Autumn, Awe, Bad Weather, Christianity, Consequences, Courage, Depression, Emotional Health, Faith, Fall, Freelancing, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Health, Hope, Jesus, Letting Go, Opal's Farm, Patience, Prayer, Recovery, Simplicity, Spirituality, Storms, Texas, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, Urban Farming, Work, Writing

Have You Had Your Vitamin D Today?

red flower rose
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thoughts From the Porch: I haven’t posted much this week. North Texas has seen the wettest October since recordkeeping began. The area lakes are one hundred percent full and dams are opening their floodgates to keep them from flooding. We’ve experienced some localized flooding, but the folks in to our south have been devastated by it. It hasn’t been one of our best months here.

People have been joking about swimming everywhere. If one more person makes a “Noah’s Ark” or webbed feet comment I might  run off screaming. Keep smiling, right?

time lapse photography of river
Photo by Irina Kostenich on Pexels.com

Work on Opal’s Farm has been at a standstill. The water level of the Trinity River made me a little apprehensive. Yet, it’s remained well below the levee height. The Water District cannot begin to disc and till the soil until it dries out for several days. We’ve gotten get a sunny day here and a day there, but the soil; is super saturated. We need at least a solid week of sunshine to even think about further progress.

It’s all been a bit much. To top it off, business has been slow enough that I took on a couple of indoor construction jobs to keep some income coming in. I’m thankful for the work. I do what needs to be done, even when doing so wears me out too much to write. I’ve sat down at the desk several times, but the words are stiff, like my body.

Thus, procrastination has reared its ugly head. I set aside writing for the next day and go to bed early. It’s the perfect escape mechanism for dealing with the miserable weather. Sometimes sleep will change the way I feel. My mood had begun to mirror October’s gloomy weather. I didn’t want to inflict myself and my dismal mood on anyone else.

Sleep is an amazing thing. Sunshine even more so. Sunlight on the human skin triggers a human’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin”. Vitamin D is essential for overall health. Studies show it helps decrease high blood pressure and protect against inflammation. It helps muscles and even improves brain function. Lack of Vitamin D is a contributing factor in osteoporosis, muscle weakness, cancer, and depression. Given the last month, I can understand the depression aspect.

Unfortunately, few foods provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D. That’s why sunshine is so important.

The sun was already shining when I awoke this morning. I’m usually get up early enough to greet the sunrise, but not today. I slept in and awoke to my dog’s wet tongue and sunlight beaming through the window. I noticed my mood was much lighter. I was excited to get out of bed, rush through the awakening routine, and get to the porch.

My vision was clearer, my mind freer than it’s been in days. My coffee tasted better. Conversation with Margaret was lighter. Problems didn’t seem so overwhelming. The leaves fell more frequently, and the yellows and reds of autumn were more vibrant. I was filled with a sense of awe and gratitude once again. All brought about by a good night’s sleep and brilliant sunshine…

I often forget how simple life really is. The dispiriting, gloomy days of October will always give way to brighter days. Life’s like that. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it shines. Even when the rain seems like it will never cease, the sun will eventually return. Without the rain, I forget the incredible value of the sunshine.

My world mirrors the God I’ve come to know. There may be times it seems like the rain will never end. Yet, the sunshine always returns. The sun is always there even though its light is sometimes hidden behind the cloudy, dark skies of fear and self-doubt. Every time I quite trying to control the or wish away the weather, the light returns: ever reminding me that it’s all okay.

My friend Jim used to tell me things like, “It will all be okay when it’s over. If it’s not okay, then it’s not over” and “In the meantime, it’s just a mean time”. I used to hate hearing that when I was in the middle of a storm, but sure enough, the sun came out, the storm was over, and it was always okay. I come out a little battered but better able to weather any coming difficulties…

I’ve also come to know that I need God like I need Vitamin D. He’s “essential to overall health”. My “muscles” – physically, mentally, and above all, spiritually – are stronger. I’m no longer depressed, feeling overwhelmed by whatever bad weather life sends my way. His light prevents the cancer of resentment and unforgiveness. His light improves my thinking and especially, my vision. I can see the simple beauty of falling Autumn leaves and be at peace.

