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In which I was a try-hard writer because I had a try-hard life

Six years ago, I quit writing. After more than 20 years of calling myself a writer, I laid the dream down in the ground, heaped on a bit of earth, and walked away. There were many reasons why I quit writing, but the final nail in the coffin was the literary agent who told a roomful of hopeful writers if we didn’t have a huge platform (think: mega-church pastor) to recommend us, then we’d be lucky to have a unique enough voice to ever be published.Quite right, quite right, murmured the packed room taking notes at the writer’s conference, all while my carefully curated dreams of sitting across from Oprah discussing my book’s inclusion in her book club crumbled to dust.

I knew the truth in that moment: I had no Voice. None. I loved to write, of course, I had a knack for a phrase now and then, but before I could happily delude myself out of the frank honesty, I knew, quite clearly, that my Voice did not exist and so, I could not be published. That night, I had a come-to-Jesus moment in my hotel room: it sounds a lot more romantic than it was. In reality, there was a lot of wadded up tissue and the bitter sense that I had been chasing rainbow gold that did not exist, a failure.

Before that moment, I had tried to be strategic about a writing career. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being strategic, not at all, but for me, I was using strategy to mask the lack of substance, strategy as smoke and mirrors to distract from an inauthentic Voice. I had read the tactics and tutorials for being a better blogger-turned-writer and so I tried them.

If a blogger was popular, I tried on their voice or topics for a while, imitating style and substance. I thought that I needed to narrow my focus a bit more because I couldn’t find my fit in the progressive Christian blogosphere – I wrote too much about my life and motherhood, perhaps. So I tried writing proper fodder for mum-bloggers: tutorials and tips, lists and anecdotes. This was a disaster because I was not made for do-it-yourself crafting or potty training tips. Then I tried the Christian-lady-blogger world with blog posts as devotionals but I was bored to tears and my own experience defied tying my spirituality up in a neat package. I tried to write like wry and smart feminists, objective and logical, then I tried to write like a serious social justice advocate for women. One persona after another after another, all were inadequate and fragmented snippets of my own self, masks for my whole self, and so it’s no wonder that I went to that writing conference discouraged and frustrated and unfulfilled.

Soon after I buried my dreams of being a writer, I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount when I read a few words from Jesus that felt new to me – this wasn’t really possible: I’d read them dozens of times, no doubt. But the Holy Spirit has a way of illuminating the words I need to know or live into at that moment. The words were spoken by Jesus in Luke 6:43 – “You must begin with your own life giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.”

The truth broke through again: my scattered copy-cat writing voice was simply evidence of my scattered copy-cat real life.

For years, I had a try-hard life. I tried to match my spirituality to certain men and women, a pastor here, a famous preacher there, a worthy mentor, or a compelling writer, until I could parrot the “right” answers without any real truth or discipleship on my own part. I could cry out, Lord, Lord but I didn’t know the voice of the Shepherd. As a mother, I would put other women on the pedestal above me, trying out their tactics or methods with varying success, always feeling like somehow I didn’t measure up, always feeling guilty and inadequate. As a wife, as a disciple, as a woman, as a writer, you name it, I was a scattered people pleaser looking for her real self. I was an inauthentic performer on the page because I was an inauthentic performer in my life.

If you’re a Today’s Christian Woman subscriber, you can read the rest of this article here. (It’s behind the paywall so you have to have a subscription to read it.)

P.S. The article is about finding your authentic self in Christ, not simply about finding one’s voice as a writer.

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Continue Reading · faith, fearless, Guest Post, journey · 23

In which this is a dispatch from the other side of the schism (I)

My friend, Tony Jones, has written a call for schism over the issue of women’s equality in the Church. He’s now decided that schism not the right word but the fact remains that we may need to separate from people who “preach a false gospel.” I’ve thought about it ever since he posted it. (Tony built bridges for this little charismatic kid to cross over into the ancient-future church through his ministry and writings over the years. I self-identified with the emerging church in my twenties and even 15 years later, I’m pretty sure I still find a home there. And one thing I know about Tony is that he often writes or posits with hyperbole to kick off the real conversation that actually needs to happen.)

