Making People Feel Shitty… Valid Easter Evangelism Technique???

For Easter, I decided to go to a HUGE thing that a church I’ve never been to puts on. Evidently, it’s a yearly thing for Calvary Chapel Tucson to take over the Tucson Convention Center on Easter. They also fly in a band and do the whole thing up pretty fantastically.

So, there were the Newsboys, who I should evidently know, but I didn’t. And evidently the lead singer is actually from DC Talk, who I only know because of a book I read that they sponsored. And the lead singer was pretty spectacular because he was unashamedly enthusiastic. Also, he asked everybody for a Hallelujah and an Amen… then  said, “That’s how we do it in the chocolate church.” I’ve since learned that that’s a thing he’s pretty fond of saying. Still, it made me smile.

And through the whole thing, I was pretty jazzed because the convention center was packed – significantly more so than I’ve ever seen it. You might be thinking, “Well, she’s probably only been to one or two things there.” Actually, when I was a softball superstar, I had to work the concession stands to fund raise for my travels and whatnot. So I was there for WWE (although it  was still WCW at the time) and it wasn’t nearly as full as it was for the Resurrection Celebration.

Sermon was pretty standard. Which I like. Easter is one of those days throughout the year when everybody goes to church regardless of whether they believe or not.

Which is what I was thinking about when it happened.

Let’s back up.

Easter morning, I woke up and did not want to get up. I’d thrown a baby shower the afternoon/evening before, so my hair had been straightened and gelled, so I certainly wasn’t going to shower and wash it all out. And I’d worn a dress the day before, and received various compliments on my beauty… so I didn’t feel the need to wear a dress. Instead, I got up and put on an Easter-colored shirt, cardigan and Walmart jean shorts. I thought about wearing long pants, but Tucson is already pretty hot and I didn’t want to be in the middle of a packed arena, sweating through the sermon.

Evidently, that means I’m immodest.

Culturally, Tucson is the sort of place where you should really expect to see some flesh. I don’t say this to suggest that we throw modesty out the window (which some folks do) but I do say it because it’s the desert.

So there I am, all enthused because I’ve just been to a large Christian event that I actually liked, and there’s a dude standing outside waiting for us, holding a sign that says we’re all going to Hell.

I was pondering the oddity of the choice to stand outside a church service that would likely be attended by all manner of believer and non-… when he singled me out, yelling that my shorts were too short.

At the time, I gave him a thumbs up and said something like, “Great.” Steve was madder than I was. Now, I can’t stop being pissed at the guy – not even for what he said to me. I’ve made it past the decade mark in my faith, so while I’m not invincible, I am well-established, and his JA remark didn’t shake my faith in God so much as it pissed me off at Christians. Which, by the way, is one of the WORST thing that can probably happen to a non-believer.

Why do Christians spend so much time trying to make other people feel shitty?

That’s all he was doing.

He wasn’t truly trying to teach people about Jesus. His sign didn’t even mention Jesus in spite of the date on the calendar. What he yelled at me was pharisee-esque and not intended to edify me, him or anyone around us. He wasn’t trying to glorify God or help me. I think his goal was actually to make me feel shitty about myself.

But really, I just feel shitty about religion and that particular dude. I feel disappointed that I can’t honestly tell non-believers that they’ll like going to church or that they’ll be welcomed in. I’m not sure I actually enjoy going to church or feel welcomed in, and I’ve been a part of the church for 12 years now.

Really, dude?

You couldn’t have said something about how Jesus overcame death? You couldn’t have sung about how Christ has risen from the dead? I know a song or two that seems pretty appropriate for Easter. You couldn’t even have stayed home and worshiped Jesus from your closet where you wouldn’t turn people off to Christianity?

I know that everyone reading this knows that guy was a Westboro wannabe loon. But I’m still pretty disappointed that anyone made it his goal on Easter to make another person feel shitty…. especially when she took the time to get up when she could have slept in, fight the traffic when she could have been drinking coffee and reading the paper, put on an Easter-colored shirt and cardigan, and sit amongst sweaty people in long pants (because they haven’t yet submitted to the heat).

Lesson of this year: Don’t try to make people feel shitty at church.

And yes, I’m a Christian who just used profanity and wears moderately short shorts to church. Both seemed pretty appropriate to me.

