Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's Just A Storm, It Could Be Worse. It Could Be Quail.

This week has been really stressful to myself and about ten thousand of my friends. There’s job stress, broken hearts, broken people, lost people, lonely people. Seriously, I’ve never been through a week where this much bad news happened to so many people I know. I’m praying for them all, and I know they’re keeping me in their thoughts too.

My personal anxiety (I’m fine, Mom, don’t panic) manifested itself in the form of a very vivid dream Thursday into Friday evening, where I had escaped some house up in the hills, some unknown people were trying to break in, I got out, jumped into a car, and hit Mulholland.

Except I had hit the road with the very clear idea that F*** it, I’m outta here. So I was recklessly driving 100 miles an hour as the road twisted and turned, just waiting for the car to screech out of control and over the side of the hill. Turning this way, turning that way, c’mon, c’mon screech already.

And lo and behold the car and I went over the hill. And all I thought as I was on the way down to my doom was finally. Finally, it’s over.

(Mom, I promise you, I’m fine, I do not want endless nagging conversations about “You’re okay, aren’t you?” Yes, I’m fine. Do NOT ask me. You can be really annoying that way. I promise I love you, but just don’t, mmmkay?)

In my second trip through Reading The Bible Straight Through, I’m now up to the book of Numbers, and good ole’ God Of The Old Testament, who can be rather spiteful and cruel, especially if you happen to be a whiny Israelite who wants something to eat other than manna.

The Israelites were not seeing the miracle of the manna, and how God had delivered them through some pretty spectacular pyrotechnics to get them out of Egypt, and whined to Moses that eating manna 24/7 was a little much. And this is how good ole’ God Of The Old Testament responds:

Numbers 11 verses 18 – 20 – “Tell the people: “Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month – until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it – because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”

So they get a bunch of quail. But good ole’ God Of The Old Testament isn’t done, before they can eat the quail, he strikes the whiners with a plague, and kills them.

Needless to say, this isn’t necessarily a comforting passage to read when I’m approaching God with my troubles, which look a lot like troubles I’ve had in the past. I know I’m whiny. Uh-oh.

Yet today in church, Pastor Bernard was going over the miracle of Jesus getting in the boat and calming the storm. Which hit so close to home it was laughable. (Mom, I swear to God, don’t even THINK about asking me.)

But the difference is, even though the disciples were whiny and scared and frightened, even though the disciples had seen some pretty spectacular pyrotechnics in the forms of miracles that Jesus had done up until now, Jesus does NOT throw them all overboard for their whininess, for their doubt and despair. Instead, he gives them what they want (after rebuking them, of course. But it doesn’t involve plagues.)

My train of thought this week was does a weak pulse of faith still count as much as a strong convicted faith? I know that I will survive these stormy circumstances. I have before, and I will again. But rather than a strong YES I CAN drumbeat, it’s more of an exhausted well, yeah, because time only goes forward, and God’s helped me in the past, so obviously I’m not gonna die here. A weak pulse of faith, rather than a triumphant shout.

And I was concerned that because my weak pulse didn’t have a strong conviction, that somehow God wouldn’t honor it, or listen to it, or He’d wait to help me until I could muster up a mighty YOP, like a Who in Whoville.

It bugged me so much that I asked Pastor Bernard about it before the service today. And Pastor Bernard said, um, yeah, your exhausted faith counts, because the apostles had pretty weak pulses of faith too, and Jesus still stopped the storm for them.

So I know I’ll get through this, just like my friends will too. Not just because time goes forward, and people don’t die even though they may find it hard to get out of bed for awhile, but because God doesn’t forget us, and has moved past the Old Testament stuff of force feeding his chosen people quail and then killing them.

And even though I don’t have a Bright Shiny Happy Face o’ Faith, my faith is still uniquely me. And it still counts. Thank God.

I’ll be back in two weeks, as I’m leaving for a vacation with the family (which is why Mom gets all the warnings above, because I’m not spending a seven day cruise with her worrywart questions.) Send Happy Thoughts that there will be no literal storms that we encounter, because I get my own stateroom with a balcony and I have every intention of enjoying myself, and literal storms are just not allowed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Wouldn't Give Him An Award For It, But Still...

I finished my first trip all the way through the Bible last year, and decided I would re-read the whole thing all over again, because, I dunno, maybe there was something I missed on the first go around? Heh heh.

I think Reading Your Bible is more of a hobby than a goal to check off. My Dad, the Great Stoic Wonder, plays golf every day, weather permitting, and it’s the same course, but he does it anyway, because he likes it, it’s a hobby, and maybe he gets some sort of zen thing out of it. So if he can do it with golf, I can do it with the Bible. No big deal.

So everybody knows the story about Adam and Eve and the serpent (not snake, a serpent. I prefer to imagine a giant gila monster, and I was gonna post a picture, but those things really creep me out.)

When God catches them after eating from the Tree of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil and quizzes them, everyone plays the blame game. Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent.

