Saturday, November 29, 2008

What I'm Thinking About

I'm tired. My 7 hour trip turned into a 91/2 hour long excursion [and most definitely brought out of me [much to my dismay] a little bit of road rage [like, honestly - there is no freaking car in front of you, why on earth do you feel it necessary to brake THAT much??! [and, okay, I know cops are just doing their jobs - they've got quotas, whateve - but SERIOUSLY, 95 has been a parking lot for the past 3 hours, do you really need to pull him over? That just makes the rest of us sad]]] .

Oh well. 91/2 hours is better than the time we accidentally drove to Tennessee. That took 12.

Hi. I've missed you. I attempted to blog a couple times while I was in Charlotte, but it never materialized. I had a wonderful week. Filled with great friends, family, food and shopping.

Shopping. It was so fun. I went to thrift stores and bargain shops with my bffs and my mom. Mom and I also perused a fantabulous outlet mall in Gaffney, South Carolina. Very nice indeed. Good good quality time, and because of the locales, I didn't spend very much money.

Buuuut, of course, as I'm sure you've surmised, I had to break my fast to get in on the shopping mania.

I had sort of decided before I left that I was going to take a leave of absence from my fast while I was on vacation [I had definitely decided it once I was out of town] - kind of a fast from the fast. I don't know if you're supposed to do that. I know rules and regulations end up making things woefully legalistic, but still. I don't know if it was okay. I feel at peace [I think]. I repented [and asked for God to reveal if I had sinned].

This is little off topic, but seems like a good time to bring it up - I hate the word "sin." I avoid it at all costs. I feel like, by typing that word, I am instantly alienating anyone reading this blog who does not share my beliefs.

Now, having said that, I should say that I think sin is very real and relevant to our lives. But, I think it's misused. And misunderstood. More than that, I think it skews [sp?] the focus. Instead of working out what to do to glorify God, we put our energy into deciding what not to do in order to save ourselves.

I think that's dangerous. And, quite possibly sinful. If I may use so bold a term.

It also bugs me that we have developed a sin-o-meter rating system. Murder and rape top the list. While gossip goes virtually unnoticed. I should mention that it equally bugs me that the Bible says that we should not rate sins. I've wrestled with this so much. The Bible says all sins are created equal. But what kind of God created a world where the horrific sin of molestation is equal to some girlie gossip?

I don't get it. And it used to keep me up at night. Most people who know me know that I'm ultra sensitive to the evils of gossip. But, still. The consequences of rape can mess up a girl for life, while that same girl may not be affected one iota from bit of juicy gossip spilled out about her love life [well [and however], I feel compelled to say, it may affect her tremendously, or, act as a straw to break her already-wounded back].

Consequences. Forgiveness. Guilt.

I haven't figured it all out yet[don't know if I'm supposed to]. But I think those three things are instrumental [like a piano to a Ben Folds].

I've sinned before [shocking, right?]. Every time the consequences were different. I got a DWI in 2004. I paid SO much for that mistake. I paid with my time and my money. I've lost jobs, among other things. But I met people in rehab, those whose one night of bad judgment had turned them into murderers. And so I know that I got off lightly. Because that could have just as easily been me.

I've sinned in others ways, too. I've lied. I've cheated. I've never been caught. I had to live with the knowledge of what I did, but the actual penalties were minuscule.

I have this sin that haunts me. I was a bad mom. For the first two+ years of my daughter's life I put my wants above her needs.

I've repented so many times. But, still, I start to cry at the very thought. The other day I held the newborn of a very close friend. Then, out of nowhere, I just burst into tears. Instantly I was transformed back into that 20 year old girl, scared and selfish, terrified of making a fatal mistake. And in the meantime, making dozens daily.

I didn't know until that moment the long term consequences of my actions. Yes, I have been forgiven. God is so good. And despite my inadequacies, the Lord has filled me with hope, peace and love [and blessed me with an absolutely amazing little girl]. But the guilt still haunts me. And though I know that guilt is not helpful in the least, I can't seem to get rid of it.

I know I can. With God, all things are possible [cliché, though very true].

But it's difficult. And I get the feeling there will be a lot of work involved. And that's okay. I'm up for it.

This sin-o-meter. It must have something to do with consequences. And forgiveness. And guilt.

Maybe not necessarily in that order.

We ask and God forgives. But we rate because we face the consequences. We feel the guilt. And it hurts.

