Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Controversial Thoughts

I'm sitting here feeling weepy and tired, and I should just go to bed. I shouldn't have gotten on the computer to begin with, since the muffins finished baking quite awhile ago and I have a sweet, snoozing husband from whom it will take at least 5 minutes to wrestle away my half of the covers.

But I checked email (I think I had vague intentions of getting work done), which then lead to checking MySpace messages, which lead to reading up on old friends, some of whom I haven't seen in years. I'm teary-eyed because I just finished reading one blog entry about getting dumped. It was beautiful, sad, articulate and vulnerable. And it was written by a gay man, which makes me wince. I'm not comfortable with homosexuality. So my tears are both for him and for me.

When did I stop remembering that our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered) friends have feelings? I think I've been laboring under a false assumption that stems both from my prejudices as well as the flamboyant gay culture. So much of the airs & attitudes of a stereotypical gay man are so far from real feelings. They're exaggerated, over-the-top; a well rehearsed musical production.

But to be so poignantly reminded that it hurts to lose someone you love, even though (I won't pull punches here) I don't think it's a healthly sort of love...

I feel disgusted with myself to realize that in holding fast to my religious beliefs about one thing, I've in so many ways missed the larger picture. I won't condone or accept homosexuality as a healthy lifestyle, and I don't think God does, either. If that makes me intolerant, then so be it. But, somewhere along the way between when I first discovered the saving love of Christ and where I am now, I've let being intolerant translate into being unloving. Some would argue that they are one in the same, but I'm not getting swept up into that discussion just yet. I can't lose this thought, because it's too important:

Love and intolerance can co-exist.

It looks ridiculous, and it sounds even worse. But I truly believe that love is a choice, an action, a decision. For some circumstances and with some people, that choice comes more easily. With my husband and my family, I can't help but feel love for them. But how often do I choose to actively love them, with Christ's love? It's tough to overcome my selfish nature and think of them first. And if it's hard to actively love them, it's damn near impossible to love those that irk me, that don't share my beliefs, convictions and values, that find me intolerant, that make me uncomfortable.

But even if it's true that love is a choice we make to verify the emotion we feel, where on earth would intolerance come in? Shouldn't we love people the way they are? Who are we to say what is best for them?

Well, now we've come down to it, haven't we. Judging. Being judgemental. Who am I to say that homosexual love isn't healthy? It's a shocking, hate-filled statement, especially in this day and age. But where do we draw the line? The Bible, this crazy, radical, controversial book that I cling to, has verses that I interpret to say that lots of actions aren't pleasing to God. Homosexuality is one of them. But so is not loving your neighbor, and in fact, when Jesus was asked to distill the commandments down, loving God (with all your heart, soul, mind and strength) and loving your neighbor as yourself made the cut. When Jesus answered, he never mentioned sexual orientation, political beliefs, views on communion and baptism, or eating habits (just to name a few of the many controversies that tear people apart).

Those two things, loving God and loving others, are the guiding principles by which I must apply everything else that Jesus said. And while I've tried to love and honor God by striving to uphold holy standards, I've forgotten to love my neighbor. All the way from the next-door neighbors here in Atlanta, to people that I once knew, now on the other side of the country. Somehow, it's fairly easy to find a "neighbor" in India that I can love, financially support and pray for. But I've missed people in the middle. NIMBY (not in my backyard) takes on a whole new and ugly meaning.

So where does that leave me? How can I be both loving and intolerant? The phrase "love the sinner but hate the sin" pops into my mind, but it seems indifferent and cruel, as though our sins aren't a part of us. We are born into this fallen world, and we live with the scars of our choices. It's an especially vile phrase when I stop to think that LGBT folks see their sexual orientation as their identity, not as a problem. And again, who am I to say differently?

If anyone is still with me at this point, and hasn't already hit the comment button to either: 1) blast me for my hate-speech, or 2) criticize me for my lack of Biblical knowledge, then I beg you to stick with me for just a few sentences longer (after which, you are of course welcome to have at it. I won't even turn on the comment moderation).

What I would like to say is this---I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all the times I've judged you (even if I don't really know you, and perhaps all the more because I don't) and others for lifestyle, behavior, choices, decisions, etc. But beyond my prejudice is a love for people that wants them to know the peace of Jesus I've found. Yes, it sounds preachy and churchy even in my ears. Sorry. But I can't think of any other way to put it. The point is not whether you're gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, Catholic or Protestant, a vegetarian or a carnivore. (har har.)

The point is, I believe in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who came to earth fully human & fully divine, who lived a holy life, was crucified, died and was raised to life by God the Father. I love Him. I cling to Him and His words and promises. And what He taught, that I so often forget, is that it's not my job to judge or condemn. We've all got problems with anger, with hate, with loneliness & despair, with that haunting feeling in the middle of the night that we can't do this thing called life on our own.

