Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WHAT "justice" system??

I've been in a battle with my former apartment of residence since my last week there at the beginning of July.

The name is Laurel Woods Apartments in Greenville, SC, part of the bigger organization Edward Rose and Sons. Please feel free to avoid them at all costs. Yes, you're getting one of the best deals in town, but you're not even getting what you pay for.

I had every single one of my ducks in a row, with written and signed documents from multiple employees at the office saying I was allowed to cut my lease early without any additional fees. Five days before my new move-out date, they took it back, saying they hadn't bothered to do the research when I asked. And they wanted the rest of their money. With late fees.

I responded, thinking it was an honest mistake. And continued to respond, stating they had no right - it wasn't my fault they didn't do their own paperwork. I'd made financial plans based on the information I'd taken to be true, over a month prior. I figured I had a pretty tight case, even showed it to a few lawyer friends of mine. When the letters began to sound more like harassment than decent business, their collections notices weren't from the named collections agency at all but just a scare tactic, and the folks at Laurel clearly wouldn't listen to reason and decency, I had no choice but to take them to court.

Please be advised. If you don't summon the people in to testify, "Yes, I wrote that," our "justice" system will tell you flatly, "Without anyone here to confirm the validity of your documents, we dismiss the evidence as hearsay. Please pay up and we'll send you all further court costs."


Thursday, October 3, 2013

“What about the times when even followers get lost? Cuz we all get lost sometimes.”

I can’t think of a time when I asked God “Why?” from an attitude of faithlessness, but I’m making a distinction between that and despair, and maybe some people wouldn’t. Let me explain. I do despair. Really hard sometimes. But even then, I don’t challenge the Author for writing an unpleasant chapter. It’s just that I wish I could skip over certain chapters. A lot of my chapters thus far have made me want to skip to the end where the book is put on the shelf and the broken-made-whole being whose story was being told is released. Yet here I am.

To me, God knows what He’s doing. He knows what pains and joys I need to walk through in order to get me where I need to be for the greatest good. In order to set the stage for what’s going to happen four chapters further into the book. So I’ve always had a hard time when people argue that it’s a good thing to challenge Him. That you’ll never fully trust Him until you’ve yelled at Him. Where’s that going to get you? I don’t have the whole picture; He does. I don’t need to have all the answers right now; He has them.

“Why didn’t You do this the way I wanted?” “Why did You let that happen?” Well, obviously. Because it had to happen for reasons I don’t get to see yet. Who are we to assert that we know better than God what our best is? And besides, often, in the right timing, the human, *logical* answers do actually present themselves. Unless the reason is that “it had to happen in order to avoid this,” (e.g., I got fired because I was late to work but if I’d been running on schedule, I would have been killed in a car wreck) in which case you can only choose to be grateful for the unknowns you were spared.
God does sometimes give us pain that is “beyond our ability to endure,” to the point that “we felt we had received the sentence of death… that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead.” Honestly, that 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 passage has never stood out to me, and I’m so glad I’ve caught it now. That is VERY comforting. But why do people think that means that we need to challenge His wisdom? Is that really classified as relying on Him rather than on ourselves?

I just don’t see the connection, but it’s come up a few times in my life recently. Would it not be better to say, “I don’t get this, and it is more than I can bear, and I can’t see through it right now for all the tears and pain, but at least I can trust what won’t disappoint – that God knows what he’s doing and it’ll be good in the end.”

I guess in the end you have to figure out what you’re ultimately after. And it’s an answer, right? It’s to know how this is logical. No one asks God “WHY???” except in the extreme moments when we’re tired of the illogical. When the tears won’t stop. When your heart hurts too much to breathe. When (and isn’t this straight up pride?) you JUST HAVE TO HAVE AN ANSWER NOW. Because I DON’T DESERVE THIS MUCH PAIN. (are you really so perfect?) But still we all have moments like those where we have trouble making it to the next heartbeat and just need some relief. Because it IS “beyond our ability to endure.”