I’m going to get on with the day now. Now that the sun is shining there’s much to do and many things to see. Besides, I’ve had a Vitamin D deficiency lately…

Have you had your dose of Vitamin D today?

Christianity, Citizenship, Communication, Consequences, Courage, Culture, Domestic Violence, Emotional Health, Faith, Family, Grace, Grief, Jesus, LGBTQ, Listening, Marriage, Recovery, Relationships, Sexual Trauma, Survivors, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, Wellness, What Can I Do, Writing

I Can’t Remain Silent

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

It’s probably a good thing I’ve been too busy to post anything this week. I’ve struggled over today’s post and it’s been on my mind since last weekend. It’s hard to write and even harder to put it out there on social media and in the blogosphere. You see, as much as I enjoy writing of God’s infinite love, grace, and mercy, there are times when I fall far short in extending the same to others. This is one of those times. Please allow me to explain.

Margaret and I each had grown children when we wed nearly six years ago. Our daughter, who has come out as transgender and changed her name to Gael, moved in with us a couple of years ago so it would be financially easier to complete her college. I only mention her identification as Gael, so you’ll know who I’m talking about. I’m still new to speaking and writing of our kid in the third person, but that’s the accepted means by which to refer to transgender individuals and what they have requested of family and friends. Moreover, I’m not sharing anything that Gael hasn’t already made public their self.

Perhaps because our children were young adults when we married, blending families went a bit smoother for us. Margaret and I have no ‘step’ children, just our kids and grandkids, and we love them to death. So, when Gael asked about moving home to finish school there was no thought of saying no. I’ve become closer to them as a result.

Margaret has been open about Gael having been sexual assaulted by their uncle when they were twelve years old. What I didn’t know until the last couple of years is how deeply that affected them. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the highest court in the land after sexual assault accusations probably triggered Gael’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) last weekend. As a result, we had an emotionally volatile weekend. I saw, and see daily, the lingering results of emotional pain caused by perpetrators such as their Uncle Phill. Although he, and people like Mr. Kavanaugh, go on about their lives without a care in the world, victims like Gael and their families live with the consequences of such heinous acts for a lifetime.

Needless to say, I’m angry: so much so that I want to lash out in revenge. I have a special place in my heart for women and children, but especially when it’s my kid. I wasn’t part of the family when it happened, but I am now and I see their lingering pain regularly. I see the tears and pain of remembrance. They, like all survivors, bear the scars of their trauma daily. Their uncle, like so many abusers, has never shown remorse and prefers to sweep it under the rug, ignoring the harm he has caused. Unfortunately, that happens in families and society as a whole. Part of me wants to make sure he pays a consequence, and quite frankly, I’d like to ‘kick his ass’, but that isn’t the answer. My first thoughts about anything like this are usually wrong…

It’s not my place to act as judge, jury, and executioner. God has freely granted me grace and mercy, not justice. I’m so glad I didn’t get what I deserved. So, who am I, having been lifted from the depths of addiction and self-centeredness, to withhold grace and mercy from others? That isn’t how my life works today. Revenge and ill-will only lead to resentment and bitterness, neither of which are appealing to me.

