Archives For hope

flickr: Isabel Bloedwater

flickr: Isabel Bloedwater

 

Dylan Farrow–the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen–is at the center of a firestorm right now concerning sexual abuse, sexual abuse victims, and being brave enough to come forward as a victim. In 1993 there were allegations from her mother, Mia Farrow, that Woody Allen sexually abused Dylan. Earlier this year, Dylan came forward with an open letter , bringing it into the spotlight once again. Woody Allen has responded to these allegations, and she has responded in turn.

The Public’s Reaction.

While it is true that none of us were there and do not know for sure what happened between Mr. Allen and Miss Farrow, the reaction of many in the public towards Miss Farrow is absolutely appalling.

Rather than being heard, she was attacked by many who have cruel words concerning her. “She is just saying this to get attention!” “She is only saying this to try and become famous!” “She’s lying!” “She was a child; there is no way that she could remember the abuse!” “Her mother implanted it in her head!” And so forth.

What does this have to do with anything?

A great deal, actually. I wrote an article earlier concerning Ryan Loskarn’s arrest and then suicide after his arrest. The charges were for possessing and distributing child pornography.

In his suicide note, Mr. Loskarn explained that he himself had been sexually abused as a child and that was why he had turned to child pornography–to better understand what had happened to him, and to relive it. He had never attempted to get help because he was ashamed–because he felt that he was at fault for the sexual abuse he endured, and he was afraid of how people would view him.

He was afraid of how people would act towards him and that he would be blamed.

He was right. He most likely would have been blamed by many people.

That’s a harsh critique!

No. It isn’t.

Many people have said those very things about sexual abuse survivors, rape victims, and sexual assault victims- even if they were a child at the time it occurred. People often brush these things off with words such as, “That is an extraordinary claim,” “They are just wanting attention,” “They can’t remember that from so long ago,” “It was planted in their head.”

Dismissing these allegations at all makes it apparent to victims and survivors exactly how they are viewed by many. They are made to feel as if they are regarded as the ones who are the criminals and are lying. They are made to look at themselves with hate and then question themselves. This is what victim blaming does. And it needs to stop.

What to do?

Stop looking at victims with such suspicion. Stop immediately assuming that they are the ones at fault, that it was something they did wrong. Stop thinking that, when they come forward, it is just for attention. Any type of abuse is devastating, and completely messes up your life. Depression, anxiety, triggers, fear, and so many other emotions rule your life after this and it is a struggle to get beyond it. There is hope to get beyond it, but immediate dismissal and blaming the victim does not help; it destroys them even further.

My story.

I was raped as a child.

My rapist told me that no one would believe me and that I was to blame. That it was my fault.

Later, after everything was said and done, even his counselors blamed me.

You want to know why people like Ryan Loskarn didn’t come forward?

This is why. The guilt, shame, and blame that is placed upon us and made us to feel worthless and that we deserved it.

And it is time to stop this. Innocent people are paying for this and it is a cycle that grows and is never ending.

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I remember a time when “Heaven” was the lens through which I saw all of life. I was taught, as were many of my peers, that life here on Earth was a test. Nothing mattered except getting into Heaven. Nothing. Suffering was fine, as long as we ended up in our mansions in paradise after we died. Having no friends because we had to weed out all the cool ones who said dirty words? No problem. We’d have Jesus to push us on the celestial swing set. Dismissing all that inconvenient “scientific data” because our book of spells told us God made us “zap zap” style? Piece of cake. We knew the truth. Everyone else was just a sucker sippin’ the worldly “cool-aid”. In the meantime, we were to sit still and vote Republican (because the Democrats would usher in the reign of the Anti-Christ, just like the… Bible said would happen… which is what we… wanted… since it was God’s will… but, never mind that).

Over the years I would finally succumb to the irresistible seduction of education, people with different opinions, and the ministry of common sense. Whether you believe in God, or whether you only believe in Oprah, I think we can all agree that Heaven… at least as traditionally promoted… is for suckers. If you feel a sudden urge to defend your very own pie in the sky, that’s cool. Save it for the bloodbath, I mean “comments section.”

You may think you want to live forever, but you don’t. You really, really, really don’t. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s play this out logically. If you live forever, there’s only three possibilities: Conscious eternal existence, unconscious eternal existence, or reincarnation where you only remember one lifetime as a time. Which do you prefer?

Conscious Eternity

To infinity, and beyoooond!

To infinity, and beyoooond!


This is by far the most widely-held belief when it comes to Heaven. Somehow our consciousness will survive the death of our mortal bodies and be transported/sucked up into God/the Cosmos to some other dimension-ish place that somehow defies the known laws of physics, or at least operates on some plane of existence that is more or less magic by our standards. We all agree this place is supposed to be at least pleasant if not borderline orgasmic. And hey, while that sounds all good and reasonable at first, let us consider just what “eternity” would mean.

