A Failure of Imagination

photo of September 11th memorial by Lars Mulder, pexels.com

It’s a month past the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, and I’m still kind of wallowing in it. I have no personal connection to anyone who perished or even had a close call that day, and yet every year as an American, I feel the anniversary deeply. I was a very naive 24-year-old that day, and each year I become her again as the shock and grief washes over me. Every year as tribute, I read September 11th books and watch documentaries, and a month later, I’m still reading. For some reason, I am not yet ready to move on this year.

One phrase I’ve heard and read over and over this year about the attacks is that the U.S. was unprepared because of a “failure of imagination.” We could not imagine that terrorists would ever learn to fly passenger jets and hijack them for the sole purpose of crashing them in a murderous suicide mission. Hijackings before that went like this: terrorist holds passengers hostage and forces pilot to land at a nearby airport. He holds them on the plane while he negotiates his demands. He gets what he wants, flees, and the passengers and crew are let off the plane safely.

We couldn’t imagine a hijacking ending any other way. Failure of imagination. This is evidenced in the question I asked a woman in my office that beautiful, tragic morning when she told me that terrorists had hijacked a plane and flown it into the World Trade Center. I gasped and said, “Did they let the people off first?”

Because they always let the people off in hijackings, right?

She slowly, sadly shook her had at me in response.

I began to cry. Failure of imagination, innocence lost.

Fast forward twenty years. We are facing another crisis as a country, not only as a country, but as an entire world. As the human race. Once again, I have been blindsided by my failure of imagination.

When the pandemic began, I could not imagine that we would not all follow public health guidelines. I could not imagine that we would not all come together to try to defeat this virus. I could not imagine that many of us would put our “personal liberties” above our collective health.

I couldn’t imagine my fellow Christians using the Bible, twisting it actually, to support actions that clearly flout Christ’s second-most important command: “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” by refusing to wear masks or making up false religious exemptions to get out of doing so. I couldn’t imagine anyone refusing a life-saving vaccine and taking their chances on a deadly disease. I couldn’t imagine parents abusing school board members and citizens sending death threats to the spouses and children of physicians making public health recommendations and politicians enforcing them.

I couldn’t imagine someone spurning the life-saving cautions and vaccines, and then getting COVID and dying or suffering greatly, then they (if they survived) or their families refusing to ever admit they were wrong and refusing to use their awful, tragic experience to save someone else’s life.

Failure of imagination.

We came together after September 11, 2001. We worked to help those in need and protect from further harm. Twenty years later we have failed to protect each other on a grand, sinful scale.

Pursuit of personal liberty over public health doesn’t seem as evil as terrorism on the surface. In fact, I don’t believe that wanting to be mask-free or not take a vaccine is inherently murderous or mal-intentioned.

But look at the toll.

2,977 people were killed on September 11, 2001 in the span of about 100 minutes. In the month of August 2021, when all adults and kids over 12 were long eligible to have been safely vaccinated, roughly that many people died in the U.S. of COVID, a preventable disease, every four days. Over 22,000 Americans in one month.

And we could’ve stopped it, if we wanted to.

But we didn’t want to.

And that is something that, even though I am living it, I still fail to be able to imagine.

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I’m Sure This Is Totally Normal Behavior

I do not own this cat.

Should I be under surveillance, anyone observing me in my natural habitat would notice a weird habit developing over the past few weeks: several times a day, I make a small pilgrimage betwixt the windows on the first floor of my house. I start with the front porch door, then the actual front door (on the side of the house). Then, I move to side kitchen window, the back kitchen window, and finally, the back deck sliding glass door. Sometimes I may press a hand or my forehead to the glass. Always, I crane my neck to see as far as I can.

The casual observer would wonder: “Is she paranoid?”

She is not. She, that is to say me, is obsessed. Not with the goings on of the neighborhood around her, or the anticipation of a package from the Amazon truck, but with a cat that is not her own.

