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Five Hot Tips on Reading the Bible (and Other Bad Blog Post Titles)

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This post goes out to all of you who live with someone who rambles on about their work day each night. Perhaps it’s your spouse chatting about the office, or a roommate complaining about a co-worker. My kitchen rambler is my husband Dane and his topic of choice: teaching teenagers how to read the Bible well. He is a not a teacher of Bible stories, or morals, but one who equips kids to fully engage with the Bible in ways that have probably never learned before. He encourages them to ask question and to seek answers from within the wider Christian community. Over the years I’ve learned how easily what he teaches teenagers applies to adults as well. Therefore, I compiled a few key points I have heard on repeat over the years and asked my husband, Dane Splinter, to elaborate while I madly typed.

The Bible is a Library
The Bible is not a single book; it is a collection of books or a library.  In it we find a wide variety of literature written by different people living in different places over a long period of time. Learning to read the Bible well involves an awareness of this diversity, as well as an appreciation of how it all fits together.  We don’t read the newspaper like we read our email, and we don’t read novels like we read a baseball box score.  Thus we should not read the Bible the way we read a regular book.

Teenagers are a lot like the rest of us.  They avoid what they do not like, and do not like what they do not understand.  Equipping students to read the Bible as a library of different books helps them understand and thus appreciate the text more.

Context Matters  
When we are reading the Bible as a library, we must learn the context for each of the genres. The Bible was written by real people in real places in real time. Exploring the context of a given book of the Bible is essential.  The words recorded in Scripture are time-sensitive.  The whole point of God revealing himself in history (as recorded in the Bible) is that God was disclosing himself in real time. Too often, we treat Scripture as if it fell off God’s desk in heaven, floating down to us from above.  When we speak of the entire Bible as “eternal truth” we devalue the world that God created and the word that he is revealing to us even now.

To read the rest come on over to Momentum

 

Feminism: Should the Church Take it or Leave it?

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Today I’m over at YALT’s Momentum writing about feminism and the church (ouch!)…

You would be hard pressed to miss the growing trend of celebrities using their platforms to share their support of feminism or show they are a feminist.  Beyonce had feminist in floor to ceiling lights at the Video Music Awards, Emma Watson recently addressed the United Nations and launched the HeforShe campaign.  And one of my personal favorites, Parks and Recreation’s, Aziz Ansari talked to David Letterman about why he is a feminist. I could go on with more examples but you should definitely click on that last link.

As easy as it is to find the word feminism in the media, it’s equally as difficult to find it within the church.

Should Christians avoid or embrace the word feminism?

I hope most Christians would agree on the basic tenet of feminism – that men and women are created equal.  Wait, did you know that is the definition of feminism?  Let me quote the dictionary, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

Yes, women and men are equal. I could flesh out this idea with all sort of scripture but I’ll just go with Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So why the tension? Why the debate? Why does the church avoid using the term feminism?

You can read the rest here

Advent: Mary Liturgy

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I’m so excited to present this gift to you today from my dear friend Beth Malena.  Some of you know Beth and others may have read about her wedding on my blog.

When Beth and I worked together at Jacob’s Well she would often write liturgies for us and I’m so thankful that I can share her latest one with all of you.

Mary Liturgy – Advent 2014

She said yes

having done nothing to earn His favour

having nothing to offer

except a willing spirit, an open womb

barely a teenager

barely holding back fear

brimming with unasked questions

before this humble God

who needed her collaboration…

We, too, have found some of your good gifts

so weighty and awkward to accept.

Emmanuel, God-with-us,

   come dwell in us.

     Form us into people

         who know how to receive you in freedom.

 

She was condemned

having done nothing to deserve this shame

the disgrace, the scandal of the day

the whispers, the glances, the sly half-smiles

sexual outcast

loose and dangerous girl

powerless to defend herself

much less defend this mischievous God

who broke all his own rules…

We, too, have been the topic of gossip,

misrepresented, rejected, accused.

Emmanuel, God-with-us,

   come dwell in us.

     Form us into people

            who know how to endure with courage.

 

She had no proof

no witnesses, no chapter and verse

to validate the strange divine encounter

that left her pregnant with hope and fear

waiting in darkness nine lonely months

grateful for one friend

who believed and called her blessed

frustrated at this quiet God

who doesn’t always reassure us we’re right…

We, too, have craved certainty,

but faced lingering doubts.