Lyrics I’m Lovin’ Rush of Fools “Undo”

*Years ago, I was gifted a laptop that belonged to someone else. I wasn’t particularly into music at the time, and didn’t even have iTunes, so I didn’t notice the 4,000 ish songs that were on that laptop. I’ve recently made it my mission to listen to all of those songs. Among them was this gem:

Rush of Fools

I’ve been here before
Now, here I am again
Standing at the door
Praying You’ll let me back in

To label me
A prodigal would be
Only scratching the surface
Of who I’ve been known to be

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I’ve become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can’t do this myself
You’re the only one
Who can undo what I’ve become

I focused on the score
But I could never win
Trying to ignore
A life of hiding my sin

To label me
A hypocrite would be
Only scratching the surface
Of who I’ve been known to be

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I’ve become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can’t do this myself
You’re the only one
Who can undo what I’ve become

Make every step lead me back to
The sovereign way that You

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I’ve become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can’t do this myself
You’re the only one who can undo
You are the only one who can undo
You’re the only one who can undo
What I’ve become

And Then There Were None

The ending of The Crossing (the church that taught me the most) was, and continues to be, an ache for me. Yesterday, I received news that the last of us still attending Revolution (big church we merged with) is going to  be leaving it behind after this Sunday.

Since the Crossing, I’ve floated a bit. I tried the big church for a few months, but the chances that a girl like me would fit in a place like that were slim-to-none. I tried the one some other Crossing members ended up attending and that other one with the pancakes. I even committed a few years to a newish church plant that has the families with the kids, the small-talk, the rehearsed answers to bible study questions… and I wasn’t much of a fit there either. The traditional folks there (and at most of the other churches I tried) were nice enough, but they seemed to view my un-churched honesty, loves of ComiCon and wine, and aversions to scrap booking and Pinterest as alternative. I’ve never viewed myself that way, probably because I wasn’t raised in the church and therefore wasn’t en-culturated into church ways enough to know that there are quite a few norms I ignore.

I bring this up because it’s a miracle that I didn’t realize how alternative I am until after ten-plus years in the church.

I think that’s why The Crossing was such a thing for me.

It was alternative, so I was able to be myself in the church. I miss that. And I’m not sure I’d still be in the church if I hadn’t had that for such a long time. Lots of people probably attend church because there’s a structure and predictability in folks’ dress, talk, behavior… that allows for fitting in. All a girl has to do is copy the lady next to her, and she’s in, which is comforting. It’s nice for a girl to know what’s expected and to have a confidence she’s meeting those expectations.

But I’m different.

I’m the type who couldn’t do the same stretches as everybody else on my team even though the cost of my individuality was conflict and getting kicked out of team meetings about team unity. And it honestly wasn’t rebellion or hatred that fueled my individuality… it was practicality. There were stretches that I needed to do that weren’t being done and others that were wasting my time. I wanted to be ready for our games and I had no intention of doing the same thing everybody else was doing, for the sake of being the same.

I’m still that way. For Example: my singing is often more God-centered when I’m sitting than when I’m standing. So sometimes they stand up and I stay seated.

I miss not being aware of that difference and the other differences. At the Crossing, everybody really did whatever they needed to do. And I didn’t think about whether I should stand up so as not to stand out. But now I think about it. And I get concerned that the connections between individuals are weakened when our differences are at the forefront, overshadowing God. When I’m aware of how alternative I am.

In spite of my differences, when I think about the merger and the end of my favorite church, I consider that I came out of it pretty okay. I still attend church with some of the crossing core, and I can’t think of a friendship that’s  much lessened nowadays. And there was that one marriage that came out of the merger, so I understand all of the theologizing about how it was God’s plan… but I don’t like the hush hush about it. I sometimes catch us putting on our church personas, saying what we’re supposed to think rather than what we really think. I’m not sure that such falsity even really protects anyone’s feelings because we all know we aren’t being honest.

So… when he told us it was his last Sunday, I said that I was sad; he was my last hope that it wasn’t 1945′s And Then There Were None (Little-known film based on an Agatha Christie book about ten people invited to an island only to be killed-off one by one).

Of course, he was all logical and theological about it, and I would have been too, but the sovereignty of God isn’t a salve for a broken heart, though we try to make it that.

