My tongue is in my hand…

Archive for the ‘materialism’ Category

So, I’ve seen this  link passed around, where a doctor states that our problem as a country is not that we need health care reform, but that we have a culture crisis of people that think “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me”. He then follows that up with “life is really not that hard”. That line in and of itself reveals a good bit about the person behind this. Anyone who has the naivete to say this should not be patted on the back for spouting off his short sighted opinions. Not to mention there are plenty of explanations as to why someone on Medicaid has a cell phone (with, god forbid, an R&B ring tone) or new tennis shoes but can not afford their own health insurance.

First of all, a cell phone is no longer a luxury (and a ring tone is like $2.99, and who knows, maybe that song keeps the person’s spirits up, all for $2.99). Many people only have cell phones and do not have home phones. If you expect someone to orchestrate getting a job, childcare, and schooling, they need a phone to do so. Especially if they don’t have a car. Tennis shoes are also not a luxury. You have absolutely no idea what someone spent on their shoes, or if they were a gift. Nevertheless, shoes are a one time expense. Health insurance is expensive on a monthly basis (my cheap plan through work is 150$ a month for my daughter and I, without vision coverage), and not all jobs offer it, especially if you are working 2 part time jobs because neither company wants to pay benefits. Or if you make minimum wage ($7.25/hr) and live below the poverty line raising children and can’t afford to have it taken out of your measly check.

And just shut up about things like people’s fake nails, cigarettes, and beer. We all have our vices or our little ways we treat ourselves. If you really think that that extra 20$ will make a huge dent in their financial situation, you have no idea what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck your entire life, so just stop running your mouth. It’s important for our mental and emotional health as human beings (that’s right, people on welfare are human beings too) to do things to take care of ourselves and to have an indulgence or something that we enjoy or relieves stress for us. (Not that I think smoking is a great choice, but it could be worse).You can’t walk a tightrope all the time, even if the more fortunate think you should (because, by being poor, you’ve proven that you don’t deserve any of these things apparently).

Now beyond that, it still appalls me that there are people who don’t believe that health care is something we all have a right to have (like public education) and that it’s okay that it’s for-profit (unlike a public education, why is this okay?). That people think it should be earned, as if not everyone is worthy or worth health care (and as if it is not completely detrimental to our society to have people without health care). And that if you get help, you are relinquishing your rights to live as you want and you are opening your life to constant scrutiny, as if by accepting help, you have sold yourself to any and all taxpayers (even if you are also a taxpayer). And beyond this, what about all those people that can’t qualify for Medicaid or regular insurance? Too bad, so sad?

It must be nice to have your life so put together and unaffected by any misfortune that you can’t buy your way out of that you’ve got nothing else to do but criticize other people’s.

The fact that we have masses and masses of people with no apparent understanding of the concept of being part of a community, a society, a connected group of people whose well-being depends upon all others within that group is a culture crisis.

Guess what? The more poor, homeless, sick, needy people you have in your community, the worse off your community is. Walking around grunting about “your money” won’t improve your society. You being well-off does not benefit your society unless you utilize your resources to benefit your community. And guess what? You’ll only be safe in your little cocoon of “well-off” for so long before it all trickles up to you, or before you fall. At some point, the deterioration of your society will become a disadvantage to you. Is that the only time it matters?This is the culture crisis.

The problem is not that people think they can do nothing and have someone else take care of them, but that people can be so selfish, naive, and uninformed to think that’s really the case. Every group of people (race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, social class, etc) has a set of outliers that makes the whole group look bad, as the people that abuse the welfare system do for all those living below the poverty line. Why is it okay within our society to make such sweeping prejudice remarks and judgments about our fellow citizens? That is a culture crisis.

Oh, I know this is not the only group of people that are suffering from societal prejudice, as we all know there’s still ugly racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance running rampant all over this country. And there’s the rest of our culture crisis right there.

The fact that teens and children are committing suicide because they were bullied for being homosexual is a culture crisis. The fact that a “Christian” pastor was trying to lead a group of people to burn the Quran (and people were going to do it!) is a culture crisis. The fact that women are made to feel bad whether they are work or stay at home and dads are made to feel bad for staying home is a culture crisis. The fact that there is even an Arizona Immigration Bill SB1070 that people support is a culture crisis. The fact that we have people routinely believing sensationalized media stories that affect the way they treat others, act, and vote is a culture crisis. The fact that anyone believes socioeconomic status is an indicator of someone’s worth, including their own, is a culture crisis.  The fact that  the amount of millionaires in the U.S. rose while the amount of those living below the poverty line increased this year is a culture crisis. The fact that victims of sexual abuse have to validate that they weren’t “asking for it” is a culture crisis. The fact that in 1.5 million children are homeless in the U.S.  is a culture crisis. The fact that the U.S. has a grade D mental health system is a culture crisis.  These are culture crises. The fact that someone on Medicaid has new tennis shoes and an R&B ring tone on their cell phone is not a culture crisis. It’s actually none of your business.

