Tag Archives: beliefs

Volunteer Application: Judas?

(The following are random thoughts related to my long-time work as the leader of a faith-based non-profit, and deeply wrestling with the realities of needing volunteers, while simultaneously trying to please organizational stakeholders – a journey that is not for the faint of heart. And yet, here I am.) 

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Technically speaking, none of Jesus’ disciples were ‘believers’, in the sense of a modern day born again understanding. It hadn’t been developed yet. Our focus on who’s in and who’s out has really only been in existence for around 150 years.

Judas, a thief, was put in charge the money box. Smart one, Jesus. Somehow I’m thinking they skipped the pastoral reference part of the volunteer interview.

What did Jesus know that no one else did? Why did Jesus trust that all would be well? Did Jesus have such a light hold on the value of money, that he would risk it’s loss at Judas’ hand? (Hmmm, something I might need.) Or, did Jesus trust that Judas was a work in progress, and nonetheless still valuable to do his work in his little corner of the world? (Which, by the way, became stories that we would read to discern their place in our own lives – eons after their occurrence in a different time and place and culture.)

Moving on.

‘Disciple’ essentially means ‘learner’. I’m learning more every. single. day. month. year. decade.

Decidedly, (to which some are now raising their eyebrows in mournful agreement), I am not the person I was decades ago, who held (supposed) truth with a much more firm and knowing hand.

My faith gets refined, defined and mined all the time. On an aside, I just realized that mined can have the meaning of excavation or explosion – both are valid.

My faith remains steadfast; my beliefs adjust with age, experiences, culture, and calling. 

So, the primary motive for enforcing a volunteer proving ground of enough faith is presumably the who’s in/who’s out paradigm – because, if one doesn’t embrace an exacting model, how does one effectively evangelize? (Which is the primary value for some traditions.)

Let’s take this down to a bare-bones query: “Make Jesus known” – what does that even mean? Emulate Jesus’ behavior to the extent our humanness can? Yes, okay, I can buy that.

It’s my desire to generously embrace an understanding that we’re all on a spiritual journey. Some of us found our way to the front of the line via something akin to Disneyland’s Fast Pass, in that we were very eager to get closer to figuring it all out, due to our drivenness, our jobs, our fears, our whatever-you-want-to-call-it, and we checked in early, inquiring minds wanting to know, and all that. The other option is that some of us are just neurotic.

And sometimes we even feel like we’re getting closer to the center target of Jesus. In my view of faith-shaped living, I’ve embraced what’s referred to as a centered-set model. Picture a dartboard: Jesus is at the center as the target, the money shot, and we’re all somewhere on the way there, sometimes moving forward, sometimes backward, and sometimes on the perimeter, fearful or apprehensive of our place – sometimes even hanging on for dear life!

What’s the purpose of knowing Jesus? For me, it’s about joining in the work of God for the good of the world. Bringing grace, mercy and justice for all, in the places I live, move and have my being. It’s likely going to look differently than your knowing.

Ever hear the saying ‘love God – love others’ as a personal mission statement/mantra? The above paragraph is just that, only simplified.

Assuming someone is a safe person (no judgement, no agenda, able to be confidential, full of kindness and compassion), who am I to decide whether someone has permission to intentionally love another person when they’ve expressed a desire to do so, but they don’t fit in a neat and tidy box?

Is it possible to have policies that are too exclusive, considering that we’re all broken people needing love, hope and compassion? Without a doubt, much of my own wrestling and healing from less-than-stellar life choices has come about through my sitting with others in similar circumstances – as a leader. Still does. (Because, you know, ‘I’m not perfect just forgiven’, right?)

Jesus set a standard of grace in his selection of disciples, including Judas. 

Judas wasn’t perfect, far from it, but Jesus nonetheless saw that he had value, including him among his inner circle. Let’s afford people-who-desire-to-volunteer (love) the same courtesy, respecting that if one is on a trajectory toward getting closer to representing Jesus’ character, it just might be okay? It’s a posture of hope – for us, and for those we desire to welcome among us.

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Could We Just Agree to Make Beautiful Music Together?

