Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What is Prayer?

Hello Readers,

Lately I've been examining prayer. Actually, I've been examining everything I was taught in the church, bit by bit, pulling it all apart and re-examining it again. I feel like I'm learning to ride a bike again. Or maybe I'm like a person who was completely paralyzed but is slowly regaining feeling in my body. I'll hopefully walk again, but for now I'm just learning what my toes and fingers feel like.

Today I posed a question on facebook about prayer:

Survey time. What does prayer mean to you? Meditation, relationship, conversation, listening, none of the above? I'd like to hear from all faiths on this one!

So far I've heard from a Jew and a Christian. I'd really like to hear from someone who believes in God but has never attended any church or religious institution. They would have no filter, pre-conceived notions, etc. (I wish had re-worded my initial question to state that those who don't have a religion are welcome to share.) Anyway, I'm trying to open my mind up to what prayer is to me personally, not simply what the church told me it was. This is my interpretation of prayer I wrote on facebook: "For me prayer can take on many different forms. I'm realizing that prayer isn't simply a conversation to or with God. It's a communication of the soul that goes far beyond "Our father who art in heaven." For me art can be a prayer, as can dance or other artistic forms. The traditional "church prayer" has hemmed me in for years and now I'm finding my own personal prayer language."

One of the main reasons I'm re-examining prayer is that I've been thinking about something a good friend told me some months back. She was going through difficult things in her life and said to me, "So I've been praying, a lot, and you know what? God isn't doing anything! Prayer doesn't work!" I've heard people say that before and have even felt it myself, but for the very first time in my life I heard what she said suddenly realized that maybe prayer isn't about getting the answer I want...maybe it's far more than this. Maybe prayer isn't even traditional "prayer" as the church taught me. Then I started thinking about all of the prayers I've prayed in my entire life - from the most desperate prayers I prayed in the emergency room, "God, please don't let me die. Don't let my baby die", to the "God please give me a parking spot" prayers. I realized that few of the prayers I prayed were answered the way I wanted them to be.

The past five years of my life have probably been the most difficult, which is saying a lot since I've had chronic illness my whole life, I've had three miscarriages, I've survived a very unstable upbringing, I've have had heart surgery, I've had an eating disorder, and the list goes on...The past few years have been physically, financially and spiritually challenging on every level. I've battled horrible depression, anxiety, and grief with few reprieves. As my kids get older I'm facing the demons of my past and some of the most difficult years I've lived have seemed to come alive to me again in an unrelenting torrent. There have been times when I went to bed and I prayed I wouldn't wake up. Living wasn't living and there was no point to existing if life was going to be so full of pain and misery. Then I got to the point where I just quit praying. What was the point when there was no change, no reassurance, no voice guiding me. It was like God took a very long vacation to Hawaii and forgot I existed. Then I began to wonder if the only reason I ever took comfort in prayer was because church told me it was good and that it worked. It wasn't working for me, so why should I continue doing it? So I told God that I wasn't doing it that way anymore, period. He was going to have to intervene if we were going to keep the conversation going. A few times I was horrified when I realized I hadn't prayed for months at a time. I felt great guilt and condemnation but then I remembered that I was free.

Now I'm defining what prayer means to me personally. I'm intentionally opening up my mind to it outside of religion and the answers I'm getting are surprising me. I didn't ask God to show me...I'm simply opening up my spirit and mind. God knows what I'm thinking, I don't have to approach Him formally and say a traditional prayer. I'm beginning to see prayer as this beautiful connection between my soul and the one who created me. I'm finding answers in surprising places and the pain of the past is unraveling slowly like a ball of yarn. Some of the things I prayed to be freed from for years are letting go finally. The condemnation I used to feel fenced me in. It closed my ears to the truth, it blinded me to who I am and who God sees me as. I see the lies for what they are. I'm still exploring, still searching and reaching out. The peace and freedom are growing like flowers in my soul.

My friend Maddy wrote this on facebook and I think it's really beautiful: "Growing up jewish, a lot of our prayers were either of thankfulness for food/wine/friends/family, or thankfulness for the ability to atone and improve on one's life. Even though I haven't really been involved with the temple for years, I try to live in a way that practices this gratitude. I don't think prayer is or should be just asking god a favor; it's thanking god for the endless favors from the minute you were born, and living in a way that uses those favors wisely. Does that make sense?"

So, what is prayer to you?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The C Word

Well, it's been nearly two months since my last post...where does the time go? Life has been full to say the least with a week long family vacation, school starting, and an unexpected trip to Idaho, getting back into the school routine, etc. I'm finally getting grounded again,....well, at least I like to tell myself that.

Anyways, I've had a few thoughts swimming around in my head as of late regarding church. The other day I ran into someone who attends the last church I left. After exchanging pleasantries he asked me if we'd found a church yet. Immediately I said no, and then I said that I'm done with that is. I think I really scared the poor guy, I mean seriously spooked him and then some. He responded with wide eyes, "Really?" and again, "Really?" I told him briefly that I was done with the system, structure, etc. and honestly I didn't want to go deeper into it since there were several friends there who aren't Christians, so I left it at that. He responded with, "Oh, well, I don't care...I mean, it's not my deal...umm,...urr..." At that point my daughter bounded up to him and gave him a huge hug thus abruptly ending the extremely awkward conversation, which had been laced with my unsuspecting friend's nervous laughter. Later I thought over the conversation and realized I could have been less direct, abrupt, and down right scary. Part of me wanted to say something like, "So where does it say in the Bible that we have to go to church anyway? Church isn't defined as a building even one time in scripture." Then I would have launched into my whole definition of "gathering", and on and on. Next time I will just say that I haven't found a church yet...after a few years that won't work, and then I'll come up with something else polite and tidy that will hopefully dispel any speculation or horror.

Since this conversation I've been mulling over the definition of church and what it means to me. I've thought it over before, yes I have. I've spent hours reading, studying, trying to wrap my brain around what church is supposed to be, and why and how we've gotten so off track with it all. I know it's far more complex than just one little blog entry, but I realized that it's become way too complicated than it should be. Then something hit me today - I'm confused about what church is. I haven't sorted and sifted through all of the programming the church put in me; it's all in there still tumbling around making me feel crazy. I left the whole system behind, and now I'm unraveling all that the system had to offer and I've come to a bit of a dead end. It annoys me when people say that they're still searching, especially coming from Christians. I want to look at them and say, "You mean God hasn't shown you? If God is truly God, and you believe in Him, then ask and He'll tell you." That's what religion always told me: Have faith, seek God, and He will answer you. But what if He doesn't, what then? It must be a lack of faith, yep, that's it. I knew the system didn't work for me, so I got out. The freedom I've encountered has been beyond words, and my faith in God has increased beyond what it was before. But now that I really have to seek God for myself the truth is I don't know how to! Nobody is there telling me what to do, and why, and what happens if I don't, and on and on. It's a bewildering feeling to say the least.

In thinking about all of this I came to the realization that the church has it backwards. The first and foremost important thing in Christendom is that you attend church. Because what is the mark of a Christian you say? A person who attends a church, and denomination follows suit behind that as well as relationships and community. But what if someone asked me where I went to church and I answered, "I have lots of relationships with other believers. We hang out over dinner, talk on the phone, text, etc. and it's awesome." They would look at me like I lost my flippin mind. They would most likely think I attended a house church, (I call them mini churches), home fellowship, whatever you call it. I was always taught that if you left the church you were a backslider. You were "out of fellowship." Um, so going to a building where you sing a few songs and listen to one guy talk for an hour, (if you're lucky - it's generally at least an hour and a half), and talking for a few minutes afterwards is fellowship....really?

