Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Toward Freedom XII

It turns out that I was wrong again. Awareness, as such, isn't a problem. It becomes a problem when awareness is extended to become an early warning system. It's kind of like being in a car driving east from Kansas City and worrying about someone running a red light in Poughkeepsie. Long-distance warning works for ICBMs and asteroids, where you get clear line-of-sight, but in daily human life can be a real burden. There's always one step farther things can be projected in order to "solve the problem before it becomes a problem."
    Some early warnings are clear. It doesn't take too many examples, nor all that much awareness, to see that drug addiction is a dead end. I saw enough of that in college. The more subtle threats, well, how do I even know it's going to be a problem? Seen so far away it has only a shadowy appearance or feel. Judgment is required and it's safer to err toward keeping my distance.
    So, there I was walking to the library when the thought came to me presented whole and round, a gift from God. "You don't have to be aware of everything." It sounds like a small thing. I've used God as an excuse: "I can't do that because it might, in some far future, connect to something else, which might lead me to do something God wouldn't like." I used to pitch this as self-protection. Kind of interesting how I started blaming God, when he has never criticized me for anything other than turning away from him.
    I'm still not sure how much is up to me, and how much is up to God. Jeff made an interesting comment about "having a compass but not knowing how to use it." It's clear to me that what I choose makes a difference. I trust God's guidance in the long term, when there's time to think about things, but what about short term? Jeanne mentioned not wanting to get out of the boat, which is one of those standard Christian "encouragements" people beat themselves up with. What's often left out is that Peter asked Jesus to call him to the waves. And they also leave out the part in which Jesus rescues Peter after the wind scares him. Well, wind scares me, too.
    It's easy to drive myself crazy trying to figure out what God wants. When he picked me back up in 2003 I told him "You're going to have to make it clear to me. If I have no clear indication from you, I'll just keep doing what I see fit." That's what we've done since. He has had to rescue me many times and it's never done with judgment.
    So, perhaps the same idea applies to threat awareness. The ones I see I can respond to. The ones that are too far away for me to know about yet, I can leave in God's hands. At least, that's my thinking now. It's remarkably freeing.
    I have often been misled by fancy thoughts. What seems to be an answer is just another layer of words, a name used to make something comprehensible without helping to solve the problem. God's constant awareness is a light that draws me back, and shows truth. My path wavers back and forth, does loops and meanders, crosses itself, and at times I just find a hole and hide. God's light is still there, a gentle call. His hand is always there to hold when I'm shaking and sinking.
    Real answers eventually prove themselves in how they work. This takes time. Beware of anyone who demands that you make a decision immediately because "this deal won't last for long." False emergencies are the salesman's favorite trick, and they obscure the real emergencies. Saving a human soul is the emergency on which God has focused his resources. Each whole human being, one at a time, doing anything that's needed.
    I've probably made this a lot harder for myself than is really needed, but I've been lied to so often that I really need to test everything. I'm getting to the point that I have some confidence in God's guidance. I can loosen up on my control of things. Today, anyway; who knows what tomorrow will be like.

