Funny, God

7 02 2011

My mother is amazing.  Really.

She is incredibly smart, humble, gorgeous and totally naive about the world.  That makes her adorable.

The scene in my head that plays when I think of describing Mom is from Leverage Season 1 where Parker meets Nate’s ex-wife.  Parker says she’s adorable, pats her on the head, then sniffs her and somehow it’s not overly creepy.   And yes, Mom and I did discuss me writing this post so it’s not like I’m blabbing family secrets or anything.  We collaborated on this and decided you should be a part of our phone call.

I don’t know how Mom made it to me being 30 years old and not realizing that apocalyptic stories and prophecies scare me.  I shit my pants at severe thunderstorms and the apocalypse.  I’ve ALWAYS been this way.

It’s no surprise (to me, anyways) that I subscribe heavily to the Joss Whedon and Terry Goodkind school of thought when it comes to prophecy vs. free will.  I figure we’re all going to die anyways so I should CHOOSE to act in a humane and intelligent way because it helps me and those around me RIGHT NOW.  I don’t act right because of the fear of demons from hell shooting through volcano cracks to eat my brains.

My brain can’t comprehend or accept mass destruction so I live in a way I can wrap my thoughts around.  I also believe that so much emphasis is put on how the world ends that we’re busy bringing the very thing we fear to actuality.  If we hadn’t been working so hard trying to outwit it, it may not need to be outwitted.  And if it is true and inescapable then my part is to live my right here and now life decently.  If it all ends in chaos and despair, then the only reasonable thing to do is to live for joy right now.

Mom really leans towards the end of the world stuff and obviously the 2nd seal has broken and we’re all going to die in a blaze of glory or something here soon.  She also really likes to call and tell me about why and how this is coming about.  I want to know how prophets picked out accurate words when they described their vision because they don’t have a lot of room to write down details.  It’s like making life and death decisions based on a Twitter feed.  If a picture is worth 1,000 words and the prophet is so flooded with imagery that they clutch their heads and fall over, then it’s going to take a hell of a lot of paper and ink to write it out.

My eventual response, after fighting down the panic attack, is “Mom, the world’s been ending for a long damn time.”

I told her I’d write this thesis she’s assigned me when she reads The Sword of Truth novels.  If we both did our part, we’d come away knowing quite a bit about how the other one’s brain works.  At that point of the conversation, we just agreed to think about it and talk to God and see how it went.

We also talked about current events, the state of my brain and all the drama that makes up life.  IRL hasn’t been so steady lately and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and agonizing about how this good ship Dollins Family should make enough money to stay afloat for another year.  The whole his job/my job/my health/health insurance/education requirements dilemma.  When a day to day routine exists, there is comfort and safety.  When there’s no routine, there’s anxiety and insecurity.  I’m not so secure or carefree at the moment so a lot of our conversation was tinged with my IRL worries.

This is where God gets funny.

I laid down in bed that night and thought really hard “God, I just need a single direction.  Just a feeling that one way or the other is right.  I feel like I need a compass.”

Then I couldn’t sleep and decided to start on the next book in my reading list.

The Psychology of Joss Whedon: An Unauthorized Exploration of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly

Huh, this entire book is about the characters in the Whedonverse who are contemplating this very issue.

First, I laughed at myself for finding theological truths in science fiction and fantasy novels (but then again – have you ever actually READ the Bible as a work of literature?  It’s as good a sci-fi primer as anything.)  Then I laughed some more because just this year I’ve found and become a total Firefly geek.  Before, I didn’t want anything to do with it – I’d never seen the TV show or the movie, I didn’t have any conversations about it.  I really just thought it was a weird Star Trek vs Battlestar Galactica ripoff.  I had no idea.  Now it’s strangely relevant to life.

I read more today and I learned that I’m more like Mal than Buffy.  I tend towards antisocial behavior but its only after I’ve used up the more mainstream ideas.  If things had gone in a more mainstream manner in my life, I’d be a more mainstream type of person.  I’m not only shaped by events, but I live with a more individualized moral code because of those events.  If mainstream included me and people like me, then I wouldn’t have to be something other than normal and a more generalized world view would be relevant.

