Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


Romancing the Gospels

Self realization is a wonderful thing. The more I know about myself the better person I can become. It’s very hard for some people to face who they are, to really look themselves in the mirror and see themselves as they really are. I’ve had a fairly significant, in my mind anyway, moment of self realization this week. I, D’Ma, am not a romantic.

Now before anybody starts getting the wrong idea here, I love fresh flowers. I love a candlelit dinner and I love a well timed surprise. But I love all these things from a significant other in my life. I don’t sit around and fantasize about someone I’m not in a relationship with or someone unattainable. Even when I’m in a relationship I don’t sit around and fantasize about the romantic things they might do for me. I’m practical, I’m down to earth. I think about things I know I can have. If I do fantasize about romance, it’s about what I can do for someone else. I daydream about things I know they would like, but then most of the time I actually do the thing.

This is the way my mind works. I like things to be concrete, real, that I can hold in my hand and examine. I need to understand how a thing works, to be able to examine it. For this reason I don’t care for abstract art, or music I can’t understand the lyrics to – that eliminates death metal and most rap music. It’s probably why I flunked out of geometry in high school. All those theorems seemed so abstract to me at the time. Once I needed to actually use it for a project at hand I could figure it out. It became clearer.

On the other hand there are those who are hopeless romantics. They daydream and are creative. I won’t call them flighty, but they seem to be more wistful. They aren’t so serious all the time. They tend to be artistic and crafty with fabulous imaginations. They travel the world in their minds and have exciting adventures without ever leaving home. They love opera, and abstract art and funky music. They also tend to be spiritual, not religious.

Maybe that need of something concrete and definite is what draws some of us into fundamentalism. The rules are clear, the objective is clear. The Bible gives us something to hold in our hand and examine and test everything by. For a fundamentalist it spells everything out in black and white because that is the way our minds work. It’s true or it isn’t. It’s yes or it’s no. Grey areas are few and far between. We see mercy and judgment. We see grace and wrath. Believing it word for word is our evidence for the unseen. We can’t hold God in our hands and touch him to know he’s real, so the Bible is the next best thing.

Those who are more romantic don’t need that evidence. They can daydream and imagine a God of love. They are idealists and can take hold of the gospel in a mystical sort of way that we rationalists cannot. They can look past the judgment and wrath and decide that’s not part of God’s character because it doesn’t fit with their idea of a God of mercy and righteousness. When they read John 3:16 all they see is the part that says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son”. As s-p put it “”salvation” is about the “healing of the human person” NOT guilt, shame and black and whites. EVERYONE who struggles is on a continuum of “repentance”, even those who look like lost, unrepentant, gross sinners to everyone around them. It is not a matter of rejecting “Absolute truth”, it is a matter of defining “Truth” correctly.”

Here is the problem I see with that statement: It comes across with an air of superiority. I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way. But because my mind doesn’t operate that way, it feels as if he’s saying he’s doing it better than me and I’m doing something wrong. Like if I could just think his way about it, I’d see things the “right way”. I hope you didn’t mind me using that as an example, s-p. Just like when I said, “This is how I picture the analogy of a fluid faith. Fill a bucket with gravel, that would be reason. These are the concrete things we experience and know to be true because we’ve seen it with our own eyes or they are ways of making sense of our perception of reality. Now fill that bucket with water. That is God. He only fills in the parts we don’t already have figured out. He’s the God of the gaps. When our perception of reality changes, our God changes with it.“. That was offensive to someone who has a fluid faith because to her it implied that I thought her faith was “less than”. I’m in no position to judge the faith of someone else or whether they are right of wrong.

I am not saying any of that to criticize. It’s an observation on my part – a self realization. No two people think the same way, of course. But maybe there are some of us who think in such concrete ways that we cannot romanticize the gospels in that way. For us it is black and white. It’s the way our minds work and we cannot change that. Maybe the reason we fundamentalists have such a hard time communicating with progressive/liberal Christians isn’t that we’re trying to be bullheaded. Maybe it’s honestly that we can’t understand. We can’t wrap our minds around the concepts that they so readily accept.

