Tag Archives: Jesus

Finding Center

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There are things I could never imagine happening to me. That is saying a lot considering I have a highly overactive imagination. I can imagine an asteroid crashing into earth close my home. My friends will tell you that they are not allowed to mention comets, or meteor showers, or a protentional eclipse. I can imagine a tsunami wiping out a beach as I sit in the sand.  I can envision an earthquake while I am in a three story building. I am afraid that someone might break into the house when I am all alone and taking a shower (that might just be a throwback to Psycho). I can even imagine how our country might look like after the current elections. Yet, I could never have believed what would happen this week.

I arrived at my class at school, and we began a group team building exercise. The instructions were simple. Everyone was to stand in a large circle. The professor would read a statement, and everyone would quickly, without much thought or hesitation, step into the circle to the extent that they agreed with the statement. If you strongly agreed with the statement, you would walk into the center of the circle. If you slightly agreed, you would only take a small step or two in the circle. If you strongly disagreed, you would stand in place and so on.

The first statements were innocuous.

“I like chocolate.” Almost everyone was in the center of the circle.

“I like pizza.” People were a bit more spread out on this one.

“I am a dog person.” “I am a cat person.” There were some strong feelings on this one.

The statements then focused more on issues.

“I am a feminist.”

“I believe everyone has the same access to prosperity.”

“I believe everyone should have equal access to education.”

With each of these statements, everyone in the group shared the same opinion. We all appeared to be on the same page when it came to social issues and ideals.

After each statement, the professor would ask us to return to the circle if we had moved. After a few more statements, I heard this one.

“I believe in God.”

Without hesitation, I began my first step into the circle. As I moved, I suddenly became aware that no one else was moving. I hesitated for a split second. Do I keep going? Surely everyone is thinking about the question and will be stepping in. Maybe they are just waiting for the others. I took another step. The room was silent and still.

I kept taking steps towards the center of the circle. I could only see those in front of me or just to my side. Everyone was looking at me in the circle, but no one looked me in the eyes. I felt alone and exposed. I thought of the woman in the Bible who was caught in adultery. Everyone circled around her, pointed fingers, and said she should be stoned. Could this really be happening? I just wanted the professor to direct me back to my spot in the circle.

We quickly moved on to our next activity. I don’t remember much about what we did the rest of the class. I still felt as if I was standing alone in the middle of the circle. That feeling would stay with me for a while; in fact, I am still carrying a bit of it with me as I write.

I would not have been surprised if no moved into the circle had the statement been, “I am a Christian” or “I am religious” or “I go to church.” I know many people who want nothing to do with organized religion. I understand those who have questions about faith. I certainly have many questions about God, the church, the Bible, and theology. I am still shaken by the fact that no one moved into the circle. Even if someone had moved just a step or two into the circle, it would have been easier to understand. How could these people who share the same values about social issues and social justice not believe in God?

I have been thinking about this all week. As I began to process this, I looked at the world and the events of the past years. I remember bombings and killings in the name of God. I saw religious people who hated those who are different, people who say that God hates those who are aren’t like them, people who claim to follow God but turn their back on the poor, sick, and lonely. Politicians have been throwing around claims about God for months. Churches are splitting because they can’t agree to love one another any longer because of issues surrounding race, gender, who you can love or which bathroom people can use.

I must wonder if these bright, talented, young people I know, who want to change the world, look at all of this and decide that God can’t exist. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz”, Donald Miller writes about his experience at Reed College, a secular liberal arts college in Oregon. He and a few Christian friends discuss a way to talk to people on campus about their faith since students seemed hostile to their views. They come up with an idea to offer a confession to the other students. The confession below expresses what I have been thinking:

“So this group of us on campus wanted to confess to you,” Donald said.

“You are confessing to me!” Jake said with a laugh.

“Yeah. We are confessing to you. I mean, I am confessing to you.”

“You’re serious.” His laugh turned to something of a straight face.

