Category Archives: Faith Posts

After Thoughts and Prayers

I have been thinking a lot about recent events, both private and public.  Don’t tell anyone, but I am sixty-six years old and, in a week, will become a great-grandmother.  I am going to take a moment here to pause because I still have a hard time saying and accepting that. My life has had many twists and turns along what Robert Frost describes as the road less traveled. I have been standing at an intersection recently, but have made a decision to follow a path where I feel led.

So many times in my life, I have chosen to stand and wait, offering only “thoughts and prayers” to my journey.  While taking time to think and pray before acting is essential, often I  stop short of doing anything. I have been reminded that choosing to do nothing is a choice.  This is true not only of my life journey but in my day to day actions as well.

The facebook posts after the school shooting last week followed the same pattern as other such tragedies.  Posts offering “thoughts and prayers” follow shock and anger.    Heated debate and name calling are next to appear.  Soon everyone forgets as we await the next shooting or child abduction or horrific stories of abuse.   Please hear me as I say that prayer is powerful and much needed. Yet, I have to ask if it is enough.  I was reminded of a story that still haunts me.

A few years ago, I was driving on a busy four-lane highway to my church prayer lunch. The road is one where no one slows down for anything. People pass and bounce from lane to lane without the benefit of blinkers or common sense. As I made my way to church, suddenly the tail lights on the cars ahead of me flashed red as cars in both lanes came to a sudden stop.

I tried to see what caused the delay when I saw what looked like the front of a broken shopping cart coming across the front of the line of cars. I was surprised as I saw a broken walker being pushed by an elderly man. He walked so slowly that I wasn’t sure how he got into the road at all since traffic is usually constant. He had only one good arm; the other seemed to be at an angle as if he had an injury or perhaps the remnants of a stroke. He walked with a bit of a limp, as well. The walker had front wheels, but there were no wheels on the back. He made it past the cars reaching the safety of the grass median. However, the grassy area seemed to make it harder for him to push and maneuver.

My heart ached as a watched his broken body push the feeble walker. There was no expression in his eyes or face. It appeared that his spirit was broken as badly as his body. As the cars began to move, I felt a battle raging in my heart and head. I wanted more than anything to pull my car into the grass and see if I could help him. The logical side of my brain wondered how in the world I could help. What if he was violent? What if he was mentally ill and didn’t understand my gesture or offer of help? What if he was ill and I was exposed? Would I offer him a ride? What would I say?

I pulled into a parking lot for a down the road to think for a moment. I fought tears as I wondered if this man had family or food or a place to stay. I certainly had nothing I could offer him. My finances were already limited without trying to help someone else. Maybe I could go back and just say a kind word to him. The logical side of my mind asked what good that would do. Sure, go and say, “Hi, I saw you struggling to get across the road. I don’t have any way to help you but just wanted to say Howdy!”

In the end, I didn’t turn around even though I felt led to do so. I don’t know why this man touched my heart the way he did. I did say a prayer for him. I believe in the power of prayer.  There have been many times in my life where I felt so very broken, and I prayed for someone to reach out to me. I am so grateful for the people who took time to pray for me, talk to me, and help me. How could I not return what had been so freely given to me?

I don’t know the life journey of the man I saw that day. I don’t know if he had friends or family or anyone to help him in his brokenness. All I did for him that day was pray. I know in my heart praying wasn’t enough.

Matthew West’s song “Do Something” encourages us to take the time to do something for others: I Said, “God, why don’t You do something?” He said, “I did, yeah, I created you.”

None of us can solve all of the world’s problems.  None can address every issue or challenges faced by others.  Yet, each of us can find a way to take action.  Yes, I pray and continue in prayer.  God had given me talents and gifts, and I know what they are.  I know the passions in my life. I wonder if at my age I have wasted too much time thinking and praying about my journey.  If that were true, I don’t believe God would still be leading me on this path.  I didn’t stop and help a broken man a few years ago, but I choose today to follow my thoughts and prayers and take the next step.

