Uncategorized


flirting_w_faith2

It’s official. My humble little blog has captured the attention of the kind folks at Beliefnet.com and they’ve asked if I would like to join their team of daily bloggers. So, beginning Sunday, March 1, Flirting with Faith will be living at Beliefnet under this snazzy new banner (thank you Bnet designers – it is lovely.)

Those of you who know me and are familiar with my journey know that the only thing more unbelievable than my becoming a Christian is my becoming a Christian writer. And yet, with a book coming out next spring and this blog moving to Beliefnet, I guess I have to pinch myself and accept that this is really happening.

The Beliefnet blog will be an extension of what I’ve been doing here, plus the insights of some guest bloggers (maybe you?) who are trying to make sense of God, faith, religion and spirituality  – wherever they fall on their journey.  More info (i.e. links, guidelines for guest bloggers, etc) will be posted on the new site. 

Hope to see you (and by you I mean believers of all faiths, Christians of all flavors, de-converts, atheists, seekers, skeptics and  others) over there…

Joan

Advertisements

My sister in law, a long time and devout Christian believer who I used to (not so lovingly) refer to as “The Baptinista” in my atheist days, sent me a link this morning. She knows I am here in Memphis at The Great Emergence event and that I am unsure why. She does not know much about the premise of the conference or the content of the emergent conversation. She is a Chuck Swindoll gal and gets his daily devotional. As I read what she sent, it I thought two things.

It is true that there is nothing new under the sun…yet sometimes things need to be reinvigorated.

This may be communicated differently to different people across generational and process divides, but the call is coming from all corners to reconsider how things are being done. I hold out hope that we can do it as a unified intergenerational family.

I am pasting the piece below in full, so please pardon the length of this post.

December 5, 2008

FREE INDEED

by Charles R. Swindoll

Romans 6:14 NLT

My hope has been to create an appetite for grace that is so strong nothing will restrain us from pursuing the freedom and spontaneity it can bring—a longing so deep that a new spiritual dawn, a “grace awakening,” if you will, cannot help but burst through the wall of legalism. Since I am a Christian minister, much of my involvement and exposure is in the realm of the church and Christian organizations. It has been my observation that even here most folks are not free; they have not learned to accept and enjoy the grace that has come to us in Jesus Christ. Though He came to set us free, it saddens me to say that many still live behind the wall of bondage. Regrettably, the stones of constraint are everywhere to be found. Instead of being places of enthusiastic, spontaneous worship, many churches and Christian ministries have become institutions that maintain a system of religion with hired officials to guard the gates and to enforce the rules.

In vain I have searched the Bible, looking for examples of early Christians whose lives were marked by rigidity, predictability, inhibition, dullness, and caution. Fortunately, grim, frowning, joyless saints in Scripture are conspicuous by their absence. Instead, the examples I find are of adventurous, risk-taking, enthusiastic, and authentic believers whose joy was contagious even in times of painful trial. Their vision was broad even when death drew near. Rules were few and changes were welcome. The contrast between then and now is staggering.

The difference, I am convinced, is grace. Grace scales the wall and refuses to be restricted. It lives above the demands of human opinion and breaks free from legalistic regulations. Grace dares us to take hold of the sledge of courage and break through longstanding stones. Grace invites us to chart new courses and explore ever-expanding regions, all the while delighting in the unexpected. While others care more about maintaining the wall and fearing those who guard it, grace is constantly looking for ways to freedom. Grace wants faith to fly, regardless of what grim-faced officials may say or think or do.

There is a “grace awakening” loose in the land. Will you become a part of it? While you take your turn with the sledgehammer and pound away, a host of us are standing near, and some of us may be half a world away, cheering you on. Don’t think of it as a lonesome, isolated task. You are breaking through to freedom, and no one is more delighted than the Lord Jesus Christ, who has promised you His grace. Never forget His words: “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Stay at it. By the grace of Almighty God, the new movement will someday sweep across every continent and the longstanding wall that has kept people in bondage for centuries will come tumbling down. And we shall all, at last, be free indeed.

I’m not giving up on the Church… 

Despite some unfortunate evidence to the contrary, I believe that the church can be a place where broken and hurting people of all stripes can go to find Jesus shared and reflected in the lives of leaders and members.  I believe that it can be a sanctuary where poor, struggling, addicted, mentally ill, self-harming, harsh and hard-to-love people can mingle with and be supported by people who are wealthy or stable or sober or emotionally healthy and peaceful without feeling judged or unwelcome. I believe that Christians of different ages and backgrounds and interests can worship together out of respect for one another and Christ’s call to unity, sustaining the whole by putting the needs of others ahead of personal comfort, preference or ambition. And I believe that the core teachings of the faith—even the controversial or hard-to-swallow ones–can touch people without being watered down or hidden from view when they are delivered with love and compassion.

Since becoming a Christian in 2003 I have sought to find this kind of Church.

In some ways I feel like Goldilocks of Christianity. There I was lost in the woods without knowing it and I come upon a lovely house. 

Sanctuary.  Safety.

I walk though the door naïve and hopeful, only to find dozens of diverging choices, approaches and versions of what it really means to be a Christian or how one is really supposed to follow Jesus.

So I try a one church… too hot.

And another…too cold.