The flip side of that is also true. Progressive/liberal Christians get equally frustrated because they cannot wrap their mind around how fundamentalists can be so black and white in our thinking. As one person put it, they rejected inerrancy right out of the gate because it clashed with their sense of reason. They reject the notion of a God who wants our worship, and who needs Jesus sacrifice to reconcile us to himself. They think it’s ridiculous that we can’t separate God and Jesus from a book. They speak of a different way of taking hold of the gospel.

I’m not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a neurologist. I got my degree from a cracker jack box. But I think it takes both kinds of thinkers to make things work in this world. Neither way of thinking is superior to the other. And we could learn from one another. But we’ll never, ever think alike.

What do you think? Do you see yourself somewhere in there?


Not Gifted for Evangelism

The Tour Guide and I have been communicating since about February of last year. He asked me if I had faith and I told him, of course I did. He asked me what I believed and I began to share Christ with him. The Tour Guide was very receptive and we began having lively debates about evolution, the inerrancy of the Bible and whether or not life could be lived by the commands and principals in scripture.

I contended that God made the world in six literal days, that the Bible was inerrant cover to cover. It was God’s word, moreover it was God’s Truth. It was reliable and trustworthy in all of it’s sayings. Life could, indeed, be lived by it. Jesus was the Son of God, born of a virgin, died on a cross for all of our sins, then rose again on the third day just as the scripture said. Devotion to the commands of God is born out of love for Him because of all He’s given to us.

The Tour Guide had lots of questions, naturally. One day as we were debating he asked me how God created man. “Did he create him just as we are now? Did he create him as something else and we’ve evolved into what we are now?” These were not sarcastic, indignant questions. They were honest and genuine. He wanted to know how this all worked. We went on to debate the virgin birth. He just couldn’t conceive of it. “Why is it wrong to commit adultery, but God impregnated another man’s fiance?” I’d never thought of it that way. Continuing the discussion about Jesus, he said he wanted to believe but just had too many questions. He said, “I believe Jesus was a real man, and that he was a prophet, but I don’t know about all those miracles and about the resurrection. If someone could knock on my door, right now, and offer me some kind of proof, but they can’t. Other than the Bible, are there any other sources for it?” Certainly there were and I assured him I’d research it and get back to him.

I went away from that conversation thinking, “I’ve got this in the bag. Sure there are outside sources that testify of Jesus.” I pointed the Tour Guide to the Answers in Genesis website, which he thought was a joke. I was insulted! I thought I’d dig further and easily be able to find plausible evidence of the creation story exactly as it’s written in Genesis. I went on a mission.

The first thing I did was google outside sources for the life of Jesus. What I found was scant, but sources nonetheless. All these other websites came up in the search engine, too, refuting those sources. There were some references to Jesus that were historically accurate, but questions as to the authenticity of the most important ones. That was alarming, but I pressed on. The more I pressed the more I found that didn’t support evidence of the life of Jesus. Certainly there were some historians who recorded, in passing, the name of Jesus or someone “called the Christ”, but nothing substantial. Forgeries and interpolations mar their authenticity.

And what about evolution? When I googled evidence for creationism, sites about evolution filled the search engine. Deciding that if I was going to speak intelligently with the Tour Guide about evolution and refute it properly I needed to know more about it. I read the scientific definition of the theory of evolution. I had always argued that evolution was just a “theory”. Note to self: Don’t argue about things of which thou doest not knowest. I began to learn about the theory of evolution as fact and the theory of the mechanism of evolution. I began to learn about fossil layers and “missing links”. Shot my creationism clean out of the water. Evolution suddenly made so much sense.

