Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

two of my worlds collide
12.7.09

you must check out this blog (from SCOTUS – what we law school nerds lovingly call the Supreme Court of the United States)…

a little excerpt:

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether it is unconstitutional for a state-run college to exclude from official status a student religious group that limits its officers and voting members to those who accept its religious beliefs.  The case involves a student group at a public law school, Hastings, in San Francisco. The case is Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (08-1371).

i know much of the backstory in this case, and honestly, it’s quite sad to me.  a few years ago, a religious group (a CHRISTIAN group) on hastings’ campus did not allow as voting members (basically, did not welcome as attendees) those who admitted to engaging in certain acts/lifestyles (which i can only assume are acts the christian group considers “worse” than others), such as extramarital sex & homosexuality, among others.

personally, i think the christian group was in the wrong here – legally & morally.  first, they violated the schools’ antidiscrimination policy, and they were validly kicked off campus.  second, what a sad story to have a christian group on a campus that desperately needs to hear the gospel be turning away potentially all if not most of the student body from membership?!  i only wish christian groups were more inclusive.  shouldn’t we, as christians, be welcoming to those  with ongoing sin in their lives (because, really, aren’t we all full of sin & selfishness)?  shouldn’t we be standing with open arms (and open eyes) to ALL people, regardless of how scary this may seem?

here’s another excerpt from the christian legal society’s site:

The CLS chapter asked school officials in early September 2004 to exempt the group and other religious student organizations from the religion and sexual orientation portions of the university’s nondiscrimination policy. As applied to CLS, this nondiscrimination policy would force the chapter to allow persons who hold beliefs and engage in conduct contrary to the CLS Statement of Faith, which includes a prohibition on extramarital sex, to join as voting members and to run for officer positions. School officials denied this request and stripped the chapter of recognition and the benefits of recognition, including student activity fee funding.

In its lawsuit CLS alleges that UC Hastings’ exclusion of its chapter violates, among other constitutional rights, CLS’ right of expressive association and CLS’ right to be free from viewpoint discrimination.

CLS argues that is a violation of the right of expressive association to force a religious student organization to accept officers and voting members who hold beliefs and engage in conduct in opposition to the group’s shared viewpoints, thereby inhibiting the group’s ability to define and express its message.

the saddest part of it all is that after the christian group in this lawsuit was kicked off campus, it took at least four years for another christian group to get the courage to continue meeting at hastings.  i’m only assuming that this was due, in part, to the fact that christians now have a horrible reputation on our campus.

in san francisco, i have seen christians who act exactly like this group (closed-minded, exclusionary, upright rude), and i have also seen some of the most welcoming, genuine, purely-focused  followers of christ than anywhere else i have lived.  this will be one of the marvelous lessons i learn from this city – to be humble, always seeking to fully acknowledge my own sin so that i can better reach out and be a light to those around me.

xoxo

can they really both exist?
5.2.07

how do you reconcile miserable realties like children with leukemia; homeless men and women with no place other than a dirty, cold park bench to rest their heads at night; seemingly random acts of violence; terrorism; innocent families broken apart by death and disease with a GOD that promises not to abandon us? … with a GOD whose sole purpose is to love?

in my opinion, this is the hardest question man has ever attempted to answer.

***

should we even have an answer?

i have always struggled with a response to this question.

how do you tell someone that you firmly believe GOD is constantly and consistently fighting to be close to each one of us and pour HIS love on us – while their life story seems to prove the opposite, that GOD has forgotten them?

“how priceless is your unfailing love! both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
-psalms 36:7

this may sound backwards, but i believe the answer to this question somehow lies in our answer to suffering.

almost every day, i am drawn closer to GOD because of the tragedy and suffering in the world around me.

my response to cling to HIM proves even further to me that HE exists. when the world seems to be falling apart around me, i find comfort in HIM and in the people HE has lovingly placed in my life.

“i am pretty sure one need look no further than people’s responses to adversity to find evidence that there is something in the world that resists tragedy, and seeks to overturn the evils of seeming fate … maybe that’s the best answer to the patently ridiculous problem of trying to reconcile all the very visible evil and suffering in the world with the existence of a GOD who is not actually out to get us: we suffer and we don’t give up.”
-chris adrian, “the hardest question” (chris’ second novel, the children’s hospital, was published by mcsweeney’s last year. he is a pediatrician and divinity student in boston.)

the fact of a GOD that loves us is proven to me in the millions of hearty people in the world fighting terrible discomfort, bravely facing deeper pain than i will ever know. from the smiling homeless woman begging each and every morning in franklin park on my way to work to the children fighting cancer, with bright hopes for a long future, as they fight a daily battle against a disease they did not deserve.

their responses point to a being that is bigger than us. a SOMEONE who is on our side. a GOD who loves. a GOD that is reflected in all of us, in our determination and will to survive amidst seemingly impossible circumstances. at one time or another, if we’re true to ourselves, we all seem to possess a particular buyoancy of spirit when all odds seem against us.