So I’ve somehow written myself into a four-part series on this “schism” notion because there are parts of it that resonate with me – I would never attend a church that didn’t affirm women in full equality, for instance, and to me this is a major justice issue – and then parts the “schism” language freak me out or irritate me because I do believe with all my heart that there can be unity and redemption.  Instead of having one big long post like I did with my Christian conferences magnum opus of feelings, I decided to break this one up into parts. So this is just part one. Over the next week or so, I’ll write the rest of it  as I go along because I think the conversation is a worthwhile one indicative of larger conversations about unity and a new way forward. 

Oh, Father, I know I’m not perfect, I know we’re not perfect, but at least we are not like those people over there.

Secret telling time: I’m part of the people over there.

It’s funny how nice a schism sounds when you’re the one who is the active participant, the one whose decree makes it so. It sounds noble and high-minded when you say that someone else is a false gospel and you are the one with the truth. I imagine that it must be nicer to be the one leaving with our convictions so strong. The rest of you sinners can think what you want, I’m just trying to follow the Bible, we say. No hard feelings.

It’s not-so-great when you’re the one who is left on the other side of the slammed door.

This is a dispatch from the other side of the schism.

If there is one thing I figured out very quickly when I was introduced to the big old American evangelical church in my twenties it is this: there wasn’t room for me. 

It wasn’t just because I was a woman and an egalitarian. In my context, it was also because I was considered liberal in my politics. I liked universal healthcare, for starters. But mainly, it was because I was part of that happy-clappy branch of Christianity, born out of the fire of the renewal movement, because I was “one of those charismatics” and I spoke in tongues, four generations down from the old Pentecostal Holiness stuff as it splintered and moved through the world. The door was shut to me because my lineage of faith was, as Oral Roberts would say, “forged in the fires of healing evangelism.”

It was also because I was not-American. (We could talk about that, couldn’t we? Where is the room for those of us outside of that dominant empire narrative? My experiences with Church are pretty different because I grew up before globalization and technology homogenized our experiences. Remember our global brothers and sisters? It’s hard sometimes for the ones on the inside to remember that there might be reasons why the Pentecostal tradition is the fastest growing stream of Christianity in the world from the global south to Asia Pacific to post-Christian neighbourhoods in Canada.)

Oh, yes, I grew up charismatic and Word of Faith before I had a clue what those labels were or meant. (We just thought we were Christians now, end of story, we had no idea of our place in the big family of God. We were innocent enough to think we were all on the same team because, well, JESUS.)

And then I went out into the world and all I have heard from every other Christian out there was complete and utter disdain for me and for the people I loved, the ones whose prayer and faith had formed me, the ones who taught my Sunday school, who prayed for my parents, who discipled our little family in the faith, the one who plunged me into the water and told me to rise up as a new creature in Christ.

Part of me rails against the idea of a schism – even a decentralized postmdoern Internet schism – because I’m already hanging onto the last rung of the ladder. Don’t cut the thread to which I’m clinging. I’m already a back-alley dweller, far from  the tables. It isn’t my egalitarianism or my feminism or my femininity that ostracized me from certain aspects of the Church: that ship has already sailed. 

I live on the other side of the schism. I have no idea who these people are online half the time. I didn’t even learn about the existence of an organization called “The SBC” until I was nearly thirty. Lifeway? I don’t really care that they don’t like or or won’t carry my book because well, I never would have expected them to carry my book – I’m not Baptist, I never have been, I never will be (watch out now). I’m a postmodern post-evangelical post-charismatic outside of their postal code for the ones who freak out about lady-preachers in every way possible.

I’m used to being left out by now. I’m used to being the red-headed stepchild in the family of God.

Even now, people find out about my background and say, really? You aren’t what I expected. (The judgement in that kind of stings a bit, I admit.)

