Deconstructing my deconstruction…

Can we talk? I need to vent for just a sec…

I have to be honest about this. I am tired of deconstructing everything. It is exhausting. It is exhausting to be constantly in flux. It is downright demoralizing to be enraged by every single thing that comes across my path. This is not about being close-minded, or unwillingly to think of things differently. I don’t particularly like the idea that a person is somehow morally or spiritually superior if he or she is in deconstruction mode. It seems that these days, if you have come to a place of resolve, it is implied that you are bigoted, close-minded, unloving, unable to think for yourself, etc. For all the lament in the progressive Christian (PC) world about the arrogance of conservative Christians (CCs), PCs have their own brand of arrogance. Some are proud of their uncertainty in a way that some CCs are proud of their certainty. They lord if over others and judge people based on how willing they are to question everything. I would argue that is not a biblical view – on either side – but rather a symptom of the spirit of the age.

I’m just mouthing off here, and generalizing to a certain degree. But firsthand experience of this very situation has me up in arms today.

This is my thought here – there is nothing wrong with doubts and questioning. I suppose because I was born with the natural inclination to be nosey, I have never shied away from asking questions. “Why?” is my personal favorite. I also have a (sometimes) annoying need to figure things out, to figure how things work. I am like a dog with a bone when something is confusing: I will not stop until I feel I’ve mastered it. I met my match when the Lord apprehended me – He is beyond knowing and He reminds of this daily. But I digress…

When I first went to college, my career objective was to be an investigative journalist. That questioning, inquisitive mind is just a part of who I am. And I take that into every area of my life. I thrive on learning and developing new skills and knowledge. It can get me into trouble for sure; I want to explore every new idea that I encounter. I want to dissect it and study it. I will analyze something to death and then resurrect it so I can analyze it more. Some people get caught up in fear of missing out; I get caught up in fear of not knowing all the things. Which isn’t exactly a “thing”, but it’s my “thing”, and it can make me crazy sometimes.

Although I did have a very distinct and emotional moment during what you could call my “conversion story”, I didn’t start there. I started where I start most adventures – researching and questioning. I grew up in church, but had essentially become an agnostic in college. A number of “coincidences” in my mid-20s led me back to a familiar place: church. So I started off by studying about the reliability and authority of the Bible. I researched how the Bible is translated, how textual criticism is used in the process, and how we got the manuscripts used in translation. I learned about translation philosophies, read treatises about the value of word-for-word versus thought-for-thought translation, and the role of interpretation in the translation process. The evidence I found gave me confidence that the Bible I held in my hand was reliable in what it said. Were all my questions answered? No. But that journey formed the basis for my eventual surrender to the truth of the Gospel.

I don’t say all of this to brag, but to point out something that many of the deconstructionists – myself included – out there seem to forget: Not everyone who believes in all these things we are busy deconstructing do so blindly or thoughtlessly. Faith has its reasons. It is reasonable to believe in Christ. But because our reason has limits, faith is required to accept the evidence presented. There are thoughtless believers who just want someone to tell them what to believe so they won’t have to work hard figuring it out. But there are also thoughtless doubters, who are seeking something to believe that is easier to stomach, or feels less constricting. I don’t want to be either. And we should not be so quick to assume that the only expression of authentic faith is one that glories in our doubting. Faith brings assurance, even when doubt exists.

I have begun reading a book called Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty by Lesslie Newbigin. This particular quote is fantastic:

One does not learn anything except by believing something, and — conversely — if one doubts everything one learns nothing. On the other hand, believing everything uncritically is the road to disaster. The faculty of doubt is essential. But as I have argued, rational doubt always rests on faith and not vice versa. The relationship between the two cannot be reversed.

I love that. “If one doubts everything, one learns nothing”, but you can’t believe everything, so “the faculty of doubt is essential”. For doubt to have any meaningful end, it must rest on faith. Otherwise you live in a swirl of doubt with no hope to be found. In my view the question lies in what builds that foundation of faith upon which doubts can be constructively worked through. If everything is up for grabs, what is the centering point? What is the True North?

