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Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

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.

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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.

Epic Vent: Depression and Downers

In Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on July 6, 2013 at 5:00 am

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder for the third time in my life. Non-head shrink language? Everything stresses me out. A LOT. I just can’t sometimes, like seriously. Well, not everything stresses me out. It’s more like I become stagnated in anxiety. This is not a medical definition; this is my description of what it feels like.

Big reveal: I take medication for it. To me, this is not a big deal anymore.  I speak of it–not in an uncomfortable way (ok, so sometimes I do make jokes about depression that make others uncomfortable–but it’s funny to me)–when it’s appropriate. I think mental health needs to be spoken of intelligently and often. Ah! But, that’s the rub: INTELLIGENCE required. Sometimes, when a person finds out that I struggle with clinical depression/generalized anxiety: s/he says/does weird ish. Like, seriously ermergag-that-was-strange kinds of things. I am sure that many of things were said or done with the best of intentions by someone who cared for me. Nonetheless, these things were true downers. And, down is  not where an anxious and depressed mind needs to go.

1. You need to laugh more. 

Really? Watching a couple of Kevin Hart movies and a few I Love Lucy re-runs should get it, then? No. No. No. Though laughing does release “good” chemicals in the brain (I went to law school, not medical school), there is no way that I can laugh myself out of clinical depression. Moreover, if I tried to do so I am sure that the phrase “why so serious, son?” would be involved.

Please understand that depression and anxiety are not the same as a bad day–and bad days suck. Before starting a regimen of therapy and medication, I could crack jokes and laugh at jokes multiple times a day and still cower in the corners of myself. Please, in the name of Aslan, STOP TELLING PEOPLE THIS. 

2. You need some supplements.

Exactly! Prozac! No? Oh. You mean like vitamins and minerals? Yeaaaaaaaah. I tried that. Valerian. St. John’s. I was dropping a fortune at health food stores because the dosage of those herbs required to provide a therapeutic effect is quite large. Because I am sure that Van Gogh just needed a little more vitamin C in his diet to prevent him from chopping his ear off. Ernest Hemingway would have been with us much longer if he’d had more leafy greens.

3. You have no idea of the side effects of that medication.

True. I mean, I read the pamphlets and information. I ask my doctor lots of questions. I go to WebMD. But, in the long term (like 40 or 50 years out), I don’t know the side effects. I admit it.

But, one of the immediate side effects of a combination of therapy and medication was that I felt a little sharper. I realized how very long I had been going through the motions. I felt like a very fine and nearly invisible cob web had been brushed aside. I was barely functional in the months before I started the meds. I scraped through my reading assignments. I dreaded meeting new people. I dreaded talking to people I did know.

Though I am still quite the drama queen (halllelooooo!), I am able to deal with stressful situations. I can order and prioritize things. I can make small talk. I can meet new people. I can follow the rapid fire of a normal conversation.

4. You need more faith.

For the record: telling this to someone who is clinically depressed IS NOT–I REPEAT–NOT A WWJD CHOICE.

Sigh. This one. Yeah, seriously. I heard that–and, I believed it for years. While I worked in ministry and taught Bible study. I was barely handling things. I was on the edge–and it showed in my body. I got the flu; I fainted at work; I had chest infections; I had outbreaks of hives; I ballooned up to 200 pounds and, less than 2 years later, I dropped down to 120 pounds.

And, I prayed. But, still I had weeks where all I could do after meeting my personal obligations was hide in bed. And, I beat myself up because obviously I still felt that way because I didn’t have enough faith. I hadn’t prayed enough. I had a friend actually cut off contact with me partially for going back on meds the second time. I beat myself up even more, and figured that she must be right. I went off meds again. Hey, I haven’t always been the dazzling logical mind that I am now (pants on fire).

You might think that God would never allow me to suffer like that if I truly had enough faith and prayed enough. Let me stop you right there. God is not a genie and prayer isn’t like rubbing the bottle. Paul said in II Corinthians 12:7 – 10,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Truly, this struggle with depression has made me stronger. I have become more able to show compassion to others dealing with emotional struggles.  I am not quite to the point where I delight in it and, let’s face it, I’m no Paul so I will never get to that point. The Bible does not and never has promised smooth sailing. That’s a fact.

