Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Shameful Christian Club: No One Is Welcome



How is it that we Christians feel we can eliminate other humans from the all surpassing love of Christ? We run from our president because he isn't of the same party affiliation. We run from homosexuality because "it's a big fat sin" when in reality our bigoted, judgmental attitude is no different. We put the word "church" under a pretty white steepled cross and only allow the wealthy and socially acceptable inside, right after they're approved by a committee that has been appointed by another committee. And when the winners of the perfect attendance award don’t show up on Sunday morning, we prepare a message in order to chastise them and “light a fire under them.” We type the order of the service all nice and pretty for our colored bulletin and make sure to tie up the Holy Spirit so He doesn’t get out of control and deter us from that perfect set list. What? Does He think this is His day or something? Then we argue over projectors, song choices and styles, and a dress code that makes us feel pretty. In reality, that adorable Easter outfit just hides the ugliness we're carrying around in our heart. We fear sending our money to missions and the needy because heaven forbid we not have enough for ourselves when the iPhone 14 makes its debut. After all, endless texting and free games are worth far more than the human soul. When we do give generously, either the 10% tithe or an offering (which, by the way, are two completely different things) we feel entitled to “get a say-so” in the daily workings of the church; and when we don’t get our way, that generous gift disappears and the tithe decreases as if to punish the church and, oh yes, the pastor. We tell others they're going to burn for having a beer, but in secret we're making sure our teenagers can't find the key to our well-stocked liquor cabinet, on which we dine daily and sometimes hourly because swallowing the bitter pill of conviction and pride seems to go down easier with a little help than without....shaken, not stirred of course. We think that when someone follows God's calling on his or her life outside of that pretty building on the corner that "there's something wrong." We assume that if the American Dream isn't fulfilled we're not doing something right for God....we're not living right, we're not serving enough. Come to think of it, when we are serving it's not really for God's glory, but for our own. We want others to see that we're "good and Godly” all while we forget that service is an act of love and selflessness. We memorize God’s word, not to be closer to Him, but to reprimand those we believe are wrong, omitting the parts we don’t like, and making sure we score the most points in the coming political debate over abortion and capitol punishment. We use and abuse God’s words, our faith, and His sacrifice. One by one we make the call on who can and can’t come inside our little Christian club on the corner. One by one we become Pharisees. One by one we cancel out the many parts that make up the church. And piece by piece we tear down the Body of Christ. 

We should be ashamed of ourselves. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Misadventures of BPG: Non Traditional College Student #4

   My first week back to school from Christmas break: I've been SO pumped to get back to school. The scheduling. The classes. Pencils, paper, heavy books, and new reading material. Deep breath through the nostrils.....aaaaaand let it out. Yes. College has become my drug of choice. My cocaine, if you will. I'm kind of in love with it.
   After my first semester back this past fall, I not only conquered my 12 year fear of college, but I conquered 18 year old toddlers, made some friends, and made the Dean's List. It was a great start to my new journey.
   This semester, I signed up for 5 classes; count them: Algebra (finally), English 1102, aka: Literature (porn, for lack of a better word, for an English nerd), Communications (speech class...hide me), Theatre Appreciation (RIP Troy Beasley), and Music Appreciation (why in hades did I do that one?). When I tell people I have 5 classes, their mouths gape in horror. However, it's not a heavy load. My classes are all on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; I have Monday and Friday free and I even get a lunch break between classes. It's kind of the ultimate schedule. I still have no idea how I scored this awesome schedule.
   I arrived my first morning of school to my first class: Communications. For those who know me, thank you for your prayers. My hands are already clammy and I dizzy at the thought of standing in front of people to, EEK, talk to them. For those of you who don't know me, this is how giving a speech works for me: it doesn't. I cannot, for the life of me, speak in public. It's beyond impossible. I shake. I forget things. I tend to be too descriptive, which works out very well when writing, but not when speaking. I, therefore, lose my train of thought and stand before the audience of my peers, or 12 angry men--however you want to look at it--and inevitably ask them, "What was I saying?" Then I stand, petrified and dumbstruck, like a deer caught in an angry SUV's headlights, just waiting to be struck by a chrome bumper on Dawnville Road. Oh, the humanity. However, according to my classmates and my amazingly hilarious teacher, Mr. Drye (pronounced the opposite of wet), I will be fine. The class is to help me become comfortable with public speaking, teach me how to give a speech, and help me overcome that pesky chrome bumper in the night.
