31 October 2013

Halloween: Relax, Christians. Have a Milky Way.

This is what Halloween meant to me as a child, and what it means to about 99 percent of children everywhere:

This is what Halloween means to a lot of Christian ADULTS. I didn't want anyone to stumble, so I altered the image just a smidge:

I guess these are Future Satanists of America?

When I was a kid, there was this big house in my friend's development that we referred to as "the White House." It looked like the White House, but on a much smaller scale. They didn't answer their door on Trick-Or-Treat night and everyone assumed that really old people who couldn't get around very well lived there. Why else would someone diss trick-or-treaters?

One year, just to be stupid, my friend and I rang the White House doorbell until the occupants couldn't stand it anymore, and a young boy finally opened the door. 

He was like, "What do you want?"

We were like, "Candy, you idiot!"

He was like, "We don't celebrate Halloween."

We were all, "Huh? What do you mean you don't 'celebrate' Halloween?"

He was all, "I don't know. We just don't celebrate it."

Dumbfounded, we walked away and hit up the good neighbors, the ones who clearly didn't hate children. 

When I became a Christian, I quickly learned that a lot of believers are anti-Halloween and all of the trappings that come with it. They see it as celebrating evil, the Devil's holiday, and it's not something they want any part of. I understand why and I see their point of view, but I don't totally agree.

Michele Blake - who devotes much of her time to "researching the false claims of psychology and psychiatry since she became a Christian 15 years ago" (that's another blog for another day) wrote an article on why she kissed Halloween goodbye. It's a well thought-out piece delivered gently, but I think she's over-thinking some of it. My thoughts:

1. She mentions the tradition of Samhain, which is an ancient Celtic festival in which people would dress up in costume and light bonfires in the hopes of warding off ghosts. The Celts were not Christians, and therefore couldn't be expected to follow Christian theology.

Now, as they started to convert to Christianity, Pope Gregory IV turned Samhain into
All Souls' Day (later All Saints' Day) - a holiday resembling Samhain that was designed to win new converts to Christ. While this might sounds just terrible to some of you, keep in mind that we do this all the time with Christian rock, Christian movies, and even our worship - we update our culture (though it's sad that Christianity has it's own culture) to reflect the rest of society's in order to appeal to more people. It's just that, back in the day, they were much more creepy about it, but they had good intentions.

So, Blake is at least partly correct - Christians shouldn't be putting on scary costumes and dancing around fires to ward off spirits, nor do we have any need to. Of course, I don't remember doing any of this as a child. I don't remember anyone else doing it, either. Maybe Blake lives in Appalachia?

She makes an excellent point, though - you shouldn't dine with demons. I concur. They burp, lick their butter knives, and eat with their hands. No class at all.

2. Blake says: "Putting a Christian label over the top of a pagan practice does not make it pleasing to God. In fact, we are to get rid of all pagan practices and have no part of them." 

Just because something started out as a pagan tradition, that doesn't mean that it has to be celebrated that way. I can only assume that Blake does not have any Christmas lights, nor does she decorate a Christmas tree, since both are pagan traditions. Also, she must celebrate Christmas on a different day, since Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25.
I guess she doesn't celebrate Christmas at all.

And, again, I can only assume she does not listen to Chrisitian rock of any sort, as this would clearly be affixing a new label on something very worldly.

3. Sharing food with someone represents a sacred connection.

I'm not sure if Blake is referring to Halloween candy or not, but it's hard for me to wrap my mind around little kids committing a heinous sin by eating a Snickers bar in a SpongeBob costume. This one is over the top. Moving on...

5. We play how we practice.
"We think we can entertain the macabre, erect gravestones in our front yards, and prop dead 'bodies' on our front porches. 'Oh, but they’re not real,' we demur. Then we are appalled when a 17-year-old has a fascination with dead bodies and decides to act on his morbid desires."

For the record, I don't do this. I know zombies and bloody body parts are all the rage these days, but I'm not into it. I have a Dollar Store inflatable Jack-O-Lantern hanging from my balcony and that's about as exciting as it gets. I very much agree with Blake that this is a super crappy way for Christians to "decorate." We're supposed to celebrate life, not death.

I can't argue with this one. Our society is obsessed with the macabre. I don't necessarily agree that Halloween drives teenagers en masse to go out and murder any more than anything else does, but this sort of stuff does desensitize us en masse, and that's a scary thing to consider.

6. If we forego Halloween but give our children a substitute celebration instead, are we sending the message that “I am trying to compensate because I think you’re missing out on something really amazing”? I want my children to believe what I myself believe: that we have been given something so much better than this! No more bobbing for apples in the church basement (a pagan fertility ritual, by the way) when I have true joy in knowing God’s true Son!

