Categotry Archives: My Story

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Best of LMR: "The View from Here"

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), My Story

Reposted from March 2008.

I spend a lot of time here in the ongoing process of “de-constructing”–in other words, processing my thoughts and discussing the issues about the institutional forms of Christianity that are now in my rear-view mirror. That de-construction is necessary, and a lot of fellow bloggers are documenting their own similar journeys.

However, I think it’s important to note that this journey is about far more than what is in the rear-view mirror. There is a lot of stuff ahead of me, a whole horizon to explore. Stuff I never knew existed. So I thought I’d talk a little about that today.

During a lot of my de-construction, and culminating with the wake-up call, I felt a sense of grief and loss, and rejection. Institutional Christianity had been pretty much all I’d known, and had been a place where I found acceptance (as long as I “played ball”). So even though I could not deny the truth of what God was showing me, it was still hard to let go. And yet, I knew I couldn’t embrace what was in front of me until I let go of what was already behind me.

So when I let go…I found a whole new world.

If I boiled down all my feelings about being outside the walls into one word…it would be “wonder.” I feel like God has opened up the wide-open spaces to me, and I have discovered options for ministry and purpose I never knew existed. Despite the tame forms of Christianity I’ve lived in, there has always been a part of me that knew that ours is a subversive faith, one that is destined to turn the world upside down. That is the part of me that now is free to come to the surface. Before now, there were so many things I would never have considered doing (I do NOT mean in a sinful sense) simply because they didn’t fit the paradigms of “church”. Now I can see that there are so many more ways to be Jesus to the world than just the formats and structures I grew up with, and I’m anxious to try some of them out. πŸ™‚ The boredom I have felt for years fades away in the rear-view mirror when I look out at all that is in front of me.
Before I really let go and embraced this new world, I tried desperately to hold on to my relationships within the institutional church (and I still have friends there). I often felt fearful and alone because I knew God was morphing me into something that more and more of those people could not relate to. But when I let go–not forsaking my friends, per se, but just not holding them so tightly–I found a whole new group of people experiencing a similar journey as myself. I have actually found people in this town who are like-minded. Wow. And I have discovered a whole set of Internet friends, and even some dear friends from the past who have found themselves on a similar journey. People I never would have found had I not been willing to let the institutions fall into the rear-view mirror. And of course, there is the wonderful house-church community that has not only watched us walk this path, but have been walking it with us all along. It’s still gets lonely out here sometimes–just not quite as lonely.

There are also times I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. As a sheep in the flock of God, I feel like I have been kept in a sheep pen for most of my life (and when you think of a bunch of sheep stuck in a pen–boy, that analogy might just generate another blog post in itself–might be veerryy entertaining). Now, I feel like I’ve been released from the pen, and I’m running and jumping in the open country. Woo hoo! But then the magnitude of the unfamiliar surrounds me, and I start to get uncomfortable, even scared. The sheep pen is familiar, but I simply know I can’t go back there (besides, someone has locked it behind me). And when I find myself in this place of uncertainty and insecurity…this is when I begin to listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd. I am out in the wide open, but I am not lost. But I can no longer depend on the sheep pen for my bearings; I must listen to His voice. I can’t just venture off into the horizon; I must be led.

So…I’m a sheep in the wide-open country, driving in my car (make it a convertible), my wool blowing in the breeze, with the sheep pen in my rear-view mirror, the horizon in front of me, and God is on my GPS. How’s THAT for mixed metaphors?

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The Thing About Boys and Girls, and the Weird, Sort of Twisted Way I Am Able to Tie It In with the Church

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Categories: food for thought, My Story

(For those tracking on my series of posts about “Re-Thinking Worship”, fear not; we’ll return to that thread soon. Today, I want to share an excerpt from a book I’m working on. Please don’t copy this without my permission.)

I know there’s a season in the childhood of young boys when they are not supposed to like girls. For me, I can’t remember such a time. Oh, when I was four or five, I bought into the girls-have-cooties thing for awhile, but that was mostly because other boys were saying so. I suppose at that time I could have taken girls or left them, but I never remember a time when I disliked them.

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Close Encounters of the First Kind–The Holy Spirit in My Life

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Categories: food for thought, My Story, post-charismatic

So I just found out about Robbymac’s synchroblog this morning (via Barb and Sarah)–the one encouraging people (especially post-charismatics) to tell our stories of “how we first became acquainted with, and eager for, the felt presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.” And I was like, “Hey, I wanna do that, too!” πŸ™‚ So here ya go.

I was raised until about age 10 in the Episcopal church. My divorced mom was devout, and I remember she and I being the only attendees many times at early morning Lent services (only one of us actually being a willing participant).

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Departing: How I Found Myself Outside the Walls

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Categories: food for thought, My Story

After my last blog posting, it’s getting apparent I need to change the subject. πŸ™‚ (Thanks for all the comments, folks.)

