Thursday, July 8, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Plato ruins your friendships.

When the baristas arrive to work at five in the morning, they find me pacing back and forth in the dark parking light, chain smoking and talking to Renee- the only other person up at such an ungodly hour.

Not even coffee-slingers have the ability to speak that early. They grunt at me and I follow them in.

Say what we will about Starbucks- over priced lattes and big business and blah blah blah. This place has been the setting of Moments and Memories in the past few years.

The last time I was here, writing before the sun came up- I was on the high of a spiritual revelation. A high that I hoped would change me forever, but probably just changed me for that day: Animal eyes:Angel eyes

This morning I am here on the low of human revelation: community is very, very hard.

We all have these grand thoughts of ‘community’. Like everything, the stories we grow up with impact and form the words ‘friends’ and ‘love’. When I was in high school I had a community of other freaks and geeks, weirdo’s like me that could help me feel not so…weird. And then I became a ‘christian’ – and it was way too weird for them. I wasn't 'like them' anymore. And I learned the lesson that your friends must be close versions of you- same interests and vices and temperaments...that way everyone could sail smoothly on the same path, follow the crowd...perfection meant rarely arguing, rarely confronting things...

It’s a shame- these perfect shiny ideas we have. The toy friends make the real ones a failure- thanks a lot Plato. He told us that everything here was just a poor reflection of something better.

I realize how shitty that idea is. Socrates (who is accredited to teaching this) and Plato (who wrote it down) are way more than this one idea- but the effects of Christians seeing this B.C concept of heaven-like place and teaching it in our churches may have left us with some poor thoughts on this present world. And our cultural stories latch onto this- the tales we are told as children, the expectations spun in in romantic comedies and porns- there is something better, someone perfect.

Irresponsible storytelling.

No one is perfect- it’s actually not even a mathematical possibility- yet we still expect, expect, expect it.

I have incredible friends. Real life and blood people. They are not shiny toys. They are not ads for beer commercials. And many of them are not 'like me' and I am not 'like them'. I am friends with Doers and Thinkers; Republicans (admittedly, only a few) and Anarchists and Apathetics; the Tired and Bitter; the religious Elite and the religious Minority- Lawyers, Counselors, Teachers, Pastors, Students and the problem I see is this: we all use the same words in conversation- in knowing and being known- and though the verbal utterance of one is the same as the verbal utterance of another- we have RADICALLY different definitions to what those words/utterances mean. In fact, some of us, if you asked our definition of 'love', would spit out a bible verse. But I don't First-Corinthians-Thirteen a band, a new pair of shoes, a person I barely know, a country, a time....

Ever count how many times you hear people say they 'love' a thing?

Instead of saying 'OMG, I love tribal print', I may challenge myself to say "OMG, I will lay down my life for the betterment of tribal print."

"I would lay down my life for the betterment of those chips I had at that one place."

"I would lay down my life for the betterment of the new Usher song."

"I would lay down my life for the betterment of soccer!" (Now, my boyfriend Gui, truly might be able to say this one honestly....)

I would lay down my life for the betterment of {what was the last thing you claimed to 'love'}?

I guess I see that my true definition of love is more like a strong emotional or mental affection/attraction. I am mentally attracted to the essence of tribal print, emotionally attached to certain people, attracted to books and art and places and one bachelor contestant over the other.

Or perhaps the most painful moments- when someone says they love me and I realize they do not- or rather, it looks nothing like what I had hoped, expected, been told 'love' was.

I have hurt people with this lie- perhaps unknowing, but the end results were the same- I have told people I loved them and thought agape meant being a door mat in one season, a savior in another, a grace-dealer, a money-lender. To some I thought love was giving my skin or my time or my tears. But most of the time my 'love' had to do with the short term, selfish fear of being left, and not the long term betterment of the other.

Christ has a conversation with Peter- he asks him several times, "Do you love(agape) me?" Peter keeps responding "I love (phileo=brotherly affection) you."

If love is agape...then this morning I realized, while sipping on my over-priced coffee, that I love...


I don't know that I love YHWH (God)- and though this conclusion disturbs me, I would suppose that YHWH knows this. I am fascinated by YHWH, attracted, dismayed, confused...and I have more often used the word 'love' than the previous ones.

Later on Peter writes, 'Though you have not seen him, you love(agape) him."

I guess if Peter can learn then so can I.

What do you mean- what do you REALLY mean- what do your actions show- what did stories in your past define for you- the meaning of you telling a friend or lover, 'i love you'.

And this is why when we tell people that 'God is Love' it is potentially the worst thing we can say.

Because it may mean:

"Distant Father is Letting You Do Whatever" or "Controlling Man is Holding You To A Standard of Perfection" or "Floating Deity is Wanting You To Be Happy No Matter What' or 'Angry Judge is On Your Side'.

God is love.
YHWH is agape.
I-am-there-with-you is -in-awe-of-you/will-lay-down-all-for-your-betterment.

I say ‘I love you’- and sometimes mean ‘I will buy you things’ you.’ My friend repeats ‘I love you, too’ and it means: “I will spend time with you, too.”

No wonder friendships and lovers and churches and communities get so painful. We are walking around shouting the same word at each other.

And in our cultural stories, our earliest references on how to socialize and reason- if there are problems- we see how to fight, how to create drama and hurl words and things.

Good Lord, how I wish whoever wrote our fairy tales would have included a talk on boundaries and personal space between Snow White and the Dwarves. Maybe Cinderella could have asked her step mother if she had been abused as a child. Sleeping Beauty could have a soliloquy about how kisses from a 'prince' are just as apt to kill a woman as to save her.

Throw your definitions out. Become like a child. Learn a new language. I think this is what Yeshua (the name- the verbal utterance people spoke at the Christ) spent a lot of time talking about. He wanted to replace the definitions that we already had for 'Messiah' 'power' 'love'.

