Monday, March 30, 2015

What is Freedom...What is Discrimination?

As our society continues to reel and rock on it's shaky foundation - yet another crack has surfaced to make the ground even more unstable.  This time in Indiana...

Even though there are nineteen states that already have "Religion Restoration Acts" - which was a bill originally signed into law by Bill Clinton - Indiana is facing resistance to the bill, and the verbal tirades and wrath of many...

Let's simplify it...

Christians want the freedom to decline to participate in acts and services that they find to be against their religion - abortions, gay weddings, etc. without facing criminal and civil punishments......

And some others do not want Christians to have that freedom...because they do not see it as "freedom."...instead, they find the Christians' desire to decline services that go against their religious beliefs to be the equivalent of discrimination.

The question is then.......Is it discrimination for a Christian, private business to deny services that are against their religious beliefs? Is denying a cake for a homosexual couple the same as denying blacks entrance to a restaurant. (The two are almost always drawn as moral equivalents in this situation.) Is refusing to participate in an abortion the same as expecting blacks to sit on the back of the bus or drink from a different water fountain? If it is...then it is discrimination...if it isn't...then it is freedom.

How does a modern society decide?

If I had that answer, I would be hailed as the modern Socrates...I would win a Nobel Prize...a Pulitzer Prize...I would have interviews on many, many talk shows...I might even be president...but, unfortunately, I don't have the answer...what I do have, however, are a few things to think about...

1. If a Christian Pastor went into a gay restaurant/bar that rents out party space and asked to hold a revival service there that decries homosexuality - my guess is the bar wouldn't rent to them...and my guess is that public opinion would be on the side of the bar...."WHY would a Christian want to have a revival, especially one against homosexuality, in a gay restaurant bar?!?!?!" "Christians have churches, they don't need a gay bar/restaurant to provide that service for them." "How rude of a Christian to expect a gay person who owns a business to do that!"

2. If a Christian went into a known progressive or gay bakery and asked for a cake to be made that said, "Gay Marriage is Wrong" - my guess is the bakery wouldn't make the cake...oh, wait...that DID already happen, thirteen times...here is one of the stories. And it went further...gay advocates went on to call the cake requested "hate speech" and the man who requested it an "extremist" - which translates today into "dangerous and terrorist" (in case you didn't know.)

3. If a business, say a mall, banned Christians from praying in the food court because the sight of such goings-on might offend non-Christians...my guess is that the mall would get away with it because it is a "private" business...oh, wait...THAT happened already too...here.

Oh, I could go on...but there's no need...I think the three provided examples serve to elicit plenty of thought...but, the ONLY way the thought will work is if you lay down your prejudices and conceived notions for a while and look at the situation objectively....maybe ALL the instances (liberal and conservative) ARE discrimination....maybe ALL the instances (liberal and conservative) ARE freedom issues...but, the thing is...one can't be freedom and the other discrimination...for all are alike...aren't they?

There are other questions here...can there be a "Christian" private business? To that I would simply ask, can there be a "Gay" private business? Is a business that pays taxes to the US government allowed to "espouse" a certain religion? I would ask, is a business that pays taxes to the US government allowed to "espouse" a certain sexuality? Can said Christian business say, legally, that their God, Bible, and beliefs prevent them from providing certain services to certain people? Again, can said "gay" business say, legally, that their birth-right prevents them from dealing with certain "close-minded, disagreeing" people? Should the Christians just go out of business? .... Should the gays go out of business? Should the Christians be "re-educated" to be more tolerant of sexuality? ... Should the gays be "re-educated" to be more tolerant of religious belief?

Again, this could go on and on and on.......

But the longer it goes on, the shakier our foundation as a nation becomes...for we are no longer "One Nation" - but rather "Two Distinct Set of People who Disagree" - and that's not good...

Is it?




Monday, March 23, 2015

Death and Life

Kara Tippetts died yesterday. For those who don't know, Kara was a mother, pastor's wife, and fighter. She had metastatic breast cancer, and fought it for two years...yesterday, she won her fight...she was ushered into the presence of God - into Heaven, where there is no more pain, where there are no more tears...she is in eternal bliss and perfection....and us? We're left here...to ponder...to ponder what to do now...

