Facebook love

100_1454

Spoiler alert.

This posting may not rock your spiritual socks.

But, who cares?

I have to get something it out of my system.

It bugs me when a married couple puts their names together to form one Facebook  page.

I can’t stand Facebook love.

Don’t tell me it’s biblical, that the “two shall become one flesh”. It’s more like one body with two heads.

But, go ahead. Call yourself  WalterAnne. SuziBob. BillyJeanKing.

I’ll never do it, never mash five measly little letters into my husbands and say “Hey, here we are.”

Mind you, on most social outings I let my husband take the lead. He usually chats up everyone while I just stand and take it all in.

Not this time.

I will not be holding his hand while he runs onto our Facebook page like a kid heading for the pool on the first day of summer.

He can hit the water. Cannonball style. Alone.

Me? I’ll slip secret agent style into that wild online party. Everybody posting at the top of their lungs. Pictures. Songs. Video clips. Cute comments. Really sad songs.

No way will I stay very long. One visit to Facebook keeps me up all night wondering, “what have I done? How could I have written that? Will I ever be able to show my cyber face again?”

I hope you understand.

It’s too much to put together. My husband’s easy stride through the columns of relationship. Me stumbling over complicated comments, likes and shares.

The ultimate result, the one that brings our marriage down, will be the first time we merge two status updates into one.

I’m in the bathroom. Making pancakes for breakfast.

I rest my case.

No combined Facebook for me.

Sorry, honey. This is one time I will have to go it alone.

Black pearls and diamonds. Poverty and homelessness.

 

vintage-cars-01-d

Opulence.

I just love the sound of that word.

Black pearls and diamonds. Limousines and summer homes.

Plenty.

That’s more my style.

It’s lots of  leftovers and clean sheets. A tank of gas and a car to put it in. Warm coats and several pairs of gloves.

Opulence. Plenty.

All things are relative as long as you have enough.

But, if you hit bottom, it’s really hard to climb back up. Maybe it’s the inability to get a job because you have no fixed address. Or, maybe you have no fixed address because you can’t find a job. A disability check covers the rent but not the food. The kids are hungry because it’s spring break. That means no free lunches for at least ten days.

My 78 year old Mom works intake for the social services division of her church.

“Cold pizzas donated by Little Caesars are the only way some people on disability checks survive,” she says.

Sure, there are scammers and lazy bones who try to beat the system, able bodied adults not interested in contributing to the economy. Some panhandlers who hold up cardboard signs of woe at traffic lights make more money than I ever will in one day.

Before you lift your TV remote in a gesture of reproach, remember this.

Not all those who are “down and out” have chosen to live that way. Some struggle to take the medication that allows them to function. Others are single moms who’ve lost their jobs and can’t get back on their feet. Sometimes it’s a culmination of medical bills that push an otherwise  financially well-situated person over the brink.

Then, there is the matter of lost souls who sleep on the street.

My advice?

Think twice before you shake your head in disgust.

Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”.

The Son of God was homeless, too.

Needy little critters, boring little towns and true ministry

fly fly

At seventeen, I had the spiritual depth of a fruit fly.

Life was all about me.

  • How I felt.
  • What I looked like.
  • What I wanted.

With this resume, you’d think I’d been a shoo-in for most self-absorbed adolescent on the planet.

Not a chance.

I was a preacher’s kid. Selfishness had to scoot her big behind over to make room for Dad’s ministry. The number of church people who volunteered to help him on a regular basis was almost non-existent. So, my siblings and I worked alongside my mom: fixing meals for the elderly, vacuuming the sanctuary on Saturdays and teaching Sunday school to little kids.

I admit that teaching Sunday school had its benefits.

“So,” I said as I cracked open the lesson book each Sunday, “Anyone want to share something special?”

Before you misinterpret my inquiry as a gesture of compassion, understand that our town had

  • no movie theatre.
  • No bowling alley.
  • No swimming pool.

We snatched up our entertainment anywhere we found it. Listening to little kids “give up” family secrets was a  sanctified version of Saturday night Live.

“I want to be a car when I grow up,” one kid blurted out. Good one. Wish I had my tape recorder.

“My mama said a bad word,” another kid shared eagerly.

“A bad word,” I replied, hoping to discover the exact one without asking outright, “How many letters?”

“Teacher,” the youngest student interrupted me as he scooted closer to my chair, “I asked my sister to pray with me last night so I could be saved. She told me to leave her alone.”

In the world of evangelical Christianity, saved was everything. Deliverance from eternal damnation. Freedom from the bondage of sin. Awakening to a relationship with God.

I forgot all about my ecclesial game of trivial pursuit.

“Why didn’t you help him,” I asked his sister who sat beside him.

She answered with all the regal bearing of a scripture memory queen.

“I was trying to read my Bible,” she said, “He was bothering me.”

Yeah, little kids can be a nuisance.

But, what about  immature teenagers, emotionally needy church members and socially inept people who never seem to get it right?

