Tuesday, March 29, 2016

This blog has moved

Hey there. I just want to let you all know that this blog has permanently moved to:

www.sharonnemethmurch.com

This is a move to Word Press from Blogger, for a few reasons, not least of which is that there is a lot more random traffic over there. It is also easier to get and keep domain names, for a techno dummy like me. At any rate, I hope you will visit my new blogsite. I have moved a few of my more recent blogs from here over to there just to get started.

Thanks,
Sharon

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Books: JESUS FEMINIST by Sarah Bessey


Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women is not a book that would ever call to me from the bookstore shelf. It just feels completely irrelevant. I grew up in the late sixties and early seventies, when the feminist movement was at full throttle. It has always been a part of me. But it is not something that I have ever felt to be in conflict with my faith, and never anything that has been an issue in my life or relationships. I know there are a few iffy scriptures and the arguments back and forth that might revolve around it, but I just never really cared about that particular question. Honestly, this book sounded like something that would be kind of dry and, well, boring.

I picked up Jesus Feminist, however, and I read it because I completely love the author, Sarah Bessey. She did not disappoint me. It was captivating.

There is not a writer on earth who stirs my faith, and my desire for faith, more than Sarah Bessey. At first glance this might seem odd, since Bessey is possessed of a wandering, questioning heart. But it's not so odd, because I possess the same heart, and so I identify with her words ... words which also happen to be beautifully, exquisitely written, with ink blended from her tears, her sweat, her blood from the battle for her faith. This book is not a dry treatise on the place of a woman. I will tell you, I cried several times when reading this book, and I am not a cry-er. I cried over for-real things, like the girl who hanged herself because of rejection, like the orphans in Haiti that Bessey visited. I cried over Bessey's miscarriages. But I cried much more when she wrote of the pain of having questions.

Bessey is the author also of Out of Sorts, a book I reviewed recently. As with that review, I think that there is nothing like Bessey's own words. I can tell you what she said, but I can never tell you in the way she can. So just a few excerpts, if you don't mind.

She described briefly the falling from faith that she had described more fully in Out of Sorts. I heard it in a different way this time, though.
I was drawn toward a life of redemptive peacemaking and justice seeking, yet the churches of my context and tradition were in a strange collusion with politics and just-war philosophy as the Iraq war began. I struggled with the cultural rhetoric against immigrants, homosexuals, artists, welfare recipients, the poor, non-Americans, and anyone who looked different or lived differently than the expectation. Cultural mores were passing as biblical mandates...
The more I learned about the life and world and tragedies thumping along beyond our seemingly missing the point building programs and Christian schools and drive-by missionary work, the more I ached and grieved and repented of my own sin and blindness.... 
The cracks were ricocheting and multiplying across my heart now, and when I turned to the Church for answers, I did not feel my questions were welcome. This may have been my own pride and willful blindness, but there didn't seem to be room for me as a questioning woman within the system, as a seeker....
Bessey tried to keep her questions stuffed into her mental closet where they wouldn't cause problems, but she reminded us of the over-stuffed closet in the cartoons, whose contents build up until the closet simply explodes. And this is what happened when Bessey's closet of questions exploded.
Crash. 
I know nothing for sure. Is God even real? What about my Bible? Church? People? Life? Meaning? Loss? Grief? Disillusionment? Soul weariness? Goodness? Evil? Tragedy? Suffering? Justice? Women? Equality? Politics? I know nothing, nothing, nothing.
And it's not because I didn't have "answers" -- oh no, I had all the photocopied apologetics cheat sheets lined up in a neatly labeled three-ring binder, paragraphs highlighted to respond to the questions of the ages, all in three lines or less....
I have sincere regrets about the way I processed much of the shifting and changing; I've had to ask forgiveness from several friends and leaders. But the questions were legitimate, and now, I embarked on a journey through the wilderness of my wonderings with a seen-it-all-before smirk on my face and a profound ache in my soul.
But God set up a banquet in the wild places, streams of water flowed in the desert, and I walked and walked and walked right through the pain of disillusionment and despair, leaning into the wind....
The wilderness transformed me in a way that no 'spiritual high' or certainty or mountaintop moment had ever done.... I sought God, and he was faithful to answer me. I came to know him as 'Abba' -- a Daddy. He set me free from crippling approval addiction.... He bathed my feet, bound my wounds, gave rest to my soul, restored the joy of church and community to our lives. I learned the difference between critical thinking and being just plain critical. And I found out that he is more than enough, always will be more than enough -- yesterday, today, forever....
I know you have questions, and they're much bigger than the whole curch-women-feminism-equality issues. I know. Me, too. Still. So I'll carry you in my heart. Stay as long as you'd like; I'm in no rush. Hurry wounds a questioning soul. 
My water in the desert arrived in cups fashioned by the hands of those who love the gospel. I found, right under my nose, people who love God and love others; their lives were a smelling-salts wake-up experience of grace. Sometimes they were the same people I lived alongside during those years of wondering and isolation in Texas. My loss is that, in my pride, I didn't seem them there at the time.
I identify so closely with this, as a bleeding heart liberal who belongs to a conservative Christian church. I want to be sure that the government has programs in place to help those who are not able to help themselves. I've heard church leaders say, no that is not the job of the government; it is the job of the church to take care of the poor. But I know full well that all those people are not going to get the assistance they need from the churches. I mean, come now, many of these churches are made up of the same people who are talking about welfare recipients as being lazy bums. There is no room for judgment in the offer of assistance to people. I've been around and around with good Christian people about whether they should spare a dime for the beggar on the corner, because he might spend it on drugs or alcohol. And I say, if he does, that is on him, but if he needs help and I don't offer it, then that is on me. And sometimes the help he needs can't be met by a sandwich. I want also for my country to offer refuge to those who are fleeing the oppressive violence in Syria, but the conservative Christian response seems to be, "Uh, no. They might be terrorists. And we need to take care of our own people before taking care of people from other countries."

Really? I mean, really? This is not what Jesus preached.
Then the King will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you? And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. 
Then he will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, Sick and in prison and you did not visit me. 
Then they will also answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?" Then He will answer them saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. 
Matthew 25:34-45
Clear, no? Is there any way to argue against it? I don't think so! And how about this one?
Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. 
Luke 6:37-38 
Is it Biblical to believe that we have a responsibility to care for our own first, and that because of that it would be wrong to care for the Syrian refugees? That's what the disciples thought, when they wanted to send away the 5,000 who had come to hear Jesus teach. They had just a few loaves and fishes, just enough for themselves, not enough to share with that massive crowd. But we believe, don't we, that Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes and they turned out to be enough to feed the crowds with baskets full left over. Do we believe this, really? Really?

