Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Exactly a Month.

Well, a day over.
But I haven't blogged since September 11.
I have felt strong emotions since that day, but I've been using other outlets for them. Outlets that include people, instead of a faceless internet.
These emotions, however, warrant a blog post.

I'm having a rather... Interesting patch in my life right now. I'm paying my way through school, working, and sometimes struggling to find God in my every day. I don't feel like I'm supposed to be in a corporate church, and yet all of the teaching that I've ever had and a lot of the advice I'm receiving includes going to church. Half the time I want to cry... And half the time I want to shove it in the face of everyone who has ever doubted me and say, "LOOK! I said I could do this, and I am. So there."

I told Kanz the other night that I just want to be out of this phase of my life. I accept the necessity for it, and I know I will eventually be grateful for the lessons it brings about... But I'm tired of being a single student, in a house full of roommates. I want to be married, with a house of my own, and graduated, with a career. Not like, tomorrow... I just want to fast forward these next several years.

The day after I had that conversation with Kanz... One of my regular customers died. James was a man who had come into the well house at least once a week for the entire year that I've worked there. He always ordered a chicken salad pita and a sweet tea. He always had a movie review, a joke, and a question- about my life, about how classes were, about what music I was listening to. James' visit to the Well House was a highlight of my week.

I met James soon after he stopped having chemo for his cancer. His doctors told him he had 6 months to live if he continued with the chemo... And he chose to die sooner, but feeling well, than later, nauseous and miserable. And yet he surpassed the odds. His "prescribed death day", as he called it, came and went- and he ate a chicken salad pita to celebrate. But we watched as he slowly deteriorated- his demeanor changed from cheery and bright to a little miserable and often, downright cranky. His stomach become unable to handle the potato chips that come with our sandwiches, and eventually even the carrot chips we offer as a substitute- and so we started making him "cuke bites", special. Slowly, just as his hair and eyelashes grew back after the chemo, he began to wither before our eyes. And as his visits became less and less frequent, we knew the time was coming.

But when I got the message yesterday morning that he was dead, it hit me like a ton of bricks. He was never going to come through the front door and insist that I see the Help again (he did that 3 times). He was never going to begrudgingly pay for his son-in-law's lunch. He was never going to tease me about forgetting his side of ranch.

And I was miserable about wanting to rush through a few years of living.

I've been beating myself up and was explaining to Kanz why as we pulled up in the drive after Bible study this evening.

Feeling unimportant, basically.

And then I saw the porch.

Our porch is nothing spectacular. There's some wood sloppily stacked on one end, a few benches, and hannaHRose was sitting there talking on the phone.

But there was also a foreign object.

A heater. A brand new one. A very nice one, with a remote and everything. With a card on it. That had my name.

And the card basically said, "You've blessed me, and I wanted to bless you back. So here's a heater, because I heard you need one."

And I have no idea who did it.

Supposedly, none of the roommates do, either.

I'm dying to know who did it.

But also, I know that if I knew who had done it, I would have a much harder time accepting it.

So, to my "friend" (that's how the card was signed), whoever you are... Thank you. I will pay it forward someday.

For now... I will be warm this winter. And every time I turn it on, I will remember "if you're loved by someone, you're never rejected" (thanks, Avett Bros).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Violence is not part of the system...

It IS the system." -The Anarchist Cookbook (film)

10 years ago, I was sitting in my 4th grade art class when the Twin Towers (an American symbol of prosperity), the Pentagon (a symbol of safety), and a field entirely too close to my Grandparent's house for my comfort were hit by planes overtaken by men who believed they were doing the right thing. All I remember about that day is watching people on the TV screen jumping from the towers, not understanding why that was better than what was inside.

Later today, I will go to a birthday party, to help to celebrate a life well lived. And as I remember the people from this country who are mourning, I will also remember those men, the ones who supported them, and their families... I pray they will someday be able to stand beside mine, forgiven, reformed, and united towards one God and one common goal.