2012 July 31

Monday, July 30, 2012


Toward Freedom XI

Well, I was wrong. It's not love we're pointed toward, but awareness, and that's at least as frightening.
    I guess I shouldn't be surprised; we've been spiralling around the topic for years. We've even touched down on this stepping stone a few times. Awareness, it occurs to me, is a necessary waypoint on the way to love. So, I guess I should be doubly scared.
    Last night was far from peaceful, and I awoke with a migraine. I was thinking about all the energy I put into passing through life with, at best, selective awareness. I grew up this way. Every adult around me seemed to be an overpowered radio station broadcasting advice and answers without regard to how well they fit what I needed. One answer fits all.
    What's really amazing is that God cares. The problem is that I get scared and run away, seeking shelter in my old familiar answers. Stop caring. Quit being aware. Become a rock and just wait for the storm to pass. This storm named Jesus won't ever pass because he doesn't give up; given any kind of a way into to the soul, he will do everything he can to stay in contact. If contact is cut off--yes, I've done this--he will wait until the need for breath leads to a crack in the rock.
    How many times have I advised people to find their answers in getting closer to God? Yet here I am, reverting to old survival tactics: reducing my awareness and thereby distancing myself from God. I work harder in walling myself around than I would if I just let God have his way. I still remember all those loud adults, though. Will God do the same thing? He has never shown any interest in doing so but the fear has a very deep taproot.
    God touches the fear, and I quake. I get migraines. I've been here before. The answer is to turn off awareness; can't I sleep until it's all over with? Life isn't much more than stumbling along a grey tunnel when done that way. And... Jesus is still irresistibly attractive.
    So, morning finally comes along. Lights in my eyes along with light outside the window. "Please don't turn yourself off today," Jesus says. "Leave everything else." Well, OK. I think I can do that.

2012 July 30

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Toward Freedom X

Writing stirs the pot. Things safely stratified start moving around, changing the balance. My usual reaction is self-judgment: It's my fault for stirring things up. I should know enough by now to let well enough alone.
    The bars may be gone but the cage still rules in memory. I tend to become angry. When will I ever be free of this stuff? But leaving it lying on the bottom of the pot doesn't change anything. Any upset, internal or external, can affect me far beyond the assumed cause.
    I begin to question myself. What kind of person am I for needing God's presence in my life? I need him to stop the self-judgment. Where is self-respect in that? Given all the untrustworthy counsel I see every day, what can I do but judge for myself? And yet, that way lies... more lies.
    I was thinking about self-respect last night, after a day of just trying to dodge meteors. Clearly the old standards don't apply: I'm no longer alone. Yikes. Perhaps value comes from... but it's interesting that the question doesn't even come up when I'm close to God. Thoughts like this are a sure sign that I'm hiding somewhere in the garden, hoping God will overlook me.
    It's rather sad. I think God values each of us so much that he doesn't even think about value. No matter what it takes, he will do what he is allowed to do. The sad part is that it's so easy for me to start closing the door in his face.
    One step up, a couple of steps sideways, three steps back, turn around and go backwards. Another step up, then a time of cowering in fear. A few more tiny steps, and then panic and backing. God has seen it all.
    Still, guidance is an interesting question. There are many voices out there, each of them purporting to be connected directly to God, and all of them say something different. Some of them are positively odious, preaching hatred. Do I trust my intellect to separate truth from fiction? There are obvious problems with that. The answer seems to be to cling ever closer to God Himself, so that I'll hear the alarm when he sounds it.
    I suspect that what really has me bugged right now is that the direction freedom follows aims toward love. Talk about unknown territory... maybe it's time to panic again.

2012 July 29

Friday, July 27, 2012


Toward Freedom IX

Last night was somewhat quieter. I actually got some sleep; I guess there was only one opera going on.
    I asked God for his peace. I've asked before, but it takes some time to figure out the language, and to discover what peace really is. It's a walking approach.
    Last night it became clearer to me that peace is very dependent upon being close to God. I have no way to produce peace within myself. I don't know how and I misuse what tools I have, and end up with wreckage.
    What became even more clear last night was how much I prefer self-judgment to God's freedom. Self-judgment is familiar. I know the limits, I know the road. It's a path I've travelled many times and all the rough spots have been pounded flat by the traffic. God's path is unknown.
    I also have the feeling that, if I don't keep going as fast as I can, God is going to catch up with me and do... something I'm afraid of. Is he a giant snowplow ready to just blow me off the road so he can get on with what needs to be done?
    I was also thinking about names. Names are often used as limits. We've all been there. "You'll never amount to anything." "You're nothing special." And more names, loudly applied. They're loudly resisted too, but the names have already done their damage, slipping through the defenses. I'm afraid of names. I resist being named, and I resist applying names to others. I especially resist positive names because these have so often been lies, used to manipulate me into doing what someone else wants.
    God walks his own path and, no matter what name is shouted at him, remains forever himself. If I stay close to him, the destructive name-darts--those I throw and those that others throw--don't stick to me. Can I be brave enough to allow God to fully express his name to me? And cease running, so he can come close enough that I can hear him speak his name for me? Last night, he simply said "Be loved. Beloved."