And I’m not ashamed that a matter-of-fact, doctrinally sound explanation of God’s plans rarely comforts me.

Nor am I ashamed that I’m sad.

Or that I wanted to see someone stick it out.

I certainly couldn’t have done it, so I don’t blame him for leaving. But I did delude myself a bit into believing that one lifer would make the whole thing more worthwhile.

But it comes to an end, and then there were none. And life goes on.

The Shame Cycle

Running sucks. I do not have the attributes that I attribute the being  a runner. My feet always hurt. My fat doesn’t ever quite go away. And I’m tortoise slow.

And yet, I run.

I’ve now completed my 5th Ragnar Relay, which probably means that I am a runner. I’ve run something like 7 half marathons and even bought some Vibraim 5-finger shoes, so whatever is required for runner credentials… I’m probably there. I  will probably run a full marathon at some point in my life, though I have no intention of doing it any time soon.

I tell you this, not to brag, but rather because running is this thing. And Ragnar this weekend was also a thing. And I’m probably too lazy to actually edit this post, but I’m going to try to tell you about how running and my life are going right now, how the one is relevant to the other, and what God has been teaching me.

Sometimes I feel pissed/disappointed at God. It’s not that I ever really think He’s done anything wrong, but I get messed up in the heart when things suck for a bit too long, which is partly my fault and partly a limitation of my humanity.

I’ve been pretty pissed/disappointed at God for a few years because life has been drab and difficult. I’ve also had a chronically  rather low opinion of myself  that I’m beginning to believe is inaccurate and contrary to the gospel (if not out-right sinful).

Probably about ten years ago, I started to lose confidence in my ability to make decisions. During my entire life, I really only believe I’ve made something like three note-worthy bad decisions. I’m not saying that my other decisions were all good, but they were bad in sort of common and universal ways – the sorts of mistakes that are nearly unavoidable because they occur before brain and person have developed the capacity to know better. I think most people probably have a much higher regret count than I have, and yet, I’ve slowly come to think of myself as a poor decision-maker. I didn’t even realize how I was thinking about myself until a week (ish) ago.

Part of the losing confidence came about because I made my first bad decision; part of it floated from the others’ mouths into my head; part is uncontrollable circumstances that I blamed myself for… and on and on and on… all of those things slowly chipping away so that I lost that sense of everything-is-fine and replaced it with he/she/it/they-will-all-come-crashing-down-on-my-head-if-I-choose-wrong. :-(

So then, I started getting pissed at people who expressed negative opinions about what I was doing – and I do stress the word opinions. I’m pretty decent about letting people correct me on faults that the Bible categorizes as sin or foolishness. However, people, I’ve discovered, express negative opinions that are arbitrary ALL THE TIME. And some people express those opinions as if they are biblical, which is really messed up. When that happens, I start thinking I should study my bible and I sometimes feel guilty even if I can’t find anything in the bible to support what that person has said.

Then, I don’t want to hang out with the negative opinion-holder ever again.

Then, I don’t feel confident doing anything. Even with people who only correct me when they are correct.

Example of Negative Nancy comments that mess with my head: “I just don’t get why you choose to go to bed when you could do something social. Given the option between something solitary and task-oriented vs. something that’s about relationships, I always choose the relationships.”

Now, the problem with this comment is that it implies I am selfish and unloving. Both of which are fleshly and sinful. So… if I were more like the Energizer Bunny, it might be sinful for me to go off into my room and spend 9 hours alone. Because I would be choosing something unnecessary over others. So then I start thinking. I can probably do okay with less sleep. 7 hours ought to be enough. But then, some time goes by and I’m trying to grow more in selflessness, so I’m sleeping 4 hours a night and getting even more stupid about my theology of sleep with each brain cell that dies from lack of REM cycle.

All of this is to say that it’s not hard to go from believing I’m a strong decision-maker with tons of common sense to asking Ashly to order my drinks because I can’t choose for myself (No, Ashly – this does not mean you get to stop choosing my drinks for me. Ever.).

So… good choice of 5 ish years ago… I’m not going to listen to anyone who makes weighted comments like that one. I have quite a few blessings of friends in my life who will tell it like it is, especially if I’m unbiblical. They don’t, however, pick at personality things that oughtn’t to be picked at.