I worry. A lot. Some would say (and have), “Get some meds lady!”small__3199296759

What I often worry about, is how people perceive my faith – especially those who financially support Choices, the mission I’ve served, fought for, deconstructed and reconstructed, for more than twenty years – and taken seriously the mission of nurturing life, thereby upending some former tightly held beliefs. (And as Kathy Escobar recently captured so well, my faith hasn’t changed, only my beliefs. If you have a few minutes, take a listen to her wise guiding.) I’ve given up certainty and rightness for faith, hope, love and mystery, which, while that might make some nervous, brings me a sense of closeness to God.

Most people don’t care. Some people do. Others wonder why I even talk or write about it. My life is complex, in that, I’ve mostly not been allowed to be honest about my faith journey – it’s a risky venture when you’re in ministry. And frankly, it has been a tremendous time of loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, stress, and sadness. Interestingly, there is a life-giving sense to letting my life speak more openly and vulnerably. Why? Because what I find is that I’m not alone, and too many hurting others are desperate to know hope beyond the circumstances of their lives. There’s a sea of people out there shamed and controlled into hiding, for fear of being cast out from their communities of faith after (re)considering and (re)experiencing their faith in new ways.

One of the greatest gifts of my life was/is to experience frustration with my faith and beliefs. To have my taught understandings not fit my life experiences – to being increasingly desperate to find a different understanding…as in, well, surely, there must be more to the story – or at least a more compassionate perspective, that would better represent the person I was created to be – and reflect back to the world.

“Learn to be humble by doing all the humble work and doing it for Jesus. You cannot learn humility from books; you learn it by accepting humiliations. Humiliations are not meant to torture us; they are gifts from God. These little humiliations—if we accept them with joy—will help us to be holy, to have a meek and humble heart like Jesus.”
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Thanks for the reminder Mother Teresa. I get it. But, the joy part? Maybe not so much…yet.

So, shifting gears a bit by way of metaphor –  these are random musings – here’s a little something Jim and I were conversing about this morning – these are just short little insights to help us consider how we might sit with others of different beliefs – but the same faith.

Some people believe there’s only one way to parent, so if you’re doing it differently, from their perspective, you’re wrong. Now consider all the parenting articles, books, blogposts, and opinions from friends and family. I think you get this.

  • Children don’t listen to what you say, they do, however, watch what you do.
  • It is a lived life that speaks, and not the mouth. (Thanks for these words, beloved hubby of 22 years on Friday.)
  • So many perspectives, but love shows up as the strongest factor for change.
  • Even when parents abuse or neglect their children, those children will defend their parents. They will choose to be with them.
  • Every parent has his/her unique gifts – it is as they live into who they are that they give their best gifts to their children. Living into infers it’s still happening, that is, the learning part – after almost 40 years of parenting. (Yes, early start, coupled with later additions, equal lengthy parenting experience.)

This morning, I made the decision to not wake my 15 year old up, because after doing so several times, and hearing his complaint, “Mom, I was just getting up – you didn’t need to come and be sure I was up,” I chose not to, even though I feared he would be late. Was it wrong? Should I have gone to be sure he was up? Some would say yes, some would say no. And that’s my point. There’s no exacting way to do it right.

These albeit somewhat random thoughts are intended to invite us to consider the unique ways in which we respond to people who come for care at Choices – we believe that the belief differences present among our volunteers, are a healthy balance in community.

Even when there’s tension. Even when our beliefs are in conflict with one another. Here’s an example of what that looks like: birth control. So, some believe that birth control prevents procreation which is their high value, others believe birth control invites more sexuality-outside-of-marriage, and others believe that if you (actually) want to curb abortion, you will most definitely be a birth control proponent.

Head spinning yet? Just try juggling these, and other tension-filled talks of best practices on a given hot topic!

And here’s where some of the fear shows up for me: depending upon where one lands in the above conversation, one might withhold critical dollars. Consequently, people will not be cared for. People will suffer. Maybe people will succumb to whatever keeps them from finding life and well-being, because having a precise and quite certain perspective implies that difference must not be supported, and by extension, neither must people – the very people we’re called to love and nurture.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who isn’t in a faith stream who uses the word saved, and her first priority isn’t to ensure that they know Jesus – at least not in the sense of reciting something they don’t yet understand. She prefers they experience what knowing Jesus feels like: compassionate, loving, generous, merciful, and grace-filled. Does that make her of no value as a volunteer in a mission where one’s faith compels one to serve? Well, duh, right? Except, I’ve lived with the reality of having your thoughts, words, actions, and life scrutinized – and truth be told, I’m not very good at being under a microscope. Frankly, it’s terrifying and dehumanizing.