Who knew that LOVE would mean dying on a peice of wood instead of leading an army? Not the disciples, thats for damn sure.

I want to LOVEAGAPE my friends and community.

At the fear of sounding superhippieshit- I have had to remind myself that my friends (and I) are beautiful and broken, animal and angel, struggling against or giving in to the stories we were all told.

Our friendships should not always be so easy.

Aristotle completely disagreed with his teacher. He said that there is no 'perfect world', only this one. And we make hundreds of choices every day that could make it better or worse, that allow us to give in to what feels comfortable or go against the grain.

In Christianity- many early church leaders adopted Platonic philosophy. At first I though it was neat, when people would talk about Plato and call it 'christianity'. But now I am a little disturbed. Christ had little to say about heaven- he had many things to say about community and friendship and right here/right now.

Who are you now, right now? Who are you becoming?

Can you talk to your friends about what you mean when you say various words? What is love to you- can we describe it without using the word in the definition? What is LOVE, what is NOT LOVE to you?

These are hard conversations. Movies don't show people maturely working through things, it's not exciting- they would rather show perfection or dissolution. These are not our only choices.

Be careful with your community- they will either change your standards or be changed by them.

Look carefully into your definition of GOD/YHWH- what you believe about these things will reflect in your actions, even if you can't put it into words.

Emotionally and mentally attracted to you,


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Choice and the Natural {choice is not the natural}

There is something about choice and nature that I have been struggling to figure out. We have all met people that are naturally good- they naturally look like great ‘christians’. (That is, assuming you think 'christians' should be super helpful and chirpy and reeeaaallly nice.)

So we meet these types of people, and if we meet them in a church or find them to ascribe to a certain religion, we consider them to be a great example of it.

And then we know people that are naturally kind of pissy or moody or flat out pathological liars- christianity certainly doesn’t hide these.

And I seem to have this line of thinking- and maybe you do as well- that we are shaped more by innate biological or psychological preferences rather than the choosing of what is better. For example, a coworker of mine mentioned how {person} is an incredible 'christian' because he has such a marked discipline in finances and how he structures his life/ tasks so well. I thought about it- and yes, those are good things. But those are not exactly a choice for him. He very naturally structures his life- it would be structured whether he called himself a ‘christian’ or an atheist or an elephant.

We all have natural actions that happen to look like good religion.

While those actions are good- I don’t know if it is something to be praised. Can someone say that not drinking is a result of religious faith when they have never really been tempted, or thought of it?

Sidenote: I've been talking to a friend at work about the differences/similarities between his faith- Islam and my own: {sideofthesidenote: the word 'christian' has so many varying definitions that I am leaning towards wanting to respond with 'Liberation Theology' but I haven't figured out how to do so without sounding like a total pompous asshole}.

Islam absolutely forbids alcohol. And he explained why- it's destructive, makes us violent, etc. I couldn't help but think and ask him about the importance of choice. It seems more beautiful for someone to have one glass for the sake of their beliefs than to abstain because of community judgement.


With my task-oriented christian coworkee, I think a virtuous choice would be him extending a kind greeting. Saying hello is hardly something to be praised in our culture. But the way his mind works, the way he processes- that would be a choice, that would be him going against the grain of his natural self- and choosing what is better. Him smiling and asking someone how they are, to me, seems more virtuous than his structure, or finances, or anything.

Can I take praise in enjoying to cook dinner for my room mates when truly, it’s something I find more pleasure in than they do? (I can say this pretty honestly, I’m a terrible cook. Perhaps them eating the food is more praise worthy than me making it.)

Aristotles book, Nicomachean Ethics, is a practical book on how to be a good person. It is not what it ‘means’ or what is ‘good’ or what is ‘person’ or the time-consuming thought of ‘what is IS?’(These are important definitions, but I see where they easily make people want to gouge their eyes out {the last one is a joke…kinda}).

In our culture ‘good’ looks really black and white. You are good if you do this, this and this. Everyone. All. And the modern Christian corporation capitalizes on this extensively.

Here are a few favorite passages from Aristotle that I return to constantly:

:We ought to consider what we are carried away toward since people of a different nature are inclined toward different things:

:Warped lumber is straightened by being pushed to the opposite:

:In everything, one must guard against the pleasant thing and against pleasure, for we do not judge it without bribes:

So if you are naturally good with money- then that is a good thing certainly, but there is little choice in that good. You enjoy being good with money. It gives you pleasure. Others think it’s a sign of hard work and character. So what are we good at with little choice or temptation toward the other? And do we explain away some of our negative traits by hiding behind the good?

I am terrible with money. TERRIBLE. And as I am trying, sometimes half heartedly, sometimes with choice, to get better at it- I find myself justifying my bad habits with the good.

I think Christ saw the natural inclinations of the individual pretty clearly. He did not respond to everyone the exact same way.

Some were told to sell everything and follow him, some were told to return to their life.

And I wonder: were some told to go back to their families because they saw in Christ a reason to adventure and not be responsible? Were some told to sell everything and follow him because they erred toward worshipping stability and money?

Christ knew all of us- intimately (I believe) and so we can never really have another person tell us ‘what God wants for you’. Only you, and if not you than certainly those closest to you, know the way your natural inclinations bend.

Do you tend to be more forgiving? Kind? Gentle? Have you always rather been so? I’d wonder if maybe these terms could be interchanged with doormat/coward; insecure; people pleasing.

The word have pretty much the same end result- but the motivations are completely different.

But if a person who is naturally harsh, business-minded, impatient, etc- if this person chooses to not hide behind good traits in the name of Christ {task-oriented, on time, efficient, etc} and chooses and sweats and tries to be kind and gentle and forgiving-

now that’s a damn choice.

What is a choice for you?