5. You just need to talk about your feelings.

Actually, this one is not all that bad. For some, therapy and counseling without medication is a solution. But, not so for me. And, honestly, who wants to listen to me whine and bellyache and angst brain about my life? The people who told me that all I needed to do was talk it out eventually got sick of it. I don’t blame them.

You might think that you can be a sure and constant listening ear for someone with lots of emotional issues. But, don’t take on that responsibility before you count the cost. Depression and anxiety can lead to weird telephone calls from odd places at crazy hours. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help from someone who can provide a comprehensive plan for mental therapy. You can be a part of his/her support network.

***

I’m not even going to go there with these gems:

-You should switch to a vegan diet. (Oh, ok.)

-You should exercise more. (Oh, like to obsessive levels so I can get runner’s high? Nice.)

-You shouldn’t worry about it. Everybody gets sad. (Everybody dies, too……?)

-Black people don’t get depression. (I can’t. I just can’t with this one.)

 

30 Things for 31

In Encouragement, First World Problems, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Thoughts on Christianity on September 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

Thirty was a bittersweet year. I mean that literally. Have you ever had bittersweet chocolate or a glass of good champagne? Bittersweetness has a tangy bite that quickly spreads to the back of your throat and a smooth sweetness up front. Being 30 was like that, and 31 is shaping up to be the same. Did someone say champagne? Here are 30 thoughts flying around in my head at the beginning of my 31st year.

30. Use your money. Don’t just spend it. Give 10% to a good cause, save 10%, pay your bills and then USE the rest. To use your money, only shop at quality establishments and only buy quality products….but when you find quality use your money to support it. Urban Outfitters? Meh. Second Generation Importers of designer African apparel? Yes, please!

29. This is gonna sound way frilly, but you need a signature scent. Whether it’s deodorant, body spray, soap, toothpaste, or lotion…you should have a scent that you love. Emotions are closely tied to our sense of smell (ergo, aromatherapy). Your scent should remind you of YOU! Me, I’m deep into the spice game: myrrh, frankincense, lavender, patchouli and sandalwood.

28. There is one thing that you don’t need more of. For me, it’s handbags and lip gloss. Sometimes, I’m trolling the cosmetic aisle, and I think, “Really, heffa? You need lip gloss like another hole in your head.” Identify your item and make a conscious effort to cut back.

27. Comfortable shoes! I’m about that life. I mean…..they HAVE TO be cute, too. I intend to make it to the grave with these same clodhoppers in good working order. Chicken George said if a tree ain’t got no roots, you ain’t got no tree. Well, what happens if you ain’t got good feet? Huh?

26. Buy clothes in the correct size. Not too big. Not too small. You deserve a tailored look. Plus, whatever you THINK you’re hiding with the wrong size is not being hidden. Everyone knows.

25. Politics is the opiate of the American masses. Marx said religion was the opiate of the masses. Dude, an ambassador was KILLED and we’re still talking Todd Akin? Seriously? Politics: opiate. Boom: done. Opiates numb the pain of what’s REALLY wrong. Opiates stimulate your mind and starve your body. Politics: opiate.

24. Rudeness is never the answer. People remember getting snubbed the way they remember Christmas. No lie. Be sharp, be to the point, but be courteous.

23. Woodsboro Baptist Church needs to SHUT UP. The KKK is AGAINST them. I am against them. Woodsboro made ME AGREE WITH THE KKK. Moreover, the KKK has protested against Woodsboro, but 700 Club et al haven’t said much. Something is really wrong with that. Woodsboro doesn’t speak for Christians….and certainly not for Jesus. I’m really pretty hacked off that I was forced to agree with the KKK.

22. You know what kills jealousy? Honesty. I’ve had a few people of whom I’ve been jealous. I had the good sense to tell a couple of them how I felt. Amazingly, exposing jealousy and envy will kill them.

