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Who Am I?

7 Dec

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”   (Maggie Kuhn)

So who the heck is this person?  I’m Heather.  I think I have some stories to share and some thoughts about how I view life, and maybe some thoughts which will help you see something new about how you view life.  I find it best to know a bit about who the heck it is I’m listening to, so here’s a little bullet point list.  The fancy word for this is that I’m trying to flesh out a bit of my paradigm for you, so you can see how I view our world.  Some or all of this stuff will likely get flesh put onto it later, but I feel like you need to know it.  20161203_155954

  • I reside, and have resided, in Colorado for most of my life.  Exception is 2 years spent in Ventura, California.  I have lived in our capital city, in the Four Corners Region, surrounded by mesas on the Western Slope, but mostly I’ve lived in a smallish city in the northeastern part of my state.
  • I am just shy of 40 years old.  I identify as Generation X even though some bump folks my age up to the Millennial generation, I do not identify with much of what that generation values and has experienced.
  • I am a white person who was raised in a primarily white church and school system.  My interactions with people of color were always limited, and even now as an adult, are not as frequent as I would like.
  • I identify as a cis-female (mostly) straight woman.  For those of you who don’t know what the word cis means, it just means that I identify as the standard gender of the sexual parts I was born with.
  • Up until recently, I would describe my class background as “middle class,” or even “upper middle class” at times.  Significant thought on this matter and realizations about my life and how I live it lead me to believe that my family was “house poor,” and quite a few of the ways I live my life are influenced by being raised in a blue collar class (meaning we were never at or below the poverty level but that we certainly struggled and did not have as many bonuses as children who grew up middle class did).
  • I was identified as “gifted and talented” as a child, educated in 2 above average school districts, and was able to attend 41/2 years of college before being forced to drop out due to financial reasons.  While in college I was a History major (emphasis Europe, but really from about World War I to 1950) with a dual minor in Black Studies and Anthropology (I was getting ready to just take the last semester I needed for this degree when I had to drop out of school.)  I am a person who takes knowledge seriously and continues to educate myself by reading about people that I didn’t know about and books by authors who have different experiences than I did.
  • As a baby I was baptized Catholic and then when I was 5 years old, my parents started attending a non-denominational First Christian Church.  (The ones without the cup and flame.)  My mother raised me to strongly value reading and knowing the Bible and to pray and discern what it means.  In high school, I primarily attended a charismatic Four Square Church, and in college found an Evangelical Free Church.  8 years ago, I helped found a non-denominational church plant, but left about 2 years ago.  I currently identify as a Christian, and struggle with the baggage that goes along with that.  I do not presently attend a church with any frequency.

So now you know where I’m coming from so we can go together.  Yes?

 

Expectation

2 Dec

“It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.”      ~Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkein

Have you noticed something about this time of year?  It is this time of year that most peoples of our hemisphere celebrate light.  Those who are Jewish celebrate lamps which always stayed lit through darkest times.  The Pagans place various forms of light onto evergreen (never dying) trees.  Christians speak of a “light of the world” appearing in darkness.  Even that great American commercialization asks us to seek relief from the dark, wee hours of Black Friday by making purchases.  We enter this season of darkness by placing lights on our homes, extra lights in our homes, and warm, rich colors.

Most Christian churches speak of this time as Advent.  Advent is simply defined as an arrival.  There are several ways to approach the four Sundays leading to Christmas Eve and day.  One is to assign broad themes to those weeks and then ruminate on them.  Take time to prepare for the arrival of Christmas.

I know that a fair share of my readers are not hardcore participants in the traditions of the Christian church, but I think there are some overarching themes to be found, needs of most human beings during this sometimes harried time of year lead us toward these themes. It’s what draws us all back to the Charlie Brown Christmas year after year.  We wish to find peace, joy, the “real” meaning of Christmas.

It is not my intent in writing these missives every Monday leading up to Christmas to convert you to a brand, a belief, or really anything more than just allowing you a bit of time to sit, think, perhaps sip a hot drink (you decide if that baby’s spiked), maybe dim the lights, and have quiet.  In the Bible’s Christmas story, it is said that Mary, Jesus’ mother, “treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart,”  my wish for you is to treasure some things and ponder them in your heart.

Christmas-Tree-Light-1024x682

In some traditions, this week of Advent is to focus on “Hope.”  “Expectation, a desire for a very specific thing to happen.”  Hope is a bit further up the line than say a wish, or even a dream really.  For me hope is almost something that I cling to and trust will come to be.  And for some reason that trust doesn’t waiver for me.

I think it is that unwaiveringness that allows me to fall so deeply for modern fantasies written in the Tolkeinian vein: where several times things seem they can get no darker, and then there is light and good wins once more.  It’s that tightness in your chest when you hold your breath and then suddenly the great draft of air which fills your lungs when you once again inhale deeply.

