Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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“If I wanted America to fail”

 

I still view myself as fairly conservative, though I have developed some more liberal views of certain issues.  I guess that would make me more of a moderate than either conservative or liberal.  You know what?  Everything in moderation…even moderation. 🙂

What happened to the moderates in this country?  Why does it seem in the political arena that everything…everything…is extreme?  Where’s the compromise?  Where’s the dialogue about what is best for this nation as a whole?  Why, oh, why do both sides sound so flaming alarmist?

Just this morning I was at my desk working a captive audience to a conversation that went like this:

Boss:  “It’s always interesting the twist that politicians put on things.”

Co-worker:  “What do you mean?”

Boss:  “Somehow I got on the Democratic Convention emailing list and they want to forgive all the student loans.  They put some twist on this about how good this will be for us all.”

Co-worker: “Well, if Obama gets re-elected in four years there will be no more America.”

Boss:  “If the Democrats gain majority America as we know it will no longer exist.”

Me:  “The Republicans are no better, just different.  Maybe we should fire them all and just start over.”

::rolls eyes::

I’m sick of hearing about this election already.  It’s a long way til November.  *sigh*

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The Pitfalls of “Coming Out” of…

…well…just about anything that doesn’t conform to the “norm”.

Yesterday christianagnostic had this to say about his experience of coming out as an unbeliever to his family:

I know it’s not fair to Gays, but I got a teency weency taste of what it would be like to come out when I told my in-laws I no longer believed in God. My Father In-Law said it even felt like I was telling someone I was gay…anyway.

A Methodist pastor in my area resigned her pastorate recently and was honest about her reason.  She no longer believes in God.  This is her experience:

  Atheist Compares Atheism to “Coming Out’ as a Homosexual.


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Real Road Trip Conversations: Being Gay

Over the weekend I went on a road trip with my friend, Tessa.  She’s a loyal friend and I love her, but there are times when it’s really hard to not to out myself and I don’t exactly know how that would change our friendship.  Oh, she’d still love me and I’d still love her, but it would be awkward…and tense…and strained.  I’d never be able to say all I was thinking, which wouldn’t be different, but she would probably tiptoe around me, or worse yet, not tiptoe around me.  She might start preaching every chance she got which would just ruin our friendship.  I’d hate for that to happen when we are friends for so many more reasons than a common belief in a sky daddy.

Our conversations always sort of evolve.  We start on one topic and we’re off to the races talking about everything under the sun.  This conversation was no different.  Her daughter has a friend who recently told her he was thinking about committing suicide.  She called his mother and he was hospitalized.

Me:  “How’s KarieAnne’s friend?  Is he still in the hospital?”

Tessa:  “KarieAnne called me all out of sorts.  She said, “Mama, I don’t know what to do.”  The boy calls her for everything and he wants her to be responsible for his life. I told her it was time for her to cut him loose.  She can’t be responsible for him. He thinks he’s gay and he told her that he’d die before he tells his parents.  His dad is the football coach at Big City High School and he just can’t tell him.”

Me:  “Wow.  I really feel for him.  Gosh, I had no idea he was gay.  I can’t imagine what kind of turmoil he is in to try to deny who he is like that to make his parents happy.  More to the point, to not make his parents unhappy.”

Tessa:  “It’s a product of our thought life.  You know how some people get caught up in drugs or gambling or porn.  Whatever we look at and dwell on is going to consume us.”

Me:  “Do you seriously think that every person who is gay has gotten caught up in looking at something they shouldn’t?  You don’t think some people have an affection toward the same sex having never been exposed to anything of the sort…having never been exposed to homosexuality in any way?”

Tessa:  “I think it’s really more spiritual than physical.  I know God made us for each other and he wouldn’t make us in a way that he would despise and call an abomination.  It’s like with me and Doug.  I think about ways to kill him about twenty times a day, but I don’t actually do it.  It’s just a thought.  I have to control my thoughts.”

Me:  “Yeah, it’s exactly like that.” 😯

About that time Doug came back to the car from fetching her large sweet tea and the conversation mercifully changed.  I can’t decide if she really believes that God doesn’t make people that way or if her thinking is a product of our homophobic culture.  Does she think KarieAnne should cut him loose because he’s gay or because she seems to be taking too much responsibility for him?  I agree she needs to set some healthy boundaries because another person’s depression can be overwhelming.  She can’t fix it for him, but she can listen when he needs a friend.


