It Is What It Is

A brief follow-up to my post from last week.

Today during my somewhat-daily prayer liturgy/meditation, I continued to grapple with the big questions I brought up a few days back. Why is there so much evil, death, and pain in the world when I have been shown that there is a great love beneath everything, a Love that I call God?

And I became convinced during my time of silence that the question itself makes no sense.

There is no why. There is only what is. And what is contains both the reality of pain, suffering, evil and death; and the reality of a Great Love which is bringing healing and wholeness to all things.

It feels like a cop out, and yet that is the truth that I felt today.

We are given a choice every day. We can either live in the misery and suffering of a world that is irreparably broken, or in the acceptance and hope of a world that is because it is, but one that also is being made new each and every day in ways we cannot ever understand.

Today, I can choose hope. Maybe I won’t be able to do that tomorrow, but I can do that for today.

On the Days I Don’t Believe

Today is one of those days that I don’t believe any of it.

Now, days like these don’t come easily. Because I have experienced Great Love that I can only ascribe to what I call God. I still think that there is something other, greater, beyond; that is at the center of all that is and in the end is good.

But apparently, that otherness bears no relation to all of the happy-clappy bullshit I was taught in church.

Because apparently, there is no one coming to rescue us. There is no one coming to break down walls. There is no one to wipe away every tear. There is no one who understands what we’re going through. There is no one to defend the poor and oppressed. There is no one to side with the outcast. There is no one who fights on our behalf.

Only silence.

Because at the end of the day, the rich and powerful get more rich and powerful. The oppressors consolidate their power. The Christians seek to hurt more people in the name of their god. People of all types and religions seek to commit genocide in the name of people of all other types and religions. And people of no religion do the same. We continue to kill our planet. And Christians are the most outspoken advocates of its death.

How could I believe any of this in the face of such great evil, where the people who claim to be religious participate in just as much of that evil as those who claim no religion at all?

Where is God in all of this?

Yes, I have theological tools to help answer these questions. I have become convinced that some version of process theology/open and relational theology is the best way of describing a God that is apparently loving from my experience but also very, very unable to stop suffering in the world.

But it still leaves me with questions.


* Is it even meaningful to have a loving God if that loving God is unable to stop suffering in the world?
* Is there any reason for there to be a church when the church just can’t quit its racism, homophobia, and Christian nationalism that seeks to impose its narrow interpretation of the Bible on everyone by force?
* Why would I have been given a glimpse into an incredible love and then shortly thereafter discover that apparently that love stops short of actually being able to help in times of trouble?

So, on the one hand, I think it’s all complete bullshit. But at the same time, I can’t escape the beauty that I have been shown in the past. And so I sit here, not believing anything but being unable to stop believing. Hoping against hope that at some point all of this darkness becomes luminous darkness and doesn’t just swallow me whole.

They Who Have Ears, Let Them Hear

This week was absolute shit. That’s actually the technical theological term for it, believe me. I intend to leave private details private, but just know that I am okay, but I’m going through some things that are… shitty.

Richard Rohr talks about there being two main means of transformation in life. Great Love, and Great Suffering. I believe that I was able to experience Great Love in 2019 through a series of mystical experiences that brought me face to face with Divine Love itself. Apparently, now it’s time for the suffering. Which, given the reality of human experience, was inevitable and which will undoubtedly come again.

I’m not going to pre-judge the transformational impact of this period, other than to say that it may very well have opened my ears to two teachings that came across the interwebs to me this week that I probably would have ignored before.

First, we have Barbara Brown Taylor in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, who spun the Parable of the Sower on its head:

“If this is really the parable of the Sower and not the parable of the different kinds of ground, then it begins to sound quite new. The focus is not on us and our shortfalls but on the generosity of our maker, the prolific sower who does not obsess about the condition of the fields, who is not stingy with the seed but who casts it everywhere, on good soil and bad, who is not cautious or judgmental or even very practical, but who seems willing to keep reaching into his seed bag for all eternity, covering the whole creation with the fertile seed of his truth.”

