Categotry Archives: changing mindsets

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Life Outside the Bubble (part 2–The Difference)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought

In my previous post, I talked about how I used to live deep within the bubble which is the church subculture, and how God burst those bubbles in my life, and how I am now outside the bubble without losing my faith.

So if I’m still a Christian after all this…what’s the difference that leaving the bubble has made in my life?

As I reflect on where I am now, and what kind of person this process has shaped me into–especially as I grow more settled in a new palatte for my faith–here are some of the things I see that are different about my life and discipleship:

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Life Outside the Bubble (part 1–God with a Needle)

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Categories: changing mindsets, Meanderings (look it up)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a poem for Communitas Collective called “The Bubble.” It was symbolic for the subculture bubble that these days we call “church”, but in reality is nothing like how the church is described in the Bible. That’s not to say people in the bubble aren’t necessarily Christians, or part of the church; it’s just to say that the bubble itself is not the church. And yet–that’s how most Christians identify other Christians: by whether they are in the bubble. Whether they are active partakers of the subculture–whether they know the lingo, have the appearance, hold the proper political views, know who “Beth Moore” and “Philip Yancy” are…that kind of stuff.

Today I’m sort of pondering my life in general, and where I’m at these days, compared to where I used to be. I don’t mean Denver as opposed to Oklahoma or Texas. I mean…my whole life used to be the bubble. In fact, I lived in a bubble within the bubble–a sub-subculture. In other words, I wasn’t just a typical red-state churchgoer; I was a charismatic one. And even deeper, I was involved in several sub-movements of the charismatic culture, and knew (and spoke) certain code words that identified me as a very specific kind of a Christian; so I guess you could say I was involved in a sub-sub-sub-subculture. My world was several bubbles deep. ๐Ÿ™‚

So in a manner of speaking, the past ten years could almost be defined in my life as God with a needle. It has felt like one by one, He has gone around popping my bubbles. But what’s even more interesting is that He didn’t do it the way we might envision Him, as this big God up in the heavens popping bubbles until He got to me. No–somehow He popped the bubbles from the inside out, liberating me from the most specific subcultures first, then extending from there.

And when all the bubbles were gone…surprisingly, I didn’t fall into the abyss. I didn’t lose my faith. I was still a Christ-follower. I just wasn’t defined by all the Christianese trappings anymore.

I wish I could tell you everything was a bed of roses out here. But it isn’t. I think one reason I’m so tight with my little family is that for a huge period of time we have felt like the only ones of our kind. It is more than just being freed from bubbles. Think about it–when most Christians use the bubble (rather than the Bible) to identify other Christians, and you aren’t in the bubble anymore…let’s just say I’ve had pastors question the state of my soul purely on those grounds. Not only that, but when the bubble is your whole world, and it pops, you are left with having to pretty much re-define everything:

If faith isn’t what I thought it was–then what is faith? What does it look like?
If my faith isn’t defined by theology, what defines it?
If doing A,B, and C aren’t really the things that make you a good Christian–what does?
If all the things I thought were important to Jesus, really aren’t–then what is?

So no, it’s not easy. But after several years of deconstructing, I have to say I’m actually beginning to enjoy the journey a lot more, for a number of reasons. (I’ll save those details for part 2.) On one hand, having your bubbles popped really disorients you at first–but at the same time, it creates this open palatte of possibility that you never had before. You no longer have to concern yourself with meeting the protocols of other people to determine the quality of your faith or your discipleship; you’re free to go back to the basics. You get to focus more on the Bible than the bubble. (Like that? I keep using that because I like it.)

And because you go back to basics, you also begin to realize that Christians (and by extension, the church) don’t have to be shaped according to bubble protocols. In fact–by shedding that mentality, there is a great deal of potential for our faith and practice to remain anchored to the Bible while being shaped in ways that don’t alienate the world around us the way the bubble has done.

So despite the difficulties, I’m really thankful that God popped my bubbles (at least in my own mind). And since He popped them from the inside out, it leads me to believe that He was with me even within those bubbles. He was walking in front of me, needle in hand, popping the bubbles one by one as I followed behind.
That’s also reassuring–because it reminds me that I didn’t come to this place by drifting–I came here by following His lead.
I could keep going, but I’ll save something for the next part. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Pondering a Deconstructed Spirituality

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Categories: changing mindsets, Meanderings (look it up)

Not too long ago, I posted a question: “What is ‘spiritual’?” Thanks for your answers.

I continue to ponder this line of thinking a bit. When I wrote about how I’m doing, I talked mainly about specifics relating to our transition to Denver from Tulsa, and getting our feet under us. But I’ve also been thinking about where I’m at from a spiritual perspective, and where my spiritual journey away from “church-as usual” has taken me thus far.