I've never known quite how to deal with death...and I've been surrounded by it a lot, or so it seems to me. My grandmother, my "Nanny," died when I was eleven years old...it was Mother's Day, 1981...I went to church with my other grandma, my "Mammaw" and when we got back to her house, the phone rang (the days before cell phones)...from just the look on my Mammaw's face, I - at 11 years old - said, "Nanny's dead isn't she?" - Somehow, I knew. My Mammaw just nodded, and I threw myself on the bed and sobbed...That was my first close-encounter with death...

During my teen years, several more distant family members died...but we always went to the funeral...so it was always very real to me...also during that time, several friends and school acquaintances were killed in various ways - suicide, car wrecks, homicide...

In my 20's - my uncle Bud died...we knew he had a bad heart, but still I didn't expect him to die when he did...I took him buttermilk that morning - he loved buttermilk, and when I was very little used to trick me into tasting it...YUCK! - Anyway, I took him some buttermilk that morning and talked with him - he was his usual happy self...and that night, he was dead...in my 30's more friends and acquaintances passed away - my Aunt Francis died of Ovarian Cancer, my grandfather, "Pappaw" - died from a complication of Alzheimer's...as a teacher, former students have died...last year, my Uncle Sam died very unexpectedly...leaving my mother the only living member of her original nuclear family - (her father died when she was seven.)

So, again, I feel as if I've seen my share of death...and I've never known - even as a Christian - how to deal with it...I tend to be a very empathetic person, so death affects me deeply - I feel not my own emotions, but I know others are feeling horrid emotions and pain, and that bothers me...sometimes I think I feel like Dr. Xavier from X-Men...of course, I can't "feel" other's pain, and I don't mean to say I can...but I do know they are hurting, and that often paralyzes me...makes me hurt for them...makes me feel guilty for living, if you will....

But, I think between my Aunt Francis and Kara Tippetts, I have learned something...

When someone dies, we have to live...we must live...we must enjoy our living as much as we can...we must continue to make memories...if we don't, we dishonor the dead...

My aunt looked at me while she was dying and said, "Tammy, lying here dying, all I have left are the memories I made...go, live your life...make as many memories as you can...LIVE!" and I promised her I would... I think about that often...and now I have Kara's words to think about - Love Big...make the most of every moment...make memories...be present...live life to the fullest...to the depth you are able...

I think now that Kara is in Heaven, she would reiterate that strongly...she would yell from Heaven - LIVE! LOVE! ENJOY! Take in every moment you are given... I know that's exactly what my aunt said...so, two Godly women can't be wrong...

While our hearts are heavy for loss, don't let it define your life...live, love, laugh, drink life in...it is a gift given by God...one we should enjoy, not carelessly waste...don't let circumstances carry you...carry them as long as you can...and give God the glory.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Pass the Salt

Imagine if you will, a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner...or perhaps a Christmas dinner...the food is delicious-looking; the table is laid out perfectly; the smells are amazing. Your stomach rumbles and your mouth waters just seeing it all...you sit down to eat, and the food is passed around and grace is said, and it's time to eat...you take a bite, ready to savor your favorite part of the meal, and you realize.......the cook didn't put any salt into the food...not a grain of salt and not in anything.....you think maybe there's a medical reason, so you politely ask for the salt shaker, so you can just add some salt to your food...but your host/hostess adamantly says "NO! You are not allowed to put any salt on any of this food! It is forbidden!....However, you may take a little salt in a spoon and lick it, THEN put the food in your mouth...but you may NOT mix the salt in any way.................

My guess is, you'd think she or he was nuts...crazy...little too much nipping of the wine while cooking, maybe?

But, sadly, this is exactly what happens in our churches and in our world today....Jesus said we are the "salt of the earth" - what does that even mean? Well, let's think about it a moment...

When you put salt onto something - it mixes in...there's no way - if the salt is used correctly - that you can ever separate the salt from the food after it's mixed in...(OK, there's probably a chemical way, but go with me here)...when we salt food - it enhances the food...it flavors the food...it literally changes the food...even the chemical composition of the food.....

Now...if you take the extended metaphor (sorry, English teacher here) and apply it to what Jesus said about us as Christians...apparently, we are to be mixed in with the world...we are to flavor the world...we are to enhance the world...we are to change the world...literally change the composition of the world...but...most churches don't do that...most of them stay in their four walls - hidden from the world...holed up in an ivory tower of self-righteousness or maybe just complete cluelessness - and they don't ever make a difference.......

