Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This is Why My Pastor Hates me

***DISCLAIMER: This entry is intended to be a humorous look at the endless differences in religions that claim to adhere to the same set of singular beliefs. It is not intended to offend, just to be funny. It's written with a heavy hand of hyperbole, please read it that way.***

Confess all sins without ceasing, but only to a priest. Never confess to anyone other than God, but go through Jesus except if the committed sin is one of the Ten Commandments. In this case, bypass the middle man and go straight to God. Lesser sins need only to be confessed yearly under a generic umbrella term (jealousy, gossip, flatulance, etc.). All sin is equal in the eyes of God, but there are levels of sin. Repentance is achieved by sincerely and humbly requesting forgiveness. Forgiveness is NEVER granted without first paying penance, it is only given when the sinner confesses in their heart, except in cases where verbal penance is required. Confession must coincide with actions to prove you're making an effort to not become ensnared in a spiritual game of Double Jeopardy. Verbal and spiritual confession is more than enough, actions will naturally follow suite. Sin is like devouring a salty, crisp potato chip in that once you start, you can't stop. Divine intervention is the singular method for overcoming sin unless you are able to achieve inner peace and enlightenment on your own. This insight is often demonstrated by a sudden urge to spout such trite truisms as, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll be among the stars."

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is an inward sign of personally accepting Christ's salvation. Being slain in the spirit is an outward sign of Christ's work in your heart; it's mandatory for salvation as it demonstrates a true rebirth. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is evidenced by a strong emotional and spiritual guardianship and guidance; there are no outward signs. While spiritual baptism is a nice thing to experience and serves to deepen one's relationship with the Holy Trinity, it is not required for eternal salvation. However, an eternal lake of fire awaits those who cannot speak in other tongues and physically participate in the alter call, where the Holy Ghost is most prevalent. Spiritual indwelling can occur during communal prayer, but typically the dove of the Holy Spirit comes to us in our moments of solitude and peace. The Holy Ghost is most readily available for demonstrative incarnations when two or more believers are gathered together in the name of the Holy Trinity. If you do not experience a burning in your bosom and an out of body experience, you have been misled in the ways of the spirit. You must demand to be physically slain in the Pentecost movement; God enjoys the seeking aspect of proverbially knocking on the door of Heaven and petitioning for a bodily experience. Only meekness will be rewarded, never demand anything of the Holy Trinity. Rather, humbly beg to be made good enough to deserve a taste of the Holy Ghost. Just know that you'll never be good enough.

Water baptism is a must, unless you're a 3rd world country resident as Christ doesn't expect his followers to immerse themselves in dysentery. Alaskans are also exempt. After accepting Christ's salvation as your personal gift and way of life, you must immediately be baptized. Baptism is not on a timetable, as long as you believe in the sanctity of the act, you have time to schedule baptism. If you die before you're baptized but after you've professed Christianity, other living Christians can baptize in your memory. Without baptism before death, you will go straight to hell, unless you go to purgatory and earn your way into heaven. You can never earn your way into heaven, you are not worthy. The
only entrance into heaven is through personal salvation. Baptism is required in conjunction with salvation. In order to best avoid eternal damnation, baptize all infants as soon as they enter the world, but do so by sprinkling blessed holy water over their heads. Never baptize an infant since they have no idea what is being done or why. Baptism will be rendered null and void if the baptisee is not of the age of reckoning (12 unless you're Roman Catholic or Mormon or were born during leap year on leap day) and is not fully submerged in a baptismal fount. Any watering hole will due: a neighbor's bathtub, a creek, or the decorative fountain in the central mezzanine of the local mall, but only if the attached statutes have their lady bits appropriately covered.

The pastor/priest/elders of the congregation are the direct mouthpiece for God. As the spiritually appointed Shepherd of the Church, their job is to interpret the Holy Bible and make it accessible to laymen. No one speaks for God, he has spoken through the Holy Bible; his word is clear and concise. Men are fallible, and as such, any attempt at interpretation is inherently flawed. Christ has authorized these holy men to speak, pray, heal, and forgive on his behalf by breathing the literal spirit of heaven into them. This spiritual marriage is the epitome of theological education, no formal training is required. Man is a damaged, imperfect creature unable to fully comprehend the full splendor of God. Intense biblical curriculum is necessary to train the human mind in understanding spiritual laws. It is best if marriage is avoided by these leaders so there are no earthly distraction from their heavenly calling. Marriage and family serve to strengthen a man and provide daily insight into the typical life of the masses making him accessible to the general public. Women are the helpmates of men, they should never lead a congregation. Women are typically tenderhearted and in tune with their emotional epicenter. As such, they are perfect for teaching God's word. A woman's compassion ministers to the very core of her congregation, except to the men who are too busy lusting after her
lovely lady lumps and envisioning her in the way David envisioned Bathsheba, if you catch my drift.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Day After

