Unintelligence

I have a good job.  I really like my job.  I just got promoted at my job.  And it’s okay that I’m not doing the type of job that I thought I’d grow up to do.  Welcome to our economy.

The job market is fairly small.  And sometimes it seems that people have forgotten that.  A lot of people go to college, but most people don’t get jobs in their field after they graduate, and that’s not for lack of trying.

A month or so ago, I was having a conversation with someone I work with who also has a degree.  People come through all the time and act like we’re dumb because we work at Starbucks, even though Starbucks will actually give tuition reimbursement to their partners who are trying to get their bachelors if they go to ASU.  Starbucks cares about education, so why would someone assume that only stupid or uneducated people would work a job like that?  No, you don’t need a degree, but I never wanted to get a job in my field anyway.
But I digress.  I was talking with my coworker about working at Starbucks and about how college isn’t for everyone and having your degree doesn’t really make you any better than anyone else, because in this economy, it’s usually pretty hard to get a job in your field unless you’re either top tier or you have a lot of connections where there are openings.  It’s luck and who you know, not necessarily intelligence or capability.
An hour after our conversation a very loud man walked and announced that he had a question.  But he then went on to say that his question required intelligence, and that was pretty hard to find in Starbucks.  Both my coworker and I looked at him with obvious offense on our faces.  He began to laugh and told us to take a joke, then my supervisor came up front and he got to ask her his question.
During their conversation though, he told her she should go back to school, because she dropped out when she realized it wasn’t for her.  He was trying to force his worldview on her.  And she was annoyed.  We were all annoyed.

It’s fine to value education.  I’m currently planning on possibly going back and getting my masters degree next fall.  And that’s not because I think my current job is beneath me.  It’s not because I’m dying to do something else.  Even if I do get my masters and find a job in that field, I might still work a few days at Starbucks, because I enjoy it, and I like the benefits.

A degree does not necessarily mean a career.  And a lack of a degree does not equate stupidity.

It’s okay that I have a degree and am a barista.  Welcome to the real world.

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The Worst of These

I think that all Jesus wants is to give us eternal life so we can spend it with him.  I think all he wants is to love us.  No matter what.  I think that he came to the world to save it, to save us, from death.  That’s all.  And what began in the garden, what began with sin, was death.  There’s no escaping this, because although Christ came to save the world, and although he succeeded, we did not suddenly become perfect.  But we do get to have a choice now.  We do get to choose him, if we want to.

It seems to me that a lot of people have forgotten the “if we want to” part.  It seems to me that some people swing to the side of “you must choose him or you deserve to die.”  As if they forget that we all deserve to die, whether we choose Christ or not.  Because you do not suddenly become perfect or sinless just because you call yourself a Christian.  Yes, your slate is wiped clean in his eyes, but he still knows you.  He still knows the judgment in your heart.
In Matthew 18: 21-35, Jesus tells the story of a ruler who decides to collect on his debts.  He calls a man before him who cannot repay him, and the man falls to his knees, begging for more time, begging not to be thrown in prison.  The ruler has mercy on the man and forgives him of his debt completely.  But then the man seeks out someone who owes him money, as if he has learned nothing, and demands the money be repaid.  When the money is not repaid, he has him thrown in prison.  When the ruler hears of this, he throws the first man in prison to be tortured until his debts are repaid.
Forgive as you have been forgiven.
I think a lot of us forget that we have been forgiven already.  We forget about our sin as if it never existed, as if we had never done anything wrong, as if we had never been in debt, and then we try to force others to “turn or burn.”  We tell people little one liners like, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  HELLO! WE ARE SINNERS TOO!!  All have sinned and deserve death.  And all sin is equal, because all sin is deserving of death.  
So we do things like telling someone, because they’re gay, they’re probably going to hell.  No.  Because they were born into an imperfect, sinful world, they might miss out on eternity with the Creator.  And you telling them their lifestyle is wrong does not allow them to see the loving God you claim to serve.  Who wants to follow a God who will not accept someone for who they are?  I honestly don’t believe anyone wants to be gay.  Nor do I believe anyone really wants to be straight.  I think you just are gay.  You just are straight.  You just are short.  You just are tall.  You just are lanky.  You just are stocky.  You. Just. Are.  I cannot make myself taller unless I add something that is not myself into the mix (tall shoes).  I cannot make myself love a woman unless I pretend to be something I am not.  Wearing high heels is masking who I really am.  Someone pretending to be straight when they’re not would be masking who they really are.

