Christian Politics 101: A Follow-up to Facebook Riots

Okay, I've had a rough time with this election.  I'm worn out from explaining the same things over and over.  I'm tired of being misunderstood and misheard.  I'm mostly tired of arguing with people I love about insignificant details of party lines.  I've had all sorts of names/implications thrown at me.  The list of things that have been said about me and my views is ever-growing...  Even my FAITH in God has been called to question.

I'm frustrated by the single-issue politics that I see Christians engaging in.  As if one issue is more important than any other.  As if one sin (or two sins) are greater than any other.  Pure and simple, let me break it down: sin is sin.  God hates sin.  Sin is what separates us from God.  It's doing what you know God doesn't want  you to do and NOT doing what you know He does.  Ergo, (and yes, this is radical so brace yourself), murder is sin, yes, but no better or worse than any other sin, like for instance desecrating God's creation by not taking care of it.  Yes, you heard me... I have just stated FOR THE RECORD that killing our world is just as bad a killing babies.  Don't get me wrong.  I believe that human life is sacred and we're made in God's image and all that jazz...  But caring for God's creation goes a long way toward showing how much you respect God.  All life is sacred.  And that which God created is GOOD.

Now that I've gotten that little rant out of my system, I wanna clear a few random things up:
  1. Jesus was neither republican nor democrat; He wasn't even American.  The chances of Him being WHITE are slim to none.  He grew up in the MIDDLE EAST.  Furthermore, Jesus was NOT a Christian (as a matter of clarity, He was, in fact, a Jew).  Therefore, claiming that you have the market cornered on what Jesus wants either politically or religiously is just plain... ignorant.
  2. Jesus also said that we would know our brothers and sisters by the fruit they bear.  Integrity, compassion, justice for all... they speak volumes.
  3. Freedom of Religion in our country means freedom of ALL religions, not just Christianity.  While I am troubled by the fact that my children can't pray in a public school (and therefore PRACTICE their freedom of religion), I'm not overly bothered by it.  Every religion should be treated the same in a country that professes freedom of religion.  And (to borrow a phrase from my pastor) "Please hear me": It's my PARENTAL responsibility to teach my children about God and how to talk to Him/Her.  It is NO ONE else's, not the school's and not the church's.
  4. Separation of Church and state is not a constitutional concept.  The phrase was (I believe) coined in a personal document (a letter?) that Thomas Jefferson wrote.  This means that it is NOT a constitutional right to have a separation...  However, we are NOT a CHRISTIAN nation.  If we are going to profess to constitutionally provide freedom of religion, we can't have our government aligning with any particular religion -- including our personal favorite.
  5. Jesus told us to CARE for orphans and widows.  He admonished Peter to "feed my sheep."  The Acts church shared everything and made sure that not one of them was in need for anything.  That sounds like a socialist society to me.  Granted it was the church.  And when the church steps up and does its job as it should, we won't need the government to do so.  In the meantime, however, it IS the government's job to manage the economy, to maintain a balance in its income and its spending budget.  It is the government's job to see that the needs of the people it governs are being met.  Friends have told me that it's not their responsibility to spend their hard-earned cash to pay for someone else's medical bills.  This makes me so sad.  I can't imagine those same people saying that to Jesus' face.  "Whatever you do to the least of these..."
  6. The fatal flaw in the "Pro-life" agenda is that the situation is never as black and white as we'd like it to be.  Keeping people from killing babies through abortion doesn't take into consideration any of the circumstances, and the LIFE of the mother.  I don't wanna see abortions happen either, folks.  I cry inside every time I hear about abortions or any abuse to children.  HOWEVER, there is so much more to the politics behind the abortion bills (like silly riders that are attached to bills -- which often cause the bills to become multi-layered) and the fact that if there weren't options available to women, in their desperation, many of them would seek unsafe measures.  So, let's work on providing them with education and choices and help to guide them to the right choice in LOVE.
I realize I've only begun to scratch the surface of the issues facing Christians today when it comes to our country.  All I can say is, please VOTE.  Vote your beliefs and passions.  Make sure that you research what your candidates stand for.  Know which one you can agree with on more issues, and realize that you may be right in your choice or you may be wrong.  

