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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

This weekend I heard a sermon about mercy.  Apparently, Pope JP II was almost fatally shot, and ended up visiting the perpetrator in prison and forgiving him.  My immediate and uncharitable thought was, the people that I am not showing mercy to did much worse things than almost killing me.  It’s probably easier to forgive someone for shooting you – that’s only physical pain.

I usually pray in the morning that God would give me the energy to do what I need to do today, but that more than that I would be his hands and his feet and the words that he speaks today.  I’m trying to say, “Please help me with my to-do list.  But if I’ve only got time for a few things today, I’d rather help with your to-do list.”  When people come to my office and they need to cry about relationship drama or the dog dying, I make time for that even if something on my agenda doesn’t get done, or if I have to stay late, because I think I’m being given a chance to help comfort someone today and that’s a privilege.

I’m all about helping by listening, or smiling at someone and complimenting them, or noticing when someone needs a boost.  I’m happy to show God’s comfort here on earth, but not on board for showing his mercy and grace to other people.  That’s a lot hard for me, and I feel like I should be doing something about it, but how do you forgive someone when you just don’t feel like it?  That’s an honest question.

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I am not trying to convert you.  I’ve never asked you if you’ve found Jesus or feel his love in your heart.  I won’t give you a pamphlet, or try to legislate what’s taught in schools to indoctrinate your children while they’re still young and vulnerable.  I understand that there are religious people (of many types of religions) who do this, but I am not one of those people.

I have peace in my life from my walk with God, and if you’re curious, I will tell you about it.  However, I don’t think Christians have a monopoly on the truth.  Many practitioners of other religions, and lots of agnostics and atheists, lead lives that are good and I think God recognizes that.  Many Christians lead lives that are bad, and I think God recognizes that, too.

I’m not a Christian because I woke up this morning and felt like it would be fun.  It’s hard for me.  The bible is full of contradictions and I read it every day and I studied theology and I can probably tell you more about how the bible doesn’t make sense than most people who are vehemently opposed to Christianity.  I don’t feel accepted in any particular church.  I struggle with who is going to hell and who is going to heaven.  I have doubts.  There are people I can’t forgive and forgiveness is not negotiable in Christianity.  I’m not happy about being different from the rest of my family and most of my friends.  I feel on the outside a lot – like the black sheep.  Being Christian is a knock-down drag-out fight for me, and I make a choice to be Christian every single day because I feel like I was called to do it – even when it would be easier not to.

I wanted to tell you this because there is someone I can’t tell.   Someone who matters to me seems inexplicably angry at me for being Christian and who acts like I’m attacking them and part of an insidious institution, even when I’ve never tried to convert them.  This person thinks I’m presumptuous and arrogant.  I wish I could tell that person that I am not trying to make them unhappy by practicing this religion and  I am not trying to change them.   In fact, I don’t see how it has anything to do with them at all.  My belief in Christianity is central to who I am.  It informs all of the choices that I make in my life, and I don’t need this person to be Christian, but I need them to leave me the hell alone about my choice to be Christian.

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I have an idea for a novel that I work on periodically in my spare time.  For Christmas I got some books on plotting and character development that I’m really excited about since I’ve never taken a creative writing class.  One issue that I’m hoping to find guidance on involves writing dialogue that is consistent with the setting for my fiction.

In this fantasy world I’m exploring, I visualize a landscape that is not as technologically advanced as ours.  I see an intricate network of islands organized in two opposing empires with some islands that aren’t aligned with either side.  I visualize island fortresses and war on horseback and marauding pirates.  However, I stumble again and again with getting the content of the dialogue to be true to this setting.  How do you write fantasy without incorporating song lyrics?  I’m pretty obsessed with song lyrics and find it difficulty to excise them from my writing.  I always skipped over the parts of Tolkien where the dwarfs sang and I don’t fancy writing poetry for my characters to quote at each other.

My main character is part of a guild of interpreters who serve an important diplomatic function.  How can I represent multiple languages in this story without actually resorting to using real languages?  If I do, how would I explain the presence of Spanish and English in a landscape with no Spain or England?  How do you know what kind of modern slang is acceptable to use in dialogue?  For instance, would people in these island kingdoms say “okay?”  I think anachronisms have the potential to yank a reader out of a believable story and I don’t want to stumble into that pitfall.

I’d also like to incorporate aspects of the story of the Tower of Babel and other themes from Christianity.  I see these interpreters being like priests in a sworn brotherhood of public servants.  They struggle with protecting the confidentiality of what they hear in their professional capacity and with the existence of God during times of terrible conflict.  How do I include Christianity in a setting with no Israel?

