faith, God, Jesus, parenting, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

When You Know Someone’s Story Things Change

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In December I switched from an Evangelical church to an open and affirming congregation that allows me to address doubts and concerns I’ve had for many many years.

It wasn’t an easy transition for me. I came from a background where everything I was supposed to believe was rolled out like a red carpet for me. I only needed to dance.

I’m an awkward dancer. I’m six foot tall and my husband isn’t a party guy. I’d often find myself alone on the carpet trying to figure out the beat of the songs. When the kids came along, we’d ring-around-the-rosy every Sunday and be appeased with doughnuts and life groups, but in the end, I felt exhausted from my shimmying to something that I thought I was supposed to get but just didn’t.

When I started opening my mouth about my questions, I was shocked to find many people on the carpet had the same ones as I did, but they chose to accept what worked and moved on. I have zero disrespect for these people, it’s just not me. I am not one to go with the flow if I’m not comfortable. I had to, in the end, quietly leave. Much to my inner narcissist’s surprise, there was no banner shouting “Andrea has left the building!” Nope, not even a phone call or an email. I was either that much of a disappointment or not important enough. Either way, it was an immense relief. (If not a bit terrifying. Now what?)

My New Building

No one was more shocked than I was to find that at my new tiny church God showed up even more strongly than he had before. I felt a sense of peace and belonging I had not felt in years. It’s a place where, in true Rachel Held Evan’s style, we all are called to the communion table. We don’t have an agenda to push. We have only God’s love and grace to receive.

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This kind of message seems radical and hippy dippy to many more conservative folk. But to me, it reminds me of Jesus: a rebellious conviction to love everyone. (Unfortunately this kind of acceptance got him killed. But I get it. He was no longer able to live with the hypocrites. And that goes for me being able to live with my dual personality of wanting to fit a mold I just wasn’t cut out for.)

Getting clean with who I was felt so refreshing. But I had been warned about this kind of serenity before from my more conservative church: “It’s the devil.” And yet, having done an immense amount of spiritual work through 12 step, I knew this simply wasn’t true. In my 12 step, it is crystal clear that to not live a life of honesty and integrity is to drink, and to drink for many is to die. I was not willing to die in body or spirit. Instead, I chose surrender.

The Power of Surrender

I could go on and on about the power of surrender and what that means to an over-thinker like myself, but in a nutshell it means: I am not God, neither are you, how about we just lay down or guns and admit we don’t know everything? How about we let go and trust that each person has a God of their understanding to guide them to make decisions for themselves?

For me that is Jesus. But until he shows up at my door with a cappuccino and a doughnut, I’m not willing to tell all my other friends of faith that they are 100% wrong in who their higher power is and aren’t going to heaven “until they know the truth.” The path to destruction might be wide, and the road to salvation might be narrow, but that simply cannot be true of our hearts. Hell is happening NOW, with our minds too narrow and our compassion not wide enough. People are dying. People aren’t getting the healthcare they need. People are being sent to prison for making heart wrenching decisions for their children.

Surrender also means listening. In joining a new church, I asked question after question of my gay pastor. “How do you reconcile your sexuality with the Bible? How do you keep from creating a God of your own understanding?” These open questions and resulting communication was both scary and transforming. But in the mystery, like driving through fog, light came at the other side. In being patient in the dark, I felt more of God’s all encompassing love than I ever felt listening to straight up theology.

It also meant asking my friends about their feelings on abortion. I heard story after story about why they did, or did not, choose to terminate a pregnancy. Instead of feeling judgment or elation, I was led right back to surrender. And in doing so, I was overwhelmed again and again with the idea of dignity: That a woman must decide for herself what she can or cannot live with. That her life, and others’ lives, are as valuable as the one in their womb. And as painful as that is for me to admit to my inner evangelical, it’s what I believe now to be true. No one – especially a rich white man – gets to decide this.

