Thanks! I won’t.

Yesterday, I did a chalkboard drawing. I do these once in a while ranging from every few weeks to every few months. The chalkboard I use for this hangs in a fairly prominent place in my home and I have to see it a lot, so I often use it as a sort of ever-changing inspirational poster, like a physical inspirational meme.

The drawing I did yesterday was a fairly simple one, I’ve done much more complex ones in the past, with only an open door in the corner and large letters sharing a bible verse.

IMG_5186

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. ~ Matthew 7:7

I’ve been on a journey, seeking out God for much of my life. I’ve always loved the spiritual world and it’s mysteries. Even when I was little before I met Jesus, I was always looking for the mystical and magical all around me. The world filled me with wonder and I loved it.

For the most part, religion tried to scare that out of me. Religious people want you to love Jesus and forsake the mystery. The mystical and magical seem to have little place in the world of organized religion. This is because, unfortunately, we’ve all been domesticated to think dualistically.

img_5188

To a dualistic mind, questions and answers are separate, opposing things. Something cannot be both a question and an answer. In this way of thinking, Jesus is an answer to a question, not both the question and the answer. In this way of thinking, if I have found Jesus, I have the answer not the question.

But, lately, I’ve been trying to shed a dualistic way of thinking. It’s definitely not easy but it’s the direction I’m going.

Dualism, by its very nature, is an “us vs. them” reality. It calls for us to categorize and separate everything in our world, even people. And, honestly, I don’t want to do that to people anymore. I don’t want to try to categorize people and fit them into neat little boxes in my mind. I don’t want to be categorized by others so why would they want to be categorized by me. I know that I am categorized by other people, though, because, by and large, people are dualistic thinkers and they can’t help but put me in a box. But if I can somehow work towards no longer boxing people up in my own mind, then that is what I’m going to do. It’s a work in progress.

And so, on this path, I have decided it is ok to see the mystery of God, Jesus and the Divine, and to appreciate that not only are they the mystery but also the answer to that mystery. And it’s ok if I never have “answers” to my questions. The point is to keep searching and seeking. Because God loves to be sought after just as much as we do. We were made in God’s image, after all.

So I made my little chalkboard drawing, Seek and Find in big bold letters, and I wrote a little caption underneath to sort of explain where I’m at on my journey.

I woke this morning to find a very long comment on my post. An old friend I haven’t seen for years seemed to be in disagreement with some of the things I had said. They disagreed with my use of him/her in reference to God because they believe God prefers to have themself identified with male pronouns. And my friend seemed to take issue with me saying that I was dropping the need for right and wrong, saying, “if we drop the need for right and wrong, morality also becomes murky waters”.

My first thought, after reading all of that, was, “Oh no! I’ve offended my friend. I need to clarify what I meant!” That thought and all the feelings that were tangled up in it lasted about 2 seconds, if that. My next thought was, “No, I don’t.” And I’m still dining on that second thought, hours later.

Mixed into the first thought was worry that my friend was angry, hurt and offended. I don’t believe God has a gender and I don’t believe God cares if we call them he or she or it. When asked by Moses what God’s name was, it replied, “I Am.” I think God is a lot bigger than gender and social construct. God is “I Am”, something outside of name and category. So, in those first 2 seconds, I wondered if I should tell my friend these thoughts. Would my viewpoint ease their obvious discomfort?

I also wasn’t referencing morality when I said I was dropping the need for right and wrong. I simply meant I was dropping the need for me to be right and you to be wrong. I don’t want to leave morality behind. I just want to leave behind my own superiority and start to empathize with people, rather than try to fix them with my own ideas of what is right. So, in those first 2 seconds, I wondered if I should tell my friend what I really meant about right and wrong. Would this help them feel a little better?

But I realized quickly what I was doing. I was assuming my friend was angry, hurt and offended. I was assuming my friend was coming at me from a place of attack. And I realized that I actually didn’t know what my friend was feeling. Maybe they were concerned for me. Maybe they thought what I wrote was an indication that my soul was in danger. After all, I’ve definitely been the person who thought someone’s soul was in danger because of something they posted on social media. If I’m honest, I’m still there more often than I want to be.

