Where I am at now: Jesus Vegans Event Center and a Community In Formation

Check out what I am doing with friends and family at http://www.jesusvegans.com

Hey friends, I can’t believe that I haven’t written here since November!  I have been SO busy working with a staff comprised of friends and family–to build Jesus Vegans Event Center and an intentional community at Living Springs (near Kingston, AR)

I am now attending a Sunday gathering called Resurrection Church, and enjoying re-connecting with the folks who inspired me to surrender my life to Jesus sixteen years ago in 2001. We’ve had some rocky roads to travel in the past, but it seems like we have all learned lessons, and reconciliation is happening as trust grows between them and I.

Yes, I actually have the means to hire people to help–and that makes all the difference. And I still don’t have enough time in the day to do all that I want to do! I hope you will let me know what you think about my new project–it’s what I believe God has wanted me to do ever since I became a vegetarian at age 18, waking up to the fact that animals, just like humans, should not be eaten! Or that animals should suffer at all because of our human needs.

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/jesusvegans and join the conversation!

thanking everyone for a great thanksgiving

Hello all,

can someone forward this to Lanae’s parents, or read it to them? thanks!

I just want you all to know how much I enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner together. I have not sat down and talked to you, Kathy and Mark, in such a focused way, and I am overjoyed to hear how much we have in common.

I think we are all grateful to Lanae and Chris for bringing us together!

Hey, if I said or did anything to offend any of you…will you forgive me? I get a little excited when I am around new people, and also I just felt really relaxed and happy–so I might have said jokes or perhaps said more words than were nurturing to all–​I hope you know that I am happy to accept ​people’s feedback especially when the truth is told in love.

I look forward to getting to know all of you better, and feel so happy that our community is growing, in a sense.

love to all, and see you at the wedding (Maud’s and Josh’s, that is!)

Patricia Mikkelson

Community Organizer and Coach

Professional Organizer

Founder of the Community: Connect! Project

Creator of Wellspring Ecovillage Project

updates on my arrival time

Okay, family. I decided to come home fairly quickly from Madison. I might stay a few extra days if I am invited to do a community connect or something…but I want to get home, and start supporting you all, and get going on the eco village.

love you so much:)

Patricia Mikkelson
Professional Organizer and Simplified Living Coach
www.simplifiedlivingcoach.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/simplifiedlivingnow

On Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 2:50 PM, Patricia Mikkelson <livablefutureproject> wrote:

My workshop in madison ends on aug. 28. i’m trying to decide if i might take my time in coming home because adventures await me in that part of the country–like eco-villages in st louis, greg boyd in st paul, my friends in chicago, some cool things in kansas city.

i cold take a month to get back…but i want to get your feedback and counsel.

reasons:

i am already in the area–i might make connections and get rides

I could find people interested in the ozarks because they are closer

i could learn some more good stuff.

reasons against:

ii want to see my dear family!

it will start cooling off, and i can work physically on the land

never know what might happen in this very fragile political climate–maybe it is time to get home.

Hey–i am just praying about it. 🙂

I get to fly to madison–got a cheap flight with the help of Raines. $30 more than bus! 20 hours less!

​i love you all a ton:)​

Patricia Mikkelson
Professional Organizer and Simplified Living Coach
www.simplifiedlivingcoach.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/simplifiedlivingnow

updates on my arrival time

My workshop in madison ends on aug. 28. i’m trying to decide if i might take my time in coming home because adventures await me in that part of the country–like eco-villages in st louis, greg boyd in st paul, my friends in chicago, some cool things in kansas city.

i cold take a month to get back…but i want to get your feedback and counsel.

reasons:

i am already in the area–i might make connections and get rides

I could find people interested in the ozarks because they are closer

i could learn some more good stuff.

reasons against:

ii want to see my dear family!

it will start cooling off, and i can work physically on the land

never know what might happen in this very fragile political climate–maybe it is time to get home.

