Tag Archives: humor

God says, “Laugh, dammit!” – A guest post by Lauren Martinez Catlin

If you’ve been visiting this blog for a while, you might have seen that I’m not a very prolific reviewer of books. In fact, I’ve reviewed one book in the blog’s history – The Other Side of Silence, by Lauren Martinez Catlin. Lauren is a friend whom I met through a Vineyard event, although that’s not why I reviewed her book. I reviewed it because it’s fucking awesome. It didn’t take much cajoling to convince Lauren to write a guest post for What the Faith – but it did take a little cajoling. So let’s show her some love, okay?

 

She's the one on the right.

She’s the one on the right.

 

Oh, and by the way – her book is, as I said, fucking awesome. And I think you’d love it. And if you don’t believe me, I dare you to buy it here.

*          *          *          *          *

This is the story of how God told me to watch a really silly tv show.

Due to a small case of cancer, I had a medical procedure that involved some radioactivity, so I had to be isolated from all people for three days, and from my one-year-old daughter for a week.  I knew I needed this procedure for about a year before it actually happened, so I had plenty of time to dread and plan for it.

I comforted myself with the thought that I would eat whatever I wanted, get lots of writing done, do some new drawings, play the piano, finish reading Anna Karenina, and if all else failed, I could watch movies and crochet.

Because I go to a Vineyard church, I had plenty of opportunities to ask people to pray for me, and I took advantage of them all.  People prayed for my cancer and this specific treatment at the regional conference in Duluth, at the worship conference in Inver Grove Heights, in my small group, at the staff meeting at my church, at the leadership meeting after Celebrate Recovery.  I had a thick, wooly covering of prayer.  Lots of people prayed that isolation would be like a spiritual retreat for me, that it would be a peaceful and enjoyable time.  I’d personally felt like God had said, “I can make this good.”  I was still not excited, but I was mildly hopeful.

The radioactivity didn’t have many side effects, but the drug treatment leading up to the radioactivity made me really sick, and I couldn’t stop the treatment until halfway through the isolation period.  I  couldn’t eat whatever I wanted because I had to stay on a ridiculously restrictive diet through most of the isolation.  I was too tired to sit up at the piano, there was no way I’d have the concentration for sketching or writing, much less reading a freakin’ Russian novel.  I mostly slept, showered, ate a piece of salt-free banana bread, slept some more, and then showered again.  When I was conscious and not washing off radioactive sweat, I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 

Clinically proven to be good for what ails ya.

Clinically proven to be good for what ails ya.

 

My first night alone in that big apartment, I video chatted with my tiny gorgeous daughter as she was going to bed, and I teared up.  I felt a sharp burning in my eyes, but ignored it so I could focus on that chubby little face.  The sharp pain didn’t go away, though, and after my daughter was peacefully sleeping, I saw that the inner corners of my eyes were blood-red and shrunken.  The radiation in my tears had burned my tear ducts.  For the rest of the week, I couldn’t even cry.

I was laying in bed, mired in depression and trying not to exacerbate my scabby tear ducts.  Way too tired to do anything crazy like shake my fist at God, I just asked in a tired voice, “Hey.  You know how you said you’d make this good?  Is that still coming?”  My exhausted brain made a lazy connection between that question and the one John the Baptist sent to Jesus from prison.  “Are you the Messiah, or should we wait for someone else?”

In the Bible, Jesus replied by saying, “Tell John what you’ve seen.  The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

In that empty apartment, Jesus replied by saying, “Stop watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Watch something that’s just funny.”

I was annoyed at the unspiritual nature of this response, but I followed the advice anyway.  Buffy was getting me down with her near-constant state of apocalypse anyway.  The funny parts of Buffy are really funny, but they’re a light seasoning at best.  So instead I watched “Coupling.”

 

Who knew Jesus was a fan of the BBC?

Who knew Jesus was a fan of the BBC?

 

“Coupling” is an quirky little British sitcom that is similar to “Friends” here in the states.  Except “Friends” takes itself way more seriously.  In the first episode that I turned on, a male character drifts  into a recurring nightmare that if he ever tries to kiss a woman, his mother will emasculate him with a miniature guillotine.  This is not spiritual fodder for anything.  But it is funny.  Even with my salt-free banana bread and scabby tear ducts, I found myself smiling.  A few more minutes into the show, and I actually laughed.  I felt better because I was laughing.

I felt a surge of gratitude, not toward God, but toward people who do comedy.  I wondered if they knew how transcendent their work is, if they know that their talent and hard work brought a laugh to me through a wall of cancer, radiation, and depression.  I wanted to write a letter to someone and tell them to just keep being funny and not worry about anything else.  Comedy is so good for the world.  Comedy felt like a golden elixir come to save me from my darkest hour.  Not because comedy was going to take away my cancer or help me pass a geiger test so I could hold my daughter, only because it actually made me laugh.

I’ve had other moments like this in my life.  The day my childhood dog passed away, I went over to my boyfriend’s house and he happened to be watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force on the Cartoon Network.  The sheer silly disconnected-ness of that cartoon had me laughing hysterically.  The hysterical laughter helped me feel better about saying good-bye to the constant companion who helped me through a lonely childhood.

When I was twelve one of my cousins was murdered, and my immediate family had to pile into a small car and drive for seven hours to the funeral.  To rescue us from that drive, I brought a little used book full of funny stories by Art Linkletter and read the whole thing aloud.  Our family laughed together.  We laughed for hundreds of miles.  My cousin’s death is still one of the saddest events in my memory, but I always remember that road trip filled with laughter and light.

God knows that I respond to comedy, that it would help me on a day just like that day.  I didn’t have it in me to remember that something funny would help me get through cancer – I couldn’t remember where I left the coffee I’d just poured.  So God helped me, he showed me something that was easy and doable that would make me feel better.  This was not a shattering revelation and won’t go down in my history as one of those moments that changed my life.  God was just being God, just being good to me, just speaking in the language I understand, saying things that make sense.

I sometimes expect God to sound more like one of those freaky oracles who say things that don’t make any sense until it’s way too late to be helpful.  In response to the question, “are you going to help me feel better?” I imagine God will say something like, “Eagles soar far from their nests,” or something equally unhelpful.

