Spoken Word: Jesus > Religion

I often get asked about my "religion". Am I religious? What religion? Do I go to church? What denomination? The list goes on.

I always answer with the following: I have faith in God.

I believe God created the world and sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins so that I may be saved and spend everlasting life with God in Heaven.

My religion can support this faith. But it is something altogether different.

Faith is personal. It doesn't hinge on whether I go to church each week or read the Bible everyday. Yes, those things help my faith stay strong and make my walk with God sweeter. But my faith is between me and the Lord and rests on His grace for me and not on my acts in this world.

My church provides a family of believers for me to worship with and be accountable with and serve with. The traditions of religion help serve as reminders to me of the life Christ led and the lessons He wants me to learn. But religion does not guide my life. God does.

I found the following video on youtube and wanted to share it because it highlights some of the important distinctions I make personally. I don't think religion is always entirely man-made and man-centered but I do think it can often become this. And I think many people, and sometimes myself, can forget that Jesus is bigger than religious traditions. Going to church regularly, partaking in communion, saying the Lords prayer - those are beautiful, important aspects of religion but they are nothing without faith. Religion does not give us salvation. Only a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ does.

The video always highlights some of the deficiencies of the Church. I capitalize Church because it represents more than one group or building, but the idea and institution of the Christian religion. The Church has been at the forefront of horrendous trespasses throughout history and continues to be today. That to me, is the man-centered aspect of religion. When this poet asks whether Jesus would even be allowed in the Church today, I truly have to wonder. So much religious talk today is about who is not allowed. But Gods hope for the church was that the doors be open for all. For all are sinners and fall short of His glory. Man has no place in judging who can call the Church home. God has already made that judgement. None of us are fit. But with His grace, we are invited.

I happen to find myself in a time of church-searching after a recent move. One of the most important things I look for in the churches I visit is who is welcome to sit in the pews. If anyone is judged unworthy, that church is not for me. I am a sinner. And as such, I want a church for sinners. For the lost seeking to be found. For the broken asking for God's healing hand. Any church that doesn't see that we all fall short is not a church for me.

Watch the video, let me know what you think.


Merry Christmas to All!

A very happy Christmas to all!

I woke early this morning, I regret to admit, for the purpose of watching a television show! I know, I know, not very Christmas-y of me. But it’s a really good show, if you must know (Doctor Who…go check it out!). Anyway, I’m not here to write about timey-wimey space travel stuff but about the spirit of Christmas and how I was reminded this morning of what being a Christian really should mean.

See, at precisely seven AM, in between episodes of the big blue box show, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth appeared on my screen. At first, I thought it was part of the show, but I’d seen the next episode before and it featured pirates, not Her Royal Highness. Then I was thrown off by the realization that the tune of God Save the Queen is exactly the same as My Country ‘Tis of Thee! I mean, I know we were once a colony and all, but how did I miss that connection before?! In any case, the Queen brought me back into focus and I spent the next five minutes or so listening to what I’m guessing is an annual Christmas address to the people of the Commonwealth of England. A moving speech about the year and the country and the importance of family. What really got me though, was the end.

America is widely considered a Christian Nation. Founded on biblical principals, In God We Trust on all our currency and our songs. But when it comes down to it, the Christmas Trees in the White House this year were called Holiday Trees and Congressmen were told they could send no “Christmas” greetings through official mail. While the Queen of England, also the Head of a Christian Nation, went on national television and wished her people a “Happy Christmas” and reminded them that today is about the birth of a child sent to give everlasting forgiveness to one and all.

As I listened to Queen Elizabeth sharing the advent story and giving a message of hope and forgiveness and reconciliation, I was filled with a sense of longing. No, not to be British, though I do love a proper British accent and good metro, but a longing that the leader of my nation could give an address with a similar theme and not face threats of impeachment.

I’m not opposed to freedom of religion and I believe strongly that we cannot legislate faith or morality. Yet, I also fear we in America (and other parts of the world, I’m certain) are falling closer and closer to an extreme form of tolerant denial. In our efforts to accept opinions and behavior different than our own, we feel that we must deny our own opinions and behavior. The President cannot single out any one faith, even if it is his own, because to do so somehow has come to mean that no other faith is tolerated.

Well, it’s not the same thing. My being a Christian does not preclude me from accepting your not being one. I should not have to deny my faith in order to accept yours. The President, or any political or state leader, can share their own beliefs without denying that I or anyone else can have different ones.

I feel relatively certain the Queen of England knows not all her citizens are Christians, nor do I expect that she requires them to believe in God simply because she wishes they did. However, she knows, as I do, that knowing God is the truest joy we can have in this life and our only salvation. She can’t require the people of England to believe but she doesn’t hide the truth she knows simply because it may offend. She knows this is a truth that she must share and she is willing to do so even if not everyone agrees.

