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Remember that day Jesus skipped to the cross?

In and other uncomfortable topics, Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Thoughts on Christianity, Using my words for good #UMFWG on February 7, 2014 at 3:18 am

In the end, I suppose that there is a self-centered reason for me writing this piece. I am not always happy. Not always. Some hurts take a deep root and are difficult to snuff out. I shed my tears. But, I believe that I have necessary things to learn from the hurt. And there are few things that anger me more than someone trying to cut short my healing process. That process is important. It cannot be circumvented; sometimes, it cannot even be shortened. It starts low, and it ends in balance and strength. Most of all: nothing can be earned from avoiding or denying the healing process.

But, there are a few key phrases that Christians, myself included, love to drop when we are faced with a person who is sad because of, despairing over, or agonizing with something in life:
1. “Count it all joy”
2. “Rejoice”
3. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Stop. Please for the love of peanuts, stop it. Jesus did not skip to the cross. He did not sing songs while He was whipped. The day before He was crucified was not a last grand bro-fest with the disciples.

Instead, He had (what sounds to me) a rather sad supper (seeing as how He had to tell His disciples that one of them would betray Him and Peter would deny Him) with the 12 men who had been closest to him, broke bread, drank wine (see Matthew 26: 17-35). Then, Matthew 26:38 tells us that Jesus told His disciples “My soul is very sorrowful . . . ” Mark 14:36 says that Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” Luke 22:44 says that “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” After being arrested, He was beaten, spit upon, and pierced with thorns. Then, either Simon of Cyrene was made to carry the cross of Jesus (as it says in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) or Jesus carried His own cross (as it says in John 19:17) to Golgotha where Jesus was crucified.

It sounds sad, agonizing, dramatic. Jesus was marching to His own death. He was not skipping. He was not shaking hands and kissing babies and tuning his guitar. He was not repeating “I’ll soon be in Heaven” like a mantra passcode to better times. He did not look down from the height of the cross with a wink and smile. Jesus went through a process that began thick with agony, despair, and sadness. But, the process ended with Him glorified as the Son of God, the Risen Savior, and one of the most compelling (if sometimes elusive) figures in history.

To all of my Christian brothers and sisters, never forget that someone’s healing process is not an affront to God. Someone’s hurts do not indicate a lack of faith. Sadness is not a sin. When Jesus preached to others about the process and ordeal He would go through in Jerusalem, Peter rebuked Him and said it would never happen. But, Matthew 16:23 relates that Jesus turned to Peter and said something often quoted, but rarely contextualized: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

I know you don’t mean to be, but when you tell a person who is going through his own ordeals to act happy (or “rejoice” as we Christians like to say), you may indeed be casting yourself down as a stumbling block to him by convincing him that sadness and agony are evil even as God tries to bring him through to a place of strength. As humans, we dislike negativity and sadness. But, sometimes: those things are vital.

Simply put: if we are Christians and if we do believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, what was good enough for Christ is good enough for us. We will have despair, sadness, agony, and sacrifice.

Of course, in closing I have to leave you with the required (but, appropriate) words of Jesus at John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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Assassinating cynicism

In Choosing to see the wonderful #CTSTW, Encouragement, Friendship, Happiness, Thoughts on Christianity on January 21, 2014 at 3:28 am

I hate cynicism. It’s snide and snarky only as a veneer to hopelessness and unkindness. But, I really like Conan O’Brien.

So, I’m a hypocrite because I have been feeling very cynical lately. The hypocrisy has nothing to do with Conan.

I rarely “talk” (that is, in person with audible words) about church or Christianity. I rarely talk to people with whom I used to go to church. I rarely enter a church building. It didn’t hit me until recently that when I talk church, or go to church, or associate myself with anything that brings up church….cynicism takes over and I become someone very unlike who I actually am. I become mysterious, closed, cowardly, inarticulate, distrustful, and angry.

I’m not that person.

