Welcome Back, My Friends, To the Show That Never Ends

To all my friends and followers on SpiritualDrift:

Well . . . here I am again. I’ve not written anything here for almost a full year now. I’ve visited a few times, like an old friend in an old haunt with the old jukebox and the same old crowd. But I’ve not felt compelled to stay long enough to have any kind of conversation.  Maybe because I haven’t had anything to say. Maybe because I wasn’t sure if anything I DID have to say would even make much of a difference. Maybe because there were times I just didn’t care. Maybe because there were times I cared too much.

Each time I “revived” SpiritualDrift, I thought, “This time I’m gonna do it! This time I”m serious! Besides, I’ve GOT to keep writing these posts! I’ve got to keep my name out there!” But the one question I could never answer was–why?

Until now . . .

You see, writing is something that I’ve come to learn I’m deeply passionate about. For the longest time–most of this year, in fact–I wasn’t sure I was. I questioned a lot of things–my commitment, my talent, the “worthwhileness” of it all. But I’ve come to the conclusion that my passion remains. I have written a book (in the realms of fantasy fiction no less!), and begun a series, that I’m truly proud of, with characters that I love, in a genre that I never thought would appeal to me. After all, others (including good friends) have trodden this ground before. What do I have to say? What do I have to add? How can I make a difference, and make my mark?

Well, here I am, and hopefully the writing itself will answer those questions.

I am eternally grateful for those of you who have come along with me, stuck it out, come back, or are connecting for the very first time.  I don’t know if anything I have to say will change the world. But, if anything, I hope that what I write–be it fiction or non-, book or post–will make someone’s day a little brighter, make them smile, make them think a little harder (or differently), give them a bit of escape, or perhaps find a kindred spirit—in me, or in one of my characters.

In the meantime, I am going to be doing some serious looking at reviving SpiritualDrift, and my brand new site, Shadewriter.com, having to do with all things Fantasy, Suspense, and fiction related, will be up and running soon. And, as I said, my new book is finished and tentatively set for a mid- to late-January release.

As far as SpiritualDrift is concerned, I can’t help but echo (in fact, quote) what I wrote in a post from a year ago: I’m currently reading over quite a few of these old posts I’ve written over the past several years–some posted, some not. And, I’ve decided to leave them all up—as much for myself as for anyone else. These 400+ posts are an ongoing chronicle of my faith journey so far. Signposts and off-ramps. Potholes and switchbacks. All the different things, thoughts, and feelings, I’ve encountered along the way. It’s been a great journey. It’s been an ugly journey. But, over everything, it’s been my journey.

Honestly, I don’t agree with the “me” of several years ago. Nichole Nordeman put out a song last year on her “Every Mile Matters” CD called “Dear Me” that pretty much sums up how I feel about “me” now, and the “me” of back then.  If I can find it, I’ll post it below. But, suffice to say, I’m not the same man, husband, father, Christ-follower, that I was six months ago, let alone six years ago. Even more, I have no idea who/where I’ll be six months or six years from now!

If nothing else, I’m learning patience in this publishing process. Everything worthwhile takes time. There’s a lot that’s happened in the last year (personally, and professionally). And, there’s a lot that is going to need to happen in the next few days, weeks, and months. But again, here I am. Anything I write, from here on out–be it in book form, blog post, tweet, what have you, fiction or nonfiction–is something I believe in, something I’m passionate about, and something I feel driven to write.

Spiritual Drifters, I may not see you again for another year, and, you know what? That’s okay!  Again, THANK YOU to you all–my family, and my friends (new and old). It’s good to be back, even if it’s just this once!

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Do I Believe in a Literal Hell? (A belief wrapped in a confession)

This is a question I’ve been contemplating for years, and it was easy to say ‘yes’ at first. After all, the Bible said it, I believed it, that settled, at least for a while.  But then, along the way, something happened: I began to wrestle with doubt; I let a few questions seep in; and, oddly, over time, my certainty was replaced by an assurance in the unknown.

I began to walk by faith rather than by text.

Scripture is wonderful for knowledge, for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).  But I don’t put my faith in just text.  My faith is in God, and in the whispers and movement of the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe that faith, nor God, can be placed in boxes. They aren’t that small. They’re vast and limitless. They are oceans:  deep and wide, wild and restless.

So, here I am today, re-examining the question once again: Do I believe in a literal hell?
Well…yes, yes I do.
But here’s the rub: what exactly do we mean when we say, “hell”?
Do I believe in “hell” as some fire and brimstone, eternal torture chamber?
No, not really.
Not anymore.  Let me explain… Continue reading Do I Believe in a Literal Hell? (A belief wrapped in a confession)

An Update….