“There’s a lot. I will keep it short,” Donald started.  “The thing is, we are followers of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God and all, and he represented certain ideas that we have sort of not done a good job at representing. He has asked us to represent him well, but it can be very hard.  Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus didn’t mix spirituality with theology.  I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, too.”

There is a lot more!  I want to confess and apologize for not always carrying the message of Christ in my life, but I am going to keep trying.

Time to Take a Stand

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In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women’s Act. (VAWA) You can find information about the VAWA online if you want to know more about it. Here is one such document. Basically the act provided $1.6 billion to offer community based responses, investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, allowed civil suits if prosecutors failed to prosecute a case,and established the Office of Violence Against Women.

It was reauthorized in 2000 and in 2005 with some expansion each time. Statistics show that there has been a marked decrease in the rate of intimate partner violence and deaths. More cases are being reported and more victims are being supported in recovery. All states now have laws in place to provide for warrantless arrests,  “rape shield laws”,  laws concerning date rape, and stalking. This act has had a major impact on changing the way violence against women is viewed and handled. In 2011, Congress failed to reauthorize the act.

Here are the reasons the House Republicans oppose the re-authorization of the act.

  1. The act gives limited powers to tribal authorities to prosecute non-Indians accused of assaulting their Indian partners on tribal lands. Currently, non-Indians who batter their spouses often go unpunished because federal authorities don’t have the resources to pursue misdemeanors committed on reservations. **39% of Native American and Native Alaskan women will be abused physically or sexually in their lifetime. Most abusers go prosecuted.
  2. The act would extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking. **Many states have established laws for stalking, but this would now be included in the VAWA definition . Republicans say this “dilutes” the definition. Really?
  3. It would also allow some battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas. **It seems this provision is being dropped by Democrats in an attempt to appease the Republicans so this act can pass.
  4. It would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence. **Again Republicans say this will “dilute” the focus on domestic violence. I think not passing this act dilutes our ability to protect all victims of domestic violence, but that is just my humble opinion.

Some have gone so far as to imply that the money used for rape crisis centers and domestic abuse hotlines, etc. is really going to support feminist programs. They say this act increases divorce, causes marriages to break up and is set up to cause the hatred of men. If a woman is in a violent marriage then the marriage should break up and divorce is a viable solution. I don’t hate all men. I dont’ hate men at all,  although I will admit I don’t always understand them. I just hate the violence inflicted on women by men.

And, before you go postal and scream that women can perpetrate violence against men, I will concede that you are correct. Men typically have access to more resources to leave and the ability to protect themselves. I dont’ want that debate to get in the way of why we don’t have a VAWA in place after documented evidence that the act saves lives. Also, part of the reason the Republicans are opposing the act is the language inferring that men could be recipients of help from this act. Oh my, that would be just dreadful.

This is my view and my opinion. All I am asking is that you look at the facts. Do some research. Get involved. If you find that the VAWA is valid, and saves lives, and helps your community, your city, your state, and your country, then PLEASE do something about it. Write your congressman/congresswoman. Call them, email them. Do something. Don’t just sit back and say, “All this violence a bad thing.”

We often stand in horror and disgust as we hear stories from other countries of women being mutilated, tortured, and baby girls being killed because baby boys are the only ones of value. Slavery was abolished in our country a long time ago, yet girls are sold into slavery around the world every day. We ask how these other countries can allow such atrocities to occur. Yet, we stand by while our politicians squabble over language in an act that prevents death and violence in our own country.

I am a Christian. Yes, a church attending, praying, Bible reading Christian. I stop just short of wearing the WWJD bracelet. Jesus showed us the way to treat other human beings and that included the women in his life. I dare you to read Luke and not come away seeing Jesus treat women with respect, caring, and love. WWJD-What Would Jesus Do?  I will let you answer that question for yourself. For those of other faiths reading this blog, I challenge you to look into your own beliefs and find answers about these issues.

I don’t believe we can be rid of all violence in our world.  I am not a Pollyanna.  I do believe we can effect change.  We see evidence of that all around us.  I don’t believe the VAWA is going to rid our society of domestic abuse, violence, or rape.  I do believe this act can make a difference.  Yes, I was once a women who lived with abuse.  I lived with child abuse in many forms as a child and as a woman I lived with abuse in my marriage.  I found help and a way to live my life free of violence.  I hope this act will be reauthorized and other women find help as well.

