To the Black Sheep

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” -Robert Frost

These immortal words written by one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, have been a source of strength and inspiration since the time I first read them. Time and time again, I have taken the road less traveled and it has made all the difference. The path has been vast, interesting, awe-inspiring, and I do not regret following a weeded path with an unclear destination. However, Robert Frost doesn’t warn us that this is the path of most resistance, or so it may seem.

The path of least resistance is comfortable. Easy. It is the path water chooses to flow if faced with any obstruction. Often I wish I was a person that could just go with the flow. Maybe it would be nice. Perhaps I could enjoy the confines of society where I just fit into a world already created for me. A world unchallenged. A world where I am not a square peg trying to jam my way into a round hole. I tried that world, and I found myself alone, and being someone I am not. It turned out, this path of least resistance wasn’t easy at all. I didn’t flow with it, it didn’t feel right.

The other path called to me and so I shook the dust off my feet and began an unknown walk. At first my steps were filled with overwhelming fear and trepidation. Each step into the fog was another cloud I had to confront, another doctrine, another belief, another societal construct, and another realness I was faking. As scary as it was, I didn’t find myself struggling to fit. I found myself struggling to not fit. Unlearning the ways of the path most traveled wasn’t difficult after the fog began lifting. I began to see sunlight poking through the trees, and I began to feel the warmth take over the chill in my soul. This path provided peace, freedom, and  ultimately, strength. The only resistance I feel here are from those unwilling to meet me or understand my travels.

But I belong here.

Throughout history, there have always been the wayward ones. The challengers. The fighters. The ones who go against the grain. Historically, they were threats to the tightly knit fabric of the society they were confronting. Jesus. John Lennon. Nelson Mandela. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcom X. Rosa Parks. Ghandi. Steve Jobs…all of them I have met on the path of the black sheep. All of them fought for ideals that were different from the status quo. Here, on this road less traveled, I have found those fighting for justice, equality, freedom for prisoners, liberation of the poor, and world unity. I have found unconditional love here, those that see a different way, one of grace, forgiveness, and humanity.

So often I have resented being a black sheep. It can be isolating. The daily battle just to simply be the most authentic version of ourselves is often fought with anger and lashing out. Also, we know that leaving behind the other path has hurt those that are still there. However, we must remember that above all else, above our individual emotional struggles, there is a grand plan that we are part of.

We must trust that our calling is correct. I cannot disregard the plight of the underdog. They call to me. I cannot ignore the cries of the sick. I cannot forget the racism I see. I cannot look the other way when I know that others are hurting because of elitist or xenophobic ideologies. I cannot walk away from the pain and struggle of my LGBTQ friends. I cannot walk this winding path under canopies of branches, watching the birds perched above, hear the trickle of a stream nearby, or smell the fragrance of the plumeria and not fight to ensure their survival.

I belong here.

On the road less traveled.

More will be called here, I’m certain. All things will be renewed. I believe the following scripture in Matthew 19:28-30, Jesus is speaking to the last, to the black sheep:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold,[a] and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

Both paths will become one. No longer will there be two roads diverged in a wood, but one path rather. One of unity, love, grace, and we will all see the lion laying down with the lamb.

Keep following the voice you know you are supposed to follow.

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Why My Children Will Not Be Attending Vacation Bible School at Your Trump/Liberty University Supporting Fundamental Church.

Dear Friend,

I know you think you’re doing the right thing. I know you’re guilt ridden if you don’t at least try and influence my children into attending your church’s vacation bible school. You may feel like it is your responsibility to ensure their salvation. I am sorry that your religion has placed that upon your shoulders. It isn’t fair to you. However, it isn’t fair to me to disregard the ways I am raising my children. 

One of the very first verses my three year old memorized at church was “Fear the Lord.” I shouldn’t have to explain why this is psychologically damaging to a little impressionable child, but it is. When I heard those words come from my child’s mouth, I immediately wanted to throw up, and my blood boiled. I spent the next hour deprogramming him from those words. How dare anyone, any institution instill existential fear into the psyche of my child. The same thing was done to you. The same thing was done to our ancestors, the same thing was done to me. 