I’m sure I’ve covered this previously somewhere in the blog archives, but it’s sort of on my mind today. I’d like to share a little of my story, and how I have wound up outside the walls of institutional Christianity.

Reading the stories of many others out there, it is apparent that many who are among the “disenfranchised” when it comes to the IC have simply walked away. Either they left because they were disillusioned, or they left because they were wounded (and often a bit of both). Either way–they were the ones who did the walking.

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Stuff I Learned from U2, and How It Influenced My Current Path

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, My Story

As I’ve said at other times on this blog, my journey out of institutional Christianity has been a progressive one, but it wasn’t until I had a wake-up call–a public rebuke from a local pastor–that I truly realized how far I had drifted from the culture of the institutional church.

Before that point, I was still trying to belong to “the club” in many ways–still trying to garner acceptance from the mainstream church. After this point, I recognized that wasn’t working. I was clearly outside the walls, and I needed to learn how to embrace that fully.

A few months later, I read the book Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 by Steve Stockman. I had been curious for many years about where these four guys from Dublin stood spiritually, since there have been mixed opinions of them within the American church. To be sure, despite frequent Christian themes in their music, humanitarian efforts, and professions of faith from three of the four bandmates…with their whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking, profanity-speaking ways, they do not fit the American picture of the typical evangelical Christian.

The author doesn’t condone or defend any of their rough-around-the-edges behavior. Instead, he shares their story, how the three Christian bandmates found their faith. What is intriguing is that, thanks in part to the unique culture of Dublin, these guys came to a real and vibrant faith in Christ in a culture apart from the Protestant or Catholic traditions. They became Christ-followers (and have remained so) without all the extra trappings of the typical Christian sub-culture. And as such, instead of focusing on acceptable Christian “behavior patterns” (such as not smoking or drinking or cussing), their faith has focused more on the activism that Christ promoted (such as caring for the underprivileged and standing up against injustice).

And that got me wondering…what would all of us “typical” Christians look like if we had come to Christ outside of the typical churchy culture? What would it have looked like if we had just started following the Christ of the Bible, without the extra baggage of pulpits, pews, and churchy protocols that have more to do with tradition than the Bible itself? I wonder if we would look a bit like these guys–rough around the edges, perhaps, but fully committed to learning and following the way of Christ.

It seems to me that this is actually a bit like how the first disciples might have looked. Fisherman, a tax collector, a political zealot, and even a thief and traitor…these guys were a rough, rag-tag group, far from the typical candidates that a “normal” rabbi would have chosen as disciples. But Jesus chose them and used them, not because they behaved right, but because they were willing to follow Him and trust Him.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all start smoking, drinking and cussing to be like U2. πŸ™‚ But reading about their journey gave me a whole new perspective on following Christ. It showed me that it is possible to have a meaningful relationship with God, and to make a difference in the world, without the trappings of traditional church settings. And it changed my perspective on what is important as far as meaningful Christian actions. Think what you will about this band or its frontman, Bono; but when a whiskey-swilling rockstar can singlehandedly do more to model Christ to the world than the entire evangelical church in America–I think that might be something to consider. Just sayin’.

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The Issue of Authority–My Own Journey

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Categories: changing mindsets, My Story

In the informal blog-circle in which I’ve found myself–many of whom, like myself, are going through different stages of re-thinking institutional Christianity–recently the issue of authority/leadership has come up. Because so many have been wounded through abusive leadership (or even well-intended leadership operating in a broken system), there are some understandable questions being raised about whether we’ve got the authority issue right. Does Jesus intend us to submit to human spiritual authority, or is He alone our Shepherd and leader?

I have a lot of thoughts on this myself, and right now they are all kind of jumbled. In other words, if I put them down here now, they’d probably look like this:

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The Road

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), My Story

Every so often I notice some small thing from my past that I can tell was speaking prophetically to where I am today. Little signposts here and there that God has been walking with me.

I wrote this song over 15 years ago. Every so often I dust it off and ponder the lyric, because it so speaks to me personally, even now. Thought I’d share it with you today.

THE ROAD
by Jeff McQuilkin

I’m looking down a long and dusty road
And it’s leading to a place I long to be
I’ve seen this place so many times before
In my dreams
Somehow I’ve known it is my destiny

But the road is long, and hard, and full of pain
And so many souls have fallen by the way
And the ones I treasure most don’t always understand
Why I am drawn
Unto this path of clay

And I tremble with desire
And I tremble in my fear
I hear my Lord say:

“Boy, you must walk this road
That I have made for you
It is the only way to where you’re meant to be
I know the road is long
Feels like you walk alone sometimes
But what lies at the end
Is worth all of the pain
Just walk this road that I have called you to
And I’ll always walk with you”

Now I’m searching for the singleness of heart
To take the step beyond what I have known
I cry, “God, I want to go
But You know how I am hurting
At the thought that I
Might walk this path alone”

And He says, “Child, I am with you
I am faithful, I am true
Just remember the road I walked for you”

I’m gonna walk this road
That He has made for me
It is the only way to where I’m meant to be
I know the road is long
Feels like I walk alone sometimes
But what lies at the end
Is worth all of the pain
I’ll walk this road into my destiny
For I know who walks with me

Copyright 1992 Jeff McQuilkin. All rights reserved. Do not copy, print, or re-post without permission.

