Charissa and the Dementors (Part One)

Constance, I have decided to give you here at Grace Notes a taste of the kind of thing that  gets flung at me via commentors and other uninvited contributors to my experience of life.

I want to ask you to carefully read thru what has been written and said, and weigh it in your hearts.

I particularly want to appeal to my readers who would call themselves Christians.  You all are important in a couple of different ways:

1.  First of all, you will know the culture that this comes from, and the “type” of person who slings verses around to proof-text a prior assumption.  I would ask from you all, given that I have never actually met any of you (phone calls with some), and given that how I report my marriage, fidelity, and my pursuit and daily relationship with God is true (and it is, btw), and given the overall whole of Grace Notes, from poetry to worship songs to devotionals to teachings to rants to naked sharing of hurt and sorrow to open insistence on following after God in the face of all, to spending long hours with people who actually know me and are here to see my life and thus have some standing upon which to desire an accounting of my decision to transition

…given all those things I ask rhetorically:

A.  Is it appropriate from a biblical perspective to communicate to someone you literally do not know in anyway or have any actual experience whatsoever with in such a way as these individuals have with me?  Is that like Jesus’ actions, either to sinners, strangers, His friends or His enemies?  Does that activity follow Philippians 2?  In light of the givens, would it be appropriate to wrench Matt 18 out of context as a pretext?

B.  Am I in sexual sin?  Am I in immorality?  I have had sex with one person in my life, and am married to that one person.  This is TMI, but in the interest of full disclosure, neither of us has much interest in sexuality right now, and thus we are living a loving, close, tender celibate life together and have never been closer or more “married” than we are now.

C. Given the thing I just said, if someone then said that I was lying and speaking from deception, would that be a claim either appropriate from a christian conduct perspective or from a truth perspective?  Would that comment reveal more about me, or about them?

D.  After careful filtering for the rainbow of reasons someone may be on my path (including the one that one of my dementors listed as her own driving obsession and burden to be freed from), is a genuine medically verified transgender person sinful or immoral simply by being thus?  If yes, on what biblical basis?  If no, is a person who chooses to avail themselves of the medical technology which has a verifiable efficacy in addressing the horror of dysphoria sinning?  If yes, on what biblical basis?  If yes, is someone who pursues medical help for any of the myriad reasons extant in this world of woes also in sin?  On what basis?  How does one know which ones are permitted and which ones aren’t?

E.  In light of the spectrum of plumbing and wiring varieties, and in light of the fact that each of these people has a sense of what gender they are, where does gender reside?  In DNA, which can be both or almost even neither?  In genitalia which can also be both or neither?  In the brain and heart and soul which cannot be measured or weighed?  Does the Bible say where gender resides?  If in the cases of people who have a physical range and blend of both genders, or a DNA that mismatches their genitalia, we allow them to “choose their gender”, is it wrong to allow others who very strongly do not identify gender wise with their body to choose their gender as well?  Why or why not, and again, from a biblical basis please support your answer.  Be prepared to properly exegete the passages cited.

F.  Is it a common thing, as the argument of extremes states in alarm, for people to discover in a liberty to identify gender wise as they know themselves to be, for bunches and bunches of people to just shift back and forth, hither and yon like people do in sports teams allegiances, or food preferences, or clothing fashions? Set aside the question for a moment of if this shifting back and forth would be a sin and unbiblical…I think there would be difficulty in making any case for or against strictly on the abstract question if it should or should not be…the more relevant question is this:  do the majority of people in the world want to change gender (the answer is emphatically no)?  If no, why not?  Is it because gender identity is wired so deep that the thought of being forced into the opposite gender role is so repugnant as to be unacceptable?  Is it because the majority of people in the world believe it is sinful to do so (which would assume that the majority of people in the world also read and studied the bible and held it authoritative and that the bible spoke authoritatively and clearly on the issue)?  Or is it because gender is so hard-wired into our beings that they just will not do it…and thus granting freedom to identify one’s gender orientation represents not a threat to all but liberty to the ones it applies to?

G.  When the bible says that God knew us in our mother’s womb, is it defining us by our physicality, or by our eternal status as a soul?  In being intricately knit and wonderfully and fearfully made, what was God up to in the case of humans who suffer from innate deformities, syndromes, failures of DNA to form properly, etc. etc?  And in the burgeoning number of such conditions that we have been gifted with the grace to medically address and literally fix, are we allowed to do so?  If no, on what biblical basis?

