If there’s a heaven; Of unanswered questions, my grandfather, and Adolf Hitler

Earlier today as a personal exercise I examined myself from the inside as to what I’d like to do if Heaven exists. I realized as I was writing it that I slightly presented hell but not one of eternal conscious torment, but one where the fires lap at our human imperfections like dross from gold; a removal, an extraction of what isn’t good until we’re able to be reconnected with ourselves, with others, and also unto God.
With that being said, here goes something…


If Heaven does in fact exist, and if I am allowed to partake and enjoy it with God and all of humanity I want to do the following 3 things:

1) Find my maternal grandfather and catch up with him for an eon or so.
At this point in my life he is the number one person I miss the most of those who have passed away. He passed away when I was younger and I miss him a lot; I miss his stories, his humor, the weird twitching of his bicep when he’d flex, and so on. I do honor him now when it comes to All Saints Day and also when I meditate on the “cloud of witnesses” of saints who have gone before during my time of prayer. I hope that I am able to do this when I myself have passed away.

2) Present to God all the why questions I have.
I don’t know if I will have inner peace or satisfaction in asking all my why questions, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I realize that if given the opportunity it will take some time, but as the musician Chris Rice aptly put it; “it’s a good thing forever’s forever.” Yet maybe even still all I might receive is a hug and a resounding but comforting “I know…I know…I know” and that will be it. If it happens to be the latter, I am hoping that will be enough for my wearied mind.

3) If Adolf Hitler is already there, I want to forgive him.
If Hitler is already in Heaven, if he has already been removed of the dross that separates him from himself, humanity, and God, and provided I am dross-free as well I want to let him know that I forgive him. If, as Alexander Pope put it, “to err is human, to forgive divine” then I want to do that because I want to aid in reconnecting Hitler with his humanity and his Imago Dei-ness if at all possible. I realize the reason behind this is that I believe within every cell of my BEing that no one is able to fully resist the love of God forever because the very essence of God is love. It might take years or eons to “get it” and accept it, but love will win eventually. May the dross that separates us from ourselves, each other, and our creator be quickly stripped away!

Onward, Inward, and Upward!


Boats aren’t made for mooring; a metaphorical journey into the nature and heart of faith


Disclaimer: I don’t know exactly why I am using boat language to describe faith, so if I lose you along the way just let me know…

On the sea / In this life, there are many different types of boats / people; big boats, small boats, rowboats, sailboats, ocean liners, oil tankers, etc. All were designed / created for purposes, and their purposes vary boat to boat / person to person.

But the nature of boats / people and their purposes take them away from the docks / from comfort zones. Certainly they come to land / return to familiar places, but for a season because boats / people weren’t meant to be moored / contained for very long.
No boat / person serves out its life attached to the docks / tied to same thought process, the best years are served at sea / out in life and yet so often the waves and storms / problems of this life come in. Yes, seeking land / security is usually the knee-jerk go-to action. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, but it is just a smatter of the stuff character and identity is made of.

The thing is, waves / hardships have the capacity to show us what we’re made of and what we need to do to improve our situations on the sea / in this life. If we confine ourselves to the dock / our comfort zone what does that do to us? Well for starters, it gives us a warped sense of what life is about; we might think that things are primarily black and white, we might think our way is the only way and we might solidify our thoughts and concepts about anything and everything without weighing out that we might indeed be wrong.
The waves / hardships are inevitable, but it’s up to us to stick to our destinations through it all, because it’s only after going through them we’re able to assess what is worth salvaging and what’s worth discarding.

And when it comes to matters of faith and belief (human examples only in this scenario) I am a byproduct of all my experiences, all my encounters with the Divine, all my encounters with humanity. I very much have a “eat the meat, spit out the bones” mentality when it comes to matters of faith and belief.

When it comes to matters of faith and belief, I am evolving, and where I am at isn’t where I was 5 years ago or 10 years ago or even 20 years ago! And that’s the clincher; faith must develop, be weathered, be strained, be smacked about, be the shit and be the fan in order for it to grow!
A faith that doesn’t allow room for doubt, for challenging, for questioning, for microscoping and telescoping isn’t much of a faith at all. It becomes a locked down, dogmatic, black-and-white-no-room-for-grey kind of belief system. And that is something I rather abhor when it comes down to it.

So when the problems of life come your way, don’t be quick to make your way back to where you started off from. Take the time needed to be “lost at sea”, to reacquaint yourself with yourself and certainly your faith and your beliefs. Because in doing so you might be surprised as to where you end up, and I’m willing to venture you will never be the same after having gone through it all.