And so, I went from feeling attacked and upset to feeling kind of flattered. If my friend was, indeed, simply trying to save my soul, well, I appreciate that. How kind of them! Perhaps, in the eyes of my friend, I am careening down a path that inevitably leads me over a cliff into the abyss of hell. Since they care for me, they are trying to stop me from going to hell. And believe it or not, I don’t find that offensive. I think it’s kind of sweet.

I do not believe my soul is in any danger. I’m not worried that God is offended by what I said on instagram. So, why should I take offense at what my friend said to me? They were simply trying to help.

It’s like when a child comes into the kitchen and their mother immediately yells, “Don’t touch the stove! It’s hot!” The child came into the kitchen to get a treat, not to touch the stove. But the mother doesn’t know that and loves her child and doesn’t want to see her child burned. The child can react two ways. Either become offended and say, “I know not to touch the stove! I’m not stupid!” and storm out without the treat they came for. Or the child can simply appreciate that their mother loves them and say, “Thanks! I won’t,” and continue going about getting their treat. More often than not in life I have reacted the first way and shouted, “I’m not stupid!” and left without my treat. But I’m trying a different approach these days. I’m trying really hard to see the love in situations like this and simply say, “Thanks! I won’t,” and continue getting my treat.

And so, I replied to my friend.

IMG_5187

And now, here I am, telling all of you about this. Why? Well, I don’t think my motives are really all that pure. I’m writing this because I’m really proud of myself. I still haven’t reached the place in my spiritual journey where I don’t need to celebrate personal victories. This is a personal victory for me!

I don’t handle conflict or confrontation well. My normal tactic is to run away. Lol. I’m usually terrible at standing up for what I believe in. I often let others fight my battles for me.

But for several months now, I’ve been working on my conflict resolution skills. I wish I could tell you that I read a great book or listened to a great podcast that has helped me with this, but it’s just not true. Instead, I’ve been trying really hard to stop feeling personally attacked and start trying to see things from someone else’s perspective. This isn’t the first time I’ve had comments from people on my social media that have felt attacking, far from it. But this may be the first time I have switched perspectives so quickly. That is why it’s a personal victory for me.

Normally, when I receive negative comments, my adrenaline starts pumping and I feel scared and worried. It can take days for me to stop thinking about it. It can also take days for me to reply, if I even do. This time, 2 seconds of worry and it was over. That feels really good. It feels good to realize that no matter what my friend was actually feeling when they wrote that, I can still appreciate it and be thankful. Thankful for the care and concern. Thankful to them for taking the time to write to me. And I’m just proud of myself for getting there more quickly than usual. Lol. I hope to someday get to the place where I don’t need to pat myself on the back for handling conflict well, but I’m just not there yet.

So, to my friend, I just want to say, I see that you were warning me not to touch the stove. I appreciate you trying to keep me from getting burned. And to anyone out there, lovingly shouting at me, “Don’t touch the stove! It’s hot!”, I say, “Thanks! I won’t.” And I love you.

 

Triangle

There I was, sitting in Starbucks, feeling really shitty about myself. I was, admittedly, having a wonderful little pity party.  Then a friend sent me a message. They were going through something really hard, something I’ve been through before but it’s been a while. Now, I was hurting for my friend. And I felt so stupid for my self-indulgent little pity party. I just wanted to find a way to help my friend. But there really wasn’t much I could do except offer support and pray.

I wrote the word PERSPECTIVE in bold letters in my journal and underlined it.

Still sitting at Starbucks, I decided to spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation. I grabbed my coffee cup and wrapped my hands around it, holding it sort of chest level and stared off into the distance at a knot in the woodwork. I asked God to help my friend and asked him to speak to me. I breathed in. I breathed out. Then I glanced down at my coffee lid.

I saw a triangle.