I recently read over a page draft for something I once called “Going a Little Deeper”. These were articles I’d written that, at the time, explained in more detail my thoughts and beliefs on such heady content as Hell, Salvation, Church, Doubt, and even scriptural verses like John 14:6.
Man, I was an arrogant little bastard! (Full disclosure: I still can be!)
I set out to look over these “Going a Little Deeper” posts to try and update how I viewed some of these admittedly hot button topics, but, I couldn’t. Not that I still cling to these values that I once held so dear and so pridefully. Not that I don’t. It’s just that, along the way, especially lately, I’ve learned quite a few more truths about myself than I have in Truth of any grand spiritual or scriptural kind.
In fact, one of the things I’ve come to learn is this: The deeper my faith becomes, the less I seem to know. Or maybe, more accurately, the less I feel certain of.
I heard an interesting Atheistic summarization of the Christian argument the other day: “So, I either believe in the God of the Bible, and in Jesus, or I’m going to burn in Hell?” they said. “Some choice.”
Exactly! Some choice!
We Christians have boiled down our faith to a simple issue of certainty—you’re either in or you’re out. And we feel comfortable having that be our main, and often only, evangelical calling card. In fact, that’s all Christianity has become to the too-vast majority of us: A get out of Hell free card.
We feel okay with that of course because we’re in!
And Jesus? We’ve reduced Him to playing the bit part of door man, or maybe “gate” or “good shepherd” to keep it biblical. If only we could read a few verses later into that metaphorical story (John 10 if you’re interested) when Jesus also says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
Who are these “other sheep”? And, what will “my voice” sound like…to them?
That’s another thing I’ve come to learn: Faith is messy.
Faith is not tidy. Faith is anything but certain. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” And neither confidence nor assurance equate to certainty.
I’m currently reading over quite a few of these posts that I’ve written over the past several years, some posted, some not. So far, many of these I’ve decided to leave up—as much for myself as for anyone else. These 400+ posts are an ongoing chronicle of my faith journey; signposts and off-ramps and potholes and switchbacks that I’ve encountered along the way. It’s been a great journey. It’s been an ugly journey. But, it’s been my journey.
And, surprise, surprise, I’m not the same man, husband, father, Christ-follower, that I was six months ago, let alone six years. Even more, I have no idea who/where I’ll be six months or six years from now!
One last thing I’ve come to learn: In whatever I write, I’ll likely contradict myself at some point. And that’s okay. I’m in good company. So does the Bible—and it’s inerrant!

The Prodigal Son, Re-revisited

I was in the process of rewriting my “About Me” page on Spiritual Drift, and I came across a few things I’d written in the past, including my belief on hell. I decided not to include any of that there (yet), but instead, I wanted to write something here about my beliefs; first off, on whether (or if) we are born “sinners.”
Well…
No; I no longer believe we are born sinners. And I certainly don’t believe we are born sinners in the hands of an angry God.
If anything, we are born, lost.
In fact…
Maybe we wake up, and maybe we find ourselves with a case of amnesia. Confused and alone. In a pig’s sty of all places. Surrounded by slop. Dirty. Aching. Scared. Hungry. Looking even at the cobs the pigs eat and wishing we could somehow fill our own bellies.
Then, we look up, across the waters, to see a small town on the other shore. Somewhere, in the back of our minds, we recognize that place. We don’t know how, we don’t know why, but somehow we just know; that village is “home.”
Maybe it’s because we feel a tug, a yearning in our chest, in our hearts and deeper still. Urging us on. Pulling us toward that place.
To “home.”
Not all of us will heed that call though.
Some will raise their eyes and look across the waters but feel, even though we are not sure where we are, why or even how we got here, it must have something to do with there, with that place, even if we recognize it as “home.” And our mind is torn: Either sorrow and shame eat away our hope, and we end up feeling we no longer deserve to return, or; even if we could, anger and bitterness arise: Whoever is there must be responsible for why we are here; and though we remain unsure of where we are, here must surely be better than there.
But, for those of us who do rise—those who see hope in the distance and let it live—we will round the waters of the vast lake and, eventually, reach the horizon, unsure of what we will say or even who will greet us. We will prepare our speeches, our prayers of forgiveness and penance, chanting them over and over again, trying to hold the guilt and fear at bay until our throat is raw and our mind aches.
Then, we see a figure cresting the horizon, rushing toward us, arms outstretched.
Are they friend or enemy?
Are we the enemy? Will we be allowed to say our prayers? Will they be heard? Will our penance be enough?
Before we can even decide, the figure descends, wrapping us in His arms.
Fear grips us and yet…
His grip is stronger.
His delight is clear.
His laughter rings in our ears.
His tears of joy stream down His cheeks and onto our bare, dirt-caked shoulder.
He calls us “son”, and “daughter.”
He takes us by the hand and leads us inside.
He says we are honored guests. In fact, He orders a feast in our honor.
He calls us “son, and “daughter.” Is this our Father?
No, it can’t be: To dare and dream that we come from such splendor, such joy, such warmth?
No.
We came from the muck and mire of a pig’s sty. We know nothing more.
We believe we are filth and yet He calls us royalty.
We believe we are alone and yet He calls us family.
He insists, we are “son”; we are “daughter.”
And we are welcome.
We are honored.
We are family.
Long forgotten is our speech, our prayer, our forgiveness and penance.
It was never needed.
It was never asked.
The only thing asked was our presence, our return, our willingness to come, to heed the pull in our hearts, to choose “home”, and to accept that we are, and always have been, loved.
To accept that we were born royalty, that we were born family, that we were not born pigs, but born “sons”, and “daughters”. That we were, are, and always will be, loved.

The spiritual life and random musings of a part-time novelist and Spiritual Drifter…"the trouble is not with the law, for the law is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human…"