Of skinny dipping and scripture…..

At first the words landed sweet,  like the tingle of sour candy I used to scrape across my teeth
during Summer matinees,   so swept up in story that I didn’t notice my tongue start burning raw.
It would later hurt to talk and it took some figuring
to trade in those large pastel candy pucks
for a box of something creamier and chocolate,
which feels a little like the path I’ve taken with scripture
and I’m fumbling,  talking milk duds,  while I stall
to find the words because this is where the wicket gets especially sticky
in my story.

The word of God.
I still have a bit of an allergic reaction to this phrase,
and to many of the clusters of words that make up what my faith calls the Bible,
this volume of letters that I’ve loved and loathed.

“Of all the scriptures I despise,  I hate that one most of all,”
the words scrambled out of my mouth
too hot and fast to wrangle back inside as I watched faces go shocked with nervous laughter.
It was a little gathering of believers that met each week where we
sprawled on couches and floor and worshiped easy and talked real and spoke encouragement
and prayer over each other’s hearts and lives and people in a genuine,  healing way.
It was bliss for me until it took an unexpected turn into bible study and my insides began to squirm.
The offending verse brought back the sharp slap of shame I’d felt in earlier years
as I’d failed to “be healed” or “have no anxiety” and showed up weak or depressed
to you better cowboy the faith up and do better and believe harder
because neediness is sin.
The medicine was to “get more Word in me.”
(I can’t even make this upOh. so. heavy.

I’d eventually run away from this and similar spiritual floggings,  then wrap around and circle back,
this time to safer-seeming places and mostly they were and I loved the love I’d discover
as I unwrapped another slice of freedom from the very same book that pounded me before.
It was like swimming in the sea and being drawn into and dazzled by beauty and light
or suddenly stung and throttled until squeezed empty of breath.
What was the deal?
Like a sandpiper on the beach,  I’d dart away then go back hopeful,
drawn always to the sunsparkles on dancing water.

There are a million places I could settle and even more stories why,
but I want to tell you quick were I’ve landed
because the long version is a love story still unfolding and for another day
The cliff notes for now: I go no more into the water alone
wearing the tight, heavy clothes of assumption.
I invite the author to take me there,  skinny dipping,
like a guide who seems happy to have me along for company
and may be eager to show me a shade or swirl I’ve never noticed
or just bob in the waves until some weight slides off
and I’m floating free where I felt constricted before.

Because the whole thing is a painting,  I think….
Poetry and parables and picture-talk,
spacious fields of buried treasure inviting discovery,  spirit calling spirit,
a long beach for combing slow,  encountering gifts washed up from the deep.
Going there intellectually seems like driving fast down the beach in a truck,
looking for messages written in sand.
Mysteries get missed and even crushed that way,
and so do people.

I came back to life in the rhythm of the waves,
walking bare-heart on the moist of the sand.
I’d looked for God in a still life and found eventually an abstract painting,
an allegory with a generous guide.

Do I even think I understand it all?  Oh Lord no and feel no pressure to try.
And I wouldn’t argue any point at all, except for this one:
if someone looks inside this tapestry and sees a picture
that paints God as harsh or vengeful or petty or moody or narrow or disengaged,
anything other than the good I see loved out loud in the person of Jesus,
I don’t buy it,  thinking this projection of bias,
or even more likely translation of a foreign language based only on our native tongue.

Maybe it was always meant to be a treasure dig like I’ve come to wonder.

I can only say that I’m  finding still fresh fountains buried for me there
and the process seems to grow inside me something that I wouldn’t trade for certainty.
And yes,  if served up in a spirit that my heart no longer welcomes,  my soul will break out in hives
and I’ll run screaming into the woods with no apology.
I have no tolerance for spiritual bullying or the suffocating fear it can cause.
(Really,  people?  From a God who took the pains to write down “fear not”
365 times in a book he was willing to pass off to wobbly beings like us to have published?
Don’t even try to threaten me with fear.)

If I had to say it short,  I’d say that yes,  I believe that scripture is God-breathed,
like trees and sky and sea and flowers and puppies
which we also tend to get our sticky hand prints on and pollute or even abuse.
(i’ll go there later – where i’ve landed on the whole deal of suffering and a loving God)

For now,  may I just bless you wherever you are on whatever your journey
in whatever you choose to believe.
I love this about life – how it’s all one big eclectic explore and we’re all welcome along the way.
And for each time someone has used scripture at you – caused some blunt trauma wound,
can i apologize to that hurting place.  I believe wholehearted that it wasn’t from the heart of God.
Someone just couldn’t see the picture for the paint.
You are loved.