And so I live in constant fear – some would say irrational, hence the meds suggestion – that the manner in which I hold my beliefs, and subsequently that which informs the processes of caring for pregnant and parenting folks is less-than sufficient, or worse (as I have been told), just plain wrong.

But it’s who I am. It’s who, after years of discerning and wrestling with ‘how then shall I live’ most honors my Creator’s createdness in me.

Is there only one way of holding faith? Given that our Creator God, (and creative God?) has shown such grand diversity among the world’s people and places, I’m going with no. I’m going with another metaphor, that of an orchestra, where each musician, in concert together with others, plays their unique part and together presents beautiful music. If everyone played the clarinet in the same manner, with the same notes, well, boring, just boring. I want to hear the cello, the viola, the double bass…and more, the percussion instruments of the cymbals, drums and maybe the gong. Each sounding a bit different – and each contributing to the wholeness of the orchestra.

Could we just agree to make beautiful music together?

Interestingly, and conveniently, my friend Jim Henderson posted this today, on his birthday – his faith work being one of the key reasons we originally moved to Seattle. If you take the time to read it, my sense is that you’ll grasp a better understanding of my approach to faith and belief, especially this, because, well, this has been on the repeat cycle for the past several years:

“My experience with most Christians and Atheists for that matter is that they cant find a way to sit in the room with difference. They can’t stop themselves from mentally comparing their best with their ideological opponents worst. They either try to re-educate them, control them or exorcise them.”

I thought exorcise was a typo, until I used an online dictionary to remind me that to exorcise is to drive out or attempt to drive out (an evil spirit) from a person or place. And sadly, that is too often what occurs with difference.

Could We Just Agree to Make Beautiful Music Together?

small__3199296759
photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

I worry. A lot. Some would say (and have), “Get some meds lady!”

What I often worry about, is how people perceive my faith – especially those who financially support Choices, the mission I’ve served, fought for, deconstructed and reconstructed, for more than twenty years – and taken seriously the mission of nurturing life, thereby upending some former tightly held beliefs. (And as Kathy Escobar recently captured so well, my faith hasn’t changed, only my beliefs. If you have a few minutes, take a listen to her wise guiding.) I’ve given up certainty and rightness for faith, hope, love and mystery, which, while that might make some nervous, brings me a sense of closeness to God.

Most people don’t care. Some people do. Others wonder why I even talk or write about it. My life is complex, in that, I’ve mostly not been allowed to be honest about my faith journey – it’s a risky venture when you’re in ministry. And frankly, it has been a tremendous time of loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, stress, and sadness. Interestingly, there is a life-giving sense to letting my life speak more openly and vulnerably. Why? Because what I find is that I’m not alone. But, that might be another post.

One of the greatest gifts of my life was/is to experience frustration with my faith and beliefs. To have my taught understandings not fit my current life experiences – to being increasingly desperate to find a different understanding…as in, well, surely, there must be more to the story – or at least another perspective that was more compassionate, that would better represent the person I was created to be – and reflect back to the world.

“Learn to be humble by doing all the humble work and doing it for Jesus. You cannot learn humility from books; you learn it by accepting humiliations. Humiliations are not meant to torture us; they are gifts from God. These little humiliations—if we accept them with joy—will help us to be holy, to have a meek and humble heart like Jesus.”
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Thanks for the reminder Mother Teresa. I get it. 

So, shifting gears a bit by way of metaphor – remember these are random musings – here’s a little something Jim and I were conversing about this morning – these are just short little insights to help us consider how we might sit with others of different beliefs – but the same faith.

Some people believe there’s only one way to parent, so if you’re doing it differently, from their perspective, you’re wrong. Now consider all the parenting articles, books, blogposts, and opinions from friends and family. I think you get this.

  • Children don’t listen to what you say, they do, however, watch what you do.
  • It is a lived life that speaks, and not the mouth. (Thanks for these words, beloved hubby of 22 years on Friday.)
  • So many perspectives, but love shows up as the strongest factor for change.
  • Even when parents abuse or neglect their children, those children will defend their parents. They will choose to be with them.
  • Every parent has his/her unique gifts – it is as they live into who they are that they give their best gifts to their children. Living into infers it’s still happening, that is, the learning part – after almost 40 years of parenting. (Yes, early start, coupled with later additions, equal lengthy parenting experience.)

