Confession

Am I a terrible person because I like Hooters’ wings (and buffalo shrimp!)?

And did you know they had a kid’s menu?

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Wish Me Away

Wish Me Away is Chely Wright’s powerful story about coming out while being a major country music star. It’s sometimes hard to watch someone coming to terms with who they are, knowing that they could be hated for it. The strength that Chely Wright has in sharing who she is – merely to help others – is amazing.

Of course, the film touches on themes of Christianity and the conservative culture that makes up country music fandom. Chely is a Christian, and someone close to her reminds her:

There’s nobody quite as mean as people being mean for Jesus.

So disappointing, and so true.

I’m glad that the film focused on the positive aspects of her journey, while showing her internal struggle with wanting to share who she is with the world.

A quote from her brother-in-law, I think, really shows where many Christians minds are on the subject. Many people only know what they have been told by someone else. Many people are relying on other people’s opinions to express their faith. He says,

Being gay is a sinful act.

This, of course, doesn’t make sense – and I believe that’s the issue with how many Christians see homosexuality. They haven’t thought about it enough for any logic to come into the picture. To suggest that “who somebody is” is a “sinful act” just shows the ignorance of the culture. I think it’s just a demonization of a people that many Christians don’t want to understand. As soon as we start to looking at the LGBT community as real people – and not just as a faceless crowd – we might have to see the humanity. And love might have to enter into the picture. And I think that’s what Christians are scared of.

The Shining, The Fear

I just finished reading (well, listening to) The Shining It really is brilliant, if horrifying. Stephen King does a fantastic job of getting inside Jack Torrance’s brain as he tries to figure out what’s right, knowing that no choice he makes will be the right one. How often we find ourselves paralyzed by making a choice knowing that if we go one way it will end badly, but if we go the other it will be worse? This book gets into one of our more basic fears – how do we know that what we’re doing is the right thing? How do we know if what we’re choosing is the right path? Sometimes we don’t know and that’s scary as hell.

With your back against the wall, between a rock and a hard place, when you’re losing your mind, which way do you go?

That uncertainty, that insecurity you deal with every day. As good as I try to be, as kind as I try to be, maybe deep down I really am just an asshole. Maybe in actuality I’m really not worth anything. That little itch in the back of your mind; like in the Matrix – “What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” Except in this case it’s the feeling that there’s something wrong with you. A coalescing of every negative thing that’s been said to you all your life – by your father, by that horrible teacher, by someone you love. That feeling that you are not OK. That what you believe isn’t true. That something about you is fundamentally broken.

And it really plays on your insecurities as a parent. You never know what you’re doing is right. And maybe never will. This is what’s really scary about this book – it mirrors the real fears we carry with us every day.

And part of that fear – that innate insecurity about who we are – freaks us out. It scares us that that’s the way we were born and we can’t do anything about it.

How do we live with the cards we’re dealt when those cards suck? Sometimes it seems like such bullshit that you have to live with what we were born with. I have to deal with things that we didn’t have a choice in. But all we can do is live with what we’ve been given. For better or for worse.

I can almost hear the old cook Dick Halloran saying, “You ever wonder why God made you that way? You may never know. That’s just how he made you. For better or for worse.”

Hold on, I suddenly have the urge put on some Lady Gaga. You were born this way, baby.

We can scream and rant and rave about how we were born. About what we are born into. At some point, we just have to make peace with it, or, like Jack, we will drive ourselves insane. And it’s hard to deal with all that shit by ourselves, much less when other people are giving us shit for who we are. That’s the truly sad thing. We’re looking for a place where people can love us for who we are. The church should be that place. In my experience, it’s not. It persecutes you for who you are. Like the Overlook Hotel, it gets in your mind and twists things.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

If you’re struggling with any aspect of your Christianity, please read Anne Lamott.

If you’re worn out from the hypocrisy, the hate, the judging, she will remind you that you can find peace. That He calls those who are “weary and heavy laden”.

Where Jesus is, is not a place for those who have all the answers. It’s for those who are searching. Who are struggling. We need to remember that and show that to the world.

I just finished Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, and have been enthralled on Anne Lamott’s take on faith and spirituality. I’m going to have to read the rest of her books. Which should be easy, since my wife’s already a huge fan and she’s been collecting them.

She has such great, deep things to say.

Most of the people I know who have what I want – which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy – are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, Christians – people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful.

They are sometimes funny.

I was too young to die – or at least, I was too upset to die. You don’t want to die when you’re this upset – you get a bad room in heaven with the other hysterics, the right-to-lifers, and the exercise compulsives.

But they are always very, very good. Read Traveling Mercies.

Alphas and Ambiguity

Do you watch Alphas?

I started watching it (of course) because it was a different take on the superhero. Or at least people with powers.

