A tale of too bigsies

When I first started attending my former mega-ish church, I was overwhelmed by the experience in the best of ways. Coming from a childhood church with a mean age of 74, and enrolling in a grad program that strongly emphasized materialism as the only reality, it was a balm to my soul to be surrounded by thousands of people my age who were whole-heartedly worshiping the same God.

It was difficult to meet people at first, but I did eventually meet some people when I volunteered to help out with the kiddos for about a year, and then later when I joined a “small” group that was ~100 people. Another great thing about this church was that they regularly have ‘drives’ that ranged from collecting school supplies for local kiddos to fixing cleft palates for kiddos overseas. Most importantly, the theology of this church is solid. They have a strong focus on the gospel, and go deeper than some of the other big churches I’ve been to in the area.

I mention these positive features up front because I want to emphasize that this post is not about poo-pooing this particular church. I am, however, going to share the issues and concerns which ultimately became such a big to deal to me that I didn’t want to come to the services anymore. I would still serve, but then I would slink home after I had “put in my time,” like a guilty church mouse.

So what were these issues and concerns?

1) Lights off during worship and sermon

This was kind of symbolic, but why do we need to put a spotlight on the leaders and not be able to see each other? It promoted a sort of concert-y, celebrity atmosphere that I found out of line with the biblical presentation of churches and church-leadership.

2) Commercialism

Sometimes we would have guest speakers or worship leaders, and Lo and Behold their new book or CD would be for sale at our church resource area. I felt uncomfortable seeing crowds of people lining up to buy merch in a church. It reminded me of when Jesus turned tables in the temple for desecrating the temple with their vending. Maybe that’s a little unfair, but.. I thought of it, and it gave me the heebie-jeebies.

3) Celebrity culture

Many of the guest speakers and worship leaders mentioned above were celebrities of sorts in Christian Land. Granted – people usually gain a celebrity status because they’re very good at something, and I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to recognize someone for being an especially gifted musician or speaker. But sometimes it felt like that there was an undue emphasis on the star power of the people on stage. Even if they were 100% focused on glorifying God, I would see people in the audience snapping pictures and sending to their Christian friends and relatives. Again, just kind of gave me the heebie-jeebies.

4) Emphasis on church “brand”

This church does an annual volunteer rally in which they gather everyone, hand out prizes, give talks about church culture, etc. A lot of the ideas they talked about were basically telling us Best Practices for Customer Service. It’s not that I don’t want people to feel comfortable and welcome when they come into church, but… I think what most people need is sincerity, not polished perfection. In concordance with this customer service idea was this overarching, unspoken theme that we were an Organization that had a Brand. And our job as Volunteers was to promote that Brand by adhering to the values and goals of the Organization. It just made me wonder — even if the leaders claim that all of this is ultimately for the purpose of bringing glory to Jesus, is it really? Or is it more about their brand, which is inextricably linked to the name of the pastor? Would they be willing to do a church event with “lesser” churches to help the community, if they couldn’t slap their name on a huge banner outside? There’s a good possibility I’m being unfair, but I would guess no.

5) Passively ignorant leadership

As a volunteer, did anyone in the leadership really know who I was, what I truly believed, how I lived my life outside of church? Not in the least bit. But, because I passed a criminal background check and mentioned during my “interview” that Jesus changed my life in some way, I could be plopped into a position of spiritual leadership within the church, most likely over kids. I think there’s a balance here – no one wants a church leadership team that’s booting people for not posting enough scripture on their fb page, but… it made me a bit uncomfortable to know I could be performing satanic rituals during the week and then teaching children in Sunday school.

6) Lack of accountability

I could easily choose what sort of persona I wanted to project each Sunday. If I stopped going to church at all, if I embraced an obvious sin.. I truly doubt anyone would notice. Please read my tone correctly – I’m not pouting about this, just stating it matter-of-factly. I’m not sure it’s possible for it to be any other way in a church this size, structured the way it is. But, I have really felt the need for older women who aren’t necessarily my pals to speak truth into my life, to hold me accountable, to counsel me about family stuff that I don’t necessarily want to share with other family members. Let’s bring back Sunday school, amiright?!

7) Stretched too thin to tend

There was a time when I was very concerned for the mental health of one the other volunteers, but for various reasons I didn’t feel that it was appropriate for me to reach out myself.* So, I called the church and asked them if a man on the leadership team could check in on this person. The lady I talked to sounded genuinely concerned, took down all the info, and told me she would have someone call me. They never did.** Maybe someone reached out to my friend and just didn’t call me back to tell me, maybe not. But it struck a wrong cord within me that with something this serious, I couldn’t even get a callback. Beyond this episode, there are some things the pastor at this church brought up that I would truly have liked clarification / expansion on. But does he stick around after his sermons to chat with people? Nope.