21. Heartbreak heals. I promise. But, you have to treat it like you would a sprain: a little rest and then you have to start going back to your regular schedule of life. You may temporarily be unable to achieve a certain range of emotion, but it will come back.

20. Horoscopes? Really? C’mon, son. I will narrowly agree with you that, because our bodies are mostly water and the moon affects water, the moon ergo can affect our bodies and moods. Narrowly agree.

19. You voted for Obama just because he’s Black and you’re Black? Really? C’mon, son. Dr. King said that America needs to get to a place where people are not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. You should vote for a candidate because you agree with his/her politics. It is super cool that my candidate is also Black, but I happen to agree with most of his politics.

18. “Bettah come back down from Mars. Gul, quit chasin cars. What happens when the dough gets low, ’cause you ain’t that fine no way! No way!” I’m from Atlanta, and therefore I am required to quote Outkast from memory at a moment’s notice. More important is the truth of the quote. I know you’re cute, sis. It doesn’t last, though. Invest into your talents and education the way you invest in your looks.

17. Your family is who your family is. Period. Every family has a portion of dysfunction.

16. Love doesn’t hurt and it isn’t selfish. Period. A person who loves you shouldn’t feel an impetus to “try to make you better.” What is this? Pygmallion? Ugh. A person who loves may well inspire you to be better and support you in your efforts at self-improvement. Moreover and for the record, co-equals in a relationship do not discipline each other like children. A loving eros relationship does not involve physical discipline, timeout, or the silent treatment as a frequent characteristic.

15. Share an encouraging word at any time. At all times. From the most genuine part of yourself. If you can’t be encouraging, you need to stop and go find time and space to be encouraged.

14. Gut impressions are usually correct. Not necessarily first impressions. But, those deep, down, intuitive vibrations that you have about someone….trust that.

13. Keep your eye on someone who talks too much. No offense to those of you who talk a lot, but…..I always wonder if super-talkative people are trying to cover up something, trying to distract me from something, or trying to keep me from saying something.

12. Keep your eye on someone who is NOT in the military or law enforcement, but carries a gun all the time. Again, no offense to those of you who stay packing, but when I was kid a person in my neighborhood only carried a gun if s/he needed a gun. Never have I ever in 31 years been trolling my local Home Depot and thought, “Damn. If only I’d had a gun….”
11. For real, if you have to walk your dog with a chain instead of a leash….you may want to rethink your fitness to own THAT dog.

10. I have very few regrets about things I’ve said or done. I have more regrets about things I left unsaid or undone.

9. I’m a Southerner; I have a Southern accent; I’m a Black Southerner with a Southern accent. I’m from the land of hospitality, fried chicken, and lost causes. I know what it’s like to be in the minority AND in the majority. I’ll go toe to toe with anyone of any color from any part of the world. Go ahead, judge me by my accent. Go ahead, judge me by my skin color. When life leaves you inthe dust, you’ll know how much your judgment was worth.

8. You’re looking for money? Good luck with that, and let me know when you find it. Last time I talked to Bill Gates, he told me money wasn’t missing. What you need to find are dreams, hopes, talents, gifts, and education.

7. One woman’s ex is another woman’s future.

6. Laugh hard, loud, and uncontrollably AT LEAST once a day.

5. Sticks, stones, and words can inflict similar amounts of pain….just in different ways.

4. A friendship lost is a lesson learned. Just make sure you actually learn the lesson.

3. Speaking in tongues is not about what comes out of your mouth, it’s about what’s going on between you and God.

2. C’mon, son. Which one is it? Single and satisfied? Single and sexy….!? Ugh. I have to la boom vent suite 🙂 on this one. If I hear one more TIRED cliche about single women, I’m gonna….well….I’m gonna BLOG about it. For real, what does this mean: “A woman should be so wrapped up in God that a man has to search for God to find her.” What? I have so many questions re: that quote (or whatever variation you prefer). I’m really not sure what that means. It sounds REALLY cool and awesome, but in application does it mean that if I am not in a relationship that I’m not wrapped up in God enough…? Jesus said “Love the Lord….love thy neighbor.” THOSE are the big two commandments. Wrapped up….? I just…I can’t. More blog coming later re: this.

