Tag Archives: Christianity

I remember Joni


I remember Joni. Do you remember her?

When I was a kid, she was a subject of much praise in Evangelical Christian circles because, after diving into shallow water in 1967, Joni Eareckson she was left paralyzed from the shoulders down. She learned to paint and write by holding a brush/pen in her teeth. She recorded several albums of her music, and Billy Graham (1979) even made a film of her life.

Continue reading I remember Joni

WWJB?


What Would Jesus Blog?

Seriously. If he were to blog today, turn off the “Mythbusters” DVD Thomas is watching, shut the office door to wall out the noise of the Sons of Thunder, plunk himself down at a computer, what would he have to say?

Continue reading WWJB?

First World Christians


SO, First world problems. It’s an Internet meme these days, also known as White Whine. The idea is easier to understand by seeing a few of them, than by explaining it.

Nothing is worse than too much Splenda in your coffee!”
“My boyfriend wrote “I love you!” on my bathroom mirror, with my $24 tube of lipstick! F*#& my life!”
“My 64-ounce steak was medium rare, and I specifically ordered it medium!”
“Stupid vending machine only had 3 types of diet soda!”
“I’ve had better room service in 3rd world countries than at Disneyland Hotel…”

You get the idea. Take an inconsequential thing that annoys you, and complain about it. Then think about the grander scheme of things. Does it really matter, compared to say, war, rape, or starvation?

Here’s one.

Here’s another.

You get the idea, right?

Anyway, it got me wondering if we live First World Christian lives in our First World Churches, and how?

“Couldn’t get a drummer for Worship this Sunday…”
“The Youth Missions Group could only afford to go to Mexico this year…”
“The Powerpoint Guy isn’t moving the slides in time with Pastor’s sermon!”
“That church baptizes by sprinkling and not by full submersion!”

I’m just making these scenarios up, of course, but in light of the Christian mission to love our neighbors, we do tend to make a barbaric muddle of things.

Now, I don’t evangelize. I don’t often feed the hungry, or even man soup kitchens. I helped the homeless folks in Santa Cruz, and when confronted with a few schizophrenic drug addicts, I’ve never been more terrified in my life. But, we all have our niche, right? Homeless, schizophrenic drug addicts just happens NOT to be mine.

I remember another time when I made an attempt at person-to-person “ministry” (for lack of a better term).

When I was in elementary school, my mother used to take my sister and me to the Curry Good Samaritan Center in Brookings, and we’d visit the old folks. My step great grandfather was there, an old man who had a fairly severe stroke. He cried when we visited. There was Emma, a nice old lady who was mostly addled, but loved holding my hands. She smelled like pee a lot. There was an old man (Frank, I believe his name was…) who was bedridden, and could only say words like “Heyyyyyy!” but he was enthusiastic and loved seeing my sister and me. We’d wheel them into the rec center, and we’d play BINGO. They’d win little trinkets and Lori and I would run between them and help the more infirm folks to black out the numbers on their cards. One by one these people died off, of course. Aunt Edith was the last one I visited at Good Samaritan, when I was maybe seventeen. Once or twice I’d play the organ in the small chapel. The patients loved music. I only knew five or six hymns, but some people who never stopped rocking would look up and smile, and sometimes even hum, when I played.

I dunno if that was my niche either. It certainly wasn’t within my comfort zone. It WAS however in keeping with the Christ’s Most Important Commandment, and not just a fiddling-around with the global injustice that occurs if you buy the wrong brand of grape juice in the communion cups. I’m not saying anyone should actually go out and run a soup kitchen, or cleanse lepers (it couldn’t hurt…) but sometimes stretching yourself, you may find hidden caches of amazing talent.

Maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills. I’m just saying there are battles that as kind, moral folks, we should be fighting. We often choose not to fight them, and tend to prefer the kind of war games that we should set aside, just in case Scrabble gets really, really boring.

I try, every day, to make my relationships better ones. I may not be perfect but at least it’s something I can aspire to. You know? The more I think it over,  I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be known as a First World Christian.

Who’s with me? Against me?

Foreskin-Free and Feelin’ Fine?