8) Work to belong

There was no membership class for this church. To be a “member,” you have to volunteer. I get their point in some ways, but I really dislike this for a few reasons. One, some people truly do not have the capacity to dedicate 3+ hours of volunteering + another 2 hours of attending services on one Sunday. People work, some people are not mentally or physically capable… some may be saved, but in a very spiritually dark place and not necessarily ready to be the face of the church. So what about them.. they’re poo in the eyes of this church? It came across that way to me. Secondly, I really think it’s promoting an anti-gospel ethic: work to belong, work for community. I believe with my entire heart that is *NOT* the church’s heart behind their reasoning, but even so— it can still be the result, intended or no.

*************

AGAIN, let me re-emphasize that I’m not trying to trash this church, but the points above really bothered me. I know that there is no perfect church. There are, however, different degrees of health among churches. Maybe some churches – even if the leaders have the purest hearts of gold – are simply too big to provide the sort of real community and approachability of leadership that promotes spiritual health. 

It’s also worth mentioning that I strongly disagree with church-hopping. It’s unhealthy for the spiritual growth of individuals – and the health of the church as a whole – for committed Christians to come into church with a consumer mindset (e.g. I want this sort of worship, these sort of programs, this sort of experience, blah blah blah, me me me). It can be healthy to feel a little uncomfortable in your church – it probably means you are contributing to the diversity and broadening the reach of that church. Clumping into churches with people that look, think, talk exactly like us is how we have such imbalanced churches – those that are awesome at reaching out to the community, but have weak-sauce theology vs. those churches that seem to care more about theology than being the hands of feet of Jesus.

BUT I think most every Christian would agree that sometimes, it’s legit to move on. The main reason I moved on was because I came to the point where I dreaded going to service. I was talking to my ‘rents about it, and they were like “Okay, soooooo — why not try other churches?” And ever since then, I’ve felt this great freedom and peace, and have been greatly enjoying my visits to other churches in the area.

All this being said — I would genuinely like feedback from my fellow Christians about these points I brought up. Fire away!

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*A hard lesson I learned in 2016 (?) was this – it’s not a great idea for a single woman to take on the role of a single guy’s “helping friend.” It turns weird fast.

**so I reached out to another friend, and he very kindly reached out to this person. [praise hands] Christian community FTW!!!

 

 

The End of an Era: Gallo’s final words on romanticals

Dear ones,

I have greatly enjoyed opening up my heart to foreign internet bots, passionate masculinazis, and my exes (recent market research indicated these three groups comprise 96.8% of Galloblog readers). But, the over-sharing sun has set, and the moon of discretion is rising.

I will no longer use this blog as an outlet to share the good, bad, ugly, and rando details of my dating life.

 

design-3047520_1280
New year (kinda), so new life strategies, amiright?!

 

But don’t worry – I’m planning to write a lengthy manifesto titled “No Sex and the Kitties: How following Joshua Harris’ model for dating turned me into a lonely cat lady” available 2021.

As another parting gift, I’m leaving final thoughts that I had jotted down and I probably would have tried to pound out into an entire post for all of your reading pleasure. Alas, maybe someone else will stumble upon them and be set aflame with inspiration.

Here they are,  in no particular order —-

  • He’s not that into you, and get over it. It’s not the end of the world if someone you’re dating isn’t swept off their feet by your charms. Sure, it’s always a blow to the ol’ ego, especially if you are a little swept away by them. But by pure statistics, it’s bound to happen – get over it, give it some time, and who knows— you might gain an amazing friend.

 

  • If you expect them, they will come.  I think sometimes presupposing that all men are arse-holes is a self-fulfilling prophecy (maybe bc the good ‘uns are *for some reason* not attracted to our contempt). So yeah — expect to meet amazing men, and you probably will.

 

  • There really are many fish in the sea – don’t give in to the scarcity complex and latch onto people who are grossly incompatible with you.

 

  • We need to be more gracious about people’s pasts. It’s more important how someone has dealt with their past and what their trajectory is now, than that they have lived a perfect life since birth.

 

  • Let’s make dating fun again. It’s okay to get to know someone in a relaxed, casual manner. No need to dissect their worldview and see the last 6 months of their credit card statements on the first few dates.

 

  • A call for exclusive cas. Dating more than one person at a time – even when they all know you’re not being exclusive – sounds easy and breezy, but was a terrible idea for me. I was emotionally spread thin and unnecessarily hurt some really great people. From now on, as much as possible — even if I don’t tell the dude I’m doing so — I’m going to focus on one romancer at a time.

 

  • (That being said), Dating and hurt feels.. like peas and carrots. Listen up people — there’s no secret technique for avoiding hurting your own or someone else’s feelings. That being said, it is worth trying to be as considerate as possible.

