Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Christian Notes on Dating



Last night I saw links to "5 Notes on Dating for the Guys" on Facebook from two very different sources. The first, Christian Youtube/rapper/sensation Jefferson Bethke raved about it, writing, "One of the best articles I've ever read on dating for guys. Thankful for grace where I wasn't perfect at all these things but also thankful where I saw them being implemented actually leading to deeper joy!"

The second link from Stuff Christian Culture Likes was prefaced with "I dry-heaved on the second paragraph."

Uh huh. Well, it certainly wasn't one of the best articles I've read on dating. But then I'm not a dude. It also did not induce vomiting, either.

Go ahead, click on the link, read it for yourself, and tell me what you think, if you feel like it. And apologies if you wind up hurling.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Expecting... What?

 Me, three days before Zoe's birth. Whew! LOL!


I read a fantastic post on Egregious Twaddle last week that reminded me of some troubling things I noticed last year while I was pregnant.

Right around the time I was letting the office know I was preggers, a few other staff members announced they or their spouse was, too. We joked about the water, and an office baby shower was planned. The bosses lamented the months when the department would be without so many.

Behind the scenes, I noticed how each of our pregnancies, and by extension, our babies, was viewed so differently by various blabbering coworkers. At 29, and married for over two years, me having Z was a great thing. The only damper was my neuro issues, but they were dismissed as my belly grew.

For another expecting first time mom, things were markedly different. In her early 40's and married, her pregnancy was a complete surprise. She had been told by doctors throughout the previous decade she couldn't have kids. She didn't even know she was pregnant until she was three months along. She considered it a miracle. Some chattering coworkers did not. She was too old and a diabetic. Her little girl might be a problem.

For one couple, they're unplanned pregnancy was disastrous. He worked in our office part time, while she worked a minimum wage job that was going nowhere. They were young, unmarried and living separately with family. He was nearly finished with college, and a kid would throw all that off. She didn't want another abortion. He didn't like it, but definitely didn't want to be a dad yet. Their child was, without a doubt, in the minds and mouths of the chattering coworkers, a big problem.

While I realized there was definitely difficulties in each of our circumstances, I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that these babies, who hadn't done a lick of wrong, were... wrong. They were... them. Separate from neuro issues, diabetes and college credits. Why did Z being in utero warrant celebration, but the other babies, silence or even disappointment?

 Baby Z in utero

On Egregious Twaddle, Joanne McPortland contemplates the mental gymnastics a person goes through when it comes to pregnancy these days:

 Listening to MSNBC, Planned Parenthood, and other devout partisans of the new American sacrament of abortion rant about the reignited War on Women (if I have to hear Rachel Maddow repeat, grim frown in place, “THE GOP IS FORCING WOMEN TO BEAR THEIR RAPISTS’ BABIES!!!” one more time . . .), one claim stands out: No man has a right to tell a woman what to do with her body. Funny thing is, it’s a claim with which I agree 100%, even when I’m not crazy about some of the things we women choose to do with our bodies. Wanna get a tattoo, acquire Barbie boobs, paralyze your wrinkles away, have your stomach stapled, wax yourself as smooth as a bowling lane all over, have your fat cells vacuumed out, get more back than you were genetically endowed with, buy a new nose, ditch that old appendix? Go to, ma’am. As long as you’re an informed adult, it’s between you and your doctor / aesthetician / inker / beautician, and maybe your shrink if the problem’s not really physical.

But when it comes to abortion, it’s not only—in fact, not even largely, except in cases of a pregnancy’s causing an imminent threat to your health—your body we’re talking about. It’s the body of a child, a unique human person made up of two people’s DNA, yours and a man’s. That’s the thing nobody will talk about. I’m not even going to get into the whole gestational age thing, or talk about potentiality, or even speak here of my Church’s teaching (and that of basic biology) that a human life begins at conception. I’m not even going to go anywhere near the absolute disconnect in this country that leads us to believe that it’s defunding Planned Parenthood, and not having unprotected sex, that results in “unplanned” pregnancies. The point is, once you are pregnant, it’s not your body alone that’s involved.
...  One thing science hasn’t done, though, is validate the notion that an unborn child is part of a woman’s body, with no independent life or genetic profile of its own...  A fetus that has implanted itself in the womb (at the very least) is not a piece of stray tissue, a lump of cellulite. Something that is a child when desperately wanted does not become a disposable body part when it is desperately unwanted.
In all the arguing, I’d just like somebody to admit that reality. I am not among those who think it would be right for my Church’s understanding of the beauty and wonder of God’s gift of sexuality to be made the law of the land, with punishments incurred for those that violate it. I would love, as Mitt Romney said (and was immediately branded as an extremist and misogynist for so doing), to have a consensus in this country that abortion was regrettable, and to have in place systems that would assure no woman ever felt she had to kill a child in order to live. That’s a big wish, but I’ll settle for people simply admitting that when we’re talking about terminating a pregnancy, we are talking about ending a unique human life to which both a man and a woman contributed equally. We should be having a conversation (all of us, left and right, Republican and Democrat, men and women, religious and atheist) about when, if ever, that’s the right decision to make—not denying that that’s the decision at all. (emphasis mine, adf)

Friday, August 24, 2012

God looks like a lady?