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The Great Shift–and My Unwitting Part In It

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Categories: changing mindsets, church, My Story

(The following entry is part of a synchroblog sponsored by Glenn at Re-Dreaming the Dream.)

Two or three years ago, a national Christian magazine published an article about the growing number of “stay-away saints” in America–millions of professing believers who are not regularly attending organized church anymore, but many of whom still maintain a vibrant faith. The article attempted to cover both sides of the trend, quoting people who expressed concerns about it and those who felt perhaps it is the sign of healthy change. But interestingly, the underlying theme of the article, and indeed the entire issue of the magazine, was this: “Come back to church.” Instead of addressing the issues that caused these Christians to feel disillusioned, discontent, or out-of-place in institutional Christianity, the message was just that these people should return to the very institutions that had alienated them, for more of the same.

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The View From Here

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), My Story

I spend a lot of time here in the ongoing process of “de-constructing”–in other words, processing my thoughts and discussing the issues about the institutional forms of Christianity that are now in my rear-view mirror. That de-construction is necessary, and a lot of fellow bloggers are documenting their own similar journeys.

However, I think it’s important to note that this journey is about far more than what is in the rear-view mirror. There is a lot of stuff ahead of me, a whole horizon to explore. Stuff I never knew existed. So I thought I’d talk a little about that today.

During a lot of my de-construction, and culminating with the wake-up call, I felt a sense of grief and loss, and rejection. Institutional Christianity had been pretty much all I’d known, and had been a place where I found acceptance (as long as I “played ball”). So even though I could not deny the truth of what God was showing me, it was still hard to let go. And yet, I knew I couldn’t embrace what was in front of me until I let go of what was already behind me.

So when I let go…I found a whole new world.

If I boiled down all my feelings about being outside the walls into one word…it would be “wonder.” I feel like God has opened up the wide-open spaces to me, and I have discovered options for ministry and purpose I never knew existed. Despite the tame forms of Christianity I’ve lived in, there has always been a part of me that knew that ours is a subversive faith, one that is destined to turn the world upside down. That is the part of me that now is free to come to the surface. Before now, there were so many things I would never have considered doing (I do NOT mean in a sinful sense) simply because they didn’t fit the paradigms of “church”. Now I can see that there are so many more ways to be Jesus to the world than just the formats and structures I grew up with, and I’m anxious to try some of them out. πŸ™‚ The boredom I have felt for years fades away in the rear-view mirror when I look out at all that is in front of me.

Before I really let go and embraced this new world, I tried desperately to hold on to my relationships within the institutional church (and I still have friends there). I often felt fearful and alone because I knew God was morphing me into something that more and more of those people could not relate to. But when I let go–not forsaking my friends, per se, but just not holding them so tightly–I found a whole new group of people experiencing a similar journey as myself. I have actually found people in this town who are like-minded. Wow. And I have discovered a whole set of Internet friends, and even some dear friends from the past who have found themselves on a similar journey. People I never would have found had I not been willing to let the institutions fall into the rear-view mirror. And of course, there is the wonderful house-church community that has not only watched us walk this path, but have been walking it with us all along. It’s still gets lonely out here sometimes–just not quite as lonely.

There are also times I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. As a sheep in the flock of God, I feel like I have been kept in a sheep pen for most of my life (and when you think of a bunch of sheep stuck in a pen–boy, that analogy might just generate another blog post in itself–might be veerryy entertaining). Now, I feel like I’ve been released from the pen, and I’m running and jumping in the open country. Woo hoo! But then the magnitude of the unfamiliar surrounds me, and I start to get uncomfortable, even scared. The sheep pen is familiar, but I simply know I can’t go back there (besides, someone has locked it behind me). And when I find myself in this place of uncertainty and insecurity…this is when I begin to listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd. I am out in the wide open, but I am not lost. But I can no longer depend on the sheep pen for my bearings; I must listen to His voice. I can’t just venture off into the horizon; I must be led.

So…I’m a sheep in the wide-open country, driving in my car (make it a convertible), my wool blowing in the breeze, with the sheep pen in my rear-view mirror, the horizon in front of me, and God is on my GPS. How’s THAT for mixed metaphors?

So how is God leading you these days, and what does it look like?
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