2012 July 27

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Toward Freedom VIII

I often wonder about Saul. A zealot's zealot in putting down the new Christian blasphemy until the moment Jesus stood in front of him. Other zealots had run into Jesus in the years before and not allowed themselves to be affected, but for Saul... something changed.
    I started drifting away from Christianity in the late 1970s, when I began to see there was little difference between what was being taught by Christian leaders and what my parents had tried to teach. It was the same devotion to mindless duty, the same putting down of any hint of humanity, the same intellectual browbeating, and I decided that because I still had to do everything for myself, why add the complexity of an assumed God?
    If one goes looking for yellow wombats in a place where only purple wombats live, the fact that one never finds a yellow one isn't the fault of the wombats. The Pharisees in Jesus' time were expecting the Messiah to fit a certain description. I was expecting God to look much like the God of church and intellect. It's not too surprising I didn't find such. I gave up the search then and went on my way, alone.
    I still wonder why God didn't give up. For upward of 20 years I ignored him, and at times ridiculed his name while I worked my way through the list of self-generated answers to the question "Why bother living?" God hadn't given up, though, and he shaped events so that when I ran out of answers I could see him again.
    The Prodigal Son ran off into the world, looking for freedom. He learned that the world didn't care. His father's slaves had a better life so he turned around.
    I ran off into the world, looking for truth. What does one hang onto when everyone around him tells lies or half-truths? God was more of the same and yet I was out of answers.
    With very little to lose I asked God to show me the truth. "Let's start at the beginning and build as we go."
    How does one recognize God's teaching? There are many people out there saying different things, all of whom claim their doctrine comes straight from God. They can even back up what they say with quotes from the Bible. How was I to keep from getting lost? It took a few years for me to gain some confidence in perceiving God's touch, his voice. Part of the reason so much time was required was that God's guidance led in an unexpected direction.
    My life being over, I expected God to issue explicit orders, with no tolerance of questions. After all, I'd proven the ineffectiveness of my questions. What happened in reality was the Holy Spirit leading me to ask better questions. He would also wait as I looked at various answers, and we'd gradually spiral in on something ever closer to truth. Sometimes the process was quick--an evening--and other times it took days or weeks. Sometimes years.
    I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I began to see that God was working on leading me to freedom. "You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Truth turned Saul into Paul, and he went on to teach freedom to everyone he found. Truth turned me into a seeker of freedom, and I tend to hide. Same feast, different results. God continues to offer, provide and lead.
    Last night was another sleepless one. It was kind of like trying to sleep in a theatre where three different operas are being presented at once. I really don't know how to live with freedom. It is dangerous to the status quo, which tends to upset the peace. My approach to peace is to use a hammer on the disrupting voices. God's way is to hold all of me together while the arguments go on, with an eye toward the future. I think his way is better but I still don't get much sleep. And it probably does nothing for the clarity of blog posts.