Hey–i am just praying about it. 🙂

I get to fly to madison–got a cheap flight with the help of Raines. $30 more than bus! 20 hours less!

​i love you all a ton:)​

Patricia Mikkelson
Professional Organizer and Simplified Living Coach
www.simplifiedlivingcoach.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/simplifiedlivingnow

Review of Matt Distafano’s Book, All Set Free

I am sitting in the guest room where I am staying with Matt Distefano and his wife Lyndsey, writing a review of Matt’s book, All Set Free. It seems like a miracle that Matt immediately said “Yes” when I asked him if I could come visit when I felt a strong need to start traveling. His open, friendly welcome both from a distance and now in person helped me to realize that he is walking his talk. Thus I am even more enthusiastic about telling people about this book and how it has helped me better explain as well as deepen my faith in a loving God who looks like Jesus.
In his book All Set Free, Matt explains clearly in language which I could easily understand why the concept of a hell where people go if they don’t believe a certain way is not taught by Jesus or in the Bible. Hell was one of the main things that kept me from following Jesus. When Christians would tell me that I was going to hell if I didn’t accept Jesus as my savior, I wondered, “Why would a good God create a place of eternal torment just because they don’t believe a certain way.” Although I had already embraced the truth that there is no eternal damnation for anyone before reading All Set Free, this book helped me to see the truth even more clearly. Now I also can share what I believe in a way that people can easily understand.
Matt’s writing gave me tools and explanations that gave me confidence that I could explain why the early Christians did not believe in hell. All my research has shown that much of what the early Christians believed and practiced, like non-violence and sharing a common purse in community, has changed as people who are invested in power and profit have chosen to distort this message. But the early church fathers’ writings, historical documents, and the New Testament all give us clarity that the people who were closest to Jesus did not believe in hell as eternal

conscious torment.
Hell is a bad enough concept. But a reading of the Old Testament and what God told his “chosen children” to do would make any person who believes in the value of restorative justice run away from Christianity and I would not blame them. It never made sense to me that God would order Saul to tell his army to slaughter every man, woman, child and animal in a city they were supposed to conquer so that the Israelites could remain “pure”, free from the influence of those horrible people. Then, when Saul saves a few animals and people, he is punished for being disobedient. Who wants to follow a god like that? And this is only one story in the bible which portrays a schizophrenic, sociopathic god who would drive anyone crazy.
What I value about All Set Free is that Matt deftly explains clearly how to look at the whole Bible in a way that helps me understand that the people were doing their best to understand God, but because they were so deeply entrenched in a society where violence and retribution were natural, it was almost impossible for them to hear a Jesus-looking god speak to them.
Using a number of methods of shedding light on the big picture of what is the essence of the message of the Bible, including Paul’s writings, Jesus teachings, early church history, and Renee Girard’s mimetic theory, Matt explains in a logical and warm-hearted way how we can come to see that God never changed. He always looked like the Jesus who said, when dying on the cross,
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