The parties. The trick-or-treating. The bobbing for apples. The costume contests.
Yes, it's amazing. Yes, these church celebrations are substitutions, and they should be.
Why shouldn't Christians be able to have as much fun as everyone else, if it's within the walls of a church and free of death and darkness? Why in the world would we, as believers, allow the ENEMY to have all the fun? Wanna fight back? Transform a dark holiday into something fun and innocent. Reclaim it.

7. Second, God has told us to focus on what is pure, noble, right, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8). Is Halloween any of these things? No, and therefore it is unworthy of any of our time or thoughts.

Depends on what you're focusing on. If you're focusing on candy, looking cute, and little kids having fun - without the zombies, vampires, and corpses - then you are living out Philippians 4:8.

8. We often say we don't want to deprive our children of candy, of dressing up, of the "fun" they have by participating in this holiday. But God has already told us the customs of the world are futile! 

And, yet, Blake has a blog.
She probably drives a car.
Has electricity.
Isn't Amish.

9. Even if we think our costumes are not sinful (as if it’s the costume that’s the problem and not the fact that we are still giving reverence to the holiday itself), what about others who have decided that there is nothing wrong with their costumes either? After all, they aren’t really practicing witchcraft, just dressing up as witches. So do we excuse the dressing up but draw the line at Ouija boards? What about pretending to cast spells? We have made ourselves the judges of what is good and evil instead of following God’s command to avoid even the spoils of the enemy.

You can't do anything about other people. You can't expect non-Christians to act like Christians, and you can't crawl into the hearts of believers and make them believe the right things. This is life, not just Halloween. My advice: don't let your kids dress like demonic characters, don't buy a Ouija board, don't cast spells, and don't judge others. If you take little Jimmy trick-or-treating, avoid the house with the coffin on the front porch. Explain why. It's really pretty simple.

10. Perhaps the reason I finally let go of Halloween was precisely because I didn’t want to. 

If that sounds like a contradiction, let me explain. You see, the very fact that I kept coming up with reasons and excuses so I could continue celebrating eventually led me to question my motives. Why was I hanging on so tightly? Was it possible that my celebration of Halloween had become an idol to me? Certainly it appeared so, because still I embraced the traditions of men even when I knew God’s heart on the matter.

I don't know, maybe because you know you did it as a kid and it was fun and you never sacrificed any babies or kittens. Maybe because you know Halloween can be whatever you make it to be.

Maybe because, deep down, you know your kids could be having a lot of fun.

I appreciate anyone who takes a stand, even if I don't totally agree with it. Blake's article was well thought-out. I don't doubt her sincerity and she obviously loves God and wants to please Him.

I disagree that Christians can't take something that used to be dreadful and make it life-breathing. If Halloween makes you stumble, don't celebrate it. If God has laid it on your heart not to participate, by all means, listen to that small, still voice.

Personally, I think children can dress up like fairies and ninjas and collect candy bars without any ill effects, and certainly without offending the Lord. Especially at a church harvest party. 

I think we need to stop giving the Devil so much credit and take back what is rightfully ours - childlike joy, innocence, fun, and laughter - whatever that means to you. Church parties included.


29 October 2013

Fukushima Radiation: For Those Who Prefer to Catch Their Fish Pre-Fried

Fukushima radiation.
It ain't good.


Jesse Ventura Has Lots of Theories, Little Facts

OK, before you read this blog post, read THIS:
I'm not dissing all conspiracy theories. I'm dissing Jesse Ventura's TACTICS and the FORMAT of his show. Truthfully, I don't trust anyone in our government and nothing would surprise me anymore.

All right? Are we friends now? Great. Read on.

I love conspiracy theories. They fascinate me. I even believe some of them.

Take the JFK assassination, for example. I don't believe the President was killed by a lone gunman, or that Lee Harvey Oswald was the guy who killed him. Lots of reasons why, but too many to go into in this blog post.

I have my doubts that the explosion of TWA flight 800 in 1996 was caused by overheated fuel tank vapors. I even spoke extensively with the father of one of the Montoursville High School students who died in the crash years ago before his death (R.I.P., he was such a sweetheart of a guy) and even though he accepted the official explanation, I still did not.

I just think it's too fishy that the Navy was test-firing missiles just off the coast at the time of the crash, and that thousands of witnesses reported seeing something being fired into the air.

[Incidentally, flight 800 - which occurred the summer after my junior year of high school - horrified me so badly that it's one of the reasons I despise flying to this day.]

If you're interested in conspiracies, though, do yourself a favor: look beyond Jesse Ventura.