Her name is Portia. Well, it is probably not actually Portia. But that’s what we call her—this pretty kitty that has been visiting us a couple times a week for about six weeks or so now. My kids and I adore her. She is so sweet, and well-cared for—she is front declawed and has a collar, and clearly has a home and an owner. But she has chosen us to be her buddies, and we feel so honored. And we all check for her multiple times a day.

We are pet-starved in this household, on account of my husband’s severe allergies. (Asthma for days, trust me, we cannot have pets.) Now that my kids have gone back to school, I look forward even more to Portia’s visits (we named her Portia as a play on “porch cat” since she always hops up on our front porch to look for us.) I grew up with cats and I love, love, love them. And her sweet affection has soothed my anxious soul in these pandemic times. It really is the little things, I guess.

Last Friday, she was already on our porch at 7:10 a.m. when my kids left for school. They were sad that they didn’t get to stay and play with her so of course I texted my daughter like 6,000 pictures of her to brighten her day. I have taken so many pictures of this cat who isn’t mine over the past few weeks that my Google photos app made me a photo book of all cat photos the other day (no, I did not buy it.)

So yeah. I’m obsessed with someone else’s cat. I am not sure where she lives or whose she is, but dang it I wish she could be mine! And I hope she never stops visiting me. When she’s here, I drop everything and sit with her til she leaves unless I absolutely cannot. That’s totally normal, right? I love this cat so much I’m like three seconds away from getting a baby carrier and putting her in it so I can get stuff done and snuggle her at the same time.

Yeah, I have problems.

But I’m trying to survive a pandemic, and I’ll take all the emotional support I can get! Even if it’s from someone else’s cat.

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Déja Vu Kinda Sucks

Yesterday my babies went back to school. At the beginning of this &(%!# pandemic, I had a sophomore, a seventh grader and a third grader. Now I have a SENIOR (God help me!), a freshman and a fifth grader. I began their last school filled with dread and ended it with hope. By the end of the year, after all, their father, myself, and the two teenagers had been vaccinated.

We had a great summer.

Then Delta came.

And now, déja vu. I am beginning this school year filled with dread. Yes, I am thrilled that 2/3 of my kids are vaccinated, but ye olde Delta seems pretty good at breaking through, and we need to keep my ten-year-old protected. This year there are no mask mandates to help with that, which is a shame, because the fact that masks worked last year and kept my kids in school ALL YEAR IN PERSON is undeniable. My ten-year-old is wearing a mask but he is one of only three in his class that are doing so.

Last year at this time, Ohio had a few hundred COVID cases a day. And masks at school were mandated. Now we are at about 1500-1800 daily. And no masks at school.

My head hurts from banging it on my desk. I pray that we can keep COVID out of our home, because I want my family to be healthy, and also because a quarantine on my husband will have a pretty negative financial impact on us. COVID repercussions can ripple out widely and long-term. But that doesn’t seem to concern a whole lot of people in my world for some reason.

I pray for my kids, but I also know the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Bad things happen to good people. Is it our turn now? I sure hope not. I can only control what I can control, and I’m doing my best.

P.S. Aren’t my babies lovely? I am so proud of them, and how they’ve handled all of this.

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Disloyal

Last summer, when I began to speak out about things I disagreed with in a Christian community that I am part of, I didn’t understand the pushback I got. To me, the issues were worthy of discussion and many more should have been speaking out.

I did not realize at the time that mere discussion, never mind questioning leadership decisions in some organizations was simply not allowed. I naively assumed that in a Christian community we can talk through these things.

But what I really, really did not understand was the virulence with which others responded to me. Those who sent me friend requests on Facebook only so they could send me messages berating me, or those people I already knew in real life who asked me written questions, then took screen shots and used my honest answers against me. Again, I was naive. I could not imagine that anyone would do that to me. Never imagined someone would start a conversation with me solely to “entrap” me.

Naive, naive, naive. That part’s on me I guess.

I have pondered this for months though. Why was the backlash so fierce? Why the virulence?

