Friday, September 22, 2017

This Day Made for Me

Four years ago on this day, I was baptized as Sopphey Vance. We had a small service in the Fellowship Hall of the church because the sanctuary received new carpet. You could say that the previous summer was the Summer of Love between Christianity and me. But it wasn’t without a fight, without drama, and without hardship.

At that time I had ended a big part of my social activist life and at the same time I hit rock bottom physically. If it wasn’t the nausea, the mood swings, the panic attacks, the fatigue, the constant upheaval, the tears, the arguments, the end of a relationship...it was that haunting and gnawing feeling that though I ran. I could not outrun God.

I had vowed to myself on the January of that year that everything would change. That I would never suffer like I had the past few months. And I still did, but through that suffering, anxiety, and indecisiveness I found myself standing face to face with God once again. The last time being 12 years before when I told God, without knowing if God was real or not, that He could stuff it because I was branching out.

Four years ago today I stood in that church professing my quavering faith to Christ. Professing my intent to do sin no more. I stood there reciting the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer--and I trembled with fear. Because through my physical illness I looked at God straight in the eye and I said clearly. “Do your worse. Anything you do worse than what you’ve already done in the past year, I will endure it! I will lift my aching, sick body, and will do this. Your agenda and mine will work together.”

That’s how I entered into covenant with God. Along the way I learned I was saved through Jesus Christ. And I learned to be in communication with the Holy Spirit for the good of others or for me. Nine months ago I decided to further my dedication and promise to God by expressing my intention to go to seminary..and to be ordained..and to proclaim repentance and forgiveness.

And now I’m having doubts. It’s not that I doubt God’s call, because I can’t put my Bible down and I can’t stop innovating and doing things at church. It’s not that I doubt that I can teach Bible Study or any number of things I do at church. I’m fighting with God. Maybe I’m not as bold as Jacob was when he fought with God. But I am a fighter before I am a lover.

And today, I fought. Today I didn’t lose but I changed my attitude. This doubt that I hold is not consistent with my beliefs. If anything it’s trying to rip the foundation of my core apart. Who I’ve been as an individual and who I am in Christ are not completely the same persons. They’re a mix of each other for better or worse.

And where does that leave me in my covenant with God? Well, there’s enough boat left to save myself as the rains flood over the earth. I’m not perfect and I’m not the best. But, to be a good follower of Christ I do believe there are some things that I could do better in. Then there’s stuff that I have no power over and I turn those over. I pray for the strength every day to continue my path with God.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Creating Blanket Statements

What do we mean sometimes when we go through the Bible and create blanket statements such as: "Well so and so never said this explicitly." Or, "you know, in verse so and so it says these things but what if that was just a cultural reference. Surely, God didn't ever mean that?"

I'm learning vocabulary to identify what we do when we discuss scripture at a verse level or line level. And like all good unreliable story telling, I've forgotten what those identifiers are.

I read the Bible slowly. Not because I'm a slow reader, but because I sit through the words and I categorize them into three categories:

a) is the statement a cultural reference
b) is the statement 'divine' and Spirit influenced
c) is the statement an individual or group's agenda

Makes for slow reading.

And it's not like I've not read some of the parts of the bible before. It's just that sometimes some things stick out and sometimes they do not. For instance, the following statement in Genesis:

"The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on earth, and his heart was deeply troubled."

Is this statement a cultural reference? Is this statement Spirit influenced? Is this this statement an individual or group's agenda?

Today in Sunday School as we read 1 Samuel 18:1-5 and 20:41-42 I used the scripture from Genesis to portray a point: God loves us SO MUCH. So much, He holds us in reverence above animals and land. We are made in his own image. We have the breath of life in us. How could he regret making us? He doesn't have wrath for us, he has wrath for the wickedness IN US.

Did God really regret making us in His image? Does God really love us so much? I'm still discerning. It's a slow process. But, it's something to think about.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Time Management Skills

My sis and I had a very serious talk one evening. She said, "Sopphey sometimes I feel like I'm living with a celebrity. Every time I text you, you take forever to answer. When I call, you always say you'll call me back. And when you finally call back, the conversation is quick."