Have you seen Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop? It’s literally quite an interesting documentary. I remember Conan when he first started with Late Night. To this day, he is as he was then: funny, sharp, sarcastic. Then, he got fired or he quit. Let’s meet in the middle and say he quired. He gave a lovely farewell speech. Apparently, he also hates cynicism. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/22/conan-obriens-heartfelt-f_n_433954.html

Watching him work through the anger and the disappointment of leaving the Tonight Show was overwhelming because at every turn, I could literally feel him beating back the cynicism in a triumphant process full of hard work and trying moments. He spent time mulling, then he put together a comedy tour, hit the road, rocked Bonaroo, and played guitar with Jack White.

I don’t play guitar. But, recently, I have seen or heard from several of the teenagers I used to work with in teen ministry. It’s been so refreshing. For so long, I questioned my purpose for having been there. I questioned whether or not we did any good. I questioned whether or not I had been helpful. I questioned whether or not church as it is has a legitimate and meaningful place in the lives of today’s teens and young adults. Notice I said church–that weekly religious gathering. I had questions, but not a lot of answers.

Getting hugs and e-mails and text messages from these people has not really given me the answers. I have realized, however, that the questions I am asking are not that important. I cannot allow the sadness and pain of the present dim the truth of what happened in the past. Allowing the present to color the past inevitably leads to cynicism about the future. I worked with some great adults and teens to try to provide a safe, healthy, loving environment for teens to come and learn about Jesus. We laughed and cried and laughed and preached and laughed and prayed and laughed and travelled and laughed and fussed. We laughed a lot because we enjoyed being together and we found joy in talking about Jesus and in loving each other.

Thanks to Conan, I know that just because I left doesn’t mean that I have to harbor bitterness. Just because I felt pushed out of that church doesn’t mean that I can’t find a place in another church. It’s pointless to rehash the past. It’s done. The hurts are there. The wounds are there. Healing is process that looks to the future.

C.S. Lewis makes me smile

In and other uncomfortable topics, Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Thoughts on Christianity on October 7, 2013 at 12:02 am

I love The Chronicles of Narnia. I return to those stories at least once a year. They refresh me. Therefore, I have always had great respect for the author, C.S. Lewis. He was a great writer, a great thinker, and a great Christian. He did radio broadcasts in Britain during World War II to help keep the morale of the British up. His books are mainstays for theologians, apologists, and anyone looking to find out more information about Christianity. He married late in life, and his wife died after a prolonged struggle with cancer. In the days and weeks after her death, he kept journals.

Oddly, these journals are the things that have made me smile.

Lewis later published these journals under the title A Grief Observed. He grapples, transparently and despairingly and courageously, with the loss of his beloved wife and the delicate nature of his faith in God. Lewis says things that many people are too scared to admit about faith.

But go to Him [God] when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited?

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘so there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

And, I smile not because his wife, Joy, is dead. I smile not because he is suffering in these pages. I smile because his path of grief that is so sharp and so different from anything I have ever known, reminds me that I am not alone. His grief reminds me that sweeping away my feelings and telling myself to buck up, man up, and put on my big girl panties is nothing. The missive “hold on to God’s unchanging hand” is not something that I have to do. I believe in God, but I think that anyone who tells me to hold on to His unchanging hand doesn’t quite understand. God does not change, true enough. But, what I understand about God changes. I cannot hold on to His hand…that is a part of the journey of being human and separate from God, yet with the ability to unite myself with Him.

My faith, in plain speak, is shattered and it has been for some time. I am thankful to God, I love God, I believe in God, I appeal to God, I worship God. But, I no longer understand what it means to be a Christian. But, surely I am a Christian–I believe that Jesus died on a cross to make right all my sins.