This is not a popular idea. I tried to post that last paragraph on Facebook and it wouldn't let me because it was too long... Which may be ok, because it might have created a firestorm that I'm not prepared to deal with.

But I honestly believe that those "terrorists" are just as much children of God as you and me. That if my sins are forgiven, then theirs could be as well. And I certainly don't think that it's ok to judge their descendants, their friends, their culture and entire way of life, simply because of the actions of a few.

Do I believe that there is only one way to Heaven, through the true and living God? Yes. Do I believe that it is this same God who instructed them to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? No.

Do I think they're in Heaven?

I don't think it's my job to speculate. I have no idea what happened in them in their last minutes of life, nor do I have any idea what happens after death. All I can deal with is what is within ME.

And so I refuse to spend all day today thinking mean thoughts about them, having conversations with cruel undertones about them, and acting "American".

I do regret the loss of safety and comfort that generations before me may have felt growing up. However, I think that the constant worries about what "they" were going to do next has made me think about people and motives. It has required that I do not look at someone wearing a turban in the airport and go into a panic- a.) because I love flying and do it entirely too much to freak out every time this happens and b.) because it's just not right.

If you're in the boat where you want to be angry, where you have venom, where you want to fight and get revenge- then I am in no place to judge you. I do not know what you lost on 9/11/01, I do not know what you are dealing with. You may do that today. But I ask of you, if you can find one minute out of the 900 you are likely going to be awake today, remember the parents, spouses, siblings, children, and friends on the men on the other side of the equation. Lift up a prayer for their eyes to be opened, for everyone to realize that violence doesn't have to be the system.

And maybe, when you're done, don't say Amen. You don't have to stop. It could be a way of life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Ballad of Love and Hate

Love writes a letter and sends it to hate.
My vacation's ending. I'm coming home late.
The weather was fine and the ocean was great
And I can't wait to see you again.

Hate reads the letter and throws it away.
No one here cares if you go or you stay.
I barely even noticed that you were away.
I'll see you or I won't, whatever.

Love sings a song as she sails through the sky.
The water looks bluer through her pretty eyes.
And everyone knows it whenever she flies,
And also when she comes down.

Hate keeps his head up and walks through the street.
Every stranger and drifter he greets.
And shakes hands with every loner he meets
With a serious look on his face.

Love arrives safely with suitcase in tow.
Carrying with her the good things we know.
A reason to live and a reason to grow.
To trust. To hope. To care.

Hate sits alone on the hood of his car.
Without much regard to the moon or the stars.
Lazily killing the last of a jar
Of the strongest stuff you can drink.

Love takes a taxi, a young man drives.
As soon as he sees her, hope fills his eyes.
But tears follow after, at the end of the ride,
Cause he might never see her again.

Hate gets home lucky to still be alive.
He screams o'er the sidewalk and into the drive.
The clock in the kitchen says 2:55,
And the clock in the kitchen is slow.

Love has been waiting, patient and kind.
Just wanting a phone call or some kind of sign,
That the one that she cares for, who's out of his mind,
Will make it back safe to her arms.

Hate stumbles forward and leans in the door.
Weary head hung, eyes to the floor.
He says Love, I'm sorry, and she says, What for?
I'm yours and that's it, Whatever.
I should not have been gone for so long.
I'm your's and that's it, forever.
You're mine and that's it, forever.

 (The Ballad of Love and Hate- The Avett Brothers)

I have spent a great deal of my life being Hate. Being the one who rejected Love, no matter what form it came in or how relentlessly it came.

I spent many, many, many years thinking that the people around me loved me- just not as much as they loved this person or that one. That I was in constant competition with those around me to achieve affection.

I think I eventually forgot what Love felt like. Every time Love appeared, I pulled back, pushed it away, didn't know how to deal with it.

I mistook the similarities I felt with those around me who were also lonely and Hateful as Love.

I have recently realized that this is not Love, this is just another version of Hate. It allows for rejection from those people, and if the expectation comes to pass, then it creates another cycle of Hate.