Before I ever even had the choice I was taught there was a loving God that I should be afraid of. I was taught this loving God would send me to hell for eternity if I wasn’t saved. I learned I was broken, headed to hell because of original sin, and I needed saving. I cannot tell you how this led to addiction and co-dependency, although I will, in a future post. 

You were taught this too. So I understand your concern, because you still believe in this God that would do this. So I don’t begrudge you for trying. But understand this:

My children will not learn of such existential theological beliefs until they are old enough to critically think about such beliefs. It would break my heart if my children were infected with fear, guilt, shame, or this idea that they are broken and need fixing. It would break my heart if they learned of Hell, Satan, or the rapture. Those concepts are completely inappropriate for little children. They are scared enough of the dark and spiders.

Also, it appears that there is a disconnect of your church to humanity. It is your way or it’s the wrong way. I see absolutely no love or compassion for others that are different from you. LGBTQ, Muslims, feminists, atheists, agnostics…etc. I have heard the rhetoric, these people are your enemies. 

My children will not learn this type of division or elitism. 

It also concerns me that your religion is in alliance to Trump and Liberty University. My children will not grow up equating Jesus to the immorality displayed in Donald Trump and his policies. I am teaching them to love all people, to fight for the poor, to raise the oppressed, to demand justice where it isn’t found, and to protect this environment from destruction. I am raising them to approach conflict with non-violence. I am raising them to treat women equally and to build bridges not walls. I am raising them with the ideals that we should continue to fight to ensure health care for all Americans, and to live our lives working to reduce suffering for all of God’s children. 

I just don’t see any of those values present in Christianity anymore. I have watched the gradual decline of this religion my entire life morph into a version of Christ much different than my inherent compassion allows me to reconcile with. Recently, this different Jesus has been rising on your scene, and I cannot allow my children to be part of it. 

I will not apologize for raising my children away from this religion. They will learn about Jesus. They will learn what he stood for, with the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25 being our main tenet. You have nothing to worry about, friend. My children will be raised with values and roots that will someday flourish and bring forth fruit. 

I do not see the fruit right now in your church. I do not see the fruit in supporting Trump, GOP policies, or praising someone like Donald Trump speaking at Liberty University about God, nonetheless. I am struggling to understand which God this is. 

This isn’t my God. This isn’t my children’s God. So, thank you for the invitation, however, I respectfully but unapologetically decline.

Jerry Falwell Jr. says ‘evangelicals have found their dream president.’ It is Time for Evangelicals to Denounce these Pharisees and Speak Out for Jesus.

Saturday, April 29, 2017, Jerry Falwell Jr., an influential evangelical leader and president of Liberty University, spoke with Fox News celebrating Donald Trump’s first 100 days of being president of the United States of America. In the interview Falwell said:

“I think evangelicals have found their dream president.”

Watch the interview here.
This almost leaves me speechless. Who are these so-called evangelicals? Donald Trump is the embodiment of total immorality. His words, actions, policies, and lifestyle are completely unlike Jesus Christ, whom they adamantly claim to follow and worship. 

I’m tired. I am so exhausted from trying to make sense of this rabbit hole we have been in now for over a year watching the religious right continue day after day support and praise this president. I am tired of their silence. It is time they open their eyes and see how they are being manipulated. It is time they rise up and speak out. I have to believe that there are people all over this nation that are sitting in their churches afraid to stand up and say “enough is enough.” I have to believe that they aren’t all blindly drinking the Kool-aid of these so-called Christian leaders and so -called Christian politicians. I have to believe that they’re out there, but too scared to “come out of the Trump closet” in fear that they’ll be estranged from their church, family, and friends. 

I know that fear. I have lived it. Luckily, through life experience I lost all ability to care about what other people think. However, that religion can lock you in a cage of silence and throw away the key. They do it by manipulation. They do it by reinforcing week after week the rhetoric of guilt and shame. 

I have to believe that they are having a crisis with this election, even if they aren’t courageous enough to admit it. I have to believe that there are those in regret, and those in confusion, wondering what has become of their faith. Those of us on the outside are watching the church fall apart. We are watching the message of Jesus become so unrecognizable that I am struggling to understand why anyone in their right mind would ever be enticed to become a Christian. It is completely unfortunate because I know how badly Jesus’ message of unconditional love is needed. 

