Archive for August, 2008

PICTURES! Not so many words this time!

Well, since I have worn us all out with the sheer length profundity of the last few posts, I thought I’d give us all a break by lightening the h*ll up sharing these lovely pictures.


Most mornings I take my coffee out to the deck, still in my nightgown, sporting a bed head ponytail and trailed by the Three Yappers. Once Phoebe and Thea figure out these isn’t any food in it for them they wander off, but Pip the Squeak, bless his scrawny, loyal little soul, glues himself to my side.

**I’m usually curled up on the love seat across from this chair and if Russ joins me, that’s where he sits:


**Here’s a close-up of that pepper plant. I love it, though I got greedy and woefully overcrowded the pot. Looks great, though, don’tcha think, all glossy green and jalapeno-y?


**From my cozy vantage point, accompanied by Pip the mouth breather, I can gaze at all of my flowerpots and deck boxes. They are looking a little end-of-summer tired (who isn’t?) so I enjoy them all the more because I know their days are numbered.


**Russ brought these dried chili peppers back from Santa Fe, he just loves them, says they remind him of his time there.


But as I serenely sip my coffee, there is a constant commotion going on over at the hummingbird feeder. OK, I will tell you the truth– I am the biggest pusher in the neighborhood of what is apparently the hummingbird equivalent of black tar heroin. When I first hung the feeder, I innocently mixed up the red nectar with a bit of a heavy hand– you know, the ‘if some is good, more is better’ philosophy. Before I knew it, I think the little suckers abandoned all of the local feeders in favor of mine, because I’ve got the hard stuff. They line up at the feeder, all jittery and wiping their noses with their sleeve, jockeying for position and elbowing each other out of the way. (Wait– do hummers have sleeves and elbows? Whatever, I’m trying to paint a picture here.) There are avian bar fights breaking out all over the place, and once they get all hopped up on nectar they start dive-bombing the Yorkies. I promise sincerely I never planned on turning them into junkies (“First taste is free my little ruby-throated friend, heh heh…”), but the entertainment value cannot be denied.

**Is there such a thing as hummingbird rehab?

So that’s my morning routine (on a good day)– tell me yours!

Being a Christian means ALWAYS having to say you’re sorry.

I am a Christian.

(But not like, one of THOSE kind.) 

I always feel the need to add that caveat because sadly, I totally understand the staggering array of knee-jerk negative stereotypes that come with that word.

I was born a Southern white female to Christian parents, so you know, religion kind of came with the package, like egg rolls. It was dang near a pre-existing condition. But my parents had a very authentic and real relationship with God and they not only taught that to me, they lived it out in front of me. When I was nine, I did the “every head bowed, every eye closed, raise your hand” statement of faith and was duly baptized by Pastor Small (I know! And he was!) in a Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Though never what you’d call pious– I’ll take a moment here to let those of you who know me stop laughing hysterically– I weathered my adolescent years without too much spiritual angst, and entered my twenties with a brand new marriage and my Christian faith intact.

Then Real Life happened. Throughout the next thirty years give or take, Real Life handed me a veritable smorgasbord of experiences of the” Destined To Knock The Faith Right Out Of You” variety. I’m not special, life does that to everyone whether you profess a belief system of some sort or not. But if you are raised a Christian in this country (and you are very honest with yourself), in your secret heart of hearts there is usually a tiny part of you that thinks there should be at least a little bit of an exemption in the pain department for people of faith. Not a free pass, but come on, shouldn’t getting up on Sunday mornings when all the agnostics are sleeping in count for something? Yeah, well, apparently not so much. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. (Oh hi! I just quoted scripture! Touchdown dance!)

Anyway, to cut to the chase and save you the reader from having to endure my litany of sorrows, suffice to say I got my fair share of soul-shattering, bone-crushing, teeth-gnashing life experiences that fundamentally changed me— hopefully for the better in some cases, but they also left a kind of sticky, grimy residue in my heart. It was what remained of my untested childhood faith in the aftermath of life’s scorched earth policy. My faith wasn’t destroyed, it just slowly and wholly mutated, evolved if you will, into something that could accommodate the lessons I’d learned, and reconcile what I had walked through with what I’d always believed to be true about God. Asking myself the hard questions didn’t precipitate a huge crisis, it wasn’t a desperate search for meaning. It was just a season of the soul. I needed to re-evaluate everything I’d been taught in the Christian tradition and weigh it against actual experience to see what measured up. And more importantly, what didn’t. What came out of that time wasn’t really a new faith, but it was MY faith. Not my parents’, not the church’s, not our founding fathers’, not my husband’s faith– mine. It was stronger than I’d expected, but also surprisingly elastic. It was much more inclusive than exclusive, and was full to overflowing with what I believe to be the personality and character of God; an endless, fathomless ocean of unconditional love and grace. Always, always.

