Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Superfluous Entry

(After hearing the sermon in 11:00 church this morning on how Jesus commands us not to worry in His Sermon On The Mount, a lot of this blog entry, which was written last night, seems pretty superfluous. Let me go through it one more time, and see what’s still relevant, and what makes me feel like a dumbass since I know what the answer is.)

In the trades this week I read another Purple Monkey pitch has sold. Sigh.

I’m trying desperately not to freak here. My brazen confidence chronicled here has gone POOF.

It’s because of time. A lot of time has passed. Could I have written faster? I’m one of the fastest writers I know, and a bunch of people can leave a comment to back me up (and if they don’t, they’re thinking it, they’re just too shy to post it, bwah ha ha ha.) I’ve been working on the most recent rewrite of Purple Monkey since January, and I’ve also reworked a good 70 percent of it. It’s consumed every waking moment, except for the two hours on Monday nights when I have my guitar class. And even then, it makes it way in there. This past Monday we learned how to play a very basic blues line, and the instructor said we have to come up with a blues song. I instantly came up with “The Screenwriter’s Second Act Blues.”

I’ve been trying my absolute hardest, I really have. The script is done, basically. I was going to start the round of calling my contacts on Monday anyway. But now I’m operating under severe anxiety that my chance has been shot to hell.

The Purple Monkey things that have sold are pitches, whereas I’ve already got a script, so I’m a step ahead of them. They, of course, have a paycheck, so they’re a step ahead of me.

I just want my shot. I don’t want doors slammed in my face, people not giving my Purple Monkey script a shot because “Wow, I really think the Purple Monkey genre is a little tapped right now.” Because that’s what happened with my Yellow Platypus script years ago. I don’t need to go through THAT nightmare again. I already did, thank you.

When I read it in the trades, my mind did a two second freak out, and I instantly started chanting itrustinGod, itrustinGod. itrustinGod

I ran out to the car to grab my devotional books, which I find myself taking to work more and more, not because I’m such the goody two shoes Happy Chipper Christian, but because I’m ashamed that by the time I get to lunch, I don’t remember what the devotional was that I read in the morning.

Because I am Amy Overachiever, I read devotionals from two different books each day. One of them is Quiet Moments with God, by Lloyd John Ogilvie, which is a lovely, gentle and kind devotional, which is all done in the first person, “Dear God, I pray you give me a fresh reserve of your strength today.” la la la.

And then there’s My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It was originally written in 1927, and updated for contemporary times. It was given to me as a gift by a wonderful friend Petunia (and she’s gonna hate that’s her assumed name. It’s okay! My sister Agatha hates her assumed name too!) when I met her through an Alpha course.

Petunia is a wonderful, lovely woman, glorious and Godly in the way that you strangely can't hate her for, but I immediately hated the book she gave me. Oswald Chambers' devotionals were full of accusations about how (and I’m paraphrasing) if you have to ask God what His will is for you, you’re not doing it right. “You should be so closely identified with God that you need not ask for anything” is a constant refrain of his. “Beware” pops up a lot. “Beware of refusing to hear the call of God.’

One of my personal favorites was the one that said, “If I am depressed or burdened, I am to blame, not God or anyone else.” Because when I’m depressed, which is oh, about 70% of the time (functional depressed people RULE. They’re all around you, Gentle Reader, and you don’t even KNOW it), I’m actually not blaming God, I’m crying out to him to help me through it.

So the last thing I need is to read a devotional that says, “It is impossible to be well physically and to be dejected, because dejection is a sign of sickness…Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it.” Thanks, Oswald. Thank you bunches and bunches. Don’t know how it worked in 1927, but this is the stuff that turns people away from God in modern times, you know. Oswald and Pastoral Twit: your personal idiots to salvation. Okay, that was mean. Sorry, God.

Petunia had gaily written in the front cover “I hope you find this as spiritually impacting as we did!” Um…well…maybe…in the wrong way? Still, I kept with it, because I am also Amy Masochist, and one of the hallmarks of my life is that I have to do the things I don’t want to because then I learn valuable lessons in cringe inducing Hallmark moments. And I’d always have gentle Ogilvie who says things like “I am weary of doing the right thing because of guilt, not grace.” to ease whatever particular sting Oswald might throw at me. Ogilvie gets me.

But as I’m frantically chanting itrustinGod, itrustinGod. itrustinGod and trying to quell the tidal wave of hysteria rising in me from the Purple Monkey business by flipping through the devotional books, I land on something in Oswald’s book.

Look at how we limit the Lord by only remembering what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past. We say, “I always failed there, and I always will.” Consequently, we don’t ask for what we want. Instead, we think. “It is ridiculous to ask God to do this.” If it is an impossibility, it is the very thing for which we have to ask…and God will do what is absolutely impossible.”