I kept all of this to myself for a while. I was having an emotional tug-o-war over what I believed and what I was learning. Very serious doubt crept in and before long I was an emotional wreck. My worldview suddenly didn’t line up with reality. This caused panic attacks, sleeplessness, fear, anxiety and an inability to concentrate on anything. My mind was so preoccupied with fear over my doubts. Finally I confided in the Tour Guide on Thanksgiving weekend that I had these doubts. I needed someone to tell and none of my evangelical friends would understand. They’d throw Ken Ham books and Bible verses at me and tell me I needed to just trust and believe like a good little sheep.

I was paralyzed. Too afraid to move forward, unable to go back. I found a few online friends in DagoodS, Zoe, HeIsSailing and Like A Child. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t the only one having these kinds of doubts, nor the only one having this strong emotional reaction to it. I decided I couldn’t stay that way. I had to know the truth.


Continued Conversations

We pulled ourselves together, washed our faces and poured ourselves another cup of coffee.  Larry headed off to his man-cave to watch the Georgia-Florida game.  So I was wrong before.  It wasn’t mid-November, it was the last weekend in October.  Rachel, Tessa, and I met at our usual conversation spot – the dining room table.  Sipping on our coffee and making small talk, my mind still racing with questions.  

Tessa knows me well.  She asks me what I’m thinking about because she can tell I’m still troubled.  Those same passages of scripture are still bothering me.  But I tell myself I’m just not walking in the grace I’ve been given.  If I keep telling myself long enough maybe I’ll start to believe it.  Rachel speaks up and says she thinks that whoever confesses the name of Jesus will be saved.  I speak up and ask what role repentance plays.  What is the relationship of the law to grace?  She says we’re supposed to live by the law but repentance and grace are there where we fall short.  I know all that.  I’ve been to church a few times.  I want to know what role grace plays when we deliberately break the law.  It’s the same she reassures me. 

Earlier in the day she’d been talking about absolute truth.  She and Tessa had a big discussion about that being the “problem with America”.  They had just hours earlier said that the Bible was absolute truth and that people not recognizing it as such and deliberately disobeying the commands found in it was the downfall of the nation.  So, again, I ask about adulterers.  “Are they going to heaven?  That’s pretty deliberate.”  “Well, no, not if they don’t ask forgiveness.”  “What about liars?”  She says the same.  “So all they have to do is ask forgiveness?  They don’t have to change anything?”  Tessa speaks up.  “Sure they do, they have to stop having an affair. They have to stop lying. That’s what the Bible says.”  “So what about gay people?”, Rachel inquired.  “Are you saying they won’t go to heaven?”  Tessa says, “Absolutely not!  God says that’s an abomination!”  I speak up again.  “What about people who are remarried?  That’s adultery.  Are they going to heaven?”  Without hesitation Tessa responds, “That’s different. Sure they’re going to heaven. Being gay is a lifestyle and it’s a sin, being married as a heterosexual couple is not a sin.”

That conversation is why I walked away from that table feeling just as guilty, just as depressed and just as alone as when I’d sat down there.  I discovered that day that absolute truth was absolutely relative.  Even if Tessa didn’t want to admit it.  Because the absolute truth is, it’s easy to apply absolute truth to everyone else’s sin.  It also started me down a road of wondering if every remarried couple I know is going to hell.  Is every homosexual person I know going to hell?  Is every liar I know going to hell?  Is every addict I know going to hell?  Is every person I know that habitually sins going to hell?  That’s an awful lot of people, everybody I know.  Hell, there won’t be anybody in heaven.  

Hell wasn’t reserved for monsters.  It was there for regular people just like me.   It’s not like I hadn’t known this stuff before.  It’s not even like I hadn’t said this stuff before.  But had I ever REALLY thought about what that meant?  Had I actually ever pictured what it meant for someone to go to hell?  Just for not believing exactly the right thing?  People who where decent, honest, kind human beings? 

