Monday, February 22, 2010

Why I give things up for Lent

I'm not Catholic, or part of a denomination that follows a liturgical calendar or celebrates Lent, but I've been making my token sacrifice during this season for about 16 years.

I don't remember exactly why I started, but I'm sure I was influenced by more exposure to Catholicism through people in college, including one Catholic best friend, and two other best friends converting with their families away from the good, old Assemblies of God.  I was raised semi-Pentecostal by my family, then attended AofG churches & school from 7th-12th grades, attending AofG church into college.  Seth & I even got married in an AofG church.

I saw later in life, while teaching at my alma mater, that though I didn't realize while it was being done, I was certainly given an anti-Catholic POV at my school.  I remember being quite worried about my friends who were going to catholic churches-- I might as well have called them papists like some Elizabethan snob.  I was afraid that they were praying to saints and relying on works to save them, that they wouldn't still pray and know God, and that Jesus would lose stature in their hearts.

The school I attended was a bit crazy.  Have you seen the movie Jesus Camp?  That isn't too terribly off the mark, though we were decidedly less militaristic.  Mix Jesus Camp  with a healthy dose of Saved and you've hit it right on the head.  Every year, we had Spiritual Emphasis Week, which meant that we had chapel every day, sometimes with a semi-special guest speaker, and all were expected to raise their hands, go to the front, or whatever.  Though I was one of the students who was actually into it, I also had no qualms at all about helping to stir up emotion so that chapel ran really long and we could miss more classes.  I was a good kid, and the ones who had attitudes and didn't raise their hands to say that they wanted to be on fire for Jesus were the bad kids.

When I asked one friend about why she liked the Catholic church better, she said that it was because there was order and reverence, and that it wasn't a circus.  I could partially see that, but I still thought she was just hard-hearted towards the moving of the Spirit.

But all of this must have been sinking in and growing in me even then, because I started giving things up for Lent my sophomore year of college.  I must have already noticed the lack of traditions that we have in Protestantism, and it made me sad.  I remember my mom chuckling at me that first year, saying that I had made my own little religion, picking and choosing from different ones.  Nowadays, that comment would get me shouted down as a tolerant, "ecumenical" (yuck!), relativistically-minded weakling who isn't really a Christian.  It's something that makes me proud, though.*  I was in college, meeting new people-including many Muslims, learning new things, and I was searching for ways to make my faith my own. 

And I still find God's truth all over the place.  I surely don't have it cornered & labeled.  I will happily pluck the truth that I see and add it to my prismatic view of God, especially when it comes from other Christian brothers and sisters.  That's a no-brainer.

Protestants got rid of the sacraments other than baptism and communion (which we don't even do that often), and severed ties with almost all of church history and tradition, as if we/they had invented Christianity out of whole cloth in the 16th century.  I understand that there were course corrections to be made, but it's a classic case of baby/bathwater.

So I do my best to sacrifice a little bit for Lent.  Out of a sense of tradition and unity, and also because I do think it draws me closer to Jesus.  I don't think my salvation depends upon it, and I don't think God cares a lot, other than the fact that we have a relationship and I made a promise.  I remember his sacrifices, and I attempt to die a little to myself more than I normally would.  When I desire the thing I gave up, I learn to live without it and I talk to him.  A little deprivation isn't going to kill most Americans. 

*"You seem to be very broad-minded in your opinions, Miss Shirley."  "That's the nicest compliment anyone's ever paid me, Mrs. Harris." 

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Sometimes.  Once in a while.  Not often.  But often enough to bug me. 

I want a baby.

But I am 35.  I was told this would happen.  And I was told I'd get over it.  And I always knew that, should I not get over it, we can adopt. 

Sometimes I don't want to adopt.  I want Seth's baby.  But I also want a Haitian baby. 

Of course, I realized earlier that I've been thinking about doing an internship at a Mexican orphanage, so it will probably be a Mexican baby/kid.  That's cool, too.  Probably even better. 

I don't want to talk about it.  You'll know if anything really changes. 

And, seriously, it's like once every 2 weeks or something that I think I want a baby.  I am a human being, you know.  Thought it doesn't twitch often, I do have a uterus. 

Baby Steps

As you may or may not know, I spend entirely too much time online.  Really, I spend entirely too much time in this here green, corduroy chair.  So, after using online timers and a variety of site blockers, I have taken the step of putting my computer in the dining room.  Since it's less comfy, I don't want to spend as much time there, and when I need to do homework, I have more room and can concentrate more.

Now, it's a laptop, so you'd think that this isn't that strong of an incentive to stay on task, but it's working.  I set up space at the table, and I leave my cord in there, so that if I want to spend a long time on the computer, I'll have to sit there.  Sure, I can bring the thing in here for a while, but I won't bring the cord, which shortens the length of my stay in cyberspace.

