The Future Is Here

EP. 16: Why I Left The Church w/ Alma Lizzette Cardenas-Rodriguez

April 28, 2021 Alma Lizzette Cardenas-Rodriguez Season 2 Episode 16
The Future Is Here
EP. 16: Why I Left The Church w/ Alma Lizzette Cardenas-Rodriguez
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The Future Is Here
EP. 16: Why I Left The Church w/ Alma Lizzette Cardenas-Rodriguez
Apr 28, 2021 Season 2 Episode 16
Alma Lizzette Cardenas-Rodriguez

In this episode of The Future Is Here Podcast, we are bringing into focus our  #pursuethemillion campaign. So we invited a talented and inspirational individual who decided to leave the Church, not once but twice. Her name is Alma Lizzette Cardenas-Rodriguez and her ever-evolving story must be heard. 

Alma is a Mexican-American-born author and poet, raised in the San Fernando Valley.  Alma holds a Master of Arts in Transformational Urban Leadership from Azusa Pacific University, an Urban Youth Workers Certificate from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor in Christian Ministry from Facultad de Teología. She is also  the author of a book titled “Groanings from the Desert.” This book "holds a collection of English & Spanish teo-poemas, prayers, and thoughts that invite you into her pain, joy, hopes, and dreams."

Listen to why Alma left the church, and how she developed a counter-cultural response to her experience of navigating toxic mindsets and systems of her faith community and culture. 

This episode will bring life, truth, healing, and freedom!



Support the show (https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/WebLink.aspx?name=E12333&id=12)

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of The Future Is Here Podcast, we are bringing into focus our  #pursuethemillion campaign. So we invited a talented and inspirational individual who decided to leave the Church, not once but twice. Her name is Alma Lizzette Cardenas-Rodriguez and her ever-evolving story must be heard. 

Alma is a Mexican-American-born author and poet, raised in the San Fernando Valley.  Alma holds a Master of Arts in Transformational Urban Leadership from Azusa Pacific University, an Urban Youth Workers Certificate from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor in Christian Ministry from Facultad de Teología. She is also  the author of a book titled “Groanings from the Desert.” This book "holds a collection of English & Spanish teo-poemas, prayers, and thoughts that invite you into her pain, joy, hopes, and dreams."

Listen to why Alma left the church, and how she developed a counter-cultural response to her experience of navigating toxic mindsets and systems of her faith community and culture. 

This episode will bring life, truth, healing, and freedom!



Support the show (https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/WebLink.aspx?name=E12333&id=12)

Speaker 1:

Are you listening ? Hey fam . Welcome to the features here, podcast . This is for the leaders, the dreamer provocateurs misfits , the frustrated frontline leaders who are charging in the kingdom for tired of reactive church. It's time to build the church we dream of now the future's here. So don't get left behind. Are you listening? Let's get in

Speaker 2:

A cry of a millennial, Latin X who grew up under the pews of a church. We are here. We are talking. Is anyone hearing? Is anyone watching? Is anyone catching our words? The hurt that we hold, the hurt that we feel like a cut across the throat. Are you paying attention? The earth is speaking. Are you willing to hear youth like blooms are dying. Some are running out of strength, but trying new ones from far away lands are sprouting on this lays. My hope our creative has a story to tell a present and future re-imagining with all the energy to resist the urge of another generation stories going on herder and scene , will you see us? Will you hear us? Will you include us? We are doing that with or without your stamp of approval, but with all the approval from God

Speaker 1:

Friends, welcome to another episode of the futures here podcast . I'm extremely excited about today. We're talking about and talking with a friend of mine, a new friend about leaving the church. And I love that poem that she just read. Uh, it's anyone hearing is anyone watching is anyone catching our words, friends at on the features here, podcasts, you know , uh, we are , uh , about how do we reach this next generation? And we know that there's 1.2 million young people leaving the church. And so , uh , uh , a couple months ago I get a package in the mail and in this package is this wonderful book called groanings from the desert. Uh, and it's , uh , it's a collection of poems from , um, from Alma Gardena . So Rodrigo is who I'm going to introduce to you in a minute. And , um, and she just sent me a note and just said, Hey, I've written this, this book of poems. I hope you enjoy it. But she had this, this one thing there and it said, I'm, I'm one of the 1.2 million. And so that just, that just struck me and it just hit a chord in me and I go, man, I've got to talk to this woman. Um, and I started reading her poems and they, they captured me. I, I was moved by it by many of them. And the one that you just heard right now is from our guests today. So Alma Cardinez sort of Regus , uh , welcome so much to the welcome to the , to the show. We're so glad to have you. Thank you so much for sharing your, your poetry and your art with us today, man. I'm glad you're here.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Um , so I'm grateful and humbled to be in this space, which has been , um , a space where I too , um , grew as I engaged in urban youth ministry here in sun Valley, California. And it's interesting that you talk about, you know, you received this package and if you only knew how I struggled to send , um , this book to traditional faith space communities where I don't find myself in right now. Um, so it's, yeah, it's so weird to make decisions that don't feel normal to be at the moment, but I'm grateful that I've been , um, that I just went on with my gut feeling followed, you know, took a step of faith and yeah, I'm just grateful to be able to be in the space and share , um, in hopes that there are many others like me that will connect.

