Honest Faith: God of War

No, I’m not doing a series of video game blog posts. If I did, I’d probably pick a game series I enjoyed more than that one. I wanted to have a conversation about violence and our love affair with it. Last week I focused on our odd relationship with Pride, this week I want to focus on violence. This is something that I have a long history with, more thinking about rather than violence itself. The thoughts have popped up at random intervals in my life. Once after I wanted to show my wife the awesomeness that is the movie “Fight Club”, she became ill due to the violence depicted. I thought that’s odd I never really noticed it was that bad. Once when I was doing a project in college to survey, using the forum that youth specialties had on their main website (I wasn’t very liked there), what youth ministers thought about war. Finally, there is just recently, at church there was a discussion after service whether Islam was a violent religion or not. Since I have decided that during lent I’d find out more about Islam I figured it was a good discussion to dip my toe into. We had to leave early due to our schedule being tight, but Cathy (my wife) brought up a good point afterward. Asking the question is silly because the question itself is silly. Islam is only violent in so far as Christianity, Judaism, Buddism, Atheism, Sikhism, Hinduism, or whatever other -ism is violent. It isn’t the religion as a whole, it’s the people who follow it.

Back in college, I was a bit naive. Okay, okay it was more than a bit. I like to refer to it as my know-it-all jackassery time. So I got this bright idea that I would start a fight on a youth ministry forum for a project at school. I wanted to get people talking about war and why they justified it. This was early in the “W” years. I was a bigger idealist than I am now. I really believed that Christianity is meant to be a pacifist movement. I still do, but I’m not as militant about it (see what I did there?).quote-i-am-not-only-a-pacifist-but-a-militant-pacifist-i-am-willing-to-fight-for-peace-nothing-albert-einstein-8-74-45 Anyway, I just incited the incident by posting a question on the forum asking what people thought the Bible had to say about war and violence. I cited a few hypotheses and would push people to explain their answers. Needless to say, it got heated very quickly. I actually had back up too. My roommates made accounts on the forum to “Help” with moving the conversation along. I’m not super proud of this, but I was very interested in what happened. We discovered that Christians, especially youth ministers, aren’t very good at handling the opposing viewpoint with respect and kindness. Granted, some were antagonized and pushed by my roommates to explain further, but mostly I started to receive violent threats because I pursued the point of pacifism. I found it ironic, and it turned out to be a very good paper following. This started my pursuit into thinking about why it is we tend toward violence in solving our problems and in our images of justice. Oh and If you were one of those people we pushed way back when on those forums, I apologize. We shouldn’t have been as “troll-y” as we were. I’m also much more interested in having an actual conversation with you now, rather than an argument.

It was this project that really opened my eyes, though. I started to look at what the Bible and other texts that were important to our culture. I started to be more aware of the media I was consuming. What I viewed as entertainment, and what was just so much time wasted. I noticed a disturbing trend. We live in a culture saturated with violent images and sexual innuendo. Now I’m not a super pious person. If you know me personally you know I swear on occasion, like beautifully choreographed martial art sequences, I enjoy a well-crafted beer, and don’t care much for the puritanical outlook on modern morality. Much like Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic adaptation of “A Clockwork Orange”822750_020 we have resisted violence and sex so much as a culture that it has made them the pinnacle of our marketing potential. I could go on to talk about how this has reduced sex to meaningless pleasure and people as objects, but that’s a completely separate blog post for another time. We are talking specifically about violence. I began to notice that the majority of the metaphors in the Christian Bible are violent and war metaphors. Granted, this was a people that lived during a much more violent time than we do ( Research has been done ). This was something that people lived every day and for them, it was necessary to speak in terms everyone understood.

This informed a lot of what I began to think about for the coming years. It’s one of the reasons why I will never watch “Fight Club” in the same way again. It’s the same reason why I can’t make it through the first 10 minutes of the previously mentioned “A Clockwork Orange”. It’s the same reason that I don’t understand why people want to blame a religion or a text or video games or what have you for physical violence. The problem is not ethereal, the problem is us. We don’t talk about the stuff we are consuming. We don’t have proper conversations about our feelings. We don’t give emotional, spiritual, psychological, and cognitive tools to each other to help cope with our situations. We allow things to become explosive because on some level we do just want to watch the world burn. On some level, we find it entertaining.