Searching for, but not finding, the elusive just right…

I hoped to land in that one community of people with the right approach with whom I could settle-in and ignore (or criticize) the‘other ones’ who clearly have it wrong. Regrettably, this approach assumes that it is possible (or advisable) for me to become part of “a church” and divorce myself from “the church.” 

I wish I had simplistic “how-to” list to encapsulate how I turned it around, but this is not a challenge with a single pole solution.  And, if it were, it is pretty unlikely that the big answer would come from the pen of this New Age seeker, turned atheist, turned agnostic, turned Christian.  No, I am not suggesting that I have the solution. I’m just hoping that we can do our best to remember that the Church is a family, whether we like it or not.

 Because really…who wants to step out of the woods straight into a big dysfunctional family?

Yo decido escribir en Espanol todos los Miercoles a mis Miercoles en Espanol. Hablo con suceso para quatro semanas, pero excribo solamente un tiempo. Es muy dificil, especialmente los frasas. Tengo muchas palabras, pero las frasas son diferente. Mi esposo dice y yo me acuerdo que yo necesito memorizo muchos frasas tipicos. Si tu tienes sugerencias, escribe los aqui por favor. Muchas gracias y buen dia.

Joan

Today is my one-month anniversary as a blogger.

Before all of you early-adopter types start giggling, you can rest assured
that I am well aware that I am behind the curve here. The impact of Web 2.0 on
communication and marketing was a hot topic in PR circles before the term Web
2.0 was coined in 2004, but it was only recently that I felt prompted to join the conversation.

If I put my old PR hat on, I could use this lead for a dozen different
articles; from the perspective of a “tip of the spear” Gen Xer on social
networking (I was born in 1966) to a light-hearted look at my online
relationship with my 18 and 19 year old kids.
Instead, a quick review of my blog stats for the month of July is driving
this post. As I assessed the pageviews and where they originated, I found that the bulk of the click-throughs to my WordPress blog came as a result of a piece titled I was Never a Real Atheist from people who had searched or followed a link to the word atheism tagged to the post.

Apparently atheism sells.

I followed the links backward and found myself in the land of Christian de-conversion.

Now de-conversion may be a hot topic in Bible-college circles, but I wasn’t
even sure if it was a real word. Webster’s online says that it’s not, but the folks that are contributing and commenting at http://de-conversion.com use it frequently.

The site claims to provide “Resources for Skeptical, De-Converting and Former Christians” and is a social network/support group for confused, hurt and angry Christians who have either already “de-converted” or claim to be in the process of doing so.

The site claims to have logged 667,660 hits since March 2007 and, while they could be elevating those numbers, the volume of comments on the featured posts is such that I would not be surprised if it were true.

I am sure that there is much to be said theologically about whether or not “de-conversion” is possible if a person had a genuine experience with Jesus, and I am not remotely studied enough to go there, but as I read the posts of dozens of self-proclaimed “former believers” I saw a pattern emerge:

1. I grew up in the church and loved the Lord once.

2. I began to question and doubt.

3. My questions and doubts were either dismissed or ignored or responded to with platitudes that I could not accept.

4. When it was clear that I would not be satisfied with platitudes, I was told that I was defective, i.e. I wasn’t
really saved in the first place, I was looking for an excuse to sin, etc.

5. I am grateful to find this community of people who are also doubters and skeptics (and ultimately unbelievers) so that I do not have to walk this path away from the faith of my childhood on my own.

The unbelief proposed by whoever designs and moderates the site (I could not find evidence of a clear “owner”) portrays in the site description a kinder, gentler version of atheism that might appeal to a once-faithful doubter…

“For the most part, we believe the teachings of Judaism, Christianity, & Islam, based on the perceptions and myths of a nomadic ancient Middle Eastern tribe, should be viewed critically – as should the holy books of these religions. This blog attempts to critically, but respectfully, address issues with these religious ideologies, especially Christianity. If you are a skeptical, de-converting, or former Christian, you may find these discussions interesting.

We also believe that whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God
reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds -when there is a significant lack of evidence on who God is or if he/she even exists.
(de-conversion.com, July 2008 )

That can’t be so bad, right?

And yet, many of the posts betray what I interpret to be sadness as a result of the perceived loss of faith. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but a number of the respondents still attend church and participate in ministry despite what they describe to be a sense of isolation and unbelief. It made me wonder who these people are and how their churches (and churches in general) tend to handle a person who is struggling with a perceived loss of faith?

Would love to hear thoughts on this…

Welcome to the maiden post of my new blog, Flirting with Faith.

The title refers to my experience living 40+ years as a seeker, an atheist, a recovery-based agnostic and, more recently, as a very unlikely born-again Christian. I hope to populate this site with personal stories that reflect each of these elements of my spiritual journey and my current quest to live an authentic Christian life.

Sounds great, but what the hell does it mean?

The word authenticity has been so overused that it has all but lost its meaning. To help combat misunderstanding, I’ll do my best to steer clear of buzzwords. Instead, I’ll just pull back the curtain and offer a glimpse into one woman’s day-to-day attempt to live a devoted life.

It is my hope that these posts will attract a wide variety of people from many different backgrounds who will not only comment on posts, but will share their own stories, experiences, challenges, triumphs and questions. All are welcome here. Atheists, agnostics, Christians, Buddists, Jews, Muslims, Humanists–anyone who cares to join a non-combative conversation on matters of faith.

I can’t wait to get started and see what happens.