“Been a long time, been a long time”, you know the rest.

10 Mar

A couple of weeks ago I decided to stop responding to those who are based in a fear driven religion who want to bash me and Heartsong for loving our neighbors. I knew better than to ever engage any of them. It was people like that who caused me to give up “Christianity” when I was in the eleventh grade. They claim to follow Jesus, but all I got from them was endless rules and regulations drenched in fear.

I decided that if they were right about God, the hell with God. I left church never to return. My attitude was if they are right about God (and I knew no other alternative) then I didn’t have a chance anyway, and I was going to have as much fun as I could until the old bastard killed me.

Well, as many of you have also lived it, the fun life I chose turned out to be no fun at all, and at the end of my rope I felt myself curiously being drawn to Jesus. I remembered that all I was taught about him was attractive, while all I was taught about following him was hateful, narrow and arrogant-not to mention impossible. Imagine my surprise when in desperation I read the gospels for myself and for the first time came face to face with Jesus personally. Now I understood why he was so attractive to me. I heard clearly his way of love, and saw his deep courage at living that out-to death-and beyond-and decided to spend the rest of my life following him. He did not require that I make of his teachings and the rest of the New Testament an intricate religion as I had been taught. He only required that I accept him as God, his way as love, and that I follow him into the adventure of my lifetime living that with all the courage I could muster. He, and following him into the life of love was, and continues to be my salvation.

I knew better than to engage those who take the name of Jesus, but wanted to attack me from the bastion of their fear soaked religion. And yet I did anyway, carefully trying to help them understand who I was and what Heartsong was up to in loving our Muslim neighbors for Christ’s sake. I am now convinced the Lord led me into that wilderness so that I could personally experience what I had not for so many years. He wanted me to experience that mindless fear possessed hatefulness so that I could speak to this dear loving great hearted Heartsong tribe about it.

I know that many of you deal with the hateful religious everyday through personal conversations and disturbing emails. My message to you is to stop listening to them. It will drag you down, get you off focus and steal your joy. Always be ready to share your experience, strength and hope in the Lord of love who is leading you into your one in a zillion life of love with them, but when you have done that-stop listening. And if they continue to try and bring you down with their superior religion, tell them you are not religious. Tell them you follow the Lord of love-loving God with all you’ve got, and your neighbors (all of them) as you love yourself, and be done with the discussion. Tell them you don’t want to discuss religion with them anymore. And if they continue to force it on you, they are not acting like friends, but like enemies. If they continue to send you hateful emails, delete them and ask them not to send them. If they persist, block them. It is up to you to guard your faith in Jesus.

The job of the hateful religious is to drag you down to their level so they can use your downfall to convince themselves they are right. Share your precious gift of life with Jesus with them, and let that be the end of it. It may be that the Holy Spirit will use your witness to work on their hearts and minds and souls. But for Christ’s sake, don’t let them continue to use you and your precious relationship of love and trust with Jesus as a punching bag. Enough.

There is a false security in rules and regulations. The fact that it is false is what so drives them to push it on other people. They have to have everyone agree with them or it scares the hell into them. It particularly threatens them when those of us who live the simple way of Jesus under the direction of the Holy Spirit tell them we don’t need their rules and regulations. It threatens their security blanket. What if it was taken from them? They fear (there’s that word again) they would have nothing, when the truth is they would then have the opportunity to know the joy you and I do of spending our lives in relationship with God instead of spending their lives in relationship with their religion which is really a barrier between them and the Lord.

They will never “get” us, and we will never “get” them. I’m completely comfortable with the Lord getting me. How about you?

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12 Responses to ““Been a long time, been a long time”, you know the rest.”

  1. Shannan Vester March 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Amen Steve! Religion kept me from church as well for most of my life. Praise God we were led to Heartsong. Our lives are forever and wonderfully changed. You are such a great example of God’s love. I am proud to know you!

  2. Stan McDaniel March 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    When we have time, I want to share with you a conversation that I had at the community prayer breakfast which is held at my church monthly. You, your family and your church family are in my prayers.

  3. George Mayo March 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    One cannot reason with the unreasonable, even in love. Why do I keep forgetting that? Thanks.

  4. candace white March 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Remember when Pilate asks a series of questions to Jesus?

    When he asks Jesus, “What is Truth?” There was no reply.

    Silence is enough.

    I was told just to “Live an ordinary life of extraordinary love.”

  5. Jane March 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Thanks for this, Steve.

    You truly are a man of God. After seeing what so many of us have seen with the arrogance of some folks who call themselves Christian,it’s views like yours that assure me that there are folks out there who are truly kind and loving.

  6. Bettie March 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Very well….I admire your faith and am inspired to continue to step forward by faith.

  7. debra March 15, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Steve,

    I’m writing a research paper on a “current issue” in the UMC. I chose the OPEN DOORS topic because it seemed interesting. I’ve had folks say I’m brave simply to tackle the topic. I prefer to say I’m blind. πŸ™‚ It is a learning experience, even for one who is a “love” over “law” person. In my research, I can find no broken Disciplinary issues. Rather,I find that your church and the other UMC have held to Christ-like and Wesleyan standards in loving God and neighbor. With the conflict that has arisen from this, have you been able to use JustPeace and/or other conflict resolution components within the community?