1. You are the clay; God is the potter. Life is the potter’s hands, expertly shaping you. God is everywhere, all at once. His fingerprints are in the skies, on the trees, within the calls of the birds. Life is about embracing God. I don’t say “finding God”….because He isn’t lost. Life is about coming to terms with the fact that He is everywhere and that He is near at all times. He’s near, but you have to embrace Him.

My Christian Closet….

In Somewhat disjointed rant..., Thoughts on Christianity on September 17, 2012 at 1:38 am

Christianity has always been, and remains, very important to me. I profoundly believe that Jesus Christ is the only path to eternal love and relationship with God. Posting this makes me nervous, and every inclination is telling me that it would be much easier not to post this, and not to say anything.

Here’s where the unexpected honesty comes: I don’t understand all of the ins and outs of Christianity. If you want to pose hypotheticals, there are some that will stump me. For instance, I am sometimes asked whether a baby who dies in infancy is able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven under my belief system. I don’t know. I’m not sure. On one hand, I believe that we are born into sin. On the other hand, I believe that God, through Jesus Christ, has an abundant and infinite amount of grace and mercy. For the record, I also believe that anyone who looks me in the eye and says that, as a Christian, s/he knows the definitive answer to that hypothetical is either lying or a far more faithful Christian than I can ever hope to be.

There are mysteries of my faith that are beautiful to me. I am not a Christian because I seek to understand all things. I am a Christian because I seek to love and to show compassion. And, I want to (and hope I do) show love and compassion to all people, regardless of religion, race, or sexual orientation. Here, I’m talking particularly about sexual orientation. I can’t, I just can’t for the life of me believe that Jesus would want Christians to turn homosexuals out of the church. I can’t, I just can’t believe that He would want us to preach venom against a group of people from the pulpit. I can’t, I just can’t believe that Westboro Baptist is in the right here. Moreover, I can’t, I just can’t believe that Jesus would not want us to deal with this issue head on. I refuse to believe that He would want us to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that homosexuality doesn’t exist.

This is the issue I am dealing with: what is the Christian church focused on? Are we focused on the sexuality of others or are we concerned with ourselves? Jesus told the accusers of the adulteress, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”  (John 8:7) Jesus wants us to focus on ourselves.  Are we eager to condemn as a means to entrap, as were the Scribes and Pharisees? No where did Jesus shun, ostracize, condemn, curse, harass, or discriminate against anyone as a means of redeeming that person.

Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40). Homophobia is not loving your neighbor. Whispering rumors about someone’s sexuality is not loving your neighbor. Refusing to associate with someone is not loving your neighbor. My job as a Christian is to keep to the commandments of Christ. I must do a better job of doing what Jesus has commanded. Isn’t that the point?

Sensory Deprivation

In Thoughts on Christianity on September 9, 2012 at 7:28 am

There’s a fairly popular bar in Atlanta called The Graveyard. I’ve been a few times. A hearse, loaded with a coffin, is parked in front of the joint.

Here’s the thing. The Graveyard is a sensory deprivation tank. It’s dark. It’s loud with voices and music. It smells of cigarettes. And, for crying out loud, you kinda don’t want to touch anything (given the pervasive darkness). The last time I went to The Graveyard, I was so hopelessly freaked out by my inability to interpret my environment using my five senses that I shut down. I crawled on top of one of the high, wooden booths and sat there (smiling and nodding at my friends so they wouldn’t think I was losing it). I felt lost. I had no idea how to begin to enjoy myself.

I wonder if a person might feel like when she walks into church. She can’t talk to anyone, except to sing. She can only listen to the songs and the preacher. There are people around her saying things she may not understand. Church is not necessarily a realm of the five senses. Church relies on different senses: the spiritual and the corporate. School doesn’t teach those, and everyone doesn’t learn those at
home.

No wonder people, particularly new visitors and young people, shut down in church. They cannot use the senses that usually interpret the world. They feel lost, and have no idea how to begin to enjoy themselves.

How can churches help visitors and young people to interpret the spiritual and corporate environment around them?