Partly I think this because Jesus in the gospels can sound an awful lot like that.  A guy says, “I’ll follow you anywhere!” and Jesus replies, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  M’kay.  So, we’ll be sleeping outdoors?  Do you not sleep at all?  Are you the Son of Man?  Am I?  Does that mean it’d be a better idea to stay home?

 

"So then he says, 'Let the dead bury the dead,' and . . . I have no idea . . . I think I was tripping BALLS, you guys!"

“So then he says, ‘Let the dead bury the dead,’ and I was like, “Okay.” But I’m not sure I wasn’t tripping balls the whole time.”

 

Another reason I expect God to sound more mysterious is because it feels more spiritual that way.  Like if I can’t quite understand it, it must be super deep.  I want to be one of the cool kids who likes stuff that’s weird and ethereal and really damn impractical.

In my actual life experience, God doesn’t usually use those weird fortune cookie phrases.  That might  be because I’m a very pragmatic person, and hearing weird metaphysical metaphors frustrates the hell out of me.  I love artwork that has nuance and room for interpretation, but if we’re talking and I just asked you a question, I want a response.  Preferably one that I can take action on.  God knows this about me.  The times I feel certain that God has sent a message through my synapses are the times when I hear something practical, short, and unbelievably powerful.  When I end up saying, “Of course that’s what I should do.”

I once prayed to God to help me deal with my insane anxiety about my grades in college.  I got good grades, I worked hard, I did the reading, I went to classes, I did well on tests.  But if I got less than an A, I was consumed with utterly irrational fear and shame.  As soon as I saw that letter on a piece of paper with my name on it, I freaked out.  Lots of friends explained that my worth is not tied to my grades, that grades are an imperfect representation of my grasp of the material and have nothing to do with my intelligence.  I agreed with all of this, but I couldn’t get over it.

When I prayed to God for help, he said, “If grades upset you, don’t look at them.”

Duh.  Why hadn’t I thought of that?  The reaction I had was visceral.  Intellectual reasoning couldn’t change it.  I couldn’t have a visceral reaction to a letter I didn’t see, so I just didn’t look.  I proceeded to have one of the most peaceful semesters in my entire collegiate career.

God does this kind of thing in the Bible too.  When Isaiah runs for his life into the desert, curls up in the fetal position and prays to die, God doesn’t tell him, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Nope, God sends a messenger with a care package and says, “Why don’t you eat something and get some sleep?”  Anyone who has experienced any kind of depression can see the consummate wisdom in that.  You’re hungry, you’re tired, you’re alone.  So find a friend, eat some food, and get some sleep.  One hundred per cent guarantee that you will feel better.  It is crushing in its simplicity and power.

So that’s how I know that God suggested I watch a truly silly television show.  There was nothing to say at that moment that would make me feel better.  There was no way to reason out of having cancer, missing my daughter, or the stabbing pain in my eyes.  There was no spiritual insight that was going to make me smile at that moment, so God didn’t offer me a spiritual insight.  Instead, God inspired a team of people to make hilarious theater AND provided a way for that theater to come right into my sick room.

God talked to me like a good friend, a friend who’s been around long enough to say something real and concrete.  A friend who doesn’t just advise, but actually walks through the difficult moment with me.  Or in my case, a friend who comes over with a case of really silly dvd’s and a box of salt-free popcorn, plops down on the couch and says, “You’ve gotta see this.”

 

"Trust me - laughter is the best medicine. Well, that and radiation therapy, in your case. Whatever, just hit 'Play'."

“Trust me – laughter is the best medicine. Well, that and radiation therapy, in your case. Whatever, just hit ‘Play’.”

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The Lord bringeth me chuckles and leadeth me to LOLs. Amen.

I blame Rachel Held Evans and her blog’s “Week of Mutuality.” I was doing some idle net surfing this morning, and I came across a banner advertisement for a hotel chain that was advertising a complimentary hot breakfast. The only problem was, I initially thought that it was advertising a complimentarian hot breakfast. What, I wondered, was that? Was that a hotel that gave you a place to send your wife to so that she could make you breakfast? Was it a meal that gave hierarchal status to meats over fruit?

“Look, sweetheart – I got a hotel suite with a kitchen, so you don’t get rusty! Now make me some eggs-in-a-basket while I visit the cigar lounge and ‘harrumph’ with the other alpha males gathered therein.”

Anyway, things have been a little too serious on this blog lately. A little, dare I say it, dour. It’s been a long time since I haven’t been stressing about something related to Christianity. So, in the spirit of maybe chilling the hell out just a little bit, I thought I would do a quick mini-post on something that tickles my fancy.

Funny Bible verses.

 Funny Bible Verse the First

The first Bible verse is one of Brandi’s favorites. It comes from 1 Kings 22: 6-8. The king of Israel, Ahab, has decided that it’s time to bring some “end of days” action to the town of Ramoth-gilead. He’s shooting the breeze with the King of Judah, where they’re basically high-fiving each other, drinking brews, and writing “Fuck Ramoth-gilead” on their tee shirts. Then Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, points out that maybe they should make sure that God was cool with all of this.

 Ahab agreed.

So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, about 400 of them, and asked them, “Should I go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! The Lord will give the king victory.”

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.” (NLT)

I just picture these two big bearded dudes. They’ve asked over four hundred prophets if they should go to war, and every single one of them was for it. But then one of them suggests that they bring in one final prophet (just in case?) and King Ahab immediate starts sulking. “Not thaaaaaaat one, he never says nice things!”

“Now I’ll NEVER get to pillage the town!”

And of course, Micaiah tells the King that if he attacks the town he’s going to die, because God is trying to “off” him in a way that can only be described as “uncharacteristically subtle” for Old Testament Yahweh.

“I’m usually a ‘pillar of salt’ kind of guy, but this time I thought, ‘Why not put some effort into it?’”

What’s funny about this is that I get the feeling that King Ahab must have been deliberately avoiding Micaiah the whole time – I’m sure he was in the Yellow Pages, and clearly Ahab had dealt with him before. I’m sure he thought, after trotting out four hundred other prophets, that Jehoshaphat surely wouldn’t ask about that one.

Bummer that didn’t work out for him.

Funny Bible Verse the Second

Here’s the set-up –

Book of Acts.

Chapter two.