I spent most of my life post-conversion convinced that the Parable of the Sower was about the likelihood that I would become a backslidden Christian on the highway to hell. But what if it wasn’t about the ground, but the extravagant sower? I mean, Jesus did have a thing about dangerously extravagant grace.

And then, for the coup de grace (yes, intentional misspelling), I read this sermon from Nadia Bolz-Weber about the Sermon on the Mount:

“See, here’s why sometimes it’s good to ignore the chapter and verse separations. Because it’s so easy for us to default to hearing Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount as pure exhortation. As though he is giving us a list of virtues we should try and adopt so that we too can be considered blessed – you know, be meeker, be poorer, and mournier and you too can meet the conditions of earning Jesus’ blessing. But the thing is, it’s hard to imagine Jesus exhorting a crowd of demoniacs and epileptics to be meeker. He wasn’t telling the sick and the lame what they should try and become, he was telling them you are blessed and you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world.”

I know for a fact that I read that scripture before and noticed that he looked at the crowds and then gave the beatitudes. But it never hit me before today that this wasn’t just a list of things that God was holding out for the disciples of Jesus when they try really hard to follow him and bad things happen because of it, but that instead this was the fundamental reality of human existence. Why does Jesus comfort you? Because you’re a person who needs comfort. Why does Jesus call you a child of God? Because you make peace. Why are you the salt of the earth? Because you are beloved just by your very existence.

I don’t have a lot to add to either Barbara Brown Taylor’s reflection or Nadia Bolz-Weber’s sermon – you should read them in their entirety. But all I know at this time is that in the midst of suffering, the concept of a God who is not a cosmic bean counter but instead a blesser of everyone where they are makes even more sense. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous and all that.

It’s all grace.

The Three Is’s

In many ways, certainty is at the foundation of most Christian faiths. The Bible must be inerrant or how can you know what is true (just ignore the places where it contradicts itself)? The earth must have been created six thousand years ago or how can you trust the Bible (never mind the overwhelming evidence that it is in fact 13.7 billion years old)? Marriage must be between one man and one woman or you enter the slippery slope of relativism (lets just ignore the relativism of throwing out all of your previously tightly held moral values to support a hate-spewing, racist demagogue for President).

The problem, as I reference above in my parentheticals, is that the things that people claim that the BIBLE IS CLEAR about are absolutely unclear when you choose to actually take the Bible seriously. Sure, like anyone, you can pick and choose your favorite verses to come up with some sort of systematic theology that leads to a certain reading of the Bible. And every “theologically conservative” denomination has its own “infallible” reading of the Bible that relies on those choices. And in many cases, their choices conflict. Go figure!

So the gatekeepers warn us that if we read off the “safe and approved list” we will fall down the slippery slope that leads to apostasy. And they actually do have a point. For me, the entry place to deconstruction was the inerrancy of scripture, which never made sense to me from the early days of my becoming a Christian convert (see my reference to contradictions above). And for a while I tried to come up with alternative certainties around social justice or grace or inclusion or whatever. But in the end, I wasn’t left with much. The fact is that if we look at the Bible as a vehicle for certainty (or truth), we won’t find it. If it were there, we wouldn’t have so many denominations, each of which believes it has discovered the Truth.

And, of course, it didn’t help that so many of the people who asserted that the BIBLE IS CLEAR hated immigrants, downplayed racism, viewed women as less than equal, and ultimately advocated for “redemptive violence” to “Make America Christian Again.”

And so, by the beginning of 2019, I wasn’t left with much in the way of faith. If the Bible was uncertain, and Christians seemed to be so toxic, I didn’t have a whole lot of time for God.

But then, something altogether unexpected and wonderful happened. I encountered Divine Love directly. And while I don’t have the level of “certainty” I was taught to believe in or sought to find after I could no longer believe what I was taught, I have experienced what I call “The Three Is’s” which are now foundational to the faith I have today. They are:

  1. God is
  2. God is Love
  3. God is living in all things through Christ

I want to elaborate on each of these in a series of posts, but what is truly different about the faith I have today is that it is experience-based rather than certainty-based. This is what the mystics have taught us all along: that experience is the Great Teacher, the thing that reveals God to us and makes the scriptures come alive. Not intellectualism. Not dogma.