He shows that we can still trust the Bible as being the story of God revealing himself through scriptures, but that we can understand better how many (but not all) of the early writers of the bible misunderstood what God was saying.  Yet God was working through them to move towards a place where finally people could embrace and carry out a vision of a non-violent society where people loved everyone, even their enemies.
Matt’s vulnerable sharing of how he was kicked out of his church because of his beliefs in a God who would not create nor send people to hell touched my heart. He has been willing to give up friendships and his church community in order to stand up for what he believes. People even send him hate mail. Having experienced the hurt of being a scapegoat, I can empathize with him. I admire his courage and willingness to be a pioneer in an area which I believe will, within the next few years, will be explored and eventually accepted by a critical mass of Christians.
We do not need hell to motivate us to be peaceful, loving, and to follow Jesus, as some believe. Matt’s life demonstrates that, as I have experienced in the several days I spent with him and his family. I believe that one of the most telling and convincing ways that show people are peaceful is how they treat their children, and how their children behave. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Matt and his wife peacefully, lovingly, and respectfully interacted with their five year old daughter, as well as the way they treated each other and me.
I hope that you will read All Set Free. If you have an open mind, and read this book with a willingness to change your mind, I think your theology will be transformed. I warn you, however, that you may be inspired to be a pioneer, and join Matthew and myself in risking rejection and attack from people who believe so strongly in the value of having hell as a part of their belief system that they feel justified in acting in hurtful ways to others who don’t believe. But to stand up for what you believe is true is the most important thing you can do, rather than trying to get approval or being fearful of rejection.
Besides, sharing what you really believe is a good way to find out who really loves you and accept  you for who you are. You might lose some friends who reject you, but perhaps they are the kind of friends you don’t need.
I feel grateful to Matt for the gift he has given to those of us who sincerely seek Truth. I pray that millions will read this book, and be profoundly changed in ways that motivate them to wholeheartedly take the plunge and dedicate their lives to following Jesus and helping to bring peace on earth, and a belief in a Jesus-looking God who profoundly loves us and wants the best for us.

An Open Letter to The Liturgists

 Hi Mike and Michael
I have been listening to your Liturgist podcast for about four months and I was one of the first people to be a member of Patreon pledging $20 a month. Even though that is sometimes ten percent of my monthly income (I live very simply) I chose to do that because I think the work you are doing is vital. You create a space where people who have become disillusioned with Christianity or have never embraced it, can find a safe place where they can be open to having a relationship with Jesus. I apologize because now that I have zero income temporarily while I am traveling, I have dropped off your list of contributors. But I plan on supporting you soon.
 If I had heard your podcast 44 years ago when I left the church, I would have been saved a lot of grief! As it was, even though I know I was seeking Jesus, almost everyone who called him or herself a Christian, and every church I  explored, turned me off in some way. One of the biggest turn offs was the idea that a loving God would send someone to hell because of what they believed.
Fortunately, I miraculously finally surrendered my life to Jesus fifteen years ago in spite of the fact that the Christians I knew believed this. But I could never embrace the hell idea, and have since then become a Christian Universalist. I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that there is no hell where people go because they are not “saved.”
Which brings me to my main point in writing you. I want to encourage you to have a podcast about possibly the most controversial subject, even more than homosexuality, in the world of Christians today. It is a topic that most people don’t even want to bring up because they risk  being viciously attacked by evangelical Christians.
I want to introduce you to a person who has written an amazing and inspiring book about Christian Universalism,  Matthew Destafano. He is just the kind of person you all like to interview. Young (early thirties), highly tattooed, (his legs and arms are filled with them), courageous (he has been kicked out of his church, and his wife’s family for the most part have rejected him, his wife and children-plus he receives very negative hate mail), and very outspoken about his beliefs.
I had the joy of visiting him and his family in Paradise, California. After having a Facebook correspondence, I felt comfortable in asking him if I could come and stay with him and his wife and 5 year old daughter. I was ready to travel and have adventures getting to know and then helping people like Matt in whatever way I could. His immediate response was “yes!” And when I stayed there, I sensed so much love from him and his family.
Matt‘s passion is to help the world see that God looks like Jesus–and he is Love. The importance of non-violence is an essential part of that message. Sharing in a very unique way about something called Mimetic Theory, developed by Renee Girard, has shaped his thinking and given him a great way to explain why the God of the Old Testament was often misunderstood by the Israelites, (like when they thought God was telling them to kill every man, woman, child and animal in a city) and how Jesus came to set things straight once and for all.
Matthew is one of the most passionate, dedicated Christians that I have met.  I feel grateful that I was able to meet him personally and share meals and share life with he and his family for a few days. I want to encourage you to get to know him. Here is a review I wrote, and another review by his friend at the Raven Foundation where you can learn more about Mimetic Theory.
I think that if you connected with Matthew, he could connect you with other Christian universalists who would be happy to cooperate with you if you wanted to make a podcast about this topic. I am hoping that just like the podcast about GLBTQ that you did, which helped me finally commit to the stand that there is no WAY that God would want to deny people with different sexual orientations their basic rights and joys of having family, or be in leadership in churches. Yes, that podcast was POWERFUL! I kept going back and forth, pressured by family and friends at church to think that homosexuality and other sexual orientations were sins–but you did such a fantastic job of presenting the case for GBLTQ that I just can’t go back.
I am hoping that the same thing will occur if you have a great show about Christian Universalism. Hey, maybe Rob Bell will join you on the podcast. He would be a great person to weigh in on this discussion.
Mike, after listening to almost all of the podcasts you and Michael have produced, I think you are going to be fascinated by mimetic theory. Or maybe you already know about it. I think you will both connect with Matt who shares so much in common with you both, including having a young child.  He is a musician, also.  He almost left the faith of his childhood. But fortunately, things happened that prevented him from completely abandoning his faith..
I encourage  you to have a podcast about Christian universalism, and that you will include Matt on this show. I believe that your connection will be mutually beneficial in so  many ways. And if you can help people to at least be open to the idea that there is no hell–this would help people to be more willing to be open to having a relationship with Jesus.
shalom,
Patricia

