Among the Barbarians…

I’m done. Finally. The withdrawal period from Churchianity ran its course awhile ago.

If your church teaches things I don’t agree with, I don’t care. You will believe what you want to believe and you will see what you want to see. I no longer feel a need to create a blog post regarding something that I see as “incorrect” with the church. I no longer feel the urge to engage in an argument over the same stuff all the time on Facebook. What’s funny to me is that I notice people still argue over the same things: tithing, worship, dress code, alcohol, cussing, legalism, etc., ad infinitum.

Literally, same shit, different day.

It reminds me of the song lyrics of “What it’s worth” which go, “Singing songs and carrying signs. Mostly say, hooray for our side”. That’s what it feels like and I just don’t care anymore. It’s a big joke and I’m not laughing anymore. Not even going to listen to the same old lines.

Literally zero fucks given.

 

Here’s the thing: I want the real thing. The real Christianity. I haven’t found it. I’ve seen glimmers of it, like the sun being reflected off the water in a fast flowing stream. Here one moment, gone the next, here again, gone again. The closest thing I have come to in regards to a real “picture” of our Lord and Savior, our Elder Brother, our One True Reflection of the Father, is in the book “Beautiful Outlaw” and in the audio series “The Life of Jesus”, both by John Eldredge. On the whole, they are a “retelling” of the Gospels. It’s the most riveting description of Jesus that makes me want the real thing. I’m not saying it’s 100% accurate, either. There are things I don’t necessarily agree with him on in his writings, or teachings, however he has been a great help over the years. This isn’t a book review. This isn’t even to praise John Eldredge. I mention those things here on the off-chance that you even care about what I am getting at.

You see, I don’t see that Jesus being discussed and shared in the Institutional Church. When I was a leader, I tried to bring that Jesus in. Some took to it, the majority didn’t. They wanted gentle lover, school boy, creepy religious Jesus. Enough, it’s not about that.

Inside and outside the Institutional Church has profited me about the same, spiritually, within being outside profiting me slightly more. Why? All I know is that I know enough to know that I have more planks in my eyes than I thought I did when I was in the IC.

Let me try it this way.

The early converts to Christianity from Ireland used to call the Holy Spirit, ‘The Wild Goose’. Because the call of the Wild Goose was haunting and to follow it over the moors and foggy areas into the Wild could be dangerous. Forgive me if I am slightly inaccurate here, just stay with me. In ancient Greece, the term “barbarian” could refer to anyone of a different culture. In Roman times, it was used for many peoples, Germanics, Celts and Gauls to name a few. They were the people “outside” the protection and borders of the empire. Outside the city gates.

Those outside the gates of the IC are barbarians.

I don’t hear any semblance of the call of the Wild Goose inside the borders of the “kingdom” of the IC. Once outside the city walls and in barbarian territory, venturing ever outward, away from the IC, I could barely, barely hear it carried on the wind.

Does the word picture make sense?

I want the real thing. The real Jesus of Nazareth. I know more “of” Him than I actually “know” Him. Do you know him or are you just leaning on your theological degree, or your latest euphoric worship experience? Just because we know His words in the Gospels doesn’t mean we know him. Do you know him like you know your best friend, or your close neighbor, or your brother?

Isn’t that the offer? To know Him?

Why would He say, “I never knew you.”, if that wasn’t the offer.

And honestly, it should scare the living shit out of us that we do not know Him!

I think I am looking for a different kingdom, a different city. Where the battle hardened soldier and the young choir boy can agree on the character and nature of Christ, because they know Him. Where the career criminal and the old lady who sits in the second row of your church can relate to each other about their experience of Jesus, because they know Him.

It’s probably out there, amid the lands of the barbarians. And I am content being out here in the wild, among barbarians for now. To paint another word picture: Their lives are unfettered, their communities are close-knit, their words are true, their mead is good, their feasting is magnificent and their tattoos are pretty damn epic.

The truth is that none of us escape this life alive. The only one that we know of that has come back from the grave is the one we place our mustard seed of faith in. And all we know is that He is preparing a place for us.

That’s it.

You and I have to deal with this black wall of Mortality that creeps ever closer to us each and every day. Not a single one of us knows the day that we will meet our end. We just know it’s coming. And if we are truly honest with each other and ourselves. We would admit that none of us, not a single one, can see past that curtain. You don’t get to. I personally suspect anyone who boasts of being able to see through that curtain as trying to manipulate or sell me something.