Imagine the longest day you’ve ever had. Maybe some of us have been awake for a couple days, maybe even more than that. Most of us start feeling really weird when we have stayed up all night. I personally feel like I’m in a time-warp. Other people have started their new day when I’m basically still working on finishing up yesterday. It’s just not right. We all need closure on our days. We are supposed to have a beginning and an end. In an eternal Heaven scenario, we would have no need for sleep. It would be just one, super long, endless day. If we did sleep, it’d be an insult to conscious Heaven since we’d be choosing unconsciousness. What would we be dreaming about? Heaven? Nope, we’d be awake. Forever.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It would be Heaven, so we’d have some kind of super Heaven-brain that didn’t get all weirded out by how long our day would be. I’m sure we’d also have God-bodies that never got tired. We’d also never be bored. Ever. Why? Because Heaven is about being content. This means that either Heaven would give us an unending supply of entertainment options, or we’d be forced to like everything we would be doing. Therein lies an interesting point to ponder. What if Heaven couldn’t please everyone?

Now that we can imagine what it would be like to simply “exist” in a conscious way in this Heavenly realm, let’s revisit just what it would mean to be there forever. Humans, accustomed to living lives of roughly 70-90+ years, would never die. One thousand years would pass by. One million years would pass by. One billion, one trillion, one hundred trillion, ninety-nine trillion-trillion, and on and on and on.

Try to perceive that quantity of time (impossible, I know. Just try).

What if I said something like “And after all that time, you’re no closer to _________ (fill in the blank) than when you started.”

Did you think of the word “dying”? Did you think “being done”? Did you think “Not existing anymore?” Did you think to yourself, “Wow, eternity does kinda sound like overkill, or at least a little unnecessary.” Honestly, I think a number much, much lower would sound reasonable. Can you even imagine living for a few thousand years? Really, think about that. Isn’t that long enough? Maybe today you think you need more time to make things right. But who needs eternity? That’s like saying I need Unlimited Data from my cell phone carrier, when realistically I only need like 20 Gigs a month.

(I actually need much less, of course. But give me this one thing!)

So, why would you want to live consciously forever? If it’s anything like consciousness as we know it, it would be Hell. If it’s something completely different than consciousness as we know it, then we have no basis to judge its benefits. “I can’t wait to experience the joys of something that is completely unlike joy as I know it! Hooray!”

Unconscious Eternity

I so sweeeepy... I sweep for-wever...

I so sweeeepy… I sweep for-wever…


This one is interesting because… we’ve already done this one. All those trillions of years that the universe existed before the earth was made? Yeah, that’s what unconscious eternity feels like. I mean, it’s not like you were sitting around bored out of your mind waiting to be born. You were totally okay with it. Now, imagine that you die but some part of you lives on, maybe “with God” or in some type of “soul sleep” setup, but you’re not conscious of anything. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re unconscious for a minute or for twenty-eight universe lifetimes; unconscious existence is all the same to you. Your atoms and/or soul-stuff are free to float about deep space or the tenth-dimensional soccer field as long as necessary. Maybe you’ll get a new skin suit, maybe you won’t.

So, while there’s not a huge downside to unconscious eternity, there’s not really any difference between this idea and simply dying. If you’re not conscious, you’re pretty much dead. If you’re not dead, it’s still (like conscious eternity) a way of living that’s so unlike human life that it’s not anything to “look forward to”.

 

Reincarnation

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I think this is the most intriguing perspective on living forever, because in a way you get three-in-one. If you perpetually reincarnate, you may indeed be more or less “stuck” in a loop of death and rebirth “forever.” The difference would be that instead of existing on a linear timeline, you’d be existing in a circular one. For example, you could possibly be stuck in a loop that is primarily happening during the 18th Century over and over and over, but it could go on and on seemingly forever if you reincarnate into a new 18th Century human (or insect, or blade of grass, or American Flag) each time. That hundred years might resemble thirteen billion before you’re done with it.

What is very interesting about reincarnation is that you don’t remember your previous lives. In that way, it is no different than living once and dying once. (Wait, maybe atheists are just pissed off Buddhists?) And if there is even one second between your multiple lives, that one second was most-likely an unconscious second. So, you might as well have never existed at all before your new (and hopefully improved) upcoming life since you’d have no recollection of that second you didn’t exist.

And when you do reincarnate, are you really you anymore? If you are Jim in this life and Pam in the next (ponder THAT one, fans of NBC’s The Office), then is it really you at all? Maybe we’re all the same person, or the same universal consciousness making the rounds to everyone (kinda like Quantum Leap, perhaps?)