Good choice Friday morning… (here’s where the Ragnar stuff comes in)… Running my first leg of the race… 6.something miles… past Angel Stadium… Listening to sermon (Matt Chandler, The Village, more than a year ago)…

Sermon is about self abuse, and the difference between shame and guilt.

Shame is felt when a person does not live up to his/her own standard.

Guilt is when a person does not live up to God’s standard.

Shame can be felt by the innocent and sometimes isn’t felt by the guilty.

Example: I feel shame when I don’t shave my legs. That’s a standard I’ve set for myself, but God probably doesn’t feel disappointed in me when I don’t shave.

Another example: with the running, I really don’t push myself. I’ve been running 10:30 – 11:00 min. miles, when I’m fully capable of getting sub-10:00 min if I try. I just don’t try. And people pass me (in Ragnar lingo, they kill me). Again, even though I’m not guilty on that one, I feel shame.

Another example: I don’t like to listen to music while I run. I wish I did, because it’s normal, but, realistically, I’m happier listening to a sermon or nothing at all. It’s pretty rare that I want music. I like music BEFORE I run… which probably has something to do with softball Katie who could prep for games with loud music, but couldn’t very-well pitch with headphones in. Shame – for not being normal with the music, but no guilt.

So… Life goal: No shame, but appropriate guilt.

I believe it’s a noble pursuit to seek to know the difference between sin and self-inflicted laws. I believe I should stop shaming myself for what I eat, how many books I read, how many words I write, how often I don’t check my phone or email, and how infrequently I shave my legs. Shaming myself doesn’t make me any more likely to live up to my self-inflicted standards anyway, so it’s probably better to stop hating myself. To admit that I am good at things. In fact, God made me that way. He made me to reflect Him, as I am His image.

Problem: I just gave myself a new way to shame myself… Bad Katie! Did you just shame yourself yet again? You should be ashamed.

There’s no winning with me. Oh, well. Que sera sera!


The Obligatory Phoenix Post

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been to Phoenix… okay that isn’t entirely true, because I ran Ragnar here just a little over a month ago. Still, it’s been nearly a year since I stopped and “did” Phoenix, which is much too long to go without seeing the Johnsons and relaxing in the way that only Phoenix and its inhabitants can get me to relax. I suspect that if I lived here, it wouldn’t be quite the same, but there’s a time -slowing-down thing and an “Oh, right – that’s who I am!” thing that both happen when I’m here. Maybe it’s the solitude and quiet I get on the drive up, or the fact that I haven’t been to Starbucks much at all this year (except for the two times I’ve been this weekend) and I’ve forgotten what it feels like to just sit in a public place without putting pressure on myself.

Since I was here last, I’ve struggled a bit more than it probably looked like I struggled (to you and to the folks who see me on a daily basis).  I often forget that no one knows all of the thoughts in my head and I get frustrated when I have to explain them (because it’s all so obvious to me and I expect that everyone in my life is at least half Betazoid). As I look back over the time since I was last here, from the outside, all that’s visible is the races I’ve run, the books I’ve read, the working I’m always doing, the ducks I adopted, the writing I’ve written, etc… Realistically, I’m constantly considering quitting my job, and I’d give just about anything to get out of the country. I’ve stopped going to Starbucks – almost cold-turkey – and although I have the perfect setup at home for making Caramel lattes, I’m much less caffeinated than I was the case a year or so ago, only really enjoying a nice cup o’ joe once a week or so. I also stopped sleeping with my phone in my room anymore, started going to a weekly yoga class and I’m even thinking about getting a bicycle so that I no longer have to drive my car. Generally speaking, all of these small changes indicate how much, “I miss Mayberry, sitting on the the porch drinking ice cold cherry Coke…” But I suspect I’ll grow progressively more like this with each year that I age, and before you know it I’ll be telling stories about how I used to walk to school 4 miles in the snow – uphill both ways… in the desert?

