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When I am Feeling Lost

14 Jun

Sometimes I feel lost.  Lost in my head. Lost in worry.

I forget I am not doing life alone.

Photo Credit: …bmd… via Compfight cc

I tend to try to go at it by myself, and I know that isn’t healthy.

Sometimes I forget simple child-like faith is all I really need.

I’ve done a pretty good job rejecting religion, but I don’t want to get stuck there.

I don’t want to stay at the “what’s wrong with Christianity” party.

Trust me, it’s not worth it.

There is so much goodness and light and life when people just embrace Jesus. 

When they truly love God and love others.

I want to focus on that.

I know the old phrase,

It’s not religion it’s relationship.

I know it has meaning, but what does it mean to me?

Today, I sat in church and thought about it.

Often, it means not doing things “by the book.”

It means figuring out what works for me and throwing myself into it.

It may mean doing the opposite of the crowd. It may mean looking heretical to others.

It means having nothing to prove to anyone, because I am secure in our relationship.

Sometimes It looks like fights. Like any relationship. Hard questions. Moments of anger, followed by intimacy.

It doesn’t always look like feelings. Sometimes it looks like believing I am loved even when I feel hideous and unlovable. It’s constantly remembering the commitment that has been made.

(You know, the one between God and Jesus. The one I have nothing to do with but still get to partake in.)

It means keeping my heart open when I just want to crawl into a corner and be left alone.

But it also means when I chose to do so, I am never alone in that corner.

It often looks like struggle, because it seems “easier” to fall back into a lifeless routine.

But it also looks like rest, because fundamentally, it is.

It looks like a breath of energy when I am worn out and piling burdens on top of my self.

It looks like that calm, certain thought in the middle of confusion, in the midst of worrying about the future:

“This is exactly where I need to be…”

It looks like comfort in pain.

Joy in uncertainty.

Creativity in the midst of a dry spell.

And love. 

Always love.

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I Won’t Sing Those Songs Anymore

9 Apr

Come Lord Jesus, Come. 

Let us invite him into this place. 

God, we want more of you. 

 

I am afraid our lyrics proclaim

a distance that doesn’t exist

like God is far away

just waiting for us to say the right phrase

then He’ll stop what He’s busy doing

and descend from heaven

walk through our buildings doors

to hand out a blessing

 

you may laugh and say,

“Brooke, they are only words.”

but words are all we have

when we are trying to:

document the divine,

portray a higher power,

define love,

 

it’s important they stay true

one wrong word can trip up

a confused and searching heart

lead them to believe they have to do

 

We are broken for you

We are hungry

We must be filled

 

we cry like refugees in the desert

so far from home

not realizing our need is an illusion

there is a feast and an endless flow of water

within us

 

I am afraid our speech reflects

we are still waiting

for the news

to change from bad to good

even though all goodness and love

already surround us

 

I Love Jesus, But Sometimes I am an Atheist

26 Mar

The most terrible acts in the world happen when human beings treat each other as less than human.

A Chinese orphanage where special needs children had their limbs tied to hard kitchen chairs and left alone all day to stare at the walls.

A dirty room on the top of a brothel in India, where girls lay sleeping, fragile and exhausted from another night of abuse.

The cries of a young girl as she was taken down the stairs to a basement, by a man who was supposed to be caring for her while her parents were away.

Many look and say, “How could God let this happen?”

And even more deadly, religion says, “Everything happens for a reason.”

If I had a communion shot glass of wine for every time someone carelessly attached the phrase “God’s Will” to someone terrible, I’d be slurring my words right now.

I used to believe suffering made us better, so God must cause it. It was not for us to understand, only embrace. God wants to “break” us, and He will do whatever it took to get us to rely on him.

I imagine a mother or father using similar phrases as they abuse their children, all in the name of “love.”

This is not love.

I don’t believe in this god anymore.

I can’t.

I don’t believe in a god who would orchestrate horrific pain, destruction, and death.

Light and dark can’t mix.

I don’t believe in a god that picks and chooses whom he loves and whom he disregards.

Love is not true if it has conditions.

I don’t believe in a god who controls your fate, who is nothing more than a cruel puppet master putting on a show.

Love does not force its will or manipulate, but allows freedom of choice.

I don’t believe in a god who is looking for ways that we don’t measure up, who is constantly pushing us to try harder and be better.

Love doesn’t force or condemn or have an agenda to change someone.

People usually have a valid reason for not believing in god.

I don’t blame them.

But my God is pure love, acceptance, grace and beauty.

My God, in his love has given us control over the earth and our lives. Even though He risked us screwing everything up, it was the only way to offer freedom.