Nowhere in the Bible does it say you have to meet at a building for a specified period of time with other believers. An example of the New Testament believers is shown - they met in homes and broke bread together. Occasionally they met publicly in large groups, which was customary of the day and believers and non believers alike met this way in Greek culture. Other than that we're not told a whole lot. So, back to my original question - what is church? If it's not a building, then I figure there must be an essence, a meaning, a purpose for this thing we call church. What is the glue that holds it together? What makes it tick, and what makes it attractive to people? Let's face it, what we've been doing certainly isn't attractive.

I've come to the point where I have to honestly say I don't have the answer. I know it's out there and I know it's tangible. So I'm going with my gut and following the white rabbit. This past month I've had more connections with like minded people than I did in two years of attending church. I don't have an agenda for these relationships - where they lead is any one's guess. But I do know that for the first time in my life I feel like the journey I'm on is as important as the destination, and that's a beautiful thing. I'm seeing all of these complex little puzzle pieces fall out of the sky like snowflakes. Each one is like a small present all wrapped up just for me. This time I'm going to know what I know because I sought it out on my own and nobody can take it away from me.

By the way, I hope my blog can be a two way conversation, heaven knows we've all had enough of the one way kind. If you have any thoughts on what church is (outside of the box) I'd love to hear them.

Until next time, keep looking up for those puzzle pieces. The truth is out there.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nature's Symphony

Hello Dear Readers,

Life has been blissful this summer and between camping trips, beach days, and weekend get aways to beautiful places I haven't had a shred of time to post here. Being out in nature has been amazing this summer and has brought healing and restoration I hadn't ever imagined. I've also been enjoying being "unplugged" from technology for days at a time. There is a special simplicity to life without e-mail, facebook, blogging, etc. I do a lot of driving normally; to and from school every day, ballet lessons almost every day, and the typical busy mom schedule. The lack of driving time has been so wonderful. When I'm home I've tried to spend at least a half hour outside every day just to soak in the sun, the garden, the breeze, and life itself.

A few weeks ago we went on a family camping trip to get a little mini weekend vacation. We were disappointed to find that the campground was full, but there were some environmental camp sights open. This means basically that our camp was off the beaten path and we had to hike in quite a ways to get to our camping spot. By the time we got all of the gear packed in we were exhausted. It was hot, and it had taken us about an hour to get everything out of the car and to the site. After we were done the kids went down to the creek and Ron took a nap. It turns out we were camping in the midst of an old apple orchard and there were beautiful apple and cherry trees right above us! I closed my eyes and just listened to the quiet lull of the creek trickling by. Then I heard crickets all around me and they sounded like a small orchestra singing in unison. The wind blew through the trees and the leaves rustled, softly at first, then with a crescendo like an orchestra. I sat there listening to this incredible nature symphony, entranced by the beauty, surrounded by peace. A bird started singing the most beautiful song which fit in perfectly to the symphony and I heard God say to me, "This is you. Some people are made to be like others, to be part of the symphony or the choir, but you are a soloist." All of a sudden I realized that I've seen myself as being different, not fitting into organized religion. That "being different" has been lonely, challenging, and has tested and stretched my faith beyond where I thought I could go. It has made me feel like an outcast and a freak at times. But I'm seeing that I wasn't made to fit into a mold. I think this is the beginning of healing for me and I'm seeing my perspective shifting.

The IC tells us who we're supposed to be and it discourages individuality. How can a bird be a cricket, or a leaf a bird? So who are you; the quiet lull of the creek, the loud rustle of the leaves, the sharp chirping of the cricket, the soloist bird, the graceful deer....or maybe you're like Buster the alpaca in the picture above...who wouldn't love that face?!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thoughts on Freedom

This new journey has brought me into freedom in Christ I could have never imagined possible. The freedom I thought I had before was a far cry from what He's been showing me this year and I find that I finally am beginning to understand what freedom truly means. This morning my husband was reading the Declaration of Independence out loud to the family and with every sentence I was amazed that I could apply the words accurately to my spiritual freedom as well. The phrase "All men are created equal" rang loud and clear for the first time. In the IC I didn't ever really feel equal as I saw those around me being treated differently, some exonerated while others were put down, and the rules and regulations bearing down more for some than others. The freedom our forefathers spoke of is I believe closer to the freedom God gives us in some ways than the church has prognosticated it to be. We've been missing out on a freedom so grand, so all encompassing and full of love, seasoned with grace and mercy.

So what exactly does freedom in Christ mean? Where is the line drawn between freedom and sin - grace and punishment? It's a fine line, but not one that should be taken with fear and confinement. I believe it is a freedom that is void of rules and religion, but full of love and power. It is in true freedom that power in Christ can be found. The rules hold us back from experiencing Him fully and knowing how to find Him in every circumstance. This freedom doesn't come with guilt, the what if's, and the notion that if we blow it punishment will follow. This freedom bends the rules, makes the religious in people squirm, and reaches out to the broken in love.

Today I worshipped God as I created a mosaic. I thought about how the grout comes from thousands of pieces of rock ground up into a tiny powder like sand on the beach. I used my hands to fill in tiny crevices in glass and with every motion I worshipped my creator. I celebrated my independence from the Sunday ritual I felt obligated to do every week my whole life. I can worship Him every day with all of my being because He is so great, and I'm created to worship. Not because it's time for us to stand and sing, raise our hands and face the same direction in a building. I have freedom to be who I am because He made me that way. My mold was made to be broken, and I will explore my freedom with every ounce of my being because I can! Lack of freedom confines and creates rules while freedom supports creativity in spirit.

I still have a long way to go on this journey. I find myself falling into the old patterns of guilt and religiosity. Every time I do I remind myself that Jesus came for freedom. He who the son sets free is free indeed. What does this mean for me? What is holding me back? I want people to look at me and want that freedom. It should ooze from every pore of my being. That freedom is God, it's His essence. He didn't make the stupid rules we come up with - they were never His idea. I'm trying to open my mind up to the freedom in Him. I'm seeing it appear more every day and I'm finding the guilt is falling off as I embrace it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Community

When we moved away from our rental a year ago into our new neighborhood we had no idea what to expect here in regards to a community. We had lived in the previous town for 6 years and so much had happened during that time! We had initially moved there to be close to the university for Ron, and we had also joined a faith community. Our church was right down the street, as was the college, Sarah's school, dance studio, and Ron's later place of employment. Our gas bills were very low back then! We ended up becoming close friends with some of our neighbors which was amazing and such a blessing at the time! We would share food, have barbecues together, hang out and watch movies, take walks together, (I miss those walks Allison!), laugh together and cry together. Two of our neighbors were studying to be nurses so we would get free health checks off and on, and advice when we got injured, (I fractured my tail bone, ouch!) It was a community utopia for a time and I couldn't imagine not having that support and love. In fact, I feared losing it...

Well, all good things must come to an end and when it ended it was over, there was nothing left there for us, and we were more than ready to move on. We moved to the next town over not knowing anyone close by really and wondered how God would knit us into this community. We knew some people a few blocks away, but not well, and at first it felt pretty isolating here. As the months wore on we were amazed to see how we found families and made friends in the area; it was uncanny. We've gotten to know the family we knew who lived a few blocks down. They are awesome people, so full of faith and love. They have a boy and girl just like us and I pass down Justin's clothes to their little guy and we switch off babysitting for date nights. Ron knows a co-worker who lives a few blocks further as well. He and Ron both love to garden and we share our veggies with them and they give us home pressed apple juice and awesome gifts for our garden. We have dinner with them off and on and their cooking is so delicious! I met another family through a friend who lives a few blocks away as well. They are on the same spiritual journey I'm on and "get" where I'm at. I'm so blessed to have found them! So a mere year later, and we have three families we're friends with who live just a few blocks away in our little community!