In this journey, I have left behind many things I have believed to be true that really are not. I have laid down certain convictions and sworn them off forever, only to pick them back up again after deeper study and reflection. I have been challenged by folks who believe differently from me to see things from a different angle, to consider another path. But if I had no True North, I would have no way to navigate those different ideas without losing my faith altogether. There is a sense in which I do not have a say on what “True North” is – the Christian faith is not simply a set of propositional truths, but there are certain truths I must affirm to rightly call myself a Christian.

There must be a rock upon which I stand, so that when waves of doubt and downright unbelief come crashing in, I will not be completely lost. So I must take a step back here and deconstruct my deconstruction. What exactly am I trying to prove? Is it healthy or necessary for me go through this practice, or am I doing it merely to prove how authentic I am (i.e., for self-centered motives that have nothing to do with truth-seeking)? Who exactly am I trying to impress and why?

Thank you for indulging me. Back to regularly scheduled programming soon…

Grace and peace…
m.

Full stop…

I am a Christ follower – I believe in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe in the virgin birth, the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ, the God-man, and His sacrifice for our sins. I believe in His bodily resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son and indwells me and enables me to see Truth in the Word, both written and incarnate. I believe in Word of God, that is the measure for life and faith. I do not worship the Bible; I worship the God to Whom it points. I believe Jesus is coming again to consummate His kingdom, and make all things new. In Him are truth, righteousness, and justice, and He will establish these at His return. I, along with all my brothers and sisters who have called on the name of the Lord, will reign with Him forever. Amen.

My life’s mission is to love Jesus and love people. To help people draw closer to Him. To magnify His name as I seek to follow after Him. To share the good news of the Gospel to those who do not know, and trust in God to do the work in their hearts that bring them to repentance and faith. I am to bear witness –  that is all I can do – to the wondrous works of our Lord. I am called to share His truth to all who will hear, and pray that all would come to know Him. All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

It does not say all who call on His name – and believe in Complementarianism/Egalitarianism, and cessationism/continuationism, and Calvinism/Arminianism, and…fill in the blank. It says ALL who call the name of the Lord will be saved. Full stop. It is okay to have convictions on these finer theological points, and to decide which make better biblical sense. But don’t hang my orthodoxy and ESPECIALLY my salvation on pet theological positions on secondary or tertiary doctrines. I am willing to be taught; but I am unwilling to be manipulated.

I am not a Calvin follower. Or Arminius follower. Or MacArthur follower. Or TGC follower. Or Strachen follower. Or Moore follower.

I am a CHRIST follower.

Full. Stop.

The broken places…

This past weekend, Rachel Held Evans died. She went into the hospital a few weeks earlier to be treated for the flu and an UTI. She developed a strange reaction to a medication they were administering to treat her infections that caused constant seizures. They placed her in a medically-induced coma to stop the seizures and seek to determine a cause.

Last week they began the process of weaning her off the coma meds. Unfortunately, this was not successful. Her brain began to swell, and the damage done was irreversible. She died early Saturday morning. An incomprehensible tragedy for family and friends. My prayers are with them.

Ever since I learned who Rachel Held Evans is I have struggled with her. She was a compelling writer and passionate advocate. She fought for her faith and faced her questions and doubts head-on. I did not always agree with her conclusions, and as someone who clings to the need for certainty, her ability to be comfortable with her doubting were both maddening and challenging to me at the same time. Sometimes I met that challenge with steely resistance, unfollowing her and others like her or swinging wildly to the opposite end of the theological spectrum to prove that I was a good, doctrinally pure Christian.

Of late, I have begun to question this clinging tendency of mine. The quest for pure, pristine doctrine has left me a crabby, dry woman who sees heresy at every turn. Instead of engaging others’ views with an open heart, I interrogate them to determine where they have strayed from what I have decided is orthodox Christianity. And many times, the things on which I judge are merely personal preference.