I would like to tell these scared evangelicals:

It is time for you to rise. Make a statement. Walk out if you have to. Your religion is falling away and the whole world is watching. Most importantly, you aren’t alone. There are so many of us out there who have been through this process. It is scary. It is lonely. But luckily, the numbers of people that aren’t standing for this are growing, and we will be there for you. Your friends, family, and congregation need you. They need to be pulled out of this fog and perhaps you are the one to lead them out.

Jesus tells us to love others. Does Donald Trump love others? Do his policies show love? Does his budget show love? Do his daily egotistical tweets show love? Do his daily lies show love? 

If you aren’t going to speak out and stand up for the things Jesus was about, then please I beg you stop equating Jesus to the GOP. Stop equating Jesus to Trump. There is a hurting, dying world out there that needs the message of unconditional love, grace, acceptance, forgiveness, and freedom to begin again at any time. 

Maybe even you need that message. 

Sympathy for the Devil

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” -Buddha

The U.S. presidential election of 2016 will be one that the world will never forget. It will forever live in our history as the moment we became aware of the human condition that either we pretended didn’t exist, or we truly didn’t realize the severity of the present darkness. For me, it was the latter of the two. I was unaware and naive that so many of my fellow humans lived out their days with such cold hearts. For a short season after the election I was spiritually broken in a way I’ve never experienced. I felt my core ache for the first time. This core of me was something I didn’t know existed, but it’s a place inside everyone. It is the source of all that is:

Energy. Connection. Humanity. Life. Existence.

And this place I had found,  the home of the collective spirit, was suffering and so was I.

I had to find a way to get through watching hope and progress slide through our hands. I realized I could not spend the next four years being so angry at the rabbit hole we have found ourselves in with every day being more bizarre and disheartening.

I had to let go.

I had to realize that some humans are awake and some are not. Everyone is on their own path to learning. Currently, we are watching one of the greatest catalysts for global awakening of all time. The world needed Donald Trump. He is removing the masks that everyone and every broken system was hiding behind. The truth is exposed. I am no longer angry. I am no longer letting my peace be disturbed by this nonsense because it must go on before the world gains the insight that we are all one. Love is the path and unity is our destination.

Perhaps in time we will see that the transparency given to us from this election was a gift. We cannot fix what we don’t know is broken. Restoration isn’t possible without first recognizing the extent of the damage. The age to come cannot come without this present time of exposure. We can still resist, but from a place of trust for the beautiful future to be.

Jesus and Buddha both teach the art of letting go. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, they were given many instructions, but specifically in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, He told them:

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one.”

It is a prayer of trust. It is a prayer of serenity knowing the Kingdom/Age to Come/Restoration will come by any means that the Spirit deems necessary. Perhaps the “Devil” or “Evil” is part of the plan and that is why it exists in the first place. Personally, sin in my life has been just as crucial to spiritual growth as bread and water. Sin serves the same purpose collectively, as darkness is a catalyst for light. Therefore, I can have sympathy for Donald Trump, because I believe in restoration of all people. Maybe not in this lifetime he will be restored. However, the Spirit will go after every lost sheep until all of creation bows to love.

Even the lost sheep serve their purpose.

Even the devil serves its’ purpose…

so have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste,

but still resist.

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Winter is Over. Now We Must Inspire New Life With Our Light.

This has been a rough winter for those of us in the resistance. A lot of us have had no choice but to remove barriers of self preservation and become who we really are at any cost. We have risked professional, familial, church and other relationships by speaking out, for standing up for what is right. The anger that has swelled in the last year has not let up, nor should it. We are facing serious consequences for every action right now, nationally and globally. 

Today, let us celebrate the first day of spring with renewed hope as life begins to bud around us. May we feel a rebirth in our spirits, letting go of fear, anger, temptation, and despair. It is so easy to fall into judgement and finger pointing guilt. Why does the other side not see what is going on? This entire year has been a daily trip through the twilight zone watching this disgusting display of the human condition rise. However, I am also watching love, hope, and truth arise as well. Will we gain more to come? Will the light grow brighter and attract others to it? 

I believe the answer is yes.