   It's funny how I can sing in front of thousands, I can write all day long, and I can tell funny stories to a group of people, but I can't seem to speak to them. Apparently, to me at least, there is a big difference. Mr. Drye on the other hand, is one hysterical human being. He is currently acquiring his PhD in humor; it's something to do with coupling humor and teaching which somehow engages students more than normal teaching methods, thus allowing their brains to retain more of what they're taught. I have to agree; with my short term memory block from the MS, it's hard for me to remember small but very important details. However, being a stand up comedian, Mr. Drye, or Uncle Jerry as we sometimes call him, has helped me to remember almost every detail of his class as well as his syllabus.
   Upon taking roll that Tuesday morning, a young man came quietly into the classroom and sat down in the only seat available which was to the left of me. Mr. Drye called his name: CULLEN. I almost flipped. What a coincidence! No, he looked nothing like our beloved Edward, however, every Twi-hard within earshot swooned with delight. Poor kid.
   I finally made it to English next. My teacher, Dr. Kerri Allen, flitted into the room. Yes, flitted.....since she is the size of Tinker Bell. My Lit book is bigger than she. However, she packs a mean punch that demands respect. As she read the syllabus and gave us her expectations of us, she smiled in between her tardy death threats. Shortly after she pulled out her crossbow she informed us of how Fs were handed out to those who did not finish their research paper: like a stake through the heart. The woman is amazing. She takes her job seriously, but seems to still know how to have fun. She's engaging and charismatic enough to keep the class' attention. I can't wait to really dig my heels into all she has to teach. I am the only English major in her class; it should be interesting. As of today, she doesn't even call my name during roll call; instead she says, "Brandi's here" and moves on. I feel kind of special.
   My Theatre class is after my lunch break. Mrs. Jackie Daniels is my teacher....who reminds me of every high school drama teacher depicted in the very plays, books, and movies she directs. She's eclectic, but not over the top, and she knows her stuff. When she lectures, I feel like she's talking directly to me. The new DSC drama department is putting on a performance of Arabian Nights and for extra credit, I'm auditioning......for makeup. No stage work for this Thespian; I'm ready for makeup action. Now, if they bring on The Sound of Music, that sucker is mine.
   Tuesday night Jordan and I have our Algebra class together. (So sweet! Okay, enough cornstalk.) Not only are we partners in crime, we have a whole Algebra gang. We swindled Tyler Jones, our adopted 21 year old son (this is only what we call him, not what he really is) into taking this class with us.
   Here's the back story to Tyler: I've known Tyler since he was a fetus, which speaks volumes about my age, even though I'm only 9 years his senior. As he got older he'd say "hey" when he saw me at church, but I think he was a little scared of that "big singing gal." One night Jo and I discovered he could play guitar and the rest is history. He hangs out with us from time to time, and we treat him to Little Rome every now and then, (or he treats us) as well as a meal prepared by moi. His parents, Tony and Allison, are gems-they seem appreciative of our taking Tyler under our wings. I guess one could say, and some people do, that we "mentor" him....whatever that is. We love the kid to pieces and call him our own, so mentoring doesn't seem a strong enough word. He accompanies us when we do praise and worship and we trust him with the music the three of us make, as well as with our kid. Lilli kind of adores him and begs for his attention when he's around. There might be a slight crush on him; he calls her "Willie," which only makes her little heart pitter even faster for him. Like most teens, he had some trouble adjusting to college; just like Jo and I, he went off, and he came home. We've personally made it our mission to help him get back into the educational groove, even if it's one class at a time.
   Along with Tyler came Ben Black from last semester's English class. But little did I know that Skynrd would also be joining us. We have our own little corner of the classroom which may make for mayhem if we're not careful.
   Jordan had taken the same Algebra class before: Dr. Geoff Poor walked into the room Tuesday night and I was floored. He was soft spoken and dry witted, wearing grey khaki pants with orthopedic shoes, an untucked and unbuttoned polo shirt, and his thinning, long, white hair was thrown into a low ponytail down his back. I suddenly felt the need to go home and change into a tie-dyed shirt and some Birkenstock's, and grab the Ben and Jerry's. For in the flesh there stood Mr. Garcia himself. For the remainder of the evening my brain repeated Touch of Grey.
   Throughout the next Algebra class Jordan would lightly pinch or tickle my leg, right above my knee. Remember in high school when a boy liked you and all you could think about was HIM while he stared at you all through class? Then you wondered why you failed the test? I'm going to kill Jordan Griffin if he messes with my thigh in class again. I lose all focus.
   Wednesday was my Music Appreciation class. Nice. I picked a class that I already know all of the ins and outs of. Dr. Carver seems nice enough though, and he gained a very large amount of respect from me when he referenced Tchaikovsky and Darth Vader's Theme all in one breath. Maybe he'll take a break one day and just ask me to teach rhythms. Anything to make me feel like I'm moving forward in there; as of right now, I feel like the attendence policy is the only reason I show up.