I did an interview a while ago and it came up that I went to one of those charismatic universities and the interviewer was plainly dismayed, even sympathetic. Oh, you poor thing, it must have been so hard for you. It’s hard to explain to people: those people you love to make fun of? those are my people. They drive me crazy, too, so trust me, I get it. But I still regard our precious mess with tenderness. 

Sometimes it has felt like the one thing that unites most of the western Church is not our love for Jesus, but our disdain for the charismatic Word of Faith world.

We’ve already had a schism, you see, thousands of them. The rest of the church schismed us over and over again, we’re barely clinging to the bridge that the rest of you have set on fire.

I can’t be okay with a schism. It hurts to much to be on the other side of it.

I’ve already been schismed, thanks to John MacArthur and Hank Hanegraff, thanks to seminarians and bloggers, thanks to Internet commenters and tv preachers. I’ve already been told there isn’t room for me. Me and my people, we’re already on the other side of that door, we’re already in the back alley.

I’ve learned how to fit in among the rest of the Church now, of course. But my foot is still firmly on the other side of that schism, and I won’t turn my back on my little tradition. I won’t turn my back on the men and women who raised me to love God and to love people, even if their theology makes the rest of us uncomfortable sometimes. 

(Sidenote: The people at the table could learn a lot from my tradition, particularly about the mobilizing and releasing of women for ministry.)

When my husband went to seminary outside of our tradition, he was wary. We had been so conditioned to being marginalized, so conditioned to think of ourselves as the black sheep and unwelcome at the table, that we didn’t know how it would go. People warned us continually to be on our guard as he went into higher education outside of our tradition: “careful now! you might lose your fire!”  We got so used to being the outsider that we convinced ourselves we didn’t want to be there anyway.

Imagine our surprise when we were welcomed.

Maybe it’s because we’re all a bit older now. Maybe it’s because we have realised we don’t have the luxury of cutting off our nose to spite our face. Maybe it’s because they realized that they missed us or we realized that we missed them. Who knows, but it felt good to sit among people who are different than us, with different theological convictions, and listen to them say “tell me about it.” It felt good to have a talk about our differences without a zero-sum-game, without the threat of nuclear action. It felt good to move with freedom and curiosity and respect.

That bridge meant the world to me. I crossed that bridge and it brought me into a whole new world of theological learning and understanding. I was given tools to sift through my experiences as a child born into faith in Christ Jesus through the charismatic Word of Faith movements. I began to leave behind aspects of my former ways, absolutely, but I reclaimed others that I had dismissed. It changed my life, refined my theology, helped me learn how to hold the gifts of both the wisdom and traditions of the Church with the renewal fire of my own lineage of faith.

I have a group of girlfriends who mean the world to me. We represent a broad spectrum: reformed, complementarian, egalitarian, charismatic, house church, no church, baptist church, all points between. And we do love to pray for and with each other. And of course, I end up laying hands on them while I pray, even prophecying or “having a word” heaven help us, and they receive it from me even though it must be weird for them. The gift of welcoming me and receiving me – all of me, even my happy-clappy weirdness – is a mark of the depth of our friendship. And it means the world to me that they opened up that door. We break bread together, and find we’re family still, we’re healing a small schism perhaps. I have to believe that if there is room for me – all of me without editing – that there is room for them, too, and we are seeing a small bit of heaven breaking through as we respect each other, learn from one another, and mutually change.

 

Continue Reading · faith, fearless, Jesus Feminist, journey · 39

In which there’s a new way forward

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

 

In the Gospels, Jesus tells a parable of a king who invites his friends to his son’s wedding party. The friends decline for various reasons – I’m busy, I have other things to do, and so on. Most of us in that situation would say, “well, that’s it then, no party after the wedding. If we can’t have a party with the ones we invited at first, then we’ll just cancel the party.” But instead, the king tells his servants to throw open the doors and bring in every one from the streets who wants to come along. We’re having a party anyway! I love the imagery of this parable: if the ones who were invited won’t come, then fling open the doors because anyone can come in. It may not look like how it was planned, but it’s happening.

