Sunday, February 5, 2012

It is for freedom that we have been set free. Galatians 5:1

I live in a constant state of varying degrees of angst, anger, and mourning over the condition of the American church and the lives it destroys.

What I mean by that is simple - the more "deep thinking" people I meet, the more atheists I meet. Atheists who were once church-going people. And I've not met ONE who had nothing to say about being judged by those in the church - either for something they'd done, a struggle they were having, or a question they'd asked.

Whatever became of "No one comes to the Father but by Me (Christ)"? In other words, who are you to condemn someone for their flaws? It is only Christ who can save, not works. Whatever became of "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing"? In other words, the most important thing you can do as a Christian is to love the people around you, not judge them.

Yes, I have selfish motives too. I'm single. I'd rather NOT be. But the kind of man in whose company I long to be is a thinking man. A wise man. An intellectual, if you will. People of this kind are few to begin with, so it's exciting when I find one... until I discover he's just another who couldn't bear up under the burdens of the pharisees.

Maybe it saved my soul after all - not to be too involved in my church and relationships therein, as I was growing up.

C.S. Lewis is one of the most widely read Christian authors, right? (I've never heard that stated statistically, but it just about has to be true, so we're going with it.) He's AMAZING. If so many have read his works, so many of which deal directly with the dangers of tradition without meaning and the need to integrate active love into every fiber of your being, why hasn't the church caught on?

It's never JUST the treatment from church, of course. They start thinking independently and their conclusions conflict with what they've heard growing up, so they eventually abandon it completely for the life that makes more sense, logically. The problem there is that it's so absolute. Which makes SENSE because the church tends to present itself as absolute, starting with "Jesus is the only way to salvation" (true) and going to such extremes as "gays deserve to be persecuted" (untrue). In fact, in some churches, you can get in trouble or at the very least shunned if you start challenging what's said, but if you can't bring yourself to shake the underlying message that everything they present is absolute, then you MUST reject it entirely. And therein lies the problem. Because guess what? Every church is full of flawed, sinful, foolish people. Sometimes out of hate, sometimes out of ignorance, a message is taught that is either inherently or subliminally wrong and becomes a stumbling block.

All it takes is, "Of course evolution isn't true. The Bible says otherwise. Stop asking questions." Do you REALLY know that God didn't use evolutionary properties in the process of creation? Were you there? After all, "A thousand years are like a day." Or perhaps, "Stop doing that. You're a disappointment to your family and to God." How horrifying. Christ DIED out of love for that person. LOVE. An awareness of sin that inspires growth is one thing; paralyzing guilt is something else entirely. The former builds up; the latter drives the person either to weakness and numbness or rebellion.

And so they go their own way. They say, "I can do a better job of living than this. I can be happier because I won't be guilt-ridden, I'll actually love people - unlike all those judgmental Christians, and I'm going to start enjoying life." When in fact, if they'd taken the flaws of the church with a grain of salt and studied the Scriptures for themselves and come to their own conclusions about what was said rather than accepting what was said from the pulpit as absolute, they might just have seen that debilitating guilt has no place in the life of a Christian, our second greatest commandment IS to love people (and we have better reasons for it than anyone else in the world), and "it is for freedom we have been set free."

"Go and sin no more" might not mean "If you sin again, you're going straight to hell" so much as it probably means "Go live life to the fullest. That means not letting this foolishness bog you down any more. A full life requires the use of wisdom, and she's knocking... but letting her lead you requires an alert mind and open heart."

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I love my little coffee shrine. It's so zen.

Monday through Saturday I get up in the morning, put the little filter in, put two rounded tablespoons of Folgers in the filter, fill the pot up with water to a little past the "2" mark, pour it in and turn it on. One spoon of sugar, two sloshes of creamer, and hot coffee into a cute mug like the one you see here, and voila!

Sundays I go fellowship with my coffee shop owner friend, Ian, before driving two minutes up the road to go to church. I like Ian. He's really, really cool. Don't know many Catholics, but I'd wager he's one of the coolest ones available. And he makes me good coffee on my coffee-making day of rest.

I don't know. Maybe it's that it's one thing, however small, that I can count on to ground my day. Coffee and quiet time. I don't even need it for caffeine - it doesn't have that effect on me. It's just... an innocent little indulgence into habit and routine that makes me happy. I even try to keep that surface cleared of other stuff just because, even if everything else in my life is a wreck, THIS little place I go to in the morning can be clear of clutter and distraction.

Coffee's ready.

Ripped in 30

In regard to my own journey to a healthier lifestyle, I wish I had more to report.

My awesome little brother found out that I like Jillian Michaels workout videos and gave me what is rumored to be her most difficult video to date. To give you an idea, I like workout videos, I stay pretty strong and was in tolerably good health when I started. I could even do more pushups than my Marine brother! So you're supposed to do each of four workouts for one week and by the end of 28-30 days, you'll be ripped. But I can't handle it. Week one was 10 days. Week two was 14. I'm in "week" three now and I'll probably give it a solid three weeks before venturing into the most difficult workout on the DVD. And I've been doing them four or five times a week. >_<

And maybe it's mostly my diet - I'm careful but I haven't been restricting as much as I was at the beginning of the year. But I've only lost like six pounds in the five and a half weeks that I've been doing this workout and trying to get healthier. And I LOOK really toned, but I don't notice my clothes fitting much better at all. Kinda bummed about that at this point. But it's still good to feel like I'm doing something for my health. ^_^

Happy Thoughts, Healthy Body, Hopeful Future.

That's the title of a "tumblr" I started following a few months ago. The author calls herself "Em" and she's almost ten years younger than I. And I love her site because it's so uplifting. Pictures of beauty. Reminders that women can be beautiful despite their size because the attitude shines out. An emphasis on healthy living not because you need to be skinny but because you need to be... healthy. All sorts of positive sayings for all people. Enjoying the simple things in life.

Do I agree with her on 100% of everything? Not quite. And she brings little to no input that indicates an adherence to any specific religion. And she's SO AWESOME.

Also, I think she originally started the site to chronicle her fitness progress. She ended up losing less than ten pounds (according to the before and after picture I found... this was all long before I started reading), but because she did it "the healthy way" and started working out more and building muscle, you'd have thought she'd lost 30-40. My. Hero.

Em, if you ever stumble across this entry of mine, I have so much respect and admiration for you. Thanks for being a consistent bright spot even on dark days.