Speaker 1:

Yeah , absolutely. I mean, I'm glad you took, took that step. Um, I was, I was , um , struck by the book honestly, and that, and that's why we're here right now. Um, just to have this conversation about why you left the church. And so it's an, and it's a, it's an interesting story. And so I was just, thank you so much for allowing us to journey with you kind of in the sacred space of your life and your story. So , um, with that, you know, in that note you sent me, it was like, I'm you identified yourself. You said, I am one of the 1.2 million that has left the church. Um, and, and you're, you're you currently still work with youth right now, don't you? Yeah .

Speaker 2:

Uh , I worked , I currently work with youth at different capacities, not so much in the content context of , uh , institutionalized , uh , re you know, church.

Speaker 1:

Right, right. Yeah. And you came out of youth work as well. I mean, this has been your life and also you're a product of, you know , people pouring into your life. And so in many sense, you know, you're this, you're this urban youth worker, you know, you're part of our, our, our community of people. That's how we would see it. Um, but, but you've decided, man, I'm , I'm done with the church. And so, and that's why I thought this was such a unique , um, conversation. Um, and, and why I'm so thankful to you just to, you know, for you to, to, to kinda open it up and share that with us. So explain to me when you, when you wrote that note to me, you know, you took that, that step. Um, explain that to me a little bit. Like what, what did you mean by that? Uh , when you're like you identify with the 1.2 million.

Speaker 2:

Yes, absolutely. So just to share a little bit of my background , um, since I could remember, since I was in diapers, probably I grew up in a Protestant Pentecostal church in , um , the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California. And so , um, and so that experience and that upbringing was two-fold because on one side , um, it was where I met my friends who became siblings and lifelong family. Um, it was where I saw the hands of Vermont has come together to help just one , um, one family, one , one community to eventually be the ones to buy and support the , the buildings. Um, but at the same time, on the other side of the coin, it was , um, anything but a gospel of the good news that we, we, we constantly heard growing up. Um, they gave us this image of there's only two ways you can go there's the life-giving way and the death hell leading way. Um, but one of the questions that I constantly wrestled with in my upbringing was , um, what if the life giving way was actually killing. But as I asked that question , um, I was constantly met with silence because questions doubts or challenging leadership and the ideas within the context of our church community were never welcome . And so one of the things that the church culture perpetuated was a , uh , culture of policing , um, policing our clothes , uh, policing our families, who we hung out with, who we didn't, our friends, our thoughts , um, freewill and choice were okay to exercise for as long as it fit the mindset and the patterns and the molds that they were teaching us. Um, and I always tell this story because I think it's funny, like one of the deacons would literally take us up into this little room to check if we were wearing a fondle underneath our skirt. Um, I don't know how to stay fun going , so I'll just leave it at that. But yeah, so it was, it was interesting. And, you know, you would show up to church, generally somebody would shake your hand, but we were met with like, are you chewing gum? And how long is your skirt or are you wearing now ? You know, so it was that kind of , um , culture. Um, and so another thing, so it was that kind of culture, but it was also during the times where Jesus was coming soon was being preached a lot. It was , um, the era of evangelists , you know, I grew up listening to [inaudible] [inaudible] among others. And so the idea was the idea that Jesus was coming soon was instilled in us. So we were always like in a hurry to just be perfect and ready to go. So we really never planned to , um, we never really dreamed, I feel like that hindered us from dreaming because I don't think , um, you know, we have this conversation with my husband served all the time. I never thought I would make it to 18. I never thought I would attend a university or much less have children or get married. And so , um, the pastors and leaders, you know, were put up on pedestals and our parents trusted them enough to have a say in our upbringing. Um, but that culture of shame was in that culture of shame of always pointing out what was wrong with us instead of what was right. Just drained me. And so the moment that hit the fan for me , um, was when I got, I got called into the pastor's office or a leader's office , um, at that time, because he wanted to have an intervention because I had just been caught truant and my mom just needed help. My mom was a single mother and she just needed somebody else to talk to me. And so I remember walking in the room, it was just him and I, and he just started asking like, Hey, what's wrong with you? Like what's happening. Um , we need to talk about , um, what's behind the fact that you just got caught being truant. And so I responded with, well, actually I want to talk about , um, I want to talk about something that happened to me at church about 10 years ago, that pertains to me to church too . And so, and that's all I will say about that, but his response to that was nothing. It was just silence. And then , um, and I was her prized unsurprised now, though, I was surprised at that time and , um , completely unbothered this leader didn't even have the audacity to ask if I was okay or make a space to talk about it more. Um, he just wanted, he just insisted on wanting to talk about the fact that something was wrong with me because I got caught being truant. So we need to figure that out. So I left that day, knowing that church God, and the teachings that I had known were absolute excrement . And I'm not the kind of nutty like human excrement, right. Because even animal excrement can be used to nourish soils, you know , took seeds. And so, yeah, so that was like the moment where I was about to turn 18. And that was like, I don't know . That was the moment that I vowed not to ever come back to church at 18.

