Category Archives: spiritual

Confession Time

I’ve been cheating.

Unfaithful.

Stepping out.

On my church. With another church.

Okay, not exactly scandalous. But it’s a big deal to me. And to my family. Not the flesh and blood ones I inherited, but the ones we chose. The ones who chose us, over and over again, these past 10 years. Chose to feed us, to notice us, to like us and to love us, to teach us and learn from us, to laugh and cry with us, to help us move and paint and fix the thousands of things that have broken beyond what our remedial-level-handiness could bear.

This is the church that once considered us one of their missionary families. The church that once hired me, welcomed me on staff and appreciated me; irreverent humour, socialist politics, feminist rants and all. The church that rearranged itself entirely to support special needs kids and families like ours.

I know, I know, if our church is so awesome…

Why stray?

Don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect. We’ve had our ups and downs. But the new church, it’s not a perfect fit either. In fact, it might require even more give and take from us. And we have very little left to give these days.

It’s not about that.

So, why trade comfortable, familiar and safe for new, strange and, since we’re both introverts, kinda scary?

It’s a long story.
A very, very long story.

If you come to this blog for Mommy stories about adoption or special needs, anecdotes about the strange thing my kid stuck up his nose last night or how I gave myself a black eye with my own umbrella; or, if you are part of the 99.99% of the world who could care less about my spiritual beliefs…. feel free to scroll past these “What I Believe” posts and return to the blog for regularly scheduled programming. I will continue posting about other things too. FYI, if you can hardly stand the suspense, it was a fork – up his nose (who does that?).

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to also unpack the story of our shift in life philosophies (what church folks often call “theology”) and the reason why this is a good thing for us, and not at all a reason to call my friends/parents/former pastor in a panic. Or do. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. Who am I to tell you what to think?

To the church family who has loved us well for over a decade, please know that this isn’t a judgment…

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve changed. So has my husband.

You’ve been patient. We haven’t felt bullied or disrespected for sharing our questions or concerns, even when you’ve disagreed with us, and wondered when we’d get over this rebellious phase, and ultimately accepted us as the official shit-disturbers of care group.

We just aren’t on the same page anymore.

by michael svigel the christian post siftingpoint.com

by michael svigel siftingpoint.com

We think you’re great. We want only good things for you…

I hope we can still be friends.

That’s why we tried to juggle two churches at once. That’s why we’ve taken so long to officially “break up.” And that’s why we might still visit from time to time (you’re not getting rid of us entirely).

But why make such a big deal about it? Why not just stop showing up and hope no one notices? Is it ridiculously melodramatic, rampant overthinking, to write a letter like this?

Um, ya…
have you met me?

To us, church is not just a place to go; it’s a community, a web of relationships. I don’t expect those relationships to end, but as our affiliation changes, so will they. And that can get messy. Already I’ve heard a few rumors and misconceptions about what we believe.

I guess that’s inevitable. It’s hard for us to put years of intellectual wrangling into a few succinct sentences. It’s confusing.

I’m not known for my brevity, but I’ll do my best to clarify our understanding in the next few posts. I’m going to pretend that the entire internet wants to know our story. Of course they do. I’ll even answer questions from the comments section. Seriously, anything. Almost anything. Within reason. Use your best judgment.

Stay tuned for posts on:

So here’s us 2.0.

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The Grass on the Other Side

It’s one of those subject lines that grabs you by the throat. Time slowed as my mouse hovered over “Baby Died.”

I didn’t breathe at all until I realized it wasn’t my friend’s baby. Except, it sort of was. One of the babies she works with in a Ugandan orphanage. Not family, as are the 7 dependants she claims on tax forms, but close to it, when you know her heart and her view of the world.

As I read about her many kids, her son’s broken arm, the challenges of life in Africa and her husband’s upcoming trip, I couldn’t help but feel small. Small in my scope and my reach and the type of things that seem SO overwhelming to me right now.
grass

I pulled up my calendar in Outlook, adding “letter to Cher” to my task list when the words “Nicaragua trip” caught my eye. I realized that it’s almost time for 32 local high school students to put the rubber of global education to the road of real life experience, working with families living, literally, in a garbage dump in Central America.