 

  • I could be single forever. If so, what a waste to wallow around feeling sorry for myself, or work myself into an emotional frenzy each and every time I go on a few dates with someone I see potential with. Like the secular sage Joel Osteen declares, Live your best life now! Lolzzzzz. But seriously — I feel like keeping the big picture in mind has helped me not wait for an ideal relationship status before I start doing stuff (traveling, trying out new restaurants, etc.). It also makes me want to invest more in really great frands #ovariesbeforebrovaries

 

  • Don’t buy into the relationship prosperity gospel. God does not owe you a perfect spouse because you courted instead of dated, if you’re saving yourself for marriage, or whatever. And if you haven’t followed Joshua Harris’ … or Marshal Segal’s … or Ben Stuart’s relationship books perfectly, God may very well still choose to bless your socks off in the romantic department. Yep.. *squints knowingly in the distance* It’s called grace.

 

I just gave you 9 blog posts in 1. Lucky day, lucky day.

A part of me will miss this greatly. But a wise soul said to me a while ago – “Be careful who you invite to speak into your life.” Posting this pretty personal stuff for the entire world to read is essentially inviting the entire world to speak into my love life. Sorry Charlies, but I don’t want or need that no more.

I FEEL SO MATURE RIGHT NOW!

Okaayyyyyyy, C. Gallo out ❤

Wise is as wise does

I don’t like to brag, but my friends tell me* I’m wise.

Seriously. I remember always being the uber-responsible, already-thinking-seriously-about-the-future kind of person, even in frickin’ middle school. Adults marveled at my maturity.

 

owl-1705112
Actual picture of me in middle school, lolz (pixabay)

 

Now I think my age has caught up with – maybe surpassed, snarky peeps would argue – my maturity level. But if you told me about your probs, I could probably drop a few truth bombs on ya. If you listened to me process my life, I would probably land on the right decision eventually. If you handed me some wisdom nuggets, I would very likely recognize them as wise.

But lately I’ve wondering.. then why all the Gallofoolery?

For realz. Especially when I look back on the last few years, there were some things I said or did … Sometimes not just once, I’m talking chronically! … that are just.. foolish.

What’s most upsetting is that I *knew* better.

I mean seriously.. I’ve been reading over some of my blog posts (e.g. this one, and this one) that I wrote a while ago (I know, I know.. shut up), and there’s some really solid wisdom in some of them, impo. Did I listen to my own advice? Um no… in some instances I did exactly what I advised my readers to not do. *le sigh* Yep, in that sense, I’m an ultra hypocrite.

So why have I, your esteemed Gallosage clothed in linens of wisdom – surrounded by smart, kind, wise people – been acting the fool??

Wellll, it comes down to this: knowing what’s wise doesn’t automatically translate into 1) the ability or 2) the will to do so.

That’s right, y’all. I usually get amazing advice – agree with it wholeheartedly as the best path forward – and then promptly ignore it. Why? Cuz I don’t wanna, that’s why. Or, I try. I try SO hard.. for a day or two. And then usually, my feels start barking so loudly that I’ll do practically anything to appease them and quiet their yapping. And lo, I collapse in a heap of shattered self-idealizations.

What is the path forward? Eh, if I knew 100%, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. But some things I’ve been thinking about —-

  • Awareness that my wisdom lapses are hardly ever informational. I’m gonna name it so I can disclaim it: sometimes it’s totes rebellion, sometimes it’s totes lack of effort, sometimes a little of both. But I don’t want to fool myself into thinking I need to listen to another 5 sermons or read more theology books before I can move forward.
  • Praying that I would have a heart that craves what’s good. Not just for me, but for everyone who I come into contact with. I want my feels to align with my noggin’.
  • Keepin’ it real with select people who I trust and who strike that unicorn blend of never rejecting me for being a fool but also never enabling my foolery.

That’s all I have rn … if you have ever found yourself full of knowledge that doesn’t translate into your actions, let me know what’s helped you actually be your ideals!

Word to yer mamas!

– Gallo

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

* notet this quote is from the movie Emma. Also, who are we kidding.. I love to brag.

 

Reflections on one of (the?) best date(s) ever

I wrote this post a while ago and chickened out before I posted it. Now that I have some distance from it, I realized it is still pure gold. Also, I needed to re-read it *laughs nervously*

***********************************************************************************

I went on a date last night. I realize it’s a terrible idea to tell the entire interwebs about it, but I have so many thoughts and feels about it, I truly don’t care. 

To begin – the date activities were downright classy. In the current “ambiguous hangout” culture, it’s refreshing to be treated like an adult woman with value. Actually, the whole experience made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve felt truly valued and – excuse me for getting vuln here – almost made me want to cry. He picked me up. He used the D word beforehand – but also made it clear he wasn’t necessarily expecting this to be the start of a long relationship – so I wasn’t confused about what he was thinking. He told me how fancy-pants he was going to be, so I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself by dressing too down or too up. It may seem small, but it’s really considerate to eliminate so much random stress and angst with clear communication. 

