Holy Excavation

The difference between a well and a cistern is the source of the water. While a well is drilled deep into the groundwater, a cistern sits on the surface collecting rainwater. God continuously showers us with cruciform love, unconditional grace, continuous mercy, and wise guidance. The rain falls on the just and unjust. Showers of blessing. Former and latter rain – Springtime and Autumn. 

We come to Christ. Jesus storms the citadels of our hearts and apprehends us, binding us to his divine heart with cords of love.

Churches, pastors, teachers, seminaries, and denominations form the cisterns of our Christian lives. Often, they leak. Some of the cracks and leaks in my theological cistern have included: 

  • Warrior gods
  • Civil religion
  • A flat Bible in which every verse carries equal weight
  • Religious triumphalism 
  • American exceptionalism
  • White supremacy
  • Militarism
  • Consumerism
  • Patriarchy 
  • Homophobia
  • Islamophobia 
  • Capitalism
  • Conservative politics
  • Secular progressivism 
  • Demagoguery 
  • Dispensationalism
  • Pretribulation rapture eschatology
  • Limited atonement
  • Literal eternal torture
  • Young earth creationism
  • Intelligent Design (irreducible complexity)
  • Biblical inerrancy
  • Prosperity gospel
  • Guaranteed faith healing
  • Routine miracles
  • Shepherding
  • Brands of spirituality not based on the Sermon on the Mount

A cracked broken cistern not only leaks, but also allows pollutants in. The pure life-giving water that fell from heaven becomes tainted, even toxic. A high school student tastes of young earth creationism, then studies biology. She spits out the tainted water and abandons her faith. The native Hawaiian tastes of white supremacy, vomits the toxic theology, and embraces traditional Polynesian gods. The desperate mother latches onto a health and wealth gospel, but her child dies, and she rejects God. A hippie searching for the dawning of an age of harmony and peace comes to Christ and is taught that he will be raptured away at any moment. Nothing happens. He gives up and becomes a stockbroker. 

All of them mistake the tainted water in the cracked cistern for the pure rain. They throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. 

To make matters worse, some churches, pastors, and denominations double down on the cracked cisterns, insisting that they are divinely installed and incapable of leaks.

There’s nothing wrong with the Bible. Often, however, there is something wrong with my interpretation of the Bible. The life-giving water from heaven is glorious, affirming and healthy, but my theological cistern needs to be dug up and replaced. 

Thank God for the excavations of the Holy Spirit. I have nothing to fear.

Longing to be Known

Longing to be Known

All of us, I imagine, long to be known – to be truly, deeply, intimately known, not known about, not known partially or superficially, but to be thoroughly known to the depths of our beings. I know I long to be known.

And, yet, I am afraid to be known. I am afraid to even know myself. If someone truly, deeply, intimately knew the deepest darkest me, would they not reject what they find in disgust? If I knew the deepest darkest me, would I not despise myself, be no longer able to live with myself, flee to annihilation? I run from love.

Human communication has five levels.

At the lowest and most basic level, we communicate with clichés. There is nothing wrong with clichés; in fact, they are necessary icebreakers; they are the way we begin communications. “How ya doing?” “What’s new?” “Nice day, huh?” Conversations usually begin with cliché communication.

One step higher is the reporting of facts. Just the facts. In times not far past, we risked nothing in reporting facts because, after all, facts are facts. No longer. Now, thanks to massive propaganda, “facts” have become whatever we want them to be. “Obama was born in Africa.” “Coronavirus is a myth.” “Voting by mail causes massive fraud.” Those are all blatantly false, yet are reported as “facts.” Who would have imagined we’d live in a world where “facts” are whatever someone wants them to be? Nevertheless, there are simply things that are objectively true. The sun rose at 0645 Easter Daylight Time today. The dog threw up in the den. Conversation normally moves from clichés to the reporting of facts. Can we at least learn to agree on facts?

I risk more of myself when I move up a level to the sharing of ideas and opinions. Doing so is risky because if I open myself up and share my opinions, you may reject them and in so doing reject me. If you tell me my idea is stupid, I’ll be quite reluctant to share ideas with you in the future. From talk show pundits to neighbors, here in the United States we seem to have lost the ability (or willingness) to be open to new ideas, to learn, reflect, and adjust our opinions. That is tragic because you probably have some very valid ideas. If I would but listen to you, I might learn something.  

Few of us dare to ascend to the level of sharing our true feelings. Even more so than my opinions, my feelings really are who I am. Feelings are neither right nor wrong – they simply are. There is no such thing as a wrong feeling. What we do with our feelings can be good or bad. It’s not wrong to feel angry; it is wrong to punch someone in the nose. Many of us are not in touch with our own feelings.  I was taught as small child that certain feelings are wrong. “Big boys don’t cry.” “People in their right minds do not get angry.” I learned well. If you are angry, you’re insane; if you cry, you’re not a man. Feelings, however, are quite stubborn. When we suppress them, they don’t do away. Instead, they become backaches, ulcers, and chronic depression. They come out sideways and undermine relationships. Learning to get in touch with our true feelings is one of the hardest, longest, and most rewarding pieces of work in which we can engage. Finding someone with whom we can openly share those feelings is almost a miracle.

Almost none of us ever experience peak communication. It cannot be manufactured. If it comes, it is a gift. Occasionally, very occasionally, there are those rare times in life when two people are so emotionally open and intimate, so free in sharing and respectfully, nonjudgmentally, receiving deep feelings, that they can actually feel what the other person is feeling. It’s not that they imagine they can feel it, nor that they project their own feelings onto the other, but instead, they truly feel the feeling of the intimate other. That is true empathy. Most of us go through our lives never experiencing it. 

Without all five levels of communication – cliché, facts, ideas, feelings, and empathy – we cannot be fully known, and being fully known is what we crave. We crave being known because we are created for relationship, connection, emotional intimacy. Seeking it out with another is well worth the intense effort.

So it is with God. Many prayers are clichés. Others give God a bunch of facts I feel certain God already knows. Still others are (wise that we are) us giving God our opinions on how best to run the universe.

God loves us. God wants us to share our hearts in prayer – to openly and honestly share our deepest feelings – our feelings of fear, doubt, despair, hope, and longing – not the “proper” religious feelings we were taught to feel. And when we do, we discover that God longs to share God’s divine heart with us. That’s what the book of Psalms is all about.

Savonarola said, “When prayer reaches its ultimate, words are impossible.” With much deep contemplative practice, we may receive the rare gift of peak communication with God. We may enter the Holiest of All, the secret place of the Most High, lean our heads against Messiah’s breast, and feel the heartthrob of Deity. 

To know God and to be known by God, to rest in intimate connection with the Creator, embraced in the arms of Abba Father, to love and be loved intimately – it is for this we were made; it is for this we were redeemed. 

Leaking Reservoirs Part 1 of 2

It’s a Christmas story you never hear preached. A striking vision arrests our attention in Revelation chapter 12. A stunning woman, clothed in the stellar heavens, nine months pregnant, goes in to labor.

A horrid blood-red dragon slashes the sky like a knife-wound determined to devour her baby as soon as he is born, but the baby escapes the dragon’s jaws and ascends to heaven to rule the universe.

Furious, the dragon then tries to destroy the woman, but fails again. The dragon calls for help. Two hideous monsters rise up – one from the sea, the other from the land – Leviathan and Behemoth. The two monsters are empowered by the dragon and attack God’s people, the community of faith.

The symbols become increasingly understandable. The dragon is satan, the woman is Mary/Israel/Eve, her baby boy is Jesus, the sea monster is empire, and the land monster is religion.

When God became human in Christ, satan marshaled all his forces to destroy him from the time he was born – Herod, villagers, Pharisees, Sadducees, Pilate. The devil thought he had succeeded on Good Friday, but then came Easter.

Furious, the devil sought to destroy Israel. The Jewish Wars, the Roman 10thLegion, Jerusalem crushed in 70 AD, Masada breached in 73 AD, Jewish blood flowed in rivers. But God poured out the Holy Spirit and a new Israel was born consisting of women and men of every ethnicity and language all over the globe grafted into the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Satan called forth the sea monster empire to help him destroy the church. For 300 years, Christians, Jewish and Gentile alike, united in loving worship and service, refused military service and violence, chose not to work for Rome, would not bow to idols nor recognize Caesar as lord, lived by the Sermon on the Mount practicing the way of nonviolent cruciform love, and cared for the sick, despised and rejected. The Roman Empire persecuted them relentlessly and their numbers grew exponentially. 

Still not willing to give up, satan empowered a land monster called religion. Religion joined Empire to destroy the body of Christ, the community of faith, the ecclesia of God. 

Constantine declared an Edict of Toleration; Theodosius made Christianity the state religion of Rome. Religion married empire. Two hideous beasts. Monsters empowered by the devil. Empire and Religion. Christendom. Civil religion. The homogenization of institutional church and state. A religion that was Christian in name only, now the chaplain and handmaid of the empire. “Christians” sought political power, amassed wealth, championed military operations, sparked crusades, appointed inquisitors, engaged in violence, oppressed the poor, stole land from native peoples, and built empires with slave labor. Stolen land. Stolen people.

August 9thof each year is designated by the UN as International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

The political powers of Christendom, with the full blessing of religion, launched explorers who forcefully claimed lands for their monarchs – lands that had been owned by indigenous people for 10,000 years. Spain, Denmark, Holland, France, Portugal, and England brutally conquered, slaughtered, subdued and enslaved native people throughout Africa and North, Central, and South America. They stole both land and resources. After a campaign of genocide and reneging on treaties, Native Americans were marched away, their lands seized by plantation owners and turned into slave camps that filled the world with cotton and sugar. It was all done in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 

Is it any wonder that so many natives of the Americas, Africa, and the South Pacific Islands reject Christianity today? To them, Christianity is greedy violent imperialism that aids massive empires (run by Europeans and their descendants) in oppressing the weak. 

Is it any wonder that many Jews are not receptive to the message of Christianity? To them, Christianity means crusades, inquisitions, fascism, and the Holocaust. 

Is it any wonder that many North American millennial and Gen-Z people reject Christianity? In their experience, Christianity means white supremacy, intolerance, homophobia, misogyny, racist capitalism, abusive clergy, and right-wing politics. 

We have two satanically empowered monsters in our midst – Religion and Empire. They support one another. The emperor says he will protect the religious people, appoint judges to push their agenda, and give them access to wealth and power. The religious leaders champion the emperor as a new Cyrus, work to get out the vote, and back unprecedented corruption. Religion waves the banner of the empire and is proud of her troops and conquests.

The religious people call their religion Christian. It is not. It does not resemble the good news to the poor Jesus preached. It acts diametrically opposite what Jesus taught.

What will become of Civil Religion that calls itself Christian? What will become of modern empires? 

The book of Revelation answers. The cruciform sacrificial blood of the Lamb and his followers will defeat satan, the land beast, and the sea beast. Not by might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit. Satan failed to destroy Christ, failed to destroy Israel, and will fail to establish his demonic kingdom and false religion on earth as it is in hell. 

Today, in the halls of power, behind pulpits, and over expensive media, there are those who profess to follow Christ, but the Jesus they proclaim is nothing like the real Jesus of the Gospels. Rather than follow the Lamb of God in the way of sacrificial love, like John Lewis did his whole life, for example, they have made a Faustian bargain with a satanic empire built by enslaved people on stolen land. 

“For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
    the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
    that can hold no water at all!”

(Jeremiah 2:13 NLT)

They have forsaken the fountain of living water, which is Christ. They have hewed out cracked cisterns of civil religion. 

Watertight Reservoirs Part 2 of 2

Ancient Israel’s fundamental problem at the time of the Babylonian exile (circa 587 BC) was that they had as a nation put their trust in things that were not trustworthy. Specifically, they were trusting in the military might of political alliances reinforced by a religious belief system that taught them that they were so highly favored by God they could not fail. They were trusting in the two satanically inspired idols of Revelation – Empire and Religion. 

“For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
    the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
    that can hold no water at all!”

(Jeremiah 2:13 NLT)

They forsook the fountain of living water.  Jesus is the fountain of life-giving water. Drink of it and you will never thirst again. They hewed out cracked cisterns. They trusted in militaristic empires. They amalgamated church and state, religion and empire, into a leaky reservoir. 

The new wine cracked the old wineskin. 

God calls us to separate ourselves from Empire and Religion and to trust the living God. To help, God sends prophets and spiritual shepherds:

Jeremiah 3:15 I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (NRSV)

Knowledge is wisdom – the assimilation of facts and insights that results in perception. Knowledge of God includes insight into what God is like, knowing God’s heart and character. I know who the Prime Minister of France is, but I do not know him in this sense. I know of him but not much about him, and almost nothing of his true inner nature. Conversely, I really know my spouse. 

Understanding includes skill, the proficiency that enables us to apply what we have learned. I relish listening to Yo Yo Ma but I haven’t his cello proficiency. 

When the teaching pastor breaks the bread of life, I am spiritually fed – I gain knowledge and understanding about God and God’s world. If I am open and teachable, it isn’t just intellectual knowledge; I learn who God is; I see God’s character more clearly. As a result, I trust God. Faith is the proficient application of biblical and theological knowledge. 

What does it mean to trust God? What does it mean to put our faith in Christ?

Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is not blindly accepting what some authority tells you. Genuine Christian faith cannot exist without doubt. If a thing is absolutely certain, there is nothing to choose. 

Biblical faith is a covenant word – it means to trust your partner. I trust my spouse. I trust my adult children. I have good solid reasons to trust them – I know them; I know their characters. Biblical faith is trusting in the character, the nature of God because we know God to be loving and trustworthy. 

But, how do we know that? Maybe god is monstrous and cruel; maybe god is disinterested and distant; maybe god is untrustworthy. Perhaps god does not even exist.

Our strongest beliefs combine our reason, our experience, and our emotions. If I rationally psychoanalyze my spouse, I conclude that she is whole and healthy, honest and caring. I have lived with her for over 35 years. My experience tells me she is kind, compassionate, and sensitive. My experience reinforces what my rational analysis concluded. As I spend time with her, I feel emotionally drawn in, attracted to who she is.

If I look at the cosmos rationally, I see abundant evidence of a plan, of meaning, of purpose. Multiple intricate factors are in perfect balance allowing for carbon-based life to evolve. Humans generally and historically search for meaning. Love exists. People sacrifice for the good of others. Beauty abounds. Kindness endures. My experience tells me that there is a God who radically changes lives for the better. My emotions are stirred and I am drawn towards this God. Mind, experience and emotion lead me to a real living God.

Jesus did things only God could do. He changed the molecular structure of water into that of wine. He walked on water, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, cast out demons, and healed the sick – all of which points to Jesus being the embodiment of a kind and good God. He always did what pleased God. He was sinless. 

Jesus said things only God could legitimately say. He claimed to preëxist Abraham who lived two millennia prior. He repeatedly applied the divine name by which God revealed Godself to Moses (I AM) to himself. He said that he and the Father were one. He said no one knows the Father but him and those to whom he reveals God. He said that he had come from heaven and was going back there to prepare a place for his followers. 

Jesus literally, physically, rose from the dead. We know that because the sealed and guarded tomb was empty when they opened it. We know that because the grave cloth was still wound as if around a body. We know he rose again because he appeared to multitudes of people in many different settings over a long period of time. We know he is alive because every one of his followers was transformed and willing to die as a result. We know he rose again because for 2,000 years, lives continue to be transformed.

Therefore, when I examine the evidence, ask all my questions, and express all my doubts, I conclude that Jesus is trustworthy. God is exactly like Jesus. I look at Jesus and see God. And so, I pledge my allegiance to him. I kiss his scepter and submit to his lordship. When I do, I experience love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and light that I’ve never before known.

Jesus calls me to no longer trust in empires with their military might, an economic system with its goods and services, or in civil religion that sounds Christian but is not. My one and only authority is Jesus.

Jesus is the source of living water. Jesus is the water of life. With my trust in him, my life is a watertight reservoir. Jesus pours his life into me. Hopefully, his life and light, his love and compassion, overflow to others. 

BROKEN CISTERNS: Jeremiah chapters 2 & 3

Doubt, Faith, & Freedom

Doubt, Faith, & Freedom

Gleanings from Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Sacrificing freedom in exchange for happiness is the devil’s bargain. God created us in God’s own image – with freedom to choose goodness freely, rather than with the base obedience of a robot. Free choice can only exist where there is doubt. Where there is certainty, there is nothing to choose. The QED of Euclidian geometry leaves no room for choice. 

Jesus offers no proofs; scripture offers no proofs. Scripture points to Jesus and Jesus guides us with his life, image, and teaching. We must choose goodness freely in the face of doubt. Choice made in the face of uncertainty, however, always leaves open the inevitability of making mistakes, which leads to guilt and regret. Desperate to avoid guilt and regret, many people choose to surrender their freedoms to totalitarian ideologies championed by demagogues who honorifically talk of “freedom” while redefining freedom in selfish and intolerant ways. When we flee guilt and regret, we fail to recognize that they are divine gifts of guidance. We confuse guilt with shame, which is long-lasting, deep-seated and toxic. Our need to be right supersedes and short-circuits our experience with divine love. 

Secularists erroneously define “faith” as blind belief in something some authority has told us. That might include such things as a religious narrative, the myth of a Christian nation, the myth of redemptive violence, the lie of white supremacy, a belief in an inevitable evolutionary utopia, racialized capitalism, or narrow-minded nationalism. For the Civil religionist who is immersed in the homogenization of the American myth retold in Christianeze, “faith” means acceptance of a nationalistic triumphalism coupled with an escapist eschatology that often results in a lifestyle diametrically opposed to the Sermon on the Mount.

True faith, however, is not blind belief in a religious or secular authority. Nor is faith the absence of doubt. Conversely, genuine Christian faith cannot exist without doubt. If a thing is absolutely certain, there is nothing to choose. That, however, does not mean that we cannot know anything. Clearly, both goodness and badness exist in our world. Torturing children is wrong. It is good to savor the beauty of a rose. True Christian faith begins when we choose to love life. 

For me, that process includes:

  1. A deconstruction and rebuilding of my theology, my philosophy of life, my religiophilosophical worldview. The jingoistic warrior god of vengeance is being replaced with the true and living God revealed in Christ, whose essence is perfect unconditional love.
  2. Discovering, embracing, and loving my inner child with the help of therapy and spiritual direction.
  3. Hanging around knowledgeable people who are helping me see the wondrous beauty of nature.
  4. Purposely looking for the imago Dei, the image of God, in others, and asking God to enable me to love others – all others. 
  5. Learning to be comfortable living in the liminal space of uncertainty, of not knowing with absolute assurance, of recognizing that I could be mistaken, being open and teachable.

With fresh inner freedom, seeing (as for the first time) the marvelous beauty of God, others, creation, and myself, I daily become increasingly convinced of the essential truth of Christianity and the presence of Trinitarian Love. Settling into Abba’s arms, I have peace and joy and no need of being right. 

Prince of Peace

War after war to end all wars

Tanks, bombs, mushroom cloud

Poison gas and anthrax

Feeding the egos of kings

Universal carnage certified by

Bibles and pulpits in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Purges, crusades, inquisitions

Stakes and faggots

Flames and racks 

Jew, Arab, Moslem, Anabaptist

Unholy butchery perpetrated by

Protestant Catholic in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Conquering, invading, occupying

Trail of tears, smallpox, slaughter

Genocide, thievery, suppression,

“Savages,” battle, Little Big Horn

Pompous imperialist endorsed by

Popes and pulpits in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Nets of greed kidnap

Middle Passage stench and sorrow

Auction block, whip, shackle, rape, 

Sold, cotton, sugar, overseer

Racist cruelty sanctioned by

Bibles and pulpits in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Gender queer beaten to death

Cast out of paradise and

Down into infernos of hatred

Mingled with loathing

Homophobic viciousness applauded by

Bibles and pulpits in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Knee on neck, bullet in back

Body armor, tactical gear, teargas

Split skull handcuffed on ground

Death by cop, the crime of being black

Systemic malice authorized by

Bibles and pulpits in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Twenty-two hundred volts

At twelve amps

Surging through the terrified body

Of the mentally ill impaired

Death by State justified by

Bibles and pulpits in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Redlines, slumlords, polluted

Food deserts lacking healthcare

Making America white again

Push back xenophobes

Chauvinistic viciousness sanctioned by

Bibles and pulpits in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Priests, pastors, teachers assault 

Little boys, pedophile, abuse

Lives of shame, ever-bleeding wounds

Shattered foundation, crumbling

Exploitive assault covered up by

Bishops and systems in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Wealth and power to manipulate and control

The minds and purses of the sheep

Who trust and follow the chaplains of

Capitalistic militaristic empire

Pompous totalitarianism legitimized by

Sermons and gods in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Shallow greed, misogynist, walls, cages

Amoral malignant narcissist 

Sociopathic inventor of facts

Sycophant minions

Totalitarian dictator endorsed by

Religion and clergy in the name of the

Prince of Peace

Fountain of living water forsaken

Cisterns, broken cisterns, 

That hold no water

Faithful shepherds feed

Beautiful feet

Mountains of Zion

Good news

Our God reigns

The Prince of Peace

(On the Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6 and August 9, The United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous People)

Demolition & Reconstruction: Jeremiah 1:1-10

Demolition & Remodeling

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.” 

(God, speaking to Jeremiah)

Is it not a sad commentary on our times that “builders’ grade” materials are the cheapest available? Everything in your shiny new suburban home, from appliances to carpets to roof to electrical systems, will need to be replaced in the first ten years. Planned obsolescence. Whether you’re replacing carpets or remodeling the kitchen, some demolition will need to occur before you can start installing the new. Pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow – then, build and plant.

The proud nation of Israel had to be destroyed before it could be rebuilt into something better. It had relied on its economic and military strength. Its people thought God preferred them above others. They shut their hearts against the poor, against foreigners, and against refugees.  The idols of militarism, consumerism, and nationalism had to come down. Then, and only then, could Israel be transformed into a diverse universal community of Messiah-followers bringing God’s love to the world. 

Every empire, from Egypt to America, must be humbled before it can hear the Good News. Every empire has (or had) foundational sins. A more perfect union can only emerge when those foundational sins are the objects of focused repentance. Our national original sins are obvious – the genocide of native peoples, the theft of their land, chattel slavery, and on-going systemic racism and injustice. 

It is not only the unrepented sins of the past that pose a barrier – it is also the presumptions, premises, and beliefs of today. They too must be demolished. The myths of a Christian nation, of European Christendom, of national exceptionalism, manifest destiny, white supremacy, redemptive violence, just war, and capitalism need to crumble so that a garden of grace can grow. 

So it is with individuals. What in my life needs to be demolished, deconstructed, torn down, and overthrown in order that God might conform my heart and mind to divine cruciform love? 

A gift, an act of pure grace, occurs when God allows our lives to be shaken. Strong trees withstand the hurricane.

I speak only for myself. So far, demolition has been needed theologically, sociologically, vocationally, psychologically, relationally, and intellectually. I’m sure there is more to come – after all, I’m only 69.

Theologically, God’s loving Spirit has cornered me into rethinking scriptural violence, eternal judgment, eschatology, inerrancy, and atonement theory.

Sociologically, old views of humanity needed to give way to a deeper more compassionate understanding of homelessness, addictions, mental illness, poverty, racism, and unjust systems.

Vocationally, I hear the quiet whisper of the Spirit directing me to serve and love rather than accomplish and impress. 

Psychologically, I am learning (with the help of therapy and spiritual direction) to love, accept, and forgive others and myself.

Relationally, I’m learning to be sensitive to the needs of others, receive people respectfully, express admiration and support, show affection, and offer freedom rather than control. 

Intellectually, I’m just beginning to explore new areas like particle physics, invertebrate zoology, anthropology, and Latin.

When the wrecking crew first showed up in my life, I was frightened. I was afraid of discovering that everything I believed in was a lie. I was afraid I’d wind up an atheistic existentialist bleakly staring into meaninglessness. I was fearful because I forgot that Truth couldn’t be shaken. Yes, there were things I thought were Truth and weren’t, and they needed to crumble. Yes, my tidy white middleclass suburban fundamentalist evangelical Republican world collapsed. Nothing could have been more of a blessing.

But nothing of substance was hurt. In fact, once the wreckage was cleared away, the True shined forth. 

At our local nature center, periodic controlled burns clear away the non-native and invasive species, and out of the blackened vegetation, native wildflowers proliferate and pollinators flourish. 

Jesus is the Truth. We need not fear that anything can shake that. God is in essence Love. The Bible infallibly points us to Jesus. Jesus, God incarnate, died and rose again to redeem the entire cosmos. The foundation remains secure.

I watched wide-eyed and trembling as my nationalism, militarism, understanding of history, ingrained homophobia, belief in a vengeful god, acceptance of special creationism (and rejection of evolution), conservative political views, biblical literalism, and understanding of God’s calling crumbled under God’s wrecking ball of love. I was afraid I’d be left with nothing but ruins.

Instead, I am discovering a deepening love for every culture and a widening affection for all of creation. I love God more deeply, know God more intimately, and follow God more closely.

Now I see the wildflowers and the butterflies. 

GOD’S EXCHANGE

Instead of sin, forgiveness

Instead of war, peace

Instead of poverty, sufficiency

Instead of nationalism, humanity

Instead of conspiracy, science

Instead of judging, appreciation

Instead of defensiveness, attention

Instead of desire, acceptance

Instead of control, affection

Instead of fantasy, freedom

Instead of differences, unity

Instead of illness, health

Instead of worry, trust

Instead of pollution, purity

Instead of hatred, love

Instead of isolation, community

Instead of discontentment, gratitude

Instead of anger, patience

Instead of bitterness, understanding

Instead of confusion, order

Instead of prejudice, approval

Instead of complaining, gratefulness

Instead of negatives, positives

Instead of self-concern, compassion

Instead of greed, generosity

Instead of authoritarianism, service

Instead of discouragement, hope

Instead of sorrow, joy

Instead of discouragement, inspiration

Instead of parsimony, celebration

Instead of isolation, connectedness

Instead of bondage, liberty

Instead of addiction, freedom

Instead of weariness, energy

Instead of dullness, creativity

Instead of despair, hope

Instead of sadness, happiness

Instead of ashes, beauty

Instead of weakness, vigor

Instead of indignity, nobility 

Instead of ugliness, loveliness

 Instead of falsehood, truth

Instead of blame, admiration

Instead of rejection, welcoming

Instead of wrong, right

Instead of evil, good

Instead of injustice, justice

Instead of meanness, benevolence

Instead of bullying, kindness

Instead of censure, appreciation

Instead of violence, goodwill

Instead of dissonance, harmony

Instead of anger, serenity

Instead of infidelity, faithfulness

Instead of ignorance, knowledge 

Instead of betrayal, loyalty

Instead of talking, listening

Instead of depression, esteem

Instead of victimization, power

Instead of haste, contemplation

Instead of irritability, amiableness

Instead of harshness, kindness

Instead of fixing, caring

Instead of pride, humility

Instead of religion, relationship

Instead of conceit, meekness

Instead of intemperance, self-control 

Instead of bondage, manumission

Instead of isolation, connectedness

Instead of loneliness, companionship

Instead of ruins, new beginnings 

Instead of stuff, spirit

Instead of self-hatred, self-love

Instead of brokenness, shalom

Instead of guilt, hesed

Instead of timidity, courage

Instead of darkness, light

Instead of confusion, guidance

Instead of death, life

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