Welcome Atheists.

Lately, I’ve been reading atheist blogs because I am fascinated by faith in all its forms.

I’m not interested in shouting over who’s right or wrong – there are enough people doing that. Rather, I’m interested in how people decide what to believe.

An avid rejection of church behavior (Christian in particular) seems to fuel many of the blogs. The Crusades, the antics of Westboro Baptist Church, the flaming mess that is the homosexuality debate in America, all seem foremost in the minds of a lot of bloggers.

I get it. My conscience recoils at that behavior too, and for years, it helped me rationalize my rejection of God. But had I shut out the noise and read what Jesus and his disciples actually said, I might have seen things like this:

You my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:13-14

The Bible has a lot to say about love, but I’m not sure you’d know that by casually observing the church. Where in scripture does it say, Christians must deliver a constant public service announcement about the justice of God?

Yes, I believe in the God of justice before whom we will all stand and explain ourselves, but I also believe in the God of love and mercy. And if, as the Apostle Paul says, it’s the kindness of God that leads men to repent, and we’re so concerned about the repentance of others,

why aren’t we kinder?

So, my intention with this space is to highlight people living the freedom, kindness and love of God, whether they call it that or not – the sort of love that makes the world more fragrant and beautiful, like orange blossoms do in spring.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Foster

Look at this cop giving socks and shoes to a homeless guy. Is he a Christian? I don’t know, but he is doing what Jesus said: Love your brother. Clothe him.

Yes, the Bible is controversial and demanding, it always has been. Of course there are things in it I wish were not, but conventional wisdom is overrated. I love that Jesus is still defying conventional wisdom:

  • Stop grumbling.
  • Forgive your enemies.
  • Don’t be proud.
  • Pray for people who persecute you.
  • Trust Me.
  • Give money away.
  • Feed the poor.
  • Worship God.
  • Serve one another.

It could take the rest of my life just to get that right, so I really don’t have time to get that splinter out of your eye. I’ve got a big log in my own.

Ultimately, holiness is always an inside job, and when it’s done well, it’s illuminating. God willing, those are the people you’ll find here.

So welcome to a conversation about freedom and love. I follow Jesus Christ but I welcome atheists, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims to the conversation. Welcome gays and lesbians. Welcome hunters and PETA activists, left-wing, right-wing and whatever the Tea Party is. Welcome all you who are heavy laden and weary.

Let’s go find some rest.

Four Steps That Can Change Your Life – Permanently.

When I began reading The Bible, I knew parts of it would fly in the face of my personal ideology.

Ocean and sky

(Photo credit: FnJBnN)

But since I’d exhausted every strategy for manifesting a happy and successful life, and was crying on my bed every day, I didn’t have much to lose. So, I opened my mind, committed to reading it and doing as it says. I promised myself if, after a careful reading, I just couldn’t believe it was the inspired Word of God, I wouldn’t.

Less than a week after that decision, I read this:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His own eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely and strengthen and settle you. IPeter 5:10 AMP

Wait…God will make me what I ought to be? Like, it’s not my job? Whoa. If that’s not good news, what is?

That scripture was such a precise response to my problem, I kept reading but I had to do it on my own terms. So, initially, I shut out all the commentary, at church, on tv and from well-meaning Christians; then Jesus and I began a vigorous wrestling match, which two years later, I have completely and decidedly lost. “Whoever loses his life on my account, will find it,” Jesus said.

So that’s the why, here’s the how – at least as it worked for me:

1. I bought a new Bible – The Amplified version, but the NIV, NLT and Message translations are all good for comprehension.

2. I found 30 minutes in my day without interruptions – invariably before Sam got up. Ugh. I bit the bullet and set my alarm.

3. I opened the Gospel of John. Starting there, rather than the beginning with Genesis, kept me awake and engaged. Later John, Peter, Luke and Paul piqued my curiosity about David, Isaiah and Moses. But for the first four months, I bounced around the New Testament looking for things that surprised me, challenged me or just made me happy, and I wrote them in my journal.

4. I did it daily. This is where the rubber meets the road, and I talk a lot about the value of showing up in Going to the Sea.

Skipping Stones

(Photo credit: Exolucere)Sea. 

For years, even my churchy ones, the gospel skipped across my life, like a flat stone on water. Somehow, it would always make it to the other side and never sink in. That’s because I didn’t really think I needed Jesus. Then I found out I did.

Sometimes, the key to availing ourselves of the grace and mercy of God is having the humility to admit we need it.