With the proposed budget cuts it is clear that this administration and the majority of the GOP is completely unconcerned with their fellow struggling Americans. It is clear that they want to keep the poor down. It is clear that the hunger of others doesn’t overshadow their greed. It is clear that the destruction of nature doesn’t matter as long as they profit. It is clear that giving sick people the health care they need is of no concern. It is clear that education is not valued, why would it be? Education is the only way out of poverty. It is clear that women are of no concern or the LGBTQ community. Veterans. Elderly. Sick. Disabled. Children. Artists. 

The list goes on and on at the lack of care for others in this country, other than rich, white nationalists. While it may seem like a lost cause to keep fighting the obvious move toward a fascist takeover, do not allow yourself to be deceived.

LOVE WILL WIN.

We are experiencing a legendary, historic call to act. We can give back to the programs that have been slashed. Use every monetary resource available to you as intelligently as possible. Do I need this bottle of wine? Or shall I send this $12.00 to PBS? We must change our thinking with every dollar spent, at least for a little while. Every small sacrificial act adds up. Develop fundraisers. Volunteer. Let them see that we refuse to be taken down and/or let this greed and suffering arise. 

Maybe if the blind sees what love looks like they will shed away their sin of self importance and resurrect to new creatures. Symbolically, as nature begins to thrive around us with the gift of the sunlight, may we be a gift of light to death as well. 

Just like Jesus calls us to be. The light. 

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I Asked God to Break My Heart For What Breaks His…

Ten years ago, when I was at the height of my Christianity, I prayed a very earnest and sincere prayer to the Lord. I prayed that I would be used and I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His. 

God listened and willingly I followed a path paved for me. A winding road full of interesting people, eye-opening books, and personal situations of crisis that cracked my heart wide open. I surrendered everything, even my religion. As my beliefs unraveled, I saw a new perspective. One of love for humanity.

Breaking my heart for what breaks His turned me into an advocate for others. And now I have so many causes to advocate for, I don’t know what to choose to focus on, however, all of them light me on fire. 

I am an advocate for health care. It breaks my heart that others are sick and can’t afford to get the care they need.

I am an advocate for the LGBTQ community. It breaks my heart that this community has faced such persecution. Their fight for equality, their exorbitant suicide and attempted suicide rates, addiction rates, depression rates, and the hate crimes against this group all break my heart. 

I am an advocate for the environment. It breaks my heart that we are not taking care of this beautiful earth. The destruction of nature at the hands of greed absolutely sickens me.

I am an advocate for women. It breaks my heart how women have been kept down beneath men for centuries. Domestic violence, rape, incest, sex-trafficking, and objectification of women all have roots in this patriarchal society we live in. 

I am an advocate for women who have had abortions or women who are choosing. It breaks my heart that women at the lowest point of their life are greeted with horrific judgements instead of open arms of acceptance, forgiveness, and grace. It breaks my heart that some women are forced to choose coat hanger abortions, putting them at risk for death or severe infection. It sickens me to the core that women are manipulated into having sex and then left to their own resources time and time again after pregnancy occurs. 

I am an advocate for refugees. Turning a blind eye to the suffering of refugees is showing the worst of the human condition. Looking at the photos of little kids living in daily fear, hunger, and violence splits my soul into a million little pieces.

I am an advocate for gun reform. The worshipping of guns in America breaks my heart. The shooting of kindergarteners at Sandy Hook was and is an incident that doesn’t let me sleep. How can we not work tirelessly to reduce gun violence? 

I am an advocate for cannabis. Meeting sick people and hearing their stories about how marijuana has alleviated their suffering has enlightened me to the healing benefits of this plant. It is heartbreaking that sick people live in fear of being arrested for using an herb that helps them.

I am an advocate for addicts and alcoholics. It breaks my heart that they are treated as criminals instead of patients.

I am an advocate for the poor. No matter what country they were born in, no matter how they fell into poverty, I hear their struggles, see their hunger, and recognize that they have taught me gratitude for what I have. Now it is my turn to teach them the grace of God through showing compassion and charity.

I am an advocate for human beings. No matter your religion, or lack of religion, race, gender, creed, economic status, political affiliation, or geographic location, you are my brothers and sisters. You are children of this creation. We are one. 