The other day we had a dinner that was mostly from our garden: Potatoes and herbs, a fresh salad with carrots and peas, and spaghetti flavored with herbs from our herb garden. After dinner we went out and picked some lettuce, spinach, carrots and potatoes, loaded them into bags and went on a walk through our neighborhood dropping off our garden bounty and veggie starts to our friends a few blocks away. It was the most wonderful evening! Our hearts felt full and we were loving our community.

That night has gotten me thinking a lot about the meaning of community. I always thought that community was a place you had to set up - a place that had to be painstakingly planned in every way. The element of fear was always there - what if someone moves away?, what if God takes us away from our support system?, etc. What I'm realizing is that God is fully capable of setting up community anywhere! It's a no brainer for Him. We're the ones who add in the complications and strings to the whole situation making things much more complicated and messy.

I look around us now at the community we're blessed with and I'm in total awe. Community has come to us in such an incredible way and now we get to nurture it and see it grow in beautiful ways. I feel so lucky - SO blessed! I cherish our neighbors more than ever because I feel they're a gift God has given me. I don't feel like I deserve it, but the universe has smiled on us and we're blessed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Crazy" Ideas

Hello dear readers! It's been almost two weeks since my last post. Life has been busy with the end of school, dance recital, and life in general. I've hardly had time to return phone calls, e-mails, you name it! I detest this kind of busyness honestly; I like life to have a stable predictable pattern. But it seems my life has been anything but stable these past few years! I'm learning to "go with the flow" so to speak in more ways than one.

Yesterday I was pondering about life as I was driving along in the beautiful afternoon sun beside the bay. U2's song "Where the Streets Have No Name" came on the radio and I was thinking about the spectacular places I've seen in the world and how much I want to go back to every single one of them, and more. But, I'm here for now, in my little town living my life. Then I felt like God asked me, "What do you want to do?" I paused and thought a minute, "Really, anything?" "Yes, what is the most outrageous thing you want to do?" I sat there in stunned silence, really not knowing what to think or say back. I'm still pondering the question, and maybe haven't come up with an answer because if I do answer then He'll probably take me up on it...yep, I can totally see Him doing that. But it got me thinking - How much do I set the rhythm in my life? In the IC I always heard the cliche - if it's supposed to happen God will allow it, but if it's not He'll close the door. I wonder now if I was the one closing the door, not Him. Yet, there are crazy ideas I've had for years that have actually happened. I've been to England and Scotland twice, I went on a missions trip to Thailand last summer without my family and survived it, I had a baby despite a very high risk pregnancy. Now I'm starting to wonder if all of the other ideas I've had that I excused away as not being "God's will" actually ARE God's will. Maybe I've been setting them all aside and creating my own rhythm apart from Him...

So I'm going to share with you one of my crazy ideas and I'd love to hear some of yours....maybe if we start talking about these ideas we'll see that they're not so out there after all...and maybe they will start happening.

Here goes: I want to go and live in a third world country for a year with my family. I have a desire to reach out to women who are oppressed and live in poverty with no hope. This idea is crazy because for one my husband has no desire to do this right now. I have two kids ages 4 and 11 which would make this even more challenging. But, it's my wild dream and I'm owning it!

What are your crazy ideas?

Friday, June 4, 2010

More on Hearing

The longer I'm outside of organized religion the more I seem to be hearing God's voice and acting on it. The most profound thing about hearing His voice now is that I don't even realize I've heard it until the words are out of my mouth and it becomes obvious I was hearing Him. It's kind of like this: Remember when you first met your spouse and you had to ask him/her what they meant when they said something? Then over time you came to know them so well that you could sit in the same room with them and know exactly what they were thinking, or know what they were going to say before they said it?

The other day I was hanging out with some of my friends who don't know Jesus yet. We were talking about life in general and one of the girls I was talking with mentioned the fact that she doesn't have a relationship with her father. She talked about growing up with her mom and what it's been like to not have a dad. This led to a discussion on the topic of bad people. I don't remember how I brought up the topic, but I ended up talking about child molesters. She spoke up and said that her father was a child molester, and that this was the reason she has chosen not to have a relationship with him. In the past I would have most likely felt God speak directly to me about this, but this time I had no nudging from the holy spirit whatsoever. I just spoke out, and I feel my words were absolutely inspired by the holy spirit. After this discussion I noticed the girl was much more open to me. I feel that I now have a bridge into her life because of our conversation.

After this happened the thought occurred to me: Can we become so in touch and intertwined with the holy spirit that our conversation is guided by the spirit's leading all the time? Not only that, but can we live a life where we constantly speak words of knowledge/wisdom that are so accurate to a situation without even knowing it?

When Jesus walked the earth He spoke truth because He was truth. Then He told us that we would do even greater things than He did. I'm sure He never had the thought, "I feel like God is telling me such and such." No, He simply spoke and His words were truth. So why can't we as followers of Jesus have this same authority and truth? I think we can. The question is, what is holding us back from this authority?

I'm perplexed as to why I'm hearing God so much more now that I'm out of the IC. Especially when it seems that now I'm not "trying" to hear His voice. I used to toil and sweat over hearing from Him honestly! Maybe that was the problem - maybe too much of me was in the way. Now I live my life following Jesus, and if He chooses to speak to me I'm in awe, but if I don't hear from Him for a while I'm not stressing out about it. Maybe I was trying too hard...

My daughter has taken ballet classes for the past four years. I've watched her skill develop slowly over time and now all of the years of technique and training are beginning to show. Dancing is becoming a part of her, and she doesn't have to think before her next step; the steps flow naturally without premeditation. She is finding herself in her dance, her confidence is rising, and when she moves she isn't afraid of making a mistake. Her movement looks effortless and graceful. This is how I want to hear God's voice. I want His words to flow through me without effort. I want the dance of my life to be fused with the music of His voice.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pastoral "Accountability"

One of the main reasons I left the IC was due to the incredible amount of hypocrisy and double standard I saw amongst the pastors and leaders. I always believed that those who were pastors were "appointed by God" to lead the sheep in a tender loving way, full of honesty, and held to a higher standard. That view changed dramatically as I saw the full extent of the corruption and dishonesty within the church pastorate. I begin to see a pastoral immunity amongst the other pastors that made me sick to my stomach. I'm sure my experience is a bit more extreme than most, in fact in speaking with people who have left the IC I've never heard a story quite as horrific as ours was!

When we went through the beginning throws of being removed from leadership an "area pastor" of the denomination we belonged to came to our town to try to help settle the issues at hand. He accused us of "touching God's anointed", (not the first time this phrase had been hurled at us), and that God would judge us for it. Each side expressed their feelings, and the entire leadership team had completely turned against us - we stood alone. Things I had told others in confidence were spoken publicly, and everyone had been "hurt" by us in one way or another. At the end of the meeting the area pastor told us that neither side had offered an apology. Out of that entire meeting I have to say that is the one thing he said that I feel was led by God. My husband was the only one who admitted to any wrong, and he apologized. He showed more humility than the entire leadership team and pastors. One person on the team apologized, but the pastors gave the "We're sorry if we did anything wrong" apology which we all know is NOT an apology.

Later on my husband corresponded with the area pastoral leader in depth. He showed him e-mails from the pastors who had mistreated us, and to our shock the area pastor supported the other pastor at every turn. I began to see that the supposed "pastoral accountability" I had been led to believe existed for so long was all a farce. That was the moment where my trust in the system was lost forever. We were in a position where we had no one in the Christian community who would stand up for us. It was our word against the pastoral institution - and there was no way in the world we would ever win against it because the pastors word is always "God's word" as we all know. Not only that, but the church we currently attended didn't want to see the evidence of what the leadership had done to us. They said , "We're here for you guys", but when the dust settled from the situation they wanted to charge us counseling fees for any further discussions. We found out that the church we were in the midst of leaving had put pressure on our current pastor and had instructed him in how to deal with us. It was a border line threat honestly, very ugly indeed. The pastor had a young church, and if he had gone against the other pastor's instructions much damage would have been done to that church's reputation, etc. I am sure. Hard to believe that this is the kind of control pastors have on people, isn't it?