I could cite the rise of reality television and our obsession with watching fail videos on youtube or elsewhere. But the thing is I think you already know that part of yourself exists. It’s that part of you that wants the hero to kill the villain at the end of the story to exact your idea of justice. Maybe you don’t want that. I admit I’m conflicted in those moments as well. I remember the days and months following 9/11 when all I wished for was vengeance upon those who hurt our country. I’m sure there are still those who feel that. I’m not saying it’s wrong to feel that way. What I am saying is that we need to open up to other people that part of ourselves. We need to talk about these things in open and healthy ways because otherwise, we are feeding the vengeful god of war waiting for things to become explosive.

I believe that the Divine is a loving god. I know that the vast majority of the descriptions throughout scriptures are contrary to that. But I like to believe what that one middle eastern Jewish man once told people about. A loving God that isn’t seeking sacrifice. A loving God that does not require anything from you, but to love what has been given to you. That may be a naive and idealistic image for me to espouse, but for me, it is a hopeful one. It is one that I think is gaining popularity. Despite the fact, fewer people are going to church, I think more people are embracing the image of a loving and peaceful God. Ruins of Viking ChurchIt may not be a conscious embrace, it might even be to spite those they believe were wrong in the past. Maybe instead of holding on and bottling up our feelings about things we are meant as creatures to share them with each other. We are not meant to be strong on our own. We are meant to be strong together. As I’ve been saying for a few weeks now, we are putting God back together again when we come together. I believe that was the whole idea of church in the first place. I admit for me it is now really difficult to get up on a Sunday morning and attend services now that I don’t work for the church. It’s tough to get ready and get my family ready and leave the house. I would much rather sit around in my pajamas and eat pancakes on a Sunday morning. But I know that it is important for me to be connected to the larger whole. It is important for me to come to the table and commune with others. Maybe we should think about doing something different than Sunday mornings, but that’s a different conversation.

Maybe I’m wrong. It’s possible. But I fear that no matter where you are on the political spectrum. No matter where you are on the religious spectrum. No matter where you are on the morality spectrum. The more we give in to our darker selves and keep them bottled up the more we are in danger of exploding. I’m not saying it’s not okay to watch, play, or read violent things. I’m saying it’s not okay to do it without questioning the larger whole. It’s not okay to do it and not wonder why or not share your feelings about it with others (in a way that is productive and healthy). It’s not okay to feed the vengeful god of war unknowingly.

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Honest Faith: Pride Addiction

I am confident that the entire world is pretty familiar with the story of Lucifer’s fall from grace. I think a lot of people are also familiar with the story of Adam and Eve, who also had a bit of a problem and fall from grace. As a child that was something I was taught multiple times, but there was a larger point to these stories. There was an underlying theme of pride; of beings trying to be like or better than the Divine. I linked a wiki page for Lucifer (primarily to the mythology section) above that tells of similar stories in other cultures.

I was inspired to write about mental health this week, but I was struck with the larger problem that makes it such an epidemic. This isn’t just in our country this is worldwide. Human beings have become addicted to our pride. We are a race of proud creatures who are terrified at the prospect of being humble or letting someone else get ahead of us.

In his best-selling novel The Kite Runner, Khalid Hosseini writes about this idea passed from father to son about there being only one sin, theft. He goes on to explain:

“When you kill a man, you steal a life,” Baba said. “You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?”

I always liked that definition. It simplified the world in a way. A few years ago I had a long car ride with youth ministry superstar and all round nice guy Brock Morgan. We discussed several things including my many bumps in the road on the path to fulfilling my now broken dream of being in ministry, to marriage, to life, and then to this idea of sin. I can’t fully remember word for word what he said, and my paraphrase won’t do it justice, but he said something that made the former into a more full concept for me. He said something along the lines of there really is only one sin, Pride. Everything wrong with the world can be boiled down to someone’s selfishness.

Okay, I agree that is overly simplistic and a bit reductionist to a larger problem, but it was something that stuck. I liked it because it made sense to me. Why did my wife and I argue last week? Because I was being selfish and I wanted my way. Why did I take the last donut? Because I was kind of hungry and I was too lazy to think of anyone else. Why would someone tell a lie and steal someone’s right to the truth? Because they felt it would benefit them in some way.

