Santa in March?

28 03 2007

‘Tis the Season for flowers, spring allergies and seasonally ineffective street evangelists.  

I was plodding along, completely engrossed in my own thoughts, when a little, gray haired lady — her arms filled with grocery bags — flagged me down.   In a quite voice, she leaned in closer to me, and with big eyes and a somewhat crazed smile plastered on her face, she informed me there was something she needed to give me. 

As she rummaged around in her brown, winter coat, I half expected her to pull out a plastic fork, or an old gumball wrapper, or even, something to help me contact the aliens with.  But instead of ET’s home number, her hand emerged with two small cards – each about the size of a business card.  She handed them proudly over to me.  Cutesy Christian poems were printed on them in flowery fonts; nope, I wouldn’t be helping ET phone home today.     

“Santa Claus,” she said his name with all the inflections a good storyteller would use when the zombies had emerged and were now wreaking havoc on society, “leads straight to the mall which leads to bankruptcy and depression.”  She looked up so she could stare right into my eyes.  It reminded me of the way a door to door salesman would stare at you while he was trying to convince you of your overwhelming need for the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner.  I smiled back uncomfortably.  

After an awkward silence, she apparently decided I was now ripe for the gospel, and added triumphantly, “But Jesus leads to peace.  Santa has deceived us all, we’ve all ended up at the mall, but you don’t have to stay there, because you can choose to either follow Santa or Jesus.” 

Santa or Jesus? Okay, so I’ve had a couple bad experiences with street evangelists in the past, but this “gospel message” takes the cake.  Not only did it not make any sense, but it wasn’t even seasonally appropriate!     

It was ironic she thought “following Santa” would lead straight to the mall, because I was on my way to stop by a friends house – who’s actually a friend from church — and then we were going to spend the afternoon at the local mall.              

She looked satisfied, and abruptly walked away without another word.  And I continued on to the mall thinking how her “gospel” was enough to make me feel turned off from Christianity. 

I didn’t tell the lady I she was preaching to the choir, because the “Christianity” she was selling was nothing I was willing to defend or own. 

It seems like we’re in need of a new term, because somewhere along the way the term “Christianity” lost its meaning.  It became about televangelists, concerts, cheesy bumper stickers, judgemental and stupid people, and somewhere in all the hubbub, true Christianity was misplaced; it stopped being simply about “Yes, Jesus loves me.”     





Playing for Keeps

20 03 2007

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him. But
once they are in hand, he alone must decide how to play
the cards in order to win the game.”
~Voltaire





Contentment

9 03 2007

Of all places, standing in line at the movie theater, breathing in the stench of popcorn and fake cheese while my sneaker is firmly lodged in some archaic bubble gum, often makes it a challenge to continue viewing my singleness as an opportunity to be flexible and free to do and go wherever God calls, rather than the reason why I don’t have a cute guy holding my hand while I wait to order my ticket.  

While surveying the other movie goers inline, I shoot up a prayer that sounds more like it should be addressed to the Great Cosmic Department Store Manager, and not the Creator of the Universe.  “Okay, so I know this whole singles thing is an opportunity for me to serve You God and all, but do You think maybe I could get an exchange?  Have You ever considered a layaway program?”          

The line from a song, “I’m nothing without you, but I don’t know who you are.” seems to sum up these moments.  Sometimes, it’s the simple fact there isn’t anyone that can give you the feeling you’re lacking something — maybe everything — because they aren’t standing there next to you, but you don’t even know who he or she is.     

Unless, you’re still an avid disciple of Cooties, you’ve probably experienced the same feeling, maybe even standing inline at your local movie theater while the couple in front of you makes goo-goo eyes at each other.  It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it?  

In an attempt to regain my focus — it’s incredible how easily it gets lost —  I drag Philippians 4:11-13 out of a dusty, old filing cabinet somewhere in the back of my brain and mull it over a bit.   

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”    

Ah, yes, the journey of learning to be content.  It helps me to remember it’s something we have to learn, and not that some saintly people are just born with the ability to be perfectly content in all of life’s situations, and others, like me, were born with and extra helping of the gimmies.   

The journey of learning contentment comes in many sizes, shapes and colors.  It can be choosing not to lust after someone’s home library, even though they have an entire collection of classic books.  It can be being thankful for the three pairs of sneakers I have, even though I’d quite happily fill my entire closet with more.  It can mean accepting the fact my dad is dying, and in many ways, he’s already gone, but still choosing to be thankful for the time I did have.  And sometimes, learning to be content takes the shape of being content with being single.          

Anne Lamott says the best two prayers she knows are “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  I’ve gotten a good deal of mileage out of both, and after a few moments of chewing on Paul’s sentiments regarding contentment, and staring at the movie times, if you could’ve eavesdropped in on my mental ponderings, you would have heard both. “Thank you, Lord, that you’ve given me this opportunity to serve You.  Help me to learn to be content.”

Too many people seem feel that somewhere out there, just over the horizon, is that one thing they’ve been waiting for — college, marriage, a better job, kids — that will make all of the little pieces of their life fall into place and then everything will be truly wonderful.  But there will always be something just out of reach, and as I grasp a hold of the next thing, something new will always take its place.  If I don’t learn how to be content now, I never will be.

Annette Funicello put it well when she said, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”  Everything doesn’t have to be straight off a Hollywood set before it’s wonderful.  Right now, just the way it is, my life is wonderful and I’m thankful for it.          

Well, I have more to say regarding contentment, but I’ve run out of time and space.  I’ll have to post a “part two” later.