Jesse Ventura is a former mayor, governor, Navy seal, and "fighter," as he likes to refer to himself. Actually, he was a WWF (now WWE) wrestler known as Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

Now, I'll admit, I think pro wrestling is totally lame. But that's not why I consider Jesse Ventura to be a bad source of info. The problem is that the "Conspiracy Theory" cast (investigators?) rarely arrive at any logical conclusions.

Tonight I watched the episode about the Ozarks conspiracy.
The theory is that the Illuminati - described by LiveScience as "an 18th-century secret society made up of numerous influential intellectuals and freethinkers of the time" that is supposedly still operating today - is building an ENORMOUS (72,000 sq. feet!!!) mansion in Highlandville, Missouri, that is really a fortress for a new one-world government that will form after some future apocalyptic event. Underground cities are also allegedly being built to save a chosen few to survive and repopulate the world.

I should also mention that this apocalyptic event will be perpetrated BY the Illuminati, and that the man who is building and funding all this crap is a man named Steven T. Hunt. Hunt is Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Overwatch Geospatial Operations and was a CIA agent.

Rich intellectuals trying to take over the planet? Population control? Underground cities?
Sadly, I can believe it. It's just that Jesse Ventura hasn't proven it to me.

During the team's investigation, they arrived at the following conclusions:

-A local sheriff agreed to drive them up to the mansion, but would not let them get out and look around. In fact, he locked them in the car. Therefore, there is a conspiracy going on.

-The team drove into one of the underground tunnels and found that it was large enough to accommodate living space for thousands of people, not to mention a 2-lane road large enough to accommodate tractor-trailers. They also found that the underground area is connected to the railroad. Therefore, this MUST be where the Illuminati plans to relocate their chosen few when said apocalyptic event occurs. Large storage areas and the railroad connection prove that this elite intellectual army is hoarding food, fuel, and whatever else they need to survive the pending cataclysmic kaboom.

-The Ozarks are smack dab in the middle of the U.S. and surrounded by stupid hillbillies, making it the perfect place to plan their New World Order without being detected. These people are really, really counting on the locals' stupidity and lack of real teeth. I'm a little surprised they didn't set their circus down where I live.

-Read the Word "OZARK." What do you see? Nothing? Well, then, Sean Stone thinks you're not looking hard enough. Who is Sean Stone, by the way? A young, handsome, brooding guy who rides a motorcycle and wears a leather jacket. He is also Oliver Stone's son, which is how he is introduced at the beginning of the show. It amuses me that they don't mention the fact that he studied at Oxford or Princeton, or that he wrote his thesis on the New World Order. He's just "Sean Stone, son of Oliver Stone.
I digress.
Here's Stone's take on what "OZARK" really means:

Jesse Ventura and his investigators speculate that the Huff property will actually serve as a kind of Noah's Ark -- or palace of Oz -- for the Illuminati once the world crumbles. The town it's based near, after all -- Ozark -- is a combo of the two ideas.

Are you amused yet? That one just came out of nowhere.

My point is this: you can make anything look shady, but that doesn't make it shady.
Ventura delivers every line of the show like he's fixin' to body slam you onto a table in the wrestling ring, intending to make you quake with fear and believe every word he says.

But real answers are hard to come by. Most of the time, their interviews get canceled, their visits fall through, and they use that as "proof" that something sinister is going on. In reality, it could just be that people think Ventura and his show are a joke and they don't want to be associated with them. It could be that bunkers are being built, supplies are being hoarded, but it has nothing to do with the Illuminati or a plot to shave the earth's population down by a few billion people. It could just be what you call preparedness. It could be that no matter how many honest answers Ventura gets, he doesn't believe them. He is always saying things like "we obviously made him nervous" and "you could tell Bob didn't want to answer our questions." I'd be nervous if Jesse Ventura asked me for directions to Dairy Queen, so that doesn't mean anything.

In another episode, Jesse Ventura takes on Plum Island.
Plum Island is a real place near Suffolk County, New York, and it's scary as all heck. Legitimately so - animal diseases like Foot And Mouth are studied there, and the facility - which is now run by the Department of Homeland Security - has a long history of outbreaks and poor safety practices. Security is lax, and any old terrorist could sail up to it on a boat and blow it to smithereens, contaminating our food supplies and potentially sickening humans.

Jesse and the cast rattle on about how "open" Plum Island is to terrorism or catastrophic error, but then get pissed off when they try to approach the island and are met with security vehicles and the Coast Guard tailing them. How dare they fear a former governor? Ventura spouts, "Who do they think I am, a f**king terrorist?"

But, of course, Ventura uses that to back up his claims that something nefarious is happening at Plum Island, including human experiments.