 (Source)

I've been thinking a lot about God and gender lately.

I post daily devotionals to my church's Facebook page from Forward Day by Day, and a couple of weeks ago, one of them really, really, REALLY caught me off guard.

The essay was about dealing with loss and grief and the best way to convey God's love to those grieving. My family has been going through a particularly trying period lately, so I was especially eager to read it. I found myself nodding my head in agreement (well, not really, actually just mentally agreeing) until I came upon this line:  "But like God herself, scripture is not around for anyone’s protection, just for everyone’s unending support.”

Yup, God herself.

Hmmm...

Ummm...

Eh....

Okay, let me get a few things out of the way. We know from Holy Scripture that God is neither male or female, but is spirit. We know that male and female were created in God's image.

I'm also aware that there are major translational differences between Hebrew, Greek and English. Namely, in English our nouns can only fall into masculine, feminine and things/its categories.

Even knowing all that backstory didn't stop me from re-reading that line like ten times. I thought at first I misread it. Then I thought it was a typo. Finally, I realized it wasn't a mistake and maybe some of what more conservative Christians have been saying about Episcopalians is true.

A few days later, while at my dad's house, I got into a conversation about women in ministry with my stepmom. She and my dad are co-pastors of a small church. They had recently returned from their denomination's international convention in New Orleans. She showed me pics of her and friends, all women, dressed in their ministerial garb.

My stepmom is third from the right.

We talked about a Christian Post story about how their denomination has voted to allow women to be bishops. And a comment below it totally ripping female ordinations to shreds. An excerpt from the combox warrior's screed: 
The Biblical reason given why God would rather have men rule is based upon Eve's sin of being deceived spiritually, which is a DESIGNED aspect of women. Adam was not deceived, men should NOT be deceived! (1Tim 2:14; Ga 6:7) Because of the brain's "wiring" women tend to emotionalize and talk more statistically rather then being logical. This statistical blood flow reduction to the brain under fear and stress is also why women should not be placed in "front line" war combat roles as the USA military is now training women to do today!
Uh huh. My stepmom just shook her head at that and laughed. Interestingly, since she is a district elder, she actually outranks my dad, who is an elder.

Talk about ruling over your husband.
 
 

A few days after that, I came across an article on Rachel Held Evan's blog about complementarian and egalitarian marriages. Using John Piper and Wayne Grudem's "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" as a guide, Rachel charted her career as a writer and speaker and found that her work could be problematic for her husband AND for other men. She writes:

"... in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—the manual of sorts for the complementarian movement— John Piper provides a continuum along which Christian women (and the Christian men who might employ them) can plot the appropriateness of various occupations along two scales: 1) how much authority the woman has over men, and 2) the degree to which the relationship is personal between the woman and the men with whom she works. 

The chart in the book looks like this:

Personal                Non-personal
Directive                Non-directive 

“There are roles that strain the personhood of man and woman too far to be appropriate, productive, and healthy for the overall structure of home and society,” Piper  states. “Some roles would involve kinds of leadership and expectations of authority and forms of strength as to make it unfitting for a woman to fill that role.”  

... I decided to plot my own career along Piper’s continuum to see if he would consider my line of work appropriate to "biblical womanhood." My writing career mostly checked out because my influence over men is largely non-personal. However, my speaking career pushed things a bit, for lecturing brings me out of the home and often places me in a position of authority over men. Furthermore, when my speaking calendar is full, I tend to make more money per hour than Dan, which complementarians warn against. I gave myself an A for writing and a C for speaking. "
 ...  But things got really interesting when I used Piper’s scale to plot the occupations of women from the Bible. Lydia, a wealthy silk dealer and member of the early church, fared okay, even though her job likely took her out of the home and involved personal interaction with men. Priscilla, a theology teacher to the apostle Apollos, scored much worse because she exhibited leadership that was both personal and authoritative. And poor Deborah! As a military leader, political appointee, prophetess, and judge, she shot right off the charts in both personal and authoritative leadership to become what Piper would call a clear “offense against God’s order”….which is kinda odd seeing as how the writer of Judges says Deborah was appointed by God for her task."

Clearly, there is a huge range within Christianity in regards to females. From women being silent in church (and maybe pretty much everywhere) to viewing God as mother. Where do you stand? What do you think the proper role of women is? In marriage? In the workforce? In church? In life?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Maddening Memes


For goodness sakes, will you all step away from Photoshop, Paint, Textgram, Instagram and any other program or app for just a sec? Please? Because if I look at one more of these silly memes, I'm going to scream.

They're everywhere. On Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even old school email as forwards. Liberals, conservatives, Christians and atheists are spreading them about quicker than a group of seventh graders playing Spin The Bottle spreads mono.


I'm so sick of them cluttering up my News Feed. In between cutie pie pictures of my friends' babies and puppies is Mitt Romney. Joe Biden. Kim Kardashian. And quite interestingly, Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, who has been simultaneously schleping for Gay marriage, traditional marriage, Obama, Romney, theists, deists, atheists, capitalism and socialism. There's a whole lot going on in that factory.