Brian Zahnd, in his book When Everything’s On Fire, references Karl Rahner’s prediction that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or nothing at all.” I have found this to be emphatically true.

The truly wild thing about the Bible is that it is innately iconoclastic. It subverts itself as a means of preventing itself from becoming the Idol at the expense of Godself. Martin Luther called the scriptures “the cradle wherein Christ is laid.” The point of the Bible is not to be the Word of God, but to be the words of people who knew God that point to God. It’s not prose, it’s poetry. It’s not dissertation, it’s metaphor.

God can’t be found in the Bible alone. But if you let the Bible lead you into the presence of Divine Love, you may find God.

One Love

When I was a little, baby Christian in college (I was agnostic before then), I was taught in the proper evangelical way that there were really four different kinds of love in the Greek New Testament.

There was philia, the love that friends have for each other.

There was eros, the erotic love of lovers.

There was storge, love for family.

And then there was the good love, agape, which was self-sacrificial, Christian love.

And while the other three were okay in their context, we really needed to pursue agape-style love.

But a couple years back, God shuffled the deck for me. In a time of contemplation that I can only describe as one of mystical union with Christ, I saw that all of these loves were really the same love. And that love is, in fact, the undercurrent of everything in the universe.

Every star that is born is born out of love.

Every living thing that births a new generation is birthing them out of love.

Every time we show kindness it’s the same love.

Passionate sex is from the same love.

The unfolding of history is love in action.

Each atom that clings to other atoms is partaking in love.

And at the center of all of this love is God, who has a red hot, passionate, even erotic love for each and every part of the universe, and most certainly those created in the image of God.

I was brought back to this experience when reading one of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations from a few years back. In it he says “The biblical Song of Songs, Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, and John of the Cross could use only highly erotic images to communicate their mysticism.”

I have absolutely found this to be true. How else could it be? Could God actually love us less passionately than our partner? Could erotic love be more powerful than God’s love? Of course not!

(And as an aside, the Song of Songs, which I never understood prior to that mystical experience from a few years back, is now my favorite book of the Bible).

And so, beloved, know that all is love. That everything in the universe is being pushed forward by love, and is moving toward its fullness in love. You are loved. Even the smallest creature is loved. And even the most seemingly irredeemable sinner is loved. Because we come from love, and we have our being in love, and we will one day be fully united with Love itself.


On Labels

The last five years have made it exceedingly tough to identify as a Christian. If I call myself a Christian, will people think I’m a Trump supporter? Will they think I’m anti-mask and anti-vax? Will they think I agree with everything (or anything?) that Franklin Graham says? Will they think I hate gay people? Will they assume I’m a white supremacist? A Christian Nationalist?

This has been coming for a long time. Even when I first converted in the 1990s, I did it in spite of the Religious Right, the so-called Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell (Sr.), and Pat Robertson. I did it in spite of the holy rollers who would tell me I was going to go to hell if I didn’t believe in their Jesus in exactly the same way they did.

But then I heard Jesus speak to the woman at the well. I saw him hang out with the outcasts and the oppressed. And I experienced Christ personally in ways I could not deny. I was in.

Until I wasn’t. Until I was required to believe in an inerrant Bible. Until my church told me I had to vote against the right of two people who loved each other but happened to be of the same gender to get married. Until I needed to accept that most people ever born were going to be eternally punished in hellfire.

I was out, or at least just going through the motions. Go to church, check Twitter. Critique the sermon for the theology I no longer believed. Become more and more bitter at all the people around me that not only voted for Trump but continued to support him wholeheartedly in the midst of his increasingly immoral and authoritarian Presidency.

And then I was free. Christ the Lover showed me that the way of Love was truly the fabric of the universe. That in the end, everything was good and everything would be alright.

But I still had a problem with the label. That Christian label, the one associated with everything I no longer believed and actions that I felt were not only no longer loving but outright harmful. And so I’ve spent the last three years tiptoeing around it. Am I a Christian? Not really. Follower of the Way of Jesus, sure. Believer in the historic creeds of the church. Mystic participant in the Love of God.