Since trips to the grocery store down the street take monumental effort for our family, it seems inconceivable that my friend Ginny and her husband manage to not only plan and lead this annual trip, but build an international aid organization and spend summers exploring Europe with their children. Before reaching double digits, their girls have seen and experienced more of the world than most adults. Extraordinary. Adventurous. So beyond our reach.

It should be a good thing, to be trusted with someone else’s story, a much needed gift of perspective. Instead, too often, I let the comparisons steal from me. Spiriting away my confidence and contentment, making my stories seem less important to my own eyes.

Sighing, I scrolled through the rest of my emails, perking up to see an email from a new friend – one of my English professors. I had been thrilled to connect beyond the classroom and honoured to act as a sounding board for her upcoming blog. Not only does she have a depth of experience as a mentor and academic, she’s already a published author. That she also happens to be stylish, beautiful and eloquent only reinforced my belief that her life must be glamorous.

I braced myself for another dose of envy and insecurity. Somewhere along the way, I cast myself as the frumpy housewife inching towards an undergrad degree at an absurdly glacial pace. But that’s not who she sees.

Our paths have been very different. As she put it, we are “opposite ends of the contemporary women’s spectrum,” yet somehow, kindred spirits.

She sent me a draft she’d written for the new blog about our unexpected, providential friendship. I am the other side of that mirror for her, just as she is for me… a glimpse down the road not taken. Reading it, I was reminded that her life, so glamorous to my eyes, has actually been a hard-fought, often scary journey. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

That much we have in common.

I don’t regret my journey. I don’t regret my destination. Even though I caught vomit in my bare hands twice yesterday. Even though I haven’t had 4 consecutive hours of sleep since Thursday. Even though I throw embarrassing, self indulgent pity parties for the whole internet to see. Even though I’m not a saint, or a world traveller, or a ‘real’ writer.

(Yet)

I won’t let comparison steal anymore from me today. I am surrounded by exceptional women with challenging, complex, beautiful stories. Not molds I must pour myself into. Not scales to weigh myself against. Not competition.

Friends.

The grass on our side of the fence is a unique strain. It might not spread as far and wide as some… it might not grow as tall or as quickly or as easily… but it’s home. When I stop filtering my life through everyone else’s story, this messy, noisy, beautiful life comes back into focus. And it’s good – hard, but good. And I can appreciate the view into other lives all the more.

So here’s me, in the ongoing battle to just be. Thank God for my story. And yours.

Breathe.


Why Lent is a Good Idea for Everyone

lentIt was the pancakes. That’s what caught my attention. Shrove Tuesday – a sacred day of pancake eating. How awesome is that?

There wasn’t much talk of liturgical calanders in my Evangelical upbringing. Just cautionary tales and the whispered suggestion that they might, POSSIBLY be Real Christians, but just barely. Poor, meaningless automotans with their empty rituals. And then there’s the Catholics. A superstitious bunch, I was taught, barely discernable from the heathens; who prayed to statues, and for some reason, like to eat fish on Friday.

We weren’t very comfortable with anyone who wasn’t Us. Like the Pentecostals. And the United Church. And the Mormons. And the Agnostics. And the very scariest creatures of all: the Atheists (word is, they have an “Agenda” and we should watch out for that).

My world didn’t stay that small. Most Evangelical circles have opened up somewhat in the past decade (or two… or okay fine… three) since I was a child. The popular Mitford book series opened up the strange world of Episcopalians to many. These days, it’s not unusual to hear a discussion on Lectio Divina in a Baptist bible study. Or a more casual Stations of the Cross set up in the local community church.

As I got to know (and love and be related to) actual people who followed liturgical tradition, I began to see the unique beauty of it (and not just the pancakes). It may not be the style of worship I’m used to, but it is deeply meaningful and steeped in history. Ancient traditions so much more powerful that the latest born-again fad at the local Blessings bookstore. Maybe WE are the ones who have been missing out.