This was not a heaven sent triangle. It was just your ordinary, run of the mill, recycling triangle that you see on all recyclable plastic.

But immediately upon seeing the triangle, a spark popped in my brain and I thought, “Everything is a triangle.” Obviously, everything is not a triangle, but what I really meant was, “everything has a cycle and needs balance”.

Then I remembered the time Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. He said to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. And the second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. I pictured a triangle formed by loving God, loving others, and loving myself.

IMG_4749Every time I’ve ever read those verses I’ve totally seen the “loving God” part and “loving others” part, but somehow I have missed the “loving yourself” part. But it’s right there!

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

News flash! You can’t “love your neighbor as yourself” if YOU DON’T LOVE YOURSELF!

The idea of loving myself has been evolving for me. To be honest, I have taught against it in the past. (This is why James said let not many be teachers. Because he knew we’d eff it up.) I always believed it was ok to have healthy self-esteem but I thought the idea of putting yourself first was just an excuse to act like a b*tch to people. And maybe that’s the case with some people. But as I’ve come to see, putting yourself first can also be extremely healthy and life giving. As I’ve been on this journey of self-discovery/uncovery/recovery, I’ve been seeing the need to stop doing things that hurt me even if those things help other people.

IMG_4750Sometimes, we do need to put others first, I won’t deny that. There are times when we have the strength, ability, resources, gumption, whatever, that others don’t have and as Amanda Palmer said “if you can, you must”. IF I have it to give, it’s ok to give. And I should give. IF.

But there are certainly times when I do not have the strength, ability, resources, gumption, whatever, and were I to give to my neighbor, not only would I be without, I would have a negative balance. And now I would need someone to come and give to me.

So there are absolutely times when I must be at the top of the triangle.

IMG_4751And even if what I am doing is so very beneficial to others, if I’m dipping into a dry well, I NEED to stop.

These last two years, I have started a class for middle schoolers at church that I then stepped away from. (But only after there were other teachers to take my place. I’m not a monster.) I have volunteered to clean at church and stepped away from that. And my husband and I have led a life group at church that we… can you guess? Stepped away from. I carry a huge amount of guilt about all of these. In all my years, I have not been a person who just stops helping. Usually, I am the person who adds more volunteer work to their schedule.

But I have been dipping from a well that is dry for far too long. And I’m so lucky to belong to the kind of church now that really doesn’t want people to do that. Most of the churches I’ve belonged to have been the kind that believe you “give until it hurts and then give some more”. But the church I belong to now believes in healing and wholeness for everyone. Even if that means stepping away from things for a season.

Back to Starbucks. I finished meditating and put my mystical coffee cup down. I picked up my journal and drew a triangle, writing “self, God, others” in the three corners. I wrote the word BALANCE boldly and underlined it. And I realized that to have balance in my life I must love God, others and myself equally. I must give time and place to each equally, never letting one become unbalanced and unhealthy.

It’s funny how concepts you’ve been thinking about for years (like not dipping from a dry well or having balance in your life), concepts you thought you understood and had some kind of mastery over, how suddenly they take on a completely new meaning and understanding for you in the blink of an eye. It’s funny how, even when you thought you knew what loving yourself meant, you find out, you didn’t completely and you have to keep learning.

Oh well. I’m gonna keep working on myself and my triangle and I guess you, dear readers, get to have a front row seat. Lucky you.

Go out and have a balanced triangle for yourself. Whatever that looks like for you.

 

 

New Song: Cold Ones

Here’s a new song for you. I know it’s been a while. It’s called Cold Ones. It could be about vampires or it could be about trying to accomplish what we think of as the “rules” with our own strength. It could be about the people who indoctrinated others with their own sense of self-loathing and sense of right and wrong out of fear. Fear of hell, fear of death, fear of a judging and vengeful God. It could be about those who recognize the reality of sin and darkness and choose to fight against it with their own armor instead of nestling themselves into the arms of God and letting God protect them.