It is hard for me to confront people when they have hurt me. It is hard for me to follow through. It is hard for me to be responsible with time and money. But I justify these things by being ‘generous’. Generosity happens when people give from what they have, with choice and deliberation- I’m just plain rash and uncaring of money.

But it can look like generosity, can’t it?

This is natural: it is not a choice for Christ. To repeat the idea: If it’s easy for you to forgive, because you don’t like confrontation or you get over things easier, then Christianity is a great way for you to hide your cowardice in telling people the truth, or a great way to spruce up for your wound of worthlessness. To you, I’d say that Christ has more to say- Christ forgave everyone, it was his last words- but pay attention to the fact that he was no door mat. He spoke the truth- calling the religious elite a brood of vipers, because….they were. Yes, he forgave the disciples for their stupidity, but not before calling them out on it.

If you lead more towards unforgiveness, toward anger. Than perhaps you use the verses of Christs anger as justification, perhaps forgiveness is a word to you that really means little.

In fact, forgiveness means as little to one who strays naturally more toward anger as it does to one who strays naturally more toward apathy and calls it forgiveness.

I love the story of Mary and Martha-
38-40As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand."
41-42The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."

NIV translates it, more typically heard, as: 41"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

It is not that Mary was better. He didn't tell her to be more like her sister. Christ said the name of Martha twice- a sign of deep respect and affection- and then said that her sister had 'chosen what was better.'

I would say it must have been hard for a woman, a second class citizen, to sit in the place of a disciple. But she did, and it was a choice Christ commended.

So what's a choice for you?

Also- for the love of God will someone get me the hell out of blogspot? I need to choose to get my own website and then never let myself design it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wrath and Love in 5 thousand years

Written by Jenn and I. Read at STATUS by Jenn.


that was my verbal image of the God of the Hebrew scriptures- which we call the Old. Testement. The story I had always been told was one of a vengeful and controlling God, looking to punish the world that He had created for not obeying Him.

And I was fine with believing that because I knew the end of the story- that Jesus had come along. It was easier to focus on Jesus- He was human and kind and loved children- I could hide behind him. If God was the angry parent, than Christ was the parent I could run to.

But to only know the God of the New Testament is to dismiss half the story. I want to be intrigued by the whole story, not just the parts that make me feel good.

Christ and God are not contradictions- but how does that make sense? How can these beautiful stories of Jesus also be the stories of the God found in the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures?

It seemed wretched for God to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians and then send them into the desert for 40 years. But there’s so much more to the story. There’s so much more to be found beyond just the black and white text of our bibles.

The Israelites had been in bondage for 800 years and they simply did not know what it was like to be anything but a slave. They were not educated, they knew of Avraham and his God but in a world of hundreds of gods, they certainly didn’t think He was the only God, just their strange, invisible god.

They had lost their identity to the whips of the Egyptians. They had lost their voice to Pharaoh. And when God rescued them from the only reality they’d ever known, he lead them into the desert for the purposes of teaching them what it meant to be human. He was teaching them how to be whole again. He was teaching them how to govern and how to marry and how to farm and how to not be a slave.

So this is God caring for his people in their toddler years, their teenage years, and Christ is not the opposite, but is looking at the Jews thousands of years later- as they now understood rules, but desperately needed the heart.

So, digging into who our ancient God is, I found more than I expected, so much more than I had been taught. Instead of an angry father or judge, I saw the words of a scorned husband or wife. I read a God who saved, redeemed, fought for his people- people who continually turned their back on him for gods more convenient. Our God, their God, stood completely outside of culture. It took over a thousand years for the Isrealites to even accept this – that their God was the only god- that was how strong the culture of polytheism was. You could not invent a God as ridiculous as the one God of the Jews. And in the time of Jesus the people still could not understand their God who stood outside time- who knew it was better to show love on a cross instead of leading an army.

The ancient scriptures are no longer strange lineages and seemingly insignificant details on how to build a temple or a guide on what kind of food is appropriate. When we take the time to explore what the words on paper meant to the people that lived it, we see a Father that is cultivating a child into an adult.

The entire bible is a story about love, not just the books we prefer to read.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why we are not friends-

If I am best friends with ten people, I am best friends with no one.

I am living in a strange dichotemy. Things inside my head are chaotic and exciting, working through theories, looking and listening to the present but processing it through the past- my brain feels alive and on fire and it's like seeing colors where before I did not.

But outside of my head, I am exhausted. I am tired of hurting the people I love with a lack of time, or energy.

I am tired of thinking that my attention should go to those I do not know that well, than to the people who are my family.

A good friend wrote me an email about how she felt I was not spending enough time with her, or was hurt by me paying attention to others. This is someone who has received most of my free time lately- but I realized that she really didn't know much about my schedule.

For the first time I wrote out what my week is comprised of- and it was pretty upsetting. So this blog is for the people I care about, the friends I haven't seen in months-

Saturday through Wed. I wake up between 7 and 9 to drive to Kissimmee (25-40 min, depending on traffic). I spend the 6 to 9 hours talking- taking multiple families through two hour legal closings.

at 4-630 i get cut from work and I drive 30-60 mins home (traffic). I am emotionally exhausted and have a head ache from talking.

Saturday nites I have free and feel pretty good.

Sundays I wake up at 7 to be the first one at work (so i can hopefully be the first to leave, but that depends on how long the client takes) so I can be at church between-5:30 and 6:30. Church is at 6:30 and lead I facilitate a discussion group after intil about 10:30.

Monday I go straight from work to a small group- I have never made it on time- I get home at 9:30-10

Tuesday night I am free but so very tired.

Wednesday is my friday. exhausted.

Thursday I have off to clean and shop and run errands and try to relax, but people want to hang out and I always feel guilty about not going to Restoration House at 6 because of this justification or that or the other.