Does Someone Hate Your “Label”?

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It is time for me to live up the title of my blog/website…Cathy’s Voice Now…and use my voice regardless of how you choose to view me.  I often hold back expressing my views; I want you to like me.  I have actually written blog posts only to hide them in drafts because I wonder how I will be perceived.

Today I need to say what I believe and share it in this post.  The anniversary of Mother Emmanuel AME shooting, the ongoing story of a man who raped and a judge who don’t see what they did wrong, and now the Orlando shooting has hurt my heart.  I can’t hide behind my fear of what you might think of me.

A Sacramento pastor responded to the Orlando shooting that killed 49 people and injured 50 with praise, stating “they deserve what they got.”  Another statement, “Claiming homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts,” Pastor Steven Anderson celebrated the Orlando nightclub shooting.

I believe that hate is fueled when see others as different from ourselves.  We feel they are better off than we are or we are better than they are.  We think our religious views are the only ones with merit. We believe the color of our skin or our gender or sexual orientation makes us superior to others.  When we see people as a race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, it is easier to hate because we no longer see the essence or soul of that human being.

I have many people in my circle of friends and acquaintances.  What I don’t have are gay friends, straight friends, black friends, Buddhist friends, Jewish friends, handicapped friends, liberal friends, conservative friends….you get the idea.  I just have friends.

While many of my friends may identify with all those labels, that isn’t who they are.  It doesn’t define the relationship we share.  It doesn’t change who they are in their heart and soul.   If I start identifying them by a label, I have lost the person I know.

Here are my labels…white, straight, Christian, old, liberal, intelligent, a writer, an actor, a student, mother, grandmother, a feminist, and more.  In my lifetime, I have also been labeled a drunk, a heretic, fat, irresponsible, or stupid.    If you know me, then you know ME, not my labels.

If we continue to label people, we are contributing to an environment of hate.  This time the “homosexuals” were attacked and murdered.  The shooter didn’t see the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, cousins, sports enthusiasts, teachers, lawyers, doctors, law enforcement, military, or anything else beyond the LABEL.   Some hate blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, poor, rich, white, women, and a multitude of other “labels”.  They do not look beyond the LABEL.

Maybe next year it will be older white women with blue eyes.  Sound preposterous?  Couldn’t happen?  Are you sure? No one ever imaged hated so deep it could kill almost 6 million Jewish men, women, and children.  No one believed a person could hate enough to walk into a church and kill people in prayers.  No one wants to believe a single shooter hated enough to kill and injury close to 100 people.

Hate knows no boundaries.

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.   Lin-Manuel Miranda 2016

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Church Noise

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I write about church and faith quite often.  If you have followed my blog or read any of these posts, you might recall that church and I have had a challenging relationship over the years. (You can find these posts under the Faith tab on the blog.)   I only returned to traditional church about six or seven years ago. I church shopped for a while before I found a place to stay for a while.  I was part of this church for about five years, however just a few weeks ago, the congregation voted to disband and close the church.  I won’t go into the reasons since this blog isn’t about that.  It did however create the need  opportunity to visit churches over the past couple of months.

As a child, I learned that the church sanctuary was a solemn place to be treated with absolute reverence.  There were many rules including no running, no talking above a whisper, no laughing; you get the idea.  Music was never that toe tapping hand-clapping sort of thing.  It was more along the lines of hymns written in earlier centuries to tortoise paced classical organ accompaniment.  It was only in the fellowship hall that we could have a piano with more lively music; however dancing was still out of the question.

On my summer visits to my brother in West Va., we would attend small charismatic type churches.  Their music was piano, guitar, and a bit more old-time gospel.  The preacher was scary.  He screamed, threw things, and often took off his coat and tie with armpit sweat stains showing the intensity of the sermon.