So what do you do? Find relief in screaming at God while rarely if ever actually getting an answer? (In my mind, that doesn’t seem like it would be much of a relief, unless anger makes you feel better… and isn’t that a problem all its own?) Or: once you can pause long enough to get your head on straight enough to think, reminding yourself of the truth. Remembering that today is just one piece of the puzzle, and even that might be turned upside down without a glimpse of logic to it. But one day it will fit in.

“In the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love, and love again. We’ll see how the tears that had fallen were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all and we’ll look back on these tears as old tales.”

Isn’t that a more peace-giving answer than demanding a reason and the only answer you receive is “the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God”?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dr. Seuss vs. Eat Pray Love. FIGHT.

There are many ways to lose someone.

They can die. They can move away. You can lose them to an argument. You can lose them to a breakup. Sometimes you lose them so gradually you barely feel it; sometimes you choke on your own sobs, thinking, "How did we drift so far so quickly?"

Everyone's lost someone, so I'm sure you've heard the saying:

It's cute or quaint or something, but it's never been any practical help to me. Probably because whether you're concentrating on being happy or being sad about it, you're still CONCENTRATING ON IT. And even the happy memories can cut deep when you're missing someone.

I watched Eat Pray Love again recently - it had been a while. I had forgotten about all the brilliant nuggets it has. I'll have to go back later and make a quote sheet or something, but I think they hit in on the head when it comes to this subject.

"I still love you."
"So love me."
"I miss you."
"So miss me. Send me love and light every time you think of me... then drop it."

Okay, so it's not a profoundly Christian movie. But bear with me.

There are times when pain blindsides you and there's nothing you can do but let it run its course. But a lot of times, the memories creep up on us slowly and there's a point where we have to decide what we're going to do with them. I think what I often end up doing is crying my heart out till I'm too dead to care, rinse and repeat as necessary. Because it's like, you can either remember and let it hurt until it doesn't hurt any more, or block the memories until you don't have to block them any more, neither of which sound particularly good for your mental health.

But the idea in Eat Pray Love takes "Don't cry because it's over" to the next level. It tells you what to DO with that. It gives you a practical "Here's how." Feel the love you have for that person. Feelings are okay. But instead of turning it into shame or regret or angst, direct it to them. Call it prayer, call it positive intention, call it voodoo, call it what you will, but I feel certain you know what I'm talking about. Don't be wrapped up in the good or the bad of what was. Be present in this moment, offer a prayer or a thought or a feeling of love/joy/light/peace for that person. And then let the moment go.

And maybe, just maybe, you might just find that you CAN "smile because it happened."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Church: Disorganized

Church, generally defined, is a gathering of Christ followers. No need for a building. No need for music. No need for a sermon. Just people of common faith who get together for the glory of God. And everything we do is supposed to be to the glory of God, right?

So church can be 350 people in a building on Sunday just as much as it can be a “small group” on Wednesday or two people drinking coffee or a few folks visiting the movie theater or a handful of tree huggers on a hiking trail.

I live in Upstate, SC, where there’s a church for every spiritual walk you can fathom on nearly every street. We don’t need any new churches, as Webster defines them: a building for public and especially Christian worship....

What I DO want is to see a church that gets a little more disorganized.

I want to see a church that focuses on *doing stuff together,* more than is usually possible at the 10 AM – 12 PM weekly meeting, which tends to revolve around most of the individuals facing a few individuals for 75% of the time, with small pockets of interactive time spent largely on small talk. I believe that this ritual is invaluable to most Christians, but I also think most Christians need something more.

I’m 30 and single. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but it has become increasingly difficult to make friends my age who don’t have the concerns that come with spouses and children and laundry and diapers and little growling tummies as they try to schedule time for friends into their world. So it’s just me. I’m not a church. I am a Christ follower who needs a friend or few to create a legitimate “gathering.” Personally, I’m often very happy doing things all by myself, but some things just go better with friends… and I don’t always know who to call. And I have a feeling I’m not alone. That’s why I created this page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/502707713144508/

I’ll be posting activity ideas here.  I hope you will too! I’m thinking hiking Paris Mountain, playing pool at Barley’s, Artisphere, maybe just cook dinner and watch a movie with a few folks. Something simple, something fun, but real. Real life, real discussion, real YOU wellness, with a couple of folks who are running your same race – chasing after Christ.