It became clear that the powers that be had banded together against us. Some in leadership claimed that they had "been through it" because of us. What?!! They weren't the ones who lost their jobs, community, home, lives....they weren't the ones who had become ostracized from the entire local church community. They had the full support of everyone around them, but it became obvious that they were the victims and we were, of course, the enemy. Any hurt that happened in our lives was due us - it was all God's judgement. There was no way we could have heard from God regarding the decisions we had made! Who decided this? The pastors of course since they're the only ones God speaks to obviously. Those in leadership under them refused to speak to us. There were numerous times, (too many to count), that we tried to reason with them, but to no avail. These people were my friends...I can't begin to describe how hard it was to see them continue on in the system knowing the hurt and pain it would cause them. But I had to let that burden go or it would have eaten me alive.

I've wanted to write this post for a long time. I was held back though because I was still connected to the system, and were I to have told the truth of what really went on I would have received judgement and ridicule. I've asked myself many times, is it ok to tell the truth of what really went on behind closed doors....away from the happy clueless church people? The church instills this fear in you about criticizing leadership. It is the next worse sin besides homosexuality. But what this does is creates a safety net for pastors and clergy in which they become immune to correction and accountability. They all know they have each others backs, no matter what. Nobody will challenge the system most likely, and if they do, guess what?...they're labeled as sinful and disobedient. There is no way you can win against this people!!

We found out later that the pastors of the church who kicked us out had actually gone to other pastors in the area and told their side, how they had been through SO much because of us. We didn't know most of these pastors mind you. So if anyone in their congregations came to them with complaints about the pastors, then guess what the answer would be?? "Well, they did horrible things to the pastors at X church. They're horrible people, it's all them, believe me." Then the lie is perpetuated, on and on.

I personally don't believe the system is redeemable. The corruption and disease that lies within it has rotted to the point of no return. Does this mean that every person there is beyond redeeming? No. But the hierarchical system will always fail. When someone is set in total authority above everyone else, (and God), they will fail. God never created people to be in this place! Jesus is the only one who has the right to be there. Yet people claim up and down that Jesus is the ultimate authority in their lives, not man. They have convinced themselves that this is the truth. But when it really comes down to it, who will they serve? I realized that I had convinced myself of it as well. It took God yanking me out of the system, allowing me to go through the deepest pain, rejection, and betrayal, to realize it. I honestly think if this hadn't happened I would still be in the system today. I am forever grateful to God for taking me out of it.

Thousands upon thousands are leaving the church daily. According to the George Barna group, (who have polled thousands who have left the IC), the main reason people cite is abuse by pastors and leaders. I believe God is exposing what has been going on for generations. He's not allowing man to take His place any longer. The scales are being removed from people's eyes finally. I'm a rebel, a revolutionary, a history maker. I refuse to partake in a system that is wrought with corruption and injustice. I've left an entire Christian community because I refuse to compromise. As time wears on I find the tiny tentacles of connections I have with the IC evaporating. People can't relate to me, and as time goes on I can't relate to them. My identity continues to morph and I try to find my way in this strange new place. It's a place of uncertainty at times, yet it is a place of incredible freedom and joy as well. I see Jesus grace and love more than ever before. He isn't who I thought He was, who they had made Him out to be. In the midst of all of this I find forgiveness and's a great mystery. I can reach out and love those who crushed me. I can hear their continually hurtful judgmental words toward me and feel peace and freedom.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Birds on the Wires

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Communication With God Beyond Hearing

Last night I saw a great movie called "August Rush" starring Robin Williams. It's about a boy music prodigy who ends up separated from his parents at birth. He has the gift of hearing music in the sounds of every day city life. Somehow he can hear his parents reaching out to him through music, and as it turns out they're both musicians. The boy gets discovered, studies at Julliard and composes a sonnet. He tells people that music is all around us; we just need to listen for it.

Lately I've been thinking more about how people hear God's voice. Growing up in the church I was taught that the main way Christians hear God's voice is through the Bible, and honestly sometimes it was regarded the only way. I've never really heard God's voice speaking to me through the Bible, mainly only through the Psalms. Around the time I had my encounter with Lonnie Frisbee, (see my post called "Like Poop Through A Goose"), the Holy Spirit started speaking to me through different ways. I started hearing God's voice through songs on the radio, seeing Him in pictures, in art, through movies, and in many other ways. I'm an artist, so it makes sense that God would use my "language" to speak to me. But when I shared my experiences with my Christian friends they would cock their heads side ways and look at me like I was, well, a freak. So I quit telling people. They didn't understand, and it made me feel like I might have fallen off the deep end.

We hear from God, but is it possible to see Him as well - through art, movies, visual media and other ways? We were created with 5 senses at least: (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste), and it seems to me that God would want to communicate with us through all of them, not simply through hearing alone. He is God after all!!

When I was in Thailand last summer on a mission's trip I had an experience with touching God that was outside of the normal "hearing God" way. During our daily worship and prayer time one of the girls on the team broke out into a beautiful spontaneous song. Her song was about God being our fruit that comes in all colors and flavors. The end of her song said that we were fresh fruit for others. In Thailand the fruit selection is so amazing and delicious! We were able to eat many fruits we don't have here in the US. It was pretty incredible to have God communicate to us through song, sight, touch, smell and taste all at the same time; talk about a multi-sensory experience with God!

So how does God communicate with you? I would love to hear...

One last thought. My husband shared this quote with me some years ago and it's one of my favorites so I wanted to share it with you:

"May God be to you like warm socks on your feet, straight out of the dryer"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jesus and Feminism

Recently I did a face book post that went something like this. "Jesus was the biggest feminist that lived." I got a range of responses from religious IC going Christians who tried to pigeon hole me into saying what issues of modern feminist Jesus wouldn't agree with to people outside of the IC who couldn't say amen enough. It seems as though I had hit a "hot button", no, more like a land mine, without realizing what I was doing. After leaving the IC I began to realize for the first time that Jesus was in the business of taking women out of their oppressed societal roles and giving them freedom and equality with men. It blew me away...I couldn't believe that after being raised in the church for 35 years I hadn't seen it before. This was yet another unspoken rule of the system - women submit to men, follow them, do as they tell you, and know that their word is the ultimate truth and authority. The idea of mutual submission was never a part of my life in the IC.

Jesus was constantly liberating women: The Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke to at the well. Not only was she a woman, but she was Samaritan - considered to be the lowest minority to the Jews and they refused to even speak to Samaritans. But Jesus spoke to her and she chose to follow Him then spread her salvation story all around town. Many consider her the first evangelist. The woman caught in adultery is another. This woman had been oppressed by the religious leaders, (I can relate to her on many levels and her story brings me freedom.) Jesus comes out and tells her that He doesn't judge her. The story of Mary and Martha is another. Jesus actually encourages the sisters to sit and learn from Him, putting them in a student role. He brings them out of the house wife role, how amazing is that? In those days women didn't learn under rabbis, (unless you were very wealthy, which was rare.) These examples show that Jesus was radical in His feminism for that day! When I realized how revolutionary Jesus was in His treatment of women the thought came to me -

Why is the church even more oppressive of women than the world 2000+ years later??

Why is it that modern feminism emerged from the secular world not the church. If feminism like Jesus was a proponent of had started in the church would we have abortion?? Could it be that in abdicating our role in liberating women we inadvertently caused the deaths of millions of lives? I think this is very possible. Then we picket abortion clinics in protest...

