Wandering Through Faith and The Pages of a Book (A Wonder-Filled Story and A Book Review)

Wandering Through Faith and The Pages of a Book (A Wonder-Filled Story and A Book Review)

Today, I want to tell you a little of my faith journey; it’s interesting, wandering, and beautiful.

It started off simply enough. I attended the United Methodist Church a few blocks away from my growing up home. I often wonder, looking back now, if my journey would have looked different if the church a few blocks away was a different denomination? What if it was Lutheran or Presbyterian for example? It’s interesting for me to consider that now, church nerd that I am. However, it was simple back then. We went to the United Methodist Church probably because we could walk there. The only thing I knew is that we weren’t Roman Catholic like many of my friends because we passed their church on the way to our own. I never went to their church in my earliest years. It was off limits even if I never understood why. I did go to their dances when I got a little older though. My friends sometimes came to my church’s Vacation Bible School too. Strange isn’t it? What we allow and what we don’t.

Looking back now, there are a few other things of interest about my earliest church years.

First, my childhood pastor of my first 18 years, had polio. He walked very similar to the way I walked in those days as a young man with cerebral palsy. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but he was the first person I knew with a visible disability who was influencing the lives of others including myself. The Word of God was being preached through him. I could be created in God’s image too; disabled body and all!

The second thing of note was similar. We are all part of God’s family. In addition to being disabled, I’m also adopted. I was never able to look across the table and see someone whose eyes looked like mine. This wouldn’t happen until years later when my own daughter was born and when I subsequently connected with biological family.

Yes, my growing up family loved me, and I recognized that love, but insecurity can creep into a young person’s mind and it certainly did for me especially as I moved into my early teenage years.

However, there was no doubt in church. We are all children of God. It was a declaration! My two biggest insecurities, disability and identity, weren’t obstacles in church. I’m grateful for that.

I drifted away from church as I moved into my later teenage years and beyond. It probably manifested in a similar way to the way teenagers push away from their families as they search for their own personal identity too. Life sure is funny that way.

I didn’t find my way back to church until my mid 20’s thanks to meeting one of my favorite people in the world, and a true saint, Bernice. We worked together at a bank. I knew she was a Christian because she had a Bible on her desk, but she never hit anyone over the head with it, as I’m fond of saying, or confronted anyone about their belief or lack thereof. She was just different. She had a presence of peace. She was kind, caring, and peaceful. I wanted to have what she had. So, I went home and read the Bible like a book from beginning to end and something clicked. This began my reentry into church.

Now, all I had to do is find a church. Where did I fit? Going back to a United Methodist Church seemed too easy. So, I wandered. I went to storefront Pentecostal churches, Baptist churches, nondenominational churches, and more.

As I think about it now it occurs to me that I think I sought out churches that seemed full of outsiders, people who didn’t quite fit in traditional churches, people most like me. It seems funny that, ultimately, I ended up back in a United Methodist Church thanks to some friends I met along the way (even if still feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole some days.)

Maybe that’s why I still seek out worship opportunities elsewhere and like spending time with people in a wide range of settings. One of my most significant mentors is the pastor at a large multi-campus church. Maybe I’m not an outsider at all. Maybe I’m just a wanderer.

Wander Quote

Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that I find the book, Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost (A Story of Church) by Traci Rhoades so compelling. God works in so many more ways (and places) than our humanity can comprehend. The stories are individual and collective, broken and beautiful, human and Godly.

God is in our midst. Traci Rhoades’ book recounts this truth time and again throughout its pages. In our humanity we like to silo, and the church is no different, but there is no us versus them. There is only us. One of my earliest truths still holds true. We are all God’s children. That is apparent throughout Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost.

Again, the book does a great job of telling this through Traci’s story and the story of others told therein. It may feel subversive sometimes like when the author dips her fingers into the Holy Water at a Catholic church in the introduction or it might feel like another home as she tells of childhood experiences at a nearby Methodist church whose doors were always unlocked. Sometimes, it’s sitting in a truck with a pastor on a cold Sunday morning, (That’s my experience in Buffalo, NY too!) sometimes, it’s coming home after the loss of a loved one. God transcends all the boundaries we so often put in.

That’s another beautiful part of this book. It’s not just the story of a singular person. Rhoades does a great job of bringing together so many people’s stories across a wide variety of denominations, traditions, and practices. Certainly, more than I have ever seen before and it’s amazing.