Friday I have counseling which is a shot gun to the heart. I am a zombie but people still want to hang out - even though I would rather go in my room and read. Friday night is the only night I have set aside with Gui. The past two weeks I have been too tired or guilty (for all the other people I don't see) and I cancel with him and feel worse.

saturday. repeat.

I have three nights and two days to see all the people I care about and who care about me.

Ashley and Jenn are my bestfriends and have really walked with me the past two years- yet I feel as though put them last.

I would like to spend time with people one on one, but I am so tired and don't want to leave my house. And my house is so hectic and full and I want to see everyone but everyone ends up feeling slighted.

I have a dozen names in my head of people I claim to love but do not make time for- or I see them once every few weeks/months.

There is no where in my house that I can go to be alone.

My boundaries are limited to avoiding hard drugs and television.
My definition of community sucks.
My definition of love is probably Not-Love.

So, with all this bitching- some thoughts.

It's okay to say no.
I am not a savior.
I do not need to be needed.

More than anything, I have to remind myself:

When I say 'yes' to a person or a plan- I am also then saying 'no' to other people and plans.

When I say 'yes' to a person- without setting clear boundaries and being honest about what I can offer- I hurt them more in the
long run with unmet expectations.

These are hard things- it feels like bad Christianity- it feels like rejecting someone- it just feels like shit. But that fact is that I feel like shit. Kind of all the time in the past few months.

So- friends. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, March 29, 2010

{book excerpt} Christine

My cousin Christine lives about twenty minutes from my parents. I navigate the Garden State Parkway, Fiona Apple in one ear and my fathers navigation system droning in the other. I sigh as I catch a glimpse of her apartment complex.

When I was a teenager, Christine and her then husband Joe had the most beautiful house I’d ever seen. It was spacious and so beautifully decorated, just a few blocks from the house in Jersey I had grown up in. They had sold it to move into a much, much smaller home (something about a better school for their daughter) and after the divorce this was where Christine ended up.

Christine is 100 percent Jersey. Growing up, Donna and I would stare at her in awe for the AC/DC Whitesnake goddess that she was. We would sneak in her room, use her blue eye shadow and bright pink lipstick and Aqua Net. She had big blonde hair, big blue eyes, big…everything. She was the most popular girl in her school, and she knew it. She had a boyfriend named Danny that we never met but always heard her screaming at or about. I always pictured Danny in a black leather jacket and tight acid washed jeans.

I remember sitting in the kitchen of my aunts house one morning when Christine walked in wearing the same black dress as the night before. My aunt went after her with a wire hanger, Christine screaming at the top of her lungs, “I went out to get the newspaper!” (But recall the Jersey dialect ‘news-pay-puh’)

“Well then where’s the fucking newspaper?” My aunt yelled, batting her with the hanger. Donna and I snuck drags off of Aunt Laura’s cigarette and then went outside to play.

Christine married an Italian guy named Joe who was nice and took her shit pretty well. I visited while she was pregnant and I could not stop laughing at how they spoke to each other. Joe would go to the kitchen for something and Christine would yell,

“Bitch! Make me a sandwhich!”

“Stop being an asshole!” He would holler back. I think if I heard that now it wouldn’t make me laugh. I predicted their baby’s first word would be an expletive.

Aunt Laura killed herself a few days later. I have a memory of someone mentioning to Christine about naming her daughter after Aunt Laura.

“Why would I give my baby a dead woman’s name?” Christine snapped, her blue eyes faded and blood shot.

I went back home and a few months later got a picture of an infant with brown hair and wide blue eyes with the words “Laura Christine Castellano” printed underneath.

I open the door to the front hallway of their duplex. She told me the address was 55, but not whether it was A or B, upstairs apartment or downstairs. I stop, looking from door to door. The upstairs apartment has a pretty sign outside the door, something about friends and family and faith. The door opens and a little girl sticks her head out. I recognize the blue eyes.

“Hi.” I say, climbing the stairs.

“Helllllooooooo.” She responds.

“Is that her?” I hear Christine yell from inside. I reach the front door in time for Christine’s hug. “Look at those shoes! What are you wearing?”

“Yeah, they’re silly.” I have on a pair of periwinkle S.B Dunks that an old boyfriend got me with some skinny jeans and a gray V-Neck. Christine runs her eyes over me and I know she’s not missing anything.

“Laura, do you remember Katie?”

Laura looks me up and down. “Nope.” She grins at me, showing off a missing tooth.

“How long have you had your hair like that?” Christine exclaims, touching the blonde.

“A few years.”

“God, it’s been forever. What have you been doing?” She speaks rapidly. abrasively- but it sounds like family to me.

“Not much, this and that.”

“Have you been ice skating before?”

“Once or twice.” I make a face at Laura, she makes one back. Christine leads me into her apartment.

It's decorated well, a natural gift my cousin has. Cute knick knacks adorn the walls, and the place has a homey feel despite the cramped quarters. A large L shaped couch is against a wall to my left, a large TV in front of it. Pillows are placed decoratively, and I again remember the her previous three story house. I recognize this room as whispers of a palace.

“Come tell me about what Aunt Marleen said.” I follow Christine to the bathroom as she starts putting on make up. “Tell me all
the good stuff I don’t know.”

I smile and rack my brain. Christine is very interested in the good stuff, she asks a million questions and is very blunt. My sex life should be coming up shortly.

“She said that mom liked to argue about politics, she was smart.”

“Of course she was. What else?”

“She said that mom did coke, but she didn’t know whether or not she was an addict. She thinks no.”

“Hmmmm.” Christine puts on mascara and all of a sudden I’m six years old watching a beauty queen.

“She said mom was sensitive and weak.”

“Like me.” Christine says softly, pausing to stare at her reflection. I’m kind of taken aback. Weak is not something I would associate with Christine. She’s a ball breaker. A memory floats to mind.

A few years ago I was in a girls study group. One of the girls mentioned something about me being strong. My good friend Laiza shook her head.

