My Top (and Favorite) Posts of 2014

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All the End of the Year lists are up and though I am on winter break and have had virtually all the time in the world, I am only now stringing together this list.

 

It’s been a wild, confusing year. That seems to be the common refrain I am hearing from people all over. Some people are calling 2014 a wash, and I get that. I have post coming up on Deeper Story next month where I talk about how, for me, it was kind of a rebuilding year (like you hear from all the Sports Nuts in your life about their beloved team’s somewhat disappointing season.)

 

Faith-wise, I sometimes found myself absolutely apathetic about my faith, it blurred into the backdrop of my day to day. Other times, I found myself wide-eyed and energized, ready to run to the ends of the earth for God and love and justice. I have also questioned God’s existence, explored different theologies for the atonement, come to new, startling conclusions, all of  which I learned from Greg Boyd’s book, Benefit of the Doubt, is not something novel for the Christian and it’s certainly not bad. It’s actually quite necessary if you seek an authentic faith. An alive faith. I have also, and often, made God in my own image, smiting people I don’t like through posts and tweets and in whispered words behind their back. Faith-wise, it’s been a very imperfect year.

 

Faith-Community-Wise, same thing. 2014 kicked off with Phil Robertson and his remarks in Rolling Stone about gays and lesbians and racial minorities. This prompted A&E to suspend him from the show, which prompted Evangelical Christians to rise up and say no more! Because the day you can no longer say hateful things about minorities without your employer stepping in and saying they no longer want you representing their brand, is the day Religious Freedom DIES.

 

And I won’t ever forget about World Vision. I can’t. And apparently, I am not alone. In the months that followed that event, I have heard from Christians across the board that said their faith has forever been changed because of it. Many have unpinned the tag of Evangelical, heading off into the uncertain wilderness, knowing that while being without a tribe is scary and disorienting, it is better than being a part of a hateful tribe.

 

There have been some beautiful moments in church too, at least for me personally. The one I keep circling back around to is the night I was asked to serve the elements. The way it changed my perspective of church, of faith and of myself all at once. My broken hands lifting up and out the cup, saying: “This is the Blood of Christ shed for you.” Their broken hands, dipping in the bread, whispering thank you, and how in our collective brokenness, we were blessed. We were sanctified.

 

I’ve decided for this end of the year post to list some of my very most popular posts, mixed with some of my favorites that, I think, show the trajectory of my life for this past year. I like doing this, because more and more, people from my real life are finding out about my writing (that I, for a long time, tried to keep secret from them) and this is a sort of round up for them to peruse through of my past year. Hope you enjoy reading them and thanks for all the time you allowed me in 2014!

 

World Vision

When Evangelicals Turn Against Children To Spite Me

I don’t know how to explain how crushing and infuriating this is. Could words describe this night of speaking the truth over myself: God is love, Jesus is love, This I know is true. Can I even express what it feels like to know that my existence is the reason children are losing their livelihoods? Possibly dying? Falling from protection and into the hands of trafficking?

 

LGBTQ

A Closet Comes Undone

It started with a crumpled up note passed across a room, to a crawl into my parents bed, to pulling over the car and saying it straight out to a friend, and what I am learning about bravery is that you have to grow it. You have to face this unpredictable world and know that you are strong enough to not look away. Alive enough to run right into it.

 

Faith

Insomniac Christians

For a long time I thought surrender meant simply surrendering to a code of conduct, to behavioral expectations and thought policing. As a kid I had a habit of, whenever I swore just in my head, immediately whispering out pleas for forgiveness. I grew up in youth group that laid down the principles of self-control, of staying pure, of finding favor of God by evangelizing, or being charitable, or not listening to secular music. We did skits on how to say No to friends who wanted to see a morally questionable movie. We structured religions within religions, narrowed the roads even further, and declared this way the only way to live in the love and joy of God.

 

(All my posts over at Deeper Story)

Grace for the Addict

I am no poet. But my life has been riddled with irony. Here’s some: only a few years after speaking my plea into class, I was twirling the feathery white stick between my own two fingers. I was sparking the cherry at the end, inhaling it deep into my lungs. Over a lake, I lay down on a dock with friends, blowing filmy rings into the stars. Watching them rise and rise and wash away in the wind. Dizzied by the buzz that was breaking over me, I felt euphoric, badass, and truly alive. I did not feel the chain clinking around my ankle.

 

Again. Thank you for reading. Thank you for engaging. Thank you for making this small corner of the internet fun and inspiring and so life-giving for me. I am so glad to have you here, always. 

 

Happy New Years!

 

Also- tomorrow I hope to have up some of my favorite work that is NOT by me, but by other bloggers and authors, movies and musicians and Ted Talks and youtubers etc.

 

Also- I always, always forget to share this, but I DO have a Facebook page for this blog. Since I mainly hang out on Twitter, I sometimes forget that for plenty of people, Facebook is more convenient. 