This morning, I made the decision to not wake my 15 year old up, because after doing so several times, and hearing his complaint, “Mom, I was just getting up – you didn’t need to come and be sure I was up,” I chose not to, even though I feared he would be late. Was it wrong? Should I have gone to be sure he was up? Some would say yes, some would say no. And that’s my point. There’s no exacting way to do it right.

These albeit somewhat random thoughts are to help us consider the unique ways in which we respond to people who come for care at Choices – we believe that the belief differences present among our volunteers, are a healthy balance in community.

Even when there’s tension. Even when our beliefs are in conflict with one another. Here’s an example of what that looks like: birth control. So, some believe that birth control prevents procreation which is their high value, others believe birth control invites more sexuality-outside-of-marriage, and others believe that if you (actually) want to curb abortion, you will most definitely be a birth control proponent.

Head spinning yet? Just try juggling these, and other tension-filled talks of best practices on a given hot topic!

And here’s where some of the fear shows up for me: depending upon where one lands in the above conversation, one might withhold critical dollars. Consequently, people will not be cared for. People will suffer. Maybe people will succumb to whatever keeps them from finding life and well-being, because having a precise and quite certain perspective implies that difference must not be supported, and by extension, neither must people – the very people we’re called to love and nurture.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who isn’t in a faith stream who uses the word saved, and her first priority isn’t to ensure that they know Jesus – at least not in the sense of reciting something they don’t yet understand. She prefers they experience what knowing Jesus feels like: compassionate, loving, generous, merciful, and grace-filled. Does that make her of no value as a volunteer in a mission where one’s faith compels one to serve? Well, duh, right? Except, I’ve lived with the reality of having your thoughts, words,  actions, and life scrutinized – and truth be told, I’m not very good at being under a microscope. Frankly, it’s terrifying and dehumanizing.

And so I live in constant fear – some would say irrational, hence the meds suggestion – that the manner in which I hold my beliefs, and subsequently that which informs the processes of caring for pregnant and parenting folks is less-than sufficient, or worse (as I have been told), just plain wrong.

But it’s who I am. It’s who, after years of discerning and wrestling with ‘how then shall I live’ most honors my Creator’s createdness in me.

Is there only one way of holding faith? Given that our Creator God, (and creative God?) has shown such grand diversity among the world’s people and places, I’m going with no. I’m going with another metaphor, that of an orchestra, where each musician, in concert together with others, plays their unique part and together presents beautiful music. If everyone played the clarinet in the same manner, with the same notes, well, boring, just boring. I want to hear the cello, the viola, the double bass…and more, the percussion instruments of the cymbals, drums and maybe the gong. Each sounding a bit different – and each contributing to the wholeness of the orchestra.

Could we just agree to make beautiful music together? 

Interestingly, and conveniently, my friend Jim Henderson posted this today, on his birthday – his faith work being one of the key reasons we originally moved to Seattle. If you take the time to read it, my sense is that you’ll grasp a better understanding of my approach to faith and belief, especially this, because, well, this has been on the repeat cycle for the past several years:

“My experience with most Christians and Atheists for that matter is that they cant find a way to sit in the room with difference. They can’t stop themselves from mentally comparing their best with their ideological opponents worst. They either try to re-educate them, control them or exorcise them.”

I thought exorcise was a typo, until I used an online dictionary to remind me that to exorcise is to drive out or attempt to drive out (an evil spirit) from a person or place. And sadly, that is too often what occurs with difference.

Thanks Nanny.

My Nanny taught me much about life and faith – and I recognize it more today than ever before. When I became heavily involved in a conservative, evangelical, Pentecostal church at age 21, she promptly told me, “Donna, you will ALWAYS be a Catholic, no matter where you go to church. You were baptized Catholic, and if I have anything to do with it, when you die you will be buried Catholic.” Yes, my grandmother, my Nanny, was fiery – but incredibly generous – some of my family would say, to a fault. Though, we all benefited from her goodness – even if (okay, when) we took advantage of that goodness from time to time.

