Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day 2021

 The pandemic has done many things. Each of us has our own story. Perhaps one of the best things that has come out of it is that the Earth has gotten a much-needed rest from us humans. Early on in the pandemic we saw how the waters had cleared ,that the pollution had dissipated and how things that had not been seen or witnessed for years could now be clearly seen because Humanity had been put in time-out. It is my hope and prayer that we will continue to be conscientious, good stewards of this place we call home.

 I want to encourage everyone to celebrate Earth Day today in your own way. Turn off the TV and put the phone away for an hour or so. Get outside . Go out and lie in the grass, walk through the waters,hike through the mountains,watch the clouds, gaze up at the stars and the Moon and listen to the birds. Take in all of the beauty and the medicine that all of Earth has to offer. Here is a prayer for today. I would like encourage everyone to take a moment and read it...  outside if possible.

Infinite Spirit, sometimes called Grandfather, Grandmother —
Father Sky, Earth Mother, Creator, God

We gather to praise your creation,
to honor the swimmers and crawlers,
the four-leggeds and the winged ones;
we give thanks for the beauty and glory of creation and open our hearts to new ways to understand our place in the universe—not the center or focus,
but a humble and balanced place,
where every step we take becomes a prayer,
where every word we say
makes harmony with the vast, vibrating cosmos,
and where we know we are singing the song of life.

We pray to know more deeply that we are in the Garden where every plant and animal and speck of dust is a living prayer.
Without our brothers and sisters
of the plant and animal and mineral kingdoms,
the human family would end.
So we want to bless them, as they bless us.

We pray for humility—
not to humble ourselves before presidents or priests,
but before the ants and trees—
for if we cannot be in true relation to the ant,
we shall be outcasts of the garden.

Let us cast the pollution from our eyes
so we can see the glory and live with thanksgiving.

Great Spirit, let us remember
it is not how we talk but how we walk.
When we say we love animals, let us protect them.
When we say we that we love the plant people,
let us honor them by living lightly on the earth.
When we say we love the minerals,
let us use them only in necessity,
and remember their rightful places.
Oil belongs in the ground,
not in the air through our wasteful machines.

Wondrous trees, breathing life into the atmosphere:
your gifts of fire and shelter, fruit,
and sailing are precious to us.
And in many ways you offer us leaves of knowledge.

May the vision of mutual interrelatedness,
cosmic interdependence,
the seamless process of generations,
not end in cough-filled skies blotting the sun,
but rather may clear air, healthy forrests,
wholesome water, expansive prairie, and pungent earth
nourish paths for all creatures
through mountain and valley, and the salt sea,
and through a protective atmosphere,
as we rejoice in the inhabitants.

Hear and empower our mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle.

With thanks for the surprise and mystery of it all,
we pray in the name of the Creator,
the Processes and Presences, and all our relations.

Vern Barnet

Happy Earth Day

Aho Meyakuyah Ohayesin


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Sunday Sessions

I have spent the majority of my Sundays over the last 50 plus years in church. It is something that many people on the planet consider a normal part of their week. When I began my deconstruction I no longer wanted to attend any type of organized church service. Over the last several years I have had an on again off again relationship with attending an organized church. I finally decided that if I surrounded myself with a group of friends that would still provide me with the "fellowship" portion that was so important to maintain, that I could handle the "sunday morning service" portion myself. It has been the one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself.

My Sunday sessions are always held outside regardless of the weather. They begin around sunrise and generally last about two hours. There is music. There is prayer and meditation and the there is a time of silent contemplation. These times are some of the most amazing of times while I simply sit and listen to what Spirit wants to download. I will from time to time be sharing what I hear during my Sunday Sessions. That being said, here goes.

Back in January I was sitting quietly, contemplating several things when a blue jay flew down to the ground just a foot or so away from me. (How often has this ever happened to you in an institutional church service?) Our eyes met for a few seconds and then flew away just as quickly as he came. Instantly, I began to hear a chorus of voices whispering to me. There were many and they were distinct but I could not make out what they were saying individually. Ever so slowly they became one voice. It was much like tuning in a radio station; somewhat static and garbled until you land directly on the station. All the voices became one and they all spoke in unison. It was creation itself speaking to me and here's what it said:

We were here before Adam, before mankind was created. Do you not realize that when the Creator and Adam walked together in the cool of the day that we were also present? We bowed our leafy heads as the Creator passed, the flowers sprung up to meet him and release their aroma for his pleasure. Do you realize that the birds flew about His head and the animals stopped what they were doing to gaze at the face of the Creator? The one big difference that mankind has seemed to overlook is that when Adam sinned and lost his perfect connection with the Creator, we, the creation never did. We have always remained in perfect connection with the Creator. We have, for millenia, continued to perform the things we were created to do in perfect harmony with the Creator all the while awaiting for the manifestation of mankind to once again live in perfect harmony both with the Creator and with us, the creation. You are our brother, but you have much to learn.