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” Sally Koch

Perplexed and Bewildered

It is no secret that I am a huge Anne Lamott fan.  I also enjoy Donald Miller and Laura Winner.  They all write from a place of honesty and humor that isn’t always appreciated by everyone.  I just came back from Atlanta, Ga where Anne Lamott spoke to a full house.  We were able to buy her new book “Help, Thanks, Wow”  that was released just two weeks ago.  NPR interviewed her about her new book for a Thanksgiving spot.

In searching for some information on the new book, I came across a blog post about Anne,her new book, and the NPR interview.  I understand that not everyone is going to agree with her writing.  I fully appreciate that not everyone agrees with me.  The blog post itself was simply a review of the NPR interview Anne did for Thanksgiving.

What blew me away were the over 100 comments.  People were bashing Anne Lamott, denominations, and each other. They were hostile and mean all in the name of defending their own view of Christianity.  They even started insulting each others grammar.  Here are just a few comments shared between “Christian” brothers and sisters: (I am leaving the spelling and grammatical errors in tact)

1. “As long as you are openly gay (like colm Toibin) or supportive of homosexual marriage (like Anne Lamott) then you get your books promoted on NPR. It’s an AGENDA, people.”

2. “What a simplistic and very scripturally wrong view of God”.

3. “With all the incredible writing on prayer in just the Christian tradition alone, NPR puts on this vapid piece of crap.”

4. “Wow, reading the comments below, it’s apparent that some do worship two things: smugness and condescension!”

5. “So, Ms. Lamott is an alcoholic who managed to stop drinking. I send her my heartiest congratulations for that. But because of that she is now an expert on “essential” prayers for all the rest of us? If I wanted to listen to blowhards who pass off their ignorant opinions as facts, I’d watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh.”

6. ‘In your introduction, you presented Lamott as a Christian; I heard little or no evidence of this in her description of prayer. What I heard was just another Northern California flake with an addictive personality who has figured out a way to make money off of it. Put this one in the cringe file!!!”

7. “White person wearing dread locks – why should I take her seriously?”

This is just a small sampling of comments.  No one escaped the onslaught including Catholics, Puritans, and Jews.  People attacked each other to prove their view of God, Jesus, prayer, and scripture was the right one.  Sadly, I see this type of behavior from Christians over many issues; some big and some small.  I am sure we are going to see name calling and hatred spewed because someone said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.   It would take volumes to discuss some of the really hot issues.

One of the last comments came from a non believer.  It simply said, “Thank Goodness I’m an atheist!!!”  Is this really how we hope to share God’s love and our relationship with Jesus with others?   It isn’t working.  Maybe we could try following  Paul’s advice to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:31-5:2     4: 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  5: Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

This blog post is part of NaBloPoMo.  The theme for November’s NaBloPoMo is blogging for blogging’s sake.

Labeled by Truth

Last week I wrote a blog called Painfully Labeled.   At the end of the post, I shared some labels I had chosen for my life.  Feminist, courageous, understanding, compassionate, writer, friend, good mother and grandmother, seeker, and wise woman were the labels I shared.  I then asked the question, “Do you label others before you know their truth?”  A reader posted a comment that began, “I am so glad to hear you’re gaining confidence and self-worth. =) I sincerely hope one day you can add, ‘follower of Christ’ to that list.”

The comment popped up on my laptop while I was having a text conversation with my friend.   I shared it with her and shared my confusion about a comment “labeling me before knowing my truth.”  I told her I wanted to respond and she agreed.   I answered her comment with, “While I appreciate your comments, I wonder why you would assume I am not a follower of Christ?”