Um. Okay. Well, it sure LOOKS impossible that my Purple Monkey script has any chance in the marketplace now. It sure seems STUPID to pray for Amy’s Purple Monkey to sprout wings and soar away, bringing back a career like Harry Potter’s Hedwig The Owl. But Oswald, Mr. Beware, Mr. It’s All Your Fault, Mr. Gloom And Doom Devotional says I should.

itrustinGod, itrustinGod. itrustinGod

I trust that God knows me. I trust He knows another Purple Monkey pitch sold. I trust He knows why that would freak me out. I trust He knows how the industry works (and since He’s God, He’s probably got insider information that I don’t have.)

I trust that God only wants the best for me. I just wish I knew what His version of the best is. Is it the same as my version of the best? Does His definition of “Amy’s successful career” include selling a script, hopefully of the Purple Monkey variety? Or is His definition mean I chuck it all, move to Middle America and work as a bank teller and live a very unassuming life that most other people would consider successful, in so much that I never got thrown in jail, I stayed out of debt, and I didn’t kill anybody.

itrustinGod, itrustinGod. itrustinGod

I trust that God knows I like to write. I trust that God knows that I’m good at it by most standards. I trust that He knows, because He’s the one that gave me the ability to write in the first place, so there must be a reason why He gave it to me. There must be some purpose He wants worked out in me or in my writing. It would be swell to know what that is, God.

And then Oswald says in the devotional THE VERY NEXT DAY

The true test of abandonment or surrender is in refusing to say, “Well, what about this?” Beware of your own ideas and speculations. The moment you allow yourself to think, “What about this?” you show that you have not surrendered and that you do not really trust God. But once you do surrender, you will no longer think about what God is going to do. Abandonment means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions.”

And I’m wrong again, according to Oswald. Which may not mean anything in the grand scheme of things, because I’m pretty sure a lot of the more whacked cults out there also subscribe to the “refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions” theory. (I just wrote and then deleted a very wrong statement about Kool-Aid and multiple wives. You can fill in your own blanks.)

itrustinGod, itrustinGod. itrustinGod

I trust. Is it wrong to want to know more? Is wanting to know more a sign of NOT trusting? Or a sign of desperately needing God’s assurances that yes, Amy Masochist, everything really is going to be okay?

Because I tend to think it’s the later, and then when you don’t get any big or small, loud or quiet voice, either in the still of your soul, or in a spectacular burning bush, if you’re getting BUPKISS in the way of assurances , then where do you go? Back to the Guy who you didn’t get an answer from in the first place? Isn’t that a little whacked?

What’s “okay”? Define “okay”? Yes, the basics are covered. Food/shelter/income. Is that ALL it means? What about hopes, dreams and aspirations? How do I know THOSE will be “okay”? That Your version of “okay” is the same as mine? If not, how is Yours better, and when will You tell me?


And then I went to 11:00 church this morning (I ran the slides for the sermon, and would have done a much better job if I didn’t have Overhelpful Guy leaning over my shoulder, telling me what to do next every second. HE doesn’t trust either, ha ha ha.)

And because I ran the slides, I have the notes, I STOLE them. Kidding, Pastor 11:00 church (he needs an assumed name too, how ‘bout Pastoral NotATwit? Ha ha ha. Nah, I already named his wife, Bernice, so his name will now be…Bernard.) doesn’t need them back, he’s got them on his hard drive.

Pastor Bernard’s notes are all ABOUT how worry is wrong, it’s unhelpful, it doesn’t jive with common sense, “It’s not only distrust of our Heavenly Father, it’s STUPID. (and I mean that in the nicest way possible.)”

Yeah, yeah, just what I need to hear, thanks. There’s also talk about True Ambition versus False Ambition, which is Self Ambition versus Godly Ambition. Meaning our own material security versus God’s rule and righteousness.

Pastor Bernard is not saying this out loud, but I know what it means. I’m stupid, selfish and an idiot. Stupid for worrying about Purple Monkey scripts. Stupid for praying for success for Purple Monkey scripts. I have the basics covered, I should be forever grateful, go volunteer at Soup Kitchens, and Homeless Karaoke and not ask for anything else, forever and ever amen.

But if someone could tell me how in the world a Writerchick is supposed to write for God’s rule and righteousness and still maintain my own quirky sense of self, I’d really appreciate it.