That being said, an acknowledgement of the wrong would allow some healing to take place, and that is what Margaret and I want for our kid. I’ve learned the importance of taking responsibility for my actions, acknowledging the harm done to someone else, and being willing to go to any lengths to make it right. Such an admission made it possible to receive the love, grace, and mercy waiting for me. I have no illusions that it’s not the case for men like their Uncle Phill or Brett Kavanaugh. Ironically, much can be forgiven when the crime is acknowledged. That’s when the healing begins…

So, what am I to do? Three things come to mind. First, I will love my kid through this and, though I wasn’t able to protect them then, I will do my best to protect them now. That means keeping my kid away from their perpetrator even if he shares DNA. That, too, has lasting consequences for others far beyond my kid or their uncle. They affect family get-togethers and holidays. Even when forgiveness is involved, it doesn’t mean forgetting. I will not allow my kid to be victimized over and over, placing them in the same room as their assailant and acting as though it’s all in the past so it’s okay re-traumatizes them.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, I can pray and seek God’s guidance through this whole mess. I truly believe in Jesus’ teaching. When he said that there is a better way than “an eye for an eye”, I believe him. I trust that his is a radically different view of the world than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s uncommon sense that leads me to live and love better, to be a better human being, and to be there for my kids, especially Gael.

Finally, I need to listen. I need to put aside preconceived notions about someone and listen to survivors of sexual trauma. I need to be empathetic and be there. Trevor Noah said that,

“People struggle to understand that two things can be contradictory and true at the same time. You could know somebody as a great person, and they could also be doing something that you don’t know about that makes them someone who you wouldn’t recognize. With Bill Cosby, people were like ‘that’s not the Cosby I know,’ and yeah, it’s not the Cosby you know. Unfortunately, it’s the Cosby somebody else knows.”

Just because somebody puts on a good guy image doesn’t exempt them from scrutiny when accusations are made. The past year and the emergence of the #metoo movement reminds me that ignoring the issue of sexual assault and harassment is to sanction it. To sanction it is to be a part of the problem. Like Dad used to say, “Son, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution…”

Last weekend, Gael used social media to speak out against her perpetrator. The week before Christine Blasey Ford spoke to the world about her abuser. I applaud their courage and unwillingness to remain silent. Sexual assault, harassment, and, in Gael’s case, the assault of a child, is not a once and done crime. It has long lasting effects that plague survivors, their families, and society as a whole. Thank you Gael for speaking out and being an example. I can no longer be silent either. I hope you, gentle reader, won’t either.

Business, Christianity, Communication, Community, Conversational Copywriting, Culture, Emotional Health, Family, Freelancing, Friendship, Jesus, Listening, Marriage, Neighbors, Prayer, Recovery, Relationships, Simplicity, Stories, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, What Can I Do, Work, Writing

Rolodexes

 

flat lay photography of calendar
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Thoughts From the Porch: It’s been a crazy week already and it’s only Wednesday. It’s all been ‘good’ crazy. My professional obligations have overflowed into my personal time. Combine them with whatever allergen blew in with the last cold front and I sniffle and sneeze my way through the day…

I was sitting here sorting through the various business cards and it occurred to me that I need a new Rolodex. Some of you know what I’m talking about: that circular file that holds your contacts, addresses, and phone numbers. I’m not sure many people use them anymore. Everyone else seems to organize such things online. I guess my friend Gary was right. I’m a dinosaur…

It’s not that I’m technologically illiterate, mind you. Heck, I write for a living and that includes the web and social media. It’s just that keyboards and screens feel so impersonal at times. Heck, I lost my phone one time and couldn’t call friends or family because their numbers were stored by the phone’s contact list. I can still remember my very first home number – GL (short for the Glendale exchange)1-0249 (and yes, kids, there was a time when they had letters instead of numbers). I could tell you what part of town someone was calling from by the prefix, which was helpful as caller ID was still years away. One memorized the important numbers in one’s life, wrote them in a phone and address book, or filed them on a Rolodex for future reference. Nowadays, they all go to the phone by name instead of having to dial. I was married two years before I could tell you my wife’s phone number. It was filed away by name on a contact screen. Sometimes smart phones make me feel dumb…

Don’t get me wrong. I love emerging technology and all the new toys. They make life, professionally and personally, so much easier. The world has become much smaller as a result, too. It’s nothing to be able to communicate, both audibly and visibly, with folks on the other side of the world in a microsecond. I definitely find research on the internet preferable to the long hours spent in the library or on the phone. Unfortunately, technology is often impersonal at times and that can be brutal on relationships.

