The Love of God

I went to the Apprentice Gathering conference at Friends University last weekend.

It’s been hard to put into words what significant moments took place in my life before during and after the conference but I’m finally ready to try. This is merely the first attempt at deciphering what I’ve been contemplating. I’ve been in a faith crisis for literally 15 years. Growing up in an evangelical church with many loving people, I often felt confused by doctrine. I was taught to believe in a loving forgiving God who sent His only son Jesus to die for my sins so that my loving God the Father could actually look at me (since He being sinless was unable to look at sin-aka me).

My personal faith never coincided with this picture of God the Father. I have a vivid memory of swinging on my swing set at a very young age, looking up at the blue sky, singing songs of praise to God the Father and basking in His love and intimacy. He knew me…and it wasn’t just because Jesus covered me with His blood…He knew and loved me as myself, sin and all.

I had no idea that there was a whole sect of believers who rejected penal substitution, that is, that Jesus died on the cross as the blood atonement for the world’s sins. Instead, through the centuries they preached the boundless love of God who so desperately wanted His children to know how much He loved us, He sent His only son to live and suffer and die like us.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three in one and equal…there is no hierarchy in their authority. So why do we continually give God the Father a bad rap? He is as loving and forgiving as Jesus and the Holy Spirit, yet we make Him remote, vengeful and unwavering. We insist He is like us…demanding restitution for injustice…expecting begging, groveling, and even human sacrifice. Belief systems that Christians have named “savage” expect human sacrifice. The Divine gives love. God is love. The Divine forgives. Isn’t it interesting how through the centuries we Christians have formed God as a reflection of ourselves? We simply cannot conceive of a loving forgiving God. We must have eternal restitution and a transaction! If I owe something then it must be paid for by God if not by me! No.

No transaction is needed…only transformation . Love changes hearts, minds, and souls, and it is enough. Love is enough. Love is all. I love God the Father, Jesus the son and God the Holy Spirit, blessed 3 in 1…and They love me…and you…period. We are saved by Their faith…not by our own…and there is no place I can go and nothing I can do that will separate me from the love of God. Not even questioning the validity of penal sacrifice.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39 NIV

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God is not Religious

God speaks to anyone listening.

Have you heard the voice, felt the presence, seen the effect, experienced something significant to your soul that gave you peace, wonder, joy, love and is unexplainable? Rest in the mystery of it, marvel at the moment…no definition is needed.

Don’t ruin it with rationale or reason. It is a gift of faith…a message beyond the knowing…a gift of intimacy to be cherished.

God knows you and loves you…period. Beyond religion, beyond boundaries…God reaches out to whoever is yearning, whoever is watching, waiting, longing. Religion can’t hold it or define it. It is the sacred experience and it is personal and real.

A Little Bit of Earth

My therapist recently asked me to contemplate why I loved being a mom. It was an easy assignment.

As a child, I adored the book The Secret Garden. In it, young Mary Lennox asks her benefactor for “a little bit of earth” to “grow her garden.” My boys were exactly that. They were my “little bit of earth.” My opportunity to grow something beautiful without constantly worrying about others looking over my shoulder and judging. What an absolute joy it was to spend each day with them, just being a family! What a privilege to be an intricate part of all three of their lives as they grew and developed into independent adults. There literally is nothing more desirable on earth to me than that.

Sometimes, now that they are adults, I tear up just remembering the joy of being with them when they needed me. I feel the loss of that moment in time and cry, but I also feel the satisfaction and joy in that they are amazing, intelligent, thoughtful, independent people. Every time I tried to keep them as my babies, Mike reminded me “the goal is that we’re raising adults, not children.”

As the boys grew up, I began to realize my beautiful purpose in life, my “little bit of earth” was getting smaller, so I went back to school to become an elementary music teacher. My garden is a little bigger now and just as lovely. I see each student as a beautiful delicate treasure to be cultivated and nurtured. I hope to inspire, to give hope, to help these lovely creations grow into themselves. What a joy, what a privilege to be a part of such beauty and wonder. Nothing is more miraculous than the development of a human child. Every word we say, every action we give, every single moment contributes to how they see themselves and the world they live in. They are our future, and I believe in them. A “little bit of earth” can change the whole world.

Shut Up and LOVE!

To be partisan is to pretend to do something while actually doing nothing. It is to be ineffective, unbending, self righteous and stagnant. It enables us to point fingers and condemn, to feel better about ourselves and not get up off the easy chair and get out there and do.