Friday, thanks to a tweet from an online friend, I figured it out. I have followed Amy Fritz on Twitter for quite awhile and I really enjoy her podcast, Untangled Faith. Last Friday when I happened to randomly read a thread of hers, something clicked inside me. I mean I practically heard the click. The realization was extremely profound for me. Here are her three tweets that affected me; you need to read them all to understand.

“Loyalty isn’t a fruit of the Spirit.” Amy is right. But in the Christian community, we sure do treat it like one. My cardinal sin wasn’t necessarily speaking out, or questioning this great Christian group I am affiliated with. It was being disloyal. Because speaking out and questioning at all is seen as disloyal. And when people felt their beloved community was threatened by a dissenting voice, their defense mechanisms fired up fast and furious-like.

I broke the rules. I let people see a crack in the full armor, apparently. Which is truly scandalous, because, if people know the truth, it might “hurt our witness,” right? And how will people EVER get saved if they know that Christians and Christian orgs are flawed and make mistakes?? How will people come to know Jesus if they see us DISAGREEING? The horror.

Just like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s George Washington, I don’t think Jesus Christ is a maiden in need of defending. There is nothing I can do to hurt Him. My questions and opinions certainly did Him no harm. And, I would argue, Christians who voice their differences and attempt to work them out in love do a lot more to further the kingdom than those who just gang up and gag up on the dissenters.

For now, I am still wearing my scarlet letter “D” for disloyal, (I hope and pray it won’t always be this way) but at least I finally understand why what I did was so “wrong.” And on the road to healing, I gotta say—that does help a bit.

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Dear Jimmy Carter

Photo by Edgar Colomba from Pexels

Dear Jimmy Carter,

Well, that was rather informal of me. Perhaps I should have started with Dear President Carter instead. But you’ve always seemed pretty informal to me, as American presidents go. Maybe it’s because you’ve always been called “Jimmy,” maybe it’s because you’ve got the most goofy, honest smile in politics, I don’t know. You just look so freaking nice.

Which is part of the reason I feel so bad for writing you off for so long. You were President of the United States when I was born, on Labor Day 1977, but I don’t remember your presidency. My first memory of a president belongs to Ronald Reagan. By the time I was old enough to even kind of get the big deal that presidential elections are, my family was staunchly into Reagan and Bush, and I just thought, since you’d been vanquished by Reagan (whom my grandmother adored), that you must be bad.

Of course I was a kid, and didn’t know any better. But by the time I was a teenager in the 1990’s, I firmly knew that Democrats were terrible and since you’d been one of them, you were probably best forgotten. No one ever explicitly told me this, but it was understood. I mean I HEARD that you were a staunch Southern Baptist (you and I had that in common), and a Sunday school teacher, but I couldn’t understand how you could be a Democrat and a real Christian, so I pretty much thought your faith wasn’t genuine, or that you were super misguided. Like, even if Jimmy means well, he’s waaaaaaay on the wrong team. No wonder he didn’t get re-elected! God was like, ‘nope, sorry Jimmy, you’re confusing people by saying you’re a Christian AND a democrat. You gotsta GO! You can still come to heaven one day but you need to get out of the white house, STAT.”

As a young adult I still just voted Republican because that’s what good Christians did in the late 90s/early 2000s, and once in awhile I’d hear about you building a Habitat for Humanity house or something and I’d be like, “that’s cool, Jimmy’s still sweet but how can he still be a Dem though?” I didn’t really bother to think about it or ask why. It didn’t matter. I knew which side was right and you stubbornly still weren’t on it.

Jimmy, I know we don’t know each other very well, so I’ll tell you something about me: I love history. I love reading stories that I don’t yet know. At some point a few years ago I became interested in the Iran hostage incident that plagued your Presidency. So I read a couple books about it. Watched a movie. Eventually, l even listened to a podcast about it. It was through learning about that story that I learned more about you, and the terrible situation you were in as President during that time.