Most of you already know who I'm gonna vote for on Tuesday.  I don't need you to try to change my mind.  I've done the research.  I've read both sides of the issues.  I've looked into the character and family history of all four of the main players.  I've seen enough discord between Christians over silly little issues.  I've heard candidates compared to Adolf Hitler (PLEASE; Really?), the Anti-Christ, and whatever evil persona you wanna put in here.

Can we please just agree to use our brains and our ability to discern (that GOD has placed within each of us), and pray that we will -- with an open mind -- be guided to make the right choice?

And no matter who wins this election, it is our responsibility to pray for guidance and wisdom for them... whether we like them or not.


Losing My Grip...

I'm horrible at letting go.  I hang on tightly to what I have (whether it's actually mine to hold onto or not).  I'm threatened by the mere mention of change. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that my particular mania (as in -- the opposite extreme in my particular brand of bi-polar depression) is the inability to see that I'm obsessively, manically doing whatever I "need" to in order to keep from letting go of something, as irrational as the clinging may be.  I hold so tightly to that which I "care" about that I squeeze the life out of it, out of me, and out of those around me.

Of course, there are ramifications of the extreme neediness.  It takes a toll on relationships, it takes a toll on careers, and it takes a toll on me emotionally as well as physically.  The upside of this particular "character flaw" is that my friends can pretty much count on undying loyalty, no matter how dysfunctional the relationship becomes.  

And this includes God.  God and I have our arguments, our fights, and our... dysfunction, but in the end, I can't let go.  And believe me, I've tried.

But here's the thing.  I think (s)he is telling me to let go.  

Where will this leave me and my obsessive need to cling to something, anything?  It leaves me wanting to cling harder, of course.  I can't deal with the thought of not having those "security" blankets.  I've been clinging so hard to most of them that my hands have permanently cramped in a tight-fisted position.

So, if I let go, will I fall through space and time, completely abandoned and alone?  I sure hope not, but I suppose that this is where that "trust" thing comes in.  I guess it's time to let go of stuff...

Who am I?  What am I?  It's time to let go of the me that I've created, and figure out who I am.  I've spent too much time hiding myself away, locked inside myself to know who I even am anymore.  So no wonder I usually feel like no one understands me.  I don't even understand myself.

There are unresolved issues that it's time to let go of: hurts from the past that need to be forgotten, forgiven, and forever buried, relationships that need to be pruned -- or at least released to test where the true loyalties lie, expectations of myself and the ones I love (including God) that are unrealistic and unattainable... the list goes on.

I've let go of perfection (a huge step for a perfectionist such as myself): the perfect life, with the perfect house, perfect family, perfect friends, perfect job... perfect... anything...

And it's time to let go of God... At least the God of the current incarnation of the church.  It's time to rediscover who (s)he is as well as who I am... and what our relationship looks like in the "real world".  I've let go of the church.  Oh, I still attend and still sing on the worship team, but I've left go of holding God responsible for the church's screw-ups.  I've let go of the God who can be understood, explained, or even completely known in this lifetime.

And I'm falling.  And it's terrifying, but somewhere along the line, I hope and trust that someone, somewhere will catch me.  And I'll be able to hold on gently next time, not suffocating myself or anyone else.  And maybe I'll find a real, true God, whose image I can be glad to be created in.
"...I'm not letting go of God, I'm just losing my grip..." (Over the Rhine, When I Go)
"'Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all." (Alfred Lord Tennyson)