Too often people don’t see God working in their midst. Traci Rhoades not only sees it, she brings it together in the most wonderful way. The church is messy and beautiful, broken yet complete, searching and discovering. Mostly though it’s human and Divine in all its many forms. As one of my favorite quotes from the book says, “Ultimately, no matter what tradition you call home, it’s about Christ.”

Yes, this book will challenge you and parts might even trigger you. That was my experience. However, just like church at its best, it also felt like home; a place of stories, family, and love.

That’s the story the author and her friends share in these pages. That’s absolutely my story. I hope you’ll read this book. I bet you’ll see yourself too.

A Year Ago, Uncertainty, And A Reboot

A Year Ago, Uncertainty, And A Reboot

Hey All,

It’s been a while since my blog was active but I can’t shake this feeling that I still have something to offer by sharing my faith journey so here I am. Uncertain, not exactly sure what to say, but certain in God’s ability to use even people like me.

Maybe it’s ok to be uncertain. We live in times I never even imagined possible when I last typed here. As the priest says in the movie Rudy, “There’s a God and I’m not him.” That’s about all I know for sure.

It was also a year ago that Rachel Held Evans died; an event that shook me to my core. Through tears I wrote my blog post, Love Remains: My Eulogy for Rachel Held Evans, on the road to a conference. Maybe it’s a fitting tribute to her memory that I start again. Even uncertain, even while I’m not sure what to say.

After all, I don’t think faith is necessarily about having all the answers do you. Leave me a note in the comments and let me know what you think about faith and uncertainty.

If you’re willing, consider following along too. I don’t think I’ll keep up the same pace as I had previously but I’ll try to post every few weeks at least. I’m just trying to be faithful to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. Faithfulness, it’s a journey unto itself.

Wherever you are this day, with whatever uncertainty you bring, remember:

Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

Are You Too Busy To Listen?

Are You Too Busy To Listen?

“Storehouses” – Extended.
Hoarding your
boxes and packing your bags.
Preparing like
luggage affixed with nametags.
What will it get you, Your storehouse of gold?
No matter how mighty, You’ll too grow old.
And down to the dust From which you once came.

Consumed 
all your darkness.
Love will remain.

Still you keep on and keep on, playing your game.
The more you control, you’ll victory claim.
And, all will know, “You’re living the dream.”
But, when it comes crashing down, what will it mean?

calm sky
Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on Image Description: Sunlight breaking through clouds. Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity lately. How we take and turn something intended to be positive and recast it in our own image. You can read a little about this in my previous blog post, “Where Will You Store Your Treasure?”

We are good at that, we humans. If we can control everything through our own efforts, we don’t have to rely on anyone or anything else. Sure, we might offer our words to G-d but to actually trust, especially in something we cannot see, that’s a different story.

That’s the myth of productivity. If I just work harder, I’ll get ahead. However, I’ve witnessed many people work hard only to end up on the short end of things. It’s easy to see if you’re looking. It happens all the time, actually.

Further, this notion of never ending work isn’t biblical either. I heard a message this week based on Luke 16:19-31. (Hat tip to Rev. Matt Kofahl of the St. James and Hope United Methodist Churches in Niagara Fall and Sanborn, NY respectively.)

The narrative tells the story of two recently deceased people; one rich, one poor. In a twist as shocking to the initial hearer of Jesus’ story as it is to us, it is the rich man who finds himself far away from G-d as the poor man is comforted.

Didn’t the rich man do everything right? By worldly standards, certainly, this is true. However, as the rich man cries out in agony he is told quite simply, “You received your good things already.”  (Verse 25)

On the other hand, look at the poor man, Lazarus. He couldn’t work. He couldn’t even get himself to the rich man’s gate. He was laid there! (Verse 20) It’s as if we have everything backwards in our human brokenness. Less is more.

I have to rely on G-d when I can’t rely on myself.

When you can do nothing, G-d still loves you because Love is not dependent on what you do. It’s dependent on G-d.

Back in the Luke 19 parable, the rich man begs for someone to warn his relatives only to be told as Jesus foreshadows his own resurrection, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Verse 31)

The same message holds true for us. The only question is, “Are You Too Busy To Listen?”

Wherever you find yourself this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions. 
Peace Love and Acceptance

Where Will You Store Your Treasure?

Where Will You Store Your Treasure?

“Storehouses”
Hoarding your
boxes and packing your bags.
Preparing like
luggage affixed with nametags.
What will it get you Your storehouse of gold?
No matter how mighty, You’ll too grow old.
And down to the dust From which you once came.

Consumed 
all your darkness.
Love will remain.

calm sky
Photo by Sindre Strøm on Image description: Sun breaking through clouds. – Pixels.com

Hey all!

