Monday, December 30, 2013

30th Birthday Update

Remember how I was apprehensive about my 30th birthday? I needn’t have been.  In fact, it was so amazing that I’ve devoted this post to a photo journal of the day.  Thank you all so much for your love and friendship!  You have made this not only a wonderful day but a wonderful year!  

Breakfast at my favorite diner with my best friends in the world!
Yup, I ordered a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.
I know it's just swiss miss and ready whip but the diner setting somehow makes it magical.
Oh and I got corned beef hash because that's how I roll:)

These goofy guys:)

I LOVE my presents!!!  Can you tell?

First time skating for the little man.

Wherever we go it's a party.  The ice rink is no exception.

An epic game of pillow polo to top off the insanity.
If you don't know what pillow polo is
you probably didn't go to a small Christian school in the middle of nowhere...
it's basically floor hockey with oversized American Gladiator sticks.  

The best ice cream cake ever!
I didn't even make a wish, I just thanked God for so many blessings.    
And in case you were worried that people didn't take my requests for GIFTs and DAREs seriously please watch this video of my sister giving high fives to total strangers.  (Unfortunately, I can't seem to upload the video of my other sister's interpretive ice dance...several people stopped to watch and ask if she was being serious. She kept her game face on even when she slid across the ice on one knee with arms wide open. ) and if anyone has the photo of my mom with toilet paper hanging out of her pants, please post that because there is no doubt that she wins for gutsiest DARE.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Birthdays:  A Present, A Proverb, and A Purpose By Justin Gottlieb

Merry Christmas!  This week we won’t have our regular blog schedule but we do have a special guest blog today from Justin Gottlieb.  Justin is our neighbor, friend and pastor.  You can read more from him at

When I was growing up, an elderly, depression-era, neighbor lady, gave my brother and I each a fresh pack of tighty whities for our birthdays It was quite frustrating conjuring up even the tiniest bit of thankfulness. 

While in line at Starbucks recently, I found out it was a new friend's birthday and want to give him a gift. I purchased a gift card assuming that he'd be served and blessed by free coffee for the next week or so. As he shook my hand and smiled, he said, "It's better to give than receive." 

That was rugged. It's not like I'd given him a pack of underwear. 

For much of my life (I'm not proud of this!), I haven't been a big fan of birthdays. Celebrating the lowest common denominator of human existence just didn't get me hyped. 

While I have reformed my thought on birthdays (becoming a dad will do that), I have also come to realize that there is one birthday worth celebrating. That birthday is belongs to Jesus. 

Jesus was eternally and unendingly rich, but chose to be born poor, so that we (the poorest of poor!) might become rich in him (2 Corinthians 8.9). 

That's a birthday with purpose. 

That's a birthday worth celebrating with more than tighty whities and giftcards. 

Celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving your life to him. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Little Angels by Rochelle Rubino

Here is a post by my dear friend and former co-teacher Rochelle Stewart Rubino.   If you love her work as much as I do you can read more at and occasionally at (Yeah, she’s kind of a big deal:)   Enjoy!

Sending my daughter to pre-school at was momentous for a couple reasons: 1. She’s attending preschool at the same catholic elementary school I spent the formative years of my education; and 2. Well, it’s pre-school. Huge milestone, people; Come on!

But on Thursday of this week, another huge milestone occurs: Gianna’s first Christmas Concert. Now, friends, the Christmas Concert is a BIG deal. Growing up, it was the highlight of the school year. We performed inside the church and were allowed to stand on the steps of the altar. Like woah! When do you ever get to stand on the steps of the altar?! Plus, we said goodbye to our uniforms in exchange for fancy Christmas dresses. And we even crimped our hair. (Remember when hair crimpers were all the rage?) So the fact that she will be singing in her first-ever Christmas concert for her school is HUGE.

Since her school added the Little Angels pre-school (yes, my daughter is officially a Little Angel, as if you thought otherwise!), the structure of the concert is slightly different. The Little Angels students go first and when they are done, they actually are allowed to go home (thank you, concert organizers! You know how to please the mommies and daddies of little ones).