“I don’t think you’re strong at all.” She said gently. “When I think of a strong woman, I think of Kristen.”

Kristen is very plain, very quiet and kind, but I knew immediately what she meant. And I knew she was right. Kristen was very strong, and I was very weak.

Christine puts down the mascara and starts washing her ‘Fridays’ work shirt. She is a waitress there now.

“She said that you and Lisa annoyed the crap out of her-”

“Oh no. Your mother loved me, I was her favorite. When my mother would go to Jersey to visit Louie, back when we were in the Bronx, I would only go if Aunt Kitty went. If she didn’t go I’d stay with her. I was her absolute favorite, until you came along and ruined it.” She grins at me and hangs her shirt in the shower.

I roll my eyes. “Sorry.”

“Yeah, whatever. So what else did Aunt Marleen say? You didn’t find out shit.” Christine is losing patience with my tepid stories.

“She said mom liked to show me off. And that she worried about money. I don’t know, I have the conversation recorded. I want to interview you, too. Later. Maybe after work.” Christine looks impressed.

“You’re really going to baby sit for me tonight?”

“Sure, I don’t mind. I can write and hang out with Laura. Let me get my laptop out of the car.”

I run down the stairs into the frigid winter cold. I grab my computer bag and run back inside, my teeth chattering.

When I open the door, Laura is crying.

“LAURA!” Christine screams, “Put on your shoes, NOW!”

I must have missed something. Laura pokes her head out of her room, tears streaking her face.

“We’re going to be late!” Christine screams. Before I can glance away I see a look of pure fury on Christine’s face. She storms into Laura’s room. I close my eyes as she begins hitting her, Laura crying, “No! Mommy, stop!” I squeeze my eyes shut.

The last time I saw a parent hit their child was a few years ago. I was driving around with my pastors wife, Christy Tyson, and her young son was screaming about something in the back seat. Christy turned to me and said very calmly,

“I’m sorry, I have to spank my child.”

She turned off to the side of the road, got out, hit Nate’s bottom a few times, and we continued on our way. She took no pleasure in hitting her son, it was just something that had to be done.

But the look on Christine’s face- I remember that look. The frustration and fury, of needing to release something through the force of flying hands on someone elses skin.

When Christine comes out she looks calmer. “She fucking does this all the time.” She mutters. Christine leaves to get the car. I follow the sound of sniffles into Laura’s room.

She’s on her bed, trying to tug on her boots. I hover awkwardly by her door. I’m really no good with kids. I take a deep breath and plunge into the room with a smile.

I reach for her other shoe and help her get it on. “Look at these big feet,’ I say, “you are going to have boats like mine.” She smiles a little. I look up into her very pale face. She has her mothers faded blue eyes, freckles like mine. I wipe away her tears.

“You can’t go out like that. You’ll have icicles on your face.” She giggles at my dumb joke.

Her laugh makes me feel very old. I don’t want kids, I think maybe because I am afraid I would be like my mother, or like Christine in this instant. But as I gaze into her little face, looking now happily into mine, I get the feeling that she is very precious and I don’t think I could. I pull her into a hug and she hugs me back, even though she doesn’t remember me at all. I wasn’t that trusting when I was her age. I hated people touching me. I hated strangers.

“Have you been ice skating before?”

“It’s my first time!”

“Come on!” Christine yells. I hold her hand and lead her out of the room.

“You’ll come skating with me?”

“Of course I will.”

My desire for children is fleeting. Laura is a terrible ice skater. An hour later and I am behind her, holding her upper chest as her feet ineffectively slash at the ice.

“I hate this! I want my mom!” Laura cries.

“You’re not even trying,” I groan. Laura’s little friend, Keirsten, smiles at me sympathetically.

“Go and skate around. I’ll stay with her.” Keirsten bounds off gracefully to join the crowd streaming around us. Laura slumps in my arms and I look like I am hauling around a paraplegic in skates.

“I want to skate on my belly!” Laura declares.

“Fine.” I drop her and she sprawls on her back. She blinks up at me.

“Flip around and skate on your belly.”

People maneuver around us and I suddenly realize that they are wearing knives on their feet. I grab her up quickly.

“Move your feet like mine. Right, then left. Right, then left.”

A few hours later Laura is cute again and cuddled in my lap. We have watched Ice Age 2 twice, broken open a Hannah Montana board game only to have me put my foot down, played hide and seek in the dark (I got scared and we had to stop) and finished the night with a few games of horsey. I fall asleep to the X Games and wake up to Christine banging on the door. I stagger out and open the chain lock.

“Hey! Oh my God! I’m so sorry! That bitch would not cut me!” Christine carries two six packs of beer. “Can you stay for a drink?”

“I don’t think so. I’m really tired, I definitely wouldn’t be able to drive.” I also hate beer, but I’ll leave that out. Bad enough that I don’t eat meat. We make tentative plans for the next day and I’m on my way home.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Cami growls at anyone who comes near me when I'm sleeping. From her post beside me, with her head on my pillow, my german shephard/lab guards me faithfully. Even when my bestfriend lived with me and would crawl into bed for a late night chat, Cami would growl softly and look to me. There is something about me sleeping, about lying down in my bed that Cami senses is vulnerable. I am weak and so my dog is protective.

And we are so very weak when we sleep.

Our faces are slack, and so the way we set our jaw, narrow our eyes, all the non-verbal signs we give others as warning or invitation- all that is gone when we lay still for 8 hours.

If aliens or angels visited us, they must think us so odd. To be so busy, busy; teeming streets; speeding cars and throbbing malls and then stillness and silence. For half our life, half our day. We crawl onto cotton and leave our defenses to electronics or faith or pets.

Our skin is soft, clad in night clothes or nothing at all. Our sight is darkened, mind ruminating elsewhere, spinning and whirring and shelving memories and experiences of the day. Crud coats our eyes and scum creeps over our tongue and inaction dulls our muscles.