2012 July 26

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Toward Freedom VII

Last night was one of those that made me glad to see dawn. Dreams of train wrecks and meteor showers. Jesus appeared in one, much more encouraging but too brief, just a flash. Waking was more like extricating myself from tangles of net as grey dawn light seeped in through the windows. Finally enough consciousness assembled itself that I could feel God's hand holding me. Just... holding, bringing peace amid all that chaos.
    Stipulating that being alive is better than being dead, I'm lucky to be here. That's due more to God's efforts than mine; as a life manager, I'm a disaster in a lot of ways. I put my life in a straitjacket and left it there for years. So, writings like this recent series, especially yesterday's about caring, are extremely upsetting. Pulling at the straps of the straitjacket comes at a price: not much sleep. My subconscious comes up with all these images of impending disaster, far from calm. I'm not sure what the purpose is. Prediction isn't reality, and how can I care about anything when the result is the nightly warfare?
    And yet... how can there be life at all without caring? It's all just empty activity without some personal involvement. I've been skirting this for most of my 60 years. When I was 19 it seemed an easy technical problem. At 53 it no longer seemed possible at all, which is when I asked Jesus for help with the mess.
    I expected that caring and freedom would be low-priority items on the list of things that needed doing. I was right, but the fact that other things, such as saving the basic life, are higher priority doesn't mean that freedom's lower priority means it's of no value at all. Freedom only works for the living, and one who is dead is far beyond caring in this world.
    Life is a balancing of many factors. Change upsets the status quo, whatever balance I might have achieved. Is it worth the upset to try for something that might be better? Given all my failures I'd given up on changing for what I thought was better. Jesus really upsets things and the balance becomes more chaotic. He, however, sees the pattern and knows the pathway through it. It's not like a bus ride, though. I don't get onto the bus and go to sleep and wake up in Poughkeepsie. For some reason, he wants me involved in the process. He wants me to care, and he holds me together so that I'm able to care.
    There is much grace involved. Grace and patience. And there is some whimsy, too. This morning's Email brought a friend's voice in readings about cats. Kindness. Thank you.

2012 July 25

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Toward Freedom VI

My favorite survival technique became not caring. Time took me with it and eventually whatever was going to happen, good or bad, would happen and then be consumed by the past. The technique does work. I survived.
    In some cases it was even true. I might not have been able to control things, such as interactions with unpleasant people, but I learned that I could wait longer than they were willing to, and they'd go away. I also suspect that God's hand was involved here; mine wasn't on the tiller but the boat didn't crash.
    As a basis for life, however, not caring is a real disaster. Not caring leads to bad default decisions of many self-destructive kinds. Somehow, although I adopted the "I don't care" attitude toward many things, I still had a core respect or caring for life that kept me out of major trouble. Maybe that was the survival principle--don't do anything terminal because those lead to great discomfort--trumping the not caring. I did, at the very least, care about pain.
    The problem I have now is that not caring is easy. I can lie back and simply coast. Each day comes along regardless of my desires, the sun crosses the sky, and then it's done. What should I care about? What am I allowed to care about? This is a very tender spot. As soon as God even comes near, I duck away in fright.
    A life of not caring, though... for me, got to the point of "Why bother?" Not caring is a dead end. Caring leads to judgment, which leads to not caring and the same dead end. For many years I tried to escape that circle. When God picked me up in 2003 I wasn't even thinking about freedom;  it was bare survival. Freedom came later, after I'd begun to learn about self-judgment, which learning started with seeing Jesus more clearly.
    There is freedom in not caring. I think part of what God is teaching me now is that there are things I need to care about, and there are other things I need to leave in his hands. It's interesting, because I know he cares, but I'm afraid that what God cares about won't be anything I'm interested in. For most of my life I have been told I care about the wrong things. I expect the same from God but he has never said anything to me like that.
    So much of this life with Jesus is different from what I was taught, what I expected. Once free from judgment, many other things become possible. Onward we go.