So why would you want to live a reboot-style life forever? Do you really want be the main character in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, without the benefit of the information learned from yesterday? I mean, isn’t the whole purpose of reincarnation to break the cycle of suffering and death, i.e. TO FINALLY DIE AND JUST STAY DEAD?

Conclusions:

I don’t know if there is an afterlife, or what it would look like. I don’t. But I do believe in Heaven.

I honestly think humans gets so hung up on living forever because we feel like we don’t have enough time. We think that one lifetime just isn’t enough. We cling to the idea of eternity because it feels secure. I’ve had that same feeling multiple times during this finite life though. Have you ever felt the embrace of a loved-one who kindly whispered to you “You’re safe now” or “You don’t have to be afraid ever again”? In that moment you didn’t need reassurance that trillions of years would pass without a moment of discomfort. We can experience the miracle of that moment in the temporal way it was meant to be felt, eternity or not. I think many of us equate Heaven with such a feeling, like a hug that’s waiting for us on the other side to say that everything will be okay, the pain is over, you’re safe now. Who wouldn’t want that?

I don’t ridicule the idea of Heaven in gerneral, or think those who seek it are merely small people looking for a way to cope with the fear of death. I do, however, believe that Heaven isn’t cheap. It goes much further than the superficial themes of pleasure and reward. Heaven is when you carry your kid on your shoulders after a sports game on the way back to your car. Heaven is when you walk across the stage to take your diploma from the president of the university. Heaven is emerging from poverty, or lowering ladders for others to climb out. It is a baby’s laughter, a negative cancer screening, or marriage vows renewed.

No, I do not believe what we seek is life eternal. We simply want to leave here on our terms, when we are good and ready. Are you ready to die? It’s okay if you’re not. Just stop waiting for Heaven.

It’s been waiting forever for you.

——–

brettBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

Don’t Should On Me!

Brett Gallaher —  January 20, 2014 — 5 Comments

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So I went to see an R-rated movie the other day. Well, first I sat through the forty-five minutes of commercials about buying the giant discount popcorn bucket, and then I watched an R-rated movie. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself again. After the popcorn propaganda came the previews (including the preview for that upcoming Coca Cola bears movie, aka the upcoming 90 minute commercial about Coca Cola). Since I had paid to see an R-rated film, the previews were for many R-rated films as well. One time I read the description of the rating itself, being told that minors must be accompanied by an adult. For some reason, it made me laugh. I mean, the content of the film doesn’t change simply because your parent is sitting next to you. Obviously the message is “We don’t care if your kid should see decapitations and raunchy sex scenes at age nine. We just want to make sure you don’t mind if your kid sees it. And don’t sue us by the way.”

Can't beat the real thing!

Can’t beat the real thing!

~

I had to catch myself, because my inner monologue had begun should’ing all over the place. You see, I think one of the un-evolved elements of humanity is our propensity to tell other human beings what they should and should not do, think, believe, or feel. We do it all day long. It saturates every conversation from religion to politics to education to… who should see an R-rated movie. I mean, I was sitting there in the theater thoroughly enjoying the adult humor and language used in the film. Honestly, a few years ago I would not have felt comfortable with such content, but I have changed. Depending on your own beliefs you may think I made a change for the worse, letting my morals slowly decay and allowing my mind to be infected with unholy influences. Maybe not. Maybe you think R-rated movies are more in-line with the real world, unfiltered and consistent with our modern society.

What really struck me was the fact I couldn’t simply enjoy the show without first dealing with these kind of thoughts; I was somehow compelled to entertain fabricated debates in my head regarding the nature of morality. That’s annoying. I mean, I paid $10 (plus the nearly $15 for the giant discount popcorn bucket) so I could yell internally at my third grade Sunday School teacher (who was a lovely woman by the way). Why was I letting people “should” on me from the past? From decades ago?

"Brett! Stop reading Song of Solomon out loud!"

“Brett! Stop reading Song of Solomon out loud!”

~

I observed the actions of the characters on screen. The uncensored tone of the dialogue was refreshing, but it reminded me of how any truth or lesson lying behind the film would be totally lost on certain individuals. The unmarried couple laying in bed after sex, having a real human conversation filled with laughter and joy and hope… none of that would come across to those only preoccupied with condemning the “sin” of premarital sex. The woman abused by her husband of fifteen years shares a dance and a kiss with a younger man in a bar… but she’s an adulteress whore and a drunkard to some. You see, characters in films may not be real, but they represent very real ideas, people, situations, etc. Movies are truly art imitating life.