The historic creeds of the faith – the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, Athanasian Creed – are the benchmark for orthodoxy (small o) in my book. We have added layer upon layer to these core doctrines over the centuries, and find ourselves twisted up so tightly it is difficult to breathe – or let others breathe. Hear me when I say this: I am in no way saying that doctrine is not important. But doctrine and life have a way of becoming complicated. When we get to secondary and even tertiary doctrines and viewpoints, the grey areas become much harder to nail down.

Paul determined to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified. But that did not mean he didn’t wade into the murky waters of what that implied to everyday life in the churches to which he wrote. Much of our debates about doctrine stem from how we understand his admonitions to churches with reference to things like women in the church and home, or marriage. Were his responses culturally conditioned or hard and fast rules for all time? How do we tell the difference?

Women in ministry, human sexuality, the church’s response to social injustices, just to name a few are important issues that press in on us every day. What is the Bible’s message in these sensitive areas and how do we determine that? These are the questions we wrestle with in this generation – and I don’t think we are unique in our struggle.

On a personal level, the question for me is: where is the line to be drawn? There are beliefs that I consider “non-negotiables” of the Christian faith, meaning, things that must be believed and embraced to be called a Christian. That list is informed directly by the creeds I referenced above, and do not go beyond them. However, there are other, secondary doctrines, that are derived directly from these core beliefs that carry a fairly hefty weight – I am thinking of the doctrine of the Trinity – that are implied but not specifically named within the creeds, but logically follow from them. But even beyond that, there are tertiary issues that are directly impacted by those core doctrines, like the women in ministry issue, that are largely based on how you read the Bible and how you define the term “literal interpretation”, among other things.

The further you move out from the core, the greyer things become. And this is where I live right now.

I like the core. It’s certain, safe, and secure. I can fill on all the blanks in the core. The core is what holds me together. But I cannot escape these grey areas of faith, even though I try very hard to do so. This is not doubting for doubting’s sake, or being “authentic” and all those buzzwords. This is real life for me. I am a 46-year-old single Black female with no children. I am a bookworm and theology nerd. I am stubborn, highly opinionated, and given to melodrama from time to time. My idea of relaxing is reading a book on the five perspectives of the end-times.

I am also barren – meaning, I don’t just not have kids, I physically can’t have kids. I question God about why He has kept me single for so long, even though my passionate heart’s desire is to be married. I am fair-complexioned and at times can look racially ambiguous. Blacks and Whites alike question my “Blackness”, and I don’t feel comfortable in homogeneous settings of any race. I am not “Woke” in the current theological or social sense, but I also am very aware of real issues of racism, sexism, and oppression that still exist in our society. I believe the Bible means it when it says marriage is between one man and one woman, that God created us male and female by design, and this His design is best. But I don’t know how to reconcile that with friends and family I dearly love who are LGBTQA, and how to love them well and show them the beauty and grace of our Lord Jesus.

I bring all of this into my relationship with Jesus and ask Him to heal the broken places. But what does that mean?

I don’t want pat answers. I am an investigator; that is how I am wired. I pick things apart and put them back together again in order to understand how they work. I dig into the why of things just as much as the what. I am a hardcore Gen Xer, whose opinions are rarely sought after, and who do not live in the petri dish of sociologists like Millennials do. But my generation paved the way for our Millennial friends, mastering the art of skepticism and cynicism, and refining the language of snark. Mine was the generation of the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jerry Falwell’s Christian Right. TBN become a mainstay, and televangelists, faith healers, and prosperity gospel gurus began to rule the Christian airwaves. Authority became a curse word.

None of these things are excuses for non-belief. But they are stumbling blocks that should be seriously considered. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart and brings repentance. But loving my neighbor dictates that I take these things seriously and not brush them off or immediately label people who struggle with them. I have to walk through the grey areas to get to the core, and be okay with the fact that the grey will always be there until our faith becomes sight.

It is sad to me that it has taken the death of this courageous woman of valor to find enough courage within myself to even give voice to these things. But here I stand – I will take on my mantle and become a woman of valor as I was meant to be.