(Does anyone else think that the creators of “there’s only one way to God” people are just the theologians with a really good marketing campaign?  I mean, it would be a shitty campaign to say “our product rocks but so does everyone else’s product.” I mean, what would you advertise?  The fact that your god was cross-platform and multi-app compatible?  That’s just a quick way to become irrelevant.  It’s all about branding, people!)

Why don’t I just adapt?  Lots of people who go through weird shit adapt.  Why don’t you?  I ask myself that a lot and the only answer I can come up with is “it’s my personality type.”

I’m not that abnormal in reality.  Most of the people I know and willingly socialize with are unconventional.  They live in unconventional manners and with unconventional world views inside of cultural boundaries.  I speak for myself (which is why there’s a heavy I emphasis in this blog – I don’t like speaking for other people) when I say that I have a well formed, rationalized, and stable morality.  I would make a good space cowboy.  I would not make a good elementary school teacher.  I accept these things about myself and move on.

I think my message was pretty clear: learn about and accept yourself, then move forward.  The only wrong thing to do is nothing.

Besides, if the world ends tomorrow, I won’t have to worry about any of this.


Barren & the Bible

9 05 2010

I thought for a long time that I had failed spiritually somehow and that’s why I couldn’t have children.  I think I got to the point of not caring this past year when I did things “my” way and adopted my babies and got a hysterectomy.

Mother’s Day is always hard on me because for the past 10 years, I’ve been the outcast.  This morning, I was looking up a Psalm that my sister had found and came across this:

Isaiah 54

1-6 “Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children
than all those childbearing women.” God says so!
“Clear lots of ground for your tents!
Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
Use plenty of rope,
drive the tent pegs deep.
You’re going to need lots of elbow room
for your growing family.
You’re going to take over whole nations;
you’re going to resettle abandoned cities.
Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed.
Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.

This is the Psalm – she remembered it because I said that I’ve always been sick and in pain.  I can’t remember ever being “normal” but that I’ve done more than anyone could have expected.

Psalm 129

1 “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,”
Let Israel now say—
2 “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth;
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed on my back;
They made their furrows long.”
4 The LORD is righteous;
He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.

I’ll write more later about it, but I wanted to make sure it was up somewhere I could find it.  Hugs to everyone who feels like the Bible forgot them and that they failed because they are sick.  You didn’t and you aren’t.  You are just walking a different path.

The Issue of Church, part 2

30 06 2009

Following up from part 1, where I probably scared most people into hitting the back button on the first point, here are 5 more points dedicated to unraveling my mental logjam.  I kinda feel sorry for the other 4 points that are forced to share a virtual canvas with point #1.  They don’t get nearly as much attention because their older sister is louder and more controversial.

I promise to be more tame than point #1.  If you couldn’t tell, that’s my most loaded reason and I had to get it out there.  So, hey, if you’re still with me then you’re a pretty cool dude and I think I love you.  Srsly.

6.  I don’t like unconsciously rebel against the idea of “spiritual authority”

I have a spiritual authority.  Really, I do.  I picked him out all by myself at the Spiritual Authority store right next to Sports Authority at the Mall.  His name is Jesus and his last name is Christ and if you’re not Jesus Christ then you are not my spiritual authority.

I have no idea where churches got this stupid idea from that there are people who are “authorities” and we have to submit to them.  Can we say abuse of position and abuse of power?  Hey,  you want to get together on Saturday?  No, I can’t, my spiritual authority said I had to wash her car. Or even worse… “It’s ok if I touch you there, God put me in charge of you.”

It’s like some super-natural parent where not only do you not get to pick who your “authority” is, you must blindly follow in their “classes” regardless of their education or ability to actually maintain some respect.

People who are not my spiritual authority:

1.  My husband (he’s my spiritual PARTNER)

2.  The pastor

3.  The youth group leader

4.  The small group leader

5.  You

People who have legitimate claims to be my spiritual authority:

1.  Jesus & his cohorts in the trinity

2.  My mom

3.  My dad

7.  Churches should be better at therapy than potlucks

“I’ll pray for you” and potato salad have never been enough to get me through an issue.  C’mon people, aren’t you kinda trained to help people?  No… oh, my mistake.