Do something today that helps someone. Actively participate in easing someone’s suffering.

One person. Build on that.

Change your focus. If you are consistently posting and saying things to prove others that think differently than you are idiots, stop posting.

Stop talking. Start doing.

Get out there.

What’s one positive thing you can do for someone else this very day? Do it. Add to it tomorrow. Just imagine if we all spent the same amount of time helping each other as we do on social media trying to prove our rightness. It’s mind boggling. My challenge to us all is this: every time we feel compelled to say or post something antagonistic to those we don’t agree with, we stop and get up and do something positive for someone else. If you’re literally unable to get up and walk, then change your mindset and post or say something kind to another. Start changing the world by putting more positive out there. You don’t have to agree with me to go mow your neighbors yard. You don’t have to believe the way I believe to feed the hungry, to help those in poverty, to pick up the trash on the sidewalks and streets. You don’t have to vote the way I vote to volunteer at one of our amazing not for profits right here in town.

Can you imagine how much better our world might be if we quit talking and trying to convince everyone how right we are and started doing, if we aimed more for love than we did for justice? Bob Goff, the author of Everybody Always is such an inspiration to actively love.“I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them…” and “Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.”

Let’s love more in action, deed and words and judge and condemn less. It’s hard to do, because judging gives us a lift in our hearts and minds. We deceive ourselves in believing we’ve actually done something to help the world by judging it. Christ says, “You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.” Matthew 7:2

Wow.

That puts it in perspective…I’m much too harsh. In fact, I’m cringing at my own harshness! I don’t want to be judged the way I’ve judged. I better shut up and start loving the world more.

What I Think I Know of Love

I’ve often been asked how Mike and I have such a great relationship and why our marriage is so good. Our journey is uniquely our own, but I have learned what I think are universal truths about genuine love. Of course, 1 Corinthians 13 is a great example, so I’m really just elaborating on this as it has related to my personal experience.

What I think I know of love:

Love looks for solutions. Life is full of problems and people often compound these problems with avoidance, procrastination, lack of boundaries, and poor choices.

Love is always searching for honesty, even when it hurts. It creates healthy boundaries to protect and nurture those held dear, but scales unhealthy walls of hurt and misunderstanding.

Love is not afraid. Love does not fear rejection, or truth, even when it’s painful. Love also speaks and receives truth with respect and integrity, never in rage and with degradation.

Love is grown, it does not zap us like a lightning bolt. Sometimes two people connect quickly with each other and mistake physical and emotional attraction for love. This can lead to love but must be acknowledged for what it is. If mistaken for love, too much pressure is put on the budding relationship and healthy steps are skipped. Many try to jump to intimacy by calling each other pet names early on, “babe”, “honey”, etc. and live in false intimacy. I’m not against sweet names, just have observed how some skip to this stage before the relationship has had time to develop. This is one reason thousands of relationships have completely fallen apart seemingly overnight. Two people can seem close and happy together, but they’re really just living in an illusion they created in the beginning of the relationship when they had hope that “this is the ONE.” Over time the illusion wears off but the behavior continues. Often suddenly the sham is exposed and one partner leaves, usually for another illusion, another “babe”.

Love knows when to stay and when to leave. When two people are striving for genuine love, seeking solutions every day, striving for honesty and are committed to the relationship, love stays. Sometimes one person has to carry the other due to illness, depression, stress, or tragedy, but these times are hopefully short lived and there is a healthy give and take in the relationship. When one person is doing all the work, all the changing, and the other answers time after time with ridicule, selfishness, deceit, and manipulation, love leaves, in great sadness and dignity. When a person stays in an abusive relationship, it is not love that keeps them there, but rather need, dependency, insecurity, and fear, yet all of these things have been mislabeled at one time or another as love. Love can’t coexist with these unhealthy characteristics.

When I was 29, I thought my nine year marriage was a sham. I felt like I’d made a mistake marrying Mike so young and I earnestly prayed for God to give us both “the love of our lives.” I assumed I was praying for different people to enter our lives, but as Mike and I began to be painfully honest with each other, I realized we both wanted the same things. When we dropped our masks, released the illusion we had created, we discovered “the love of our lives” in each other. We still hurt each other from time to time, but we both trust each other’s intentions. We now understand and trust our hearts want the same thing. It took ALOT of work, still does, but our love is genuine and worth it. I can’t imagine doing life without him. We now call each other “my love.”

I’m thankful for what I’ve learned about love, and I will continue to grow in understanding as love deepens in me. My greatest hope is for our boys and their significant others to grow authentic, lasting love that enriches their lives and the world around them as long as they shall live.