I cannot imagine the weight that must have been on your shoulders. That whole debacle, the foreign policy stumbles, the lives lost and in the balance—I realize that took a terrible toll on you as a man, not just on your presidency. And I began to see, that your not being re-elected probably didn’t have much to do with God thinking Democrats are bad.

But I have come to see that what happened while you were in office contributed to evangelical Christians dumping you in droves. You weren’t manly enough, weren’t tough enough, didn’t fight abortion hard enough perhaps, and you never did get those hostages released. The Iranians waited until 2.2 seconds after you were out of office, just to spite you.

Mr. President, I am sorry for how all that went down. It must have hurt when your fellow Christians kicked you to the curb. But the proof is in the pudding, now: your character has remained after all these years, fully intact, your marriage a beautiful picture of love, your efforts on behalf of the poor and oppressed world-renowned. Like, Nobel Peace Prize renowned. You have done well, and proved yourself a good and faithful servant of the Christ you claim.

Dear, no, dearest Jimmy Carter, I’m sorry I thought your party affiliation was your identity all those years. I’m sorry I wrote you off and never bothered to take a closer look at your actions and character until you were an old man and I was nearly forty. Now I know you’re a national treasure, our oldest living president, and one whose legacy of love and service will live on and be properly lauded after you take up residence in heaven. I hope you can accept my apology and forgive me.

Gratefully,

Jenny

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Does Anybody Have a Map?

My fourteen-year-old daughter Sophie has broadway dreams. I’m biased, but of course I think she’s very talented (see for yourself). When she was nine I took her to see Wicked at our local performing arts center and that was it. She is, as I write this, at theater camp. She’s all in and I love watching her do what she loves. I was a theater kid myself in high school, so it’s something fun we can share, and thanks to her interests I’ve been listening to different broadway show soundtracks, even when I’ve not had the opportunity to see the show.

A socially distanced visit with family during lockdown

About a week ago, I hit play on the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack, as Sophie is working on the song “Requiem” in voice lessons and I wanted to hear the rest of the songs. When I heard the first track, “Anybody have a map?” my heart kinda stopped for a hot second. Sung by two struggling moms trying to parent two differently troubled sons, its lyrics pierced me.

Does anybody have a map? Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell but this is me just pretending to know…So where’s the map? I need a clue ’cause the scary truth is I’m flying blind and I’m making this up as I go.

I really needed this song in this past fifteen or so months. WHERE WAS THIS SONG? Even though I’ve just found it, it’s one hundred percent my pandemic parenting theme song. I’ve said it a hundred times since March 2020…aside from dealing with a child with significant developmental delays, pandemic parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I had no idea what I was doing. The whole time, I was stumbling along, relying on instinct and intuition and prayer, analyzing and assessing risks and hoping I was making the right decisions.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (well, at our start, March 2020) my kids were sixteen, thirteen and nine. Now they are seventeen, fourteen and ten. My youngest didn’t suffer too much disappointment due to me being The Mom That Always Said No, but my other two did. I mean they’re teenagers! It killed me to see their carefree lives disappear. I did everything I could to let them participate in safe activities, but…they kept getting invited to activities that I didn’t think were safe enough. Which made me feel fairly gaslit. No shade to those doing the inviting, we all have to do the risk assessment for our own families. But generally, I’d have to say no, face my kids’ disappointment, and hope I was making the right choice.

It sucked.

From the outset of this public health emergency, we agreed as a family to take it seriously and follow public health directives as long as they didn’t conflict with any directives God had already set out in the Bible. Obviously, here in Ohio, no health orders were in conflict with scripture. For both my older two kids and me, seeing those orders openly flouted by those who claim Christ was confusing and disorienting. My teens are both (up to this point, whew) pretty staunch rule followers. It’s not that they don’t question rules, but they know that like I’ve said, if God doesn’t object, they should obey. For my daughter in particular, anger was a struggle when it came to the rule breakers. I don’t mind righteous anger, it has a place, and I told her that. But helping her process all that in a healthy way was extraordinarily hard, especially when two people close to our family died from COVID.