And less this entry ends like the complete bummer I know it is, let’s put a happy face on it, shall we? Behold: The cutest dog I’ve seen lately. This dog does not worry at all. This dog knows it's got all the basics covered. And the only thought on this dog's mind is "does this thumb taste good? I think so, gnah gnah gnah."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Apropos of nothing…

Have to write this one quick before the moment (or courage) fades. It's possibly a bad idea, I can't help it, I'm caught up in the moment.

So this post has nothing to do with Jesus whatsoever, but The Twilight Singers have just put out their latest album Powder Burns, on Itunes, and I haven't been this happy in a LOOOOOONG time.

No, Greg Dulli has nothing to do with Jesus, and he probably holds contrary opinions on the whole God thing. But he makes me happy. His music makes me DANCE like a mothertrucker.

See, The Replacements got me through high school, but The Afghan Whigs got me through college. Ask anyone (especially the girls) who bought Gentlemen when it first came out. Such a Twisted But It Feels So Good album, perfect for the young masochistic writerchick continually falling for the wrong guy in college.

1969 is a perfect album that got me through the first years of living in L.A. It was during that time I even met Mr. Dulli once, at a party in the Hollywood Hills, in which I came off as a babbling idiot, and he came off as a patient person putting up with the babbling idiot who forgot me as soon as he left the kitchen. I don't blame him. I was truly witless.

Then the announcement that the Afghan Whigs were breaking up, and I thought my world was over. I thought it was me, actually, since as soon as I figured out The Replacements existed, they broke up (but I still got to see them in concert twice.)

But then Greg Dulli went on to form The Twilight Singers , which has formed the soundtrack to my years of living in L.A. And The Twilight Singers were exquisite, don't get me wrong. It was just a different kind of music. Not bad, just different. More mellow, more thoughtful. They had their rock out moments, but overall, the music was more contemplative, possibly of their own mortality, of their own maturity, or possibly I'm talking out of my ass. But whereas it's hard for me to get into Paul Westerberg's solo stuff post-Replacements and post- Eventually, I'm on Greg Dulli's side forever.

Because he put out his own solo album last year, which rocked old Afghan Whigs style. and now there's Powder Burns. Don't get me wrong, Mr. Dulli could probably burp the alphabet and I'd die a thousand times (because I’m a chick, and that’s the power he has over chicks.) But Powder Burns rocks my world.

Do you guys know what it's like to hear a song, a new song, that just makes you SOAR? That suddenly makes where ever you are the best place in the world, because you're hearing the song, everything else falls away, and it’s you just dancing in between the lines, caressing the melody, embracing the feeling, singing, belting, crooning, swooning along from the very bottom of your soul? That you didn’t even know where the bottom of your soul was, until Twilight Singers hits it with a song like “Forty Dollars.” And then you know. YOU KNOW.

And I don’t care. I don’t care that I’m a Christian, and Mr. Dulli probably isn’t, and his music is about less than pious things. Hell, I’m not exactly a pious chick myself, in case these blog entries haven’t clued you in. I love God. I love The Twilight Singers. I don’t care about the dichotomy.

This album makes me feel. It makes me dance. It makes me smile and smirk, it makes me move and groove. It makes me turn it up so loud that Roommates Heckle and Jekyll are annoyed, but I don’t care. Twilight Singers are worth the wrath of anyone.

I’ve seen Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers more than a few times in concert, because I’m blessed enough to live in L.A. There are many stories to tell, maybe later. They’ll be coming back in June, and I’m gonna be there. I can’t wait.

And there really isn’t a point to this entry, other than trying to channel my exuberance at the fact that there’s a new album. And I am happy. Happier than I’ve been in a long long time. Over something secular. I’m in touch with a moment, with a feeling, and trying to make a connection with ANYTHING has seemed so alien these days. And I’m here. And I’m listening to this music, and it gives me hope. Not for anything in particular, but just as a reminder that it’s possible to know what HOPE feels like. I didn’t get it from God, unless God’s trying to reach me through the music, which seems twisted enough to satisfy both Mr. Dulli AND the Almighty.

This is what hope feels like. It feels like happy. This is what happy feels like. It feels like hope. And it’s got killer guitars all over it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Tale Of Two Cupcakes

11:00am church had an Easter Potluck after service last Sunday, and I waited until the very last minute to ask Gertrude the Organizer Chick what she was missing. She said cupcakes, and I said Cool! I can bring cupcakes! I would make them myself, but I have two rewrites that take up all my baking time, so I trot over to Ralph’s to pick up a Cupcake 12 Pack.