Then the date itself – I don’t think I’m off base to say he was excited to be out with me and thought I looked attractive. I felt attractive. He was flirty and affectionate without assuming a false romanticism (one of my pet peeves). He asked me about myself and seemed genuinely interested in my answers. He wasn’t intimidated by my PhD and research, but he didn’t fetishize it, either (if anyone ever says “talk nerdy to me,” that’s my cue to split and Uber myself back to the hizzle). He was obviously very smart and had a good career going, but he wasn’t arrogant about it. 

Beyond that – we just had a connection. I know that’s cliché, but it’s true. He’s one of the very few people I could imagine having a deep​ convo with but still be able to laugh uproariously about something ridiculous. So many men I meet 1) immediately launch into convincing me we’re perfect for each other and should formalize our relationship as soon as possible, 2) seem like they’re trying to figure out how well I fit into their life, worldview, social scene, etc. but aren’t interested in my life, worldview, social scene, or 3) they treat me like their bro who they’re kinda sorta attracted to. But he didn’t try to point out everything we had in common, or ask probing questions to determine if I would put up with his video game all nighters, and we didn’t meet up at Chipotle. He treated me like.. a(n attractive) person … who he was getting to know. Cray!

You may be thinking, “Congrats! What’s​ the prob?” Well, to my great chagrin, we have deeply incompatible worldviews. One part of me wants to push that to the side and take it day by day. But y’all, this is where I need to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. I either have faith or I don’t. As much as my poor little heart is a little ache-y right now, my brain and my heart both remember how miserable it is to date someone who (directly or indirectly) discourages my faith. So I can’t. Or more accurately, I won’t. As the sassy Jane Eyre said – 

“I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane—quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”

 

woman-2842670
I doubt Jane Eyre would approve of this shoe choice, but PLANT THOU FOOTSIES! (pixabay image, not an actual gallofoot)

 

 This is probably frustrating to read. If this was a movie I’d be super pissed that this was the ending. “Why even tell us this?!” Because, with all my snarky criticisms and womansplaining related to dating and men, I wanted to spend at least one post not being glib or sarcastic or bossy, but just real.

I also want the world to know that the type of date I described above is **not** out of fashion.

Single Brochachos I strongly​ encourage you: if you don’t get excited about being out with a woman, or if you don’t find yourself wanting to create a date that makes her feel valued, then do yourself both a favor and release her to find someone who does. 

Single Sischachas I strongly encourage you: if your man doesn’t consistently make you feel valued, honored, and special… move it along.

Final point- it’s okay to appreciate something for what it was, even if it didn’t have the perfect rom-com ending. I loved that date, and I’m so thankful for it. 

I’m also thankful to all of you for enduring this embarrassing amount of over-sharing. Promise I’ll go back to being glib and sarcastic very soon. ❤ 

 

************************************************************************************

PLEASE NOTE: I wrote a post a while back with some similar elements, and it really ruffled some feathers. Not trying to stir the pot, just sharing my thoughts/feels.. that’s what blogging is for, yo. If you are seriously offended plz message me about it. *smooch*

 

Christmas is blue without the rhythms

When I was younger, the entire season of Christmas was full of twinkly magic. Seriously, I remember feeling this warmth and lightness in my heart for at least a week or two before Christmas. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but when I reached a certain age- probably 16 or 17- I remember being aghast that the warm fuzzies were no longer with me.

girl-2931287_1280.jpg
Actual pic of me as a little girl! Jk (pixabay image)

Now, I’m sad to admit, I can understand why some people hate the holidays. I don’t even have to deal with a horrible family dynamic or extensive travel, but I still get stressed out by the shopping, coordinating of diva schedules, etc.

But, it seems practically insane to be irritated by what is essentially a feast with the people that I love the most.

So what’s the prob, Bob?

Tonight I was watching this Amazon Prime documentary The Science of Fasting. Yep, this is how I spend my evenings these days. It was a little bit too big-Pharma-conspiracy-theorist for my taste, but it did have some pretty compelling evidence that fasting can be healing and restorative. Anyway, it made me think about how fasting was a given in the Biblical times. And that made me think about how feasting was not simply tolerated in the Old Testament law, but required! So that makes me think that both fasting and feasting are spiritually healthy.

And THAT made me think about something I read in this book Sacred Rhythms. It was actually talking about Sabbath, and how important it was to have rhythms in your life of work and rest. Truth! 🙌  It’s both mentally and physically straining to work constantly, but for me resting when I have nothing to rest from is actually the most straining of all. They’re best when they go together- work can be a delicious challenge if I’m coming from happy rest, and rest is sweet when I’ve had a productive work week.

