Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Christianity vs. Niceness, Part XY

Apologies for dropping out of sight (site?) yet again.  The online class that I'm teaching didn't actually get set up until the day before the class started, and I've been scrambling to read all the user guides and instructions and trying to stay ahead of the students' questions.  I am failing.  So imagine how annoying it was when the teacher handbooks made me irritated by once again equating niceness with Christianity.

I have no problem with an institution having policies about not stirring up trouble and such because they don't want to look bad, but I find myself angry when they say that the reason we have to suppress any dissent and avoid discussing things we disagree about and never acknowledge that things aren't perfect because we reflect Christ (and Christ was all about nice and the appearance of getting along). 

Obviously, the policies don't use these words; they use much more calm, neutral, infuriating language.  Let me say it right here: my God is Love, not niceness.  My God is a God of reality, not a god of appearance.  A God of Peace, not pretense.  My God is Truth, not whatever these handbooks are selling.

I guess I can see why people get turned off of institutional Christianity/religion.  Are we really so busy trying to protect ourselves and our reputations that we don't care how hollow it makes us?  I think maybe I'm glad to be teaching online classes because they lessen the chances of me saying something honest and angry and true and getting myself fired.  :)

I thank the Lord again that I got this job.

Am I overreacting?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Celebrating a song I like

I've complained about songs that are theologically irritating to me, so I figured I should praise songs that I find to be theologically excellent.

"No Matter What" by Kerrie Roberts is a great song. It emphasizes something that's important but maybe not emphasized enough. It's best encapsulated by a quote from the chorus.

"I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain,
but if not
I’ll trust you
no matter what."

Amen, sister.

I feel like our prayers are often a tad anemic. Or maybe "incomplete" is a better word. We pray that God will take away the trial, the pain, the difficult or unfair circumstance or situation. And we get angry when He doesn't, as if it's His job to make our lives comfortable and easy.  What kind of love is that?

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, 
and naked I shall return. 
The Lord gave; 
the Lord has taken away. 
Blessed be the name of the Lord." 

(That's from Job, but I remember it because it's from a song by Brent Bourgeois.)

People talk about trusting in the promises of God.  When they said it to me as I was going through a rather long and drawn-out trial, they said it in a way that indicated that the promises of God were for ease and comfort (which they aren't).  And this song really talks about why.

So much of the song is quotable that I just advise you to read all the lyrics.  But I can't resist one more bit.

"Anything I don’t have
You can give it to me,
but it’s OK if You don’t.
I’m not here for those things . . ."

Again, amen. So take a listen, and think about the words and maybe pray them. There's a lot of truth here. I'm so glad God made music.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Down with Rings?

I was moving things around while lamenting to a friend about the fact that men fall in love with me when I allow myself to be friendly and interesting and social. I was a bit worried about what would happen at work since there were no doubt going to be men there, and I couldn't be my preferred, withdrawn, discouraging-to-men self since I had to start building a corporate persona and networking and generally being sociable.
As I tried in vain to move something on an awkward shelf, my friend asked seriously, "You know what you need?"

"A cabana boy to move things around for me?"

"No. He'd just fall in love with you."

(There followed a time of laughter and snorting.)
She had some good suggestions for t-shirts to wear all the time. "Jesus is my boyfriend, and the world is my nunnery," was my personal favorite variation. 

After we were done getting goofy, she ended up suggesting that I wear a fake wedding ring.

Setting aside that I really have no rings and that I don't actually know which hand you wear a wedding ring on (since it seems most of the rest of the world does know that one, and it would be easy to find out), I was kind of intrigued by the idea.
  • It would definitely be less offensive (in a driving the sharks away sort of manner) than introducing myself by name and saying, "I'm happily celibate for life, so please don't fall in love with me ever."
  • It would meet corporate dress code better than the novelty shirt.
  • It would make a clear statement to every decent person who knows what hand a wedding ring is on that I am not available for relationships.

There are a lot of perks, honestly. But that's the rub: honesty. Isn't it a lie to wear a ring that says, "I am married to someone" when you're not and never plan to be?

Technically, it's not a lie; it's just jewelry. But it feels dishonest.

If I made sure to tell anyone who asked about it, "No, I'm not married. I'm just not interested in a relationship," I wonder if my conscience would be assuaged.  

Not quite. At least, not yet. (And it would be hard not to be really honest and yack on about celibacy and stuff that would turn me into an instant weirdo at the office: not the corporate persona I really want to create . . .  Maybe down the road when I get to know people better, and they really want to know what makes me tick, but definitely not now.)

I could be being my usual silly self here, choosing the hard road because it's the hard road. I mean, the ring solution is a very elegant one. So, if you think it is, please help convince me that it's not lying to wear a wedding ring when you'll never be married. I really want to be convinced . . .

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Making choices about priorities

I don't want to test myself to destruction now that I've finally got real income, but I also don't want to shrivel up into one of those people who just works and then wastes what free time they have relaxing and recovering (even though I surely do need to).  I would love to be able to maintain a crazy schedule like I could before I got hurt--or even before I shrunk due to sleep-deprivation--but I can't.  Realistically, I think I could maybe handle one thing on top of my two jobs this semester.  Here are my choices.  (I talked about them a little bit earlier in the week.) 
  • Monday: I could try to join a classical vocal music group that practices on a Monday. PROS: I love making music.  It's a way I can create art and beauty that doesn't require (much) use of my hands. CONS: Concerts and stress and a lot of work to catch up with the real singers.  Time off work to prepare.
  • Tuesday: I could continue doing publishing research on this night.  PROS: Maybe some day I'll care about getting published, and all that research will come in handy.  Also, this is a time where I really just read literature for an hour, and since I want to keep writing, I should really make time to pour some good content in. CONS: I don't care about publishing, especially now that I have a foot in the door in teaching, which is what I really want to do.  Should I be spending this time on something I don't care about or need just because it's kind of a good thing?
  • Wednesday (and Sunday mornings): I could keep leading a small group and a Sunday school for church.  PROS: I kind of like being in my small group, which is made up of fun, eclectic people driven to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to do what we can to make our local church a better body of believers. CONS: Being honest when dealing with single men is problematic because they start to like me, which leads to crap I really don't want/need/have energy to deal with.  I would prefer a role with invisibility where I can lead from the shadows or (actually more) just follow and support a good leader in a way that doesn't suck my energy away.  NOTE: This commitment could be shifted to Thursday night due to scheduling conflicts with other group members. The thing is, we're the only small group that meets Wednesday nights, and I wanted to keep that as an option for people who want to be in a small group and don't have any other nights free.  If I stuck with Wednesdays, I would likely be freed from leading the Sunday school since our group goes over the material at the small group meeting the week before.  It might be possible that nobody would need Wednesdays this semester, and thus the choice would be taken from me.  If not, I could end up with a group that I have to work really hard at, and it could fail, and that would be unpleasant. It's possible that since everyone else needs to switch nights, this is a way God is telling me it's okay if I bow out right now. Or not.
  • Thursday: I could attend anime club. PROS: No one demands or expects anything of me, and I enjoy the format and content and generally find it entertaining and thought-provoking. CONS: It costs money to park and is far away.  It goes kind of late for my regular schedule.  This is a semester-long commitment because if you miss episodes, you miss a lot.
So, if you had to choose, what would you do?  Try to just pick one (if so, which one)?  Sign up for 'em all and trust that the ones I'm not supposed to do will fall through (what if they don't)?  What advice can you share that isn't just, "Pick the church one because you obviously should!"? :)