Thursday, March 27, 2014

The next time a baker turns down your business...

I got myself into a little bit of trouble recently.

shocker, I know.

I inserted myself into a conversation about the several states considering laws similar to the one Arizona recently vetoed regarding whether businesses may or may not refuse a customer on religious ground.

And though I agree with Governor Brewer vetoing Senate Bill 1062, I stated that I also disagreed with the supreme court ruling that a baker must bake a wedding cake for a gay couple though he is religiously opposed to gay marriage. In fact, the moment I read about the case of the 'cake nazi' so dubbed by many blog enthusiasts, I knew that if he loses his case, surely there will be a pushback.

The Arizona law and laws like it are precisely that pushback.  Where do the freedom and control of the customer end and the freedom and control of the business begin?   But these are things that have been debated ad nauseam so, instead of further blathering on about it, I'd just like to say what I wish had happened in the baker case.  

We're going to call the couple inquiring about the cake Joe & Joe so I don't have to determine which of them is talking in the following imaginary conversation, since it doesn't really matter.  The part of the baker will be played by 'Baker.'

Joe: Hi! You make beautiful cakes! We'd love to look at some options for our wedding.

Baker: Sure... wait, is it for you two?

Joe: Yes.

Baker: Well, gosh. Let me pray on it a moment.  Nope, I'm sorry, I can not make you a wedding cake.  I can make you any other kind of cake, just not a wedding one.  Can I interest you in a scone or a fruitcake? I mean, cupcake... sorry that just kind of slipped.

Joe: Well, I have to tell you, I'm real disappointed to hear that.  And though I'm sure your cupcakes are fabulous, we were here specifically for a wedding cake.  I can see you clearly have your convictions, but since I'm feeling kind of embarrassed and frustrated in front of my fiance here, I hope you'll do me the solid of hearing me out for just a moment.

Baker: well.. I'm not going to change my mind but go on ahead.

Joe:  Thanks.  You see, I'm a Christian as well.  And though I understand you may not accept my particular brand of Christianity, that's ok, you can probably guess that I have a hard time accepting yours.   You see, I've heard a lot of genuine concern regarding Sodom and God's destruction of the town and how that was pretty clearly related to Sodomy.  Except when I read the passage about Lot protecting the two visiting angels by saying, "please guys, don't rape the angels, I have two virgin daughters, I'll bring them out here for you... rape them, not the angels."  Well, I have a hard time thinking that consensual penis penetration was the real sin there... you know?  I kind of stumble over the raping of angels and a dad offering his daughters to a pack of rapists.

And I know there are some other places that condemn homosexuality... but there were a lot of rules on how to live back then in order to continue the species.  And they probably figured out that 'man laying with man as he does with woman' doesn't produce babies, so if populous is what they want, it makes sense to make heterosexual sex the law of the land for the time.

And also, Jesus kind of came along and said in his sermon on the mount to kind of toss what we thought we knew out the window and focus on loving one another and kindness.  At least that's what I took out of the 'love your neighbor as yourself,' thing.

Last, let's say that, as I've heard argued... you agree that 'being gay' isn't a sin, but 'having gay sex,' is a sin.  Well, from all I've heard from my married friends, your sex life diminishes rapidly after marriage so... shouldn't Christians trying to save us from ourselves encourage us to all marry one another?  If the anecdotal evidence holds up... as gay marriage increases, gay sex will decrease!

Really though, I want you to know that I love this man standing beside me fully, purely and truly. He makes me happy and he makes me a better man.  Joe and I can feel, bring and share more joy with this world together than we possibly could apart.  Couldn't this world use a little more joy?

I'm sorry you will not bake our cake as you are a beautiful artist which is what brought us here in the first place, but I respect your strong beliefs.

And I hope that you remember Joe and me and how we respected your right to run your business as you wish if you ever find yourself in the place of casting a vote determining whether you should determine how I run my life.

*respectful handshakes all around*

Friday, March 14, 2014

A joke from my 4yr old to his 6yr old brother yesterday:

J: Knock knock
B: Who's there?
J: Why did the chicken... ummm chicken!
B: Why did the chicken chicken who?
J: ummm because he needed to get to the other side of the school to ride the slide because that was where the playground was!!!!
B: (politely) I'm sorry I don't really get it.