Speaker 1:

So , um, man, I'm, I'm always sad to hear those stories because they're so common, like , uh , unfortunately, and , and, and that doesn't take away from, you know, what happened to you and , and that moment, just because it's common, right. It's no, that was, that was horrible. Right. And , um , um, man, it's supposed to be out, but so you left at 18. Right. And, but here's, here's, what's interesting. Cause we had talked earlier, he left at 18. Um, but somehow you found your way back. So tell me a little bit about that. Like, so at 18 and we were all 18 at one point, and when you talk about getting fronted for , uh , being truant, like I go, I've been suspended from every school I've ever been, I've ever been at, you know what I mean? And um , I've been kicked out of camps and it's just right. And I go, man, you were like, you ditched once and you got, you know, yeah. Fronted , um, and with, without any compassion. And so you're 18, like, man, I'm out.

Speaker 2:

Right. So you're out. But then tell me about that journey. How did you find your way back in? Yes. So by the time I was 18 and I had left church , um, and by the way, even to leave church, I had to have an excuse. So my excuse was like, I need to work full-time I don't have time between school and, and work to be at church Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the other et cetera was and yeah, whatever. Um, but , um, yeah, so I left church when I turned 18, I started drinking a lot. So that was like my way of , um, numbing from like all the pain I had . I did not realize I was holding and I almost died drunk one night. Wow . And so I was literally in the streets of Hollywood, like driving on the opposite lane, like where opposing traffic was coming my way. And I was so drunk that I could not get myself to move to the right side of the lane so that I would not hit, be hit by oncoming traffic. And I literally had like an out of body experience where I literally felt the car be lifted as if it was some sort of power wheel by angels. And literally , um, somehow I ended up making a right turn and landing back at the party where I had originally been drinking. And that was like a wake up call for me. That was a turning point where I realized like I was no longer living by the, by the grace and the faith that my mom and the church had taught me. Like that was a moment I experienced grace for myself. And there was no way while I could still say that the church experience was real. Like I could no longer say , um, that God wasn't after that experience. And I'm the oldest of three siblings. So I knew that was not the life and the testimony and the legacy that I wanted to leave behind for them. So a couple months later, just as I was turning 21 , um, I ended up coming back to church through a youth camp. And so, yeah. And so, yeah. And so that began my journey back to church, but still being confronted with the same reality. Um, you know, it was like, it was like this culture of like, leadership's wanting to hold you accountable and wanting , you need to be transparent about your life while , um , these people were not willing to give the same. And so , um, and so yeah, it was like , uh, yeah, I, you know, this still smells like something that is not Jesus, but because I have now experienced God for myself, there's no way I could didn't I am . And , and I had more questions than ever before. Um, and so for the first time in my life, I own my [inaudible] label as not something negative, but something that would lead me into , um, this next of my life. And that passage that kept paving in my mind was, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed though . Don't be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And so that's what led me into seminary school. As I also began working with youth at around age 20 to 23.

Speaker 1:

So, okay. Let me, let me just encapsulate the story a little bit. Yeah. You have this, you actually, when you're young, you had a horrible incident. You, you stick with it, you're in charge , you know, you're a child and , um, in 18 happens and you just you're done and you're like, I'm out, you go kinda kinda experience a little bit with the world has to offer. You had this incredible kind of rackets experience a couple years. You're like, okay. Um , okay. I, and you get drawn back into this community. People, not only that, then you go to seminary now here's where the story gets interesting. Um, because you've actually left the church twice. So, so, but, and this is after seminary right now. You're in seminary. You're, you're the best of us, right? Uh, as Christians go, right, you're, you're in seminary, you're getting all the knowledge, learning Hebrew and Greek or, you know, whatever it is. And , uh, and you, so, so then you continue in the work and, and then I think you were telling me, it's been like two years ago, you were like, okay, again, you get to a point where you're like, I'm , I think I'm done with this, no help, like help us. And our listeners kind of what's that journey from that point. So now you doing seminary, you have all this experience or you're in , you start got to move in into this work, but, but you got to that conclusion again. So share that part of the story with us .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I, and seminary was that seminary . I always described seminary school as that , um, passage in the Bible that talks about a paralytic that four people bring to Jesus and growing up in the church that was preached to us as like, we're those four people that need to carry paralyzed people to Jesus, to be healed. But for the first time in my life, realizing that no, sometimes we as Christians need to recognize the hurt and the experiences that we faced . And we need to recognize that we've been paralyzed by all that hurt and be willing to lay down and be carried back to Jesus. So seminary school was that moment where, you know, Alma recognizes, she can no longer move because she's too hurt by the reality, she, she needs to experience her healing. Um, the seminary community did that for me. And while I could not. So as I , so it was interesting because I came to seminary school to learn everything I needed to learn, to be the best youth leader ever. It ended up being that and more. Um, and so I came back, you know, I came back to the, of a church to work site, a long shirt to work site along youth. And while I couldn't change the culture that, you know, that was still very much a part of the teachings and the waters that were being fed to that community. Like I knew I could do my part , um , to contribute, to be a mentor and leader , um, a mentor and leader that I always wish I had that I never had. And so that was my way of contributing. Like I couldn't change the entire thing, but that's how I , um, that's how I stayed alive in that season, knowing that I couldn't do anything about the whole thing, but just focusing in on what we had influenced , um, to change and to make space for , um, what was a beautiful thing. But at the same time, it also gets overwhelming. After a couple years of constantly like diving under the water, coming back up to catch your breath diving under the water, coming back up to catch your breath because you're constantly giving and giving an affirming and affirming. And you're just being met with question after question or resistance after resistance, because it's not, you know, because we're breaking patterns, we're not doing the things as we used to. Um, we're not conforming to the things as we used to. Um, we valued , um, you know, in the church, it drives me nuts till this day that when somebody dies in our communities, we , we talk about it. Like it's a victory. And , um, and it's not a victory, like when somebody dies and we're experiencing loss, it sucks and it hurts and we want to cry. And so to be able , um, to challenge that of like, no, like our youth , our youth are not experiencing good news, they're experiencing a, B and C lemons . Like let's make space to talk about that in the different realities to be, even be able to bring good news to that. Because I , it always like struck me enough , like, Oh my God, we wanted to bring news good news to our community, but we never stopped to build the relationships in the community to even know what good news to them to us would mean, you know? Um, yeah. And so, you know, over 10 years of that , um, I just re I just got tired of waiting for an opportunity that was never going to come. And because I knew that something different was possible , um, you know, we had to decide to walk away , um, and take a sabbatical in 2019 B before we even knew that COVID-19 was around the corner. And , um, yeah, and that's been, that's been an interesting experience in itself because it was something that, that was right for our own health and wellbeing , but it felt sold wrong, right. Because you're walking away

Speaker 3:

If you like, what you're hearing, keep listening, but also make sure to check out our leadership resource, the leadership journey by hitting up our [email protected] .

Speaker 1:

So much to what you're saying. I mean, one leaders , if you're listening out there to this and , and probably connecting in a lot of different ways, understand too , from your story Alma , it's not like, cause I run across a lot of people, they dabble in church, something happens. They're like, dude, Jesus is fake. You know what I mean? Or like, I'm not with you , you know, that's not your story. That's why I find your story. So compelling is because it's like, no, you you've walked through it. You won , you are shaped by this community church. She talked about kind of those, the , those two ways where you found community, but then you found the not so good news of the gospel. Like there was that dichotomy of like, I see people love me really well care, but then there's also this like really a messed up theology about, it's just really about not going to hell. Um , it's not about experiencing heaven now. Like the kingdom is now not yet. And, and so there's this weird dichotomy, which now friends, you have 1.2 million young people that are, they're like, yeah, I see it. And I don't want it. And we have to come to grips with all the story. We have to come to grips with our own story. We have to come to grips with the tension, the gray area of , um, of this , uh, of this understanding of like I'm also called to mourn and suffer with. And there's a reality to that. And then the , in that space, then it makes sense to, to bring the gospel to that space and go yet , there is good news. I recognize this. And I'll walk with you through the pain that the suffering of it, but here's why I hold onto this. Um, but I, you know, I've experienced that too where it's like, no , um, look, you don't want to go to hell. Like , so within we're scaring people into the kingdom of God, which that's not love. And , um, and then I love what you said earlier about you were, it really was about policing. And then that's where I'm a big power structure, guy, power dynamic. I'm always thinking in those spaces and when you have to have control over something, and this is what I find so interesting with our Pentecostal brothers and sisters. So some of y'all might be mad at me for this, but I find it really interesting that some of the most oppressive and hardcore like rule people are the people that also , um, really talk about the freedom of the spirit. And so I'm like, it's like the Holy spirit, but only if you can control him or her. I always found that really, really interesting where I'm like, okay, and you know, some of the most legalistic spaces I've ever been in or experience came from like the charismatic side where I'm like, so, and it's confusing and our young people are just gone. I don't get 'em out. Um, and so, and I think those are real, real things, man. And so I, you know, for you, you know, in this space, okay, so you were like, it was really hard to , to leave. Right? Can , can you like give us some of that because I think, I think for some people they just go, they can write your story off or maybe they've written you off. I don't know, but because it's like, Oh, well, and then more bad theology, like you just needed to work harder. You just needed to have more faith. You just didn't need it to not question as much. You just needed to tow the line. You just needed to, you know, whatever that is. But, but tell us a little bit about what was your process, especially for you and your husband , um, to just go, no , I think we're, we're out, we're done.

