Maybe I was Brainwashed

I’m pretty sure I grew up in a bubble.  Most of us probably grew up in a bubble.  Up until high school, I only knew Christian people.  I went to Christian camp.  I went to Christian school.  I had friends from church.  Even the after school program I went to was Lutheran.
I was told that “non believer” friends would cause me to “stumble.”  And then, when I got older, I was told to bring those same people to church, but they couldn’t be my friends unless they were Christian.  How was I supposed to bring someone to church without first befriending them.
The Seventh Day Adventist private school I attended for most of my life told me that eating things like pig, or catfish, or any other “bottom feeder” was basically sinful and that it would make me an unhealthy person.  To this day I can’t stomach some of these foods if I’m aware of what I’m eating, even if they taste good, are made right, raised right, and are something I want to eat.
In high school, where a lot of people are discovering who they are and they’re sexuality, I was told that gay was not okay and that abortion was murder.  And I had gay friends that would come to church with me.  I used to be so sad because I was told they weren’t going to go to heaven, all because of who they loved.  If someone felt that they were born the wrong gender, they had to be wrong, or sick, or have some sort of hidden sin in their life, because God doesn’t make mistakes.  Yes, we are God’s creation, but I think a lot of Christians forget that our world is broken, so someone being born the wrong gender isn’t necessarily a God thing or a sin thing, its more of a fallen world thing.  God is in control, but he gave over the reigns a long time ago.

In Acts, God spoke to Peter and told him to not call anything unclean or impure what he has made clean.  Didn’t Christ abolish the law?  So why are we still so legalistic?  We don’t “get to heaven” by following a bunch of rules.  It’s not even really about being  a good person.  But I think if we started seeing everyone as created, seeing everyone as having a purpose, seeing everyone as worthy, maybe some of the hurt in this world would end.

By the way, bacon is awesome, gay is okay, I won’t invite you to church because I don’t have one locally, and I will listen with an open mind and open heart if you need to talk about abortion.

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Your Love is Not Real

Your love is not real love
Because real love does not judge without asking
Real love does not assume the worst
Real love accepts and comes along side

Your love walked away a long time ago
Your love puts me down
Your love tells me I’m making mistakes
With a belief that your theology is better than mine

I’m pretty sure the love you claim to emulate never called someone wrong for the sake of it
Because his love is perfect
He tore down laws and gave us simple commands
Love God.  Love people.

Love isn’t coming into a conversation calling names like coward
Love doesn’t need the facts
But love would listen and nod and try to understand
So where is your understanding?
Where is your love?
Why do you think you’re so much above that you get to orchestrate my life like I’m some kind of puppet?
I’m pretty sure my strings have been cut
And you were never my master

I have held my hands high
I have fallen to my knees
I have broken out in song
Because that’s what love is

Love showed me who I am
Love showed me who I could be
You’ve only pointed out who I’m not
Your love only tells me that I’m failing

I still have a long way to go
And the only way to get there is through kindness
The only way to get there is through love

I don’t believe that your love is real love
I believe that I have found true love
But I believe that you know true love
You just never learned how to love me

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.

 

 

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.

Blogging Everyday in July|Songwriting and Other Thoughts

I’m not an amazing songwriter.  But I can make up lyrics.   That’s just a thing that I do, and I’m pretty sure anyone else can do it.  However, I was asked to write on songwriting.  I had this idea to film a time lapse of my songwriting process, but I’m too tired and I don’t have good enough technology to do something so neat and elaborate.  So I’ll just write about it.  I’m always writing.
On a side note, I am more than halfway through this thing.  I have 11 days left.  This is the 20th day that I have blogged in a row.  Unfortunately, I feel that my writing is starting to get worse, as my eyes grow ever tired.

I very rarely sit down to write a song.  Songs just come to me.  Last night my heart was bleeding into my soul and I was aching, ever aching, so I picked up my guitar with the goal of playing through some songs.  I hoped maybe the music could heal me.  Instead, lyrics came to me instantly and I wrote a song.  A link to that song is here: From the Outside.  Possibly a five minute process.  Not every song takes five or ten minutes, but I don’t like to leave things unfinished, so every song is written in one sitting.  Sometimes I’ll add a bridge or fix the timing or something later, but the product as a whole is usually one sitting.  Editing doesn’t often happen on anything I do, in case you haven’t noticed.
But none of this makes me amazing.  I’m not bragging.  Because not every song I write is amazing.  I’m fully aware that I write a lot of shitty things.  I just need everyone else to know that I recognize my imperfections.
I once had a conversation with Kim Walker-Smith (yes, that one) about songwriting.  She was telling my friend that no one can write a song in one sitting, in a couple minutes.  That when that does happen for anyone, it’s very rare.  That was when I learned of my rarity.  Because I write every song like that.  I write every poem like that.  I write every blog like that.  I’m an impatient person, so I need to get it all out as quickly as I can.
Since moving to the south, I’m suddenly surrounded by musicians and songwriters.  Some of them have tried to tell me what I’m doing wrong.  They’ve tried to get technical with music.  But I rarely call myself a musician.  That’s not what I am.  I don’t care if the chords sound good.  I don’t fix things.  I don’t write music for other people.  But if a musician wanted to take my music and my lyrics and add something amazing, I’d be down.  That’s just not what I’m searching for.  I can play piano.  I dabble in guitar.  I can hold a beat.  That’s all I need for what I do at the moment.  It’s really hard to make people understand that.
So I do everything wrong.  I’m just wrong.  Thank you, and good night.

