the greatest of these is love


“We’re like the legend of the phoenix, our ends with beginnings. What keep the planets spinning, the force of love beginning. We’ve come too far to give up who we are. So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars.” ~ Get Lucky, Daft Punk

“Instructions for living a life: 

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.” ~ Mary Oliver

“Who’s gonna save the world tonight. Who’s gonna bring you back to life.” ~ Save the World, Swedish House Mafia

Sometimes making yourself write things doesn’t work out so well, so I guess I’m going to try the streams of consciousness method today. *beats head against keyboard* You could say this is a Part 2 to my last post “of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.”

Good news: I’m starting an MDiv program at Iliff School of Theology in less than a month!

Less good news: Life doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all and I’m having a hard time processing everything. Especially hard is that my brain has decided to process things from being isolated from my family/former church RIGHT NOW instead of like, 6-9 months ago when it seemed more relevant.

Healing is not linear, someone on Twitter said not too long ago. And they sure as hell were right.

Why so anxious dear one? Nothing needs to be solved. Just let things be. Even the sad, painful things. Don’t lose your soul to grief but by all means let yourself feel your pain.

My mom keeps saying that God is speaking to her so that’s why she keeps pestering me with emails complete with Bible verses, cards, letters, etc even when I’ve asked for boundaries. But I guess sometimes God works in mysterious ways.

The most recent two page letter I received last week mentioned my mom’s time in the hospital with cancer and how everything happens for a reason. She wrote, “Someone told me the other day that most people don’t live through what I did when I had my cancer and was in the hospital. But I had never thought about it like that. God had a plan and it was for me to still be here right now. Making the most of the time given is what He wants me to do. It’s what He wants all of us to do…”

The rest of the letter is pretty rambly and mostly sounded like she’s guilty for how she and the church treated me and that I’m hurting. It’s such fun to have someone vent to you about you.

Nonetheless, I do think God was speaking. Not necessarily to my mom but through her in a sense. See, I think God speaks through love. Even attempts at love though they may be manipulative or misunderstood. Love gets through the cracks of the most broken things that still need to be healed in us. Love gets through and sometimes it comes from unexpected sources. God speaks through that.

I’ve been wrestling with what my calling to ministry is since I’ve all but given up on serving in a church setting. One thing I’ve learned is that the church exists outside of buildings, systemic oppressive worship spaces, and denominations that cover up abuse and brainwash their parishioners.

I think God has a plan. It’s for me to still be here right now when being in the church I grew up in almost killed me. I think God has a plan for me to minister to those who’ve been pushed out of church, those who are in psych wards and hospitals who are in need of pastoral care.  I think that calling is to be a presence. Not simply of a spiritual advisor who had all the answers. But someone who could be a presence of calm and care in moments of trauma and pain.

I would like to be the pastor that I never had as crazy as that sounds.

Sometimes a “calling” into ministry doesn’t look like the fundamentalists told me it did. It doesn’t look like being a submissive and silent person who lets men decide all their decisions. It doesn’t look like denying myself happiness and self-care. It doesn’t look like denying your sense of self, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

I once wrote these words almost a year ago and I put them here again:

For those who have been pushed out when they should have been welcomed in

For those who were promised a safe space but were met with shame and hatred of Other

Peace be with you. May the love of Christ surround you.

For those who were willing to give up everything for their faith but then their faith asked them to kill a piece of themselves to exist.

For those who feel broken and used by those who promised love and acceptance

Peace be with you. May the love of Christ make you whole again.

Peace be with you and to you because Christ is for you and in you.

There is a place for you at the table. Come, sit and know that you belong and that you are loved.

Peace be with you and may the love of Christ fill you.

In the words of Mary Oliver, I think the wild geese are calling for me to take my “place in the family of things.” (from her poem, Wild Geese) The best way to fulfill each of our callings on our lives is to allow ourselves to be fully who we are without apology or shame. The best way to do that is to love ourselves and each other well.

