The Will of God
“I always think of a story I heard
on Christian radio,” she says
crossing her large arms
“About a woman
abused for years
by her husband.
He became a Christian.
It’s all worthwhile then.”
beat your wife
or girl Continue reading
I wish I could show
the beauty I see in you
when love looks through me
Many poets say that their poems just come to them, often fully formed. This is both how I usually write poems and why I haven’t written a lot more poetry. Usually it starts with some phrase that floats around my head for a while. Sometimes that’s all there is. I’ve had some phrases floating around my head for years that I’ve never figured out what to do with. (“A sense of the color of things” is my favorite.) But sometimes, I can get a couple more lines worked out, and I’ll sit down to write. When I’m really lucky, all the rest is just there. There’s always fiddling to be done, but the body of the poem has been provided.
For the last several days, the lines above have been floating around my head, but every time I sat down to write anything with them, I couldn’t go a single word further. This afternoon, I typed them out and once again couldn’t go any further. So I sat with it a minute and it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t supposed to go any further. I counted up the syllables and sure enough, I had a serviceable haiku.
It had been there all along. I just needed to stop trying to make it into something it wasn’t and look at it a little differently. Much like life sometimes we’re so busy trying to get things to me the way we think they are supposed to be that we miss what is. Maybe if we thought to stop and look a little differently more often, we would discover that everything has been alright the whole time.
A Tweet to the first person to guess correctly how old I was when I wrote this!
A Love Story
A turn of fate
A twist of the eye
The misalignment of moonlight
The glow of stars
And you are in love
Suddenly the world is blind
And you are beautiful
You’ve found someone to share your lunch with.
You cry at his jokes
And laugh at your wedding
Then you buy a frog
and the kids live happily ever after.
So you sell the washer and dryer
To buy a garden
Where you plant ladybugs until 3 pm
When it’s time to go, dear
And you ride away on your tandem bike.
I wrote this poem ages and ages ago but never thought it was very good. But lines from it keep popping into my head lately. So I thought I’d share.
I am the willow in winter
Long swaying branches
dance on frigid air
tinkling an icy fugue
the leafless branches
are all beauty, no life.
I will be the willow in spring
reaching down to choke the deep
and pull out life.
And I will dance
in warm, moist air
full of life
making shushing noises
as they rub together
these leaves will die again
the next time
the coldness of the world
overcomes the willow
One of the frustrations of writing my poor, little blog is that sometimes I write something that I think could be really important to people and because of my tiny reach into the blogosphere, it passes by mostly unnoticed. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an essay on what I called New Fundamentalism which was one of those posts. See, over the years I have often been accused of not taking the bible seriously or treated as suspect by fundamentalist/conservative evangelical types. They disapprove of my rejection of literal creationism or of the subordination of women or some such sacred cow. But as anyone who has read the things I write here can tell, I take the bible very seriously. I have devoted a ridiculous amount of time to study, prayer and research in my quest to understand the bible better. The real problem, in my opinion, is that traditional fundamentalists take the wrong things literally. So, I pulled out a list of often quoted but usually ignored verses which I proposed be taken literally by all believers, regardless of denomination or doctrine. But, like a lot of what I write, it mostly disappeared into the vapor of cyberspace.
I think that this matter is too important to allow it to just disappear like that without a bit of a fight. So, I have created a page dedicated just to this list of fundamental bible verses. It is called A New Fundamentalism. All it consists of is the essay and list of scripture verses I posted earlier. I’m simply looking for people to “Like” the essay and if they choose, pass the link around. Perhaps in a few days, I will be able to put together a button for people to put on their own blog pages to link to the site. I have also created a facebook page for the site that you can like and share with your friends.
This isn’t an attempt to compete with or displace anything. I really do think that the verses I collected represent an excellent starting point for anyone who is serious about their faith – from a homeschooling, creationism, complementarian fundamentalist Christian to a liberal miracle doubting, gay marriage supporting believer. As for the rest, God holds truth. We will continue to disagree about many things, but as one of the verses listed says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35. At this point, the body of Christ is known for many things, but love is rarely at the top of the list. And if love is not at the top of the list, then the world is right to wonder whose disciples we’re supposed to be.
So, please head over to the New Fundamentalism site and check it out. If you can abide by what is said there, like it, tweet it, share it! But let’s try not to let these vital fundamentals of our faith disappear into cyberspace.
I would quit
I have tried to quit
But it seems that I don’t know how
There is no window to submit your paperwork to
Or voicemail to leave a message on late at night.