That’s when my doubts really flooded in.  That coupled with the fact that when I got back home I still felt horrible.  I still didn’t think I needed a doctor.  I need spiritual healing.  I was under Satanic attack, fighting the spiritual battle of my life.  Every day after that for a month I got down on my knees in my closet with the door closed, my head covered, my heart crying out to God for forgiveness, for peace, for love.  I prayed the armor of God on myself every single day before I walked out the door.  I wouldn’t say my prayers aloud in fear that Satan or his demons might hear me.  I lost weight, I’d cry at the drop of a hat.  All this was just under the surface waiting, begging for an outlet.  I kept telling myself, “Get it together, girl.  What is wrong with you?”.  Still nothing happened.  For the first time I realized there was no one on the other end of the line when I cried out to God.

For the background detail to these conversations you can catch up with The Hard Stuff.


Conversations Around the Dining Room Table

For some reason women tend to gather around the dining room table to chat.  Something seems familial about it.  So there we sat, the three of us like sisters, with our big mugs. Steam rising from the heat of the fresh coffee, each of us blowing to cool it so we could take a sip.

It was mid-November and I was still steeped in belief.  Reading scripture only made me feel guilty about my divorce. It was only getting worse and I was going pretty deep into depression and self-condemnation, having panic attacks about going to hell.  This was certainly not normal for me.  I’m normally level-headed and rational.  I can usually figure out how to turn the lemons into lemonade.  And if I can’t, well just add some vodka and it’ll all be okay.  That just wasn’t happening this time.

That’s where the conversation started.  Rachel called her husband in and the three of them began trying to expound on God’s grace to me.  They weren’t telling me anything I didn’t know.  I just didn’t feel it.  I could get no relief.  I knew I had done what I had to do, but it was in no way satisfying.  I knew in my mind I hadn’t committed the unpardonable sin, but I also knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone.  Remarriage was adultery.  I’d researched it as much as I knew how to.  I know what the Early Church Fathers have to say about the matter.  I know what John Piper has to say about the matter. I know what David Instone-Brewer has to say about it.  And I know what they’ve had to say to each other about it.

The fact is remarriage is adultery according to scripture, the New Testament anyway.  Adulterers do not inherit the kingdom of God.  Mind you I’m having this conversation with two women who have been divorced and remarried.  They ask me if I’m telling them they’re going to hell?  I tell them I don’t know.  I can hardly see how they would be destined for hell.  Neither one of them were saved at the time of the divorces and remarriages.  “But”, I tell them, “don’t google this question”.  With good reason I say this.

They decide what I need is deliverance.  So the three of them anoint me with oil, place their hands on me, and begin to pray.  I’d never been party to a “laying on of hands” like this before.  Larry prays a sweet, comforting prayer for my peace and for discernment and to feel God’s grace.  Tessa prays for me and my ex-husband because she’s friends with both of us.  Rachel, Larry’s wife,  prays in tongues.  She chants the same short phrase over and over for what seems like ten minutes. None of us know what it means, not even her. I confess my sin of divorce for the hundredth time. We’re all crying when they’re done.

I believed I would be delivered.  I wanted to be delivered.  I wasn’t.  I walked away from that dining room table feeling just as guilty, just as depressed, and just as alone as I did when we started.  Nothing changed.


The Arrogance of Authority

 From my email inbox this morning…..

A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas , and talked with an old rancher.
He told the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs.”
The rancher said, “Okay , but don’t go in that field over there…..”, as he pointed out the location.

The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, ” Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me !”
Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher.
“See this badge?!  This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish…. On any land !! 
No questions asked or answers given!!  Have I made myself clear……do you understand ?!!”

The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher’s big Santa Gertrudis bull……

With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he’d sure enough get gored before he reached safety.  The officer was clearly terrified.
The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs…..               

(I love this part….)

“Your badge, show him your BADGE…….. ! !”

This reminded me all too much of some religious conversations I’ve had.  When I was so sure of everything I believed I spoke with authority and ventured into some pretty dangerous territory.  I’ve been gored a few times. 🙂


Evil Spirits Lurk!

HELP!!! IN NEED OF AN EXORCIST! Does anybody know a good one?!?  ROTFLOL!  I think I know the source of my current spiritual state.  I only thought Josie was demon possessed. Now I know!