Which brings me back to the pancakes. Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. When you get your house in order both figuratively with confession and literally (by using up rich foods like sugar, dairy and eggs) before a period of fasting or plain eating. Enter: hallowed consumption of pancakes.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. These 40 days (not counting Sundays) are a time for the faithful to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter Sunday. It is a period of fasting or self denial, prayer, contemplation, examining oneself, and starting over.

For most of us from an Evangelical tradition, or no tradition at all, it is known as: Another-Wednesday-Just-Like-Any-Other. But who’s to say we can’t make it more? Lent is a good idea for EVERYONE and here’s why:

Be part of history.

Hundreds of years ago there was a tired, middle-aged (though still hip and young-at-heart) Mom just like me, who set apart these six weeks to live simply and refocus spiritually. That I might walk alongside her and the women who came before her and women who came after and the women who will come after me is something amazing. The Church (big C) is more than the congregation of my home church or other people in my country who may check the “Christian” box of a questionnaire; it is a family of faith that encircles the globe and stretches back throughout history. When we worship through Lent, we worship together.

We have so much.

More than any people who have ever lived. More than any who celebrated Lent before us. We are a culture and a generation of so much. So much to do. So much to see. So much to know. So much to eat. So much to distract and burden and overwhelm. We need Lent more than ever.

It’s a prelude to the feast.

Lent is not about asceticism (a harsh mentality where deprivation is the ultimate spiritual virtue). It’s preperation for the ultimate celebration. For those of us who worship Jesus, Easter is more than another stat holiday. It’s more than chocolate eggs and pretty dresses and church choirs. But if we don’t put the time and effort into preparing ourselves, even an inspiring sermon and touching music will not soak soul deep.

Lent is a good idea for everyone. The Evangelicals, and the Catholics, and the Pentecostals… and the Agnostics, and even the Athiests. We could ALL use a Spiritual Detox.

Make Lent your own this year.

So here’s me, fasting every night from 7 pm until 7 am (which doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but for me it really is).

lentbookLent Resources:

This year I’ll be reading through Show Me the Way by Henri Nouwen

Lent and Dying to Yourself (video with Diana Butler Bass)

Why Evangelicals Need Lent by Tim Suttle

Get Lent by Andrew Santella


The Answer

It is the best, and sometimes hardest, answer to give.

As a parent. As a person of faith. As a person of science. As a human being.

Sure, there are those who use it as a cop-out. Shrugging their shoulders as they go with the flow. They hand it out liberally: a get-out-of-responsibility-free card, an excuse to stay on the sidelines, a reason to stay in lock-step with the group. Might as well leave the thinking to someone else.

But for those who honestly struggle. Those who want to know. Those who are willing to change. Those who will be inconvenienced by truth.

For those who teach. Those who inspire and motivate. Those who take responsibility to lead.

For those…

It is brave. It is sincere. It is humbling.

Sometimes it is the place where certainty and faith intersect.

Sometimes it is where Mom becomes a mere mortal.

Sometimes it is the only right answer.

Because life is full of mystery. And the Universe is infinite. And God is bigger than our minds can comprehend. And we are only human after all.

There are times when the only answer we can give is:

I don’t know.

So here’s me, grappling with questions about afterlife and how to deal with after school tantrums and whether my 12-year-old is mature enough to read Hunger Games.


Hellbound?

There of some us out here for whom “Hell” is more than just a plot point in the latest episode of Supernatural. More than a video game catchphrase: “Burn in hell, suckers!” More than a slightly-less-sinful curse word.

Whether you were raised with it or jumped in later in life, the Christian concept of hell is by turns horrific, disconcerting and yet, to some, comforting.

“The Bible is clear.” It’s something I heard all my life. From the pulpit. From Sunday School teachers. From my own parents. It’s a sentence I’ve thrown around myself in years past.