Allowing room for doubt as a spiritual exercise; day 14 of Ramadan


“The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.” – Anne Lamont

There was a time in my life when I read my Bible and I took the entirety of it literally. From a 6 day creation found in Genesis to end times imagery found in Revelation, if it was in the Bible I thought…believed…it had to be completely true and literal.
But I didn’t account for several things; context, audience, hermeneutics, literary techniques, different writers, figures of speech, historicity, etc.
I admit, when I started reading the Bible through a lens that wasn’t completely literal, it shattered me and I was somewhat distraught, because I thought that’s how you had to read the Bible, that’s you had to deem it infallible and inerrant- the classic ALL or NONE fallacy…

But nowadays I examine and read the Bible through the lens of Jesus, in which I do think that is how it meant to be read. I also read it with the mindset of “it being written by real people in real places in real times.” (hat tip to Rob Bell for that terminology)
I think that because I do hold this stance of the Bible, and even my faith, I am at a place where I’m healthier for it. I’m not hung up on parts that I once deemed necessary to my faith; yes I do find myself doing what I can to emulate Jesus in my life in my doing as well as my being, but sometimes you gotta eat the meat and spit out the bones and fat, sometimes you have to take portions of it seriously but not literally.
My church covered this a few months ago as to what a healthy stance looks like when it comes to reading the Bible:
I agree with all those statements, and so while I might align myself as a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist with theistic evolution thoughts and ideas, I hold it with an open posture that says I might be wrong…and you know what, that’s okay if I am wrong, my faith is one that’s okay with the challenging that comes from the inside as well as the outside.
Lately I’ve been commuting and listening to the podcasts of Drunk Ex-Pastors. Their views, one of an atheist and the other of a Catholic, are refreshing and encouraging because they too have a nuance of being subjected to scrutiny and the possibility of being wrong and it sure trumps the views I grew up hearing about it’s all about right beliefs, right practices, and saying the right things. I’ve been alive for 30 years and I realize more than ever that God’s bigger than our beliefs, our dogmas, and our doctrines.

I think that’s why all of our religious and non-religious beliefs should be put under the microscope of healthy criticism and skepticism. It’s one thing to say well I believe X because of Y and it’s another that says well I have faith about X and Y, but…I might be wrong. On a human level this works immensely because while we can subjugate ourselves to tribalism, to one view, and to one thought, there’s a bigger world outside of our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, our temples, etc!
Somewhere down the line we’re going to run into people who think and believe differently (gasp!) than ourselves, and rather than retreating to our worship places and our sacred texts, perhaps the healthiest thing to do is get to know those individuals better and dialogue about it all. I wouldn’t be surprised in the midst of such dialogue we’ll find that the commonalities will outweigh the differences we have.
This is also applicable to our brothers and sisters who are atheists and agnostics, because they too experience life like we do, they’re just not bound to a set of religious beliefs and texts. Even in my own life I am thankful to God for the atheists and agnostics in my life, for while there are differences there are more commonalities to be shared.

So with all that being said, doubt was my keyword on this 14th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for allowing us space to have our beliefs but to accept our doubts as well. May we put our beliefs to the side and allow room for doubting and take things at faith value. May we learn to appreciate the value of our commonalities with everyone we meet and put our differences asunder for the greater good.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,

Wrestling with God, Theodicy, and Free Will

Lately I’ve been wrestling with God, Theodicy, and Free Will…but after much prayer and thought, I’ve come to a resolution that appeases me.

Theodicy is a struggle of putting two and two together; the components are if God is all loving/all knowing/all powerful, how come evil still happens in the world, would not such a God do away with such things? And if he doesn’t intercede, is he still all loving/all knowing/all powerful?
I struggled (and maybe I will struggle again) because I see pain quite often and sometimes even too much, the behavior of one human being against another or many just saddens me and drives me to lament over the atrocities that happen around this world of ours. While struggling, while doubting, while just feeling nothing…God showed up.

God didn’t break it down for me, but his presence and love that wrapped around me struck me as an “I know, I know” kind of feeling.

The thing is that I think God is all loving, all powerful, and all knowing, but the reason why he doesn’t step in when horrible things happen is because of free will. Free will gives us all sorts of freedoms, and essentially we’re able to do a lot of good…but we’re also capable of doing a lot of bad.

It is within this free will that we’re able to decide to follow God or not, whether we’re going to help others out who are in need or not, choice is ours and if we don’t make a choice in a matter that is also our choice (queue Freewill by Rush).

So instead of a intervening God (which would interfere with our freewill) God is present and with us while we go through life’s experiences, and I have faith that when we hurt and suffer he’s with us in our brokenness as well.
The thing is, we as human beings can intervene, we can make a difference in a world that is suffering, we can take care of those who are down and out, and anyone who is going through a personal hell on earth, we can and I truly believe that we must as well.

I believe in being a participant in kingdom of God work, doing what I can in the now and in the future to usher in perfect shalom. I have faith in God and what he’s doing and also the good things people are doing in his name. We are invited to be a part of the kingdom work, the making “on earth as it is in heaven” a reality, and not just a reality for a small group of individuals, but for all!