At which point I start laughing, which gets my daughter giggling and soon the whole car is cracking up.

Sometimes we all get things a little mixed up.

In two days we will celebrate St. Patrick who used a shamrock to explain the incredibly confusing 3 Gods/ 1 God stance the Catholic religion had settled upon.

And though I believe in the sacredness, I will never again be able to do the sign of the cross upon myself without giggling just a little because of another mix up by my youngest.

I was brushing my teeth when he, at around 2 and 1/2 rushed in ready to get a sibling in trouble.

Clutching his left shoulder he cried, "MOMMM MOMMY!! Em hit me on my Holy... or on my Spirit... which one is this one?"  It took me a moment to realize that the poor third child was quite possibly never taught the word 'shoulder.'  He was not inundated with Elmo body cartoons nor lulled to sleep by 'my body' books like his siblings.  He jumped right into My Little Pony and Star Wars and they didn't cover  the basics.  So after years of prayers at meals and bedtime, he logically assumed that one shoulder was called a 'Holy' and the other, 'Spirit,' and that for some reason we named them before prayer.  I can't imagine how his little brain was computing that his forehead was also his Father...

And speaking of the Father...

My hubby and I were doing a little Muppets swedish chef impersonation (he was the body and voice, I was the arms) for my children's entertainment.  His accent was dead on... my arm acting could've used some work.  We, comically by my personal opinion, went through a routine of getting the dogs to do their tricks and rewarding them with ham all in the style of swedish chef to the delight of the youngens. At the end of it, my middle child giggled and dashed out of the room exclaiming, 'OMG.'

Before I could correct, discipline or admonish... as I've heard that Christian parents should be quick to do as the basis of OMG violates the commandments, the youngest asked, "OMG, what does that spell?"

And without missing a beat, the middle child said, 'Omg.' Yes, he said something like ummgaa.  and continued to say, "I don't really know the word, but I think it means like, wow, or something like that because people seem to say it a lot when they see something crazy."

After much more laughter than our swedish chef routine got... my daughter corrected them, "O.M.G.  It stands for Oh My Goodness."

"ohhhh," they both echoed.  Followed quickly, of course, by "Jinx! Stop Jinx 123456..."

In each and every one of these situations... the kid was wrong, or mixed up about something.  But, never in my wildest dreams would I think to be angry about it.  They were using knowledge and words and context clues and trying to piece things together as best they could given the limited understanding they had at the time.  Seeing them trying so hard to recreate humor, to accept what what we had presented them as fact, and extrapolate from basic grammar rules was fantastic and beautiful and fun.

In many groups of adults, I can correctly assume ahead of time what their stance or belief on things are... sometimes even their exact words before they say them.  We keep repeating and contradicting one another, but we have a hard time accepting that we all may be mixing things up a little.

And though all that seems obvious in politics... it is true too in religion... even and especially in the religion of atheism.

Not many seem to be willing to admit that there is a really really good chance they've got it all mixed up.

My journey with religion has been pretty open and present on these pages and though I've certainly embraced faith more, it is clear I'm constantly struggling.  In thinking about how silly it would be to get angry at my children for making mistakes with good intentions, I kind of hope that is how God sees me and all of us as we muddle through religion. Comically misunderstanding and yelling and misquoting as we go.  All with good intentions.  All just wrong.  Really really absolutely and ineptly able to understand, wrong.  

And whether or not that is true of God, maybe we should try to see each other with more forgiving eyes.

Because even though I think every single human has God wrong on some level or another... I believe that if we love, forgive and accept each other's ineptness... we come a little closer to understanding the greater picture.

Maybe even as close as my youngest did on his next joke attempt:

J: Knock knock
B: Who's there
J: Banana
B: Banana who?
J: The banana was running because someone ate his apple friend!! Oh WAIT He SPLIT!! Get it? I'm a banana split AAAA Stop eating my apple friend... haha...  Wait, what was I saying?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Last year we were riding home from the park when I saw him waiting near the stop light with his handwritten cardboard sign.

With my kids in the car, I hoped to either make it through the light or get stopped far enough back that we wouldn't be confronted head on with the uncomfortable situation.

Nope.  Instead, we were stopped at the primo spot.  The gentleman was just outside our window.