And there are topics which the bible is clear and straightforward on.

Hell is not one of them.

Today I did something different. I paid full price to see a documentary in a movie theater. I bypassed Bruce Willis’ journey back in time to kill his younger self. I forsook serious Ben Affleck. I didn’t even give the quirky teen drama a second thought.

Hellbound? explores the surprisingly vast spectrum of beliefs within Christianity about Hell. Writer and Director Kevin Miller interviews pastors, authors, scholars and even death metal musicians as he navigates us through the issues. From uber-conservative Mark Driscoll to emergent thinker Brian McClaren, from those with absolute certainty to those “living in the mystery”, everyone contributes a verse.

There are three classic positions on hell: those who believe it is a literal place of eternal conscious torment, those who believe it is simply the end of a soul’s existence (annihilationism) and those who believe that is either a temporary or metaphorical condition from which all people will ultimately be redeemed (universalism). What many do not realize is that there is scriptural and historical support for all three sides of the debate. The answers are not simple.

There is something to offend everyone in this film, whether it is a death metal rocker positing that religion is simply a money-making business, or the hateful vitriol of the Westboro Baptist church member who insists that God hates almost everyone. My favourite part is when this 50-year-old woman refers to the interviewer as a pussy. Very godly.

This is not a cheesy church-umentary to be played in church basements and used for neighbourhood outreach. It is a fascinating look at a complex and contentious issue.

The release of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” rocked the evangelical community last year. There are many who believe we are better off NOT to broach the discussion at all. But these are the questions people are asking. And I have to agree with Gregory Boyd who said “the truth shouldn’t have anything to fear.”

So here’s me, not a bible scholar, or pastor, or theologian; just a regular Jo. And this movie was made for us too. Choose it – Bruce Willis will be killing someone else next month.


The Myth of Us and Them

I watched a documentary about the Amish last night. It reminded me of drives to St. Jacob’s for the farmer’s market and Amish bakery. Sour Northern Spy apples. Giant sugar cookie pigs. Sweet buns and fresh bread. The quaint characters we craned our necks to see as we zipped past in modern convenience. But most of all, it reminded me of me.

The program explored this strange subculture, both good and bad. The ones who left. The ones who stayed. Neither ones the villains. Both the victims, in their own way.

The customs. The secrets. The lines drawn in the sand. Tradition. Conviction. Fear.

And it all sounded so familiar. Not only from family stories of our strict Brethren sect, but from my life here and now. Because we draw lines in the sand too. In different places, but they are still there.

This is something I wrote a few months ago. It is a little different. I usually keep the rambly “poetic” pieces securely hidden in journal pages, but I’m running low on time and energy, and feeling a bit brave today.

How do we separate “us” and “them”?

We try to wrap our skinny arms around it, digging in our nails, gritting our teeth. So we can throw it down and beat it into submission.

We’re the church, we’re big on submission. Not the doing, but the saying.

White knuckled and wide-eyed. You can almost smell the fear. In whispered rumors and wild innuendo… cause that sort of thing is contagious, you know? We have to keep that shit, excuse me, sin out. We cannot let them win.

So we create our own. Our own music. Our own slang. Even our own breath mints.

But we are them.

And they are us.

No matter what brand of candy we chew.

Culture was never the problem. Creating a new one won’t save us. Bullying “them” pleasantly, with our kind intentions, until “we”, happily deluded, feel safe.

But we are them.

And we are as full of shit as anyone.

And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else.

Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God.

What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.

Romans 3: 20 (MSG)

So here’s me, and yes, I used the word “shit.” If that’s all you can think about, then you probably missed the point anyway.

And I’m not kidding about the breath mints. “Testa-mints” – has anyone tried them? They’re like Certs, with a righteous after taste.


The Voices in My Head

My very first mentor was my Dad’s little sister, my “Auntie Omi”. She was there the day I was born. I was there the day she died.

She stepped in when I was only a zygote and wrote herself into my story. When my Dad was sent out-of-town on business, she stayed. She was the one who drove my Mom to the hospital. She was there when I was born. I could always count on her.