So, bringing this wild thought train back to feasting, fasting, and the holiday blues…

I think at least one reason why the holidays, Christmas especially, don’t seem special anymore is because they’re not special anymore. We are surrounded by, or 3 min and $3 away from, large quantities of palpable food pretty much all the time, and we already immediately buy anything and everything that we want.

We’ve made Christmas into a Santa-themed continuation of our already feast-y lifestyles .

I realize this is probably coming out pretty dour, but I don’t mean it to be. This is more of a reflection on how my year-long indulgences can ultimately be joy-zapping. I wasn’t made to indulge. I was made to work, sacrifice, give, etc.

So…. Me thinks I need to take this rhythms/seasons ideer more seriously,  oui? Maybe if I had the Christmas spirit of sacrificial giving year around, the Christmas feasts would fit perfectly into that rhythm. TBD if the twinkle magic will also return. A gal can dream! 😴🌠😍

background-2908901_1280
Please come back, Christmas twinkles! (pixabay image)

Feliz Navidad! 🎅

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

Please note that I recognize that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. I hope that this post did not make anyone think otherwise. But whether or not you are a Christian, Christmas traditionally also involves a celebratory feast. And it is the lack of joy in that feast that got me thinking about feasts generally and their purpose and why I and many others can be total jerks about what are supposed to be joyous events! Thank you for your understanding, and God bless America.

 

 

 

 

No one likes a petty-pooper

Before I get started, I must apologize for the title. I really struggled with this one, y’all. Sometimes the clever muse is not with me. 😥 

I have had a *most* difficult time lately not being petty. The word petty is derived from the French word, “petit,”* which simply means “small.” And that’s really what pettiness is – letting yourself get upset over small, unimportant things. Things like..

…when that girl suggested that my romantical woes might be linked to my minimal make-up, or in other words “maybe you ugly?” ** 

…or when that fb friend kept on passive-aggressively liking the comments of someone I was arguing with on the interwebs…

… or when that family member shares a million memes per day but never shares my blog posts…

You get the point. As embarrassing as it is to admit, all of these are examples of things that have legitimately bothered me IRL in the past year. Frankly, I’m beginning to think my tendency to be preoccupied with these small offenses isn’t just lamé, it’s evil.

I said it! EVIL.

 

Mean-Girls
Pettiness probably peaks in high school, amiright? (stolen from a rando blog, who probably stole it from someone else — PLEASE  DON’T BE PETTY AND SUE ME!)

 

If that seems a little extreme, hear me out. In his book The Good Samaritan Strikes Again, Patrick McManus proposes a theory that, although it’s almost been 20 years since I read the book, permanently lodged itself into my brainz because it was so brilliant.

 I have this theory that people possess a certain capacity for worry, no more, no less. It’s as though a person has a little psychic box that he feels compelled to keep filled with worries. When one worry disappears from the box, he immediately replaces it with another worry, so the box is always full. He is never short of worries. If a new crop of worries comes in, the person sorts through the box for lesser worries and kicks them out, until he has enough room for the new worries. The lesser worries just lie around on the floor, until there’s room in the box for them again, and then they’re put back in. They’re welcomed by the worries that have been in the box all the time: “Hi, guys! Good to have you back. Boy, you should have seen the duds that just left. And they had the nerve to call themselves worries!”  – Patrick McManus 

 We can only concern ourselves with so much. There’s an opportunity cost to pettiness – every time I choose to latch onto small things that nick my pride and hurt my feels, I sacrifice an opportunity to latch onto big things. Big things.. like the feels of others.

Seriously – that is the golden rule, is it not? 

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Jesus, in Matthew 7:12 

So there is a silver lining in all of this— I already have a breathtaking ability to latch onto small details, and an exquisite sensitivity to what might be offensive or rude! Imagine – just imagine! – if I channeled this for other people! What if I started noticing when other people were uncomfortable and did small things to help them relax? What if I realized when I was being a rude arse and apologized before it became a big deal? 

But my worry box is only so big. So if I’m all wrapped up in myself – completely tuned into how I feel, and whether or not I’m offended, and all other things me me me, I have zero capacity to focus on anyone besides myself.

So yas. It’s not a small thing to be petty. I have to choose, I s’pose. It’s me or all of you. 

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*I just made this up, but it’s probably true. Ask the google machine, if you DARE! 

**I wish I made that up, but it’s true. Don’t.. be… petty…

 

 

Christian singles: It’s time to put your sins to good use!

This is a self-help post for Christians who may still not have a great grasp on how many church cultures operate (bless your hearts!).

Do you think that church small groups are for building community, keeping each other accountable, learning about the word of God, and spurring each other on to good works?