"Mom, what does that sign say?" asked my son.

"It says, 'Jobless and hungry please help," quickly responded my daughter.

"MOM!" they both implored me.

"Guys, I don't have any money," which was true, but there in my passenger seat were the snacks I had packed for the kids that we didn't eat at the park.  It was just some apples and juice boxes... but it was something.

I rolled down the passenger window and he walked over respectfully.

"I don't have any money, but I have these if you'd like them."

I was nervous because I had heard stories of food being thrown back at the driver in disgust.  But he accepted them gratefully, thanking us five times as he walked away.

At which point my 5 year old middle child took it upon himself to roll down his own window.  "Hey! Do you need a place to stay?  We have a great house!!"

"Bean," I hissed terrified.  But the guy heard, and with a smile said, "Oh, no I've got somewhere thanks..."

I smiled gratefully to the gentleman and hurriedly rolled up the window before my little man could finish his next sentence, "well, if you change your mind we live at.... "  (damn those preschool teachers for making him memorize his address.)

Sigh.  Well, several months and several stranger danger lectures later, I was reminded of this story as I waited to have confession.  The priest was running late and the chapel was completely locked down and in the middle of nowhere.  It was a pretty day though so I thought I could easily take that time to pray and meditate on what it was I needed to talk about.

Which would have been great, if my bladder were not tipping point full.  I had a glass of water, a kale-berry smoothie (my own recipe) and two cups of coffee that morning.  I had to pee so bad my knees hurt.  I had to pee so badly I could taste it.  Seriously, I thought I was going to explode.

I didn't want to leave, because the closest fast food restaurant or gas station was a ways away and surely he would be there any minute.

I tried to pray the pee away and meditate on the rosary, but I kept messing it up saying, "hail mary, full of pee..." so I decided I shouldn't do that anymore.  It was so bad I took a little lap around the building checking to see if there was any place that popping a squat outside a chapel could be acceptable.

I saw the whole thing in my head, pants down, peeing on the chapel wall when the priest walked up, "Don't worry! I'll confess this too!!"

But all options seemingly gone, I took to asking God, because I assumed, like usual, this was actually part of His plan somehow.  So praying for the priest to come, praying for my bladder to grow, praying for a quick fix didn't work.  So instead I prayed to understand.

"Should I not be at confession? Am I about to talk about the wrong thing? Is there something I'm not realizing I need to talk about?"

"You know," I went on, "It's really hard to pray and hear you when I have to pee so bad."

And there it was.  I got out my pen and let it scratch across my journal.

It is hard to pray when you have to pee so bad.  If that is the case, I'd imagine, it would be hard to really pray if you are hungry, if you thirst, if you are sick, in pain,  lonely or discouraged.  If your physical body is not cared for it can be nearly impossible to be able to let go of worrying about 'earthly things,' and turn inward for peace and wisdom.

We quibble at times about the importance of caring for the body vs. caring for the soul.  Some churches like to focus on charity while others on evangelization.  And, while both are important.  In that moment, I knew that for me, someone could speak redemption to me until they're blue in the face but if I were hungry, I couldn't take that message inward where it could bear any fruit.

We may not be able to change someone's minds or beliefs, but we can help in any way we can to take care of one another so that they have the opportunity to find the goodness in themselves.

So obvious, so commonly taught, but it struck a chord for me.  And I realized how obvious that idea is for children.  How obvious it was to Bean that if this guy is hungry... he might also need a comfortable bed, and how he could provide it.  But as we get older, in the midst of fear and worry, we forget the importance of trying to take care of each other even in the simplest of ways.

And the moment I put down my pen and asked, "is that what you were trying to get me to focus on, God?" I heard a voice.

"I'm sorry I'm late... was running errands with another priest."

For the last small moment I had forgotten about how much pain I was in, but when I looked into the kind eyes of the apologetic priest what I meant to say was, "no worries at all! God used the time well."

Instead I said, "Oh Lord, where is your restroom I'm about to burst... Sorry, I'll confess that."

thanks for reading,


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Miley the Baptist

The Lord works in mysterious ways... 

that is what we’ve been told. 

The King of Kings born to a carpenter and his wife in a stable; tax collectors and tyrants reformed to become some of the greatest visionaries of the church; N'SYNC, 98ยบ and Backstreet all reuniting in the same year...  Our mind cannot begin to comprehend the ways of our Creator. 