I seriously hope that any of my friends or family that jump onto the kind of bandwagons that people like the doctor who wrote this little rant are driving are doing so due to lack of information, not because they are actually that selfish and naive. There is no way to grasp the full scope of someone’s life within one encounter and it’s an insult to your own intelligence to criticize the life or lifestyle decisions of someone you don’t even know.

If you don’t understand what’s so hard about becoming a U.S. citizen, then go find someone who’s trying to do this and stick with them through the whole process no matter how many years, setbacks, or roadblocks it takes. If you don’t understand how someone can need Medicaid and food stamps for an extended period of time, then get to know someone in that situation and watch them try to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and get to know the system that you’re criticizing- you may find yourself criticizing it for all new reasons. If you don’t understand how bullying could push someone to suicide, then find a group of people who hate you for what you are (white, tall, female, a dog lover, whatever) and let them spit hate speech at you on a daily basis. If you think people should not expose you to their religion, then don’t expose anyone to yours, ever, and if you slip up and mention something religious in a public place, I hope that everyone looks at you like you’re a terrorist.

Life is hard. You know what’s really not that hard though? Being a decent human being and caring about people are are different from you as if they were you or your loved ones (because you never know, one day it may be you or someone you love in a tough spot)- offering them compassion, tolerance, and support.

The fact that some people live differently than we do or make decisions we don’t agree with is not our culture crisis. The fact that we are a society that struggles with human decency and respect towards one another is.

Growing up in a Christian church, there was always a lot of talk about putting God first, making God a priority, and about denying ourselves our “selfish desires”. I think these two things contradict themselves for someone who has accepted the love of God into their lives. If now, God lives in me as love, and God created me, then wouldn’t one of the best ways to get in touch with God be to get in touch with myself? To explore my desires, to indulge the things that pull at my heart and spirit? If God lives in us, then wouldn’t listening to our selves be listening to God? To do this, wouldn’t it take tuning out everything else at times, or most of the time? Shouldn’t we, with God in us, be the priority in our lives, with all other things coming after? If I can not hear myself, can not mend myself, can not refresh myself, can not address my needs, can not engage in the things that press on my God- designed, God-entwined heart, can not touch base with God within myself then how can anything else I do be in tune with God, how can I touch base with God anywhere outside of myself? But the church taught me for so long to deny myself, that it’s taken me years to understand that this was incomplete information, it was the beginning of a lesson that no one bothered to follow up on. I’m realizing that the things I do that perhaps no one else in the whole entire world (or my whole entire world) seems to agree with, but rests well on my heart, always serves me better than following anyone else’s guidelines for “the right thing”. Because my relationship with God is about me. Not anyone else (not even the church). Everyone else has to settle what they have to settle between God and themselves. I have to trust that God is handling everything else, whatever I forsake to indulge in the movement. Moving against the standards  set up by those around me is moving in faith. Even if it’s moving against the standards of the (imperfect, human run, though- most- likely- well intentioned) church. I have to trust that whatever time I spend with God, forsaking all else, will make me a better person for all else. And I have to spend time evaluating everything, sans the world- what’s working, what’s not, what have I learned, what do I need, etc. More time, just God and I. While, in the church, quiet time or devotions are encouraged, I’ve found that they are encouraged within the realm of the world – that you don’t dare disrupt any of the worlds in which you reside.  Christianity seems to expect you to tread so lightly in every realm of your life that you are constantly tangled up in the world and it’s expectations. Yes, by acting in and with love, we can honor God in anything we do…but when we’re suffocated by the standards and expectations of everyone around us, we are ineffective. Why isn’t this a constant conversation in the church?