We serve a God who builds tables in the wilderness, who makes streams flow in deserts, who causes the barren places to spring forth with new growth. We see in the Gospels the heart of God to heal us, to save us, to set us free. We see what life looks like in the Kingdom of God, over and over again, the creative and extravagant grace that cuts through the brambles and the boundaries to the heart. Some part of me thinks it’s a delight to Him: a delight to make a way where there is no way, to do a new thing among the ruins, to surprise us.

I often find that the Spirit leads us to a new thing instead of the tired dichotomies of our self-imposed or culture-imposed limits. We tend to think in Either/Or, in the black-and-white. Usually this isn’t creative enough for a counter-cultural, more-than-enough God.

I see this theme of creativity even in the story of the crucifixion. The spectators and disciples are bound by two options: either Jesus rescues himself from the cross by calling own the angels armies or he dies, end of story. But instead, there again, the creativity, the unbound-Spirit, instead forges the unexpected path: resurrection. There is something miraculous beyond our finite options, our either/or doesn’t fit in the openness of the Kingdom of God.

So when I feel caught between a rock and a hard place, I try to look for the third way. I see a legacy of disciples behind me and before me and around me who have done that with such conviction and prophetic wisdom. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. who chose the third way of peace-making in the face of systemic injustice and evil for African-Americans. Instead of believing the lie that he had to choose between violence or silence, he chose the redemptive path of subversive peace and non-violence.

In a marriage, we think we have two options. We can either continue on in hierarchal marriages as handed down to us from ancient cultures such as the greco-roman household codes, baptizing them in sacred language until we believe that God wants only a wife to submit within a marriage, or we think we must have a thoroughly modern marriage in which no one submits to anyone, every one for themselves. Instead, in Scripture, we see the third way: mutual submission.  As spouses submit to one another, Christ as the head of their home, they prophesy a creative Kingdom way forward, a life centred on honouring each other, loving each other well, moving as one-flesh. I see these opportunities in mothering as well, particularly as the tinies are now growing up and into such marvellous little people with tender spirits.

In our engagement with justice issues, we can think that we have two options. We can either fully engage and then become so filled with despair and anger and hopelessness that we are swallowed by the darkness ourselves, or we can keep our little light in a room filled with light with our heads stuck in the sand, singing lovely songs to the choir. We think we have to choose between being overwhelmed by the truth or pretending the truth doesn’t exist. Instead, Christ calls us to being the light in the darkness. There is a way to read the newspaper, become angry, be engaged, walk through this world with your eyes open and your heart a bit broken while still carrying the hope of Christ within us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We don’t have to choose between being engaged with the eradication poverty or injustice or evil and our joy. No, we can grab that little candlestick and march out into the night.

I’ve been thinking about the language of the third way as some conversations have gone on this week about women’s role in the church. It came up again because of The Nines conference but really it’s not just about this one conference which has ignited a fierce debate yet again, the issue is merely indicative of the sorry state of most of our churches and conferences in their views about women. The organizers patronizing tone and insistence that women can only speak to “lady issues” is, sadly, only representative of the larger issues within the religious establishment of some circles.

What a tragedy of missing the point, what a sad indictment. It grieves me.

So I find myself again presented with an opportunity. I have to call it an opportunity because when it feels hopeless and useless, then what? Because, let’s be honest, it can feel hopeless. It makes me angry.

(Have we talked about anger as a helpful sign? In your anger, don’t sin, of course not, but for heaven’s sake, let yourself get angry. Pay attention to your anger. These things still make me angry and I believe that’s okay. It’s the “then what?” after the anger that can open a path to a new way forward.)

So when confronted with the exclusion of women or minorities by people who really don’t care to change or listen from those within the religious establishment, what are my options?

Do I argue and force and campaign my way to a seat at their table?

Do I ignore it and simply move on?

Or is there a third way? is there a new way forward for us?