In this world of church politics and genocide and Twitter and great poverty thrown against great wealth—-no. Let me cut straight to the chase rather than do this whole poetic list. Between church politics and my stance on LGBT issues and my (bleeding heart liberal) politics in general……..I’m just not sure where I fit anymore.  Like Lewis, I’m not afraid that I will quit believing in God or Jesus. I’m afraid that I will realize, ‘This is what it meant to be Christian all along.’ And, then where will I be? A woman who believes in the Creator, in God, in Christ, in the cleansing of sin, in eternal life….but without Christianity? Without church? That’s blasphemy or something like it.

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. (–C.S. Lewis)

And, I smile. My faith is knocked down. I am winded. I am feeling alone. But, I am still moving. I feel alone, but I know that I am not. I smile. I am in the process–and if even a man like Lewis got mired for weeks and weeks I know now not to despair at being mired for months and months. Maybe what I have been involved in and what I have given myself to for all these years has not really been Christianity, but only my understanding of Christianity that looked very much like Christianity but just wasn’t. Maybe Christianity means something that I don’t quite understand yet. Here is one of the shortest, strongest, and truest sentences in A Grief Observed:

I NEED CHRIST, NOT SOMETHING THAT RESEMBLES HIM.

CBW seeks words from MDP

In and other uncomfortable topics, Thoughts on Christianity on September 30, 2013 at 3:48 am

This Christian Black Woman is seeking words written by a Modern Day Peter.

As I was writing my last post, I realized that’s what I’m looking for: a modern-day Peter who has written his/her story of how s/he tried to walk on water…..and succeeded for a moment (and it was glorious), but ultimately failed.

These verses are from Matthew 14:

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The majesty of this story is not really in the fact that Peter walked on water–though that is undeniably cool. The beauty of the story is that Peter’s fear got the better of him but the moment he called out for help: Jesus was IMMEDIATELY there, held out His hand, and they walked back to the boat together.

I used to think about how stupid it was for Peter to doubt–particularly after he’d been walking on the water already. I used to think that the image of Peter sinking was anti-climatic. But, not anymore. I can’t put down the impulses of being human, and now I can only imagine the gripping terror that must have seized on Peter when he realized that he was milliseconds away from drowning and the only thing keeping him upright was the invisible love of Jesus and his own invisible faith.

I need more stories from those who got back into the boat.

Searching for Books

In and other uncomfortable topics, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Thoughts on Christianity on September 30, 2013 at 3:23 am

I’ve been searching for books written by people who have struggled with their faith but, ultimately, come back.

If you know of a title, please leave it in the comments.

I would love to read something personal, and perhaps in the style of a memoir. For me, reading a book is (right now) the closest thing that I allow myself to really commiserate and explore ways to heal other than laughter and soldering on.

It is not that I doubt the existence of God. I see the earth and life as lacy creations knitted by God–and I believe God is. But, what I have lost touch with is the daily, moment by moment meditation on the love of God and the way of Christ. The in touch part of me has not disappeared, but has folded in upon itself and become dense and buried deep. I rarely share that part of me anymore–not because I hang around a rough living crowd. But, because that is the part of me that is softest and most tender and most often hurt.

That leaves me between the rock of faith and an emotionally hard place. Perhaps I wouldn’t get hurt if I had more faith….guarded my heart….put my trust in God rather than man….prayed more….meditated more…..been more discerning? Perhaps I am supposed to be hurt? Maybe that part of a human that experiences God has to be tender and soft and, therefore, more susceptible to scarring.

What I doubt is if I was actually in touch daily and moment by moment. Was I serving God or placating myself? So, in a purely post-modern perhaps Freudian and definitely selfish way I doubt my own ability to serve God. I doubt the rhetoric, the jargon, the words, the phrases, the clichés of the Christian religion. I am paranoid of these things and I constantly question if they are genuine or simply designed to pierce through to that tender and soft place in me and numerous other listeners/watchers/parishioners/congregations.

I need to know that I’m not the only one whose ever lacked courage when it comes to Christ. Because, in the end, that is what I am lacking. I am afraid to get hit again where I know it will hurt most.