Take your pick, guv. Do you want security or not? You're not in office anymore. You're an old guy with a ponytail who is hosting a cable TV show. The old rules don't apply anymore.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. I think Jesse Ventura sometimes gets smoke confused with the vapor from the hot air that comes out of his mouth. Not all the time, mind you. Sometimes, I think he's dead-on. (His take on the JFK conspiracy, for example.)

But most of the time, there is a lot of driving, talking on the phone, and speculating, but no real fact-finding.

So, if you're into conspiracy theories, take this show with a grain of salt. Look beyond Jesse Ventura. Don't make him your conspiracy textbook. Enjoy "Conspiracy Theory" as the informative comedy that is sometimes - usually - is.

28 October 2013

The Walking Dead & Toy Story are Pretty Much the Same

This is for you fans of the very gruesome show "The Walking Dead."
Christian parents everywhere will now ban their children from watching Pixar movies.
Why? Because it seems "The Walking Dead" and "Toy Story" are pretty much the same story.
Enjoy. :-)

24 October 2013

There is no "Good" Cancer

About a year or so ago, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Fortunately, the tumor was removed and no other treatment was needed. No nasty radiation or chemo. Still, my friend was terrified. While walking out of a doctor's appointment with her one afternoon, I said, "At least it was easy to treat."

Translation: At least you had the good kind of cancer.

What was supposed to be a comforting statement was, in actuality, a very stupid thing to say. There is no "good" cancer. There is no "easy" cancer. The word itself strikes fear in the hearts of nearly everyone.

I didn't realize that until I heard the word used in reference to my husband.
My sweet, gentle, and kind best friend of 15 years. My spouse of 13 years. The man who has supported me through more trials than I can list in one blog post.

Our marriage hasn't always been easy. We fought to stay together and won, and the idea of losing him haunted me in my dreams - even though he was facing one of the "good" cancers, thyroid cancer. It didn't matter that only a tiny percentage of thyroid cancers attack and kill within months. I didn't hear the part about how most people don't need any additional nasty treatments. All I heard was CANCER.

I came down with shingles a few weeks ago. The doctor asked me if I was under stress and I nearly crumbled under the weight of the question. I tried my best to hand the situation over to God and go on with my life until the date of my husband's surgery, but I constantly found myself on the verge of tears, and one night I broke down and sobbed in front of my husband.

On the afternoon of his surgery, I was sitting in the surgical waiting room with my sweet father, picking poppy seeds out of my teeth from a bagel I'd eaten in the cafeteria earlier that morning and reading a copy of some mindless fashion magazine when I was ushered into the "consultation room" to meet with the surgeon. He told me a sample of the growth on my husband's thyroid had been frozen and sliced, and no cancer was found, but we would have to wait several days to receive more test results to confirm his findings.

That was a Thursday. The following Tuesday, we found out my husband's thyroid is cancer-free. He got to keep half of it, thank God. Hopefully he won't need medication for the rest of his life.

Biggest. Sigh. Of. Relief. Ever.

Ah, but as I write this, another biopsy is looming, this time of his tongue. There's a strange thing on the side of it. I can't explain it - you'd have to see it. Maybe he's just biting it in his sleep. Maybe it's the C Word. Who knows?

So, now I'm thinking back on all the times I told someone, "Oh, it's probably nothing!" Like that would somehow allay their fears. Like if Julie Fidler doesn't think it's anything serious, there's no way it could possibly be serious. It reminds me of the times I used to ask my mother growing up, "Mom, what if you die?" I was a little kid awakening to the fact that no one is promised another day, minute, second, or even breath. Her response was always the same: "I'm not going to die." I'd ask her how she could possibly know that and she'd say, "I just know."

It was a lot easier than saying, "Well, honey, Mommy could drop dead any minute now. Go back to pulling the heads off your Barbie dolls."

Behind every "it's probably nothing" is the reality that "it could be something." So I've learned, the hard way, not to pretend the possibility doesn't exist. It doesn't help to pretend there's no reason for concern.

So, if I ever said any of those things to you...I'm sorry. Sometimes you don't realize how ridiculous you sound until you're in somebody else's shoes. Shoes you'd always hoped you'd never have to try on.

As for worry...I think it's a lot like forgiveness, which is a topic I actually do know a lot about. Sometimes you have to forgive over and over again. It's more of a process than a once-and-done decision. Worry seems to work the same way. You have to give it to God repeatedly, because it does like to creep back into your psyche.

Just don't ignore it or pretend it's not there. Don't poo-poo anyone else's worries, either. Acknowledge that you're freaked out and then try to de-freak. Hand your freaking fears to God.

Again. And again. And again.

29 September 2013

Dear God, are You there? It's me, the one with all the problems...