But seriously – why aren’t you?  Why aren’t churches hosting training classes for people to be effective human beings in the world?  By that, I don’t mean “how to save the masses” or any of that evangelical stuff – I mean “recognizing domestic abuse,” “becoming a court appointed advocate for children in the court systems,”  “parenting special needs children.”  You know, stuff that actually has a practical difference in the lives of the people around us.  If our life is made up of our sphere of influence, then why aren’t we making the sphere a better one?

Hey people up there in the pews!  Us people down here in the trenches need help with ministry not evangelizing!  You know – ministering to people.  Church should be in the streets, not inside a building.

8.  There is a thought in the church that people with chronic illnesses must not be good enough Christians

No one is going to plain out say it, but if you have a chronic illness and you don’t get miraculously healed at the prayer meeting – then shut up about the illness.  This is not the case, apparently, for the older church members who have eaten themselves into a triple bypass.

If you have a chronic illness, you are a whiner, complainer, negative, bringing folks down, and basically ruining the illusion that church is a happy place where people eat and get healthy and rich and happy.

That leads right into #9:

9.  Prosperity Theology

How to be good stewards of God’s money and still own that Cadillac.  (really?)  I can’t even get myself to type out why I think this is ridiculous.  This will sum it up.

10.  There’s a point when even the flies are tired of your honeypot

I’m tired of water sweetened with honey and vinegar slipped to you while you’re not paying attention.  Let’s be like Paul and ask for some meat on those ole Christian bones.

The world we live in is one of information overload – the slogans of the 80s aren’t going to get through.  Give us some information!  Original content!  Something thoughtful and heartfelt!  Something that hasn’t been through the corporate spinner and market testing.  Can’t we just get a little truth?

The Issue of Church

30 06 2009

I talked to my mom today, just catching up.  We chatted about how in less than a month, I’ll be married for 10 YEARS.  We talked about the husbands and kids and how they were doing and all our recent doctors appts.  We made plans for LJ to spend the night on Sunday.  We talked about E and how he hates to have his hair washed, fixing toilets, and general household stuff.  You know, normal mom & daughter things like we’ve been doing for all the years we haven’t lived in the same house.

Which has been since I married Shaun at 18 because my mother and I can be best friends as long as we don’t live in the same house.  We’re both alpha females and neither of us backs down, so it was prudent for my wish to continue breathing to move out.

Then she did something that hardly ever happens.  She asked if I would mind bringing the kids to their (my mom and my grandma’s) church on Wednesdays for Children’s Church.  Apparently, grandmommy and great-grandmommy are very eager to show off their new additions.  This is fine – it’s absolutely wonderful!  This is what I wanted for the kids – family who was excited and proud to be related to them.

But…  I’ve been avoiding the whole church thing for like 3 years now.  It’s got its own “thing” compartment in my brain for “topics I actively pretend don’t exist.”  It’s not so much the theology, or the ideas, or any of that “stuff” that gets to me.  It’s the leadership (visible and otherwise) whose job it is to “put on church” for the members.

What happens when I think about this is that all my thoughts collide like a train-wreck and my rational decision making skills just give up and let the straight-up emotional part of me go “nope, not thinking about that.  Everyone stop – it’s time to think about… chocolate.  Yes, chocolate.  Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.”

That’s about how long it takes for me to find something else to think about and the active willful repression continues.  Like just now, I changed the birds’ water, pet a couple of cats, checked on the kids, then went pee.  Only this blog post is keeping me on topic.

Let’s see if we can untangle this train with a list.  That’s nice and rational, right?  Here it goes:

The Top 10 Issues I Have With The Idea of Church

1.  I am firmly pro-choice

This isn’t really so bad as I believe I can respect their ideas while still holding my own beliefs.   Hey, other people have to believe other things otherwise I wouldn’t have anyone to debate with and that wouldn’t be any fun.  The problem comes in when I am (or the beliefs I have are) cordoned off into an “toxic waste section” because they aren’t going to try and CHANGE my mind, they’ll just IGNORE my mind while disassociating themselves from the heresy.

This comes from being about 14 years old and I went to Sunday School with a friend in a church that was a different domination from the one I had been raised with.  Which denominations they were are largely irrelevant.  I learned something very important that day:  Sunday School teachers of small groups have no fear in saying things that even the pastor would not say under his breath in an empty bathroom.

(This line of thought collides into the line of thought where “spiritual authorities” in the church are a bad idea.  Back on topic, though.)