But Christian? No thanks.

I was in my “just can’t even” phase with respect to the church for most of the time that Rachel Held Evans was doing her wonderful work of allowing people to be free to question the established orthodoxies of evangelicalism and participate in God’s extravagant banquet table, where all were welcome whether they believed wholeheartedly or not at all. But in the past three years, since I was awakened by God, I have taken comfort in her words, even now that she is no longer here to speak them.

In her posthumous book, Wholehearted Faith, she says:

“It would be dishonest for me not to say I am a Christian when Christianity is the story I will wrestle with forever. There’s something about Christianity—and by that, I mean the venerable, beautiful story that has Jesus at its center—I just can’t shake. And I don’t just mean the parts I like, or the parts that on good days I believe. I mean the whole thing. The whole screwed-up, embarrassing, dysfunctional family of the church is as much a part of my identity as my gender, my nationality, my ethnicity, and my name.”

This is me. Even when I didn’t believe much of anything that was in the Bible, I couldn’t escape the story of Jesus. The Jesus who healed people, listened to people, and forgave people. Even when the church has again and again excluded people and rallied around its own privilege while fighting against the very people it was called to love, I could not escape the God who personally revealed themselves to me in times of silence and mystery.

And I’m not sure I want to give up St. Francis.

Or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Or Martin Luther King. Or Mother Teresa. Or Henri Nouwen. Or C.S. Lewis. Or St. Gregory of Nyssa. Or St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Or Julian of Norwich. Or the Celtic mystics. Or John Wesley. Or Oscar Romero. Or Walter Rauschenbusch. Or Rachel Held Evans.

And I certainly don’t want to give up the Eucharist. Or praying the rosary. Or walking the labyrinth. Or the Daily Office. Or the Book of Common Prayer. Or even some of the less theologically troubling evangelical worship songs.

I think these things are worth fighting for. These Christian things are worth fighting for. The label Christian is worth fighting for. Not in a violent, militaristic, “you’re out and I’m in” kind of way. But by asserting that I am a Christian, and while I do not agree with what you are doing to my church, I am going to stand here and claim my heritage nonetheless.

War Prayer

A prayer in response to this article about the impact of the “American War” in Afghanistan:

Divine Lover in the heart of each image of God,

forgive us for seeking out the logic of war rather than the Prince of Peace.

We confess that loving our enemies is hard,

and we frequently give in to our fears when confronted with danger.

O God of all people,

even those living in Afghanistan, Iraq, and countries around the world terrorized by drone strikes,

lead us in the way of peace.

Let us challenge our leaders to take the narrow way of diplomacy instead of the wide path of destruction.

Christ our very breath,

call your church back to the way of nonviolence it practiced in its first three centuries.

Show it the folly of chasing after political power,

and the essential absurdity of using the tools of empire to establish the kin’dom of God.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.



I am an amateur theology nerd. I can’t escape it. When I’m not reading theology books, I’m thinking about theology. Even when I just couldn’t even with God I was still always thinking about theology. Even when I never prayed I would think about theology.

I almost applied to seminary in my early 20s. But I couldn’t get a recommendation from my pastor because he “felt like he didn’t know me well enough.” Whether that was valid or not, it was ultimately for the best, because a messy deconstruction would have been hell had I been ten years into pastoring an evangelical church.

I still want to go to seminary. Maybe I will do it, or maybe I won’t. I have serious doubts that I would want to pastor a church, and I’m a bit old to go up the PhD track to try to teach. But boy, would I love to study theology.

But the thing that I realized tonight is that while I find theology fascinating, I also find it absolutely, completely meaningless.

Let me explain.

In the end, what is, will be. There is nothing we can do, nothing we can think, nothing we can believe that will change ultimate reality. We’re all buckled into the roller coaster that has left the tracks and is going to crash into the ground regardless of however much screaming and squirming we do. Now, this can be existentially terrifying (and it has been for me). But it’s also profoundly comforting. I don’t have to get it right. I don’t have to believe exactly the right thing. I can just be.

But wait, you say! Don’t we have to believe the right thing to have a good outcome when the roller coaster comes crashing down?