My God always gives good gifts, always redeems, always makes things new.

My God is found in the eyes of the abused prostitute, in the compassionate activist who rescues her, in the bread she is given to nourish her frail body.

He is in the laugh of a special needs orphan tied to a chair as the sunlight pours through the cracks in the walls.

He is in the words of the little girl who is restored and redeemed and telling her story.

My God writes the book of our lives with us, bringing adventure, romance, and surprise endings.

godwrites

So, sometimes I am an atheist.
Because I refuse to believe in the god religion has created.

But Jesus—I can’t help but believe in and love him.

An Open Letter of Apology (To Anyone I Gave Religion Instead of Love)

7 Feb

Hi,

It’s me, Brooke. I am a gorgeous mess, an abstract soul, a work of art some people can’t decipher.

In the past I was full of fear and insecurity. I hated myself. I remember making a mental list of all the things that would have to change to become “normal.” Some things were in my power to fix, some were out of my control. I was only five or six years old.

I always knew God was real, and that he loved me, but somewhere along the lines I adopted the suffocating belief system that he would love me more if I was better.

If I was holier. If I was normal.

Given the option at eighteen to pick between the dirty, crooked, path I saw myself heading down, and the pristine holiness I thought was attainable, I took the latter. I threw myself into a lifestyle of dedication and purity,  of prayer and sacrifice.

I just wanted to be better.

I just wanted God.

I know during those roller coaster years of losing the parts of me I hated, and reinventing myself to be who I thought I needed to be, I alienated you.

For this I am deeply sorry.

I am sorry for thinking your sin was worse than mine because it came out in your actions instead of just dwelling alone in your head.

I am sorry for judging and giving you a formula prescription instead of really listening to your story.

I am sorry for believing my righteousness was connected to my rightness.

I am sorry for giving you law instead of love.

I  am sorry for blindly following others, for allowing myself to become a robot.

I am sorry for being afraid of truth that dressed a little differently then what I was used to.

I am sorry for making it “us vs. them” and for putting you in the “them” category.

I am sorry for preaching Jesus’ love but living like a Pharisee.

I think about how I used to view the world, and it seems like I don’t even speak the same language.

Before, everything was cause and effect, an eye for an eye, reaping and sowing.

Now, I know there is nothing I can do to make me better.

This is the Good News.

It’s not persuading someone of some historical facts, or convincing someone they are broken and need fixing.

We are all beyond broken.

We are dead.

Then life comes in, and everything changes.

This life is purely gratuitous.

It’s more than we could ever need. We don’t have to polish it up. We don’t have to add anything to it.

We miraculously become complete.

Believing this is how I finally learned to love myself.

So, while I can’t erase those years of living under bondage  and putting chains on you with my words and actions,

By grace, I will now write and speak only of freedom and grace.

Where you go from here is up to you.

Sometimes these things seem too good to be true, but that’s exactly what makes them true.

So please, forgive me.

Please, throw out anything that doesn’t bring life, especially religion.

Embrace Jesus who is love and grace, and be free.

Love,

Brooke

field

A Textbook Can’t Hold You at Night

4 Sep

Sometimes you have to swing to both sides of extreme before coming back to the middle,

Back to the heart, the beating and bleeding, the real life.

Many of my beliefs I held fast on to about God,

About who I am,

Have been too slippery to hold on to.

They weren’t solid enough to grasp, they were squishy, always morphing shape.

 

So I let them go.

It was a difficult loss.

My former self cried heresy.

 

“How do I keep moving forward when all I ever thought was true, feels like a lie?”

 

But these ideas, this theology awkwardly handed to me,

Were nothing but rumors passed down,

Emotional conclusions formed at the whisper of an angry voice,

Leftovers from feeling orphaned and homeless,

Attempts to work your way back to God’s door.

 

I had always been terrified to let go of them,

but these “truths” were keeping me from being set free

they were wrapped up in ugly realizations

that kept me from seeing the real Truth-

Your face.

Your voice.

Your heart.

Who I am.

Because you see, a relationship is a little bit more complicated then a set of theories.

Rules can’t tell you everything is going to be alright.

A textbook can’t hold you at night.

And there is no beauty in memorizing the right answers.

Sometimes you have to throw aside all you know to be true,

and embrace the One who is Truth.

We Only Need Two Wings

20 Jun

I am sorry if my posts seem sermon-ish lately.

I think I go through phases in my thinking, and it reflects in some kind of pattern here on this site.