Perhaps I have crossed Bessey's line, from critical thinking to critical, but I have been absolutely floored to hear these arguments coming from the mouths of some of the nicest, kindest, most God-loving people I know. I believe this happened because of the weird marriage that has occurred between conservative Christianity and political conservatism. But they are not the same, and political conservativism is not consistent with what was practiced in the Bible. In fact, according to acts 4:32, the early church was a socialist community.

Now, I can have fellowship with Christians who have different political viewpoints, and it does not affect my love for them at all. The thing is, I don't do a very good job of keeping my mouth shut. I post on Facebook. I write this blog, with things like this very blog entry! I And when I blabber away, it doesn't always feel like it's okay. And, as Bessey said, this could simply be "my own pride and willful blindness." Could be my imagination, or my feeling of guilt, or it might simply stem from my need for love and approval and fear that I won't get it. I will admit that. But it hurts anyway because I kind of feel as though there is a part of my essential self, my essential faith for that matter, that is not quite acceptable, and maybe never will be. I don't know if there will ever come a time in my life when I will stop asking questions. Just the Bible itself is a complex and difficult book, and I will have questions about it as long as I keep reading it. I have come to the point where I can hold onto my faith over, under and through the questions. I can take the questions to God in prayer. Sometimes I get an answer that is different from the answer someone else interpolated from their reading of the Scripture, but I believe that God can speak to me, and I can hear him. Another Bessey word: "We must obey God, and our obedience to God may be perceived as rebellion and pride by some; others will see it as giving in or not giving enough." 

But back to Bessey and Jesus Feminist, the happy ending is Bessey's heartfelt faith. Speaking of women's ministries, she says:
I kept coming back because the truth is, I wanted what the world could not give me. I wanted Jesus, and I wanted women in my life who loved Jesus, too. Isn't that is? We are seeking Jesus -- we want to smell him on the skin of others, and we want to hear tell of his activity. We are seeking fellow travelers for this journey. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen, to love well, to learn how to have eyes and to see and ears to hear.
She describes herself as a "happy clappy follower of Jesus," and she is in a fellowship of happy clappy followers of Jesus as well. She still has questions. She tells us that. But she has faith, and that is why I find her so inspiring.
Me? I can see the lights of that city on a hill growing bright, and it makes me want to fling open the doors. The Bridegroom is coming. Can't you feel that? In the ache and struggle and evil of our imperfect world, no wonder we long for the Kingdom of God's shalom right down to our marrow. The tears are pricking; my heart is beating; something is happening here: Aslan is on the move. God's dream is coming true, day by painful push-back-the-darkness day.
Bessey has come full circle and found her place in the the body. It sounds like a good place, a happy place. I so long for that. I want to dig in so deep into God that there is no crawling out again.  I want to worship, and I want to serve. I want to love, and if I have a fault it is that I want to love, love, love, exceedingly and above all. Thanks to Sarah Bessey for pioneering through the wilderness and assuring me that there is a destination, and it can be reached. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My prayer for understanding

This is what I have been praying for lately. Understanding. As I wend my way once again through the verses of the Old Testament, I ask God, how am I to read this? What is this to mean for me? And also, what answers can I give to those who question you, your existence, your goodness, your love?

Two of the most valuable teaching series I have heard in my life were at Faith Fellowship, many years ago. The best one was on Deuteronomy. Pastor Gary Mortara lifted that book right out of history and plopped it down in the middle of our lives. It was no longer just the story of the ancient tribes of Israel preparing to enter the geographical areas God had promised to them as a home. It was the story of each of us, of me, of God preparing me to enter my own Promised Land, the land that God has prepared for me in this world, where the paths lay that will lead me to the highest place he has for me. God's admonitions to the nation of Israel became his admonitions to me. His commands to the Israelites to kill off all who might lead them astray were commands to me to kill off everything in my own life/heart that might prevent me from sticking to the path and claiming my own Promised Land. This sometimes difficult Old Testament book took on a new life that lit my soul.

Well, I didn't make it into the Promised Land at that point. I used to read the Old Testament and see all the unfaithfulness of the nation of Israel and say, tsk tsk, how awful they were. I have to laugh at that arrogance now! Now I tend to read it and say, yeah, that's me. I probably would have done that same thing, or something equally unfaithful. Once I came to that understanding, reading the Old Testament became personal. I am a microcosm of the nation of Israel, and all of God's dealings with them, all of his words to them, are to me.  Is that the whole purpose of the Old Testament, the fullness of its understanding for me? I don't know, but I do think it is probably the most important.

Today, a part of my Bible study was in Psalm 119. I highlighted verses as I read it, and when I looked at what I had highlighted, I saw that it was my own prayer:
(124) Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. (125) I am your servant, give me understanding, that I may known your testimonies. (132) Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. (133) Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. (147) I rise before dawn and cry for your help; I hope in your words. (169) Let me come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! (171) My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. (174) I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. (176) I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments."
And then after it, on the same page, I saw a verse I had previously highlighted, which stood out to me as the answer to this prayer, in Psalm 121:7-8 ...
"The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forward and forevermore." 
Here is one lesson to carry away from the Old Testament. God's love is pretty sturdy. You read about the grumbling, whiny, complaining, faithless nation he loved, and yet he still loved them. Individuals who were completely beloved of God were terrible sinners. David committed adultery, and covered that sin with murder. Yet God loved him. I have been a terrible sinner in my life. It took me quite awhile to recognize that, although most people would be able to see it in a second. Yet God apparently loves me quite a bit, based on his relentless pursuit of me! Our hearts are crazy things. I am just beginning to understand that a lot of the problem with these hearts of ours is that they crave something that cannot be found in this world.

I'm on a journey, seeking the high places. I'll send you postcards on the way. You can pick them up right here.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Books: OUT OF SORTS by Sarah Bessey

I have been a Christian for many decades now, but all of you probably know that it has not been an easy path for me. I have struggled with my own questions, as well as the questions of people I love. Actually, using the term "I have" is probably incorrect. It's more like "I do" struggle. I'm not a social Christian, one who goes to church for social reasons, to meet friends or get involved in service programs (although I think both of those are wonderful things!). I go to church to worship God. I go to church because there I hear at least some of what God has to say to me. But church attendance itself has never been what it's about either, and for that reason I actually read the Bible, pretty much on a daily basis. And I pray. I talk to God and do my best to let God talk to me.