Sometimes, I feel like the Christian church perpetually teaches the remedial version of faith, never moving forward, always waiting for everyone in their midst to grasp the basics of the religion, before they really get into the abstract parts. While anyone can gain from reviewing the basics, what do you do when it’s time to start applying the basics? Where’s the person talking about how sometimes, to put God first, you literally have to forsake all others: you have to stop working, ignore your boss, your job, your church, your parents, your spouse, your children, your debts, your home, your pets, your friends, your government, your responsibilities, everything: every standard, every rule, every expectation , all of it being worldly, and subject to seperating you from God, even with the best intentions.  And you have trust that God will take care of everything while you sit alone with God, with yourself, for however long is necessary, while you move where ever you are moved.

Who’s going to talk about how this may not necessarily be one big event or moment in your life, but that it may be a daily thing, a weekly thing, a seasonal thing? Why am I wondering if I’m the only person in the world who is in this place, who’s been here? Sure, someone’s read me a verse that says, you must forsake all others and follow Christ. Sure, someone will say that if the world hates you, it’s okay, because Christ has overcome the world. Great. Two sentences. Why aren’t we talking about what this looks like, how this feels, in real life?   Where’s the incessant discussion regarding this (instead of, perhaps, homosexuality- or something equally less important to our spiritual growth)? Why aren’t we evolving as spiritual beings? Why do we only expect people to be able to spout out Sunday School answers?   Where’s the discussion on the individuality of faith, of spiritual growth? Why do we all expect it to look the same on everyone? Why is the church afraid of getting messy with faith? Why does the church rely on black and white so much, why is it so fearful of all the gray that is the individual application of faith? Why do the standards of Christians get more specific than love God, love one another? Are Christians that dense that we need someone to give us rules beyond love to live by? The church is so wrapped up in setting and applying it’s own standards for faith in the world, that it has become part of the world that one must ignore to really hear God. Are the structures of the church impeding the growth of the church in regards to allowing and encouraging members to evolve spiritually?

Oh, people are good at saying they know faith is individual, but the actions of the Christian church do not support this. It supports conformity far more than it supports growth outside of conformity. It seems to have so low an expectation for it’s community of believers that it simplifies everything to boxes and lists and categories to keep from confusing anyone. It is a social and political organization, as well as a religious one, and it’s rare to find a church were you can escape these undertones and overtones.  Not to say I dismiss the potential and positive impact of being part of a church community, because I do believe people can benefit from being part of a group of people who care about you and care about others as well. I think church is, overall, a good thing to be part of. I just wonder, is there too much teaching in churches and too little discussion and application when it comes to the intangibles? It’s great that someone has studied the Bible and public speaking and can “teach me” about the Bible, and I gather good info and insight through sermons most of the time, and if nothing else, it gives me a chance to sit in one place, quiet, for an hour with others who are doing the same…it serves me well, no doubt. But when do we come together to discuss it? Bible study and Sunday School are another hour of the basics being taught with little opportunity for discussion beyond more basic answers….it’s like we’ve got everyone on the short bus of faith, perpetually. Shouldn’t we expect more from ourselves, from each other? Shouldn’t we be going deeper on a regular basis? Shouldn’t we be experimenting with love and faith and hope and joy and forgiveness  and then evaluating the results as some kind of community? Shouldn’t we be sharing more? Shouldn’t we be getting messier with our faith amongst one another (and in the world as a whole)?

I want to talk  in church, with my church families. I want discussions. Group discussions. Where we push ourselves and each other, where we get uncomfortable, where we question, where we discuss personal applications of faith, where we get confused and frustrated and show one another grace and mercy, where we seek answers, where we share insight, where we agree to disagree, where we intersect among our spiritual journeys, share stories, gather resources and reserves, where we let go of the standards of the world, of our worlds, where we evolve and move…where we practice among each other what we hope to practice outside of the church…unconditional love…

I’m so tired of feeling like I’m trapped in remedial classes every time I’m in church. As much as I love the people in the church, sometimes it’s like I’m suffocating;  we can’t keep breathing the same air over and over without it eventually becoming toxic. We’ve got to open up the doors, the windows, the emergecy exit- something. Come on guys. We’re capable of more, we should expect more, we should grow more.

We’ve got to do something, it’s getting crowded on the short bus and everybody’s laughing at us.

Disclaimer: I have not and do not laugh at those who ride short buses, nor do I condone such behavior. I just found it to be a fitting methaphor.

So, I’m gonna get started on this now. I don’t want it to take me forever. I don’t want to obsess about it. I just want to say it.

First of all, after some internet research, I found an article/blog that was just what I was looking for regarding health care. I don’t really care about people’s crazy fanatical fears, nor do I care about anecdotes, or even, all the “scary, hidden aspects of the bill that will make us suffer F O R E V E R.” I just wanted a little data.