I sure wish I’d had a map. I felt awfully lost at times.

Now both of my big kids are vaxxed to the max and back to living their best lives. It is a relief I can’t describe, to see them back to being normal teens. What our kids have lost is truly significant, I’m not downplaying it. I shed many tears over the pandemic parenting decisions I had to make and over seeing them disappointed. Time will tell how well Bobby and I did, I guess. But to be honest, protecting my husband was always the goal, because the loss my kids would have if they didn’t have their father is one million times worse than missing out on a year of parties and get togethers. And on that front, as we stand together today, a healthy family of five, I have no regrets.

I followed my parental instincts, and prayed a lot. God gave me those instincts, he gave me access to Him through prayer, He gave me the Holy Spirit. I know what’s right for us isn’t right for everyone and yet, it confuses me that so many other Christian parents came to completely opposite parenting pandemic parenting conclusions. My husband’s asthma and lack of paid sick time were a primary motivator, sure, but it is difficult to imagine myself throwing caution to the wind in the past year, regardless.

I am thankful to have made it to a less difficult part of this pandemic. My children have given me grace when I have asked for it. I will bear the trauma of this pandemic for a long time, I’m sure. Yet my family has our health, so we have everything.

That map would have been clutch though.

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I Turned Left on Red

My family lives in an old house on a busy street. It is the “main drag” of our neighborhood and for a couple of months now, the city has been putting in a new water main. Massive construction has resulted in two separate two-week spans of time when we could not get in and out of our own driveway during the day. One of these spans is currently ongoing. Thus, I’ve been forced to park 500 steps away at the local high school, and enter and exit my neighborhood from there, which is most of the time the complete opposite way I typically enter and exit our neighborhood.

It’s disorienting.

So disorienting that, the other day, I sat at the intersection pictured above which I’ve driven through thousands of times in the 20 years I’ve lived here, and I TURNED LEFT ON RED. I most usually go right there, and when I saw the arrows turn green for the right, I hit the gas….even though I was in the left lane.

Immediately realizing my mistake but too late to correct it, I screamed like a banshee the whole way through the intersection. Praise God, there was no one coming. We were safe (I had my ten and fourteen year olds with me). There was no police officer there, either, to give me a ticket I definitely would have deserved. I have no excuse. I was just…disoriented. My brain said “the green arrow is for you!” My muscle memory said I was in the lane I was used to being in. They were both wrong.

When recounting this major oopsie for my husband later, it hit me: the last fifteen months have been as spiritually and politically disorienting as having my street torn up and access to my home restricted has been physically disorienting.

This past year I’ve been told that what I clearly knew was wrong was actually right, that truth is flexible, that good character is nice but not essential, that those with our best interests in mind actually just want to hurt and oppress us, that liberty is more important than loving your neighbor, that protecting your loved ones is actually living in fear, and that rights are above rules (especially that golden one).

Dis. Orient. Ing.

I turned left on red in real life. It was an accident. The irony is that many in my community think I have turned LEFT toward blue and away from red in the political sense. But that is not at all true, however any turns I’ve made in that sphere have been very much on purpose. What is true is that I’m trying to engage politics (as my friends at the AND Campaign would say) not as a progressive, not as a conservative, but as a Christian. I’m an independent.

What I have learned as an independent is that it’s a shame that some things that I don’t think SHOULD be political most definitely ARE: abortion, caring for the poor, racism, and somehow now – public health.

Disorienting.

The Great Disorientation of 2020 has not been without lessons. The biggest is that I need to keep my eyes in God’s Word. It is the compass that, along with the Holy Spirit, will keep my discernment sharp, and the path to truth more clear, even when the world seems to be tilting on its axis. After a study of Galatians by my boo thang Beth Moore with my other boo thang my sister-in-law, also named Beth, let’s just say I was properly re-oriented…and a little skeptical that a lot of my fellow Christians probably don’t actually read the Bible that much.