This is a complex question for me. In the first instance, I don’t really want a seat at that particular table. Part of me believes that the current American evangelical church culture is a sinking ship so I’m not too eager to get on board. That’s not my world, not my table, not my tribe, and, much as Jesus told the disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they aren’t welcome, I’m willing to shake the dust. As Maya Angelou said, when people show you who they are, believe them. I believe a lot of the religious establishment is showing us who they really are: we better believe them. If they can’t see – and won’t see – then it isn’t my calling in life to make them see. (I think that can be some other people’s calling – it’s just not mine.) I’m content in some ways to just give them over to their little self-congratulatory parties and echo chambers.

It also makes me examine my motives: am I angry because I feel left out? Because I think I deserve a platform and a voice? Because I want to be important? Because I want affirmation and accolades and influence? I don’t think so, but those are questions I have to ask myself. What’s my motivation for this fight?

In the second instance, I can’t pretend that isn’t a real thing and so retreat “out to the wilderness” to throw flowers in the air and sing Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs. It matters because people matter, because justice matters, because God’s heart is for us.  We’re in a time when I believe that the voice of God’s people is desperately needed: we need to see a glimpse of what life looks like the way that Christ intended it at creation. What are living our lives into? We need to engage in the issues of justice in our world, and in our churches. I don’t want to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend that just because I personally don’t want to preach and I personally don’t want to lead and I am not regularly oppressed that it isn’t happening elsewhere.

The truth is that patriarchal systems hurt men as much as they hurt women. Just as women were not created to be oppressed and so it damages us, I believe that men were not created to be the oppressors and that it will damage them. We were created to be image-bearers of the Almighty God together, so there is no room for that language or practice without some serious hermeneutical gymnastics and soul damage.

What is the new path? Where can I set up a table in the wilderness? What is the new thing God is wanting to do here in this space between the rock and the hard place? Surely there is something besides a cage match to prove my worth to people who will never be convinced in an effort to gain a seat at a table that doesn’t interest me anymore, or checking out entirely.

I found myself resonating with so much of what Christine Caine said in this interview at Christianity Today.  The happy-clappy charismatic outside-of-America tribe is pretty small really, so Christine Caine has been a favourite preacher of mine for years, even before she burst onto the scene in the USA, because she’s of my tribe. I have tremendous respect for her as a leader and mentor-from-afar, and she reminds me often of the ways that God is doing a new thing:

I have not really been a part of American evangelicalism, and I must admit that looking at it from the outside is interesting…. I may sound simplistic in my response, but I honestly believe that if you do what God has called you to do and have a spirit of love, grace, and humility, God will take you places where no man ever could….I just started by helping people and preaching the gospel to those outside the four walls of the church; in fact, I still do that. I was never looking for position or title within the establishment because most of the people I am trying to reach are not in it. If your true priority is people and not a position then there is always a place for you.

David was busy tending the sheep and then suddenly he was anointed as king. If you get busy being about the Father’s business he will come and find you when he is ready to promote you. If God anointed you then he will appoint you. We all have the privilege of being co-laborers with Christ. If we are prepared to work in anonymity and obscurity there is always plenty of work to be done. The Pharisees had Jesus in their midst and did not even recognise that the Son of God was amongst them. All of the arguing in the world is not going to open some people’s eyes. Nevertheless Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good.

Sometimes I think we need to stop arguing and just simply get out and do some good on this earth. The eternity of multitudes hangs in the balance. They are waiting. Let’s go and give some Good News to a world full of bad news. Let’s take a living Jesus to a dying world. The Spirit of God lives within all of us who are Born Again and out of us will flow rivers of living water if we let them. Let’s not clog the rivers up with dead end arguments, and let’s simply get about the Father’s business.

I came to this realization years ago, but sometimes I still need reminding – usually after I’ve logged onto Twitter to see the futility of trying to convince the willfully ignorant.

God’s ways often look very upside-down to us: not only are they counter to the culture around us, but often they are counter to the culture of the religious establishment. I want to find that creative, God-of-more-than-enough, streams in the desert way forward.