The apostles have just witnessed their Lord ascending to the heavens. Angels in white raiment have consoled them in their grief. Then, gathering together, they set about to replace the position within the twelve disciples that had once been held by Judas Iscariot. It is a time of solemn reflection. “What now,” they must have wondered, “shall we do?”  

Then, the day of Pentecost arrives. All of the disciples are gathered together in one house, when suddenly –

VAWOOSH!

– a violent wind fills the house! Tongues of fire come to rest on those within! The men and women begin to speak in the languages of all those assembled! A crowd of onlookers forms. . .

“7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”” (NIV)

It was not a subtle miracle.

Undeterred, however, a small number amongst the onlookers come to their own conclusion.

“Bullshit. They’re drunk.”

Now, that isn’t the part that makes me laugh. What makes me laugh is how Peter responds to it. Remember, Peter is part of a crowd that has just been visited by the Holy Spirit in a way that is awe inspiring. The violent wind, the tongues of flame, the magical ability to speak a speech that every person hears as their native tongue – Peter has just been experiencing some crazy, crazy God shit. He could justifiably ignore the idiots in the crowd – idiots who have to ignore several miracles and the consensus of the hundreds of people around them just to hold their stupid opinion – but instead, he attempts to reason with them.

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” (NIV)

 Seriously, Peter? These people aren’t swayed by an otherworldly manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but you think they’ll be silenced because you’re pointing out it’s not happy hour?

“Come on, Josephus. It’s five o’clock in Tarsus. Let’s get krunk.”

Funny Bible Verse the Third

 Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Savior. Jesus is the most christened Christ in Christendom. And if Jesus the Christ, Lord and Savior, wants a fig, you give him a goddamn fig.

 18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. (Mat 21:18, 19 NLT)

Waitaminute. . . did Jesus just “Finger of Death” a tree for not having any fruit on it?

“YOOOOUUUUU!!!!!!”

To me, this verse really shows that Jesus wasn’t just God – he was also a man, with a man’s desires, and pains, and limitations, and. . . a man’s temper. Because I know exactly how the Lord felt right at that moment. Just the other day, I was at work, plugging away at my desk, when it occurred to me that nothing in the world would be as tasty, at that exact moment, as an ice cream sandwich. So I went up to the cafeteria on the second floor, went to the little freezer where they keep the ice cream – and found they had emptied the freezer and turned it off so they could clean it. And I tell you the 100% truth, if I could have smote that freezer right then and there, I would have left a smoking hole in the cafeteria floor. In this one case, the biggest difference between me and Jesus wasn’t what we would do, it’s what we could do.

Bonus – the disciples had a question! Let’s hear it.

20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”

21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

 Kudos to those guys for asking such a practical question. It’s more than I’m capable of. If I’d just seen the Lord destroy a fig tree for not having a fruit on it, my first question wouldn’t have been, “How did you do that?”

Mine would have been, “. . . anyone know if it’s fig season?”

“No, I think it was a perfectly reasonable response. I mean, you know how much he loves figs.”

Do you guys have any Bible versus that ever made you laugh out loud, or even LOL? 


Grumpy ol’ Paul gets it right – and BONUS! Make your voice heard!

Paul wrote this in his letter to the Galatians.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,

neither slave nor free,

nor is there male and female,

for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This is why I love Paul. Even though he sometimes seems to have a bad case of Grumpy Old Man Syndrome, he’s all about the love. He wants us all to be one community. One church. One family.

Awwww, I just wanna hug his beard! ❤

So. Christians. What’s the deal? Why can’t we get that right? I know that some of us are definitely more “letter of the law” than “spirit of the law”, but do we really think that Paul’s sentiment in Galatians is limited only to divisions based on circumcision, slave-status, or gender?

No. No, he meant it in a bigger way. See, Paul recognized that the chief sign of humanity’s brokenness is our fascination with “the other guy”. Everyone has a group they belong to and identify with, and they love those guys! Conversely, everyone has a group (or several groups) that they just can’t stand. It’s a law of human nature.

For every Rush Limbaugh, there is a Bill Maher.  

For Star Wars convention, there is a Star Trek convention.

For every vegan, there’s Lemmy from Motorhead.

Seriously, he handles all the world’s vegans by himself. True story.

Lately I’ve been reading more and more articles about hateful, idiot pastors who say crazy shit about homosexuals. Besides asshole pastor Sean Harris, I’ve since learned about Pastor Charles Worley, who said that homosexuals should be placed in electrified pens and air-dropped food until they die off. Now, I know that this is a blog, and blog’s by definition happen on the internet, and I get it – Godwin’s law is a thing. But seriously, at the risk of falling into Godwin’s trap, when a pastor says you should pen up human beings until they die off, you are watching someone making the exact same plan for homosexuals that Hitler made. What makes it even worse is that people from his congregation where interviewed on television supporting his putrescent message.

“Hey Eva – check this out! This dude’s keepin’ the dream alive! You know, it’s just nice to be remembered, am I right?”

Lately, I’ve been seething about this stuff. People like Sean Harris, Charles Worley, and others who share their hate-mongering sentiments have become so offensive to me that if I won the lottery, my first investment would be to buy some space on a privately-owned rocket so that I could send them to the moon.

Who would I send to the moon?

Them.

The other guys.

And today it occurred to me – Paul isn’t cool with this. He’s not cool with me – at least, not how I’m feeling right now. In my passion, in my righteous-seeming anger, I am allowing myself to do the devil’s work for him. Paul had it right – Christ came so that there wouldn’t be “others” anymore. I don’t think he meant that in such a way as to make everyone fall into one homogenous blob of humanity – that seems to be contradicted in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23. But in avoiding a society of “others,” Paul is telling us that we are psychologically bred to define ourselves by the groups that include us, and also by the groups that we exclude. The problem with the “other” isn’t that people are different – the problem is that we hate them for that difference. And Paul says that’s gotta go.

So. . . yeah. Gotta get on that. Not sure how I’m going manage it, but it’s on my list. I’ll keep you posted.

On another note, as you may have noticed, WTFaith has been gradually stretching out the waiting time between new articles. Our original (and quite ambitious) goal was to post twice a week. Then we slowed down to once a week. Now we sometimes go a couple of weeks between postings, and for that, we apologize.