(And what terror, to be asleep in our beds when a stranger walks about our house. Someone {but no, not 'someone' a person, living, breathing, with stories and a past} broke into my home a few weeks ago. I was out of town and my room mate Doireanne was asleep in her bed. A sound woke her up; foreign footsteps and she called the police. Her mind must have been so groggy and terror sharpened her. They heard her voice and dove out the same window they crawled in through. And what separates a person who runs away from one who attacks?)

Sleep. Our heart beats deep and even.

But mine doesn't.

A few nights a week, (last week- every night) my heart wakes me up in the middle of the night, and again in the morning. Rapid, staccato beats that startle me with a gasp, or heavy, slow pounds that echo in my ears.

I open my eyes and sometimes Cami wakes up, too. She senses my fear and growls sleepily, sniffing the room. Sometimes she'll take a tour of the house and whine to be let outside. A lap around the house, a jaunt down the street, and she'll come back, looking at me reproachfully.

Cami's process will calm me down a bit, my heart will even out and I'll lie back in bed. 'What is wrong with you?' I ask my heart.

When Cami doesn't wake up, I open my eyes in the dark and pull the covers more tightly around me. Fear presses in around me. But criminals are not crawling through the kitchen, the intruder is myself. I don't know what to say to this heart of mine. 'You are loved, it's okay, it's okay' I repeat to it over and over again. I feel as though I am comforting a small child that has crawled into my bed, murmuring about nightmares and monsters. Or maybe I am trying to lull the monster itself to sleep. Fear is a slave master, exhausting and insatiable.

I think of God, of faith and trust and I show these things to my heart. "You are loved, you are loved,' I say over and over again until I fall asleep.

But then I wake up again and Cami is growling and I get out of bed so she can protect me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

monsters under the heart

My heart wakes me up a few nights a week- rapid, staccato beats that charge me with adrenaline and fear. Or the slow, heavy, rhythmic pounding that echoes in my ears.

God, I don't know what to do with this heart of mine. I don't know how to comfort it, how to speak to it. It's like a small child that runs into my room in the middle of the night, crying about monsters under the bed and nightmares.

"What's wrong with you?"
I ask it, and it shows me a picture book of horror; memories; faces; the darkened possibilities of the future: pure dread.

Time spreads out before me and I am immobilized, overcome- all the things I can't control, all the opportunities to hurt and be hurt.

I am painfully aware that other people exist.

That women are chained to beds and raped for mens pleasure, or chained to sewing machines for mine. God- how can it be that children cry under beds, and marriages dissolve, that it's so cold outside and there are human beings shivering on sidewalks, that I am me and they are them and what does that mean?

I am terrified of repeating mistakes, endless ground hog days of selfishness, and more than anything I am afraid of being afraid for the rest of my life, and I just want to be with you in heaven.

But saying I want to be in heaven is a nice Christian way of saying something much darker.

So instead I say 'you are loved, you are loved' over and over again, 'it's going to be okay,' the only picture book I can show my heart is you, God. I can only whisper to it about trust and faith, explain that some pain is good, and that I'll be more responsible with it in the future, I'll guard it better. Christ please help me protect my heart.

Perfect love casts out fear, and my anxiety is a hunger pain for You. It is a physical indicator that something is wrong.

Help me to trust that you have me, to know that fear is pointless, that Christ wills me to change the things that overwhelm me. Help me to treat my heart, my emotions with respect, to not relegate them to the red headed step child of my senses, help me to pay attention to my heart during the day, so it stops waking me crying in the night.

Fix my eyes, so I see redemption and beauty and hope, instead of despair and brokenness.

Things in the world should break my heart, but please keep it from breaking me.

God, you are strong, you are working and moving in this world, you love me, you love them, you love me....

Slowly, slowly, my heart is comforted and reminded, and we both go back to sleep.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Magda pulled the covers over her face. Jim was up, starting the systematic toiletry routine she had come to know over forty years of marriage.

The sounds: scrape, scrape, scrape of the tooth brush, spit, gargle, spit…silence…whisk, whisk of a razor…silence…the water would turn on for a brief second as he wet his comb, parted his thinning, fine hair to the side.

When they first married Magda would sit and watch him, entertained and awed that she was sharing her life with someone so different, a man that shaved, a man in general. Jim would check himself, make sure the shave was clean; his hair was in place, shirt tucked in and belt buckled.

Magda had friends who would complain of their husbands lounging around in their underwear all day. Jim was dressed within minutes of waking, ‘army training’ he always said lightly.

It made Magda feel lazy and unkempt, for forty years, wanting to stay in bed or go around in something comfortable. Jim had never said that, of course. He had liked to serve her breakfast in bed, or buy her nice robes. But he didn’t have to say it, she knew it was true.

There was a light knock on the door, and Jim opened it. The attendant wheeled in the coffee tray and Jim thanked him quietly. Magda felt the cruise ship dock, she swayed gently in bed.

The sounds of coffee. The gentle clink of the cup, the sound of liquid being poured, the ripping of a sugar packet, the spoon stirring gently.

She should be the one making or serving the coffee. Jim never said that, but she felt it. He worked hard, the wife should serve.

She had served their children, and now she just felt tired. Tired and disappointed and angry.

Magda sat up, and Jim set the coffee beside her on the bed, next to the picture frames.

A few years ago, when she turned 60, Magda had gotten sick and stayed sick for a long time. Not cancer like a lot of her friends, nothing that she could prove or get sympathy for, nothing her friends could call her a ‘fighter’ or a ‘survivor’ for.