So, who knows. I don't. I don't get how sins are equal and I don't get how they're not. But God saw our mistakes and felt our hurt and instead of condemning us, sent Jesus to live and dwell and weep with us. With us. The Creator in communion with the creation.

This gives new meaning to the term "relational." To "communion." And, to "sin."

Oh dear.

One of my favorite quotes is, "I write to find out what I'm thinking about." [Joan Didion]

I would have never guessed that this what what I was thinking about. I thought I was just tired.

Oh well. Good. Fine. Okay.

Happy Sunday!

[Editor's note: that beautiful windblown picture [a candid shot taken outside of Moe's Restaurant in Charlotte, NC] was taken by our good friend/great photographer Daniel Berryhill. It was this picture that convinced us he would be the perfect person to photograph our wedding. He graciously agreed, and the wedding shots were just as lovely. I had to take this opportunity to sing his praises. (:]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Third Way

I was supposed to be doing my homework. I yanked myself away from my big comfy bed and my sweet sexy husband to work on a stupid paper. Only to discover that it requires watching a movie I have no way of viewing on this blustery fall eve.

Sigh. Jermaine's 12 hour day has put him into a deep sleep. I could wake him, but he has to be up in less than 6 hours and it just seems cruel [though I'm sure he would quite disagree].

I have to be up early in the morning. It is the last full day before I venture out of town for a week and there is much [too much] to do [and now I must add watching a movie that I don't care to see and writing a 3 page paper on it [a paper I promised myself I would finish by tonight [too bad I didn't read the actual assignment informing me of the movie-watching mania [not-reading-the-assignmentitis is a horrible disease I am constantly afflicted with by the way [an immense shame considering it's preventable [oh - but thank God I read it tonight [instead of my usual habit of reading it for the first time the night before it's due]]]]]]].

So, all that to say that I'm going to be tired tomorrow. But a blog is worth missing some sleep. And I really want to share this blog with you. So, I'm going to kick back with my keyboard, my computer screen and a yummy Sam Adams Octoberfest [thank God again - that Octoberfest is still available] and share. Thank you [for letting me share].

I was given the extreme pleasure of preaching my very first sermon this past Sunday. For me this event was comparable to my wedding day [less presents, tho]. I loved everything about it. I loved the way it humbled me. I loved standing in front of a group of people sharing good stuff that God had shared with me. I loved preparing for it. I loved deciding on a topic [and changing my mind about a bazillion times]. I loved that some people were affected. I loved praying before, during, after. I just loved it.

I've felt a pull towards becoming a pastor for a while now. Shortly after I moved to Maryland, I think. And when I delve back into the first days of my Christian walk, I realize I felt it then, too [though I brushed it aside because I felt ridiculously, hopelessly, and completely unqualified [and I was [and I still am [but that's why I'm sure now]]].

This [I think] solidified it.

I've haven't met very many people who feel the way I do. Most pastors I know didn't set out to become that way. It just happened. Not me. I've always known my talents. Writing. Speaking. Reading. Teaching. Being on stage. I struggled with not knowing what I wanted to be when I "grew up" for years. In high school I had the vague sense that I wanted to be famous. Though I couldn't [and didn't try to] tell you what for. I also wanted to create and be Editor-In-Chief of my own magazine [I called it Gypsy Blood - though in hindsight that's not a very good name]. I wanted it to showcase all the underground good stuff in the world [my examples at the time were - 1) The exciting underground DC rap scene, and, 2) Little League coaches]. In high school I was also heavily involved in theatre - a trend that continued for the next several years, well into college [and - I would say - in some ways still continues to this day]. As a result I've entertained more than two [more than, like, 1000] thoughts that my famousness would be a result of a future stellar acting career.

But, you know how the story goes - first came the drugs. And then the baby. And then there wasn't time for anything else [I couldn't even make it into college [let alone establish myself as a famous person]].

I've never wanted riches. Fame has always been my Achilles Heel.

While I was Wild Brandy, I believed [very passionately] that I was meant to be a rapper. I was enthralled by Eminem [and still am] and thought that maybe I could be the female version. I worked very hard on my raps. They were really bad. I had lost a good number of brain cells at that time and sadly, it showed in my writing.

When I became a Christian two things happened [though not at the same time]. First, I decided to write lyrics about good God stuff. Second, I met Jermaine, and he introduced me to The Greats [Lauryn Hill, Black Thought and The Roots, NAS, Ahmad Jones, and countless others I can't think of at the moment].