Speaker 2:

It was hard. It was like a five years in the making type of process. And part of it for us, you know, the back and forth was because the church , um, church communities are built for young men to thrive , um, to a certain extent, as much as it's like , um, legalistic and toxic. And in so many ways, you know, the way we do things are just toxic imbalances that just hinder our growth and wellbeing , um, for youth and women of color, especially, but for men it's different because they have a little bit of privilege and opportunity into spaces that we don't , um, as women. So we struggled back and forth for five years, 2016 was like , um, hard, hard for me because it was like this whole, my whole life demonic was associated with a look. And 2016 was the moment I realized Monica is not a look, it's a mindset , um, that not everybody is willing to engage in and , um, engage with or recognize it. Yeah. And so I was like, no, like I'm not getting my I'm not going to grow here. Like , um , you know, I need to , I need to go out . This is not where I want my daughters to grow. And so it was really hard, but it was interesting because the moment we left our last trip, we took the youth and young adults , um , to Mexico from where my husband and my brother-in-law are from Nigeria. And so we generally show up and I think I shared this with you at some point or another. Um, we showed up to the, to the Pueblo and usually we are welcomed with , um, fields of corn. But when we got to the Pueblo that year, the fields were filled with Gabby and I'm like, wait a minute. I got it . It's usually like in Halle SCO , like by [inaudible] , you know , the city of tequila, like, what is that guy doing here? Not yet eat . And so I asked my , um, my husband's uncle, like, Hey, like what happened to the corn? And then he's like, well, like it stopped raining, like it used to. So , um, in order to adjust like the farm to the new reality of the environment , um, the farmers had to stop growing corn and they had to resort to growing of Gabby . Although growing up is different because corn, you get it every year. There's a harvest every year. I got it. You have to cultivate it for seven years in order for you to harvest it in its fullest form. So at that moment, I was like, okay, God, like this moment in our life sucks. Um, because we're doing something that we know is right, but it feels so wrong. But at the same time, it was like God telling us like, and, and also like the interesting part that like our parents, like in our, like in our faith communities will not be happy at the thought of like trading corn for rabbit , because it's like, how are you going to trade corn for the stuff that makes the Keala like, yes , that's perfect. Um, and sure enough, there was some, you know, people in that faith community that had similar thoughts, but at the same time, it was like, God, like revealing through the land. Like, Hey, like we environment is changing. It doesn't bring the same anymore. So whatever you plant and whatever seeds you plant, just know that the , you know, like we need to get into this rhythm of being okay with like, not having a harvest from one year to another it's it may take seven years to cultivate. And so that's when I realized, okay , um , I'm in the right place. Another thing I learned through the land is that sometimes you have to burn everything down to replant the seed. And so it was like, Whoa, like literally, like, you know, the land's telling us, like sometimes it will take to burn, be humble enough to burn everything to the ground that you have helped build and put together , um, to give the soil rest, first of all. And then , um, as it's time to replant some of those seeds for them to grow. So, yeah. So when the land became my pulpit and my pastor, and it was just like, well , God, okay. Like, yeah, it's okay that we made this decision and it's okay to rest and it's okay to not have a plan B and where we're going and what's next. And, and that's where the writing started.

Speaker 1:

Yeah . Yeah. I mean, there's so many people, especially during pandemic, you know what I mean, people got a break from , uh, the, just the regular church rhythm. Right. It's like, you know, and it's funny that you said, you know, so I stopped going Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, you know what I mean? It's like, it's like all these days of the week that, you know , um, and you know, there's on a lot of people are like, I just, I'm taking a break or I'm just out, or I'm not, you know, I'm just not going to engage in this anymore. What I mean for you, Alma? What, when you think about the, even the word church, how has that been like redefined for you? Or are we talking here? Like the people of God, are we talking about institution? We talking about the actual gathering service component of that, like in, and then your thought process and , you know, I mean, being, you know, we're in seminary, you've been in ministry, you know, for all this time. Like w how has some of those definitions , or what is your definition or how some of those definitions changed for you? Like, how do you view that now?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I just, you know, when I wrote in one of the poems in the book talks about like the church re-imagined and what that looks like, and I just think it stops being just the store . It stops being a storefront, and it's not about building blocks, but inter um, but relational interlocks. Right. Um, and so we, you know, we don't, we don't need like another, like, w we don't, I don't know , I'm trying to find the words to explain this, but we don't need, like, what are you need is to be able to contribute, you know, to make space, to be able to make spaces where we're listening to one another , um, where we're sharing our testimonials. I think one of the things that has hurt the church so much is that we narrowed our church agendas to flow in a way where we're in and out in an hour. And we lost that this theme on your time. And I think that's part of what , um, kept those alive back in the days, even, even after I reflect on that testimonial that are [inaudible] and Los Hermanos would share, even in that testimonial , there was so much power, even though they didn't, they weren't fully , um , transparent in those testimonies because of the shame and the different things associated with some of those stories. And so, as I reimagined church, I feel like it needs to be more relational. We need to be willing to , um, to just break some of those cycles. And again, the land and creation being my busload. I right now, a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated a ten-year anniversary. So we went to the vineyards of [inaudible] and it was interesting to me to show up and see the vines looking dry. I I've never, I had never been to a vine yard before, but I was like, wait a minute, like these vines look dry what's happening. And so, as I started learning about , um, the process of , of grape-growing , I realized that buying yards go through a winter dormancy, where they have to be pruned and, and in the four seasons of their lives, every cycle, they only bear fruit for one season. And so I'm thinking about John 15, like, you know, God is the vine. We are the branches and who, who, and how did I am taught me, because I understood that we needed a bear fruit all the time. Otherwise you wouldn't be cut off and thrown into the fire. Right. Cause Jesus coming back . Yeah. So it was like, Oh my , so it was like a sigh of relief to understand, Oh my God binds go through winter dormancy where they are pruned. They look dry, but they're just getting ready for the next season. And so I feel like whatever, we go back to , um, the , the struck , I mean, I'm , I'm not even trying to talk about the structure anymore because yeah. It's just too overwhelming, but whatever , um, religious institutions and communities come back , um, I hope and pray that we'll have those kinds of rhythms in mind where we need to be willing to , um, reassess our past rhythms and, and, and how they've heard us and hindered us. Um, and also how they need to look going forward that are more reflecting of the vine yard and us as the branches , um, to be able to grow because sometimes if we're not willing to have that winter dormancy or be pruned, I heard from the people that grow the , the, the, the grapes that the grapes do not taste as well. Or sometimes they're not even useful because they don't even have the space to grow. I was like, Oh my God, like, wow. And it was like a sigh of relief because it was like, okay, like , um, thank you, God, because this gives me permission to be able to be okay with the season that we're going through, where we've been in a winter dormancy, and we're being pruned. And it's like labeled as like wrong, but yet, you know, God is still here tending to our mind, like our ancestors tended to feel what if we tended to our mind as our ancestors tended to fields . And we were open to fires the kind that burns everything to the ground, which prepares the soil for new seeds, seeds of truth, watered by our collective repentance and limitation , which as a result brings forth new fruit, fruit without GMO, without modified histories that men, in my stories of our own, which have been like pesticides systems that continually ill to eventually kill. What if we tended to our mind as our ancestors tended to feel

Speaker 1:

That's so good. I , I think there's so many of us and friends. I want you guys to know myself included. We're Anna , Anna deconstruction period, where, where we have to confront the things that aren't true or that aren't healthy, or that aren't good from our, you know, from our upbringing. But when you come to the institution of the, of the church, just go, you know, friends, I love, you know, for me, I love the church enough to be critical of her and that's okay. But in so many of our traditions and our institutions, like, that's not okay, like Alma wasn't okay for you to ask questions that it wasn't okay for you to have to be, to , um , have a safe space to just share what happened to you. You know, it wasn't , uh , uh, you know, it's not a safe place to do different types of things to try things out and fail. It's not, it's not okay to rest, right. Because it's not okay to, to, to really challenge and go. Is that what we believe? Because one of the biggest things, friends that I think theologically speaking, that we have to deal with is the way that we frame this gospel. And so we really do believe , uh , we would never say this cause theological, it's not that we really do believe you work your way to heaven straight up. Um , and the way, the reason I know that is because of the way that we build our institutions. Like, you know, in a lot of our institutions , I think where you grew up almost in that institutional church, I know God worked through it. You know, I get it, but it's really like, you better show up and you better give everything and why, well, you can't ask why it's just what we do. But honestly, it's like at the end of the day, it's like, well, you don't want Jesus to be at you because he's going to throw you in the fire. So you gotta be ready. Right. And that, and that was just another , um, you know , way of control. Um, and, and, and when you're taught that, and that's the only way you do that is what you do. But I, you know, in this time of deconstruction of really going, okay, what's true. What's not, and are there different ways to do it? Um , are there different ways to live? We get extremely uncomfortable with that, you know? So what , what have been some of the things that people have maybe conversations that you had, or maybe it was your old church, or maybe as your parents, or, you know, whatever you're comfortable sharing, but what are some of those, what do you think their fear is of, of you being in the space that you're this part of your journey?