She was my unofficial tour guide to life. Whether it was letting me watch Grizzly Adams and Dukes of Hazzard when my parents didn’t have TV, or taking me to visit her office, she opened up a whole new world to me. She taught me my first joke and then listened patiently while I told it to her 5 million times over the next year. It was only slightly more sophisticated than the chicken crossing the road. It goes something like this:

Why did the fireman wear red suspenders?

To keep his pants up!

ha ha ha ha ha ha…

…ahhhh, good stuff!

When I was a teenager, she did something amazing and totally crazy. She adopted a child. A single women adopting an older child from the foster care system is spelled R-A-D-I-C-A-L, no matter where you come from. But it’s an awesome brand of crazy! It’s also spelled B-R-A-V-E and C-O-M-P-A-S-S-I-O-N-A-T-E.

My aunt was flesh and blood altruism. Her journey was a lot messier, more confusing and more exhausting than she (or any of us) were prepared for. My cousin was 8 when she joined our family, and it was quite a ride for both of them. Watching my aunt learning to love her daughter did me more good than the hundreds of sermons I’ve heard in my life. She wasn’t perfect, but she was faithful and committed. She was a great mom. You could always count on her.

Even as an adult she looked out for me. When we moved halfway across the country, she started sending our family care packages of totally random things she had found in thrift stores or antique markets: a set of tea towels, a weird night-light, blank video tapes, socks, a ceramic bird… Just between you, me, and the entire internet, I didn’t need any of this stuff. Sometimes I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with it. But I loved those weird packages just the same. It was her way of looking out for us. I knew she was thinking about me.

She gave the toast to the bride at my wedding, and I gave the toast to the bride at hers. I dressed all three of my daughters in fluffy blue dresses so they could precede her down the aisle. At a young fifty-something years old, she had finally met the love of her life.

It’s a beautiful story, plus now I can honestly say that “Bob’s my uncle”, which is just as funny years later as when I first said it (obviously my sense of humor hasn’t matured much since the fireman’s suspenders). My girls referred to them as “the bride and her prince”. They were so happy together and it breaks my heart that their time together was so short. Life, and especially death, just isn’t fair!

As I wrote the eulogy for her funeral 2 years ago, I realized that I had, more often than not, written it in the present tense. My aunt is brave, she has a great sense of humour… As I went back to change everything into the past tense it occurred to me – she still is. She still is all those things and more. Like her, I trust the promise that heaven is a place where weaknesses fall away and we fully become our true selves.

I’m not exactly sure what the afterlife will be like; none of us know, really. But I do know that my Aunt loved God faithfully all her life. The bible talks about us having a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11), and I can’t imagine anyone better suited to watch over us, pray for us and cheer us on. She was always taking care of us. It’s what she did best, and we miss her terribly.

My memories of my aunt may grow hazy as the years go by, but I will never forget who she was. I know I am a better person for all her support and her example. Her death was a terrible blow. But I did not lose her, not really. She is one of the voices in my head. Because our best mentors never leave us.

So here’s me, knowing someday I will be the voice in someone else’s head. I hope I have a Scottish accent.

Who are the voices in your head? What kind of things do they whisper to you?


Good Friday Favourites

Today is the most somber holiday in the Christian calendar. So my usual sarcastic, irreverent Friday post doesn’t seem like the thing to do.

If you are not familiar with the story, here it is in a nutshell.

God creates humanity. Humanity rejects God. God reaches out to humanity over and over and over again. Humanity rejects God over and over and over again. It’s kind of our thing.

God becomes human (Jesus, God the Son, is born. Merry Christmas). Jesus reaches out to humanity. Humanity rejects him. In fact, humanity strips him naked, beats him up, and kills him.

This is the part where you almost expect the giant Hand of God (a la Monty Python) to reach down and smite us all, smite us good. Instead, God the Father lets his Son die, because that was the plan all along. He was the ultimate sacrifice – the blood ransom to free us from a prison of our own making.