I think the issue we’re encountering is that our format has been very light on typical blogging staples like re-posting, book reviews, and short posts about our lives. I think our average article is about 1,200 words long, and we try to only write autobiographical articles when there is a larger story to tell (like this one) about life in God’s kingdom as we see it. We try to make our articles mostly about the “Big Messages” that occur to us as we, two skeptics on the road of faith for no good reason, try to make sense of this journey we’ve started. And sometimes, we just don’t have any “Big Messages” to deliver. At other times, we have messages that we do want to deliver, but they’re so meaty, or weighty, or controversial, or just all-around confusing that we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew – so the article is started, and mulled over, and criticized to death by the author, until we just give up on the goddamn thing.

Hard at work on the next post about homosexuality.

I’m thinking it may be time for us to loosen-up on our blogging format – it may be time to “casual-up” this bitch. Maybe, when I read a good article on someone else’s faith blog, I’ll just repost it with a short comment on it, instead of feeling the need to type-vomit 1,200 words about it.

What do you guys think? If you’ve ever had an opinion about What the Faith, this would be a great time to let us know if we should keep our current format, or if we can afford to ease off of the expectation of writing full-fledged articles every time we put up a new post. Bear in mind that the current format may seek a couple of weeks in between posts, for the above-mentioned reasons. If we change our format, relax it a little bit, then we’ll update more often, but the posts may occasionally be smaller. It doesn’t mean we won’t still write articles about our “Big Messages”, but it just means we’ll have more filler in between those messages as life sends filler our way.

Thoughts? 


The devil and J.K. Rowling – Protect our Children!!!

Disclaimer: As some of you may know, my kids have spent the past year with my mother- and father-in-law, after Brandi and I moved to Minnesota. We were finally reunited last week – so yeah, thank God, man.

I was at home the other day, sitting on my La-Z-Boy (which I plan to have surgically grafted onto my ass, once I can find a doctor who will take payments), and scrolling through my TiVo’s recorded programs. My eleven-year-old daughter was with me, looking over my shoulder to see what I had recorded. Because I’m a geek, she quickly noticed that I had recorded a cartoon called Young Justice, which is a (super friggin’ awesome) show about the sidekicks of the superheroes in DC’s Justice League – Robin, Superboy, etc. I love the show – the writing is tremendous, the artwork avoids that feux –Anime style that I can’t stand, the characters are well-rounded, and the drama is very intense. It’s a great show, and my daughter knows it.

What else do you expect me to watch, now that Avatar: the Last Airbender isn’t on anymore?

“Wow!” she said. “You recorded Young Justice?!?”

“Sure did,” I said, inordinately proud of my taste in cartoons.

“Am I allowed to watch it?” she asked incredulously.

I looked at her curiously.

“Well,” I said slowly, “I can’t imagine why not. It’s not gory, there’s no boobs on it. . . so, of course you can watch it.”

Sweet!” she exclaimed at top volume. “Nana never let me watch Young Justice because there was an episode with goddesses on it.”

This wasn’t a huge surprise to me. My in-laws attended a church in Tucson, Arizona for many years, and like many churches, it gives advice to parents about what movies and television shows might not be safe for the souls of the children attending. It spoke out against the Harry Potter franchise, following a general outcry from the Christian community that Harry Potter endorsed witchcraft and Satanism. So while I doubted that the church would have specifically spoken out against Young Justice (but how rad would that be?!?!) it had created an understanding that some programs teach our children dangerous ideas about the supernatural world, and that you should always be vigilant to protect children from bad juju.

If you want fantasy, you have a choice – either Lion Jesus, or go to hell forever.

Now, this isn’t new at all. Maybe it started in the seventies with K.I.S.S., and Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe it goes back further than that. But the practice was alive and well in the days of my youth, and I was barely encountering Christian culture at that time. When I was a kid, my sister listened to the local top 40 radio station all the time. One summer, I remember a cheesy, saccharine pop song that was lighting up the airwaves – it was Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” If you were fortunate enough to miss that one, I’ll give you a little taste of the lyrics to this profound work of poetic perfection.

“Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.
They say in heaven love comes first.
We’ll make heaven a place on earth.
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.”

Does the song have problems? Well, yeah. I’m pretty sure nobody is going to win a hip-hop throwdown on the streets of Detroit by rhyming “earth,” “earth”, and “earth”. But when my cousin told me that somebody at their church had told them that the song was Satanic (because it preached heaven on earth, instead of heaven in. . . . heaven?) even as a little boy I was like, “That’s some crazy shit right there.” But they were serious, so my sister fast-forwarded past that song.

“Someone must protect the CHILDREN!”

More recently, the aforementioned Harry Potter series seemed to create a stir within certain populations of the Christian culture. It was said to promote witchcraft and Satanism, and some people even took a fake article by the Onion so seriously that it had to be de-bunked. If you want to have some fun surfing at work, I recommend that you Google “Harry Potter promotes Satanism” and just go for it. You won’t have a hard time finding some giggle-worthy stuff.

Now, I was not any sort of Jesus-guy when the Harry Potter craze was reaching its peak a few years ago, so I thought the whole idea was ridiculous. I’ve never known a kid so stupid as to base their theology on a fiction book (although hippies can take Stranger and a Strange Land a little too far). Also, the many years I spent as a neo-pagan never showed me anything half as cool as the magic that was done in the Harry Potter series, so I was pretty sure that kids weren’t accidentally going to sell their soul to the devil for rockin’ magical powers.

“This is WAY more badass than lighting candles and talking about the Goddess for two hours!"

You can imagine my chuckles when it was revealed that J.K. Rowling is an active Christian attending a church in Scotland,  and has been the whole time. In fact, the Christian themes in Harry Potter are so obvious that my good friend Forty Ounce threatened to rip me a new one on a comment for this post.  So either a whole bunch of whackos completely misinterpreted the most popular young adult series of the past twenty years, or J.K. Rowling’s soul-trapping web of deception goes so deep that it’s endorsed by the Anglican Church. You decide.

Well played, Rowling. Well played, indeed.

Going back to my original story, I had a short conversation with my mother- and father-in-law about the subject of what my kids are allowed to watch, now that they’re back home. While I obviously don’t want them watching things that they are too young for, anything that’s age-appropriate is okay. I trust that my children can handle seeing a goddess on Young Justice without deciding, “That’s it! That’s what I want to do with my life! Forget this Jesus crap, I want to worship super hero goddesses!”