2012 July 24

Monday, July 23, 2012


Toward Freedom V

I doubt it's easy for any sensitive person, be they woman or man, to live in this world. I was regularly told "Don't be so sensitive," but it's rather like telling water to be less wet.
    I'm not sure of what use sensitivity is. It's a fairly personal thing and enhances the quality of my life. At least, when I'm alone. When around other people it can be an invitation to abuse, which is why I habitually hide my sensitivity most of the time.
    When God picked me up I expected that sensitivity would be one of the first things to go. There's work to be done and no time to consider feelings. I'd always thought that life without sensitivity wouldn't be worth living, but being sensitive hadn't helped all that much so, I just gave up.
    God's freedom includes everything. He made me as I am, and he calls his creation good. What does it take to live as a sensitive man? I'm not sure, as I've never really tried. Oh, I can do it alone well enough, but when I relate to others, they see only a small part of me. The rest is hiding.
    Habits oppose freedom. God wants to lead me away from most, if not all, ill-considered habits of behavior. If I respond automatically to a situation I'm quite likely to miss opportunities. Oh, the automatic responses simplify life, and simple is good for one who is not very strong.
    And that's what I think God is working on in me. Making me stronger in my relationship with him so that I can approach life with less automatic response. If something goes wrong God will help me get through it; it's not the end of the world. I have far more than my own resources for survival. That's pretty radical in itself: the God of the Universe notices one person, and gently helps him grow a garden in the blasted desert. We become strong enough to become openly sensitive. Yowza.

2012 July 23

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Toward Freedom IV

I wonder what would happen if I took down all of my defenses against God. I wonder if that's even possible; after all, nothing can be forced, and I tihnk it's likely that any participation by God in my life is the result of an ongoing invitation.
    Each second is new. Is my heart hidden, or is it freely available? Do I feel safe enough to allow God's touch on very sensitive places?
    This is a walk, I think. God isn't a raider, seeking to plunder my heart. He needs access, though, and to me anyone who gets close looks like a raider. God knows I've had people trying to raid my heart for most of my life, and I'm used to it.
    Freedom seems to require more openness. I'm not sure why I believe that; maybe it's just due to feeling there is no freedom inside a cage, and yet Paul was imprisoned and laughing. Obviously he was free, and Jesus was free even as he was being crucified.
    Well, as long as I'm still walking, I can learn. Some days are more encouraging than others. I'm just kind of surprised how bound up I am.

2012 July 22

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Toward Freedom III

In the dream, Jesus ran. It was a very short dream, a quick flash before I woke up. His running was a kind of fast, delighted dance with progress and invitation. "Come with me!" There were no words, but a strong feeling of "This will be wonderful." He ran, more like cavorted, on into a forest that I knew was called the Forest of Free Emotion.
    Like a small animal--squirrel, maybe, or a rabbit--I timidly poke my nose out beyond where the cage bars used to be. Cavort? No... more like lumber-and-retreat.
    Freedom can't be had without peace. If one is always awaiting the whip of judgment, there won't be much cavorting in life. Jesus has promised to keep the whip off my back. Word versus experience, and word wins only gradually. He does win, little step by little step, and I learn what it's like to live without judgment. I know I should be out there, dancing with Jesus, but I know what happens when I do. It's dance forward one step, tentatively, and then cower under the awaited lash.
    Prince of Peace. I thought I knew what living in peace is like. A friend and I were talking about this a few months ago, and I realized that any peace in my life was more the result of tyranny than anything else. It was a peace of enforced silence, which is no peace. And yet, how can one even approach peace when there's the constant hair-trigger suspense of instant war? The Prince of Peace interposed his hand so the whip, if it fell, could be felt but would do no damage.
    That was the beginning of real peace, and it wasn't long before freedom started making itself felt, like another furred creature poking its nose outside. Memory is powerful. I'd take a step or two beyond the cage's old limit, and then scurry back "inside." Then I would duck under any cover and wait.
    "Be brave," they say. "Go ahead. Walk out on that branch. Get out of the boat. If things go wrong, Jesus will catch you." Voices of judgment, all. The prodding is not learning, and does not lead to confidence. What does lead to confidence is Jesus' constant presence, the invitation, his patience, the Holy Spirit's side-by-side step. Occasionally, when I do something I know is wrong, he is fierce but gently so. There's no question what he's saying, and yet there is no judgment.
    It's a new world in freedom. I don't know how to live there. I have no real-time guides other than Jesus himself; mostly, when people start talking about freedom it's just bondage in fancy words or else a statement that cynically denies the possibility of freedom. I still believe. Jesus believes too, yet he knows what doubt is.
    "Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
    But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
    A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
    Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
    Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29, from Biblegateway)

I doubt, and I bumble toward freedom while Jesus dances. The path to blessing isn't straight. I am blessed by Jesus' presence, and not quitting has more to do with God's blessing than with my perseverance.