Thank you Rachel. You have run your race well; it is time to take your rest.

An ordinary measure of success…

Can I publicly process for a moment?

It seems odd to blog about blogging, which seems to be what I’ve been doing on this page at a torturously slow pace. But over the years, I have questioned the need for blogging – in particular, the need for me to blog. What is the point?

Today I came across a post on Tim Challis’ blog about the slow death of the personal blog. He wants to encourage a revival of this genre. Reading through the compilation of blog posts about blogging was a much needed encouragement to me. Many days, even as I think “I should write on my blog today”, I simultaneously ask the question why. My life is not spectacular. There is nothing profound or earth-shattering about my experience. I am not an expert of anything. What do I add to the cacophony of voices that litter the Internet landscape? It is quite small and humble, I assure you. Nothing that will get me a million likes or follows.

And I think that’s is quite alright with me.

So much of what the blogosphere has become of late is a screaming match between opposing views. Our social media saturated selves feel like we have a right to dress down anyone with whom we disagree, without concern of the impact of our vitriol on their lives, livelihoods, or emotional health. There is no such thing as grace, even within the Christian sphere of the Interwebs, for any mistake, no allowance for growth and change, no mercy when someone obviously screws up and recognizes it and owns up to it. No matter how you apologize, someone seems to think you haven’t apologized enough, or used the right words, and so on. It all gets a little tiring.

Writing is a deeply personal exercise. And yet I feel compelled to share it with others. But when you lay your heart out to bear for others to see, you run the risk of being trampled upon. Thus, the hesitation in reaching out at all.

But what if I look at this from a different angle? Here’s what I mean: Perhaps this seemingly endless state of writer paralysis (I’ve gone beyond writer’s block at this point) is that I am asking too much of myself. As I mentioned above, I am not a mover or shaker in any sense of the word. I’m just a person who loves to write. And I love to share how God is working in my life. I want to encourage and exhort for sure, but my goal is not to “blow up”, get a book deal and be a “professional Christian”. When I began blogging, my main objective was to help me work through all that I was learning as a seminary student. Somewhere along the line,  the goal changed, and now it seems I feel this pressure to want more of my writing. What’s my “niche”? Who is my audience? Is my introductory line catchy enough? What about branding? There are ministries out there that can help me craft my message and build my blog to be something that will draw in the readers. Illusions (or better delusions) or grandeur float around in my head. And while it would be cool to get published someday, my measure of success is much less dramatic than that.

I just want to write a coherent blog post that says something of substance that helps me and any reader grow. Even if it’s just one. I want to share the extraordinary love of Jesus that He has chosen to shower down on this remarkably ordinary person, a deep abiding love of which I am so unworthy. The goal is not be the next big thing in celebrity Christianity. I going for a more ordinary measure of success – doing something I love to do, to the glory of God, praying that in some way He will use it to bless others.

So at some point, I will get this writing life together and start writing about something other than writing. Until then, thank you for your patience…

Grace and peace…

m.

I am (not) my hair…

In 2006, Soul artist India.Arie released a song called “I Am Not My Hair”. I. LOVE. THIS. SONG. Check out some of the lyrics:

“I am not my hair,
I am not this skin.
I am not your expectations, no…
I am not my hair,
I am not this skin.
I am the soul that lives within.”

There were times when I felt the need to sing this song at the top of my lungs, to remind myself that I am more than what you see when you see me. My hair, my skin…they mean something, many things that I have never asked for them to mean. But beyond and beneath the exterior package is a real person who defies the simple definitions and stereotypes given to me. And so, this refrain is my soul song, proclaiming that “God don’t make no junk”. I am not an accident, and who and what I am is absolutely okay.

Hair – oh yes. The Black woman and her hair. That relationship is special. I had what was termed “good hair” – which basically means my hair was relatively easy to straighten. Or code for, “your hair is almost as good as White hair”. This, combined with my fair complexion was the bane of my existence. “A shy, nerdy Black chick with fair skin and “good hair” must be stuck up, must think she’s better than everyone else. And she ‘talks White’ too? Uh-huh, she think she White…”.