Emmanuel, God-with-us,

   come dwell in us,

     Form us into people

         who know how to wait with faith.

 

We pray as Mary prayed:

Turn our world upside-down.

Lift up the humble, extend your mercy.

   Emmanuel, God-with-us,

                   Be formed in us.

                          Be born in us.

What are your favourite readings at Advent?

 

 

JW-6-270x270A Note from Jane:

Beth has recently joined the amazing team at New Direction and if you are looking for a place to give this holiday season, I would highly recommend them.

Living With Someone Else’s Mental Illness – GUEST BLOG SERIES

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A few months ago, just after the death of Robin Williams, I read this intriguing tweet by Luke Harms:

Hey friends. Let’s start a conversation about the intersection of faith and mental illness. It’s obviously needed. How about ?

I then read the hundreds of follow up here is one of my favourites) of people sharing their experiences of mental health and faith. Some people were incredibly hurt by the church and many felt silenced by the stigma of mental illness.  A few offered hope in the help and love they received. As I continued to read I did what I often do, I thought about my own story.

My story is that I live with someone else’s mental illness.

It’s mainly an untold story because it feels like it’s not mine to tell. But those of us who live with someone else’s mental illness have our own stories of the experience that need to be told.

It’s easy to minimize our experience  because, after all, we’re not the one with the diagnosis! We’re not the one on medication! We’re not the one who regularly battles getting out of bed etc.  And for these things we’re grateful.

However, without minimizing the others’ struggles, we still live with our own story of how the mental illness affects us.  We’ve been affected by it, we’ve struggled in our own way and we often keep it to ourselves. As hard as it is, I think it’s time we share some of our own stories.

By sharing our stories we offer support and hope for those who finds themselves in a similar way. We also help to de-stigmatize mental health by courageously sharing our experience of living with, loving and supporting those who are struggling.

After stewing over my own story and avoiding the deep down nudging to write about it,  I took a deep breath, asked my husband if it was ok with him for me to share my experience of his mental illness. Even though it’s my experience, I knew I needed to ask him. He agreed and I began to find other people who have journeyed down a similar road.

Thus this series was born: Living with Someone Else’s Mental Illness.

For the next several Mondays, my blog will be a place for people living with someone else’s mental illness to share their stories. Some posts will be anonymous, others will share current or past realities. We won’t be speaking for those with whom we live (or lived) but we will be sharing our own experiences.

I hope you will join us here each week and support the writers who are bravely telling this part of their life. Trust me, we need it.

Don’t miss a post by adding your email below.


What I’m into October 2014 – The “Halloweenia” Edition

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Well clearly blogging is not something I’ve been into in October! I can’t believe it is the end of month. I’m feeling a bit embarrassed that my last blog post was “What I’m into Sept 2014“! Here I am linking up with Leigh Kramer again (white-sox pumpkin, just for you…and all my die hard sox fan in-laws)

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Photo credit (probably) goes to Andrew Stock.

Big News: I’m a wedding officiant again! For those who don’t know, being able to officiate weddings in Canada is tricky. There are no “online” certificates like there are in the US.  But I found a group that serves as an umbrella for people in ministry, non-denominational pastors etc. It is a bit of a stretch theologically but they were lovely, accepting and I’m glad to be part of them. In this regard, I’m back as an officiant and a relationship coach for Young Hip & Married.

I’m thrilled to be doing weddings again because it’s something I absolutely love.

Work News: My lovely Springboard Workshop partner Amy had a big baby boy last week!  Therefore we will be not doing any more workshops until the new year.  I’m also working on a promotion to connect my blogging/twitter community with my coaching practice. This will all be revealed very soon! Stay tuned.

 More Big News: We also traveled to Victoria for Thanksgiving and Dane and I ran an 8k race.  It was quite a milestone for us considering I hadn’t run a race since I was pregnant with Ben (and got a blood clot that prevented me from running) and Dane fractured his back about 18 months ago.  I was struck by the miracle of it all when I passed the halfway point. It was about ten years ago that I ran my first marathon at that same race. And let me tell you, the 8K felt as equal of an accomplishment, all things considered. To top it off, we both ran faster than expected and enjoyed donuts at the end. Does a donut ever taste as good as at the end of a running race?

Post race glow

Post race (and donuts) glow

Family News: There has been much anticipation about Halloween or as Sam (who is 3/12) relentlessly calls it, “Halloweenia.”  Much to my amazement my kids chose their costumes weeks ago and have not changed their minds!