It would be easy to get dressed up and go to church on Sunday, and listen to a charming, charismatic preacher give sermons about love and self esteem, but that is not what my spirit seeks. I want to follow the narrow path, even though it sometimes leads through the brambles, sometimes across oceans, or through storms, and sometimes even just drops off a cliff to unknown places! There are a lot of Christian books out there that can help in negotiating this path. But I have another problem. I wander sometimes. And because of that, I really, really enjoy a good, thoughtful book written by another wanderer who found her way back.

 Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey is such a book, and it has the benefit of being one of the most beautifully written books of its kind, one that makes you stop occasionally just to savor the words, which has phrases that stick with even someone with a really terrible memory, like me. But don't take my word for it. Let me treat you to a quote that kind of sums up the whole book:
But most of us, at some point, will encounter the second state, which he called "critical distance." This is the time in our formation when we begin to ... well, doubt. We begin to question. We hold our faith up to the light and see only the holes and inconsistencies....
Yet he writes, "Beyond the desert of criticism, we wish to be called again." I remember crying out to God once while in the midst of what I called my wilderness, what Ricoeur calls the critical distance, because I was longing to "go back." .... I found it was not enough to live without the magic and the beauty, without the wonder. I couldn't return to my first naivete and I missed the simplicity of it. I wanted to be called again, to hear the voice of God again, perhaps never more wildly than when it felt like the God I once knew was disappearing like steam on a mirror.
But those who continue to press forward can find what Ricoeur called a second naivete. I didn't know it, but I was pressing through my wilderness to deliverance, toward that place on the other side of rationality, when we reengage with our faith with new eyes. We take responsibility for what we believe and do. We understand our texts or ideas or practices differently, yes, but also with a sweetness because we are there by choice. As Richard Rohr writes, "the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves."
Bessey's journey is not my journey, but she captures the essence, the heart that I feel beating in my own chest. This is what I have said, why I am a Christian in spite of my questions, because of the spirit, because of the call, because of the heavenly magic of belonging to God.
Jesus. His name felt like every question and every answer. There was a strain of something like unearthly music to His name, and part of me still believes that my desire to be like Jesus was the Spirit's call -- deep calling unto deep, as the psalmist wrote.
My broken heart -- cynical, jaded, frustrated, angry, wounded -- somehow exhaled at every mention of His name. 
 In my wanderings and wonderings I have changed. I judge people's lives and faith less. Instead I trust God. I trust him to know the hearts of people, which I can't know. I trust him to be able to call to those hearts. I trust him to speak to people and tell them what he wants them to do. There have been times when people didn't seem to trust that I had heard from God, because what God was telling me was different from what they judged to be right, but time and life proved that what I'd heard was true, for me, in that time and place. Exactly what Sarah does, exactly what she believes ... I have to tell you, I can't even remember those things. There is plenty of the mind present in this book, but what captured me was its heart.
And then I open my Bible, just like my father did every morning of his life. I know that this very morning, he was also in what he still calls "the Word." And I am my father's daughter. I am in the Word, just not quite in the same way anymore. I spend these moments reading Isaiah and I pray. I write and refill my cup, I bow my head over these sacred words that I love all the better for the wrestling to release them from the prison I built for them. 
I begin to read, jotting down verses as the Spirit illuminates them to me.... Sometimes I write the names of my four tinies and then I write down a few words from Scripture that correspond with what I am praying over them....
So here I am, my father's daughter, as the light breaks through the forest, writing down the names of my children and my husband, my friends and even the world at large -- like our brothers and sisters in Iraq or Haiti or Burundi -- and beside these scrawled names, I am writing the words of Scripture. Not like promises or talismans, not like magic spells, no. But to give language to what I yearn for, what I believe, and even what I hope.  
If your faith is strong and firm and neatly defined, then perhaps Bessey's book isn't for you. But one of my pastors once swept his hand around the church in which we were standing. He said, "Do you see all these people? All those people whose faith you admire most have asked these same questions that you ask." That was a revelation to me, but it makes sense. If he is right, then this book would be right for every person whose heart longs for faith. You probably won't walk Bessey's paths. You may well not reach the same conclusions she did. But I think you will feel the love of the Lord and the moving of the Spirit.

How many stars are there in the rating system here? I don't know, but I award them all.

Sarah Bessey has a blog, by the way. You can find it at http://sarahbessey.com/. Her description of herself kind of says it all: "Happy, clappy Jesus follower. Recovering know-it-all." Sounds like someone I know! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I believe God exists

I believe in God. Ultimately, this belief is a choice, but I have also had too much experience of God in my life, too many synchronicities, too many times I have had answers given dramatically and at just the right time and place to want to deny it. I believe in God because I feel him when I pray. It is not like talking to an "imaginary friend" as some have characterized prayer. It isn't a feeling of talking to myself, or the ceiling or the sky. I have felt the presence of God. I know a lot of people who put their faith in humans (humanism), or "science," who seem to think that if you can't prove the existence of God, then God doesn't exist. Well, better minds than mine have put forth ontological, cosmological, teleological, and other logical and moral arguments for God's existence. There are those who assume an intellectual superiority for their atheism, but I don't think you can accuse Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, and the many others of being ninnies. Many intellectual giants have argued for the existence of God.

Now I can kind of understand why people don't believe in God, but I think it's a point of view that is very limited. God's existence can't be proven by science? There is so much that can't be proven by science, so much that IS that can't be explained by science. You tell me, when did time begin, and when will it end? When you get to the end of the universe, what is there? To me, these questions are just completely mind boggling. You want to believe in the Big Bang and evolution? Well, that's fine, but it certainly doesn't preclude the existence of God, because the question still remains where did all that stuff come from in the first place? All the matter and energy in the universe just popped into existence from NOWHERE? Personally, I don't need any philosopher's elaborate argument to see this. The existence of the universe, of life, of anything is something that no scientist can adequately explain. I understand that this does not in any way prove the existence of God. What it does do, though, is knock "science" off its pedestal. In fact, much what is explained by "science" has to be taken on faith. So many things in science are preceded by the term "theory of." Whenever you see that term, it means that this is an explanation that somebody came up with for how or why things are the way they are based on their interpretation of events, but it cannot be proven. Science is great as science, but as a god it has clay feet.