I can tell you right now, that if a SS teacher said to one of my children that “women who have abortions and doctors who perform them are going to burn in hell” in the same lesson as “once saved by Jesus, you are always saved and forgiven” (neither of which I believe is an accurate statement based on the Bible) I would immediately sprout another head and a few more arms…  I don’t have it planned past that, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be pleasant.

I was told that stuff above (seriously, that’s about word for word what was burned into my memory) as a 14 year old because I questioned the teacher on where exactly it said that bullshit in the Bible.  The only thing worse than SS teachers is 14 year old girls that have been indoctrinated by this SS teacher for the past 10 years while being sheltered from the real world by over-indulgent middle class suburban parents.  I understood persecution that day.

It still didn’t change my mind, because even with all the nonsense they flung at me, no one could come up with a reasoned, scriptural answer or anything resembling compassion for women who are in the situation where they have to make a choice.

Also, really, how many of those girls in there went on to adopt the children that were born and then went on to be ignored/abused/neglected.  How many of them are foster parents?  How many of them work with the poor and homeless children whose parents are substance abusers?  How many of them work with the children who have a home, but come to the shelter because it beats going home to a relative’s boyfriend who is likely to abuse them?

Come on, now.  If you’re going to preach a philosophy that says children are sacred and should be protected then actually HAVE A FUCKING PLAN OF WHAT TO DO WITH THIS EXTRA POPULATION AFTER THEY’RE FUCKING BORN!  Because, boy, living in the United States with all these churches and all these kids who have never been helped by a the church who is working so hard on foreign missions work that they forgot all about those kids they insisted not be murdered.  Can’t we just focus on the children that are already here and already in pain?

(I suspect it may take vodka and/or a cigarette to make it through this post without smashing my keyboard.)

2.  I am unable to be a professional pew-warmer

I’ve tried – I really have tried – to just not have feedback for the speaker.  I’ve also tried to have feedback but just keep it to myself.  I really would like to be one of those people who goes to church to enjoy the ambiance and the hugs where your torso doesn’t touch theirs and to shake the pastor’s hand and have a fake conversation with his wife, then the family goes to El Sombrero and talks about local sports teams.

I was almost there once.  Almost!  I had friends that we sat with.  We went to lunch.  We had little faux dinner parties.  Then two things happened:  they had babies, and I didn’t AND I didn’t keep my mouth shut about what I thought about “keep on praying and it will happen.”

After that, I just backed off the whole relationship with people and churches thing and hid in my house and stopped answering the phone.  When I’m really honest with myself, I also realize that one of the friends’ husbands had a problem with my past and that made me very uncomfortable and upset. That leads to #3.

3.  When I get uncomfortable or too close to the “inner circle,” I freak out and back off

This always comes with finding faults, making excuses, and forgetting to charge my phone.  It also comes with not believing other people can help me get through grief or a hard spot or that anyone would even want to.  This is what I refer to as my “spiritual reactive attachment disorder.”

4.  I don’t blend in and I really have no wish to

a.k.a.  “people with tattoos can’t go to heaven” and “Leviticus says tattoos and gays are bad, and I forgot the rest.”

Which leads directly into number 5.

5.  I’m very well educated on the philosophy and belief system I subscribe to

Seriously, if you’ve read the Gospels and the letters of Paul, you’re ahead of probably 50% of the “Christians” sitting in the pews.  My mom is a bible scholar and living in her house, you could not turn around without seeing the scripture taped to the bathroom mirror, the pantry door, the place where you set the car keys near the front door.  She also asks for birthday gifts like “I’d like for you to read the Old Testament for me and write a “sermon” based on something you learned.”  You live with my momma, you learn the Bible.

With my natural curiousity, I’ve read the Bible in at least 7 different translations (The Word on The Street being my favorite) and own approximately 500 books on world faiths and spirituality.  Yes, I’ve read them.  If you do this, you start to see a lot of commonality and realize how people can talk about “one world, one faith.”  Also, combining that thought with the idea that memories and instincts are passed down through mitochondrial DNA, you can see how the world religions share a common mythology.

Anyways, most pastors I’ve met either don’t believe that I’m capable of that amount of thought or are somehow threatened by a young woman having comparable knowledge to what it took them years in seminary to learn.  (Granted, they know more about church history and apologetics than I do.  I haven’t explored that side of theology as much.)

