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loose ends.

8 Oct

Around the time I gave up Facebook, things got a little crazy.  That’s not what this is about.  What this is about is typing up the loose ends.  There are a few subjects that I wrote about the week of and then never followed up on.  So, without further adieu…

Quitting Facebook: I thought that quitting Facebook would be difficult.  Not because I’m hooked on technology, but because I’m all about people and Facebook is a way of keeping up with said people.  I’m probably the only person that actually looks at all of the pictures from your trip to Spain last month.  I want to know what’s going on in your life and unlike the majority of Facebook-ers who are passively perusing your Facebook pages because it’s easier than verbal communication, for me it’s just more fuel for the face-to-face conversations.  So what I missed, if I missed anything, was knowing the little details people put up on their Facebooks.  But when it was all said and done– I didn’t miss it.

Sex Offender: Following writing a letter to a registered sex offender (here and here and here), I wanted more.  I contacted OASIS, the organization that I originally spoke to about sexual assault.  They have a 24-hour crisis line that they use volunteers for.  Anyone can call in– victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, children, people with questions, friend and family of people affected by any of these issues… etc.  OASIS was having a weekend-long session, teaching people about sexual assault and domestic violence and how to effectively handle situations that deal with both.

It was HEAVY.

Something that still weighs on my heart is the lack of support out there for people that struggle with those urges/act on them.  There are resources, websites, shelters, support groups…  all available for the victims/survivors.  But for those people that struggle with those thoughts and those urges and who eventually act on them and even for the people that don’t act on them…  there’s nothing.  There’s NOTHING.

That bothers me.

We have books for people that are bad with money or who covet it.  Therapists for people who don’t love themselves/make themselves throw up/don’t let themselves eat/cut their arms with razors.  Substance abuse problems?– there are programs specifically for you.  Into porn?– that one’s a popular outreach these days.  Prone to punching your wife?  Into the thrill you feel when she says no?…  sorry.  Nothing we can do.

That bothers me.

Why do Christians pick and choose who deserves our love?  our help?  our forgiveness?  our Lord?

(More on this later, maybe.)

Death Row: I wrote a letter to a woman on death row.  It was different from the letter I wrote to a registered sex offender, because there was no hiding the fact that I knew what she had done.  She knew why I was writing her.  I was writing her a letter in prison, after all.  It was also different, in that it wasn’t anonymous.  Part of the reason my letter to the sex offender was anonymous were for the obvious precautionary reasons.  But more than that, I didn’t want it to be a source of anything but encouragement.  I didn’t know what this particular person’s hangups were, what they struggle with, what a letter of encouragement from a woman [their age that they could easily see a picture of on Facebook] would do.  I wanted this letter to be different.  I wanted to be a name; to be a specific person that cares about this particular woman.

I wrote a letter to a woman that I was able to Google and, with a few clicks, learn the details of her story.  Convicted of a crime she committed when she was too young to drink, this woman succumbed to the pressures of finding something to belong to and killed two people in a gang-initiation.  My heart broke for her because I can relate to those feelings.  Oh, can I relate to those feelings.  I can understand that pressure.  I can understand wanting to belong.

Fear often drives us to act out of desperation.*

I haven’t heard back from her yet.  I don’t know if I will.  I think I may, but it’s already been several weeks.  Even if I don’t, the letter I wrote her could not have been much more divinely-inspired than it was.  I don’t need a response to know that it contained the words God wanted  her to hear.

*It’s an easy response to say that a lot of trouble would be saved if we would just find ourselves in God.  Sometimes** the easy responses are the correct responses.

**More on how most responses come too easily for me later.

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that’s not me.

31 Aug

I have been struggling with something lately.

I have been struggling with this blog.  Not with the ideas behind it, nor with completing anything off the list.  It’s more of an attention thing.  It makes me uncomfortable to be praised for the things that I’ve experienced in writing this blog.  I never really considered that would be a potential outcome.  Honestly, I figured most people would write me off.  I was unprepared for the heaps and heaps of positive response.

First, THANK YOU.

But second, instead of praising my efforts, consider taking on your own challenge off the 50 ways list.  If there is one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that you just need a little push.  I know I did.

(Warning:  What you are about to read is going to first not relate to anything I’m talking about AT ALL and then, once you get past that, it will show you a few of the strokes of paint on my completely black canvas.)

I’m claustrophobic.  I’m literally claustrophobic, in that if you hold me too tight or stand too close or lock me in an empty ice making machine (long story)– I.  WILL.  LOSE.  IT.  I’m also mentally claustrophobic, in that as a teenager, I felt like the small town I grew up in was a cage.  So, instead of going to a state school like a lot of my friends did, I decided to move to Chicago and go to school in the city.

Moving to Chicago brought me toe-to-toe with a topic I had never really encountered before: homelessness.  Aside from a brief stint working in the projects of New Orleans, I had never really encountered homelessness.  Chicago was a much grittier world than I was accustomed to.