I’ve been tempted for years, for different reasons.

We’ve got to give our kids some credit, Christians. They don’t need to live in a box, protected from the parts of the world that don’t come wrapped in a Jesus-shaped bow. There is a world outside that isn’t always perfect, and some day your children may be needed in that world. We need to trust ourselves to guide them in a way that is deep enough, meaningful enough, that it can survive an encounter with that supposedly-gay Teletubby or Spongebob Squarepants. And also, lest we forget, we also need to trust God to guide our kids where we fall short. I’m positive that God can undo any damage done by J.K. Rowling.

At least until her next series of books, "The Socialist Gay Adventures of Antichrist Jones, Hero of the Beast!"


The wisdom of ignoring me.

My last post on What the Faith was basically a confession, an admission that sometimes my writing tends to focus on the negative, the confrontational, or the rough edges of my spiritual journey. It felt good. It felt . . . cleansing. Not necessarily “cleansing” in the sense of baptism, but more like the “cleansing” that comes after buying a jug of pepper-, lemon-, acai-water and drinking it to the exclusion of everything else for two whole days. It’s that kind of “cleansing” that means your insides are shiny and clean like a new chrome appliance.

A poop-y kind of cleanse, is what I'm saying – and no, I will not stop talking about poop.

I have something else to confess, though. This blog serves more than its obvious purpose – i.e., to encourage people to waste time on the internet while thinking about Jesus. No, it’s also an outlet through which I practice my writing. Because of this blog, I write somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 words a week, which is practice I need to be getting. See, I see myself as a bit of an author.

Specifically, the “bit” is the afro, and the “author” is Neil Gaiman. Hyuck hyuck hyuck!

Am I published yet, you didn’t ask? No, I am not yet published – but I’m working on it. In fact, I got an email from an online publisher the other day, rejecting one of my submissions. And I love it to death. It’s the best rejection I’ve ever gotten. In this email, three different members of the website’s editorial staff talk about the little thing that I wrote. They all agreed it was very funny, and it seems like all the things I was trying to make my audience feel were conveyed in my story. And the points that made them reject the story were, to be honest and fair, points that I might have seen as reason to reject the story myself, if I were reading it as an editor. Their suggestions are valid. And if I follow their suggestions, my story will benefit from it.

This reminds me of something Pastor Jay has said to me a couple of times. He said that he often thanks God for prayers that he has made that have gone unanswered. The first time he told me that, I loved it. Let me tell you why.

Prayers of intervention are a sensitive subject for me, and probably for others as well. Even as I ask for intervention – like “God, please help me better handle my money.” “God, please heal my friend’s illness.” “God, please keep this horde of beautiful women from constantly chasing me, my wife is getting angry,” et cetera

Seriously, it’s becoming a problem. I feel like the Beatles. I feel like ALL THE BEATLES.

– I often think I’m being selfish and small. God knows what I need. God knows what everyone needs. God loves us. So why am I presuming to ask God for something that he knows I want but hasn’t yet given me? Am I wasting God’s time by asking for stuff that doesn’t matter on a global level? Shouldn’t I be praying for peace on earth, instead of for my friend to land a modeling gig? I only have a certain number of hours a day, and of those hours I spend a shockingly small number of minutes talking to God. Am I wasting them by asking for intersession from him? Then, if I don’t get my prayer answered, the doubts immediately come flooding into the dark, slimy corners of my mind. “Oh boy, that didn’t work out, huh? You’d think God would’ve been pulling for you on this one, wouldn’t you? Almost seems like maybe. . . just maybe. . . there isn’t really someone there hearing those prayers, doesn’t it?”

That voice is a dick.

But sometimes, an unanswered prayer is something to be appreciated. I know that I often ask God for things that I think I need. Sometimes, I think I really need what I’m asking for – not a little bit, but a whole lotta need. And yet, despite how desperately I want my prayer to be answered a certain way, God is consistently able to show much better judgment than I am capable of showing.

Here is an example.

A few weeks ago, I did my first ever fast, and it lasted for 24 hours. A few days later, I decided to fast again. I was feeling disconnected from God at the time, and it seemed like I couldn’t fix it. I wanted to hear from the Big Man on a regular basis, but no matter how hard I tried to “tune in” to him, I was just getting static. Brandi had decided to fast for the three days leading in to New Years day – and I decided that I would fast with her, but not just to bring in the new year in a spiritually-focused way. I decided that I would wrestle with the angel.

Is it just me, or did Jacob lose a rasslin’ match to a GIRL ANGEL?

“Alright God,” I said as I prayed my most prayingest prayer. “There have been times in my life that You have filled me with the Holy Spirit – when I’ve felt Your touch come from outside of me in a way that was beyond doubt. I need you to do that again. I need you to banish my doubts for good. And so, I am going to fast until I feel Your presence in my heart. From this moment forward, I will only drink water, until the Holy Spirit fills me.”

Seems legit, right? That’s not a crazy thing to say to God. But then it occurred to me that it might sound, to God, like I was putting him to the test. I’ve heard that’s a bad thing, so I prayed again.

“Hey God, just touching base. I wanted to let you know that I’m not saying You have to fill me with the spirit – I am only saying that nothing will answer my need, the place in my head that doubts Your existence, but the Holy Spirit. So. . . not trying to be a dick, but. . . seriously, I won’t eat until the Holy Spirit comes.”

Again, that seems reasonable to me. So I launched into this fast, drinking only water, eating nothing. And every time I got overwhelmingly hungry, I would touch base with God again – “Hey Lord, howsit goin’? I’m feeling great, but please send the Spirit whenever you want me to eat. Amen.” I stuck to this fast like a boss. When I made my kid a PB&J, if I got PB or J on my fingers, I would wash my hands instead of licking it off. That’s how dedicated I was to this fast.

I didn’t even try to eat my kid once!

As the fasting continued, a funny thing started to happen. I started to get impressions from God – several times, in fact. One day, for instance, I was just touching base with God while I showered, when it occurred to me that I was being really unfair to Brandi about a couple of things, lately. In fact, I’d been doing some unfair stuff for years, and in that shower, as I prayed to God, it occurred to me that I was being a crappy crapface, had been for a long time, and that I should stop. So I finished my shower, talked to Brandi, and apologized for all the unfair stuff I have been doing to her for the past eight years. She seemed moved, and she asked why I brought it up now.