I find myself on the hunt for cupcakes that have Easter Bunnies and Duckies on them. Any church talk that laments how Easter has been corrupted by the candy corporations just makes me laugh. It’s not an either/or thing to me. It’s a both/and. I can celebrate Christ’s resurrection AND stuff my face with Cadbury Crème Eggs. As one of the praise songs goes, “Every good and perfect gift comes from You.” And there is nothing more good, more perfect in terms of Easter Candy, than the Cadbury Crème Egg. Therefore, my Lord and Savior WANTS me to have the Crème eggs. He WANTS me to have the Peeps. He WANTS me to have the Whopper Speckled Eggs, the Reese Pieces in a bag the shape of a carrot. And I can close my eyes and thank God for sending His son to die for my sins too. I can do it all. Both/and. (I am not, however, bringing Cadbury Crème Eggs to the potluck, because I am incredibly selfish and want them all for myself, ha ha ha.)

So I find just the cupcakes I’m looking for. They’re right here, see? Aren’t they the cutest? Little bunnies and duckies and eggs? Awwwwwww! Overlook the psychedelic multi-colored frosting, that wasn’t on the twelve pack I picked up. Thank goodness.

So I march into church with my defiantly secular cupcakes, and find Gertrude in the kitchen. “Here ya go!” I say with a big grin. “Thanks!” she matches my grin, turns, and puts the cupcakes on top of another 12 pack of cupcakes. Now, it’s not that I thought I’d be the only one bringing cupcakes, because this Potluck is supposed to be feeding close to a hundred people and I don’t have that kind of cash.

But the other cupcakes have CROSSES on them. I kid you not! Crosses! Like this! But twelve of them! On twelve cupcakes! They even look exactly like my Bunny and Chickie Cupcakes! I think it’s the same manufacturer! But they have CROSSES on them!

And instantly I feel stupid. My defiantly swinging secular mood dissipates in the blink of an eye. You didn’t try hard enough to find the cupcakes with crosses on them. You’re not Christian. You’re a POSER! You couldn’t find religious cupcakes! You don’t know what Easter’s about! Your Lord and Savior sent His son to die for you and YOU DON’T CARE! God doesn’t love you! God hates you and your Bunny and Chickie Cupcakes! And now EVERYBODY KNOWS IT!

Sigh. I go back to the main service and sing the songs, and listen to the sermon about the Torn Curtain at the resurrection (which certainly beat 8:45am church’s sermon of Make This Church Your Home Church, And Oh By The Way. Jesus Is Risen Today Which We Will Celebrate With A Cringe Inducing Liturgical Dance.)

But the most amazing thing happens. Towards the end of the Potluck (which I eat more carbs and more sugar than I have in the past two weeks. I’m stunned that I made it home and into bed for the resulting Food Coma without falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into the local Koo Koo Roo.) I’m cruising by the dessert table to see if the Bunny and Chickie cupcakes are bravely holding up in the face of Overt Religious Yummies. And something like EIGHT of them are gone, while Team Religious Cupcake only has FOUR takers!


Don’t tell me I don’t know what’s a crowd pleaser when it comes to cupcakes! Take THAT! And THAT! And THAT THAT THAT!

Did I mention I have the most irrational thoughts from time to time?

Anyhow, I decide to take a Crosscake to make whoever brought them feel better. And once I finish eating it I stumble upon the reason the Bunny and Chickie Cupcakes rule. Because the Crosscake is all sorts of yummers. But now I’m staring at a small plastic cross in my hand. And I can’t throw it away. You can throw away a Bunny head. You can throw away a Chickie head, the Easter Bunny isn’t gonna hunt you down. But I can’t throw away a plastic cross. Because wow, that would REALLY mean I don’t know what the meaning of Easter is about, right? Your Lord and Savior sent His son to die for you and YOU’RE THROWING IT AWAY! LITERALLY!

I’m congratulating myself on being defiantly secular yet Christian, and everyone else at the Potluck is just trying to duck the wrath of God and get a sugar high at the same time, ha ha ha.

So I keep the cross. It’s sitting next to my computer right now, actually. I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. Maybe I’ll put it next to my year stash of Cadbury Crème Eggs. Maybe.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I Want To Serve, But I Suck

I didn’t plan it this way, but the same day I gave blood for a second time was the same day 11:00 church went down to host Homeless Karaoke Night down at the Central City Community Outreach . It’s Servant Day All Day! I give blood, I serve the homeless, it’s all about OTHER PEOPLE! What can I do for YOU? Help me help YOU.

This time I gave blood at work, the Nameless Movie Studio (I Like My Job, I Don’t Wanna Get Fired.) The nurses were snickering at the way my head whiplashed as far away from the direction of the needle as possible, but there was no needle tissue clot, so everything was fine. I don’t even have a bruise! And I got cookies! It’s truly pathetic, the kind of hoops I will jump through to get a bag of Famous Amos cookies.