What really annoys me as how those who support whatever issue posts them and then bows to rapid applause from fellow believers. Anyone who disagrees is shouted down, disliked and electronically shamed for not seeing the clear and obvious truth of six bulleted lines of "wisdom". Then all the supporters high-five each other like those jocks from Valley against the Bayside Tigers on "Saved By The Bell".

Ahem, I *really* don't know why that episode popped into my head while writing this. I might have a problem. No, I'm sure I do. Anyway, what they may not realize is that 99% of these memes fail to do is actually explain more than just 1% of whatever issue. So most on the outside are left confused, enraged or like me, often indifferent. Which means they're really not doing much but sending out those corny high-fives.


Sometimes, they're not even doing that, though. Marc Barnes of Bad Catholic has dismantled two memes lately, here and here. That second one with the flowchart really made me roll my eyes. Especially since many of my FB friends who passed it around are Christians. That chart, like nearly all these tiresome memes, paints with such a broad brush. So you think St. Paul's teachings are applicable for today's Christian? Go rot you hateful stump of a person! Meh. Funny thing is, scrolling through Marc's combox, some supporters of Gay Marriage even found that one to be a royal fail.

I'll admit, I've been guilty of sharing these things, too, and hitting "Like" on many more. I don't think memes, in and of themselves are bad. But like reality shows, skinny jeans and Kim Kardashian, they can be used for much evil.

If you are getting all your talking points from these things, you're in trouble.  By their very nature of being mostly photos and 15-22 point font, they aren't going to provide much real info. Also, they're coming from one side and are purposely biased. Before you pass it forward, remember all this. Also remember that not all your "friends" or "followers" are on team Valley. They might be high-fiving Zack and Kelly wearing burgundy and gray. And that's okay.

Meanwhile, I'll be like Liz Lemon, high-fiving a million angels.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

It Stung! But I've Got a Little Salve.

"What would you do to be healed?"

So begins Matt at The Church of No People's post, "This Is Going to Sting a Little Bit." With characteristic wit and humor, Matt looks at "evangelist" Todd Bentley's very unorthodox  methods of procuring God's healing. While most Christians believe in laying on of hands, Bentley takes that to the extreme by laying on of fists.

When I first heard about the tatted up, former biker turned faith healer, I was shocked. That's saying a lot from a girl raised in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles. I mean, I've seen some things. Folks laid out, running laps around the church, speaking in tongues, dancing, laughing, hugging and shouting. I saw all this stuff so many times during my formative years, it became par for the course.

But shoving? Punching? Kicking?!? If anyone had tried that stuff, they would have been rebuked right up out the service.

Yet Bentley has become a minor star of sorts, "healing" pain by... causing it.

What got me really thinking was some of the comments following this post. They run the gamut from those who felt offended by the post to others admitting they don't really believe in New Testament style healing for today. I wanted to comment but didn't even know where to start. So I figured, I'd begin by ripping his idea (hey, Matt, you admit you want to do this, too :-p), and flip it into a post of my own. After all, it's August, and outside of the Olympics & Politics, there's not too much going on, at least according to news outlets.

 

I was raised to believe the healing is for today. If God is the Alpha and Omega, and is the same yesterday and forever, why would he withhold His healing from His children today?

It made such perfect sense that as soon as I started feeling the sniffles coming on, I'd run to my mom and have her pray for me.

Please don't misunderstand, though, my parents were no extremists, and if those sniffles turned to a fever or more, I was taken to the doctor. I took vitamins and antibiotics. I knew God had no problem with us seeking medical help. Hey, even Paul advised taking a little wine for upset stomachs.

But what happens when God doesn't heal?

As I grew older, I repeatedly faced situations in which there was no healing, miraculous or ordinary. People I know and loved suffered with diabetes, MS, Lupus and various cancers. They lost their ability to care for themselves. Some died.

I turned this over in my mind. Where was God in those situations?

Since I've been sick, I've asked that question repeatedly. But I have also asked, where is science? Living with a chronic illness, I've come face to face that even modern medical advances haven't advanced to the point of a cure-all.

From Holy Rollers to the Frozen Chosen

For the last couple of years, I've attended services at an Episcopal church. It's quite a change from "letting the Spirit do His thing" to a quiet, well-structured liturgy. I think many of the members of my church would be quite uncomfortable with anything remotely charismatic.

I've seen both sides now. From those who expect (even demand!) God's healing on a regular basis to those who believe all that miraculous stuff closed with the Canon. As usual, I don't really fit on either ends of that spectrum.   

I do believe in miracles. I've learned firsthand, through and because of my illness, that the relationship I have with God is in itself a miracle. Stop and think on that for a moment. Please.

Moving on (but only if you did stop to think on that last statement), while I was in the hospital last December, I read  "The Story of A Soul" by St.Thérèse of Lisieux. What touched me is her "little way" of following God, which is very simple and pure, like a child. Reading this book reminded me of the miracles of every day, the sun, the sky, flowers. The essential act of breathing is magnificent (don't think so? Hold your breath. Wait for it, wait for it...). 

Now I'm sure there are some people thinking, "That's nice and all, but if you're sick, you want to be healed! Who gives a flying flip about the birds!" Very true. I can relate because I've thought that myself. But what God has shown me is that while I'm begging for physical healing, what he's giving me is spiritual building. 