Waiting for Autumn

In Thoughts on Christianity on August 27, 2013 at 3:11 am

The day after I said something sad, I was driving to work. It was a steamy August day in Georgia and I was wishing that the weather was cooler. As I wondered in dismay at the puny output of my car’s air conditioner, it hit me: WAIT FOR AUTUMN.

I could have said that the Lord spoke to me or I “felt something in my spirit” or that the scriptures opened up. But, to be honest…it wasn’t that fancy. I do believe God placed me in that situation to realize that one simple thing for a reason. But, don’t go picturing a burning bush and wheels within wheels.

WAIT FOR AUTUMN. Each season does what it is called upon to do. Summer in Georgia is called upon, apparently, to scorch. I don’t have to ask to be (unreasonably) hot in Summer. Things grow, even without encouragement, under the heat and rain. I have to be patient for the cooler weather–it comes even without encouragement (from me and the rest of Georgia). Oddly enough, I never question the coming of Autumn or think that it’s possibly not coming.

The growing season is not less important than the harvest season is not less important than the fallow season is not less important than the planting season. The work for each season must be done IN THAT SEASON or the next season won’t be as meaningful. Summer is all well and good for growing things, but if you didn’t plant anything during the Spring: farming fail.

And maybe my life is like the coming of Autumn. Right now, I absolutely feel sad about the current location of my spiritual journey. I keep asking WHEN AM I GOING TO GET OVER THIS? When will I move on? When will find a place that I fit?

The answer: that time will come, even without encouragement, at the proper time. But, right now I must do the work necessary for this moment.

I said something sad today….

In and other uncomfortable topics, R[evol]ution, Thoughts on Christianity on August 22, 2013 at 1:17 am

My boyfriend was driving me home after work. We passed a very large church that is familiar to both of us. I’ve been a church refugee for nearly three years. But, at this point, perhaps church delinquent or church truant or church runaway are better terms. I looked over at the church and said, “Maybe we can visit there some time.” He replied, “We should.” Then, less than a half beat later and without thinking, I blurted out: I don’t know if I want to go back to church.

And, that made me sad. Mostly because it was at least partially true.

I don’t know if I want to re-enmesh myself with another large group of people who aren’t lawyers. Law school was the last time that I jumped into a new group of people with whom I shared space on a regular basis and who saw me at my worst and at my best. As an introvert…the thought of doing it again is exhausting. I don’t know if I want to open myself to the possible hurt that can follow the end of a close friendship. I don’t know if I want to make the opposite choice of purposely guarding myself to protect from heartbreak.

I don’t know if I want to expose my sometimes eccentric and idiosyncratic beliefs about sexuality, gender, race, class, education, and the Lord to the possibly homogenizing force that can be the Christian church. I don’t know if I want to make the opposite choice of pretending that my beliefs are more mainstream than they really are.

I don’t know if I want to again make an endless stream of visits to different churches as if I was visiting colleges.

I don’t know if I can again open my heart to trust another person to pour spiritual teaching into me as I listen.

I don’t know if I can do the debates and the meetings and the disagreements and the schisms and the commuting and the crying and the leaving and the loving and the teaching and the volunteering….but, that’s crap because I know that I can and I know that I should and I know that I must.

 

 

Novel: Dredging up the past

In Encouragement, Novel, Thoughts on Christianity on June 22, 2013 at 4:50 am

Here is a link to the novel that I am writing one page at a time.

I intend this story to be a way for me to walk through a number of emotions that I am trying to put into perspective and sort out. I want to write the emotions in regular words, not emotion words. I am wondering how much it will help me to forgive and contextualize if I dredge up those emotions so that I tackle them head on. Some of these emotions have been hiding, disguised as something else, in my life. Right now, I am dealing with self-loathing and self-hatred. I am dealing with loneliness and isolation.

