Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Heat Wave!

It’s hot! It’s damn hot!!

In the land where I’m from we’re currently experiencing a heat wave.  The mercury has hit 100ºF(38ºC) for the last few days and the heat index has been between 105ºF(40ºC) and 107ºF(42ºC).  The humidity is…wet.  And thick.  You could cut the air with a knife.

If this is any indication of what hell is like I think I better get right with gawd. :mrgreen:

 


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Blindsided

(TW: Suicide, depression)

Clark was beautiful and charming.  When I say beautiful I mean a heartthrob.  A real heart-breaker.

He loved to work out; lifting weights and building muscle.

At sixteen he’d lived more of a life than a lot of people at sixty.  He’d seen more, been exposed to more, and had more than enough heartache.

His father was a looker too.  A body builder.  A dope head. He’d gone to prison when Clark was just seven.

The other kids at school teased him unmercifully about his jail-bird daddy.  What do seven-year-olds know about jail-birds? They probably just parroted whatever they heard their mamas and daddies saying.

Clark found a way to deal with the bullying.  He found a hand-gun underneath his grandmother’s bed.  He slipped that hand-gun into his back pack and took it to school.  When the kids picked on him again he took that gun out of his back pack.

He pointed it at them and then at the teacher who tried to stop him.  The gun was loaded.  The only thing that stood between a seven-year-old and revenge was the safety.

At seven he was promptly expelled from the public school system in that county.  None of the parents wanted Clark in a class with their kids.

His crack-head of a mother made a half-hearted attempt to keep him in some kind of school.  But out of work and a convicted felon, herself, she struggled to even get out of bed in the mornings.  She couldn’t afford a private school and other public schools in the area hesitated.

For a while he managed to stay in school, even scoring a spot on the football team.  When he got caught selling drugs at school that ended that.  Expelled again.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been selling drugs but at thirteen, most likely, he didn’t have a choice.  Not one that he saw anyway.  A thirteen-year-old needs to eat.  A thirteen-year-old providing for his mother.

By the time he was sixteen he’d lived an entire lifetime.  He was trying to get his life together.  He’d gotten legitimate work in construction and was quite talented for it.

One brisk November night, two days before Thanksgiving, he and some friends had a bonfire.  By all accounts they were having a good time.  Clark waxed serious and cryptic, muttering something about there having to be more to life.  He decided to go to bed.

Minutes later his friends heard the loud shot ring out.  They ran inside to find the door to Clark’s room locked.  He wouldn’t answer.  He couldn’t answer.  By the time they broke the door down he was gone.  The shot-gun he’d lodged in his open mouth lying next to him on the floor.

We never know the pain of another.  I’ve always mourned the loss of a life so full of potential.  Clearly he didn’t see it that way.  He didn’t see anything better.  I’m sorry for that.   I’m sorry his pain was so deep he could not bear it.  And I’m sorry we were oblivious to it.  Blindsided.


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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Photo Credit: Ruth

Photo Credit: Ruth

 
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
 

Prayer.  It’s supposed to change things.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18

When I was a Christian I prayed every day.  Several times throughout the day.  Before I got out of bed I started praying. I talked to my imaginary friend about, well,  everything.  I could tell him anything.  Why not?  He saw it all anyway.  It was an internal dialogue that was continually going.

Whatever thoughts I had, some scripture would come to mind for me to apply to that thought.  I was ‘taking all my thoughts captive to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I prayed for change within myself, to become more like Christ, to be less of me and more of him.  I believed that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  In fact, I believed that the only way he could increase was for me to decrease.  I wanted there to be nothing left of me.  Slowly, over time, this did begin to happen.  I put myself away and made more of Jesus.  Or at least what I thought was Jesus:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

But I also prayed for some very real, very tangible things.  Salvation of loved ones, healing for the sick, my step-children, my then-husband, ministry opportunities.  Oh, sure, I prayed the selfish prayers too.  Though I never really expected the selfish ones to come to fruition.  I knew when I was praying selfishly.

The only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative were the prayers to change me and the selfish prayers.  Never, in 20 plus years, were any of the prayers for salvation, healing, the suffering in the world or other non-selfish prayers answered in the affirmative.

I consoled myself on the healing prayers with platitudes about it not being God’s will.  I told myself and others that the person who died from their ailment received perfect healing rather than divine healing.

