Speak up! Silence isn’t silent.

Posted: January 24th, 2017 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments »

I’m a passionate person. If something interests me or affects me, I exhaust the available information to learn as much as I can about it. I’ve always avoided learning about political matters because I didn’t feel them affect my day to day life. I took for granted that more knowledgable people would keep things in line and I focused my energy elsewhere. I saw people get passionate about politics the same way I would get passionate about the Gospel and, of late, using food as your medicine, and I didn’t want to get caught up in it. However, this political season has pushed its way into my world to the point of not being able to ignore it. People are getting weird and I try to check out their sources. I want to see things from their perspective to compare it with mine. Consequently, I’m more informed. Being informed leads to shock and, at times, disgust. The more I see, the more I have something to say.

Politics began creeping into my awareness in the form of dissenting opinions of people I would consider friends. I would see their social media feed, the brazen negativity from otherwise positive people, and I would do a bit of research to gauge their accuracy and see what was getting them so worked up. Barely scratching the surface of the easily accessed information revealed the inaccuracy of my friends’ shared opinions and hurt my respect for them. It stained everything else they said. Including the things with which I would normally agree.

This had me double-checking information that I would normally take at face value, which isn’t a bad thing for me. However, if my friendship and/or respect is important to these people, then it was a bad thing for them. I became disappointed and increasingly sober. It wasn’t humorous in the absurdity. It was disheartening and scary. How could they not see it?

I found myself wanting to create distance so that I wouldn’t be associated with their politics, but I didn’t do a good enough job. Uncertain, uninformed, and, admittedly, unthinking friends, who didn’t know which direction to vote, would check out my posts, find nothing, and then gravitate to my friends’ posts who were more vocal. Someone came up to me and told me they voted for Trump because my friend made such a good case for why she was voting for him. My silence looked like my agreement. I learned a valuable lesson. Silence is not always silent.

Since then, that same friend confided that she regrets looking to my friends for voting direction and wishes she could take it back. She gained her independence through this, though. I know she’s not alone. And I’m sorry she trusted me so much that my associations were good enough for her. I need to be more careful about my associations or at least let my feelings be known.

I watched that man do everything possible to sink the ship on which he was sailing while my friends and fellow Christians made excuses for his behavior and patched up his holes. He was vulgar and sexually predatory and they would say “That was ten years ago.” He would mock a disabled man and they would say, “That’s just how he makes fun of people.” He would lie and they would say, “He’s just a colorful communicator.” He would talk about women saying they were “disgusting”. I watched him wish “the good old days” back as a protestor called him out on his KKK approval. “What good old days?” I wondered.

“In the good old days this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily. …I like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you what. I love the old days. You know what they use to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on stretcher, folks. That’s true. …In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast…. In the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. …I am the law and order candidate.” – Donald Trump in response to protestors at his rallies. Click here to see his words against the backdrop of  “the good old days” as portrayed by the documentary “13th”. I highly recommend watching the whole documentary.

I don’t want to talk about him anymore.

I couldn’t believe he was actually elected. I was at work the following day and more than once, I escaped to the bathroom to cry privately when those around me were celebrating. I didn’t cry because he won. I cried because of what his win said about our country. I was no longer blind and what I saw broke my heart. I wanted this insanity to be over and for us to move on to a different kind of challenge, but it’s not over and I refuse to “normalize” what is abnormal and horridly destructive. I live in a very conservative part of the country. I’m surrounded by people who voted for him. I have kept my mouth shut because nobody has asked me what I think. I’m the quiet one. But as I sit quietly, I can’t believe that no one is speaking up. It makes me feel alone.

I struggle to separate politics from the person to the point of wondering if, in this case, there is a difference. I don’t think so. This isn’t about red or blue. Is it about Red, White, and Blue? The active word being “white”? Is it about a Russian agenda? I watch as children suffered horribly in Allepo at the hands of Russians and wonder how in the heck anyone could be okay with a friendly connection to them. Their faces haunted me and woke me up at night. I would pray myself back to sleep and cry when I was awake. It wrecked me. I would ask people around me if they were aware and they weren’t.

Do they not read the news? Oh, yeah. They don’t trust the news. Real things are happening, things they could do something about, causes they could support, they could be lifting these babies up in prayer… and they don’t watch the news. They don’t read the articles. They’re robots, but who is the programmer?

You know what’s most disturbing to me? A lot of his supporters are self-proclaimed Christians. They’re exalting him as though he’s going to do something to make their lives better. Do they think he’s going to get them more money? At what cost? Isn’t the love of money the root of all evil? Do they think he’s going to make them safer? He uses props and constructs a show like there are no consequences to the masquerade fallout. He’s used to a world where there is no such thing as “bad press”. If they’re talking about you, then you still get ratings. He calls himself “the ratings machine”. But this isn’t a show.