    I am learning much from several sources, a friend in “camel land” and a few others I have contacted.

    Thank you for extending the open arms of hospitality. This models not only loving God and loving neighbor, but fits paragraph 3 of the “preamble” in the Discipline, page 98.

    Even the Book of Resolutions has resolutions encouraging us as United Methodists to work with our Muslim neighbors. (#79, #89, #315, #299) I found two links with articles; they referenced two resolutions in each one.

    I hope there will be learning, growth, healing, and reconciliation through this difficult journey. Thank you for being willing to lead through the wilderness.

    I feel that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew for my paper for my polity/discipline class. I can’t imagine how you feel.

    Blessings,

    Debra Dickerson
    Holston Conference, Chattanooga District

    PS– if you can think of anything that would be helpful for me to include in my paper, that woud be great!

    • stevestonesr March 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

      Hey Debra, Please forgive this very tardy reply. I’ve been on spring break with my grandchildren. There was no great uproar in our flock about loving our Muslim neighbors. There is no law to Heartsong; it is all love. There were about 20 our of 700+ who left us, and we tried to reel them in, but after hearing their beliefs I was glad to let them go. Far better for them to spout fear and hatred on their on instead of being able to say they are part of the Heartsong faithful. The key for us is that all we have done or will ever do with our dear Muslim neighbors or anyone else is share love with them as a witness to our faith in Jesus. We are not generic God people here. We are 21st century Jesus freaks. I believe the Lord drove me into the wilderness to try and openly respond to all of the hateful religious thinking that was coming my way. I knew better than to do it, but I’m convinced the Lord drove me there. My belief is that he wanted me to experience again the kind of hateful thinking in his name that drove me out of the church (Southern Baptist) when I was in the eleventh grade. He had me do that so I could identify with the Heartsong faithful who deal with that negative stuff from their “friends” and relatives every day. We need to simply stop listening to the 21st century Pharasees who have made of the life and teaching of Jesus a new religion. I tell the Heartsong faithful that they should not be surprised that when they see Jesus in the Kingdom come he is completely bald. He will have pulled all his hair out in frustration at those who took what he did and made it hateful when he came to put an end to all hateful religion with his message of love. I’m so glad you get that. Methodism is the theology for this new century, and with leaders like you who know how to faithfully apply it, I am heartened for the future of the people called Methodists.

      • Debra Dickerson April 6, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

        Thank you for your reply! It wasn’t too late! And, I’m very appreciative for your time.

        My first paper needed to be 3-4 pages. I could only touch the surface. I’m planning to write more for the big research paper (which I need to get busy on) that is due in May. I have lots of material for it.

        I’d be glad to send you my first paper. I’m guessing you have access to my email in the blog information. If you’ll email me, I can send it to you. Or, I can search for your email, or you can let me know what it is.

        Thanks for helping this seminarian. πŸ™‚

        Blessings,

        Debra

  8. Sallie Scott May 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    As one of the flock that left over this issue, I feel so unloved by the way Heartsong has treated me. I worshiped elbow to elbow with this church. I gave time, prayer, labor and dollar to the Heartsong cause. Was there since the catholic school gym. I didn’t suddenly become the enemy. I didn’t become “hateful religious”. I didn’t decide that I was a “rules and regulations” kind of Jesus follower.
    All I have done is disagree with a decision that was made concerning our building that we built to honor Jesus Christ the One and ONLY way. I found out about the issue, went to prayer and scripture and made a fateful decision to not agree and to not blindly follow just because you said so. And now you talk about anyone who disagrees with you as if we’re lost. This is not about the good samaritan – I would so help anyone in need regardless of race or religion. But the good samaritan took his neighbor to a hotel – not to church.
    Do you really think I hate the Muslims just because I don’t want to share worship space. Really, Steve, Really?

    • stevestonesr May 5, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

      Hey Sallie. It was good to talk with you by phone about this. As I said, I never had you in the category of those who followed a fear soaked religion. And you and Danny left after the 20 I mentioned earlier. I never numbered you among them. But it continues to be my “opinion” that after having spoken with all those who left in the early days, the decision was not based on bible and what Jesus taught, but on fear and a confidence in “what they had been taught” (religion-rules and regulations). What I am writing about in this blog is those who were really hateful toward me personally, claiming to be Christian and saying I was going to hell, somebody ought to kill me and I needed to have my head chopped off. It was that kind of mindless fear soaked hatred that I was speaking about in the blog. That is no where near true about the 20 who left, and I never put you and Danny in the category of those who left out of a fear of Muslims. One of the greatest things about Heartsong is that we all agree to follow Jesus differently. No one has to agree with me about how this or that scripture is interpreted. If something can be debated we don’t debate it. We think and let think. We live and let live. Heartsong’s door and heart continues to be open to everyone-including those who are lost in a hateful fear soaked religion that takes the name of Jesus, including the 20 who left and especially including dear you and Danny. Love you too, Sister!

  9. Betty Falls May 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    I’m a native Memphian living in Kingwood. As I posted on my Facebook page, when Heartsong made National news made me proud to be a United Methodist. And happy that for once Memphis made the National news because of something so good. Or should I say so Christian (Christ Like by definition).
    Came to your blog this morning while researching where I want to visit while in Memphis for a few weeks. Will be there next week.

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