HE is there, and although we may think HE should be acting like a super hero a lot more often – watching us from the clouds and swooping in to fix our problems as quickly as they appear, HIS comfort and peace are much more healing than superman could ever hope to be.

there is hope.
3.24.07

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lately, i have been feeling defeated. i am often excruciatingly overwhelmed – to the point of non-action – by the fact that the christian church is not what it should be.

all too often i feel that i disagree with too many stances, too many practices, too many economic exercises of the church – and it’s handicapping at times.

… the priest scandals … the criticisms of homosexual believers/pastors … the denominational squabbles … religious outcries against a NON-FICTION book about a FAKE religious mystery that questions the truth of biblical stories … pastors stealing church money …

it seems that the church is always in the news for the wrong reasons.

i just sit and stare at walls, banging my head against them (figuratively, of course) trying to come up with ways that things could be better.

those i often attend worship with place their trust in the same GOD that i do. we read the same book. we say similar prayers. we profess to believe in virtually the same theology.

yet i seem to have a drastically different view of what GOD values and what GOD professes as truth than do many of the other believers i often find around me. (not that i’m always heroic in carrying out these ideals, but starting points are crucial.)

i used to think i was ignorant of teachings that i wanted to discount or simply stagnate enough in my own faith that my views of reality had radically skewed off course.

in my own search for truth, i snuffed out these anxieties. my faith has even further confirmed that i am exactly where i need to be in my dedication to spreading christ’s message by loving those around me as fully as i can.

love is really what HIS message was about. our GOD is a very relational being. much more relational than even we are. he built us to crave relationships. this is meant to persuade us to embrace each other and to remind us of HIM.

this is the problem i have with the church.

where my beliefs differ from a lot of christians that embody today’s church is that so many believe we should love each other UNTIL it appears to “dilute” our religion, UNTIL it makes us question what we believe, UNTIL it draws us closer to people that are a little or a lot different than us, UNTIL it’s uncomfortable.

basically, they huddle together and “love” each other UNTIL even that gets old or tiring.

this is where i disagree.

the church should not be a place where leaders, preachers or members are filtered by race, social class, sexuality, past missteps or gender.

the church should not be a place where homosexuals are shunned, where deeds are counted, where prayers are used as coverings over our faults, where church hierarchies attempt to prop some of us up closer to GOD – creating power struggles and ego trips, where men are schooled to be consistently absent of emotion – always secure in themselves, where women are taught to be de-sexed, void of any passion – servant-minded house-moms and silent observers (NEVER leading church services or holding positions of authority within church bodies).

the silver lining (you knew it was coming) …

YET i am renewed when i hear a sermon like this one (to hear: search itunes for theatrechurch.com podcast, battle of the sexes, women) that reminds me that i’m not as far off course as some christians may have me believe.

this podcast is produced by a church that i’ve been attending in dc called the national community church, which is a creative body of believers in clever locations (movie theatres & a coffeehouse), which has already been an inspiration to me since i’ve arrived here in washington.

their talks are real. they’re a little radical sometimes. (shouldn’t christianity constantly be?) they’re always eye-opening.

the podcast mentioned above is from a sermon on women and feminism – but it’s also about the differences we see in those around us and how we should approach those differences.

i was refreshed and affirmed that i’m not as far off base when i heard the speaker, heather, say a little while ago that GOD created us as relational beings so that we would connect to each other and need each other. she said that when many of us see differences in ourselves and others, that triggers bells in our head going off with a warning that something is missing or something is terribly wrong. these triggers are acted upon all too often. with femininity issues, she said we need to remember that the godly women in the bible are each drastically different. GOD did not create women (or any of us) to be cookie-cutter individuals; we are each strong in our own unique ways.

she explained that she disagrees with most “christian” books and conferences for and about our differences as humans, specifically the differences between men and women. (i do too!)

she said she hates it when the church tries so hard to be a counterpoint to the rest of the world’s views that they create huge barriers for those curious about the church to really get involved and be a part of the church community. (i do too!)

she said that our differences as people should strengthen our communities, not bring us to hate each other. (amen!)

the church has a million gazillion problems – big and small – but it was completely refreshing to hear another woman so passionately standing up against some of the most distressing.