A Double-Edged Sword

There is a weird problem when it comes down to pride. You have this sliding scale where there is too much end you end up with a person who is a super ego (not talking about the superego Freud talked about).another-ego-superego I mean very much someone who, I’m sure you can picture them now, if full of the id that Freud talked about. Someone who thinks they are the absolute best and deserve everything that comes to them. They are selfishness personified. Then at the other end of the spectrum, you have someone who is full of the actual superego. Someone who believes they don’t deserve anything and have had that reinforced by events and people and have given them this complex of pride where it prevents them from asking for help.

I’m sure you have this struggle yourself. I think we all do as human beings. We want to like ourselves, but we have this weird addiction to pride that when we begin to like what we have done we are afraid of becoming full of ourselves and end up swinging to the opposite end of the spectrum. We begin to believe that we have to attain the same level of perfection every time to be a success.

Pride is a double-edged sword and an almost damned if you do, damned if you don’t type thing. We end up in this spiral of pride, self-doubt, denial, inability to ask for help and despair. Maybe it can be more akin to an infection. When pride gets in we tend to destroy ourselves in trying to become the best or at least the best in our own minds.

It’s Totally Mental

I set out to write a blog post about mental health this week. This is a topic that is close to my heart, because as the statistics show I’m the 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. that struggles with a mental illness in a given year. There are a ton of stats out there including 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias. I struggle with anxiety and I wanted to talk about the stigma that we place on people who are open with their struggle and getting help. I wanted to write that, but when I started to think about it, it started to boil down to pride. It is a pride that is placed upon us from the outside and a pride that comes from inside as well.

archdaily2Federico Babina created some incredible artwork portraying several different mental illnesses and disorders. One of the things that you see as a common thread in each of these pieces is the person being trapped or imprisoned within the house that has an unusual piece of architecture to portray the given disorder. I loved these because they really portrayed something I was unable to put into words. There is that bit of anxiety where it is like everything you do is in an attempt to protect yourself from feeling the hurt you felt in the past. Through help, I’m coming to realize that maybe it’s possible I won’t ever encounter the pain that I encountered before. Maybe I will, but the truth is I’m different now, I’m stronger. I can handle it. But that is still a daily struggle to take down the chains and barbed wire.

I got into some trouble by describing my anxiety in the past. I think it’s a little ironic that people end up forcing more pain upon you for humbling yourself and letting others know about your own struggle trying to avoid pain. It has a lot to do with pride. Pride forced me into this constant state of thinking I couldn’t ask for help. Pride pushed me into thinking that I couldn’t ever be good enough. Pride makes you think that when you have success, that you have to reach that level of success again just to be okay.

But it’s all in my head. It’s all in what we think. Honestly, we come back to these thoughts of how others perceive us instead of actually celebrating our own progress. This is a hard thing for me to realize myself, but progress is important. If I’m better than I was yesterday, that’s progress that’s a good thing! Maybe it doesn’t show on the outside, but we don’t need outward praise, primarily because there isn’t much, for your progress because it’s your progress.

There is this stigma on asking for help. There is a stigma on those who have too much pride. There is a stigma for those who don’t have enough. It seems like you can’t win.

Moderation

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote, “Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” There is this a teaching in the Jewish religion that teaches moderation in the spirit and physical. There even is plenty of writing from the one of the most prolific of Christian writers St. Paul on moderation. I think it is pretty well publicized that all things are meant for moderation.

A few years ago I lost a lot of weight, 80lbs. I learned that it’s not what I was eating, it was how I was eating it. I was eating way way way more than I should have. But If I eat the things I liked in moderation, and maybe got up once in a while and went and did something active not only would I feel better, but it wouldn’t impact me as much as it did when I would overeat. Not saying that I’ve mastered this idea. I still overeat, I just know better now.

I think this is how it is meant to be with pride. We are meant to enjoy our lives. We are meant to enjoy ourselves. We are meant to enjoy each other and all of creation. The problem is we want too much. We want too much pride, we want too much praise, we want too much affirmation, we want too much for ourselves, and we take. Society tells us it’s okay to take. It’s okay to take what you want and not give a care for the other. The problem is as modern philosopher and college hippy musician of choice Dave Matthews put it, “Too Much.” I think that when we learn to be able to let go of the more than we need mentality we’ll be able to learn how to live with each other. We’ll make sure that we can give help to those who need it.