At the Top of Success!!!

Here come the feelings again. Tears of gratitude welling up from my overflowing heart right up to my eyes.

I’m laying on the lower bunk bed that our boys have had for the past 25 years. They can be stacked or stand alone and we’ve had them every which way through the years. First Dillon slept in it from the time he was 3 until he was 6, then he moved to the top bunk and Keenan slept on the bottom from age 2 1/2 to 10 and finally Tristan inherited the beds when he turned 3 and now at eighteen he’s ready to move on. So the bunk beds are in our guest bedroom, the Narnia room, ready for our grandsons and great nieces and nephews! Another generation of precious children…what a privilege, what an honor, what joy is mine! Who am I that I got to raise three healthy beautiful boys (with the love of my life❤️) who now have become amazing, handsome young men and now I’m blessed to be Grandma KK???

Tears of gratitude. I used to think I wanted fame and riches and success, but my definition of success has dramatically changed. This is it!!! I made it to the top…bunk that is…and it is the top of the world to me. A world filled with priceless memories and meaningful relationships with those I love the most. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it!!! I’m so thankful I didn’t waste the precious time I had with our boys chasing a dream of being somebody. I am somebody…and when I hear the cutest boys in the world call me “Grandma KK!” I feel like the rockstar I always thought I wanted to be!!!

Dualistic Thinking

There’s a reason balance beams are so difficult to stand on. It takes daily rigorous practice to become an accomplished balance beam artist. It’s the same with thinking. It’s easy to be a dualistic thinker…we humans are wired this way. “Either hot or cold, good or evil, right or wrong…”the list goes on.

Yet which one of us can honestly say we are wholly good, or who wants a scalding hot or freezing shower? Therefore, we must acknowledge our natural tendency for dualistic thinking and consistently challenge ourselves to “see with new eyes.” Dualists are either-or people. “You’re either with me or against me.” This kind of thinking allows us to label those different than us as wrong, or even evil. The next step is to dehumanize. Wherever there are atrocities against human beings, dualistic thinking is present. Dualism allows otherwise rational people to say or commit the unthinkable. Every day we must examine our own personal beliefs and challenge ourselves to think outside of them, to “put on the shoes of another.” Unfortunately, our media based society is breeding radical dualistic thinking at a more rapid pace than ever before, and we are unconsciously falling for it like lambs over the side of a cliff. Think I’m wrong? How much time did you spend on social media or the news this morning reading posts or watching channels that confirm the way you feel about Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, the four congresswomen, etc.? We all do it. We like to feel safe within a group, we decide if we’re for one side of something we must hate the other. We demonize those who disagree with us and then fear and hate begin to control us. Dualistic thinking is the true evil. It allows us to dominate and conquer, to abuse and condemn. Catholic Franciscan Priest, Father Richard Rohr says, “This is why Jesus makes so much of mercy, and forgiveness, and grace, because these are the things that, if truly experienced, totally break dualism down. Because once you experience being loved when you are unworthy, being forgiven when you did something wrong, that moves you into non-dual thinking. You move from what I call meritocracy, quid pro quo thinking, to the huge ocean of grace, where you stop counting, you stop calculating. “

Grace is not given to perfect people. Grace is for the imperfect. Grace is for all. Grace is not a transaction given because of something you’ve done. Grace transcends. God gives us grace. Where is that grace for each other? If we would sit down and discuss our opinions on every issue in the world, you and I would find many things we disagree over. Does that mean we should call each other stupid, or evil? I believe most of us, regardless of religion, faith, culture, race, political affiliation, etc. have the same goals…to be treated with respect, to not be marginalized, to take care of ourselves and those we love, to be safe, well fed, and to have the freedom to make our own choices about our lives without infringing upon others’ rights. We are human. We are very much alike, yet we have different opinions on how to achieve these things and quickly digress to dualistic thinking which leads us all to an impasse.