Dear God,
Can we talk? I'm a better writer than I am a talker, so I hope You read blogs.

As You are well aware, my entire life has fallen into total disrepair. I'm not in a gutter with a needle in my arm, and I haven't been molested by any transvestites. For this, oh Lord, I thank you.

But still. Seriously. It's bad. It's I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-going-to-do bad. It has been this bad before, but I was much younger then and I was more resilient and there was a sort of (messed-up) romance about it. This is way more than I can handle. My mother always said You'd never give me more than I can handle, but I've now come to the realization that this is just something people say to make you feel better and not at all the truth.

You're always giving people more than they can handle.
Or You allow it, anyway.
You let us hit bottom so that you can pull us up to heights higher than the Rocky Mountains.

If You could, like, grab my arm now, that would be great. The word here is "dire," God. As in, I am in dire straits. Emotionally and financially. I'd like to sneak onto a train and wherever it stops is where I start over, just me and my husband.

You seem to really like to use us as examples of how you pull people out of the swamp just seconds before a crocodile snaps us in two. It's all for Your glory, Jesus, but no more swamps, please. Just dry land and some time to catch our breath.

I've wondered if maybe we're cursed, Lord. I've been assured by faithful friends that You don't work that we. Satan has no hold on us. We belong to You. It's up to me to react to my problems in a way that glorifies You, but I'm getting too tired to react at all.

We need a solution. Not just a quick fix, but a SOLUTION. And we need it NOW. I still believe in You because You bless me when I don't deserve it. I don't deserve Your blessings now, either, but I'm begging You for them. Lift us up and OUT.

Help me to turn to You and not other things - things that destroy me - while I wait.

In Jesus' name,

13 September 2013

Hey, You Should Pray for This Great Thing You Don't Deserve!

I started reading the Bible from the beginning this week in an effort to take note of all the things I likely missed the first time around. Some hilarity ensued.

 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.  Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.  So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” Genesis 18:1-15, NIV

Telling God He didn't hear what He heard. Gotta love it. All my life, I've imagined God to be like this:

I'm not so sure that's how He looked when He asked Sarah why she was laughing. I picture a different stance. Something a little more like this:

The story of Abraham and Sarah is awesome because it shows that God keeps His promises, and that waiting on the Lord pays off. But I like the story because all of that is true in spite of the fact that they didn't deserve it.

Abraham goes off and sleeps with the hired help. Sarah gets jealous and treats the hired help like crap. God (more hilarity ensues) tells the mistress, "Listen, it's all good. I promise you this child you're carrying will be a major headache for Sarah and Abraham. He'll be the poster child for bad behavior. I give unto thee Charleen Sheen clothed in a loin cloth...except I want you to call him Ishmael." (Not in so many words, but that's the Fidler interpretation.)

Anyway, Abraham and Sarah hatch this horrible plot to force someone else to have their child because they don't believe God can pull it off. Then Sarah cops an attitude. And just a few pages ago, God promised not to destroy mankind in a flood ever again. Oh snap! I wonder if He regretted that promise.

He could have squashed them like little bugs, or laughed a cryptic laugh as he told them to go change into their bathing suits. Instead, he gave them a son. Their son. Not the hired help's son. Good old Isaac. It was completely supernatural. No test tube babies yet, just a married couple, older than dirt (not that dirt was very old at that point), who had dismissed God as a liar. Total National Enquirer material. They didn't deserve it. They got it anyway.

Today I was pouring a cup of coffee, thinking about something I've worried about for months. I ran out of worry. I got tired and gave that up, and as soon as I admitted I had no idea what to do or how to do it, I felt peace. Then, this morning, I'm stirring some pumpkin spice CoffeeMate into my java and I feel like God is telling me, really specifically, to pray about the situation from a totally different angle. 

I didn't laugh at God. I didn't say "yeah right" or anything like that. I was just sadly surprised that I had never thought to pray that way before, and now I realize it's because I didn't think it was possible. I couldn't imagine God giving me that answer.

It's like watching Hulk Hogan throw a man across a wrestling ring, but you don't think he can carry your hot dog and Coke back to your arena seat for you without pulling a muscle in his wrist.

But, ya know, even as I write this, I can't help but think I'm going to be disappointed if God doesn't answer it the way He's telling me I should pray for it. And then I'll wonder why He told me to pray for it like that in the first place.


So many questions...
Pray now, write a blog about obedience later...

09 September 2013

Syria: Every Road Seems Like a Dead End

I love my mom.
I love that she has opinions and she's not afraid to share them. She won't argue with you (this is not a trait I inherited), but she'll tell you flat out what she thinks.
And she's pretty good at roping you into a discussion on sensitive topics. Like how sex changes work Syria.