Baby Steps

I have more than two problems...
  1. I lack in motivation.  I think I've mentioned this before.  Part of my particular brand of depression manifests in severe procrastination due to lack of motivation.  
  2. I'm a creature of habit.  That means if there isn't a routine in my life, then NOTHING will EVER happen.
  3. I am also a perfectionist.  This is a problem for me because if something is going to be done, I want it done RIGHT.  This leads to the fact that if I'm not capable of doing something RIGHT, there is no point to doing it at all.
  4. I set unrealistic expectations frequently.  I want to be the best and I expect those around me to be the best.  Not that setting standards for oneself is bad, but when you set them as high as I tend to, that's just a recipe for disaster and a guarantee of feeling like a complete and utter failure!
  5. If I don't accomplish SOMETHING productive in the course of my day, I start to feel guilty and beat myself up about it. This leads to more depression and cycles me through these four problems over and over into a downward spiral...
This means there are a couple things I need for my own well-being:
  1. I need to set goals for myself DAILY.  I set goals every night for the next day (or first thing in the morning when I wake up).  This helps me to know exactly what I need to accomplish, helps me sleep at night (because I don't lie awake thinking about whether I'm gonna remember any given obligation before it's too late), and provides a "fair" measure of my productivity each day.
  2. Because I know that my motivation is not high (less so some days than others) and that my day is filled with pint-sized interruptions, I set my bar low.  I gauge it to how I'm feeling that day.  Obviously if I'm tired, sick, or incredibly down on any given day, I've learned to cut myself a break and set either "easy" goals or less goals for the day.
  3. I send my goals to my hubby and mother-in-law.  This whole goal thing was my mother-in-law's idea in the first place, trying to help both of us snap out of the motivational slump we've been in of late.  Accountability means that I am more motivated to actually accomplish my goals... or at least work toward them.
  4. When I set my new goals for the day, I review my progress on my goals from the day before.  Again... a "fair measurement" of my productivity and the ability to keep myself "in check" as far as my expectations go.
This sounds so very "business-like" but that's what works for me.  Here's an example of my goals (I shoot for 5-10 on any given day in the following categories):
  1. Self-esteem goal: Smile & Know I'm Loved
  2. Physical goal: Wii-Fit Workout (20-30 min)
  3. Household goal: Clean Kitchen
  4. Emotional goal: Write or Create something (20-30 min)
  5. Relational goal: Spend time with hubby (20-30 min at least)
  6. Relational goal: Playing with kids (20-30 min at least)
  7. Spiritual goal: Relax (20-30 min)
Anyway, I don't know if this is helpful to anyone, but I find it works for me, so I figured I'd share.  The important thing for me to remember is that even when I make these goals, I do so knowing that there will be a couple everyday that won't get done.  

And the point is, that's okay.


A Bit Of Night Music...

So, here I sit in one of those rare moments where my house is asleep.  Hubby is uncharacteristically asleep before me and even the cat, who was having a psycho-moment of chasing something (hopefully just her tail) a bit ago, has settled down somewhere to sleep.  

I rarely get to see the night anymore.  I put the kids to bed, often slipping into my pjs at the same time (they're warm and comfy), settle in to relax for the evening and generally conk out within an hour.  I've always leaned slightly toward being a morning person in general, but the kids have made me even more so.  They are up with the sun (and sometimes before the sun), which means I am too.  And by the time they are finally in bed for the night, I'm done.

But there is something truly magical about the night.  It's almost like an entire world just waiting to be discovered...  Everything in the daylight is sharp and clear, but the night is full of blurred shadows and silhouettes.  So every once in a while I like to rediscover the night... and the magical silence (which I get so little of in waking hours) which accompanies it.