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Fiercest zebra & ninja on the block! (Don’t worry they will probably be in bed by 8)

Reading News:  We joined a small group through our church and they have agreed to read Slow Church after my recommendation.  I was roomates with one of the author’s wives years ago and I anticipated the release of te book. It received excellent reviews/endorsements from all sort of crazy famous people like Walter Brueggemann. So far, so great!  Speaking of church…

Church News: One of my favorite events of the year just happened: the Harvest feast. We harvest produce from the church/community garden and cook up a bunch of delicious soups for dinner. Home made bread, salad and fruit crisps are brought in and we all dine together in celebration of God’s abundance and our love of food. I’ve been a soup chef for this occasion foryears and I continue to enjoy cooking with friends and feasting with the whole church and neighbourhood friends.

Art work by Fiona Moes-Pel

Art work by Fiona Moes-Pel

 

Listening News: As you may recall I’m a big radio nerd and thus am obsessed with the new This American Life Spin off podcast called Serial.  Serial follows true life crime story with a new episode each week.  I can’t recommend it enough. I may have listened to the first four episodes twice because I didn’t want to miss anything.

Boring (yet enjoyable) News: I continue my obsession with the Good Wife. That is all.

Shopping News: I rarely have shopping news. I am a horrible shopper. However, I live in a rain forest and was thrilled to find these beauties. Little rain boots. I have worn them everyday.IMG_2314

Lastly, I want to remind you that Listening to the Marginalized Challenge is starting Nov 1. It’s an opportunity to hear voices of marginalized people that you may not have heard before. It is an effort to help us take the posture of listening in order to learn an grow.  You can read my intro post about it and/or sign up here.

 

What were you into this month? Any other serial fans? 

When I Can’t Get Anything Done

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I’m suppose to be writing a post for a friend’s blog about my experience with patriarchy and the church.  Yes, I’ve experienced it. Yes, I have things to say. But I have to confess, it is not at the forefront of my mind lately.

My mind and heart are weighed down by news around the world. I find myself avoiding the internet, yet simultaneously being compelled to constantly scroll through.  I’m grasping for order in my home because the world feels so chaotic. Now that my kids’ dresser drawers are sorted and all the lego in put away I sit down to write but still feel overwhelmed.

The words and phrases flash through my twitter feed, blare through kitchen radio, pop up in prayer requests at church.  Syrian refugees…ISIS…Mike Brown… Sudan… Ebola… Gaza…. hostages…suicide…a missing plane…a shot down plane  It is not letting up, like rain in February – constant flooding – overwhelming waters.

I know the world is never completely at peace but some weeks feel heavier than others. I seem to have cracked with the story of a stranger.  The news of Mike Brown’s death sounded like a horrible story from 1961.  But no. Unarmed, young African-American men are being gunned down by police in 2014.   I could not feel more helpless. It is one thing to feel helpless about something like a missing plane but it is another to see events unfold like those in Ferguson, Missouri.  I’m speechless.

I’m usually someone who tackles things head on but this makes me want to hide.  I’m known for being a direct communicator and as someone who deals with things right away. But last night after a quick read through my twitter feed, I found myself wanting to hide.  

I didn’t want to “feel” and I definitely didn’t want talk about anything. My husband was awake and at home but I couldn’t even bring myself to find him. I just wanted to hide from all that was going on in the world. I wanted to curl up on the couch and watch countless episodes of my new netflix discovery, The Good Wife and eat bowls full of honey-nut cheerios.

This all happened in the wake of Robin William’s suicide and the outpouring of writing/tweets on mental health. I am feeling overwhelmed this week but many people live like this everyday. Lord have mercy.

For brief moments, seconds really, throughout the day, I would go back to the communion table.  This week, our pastor used a liturgy for communion – joining with people around the world who eat and drink together. He prefaced our liturgy with something like, “You of great faith or you of little faith are welcome to the table. For it is not me who invites you, but Christ himself.”  The liturgy, read in unison, reminded me of the global Church. I thought about my brothers and sisters around the world, many suffering greatly, but all of us trying to hold on to the hope at the table.

Slowly I began to eat, drink, remember and believe.  

Although hiding with Julianna Margulies and cereal has been helpful, one day soon I hope to come to the surface of this flood. I want to stay a little longer at table and face the overwhelming waters from there.