I understand the Queen doesn’t face elections and that gives her a freedom an American President doesn’t have. However, I cannot help but dream that a U.S. President someday could wish U.S. citizens a Merry Christmas without being told it’s an offense.

Perhaps though, my longing is less about the ability of a President to be able to give an address like the Queen’s and more about my own longing to have the courage of the Queen. I don’t need a national audience on television to put my Christian identity to the test. I need only look to my daily personal interactions this Christmas season. How many times have I hesitated to say “Merry Christmas” because I wasn’t sure of my audience’s reception? How little do I share what Christmas truly means with those around me who may not know?

Sharing my faith is important to me. Even when the world tells me to keep my opinions to myself. I respect that not everyone believes as I do. I wish they could because I believe with all my heart that God’s love is good and just and critical to your salvation, but I won’t force it on you. I can’t. But I can share what I know, what I believe, the joy that I have found in Christ. Because I love you enough to do that. To risk offense in the hopes of bringing you peace.

I was surprised by the Queen’s overtly faith-based message because I have become accustomed to a world that denies our freedom to simultaneously have personal opinions and respect the opinions of others. You don’t have to believe me, you don’t even have to listen to me, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop talking or deny what I believe.

I believe in God. I believe that Christmas is a celebration of God sending His son, Jesus, to live on Earth so that He could die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins so that you and I could have everlasting life with God in Heaven. I believe that Christmas is a celebration of life, of hope, of forgiveness, and of peace. And I wish today that you would have the peace of God in your life and heart and family. Merry Christmas to you and Joy to the World!


Little big world and Me

Sometimes it’s completely overwhelming to contemplate that while I’m sitting here drinking my coffee, going to school, taking a walk in the park, people are fighting and dying and protesting and starving in other parts of the world. How came there to be such disparity in such a small little world?

More importantly, what can I do?


A woman was robbed on the subway tonight

A woman was robbed on the subway tonight.

I’ve seldom felt so ineffectual.

It happened fast.

That’s how the story always begins, isn’t it?

But I always thought…hoped…that I could think or move faster. I couldn’t.

I heard the yell behind me, “HEY!”

I turned and he was already rushing past me. In a flash I saw who he was, I saw the blue package tucked under his arm, and I saw the woman falling to the floor at the door of the subway train behind us.

I put it together.

In a flash I considered my role. But by then, he was several yards ahead and then he was at the turnstiles and then he was through. Another man came by running after him.

I hadn’t even moved.

I didn’t yell after him. I didn’t stick my foot or bag out to trip him. I didn’t do anything but watch.

The woman moved past me to follow. The train conductor had sounded an alarm but then he moved on. The train doors closed and the station was empty.

I moved through the turnstile after the woman. I told the station agent in the booth and I moved up the stairs onto the street. I ran after her. She was out of breath, she was in shock, she was pregnant.

The man who had run after the robber was nowhere to be seen. We waited on the street. I asked how she was. Could I get her anything. Could I call the police. She didn’t think it was worth it. Nothing they could do. I told her I had seen the man, I could describe him, we could at least make a report with the MTA. She was hesitant. She was shocked. Nothing like this had ever happened to her. She said maybe it was just her time.

We waited. I walked up the street and back. The runner hadn’t returned. I tried again to encourage her to report but she didn’t think it would matter. It wasn’t her purse, wasn’t her ID or credit cards. An iPad. Expensive, but replaceable. She had a train to catch at Penn Station.

We were both hesitant. Did I give her my name, phone number? Would she want to report later and I could give a physical description? I didn’t. I don’t even know her name. We parted ways, she back to the subway and me toward home. I looked at every tall man I passed. I looked for police cruisers. I looked for the man who had run after him. I wanted to go back, to make a report, to make sure the woman was really alright – or as much as she could be.

It seems so wrong that there was nothing we could really do.

A woman was robbed on the subway tonight. I imagine she wasn’t the only one.


I choose to make it so

"In the infinity of life where I am,

all is perfect, whole, and complete.

I see any resistance patterns within me

only as something else to release.

They have no power over me. I am the power in the world.

I flow with the changes taking place in my life as best I can.

I approve of myself and the way I am changing.

I am doing the best I can. Each day gets easier.

I rejoice that I am in the rhythm and flow

of my ever changing life.

Today is a wonderful day.

I choose to make it so.

All is well in my world."