For no particular reason, I read the book of Galatians, from the New Testament, today. It’s been years since I’d gone through the book. Using all the skills at my hand from 20+ years of Biblical training, including a close reading of several books of the Bible in the original Greek, I synthesized the message and devised the following hermeneutic for my readers:

Don’t let ANYONE in the Church, for any reason, guilt-trip you into slicing off hunks of your penis.

2000 years ago, a few people from the church, maybe sent from Peter (how ironic would THAT be?) were real dicks and decided to tell the new Turkish Christians that they had to follow, to the letter, the Hebrew laws according to the Bible, or their involvement in the church was invalid. This included dietary laws, and the thing that really got a rise out of Paul, the practice of circumcision.

Paul said he spent over 14 years preaching to the non-Judaean crowd. He’d passed through what is now Turkey at some point and started a church in Galatia. He found out later that the wiener police were cutting in on his territory. This is the basis of Paul’s letter. In this tiny 4-page letter lies the crux of a critical message for Christians. Don’t get all tangled up in the Law. We’re beholden to a bigger power.

So, I have two questions:

How have we allowed the church to cut us, all while simply accepting that it’s the Will of God?

How have we persuaded others to be cut, because it’s the Christian thing to do?

Circumcision is an extremely painful medico-religious procedure that is done to a very intimate part of one’s body. I think it stands as a metaphor for the hundreds of things we’ve let the Church do, or that maybe we’ve done ourselves? Here are a few that I’ve heard:

“You can’t make it to evening services tonight? Well isn’t that special…”
“Of course if you aren’t witnessing with the Evangelism Team, your reward in Heaven will be smaller.”
“If you’re not praying or reading the Bible regularly, you’re just starving yourself. If you’re no good for God, you’re no good for us.”
“We’re not questioning your loyalty to the church; you’re just not faithful enough to be involved.”
“You had wine with your dinner? <dead silence>”

So yeah, Galatians is about spiritual abuse, a term that took over 2 millenia to manifest itself. In that alone, the work is relevant today, especially if you want to remain involved in the church. If you’re not part of the church, I just want to point out that in 60AD, there was already a document written (by an Apostle no less) that tackled church abuse with passion and maybe even outrage. We’re just sometimes not very good at remembering it ourselves.

We grow complacent. We like things to stay the way they were. “Gimme that Old Time Religion,” the old song goes. We just have to remember what’s really important, and what’s worth throwing out.

Also, we need to remember  never, ever to let someone talk us into chopping pieces of our dicks off for Jesus. Don’t be a complete weenie.

Maundy Thursday, and What’s in a name?


I’m kinda down tonight. Not sure why. It’s as good a time as any to belch out a blog, I guess. I had a cousin who could belch the alphabet (not you Jenny…) and that always impressed me, but the alphabet isn’t 500 words long now, is it? Tonight you really get 2 blogs, because I’m too lazy to hit “post” twice. It’s like Doublemint gum, except you don’t get gum, or even double-pleasure. But you get to read my blog! Hell, read it twice. After all, what’s the Psalm say? “I like Big Butts and I cannot lie?” And if you seriously think that’s not a Holy Scripture, you’re probably reading the wrong website.

Anyhoo…..

Today is good Friday. It’s not my favorite holiday of the Holy week, but it’s probably the most important, seeing how it commemorates how the Christ died on the Cross and all. My favorite of the holiday week is Maundy Thursday, to be honest. It’s Jesus at his most-human point. Having a crappy day of betrayal, bereft of friends. The church service always ended by the minister blowing out candles one by one, and then the bells would toll, and we’d exit the church in silence. Harrowing. Should be rated PG13, because it would have scared the shit out of me if I’d experienced it as a kid. Apart from that, Maundy Thursday’s gotta be them most liturgically-named mainstream holiday we have. I guess Black Thursday would have been too mundane? How about “Where the Hell have all my friends gone?” Thursday?

But, sometimes, as a Christian, you need a human God. If that makes no sense to my atheist followers, just bear with me. It’s the miracle of Christianity, the fact that we can identify with a God that was, prior to Jesus, a paradigm of greatness, of rage, of awesome power, and general unknowable-ness. Yet a Jesus who needed friends? that touches something in me, even in my middle-aged years of unknowing.

Easter is nice, but it’s been co-opted by corporate America and has no meaning to me anymore, and I was never that big a fan of hard-boiled eggs anyhow.