“I dunno,” I shrugged, “it just seemed like God told me about it. Just now, in the shower.”

And similar things happened several times, during my fast. It was like my ability to hear God was amplified by the amount of stuff I was willing to give up for him. It was really cool.

And yet, I never felt that warm, electrical tingle I get sometimes – the one I always equate with the Holy Spirit. Usually, when I feel the Spirit come over me, my chest fills up with warmth and the hair on my arms stands up. Sometimes I’ll feel light, like I weigh next to nothing and a breeze could carry me away. That’s the sort of thing I was expecting – in fact, that’s the sort of thing I was specifically praying for. That sensation always seems to come from outside of me, and that’s what I was asking God for – something I could not doubt came from an external source.

Wasn’t happening.

Three days into the fast, I was a little distraught. Brandi came into the room and saw me with tears running down my face, and she immediately went into damage control mode. We talked, and I confessed that I felt horrible that God wasn’t answering my prayer – I asked for a specific thing, I told him very clearly that I wouldn’t eat again until I felt it, and God was, for some reason, ignoring me.

Brandi looked confused.

“But. . . haven’t you been hearing God better than ever these past three days?”

I had to grudgingly admit that was true.

“Then. . . why are you upset?”

I was upset, I patiently explained, because until God sent the Holy Spirit to give me the Warm Chest Tingly Arms Thing, I couldn’t eat. It had been three days of only water. I was hungry, man. And God didn’t care! Was I going to starve?

Clearly, an obvious possibility.

And then my doubts came to the forefront in a real, vocal way. I started saying everything that I was afraid might be true. What if God didn’t care about me? What if God wasn’t real? What if I had only imagined all those times in my life, when I thought I’d felt the Holy Spirit? What if that was just something I tricked myself into thinking?

After that outburst, our conversation got quiet for a bit. Brandi crawled into bed with me and we just held each other quietly for a while. Eventually, though, something I had said in my distress came back to me.

What if I had imagined the Holy Spirit, all those times before?

Even in my existential crisis, that seemed like a funny question to ask. Wasn’t the reason I asked God to send the Spirit specifically so that I couldn’t doubt it? Wasn’t that kind of the point? “If you don’t send the Spirit, I won’t know it came from outside of me.”

Except now, I was demonstrating the truth of the matter – yeah, I can doubt basically anything. Nothing is doubt-proof for me. When I’m in a moment of conflict, it is entirely possible for me to believe that I am capable of imagining anything. If God had sent the Holy Spirit to me, as I’d asked, that would not have stopped me from questioning whether or not it was real, on some day in the future when my faith was being tested.

I had asked for something stupid.

At that moment, I felt that voice of God, the one I’d been hearing more clearly in the past three days than ever before, tell me, “Go ahead and eat tomorrow.”

The next morning, Sunday the first of the 2012, Brandi and I took communion at Hillside Church. It was the first thing we’d eaten in three and a half days. Then we went to a local Mexican restaurant and destroyed it.

“On the sixth day, the Lord made molé enchiladas, and they were gooooooood.”

I’ve since learned the value in a well-timed rejection. I’ve learned to trust that God’s experience, perspective, and wisdom are far greater than mine. Like the editors who told me that they loved my story but it wasn’t quite ready for publication, God rejects my prayers for valid reasons. And if I’m listening, he offers some pretty insightful feedback, as well.

What about you guys? Have you ever prayed for something you fiercely wanted, didn’t get it, and later came to be really grateful for that? Has God ever done the best thing possible for you by ignoring everything you said? I’d love to hear some stories.


The grossest li’l miracle.

Everyone has heard stories about the healing power of prayer. Atheists talk crap about the gullible believers, or the scandalous faith-healers raking in piles of dough from the afore-mentioned gullible believers. On the other hand, everyone who has faith in God has some sort of story about a relative who had this condition or that disease, who was prayed over, and who was miraculously healed. Maybe it was cancer that disappeared, or a chronic pain that plagued someone for years. The stories all share the same cause/effect relationship – so and so was prayed over, and they got better.

As a skeptic, I used to have some usual responses to those sorts of stories. I certainly didn’t think that a miracle was involved. It was, to me, more likely. . .

1)      The placebo effect – these people only got better because they believed they would get better.

2)      Deception – people were lying in these stories, either outright (because they had something to sell or gain from people believing) or lying to themselves (exaggerating how sick they were before prayer, to make the story more dramatic – and thus, to support their faith).

3)      Coincidence – a broken clock is right twice a day.

Except digital clocks, which are basically a paper weight ALL day.

Did I accept the possibility that a miracle might have occurred? Sure. It’s a big universe out there, and I figured that anything is possible. But for me, there’s a huge gap between “anything is possible” and “anything is probable”. So while I could intellectually accept that miracles could happen, making my skepticism less hard-core than others’, I still disbelieved almost 99% of the faith healing stories I heard. They were too common. Possibility, again, does not in any way indicate probability.

Just because you've doubled your chances that a cosplay girl will like your neckbeard, it DOES NOT MEAN that one of these cosplay girls likes your neckbeard.

How embarrassing, then, to have my own faith-healing story to tell.

Disclaimer: If you keep reading, you’ll learn more about my digestive processes than you want to know. I guaran-friggin-tee it. 

Disclaimer: Seriously. You’ve been warned. 

So here goes.

I’m at the Blue Ocean conference I’ve mentioned a couple of times now, and it’s the Friday evening session. For those of you who have never attended a church conference, in some ways it’s like a regular church occasion. There’s a worship band playing, and people do some praying in general, and at some point there will be some kind of prayer for specific people in the audience. Maybe there’s a prayer team that feels that they have messages from God for someone present, or maybe there’s just a call out – does anyone want or need prayer? You can hold up your hand and someone will come pray for you.

(I know it sounds creepy. It’s really not.)

They keep offering me Kool-Aid, but I’m diabetic.

Anyway, so I’m at the Friday session of the conference, and all that stuff is going on. One of the pastors visiting the conference comes to the stage. He says they have received some visions that people are in need of healing. He throws out some ailments they have received visions about. Someone has a sore throat. Someone has a pain in their left leg. Someone has irritable bowel syndrome.