Speaker 2:

It's yeah, it's been hard, you know, it's been hard. My mom's constantly like when [inaudible] , when are you going to go back to church? And , um, and I just have to be, and I've just come to a point where I just have to be okay with her, not understanding certain parts of me that , um, yeah, that she just could never understand because her experience was so different, but at the same time, having these alternative communities that have allowed me to be in this middle space and just to see so many, like the crazy part is that you think you're alone until you come into a room filled with, you know, tons of other young adults as you're . So I , I keep calling myself a young adult I'm already almost 40. Um, but yeah, like with other grown adults, with other grown adults that are in similar and , um, doing the work of God in no , no in no less ways that people that are going to a church are, and just engaging the different realities that affect their communities beyond the spiritual , um, which are the physical and the mental and just being in those spaces has just been, what's brought me to life and I'm just in this middle. Yeah. And I'm just in this middle place, journeying with other people in similar journeys and it looks different for all of us. Um, you know, part of it is just realizing that one size will never fit all as much as we want , want it to look that way. And so, and it's interesting because some of these pockets of communities, some of them are people of faith that, but we're not calling it a faith space and some and others are, you know, we are calling us , uh , faith space and to be able to see just God at work in those different spaces that wouldn't necessarily have the label, but yet encompass like , um, the beauty of, of who Jesus is and who he thought, or who got taught us to be , um, has been life-giving for me. And so that's part of where, like, God, you know, I want to continue to , um, to be a part of these pockets of communities, but also create more of these pockets of communities where we're engaged in spirituality, but we're also engaging the things that break our heart and, and being an , um, a portion of an , of that answer to that prayer. Um, especially with our youth and young adults, they're so creative, they have so much wisdom and brilliance to contribute. And , um, we could just be stronger in more ways than one, if we were willing to come alongside each other and be uncomfortable.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this, this conversation has been answering for me because , um, you , you fight that inner voice that I know that you have as well, because we were brought up in it. Right. Um, like, like those words, when you use the word spirituality, I know that, I know that a bunch of people listening would be like, we're taught to that's like a , Oh. Or if you use the word holistic, or if you use the word, if you talk about our ancestors, like it's, you know, we're always looking for some type of syncretism or like, Oh, well , you know, where's she heading, you know, that's, that's what people are worried about. Right. Um, but what's interesting to me about this conversation is, is the conversation leaders for those of you guys who are listening , um, we wanted a model and I really thank you Alma for today. Just model what it looks like, just to listen to someone's story. I'm not here to, to convince Alma that she needs to go back to church or that she, you know what I mean? Like I'm not her mom, didn't call me to make sure that I, you know, make the church. This is really about like, how do just ask good questions. How do you, where do you find God in the midst of, of someone's journey? And what does that look like? And to always talk about having a dynamic process. So, so often the way that we were taught, quote , unquote , ministry is it's static. So I need to minister to you. So I'm going to , this is what I'm doing, right? And I've got to control this. And , and that's why when you ask questions that now you're messing up the program, but really it's a dynamic spot friends when you walk into someone's sacred story and their life that God's there and he's up to something and he wants to, he's leading both of us somewhere. Right. And it's always deeper with him. And we get this really beautiful opportunity to join in on that. Like, that's the, co-creation, that's the, that's where that's, what's amazing to me where God is inviting me into this. And it's not just for Alma. It's for me, it's not just for the youth, it's for you, you know, it's, there's something happening and God's always up to something he's doing something. And I think that , um, a lot of the parts of the institution that I have a beef with are the places that choke that out, that don't allow that to you're back to your metaphor about the land. Like doesn't allow them to be cultivated, be grown to, and that's the conversation that really helps that. So if I'm, you know, I mean, this wouldn't be a conversation if I was just here to try to impose what I believe is best on Alma, right? Like that's not, in fact, that's just a weird relational thing. And yet that's one, we were taught how to do that. And to , um, that's a lot of us have a hard time, you know, working outside of that framework. And I'm telling you friends, you have 1.2 million young people leaving the church. These are people that have heard our gospel that have experienced our community and they're going, I'm good. I'm out. We have got to have the conversations about this too , to allow to figure out what has got up to right now. And I know, I know there's so many out there right now. I was like, Nope . The , you know, this is what the church is. And , and, and you have to be a part of that and all that. And , and I, I hear you, but we have to be able to walk into these areas of tension. God's up to something 2020 changed the game. And , and although there was a lot of pain and a lot of suffering because of, and we're still in it friends. Right. Um, I also think God's a God of redemption that, that he's, he's lifting the cover on the dark areas of what we've built in his name. And we have to be brave enough and courageous enough to confront it. And that that's when I kind of hear from your story Alma, that, that there is a, there's a place of courage. And that's what I hope those of you that are listening are hearing almost not being flippant about her. I'm out. Oh, like I got offended at church or they, you know, whatever, it didn't let me have coffee in the pews or whatever.

