Tag Archives: cussing Christian

Holy Silence and Candy Crush

One of my New Year’s Not-Exactly-Resolutions this year was to work on building quiet into my daily schedule.  Focused quiet, where I’m meditating on a Scripture or inspiring thought, maybe praying, maybe listening, maybe all of the above, but definitely being quiet.  I still think that’s important, but I have a feeling I should expand my original goal a little.

As I write, my daughter is upstairs in her room writing another chapter of her modern twist on a fairy tale.  (The last time I checked in, the princess was rescuing the prince and wasn’t sure if she actually wanted to go out with him at all.)  My son is lying on the couch icing his knee from an injury he got at Boy Scouts this morning, and reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Two Towers.”  I’ve been drinking a cup of tea and enjoying a rare non-working Saturday afternoon at home.  I’ve been alternately catching up on a favorite blog and playing Candy Crush, which isn’t your standard Bible study fare.

It’s not thought-provoking Biblical exegesis or anything like it.  The blog I’m reading makes me laugh and think, but it’s not like I’m plowing through Spurgeon’s sermons or a commentary on the Petrine epistles.  I’m not praying (other than a quick word sent upward if something pops up in my news feed that I think God should have a little friendly reminder about).  I’m not searching my soul, but I really could use another one of those striped/wrapped candy combos, because this level is kicking my butt.

Is this what the Friends tradition would generally consider “holy silence”, that quiet stillness that centers on listening for the voice of God?  Nope.  Do I need it?  Heck yeah.

I can’t even remember the last non-midnight time that both children were quiet, I wasn’t answering work emails, and there was no music playing or Netflix running somewhere in the house.  Earlier this afternoon I sat at my kitchen table, looked out at the soft grey sky and occasional raindrops, wrapped both hands (both! the other hand wasn’t taking notes or clicking a mouse or pushing buttons on the washing machine!) around my mug of tea, and … did nothing.  NOTHING.  I looked out the window and noticed that there’s kind of a neat reflection of the porch railing across the wet boards of the porch floor, and heard my kitchen clock ticking, and enjoyed my warm tea, and that was it.

Maybe it’s not REAL study time, with notebooks and interlinear translations and highlighters.  But I think God lives in those quiet, domestic moments, and I’m going to see about finding a few more of them.

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Some Days I Go To Westboro.

Westboro Baptist Church.

You just had a gut-level reaction to that, didn’t you?  I sure did.  I try not to swear TOO much, but this not-Baptist not-church seems to bring that side of my vocabulary bubbling up out of sheer frustration with how AWFUL they are.  I saw a quote recently on an atheist’s signature line that read, “Live in such a way that Westboro Baptist Church would want to picket your funeral.”  Since they seem to target the funerals of the innocent and the heroic, I have to say I agree with the basic sentiment.

They have taken good principles and twisted them beyond recognition.  They have contorted themselves into a parody of righteousness that no longer bears any resemblance to the original.  They have listened to their own voices, and shouted so loudly that they can no longer hear the quiet whisper of truth.

I go to Westboro.

I bet you do too.

Not every day, and hopefully fewer and fewer as I grow in years and wisdom, particularly the part of maturity defined as “learning to keep your mouth shut.”  But there’s still a streak of horrible that runs through me – call it sin nature, not walking in the Light, or just generally being a jerk, it’s all the same thing.  There’s a part of me that sits on my backside, reading the news and polishing my halo, and saying, “I would NEVER do THAT.”

I would never … fill in the blank.  Steal a million dollars from a corporation.  Shoot somebody with a gun.  Blow up a building.  Slap my child.  Get wasted on drugs and wreck my car.  I would never do those things, because I am just that awesome.

Or is it because I don’t work somewhere that I could steal a million dollars?  Because I don’t have a gun and I’m not all that angry right now?  Because I managed to quit drinking before I drank myself silly and got in my car?