So. Wanna do church? 

Monday, August 26, 2013

In the Zone

“I dread going in. I get along okay with the folks there, but I'm uncomfortable almost the whole time, like I can't get a deep breath or ever really relax. Like my skin’s gonna get up and crawl away. I leave early nearly every time, feeling exhausted and miserable.”

“So why do you go to care group?”

Why indeed.

I go to a church that, like any good church, is big on fellowship and relationships. God has created us with a need to share life with people, to need input from other people to help us be strong when we're weak, to help us keep going in the right direction. I have no contention with this. But to them, this idea requires you to be involved in care group.
I go because I feel obligated. I go because everyone keeps telling me it’s good for me… still waiting to see that come about, though. And I go because people keep telling me to get out of my comfort zone.

But really, do I EVER get to spend any time IN my comfort zone? I mean, for crying out loud, I WENT to church on Sunday, didn’t I? I even walked right up to people and talked to them! And I go to work 5-7 days a week, where I'm required to interact with strangers, even over the phone! And then there’s yoga class. And the open mic. And I interacted with the folks at the table next to mine at Coffee Underground. And I was chatty with the strangers at Aldi.

I done already GOT outta mah comfort zone.

Why is “group” (call it house church or care group or home group or Meet Up or whatever) so important? If the reason people are so concerned about me is that they think I’m not spending time with Christians, then why are they not satisfied to hear that I share a meal with someone once or twice a week, spending the same amount of time, just engaging in a different social activity? Why does it HAVE to be with a group at least 30 people strong?

I skipped the church picnic last night. I really didn’t mean to. But I’d “dropped by” a friend’s house for “just a minute” and never did make it out of the driveway before the picnic was half over and I was half an hour away. We was fellowshippin’. And shouldn’t I feel BETTER about that? You go to a social event and you may or may not make a worthwhile connection… but I know I did!

One of the main points I took away from that conversation was this: I’ve never learned how to say, “No, I’m right, and you’re wrong” when it comes to feelings and opinions. As if it’s the epitome of “Pride comes before the fall!” to say, “Thanks for your input, but actually, I’ve tried/considered that, and this works better for me.” I know how to hear an opposing viewpoint… now I need to figure out how not to feel guilty for thinking I could possibly know what’s better for me.

Apparently this is a recurring theme for me:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm an Introvert.

This is hardly news to me, but with all the “You might be an introvert if…” articles circulating FB right now, it’s more obvious now than ever.

And I’m actually kinda grateful for those articles.

I go to a spectacular church. But like any organization that serves multiple hundreds of people, you can’t please everyone. My church is hyper concerned (NOT a bad thing) with relationships, but this line of instruction makes no allowance for people who can’t handle more than a handful of people.

The thought of church-wide picnics, even outdoors with no walls to confine you, fills me with dread. Zumba doesn’t require interaction, so the crowd doesn’t matter if it’s not too bad, but as fun as contra-dance is, it’s hard to psych myself into going because you have to be face to face with so many people. I love going out all by myself – coffee shops, hiking trails, pool halls – no conversation required.

Suddenly it makes sense why I like “boring” jobs – introverts don’t do as well with being overstimulated. I’m not alone in feeling trapped if I don’t have an escape route when in a group. I’m not snooty for thinking small talk is a ridiculous waste of time. It’s normal for introverts to have just a few friends, and not want to be around them all the time… but to feel terribly lonely if they don’t have some best friend to share thoughts with. If I can be alone with one to three people, I’m great. But once a fourth person tags along, I’m retreating and would rather just stay home, thanks.

And here I am, writing. Another typical characteristic. If I can send you text rather than talk to you, please, oh please, may I? It’s not because I don’t like you, but rather because I DO. It’s because I HAVE something to say, which means I think it’s important, so I want to say it well! And writing lets me be analytical and thoughtful and say things the way I mean them.