That's NOT what Jesus said being a Christian was about...he said "Be IN the world, but not OF it." Most Christians seem to get that last prepositional phrase very well..."I'm not OF this world!" they proudly proclaim..."I'm holy, set-apart, righteous!" Good for you...but are you even paying attention to the FIRST part of that verse...that first prepositional phrase? "Be IN the world"......and as an answer - blank stares...

See. a preposition shows the relationship of a noun in the sentence to the subject...so let's break it down grammatically.

Jesus says - "Be in the world, but not of it." -

Subject - Implied "You" - for he is talking to the reader - the Christians who read his world...
Verb - Be
1st preposition - "In" - indicating what our OUR relationship with the word "world" is supposed to be.
2nd preposition "Of" - preceded by the adverb NOT - indicating what our relationship to the "world" is NOT supposed to be.

You can't get away from it, no matter how hard you try...we are to be IN this world...we are salt to this world...we are light to this world....we are called to be "Christ-like" - and Jesus went into the trenches...he had dinner and hung out with the prostitutes, the tax collectors (the mafia/money-launderers of his day)...the lepers (the outcasts)....and all the while - the church people - the religious people scorned him for doing it...

"He's eating with THEM?!?!?!"
"He's hanging out with THEM?!?!"
"He's a drunk! I saw him drinking wine with them!!!!"

Sound familiar? Oh, too familiar in today's "Christian" world...plenty of judgement, plenty of disdain, plenty of self-righteousness...but no love...

People...we are called to love...we are called to make a difference...we are called to be HIS hands and feet....and so, I ask you this question...

HOW can we do any of those things if we stay in our sanctuaries and look out (and usually down) at the world in which we live?

We can't.

Where do you need to "get your hands dirty" today? Where do you need to go; who do you need to see; what do you need to do? God wants you to show him to a world that's sad, desperate, lost, broken, hungry, cold, hurting....

You cannot do that if you never go into the world...

So, go...be the light...be the salt....for if you don't, who else will?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Over-Spiritualizing Our Desires

Our pastor said something this weekend that I had never heard before...and that's saying a lot since I'm in my 40's and I have been in church nearly every single week, most of the time, two-three times a week, since I was six-years-old...I honestly thought I had heard about everything in regards to lessons and sermons...but this weekend, I heard something new...

We, as Christians, tend to over-spiritualize our desires...

I was like,, huh? Then he explained...and I got it...instead of using his example, however, I will use my own example to help you understand...

Last August, I needed a car...I had decided I would buy one for cash, and not go into debt...but, I thought, what the heck, maybe I can find something not too expensive, and the debt will be manageable...and I'll get a nicer car...I promised myself that I would only go as high as $250 a month...so, I went to a local car lot...and I found a little car that I loved...and I applied for it...and I got it. The miracle was that I got it...mainly because of a short-sale on our house in 2011, my credit wasn't great, and I thought I wouldn't be approved...but, I was...and not only that, I was approved through a local credit union, not a high-dollar finance company, and the interest rate wasn't sky high...I reasoned..."I need a car...God allowed me to be approved...God must be giving me this car...I should buy it..." ... and I did... I "over-spiritualized" my problem/desires... but, I failed to use wisdom... The payment on the car was $380...$130 over my "price" - plus, it was financed for five years...that's a long time! If I had used wisdom instead of the logic, "God provided this, it must be his will..." I wouldn't have found myself in the situation I did this year with a car I couldn't afford...and now no car...

I have used over-spiritualization over and over again in my life...telling myself that so and so wouldn't or couldn't happen unless God was behind it...but, I've been wrong...

How do you over-spiritualize your life? Our pastor's story was simpler and cuter than mine...he said that many in the congregation buy him baseball game tickets a lot...and every time he goes to one of the games (quite literally) he catches a fly ball...so, he told himself, "It must be God's will that I go to more baseball games, right? Since the church buys me tickets and God lets me catch balls." Simple...Silly...but oh, so true...

How are we "overspiritualizing? What have we convinced ourselves that God wants for us, or wants us to have, or wants us to do because we think He somehow magically made something happen...