I think the worship leading thing–being in regular contact with an institutional church group again–has got me thinking about this; because when you’re out of the “loop” for awhile, you almost forget what your journey looked like in a different context. Rubbing shoulders again with folks with the institutional church paradigm, I see a bit of myself in them, and I remember the lens through which I used to view my faith in Christ, and how it played out in my activities and behavior.

As a complement to the good folks I’m worshiping with…overall, they are among the least “churchy” churchgoers I’ve seen that still meet in an institutional setting–and they’re not even trying to be “emergent”. ๐Ÿ™‚ By this I mean they are just kind of normal people–not a lot of uber-religious types among them, not a lot of Christianese jargon going around; they ask how you’re doing, they talk about life, sports–just regular, relaxed stuff. And for the most part, they seem to be connecting with God within this format–and that’s the priority, as far as I’m concerned.

But having seen the institutional paradigm both from within and without…I realize it comes with its own set of filters, its particular way of looking at spiritual life. It sets up certain priorities above others as to what healthy spiritual living looks like. And in principle, those priorities are not all bad–many are honest attempts to be Biblical and promote Christlikeness. And this is forcing me to ask some questions that, when I was away from this culture, I could kind of keep on the shelf.

Let’s get specific. The typical church paradigm for healthy Christianity involves what we consider to be spiritual disciplines. Worship. Scripture study and meditation. Reflection. Prayer. Fasting, even. [shudder] (There are other spiritual disciplines too, that many churches ignore–social justice issues, serving the poor and afflicted, etc.–but that’s a different post. For now, I’m talking primarily about those values we see as vertical more than horizontal, if you get my meaning.)

The thing is–these disciplines are legitimate. No matter how “deconstructed” we get, we can’t write these out of the Scriptures; and if we’re following Christ, these are values we mustn’t dispense with. And yet, admittedly, during this extended period of detoxing, I feel like I’ve gotten pretty relaxed about a lot of this stuff. And I think I’ve needed to, honestly, and I have continued to feel God’s presence with me in the process. But being near a culture where these values are urged and promoted again, and recognizing their importance…I am challenged again as to what role things like prayer and study should play in my relationship with God.

As I said–I know why I’ve had a bit of an aversion to pressing myself to read my Bible and pray. Even while I while I acknowledge their importance, I push back against them on the inside. And here’s why: I have never known these things to be done without some form of religion attached to them. I’ve only known how to pray religiously, to study religiously, to fast religiously. I love Jesus; I loathe religion. I’ve had to take a break from being “disciplined” about these disciplines because the religion I walked in was so toxic. And I simply can’t abide the idea of going back to it.

In other words–sadly, I don’t perceive prayer as much of a spiritual discipline. I still perceive it as a religious duty. Even after all this time. I know in my mind it isn’t true; but in my heart it is still the “truth” I live out. I do pray, and read my Bible. I do talk to God. And I certainly value the truth of the Scripture that I have hid in my heart. But I’m still in that place of figuring out how to do it without the religious implications–how to read my Bible because I’m hungry for God’s words to me, rather than out of guilt for not having done so. And so there is this dilemma–knowing how important these things are, but not knowing how to do them without falling back into a religious mindset. Like religion has ruined these things for me. It truly is sad, isn’t it? Do you feel sorry for me? ๐Ÿ™‚

At this point, quite often, there is some well-meaning Christian who wants to tell me to read a certain book, or listen to a certain teacher to clarify it for me. Please don’t. That isn’t going to be helpful. The last thing I need right now is to hear from someone who thinks they have it figured out–even if what they might say is legitimate. Whatever resolution comes of this–and I’m confident there will be a resolution–I have to own it for myself. And for that matter, so do you. The reason I even get this vulnerable about it is that I know that I can’t be the only one who feels these things, and sometimes it helps at least to know you’re not nuts for feeling them, that others are going through a similar dilemma.

And so, I actually think this is a healthy stage of the journey for me. I know I can’t go back to how I was, and I know I can’t throw out things like prayer, nor will I. So I am pondering what a deconstructed spirituality looks like–how it fleshes out to integrate these elements into your life without the religion hanging onto them. It simply has to be possible.

And for me, this is where the conversation about what “spiritual” means comes into play. Because as some of you said, and I agree–everything, potentially, is spiritual for the one whose life is lived unto God. Spirituality isn’t something we turn on and off. We are spiritual beings by nature. As far as I know how, I am trying to live in the truth of this. Prayer isn’t a “time” for me; it’s an ongoing conversation with God as I walk through the day. Doesn’t that count? Sure it does. And even if I don’t crack open my Bible at 8:00 AM every day, doesn’t it count when I recall His word in my mind and heart, weighing it against my everyday decisions and actions? Sure it does.

Honestly, these are the ways it means something to me. There was a time when my prayer time was carefully guarded, and I’d come out of that prayer closet and act like an ungodly moron–but at least I could say I prayed and read my Bible. These days, I’m more concerned about acting like Jesus outside the prayer closet than I am about whether I happened to visit the prayer closet that day. Isn’t that where spirituality really counts–in our everydays?