I call her once or twice a week. My dad usually answers. We discuss the weather and his flowers, then he asks me if I want to talk to my mom. I say yes and throw in an "I love you" because the world is crazy, and you just never know. My mom picks up, asks how I am. I confirm that I am alive and still able to pay for food, whether I really am or not.

"What do you think about all this crap going on in Syria?" she asks, while munching on potato chips in my ear. I'm silent for a moment while my dad yells his opinion from the kitchen in the background.

Syria.What to do, what to do... There's no good answer.
Any opinion is going to contain some bad theology and even worse politics.
Go in, bomb the country, kill some civilians... This might have worked for me - no, it WOULD have worked for me - a little more than a decade ago, when I was in my early 20's and couldn't be bothered to think beyond the "it's-us-or-them" mentality that went along with 9/11 and the war in Iraq. Now I get that it's not that simple.

After all, what good does a little ol' bombing do? Send the bad guys packing to a new location. New location, same dubious plot. Nothing much will have changed.

Put boots on the ground and kill even more innocent civilians? Piss off the entire Middle East? Start World War III? This option, supposedly, is off the table. I think it's a damn good thing. If it ever resurfaces, I'll be underground with my cat and my husband if anybody needs me.

Should we back off and let Syria's chemical weapons fall under international control? This sounds like the best option so far, except that by the time we get actual inspectors in the country, Bashar al-Assad could wipe his own people off the map.

My personal opinion changes depending on my perspective. The blond-haired, blue-eyed American in me doesn't think we should do a damn thing. "Let them kill each other." Let them fight their own battles. Our defense spending has been cut, we're already in debt up to our eyeballs, our unemployment rate is too high, and, and and... We just don't need another major problem. Why do we always have to be the playground monitor, going around breaking up every fight between countries that are too ignorant and hell-bent on destruction to do it themselves?

But then I try to imagine myself as an innocent Syrian woman, hoping and praying that my children will get through the next school day without having their flesh melted off by a freakin' sarin gas bomb. That's when it stops being an American-Syrian issue, and it starts becoming an international crisis. A crisis of humanity. This isn't any less of an international crisis - any less of an international horror - than the Nazi extermination of the Jews, the extent of which, in case you've forgotten, was not fully understood until all of the damage had been done.

Oh, and there's this one other thing that influences my views: Jesus.
He said this thing once that really made people stop and think. He said, "Those who live by the sword, die by the sword."

As a Republican, I did my very best to find ways around those words. I tried to come up with other explanations for them. Maybe Jesus only meant this, or maybe Jesus was actually only referring to that. Now I don't know. It's hard for me, as a human being, to believe that there are no exceptions to this rule. But the Bible is full of stuff that doesn't make a lot of sense to human beings. Who am I to question Jesus' wisdom and integrity?

Do I think Obama has taken that into consideration? No. Maybe. Maybe he's flipped through his Bible, but I don't think this is what is weighing heavily on him at this moment. Not because he's a bad guy, I just don't think it's playing a big role in his decision-making. I'm sure Congress isn't mulling it over, either. This is just me talking - the personal opinions and theology of Julie A. Fidler, a college drop-out and Christian living in some dumpy Pennsylvania hamlet, who doesn't want to see anyone get killed....except for maybe the really bad guys.

I've been reading that all of this Syria business is biblical in nature, as in, foretold in the Good Book. That's another blog (and it WILL be another blog.) So if that doesn't kick your perspective in the crack, I don't know what will.

Anyway...I usually agree with my mother, not because I'm too much of a pansy to have my own opinion or to express it, but because it's easier than admitting to my own mass confusion. It's quicker than saying everything I've just written here. I don't want to argue with her. I have to reach a solid conclusion before I can tell anyone why there's is wrong.

Every option is a bad one, ultimately, because someone will have to die, either because they've been murdered or because we failed to murder someone else. That's heavy stuff.

31 August 2013

The Theology of Doobage (Marijuana)

The parents are very concerned about the church's choice for the new youth pastors...

 Dude. I wish I had a bag of Funyuns I could eat while I write this.

You know what's never funny? It's never funny to listen to a crackhead talk about how they almost overdosed and died. Nobody laughs when a drunk driver kills someone on the road. A heroin addict waking up in a ditch with a needle in his arm? C'mon, now, that's just pathetic.

But just about everybody's got a great weed story, or knows someone else who does. You're not going to kill yourself with marijuana. Few people use it so much that they can't function in life. Although, to be fair, I've known plenty of people who had a really lame life because they couldn't put down their Bic for more than an hour at a time.