No, I think I’m just who God created me to be. No better, no worse. Just – me. But back then, I didn’t see it that way, couldn’t see it that way. Shame dwelled where contentment should have lived. And so, when this song hit the airwaves, it struck a chord in me (pardon the pun) that still rings in my heart. It gave voice to something I could feel but not articulate. And it made it okay for me to be confident in everything about who I am.

‘Fro Chronicles
Fast forward 10 years to the summer of 2016. That was the point at which I had reached the end of my patience with my hair. For most of my life, I had straightened my hair. Some of my earliest memories are of me sitting in front of a stove on a little wooden stool, while my mom worked through my hair with a pressing comb. As I got older, she transitioned to chemicals to straighten my hair. The natural coils were forced into submission by these chemicals. This was just the thing to do. Most of the Black girls and women I knew were either pressing or “relaxing” their hair.

But years of such abuse left my hair a hot mess. My hair was thinning, breaking off, and looking dry and lifeless. Something had to give. After years of debating back and forth, I decided to take the plunge. I went to my friend Valena’s home and let her do the “big chop”. All the processed hair fell to the floor and I was left with a little baby fro (picture on the left above) to start my journey. A journey into loving my hair just the way it was meant to be.

Loving My ‘Fro
I love my ‘fro! It is fantastic! My hair loves it too – I have not put heat or chemicals on my hair in two years, and my hair is thanking me for it. Breakage and thinning are no longer a problem, and it is growing like crazy! It has taken me most of these two years to really get to know my hair and how to treat it properly. I’ve learned that I have at least two different hair textures, which makes the curl pattern tighter in the back than in the front. I’ve spent crazy amounts of money trying to find the right mix of products that keep my hair and scalp healthy and keep my curls poppin’.

I have also developed a renewed and deepened respect for my mom and the drama and travail she went through taking care of this stuff when I was young. She should be sainted.

I’ve been asked a number of times if my decision to rock the natural is a political statement. It’s kind of sad to me that my hairstyle preferences must carry so much weight and meaning. It’s just hair! But it is a big deal. Back in the day, natural hair was looked down upon. Even with my so-called “good” hair, the idea of keeping my hair natural bothered my grandma so much she went behind my mother’s back and straightened my hair when I was two. Proper young ladies didn’t wear their hair like that, she said. She was the product of her generation, and many generations before her being told that what was intrinsic to our African heritage was ugly or wrong. Practically uncivilized.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the fro was a sign of Black pride. The image burned in my brain of Angela Davis with her beautiful coily crown and raised fist makes me stand a little taller. Yes, I do believe that ‘fro made a statement – I will not bow down to European standards of beauty or femininity. No doubt a political statement. No doubt a statement of identity, in a kind of pride in identity that makes no apologies for it.

My initial desires were not political in the least. They were practical – I didn’t want to be bald-headed! But as I have journeyed through this process, it has morphed into something more for me. Not a political statement so much as a spiritual one. Yes, a spiritual one.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God knit me in my mother’s womb. He gave me my physical features, my skin, my hair. Yes, even my hair. He knows how many hairs are on my head. And He knows how He created my hair. It’s no mistake. It’s not a defect. It is what it is. In all its glory. For His glory.

My hair, my skin, my nose, my eyes, my forehead – my being carries the history of my family. There is beauty, toil, pain, joy, sorrow, violence, love, hate, bondage, and freedom written into the coils on my head and the hue of my skin. All that my ancestors lived and died for lives on in me. I am not ashamed of these things. That history combined with my experiences are knit together just as truly as my physical being and form the foundation of my life as “ministry”, my life as a witness and testimony to God’s infinite patience, grace, and love. I will not live out who I am supposed to be in my generation until I claim all that transpired in the generations before me.

So, I am (not) my hair. I am (not) my skin. The soul that lives in me is shaped by the way God made me. And I will not be ashamed of it anymore.

