say – that give me so much confidence in humanity’s choice to let love guide them. And you are the overwhelming majority.

            Hugs:)

  19. This feels so important. Your words make me feel that adolescent contradiction of: “feel guilty and do something” and “you’re too small/unimportant/bad to actually do something.” It’s paralyzing — I wonder how much of my paralysis is still connected to this.

    • Sean, from what I understand, wrath is more likely compared to a consuming fire. Although the Hebrew word charah means (burning of) hot, incensed, blaze up, kindle or zeal. and the Greek word orge which means (to teem or to swell) we translate those words to mean anger or wrath. But what if our way of interpreting those words is flawed and small. I think you are close to the root of the issue; it’s not how God ‘IS’ that is the question or concern but why we perceive God the way we do. .

      God’s passion seems like anger. If you have ever been close to a bonfire it can be scary and exhilarating at the same time. Fire purifies and at the same time destroys. If the sun dipped close to earth we would be totally helpless against its 27 million°F heat , the deafening noise, the exploding surface with solar flares that are wild and furious. We would burn up in a millisecond.

      So my guess is, it is not anger that God possesses rather it is passion. And if God draws near to us with his full passion we could not stand it. It says in the Bible ‘vengeance is mine says the Lord’. We interpret that to mean a horrible end for our enemies but perhaps it is meant to save our enemies. Maybe it is best for us to let them alone and not ruin their opportunity; and for us is to have God draw near to us and for us to not run away or hide.

      • Thank you Kathy. Your post has offered me an insightful and very inspiring perspective. I can fully appreciate the idea of an overwhelming God-love that, to us humans, ‘feels’ like wrath but actually is love that is just too much for us to bear and understand. Once again thank you!

  20. I often wonder what I would do or say if I could spend a day with Jesus in human form. I have a mental image of walking along the shore of a beautiful sunny beach hand in hand. Would I ask for scriptural clarification? Would I ask about my sexuality or what heaven is like and whether I would see my dad and all my loved ones there? Do you know what? I don’t think I would ask anything at all.

    I remember a passage from the bible where a woman with a blood disorder touches the edge of Jesus’ robe (she doesn’t appear to tug at it, just touch it) and something supernatural happens; as though a connection beyond the physical manifests. Jesus felt something and simply turns to the woman and tells her that her faith has healed her. In a sense this story explains what I would wish for. In holding Jesus’ hand my desire would simply be to experience his love throughout my being.

    Perhaps this is where I go wrong. In constantly looking for answers, particularly about my sexuality, and desperately trying to understand versus that, at times, make absolutely no sense to me, I lose sight that standing right next to me is Jesus. I can reach out to his robe whenever I want and he will say, Sean, I am also here for you. Be still and know that I am God.

    You see, for me, it’s not so much about understanding the Bible and all its complexities, but experiencing, in a real sense, the love of God, which I absolutely believe you can experience as a human being. When a child is embraced by its mother or father, they don’t question what it means, they just accept the gift without reservation.

    Perhaps it’s not God squashing us down but our own incessant need to define God and his works and it is this that ultimately squashes us.

    • Yes Sean! I knew where you were going with this, I feel the same way. All the searching, questioning, defining and redefining our beliefs and certainly arguing about them completely veils the higher truth. It is right here all along. Experience has led me here too and I have never felt more loved, more freedom, more in touch with the divine and more authentic than I do in this realization. No words are necessary, no thoughts even. One moment spent in His presence would leave us speechless. I will continue to rest in this stillness and trust. The mother/child analogy is perfect.

      So much gratitude for your voice in this dialogue:)

      • Thank you Carmen! I’m learning a lot from your posts; they are spiritually nurturing and inspiring. I really enjoy reading them. X

  21. After reading the first many comments all I can say is, really? We, who follow Christ, need to get in the boat and start fishing, shut up and live the truth.
    Yet, we sit and bicker and name call. And God weeps.

  22. More and more each day I feel like God is trying to crush me into a fine powder. The past few years have left me without a career, a direction, or any hope of a meaningful future. My family likes to say things like, “we’re praying for you” and “God has a plan,” which sound more annoying every time I hear them. Christians are great at platitudes and terrible at sound advice. Am I destined to be poor and directionless my entire life? Am I being punished for my sins with poverty in a prosperous world? I often think of the story of Job and how God let the devil have his way with him in spite of his righteousness. I find myself more and more conflicted with whatever God’s plan is supposed to be.

    • Andrew, I totally hear your heart. I have been there many times. I cannot count how often something seemed so right and I so ready but it never came to pass in the way it might have. And so over many years I have had to let go of my preconceptions about what my life purpose was and just try to be obedient to God every day, which is not small task in and of itself. You might like a blog post I wrote some time ago that addresses this a little bit– http://thebiblespeakstoyou.com/god-prepares-your-heart-on-his-timetable/

      I do not believe for one minute God is trying to crush you. It is the material world’s relentlessness that does the crushing. And God is not letting the devil crush you either. Christ gave his disciples (and that includes us) power over the devil, but we don’t use that power. Whose fault is that?

      I wish I could take your hand in mine and assure you things will turn out okay. Moses was just taking care of sheep for 40 years before he led the Children of Israel out of Egypt. It probably seemed pretty pointless, but he was learning to trust God more. If you read my blog post you’ll see the poem I wrote about this.

      Anyway, hang in there brother. As for practical advice, I hope what I say here doesn’t sound like platitudes. I suggest you write down five things every day that are action items that point you in what seems to be the right direction at the time. Do those five things that day. They may be just one little part of something bigger. Just do the little parts at first. Just do something every day.

      I recently had to take a part time job way below my deserved pay scale, but it is something I love. I don’t know where it will lead, but I am doing it for now. Just find something to do that you enjoy.

      Sorry if I sound too preachy. I just want you to know I believe you can find what you’re looking for.

  23. I never took, and still dont know how to feel, about original sin. The way i see it, though im always humbled knowing that my conclusions may not be right, is that “original sin” isnt about coming out of the womb already condemned. It is that we have the ingrained capacity TO sin. Or put more clearly you are “dirtied by sin” immediately in birth but that you will have the capacity to sin later in life in which we wouldnt have had if “adam hadnt eaten the apple”. And so i dont think Jesus died to attone for an original sin that we are born into condemnation already, but the sins we will commit later on in life which was perpetuated by the fall.

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