And then it was over. I was greatly humbled by this exchange and it has helped me to see myself as a part of the bigger picture. It reminded me that the charge given to Adam to have dominion over the Earth is not one of mastery. Not one that would rape and pillage and destroy the place we call home. But rather it is a place of working with all of creation to develop it, understand it and to create together the best possible planet that we can achieve with the help of the Creator. If you think about it in simple terms, the Earth is here to take care of us. She gives us all the food we eat, all the clothing we wear and all the material for the houses we live in, the cars we drive and even the brick and mortar churches we worship in. She has the ability to heal us and restore our spirit. She always nurtures us and takes care of our needs every single day. But can we honestly say the same. Are we taking care of her and all of our brothers and sisters that make up creation but that are not human?

Something for you to think about on this Tuesday. 

Aho Meyakuyah Ohayesin


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Jesus loves me this I know... but are you sure about that?

 I am approaching the time of year when my own deconstruction began. May 19th 2014 will be forever etched in my being as the day the music died, so to speak. It felt like a death and it was in every way death to the way of life that I had known for almost 50 years. I do not celebrate this day but I always feel that it impending about a month before the actual date. It calls me into a time of remembrance. I am glad that through the intervening years between then and now I have grown to the point that I am able to recall this day without the pain and emotions of those moments but rather just the memories of what once was and what ended on that day.

It was during this time that the words of a familiar childhood song, learned years ago in Sunday School, felt remote and empty. 

"Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so"

Naw ... that can't be true. If Jesus loves me then how could He let this much pain, betrayal and destruction come into my life? Jesus loves me??? What a joke that is.

I doubted the love of God and I told Him so. God and I had some very heart wrenching, voice raising, cuss word throwing sessions. I read Him up one side and down the other and told Him that I thought He was the biggest con artist that had ever existed. At this point, I poured it on and I poured it out. Satan could do no worse to me than this God that I had given my life to serve had already done. And at this point if God didn't like what I had to say He could just kill me and put me out of my current misery. The notion of going to Hell didn't scare me as I felt I was already living there.

After months and months of these kind of rants I wondered if God was even listening. He had not taken any recourse against me to punish me; nor had He said anything to defend Himself or clear His name. With all the yelling and the endless days and nights of telling Him about Himself certainly He had to have caught some part of what I said. But still nothing. NOT... ONE... WORD.

 I was still dealing with this, mostly alone, but I began to search the internet for someone ... anyone that could understand my pain and help me find my way to some sort of healing. It was then that I found a book written by some truly amazing people. I devoured the book. I read it and re-read it until it began to actualize within my soul. Every year when it gets close to the time of my death day/birth day I pull it out and re-read passages that held a lot of meaning to me at the time. 

I would like to share a passage from the book with you that helped me so much to just be ok with my process and accept that it was what I had to do in order to get better. If you're in the same place that I was I hope it helps. If you are alright with where you are in your spiritual journey, I hope it triggers your understanding and compassion for those that are going through the painful process of questioning their faith.

The passage I want to share is from the book, Soul Repair by Jeff VanVonderen and Dale & Juanita Ryan. It reads :

If the God of our experience is anything other than the god of love and grace, and our self image is anything other than that we are dearly loved by God then it is time to start rebuilding our spiritual lives from the ground up. We need to demolish the house we have built on sand, and seek out some solid rock on which to build. Some of us reach this point and wonder if here will be any God left when we get rid of the distortions. We fear that once we tear down our damaged spiritual life, we will be forced to live forever in its ruins. we may fear that once we get rid of all the distortions and not-Gods we will be left spiritually broken and alone.

And then it happened. God spoke.I knew then and there that God had been listening and that He was responding to me through the words you have just read. He was 100% okay with all my questions. My need to deconstruct my faith was not a problem for Him. And He welcomed it with a hint (at the time) that he would be there to help me build a new and better spiritual home.

That was seven years ago. I have been building my new spiritual home ever since. I am now assured, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Jesus loves me and completely accepts me based on the work of Jesus and none of my own.

Yes ! Yes ! Jesus loves me and rest assured that He loves you too.