I would not laugh at anyone who chooses to be an atheist. That is their choice. But it must be recognized as a choice, as a faith in itself, rather than a foregone conclusion, and there is nothing that makes it an intellectually superior choice.

I think that one problem atheists have is mixing up the existence of God with religion. The two are really quite separate, as is proven by the existence of so many religions in the history of man's existence. You want to argue with religion, I can understand that. That is a subject that is full of mud pits and thorns. I have honestly encountered God in many ways in the course of my life. I feel called to Christianity, but not without a million questions. For some reason, even though I have allowed the questions to drive me away from it, I keep getting called back to it. I am not going to say I have it all figured out. I am not going to say that my doubts and questions have all been stilled. Far from it. But since I was a very young child, living in a completely non-religious household, Christianity has called to me, and it has never stopped, so I have to honor that call. When I find all the answers to all the questions, I will write a book on it, but in the meantime, decades into the journey, I am still seeking to learn everything I can about this faith that calls me. I have said before that perhaps it is impossible for we mere humans to know The Truth, and I will not argue against anyone who takes this position. Honestly, I cannot tell you exactly where I will end up on the spectrum of belief. But I will end up on the spectrum itself. It is, to me, completely logical. It potentially holds answers to the unanswerable questions, and even if it doesn't, it is certainly no more fantastic than the Questions Which Must Exist. It is no more difficult to believe in a source from which everything came into existence, than it is to believe that everything just appeared from nowhere.

And in the meantime, although I know harm has been done in the name of religion, I personally am not doing harm. Well, perhaps I am. If the harshest tenets of the Christian faith are true, I may be doing harm by not shaking you by the shoulders and warning you about them. But I have a great, huge faith in God. I think God is entirely capable of communicating to you what he wants you to know. I am here to tell you that there was not ever in my entire life anyone who "shared the gospel" with me. Never. God called me all on his own. And although I will admit to having gone through a judgmental phase on my Christian journey, in the end I find in the teachings of Jesus a call to love, and to do so without fear, without counting the cost of that love. Lord knows I have learned the emotional cost of love, in the loss of my daughter, in all the sorrows of my children that pierce my own heart, as well as the material cost in the lifestyle I chose from the beginning, which was to do with less in order to be able to give more to those I love. God always has more to give than we do, whether money or love.

If you want to be intellectually honest about your faith, or lack of it, I think you have to be willing to give up your assumptions. I will agree that I cannot prove the existence of God, and hey, you might be right. One day I might die and drift into nothingness, but if so, I am not going to care. Maybe you should be willing to give up the notion that you can possibly "know" that God does not exist. Just logically, it is impossible to prove a negative. Personally, I think the highest intelligence exists in the humility of knowing the limitations of our knowledge. So open it up. Just be willing to say, "God if you are real, show me." Who knows? You might be surprised. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dear Anonymous

Well, Anonymous, I will start this open letter to you now, and see how far I get. For other readers, while I receive a lot of anonymous comments, Anonymous, with a capital A, is a particular person who has sent me a number of comments identifiable partially by the way they are written with a kind of an accent, like a brogue almost, and partially by the content, which is never, ever nice.

And I guess that is the first thing I would like to address with you, Anonymous. You obviously believe yourself to be a Christian. Do you believe this is how Christians should address others? In your last comment you asked if I was going to be honest this time. As far as I can see, if I have a problem, it is being TOO honest, too often. If something passes through my mind, it is likely to find its way out of my mouth or onto a piece of paper or computer screen somewhere. Faith for me has been a mighty, huge, gargantuan struggle, and in the last few years that struggle has largely made itself onto the internet for all to see (although I have from time to time gone back and deleted some of it I will admit). I have not only struggled with my faith, I have fallen down, strayed off the path, and wandered through a dozen wildernesses, and those wanderings have all been documented in one way or another as well. I'm a writer by nature, and feel this compulsion to write my thoughts down and share them. This can be hazardous, because what I think today may not be what I think tomorrow, or even later today. I wish that was not true. I wish I had a firm and forever grasp on the Truth, but my mind is always running, asking questions.

So this can be a problem, and I don't think I have in any way tried to hide it. I don't think I have ever been dishonest about it.

But is your response the Christian one? I'm going to tell you, in addition to having a restless intellect myself, not a single one of my family members or close friends are Christians. Not a one. Those I am closest to are actually raving atheists. So if my own mind was not a problem enough, I live with people who challenge my faith regularly, who tell me how stupid the Bible is (without much knowledge of it to be sure, but the Bible is a challenging book, and some of what they say are things I have thought myself). These are people I love. There are some people I love who are Christians of course, but they are not people I would actually consider friends, because except for Facebook conversations (which are great to be sure), I don't see these people outside of church, and/or they are people who live far away.

A couple of weeks ago in church, Jacqui, our worship leader, said that if we sense in us a separation from God we should look inside and see if we can identify the cause of it. So I did, and I found the cause. It is simply that I want to be loved. And I also want to be thought well of, which is actually a separate thing from being loved, because honestly the people who love me don't stop loving me because of my faith or lack of it. But they do respect me a little less.

So that, Anonymous, is my greatest sin. You send your snarky, nasty missives about how I am a hypocrite or whatever because of this or that, but you totally and completely miss the point. Some of what you say is, as far as I'm concerned, your very own legalistic interpretation of Scriptures and situations I would completely disagree with. Some of it, like the astrology and Pluto, I would agree with you. But do you think God called you to send me nasty messages about these things? I can answer that question. NO. He did not.

If you were really listening to God, you might say, hey, Sharon, I'm glad that you are doing well with this part of your walk, and how is that going? Is there anything I can do to assist you on your journey, or perhaps discuss your understanding of this or that particular thing? If you were REALLY listening to God he might have suggested that you invite me to coffee, or to church, or to a conference you are going to attend, that you offer friendship and fellowship, which are the things I need way more than I need your condemnation for things you don't really know about, because although you seem to be someone who might have an acquaintance with my family, I know for certain you are not someone who knows me.