-Louise L. Hay (You Can Heal Your Life)


Lady, I need two suns

I recreated this painting from a picture I drew as a child. I added two suns because of a story my professor told about a young girl who told her with considerable attitude, "Lady, I need two suns." I didn't have this girl's attitude, but I did need the extra sun. And thankfully, I think I had five or six. I had a strong mother. A giving church. A faithful God. Many compassionate teachers. And a government that - at least for my family - worked. Welfare, food stamps, housing, even therapy. We had a chance. We barely got by. But we did. And thanks to these things, my mother and sisters and I lived in the light. My heart, though, was in the shadows. Because even when you have physical security, emotional hurt is a deep wound. Hence why I drew this picture. If it weren't for the light that I did have, I would still be in the shadows - unable to heal the emotional wounds caused by my father because of every other terror in the way.

Children today face one horror after another in our world. Poverty, abuse, terrorism, violence, homelessness, war, hunger. The list goes on. Too many children are left in the shadows caused by these crimes and made invisible by our reluctance to face the responsibility of society to care for the weakest among us. Our children need light but we turn away our eyes.

Written on this painting is my commitment, and my challenge, to erasing the shadows and the invisibility that clouded my childhood and continue to haunt millions of children today:

I choose the light.
Hope. You will not put me in the dark. Perseverance. I will not be invisible. DIgnity. I will not be silent. Courage. I will stand up. Truth. I will stand up for the child that I was. Thrive. Who once used this art to beg for light. Freedom. I will stand for the children now in the shadows who we pretend do not exist. Justice. Who we hope someone else will save. Love. Or worse - that they will just go away. Humanity. I will stand up for the future of those children that should be full of life and love and potential. Faith. I will live everyday for peace. Change. It is not a dream to me. Equality. It is an obligation. One Race. I will put as many suns into the world as I can until the shadows run away. Light. I will NEVER GIVE UP. I will choose peace. I will choose love. I will choose to listen. I will choose to see. I will choose to stand up. I will change the world. Choose with me.


The Perfect Guacamole

Guacamole. I love the stuff. In fact I love all things avocado. Some blame it on my California roots. I think its just cuz I like green things. Seriously. Anything green is yummy. Except peas. Not huge on the peas.

But back to the guac. It’s my go-to item for simple potlucks – you know the game watching or movie nights, or that end-of-the-semester party in class that’s always way more awkward than you thought possible. I could just buy the stuff. Goodness knows a package of ready-to-eat guacamole would be cheaper than home-made with the outrageous prices of fresh produce these days (tripled in NYC). But I just can’t bring myself to do it. In fact, I avoid store bought guacamole as much as possible and will only hesitatingly consume restaurant guacamole even if it’s made in front of me.

I’m not exactly a guac snob but, well, maybe I am. And with good reason.

See every time I take my freshly made guacamole to socialize, I get bombarded with compliments, accolades, and the inevitable recipe question. I don’t mind the praise – it does take a modicum of effort to whip that delicious goodness together, after all. But I always find myself turning five shades of red and averting my eyes when that question comes. My aversion and slight chuckle are typically taken for a hesitancy to give away my secret. You don’t have to tell if you don’t want to, I always hear. It’s always been odd to me that people don’t want to share recipes – as if you’ll lose some social standing if someone else has the privilege of making that delightful treat. So I quickly explain that I have no problem sharing, it’s just that you’re really gonna be surprised.

A few years back I actually participated in a guac-off. Yes, a party entirely centered around eating and comparing guacamole. The table was loaded with at least a dozen bowls of whipped green goodness. You could smell the cilantro, see the fresh tomato, and practically be overcome by the beauty of fresh avocado. I quickly hid my bowl at the back of the table and let the voting begin. The entries were anonymous so there could be no kissing up to the boss (it was a work event) but I was still slack-jawed when my guacamole was crowned king. Seriously? As I was handed my prize – a deep burgundy bottle of wine – I was faced with the age-old question…what’s my secret? I knew from listening in to conversations throughout the night, that people had worked hard on their guac. They had scoured the books for the perfect combination of avocado to salt, had sought the ripest most delicious tomatoes, had sprinkled on lime for an extra kick, and spent hours mashing and tasting to perfection. I’d whipped mine together in about five minutes.

See, I learned to make guacamole from my mom. It’s just one of those things that has always been a staple in our household. On movie nights, afternoon picnics, and even occasionally as an entire dinner entre (seriously). We love guacamole. And my not-so-secret recipe was probably found on the back of some free single parent quick fix recipe magazine. I call it single-mom guac. So yea, I laugh when I get the question. I tell people they’re going to laugh too. It’s not a secret. And it’s not difficult. It’s the most basic recipe in my collection:

Salsa (mild is best)

Mix to taste and serve.

There you have it, the amazing, award-winning, single-mom guacamole. And it’s gooood.