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Finding Freedom

Living Forgiven and Free

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Christianity

Losing My Religion 

I was sprinkled a Methodist, confirmed a First Congregational, dunked an evangelical, and spent years in between with the Presbyterians and non-denominational folks. My life-long Christian tradition provided encouragement, comfort, community and opportunities to serve others. For this, I’m grateful.

I have my own relationship with God and my faith is intact. No worries there.  But I can no longer align myself with the American version of Christianity.  I haven’t been to church since Trump won the electoral college vote last November. I felt like an alien worshipping next to people who promoted Trump as God’s answer for our country.  Fast forward 10 months and the divide is even greater.

I am in no way condemning Christians who chose to remain in the American Christian Faith tradition. Nor, am I condemning pastors and others who have dedicated their lives to Christian service.  There are churches and individual Christians who do not subscribe to these superior, nationalist beliefs.  You do you, keep the faith and keep up the good works. Much good is accomplished.

I will continue to do the same in a community that doesn’t have national evangelical, baptist, and non-denominational leadership (you can google the list) unilaterally supporting a president who the antithesis of the Christ I know and love.

Wrestling with this has caused me to grieve and feel physically ill. I feel ripped-off.  So why am I making this a public declaration? Isn’t religion a private thing? I’ll tell you why:

Trump’s administration and the American Christian leadership’s support of Trump have marginalized people who are dear to me. I want my friends who are transgender, gay, lesbian, disabled, Muslim, female, Mexican, veteran, immigrant (documented or not), Jewish, indigenous, African American, and liberal to know that you matter. I cannot belong to a faith community that believes American, white, straight, male, republican, christians are superior to the rest of the world and come “first.”

I’m not asking you to support my view of Trump and American Evangelical Christian leadership. It’s my assessment just as you have yours. Just know that I can no longer align myself with Americhristianity.

My faith is solid but I’ve lost my religion and faith community.

I’m Still Forgiven and Free

Inspiration

The act of breathing in.

The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. 

The supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

I received a pleasant surprise in the mail today.  This picture of my precious grand daughter giving me a kiss was on the cover of a pharmaceutical company’s annual report. A similar picture hangs in the company’s board room along with pictures of several other patients. The CEO wants to remind board members that serving patients is their inspiration.

I heard today that inspiration is closely tied to creativity and ultimately connected to hope. Oh Lord, I need hope. I have down days in which hope eludes me. I have thoughts of life with ALS being too hard.  It’s a cruel disease. All thoughts of life-extending interventions are off the table. Just hunker down, this will be over soon.

Ok. I can’t stay there. It serves no one.

Hope is what moves me from despair to gratitude. I think about what inspires me to keep living:

  • The love of God, my family, and friends
  • Serving and encouraging others in creative ways
  • Being present and finding gratitude in the moment

What’s your inspiration? Leave a comment so we can learn from you.

I’m Forgiven and Free and inspired by you!

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Balance: Mind, Body & Spirit

I practice in my Christian tradition that:

  • my mind is to be fixed on praiseworthy things
    Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kind of things. – Philippians 4:8

  • my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
    Don’t you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? – 1 Corinthians 6:19
  • the Spirit of God dwells within me
    The Spirit is in you, and you have received the Spirit from God. – 1 Corinthians 6:19

I find these teachings helpful and true for me. Holding these Bible verses in my heart brings me peace and purpose. Yet, as my ALS progression renders more of my body useless, I’m perplexed as to how my failing body is worthy to be a temple of God.

I view my mind, body, and spirit as separate entities and struggle to keep balance because I’m not able to tap into my mind and spirit to bolster my failing body.

Something was missing in my understanding. I was missing the inseparable and interdependent relationship of the three. Coincidently (well maybe it’s not a coincidence), I’ve been studying the Eastern Cherokee people of North Carolina for a work of fiction. The Cherokee people believe that one must strive to maintain social and spiritual harmony and balance. Internal harmony and balance allows individuals to be at peace with their bodies, their thoughts, their emotions.

Looking at my life through the Cherokee lens was the subtle shift I needed to bring my mind, body, and spirit back into balance. Can I find balance amongst my mind, body, and spirit with my body being a hot mess of dying motor neurons? I think, yes.

There are eleven major systems in the human body. Just one of mine, the nervous system, is failing and ten other systems are going strong. I can focus my thoughts on all the systems in my body that are doing well and speak health into my body by integrating my mind and body.