I’ve been super sick for some time now. I hope to be back on a regular writing schedule soon. I appreciate your prayers and support. Please keep them coming.

In the meantime, I’ve been pondering the state of our world. The profit at any cost narrative and its accompanying notion that if you just work hard enough you’ll get ahead.

This, as I’m fond of saying, is bullshit.

Now, I’m not against working as you are able, but a person’s defined worth is not based on their productivity. Your worth is inherent. Read the Bible.

In fact, you don’t even need to read your preferred holy writing.
Use Google. It’s talked about a lot.

Sadly, I am still too sick to dig in with any depth for now, but this is a narrative put in place by those at top to keep you right where you are now.

You can work for them or you can die. From a disability point of view, this is what brings about the super-crip or die scenarios where one can either overcome their disability or it is a fate worse than death.

However, what if this is a lie? What if the reverse is true?

What is Love really is about expanding the circle until everyone is included?
(Matthew 22:36-40)

Maybe Jesus was right when he said you can’t serve G-d and money.
(Matthew 6:24)

Your hoards of gold might shield you for a time but this is temporary.

Until next time friends, live, be well, and don’t forget: Wherever you find yourself this day, especially if you are on the margins, Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Thanks, again for the prayers!

Peace Love and Acceptance

Still Tired…

Still Tired…

There are so many things to talk about.

Disability inclusion/exclusion.

The Amazon.

The Evangelical Church selling its soul in what I suspect is some kind of plot to hasten the end times.

Poor theology in general.

Yet, here I am, and I’m tired. 

It could be the sleepless nights I continue to endure over and over again.

It could be the constant fight against privilege and lack of understanding.

It’s likely both these things and more.

I’m so tired. 

If you’re tired too, you’re not alone.

If you want to talk about being tired, any of the previously mentioned subjects, or anything else, please comment. I welcome the conversation and the opportunity to both give and receive support. 

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

Tormented by Sleep

Tormented by Sleep

“Tormented by Sleep”
Tormented by sleep
As hours tick by
Tormented by sleep
Let out a sigh

Pain is too great
Long to be free
Tormented by sleep
Gaslighting me

Available remedies
None presenting peace
Long for my release
Nightly enemy

Tormented by sleep
Day after day
Tormented by sleep
Take me away.

alone bed bedroom blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com Image Description: Person flat on stomach in bed. Covered completely by a sheet except feet sticking out.

There’s a lot going on in our world. I hoped to talk about some of it today. However, my body is not cooperating.

Disability is like that. You never know how you will feel.

Today, like many days, I feel bad. This is just part of my story.

All I have today is a poem inspired by near nightly painsomnia but I’m sharing because, if you are struggling with pain of any sort, I want you to know you aren’t alone.

That’s part of my story too.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

I hear a lot today about agreeing to disagree.

You know, “I see it this way. You see it that way. We’ll just agree to disagree.”

Sorry, I can’t do that. 

As my friend and great social-minded theologian, Samuel Mudge said recently,

“Agreeing to disagree doesn’t work for a whole lot of people because sometimes, two people are discussing something that is an abstract idea to one, and life-and-death to the other.”

Think about that for a second. I’ll use my most personal examples for clarity.

Not having access to plastic straws might kill me.

Doing away with healthcare protections might kill me.

Using mental health or other disabilities as your excuse because you don’t want to talk about guns or other issues might kill me.

That’s how it works.

The same is true when you endorse leaders who overtly or covertly use their power and systems as a means of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

They aren’t all created equal. People are dying! 

I will say this. We do need to listen to each other more.

I do believe most of us are not as far apart as it seems. Outside the top few, the people from the middle down are all being squeezed economically and otherwise.

Let’s work together to answer these more difficult questions. Maybe life isn’t supposed to be completely found in easy answers.

agree agreement ankreuzen arrangement
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We’ve lost our ability to sit across from each other; to hear each other, and to listen to our individual and collective pain. 

This isn’t a suggestion of mere tolerance. I’ll fight as long as I can against racism, ableism, and any other form of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

Inclusion is a table of equity and justice especially for people on the margins. 

That’s what Jesus’ ministry is all about. He restored people to equitable, just community.

This isn’t an over-simplified version of love the sinner, hate the sin. 

That’s just a slight modification of agreeing to disagree with a dash of power mixed in. That’s what got us here.

It’s just a reminder to listen because the cycle will never stop if we don’t do better. 

I hope you’ll join me.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance