Religious Beliefs to Unlearn

More soapbox.

My personal understanding today.

Infographic I shared recently:
Text reads, Religious Beliefs to Unlearn: I cannot trust myself, I am nothing without God, My desires are sinful, Your spiritual self is all that matters, I’m broken and need to be saved, There is only one right way to live, I am responsible for saving others

I cannot trust myself… My desires are sinful

I was told…
that my heart was desperately wicked and not to trust my feelings or desires.
to not lean on my own understanding
wait for God’s leading
obey my elders/leaders (and not try to lead myself)

The support of trusting that God is good and the hope that comes from believing that a good Creator cares matters. But a deep, bottom-of-my-heart level lack of trust in myself hamstrung me early on. And it’s not the truth. He’s given us a spirit of power and of sound mind. He has put the ability to reason and understand and care and… all the things. I don’t have to only follow a man’s teaching. I can trust my own understanding of myself and God.

I am nothing without God

Well….. I wouldn’t exist without a creator, I guess. But each of us is something! Why would God LOVE us if we weren’t valuable? We are! We’re a whole package… heart, mind, soul, body…. desires, emotions, ideas, experiences… Solomon found the value of existence in enjoying the life we live. Let’s do that. Let’s take this huge, valuable gift of life and use it. We don’t need to stop and check if we’re actually “nothing.” He’s very happy with us having free choice and giving all the angels a show.

Your spiritual self is all that matters

This focus on the afterlife has clipped the wings on the power of the living church. We don’t show up for each other and care for each others’ specific, human needs like we were made to, because of the focus being shifted on something “after.” The kingdom of God is here one earth! If we behave like it. It’s us. It’s what we do, what we do with our physical bodies.

I’m broken and need to be saved.

This one is about the core of much of the church’s teaching and most of my Christian friends will agree with it. My husband does and he’s as generous and open-minded as old-school Jesus followers come! But hear me out… go back to the place where I’m not trusting myself and where the things that come out of my own heart are sinful and destructive. And have that be your belief for perpetuity. You know, until sanctification is complete upon our deaths and whatever God does to us then that he hasn’t done to our current selves. That destroys the vigor and vitality of a soul. It leaves us worms. It leaves us powerless. It left me sinking into a pit of depression and despair. But… what if the thing God made (me) is a good thing? A beautiful thing? Something powerful and wonderful? What if everything changes when we think about ourselves as whole instead of broken? What if God has plans for us. Us. Me! Just how I am? What if just how I am is all He wants? I think it’s time for the story to be reframed. I’m learning about “original sin” and “original good” and learning. One of the two feels more like real life.

There’s only one right way to live.

Welllllllll, I believed this and tried for decades to find and adhere to this right(TM) way. And it felt like a moving target. And missing it felt like proof that I was broken and nothing and a failure truly. And then…. I realized that while I could believe that a God created me and that Jesus is real and that the Bible is a holy book… not everybody interprets it exactly the same, but we can all, even non-Christians, do our best to love and honor and respect and care for each other. And that this kingdom of heaven on earth (of loving each other) is what Jesus wants. And that’s where the focus should be. And I can celebrate my failures and have hope in my suffering, because they’re all part of the big, beautiful experience called life that I’ve been given. That right(TM) way to live can go to hell. Because for me, it was hell on earth.

I am responsible for saving others (in a spiritual sense)

Telling this to each other is emotional manipulation. God does not throw people in hell because we didn’t find or convince somebody of the right(TM) way. When we let this bleed into the rest of our lives, such as parenting, it puts impossible pressures on us. We cannot make children like we can make a pie.

Furthermore, Jesus is not just a name. It’s a power. And all we’re responsible for is doing our best to love and respect ourselves and love and respect others. This honors God.

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Sexual/Gender Rights and the Bible

There are several verses in the Bible that mention homosexual behavior and they’re all negative/condemning. But I have come to believe that the Bible (and God) celebrate everybody in the LGBTQ+ community, including the way they respect and live their authentic selves. (I was trying to say, “celebrate their their lifestyle” but that word lifestyle is not defined the same for everybody.)

