Monday, December 3, 2018

Interesting Questions Answered Pt. 1

It turns out that I'm only good at writing deep philosophical posts examining my life every once in a while. Other days, I start to form a thought and it stalls out in the face of exhaustion or other weird things like having a job.

So in the event that I can't get together enough brainpower for a full thought but still need a daily blog post, here are a bunch of partial ones in the form of...

An internet survey!

Yes, these things that tend to circulate around the internet on various platforms; first email, then Myspace, and then Facebook (and even Tumblr for a time). Honestly, they were a major part of my experience in growing up on the internet and I love them. So I'll be answering questions from this list, 10 at a time on days that I have a lot going on.

Here we go!


  1. What was the last picture you took with your phone? A picture of my cat, Lorelai, sleeping peacefully on my lap.
  2. Do you know any big gossips? Yes, schools tend to be hubs of gossip, though I try to avoid it when possible.
  3. Have you been pulled over by a cop? Yeah, a few times, mostly for speeding (once for going 2 MPH over the limit, but it was in Oregon and in a construction zone, so I don't really count it cause the cop let me off with a warning). I haven't been pulled over since 2012 though and I'm looking to keep that streak strong.
  4. Do you know your heritage? Genetically - Scottish, Irish, Finnish, Bohemian, Filipino, and a couple of unknows tossed in. Culturally - very American, with an affinity for bagpipes, scotch, and Guinness. Though I do love me some adobo and lumpia when I can get it.
  5. What have you always wanted? Did you ever get it? Well... I'm pretty sure one thing I always wanted was to have a serious relationship with a person who not only gets me and all my weird quirks but also loves me and all my weird quirks. And I've definitely got that now in Marie. 
  6. What kind of sickness have you lied about so you wouldn't go to work? I used to try to pretend to be sick to get out of doing my schoolwork, but it doesn't work as well when you're homeschooled and pretending to be sick mostly just means you can't go and play with your friends when you're done. I don't think I've ever pretended to be sick to get out of an actual job though. At most, I've timed my travel plans poorly and not made it back in time after a break or vacation.
  7. What was the last lie you told? I told myself that I would write a full blog post before I went to work today. Clearly, that worked out.
  8. Have you ever danced in the rain? Yes, and sung in the rain too.
  9. What is your blood type? My philosophy in life; B Positive.
  10. Have you ever been in a car accident? Yes. Nothing major, just a few fender benders. 


Well, that was fun! Now I can go to sleep guilt-free, and hopefully tomorrow I will finish the thought I started to compose today.

Until tomorrow.

What Next?

As mentioned in Sunday's post, a lot of my time this year has been spent asking the question, what next?

What could I do when a job that I sacrificed a lot of time and personal hobbies for cut me loose?

What could I do when that job is in the career field I'd worked towards since I was 19, and my confidence was shaken?

What could I do about the fact that hiding my identity from nearly everyone in my professional life has caused me to lose sight of it in my personal life as well?

I've always been pretty good about picking myself up after a setback and finding a way to move forward. I trained myself to view failure as an opportunity to learn and I value hard work to accomplish goals. The first thought I had when I got out of the final meeting with the administration was decide that I was going to work on my Masters research, get straight to finding a job, dig my room out from the piles that always accumulate when I'm stressed.

But. There's always that but.

In this case it was the perfect storm of a few factors:

1) As mentioned, I had gone off my meds about 6 months before, cold turkey. If you know anything about meds designed to treat mental illness, you know that was a stupid ass thing to do. Which I know, but had conveniently forgotten.
2) I do a couple of things predictably when I'm overwhelmed. First, I compartmentalize my emotions so that I can focus on day to day tasks, like planning, grading, actually teaching the classes, meeting with colleagues and parents, etc. Anything outside of those tasks goes on the back burner until I can deal with it. Then, if I'm tired and not forcing myself to deal with it, it builds up and will eventually take me out.
3) Teaching is stressful on the best days. First year teaching is, by all accounts, three times as stressful by default. Teaching in a place where you don't feel like you have a ton of allies on the staff just adds to that. So... I wasn't dealing with anything that wasn't absolutely necessary to doing my job.
4) I put every ounce of energy into keeping that job for months, and when I was cut loose, and suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, I ran. Ran from the barrage of emotions that was nipping at my heels, ran from having to face the consequences of ignoring myself for 6 months, and sunk into a depression that was almost as bad as when I lost my sister and nephews in 2013.

So I played a lot of video games, watched a lot of Netflix, and read a lot of trashy novels. And I also made zero progress on any project that could eventually get me out of my funk, like finding a job or working on research. I just couldn't find the motivation, and believe me, I tried. I tried every single day.

