Category Archives: New (and renewed) Directons

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!

On #metoo… From a Friend

I pieced this together from a recent tweet by @rachelheldevans. I felt it was a great thread, not only from a Christian perspective, but from a female perspective as well. Christian men, we’d do well to listen…

This week: 1 James Dobson encouraged Christians to fast & pray for the protection  of a serial sex abuser (Trump). 2 When a mega-church pastor’s criminal sexual assault was exposed, he received a standing ovation from his congregation. 3 One of Roy Moore’s victims’ house burned down.
All of these stories point to why I’m sadly pessimistic about a #metoo-style cultural shift in evangelical Christianity (and, to an extent, the broader Church). I’m pessimistic because of the deadly combination of patriarchy & (as discussed recently) evangelical exceptionalism.
As I’ve stated before, evangelical exceptionalism understands “the world” or “the culture” to be filled with darkness & sin, teeming with people who are “lost,” and evangelicalism & evangelicals to be the sole bearers of light, the counter-cultural path to salvation.
White evangelicals perceive “the world” to struggle with racism & sexual immorality, but not themselves. Because of this, it’s rare to see serious efforts made at examining the ways racism & toxic masculinity/patriarchy are embedded in evangelical culture.
You see this so clearly in the fact that Andy Savage’s church rejects LGBT people, yet gives their abusive pastor a standing ovation! (This points to the reality that anti-LGBT sentiment is usually more about prejudice than a commitment to “sexual purity.”).
The fact is, evangelical culture (and, generally speaking, the Church culture at large) remains mired in patriarchy. So someone who is perceived as a “man of God” doing “God’s work” will almost always be protected over women & children. It happens. All. The. Time.
When Savage’s victim came forward, who did she face? Who was in charge of her church? Men. All men. When churches sideline women from leadership, a culture of patriarchy is inevitable and toxic, abusive masculinity can flourish.
But you won’t see many churches challenging patriarchy or abuse or toxic masculinity in Christian culture. Instead, you hear sermon after sermon railing against immodesty, cohabitation, sex before marriage, LGBT people – all those real or perceived “sins of the culture”.
In order to turn #metoo into #churchtoo, the Church in America, and specifically evangelicals, are going to have to muster some humility and take a serious look at how patriarchy, sexism, and toxic masculinity have infected their culture.
It’s great to see women like @BethMooreLPM & @KayWarren1 speaking out. But as long as church leadership & evangelical culture are dominated by men (who believe God wants it that way!) I fear the voices of women & victims will not be heard and nothing will change.
TLDR version: In the name of Jesus, smash the damn patriarchy.

…So I feel like this thread was too pessimistic and Oprah says we should be hopeful. So some hopeful thoughts: While the Church in America is perhaps not positioned to lead the charge against sexual harassment & toxic masculinity. There are some significant generational differences within the Church, including evangelicalism, that suggest attitudes are changing on gender & sexuality. I’m hopeful this means more introspective conversations about consent, inclusion, & patriarchy in the near future.
Also, our present cultural moment, as tough as it’s been, seems to have emboldened some voices of dissent among evangelical women. If evangelicals yield to their wisdom, there’s hope.