I’ve been asked why or how I can believe that queer Christians, for example, can be authentic or legitimate. I think many of you are thinking, “people who wonder that must live in a bubble.” And yes, many people do. I did. I had only ever heard that homosexuality was a sin, or at least acting on it was a sin. And if somebody believed differently, they were twisting the Word of God to suit themselves and debasing the truth. There is a pervasive attitude of sexuality and gender differences being a form of self harm or mental illness. There is a sharp, visceral rejection and damning of even the suggestion of welcoming differences in sexuality or gender.

And I think that’s wrong.

Obviously. That’s why I’m writing.

And you know what? It’s important. Because damning, rejecting, or just being disgusted by the simple, authentic nature of another human being… causes harm. It’s the opposite of love. And you know what? If it’s NOT self harm and it’s NOT mental illness, then this rejection is most definitely not what Jesus would do.

Bible reasoning:
When I come upon a passage that I struggle with, I can dig into that verse in more depth and I can also compare it to the rest of Scripture. There are verses in the Bible that say that women should not speak in a religious gathering. Specifically, we should be silent. I think that’s BS, but why? Well, in the rest of Scripture, women are used as leaders and teachers. Just one example…. is that we could call first apostle Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus appeared to first and who was called to preach the good news to the other disciples and apostles. Another example involves women and our hair, hair length, hair coverings, etc. Verses in both the old testament and new (I think) tell us directly that we should have long hair, we should not braid it or decorate it, and we should cover our heads. Some churches adhere to these rules, but the vast majority recognize the cultural and specific scenarios these were written for and, after putting it in context, recognize the value in humility, self care, and respecting self and others… while leaving out anything really to do with hair.

It’s the same with homosexuality.

I think I would say that, for me, deciding about gender/sexuality and the Bible’s teachings comes down to two things Jesus said (not direct quotes):
Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
The greatest commandment is this: To love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s the heart of the Bible.

It’s to show up. Be human. Care for others. Care for ourselves. Love each other. Be authentic. Show respect for yourself and others. Honor one another. In these ways, we also love and honor our Creator. In these ways, we bring God’s kingdom to earth.

Is being gay, for example, counter to this? No.
Is having promiscuous sex counter to this? It sure can be. But that’s not even remotely the same thing as being queer.
Is dating and marrying and having genuine relationships counter to God’s teaching? No. The opposite. What gender we are and what gender we date or marry is not at all counter to showing up, being authentic, loving ourselves and others, and respecting ourselves and others.
Is denying a person’s right to love who they love counter to God’s teaching? Yep. Don’t do that.
Is being born lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary, or any other different way counter to God’s teaching? No! It’s exactly how God made you! If you were born cis-gendered and heterosexual, then things were easy for you. You didn’t do that. That’s how God made you. And not everybody was made the same.

A person should never be denied respect and love when they interpret Scripture differently than you. Or if they’re stronger or weaker than you. Or if they dress or act differently than you. Or if they fall in love with who they fall in love with.

Love each other. Support each other. The Bible supports that. Don’t be afraid when people are more varied and different than you expected. It’s a big, beautiful world out there. Get out and celebrate it!


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Self Love

Early in our marriage, Brian recognized a difference between us and we talked about it. Deep down inside, beyond all the life choices, mistakes, imperfections, criticisms and experiences, he knew that his core… was good. He could say it out loud with a deep still-watered confidence. I could not say that. Deep down inside, I knew I was flawed. Broken. Inadequate. Rotten. A failure. He couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand him. How could I have what he has?

Learning self love has been a long process of religious and cultural deconstruction. What I mean by that, is that I began to name beliefs inside myself and tear them down. Much like a renovation of an outdated house. Some parts of my internal house have been rebuilt, but many are still in the visionary stage. I am developing the vision for what I want to build there while I continue finding and peeling off bits of old ugly wallpaper. I think I’ll find bits of wallpaper for the rest of my life, but I am so relieved and happy for the major change that’s happened already.