The only difference was that this time I at least knew to do some things. I knew that when I didn't show signs of bouncing back after a month or so, I needed to get myself to counseling and fast. That helped some. I also tried to force myself out of the house for stuff, though some days that didn't work out super great. I went to camp, I volunteered. I tried.

So the question remained, what next?

I found some of the answer with Marie, for sure. Having a future to plan for with her has been some motivation to get myself in order. Another piece was found when I finally managed to get a job working in after school care, which is what I was doing before teaching. It's a familiar rhythm, even at a different location, and that's helped ground me a little bit. It's also helped me realize what I actually missed about working with kids.

And the rest I'll have to tell you about tomorrow, because I'm writing this on my phone and it's not playing nice with the app, so I will come back to this when I'm at a computer.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Hope Springs Eternal

Well well well, what have we here? A mostly unused blog? What? Never!

Actually, all the time. But it's the Holidailies season, so I'm back! I am very excited, even though I totally missed the first day of the month because my NaNo hangover took me out. 

It is what it is. I'm over it. It even fits with my theme today, which is hope.

I'm going to start out and say that it's been a bit of a roller coaster of a year. There's not a hugely detailed record of my brain-space last year around this time, because I was so crazy overwhelmed that I think I managed maybe one or two posts before dropping this project in favor of all the work I had to do at that point. [Edit: I looked, and I was wrong, I got zero actually posted, but I do have one draft that shows the intention was briefly there.]

If you've been wondering what's been up with me, here's the Cliff Notes version:
  • January 2017 - Got my teaching credential finally!
  • June 2017 - Signed a teaching contract with a conservative Christian private school to be their 9th Grade English Teacher.
  • July 2017 - Got assigned a senior girl's Bible class as my non-subject matter specific course.
  • August 2017 - Found out that the Bible class was also more or less a Home Ec/How to Be a Good Housewife class. Laughed at the thought of me, Lifelong Defier of Gender Roles, trying to teach a group of girls how to be more traditionally feminine. Decided to go with more of the worldview, critical thinking, and Bible focus.
  • Fall Semester 2017 - Struggled a good bit with the Freshman English, but in ways that are fairly typical for a first-year teacher (I thought). The senior girls turned out to be a tougher nut. Besides knowing more than me about most of the "practical skills" I tried to teach them about things like cooking and entertaining, they could not decide whether I was teaching too much Bible or not enough Bible. And either way, I definitely wasn't teaching the Bible they were used to. The death knell was when I shared this brilliant article about Advent being a Feminist Expression of God to the world. The most conservative of the group did not appreciate that it, 1) Used the "F" word, 2) Was written by a woman *gasp*, and 3) Doubly terrible, written by a woman who claimed to be a preacher AND queer. So...
  • January 2018 - Got told within two weeks of the start of Spring semester that I was no longer teaching the Bible class. Took it as an opportunity to focus more on my English classes, and get to know more of the students because I was assigned lunch yard duty in place of my teaching time.
  • Spring Semester 2018 - Did my best to address my struggles in the English classes, asked for help consistently, searched out resources and advice from multiple sources, and was still struggling to keep my head above water. Couldn't figure out why. Asked for more help from the administration...
  • March 29, 2018 - The administration's response to my requests was less of a, "we'll help you get through the rest of the year" and more of a "Nope, not worth it, see ya!"
  • April-August 2018 - I'm pretty sure these months existed. I may have even done something in them. I know that my brother got married, and I spent a couple of weeks at camp. Past that, it's all a bit of a blur. Except for one thing. I did start hanging out a lot more with friends, in particular, one writing friend, who I taught how to drive stick in July and August so she could borrow my car to get to class when her Fall semester started up.
  • August 29, 2018 - Finally fought through my haze enough to see that I was actually extremely attracted to said friend, and officially asked Marie to be slightly more than that.
  • September 2018-Current - Finding my feet again, career-wise, and with my mental health. Made much easier by the fact that I have an amazing girlfriend by my side, and she has helped me reconnect with some of the things that bring me joy, like being in a choir and leaving the house to do things on occasion. 
A few things to add to that: 

First, I have a lot of feelings about the mess with the school I was working for. Many of them involve words that are less than kind, but I'm hoping I got most of those out of my system in the nine months since the shit hit the fan. I will say that upon lots of reflection, both on my own time and with trained counselors, I acknowledged the parts of the experience that were undoubtedly my fault or a result of my choices. One choice that doomed me was going cold turkey on meds for my depression instead of getting the prescription switched over to my new insurance. Not a great plan. Also, the school was true to their stated identity and purpose, and I mistakenly thought I could manage to fit in well enough despite some fundamental theological differences.