Over the years, things have changed in worship style and music in many churches, but not in the one I was attending after my return to church. Occasionally the congregation might be moved to clap after the choir anthem, and someone would usually have an “Amen”.  One of thing liked about this church was that the people enjoyed talking to each other.  Before church and during the time in worship when people greeted one another there was a buzzing of voices, and it was sometimes difficult to get everyone seated again.  As time went, on the voices and noise faded.

As I began visiting churches, I became interested in the church noises.  One of the first I visited had a full band with music I love from contemporary Christian artists.  I know many people love this type of “concert” setting, and while I enjoy it, I like a blend of more traditional hymns. From the moment, I entered the building, an excitement and joy could be felt.  The next few churches I visited were much mellower. There wasn’t much noise at all, even during the worship.

I attend service at a small country church in the upstate every few weeks when I go to stay with my friend.  I love this church.  It has a history stretching back one hundred years.  The organist/pianist is a precious 95-year-old woman. A small group of children in choir robes sing with a guitar accompaniment.  The choir is small, but powerful.  The sounds of children and babies create a sense of delight. The noises in that church are truly joyful ones.

I recently visited a church, and as I entered, laughter and chatter filled the foyer.  Before I could find a seat, several smiling faces had welcomed me as if I already belonged.  During the time in worship for greeting one another, the people seemed genuinely happy to be in worship with one another.  Each time I have attended, children and youth have been part of the worship.  Excitement and wonder are the noises that fill this place.  I think I might just stay a while here.  I like the noise.

Of course, I have to add a quote from Anne Lamott:

“I live for Sundays,” she says. “It’s like going to the spiritual gas station to fill up on fuel and clean the dirty windshield and mirrors. 
I usually show up nuts, self-obsessed, vaguely agitated, and I am at once reminded not of who I am, but Whose I am.

“Then everything falls into place, and I smile again at how crazy I (and most of us) are, but how at church, in fellowship, in the arms and eyes of Jesus […] I remember the truth of my spiritual identity. I love to sing in a group – more than anything, and to do the holy dance of swaying, and clapping. Plus, they say that clapping in church scares away the devil.”

 

 

 

 

What Will Be My Legacy?

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I sat on the wooden pews in a small church waiting for the memorial service for a friend to begin. If the wall  of this hundred-year-old sanctuary could talk, they would tell the life stories of so many people, including the story of the man to be memorialized that day. He had been married in that church, as had his parents, as well as his some of his children and grandchildren. In the cemetery next to the church were buried his wife, his parents, grandparents, and other family members.

A granddaughter spoke about him during the service remembering a long life spent in devotion to family, service to community, and dedication to his church and beliefs. No one could describe him without using the words “sweet man.” What an amazing legacy to leave for those who knew and loved him.
I thought about my friend Jan F. who died seven years ago. She left behind a note stating what she hoped would be her legacy. Anyone who knew her would have to say these words are true.

I wish to be remembered for:
– my loyalty as a friend and to family
– my passion – for animals, music
– my commitment to providing caring, sensitive, compassionate therapy to my
patients. I would go the extra mile for them.
– my love of music and singing
– my laughter
– my creative, innovative side
– my integrity – as a person and as a psychologist
and anything else someone can think of.

I couldn’t help but wonder what legacy I would leave for my children, grandchildren, and friends (family of choice). My family tree is broken and missing many branches. I don’t have a long line of ancestors to share. I have made many detours and mistakes in my life journey, yet I hope that the life I have created out of the turmoil and chaos of my childhood will speak for me. I hope those who know me best will remember the person I have become.

I don’t plan on leaving this earthly home anytime soon. I have always said that I plan to live to be at least 100 years old. When that time does come, I hope the legacy I leave behind is one that causes those who knew me to smile and to know that in some small way I changed their lives.

An Experiment in Non Violence – What About Football?

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The text below is an assignment for my Religion and Society class.