It’s about the cookies! It’s about facing my irrational fears! It’s about inflicting pain on masochistic me! It’s about learning my blood type! (O positive! Now I’m ready to be rushed into the emergency room fully knowledgeable about how to help me!) It’s about serving other people!

Incidentally the Red Cross paraphernalia tells me that only 5% of the eligible US population actually donates blood. And of that 5%, only 30% of first time donors come back to give a second time. So I encourage EVERYBODY to run out and give blood, because you really don’t have a do a damn thing except lie there, and you get COOKIES afterwards. COOKIES, PEOPLE! WHAT’S BETTER THAN COOKIES!?

Homeless Karaoke, that’s what! It sounds like a bad joke, like when you hear about those snotty rich kids paying bums to fight each other while they videotape them, but it’s real. CCCO calls it the “Karaoke Coffee Club,” and it’s been held every Wednesday night on Skid Row since 1998. And this past Wednesday night, 11:00 church was the host church.

There are something like twelve missions downtown that serve meals, or provide a place to sleep. But CCCCO is the only place that tries to provide entertainment, to have a place where they can go and have fun instead of staying on the streets. They don’t get to the movies, they don’t get to the mall. But they do get a night of karaoke each week.

And, as we learned last time with the Painting For Jesus at the CCCO day, CCCO takes a relationship approach to the homeless population they serve. So the director encourages us to strike up conversations with them, to make eye contact, to make small talk. To treat them like an actual person, as opposed to someone who we would quickly avoid eye contact with if we saw them on the street. The Director does allow that if we don’t feel comfortable with talking to them, we should simply hang back and observe. Whew.

Because let’s just get all the awful crap out of the way, okay? I’m not the greatest person in the world for doing this, because I harbor all sorts of ugly thoughts inside. I will be butt honest about them, because I suspect I’m not the only one that has these thoughts. I’m just the dumbass that’ll be the one to admit them publicly, to open myself up to all sorts of criticism about how I’m a supremely selfish bitch.

So I’ll say it first: Here’s why I’m a supremely selfish bitch: If I do get the nerve up to talk to the homeless people, do I have to make friends with them? Like those hitchhiking ghosts at the end of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, “They may follow you home!” Do I have to invite them into my life and let them crash on my couch and potentially steal things from me? Isn’t that what they want you to do when they advocate a “relationship approach?”

I’m scared the only way I’ll feel like I did anything of worth is to give all my possessions away, give all my money away, and be left with nothing and miserable, but somehow fulfilled because I don’t have anything else left to give. I am a supremely selfish bitch for thinking these things.

And I know how this story is supposed to play out, with the whole icky Hallmark Moment of Amy Has To Learn Something About Herself From The Homeless People. It’s almost like I DON’T wanna do it, because I think life isn’t supposed to be an icky Hallmark moment. But let’s see how this night plays out.

Tonight is one of the occasional nights when Sbarro has donated a lot of pizza to be served with the coffee, so I quickly make myself useful by washing pizza pans. Washing Pizza Pans for Jesus! It’s a task! I’m serving!

Some resourceful homeless guys have shuffled into the kitchen to get first dibs on the pizza coming out of the oven, and they watch me scrubbing. Remember to make eye contact. Treat them like a normal person. Smile and make eye contact. Smile and be nice. Smile and scrub pizza pans. So I do. I smile, I make eye contact, and I get my first marriage proposal in five minutes.

Now, I am the type of person that attracts crazy people. No, I don’t mean bipolar boys (though I’ve had my fair share of those), I mean CRAZY crazy people. If you’re standing in line at the grocery store, or the gas station, and there’s a shuffling guy in rags who mutters unintelligibly, and the only words you understand are “goddamit” and “piece of shit,” he will invariably zero in on me. I think it’s because I’m an unaccompanied female. Let’s just say it’s that, instead of the theory that maybe on the Attractive Scale, I’m down towards the Crazy People level.

And my head is going, this is what happens when you make eye contact! It’s a much better idea not to look at them! In fact, we should put the pizza pan down and run to the Union Rescue Mission and serve dinner RIGHT NOW! I’ve heard rumors they just serve food without any sort of relationship approach! Run! Run over there right now!

But instead, I smile in what I hope is a gentle apologetic manner and say, “Sorry, I can’t.” And don’t you dare ask me “why not.” Do not make me trot out Imaginary Boyfriend! Do NOT make me lie to the homeless guy!” Since Proposal Guy doesn’t look like he’s leaving the kitchen anytime soon, I trade off Pizza Pan Duty with another gal and hightail it to the main room to watch Karaoke Fun.

