Category: Uncategorized

Mass Violence in America: This Is Who We Are and Choose To Be

IMG_7566 It’s hard to watch a president give his 900th after-mass-shooting speech about the need for sensible gun laws* – worthy and crucial as that conversation continues to be – when that same president’s legacy is so heavily marred by drone bombings of innocents on foreign soil.

It’s impossible to read the tweets and prayers of legislators feigning horror and heartbreak, knowing they sit deeply in the pocket of the NRA which has purchased their allegiance, and that tomorrow they will return to work and fight harder than ever NOT to pass any laws now that could have protected and saved the lives of these Beloved before they were slaughtered at a night club, never mind the hundreds before them.

It’s enraging to hear legislators double-speak about the horrors of mass violence against the very same LGBTQ people they’ve studiously avoided passing protections for, and whose civil rights they still protest, legislate against, and work around daily. To hear the same voices decry this mass shooting AND legal protections for the slaughtered’s community…I just can’t.

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Franklin Graham, Amygdalas, and the Futility of Fighting with Fear

Amygdala of the brain, artwork

Amygdala of the brain, artwork

I made the disastrous mistake of accidentally reading today’s Islamophobic diatribe from Franklin Graham (how did this show up in my newsfeed? I *blocked* all FG posts ages ago!?).

But instead of getting mad at him or losing my shit over the comments (because seriously – my head pops off and fire erupts **exactly like** on InsideOut, which is the most emotionally accurate film ever made – don’t even try to debate me on this.), I scrolled through comments, careful NOT to read them, and prayed a blessing on each Image Bearer who commentstands either in solidarity against Muslims, or against those who’re against Muslims.

Because listen: Scared people don’t need to be yelled at or berated. They don’t need to be mocked. They don’t even hear it.

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God, The Gays, And For the Love of All That’s Holy, Context

Leviticus

There’s a thought that’s been marinating in my brain for a while. I haven’t made a point of saying it out loud (or in print) until now because it’s been said a billion times by better authors with wider audiences, and I am therefore, essentially, a mockingbird just singalinging what I’ve heard.

But it struck me one day as I sat in church not too long ago, and again this evening when I read this HuffPost piece which features a tweet from a dear, gay friend of mine who’s spent the last decade at war with himself over his sexuality and what God has to say about it, and who now blogs over at The Gay Post-Evangelical. He’s been clobbered by the clobber verses a billion times, including in the comments of that HuffPost thing, so I feel the time has come to speak up.

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Mid-October Life Assessment: 14 Lessons I’ve Learned So Far or “Don’t Streak, Be True, Prioritize Passions, Vaccinate Your Kids, Do Scary Stuff, Delete Meanies, and More”

Here is a pretty picture of a leaf in the woods. It is October, so leaves right?

Here is a pretty picture of a leaf in the woods. It is October, so leaves right?

In the middle of the night last night, I was awake and figured I might as well dive head-first into my first annual Mid-October Assessment of the Year Thus Far. Here’s some stuff I’ve learned.

1) Streaking is a bad idea. Joining The Latest Challenge or diet or whatever is possibly probably a terrible idea. Your body needs more than grapefruit. My muscles do need rest days. It’s okay to take them. It’s okay to say, “Hey it’s cool that you can run every day or run super fast even though I can’t. I can do this other thing, which is also really neat.” Don’t try to be like someone else just because a bunch of someones are being or doing the same thing. Sometimes they’re all jumping off a cliff, and that’s rarely a good idea unless there’s water below and you’re already a good jumper and swimmer. I digress.

2) Overtraining is real. Shitty seasons are real. One week you’ll be on top of your game, and the next you’ll be sidelined. There’s a season to plant, one to water and grow, one to harvest, and one to rest. There’s also the fallow season – the long hibernation of soil/soul. Honor the season you’re in. Move with it.

3) Do what you love, and stop when it becomes work or an idol or something you hate but keep on saying you love even though it’s a lie. Tell yourself only true things first, and then do only true things.

I’ll start:
I hate running marathons.
There, I said it.
Now, I’m not going to run anymore marathons until that true statement changes.

4) Self-care is where others-care begins. You can’t pour from an empty glass, no matter what all those supermoms and lay popes try to make you believe. Do yoga. Read daily. Sip your coffee slowly, but don’t let it sit too long. Sleep in. Take your time on the toilet, especially if you have kids and can lock them out. And get super-full before you go emptying yourself into others who deserve you, and deserve the best of you.