I hope I’m wrong there! But in any case, I highly recommend it.

And of course, I also recommend following all traffic laws.

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My neck, my back, my anxiety attack

I haven’t written something for a personal blog in years. And oh, how I’ve missed it. There are many reasons for this: the chief one is that for about four years I had a job that required me to write two to three original articles a day. Yes, a day. That sucked out all my creativity and I had nothing left for myself.

New shirt, who dis?

However, I left that job about two years ago and I still haven’t found my writing voice, despite some lite freelancing that should, in theory, have left a lot of room for creativity.

The truth is, once I could write again, I muzzled myself. There were people I didn’t want to know all my business, and those people had a habit of religiously reading every word I ever wrote. Also, in the years since I last blogged (did you know I was once, with my cousin Emily, a mediocre successful mom blogger? Read it all at my old blog. My kids were cute and did crazy things! Now they’re beautiful and don’t want me to write about them on the internet. Read this one if you’re gonna go over there, it’s my fave.) I got OLD. Truly I’m only 43, but wooooow have my 40s changed me. I am now the proud owner of a chronic back issue and generalized anxiety disorder. Because anxiety is fun, I also have some specific triggers that are really, really, NOT GENERALIZED that will send me into a spiral real darn quick. I am happily medicated for the generalized stuff but currently on the hunt for a therapist (why is it so hard?) for the specific stuff. I struggle to keep my triggers from controlling me, and some days I want to be a full-blown agoraphobic because most of the triggers are outside the confines of my home. (Not all. Text me back immediately, husband or child, or I am sure beyond an un-reasonable doubt that you are dead in a ditch.)

Ahem. Maybe this has gotten off track. All that to say, anxiety is straight up exhausting and it has interfered with my ability to write. It takes a lot of effort for me to skirt my way around it as I focus on parenting my three children every day and doing what they need me to do for them. (For context, if you are just now discovering me, they are 17-year-old Joshua, 14-year-old Sophie and 10-year-old Jonah. My husband of 21 years is the long-suffering and amazing Bobby.) After all that effort there hasn’t been a lot left over, because…

…in 2020 we had a pandemic from hell and an election from hell, y’all. I may not have blogged for awhile, but I was very open about my feelings about both on the old Facebook. In my gross naiveté, I was legit floored when members of my Christian community disagreed with me about the pandemic’s seriousness, legitimacy, and about following the public health rules set forth for us. I still do not get it. I took a lot of crap about it, but my family was committed to being as careful as possible to protect others and chiefly, my husband who has asthma and no paid sick time and is our primary provider. I am not a pessimist, but I have never, ever, ever thought “this couldn’t happen to me.” I’ve always been aware of the mortality of my loved ones. Perhaps this is because my mom’s dad dropped dead of a heart attack at age 44 with no warning, (before I was born), or that the same happened to my very healthy 3rd grade best friend’s dad when he was 42, or that my beloved cousins’ mom died of cancer at age 36 when I was a child.

I was going to do whatever it took to keep my family safe, including my parents in their 70s (my dad is immunocompromised.)

And then, COVID proved me right: none of us are immune. My mother’s dear friend died of it on November 30, 2020 and my beloved father-in-law’s wife on December 9. I hate to say this, but it’s true: my father-in-law’s wife was the ultimate cautionary tale. She didn’t believe it was real, she didn’t change her behavior to avoid it, she is exactly the person with health issues who could not survive it, and she didn’t.

You would think people would not come at me when I posted pro-public-health stuff after this, but NOPE.

Through all this, I will say that it was hard for me to have my kids in in-person school all year and yet I am very thankful that they were able to be in all year. For various reasons, that is really all I can say about that…but it was a challenge that affected both me and my older two children. We are working through it.

Man, I’m all over the place again. Okay. Back on track.

