Parenthetical Revelations

I‘m in the middle of trying to write two final essays for the quarter, but wanted to record somewhere the things I’ve learned in the last three months.

There were lessons like how to turn a fraction into a decimal, into a percent; how to more effectively edit a piece of writing; how to (and how not to) interpret literature (this distinction was difficult because it’s very different than interpreting the Bible). But these things are not as fun to explore as the few tidbits that have taken me by surprise…

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Just To Be Clear

I have read several articles on the when and the where of using, and not using, Christian jargon (this one being the funniest), but I would like to propose that it has no place at all in the communication of faith.

In a post about words, an “official” definition seems appropriate:

Jargon = special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.

Probably the most slanted definition I found was this:

Jargon = a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid.

There are several places where verbal short hand and specialized phrases are handy. They make work and study more efficient if the jargon exchange is between two people “in the know.”

Unfortunately, because people love to sound smart, they will often use their specialized language with people who are not “in the know” either as a way of detecting such fools, or to impress newbies or outsiders…

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Dream Out Loud

I float in and out of thinking, distraction, sleep, bad dreams and mundane activity.

I’ve formed this weird habit of not talking to people about stuff. Talking to friends about the things I’m wrestling with is like having nice hand rails for a rickety, floating bridge. Not talking sends me adrift, or maybe I just hang out on one rotting rung because I can’t see the way forward. Questions echo in my mind without reply. And then suddenly I’m confessing my sins to the checker at Haggen after she asks, “Did you find everything alright?”

The world seems to be moving more quickly now and I feel like I have to butt in to have conversation, or it’s selfish, or too intense. Maybe that’s why we all have blogs, so we can confess without really asking anyone if they’re willing to listen. Then it gets harder to believe anyone actually is.

Note to self: talk to my friends about stuff…

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Let’s Fight

When I was young I had a pretty bad temper. “Seeing red” was a figure of speech that I understood completely.

Back then, we also did our family fighting with really loud voices. When it went on between others and myself, it was cathartic, when it was other members of my family with each other, it tipped over into stressful. I remember one time going into my room, slamming the door and plugging my ears so tightly that I hurt myself, all because of an argument in which I was not involved.

It was for that reason that I began looking for “fixes,” or, more appropriately termed, “diffusers.” Jokes are my favorite- ones that make me the fool usually work out the best because there’s no possibility for things to be taken wrong. Every once in a while I found actual wisdom that calmed things. Not so much like Solomon, but more like the time I encouraged my sister to not stay stubbornly in the car at McDonalds because she’d be hungry later when her anger had cooled.

As an adult there is really never any yelling. I still sometimes get the urge to slam doors, but if I notice the urge in time, I can diffuse it by calling myself out as passive aggressive…

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If God

I‘m not doing well with words lately. Every time I’ve tried to speak it’s felt like pulling frozen taffy.

Yesterday morning I talked to a good friend of mine who is in Ireland. Somehow she said all of the things I’ve been trying (and failing) to say for the last few weeks. 

I’ve been asking God some big questions recently and while waiting to hear back from him, I’ve gotten trapped under a huge pile of words and emotions. It hasn’t been pretty. What I know about God speaking is that he usually does it quickly. Nevertheless, I have this sense of waiting on him.

There’s something of Romans 7-8 in all of my personal struggles. Usually, the first half of any hard time consists of me wrestling with myself and losing. At some point I remember the character of God and I’m encouraged to stop looking at myself and start looking at him. This is when I move into chapter 8 of Romans and I begin (again) to believe that he is good and that in my total weakness, he is strong and loving.

And Paul’s questions are the real thing, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

I also read yesterday, “The moment you realize that God wants good for you more than you want good for yourself, is the moment that you let go.” – Adam Smith

It’s not to say that everything will be easy, but there is real and solid peace involved in struggling with instead of against God. He is so good, so loving and so much bigger than everything we face… even when what we face is our own selves.

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The Great Exchange

One topic that has come up for me a lot over the years is homosexuality. Same-sex attraction is the reason that my ex-husband decided to divorce me. He certainly has his own story and I don’t attempt to tell that here (I am not outing him to the world, he has already done this). That is parenthetical to what I really wanted to say, but important for you to know about my perspective.

You may or may not be surprised if you knew how many Christians struggle with same sex attraction. I know several. Before you get upset with my using the word ‘struggle,’ recognize that I’m not making a judgment- all of the people I know would admit that for them it is a place of great difficulty. I myself glimpsed into that struggle by marrying a man who was not attracted to women.

Was I fully aware of my own foolishness? No. Talking to a friend last night about this issue, she expressed thoughts I carried years ago when I got engaged….

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The Etymology of Identity

I went to the bank the other day to change my name with them. One of the ladies who was helping me asked for the reason I was changing my name and I simply said, “Divorce.” She related with me that she also recently changed her name because of divorce and we talked a little about the joy of returning to our maiden names. As we sat down to go over some other things with my account, she was open and really friendly. A compatriot.

Then somehow it came up that I worked for Youth With A Mission. At this news she ever-so-slightly stiffened, both in her body and in her banter.

When this is brought up with strangers, I look for the most non-threatening way to explain something that is so far from what is normal and also far from its stereotypes. I try to stay focused on things that make sense like how I love to teach and travel.
Sometimes I have to walk people gently through this and often it actually makes me happy to confess that I’m a Christian and proceed to be different than I know they’re expecting.
Telling people I’m a “missionary” is a bit like telling a boyfriend, “we have to talk.” They start to sweat a little and blood rushing through the head causes their hearing to decrease….

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Rattling the Rafters

This last week in class the speaker (Dan Shannon) spent a few hours teaching us (a bit of) what he knows about “simple church planting.” He worked for a few years with a man named Floyd McClung in South Africa with an organization called All Nations. Considering that I have only heard the most basic teaching about this stuff, I feel intimidated to retell it on the world wide web, but I want to at least process a bit of these running thoughts in my head….

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What Matters Most

The speaker for our class last week started out her time by asking the class for introductions. She asked where they were from, what they were passionate about and one thing they’ve learned so far during the school.

This question, “What are you passionate about?” is a good one and although I have looked at various branches of my passion and tried to articulate these things well, I had not come to the direct point until the other day. I think what helped me with this was that the speaker said, “You’re not allowed to say, ‘Jesus.’ We’re all here because we’re passionate about Jesus.” She was right, of course.  I never felt like this answer was a cop-out because it is true of me, but being forced to find a more specific way to express myself  was enlightening….

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Coming Clean

I just reread the post I just posted and thought it might be fair enough to talk about this whole “being vulnerable with people” thing. It’s pretty significant for me lately.

For most of my adult life it hasn’t been too difficult to be real. I squirm when I hear people spouting trite phrases that I don’t believe they believe, so I want to help them by looking for the real words. Some places struggle with these. You know the ones? If you’ve spent time in church or in bars you know what I mean. Why would I put these two locations together in a sentence? Because I believe that these are two places where people are especially tempted to be fake. So while I haven’t been to many bars, I have been to church a lot and it’s there that I have honed the skill of choosing to be who I am in front of other people….

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