Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My God

My God.  No, not OMG.  Literally, my God.  Do you know Him?  Due to a recent online "run in" with one of my Sisters In Christ, I was inspired to tell you about Him.

I barely know this woman who sent me an email stating that we as Christians should be more judgmental.  Now, I don't know if whoever is reading this is a Christian or not.  But either way, you are probably aware that we Christians have a reputation for being very judgmental.  The article she sent said, "We are told to tolerate the religious thinking of non-Christians, because every religion has an element of truth to it, and because salvation is not exclusively for Christians. We must also tolerate in our churches the sinful actions of others. It is not our business if an unmarried couple lives together! It is none of our business if a member of our congregation practices homosexuality! We must not judge them." The whole article is about how wrong this is...society tells us these things and we, as Christians, must stand up and judge those that would do such things. It also says, "We must cater to the whims and wishes of the feminists" as one of those bad things society is telling us. I replied asking her to please not send me these emails anymore and that it was offensive. Her response back? "The Bible says a lot of things that men find difficult to swallow." Implying, if not saying outright, that I just can't handle the truth.

Riled up, I started to rant on Facebook, as did some of my friends, also Christian. But I decided that wasn't a good venue for such a thing. Plus I have too much to say and it just won't fit on Facebook!

So here I am to tell you about my God. My Jesus. I am not going to throw scriptures at you. You have heard them all before. Taken out of context, you can find one to support any point of view. I am going to tell you about who He is to ME.

First, here is where I find Him, what He looks like:

I saw Him in the places above: Mexico, Hatteras Island, Smoky Mountains.  I see Him in my children and the rest of my family.  I see Him in the pictures of the faces of people Brad and Lainie met in Haiti.  I see Him in the face of a sweet, tiny baby in the church nursery who was born addicted to drugs.

I feel Him, too.  In the hugs from Brad and the girls.  In the kisses from my doggies.  At times I have felt Him so strongly, it was like a physical presence.  Like when tons of people in the church I grew up in laid their hands on my Mom in prayer before her breast cancer surgery.  Like when our then-minister prayed for me before some surgery of my own.  When a group of wonderful people surrounded my niece and prayed before removing her life support, letting her go.  I feel Him at almost every church service I attend at Kensington.  Enough that I cry there on a regular basis.  His presence overwhelms me!

This God of mine is full of grace, forgiveness, understanding.  He doesn't judge me and I don't believe He wants me to judge others.  People might make choices that I wouldn't make.  But that doesn't make me better than they are.  God forgives everyone, that is the best part!  My God is all about the LOVE.  He wouldn't want me to use my faith as a weapon against others.  He doesn't want me to preach hate, no matter the circumstances.  

I will pray for this woman, pray that maybe someday she can know MY God.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Face Behind Your Jokes

This is a tough one for me to write.  There is so much pain, it is a physical thing for me.  My heart literally hurts.  When I hear or see someone use any version of the "R" word.  Retarded.  Retard.  Even the more politically correct terms like mentally challenged or cognitively impaired are being used in jokes.  I know you are trying to be funny when you say these things.  I know you think these terms are funny to hear, and you laugh.  I just want to put a face to your jokes.
Lea is 17 and has Down syndrome, as most of you know.  I have seen several awesome YouTube videos of people in their own campaigns against the "R" word.  You know the ones, where there is a good song playing, and the person holds up a series of index cards with messages on them.  They often say about their loved ones, "she is not retarded."  I know where they are coming from.  They have the same knife-in-the-heart feeling that I have when I hear the jokes.

But the truth is, Lea IS retarded.  Mental retardation just means it takes Lea longer to learn things.  And it means there are some things she probably will never learn.  There are things we have worked on for years, like math.  One day she can do quite well.  She can add and subtract 2 digit numbers.  The next day, she can't add 2 + 2.  This is not funny, this is not something to make fun of.  She does the very best she can and her brain just can't keep certain things in it.  It does NOT mean Lea is stupid.  I know what you are thinking.  "Of course Lea isn't stupid!  I never said she is stupid, or anyone with a disability!"  But when you tell the jokes, when you forward them along in an email, when you post it on Facebook or when you refer to someone or something that IS stupid as retarded, you are calling Lea stupid.  By using the word retarded in a negative fashion, you bring Lea down.

I stand up for Lea all the time.  I have even scolded, if you will, a Kroger employee who was putting chips on a shelf because he called down the aisle to the other employee that the chips looked so retarded the way he was doing it.  I spoke to the owner of a Hallmark store when her employee yelled across the store about something that looked so retarded.  I have asked friends (hopefully without scolding!) to please not use that term, at least around our family.  I know it would be asking a lot for people to start doing the same.  To tell someone who jokingly calls someone a retard that it hurts.  "I love someone who is mentally challenged.  That term is hurtful."  But I wonder, will anyone reading this at least change their own views of how funny this word is?  Will anyone at the very least not laugh at the jokes?  Will anyone choose to never use these terms in a negative way?  Will anyone not joke about "the short bus?"  Will anyone look at Lea's beautiful, laughing face above and remember her when the term is used?  Will anyone at all share this blog with others?  I hope so, with all of my heart!

Lea may be mentally challenged.  But I tell you one thing: she would never purposely hurt your feelings by making fun of you!  That is one of the amazing things about Lea, and all of the people I have met over the years with challenges.  They are so full of love!  Lea has been made fun of by other kids.  She may get sad for about a minute, but then she is full of forgiveness.  "I still like her, Mommy.  It's ok."  SHE has to comfort ME in these situations!  I wish I could blow it off like she does.  But I can't, so I do what I can as her Mommy to try to make people understand.