My autobiography: Part 1 Intro

This is funny. I came to my blog for the first time in a month–and I find this headline. But I didn’t write anything! So I am just going to say–I plan on writing my autobiography….and I will write just a little now. I was born in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1954. My father was an ROTC instructor at Purdue University. I feel very fortunate because I was the only one of my four sibling who got to have my daddy with me for the first three years of my life, which I understand are extremely important years for developing secure attachments. Having secure attachments helped me, I think, weather the many storms of life that I have encountered without going crazy. Okay, some may think I have gone crazy…but that is another story.

My parents had many good friends, and some of them we called “uncle” and “aunt” even though they weren’t blood relatives. So I remember Uncle Basel–but I d0n’t remember his wife’s name. Uncle Basel taught me two things when we moved back to Indiana when I was 8 years old. I am pretty sure I was between 8 and 10 years old when he shared these words which I so value.

  1.   If everyone likes you, something is wrong. You are probably trying to please people, and not be true to yourself.
  2. Whenever  you do something, ask yourself, “What would happen if everyone did this? Would it be good for the entire world?”

To think that I had a wise person in my life sharing these profound truths when I was pretty young seems amazing to me. This way of thinking was way before its time, yes? I mean, that was 54 years ago. And that I could actually let those words sink in, and still remember them. That is amazing to me as well.

So now, in conclusion, I want to remember that my words and ideas may have more impact than I will ever know on people. And I still need to remind myself of the words of wisdom that my Uncle Basel shared with me. It is always a temptation to try to please people and not be true to myself. I still do things that are not all that great for the planet. I want to be in prayer about living these two truths out to the best of my ability, and thus I can be more congruent, and thus have more personal power which I can use in order to help bring about the positive changes that are sorely needed in the world.

When I was 26 or so, I went to a career counselor who told me that the way I was going to be effective was to work with a team, because that is how I work best. I am looking for a team of people with complementary skills, and shared values which include following Jesus teachings of non-violence and enemy love, wise stewardship of the earth, and commitment to living simply with utmost integrity. I love the values of the Transition Town movement I want to work together with them in order to build an eco-village on my family’s 27 acres of land in Arkansas, which can expand into the larger property of Living Springs which has about 600 acres of available property to buy.

I hope and pray that my autobiography can end with my family and I living in our ecovillage and helping every living creature on the earth thrive. Maybe you will be a part of that vision! I can’t wait to find out:)

 

 

 

 

Resources For Deconstructing Your Christian Faith

Or have you left it entirely?

