Jesus in the Key of G

personal essay

“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” (James 3:2

We all have our personal preference. Some people like their coffee black, others with cream and sugar, and others don’t like coffee at all and prefer tea. To each his or her own.

In a topic as sensitive as religion, it’s easy to get attached to personal preference in how we experience our relationship with G*d. Some people prefer the King James Bible, others the New International Version. I know I am attached to my way of seeing and learning about God. Yet, a sign of spiritual maturity suggests being open to hearing a variety of perspectives, even if it might initially grate on our nerves.

For example, my favorite hymn is Amazing Grace. This hymn epitomizes the depth of mercy G*d has towards us, and, self-centeredly, me. Yet, if I am allowed a choice, I will gravitate to certain renditions of it over others. The same words are sung in each version, but one style resonates more with me than the other.

Now, I will sit through my non-preferred version, such as opera or jazz, because my love of the hymn transcends the superficiality of the style in which it is presented. Honestly, though, afterwards when I have my own autonomy, I will erase the non-preferred sound bank and overwrite it with the one which speaks more personally to me.

Perhaps, this is a fault which can be corrected through retraining. If I force myself to repetitively listen to a version which I dislike, such as, most definitely, screamo, maybe I will grow to like it. I have taken these actions to build a bridge for unity and connection in the Christian fellowships.

The mind’s capacity for rationalization is amazing, just like the hymn. I know I have blind spots which I’m resistant to uncover. This entire post may be a grandiose rationalization of a blindspot that my rebelliousness refuses to surrender. For some, G*d presented in country or rock is the only true version. All other versions, even with the same words, are viewed as blasphemy.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. You will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1–5)

So, how can I dialogue with people whose preferences are so different from mine? Especially when I recognize my preferences equally grate on their nerves?

My answer: I don’t know. I am at a loss.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saves all the wretches like us.

Humans of Earth: “We’re in this together”

creative non fiction, Iowa life, Journaling, personal essay, thoughts for living, Trends, Uncategorized

flood we're in this together

Mixed in between turning off the alerts for tornado warnings, hosting friends for a night to escape flood waters, and delivering packages of care items to various reputable groups came an envelope from my friend. Inside was the photocopy of a journal article she sent me as an addendum to a message I had passed along about a group unrelated to anything Houston or Hurricanes.

flood animals

One of the many sites where donations were being accepted and volunteers were working.

The headline on the article blared the sentiment that seems to be the unifying theme in this adopted hometown of mine: “We’re in this together.” Those words enveloped me like the warm blankets wrapped around the human beings who were rescued across eastern Texas these past weeks.

Gratefully, my family and I avoided the ravages of the disaster. We experienced minor inconveniences of having a few paid workdays taken off the schedule for me, the canceling of school for my son, and working from the rudimentary home office for my husband.  Yet, this experience brought back a flood (excuse the pun) of memories of the 1993 Iowa flooding disaster. I aided my parents in helping them clean out their water-logged basement. I drove my new war-traumatized Bosnian friends to National Guard water stations to fill up plastic milk jugs for safe drinking water. And I worked for the United Methodist Church as a religion writer and reported Christ-informed relief efforts in Iowa.

Back then, we didn’t have Facebook to telephone tree unfolding alerts or changes. We had antenna receptive televisions with local newscasts and the daily mud-soaked paperboy and girl delivery of newspapers. Somehow, though, we got word through to each other as to what to do next.

Now that the height of the crisis is over for most Texans, what does come next? A region-wide disaster affects the psychological, spiritual and material well-being of everyone. Everyone is doing their best to reframe a grim situation with a positive spin (“at least we’re still alive” and “it’s just stuff”) and a grin on their faces to bolster their own and other’s spirits. Yet, there’s going to be the span of time when people are just in the thick of it.

flood iowa

News stories in which I had a hand in reporting.

Years after the original Iowa event I was writing stories about flood relief efforts and thinking “isn’t everyone recovered yet?” Obviously, the answer was no but certainly the time span was an eye-opening dynamic for a member of the generation who was on the cusp of inventing instant-gratification technological tools.

Disasters are like the drunken uncle: everyone plans the family reunion hoping he doesn’t find out. Yet somehow, he learns of the celebration and everyone gingerly succumbs to his presence. Cousins whisper in the kitchen on what they will do if Uncle Harvey does this and what they will do if he does that. But Uncle Harvey does what Uncle Harvey does and even with all the preparation, he leaves a wake of destruction of overturned tables and tipped over Christmas trees that no one could have anticipated. After all, who behaves like that? Naturally, someone tries to intervene to calm him down and gets sucker punched. Everyone sighs and gets to work while Uncle Harvey stumbles away in a blissful state of unawareness.

flood houstonianIn between the titillating stories that are retold on anniversaries and the arrival of the next crisis, is the interstices of time when forlorn people wonder how to make order out of what seems dispassionate chaos. Because the burden of our stories is  so great to bear in isolation, we are compelled to tell it over the campfire or on our blogs and in doing so, others are encouraged to tell theirs and we can incredulously exclaim, “you, too?” We piece together a journey across the rapid progression of days which at the onset seems to have a promise of a clear direction. Then midway, either through fallible personal choices or fateful impersonal cosmic events, we become more aware that our destiny seems instead to be a succession of turning from our own self-absorbed personal goals to taking trembling note of the universal interconnectedness of us and that for eternity “we’re in this together.”

flood we're in this together