So, that was yesterday. What about the rest of the week when I wasn’t blogging? This is really two blogs today, I’ve had two thoughts on my mind this week. And, for better or worse, you just read the first one.

Well, I was learning names at work. It’s a corporate “thing” on the East coast that we need to ask the name of each customer who orders either an espresso beverage or a sandwich. Even though the directive didn’t start until February, our store began in December because we are collectively so awful at spelling.

I’m a good speller. I’m a TERRIBLE rememberer. It’s funny. I can tell you, 20 years ago, where I sat in a theater, when I watched the movie “Big” (with Tom Hanks), and where I ate that evening, and who I was with (in a bold, and I thought, romantic stroke, I told that woman to put her hands in her mouth to warm them up, later that same evening). I remember the scent of our carport from 35 years ago. I remember where the cereal was kept in our apartment 40 years ago. But if you walk into my store and order a drink, I’ll forget your name before you leave the building.

This BOTHERS me. They pay me to be a people person. I’m barely able to be “person.” Yet I’ve seen it work. If I say “Hi Bob!” when Bob comes in, we no longer have a transaction. We have a relationship in the works. From “Hi Bob!” I can say “How’re the kids?” or “Elbow feeling better?” or “Depart from me, I never knew you!” But for me, getting to “Hi Bob!” is the doozy.

So, last week I watched  a TEDTalks video that talked about how he trained his mind to remember all sorts of useful facts. I’m serious–this guy was almost a savant. According to CNN, he can “memorize the precise order of 28 shuffled packs of playing cards in one hour. He used a similar trick to memorize the precise order of 4,140 random binary digits in half an hour.” If he can do that, I can remember a few people’s names and their drinks, right?

Well, I’ve been making an effort. It’s still not easy, but I got Lee. And Pam. Emily, and Amanda. I’ve figured out Hunter and Mike (We’ve got half a dozen Mikes–I confuse them all). You get the picture. I’m learning names.

You may think I’m doing this because my workplace tells me to. No, not really. I’m doing this because relationships are more important that coffee.

And that’s been my week. Enjoy your Christian holidays. Or since it’s Friday night, enjoy your Passover. May you all be blessed this upcoming year!

Prophetic Propositions are either Pablum or Poison.


Prophecy bugs me. You’re probably aware of this if you’ve followed my blog for long at all. I’ve written about it before here, here and also here. But in all these posts, I think I’ve skirted the issue because I didn’t want to offend Christian friends, or appear laughable at my non-Christian ones.  The dirty truth is, as prophecy is conceived of by the contemporary Church, I think it produces gross misdirection to Christians at best, and harmful or even fatal guidance at worst.

People want direction in their lives. I don’t think anyone can deny that if we all knew the future, it would be more simple to make decisions. Continue reading Prophetic Propositions are either Pablum or Poison.

iTunes Christianity


I am not one to buy things whole.  I like iTunes, where I can download a song, rather than buy a whole album. If I like 2 cuts from a CD, I don’t need the other 10, right? I occasionally buy a Greatest Hits album, but with these, I know I like (or should like) most of the songs.

Continue reading iTunes Christianity

More Christian Phrases That Confuse Me


The language of my religion is buried so deeply in the society and culture of our church that we often don’t examine what we’re talking about, or what it means in everyday terms. I’ve struggled with this for years and tried writing about it a few other times and I don’t think my confusion will go away just by writing about this again. But Recently I’ve been seeing Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates from old school friends, now pastors or actively-involved laity. They speak a language I’ve mostly forgotten. This leaves me confused, feeling a bit guilty, and sometimes extremely uncomfortable.

A page from my first Bible. Given to me Christmas, 1976, when I was eight years old.

My confusion usually arises when I take a phrase, and try to apply it to my life. Here’s an example: “Just give it over to God.”

Immediately, my brain reviews few songs and Scriptures that affirm this thought: (1) They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). (2) the poem Footprints in the Sand (3) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6). (4) the Gospel standard What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

We “pray through.” We Wait for God to move.” God reaches us where we are. And my personal struggle: we strive for More of Christ.