Regardless of the abridged schedule for Little Angels, I still alerted the relatives about Gianna’s debut performance.  They wouldn't miss her sing her two songs – “Baby Jesus” (sung to the tune “Are You Sleeping”) and “Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star.”  Just don’t tell the concert organizers that I may be bringing more than four guests. It’ll be our little secret. ;)

So Thursday evening when I walk into the church with my little family for our daughter’s first-ever school-wide Christmas concert, I may grow a little teary-eyed, but mostly, I think it will feel a little surreal. Instead of my parents taking me to the church, I’ll escort my daughter. Instead of my parents coming to watch me sing, my parents will be watching their granddaughter perform.

Same church. Same school. Heck, even the same priest!

Life is good sometimes pretty darn often. I just need to remember this on nights when two little kids suck the patience right from my bones!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Riding the T

Here is a story I wrote back in grad school.  It's a slice of life from when I used to ride the T (subway/trolley) 3-4 hours a day to get to work and school.  It made me smile when I found it.

In the past year, I have spent an obscene number of hours on the T.  My most modest estimates put me at about 300 hours.  Sometimes it feels as if my permanent state has become a moderate twinge of motion sickness and a dull headache.

I’ve noticed many things over the months.  I’ve compared the faux leather seats of the orange line to their upholstered cousins on the red line.  I’ve noticed the metal handholds riveted to the crossbars and juxtaposed them with the plastic version, hanging more leisurely.  I’ve made mental notes on the narks riding the train, rating the “service” of the MBTA and the plethora of middle aged transvestites.  I’ve grieved for the homeless circulating from car to car fabricating stories to evoke just 5 more cents.

But today, I noted the walls and the floor of the T.  I have obviously stared at them unaware hours before, trying to avoid any unwanted eye contact.  But today I noticed them.  I noticed the plastic tack paper imitating wood that someone had adhered to the walls of the orange line.  I also paid close attention to the rust brick swirl of the linoleum floor.  Linoleum? I thought, like my kitchen?  How odd.  I assume that the pattern and color of the drab flooring was created with the same intention as dorm room carpeting- something that cloaks a nasty mess as unobtrusively as possible.  And to that end, the flooring of the T works pretty well.  The gum, lollypop sticks, and remnants of spilled soda blend pretty well. Perhaps too well.  

I remember riding the green line last year, and a woman kept throwing up.  Over and over she tossed the contents of her inners until there was only dark green bile splashing against the floor.  What struck me was that no one reacted.  Myself included.  Everyone needed to get to work, or get home, or get somewhere and so they set their face like flint and tried to ignore the sludge spreading across the floor.  

A solitary mother finally reacted.  She was getting off at Harvard Ave. She’d been out getting groceries. As she got up to leave she pulled her leeks from their plastic sheath and stuck them, naked, into her cloth “Please Recycle” bag.  She proceeded to hand the clear veggie bag to the poor girl, who could only nod before convulsing again into dry heaves. 

After a while, no one was on the train.  It was just me, riding the B-line to the end.  The heaving lady had even exited and I was left alone with the inanimate amoeba of bile.  I was shocked at how easy it would be for someone to enter the train unawares, and step into this nasty mess.  It had become part of the dingy flooring.  Only the smell betrayed its presence.

The train reached the end and I felt that I had to inform someone.  I walked to the front and tugged on the conductor’s sleeve. “Excuse me,” How did I say this politely?  “I think a woman back there vomited on the floor.”  All decorum had to be scrapped as the man indicated he did not speak English.  I was reduced to awkward reenactments of the scene and finally just led him to the mush.  “Oh” he said and shrugged.  It seemed normal enough to him.  Health hazards were all in a day’s work I guess.  So, he nodded a dismissal and I walked away.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent and Amy Grant by Anne Reis

I don’t remember all the details of why I started celebrating Advent.  Maybe it was because  of the advent wreath at church that looked like the one from my American Girl Doll’s St. Lucia Christmas outfit, or maybe it was because I had watched Little Women quite a few times and loved how their Christmas felt with fire and singing. Either way I had decided to celebrate Advent, it was perfect because for the first time in my life I had the entire room to myself.  That meant every night in December I would say goodnight to my family and make sure they all thought I was in bed. I would get up and walk over to my dresser where I would light a candle. (My 7th grade teacher had taught me that lighting a candle is a good way to remember and symbolize the Holy Spirit is present, plus Jo did it.) Then I would sing. Mind you, I do not by any means have a good voice. In fact, at Sunday worship I am constantly fluctuating between the mens and women’s parts because neither seems to fit my voice. But either way, I would Sing a Christmas Hymn, ok usually just the 1st verse and chorus because that was all I could remember, then I would just hum. When I finished I would open my advent calendar eat the chocolate designated for that day. I could imagine I looked silly and a few times I laughed at myself and the thought that someone watching me might think I was crazy but with all that aside this 24 days of candle lighting and songs one of my most treasured memories and Christmas felt more like Christmas that year. 