I live in Oklahoma. I grew up in Moore, I work in Oklahoma City. Tornado season is something I’m very familiar with; growing up, we learned to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Over the years as multiple tornadoes blew through the landscape of my home, I watched as my hometown was destroyed time and again. And afterwards, every time, we rebuilt. As a child, I never understood why so many out-of-staters angrily asked us why we continued to live in Tornado Alley. As an adult, I asked the same question, eventually leaving for a few years. Last October, my husband and I returned to Oklahoma. In the ensuing 8 months, we’ve experienced 6 earthquakes and 3 major F4/F5 tornadoes, 1 of which has been dubbed the worst in recorded history. As we watched our state ripped to shreds, we asked ourselves again, “Why are we here?”

I’m here because it’s my home. I’ve lived most of my life in the Texas Oklahoma/Oklahoma Texas region, claiming allegiance to both states at various times.  But the truth is, there’s not much difference between the two states; both are mid-Southern, down home, and simple. They are full of good people who love whole-heartedly. I’ve lived outside of the South, and there are certainly wonderful people everywhere, but here in the Heartland there’s a sense of grassroots, salt-of-the-earth camaraderie.

Certainly this feeling of home, of belonging, is magnified during times of tragedy. Our fortitude was tested, our collective spirit fractured during the horror of the Murrah bombing and again during the devastation of the 1999 and 2013 tornadoes. And each time, the people of Oklahoma cried, asked why, dug our heels in and refused to be defeated. Unfortunately, these sad experiences aren’t limited to rare occurrences in Oklahoma. But, there’s something special in this red dirt. There’s something straight-forward, a genuine redemptive quality, that tells us and the entire world that better times are coming.

It’s the steely calm in the eyes of the families determined to not be uprooted. It’s the volunteers and donations pouring in so quickly, and in such huge quantities, that Red Cross is forced to call in additional workers to handle the avalanche of help. It’s the 2nd grader who busts open his piggy bank to donate 5 dollars worth of pennies to the Samaritan’s Purse. It’s the unrelenting faith in the basic goodness of people. It’s the neighbors who spend hours cutting down debris and sorting through what remains of a child’s bedroom so the parents don’t have to face that sadness alone. It’s the local businesses that stay open 24 hrs to deliver hot, free meals to everyone affected by the tornadoes. It’s the sense that when you’re in Oklahoma, you’re family.

It’s the way the typical Oklahoman looks forward to the coming dawn because we know the best is yet to be.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The summer before 10th grade, I moved from Texas to Moore, Oklahoma. That fall, I joined the throng of pimply-faced, jean-overall-wearing, sketcher-rocking 14yr olds starting our high school years. In the first period of the first day, I met Jen. She was a transplant too (from California), only knew a handful of people in the school, and looked every bit as nervous as I felt.
She had long, black Shirley Temple corkscrew curls pinned back from her face, framing her freckled face and shy smile. She sat in the very last seat of the very last row of Intro to English; I immediately sat by her, relieved to see someone who looked friendly and unattached to 40 of their best girl friends. I said something really cool and witty like, “You have curly hair. I don’t. I’m new. I bet you couldn’t guess.” At any rate, we became fast friends.

Moore became the backdrop of our friendship. We logged hour after hour at the local mall, ate at the locally owned fast food restaurants, drove the empty evening streets of the loosely connected 80s neighborhoods. We were too cool to be seen with our parents, so every day after school, we walked blocks away from the football field to meet my dad for a ride a home. Every weekend spent at her house, we wandered listlessly from convenient store to novelty shop, reveling in the freedom a 16 yr old believes she has. We worked together at a political polling firm, equally hating it with every fiber of our being and simultaneously loving the freedom our paychecks bought us. Freedom as defined by the ability to buy CoverGirl products with our own money, but still! FREEDOM.

Being the popular, up-to-the-minute girls we were, we spent Senior Skip Day at a local antique store. We commemorated prom with a family style dinner at an Italian chain; my date forgot his wallet, Jen paid for us both. We ditched our dates for several dances, threw caution to the wind, slurped down complimentary cherry cokes, and danced the evening away like the white girls we are. At graduation, we sat in the same row, our Honors white gowns billowing around our crossed ankles, crying big ugly tears of happiness and sadness…excited to see what our futures held, sad to say goodbye to the daily ritual of high school best friends who are thoroughly familiar with one another from our handwriting to our favorite vending machine snacks to our biggest adult fears.