Aho Metakuyah Ohayesin


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Jim

 Today I am deferring my own thoughts to share with you the thoughts of another. Todays blog is from Jim Palmer. Evey word is his, I have added or taken nothing from his post. Jim is a deconstructed/reconstructed former Pastor and he definitely feels like my tribe. I've never met him personally but have enjoyed reading his books. If you have left church or are having questions about how you feel about God then you should definitely check him out. 

Here then is Jim's post in its entirety regarding the nature of Jesus. Let me I know what you think.

Aho Metakuyah Oheyasin


Christians often talk about "being like Jesus." Be careful what you ask for. Jesus was no saint. The story we have about Jesus is largely him questioning and challenging the legitimacy and authority of the dominant religious system and its ecclesiastical hierarchy. He became viewed as a threat to the Roman government. Jesus was not a figure of religion. Jesus was an iconoclast. To the Romans, he was a terrorist – a religious fanatic who would no doubt try to overturn their social order if allowed to gain too many followers. Jesus was not crucified for his beliefs but for his actions. People often envision Jesus as someone tiptoeing around in a flowing robe, speaking softly, patting children on the head and carrying a baby lamb in his arms. We turn a blind eye to the Jesus who turned over tables and drove the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip, or the Jesus who called the religious leaders every nasty name in the book, or thumbed his nose at the holy laws of his religious tradition. The real Jesus of history was a lightning rod. He got angry. He was the greatest debunker of religious hierarchies and traditions this world has ever seen. The religious establishment hurriedly condemned him to death for blasphemy, while the secular powers executed him for sedition. He sided with the sinners and the outcasts of his day. His life was one of perpetual religious and civil disobedience. What would Jesus do??? Hmmm. Be my guest. By all means. Be like Jesus. 

 Jim Palmer

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Deconstruction ... Whats Love got to do with it?

Ahhhh Deconstruction, the bad word with such a good outcome. Its very name implies a breaking down and taking apart process of our religious beliefs. It is being able to question all that we have been taught with the hopes that our doctrine/theology will stand up to the line of questioning and provide clear answers that allow us to sleep at night. 

I have been instructed by those who have gone through their own deconstruction that it should be done carefully and with the skill of a master craftsman such as a watch maker. Each part of our faith must be carefully taken apart and examined and then put back into its place, like the wheels and springs of a watch. Then it is tested to see if it still works properly. If not then the process continues.

Unfortunately for me, my own deconstruction was not so neat and tidy.  Mine was more off the order of trying to repair a car by running it in a demolition derby while Miley Cyrus's, YOU CAME IN LIKE
A WRECKING BALL, is blaring through the car stereo. Mine was thrust upon me by circumstances beyond my control. It was far too long and much too painful. I went through it mostly alone and in the end I found myself spiritually homeless.

Since then I have left the demolition derby with what few pieces and parts that I was able to salvage. I happened to come along a group of like minded Christian people who truly love the Lord but have had some of the same questions and angst that I have had about institutional religion. They are the master craftsmen that I needed in the beginning. They took what I had and helped me to make sense of it. They have helped me in so many ways as I worked through my own process and they worked through theirs. We are able to understand one another on a level that cannot be understood or in some cases tolerated within the confines of the institutional church. I am no longer listening to Miley Cyrus blaring away as the soundtrack of my life. Now I hear the incomparable Ms. Tina as she gently sings, "I've been taking on a new direction but I have to say, I've been thinking about my own protection; it scares me to feel this way. What's love got to do with it?"

My life has most definitely taken on a new direction but unlike the song, I am no longer scared that it feels this way. When I started out deconstructing it was a toxic stew of rage, fear, betrayal and paranoia. Those feelings are behind me. Now that same stew  has become an intoxicating, divine dish of love, understanding and acceptance of both myself, of God as I now understand Him, and of others. All others; those that are on a similar path as mine, those that are farther ahead and those who are content with remaining right where they are in their faith journey. 

Whats love go to do with deconstruction? I would say EVERYTHING. I now understand that I am greatly loved and completely accepted by a God that I once thought was always keeping a scorecard against me and just waiting for the right moment to drop a lightning bolt on me as divine retribution. It is this most amazing of all discoveries within my personal deconstruction and those of people that I have witnessed that is just life changing within itself. To find out, after years of being taught otherwise, that God is not mad at me but instead is racing towards me like a long lost lover in order to shower me with love that I once felt that I did not even deserve. This, this is what loves got to do with it. 