You cannot march into God’s office
To announce your departure face-to-face
He will not reply, “I hate to see you go.”
No matter how hard
I try to quit
The well-worn ruts in my brain
Are etched out by more hours than I ever imagined
Spent in the company of the Divine.
The words carved into my psyche
Are taunting me and pulling at me
With that message I now want to quit:
“God is real. He loves you like a father
like a brother
like a servant
or a friend.
He loves me like a man
Longing for his beloved
Just wait. Just a little longer.
Resurrection comes with the dawn.”
I can no longer believe these
But I know no better guide to follow
Than these deep grooves
Sculpted into my brain.
Although now I am lost.
My lover will have to come for me.
If he is real
And if he is good.
I will know his voice
should it come
I have heard it often before
This may sound odd coming from someone who writes and thinks about Christianity as much as I do, but I rarely read Christian books. I don’t even visit Christian sights and blogs anymore. Most of what’s out there is just the same thing over and over or people arguing with each other. So its not usually worth my time. The one current author who is, in my opinion, a huge exception to this is John Eldredge. It’s not because I agree with everything he writes or think he’s the best writer ever (I don’t and he’s good, but not that good). It’s because he has this compelling view of Christianity and God and humanity and what is going on and what it’s all about that really resonates with my own understanding.
Because of this perspective, Eldredge is one of the few writers out there who can see and communicate how all of those things: Christianity, God, humanity, meaning and purpose – all work together. I think that the key is that his perspective is so firmly embedded in both the physical and the spiritual worlds and he doesn’t try to twist one to make it fit the other as most writers do. So he comfortably and un-apologetically uses movies and music and all the things we love to illustrate what love and faith and courage and struggle actually look like. He’s not afraid to tangle with the messy reality of the real world like so many Christian leaders are and he takes flack for that. And he does it without ever compromising the spiritual truths he is trying to explain. At any rate, I really enjoy most of his work. (If I could get every person to read one Christian book in their lives it would be his book Waking the Dead.)
The reason I am bringing this up is because Mr. Eldredge has a new book coming out called Beautiful Outlaw. From the product description:
Reading the Gospels without knowing the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off. The result is a dry, two dimensional person doing strange, undecipherable things.
In BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW, John Eldredge removes the religious varnish to help readers discover stunning new insights into the humanity of Jesus. He was accused of breaking the law, keeping bad company, heavy drinking. Of being the devil himself. He was so compelling and dangerous they had to kill him. But others loved him passionately. He had a sense of humor. His generosity was scandalous. His anger made enemies tremble. He’d say the most outrageous things. He was definitely not the Jesus of the stained glass.
The book is due out October 12 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
Now, I am a fan of Eldredge and normally that would be enough for me to be happy to see the book coming out but it wouldn’t be enough for me to write a blog post about it. The reason I am particularly interested in this book and I hope it does very well is because of an odd connection that came up between my book, The Upside Down World and Beautiful Outlaw. For those who haven’t read it, The Upside Down World is an ecclectic (read odd) assortment of essays, poems, art, notes, spiritual memoir, stories and what not. It contains a couple of essays from this blog, but mostly the material in it had been written over the course of many years. I did have to clean up and finish a lot of what went into the book, but the basic material was created before the book was even an idea. However, when I was nearly done preparing the book for print publication, I felt strongly lead to write a short story called “What to Do When You Wake Up In Hell” to include in the book. It’s one of the things in the book that I’m most pleased with, actually.
“What to Do When You Wake Up In Hell” is the imaginative telling of a disciple asking the resurrected Jesus what it was like to be dead. In it, I describe what I imagine might be the internal dialogue of both the disciple and Jesus to illuminate what each person’s experience has been and how each of them thinks about what has happened. (You will have to buy the book and read it to get the detail; I can’t begin to do the story justice here.) So, the day after I finished writing this section and had just re-read it and decided that I was pleased with how it came out, I happened to find a months old, unopened newsletter from Ransomed Heart, Eldredge’s ministry. I opened it up and read about this upcoming book Beautiful Outlaw which I had not heard about before. The letter contained an excerpt from the book and in that excerpt, I could see that Eldredge was doing exactly what I had just done with my short story. He’s putting flesh and bones and reality back into stories that we all know, but which have lost much of their power to over-use, shallow reading, the bible’s oddly flat descriptions and so on. And even better, the person of Jesus he’s describing is very familiar to me. It fits with what I know and have experienced and best of all its real. I’m mean, there’s a chapter in the book that’s called “Jesus had poopie dieapers” or something like that. The Jesus he is talking about and which I also had in mind when I wrote that story is not some sanitized, Sunday-school approved two dimensional character, but a real personality.