I was going through some of my old journals and came across a poem I wrote several years ago...  fresh out of college and in my "teaching" days (if you can call what I did that).  I'll share it here, because I can... I have no idea if it's good or not as I'm horribly out of practice in the poetry department, but here you go... just for you:

night music

she steals
   across the sunless room
   searching her lover
he is
   hiding his reality
   in his realm of hallucination
   otherwise known as
and she loves him more because of it

she seduces him
   in his real-less reality
   and enhances his nature with her own
they merge
   into a moment of magic
   where all things shimmer
   and the last glimmer
   of reality

but morning comes and life awakens
   leaving his lover alone

(28 may 1999)



Remember what it felt like to be in love for the first time?  Remember how your heart just wouldn't slow down?  You'd hear that voice and just melt inside?  Remember the butterflies in the pit of your stomach when you first held hands?  Think about your first kiss; did it surprise you?  You know you never wanted it to end.  How sweet was the sound of the first "I love you."  

There are other passionately romantic moments in every relationship.  I have a brain full of memories, enough to fill novels (if I wanted to share them): walks in the moonlight, feeling a protective arm at the height of the movie's horror, the first sight of my man in a tux...  It's the way he says my name, the way his eyes light up when he sees me, the ease with which I can make him smile or laugh.  The first time I fell asleep in my lover's arms, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

So... lately I've been feeling... anything but romantic.  The daily grind of life, of caring for three small children: changing diapers, cooking dinner, folding mountains of laundry, playing cab driver...  All of these things are enough to make the most beautiful and the most sexy woman feel completely and utterly... NOT beautiful, NOT sexy, and NOT romantic.

And I got lost there this week.  I confess, I lost sight of the beauty and wonder of my children.  I nearly missed my daughter pulling herself to a standing position for the first time.  I forgot, somehow, that the words, "I love you," can be just as sweet (although in a very different way) coming from your children as from your lover.

I also took my husband for granted.  Sometimes between his two jobs and my own "issues" it's hard to feel like we're really connecting.  Sometimes it feels like ships in the night.  Some days I get so jealous of his ability to just walk out of the house in the morning and go to work, especially when I turn around to a pile of dishes in the sink and a fussy baby (and somewhere at the bottom of that pile in the sink, I'm sure are ALL the bottles!).  The to do list is always forever long and I'm the world's worst housekeeper.  Somehow, I forgot that love that withstands the tests and trials of family life can be the most passionate kind.  I forgot, somehow, that time and practice make relationships stronger.

Yesterday, my hubby and his mom gave me the most beautiful gift, a night out... without the kids.  We went out for a delicious Thai dinner and then did some shopping at a craft place (just because he knew I'd like it and they were running a sale).  My mother-in-law came over to take care of the kids and even arrived early, so I could take the necessary time to change out of the spit-up stained mom jeans and into the date-night attire!  Hubby greeted me with flowers.

Now just to be clear, this doesn't happen often, and frankly, I asked for this date because I knew I needed a break.  But the point is... Hubby knew I needed it, and he was more than willing to oblige.  I'd been feeling resentful about my life (for no REAL reason as I frankly have a fantastic life most of the time) and my lack of adult interaction.  I love my family.  I love being at home with my kids.  Being a full-time stay-at-home mom isn't always easy, but I really wouldn't trade it.  At least, most of the time, I wouldn't! There is a comfort and a security that family life brings.

I just need to remember that there needs to be those evenings with my lover to keep the romantic spark alive.  I need to do things JUST for ME sometimes -- going out with my best friend or spending an afternoon watching a movie -- JUST because  I WANT to.  Because these are the things that keep my passion alive -- so I can stay passionate about the mundane "little things" in my life.


Let's Have Coffee

God lives in a cup of coffee.

I know. People think I'm strange when I tell them that.  I really do believe it though.  

Some people drink coffee.  It is nothing more than a tool to be used to gain the beloved awake/alert status.  Some people don't even like it, but they NEED it.  They are the ones who will say things like, "Decaf coffee is like non-alcoholic beer."  

I grew up in a house where, if there wasn't coffee either already made or in the process of being made, it was because we were all asleep, my parents were too sick to make it, or we weren't home.  That may be a slight exaggeration, but not by much; I used to tease my dad about just getting himself an IV to make it easier on himself.