Now that I am older I notice that Christmas sneaks up on me, and many of the feelings I used to have seem absent. After reflecting on this I realized it was because I was missing the anticipation. That time of preparation in itself is such a gift. So in my extreme fashion I decided to celebrate advent again and try to recreate the closeness I felt at that time. Not with one advent calendar but with three. First, the traditional chocolate one my parents always buy for me. The second for myself which I put all 5 scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, I was going to be disciplined and get close to God. And lastly, one for Pedro, my husband. 

My new friend Angie had encouraged me to do the one for Pedro. She thought it would be good to be deliberate about adoring our husbands. I thought this was a good idea since I rarely take the time to encourage Pedro at things he does well. Plus, Angie and I are just becoming friends and I wanted to make a good impression. The day before Advent began we wrote 24 encouraging notes for our husbands and put a chocolate in each envelope. I had trouble because I noticed most of mine were less encouragements and more about myself. “ Pedro you make me feel like…” No, that wasn’t right. This was supposed to be about him. 

Only in the last few days, being days behind in my Advent reading and feeling guilty, it has dawned on me that Angie got it and I didn’t.  Advent is about taking the time to get the focus off ourselves and get excited about something bigger that is coming. It makes Christmas feel more like Christmas because we have taken the time to look at the person we are celebrating. It wasn’t my diligence about doing the singing every night as a child that made me feel close to God, it was that I was singing truths about God back to Him. It was selfless. I was unabashedly singing these songs that millions of people have sung for generations about the truth of who Christ is and what he has done. Some may say Advent is legalistic but I have found there is such freedom in it. It is like my childhood Role Model Amy Grant says on her 1993 classic album Age to Age:

“Sing Your Praise to the Lord, come on everybody, stand up and sing … one more Hallelujah. Give your praise to the Lord, I can never tell you, just how much good that is gonna do ya just to sing.” 

(I wish we had a video tape of my sisters and my choreographed dance to this but please enjoy this song )

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Lord Have Mercy on My Next 30 Years"

I worry about my birthday... every year... 

I worry about it getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays since it is the day after Christmas.  I’m not just worried about not getting presents, or getting “joint presents” that cover both days, because I understand that.  Money is tight for everyone.  

I worry that the day will just float by without any celebration or notable difference from every other  day.  I worry about this because I see it as a reflection of my life.  Am I just floating through this existence?  Is my highest goal simply to stay out of people’s way so  I’m not an inconvenience?  Am I adding any cause for celebration to the lives of those whom I love?  Do I matter?  Sometimes I’m afraid to even ask.  Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful post on her birthday that really inspired me.  (  

Here are the two things that have stuck with me since reading that post in August:
1. Fight anxiety with love for others.  “Perfect love casts out all fear.”  
2. Don’t be afraid to do something that will make people stop, and think, and smile.  

In her post she challenges readers to give forward the love they have received by doing one or more of the 40 “GIFTS” listed on her page.  I LOVE that idea.  I love it because it is a way to create memories and stories, a way to stop and celebrate life!  

Still, I felt I couldn’t just rip off her 40 ideas (even though they are all excellent).  I wanted to put my own spin on it, make it kind of a truth or dare game played across the whole country.  

I have been watching the show Impractical Jokers lately, and the things they challenge each other to do simply blow my mind. (  The show is hilarious to me because the guys are fearless (and/or shameless).  I envy that sort of hilarity,.  I think for 90 % of the population that sort of gut wrenching belly laugh at life’s awkward situations and absurdities dies out somewhere between middle school and the end of college.  So, I tried to weave it into my birthday celebration.  

