The first half of this post is a brain dump. The second half (after the picture of the rosemary bush) is the point at hand – a faith post. Feel free to read either – or – or both.
I woke up at 1AM last night, sweaty and tangled in the sheets, having just accepted the starring role of Maria in the English Theatre in Paris’ production of Sound of Music. I sang for them, and apparently I read the parts “just so.” My first panicked thought after hearing the good news was, “when the heck am I going to have time for rehearsals?”
I think this dream is the result of my sub-conscious working through all the opportunities from BlogHer, and all the writing projects the event has sparked in my mind. When the heck am I going to have time for it all? I proceeded to stay awake thinking about this very thing for another two and a half hours.
“I’m not really affected by jet lag anymore,” I had said breezily a week earlier in San José. Now I’m eating my words and just about anything else I can find in the pantry.
I know I mentioned this, but I want to write about race. Yes, even this white girl has something to say on the issue, although I’m on the fence about whether I can put it into the right words. I want to write more faith posts. I want to keep working on my book. I want to do recipes – for me, for another site that wants to feature my recipes, for Queen Latifah …
I want (or I might want) to do sponsored posts for some more income. I’m approached by agencies a lot, but I usually turn them down because the posts would be too contrived and wouldn’t fit my blog. But I did meet one company at BlogHer that could be a good fit. And as I’m about to get charged the annual $130 for blog hosting, if I could offset that and some of the marketing fees I’ve paid for my book, it would be a good thing.
Oh yes, and a foreign rights agent wants to see a book proposal for my memoir. So I need to get on that. And I want to read what other people are writing – what’s going on in the world. I have a lot of to-dos that I want to do.
And that’s not even taking into account the rest of my life. One of the panelists mentioned doing at least one “life affirming” thing a day to offset the huge time-suck that can be social media. Yesterday I weeded a garden bed and hung the clean laundry outdoors. You may think I’m joking, but that was richly life-affirming. Cleaning the house is less so, but it needs to be done. And – after being home for 4 days – I suppose I should unpack and get my huge suitcase off our tiny bedroom floor.
So my plan is to put up a guest post on Monday that features secret tourist spots in Paris. And then Wednesday I’ll get back to Chapter Five of my book. And in the meantime, I’m going to do lots of life-affirming – and not-so-life-affirming tasks. Like cleaning toilets.
Sometimes I feel like I fall through the cracks as a writer and as a Christian. I mean, who writes about French tourism and recipes, novels and memoirs, mommy stuff, and faith? It’s weird. They don’t belong together. I should pick one topic and focus on it – become an expert on that one thing. I know that somehow the broadness of my content reduces the extent of my audience. There are very few people who want to read about both this and that.
But I’m not searching for affirmation. I’ve written about this topic before and I’m okay with remaining niche-less and retaining my select audience who like both this and that. (Or – who like this enough to put up with that).
I’m simply bringing this up because the BlogHer conference reminded me how much I like mixing with all kinds of people. As much as I love writing about faith, I wouldn’t want only to have Christian readers or only attend Christian conferences. I’ve finally figured out what my label is – what kind of Christian I am.
“Fundamentalist” doesn’t quite fit right, and I’m most definitely not a liberal because I believe in the unerring power of God’s Word. I’ve figured out that I’m an open-minded, non-liberal Christian.
Yes that exists.
I love going to the conference and hugging my lesbian friends (tearfully grateful that they still love me, even after I “came out” as a non-liberal). Like a teenager, I first wrote about it awkwardly in The Reverse Prejudice. I think that was my first faith post ever – way to bungee jump into it – and I was physically sick for two weeks afterwards. It’s so awkwardly written, I didn’t really want to link to it. I feel like I wrote about it a little more eloquently in What is Love.
I love listening to people like A’Driane Nieves, who spoke passionately about the race problem in America. The link is here, but her video is not loading for me. I hope it does for you. I love reading blogs from people like Grace Sandra (Biskie) who writes openly about her own adultery and weakness. And then follows it with a subsequent post that just so beautifully describes the grace we all have access to. I love listening to my Muslim friend Amina talk passionately about the Gaza strip, only to go to the conference and meet a Jewish woman who speaks with equal passion, but from a different perspective. I offer tentative opinions from the other side, but I am mostly there just to listen.
The people I hang out with swear. I don’t because of James 3:9-13. The people I hang out with base their standard for life on a different set of morals than the Bible – either because they are an atheist, or a liberal, or simply not a Christian. The people I hang out with party, and make coarse jokes, and live together unmarried, and struggle with addiction. They are Christians who fall down and walk away from God. They are Christians who fall down and get back up again. These broken people are my people, for I am broken too.
I think, as Christians, intolerance for sin, weakness, and differences comes about largely as a result of fear. We are afraid that if we spend time with people – love people – who are not obeying the Holy Scriptures, that we might backslide. We are afraid that loving these people might indicate that we are in silent agreement with their life’s choices. We feel like we are not honouring God unless we remind them – desperately – again and again, that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galations 5:19-21).
Jesus hung out with sinners. We all know that. He also told them to repent when that’s what they needed to hear. The scriptures teach us that some did – many did! But I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were others who also mocked him while he was hanging on the cross. Jesus showered his love liberally on those sinners who repented, and he showered his love liberally on those sinners who would never do so. Nothing would do for Jesus but an all-encompassing, radical love for those who knew and followed the scriptures, and for those who didn’t.
Love trumps doctrine. We Christians might be afraid of dishonouring God by associating with people who are not now disciples of Christ, and with those who will never become one. We’re not far from the early religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who were so terrified or offended by his new teaching that they crucified him. But Jesus’ grace covered them too. A hard conservative, a Judaistic legalist – a murderer – would become an apostle to the gentiles, and who – after a long life of servitude to Christ – would be martyred for him in his last days.
It wasn’t the Saul who was breathing murderous threats against the people he considered to have abandoned Moses’ law that Jesus wanted. It was the humbled disciple who Jesus lifted up – the one who equated his former righteousness and religious works to menstrual cloths .
There are two caveats that I can see. I don’t advocate associating with people who don’t follow God when it entails putting ourselves in harm’s way. If someone is bent on evil, or leads us into a particular temptation, it is better to cut them off rather than falling down a slimy path with no bottom.
As a somewhat-related example (it was not the people, but the situation), I saw a friend at the BlogHer karaoke party down a free shot and I immediately thought, “I’m far from home! I could have free shots too and no one would know.” (I have an alcoholic past).
I quickly left the party. “God would know,” I thought, and I went home to send an e-mail to my husband, pleased at how proud he would be of me for resisting. He was. 🙂
So if someone causes us to stumble, then it is not best for us to love them. It is better to get away and save ourselves. And in the same vein (the second caveat), we need to be sure that our entourage is balanced. We need to surround ourselves with people who will lift us up and strengthen our faith because Christianity is not a solitary endeavour. We can’t expect to remain strong when we’re not reading the Word and spending time with people who remind us of it.
I spend a lot of time on social media and I love the diversity I encounter there. It makes my life rich, and the friendships make me very happy. But in order to stay Christ-centred, I also need to make an effort to communicate and share and spend time with the Christian friends who live near me. In fact, I’m going to send this post to five of them to make sure I hold myself accountable.
Those of us who are disciples of Christ need to do whatever it takes to protect our faith, which is of greater worth than gold. Yet apart from those two caveats – and barring any stumbling blocks – I think we are wrong to limit ourselves to people who think just like we do. Being Christ-like is to do whatever it takes to meet people where they’re at instead of where we want them to be – and to love people the way Jesus did.
With an all-encompassing, radical love that trumps all doctrine.