Today I was thinking about how I used to really judge people’s mistakes and spend a lot of time trying to avoid sin. I would say cute phrases like, “hate the sin, love the sinner,”

But the *real* sins like, you know like sexual sins, I was both terrified and judgmental about.

Another thing, I used to be so concerned with what others said was right and wrong I never took the time to stop and think why?

What makes something right or wrong?

Is it simply something that hurts other people or hurts you or not?

Is it simply something that God says is right or wrong?

As a kid the most annoying thing in the world is when you asked a parent “Why?” and they would respond with, “Because I said so.”

Now granted there is a time when you can’t comprehend the reasons why and you have to just trust your parent’s judgment.

But when you enter adulthood and began to reason and process things for yourself and hopefully develop your own moral compass, it would be frankly condescending for your parent to still say, “Because I said so.”

I don’t think God wants to say that to us. I think He wants us to understand and make up our own minds about what is right and wrong.

“Love fulfills the whole law.”

What if there were no arguments about what is good and what is not, simply because it was obvious if you are loving, it is good. If you are not loving, it is not.

How is it that simple?

Well, God is love.

He wants us to feel loved, and to love.

We are made to do both, and when we don’t have one or the other we are like a bird with a broken wing.

That’s simple.

Simple, but impossible on our own.

Why?

Because no matter how hard we try, we are selfish.

We always have a hidden agenda.

An ulterior motive.

But He doesn’t.

That’s why, the only way to live, is to be embraced by utter love Himself.

It’s may not seem to “make sense.”

It may not be a step-by-step process, a list of things to read and understand with your head.

But it is life.

And swiftly, with no motive other than pure gratuitous love,

You will be invaded by all that is good and true and lovely.

You may not always feel it.

You may still walk through days of  terror,

Utter pain,

Wreckage.

But Love will be a way of life.

It will persist.

It will win.

It will overshadow living in a stuffy, black and white world of being hyper-sensitive to immorality.

It’s a beautiful world, full of color and light, where no one is judged, where love abounds.

Broken wings are mended, and we can finally take flight.


Becoming Human (A Short Story)

21 Jan

Something happens when you come alive and are set free from fear.

You realize existence is messy and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Control is an illusion, a grasping at the air only to fall over.

This reality: It’s bloody, gritty, reality.
Broken hearts and broken bones are just a way of life.

So you begin to realize you don’t have to expend your energy trying to avoid the mess.

(You breathe a sigh of relief.)
Once upon a time, you had this idea everything would be smooth because you were trying to say and do all the right things.

The universe seemed to align and God was on side because you were be moral enough and separated yourself from the world, to be to “holy” enough to avoid being like the others you judged and pitied.

Any trials or pain that happened you blamed on some outside force of evil, or how God was testing you.

But you were terrified to admit when you did wrong, you couldn’t believe you could possibly still be struggling with wanting to lose yourself in something you’ve been told is so wrong, so you denied your desires instead of understanding why you have them in the first place.

But they didn’t go away. You can only shove down your humanity so much. 

So when all that inevitably blew up in your face, you couldn’t help but feel a little crazy.

You may have tried again and again, thrusting yourself into an endless cycle of failure and guilt, but when you finally realized it’s all a sham, you got angry.

So you fought back a little. You did something rebellious.

They looked at you and thought,

“There’s another one lost to the darkness.”

But what they didn’t realize was this was all part of your journey to grace.

So you broke and screamed and let go and let all the pain in.

You accepted the fact you are poor and dirty and dead.

You decided to live a little dangerously.

To embrace instead of exclude.

To dare to be open and see the truth all around you.

And I say, if it’s one step closer to you coming alive, go for it.

Feel all your emotions.

Question what you always thought to be true.

Allow your heart to be broken.

Because let me tell you friend, if you spend your life trying to guard yourself, trying to behave, trying to fit into some religious mold, you will cheat yourself out of truly experiencing life.

You will cheat the world out of what kind of beauty can explode when a human being is actually genuine.

And what happens when a genuine human being allows the spirit of a perfect and loving God to be life within them.

God doesn’t want a robot. He just wants you.

Real change comes not in us trying harder, but in giving up and letting go and realizing the beautiful and terrible truth,

We are broken and we can’t fix ourselves. 

………………….

Exactly.

That’s the entire point.

That’s what Jesus is for. 

 

 

A Handful of Crumbs- Thoughts on Grace & Identity

18 Nov

I picked up this memoir by Kim Sunee, “Trail of Crumbs” partially because the cover was pretty, partially because it was on clearance for $5, but mostly because of the subtitle,

“Hunger, Love and the Search for Home.”

That subtitle could just as well describe the book I am currently working on, “The Wizard of God.”