In the very beginning of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, we see Dream of the Endless, The Sandman, engaged in battle with a Duke of Hell for a valued item of his which was stolen.  After this demon plays the card of being “anti-life, the Beast of Judgement.  I am the dark at the end of everything.  The end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything…and what will you be then, Dream Lord?”  The Sandman crosses his arms, and replies, “I am hope.”  Win.

Several years ago, I accompanied a dear, cherished friend of mine to a Children’s Hospital in Denver with her daughter.  Her daughter had been all over, talked to many doctors and still there seemed to be no end in sight for her crippling abdominal pain.  I sat in the room when the doctor very skeptically declared (with our darling one in the room with us) that the pain was merely psychological, in her head, a manifestation of her perfectionism.  And I watched a little girl become saddled with the reality that some adults, important ones even, may not believe her when she says her tummy hurts.

Very thankfully, my friend’s mommy carries the same hot blooded tenacity that I do, and armed with her strongest mama bear spirit, with hope that there was a solution that didn’t involve blaming her child, she blazed a trail through many hospitals.  This year I am honored to have been present as we finally found the more important person who believed every word my not as small anymore friend said.  Even better, she proposed something which represents forward thinking in the doctoring community: though our friend is so young, her gall bladder was bad, and all of those years of pain were that little organ turning from its lovely robin’s egg blue to nasty green and yellow; spitting out stones and just in general being not very fun to have around.  I giggled and talked with a very excited little girl before she went into surgery, and sat with a very woozy, groggy beautiful little girl who reported and continues to report that the pain has completely ceased.  The beauty of the arrival of pain free living was sweet and joyous.  A great reward for many of us.

So whether you see your hope through your cunning wit wielded alone doing battle with the legions of the under realms, or if you see your hope revealed through friends joining you in this battle, I say it can and will be seen.

There are many traditions who chase the darkness of this season closing in by lighting a candle.  That new light burning where there once wasn’t light (or light as intense anyway).  Perhaps there are parts of your life where there isn’t any light, or the light isn’t as intense.  I urge you – take some time to light a candle.  Ponder the flame.  Ponder the tenacity of that expectation.  Remember that very few things are beyond all doubt.  And do not despair.  Hope.

Prepare

1 Dec

We are now in December!  I didn’t quite make it to my “three days a week blogging” goal, but I certainly blogged a lot more and have found that I kind of love it.

I wanted to lay out what December’s gonna look like for you, my dearest reader.  This month will be full of many things.  In churchy words, this is the season of Advent, which merely means anticipation, waiting for an arrival.  We enter the darkest time of the year with the approaching Winter Solstice, and many prepare by adding light to our households; whether by menorahs, or Christmas lights, or trees, or adorning our homes with light.

Since it is always a time of year that I take to reflect on so many things, Mondays will be a time for reflection.  For myself and hopefully for you.  I want to make your Monday reading time a time to pause, reflect, and hopefully to bring some light into these ever increasing dark nights of December.

This is also a time of year when we ponder our generosity.  And so this December I’m going to bring you “Skip the Latte Wednesdays,” where we talk about skipping that Wednesday latte and giving to those that are considered “the least of these.”  To bring light into someone’s dark place.  This “Skip the Latte Wednesday” will feature charities that I feel are worth your five dollars.

This is also the time of year when we spend more time with those we hold dear.  On Fridays, I’ll be reviewing one of the Christmas movies from my list of unwatched films and tv shows and sharing with you my thoughts.  Then hopefully that will put them in mind for you to enjoy with your dearest ones with a nice big bowl of popcorn (either real or microwave) and perhaps a tasty beverage.

So there you have it:  December’s plan.  May you begin December with light in your heart, and joy for the season.  And may you also find peace during a time which seems so chaotic.  See you tomorrow!

Candles

Dear Teenage Me

20 Jul

Yep. That’s me. Circa Fall 1995 with one of my good friends from youth group.(Class of 96!)

 

 

My friend Lydia over at On the Other Hand recently wrote her take on another blogger’s letter to her teenage self.  I thought it was a good idea, so I’ve decided to do it myself.  So.  Here goes.


 

 

 

Dear teenaged me,

Wow, there are so many things that get put into perspective now that you’re 34.  I know you’re just thinking about what’s happening this weekend or freaking about the new play in production; but really, there’s a lot more to it than you think.  I’m gonna let you in on a few things now.

1.) All those unrequited crushes that never lead to dating are okay.  It’s good that you’re not dating right now.  And some of the most awesome men are right around the corner.

2.) The nice guys do finally figure it out.  It’ll happen in your 30s.  Now, you might date some who seem like nice guys until they’re not.  That’s okay because of:

3.) You have a wicked sense of humor now.  Sometimes it surprises the folks you went to high school with, because it wasn’t there back then.  It’s pretty dang awesome.  It helps you survive just about everything that comes your way.  And also makes you a hit at parties, bars, and sports commentating.  (Yeah, you become a commentator, pretty sweet, huh?)