When I left the Methodist Church when I was 16, I thought the only alternative to Christianity was to find another faith walk. So for the next 33 years, I was a seeker. I could never find a path that satisfied my longing for meaning.

When I reluctantly surrendered my life to Jesus 15 years ago at age 48, I had a thread of a hope that I could find the peace I was searching for all these years. 

I found peace, but I also found turmoil because almost immediately after I made my public profession of faith, I was expected by some of the congregation to believe certain things–like how the bible is inerrant.

Now that I am a Christian Vegan, I am finding that many Christians are leaving their faith because of the issues they experience with their church, and I want my Christian animal rights activists to have some hope.

I have found the following resources to be helpful as I deconstructed my faith. I just can’t leave Jesus in the dust.  And a growing number of people are finding their faith through losing their rigid, fear-based beliefs.

This blogger has inspired me with her story and her writing  about deconstructing her faith. http://kathyescobar.com

One of the most important resources I found in 2014, was this website https://christianuniversalist.org The following words struck a chord in my soul. Now, after many hours of studying scripture and authors who know scripture inside and out, I am convinced that this is the truth of what the Bible teaches.

“Are you looking for a faith community that boldly proclaims God’s unfailing love for all people?, that presents Jesus Christ as a Savior who shows us the true heart of the Creator, as a spiritual leader you can follow with joy and integrity — indeed a faith that does not use the fear of an endless burning “hell” to frighten people into being Christian?

Has your heart already told you that by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, in the end there will be no one left behind — and that through this blessed hope we can truly break down barriers and bring people together in a spirit of joy and “good tidings to all”?

There is such a faith and it is called Christian Universalism. This positive and victorious message of the Gospel is not something new but was in fact a prevailing belief of the Church for many years after Jesus lived and died.”

…………………….

Rob Bell wrote the controversial book, Love Wins, and in less than five minutes, he shares about evangelical Christianity in a way that is so inspiring and from the heart. 

I felt very disappointed in the many Christian leaders who blasted Rob Bell because they thought he was a Christian Universalist. I started researching Christian Universalism, and I realized–this is what I believe. Many Christians, including at least one fundamentalist, have looked deeply into the Bible and have embraced the idea that a loving God would not punish people because they didn’t believe a certain way. Thus, the idea of an eternal hell is obsolete.

Rob Bell understands that Jesus teachings indicate that we can make heaven and hell in the present moment. Notice how the person who posted this video wanted to try to discredit him with scriptures. But listen to Rob’s words. What a contrast! (less than ten minutes) 

……………………..

Science Mike grew up as an evangelical Christian who then decided he was an atheist and still attended church, hiding his unbelief. Then he came back to his faith in a new way. I liked the way he answered an atheist who attends a Christian church who wrote him a letter.

Science Mike has a great writing on dealing with doubt from a scientist’s point of view http://mikemchargue.com/blog/2014/10/16/walking-with-god-through-doubt

If you are willing to spend a bit more time, Science Mike gives one of the most inspiring and grounded testimonies I have ever heard from a Christian. You might get hooked on these podcasts http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2014/10/14/episode-6-lost-and-found-part-1

The Liturgists podcasts about GLBTQ was so powerful that after listening, I made my final decision that I wanted to be a part of a church that welcomes qualified people of all sexual orientations to be in leadership positions and not to be viewed as sinners.  http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2015/5/18/episode-20-lgbtq

………………………

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, says, “Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We are often given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of “Christian” countries that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else-and often more so, I’m afraid.”
Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the 12 Steps

Here is a two minute video where Richard defines love 

You can find out more about him at this website

…………………………..

Bruxy Cavey is the teaching pastor at The Meeting House, a mega church in Canada that shares the non-violent teachings of Jesus. I love Bruxy! Once I wrote several blog posts about him, and sent them to him. He and his family left a message on my phone saying my words were like spiritual multivitamins. Then his whole family said together, “we love you!.” He is the real deal! Listen to Bruxy share  in this video in less than five minutes about why there is evil in the world if God is so good.