Experiment with Ahimsa,” following the model of Gandhi and his autobiography. After re-reading about Gandhi’s understanding of ahimsa and his experiments with Truth, conduct an “experiment with non-violence.” For some set time (3-7 days), attempt to refrain from all forms of violence towards other human beings and animals, including (but no limited to) anger, hate, gossip, personal criticism, evil thoughts, jealousy, and physical violence toward any other being. Try to remove violence from speech, mind, and action; and try not to support others if they engage in violent speech, thought or conduct. You must maintain a record of your experiences and “experiments with Truth”, using Gandhi’s book as your model to emulate.

As we discussed this in class, I asked about food and football.  The Professor smiled and explained that we would have to make our own determination about how far we were willing and able to go with food in this process.   Since football is a sport and there is no intention of harm, I am going to say that watching football wouldn’t be a hindrance to this process. ” In fact,  he (Gandhi) was a path-breaker of sorts, even in football, when in 1896, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, still a young, relatively unknown lawyer in South Africa, was amongst a group of pre-dominantly Indian men, who helped form the Transvaal Indian Football Association” (Ayush Srivastava – The Goal).  There was even a team called the Passive Resisters. Later, Gandhi would say that while his country was in turmoil against the British, people should be more interested in changing the country than sports.

While reading about Gandhi and his idea of ahisma, we learned that Ghandi believed non violence went far beyond “doing no violence or harm”.  Gandhi taught that ahisma was non violence in our thoughts, intentions, actions, and our lifestyle. It was about compassion and love.

“True ahimsa should mean a complete freedom from ill-will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all.”-Mahatma Gandhi
It reminds me a lot of the teaching of Jesus.  He told us to love one another as He loved us.  He said that the intent of your heart was as important as your deeds.  We are told to love our enemies and forgive them.  So, in attempting this experiment, it seems that perhaps this is the life I should be living as a Christian anyway.
Part of the assignment is to take this vow publicly as a means of accountability.  I will begin the experiment in ahisma this Sunday, Oct.26 and go through Friday, Oct. 31st.  The Professor jokingly said that we may want to sleep a lot during this time.    If you see or hear me acting in a way that would not fit this lifestyle, please let me know.  I promise no anger, hate, criticism, or evil thoughts!

Grace Joined With Wrinkles

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“Happy old age” was always an enigma. I didn’t know any “old people” who seemed happy. Bitterness, anger, and loneliness seemed to be the destiny for anyone that lived past fifty. I will admit that perhaps my vision was a bit skewed.

 
From the time I was four, I lived with my grandparents and my great grandmother. Vacations each summer were spent with another set of grandparents. Each of them was miserable in their own way. None of them showed any signs of a happy old age.
When I think about each of them, I remember the frowns and downward pointed eyebrows. None of them had that sparkle of joy or peace in their eyes. Their voices were dull and mean. Yes, that is the word I needed to find-mean. Perhaps all of that anger, bitterness and loneliness had poisoned their spirit to the point that their words and actions spewed meanness.

 
This seemed to be such a contradiction since all of them (except my grandfather) talked about loving God and hoping for the glorious day when they would see Jesus in Heaven. My grandfather was a drunk, so his meanness came straight from a bottle. Grandmother took me to church every Sunday morning and then again on Sunday evening. When I was younger, she would take me with her to her church group “circle” meetings. The old women sat in a circle and talked about a Bible verse of two for a while, and then went directly into bashing anyone not there, as well as other church folks. Time for refreshments meant time to discuss the terrible state of the world, the disappointing youth of today, and to ask the host for the recipe of the treat of the day. Of course, they chatted amongst themselves as they left about “those treats she made” and the recipe was thrown out at home.

 
At church I heard sermons from an amazing pastor about God and his love for us, but at home Grandmother told the story of a different God. Her God was vindictive and just about as mean as she was. God was clearly judgmental, and perfection was required for His love. I never measured to the standard my Grandmother set for God to love me. He was just another grey haired, white bearded, crotchety, mean old man in my mind. When I was in my late 30’s I left the church, and after 25 years I felt drawn to return. I attended a variety of churches and denominations looking for a place to call a church home. One Sunday, I was looking for a church and “accidentally” found a different one. It was the farthest thing from anything I would ever have considered, yet it was where I was supposed to be-for many reasons.