I made a list of 30 things. 15 humorous requests and 15 thoughtful ones.  If you are game, look over the list below, chose a gift/ challenge to complete and then write me an email or birthday card telling me which GIFT you chose and how it went:)   (Extra bonus points if you get a picture or even better a video of the funny ones.)  I also attached the websites where I got the ideas from, check them out so you can see what I have in mind.  I really really hope you’ll celebrate with me this year....I mean seriously 30 only rolls around once.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hush by Anna Paddock © 2013

Thank you again Katie for giving me an opportunity to share on your blog.  Earlier in the fall (in my first post), I had expressed my desire to be able to write this fall.  It certainly has been a writing season for me, and I now anticipate the winter and the time to edit and arrange the songs from the past 8 weeks.  I decided to share a lyric for one of my recent songs I wrote this fall.  There is no proper recording of it available as of yet, but if you'd like to hear my initial demo – you can email, and I will make it available for you to listen – either by email or a website link.  

HUSH – Anna Paddock © 2013

Hush, you've said enough
You're like a disease, and I don't need this
Hush, say no more
You come like a thief, and I don't need you

People say “we'll fix your head”
Just swallow this pill, it'll get easier
I tell myself, 'get out of bed'
You can not be ill, it'll get easier, but all I hear is

Voices, voices, voices
God I can't think when I hear
Voices, voices, voices
They're growing in number, they're closing in

Hush, don't rear your head
You're like a disease beginning to spread
Hush, you've made your point
You come like a thief to kill and destroy

People say “we'll fix your brain
Just swallow this pill, it'll get easier”
Statistics say “you're one in ten
Maybe you're ill, it'll get easier”, but all I hear is

Voices, voices, voices
God I can't think when I hear
Voices, voices, voices
They're growing in number, they're closing in
God I cant think when I hear
Voices, voices, voices,
They're growing in number, they're closing in

Hush, it's time you go
You're like a disease killing my soul
Hush, you've said too much
You come like a thief, and you've taken enough

If you are interested in purchasing my recent album, Feel Better, it is available on iTunes (search Anna Paddock and/or Feel Better).  It is also available on
For more information or to stay connected, visit: for more information.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Here are my five favorite moments from this year's Thanksgiving celebration

1. The sight of my sister’s father-in-law laughing amiably after pulling his sunglasses down off his head so that he can see the Catch Phrase more clearly, not just once but at least three times.  

2. The smell of my sister’s gourmet coffee sweetened with my mom’s Aldi pumpkin spice creamer.  

3.  The feel of my great grandmother’s silver flatware sturdily cutting into a slice of roasted turkey. 

4. The sound of my bother laughing at my son who struts away like Lebron James after dunking the basketball on a miniature rim.    

5. The taste of orange peels soaked and marinated for days until they become a sponge of sugar, orange zest and refreshment.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Mount of Freedom by Anonymous

Today's guest blogger is one of the most extraordinary students I have ever had.  She has been writing a short story every single week of this year.  That is 46 stories to date!!!  I love this piece. I love the tone and emotion.  I love the authenticity and freedom she conveys. I am so excited to share it with you:

I was 1000 meters off the ground feeling like I could touch the sky. I could feel the crisp fall air and soft winds brush across my hot face. The blue skies above me and a gray rock underneath. I saw miles and miles of green with birds flying sky high towards the horizon. I took a breathe of the fresh air and felt freedom... Like a bird in the sky. No limits what so ever!

It wasn't the first time I climbed up Mount Monadnock. I actually went for my 10th birthday with my family. It was a surprise gift, adventure from my aunt and all I could remember was feeling free. I was going through a somewhat tough week. I just wanted to run away... and that's exactly what I did. I told my aunt who was in town, I wanted to take a hike up Mount Monadnock again. 

