Archives For Christianity

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had days where work makes us angry. Thanks to Chris Dortch for being honest about it for the Finding God at Work series. 

 

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Blasted crape myrtles. I know most people wouldn’t describe them so, but their pretty, pink posies fall in droves, faster than my net can skim them off the water. I know I should enjoy the hot sun on my back, the cool breeze fighting back against the warmth, and the freedom for my mind to wander—from Aslan’s bright shore beyond the Great Sea all the way to the bloody streets of Victor Hugo’s French Revolution, from the emeralds of Oz to the dark stage haunted by the Phantom.


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The strong smell of chlorine wrenches me from the worlds whispered into my ears, and I have to step back before the fumes overpower me. I really should pay more attention to my job. This daydreaming landed me in the pool last summer. I pull out my headphones and focus on the plague of pink that has now consumed the pool. How is this even possible? There are more flowers now than when I got here half an hour ago Continue Reading…

My roommate walked in the door as I finished typing an email. As she asked me a question, my fingers went into autopilot. I clicked a few words, hit send, and started to answer her when it broke onto my consciousness that I’d tacked “Love you, Shannon” onto an email to one of my professors, a man in his fifties who also attends my church.

“Oh crap!” I burst into the middle of my roommate’s sentence, “I just typed ‘Love you’ to Dr. Zhivago.”¹

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While her diaphragm nearly seized up with laugher, I typed a hasty apology explaining how my roommate came in right as I was finishing the email and how my fingers went into autopilot and how I always sign emails to my family that way. I hit send again and, rubbing my face in disbelief, turned around to finish the conversation.

A shocking response

My roommate and I were still standing in the kitchen, my laptop doing penance on the counter, when his response popped onto the screen.

“Oh my word,” I said to her, “listen to this Continue Reading…

This month, two black men were killed by cops, but that’s old news. ISIS also exploded a truck bomb in Bagdadkilling nearly three hundred, snipers in Dallas and Baton Rouge murdered eight cops. Then a truck barreled through the streets of Nice. Another eighty four dead. Why write about a couple of police-encounters-gone-wrong when the world’s got bigger problems? 

 

Over the last several years, questions like that one let me sidestep the news about Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, or Rekia Boyd that fell across my path. I’d squint at the headlines from a distance and, like the Levite in the story of the good samaritan, cross the street and hurry past.

 

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Starting to Care

 

All that changed, though, when my coworker, Sham, showed me a video of cops manhandling black teens at a pool party. Something shifted. I started reading the articles I never saw about Trayvon Martin. I starting asking Sham about her experience as a black woman and mother of black boys. I began to see that the amount of melanin in my skin might have more to do with my experience as an American than I’d realized Continue Reading…

Growing up in church, I wanted the truth of God to burn in my chest, but too often it sat shelved in my brain, collecting dust. In youth group, I learned about this disease. I had a breakdown between my head and my heart. Other people had it, too. In fact, everyone seemed to be talking about it, but while they diagnosed the problem in sermons, Bible studies, and at my Christian college, no one seemed to have a cure. 

 

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You can’t cure a nagging cough without treating the underlying pneumonia, but that’s what many Christians were trying to do. The gulf between our brains and our hearts wasn’t the problem, it was only a symptom of an underlying disease, an infection that started with Modernity. 

 

The real infection was the belief that truth is ultimately a package of facts Continue Reading…

America has body-image issues — everyone knows that. But, when, I complained once to my boyfriend-at-the-time about the pressure on women to be beautiful, sexy, and the size of a Starbuck’s straw, he responded that men feel pressure, too. Since women now earn PhDs, make six figures, and head into their thirties both single and respected, it’s not enough for Mr. Darcy to be rich. He also needs a six-pack and a full head of hair.

 

Back croppedPhoto courtesy of Olenka Kotyk via unsplash.com

 

According to research, my boyfriend was right. Men claim nearly one in four cases of anorexia and bulimia. Pop culture also testifies to the growing number of men concerned about their bodies—from actor Jamie Dorian, of Fifty Shades of Grey, who admits to having “massive hang-ups” about his body to last spring’s media flurry over the virtues of having a dad-bod.

 

So, while Dove®, BuzzFeed, and MTV tackle the body-image epidemic in our country, I keep wondering when Christians will pipe in. Our story, after all, affirms the goodness of the human body from beginning to end. Consider any of the Bible’s climaxes—creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, or Jesus’ future return. God’s best work plays out through the human body Continue Reading…

This piece of flash fiction first ran in Warden Magazine, February 2016.


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Drops of rain gather on the sill, like peasants on a feast day, then tumble down the wall. The rivulets remind me of things long ago—the tall Scots pines at the river where Mamm used to scrub our clothes, the maidens’ ribbons at Beltane festival.