Like, what’s up with all these other industrialized countries that have been doing this whole universal health care thing for decades? How’s that working out? Seriously- how’s that working out?

Finally, I got some data (as mentioned and linked above), and feel happy. It basically says that though universal health care is  not perfect, neither is what the US has now,  and still, universal health care is a better use of our money and resources, given we manage to implement it well- maybe modeling it after other successful programs? Like, maybe some other country did something we can learn and grow from? Maybe? And, data shows: it will in all likelihood not be the END OF AMERICA!

So, aside from the data that made my search fruitful and facebook status worthy, I also got a great string of quotes from the comment section.

52: “You have omitted how much people pay in taxes for these entitlements”

Have you considered how much we pay NOW for the uninsured? Do you think that if a homeless person goes into the ER and receives treatment it is just free?

It seems to me that in a “Christian” country to allow multitudes to go without adequate healthcare for apparently the sole reason of wanting to avoid even the appearance of ‘socialism’ (i.e., purely ideological purposes) is immoral. Posted by: slpage | June 15, 2009 5:08 PM

53 #52, I find it amusing that you would be ok with stealing from your neighbor to pay for your health care. Government is not charity or compassion, it is force. Forcing your neighbor to pay for someones healthcare is not christian, it is theft. Posted by: frodo | June 29, 2009 10:12 PM
55 “Government is not charity or compassion, it is force. Forcing your neighbor to pay for someones healthcare is not christian, it is theft.”

Horsefeathers. We are a society. We, as a society, decide to use our combined resources to provide certain services. If we, as a society, decide that healthcare should be one of those services, it is not theft anymore than universal policing is theft. If you choose not to support society, you are more than welcome to leave.

57 “I find it amusing that you would be ok with stealing from your neighbor to pay for your health care. Government is not charity or compassion, it is force. Forcing your neighbor to pay for someones healthcare is not christian, it is theft.”
Isn’t it odd that compassion must be forced on Christians?

May I suggest reading 1st John 3:17

– If you don’t have your Bible handy it reads thus:

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? ”   Posted by: Drew L | July 5, 2009 12:45 PM

You’ve got to love anyone who can use the word “Horsefeathers” in any conversation, ever. That truly enhances the awesomeness of the quote. Commenter 55, we would be friends, I can tell. And commenter 57! Yes, America’s Christians are odd, aren’t they? Now, Commenter 52-thanks for provoking 53. This wouldn’t have been possible without you! 53, well, you know- at least you know where you stand (even if it is in some horsefeathery place) .

For the record, I do understand people feeling afraid. Fear and apprehension are normal when you embark on something that is new, that is big, that is kind of out of your control. So, regular uneasiness or even lack of knowledge I get, and I don’t mock. I’m not saying I understand or fully support everything about the bill. But it’s the over the top, selfish, self-righteous, loud, whiny, pessimists that jump to conclusions and make up “facts” that drive me insane.

Now, having ran my brain through that, I think I’ll end this here and pick it up again, as it’s already long enough, with all the quotes. And I wanted to write about the quotes, they made my night. So, I’ll build off this. Maybe tonight, maybe in the morning. (I don’t think I have more than 2 readers anyways ;P)

I’d like to start this by stating that I don’t think I’ve ever actually used the phrase “Oh Snap”, but it popped into my head when I was thinking of a title, so, there it is.

This week, after participating in a forum held at a church regarding the “resignation” of a popular preschool director, I gathered the final fuel for the fire that burns the words onto these pages (okay, they’re screens). See, this fire has been smoldering for several years, but at first, there was too much anger. And then too much apathy. And now, I’m somewhere between the two.

Money, religion, and politics are always hot button issues each in their own right, and this is about the twisted presentation of the three as one. A trinity of sorts. The fact that the starting point of this essay (for lack of anything better to call it) focuses on the happenings of a preschool  may not grab you at first, but I promise, it all connects to a bigger picture, so give me a chance to draw it all together as best as I can.

See, the previously mentioned forum was to address concerns parents had regarding a forced resignation of a preschool director who ran a church preschool as a ministry. How do I know it was forced? Because I bore witness to 4 months of passive aggressive harassment and mistreatment. On top of that, I know this church has a dismal track record of doing this same thing over and over. In 10 years, they have managed to go through something like 11 pastors, countless interim pastors, multiple music directors and secretaries, and now a preschool director.