As I’ve grown older I’ve come to believe that everything in life is about relationships. For all the connectedness technology enables, it inhibits real relationship. One night shortly after Margaret and I started dating, she asked me to come to ‘family night’ at her house. As we all found our seats in the living room and turned on the movie, it became apparent that no one was either talking or watching the movie. Instead, everyone’s face was buried in a phone screen. I think they were texting each other across the living room. Just so you know, we have great, loving relationships with all our kids, but after that evening I became increasingly aware of the downside of technology – stifling relationships.

I’m not a big ‘phone guy’. One of the biggest complaints a friend has about me is that I don’t answer my phone right away. I leave it in the truck when I’m meeting or working with a client. They aren’t paying me to answer my cell phone. I always return calls. I am not, and I refuse, to be tethered to my phone. Besides, I value ‘face time’, and not the iPhone kind, over phones calls, texts, and emails. One of the best pieces of advice my mentor ever gave me was to spend more time watching and listening. The experts say that much of our conversations are non-verbal. We say more with our body language and actions. Just ask my wife. She hates it when I sigh or roll my eyes and still say okay…

pexels-photo-699122.jpeg
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

Something special takes place between people when they sit and share together. The closer my relationship, the more one is aware of the non-verbal cues between one another. My non-verbal cues often indicate a far deeper meaning than what I say. They often turn my “everything’s okay” into “what’s really going on?”. As a result, my relationship with others, and with myself, deepens.

The ultimate face time takes place over the dinner table. In certain cultures, a meal is the most intimate offering one can give to another. To paraphrase another friend, “I don’t get to choose who I am kind to, but I do get to choose who I have dinner with”. Many of my best memories are of meals shared and friendship enjoyed. I guess it’s no wonder that Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with people over the dinner table…

Here in a bit, I’ll head off to a Development Group that meets weekly to discuss personal and professional development, how to be of service to others, and network with other professionals. It’s something I look forward to every Wednesday. There are no cell phones or computer screens present; only good food and good folks. We spend the time together trading business cards and the weeks news. I always feel uplifted and full of energy when I leave. That rarely happens when I step away from this computer screen.

I’m okay being a dinosaur. What all the great technology doesn’t do is help me be a better human being. I need other folks to help me get there. I need relationships. Technology is a great tool, but they are not the be all and end all. So, before I get to the meeting, I think I’ll stop by the office supply store and see if they carry a Rolodex…

Activism, Christianity, Class, Community, Consequences, Culture, Emotional Health, Faith, Hope, Neighbors, Politics, Recovery, Responsibility, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, What Can I Do, Writing

Hearings and listening…

Thoughts from the Porch: It’s officially dark when I take my coffee to the porch these days. The mornings are cooler, often in the low sixties, and quieter than usual. September is sliding into October, the lawn has a few more leaves on it each day, and rain comes more often and usually overstays its visit. We might have a Fall that lasts longer than a weekend this year…

I listened to Thursday’s Senate confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the testimony of his sexual assault accuser, Ms. Ford, even though I told myself I shouldn’t. After all, the outcome is predictable: wealth, privilege, and power will carry the day regardless of what’s right. That’s what the last couple of years have proven anyway. I used to get angry, now I’m simply sad. Still, I’m drawn to same-old, same-old like a moth to a flame, hoping this time it will end differently. That my friends, is the definition of insanity…

Life has taught me to look for the good, even when the situation says otherwise. Even though I think the Judiciary Committee’s majority and Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to be detestable, some good things have already come out of it, believe it or not. Ms. Ford’s testimony was measured and truthful as she stood in front of millions and detailed her experience with Mr. Kavanaugh. I can only imagine the courage it took to sit there for all to see and hear. Whether her testimony sways the vote of those with wealth, power, and privilege remains to be seen, but maybe it will make us all look at our actions and attitudes toward women. I have…

In fact, the last two years, although politically horrendous, have one bright spot: they brought out all the racial strife, misogyny, and often, hate, hidden just beneath the surface of American life. We’ve all known it was there but did little to address it. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I can’t fix a problem unless I admit I have one. Until I do, the solution remains elusive. I keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Where have I heard that before?

