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Sometimes God Just Wants to Play Catch

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"Hey God.... wanna play catch?"

Jesus loves me this I know,

for the Bible tells me so;

Little ones to Him belong,

they are weak, but He is strong.

I'm walking home from the store with my Aunt Mary Jane past the gray stone Presbyterian Church; I can remember the young voices emanating from the church, stirring my pure soul with warmth and "child-like" peace. I would spend the next 40 some odd years trying to find that peace again. Jesus loves me...this I know.

This was the first theological statement I had ever heard. I wish it were my last. I could have lived a fulfilled life with that one simple belief system.

Instead, I feasted off the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; creating my idol in my image that was handed down to me by religion. Can you imagine that? I went from an innocent child hearing a song that my heart and soul knew to be true; to become a man who was blind, brokenhearted, and captive.

Yes, Jesus loves me,

The Bible tells me so.

This young boy, growing up in a blue-collar working neighborhood in southwest Baltimore was already wondering about my existential purpose having practiced for nearly four years the survival techniques of living through an Atom bomb by squatting and hiding under a desk consisting of two pieces of half inch wood. Having been on this earth for nearly nine years, I started to question whether this idea would work.

However, I had already been tamed by the two previous teachers to not behave as a young, energetic, inquisitive boy, but to conform and fold my hands properly placing them on the desk directly in the middle of my breast. In Yoga terms, this is the Prayer Position (Namaskarasana)in which we prayed to the god of education. Little did I know, I was already preparing for my religious pursuits that would leave me in the dark, but well respected.

Having now practiced nuclear annihilation survival tactics, along with watching the murder of our 35th President in a parade; I decided to go to church at the age of nine. My parents were not church-goers at the time. If the truth be known, and in the interest of full vulnerability, I had heard that the church in our neighborhood was the safest place in case of an Atom Bomb explosion because it had the thickest walls in the area. Besides this thing called life seemed to be a little uncertain and I needed a little help.

Let's get back to Jesus Loves Me. What a great melody that just rolls off the lips like every fairy tale nursery rhyme that I had held dear and true. It was as real and genuine as Matt Dillon, Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, and my Dad. Something you could count on; a person who never let you down. I felt safe in a world that did not make sense. Now second verse:

Jesus loves me - He who died

Heaven's gate to open wide;

He will wash away my sin,

Let His little child come in.

Here comes that death thing again, and what the hell is this "sin" I must fear. Can I have a little safe time, please!

Jesus loves me - loves me still,

Though I'm very weak and ill,

From His shining throne on high

Comes to watch me where I lie.

Loves me though I'm weak and ill; this is getting complicated. I'm not weak and ill. Is there something wrong with me? I must remember He loves me even though I'm weak...I hope they are right; I don't even know what I did wrong, but I hope He sees way up there on that throne that I'm not that bad...or am I? I don't like this song as much as I did when it first rang true.

Jesus loves me - He will stay

Close beside me all the way,

Then His little child will take

Up to Heaven for His dear sake.

I'm having trouble with the throne way up on high and Him being able to stay close. And now He may take me to Heaven for HIS sake; come on give me a break! All I want to do is be Matt Dillon and hit the game-winning homer like Brooks. What does Jesus need with me up there at His throne on high? I'm toast! I'm feeling my odds are about as good playing 'Love-Me-not" with a flower. At least I can control the outcome by being dishonest with myself and making sure that the girl does love me. Little do I know that my religion will groom me to learn how to play Love-Me-Not with God. I'll become an expert, and by the time I reach young adulthood, I will have gone to seminary and be on my way to showing God and others how worthy I am. I will hear from the professionals how to play Love-Me-Not. I will create with the guidance of the professional religious people, a God that is made in our image. I thought I was made in His image? Hmm... more on that in a later post.

The first word I ever heard about God was that He loved me. That started eroding from that very first note. The world has a way of doing that. I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden. I felt ashamed, and I did not know why, at least they knew they did something wrong, I was squirming like a worm to find out the deed I had done that made my life a crap shoot. Can I trust this Jesus in the song?

As I start maturing to the ripe old age of 11, I am told to believe that Jesus is saving me... from God, his father who is compelled to damn me... to the eternal torture chamber called Hell, because of sins that I have committed to which I have no idea. Are you kidding me? Is this a cosmic practical joke? Oh, but I learn over the next few years that there are things you can do that helps manipulate the final decision that proves you are worthy for Grace. Grace? This concept is hinted at but never explained because once you figure it out, you are free. For the first time in your life, you can love God without an agenda. You don't even need religion.

Spoiler Alert! I end up as an adult trusting that God does love me. I learn to trust the scriptures with all my heart and the Spirit that reveals the truth in the stories handed down by other inspired humans; along with the rich human relationships that have been part of my story and life experience. It is true... it’s the good news! God does love you and your life can be abundant with joy, purpose, and meaning while suffering and laughing at the same time. You can only get there through love. Here's the kicker...you can't love a book, organization, or doctrine. You can only love in a relationship. You can only love in the present. It took me many years to discover this, and I hope to share this journey with you.

After many years of failing at the performance based faith that had been taught to me by the institutional church's professionals answered the goals of the well-intentioned spiritual professionals. I ended up like my favorite movie character; Ray Kinsella of Field of Dreams. His journey was my journey; He was a boy that was eventually estranged from his father by life. We meet Ray, who makes his best effort in life trying, like us all, to make some sense out of it. He has shame and knows there is something more. He hears a voice and follows it. His journey has begun. The story unfolds with much mystery as Ray tries to understand his journey. Ray's journey is like all our journeys; it always ends up reconciling with the Father to know that there is truth and God loves you, and He can be trusted not because you have been taught this but because you know because you have a loving relationship. God is not there to judge you but is like a true father to a child. He is there to love you. And sometimes...God just wants to play catch.

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