Think again!

Church small groups are for meeting your future spouse. 

 

bride-454144
Eyes on the prize, y’all — eyes on the prize!!!! (pixabay free image)

 

Nothing more, nothing less. So let’s get the obvious out of the way so we can talk strategy. You need to appear deep (really, almost tortured is best if you’re a guy) and Godly (don’t forget to quote those Pauline scriptures!) at all times. But there’s a third, crucial element that will really kick your marriageability into high-gear: Tasteful vulnerability.

How do you get there? Well, the easiest way is through confessing your sins. What’s more vulnerable than admitting to a group of mixed-sex peers that you ride the struggle bus sometimes? **BUT** it’s important that you are vulnerable in a kinda sexy, mysterious way, not icky, pathetic way.

Share the right sort of sins for the right sort of vulnerability!

MEN: Never confess porn addiction or laziness. Sexual sins are too PG-13 for the ladies in this crowd, and revealing your lack of ambition will only reinforce their fears that they really will be stuck teaching the 3rd grade for the rest of their lives. No no no.

The tasteful vulnerable zone, for men: Confess your sin of pride. It will make you seem humble, yet also offer a tantalizing hint that you have many, many things to be prideful about.

WOMEN: Never confess doubt or gluttony. These dudes are looking for moms to rear their perfect  children, and they aren’t going to risk you turning pago after a bun has started cooking in the oven. The glutton thing will just give men visions of your inevitable middle-aged-onset obesity… Not exactly a picture that will make them rush to Jared.

The tasteful vulnerable zone, for women: Confess your sin of perfectionism. It will make you seem humble, yet also establish that you are, after all, kinda perfect.

Follow these guidelines and I guarantee that you will be in a state of matrimonial bliss within one year! Remember – save the weird stuff for marriage counseling, and let your selective vulnerability score you a mate NOW!

 

I don’t care what you believe if I don’t like who you are

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why exactly I’m a Christian.* And I don’t mean I’ve been thinking about why “one” in the general sense would be a Christian, I mean why have the faith. So, I’m not going to present a hole-proof outline of all the philosophical or historical arguments for Christianity. Those are important,  but when it comes down to it… my reasons for believing are rather idiosyncratic, with a smidge of touchy-feely. But hey! I betcha if you had to break down specifically why you loved your bae specifically, you would get pretty touch-feely, too. So cool it!

Anyway, a large part of why I believe is the character of some of the people that I know who believe. Not all of them are perfect, and to be sure some of the people who I know are Christian – whether nominally or “for realz” is beyond me – are not particularly encouraging to my faith.

*But* there are some people who I just can’t not believe when I think about them.

Why?

1) They are smart. They can use logic. They aren’t overwhelmed by complexity. They can understand and consider the merits of opposing views even if they ultimately reject them.

2) They are wise. They use their resources appropriately, without crossing over into (paradoxically) self-aggrandizing asceticism. They frequently have and facilitate conversations that lead to reconciliation, instead of stubbornly and foolishly escalating every conflict that comes their way.

3) They are kind and joyful. When they smile at me, their eyes reflect the warmth straight from their lil’ cinnamon bun hearts. I always feel encouraged and more energetic after I talk to them.

pastries-2208050
Bless their ooey-gooey, warm, sweet hearts! (pixabay free image)

 

4) They are good. I feel like “good” can be seen as a weak word, but it’s absolutely perfect for these people. It’s unassuming, yet solid.. and true. The output of their lives is just … good. Or put in negative terms, the output of their lives is NOT bad.

5) Their families thrive. I don’t know if I can emphasize this enough. There are so many people who are super impressive in various ways, yet the people who are closest to them – who are most affected by the day-to-day decisions of their lives – are miserable train wrecks.** But these people’s families are – although far from perfect – functional, balanced, healthy.

There’s probably more, but my attention span is wavering, and I’m the one writing all of this! My point is, all the 5 points above coalesce into a loveliness that makes me… long. Yes, long! I want to be like them. Not in a jealous, creeper way, but in a hopeful way. Seeing them live this way — inspite of our world being an absolute shoot-hole sometimes — is very bolstering. And lo and behold, what drives this sort of behavior? Well, they would say their faith in Jesus.

Now, I’m sure there are also some Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. who are also admirable. So here we get into an phrase that is used ad nauseam in academic circles – neccesary but not sufficient. Good character is necessary, but not sufficient, for me to be open to hearing their world view. Does admiring someone’s character mean that I have to accept their entire worldview? No, I s’pose not. But it does mean that I will at least be open to listening to and considering their worldview, and find out what’s driving their amazingness. THEN I will also look into things like logical consistency, historicity, etc.