The up side is that once I admit my problem I’m already halfway to the solution. I can do something about it.  It works for me personally and professionally, maybe it works for others. The #Metoo and Black Lives Matter movements have made me look at my ideas about women, race, and culture in general. Honestly, I haven’t always liked what I’ve seen, but I have an opportunity to transform old ideas and attitudes. That changes my actions. The consequence is that I love others better, begin to think more about the common good, and grow closer to the man I want and God, wants me to be.

Even something as detestable as the current administration and the SCOTUS nominee can have positive results when it motivates one to look inside. Hopefully, it creates a desire for our better selves…

Anxiety, Christianity, Community, Courage, Depression, Emotional Health, Faith, Gardening, Grace, Gratitude, Non-Profits, North Texas Giving Day, Patience, Persistence, Prayer, Recovery, Spiritual Deserts, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Work, Worth, Writing

Tuesday at Two

(Today’s post is unedited. My ‘editor” is hard at work on another project today…)

 

It’s only partly cloudy out here on the porch this morning. It seems it’s rained or drizzled every day for the last week. I’m terribly grateful for the rain and the cold front that triggered it. We’ve had a hot, dry summer and I’m not sure we can afford another huge electric and water bill. The air conditioners been off for the past few days and there’s no need to water the garden. It’s greened up and grown immensely in just the last couple of weeks. It never ceases to amaze me what rain, versus watering, can do. I can water the garden regularly and, while it may keep it from dying, it does little to promote production. Yet, end a bit of rain and all the sudden new blossoms and tomatoes abound. There’s simply something special about God’s touch. Still, I need a break from the rain, at least long enough to dry out for a couple of days and plant the Fall produce.

That being said, I haven’t posted much this week, nor have I had a chance to. North Texas Giving Day is coming up next week (please visit them at https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/). It’s a huge day for local non-profits, especially for Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm. I’ll be posting links to each over the next couple of days. If you can help in any way, please let us know! Anyway, that’s what has limited my time on the porch this week and quite frankly, I’m glad.

My thoughts have been far too scattered to share this week. I’ve been grateful for a project to focus my efforts on. It’s been a relief from the dissonance between my ears. Some of you know what I mean. I offer a prayer of thanks for those of you that don’t. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences this, but it sure feels like it. It’s beyond mere ‘writer’s block’. It’s far more devious. It creeps in and tells me that I don’t have anything to say, and if I did, nobody gives a rat’s ass anyway…

If the voices are loud enough for long enough, it begins to be a crisis of faith. Do I really believe what I say I believe? Am I doing ‘enough’? Am I stuck in willfulness and missing the point? Am I wasting my time on the unimportant? What was I thinking anyway?

There are times when no amount of faith, positive thinking, or intellectual knowledge of one’s worth to God, self, and others can hold self-doubt, worry, and sadness at bay. St. John of the Cross called it, “The dark night of the soul”: my friend Jim used to say, “in the meantime, it’s a mean time”. I used to think I was the only one who felt this way. Experience has shown the opposite to be true. Some people are simply better at hiding it than others.

I’d love to post only the good stuff, like gratitude, grace, and the awesomeness of the life I get to live today. All of those things are true mind you, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t tell you about the times I feel God’s absence, when things don’t go according to plan, and it feels like I’m not coping so well.

I’ve been blessed to walk through many a ‘dark night’, only to find an even brighter day. I know that “this too, shall pass”, because I’m still walking. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Just keep walking.