Of course, I think. Of course he called out irritable bowel syndrome.

IBS is the Mitchell Family Curse. All of my siblings have it. I’ve had it since my teens. It’s a constant plague. When I’m going on a long trip, I take medication for my condition the night before I get into the car. And I don’t take a little medication – I pop maybe four Imodium AD’s and nuke my system into submission. And sure, after that, I may not poop for something like four days, but hey – I’ve never once in my life had a surprise attack of constipation. I’ve never said the words, “Could you please pull off at the next exit, I really have to not poop,” when driving down the highway.

I have, on many occasions, said the opposite.

“Seriously, just find me anything with a toilet. Find a McDonald’s, it’s what they’re for."

So there I am, sitting in this chair at the Mercy Vineyard Church, and somebody is supposed to get prayer for IBS. I really didn’t feel like raising my hand. . . for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve had IBS for literally my entire adult life. I’ve adapted. It’s not a huge deal, it’s just part of being a Mitchell. Second, I really didn’t want to put my neonatal faith to the test. What if I raised my hand, got prayer, and I still had IBS? Would my faith in God, delicate as it is, survive such a challenge? And third. . . do I really want to tell someone I have IBS?

Well, I thought, what have I got to lose? I don’t know that the “vision” was for me. It could be for someone else in this room. So why not?

I raise my hand. The guy next to me, who I’d chatted with a bit that night, was already praying for someone. He gestures to a friend of his, and this dude named “Boomer” came over. Boomer was described to me as a “rock star” and I was told I was in good hands. He did, in fact, appear to be awesome, so I was on board for this little prayer-thing. If nothing else, I could chit-chat with Boomer, and we’d be rock stars together.

Side note – I normally ask permission before I name-drop somebody, but I don’t have any contact info for Boomer. If anyone knows him, will you throw a line my way so that I can contact the guy and thank him for being the kind of guy who I assume would be cool with me using his name? And if you know Boomer well enough to know he would totally hate me name-dropping him, could you maybe not tell him I did this?

Then, right after Boomer came up, my friend Lindsey walks over in response to my raised hand. Lindsey is a total sweetheart. She’s the wife of one of my church’s associate pastors, and she’s always been really nice to me and the fam. But now I had to tell Lindsey about my digestive ailments, and while we were friendly, I didn’t think we’d reached the “talk to me about your poop” stage of our friendship just yet.

Still, I couldn’t very well say “Oh hi Lindsey, how are you, could you please go away so you can live in ignorance of how gross I am?” That would be rude and completely uncalled-for. And I like Lindsey. So I tell Lindsey and Boomer that yeah, I was the IBS guy. I quickly explained the things that I have told you – Mitchell Family Curse, all my adult life, yadda yadda yadda – and I told them that I had no realistic expectation of it going away anytime soon. Not to cast doubts on God’s ability to get rid of digestive ailments – simply that I figured there was someone in the audience who probably had it worse than me, and God was probably talking about them. I even say something to the effect of, “So no pressure, Lord,” which gets a little chuckle. Then they get to prayin’. Hands on my shoulders, everyone’s head is down, Boomer starts praying and asking God to heal me of irritable bowel syndrome – and for that healing to extend through me to everyone in my family.

Nice touch, I thought. Way to go Boomer. Raisin’ the stakes!

 Boomer is done, and we all go quiet for maybe sixty seconds, heads down, hands on my shoulders. Then Lindsey speaks up.

“I’m getting an image of a person dancing, and they keep tripping over themselves because their rhythm is off. I keep seeing that your body doesn’t have good rhythm. So I’m going to pray for God to help your body find rhythm.” And that’s what she does.

“I’m getting a picture of your body doing the Carlton, does that mean anything to you?”

Now, just for the record, I generally have pretty good rhythm. I was in a doo-wop quartet during my junior and senior years of high school (calm yourselves, ladies) and I was the “snapping guy” along with singing bass. So rhythm isn’t usually my problem. But hey, Lindsey says my body needs rhythm, I’m gonna go with it.

So they pray for me, Lindsey and Boomer, and we have this really great conversation afterward, and we depart and move on with our lives. I make it through the rest of the conference, go home, and don’t really think about the prayer for a couple of days. During that time I had no crazy moments of my bowel being irritated, but that was to be expected – I had, of course, nuked the crap out of my stomach with Imodium AD the night before the conference, and it would take a few days to get out of my system. Then those days continued to stretch out. I’d told Brandi about the prayer, and one day she notices. She looks at me and says, “When was the last time you were sick?”

Well, I tell her, it was about two days before the conference.

She thinks about that. “Isn’t the Imodium out of your system by now?”

I tell her it probably was, based on all previous experience. But what I hadn’t told her was that something else had changed – something far less embarrassing than IBS, but something that had not been mentioned during the prayer session.

For the past year, I’ve been having premature ventricular contractions in my heart. These are basically harmless little “bumps” in your regular heartbeat. Have you ever had a moment where, for no reason, your heart “skipped a beat?” That’s probably a PVC. They’re nothing more than annoying, but I was getting them a lot. I mean, most days I’d have a “skipped beat” maybe ten times a day. That was average. On some days, I’d feel a PVC every five seconds or so, for sometimes hours. I once went to the emergency room after an 8-hour work day with PVC’s every five to ten seconds. It was scary, but they hooked me up to all the machines in the world and told me I was fine, sent me home, and charged me $800.

I guess it’s more expensive when they have to dye all the hospital masks and scrubs black.

But here’s the thing. I haven’t had a single one since that day of prayer.

Not one.

Now, in the interest of fairness, I should submit my story to the same test I submitted all stories of failing healing to. Let’s see if I am now going on two weeks without IBS or PVC’s because of. . .

1)      The placebo effect – Seems unlikely. I’ve never been healed by faith before, and I had no reasonable expectation of it working. I wasn’t even sure it was for me.

2)      Deception – Well, this one is easier. I definitely am not making this story up, just to rep faith healing on a blog that very few people read. And I’m pretty sure I’m not deceiving myself. Can I prove that? No. You readers can either trust that I’m not deceiving myself, or believe that I am. Either way, like Bobby Brown says, that’s your prerogative.