Without any questions or second thoughts, we were off on the road. We got a hotel room and stayed there for the night. By the time we got there, it would have been to late to be hiking. Early the next morning, my aunt and I got up. We gathered our stuff and got ready for the hike, I was so eager to get back up to the top of the mountain. I just wanted to relax while I had my time up there. No one was really on the trail to the top of the mountain that morning so it was very quiet. Quiet enough for me to take in the nature surrounding me as well as to think on my way up. I plugged in my headphones to my iPod and I was off. There wasn't much talking between my aunt and me until the middle of the hike... My iPod died so I had to talk to my aunt. We talked about college and the future which got me upset because even when I was trying to escape the world/reality, annoying life conversations came up.
I was getting hot from climbing but the occasional winds made the climb worth it. The winds gave me another reason to get to the top. A couple hours later, we got there. I couldn't believe my eyes! I saw everything! At that moment, I was looking down at the world! I saw the trees from the top and no longer from the bottom! I was as high as the birds! I felt some weight lift off of me while I was at the top. No one was telling me what to do or what to think! I was finally happy! It was very breezy and every breeze made me feel more and more relaxed. Everything felt possible to me then. I took a seat at the edge of the rock and thought. Not about anything in particular, I just thought. I thought about the feeling of being so high up where I felt like the queen of the world. Everything was in my power and I could do whatever makes me happy! Feeling free from the world was amazing. No one was judging me on my messy hair and red face. No one was telling me to be a bigger person or to go away! For that hour I was at the top, I ran away. If I could, I would stay up there, on top, in a world of my own by myself smiling. There is nothing in this world that compares to being free!

Monday, November 25, 2013


I think we can all come together around this one likes failure.
Not even contrarians or masochists can make a compelling case that the sensation of inadequacy is enjoyable.  I felt this very sensation on Saturday when I woke up early to check the National Board Teaching Certification results.  All last school year I worked on my portfolio, all spring I studied for the test.  I took it in June and the results were supposed to be posted this week.  They were. I failed.  

It felt like a baseball bat swung at my stomach.  I wanted a chance to defend myself, to prove my competency as a teacher, but I suppose that is what the assessment is for in the first place and my defense was found wanting.  

Still, I am a never say die sort of person so I keep thinking that if the panel of assessors knew my circumstances they would have been a little more impressed.  Aren’t there points that could be awarded for compiling this 400 page portfolio during a scary and difficult pregnancy?  I went to my final portfolio review while in labor.  Can we get some sort of curve considering I took the standardized test a mere 2 months after my baby girl was born.  How about some credit for hard work?  I put in innumerable hours working on this; hours  stolen from sleeping or showering or even at times, eating.  
So come on NBCT, cut me a break.  

But for as much as I want to fight it, none of those things prove that I’m a good teacher.
And this failure has brought me face to face with the reality that I do not inherently deserve success or reward.  

Hard work and pain don’t always equal gain.  

This hurts because it shakes the very core of my protestant work ethic.  
What should I have done differently?   If I can’t pull it together and pass a stupid test what can I do?  Who can I trust to come through in tough times if not myself?  

To retake the assessment is a mere $1,057 but a thousand dollars is a small price to pay to remind me that who I am is not dependent upon what I do.  And those 20 overall points I need to become a Nationally Certified Teacher will not ensure inner bliss and fulfillment.  

So here is how I see it:
(Well, actually this is how a super good friend of mind told me to look at it, and it has made all the difference.)  

Creation- God made me.  He made me with a passion to teach and to read and to write.  He made me a little bit like him with the ability to love and to feel. 

Fall- But, I mess up.  All. The. Time.  I fail tests, I lose important paperwork, I get frustrated and give up. I hurt people that I should be helping.

* Here is where I am right now!~

Redemption- I can’t make it right.  I can’t explain my way out, I can’t just pay the $1,000 and feel better.  Someone has to come to the rescue...some people wait for their inner selves, some for knights in shining, I’m a big screw up so I am waiting for God himself to come make it right.  (And he has, believe it or not.)

Restoration- Failure makes me eager for the day when all wrongs are made right.  All tears are wiped away.  It’s probably not today, or tomorrow...but I believe in heaven, so even if it takes my whole life, I know at the end of the road there is a there is Someone, the only person I can wholly and completely trust who will look at me and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into my rest.”  

So, yeah... I’ll take an eternity of joy over an NBTC stamp of approval any day.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why I Am Drifting Away From Christians and Closer to Christ by Andrew Patterson (Part 3 of 3)

A few years back I decided I wasn’t going to believe in Jesus because it's what my family does. I wasn’t going to believe because that’s what my school told me to do or because that’s what I’m supposed to do. I have to believe for my own reasons. I read as many books and articles as I could about why he did or didn’t exist. I stopped praying for a while to see if my life started to suck. I read the entire Bible with the most cynical attitude possible. I threw in my general gut feeling about everything. I don’t know if this was a reasonable, thoughtful, and responsible way to investigate my faith, but I that’s what I came up with. 