So, who is to say how we should live? What should we do? What shouldn’t we do? It’s easier for us to get those answers from other people. For some that is as easy as picking a religion. Right and wrong are able to be defined, creating a framework for living. In such a scenario, one must simple do all they can to avoid what is wrong and pursue what is right. This creates a tendency to dismiss “gray areas” as confused or twisted logic, created by dark forces conspiring to trip you up at every turn. Reality is only black and white to many people, therefore anything gray is to be met with suspicion at the very least.

That reminds me of another R-rated movie coming out soon...

That reminds me of another R-rated movie coming out soon…

~

While I won’t fall into the verbal trap of attempting the phrase “You shouldn’t tell people what they shouldn’t do” …I’ll propose what I see as an obvious downside of should’ing on people. To define life (and particularly your life) as existing within any pre-defined framework is to reject the experience of life. If you tell someone else how they should feel, who they should love, what they should do, etc., you are telling them that their own experience, their own journey, their own path is pointless. Their unique existence? Meaningless. And worse, you are tell them that your unique existence isn’t unique either. You’re kindly (or often unkindly) breaking it to them that life isn’t about doing the work of discovering your own place in the universe; you’re saying life is already decided to be [fill in the blank]. Get use to it.

And much worse, you can rob people of some of the most beautiful moments. You have the power to take something miraculous, or freeing, or life-giving, and write it off as selfish, sinful, or even demonic. Any particular brand of happiness not grounded in your particular worldview can be met with ridicule, dismissal, or scorn. And again, the real tragedy is that you reject the truth behind the packaging. You miss out on life, trading it for a concept you’ve elevated to the place of God.

Obviously we can have our convictions. We can believe strongly in principles that guide our lives. We can fight for what matters to us. But it must be the fruit of our own labor, to work out who we should be as individuals. It will involve trial and error. You will mess up. You will get discouraged. But if you pull through, if you discover what is good and pure, what is dark and empty, what gives you meaning and what poisons your soul… if you experience pain and rebirth, if you conquer yourself and find who you really are…

…No one should ever be able to define life for you ever again.

——–

brettBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

What Christmas Means

kymblie —  December 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

Hey guys, Kimberly here. I’m one of the editors for the WOJ blog, and something occurred to me the other day:

Christmas doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

I know, I know. Should be obvious.

But I always get stuck on thinking that everyone thinks, talks, and acts like me. When I’m exercising regularly and eating right, I think most people also prefer to eat right and exercise.

When I’m going through a blockbuster-movie binge when all I want to do is watch Pirates of the Caribbean 8 and Fast and Furious 20, I assume everyone else will have seen them each five times.

 

muppet christmas carol

What? Isn’t this *everyone’s* favorite Christmas movie?!

 

So the sudden revelation that not everyone looks at Christmas the same way was–well, a revelation. I wanted to bounce it off a few people to see what they thought. And since WOJ is all about opening up a conversation about the whole Jesus thing, I thought I’d ask our writers to share what Christmas means for them.

I asked them each for a paragraph–which, if you’ve been reading our blog for any amount of time at all, you’ll quickly recognize as folly. What can any of us possibly say in one paragraph–and especially about Christmas?!

So anyway. Here is a little on the meaning of Christmas, from four of our excellent writers. And may you have a Christmas that fulfills the hollow spots within you and keeps you warm–today and far into the future.

 

nativity

flickr: Proxy Indian

Roger NuttallIMG_1007R

As a young atheist I hated both the consumerism and the religious sentimentality of Christmas. Becoming a Christian, if anything, then reinforced that view, and I railed against Christmas for many years, much to my wife’s chagrin!

But I’ve gradually realised that the real reason for my dislike of Christmas probably has a far more sub-conscious origin based in unhappy childhood memories (see My Life’s Soundtrack), and now with 3 kids of my own, aged between 15 and 2, I’ve lightened up in my attitude towards Christmas out of neccessity.

But more than that, reflecting on the true light coming into the world has genuinely given me hope for change in my own life.

My Christmas story, from cynicism and scepticism to celebration, is told in a little more detail in ‘Christmas is for Life’. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Adele2Adele Henderson

Christmas means that I do not have to be perfect.

Though I am relentless on myself at making everything perfect,t is not what God requires of me and Christmas reminds me of that.

When I think about the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus–that was anything but perfect. Mary was a very young teenager who found herself pregnant outside the bonds of marriage and carrying a boy that was not the son of her fiancé. As my pastor said Sunday, “You could be stoned for a lot less in Palestine during that time.”

Then we have the night of the birth. If what my friends say when it comes to the ninth month of pregnancy is true,I am sure that riding a donkey is not at the top of the list of fun activities to do. To top that Mary and Joseph could find ‘no room in the inn.’

When Mary gave birth to her son she did so in an unsanitary barn that you know smelled something awful. She then laid him in the only place she could–a feeding trough for animals.