Christ did not come so we could point out people’s differences, flaws, or downfalls.  He did not say to Peter, “stop being so zealous and causing trouble,” he said, “follow me.”  He did not say to Mary, “don’t sleep with so many people,” he said, “follow me.”  Follow me.  The rest will get figured out along the way.
I had a professor in college who told a story about when he first gave his life to Christ.  He went to his pastor and said, “Well, now that I’m a Christian, does that mean I have to stop doing all these things,” and he listed off a bunch of “sins.”  Because he didn’t want to stop.  The pastor told him that he didn’t have to stop doing anything.  It was more about what he started doing.  He started spending time with his savior.  He started serving more.  He started worshipping.  And a lot of those sins?  He stopped doing them when he felt he needed to, when he felt led to, through his personal relationship with the Spirit.
That’s how I honestly believe God wants it to be.  Not every person is the same, so what is “sinful” for one person might not be for someone else.  Yeah, murder in cold blood is probably always a sin, and infidelity, and anything else that can hurt someone else.  But having a few drinks?  Loving someone of the same gender?  Eating shellfish?  Probably not across the board sinful.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, said in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”  Paul equated himself with every other sinner, while we like to call him a saint.  In fact, he put himself below everyone else, because he knew his sins, knew himself, better than he knew anyone else.  Yes, he did his fair share of judging and calling people out.  But you know who he was calling out and judging?  Those who had already turned to Christ.  He was calling out those in the Church!  He wasn’t finding random strangers and telling them they were going to hell because they weren’t in the pews every Sunday.

Be like Paul.  Be like Christ.  And never forget who you are.

 

 

Two Kinds

This was supposed to go up several days ago, but my internet has been out because of the rain.

A week and a half ago I ran a 5k in Birmingham, at the zoo, with my friend, Eli.  He’s not yet a strong runner, so after the first mile and a half, we decided to walk for a little while.  It’s a 5k, it’s not like it mattered for anything either of us was doing.  Anyway, the race was pretty obviously on the road and we were walking on the sidewalk.  After about a minute, a slightly overweight, older woman passed us running, which didn’t matter.  However, as she passed, she chose to yell at us for walking because we weren’t walking single file, even though we were on the sidewalk and there was more than enough room to run on the road, where the race actually was.  People like that make me so mad.  I told Eli that one thing I’ve noticed in the South is that if you’re doing something that someone doesn’t like, they’ll say it as rudely as they can.  In California, you judge everyone, but you’ll say it to your friend, and if you really mean it, you’ll say it loud enough that the person can hear.  Yes, I know that this isn’t a nice thing to do, but I think I prefer it.  I hate confrontation anyway.

Later on in the race we were just reaching a water stop, and we had decided to run after we got a drink.  While we were walking to the table, an older lady passed us and started saying, “Come on, go go go go, don’t let an old lady pass you!”
At first, I was unsure that she was talking to us, but she most definitely was.  It annoyed me, but she was trying to be encouraging.  And after we got our water, we ran.  And we finished the race.

We passed both of these women.  One of them was proud, even though she’d never met us, simply because she was probably a nice woman.  Whereas when we passed the mean lady, I said loudly to Eli, “There’s a mean lady.”  Then as we passed her, I said, “Bye mean lady.”  You know, because I’m a child.  One woman was proud that we finished.  The other one, I was proud to have passed.  She deserved to finish far behind me.  It still irks me.  So stupid.

Anyway, we have the choice to be one of two kinds of people.  We can choose to be annoying and encouraging, because everyone deserves a good life.  Or we can choose to be cranky because not everything is exactly as we wished it was.  Who will I choose  to be today?

White Carnations

I need to write.  I’ve been meaning to write.  I’ve been meaning to set time aside.  I’ve been meaning to.  I’ve been meaning to.  But there are so many things that have almost lost the words.  Or maybe just one thing.  Because I’ve felt a little numb.  Or maybe I’ve felt as though something was missing and it’s not a space I can fill.  And I haven’t even been trying to fill it.

I’ve missed my mother lately.  I always thought that we never learned to love each other right.  I thought we were too different to understand each other, but I have realized that we were almost too much alike.  She raised me to be strong and independent.  She raised me to value intelligence and adventure.  She raised me to never say no to the possibilities.  She raised me to value my own opinion, but to learn the opinions of others.  I am who I am because of who she raised me to be.

I find that I talk about her more now than I ever did before.  She was always a fixture in my life, even when I moved thousands of miles away from her.  She wasn’t everything that I thought a mother was supposed to be, but she was a thousand times better than her mother could have ever hoped to have been.  She was everything she knew how to be.