But I think I’m on to Him... if in just this one thing. 

Miley Cyrus is the new John the Baptist. 

‘What?’ you may be crying, ‘but she does not have a beard!’

Like I said, the Lord works mysteriously... the differences between them go even further than facial hair, but this does not shake my theory.  Allow me to explain. 

John, the second cousin of Jesus, was a charismatic and holy man.  So much so that many thought that he himself was Christ.  In a time of little knowledge and great longing for God, John brought a message of hope.  Repent! The time is nigh! People sought God, they found a messenger who told them to make their hearts ready.  The message had to be loud, earnest, given plainly and by someone who modeled the behavior they were meant to adopt. 

Now, you don’t think God would do things the exact same today do you?  We live in a time of too much information.  Knowledge can spread around the world in a matter of moments.  Not only do we know important information from countries around the globe, we also know how often all of our friends have worked out that week and what they had for lunch.   And in that vein, religious information is shared prodigiously.  So many people in various ways are daily giving a message of hope/doom/repent/I’m better than you because I share religious posts instead of cat videos, that we almost reflexively tune it out. 

So, the message had to be subtle, almost to the point of being undetectable and it had to come from a place where people were definitively not looking for it and where it could reach the most lost.  And are not those of us still watching the VMA’s certainly the lostest?

Behold, Miley. 

I did not see right away.  Like much of America I was watching in stunned silence as she arhythmically gyrated up and down the stage.  Strange, I thought, Awful, I groaned, is this what our country has come to, I questioned.  

And then I turned the television off and didn’t think much more on it. 

Time passed.  Her twitter following grew.  Her critics jeered and threw stones while her fans waited in rapt silence for what she was to do next.  Still I did not fully see. 

 Upon seeing the VMA’s I lamented the breakdown of another young girl in the public eye.  I presumed an awkward desperate attempt at redemption and then news of a stint at rehab.  But inexplicably to me, her popularity indeed grew.  She was nominated for awards, she was invited to perform live at the AMA’s, on morning talk shows and for the biggest party of the year in NYC.

And it was then, on New Year’s, that I understood.  There, an exalted Miley stood draped in a white fur robe fit for Solomon when the ball dropped in Times Square. It was as though she herself were ushering in the new age.

"2013 was the best year and the VMA's were the highlight," she said to the poor man's Dick Clark. 

She went upon a stage, humped a foam finger, fondled a married Beetlejuice look-alike, and placed her face in the ass of a taller than average exotic dancer and just as she predicted... she became a hero. 

Miley and dancers with teddy bears upon their backs
clearly a symbol for the crosses we all 'bear.' 
This time John the Baptist wouldn’t tell us what we need to do.  This time, John would just hold a ginormous mirror to where we are right now. 

‘Can you see?’ the robed Miley seemed to say through the television.  ‘Do you see what you adore?’  

“Holy crap.” I responded.  

"Yes, it is," she seemed to say,  "It is crap. The music, television, dancing all of it, terrible crap.  Holy in that it is designed specifically to be so bad that you are forced to question what you are doing with your life if you are spending time on it.” 

As I pondered this surprising holy purpose, forcing people to take a hard look at their lives, I came across the lyrics of her newest song. 

“Baby, can you hear me? When I’m crying out for you? 
I’m scared oh, so scared. 
But when you’re near me oh oh
I feel like I’m standing with an army 
of men armed with weapons, hey, oh.” 

For a moment I thought I was reading the book of psalms.   In the video, she is suckling her fingers whilst writhing half-naked alone in bed, I assume it is to illustrate the loneliness and mortification of living a life outside Biblical teaching.

So I want to take this moment to say thank you to the Bangerz artist.   Thank you for making me even more grateful for being a thirty-something wife and mom.  Thank you for purposefully making drugs and promiscuity and fame look so dirty that upon witnessing a performance or video, people feel a sudden need for cleansing waters.  

Thank you Miley.  I see the burden you bear for us all.  

ps. thank you also for the cat singing performance.  it was amazeballs. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One Resolution

A few months ago I found a notebook while cleaning out a dresser drawer.  Flipping through it I found the highly motivated ramblings of a mother in her late 20s.