There’s plenty of people that go up there to sing, homeless and not homeless alike. There are obviously some favorite songs with the crowd. “Lean On Me” has a lot of fans as well as “The Greatest Love Of All.” Jeremiah, the 11:00am church band leader, rocks the house with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” while Pastor Bernard sings “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore,” but it looks like the homeless population may not be as familiar with Neil Diamond as he wanted them to be. They all want Motown. The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, those are the crowd pleasers. There’s even a guy who calls himself James Brown and dresses up in a gold lame cap and headdress and sings “I Feel Good.” He’s apparently a regular, he does the same thing every week and that’s his only song.

Proposal Guy is kept at bay by one of the senior members of 11:00 church, who hints to Proposal Guy that I’m spoken for. Ah, Imaginary Boyfriend. He’s universal. There’s a few other homeless guys that try to get me to dance with them, but I’m not keen on encouraging that. Make eye contact! Strike up a conversation! Dance with them! Bundle them into your car and take them home with you and give them all of your worldly possessions!

So I stand. I watch. I observe. I smile. I applaud and whoop for every singer that goes up there. I don’t feel like I can sit and strike up a conversation tonight, but I also recognize that this is going to be something I have to do more than once. I don’t know if 11:00 church plans on making this a regular outreach thing. I hope they do. Because it seems obvious that I’m going to have to come back, in order to muster up the courage to talk to these people. Or at the very least, do the electric slide to “Wild Wild West” with them.

Yes, I don’t want to talk to these people, so it means that’s EXACTLY what I have to do. This is going to be one of those things I have to confront in the attempts to banish the judgmental side of me, The evil part of me that assumes that whispers of drug deals might be happening in the corner, that the lady with the mad face and short skirt must be a prostitute stalking the room, looking for potential customers.

I wanted to serve. I realize that means talking, not NOT talking. Sigh. This is so gonna suck. I am a supremely selfish bitch who needs to learn to not be one.

I did give blood though. Little kids with Leukemia love me.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Is It Sexism, Or Is It People Who Just Don’t Get It?

I had already graduated high school and moved out of Alabama before I recognized that there were commonly held beliefs by people that the church and/or organized religion discriminated against women. I guess I became aware of the sexism theme through general media (more often than not those stories carried an undercurrent of slamming Catholicism or Mormonism), and it had never occurred to me. I was born and raised in a Presbyterian church, where there were plenty of women elders and teachers (my mom being one of them.) I attended plenty of Presbyterian churches where women would preach, teach, and otherwise lead. I chalked it up to being lucky enough to have being raised Presbyterian, the religion that doesn’t discriminate! Yay!

But my current walk with Christ (or as I like to call it, “stumbling down the road with my Savior laughing at me.”) has led me to attend two non-denominational churches, for reasons too long and boring to go into here. And whether it’s because these churches hang the “non-denominational” banner out front, or whether I’m finally cluing in on things that may have always taken place and I never noticed before, there’s been a few events lately that give me significant pause on how male leaders in the church view women in the church.

Remember the Jumpers? The 11:00am service jumper is a guy named Melvin. Melvin and I have attended 11:00 church long enough to where we know that our names go to our faces, but we’ve never had an in depth conversation (to be fair, it’s hard to get me to have an in depth conversation with anyone in church, unless you hogtie me to the chair and bribe me with hot chocolate. I know it’s wrong. I’m working on it.)

So I was surprised when I greeted Melvin at church a few months back, and he asked me to sign a clipboard with my address, because he’s having a birthday party in a few months, and wanted to send me an invite. I smile and say sure, and thought to myself that Melvin must be inviting the entire church to his birthday.

A few weeks later, I get the invite in the mail, from Melvin’s pastor/mentor in Sacramento. Let’s call him Pastor Open Mind.

The invite explained that a year ago, Pastor Open Mind had given Melvin three tasks to fulfill before his next birthday. It’s a quest! Cool, I love quests. If a guy ever wanted my hand in marriage, I wanted to send him on a quest to bring me back a vintage pull string talking Cookie Monster who says “I love coooookies”, Godiva Snowball Truffles that seem to only be in season every three years, and episodes of The Electric Company, which has since come out on DVD. The longer time goes on, the easier it’s gonna be to fulfill this quest, I tell you. I’ll be going for CHEAP, ha ha ha.

But Melvin’s tasks were to memorize the entire book of James, save $7,500 above his monthly needs, then use the money to go to a third world country for a month. Melvin chose India, which is where he was from the middle of February to the middle of March.