For instance, I knew that I was bi a full two years before I was hired at the school. I had made my peace with it, but had not - at that point - taken any steps to be in any relationship, let alone one that the school definitely wouldn't approve of. I thought it would be fine because I had not technically stepped over the line. 

It was not. 

It is very emotionally exhausting to be in a place and culture where you know that a good portion of the people who currently find you a fairly decent human being would turn on you in a second because they believe God has told them to. Also, there's nothing like being tossed into a community almost exactly like the one you grew up in to show you how much you've grown and moved away from some of their beliefs since high school. Knowing the language isn't enough when you use the words to mean very different things. 

Which brings me to hope. 

There were a lot of moments in the last year and a half that I felt totally hopeless. More hopeless than I'd felt in years. And yeah, teaching is stressful, but I loved the things about teaching that I always love about it; connecting with students, being a listening ear for them, having my classroom be a safe space for students to be themselves, and teaching them how to communicate more effectively through English. Throughout the year, my classroom became a hangout spot for a number of students, and I welcomed it. It was the bright spot that often gave me hope when nothing else seemed to be going right.

What caused me hopelessness was, in hindsight, feeling like I didn't fit in. I had a cordial relationship with most of the staff and an "actual conversations that cover deeper topics" relationship with a few. But I never felt fully comfortable unless it was just me in the classroom because I had to be guarded about so much. Can't let them know that I'm a left-leaning moderate (and leaning farther with every passing month), that I support and consider myself part of the LBTQ+ community, that I hang out with pagans and atheists on the regular and don't go out of my way to evangelize to them, that I think that Evangelicals are generally good people but a lot of their theology rubs me the wrong way, or even that I am pretty charismatic and radical in my expression of my belief.

Tl;dr, no part of me fit in, except things that I'd left in the past. Not my theology, not my political beliefs, not my strongly held convictions, and definitely not my own identity. And that disconnect was always going to manifest itself in a more difficult time in the classroom.

It took me a while to understand this, to be fair. I was shaken to the core when they asked me to leave at spring break. I missed the kids the rest of the year, even though I made an effort to make it out to sporting events and the school play until the end of the school year. It really wasn't until August that I really appreciated the freedom from the theological boundaries. It meant that I could do something when I looked at this beautiful woman I'd been hanging out with for like, 8 hours at a time some days, and thought, "huh, maybe I always want to spend time with her because I am falling in love with her... OHHHHHHHHH!" 

And while I'm sure there will be a more in-depth post about Marie in the future, the main thing the start of our relationship signaled to me was hope that things could actually work out. Up until we started dating, I was almost thinking about leaving teaching for good, going to something else like social work or being a school counselor, where I could still work with kids, just outside of a classroom. I had no idea what goal I should be reaching for or where my future was leading. 

With Marie, I have some more confidence that I know what at least part of my future will hold. It helped me have a little more security to look at the experience with my previous job and have some hope that I will find a way to work as a teacher, in a school that I love, and do what I feel I was meant to do. 

Hope is beautiful that way. It can take something you thought was totally dead and breathe life back into it. It can refresh you, even when you feel like life has taken every single thing you hold dear away from you. There's a reason it lives with Faith and Love in Paul's list of things that will sustain you through life's greatest trials. And I am thankful for Hope showing up in my life, even when I stopped looking for it. 

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Building a Better Love

My life is defined by songs. Seriously. There are entire years of my life that can be defined by songs. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes defiant; there was the year when "King of Anything" by Sara Bareilles was my anthem, which can tell you a lot about the person I was dealing the most at the time. Other years it's been stuff from Broadway, or the year the "Hey There, Delilah" and "Bubbles" took over the girls dorms at college as everyone sighed at the idyllic relationship goals.

Last year, I came across this song. I'd heard it a few times before, but it wasn't until the 4th of July weekend when I went up to my camp for "a day" (four days) and was able to participate in a number of worship sessions that really broke down some pretty gnarly brick walls I'd been trying to dismantle with a spoon (at least, that's what it felt like). 

I suppose I should stop here to explain that I am a pretty charismatic Christian, on the spectrum of the faith. I don't usually go into the full measure of my beliefs, but I think it's important here. I believe in radical love that can literally heal emotional wounds that have been left gaping open, bleeding on everything in your life. I believe that the Holy Spirit can sweep in and set your body, soul, and spirit straight in an instant if you let her. I believe that God speaks to me through a variety of means, and sometimes I know things that are impossible to know about others because something in the back of my mind whispered it to me. I believe that God didn't stop doing revolutionary miracles in the first century, He does them on a daily basis right now. I believe that the reason He still does all these amazing, incomprehensible things is because He loves us more than we have the capacity to know.