The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin

so that he’d see life come from it

– life, life, and more life.

Isaiah 53:10

Whatever you believe about Jesus or Christianity, this day is for all humanity. Yes, it is serious, but worth celebrating. So, here are some of my Good Friday Favourites.

Quote

This Word played life against death and death against life in tournament on the wood of the most holy cross, so that by his death he destroyed our death, and to give us life he spent his own bodily life. With love, then, he has so drawn us and with his kindness so conquered our malice that every heart should be won over.  Catherine of Siena

Blog

My friend Marc makes an important, spiritually powerful point. “Pontius Pilate is a pylon.” And how! Here is a post about the guy who just stood there and let it all happen: Pilatitus. Definitely worth a read, because sometimes we’re just like him.

Also, Laura Ziesal wrote a post that has stuck with me this week. “We serve a God who is not far from our pain.” Though Good Friday is not the main topic, My Least Favourite Day of the Year speaks to it in a powerful way, especially for anyone who has lost a child.

Liturgical Tradition

Don’t tell my Anabaptist ancestors, but occasionally I have a hankering for liturgy and the rituals of High Church. Yep, I’m pretty sure my Grandpa is spinning in his grave right now.

There is a richness and ancient meaning behind centuries old traditions. If I were going to pick one which appeals to me most, it would be Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross. Whether it is a series of art displayed throughout a cathedral, an interactive physical experience or simply a devotional guide, each of the stations depicts a different part of the Good Friday story. Usually there are thoughts and prayers to meditate on at each station. Remembering is not something that just happens, it is something we do on purpose.

Pray through the Stations of the Cross online.

Video

It seems kind of douche-y to have a “favourite” part of Good Friday, since it’s all very grim and painful. But the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane is what I am finding most meaningful lately. It hits me every time… Jesus did not eagerly skip to the cross with a serene smile on his face and a cheesy hymn on his lips . He struggled, he cried, he felt the bitterness of grief, and he begged for reprieve. Kind of encouraging for those of us who do not always find God’s will easy to stomach. It also makes his ultimate choice that much more meaningful.

Mel Gibson may be an enormous schmuck, but he did a great job dramatizing spiritual agony (not exactly the most visual concept) in Passion of the Christ.

So here’s me, forgiven, because He was forsaken. Take that creepy snake-satan!


Honouring our Dead

I love the Haka. It is a ferocious tribal dance with chest slapping, googly eyes and aggressive tongue wagging. The uglier the face, the better. It is loud and angry. It is awesome.

During our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center a couple of weeks ago, we had a chance to take part in a Maori ceremony. As visitors arrived in the village, both the hosts and visitors took part in an elaborate welcoming ritual. There were women singing, men grunting and posturing… the New Zealand version of “please come in, can I take your coat?”

My favourite part took place at the end: before crossing the midline to meet one another, both groups paused for a moment in complete silence. It is a time to honour the dead. It is a time to remember those who should be here but aren’t, those who came before and those who have gone ahead.

A few days later, we found ourselves at Pearl Harbor. Yet another foreign culture, when you consider both my Canadian-ness and my Anabaptist roots.

It was chilling, standing above the watery tomb of hundreds of young men. The rusty turret of the U.S.S Arizona peaks out of the water. More than a thousand died there. Most of the bodies were never recovered.

Even the girls were quiet and contemplative, though B was mostly upset because we would not let her throw her hat in the water.

This large, elaborate memorial shuttles thousands of people in and out with the efficiency of a popular tourist attraction. Most of us came to check it off the list – yep, been there, seen that.

I love to walk in the footsteps of history, to see the places where my reality was born and reborn. The BIG picture was affected here.

But it was more. This was about the small pictures too. Here lies one life. And another. And another. And another… We honour each one, each name inscribed on that wall.

I can’t help but think this is something we are missing in our culture. Not necessarily the elaborate tribal ritual or the impressive concrete ediface, but memorial woven into the fabric of everyday life.