How can a Christian be a nationalist? We are no better than anyone else and thinking that God loves Americans more than any other country is asinine. I’m not saying that I don’t love my country or that I want to live somewhere else. I’m just saying that we are not better than anyone else and it’s more patriotic and Godly to embrace the outcasts and outsiders, and provide shelter for the war wrecked. Hypocrisy is the alternative. Read the words on our Statue of Liberty: 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We, both as Americans and as Christians, are supposed to be a safe place. We, as Christians, are supposed to be gentle and kind. This man is dolling out lies and inconsistencies like a pedophile in an ice cream truck and the gullible are intoxicated by his schoolyard tune of dirty lyrics. They’re starstruck. They think this guy is going to get them something. Meanwhile, they sacrifice their witness and say things they can never take back.

I’m a Christian and I’m not like them.

I don’t support protesting him with violence, by defacing or misrepresenting the flag, or by hurting other people, and I don’t support the divisions. I don’t even support divisions between countries, colors, languages, genders, or any other differences. I’m struggling to know how to navigate this time in our history, but I know enlightenment can come from what appears to be darkness.

The whole world is watching us right now. Don’t stand down. Let love win.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


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breathing fresh air

Posted: August 28th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Mandy Steward wrote the 28th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Breathing Fresh Air”.

Mandy’s chapter was about discovering what yoga can do for your mind and spirit. I understand what she is saying and it’s fun to read her perspective. Yoga is the practice of relaxing into the tension of being stretched. It’s about finding the edge of yourself and growing that territory further out by facing the fear of falling off. The mental strength you gain has an undeniable positive effect on the rest of your life.

She parallels the practice on the yoga mat and out in her life:

“As I follow what I believe to be the promptings of the Spirit of God inside of me, I find myself exploring all sorts of new territory. What I am learning on my mat in yoga is transferring to how I enter into these new mysteries of my faith. I bend a little in my mind, as far as I feel comfortable, and then I breathe and see if I feel as though I can safely release the muscles to allow myself to go even deeper or if I am at my proverbial edge, needing to back off” (page 180).

In a conversation I had a couple weeks ago, my friend and I discussed the different paths people take to find the truth. They’ll get a glimpse of the truth and make a religion out of it. When I studied religions in college, I noticed that each had an element of the truth in it. It’s just that many of them haven’t found it through the Source of Truth, and so it’s tangled by tumors of false belief or spiritual blindness.

There is a such thing as spiritual enlightenment, of living selflessly, loving others, and finding your connection to the rest of creation. These things are worthwhile spiritual practices, but they have nothing to do with the flesh. Meaning, they have nothing to do with Jesus. Any religion can accomplish amazing acts of humanitarian work and meditation practice can strengthen the thinking part of our lives. Food can be our God-designed medicine, positive thinking can alter our chemistry, and healing breaths can change our neurological activity. In all of that amazing and fascinating truth, none of it mentions Jesus.

There is a connection between tradition and freedom from tradition. It’s all part of the whole. I’ve been exploring this territory for a few years now. Mandy’s writing gave me the sense that she knows she’s talking to people who may not have discovered much about God outside of the safety of their religious institutions. I wish we had more Bible-based conversations about the bigger picture. I think people would find the healing, freedom, and peace they crave if they recognized that God created everything and He is an active part of every aspect of life. We’ve scooted away from Him in every area except the Sunday Morning sanctuary.

Mandy cited this scripture and I love it…

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.Ecclesiastes 11:5 KJV

mandy stewart

Dan King wrote the 29th chapter of Soul Bare. He titled it, “Look At Me, Daddy”. I’ll write my thoughts about his chapter next.


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gravity

Posted: August 27th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

The 27th chapter of Soul Bare was written by Emily P. Freeman. She titled it, “Gravity”.

I just finished listening to this podcast series where the hosts discussed certain aspects of a certain religion. One of the things that they discussed was the tendency for people to exaggerate their “before picture” in order to make their conversion story more impactful. They would ask someone in this religion to clarify the statement that they were “strung out on drugs” prior to conversion. “What kind of drugs? What sort of things did you do?” They would respond by saying, “Oh, all of them.” Any drug the interviewer would name, the person would claim as their previous vice.

Exaggerating your story to make it sound more impressive only points the attention back to you. It doesn’t point to God, because you can’t find Him through lies. His work doesn’t need human embellishment to speak to people. There is an endless sea of people who don’t have horrid pasts, grievous sin, or skin sagging addictions they’ve been saved from. There are people who, by all appearances, are as vanilla as they can be and they need to God’s grace just as much as someone like me. Their pain, sin, and tension is just harder to see. That’s where Emily’s story comes in.