Making some less-than-stellar choices as a young adult, (like getting married one month after high school graduation) as an escape, Nanny instinctively knew our bank accounts wouldn’t be flowing freely with sufficient cash to make life work very well. Groceries arrived regularly – so did dinners at her house. Grandpa kept a well-stocked separate room, that was actually like a mini-mart – being a child of the depression, he was a diligent sale shopper, and we reaped the benefits. Whenever there was need, we were invited to shop – even before we said anything Grandpa would tell us to head out to the storeroom and grab what we needed.

In my quest to be holy as God is holy, I tried to do it all right. I mean, I did after all have to fit into my persona as Little Miss Goodie Two Shoes – even if it was a big fat lie. I was taught many rules in my church, what I should and should not do, what all good Christians pursuing truth should be about – especially being sure to tell others about Jesus – the Savior of the world. (Except I was a great big failure at that one – it just never felt very kind – and it was just words – what did it mean anyway?) There was also emphasis on the heathen (!) in other countries, who needed to know how to correctly live a Christian life. (Another !) Nanny, hearing my words, (because words have always been my constant friend/enemy), would often repeat some version of this: “Donna, do you see the need right here in the United States? I don’t see the point of sending money away, or spending so much time on something so far away when there is so much need here.” (Now, all my missionary friends, it’s okay, I support you, and your beautiful work of compassion – this was my fiery Nanny, apparently living out her own calling, but sometimes missing others!)

IMG_5413Today, while unpacking more items from our year-ago move, I discovered a round plaque that seemed very kitschy and cheesy stating  HOME: Where each lives for the other and all live for God. I mean really, what does it even mean? (See, I do ask that question a lot!) I’ve tried to toss this before, the style, honestly, it’s really just not me. But it hung in Nanny’s house for as long as I can remember – so it’s a point of emotional connection; a memory-marker. And so it sits on the table before me, wondering if it will be tossed out.

I’ve gotten quite used to unpacking my beliefs over the past decade or so, about things I’ve held tightly, but no longer believe as truths. I’ve learned there are shades of grey – akin to those paint cards with graduated, slight differences in perspective. (No fear folks, my faith in the God of the universe is still intact – I just hold it differently, with a generous grace, attempting to live into my own callings more clearly, chucking fear at every waking.)

So when I read this plaque today, I started to consider what it might mean – digging deeply to stifle the early conversion default template about what was right and what was wrong. Nanny reflected the heart of God for her family – she was all about generosity, both relational and resource. That, I suddenly realized was living for one another – and, perhaps more to the point here, living for God. Nanny’s beliefs weren’t only in her head – she lived them out. She wasn’t a saint, that is, unless saints also had a less-than-perfect side – and I suspect there is truth there. The hopeful take-away in these rambling thoughts this cool but sunny October day, is that while we are all less-than-perfect, and even in the midst of that, we can affect others lives for good – and I suspect that is what it means to live for God.

Interesting how my life work would ultimately reflect Nanny’s ethos of caring locally. Having been at Choices Mt. Shasta for nearly twenty years, learning (and relearning) what it means to truly care well, wrestling through beliefs about the shoulds of life perspectives, and ultimately landing on the reality that it is the simple, consistent and caring presence of one human face and heart to another that makes the difference – right here in our little communities.

And I’m still not sure what to do with the plaque. Maybe I could revive it with some fresh paint? A fresh expression of an old foundational understanding about life and the ways in which it’s not about the rules – it’s about the simple presence of caring that connects people to something greater than themselves – the Creator of the Universe. The Creator is for us – and we can communicate this best in the ways we love others. (Which is why my FaceBook religious view says Love God, Love Others.)

Jim Henderson reminds me of this in his latest book Saving Casper: “The spiritual life is the discovery of the self God meant us to be so that who we are can be God’s gift to the rest of the world.” Thank you Nanny for inspiring and building a legacy for good – for God, in the simple ways of life you modeled for me. I heard, I felt, I knew goodness, safety and hope  because of your care.

(So I realize I haven’t let you in on much of Grandpa’s very loving and influential role in my life – like how he’d roll his eyes with a smile when I’d put ice cubes in my red wine. Yes, people, I wasn’t always the classy wine drinker I am today. Another time. This is about all I’ve got today.)

And, to answer your most certain question, these days I’ve settled comfortably into embracing a hybrid of Lutheran (ELCA) and Anglican (Episcopal) expression of my faith – and I’m thinking Nanny would somehow find that a suitable compromise.

Cheers and goodness to you – may you discover a few deeply held memories that inspire life forward.