The effort it takes to deal with such people can be a drain on any ministry.  Its tempting just to ignore their phone calls or pretend we can’t see them when they try to wave us down.

Personally, I do not know how my dad put up with me. An immature teenager. A shortsighted, self-centered Sunday school teacher. It couldn’t have been easy. Or convenient, considering the overwhelming challenges of his ministry.

But, he did.

Maybe, that’s why I’m still here. Still believing.

Crossing the line with invisible ink

 

zombies_450x300

When I was eighteen, my dad asked me to become a youth leader. Our church attracted maybe eight to ten teens on a good night, just enough to cram into the family station wagon.

I took the gang bowling and hiking. We played games and indulged in the occasional bible study. Then, I decided to kick it up a notch.

“Let’s go to the mall,” I said, “And, see what happens.”

I’m embarrassed to tell you the rest.

I bought enough invisible ink for everyone. We spent the evening squirting it on shoppers as they exited the mall.

Not brilliant.

When my dad found out he asked one question. The way he asked it wasn’t pretty.

“Why did you do that?”

“I don’t know”, I answered.

Not true. I knew exactly why I did it. I wanted to do something bigger and better than I did last youth meeting. I wanted the kids to like me.

When I first started this blog, I longed to encourage and maybe even provoke readers to travel down avenues of thought that they may not explored otherwise.

Yesterday’s blog seemed like invisible ink revisited.

I wanted to write something bigger and better than my last post. I wanted my tiny band of followers to really like me, to think I was unbelievably clever.

When it came to describing musicians, I may have gotten carried away.

Let me set the record straight.

  • Musicians generally do not exhibit homicidal tendencies even under extreme stress.
  • They are not actually in danger of experiencing a musically induced head trauma resulting in a zombie-like state.
  • In the presence of drummers it is not necessary to make the sign of the cross.
  • People really do get intimidated by musicians, by the seemingly effortless way they move through the mysterious landscape of music.

What really matters after all?

Before I got sidetracked, what was I trying to say?

Last week, a fellow believer reminded me of something I had forgotten. Something profound.

It is a sacred honor,

a exquisite privilege,  to be called a Christian.

What I learned from a music guru and how I survived

 

images

 

“What kind of music do you like?” the drums instructor asked me last week at the Bible college where I worked.

Sweat broke out across my forehead. My stomach lurched. Music gurus always made me feel a bit nervous.

And, trust me. This was a music guru.

I’ve seen both kinds: those that make a statement with their clothes and those who don’t. This one practically blended into the carpet with his faded jeans and soft voice. But, I knew he was there. Maybe, it was the intense vibes he put out. The primal desire to constantly commune with his guitar. The way he moved slowly to the beat in his head.

“Um, any kind of songs,” I finally answered, “Sometimes Christian music.”

“Christian music?” His voice instantly rose above his standard I’m-not-really-here-its-just-my-new-cd whisper. Even his worn t-shirt deepened into a prewash glow, “No such thing as Christian music.”

“Oh, yeah?” I said nonchalantly as I wiped bits and pieces of the word “Christian” off my face.

But, I was scared, really scared. This guy had been teaching drums all afternoon, playing his guitar and singing along. I knew that at any moment all those double time grooves and chord progressions could get tangled up in his brain and blow a circuit. Don’t think for a minute that the series “Walking Dead” just came out of someone’s imagination.

The guru shifted his weight from one foot to another.

“There is no such thing as Christian music,” he grinned just wide enough to show a little humanity, “Christians are people who follow Jesus.”

I tried to make the sign of the cross. But, alas, I was not Catholic. I could barely spell the word Charismatic. So, I left the room as quickly as I could.

But, I thought about the conversation for the rest of the week.

I wondered:

· Was the “Christian” label was just a marketing ploy to get cautious believers to spend money?

· Had it become some sort of “seal of approval” so that church-goers no longer wasted time pondering the theology of lyrics?

· Did the existence of “Christian” music eliminate the need to wonder whether a song had been carved from the sufferings of a seeking soul or just slapped together to fill play list?

I was stumped.

So, I googled “Is Christian Music Christian?” on my computer.

A link to a blog appeared, written by the music artist Gunger. In one of his posts he told how he had been signed by a “Christian” label. It was then he discovered that not all artists who sang “Christian” songs knew what it meant to follow Christ.

Today, Gunger does not use the label “Christian” when it comes to music.

“I…try to open my mind and heart to the potential voice and beauty of God that is all around me and very present even within the unexpected places in our culture,” Gunger wrote in his blog, “my hope for myself and the Church today is that we could learn how to recognize and be formed by the true, the good, the beautiful that is reflective of the presence and voice of God in the world around us, both inside and outside of the church.”

Thanks, Gunger for sharing the truth.

And, thanks, music guru, for setting me straight. I’ll never cram the words Christian and music together again.

The truth about body beautiful and everlasting life

 

images

“Disgusting filth,” mom snarled when she spotted the magazine rack.