The lack of affirmative answers on prayers of salvation were always the most perplexing to me.  If it is God’s will that all should be saved and that none should perish, then why would that prayer not be answered?  At least some of the time?  It wasn’t for a lack of my attempting to evangelize them.  I didn’t just pray about it.  So then I would console myself in the knowledge that I had planted a seed and it was God’s job to water it.

I consoled myself that the suffering in the world was part of God’s plan to get his people involved in his work.  That God wasn’t in the business of snapping his fingers to alleviate suffering.  He expected us to do it.  Then why aren’t we?

No, the only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative for me were the ones that I had control over.  Not all of my selfish prayers were answered.  Only the ones I could make happen.  And as for transforming my inner self.  Well, I did that too.  Using scripture and prayer I was able to change myself until there wasn’t much left of me.

So when I began to doubt, to question, and to learn that maybe everything I had once believed wasn’t true, it was somewhat of a relief to learn that the reason my prayers weren’t answered wasn’t because God didn’t care.  It wasn’t because God was ignoring me.  It wasn’t because I had some secret sin in my life that I had wracked my brain to find which was prohibiting God from hearing me.

It was because imaginary friends just aren’t very powerful in the lives of others.


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Take A Deep Breath

DSCF1292

There’s some kind of critter playing peek-a-boo with me.

I’ve taken a brief hiatus from religious writing. It’s been a struggle to find the time – and more specifically the motivation – to adequately research my projects, but I’ll get back to those and publish the rest of the series I was working on when that happens.  Sometimes it’s just good to take a break to breathe in some fresh air and recharge my batteries, and do some thinking.

What is strong atheism? From the StongAtheism website I found the following definition:

Strong Atheism is the proposition that we should not suspend judgment about the non-existence of a god or gods. More extensively, it is a positive position against theistic values, semantics and anti-materialism, a rational inquiry in the nature of religious thought, a new way of thinking about religious and spiritual issues.

This doesn’t seem to be completely where I am.  I’m…ambivalent.  Ambivalent about being hostile toward theistic values and anti-materialism because ultimately that means being hostile toward people.  Perhaps it’s because I spent so much time there. Maybe that’s not even what’s meant by having a positive position against theistic values.  It seems to be the tactic that’s taken against theists, though.  I’m not even absolutely certain that I’m a materialist, though I don’t think I have to be to make a rational inquiry into religious thought and to develop or have a new way of thinking about spiritual issues.

I do feel I have rational reasons for believing that the God of the Bible, nor any god that has been proposed to date, exists.  If there is a “creator” I don’t think it’s those gods.  At the same time other people who I would call rational come to vastly different conclusions about that.  Does that mean that they are wrong?  Or that perhaps I am?

According to many sects of Christianity, if I am wrong, I’ll have a high price to pay.  Which is one of the reasons I don’t believe that god exists.  BibleGod is invisible.  BibleGod has left little to no empirical evidence of his existence – just possible footprints(because there’s stuff we don’t have empirical evidence of) – which may or may not be his(or some other god’s or gods’).   BibleGod says that if I don’t believe in what I can’t see I will spend eternity in hell.  That doesn’t square with a just deity. With the stakes so high it would seem that justice would call for his existence to be less ambiguous, less fuzzy.  I digress…

I’ve watched, and participated in, the back and forth exchanges between atheists and Christians.  It’s been…difficult.  It’s been heartbreaking, infuriating, and frustrating.  It’s left me with a really bad taste in my mouth for what any one of us calls debate.  I thought debate was clearly presenting facts, viewpoints, and opinions drawn from those facts and viewpoints in the affirmative and the negative by opposing parties in a clear and concise manner for the consideration of an audience.  I think with the advent of opinion news shows it has become increasingly more adversarial with insults and taunting rampant.  That is disappointing.

It’s disappointing and, for me, particularly disturbing that adults cannot seem to speak to each other with respect and treat each other with dignity simply because of a belief or lack thereof.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  And if someone has researched enough that they feel firm in their position, how is that derogatory of those who hold the opposing view?  It isn’t.  Why can’t we seem to discuss these issues without vitriol, name-calling, questioning the integrity of those who hold an opposing viewpoint, or insulting their mental acuity?  And I’m not just talking about the Christians here.  Atheists:  if our evidence and reason are strong we shouldn’t need insults and derogatory rhetoric, should we?

Ridiculing people for believing things that you don’t is not persuasive.  It isn’t conducive to productive dialogue and, frankly, I’m a bit ashamed that I allowed myself to be drawn into it.