At some point, a church should start asking themselves what they’re doing wrong. You can’t play victim forever. And all of this doesn’t even include members who have left or been forced out. The fact that people officially “resign” does not, in fact, make this any more acceptable of a situation. It just means they took the highest road they could when pushed too far and treated too poorly. It doesn’t take a genius to see that something is wrong here. Passionate, dedicated professionals who just “resign” and don’t even have the opportunity to tell those they’ve ministered to good-bye because following the acceptance of their “resignation” they were told to remove themselves and their belongings that day? That fails to make sense to me. Unless, the resignation were forced and those responsible were waiting for the day to come. Unless, they are trying to sweep whatever ugliness that precipitated the “resignation” under the rug as quickly as possible. Unless, they want to spin a story to sell to the congregation…

It’s disheartening that people do this kind of thing to one another in the corporate world, in the secular world. But in a self-proclaimed Christian atmosphere? It’s disgusting and unacceptable. And this was, I strongly believe, about money and politics, at least at it’s inception. I do believe that it then continued to be motivated by several other selfish, greedy things. Which just takes it up another level or two on the unacceptability scale. Here’s the thing, instead of keeping records and making profits, this preschool was letting parents slide on tuition when they lost their jobs and giving money to those who needed it.  They paid their teachers and bought supplies and hosted programs and whatever was left was used to help someone. Because they ran it like a ministry. And it ran well. It was well appreciated.

While the church itself fell apart over and over, the preschool carried on strong and steady, under strong and steady leadership, dedicated to ministry. All of the sudden, 10 years into this, the church decided to jump in and try to begin to run it like a business, while concurrently undermining the current leadership (was the church leadership jealous or intimidated by the preschool success?)  in any way possible without being completely overt (but it wasn’t that hard to see, if you’ve seen this kind of thing before). Well, I don’ t know how familiar they are with this verse in Matthew 21:12 “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves”, but it sounds to me like Jesus was pretty mad about the church being utilized for financial gain. So, you give that a shot and we’ll see how well that works out for you in the long run, particularly since you’ve been so extremely successful in the past.

Now, I know a church is an institution ran by imperfect people. I get that. I know even a church has bills to pay and has to organize itself (it is organized religion). But a church is also intended to serve a higher purpose. A church should be held to a higher standard and the members of a church should hold themselves and one another to a higher standard of acting and living in faith and love. This means your faith should always outweigh your funds. This means your  love should always outweigh your differences. This means you hold one another accountable.

This means you basically don’t do sneaky, hateful, hurtful, greedy, selfish things over and over to one another without ever accepting responsibility, without ever being called out and incited to accept some responsibility for words and actions, without ever being urged to change, to become better.  I think sometimes people think if they just sit by and watch it happen, they aren’t  actually part of it, they aren’t culpable. But you are. If you know something is happening that is wrong and you do nothing, you are complicit. You are allowing it. You are agreeing with it. You are part of it. Your silence, your averted gaze, your acceptance of the unacceptable is pathetic, weak-minded, and weak-faithed. Didn’t anybody tell you that you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything? (the country singer Aaron Tippin told me when I was about eight).You’re being foolish if you think it doesn’t matter what you don’ t do. It matters just as much, if not more, than what you do.

This lack of faith-action is the thing that convicted me to leave the church. To extract myself from my employment, my teaching position, my board of education membership, ministry training team participation, choir membership, and, in a way, my family legacy within the church. I just had to walk away. Because no one wanted to hold elders, board members, deacons,  and deaconesses (do you think they were good tithers?) accountable for words and actions that were hurtful. No one wanted to hold each other accountable for anything. No one wanted to step out of their comfort zone and do anything, question anything, grow in faith. They just wanted to keep on keeping on, sweeping things under rugs and calling that “letting it go”. No one wanted to even consider rocking the boat, just a little, in the name of maybe, possibly, become better people, more honest, more intent on true service and the true purpose of the church. People were too comfortable (or wrapped up) to question it all.

That’s all I wanted, some kind of action. I was told “people aren’t perfect”. I didn’t need, desire, or expect them to be. I just wanted us to practice what we preach. I wanted to see movement. I didn’t need to be chided like a child and told to let it go. No, no, no. I would not let it go without some acknowledgment. While I loved and still love those people, I was not okay with the way the church was operating within. On politics. That was not okay and I would not be complicit. Does that mean I am unforgiving? No. I harbored no hate or ill will. I just wanted people to step up. But for some insane reason, people in churches are scared to stand up to each other, even in love, even in sincere, honest love of one another. People in churches are scared. Or lazy. Operating so much on pretense that purpose is lost. It’s the stupidest thing. It’s because of money and politics.