 
The congregation is an older one with some of the most beautiful grey haired, faces with wrinkles, older women you will ever meet. I come complete with tattoos and ever-changing hair styles and colors, and they have accepted me without question. Many of them have been friends for years, and they truly love and cherish each other. The ages range from 70 to well over 90.  Every Sunday and often at Wednesday prayer lunch, I look forward to seeing these special women. Their faces show wrinkles and eyes are often clouded by cataracts. They may have to use a cane or walker. Yet, all I see are  sparkling eyes and beautiful smiles. I listen as they willingly share stories of the church, their childhood, marriages, families, and more. Laughter often accompanies their stories. When one is sick or has to be away, you can feel the sadness from the others. These women all love God and Jesus, but they don’t have to tell you that. You can see it in the love they have for each other, their church, their lives, and the way they welcome anyone who enters the doors of the church. I can clearly see the God of love that the pastor of my youth shared with us.

 
I used to be afraid of growing old. I worried that I would become a bitter, angry, lonely old woman just like my mother and grandmothers. I’m not afraid any more, in fact, I look forward to watching my children, my grandchildren, and yes, even my great-grandchildren as they grow and change. I have some very special friendships that I cherish and plan to take them with me as I journey towards old age. My prayer is that I may be just as precious and joyful as the women at my church.

Connections

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I was determined to take some time to catch up on reading for pleasure over the holidays.  I looked at the titles of books I want to read or reread trying to decide what to start today.   I was drawn to a book I “read” last year.  When I first downloaded the book to my Kindle, I didn’t take the time to really read and focus on the book.  I skimmed some and read some.  It wasn’t that the book wasn’t good; it was that the book hit too close to home.   I needed to really invest myself in reading this story.   I decided to start “Peace and Freedom are My Names” by Irene Frances.

I “met” Irene on the internet last year.  I read her blog and knew this was someone I wanted to get to know.  I connected with her in reading that first post and made contact through the blog and facebook.  I was excited to find that she, like I, at our delicate ages were both going to college.  I am doing undergraduate work, while she is attending the Brisbaine School of Theology in her home country of Australia.   I have loved watching her posts about studying Hebrew and taking tests.  She has encouraged me when I felt overwhelmed at times.  You can see her faith and genuineness in her smile.

I also connected with her in other ways.  She is a survivor of an abusive childhood and learned to live with mental health issues, all while maintaining a strong and steadfast faith in God.   We have both had our challenges with religion and church, but God has never given up on us.  Her faith and journey have been an inspiration to me.

As I began to read her book again,  I was reminded in the first paragraphs of the similarities in our stories.  Many facts are different, but the feelings and ways of surviving were much the same.  This passage pulled me in today:  I was a nothing and a nobody.  Nobody wanted me; I didn’t even have my own name. And I was worth nothing.  It was a pitiable start to life of hell and torment that would eventually send me into a pit of madness from which it would take a lifetime to claw my way out.

Nobody wanted me.  I felt that way much of my life.  I didn’t even have my own name.  I was reminded of that just this past week. A while back, I wrote a post about my name being changed a couple times in my childhood.  You can read it here.    My parents named me Carolyn Ann, but at the age of four my grandparents changed it to Cathy (Catherine Ann) when they adopted me.  Just a short time before my mother died, she told me that while my name was Carolyn Ann, but they called me Lynn.   I wasn’t sure if that was true or the imaging of an old woman.   In the blog post above, I shared about finding my old shot records listing my name as Carolyn Ann and (Lynn) listed on one page.   I also realized that I lived in Flat Top, W. Va. at my grandparents farm for a couple of years.