Anyways, it’s a beautiful and intriguing life story. Kim was abandoned on a bench in South Korea when she was three, left with nothing but a fistful of crumbs to survive on. She sat there for three days until a policeman finally brought her to an orphanage where she was adopted by an American couple.

Fast forward many years. Kim meets a wealthy French businessman man who is charming and wonderful and gives her everything she has ever wanted. I was swept into the beauty of their life together, living in the countryside of France in a huge house surrounded by orchards and gardens. Kim cooks these fabulous dinner parties for traveling guests, exquisite combinations that made me long for new food and new places. Her lover bought her a building in Paris to open her own book store that specializes in poetry. There she meets fascinating artists and writers from all over the world. Her life seemed ideal. A fairy tale. She came from nothing, and was given everything.

And it wasn’t just money. He loved her too. Passionately,  in a way that made all their friends jealous.

That would seem like the end of the perfect story, right?

No. she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t stay. She left him and threw everything she had away.

Why? Two reasons stuck out in my mind.

After being abandoned as a child, and growing up in an American family that was emotionally distant, she traveled to try to “find herself,” find a place where she belonged.

She thought she could find herself in a man, in this group of friends who were built around her in France, but it wasn’t enough.

She needed the one she came from to give her an identity.

The other reason was, in her lack of knowing who she was, in her struggling with abandonment and rejection, when offered the wonderful gifts of not only a beautiful life, but the heart of a loving man, she felt like she didn’t deserve it.

It’s impossible to accept grace when we don’t know who we are.

She was left in this world with nothing but a handful of crumbs, and so that’s what she built her identity around. She tried to get professional help, but it never subsided the ache. The more her lover lavished expensive and beautiful gifts on her, the more empty she felt.

I am not trying to psychoanalyze this woman specifically. The reason I write about her story in particular because as I was reading it I was struck with the idea that is perhaps the human condition.

We were born into this world with nothing, naked and screaming. We are often left with nothing more than a handful of crumbs, a few grains of rice, pieces we try to put together to make a life for ourselves, to create a home and a family, to find a sense of belonging.

A little boy in a slum in Chennai India, getting his one meal of the day.

Some of us find grace, find God.

We see He is not angry, we see He has given us good things. But often the more He gives, the harder it is to accept. That sense of debt that was established sometime in the losing of our innocence surfaces.

“Who am I to deserve this?”

The question can really be edited, cut in half, leaving the first three words for us to contend with,

“Who am I?”

It’s easy to see the brokeness, the tragic mistakes we’ve made, the reasons we were left with nothing.

It’s a lot harder to see who we really are:

Sacred, beautiful, works of art.

“It is our light  not our darkness that most frightens us.”

C.S Lewis said it this way in The Weight of Glory, 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

So, what then?

Is there some simple formula? Do we do like this awesome girl and repeat in the mirror every morning convincing ourselves that we are really wonderful people?

I love this video. Yet, there are  not enough magic words to overcome a lifetime of feeling we are unworthy.

There can never be enough people telling you how brilliant or fabulous you are, when your  inner voice that tells says you will never be enough.

It is only in the opening of our ears to hear the whispers of The One who created, the only one with the right to tell us who we are. It is only in believing that we are free

To quote Lewis again,

“And that is enough to raise your thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride… Perfect humility dispenses with modesty.”
― C.S. LewisThe Weight of Glory

We may see ourselves as having only a handful of crumbs, but there is a veil that has been ripped and beyond that, there is a feast we can sit down and partake in anytime we like.

Once we see this feast, once we understand we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters, we can invite the whole world to come, sit, and dine.

From Starvation to Drunken Joy

13 Nov

It’s hard to swallow sometimes
the sweet liquid that You are enough
it burns my pride as it cures it

but when I get pills stuck in my throat
(self-made medicine
from a factory in my heart
in that smoggy part that doesn’t fully believe)

I can see no other alternative
and I wouldn’t want to

truth is too delicious

because there is no cure
other than Your bread and wine

and that is my sustenance
and my drunken joy

I’ve tried  to get meat
bloody and rare
left overs from an altar somewhere

but it’s a carcass filled with maggots
I  couldn’t see that because I was
so busy counting up
what I thought I owed you

so bent on a payment plan that
I sold my last bit of grain to the poor
only for it to be lost in transport

it was only then
in my feverish aches
in my grand delusions
in my starving hallucinations
that I could somehow provide
what I needed to survive

I finally collapsed and saw
my bloated belly
and emaciated face

(and I knew I was one of them too)

I knew that the grocery stores were empty
I knew that the garden was dead
I knew that the store houses were rotting

only then was I able to be fed

carried to a feast, a banquet, a buffet
endless and guiltless and always mine

because there is no cure
other than then Your bread and wine

and that is my sustenance
and my drunken joy

“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred-proof grace-of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the gospel-after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection your bootstraps-suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.”