I may expound on this later, but it’s time to go. I’m going to spend a few hours with a friend, her baby, and her baby-on-the-way. Good thing the husband will be home late, or else there’d be too many people in the room. ;)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It Starts with Food

I’m reading a Kindle book. I know, I know. But it was cheaper.

It’s called “It Starts with Food.” It’s about the Paleo diet – AKA eating food that’s actually good for you. Foods that actually add to your health rather than detracting from it due to unnecessary additives and processing and fake sugar and the works. And about how, if you’re eating real food that really is good for you, your body is actually able to operate at its full potential, including an increased power with which to fight disease, resist allergic reactions, recover from injuries, achieve better degrees of mental focus, and get a good night’s rest. Don't just feed your face - increase your quality of life with the food you eat. Good stuff.

I mention it because they brought up something and it struck me last night in a way that I’d never realized. Take cookies. You could eat just one… but if you don't watch it, you can eat a whole row. Somehow you’re a bottomless pit when it comes to Oreos. But you go to eat a steak and your body tells you when it’s time to stop.  Your body will let you gorge on junk food but when it comes to the stuff that’s actually good for you, it yanks the reins? What gives?

A steak has good fats, good protein, good sugars. Stuff your body needs for energy. You eat it, and it says, “Thank you very much! That should be enough to last me a while. You can stop now.”

An Oreo has bad fat, nearly no protein, and fake sugar. You eat it not because it’s good for you but because it has pleasing a psychological effect. So you eat that stuff and your body says, “This is not actually food. I haven't gotten any of the nutrients I need yet. PLEASE KEEP FEEDING ME.” And because it does play with your hormone levels and gives you a false sense of happiness, you don’t stop to reach for anything that DOES have nutrients… you grab another Oreo. Or scoop of ice cream. Or potato chip. The only thing stopping you is your stomach wall no longer being able to expand. (But if you keep it up, it WILL stretch farther next time!)

DUH! It’s so obvious. How have I never realized this before??

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


"It seems to me that we'd watch virtually all of the conflicts in our lives disappear if we let go of the lie that our opinions and feelings matter more than anyone else's...."

I posted that on Facebook a few days ago after chewing on some thoughts from the series we're going through at care group on relational conflict. It's just frustrating because, like so many things, even Christians tend to treat the symptoms rather than the root cause. Almost as an afterthought, they mentioned that it's a good idea to think twice and try to nip conflict in the bud before it turns into a fight. As if to say there's no way around starting chaotic conflict in the first place.

I'm not saying I don't have opinions. And I'm not saying I never disagree with anyone, even to the point of frustration! But... I don't insist on getting my way. And I don't have those kinds of conflicts. It never gets to that point. It never gets out of control, y'know? Conflict doesn't HAVE to be unavoidable! Especially the kind that causes relational DAMAGE!

I think it's interesting too - my statement on FB isn't overtly Christian. It's just logic. It's just true. Which is how Christianity IS - it's never nonsense rules and regulations but sensible aids to make our lives and relationships better and more fulfilling. That's not to say it's not also true that as Christians we have additional reasons to love - we have a bigger picture and a bigger God to be distracted by. Just like a non-Christian couple can have an incredibly satisfying, lifelong marriage if they choose to practice humility and patience, but Christians have even more reasons to fight together rather than in opposition to one another.

Still, there's a difference in my mind between having truths to remind yourself of... and being in a place where you don't HAVE to be reminded because the truths you know have changed your default reactions to your world. You don't get angry and then keep it in check... you just don't get angry. You don't act spitefully and then ask for forgiveness... you just act out of love. Your first response to disrespect is gentleness rather than indignation.

I'm certainly not suggesting I've "made it" anywhere. But I do see progress. I do see improvement. And I see a need to dig deeper rather than taking it for granted that we'll never get over certain things. You always hear that "Only God can change the heart" but do we acknowledge that such change also takes a lot of cooperation, hard work, humility, thinking, and persistence on our part? I wonder sometimes if we truly act like the heart can be changed at all, or if we've merely resigned ourselves to treating symptoms....