People with money in church (the “good tithers”),  people who are part of the politics, are wrapped up, under control of the little power they exercise among one another, never truly free, but believing they have a position that allows them some sort of inherent “rights”. Then you have those that aren’t involved in either, who are lazy, complacent, or wearing blinders- allowing those with the “power” to just do what they do while you just show up for the ride and take it all at face value. Either way, it does nothing for the church. And it makes me want to overthrow some tables.

That situation has settled itself  for me through the years, and I am again darkening the doors of churches, but not without a good bit of cynicism and criticism for the way churches (and the people in them) operate. And I think that’s healthy and perfectly acceptable. I do not need church to have God. But I do feel that church can be a good avenue, a good tool, a good community in relation to God. Churches have the possibility to do and be so much. That’s why it bothers me when people abuse and misuse the church from within, while pretending to have the best interest of the church at heart. They are undermining all the church could be.  It could be so much more than what it is, but quite honestly, it’s been so defeated by and in itself that it’s hard to even take it seriously or see it’s potential anymore.

At the forum, we were supposed to ask questions. One of mine was: What are you doing, as a church, to prevent this from happening again? Have you identified a problem, a connection to all the upheaval that occurs here? What are you going to do different? The pastor never answered my question. He didn’t answer anyone’s questions. He repeated himself over and over, and tried to sidetrack us. I found him to be an insipid, shallow, condescending, jerk who only knew enough to know he had nothing of substance to present, so he just filled up time with an empty run-around of words. If anyone takes him seriously as a leader, then they fall into the same category I just placed him in. If that sounds ugly, I’m not sorry. Sometimes the truth hurts.

Just like with anything else, people need to utilize some critical thinking when engaging in church. You can not just let yourself be fed things by “leaders” of anything, even (and especially) a church or any religious institution. Whatever you are told, you have to evaluate within yourself and run it through your own conversation and journey of faith.  Otherwise, what does it really mean? What are you really going to do with it? Why does it matter? If you can’t even take the time and energy to process it and own it within you, then how are you going to be able to do anything worthwhile with it? And most importantly, how are you going to be sure you’re not being lead astray??

Just because someone managed to become a minister, or a church leader of any kind, does not mean they are automatically a valid and positive leader. A pastor is not above their congregation (or anyone else). They are not holier or more righteous or any closer to God  than anyone else. They are someone who feels called to serve in a particular way, in a particular setting. They are not in charge of you or the church. And quite honestly, in a church, it’s really a family, a team, a community, so “leadership” should be spread out and checks and balances should always be in place. Because there will always be politics in church, just like there will be money. So there should at least be an effort made to utilize the organization, the institution that is a church more effectively towards it’s higher purpose. Otherwise, what are you doing? And why?

The thing about money, religion, and politics is that as powerful as they are, love trumps them all. In love, there is faith, there is joy, there is hope, there is mercy, there is grace, there is encouragement, there is purpose, there is drive, there is passion, there is determination, there is promise, there is commitment, there is patience, there is generosity, there is freedom, there is acceptance, there is humility.

If  a church is not something that can really radiate and spread the love and faith associated with God, if it’s not a place where it is made known the reality and possibility of a body of believers who put faith and love above money, religion and politics, then maybe someone should change the name of it  and stop messing up and watering down the concept of “church”.

Shouldn’t a church be a place where people, though imperfect, try to be better all the time? A place where people encourage this in each other, even if that means apologizing or calling someone out sometimes? Shouldn’t it be a place where people aren’t scared of thinking for themselves or taking a stand?  And above all, shouldn’t it be a place where people try to put love first? Didn’t Christ do these things? Aren’t Christians modeling their life after Christ? He was poor, he was homeless, he was never in line with the politics of the day, he was always doing and saying things officials and religious leaders didn’t like.

Through Christ, don’t Christians believe they have a direct line to God? If so, everyone’s on the same page here, everyone has equal access to God regardless of power or position, regardless of class or status, regardless of sin. Wasn’t Christ  pushing people out of their comfort zones? Wasn’t he dining with prostitutes and touching lepers? Wasn’t he turning over the moneychanger’s tables? Wasn’t he was consistently out of any place any one would consider a comfort zone? Considering the politics and religions of his time and place, wasn’t he part of an anti-political, anti-religious  movement? Wasn’t  he was teaching people the one true comfort zone is in God, in God’s love, in love, in the belief of love, the faith of love. Not money, not religion, not politics or the supposed power or these things- God. Love. The power of God’s love in us, around us, through us.