“Will you follow me down that old dirt road and get lost inside those mountains?
Will you rip up that map and dance inside the confetti?
Let’s chase the horizon and find ourselves along the way.
These are wandering feet and they wish for you to join them.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

” Don’t settle for an angry,  narrow-minded,  linear-thinking,
unkind,  punitive God.”
– Robin Macmillan

Thanks for coming along on this series…..I have maybe one more or maybe I’ll find myself done;
it’s been harder to dig up the words than I ever imagined.
I’ll be putting it to voice soon,  like I wrote it to be.
Here’s another little video I made you….hope you enjoy:)




  1. Elephants Child on August 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Growing up without religion some of this is alien to me. And some of it is so definitely not.
    Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’.
    A lie I was taught early. Which of us doesn’t bear the wounds and the scars (some which fester decades later) from being lashed with self-righteous words.
    Loving your journey, and hope that the sand and the waves uncover treasures for you. Not least that you are a treasure in yourself.

    • jennifer on August 6, 2017 at 7:49 am

      I love to hear stories of completely different paths – helps stretch my thinking where it’s grown too tight.
      Thank you, Sue:) And your words so rich with kindness – thank you big:) Words – powerful, indeed.
      I treasure you and your here-ness,

  2. judy Hartman on August 4, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I’m so glad I came back to see your beautiful video, Jennifer. You write so incite fully about your spiritual journey and I’m so glad you’re finding new solace in the scriptures. I spent seven years of my life – formative years from the age of seventeen – in a religious community. I ended up feeling humbled, unworthy, undeveloped as a human being, and totally lacking in confidence by the time I left, and then contemplated taking my own life as I tried to re-enter normal life. It took many years to recover, with counseling, so religion is not my favorite subject. But I do think I’m a spiritual person and I celebrate your spiritual journey, Jennifer, and as always greatly admire your inspired writing. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on my blog recently. xo

    • jennifer on August 6, 2017 at 7:45 am

      Wow, Judy, thanks for sharing such a potent part of your story here. I can so relate and hear your heart.
      Big tenderness into that place of loss. Thank you for trusting it into the open here. I hold it with care
      and great admiration for the amazing woman you’ve become. I wonder if it’s part of what makes you so brave.
      Anyway thanks for joining the conversation; I’m so much the richer for it:)

      • Judy Hartman on August 8, 2017 at 8:24 pm

        Thanks for understanding, Jennifer,and for your kind words. xo

        • jennifer on August 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

          Big xoxoxo

  3. Julia Bourque on August 5, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Both politic and religion is man made and will crumble because what isn’t from God is bound to fail. God’s Word never looses value and is unchangeable because it’s truth and leads us to life. Man twist the message of God to suit their own thinking and causes more misery instead to lead us to peace, love and joy and eternal life.
    Jesus said to follow him but with so many religions it’s getting hard to find him to follow him.
    I love how your poetic mind can verse your inner feelings and thoughts and weave your story on your journey to self discovery.
    Peace, love and Joy.
    Hugs, Julia

    • jennifer on August 6, 2017 at 7:41 am

      Thanks for sharing your heart here, Julia; I love how you’re holding paradox in your process.
      Yes to your journey and questions:) Thanks for joining the conversation and taking the time
      to read my hmmmmms and howls:)
      So appreciate you,

  4. Barbara Shallue on August 5, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    I totally understand. I’ve read the Bible 3 times (starting in 8th grade) and each time found something new I never noticed before, like seeing out of a window that had been boarded up. So I love your analogy of the truck, and agree about not reading it scientifically or trying to argue parts of it or presume to understand more than bits and pieces that we need at any given time. Bless you on your journey!

    • jennifer on August 6, 2017 at 7:39 am

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Barbara…..”like seeing out of a window
      that had been boarded up.” Yes! I love that. I appreciate the share, the the
      whole of your shiny life:) Thanks for taking the time.

  5. Susan on August 6, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    I love following you along these dirt roads into the mountains and along the beaches, twirling back into memories … your heart sharing always leaves me with so much to mull over.

    • jennifer on August 12, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Happy mulling and much love to you along these backroads:)
      I love your travelin’ heart:)

  6. Robin aka on August 8, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    How you put words together truly amazes me. I read in awe. Not being a religious person…I do believe it comes down to your one phrase…”how it’s all one big eclectic explore and we’re all welcome along the way.” It does take a village!

    • jennifer on August 12, 2017 at 9:34 am

      And what a gorgeous village! Diversity is divine:)
      Thanks for coming by, Robin:)

  7. jeanie on August 13, 2017 at 11:02 am

    I love this post so much, I can’t even begin to find the words. When you wrote this:
    “I’d looked for God in a still life and found eventually an abstract painting,
    an allegory with a generous guide.”…

    …I thought “Yes! Yes, and yes again!”There is no STILL life for God. There is nothing STILL about God. Abstract, moving, color or line or circles or blobs, sometimes bright and cheery, sometimes pastoral, sometimes angry lines. But ever changing and always steady.

    Your words, the way you put them together as though they tumble from your heart, are so eloquent, exuberant, perfect to me, they are indeed divinely inspired. I am in awe.

    • jennifer on August 15, 2017 at 8:41 am

      I’m so glad you dropped by, Jeanie; I love what you bring to the conversation.
      Thanks for encouraging me to keep stringing words together. I appreciate so much:)

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