   I've been back and forth to the Stupid Center several times; I get breaks, like I said, so I take that time to do homework, read, Pin, Facebook, email, and of course, BLOG.
   While there, I ineveitably hear all that goes on at the table to my left: the MAGIC kids' table. Oh, yes. I've found myself a new form of entertainment. These kids are hysterica....not literally. But it's clear they don't watch Harry Potter or they'd know that if chocolate frogs don't come with trading cards, it just isn't worth it.
   This morning I gave my first speech in communications. We were to stand and talk about a given topic for exactly 60 seconds. Mr. Drye gave a news related topic and a pop culture topic. 90%  of the class ran with the pop topic. Those who tried to suck up and stick with the real world topic failed miserably.
  My two topics were as follows: Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity or My Favorite Cereal. I'm a chunky gal and I'm on a diet. Of course, I picked cereal. I would need to conjure up 1 minute worth of bull hockey that centered around cereal, completely off the cuff. he gave us our topics the moment befoe we stood to give out speeches. Our assignment was to stand in front of the class and give a speech on said topic.....as soon as we picked the topic.
   Crap. How'm I gonna do this? I knew this speech was coming. I woke up with a knot in my stomach and one side of my face numb. I really psyched myself out for this thing. But I stood, moved to the front of the class and said, "I'll take the fat girl topic, please."
   It went a little like this, although this is not totally verbatim, but mostly: GO! "My favorite cereal is Crunch Berries, not to be confused with the plain yellow Captain Crunch. If it doesn't have the berries, it's not the real thing. And who are the bozoes that added new colored berries anyway? I personally like the old school pink. There is a certain way to eat Crunch Berries. You must first eat the yellow bars, leaving behind the berries. Next you must strategically separate the berries by color: blue, teal-not to be confused with the color green, boys-and finally pink. You're to eat the pink last. Then wash your bowl for your momma; don't leave a mess! And always wash your spoon because no one wants to deal with your leftover crusty Cap'n Crunch spoon. I am obviously not a public speaker. I'm shaking like a leaf and I feel like I'm about to vomit. Thank God I didn't have Crunch Berries for breakfast." TIME!
   The class, and Mr. Drye, were howling in laughter, I got a round of applause and, hopefully, a good grade. For my next speech I've got to tell a joke to the class. Again, worst joke teller EVER.
  For now, I'm sitting in the Stupid Center listening to rednecks on one side of me and Magic kids on the other. Both are cussing up a storm and both have their nerdy little roadie girlfriends sitting in their laps. I feel awkward....like a mom chaperoning a kindergarten field trip where the monkeys decide to get frisky. They laugh like monkeys. They scream like monkeys. They scratch like monkeys. They smell like monkeys. My tax dollars are hard at work as I listen to their very limited vocabulary of four lettered words, their lame dirty jokes, and their mate calls.
   I love college.

  
  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Away with the Censors

  The other day Jordan asked me, "You didn't really write that did you? Are you kidding me?! We're gonna hear about this...." all in response to something I wrote in the Book blog. Well, I'm here to set the record straight about things I write, and yes, I have my husband's full support on this.
   This blog is not only a place for me to write, it's a place for me to create. It's my art sanctuary, where I worship and glorify my Creator and the ultimate Artist, God. I write what I think, what I feel, what I CREATE. And I share it. It's for inspiration, laughs, aha moments, tears, and whatever else the reader may get out of it. Once someone said to me, "You can't write that. I don't want to hear that." My answer then was, "Okay, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. I'll take it down." (record scratch) Wanna know another thing I've learned in my 30 years on this terrestrial ball? It's not about YOU. Come to think of it, it's not about ME either. It's about GOD. You know. That "big guy upstairs" who directs everything? And by the way, I loathe it when people say "the big guy upstairs"-like He doesn't come down to us and sit with us. No, He's the Ultimate One that lives in my heart. He's what makes my blood pump, literally and figuratively. He's my song, my voice, my words, my ART. And HE directs this blog. Therefore, I will NOT censor my words from Him.
   No, I'm not going to start using profanity and bash people on my blog; I'm not going to be crass or inappropriate. That's not at all what I'm saying. I'm saying, when God gives me something, I'm going with it. Whether it bothers you or not. If His words offend you, I hope you're not reading the Bible, because that stuff is far more harsh and  frank than anything I'll ever say.