So back to the song. The thing about God's love is that we filter our perception of it through our own understandings of love. It's natural. You have lenses that you have adopted as you go through life, and there's really no getting around it. So there gets to be a lot of really unloving versions of Jesus running around the Church, and much of that gets passed on to how we love others, because after all the second greatest commandment in the New Convenant is to love your neighbor as yourself. As I've said before (and I will say many, many more times) if we don't love ourselves well, we are going to do a really poor job of loving our neighbor, no matter how hard we try. 

I'm hardline about very, very few things in my Christian faith. I'm a recovering know-it-all, so I do my best to debate rather than argue, and present my beliefs as just that, my beliefs without any expectation that whoever is listening will agree. God's Love is the thing that I will fight anyone on. (and by fight, I mean pray unceasingly that you will let Him show you how much He loves you) It is God's identity to love, and He spells out what that looks like in no uncertain terms in 1 Corinthians 13, and a variety of other places. 

This song is called "Pieces." It was written by Amanda Cook, of Bethel, but the best-known version of it is sung by Steffany Gretzinger. I love Steffany's version, because she has a rawness to her voice that really cuts me to the core in the best way possible. Also, it's the one that first got through to me.

This song is brilliant in that it calls out a lot of the misconceptions about God's love that we carry with us every day. Today, I was again reminded how many of those I still had hanging on in my life, and went through another session of telling the lies to take a hike. So now I'm playing this song on repeat to drive in the Truth.

I invite you to listen to this song and read the lyrics. Listen to what His love is, and find the places in your life where that understanding hasn't reached yet. Like I said, he'll heal you. If anyone wants to know how I will gladly walk you through it via any messaging service you prefer. 




Unreserved, unrestrained
Your love is wild
Your love is wild for me
It isn't shy, it's unashamed
Your love is proud
To be seen with me

You don't give Your heart in pieces
You don't hide Yourself to tease us

Uncontrolled, uncontained
Your love is a fire
Burning bright for me
It's not just a spark
It's not just a flame
Your love is a light
That all the world will see
All the world will see

You don't give Your heart in pieces
You don't hide Yourself to tease us
You don't give Your heart in pieces
You don't hide Yourself to tease us

Your love's not fractured
It's not a troubled mind
It isn't anxious
It's not the restless kind
Your love's not passive
It's never disengaged
It's always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps its promises
It keep its word
It honors what's sacred
'Cause its vows are good
Your love's not broken
It's not insecure
Your love's not selfish
Your love is pure

You don't give Your heart in pieces
You don't hide Yourself to tease us
You don't give Your heart in pieces
You don't hide Yourself to tease us

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Everyone Means Everyone

Context: This is written largely in response to the post going around explaining Why Christians Can Calm Down About Beauty and the Beast featuring a subtly gay character. They had one reason. I have a different one.

I've been looking forward to the Beauty and the Beast live-action adaptation for the last two years. It was announced and I was interested. Then they announced the cast, and between Emma Watson, Sir Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, and all the other big names...

I became somewhat more than excited. I believe squealing was involved more than one time when reading news about the movie. When the trailers and sneak peeks were revealed, I was over the moon. I even bought a dress that's based off Belle's ballroom dress. I rarely buy dresses, and I never buy dresses that involve any amount of tulle. When I'm excited enough to buy a frou-frou dress, you know it is a big moment in my life.

So when I heard that there was a subtle storyline where one of the side characters is revealed to be a gay man, what did I do? I shrugged, said, "huh, that's interesting," and I moved on.

Apparently, not every Christian did. Because of course in American Christianity, you should probably actually murder someone rather than reveal yourself to be anything other than a wholesome cis-gender, straight person.

"But no, that's not what we meant!" My brothers and sisters cry. "We meant that we should not condone their behavior!"

Okay, well don't condone their behavior quietly then. When did we become so arrogant to truly believe that our main call in life and faith is to prove people wrong? I've read the Bible, I promise. I've read it in full, and read it in pieces, read one verse at a time, read and studied passages in depth, searching through the original Greek and Hebrew for the original meaning of the text. I've considered the historical context surrounding not only Jesus's teachings but the epistles, the books of prophecy, Psalms, even Leviticus, looking at why they said what they said in the way they said it.

Much like Paul, I don't say this to brag. It wasn't something I did to be able to hit people over the head with my right-ness, or "righteousness". I did all this because I believe that's how we gain understanding and insight into God's plan for our lives. I believe the Bible is where the Truth lies, and I base all my understanding of the world, culture, art, and people off of the Bible.

So why did I not freak out about Le Fou being gay?

For one thing, he is a side character. It is literally not even a major plot point from what I understand. Which is actually the point, I feel like. It's not even a bit deal to them, he just is. It's addressed briefly, and then we're back to the actual storyline of a hetero couple (I guess? I mean, the guy is a monster for most of the movie, but at least he's male?).