 

I watch the trickle find the ground and then trace its way along the wall towards the shadow in the corner. Slowly, a faint aroma, but rich and earthy, mingles with the familiar dank of stone and clay. Perhaps tomorrow, before Eucharist, the clouds will tire of our burgh and allow the sun to illume the greenness of that clump of moss.

 

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A shock of light outlines the window with its overhanging sign. When they asked me what to etch on it, I said “His Alone.”

 

Two years now I have spent behind these walls—these soldiers of my soul. They bind my body to this square of dirt, away from the plague of gluttony, the temptation of the minstrel’s song, and the lesser loves of ploughmen and bairns. I refuse to be this world’s chattle, harnessed to it like a ploughing ox. No, I will soar, like the goshawks in the sky beyond my window Continue Reading…

When I first saw The Tortured Christby Brazilian sculptor Guido Rocha, it didn’t ask my permission, it just went ahead and seared itself into my subconscious. Every couple of months since then, The Tortured Christ pops up, uninvited. All of the sudden he’s there, blood splattering on the carpet of my brain and his screams ricocheting off the walls. It’s rather uncomfortable. 


I’d prefer a visit from the placid Jesus–the one who’s taking his torture like a champ, the Jesus that dangles on the end of necklaces, Jesus-asleep-on-the-cross. But, this Jesus keeps showing up–skin retracting between his ribs, muscles seizing in agony–and, honestly, when he stops by, I don’t start humming worship songs or try to gaze deeply into his eyes. I want to look away.

 

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The truth is, there’s a lot of things I’d rather look away from–not just Rocha’s Christ–11.4 million Syrians who have been displaced from their homes. Four and half million of them eke out an existence on the border of other countries, without heat in the winter or basic health care, relying on UN food coupons to keep them just beyond the grip of starvation.   

 

I’d rather not notice the man who holds a plastic cup at the intersection several blocks from my house. It gets complicated to think about the addictions that might be driving him to the streets, the shattered family he represents, or the burden of what it means for me to get involved Continue Reading…

I don’t really like confessing my sins. It’s a lot like going to the dentist, which I didn’t mind until last October. I sat in the exam chair, looking up at the X-rays and trying to process what my dentist was saying. Not me, I thought, not after thirty-two years. The tiny spot on the X-ray, though, refused to illuminate. My dental sins had found my out. After years of not flossing, I had a cavity. 

 

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The problem with confessing is that it requires us to face the decay inside. A pearly exterior doesn’t matter—how often we go to church or the amount of our charitable donations. Confession, like X-rays, looks for the evil rotting beneath the surface. 

 

Maybe we read our Bible several mornings a week and feel pretty “spiritual,” but that’s like showing up to God’s Dental with two rows of shiny teeth. He’s more concerned with what’s under the enamel. His radiographs might find that we’re rolling out of bed, not to hear from the God we love, but to manipulate him—we give up twenty minutes of our time and expect him, in return, to answer our prayers. Our devotions, held up to his light-box, might actually reveal self-centeredness Continue Reading…

Ever since high school, I’ve had a rocky relationship with art. Every year or two, I’d find myself at an art museum, paying the entrance fee. Then, I’d speed through the exhibits, dodging clocks that melted into puddles and giant canvases covered in orange. I’d search for something safe, something familiar.

 

Finding a Rembrandt, I’d take refuge for a couple minutes—five if I was feeling artsy. Then, I’d sneak back to my car, hoping the docent at the exit wouldn’t recognize me. 

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A couple months ago, I found myself in a similar situation–this time sipping on green tea and insecurity in a friend’s apartment. I’d been riveted by a photo of Kylee’s latest painting, The Pure Look of the Bishop, and had asked (on impulse) to see it in person.


Now that the three of us, The Bishop included, were face to face, I wasn’t sure what to say:

“So…what’s the story behind it?” I ask. The Bishop’s blue and green eyes lock in on me from his chair against the wall Continue Reading…

“God, I just don’t have what it takes,” I blurted out and grabbed a sweater off the hanger.

The sound of my voice surprised me. I usually slog through mornings mute and zombi-like, but standing between the doors of my closet I felt trapped by my inadequacy—to deal with the politics at work, difficult patients, and another ten-hour day. Even worse, I was completely out of ideas—and had been for weeks—about how to connect my coworkers to the God who loves them. 

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My inadequacy twisted around me, squeezing the air out of my lungs. But, as my words scattered onto work pants and blouses, I felt an answer—the kind you’d never think of on your own, the kind that feels green when all your thoughts are purple. The answer was colored like this: “You being adequate was never the point. Not at the beginning, and not now.”

Just like that, God torched one of the portraits of him that I’d been hoarding. It’s a picture of God up in heaven. Sometimes he’s cheering me on. Other times he’s drumming his fingers on the throne. Always he’s waiting for my graduation day—the day when I’ll finally master being a Christian and get everything right. On my own. Without his help Continue Reading…