And what about all those “little things” that I can so easily ignore in myself – chronic lateness, eating seconds when I’m not hungry, spending money on things I don’t need and telling myself I can’t afford to donate money to the homeless shelter?  Rachel Held Evans wrote recently about a subject so near to my heart that I like to pretend I can’t even see it, saying that “everyone’s a Biblical literalist until you bring up gluttony.”

Fine, so I don’t march around being an idiot in public.  (Usually.)  But I’ve got pockets of ignorance and intolerance in my psyche, same as Westboro.  I’ve got the tendency to shout at other people when I really need to be speaking firmly to myself, same as Westboro.  I screw up royally and try to cover it up by complaining about what everybody else is doing wrong … same as Westboro.

All I can do is wake up every day, get out of bed, and mentally tear up my membership card.  I might need to tear it up seventeen more times between breakfast and lunch, but I’ll keep doing it for the rest of my life.  The minute I think I’m inherently better than they are, that I could NEVER be THAT bad, I’m right back in the pews of Westboro Baptist Church – and the only way I’ll ever fight it is to recognize that in myself, get off my butt, throw out my halo, and keep walking toward the Light.

There’s a Girl in the Room.

I don’t usually post about things that get me riled up online.  There are plenty of angry people on the internet already, and since the temptation to be articulately nasty is one of my besetting sins, I do a lot of counting to ten and clicking over to funny cat pictures when I’m reading about the discussions about gender roles in today’s church.

angry cat

Today, though, I’m making an exception.  Dr. John Piper is an author and preacher whose theological writings have blessed and challenged millions, myself included.  However, virtually every time he decides to make pronouncements about the modern application of his theology, I want to beg him to please, please stop talking.

I’ll let you listen for yourself:  http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/do-you-use-bible-commentaries-written-by-women

The first part of the podcast is rife with the usual assumptions and overstatements common to his viewpoint – men are like drill sergeants!  Women are like city planners!  It’s just confusing and wrong when women try to teach and preach like drill sergeants!  (Or something along those lines – I was laughing too hard to remember it verbatim.)

However, toward the end I stopped giggling because my jaw dropped in astonishment when he explained why he is comfortable reading and teaching from Biblical commentaries written by women, but he would not allow the same women to teach the same material from the pulpit.  He says that the book “puts her out of my sight, and in a sense takes away the dimension of her female personhood.”

Takes away the dimension of her female personhood.

This surprised me, coming from the man who teaches that we are intrinsically male or female, and that our roles in family and church life are permanently and irrevocably determined by our maleness and femaleness.

It’s tempting to joke that all I have to do to be a God-approved preacher is go into the next room, where I’m out of sight of anybody who might be offended – ta-daaa!  My female personhood is balanced out, and I can teach now!  It’s also tempting, as other women have done, to wonder exactly what it is about my female personhood that is a problem when men can see me, but not when I’m on the other side of a book or the internet.  (The answer here is generally “boobs.”)

But the reality isn’t quite that amusing.  In the movie “Erin Brockovich”, a woman diagnosed with cancer asks the poignant question, “Ya think if ya got no breasts … no uterus … you’re still technically a woman?”  The answer, of course, is an unequivocal yes.  Even the staunchest complementarians draw the line at saying that a man who has survived testicular cancer, but at the loss of the relevant body parts, is now disqualified to teach – he is still a man.

We are still men, still women, even when we are sick or old or childless or unmarried or (dare I say it) not all that romantically interested in people of the opposite gender.  We do not stop being men or women for any of these reasons, and we darn well don’t stop being them just because we’re not in the same room as John Piper.

I am a woman.  I love the Lord, and I love His Word.  In earlier seasons of life, I’ve taught and done well at it, by all accounts of the people I’ve taught.  Even though this season of life has me listening and healing instead of talking, I am still intrinsically a teacher – and still intrinsically female.  I don’t believe that combination of traits is an accident.  I think that if God has given me things to say and a woman’s voice to say them in, then it’s because he wants those words spoken in this voice.

We are his hands and feet, but we are his voice too.  These hands are small.  These feet have red nail polish.  This voice is a soprano, and it’s the voice of a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt.  If God decides at some point that people need to hear it, then I hope they hear what He wants them to hear.