If He truly is preparing a place for us, then we need to know him. Really know him. He would be our only glimpse of what is over there and only because He came back.

I can’t settle for anything less than actually knowing Him.

Really.

I can’t waste my time on anything less.

I won’t.

Still here: thinking, stewing, chewing, digesting and reflecting

I’m still around. I’ve been slowing down on this blog for a couple reasons.

  • I’m trying to make progress on Endure and let my fiction “skills” fly.
  • I’m also juggling the S4F site.

As the inspiration or recent event grabs me, I’ll make a small comment or prepare a small slider of sacred cow over at the LITQM Facebook page, like this one:

10/26/14 When a guest or “special” speaker is at your church for a few days, and he/she keeps encouraging you to come back because she/he will be revealing “some things” God has been showing them, notice as you attend every meeting that you will never hear “the things” that God has been showing them. Instead you will get vague hints, but never any real substance. Then the pastors will get up and talk about some of the “things” that the speaker has revealed to them about what God is doing, again, with all the same vagueness. Well, at least that is my experience from the last 12 years or so… over and over and over again. #baitandswitch #hooklineandsinker #sheepgettingfleeced #smokeandmirrors #poorsalesmanship #foolmeonceshameonyoufoolmetwiceshameonme
On my count, there are 10 more posts over on the FB page, so definitely check those out.
 
Mainly though, I’ve been chewing on a lot of different things and trying to listen more than anything. I’ve been listening to different views and perspectives from people of all walks of life, really. From conservative to liberal, christian to atheist, straight to transgender, you name it, I’ve probably read/listened to a view or two recently. As I listen I’ve been, as the title suggests, thinking, stewing, chewing, digesting and reflecting on what each of these voices have to say. Even if it was hard or difficult to read or hear. I don’t voice my opinion, because that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to listen and think.
 
I would like to continue the “Sam” series. I believe there are a few things left unsaid there, but the muse isn’t with me to finish it at this point. I recognize that now. All in its time, I guess.
 
Many thanks to the 108 followers.
 
Feel free to drop a line. I don’t bite.
 
~tom @ LITQM

Is your church worship “pagan”?

I’ve spoken many times regarding the sacred cow of worship, this article nails it down in many ways.

Check it here, “Is your church worship more pagan than christian?”

But, but, but! What about the scriptures that talk about “coming into His presence/temple/gates” with “thanksgiving and praise”? What about “he inhabits the praises of his people”?

Wrong covenant, sorry.

Inspired by the comedic words of a “blue-collar” comedian,

“If you think that singing songs is what moves God, you might be a pagan christian.”

“If you think that God needs to be entertained for his Presence to come, you might be a pagan christian”…. i could go on, but I’ll stop.

Time to “DTR”

For those who are not in the know, in a lot of youth church culture, there is this thing called “DTR”, or Defining The Relationship.  Usually this is taking place when a couple is discussing the boundaries and definition of their relationship. Let’s play a game of “DTR”, but in a different relational context.

Let’s say you have this friend, we’ll call him Anthony.

Now you know Anthony, you’ve known Anthony for a long, long time. You’ve shared many laughs, the occasional beer, many nights discussing the things of life and the world. He has a few kids, a wife and a good suburban type of life.

Got that picture in your head? Good.

Now, let’s say that every time you are around Anthony’s kids you’ve noticed something…odd. They seem content with their goings on in life, sure, but as you listen to them and observe them, you notice how much they talk about needing to be around Anthony. They use words like “thirsty”, “hungry” and “desperate” to describe their need for their father. When Anthony surprises them or does something unexpected, it’s like they haven’t seen him in years. “Daddy came home this evening! It was awesome!” Doesn’t Anthony come home every night? He still lives there, right?

It just doesn’t sit right with you, you know Anthony.

You know he loves his kids, you’ve seen him spend time with them. You’ve heard the countless stories of things they do together, from everyday life to family vacations. The children’s words scream of neglect, emotionally and physically. Their words beg the question of the health of their real relationship with Anthony. Do they not know? Do they not understand? Is Anthony not who you thought he was?

On the one hand, you’ve seen Anthony sacrifice time, money, blood, sweat and tears for his children.

