Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Walking the Tightrope

It’s a long way down…

Decisions are a part of life.  We make them everyday.  Mostly little decisions, like what to have for breakfast or what we’ll wear to work.  Lately I’ve been facing some pretty big decisions.

This is where I’d pray before,  where I’d search for God’s hand in every little detail.  I’d take this thing to be a sign I should do that.  I’d take that thing as a sign I should do this.  I’d beg for Him to show me what He wanted me to do.  I’d deliberate over scriptures and circumstances to draw a conclusion I thought best matched a Godly decision.

As confusing as all that was I found comfort in it.  I’m not sure how I ever thought I knew what God wanted me to do, but somehow I was certain I did.  Feeling like I was doing God’s will gave me safety.  Even if things didn’t work out, even if they turned out to be a total mess, I could always say I thought I was doing what I felt led to do.  If it was God’s will then whatever the outcome was what was supposed to be.  Not only that, but God would turn it all for good because I loved Him. For God works all things together for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve been a little tempted to pray.  Only a little.  I don’t really think there’s a personal God up there pulling the strings of my life, orchestrating it’s minutest details.  My friend keeps saying things like, “God loves you and He knows what the outcomes will be even before you do. He knows what you need.”  I don’t even have the heart to tell her I don’t believe that.  Even if there is a God I don’t believe He operates that way.  If there is a God, which I have doubts about, He just spun this whole thing in motion and walked away.

I have a loving support system around me but still sometimes without a personal God who’s working it all together for my good it feels like I’m out here on my own, walking the tightrope without a net.  And it’s a long way down.  They can give me advice and opinions, but they can’t make decisions for me.  Not the way I used to think God did.  In a lot of ways it’s better this way, even if it is scary.

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Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

The last post spawned several comments and most likelysome deep emotional reactions.  As wewere going through these events as a church we went into human mode.  Pastor’s continued dishonesty and power playscaused many in the church to behave in ways that were inconsistent with howChristians ought to behave. As a result there were back hallway whispers,clandestine meetings over how to relieve the church of his services, andorchestrating committees and appointing particular people to carry that out. 

Others dug their heals in and backed up Pastor simplybecause he was Pastor.  They believedthat his position required respect and loyalty regardless of his actions.  No mere lay person should disagree withPastor.  He is the shepherd and the sheepshould just follow.  Pastor is entitledto lead the church as he sees fit and control the finances and direction of thechurch with no questions asked.

Now there were those who behaved in very prayerful,thoughtful ways.  They confronted thoseon both sides about their behavior and confronted Pastor about his bad behavior.  They participated neither in the gossip, northe backbiting and battling that had been raging.  These people still have my utmost respect.   

It may seem from my previous post that, as Exrelaymansaid(I believe tongue-in-cheek) :

“Well, there ya go D’Ma. Pastor’sfault. If you had been pastored by a True Pastor, you would not now be such avile apostate 🙂 “

What I am recording here aremy observations in looking at things from the lens of objectivity, I hope.  While we were in the midst of this that wasnearly impossible.  You see, these eventshad no impact whatsoever on my faith.  I,along with others, truly believed that God was speaking to us.  We prayed, we read our Bibles, we feltimpressed upon by the Holy Spirit.  Nomatter whom you spoke to, whether it was those against the Pastor, for thePastor, or somewhere in between, they all believed they were doing what God wastelling them to. The fact of the matter is we believed, at least some of us,that this brought us closer to God because we had to rely on him.


I have long since given upthe notion that other people’s behavior or attitude should have any bearing onmy Christianity or lack thereof.  I was aTrueBeliever.  As such I knew that allpeople, including myself, were fallen, that we all had a sin nature, and thatpeople would disappoint.  I’ve recantedthat to myself more times than I care to count. God is the only perfect being. Christians behaving badly was just a result of their sin nature.   Icould preach that sermon.


No, it isn’t Pastor’s fault I’msuch a vile apostate now.  Is there afault to be had?  I say I’ve just wokenup to reality, to the fact that things in Christianity don’t add up. I’m notturning my back on faith because someone else didn’t live up to it.  That’s a ridiculous notion.  I’m not saying that there are those who don’tfeel that way, but by and large the people who come here to this blog aren’tthem.  Sure, they have feelings aboutwhat happened when they were Christians, if they ever were.  They have feelings about the way Christianscarry on about their certainty of God even if they were never Christiansthemselves.