We are studying Death and Dying in my Developmental Psychology class this week. The western theory of Grief Work promotes the idea that detachment from the deceased is a healthy final stage in the process. In fact, those who continue a relationship with those they mourn may be considered unnaturally preoccupied.

These theorists are the same who approach all grief as a pathology, rather than a normal part of life. Sure, there are those who succumb to a chronic, unhealthy grief. But recent research supports the idea that continued bonds with the dead, especially those who were a vital part of our lives, is beneficial.

The bible says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1). The souls of those who came before us. Those who have gone ahead. And they are watching.

These are the ones who built the scaffolding of our lives. If we forget the lessons they have taught us and the sacrifices they have made, we forget who we are.

I am a seed that was sown from the past and I shall never be lost.” ~ Maori saying

We do not worship our ancestors as ancient tribes once did, but we must honour them. In remembering, we are telling our own story. Not just to the world, but to ourselves and our children. And someday we will be a part of their story.

So here’s me: grand-daughter of Doris, Robert and William, niece of Naomi, mother of Noah and Simon.

How do you honour your dead? How can we make memorial part of our everyday life?


Do Unto the Telemarketers…

So, I’m kind of a grump these days. I picked up a head cold then hopped on 3 red-eye flights with my weary kids. My ears very nearly exploded and I didn’t sleep for almost 40 hours. Also, I am no longer a few steps away from a spectacular beach and a poolside bar serving over-priced (but delicious) daquiris. Woe is me.

I blame the crankiness for my snarky post yesterday (Modern Day Torture, aka The Timeshare Presentation). I won’t apologize for everything I said, because timeshare presentations are universally acknowledged as a painful test of financial resolve and politeness. But I feel bad for denigrating the salespeople.

It is honest work and I have to respect that.

In fact, I kind of have a thing about it. I am prepared to drag one of my most dreadful skeletons out of the closet. It’s not something I share with many people (until I got a blog and lost all sense of privacy and self preservation apparently).

Brace yourself.

I once worked as a telemarketer.

I know. Not my finest hour. To be fair, I was only 17. The money was AWESOME and I didn’t actually have to sell anything. I simply called to set up a complimentary lawn assessment from a highly qualified lawn care specialist. It was free of charge and absolutely no obligation.

It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I had no idea that perfect strangers could be SO mean. I didn’t even mind the hang ups, but I couldn’t understand the bitter, hateful rants. I was just doing my job. Would they prefer I was out there looting convenience stores or stealing car stereos?

If I happened to come across an out of service number, I would call it over and over again, to buy myself sometime to recover. I left in tears every evening.

With my father’s admonitions about work ethic and stick-to-itiveness ringing in my ears, I returned not once, but twice before throwing in the towel. It was the first time I quit something since my nasty piano teacher pushed me too far (my mom thought I was exaggerating until she decided to take lessons in my place and the mean old lady brought her to tears also).

The golden rule applies to everyone, no matter how obnoxious their profession. I need to treat people considerately, even telemarketers, door to door solicitors, timeshare salesmen, mimes, and even squeegee kids.

It’s hard having a job like that annoys and offends almost everyone, believe me. If nothing else, we can respect their work ethic and value them as people. I’m still figuring out firm, but polite. I don’t need to listen to the whole spiel and I’m not going to buy, just to be nice, but I do need to be nice.

It’s a sneaky way to measure what is really in my heart. How do I treat the JWs who come to my door during dinner? What do I say to the telemarketer who calls in the middle of my favourite show? What is my reaction when people I never have to see again rub me the wrong way?

If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?

Anybody can do that...

In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up…

Live out your God-created identity.

Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

Matthew 5:46-48

Was it kind and gracious to mock my timeshare sales friend in blog format, even though I was nice to his face? Probably not. Fail.

So here’s me, still figuring out how to say “shut up and leave me alone” to pushy sales people in the most kind and loving way possible.

Any ideas? How do you deal with these people in a kind, but expedient way?


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