I’m not saying I have this mastered, no, quite the contrary. I’m still struggling to figure out how to live with just enough. I’m still trying to figure out how to walk that fine line in the middle of moderation. It’s a vulnerable spot. It’s a hard place to live in the middle. The world doesn’t have to be black or white, because in truth we are in the middle. We are so many shades of gray.

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Honest Faith: Hate the Sin

Growing up I heard a phrase over and over. It was repeated ad-nauseum when I was in college as well. This phrase, I believe, has lead a lot of Christians and converts to think the wrong things about our morality system. I bet even before I write it here you know what it is, probably because half of it is in the title, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” There is so much wrong in that little phrase that I think it, along with a few other things, have allowed us to justify hate as commonplace and a “good” thing.

My mind on my sin, and my sin on my mind

There was a song that I was taught in Sunday School growing up. It goes like this:

O be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little eyes what you see

There’s a Father up above

And He’s looking down in love

So, be careful little eyes what you see

The song continues with other body parts that may do things that cause you to sin. Thinking back on this, why don’t I have a larger anxiety and paranoia complex than I already do? Anyway, this is something they taught children. That God, like Santa, was always watching to make sure that you were a good little child. I grew up being very, very careful to make sure I didn’t do anything (I really wanted to end the sentence here) that would be even remotely considered a sin. I’ve talked about the whole Goats and Sheep thing before.

Why have we become so consumed with stopping ourselves from sinning? There is this story about Martin Luther talking to his student Melancthon. The story goes that Melancthon had come to Luther asking about sin and expressing his anxieties about doing anything. Martin Luther says to him, “Be a sinner, and sin strongly.” He went on to tell him that Christ is stronger than that. Jesus himself even said that he didn’t care that much about the laws and people keeping them. He cared if people “Love[d] the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’” Paul even reiterates that in Romans. We aren’t to be concerned with sin. I’ve talked about this manufactured guilt before.

No, Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the fullest. That means that we aren’t to be concerning ourselves with whether or not someone sins. NO! It means that we are to live our lives fully joyous and triumphant in the grace that has been bestowed on us. Jesus even said that we should be more concerned about the planks in our own eyes rather than the speck in someone elses. So we should be much less concerned if someone else is sinning… I’m starting to see a whole breakdown in the logic of that phrase already. If we aren’t supposed to be concerned about sin why should we hate it?

Haters gonna Hate

Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. –George Washington Carver

I found something today. I suspected it, but until I did a search to confirm it, I didn’t fully know. I did some fact checking, a habit all of you should commit yourselves to. Jesus never once told us to hate something. Did you know that? Jesus mentions hate a few times, and even says something about hating your family, but never tells people to directly hate something. You know the only times that I see Jesus hating things is when something isn’t doing what it claims to do. Especially a certain fig tree. God hates figs…

I had a friend in college, he’s still my friend (kinda) as much as you can count facebook friends that you kind of just keep tabs on their lives through social media posts, who got the word HATE tattooed on his arm, in french. He said that it was because it was the only hate he wanted in his life. I thought a lot about that. I thought about how a little bit of hate tends to spiral out of control very quickly. I don’t think his tattoo grew, but I think that any hate in our lives can begin to catch other things on fire with the flames of that original piece of hate. As the phrase goes, “Haters gonna hate”. I used to tell my students about how I didn’t want to use that word anymore. I feel like the fact that we overuse it leads us to minimize how powerful a word and thing hate really is. If we hate something small and leave it unchecked it can turn to a raging forest fire of hate.

No, you see Jesus saying over, and over, and over, and over, and over for us to LOVE. And by golly do we go and put the opposite word in His mouth. There were so many things that Jesus told us to love, and to do that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the opposite. Hate has no place in the mind and heart of a Christ follower. Hate can destroy people. So why would you wreck yourself over something that someone else is doing? You’ve got your own problems to deal with! That small hate of the sin ends up becoming a hate for the person. So why be so concerned with it? Is it because you want everyone to follow your own morality system?

Do you believe that someone has to believe in God to have morals or good conscience?