Second, you may have heard that life imitates art, but really art is brought out of our lives. It's inevitably going to reflect the cultural norms and values we hold. As literally every Christian blogger has pointed out, Disney hasn't been shy about their beliefs being more than a shade left. Why is that the explanation, though?

I don't think it's about politics, really. I think it's because Disney, for whatever else they are, are great story tellers. Like, really great storytellers. They've built their entire media empire around telling stories that appeal to nearly everyone. Whether you want them to or not, everyone does actually include the LGBT community. They are involved in the larger distinction. So yeah. Disney has made movies that people love, featuring multi-ethnic princesses, a movie about two sisters where one of them doesn't get married (GASP), about dogs, cats, cars, toys, and don't forget the lions. They're going to include people from all walks of life represented as well. It's the world we live in. I for one have no beef with it. In fact, I think this world has its fair share of awesome things going on for it.

You know who else actually kind of loves the world? Jesus. Don't believe me? Wait, what's the really famous verse that I could recite before I could even write it down? Oh yeah, "For God so loved the world, that He sent his one and only Son... For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:16a and17, ESV. Emphasis added.)

A lot of people conveniently forget John 3:17. Possibly because it tells us that we really shouldn't be doing what we love to do, which is condemn other people. Especially "the world", that nebulous evil place (and our home). Not even Jesus was sent to condemn the world, but He was sent to save it through His incredible, overwhelming, unconditional love.

This is possibly my favorite thing about Jesus. I mean, I generally think He's pretty spectacular (to say the least). But like I said, I love this world.

I love the stunning variety of natural beauty that I get to see when I drive around California, or spend an irresponsible amount of time on Google looking up different famous places and just marveling at the Creation of God that we have the privilege of living in.

I love the art, books, and music that I come across, things that speak to me of the existence of a plane outside of our own, because otherwise where would all these brilliant ideas come from?

I love the people I meet, even the frustrating (sometimes infuriating) ones. I love reading stories, gaining the understanding of another person's mind, especially if I didn't understand before. There is a reason that Jesus taught in stories that people had to think about to really catch on. Stories are the best way to gain understanding, especially if it's so far outside of your world that you actually have to think to figure it out. I truly believe that reading the stories of people outside of your understanding should be a requirement in everyday life.

Which brings us back to Disney, in some ways the premier storytellers of the contemporary age. And Jesus, the ultimate storyteller of all eternity. And where those two meet.

Disney tries to tell stories that involve everyone. They have gotten somewhat better at it over the years. They have now added this side character, who apparently is low-key gay. The reports I read said it's almost less than a blip in the narrative of the movie. But it's still important. It's important because representation matters. Seeing someone on screen who you can relate to in some small way is incredibly important. It makes you feel less alone. Women have pushed for this for years now, for the ability to see characters who represent a wide variety of lifestyles and personalities. It's time for other groups to get that too.

And that's cool with Jesus because Jesus really does love everyone. I mean everyone. Every politician, every criminal, every conman, every murderer. I can see you all nodding your heads with me, so let me add to the list. Every person who has sex with, or simply just really, really likes someone who happens to be the same gender as them. Every person who feels that they want to be the opposite of how they were born. Every person who decided gender just wasn't for them, and they like the middle. Every person who can legitimately pull off both and decide which one they want to go with each morning. Every person who felt uncomfortable in their skin and in culture for their entire life until one day, someone told a story that made them feel like they weren't alone. Jesus loves them all, just as much as He loves you.

It's not about your theology, or your ideas of what's right, or how you think people should live. It's not about being naive. It's not about sheltering your kids from the realities of this world. It's about love. It has always been about love. Jesus did everything that He did - and does - for us out of love.

Who are we to decide who we extend His love to? Who are we to be the self-appointed gatekeepers of Heaven? Last time I checked, that was not our job. Our job is to live our lives in accordance with the Word. The Word that speaks about love constantly, that even explicitly describes what love is like in many different sections. 

I have many friends who are LGBT and you know what? Most of them aren't super fans of the Church. I would say I wonder why, but I don't want to sound too sarcastic. It's pretty clear. We as a belief system have done a pretty horrendous job of showing love to these beautiful pieces of God's creation. I've had a lot of conversations that have consisted of me listening, and then saying, "yes, I know, and I'm sorry."

That is unacceptable. It grieves me more than just about anything else. The fact that we have let 3-5 Bible verses overrule a WHOLE NARRATIVE of unconditional love.

So I leave you with this, an answer to the protests of, "but the Bible says!"