Speaker 2:

Well , it did get ugly. Right,

Speaker 1:

Right. It's, it's , uh , it's a long journey of this and that a lot of us are , are wrestling with , um , just to have the conversation with you as beautiful. And so part of that too, as we just kinda like wrap our time up, part of that, that I thought was, was really beautiful. Is this book that you've written and , uh , it's called groanings from the desert and it's , um, it's in English and Spanish, which I think is beautiful. And , um, you know , they're , they're poems and prayers and thoughts of your journey in this and friends. I , I would really invite you to eat one, go and buy it. Right. They can get this on Amazon.

Speaker 2:

It's on Amazon. It's if you want to support Jeff Bezos empire, or you can to [inaudible] , or you can support me directly by purchasing on [inaudible] dot com. Um, but it's also on Barnes and noble. So whatever's more convenient for you. I just always like to throw that. No, I know , I know

Speaker 1:

The whole conversation about that today, which I'm like, Oh, there's so there's so all the things, you know, that we're trying to figure it out, but at friends, I would actually really invite you if you were uncomfortable with anything that Alma said today, with our conversation with yeah . Questions about today, like go get this book , um , get , get this, this really an insight into your heart, into your life, which I really appreciate. It's a, it's a sacred space. And I think it's scary putting those kinds of things out. So I thank you for your courage, but, but I read some of these and, and I, I connected to it and I went, man, and that's the start friends of your journey into this. You and I can't as leaders and we're , we're reaching youth and we're, we're, we're through this process. And yet we're trying to help these young people enter into a life with Christ into a relationship with God. And you can't leave people where you haven't been, if we're not asking the questions, and if we're not saying I will do anything to grow in my depth with God, this is a pathway to it . And almost been really open , um, and invites us into it . And through this book to just journey with her to, to connect you, won't connect with everything. Um, and , and you might come to different conclusions. And we , uh , we just want to give, if I can even give permission to just say that's okay. Um, and I would really encourage you all to , um, to ask the questions and to journey in the space that you so courageously have journeyed. And so , um, we really, I really appreciate you sister, any, any last thoughts for us or for our audience that, you know, that's, you know, they're wrestling with all this and their students really you're , you know, you're an example of what are all of these young people are struggling with. Um , any, any thoughts for our audience?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Just, I just want to just share that , um, first of all, thank you for this experience , um, to be able to tell my story through this platform, but second I'm still working progress. I'm still, you know , um, I feel like a baby, like, I feel like it's like a rebirth of, of Alma up after a prison, like a prison break. It's , it's just, it's weird. Um, but the hope of this , um, the hope of this book is to hopefully not just , um, share it with youth and young adults who have experienced similar circumstances and who are part of the 1.2, but also to the current youth leader to hopefully , um , be able to draw some prompts or , or, or, or themes for discussion in the context of your youth ministry. And it's okay to not have a Bible study one of the days. It's okay to just , um, just maybe, I mean, for someone like me, who wasn't always comfortable with publics public speaking, because we were taught like, you know, wherever we go sit down and just be quiet , um, you know, it might be hard for people to even just sit in a space and talk, but , um, writing is helpful for some of us to get our stories out in ways that we've never had before. So I pray that God would guide you , uh , creatively to be able to create spaces where we can share one, another stories, including our own as leaders , um, with full transparency , um, you know, as, as you feel you can. And , um, and I think that will be the beginning of a life giving church where we're able to tell art this thing, millennials and the fullness of them , um, without shame and, and just, yeah, and just human humanizing each other, again, like bringing us back down from like some of these pedestals that have not allowed us to walk together and talk together and cry together and all the human things that we need to be doing, because salvation is not for heaven. It's for earth. That's what Jesus taught us in that prayer as it is in heaven beyond earth. So I don't want to wait to heaven what God meant for earth, and I want to be a part of that. So, yeah. Yeah. And that's it. And it may or may not mean going back to church, I don't know, a pastor day , will Kim mess me up at Fuller's chapel his week . He was like, are you willing to go back to where you came from after having been at a point of no return? So I'm sitting with that now as we speak. So,

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I just so thankful for you sister and your journey and your you're just transparency. I think , um, even just through this talk, your posture, your story , um, leaders, I think there's lot of things we can take from this as far as, like, what does it look like to reach that next generation , um, for Christ and to really show like you have the kingdom of God is here and you can join in on it and not, and be an active participant in it . We didn't even get into justice, but, but there's all that right. I mean , um, was it looked like to suffer well with others. And so thank you, sister and friends, thanks for joining us on another podcast of the features here. Um, I would direct you man, check out our YouTube , uh, urban youth workers Institute, UI iwi on YouTube. We actually have, you can hear directly from the youth. We have a youth panel video on there where we just said, why are you leaving the church? That was really, really good to continue to get into, like, what is behind the mindset and what are the things we need to challenge and change , um , and pour into this next generation to be the church really, that we are created to being , um, and then to bring that hope of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, as Alma said. So thank you, friends, guys so much for joining us. We hope you join us next time. We'll see you guys later.

Speaker 3:

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