And on the off chance that Dr. Piper decides to drop by my little Quaker congregation and I’m contributing to the discussion that Sunday, then I will set up a chair for him in the hallway, pray that he will be blessed, and talk loud enough for him to hear.

Just Say No To Laundry

It’s Monday night, it’s a little after 10:30, and I am not doing the laundry.

Before you start in with #firstworldproblems, let me explain.  Mondays are my laundry day.  Mondays are also a work day and cello lesson day and Cub Scout night, but it’s one of the only consistent days where I’m home with the kids, due to a really whacky custody schedule.  (It works well, except for minor details like finishing projects around the house and remembering which house I’m in when I wake up in the morning.)  It’s tempting to just do it every other Saturday when I’m home, but we’d run out of clean jeans and underpants.  Also, my son’s dirty socks would probably achieve sentience and take over the neighborhood if I left them alone that long.

So, Mondays it is.  But not this Monday.  I’m just as tired as I am on most Monday nights – VERY tired, since they tend to run for about 18 hours with only a few minutes’ break here and there, with at least one meal a day eaten while I’m working or standing up.  I’m just as busy.  The clothes are just as dirty.  But tonight I am putting my weary bare foot down and saying no to the laundry.

The next five weeks will be [insert bad word here].  I made a quick estimate of the number of lessons, rehearsals and performances I’ll be involved in over the next five weeks, and it’s around 120.  Some are half an hour long, some will approach five hours.  Nearly 100 of those will be in the next 19 days, building up to a hellacious three-day period with two major evening performances and a day-long student competition.  It’s not my favorite part of the year, but it’s a crucial part of making enough money to survive the summer.

I’ve decided to do a few things every day of the next five weeks, in order to keep my sanity.  They’re everyday, obvious things – drink water, sleep, take a walk, spend 15 minutes reading something non-work-related, that kind of thing.  But these are things I will forget to do this month, if I don’t remind myself.

I blush to admit it, but I made a rewards chart.  It has little squares for star stickers.  (I paperclipped the stickers to the chart so I wouldn’t lose them.)  Today I got five stars out of the seven.  The sixth one (quiet meditation on Scripture) I can do right before bed.  The seventh one involves sleep.

And that means going to bed.

Now.

Even if the laundry isn’t sorted.

This shouldn’t feel like an epiphany, but it does.  I am so accustomed to doing one more thing, sorting one more basket, stuffing one more thing into an already too-full day.  I’m trying to make tomorrow easier, but the truth is that tomorrow is going to be a lot like today no matter what I do tonight – I’ll just be groggy from lack of sleep if I try to get too far ahead of myself.  This seems painfully obvious, now that I think about it.

The small, homely epiphanies are the ones that most thoroughly surprise me.

Holy Scrub-brush, Batman!

When I first started looking into the Friends tradition, the concept of sacramental living made immediate sense to me.  Even as a child, I had a sense of lingering holiness about everyday things like trees and fields and books, although I couldn’t possibly have articulated what I felt.

Making laundry a prayer seems obvious, if I just remind myself.  The folding and sorting can be a quiet, domestic form of worship.  The feel of the cloth is soothing under my hands, and the rhythm of folding becomes a liturgy of socks and shirts.

Balancing the checkbook takes a little more thought, but I can find God there too.  The numbers and logic are satisfying, and it’s not a huge leap to imagine that God must find an exponentially greater satisfaction in the ordered rhythms of molecules and planetary systems.

Even driving can be its own meditation (as long as I pay attention to the road, of course).  I am learning the welcome discipline of shutting off the litany of work-related concerns, and replacing it with a conscious gratitude for the trees and fields and open sky on my way to work.

That said … if anybody figures out how to sacramentally scour burned rice out of the bottom of a pot, come on over to my house.  I will give you a scrub-brush and let you meditate the hell out of my pots and pans.