Don't get me wrong...God does do miraculous things...He does open closed doors...but, I think much more often than not, we are assigning spirituality when it is just life...and whatever one's opinion about that, of one thing I'm sure...no matter how "magical" or "wonderful" something seems, if it is not wise...if it is irresponsible in any way --- "Oh, it's a great job, but it'll take an hour each way to get there, and I'll only miss a few more hours each day with my family...no big deal..." - "Oh, I should do this, it'll only take half my life's savings..." or "It's a great promotion; sure I'll have to miss church from here on out, but it'll be OK..." --- if it's unwise, it's not God's will...it's not God's provision...it's us, overspiritualizing it...

A hard lesson for someone like me to learn...but a valuable one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why is Truth so Difficult?

I am an honest person. I've said it before. I say it again today. It's no surprise. As I've been told, I'm so honest sometimes I make people uncomfortable, but in my estimation, truth is still the best way to go. After reading today's post on Kara Tippett's blog Mundane Faithfulness entitled "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" - I am even more convinced of it. In her blog, Kara has been talking a lot about truth lately - and if I may be so bold as to paraphrase Kara - she says that her terminal cancer diagnosis has shown her that we, as humans, spend too much time NOT telling the truth - hiding it - saying the "right" things rather than the true things. She admonishes us to speak truthfully with love.

And I couldn't agree more - we should speak the truth. It brings so much more honor and glory to God than the false mouth-service we, as Christians, so often pay.

The Lord has allowed me the privilege (Yes, after all these years, I say privilege) of living an existence that has put me on the end of  Christian "truth" time and time again. Just three of the at least a dozen experiences:

 When I was fifteen, my church - yes, I say the whole church, because about 90% of the people involved were in agreement - believed I was a slut. They shunned me explicitly and implicitly. They whispered about me. They excluded me. They didn't want their teenagers to be around me. They told others to "stay away from me." Those things in and of themselves were bad enough, but the really hurtful part for me was not knowing why people were acting this way toward me...not having any idea what I had done wrong...not having any idea what I had done to deserve such treatment. I asked people. I begged to know, but no one would utter a word...they only continued to ostracize me. It was probably then that an already over-abundant sense of justice was triggered to new heights in me. I could not understand how "Christians" could do the things that were done to be...but more than that, I really couldn't understand how Christians wouldn't just tell the truth. Yes, I eventually found out, but it wasn't until years later...and the lies and omissions of truth hurt.

Later, in my 20's, my husband and I had a terrible time financially. We were truthfully quite irresponsible and just terrible with money. In that time, the church (a different one) we attended ostracized us - they had secret meetings about us. They talked about us behind our backs. The laughed at us. They refused to include us. One night, without knowing we were there, the deacons had a meeting about us...we were outside the room, quite accidentally and overheard part of their "Deacon's Meeting" - "They are terrible with money." "She's so bossy and tells him what to do." "She runs that marriage." "He's weak and not a real man." and much more. After the meeting, without letting on that we had heard anything, we talked to the pastor and deacons very generally about our situation, and were never once told the things that were said behind our back...although they continued to treat us like leapers in our own congregation...At least this time, I knew why, but not because of honesty, because of accidentally overhearing the truth no one was willing to tell us. The lies and the omissions of truth hurt.

Just recently, now in my 40s, life has thrown our family onto a roller coaster ride of turbulence, troubled finances, personal pain, and loss. While I have consistently viewed this experience as really just a bad situation made worse by uncontrollable circumstances, it has come to my attention in the past few days that many of my friends - my Christian friends - at least half of them - have seen our situation very differently than I have  - they have had hard, harsh, blaming, disdainful feelings towards me and my family for this situation - and if not specifically for the situation itself, then they have definitely had those feelings because I asked for help for us financially to get a better car because we had to give up ours and cannot afford to get another one.

And, again...the lies...the omission of truth hurts...

And I reiterate, it hurts not so much that my friends blame me for the situations of the past year (although that does hurt too) - but that they haven't been honest with me about how they felt until the issue was forced by one young, honest friend...

And I am brought back to the same thoughts that I have had for years and years...