I wrote this song mostly because I’ve been thinking about 1 Corinthians 15:56 a lot lately.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

Sting here means weapon like a bee stinger. So the weapon of death is sin. And sin gets its power from the law. But Jesus fulfilled the law for us. So sin has no power anymore. So death no longer has a weapon against us.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

Revelation 1:17-18

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Jesus defeated death. We can stop focusing on sin now and stop trying to save ourselves, buy our own salvation. We can focus on Jesus. We can just enjoy him and our relationship with him. He has forgiven our debt. We don’t have to try and keep paying it back. It doesn’t exist anymore. The debt has been erased. Forever.

I don’t want to be a “cold one” any longer, someone trying to warm themselves with their own strength. And I don’t want to teach my children to do that either. Or have them believe they must behave a certain way to be loved by God. I want to shed my “protective” overcoat and receive my warmth from the loving arms of God, not from my own abilities and behaviors.

So here is Cold Ones.

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 10.17.46 AM

New song: You Made Me On Purpose

Been feeling pretty down.  Let’s not go into why.  But if there is anything that cheers me up when I’m a mess of emotions (and I use “cheers me up” in the loosest of senses), it’s dwelling on the knowledge that I am not an accident.  God made me on purpose.  He desired for a Bonnie to be in this world.

This is super important to me because I often feel like there aren’t many who desire for a Bonnie to be in this world.  Not that they DON’T want me, more that they are indifferent to the idea.  “How do you feel about having a Bonnie in this world?” *shrugs* “Meh.”

So all day long I have been reminding myself that God DOES want me in this world.  “How do you feel about having a Bonnie in this world?” *super happy anime face* “That would be AWESOME!” *”awesome” echoes throughout the known universe*

He made me on purpose and he made you on purpose too.  Dwell in that.

***

This recording was made using Nick’s new gadget.  Still working out the kinks, as in this is the first time we used it.  But the recording sounds better than the ones I usually get with my phone.  This is also not super polished because I did one take and said, “That’s good enough.”  Also, there is a bit of dead space at the beginning.  Just go with it.

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 6.28.12 PM

 

You beautiful creation, you, let’s abide

You are a unique, one-of-a-kind creation, made in God’s image, carefully hand crafted by God himself in your mother’s womb. He programmed your DNA, wrote your software, designed your hardware and made sure that you wouldn’t be like anyone who has ever existed. He knows how many hairs are on your head right now and how many you lost in the shower this morning. He knows the name your parents gave you, the one you secretly call yourself and even the one you don’t know about that he alone calls you. He knows when you took your first breath and when you’ll breathe your last.

You are a unique, one-of-a-kind creation.

< Insert Sarcasm Here >

And now that you’re a part of God’s family, we’d like to show you what it looks like to be a unique, one-of-a-kind creation, hand-crafted by God. You see, he likes his unique creations to all look unique in the same way. There are rules, standards, protocols.

I know that we told you that God loves you just the way you are, and he does, please don’t get us wrong, but now that you’ve accepted that love, we believe you should strive to look and act the way that we do, according to how we’ve interpreted the Bible. Yes, we know that others who call themselves Christians have interpreted the Bible in different ways, and we believe they love Jesus, they are just misguided, bless them. There is only one way to interpret scripture and we’ll teach you how.

What about grace, you say? You have grace, it’s a free gift from God, it absolves you of all past sins. But now that you’re a Christian, don’t you think you should try to quit sinning and live like Jesus and the apostles? They are the example we were meant to follow and we are the body of Christ, meaning we represent Jesus here on earth. If we don’t strive to live good lives, how can we expect God to bless us and insure our place in heaven? After all, everything we do on earth is getting tallied up to decide how many jewels are in our heavenly crown and how big our mansion will be. Don’t you want to hear Jesus say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant?”


Oh beloved… Remember your first love.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

Revelation 2:2-5

Do you remember when you eagerly sat at the feet of Jesus because your heart was a puddle and you knew only he could restore you? Do you remember when you absorbed teaching like a sponge and prayed for anything that moved or breathed and the first note of a worship song could bring you to tears before anyone started singing? Do you remember yourself before you woke one day to the knowledge that you were learned and scholarly and knew more about the Bible and God than your peers? Do you remember when you still believed we were all unique, one-of-a-kind creations, hand crafted by God?