I've smoked it. This would probably be a much "holier" blog if I said I didn't, or that it was a really long time ago, but I've indulged as an adult. I inhaled. I might have tried to get my friend's cat high by blowing smoke on him. I can't say I never cooked a pound of bacon and ate it in bed, only to wake up covered in grease with no memory of the night before.

Hey, the Bible says not to lie.

It's illegal like all the "bad" stuff, but not nearly as addictive, and marijuana shows a lot of promise when it comes to treating medical conditions. No one in the history of mankind has ever died of a pot overdose. Kids who smoke it can supposedly knock off a few IQ points, and that I can believe. But generally, the substance itself is not deadly.

What I want to know is...is it a sin? There's no specific answer to this in the Bible. There is no Book of Cheech and Chong to give us specifics on marijuana. No Song of Pink Floyd. What a shame.

Now, I've got a brother-in-law who uses the following Scripture to back up the validity of getting high. This is proof, he says, that pot isn't just OK, it's freaking awesome in the eyes of the Lord.

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.  -Genesis 1:29-30

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. -Genesis 9:3

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  -Genesis 1:11-12
This is all fine and dandy, but there are a few problems with using this as a defense for being stoned out of your mind. For one thing, all of this was before the fall of Man. Two, just because something is good in God's eyes, doesn't mean it's good for humans. For example, Poison Ivy. God made it, so it must be good. It's a plant that "yields seed." But you'd have to be a complete imbecile to smoke it or bake it in brownies. You know if someone mentions it in a news story, some sorry sap went out and tried it:

And anyone unfortunate enough to breathe smoke from burning poison ivy may suffer potentially fatal respiratory-tract damage.

Then there is the obvious fact that it's illegal. It might not be illegal for very long, but where I live, right now, it's against the law. This is the part that Christian pot-smokers (and I include myself in this) skim over. They brush it off by pointing out that marijuana laws are constantly changing. True, but the Bible says we're supposed to follow the law, not the law we hope will be passed in the next few years.

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. -Romans 13:1-7
There are a lot of things in this world that will get you high. It doesn't take much for some people. I know people who can only take one Benadryl instead of two because it makes them dopey. When I first started taking Ambien, my husband practically had to guide me to bed by my shoulders. Is it wrong to take medication that gets you kinda high, or at least tired? I don't think so. There is a difference - a HUGE difference - between taking a drug to correct a legit medical problem, and taking a drug just to feel high or to make "South Park" seem ten times funnier.

I'm not against pot for those purposes at all, really. If it helps your insomnia, or eases your cancer pain, or legitimately treats your depression. It's one of the most organic medications on earth. One day - and I suspect it won't be far from now - we might all be able to get THC pills at CVS. Is it a godly thing to take 20 of them and get baked?

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.- 1 Peter 5:8
I've heard people argue that "sober-minded" has a different meaning in the Bible. If you look up the ancient texts, it doesn't mean what you think it means. It doesn't matter. You can't be sober-minded, aware of your surroundings, and on your guard against evil if you're stoned and can barely move your fingers. So whatever "sober-minded" actually means is beside the point; you can't BE sober-minded if you're baked and all you want out of life is an oatmeal cookie and...those Funyuns.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit... -Ephesians 5:18
Don't argue that this verse is only about wine. Don't even make that lame argument. They didn't have Alabama Slammers in biblical times, but I'm sure God is referring to those, too. I'm pretty sure God meant "drunk" to also mean "high" in any sense.

And let's not pretend marijuana is a cure-all, or that there's nothing bad about it at all. In the past, it has given me migraines, made me feel very hung over and out-of-it for long periods of time, and it made me dizzy and nauseous. You shouldn't drive on it. If I can't remember cooking a pound of bacon, then I refuse to believe that driving while high is a safe option. Let's also not pretend that you can't get addicted to pot, OK? Yes, you can. Only a very small percentage of people get hooked on weed, but don't pretend pot addiction doesn't exist. If you have to smoke ANYTHING several times a day or you get grouchy, or pissed off, or sad, guess what? You're addicted to it.

While, I"m at it, let me also mention this: if you can't have fun without pot, you're addicted to it. If you can't have fun with your friends unless there is pot, ya gotta ask yourself... am I really having fun, or is my life so sad now that I don't know how to be a happy person without drugs?

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. -1 Corinthians 6:12

 My last question, actually, is why I decided to stop getting high and cooking pork in the middle of the night. And getting cats high. And noticing that everything around me suddenly looked like plastic... don't ask. I put this blog out there because I know there are a lot of Christian pot smokers out there that have wondered this stuff, and I don't pretend to have all the answers. But I think pot devotees should stop trying to pretend that it's God's will for us be stoners.

You can make the Bible say anything you want it to, if you look hard enough. Now go smoke a big bowl of Poison Ivy!