2012 July 21

Friday, July 20, 2012


Toward Freedom II

Jesus tore the veil. There is no more cage but in memory. Memory of pain as I run as hard as I can against the bars, to feel them stretching. They never break and I end up back in the cage. Memory. Today... I am caged.
    What changes memory? The Holy Spirit's gentle, firm, steady guidance as we explore together. I walk, creep, crawl, hide. Memory begets judgment and there is no freedom within judgment.
    Jesus said he'd make the captives free. Yowza, what a long walk it is.

2012 July 20

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Toward Freedom I

A few weeks ago my mountain bike finished a lengthy stay in the shop for major repairs. I'd parked it the year before because of the expense of needed repairs, but in February I finally realized how much I missed riding in the mountains. The expense would be worth it.
    This was part of a larger pattern. Freedom is hard to do, even for one who has a reputation as an iconoclast. When God plucked me from the edge of the terminal hole, I figured freedom was gone. If he were going to save me he'd expect obedience. Something wouldn't allow me to kill myself--life does cling--and anything seemed better than more days amid the dust of a failed life. Even slavery.
    God created the world in all its range from small to large, subtle to overwhelming. Surely he'd have no trouble breaking a single man to the harness. That isn't what he did. He plays a deep game, our God, and my experience has been one of ongoing mystery and subtlety.
    The first few years I couldn't figure out which way we were headed. Too much going on, too many of my assumptions in the way (which I recognize now), too strong a grip on my own self-definition. I gradually learned that God's intent isn't to break me, but to give me freedom to grow beyond self-definition.
    This is deeply frightening. Never before have I been free to grow, simply grow, as light and opportunity lead. The freedom to ride a bicycle into the local mountains to hear the owls, to see the flowers, to feel the wind, it all seems simple but it isn't. I'm used to boundaries, self-drawn. God gently suggests I can move beyond them. Yikes.
    Which brings up the question: if belief in God is a response to crisis, a life not worth living, what happens when everything changes? Crisis lived through, life worth living. Will I forget God? I could, but God has gentle ways to remind me: he simply withdraws some of his ongoing protection, to remind me of what life without him is like.

2012 July 19

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Toward Freedom: Prologue

Toward Freedom

    I wrote this series of blog posts on the Ransomed Heart forum. The first one, "Conflict, Control and Life," was a reaction to the typically hard-edged writing by others on that site. On second, third and fourth thoughts I didn't publish it. I thought it was too inflammatory. I backed off a bit, rethought what I wanted to say, and started the "Toward Freedom" series as a daily look at what I was doing in trying to reach the freedom God promises.
    Blog posts just disappear into the word-choked aether. Do I want responses? If not, why bother writing? Then I got into self-judgment and stopped writing, swamped by a series of big waves. God kept me from drowning but there wasn't much energy left. Much has happened since the last entry here, though, and I want to continue the story.
    "Toward Freedom" took on some freedom of its own. Not daily, by any means, but I still continue it.

Prelude:  Conflict, Control and Life

"The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever." (Henry W. Baker)

This is for the quiet ones who know something isn't working.