There was more hard evidence that he did live than that he didn’t. My life didn’t really change without prayer, but prayer made me feel a whole lot better. The Bible didn’t make much sense to me, but the parts that were most consistent were the words in red ink. And maybe I’ve drank too much Jesus juice throughout my life, but believing in Him feels right.

So I look out now, out at fellow Christians. And boy, do we suck. Myself included. But of course we do. We’re not Jesus. He’s the savior, the ideal. He’s the top of the mountaintop, the highest height. Because He is so different from us, even those who profess to love him, he must be set apart for a reason. He’s must be “The One” because He’s completely unmatched. He is rightfully exalted because I know for a fact we damn sure don’t deserve to be.

Why don’t we stick closer to him? He was humble, accepting, and overtly loving. How come we struggle so immensely with those things? Jesus did plenty of uncomfortable things, why don’t we? What if we didn’t overcomplicate the religion and interject so much? Why do we act like we can’t find Him when he’s right there? I know we cant be Him, or even live relatively close to how He did. But I think we, as a religion, would suck a whole lot less if we didn’t stray so far away from Him. 

The Church is supposed to be the embodiment of Him. It supposed to be a strict reflection of His essence and His way of life. By in large, I just don’t see it. The Church is too far away from Jesus for it to make sense to me. Sadly, I’ll probably keep losing faith in what Christianity is. But hopefully, that continues to give me more faith in Christ. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why I Am Drifting Away From Christians and Closer to Christ by Andrew Patterson (Part 2 of 3)

Religion has the most influential force on humans throughout history for one reason; the comfort it provides to people. Go to any Christian church in Suburbia, USA and check out the pictures of Jesus. They’re praying to a white guy! I’m not hearing that looking for Jesus bull. People want what’s easy and cool for them. The Bible is stretched, shaped, and configured to offer the user whatever it comfortable for them.

You know what’s uncomfortable for many people? Self-reflection. Moreover, recognizing the flaws in one’s character, one’s history, or one’s behavior. The ego of Christianity is humongous. There is plenty of evidence of that, but one of the most unnerving trends I notice is the fact that Christianity never seems to admit its mistakes. 

I don’t know much about The Crusades, but from what I can gather, they weren’t very Christ-like. What I am familiar with is the history of slavery.  Throughout the entire stretch of my religious driven education (4 years in high school and 5 years at two different catholic colleges) I cannot recall a single instance of being formally educated about the real truths of slavery. 

The mature me now understands much more.  This is America, and they don’t really want to teach the suburban white kids about how this country was stolen, and then built by treating an entire race of people as property for 400+ years. I get it. But looking back, I am ashamed at the schools that I love, especially my high school, for not keeping it a little more real.

It wasn’t just brute force or threat of violence that allowed one group of men to control another for almost 5 centuries. They used the Bible to justify and assist in it. I wont go into detail here, but simple research with show what I’m talking about. Why didn’t my education include not just those, but any of the historic examples of the Bible was misused in an admittedly wrong fashion? Wouldn’t that be a more complete assessment of the religion they push? Can’t the church use the mistakes of the past as a way to teach humility?

The lack of humility Christianity has is one thing. The overtly hate-based factions of the religion today are much worse. And the Christians that shy away from denouncing those factions are doing the most damage.

America really isn’t as great as we’d like to believe. If you ever watch the first episode of “The Newsroom”, the main character, Will McAvoy does a great job in summarizing why fall short of the America we fetishize. However, one thing America does lead the world in is Christians, or as he put it, “people who believe in Angels.”

Most of my time is spent working from home, and therefore, my TV is rarely off. I spend most of my daytime viewing hours between ESPN, food network, business news, and political shows. Any reasonable person hip to current political affairs cant dent fact that conservative Christians strongly influence our political system. It is also undeniable that a growing, hate-based force is making its way into mainstream politics. 

We’re not dumb, we see it. It’s the people that bring confederate flags to the dwelling of the first black President. It’s the people that call said black President, the anti-Christ. It’s the people that call Mexicans drug mules. They condemn the poor. They don’t want equal treatment of women and the LGBT community. Those people that charge all Muslims as terrorist. The majority of those people would classify themselves as conservative, Bible thumping Christian folk. We know that.

Those people are fear driven. They justify that fear with trumped up beliefs, mislead overreactions, and misguided perceptions. Those people are an issue, but it’s the smarter people that do much more harm. 