30 August 2013

Men Are From Mars, And So Are Women. Possibly.

So, I'm working my way through all the seasons of The X-Files...a show that I've been told is outright demonic...to which I say "whatever"...and I've just arrived at Season 6. At this point in the series, Mulder and Scully have just realized that, based on scientific evidence gathered from a mind-reading, 12-year-old boy, we all carry alien DNA.

What a crazy show. You never knew what they were going to come up with. So far out there, so ridiculous, so....wait, what's this? Some Mulder wannabe thinks maybe we really do have extraterrestrial origins?

I just don't know if I can accept that all of us are martian by nature. I might be able to accept that at least some of us are martian, though, based on my experiences over the years with some pretty loony neighbors. It would explain so much.

But seriously.
Steven Benner of Florida's Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology says evidence is mounting that life on earth actually started on Mars, and we got flung here on a space rock.
OK, let's review. Life on earth. Made on Mars. Big rock survives all of the radiation of being "flung" through space and - LUCKY US! - hits Earth. If it had hit a comet, another planet, or got sucked into a black hole, that would have been some serious bad luck. But, no, it hit Earth. And all without a really good pitcher.


I don't particularly care what vehicle brought us here, I just believe we're here because God put us here. Maybe it was a Big Bang. Maybe God said "boo" and it all fell into place. Maybe it all started with a spot-on space rock. Maybe my great-great-great-great-great aunt really was a monkey. Don't care.

It's just love when a space fairy (a description given to God by an Atheist I once argued with on Facebook) willing the universe (and beyond) into existence actually seems more logical than a scientific theory. It makes my day. My weekend, maybe.

Nanoo, nanoo!

29 August 2013

Sober Mercies: Important Reminders from a "Christian Drunk"

Might as well write an inaugural blog post about a good book!

A friend of mine sent this book to me a few months ago, and I did what I usually do with new books: read bits and pieces while atop the porcelain throne. (My friend, Debbie, suggested this method to me, but it didn't make me read any more than I used to.) Finally, last week, I sat on the couch and actually started at page 1. To my amazement, I finished it in a week. That's a great improvement from my usual 2-3 months.

I could relate to a lot of the book, but one thing in particular stood out for me: author Heather Kopp's struggle to figure out what it means to trust God.

Christians don't like to admit that God is a giant mystery to them. How do tell other people about His love if you don't have the foggiest idea what it means to tap into that love and make it the foundation of your life? Namely, how do you place your trust in a God who doesn't promise that every outcome will be the one you want?

What, then, is the point of prayer? I have always felt that when I ask God for something - whether it's for me or someone else - there is a little voice in the back of my head saying: "...but You probably won't do it anyway." It has never made sense to me that we can influence God's decisions with our prayers, but if He's got His mind made up about something, then that's just the way it's going to be.

I arrived at the end of this book having no new answers, just a better sense of direction. Kopp doesn't have it all figured out, either, and maybe that's why I liked her writing so much. There were no trite answers, nor a step-by-step guide to believing like you really mean it.

On her journey, Kopp discovered what I, too, have discovered: that lost, wounded people seem to have a better grasp on God than the well-versed, well-churched Christians. They come to God with no religious background to speak of. No one has told them what to think or how to feel. They just come and they show up out of pure desperation. A desperation that I have the hardest time expressing to God, no matter how deeply I feel it. Because to be desperate in the church indicates that you haven't been seeking the Lord hard enough to begin with.

This kind of desperation isn't about longing to know God more, or longing to be more like Christ, or longing to see what type of ministry He wants to roll out for you. This desperation is drought-stricken, a kind of starving where the buzzards are circling your emaciated soul overheard. It's a desperation to be recognized by a Maker you can't see, and to know that His love really does reach out to the least of these, not the best of these trying to be even better.

Kopp enters rehab and subsequent 12-step meetings with an urgency to find someone "like her." Someone better than the dirty bums in the gutter with needles stuck in their arms. After all, she never did jail time. She never killed anyone in a drunk-driving accident. She was never homeless. And she looked put-together. It turns out that's the thing keeping her from desperately seeking God.

I can admit to the same thing. When I started Celebrate Recovery, I, too, thought I was better. I thought that all I needed was a little boost in my recovery before I would be ruling the roost with my wisdom and insight.

Sober Mercies reminded me you can't repent of sin until you acknowledge it lives and sprawls in your heart, and that you played a major role in letting it grow so out-of-control. It also reminded me that you can't expect God to fill you until you admit that you're empty. You can't search for God until you realize you are lost.

It reminded me that, to quote a Rich Mullins song, you can't follow until you let yourself be led.