Why don't people just tell the truth - especially Christians?? So much heartache would be saved if people, if Christians would.......it would be so much better for all involved if instead of pretending to "care" and be "OK" with an offending person and their actions --- then the offending person finding out that the Christians are lying about how they truly feel --- people just told the truth from the beginning.

However, regardless of the things I have been through. Regardless of my personal pain......the point of this post is not about that...this point of this post is to say to the people who read me..........

God is not honored with our fake kindness. God is not honored with our patronizing. God is not honored with our empty platitudes. God is not honored with our lies....No...God is honored when we tell the truth even when it's painful or uncomfortable...God is honored when we love one another enough to be honest...God is honored when we follow his directives in Scripture - Matthew 18:15, Colossians 3:9, Proverbs 14:5, I Timothy 4:2....and many, many more...



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Theater is NOT Life

I hate depressing movies. Most of the people in my life don't seem to understand that. They try, quite a bit, to get me to watch them. From "chick-flick" tear-jerkers to today's excuse for most superhero movies (which are actually more similar to Greek tragedies with special effects) to historical dramas - People assure me that I will be better for watching these movies...that I will 'like' them...that I will grow from them...that I will...blah, blah, blah...

You know what, I don't care what kind of personal growth I might gain from such movies, I don't like them. I don't want to watch them. I won't learn to like them. They won't warm my heart. They.Just.Suck.

Life has enough depression without Hollywood or Broadway adding to it.

When I was in London, nearly everyone wanted to go see War Horse, which was playing at the time...I can tell you, quite honestly, if someone had given me a free, front-row center ticket with back-stage passes, I wouldn't have gone to see it. I would have scalped it on a street corner and bought a balcony seat to see The Wizard of Oz or 39 Steps...why? It's pretty simple; I'd rather laugh than cry.

My son, TJ talked me into watching The Bucket List a couple of years ago...I may never forgive him for it.

Ray has talked me into a couple of movies that I may never forgive him for...

Tyler is desperate for me to watch Spider-man 2 - "Why," I keep asking him, "So I can watch Spider-man tragically kill his one true love?" I mean, what's the point, really?

In "real life" - I know people who are fighting cancer. I know people who are dying of cancer. I know people who have been through the most traumatic divorces one can think of. I have been through one of those divorces. I know people who have lost their children to terrible diseases and to horrible accidents. I know people who suffer with some of the most debilitating diseases on the planet. I read about people everyday who are being persecuted, killed, martyred...people who are being beheaded, sold into white slavery, raped, taken from their homes forever...people who are starving, freezing, dying of exposure and disease...babies being born with horrible birth defects, babies being born dead or dying within minutes after birth...babies and children being abandoned, being abused, being left to all the horribleness of this world with no one to give a damn...I read about all the hate and anger and slander in this world...everyday...I mean, isn't all of that sad enough...and even moreso because it's real?

So, WHY would I purposely put myself in front of a stage, TV, or movie screen - and at times even pay money - to see fictional heartbreak...and to cry more?

I won't do it...

I'm sorry my friends and family, but you cannot make me into a "chick-flick" girl...you cannot make me into a "drama" girl...you can't make me into a "tragedy lover" - it.ain't.gonna.happen.

I'll watch my comedies...you know, the ones that make you roll your eyes and say you're losing IQ points when I ask you to watch them with me? I'll stick with those...and you can keep your depressing, tear-jerking, fiascos...

I completely disagree with my high school theater teacher who said, "theater is life" and I especially disagree with Socrates and Plato who say that art has no merit unless it is for the purposes of catharsis...

Ugh.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why Do We Judge Others?

I know this is going to be partially a personal rant, and for that, I apologize, but there is some wisdom in here, I think, so for that reason, I ask you to read on...

We sit in judgement of others so very often, many times when we don't even realize we do...
  • "She's just not trying, you know. She'd be beautiful if she just lost some weight."
  • "He's just too lazy. He has such potential."
  • "There's just no way I could do what he did, but I guess he had his reasons."
It goes on and on. You know you do it. I do it. We all do it. We sit ourselves in the seat of judge, jury, and executioner at times...and it stinks!