In the invite, Pastor Open Mind says “On March 31st, we will be celebrating Melvin and this new phase in his life. We will be blessing him and sending him back into the world knowing that he has a solid team supporting him in life. Will you join me for this ceremony? Will you come to speak treasures into him? I would be honored due to the significance you have in his life.”

Okay, well, I didn’t think I had any significance in Melvin’s life, but it’s possible that Melvin really LOVES 11:00am church and everyone in it, so that includes me by proxy. I don’t really have any treasures to speak unto him, but he asked me to be there, so I’ll be there. A little befuddled, but I’ll be there.

So I go to Melvin’s birthday party, and Pastor Open Mind, who has come down from Sacramento for the occasion, starts off the night by saying that this blessing ceremony is about a rite of passage for Melvin.As he mentioned in the invite, “It is my general belief that our American culture falls short in equipping boys with adequate tools for manhood. Around the world, various cultures have “right of passage” or “coming of age” moments transitioning to manhood.” But he also says, “Men learn about being men from men. Women learn about being women from women.” I notice note cards have been passed out, but they’re only being given to guys. Uh…okay. That’s…interesting. I wonder if Pastor Open Mind has seen Tootsie.

Melvin comes up and talks about what he learned. He shows us a video he made of his time in India, and the school he helped out at. It’s very fascinating, and Melvin wraps it up by saying that that he wants to make a difference where he is right now, in Hollywood. He doesn’t want to have to go to India to make a difference. He wants to make a difference right here, right now. Then he does the book of James as a performance piece, acting the thing out as an extended soliloquy. It was a compelling way to do it: you could sub in chapters for Shakespearian soliloquies in acting class and still command authority and technique.

Then Pastor Open Mind comes back to the microphone and invites the men to come up and give their words of wisdom to Melvin, which they are supposed to have written down on the notecards they’ve been given. I blink once or twice as I watch guy after guy go up and talk/babble/ramble because they’re overwhelmed about how great Melvin is.

I’m not saying Melvin’s not great. Completing those three tasks is an incredible accomplishment, and much more worthy than fetching shallow me Godiva truffles. Melvin is a much better person than me. He’s a Jumper, he’s intense, he’s COMMITTED to Christ. He most likely doesn’t have to fight the Inner Cynic when he steps into church. I’m willing to bet the farm that Melvin feels the Presence Of God on a daily basis. Melvin is cool beans nifty-rific, My problem is not Melvin.

My problem is Pastor Open Mind. Why is it the GUYS are the only ones allowed to talk/babble/ramble because they’re overwhelmed? Why can’t I go up? I lean over to the chick next to me, and whisper, “Did I mishear him, or did he say only guys can go up.” “Only guys can go up.” She whispers back. Oh brother.

And I sit, I stew, I fret. Go up anyway. What are they gonna do, not give the microphone to you? They’ll have to explain why, won’t they?

It’s not like I wanna go up JUST to go up. I actually do have something to say, connected to the mention of Melvin in the Jumper blog entry I did. And I’m sitting and stewing, and going back and forth. Don’t be a spoiler. Tonight is not about you making a statement. It’s Melvin’s birthday. For all you know, the Men Only rule might be something Melvin wanted. Don’t be a spoiler. It’s not about you, it’s not about you. Don’t bust in there like Malificent at Sleeping Beauty’s christening and spoil everything.

I sit, I stew, and I fret but I don’t go up. Later on, I wish Melvin Happy Birthday and say I did have words of wisdom to give him, but I apparently wasn’t allowed. Melvin chuckles ruefully and admits that when Pastor Open Mind told him that part, Melvin’s reaction was one of, “Whoa” but Melvin says that Pastor Open Mind said that’s the way it had to be. A-HA! SO IT’S ALL PASTOR OPEN MIND’S FAULT! GO RIGHT THAT MAN! GO STRAIGHTEN HIM OUT RIGHT NOW!

I sit, I stew and I fret, and I have this swirling feeling of I must right this injustice! This man does not get it and I must make sure he does! He’s sexist! He’s sexist and he doesn’t get it! Hi, Pastor Open Mind, perhaps you shouldn’t have said in the invite “Will you come to speak treasures into him?” you should’ve said “Will you come to speak treasures into him IF YOU’RE A GUY BECAUSE IF YOU’RE A GIRL, FORGET IT, BECAUSE ONLY MEN CAN LEARN FROM MEN, AND IF YOU’RE A CHICK, WELL, UH, BE SUPPORTIVE! ‘CAUSE THAT’S WHAT CHICKS DO!”

Is it my place to point out to Pastor Open Mind where he went wrong? He’ll just tra la la life away thinking it was okay when it wasn’t. It was only not okay to you. And tonight is not about you.