On the flip side, if someone is living a life that seems out of control, toxic, and damaging to the people around them, I don’t particularly care to hear their spiritual or theological musings. I may listen respectfully for a few minutes, but at the end of the day I’m kinda like, “It’s nice to know which underlying worldview makes you a jerk.” That may sound kinda harsh, but… amiright?!

president-1822449
I’m going to wager a guess that this chic doesn’t have the character clout with these dudes to tell them nuffin’! (pixabay free image)

 

Why I wanted to write about this is two-fold. One, it’s convicting. Am I living a life that is attractive to people, that they would even want to hear what I believe? Or are they thinking, “Yah ok, let me know when your Jesus helps you not be a self-absorbed a-hole.” Two, it’s clarifying. With all the worldviews and opinions being thrown around, sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with which one(s) is/are true. My advice is to “clear the field” of ideas*** by focusing on the beliefs and claims of people that you actually admire and want to emulate. TRUST ME, there are so few that this will free your time considerably.

Alrighty! Go find yourselves people worth ‘mirin’! And Holy Spirit, help us be people worth ‘mirin’!

 — EDITORIAL NOTES —

*It would be a lot easier for me if I wasn’t. Neuroscientists are not exactly impressed by Christianity. Also, dating would be much smoother.  #sacrifices

**Not that everyone should be held responsible for all the actions of their children, spouses, close family members, etc., but if  practically everyone close to you is in a state of chaotic self-destruction, that’s should be a huge, blinky-light sign that there is some sort of toxicity in your interactions. Conversely, if practically everyone close to you is flourishing like strong, well-nourished alabaster trees, it’s a perty good indication that you are creating environments that enable people to be their best.

***Remember I’m talking about general worldview / theological / spiritual beliefs and opinions. Obvs, someone with terrible character is quite capable of having brilliant insights into how brain networks interact to support memory, how isolationism affected the U.S. economy, etc., and their ideas on these sort of subjects may be worth considering.  even if you want to punch them in the face afterward.

 

 

It’s not you, it’s Jesus.

Ima be real: I struggle with dating non-Christians. For whatever reason(s), menfolk without the faith love them some Galloswag. And contrary to the dire warnings I heard in my youth, many of them are *not* sleaze bag jerk faces, with “only one thing on their mind.” Au contraire, many men who aren’t Christian have genuinely amazing qualities and seem to sincerely appreciate me.

On the flipside, IT WOULD SEEM many* menfolk with the faith are ‘meh’ or ‘oh holy gosh, no!’ when when it comes to yours truly.** I often get the eerie feeling they are comparing me to some champion-of-the-faith-barbiedoll-yet-somehow-unintimidating-wears-ripped-skinnyjeans-with-artsy-jewelry prototype.***

So yes, I have frequently dated non-Christians. Because.. well.. they saw me. And I liked them.

Even though sometimes I have had tons in common with some of these menz and liked them lotttssss, in the end it never worked out.

When I was in my late teens / early twenties, it didn’t work out because I was ridden with guilt the entire time we dated. I wanted to stay with them, but I shouldn’t.

caught-1013600_960_720 (1)
^How I’ve often felt (edited pixabay free image)

 

I would break it off regretfully, almost saying “It’s not you, it’s Jesus.” I took my own spiritual and emotional needs out of the equation. I basically conveyed to the spurned pago they were practically perfect, if not for that meanie Apostle Paul. “If only Christianity didn’t have these annoying verses about not being unequally yoked… Otherwise, I would TOTALLY date you.”

More recently, even though parts of me may still want to keep dating an adorbs guy who doesn’t share my faith, a louder, stronger part of me doesn’t wanna.

Why? I believe it has something to do with the ‘transforming your mind’ part of being a Christian. Being a Christian changes the way I view everything — how to handle my own successes and failures, the shortcomings of others, future stressful situations, my purpose on earth, beauty … It’s unsettling when I’m dating a non-Christian who can’t get over some bitterness toward someone who has wronged them, is existentially threatened by a career failure, etc. I know what keeps me out of those pits – praying, reading scripture, the encouragement and exhortation of Christian community, and thoughts like  “Yes, this person hurt me, but my struggle is not against flesh and blood. The more they wrong me, the more of an opportunity it will be to exercise the audacious forgiveness of the cross.” To me, that’s the stuff of freeing truth. To a non-Christian, that’s the stuff of idiotic gibberish.

Plus, I want a certain intimacy in my romantic relationships that involves sharing everything that’s important to me. I’m sure it’s technically possible to never talk about my faith and focus on other shared interests, but that would be … fragmenting. It would be more awkward than dating someone who didn’t think that the disease I research was even a real disease. We might still be able to guffaw over Parks and Rec reruns together, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have a true partner in life who would encourage and support me in what is most important to me.