But the serpent doesn’t do any buck passing. He certainly could have, it’s not like the serpent doesn’t know how to lie or distort the truth. The serpent easily could’ve booted it back to Adam, saying “Adam knew better, but went along with it anyway, ‘cause he’s a dumbass, or depending on the church you’re attending, believed Eve and that’s why everything is always a woman’s fault.”

Though the Bible doesn’t record the serpent as saying anything else in this story, by not passing the buck, the serpent is essentially saying, ”Oh yeah, it was me. Check me, I duped Eve. Boo-yah on you!”

Whenever you catch the serpent, the devil, the enemy, whatever you wanna call him, whenever you catch him in a lie, he’s pretty honest about it. Yeah, I did it. Yeah, I lied to you. He doesn’t really pass the buck, does he? He’ll lie ten thousand different ways to get you to do something bad, but he’ll always own up to it after you’ve done it. He’ll never own up to it if you DON’T do it, FYI. If you manage to resist the temptation no, don’t sleep with this guy, no don’t say that awful thing you’re thinking, no don’t eat that bag of leftover Christmas M&Ms. The serpent/devil/enemy will never congratulate you for withstanding it. He’ll just kinda slink off going something along the lines of your loss, dumbass.

It’s almost like I admire him that way. How many people would actually admit they lied to you, right? You have to gather a steamer trunk of evidence to confront someone, and even then the most you’re gonna get is a shrug, a half assed “sorry” and damaged lines of trust.

But the serpent/devil/enemy is honest with you about it. Yeah, I lied to you. Because I want you to feel awful about yourself. Because that’s what I’m all about – doing my best to destroy you. How’s that going, by the way?

It’s a weird honesty, but it is honesty. Hmmmmmm.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Mom Would Not Survive A Zombie Apocalypse.

So this nasty Paranoid Scenario popped up in my head a good six months ago or so. It started when I was re-watching 28 Weeks Later with a buddy. I hope I’m not ruining anything by telling you, Gentle Reader, that there are zombies in this movie. Jackrabbit vicious, snarling, angry, I-must-destroy-you-because-I’m-propelled-by-a-rage-virus zombies (truly the only kinds worth writing zombie stories about.)

In the opening kill-most-of-em sequence, a little band of survivors are hiding out in a farmhouse. The zombies descend, everyone panics, and some of the humans head to the barn, where they can climb up a ladder to a loft in the hopes of evading the zombies.

Except two of the survivors are a kindly senior citizen couple, and they can’t run as fast, can’t get up the ladder as fast, one of them gets halfway up, turns to the other one to try and pull them up, and the zombies take them both down in a very violent, ugly way.

I remember burying my head in my buddy’s shoulder, ‘It’s not nice to kill senior citizens in a zombie movie,” I said. And it’s not. Seriously, it’s uncool. If you’re doing a zombie movie, create soon to be victims that have a fighting chance, and go down swinging, or panicking, but at least let them be able to run a bit. Don’t make them be senior citizens, they’re sitting ducks. It’s the same as if you had the zombie horde attack a kindergarten class. That’s not nice, either, is it? So why is it okay to rip the guts out of the kindly senior citizen couple? Grrrrrrrr.

My buddy didn’t comment (nor did he notice my distress, hmph) and I couldn’t shake that image out of my heads for weeks, and now months. The Paranoid Bitch in my head, who’s been having quite a lovely time shooting a BB gun at my career plans, gunned the throttle, kicked out the jams, and trumped up a steady stream of gosh, you know, when the zombie apocalypse hits for real, your parents wouldn’t stand a fighting chance.

I think I have a reasonably good chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse. For one thing, I have an emergency disaster backpack in my closet. It’s actually a leftover Christmas present (who sends THAT for Christmas!?) that was sent to my boss, and he didn’t want it, so he gave it to me. He will therefore not survive the zombie apocalypse, and I will think of him fondly as I dive and thread my way through the vicious mob.

The emergency backpack has all sorts of things like a battery powered radio, a flashlight, a tiny cooking stove, meal rations, pouched water, first aid kit, capsules you break into filthy water to make it clean, la la laaaaa. So I’m set and will be on my way to either the North or South pole, as everyone knows that’s where you go if a zombie apocalypse hits, because zombies will freeze in place, and you will be snug as a bug in a rug once you find the underground military bunker.

But what about your parents? What about my Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much? What About My Dad, The Great Stoic Wonder? I have my leftover Christmas present emergency backpack. What do they have? Each other? THAT’S not gonna help.