I am not writing this to convince you on what you should or should not do with your life and your votes, especially if you disagree with me. But I am writing to you to consider asking yourself the very tough questions that I began asking myself a few years ago:

  • If your child came to you and told you he or she was gay, would you pound them with theology and Bible verses or would you wrap them in your arms and tell them you love them?
  • Do you really believe that everything written in that Bible is 100% without error? Because if you do, you have a lot of explaining to do. And if that explaining makes sense to you only from a place where, in our society today, straight white people win, would you consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible you are wanting to interpret something that best fits your view of the world versus real people with real struggles and needs?
  • Do you truly think that God stopped talking 2000 years ago when the Bible was shut and that we can’t possibly see God in people and situations outside the book of Revelation?
  • If your 16-year-old daughter comes to you pregnant, are you willing to tell her that she must have this child or face prison time?

None of these questions are comfortable, but they are real. Is our God big enough to handle them and have us talk to others with dignity and respect? Mine is. And for that I’m so grateful.

Conversations

I am being clear with you all because, like my decision to leave a conservative church, I can’t live with pretending to be someone I’m not. While on one hand I can’t stand what the internet has done to our culture (the polarization, the vamping, the lurking) I also am in acceptance of the fact that it’s not going away anytime soon. And so, with that in mind, I felt it important to be have my virtual life match up with my human life. Unlike the Andrea of old, who might have done this out of defense or wanting to fit in, the Andrea of now is doing it from a place of transparency and truth. Right or wrong, this is who I am. Maybe you are in a place I was and need to know that someone else is out there.

Consider this your virtual red carpet to dance in the unknown. To rub shoulders with other people and ask about their stories. To make decisions based on real human beings with hearts, not just theology, and begin to trust your journey.

Services at my new church start at 10. Perhaps you’ll join me at the table.

The Table reminds us that, as brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family and invited to God’s banquet, we’re stuck with each other; we’re family. We might as well make peace. The Table teaches us that, ultimately, faith isn’t about being right or good or in agreement. Faith is about feeding and being fed. – Rachel Held Evans

Happily Ticked Off Tip #53:  When you get to know someone’s story, your heart transforms your head and not the other way around. Every time.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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God, Jesus, meditation, spirituality, Uncategorized

Coming Home… Literally (A Resurrection Spiritual Experience)

As many of you know, I’ve struggled for years to find my higher power. I have wrestled with the guilt of not fitting into an evangelical mold that I thought was going to save me. But I had misplaced religion with faith. I had misplaced fear of not being good enough with an impossible Biblical task list.

I have many friends who promise me that Jesus is the answer to feeling good enough. I adore them and their strong foundation for living. But for me, it took letting go of a Biblical model, and a good dose of 12 step, to get serenity. I don’t apologize for this. I’m just being honest.

I have solidly landed in the place of Anne Lamott meets Lin Manuel Miranda when it comes to my faith and, well, I couldn’t be more grateful. That said, the Evangelical devil still sometimes shouts at me. It comes in the form of angry shame poking at me:

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Acck! Run! Shut down your brain and just believe! Because, no, cults aren’t started like that, right?

Scary as that shame can feel, I can’t do the “Must Do’s” anymore to fit into some Christian design for living that only one group of people adhere to. There’s other interpretations. I’m not such a pile of poo for leaning toward those. That said, I’m not ready to give up Jesus. He still calls me. In fact, when I pray to him, and I comb the scriptures and his messages, I see nothing about hard core “Must Do’s.” I do, however, see a hell of a lot of love and acceptance. Yeah, filling up on that feels amazing. (It’s either that or a tube of Trader Joe’s Ho Ho’s. Jesus is better for my figure.)

 

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“This concept of yours? That’s not love, that’s wishful thinking to create a God based on your human understanding,” many of my church friends have told me. “That’s you wanting to play God.”

Comments like that had me second guessing myself, but I trudged ahead with my new found peace anyway. My serenity must have irritated a friend of mine, because when I told her about my new found contentment she remarked, “Of course you feel relaxed. That’s exactly where the devil wants you.”

Side Note: When someone is struggling with something spiritual, telling them that they are falling into the clutches of Satan’s evil grip is not particularly helpful.

Last week felt particularly stressful. Between burying my husband’s father, some work shake ups, and being alone with my thoughts for an entire week while on vacation (oh yeah, this over-thinker sure knows how to do Spring Break!) I was pretty uncomfortable. That’s when I had a life changing conversation with my sponsor, Rosa. She reminded me to stop thinking and start praying. Specifically, “Pray that God shows you in a way you can understand.”