I was told all the time when I was little that coffee would stunt my growth, but that never stopped me from sneaking sips when my parents "weren't looking" or when I was asked to get them refills.  There was one day of the year that we were allowed to have an entire cup of coffee of our own to drink: Christmas morning.  When we turned 16 it was a right of passage to be allowed to drink coffee.

Coffee isn't just a beverage.  It is an art and should be treated as such.  An art that is, quite frankly, dying in our world.  It's the art of conversation, of relationship.  I've been known to "infect" my friends with the "coffee bug".  Neither my hubby nor a dear friend of mine ever touched the stuff until I came into their lives.  But now... they have both learned to savor the moments that reside in a cup of coffee (and even the beverage itself).  Because coffee represents so much more than just a drink.

Coffee is warm and inviting.  It's the finest form of hospitality and comfort -- the one thing that you're guaranteed to be offered at my house, no matter how unexpected or last minute your arrival.   It's two friends sitting across the table from one another and understanding each other.  It's a walk on a cold day, hand in hand with the person you love.  It's a quiet moment of peace and tranquility by yourself in the early morning (or late afternoon or middle of the night) hours.  It's laughing, crying, living, and loving.  All of this with or without words.

And God is there.  No matter what religion you ascribe to; it's in those moments of pure perfection that God resides.  There are as many types of coffee today as there are types of people.  Whether you're a "chai-mocha-latte-cino with whipped cream" or a "coffee -- black as midnight on a moonless night" kinda person, take a moment to savor your next cup fully.  

Maybe you will even find where God lives.


Shameless Advertisement

I hate to exercise.  Always have.  Dreaded that nasty day in P.E. when we had to do the stupid Presidential fitness test, because there wasn't really anyway to make the score any better.  At least my P.E. grade took into consideration my efforts and the fact that I came with my uniform everyday!  I was always one of the last to finish the mile, the one with the highest score (number of inches AWAY from your feet you could reach) in the toe touch stretch, and the one with the lowest score in the pull-ups.  I am NOT athletic.

When I started approaching 30 (and then ~gasp~ reached and passed 30), my health and fitness got worse and worse.  After having a child, and adopting a second, and now babysitting for a third, my couch potato meter just increased exponentially.  Add depression to this mix, causing a severe lack of motivation to do ... anything .... Well, we're looking at intervention time.

We all know the gym membership thing is a complete waste of money for me.  Aside from the inability to carve an entire hour at a time out of my schedule to go, there is the whole childcare issue (I won't leave my kids in the care of someone I don't know, even if there is childcare provided at the gym.)  All of this adds up to making me even LESS motivated to go.

For our birthdays, my mother-in-law bought my hubby and me a Wii Fit program.  I have to say.  It's WORKING.  I'll tell you why:
  1. I don't have to leave my house.  I can do this while my kids are napping.  No one else can watch me do my workout.
  2. It keeps track of my "stats" for me.  I can see if I'm slacking or when I improve at a glance.
  3. I can tailor what I do to what I like AND what I'm in the mood for (or what I have time for today).
  4. It makes exercising FUN.  I'm competing with my hubby (and my mother who is using it too), but even more so with myself!  I actually did step aerobics yesterday for 35 minutes so that I could fill the top ten positions before hubby and mom come in and wipe me out.
Now, that's motivation!

To top it off, my Wii makes me laugh. It's programmed to do things like wish me a happy birthday, remind me to brush my teeth before bed, and eat lunch (a reminder that all busy moms can actually appreciate).

And yes, it's true, exercise really does help you to feel better about yourself.  Even if you don't have a Wii, get outside and enjoy the fresh air.  Take a walk.  It's good for your body and your soul!

Depression Magnet?