The Bible also says this, in Romans 8:31-39 (ESV, emphasis added):

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

On Marching and Morals

By now, much has been said on the global mobilization of women that started with a plan to march on Washington D.C. the day after President Trump's inauguration. I recognize this, but there's a part of me that cannot keep silent about some of the issues I've seen crop up in the days since the march.

But first, some pictures:





For context, this comment appeared on Twitter on the day of the Women's March from a state senator in North Carolina (it has since been deleted). The second picture is her Twitter bio.

I'm going to focus on one particular sentence in her bio: "Restoring freedom & liberty as bestowed upon us by God, our creator."

Well yes, God has given us freedom and liberty. In fact, that God-given freedom usually manifests itself in this thing called free choice. It means the freedom (upheld by our Constitution, incidentally) to peacefully demonstrate against policies or governments that we disagree with. It also means the freedom for you, ma'am to levy the most stereotypically Southern insult at people who are fighting for YOUR RIGHTS. Goes both ways.

The senator later clarified that the comment was not directed at the majority of the marchers, just the ones who were "dressed provocatively" and "spewing profanities." No mention that the main "profanity" used was the word "pussy", which was thrust into mainstream vocabulary by none other than the 45th President of the United States when he was bragging about sexually assaulting a woman.

Words have meaning, true. But that meaning is often assigned by the cultures around it. Frankly,  in the grand scheme of things, I'm all for a group of women actively turning a term that has been used to oppress them into a battle cry. It has a poetic quality to it.

Clearly, I was in support of the Women's March. If I had thought about it before 9 am on Saturday morning, I would have been out at the one in Sacramento because they are supporting issues that I believe in.

I believe that women should have equal access to health care, and not have to pay extra for services that are gender specific.

I believe that women should not have to fear not being believed when they report an assault.

I believe that women should not be judged morally (or any other way) on how they dress. Nor should their intelligence or sanity be maligned because of their appearance.

I believe that the global outpouring of support was a sign of bigger things to come, as women around the world start mobilizing against the system that dictates that men should determine the access we have to basic health services, education, and job opportunities.

To the women who are speaking out against these movements (and basically every other feminist movement in history), do you not realize that by accepting your oppression you are feeding into the system? If you feel like you're perfectly fine with the state of things for women, read this.

And now, to address the main beef that many conservative Christian women had with the Women's March: the pro-life, pro-choice debate.

If you hadn't heard, days before the Women's March, the organizers removed a number of feminist pro-life groups from their list of official partners. This sparked a huge outrage from Christians who immediately declared, "SO MUCH FOR THEIR EQUALITY IF THEY DON'T WANT US WE WON'T COME SO THERE!" (caps for emphasis and the dramatic quality of many of these posts).

I think that was a dumb move from the organizers. It did undermine the sense of unity there was in the movement before. On the other hand, considering the general cultural view of pro-lifers, can you really blame them? We as pro-life advocates have not really cultivated an image of being willing to cross the aisle and play nice with others.

A number of my friends who do identify as pro-life still marched with some of the Sister Marches and reported that the attitude towards them was different than that of people at the top. So I'm thinking this was just one more chapter in the book of, "stupid moves that resulted in more division, instead of solving the problems."

However, I still have to address the attitude of Christians who responded to that move. Again, I include myself in this because I'm guilty of it: We, as a subculture, are not super great at turning the other cheek. Instead of saying, "well, just because we aren't listed as official partners doesn't mean we can't still march for the six other social issues that we agree on," most defaulted to the basic, "FINE THEN!" and storming off.

Or, you know, denigrating those who are marching on Twitter.

The more I look at this issue, the more I believe this dichotomy was created by men who just wanted to create another issue for women to be divided on. That may be overly dramatic, but it all seems so ridiculous to me. As a pro-lifer, I would ideally like all women to be presented with choices for their health care, especially reproductive care. This seems to be what pro-choice advocates for as well.

The problem I have is, when did the main definition of "pro-life" become "making abortion illegal"?

As someone who pays attention to social sciences, I have recognized some trends in the research. It was widely reported that the rates of abortions in 2015 hit their lowest point since Roe vs. Wade. Wonderful. Splendid. How did that happen? Oh, it was because of improved services for women, particularly low-income women and high school students, allowed them to get better access to safe birth control and education to reduce the overall rate of unplanned pregnancies.

To be clear, that is not the same thing as criminalizing abortions. I wrote a whole post on this issue. I think that creating that line in the sand of legalizing/not legalizing abortion, at this point in time, is absolutely insane.

Why don't we focus our collective resources on making sure our society has systems in place to support women who decide to have that baby? Or to help her have the option to not get pregnant if, say, a guy forces himself on her. Or help her get a job and still be able to care for her child? Or to be able to still get an education if she finds herself with a small child and few life skills?