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This is Love

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. ~John 3:16

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:13

Take a good look at that picture.  I’ve sat through so many sermons expounding on the torture that Jesus endured.  Graphic detail about how the cat of nine tails was made and the damage it caused to his flesh.  Thirty-nine lashes were the normally prescribed number because law held that there could be no more than forty.  It was cut just one short to ensure that the maximum number allowed were not exceeded.  Made of shards of bone tied to the end of each of nine whips to inflict maximum damage, it was also meant to humiliate and degrade.  Jesus was fitted with a crown of thorns, spat upon, and mocked.  All of this before being nailed to the cross where, according to scripture, he gave up his own ghost.

Think about that.  The God-man willingly lowering his status at the right hand of God the Father to become both fully human and fully divine. To die a cruel and hateful death, lay in a grave and go to Hell for three days, and be raised once again to ascend to the throne where he would forever remain in his rightful place.  He took our place.  This is the punishment we deserve for our sins, to die cruel deaths and be laid in cold graves and to be sent to Hell for…well…eternity.

This all sounds like such a romantic story of love, sacrifice, and redemption.  And when you are in the throes of some agony, tortured by your own past, facing your own mortality, or staring down your demons it feels like salvation.  When you are steeped in a culture that perpetuates this as the “greatest love story ever told” you scarcely dare to think for yourself about any alternative to this being the absolute truth.  In fact it is so pervasive in the culture I was brought up in that there is no question about it – no rational thought given to this depiction of love. It just is.  What is there to doubt?

I’ll never forget the first time I heard someone question this epic story.  It was in a discipleship training class.  One of the members was relaying a conversation he’d had with our town’s only professed atheist.  He, the atheist, was scoffed at by the members of the class for daring to say that this was no punishment at all.  He dared to ask what kind of sacrifice it was to give yourself to die when you know you’ll be raised back to life.  What kind of sacrifice is it for the Father if he knows he intends to restore the son to his previous status?  How long is that thirty-three years in the grand scheme of eternity?  How long is three days in Hell compared to all eternity?  How could this begin to be considered penal substitution? How is this…love?

I remember recoiling at the notion of such sacrilege.  And yet I could never forget it.  I consoled myself in the fact that God would make the wisdom of this world seem foolish.  I was a fool for God and proud of it.  It makes no sense but I would choose to believe because…well….God.  How do you challenge…God?  And that, in my feeble mind, made sense.  It was alright to be stupid for God.  Until I could no longer believe in that God.  Now none of that makes sense and it’s okay that it doesn’t.


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Real Work Conversations: Again

So I get a statement in the mail from a vendor.  On the statement it has all the invoices and posted payments that have been made.  Every payment that has been made has been posted.  We have more than one account with said vendor and they’ve misapplied a payment.  Here’s what happened next.

 

Ring, Ring….Ring, Ring

Auto answer gives several options and I choose, appropriately, the billing department.

Billing Clerk:  “Good morning, this is Sally, how may I help you?”

Me: “Good morning, Sally.  This is D’Ma with Acme Anvil Co. My company has two accounts with your company.  I see here that you’ve applied a payment of $26.30 to account number 12345.  You need to remove that payment and apply it to account number 54321.  I see on my statement I have a credit balance of $7.40.  When you do that I’ll have a balance of $18.90 on account number 12345.”

Billing Clerk:  “No you won’t.  I see that three payments have been applied and when I move this $26.30 to your other account your balance on this one will be $0.”

Me:  “I’m looking at the statement and all the payments you referenced appear on the statement, which leave me with that $7.40 credit.  So my balance will be $18.90.”

Billing Clerk:  “No, it will be $0.”

Me:  “It’s kind of basic.  If you take -7.40 and you add 26.30 that will leave 18.90.”

Billing Clerk:  “No, it will be $0.”

Me:  “I’m not sure what kind of math that is, any way you slice it -7.40 and +26.30 is +18.90.  But I’ll take your math over mine.  Make it $0.  That’s okay with me.”

😯

 

 


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Who Will Catch Me?

Makes one feel all warm and fuzzy, eh?

Where does this even come from?  Certainly not the Bible.  The Bible promises “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Rom 10:9)  Saved from what?  Everlasting torment?  A life apart from some divine being which cannot be defined, understood, seen, nor heard from?  What is the advantage to being with such a being?

