Last week I posted on gender roles. I was really scared to write about this subject because I have immersed myself in this for 3 years, and I was trying to write so much in one blog post. It was a stretch talking about the picture of the NFL player with his gun and daughter with her prom date to Mary Magdalene. Even though I still whole heartedly believe it is all related, I took on a monster of a subject in one blog post. I appreciate the criticism that came as well as my writer friends who liked it and could not think of any other way to organize their thoughts about it either. So I want to go back to my story for a bit. I think I have skipped over too much with that post. I am also thankful to Claire Bracken who keeps pushing me to write even with last weeks post. 🙂 The picture above was on my “On This Day” on FaceBook from 2 years ago. This is the type of church I was dreaming of and I believe is happening now.
Let me start off by saying, I am uncomfortable writing-but I want to do it. Something has happened to me and my understanding of life and the Bible that I want to share. I have found it to be such good news, better than what we have been sharing. But last week I was almost scared off and not because of criticism. I started struggling with self doubt. I knew I made a hard post too simple. It made me all of the sudden feel worthless and asking “Who am I”. But let me tell you what happened next, I went to SAMs. If anyone has read my FaceBook posts about SAMs, you know this place has been very spiritual for me. It really is out of this world. I will include my FaceBook posts at the end of this post if anyone is interested in reading about it. As I was checking out, full of negative energy, my Guardian Angel (this is explained in a FB post I will include) left his post and came over to hug me and asked me how the kids were doing. This never happens and he has never met my kids, so I know 100% he is an Angel. Then my Muslim Sister, Hala, told me my shirt with the pink flowers on it matched my heart. I almost cried, but I looked up and saw she had on pink with flowers too. I told her she was just looking in the mirror to her own heart. We embraced one another.
I also want to talk about my friend Stephanie who has journeyed this crazy life with me. When she read my post last week she said that I wrote good things, but maybe you should slow down a bit so people can join you on the journey. I really appreciate that advice from one who loves me and has been through Hell herself. Years ago when Stephanie Carroll and I worked at the same church, we would have “Life Giving Talks”. I put that in quotes because Jeff Hubbard, the Youth Minister at the time, named it for us. We had read so much about Jesus through various authors and were desiring a better story told in churches. One that represents Jesus – not our rules because our rules are stuffy and a hindrance to the Spirit. Jesus was always breaking rules and sending us in a new way. The White American Church was getting mundane and CONTROLLING – making the rules so people are not creative because we are too scared to get it wrong (Don’t get me started on Partisan Politics. Nothing wrong with being political, everything wrong with Partisan Politics). Side note: I have to say white church because Black church is not boring – the prophetic witness is strong there. Maybe not all of them, but many of them are full of Spirit and make you want to “Hallelujah Anyway!”. They know how to suffer. Jesus is anything but mundane. I cannot tell you how many people who walk away from church find they cannot let go of Jesus. I was one of them, and so were the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Stephanie and I did not know what to do to fix the system. Then we suffered and we found pain to be life’s great teacher. (That sentence sounds so simplistic – it is anything but simple). Also, isn’t it sad we have to say White and Black church?! Our churches are too segregated. That is a problem, but one that is hard to overcome when our neighborhoods are segregated. More on that later though.
I became a mystical christian. I think I have always been one because I was positive (and still am) the shoe shine guy at CITGO Petroleum was my Guardian Angel also (His name was Frederick). I just know these things. So it is no surprise that ministers from the Pentecostal movement on Twitter captured my attention: Jonathan Martin, Brian Zahnd, Cheryl Bridges Johns, Reverend Barber, etc (I can’t wait to write about seeing Reverend Barber in person). Plus the mystical Franciscan Catholic Richard Rohr turned my world upside down. The Jesus story is a moving story and the Spirit is here. I would not have found the Spirit without the storm. Jonathan Martin says the truth is usually stumbled into. We rarely go through change willingly because no one likes to change- it is uncomfortable, so a painful event is usually what it takes to get us there. Many other ministers and philosophers say this too. The Divine happens to us. I can testify to this.
When my life fell apart at Mutiny and Donald Trump was elected, I knew something was off with humanity –and I was over it. I thought life was safer than this and it is not. Before this sounds like me blaming others- I am not. I found my own darkness in this mess too. I had to find silence and meditation to get there though. I went from hating everyone and everything to “I love everyone and everything”. Silence and meditation takes are mindset from scarcity to abundance. I decided to reorient myself in this mess and tell a new story.