It is my job to proclaim (with boldness---ack!) that God is here, He's active and present, and He wants us to know Him. I believe what the Bible says because I can't help it. The Bible often makes me uncomfortable. I don't like some of what I read. I don't get this God who seems loving one minute and cruel the next. But I trust that He's real... and believing in a God that challenges me and makes life challenging is so much better than the alternative. God isn't "easy" to love, but the alternative is to love a big, fat Nothing.

At an AIDS awareness/benefit concert we went to in Chattanooga I was privileged to hear the story of one couple who cared for their gay son for 15 months while he grew weaker and weaker. They're Southern Baptists. Wow. I don't know what they said to him. I don't know what conversations they might have had with him. But I do know that they loved him. They chose to come down to Atlanta from Chattanooga and care for their dying son. They chose to be involved in his life, to get to know his gay friends. They chose to not get so caught up in saying "Thou shalt not" and chose instead to focus on saying, "We love you."

Why do I cry for an old friend whose boyfriend dumped him? Because he's hurting. Because I want more for him. Because I haven't been there for him, and wouldn't know what to do if I tried. I don't want to argue about right and wrong. I want to love my friend, in word, thought & deed. Perhaps if we as Christians spent more time talking about Jesus, and less about people and their problems, our love would be less often just an emotion.

To wrap this up, I'll use a concept (i.e. cop-out) from one of my favorite artists regarding where I get my ideas from:

"...because i can't afford to pay/ for most of what i say/ so it's a lucky thing/ that the truth's public domain... and i am like a mockingbird/ i've got no new song to sing/ and I am like an amplifier/ i just tell you what i've heard/ oh, i'm like a mockingbird..."

copyright 2005 Derek Webb... and no, I don't know what his thoughts on homosexuality are, but I do know that he loves people actively, so that's good enough for me!


I hope I haven't hurt anyone with my controversial thoughts. I hope you can accept my apology. And I hope and pray that God will grant me the grace to learn more each day about how best to love Him and others. Amen.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Hello from Chicago!

InterVarsity training is going super and I'm learning a lot. Including the existence of a fantastic website which hosts the "WayBackMachine," a spooky, hilarious bit of technology.

I was discussing with one of my new friends (Hi, Jason!) how blogs are international, and there for all to see. He mentioned that they are also there for all eternity. Strange concept, given the fluid nature of the internet. He pontificated. No, as he has now pointed out to me, my artistic license goes too far. Fine then. He SAID (bor-ing) that this fantastic machine can show all the variations of any given website, from beginning to end.

I typed in our old church website. Sigh. Oh, its humble beginnings. From 4 pages beginning on March 2, 2001; to 10 pages; then 11; then back to 4 on its final day of March 6, 2005. Those four years of the website (almost to the day) are nothing compared to almost 100 years of the church's rich history. It makes me sad. It's a bit like a funeral service, I guess. I have to grieve and move on. But like pictures on a fireplace mantel of a departed loved one, it's sweet to know I can still see the old website in all its glory (har har).

I guess the challenge is to realize that was then, and this is now. The fact that the website is now gone from all but a little electronic time machine is a poignant reminder that there's no point in trying to dig up and give CPR to the old church. It's painful to look at a picture and say goodbye, but it's both painful and gross to try to exhume the body. I have to celebrate what was and move on in good faith of what God is doing now, and what He will do in the future.

Kennan says I am alarmingly transparent on this blog. I suppose he's right, but I can't seem to help myself. But oh, the drafts that will never get posted! I do have some sense of shame, after all. And yes, I tend to take some amount of artistic license but I'm trying to curb that. As I was saying during my tea with Queen Elizabeth just the other day, "Now Liz, there's no point in making crap up. Life is far too interesting to mess it all up by being overimaginative."

She chuckled heartily at my boundless wit and offered me another crumpet. As do most of the famous folks I spend time with!

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Little Irish Poetry

Since my freshman poetry class at Emory, I have been a huge fan of Seamus Heaney. Not only does this Nobel Laureate have a beautiful way of concisely conveying the most profound emotions without the baggage of sentimentality, he deftly captures the historical, political and social complexity of Ireland. Often he employs the bog as a metaphor for Irish history ancient and recent. In this metaphor, the bog is a palimpcest that contains marks of each distinct era of Irishness layered in its depths. (note: As a background for the following poem, it is of interest to know that several Catholic girls were tarred and chained to railings in public places as punishment for dating British soldiers.)