And I was bold to say that even though it seems like I don't make time for her during the day. That's not completely true. Because even if I send her a short text after a long period of time... I still responded.

Even if I only answer the phone to tell her that I'll call her back... I still answered the phone. Making time for people is very important for me. Because there were times when I didn't answer the phone call right away. I'd hung up and call back two weeks later.

I value the people I have in my life so much. But I value myself more. It should always be like that. Though sometimes, even though I value myself more, it doesn't mean that these people become invisible to me. I know when I'm putting myself before others too much; when they are wanting my attention yet I can't give it.

When I close myself off. I know this, I see this. And so I wonder how I could better manage my time so that I can put myself first a lot. And at the same time have friendships with others. So that they can enjoy the person I am when my needs are being met.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Experiencing Loss

Sometimes I forget that I’ve lived through some things others haven’t. Like experiencing close friends die. It’s this huge unfathomable feeling of having a part of your life disappear overnight. Gone, nothing more scary than gone. But, day by day, some experience that feeling of loss slowly. You experience your day to day life differently. And I can most definitely say that some days it feels like you’ve made no progress at all and you’re back at that morning where that person was gone!

That’s how it feels for me even months after experiencing an incident of sexual assault/abuse/trauma. It feels like a lot of close friends are gone. At first it was just that close friend called physical contact. Where if someone tried to shake my hand AND HOLD IT, I perished under insecurity and panic. I still feel like that sometimes.

Another close friend I miss most is sleep. Falling asleep on the train is not the best or safest thing to do. Public transportation can be dangerous in big cities. And no matter how upgraded my space on the floor that I call bed is with foam mattresses and pillows...it’s still the floor. Sleep alludes me in ways that can’t be explained. I’m tired of waking up multiple times per night. I’m tired of waking up some days feeling like screaming...or screaming.

Instinctively, all I want to do is walk into a closed room and tell myself over and over that it’s time to be normal now. Yes, this awful and horrible thing has happened, but it’s time to be normal now. It’s time to act the way I used to be. It’s time to meet the demands of my housemates, of my friends, of my work, of my church, of everything. There’s too much going on to slow down. There’s too much at stake to let myself wander too long.

Time is endless but this life is so short. And somehow, I’m of the belief that no matter how many people die..no matter which parts of me don’t work well at the moment: there’s no stop. There’s only GO. And it’s so crazy because I just need to stop for once.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Power of One

I don't tend to throw scripture around, but I can't help myself. The essence of my being is now roofed in ministry. So allow me to throw scripture around on my blog and forgive me in the future if I don't proclaim warnings before scripture.

Scripture is fun though. And I'm a dork and such so I'll start with I have yet to finish my study of Jeremiah. If John is always touted as the first book to read in the Bible than I have this inclination that Jeremiah should follow. Followed by James, Job, and Genesis. I haven’t finished formulating the reason why, but my inclinations will have to suffice.

“Brother-in-law,” the nickname we’ve given to him as he is the brother-in-law of my sister’s boyfriend, had a very interesting moment of humor last night. He made a few jokes about God and the singular Atheist in the way some are prone to make Aggie jokes.

There was one joke, or more like oral teaching story that I wanted to reply with scripture. And the gist of the story, is that Jesus would have stood silent while a rich man beat up a student. The rich man had thought the student stole his wallet that rich man had intended to use for a virgin at a brothel. And because Jesus would have stayed silent, the student would have been too beat up to go on an overseas trip and not die.

At first, I immediately remembered a story from Genesis 18:16-33 where Abraham pleads God to not destroy the city of Sodom for the sake of 50 righteous people. Then pleaded for the sake 45 and finally 10. In that conversation the Lord refuses to destroy the righteous. And we would love to infer that even if there is only ONE righteous person, the city would be saved.

Going further into Jeremiah 5:1, there is a self-proclamation of ONE. “...If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks truth, I will forgive this city.” (NIV.)

Just one. Uno. Une. 1. I wanted to tell brother-in-law that it wasn't so much that Jesus wanted to stay quiet, but that Jesus would go to any length to hopefully save the one student. To hopefully save the one virgin at a brothel.