I’m really enjoying the show – and some of the abilities are quite creative. Plus, it’s real character study with each person having their own demons and their own issues.

But one of the things that I really like about it is the ambiguity.

This is something you don’t often see in TV because we like everything wrapped up in a little bow. We like our right and wrong; our black and white. Don’t get me wrong, there are distinct groups of “good guys” and “bad guys” But when the “good guys” make a decision, they’re not always sure that it’s the right one. Even after the fact, when all the chips have fallen, sometimes you’re left wondering, “Was that the right decision?”

Because that’s what real life is like. Sometimes we don’t know if the things that we’ve had to do are right or wrong. Sometimes we don’t know until years later if we’ve made the right decisions. Sometimes we never know.

It’s a good show. Check it out.

Bad Words

Three of the women that I most respect, though I have never met, have tweeted or blogged (somewhat) recently about something that is near and dear to my heart.

The use of words that “offend” some part of the population. Swearing, cursing, cussing, vulgarity – whatever you want to call it.

For some Christians, this is basically a salvation issue – they feel so strongly about it, that it comes across that if you partake in this ‘sin’, you can have no hope of heaven. It’s practically up there with denying the fact that Jesus died and was raised again on the third day.

Of course, I have some Christian friends that don’t feel this way (I LOVE Episcopalians!) But I’ve been caught up in the midst of some controversy because my language can be…well…colorful.

And honestly, I think I do a pretty good job of reigning it in. I normally don’t say offensive 4-letter words around people I think that will be offended by them (or around people I don’t know). I try not to swear around my kids, because I think that can be a bad habit if the words are overused. (We teach them not to use these words, but that they’re not as bad as words that we use to hurt people.)

But when it comes down to it – that’s all they are. Words. They have no innate power outside what we give them. Why is ‘poop’ worse than ‘doo doo’? Why is ‘crap’ worse than ‘poop’? Why is ‘shit’ worse than ‘crap’? I have no idea. And honestly, I’m probably not going to spend the time to study to figure out why some words are more offensive than others.

I’ve been called out in Bible classes and Bible studies for using language that might not be considered ‘polite’. I remember one Sunday morning, I was teaching a class of about 20 or 30. I was talking about being open and transparent with each other. About being real. And I used the word ‘pissed’. Oops. I got talked to by one of the church leaders for that.

And over a period of three years, I met with a small group of (adult) men (about 6 or 8) every Friday morning. Over these 3 years, thinking that this was a group of mature adults who could handle who I really was, I said the word ‘shit’. Twice. Over 3 years. The second time I said it, the self-appointed leader of our group just had to make huge deal out of the vulgar language I was using. It almost brought him to tears. That was the last time I attended that study.

I know some people reading this might say, “Those words were inappropriate, and those responses to them were appropriate.” But I know a lot of people would say, “WTF?!?”

But back to where I started. To the women I respect that have been talking about it.

A couple years ago, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary talked about the Strong Words she sometimes uses.

Earlier this year, Nadia Bolz-Weber explained, “I love Jesus, but I swear a little”.

And yesterday, Rachel Held Evans tweeted about this very same subject: In Defense of the Four-Letter Word, by Addie Zierman.

It seems like there’s a trend here. People are realizing that following Jesus is not about moral superiority. It’s about loving people. About opening your hearts and homes, and caring about people. We cannot do that when we’re focused on what we look like (or sound like) on the surface. Unfortunately, for most of the folks in our culture, it really is a major paradigm shift.

Having a Bad Day?

Some days are harder than others. Even in the midst of all the crap, sometimes there are a few threads of light peeking through the clouds. But then there are those days that are just tough to get through.

Some days you feel like King David, when he says:

But as for me, I am a worm and no man,
scorned by all and despised by the people.

I have those days. I guess we all do.

But on top of that, did he make a mistake balancing his checking account, just to find out he only had a fraction of the amount that he thought he had? And was that the same day all the drains in his house backed up and he needed an emergency visit from the plumber?

Sometimes I don’t understand.

But I heard a great sermon last night.

The gist of it was, in the midst of the pain of life, we can’t understand God. Our priest is wonderful, and this is some of what she said:

We can’t understand God. But we can be honest with our struggle to understand. We can give up our certainty and the need to have all the answers.

When we do this, we are more truly the church.

We are to stand with those in their darkest hour – that is what we are called to do. When we think our job is to give people answers, we are sadly mistaken. We don’t have the answers. We have so much more. We have the love of God and it is our on mission to show that love in the world.

This turns on its head the contemporary Christian ideal, which is to have all the answers, to act like we understand God and everything He wants. And to share that knowledge with the world. But that’s not it at all.

As Christ loved us let us also love another. I love that this is part of the blessing in the Episcopal Church. John said this in one of his letters, and Jesus said it about God.

So maybe, in the midst of my own pain, the best thing I can do is try to love someone else.