 

 

5 Ways to Empower People Under 40 in Your Church

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Today I’m over at Momentum. Here’s a preview of what I wrote!

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Here at YALT we know that people often read our blog because they’re looking for ways to better engage young people in their church. And now that you’ve ALL read about the 40 Under 40 in the CRC and RCA, you may be thinking, “How can my church empower young leaders?”  Here are five quick and helpful tips. But wait! Are you one of those young people? Keep reading to find out how you can help implement some of these ideas yourself, and add your thoughts (or more ideas) in the comments.

1. Make sure you actually have a variety of people under 40 in your congregation. Your church needs the voices of the next generation because, not only are they the future of the church, their voices are unlike any other generation.  No other people group has grown up in the church at the same time as these folks. No one else comes to the table with the same experience. It is a unique perspective you must harvest! Singles, marrieds, young parents etc. you need them all! If you don’t have the future of the church in your church, you might want to check with YALT’s great resources here.

2. Be mindful and considerate of single people without kids. Just because someone doesn’t have typical family responsibilities, doesn’t mean they have all the time in the world. This group of young adults should not automatically ‘do’ everything.  This demographic might have different availability options than parents but they shouldn’t be relied on solely because they ‘appear’ to have more time.

Likewise, remember that being single doesn’t make someone unqualified for ministry. The church has an unfortunate history of elevating marriage and married people beyond reason in the church. Those without a partner also bring their own perspective and are equal to serve the church as married people.

To read the rest of the article click here!

Officiating My First Same-Sex Wedding: What I Said and Didn’t Say

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A few weeks ago I had the privilege of presiding over a wedding of two good friends. It was a night I will never forget, and I just have to share some of it with you.

What I said (in part):

As you are well aware, I’m not your pastor. In fact, I’m not even ‘a’ pastor, and yet, I keep finding myself standing in front of two soon-to-be married people.  And yet, I have never stood here between two Christians.  I have never had the privilege of leading two Jesus-loving people through this sacred ceremony, where they commit themselves to each other in a lifelong covenant.  I’ve also never officiated a same-sex wedding before.  The irony is palpable – my first Christian wedding is also my first same-sex wedding.

And I’m sure there are a lot of people here that are also witnessing their first same-sex wedding or maybe even their first Christian wedding.

And I can almost guarantee there is no one that has ever been to a same-sex, Christian wedding of two Baptist pastors!  But God is good – isn’t he? There is no place we would rather be.

This got me thinking, this whole Christian wedding thing. What makes it different?  Lots of things make this wedding unique (and awesome!) but what makes it Christian?

The same thing that makes everything Christian: Jesus.

We are here because of you two and we are here because of Jesus. He called you both to Himself in your youth, to seminary in Vancouver; He called you into ministry, and now he is calling you into the sacred covenant of marriage.

You will now be walking together, as a married couple, with Jesus.

One thing I was really looking forward to about a wedding with two people who love Jesus is that the main reading would not be a cheesy, anonymous poem  — but something from scripture, and when you told me your wedding text, I jotted it down and thought, “Hmm, Romans 12:9-21…Paul…interesting choice.” But as soon as I read it, I could not help but weep.  I did, however, promise you I wouldn’t cry through your wedding. So on with it!

As I read that passage and the words began to pop out at me:

Love — honor — joy — patience in affliction — faithful in prayer — practice hospitality — bless those who persecute you, I wanted to just turn you both around (again) and read the passage (again) and let everyone out there look at you, because you both exemplify this passage more than any other couple I know.

But I figured Danice would probably kill me if I made her be even more of the center of attention than she already is…

Danice, Beth has discovered a real freedom to be who she is because of how well you love her. You light her up AND lighten her up. You’ve freed her up to dance (once she makes sure everyone is feeling welcome)! Beth can now be herself without having to worrying about what others think. Although you are also passionate about your work, you have good boundaries and have helped Beth say “no” to things. You have helped her remember who God has created her to be. There is a quiet strength that is very tangible. I think Beth’s sister Rachel summed it up pretty well:  “Danice is just the coolest person you could ever hope to fall in love with your sister. She’s whip-smart, passionate, and she knows how to party.”