Jesus’ birth, the reason for Christmas,was a less-than-perfect situation. If God can be in that messy (birth is messy) situation he can be in mine. Christmas means that even in my imperfect situation God is there and working through me.

May you have a Merry but less than perfect Christmas and know that God is with you.

Geoff Glenistergeoff glenister

One of our editors asked the question: “What does Christmas mean to you?”

One of the first things that came to mind for me was: peace on earth.

Jesus has been called the “Prince of Peace“, and in his “Sermon on the Mount”, he says in Matthew 5:9:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

It is almost as if he’s saying that being a peacemaker is a prerequisite for being a child of God.  Indeed, he repeats this theme in Matthew 5:44-45 when he follows the command to love enemies with an indication that this is what it takes to be children of the Father in heaven.

Peace is a dangerous thing.  Dangerous to the authority structures that create systems of domination, and defying them can be dangerous to ourselves as well.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a pastor in Germany during World War II who was martyred for standing up to the Nazis in the name of peace – once wrote:

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.

How can we wage peace in 2013?  How can we threaten the authority structures of today with radical love?

Stay tuned for more from Geoff in his full post, later today.

Jordan BlaylockJordan Michelle Blaylock

Christmas is many things to me. Not just because of my beliefs, the things that happened to me during this time because of those beliefs, and what I have seen Christmas become to others.

The first thing Christmas is for me, is a time of mourning to an extent. You see, my dad passed away around Christmas when I was seventeen. So, while I love this season, I also feel a bit grieved in my heart because of the loss.

The next thing that Christmas is to me is a time of healing. This does have a bit to do with my religious beliefs, yes, but it also has to do with my dad passing away around this time. He was very sick, and, to me, death is not the end, but a passing on, a rebirth, and an ultimate healing.

Christmas is a time of rebirth to me for many reasons.

It is a time of rebirth to me because of the birth of the Messiah, and the Pagan traditions that celebrated this sacred season for many many years before the birth of Christianity. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, yes, but I also realize that this season is celebrated as it is because of it being adopted from the Pagans by Christians about 200 years after the birth of Christ. My theory and hope is that Christmas was adopted at this time because of the rebirth of the sun that the Pagans celebrated at this time as well.

This is Christmas to me- a time of kindness, love, healing, rebirth, renewal, and good tidings.

If you enjoyed our authors’ perspectives, please share with friends.

The Nature of Hope

jordanmb08 —  November 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three..” - 1 Corinthians 13:13

    The archaic definition of hope, according to dictionary.com, is “a feeling of trust.” Like in my previous writing, “The Nature of Faith,” hope and trust go together. When you feel faith, you feel hope and have trust that whatever is going on will get better. With a feeling of hope, you trust it will get better, and then belief is faith in action, either through prayer or thoughts. When you have hope, you have no concrete evidence that it will get better…but you trust it will.

    In Greek mythology, the gods give a box to a girl named Pandora. They tell her not to open it because it will unleash terrible things into the world. Her curiosity gets the best of her and she opens the box. What she unleashes is famine, poverty, death, and many other nasty things. Once they are gone, she looks in the bottom of the box to see if anything is left. At the bottom, a tiny winged creature is there, beaten, trodden, but still alive and still shining, albeit somewhat dimly.

flickr: Michell Zappa, cc by-sa 2.0

flickr: Michell Zappa, cc by-sa 2.0

The thing about hope is that it is hard to kill.

If a person has hope left and nothing else, then it is so hard to kill–but if it is killed, it can utterly destroy that person. There are so many things we hope for ourselves and we may not seem them in this life; but, because of our hope–because of what doors it opens on the spiritual plane–our children or our grandchildren may see the fruition of that hope. Hope can be beaten, down trodden, but it is always there, shining a light. Regardless of how small that light is, it can still penetrate the darkness. That is the essence of hope–a light in the darkness.

When we reach out  through the giving of alms, a kind word, a smile, or offering a helping hand, we are offering hope.

When we stand with our brothers and sisters against social injustices, against evil, against the darkness, we are offering hope.

When we forgive and when we love, we are offering hope.

By these offerings of hope, we are softening the terrain that we are trying to plant in, we are sowing seeds of hope, or we are watering previous seeds that have been placed there already by another person along the way. This is the nature of hope; to offer light in the darkness and to soften hard, rock terrain, or to sow seeds, or to water the seeds.

hope candles

flickr: ElTico68

Hope, in its very nature, is a light unto humankind.

That’s why we can’t allow it to be hidden, can’t allow it to be extinguished. It is not just for ourselves and our generation, but for the future of our children and their generation and the generations that will follow. Hope is what enables people to work together and to make huge changes; hope for a better life for others, hope for social justice, hope for equality. Like faith, hope opens the doors to love.