I don’t know if my energy needs to go towards propping up a system or institution whose time is probably coming to a close. I think I want my energy to go instead towards the highways and the hidden corners, banging my old pots and pans into the night, wake up, wake up, the bridegroom is coming and there is room for you at His table! I want my energy to go towards knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, and then living that truth into every corner of my life as a disciple. I want to move through my life and this world in the way that I believe Jesus would do so, singing songs of love and freedom and grace – even to the ones who are barring the door against me.

My third way right now – as best I can perceive it anyway – is that my activism is on behalf of others first and so I am free to make my true priority the Kingdom of God. I see the way that Jesus engaged with the religious leaders  – he didn’t have a lot of patience for them – and I don’t feel quite so bad that I lack patience for the religious establishment in our churches.

In the meantime, I intend on getting on with the work of the Kingdom, I’m done waiting for permission. I don’t need anyone’s table or platform to be about the Father’s business in my right-now life. For each of us, this will look different – thank God for that! Some of us are called to stay within slow-to-change structures, while others are called out. Some of us are called to advocate from within, others are called to live the new version out to create a vision for what could be for the ones still coming after us. One is not better than the other.

In a way, I feel terribly sorry for the conference and church leadership in many pockets: they are truly missing out. They are missing out on experiencing the fullness of the Body of Christ, and I think they are the poorer for it. It’s a warning to me as well: I want to have eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands when the Spirit is doing a new thing.

I look around me and I know the truth: we’re already here. Sometimes I’m so busy focusing on the “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom, that I forget the “now” of it, too. It’s right now.  I see it all around me. I don’t want to be so busy lamenting the places where the Spirit has not yet broken through, that I miss celebrating and participating in the right-now. We’re already building those outposts for the Kingdom and just because one small enclave of Christianity isn’t convinced, I don’t want to lose sleep over that. I believe Christine Caine spoke a good word for us today.

I don’t need a seat at their table – in Christ, really, there is only one table, laid out with the bread and the wine, there is room for me there. God is doing a new thing, and I want to perceive and then live into his creative new way forward. Maybe the doors will open, maybe the doors will be torn off and tossed into our bonfire, maybe nothing will change, maybe everything will change.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see streams begin to flow in the desert.

 

Continue Reading · faith, fearless, Jesus Feminist, women · 49

In which we’re not afraid of you

I’m the one who gets on your nerves, the one you wish would go away, I know. Maybe I embarrass you. Maybe I worry you. Maybe I anger you. Maybe it’s a bit of insecurity? jealousy? fear? Or maybe, just maybe, you’re afraid of people like me.

So.

Go ahead and say that I’m going to hell because I’m a charismatic woman, because I speak in tongues, because I believe in the mysteries of God. Go ahead and call me a heretic and a blasphemer, a wielder of strange fire, if it makes you feel better.

Go ahead and say I don’t love the Bible because I believe women are people, too. Tell me I’m in sin because Jesus is the head of our home and we submit to one another, and we both preach in church now and again.

Go ahead and say that I don’t have a right to write a book because I don’t have the proper letters behind my name, because I didn’t study in the ivory halls with that theologian you like to retweet, because I don’t have a properly footnoted thesis to back up the truth I know and practice in my life. I’m not worthy of being listened to with respect because I am a layperson, sure. Just because I love Jesus and can turn a phrase doesn’t earn me a place at your table.

Go ahead and say that I’m one of those grace people, one of those ones who forgets how to speak the truth, just too accepting. It’s all bit too loosey-goosey for you, it’s time for some authority to be exercised here. You like orderly boxes, ticked off boxes next to a list of position statements, I know. We’re starting to let this freedom stuff go to our heads.

After all.

I’m the happy clappy kind of Christian, oh, yes. I’m the one who speaks in tongues and lays on hands. I’m audacious enough to believe God is still speaking, still moving, still alive, still loving. I’m the one you warn the others about – stay away from that kind of mystic, you say, it’s a slippery slope. I’m the crazy one who worships with her whole body in her whole life – you might find me on my knees on a cold gymnasium floor with all the other renewal-ish people around me, or you might find me in a cathedral during Eucharist with my palms quietly up on my knees, receiving, always receiving, or you might find me in a field ringed with pine trees while I pray and pray and pray. I’m the dreamer of dreams, the speaker of visions, the heart-beating-faster with words of knowledge and unafraid to speak.

