Waking Up

In the wee hours of the early morning, I found myself unable to sleep, and a memory came to me that I had not thought of in quite some time. There was a bluish tint to the light, and it reminded me of when I was in youth group, and the color blue had a special significance for me.

Growing up in a pentecostal or charismatic tradition can certainly have some weirdness, and I am not sure how I feel about some of the things I saw, heard, and was taught. I do remember, though, that I became incredibly focused on God, engulfed by my own passion for Christ, and I craved any sign of God’s presence.

In the circles of teachings brought to my church and my youth group, a mystic experience was sometimes talked about – actually seeing the presence of God. The presence of God was described as a blue mist or blue smoke hovering in a room. I desperately wanted that experience. I wanted so much to see the God I loved, and sometimes I would awaken in the middle of the night wondering if I might catch a glimpse – much like children dream of catching a glimpse of Santa Clause in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.

I read books on “being saturated in God’s presence” (Tommy Tenney) and even over the first part of my twenties, I sought an encounter with God.

After being part of a church which was spiritually abusive, things started to change, and over the years since then, I have gone through a crisis and subsequently a growth of my faith.

Now, when I woke up this morning, I thought on that period in my life, when I was looking for blue smoke, and I realized something very important:

I have seen God.

I saw God when my grandmother died suddenly, and my friends held me while I cried, visited the funeral home, surrounded me with love, and supported me.

I saw God when I stood with my family in the freezing cold one night, watching meteors shoot across the sky at my uncle’s house on the mountain.

I saw God when I first came out to a few people, and I was loved – not loved anyway, but just loved.

I saw God when I married D, and when our friends and family surrounded us with prayers, flowers, and love.

I saw God when D and I had difficulty with conceiving, and friends, family, and strangers supported us.

I saw God when we saw our daughter on a screen, secure in my womb.

And this morning, as I am growing more and more awake, I realize another truth:

I still see God.

When my wife looks at me with love.

When I see my belly leap up with the baby’s kicks and rolls.

When I look out the window and see the frost on the ground.

In the changing leaves of Autumn.

In the stillness of the night and brightness of the moon.

We are surrounded and inundated by God. Emmanuel – God with us.

I only recently discovered Pema Chodron, and I have listened to a couple of interviews with her now. She talks about the Buddhist idea that we have the power to wake up.

I find that idea very encouraging and applicable, no matter what religion or way of life we are part of.

We do have the power to wake up.

I find myself waking up more and more, as I am learning what battles to fight and what battles not to. (A true challenge, though, with current pregnancy hormones!) I am finding myself growing in tune with love, and with life and goodness. More and more, I want to shut out the noise and just be.

Maybe if we all started to wake up, it would offer us some clarity in understanding and in relating to one another.

One of my favorite prayers is the “Breastplate” prayer of St. Patrick. There is a particular stanza that seems most appropriate while I am reflecting this morning:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

And as I arise, and as we all arise, let’s wake up.

Love,

C.

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality

This is the third time I have attempted to post something. Either the words wouldn’t come, or they didn’t make since, or I quite frankly didn’t have the energy.

To my readers, I apologize for my silence.

I do have some news to begin with which might also explain my absence.

Ready?

I’m pregnant!

Yes, after all that wondering and worry, I am now at the beginning of my second trimester. D & I couldn’t be happier about adding someone to our family, and about the opportunity before us to be good loving parents. Here’s to hoping for better energy levels and no more morning sickness (Please, dear God.)

I do plan to write more about the process we went through sometime in the future, but I have a lot on my mind now.

I’ve decided to take a break from Facebook. It just gets difficult to read across the news feed sometimes. Honestly, it’s always worse when there is a controversy of some kind. I don’t mean it’s difficult to see opinions that differ from mine. That’s to be expected and part of what makes friendships so interesting sometimes.

No, what I am talking about is the tendency for us as a society to wall up with our own views and criticize everyone who tends to disagree with us. I’m talking about the other-ing we engage in when we bring up so-called “hot topics.” I’m talking about the way we form opinions and take stances from our safe distances instead of engaging with the people for whom the issue of the hour is not an intellectual exercise – but is real life.