Sometimes, as the old saying goes, God will calm the sea. Other times, He won't, but will calm your soul as you endure it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Losing It



I read Carolyn Custis James' "Why Virginity Is Not The Gospel", and something about it just didn't click for me.

I figured it should, but it just didn't.

Christian feminist blogger Dianna Anderson isn't feeling it, either. She writes:

As a feminist Christian blogger who spends a lot of time talking about the problematic nature of the purity movement, I by all accounts should support this article.

But James’ framing of the issue is so gendered, so confusing, and so ultimately NOT the argument that needs to be made that I simply cannot get behind it. She ends up in a somewhat good place, but the route she takes to get there is so filled with problems that it erases all good things she may have said.

James’ discussion begins with Olympian Lolo Jones’ proclamation that she’s a 29 year old virgin, and how she wants to save that gift for her husband because she is a Christian. James laments that Jones has so much more to give her husband, and if you cut out the middle few paragraphs of her piece, it would have worked simply as a lament about how a woman’s self-worth is boiled down to an untouched vagina. Those are the points I do agree with – your self-worth and what you bring to the table in a marriage relationship have nothing to do with whether or not another person has managed to get their hands on your bits.
But that’s where my agreement with James ends, because she wrote this:
A message of purity and abstinence, as important as this is for young women (young men too) comes too late for huge numbers of young American girls, including those in church pews. It is utterly devastating to the one-in-four girls who is sexually abused before she reaches her 18th birthday. We live in a world where by the age of 18 an estimated 70 percent of girls have had sex at least once and not always by choice, where globally countless women and girls are in the grips of sex traffickers, where an appalling 48 women are raped every hour in the Congo, where within our own borders sexual freedom has opened the door for young women to be as sexually promiscuous as men, and where some girls with the very best of intentions succumb to temptation. I grieve all of this, but do not for a second imagine that any of this means a woman has less to offer a husband or that in any sense it diminishes her worth.
Let me draw your attention to that first sentence again. The message of purity is important, she says, but should not be the center of the Gospel because it’s already too late for many women.
This is a terrible argument, not because it’s true, but because it neglects both the damage that rape does to a woman’s self-worth, and how a purity message compounds that damage by leaps and bounds. There is a distinct lack of concern that we live in a patriarchal culture in which men and women are raped at extraordinary rates and that rape is used as a weapon in war. She barely acknowledges that the purity movement may actually compound their pain, or actually helped in her rape by failing to teach her about what healthy sexuality looks like.
I definitely have a huge problem with equating rape with consensual premarital sex. I've sat and heard strains of such equivocations from well-meaning (I think), but horribly wrong ministers while discussing overcoming sexual sins. Rape- forced, demeaning, coerced and often times violent- has been lumped in by *some* purity teachers with lust, fornication and adultery, and I cringe at the very thought of it. So I definitely agree with Dianna's point here. But then, she loses me:

And we learn why she doesn’t attack the purity message itself and still wants to prize it as important when we get to the end of her list: “…here within our own borders sexual freedom has opened the door for young women to be as sexually promiscuous as men, and where some girls with the very best of intentions succumb to temptation.” Ah, it’s already too late for the abstinence message because women are already choosing to have sex – indeed, choosing to have as much sex as men (which is a confusing statement in of itself, because who are these men having sex with if not the women, assuming James’ heteronormative framing is right?)...
This is James’ way of sounding like she affirms progressive sexual ethics concerning women’s sexuality while still holding on to archaic, women-as-property based social mores. The virginity may not be the Gospel for James, but it is certainly a part of it. Women are worth more than their virginity, she says, but she’ll still grieve your loss of purity if you choose to do it outside the confines of marriage.
The emphasis is hers. I was left thinking, what's wrong with Carolyn grieving sin? How should a Christian react to sinning? Not condemnation, that's for sure, and I don't pick that up from her HuffPo piece. In fact, I think she takes pains to not be a Judgey McJudgeypants, and for that, I commend her.




Interestingly, I posted a link to Carolyn's piece on Facebook, and I got feedback that the article was off, but perhaps for not taking a hard enough stance against sexual sins.

As I'm sure I mentioned at some point on this blog (hey, I've been at this for over three years, and now I'm starting to actually forget some of what I've written), I lost my virginity on my wedding night. I don't have any regrets about waiting and no, I don't feel I missed out.

But I don't talk about that much. Why? I'm not ashamed of it, to God be the glory. But I didn't take the Lolo Jones' route, either. I'm proud of her, and find it insulting she was mocked for HER CHOICE. Funny how some choices are lauded, and others are denigrated... Anyway, I feel despite saving it, in many ways, I had spent it. Jesus said just thinking about adultery made one guilty of it. Well, according to the Savior's teachings, I was about as untouched as Samantha Jones, then.


Yup, me and Samantha.

I *do* believe the purity message has often led to major fails. I think the main reason for that is because it's placed so much emphasis on the physical, and way too much pressure on girls to stay pure while looking the other way while boys weren't. 

There are points I agree with both Carolyn and Dianna. Ultimately though, I align with Jesus, who truly is the Gospel. Without the mind and spirit, there is no purity.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Charm is Deceptive, but Sexy is all (Megan) Good


I don't think this outfit is part of Ellen G. White's "The Great Contoversy", but it certainly is controversial to church folks.