“While the breaking of the rebel may come with alarms and blaring lights, attention-getting interventions, and phone calls in the night, the breaking of the vanilla comes as a silent crack in the soul, an understanding of our deep selfishness in the midst of our deep woundedness” (page 173).

I enjoyed reading Emily’s chapter. Her writing isn’t pretentious, she didn’t embroider her story, and I recognized her heart in it. I recognize the grace she says she knows and it makes me feel relieved that she’s using her voice in a world full of otherwise meaningless religious merengue.

She writes about trying to live the right way, follow the right rules, and how that lead to “pride when [she] got it right” and “shame when [she] failed”.

“I had to face this cycle and name it in the presence of Jesus – this self-life, the all-about-me-life, the flesh disguised by sweet smiles and twisted intentions. Don’t let the mask fool you. This kind of living is sin” (page 173).

When Rocky Road meets Vanilla, we can always see the mask. It’s good to know that she’s not wearing one.

emily p freeman

 

Mandy Steward wrote the 28th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Breathing Fresh Air”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.

 

 


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the root

Posted: August 6th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

Angie Hong wrote the sixth chapter of “Soul Bare“. It’s called “The Root”.

You never know what you’re going to find in these chapters. My own biases are being challenged by how deep these writers went for this book. Angie went to “the root”. As she wrestles with balancing the love her mother had for her with the things she would do to punish her, I’m realizing how many ways a person can be belittled.

“Could it be right to punish me by keeping me home from school and making me hold my hands in the air all day, naked?” (page 46).

Our lives are entirely about finding God. It’s easier to understand the separation between life in the body and the life of the spirit when you back up off of the here-and-now for a better view. You can see the life like an orchard with the fruit of a tree producing similar trees with similar fruit. When Angie held her own newborn, her history collided with her future when her overwhelming love met her hidden fear.

Angie writes about how she was able to break free of the past and create a different future for her own children. She wanted to be a tree that produced different fruit, and in order to do that, she had to visit the root and deal with her past.

I’m going to use the same scripture that Angie used in her chapter because it’s perfect.

“Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper, and the instead of the briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign,that will endure forever.” -Isaiah 55:13

Angie Kay Hong

If you haven’t ordered a copy of this book, you really should.

I’ll write my thoughts about chapter seven, “The Waging and the Waiting”, written by Tammy Perlmutter next.

 

 


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canyons and towers

Posted: August 4th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

I’m on chapter four of blogging through “Soul Bare”. This is my own chapter. I didn’t plan ahead enough to have someone write this for me. I’ll be writing about myself, so this will inevitably feel different than the others because I have more insight into my own head. I titled this chapter “Towers and Canyons”.

If you’re at all familiar with me as a writer, you know that my life, particularly my childhood, was not good. If you know me in real life, though, you know I’m a mom of four daughters, a busy hairdresser, and an organic “food as your medicine” advocate. I rarely talk about my childhood, my adoption, or my mistakes. I write about them. I don’t write about my personal life, my children, or my other passions. I live and enjoy them.

However, if someone in real life is struggling through one of the countless battles that life can wage against you, I’ll open up and share any insight I can. Some will seek me out because they’re aware of my depths. One of the things that I inevitably tell people is that our life is not an orderless bag of good times and bad times. It is an orderly timeline of events that are dependent upon one another. In this chapter, I call it “towers and canyons”.

“The sorrow is a vastness I don’t often visit, but my towers of joy are dependent on my canyons of sorrow. The paradigm of repentance is that one would not exist without the other” (page 33).

I started this blog in 2009, four years after my huge failure. I wrote as I healed and when I was overcome by passion. I advocated for the fallen, myself included. I’ve come to believe that our weapons should only be love and our wars should only be fought on the side of grace. Any other weapon and any other war is a distraction from our ultimate purpose: to be the body of Christ.

Now, in 2016, 11 years after my big failure, I can place it on the timeline of my life and see its necessity for my salvation. It was my own beliefs, and ultimate Unbelief, that led me to the point of sin and failure. If I had not fallen, my life would not have had to be rebuilt. It was built on lies before. It is built on truth now.

“Only God can take evil intent and turn it into the very thing that saved me” (page 34).

There is a bigger story that is taking place, with the details often outside the scope of your understanding. Give it some time. It won’t take long before you see that the canyons of sorrow that tear through your life are creating the strong foundation for the towers of joy that will sing through your soul.

Serena Woods

Kris Camealy wrote the 5th chapter of “Soul Bare”. I’ll write my thoughts on her chapter, “Captivity”, next.


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