Those of you who know me personally know what a difficult summer this has been for me. But all along the way, God has been dropping little hints like pebbles left to mark the trail He wants me to follow, telling me that I’m going the right way and that He hasn’t abandoned me – no matter what it looks like from the outside. Reading that newsletter about the book Beautiful Outlaw was one of those pebbles for me. I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that Eldredge has a vision and an understanding of the person of Jesus that is so close to my own. I think it is God moving to reclaim the reality of who He is and what he and his son are about in a world which desperately needs something much more real than anything the church has had to offer for a long time. And as much as I’d like to have my book be a financial success, seeing that God is moving and there are people like Mr. Eldredge listening and responding is even better.
So, that’s why I’m excited enough about a book I haven’t even read yet to write about it here. I hope that even if you aren’t the sort of person who normally reads Christian books, I’ve piqued your interest enough for you to consider putting your order in for Beautiful Outlaw. And I most certainly hope you will order a copy of my book, The Upside Down World as well. Come on, people – for every two copies of the book I sell, a 20 month old Trotter child will receive a week’s worth of diapers from Walmart. It’s for a good cause! lol.
Now you can keep up with new posts and learn about upcoming events via facebook. Just click the “Like” button at the top left of this page and you will receive notifications via your facebook feed when a new post goes up. I will also be using the facebook page to share favorite daily quotes and to collect questions for a new feature I’m working on that I’m calling “Ask the Crazy Christian Lady a Question”. So, please join me on facebook today!
1. It works just like the rest of the publishing/music/entertainment industry.
2. It is a system which grants power, money and influence to a very few while the majority of people God has gifted struggle to get anyone to even LOOK at the fruits of their gifts.
3. It works 100% according to the rules of the world and NOT AT ALL according to the rules of God’s kingdom.
As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I have been working to put together events that are built on an idea/conviction I had to offer a new, better, more Godly model for conducting business. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reaching out to churches and charities to work with on this. Part of what I have been trying to do is expand my idea to include others who have things they have written, recorded or otherwise created. This is because I know that there are so many others who have poured their hearts and love of God and His people into their work and have no audience for it. Also, I really do think the church should be leading the charge to find better ways of doing things than what the rest of the world is doing.
I’m sorry to report that my experiences have not put church leadership in a good light. Most church leaders I have approached pretty much ignored what I had to say and assumed that I was just trying to gain access to their community in order to promote myself. Without so much as looking at a single page of the book before handing it back to me, I was ignored or dismissed. A couple, including the pastor of the local large, hyper-conservative evangelical church in town were at least willing to listen and look long enough to see that I’m not a hack and I am being sincere. However, even those who listened and liked what I was saying and proposing to do stopped short of being willing to participate because they are afraid of seeming to endorse something other than what comes out of Zondervan or Varsity Press. I even tried explaining that my particular book wasn’t the point and I would be happy to help arrange something without using my book. But several pastors told me that they have all sorts of writers and artists running around their churches who would like the congregation’s support and in order to preserve peace (“Do not think that I came to bring peace” said Jesus), they say no to everyone. It’s disgusting, quite frankly.
I could probably write a book on the problems with the response I have seen from the church, but I’ll just point out two:
1. God’s 2 most potent testimonies are the bible which is filled with poetry, music, stories and such and His amazingly beautiful creation. The bible says that God created the world with words – The Word, in fact. Poetry, music, stories, proverbs and essays are near and dear to God’s heart*. And the beauty of creation is a testimony to the vital and special place in the heart of God for art. Yet determinedly refuses to support, nurture and embrace those who God has gifted as poets, writers, musicians and artists. Some do better than others, but almost no churches will just sell the work of those creative people God has put into their midst so that they can support themselves through their work or just get the fruits of their creative activity into the hands of the rest of the church. We are all part of the body of Christ and have been given roles to play – as long as you aren’t creative. Then you’re like leg hair or something. At best a church will provide a corner for people gifted in these ways to go sit in together. Meanwhile, the music sung and the books that the pastors read and the materials used by small groups all come nicely pre-screened and pre-packaged by the corporate entities that God’s people allow to control what gets seen or heard by good proper Christian people. It’s sick and disgusting and a complete abuse of the gifts and talents that God has so graciously planted in pretty much every church. The fact that churches actually think it’s perfectly OK to refuse to do anything that could appear to be support for or promotion of those gifted in creative work is nothing less than spitting in the face of God and at the work of the Holy Spirit.