I had a former student contact me because I posted something about having writer’s block on Facebook. If you enjoyed my post on Mass Effect let me know, I’m not super confident in it, but as you know I gave up doubting myself for lent. So he gave me a prompt. The prompt is something that he’s constantly confronted with in his Poli-Sci courses in college. The thing is I think that is what this phrase boils down to, the western church’s obsession with being the morality police.

I don’t believe that Christianity has the market cornered on morality either.Really, almost every major religion has a “golden rule”. They all tend to be very similar. What is truly interesting though is how those religions have all taken their turn to be a “morality authority” and have ended up committing some horrible things in the name of their religion. The crusades, the Spanish inquisition (didn’t expect that one did you?), and the holocaust are all examples of when Christianity in the morality police position has failed to an extent that should make us never want to be in that position again. I could name a few that other religions have committed, but we are talking about the Christian church at the time being.

Humans are flawed that is a major point in almost any morality code and religion. We fall short of perfection. Many of us don’t come close. One of the weirdest things I’ve discovered in my few short years of being a human, some of the best people I know don’t follow a religion. They aren’t concerned about their sins, or their failings. They live their lives the best way they know how. Some of their stories are inspirational and uplifting. Some are just “everyday” people. One thing is common in each of them, though. They have a genuine love for their fellow human being. That is what they concern themselves with.

My answer to that question above is this, nope. It’s not my concern whether or not someone believes in God. My concern is with myself, and how I can show love the best way that I can to my fellow human being. I don’t think that any religion has the whole morality story either. If you believe in a God or don’t doesn’t say whether or not you have a moral code. It also doesn’t preclude you to having a good moral code either. Some of the meanest people I know claim to be religious.

Love the sinner- The End

That phrase needs an update sorely. It is rather sad that this is something that we need to be reminded of. I think we just have to drop everything after the first word. Love. That’s it. Love. There are scriptures, not just of Christian origin, that speak ofthe power of love. In fact, the Christian scriptures even say that “God is LOVE” The great philosopher and poet Heuy Lewis once sang a whole song about the power of love. As he says in the song you don’t need money, you don’t need fame, You don’t need no credit card to ride this train. I think we as Christ followers need to be more concerned about spreading the message of love rather than hating anything. But that’s just me.

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Honest Faith: Mass Effect

My brother is Commander Shepherd and this is his favorite blog on the Citadel.

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TXTBook Cosplay’s N7 Day Picture.

Actually, I have no idea what my brother’s favorite blog is, but I figured that statement would be a good way to begin this post. My brother is a brilliant cosplay artist, in fact, you can see some of his amazing work over on his facebook page. We both love this particular BioWare title, and the vast majority of their line-up to be exact. But I want to focus on the first 3 games in the Mass Effect series. Don’t worry you will not have had to play the games to follow my logic in this post, but if you are looking for a fantasy/sci-fi world to get lost in this should be your prime go-to.

I’m currently in the middle of my fourth playthrough of this series. When I sold my Xbox 360 this game series was the hardest one for me to part with. When they finally announced backward compatibility for the Xbone I was overjoyed, because what did they announce it with? MASS EFFECT! This game does an amazing job of exploring a deep rich history of galactic civilizations that, in the story, go back millennia. There is a lot of interwoven narrative and side quests that can deepen your experience within the beautiful tapestry that is this Sci-Fi RPG Epic. Whilst playing through I’ve been struck by some of the deeper ethical and spiritual dilemmas that the main character is faced with. If you’ve ever listened to our podcast, you know that this is kinda my thing.

I won’t spoil any of the fun side plots for you because I want to focus on the major plot and what it speaks to our faith. Mass Effect is about a cycle of the universe that results in the first, possibly, prime AI that every 50000 years come and “reap” all technologically advanced cultures and civilizations in the galaxy and incorporates them into themselves. Like the Borg from Star TrekPicard_as_Locutus the “Reapers” are not looking to make friends, but to destroy all other unique life forms so that there is only them at the end.

This is a very common trope among sci-fi and fantasy. There is this a fear of losing one’s individuality within a vast sea of oneness. I think this is a very difficult fear to get past. I see it a lot of our narratives. Often this is asked in different ways such as: Are we in control of our destiny? Do we have free will? Will I lose who I am? What makes me, me? How am I different from all of the mindless masses? Who am I? Take your pic.