Here’s the link to my Facebook Page

Here’s the link to my Twitter

And if you like what you read here, consider donating to the site? I have big renewal for the page coming up and would love your support. The link for that is here. 

From One Degree of Glory to the Next

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World Magazine published a piece that seemed to promote Reparative Therapy and when Rachel Held Evans began tweeting about it, in reaction to it, in her anger over it (and over the follow up posts from Owen Strachan and others) she received a billion responses that said she was wrong. That a gay sexual orientation is evil. That it ought to be Corrected. She tweeted: Christians, teaching that Same-Sex Orientation is “inherently evil” no doubt contributes to high rate of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.

 

And this led to some disgusting responses that I won’t reprint. Honestly, I could barely read the screen, shaking as it was in my hand.

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Here’s what happens when you tell a young gay person that their sexual orientation is inherently evil: They Die.

 

When I was young and heard that boys who like boys are destined for damnation, I died inside. I died because I couldn’t simply like girls. It didn’t work like that, no matter how badly I wanted it to. I died because in my mind, I was a living, breathing sin. This in comparison to the rest of the Christian world that sinned and was then, by the grace of God, forgiven and able to change their ways. I understood that since I never stopped feeling how I was feeling, forgiveness was impossible for me. I was sin incarnate. I was living breathing sin. That’s what I heard and so that’s what I knew.

 

Over the years this theology led me on to the conclusion that I was one of those not chosen by God for salvation. I read up on Calvinism, predestination, all that, and it suddenly made so much sense to me. God didn’t love me. He didn’t choose me. He didn’t want me from the start so he made or allowed me to be gay. It matched the Truth in my head: I am sin incarnate. God didn’t love me. Should I expect anyone else to?

 

That question led me to a slow dive into depression. Into drinking so hard I couldn’t function for days. If I was already a living breathing sin, what did it matter if I drank myself stupid and played around with drugs? What did it matter? It didn’t matter because I didn’t matter. I was sin incarnate, after all. I was already headed for hell. God could care less about what I did, because for him, I was just white noise babbling. I was just something he made to crush.

 

These feelings wrapped around like wet blankets over a deep desire in my heart: to be known and loved. It’s a desire that never died. It followed me from childhood to my teenage years to college. To be known and loved was the single desire of my heart. To be known, by family and friends, and to be loved anyway. To be loved by God, just as I am.

 

It was an unbearable desire. Something I wanted so badly, but I couldn’t get. So, one night, I almost actually died. I almost willfully died. Because to live with that kind of impossible desire was too much to take. Because I could never be known, and so I would never be loved.

 

And that’s what happens when you tell a young gay Christian that they are “inherently evil.” In a million little ways, They Die.

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Often when I think about my trajectory from the closet to where I am today, I think in degrees of glory. The Apostle Paul used this phrase in his letter to the Corinthians:

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 3:18

 

I remember sitting on my mom’s bed, reading this passage to her on the night this guy was to come over, a man who said he could help me become straight. I read it because for me, that’s how I envisioned this whole thing working out. One degree of glory to the next. Degrees, I believed, marked the road between being me being gay and me being straight.

 

I had the road all wrong. It was a bad road.

But I had the right verse.

 

I moved from degrees of self-loathing to degrees of self-tolerance into degrees of better understanding, to serious study, to deep soul searching, to finally, at long last, self-love, feeling at home in my own skin. I moved with God. From fear to careful curiosity. From unbelief to belief. Then, to wide-eyed wonder at the fact that he- what?- accepts me without a thought. Loves me insanely. He pulls me in close, feeling the same way I do when I hold baby Wyatt. Speechlessly in love. Lost in the moment. Rooted to the spot.

 

I can only see it now, but sometime after I started scrubbing away at the muddy mirror before me, did I begin to see who I truly am: Loved. Known. I clutched at that truth and the skies cleared. I felt the warmth of God fall upon me, all around me, like it was the very first time.

 

To those who are young, who are already being beaten to a pulp by God’s people: You are not evil. Your sexual identity, formed completely beyond your control, is not evil. You are not damned for. You are privileged because of it.

 

In a Christian culture that is so insistent on (unbiblical) assimilation, you are a signpost to a better reality. One that shows the bigness of our God. You are- to borrow Brennan Manning’s phrase- “a banana peel to the orthodox foot,” because- to borrow Sarah Bessey’s phrase- in the kingdom of God “there is more room! There is more room! There is more room for all of us!” It’s a faith worth losing yourself in, Christianity. The body might be resisting to the change that is coming, but change is, in fact, happening. And God needs you here to be a part of it. To be the Banana Peel. To wedge your way into that table. To bring about this wave of healing washing through his church.

 

You are always moving from one degree of glory to the next, but not from one sexual orientation to another. You are moving out of the dark corner of this religion and in closer to those huddling beneath the lights, those so marked by the gospel that they don’t know any other way to be than to love others, to lift others, to praise God for drawing all of us into His light, giving us shoulders to hang onto when the world takes our legs.