Punishment

I can feel the tugof the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adultress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

of your brain's exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles' webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

Seamus Heaney

This and other Heaney poems can be found at Poemhunter.com .

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Not Just an Excuse to Drink Guinness

First of all, why would anyone need an excuse? It's just great beer! Enjoy your Guinness responsibly, but here's a bit of St. Patrick's Day that often goes unnoticed. I ran across this as part of a worship song. The whole text and a very interesting history article on St. Patrick can be found here. I'll leave you all with the excerpt I enjoyed the most:

from "St. Patrick's Breast-Plate"

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
. . .
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Amen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Crouching Eye, Leaping Eyebrow

I can't believe I actually have a post to go with this title! This post is dedicated to our friends Chris & Susan, who came up with that silly phrase amongst much laughter. I figured I'd have to really str-e-t-c-h to make it fit, but...

There is nothing like the shock of an 8 pound, furry missle flying past your head at 7:30 am. This morning, when the alarm went off, it apparently scared Cider, who, as Kennan himself put it, "springboarded off my [Kennan's] face." I'm laughing as I type this, not because I'm heartless, but because it's funny in retrospect. At the time it was pretty startling.

So Kennan now has a long, magenta scratch across his face, starting under his left eye and ending somewhere in his eyebrow. Hence the title. The good news is, it didn't seem to damage the eye permanently, Kennan got to sleep in (to "let it heal," he told me), and I have to say my husband looks pretty hot with pink eyeliner! A bit lopsided, though.

Maybe Newton can finish the job tomorrow morning.
Maybe not.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I'm Supposed to be...

Scooping the cat box. Ugh.

Gaines's post on the McPassion got me to thinking. I'm fairly certain that McDonald's is the Anti-Christ. But Celine Deon is a close runner-up. And there's always the Postal Service...

Soooo...

I'm curious. Who does everyone else think the Anti-Christ is? And you're not allowed to pick the Pope, China, Dub-ya or Kerry.

That would be too easy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Weird and Wired

I was amused to read this article for Wired News discussing a new invention for authors to sign books from afar. Apparently, the author in question, Margaret Atwood, invented a pen that she can manipulate at home, which will then send the data to "two spindly metal arms clutching a pen" that will reproduce her signature and words of wisdom and compassion.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for standing in line for 2 hours to see these spindly metal arms clutching a pen. I also appreciate your devotion to my books and your willingness to pay $25.00 to have them in hardback. I will think of you the entire time I am touring Europe in extravant style.

Love,
The Author


That's what I would sign, anyway, if I were a famous author! Or a famous athlete, as the invention is already signing hockey sticks, and the company is working on basketballs.

Dear Sports Fan,

It's cool that you are shelling out 75 bucks to see me act like the big, nasty NBA star that I am. I also appreciate that you bought my jersey for an ungodly amount of money, and you're definitely a bad-ass for leaving the tags on so that everyone can see it's not a fake. Enjoy this personally signed, licensed basketball--I'm off to make sure that my size 19, $600 sneakers are polished and ready for the game.

Love,
A. Thug


Hee hee hee. It's not that the invention itself is so ridiculous (and I guess it comes with a video uplink so the author can tell people hello), it's just the idea of the applications, that people will no doubt come up with for it, that makes me laugh.

It sure would make the idea of an electronic signature a little less silly, though.

Love,
Me

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Never Tickle Sleeping Dragons

For Valentine's Day, copies of "Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them" and "Quiddich Through the Ages" were brought by owl post to our house. They are not only very good reference books, they're hilarious.

In Dumbledore's forward to "Fantastic Beasts," he assures the muggle population that the creatures depicted in the book are merely imaginary... and then for the Wizarding world's benefit, declares:

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus.

Kennan and I remembered that Draco is "dragon" or "serpent" (a definite commentary on the character of the same name) and properly guessed that dormiens would be something about sleeping (from the word "dormant"). I found nunquam after a bit of internet searching, but titillandus took quite a while to discover. It's funny to imagine serious looking ancient Romans, in togas, having conversations that would involve use of the word "tickle." Ah, the way we've romanticized the past.

I also came across something else Latin and bizarre while looking for the aforementioned Valentine's Day present. "Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis"--- a complete Latin translation of the first book. It's wild. You can also get it in Ancient Greek. I've been wanting to learn Greek for awhile now, to be able to read the New Testament in the original Greek (and I guess I need to learn Hebrew, too). So here's just one more, though not as important, reason to do so!

The things you can find on the internet these days. What's next? Random people writing about their lives for the world to read? Surely not. As Margaret Thatcher once said long ago, regarding the possibility of a female Prime Minister (paraphrased): "It will never happen in my lifetime."

Nunquam narro nunquam.
Never say never!