H.  When we read someone’s posts on the internet, someone somewhere in the world who has some life unseen and unknown, unseeable and unknowable, is there any biblical basis for us to claim knowledge of their faith and its veracity?  From a biblical basis, would one who did this be exemplifying the actions of a wise person (a topic that the bible is quite vocal about), or a foolish person (also a topic heavily addressed in biblical literature)?

I.  What do loving actions look like?  From a biblical basis, what is loving correction?  When is it appropriate, and to whom by whom?  Would it be biblical for me to administer corporal discipline to a stranger’s child because my own interpretation of the bible said that the child’s actions were endangering them of  going to hell if I did not “beat the foolishness from their heart?” (Yes…sigh, the Proverbs do indeed say that…see how tricky it is to take eternal words and truths which were spoken and given in specific cultural times and practices that are not eternal or true and distill them and then apply them in totally different cultural times and practices that are no more eternal or true just because they are ours and current)?

J.  Is it appropriate to speak harshly, painting in broad brush to a person you have never met, do not know except by a few words online not even written to you, and then to say things that are flat out judgments that given the lack of even a scintilla of relationship are impossible to make with any integrity, and then conclude by saying that these actions are the most loving because they are “speaking the truth?”

K.  Remember Constance…all I just wrote is for readers who think of themselves as professing christians who are serious about wanting to live a Christ-like life full of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (yes, I do remember that I call Holy Spirit Mama, and no, I do not receive accusation that it is sin to do so…at worst it is the action of an air headed child that causes the parent to give an eye-roll and shrug, and at best…well maybe I am right and She is quite pleased to have half of humanity step up into an equal access of the divine image and thus be that one step closer to the whole earth being filled with their glory?

Now…to all readers who do not identify as christian but still are drawn here to read, by my heart and love of people:  do you act the way these people have acted…?  Is this how civilized people dialogue and arrive at truth and consensus? Would you want our teachers to treat your children this way, your employers to treat you this way (well, not a good example for me…sheepish and hurting chuckle), our government officials to treat you this way?

Would you like to be in a congregation of people who wanted to pursue true religion and spiritual growth and have some person like these there to “help you” and “speak the truth in love” to you?

What does “speak the truth in love” look like?

Okay…the preface is here…go to the next post for what I experienced and why I wrote this post!

Do justice.  Love mercy.  Walk Humbly.

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A Fine Bottle of Wine

Have you experienced the so-called devotional piece, or the spiritual exhortation that ends up just sliming you with guilt and shame and failure?

I.     HATE.     Those.

You’re reading along, and suddenly you feel the writer’s fingers around the throat of your joy!  Generally speaking those writers have a very “works-based” relationship with God and are rooted in the ethic that right being descends from right doing…and a greater perversion of the true gospel message I do not know of!  Get this if you get nothing else:  if right doing could cement your redemption then Jesus literally died in vain and His resurrection is meaningless.  But that is a tale for another day.

Long have I been entranced by Paul’s words to the people in Corinth when he told them

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”

Wow!!  I was blown away by that statement when I first encountered it around 10 years old…to write upon someone’s heart!  I pestered a lot of people in our congregation about what this verse meant! lol!!  They got real tired of my asking, but nothing was giving me that “click of truth” that happens in my gut when I have the “aha!” moment of insight.

I have thought of this passage in metaphors of wine.

Wait, wha…???  I can hear it…WINE?  LOL!

Yes, wine, which may be the absolute greatest single metaphor in all creation.  Let me explain:  When you look at a bottle of wine, you are seeing the distilled essence of countless hundreds of thousands of relational decisions that have been made to get the bottle where it is.

Let that sink in…

First of all, there has to be a person who decides they want to plant a vineyard.  If they are wise, they will do research regarding weather patterns, soils, industrial presence or not, sunlight, and temperature extremes.  You could go outside and plant grapes in your front yard, take the fruit and ferment it, strain it, drink it, and get sick!  giggles!  But to make a memorable wine, a classic that is revered and sought after, this will not do.