Isn't that what the Women's March was ultimately about? An outcry against a government filled with old, rich, white men who refuse to listen to women about women's issues? Against the women in power who seem to think that just because they managed to get there, everyone has those opportunities?

My point is, rather than creating false dichotomies, we need to work together. Instead of telling me about how they don't respect you, show some respect. Instead of complaining that the other fighters don't agree with you, take a page from history where countries with wildly different values regularly unite against common enemies.

My final thought on this is simple: When was the last time the Church managed this sort of showing of unity and community? Honestly, I am asking. Please give me an example. Because maybe we're just mad that they figured something out about how to organize a worldwide movement that - except for a few - was inclusive and accepting of people with different values.

If that is the case, we need to get something straight. You don't get mad at the people who've got their finger on something powerful. You learn from them, you figure out what you are doing wrong, and you maybe admit that you don't have it all perfect after all.

The best thing about Jesus is that He is graceful with us when we get things wrong. We always have His support when we screw things up, and His help in fixing them.

So consider fixing something instead of burning it all down over one point of offense. Fix a relationship with someone who doesn't agree with you, instead of sniping at them on Twitter.

Just a thought.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Millennials

Hi, I'm back! A couple of weeks of rest and all of a sudden I'm remembering all those hot topics that flew the coop of my tired mind in December.

Tonight, the topic of choice is one of the media's favorite buzzwords ever: Millennials

To give you some background, I am a Millennial. Culturally and ideologically I tend to at least identify with how we as a generation are known to think. I have friends of many generations, both older and younger than me, so I have something to judge my own perspective against many times.

Recently, I have become aware of a trend in media and cultural conversation among the older generations who are in the process of beginning their transition out of cultural power (though not willingly, or quietly). This trend goes something like this:

"Those Millennials are so wishy-washy, they couldn't give you a strong answer if their lives depended on it. Also, they're fiscally irresponsible, and can't handle the complex tasks that jobs demand from them because everyone always coddled them and told them they were all precious snowflakes. We're doomed when they come into power in the culture. They are never going to amount to anything."

Sound familiar? Once I had this trend pointed out to me, I started seeing it everywhere. Basically, unless an article was written by an actual Millennial, there is a 95% chance this theme exists. Sometimes, even the articles written by Millennials contain the same things because it has been preached as us so much, we almost start to believe it ourselves.

Honestly, some of the criticisms are valid. As I said, I've maintained friendships with many who are in older generations, and between that and studying some cultural trends, I can say that we as a generation had a bit of a rocky go of it in the early years of adulthood.

However, a great deal of that is the results of systemic changes in the way education and child-rearing were approached, and significant cultural upheaval that resulted from decades of pressure building up in a variety of hot-button areas.

To clarify, we as a generation were not responsible for the "everyone gets an award" trend, nor did we intentionally set out to acquire record amounts of student loan debt, or resist using the technological tools that were peddled to us as we went through our formative years. If a person in my generation cannot function as an adult without their parent's hand-holding, that is on the parents for never letting go of their precious snowflake's hand. If we have vastly different views on justice, faith, and cultural trends, it's because we were exposed to stories of the world outside our bubbles at an unprecedented volume via the Internet.

A few days ago I was reading one of my favorite publications, Relevant Magazine, and they prominently featured an article on how Millennials coming of age are affecting the landscape of Christianity. As it is a topic near and dear to my heart, I paid special attention to it. Sadly, one of the first statements in this article was, "Millennials, for better or worse, are changing everything. And Christians have to wonder if the Church is next."

There it was, the attitude of, "well, they exist and I guess we have to deal with them now." Cue dramatic sighs. Mind you, this is a publication that SPECIFICALLY CATERS to this population. 99% of the time they do a pretty spectacular job of it too.

Here is my main problem with this statement. This country's culture has been more efficiently impacted by the Millennial generation than any other, because of our internet proficiency and tendency towards large social networks, even if they are mainly digital. It assists in the spread of ideas and in many ways a generational identity that is both widely applicable (our lives are defined by the changing methods of communication) and highly individualized (how we use those methods depends very strongly one what corners of the internet we settle in and make our digital "home").

Gone is the slow generational shift of yesteryear, as people of the younger generation gradually work their way into leadership roles. On the internet, everyone with a computer and a phone can find a platform for their ideas. Even if that platform only consists of a few people, it signifies a distinct shift in how we communicate.

This change is inevitable. It's not "for better or worse." It is happening, or in many cases, has happened. My question is then: Why is the Church just now catching on to the fact that they might have to shift some attitudes towards Millennials, and embrace the distinct gifts and perspectives we bring to the table?