Beth, I have truly admired watching you love Danice over the years. Even though I have spent so much more time with you without Danice around, I am still very aware of how you love and care for her.  Beth, you draw Danice out. Your empathy and compassion helps Danice stay hopeful amidst some trying times. Beth, you bring joy to Danice like no one else. Someone even mentioned you can make her laugh BEFORE she’s had her coffee. You have a gentleness and wisdom that will be an amazing contribution to your marriage.

I want you to out-love one another.

And as another one of your siblings said, “They’ve been so strong and steadfast in their love for each other and their love of God, it seems that nothing can shake them.”

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I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this wedding, mainly because it was so memorable for me – my first Christian wedding, my first same-sex wedding, a wedding of two good friends, etc.  Yet, as I think about it, my emotions are all over the place. There was such a deep paradox in the whole event — how and where it happened, who was and wasn’t there, who did and didn’t do the officiating, what I focused on and avoided in the ceremony. I felt the tug-of-war – it was so amazing, and yet, there were so many things that bothered me.

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Here is what I didn’t say:

The fact that I am marrying you is, in one sense, wonderful and a true sense of movement within culture and within the church. Same-sex weddings are legal in Canada and becoming legal in more and more states in the US! You both felt enough love from your friends and family to come out. You have a room full of mainly evangelical Christians here to witness your marriage. Some of them fully support your decision and others are trying to love you within their own conscience. Showing up to this wedding was a big step for some people, and it shows that we are moving in the right direction.

Yet in other ways, the movement feels painfully slow.  I wasn’t your first choice to officiate; in fact, I probably wasn’t your first, second or third choice. I understand that. I’m not offended by it because none of your first choices are allowed to officiate same-sex weddings. Those people are here cheering for you, loving you, agreeing with you, but they would be risking their jobs, their pensions as pastors, etc., if they helped you make a lifelong commitment. If they helped two Jesus-loving people commit to lifelong monogamy within the sacred bounds of marriage, they could potentially lose their jobs. (I think I would have repeated that line.)

There is good movement here, movement toward full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the walls of the church because I see so many people here who have never been to a same-sex wedding. There are many people here who five or ten years ago probably would never have come to one.  There are people here who flew in from the very conservative Southern US because they love you. Witnessing this type of event changes people. The relationships we have with our gay cousins change us. You can’t say, “Oh, I’m fine with gay people, I’m an ally” just because you have a gay cousin. But, our gay friends, siblings, cousins, co-workers are changing the rest of us. What was once a theological argument to be ‘won’ now has a face, a heart, and it is changing us. Please, those who are here, those who are coming out slowly, those who are changing their views, make yourselves known.  Your voice is critical.

We are witnessing something so beautiful and brave. You both sacrificed so much to be married to each other. You sacrificed harmonious relationships, and you were not allowed to continue in your role as pastors. You took a huge risk and came out to your Baptist families not only as gay, but as gay people who want to pursue a relationship. (I might have said something cheeky like “You not only came out as being gay, but also as acting gay!”)

Your wedding is an extraordinary example of love, and it is also so ordinary and simple. Your wedding is unique and lovely because you are wonderful people who love each other deeply. Yet in a lot of ways, it was just another wedding – white dress, music, tears, cupcakes, vows, etc.

I’m sure there are people here that are thinking, “Hmm, seemed pretty ‘typical’ to me” or “Hmm, they really do love each other, why do people care so much that they are both women? Why did I care so much?”  We are left changed because of you.

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(And lastly, I want to share with you a highlight for many at the wedding. I will leave you with this light-hearted segment, created by the brides, following very deep, personal and tear-filled vows.)

Jane:  Beth and Danice have chosen rings as a symbol of their vows.  Rings are an outward sign of an inward commitment.  My hope and prayer for you two is that these rings will be a constant reminder of the commitment you made to each other today. Now, Alberto, our maid of honor with pockets, has the rings! Ok, Danice, I want you to take Beth’s left hand and repeat after me.

Jane: Danice, do you like it?

Danice:  I do.

Jane:  Then, in the words of Beyoncé, you should put a ring on it.

Jane:  Beth, do you like it?

Beth:  I do.

Jane:  Then, in the words of Beyoncé, you should put a ring on it.

Jane: It is with excitement and delight that I now pronounce you married and blessed!  

What better way to mark that than with a kiss?  You may kiss your bride!

This was followed by the best dance party ever.