3)      Coincidence – Not out of the realm of possibility. However, it’s been two weeks since my IBS kicked in. I haven’t gone two weeks without an attack of IBS since. . . ever. I cannot remember ever going two weeks. But the PVC’s? I haven’t had a day without PVC’s in over a year. Some days have a lot of them, and some days only have a few of them. But none? Nope. That’s weird. It would take more faith for me to believe that I have just been lucky enough to not have PVC’s than it takes to have the faith that Lindsey and Boomer prayed for me and I got better.

You know the funny thing about premature ventricular contractions? Ventricular contractions are a kind of fail-safe for the heart. If the nerve telling your heart to beat regularly stops working, your ventricles contract automatically to keep your heart beating. The problem with PVC’s is, well, they’re premature. It isn’t your heart skipping a beat, so much as your ventricles contracting when they don’t need to.

It’s almost as if . . .

. . . wait for it. . .

. . . their rhythm is off.

*drops the mic and walks off stage*

POOMBF!


Me vs. Me – FIGHT!!!

I’ve been struggling a lot with myself lately. It’s so easy! I’m such a Gemini that there are almost literally two separate people living inside my head.

Either that explains the headaches, or I MAY have mis-used “literally”

At least that’s how it feels sometimes. One of these people is the cheery, friendly, good-hearted me, and the other is this suspicious, bitter, poisonously-angry person that sort of looks like me. Sounds like me too, in fact. A lot.

Double the pleasure! Double the fun! Double the roaring psychosis!

Since being convinced away from my skepticism, and exploring this whole faith thing, I’ve discovered two things.

1) I’m not sure who I want to be anymore.

And

2) Holy crap, do I have a lot of baggage!

For SURE not literally, this time. . . although I might want to sell some of these Pokeman cards. . .

Let me address these one at a time. Ill start with the second ‘cause it’s easier and less uncomfortable to admit (believe it or not.)

So! Yes! I have baggage! Don’t we all, right? My baggage is very heavily ingrained, reaffirmed by experience after experience, and possibly now a fundamental part of who I am. The shadow permanently engraved on the wall after the nuclear blast, as it were. In any case, this baggage seems like something I can’t get rid of no matter how hard I try. The suspicious, bitter side of me loves to point out that the experiences that created this baggage happened, and the conclusions I drew from those experiences are based on facts. That side also says that making these conclusions a part of who I am may color my decisions and current experiences, yes. . .  but it also serves to protect me from repeating those past experiences.  In fact, Bitter Me says, a repeat of the pains of my past is inevitable, if history serves to show us anything.

Pictured: Bitter Me. Please don't sue me, Mr. Disneyland.

Some of this baggage is small – not really all that heavy – more like a series of circumstances I’ve learned to avoid (such as answering the question “How are you?” with honesty, for example). This stuff is no big deal. If I want to tell someone how I really am, I have friends I can take that  shit to, and now I have God (or maybe, more accurately, now I’ve found God), so I don’t need to give that information to just anyone. That’s a small issue.

However, some of my bags are full of bowling balls. As such, they’re hard as hell to move, impossible to lift, and seriously getting in the way of everything I want to do.  I don’t know why, but I feel the need to drag all these bowling balls around with me everywhere I go.

Now, you might think, “Put the bags down, dude! You don’t need those bowling balls!” And you’re totes right! I don’t need those bowling balls, except I can’t seem to unclench my fingers from the handle of the bag . . . it’s been a long time, alright? Anyway, putting it down is not as easy as it sounds.

None of this would really matter if what I wanted was to stay the course I’ve been on, comfortably, all these years. This brings me to point 1. (Backwards is fun!) Point 1, being “I don’t know who I want to be anymore”, is very troubling to me. See, when I left church as a young teenager (barely more than a child) I did it because I wasn’t having success making the connection to God that the people around me were making. I’ve mentioned this before.

Remember this dude?

What I didn’t mention was that the realization that, perhaps, God didn’t want to talk to me, was carried on the shoulders of the fact that I didn’t know who I was. So I did what any self-respecting teenager would do – I went on a binge journey of self-exploration. Like most such journeys, it led me to some really dark corners, but also to some amazingly profound and beautiful realizations.  All of this helped to mold me into the person I am today.

If along the way I had to develop a side of myself that was protective of me (often to the point of being mean), I figured that was par for the course. Of course you can’t live in this world and stay soft. Not if you don’t want to be constantly leaking your gross. . . eye. . . water. . .  all over everything. Living is kind of like being in a war, and in wars, collateral damage is completely acceptable. Hence, I accepted it.

“Yep, looks good to me! Let’s call it a day and get some baby backs at Chili's!"

But these days, things are changing in me. There’s this whole process that’s happening inside of me that is changing who I want to be. But there’s a catch, see. All this baggage I’m carrying has been loaded with the things I’ve needed to get by, for many years. Their contents are directly related to who I am, my opinions, my preferences, and lessons I’ve learned on the way. The person that I’m tentatively starting to want to be (or rather, who the one side of me desperately wants the whole me to become) is in direct opposition to some of the stuff in those bags. Which means, either. . .

A) I can’t be that person I want to be

Or

B) I gotta put the bag down.

The other side of me screams in pain and terrified disbelief at just the thought of that. My protection! My ideals! What will I do without them?

“I keep my beauty products in that bag!”

So here I am. One side of me wants desperately to come out of the cocoon I’ve built around myself (mostly by pulling out my own hair and knitting it into this comfy, me-sized bag), and the other side is so mortified of what that will mean for me that it not only refuses to put the bags down, but clings to them like a man dying of starvation might cling to a bag of bread.

What can I do? Well, it’s disgustingly hard, but what I can do is trust God. More than that, I can learn to listen when God speaks to me (directly, or through other people), go where He indicates I should go, and do what He indicates I should do. If, while I’m doing that, I gotta drag around my bag of bowling balls, eventually my arm will get tired enough that I’ll just put them down. Even better, God himself will come by and say, “Brandi, dub tee eff is with the bowling balls? You don’t need those! Let me have them so you can have both your hands back.” When that day comes, not even the other side of me – the part that screams in terror at the idea of being vulnerable – will have anything to say.

And then I’ll be this! Please don’t sue me, Mr. Technicolor.