There are more things to name than I probably can remember, but I want to try and name and memorialize some of the things I’ve torn down… and paint a general picture of my new vision.

My old internal landscape wallpaper looked like the “filthy rags” of my spiritual worth. I was, from birth, destined for destruction and God was only just to turn his back from my abject unholiness. He covered me with the righteousness of Jesus, but there was always a sense of worry that the robe might slip and my true corrupt self might show. So much stemmed from this… a belief that I cannot trust myself, that my motivations are evil, that my body and my natural urges set me on a course to destruction. I rigorously clung to behaviors and beliefs that might help keep me on the straight and narrow.

I have no hope when depending on a God who hates His creation.

This cruel God is no God worth worshiping.

This salvation is no good news.

What about a God who loves His creation? Truly loves. Enjoys. Is delighted by. A Creator who sees His creation and is delighted by its every attempt to LIVE. Righteous or not, good choices or bad, this creator sees the people made in His image and is proud of them, cheering them on, wanting the best for them. He sees me… whether I’m a Christian or not, with all my warts and imperfections and sin and imperfection and He thinks I’m beautiful! He’s proud of me! He made me… deep at my core… GOOD. Could I be? Could my internal landscape have a core of goodness? Could my body, my thoughts, my motivations… be inspired by a goodness that is built into my soul? Could I trust myself?

That would be powerful.

That thought scares me. And scares a lot of Christians.

Maybe I’m not a Christian. But I am one of the Created. It is enough.

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Today I am still convalescing from a cold virus that ran through our family. I am at that point where I don’t want to be resting any more. I have life pressing in at me and boredom bothering me and impatience trying to spoil the rest. There’s so much I can’t write freely about online any more. My kids are so much older and so much of my life still involves them. But what about myself? Just myself. Me. Journaling is a good place to do inner exploration and to try to grasp some of the changes happening inside of me.

I used to think that a person could figure out what the right thing was… what the best way was… what the absolute beliefs should be. And I thought that if I could grasp all that, then everything else would fall into place. All I had to do was to lean hard enough into the right things. If something went wrong, it must be because I thought the wrong thing or did the wrong thing. I had no space in my life for suffering or sorrow or pain or brokennes. Eveyrthing I did was to push toward a vision of perfection. And i sure missed the point.

The point of life is not to achieve perfection. It’s not to pursue any image at all. The point of life is… to live… to grow… to change… to experience… to be beautiful.

Each of us makes the world a better place just by existing. I regret stomping on anything in my life and in others that didn’t fit my previous mold. My box was too small. I’m sorry. Time to live bigger now. Be free.

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What I Love

Who am I? Today, this month, this moment, this season. What do I love and what delights me? What do I enjoy, what fills my soul, what do I long for, and what is the image inside my soul?

I love wood. I love the great trees of the forest, the twisted branches of the stunted trees, the drips of pitch on a scraggly spruce. I love the smell of lumber in a home improvement store. I love the swirling grain of myrtlewood and the smooth lines of pine and the sense of strength and organic integrity of real wood over laminated particle board. I love the way that my own hand can change and shape wood to what I want… sanding it and staining it and then applying lacquer so that it glows to both my hands as well as my eyes. I love the way adding wood to a room makes the room look warmer and more welcoming. I love how aged wood glows and tells its story.

I love words. I like to let myself be overly particular and specific with words. And it amuses me that I so often have trouble remembering the word, “articulate” when I’m trying to think of it.

I love familiar, cozy, carefully planned and functional spaces. My bedroom is one that I’ve been working on and I’m loving to see it come into shape.

I discovered that I love setting up craft spaces at least as much as I love using craft spaces.

I’m having a hard time focusing. Let me think.

Well – I will dwell on this and come back to it. My counselor tasked me with making a collage, but I don’t have magazines and I’d like to work on it in word form anyway. List form. I love lists.

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