You would go out to the actual parcels after doing your research, and you would touch the soil, breathe the winds, feel the heat and light, taste the water, talk to other farmers in the region…in short, you would enter into relationship with the land, the climate, and the people there…and you would need to cultivate those relationships assiduously.  Your decisions in each of these aspects will ultimately define the quality of the fruit that comes forth.

Next…you must till the land.  How do you want to do that?  With machines and brute force?  By hand?  Using horses or oxen?  Relational capital is once again required for that decision, as well as planting, what kind of varietal to plant given your soil, climate and geographic orientation.  What planting method will you use?

Then comes cultivating…which is a daily involvement!  Here, your initial relationship with the climate and soil will be vital and tie into your relationship with your vines and their needs.  You must watch daily, and then make decisions on what the vines need to flourish…sometimes more water, usually less water though…when the vines are properly stressed, their flavour is at its most vibrant (see my poem “The Vines”).

OH!  And of course, you will need workers, to help you with your vineyard…how do you treat them??  How do they treat each other?

Next comes thousands of decisions to make about rodent control, parasite control, etc etc.  You need to make decisions about dropping fruit to intensify flavour.  This is done in very heavy fruit years.  See, if your vines produce say 30 tons an acre, all the vigor of the vine goes into making 30 tons of fruit…it leads to grapes that taste limp, blah and forgettable.  Oh, you can make a liquid that will get someone drunk…but that is hardly the focus and goal of truly fine wine.  But if you drop fruit and reduce the yield to say about 1.5 ton per acre, all that vigor goes to those precious few grapes and they are soo much better! And so is the wine.

Then comes harvest…and oh wow what a time this is!!  First of all, are the sugar contents right in your grapes?  Have they had enough sun to ripen?  And what day should you harvest?  Do it when it is too hot, and the fruit is stressed and tastes flat…do it when it is rainy and wet then the flavors are so dilute from the excess water.  What harvest method should you use?  Machine pickers?  Hand pickers?  How careful are your picking techniques to leave the vines relieved of their fruit but intact and flourishing?

Next, how do we get the fruit to the crush pad?  How much fruit do we put in each tote?  Too much and it starts to press the grapes then and you lose the juice…too little and you are not going to get everything in on time.

Then comes the sort line…the clusters must be examined carefully, and ones with signs of rot, under-ripeness, mold, or insect damage must be sorted out and dealt with (sometimes by silage methods, and sometimes by making a cheap fermented product for other uses, but usually just composted).  So who sorts?  How will they sort?

And then comes destemming methods, pressing methods, fermenting methods, and hundreds of other crucial esoteric decisions made just to kick off fermentation!  Not to mention the decisions regarding when to barrel the new wine, what type of barrel to use, what toast it should have. whether the wine is filtered as it is barreled or not…whether to add sugar, or to add acid, and other things many intrusive oriented wine makers use.

How should it be cellared?  Where?  How long?  And then comes the blending of what will go into bottle…tasting the various barrels which are as different as your children from one another…the bottling techniques, the enclosure (cork?  Artificial cork?  Screw cap?  Glass?  Vacuum sealed bladders?).  And how long should we rest the wine in bottle?  Many wines are structured so that they will not even be mature and tasting good until a decade has gone by…other wines are sweet, light, and delicate, and intended to be consumed the same year they were made.

Believe it or not, that is a scant overview and very shallow…and these decisions matter…when made from a dysfunctional relational space, they will result in a dysfunctional tasting wine.  But when made in living and vibrant relational connection to creation, the vines, and your people, the resulting wine will be staggering in its beauty.  The bottle represents the distillation of countless thousands of relational decisions made well!

I have made it my aim to have my life be the result of countless relational decisions made so that when I am tasted, people will say “Wow!  What an amazing wine!  That winemaker really knows Her stuff!”

Remember, wine is alive, and tastes different from month to month, and year to year…as do you, and I.  What counts is at the end…when we are opened and poured out.

I exhort us to be unforgettable!  And I offer a metaphor to shed light on the path to achieving that “unforgettable fire” that burns and influences.

 

Blessings and love this morning to you Constance…and Grace upon Grace!

 

Love, Charissa

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Gratefully Disillusioned by Darin Hufford

I have spent countless hours pondering what went wrong with Christianity in our generation. What happened to our religion to make everything so crazy and off track? How could something centered around authentic relationship with God become so dangerous and hurtful to its participants? More than anything, I’ve asked myself; why wasn’t it working for most people?