I can't tell you how many times I was told by a male church leader or pastor that my ideas, thoughts, impressions, etc. "needed to wait", "I'll pray about that sister", "thanks for the advice, but we don't need to do that now", etc., etc. It was as if what I had to say didn't matter - that I didn't matter. The only women who were listened to and respected seemed to be those with scales for skin,...and they were usually pastors but seemed to be more like men in their thinking and actions. I wasn't one of those, never have been honestly. Even so I got right in there with the pastors and shared my opinions, (still do in blog land and am rarely treated as an equal by male pastors, big surprise), only to be poo poo'd. All of this to say, where did this treatment of women in the church come from anyway? Why have there been so few women pastors over the ages and why do they have to act like men in that role?

Maybe it's been here from the beginning...remember how the disciples didn't believe Mary when she told them that she had seen Jesus? They had to actually enter the tomb and from the way his grave clothes lay could tell that he had risen. They needed proof - they couldn't simply take Mary at her word and trust her...why?...because she was a woman? Not to put men down, and please don't misunderstand me, but it seems that women responded to Jesus very differently from men. Mary washed Jesus feet with her tears and the disciples were disgusted. But Jesus saw that she was actually prophesying His death. She could see something the disciples were blind to.

Could it be that women's ability to have faith is the thing that has caused them to be oppressed by men in the church? Could the inherent differences between men and women be the root of the issue?

I believe this is the main reason women don't have a voice in the church. In fact, I thought about doing a blog like this for a while but kept putting it off because I didn't think anyone would be interested in hearing what I had to say. For so many years I've been conditioned into believing that my voice didn't matter, wasn't important, etc. I'm finding that there are very few blogs written by women who have left the IC. Most of them are by men, generally men who were pastors or leaders, and they have large followings. Of course they would, duh?! (Don't mind my sarcasm, please.)

The more I've thought about this the more I realize that if women in the church could find their voice and become who God had called them to be we would be a powerful beautiful force to be reckoned with. If we can shake off all of the crap that men have put on us, that we have put on ourselves, that the institution of church has put on us, and see ourselves not as women - but as children of God with every right and privilege men have, we would be a sight to behold. As I continue on my journey of freedom I ask myself this question, "Who are you in God's eyes? If Jesus walked in the room today, who would He say you are?"

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Sunday's Coming" (Be prepared to LOL)

One of my friends posted this on facebook and I had to share it with you all. It is especially for the person who coined the phrase, "song and lecture club." It's brilliant. I especially love the Rob Bellish segment. One of the comments a person posted on the site its from said that this is one of the reasons that people laugh at Christians, so true.

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I came across this excellent article by the Barna Group which is a re-cap of the book George Barna wrote "Revolution", as well as other books about organic church. He states that around 20 million people who he calls "revolutionaries" have left organized religion and that this movement is rapidly growing. He outlines the reasons for leaving, and likens this movement to a spiritual renissance. Have any of you read this book? I'd love to hear comments regarding it...and I plan to pick up a copy soon!

Better than a Hallelujah - Amy Grant

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reclaimed Treasures

For Mother's Day my amazing husband finished the pond he's been working on for a week now. I must admit I am spoiled when it comes to having a beautiful garden, since he loves working on it and I love sitting back and enjoying the stunning beauty he creates all around us. This pond would have cost us around $1600 for supplies alone, but almost all of it was given to us for free! Most of the materials were cast offs that people didn't want for whatever reason. The wood is all reclaimed redwood from a foundation remodel down the street. The pond liner, pump and system belonged to a friend who didn't need them anymore, and the rocks, (which were turned into a waterfall), were in a pile of green waste give away. It's hard for us to believe that nobody wanted these precious items.
As I was sitting on the chair over looking the pond and listening to the musical trickle of water down the rocks I began to realize how much this pond mirrors my own life. All of these cast off pieces of nothing that the world didn't want were priceless treasures to those in need of them. When they were all joined together to create this amazingly beautiful little corner of our world they suddenly became incredibly necessary to us. Now I can't imagine our front yard without this pond. When I open the front door the sound of water rushes into my ears and I let out a deep sigh of gratitude. Peace, hope, rest, life, rejuvenation...these are all words that come to mind when I sit in this chair soaking up the sounds of life and nature.
It's hard to believe that God really loves me sometimes...even the junky cast off parts too - especially those. He finds the broken, worn, used bits of me the most necessary parts, so he can show me that it's not me doing the work in my life, but him. This work is much more than beauty rising from the ashes; it's the actual ashes themselves being turned into beauty. I can't wrap my head around this concept, this mystery. But before I know it I find myself letting it all go and then I see the beauty he creates and it leaves me speechless.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Black Sheep

Lately through direct or indirect promptings several in the IC have felt it was their duty to present me with the analogy of "the church", i.e. the IC as a "family." The logic behind their argument is that we're all part of the family of God. Every believer is a part of who we are, and we are commanded thus to love one another. Not only are we to love our brothers and sisters, but this love means that we are to interact with the other members of the family in our acceptance of them since God has orchestrated this family - we are inextricably intertwined. The people who came to me with this revelation didn't come out and say these exact words, but the insinuation was there.

After much though and reflection my response to them, which I may or may not tell them directly...(that is yet to be decided), is this hypothetical story:

Let's say you had a side to your family which was different from the other sides of your family. I know most can relate to this, as many of us have some challenging family dynamics...let's face it. So, this side of the family had decided that they didn't like you for whatever reason. In order to turn the rest of the family members against you they had shut you out of the family. They did this by excluding you from family get togethers, dinners, etc. (You knew this because they would do things like calling the wrong number - your number - to invite another family member to dinner. You didn't get invited.) They then sent you a letter in the mail saying that it was "time for you to take a break from the family." They didn't even bother to call you. Close cousins quit talking to you, calling you, even acknowledging you. One day you were called to a meeting with the parents and grandparents of the family. You were told that you were "rebellious" and needed to repent. After apologizing for doing things you didn't realize you were doing the shunning continued. Your own parents quit talking to you. Your brother was then told, "Your reputation will be severely effected if you continue to hang around your sister." So in fear he quit coming over and calling. Then the members of the family started turning on one another. Some moved away and were never heard from again. Others stayed in town, but wanted nothing to do with anyone else in the family. The stress of the family dysfunction had a serious toll on your marriage and life. You finally had enough of it and decided it was time to make a break from the family.

But there was another aunt and uncle in the family who lived in a close town who seemed different from the rest. They saw what was going on in the dysfunctional family and said it was wrong and unjust. Although you were unsure and distrusting of them, in time your guard came down. This part of the family was different, you were sure of it. They welcomed you with open arms. "Family" became wonderful again. You poured your life into the family - you gave them everything you had and sacrificed your all for them. Things seemed perfect as they should be until one day when they decided it was time for you to leave the fold. They cast you out of the family in a very cruel and unkind way. Then you had discovered that they had stolen from you. With most who steal lies became apparent, and lies emerge to cover those lies...what a tangled web we weave. This part of the family had a name to protect, so they not only turned any remaining family members against you, but they also attempted to turn the entire town against you. They even attempted to run you out of town. As a result, your remaining cousins turned against you and were bought off. Others refused to speak to you, even after repeated attempts.

You went to distant family members who refused to face the truth of what was really happening, and who wouldn't tell the truth to the rest of the family. These members were too powerful, and you felt the distant family was afraid of what they might do to them if they were to expose the truth to the whole family. So they played their part in the saga. They didn't want to know the full truth of what was happening. You finally started to stand up for yourself - you gathered together all of your strength, and you refused to be a door mat. You tried to get back what they had stolen. The distant cousins requested that you stop doing this. They told you that it wasn't your place to get back what had been stolen from you. They told you that you chose to let the things the aunt and uncle had done hurt you, that you could have done things better. They remained friends with this side of the family despite what they had done to your life. You stayed friends with this family as long as you could. But it began to tear you apart. You realized that if you didn't leave you would be destroyed.

