Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Fully Authentic

Friday, April 12th, 2019

Many people think that having someone close to you come out clouds your vision, but in reality it clarifies it. It redefines words for you. It rewrites false stories. It renovates your religion. It forces you to understand sexuality not as some detached issue but as what it is — human beings; in this case, those you know and love dearly. This is the gift relationship gives you. That proximity we get to people will always show us what we couldn’t see any other way. When you are faced with the reality of having an LGBTQ family member or close friend, it forces you to hold up your theology to see what it’s really made of. And when this happens, some of it gets confirmed, some of it gets shifted, and some of it gets blown up. I’d already done my homework. I’d studied. I’d prayed through it. I’d already reconciled so many of my feelings on gender identity and sexual orientation before this moment, so I knew without blinking that I didn’t have to choose between loving God and loving my brother — and he didn’t have to choose between being gay and being adored by God.

One of the things you learn when you walk down the path of being an ally is that people aren’t LGBTQ based on the consent you give or don’t give to them, the approval you provide or withhold. That’s not how gender identity and sexual orientation work. Your acceptance doesn’t give people permission to be anything. It simply allows them to be fully authentic in your presence and to feel loved as they are. It secures people in those places where they should feel fully secured: in their families and friendships and workplaces and churches. If you don’t think you have LGBTQ family members, coworkers, classmates, and friends right now, you may want to ask yourself if that’s because you’ve created an environment in which they would be afraid to share it even if they were. It might be that your words and manner have already told people that they’re not safe to be honest with you. As our society thankfully becomes less and less hostile to the LGBTQ community and as people begin to gradually feel safer in authenticity, more children will come out and more families will have a new reality to reckon with. Those families will continue to seek spiritually and they will continue to need and deserve to be in faith communities where they are fully welcomed. It is one of the reasons the table needs to be made bigger.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 17-18

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 8, 2019

Into the Arms of God

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Bonhoeffer notices Jesus giving these teachings about how to live a life of love. He says, if you approach them as mechanical, legalistic things, you’ll stumble. The key is not to turn the teachings of Jesus into a new law. The key, he says, is to throw yourself into the arms of God. Throw yourself into the hands of Jesus. And then, you might actually learn to love an enemy. Then you might pray for those who curse you. Then you know what it means to be blessed. The poor. The poor in spirit. That’s what makes them compassionate. That’s what makes them hunger for God’s justice. That’s how Peter walks on water. To throw yourself into the arms of Jesus . . . and hold on.

— Michael Curry, The Power of Love, p. 25-26

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 16, 2019

Detours

Friday, October 19th, 2018

But be warned. In Scripture, and in life, the road to deliverance nearly always takes a detour. Rarely do the people of God reach any kind of promised land without a journey or two through the wilderness.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 48

Photo: Rhein River, Germany, April 4, 1997

Singing in the Midst of Evil

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we can stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold’s funeral, that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, still we make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 201

[Photo: Great Falls, Virginia, June 14, 2013]

The Long Haul

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

We meet God in narrative too.

The origin stories of Scripture remind us we belong to a very large and very old family that has been walking with God from the beginning. Even when we falter and fall, this God is in it for the long haul. We will not be abandoned.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 20-21

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, June 14, 1997

The Resurrected God

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

This is the resurrected God to whom we sing. A God who didn’t say we would never be afraid but that we would never be alone. Because this is a God who shows up: in the violence of the cross, in the darkness of a garden before dawn, in the gardener, in a movie theater, in the basement of a bar.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 200

[Photo: Burg Ehrenburg, Germany, October 1997]

Inspiration

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Inspiration is better than magic, for as any artist will tell you, true inspiration comes not to the lucky or the charmed but to the faithful — to the writer who shows up at her keyboard each morning, even when she’s far too tired, to the guitarist whose fingers bleed after hours of practice, to the dancer who must first learn the traditional steps before she can freestyle with integrity. Inspiration is not about some disembodied ethereal voice dictating words or notes to a catatonic host. It’s a collaborative process, a holy give-and-take, a partnership between Creator and creator.

While Christians believe the Bible to be uniquely revelatory and authoritative to the faith, we have no reason to think its many authors were exempt from the mistakes, edits, rewrites, and dry spells of everyday creative work. Nor should we, as readers, expect every encounter with the text to leave us happily awestruck and enlightened. Inspiration, on both the giving and receiving end, takes practice and patience. It means showing up even when you don’t feel like it, even when it seems as if no one else is there. It means waiting for wind to stir.

God is still breathing. The Bible is both inspired and inspiring. Our job is to ready the sails and gather the embers, to discuss and debate, and like the biblical character Jacob, to wrestle with the mystery until God gives us a blessing.

If you’re curious, you will never leave the text without learning something new. If you’re persistent, you just might leave inspired.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. xxiii-xxiv

[Photo: From ferry to the Isle of Mull, Scotland, July 12, 2003]

More Life and Freedom

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

I really hate that Jesus’ Gospel is so much about death. I hate it. I wish that Jesus’ message was, Follow me and all your dreams of cash and prizes will come true; follow me and you’ll have free liposuction and winning lotto tickets for life. But obviously he’s not like that. Jesus says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” He says, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” and infuriating things like “if you seek to find your life you will lose it but those who lose their life will find it.” And every single time I die to something — my notions of my own specialness, my plans and desires for something to be a very particular way — every single time I fight it and yet every single time I discover more life and more freedom than if I had gotten what I wanted.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 186-187

[Photo: Hug Point, Oregon, November 10, 2015]

Carried

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

He will carry us in his arms till we are able to walk; he will carry us in his arms when we are weary with walking; he will not carry us if we will not walk.

Very different are the good news Jesus brings us from certain prevalent representations of the gospel, founded on the pagan notion that suffering is an offset for sin, and culminating in the vile assertion that the suffering of an innocent man, just because he is innocent, yea perfect, is a satisfaction to the holy Father for the evil deeds of his children. . . . The good news of Jesus was just the news of the thoughts and ways of the Father in the midst of his family.

— George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, p. 81-82

[Photo: Burg Dahn, Germany, July 1997]

The Wideness of the Tent

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

This desire to learn what the faith is from those who have lived it in the face of being told they are not welcome or worthy is far more than “inclusion.” Actually, inclusion isn’t the right word at all, because it sounds like in our niceness and virtue we are allowing “them” to join “us” — like we are judging another group of people to be worthy of inclusion in a tent that we don’t own. I realized in that coffee shop that I need the equivalent of the Ethiopian eunuch to show me the faith. I continually need the stranger, the foreigner, the “other” to show me water in the desert. I need to hear, “here is water in the desert, so what is to keep me, the eunuch, from being baptized?” Or me the queer or me the intersex or me the illiterate or me the neurotic or me the overeducated or me the founder of Focus on the Family.

Until I face the difficulty of that question and come up, as Philip did, with no good answer . . . until then, I can only look at the seemingly limited space under the tent and think either it’s my job to change people so they fit or it’s my job to extend the roof so that they fit. Either way, it’s misguided because it’s not my tent. It’s God’s tent. The wideness of the tent of the Lord is my concern only insofar as it points to the gracious nature of a loving God who became flesh and entered into our humanity. The wideness of the tent is my concern only insofar as it points to the great mercy and love of a God who welcomes us all as friends.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 94

[Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012]