There are times though when I feel stuck. That’s probably why “Groundhog Day” is one of my favorite movies. I keep repeating the same old day, over and over and over, but redemption is right around the corner. One day you wake up, the calendar has changed, and the world looks brand new. That’s just the way it goes…

My friend and confidant, Jim, always told me that “it’ll get better Tuesday at 2:00”. He’d never tell me which Tuesday, or whether it was 2 two AM or 2 PM, but it would get better. Looking back over the last sixty years I can attest to the correctness of this statement. Sometimes I need to remind myself that today’s Saturday – Tuesday’s right around the corner…

 

Adoption, Choices, Christianity, Communication, Courage, Emotional Health, Faith, Fall, Family, Freelancing, Grace, Gratitude, Hope, Introverts, Patience, Persistence, Recovery, Responsibility, Seasons, Sel-Esteem, Self-Acceptance, Spirituality, Uncategorized, What Can I Do, Work, Worth, Writing

Labor Day…

The air is thick with humidity this morning and ragweed season has begun. I’ll spend as much time on the porch as my allergies will allow, but it tends to be somewhat shorter in duration this time of year. It’s a little frustrating because Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year, and a perfect chance to enjoy the quiet of the porch. Spring is nice, everything coming back to life and all, but Fall beckons me to introspection and reflection on the past year. It begins slowly and reaches a crescendo by the Christmas holidays, just in time to look forward to the New Year.

Fall in North Texas may be different from others’ experience of the changing seasons. Fall officially begins on the autumnal equinox and occurs around September 22nd each year, although it may not feel like it until late October or November. Even then, it may only last a couple of days or weeks until the cold of Winter moves in. Now that the average temperature for each year seems to be one for the record books, the seasons can’t be forecast accurately anyway…

Fall, or at least the timing of it, brings a sense of urgency to living fully and enjoying the blessings in life on an even deeper level. Looking backwards, I can see missed opportunities and instead of regrets, I learn to be more vigilant. It’s easy to fall prey to tunnel vision and miss the doors that God has unlocked along the way, especially when it comes to family and friends. Fall brings clarity and renewed purpose to live life well.

I turned sixty a couple of weeks ago. It’s probably not as big a milestone as I’ve made it out to be, but it feels like it to me. Last year, I decided to step away from the contracting business, go back to school, and re-start my writing career. The last year hasn’t been easy, at least financially. Although I’ve stayed busy, starting a business is never easy. It takes a lot of grit, determination, and perseverance, especially for introverts like me. Although I’m far better at being social when business is involved, I still have difficulties, especially cold-calling and networking. Fortunately, most of my work is from home.

Most of stem from internal issues like believing I’m worthy. I’ve struggled with that for a very long time. I typically don’t like the word ‘self’ in front of things like esteem or worth. Not that healthy self-esteem or valuing one’s self is a bad thing, mind you. It’s just that I tend toward an inflated sense of self if I’m not careful. Holding myself in high regard tends to add the words ‘ish’ and centeredness after the hyphenated ‘self’. I begin to think of my own abilities rather than the gifts I’ve received from God. I forget where ego and pride have taken me in the past.

My friend Edgar often tells me that “I’m not a slow learner, I’m a fast forgetter”. I’ve always known I was reasonably intelligent. Given that it took so long to learn how valuable I am to God, I’d he nailed me down well. It’s easy to forget my successes are the direct result of plugging in to a far greater power than myself.

I may have issues when it comes to self-esteem, but I know without a doubt, that God sees me differently. When I remember who’s I am and how much He treasures me, I begin to accept myself for who I am a bit more and everything becomes easier. I treat myself a little better, forgive my failures a little more, and experience far less fear of the outside world. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s sure gained speed as I progress further in life.

Remembering who I am makes me ‘right-sized’, as my dad used to say. I used to run from one extreme to the other: either I was the better than anyone else or I was a piece of crap. Today, I’m okay being human. I make mistakes, try to learn from them, and move on to the next thing in front of me. It also makes me far more capable of doing that both personally and professionally. I’m certainly not the best, but I do it well and perform in my own unique way.

