For Better Mental & Spiritual Health, Make New Mistakes

Is this you?

Thanks to Mindful Christianity Today for the photo (  )

Thanks to Mindful Christianity Today for the photo ( )

You’re doing something that you Know is fruitless, that you Know is damaging, that you Know prevents your True Self from blossoming, but you don’t walk away because you’ve already invested so much time and attachment? 

Never mind the fact that you’re scared because you can’t see the other side of “Enough. Done.”

Could be a job.
Significant Other.
Habit of leaving.
Monetary investment.
Blood relationship.
A closet.
An addiction.
An image of yourself as weak, unworthy, unsafe, needed. Rescuer.

Fully 80% of the counseling and coaching I do is getting people past “what if?” and “but...”

Beloved, just today, promise your Self to make new mistakes instead of clinging to the old ones.

God is with your True Self.

Me too.

Hearing the Peal of The Nicene-ish Creed

Hearing the Peal of The Nicene-ish Creed

The Nicene Creed rings an ancient bell in my soul. Somehow it ties me to two thousand years of earthly Christians, all around the globe, as well as to the eternal Church that exists whether there are any earthly Christians or not. I experience it as a sacrament: a sacred and mystical act that both instantiates something and represents something far greater. The concepts each word represents are far deeper and richer than it seems; … Still, given my understanding and experience of God, I’ve been playing with the language a bit. Not to soften its historical pealing, but to allude to that depth more fully.

Sacredness, Sex, Attachment, & The Ick Factor

Sacredness, Sex, Attachment, & The Ick Factor

When we realize that someone else’s sexual activity is outside our personal boundaries, our gut response is usually “ick.” I call this the “Ick Factor.” When activities (sexual or not) are beyond our personal acceptable boundaries, we emotionally assign negative value to those activities. “Ick” is an absolutely natural response.

In my experience, the “Ick Factor” is the feeling least likely to be overcome with logic.  

Depression: For Friends And Family Who Don't Understand What Happened

Depression: For Friends And Family Who Don't Understand What Happened

I used to describe chronic depression in terms of ocean waves: You’re walking down a dry street toward a favorite park on a sunny day when you hear the rumble behind you, the sound of a big wave coming up behind your back. When it crashes over you, all you can do is ride it out, avoid undertow, and look for a buoy.

An average big ocean wave is 410 tons of water.

Chronic depression is a physical condition that disproportionately affects mood, feeling, and mental imagery.

Why Having A Vision Is Essential For Having Inner Peace

Stuckness isn’t really fear. It’s more like inertia. You convince yourself that you’ll hurt someone irreparably, or that you’ll never earn a living again, or that This is your Last Chance at happiness, and so you simply don’t move.

Stuckness is that voice that walks you up to an imaginary canyon, has you look across, and when you see nothing but fog shouts, “See! You have NO IDEA what will happen!!”

Sex, Gender, and Why Jesus Was Feminine

The God of contemporary evangelicalism looks a lot like a caricature of YHWH (God as portrayed in their Old Testament).

The God of contemporary evangelicalism is petty. Self-defensive. Angry.

That God is a conspiracy theorist: He is in pitched battle with an unseen enemy who has secret control over everybody.

That God is misunderstood: He must be defended and promoted at every turn.

That God’s brutality and viciousness is righteous: He is merely responding to the betrayal and lies of His lessers.

August 15, 1998

20 years ago my husband Bran and I were united in the bonds of holy matrimony.

This was our second wedding.

Our first had been in San Francisco City Hall, on July 2. At the first one, our attendant was one of the lawyers in the publishing firm at which I was an editor. She brought red roses. I brought a license.

We got married on July 2 because I was a United Methodist pastor, starting a new call and moving into the parsonage (the house for the pastor, owned by the church) on July 4. My District Superintendent (that was my United Methodist boss) would not allow my husband-minus-six-weeks to move into the parsonage with me, and I wasn't going to pay first, last, and two months' rent for an apartment for him. So, two days before we loaded up the back of Bran's pickup truck, the San Francisco County Clerk pronounced us legally married. The irony was not lost on Bran and me. We were officially forbidden from living together because our relationship hadn’t been consecrated in a church…which was solved by a legal, and very unchurchy, execution of a marriage contract.