-Robert Capon, Between Noon and Three (as quoted in Brennan Manning’s, The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Why I Don’t Wear “The Ring.”

7 Nov

This is a ring.

It says “Semper Honorablus” which mean “Always Honorable” in Latin, I guess.

I was given this ring when I was eighteen, after “committing to live a life of honor.”
I don’t talk about this much. I might say casually when people ask me where I went to school,

“Oh, this errr… bible college.”

Sometimes, I will mention to people I lived on a bus for two and a half years. Some look at me like I am insane, most don’t really care.

I don’t always mention all the wonderful and terrible things that happened from being a part of Teen Mania Ministries for four years.

I don’t mention I took the ring off soon after leaving in 2007, because I didn’t even know what it meant anymore.

I began to question what I really believed and whether aspects of my faith were really mine, or something that had been forced on me.

Can I be honest and say, it’s hard to write this?

I decided to no longer remain silent because things seem to be coming to a head. People are hurt, and people are angry at those who are hurt.

People say Teen Mania is an abusive cult.

People say it is a life-changing program, the best ministry ever.

People say that it is where God is.

People say that God has used this ministry to transform thousands of lives. I  understand that, mine included. I was seventeen and desperately needed God. I knew if I didn’t go to the Honor Academy I would end up in a trailer park with the baby of some druggie.

But right now, I need to shut out what people are saying.

Right now I am letting go of it all, the good, the bad, the ugly.

Not because of what anyone did to me, but because of the bondage I put myself under.

Please hear my heart in this. I am not slandering anyone.

I  am speaking up now, because a lot of things have changed. Because I have changed. Because I used to be afraid. I wasn’t necessarily afraid of not being accepted by God, (at least not after a while) I was afraid of not being accepted by them.

Being accepted by the group I claimed allegiance too, spent thousands of hours on the phone convincing people to attend, gave four years of my life to… that meant everything.

At one time I felt guilty. I felt like I owed them my allegiance. After all, I experienced the love of God there like I never had anywhere else. I realized my life had purpose there. I learned to love myself there. The world opened up to me. I got to travel, experience incredible things. I met some of the most amazing people I have ever met, and many of them I still have a deep connection with.

But now I know, those things were simply the grace of God in my life.
Jesus was loving me.
I am not angry. Ok maybe a little. I am angry people are hurt and no one is listening. I am angry at the gross militaristic “us vs. them” mentality. I am angry at religion trying to make people pay for what God has already given us for free. But by the grace of God, I am not bitter. I am thankful for the things I learned, the opportunities I had, and the beautiful people I met.

But I can’t wear the ring. To me, it represents a mental and emotional legalistic pressure that Jesus never ever put on me.

I am under no obligation to anyone but Christ.
And in that, I am free.

I don’t need to “be the standard.”
I don’t need to conjure up some fake pious morality.
I don’t need to sign a creed and commit to an ideal, a better way of life.

Those things are bullshit.

They don’t work.

Jesus made a covenant with God and has given me all things. I just simply have to believe. I don’t owe God anything… How can you pay for something that is a free gift? Even if I tried, I couldn’t pay Him back if I tried. God doesn’t want my disgusting bloody rags, my failed attempts to be holy.

He just wants me. And He has me.
He wants me to understand what he did on the cross was enough.
I don’t have to “try to get closer to him,” He is part of me.
I don’t have to rally people to a massive conference to beg God to “come down,” He is everywhere.

And I already am holy. Because He made me a new creation. It wasn’t my doing.

(At times, the self-righteous nineteen-year-old in me is cries, “Heresy!” in the back of my head. But I am learning to shut her up.)

I am completely free.
I am under no obligation to any system of religion, any conformity, any pressure to be a leader, or to keep up appearances.

I can just be Brooke.

And Brooke, with the Holy Spirit in her, is more than enough.

EDIT-

Ok, I need to add this. I don’t want this to come across like I am bashing Teen Mania. This is not my heart. I almost didn’t put the name here, but I figured most people would figure out what I am talking about anyways. This is not against people, this is against a system that tells you you have to be more then Jesus has already made you in him. I could apply this to many churches as well. There are Christian communities out there that are loving and grace filled and not exclusive. Those are amazing, we need more of those. The point is, my identity is not in being “alumni” or a church member at so-and-so.

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