Friday, April 30, 2010

::i ♥ jesus

I do not like Christian bookstores, and generally frown upon roughly 75% of the merchandise they're peddling. (aka "Jesus Junk," the dregs of which are found here.)

In my youth, before I grew older and became so "jaded and cynical," I used to wear Christian t-shirts.

I found their brazen copycat logos endearing, even witty and clever.

I am physically sickened by them.

Tonight, I found myself reluctantly accompanying my dad on a stroll into the local Christian bookstore, and here are a few gems I managed to capture with my phone's camera...

For those Facebook Fanatics:

For The Bass Player:

And finally, for those Twitter Addicts:


I understand their appeal.
I genuinely do.
I used to belong to their target demographic.

I also understand that my mockery of them may be conveyed as sheer snobbery.

My deep-seated objections to Christian merchandising are difficult to articulate.

What I can express is, I find it insulting to reduce the Sanctity of God, Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and Scripture, to an imitative silk-screened logo on a cotton t-shirt, or shiny symbols emblazoned on the wrappers of crystallized sugar.

No human brain is capable of comprehending the whole of Who and What God is.

But I do know this: He is not a product.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

::demotivational wisdom

You may purchase this gem, along with many others, here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

::church it up

I attended a conservative Baptist church for 27 years.
I was a volunteer youth worker for seven of those, and attended countless concerts, retreats, mission trips, and "evangelism training" events.
I went to three private Christian colleges to earn my Bachelors degree.

On the subject of the evangelical Christian subculture, I know a thing or two about a thing or two. **

Today, I have read two online interviews from Christianity Today.
One with Jennifer Knapp, who recently announced that she's gay, and one with David Bazan (former lead singer of Pedro the Lion), who has reportedly "lost his faith."

Now, I can understand the "disappointment" that will undoubtedly occur when someone was a public representative of your community, and then their words or behavior, or both, seem to suggest that they have deserted said community.
It's not surprising, and it's only natural.

What I cannot abide is the pervasive attitude I have encountered on countless occasions, of Christians affecting an air of superiority, almost arrogance, when interacting with those whom they deem "prodigal children."

Often, if a Christian begins asking raw, vulnerable questions, it's almost as if a State of Emergency is declared.

"Oh no! She's really GAY?! She has a GIRLFRIEND? I thought she was a CHRISTIAN!"

"Oh, jeez...he's not even sure there's a GOD anymore? What on Earth do we DO?"

And my, oh my, whatever shall we do?

How about, we listen?
We do our very best to empathize with these precious souls' undoubtedly painful processes.
We force ourselves to become vulnerable and admit that we, too, have sometimes felt (*GASP!*) a little unsure.
We admit - however begrudgingly - that we may have unanswered questions fluttering about inside our brains as well.
We dismantle our fears by freely confessing them to each other.

And we trust that God is not averse to our candor.
In fact, we remind each other that He invites it.

**[Several years ago, I recorded (on VHS, kickin' it old-school) an interview with Amy Grant on 20/20, wherein she said "I think the true heart of God is wild and passionate and everything creative. Of course, we just barely scratch the surface of that because we're human.
But frankly, I sometimes feel grossed out by the ways in which we try to package that and sell it to people."

AMEN, sister! ]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

::requiem for an artist

As a teenager, I wrote a lot of bad poetry.

This is perhaps why I used to get so excited when my brother Joshua would bring home Parnassus, the literary magazine from Taylor University, where he went to college.

I would pore over the brilliant poems printed between its covers, sometimes memorizing slices to recite to friends, attempting to convey the power those words wielded over my spirit.

One of my favorite featured poets was always a guy named Jason Francis.

His work was so original, so innovative, so infused with wonder and vibrant joie de vivre.

In the spring of 1997, I was a student at Taylor University, and flailing in the suffocating sludge of what the psychiatrist called "major clinical depression."
I remember sitting in the student union, probably looking listless and miserable, when I looked up and spotted the person I knew was Jason Francis.
He had graduated the previous year, but I recognized him from his pictures, and it was clear that he was returning to visit his alma mater, walking around reminiscing with a few friends.
I remember feeling slightly starstruck, but he met my gaze for only a moment before offering a warm, friendly smile and a cheerful, "HI!"
I returned his sentiment with as much gusto as I could muster, but felt too timid to say anything more.
Later, I passed him again walking around campus, and he said "Oh, HI!"
His group kept walking, and so did I.

Last week, my latest Taylor alumni magazine arrived, and in the alumni news section, I saw that Jason Francis had died of cancer on January 11.

I felt suddenly weepy, and as I reflected upon my threadbare memories of him, I realized that his life had brushed against mine in unspeakable ways, though he never even knew my name.

By sharing his poetic prowess, he blessed me with gorgeous phrases that still inspire me today. And by offering such sincere kindness to me, a stranger, he extended Love to me in a time when I desperately needed to feel its soothing warmth.

I'm rather fond of the proverb that states:
Be kind. Every person you meet is fighting a battle.

Jason clearly knew this, and endeavored to practice its simple wisdom.

I was able to locate his obituary online, and as I read this, my eyes erupted with tears of wonder:

In his last hours, with painful gasps, he spoke to his wife
these words:

“God is sovereign. He will do what He will. And I love it!”

::toddler tales

One of the greatest joys of my life is my niece, Emma, who is 20 months old.
I spend four days a week caring for her.

I once saw Johnny Depp interviewed about the birth of his first child, and how he was often asked "How did it change your life?"
And he said that was the wrong question, explaining, "The birth of my daughter gave me life."

The more time I spend with Emma, the more I empathize with those sentiments.

She gently reminds me of countless simple majesties I had long forgotten; the contour of an acorn, the texture of a pine cone, the treasure of a dog's allegiance, the luscious sweetness of a ripe strawberry, the sheer delight of a guttural giggle.

Every moment spent with her is one that I cherish; and the world, when viewed through her young, fresh lens, is a bold, pulsing adventure.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

::human soap opera

Drama Queens.

Main Entry: drama queen
Function: noun
Date: 1979

: a person given to often excessively emotional performances or reactions

We all know (at least) one.
We all possess the potential to become one. (Frightening, I know.)

I have been acquainted with several.

When you enjoy listening, and generally make concerted efforts to be kind and polite - as I tend to - you attract them.
You are their primary prey.

I recently spent [read: wasted] most of a day with one, and when I was finally able to evacuate the DQ's presence and seek sanctuary in my parents' living room, I felt a degree of relief that was utterly otherworldly.

I once heard a psychotherapist describe DQs as "energy suckers," inasmuch as their Modus Operandi seems to be sucking the energy from any available human source.
They are high-maintenance individuals; overreactive, emotionally manipulative, attention-seizing, inordinately fragile and, at times, infuriating.

Since I treasure empathy as perhaps the most paramount of all virtues, I do attempt to place myself in their position, try to learn all I can about why they may behave in such a peculiar manner, and try to be as sensitive as possible.

But I cannot do this at the expense of my own well-being, my own sanity.

I cannot entertain the notion of allowing such people to penetrate my inner circle.

I cannot function in any sort of healthy manner in the presence of anyone whose psyche is so crowded with self-absorption that it leaves no space for love.


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