 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” - 1 Corinthians 13:13.

The greatest of these is love; the other two open the door for love, and then love rains down upon all, encouraging more change, more hope, more faith. It is a circle that is beautiful! But it MUST start with hope. It must start with the smallest light, into the darkness.

____

Jordan Michelle BlaylockAbout Jordan
Jordan is a student of truth (and biology) and ambassador for love of all kinds. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found fighting Pharisees in killer boots. Find her all over the interwebs: Tumblr  Facebook
Writerscafe  Smashwords

The Nature of Faith

jordanmb08 —  November 13, 2013 — 2 Comments

When the storms of life are raging/
Stand by me.

“Stand By Me,” Charles A. Tindley

This song is not just a cry for help, but a declaration. Instead of asking, “Will you stand by me?” it declares, “Stand by me.” Those are words spoken in hope and in faith.

Faith is the belief or trust in things unseen, without physical proof.

According to Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” When living by faith, you live in the belief and in the hope that everything will be okay, that it is not over yet, that your trials and tribulations are just stepping stones, not permanent fixtures in your life.

This is not to say that the days you cry, or the nights you want to scream, or the times that you just give up mean you are less faithful or that God has forsaken you or that you are worthless. Truly, each and every one of you reading this are priceless and irreplaceable. If there is any lie from the bowels of hell, it is the lie that a person is worthless and undeserving. Your cries just mean that your spirit is weary, you are weary, and you are hurting.

flickr: John Steven Fernandez

flickr: John Steven Fernandez

The nature of faith is a nature of trust and belief.

It is the nature of holding on tightly to your prayers or your good vibes, whatever you wish to call them, and knowing that everything will be all right. Even on the days that seem the darkest and the nights that seem longest, you still have some faith.

Faith is not of man but of God. Often, religion is confused with faith, but the two are completely different. There are far too many people who insist that your lack of religiosity is what gets you into scrapes, or that you do not have the proper religious training, or that you aren’t religious enough; but, instead of “religious” and “religion”, they use “faith” and “faithful”. They instead say that if you were more faithful, you would not have your troubles or you would be blessed or this or that. And it’s wrong.

flickr: John Steven Fernandez

flickr: John Steven Fernandez

Faith recognizes how frail we are as humans and that is not a bad thing.

While we have the highest ability to reason in all the animal kingdom, we are also the most emotionally vulnerable to others–even those that come to us like wolves in sheep’s clothing. We seek out emotional and spiritual attachment, and faith is a way that it will all work out–that we’ll be safe. You have complete trust when you have faith. And, like with anything, trust can be broken. But that does not make you less human! It makes you more human, it means you feel, you seek to understand and be understood. And there is nothing wrong with that!

In closing, hold on to your faith, hold on to your hope.

Things will get brighter in time, things will get better. It WILL be okay. And it is not because you lack faith that you have trials and sorrows–it is just part of life. You can get through it and the sun will come out again soon. Just try to breathe and try to hold on tightly.

I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.

“Living by Faith,” James Wells

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Jordan Michelle BlaylockAbout Jordan
Jordan is a student of truth (and biology) and ambassador for love of all kinds. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found fighting Pharisees in killer boots. Find her all over the interwebs: Tumblr  Facebook
Writerscafe  Smashwords

Is heaven a destination or a journey?

A love that saves…

Brett Gallaher —  August 30, 2013 — 3 Comments

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I remember how it felt, the boldness rising up in me as I would begin to consider getting up from the church pew. The pastor would ask if anyone needed to make sure they were right with God. That was the hook, the doubting of my own security. The pastor seemingly had good logic. It was entirely possible I could die at any moment and my sinful adolescent soul could be sucked into the eternal fiery abyss. After all, I was pretty immature. I had a lot of things I needed to bring before God. I was a wretch, worse than a criminal.

And I was seven.

You see, when you grow up in certain traditions like mine (Holiness) there is a culture of doubt, of fear, of uncertainty. No one really knew for sure if they were “saved” or not. I mean, we had a pretty good idea about other people (like Jews, atheists, gays, Baptists, etc.) but we were “right”. Being “right” meant being held to an even higher standard. Any sin was direct rebellion against what we knew to be right. God was keeping a tally of our sins, and we’d better wipe the slate clean every night before we risked waking up in the devil’s funhouse.

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I always imagined the devil’s playhouse would kinda look like this.

On my trek through the land of Christendom, I became ensued with the question…

“Am I saved?”