I obviously have not been able to let this go.  In my mind, all the labels I shared are ones I associate with a “follower of Christ.”   Please understand that I am not angry with the commenter, just puzzled.  I wonder what about my post or the labels I choose made her think I was not a follower of Christ.   Do I need to put the bumper sticker on my car, wear a “Jesus” shirt, own a WWJD bracelet, and carry a big King James Bible to assure the world that I indeed am a child of God’s?   I don’t see anything wrong with those things, but does that make me a Christian?  Does saying that I am a Christian or a Christ Follower make it so?  I don’t believe so.

Should I remind you about the atrocities carried out in the name of Jesus?  Would you like me to share the damage done to me as a child by someone who clearly and loudly called herself a Christian?   How do we make sense of people from the Westboro Baptist Church who protest military funerals and desecrate the American Flag in the name of Christ? This is their website http://www.godhatesfags.com/  Perhaps I might tell you about friends and family who were molested by people in their church.   People who call themselves Christ Followers abuse their wives and children.  We fight against our fellow Christ Followers in our denominations over things like sexual preferences, roles of men and women, theology, and more.

OK, I know you are going to say that we are simply Christians-we aren’t perfect, just forgiven.  I believe that.  I believe in grace, and salvation, and the cross, and God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.    I have had faith as long as I can remember, in spite of a life of neglect, abuse, and more.   I have also been seeking and asking questions of God all of my life.   I did leave the organized church for a long time, but that doesn’t mean I left God or He left me.  I knew God was leading me to come back to church and I have been part of a church for about a year now.  I still don’t quite know how to do “church” right, but I am trying.

We discussed prayer in our Sunday school class today.  Those of you that know me well will swear you couldn’t have imagined me writing about Sunday school.  I told the class I have some weird views on that.  I hate when I put my thoughts and beliefs down like that.  They are not weird just because they may be different from others.

I believe in prayer and I know God works in my life.  I just don’t think prayer should be about giving God my shopping list for life and expecting Him to take care of it.  I believe prayer is conversation with God. It is about building such a close relationship with God that I can trust Him to show me what I should do and give the courage, the faith, and the support to do it.   I can tell Him I am scared, lonely, confused, and pissed off.   Prayer is about thanksgivings, praise, asking for guidance, and asking for the same things I want in my life for others.

I believe God encourages me, gives me insight and inspiration, leads me to people who will help me grow, and makes me feel lousy when I do things I shouldn’t.  He might even allow me to fall in a hole on the beach and be knocked over by waves when I tell a little white lie to get out of going to an event I didn’t want to attend.

I also believe  I can never fully understand the mysteries of faith and grace. I guess that’s why it is called faith.  God explained that to Job once.   I also know that love should be the revelation of God in my life and others who are Christ Followers or Christians.  Do I practice love for others all the time? No, I don’t but I believe it is our calling.  I decided not to quote Bible verses in this post because we too often get into Bible Verse wars.  However, I am going to share one.

1 Corinthians 13:13   (New International Version)   And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I also love this quote by my favorite author,

“You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child.  Anne Lamott

I may not wear the T-shirt, have the bumper sticker, or put “Christ Follower” as a label on my blog post.  I can assure you without hesitation that I am a child of God and a….. Well, I am not sure which is my favorite word from the ones the disciples called each other, “brethren”, “disciples”, “apostles”, “servants”, “believers”, “followers”, “the faithful”, “the elect”, “the called”, and “saints.”    

I have been lead to find several people through my blogging.  There are a few who have touched my heart and spirit.  One is an inspiring woman named Joy Cannis.   I want to share something from her About Page on her blog.

If you aren’t sure about God…believe that there is no God…are a bible beater…a seeker…a Jesus freak…a veteran Christian or anything in between, my hope is that something here will resonate in your gut and move you to positive action.

So here’s the deal…I won’t preach religion. I don’t think that Jesus did, so I won’t.

I am not going to berate you with what I think is the only way to God. Though I believe it is through Jesus. I am a spiritual being and this body is just my earthly shell.

What I will do is keep it real. I will speak truth…my truth to the best of my ability and I will pray for each of you, every day, on this journey. Thank you for taking the time out of this incredibly busy life to listen to my compilation of thoughts.

And this, my friends, is my truth.

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