I’ve found that the pattern of growth for those who seem to truly know Him has been pretty much the same. The common thread I see over and over is that every person in relationship with Him must go through a shedding period where all that they have been told and all that they have believed is gently taken from them until they are left with nothing but what is. Each person discovers a contentment in knowing they were wrong all along and the stresses of what they had been told all their lives, whether good or bad, trickle away, leaving their spirit relaxed and satisfied.

It’s not as if merely the bad things they’d heard about God were proven wrong. Everything was wrong, the good and the bad. The spectacular claims that used to thrill them during worship services and the absolute promises that they stood on when they felt weak. It all gets stripped away as relationship blooms.

I’ve come to the conclusion that somewhere in the last 200 years, we felt that we needed to market our relationship as a religion. At some point in time, someone decided that Christianity needed to be packaged and presented in a way that would appeal to the masses. In other words, we purposefully marketed our faith to unbelievers. I am convinced that this is where the dominoes began to tumble.

If you’re going to market a pair of shoes to a specific group of people, you must find out what excites those people the most and convince them that if they wear your shoes, they’ll find it. If you’re selling shoes to gang bangers, you’ll need to convince them that these shoes will make them tougher and stronger, perhaps even invincible.

You must make them feel like others will be intimidated by them if they are wearing the shoes. They should believe that once they put those shoes on, something will happen to their very soul that will make them fearless and powerful. This is how marketing works. Once the idea is planted into people’s minds, they buy the product without thinking it through.

I believe that Christianity has been marketed to the carnal nature of unbelievers. We successfully got people who would not have otherwise become a Christian to sign on the dotted line and join our religion. We did it by presenting “relationship with God” in a way that would appeal to power-hungry money mongers who want to escape the cold reality of life.

We told people that God would financially prosper them. We told them that they would never get sick and if they did, God would make it go away. We’ve promised them that if anyone hurt them, their God would stick up for them and get revenge on their behalf. We convinced them that God would also give them godlike powers and they could dazzle their friends and family with magic tricks. We promised them that God would make sure they held a position of leadership in life where everyone would respect them and pay them honor.

I’ve even seen different ministries claim that Christians have better sex than non-Christians. The list goes on and on. One by one, people signed up for Christianity. People who would not have otherwise given it a second look, found themselves strangely tempted with a religion that promised to fulfill their every carnal desire. The offer was just too good to be true.

Generations later, people are holding onto the promises the sales agent gave them, in spite of the fact that they’ve never seen the results manifested in their own life. Others finally leave the “faith,” drained and disheartened. They didn’t get what they wanted from Christianity so they continue searching for a religion that will give it to them.

Then we have the people who would have given their heart to God without any marketing at all. It was already in their heart. They came to Him because they wanted Him and nothing else. They would have come without the fancy marketing and boastful claims.

Sadly, these sincere people go through life thinking they are always one step behind the rest of the crowd. They secretly feel like they’re doing something wrong and failing God because they get sick and are short on cash and are stuck in a dead-end job at the bottom of the totem pole. They aren’t full of intense joy and happiness 24 hours a day like they were told they would be, so they blame themselves for not getting it like they should. They beat themselves up because they truly love God and yet none of the explosions they were told about are happening.

These are the people who will eventually become Free Believers.

These are the people who will still stick around once the good and the bad of their religion has been stripped away. They never needed promises of power and prosperity to pique their interest. They didn’t go into it looking for an escape from normalcy. It was never about avoiding life’s hardships or obtaining magical powers. It was relationship that drew them. It was the Spirit of relationship that they first heard and listened to.

The process of stripping the good and the bad of religion is a long and painful one, but I’ve found that Free Believers love every minute of it. Their faith doesn’t shudder for even a second during the process. When the embellished things of God disappear, they find themselves becoming more pleased and pleasured by what they find behind it than most of their institutional friends would ever have been.

In fact, they would willingly give up everything they had ever been promised, if it meant they could be one step closer to the heart of the one they love. This stripping away of religion’s boasts and promises is truly what separates the sheep from the goats in our generation. The goats become angry and faithless and the sheep become “Gratefully Disillusioned.”

Darin Hufford