Now at the end of this game series, (if you know anyone who has every played this series you know that this is the most disappointing part of the ENTIRE THING!) the game tries to wrap up the entire narrative by saying that this character is the one who helped humanity find its place in the galaxy by ending this threat. (Ps. I am a fan of the Shepherd Indoctrination Fan Theory by the way) Going through the game this time has shown me that the game developers and designers over at BioWare placed a high importance on unity in diversity rather than uniformity. This can be seen in countless decisions you, the character player Shepherd, can make throughout the games. I think that the beauty of this game series is the way those things play out. I think they can also teach us a lot about our own world as well.

For some reason, we human beings are afraid of anything that is different from our own little bubble of experience. This can be a faith that we didn’t grow up with, a different culture we aren’t familiar with, or an ice cream flavor we are just too afraid to try. One of the things that makes humanity great is our diversity. Not only that but our ability to adapt once we are open to that diversity. For some reason, I think we get the two things confused in our lives: Unity in diversity VS. Uniformity. There is a big difference.

We have so many religions,

16422469_425368867804557_8271187135789423678_o.png cultures, creeds, and ice cream preferences that make up the whole of who we are as human beings. Last week, I talked about giving up. I wonder what would happen if we as a species decided to give up trying to fight our differences and embraced them. I wonder what it would look like if we decided to become a unified human race that celebrated the things that made each of us unique. The big question that asks though is how do we do that? How do we let go of our prejudices to celebrate someone elses uniqueness? Why do we want other people to submit to our uniqueness just to keep it from being lost? I don’t have the answers to those questions. I wish I did. I’d love to have a conversation regarding that sometime. I don’t have a profound thought to leave you with this week just the questions that I think we all need to talk about. How do we unite in our diversity? Whether you are a paragon or a renegade, I’d love to talk to you about it. Add a comment with your thoughts on the matter, or on the facebook post, or a pm, or whatever. I invite you to join the conversation.

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Honest Faith: I’m Giving Up

Before those of you who actually have been following me and supporting my creative outlets begin freaking out. No, I’m not giving up on those things. But I got you to read this far didn’t I? Great! Keep reading! Share with your friends! Give me feedback. I invite you to be in conversation with me. Anyway, back to giving up. During lent many Christians follow the ancient spiritual practice of fasting or abstaining from a luxury or a vice as a form of penance. Many also add spiritual practices to their routine during the 40 days as a way to grow closer to the Divine. If you’ve been following along you know that my own relationship with the Divine is a little complicated at the moment. I was thinking a lot about what I would give up during this lenten season as a spiritual practice for my own life. I realized that I had given up a lot during my transition time as well. I thought about maybe adding something to my life. Maybe I could learn something new that would enrich my life and make me a better human being. I thought about it for a long time, and this is what I decided. I decided I’m giving up.

Giving Up My God Badge

“Ma, Take this badge off of me. I can’t use it anymore.”

One of the things about being a spiritual leader in my former life (or current… my therapist keeps telling me my days as a minister aren’t over, I’m just “ministering” in different ways) was the opportunity I had to speak to the spiritual practices of other people. What I figured out is that it is very easy to slip on a “God Badge” when everyone keeps giving you that badge. People look at their spiritual leaders as the Divine’s representatives here on this earth. The weird thing is, every single living being is that representation. It doesn’t make our spiritual leaders more divine than anyone else, nor does it make any one of us less divine.

I think we all need to take a look at who we give our “God Badge” to.0459e53f29192dc3cc390b550012301a We give people the right and power to tell us how we are to live our lives. I find that to be very problematic when we are the only ones facing what we are facing. The Divine can speak to us through our spiritual leaders for sure, but we are the only ones who can decide if we want to follow that particular path or forge ahead in a different one.

I certainly don’t want to be that to anyone anymore. I don’t want to tell you what way you should go because that’s not my place anymore. I would be happy to have a conversation with anyone about what the Divine is trying to speak into your life, but I have no place to tell you how to live your life. I’m taking off this “God Badge” I don’t need it anymore.