I’ve taken several social media and news media hiatuses and it has helped clear the gunk out of my head, heart, and spirit. I encourage you to do the same. Remember, just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t make them a monster. We all have had different personal experiences which have shaped our beliefs, our mindsets, our actions, but at the core of us we are the same. We all want to be respected, to be loved, to be free, and to take care of our own. Let’s practice listening to each other, let’s be slow to anger and to react, let’s give each other grace. When we feel our dualistic minds raising their swords, let’s consciously put them down and give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Dear Mr Yancey

I was digging through some boxes in our storage room, purging our house of the seemingly never-ending clutter that mysteriously multiplies like weeds in a neglected garden. It’s seriously an ongoing mission, especially when I’ve been scrolling through the TV guide and see Hoarders come across the screen. That usually gets me up on my feet to scour the house for unnecessary items again. As I was sifting through the papers and cards in this box, determining treasure from trash, I came across a printed email from 2007 and was so thankful I had had the foresight to make a copy and stuff it in a box to be discovered 12 years later. I had emailed one of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey, and received a personal response.

Just to be clear, Mr. Yancey’s books are a huge reason why I didn’t completely reject the Christian faith in which I had been raised. My spiritual questioning first began when I was in my 20’s and I could no longer accept certain interpretations of scripture to be truth. I wrestled with the concept of a loving, all knowing, all seeing eternal God having made all of creation with a built in massive self destruction button, and then blaming us for pushing it. It just didn’t make sense that God would have been “caught off guard” by humankind, and then the great I Am supposedly couldn’t even look at us without Jesus’s perfect blood covering the filth of our being. An all seeing all knowing all loving God unable to look at me?? Seems like a pretty messed up God. That was just my first major question, and without reading Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew, Disappointment with God, as well as Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel, I would have left the faith completely. These authors were the first I read that made it clear I could love and follow Jesus without loving and following the institution of the Christian church. Religion separates, God unifies, religion condemns, God forgives, religion demands conformity and perfection, God loves…period.

In 2007 I had googled Philip Yancey and discovered an awful, misguided and fear-based website condemning him and other greats such as Manning, Beth Moore, John Eldredge, and Max Lucado for their “new age” philosophies. This website actually equated these authors with Satan, claiming their ideas were against scripture and being used by the devil to lead others astray. I literally felt like throwing up. The anger that flared inside of me was intense and I had to stop myself from reacting too quickly. As I searched my own heart, I realized the anger was just a cover for the grief I felt. Such sadness over the misguided, cult-like mentality that has hijacked the Christian church through the centuries. How easily we can forget Jesus’s example of love, grace, and sacrifice for ALL the world, yet quote memorized scripture to shame, control, belittle, and condemn. I wrote a heartfelt post on the website’s comment section encouraging the content creator to change his focus from negativity and condemnation to one of love, acceptance, and positive action, and then I wrote Mr Yancey.

February 2007

Dear Mr. Yancey,

I have read many of your books and my faith has been both weakened (when needed re-examining) and strengthened as I continue to “work out my faith with fear and trembling.” I am currently listening to Brennan Manning’s the Ragamuffin Gospel for the second time and googled his name to find his official website. In the process, I came across a disturbing site linking yourself, Manning, Beth Moore, Max Lucado, and many other wonderful Christian writers to “New Age.” I was heart sick as I once again was confronted with Satan’s greatest accomplishment against the church; to put fear in the hearts of God’s people so that our minds and hearts are kept busy bickering with each other and judging our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than furthering The kingdom in love and grace (they will know us by our love??).

I was not defending you, Manning, Moore, or anyone or anything other than the gospel of Jesus that I believe is being misrepresented. Thank you for your ministry and for your challenging words of intelligent faith, which are in the image of our Maker. Many people forget how brilliant God is, and our wrestling thoughts are not threatening to God but rather pleasing as we continue to “seek first the kingdom of God And His righteousness,” with all of our heart, mind, and strength.

In Him,

Kim Noller

Mr. Yancey’s response was heartfelt and affirming. He thanked me for promoting unity in the Body of Christ and for having confidence in him. He said my letter was a sweet grace note of encouragement, as he often works in isolation not realizing the impact of his work on others.

What a humbling experience to have encouraged someone who has inspired millions. You and I may not be read or heard by the multitudes or rub shoulders with the elite, but we can make a difference just the same. We must never doubt the effect of our words or actions, dear readers, as they have a profound impact on those we are in contact with, whether we realize it or not. Let’s keep it positive, and may the world know us by our love!

Move in…

I just had the loveliest four days with my best friend! She lives in Nashville and I’m in Wichita, so we’ve recently committed to a special girls’ trip every summer and it’s priceless! Not only do I love spending time with this wonderful lady, I love who I am when I’m with her!