Hangin’ Out with the Spirit

The Holy Spirit.  I hadn’t given Him a lot of thought in recent years until the summer of 2011 when God said in no uncertain terms, “See this guy you know?  Guess what – you really are the only Jesus he sees.  He wants to know Me.  Start talkin’, honey.”  And in my first really honest prayer in several years, I said, “God, You’ve got to be effing kidding me.”

(I apologize – sincerely –  if the profanity offends you, but that IS the edited version, so let’s call it a compromise.  God didn’t strike me down, so I’m assuming it wasn’t a fatal error to cuss at Him.)  He said He wasn’t kidding, I grumbled and shared the Gospel, and the guy accepted Christ.

So I kind of couldn’t ignore the Spirit, given that He’d just splashed down in the middle of my life and made a big exciting mess, but I also wasn’t quite sure what to do with him.  Can you talk to him?  Pray to him?  Worship him?  What does he DO, exactly?  Get up in your business when somebody needs God, obviously, but what else?  Is He what gives me the heebie-jeebies when I’m driving home from work late, and something in my head says “TAKE A DIFFERENT ROAD TONIGHT” and I say “OKAY I WILL” and feel like I’ve dodged a bullet?

Now, I know I wouldn’t do too well as a full-blown charismatic.  (Somebody will have to tell me some day if you can be introverted and Pentecostal at the same time.)  When people sway too hard during the song service, I’m always thinking, “Steady there.”  People shouting “Preach it!” and “Truth!” during the sermon make me want to thump the back of their heads because I can’t hear the pastor.  The one time I attended an Assemblies of God service, a guy started twirling in circles and hollering in tongues.  It scared the living daylights out of me.  Mostly, though, the service made me sad.  They spent half an hour singing the same songs over and over, begging the Spirit to descend on them / be present there / set them on fire, and I just stood there thinking, “Guys!  He’s ALREADY HERE!”

As time went by, though, I didn’t make a very good Baptist, either.  We talk about the Holy Spirit, and we – funny, that collective pronoun is a hard habit to break.  It’ll do for now … I’ve only been officially non-Baptist for three days, so bear with me.  We believe in the Spirit, no doubt about that – He’s the one who makes all the believing happen, and reminds us to do right when we’re tempted to do wrong.  But we’re just not very comfortable with Him.

I wish I was joking about this, but my just-barely-former church actually made the decision back in the 90’s to not sing the third verse of “Glorify Thy Name”, a simple and lovely modern hymn that mentions all three members of the Trinity.  “Jesus, we love You, we worship and adore You / Glorify Thy name in all the earth.”  That’s fine for Jesus, and it’s fine for the Father.  But they just weren’t sure that it was kosher to worship the Spirit [insert long debate about how the Spirit always directs attention to the other members of the Godhead and there’s no Biblical precedent for worshiping him], so we just sang two verses and skipped to the next song.

That’s an extreme case of literalism run amok, I grant you.  But even on the best days, I always felt like the third member of the Trinity was a little like that one uncle who lives in California.  He’s a great guy, we love him a lot, and it’s a blast when we get to visit him.  We send him pictures and Christmas cards, and sometimes we call him up just for fun.  He loves us, and we love him, but we don’t live together or anything.  Also, he’s a little odd, you know?  Not BAD or anything, don’t get me wrong, but he’s just a little offbeat.

So you can imagine my bemusement when I started my gradual drift into Quaker readings and church services.  They talk about the Spirit a lot, but not like I’ve ever heard him talked about.  No fanfare or excitement, but he’s not the invisible elephant in the room, either.  He’s just … part of things.  Like the air, and water, and food.  When the church I’ve been attending had a business meeting recently, they started it out with a few minutes of silence, in order to open their minds and hearts to whatever the Spirit had in mind for the meeting.  Nothing woo-woo about it, just “Hey God, we’re having a meeting, wanna start us off?  Thanks!”

If I’ve been used to the Holy Spirit as somebody who comes to church just a little overdressed and never stays for the whole service, this view of the Holy Spirit has him in jeans and work boots, getting there early to turn the lights on and staying afterwards in case anybody wants to go to lunch and hang out for a while.  And you know, I think I just might.