The truth of this is that you are the only one who can find your way to the Divine. We other beings can help you find the right path, but only you knows which is best for you. I used to use a clip from “City Slickers” when I was discussing this with teenagers. You know the one. It’s where Billy Crystal’s character asks what the meaning of life is. Here is the response.Curly For each of you, there is just that one thing. It’s for you to figure it out. Once you do you should stick to that until it doesn’t work anymore. Everything else that other people say or try to get you to do to “be closer to God” don’t mean shit. Saint Paul had a lot to say on this particular topic as well…

Giving Up My Ignorance

So many of us claim to actually know something about something, when maybe we spent ten minutes looking it up on Wikipedia.giphy I have learned that I know a little bit about a whole lot, but it’s all just trivia. I didn’t like to say the words “I don’t know”. The truth is, there is a lot I don’t know. So maybe I should take the time to get to know something I didn’t before. I have always been fascinated by the other Abrahamic religions. I really know very small amounts of those religions. Like I’ve mentioned before about my learning the Bible, It’s like I’m standing on the shore of a vast ocean. I’m giving up my ignorance.

I decided that over the next 40 days that I’m going to learn more about Islam. That is a path that many take to find the Divine. I also imagine that by stating that in a public place that somehow I’ve been placed on a list somewhere. I know a little about the faith, but I’d like to know more. There are so many of us who let our ignorance inform our decisions or images of people. The little I do know shows me that they are a religion just like my own, and maybe they have some important truth that I don’t. Maybe they can inform my image of the Divine in a positive way. So I’m giving up my ignorance of that small part of the vast ocean.

Giving Up My Self-Doubt

I have spent my transition time, which is nearing its end in 18 days, creating.Honest Faith Logo I’ve been sharing my creative projects publicly because I want feedback. I want to know how I’m doing. I want to know if I’m helping anyone else figure out something. Maybe I am, maybe I’m just doing it for me and nobody really cares. The truth is I’m plagued with self-doubt. Do people actually read my blog? Am I a good writer? Does anybody care what I have to say? Am I just Screaming into the Void? Would anybody read this book if I were to get it published? Does it suck? Why aren’t people talking to me? Do I smell? Am I really creepy? Why have I put on so much weight? Will I ever find my way out of this place? Am I just meant to be here?

The truth is yeah, my writing probably sucked at first. But I realized that I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I’ve been writing poetry, blog posts, and short stories since I was just starting to figure out who I was. A lot of that stuff sucked. But I put in my time. I’m not saying I’m the greatest writer. I know I have some issues with punctuation and have been working on that, but I found out that it takes only 20 hours to learn something new. I think I passed that mark. I’m not sure how close I am to the 10,000 hours it takes to be an “expert” but I’m doing alright.

It takes 21 days for that thing to become a habit. So lent is a perfect time to develop a healthy habit of me not doubting myself every time I publish an article, record a new podcast episode, or upload an expressive reading.  Considering I publish something new on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays. It should be a habit by the end of March for me to not second guess myself every time.

Granted, I may still be greatly delusional about my talent in these areas, but maybe not. Maybe they will develop into something. I want to be a writer. I enjoy writing. It fills that niche that used to be filled by writing lessons for a weekly youth program. If I enjoy doing something, who am I to say that I shouldn’t do it because someone else may not think it’s any good. I’m just putting it out there so that maybe, just maybe, someone would think it’s good and be helped by it. So I’m giving up my self-doubt. (Much easier said than done)

Giving Up My Silence

Because of self-doubt and my struggle with GAD I am often silent on things that I fear would get me into trouble or more trouble than I’m already in. That has lead to me being taken advantage of more times than I’d like to admit. Because the “squeaky wheel gets the grease”squeaky_wheel does not mean we silent wheels don’t need any. I’ve found during my transition time, both through circumstance and surroundings, I can no longer keep silent. I have feelings, thoughts, and a voice that is just as valid as anyone else’s. I can’t keep silent. People just like me need me to speak up. I will give up my silence because maybe they need someone to scream into to void for them as well. Maybe they keep silent because of their own self-doubt or struggle with an Anxiety disorder. Whatever the case, I can’t nor will I keep silent. Mental health is important, and for my own mental well being I can’t do it anymore. So I’m giving up my silence.

Just Give Up.

If you, reader, are still trying to figure out something to “give up” for lent. I invite you to just give up those things that are bad for you. Give up your “god badge”. Give up your ignorance. Give up your self-doubt. Give up your silence. Join me. We have a lot of work to do repairing this world. It’s not going to repair itself. It needs exactly me, and exactly you to do this work. Give up those things that keep you from that work. Just give up, and get to work.

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