But really, though.  I started to say that I don’t write songs with the intention of writing songs.  They just come to me.  I think that’s where the best music comes from.  I think maybe people who struggle with songwriting might struggle because they’re trying to write a song, they’re trying to find the perfect lyric to fit.  If it’s right, it doesn’t have to fit, or maybe it fits already, you just can’t see it.
A lot my songs come when I’m already playing music.  I’ll be in between songs, just messing around with chords, and something new will suddenly appear.  That’s my favorite.

So I don’t really have a songwriting process.  I don’t really have a writing process.  I just write.  I just am.  I simply exist.  I’m a writer, not by vocation, but in biology.  My genetics force me to pour the words out.
But lately I feel that I’m not allowed to say the things I want to say.  People are getting too close to me, and my rough edges, my blunt honesty, my liberal Theology, makes them get too offended.  I am just too much.  When my friends start reading my blog, I almost can’t handle it anymore, because they assume everything is about them.  I don’t mean all of my friends, just the sensitive ones.
Have you ever heard the song “You’re so Vain?”

You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.

I understand why that song was written.  Because I know those people.  “You’re so vain, you probably think this blog is about you.”  And maybe it is.  But assuming doesn’t make it so.

I’m in a place.  My heart is in a place.  And I just want to go home.  But I probably want to go home, not because I don’t belong here, or because I feel unaccepted, but because I feel trapped.  I was so mad at God because when I got back from Ireland I wanted to move, but I felt trapped in Mammoth.  Now I feel trapped here.  I can’t go home.  Really, we always want what we can’t have.  Until I can be satisfied, I’ll always want to be somewhere else.  And the only way I’ll ever be satisfied is if I allow myself to just be still.  Just be still.  Just be still.  My heart is never still.  Still.

Trolling

I don’t often comment on things on Facebook, unless it’s to say how much I love a photo.  People can go on political rants that I don’t agree with, and I let them have their opinions.  Arguing online is the dumbest thing you can do, because it takes away tone of voice and people get angry when they miss context.
I have a few friends, one of them being my manager at work, that troll me pretty hard.  They will never fail to find something funny and teasing to say on a status that I post.  But I’m okay with it.  I can see the humor.  I understand that they’re being funny.
You know who’s not okay with funny trolling?  Christians who post memes.  Not all Christians though, just the ones who are a little older than me, a different generation, and who are a lot more conservative than I am.  I really feel that they take things too seriously.  Sometimes I’m like, no wonder people hate us.  We can’t laugh at things that are funny!

A week or so ago, one of my overly conservative Facebook friends posted a Muslim hating picture on Facebook saying that our nation is “One Nation Under God, not Allah.”  If there’s anything that annoys me, it’s Christians hating on other religions.  Yes, we don’t agree, but putting them down is not loving them.
In one of my classes in college we studied how Islam got started.  They literally believe that Allah is the same God of the Jews and the Christians.  It’s one God, three religions.  Not that all of these religions are equally right, it’s that they all believe in the same God.  So one nation under God is one nation under Allah to a Muslim.  It’s the same thing.  However, those conservatives refuse to accept that.
Anyway, on the photo I commented this fact.  I also mentioned that America is pretty into freedom of religion, so it’s not technically a “Christian” nation anyway.  Another fact that we need to accept.
And I got flack for it.  “God and Allah are not the same smh.”  Actually… you’re wrong.  But whatever.  It literally doesn’t matter.  Stop being mean to people because of their religion.  You don’t like it, do you?

Another conservative Christian friend of mine posted a photo of a manger that said “The very first king size bed.”  Now, I get where they’re going with this, but I saw an opening and I took it.  I commented, stating that Jesus technically wasn’t the first king to have a bed.  Because like… all the kings in the Old Testament, and in history, they all slept too.  So technically they had “king size” beds too.  I was just trolling and being annoying.  But I thought it was funny.
And then more conservative strangers freaked out, not seeing the humor, only seeing blasphemy.  But I don’t think I’m very likely to blaspheme.  I just like to laugh.

Anyway, I like trolling on Christian things too much.  I should probably stop.  It’s just funny.  And annoying.  Makes me wonder.

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving

So I do this every year.  Usually I talk about what I’m thankful for, but currently my mind is not headed that direction.  I think I’ll just talk about my Thanksgiving this year.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  My brother puts on a dinner for all of the climbers in Bishop every year, and I was expected to go down and help out.  I didn’t ask for Thanksgiving off, because I needed the money, so I was supposed to work 7-3, which would give me enough time to go drive down afterward for dinner.  Instead my schedule changed so that I wouldn’t be off until 4:30.  It’s a 45 minute drive to Bishop from where I live, and the dinner started at 5, which meant that I had to decide if it was worth it or not.  As the day got closer, I just felt like I would rather have a family Thanksgiving, and since that wasn’t offered, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it down.  The day of Thanksgiving a coworker called in sick, so I worked over time until about 7 instead, which I didn’t mind at all.  It was a decision made for me.

After work I got invited to several different houses for dinner.  I grabbed dinner and dessert at a friend’s house and went home, waiting for a call.  A certain someone had asked me to come over and watch a movie, but got tied up in his own plans, so didn’t come to pick me up until like 11pm.  So obviously I fell asleep, which by the way, why do people think that it’s normal to live on 4 hours of sleep?

I saw a Facebook post from a friend about how he wasn’t celebrating Thanksgiving, because that was what started all of the racism and whatever in America.  So, props to him for having an opinion, but also, is it so bad that I’m down to celebrate a holiday, regardless of how it began?  It’s a part of our culture.  Not that I celebrate being an American often, because I’m not that proud of it, but Thanksgiving has always been a part of my life, and I’m not being racist or killing people by eating a turkey with people I love every year.  It’s not bad to be thankful.  That’s what Thanksgiving is about for me.

And I could say so much more.  But I’m tired.  I’ll stop complaining now.