I see it in my liberal and conservative and moderate friends. I see it in myself, my employer, my family, and in my communities I live and worship in.

For the sake of example, I noticed comments about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. I saw where people belittled one another for one view or another, and even questioning how one side could be called Christian; then saw the exact reverse of that siding and other-ing elsewhere. I noticed rants about Chick-fil-a mixed in, and witnessed comparisons and contrasts.

I missed something though, and maybe that’s why I feel so compelled to write about it. What about the point of view of the one who is really affected? The one who gets ignored in the cross hairs of firing our rhetoric at one another.

I feel pain for women who have difficulty in taking oral contraceptives and cannot have access to other means of birth control due to their employer. I cringe for them when people say callous things like “get a job elsewhere” or there are plenty of employers who will support it, go work for them. Have those who say such things tested the job market lately? Not to mention, I wonder at how cruel it is that someone has to find another job with a place that might not be as good of a fit due to rules like that.

I don’t have to wonder long. I worked as an intern, and then as an adjunct counselor at my alma mater. I even applied for a full-time position there. However, at the advice of dear friends who knew the double life I would have to lead, I decided not to go through with pursuing what was an amazing opportunity, and excellent fit, and truly – a dream job for me. Lee University does not allow LGBT people to work there. It goes against their version of Christianity.

So, I know all too well of missed opportunity and the sting of feeling like a black sheep to an institution or company you once called home and truly felt part of. I still am looking for work that is fulfilling and a good fit for me. Women who find yourself in a similar position – who have to choose between the birth control you need and the employer you feel loyal to – to LGBT people who cannot work where you wish because of discriminatory hiring practices – To others who relate – I stand with you. I am so sorry. I know the pain. It is real.

I think about the whole Chick-fil-a debacle, and wonder at how many people still take the stance of still eating their food even though the company made a stance they disagree with politically. Then I remember the vivid images of the charred remains of an African gay man, brutally murdered in his village for being gay. I think about the fear and sheer terror of African lesbian women in Uganda and other countries who have been victims of so-called “corrective rape” – and I shudder when I remember that the funding that taught hatred in the name of God in those parts of Africa came partially from the Family Research Council, a listed hate-group with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a group which Chick-fil-a donated their proceeds to. All of that got covered up, ironically, by a statement against gay marriage that sent some straight into lines to contribute to the system, while others picketed against statements made instead of the dollars which had turned into blood money.

I feel for the father and mother of the son who was a prisoner of war; regardless of how he came to be in captivity. Regardless of how their behavior may have been inappropriate – but showed their desperation for their son to be returned home safely to them.

I feel for the children, and the parents of children who do everything in their means to escape their own country to join ours.

I feel for the girl in my town, who was brutalized at an after-party on the night of prom.

I feel… and I instinctively touch my belly, wanting so badly to protect the little one inside. To protect our precious daughter or son from the evils, but also from the indifference  – including the indifference that comes in the guise of caring.

It’s too easy to write a status about praying for families where the latest shooting occurred, too easy to call someone we have never met a traitor, too easy to say someone should make this choice or that choice.

It’s much harder to reflect on what we can do about gun violence and start acting on it. Much harder to listen when we want to reply. Much harder to walk with someone through life’s difficult moments and to truly be with them in their pain so that they can make hard choices and not be alone. Much harder to see where we can lay our own positions of power aside, to give rise to justice for someone else.

So, instead of facebooking about the issues, I think the best thing for me is to live a life I can be proud of in front of my wife, and in front of our children. I think it’s best for me to call my friends and see how they are instead of relying on “liking” pictures and quick texts and wall-posts. I think it would do me and the world more good if I write my representatives more often, participate in actions locally and more widely, and if I stop intellectualizing  – which I believe is the defense mechanism of our current society.

This is as much to me as to anyone else.