On the other hand, you see his children act like they rarely get to talk to, interact with and be with their father. They act more like orphans than they do children!

Define this relationship that Anthony has with his children. It’s not right, whatever it is, huh?

What if you were speaking with Anthony about this and he acknowledged the issue. He’s known about it for years but that’s just how they act, no matter what he has done or continues to do, the children still act like that. He’s done all that he could to communicate and demonstrate how loved they are. Little did you know, but Anthony is pretty well off financially and only works a little each day from home and the rest of the time he spends with his wife and kids. Anthony has done all he can do, but they just don’t get it.

A bit abnormal, isn’t it? A bit over the top, to be sure.

This is the best picture I can paint regarding the people of the Institution and their relationship with God.

They are desperate for him. Hungry for him. Thirsty for him. They are surprised when “God shows up”. They yearn to be around him but are never satisfied. Despite all he has done to communicate and demonstrate his love… Despite all the encouragement that they need not feel empty, hungry, thirsty or desperate… They keep acting that way.

Ears to hear?

Grilling a Sacred Cow: Healing

Now this is going to rub some church-goers in the wrong way. I say this because there are many “leaders” who base their whole “ministry” out of (or off of…) the “gifts” of healing, and prayer/healing groups, etc. There are many churches who “boast” of their miraculous healings and the “proof” that God is active in their church by these healings. I’ve gone back and forth for awhile on whether or not I should post this. However, it holds true to the purpose of this blog. Dealing with and exploring the questions, especially in the journey of faith.

If you are offended, I would ask you to stop and ask yourself, why exactly, are you offended?

So…here we go.

I was reading through and deleting some old Facebook “Notes” and I came across one that I had posted roughly six years ago, labeled, “Tom is getting Healed!”.  With the exception of brackets where I removed names, here is the original post:

For those of you who know and those of you who don’t.  I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease around March of this year. This was the “mysterious” ailment that plagued me on and off for the last five and 1/2 years with bad vertigo spells.

Basically, Meniere’s is an inner ear disorder in which the ear tells the brain that the room is spinning when it’s not.

Since then, with the doctor’s suggestions, I’ve changed my diet, kept working out and have been taking natural supplements that help decrease vertigo symptoms and promote inner ear health.

Truth be told, I haven’t been ultimately GUNG HO on being healed as far as what has been provided to me through the sacrifice Jesus made for me. I’ve trusted that I will be healed in due time as I follow the instructions of my doctor and as I stay in the Word.

Sunday during worship I felt led and instructed that I needed to take it to the next level and increase my focus and trust in this area, which is where I ask you my friends to agree with me. I went forward during worship when [the church pastors at the time] asked for people who need prayer to come forward. [My wife] came up with me and in agreement with [one of the pastors] we prayed that I would accept nothing less than healing in my ear.

I went to my Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for my checkup today and he said that after the holidays I can start weaning off the supplements I have been taking!

I will be off my supplements by March 2009 – OR EARLIER!

I know that I am healed!

Now – two things struck me.

  1. I’ve been dealing with Meniere’s disease “officially” for six years now, “officially” meaning since I was diagnosed and 11+ years if I count all the symptoms and attacks pre-diagnosis. Thankfully, it has been quite awhile since my last episode, over two years and that last one was so violent that blood vessels broke all over my face.
  2. I’m STILL dealing with this damned thing…I haven’t had a violent episode of vertigo, nausea and vomiting, but I do get disoriented every now and then, only briefly, and I still have tinnitus (ringing and hearing loss) in my right ear.
  3. O.K., three things struck me.  The last being my naive level of “declaration” and so-called “faith” displayed in the note that was written. Oh how the times have changed!

Just over two years ago, before I walked away from participating in “regular” church services, I stopped the declarations and expectations of miraculous healing.  I stopped standing, wishing, hoping, praying. I got a huge case of the “fuck-its”. Some well-meaning people would want me to “come to the front” when the call for prayer and healing came and I would gently oblige them, hoping deep down that maybe…just maybe I would experience the miracles like in the days of old. Just maybe, this time I would be totally and suddenly healed. At the same time I was conflicted and guarded, not wanting my hopes to raise up too high.

Follow along in my thought process leading up to my case of the “fuck-its”:

I have “stood in faith”.