Love and compassion are two new experiences for me, ones that have become real over the last year, especially. Like I said before, these are not emotions that people had been withholding from me... They were emotions that I was refusing to accept.

hannaHRose told me that when she listened to this song, she thought "Man, Hate is really a jerk to Love!" At that point, I hadn't listened to it yet.

I listened to it in my car on the way to work this morning. I wasn't expecting the reaction I had.

I had to sit in the parking lot at work for 10 minutes and compose myself because I was weeping.

Because I have been to the point where I had to be "plastered", my emotions and ques and normal responses shut down, before I could give in to Love. Before I could face Love, apologize, and accept what had been there all along.

I'm trying to transition from Hate to Love. To responding out of joy instead of pain, pleasure instead of anger.

To forget and move on, instead of clinging to the wrongs that have been done to me.

"Love, I'm sorry." "What for? I'm yours, and that's it, whatever."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This machine kills fascists.

This quote has kind of been floating around the H o' B recently... It appeared in a graffiti stencil of Kanz's, which created a launching pad for it to spread to t-shirts, cars, etc. Then we saw it on some other shirts at Cornerstone, where I purchased a shirt where the words are typed onto a computer screen. As I bought it, I thought, "This is cool, because I blog."

I got home and realized I hadn't blogged in over 3 months. I suppose it's a good thing- as I began to resolve my issues with people, I also stopped requiring the computer as my sole outlet, my only release.

But tonight, there's too many emotions, too much to just dump on someone.

I'm listening to angsty teen music (thank God that I didn't have Simple Plan as a teenager...).

I grew up in a house where there wasn't really a lot of hugs or other physical contact. If I was upset, my parents would try to hug me, but I generally pushed it away until they seemed to just stop- or I blocked out their attempts. There was never any question of if they loved me... There just wasn't the physical manifestation of that.

Separately from that, I don't think I've ever loved someone enough to be mad on their behalf. I was always too busy being mad for me, for what people had done to me, to realize that other people were hurting too.

Today, I watched someone who I love deeply be hurt in a way that I am unable to comprehend. And while she's dealing with it in her way, I am sitting here wondering how to deal with the feelings welling up inside me- of wanting the person doing her harm to realize what they're doing, to have just a bit of what's going on inside of her.

At the same time, I want to respond in love, in a way that I know Jesus would have. (Why does our stupid language have only one word for love?) To respond with compassion and understanding, fairness.

While dealing with these emotions, I logged on to Facebook to see what was going on in everyone else's normal, every day lives... And saw a post my mom had written.

My little brother's lizard died tonight. His girlfriend bought it for him, and it's been an important part of his life- and my mother's, by extension, as she made sure it was fed and watered, and checked in on it periodically. When she checked on it tonight, however, it was laying with its "palms up".

She wrote of feeling immense sadness over the death of this reptile- and of not understanding why she doesn't feel that same emotion when humans die.

"I never touched [the lizard]. I was afraid to, in fact. Unfortunately, I feel the same about most humans. [The lizard's] death made me realize, once again, the importance of life. I need to choose more wisely."
 I guess I'm seeing that, as much as letting people in sucks sometimes and you get hurt, and I want to avoid it and quit trying, that that's exactly what gives my life purpose- the connections with people, the interactions I have on a regular basis, the ways I see God in people and they see God in me.

(Part of what I hate about blogging is that I feel like I need to have a nice wrap up. But I don't have the energy for it tonight. So the end.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Support our troops- 100%

No support or aid for the enemy- no matter what."

As we were driving home from the EleventySeven show in Greenville last night, I noticed this bumper sticker on one of those big semi-trucks... Right next to another one that said "Serve God- He is good, all the time."

I feel a disconnect here. Not in supporting our troops- our troops are protecting our country and everything "we've" ("we" being the man- a topic for another day) worked for. And while I may not agree with everything they're doing, THEY often don't agree with everything they're doing. My idea of supporting our troops is praying for them and serving them in whatever ways I can- sending care boxes, etc.

