Dot to Dot.
I have shared before about God joining the dots to start to reveal a picture of what He is doing in these days. Some of that happens physically as we meet others on the journey outside the four walls, some of that happens as we connect through people’s stories and blogs and accounts of their journey. Some will happen as we give space for those stories in our own sphere. Dot connecting to dot connecting to dot… That is why I wanted to give space on my blog page for other voices and people on a journey. These stories may have got to this point differently and even be expressed differently in the present and future, but there seems to be some spiritual sense of connectivity going on in the margins and amongst those in the wilderness. Love it that we can share, lean and learn from each other. My second guest blogger is Shannon Ruddy, a connection via the blog/Facebook that I have learned to love and appreciate. I will let Shannon introduce herself (taken from her blog page.)
My name is Shannon. I am nearly 40 years old. I have three sons. My kids are freaking awesome. I am married to Patrik. I used to live in the UK and work with a nightclub chaplain and I often miss living in that life and participating in that work. I love Taco Bell. I love Dr. Pepper. I like to read. I love studying ancient Roman history and archaeology. I often have insomnia and it’s frustrating. I’ve gotten to travel to many places in this world and hope to travel to many more. I believe Jesus and I love Him because I have seen Him for myself. I’m getting free from religion. I used to have a lot more deep thoughts than I do now, and I have to admit, I’m a bit less tormented by the questions than I used to be, but sometimes I miss the journey that the deep thoughts and questions would take me on… perhaps I can delve into them again without the inner turmoil?! I have good friends. I have cute nieces. The one place I’ve wanted to visit since I was a kid is Italy. My hair is completely gray so I dye it dark, dark brown. One of my favorite films is Magnolia. Autumn is my favorite season. I need to start writing again, so here I am. (http://fireorblackberries.wordpress.com/)
I don’t want to gather any more. I had had enough gatherings and religion and weird home church/prayer time experiments here in the USA so I moved to the UK. There I found friends that are still more like family in my heart. We could go out and drink like madmen one night and stay in and hang out and pray and prophesy like madmen the next night. There was never any question about just living life that way. Many of them who I knew had come out of a manipulative church that was dressed as a post-modern ultra cool place for artists and dreamers to gather, but really in the end, it was just like all the rest of the “my way or the highway” churches of old.
Then along came the gatherings in Wales. Yep. God showed up in ways that so many had not experienced before. Manifestations galore… I smelled Jesus in a car once as every molecule turned inside out with Him and the smell of daffodils and electric life filled our car as we drove over the bridge from Wales into England. I saw an angel, or half an angel really for some odd reason, standing in my friends living room once. With my physical eyes. When I closed them and reopened them again, the angel was still there. It was awesome. But alas… the meetings became the place to be and they began asking for money in a way that sounded suspiciously like my old Baptist church back in the States and then told me I could not come on a ministry trip with them because they did not “feel that I was ready”. And so I began to smell the smell of hierarchy and rules set by the higher ups that I had sniffed out so many times before.
Then back to the States after several years. Then in love and pregnant. Then married. Then caught back in what I called cubicle hell day in and day out. Then came the downs and the very cool ups of marriage and family. And here we are arrived at tonight. I’m sitting in a dark room, typing this post on my iPhone while my sons and husband sleep, feeling the presence of God swirling inside me as he does when He has something for me to write because He knows when I write out what is inside me, it moves and changes things for me and sometimes for you. It’s one of the ways that God and I have some good time together.
So back to gatherings. I’ve read a lot about them lately from those who do not and those who do gather on a regular basis. And, as most always, those of you who still gather purposefully on a regular basis still feel this mysterious and unexplainable need to make sure those of us who don’t purposefully gather on a regular basis know that the scripture says do not forsake the gathering.
Several days ago, on Paul’s Facebook page actually, there was this exact conversation about gathering. First off I wanted to say something and I felt some frustration start to rise, but then as I mulled it over for awhile I realized that now, it’s ok. It’s ok that I do not gather. It’s ok that I don’t want to gather. It’s ok that you don’t understand it. Its ok for me not to answer you. Maybe it’s not your path. Maybe it will be. There are so many things that I’m learning to be ok with these days. Some of them are silly but are really bringing a lot of Christ’s freedom with them, like… It’s ok that I watch Game of Thrones and True Blood. It’s ok that one of my best dates with my husband included a piano bar, shots and much drunken laughter. It’s ok that I don’t want to fix everybody anymore.
I’m tired of the arguing because I honestly don’t feel like its a dialogue most times. its you wanting to convince me versus me wanting to validate and prove myself to you. My life has been filled with so many Christian rules that I feel as if my heart will explode front he heaviness of trying to keep them all – because I can honestly say that after all these years out of organized religion I am still so saturated with guilt from stepping to the right or the left of these stupid rules. You keep them if you want to. I don’t want to anymore. The rule of not offending a brother or sister. The rule of no sex before marriage (yes, I’m married now, but I will teach my children very differently from the way I was taught). The rule of not forsaking the gathering. You live under them and see if you can keep them. I can’t and the desire to keep them is dwindling quickly. The only rules I can even fathom surviving under, much less living freely in, are love and mercy. Upon myself, first of all. The rest is not as important. Living like this is at times brutal, I will be honest, it is also very beautiful. It allows the time of seeing angels and of Jesus when He smelled like daffodils to seep into the days when I don’t have any love. Mercy and grace seep into my lies that I have told. They show up when I have a conversation with a client or co-worker that just feels like hope and a future. And they show up in the middle of the night when I’m typing out my heart in a dark room on my iPhone. It’s how God reminds me that I am loved and that He is close to me. He is here. you want a manifestation of God’s presence? Mercy and Grace are Him, because they are what Love is. For me, for now, there is no other way.
I’ve found three quotes that pretty much sum up my feelings and journeying tonight as I write this all out:
“One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.”
― J.A. Konrath
“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin-real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”
— Alfred D’Souza
“It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”
— Wendell Berry
It’s not about gathering or not gathering or succeeding versus failing. It’s simply about Love. I can live with that for sure.