As Jesus puts it, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~ John 13:34

of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals

bINq5RB3Rr+Bk9hHR26amw(Content Note for talk of hell, spiritual abuse, etc.)

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plants and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” ~ I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in god, and God lives in them…Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he first loved us.” ~ I John 4:16, 18-19

Growing up, fear and love were inseparable concepts. Because my parents “loved me,” they would punish me and my siblings physically instilling fear anytime I remotely thought I might be doing something wrong.

Because God “loved me,” and didn’t want me to die and go to hell, God supposedly killed his son, Jesus on a Roman cross because of my sins. Unsure what “sins” a 6 year old can commit exactly other than maybe being a kid and not always listening well to my parents, but I do know I believed all of that. And “got saved” at that age–which is fundamentalist/evangelical speak for I confessed my sins to God and “accepted” that Jesus died to take the punishment for my sins.

Love and fear might as well have been the same thing. And all the other kids I grew up with most certainly didn’t want to go to hell either. To the point that we were told we had to evangelize our classmates in elementary school so they wouldn’t go to hell.

Love also included never questioning anything the adults or pastor said and inevitably meant never questioning anything. Which is pretty damn hard for an inquisitive kid. As it turns out, the reason I often don’t ask questions today is because I’m afraid. I am afraid that asking questions will mean getting into trouble with authority figures, or friends, or even sometimes my partner. As it turns out, I’m also afraid to ask for what I want or need. Better to sit in silence and never speak out than to suffer consequences.

It turns out that’s how cults work but not how the real world is supposed to work.

“Such love has no fear,” the Apostle John wrote of God’s love. And yet my mother sends me emails often about how much God loves me while also implying I should forgive my abusive father. The word forgive here meaning still interact with regardless of past abuses.

“Such love has no fear…” Love and fear do not coexist. Where love truly is…fear cannot come. Fear is not welcome here. And love is not manipulative. It is not saying “I love you” a hundred times over like a  faucet dripping constantly. It is not shouting “I LOVE YOU” while disregarding boundaries. It is not bible verses sent with an ulterior motive. It is not telling your gay kid they need to repent because they’re embarrassing you in front of your church friends. It is NOT gossiping about people’s “lifestyles” behind their backs.

“Such love has no fear…” Love and fear do not coexist. To be truly loved is to be safe and cared for and accepted as you are. 

Love is not a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. You’re just making a racket and giving everyone a headache.

If you speak of a God of love, justice, and compassion, a God who saves. And then you tell me that God’s love, justice, and compassion are conditional for someone like me, you are a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. If you say you love LGBTQ folks and are “concerned for our souls and eternal destiny” but aren’t concerned that we’re being murdered and committing suicide because of your beliefs…YOU ARE A NOISY GONG AND A CLANGING CYMBAL.

And while I’m at it, and still pissed off at The Gospel Coalition and the “religious liberty task force”:

You speak of morality and religious liberty. You speak of ethics. What is unethical and immoral is denying part of who people are. Denying them access to healthcare, public restrooms, jobs.

My identity is in Christ… as an LGBTQ individual created in the image of a God who not only created human beings as male and female, straight and cisgender but ALSO everywhere in between. Intersex, non binary, bisexual, gay.

Let me put it this way:

The universe is vast and wonderfully beautiful and complex. It is beyond binaries that we have created to understand it and the humans that exist in it. Human beings exist outside of predetermined categories. God created us to express our differences including sexuality and gender identity. How else could you get a world that not only has millions of ice cream flavors, billions of stars, and queer people.

Broaden your horizons, dear ones, because your god seems small and full of contradictions if you think everything is binary. We don’t even know half of what’s in the ocean. A God that can exist outside of the gender binary is not bound by narrow hermeneutics.

That is a God of Ethiopian eunuchs and Apostle Paul

Of Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter

Of the woman at the well and Nicodemus

That is a God who walked 33 years in our shoes and loves all of us as we are.

“Such love has no fear…”