As the years went by I was blessed with an ever-widening view of God, one that incorporated theological and philosophical diversity. I soon became more “secure”, believing more or less that God was a good God, and that “good God” didn’t mean “He’s so good he has to burn the evil out of me with a pitchfork.” College and Seminary (aka advanced Sunday School) even left me unable to imagine a God who wouldn’t move heaven and earth to reconcile all things to himself.

Case closed. Right?

Well, awkwardly enough, I’m no longer a Christian, at least not in any traditional sense of the word. My search for truth brought me to the personal realization that faith in Jesus’ power to save me was something I could never verify, never know for certain. Obviously faith isn’t about knowing with certainty, so I don’t pretend to ignore that fact. But I realized that most Christians I know don’t see faith as… faith. They have always treated faith like facts. That is why any competing logic can cause many Christians to basically freak out.

Imagine someone told you gravity wasn’t true, and they could provide evidence that your primitive gravitational fixation was most likely false?

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“Sir, I believe you do not understand the gravity of the situation.”

As odd as it sounds, I feel God has led me past faith in the Jesus of Christianity and towards faith in the love of Jesus, which would in turn be the love of God, which in turn would be the same love that I sought to save me all those years ago.

At the end of the day, faith in Jesus was really faith in God all along, faith in God’s ability to save you. Or maybe it was faith that in God, we are already saved. We are already good enough. But like a gift, we have to open the damn thing or else it’s just a box.

But even more so, I believe that God has led me past…

Wait for it…

God.

I’m not a atheist, at least not by my own definition. I simply don’t believe in the God many others believe in. To imagine God is to imagine the unimaginable. Whenever someone describes God, they’re not describing God at all. They’re describing an idea about God.

Here’s where it gets down-right heretical.

If someone’s idea of God drives them to love others, is that not the same thing as God telling them to love others?

If someone’s idea of God drives them to feed the poor, how is this any different?

If an atheist’s idea of love drives them to do the same things, is not the atheist’s idea the same force driving the Christian?

Anywhere in this exercise did you say to yourself, “But the atheist’s good deeds won’t get him into heaven” or “If God is just an idea in someone’s head then what’s the point since there’s no heaven?” If so, congratulations…

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You’ve missed the point!

Salvation has been packaged all wrong for so long. It has been the prize just out of reach, the mystery you must solve but can’t, the end of a journey where you feel lost the entire trip. But salvation can be known.

We can be saved from our guilt, our hatred, our bitterness, our unhealthy lifestyles, our abusive relationships, our pettiness, our ideologies, our sadness and depression, our addictions…

When we can’t save ourselves, it can come in the form of friends. I have found salvation in my children, in my girlfriend, in my community.

But what about Jesus?

I have faith that my introduction to the life of Jesus of Nazareth was for a purpose much larger than myself, a purpose wrapped up in a mystery that still draws us in. My salvation moment was the moment that Jesus started being that…

…and stopped being this.

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ImageBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

Magic Jesus…

Brett Gallaher —  July 6, 2013 — 5 Comments

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Yesterday one of my co-workers told me something. He said he no longer believed in Jesus. My natural reaction was, “Jesus? Like, you don’t believe he existed?” My friend went on to say that he no longer believed in God, Jesus, the Trinity, or anything like that anymore. Whether Jesus, the charismatic neighborhood rabbi from the 1st Century Palestinian “block” existed or not was of no consequence to him. He no longer believed in Christ, the God-Man, or as I like to call him…

“Magic Jesus”.

His reasoning was, as is usually the case, the amount of suffering in his own life and the world around him. He said he’s not worried about blaming it on a god anymore. He doesn’t believe in it anymore. He’s just going to “live life” he said. And I don’t blame him.

Now, I am not saying I share his dim outlook, but I understand the exhaustion that comes with trying to make excuses for a deity (or a set of beliefs about a deity) that seems distant, oblivious, unable, or unwilling to give a damn about the rest of us down here. “He’s God. He doesn’t need defending,” some say (ironically in a defensive tone). But basically it just comes off as “God is good even if all evidence points to him being a jerk.”

Let’s not let him off the hook this time. After all, “Magic Jesus” should be able to show up and do something. Let’s call it like it is. He’s not doing a good enough job.

Christians and atheists alike are tired of Magic Jesus ruining their lives. Instead of the human Jesus being a symbol of what we can all strive to achieve, his influence has been usurped by a narcissistic and easily offended long-haired Swedish Superman knockoff, only interested in weekly self-help seminars with a cover charge. 

Depending on your preferred model, Magic Jesus may even tell you who to vote for, which news outlets are biased, and who isn’t allowed to get married. How does he know all of this? Because he’s magic. 

I am going to suggest something radical. Believing in a certain type of Jesus has absolutely nothing to do with being a good person. It also has no bearing on who Jesus actually is/was. If I think he’s magic, that doesn’t make him any more or less divine. It is simply an expression of my current state of mind. That state of mind does not reflect how “on track” or “off track” our spiritual health may be at any given moment. 