Two more things happened. First, I wrote my very first song. People loved it. Some of you know this. I performed it at a bunch of churches in Charlotte. I got to stand up in front of 5000 people [at Forest Hill Church [not all at one time, by the way [one big church, two or three services]] and "rap." That was to date the closest I've ever come to the fame I crave. The pastor of that mega church [the one where I was a only a humble housekeeper] wrote me a note praising my performance. So did one of the coaches of a big time Charlotte sports team [sorry - I can't remember which one [sports is really really not my thing]. And, to top it off, Anthony Hamilton's manager approached me about signing a record deal.

I'm not even kidding.

But, like I said, two things happened. And the second was that I was made to realize that this was not the path I was supposed to take.

That was so painful.

Let me just say that I'm not ruling out a rap career. With God all things are possible. And if He calls me there again I am SO there.

But He hasn't yet. And I do feel another call. And this call takes all the talents I've known about for years and weaves them together into this beautiful tapestry. And, at the same time, it takes all the weaknesses I've also known [and obsessed about] for years and places me in an arena where it's not only okay to share them, but it's good and healing - not only to myself, but to others as well.

I want to be a pastor. And that's what He's called me to be.

Oh My.

I have gone so totally off track. I was planning on writing about what I actually preached about [which was, I should add, The Myth of Redemptive Violence and The Third Way [the way of Jesus]].

Another night, I guess. Because it is definitely bedtime.

I need to add one more thing before I go, though.

Satan is attacking [much like as he did at time of my short-lived rap career].

In the past three days, one of my friends [who is like a brother to me] was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Another miscarried a child that she and her husband had been waiting for a very long time. Another found out that her boyfriend [of three years] has been unfaithful.

These have been staggering blows. To me and to my loved ones. I cry with my friends and I cry out to God on their behalf. I lament. And scream. And whimper. And ask to be held. And ask that they be held even closer, even tighter, even more secure by our Abba Father.

I ask, with every fiber in my being, that you do the same. And I thank you for doing so.

At the same time, God is presently teaching about gratitude. The days leading up to these recent events have been spectacular. Filled with many blessings and I thanked God for as many as I could articulate. And I want to stop there. But, He is teaching me to give thanks in all things.

I heard a story the other day. Two women in a concentration camp in World War II. They were reading the Bible shortly after they arrived and the particular passage said that we should be thankful for all things. At first, one of the women absolutely refused to be thankful for the fleas that infested their barracks. The other protested until finally the first relented and together they both thanked God for the fleas. Weeks passed. They found that they could hold Bible study with little to no interruption from the guards. They thanked God for this too. Eventually they found why. It seems that the guards did not want to enter the barracks because of the fleas.

I choked a little today when the thought of being thankful for these recent and horrible events popped into my head. I did not want to thank God for them.

But I trust Him. And I love my friends who are hurting. So I did. I don't know why. I don't understand. But I think that's okay. And I know God has a plan.

Good night.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lots and Lots

[Editor's Note: I just took the exam to become an aerobics intructor. The first two pictures are Sadie, covered in stickers, helping me remember my bones and muscles [another brilliant idea from Jess]. The last picture is Sadie's very scary flower fairy Halloween costume.]

I'm busy. I'm really really busy. There is a lot going on in the next few days and weeks. I need to stay focused and not waste time.

But, I really want to share some of the events of the past week. And, I really really wanted to share the correlating pictures.

So, I'm gonna. And I'm going to try not to dawdle. So I can soon return to the huge pile of homework that's sitting next to the computer waiting for me.

Where to start? Hmm, well, I broke my fast. Ugh. On Halloween. Jermaine and I bought Mcdonalds. I tried to pretend that it was okay because he really wanted it [and it was not me egging us on [as it usually is] even though it was still my idea]. But, a couple days later I bought Pizza Hut. Then later I "forgot" to pack my lunch for school and so I bought a tuna melt. And then a couple days after that I did it again and bought Chick-Fil-A.


Now, part of the buying was because I wasn't sure how to proceed after breaking the fast. Do I just continue? Stop and recommit? Forget it completely and go back to my normal life of buying too much stuff [my bank account can't handle that option]?

I didn't know what to do, but as you can see, it kept escalating.

And then my friend Jess asked a question that I deemed brilliant [she termed it "silly", but I think she's pretty silly herself]. She asked, "Have you prayed and repented?"



And so I did.

And now, a couple days later, I think I have a working answer. I think God does want me to recommit. I also think I may need to redefine. And that list will be more thoughtful and less spontaneous than the last.

Yay God.

There is more, but I've decided to stop there and get back to the grind.

Wish me luck.