This was on Wednesday.

I started praying… really praying... every day. When I’d feel guilt or shame for bucking the system, I’d pray, “God please show me in a way I can understand.”

And then something incredible happened.

On Sunday I brought my friend Annie my new church. She brought a friend, Tina. Both had never attended services there.

As a reminder, this is a church I had attended as a little girl. I have had dreams about it for years. I could literally smell the pepper trees and feel the calming presence of God from the old school chapel. In those times of quiet, and in my dreams, I could almost hear the words, “Go home… go home…” so I finally did. For the past 3 months, despite feeling like a rebel without a clue, I kept going home. I felt safe there. It felt right. And on Easter I knew why.

When Tina asked me why I drove to this church instead of staying closer to home, I told her the above story.

Tina: “Where did you live as a little girl?”

Me: “Woodland Park.”

Tina: “I live in Woodland Park. What street did you live on?”

Me: “Martinez.”

Tina: “I live on Martinez.”

In my gut I knew before she even asked the last question.

Tina: “What house #?”

Me: “21309”

Tina: “That’s MY house!”

It was then, truly then, that I knew I had heard from the God of my understanding. All those peacocks… all those many eyes of God… I had finally listened. I found home. Literally. And for that amazing experience, on Easter Sunday no less, I am so grateful and humbled.

What Length Are You Willing to Go to Find Your Resurrection Story?

Happily Ticked Off Tip #43:  Careful about asking God to show you in a way you can understand. He just might… and it’s unbelievable! Be ready!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith, spirituality, writing

The One Spiritual Truth that Will Set You Free

 

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So much has happened this week, it’s become apparent that sometimes the only thing to do, in no particular order, includes:

  • Get up a wee bit earlier to meditate and not rush.
  • Find new places on the way to work to do one’s business.
  • Thank said gas station owner for use of facility. If it’s a Starbucks, be grateful you only deposited a piece of yourself and not an additional $5.00 on a drink that would only make you search yet again for a place to do one’s business.
  • Not overthink everything (Are you on time? Do you have a plan? Are you flexible? If so, let the overflowing art sink go for one more day.)
  • Buy a notepad and try to stay current with tasks.
  • Don’t look at the end result. Just put one foot in front of the other.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Get your nails done with your daughter.

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Today I did the Call to Offering at church. This basically meant I tell a bit of my story and ask for money. In the past I would be worried about such an event as this: What would people think? I’m so new! Am I being hypocritical? After all, I’m not exactly throwing down hundred dollar bills in the offering plate myself.

But when an unexpected death occurs – both in body (last week – someone from my hubby’s side) and in soul (my own over the past few years) you start to realize that true resurrection comes in dying to self and becoming the person God intended you to be, not the person you thought you were supposed to be.

Don Miguel Ruiz writes an amazing book about breaking the four contracts we unconsciously sign that set us up for a lifetime of suffering.

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The book is a one day read and has transformative nuggets of truth that have been life changing for me.

This book aside, dying to self can also often mean not having all the answers.

It means honoring myself where I can with rest (14 hours snooze Friday night? That’s me!)

It means stating some ground rules with love to not sink in exhaustion Hi School Secretary. I’d love it if for one week you don’t schedule me to cover other classes during my conference time. When she responds back with It’s because you’re a sub You gently stand your ground. I’m a long term sub through June. I’m really at less of an advantage than a teacher because I don’t have a real lesson plan yet. I truly need the time to prep. And then you smile, because this particular secretary is super nice and just doing her job.

And, to be a decent human, you add on, If you must schedule me, though, I get it. Just asking.

And then when you inevitably get the call to sub, you thank God you have a fancy Chulux (it’s the bastard child of a Keurig), brew a cup of java, and head out to the bungalow clear across campus.

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And you do this because at the bottom of all your hard earned faith is a cosmic nugget that you will share with said readers that will transform their frustration to acceptance. To put it bluntly, it’s the one spiritual truth that will set every single human on earth free.

Zero Fucks Given.

You’re welcome.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #18: Zero Fucks Given is an attitude that allows you to surrender to God’s will for your life. It’s like the red carpet for the spiritual set.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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