I snapped this from my cell phone because I thought it was funny that she’d climbed to the top of the ladder and couldn’t figure out how to get down. 


The Funny Thing About Life

Live and learn.  Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you figure out you don’t.  It’s pretty interesting how it all comes about.  You realize the older you get that some of the choices you made in your youth were ill-advised at best. Then again some of the choices you made in your youth panned out infinitely better than you expected.  You also realize that it was your choices alone that brought you where you are today.  I would venture to guess no matter what position you’ve found yourself in, even the seemingly impossible ones, there was more than one solution.

The funny thing about life is: there are always choices.  Right and wrong, right and righter, good and better,  wrong and wronger, bad and worse, neither right nor wrong – just different.  Some choices in life you’re very proud of and others are sources of deep regret.  So today I’d like to ask about your choices in life.  Name the one choice or accomplishment you’re proudest of and then the one choice that is your deepest regret.  I’ll go first.

Choice or accomplishment I’m proudest of:  Having a hand in raising a step-daughter I love as much as if she were my own.  She’s beautiful, intelligent, and a fabulous mother in her own right now.

Deepest regret:  Not having gone to college.  I know I could still do something about that.  I would have gone into nursing.  Instead I’ve taken a completely different path.  I’m an office manager at a construction firm.  All in all I have a pretty sweet deal and I can’t complain about it.  But I still wish I’d gone to college for nursing.


Bathwater, Babies and Bundles


Chapter One, Article 3, Section II. Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”
106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”
107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”
108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”. Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living”. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures.”
134 “All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642).
135 “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God” (DV 24).
136 God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth (cf DV 11).
137 Interpretation of the inspired Scripture must be attentive above all to what God wants to reveal through the sacred authors for our salvation. What comes from the Spirit is not fully “understood except by the Spirit’s action’ (cf. Origen, Hom. in Ex. 4, 5: PG 12, 320).
138 The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.
139 The four Gospels occupy a central place because Christ Jesus is their centre.
140 The unity of the two Testaments proceeds from the unity of God’s plan and his Revelation. the Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfils the Old; the two shed light on each other; both are true Word of God.
141 “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord” (DV 21): both nourish and govern the whole Christian life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” ( Ps 119:105; cf. Is 50:4).

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Is that even a valid argument when speaking about Jesus the Christ and the Sacred Scriptures? I think not.  Here is why:  Scripture cannot be compared to bathwater.  You put the baby in, you take the baby out.  They are two completely separate entities.  Christ cannot be separated from the scriptures.  According to the Catholic Catechism All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book IS Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642).  [Emphasis mine]

What does the phrase “All Sacred Scripture” mean? Also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

 Chapter One, Article 3 – Sacred Scripture, Section I. Christ – The Unique Word of Sacred Scripture 

104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God”. [Emphasis mine]

Chapter One, Article 3 – Sacred Scripture, Section IV. The Canon of Scripture

121 The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked. [Emphasis mine]

123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as TRUE Word of God. the Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism). [Emphasis mine]

Am I tying the baby to the bathwater?  It is my experience that you can’t tie anything to water. It is fluid. Much how some describe the faith.  This is how I picture the analogy of a fluid faith.  Fill a bucket with gravel, that would be reason.  These are the concrete things we experience and know to be true because we’ve seen it with our own eyes or they are ways of making sense of our perception of reality.  Now fill that bucket with water.  That is God.  He only fills in the parts we don’t already have figured out.  He’s the God of the gaps.  When our perception of reality changes, our God changes with it.  But scripture says that God does not change.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

No, I am not tying the baby to the bathwater.  Scripture cannot be compared to bathwater.  It is fallacious to do so.  ALL of scripture is, according to church tradition, a solid foundation of the truth – the truth of Jesus Christ and of God himself.  Inseparable. Bundled tightly together.

I am questioning that solid foundation.  In fact, I doubt much of that foundation.  It is cracked.  In chipping away the loose pieces so that I could get a clean surface to repair, I’m beginning to wonder if the foundation is faulty.  I’m not sure it can be repaired.