It is completely unnecessary for you to quote Scripture to me, by the way. I know Scripture. I have devoured it voraciously over a period of over forty years now. So don't bother to quote to me Scriptures about enemies in our own household, or about being double minded, or about the results of backsliding. I know them all. And just based on them, I might just say, well, if this stuff is true then I am cooked, so I might as well just give it up and follow that other brightly colored path. But it has been more than 52 years since I first felt that desire to know Jesus, and more than 40 years since I actually met him, and despite all my wanderings the reason I keep coming back is because he keeps calling me. And if he is calling me, who are you to question it? He not only calls me, but your original attack was over my kids living together unmarried in my home, and I think he pretty well showed up for me there. Your solution I am sure would be to kick everybody out in a storm of condemnation, but that was not what I heard God telling me. My response was, "I have placed it in God's hands, and I trust he is able to deal with it if he thinks it needs to be dealt with." And he vindicated my trust in him dramatically, which means what? That he loves me, whether you do or not, and that he loves my children, and also that I actually DID hear his voice over the clamoring of others.

I also know that Peter, having walked with Jesus, denied him three times. But what did Jesus have to say about that?

So, Anonymous, my suggestion to you is that you spend some time in prayer, and get to know God's voice a little better, because it appears you have been missing it in favor of anger and condemnation, and I mean really vicious anger. Not sure where that comes from, but I'll tell you it would be far more likely to drive me away than draw me closer to God, which is a test in itself of its validity.

I'm not going to tell you that my faith is iron strong and that I stand solidly. Do you want to help me stand, or do you want to knock me over? That is the question.

Meanwhile, I of course have to refer you to Matthew 7:1-5. And here is a nice song for you. Not Scripture, but kind of my theme song.


I'd like to know who you are, but perhaps it's best I don't. Not knowing, perhaps it is possible yet that we can be friends. Based on your behavior, I honestly think less highly of you and your faith than you do of me or my faith. But perhaps we can pray for each other.

God bless us both.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Okay, it is enough to make me believe in God

I confess (and I mean that literally) that I have numerous times turned and run from God. I have
Worship at The Fountain Church, Pleasanton
squabbled and disagreed and said, "If I were God, things would not be this way." I then proceeded to invent my own God, to fit in with the way I thought things should be. That has to be the height of silliness, doesn't it? Because one thing I can tell you for certain, and that is that I am not fit to be God. I am barely fit to be a creation, much less the creator of the Creator. I am confused, not always nice, and when I am nice, I allow my empathy to overrun common sense and reality. For example, does anybody want to come and deal with the nuisance that ten or so feral cats have become as they have overrun and destroyed my back yard because I can't stop feeding them? Someone really wise, like God, might have known that the path of empathy is not always the path of wisdom and can lead to some really bad consequences.

Love wins, but sometimes Love must be tough, and sometimes being tough ultimately prevents more suffering.

But the bottom line, why believe? It is simply that I have been called to believe. From the deep desire to know God that I felt as a nine year old, to now, decades later, my heart is just drawn to know and follow God. And quite honestly, God's heart seems to be inclined to me as well because he let me wander, but he never left me alone. Even in the preceding blog, I could see that God was acting in my life, on my behalf, even when I didn't want to acknowledge it. There have been other pretty dramatic answers to prayer in my life as well. It's like God kept tapping on my shoulder, saying hey, you belong to me you know. 

Faith. Simple as that. God draws me to himself. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's almost enough to make me believe in God

My daughter's honeymoon hotel room.
A few months ago I got a nasty message from a blog reader, which informed me that I was a hypocrite and that they were done with me. It was anonymous, of course. It was interesting, because it was written in an Irish brogue of sorts. I have to wonder, is this a version of putting on a fake voice and accent when making an obscene phone call? Seriously, if someone wants to say something like that and they believe they are right, they should have the courage to put their name to it. Nasty anonymous comments are just cowardly.

I honestly can't remember everything that this anonymous person said, but one thing really stood out. They said that I was a hypocrite because I allowed fornication to take place under my roof. It is a fact that two of my adult children had their significant others living with them in my home. It had been a long-term situation, pre-dating my Christianity. I had known there there would be those who would be judgmental about it, but most Christians I knew were so loving that it just slipped my mind.

One of the most disturbing things about this anonymous message is that it must have come from someone who knows me, or my children, pretty well. It isn't as though I went around writing about these things. It is always disturbing when you find yourself in a position of looking around you, wondering which smiling face is actually throwing knives at your back.

At any rate, I decided to talk to a couple of my pastors about it. There were two churches I attended, and so I had a few pastors in my life. While neither of them accused me of being a hypocrite, turns out they both agreed with the anonymous comment, and both encouraged me to enforce different living arrangements for my kids. By the time I spoke to Pastor Matt, a couple of weeks had passed since my conversation with the first pastor, and you know, I had prayed about the matter, and I was absolutely convinced that God was not telling me to take matters into my own hands and lay down the law. I had made an appointment to speak to Pastor Matt because I was serving on the prayer team at the church, and while it was okay if someone wanted to judge me, it wasn't okay if I brought that judgment on the church. So I decided I should tell him and volunteer to step down from my position on the prayer team. He was very nice, and did make several suggestions for things I could do, but I told him no, that this was not what I thought God wanted. I told both the pastors that if God had a problem with the situation then God was perfectly capable of handling it.

In the meantime, I honestly did feel rejected. I am not saying that I was, just that I felt that way. And that opened the crack wide enough for me to start reflecting on all the questions and doubts I already harbored about my faith. I am all for the God of Love, but I had an awful lot of problems with the God of Judgment. This is nothing new. I have written about it many times. And I started bringing it up again then. I think people thought I posted things for the purpose of challenging their faith, but in all honestly I posted questions looking for answers, although by now I should know that those answers don't exist. At any rate, I ended up walking away once again.

Meanwhile, within a matter of weeks after these discussions, one of my kids and his significant other (1) got engaged and started planning a wedding for next year, then (2) got a place of their own and moved out of my house, and then (3) decided they didn't want to wait for a year and do a big wedding and are getting married next month instead.

My other child I also expected to marry her significant other, but didn't really think it would happen in the near future. They too were talking about 2016. But funny enough, there was a surprise pregnancy, and they decided to get married before that got too far advanced. They actually just celebrated their two-month wedding anniversary yesterday.