What I’m saying is, that inthe cold light of day, when you wake up to reality and figure out that the HolySpirit isn’t acting in the world nobody, really at the heart of it, can be aChristian.  If the true definition isChrist, the God-man, living in you it doesn’t exist. For the most part liarsare still liars, cheaters are still cheaters, and sinners, well…they still sin.Except when you leave religion out of it there’s no such thing as sin.  There’s right and there’s wrong and what’sright and what’s wrong largely gets determined by who it hurts.   Is that depressing?  It can be. Being perfectly honest it was more depressing to me when I thought thatthere was supposed to be someone guiding us all not to do those things and yetwe did them anyway.


I find it easier to swallow whenI see folks the way they really are..  Justpeople.  People making decisions andtaking actions and calling it religion.    


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Leading in Worship

Leading in worship was what we were told we were doing.  When I joined the choir at church it was because I love to sing.  I don’t do it all that well but I make a joyful noise.  Anyway being part of the choir I got to see things.  Things I wish I hadn’t seen, but am ultimately glad I did see.

Music has always moved me deeply.  I think it’s like that for a lot of people.  I considered a privilege to be a part of others’ worship experience.  I thought I was helping people, including myself, go to a deeper place of spirituality, where they met with their Master and were communing with Him in some meaningful way.  I knew that it affected me and others emotionally, I just never considered that it was manipulation, at least not until I was in choir practice when the Minister of Music announced that Pastor had asked for a particular song as the choir special this coming Sunday.

Oh, it was a beautiful song.  One I’ve always loved,  The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.  In and of itself the Pastor asking for a particular song wasn’t a bad thing. It was a simple request, not out of line. Not until Sunday.  The choir sang the song and had the congregation in a worshipful frame of mind for the Pastor to preach his sermon and for us to be moved by it.  He took the pulpit and began his sermon with, “It is amazing how God orchestrates things.  I am almost speechless. The Minister of Music had no idea what I’d be preaching, and I had no idea what music he had prepared for today and this song just goes perfectly along with the sermon that God has prepared for me to preach today.”

Huh?  To be honest I can’t even remember what he preached except that it was from Psalm 8.  I was so flabbergasted and distracted I spent the rest of the service wondering what in the world this man was doing.  Why did he even need to say that?  Why lie?  Not just embellish, not just exaggerate, but bold face lie from the pulpit.  That wasn’t the last time I witnessed such a thing.  It led to my leaving the choir because I felt like a fraud.  We weren’t leading anyone into a deeper relationship with God, we were manipulating their emotions, softening them up for Pastor’s hammer.

At the time I thought this Pastor was just a poor one.  I still think that to a large degree.  Later it was discovered that he ripped his sermons off of the internet. I’d like to think when a man stands in the pulpit and says he’s preaching what he felt impressed upon by the Holy Spirit to preach that at least he believes that to be true. 

How many times had I heard a Pastor, any Pastor, say these kinds of things?  I wonder now how often it was a coincidence that the music matched the sermon and how many times the Pastor orchestrated it and called it an act of God?  One thing became very clear.  Pastors know that music is emotive and they use it to manipulate the sheep.


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Nostalgia

This used to be my favorite Christmas song.  I would get goosebumps and my eyes would well up with tears at the very thought of this line: “Mary did you know, when you kissed your tiny baby, you kissed the face of God?”.  I had a very emotional response to it.

I still like the song and honestly still have an emotional response to it.  Sometimes it frightens me when I think to myself, “What if I’m wrong? What if the Fundies have it right?  Where did my faith go?  You could choose to believe just like you’ve always believed.”  But when I believed I didn’t know a lot of the things I now know.  I sheltered myself from the knowledge of exactly how the Bible came to be.  I bought into it’s inerrancy and the preservation of God’s Holy Word by the Holy Spirit.

I cannot now un-know.  How do I go back?  I can’t.  I could not un-see my parents putting those gifts under the Christmas tree and I cannot un-see what is clearly there with regards to scripture.  Like the six-year old who had seen the curtain pulled back and the Wizard exposed for what it really was, I can never view God again in the same way.  Maybe there is a God, but I cannot fathom that He is the God of the Bible.

The awe, the wonder, the magic of Mary kissing the very face of God in her tiny baby has been relegated to nostalgia much like Santa and the Easter Bunny.  I can no longer believe in the magic, but I can still appreciate the fairy tale.

Do/did you have a favorite Christmas song?  Share it in the comments if you like!