When I was a child, my father used to tell me how special I was. I was adopted – a chosen baby. As I ventured out into the world I found out that no one else thought I was that special, and that proved to be a disappointment. I was well into my adult years before I knew what he meant. I was just like everyone else, but I was special to my father, whether it was my adopted father or my heavenly one…

So, as Fall approaches I have the opportunity for another season of introspection and reflection, not that it’s seasonal, mind you. My friend Jim (I really miss him…) always told me that’ “Self-examination, coupled with prayer and meditation, followed by vigorous action, produces favorable results”. I’ve learned just how right he was. I’m ready for Fall…

Beatitudes, Children, Christianity, Communication, Community, Culture, Faith, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Identification, Labels, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Transformation, Uncategorized, Writing

Labels

It’s hard to believe that summer is over. Although it will end officially on September 21st, Labor Day weekend is the traditional start of Fall. The kids have returned to school and we can hear the loudspeaker from the school up the street, greeting students to the new day. I know it’s 8:00 AM when I hear America the Beautiful and the faint hum of students saying the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t know if they do that elsewhere, but they still do in White Settlement…

The other day, a fellow blogger, Stephen Black, posted an article titled “It’s Not God’s Fault that Christians are Idiots” (www.fracturedfaith.com) I’ve been thinking about that question a great deal over the few days. I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘Christian’ and being labeled as such. What does that really mean anyway? Often, it has negative connotations. Stories of spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse by Christian ministers and church officials are reported regularly. ‘Evangelical Christians’ are frequently associated with extreme right-wing politics and somewhat self-righteous individuals who leave a lot to be desired when it comes to loving God and loving others – the foundation of following Jesus’ teachings. Maybe if I identified myself as a ‘Jesus follower’ it would be better, except that’s what ‘Christian’ meant in the original Greek. Etymology can be frustrating.

I’m told that ‘Christian’ was originally used as a term of derision for those making up the early church because they lived differently from the rest of the Roman Empire. The early Church didn’t quite buy into the whole ‘Caesar’ as god thing. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Jesus himself said, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that – count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable”. (Matthew 5.10-11 The Message) The sad thing is that religious folk seen to be some of the most vehement prosecutors of other Christians. Maybe truth is just a bit uncomfortable…

So, I’m labeling myself a Christian, whether I like it or not. I’m a ‘Jesus follower’. I believe in grace and redemption. I believe in a God who is loving, and as my wife says, sweet. He created me as one of his kids and, like kid, I simply want to be like Dad. I believe, that despite the fact life has hardships and difficulty, He always has my best interest in heart. I want to share the joy, peace, and freedom I’ve found, so in that sense, I guess I’m even an ‘evangelical Christian’. When I read the daily newsfeed and see what others, who call themselves evangelicals, are doing with the appearance of self-righteousness and false piety, I want to run and hide. I don’t want to be associated with the likes of such. Still, I remain a ‘Jesus follower’, a Christian.

It took me a long time to be okay with calling myself a Christian. I had my own demons and past to deal with. I tried to do everything my way and the results were rather dire. Ask anyone who crossed paths with me then. Such is a life run on self-centeredness, obsession, and compulsion. I finally asked for help and help led me to a real relationship with God. That led me to a lot of frustration with ‘Christians’, since I found that relationship outside ‘church’ walls. Some of you know what I mean…

What I know today, with some degree of certainty, is that the people whose lives touched mine, and the way they lived was nothing like the way I was always taught. I had a religious upbringing, and that really sucks. I learned about piety and fearfulness when what I really needed to know was how to have a relationship with God. In one of my favorite passages, Jesus was questioned by a bunch of religious folks about his propensity for communing with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other ‘sinners’ (my kind of crowd!). His reply was, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this scripture means ’I’m after mercy, not religion’. I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matthew 9.12-13 The Message). I’ve always felt I was ‘outside looking in’. Maybe that’s why I took advantage of the invitation to follow the Rabbi, and maybe that’s why I want to be like Him…