The other day I cleaned out my car–I did a pretty awesome detail job. But, I had so much stuff from my time as a ministry worker. Forms, offering envelopes, tons of pens, worship and praise CDs, bible study notes, bible study ideas, clip boards, notebooks. There was so much stuff that I didn’t think that I would be able to sort through it all. But, I went through every bag and every scrap. Some of it I kept. Much of it went in the trash and the recycle bin. And, it was sad to see that so many things that once had meaning for my life were now meaningless. But, it also felt great to put each thing in its proper place. It felt great to have a clean and near car that has plenty of space for new adventures.

I’m thinking I can do something similar with my heart.

Church Foul Balls

In R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Thoughts on Christianity on June 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm

It’s been around two years since I’ve been in a church. My desire was to draft this entire post with a positive spin on my perceptions and beliefs. But, I still have so much hurt surrounding the issue of church that I am going to give myself permission to be hurt for a minute in the hopes that I can get closer to healing.

The reason I can tell that I am hurt is that when I mull this stuff over in my mind, the word “fair” comes up A LOT. In my heart, I KNOW that “fair” has very little to do with reality. Fair is something I think about when I don’t understand what’s going on or when I don’t want to think about what is going on. Fair and unfair are temporary labels I slap on thoughts.

I think about how it’s not fair that church involves politics. I think it’s not fair that I can’t be broken and in need of fixing. It’s not fair that I can’t be honest about my flaws and weaknesses. It’s not fair that my weaknesses can be thrown back at me. I think it’s not fair that the wonderful and mighty name of Jesus is thrown around and misused to inflict pain. I think it’s unfair that my time is not valued. I think it’s unfair that I am supposed to put myself second. I think it’s unfair that it should hurt so much that I decided to leave. I think it’s unfair that I haven’t discovered a way to process these losses.

And, they are losses. I left behind the people I had come to love and care for. I literally just walked away and never came back. There is no way to explain, hey…this is what is going to cause the least damage in the long run. It was unfair to them. But, the greatest loss? I am no longer certain that there is a place for me in ANY church…ANY gathering of Christians. It’s unfair for me to walk into a church with that big of a chip on my shoulder. So, I haven’t. Maybe I never will again. Maybe I will this Sunday–I rather doubt it, though.

Christian Jesters in the Kingdom of Heaven

In R[evol]ution, Thoughts on Christianity on December 13, 2012 at 6:39 am

The title says it all.

This was not the original post I intended to publish under this title, but why waste a perfectly good title! Originally, I planned to lambast Westboro Baptist Church, Chick-fil-A (I may get into that in another post….there’s quite a story there), and all manner of people who have (in my opinion) used Jesus to cover up some very shabby (to say the least) and not Christian beliefs. I was going to use a series of pointed catch words like hypocrite and Pharisee, along with the required stock phrases (“judge not lest ye be judged”).

Lightning bolt. Am I not also being pretty judgmental? Basically, all I planned on doing was pointing out a group of people and using scripture to say, HEY! SEE ME? MY BELIEFS ARE RIGHT! MY BELIEFS ARE FAR MORE JESUS-Y THAN YOURS. What a waste (though I am aware that I have passively aggressively done the very thing that I didn’t want to do).

This was all set in motion because one of my Twitter followers retweeted some tweets by a lady who is very much against the legalization of marijuana. I began to fall into my sanctimonious attitude while I read some of her tweets, planning on how to rip her a theological new one. Then, I began to read some of the derisive and dismissive responses she had already gotten. She responded to none of the them, and kept on tweeting.

Who am I to judge? How can I afford to waste time by showing off my Christian demi-hipsterism? She believes that her assignment is to inform people about the pitfalls of smoking weed. Am I the one to tell her that there are (in my opinion) far more important things to worry about? No. I am the one to concentrate on the path laid out before me, to complete the assignment that I am given, to judge the fruits of my labor.