   For instance, I got a complaint in reference to the "30" post in which I had written very briefly about sex. I have one question: How is it okay for Solomon, in all of his splendor, to write a whole dang book of the Word about sex and love with his clearly very hot wife? Solomon isn't the only one who mentions sex in the Bible, and his book is not the only place it's mentioned. The Bible is the Word of God; it came from Him. Everything for, against, or about sex in any form or fashion is straight from Him. Let's forget about the Almighty for a second (figuratively) and bring it down on our pea-brained human level: How is it okay that Dr. Daniel Akin wrote a book about sex entitled God on Sex, and he's STILL the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary? Yes, I've read the book and my favorite part is the first paragraph:
        Sex was God's idea. Yes, I know this is hard to believe, but God is the one who came up with this 
        fantastic idea and I believe He was having a really good day when He did!  Sex was God's idea 
        and He gave it to us for pleasure and procreation. God is pro-sex. He believes in it. He is for it.
   I rest my case.
   This blog is not to make anyone comfortable. Then again, that's not exactly how God works, is it? If I'm going to allow God to use me, I can't very well worry about comfort levels.
   I can't tell you how many times God has made me uncomfortable; He's doing it now. Lack of comfort molds us and shapes us into what HE wants us to be. Growing in Him is painful at times. And uncomfortable. The pain is the chipping away of anything non-Jesus about us by the Master.
   My blog is not the Bible; it's nowhere near that awesome. In fact, it sucks in comparison. My mission for my blog is this: to pull you out of that religious, handicapped, housewife, working mom, single gal, single guy, struggling husband, nerdy, jocky, mold that you've put yourself into and help you see that you're so much more. Why do you think I reference the Word so much? It's to help you see the impossible in your own life. I take everything in my own life, as insignificant as it is, and refer back to my Love Letter from God to show you what God can do through you if you'll only move over and allow Him. (And I'm STILL learning to move over and allow Him!) It's to open all of those love, fear, pain, sorrow, art, humor, and most of all, Christ-holes so He can work in you. It's to involve you in the journey I'm personally on--to make you a part of all of the many things I'm learning every single day through Him. It's to somehow pass on the blessings from Him. And yes! Sex is one of those blessings! So is art, children, falling in the mud in a brand new outfit, job loss, death, birth, bankruptcy, college, sickness, and so many more! So, no. I will not be censoring anything I write. My job, and my honor, is to pass Jesus on to others: ALL OF HIM. NONE of me. God has given us so much to be thankful for and so much to enjoy. Don't miss out on it because of so called conservatism. No, my blog is not going to be a sex blog and I will NEVER give intimate details about it; but if I mention it, it will be generalized, tactful and appropriate, and once in a blue moon. I may be a fan, just like God is, but I just as God intended for it to be, it's private and will remain such. So don't start freakin' out.
   Jesus was a rogue of sorts. He came to do His Father's will and to do it to the fullest. He spoke out against legalism and politics in the church body; he challenged mediocrity, asking His followers, "Will you give it all up for me? Will you follow me? Will you put yourselves last for the good of my kingdom and above all, my Father?" He came to spread the message of God's love, not His never ending list of do's and don'ts. I have to ask myself daily, "Will you give it all up for Him? Will you follow Him? Will you put yourself last for His glory? Well.....will you?"
   Yes. I'm not always perfect at doing it; right now I'm struggling with some spiritual testing that I never in a million years thought I'd have to struggle with. And it's taking its toll on me. Yesterday I yelled at God. I told Him how angry I was with Him. In my pain I actually asked Him if what I was going through was entertainment for Him. I told Him I felt like a toy. Then I questioned Him. He already knows my heart, guys. It's not like vocalizing it was a big surprise to Him. If I can't be honest with my Creator, who can I be honest with?
   And He waited. And He listened. And I felt His power in me, sitting in my bedroom, like I haven't in a long time. And I fell to the floor on my face, begging for forgiveness, mercy, and love at His feet where I felt Him holding me. I pleaded with Him about my battle. I asked Him to remove it, to heal it, and to separate from my family and me. Then I thanked Him. I thanked Him for this pain that resonates so deeply into the pit of my soul that at times my body feels like it's going to cave in and swallow itself until there is absolutely nothing left of me. This is when the Holy Spirit interceded for me....with groanings that can't even be uttered. (Romans 8:26) He knows my pain better than I do and on a much deeper leve. I thanked Him for putting so much time and effort into me because this battle is clearly spiritual and is showing my family and me something new every single day we push through it. I thanked Him for the outcome. And I thanked Him for His will.
   Writing can be, well, weird at times. In fact, most of my work comes to me when I'm at my most vulnerable: usually when I'm incredibly happy, incredibly sad, or in the middle of the night when I've had no sleep. God uses that emotion (and yes, it's there at 2am) to say what He needs to say through me. He talks, I write. Now do you see why I can't censor anything?
   As always, there are a few critics here and there. Either they don't like what I write because it offends them, or they don't like how I write-they don't think it's "art," or Christian, or even "good."  In the end, I answer to only One when it comes to the question: "am I doing the "write" thing?"