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tonight’s message (downstairs at ebeneezer’s coffeehouse, next to union station) was another non-conventional lesson on GOD’s reckless pursuit of us and what that says about HIM and what it teaches us about how we should deal with our own relationships.

something that stood out to me:

GOD’s love for us is super-abundant in quantity and superior in quality to any other love we’ll ever experience. it’s a passport to enjoy life and the riches of our world. GOD doesn’t want us to worry so much about day-to-day stuff, but to have the benefit of all life has to offer! HIS word is saying to us: travel! take time for your hobbies! relax! don’t worry about the differences between you and others so much! love people more! (i think the bible even teaches not to worry too much about the church being perfect … if we concentrate on loving people, we’re doing our job better than focusing on anything else!)

to me, this exemplifies the fact that GOD cannot be understood with the cerebral cortex inside our tiny little skulls.

we want to compartmentalize and label everything in our lives; HE doesn’t work this way. HE is so much bigger than us.

this speaks so clearly to me because one of the reasons i believe in GOD is BECAUSE the story of HIS abundant love for us is so unbelievable. i mean, who wants to believe in a GOD that’s as small as our limited, cognitive understanding?? i know i don’t.

thank goodness for true bodies of believers.

if you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great christians of old, he would have replied, Love. you see what has happened? a negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. the negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. i do not think this is the christian virtue of Love … if there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, i submit that this notion has crept in from kant and the stoics and is not part of the christian faith. indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our LORD finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. we are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. we are far too easily pleased.
-the weight of glory, c.s. lewis

i’m eager to hear comments on this weighty topic of “church.” what do you think?


(this is a monster-of-a post. if you made it this far, i’m amazed! heck, if you even made it halfway through and skipped to the end, i’m still amazed… i guess i have a hard time covering topics half-heartedly that seem so important to me.)

thankful.
2.20.07

my heart is full with gratefulness for a lot of things lately. sometimes i feel that i don’t deserve the life i’ve been given, but most of the time, i feel that it’s giving me strength to turn around and use what i’ve been given to help other people – whether it be through my job or volunteering or loving the people around me more fully.

i’m thankful for my friends – new and old. for my family. for my boyfriend. for good health. for the ability to walk. for the ability to speak and hear. for the city i’m exploring. for the path that is leading me to law school. for the recent jobs i’ve fallen into and people there that i’ve been lucky enough to learn from. for time to read. for the dedication to live a life where i am constantly learning. and for things as simple as the sunshine and the rain.

i’m overflowing.

“appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.”
alan cohen

go.
1.24.07

i am grateful for donald miller and his wise words that explain exactly how i feel about my life right now. thanks donny-o for putting my thoughts into words on paper.

thank you, thank you, thank you.

it might be time for you to go. it might be time to change, to shine out.

i want to repeat one word for you:

leave.

roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. it is a beautiful word, isn’t it? so strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. and you will not be alone. you have never been alone. don’t worry. everything will still be here when you get back. it is you who will have changed.

. . .

and so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. my hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves. we get one story, you and i, and one story alone. it would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

marriage is not built on surprises
12.19.06

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divorce is sad.

 i think most of us would agree with this statement. it creates a culture where families are no longer secure, where children are hurt the most, where the bonds that should help us all shelter the storms that life brings our way are often violently torn apart. i can’t think of anything else that is so prevalent and yet so destructive in our society today.

just yesterday i learned of two more families i know being broken apart by divorce. it’s everywhere.

i am definitely a proactive complainer, or at least i’d like to be better at this. i hate complaining just to complain. so i thought, “what needs to be changed to lower the divorce rates?” and while this is an extremely complicated question and in NO WAY am i arguing that i’m an expert on the topic nor am i the best to answer it, i found something that i think might be a big part of the answer.

drumroll, please … … … … … … … … … …

if you were hoping for a magic answer to this question, look elsewhere. i don’t believe in magic answers. and luck really has nothing to do with it either. i don’t believe in pure luck. i think that we make our own luck, in small dedicated ways every day… this is ESPECIALLY true in marriage. take thomas jefferson’s quote on the subject: “i’m a great believer in luck, and i find the harder i work, the more i have of it.”

so, it’s not left to luck or chance or one magic answer, so what is it? an article i came across in the new york times may be a start in the right direction. it could help a couple that’s marriage-bound create the kind of luck that we think is thrown at us in life. the article lists a few straightforward (although sometimes blunt) questions that couples should ask eachother BEFORE getting married. key word: BEFORE.

these questions are not always easy to bring up, but wouldn’t you rather talk about them before you have kids, before you own a car and a home together, before you make long-term goals and settle into a life with the other person? i know i would. i can name 5 married couples i know that did not answer some of these questions before walking down the aisle. are their marriages in jeopardy? not necessarily, but even they would admit that it would have made their relationships stronger.

talking about these issues – finances, kids, careers, friends, parents, needs, desires, spirituality – in a straightforward way before committing to stay with a person for the rest of your life should be an essential part of the pre-wedding prep. between all of the dress-buying, decoration-choosing, cake-tasting, vow-writing, honeymoon-planning there should be considerable time given to discussing these important issues. i’m not usually one for relationship rules, but i know i’ll make it part of my to-do list, whether it feels uncomfortable or not. it’s only fair to each other.

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see what you think about the questions …