The pandemic changed me, A LOT. I will never be the same, and in some ways that is good, and in some ways that is sad. But the other thing that changed me (speaking of jadedness) is the militant support of my Christian community for the 45th President of the United States, whose name I can’t bear to type. I never voted for him (and I do request that that fact goes in my obituary when I go. I consider it essential.) OOOH GIRL people did NOT like it when they found out I wasn’t who they thought I was and I lit up my Facebook with posts and articles in opposition to him. I got unfriended a lot, I also unfriended anyone who called me a baby-killer. That’s where I draw the line. Yes, I’m pro-life from womb to tomb, no, I won’t vote for an evil person who says he is too. No Supreme Court appointment is worth it.

And then on Memorial Day, we watched a big, strong, Black man get murdered by a police officer. And it was a long, slow, torturous death, in which the man’s strength could not help him, from which the pleading bystanders could not help him, and he left this world in the most public, cruel, and evil fashion. His name was George Floyd, and his death literally lit the nation on fire. And yes, I do think the murder was much, much, much worse than the riots.

I’d been quietly pursuing learning about racial justice since about 2015. God changed my white heart and white thinking through several books, from hearing Black people speak at conferences at churches, listening to their podcasts, LISTENING! Listening is key, my friends. I still have a lot to learn but after George Floyd’s death, I stopped learning quietly or silently. A lot of people in my life didn’t and don’t like it. {Too bad.}

Then the insurrection of January 6, 2021 came. And I knew it would. He TOLD US it was going to happen, why was no one believed the madman when he showed his true colors? So I waited on my couch, sick to my stomach, too scared to turn on the TV, for it to unfold. And it did. I kept tabs on my phone when it did. And I raged.

And then I lost about 15 Facebook friends the week after.

BYEEEEE.

I got active on Twitter because it’s a safer space for me. And because I was told, so many times in both direct and indirect ways to SHUT UP, I resolved to continue speaking out.

YES, for the unborn. But ALSO YES for my Black American brothers and sisters, who my Christian die-hard Republican community seems to just want to accuse of causing trouble, and whose systemic oppression in this nation they just want to straight up deny. For the poor and marginalized, which the die-hard Christian Republican community doesn’t seem to want to help through legislation or with tax dollars, or by getting their hands dirty (again, a generalization you guys, but I know so many people in real life who won’t leave their suburb.)

All this to say, I have changed. I am hurt, I am confused, I am jaded. I am older and wiser and sadder, too. But I am also more determined. And one thing that has never changed is my unwavering belief in the person, holiness, work, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Christians may have hurt me, but Christ never has. So all that I say and do, I do with Him and for Him—and all He does through me, He does in spite of me. He makes my weakness my strength. I may mess up, but I am never mal-intentioned. All my outspokenness is filtered through a pursuit of His teachings, of what I’m learning in scripture. A lot of my Christian community has a hard time believing that. But see, I refuse to fight against the culture. I am too busy fighting for my neighbor.

So here I am, writing again. Opening myself up. Not shutting up. Wanting to learn and process what I’m learning. I hope you’ll walk this journey with me, and share what you’re learning, too.

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Pyromaniacal Tendencies

I would like to say what I would like to say without there being any consequences.  Whether it’s because I want to make a funny joke, or win a fight, or call someone on their crap, whether my motivation is to encourage, to soothe, to convince, or to hurt, I want to say what’s on my mind.  I’m not good at faking it, and my spirit bucks against censorship like a wild horse throws a saddle.  And I want to rationalize the unleashing of my tongue, because after all, “Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, Lord.” (Psalm 139:4, NIV.)

But some things should remain between me and God.  Because as much as I want to say them, I can’t say them with a heart full of love.  Because sometimes I want to tell someone off just because I’m right and not because it’s the right thing to do.  Because saying it wouldn’t change anything, wouldn’t right any wrongs, would be cathartic for a moment but then create years of tension.

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire…it corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire… (James 3:5-6, NIV).

I struggle with this more than I can really say.  Sometimes controlling my tongue, my ego, my pride,  is so difficult it’s physically painful.

Oh, God, sometimes I want to be an arsonist.

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