But, Robin, you say, couldn't you just turn off your wireless?  Yes, and I can also turn it back on.  Besides, I can find all sorts of creative ways to spend time on the computer that don't necessarily involve facebook or twitter.  The latest time-sucker? coupled with Dave Ramsey's FPU budgeting tools online.  We have a lot of money this month, so I've been doing a lot of fiddling with the budget.  "Oh, well now this came."  "But this isn't realistic.  I'll make a normal month's budget."  "Oh, but this should be tweaked."  "Ooh!  You can split up the Costco bill into different categories!" 

Hours of fun. 

Even before this foray into money wrangling, I could spend, oh, two hours easily fiddling with music.  Listening to recommended music, searching for new music, downloading free songs, listening, rating, converting (from mp4), deleting, making playlists, adding and removing music from my mp3 players (one for regular listening, including podcasts, and one for exercise, including techno). 

I've actually had to stop downloading music for the past month or so, because I just don't have time to listen to it all.  I realized yesterday that I had downloaded the entire catalog of one indie label early this year, and I had yet to listen to one song.  So, I'm slowing down.  I just looked, and I have 799 unrated (meaning I've never listened to them) songs on my laptop (that I've only had since August).  You see my problem. 

So, in the grand scheme of time-wasting, you can see that a small step like having to sit at the table to work will make a big difference. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

My new plan

I was going to get a tattoo tomorrow- the word "love" in kinda fancy script on my arm- to take part in To Write Love on Her Arms.  It's a suicide prevention organization and some random people on FB declare this day or another TWLOHA day, so whatever. 
When I went in to the tattoo place today, though, I just wasn't feeling it.  I was a bit iffy about the money, and I just wasn't 100% on board, which you really should be when getting something permanent put on your body in a place that will show almost all the time.

Later, I thought, "If it's supposed to be a personally meaningful gesture acknowledging your own suicide attempt, you should get it done on the anniversary of the day you tried."  Good idea, Self!  The only bummer is that day is in January, so I have to wait almost a year. 

But!  I just realized that it will be kind of fun.  I'll get it next year, January 11, 2011.  It will be the 18th Annual Happy to be Alive Day!  I had thought it was going to be the 11th anniversary or something, but I suppose my usually stunningly quick math skillz have to have some way-way-off moments once in a while. 

Of course, this is all just a matter of whether or not I can handle the wait.  I do believe there will be a monthly tattoo fund started, though. 

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Apparently, I'm Stressed

Gah.  I don't know.  Seth first pointed it out because last Sunday, when I was supposed to teach at the young adult group at church, I got painful back spasms. 

"Maybe it's stress."
"But I'm not stressed!  I don't feel stressed!"

The spasms went away that evening, and they haven't come back.  Tonight, though, I'm very aware of a knot in the same spot.  I'm teaching this Sunday.  Now, I do have a messed up back.  But I'm starting to be suspicious. 

There's other evidence:  I had a tension headache on Thursday.  Right across my forehead; made me all frowny. 

For a few days, I've been aware of the wire-taut tension in my body. 

Now, it's not just the teaching, which I swear to you, I'm nervous about, but not stressed.  I also have my class, and we're going through the process of getting our money in order.  So my mind is constantly going going going going going.  My mom was in the hospital for a few days, I've done some additional volunteering where I was needed, two, if not all three, of my sisters are dealing with some heavy crap right now, and I miss my goddaughters.

I need to do this. I need to do that. Clean, study, work out, run, read your Bible, call that person back, hang out with that person, put away laundry, make dinner, write a paper, do research, teach, lead, budget, go go go go go go go.

I go through this every year, now that I think about it.  Not really sure how I get past it every time, but I know that I do.  The thing is, all of the pressure and stress I'm feeling is self-created. 

Ahhhh...I realize now.  I've regressed to that old way of doing things:  God put this all in my path, these are all good things, so I need to just suck it up, put my head down, and barrel through this. 

No. Nope. No. 

I am not designed to handle everything on my own.  As a human being made in God's image, I am designed for community and inter-dependency.  I am part of the dance of perichoresis, with I in him and he in me and them in us, etc.  When I learned about perichoresis, (see John 17), I pictured it as a triple-helix, like Trinity DNA.  And we enter into that.  We are one as he is one.   It can feel sort of trippy & new agey, if you let it, but it's all there. 

I suppose my application step now is to embrace the cliché:  Let go & let God. 

I'm not betraying God by feeling busy or overwhelmed.  I'm right on target.  I need to ask for help from him and from others.  I need to not try to keep everything in line and prove that I can handle it.  I can't.  That's good.  I don't want to.

Can I just say that I love it when a post starts out totally whiny and pointless but then gets all deep?