Recognizing that God will be in our midst in good times and bad times is comforting to me, it has helped me realize that God is God and shit will be shit, he’ll be in the midst of shitty times, he doesn’t go wandering off leaving us to pick up all the broken pieces but it is up to us to pick up all the pieces and give it to him, entrusting him with whatever the outcome may be.


Following Jesus is a matter of faith

Sometimes I think Christians get hung up about Christianity and lose track as to what or more specifically the whom it is about.

Christianity isn’t what saves you,
reading the Bible doesn’t save you,
Praying on a regular basis doesn’t save you.

Only Jesus can.

It’s not a supposed to be a religion based upon orthodox (right way) or orthopraxis (right practice), but about letting go of closed fist beliefs and allowing God to work in one’s life to transforming them into open handed faith.

Recently I heard Rob Bell speaking live via video at The Viper Room in Los Angeles. It was a very good talk, and in a way it was a LAN Party for the emergent church, but one thing out of the many things he said stuck out to me “You can’t put anything in a closed fist”.
Too often I think  that’s the case, that we come before God with closed eyes and clenched fists, a posture that seems like we’re unwilling for God to enter in and to change us, a posture that is unmoving and unchanging, caught up in the dogma we’ve imposed upon ourselves and to some extent what we’ve imposed upon others.

As I examine my life and what I have faith in, it is far less and more freeing than when I was operating out of a system of closed fist beliefs. Instead of making this post one of a “what I don’t believe” nature, I rather say that I have faith in what God is doing, the good others are doing in his name, and that somehow someway this is ushering in the kingdom of God the “on earth as it is in heaven” part of the Lord’s Prayer.
There is a freeing nature to faith, it’s not lackadaisical or laze-fare, it’s holding onto something I can grasp, it’s looking with eyes on the kingdom of God and looking at humanity, all of humanity with eyes of love – God’s love. I am a part of the kingdom work that ushers in perfect shalom and as long as I have breath in my lungs I hope to continue on with the various tasks set before me starting with what’s in front of me in the now.

It can be difficult to make the jump from belief to faith, but it is by all means necessary, to lay one’s life prostrate before God in surrender of what we make of him and simply let God be God. I’m not out of the woodwork yet, I still have self-imposed ideas of who I think God is and who God isn’t, but he’s working on my heart, he’s working on my beliefs and is extending his hand saying “follow me”.

“Follow me” is a lifelong challenge, because it doesn’t always come with a map, there sometimes is no itinerary, it’s all a matter of…you guessed it…faith. Sometimes I feel like God is absent or even not there, it’s something I’ve been wrestling with, but I realize that in faith sometimes it’s a matter of keep on walking despite the foggy and murky path that’s in front of me, sometimes I don’t see the light, but I keep going because he helps me to keep going.

Take God by faith, keep walking even if you don’t see, keep walking by faith and not by sight.

Learn to open your hands in faith, unclench your beliefs and allow God to come in and transform your life by faith with open hands.


Engagement over judgment

The other night at my youth ministry meeting with my fellow high school leaders and middle school leaders, we played a game of “5 minutes in the hot seat”, essentially 5 minutes of questioning the individual that was provided to us, to give ourselves a chance to talk and share a bit of who we are and our stories.

When it got to my turn I got a gist of the kind of questions my fellow youth ministry leaders were asking one another, and so prior to getting up there and answering I started mulling over my answers, but one of my favorite youth leaders asked me out of the blue “what is something you hate?” I responded as such.

I hate it when followers of Christ choose judgment over engagement in regards to the LGBT community. When Christians make assumptions, or all they have on their mind is same sex sexual intercourse, there’s a wall that gets put up and those kind of Christians keep it up, maintain it, but by no means do a lot of Christians step forward to question the wall, leap over the wall, or even break down that wall.

The wall will not always exist within Christian culture, I have faith in God that it will come down completely over time, but I do recognize that while laws on a government level are yanking down the wall (good stuff!) it will take a while for people’s hearts to change…and this is where I come in.

As a straight advocate for equal rights for everyone who is made in God’s image, I believe I am called to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community. I choose engagement over judgment, and while I cannot change people’s hearts, I hope and have faith in God that through me and others who are like-minded and like-hearted will help others choose this path.
I do realize as in my own journey getting to this point it takes time, it takes having faith and holding it out with open hands instead of getting caught up in belief and certainty with closed hands. It also takes time to develop personal thoughts and concepts paired with tangible and dynamic love, getting away from “my mom says/my father says/my pastor says/my professors say” is a lengthy but worthwhile endeavor.

So that’s what I hate, but it’s a hate I will overcome with love, God’s love, it takes time but it will be worth it, I have faith it will be.