I had no idea when I thought about this blog idea that it was be such a huge hit.  I've had a lot of people tell me in the just the past couple days, "It's so nice to know I'm not alone!"  Thanks to all of you for your feedback and support.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this morning.  She was complaining about how her hubby doesn't understand her depression.  He thinks she's not doing everything she could be to "naturally" manage her depression.  While it is true that there are several things you can do to manage depression naturally (get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet, give yourself a break when you need it, exercise, and get outside from time to time), particularly if you know your own personal triggers and can avoid them when possible, there is an element that cannot be controlled this way.  

One thing that is often hard for family members and friends to understand is that CLINICAL DEPRESSION IS A MEDICAL CONDITION.  As such, it's hard for them to understand that you can't just "snap out of it!", that medication and/or counseling may be necessary.  The other thing that seems difficult for them to understand is that all we really need/want is for them to remind us that they love us and they understand that we're doing the best we can.  

Unhelpful responses often include blame, frustration, and the feeling of helplessness.  Unfortunately, even though these things make our depression worse, we have to also understand that just as the depression isn't our fault, our loved one's responses are usually not their fault either.  Usually, their responses are born out of a feeling of wanting to help, but feeling utterly helpless.  They care, but they don't know how to "fix it" and so they do what they think will help.

I am a "depression magnet" as many of my female friends (and a few of my male friends) are depressed.  My father asked me why this past weekend.  I don't know for a fact, but I suspect that we who are depressed tend to flock toward one another.  Misery loves company and all that, but it's probably more a matter of finding someone who understands.  Who better to understand me than someone just like me?

If you find yourself to be a "depression magnet," whether you are depressed yourself or not, ask yourself how you are responding to your friends.  All you really need to do for them is remind them that you love them and are here to listen.  Know you will NOT be able to fix them or make things better, but telling them you want to is okay.  They already know you can't, and they aren't really expecting you to.  Just to love them.  Listen when they need you to.  And hold them while they cry.


"Silly Moon!"

A couple years ago, my husband and I were driving home from a family evening out with our toddler son.  In the sky, directly in front of us hung a huge harvest moon.  "Oo, Buddy, look at the beautiful moon," my hubby pointed out.  Delighted babble and then hysterical laughter followed, emanating from our back seat for the next few minutes and the remainder of our trip home. 

This whole thing got me to thinking about the symbolism of the moon, particularly for women.  Aside from the obvious allusions to a woman's cycle, there's the beauty that hides in the darkness.  Although I do not have a degree in women's studies, and will never pretend to be an authority on all women everywhere, I know me.  I know my struggles with depression, bi-polar disorder, and anxiety.  I know the struggle of the stay-at-home mom who is dying inside for adult company.  I know the struggle of the work-outside-the-home mom who feels the guilt of not spending enough time with her family.  I know the struggle of accepting myself for who I am: mind, soul, spirit, AND body.

Some of the best pastors I've heard -- the ones able to truly hit the heart of the matter -- the ones who've been secretly reading my diary and receiving direct words for me -- have no seminary degree and/or little formal education or training.  What they have is experience, the ability to tell a story that applies to a broader topic or audience, and reflection on the world around them.  They know God, they know people, and they speak to both regularly...

I've pondered much in my life, not the least of which is how the rise of feminism has affected women and their self-concept, how they view God, their ability to deal with life and their place in the family.  The only thing that makes me an expert on feminism is the fact that I am a woman and I know women.  I've gone full circle from girliness and having a ton of girl-friends, to being just "one of the guys" -- hating girls and their general pettiness, and back again to a balance of valuing the woman I am and the women in my life.

I was captured by the sheer delight my child showed at the completely ordinary and mundane.  How in awe he was at something as simple as the moon shining brightly in the sky.  In the midst of the dark night surrounding him, he never ceases to find something to laugh at... usually the moon.

With that I offer my humble ruminations on feminism, my stories and ponderings from my life and experience.  This blog is for women and men alike.  If you don't personally struggle with these issues, I'm fairly certain that you know someone who does.  I propose that we share our secrets that hide in the dark and then learn to laugh together at the moon.