Sure it is. ๐Ÿ™‚

I sure don’t claim to have this figured out yet. But maybe I am closer than I think.

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Moments of Truth About Church Worship

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Categories: changing mindsets, Meanderings (look it up)

Leading worship again in a regular Sunday gathering has been interesting for me. Having been out of that scene for so long, and then walking back in, I’m seeing things with a different set of eyes, and I’m seeing myself as well–how much I have apparently changed.

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Re-thinking the Foundations of Faith (part 2)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, theological questions

In my previous post I began looking at the huge amount of importance we believers tend to put on our theological views–our beliefs about God–to the point that we treat them as foundational to our faith. And I said that I was re-thinking this concept, that I was pondering a faith that was deeper than “correct” belief, based more on relationship than on specific beliefs or a theological creed.

I’m not saying theology isn’t important; rather, it’s a matter of prioritizing. I’m just saying our theology is maybe not as critical to our faith as we’ve made it out to be, and perhaps other things are more important. Consider the following points:

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Re-thinking the Foundations of Faith (part 1)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, theological questions

I have a feeling that this post title is going to rattle the religious.

Good. ๐Ÿ™‚

What I’m about to say, I’ve been pondering for awhile. This past nearly two years interacting in the blogosphere has been the first time in ages that I’ve had contact with people who think differently than I do, on a lot of different issues. I come from a culture that pretty much insists that you hang with those who believe the way you do, because anyone outside that framework can potentially corrupt you. It’s a fear thing, really.

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An Age-Old Grudge Against Women, and How Jesus Ruined Everything

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Categories: changing mindsets, healing wounds

This post picks up a continuing thread from “Why the Heart of Every Man Should Be Breaking,” which I posted several months ago.

Last week, my blogger friend Sarah published three posts in a series called “Jesus Breakin’ the Rules“, quoting extensively from Walter Wink’s book, The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millenium. I haven’t read the book, but the quotes Sarah took from it had to do with what Wink calls the “Domination System” of women, and how virtually every record of Jesus’ interaction with women flew in the face of this system. You might not agree with every (or any) of Wink’s specific interpretations (I agreed with about 90% of it), but his take should get you thinking, at least.

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My Changing Views on Worship

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Categories: changing mindsets, creativity, Meanderings (look it up), music, worship

So lately I’ve had worship on my mind, and have been observing a shift in my thinking about worship in the past couple of years. Seems I did some of this before, in a blog series called Re-Thinking Worship. But I’d like to revisit this from a different angle, less from just tossing around ideas, and more about how those ideas are reshaping my whole approach and belief system about it–sort of comparing how I used to see it, and how I see it now.

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Practicology (excerpt)

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Categories: changing mindsets, church, food for thought

Here’s an excerpt from my latest post over at Communitas Collective

Is it just me, or are there just too many โ€œโ€“ologiesโ€ out there? Theology, ecclesiology, eschatologyโ€”oh, and there are other multi-syllabic terminologies, too, like orthodoxy, orthopraxy, hermeneutics, rhamazeutics, and salmonellics. (If you canโ€™t tell where I stopped using actual words and started poking funโ€”I just proved my point.)

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God Is In the Darkness (Part 4: Questions of Defilement)

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought

(You might want to get up to speed by starting with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

Defile. Defiling. Defilement.

These are not words we normally hear in the everyday world around us…unless our world is almost exclusively filled with Christians, and even then the younger generation doesn’t use them much. They sound kind of archaic, like “thee”, “thou”, and “verily.” Yet, for being so old-fashioned, I think they pretty much describe the root of most Christians’ fear of the darkness.

In the first post in this series, I talked about this from the standpoint of the demonic, about how I got over my own fears that anything I did, thought, or watched on TV might make me or my family vulnerable to demonic activity. But this needs revisiting because a lot of Christians wouldn’t describe their fears in that way, exactly. For them, it’s a more general aversion. Some would describe it “garbage in, garbage out”, talking about needing to guard what we receive as input into our brains (which is true enough). But I think it goes deeper than that for some, a little more intangible.

I think in this case, the word “defilement” really applies. We avoid the darkness because we are afraid of being defiled. (Past my own fears of the the demonic, I think I was largely afraid of defilement, too.)

So what, exactly, is defilement? Simply put, it describes when something unholy or unclean comes into contact with something otherwise pure, and corrupts it. In the Law of Moses, certain things (and people) were considered clean, and some were unclean, and the unclean could not touch the clean. Some things (or people) were made ceremonially clean, by performing a ritual, and from that point those ceremonially clean things (or people) needed to be guarded against unclean things that could defile them. Sometimes, when defilement happened, you could just perform another ritual to “clean” the defiled item (or person). At other times, the Law called for the destruction of what was defiled. (I’m being very general here, but you get the point.)