Love first. Love. First. All else would follow. All the programs and budgets and committees and initiatives and sermons and ministries would follow. God is love. God loves all of us. Those who love God, love others. Love first.

How novel.

I know an increasing amount of people arguing against the commercialization of Christmas (besides Charlie Brown, of course). And I agree. In many ways, we have turned a day set aside to celebrate the birth (and subsequent life) of Jesus Christ, earthly God incarnate, something that could (should?) be a holy day for Christians into something…else.

It’s a whole month of family gatherings, decorations, parties, programs, events, fundraisers, special church services, Santa Claus movies, and of course, gift exchanging. So, I get that. But here’s the thing- I think, if we let it, it can be good for us.

Christmas is what you make it in your life, what you let it be, what you insist it be. Being cynical, bitter, rejecting, or averse to other’s implementation of Christmas really doesn’t benefit you (or anyone else) at all. If you don’t like how other’s utilize this time of the year, then don’t engage. But think about some of the idealogic cornerstones (no matter how far many deviate from them) of the Christmas season: faith, hope, love, joy, generousity. Make those things a part of your daily life and then take a month at the end of the year to kick it up a notch and really bask in it, really celebrate it the whole month.Those around you can benefit from this and may possibly join in- and I can’t think of a better way to keep Christ in Christmas.

This is what I wrote down, word for word, during a sermon. That’s why it may or may not make sense. I just wanted it recorded, mainly for myself, (but also for anyone who likes to read my streams of consciousness…:) there’s some things I want to revisit.

Magnification, magnificence.

Clear eyes:

all the colors

and

movements

of light.

Vessel. Love Life, Be Brave. Time- precious, peace, patience, courage, Free. Hymn, Piano, Puritan. Native, Pilgrim. Gypsy: Spiritualist. Bare Bones Belief. Tragedy vs. Comedy. Belly of the Whale. Joy is a choice. Unexpected deliverance, Truth. No fear, you have plenty of time here. Called apart. Everlasting arms. Catacombs. Three Days. Heart of the Earth, there is coming a day. Hope vs. Desperation. Crosses to wings. overwhelmed? pray. No guilt. Everything has meaning. Quotable lyrics. Music. What have I to fear or dread? My life is in you. Cemetery, history. You can’t screw this up. Everything is as it should be. Get there. You will get there, God will get you there, one way or another. It’s not enough if just I’m okay. Vessel.

Love, Joy, Peace; Wisdom, Clarity, Courage, Belief

So this post is kind of girly (of course, I am a girl) . And it has a lot of pictures. Of clothes and shoes and stuff. Just so you know…

I’m about to divulge why I feel superior to people who spend absurd amounts of money on expensive clothes. I’ll preface this by saying that I have never (okay, only for a short period of time) cared much about labels, trends (not style, but trends), or not wearing pre-owned clothes.

So, I have purchased 19 clothing/shoe/accessory items  (pictured below with 2 items that were gifts) for a total of 75$ in the past couple of months.   I never spent more than 25$ per a week while shopping, and it was usually more like 10-15 $ per week.  This involved 3 trips to Goodwill, 2 trips to Family Dollar, 1 trip each to Kmart,  Target, Old Navy, and Walmart. (Nothing was purchased at the last three listed)