Conflict is an unbroken thread that runs the length of human history. Two or more groups disagree over resources--be they ideological, physical, financial--and decide to force their own way. The stronger team wins in the short term. Longer term--months, years, generations--the defeated party husbands its strength and memory while the other side forgets. One day there's a reversal. Look back into history as far as you care to, and you can see that in most cases conflict bred only more conflict. Called into question, the pointing fingers recede into mirrored infinite regress.
    I grew up with a two-year-older brother who was bigger and stronger than I. He liked to pick fights. I learned to give up early so he'd get bored and go away. Time became my friend; resisting or rolling over led to the same net result, but the latter was less painful. My brother would quickly become disgusted and go off to do something else.
    Sometimes rolling over and waiting don't work. The years leading up to World War 2 were years of attempts to extend peace, but the apparent peace was just a curtain across a stage on which Adolf Hitler was building the set of a new world order. Waiting suited Hitler as he built the tools for his storm of war, and this storm looked likely to consume the world before it ended. Who knows? Hitler would probably have self-destructed within decades but the damage would have been irreversible. War is always bad, but this one had to be fought to maintain a world that human beings could live in.
    What values are worth fighting for? I take a very laissez-faire attitude toward things: so long as your actions don't hurt me, fine. I'd like to think my actions and statements don't hurt anyone, and occasionally might even help. What do I do, what should I do, if someone is espousing advice that I believe to be wrong and misleading? I believe that alternative voices are essential because the more different directions from which light comes, the more likely truth is to be perceived in all its full-rounded detail.
    Christianity as a system has much to regret. The people made by God to know him as a father have turned that father into a fuhrer-like authority figure whose rules one flouts with great risk. The rules always vary by milieu: some say you'll go to hell if you watch movies, others say you must whip yourself, etc, etc, take your pick. Like father, like son, damage perpetuating itself down the generations, reproducing pain and sadness.
    Human beings are necessarily rebellious; if we weren't, we'd be like some type of ice denser than water, and we'd sink into lively lakes and freeze them from the bottom up so solidly there were never be a thaw. The common element is that the rules a leader enforces are always the ones he's good at, and thinks everyone else should follow for their own good.
    I accept God's leadership because he has proven himself to be a good leader. He's a good leader because he demonstrates, in every action, Jesus' model of being a servant. He's not, however, a rule-following subservient sycophant sucking up to my desires. He presents truth not as a whip but as an invitation to discovery of what a lively human being can be, and is delighted when together we find new areas to explore. New to me, anyway. His delight is real.
    I don't offer advice very often because I know I can be wrong. I've made mistakes and will make more. I am committed, however, to making my own mistakes and learning therefrom. I would advise anyone reading this to question everything they hear about being a Christian. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you sort out truth from tradition. Theological arguments are guaranteed dead-ends but truth is important. God's light will illuminate the darkest and gnarliest of tangled beliefs if you invite him to help find the way, but one can follow all the rules without any help from Jesus.
    Having God sensibly present in your life is not a nice luxury. His breath and light are essential. There is very little truth without his illumination, but you need to find out how you perceive his presence and participation. There are no standard prayers and only the one requirement of loving God with all your heart and mind. You control how close your relationship with God becomes; his arms are open to you, inviting.
    Some interpretations of history state that control is an illusion. That's false. People make decisions and those decisions affect events. The problem is that some take the wrong lesson from this, saying "If I can control this, I can control everything." Even Hitler soon found the limits of his control; the more tightly he tried to control his armies, the more the machinery went out of control. In 1942 the wheels came off and the ensuing slow wreck was an escalating expression of desperate ugliness.
    So, control is an illusion. But... illusion is a form of control in itself, useful for keeping people in line. Truth is in the middle, a balance: many things I don't control, but many things I do control. Control can choke just as easily as it can bring needed structure to life, and only God's hand is deft enough to help me find a path that balances between the extremes.
    What am I trying to sell here? Simply this: freedom. You've turned to Jesus to find life and freedom. Keep your eye and heart on him. Accept no substitutes, even if they are all shiny and organized and illustrated on a bullet chart backed up by Bible verses. Truth's hallmark is a certain amount of squishy messiness. I'd have everyone learn to celebrate that while they follow Jesus dancing into their future.

The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

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