So I'm sitting around thinking, huh. I haven't spoken to either pastors for a long time, and one left me with the impression that he thought I was arrogant because I put my thoughts above God's or some such thing. The whole entire thing felt to me that "church rules" were being placed over what I absolutely believed God was saying to me, and over what I thought was the loving response. And a part of me wants to say, "I told you so. I told you that if God had a problem with it then he would deal with it. And he did, pretty quickly." The problem with this is that it would have to imply that they were right, that God is who they say he is, and that he actually did think that this situation needed to change, and well, I don't really agree with that anymore. I have rejected the Judgmental God. I have rejected the "narrow path." I have not rejected God, although I struggle with maintaining a relationship with him. It is difficult to have a relationship with someone you don't know, after all. If God is not the God of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, of Joshua, of Paul, then who is he? I know of some local churches I could attend, but you know, I have read The Book, and all those things I don't like are in it. So on what do those other churches base their faith? Maybe one day I will venture forth and find out. In the meantime, Sunday is the first day of my weekend, and Sunday morning is the ideal time for me to get my house cleaning done.

As for the coincidences and synchronicities in my life and my children's? I think it is probably God, first confirming that what I had heard was not wrong, and second just saying, this is creating a problem for Sharon with others, so let's fix it.

I came to the conclusion that I am a waste of time for those Christians who really wanted to nurture my faith. Most of them are gone now, and I miss them, but really and truly how many times do we need to go through this? When I started asking those questions again, one of my pastors said, "Do we have to dance this dance again?" And I replied, "I guess it is just mine to dance." He left me then, and I danced alone for a bit and then wandered off, to explore the universe in its amazing vastness.

I have flip flopped on this often enough that I feel I must have managed to alienate people on both sides of the issue. So if you are with me still, I have to thank you. You can't trust me perhaps. If I tell you I know the truth, you will know that next month the truth I know may have changed. But there are a couple of things I can tell you. I am not a hypocrite. I am absolutely and totally sincere, and I am in sincere pursuit of something that I suspect may be just beyond our grasp, and that is The Truth. Maybe it is impossible for us to know what the absolute truth is. We can just do the best we can.

But it matters not. Let me confess. I DO NOT KNOW THE TRUTH. In the end, maybe I don't really have to. I just need to try to live in the best way that I can. And that requires LOVE for all, always and especially my children.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Lots of feels

It is 6:30 in the morning on my day off work, and I am here, awake. I have a lot of feelings inside me and I am sitting here with tears in my throat and in my eyes, longing just to be able to write my feelings down and push them off into the world. Like the words from the Anna Nalick song, "2 a.m. and I'm still awake, writing a song. If I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to." But maybe I just really don't have the courage. One day I swear I am going to write my novel so I can say all the things I cannot say, turn loose all the feelings inside of me.

Half of the feelings I feel are vapors in the wind anyway. As I sat here at my desk, I watched a cloud outside my window. For a moment it was the stunningly clear face of a pitbull terrier. But in seconds it morphed, first into a kitty, and then on to several indistinct stages on its way to becoming the blank cloudbank that it is at this moment. And that happens so often with problems. You have a dagger in the heart, but then it dissolves and is gone, unless you happened to put it into writing or other communication where it becomes immortalized, or kind of. For me, writing and getting things out is cathartic, but the problem is that when you get things outside yourself sometimes they take up residence in others, and become things totally other, and totally beyond your control at all. Things that are minor can come to define you.

The other thing about writing is that often it helps me to figure out just exactly what it is that is hurting. Like right now. The immediate cause of my distress is that my daughter, who is 18 weeks pregnant, was experiencing anxiety this morning at 4-something. I woke up. Presumably she has gone to sleep and I am still awake. This anxiety, this problem, will probably dissolve when the winds shift. But in me it stirs something far deeper. Whether large or small, my child is suffering, and I am powerless to alleviate the suffering. I can, and do, talk my head off in an attempt to fix things, but honestly sometimes I know that just makes it worse. That's the other dangerous thing about words. For some reason the same words can mean completely different things to other people. She is anxious, so in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety, I employ the analytical mode, trying to explain why the problem is not quite as bad as it feels, and/or how to avoid problems in the future. This works well for me, but my daughter is in emotional mode, and she absorbs those words completely differently, internalizes them as criticism, which they are not intended to be.

Emotions. Sometimes you just have to get control of them. I remember in the second year after Michaela was kidnapped, I just felt angry, and it finally dawned on me that my anger was nothing more than sorrow that I had turned inside out and thrown outside myself because that was easier than feeling the sorrow. That was a big thing. But the same thing happens with the little things. We feel pierced by that dagger, which would probably dissolve in a minute, an hour, a day, unless we let that sorrow become anger and let it out into the world where it will inevitably cause more hurt. I personally have counted the cost and decided it is not worth it. That means I end up with a lot of feelings that get bottled up inside. Perhaps I need to find another means to transform and express them, through something more positive than getting angry. There are a lot of things that never ever get resolved, because I don't speak of them. In the end I guess I don't trust that they would get resolved if I did.

This child, the one whose anxiety woke me in the early hours today, was born five years after Michaela was kidnapped. One of my strong memories is from when she was a little baby, and she was crying. I picked her up and held her and said, "It's okay. Mommy is here. Mommy will take care of you." I was reassuring her from my heart with every intention of making everything right, of keeping her safe and protected and not letting anything hurt her. But in that moment I was flooded with the knowledge of the truth, that this was a lie. It was a promise I could not make. I had said the same sort of thing to Michaela, but in the end I had not been able to protect her. She suffered the most brutal fear, grief and pain, and there was not a single goddamned frickin thing I was able to do to prevent that, or to save her from it once she was in its clutches. I completely and totally failed her.

And I have completely and totally failed all my children. It hasn't been as dramatic as it has been with Michaela. The daggers that have pierced them have been the kind that mostly dissolve in time. But they have all suffered grief and sorrow, and there is not anything I can do about it. I have made midnight trips to the grocery store for chocolate, taken them for manicures, sat and listened, hugged and cried. But the only way I could actually have prevented my children from being hurt was if I had taught them not to love. Jobs, money, those things all can cause stress, but only love can pierce the heart, and it can pierce deep and hard and leave shards that don't ever completely go away. I know, because I have them myself.