Tell me this: Would you remain in a family that treated you this way? Would you run to them with open arms and heart after they had attempted to destroy your life?

This family may be a family by blood, but it isn't a family of the heart. Just because we are born into the same family doesn't mean we have to be in relationship with every member of that family. We can love from a distance.

The end of the story is better than the beginning:

In desperation you moved out of town far away from that entire side of the family. None of the people you had dealt with regarding the situation called you. It was as if you had never existed. One day by pure accident you stumbled upon a part of the family you never knew about. They were kind and true. They too had been effected by various family members, so they knew what you had been through. They weren't perfect, but you knew you had finally found a part of the family that you could grow to love. This family functioned with mutual respect. No one was seen as greater or less than, and there were no harsh unreasonable rules. They loved without demanding in return.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I was a cog in the wheel,
a chain in the machine,
which ran smoothly -
well greased and perfectly timed.

The monotony of function
and form grew old,

I broke

into tiny shards of glass
that cut and bled.

You've taken me from castles to brothels,
where the streets have no name...
to the quiet and stillness
of solitude

and silence.

I've seen the prince
and the starving child
where bombs grew silently
and greed engulfed pavement.

This place is cold,
I feel worn by those walls...
you drained the life from the veins
and ate the days of youth.

My soul is unfolding
in the shadows,
gasping for breath,
amidst your ashes.

The shore is calling,
with gentle waves alive with hope
sliding quietly
into dreams of desire...

I'm being reborn into the sea,
churned in the depths,
In a metamorphosis
of the soul.

my feet feel the moist sand


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sustainable Gardening

God has always spoken to me in unusual ways - through pictures, songs, art, dreams, etc. In fact, it has been only the rare exception for me to read a scripture and feel him speaking directly to me through it. Since I've left the IC I hear him speak to me more through scripture than ever before ironically! This has been another one of those unexpected surprises, a bonus if you would, of leaving the IC. The other day he spoke to me though a vision which hasn't happened in quite a while.

The other day I was thinking about my journey, where I've come from, where I'm going, etc. I wasn't even in deep intercession or prayer...just meditating on life. I saw a picture in my mind of a group of people partying outside. They seemed carefree and happy - dancing, drinking, laughing. Then I saw a fence and on the other side of the fence there was a large garden. There were people working hard tending the garden. They were digging, planting and watering. Then I saw something I didn't expect. I saw a few people from the "party" side along the fence reaching under it and picking some of the crop. I felt God saying to me that the party side was the IC - the people who were part of the religious system. Those in the garden were the people who had left - you could call them "organic" church. The people picking the plants along the fence line are those who are trying out and tasting the fruit of the organic church. I felt like God impressed on me that those of us who have left are in the process of investing, working, and tending the work of God.

Gardening is hard work. It can take years to get a garden fully functional. I know this because my husband is a serious gardener. Since we bought our house a year ago he's been turning our back yard into an amazing vegetable garden. I've been astounded at all of the work that goes into growing a garden. He starts with compost - lots and lots of it. He adds horse poo to the compost. It took me a while to get used to this step. It's messy and well, it stinks...a lot! But, it is essential to a really to a really rocking garden. Then he had to built raised beds for the veggies because our soil is composed of sandy rocky dirt which isn't really conducive to gardening, at all. He then put the composted soil along with other very dark organic soil into the raised beds. Meanwhile he had been growing the veggie starts from seeds. This took a lot of care because we've had a few freezing nights this spring. He lost all of our tomatoes once and had to start over from scratch with them. He finally planted the starts in the soil. Since they took root it's been pretty easy to keep them healthy, except for the occasional cat who decides the raised beds are a perfect litter box, or the pests who like the green leaves. Our goal is to have all of our veggies growing in the garden - to have a sustainable garden. My husband tells me it will take about three years for this to be possible. Yeah, gardening is hard work.

It would be so much easier to be enjoying the party over the fence, wouldn't it? But what happens when the famine comes? What resources are these people going to have to survive on? I felt like God was showing me that those of us who are working the soil are investing in something that may take a while to see fully. What we're investing in will be long lasting and sustainable.

What is God showing you through this? I would love to hear...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Can "Normal" Be Okay?

Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., Bono...these names represent some of the greatest Christian leaders and activists of our time. When we hear their names we think of extraordinary talents and above average charisma and giftings. These are some of the people I have looked up to with great reverence and awe throughout my life. I've only seen one of these people in person, Bono in concert, but they all seem bigger than life in my mind.

Since I've fallen down the rabbit hole I've begun to see something within organized religion and within myself. I like to call it the "do do" complex. We're encouraged to be "doing something big for God" at all times. The message we get is that you must be involved in ministry, a cause, a mission, etc., etc. to be following Jesus. You must be doing something ginormously big for the kingdom and if you're not, well, then you must be either lazy or in rebellion, (or "taking a break" since we all need one of those every five years or so.) I found that while in the church whenever I wasn't doing the above do do's I felt a tremendous sense of guilt. This guilt produced anxiety, striving, and ultimately huge feelings of guilt. This led me to seeking out ministry at all times - it didn't even matter what kind of ministry it was. If it was "for God" I was golden. It was even better if people noticed and poured on the acilades. But now that I'm out of the four walls and not going to church five times a week, attending mid week Bible studies, ministries, etc. it's dawning on me that maybe being "normal" is okay! By "normal" I mean maybe it's perfectly ok for me to be just a white middle class housewife and mother who loves Jesus and isn't spear heading hurculean mountian moving ministries or missions.

Since this realization has sunk in I've felt a tremendous sense of relief and peace in my life. In fact, this revelation is in part why I started this blog in the first place. I finally came to the place where I felt comfortable in my own spiritual skin. I saw that the every day thoughts and feelings I had were worth something big to God. I didn't have to be a literary genious to share my thoughts and feelings with the world. Normal is okay. I still have my heros, (everybody needs a hero), but I've come to a place where normal is not only acceptable but its perfection. I'm finding that the more I relax into who God created me to be the more I see my worth in His eyes. The expectations that the church laid on my for years are melting away and my identity is coming into focus.

If you don't mind me asking, who are you? No really, who are you aside from the expectations you have placed on yourself, aside from the expectations others have placed on you, and the percieved expectations God has put on you? What would your "normal" look like?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Equally Choked!

Leaving organized religion not only was a big deal in of itself for me, but it presented CGC's with several theological "challenges" as well. The main reason being that I left church and my husband and kids stayed. People within the system didn't quite know how to deal with this fact. It tweaked with their status quo...big time! The reactions ranged from people seeming shocked that we weren't both on "the same page" to some asking overt questions about it. They wondered how it was working out for us, was it a challenge?, were we both ok with not doing the same religious ritual?, (my words.) It became clear to me that people within the church simply weren't comfortable with the fact that I had left and my husband hadn't. It became clear to me that we had broken one of the cardinal rules of the church: Be Ye Equally Yoked.
It dawned on me that within church circles couples are expected to have the same expressions of faith, worship, etc. Heaven forbid that one would feel to seek God outisde of the church and the other remain within the church. I think people were surprised when I told them that my husband and I were perfectly fine with doing different things on Sunday. Honestly, after I left the church our marriage greatly improved. The longer I remained in the church system the more our marriage became, well, equally choked.
So where did the idea come from that husbands and wives need to express their devotion to God in the exact same way? I think the verse about being unequally yoked, (2 Cor 6:14), is the origin of this idea. The kicker is that this verse is talking about being unequally yoked with unbelievers! This has nothing to do with people of the same faith. I would even argue that this verse may not pertain to marriage, (but that is a whole different post.) Another reason I think people were in such a kafuffle over this issue goes back to the verse about wives submitting to their husbands, (Eph 5: 21-22.) I did some research on this verse, in the Greek, and discovered that the part about wives submitting to their husbands is only one example of submission. The verse begins with, "Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ." It seems to me that this is a mutual submission - wives to husbands, husbands to wives. In our situation I felt strongly that God had spoken to me that it was time to leave organized religion. My husband then submitted to me in my leaving. I then submitted to him staying, (I really wanted him to leave as well, but now have peace with the decission he made at the time.) If we hadn't submitted to each other I think we would have a boat load of tension and stress in our marriage right now!
All through my years of being in the church there was the unspoken rule that husbands and wives need to be on the exact same page spiritually: attend the same church, be involved in the same ministry, etc. I'm now seeing that this is not what God expects for me. There may be couples out there with the same calling of course, but I believe in many cases couples have various callings on their lives and varied expressions of faith. I wonder what would the church look like if more women stepped out of the box religion has put them in and into the ministry God had called them to...