5) It’s okay to care about everyone and everything, and believe every cause that matters to someone should matter to you too. But be careful, or you’ll be the guy donating $2 to every charity who sends him a letter. I mean, $2 to 500 causes is great. $1000 to the one that makes your heart stop and then start again is maybe better. (Did I math that right? Anyway.) So try to think of your passion like pennies: you only have so many, and it’s good to prioritize, to save up and drop the paper money on the Really Great Ones, rather than dropping a penny here or five there on a bunch of bottom bin gum drops that lose their flavor before the wrapper hits the floor. Also, be creative. Sometimes you don’t have to spend pennies to show you care.

6) Like nuclear waste, long-buried family secrets are still deadly toxic 50 years after the fact. Maybe moreso. Unbury that shit, name it, and torch it. Things might explode. Things might be irreparably damaged. People might not want to talk to you anymore. That might be okay.

7) When you’ve grown up and have left and cleft, your family is who you’ve married, who you’ve made, and who you choose. Blood isn’t really as thick as we’ve all been told. So when you’re big enough to choose your family, be picky. And know this: When blood family does spill your blood, you’re more likely to hemorrhage. So grow thicker skin and stay away from the ones with sharp words and ways.

8) Try to be the kind of parent who makes it easy for your kids to not have to worry about nuclear family waste and all that blood-letting stuff. The only thing they really really need to know is that they are loved no matter what, and that is enough. And maybe to also be kind to others because others are also loved.

9) Don’t be afraid of all those emotional taboos like depression meds and therapists. Your mind and spirit need and deserve the same level of care you give your body. If you’d see a doctor for cancer of the lungs, make sure you see one for cancers of the spirit. It’s my believe that everyone should have a therapist on call; mine has saved my life a few times.

10) Those cancers of the spirit and mind – depression, mental health disorders, etc – are real things. It’s not a bad day; it’s a chemical imbalance. Please don’t be mean and ignorant and suggest those who need help just need a good prayer partner or a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude!).

11) It’s okay to be an essential-oils-loving, chiropractor-seeing, acupuncture-getting hippie who shops 100% organic and has her own garden of fresh veggies and fruits. That’s really cool, actually. It’s also okay to eat out every night of the week, drink pop, take ibuprofen, and buy your non-organic gmo-full grapes at Target. Just don’t be a jerk to people who don’t do it like you do it.

This goes for pretty much everything, with one exception: Please vaccinate your kids.

12) Know your professional and personal worth. Some might think you’re an arrogant jerk for saying, “hey, you can’t treat me like that.” Or, “actually no, you need to pay me more. This is what I charge to do this, and you’re not the special exception.” This is especially important if you’re any kind of artist or creator. Those people are the jerks for treating you like that. Know your value. Work hard to grow your value. And don’t work for anyone who doesn’t affirm your value. Okay, scratch that. You need a job, and it’s too crappy an economy for everyone to be paid what they’re worth to do what they love. But you know what I’m saying: don’t let anyone screw you over. You’re better than that.

13) Do stuff that scares you. I don’t mean jump out of a plane, though that is scary. I mean, if you’ve been thinking about writing songs but you’re afraid they’ll suck, they probably will but write them anyway. That’s what I keep telling myself about doing this blog writing thing more often: It may suck. That’s okay. Ann Lamott said I have to write a shitty first draft, so here I am. Don’t not do something because you’re afraid it won’t end well. Do it because you’re bigger than your fears.

14) It’s okay to say goodbye. It’s okay to play fast and loose with your unfollow, delete, and block buttons on social forums. Most of us strive for respectability. All of us fail at times, maybe even often, forgetting those are humans typing at us and absorbing our rants from behind another screen somewhere. We can all do better. We can be nicer. We can think before we angry-type.

And we can also say to those who haven’t quite learned, “No, not with you. Not today. Not tomorrow either.”

What are some really important lessons you’ve learned so far this year?

The Sinners Prayer, Hell-Bound Babies, and How Sin Saved Me

Continuing to process Cindy Brandt​’s ‘Raising Children Un-Fundamentalist’ series, in particular one guest post about why her family doesn’t say The Sinner’s Prayer…

The more I think about it, the more I come to the stark realization that while my “salvation experience” at age 4 (yeah – I was an early bird) was certainly real, it was not an “I have decided to follow Jesus” moment. Rather, it was my, “My four year old terrified brain cannot bear the thought of spending an unfathomable eternity in hell because I [fill in the sin]. So I have prayed to Jesus and He has saved me from hell” moment.

the sinner's prayer

I met Jesus for the first time, and chose to follow Him, in the midst of “sin and darkness” a full 19 years later. I was sleeping with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) while certain family and friends were furiously (not in anger, but in dreaded worry) demanding we stop, break up, or face doom both in this life and the next. They scrambled to ensure my 4yo sinner’s prayer was authentic, and worried themselves sick that it wasn’t.