Last weekend, Jan and I were working on genealogy sites when I decided to try something to find an old newspaper article I remembered.  The article was in the newspaper in W. Va.  and featured a picture of my brother and I when I returned to W. Va. to visit when I was 8 years old.  Imagine my surprise, when the article appeared in a site with filmstrip from old newspapers.  I quickly signed up for the week long free trial and printed the article.

I decided to do a bit more searching when I discovered an article from 1952 about a meeting of the Flat Top Farm Women’s Club.  After a brief description of the meeting and food served, the meeting attendees were listed.   I froze when I read these names: Mrs. Grady Keaton (that’s my grandmother), Mrs. Joe Keaton (that’s my mother) and her daughter Lynn.  LYNN…there it was in black and white…proof that my mother’s memory was intact, and that I was indeed called Lynn for the first 3 to 4 years of my life.

This has been on my mind ever since I found the article.  I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t let it go.   And, then I starting reading Irene’s story again.  In her book, she explains changing her name after her marriage.  I am thinking about reclaiming my birth name of Keaton when I finalize my divorce, and  I am now thinking about adding Lynn to that name in  some way.

I know this will not make sense to many of you and that’s OK.   You see, somehow, just seeing that name makes a connection to the childhood that was taken from me.  I now know the truth about many things, in spite of all efforts by some to keep it from me.   JanF. told me that my life was life a huge mosaic puzzle.  I had the easy pieces in place; I had the outer edges.   I would continue to add pieces as they were revealed, and one day I would see one of God’s  most beautiful works of art.  I asked her what piece of art that would be, and she replied, “Why, your life of course. ”

For more information  on Irene Frances and her book available on Amazon, please check out her page on Peace and Freedom are My Names.

Another Chapter

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Although I may be inconsistent in posting on my blog at times, I traditionally post on New Years, March 7th, my birthday (both belly button and recovery), Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Remembering the past year, I am reminded to “be careful what I ask for”, because 2013 brought many lessons about trust.  As I began this post, I read the post for New Year’s 2013. This is what I wrote:

A blog challenge for 2013 is to find one word to focus on through the coming year and incorporate that into your writing.  I have several words that seem appropriate, but the one word that keeps coming through is trust. It isn’t something that comes naturally for me.  I learned a tremendous amount about trust in 2012; some of it bad, yet much of it good.  I am going to embrace the challenge and put trust into my daily life- trust in God, my friends, my family and in myself.   I survived the end of the world in 2012, so welcome 2013. Let’s see what you have in store!

I began the year trying to recover from the flu, and in spite of getting the flu shot, it was my Christmas day gift.  For the next few months, I would battle one round of bronchitis after the other.  Breathing treatments, antibiotics, injected and oral steroids became constant companions.  I would battle each round coming ever so close to victory, only to find myself pushed back into a corner once again.  In May, only two days before I was to take my grandson to the live auditions for X-Factor  complete with  Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato, I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

All of these battles with bronchitis occurred as I prepared to begin my lifelong dream of going to college.  I stepped onto the College of Charleston campus in early January not sure if I would be able to survive as a college student.  I can now tell you that I not only have survived, but I have done well.  I have enough credits to apply as a degree student instead of a “non-traditional” student and I am only a few credits away from being a sophomore.  Did I mention that I have a 3.82 GPA?

Being sick for so long took a financial toll since I wasn’t able to work during that time.  The cost of COBRA for me to keep my insurance was over $500 a month, and I still had deductibles and copays. In October, the biggest financial hit came when my car blew the transmission.   Being without a car for close to two months was devastating, but I managed to finish school for the semester and keep my part time job.

As summer approached,  I was healthy again and was able to start a new fitness program.  It was another step in learning some great ways to exercise without a gym, and it was a thought-provoking experience in learning balance.  I was reminded that fitness goals and healthy living are a work in progress, not something to achieve overnight.