Over at The Old Black Church, Ann Brock questions whether a Christian should be sexy after actress Megan Good, newly married to a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, spoke out about her own burlesque-themed bachelorette party.From Sister to Sister:


Just before she got married back in June, Meagan hit the stage with Pussycat Dolls, and some church folks didn't think her actions were totally in line with her faith. Meagan told JustTheFab.com that she expected that reaction and it almost kept her from fulfilling a dream.

But after a chat with her husband DeVon Franklin, she shook off the fear and strutted her stuff. 
"It is something I wanted to do a lot, and me and DeVon talked about it," Meagan said. "I almost didn’t do it because I knew there would be backlash, but I can’t let people control my life."
It almost goes without saying that Meagan prayed about the performance, and she feels the only other opinion that mattered in the situation was her Heavenly Father's. And since He didn't put up any protests, she wasn't going to let someone else's opinion stop her.

Regardless of what anybody thinks, I have a personal relationship with God," Meagan said. "We talk and we speak and I don’t feel convicted about it and so I have to do what’s in my heart and I can’t allow people to manipulate my direction."
Unlike many other celebrity Pussycat Dolls, she kept herself pretty covered up for her burlesque performance.
"I'm not out here showing my booty. I'm not out here doing all that kind of stuff," said Meagan, who admitted to pulling a flirty move or two and wiggling her hips. "I’m getting sexy and all that but there is a way to do it. There is a classy way to do everything  and there is nothing wrong with being sexy or having sex appeal."


Meagan also took up for her fellow thespian Tia Mowry, who came under a lot criticism for a less revealing photo shoot.
"It really hurt my feelings when I saw some of the comments because Tia Mowry had [done] the cover of Vibe Vixen, and she had an itty bit of cleavage, and they like ripped her to shreds. ‘We thought she was Christian,'" Meagan recalled before coming to Tia's defense. "She is a Christian. She loves God so because she showed some cleavage she loves him less?"

As I've stated previously, I was raised Pentecostal, and to many in our church, wearing a sleeveless top was too revealing. So obviously, cleavage was a huge no-no. Personally, I never aligned with that level of modesty, but I do feel like outfits more appropriate for the bedroom should not be worn for public viewing.

What's too much? Skirts above the knee? Backless tops? What about the ladies in the acting and modeling fields? What if the role calls for it?

Weigh in!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rings of The Past



At the start of the Olympics- the 30th- I reflected on a few of my thirty years of memories...



2012

I missed the London opening. I meant to at least watch part of it, but I have to contend with my own little champion- one year old Zoe. She's just begun walking, and there is sheer joy on her little face as she takes small but quick steps on our tan carpet.

The news stories talk how this is finally the games where women are representing.

Girl power.

As my husband, Keiron, walks in from his second job, to his two ladies, I'm sure he has learned firsthand the power we girls have.

Zoe steps carefully in the direction of her father, as if there is an invisible balance beam underfoot. She stumbles, landing on her diapered bottom, quickly changing positions and taking off in a speed-crawl.

Keiron drops his bags, and lowers himself until he is eye to eye with Zoe.

She giggles.

He laughs.

She screams.

I smile.

2008

I'm sitting in front of my best friend Giddel's cool flat screen TV along with her, her husband, David, and my fiance, Keiron. Their son 2 year old son Beniaih is running in circles behind us. We're all impressed by the grand fireworks display.

I look at Keiron. He is so handsome. Our relationship was such a surprise. We had met a few years before, but remained comfortably in the friend zone until June. We had our first date, and I didn't want him to leave me. Ever. At the end of the night, in the front of my building, he picked me up and spun me around with such force, my feet left the ground.

There in my friends' rented townhouse basement, I am still floating.

Talk about fireworks.


2004

The Olympics are in Greece, their birthplace, supposedly.

I miss most of the games in a swirl of part time jobs. I graduated college in May. I thought I'd be making my own victory lap, smiling brightly. Or maybe a defiant fist pump like back in the '68 games, a quiet sign of personal progress. There was none of that. Just exhaustion.

I walk up the stairs of my childhood home, stuck the key in the lock and turn. Mommy is sittng on the couch.

"Hi, Baby! How was your day?"

"Augh..."

"What happened?"

"It's just another day, Ma." I drop my Old Navy purse on the side of the couch and sit down next to her. And then, changing my mind, I lay my head on her lap and ball up like a little kid. She laughs.

"Li Li, you'll always be my baby."

"I know."

A very happy and surprised Joscelyne on her 16th birthday.

2000

"I really want to go to Australia, Li," Candace, one of my besties says as we plunk down on my bed.  

"Watching the coverage of the games, now I want to go, too. Sydney looks beautiful. You know, a girl I know from one of my classes is going to do a semester abroad over there in the spring," I say.

"Lucky," Candace replies. She's checking herself out in the mirror now, having slid into a new tan, khaki skirt. We both fell in love with it, so we both purchased one.

"I'm going to travel the world one day. London, Paris, South Africa...". She talks and changes at the same time. I'm still on the bed, next to my stuffed animals and favorite doll since I was eight.

I want to go, too, but... how can I go? Leaving Mom and my sister, Joscelyne...