If you think my friend is “struggling” spiritually because he no longer believes in (magic) Jesus, then you may be missing the larger point. People have been “Jesus’d”. People have tried for years, since childhood, to come to know, understand, and love Jesus. Some end up wide-eyed in a church camp crying out to God while others run screaming out the door because they can’t pretend any longer. Neither of these two extremes or anyone in-between is any “better” or “worse”; they have run the gauntlet of the Jesus experience, and here they stand, sometimes with the living crap knocked out of them. 

Would you stand over them with your finger pointing down, conjuring the spells of your warlock?

I challenge you to consider that life is more than what we believe. Whether there are gods watching over us or not, we must look out for each other. If there are indeed gods, let them ponder our great love, more powerful than any magician.

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ImageBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Cleveland, Tennessee, the second largest Cleveland in the United States. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee. 

Winter is over…

Brett Gallaher —  June 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

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I have not had the strength to write a blog post since it happened, since I separated from my spouse a little over two weeks ago. Obviously I know there is a time and a place for everything under the sun, yet it never seems the right time to write a blog post about something as sensitive a topic as this. I am someone who hates being hated, someone who avoids conflict at all costs. I did not want to use this blog as a means to bring more pain to those I’ve hurt or to garner increased support for myself. Yet here I am. Here goes nothin’.

First, a little backstory. I, like many others, am jaded by various individuals and circumstances from my past. The example I wish to use here involves another blog I used to follow. One day I opened my laptop and saw an intriguing article on the front page of MSNBC.com. A student pastor (who I will not name) was fired for his repeated blogging in support of progressive issues like LGBT rights and Christian Universalism. When I first discovered his blog I was still a United Methodist youth pastor. I was outraged that someone would be fired for expressing their personal theological views. I immediately “friended” him on Facebook and the two of us soon began sharing horror stories from our ministry years. It turned out that he had moved back to his wife’s hometown after his firing. That town was Cleveland, Tennessee. My hometown. After I left youth ministry, I moved back there as well to join him in planting a church. I had put all of my hope in this new venture. 

To make a long story short, it didn’t pan out. This “martyr” for progressive Christianity ended up being what I came to abhor about those who claimed to speak for the Christian left. He ended up being a self-adsorbed egomaniac who used progressivism as an excuse to live from the bottom of the moral dung heap, while still calling himself a pastor. After his many infidelities, he still went to his blog and spoke of his calling, of his role as a leader, as someone you should still send checks to. I was horrified he had used his blog to somehow appear noble in the midst of his rancid false piety.

Do I sound jaded enough yet?

Anyway, this individual became the epitome of everything I hoped I would never become. I knew I could never speak for God, for Christianity ever again. It was so stereotypical, the hypocritical pastor who drags the name of Jesus through the mud. I could never become that. It was too predictable. 

So I made We Occupy Jesus, an attempt to push the spotlight back to issues that matter, not about myself and my own Jesus-ness or lack thereof. I do not intend to speak for a religion, only for my own experiences. Yet the ghosts of my past return, telling me I’m just like that other guy, that phony, that charlatan, because I’ve missed the mark.

I know I have hurt people. I do not claim immunity from my actions. In fact, a friend told me not long ago that I had to own my decisions; I couldn’t hide behind my own confusion and apprehension. For once in my life I had to be honest with myself, and with those in my life, regardless of the consequences. I finally did tell my spouse I was unhappy and that I had broken our wedding vows. 

Now comes the long, cold winter. Now comes the self-doubting, the guilt, the fear of condemnation and shame. Here in the south it is especially difficult to live this down. Obviously I’m a monster. Obviously I must simply have a sexual addiction. Obviously I’m a sinner. Obviously I’ve been brainwashed by “the world.” Obviously I have no morality. Obviously We Occupy Jesus is a cult. 

Obviously life is more complicated than that. We are human. We are broken. We have to start over sometimes. We wish things weren’t so messy, but sometimes they are. Sometimes we have to hurt people, or risk losing our own souls. This is the deck life hands some of us. We wish we could go back and change it all, but in doing so we would unmake our own lives. 

Am I asking for anyone to forgive me because I admit my faults? Is honesty somehow a ticket to an admirable humility? Does it make me any less broken? No, not one bit. Yet I can say this. The truth does indeed set you free. Have you mistaken your cell for liberty? The darkness has a certain comfort to it, does it not?

Look deep within yourself. Lift the dungeon gates. Winter is over.
A new day is coming.

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ImageBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Cleveland, Tennessee, the second largest Cleveland in the United States. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.