When did we stop believing God made us unique and start believing there is a pattern, a mold, that we must fit to be a “real” Christian? When did we start measuring our faith, not by our love, but by our knowledge and righteousness? If God truly made us unique, doesn’t that mean that someone else might live out their faith a little differently than you? Should we keep judging ourselves by the standards Paul laid out nearly two thousand years ago in a different world and culture? Women should not teach, slaves should obey their masters… Have we learned nothing?

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:1-5

If you are a branch, you cannot prune yourself. The vine grower/dresser does the pruning. If you are a branch, you cannot prune another branch. The vine dresser does it. Only God does the pruning… Let me say that again for those in the back… ONLY GOD DOES THE PRUNING. It is not up to us what gets pruned from ourselves or from anyone else. We must simply abide.

It is the simplest and yet hardest thing to do: abide. But to grow, to really grow, that is what you must do. Get your eyes off the other branches and focusing on growing.

1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

Beloved…

I am shamefully and woefully guilty of this. But my deepest desire is to go back to the beginning, find my first love, sit at his feet and simply abide.

Unique, one-of-a-kind, beautiful beloved… will you abide alongside me?

The heart is a fragile thing 


A heart is a fragile thing. It has four chambers: one to fill with sorrow, one with love, one with longing and one, secrets. 
And like an old home, we store our old things in the chambers, things we cannot bear to throw away. We wander from chamber to chamber, holding these things in our hands, letting them soak into us, feeling every fear, pain, joy, cheer and grief until it overwhelms. 

Sometimes we stay too long in a chamber and we can’t seem to find our way out again. The fragile walls of the chamber squeeze in around us, suffocating us, paralysing us. We wallow in our sorrow too long and our skin becomes pruny, hanging from us like the droopy jowls of a basset hound. We love too deeply and the sting of unrequited feelings burns us until we become numb. We sink into longing until the ache tightens our chest becoming a corset, leaving us gasping for air. Our secrets isolate us in a tower of our own making and our own destruction. 

The heart is a fragile thing, and a prison.

And in my life I’ve only ever known one who can release me from my prison, who can stop the walls from collapsing around me. Holy Spirit. He alone can ease suffering. He alone can reinforce the walls of the four chambers to keep them from falling in around us. 

““The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:1-3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The heart is a fragile thing, but it doesn’t have to be a prison. It can be a temple, a place of divine contemplation. Instead of sorrow, joy. Instead of being broken by love, we are renewed by it. Instead of longing unfulfilled, we are content beyond measure. Instead of secrets to isolate, honesty to open us. 

These are Holy Spirit’s doings. 

My only job: when my heart becomes a prison I must remember who liberates me. 

The heart is a fragile thing, but I’ve given it to the one who restores all things. 

Gently close up


Sometimes instead of saying “shut up”, my girls and I say “gently close up”, because “shut up” is rude. So if you couldn’t tell by the title, this post is about shutting up. 

As I was worshipping my God this morning, I was impressed that I needed to shut up. Lol. Or more specifically, I realized that as Christians we often treat prayer and worship as a time to entreat God to enact change in the world. And that’s not a wrong idea. It’s just not the end. It’s not the only purpose of prayer and worship. 

Prayer and worship can also be a time for God to enact change in us. 

But if we don’t stop talking about the change we want to see God enact in the world, we miss the change God wants to enact in us. 

Psalm 46:10

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.””

He is God. He will be exalted. He’s not too worried about it. You, BE STILL for a few minutes so He can be exalted in YOU. 

I don’t have much more to say. I could actually, ironically, talk a lot about being silent.  But I’m not gonna type your ear off today. 

Just “gently close up” for a few minutes and be still, let Him enact change in you. 

Amen. The end. Hasta la vista, baby.