Monday, April 26, 2010

True Confessions of an Ex "CGC"

So today I was out shopping with my kids for a teacher present at a local boutique in our lovely coastal town. This normal every day kind of outing turned into what felt like a covert operation in the end. It started out innocent enough. My kids and I were looking at beautiful local hand made jewelry in the shop and I was admiring some of the handiwork of one of my talented friends. I casually mentioned that I knew the jewelry designer. The store worker's eyes lit up and she asked, "Oh really, where from?" It just so happens that the designer is a Christian. My brain went into warp speed and I'm not sure if it was Holy Spirit or my quick deductive reasoning, but I realized that I was 99.9% positive that this person was a church going Christian, (CGC for short.) Normally my response would have been, "I know her from church friends." But instead my response came out, "I know her through friends." I felt this answer was honest, although not detailed honest, which isn't lying after all. Her response was an unenthusiastic, "Oh." Lucky for me my daughter didn't like the store wares, so we were off quickly. The lady pleasantly told me that if we didn't find what we wanted we were welcome to come back. In the back of my head I heard, "Not a chance in he** lady!"

When I got home I had a chance to sit down and analyze what had transpired. I realized that for the first time in my life I had zero desire to make a new connection with a possible CGC. I had no inkling of desire to further envelope myself into the Christian bubble so to I didn't. At first I questioned myself - was it really ok to not let this person know who I was? Does Jesus call us to be friend every believer we come across? I feel that as Christians we have a sort of false openness at times. Just because we have Jesus in common we are expected to open up every orifice of our being and leave no stone unturned. But is this really what Jesus expects us to do, or is this something the church has told us is "right?"

I have friends, friends who are Christians and friends who aren't Christians. I have deep relationships with some of these friends, (and yes, some of them aren't Christians!) They know the things close to my heart, my happy moments, my not so happy moments, and everything in between. When it comes down to it we humans were created with a free will. If Jesus doesn't force himself into our lives then why should we allow others to? Is it ok for me as a believer to have only one toe in the CGC community?

I have to say I'm quite proud of myself for the words I used today in that store. I think it was a small breakthrough for me. I drew the line for myself. I chose whether or not to enter into the Christian bubble, and right then I wasn't feeling it. Maybe the next time I will...but for today the store down the street will do. (Oh, and the teacher loved the present!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Like Poop Through A Goose

I guess you could say that my spiritual journey in the church has been far from ordinary. When I look back at some of the people God has brought into my life at key moments I am astounded. These are people who have radically shaped charismatic movements in the church's history. Interestingly, some of them have been the most unlikely characters. God seems to pick people like this to confound man's wisdom. Many have asked why God would use them for such great things; if the church were to choose great leaders they would not have been on the list. One of these people is Lonnie Frisbee. He was a wild hippie kid off of the streets of southern California who had a radical salvation experience and ended up in the forefront of the Holy Spirit's move in Calvary Chapel. When Lonnie showed up the miraculous happened - the Holy Spirit moved on people with such incredible manifestations as hadn't been seen since the early part of the century most likely. Lonnie was discipled under Kathryn Khulman and became the poster child for the Jesus movement. He even graced the cover of Life magazine.

But there was another side to Lonnie....a side that would leave a permanent smudge on his legacy. He would party on Saturday then show up Sunday and minister in the church. Then it was revealed that he had one foot in the gay lifestyle. I've read many sides to the story, and what I've assessed is that the church leaders of the time needed Lonnie regardless of his short comings. When he said, "Come Holy Spirit" all heaven broke loose. He was the show stopper, and for the show to go on he was a necessary commodity. Ultimately the church leaders curtailed Lonnie's involvement in the church. He was never able to rid himself of his demons and ultimately died of AIDS. In one book called "The History of the Vineyard Movement" Lonnie's story is relegated to a few pages in the appendix.

I met Lonnie at my church when I was in high school. Up until this time my church life was ordinary. When he showed up one of the things he said was, "The holy spirit is going to move through you like poop through a goose!", and indeed he was right. The manifestations that ensued ranged from people being thrown through the air and shaking like a thousand volts of electricity was pulsing through them to a person who sat frozen like a stone for hours while God spoke to her. No one could deny that God was present.

Lonnie took a ministry team to South Africa shortly after he ministered to our church and I was going to part of another team following. My passport was stamped and I was prepared to go, but it was around that time that Lonnie's ministry was coming to an end. I look back and wish that trip would have happened....The last time I saw him was in Kauai at a worship conference about three years later. He looked tired and worn - a shadow of his former self. I remember sharing with him what God was doing in my life and he replied to me, "It's a legacy." At the time I didn't realize how completely accurate and prophetic that statement was. I'm extremely proud to call Lonnie one of my spiritual fathers. Although I knew him only briefly his life and ministry had a profound impact on me. He showed me that God loves to use the nobodys and outcasts of this world to do the greatest exploits.

If you're listening Lonnie - thanks for rocking my world.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Identity: Ground Zero

So it's very late but I have some thoughts that need to hit the key board before they fly away into the night. I was flipping through the channels tonight and stumbled upon some sort of a random university channel. A professor of psychology was discussing the sociology and psychology of religion and its effects on identity. According to research and studies religion creates a strong sense of identity, community and "safety" for people. Those who are involved in a religious circle are far less prone to depression and health issues. Church and religion form a sort of mental safety net for people in which their identity is so deeply rooted that the dependence on them can lift and alter psychiatric problems, addiction, etc. The conclusion one might make in regards to these studies could be that in our religious communities we depend on God through one another, but I beg to differ and here's why. The study didn't include any Christians who were outside of the religious system. What happens if you take people out of these systems and leave them to rely solely on God? I would love to see a study conducted on Christians who leave the system and find out what happens to their identity at that point. I think that far more of our identity is enmeshed within our social circles that we would be willing to admit.

I began to analyze this fact and have been realizing that as a Christian my identity became extremely wrapped up in the church and my social network within the church. This is shocking to me because I have never been one to "go with the flow" and I pride myself on being an individualist....but I'm seeing that somehow, somewhere I traded in my identity for one that is not my own. The absolutely insane part of this whole thing is that we're bombarded with messages in the church about having our identity, "rooted and grounded" in Christ, but when it comes down to it the system simply will not allow us to do this! The unspoken rules of the Christian sub culture dominate. Our dependence is fully on one another for what to think, how to think, what questions to ask, and when where what and how we do everything - that we have bought into a herd mentality.