At first I wanted to help everyone.

“Do you have any change?”
“YES, YES, here, take all the change I’ve got.”

Next, I grew wary (and weary) and justified not caring anymore by the fact that obviously they were just going to use the money on booze or drugs.

“Do you have any change?”

“No.”

Eventually I just pretended they didn’t exist.

I pretended a human being didn’t exist.

I think I was proud of this.  Friends would come to visit and I’d say, “Oh, you’ll get used to it.  Just ignore them.”

You’ll get used to pretending a HUMAN BEING doesn’t exist.

That is the person I am capable of being.  That is the heart I am capable of having.

Last weekend I was in Boston and a man asked me if I had any change so that he could get a cup of coffee.  I said, “No, I’m so sorry, I don’t.”  I didn’t.  I wished I did.  I felt like…  you know how in those Road Runner cartoons there’s always a huge metal anvil that drops out of the sky and crushes the coyote?  Yeah– I felt like that.

I could not just ignore the fact that he existed.

I asked him his name.  “I don’t have any change but I would love to buy you a cup of coffee, James.  Where can we go for some good coffee?”

I know the person I am capable of being.  I know the heart I am capable of having.

The love that freely flows through me, the heart that has been placed inside of me– that’s not me. I know this, because I know the things that once came so so easily to me.  I know this because I know what I am capable of.  I know this because I’m constantly reminded of what He is capable of.

the [lack of] christian response to sexual predators.

29 Jul

While Google-ing the term “sexual assault”, I found numerous websites with definitions, statistics, how to determine if you were sexually assaulted, help for victims of sexual assault, and coalitions against sexual assault.  When I searched “sexual assault + Christianity” I found forums for survivors of sexual assault, news articles about Christian leaders that sexually assaulted an individual, and counseling services that promote that they help people find “restoration, truth and wholeness from child abuse, domestic violence, spiritual abuse, and sexual abuse.”  Never once did those broad searches offer support for predators or even something so simple as:  “God still loves you.  God always loves you.  YES, you.”*

The Christian community is quick to embrace alcoholics and drug addicts and proud people and any other acceptable form of sin, perhaps because those are things most all of us have openly and admittedly participated in.  It’s almost a badge of honor in a Christian’s life to be able to say, “I fell away from God…  I got drunk by 5pm/shot heroin to numb the pain/think I’m better than you.”  (Kudos to anyone who leaves behind a life of sin.)  But what about the sinners with the sins we’re not so willing to embrace?  “I’ve fallen away from God…  I masturbate to porn for up to five hours a day/act upon sexual fantasies about someone of the same gender/really think I have a special relationship with the six-year-old I regularly molest/like the feeling of power I get when she says no.”

We were never told to choose who gets to be loved by God; we were simply told that He loves.  We were never told to choose who we love; we were simply told to love.  We were never told to choose who gets to be forgiven by God; we were simply told that He forgives.

*  There are websites like that.  A couple of my favorites:  XXXchurch and The Strip Church.

real hunger.

25 Jul

So I didn’t really eat for a week.  I mean, I ate a bowl of rice a day.  A bowl of bland, unseasoned, unsalted, unbuttered brown rice.  I didn’t always finish that entire bowl of rice though, even in the deepest of hungers.  It tasted like cardboard.  Sometimes it got stuck going down.  I drank water and I ate rice.  I was hungrier than I knew I could be.  I gained a little perspective.

Just a little perspective.  I starved myself within a very controlled environment and I gained a little perspective.  I had a bed to sleep in.  I drank glass after glass of filtered water to help keep my hunger at bay.  I took vitamins each morning.  I didn’t have to walk to work; I drove.  I sat in my air conditioned office where the most “manual” my labor got was a 40 minute phone call with a woman who had a lot to say.  I got a headache so I took medicine.  If I wanted food, I could have bought food.  If I couldn’t afford food, my friends wouldn’t have let me go unfed.  I gained a little perspective.

More later, probably, as it comes in.

a bowl of rice a day pt. 2

22 Jul

It isn’t very difficult to go a day without eating– we have all done it.  Most people don’t enjoy the feeling of hunger, but a day without eating anything but a bowl of rice is an inconvenience, at most.  Sometimes you don’t even notice the hunger; it’s that dull.  You notice the hunger after your second day of insufficient nutrients.  You’re hungry.  You find yourself thinking about it throughout the day.  It becomes more and more difficult to concentrate.  By day three, food consumes your thoughts.  You’re HUNGRY.  It’s all you can think about.  You start resenting people who eat.  On day four you throw up.  (Well, I did.)

People say that they hunger for God; that they thirst for Him.  Right.  Raise your hand if you’ve thought about God half as often as I’ve thought about food this week.  I know mine’s not up.