And maybe I’m just angry.  Maybe I’m angry that I never got to show her my new home.  I’m angry that I can’t ask her questions about living on my own that a daughter should get to ask her mom.  I’m angry that I’ll never get to introduce her to Bobby and ask her how she likes him.  I’m angry that I can’t travel with her anymore, even though she’s who put the love of travel in me.  I’m angry that life goes on, even when it doesn’t.

And I think I’m allowed to be angry.  And I’m allowed to not talk about it, because there’s nothing for anyone to say.

On Sunday, while I worked, Bobby spent mother’s day with his family.  He told me that his dad had gotten me a white carnation, because that’s a southern tradition.  You get someone a white carnation if they don’t have a mother on mother’s day.  It was my first mother’s day without her.  It was my first carnation.

For the First Time

I went home last week.  I was there for a week.  I adventured from LA to Mammoth, through Death Valley to Las Vegas, and as I always do when I travel, I didn’t relax at all.  But, this time I brought someone home with me.  My boyfriend and I flew on an airplane, and he went further west than he’s ever gone before.  It was easily one of the biggest adventures I’ve ever been on.

I’ve never taken a boyfriend home before.  I’ve never traveled anywhere with a boyfriend.  And now he’s met almost everyone.  We spent time with at least three of my closest friends, my dad, and my brother.  We went to the top of Mammoth Mountain and took photos.  We ate tri tip.  We drove through Death Valley.  We went from the cold to the heat.

While in Mammoth, we attended the Lighthouse Conference.  Most people know that Lighthouse is the Global Church family that I attended while living there.  There were words given.  There was music played.  There was community and food shared.  It was so good to be home.  It made me miss church.

Not that I haven’t been attending church here in Alabama.  I have.  But I have disengaged.  I hear far too much about the church politics.  I analyze the words without ever hearing them.  I am tired.

I brought a boyfriend home.  Because I’m in love with him.  And I fell in love with life again.  I fell in love with community again.  I fell in love with God again.  I tried something new, and I’m pretty sure I’m okay with it.

Why hate Mary?

I walked out of my apartment the other day and the air smelled like weed.  I first thought it was my Dukes of Hazard neighbors, but there’s a possibility it was just post rain smell.  For some reason they smell similar to me in the South.  But this, mixed with a few other conversations as of late, got me thinking.

Smoking pot is completely illegal in Alabama.  It’s not just a slap on the wrist like it used to be in California.  And you can’t use it medically or get a medical card.  Like I said, it’s completely illegal.
The Bible says to follow the laws of the land and pray for those in leadership, so from a Christian stand point, if you want to obey the Bible, you shouldn’t smoke pot if you live in Alabama.

But what about the states where it has been legalized such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California?
See, the Bible doesn’t say anything specifically about smoking anything, or really anything about drugs at all.  Yes, in Titus it talks about being sober minded, but that also applies to drinking, and a lot of Christians drink.
I personally believe that anything can become sinful if it excessive.  I like to say, “anything in excess.”  So if you’re in a state where it is legalized, go for it, or don’t, just don’t let it take over your life.

So why do so many Christians freak out about it, even in those legal states?  Is this something they didn’t think they were going to be confronted with?  Seriously, I’m asking.  Well, maybe don’t answer me though.
Someone close to me was rumored to have been smoking pot.  Which, whether that was true or wasn’t true isn’t the issue (it wasn’t true and most likely will never be true).  But someone was telling people to stay away from this person close to me because they smoked pot.  And that just doesn’t seem to be a good enough reason.  That’s like telling people to stay away from me because I drink wine.  Sure, if you have an issue drinking and expect me to offer you wine, maybe let me know, and if you really think it’s an issue, stay away from me.
If someone had a problem with marijuana or was trying to stay away from it, I could see why they might let this person close to me know why they might want to spend less time together.  But the thing is, the rumor wasn’t true.  So the person close to me called me laughing, because they thought the whole thing was funny, or at least pretended to.  But I’m not okay with gossip or slander.  Especially from Christians.  Especially from Christians who are supposed to be in high standing and have influence.
Why do we feel the need to talk about people?  Even when we don’t know the facts?  Ugh, it’s just so frustrating, and I’m across the country and can’t protect my people.

But really, this shouldn’t be an issue at all.  Because in California marijuana is legalized.  It’s fully legal now, but has been medically legal for quite some time.  So Christians freaking out about it doesn’t make sense to me.  I’m not saying whether you yourself should smoke it not, this isn’t about that.  It’s about the thoughts and the fears behind it.