Don’t block your blessings…

That’s one of those clichés that I’ve heard more times than I care to think about. It is usually meant as a form of encouragement: Don’t resist or seek to avoid those things that may seem unpleasant or unwanted. A hidden blessing may lurk underneath.

Cue the eye roll…

But there seriously is some truth to that statement. At times, our blessings come to us in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected places. On the flip side, what we think are blessings can often turn out to be anything but.

As I mentioned yesterday, I am currently journeying through a process to decide what I think about this whole biblical womanhood thing. I’m thinking about this as a single, childless 40-something Christian woman who wants to faithfully live out my days for the glory of my Lord and Creator. During this process, I’ve spent an awful lot of time trying to determine who I should and shouldn’t listen to, what voices I should embrace, and which ones I should shut out. And to a certain degree, that is a good thing. Some folks just don’t know what they are talking about, bless their hearts. Or they are so far afield they are dangerous.

But even in seeking to understand those who may not have it right or with whom I do not agree, I can still have a charitable heart and listen, even if I don’t agree. My foundational beliefs are there – my God is there. Ultimately, He is what grounds me, keeps me steady, helps me discern truth. In fact, it is in those conversations or interactions with teaching that I don’t agree with or understand that my own beliefs and convictions are refined and sometimes redefined. I have to be open to the fact that I am wrong sometimes.

So, as I embark on this new adventure, I’m not going to block any of those blessings! I am ready to be challenged, to grow, to move. I have a starting point – my non-negotiables (which I will share tomorrow). And I have my foundation in Christ. He steadies me and tethers me to Himself. I can depend on Him.

More later; until then, grace and peace…

 

On with it…

At the risk of stating the obvious, I haven’t blogged in a while. I think about it a lot, but just never seem to have the gumption to do anything about it. I seem to have a love/hate relationship with this whole blogging endeavor. I wouldn’t call myself a great writer, but I do love to it. Words are so important to me, and I use writing to sift through the crazy in my head and make sense of it. My journals are filled with the innards of my thought process on all manner of subjects, and very little of it ever makes it to my blog anyway. But over the past five or so years, it has been less so.

As we near the end of one year and consider the new, I have been thinking a bit more about blogging. Notably: Is it worth it for me to maintain my blog going forward? Is it worth the money I spend to maintain my domain name for my blog? Plainly stated: Is it worth it at all? The answers to these questions depend on the day and my mood – and what I’ve read on my Twitter feed.

Blogging was my saving grace when I was in seminary. Back then (2004 – gosh, has it been that long?!), blogging was relatively new. I could blog in relative anonymity, knowing that only the few people I told about the blog would ever happen across it to read it. I used it primarily to help me organize my thoughts around what I was studying. It was an electronic record of my theological reflections as I grew in understanding as a seminary student. I loved it. There was no such thing as “Black Twitter” or “Christian Twitter” – or any kind of Twitter – back then. Facebook was not a “thing” at that point. Pre-social media was a peaceful time…such fond, fond memories.

But now, blogging, vlogging, tweeting, and all manner of social media expression are a way of life. Anyone can start a blog and write about whatever they wish. Facebook and Twitter have become public forums to express whatever you wish, however you wish, to whomever you wish. And if you don’t agree with the prevailing opinion of the day (sometimes the hour), you will be blasted, shamed, and otherwise humiliated for all the world to see.

It’s difficult to know when you’re going to offend someone. And some days it seems that no matter what you say, someone, somewhere is going to take offense. Social media has given us all the ability air our grievances for all to see, put the offender on “blast”, and blow up someone’s online life with 280-character bites and a Twitter thread. Normal people living their normal lives say one wrong thing and they go “viral” in 10 seconds or less, often with alarming results. We feel freer for whatever reason to spew venom on social media on people we don’t even know, and not care at all what the consequences of those words will have. It is our “right”, after all…

Even for Christians.