Believe what you want about other races, the poor, gay people or whatever social issues that mean something to you. But as CHRISTians, our moral foundation very isn’t difficult to build on. It’s summarized in all the bright red ink. Love God and love everyone else. Simple. That’s it. 

It’s the people that understand the message of love, but don’t portray it, that are the problem. I’ve seen publicly and privately on numerous occasions a believer in Islam denounce the Jihadist extreme. Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and others battled the hateful elements of the Nation of Islam movement. One reason I have the utmost respect for John McCain is because he openly separated himself from the racist elements on the Republican Party. 

What I don’t see enough of is smart Christian leaders speaking out against the hateful elements of the Religion. I see a lot of silent Samaritans. Tons of really great people that are too apathetic to the misuse of the religious text. Intelligent and possibly influential people too content with living in their Sunday bubbles where its nice and cozy.

To me, it’s obvious why there is a decline of the number of genuine Christians in this country. The entity of Christianity lacks humility and has a growing hate-filled fringe. I don’t witness enough outward expression of love from the believers. I can’t tell you when I saw a Christian leader have the balls to stand up to hate in the name of the faith. 

In my eyes, Christians do a really bad job at living like Christ. And to me, that means he is truly special. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why I Am Drifting Away From Christians and Closer to Christ by Andrew Patterson (Part 1 of 3)

Here is the first part of an incredible post written by my beloved brother.  I am so grateful for him and his talent for writing.  I have always and will always admire his authenticity and way with words. I hope this challenges you as much as it challenged me.  

I haven’t been to church in quiet a while. I consider myself a Christian and I recognize that as such, I’m supposed to enjoy the teachings and fellowship of others in the community. I just don’t really want to anymore. Church is decreasingly appealing. 

And yet, in the time I’ve been away from church and Christians writ large, I’ve never felt closer to Jesus. 

I struggled to find a succinct way to explain this phenomena and the only way I can do so is; Christians really suck at being anything like Jesus, and Jesus is really, truly spectacular because of that.

 I feel like I should make a few disclaimers before I continue with my premise:

1.) This is not a sweeping generalization of ALL Christians. As a black guy, trust me, I understand that sweeping stereotypes are whack. I get the complexity and diversity of this religion and all others. 

2.) Most of my expressed reasoning will be focused on race and politics because that’s where I’m most knowledgeable. A heady person should be able extrapolate these ideas to include other social issues. 

3.) I can be characterized as many things. A biblical scholar is not one of them. 

4.) When I say “Christianity” I’m referring to the believers and administers of the religion. Not its ideals. 

5.) Some of this may seem scolding or unfair, but I am making these criticisms because I believe we’re supposed to hold ourselves to a higher than socially acceptable standard. 

6.) I understand that this is strange and even hypocritical logic. In my weird mind, it makes sense, so I’m going to do my best to make it coherent to less-weird people.

Back to why I don’t go to church. 

As far as I can remember, I always enjoyed the fellowship aspect of church and cared much less about the messaging. I’m and horrible when I comes to being talked at. As a kid, the first two professions I wanted to pursue were football and becoming a lawyer. I like discussion and debate. When someone’s “preaching”, whether it was church or a lecture, I struggle to focus. I’ve always found myself silently arguing with the speaker, asking questions, or going off on thought tangents. As I’ve gotten older, I notice that while listening to a sermon, my mental journeys often ended up taking me to a similar destination; asking, “What the hell does this have to do with Jesus?”

The fundamental issue that I have with Christianity is it too often strays from its foundation. We aint Moses-ers. We aint Paul-inites. We’re CHRISTians. I think its fair assume that most intelligent Christians would at least concede that the problems of the church at large, and of its members individually, can be traced back to a separation with Jesus. 

Straying away from Jesus a HUGE problem and leads to an avalanche of issues.

It’s human nature to seek comfort and that’s what we do with religion. The large amounts of human interjection into all religions make them very pliable. Smart people can make the Bible (or Qur'an) say whatever it is they’d like it to say. This may be offensive to some, but when I hear things like “Seeking Jesus” or “Finding Jesus”, I think it’s a load of crap. Jesus aint hard to find. His words are in bright red ink! He’s right there! I’ve never felt like “looking for Jesus."