I managed a couple of very short trips this year.  Jan, Anna, and I took a day trip to Savannah.  We laughed, talked, shopped, discovered “Your Pie Pizza”, and walked all around Savannah even though it was still a bit cool that day, and had a great day.   I had to take a trip, have an adventure, and see a play for my three of my classes, so a short weekend trip with Ginger, Sassy, and Jerome made getting an A on all three papers easy.  Jan and I continued to have Friday adventures including doing some genealogical research, climbing an old haunted staircase in a house that was built in early 1800, and visiting a couple of library archives.  We did manage to find some great food along the way, as well.

So, what does all this have to do with trust? If you look at most of last year, you may begin to see that I wasn’t able to do things for other people the way I usually do.  Money, health, and time took away my ability to take care of others and do things for the people in my life.  All that was left for me to give was myself.  I have always been sure that “I” was not enough.  Last year, I had to trust my friends and my family with my vulnerability.  Every time they stayed by my side, supported me, bought me lunch, visited me, called me to  make sure I was OK, took me where I needed to go, went beyond everything I expected, I thanked God for showing me what trust and love are really about.

I didn’t learn to trust anyone as a child.  I didn’t understand love until I had children of my own.  I did not trust God, and I was not convinced that God would or could love me.  I do not believe God sends catastrophes, broken cars, financial problems, etc. into my life, but  I do believe God has used all of these things to help me learn about love and trust.  God continues to be  patient and understanding with me.

I do not think I am going to choose a theme for 2014, but I will be writing to tell you about my year. I will give you one sneak peak at the upcoming year.  The “three stooges” (we must think of a better name) are going to see JILLIAN!

I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful New Year!

The Rest of the Story

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This blog post is NOT about Phil Robertson, A&E, Duck Dynasty, or the controversy surrounding them.  However,  it was prompted by comments made by Phil from Duck Dynasty that  is featured on A&E.

If you follow facebook, any news channel, or read the paper, you might have heard the huge debate going on about an interview Phil gave to GQ.  He has been banned from A&E for his comments.  I am not here to argue if he was right or wrong, talk about free speech, issues of race, homosexuality, or anything else.   I am writing today because of  what he didn’t say.

You see, I was raised by a grandmother who  lived most of her adult life as a drunk, along with a variety of other sinful ways of living.  When I was about 7 or so, she decided to start taking me to church.  She found “religion”, and her life did change in some ways, but she was still the same person inside.  She was mean-spirited and did hurtful things to those around her.  She wore her religion like a street person putting on a new suit without ever showering or cleaning up.  It was all for show.

She used the Bible as a weapon and as a crutch for her way of living and thinking.  She would quote Scripture to prove her point, to allow her to judge others,  and to control my behavior.   One that she loved to throw around was, “Vengence is mine, I will repay says the Lord.”   I am sure we could take time and have a long theological discussion about this verse, but I am going to bet that most of you would not interpret it the way my grandmother did.  Her use of the verse was to say that God was going to get me if I did bad stuff.  I was a  kid who had been neglected, abandoned, and abused the first few years of my life, so I was going to have a few issues,  and I (like all kids) was going to do things considered bad.  I was always waiting for the Lord to punish me and I assumed anything bad that happened to me from being sick to not getting all A’s in school was vengeance being  imparted to me.

You see, the thing that troubles me is when we don’t get the rest of the story. My grandmother stopped short of telling the whole story when she used scripture the way she did.   I remember when Mel Gibson’s  “Passion of the Christ” was released; people asked why I didn’t go see it.  I had a number of reasons, but one of them was that it didn’t tell the rest of the story.  The film only showed the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus.  It only showed the horror of the crucifixion, but didn’t show the resurrection or talk about the things Jesus came to teach us.  This is  what happened with Phil’s interview.  He didn’t tell the rest of the story.  He only quoted verse 9 and 10 from the Corinthians passage.  Verse 11 is so powerful in this passage.  Can you see the difference it makes?