 

cross-2744227_960_720
Mean ol’ Jesus, always coming coming in-between our hearts and theirs. *snorts* (edited pixabay free image)

But I think it’s worth considering what your decision would be if the bible was completely silent on this subject. If it doesn’t grieve you that they don’t have the same life, joy, peace, purpose that following Jesus has brought you – well then, maybe you aren’t finding life, joy, peace, and purpose in Christianity.

I found it super helpful and enlightening to do a heart investigation / rebellion deconstruction to find the primary source of my struggle. For example, I recently realized I get more joy from flirting/smooching/dating than from my faith. From there, I realized my feels toward God were pretty flat. From there, I read a chapter from Sacred Rhythms that made me realize I wasn’t creating space in my heart and life to find joy in Jesus. At least in my case, my dating strugglez were just as much a symptom of a problem as a problem in of itself.

Focusing on the solution to the root of my probs (feeling ‘meh’ about Jesus) has opened the way to work on “throwing off all that hinders” so I can run in free, obedient joy, instead of planting my feet in dutiful, obedient misery.

I’m not trying to paint myself as some super-Christian, belieeeeeeeeve meeeee. BUT I’ve been encouraged that most recently, the disconnect I had with a non-Christian would-be-boyfriend was genuine, not forced.

So Christian singles – instead of saying “It’s not you, it’s Jesus,” may we all honestly say “It is you, it is me, it is especially you and me together not being particularly helpful in my pursual of Jesus. Peace and grease.”

And then, let us joyfully FIDO.

 

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

* With a few notable exceptions. You know who you are! #awkward

** NOT THAT I AM BITTER 

*** OKAY I’M PRETTY BITTER 

GENERAL COMMENT: The main reason I decided to publish these rambles is because this has been such a huge source of guilt for me for .. 10 years! And there’s practically nothing less Christian than being eaten alive by guilt. So, even if this helps two people, it’s worth the rest of the world rolling their eyes at my over-sharing.

 

Keep ‘er between the ditches

My three fantassimo siblings and I used to party it up at my grandparents house every Friday night so our parents could go out and get LIT!* I remember my grandpa would often tell us as we were leaving, with his characteristic grin and eyes twinkling merrily,** “Keep ‘er between the ditches!” Which was his southern-folksy way of saying, “Drive safe!”

auto-2483988_960_720
Someone did *not* listen to my Gpa 😥 (pixabay image)

Well my dollies and fellas, that man was onto something profound.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that *almost* all ickiness in the word is caused by people realizing they’re veering off the road, and then over-correcting so much they veer into the ditch on the other side of the road.***

Just think about it –

In the early 20th century, women had a difficult time being taken seriously in a lot of career paths. Now, stay-at-home moms are more likely to be sneered at (I wrote about this before).

Sammy realizes he’s wasting his money and becomes stingy.

Bo-Bo realizes he’s being legalistic with drinking and turns into a raging alcoholic.

Rhonda realizes she’s a little overweight and becomes anorexic.

Sally-Sue realizes she’s wearing herself thin at work and decides to binge-watch Netflix for 10 hours.

America realizes wide-leg jeans are ridiculous and starts wearing skinny jeans.

It’s everywhere, y’all!

So.. what? How to steady ourselves? How do we honor female executives and stay-at-home moms? How do we save without hoarding our resources? How do we enjoy a glass of wine without finishing off the entire bottle?  How do we savor food without being gluttonous? How do we rest without being lazy? How do we wear sensibly fitted pantalons?

Well, to switch metaphors from driving to flying – my financial advisor told me a story to illustrate how to be a steady and calm investor, and I think it applies beautifully here.

[Apparently] when you’re piloting a plane, if you look at the nose of the plane you’ll realize you’re losing altitude at an alarming rate, so you pull up. Then you realize you’re gaining altitude at an alarming rate, so you pull down – and on and on you go, zig-zagging across the sky like an ignoramus. The key, he told me, was to stop looking at the nose of the plane right in front of you and to keep your gaze fixed and orient the plane to the horizon.

Selah  

plane-2249048_960_720
This dude must be doing it right! Side note: I really want to learn how to fly! (pixabay image)

Our collective and individual spazzines comes from hyper-focusing on the immediate problems that are right in front of us – that are subject to change and we have some measure of control over. But to keep ourselves flying straight, and to not be over reactive, we need something steady, beyond our immediate space, unchangeable, a true reference….

Hmmmmmmm

…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

– Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe

– Hebrews 12:28

 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

– John 14:6

 

Yowza! The moral of the story: you never know what depth of riches lurks in the folksy wisdom of your elders!

Keep ‘er between the ditches!

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Lost in Time

**No, my gpa wasn’t Santa Clause.. the world should be so lucky!!

***At risk of being pedantic — but seemingly necessary in light of some gross misunderstandings of some of my recent fb posts — let me Claireify …. THIS IS A METAPHOR