Michelle goes out of her way to meet people, to hear a little of their stories. My nature is to nervously smile and look away, certainly not to find out a stranger’s life story. Yet Bob Goff’s book Everybody Always says we all need to take more time getting to know each other and Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness talks about how much harder it is to hate people when we “move closer” or “lean in” to them. Michelle is much better at this than I am, but I’m learning. We met some of the most delightful people in Eureka Springs Arkansas last week, and without Michelle’s deliberate interest I would have only known them as a shop lady, two bartenders, and a waitress.

Kathryn is a lovely little dynamo with thick, beautiful long gray hair. It was piled in a messy bun on her head and her eyes sparkled with a warm and slightly mischievous mirth. She had only been working in the downtown Eureka dress shop for a month and told us a friend of hers recommended her to the owner. She didn’t need the work so when he called she told him she’d only work 3 days a week for a lot of money, he hired her much to her disappointment😂 but she’s absolutely loving meeting people like us! She has a southern drawl and if I had to guess I would have said she is in her early 60’s but she told us she turns 70 in November and will be going on a Mediterranean cruise with “my darling Jack,” her retired acupuncturist boyfriend. She is simply a delight! I felt sad when we left the shop because I want to meet her for lunch every week and call her my friend!

Ashton is an intelligent 21 year old who’s been working in the food and beverage industry since he was 14. He’s finally old enough to bartend and thoroughly enjoys his job, though he doesn’t drink alcohol himself. He’s grown up in the Eureka Springs area and cares deeply about climate change and its effects on our world. He loves meeting people and hearing their stories and is very in tune with political and global issues. We told him we feel more confident knowing young people like him are going to be in charge of our country in a few years.

River is also a 21 year old bartender and is in the featured picture. When he was 16 he moved to Eureka from LA with his grandma because she wanted him to be in a better environment. After graduating HS he moved back to LA for a few months but realized how much more expensive it was and how difficult it was to drive ANYWHERE, so he moved back to Eureka. I told him life has a way of teaching us better than any one person and I was glad he now understood and accepted why his grandma took him away from his home in LA.

We had dinner at a steakhouse downtown and the hostess, Carly, was from a suburb of Nashville. Michelle asked her if she knew a few people and Carly very candidly told us she was a recovering addict and left Tennessee to continue on her path towards health. We hugged and cheered for her, affirming her commitment to sobriety and wellness.

If I had gone into these establishments by myself I would have only seen each of these remarkable people at a glance if at all. Michelle leaned in and I followed, and am forever changed. I will strive to deliberately, consciously go against my natural tendency to withdraw and I will move in toward others, finding connections of shared humanity as I choose to be vulnerable and open to others’ vulnerability. Thank you my precious friend Michelle for this lovely reminder. I can’t wait for next year’s girls’ trip!!!❤️

I Am…NOT…Santa

Lately I’ve been feeling very distant from God, avoiding prayer, living in doubt and feeling abandoned. As Mike and I were discussing this, tears began to fall and I acknowledged it’s not God that has confused me, it’s others’ failings, and my own skewed perception.

Oh how I miss believing in Santa Claus, and the God of my childhood and early adulthood had many of the same characteristics. “He sees you when you’re sleeping he knows when you’re awake he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!” My image of God was an elderly white grandfather with a formidable sternness that instilled a desire in me to please him with my behavior, but there also was a twinkle in his eye which told me he loved me in spite of my failures.” Sounds like Santa doesn’t it?

As I’ve grown older and continued to search for better understanding I have discarded my old perceptions and embraced new ideas. However my old views were much more solid and unshifting, easily found and containable, like a baby’s pacifier that can quickly be put in her mouth to quiet her dissatisfied cries. As Einstein said in his own spin on Socrates, “the more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know.” To live in mystery is uncomfortable. We long to be comfortable and safe, so we spend our lifetimes building physical, mental, cultural, emotional and spiritual walls when authentic love and compassion require the exact opposite, and then we wonder why we still feel lost, confused, and afraid. Our tendency then is to point a finger at others, blaming those who think and live differently, and we build more walls. Love requires vulnerability, and to be vulnerable means to be susceptible, to be open without safe walls.

Though I’ve learned and grown and try to live in the uncomfortable place of not knowing, I sometimes find myself afraid of the Santa Claus God’s disapproval. I forget that I Am is the God of all, all knowing, all seeing, all experiencing. I Am is not afraid of me or my failings, and wants me to love myself and others enough to examine the walls I’ve surrounded myself with, see them, acknowledge them, touch them, not judge them, and step around them.

This morning I decided to sit down and be vulnerable. I had a beautiful prayer time filled with vulnerability and openness, and I spoke with and felt I Am’s presence, and remembered who I am.