Her sister had sent her a few books that year. Magda had never read much, she was always busy raising the children, or helping with Jim’s insurance company. She and Jim decided to hand the reins to their eldest, and ‘enjoy life’, they had said. So Jim learned carpentry, and she started to read. She read fiction and biography. She read the names her children had thrown around in their important college years. Names and books that when brought up, she had learned to nod wisely and look introspective, as though enjoying all the imagery and characters as they returned to her. But the books weighed her down. The tension, the expression, the mournful sentences and lives- it haunted her. Young people, she thought, could read a book and learn lessons, mimic it or avoid it, or assume their lives would be the plot to some existential piece of literature.

But she was old, and her life had been a very boring book. She felt cheated of murders and love affairs and travel. She didn’t want to have an affair, but felt silly for never even thinking about it. She didn’t want to have a bad marriage, or bad kids, or be poor, but felt cheated for never going through the experience. No one in her books seemed very happy, but that wasn’t the point. They had a reason to be unhappy. Magda didn’t have an excuse, other than she was lacking a good, solid reason to be so sad.

Anna Karenina had thrown herself in front of a train, Edna Pontellier swam into the ocean, Edna Michaelson just wanted to sleep.

She stopped reading, started fights with Jim, complained sharply to the children. ‘Empty nest syndrome’, her doctor said. But the children had been gone for a decade at that point. She hadn’t done anything with her life, and now she was old and useless.

When she started staying in bed, her friends speculated on the various possibilities. Cancer, lupus, alzheimers, all the diseases they discussed blithely, as though familiarity would ease the terror of death.

Magda was old and sad, and there was nothing exciting about it. Her friends realized it, and send her church pamphlets, information on yoga and college courses.

One day, she came home from her sisters, and the house was filled with picture frames. Jim had gone through all the old albums, and displayed all the important moments, births and birthdays and vacations.

‘A reminder,’ he said, in his soft, definitive way, ‘of all the better things.’

Magda knew what he had done, what he was trying to do. She cried in his arms for an hour and Jim told her he loved her, always loved her, would do anything to make her happy.

Magda left the picture frames up, but they made it worse. Now she not only had memories of a dull life, but paper and glass proof of it.

Jim brought the pictures on vacation, put them around their hotel rooms and cruise cabins. She would catch him gazing at them, and he had a proud, gentle look on his face.

Magda envied Jim’s war experience. It was his book, his story that was passionate and interesting. It was why Jim could be so consistent and dull- he always had the background and memories of blood and war. She didn’t chide him in his ways, he deserved to be content. But Magda had no comparisons.

“What would you like to do today?” Jim asked, opening the drapes.

Magda wanted to cry. “Something.” She said.

Jim nodded and picked up a piece of paper. He handed her the excursion list. “I was thinking maybe this one.”

He pointed to ‘parasailing.’ Magda almost choked on her coffee. She read the description of flying 80 feet over the ocean, pulled by a speed boat. It was ridiculous.

“Are you joking?” Magda asked. Jim shook his head.

“Why not?”

Magda nodded slowly.

“Okay. Let’s do that

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Ruthy wrapped her cardigan around her, the wind whipping everything on the breezeway. She leaned against the railing of the boat, shivering, sighing.

Ruthy saw the churning waters and the blue horizon, and suddenly realized she was alone. Her husband was in the casino, her kids running around somewhere on the top deck. She had nothing to do. It made her feel uneasy, a little sneaky. Like cutting class in high school with her cousin.

Something strange uncoiled inside her, and she felt something. Like catching a scent that ignites a memory. For a brief second Ruthy remembered the thrill of opening the cold steel door, the wind whipping her cheeks as she ran across the parking lot, the sickening dread and exhilaration.

And then it was gone and she couldn’t conjure it up again. Maybe it was the wind.

A woman about her age and size tottered by, struggling against the wind. Ruthy looked at the woman’s thick ankles, her broad shorts. Being fat only bothered her every once in awhile. Most of the women she knew were fat. But every once in awhile, when getting out of the shower, when passing a magazine cover, or a flock of high school girls, or the disinterested look her husband gave her when she was changing, something shameful and heavy would grow in her heart, making a slow crawl to her stomach. A vague unease that she had failed in something very important.

She shook her head.

The ocean stretched on and she wanted to think it was beautiful but could not. She wondered if they had put the passports in the safe.

The door opened and she turned. A young woman walked out and the wind caught her short blonde hair, her pink sundress. Ruthy was glad her husband wasn’t around.

The woman walked to the railing and leaned against it. She was very young, very beautiful. Ruthy felt ashamed of her frizzy red hair, faded jean capri’s, her breasts and belly.

The wind slid the woman’s dress up small, brown thighs, plastered the fabric against her. She didn’t bother to push it down, just looked at the horizon.

Ruthy looked away, then around, guiltily. An old couple sitting on a bench were staring as well. The man was entranced, his wife looked disgusted. She caught Ruthy’s eye and glared at her. Ruthy looked down at her crocs, maybe it was her imagination.

She looked down the other side of the breezeway, away from the woman. Several people leaned against the bar, enjoying the wind, the water. Every woman wants to be on a boat, the wind fluttering her hair, a beautiful man whispering in her ear. Ruthy saw old women, fat men, Bermuda shorts instead of cocktail gowns, wrinkles. A terrible thing, she thought suddenly, that movies are only about beautiful people.

Ruthy wondered, in a slow, stumbling way, what it would be like to be beautiful. She glanced again at the woman, amazed at the difference in their existence. Ruthy couldn’t imagine another life, couldn’t imagine wearing a little dress, having men stare when she walked into a room. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all. Her strange mood, the strange whim of feeling turned into an almost overwhelming despair.
The woman sighed, and Ruthy realized that she looked sad.

Ruthy’s despair turned to disgust. What did she have to be upset about?

The woman finally turned and glanced at Ruthy. She saw the expression on her face and flushed, pushing her dress down. Ruthy changed her expression, tried to smile.

“The wind is so strong out here.” She mumbled in a light Spanish accent, shoving away from the railing.