4.) Contrary to what you’ve been hearing at summer camps and in youth group, your body is beautiful.  It is not a one stop sin factory like they say.  The sooner you embrace this the more you will find you like yourself.

5.) Your greatest strength is always turning back to the Bible to check what people in positions of leadership in the church are saying.  Keep doing this, you’re on the right track.

6.) Your dad has started to finally come around to this whole being involved in your life thing.  Don’t cut him out of yours now.

7.) Pretty soon you’ll get your bestest childhood friend back.  It’s called the Internet, and it will revolutionize your friendship.

8.) Keep your flannels.  You’ll want them in about 15 years.

9.) You will be heading to college.  You will be taking out loans.  Do not do the stubborn thing when you hit a hiccup in funding.  Take that year off of college and re-enroll when you qualify for Pell Grants.  Seriously, teenage me, it will be the only mistake you end up regretting.  All the others you will learn from in one way or another.

10.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer is awesome, not stupid.  Pick it up right now, because when you watch it as an adult a bit of the “OMG they’re the same age as me” magic will be gone.

11.) You have an incredible core group of friends there in Durango.  They have taught you how to mellow out and not be a pharisaical jerkface.  Keep in better touch with them.

12.) On the other hand, getting out of Durango was the right choice for you.  Remember this when you become slightly jealous of your brother staying there in a few years.  You really did need out.

13.) No really.  It is incredibly awesome that you’re not dating right now.  I promise you.

Okay, I think that’s it.  Just remember, teenage me, that it’s not as tragic as you think!  (But your poetry is!)

Love,

Almost 35 year old me

How about you?  What’s in your letter to your teenage self?

Restoration, or How Westboro Baptist is Doing God’s Will

5 Jan

 

My Flag is Not Your "Fashionable" Sarong

You’ve probably seen them in your town.  Or you’ve heard of them.  Embroiled in Supreme Court freedom of speech suits for their frequent protests of soldier’s funerals, or standing on sidewalks outside of synagogues and colleges protesting the so-called “homosexual agenda” that’s making America go to hell so quickly we don’t have time to weave the handle on our collective hand baskets.  Their collective message?  “God Hates Fags.”  Their website is even named as such.

Maybe you are, or you know, Christians in your life who collectively smite their foreheads and swear up, down, and sideways that “real” Christians don’t believe those things; or if they do, they certainly don’t walk around with signs saying as such.  Naysayers from the Christian front will point to scriptures like the prevalent John 3:16 saying God loves the world.

And perhaps a little less used counter that He doesn’t wish His followers to profit from lawsuits to further His message.  1 Corinthians 6:1-11 That’s right.  Lawsuits.  The Westboro Baptist Church is funded for the most part by counter protesters who have been sued for interacting with WBC improperly during one of their protests.  They’re savvy, I’ll give that to them.

For a long time, the WBC just made me angry.  How dare they!  I marched around as if God needed someone to personally intervene on His behalf to defend Him.  I felt I needed to defend the Creator of the Universe.  Because if He wasn’t going to smite them immediately, I sure as hell was going to.  And then something happened:  I started to listen.

About 10 years ago, the WBC decided to grace my college campus with its presence.  A friend of mine who was a resident assistant at the time decided to be proactive: he hosted a panel including a member of the WBC, and various pastors and campus religious leaders of varying opinions.  WBC was put under the magnifying glass.  They had to give a reason why they were there.  In all honesty, this man was not the caricature of hatred and evil that I wanted him to be: he simply and very sincerely believed that he was bringing the good news of Christ’s love to the people he was protesting.  Don’t you hate moments when evil beasts become just a touch more human?  Yeah, me too.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve continued to listen.  But this time instead of judgmentally listening to the message of hatred, I started listening to the message being brought by the other side.  I began listening to my friends share stories and ideas: their coming out, their struggles with their own faith, their ideas of what the love of God actually meant.  I listened to my friends in the service and how gravely hurt they were that their fallen comrades in arms could not have a little peace for their funerals.  I met burly biker men who are members of the Patriot Guard Riders who counter protest in their own unique way.

I started to notice just exactly what the Westboro Baptist Church does when it comes to town.  Instead of seeing more hate crimes, I watch churches come out of their prayer closets to preach beyond others’ preconceptions: the true message of the Cross that all are loved dearly by God.  Instead of observing chaos take over, I see groups of people from many walks of life band together to show that love, tolerance, prosperity, and peace will reign in their community.  I see students at a high school show that they are behind their friends. I listen to a pastor from a small, insular community share a message of peace, reconciliation, and love.

I believe God is at work in today’s world.  That his message of love and restoration will come across, despite the imperfections of the messenger.  His goal is that this existence be changed, and as much as I would hate to acknowledge it, those changes come about as a result of the misplaced message of the WBC.  It humbles me to know that even when we get it wrong, God makes it right.

I Shall Not Fear

Photos borrowed from Comics Alliance