However, I think that a version of Christianity that provides "no support or aid for the enemy, no matter what" isn't my Jesus' version of Christianity- it's the type of Christianity that Shaine Claiborne is talking about when he says, "We didn't invent Christianity in America- we just domesticated it."

Let's, just for a minute, pretend that God did intend for us to be cruel towards our enemies' existence. How do we define who our enemies are?

In the case of this war on terror- are our enemies the terrorists alone? Their wives and kids, who may or may not have been "brainwashed" by their male leaders? The entire countries of Iraq and Afghanistan? All Muslims?

And what does "no comfort or aid" mean? That we don't try to help these women and children, making sure that they get clean water and good food during wartime? That Muslim children can't come to the States (or any other country, for that matter) and study at the best schools with our children? That when another conflict comes up, we don't rise to help the Iraqi and Afghani citizens because we have this grudge? Or does it merely mean we get to torture them at Guantanamo (or anywhere else) without feeling guilty?

Or, if you're warring something else- say, abortion- who are your enemies? Just the doctors and nurses who perform the abortions? The lawmakers who make it so that abortions are legal? The women who pay for abortions? The people who are uneducated about abortion and thus blindly support it? The people who ARE educated, but choose to educate others without all the facts?

And for them, what does no "comfort or aid" mean? That we don't let those doctors have their retirement? That we don't allow those women to receive counseling services?

If we focus solely on our enemies, there's too much of a grey area. People will never decide (and agree on) who our enemies should be- thus never being able to determine who deserves our comfort or aid.

But let's quit pretending. God does not call us to refuse aid or comfort to our enemies- actually, I believe He calls us to do just the opposite.

Proverbs 25:21 says, "If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink."

In Matthew 5:44-45, Matthew records that Jesus said, "But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your father in Heaven."

In Luke 6:27-36, Luke recounts the same teaching of Jesus- but he finishes it with "You must be compassionate, as the Father is compassionate."

Ok, so- God's plan of action is not for me to hate my enemies, to deny them aid or comfort, or to seek them out in order to do those things- it is for me to actually GIVE them comfort, compassion, and love- the things the heart of the Father beats for.

But again, we must decide- what is a grey area and what is not? What does having compassion for my enemy mean?

Does it mean I hide out terrorists in my basement? That I give money to Planned Parenthood? That I "forget" everything that's ever been done wrong by anyone?

I don't think so. Someone- I think it might've been hannaHRose- said to me one time that accepting someone doesn't mean you accept everything that they've done wrong. It simply means that you accept them as the person that they are, underneath those actions.

So that means that if I run into a terrorist (reminds me of when Michael Scott says to Dwight, "If I step on a land mine in Scranton, PA, you can have my job.")... If they are hungry and thirsty, I will most likely treat them as I would treat anyone else who was hungry or thirsty- offer them food or drink. And then report them.

But that's unlikely to happen. I am much more likely to interact with a totally different brand of enemy- maybe in the other scenario I explored, the abortion one. Say I end up talking to an abortionist, one who doesn't see that what they are doing is wrong, and takes human life. How do I respond to them?

Honestly, I would have a hard time with that. I would have no idea how to respond in that situation.

And I think that's where the "pray for those who persecute you" comes in.

The whole point is that I can't do this on my own. I can't love on my enemies on my own strength. The only way I can handle that is to pray for them, to place them, and my personal feelings, in the hands of God.

In the end, it is not me who judges them. In the end, I will be standing right next to them, being responsible for my actions.

Will my actions reflect a loving, Christ-like attitude towards all I met- enemies or not? An attitude that allowed everyone around me to interact with and see Jesus and Christianity in a new perspective? A perspective that maybe allowed them to accept my Jesus, the Jesus who lived and breathed and walked this Earth, instead of the Christianity that they've seen around them?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A baby is born with a need to be loved...

And never outgrows it. -Frank A. Clark

I've never been great at grasping the concept of love. Something unearned, I couldn't do anything to encourage people to share it with me, and I certainly couldn't demand it. So, I've never been great at receiving it.