………………………..

I appreciate Greg Boyd, a scholar, author, and pastor of Woodland Hills Church. He has a lot of great teachings.

 

 

Doreen Virtue, who you will learn about on this website, is a Christian vegan who lives in Hawaii with her husband. They have an animal sanctuary.  I am getting to know this delightful, loving and authentic person through online correspondence.  Her commitment to Jesus is not front and center on her website, but you can scroll down and find a wonderful testimonial and meditation about Jesus by Doreen.

I found her testimony to be very inspiring and the meditation very much in alignment with how I relate to Jesus.  She shares about angels, fairies, and clairvoyance–but all in a way that I perceive as being in alignment with Jesus.  Doreen calls Jesus an Ascended Master in the meditation, but in January 2017 she had an experience of Jesus that inspired her to surrender her life to him. She believes he is the son of God and a member of the Trinity. She was baptized, attends church and Bible studies. She is in the process of switching things around so she can focus on Jesus.

In this meditation, Doreen calls Jesus an Ascended Master. That is what she believed for decades after having a powerful vision of Jesus when she was in her late teens.  In January 2017 she had an experience of Jesus that inspired her to surrender her life to him. She believes he is the son of God and a member of the Trinity. She was baptized, attends church and Bible studies. She is in the process of switching things around so she can focus on Jesus.

An increasing number of Christians are realizing that trying to live according to their interpretation of the Bible causes a lot of division. But when we make our relationship with Jesus as our common bond, rather than doctrinal differences, we can more effectively cooperate and demonstrate the agape love that Jesus taught. This is what we want to do at Jesus Vegans Community. 

What I love about Doreen is her passionate commitment to her relationship with Jesus. I am going to share her work with people who have been turned off by traditional Christianity but who resonate with Jesus and the idea that God is love.

I hope you will browse my blog. You might find some other interesting resources. Let me know if this was helpful–I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

For People Who Have Left Their Faith..and Who Are Open

If you are reading this post, I have some guesses about why you made this decision to leave your faith.

I am writing this to people of all ages who were raised in a Christian home and who have decided to leave the faith of your childhood. I hope I can support you in making an educated decision about what following Jesus really is. It’s not about have the perfect beliefs, or following rules. I hope that you might look at these resources which can describe what I believe that following Jesus is about.

I wish that I could have read a testimonial similar to what I am sharing because it might have helped me avoid 30 years of what seems now like wandering in the wilderness.  My hope is that these words I share will inspire you to at very least be willing to open to a new way of experiencing spirituality, and at most that it will help you to return to the faith of your childhood with fresh eyes and an open heart that will yield peace.

I need to make it clear right now that I am not encouraging you to go to church. Most churches do not demonstrate the kind of Jesus following spirituality that I want to share with you. In fact, I encourage you to stay far away from any church where people will pressure you into believing a certain way, or which is so open that Jesus teachings are actually discounted. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

If you want to learn about various resources that I wish I could have found when I first left the church, I invite you to go here. But if you want to hear my story, read on.

I can understand your decision to leave the church. It was one I made when I was 16, in 1970. I still remember clearly that I just could not put up with the hypocrisy and the teachings that just didn’t make sense to me. I told my parents and my pastor I was letting go of my membership in the First United Methodist Church in National City. I had been chairman of the Methodist Youth fellowship, a member of the choir, and my parents were active lay leaders. I still can’t figure out why no one tried to discourage me from leaving.  But when I was free, what a relief I felt. Yet the next thirty years of seeking for something that could satisfy my soul’s longing for meaning and peace was so full of pain and disappointment.

I am imagining that you may be feeling the way I did. I yearned for peace,  and peace escaped me.  I was never an atheist. But I called myself agnostic, then I decided I could follow a guru, and found that after 15 years this path was just as disappointing as my childhood religion and I left. I yearned to find a community where I could feel a sense of belonging and purpose.