My spirit? The Holy Spirit dwelling in me? I’ve got some work to do here.

I’m Forgiven and Free and working on integrating the three.

 

 

Finding Joy in the Little Things

Most of my days are spent doing the things I love with people I love. Pictured clown noses are a case in point.  Other than the occasional dental cleaning or medical appointment, I spend most of my energy on the people and causes that are near and dear to my heart:

  • Loving on my grandkids
  • Hanging out with family and friends
  • Going to coffee or lunch with girlfriends
  • Teaching and coaching aspiring teachers and administrators
  • Advocating for people living with ALS and veterans
  • Encouraging everyone I meet to be be the best that they can be
  • Spreading a little joy

Now don’t be all jealous that I’ve bowed out of the rat race and you’re stuck on the gerbil wheel. I still have my share of struggles as I find myself in a battle for my life. Yet, that will not define me!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

I’m Forgiven and Free and not lacking anything

P.S.
Check out the video about #ShellysPCT

Why I left after 32 years

Steeped in white privilege, it was easy to register as a Republican. I was serving in the U.S. Navy during the fat Reagan years. I worked hard and went to school for years taking advantage of every opportunity availed. Isn’t this the land of the free? Everyone has the same opportunities. Truth is, the playing field has never been level, but now it’s a ski slope.

Fast forward 32 years, I just left the Republican party. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed to be affiliated with a party whose leading candidate worships greed, pride, and fear mongering — everything that is wrong with America.

Having a fatal diagnosis was the real catalyst for change. No longer am I able to pick myself up by my proverbial boot straps. I am at the mercy of others. From this vantage point it’s easier to have mercy on others.

I used to think hard work was enough; but it’s not enough anymore. I believe God put enough resources on the earth to take care of everyone. I believe we are all connected.  I believe we can take care of each other.

I’m Forgiven and Free and feeling the Bern

The Four Agreements

Years ago I read the The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Miguel Ruiz, and forever changed how I navigate life.

The pan-theological introduction challenged my sensibilities. Ruiz describes Toltec wisdom not as a religion but rather a way of being.  It took several readings and serious introspection to begin applying the wisdom internally.

The Four Agreements

#1 Be Impeccable with your word
#2 Don’t take anything personally
#3 Don’t make assumptions
#4 Always do your best

Pure Light, Pure Love

Ruiz claims, “Everything in existence is a manifestation of the one living being we call God. Everything is God…human perception is merely light perceiving light. Everything is a mirror that reflects light and creates images of that light – and the world of illusion, the Dream, is just like smoke which doesn’t allow us to see what we really are. The real us is pure love, pure light.”

The more I read and looked for meaning, the more I realized the wisdom contained in The Four Agreements can be found in the Bible as well. The difference is the source of love and light. Jesus is my light and salvation. and God is pure love, not me. 

Yes. Everything is existence is a manifestation of God. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 

Jesus is the light and he lives through us. I believe we reflect the light of Jesus through how we live our lives. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

It makes sense. God is pure love; Jesus is pure light. Yet, we only see a reflection and can’t fathom the depths of love nor understand why things happen the way they do.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes. James 4:14

Challenging My Agreements

As a child, I believed what my family, place of worship, community, advertisements, and society told me to believe. I made agreements as to what is right and wrong, attractive and ugly, appropriate and improper. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this system; we need societal norms. But Ruiz suggests that we challenge our long-held beliefs on our journey to personal freedom.

What if I’ve agreed to a lie?

I’ll be blogging more about how each of the Four Agreements has helped me on my journey to forgiveness and freedom.  In the meantime, check out the Four Agreements for yourself.

I’m Forgiven and Free

Christian, Put Away the Gavel

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

That’s us fellow Christian. We’re the tax collectors and sinners. We’re the lowest of the low that Jesus came to save. We’re not the all knowing Pharisees or teachers of the law. We are sinners.

I hate to admit that sometimes I’m embarassed to call myself a Christian. I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but I am embarrassed when Christians judge like Pharisees. I don’t have to listen very long to hear us unilaterally dismiss groups of people by race, religion, sexual preference, or lifestyle. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Luke 5:29-31

That’s me. I’m the sinner. I’m the lost sheep. I’m the sick person in need of a savior. So before we profess to have this whole God-thing figured out, let’s not forget who we are.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

I’m Forgiven and Free and putting away my gavel

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