Just then, Joscelyne barges through the door. "You guys went shopping? Why didn't you bring me? You know, it is my birthday week."

I roll my eyes. "Everyone gets a day, but you need a week."

"Of course," she says with all seriousness. I check my watch. We have to head to Dad's house now. The little brat doesn't know it, but our stepmother has a surprised sixteenth birthday party planned for her. Our friends and cousins are already there. I get up.

"Let's go," I say as I glance at Can-Can knowingly. We head down the stairs, and the three of us stop to say goodbye to my mom with a kiss. We walk out the front door.

Leave for Australia? No way. I can't leave Mom that long. It hurts leaving her for Dad's for just an afternoon.



1996

A bombing at the Olympics. Bad things had happened at past games, but that was in the 70's. What is going on in the world?

I read about the terrorist attack the next morning in the paper. I read the paper daily, a ritual begun at 8. It's hot, so my hands sweat and the paper ink is turning my fingers black.

I get up and wash my hands. Mom is in the kitchen. Mopping. She lives in that kitchen.Since Dad moved out in March, she seems to spend 90% of her time in there. Sweeping, cooking and washing dishes.

Jos is still asleep. My brother Joe is, too.

I wipe the sweat from my forehead. It's too hot already.

I go back to the living room and flip on the TV. The reporters are talking of the shock of the bombing, but how the games will go on.

I wonder what Dad is doing. I hate not knowing. I can call, but...

Life goes on.



1992

Jos helps me cut the rectangles for the flags. Japan, Canada, Itlay, France. We color feverishly. We are on a mission to get those flags done and taped to our bedroom wall. Our Barbies will be taking center stage at the first annual Flemming Summer Olympics. Then we will head out to the backyard to compete ourselves.

The real games are in Spain. I have to make sure not to forget the Spanish flag.

"I wish I could take gymnastics classes. I don't know why Daddy always says, 'No'" I am also done with China.

"Cause he's cheap! Duh!," Joe says, walking into our room to look at our work. "This is pretty good."

"Thanks. Can you hang those flags up by the ceiling?"

"Yeah, sure, " he says, his 14 year old self much taller than us.

"I'd be really good, though. I'm the right height and everything, " I say, going back to the topic of gymnastics. "Eliza has been taking it for years and she can do backflips and the balance beam and cartwheels..."

"Li, it ain't gonna happen. It's piano lessons or nothing."

"I'd rather have nothing."

"It's not really up to you anyway. I'm done. You got anymore?" I don't really hear him. I want to be Dominique Dawes. I have to be her.

"Look, I'll show you how to do a cartwheel. Everyone should know how to do a cartwheel."

I smile. "Yes! Let's go!" I jump up and follow him. Jos suddenly realizes she's about to get left behind.

"Me, too, me, too!" She runs behind us, nearly tripping down the stairs and out the door.




1988

Daddy and Jo Jo are watching the games. Jo Jo says they are the best athletes in the world. These games are only held every four years.

I sit by Daddy's feet next to Jos. Mommy comes in from the kitchen and sits next to him.

"Flo-Jo," Daddy says, "is bad. That is one strong woman!" Jos is confused. "Why is she bad?" she asks.

I know this. "No, she's not really bad. She's really cool." Jos still looks confused. She is such a baby.

"Like Michael Jackson! She's 'bad'!"

"Oh," she says, but I can tell, she isn't getting it. I inch closer to her and hug her. She has so much to learn.

I'll teach her.

My mom and Jos

1984

I'm two. I have no idea the Olympics are being held in Los Angeles. No clue the Cold War drama is mixing with the games causing boycotts. I don't even know what the Olympics are.

I do know I have a new baby sister. Born August 6th.

And as soon as Daddy picks us up from Nana's, I'll meet her.


Happy 28th Birthday, Joscelyne.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Playing Chicken

From a cursory scan of news sites, this was the week of Ann Romney's Rafalca, Team USA's ri-donk-ulous win over Nigeria in Men's Basketball, Michael Phelps as Aquaman (again), cutie-pie golden girl Gabby Douglas and (sadly), even her hair.

Yup, it was all about the Olympics this first week of August.


Oh, yes, and Chick-Fil-A.

At this point, there really is nothing I can add to this chick-fi-asco, except for corny puns like that. In complete disclosure, I did not eat there on Wednesday. Or ever.

You see, in the swath of Dirty Jerz where I live, there wasn't even a Chick-Fil-A up until the last few years. Much like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, this part of retail Americana just didn't bother with the NYC metro area until relatively late in the game. So if I was jonesing for fast fried chicken, I was more likely to go to KFC, Popeyes or a local chicken shack. Well, those I tended to avoid going to alone since too many of  of their patrons wanted a side of me with their order...

Things have changed, and now there are three within a 40 minute drive, but I still haven't tried any. I need less fatty, fried food in my life, politics/ Constitutional rights/ religion/ debates/ waffle fries, be darned.

I have been reading more than a recommended daily allotment of blog posts on the subject, though. Here's some excerpts:

From Rachel Held Evans:
Is this what following Jesus is supposed to be about? Eating a chicken sandwich to prove a point? 
Is this what mobilizes the people of God? 