 

Those in the darkness behind you will continue to mimic the voice of Authority, twist it to fit their own prejudices and discomforts, lie after lie will be shot at your back.  Be slow to get angry. Clench your fists around a balm of grace. Remember the road you walked. Don’t forget who you used to be. Remember, we are all walking, we are dragging ourselves, from one degree of glory to the next, into the warmth of God’s love. Hearts take time to change.

 

Just remember you are loved. You are good. You are held.

You are always beneath the light of God’s love, even when the darkness tries to block it out. Even when the World says its not for you. It is always there. There is nothing that can take it away. So step into it.

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Confession and Me

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originally published at Deeper Story

There wasn’t a specific person or sermon or cited scripture that I can remember as the turning point for me, but at some moment in my childhood, God stopped being all bubbles and glow. He became a man in constant need of an apology.

There wasn’t a specific person or sermon or cited scripture that I can remember as the turning point for me, but at some moment in my childhood, God stopped being all bubbles and glow. He became a man in constant need of an apology.

In light of his omni-everything, I couldn’t figure out why he needed me to keep falling at his feet begging for mercy for my sins, especially when half the things I did were on accident or of the gray area variety. It felt egotistical to me. It felt like he was hounding my seven-year-old heart, breathing down my neck every second of my days, just because he was God, just because he could.

I lived in fear of this God. During my nightly prayers I was highly aware of the consequences in store for sins not confessed, and I was terrified of forgetting any. Out of this terror, I began a habit of instant confession, seizing on the sins when they happened like soaking up spilled wine, never letting a single bad moment stain my soul. Then I realized just how often I sinned, revealing how awful I truly was. Then I understood why God kept his distance.

 

At it’s best, my budding relationship with God was contractual: I did the penitence dance and God kept me on the guest list for Heaven. I’d say sorry, he’d say Saved!

But once I hit nineteen, I stopped praying altogether. I stopped apologizing for being human.

I thought I was seeing it all for the first time in an ugly revelation. God and the Church were in kahoots, were working together against me. God instructed the church to bring forth all guilty humans to confess and so the church went ahead and hollered against those they disliked the most. Shoving us to our knees. Demanding confession like the Bad Cop.

God was a man thirsty for my guilt. And I was tired of feeling like a failure. I was tired of trying to be good enough.

But then, when the hardest storm crushed in, I had no pole to hang on to. I had no place to run. I felt torn between falling to my knees and flipping the finger to the clouds. I felt sorry for nothing. But also a longing for something.

Disillusioned as I was with church and with God, I refused to lay down my dignity. I wanted God like I once knew him, bubbles and glow. I longed for the the hand-held, I am with you, I am for you, we-can-talk-about-that-later-but-rest-in-me-now kind of loving God. But I still worried about what he wanted from me. What it was I had to do satisfy his sensitive temperament.

One evening that fall, I went to the lake with a book on Prayer by Philip Yancey, a writer who says he is a “fellow pilgrim” in trying to understand this spiritual interaction. I got the book because I wanted to find a new way to reach God. I wanted to believe that He was different, that I had Him all wrong all along. Deliberately, I flipped through the book until I came across a chapter subheading that seemed to speak to my issue. It was called: “Guilty”.

Yancey writes:

“I begin with confession not in order to feel miserable, rather to call to mind a reality I often ignore. When I acknowledge I stand before a perfect God, it restores the true state of the universe. Confession simply establishes the proper ground rules of creatures relating to their creator.” -Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

I sat with this. I chewed on it. The sun was turning in twilight through the tree line then falling across the water. I couldn’t help but pray.

The sun did not stand still in the sky and no singing birds perched upon my shoulder, there was no big blaring sign. There was no God Thing. But I did discover a powerful new perspective. An insight that opened things up.

Confession is not for God.

Confession is for me.

Confession isn’t “to feel miserable”, as Yancey says, it’s to know that I am in need and that He is in love.

It’s meant to remind myself of my own struggles, my inner bent towards destruction, because left alone, I will gloss over my weaknesses. I will find ways to rationalize them, laugh them off, call them quirks and bad habits and my crosses to carry, until the day I trip right over them and crush everyone in my path.

God doesn’t have so fragile an ego, but I do. We all do, really. And when it comes to Confession, it’s more about direction than apologies. I think it’s about knowing where He is and where we are, so when it all goes to shit, we know where to run. That’s what confession is: A strong sanctuary for fragile egos. A place where we are reminded of who we are. Flawed and fabulous and a little bit ordinary. Accepted always.

By confession, we rediscover the road that has been hidden beneath our pride and our fear and our apathy. On that road, he sits on his knees. Arms outspread. Holding in one hand the wet cloth, and in the other, the bowl, waiting to wash the filth from our feet.

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