Rethinking Joy

A dark night of the soul is this, sans light bulb.

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned my dark night of the soul. The news is, I’m still in it. And where I am is black. Pitch black. Moonless, starless, candle-less nothingness. I’ve never experienced a crisis of faith quite this deep, long or disconcerting. I’m not sure where the end of this thing is.

The other day, I asked myself what it would look like if I really loved myself. All of myself. The way God loves me. And in that moment, 90% of my theology fell apart. I realized that while I had experienced some of the best things in my church upbringing, I had also experienced some of the worst. There’s very little room for self-love or self-acceptance (let alone acceptance of others) in the doctrine of my denomination. I was always taught the JOY acronym: Jesus first, others second, yourself last. Except, like much of everything in evangelicalism, it’s arranged in a hierarchy. JOY is spelled vertically. Jesus is at the top, others are below that, and you are the bottom of the totem pole. It’s the trickle-down economics of love. You give most of your devotion to Jesus, then some to others, and hopefully have enough for yourself afterwards. Continue reading

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Beyond the Veil

“The problem is, it’s all Good Friday and no Easter Sunday.”

This was a critique I recently heard someone offer on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and I readily agreed with it. But I was struck by how applicable the observation was to Easter sermons in general. Pastors go into incredible detail describing the 39 lashes Jesus took on his back, his painful walk to Golgotha, the crown of thorns on his head, the nails in his hands and feet, the hours of breathless agony spent hanging on a roughly hewn cross–and, finally, the spear in his side.  The Resurrection ends up almost as a footnote to all the blood and gore.

Nevermind that the Resurrection is what gives power and meaning to Christ’s crucifixion. Without it, Jesus is just another martyr and those 39 stripes heal no one.

However, what I love most about the Crucifixion story has nothing to do with the sufferings of Jesus and gets even less of a mention than the Resurrection.

For me, it’s all about the veil. Continue reading

A Meditation on Job

Yup, that’s right. I’m writing about suffering. Again. But with tomorrow being Palm Sunday and Easter right around the corner, it seems appropriate this time.

I’ve been meditating on the Book of Job lately. I mean, really turning it over in my head. We all know the story: Job was a really righteous man. To prove the depth of his devotion, God allowed Satan to destroy everything Job owned. Job continued to worship and, in the end, God blessed him with twice as much as he had before.

It’s a wonderful story, according to my faith tradition. Yeah, Job suffered. A lot. He lost everything. It was terrible. But then he got it all back in a double portion! Just for being faithful! Yay! Let’s celebrate God’s goodness!

Simple, right?

I wish. Continue reading

When you’re right where He wants you

Image from letthepreistsarise.com

When I was about 19 years old, God gave me a vision for a speaking and teaching ministry. I won’t go into the details of the vision here, but suffice to say it’s significant enough to get me choked up whenever I do share it. I knew at the time that said ministry would be a ways down the road for me, so I wasn’t anxious about it. I had a lot of growing still to do, and I was willing to wait for God’s timing.

In the past decade or so, God has given me small opportunities to share sermons and devotionals with groups of people. These special moments have stirred my soul and made me hungry for the bigger vision on the horizon. Still, it has felt like a distant thing…something much further than arm’s length away…

Until recently. Continue reading

Into the Deep Waters

Image from Woman of Color

I want to start by saying something that I would like every one to notice carefully. It is this. If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. […] There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. […] They are directions for dealing with particular crossroads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places. […] There will come a day, perhaps years later, when you suddenly see what it meant.  –C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Today, I want to talk about a box and a boat and a journey toward the greatest romance of our lives. I want to talk about beaches and oceans and a place known as the deep waters. Continue reading