This is what I truly believe breaks God’s heart. It took a decade for me to be shown all of this. I had to be open, and ready to see. I had to be willing to feel. There is so much more in my journey to continue to work for all the things that break my heart and I am far from doing everything I can do. 

But I am on the path. Join me. Let’s change the world a little.

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Are We Guilty of Political Elitism?

Are We Guilty of Political Elitism?

Growing up in Fundamental Christianity gave me many beautiful roots to grow from. Seeds were planted within my heart and while some withered away, others flourished with new space to bloom. The web of sprouts that died that has been most significant to me is religious elitism, or the “us vs. them” mentality.

I used to view people as conversion projects. I can remember giving my friend a hard time on the bus in the fourth grade for doing her catechism homework, insisting that she was doing something wrong. I learned that my way, my church’s way, was the right way, and all others lacked in “following The Word.” I was raised with “Onward Christian Soldiers” as my anthem, and my job and duty to Christ was to witness to others not in my sect of Christianity.

I fought it. I didn’t want to do it. I felt overwhelming guilt if I had friends that weren’t saved and I didn’t try and convert them or invite them to church. However, even though I was taught to recruit for Christ, I didn’t understand it. I used to fight with my mother constantly, asking sincere questions about other churches. I always thought it was silly that there are so many different types of churches in my town, the world, that seemed to be enemies. I never understood why they didn’t join forces and make a real difference in the community and the world. Their differences were minor to me and that type of thinking never went away and eventually broadened to include all religions and non-religious persons.

When I realized I didn’t have all the answers and when I began to see flaws inside of my own religion was when I stopped viewing others as conversion projects. Instead,  I just saw people. The fog was slow to lift – it took decades, but through constant engagement with others unlike me, the world eventually opened up and I opened up to it.

Religion teaches us to cut ourselves off from the world. It teaches us that our church community is our body, Christ the head, and everyone else is wrong.

Jesus tells me to embrace the outsider. Love tells me to not insist on my own way. All of these theological differences just get in the way of being the family that we are and caring for one another. Religion divides us. Jesus unites us. Love unites us. I have loved a very diverse group of people in my life…a drag queen, a pagan, a minister, an atheist, lots of alcoholics, drug addicts, rich people, poor people, a Freemason, a Buddhist, a Wiccan, and yes, even

Trump-supporting republicans.

All of which have caused massive introspection and taught me valuable lessons. We are all teachers to each other.

In fundamental Christianity,  we are taught that there is one sin that is unforgivable. It is an eternal sin and is summed up with these two verses:

Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28-29

Earlier in the passage,  Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath (which was a sin). The Pharisees and scribes now had something to charge him with, and were conspiring on how to destroy Jesus. Later they found him and accused him of being out of his mind, possessed by demons while casting out demons. Jesus responded:

How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” Mark 3:23-25

I believe the Holy Spirit is present in all of life. The Holy Spirit teaches us through all things, and all people.  If we cut ourselves off from the world, life, we are essentially blaspheming the one who is in all things. If we allow ourselves to be divided against ourselves, we cannot thrive or learn. We cannot allow elitism to quench the spirit from growing in grace and forgiveness.

We have to find a way to connect with others unlike us and not let our politics become the new religion of us vs. them. A lot of us have been on the defense for so long now, we feel we must attack or be attacked. We have felt like victims, and rightfully so. When you find yourself in the “them” category, you become so much more aware of the elitism present in fundamental Christianity. Suddenly, you find yourself on the outs. You don’t fit in. They may say you’re  backslidden, or that you have fallen away. All of these judgements hurt so badly that the only way to persevere is to speak louder in an effort to be understood.

The thing is, they may never understand. However, we can break the habit of being us. We don’t have to defend any longer. I refuse to be victimized by a religion that has proven to be unconcerned with anyone other than those in their “us” category. Everyone is in my category, and I haven’t been behaving that way.

With authority, we can fight for the least of these without attacking. We can educate instead of insult. We can expose hypocrisy without sounding like snarky intellectuals. I am not sure how exactly to walk this path, but the seed of humility was planted within me long ago, by the very religion I am attacking now. Religious elitism transformed into political elitism, neither of which I want taking space in my heart.

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