1 Corinthians 6:9 “9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men,  10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Look at that list of sins!   Can you see any there that you might have committed or even held in your heart?  I can tell you that in my life, I have committed most of them.  You see, I am a recovering alcoholic and addict.  I hit bottom hard, and  I don’t need to tell you the kind of life I lead for a while; you can figure it out.  So, according to those first two verses, I cannot inherit the kingdom of God.   That is devastating news, almost hopeless.

Yet, just look at verse 11.  That is the one that wasn’t quoted by Phil or the GQ article.  “And that is what some of you were.”  Yes,  that is what I was.  “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ”   That was all done for me!

Phil also said, “But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”  I disagree.  Sin is the most logical thing I understand from the Bible.   There are many verses telling us that we are sinners by nature and that no one is without sin.  It is from the beginning to the end.  What isn’t logical is that this all powerful, omnipotent God would bother with any of us.  Why not just get rid of us all and start from scratch?  Instead, He did something absolutely illogical.  He sent His only son to be born as a human and live this earthly life, and die for our sins.

As we celebrate Christmas next week, we remember the birth of Jesus.  But, we need to remember the rest of the story.  Jesus showed those he encountered the purest love and gave hope to everyone, even the worst of the sinners. He opened his heart and his arms to tax collectors, adulterers, drunkards, thieves, and more.  And, that is what He asks us to do.

“I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.”
Anne Lamott

I have several friends on my facebook list and blog followers who may wish to debate or help me with my theological understanding of scripture.  Instead, I hope they will simply read this and say a prayer for this justified, sanctified, and forgiven sinner.

Christmas Future-Christmas Trilogy 3

imagesIn 12-step recovery programs, we are taught not to think about tomorrow.  Slogans like “one day at a time” or  “just today” are drummed into our brain.  Another one that I hate is, “if you have one foot in tomorrow and one foot in yesterday, you are pissing all over today.”  That one just never made any sense to me.   I understand and acknowledge the wisdom in “one day at a time” in dealing with alcohol and drugs.  There were many times in my recovery that it was one hour, one minute, or one second at a time.

However, in the real world that slogan doesn’t work.  If I truly lived “one day at a time”, I would get my paycheck and buy a new big screen TV or book a mountain cabin for a week, ignoring the reality that in two weeks I have to pay rent and make a car payment.  I also believe that dreams of the future are a motivation to do well today.

When I decided to write about Christmas future, I had to think about what I would really like to see.  So here is a brief glimpse of some future Christmases…

In a couple of years, I will  have friends and family surrounding me as I prepare to graduate from the College of Charleston.

Not long after I finish my MFA, Oprah will choose my newly published best selling book as the gift to give for Christmas.

I will visit my great grandchildren who are the most beautiful and amazing children ever to be born.  I will, of course, be visiting my children and grand children as well, but we all know it will be the great grands that take center stage.

The day after Christmas, I will visit the Culpeppers (Either in Charleston or within a 4 hour drive  🙂 ) and the next week I will go to Baltimore and New York to visit my brother and some other friends as I begin my book tour.

I won’t miss my mother, my best friend-JanF, my Mama Pearl, or any of the other friends/family who have passed away nearly as much as I do now. (OK, that one isn’t really going to happen.)

I will notice that as I grow older, I learn more about the gift of Jesus and the joy of celebrating Christmas.  I might just become “Jesusy” as Anne Lamott says.

I spent a great deal of life dreading the future and believing that nothing good would ever happen to me.  I was always waiting for the next bad thing.  I have learned that the next bad thing is going to happen no matter what; it happens to everyone.  It’s called life.  I have also learned that the next amazing thing is going to  happen as well. Sometimes, the next amazing thing comes as a result of that next bad thing that happened.

Anne Lamott said in one of her blog posts, ” We religious nuts say, ‘I no longer know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future’.”   Of course, I can’t really predict the future, but I can dream.  I no longer see my future thought the eyes of nightmares.  So, I will continue to dream about my future Christmases celebrating the birth of the One who holds the future.

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