Surely, we can live life in a way more real, more meaningful, and more productive than superfluous comments and statements on social media; more than the degrading name calling we engage in when talking about someone different than us – no matter how rude or spiteful they have been to us; more than the idea that “liking” or “sharing” is really doing something good.

We live in a technological bubble. Let’s pop it. And truly engage with one another. Sit face-to-face and have real conversations. I hope this post sparks some conversations of your own.

As a child of the 80s, I thought virtual reality was the coolest thing ever.

But now, I think real life is.

Go and live it, friends. Abundantly.

Love,

C.

 

 

Calling Out The Humanity: Autism

My friend Cam sent me this and graciously agreed to let me re-post it on here. I hope you will read and take to heart the insights coming from someone with autism and how we might better connect and relate. You can read more of Cam’s writing here: http://tornadocam.wordpress.com/

This prayer for the first Sunday in Advent from The Revised Common Lectionary is so fitting as we continue to explore the themes of Calling Out the Humanity in One Another this week, and as we begin the Advent season:

We seek the mighty God
in the most unlikely places
as a child in a stable,
and in an empty tomb.
May God hear these prayers,
which come from the unlikely corners of our lives.

Prayers of the People, concluding with:

Give us ears to hear, O God,
and eyes to watch,
that we may know your presence in our midst
during this holy season of joy
as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Autism and Humanity

Recently a friend of mine has been blogging a series with the theme of Humanity. Some of the themes that come up are who is human, humanity and Christianity, and the oppressed. As I was reading it made me think about Autism and Humanity. I myself I am Autistic and sometimes I witness, read about and have seen our humanity taken away. We that are Autistic are humans and valuable too. We are also loved by God as well.

I am an Adult who has Autism but yet sometimes the world can be a hostile place. Granted, there is a lot of support for Autistics, but there is a lot of oppression too. If statistics are right we have the highest unemployment rate of any group. Those of us that have a job are often underpaid or denied chances to move up in the work force. Another thing is their are laws that tend to dehumanize us. For example, in some European Countries we that are Autistic can be legally euthanized. In America they are 20 states that have laws that could prevent a person who has Autism from marrying. Autism is not mental it is neurological but some states consider Autism mental. These states’ laws have language that can be interpreted to include Autism under mental thus denying them marriage. Moreover, the media has sometimes labeled us as anti social monsters, who can not show empathy and compassion. All of this is dehumanizing us.

Autistic people are human. We have proven that we can show concern for others, be compassionate, genuine and have empathy. We may or may not be social but we are human. The question is what is humanity. My answer to that is humanity is showing genuine, empathy, compassion, being loyal and having a relationship with God. So yes we who have Autism are human and we are a part of the world. Sometimes when I try to be social I often have a concern how will I be seen? How will I be judged? Will I bee seen as a person who is different and odd or will I bee seen as a fellow human being. The great civil rights leader Martin Luther King said he had a dream were people would not be judged based on their color. I myself have a dream. My dream is that we that are Autistic would not be judged for being different and for being Autistic. But we will be seen as fellow human beings who have a place in the world and can contribute to society. My dream is that we will be seen as and treated as human beings.

Not only I’m I Autistic but I am a Christian. However, sometimes I have been told you cannot be a Christian cause you lack empathy you don’t understand. I even had friends who I thought were Christian abandoned  me cause I was different. But despite these messages I know that I’m a Child of God and that Jesus loved me just like he loves everyone. My other part of my dream is that I would not be seen as a person with Autism who attends Church.  But that I’m a fellow Christian and loved by Christ.  I think faith is an important part of humanity. God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die on the Cross (John 3:16) If you confess and accept Jesus as your savior you shall have eternal life and be saved (taken from Romans 10:9). So we have a loving and forgiving God that wants to have a relationship with us. As I stated to me that is a big part of being human too is having a relationship with God. We that are Autistic can also have this relationship.

I hope we that are Autistic will stop being seen as different, non humans and people who cannot relate. Instead we will be seen as fellow human beings, who have Humanity.