I understand why the business world is slow. They have proven methods of doing earning a profit and it's difficult to take the risks to break from tradition. But even that sector has shifted their strategies for engaging my generation at lightspeed compared to the Church.

This is absolutely tragic. What people don't seem to understand is that the cultural trend is very much going in a direction where Millennials understand that we have OPTIONS. We value our quality of life, and that means a focus on fixing the parts of our life that seem unjust. This includes the world around us.

Millennials who have managed to remain in the Church today deserve some of the highest marks for faithfulness, in my opinion. We have been presented with nearly every other option, and still, Jesus has kept us coming back. At least, that is my reason. I have studied other religions, looked into their beliefs and standards of behavior, and found some that have definite elements of truth in their perspectives. I maintain friendships with people from vastly different belief systems because I am confident enough in my beliefs that I'm not threatened by theirs.

This fear of other's believing different things is one of the hallmarks of Christian culture in the last few decades. It is evident the True Love Waits/Purity/Modesty/Abstinence movement, or the collective Evangelical hissy fit whenever any legislation passes which guarantees rights for the LGBTQ community, or even just crucifying a leading Christian voice on the internet the MINUTE they say something that challenges your beliefs.

The problem with this fear is that it alienates this compassionate, creative, empathetic generation that is now coming into cultural power. And if the Church is just now catching on to the fact that we might need to course correct, we are too late for many in this generation.

Over the last year or two, I witnessed Christians (mainly conservative in faith and politics) on social media throw tantrums worthy of any toddler over a variety of issues: Syrian refugees (fear), gun control (fear), people protesting against the racial profiling and police brutality nationwide (fear), LGBT marriage being legalized nationwide (fear), and the idea that a transgender individual might want to feel comfortable in the bathroom (fear, and frankly an insulting fear at that. Throwing out the "keep our women and children safe" argument shows blatant sexism and a deliberate denial of the fact that many trans women and teenagers feel wildly unsafe daily, and not just because of what bathroom they can or cannot use). Also, any sort of "liberal social justice warrior nancy-pants socialist belief," which can be applied to basically any sort of federal, state, or local aid to disadvantaged populations, for the purpose of elevating the general quality of life in this country and lessening the strain on our social systems which are nearly at the breaking point as it is.

Meanwhile, I'm looking on and talking with my friends in my generation (Christian and non-Christian), and the reaction I often hear is: "Are you fucking kidding me?"

I relate to this. I relate to being raised in a Christian culture that was so rigid it didn't even have room for the people already in the Church, let alone for the masses who cry for justice outside of the culture. I have often said that if I didn't meet Jesus the way I did in college, I would not still consider myself a Christian today. I would have walked away. I would have gotten fed up and peaced out, without a second look.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if there's any way to fix it. I've stayed the path, spoken out for my generation and our value time and again, but the persistent refusal of mainstream Christianity to acknowledge that our generation may care about people more than we care about rules is discouraging at best. I am still here because of Jesus. If it were based on the people of the Church, I sadly would have left years ago.

There are people who are restoring my faith. Leaders who have been willing to stand in the face of the culture we were all raised in and strongly declare that we need to get ourselves straight. Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, and Jaime the Very Worst Missionary (and their friends) have acted as an antidote to the poison of people like Jerry Falwell Jr and Franklin Graham, among others. Christians who maintain that the focus on justice and equality that exists in this Millennial generation is not counter to the Gospel, but rather inherent in the Good News of Jesus's love for us.

Still, all the people I just mentioned are on the list of people who have been crucified by significant portions of the Church for daring to believe the Bible over cultural Christianity, and hundreds of years of systematic injustice being woven into the doctrine of the Church. I mean, I love my faith. I love my Jesus. That doesn't change the fact that Christians have actively used Scripture to justify war, xenocide, slavery, harmful colonialism, and oppression.

My generation sees this. We watch, and we take in the vitriol from all sides, and we try to find the good in the midst of it. I would like to think we aren't swayed by the poisonous division, but that may be a sign of my optimism rather than my realism.

If the Church wants to keep this generation, how about you try to meet us where we are at. Stop blaming us for all of society's ills, stop actively insulting and protesting against our friends who hold different beliefs, stop shouting at us that we have no understanding of the world simply because our understanding was formed so differently from yours.

If you're just now wondering how the Church will have to change to keep this generation, you're already too late. I only hope that forgiveness can happen on both sides, but I'm kinda gun-shy right now. I have been shot at a few too many times over the last couple of years.

If you just scrolled down here to see when I would stop the rant, here's what I want you to take away:

Just because Millenials think differently, and are the product of a variety of social factors we had no control over, don't villainize us. Millenials are not the devil, I swear. Respect us, and we are much more likely to respect you. We may not end up agreeing, but at least give us the benefit of the conversation.