I’ll have to put the next 5 into a part 2.  The kids are hungry and so am I.  I also need to regain my internal center of balance before writing more.

Rising from the ashes

20 06 2009

I woke up today headache-free!  Yay!  After a week of waking up with that “it might be a migraine” feeling, I’m actually up and moving.  This last bout of migraines started last weekend on Sunday when we went to Target to get a Wii for the kids.  I don’t know why the electronics department is always 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the store, but I got to feeling like I was going to fall out in the middle of the aisle.  I’m going to blame it on the increased electromagnetic energy coming from all the displays and tell Shaun I can’t window shop for TVs with him because I’m allergic.  What do you think?

On the rising from the ashes idea, it amazes me how many people think my tattoo is some perverted form of the phoenix, because it’s a flaming bird pointing DOWN.  The common thread seems to be that I think I’m on the fast road to hell… um… or something.

It’s actually the Pentecost Dove.  It has nothing to do with the phoenix other than the fire part.  Acts 2:1-4 from the Message Remix –

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force – no one could tell where it came from.  It filled the whole building.  Then, like a wild-fire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

From the NIV:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

It goes on “wow, everyone is like wtf?”  then in verse 13 it says “other joked that they were drunk on cheap wine.”

Oh, ok.  The dove is the Holy Spirit and it’s on fire because of the tongues of fire that set men to testify in other languages.  Got it.

Here’s where I get universal WTF?  Behind the dove, the tattoo says ARSON.  Arson is the first crime the HS committed on Earth at Pentecost.

I live in the Bible belt, so the reactions go something like this:  THE HOLY SPIRIT DOES NOT COMMIT CRIMES, BLASPHEMER!

Um, yeah, actually social disobedience is a crime and was a crime especially in first century Rome.  Jesus wasn’t the only Jew crucified during that time period.  The crosses lined the streets and people who were in the secret cult of Christianity could be executed without a trial.  Many people were.  To flagrantly go out with flaming beacons and declaring in every language that you were a member of this cult and hey, you should be too, was a crime punishable by death.

There are many places in the world that you would be shot on the street for being openly Christian.  Americans and Europeans have it so easy these days – they don’t have to think about risking their lives for a belief system. They just believe because their parents believed and that’s how they were raised.  They’ve never faced persecution and fear of death.  They walk around in their snarky t-shirts from Lifeway with their cross rings and necklaces, toting their Bible in a cutesy cover and scorn people who don’t go to church on Sunday.  They listen to Christian radio and only know gospel songs.  We have entire generations of idealists who have never confronted the gray areas of life without dismissing it with a “tut, tut, that’s bad.”  The closest they’ve come is reading The Voice of the Martyrs.

It’s arson because the HS set men’s hearts and tongues on fire for God with a unlimited potential for spreading.  Fire spreads where it finds fuel and it can’t be contained once it’s let loose.  It’s purposefully set with the idea that once it gets going, it’s gonna do a lot of damage before it can be put out.

If we’re all little candles with little lights that shine a little, then the Holy Spirit was the proverbial napalm bomb, except no one yelled GRENADE! before it hit.  Think of all the sayings that have to do with fire:  light a fire under someone’s ass.  Burning up with an emotion.  On fire for a cause.  I’ll show you light if I have to burn the whole city down.  (Fallout Boy reference) and then what actually inspired this train of thought:  We are the arsons who start all of your fires.  We are the arsons burning your city down.  (Glass to the Arson by Anberlin)

I love symbology and theology, if you can’t tell, and this tattoo just fit me.  Since I’ve gotten it, my husband has too and we are constantly asked about them.  I’m not looking to evangelize through my body art but I am looking to show off my “stained glass” in my temple.  Sometimes you have to shock people out of their comfort zones so that they’ll be ready to go out and look it up on their own.

The only two people who have automattically understood it were a women who was raised Catholic and a Lutherin.  Everyone else goes for the perverted phoenix or thinks that I like to go around starting fires in real life.  It’s fun to educate Christians on their own religion.

If you want to go hardcore with pissing off people in the Bible belt, tell them that you can prove Jesus probably had a small penis.  That gets em going EVERY time.  Don’t believe me?  Read the prophecies about Jesus in Isaiah.