I have dear friends who are gay. I have dear friends who are progressive liberals. I have dear friends who are fundamental Baptists. I have friends who are Muslim. I have friends who are Pagans. "Yeah, yeah, we know, Tammy, you always say that." Yes, I do, but every time I see and experience this phenomena of judgement, it bears repeating. Why? Because it shows we can be friends with; we can love; we can be close to ANYONE despite our differences. "HOW? How could we possibly do that, Tammy?" Easy, you QUIT judging others and merely accept them as they are. You quit posturing. You quit making uninformed decisions/judgments. You quit "knowing it all." Because, quite frankly, you don't. None of us do. We cannot judge where someone has walked for one very logical, very important reason - WE. ARE. NOT. THEM.

Period.

I came back to NC last summer, hoping to find employment and stay here with my family. I didn't find it. So I went back to Florida for the fall semester and taught there. I was finally offered a job back here in NC, so we came back, again...but in January, because I wasn't certified in Theater (irony, I know), I couldn't keep that job...so I began looking again...and I have looked, and looked, and looked...and still nothing. Many have made the insinuation that I haven't tried hard enough...that I haven't 'really' looked...that I have wanted to go back to Florida this whole time, and therefore didn't really try here...

Sigh...While I know the people that "need" to read this, probably never will, it does me good to just get it out...so here goes - this is a PARTIAL list of the companies and entities with whom I've applied in the past year (mostly the past five months) - please note that the school systems usually received 1-3 applications for various positions, not just one.

McDowell County Schools
Buncombe County Schools
Asheville City Schools
Haywood County Schools
Henderson County Schools
Guilford County Schools
Gaston County Schools
Wake County Schools
Mitchell County Schools
Yancey County Schools
AB Technical College
McDowell Technical College
Western Piedmont Community College
South College
Polk County Schools
Rutherford County Schools
Columbus County Schools
Catawba County Schools
Cleveland County Schools
Burke County Schools
McDowell Early College
Sunrise Nursing Home
Magnolia Nursing Home
Blue Ridge Hospital System/Nursing Homes
Missions Hospitals/McDowell Hospital and Doctor's offices
MAHEC
Food Lion
Dollar General
Hospice
Care Partners
Schools in SC
Schools in East TN
O'Charleys

(Education, Nursing, Retail, Secretarial, Administrative, Waitressing, and, and, and....

the list goes on and on...and? And? And..........

NOTHING...I had three interviews and got none of those jobs...

"Wow," you say, "Your work record and evaluations and references must really suck!"

Let's see...I have an LPN diploma, a BA in English from Montreat College, a MA in English from Mercy College, and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Concordia University. I have a NC LPN license, a NC Teaching license in English 6-12, Elementary, and PreK, a Florida Teaching license in English 9-12 and  Elementary PreK-3rd. I have excellent references. I have the highest teacher evaluations one can have in Florida (Highly Effective) - only about 10% of teachers ever achieve this...and until this INSANE year, I have had an excellent work record...so, I don't quite think it's my fault I'm not finding a job...

But, I know, others are going to think what they want...most of the time, I've gotten to the point where I can move past it and not worry about it...but when it REALLY hurts, when it REALLY gets to me, it's because people VERY close to me (family and some friends) truly believe that I am just not trying...that I just want to "get back to Florida" by any means necessary...

REALLY?

Do you know the emotional turmoil I've been through this past year? Do you know the toll it's taken on me and my family? Do you realize all we've lost trying to make this work? Do you? No, you don't, because you have not walked in my shoes..and because you only see what you WANT to see in the midst of it all...

Sad...Very sad when people who are "Christians" think SO incredibly poorly of someone...even though the Bible clearly instructs "Love Thinks No Evil (of others)."

To those who have loved me anyway - Thank-you! To those who haven't judged me - Thank-you! To those who have been "real friends" and have offered help and support and even jobs during this time - Thank-you! (those job offers from friends were all back in Florida, just FYI; NO ONE in NC has offered even a temporary position for me during this time.) To my true friends, thank-you.

To the rest of you - Stop it. Stop judging other people. Stop thinking you know so much about others when you don't. Stop sitting in your ivory tower and on your high horse. Stop 'thinking evil' of others because you "just KNOW so and so and blah, blah, blah..." In truth, You probably don't really know anything at all about the situation. And just as a note, for those of you who "only share out of concern or to share prayer requests..." If you were really concerned about whatever or whomever it is, you'd quit judging and just try to help them.