I’m the happily married mother of three who calls herself a feminist. I’m the one who grew up completely comfortable with female pastors. I’m the one who was raised to believe, live, and advocate for mutual submission, for full equality. I’m the one who dares to believe that women are people, too.  I’m debunking all your labels and accusations and fear-mongering with my very life. I’m the one who knows the Bible tells the story of wholeness and restoration, the Spirit demonstrates it, the community affirms it. I’m the one who believes that life in the Kingdom of God starts now: I’m setting up my little bonfire, a little outpost on the shore. This is my light and I’m going to let it shine: you are loved, you are free.

I’m the non-academic, yet another somewhat “pop” blogger with a book deal, another sign of the end of everything you hold dear perhaps. Blogging is dangerous because there is no gatekeeper. What will the people do without The Proper Authority to vet and approve the voices unleashed among the community of God? When else in Christendom would a woman like me have a voice or a platform or a book published? But isn’t it time, I say, isn’t it time for the everyday followers of Jesus, the ones who are wrestling, the ones who are living it out in our neighbourhoods and communities, isn’t it time for us to be heard, too, imperfect as we may be? The academics are worth listening to, so are the pastors, so are the older white men and traditional gatekeepers, absolutely: but make no mistake, you need to be listening to the rest of us, too. You need to hear and honour the voices and experiences of the non-academic, of the non-professionals, of the working class, of the middle class, of women, of the elders, of people of colour, of sexual minorities, remember the global voice, too. We are here, we are not voiceless, and we’re not waiting for permission to speak anymore. We got on with it long ago, we’re not waiting for you to notice us anymore.

I’m a big wide and messy orthodoxy. I’m the one who found Jesus in community centres and cathedrals, pubs and living rooms. I love the Presbyterians and the Mennonites, the Baptists and the no-names, the preachers of L.A. and the practitioners of the simple way, the megachurches and the house churches. I am a recovering know-it-all and I’m planted in the house of God, I love the family of God even when they drive me batty.

I’m not worried about boundaries and litmus tests, I’m not afraid of a slippery slope. I’ll lavish grace and invitation and proclaim love love love without fear. I don’t serve a God of Not-Enough, I serve a God of More-Than-Enough, More-Than-You-Can-Ask-Or-Imagine, a prodigal God, a lay-down-your-life God. You can warn me that I’m too generous, my arms are too wide open, too inclusive, as you draw your circles smaller and tighter until at last you’re the only one standing inside, alone. Narrative of scarcity or narrative of Christ’s abundance set before us, we give from what we have.

I get it.

If you can dismiss people like me, you don’t have to listen to people like me.

If you can dismiss me because I didn’t go to Yale or Fuller, because I’m a non-American woman, because I’m a lady-preacher, because I’m charismatic, because I still love the local church, because you don’t like my tone or my face or my age or my race, because I’m too much into All That Grace Stuff, then I’m not worthy. If you can dismiss us, you don’t have to listen to us regular little ones with small voices standing here along the shoreline.

Maybe you’re afraid because you know that I am one of many. And I am.  We’re the pew fodder, the grassroots rising up, the refugees from your systems and institutions, the subversives who stay, the ones slipping beyond your grasp. I’m one of the many outside who don’t care to sit around your tables anymore, we don’t play by your rules, we don’t need your  justification,  we’re not really longing for your approval, we’re beyond the reach of your tiny boxes and narrow constructs and boundary marker believership.

If you can discredit us or downplay us or disrespect us, you don’t have to listen to us.

And that’s just fine.

You don’t have to listen.

But I will speak the truth, even if my voice shakes. I will sing in the woods. I will stand here in the wilderness, head up, unashamed, following in the footsteps of Jesus as best as I know to do it, loving him into every corner of my existence, because, at last, at least, I am not afraid of you.

 

 

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