And I say “we” because I have been an active participant in this sort of thing more times than I would care to admit. It’s so easy to read, react, and then think, especially when your reactive vitriol gets a decent number of likes or retweets. But if it were ever to happen to me, I would be appalled and indignant. And so, I hesitate to show my cards, lay them out there for all to see and scrutinize. How utterly hypocritical, right? Shamefully, yes.

See, this is the thing: I’m no expert. Yes, I went to seminary. I know big theological words, and I’m not afraid to use them. I love big theological words – not because I feel special or superior for knowing them, but because I’m a nerd. I am a theology geek, and I love it. And since I often write about the Bible, I want to be as sure I can be that I’m not writing something crazy or heretical. But expert? I’m not. I’m just an ordinary Christian with a love for writing about Jesus and passion to share it with others.

But here I am, wondering if it is even worth it anymore. I have thoughts, lots of thoughts, about lots of things. Theological issues, social justice issues, race issues, gender issues…boy, do I have thoughts! And opinions! Lots and lots of opinions! But when I journal about those things, I hesitate to post them for a number of reasons: 1. because sometimes my thoughts and opinions are just plain over the top, rough around the edges and are better kept hidden away in my journal; and 2. because I know in the back of my mind that the possibility exists that something I say might trigger someone and take things where I don’t want them to go. Not because I’m some important somebody with a platform; but because that is the way of the Internet. It is way too easy to go “viral” these days for all the wrong reasons!

I also know that I will not be Black enough, liberal enough or woke enough for some – or conservative enough, demure enough, or proper enough for others. Someone will deem me extreme, while another will consider me a sellout or an oreo. And although I’ve heard all of these things more than a few times in my life, it is no less exhausting and dispiriting. I resist being labeled.

But we love our labels.

But I cannot live out these labels in ways that will please everyone all the time – no one can. So I will not try.

My task, my desire, my GOAL in blogging has been to share the love of Jesus and passion for the Word of God that points us to Him! I want to share the truth of God’s Word. I desire to be more biblically literate; and for me, that literacy must entail sharing what I’ve learned with others. I lament the biblical illiteracy that has infected the American Church. I want to play a part, however small, in reversing that trend. If I need or am compelled to approach touchy subjects like race or gender or the like, then so be it. But the goal here is to share words of life, not pick apart our current social or political situation.

Somehow that has gotten lost in all this other….stuff. And while this other stuff is important, it was not the original purpose of this blog. I just get caught up on these rabbit trails and one thing leads to another…you know how it is! But fruitful discourse on issues so weighty cannot be had in these settings, at least as far as I have seen. Or better put: There are those who are expressly called to such a ministry, but I am not one of those expressly called people. So, I stay in my lane. It comes down to this: I have been trying to be something I am not, and it is time to correct course. I am an ordinary Christian who loves God, loves His Word, and wants to share His Word with others. That’s it.

My thoughts and convictions on issues of social concern are largely born out of my local reality, the community in which I live, the local church family to which I belong, and the personal relationships I have with flesh and blood people in my sphere. This is not to say that I am not aware of or do not care about more global issues. Or that I won’t talk about these things as context and conviction require. But I think the difference is one of focus. My focus is considering how to know God through His Word and live a life that faithfully reflect that truth. That focus will require discussion of hard topics, but the limits of the medium will require some humble realism on my part. What I share on a public forum is only a snapshot of a much more complex life, too complex to truly express to people I cannot see and hear and hug and share coffee with (coffee is a must).

This is not a cop-out; it is a conviction I hold, a conviction that shapes how I desire to write and minister and love. Because a part of me is compelled to share in this very public way. But only as far as I deem that it is bearing fruit in my life and the life of whomever happens to read what I have to say.

It may seem unnecessary for me to go to these lengths to explain myself. After all, who am I? I am an unknown, I don’t have a public ministry to speak of, and my readership is relatively low. Chalk this one up to my trying to organize the jumbled mess of thoughts in my head into a coherent conviction. A re-calibration of sorts so I can start off this new year fresh and centered anew on why I began to write in the first place.

Now, on with it…