As I told my supervisor: we had rendered unto Caesar and were moving in.

That District Superintendent turned out to not like me very much.

So on August 15, Bran and I got really married, in front of God and two pastors and 60 people or so.

Most of the arrangements--flowers, altar, photography, cakes, handmade wood communion set--were done by friends or acquaintances. We had two cakes. One was white--rose, white chocolate, and raspberry--at the church. The other was chocolate, with shards of chocolate sticking out all over. They were made by the soccer-playing baker who had lived in my apartment building a few years earlier.She later became The Elizabeth Falkner, but then she was just "hot baker Elizabeth."  Hot did not refer to her rising popularity.

Big days become a collection of mental snapshots. Here is my favorite: I peeked out of the church library, where I was sequestered and bored (and a little panicked), and saw my fiance doing one of the tasks I had anticipated a friend doing: adding rose water to each of the champagne flutes. I'd purchased medicine droppers to make it go quickly, but Bran hadn't seen those, and was carefully measuring out and dripping those liquid flowers into each of eighty narrow glasses with a tablespoon.

Our two decades together haven't been easy. No one's are. But two things have made them possible: God, and Bran's deep desire to please me. When things get hard, I remember that tablespoon, and the drip drip of rose water into narrow glasses, just to make me happy.


Why I'm No Longer A Christian

Even when I was ordained into professional ministry, twenty years ago last month, I was far more comfortable with pastor than with Christian.

Where I come from, the noun Christian has always been an epithet, spat rather than stated. As an adjective, used to describe kindness in action, it's been a fine word, though charitable, compassionate,  or loving work as well, because most of those kind actions weren't performed because of a belief in Christ. 

The other day, my School For Seekers partner (musical artist Benton Stokes) and I recorded an episode of our podcast, Cocktail Theology, asking: Is Christianity doing any good?

Benton comes from Nashville, where Christianity is in the water, like spiritual chlorination. As an #exangelical, in recent years he's shied away from saying he's a Christian because of all the truly awful people proudly declaring their Christianity.

Why Your Ideas About God Actually Matter.

Why Your Ideas About God Actually Matter.

Your deep beliefs motivate your actions. Your core ideas shape the way you perceive reality. If you think that you believe one idea but you really believe another, your actions will almost never get you the result you think you want.

Like, if you have the idea that God is all-loving and all-powerful, but really believe, deep down, that God is watching for you to mess up, you won't fully experience God's love.

"Make no mistake": Two Easter Poems

Hundred of thousands of sermons later, we are no closer to mechanism than the women were two thousand years ago. Resurrection remains a happy mystery: a good thing, lest we come to think that we are able to raise ourselves out of our own tombs.

When we face mystery, art is more effective than science, poetry more provocative than prose. Here are a few Easter poems, for illumination, if not explanation.


Seven Stanzas at Easter

John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.



“The Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus”  by Diego Valázquez  c.1620

By Denise Levertov

She listens, listens, holding her breath.
Surely that voice
is his—the one
who had looked at her, once,
across the crowd, as no one ever had looked?
Had seen her?
Had spoken as if to her?
Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he’d laid on the dying and made them well?
Surely that face—?
The man they’d crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumored now some women had seen this morning,
Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don’t recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen,
absently touching the wine jug she’s to take in,
a young Black servant intently listening,
swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.




Yesterday morning I had to do a hard reset of my phone to correct a mess of nonfunctionality. I backed up everything first, except, as it turned out, my text messages. Thousands of them. Reminders. Phone numbers. Photos. Early morning theological musings. And, most important, the daily trivial proof that I have friends and am valuable to them.... I felt unmoored, utterly adrift and alone.

Beware the Bible

Bibliolatry may be the most dangerous idolatry. It deifies words over the Living Word, prefers memorization to revelation, and deliberately places a 5000 year old stumbling block between God and God's little ones.

If you come to the Bible sincerely seeking to know God, intimately and lovingly, you will. If you come to the Bible to prove your doctrine and dogma (including atheism) right, you will. But the latter is neither salvation nor relationship. Which are, of course, what actually matter, and why the Bible was written in the first place.