I used to believe this.

But then I started hearing different, absolutely committed followers of Jesus interpret scripture in exactly opposite ways. And then I learned about the human tendency toward confirmation bias and making the world around us fit into our mental wiring. And that made me pretty sure that it’s 100% impossible to ever know what is absolute truth with any level of certainty.

And any God who would send people to hell for believing the wrong contradictory interpretation isn’t really God at all. You know, the God that John said is love? If God’s very nature is love (and it is, this I have experienced personally), then God isn’t going to toss you into hell for believing the wrong thing in a confusing life. And, as a matter of fact, that God isn’t going to toss you into hell at all (or even let you choose that as some would assert – even the older brother will ultimately join the party).

So basically all theology is to me at this point is a bunch of analogies we humans have come up with to try to make sense of existence, suffering, and death. Faulty analogies.

But these analogies, when pondered with love, can point us in the direction of what is.

And that’s why I still love theology.


So, here I am, sitting in my car, listening to and watching the cicadas of Brood X doing their cicada thing when all of a sudden all I could feel is love.

Love for the cicadas, co-members of creation with me. Sharing in the one essence that exists in all things. Christ under me. Christ over me. Christ beside me on my left and my right. Within and without me.

Thankfulness that they are sharing their very nature with me in this moment. They only know how to be in this moment, as cicadas, doing what they have spent seventeen years waiting to do.

Love for their flapping wings and their joyful chorus. For their ugly cuteness. For the way they land on my car window and look at me, sharing the Knowing that All Shall Be Well.

It is in these moments – watching cicadas now, or birds and fireflies a few years back, that I truly feel united with God. In these moments everything is right and good and can be no other way. All is love.

We only have this moment. And then the next. All of our regrets from our past only serve to distract us from the place where God exists. All of our worries about the future do not exist yet. If only we would set those aside and see the Glory of God that is all around us.

In a few weeks these cicadas will be gone forever, but they will also be beloved of God forever. Just as we all are. They are my brothers. My sisters. Made of the same stardust and divinity that I have confidence fills me as well.

What If It’s Not Meant to Be Figured Out?

I’ve spent my entire life – I mean, as much of my life as I can remember – trying to Figure It All Out. Is there a God? Am I going to hell? Is there such a thing as an afterlife? If there is, will we be floating around in the clouds? Will we be enjoying our own personal mansions? Won’t living forever be a colossal bore? Especially if we have harps and wings? Or are forced to listen to MercyMe forever (I Can Only Imagine…)? Will we merge into a cosmic sea of Oneness? And my favorite existential crisis forming thought – will we have hangnails in heaven (yes, I actually had this thought and yes, it actually freaked me out).

But last night, taking the dog out after a very long, tiring day, in the silence of the night, I had a thought. What if it’s not meant to be figured out?

Christians have come up with all kinds of theories about what Ultimate Reality looks like. But Jesus doesn’t talk too much about this. About all we get out of him is that God exists, God is love, and we are to love God and neighbor. And maybe some strange passages about women married to seven brothers being like the “angels in heaven” or a brief assertion that the thief on the cross will join him in “paradise.” Which, what the hell, Jesus? That doesn’t make things any clearer.

Pretty thin source material to figure out a Theory of Everything for Eternity.

And really, the things that Jesus DID teach about “eternal life,” are the things I have experienced. The deep Knowing that there is a love that undergirds the universe. The fact that this Divine Love can only be really accessed in the present moment. The essential sense that as Julian of Norwich saw, “All shall be well.”

And the really radical thing about understanding this is that it allows me to actually play around with these thoughts without feeling existentially crushed by them. And it also allows me to accept at face value the fact that other people have very different thoughts about these things, and that’s okay. Because to be honest, none of it really matters. What is, will be. And what we think it is won’t change what it actually is. And in the end, whatever it is will be okay. Because I’ve felt the Love.

So while it’s perfectly fine to study theology and come up with ideas about God and eternity, I am free to live my life here and now – the only place where the kin’dom of God really is anyway. And know that the next moment will be just as filled with that kin’dom as the current one.

Welling up to eternal life.