My daughter and her husband, they are happy and excited about the baby they are having. But they have feelings inside them that perhaps they don't even understand. Do they understand the huge vulnerability they are being drawn into? They are both smart kids, and they are both very self-aware, smart, imaginative and creative, so maybe they do. Or maybe it is just a vague sense of unease. I know that as they have thought about their child, they have been drawn to look back on their own childhoods. In doing so, they have encountered the things that hurt them. They think, they hope, that these things will be different for their child, that their son won't encounter the cruelty of other kids, for example. But somewhere deep inside, as they consider their own hurts, they may be coming to realize that those things are going to hurt even more if they happen to their child than they did when they happened to them. I looked it up this morning, that quote that I just kind of know. I discovered it has a source, author Elizabeth Stone. It is, "Making the decision to have a child -- it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."

Well, I guess I am kind of placing my own thing into other people's minds here. I think it is valid to a point. But really it's my own point. For me, it is magnified, because it triggers that deep sorrow of not being able to save Michaela from suffering. But the fact is, I can't save any of my children. I can't make any of them happy. I can't protect any of them from hurt. I can just hope that they have the emotional wisdom to live well.

To you, Michaela, I just want to say that am so sorry that I was not able to protect you from harm, that I was not able to save you. Wherever you have been, whatever you have been through, I just hope that you have been able to feel always that love that is beyond life and death, there in your heart, forever.

mom

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How can you expect me to believe this stuff?

If you know me at all, even from just my blogs and Facebook, you know that I am a wanderer. I wrote many years ago that my faith is an ocean in which I swim, occasionally washing up on the beach, drying out and looking around, and then plunging back in. That describes me in the full strength of my faith, however. The fact is that many times I have dried out, looked around, then got up and left the beach to wander the highways and byways that lay inland. 

Always, always I came back ... obviously, because here I sit, talking to you from the beach itself. It is a Sunday morning, though, and I note that I am on the beach and not in the ocean, not at church joining in worship with my brothers and sisters, and hearing the message brought by my pastors and teachers. I am sitting here and all of me is dry except my heart, which is a soggy sad mass inside me, and an occasional tear that reaches my eye.  Be aware that as I write this, I am in the process of withdrawing from antidepressants, so I am feeling a little more emotional than usual. What exactly that means I am not sure. It could mean that I am completely delusional and feeling sorry for myself. But it could just mean that I am allowing myself to acknowledge and feel things I usually suppress. I am never going to claim to be an expert in My Self, so your guess is as good as mine on this.

I have questions. I suspect it's not really cool to talk about these questions. I know they are not unusual. I know that even the strongest Christians have doubts and questions. I know it, however, because I have seen them nod their heads gently in church when it is mentioned. But when I saw this, I was astounded by it. It's not something people talk about that I have heard, probably because they are not loose-lipped blabbermouths like I am. And it just may not be okay to talk about these things, because I don't want to dissuade those who are leaning towards faith to step away, or to cause those who are holding tenuously to their faith to abandon it. I know that I have been at least partly responsible in the past when those who were strong in their faith lost it and walked away, and so far have not returned, and that breaks my heart over and over. So please, here is the essential thing ... I'm still here. If you are a human being with a brain, you are going to have questions. That doesn't mean you can't also be a believer. It is called "believer," not "knower." "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12) But I am going to say these things anyway, first because I know I am not alone and if you are like me you don't have to feel alone either. And also because I am still waiting for someone to come up with an answer better than any I have, so PLEASE, if you are the person, leave a comment here! 

So, let me tell you where the wave that washed me to the beach this time originated. It was last week, after church, and I stopped by Barnes & Noble because I had a coupon and I wanted to get a moleskin journal. (Moleskin is a brand, by the way. It is not made from mole skin. Just to be clear.) While I was there I wandered over to the Bibles section because I have a probably completely unhealthy love for the Bible as a physical object. Seriously, you should see how many of them I have in my house. I never read the same book twice in the same Bible, because I have to make fresh highlights each time. There are a lot of books I like to read over and over again, so I make use of all these Bibles.

But we are digressing here. On the top shelf of the Bible section there was this thing called "The Brick Bible." It's basically a comic book version of the Bible, which uses photographs of Lego figures to tell the story. I was browsing back through Revelation, interested to see how that might look in Lego-land, and I came across Revelation 2, the message to the church at Thyatira. There was a picture box for the verse that says, regarding "Jezebel," "I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am He, who searches the mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works." And there were these Lego people, their little faces filled with grief, holding dead babies, while other dead Lego people lay on the floor. 

My heart just froze within me. 

I have always had problems with some of the parts of the Bible that present God as Judge, or more to the point, that paint God as a Mean Guy. I'm sure I have mentioned that before. Nor does there seem to be any answer that really stills this protest within me.  I have read "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan twice, and just might read it again before all is said and done. I love Francis Chan, by the way. But he basically says that nobody wants to believe in God as Judge, but if God IS Judge, are you willing to believe in him anyway? It's really the only answer I've heard that makes sense, and yet I still get washed ashore when I come across these verses.

I have been exploring some other ways of looking at things, actually recently read "A Generous Orthodoxy" by Brian McLaren ... which seems to say that there are various ways of looking at the Bible. Well, yes, this is true. But when you hear hoofbeats, do you think "zebras"? I've always figured you might just as well think horses. I intend to think about this further, but what is the end extension of this? The Old Testament, for example, is not simply presented as a history of a people. It is full of "God said." McLaren talked about the book of Joshua and the Israelites having to fight to establish their home in the Promised Land, and how that was pretty much the norm for the day, for a nomadic tribe to have to fight brutal battles in order to establish a home for themselves. Well okay, but I read the book, and the situation is a little more complicated than that. (If you haven't read the book I'm not going to tell you what it says, cause I wouldn't want to give any spoilers away.) And what of Ezekiel? And Jeremiah? The Jews were conquered and the prophets were just giving an explanation for it, rather than the conquest actually being the Judgment of God? 