Be honest, Amy. Is it that you wanna pick a fight so you can tell off a Pastor? You know he’ll most likely say, “Well, you misunderstood me.” Or “You could have come up and said something after the men.” You will never win a fight with a Pastor. A Pastor hardly ever admits he’s wrong. It’s never “I was wrong.” It’s always, “I meant this instead of what you thought I meant.”

Ultimately, I choose not to say anything, and instead send Melvin an email, saying that if I had been given the chance to go up there and talk, I would’ve talked about the Jumper blog entry about him. In the email, I said:

“I would have attempted to condense that blog entry in a couple of pithy sentences that would've gone something like, "Melvin sometimes jumps a lot when we sing in church. I used to stare at him because I thought he was cracked. Now I think it's cool."

"I think it's cool, because in those moments, Melvin is the embodiment of pure joy at worshipping God. He is a modern day Tigger, bounce, bounce, bounce. Nothing stops him from expressing his joy and his absolute delight at connecting with God our father. But Melvin's joy isn't limited to bouncing in church. We just saw it, in his India video, in his performance of the book of James, in his reactions to seeing us here tonight. Melvin is wonderfully and vitally connected to the experience of joy, and is able to express it to us in an undiluted way. And that is something very special indeed. So my words of wisdom, which is actually more of a reminder, because you already know it, is to hold tight to the joy of the Lord, because it touches more people than you know."

Although if I really had to say it without writing it down, it would've come out like, "um, uh, duh, yeah, um...Melvin is, um, yeah, happy birthday." Ah the joys of being a writer, ha ha ha.

Melvin sends a very sweet email in response, thanking me for the kind words, and reports that he read the entire blog, which means I can no longer talk to him in church, since he knows the inner struggle, ha ha ha.

And I was toying with the idea of emailing Pastor Open Mind, and showing him how wrong he was, but I have thankfully let that one go. Because sometimes, you have to realize who the right person is to make your point to. I think I got it right this time. Which probably means I will be horrifically wrong tomorrow, ha ha ha.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Okay, so I had to ask to be tagged, as the Tagger didn’t think that my Jesus Blog would want to be tagged. Fie, I say to you! It gets a little much to be all “Jesus Jesus Jesus” all the time. Please feel free to tag away, any of you, and maybe I’ll try to sneak some Jesus stuff in the answers, if they fit.

Four jobs you have had in your life:

1. Movie Theatre Popcorn Shoveler
2. Chip, of Chip & Dale fame at Disneyworld. (that's not me in the costume, that's an example.)
3. Video Store Clerk (before the age of Netflix)
4. Media Assistant Goddess (running the slides of notes over the sermon, which I did today at 11:00am church.)

Four movies you would watch over and over:

I don’t really watch movies over and over, so I’m changing this to my top four favorite movies of all time.

1. "Blade Runner”
2. "Memento”
3. “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”
4. “Se7en”

Four places you have lived:

1. Huntsville, AL
2. Tallahassee, FL
3. Orlando, FL
4. Los Angeles, CA

Four TV shows you love to watch.

1. “Amazing Race”
2. "Lost"
3. "Veronica Mars"
4. “My Name Is Earl” tied with “Grey’s Anatomy” (but I fast forward until Patrick Dempsey shows up on the screen. Patrick Dempsey is a textbook example of growing into your face, because I thought he was a dork in the 80's, and now I can’t get enough of him. Check it out:)

I'm a Dork in the 80's

I Am A Hottie Today And You Should've Had Faith In Me All Along. Fie On You.

Four places you have been on vacation:

Ah, here’s the rub. Does going home to visit family on the holidays count as vacation? I say no, because it’s family. Does going on vacation with family count as vacation? I say no, because it’s family. Does going somewhere that’s not home because you have an obligation (like a friend’s wedding or studying abroad) count as vacation? I say no, because you’re there for the obligation. With all that in mind, where have I been for an honest to God vacation where nobody got on my nerves but me? One place, my friends, just one place.

1. New Orleans

Four websites I visit daily:


Four of my favorite foods:

1. Shrimp scampi
2. Pizza
3. Spicy tuna sushi, edamame, and miso soup
4. Grilled cheese sandwich and fries.

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. Up in heaven! (HA! Suddenly it’s a Jesus entry after all!)
2. In the arms of a big strong man who’s carrying me around from room to room.
3. Caribbean beach, with a pina colada
4. My bed, sleeping.

Four friends I am tagging who I think will respond

Nobody, because everyone else has already been tagged and I am the last to jump on this wave.

Truth be told, I am a writer, I should come up with a tag all on my own. A Jesus Tag! Rockin'! Off to plot. You all have been warned...