 

(photos courtesy of Chanelle Tye)

Blowing Up Evangelical Baggage – The Series (Jeremy Cushman)

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Welcome Jeremy Cushman to my blog today. He is the last weekly blogger in my series. I’m still keeping the series open but will have people on a less regular (probably monthly) basis.  I’ve enjoyed Jeremy’s seminary tweets, especially because went to seminary before twitter and often wonder what it would have been like to tweet the experience.  I love Jeremy’s take on the essentials vs. non-essentials and the slippery slope. Enjoy!

“It is the glory of God to conceal things,

but the glory of kings is to search things out.” – Proverbs 25:2

  In 2009, I had made the choice to continue attending a church whose pastor did not believe a really important doctrine, an “essential,” as another pastor of another church described it to me. When talking with a friend, I had confessed that I agreed with my pastor – that this “essential” doctrine wasn’t so essential. My friend told me, “What if you don’t go to heaven because of this?”

Doctrines are funny little things. They can bring communities together and reaffirm what is most important in the world. Or they can split apart families, leaving one or both sides saying about the other, “They’ve gone astray.” When I had made up my mind to stick with this pastor who didn’t believe in the “essential” doctrine (which, by the way, said absolutely nothing about Jesus), I was acting on what I believe to be most valuable to God: searching things out. “You’re walking on a slippery slope,” this other pastor told me, as if pushing people out of a church when Jesus welcomes everyone in wasn’t a slippery slope.

Instead of being encouraged to pursue the questions and doubts that I had – things that are actually much closer to faith than they are unbelief – I was cast out. No, no one ever told me I wasn’t welcome to their essentials-believing church, but they certainly expected me to agree with their doctrinal statements by the time I left. I knew that as long as I was reading books from “heretics” and being guided by my non-“essentials”-believing pastor, I would never be a true Christian in their eyes.

I’d be someone who lost their way.

Funny thing is, ever since I made up my mind in 2009, I have never, not even for a moment, felt lost. Sitting through religious studies classes at a liberal arts university was something I relished especially when we studied texts that seemed to undermine my faith in Jesus. I enjoyed those moments because no matter how unsettling they may have been, I always felt God’s presence.

I was always reminded that faith isn’t placed in doctrines and belief statements made up by a few pastors in a church with high walls. Faith is placed in God. And if there is any one place where God is, it is the place that society has deemed “dangerous.” This means, of course, that God is on the slippery slopes.

It is not as though I haven’t made mistakes; I’ve made plenty. But those mistakes had nothing to do with walking onto the “slippery slope.” They had everything to do with me making a choices driven by selfishness – choices that placed my needs and wants above anybody else’s. My mistakes were a matter of behavior, not belief. As far as beliefs are concerned, there was never a slippery slope. In fact, if anything, the path got a little straighter. What once was mud became dry ground – cool and refreshing to the touch, but firm and supportive for the walk.

The bags I had carried – bags filled with all the beliefs and ideas and books that I thought were “right,” “true,” and “doctrinally sound” – were left behind, opened and emptied in the mud. All I had with me was a bag of snacks and a walking stick, like a Hobbit returning to The Shire. The journey has still been difficult, but it has also been much easier. Now having completed my first year of seminary, I no longer resent all that had happened with that “essential” belief. Although it caused a lot of chaos at the time and, in a way, led to the closure of my church, I am glad that I chose the slippery slope.

I am glad because my journey would have been so different. I would have kept walking around in circles, coming across the same piles of mud again and again. I might have had the approval of the church with the high walls, but I wouldn’t have much of a faith. And I definitely would not have gone on to seminary. Beliefs are incredibly important, do not get me wrong. Yet when these beliefs cause us to act in the opposite way that God wants us to act, although we may feel like we’re defending the faith, we are, in actuality, becoming the kinds of people Jesus preached against most: hypocrites.

In my journey on the “slippery slope,” I have been befriended by people who love first and ask for belief statements never. Instead of condemning me to hell, they’re too busy removing all the hoops that others created to “weed out the weak.” And instead of warning me of dangerous ideas, they’re grabbing my hand saying, “Hold on tight.” In this community of “wayward” travelers, of “slippery slope” dwellers, I have found a home. As the above Proverb points out, God has hidden things and, like one giant Easter-egg hunt, wants us to find them.

God wants us to search things out.

God bless.