Sure enough, it was crammed with True Confession publications. I stared hard at the covers, trying to memorize the words.

“What’s a stolen kiss?” I asked mom, “What’s a forbidden delight?”

Without responding, Mom herded her brood away from the offensive headlines. She acted like she was Homeland Security, the FBI and Neighborhood Watch all rolled into one. For the next two decades, Mom fought to keep the trashy secrets of the secular world out of our home.

Despite her vigilance, I ended up with a few true confessions of my own.

When I was a kid, I gave the legally blind clerk at the corner store fake coins and she thought they were real.

I forgot my social security number when I took ACT tests in High School so I just made one up and wrote it down.

Sometimes I lie awake at night and I anguish over every penny spent on diet plans, weight loss books and meal replacement drinks.

That’s it. True confession. I have obsessed over dieting for years. I have made myself miserable in hopes that one day I would be thinner, more loveable and more socially acceptable.

Good news. I’m finally in remission.

It’s not easy.

I admit that I am not even close to my ideal weight. But, I’m trying. As of my last check up, my blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure numbers have all come down.

“You want to lose weight for a healthy heart,” my doctor told while she pumped up the cuff around my sleeve, “Just make changes.”

I started to slip. While her lips moved, I heard something else, the sound of fat free products yelling my name. Sure, they tasted like cardboard and chalk dust but the sweetness was in the promise give me back the body of my youth.

Maybe my doctor noticed the break from reality lighting up my eyes. Or, maybe, she just had me figured out.

“No diets,” she said, “or you will gain it all back. Just cut out sugar and white flour. And, exercise.”

My doctor believes in everyday changes that can become a lifestyle.

I, on the other hand, tend to get caught up in metabolic fairytales: the eat-three-carrots-and-a-bowl-of-cabbage-soup-everyday-for-three-weeks kind. I’ve tried the South Beach diet, the body type diet and several meal replacement diets. I lived, breathed and dreamed food: the curse of it, the lack of it and the longing for it.

I don’t want to live in that head space again.

Life is too short. Obsession over body image is just too dangerous. It takes us away from the reality of who we are at the moment, the reason we were put on earth in the first place and joy of being loved for who we are on the inside.

Sometimes I wonder if the early church got carried away with pumping iron and sharing diet secrets. Paul, an apostle of that time wrote, “Physical training is good.”

I’m a pleaser. Those four words alone would have made me dust off my cross-trainer sandals and cut back on the roasted lamb. I would have bought myself the sheepskin volume of Six Weeks to a New You.

But, that’s not where Paul was headed.

“Training for godliness is much better,” he continued, “promising benefits in this life and the life to come.”

I struggle with my weight almost as much as I struggle with self-worth. But, they should never be construed as one and the same. We are beautiful not because our tiny waist or firm thighs. We are beautiful because God formed us in His image. .

I’m slowly, very slowly working to get my heart rate up and my blood pressure down. More importantly I want to get in shape for eternity. I want to forgive more freely and love more courageously. It’s a little scary to look forward to a life to come when all I can see are my temporal surroundings. But, it’s real, more real than any diet plan.

Meeting God at Main and Terminal

 

traffic

Rush hour traffic at Main and Terminal.

Not a great mix on a hot summer’s day.

The light turned red. And that’s when I saw her, limping between the rows of idling Hondas, Dodge Caravans and BMVs. Despite the heat she wore a jean jacket and long t-shirt.

“Oh, great,” I said to my son as I reached for the electric button that controlled the driver’s window, “I don’t have any change.”

To be honest, I was a little scared. Sometimes if you didn’t have money panhandlers got mad. Cursed. Hit the car with the flat of their hands. I hated scenes.

“Do you have any change?”

The woman suddenly stood at my window. I had no time to roll it up  before she leaned inside. 

“Sorry,” I said shakily, “Just have a few pennies and a nickel.”

She smiled, revealing two lonely teeth. 

“Don’t worry”, she said, “I have something for you.”

The woman pulled a muddy McDonald’s toy out of her jean coat pocket.

“Found it in the gutter,” she said, “Been saving it to give to someone. Do you have a little girl?”

I did. My little girl was a home with my mother that very moment.

I nodded.

She handed me the toy just as the light turned green. Then, she walked away.

“God bless you,” I called out.

Cars honked. I stepped on the accelerator and drove through the intersection.

“This is messed up,” I sputtered  as I headed to the suburbs.  It had to be.  All my life, I had hoped that God would somehow acknowledge me, speak to me in a powerful way. I braced for the thunder of his presence, for the whirlwind of His glory to transform my world.

This woman’s kindness came come out of nowhere. Her generosity unnerved me. It totally trashed my carefully drawn theological roadmap.

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

God doesn’t wait for big name conferences to speak to us. He does not limit his presence to special services on Sunday mornings. I heard His voice on a busy street. I saw his love shining out through the eyes of a woman asking for change.