If that is the power of saving one can you imagine if we put ourselves in place of Abraham. Imagine if we could deal honestly and seek truth? Than we would all be able to save one. I save one, you save one...one saves another one.

1+1+1+1 ...n+1 = infinity = kingdom of heaven???

I'm just one person. You are just one person. One and one. And then one more. There's so much potential for justice, equality, love, and understanding for this world.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Timetables and Tambourines

I have a blogging schedule I don’t follow. To be honest, it’s a lot of starting of blog posts and not finishing them for one reason or another. This blog post could have been one of those, but it isn’t. I have a publishing schedule for my magazine that I tend to follow. It helps that I have the best Content Editor ever who really keeps me accountable. I have a meal regimen and medicine discipline that I follow for dear life.

But everything tends to follow a schedule. There’s daily schedules from that first moment I wake up to that last moment when I fall to sleep--or forcefully get myself to sleep with the aid of some calming music. There’s weekly schedules that dictate the beginning and end of my week such as church functions, work duties, groceries, laundry, and the occasional day of laze.

But is there a rhythm to my schedules? I remember one time I inherited a tambourine from the guitar store. It was a precious instrument to me because I received it from a good friend. And because through its unpredictable but controllable sound I could reflect emotions that I couldn’t quite put into words at the time.

Well I tried. I wrote this one poem that went something like… “Fire. / <incessant rattling of the tambourine>. / Silence.” Needless to say, I never heard the end of it and my ‘creativity’ or ‘lack of’ with my tambourine poem.

But if the rhythm of my life were an instrument, it most definitely is a tambourine. There’s an incessant rattling of thought and nervousness that wakes me in the morning. It vibrates and conjugates into actions that make together the events of my day. And not quite like my poem, the rattling doesn’t cease during the night. It simmers until it’s called into being in the morning once again.

And that’s why I don’t sleep. Just kidding it’s one of the reasons I don’t sleep. I should buy myself another tambourine.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Joy of Breathing

We all thought I had asthma growing up. But it must have been severe allergies. I’m not sure. I ran out of breath if I walked too fast. I ran out of breath if I ran. I ran out of breath if I slept in a cold room. I ran out of breath if I slept in a warm room. Any given year, without a doubt. I was sick with bronchitis twice a year when the seasons changed from Fall to Winter and Spring to Summer.

It didn’t help that I developed different forms of anxiety. Like the “I’m so nervous I feel like I’m talking but no one can hear me.” Or the, “I’m so nervous I’m going to pass out.” The really gross one...”I’m so nervous I’m going to throw up to feel better.”

I took a meditation class in college. I learned a lot about Chi--energy, and breathing as you meditate. Actually, I even learned about being mindful, being in a state of mindful meditation. I think after the class was over I stopped wanting to do guided meditations. I developed this pattern of “fast” and “now.” Kind of like our whole generation, we want instant results, gratification, news, social media...everything k thx bai.

I can’t sit still for too long and yet sometimes I can sit for hours crocheting. It’s a mystery. I can’t sit long enough for guided prayer either. I had to walk out of there so fast. It was just not going to work out for me. I can’t sit at the dinner table long either. I start getting up and proceed to finish eating my dinner while walking around the kitchen. What’s in the kitchen? There’s nothing of interest to my meal, that’s for sure. Meditation or mindfulness didn’t stick.

But my therapist tried to make me breathe. Breathe in through your nose, she gently said. Breathe out through your mouth like you’re pushing the breath out. Did she not know that I had sat in that chair for too long and I needed to go. Didn’t matter where I went. I just needed to get up and walk around. Okay I took a breath. It was a failure of a breath but she made me do it again. And then the next day when I totally spazzed out at work I tried breathing again. And when I ran around town I took another deep breath. My goal is to do my breathing exercises twice a day for five minutes.

And I can’t consciously do five minutes of breathing…yet. However, if I find myself breathing in through my nose, my body knows to push out the breath through my mouth. And that makes me so happy. A different happy, a fun happy. A peaceful happiness.