Yet, while others were screaming, “FIIIRRREEEE! Fire, Amy!! Your house is on fire!” I was standing in the living room decorating with Jesus. I was setting up shop in the House He was building. I was getting to know the One who loves me, period. Who desires and designs a life of Good for me, and Whose greatest gift to me yet was this boyfriend with whom I was hurtling headlong into destruction.

Even as they worried, screaming that our lack of purity would be our certain doom, I was hearing the persistent, quiet voice of Jesus speaking peace. Speaking wholeness. Dismantling the myths of purity culture in which my previous “pure” relationships had left me shattered and disillusioned.

Jesus used this One Penultimate Sin (the ultimate being apostasy) I’d been taught and believed would invariably be the destruction of everything, to construct in me a new, living, breathing, For-Jesus faith.

In other words, the very thing I was taught would destroy me completely was precisely what Christ used to save and recreate me; To transplant me from the faith of my family into a faith of my own. As I disastrously diverted from their path, Christ paved a new one for and with me.

Perhaps I was saved from hell at 4-years-old and guaranteed my place in heaven. Who knows? Maybe? I’m more inclined to believe Christ saved me 2,000 years ago at Calvary, and that experience was my first spark of recognition, of becoming who I am: Beloved of God, Rescued.

But either way, the more I learn of Jesus, the more I’ve come to believe Jesus doesn’t want us to “choose” Him as an escape route. He is not – as they say – our “fire insurance.” [Insert disturbed groan here.] He wants us to choose Him because the love and long-suffering He has demonstrated toward us even in the midst of sin is unparalleled. He is the Lover buying His whoring wife back over and over and over, saving and sanctifying her by His relentless faithfulness and Love, regardless of her faithlessness and infidelity.

He wants us not to respond negatively to the idea of hell (because how unique or special is that?) but positively to His inexhaustible pursuit. He wants us to say “YES!”

I’m not here to defend sin. We are broken people who, since being deceived and kidnapped by the Enemy, are bent on serving self rather than God. We are hopelessly lost in our pursuit and embrace of counterfeit loves. We are perpetually missing the mark, perpetually straying into ditches, and in perpetual need of salvation and sanctification. It’s my belief that Christ, in Love for me, dismantled and dethroned one god (sex/purity) by undoing its power against me, and put Himself rightly on that throne by showing how small of a god it was compared to how great of a God He is.

Neither am I saying it’s inherently wrong to pray for rescue from doom. Surely it’s a good thing to cry out for rescue when we need it, right?

I am, however, trying to flesh out the ramifications of the destructive teaching that our kids are doomed by their Maker until and unless they say, pray, or behave in certain ways.

I am sure it’s cruel to “Scare The Hell” out of little kids whose imaginations are more vibrant and active than mine’s been in ages, and for whom such cruelties birth years of tortured sleep. (They did for me!)

I am sure it’s inherently wrong to teach them that unless they recite a prayer and beg for mercy with appropriate self-loathing, and spend the rest of their lives doing the Rain Dance of Righteous Affirmation of Correct Doctrine, a “loving” God will torch them. Literally, and eternally.

I am most sure it’s an ineffective means and measure of fostering real, loving, fearless, shame-free faith in young hearts. For, once a young child grows out of childish fear he may start to wonder what kind of god functions in a way so opposite of “love” and yet insists on defining himself as “love incarnate.” And he may (rightly) reject that god, or, absent any understanding of a truly Loving Divine, (tragically) reject the idea of God altogether.

More often than not, atheism is the son of destructive theism.

I mean, if I am forced to choose between the “Angry God Dangling Me Over the Pit of Hell Because He Is Loving” and “No God At All,” I will unflinchingly choose the latter.

It is one thing to teach kids to “fear [revere, respect, honor as we revere our personal heroes] the Lord and serve Him only.”

It’s another thing entirely to teach them they must somehow simultaneously love and be adequately terrified of a god who is so oxymoronically “loving” that he will destroy them unless.

In my 34 years, I have yet to figure the math on how one can unashamedly, fearlessly Love the God she fears will otherwise unleash her to eternal conscience torment.

“There is no fear in love,” right?

But I have become and remain an overjoyed student of Love. One who was moved from a coward before the theology of death and fear to a disciple of Love.

And with all the hope, faith, and love I can muster, I wish the same for my kids.