Which has, at times, made for a very lonely existence. Albeit, there were times when I wanted that loneliness- having people too close would have meant that they'd ask questions and figure out what was going on inside of me, and Lord knows I didn't want that- but as I've been growing it's become more and more obvious that I was not meant to exist that way.

For a while now I've been dealing with being pretty much all the time, whether I was in a large group or alone. I just couldn't seem to break through that barrier. I'd be sitting on the couch with Sarah and hannaHRose and feel like there was a foot thick glass wall between us.

When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew I needed to get out of the house. And I didn't care where it was. I made an attempt to get Sarah and hannaHRose to go with me, but their interest level was pretty near floor level... And so I resigned myself to staying in the house for the day.

As I sat on the couch with my computer, though, I could feel God tugging at my heart to be alone with him. Actually, not just tugging... It was a yanking. Bad enough that I was halfway down the steps and headed out the door before I realized I had better put some clothes on instead of going out in my PJs.

As I was driving around sobbing and asking God why the heck I was going through this, I passed by a property near our house that has been entirely taken over by kudzu.

Kudzu has been called the "vine that ate the south". It's also been called various other expletives by the people around here who have had to deal with it on their properties, but all it really is is a climbing vine. It grows a foot a day and, when left unchecked, will grow out of control. And once its taken over, it is a long term project to get rid of it... And even once you do, you're back to the daily maintenance thing.

As I passed by this property, I had the revelation of how similar the kudzu is to the loneliness in my life. When I choose to wallow in it and isolate myself from the people reaching out to me, it is allowed to take over... And once it's taken over, it can be a fight to regain all the ground lost.

I eventually made it up to a room that our church has set up for us to be alone, and after my alone time, talked to Rebecca about it for a while. She informed me that there used to be a sign in that yard that said "Trust God" that the kudzu refused to grow over. A reminder that, when I'm trusting in God, nothing else can take over my heart except Him.

I went back today to take pictures, and the sign is no longer there, but I did still get some pretty awesome shots:

The barn

View from across the way, at East Laporte
When I talked to Kanz about it, she pointed out something else. Kudzu is not native to the United States, it is native to Japan and China. It was brought here illegally.

Loneliness is not of God- it was brought into my life "illegally" and is not welcome.

And, it doesn't have to be a long term project. He's got big enough muscles to pull it out by the root and have it gone :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Middle age...

Is when your age starts to show around your middle." -Bob Hope

I've never been much of a fighter or arguer. I mean, I remember fighting with Ben, but that mostly included hitting him until Mom caught us. (I found out recently that Mom and Dad used to wish, and possibly encourage, Ben to hit me back, the theory being that if he hit me back, it would hurt, and I'd never hit him again. I don't remember if I outgrew it or if he hit me, all I know is we stopped.)

In high school and at YWAM, I didn't argue much... I have an opinion and it is generally fully formed in my brain (though not always... Which is a problem, because if I have to think about it, then that means that people have already moved on to another point before I have my ideas formed and out), but I don't like it at all. I don't like telling someone they're wrong, especially if they're my friend. And I don't like when they tell me I'm wrong.

And, I hate when people talk over me. Sometimes, people are so excited about their opinion that they just talk over everyone else in an effort to get theirs out.

Apparently, I live with some arguers. We got into a discussion tonight about when people are most attractive.

The point of this is not the argument. I was greatly amused by watching them all argue with each other, and actually enjoyed when I was able to state my opinion. (It only lasted about 30 seconds. But it was more than normal.)

I guess I've come to the conclusion that God gave us creative minds and thus the ability to debate and discuss. I have formed views on abortion, adoption, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and interacting with other religions; but to discuss said views with someone else brings in their own spin on it, which may or may not alter my views.

I think to become a good fighter is not to be able to argue your point to death, but to be able to argue your point in a way that gets it across to other people, without anyone being offended or feeling like their views aren't being heard.

Winning someone over to your side definitely helps, though.