2. This wretched treatment of God’s creative people is driven almost entirely by fear. Which is just about as un-biblical a reason as exists. Over and over and over and over God tells us not to be afraid. Every time an angel appears, the first thing out of their mouth is “don’t be afraid”. Jesus spoke about not being afraid more than he talked about heaven. The bible says that perfect love casts out fear. And yet the church and its sheeple leaders are nothing if not afraid. They are afraid to support people following God with their creative talents because they don’t want to be seen as “endorsing” something that might *gasp* be different from what everyone already thinks. As if God needs our protection from those who slip into error at times in their work (which is a good description of all of us, not just those who write or sing or create)! But more often than not, our churches are lead by and run by sheeple who have heard their shepherd’s voice, but are still fearful, stupid, unthinking animals rather than mature, courageous, wise friends of God.
Sadly, the places where I am getting a good response to my book are at local bookstores and coffee shops. There the owners have taken the time to read the book and are more than happy to promote my work and arrange events. Like always, the organized church is so consumed with keeping anything that might conceivably be a threat out that it’s easier to get the secular world to give an ear to what is good than it is to get so much as a hearing in the church.
Now, I write a lot about religion here, but I tend not to get too much into my own spiritual experiences. However, I’m going to share something here which will probably convince those of you on the fence that I’m crazy. At this point, I don’t even care. Over the winter, I had virtually the same vivid dream 3 nights in a row. I won’t go into all the details, but the core of the dream was that I was shopping with my husband for a house. In my dream, I had some sort of leadership role and was looking for a home to use as shelter and protection for both myself and the people who I was charged with leading. (This was a particularly tricky assignment because the world was breaking down into chaos and there was a totalitarian something in place that watched everything carefully.) In my dream, I was being taken to houses with for sale signs out front by a realtor. The houses I visited had large gardens out back which was important to me because I love to garden. However, as I looked around the garden, I was puzzled to discover that they were filled with strange plants that I found unattractive and that I didn’t recognize (I have a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of plants used in gardens, so this was very weird). I also discovered that each house had a cavernous underground area filled with people. These people did not go to the surface, but were happily living their whole lives underground. I was pleased to discover that there were so many people in these underground areas because these were the people I was trying to reach with the provisions I had been given. At one point, I had even found a couple of orphaned children on the streets on the surface and was able to place them with families living underground who were eager to take care of them.
Because this dream was so vivid and repeated 3 nights in a row, I shared it with a few people. One of them is a man who has had the ability to understand spiritual things deeply since childhood. (As a child, he was known in the churches he attended as “the prophet”. To this day every time he walks into a church, someone there refers to him as “pastor” despite the fact that he is not a pastor and would be completely unfit to be a pastor. In addition, I have found his understanding to be very reliable many times in the past.) This man took time over the course of a couple of months to meditate and pray over these dreams. This is what he told me he was lead to see them as meaning:
The houses are churches. They have for sale signs out from because the church is for sale. Either through the pursuit of money or by working by the same rules that the rest of the money-hungry world works. I was going to the churches to teach and correct errors which have warped the church. The gardens are the leaders and the people that the church grows. They were unknown and unattractive to me because they were not the sort of plants/people that God creates and grows, but were the sort of plants/people that the church is creating. The caverns and people underground were the majority of people who are being kept in the dark by the church above them. Although they are being kept underground, these are God’s people. This is why these people were the ones to take orphaned children in and who were hungry for the provisions (teachings) I had obtained for them.
Like I said, this may be the post that puts me firmly in the crazy camp, but I have been following God for a long, long time and done many crazy things in order to follow Him where He has sent me. What I share above is the complete truth of what I dreamt and the interpretation that was given to me by this man. Take it or leave it or don’t care about it at all as you see fit. But the more I am interacting with churches and their leaders, the more I am inclined to give the dream and interpretation credence. So, make of it what you will. But I really do believe that Jesus changed the world radically, but the people who claim to lead God’s people are almost as dull and visionless as ever. Or at least that’s my opinion at the moment!
*Did you know that many of Jesus’ parables were poems? Kenneth Bailey who is an expert in middle eastern culture and Hebrew poetry, explains how the poetic form of the stories is worked into the meaning of the parables Jesus told in his book The Peasant and the Poet. I have a degree in literature and write poetry myself and I was astounded at the complexity and sophistication of these poems that Jesus created. In my semi-expert opinion, these are poems that rival the best poetry humans have ever written. Jesus was no amateur!