If you are reading this and it stirs you I hope you respond. If you are questioning everything about your faith, you have found a safe place here. A place to bring all your questions and lets talk about it. If you are stirred out of feelings I have slipped off the path of righteousness and that my questioning is going to lead me to backslide and that it is your responsibility to reach out to me to warn me then I hope you respond. You have also found a safe place here to speak what's on your mind. We are all on this path together. We are not all in the same place in our journey ... but we are all together. Let's talk.

Aho Metakuyeh Ohayesin


Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Exodus

 Although I had issues with traditional church leaving on my own was never something I pursued. I went back and forth for the entire time I pastored ; one month I was happy as the leader of the church, the next month I was ready to pack up and go back home This kept my family in a constant state of unbalance, as you can imagine. After years of building a new church plant my wife and I divorced and this event brought an end to the church. Still unsure of what to do with myself I decided to go back to a Christian college and get my Bachelors degree in Counseling. It was in the spring of 2014 that I began my 'Red Sea" experience, my exodus from established, traditional church.  However, it was not the majestic, awe inspiring event that we have seen pictured in so many movies. For me it was a total devastation of all that I had invested my life into. It was an immediate destruction of my identity as a pastor and a christian. Take one part narcissistic church leader,  add one part Federal Agency raid and add a sprinkle of betrayal. Cook on high heat and then serve with a side of paranoia and panic attacks and there you have the perfect recipe for what my life became overnight. 

I felt as though my life was one big hazy nightmare. I was completely lost; spiritually, emotionally and physically. I went days without eating and nights without sleeping. I had so many screaming matches with God. I blamed him for all of this and accused Him of tricking me into living this life only to pull the rug out from under me. Depression was my constant friend.

But even with all of this chaos that I now found myself in, it was still another 14 months before I made a clean break and began the long climb out of the rubble of this disaster.

I imagine that some of you reading this have experienced similar situations. The details of your story are certainly going to be different from mine. Some of you reading may be feeling the stirring questions that keep you awake at night and you are considering leaving church as the only way to find peace. If you find yourself in either of these places I understand. I am here for you. Let's talk about it.

Aho Metakuye Ohayesin


Thursday, April 8, 2021

In the Beginning....

I have been in a traditional church setting for most of my life. I believed all that I was told growing up. When I became an adult I started having lots of questions. Questions like, if God is love then how does he get any joy from seeing parts of his creation burn in Hell forever? Or why is the decision to go to Heaven or Hell left on me when Jesus said that if He was lifted up He would draw all men unto Himself? I could go on and on with the questions but I think you get the idea. Perhaps some of you reading can identify with this scenario yourself. I had so many questions and those who I thought would have the answers; those who had been in the faith much longer than me and knew the Bible much better than I did failed to satisfy my curiosity. The usual answer for these and other difficult questions was usually one of two answers. First, I was told to pray about and God would answer me. This left me thinking that if that's the case then what did I need a pastor for? The second answer was even more confusing. I was told that some things we weren't meant to know and that we just had to believe it by faith. So I was supposed to study and believe a sacred text thousands of years old that no one had answers to. This was the beginning of my issues with organized religion. 

How many of us would ever let our children go to school and sit under a teacher who would not give them the information they needed to pass a test, but would rather tell them to pray for the answer and if they didn't get one that they just have to embrace the notion that they were never meant to know the answer in the first place?

Or how about this one.Who among us would take a job, a new job that we had never done before, and during orientation wind up with a question? But when we go to the trainer for clarification we are told that we should just wait for the answer to to come and if it doesn't come we just move through the job the best we can by mimicing what we see others do or wait until we make an error and are then are told that what we did was not right? 

But this is how most people do church...or at least in my experience. I had difficult questions that those in leadership would not or could not answer. I was left, along with many other well meaning believers who I fellowshipped with to do my best without the information that I needed.

It was this kind of unbearable ignorance that started my exit from mainstream church. After a while I just stopped asking the questions. They still existed within me, but I already knew there would be no answer for them and this led to a great deal of frustration with church leaders. How can they lead when they couldn't give a simple explanation to what they were teaching me to do? Sadly, when I later became a pastor I fell prey to this same form of ignorance and then I understood. I didn't want to be responsible for giving an answer to someone that I couldn't justify within myself.  This gave me understanding as to why some church leaders had answered like they did. But it also made me angry within myself that I had been sucked into the same empty vortex and was doing the same thing to those I was pastoring.

This was the beginning of my ending with the institutional church. But wait....there's more.

Aho Metakuye Ohayesin


Earth Day 2021

  The pandemic has done many things. Each of us has our own story. Perhaps one of the best things that has come out of it is that the Earth ...