I’m not saying that Christians should or shouldn’t advocate for Mary Jane.  That’s not what I’m doing.  It’s not even legal where I currently reside.  But stop being afraid.  Stop spreading rumors and shunning people because you heard they might have smoked pot.  It should not matter.

Why don’t we love each other anymore?  This is why it’s so hard for me to trust.

When an Invitation Becomes a Sale

One thing that I’ve really learned over the past few years is that my relationship with God is a personal one.  And I really believe it should be that way for everyone.  Your relationship shouldn’t be pinned to what church you go to.
I live in the South now, which means that I live in the Bible belt.  There are literally churches everywhere.  And that’s fine.  But every single church here believes that you should attend that church.  It creates a competition.  That competition between churches is one that exists everywhere, but I notice it the most here because the volume is so much higher.  Most Christians believe that everyone should go to church.  The problem is that churches want you to go to their church.  Don’t go to someone else’s church, come to my church.  There’s a sign outside the church near my apartment that says, “Need home improvements?  Bring your family to church.”    

My boyfriend and I visited a different church today.  It’s a fairly new campus here (as far as I understand).  But he attended this same church when he was in college in Tuscaloosa, so he’s been wanting to visit it here, since he enjoyed the church so much before he moved back to Florence.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the church, and I actually enjoyed the sermon.  It was a type that I missed, because it was just theological enough for me to follow.  It was the first time I’ve been in a church with a bulletin for a while.  But this church is huge.  There’s campuses with multiple services all over Alabama.  So they have money.  It’s practically a mega church, and the sermon was live streamed from the main campus, which is not my thing.
They kept talking about how next week is Easter, and Easter is the perfect opportunity to invite someone to church, which technically is true.  Unchurched people are most likely to visit church on Christmas and Easter.  Those are the two times a year that people go to church.  But every time they talked about inviting people, it was like a pitch.  It was like they were selling something.

I personally don’t want to sell anyone on whatever church I go to.  I don’t even really want to sell someone my savior.  Yes, this is a consumer society, but faith isn’t something that should be bought.  It’s not something that should be pitched.  It should be personal.  Yes, salvation is something that I believe we all need, but telling someone that seems so impersonal.
I’d rather be introduced to a loving God in the same way that I’d introduce someone to my best friend, my dad, or my boyfriend.

I was afraid to talk about visiting a new church today, because it feels like people get so offended when you don’t go to their church, or if you even miss a week.  I didn’t visit a new church to offend anyone, or even because I’m unhappy where I am.  It’s not because of the worship or the sermon or anything else.  Church services, to me, seem to be a way to teach someone about God.  But I know about God.  I paid to study the Bible for four years.  Then I spent another year paying to focus on my relationship with God and his Spirit.  I don’t want to be taught.  I don’t want to be bored.  I want a family.
I have a family where I am.  They’re there when I need them.  But we’ve become a bit estranged, because I got used to a certain routine, and that routine was then disrupted.  I got used to the community that came from life groups that happened once a week.  It was something that gave me life.  One of my favorite things is doing life with other people.  Community is something that I have craved for a long time, and every time I seem to grasp it, it’s almost like it pulls away from me.  But I’m not going to blame anyone else, because I easily get too tired to chase a community that changes with the flow of the river.
“Life groups” are starting again, but not in the way that I’m craving.  They want to read a Bill Johnson book together.  I just don’t feel like going to a book club.  I don’t want to read another Jesus book that’s going to bore me.  Which is okay.  It’s okay that other people find life in an environment that drains me.  We are all different, which is something that I recognize and do my best to celebrate.  I believe that everyone who goes to these new life groups is going to get something out of it.  I’m just not sure that I would.

One of my favorite classes that I took in college was Teaching Small Groups.  Yes, that sounds boring.  The point of the class was to learn how to teach small groups.  But the class was so small, we actually got to be a small group.  We actually got to do life together as we learned.  That’s the kind of community that I’m craving.
So no, I’m not switching churches.  That’s not what this is about.  I’m not even trying to bash churches, like I have done so often.  I just don’t want to be told to sell my church.  I’m a terrible salesman, and I’m not even usually sold on church.  I don’t even always want to go to church, but that’s where my friends are.  I want to be sold your small group.  I want to buy your community.  So pitch it to me.  And I’ll invite you into mine, when I find one.

You can invite me.  And maybe I’ll invite you.  I just wish it was more about community and growing in relationship with God, than about selling all of the great programs and resources your church can provide.

And who knows, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m just too darn cynical.