Suddenly, my religion is alien to me—small, petty, reactive.  My faith has lost its bearings. I don’t feel like praying anymore, not even for the mom who begged me to pray for her gay son who vowed yesterday never to return to church again.

Can I blame him?  Perhaps it is better if he stays away.

I am hanging by the tips of sweaty fingers on this ledge of faith, wondering if letting go will bring freedom or death. I’ve hung on before—through the science wars, the gender wars, the Christmas wars, the culture wars—but I’m just so tired of fighting, so tired of feeling out of place.
From The Old Black Church:
Get out of here, you'll never convince me ordering a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries at Chick-fil-A equate to ‘standing up for Jesus. We are all called to define what being a Christian means in each moment of our lives, not just on special days...  I don't think for one minute this is a good  image of the  Christian faith at all.


From The Church of No People:
I have never, ever seen Christians that motivated, that mobilized…ever.  Over anything.  Who would have thought on Wednesday we’d see the biggest movement of Christians in this country in a generation?  Christians of every stripe turned out.  It bridged denominations and age groups.  No one knew what kind of Christians they were standing in line with or eating next to.  They were just united.  For just a few hours.  Just take out everything else and marvel at that for a moment.  It doesn’t happen very often.
From Relevant:

And it seems, in the midst of worldwide pain and heartache in recent weeks—the tragedy at the premier of The Dark Knight Rises, the Colorado fires, the Penn State abuse report, the Syrian massacres, unrest in the Middle East or even the drama surrounding the Olympics, that Christians would have plenty to not only talk about, but plenty in which we have an opportunity to participate with God in his redemptive plan for the reconciliation of all things.
But we want to talk about Chick-fil-A.

From Cal Thomas:

Where is all of this heading? It's heading in the way the world is heading: to destruction. All of this is forecast in Scripture if you take the time to read it, especially what Jesus and Paul said would be true in the "last days." What's wrong according to God's standard would be declared right and the reverse.

Christians will never persuade the unsaved through demonstrations of their positions. Leading people to Christ is the way to transform people. I fully support the right of free speech by Dan Cathy, the restaurant CEO, but I'll bet he would sasy that speech never changed anyone. Only the gospel does.

Like I said up top, everything that could be said has been. I got nothing. Well... okay, just one thought. Isn't it interesting that while hundreds of millions of Muslims are fasting for Ramadan- not even drinking water, tens of thousands of Christians filled up on junk food?

Just a thought.

Witness Protection

Bible student Richard, out at 7AM, ready to witness to morning commuters.

I'd seen this dude out around seven in the morning a number of times as I drove to and from Starbucks for my morning pick-me-up. He had a fold up beach chair and giant poster set up on an easel. Rain or shine, that guy was there with a number of different messages about the End Times, the evils of this world and following Christ.

Finally, on Wednesday, I pulled over and got out. I just had to talk to him.

He told me his name is Richard, and he lived in the next town over. He is retired and wants to spend his time now working for God's Kingdom. I asked him what church he belonged to. He told me it wasn't any denominational church, just a simple group of Bible students who meet together once a week.

I read over his sign. It was an anti-war poster with photo copied print outs of newspaper clips and a picture of former President George W. Bush taped on. I pondered why Richard didn't retire this sign as we've had nearly four years of the current Prez now. Actually, he could totally just clip an Obama pic and attach it over the Bush one, since he claims to be a Christian and we're still warring and all...

"Do people come and talk to you... positively?" I asked. Richard admitted most people don't even bother to stop, and others haven't been too kind.

"Is it worth it, then?" I asked during our conversation-turned-impromptu-interview. He stopped and thought for a few seconds and thought. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other.

"Yes. Because I don't know how many people have driven by, saw it, and it planted a seed. They might think on it later, and want to learn more about God. So I did my part."

He handed me a photocopied pamphlet about how Christians should not pick up arms. I skimmed through it quickly and recognized the layout of being similar to The Watchtower. I flipped to the back and saw it was indeed a copy of a publication straight from Bethel Headquarters. The back part of the stapled together handout was copied from a Quaker publication. 

Interesting. I said goodbye to Richard, and added a "God bless you."

He'll need it. I remember when I was a kid, my uncle, who after being raised in church, backslid all the way into selling and using drugs. Like the Prodigal Son, he returned, cleaned up, and was soon fervently testifying to anyone who so much as glanced in his direction. He decided he wanted to take the Gospel to the streets, and we, along with his kids were dragged to various neighborhoods in Linden and Roselle near our church to hand out tracts about coming to God. 
Now.

Or HELL awaited you.

They were *this close* to being as tacky as those Jack Chick joints.

I tried to block out those long, boring Saturdays, but I'll always remember the sheer indifference of most of the people with whom we spoke. Some would take a tract, just to drop it about five feet after passing us. Even at about ten, I knew this was not the best way to be "fishers of men".

I read this funny post by Jay Adams on Matthew Paul Turner's site. Adams admits, breaking a cardinal Evangelical rule (along with, I guess now eating as much Chick-Fil-A as possible): he does not witness. And even more so, he doesn't feel a pinch of guilt about it.