I have done the “having done all to stand, stand” thing.

I have had numerous pastors, “special speakers”, evangelists, etc., etc., pray.

I have had numerous “words” from the same people regarding my healing.

I have walked to the front of church service after church service, stood up during many “special services”, “conventions” and “conferences” when people were challenged to take a “stand in faith” for their “miracle”… so … many … damn … times.

I have “declared”, “decreed” and done all the formulaic bullshit that I have been encouraged to do.

Am I healed of this ailment? No.

Here is the kicker in the whole thing: I still believe in God healing people. We have accounts of it in scripture. We see Jesus – who is supposed to be the exact representation of who the Father is – say, “I am willing, be healed.”, and hope rises inside us. I’ve had a few experiences in this area, but not many. Yet I can’t even get a fucking headache to go away in prayer much less Meniere’s disease. I remember one time I faked it regarding a headache, mainly because we prayed and prayed and prayed, time passed and nothing happened. It wasn’t an over the top, “OH MY GOD! I’M HEALED” faking, it was more of a, “Yeah, I feel better now, thanks.” faking. I was done.

You might be wondering if I am mad at God? No, not really. It is a bit frustrating to not understand what is going on, but then again, there is this great big universe out there that none of us have the full capacity to understand anyways, so there are things that I won’t understand.

What I am mad at is the whole circus in christian circles regarding healing, from evangelists promising miracles up to and including people choosing to put their children’s lives at risk because of their “faith”.

I am mad at any person who “guarantees” healing if someone “just stands in faith” or “gives to the man/woman of God” or has some simple X,Y,Z formula for healing.

I’m mad at all the “believers” who will just point a finger of blame back at people like me who haven’t received healing. They will say it’s our fault or that God “knew” that we would eventually falter so he didn’t heal us, or because we don’t tithe, or because we didn’t worship properly or enough, or we didn’t fast and pray long enough, etc. All of these things normally bring condemnation on the person who doesn’t get healed because they didn’t “truly” have faith or they didn’t “give enough” or they didn’t “commit” to the formula for healing. They just didn’t do enough, apparently, to get or merit God’s attention and miraculous power to heal. It’s as bad as child abuse, really.

I am mad at all the “healers” out there who say that they could go to any hospital in the world and start healing people, but “they have discerned” that the approach they wish to take isn’t “wise” and isn’t in “God’s will”.

I am mad at all the believers who will point to scriptures for “proof” that God doesn’t heal everyone because even Jesus didn’t heal all. No, Jesus didn’t perform miracles in certain areas because the people there wouldn’t receive him. They didn’t believe in him. We have believed and stood and we have gotten very little…

I am mad at all the believers who say that God will purposefully send sickness, disease, injury, etc., to teach us a lesson. Again, that sounds like child abuse. You would lock me up in prison and demand the harshest sentence if I broke my child’s leg on purpose or exposed them to dangerous bacteria in order to teach him or her a lesson! Yet, God can get a free pass on this?

People get sick, people get hurt and maimed, people die. And for those of us who pray and stand and trust God for a miracle, it shakes us to our very core that things didn’t turn out better. Right now, worldwide and in the very town you reside in, there are people suffering and dying. There are people standing in faith and trusting God for miracles, and they won’t get what they are after.

There are enough question that pop up on the subject of healing that it is enough to make one believe that God is no longer in the healing business, or doesn’t want to. Yet some of us, hold on to a fool’s hope that maybe this time…it will be different. I would venture to say that possibly, we see the miracles of Jesus performed as “illustrations of the sermon” so to speak. What I mean is, when someone “comes into the Kingdom” there is restoration. The blind see, the dead are raised, etc. I’ll spare the questions that start to raise even here.

Now, to close this up with maybe a bit of positive thought. I have definitely done what I can with what I have regarding this health issue in my life. By fighting it, by not giving up, it has made me a better person. Though I don’t know how to gauge my “spiritual” growth, I am definitely stronger mentally. You gain a lot of mental strength when you have to go through a violent spell of vertigo, throwing up until you can’t give anymore and then dry heaving for what seems like an eternity while fighting to breathe. I am definitely a healthier person because of this. I am definitely stronger physically too.

Well, I’ve said my piece. Take it for what it is.

Hopefully it has provoked some thought and questions in your own journey.