Monday, December 24, 2007

chocolates, cigarettes, no sales pitch, and no favorites

donald miller, in the chapter "shifts" from his book blue like jazz, tells the story of his friend penny. penny's life had been very hard - drug-addicted and schizophrenic mother, divorced parents. penny meets a friend, nadine, and penny's life changed. but not easily.
"penny wanted nothing to do with religion," don explains. "her perception of christians was that they were narrow-minded people, politically conservative and hypocritical. ... it seemed on every humanitarian issue, she found herself directly opposing the views held by many evangelicals. she also felt that if christianity were a person, ... that human being probably wouldn't like her."
i've been there. still feel that way.
nadine, from a privileged and austere background, genuinely cares about penny, to penny's surprise, and they become close friends. and nadine, a genuinely loving person, tells penny why she's a christian. and penny shifts. penny tells don:
"'nadine and i would sit for hours in her room. mostly we would talk about boys or school, but always, by the end of it, we talked about god. the thing i loved about nadine was that i never felt like she was selling anything. she would talk about god as if she knew him ... she was never ashamed, which is the thing with some christians i had encountered. they felt like they had to sell god, as if he were a soap or a vacuum cleaner, and it's like they really weren't listening to me; they didn't care, they just wanted me to buy their product."
i have felt this. a lot. it's part of why i left organized christianity.
i've worked very, very hard to find a faith in god that is real, for me. no bullshit. no dogma. no systems. no sales pitch. no judgment or hell. no shame. and i've found it.
i've even found that it's true for me. just for me. no shame. no bullshit. nothing except love.
sometimes love is hard. in fact, it's almost always hard, unflinching, demanding. and it's beautiful, overwhelming - because it heals.
that's god, for me. healing. listening. valuing. empowering.
and i have found, as penny did, that there really is a god. not the god that the christian evangelicals sell, or the god that the big religious systems use as their corporate c.e.o., or the god that the arrogant or the (emotionally, politically, or physically) violent claim as their tribal hero.
instead, i have found a god that is at the center of all things good. all things true. all things that require courage and stillness to discover.
penny tells don, "'we would eat chocolates and smoke cigarettes and read the bible, which is the only way to do it, if you ask me. don, the bible is so good with chocolate. i always thought the bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn't. it is a chocolate thing.'"
yes, the god that's best with chocolate and cigarettes and conversation and good friends.
"'i found jesus very disturbing,'" penny tells don, about reading Matthew; "'very straightforward. he wasn't diplomatic, and yet i felt like if i met him, he would really like me. ... i kept identifying with the people he loved, which was really good, because they were all the broken people, you know, the kind of people who are tired of life and want to be done with it, or they are the desperate people, people who are outcasts or pagans. there were others, regular people, but he didn't play favorites at all, which is miraculous in itself. that fact alone may have been the most supernatural thing he did.'"
that's the god i follow, and love, and the god i know loves me. and loves you. and loves. and is love.

may that god - the god of the nadine, and penny, and don, and you, and me, and the pagans and the desperate and the regular people, and chocolate and honest conversation, and friendship, and of the jesus who never played favorites - may that god be with us in blinding and quiet and simple and complicated ways today. tonight. tomorrow.

merry christmas.


nonprofitprophet said...

"...and this God also goes good with Shiner Boch, Romeo & Julietta cigars and a nice outdoor fire. Matter of fact, I like Him better this way than all gussied up inside a church building." ~npp

Anonymous said...

I just read that passage from "blue like jazz" toady! Finished the first 100 pages and am loving the book. Such good stuff. Very Merry Christmas to you Rick and your beautiful family!

A God that doesn't play favorites...that's where I want to be and that's the God I want to discuss with my friends and with anyone else.

- Shelton

Miz Melinda, Yo said...

Blog, baby, blog.

I find Jesus disturbing, too. He's not the most comfortable man, is he?


journeyingrick said...

don't always enjoy FOLLOWING him ...

journeyingrick said...

right on NPP!!!! WOO HOOOOO!!!

journeyingrick said...