I’m honestly asking.

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I stumbled this last week in dealing with my anxiety, but I’m pulling myself back up.  I have been gearing up to see Casting Crowns in concert this week and while listening to their new CD “Come to the Well” I was struck by a song they sing about God and how He exists outside of time:

All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can’t control
When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side

There is peace for me when I cling to the idea that God knows how my current crisis is going to turn out.  I cannot control this world, but it’s okay, because wherever today is going, He is already there and He is waiting for me.  I think if I lived forever I would be more calm because I would have seen every type of crisis at least once and I would know I could handle whatever comes my way.  Since I’m not going to live forever, it comforts me that I’m relying on someone whose experience is eternal.

More than God being in control, this song also makes me wonder, what do moments feel like when you’re immortal?  Novels with immortal characters (usually vampires) always focus on how much ennui they feel when they know they’ll never die.  They are jealous of humans whose mortality gives moments poignancy and immediacy in a way that they have long forgotten.  I think God must exist both inside and outside of time in a way that distinguishes him from angsty teenage vampires and allows him both vast perspective and the ability to savor each moment.  Do you wish you were immortal?  I don’t.

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The next insight I had this week regarding stress concerns the amount that I can accomplish each day.  I like to pray in the morning for my husband and for me the same things as I walk to work:

That we would have the energy, efficiency, attention and optimism to accomplish what we need to accomplish today, but that most of all we would be your hands and your feet and the words that you speak.

I’ve prayed this prayer for about 2 years faithfully, but I had a flash of insight this week reading that packet by Chuck Swindoll.  He noted that Jesus’s ministry on earth ended when there were still lepers wandering around.  People were hurting and needed to be healed.  There was suffering that he could have relieved, but when he died, he said, “It’s finished.”  How can this be?  There was more to accomplish.  It seems that it wasn’t his task to heal every leper in the whole world before he died.  He had that whole dying for our sins gig going on and when God asked him to, he didn’t argue.  He just came home because his work was done.

It occurred to me that I may think I need to accomplish x, y, and z today, but maybe God only needs x from me today.  If I get x done, then I have lived successfully today, regardless of how much I have crossed off on my to-do list.

I stay late at work and my husband calls me to see when I’m coming home.  So often the answer is that I need just another half hour, just another hour, and then I’ll be home.  How do I decide that these things are so urgent?  I mean, I’m not even healing lepers.  If I didn’t finish it all today, maybe I finished all that I was supposed to, and that notion gives me peace.

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I have been worried lately about a medical diagnosis that looms over my head.  I’ve been tired for years without an explanation, and the doctors I’m seeing are slowly crossing out the (treatable) diseases I would rather have had.  I have never drowned before, but I feel the way I think it would imagine to be in a sinking ship with the water rising above your head.  I’m gasping for air, and sometimes I get a lungful of stinging salt water instead, and sometimes a bit of precious oxygen.

I see the dreams that I had slipping away and I’m only 25.  My hopes for finding a fulfilling job and being a mom and traveling the world.  I feel frustrated with myself that I can’t even work full-time and keep up with the basics in my life, liking making dinner, cleaning a small apartment, going to church, seeing my friends, buying groceries.

I feel angry that I have been given so many gifts, and then this major limitation.  I am so focused and motivated and when I decide that I am going to do something, I have an amazing ability to make that goal happen.  I’m smart and I want to help people, and yet some days I cry when I wake up in the morning because I am so tired.  Why would God give someone intelligence and ambition, and then make them weak?  Doesn’t God know that if he gave me energy, I would accomplish so much?  That if I can make myself get into a good college and finish my master’s degree early and get a job immediately and pay off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and fight the biggest battle of my life to get my husband permanent residency – if I can do all of these things with crippling exhaustion, what things could I do if I felt strong?

I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why I pray each morning, why I have prayed each morning for so long, to be healed, and I am not.   I think of Paul and the thorn in his flesh that he prayed that God would remove.  I think of God’s answer: “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Really, God?

The only thing I know today is how grateful I am for my friends and family.  For people who went out immediately and bought me panda snow hats with ears, because I’ve always wanted one of those.  For people who left the library to talk me through those first hours of despair.  For my husband, who told me that no, he was not about to accept my offer of a divorce and find someone healthier.  For my friend, who told me that I am not a statistic, that I am not my genetics.  For the people who didn’t even know, and yet showed their love anyway.  “The world moves for love.  It kneels before it in awe.”  I am loved and upheld by so many people.  In their hands, I see God reaching out to me.

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