My life crumbled over multiple years. The first year I thought I had regrouped and moved on, but more was coming and it was awful. That is when it felt like everyone was coming after us. I also could not protect the kids from the pain of what was happening either. Richard Rohr had a book called “Breathing Under Water” that helped me. He knew everything I was going through. He said you may feel like you have hit rock bottom, but more will come- you are not there yet. Jonathan Martin seemed to have a tweet each day that spoke to exactly where I was. I kept asking him how he knew what was going on. I found out so many were falling apart too. Jonathan said -Don’t be surprised if the world is falling apart and your life is too. I am thankful for how accessible Jonathan was via Twitter. He walked me through this time, along with Nichole Nordemon. Ironically, they were dating and I did not know that at first. Her music soothed my soul. But they could not have done that if their life hadn’t fallen apart. Jonathan wrote a book called, “How to Survive a Shipwreck”. It is so good! If you have met me more than a day, you will know about this book. Nichole wrote a song for the book too called “Hush Hush” and it slays me. Read this section of the song (actually go listen to it now!):
One cup of water at a time ‘Til you remember you are mine I am the calm, I am the sea Your rescue and recovery And I am the storm that swallowed you I let you bleed, I thought you knew And I am the bottom and I am the floor I am the deep you never knew before I let you sink and I let you go But I caught you in the undertow And I am the shore And I am the flame And mercy is my name!
I found love at the bottom, not despair. When I recovered, I could not return to the world I had been living. I kept trying to fit back in, but I did not fit there anymore. I had found a world more open, loving and free than I ever knew before. No one is excluded. This line from “Come Alive” from the Greatest Showman “And you know you can’t go back again To the world that you were living in ‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open”. Now the journey to find a new place I could tell this new story in full.
When I finally found Wilshire Baptist Church through the Moxie Matters Tour, it revived my soul. The very first week I met Pastor Tiffany Wright (A woman Pastor!) and we talked about everything that was weighing on me. They address it here. The next week I meet Pastor George Mason and Pastor Heather Mustain and we read all of the same authors. Heather told me Reverend Barber was going to be at an event over MLK weekend that we were hosting as an InterFaith event. I could not believe God had delivered me here. This changed me and busted me wide open. I told George, our very first meeting!, about Jonathan Martin and “How to Survive a Shipwreck”. He went and read it!!! I could not believe what I said had value with the head male pastor. This tells me when we think women not getting full inclusion at the Table doesn’t matter or is not noticed is false. I found freedom like I have never known before and I want everyone to feel this too. Plus I just ran into this church, not knowing a soul and as a completely different person, and found love and acceptance like I have never known before. Isn’t it funny when I was falling apart, Wilshire was also going through a painful transition too?! I am telling you the Spirit is real, here and at work right now! I can only find hope and joy experiencing the Spirit.
If interested, here is one of the Facebook posts about my experience with SAMs Club:
So Sam’s Club is my Monday morning church every week! I missed them last week on vacation – seriously! This morning I walked in wearing my favorite Spiritual Gangster shirt I got for my birthday. As soon as I walk in I am greeted by one of my favorites.
Employee (my sister actually 🙂 ): You look cute. What does your shirt say?
Me: Spiritual Gangster
Sister: Where do you go to church?
Me: Wilshire Baptist Church
Sister: Really?! Baptist people are like that. 🤣 I love it. You check out with me when you are done shopping.
I am dying. Who knew how much I was going to love Sam’s. Hala, my Muslim sister, blows me kisses as I walk by. Ryan and I high five to another week. It begins my work week on such a high; and I never wanted to do this part of the job to begin with.
Ok – now back to work. I have a whole week to catch up on.
I just had another beautiful encounter at Sams. It is with the sweetest Muslim woman I have ever met – I mean sweetest human being. When I got in her line she immediately lit up and said “Your smiling face! You have the most beautiful smile. You must tell your husband he is the luckiest man in the world” Ok – I nowhere near deserved that compliment b/c I am 100 percent certain my smile was there b/c of hers! She just saw herself reflected. But I will go with her on Jake Bruehl being the luckiest man. Ha!
What I want to say is I recognize her by her fruit. I try not to use the label Christian anymore b/c I don’t think we can define it that easily. I try to say beautiful, love, true, etc and I claim it. Paul, in the bible, quoted Greek philosophers even though they weren’t “christian” b/c what they said was true and beautiful.