I was considering skipping Phoenix Comicon this year, because it’s gotten MUCH too popular and I hate crowds just a bit. However, after this 24 hours, I’m convinced that I need to get up here, if only just to remember who I am and to accept that I like driving 2 over the speed limit even though everyone else drives more like 12 over. Also, I like arriving and secretly wandering alone downtown, peaking into BOB (Bank One Ballpark) regardless of the fact that it has been renamed to be Chase Stadium. And, okay, I get that I’m probably about to be scolded for wandering alone, but there are very few things as awesome as wandering, and it doesn’t feel as much like wandering if there are others with me… or even if others know where I am. Also, I need Dave and Lisa. It always mystifies me that I do, because they’re much more perfect than I ever feel, so I usually expect not to fit in, but in one of the few times when I enjoy expectations not meeting reality, I usually fit just fine. And I often feel a bit more perfect myself when I leave… not in the sense that I’m actually perfect, but in the sense that I feel a bit more Mayberry. The hustle-bustle doesn’t feel as all-consuming, and I don’t feel as betrayed by life or God when things don’t work out like they ought to.

These Disturbing Times

I recently subscribed to the NY Times – mostly because I wanted to know if we’re going to war with Russia and where the hell that damn airplane is. And honestly, I just don’t do a very good job of keeping up with the news. I’m a dumb-phone-owning, too-cheap-for-TV, internet-avoiding sort of girl, so the most news I’m usually aware of is what I hear on the radio during my 5-minute drive to work and has to do with Justin Bieber’s most recent arrests and the crazy chick who managed to sneak into his bedroom. Thus, I’ve made it my recent mission to read all of the Sunday features in the Times (I had to revise my original goal, because it’s nearly-impossible to read the entire paper cover-to-cover).

So, okay, I’m reading today’s features, and I come across an article that I really think I might want to skip for the sake of time, but I decided to at least start reading and see where it took me. The headline:

“Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows As Playthings, but These Shoot”

Accompanying the headline is a picture of a nine-year-old girl in a pink shirt, shooting a toy bow. The article basically covers changes in the toy industry, attributed to recent films with B.A. babes and the resulting increase in demand for little girl weaponry.

The article cites Katniss (HUNGER GAMES), Merida (BRAVE), Black Widow (THE AVENGERS), and Tris (DIVERGENT) as the primary causes of this shift. Although I haven’t seen THE AVENGERS, I’m familiar with all of those ladies and their stories, and found the entire article a bit disturbing. The youngest bow-owning little girl mentioned in the article is three years old. And, okay, let’s assume that she just wanted the bow and arrow because it seemed fun. The majority of the girls interviewed are eight and nine. So my question is this – why the hell have girls that young been exposed to THE HUNGER GAMES?!

Merida? Okay. I’ll give you that one. She really doesn’t shoot at people, so, although BRAVE had its terrifying moments, it’s a movie that’s probably appropriate for most eight and nine-year-olds. But HUNGER GAMES?!

First of all, I don’t give a damn that the University of Michigan counseling psychology teacher thinks such toys are okay because they are “letting girls know that their aggressive impulses are acceptable and they should be able to play them out.” Not only do I vehemently disagree with that statement but I find it slightly surreal and comical that a mental health professional would say such a thing in today’s climate of terrorism and school shootings. I was raised in a household where it was drilled into us that “guns are not toys.” My father taught us that lesson with a fervor and consistency unequaled by any other he taught my sister and me, so I’m not particularly at ease with turning weapons into play-things, and as a public school educator, I don’t really want my students thinking their “aggressive impulses are acceptable” and I certainly don’t want my students playing out those impulses.

More importantly than my personal opinions about children’s toys, though, is the hypocrisy in taking a story like the HUNGER GAMES, patenting it, sterilizing it, and entertaining our children with it. Katniss is a character who would have been disgusted to see anyone misunderstanding and glorifying her for killing. Katniss frequently commented on the foolishness of the Capitol and her hatred of many of them because they didn’t understand what the Hunger Games really were. And now, we’re exposing our kids to a story that they are too young to fully comprehend, and we’re making a game out of it? Sure, Katniss is a fictional character and people can ultimately do what they want to do without offending her… but isn’t the point of fiction to reveal truth? The truth of HUNGER GAMES is that people lose sight of what’s important and real because they have too much wealth, entertainment, fashion, etc… to keep them distracted. Well, I guess as long as we put a little bit of pink on the weaponry, our children’s aggression won’t be true aggression, or at least we’ll be too distracted by the glitter and glam to notice they’re shooting each other.