So, they confuse me. It is not because the words are difficult, or I can’t understand them, but because living by the words makes no sense to me, and it hasn’t for many years. For example, what hurdles do you climb through, to have “More of Him”? Let’s assume you’re already a Christian; and a “good” one who cares about their personal standing with God, and you do everything you can to live a Christlike lifestyle. What fiery hoops do you jump through to get More? Do you pray more? Does that action give you more of him? Maybe you fast. Does not eating give you more than a dyspeptic ulcer? And most of all: how do you know when you’ve reached the state of Moreness? I recently browsed a post on Facebook, where a friend of mine said “Don’t settle for what you have of Christ. You can always have more.” I disagree.

I spent the first few years of my adult life trying to focus on Christ, and Him alone. I tried to pray without ceasing. I tried to do this every moment, of every second of the day. I’d make it probably five resentfully timed and urgent minutes, followed by ten guilty minutes, where I realized I had forgotten to remember Christ. And amid all these experiments to achieve this state, I never once felt more. Sometimes I’d feel better for awhile. These feelings are transient. I tried, like the Apostle Paul, to deny the flesh. I wouldn’t eat. I’d sacrifice other things for prayer. In point of fact, all I managed was the early stages of religious delirium, and realized the pressing sense that it’s truly impossible to be an ascetic and drive a car at the same time.

The inscription dedicated to a feeling.

In my life, all this thirst for More can be traced to something I wrote in the “Important Events” section of my New Children’s Living Bible when I was 10: “I felt Jesus the Most. 11/5/78.” I remember my 10-year-old self sitting in a pew at New Life Center Assembly of God, in Gold Beach, Oregon. My eyes were shut tight, and I gritted my teeth trying to feel something—anything, really—so I could match what all the others were doing. I had to Feel Jesus the Most. I wrote it down in the Word of God, as if to affirm some kind of covenant to myself. I felt guilty because I knew immediately it was a lie. I couldn’t feel God like, say, Pastor Honey, or Brother Fred, or Sister Lydia. I even knew it was somehow wrong to worry that I was comparing what I feel. Why did it matter if I felt Jesus more than someone else? And how does it help Christ?

I came to realize that The Feeling More of God is for us, pure and simple. But my concern was how it helped anyone but me? If it helped nobody but myself, why did it matter? Did it make the deeds for the rest of the week any more focused, or Godly somehow? I still had to go to school, eat the same PBJ out of the same Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox (ohh I was a fan of Roscoe and Enos back then…) But why would God give us the gift of Feelgood? If that feeling was the entire focus of a church, and I contend that it seems to be quite important in most Charismatic/Pentecostal churches., what does it give us? How long does a “worship high” usually last, and what good does it do for the Kingdom, if that’s 70% of what they’re doing…?

About Once a week I get that twinge when I talk about church. I read “God really moved during the service” or “So-and-so really knows how to worship.” I wonder about that. Is More of God like an automotive tune-up? You need the tune-up before the healing and miracles come spurting forth from the fingers of the blessed? I’d say no, mostly (and YES I believe in Miracles) because such blessed events occur when GOD wants them to, not when we’re well-tempered claviers or something.

I’m not angry, by the way, if I sound like I’m attacking anyone or anything. I’m not. It’s something I really genuinely struggle with, ya know? Sometimes it hurts to not see the point of “feeling” anymore. It used to all make sense. Now it just… doesn’t … anymore. Why do I want More just means a momentary blast of happiness or ecstasy? The real value in Christianity lies somewhere deeper.

Just my two bits.

Pain and Suffering [Susan Isham]


So there I was, minding my own business, reading along in my daily devotional when – bam! – it hit me. I did not agree with the conclusions drawn by Joseph Prince about the scriptures.

I should mention this is not the first time Pastor Prince and I have disagreed. Oh no. I started this devotional with Zac back in February (yes, I am a slacker) so we could read on our own and discuss what was said, get deeper into topics of faith. So far, he’s managed to be wrong at least 2 other times. Joseph Prince, that is. Continue reading Pain and Suffering [Susan Isham]

Beach Babe [Susan Isham]


This is going to be controversial.  Just fair warning.

A week ago Sunday, our church had its annual picnic at Mason Lake.  Very unusually, it was hot, close to 90 degrees after servcies and the sun reached its zenith.  We trooped out, enjoyed the sunshine, ate our fill and fellowshiped.

But there was a wrinkle.

Continue reading Beach Babe [Susan Isham]