Now since I have spent my entire adult life in the belly of professional Christianity, I understand that some of the things I just wrote might make a few of my fellow believers nervous. Some of the ‘buzzwords’ I used are seen by some fundamentalists as divisive, and could automatically indicate to a lot of people that I am teetering on the brink of a fate worse than death– liberalism! OHHHHH NOOOOO!!!!! Ok, can I just tell all of you in the family of God that, honestly? I don’t even know what that word means. Either one, really– fundamentalist, liberal, whatever. I mean I’m not stupid, I know the political implications, I know why people who fall under both categories inevitably end up yelling at each other, convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the other guy is riddled with scriptural error and represents everything abhorrent to God. But they are labels that are essentially meaningless, since the parameters that define them really depend on the viewpoint of the individual doing the defining. That’s why I say in my blog introduction that my liberal friends are surprised at how Christian I am and my Christian friends are surprised at how liberal I am. My beliefs get categorized in different ways by different sets of people. And that’s OK, it’s my faith, it doesn’t have to be theirs. Or yours.

And yes, (she says, beating you to the punch) I do do know about the ongoing, ever-popular ‘inerrancy of Scripture’ debate and I am well aware that people freak out if they think you’re trying to push an agenda of ‘there are no absolutes’– but that’s not what I’m saying, those are all fightin’ words and I honestly don’t have a dog in that fight. Whatever side you come down on in any given doctrinal argument doesn’t threaten me or my faith or make me determined to prove you wrong. It’s yours. I imagine your viewpoints are born out of your experiences in the same way that mine are. It’s not my job to sort it out, thankfully, it’s God’s. There are so many blatantly evil things in this world to battle against, and so many horrific wrongs against the innocents of this world that need to righted– if I spend even a portion of my life trying to do something about all of that mess, I doubt that I will ever have the time or energy or desire to try to engage in a theological smackdown with a fellow believer! 

But before you start thinking that I’m going all Kum By Yah on you, please know that I am not saying that some contrasting viewpoints don’t get on my last nerve, because oh dear Lord they do. I don’t like being told that all Christians are judgmental, homophobic, racist hate-mongers (they aren’t) anymore than I like being told that I can’t be a Christian if I didn’t vote for Bush (I didn’t. Twice.) There are more than enough broad-brushed, ill-informed generalizations to go around on both sides. That’s why even though I have no qualms or embarrassment about identifying myself as a Christian, I always feel compelled to clarify a few things, to distance myself from the very bad taste that so many Christians, in all of their gloriously flawed humanity, have left in the mouths of, well… everyone! I always feel like I should apologize (NOT FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN, geez, put your stones down!), but for all of the horrendous things that have been foisted upon the world in the name of God– from the Crusades to the PTL Club, and everything in between. 

So… Everybody? (Including other Christians)–

I’m sorry.

I am really, really sorry that we have blown it so spectacularly so many times. I’m sorry that though we gave the world Martin Luther King and Billy Graham, we also produced Jimmy Swaggart and John Wesley Fletcher. (Google them, it’ll come back to you.)  I’m sorry that we have a tendency to circle the wagons and zealously guard our beliefs instead of proving what we believe by opening the circle to everyone. I’m sorry that we often kill our wounded. I’m sorry that some of my opinions might make you think that we are irreconcilably separated, when the truth is, we are irrevocably bonded.  I’m sorry that we have blamed/credited God for everything from Hurricane Katrina to badly written gospel songs. I’m sorry that we have wasted so much energy fighting against people instead of for people. I’m sorry that we haven’t always shown each other the grace that we have been shown. I’m sorry for every nickel that’s been manipulatively wrung out of people who couldn’t afford it, but gave it with a pure heart anyway. I’m sorry that we have sometimes been such poor reflections of such a magnificent God. And I’m sorry that because we are usually so convinced of our ‘rightness’ in every situation, it is so hard for us to say we’re sorry.

Well, there you are. Far from perfect. Hopefully, we’re learning as we go. But the the thing is, against the odds and in spite of the all the reasons not to, I do believe. To the core of my being, I still believe.

 And I am grateful beyond words for that.

So, yeah. I am a Christian.

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