I finally found the peace I was looking for when through a series of what I would call unlikely and miraculous situations, my family and I found a little house church in the middle of nowhere near Kingston, Arkansas. None of the people there were native Arkansans, but most had come from all parts of the country to buy land that was part of a 600 acre parcel that the owners envisioned would be Christian community.  We felt unconditionally loved by these folks, even though we were not Christian.  and shared many values. They did not push their faith on me, which gave me a chance to be more open. After about six months of being part of this fellowship, I reluctantly surrendered my life to Christ. I say reluctantly, because my words to Jesus were something like this, “I don’t know if surrendering my life to you is going to work–but I am so sick of my life, and not having peace, I am give you a try.  I want you to know that if you don’t come through, I will just give up.”

Since that time, I have had an increasing sense of peace in my life that I yearned for. But there were times when I once again wanted to leave this faith because some of the people who were part of the fellowship were elected into leadership positions and they transformed our informal, leaderless, egalitarian group which was like an extended family into a church where if people did not subscribe to some rigid beliefs, they could not be in leadership positions. I could not go backwards and say things like I believed the Bible was inerrant, or people are going to burn in hell for eternity if they don’t believe what these folks believed.  I had actually tried to believe such things for the past year, but now that we had official elders who demanded that we believe such thing, I knew I had to do something different. I needed to be honest with these people who had grown to be like family to me, and let the chips fall where they may.

I almost left again. I read all kinds of books about liberal theology which discounted Jesus claims of divinity, and the reliability of the Bible. I read books by atheists, free thinkers, and others who wanted to prove that God did not even exist.  But the more I read, the more I realized that there was something in my path of following Jesus that really was giving me peace, love and joy.  These folks who I was studying  didn’t seem to have that peace, love and joy.  Most of them seemed pretty angry, judgmental, self-righteous, and dogmatic–just the things I did not like about many Christians.

So for the past 13 years, after 1 year of trying out being more fundamentalist in outlook, I  have been searching for a way to embrace this beautiful Jesus path that gave me a foundation upon which to grow that I had not had before.  Even growing up, I only knew a religion comprised of do’s and don’ts–not what it was like to have a relationship with Jesus and to understand the value of his non-violent, enemy loving, yearning for justice for all-especially the poor, needy and defenseless-teachings. Even in the past two months or so, I have opened up to a view of Jesus that, because of continued need for security, I had a hard time looking at.

I now embrace the mystery that is inherent in my spiritual path of following Jesus. Embracing the mystery, instead of clinging to security, has inspired me to relate to Jesus in a more humble way than ever before. Being able to tell him in one breath, “I don’t really know you,” and then in the next breath, “I just want to give my all to you and be your hands and feet to those who you want me to help,” works for me. Even though I can’t see Jesus, or God, or the Holy Spirit,  being willing to focus on this path as a kind of container in which to pour my yearnings, sorrows, and dreams just keeps yielding peace and even revelations like no other path that I have ever followed has given me.

I have finally found a church where the teachings of Jesus are shared and practiced in a way that embraces people wherever they are at in their journey–from atheism to total commitment to following Jesus. Even though I have only been getting to know the folks at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the past 3 weeks, I have thoroughly immersed myself in learning the history of this church and its denomination, Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America. I appreciate the fact that this church provides an environment where people can learn through both experience and study in a loving faith community where they can decide for themselves what they believe and how they interpret the Bible.

If you resonate with my story, I hope you will visit this post where I list a variety of mostly short podcasts, videos and reading which I hope you can relate to and which can give you hope that following Jesus is not an outdated, boring, dogmatic path. The amazing thing is that now, 2016 years after his death and resurrection, people are finding that his teachings were so far ahead of his time, and we need his teachings of non-violence and enemy love, justice for all, love combined with wisdom more than ever before.