You know what? I guess I don't either. Well, at least not in the traditional, get your neighbor, mailman, cashier at ShopRite to repeat the Sinner's Prayer ASAP-type way. I've felt my best witness is... me. Namely my actions. Because while I never had a single person talk Jesus with me based on hading them literature, I have had coworkers, acquaintances and neighbors do so because, according to one friend, "They could see the God in me". By the way, that was and is, one of the best things anyone has ever told me, bar none.

What do you think? Which approach have you tried? Which approach most appeals to you?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hair We Go Yet Again: Gabby, Blue Ivy, & Z

I'm shaking my head at this latest "controversy". This drama, the absolute trauma that is Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas'... hair.


Unfamiliar with the story? Here's an excerpt from Demetria Lucas' piece at Essence:

On Tuesday, 16-year-old Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas led our women’s gymnastics team to a gold medal, the USA’s first since 1996. The bouncing, bubbly superstar will also be competing for the gold again today, one of just two Americans chosen after she outperformed media darling Jordyn Wieber, whom everyone expected to land a top spot.

But instead of collectively celebrating her accomplishments on the Olympic stage —‘cause I know like you know we always root for the Black girl to upstage the competition — Gabby has been dogged with cruel criticism. Too many folk aren’t discussing her awe-inspiring leaps, bounds and accomplishments. Instead, it’s her hair that has become the topic du jour of some less-than-pleasant viewers.

No, it’s not runway-ready. But Gabby isn’t strutting a catwalk, so why does it need to be? She’s an athlete, competing on the world’s largest stage for the world’s greatest accolades. Did you catch that? She’s not just a champion of her block, or her borough, or her county or state. She’s one of the best in the world, as in all of Earth and womankind. At 16. Her hair may not be flawless, but her gravity-defying performances have been doggone close.
... Not only is it dead wrong to talk about a child, but I don’t understand why, with all she’s accomplished, her hair is even up for discussion. A gold medal trumps a fresh wash-and-set any day.
For more on this twisted judging of, as Lucas pointed out, a CHILD, click here and here.

This latest ugliness in the Black online universe comes just a bit after haters took to Twitter and various bootleg blogs to dissect baby Blue Ivy Carter, daughter of megastars Beyonce Knowles and Sean "Jay-Z" Carter. From her adorably chubby cheeks and legs, to her pouty lips and her teeny toes, no part of the cutie was off limits. And yes, that included her hair. Some anonymous losers trashed her curly locks, calling them "nappy" and commented on how it was unfortunate she has inherited her father's "bad hair". 


About a week and a half ago, I experienced some of this toxicity for myself, first hand. I was standing in line at Old Navy along with K, who was holding Z. We were paying for a pair of little pink sneakers for Z when I overheard two Black women behind us saying, "Look at that girl. Why wouldn't she put a pink bow in the back of her hair or something? It just isn't right." The other woman replied, "Well, her hair IS so short back there a bow wouldn't even stay on... Uh huh...".

My eyes darted back and forth, scanning the line. We were directly  in front of them. There were no other babies or even little girls in line. I felt myself slowly heating up internally. I glanced back at them, picking at those dollar bin nik-naks that line the checkout area. They both had to be in their late forties or even fifties. Both were wearing wigs.

After our transaction was finished and we were walking away, I turned and looked at K and said steaming, "I KNOW they weren't talk about MY BABY!" K, being the cool, level headed fellow that he is, brushed it off. He just looked at me, shook his head, and holding her, said, "She's beautiful." 


By the way, Zoe was actually wearing a blue and white headband at the time. You know, to go with her blue and white dress. *Eyeroll*


Call Mr. Blackwell, Z's hair was a fashion faux pas!

I'm directing this question to the noxious trolls online and in real life: What the "h-e-double-hockey-sticks" is wrong with you? It's ridiculous to puke your venom on complete strangers. It's vile and despicable to do so on children and babies. The only real point you're making is that you're a jerk. 


One of the saddest parts of all these regular exercises in fifteen minutes of hate is that it actually reflects insecurity and self-hatred. For years, I've heard Black folks lambast the "European mentality" that "white makes right". Well, Black folks, I present WE ARE our own biggest enemies. When I made the choice to go natural, it wasn't White people, or Asians or Latinos knocking me. Nope, it was all Black folks (and specifically, American Blacks). It was a Black man who said I now have "N***** naps" instead of my once "silky, smooth hair". It was Black folks who petted my hair like I were a poodle.

Do you want other races to respect us? Start respecting and loving us. Stop throwing shade at the amazingly talented Gabby. Don't tear apart the offspring of two of the world's most successful Black entertainers.

And bless K's peaceful heart, no one best say anything about my daughter again. God ain't done with me, yet.
  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Born-Again Snoop Makes a Change in Music & Name



Maybe instead of gin and juice, he'll be sticking to Communion wine? From The Grio:

Snoop Dogg says he was “born again” during a visit to Jamaica in January, is changing his name to Snoop Lion and is ready to make music that his “kids and grandparents can listen to.”
The artist known for gangster rap is releasing a reggae album called “Reincarnated” in the fall.
The rapper held a news conference in New York on Monday. Later he played five songs for a small crowd, including one called “No Guns Allowed.” It features his daughter.

The album will be followed with a documentary of the same name. It features him making music and will include some personal elements of his life, a producer of the film said. It will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.


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