 

Wedding Toaster 2

Jeremy lives in Tigard, Oregon, where he attends George Fox Evangelical Seminary earning his Master of Arts in Theological Studies. When not watching Doctor Who or Sherlock, he writes about theology, faith, and biblical studies over at cushmanschronicles.com. And practically at any point of the day, he’ll be on Twitter as @JeremyCushman

Blowing Up Evangelical Baggage – The Series (Cara Strickland)

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Hello lovely readers. You may remember back in March when I wrote about a certain conference I attended: The Faith and Culture Writers Conference.  I wrote about how I loved the speakers, the time away from everyday life, the road trip with my friend Dena.  But what I really came down to was I wanted to meet some of my twitter friends in Portland (you know, because I have them). Cara Strickland was one of those friends.  Enjoy her work and be sure to check out her blog (and her exceptionally cool logo)!

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My Single Suitcase

I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school. It wasn’t a choice.

I watched my youth group friends dating. One senior friend told me that she and her boyfriend (her first) were “dating with marriage in mind.” He was quiet and shy (but taller than she was). She had a laugh that echoed all through the church where we met on Wednesday nights. They were an unlikely pair. When they decided that they were too unlikely, I listened as she assured him that they would still be friends.

The drummer, the one I’d been pining for from the sidelines, had recently been through a break-up as well. I should know. I was the one who had spent hours on the other end of the phone providing support, encouraging him to process, hoping that he might one day wake up and realize how delightful I was. He took my friend’s newly-exed boyfriend under his wing. I don’t know what it is about me, why people from all over seem to open up in my presence, but they do. I have heard the confidences of taxi drivers and government officials, camp counselors and college professors. That day, as I ate my weekly youth group hamburger, I listened to the drummer comfort his friend as we stood, a circle of three. “It’s amazing how a girl can reach into your chest, rip out your heart, throw it on the ground, stomp on it and grind it around in the dirt and then hand it back to you and tell you that she still wants to be friends.”

It has been years since I heard those words, and I have never forgotten them. I vowed then that I would never make anyone feel so used, so hurt.

We were on the swings near the church when another friend told me that I couldn’t start dating anyone until she did. She was a year older than me, and I was in her thrall. I wanted nothing more than to be her friend.

I nodded. It made sense to me.

Incidentally, she met a guy at that youth group, playing volleyball. She wasn’t sure how he felt about her, so she took me along to his house to “drop off some stuff.” We stayed and chatted for a while, both of them grinning (she was not usually one to grin).

“What do you think?” she asked me, as we left. “Do you think he likes me?”

“Yes,” I said. “I think he likes you a lot.”

That was one of the last times I saw her. They have been married for several years now.

In college, I started dating (long-distance) between sophomore and junior years.

I did so with a sigh of relief.

My Christian college was filled with couples. People did not go on dates, they coupled. You were not single, you were pre-marriage. Although people didn’t have sex, of course, if they did, it would be premarital, rather than extra-marital.

I didn’t feel a pressure to date, I felt the isolation of not dating. I felt the worry of association when my friends heard that I was single. Was it catching? Would I try to steal their picture perfect boyfriend?

Even a far-away boyfriend was better than nothing, for their purposes.

Outside the church, especially the evangelical church, it is not unusual to be single well into your 20s. My head knows this, and I’ve been working on unpacking this single suitcase for the past few years for the sake of my heart. I remove ring by spring and have you tried dating online? I shake out women will be saved by the bearing of children and you’ll find it when you’re not looking. I do not fold or handle ‘have you dealt with the sin in your life? for long, but hurl it straight into the bag labeled “Goodwill.”

The truth is, I’m single, and I’m a single story. I would love to be married someday (or today), but I’m not now. I am not unhappy most of the time, worried most of the time, or unfulfilled most of the time. I am not a threat to those who are married, or those who are single and feel differently than I do.

I am replacing the articles I’ve unpacked with a few new things I’ve picked up. I’m hanging fearfully and wonderfully made and image-bearer in my closet. I’m putting on precious, unique  and lovely. Unlike my baggage, I don’t want to keep these in a suitcase underneath my bed. I want to wear these words around, like a garland, or a sash.  

 

cara profile   I’m Cara Strickland.

When you first meet me, you might think that I’m quiet or reserved. I’m still learning how to relax my fingers, gripping tightly to how it should look and how I should be. I’d love to have a cup of tea or a glass of wine with you, to gradually pull out a few of my broken pieces, matching them up with yours and watching them sparkle in the light. You can connect with me on my blog, Little Did She Know, or over on Twitter
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