I don't know. And how can I know? I suppose it is possible to view the Bible as the chronicle of a nation's relationship with God rather than the chronicle of God's actual dealing with a nation, reflecting the understanding of those who wrote it rather than God's dictation. This was a difficult concept for me to grasp, because my first thought was that it would render my beloved Book kind of meaningless. But I just realized (just this very second in fact) that it would not. 1 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Whether or not every single word in the Bible was dictated by God, he breathed into it, literally inspired, so that when we read it, it speaks directly to us. (Once upon a time if I'd read the sentence I just wrote, I'd have exploded with, "error error!" If my wandering has had one impact on me, it is shaking the judgey part out of me.) We Christians read the Bible that way all the time. Take Isaiah 29:11-13, one of our favorite verses:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.... 
This scripture is a promise, and we count on it. You, who may be reading this right now, you can count on this promise. But the fact is that it was written for someone else, in a specific situation. Verse 10 specifically addresses it to the Israelites in captivity: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place." Yet because it was inspired, breathed out, by God, we can open our Bibles today and read it and God can speak directly to us in our situation today. You can open the Bible randomly and if you need speaking to, God will take you to a scripture that will do that. And this is true regardless of anything else, regardless of whether God dictated the Bible with every-word-as-truth, or whether he breathed into the stories written by those who loved him, which don't have to be literal truth. 

So many times in the past my beach-sitting turned into wandering, but I just seem less able to do that these days. My land legs are gone, and I have been morphed into a sea creature. Yes, that's me, the sea lion! I can say, no God, I don't like this, let me go, and God says, "But you told me not to let you go." Cause I did, you know. I prayed and asked God not to let me go, and the next time I wandered, I got a good start into the woods but it was a short one, before God put up a "Stop! Turn around!" sign. Thoroughly tired of this wandering, I changed my prayer and said, "God, bind me tightly enough to you that I can't fall, much less wander away." 

And you know, he has done that. Little signs all along the way, everywhere I turn. In this week, when the doubt and questions first cropped up, a blog entry by Pastor David Silvey appeared in my email. Pastor David is not a frequent blogger, so this is a fairly unusual occurrence. But it began, "Maybe it started weeks earlier, maybe months or years, who knows. Whatever the case, somewhere along the line an attitude was formed in Jonah. These things never happen overnight. A little here, a little there, and before you know it you can begin to drift away...." Uh, okay God. I hear you. 

Still ruminating in a slightly rebellious way, a couple of days later a client came to sit at my desk in my office and said, "Oh, is that a necklace on the floor?" It was! It was my cross necklace, which I love and wear 24/7! I figured the chain had broken, but no ... it was perfectly intact. It had apparently just unfastened itself and had fallen to the floor. The cross was even a little bent, where I had apparently run over it with the wheel on my chair. I straightened it and put it back on, amazingly easily by the way (I usually have trouble with the clasp because of my nails). It shook me, though, felt kind of like a warning, and I said a silent prayer, "Don't leave me Jesus! I promise I won't leave you!"

Honestly, truthfully, this is the first time in my long life as a Christian that I have actually been afraid of wandering, and the reason is because God has drawn me back so many times in so many ways, has worked so hard to keep me, I cannot just shrug it off and say it's not true. And because of that, in spite of what you may think on reading this, I am also concerned about being wrong.

Still there are a couple of areas in which I am not in agreement with perhaps the majority of Christians. The big one has to do with gays. I have just kept my mouth shut about it for a long time, but honestly there are a few things that dwell at my core, and this is one of them. I do not believe being gay is a sin, and I fully support gay marriage. Yes, yes, I know the verses, even in the New Testament, that address this. But there are verses in the New Testament that say women should pray with their head covered, and that women should not have short hair (1 Corinthians 11:13-16), but no Christian women use head coverings anymore, and probably the majority have short hair.  I remember once some study Bible or another had a commentary on these verses that said there was a temple to the goddess Diana in Corinth and the cult prostitutes were required to have short hair, and that the Christian women in Corinth were instructed not to wear short hair so that they wouldn't be confused with the temple prostitutes. I don't know how much sense this makes in the context, but if so, it is also a fact that homosexual practices were part of the worship of many pagan religions, so might that be the reason for the various times we see this practice spoken of in the New Testament? Well, I don't know. Could it be a cultural thing? If the Bible is inspired rather than dictated, this could easily be so. I do know, however, that it is not the only thing spelled out in the Bible that is ignored today for one reason or another, and I'm not referring to Old Testament law. Even Jesus said that if a man divorces his wife and marries another he commits adultery, but there are second marriages happening in our churches every day.

But I know, and dearly love, a lot of gay people, and being gay is who they are. If being gay is a sin, then they are a sin, because it is not an activity, it is an identity. Being gay is not about their sex lives ... it is about their love lives. Yet I know that this thinking is not accepted in the churches which I attend, and I am not quite sure if there is anything that can be done about that. I mean, I can love you, but can you love me? Can I serve in the church while also supporting gay marriage? Many years ago I began attending a Foursquare Gospel church in San Leandro, and although I no longer attend that church, I essentially do still, because both of the churches I do currently attend contain branches from the original church as both have pastors who were on staff there. But I must confess I am feeling an essential loneliness in these places, because I feel that the people who share their hugs and smiles just might not love me so much if they really knew me. So here, this is me. I am Sharon. I think too much. I talk too much, and it is very hard for me not to. And I believe in love, even among those who are not heterosexual. And I believe in God's love and forbearance as well. Hey, you guys remember David?  

There are a number of verses in the Bible about Christians being "called." This has always spoken to my heart, because that is exactly how I feel. I feel I have been called. From a very young age, with no religious background or training, I had this desire for God, and specifically to understand the Bible, even though I'd never possessed one, had never read it or had it read to me, and even though I had found what "Bible stories" I had been exposed to pretty boring. This call followed me through high school and into college, until finally at the age of 20 I actually picked up a modern translation of the Bible and began reading it, starting in the book of Acts. Nobody ever witnessed to me, I didn't go to church and answer an altar call. I found God in the Bible, and here I am today, 40 years later, still seeking him there.

Please, to anybody and everybody reading this blog, I welcome your comments. Just be nice. No name calling. I will tell you right now that I may be many things, but I am no hypocrite. Whatever I am, it is completely and totally genuine, and sincerely motivated by nothing but love. Nor am I saying I am right and you are wrong. I am just in my stumbling, falling down way trying to work my way through the intellectual webs surrounding my faith. In the end, faith is not an exercise of the intellect but of the heart and spirit, and in that regard, it seems I am bound to it. I have it engraved upon my arm, and engraved upon my heart. I have been through many dark places and have chosen the light, or the light has chosen me, or both. That doesn't mean I know all, or understand all, so if you do, if you have any answers for me, please share. And on the other hand, if you hear God calling you but have been held back from answering because you have questions, just know that you don't have to understand everything in order to answer.