This year, it boldly proclaimed, would be the year of all years. Permanent changes for the good!! I will lose weight!! Eat naturally and get a flat belly! I will write more! I will remember birthdays and occasions and keep in touch with friends and family. I will get up earlier, exercise more, drink less, listen more, read a book a week, keep a stricter budget, clip coupons, organize a craft with my kids everyday and keep an up-to-date scrapbook. I will be supermodel, super mom, start a business and get my doctorate! I will finally achieve all I can be!

Ok, I might be paraphrasing... But not much.  And the sad thing is that it really didn't strike me that my resolutions were about to be exactly the same this year. Because this year, see, would be different.  I had a plan and a quippy title for my cover page in my new notebook.  In fact, here is what the first page would’ve looked like:

2014: The Year of AcCOUNTabliity
Counting words, calories and pennies to achieve ultimate personhood.

Goals: To be thinner, with a finished manuscript, and a perfectly balanced budget with no waste. 

Plan of Action: I will keep a daily journal that details our home budget, my calorie intake vs. calorie burned, and my written word count. 

Honestly, that plan would’ve lasted until maybe the 10th... hour of January 1st. 

But regardless of old journals filled with the same goals, regardless of it being doomed to fail,regardless of filling the pages a year from now with the same words and ideas, I was set to try it all again. 

At least I was until something quite extraordinary struck me.  Something that may seem depressing... that was actually incredibly freeing. Kind of like Miranda from Sex & the City learning the phrase, ‘he’s just not that into you.’ 

What struck me was this.  I will never be perfect enough for people I try desperately to please, and in continuing to strive for approval from some, I am taking for granted the love given to me freely by the people who like me just the way I am.

And trust me, I am not writing this as a plea for help or compliments or pity... I write this because I know I'm not alone and If you’re like me, if you’ve spent hours and days and years trying to get that one person or that one group to like you or accept you or look up to you... I hope you join me in my resolution for next year... My only resolution. 

It is incredibly difficult in its simplicity.  You see, it doesn't involve counting anything. It doesn't involve a reward or punishment system.  And it definitely does not involve a pudgy naked picture with a strategically placed laptop with the promise of an end of year skinny naked picture with a strategically placed manuscript... Not that I would ever think to do that.. Not sure where that came from... I think I heard that was my sister's plan... She’s weird.  Ahem.

Anyway my resolution for this year comes from a book by Gregory Boyle.  In his lifelong ministry of showing compassion to those on the outskirts of society, he finds himself in a constant state of telling people that yes they, even they, are loved and accepted by God. 

He writes, “Recognizing that we are wholly acceptable is God’s own truth for us - waiting to be discovered.”  

This year, I have one resolution.  To come closer to believing that I am wholly acceptable by God. I am ok, I am loved and I am accepted. 

I think of how I stop my children from having too much candy because I love them and don’t want them to get sick.  I think of how I enforce as strict as possible bedtime for my kids because I love them and want them to be at their best the next day.  I think of how I encourage exercise and sports and reading and studying and limit screen time and gluttony and sloth because I love them and want them to grow and challenge themselves.  And I think of how I don’t do any of those things for myself.  

Maybe if I stop trying to live up to imaginary standards I think others have for me, and see myself as someone wholly loved and accepted by God, I can learn to love and accept myself, which will result in my taking care of myself... like I do my children. 

Of course it’s all easier said than done. I will have nights when I high five my mirror and mornings where I won’t want to get out of bed.  I will disappoint myself but I might also surprise myself.  But whether forward or backward I am so excited to hold my head up high and attempt to move this year.  Because when you are trying to be what you think others want you to be you can't help but be filled with fear and doubts.

Doubt keeps your eyes down and fear can tie your hands and inside, you are paralyzed.  

I have a sneaking suspicion that if I can achieve this resolution.  To see myself as someone wholly loved and accepted by God, someone worthy of that kind of love, it may put a new light on a reason to take care of myself.  And it just may give me courage to really try a few things I've been talking about for years. 

I've come to terms with the truth that people love me for who I am and those who don't won't if I'm ten pounds lighter or if I have a book on the best seller list.  Internalizing that realization was freeing.  I'm ready to bring my eyes up and untie my own hands.  

Because if God accepts me, who am I to argue?