It really is from this mentality that we draw our modern view of defilement. We’re supposed to be clean and holy people, and the sin (and even negativity) around us can potentially defile us. So we avoid it because we don’t want to be seduced into uncleanness. We don’t want that stuff making us “dirty” on the inside.

For now, I want to bypass the more obvious New Testament based responses. I know Jesus said what comes out of a man defiles him more than what goes into him, and I recognize that the New Testament has freed us from these clean/unclean regulations of the Law. But the Old Testament is full of types and shadows that help us understand why this is true, and what the heart of God is for us in the midst of all of it. So permit me to ponder a bit more about the Law of Moses.

As I understand it, there are actually three levels of holiness described by the Law. I’ve already talked about the lowest level, ceremonial cleanness. This is the lowest (and weakest) form of holiness because the holiness is all externally based. In other words, the only thing that makes us clean or unclean at this level is what happens to us. We can’t get clean on our own; we must be cleansed ceremonially, and then we can’t touch anything unclean, or we will be defiled by the unclean thing.

The level above that is most holy. These are items that carry the holiness with them, so that when an unclean thing touches it, the unclean thing becomes clean. For lack of a better description, this is “reverse defilement.” Instead of becoming defiled by the unclean thing, the most holy thing actually sanctifies the unclean. The sacrificial altar, for example, had this quality. A dead animal was generally unclean; but place it on the altar for a sacrifice, and it becomes holy.

The top level is the level of God–Holiest of All. This is the pure holiness that annihilates any unclean stuff that comes near it. It is this intense holiness that requires unclean things (and people) to become clean before entering, to avoid destruction. This, of course, is the principle behind why ultimately the sacrifice of Christ and His blood is so important for us….’nuff said. ๐Ÿ™‚

Having said all this…can you maybe see where I’m going with it?

We Christians today live so much of our lives as though all Jesus did by His amazing sacrifice was to make us ceremonially clean, like the lowest level of holiness in the Law. His blood “will never lose its power”, so we can come again and again to be cleansed. But for some reason, in our minds, this cleanness doesn’t stick. So we ultimately end up living as sterile a life as possible, for fear that anything we touch could corrupt and defile us.

But is this as far as it goes? Is this the plan of God for us? I honestly don’t believe so. From what I read of the Scriptures, it seems to me that God’s plan is not just to cleanse us, but to transform us and remake us. I think “most holy” is a more apt picture of where He is taking us. I think He is making us into a people who can sanctify an environment by walking into it, who can bring virtue and holiness into unclean situations without being defiled.

To be a people who bring light into the darkness, not have their light snuffed out by the darkness.

Now, are we all there? Well, perhaps it’s one of those things that is a paradox; Christ’s work was a completed work on the cross, and yet He is still working that “completed work” out within our hearts. Perhaps when we are young in the faith, we are only able to aim for ceremonial cleanness, and that’s appropriate. It is certainly wisdom to guard our hearts (see Proverbs 4), and certainly there are situations where a new believer would be vulnerable, and where it would be wise to guard him/her. (The same obviously goes for our children who shouldn’t see certain things before they are emotionally ready for them–a lot of genuine defilement occurs that way.)
I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, and yet there are definitely some places I personally cannot go, because I am honest about my own weaknesses and frailties. So in some areas, I’m “not there yet.” Probably none of us are, since this is a journey, not a destination.

But in general, the more I trust the work God is doing in my heart, the less affected I am by the defilement around me–the less tempted, the less influenced. And so I think in these areas, “most holy” begins to apply. I am more capable of bringing light to dark places than the darkness is capable of overwhelming me. And the less afraid I am of the dark. I think this is what we are meant for. So taken this way…the whole question changes. No longer is it a question of defilement, whether touching the unclean thing will corrupt us. Instead, it’s a question of what good influence the virtue God has worked in us can have upon the unclean thing.

And so ultimately, this reaffirms to me that God is, indeed, in the darkness. He doesn’t always reveal Himself in all His glory (so as not to burn everything to a crisp), but He is light just the same. And it naturally follows that if we are following Him…we’re going to follow Him into that darkness. We have to see it, understand it, know the pain that occurs within it–but ultimately, we don’t have to fear it. We need to go there, because He is there.

Does this mean we won’t ever be defiled? Not necessarily; we are not yet perfect, and this journey isn’t without risk. But if things do get a bit messy, Christ’s blood and His grace are sufficient; we still have a way to be made clean again. At any rate, as we allow God to work in us, and trust Him, we have a better shot of making the unclean holy, rather than the other way around.

After all…how will the unclean thing become clean, if that which is most holy never makes contact with it?

Aaand there’s still more to say…stay tuned…. ๐Ÿ™‚
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