We were both reporters for the school newspaper, The Lion’s Roar, eventually becoming co-editors. We spent nearly every weekend at one another’s house writing angst-ridden teen poetry, watching hopelessly unrealistic romance movies, and talking about everything from the possibility of aliens to our views on God. We knew one another’s families intimately, going on family vacations nearly every year. She was one of the last friends to meet my grandmother before her death. She told me, in the darkness of midnight, as we lay on pallets in her living room, that she fervently believed the ghost of her grandmother visited her home, often stopping by a vase of memorial roses on the fireplace mantel. The air crackled around us, these infinite moments shaping our world views with the yellow, fuzzy nostalgia that eventually wears thin with age and experience.

As the school year came to a close, we scheduled our Learner’s Permits tests and made elaborate plans to spend the summer with the windows down, the music up, and our hair blowing in the wind. Instead, the May 3rd, 1999 F-5 tornado tore through the sleepy suburb of Moore, our hometown. The entire town was demolished, houses whisked away in the windy mile-wide vortex. As my mom and I hid in the bedroom closet, holding hands and praying, I remember manically hoping Jen was safe.

After the terror was over, we emerged to a new world of pure destruction. The news shots didn’t do justice to the damage. Enormous stone buildings were reduced to teeny piles of grainy sand, whole 18 wheelers were scrunched into harmless balls of tin, and lives were lost. In 1999, cell phones were rare among the common so Jen and I didn’t have the luxury of texting our safety stats. Instead, I poured over newspaper listings of the storm related deaths, always holding my breath until I scanned beyond her last name without seeing her family listed.

Eventually the phone lines were restored, and we made contact. Luckily, we were both ok, our families spared. Years later, her family would move to Arizona and we’d briefly lose touch. But, in the way of Oklahoma, a natural disaster would prompt me to search for her online, find her, and reconnect.
Today, she is the mother of two beautiful twin children, a boy and a girl. She’s a gifted teacher, caregiver, and leader in an adult trade center. We remain the best of friends, reminded of our teenage bond and continuing friendship every time we hear the distant rumble of thunder.
Come what may, we’re the very best of friends, we’ve survivors, after all.