I'm going to change the channel now, (literally.) I flip the channel to watch one of my favorite shows of all time - Project Runway. For those of you who don't know I love to sew and design, and I adore watching design shows. The finale is on tonight, and three designers are competing for first place. They each have designed a clothing collection which will be shown at Bryant Park - one of the biggest fashion shows in the country. Although they all have a successful show only one person is chosen to be winner. The winner has not only had a successful eye catching show, but he pushes the envelope with his design and takes it up a notch. His line has matured and his designs are creative and innovative, (and incredible, I would wear any one of them in a heart beat!) The other designers collections are amazing as well, beautiful and well done - but they lack new inspiration and growth in the design. By taking his designs to "a new level" the designers clothes became distinct and individual. The winner said, "I'm a risk taker, I feel you have to push the envelope all the time, otherwise you're going to blend in." My identity is in the process of unraveling; the knots and tangles of religion are being slowly sorted out. I want to be able to go to Bryant Park someday and win...but for now I find myself pulling apart the knots one at a time...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From the Outside Looking In

Since I've walked away from the church I'm beginning to see many aspects about the church culture I couldn't see while inside. For years I've heard the term "Christian sub-culture", and I knew there were things about us that were a bit, strange, but the reality of it didn't really come into full view until I was out. I think being inside the cocoon of religion keeps you from seeing how we really look to others outside...there is no way to see how we appear to the outside world until you're out.

One of the most obvious and disturbing things I see is that the friendships I had within the church were rooted solely in the church culture. Now that I've left I find that most of the friends I did have weren't really friends after all. Our friendship was completely dependent on the church setting. Although I have many other things in common with these people besides church they're not enough to keep the friendships going. I tried to keep connected with people, but what I realized was that I was putting out all of the energy to keep the friendships alive. It just wasn't worth the energy - it made me exhausted and frustrated. I battled with constant feelings of rejection. Friendships consist of a give and take, and I felt tired of being the one dragging along a one sided relationship.

I'm learning that there are huge risks associated with leaving, and one of them is loneliness. The church provided a social setting for me that I felt comfortable in. There was always a Bible study, small group, invitations to the church only elite potlucks and parties. Leaving it meant leaving all of that behind. The hardest part of it is I realize that those friendships I had within the church weren't built on the foundation of Jesus' love. They were social friendships much like the cliques in high school. When you leave you fly off the radar - you simply cease to exist.

Now I find myself asking this question: Who is my social Christian circle? Answer: I don't have one. I have a few Christian friends who are like minded; people who I know I'll be friends with for a very long time. People who are very out of the box non-religious folks. I can say crazy off the wall things to them and they don't cock their head to one side and say, "Yeah, uh huh..." or give me the deer in the headlights look. I have a few friends, (I can count them on one hand), who are still part of the system. Sometimes I wonder why they put forth effort to remain friends with me...but I'm glad they do.

Then I have friends who are not part the church. I refuse to call them non-Christians - that just sounds demeaning honestly, doesn't it? The Non people from the country of Non....come on, really? I used to see these people as a conquest, but now I see them as friends and I love being with them. They show me aspects of life that I've never seen before...and the really amazing thing is that they didn't give me the time of day until I was out of the system. I don't blame them one bit. I used to be scared of them,, terrified! It was as if they had a lethal disease I could catch. Their sin was contagious. But now I'm seeing that I'm just as much a part of humanity as they are. They're God's people too, and I feel honored that they give me the time of day. I see in them a part of life, beauty, and even God that was obscured from me within the church walls. They have been one of the delightful unexpected surprises waiting for me to discover along my journey and I feel as though I have only just scratched the surface of who they are.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bumper Sticker Sighting

Yesterday I saw these bumper stickers side by side on a car:

Coexist/ My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter

These two messages side by side send out a powerful message. Interestingly enough I have often thought long and hard about the Coexist one with regards to the church and how we live side by side with other religions. Do we exist peacefully along side of them? Do we love other Muslims, Hindus, New Agers, etc. with Jesus' love? How does he expect us to treat them? Just because we don't agree with their beliefs does it mean we can't still love them with Jesus' love, not condemn them, and maybe even become friends with them? Does Jesus call us to even more than coexisting perhaps? I feel like somewhere along the line we have driven other religions away from Jesus by our rules and regulations. Then we wonder why every religion is accepted in our area...except for Christianity of course. What went wrong and where?? Where's the love? Why do people hate Christians so much? I don't have all the answers on this yet, but I'm seeking God for His love and acceptance toward all religions...

WTF Would Jesus Do? Discuss

Monday, April 19, 2010

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

I'm sure many of you have seen Tim Burton's movie Alice In Wonderland which came out recently. I find the movie a remarkable analogy to my flight from the institutional church and my subsequent discovery of following Jesus outside of the church walls. After finally alluding the expectations placed on me by the church culture I've fallen down the rabbit hole and found myself on the strangest of journeys. I was raised in the church and have been involved in some kind of ministry for the past 20 years. Being removed from its structure and confines is quite a radical experience. You see, when a person falls down a hole without warning there is nothing to grab onto and no way to know how long the fall will be which is a most unsettling feeling. You hold your breath and hope it's not your last. I think I have just finally landed with a loud thud and am beginning to eye the little bottle on the table...

Since I was raised in church culture everything about God, Jesus, church, etc. was taught to me in strict rule format. "If you want to be a Christian you have to follow these rules." "Don't question what I'm saying; that would be rebellion. God hates rebellion." "Don't be depressed. Depression comes from Satan - don't give in to it." "Submit to your father, then submit to your husband. If you don't agree with them then follow along anyway", (i.e. you have no voice.) Choice was never an option for me. I moved from the church culture I was raised in straight into Bible school. Although I was already beginning to see some inconsistencies with the system I felt called into "the ministry." One day while sitting in my church growth class my teacher said something that I'll never forget. He said, "The state the church is in can be likened to fighting for deck seats on the Titanic." Those words kept coming back to me over and over again. I didn't fully understand what he had said yet, but my journey out of the system and down the rabbit hole had begun.

Fast forward fifteen years. The last church I attended was the third church in a string of confusing painful institutional church experiences, which I will go into more detail with eventually here. By the time I started going to my last church I now see that I had mastered going through the motions. I was involved with ministry and went on an international missions trip, but there was a part of me that realized things weren't working. Why? That answer is much longer than one blog post could hold. My hope is that in writing this blog I can help sort through the whys...

Anyway, back to the story. About six months before my departure I was beginning to feel done. I talked to my husband and told him something wasn't right. Some days I dreaded going to church and having to put on the happy church smile. We prayed, we talked, and the tension over my leaving increased. My last day there ended with me walking out mid sermon. I couldn't play the game anymore. I left crying and I looked at my husband and said, "I can't do this anymore." He finally agreed it was time for me to go. So I left, and I've never looked back once.

Since this time I've been falling down the rabbit hole. All of the rules, expectations and religion of church have been fading out of view. Some call it deprogramming, although I see it more as culture shock. I've come out of church culture and into freedom culture. I'm finding out that Jesus is a different person than I had constructed him to be. He is far more loving and accepting and much less judgmental and black and white. Organic church is the label many use for Jesus followers who have left the church. I prefer to say I'm on a journey to know Jesus more. I'm on an adventure following the white rabbit...where he's headed I'm not sure, but I'm going to follow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Welcome to the Freedom Chronicles! My name is April. Here you will find the ramblings, thoughts, reflections and (hopefully) insights of a person trying to follow Jesus outside of the walls of organized religion. My journey has been a long one full of twists and turns I would have never imagined but one of great adventure and promise as well. If someone had told me 20 years ago I would leave the church I would have laughed loudly in their seems God has a way of taking us down the most unexpected of roads, doesn't it? The things in life which seem the most sure are bound to change and then some. These changes have brought me to a place of standing in wonder and amazement of who God is. Everything I learned about church has been thrown out the window and I've been launched into the process of rediscovery. So, please sit back and relax. Pull up a chair, (and put on your 3D glasses if you wish), and enjoy the movie of my life.