Once again the anger, the sadness, dissipated like the memory from high school. Ruthy shook her head again, clearing it of strange thoughts and moods. She didn’t like looking at the ocean, maybe she didn’t like cruises. Ruthy went to check on the children.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

smudged silver

It is 6:45 in the morning and I am singing in my car. Downtown Orlando looks clean and quiet, the sky is blue and pink, the air chilly. I have my windows down, blasting Billy Joels' "Big Shot". Billy Joel is like family, I've grown up under his melancholy and wit. When I was a little girl my father would take me into work with him, we would blast the radio and sing at the top of our lungs- those mornings the city looked angelic, pink and blue tinged sky scrapers. I thought heaven was Manhatten and the choir was Queen.

I park on one of the side streets for Lake Eola, our large, man made lake in the middle of downtown. A few months ago the fountain broke and some of the downtown socialities have been trying to raise money to get it fixed, but everyone has more important things to do. The water is smooth like glass, uninterrupted except for the metal structure of the fountain which has now been reduced to a vogue art piece.

For some reason there is a large, red Chinese pagoda beside the lake. I have no idea why. But I dig it.

Tom, my friend and pastor, is sitting on a bench inside the pagoda, looking like a norseman but shivering, which I am not sure they ever did.

We are meeting together for prayer and scripture reading. When I told my best friend Jenn that I was going at seven in the morning, she laughed at me. Understandable, if I had not woken up at 5:30, I'd probably still be snuggling in bed.

A few others filter in and Rubymel opens us up in prayer. Rubymel is one of the prettiest girls I've ever met; petite, with honey carmel hair, creamy deep tan skin and a huge smile. She has a dozen or two sisters that are all equally gorgeous and I have never met their father but I bet he has premature white hair and a few shotguns. Poor guy.

Rubymel speaks about sanctification- about letting go of the things that hinder us spiritually. We read a few verses and on the matter, and she ends with Malachi 3:3.

::He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver::

"There was a woman in the church," Rubymel says, "and she didn't understand this verse, so she went to an actual silver smith. She didn't say anything, just watched him. He took the silver and put it on an iron, then held it over an exact point of the fire. When she asked him about that, he said that the silver had to be over the hottest point of the fire, so that any impurities in the silver would be burned away completely. Then she asked him when he knew it was done. He told her it was done when he could see his reflection in the silver."

Rubymel said a bit more after that but my mind flew away. I don't think alot of people want to look like God. I think they want other people to think that they want to look like God. They want to say in church and prayer that they want to look like God, but nobody really wants to change how they live. And when I say other people, most of the time I mean 'me'.

The purification process is painful, slow and grinding. There is so much dirt we have accumulated through the years, so many things to be burned away. But it seems all of life is the avoidance of pain- the avoidance of difficult conversations or choosing the better over the easier. No wonder Christ terrifies me. No wonder Christians who never understand the severity of the gospel drown in cheap grace and boredom. And those that do understand that Christianity demands everything, can walk away. At any time we can climb out of the furnace, tell God that we are no longer interested in doing business with him, and be on our way.

But the knowledge that haunts me is this: even If I choose to not be purified by Christ, I will be burned by something. Climbing out of Christ's fire just means going into someone elses. I can take the poker from God and give it to my job; boyfriend; church or fashion. We are going to worship something or someone. We are going to allow situations and people to change us, meld us to something better; worse; different. There is no avoidance of suffering- we can numb ourselves through drugs and lust, church service and alchohol, shopping, we can try to bury ourselves in someone elses heart- and in all these things we are melted and burned and changed.

I am jilted back into reality by the group breaking up to discuss what we are learning. Tom turns to me and I am immediately zoned in. Somewhere in proverbs it says something about wisdom from a wise man being a gift, and I feel gifted by Tom's words.

He begins to tell me how encouraged he is by reading the Gregory Boyd book 'The Myth of a Christian Religion'. In the book, Boyd discusses the story of the widow who gave two coins for the tithe, and how Christ commended her for it. The widow gave out of her poverty- against common sense, whereas the religious elders gave out of extreme wealth, probably not even noticing the amount of feeling the sting. Tom goes on to say that from this story and Christ's joyous reaction to it, that perhaps the only worship or offering that Christ truly accepts is one that costs us something.

It's easy for me to be a Christian when it is already convenient to my presupposed plans. My Christianity consists of reading books- but what do I do out of my poverty? Bonhoeffer wrote something in 'The Cost of Discipleship" that made my head spin, 'those who believe, obey.' Yeah, we get that part. If you believe the ideas of Christianity, then it would be logical for you to obey them. But then he goes on to say 'those who obey, believe.'

Well. That's interesting- but it makes sense. Christianity is not something that can just be thought about- it must be acted out, and in the very action of serving, reading, meditating, praying, it would make sense for the spirit (if there is one) to grow larger by those praxis and for faith to appear.

Football: you can plan and think and plot all day, but how do you know you love the game if you don't actually do it?

I don't want to be smudged silver, I don't want to be a reaction to what other people have done. And that means sitting in the fire. Lately, the fire has been burning away the idea that Christianity can be reduced to abstraction, kept in the realm of moral ambiguity that never has to produce obedience or action. I have little faith in people's words these days- mine or others. Logical or impassioned speeches no longer elicit the hope in me they once did. I am starting to look at how people live their lives, instead of the repetitive conversations they have- and it is a startling experience. I am starting to look at the way I live my life- and that is a startling experience.

Words from Oswald Chambers that have made themselves at home in the forefront of my mind:

"If, as I recall what God remembers about me, I find he is not what He used to be to me, let it produce shame and humiliation, because that shame will bring the godly sorrow that works repentance."

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.
romans 5:2-4

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The Owl represents wisdom and death.

The black and white symbolizes logic, the color represents emotion.

I am dying and coming alive/logical and emotional/learning from my mistakes.