Dresses, Shoes, Accessories
Left: Blue dress by Zinc. Empire waist, spaghetti strap, with slits on the side and part of the back cut out. 5$ at Goodwill. (all prices are rounded up)
Center: Black dress by Piper and Blue. Scoop neck, empire waist, tie in the back. 2$ at Kmart
Right: Black and Red dress by Jonathan Martin. Off the shoulder cap sleeves, empire waist, tie in the back. 5 $ at Goodwill
clothes-0072clothes-0021
Left: Brown, tan, cream slides with low heel by Chilis. 4$ at Goodwill Right: Black kitten heel thong by No Boundaries. With black rhinestones. 4$ at Goodwill
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Left: Silver circle earrings. 3$ at Kmart
Right: Teal and Citrine bead necklaces. 5$ at Kmart
clothes-013Top Left: Black skirt by Gap. Knee length with scalloped trim.
4 $ at Goodwill
Bottom Left: Black skirt by Merona. Floor length with side slits.
4 $ at Goodwill
Top Right: Jean Skirt by Route 66.  Knee length. Fitted. Dark denim, distressed. 4 $ at Goodwill
Bottom Right: Black skirt by derek heart. Above the knee. Ruffled, cotton, with strawberry on top left. 4 $ at Goodwill
clothes-010Top Left: Blue t-shirt by Gap. Small pocket, top left. 4 $ at Goodwill
Center: Black top by Nick and Sarah. Scoop neck. 4 $ at Family Dollar
Bottom Left: Brown top by zoey beth. Scoop neck, keyhole back.
4 $ at Family Dollar
Top Right: Navy top by No Boundaries. Ruched neckline and sleeves. 8 $ Walmart (gift from my mom)
Bottom Right: Pink top by Duck Head Jeans. Keyhole front. Ruched on sides, at bottom. 4 $ at Goodwill
(more pics below in attempt to show detail)
clothes-006clothes-011clothes-014clothes-015
clothes-016Left: Top by zoey beth. Off shoulder. Sweetheart neckline. Empire waist. tie in back. Blue, brown and cream. 7 $ at Family Dollar
Center: Halter by Papaya clothing. Brown. 4 $ at Goodwill
Right: Top by Piper and Blue. Off shoulder, fitted, pink, gray, white, and black. 2 $ at Kmart
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Left: Black nightgown with lace. 2 $ at Kmart ( I don’t even wear nightgowns, but this was really soft and 2 $, so now, sometimes I do, even though it’s not very “me”, at all
Right: Blue and brown flops by Crocs (gift from sis in law) around 30-40 $ at Bass Pro shops

The thing about bargain shopping is, it’s kind of addictive. Once you know you can get something you like for really cheap, you have a hard time coughing up full price. And of course, I would have never got this much paying full price, and I don’t really have much to spend, especially now that we are working on one income for the second time in as many years.

So, besides getting to do a lot of shopping without spending a lot of money, another good thing about shopping Goodwill, discount stores, and clearance racks is that you’re less likely to see a dozen other people wearing the same thing as you. You definitely have to be in a certain mind to shop like that though. You have to know the kinds of things you like and want and need, but you also have to be flexible and imaginative. And you have to be willing to look, and look, and look through racks of clearance and such.  It’s good to know what things generally cost full price, so you know if it’s really worth it to buy it this way.  It’s also good to know what you have at home, so you know what will go together (or what you don’t really need).

Obviously, I’m big on staple, classic pieces that you can mix and match, that don’t necessarily fade into oblivion the following year. I like finding things that have little details, it keeps them from being boring (and it usually makes them more flattering). Plus, you can do more with jewelry and makeup if your outfit is kind of basic (dress it up, down, to the left, to the right :P. And you can get pretty inexpensive jewelry to supplement what you already have. And the same with makeup. I like Wet n Wild’s different colored eyeliners, lip glosses, eyeshadows, and nail polishes, they’re about a 1-5$ each. I may spend 10$ on Neutrogena foundation, and 20$ on Oil of Olay Total Effects SPF moisturizer, but I don’t usually spend more than 5 $ on anything else makeup wise. (I know quality suffers a little, but it doesn’t really bother me as much as shelling out the cash does). You know what makes a difference as well? Hair and smell. I’m just saying, if your hair looks however you like it to look and you smell nice, that goes a long way.

That’s more fun to me, overall, because you can kind of match your clothes to your mood or your environment and you get to be creative and  keep reinventing outfits. And I feel like once I know I have things to throw on on a daily basis, I can look more for weekend stuff. And if I haven’t already spent a lot, I feel like I can spend more on stuff I really like and want for those items.

Because I can usually dress fairly casual for work, most of those things will work for workdays and weekends. There are still a few things I really want this season: Tops/tanks in orange, cool blue, lavender, bright green,  raspberry and one of the long hippie dresses (I hate the term Maxi dress). I could probably also use a pair of cargo khaki’s (pants or capri’s), another sundress, and I am in constant need for a new pair of black pants, as I have mended mine over and over. Also, a pair of jeans and tennis shoes wouldn’t hurt. And a new bag… But, really, with these things I just got and what I already had before this, I’m pretty set. (Well, I could use a  tan and a pedicure, and to lose 15 lbs -but that’s another story). And, it’s only April. And, I only spent 75$. (So maybe I’ll manage that pedicure…and just go outside more and use my gradual tanning lotion…and, you know, workout or something…)