Monday, February 25, 2013

All in the Family

It’s a sleepy day; the overcast sky is a washed out, flat gray. Thick clouds are spitting freezing rain and everyone is running, head down, to the nearest entrance. Jackets and mufflers are spattered with tiny ice droplets and everyone’s hair is matted down in wet tangles. On days like this, my mind always turns to babies. I think it’s the sadness of the bleary day that magnifies the sadness of knowing I’ll never give birth to a baby.
We’ll never experience the magic of sweaty palms and tingly stomachs as we hold hands and wait for two pink lines to appear. Together, we’ll never have that moment when we realize, “This is real, this is it! We’re going to be parents! We’re going to be someone’s mommy and daddy!” We won’t have funny stories to share of my pickle and grape jelly cravings at 2am or him eating take-out food in the garage because I couldn’t stomach the smell. I won’t have the gauzy, glowing memory of seeing our tiny baby for the very first time on a blurry, black and white ultrasound screen. I won’t pour over “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” books, wondering if it’s normal to have an achy back, dull hair, and fat feet. I will never know the joy of feeling a brand new human moving for the very first time, aimlessly passing the months with teensy kicks and jabs. The baby book won’t be filled with endless pictures of my growing belly. I’ll never experience the bliss that comes when all the hard work has paid off, the pain has subsided, and my itty bitty baby, all pink and squinty, is handed to me.
We’ll never be able to play that game of “Oh, she has your nose and your mom’s ears! And, I’m sad to report, your Uncle Vern’s toes.” As she grows up, as babies inevitably do, we won’t find ourselves blaming her quirky personality traits on one another’s family genes. If she’s particularly flighty, we won’t say, “Typical, just like a White, through and through.” When she makes straight A’s, we won’t playfully argue over which of us passed our brains along to her, though it would be me, of that I’m certain.
But, and it’s a big but, through the world of adoption, we can have our baby! Should we be so blessed to be chosen as parents, I hope our daughter knows that she is no less loved, no less wanted than if she were our own biological child. In fact, we may want her even more due to the fact that we have spent years trying everything within our power to get her. I hope she knows that even though she won’t have my nose or her Daddy’s soft voice, she’ll have free run of our hearts, our attention, and our happiness.
The nursery she’ll come home to will be filled with pictures, fuzzy around the edges with age, of people who loved her long before she existed; white haired grandmas who held me close while I cried, worried that she would never be ours. Tall, beefy uncles who clipped newspaper articles about adoption agencies and offered financial advice. Sweet, brown-eyed cousins who took us out to dinner to offer their support. Mothers who listened to every word of fear and uncertainty, multiple times, and still responded with, “It’ll happen. It will.” without a twinge of doubt in their voices.  Dads who never tired of hearing the doubts, and always offered full support.
No, her baby book won’t have monthly in utero growth updates. But, it WILL be filled with notes from us telling her how much we want her, how excited we are to meet her, how very loved she is. We’ll balance out all that kitten, rainbows, and chocolate chip filled whimsy with helpful hints about the family she’ll call her own. Hint: Mama CANNOT sing but that doesn’t stop her from belting out Elvis hits at the top of her lungs. Also? Daddy can’t merge into traffic without losing his ever-loving mind. The binding will be stretched and frayed, the pages stuffed with pictures of her big brothers, who if it helps at all, don’t resemble one another any more than she’ll resemble us. Along with the pictures will be stories of the two amazing great grandmas she’ll be named after: ladies from a bygone era who left a legacy of strength, humor, and resiliency. Lorraine who, at age of 50, decided she wanted to be a nurse and so that’s just what she did, graduating at the top of her class. And Addie, who lived to the ripe old age of 90 and surrounded herself and all of her life in bright cherry red happiness, loving everyone so hard, she almost made your heart burst.
THIS, this is the family she’ll be born into. We may not all be biologically related, but we love each other fiercely, rejoice in one another’s happiness, and support each other in our moments of sadness. And, really, isn’t that what family is all about? Not a similarly shaped face or the unfortunate curse of male pattern baldness, but a shared sense of  friendship that runs so deep, these people become pieces of our hearts, forever a part of our very essence. And trust me on this, it’s a Bible-beating, old time religion miracle if anyone can manage to escape the curse of inheriting my skin or B's teeth.
To make up for missing all those pre-birth belly dances and karate kicks, I have firm plans to pinch her cheeks and tussle her soft, fuzzy head until I get my fill, which I’m not sorry to say kiddo, won’t happen. I hope she won’t mind a quick hair tussle on her 30th birthday or a cheek squeeze on her 50th. And when she’s here, we won’t think another thought about what we “missed.” We’ll be too busy welcoming our baby girl to the world.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Milo and Otis's 101 Ways to Terrorize the 'Hood

Dear Sir,

Your dogs are very cute and appear to be quite lovable scamps. But, there’s always a “but” isn’t there? But, they are free roam wherever their hearts desire for the better part of each day. Unfortunately, this desire is apparently to be ramblin’ dogs, rolling stones, restless souls. While I think we can all agree that it’s one of life’s greatest joys to watch Old Yellar and Lassie bound through ponds and yip at one another as they undertake life’s great adventure, it’s equally not fun to clean up trash strewn over 19 acres of land because these very same enchanting dogs have toppled our garbage cans over for the 12th time this week. It’s also a bummer to step out of our front door at 6am to let our dog relieve himself only to have him assailed by your pack of waiting dogs. The postman agrees, being chased by your 7 (!) dogs anytime any of us leaves the comfort of our homes or cars is an unnecessary irritant. Perhaps we’ve misread your crew. It’s quite possible their lungs are full of the wandering Oklahoma wind and their hearts swell with the bliss only a dog and his bone can fully understand. Even still, this ecstasy is demonstrated in ways we simply can no longer tolerate.

I think you’ll agree, on the list of the Top 10 Ways to Not Ring in a New Year is being awoken at 8am by Marley and Company vigorously barrel rolling into properly stored trash canisters in an attempt to topple them over. This morning fun was followed up by our dog, kept inside our home for our neighbors’ convenience, barking for the next 2 hours as your dogs used our porch as their personal dog run.

Please keep your dogs on your property or assist our entire neighborhood in cleaning up the trash your dogs tear through EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK. We love dogs. We just also love our trash to remain in the rubbish bins and our walkways to remain free from ankle-deep mounds of fresh, steaming excrement. I have a dream, a dream in which your 7 (!) best friends and our neighborhood’s four-legged family members can romp and play freely in their respective yards without the stray holiday turkey carcass, empty wrapping paper tubes, dirty diapers, and coffee grounds from our collective garbage being strung from here to Shawnee.   

We agree, all dogs go to heaven, they are man’s best friend, and they are downright cute. Please don’t let your dogs change this view for us.  If we have to, we will not hesitate to punch a puppy right in his face.


Your Neighbors