Saturday, January 4, 2014

Stop Chasing Me God (I'm Winded!)

God is chasing me right now. I have been running away from Him and he is not letting me get away. He keeps catching me. Here's how I know...

He's had a friend from church call a few times over the last few weeks and say words of encouragement I needed to hear.

I found a book at a Thrift Store I really needed to read. Click Here to See What It Was

Right before Christmas, someone at work gave me a thank you note that inspired me and reminded me of God's purpose for my life.

I had a dream where an important person said some very healing words. (Read About it Here )

Then my great uncle, who I rarely hear from, sent me a book which arrived yesterday, one written by his daughter called Growing Down (Get The Book Here) The book is about, you guessed it, running from God's grace. My uncle also put a little note inside the package that said he was going to pray for me. He's not some hyper-religious Bible-thumping uncle I grew up around who knows the details of my spiritual life. This was the kind, generous uncle who put me through college. A proud Dallas Cowboys fan like me and a very successful business man. He is a Christian I respect and like.

I am sure all this chasing is not over. I am sure today, something else will happen or someone will say something or I will read something that will remind me that no matter how fast I run, God has on his Nikes and he has trained for this race and I might as well be trying to out run the world's fastest man times one trillion-billion-million. (I made up that last number. Go with it, I am not good at math.)

Why am I running even when I know I can't out-run a speed demon, ur, a speed-Dios like God?
Here's why I run...

I do not truly believe in my heart that God loves me.  It sounds pathetic and whiny and I hate the way it sounds because it seems like I am fishing for compliments or desperate and by now you would think I would understand the concept that GOD IS LOVE. By now I should be growing in God's love, not worrying about it. Right?
It sounds like: Please, tell me you love me! 
But that is not it. It doesn't come from a need to be loved place, it comes from a help me get rid of the voices in my head that tells me you don't place.  No, not voices that require medication or straight jackets. The voices of the past. The ones that told me when I was a young impressionable student at a conservative Christian college that I needed to "change" in order to be loved by God. The ones that told me I needed to DO certain things a certain way in order to be saved. The ones that made hurtful comments as they looked at me in disgust when I couldn't get right with God as they saw it. The ones who went to great lengths to try and manipulate me into who they thought I should be and then finally gave up and kicked me to the curb. Those voices of the past keep me from fully believing that God loves me as I am. They reverberate today.  And they keep my feet moving.

I also run because...
I hate religion.
Over the years, I have followed the proper order of things as set out by the Baptist church:
First - Accept Christ.  (Or as my parents used to put it - Ask him to come into your heart. I did this at age 5. Probably right after I ate my Cap'n Crunch or Mac 'n' Cheese. I know it was at the kitchen table, but I don't remember the exact moment.)
Second - Be baptized (but only after a 4 week class where you learn exactly what you believe, what the water dunking is all about, oh, and get to do arts and crafts with Popsicle sticks and cut-out paper figures of Jesus and John the Baptist.)
Third - Attend Christian schools for the next 15 years.
Fourth - Go to church every Sunday.  Memorize verses. Go to Christian camps. Vacation Bible School. And Wednesday night Bible study. Tithe. Meditate. Visit Christian bookstores. Have a "quiet time" "personal devotion time" "spend time with God" or whatever it's called, but just spend time with God everyday on your own reading the Bible and praying. And while you're there don't forget to confess your sins and pray for the missionaries!
I can't keep up with all this. I don't want to. I feel like I am in some kind of training camp, pyramid (or Ponzi?) scheme, seminary class or leadership club, Cookie-Lee for Christians, and every once in awhile I have to take a test, or shake hands with the CEO, push something shiny on someone who doesn't really want it, perform a club ritual, or take a workshop to stay fresh. Then I think, what am I doing?  The God these people serve doesn't want me anyway, so why bother?  Who am I kidding?
So I fact, most of what I listed above I either a) haven't done in many years b) avoid doing more than a few times a month.

Here's another reason why I run (or shall I say several reasons:)
At first I had listed names and groups here. The list began with the words Duck Dynasty.  Then I decided not to post the names because I really don't want to disparage/judge anyone. Let's just say there are a lot of "Christians" and "Christian" organizations in the public spotlight that make it embarrassing to be a Christian. As I'm running from God, they serve as those little "energy gel packs" you can eat on the fly to boost your stamina and speed.

Here's another reason why I run:
I was born to run.
We all are. Why should I be any different?  The easiest way to live is entirely for yourself.  In fact, that makes us feel smart, independent, self-sufficient - the American way. We want to be like Frank Sinatra and get to the end of our life and say, "I did it my way!" I am no different. I have an independent streak a mile wide. I love to be alone, go it alone, do things on my own, make it on my own.  Why do I need God anyway?  People who need God just need a crutch. They are feeble minded. Unstable. Backwards. Weak. I actually saw these words posted in the comments section after a Sojourners article about "Loving Christ: Hating Christianity."  I thought - I'm not weak. I'm not backwoods stupid.  Why am I a Christian?  I want to be a smart atheist!
No I don't.
I want to be free. Free of the voices, the requirements, the biases, the compulsion to run.  I am tired of running.  I am tired of being chased by those who love God.  Tired of running from church to church hoping someone will let me in "as is."  Tired of being ashamed of Who I believe in because the other folks who say they believe in the same thing scream really loudly about how much this or that group is "wrong" or "going to hell."  I want to be able to separate the believers from the belief.  I want to have faith despite the faithlessness that I feel.  I want to walk, not run.  I want to walk in the openess and freedom of God's grace.
OK, so I am not even done with this blog and God has already caught up with me again.  I was searching for a picture to put at the end of this blog, went to google and typed in "religion" and clicked "images."  I ran across the photo above with the list that tells you whether or not you might be religious. I stuck it in the middle of this blog instead of here at the end.  Then I noticed the webpage listed at the bottom of the picture:  I wondered if this website was going to try and talk me out of being a Christian. Encourage me to step away from all the Jesus hullabaloo and join Richard Dawkins & Company on a hike back to reality.  Nope.
Exactly the opposite. (Of course.)
Saw this on my jog this morning. Hmmmm...
The first thing I read was "Exploring the Wide Open Spaces of God's Grace."  And how I don't even need to confess my sins to be forgiven of them. God has already forgiven me. The confessing part is pure religion.
I stopped running for a minute. I sat down in the grass. I clicked on a link that asked "What Keeps Christians Tired and Unproductive?" Here's What I Read

OK, God, you caught me. Your grace chased me down even though I have been running at a pretty good clip. (Thank goodness I have a bad knee so I never really get that far away.)  I am sitting in the grass now and my running shoes are off. Can you stay awhile?

Hope A. Horner, 2014
Contact author on gmail at hopeh1122
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