The Bible promises us that we needn’t worry about trivial things like, y’know,  food and clothing because “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ” (Matt. 6: 28b-33)  Tell that to all the starving Christians around the world.  Tell that to my Christian neighbors here in America who have lost their jobs and don’t really quite know where their next meal might be coming from.  Yep.  Don’t worry your little heads about this stuff.  God knows what you need.  He decided you needed to go without today.

What about that mushy, feel good, personal Jesus stuff?  What about when I screw up?  When my own actions cause me to stumble and fall?  Is He going to be there to catch me and give me a soft landing?  Life is messy.  When I find myself in a pickle of my own making I have to soak up the vinegar.  Who will catch me? It’s really nobody’s responsibility but my own.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have people I can count on to lend me a shoulder and an ear, but they don’t owe it to me to bail me out.  I don’t get a divine “get out of jail free card” either.

I’ve seen disturbing images of Whitney Houston gyrating, praying, being prayed over with the laying on of hands, giving testimony about the greatness of God.  She was even baptised in the River Jordan.  Holy water couldn’t even cure her of her personal demons.  Why?  Because there isn’t a magic wand to wave over our problems.

Who will catch me when I fall?  Well…if I’ve been a loyal friend, if I’ve been there for others, if I’ve shown love, if I’ve been the best me I can be hopefully those people to whom I’ve been a help will return the favor.  At the end of the day I know that when I fall there aren’t any soft landings.  Those people shouldn’t bail me out.  I’ve gotta get up, dust myself off, and try again.  Others will help me but I have to do the heavy lifting.  If I don’t then I become a burden.

As for Jesus standing there with His catcher’s mitt? Nah…just look around you.  Ask that homeless veteran, that hooker on the corner, that twelve-year-old who just lost his mother, or that dad who just lost his six-year-old to some disease that doesn’t even have a name.  Melodramatic?  Happens every day.  To people pleading with the air, their prayers falling on deaf ears.  It’s just a good thing that, at least some of these, have people around them who care.   Those who don’t?  It’s a lonely, cruel world.  ‘Cause nobody’s there catching them.


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Are You Sure?

The Easter Cross at the Southern Baptist Church I formerly attended

On the Thursday afternoon before Easter every year the Southern Baptist Church I attended for the last twenty years constructs this cross of white and red gladiolus.  It is erected in the darkness so that early on Good Friday it is in full display in all it’s glory.  Many times I’ve helped to construct this beauty.  It is still beautiful to me.

For the first time in at least the last fifteen years I didn’t attend church on Easter Sunday.  In fact I probably haven’t been to church but once or twice since last Easter.  That was an odd feeling for me.  It was so strange to sit back and watch and listen, struggling with my faith, knowing I didn’t believe exactly as those around me any longer – yet not knowing what it was I did believe.  It seemed surreal.  I felt like an outsider even though no one else there had any idea of the thoughts running through my head.

I’ve noticed in many of the writings of my fellow travelers of this path of doubt and changing belief a theme that runs throughout Evangelical Christianity.  There are those who litter their posts questioning, or better yet, diagnosing their condition.  “You were never a real Christian,” they say.

What these naysayers cannot conceive of is that there are folks like us.  People who were dedicated to the Cross of Christ.  Those of us who were Sunday School teachers, preachers, music ministers, deacons, and devout lay people who ate, slept, and breathed our Savior.  We studied our Bibles, prayed without ceasing, listened to sermons, home schooled our children, took every Bible study course we were offered and sincerely chased after the Christ. He was our Christ and we were His.

That is, until we weren’t.  There wasn’t one cause, one event, one disappointment. Most of us weren’t even disappointed or hurt or disgruntled.  It was a crack in the claims of Christianity here, and gaping hole there.  It was a process of accepting what was staring us in the face and grieving the loss of what we’d once held so dear.  Even if we haven’t completely decided there is no God, we’ve learned that Christianity isn’t as black and white as we believed and we’ll never be the same.  Christianity wasn’t just a part of who we were, it defined us.

What I’d like to say about all of that is that I know what I believed.  I know that I loved Jesus.  I was sure that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and raised on the third day. So you doubt whether or not I was a real true believer. *Shrug* If your God is real He knows what I believed.

If I wasn’t saved, how can you be so certain you are?  I was certainly convinced.  Was it a deception of Satan?  How do you know you aren’t being deceived? Maybe that’s what makes you so uncomfortable with the idea that there are those of us who insist we were Christians and that now we are not.