The Paranoid Bitch in my head has been having a GREAT time puffing up all sorts of awful scenarios. Even if my parents barricaded themselves inside the house, they wouldn’t be able to last for long (My mom can’t really cook, and she definitely needs electricity to do it.) They couldn’t climb out onto the roof fast enough. They would probably believe the military convoy that promises to get them to safety, when everyone knows the military is one of the most dangerous places during a zombie apocalypse, it only takes one zombie to get in there and then you’ve got zombies AND weapons, and that’s definitely not good (that’s a later sequence in 28 Weeks Later, FYI)

And if my parents DID manage to barricade themselves long enough to survive the first zombie wave, and if my Dad did refuse to go along with the military convoy, then if any survivor groups came along (which wouldn’t be likely, since my parents live on a dead end road), and if my parents were desperate enough to say, “Please please take us with you,” the survivor group would most likely say “Um, nope, you’re too old, you’ll slow us down. Didn’t you see the first ten minutes of 28 Weeks Later?”

And all of this will go down while I’m miles away and unable to get to them to help them with my leftover Christmas present emergency backpack.

As I’ve been sharing my fears with assorted friends, the responses have been amusing, “Oh, you’re worried about them not being Saved?” “No, I’m worried about the zombie apocalypse (and they’re Saved, as far as I know).” “Is it the economy? Are you worried about the economy?” “No, I’m worried about the zombie apocalypse.”

Finally, one acquaintance looked at me on Christmas Eve and said, “Wow, you must really love your parents if you’re this concerned about them.”

And though it hadn’t occurred to me until then, I think she’s right. I DO really love my parents, if I’m this concerned about trying to think of a scenario where they survive a zombie apocalypse in style.

My Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much went to New York City this past weekend. By herself. She was meeting a group up there, they were going to see a friend’s daughter sing at the Met. The group was already there before Mom got there, and Mom would be traveling back before they left. So she had someone to meet up with, it’s the traveling part she had to do on her own.

And for some reason, THAT scenario terrified me as well. I had visions of some gypsy cab shanghaiing my mom out to Brooklyn and leaving her there. I had visions of unscrupulous Super Shuttle Cab drivers overcharging her. I had visions of random annoyed passengers ignoring her if she needed to ask for directions about where to meet Super Shuttle, and she’d be wandering around the terminal like a lost four year old. I asked my prayer groups to pray for traveling mercies for her. (My prayer groups were flabbergasted that I was actually asking for prayer about something, but as I pointed out, it wasn’t for me, it was for my mom.)

It’s now Monday, and I think she’s back safely, or I would’ve gotten The Call by now. And as I sit here and examine why in the world is my head stuck on this, why CAN’T I shake visions of my parents being eaten by zombies, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH ME, I realize that it boils down to trust.

I have huge trust issues. Perhaps this is obvious? Counselor Gladys used to try all the time to lead me down the therapy road where Everything That’s Wrong With You Is Because Of Something Your Parents Did To You, which I outright refused to believe. My parents did the best they could with me. I’ve actually suffered much bigger Trust Wounds from living here in Los Angeles than anything my parents could’ve done. Cruel bosses, cruel boys, cruel I Thought You Were My Friend not-friends. Los Angeles just sucks when it comes down to Trust, in so many ways. Maybe the Wounds are bigger and deeper when you’re on the path to following your dream, dunno.

Why can’t I trust God to take care of my parents in a zombie apocalypse? Because I don’t trust God? Because I don’t trust my parents? (Mom has a hard time on the internet, for example.)

Because I think it’s a little dumb to pray “Please please take care of my parents in a zombie apocalypse.” I’ve been praying that God work with me on my trust issues, but if these scenarios are still around, then it’s like, um, where’s the PROGRESS, GOD?

God, isn’t it obvious that I need help? Ya wanna help me? Like, anytime soon?

Monday, January 05, 2009

I Got Me Some Plans, ‘Cause I Wanna Make God Laugh

I had a very enjoyable New Year’s Eve, filled with a buttload of champagne, a smokey kitchen, good friends, a firepit, me being drop dead honest when I voiced one of my greatest fears that I can’t do a thing about is that my parents would not survive a zombie apocalypse, and I wouldn’t be able to get to Alabama in time to save them, and they would die a horrible painful death. (Seriously. That paranoid scenario has been bugging me for WEEKS. There’s all sorts of mental shit running in between those lines. Maybe a blog entry for later.) There was also Rock Band. A TON of Rock Band. I mostly drummed, because I dig drumming (my hands cramp up on guitar.) I sang once, Paramore’s “That’s What You Get.” Which was actually my second attempt, as my first was at Small Group earlier in the week. I think I did better the second time around. When you hear a chorus of “whoooooooooo Amy!” in the background, they’re either telling you you’re good, or they’re appreciative of the booty shaking you’re doing.

For as much as I love the Santa Monica Pier and watching sunsets there, I rarely get down there. Even though I know what roads to take. Even though I know where you park for free. I love it down there, but it’s also such a semi dramatic background that I guess I feel like I can’t go down there unless I have some serious thinking to do.

And since it’s a new year, I felt like it was high time to start another ritual, because the OCD people LURVE their rituals, and certainly there’s plenty of deep thoughts I can think of, so off I went on Sunday.

I took my little dream book, which is from the Hollywood Tower Hotel, better known as the Tower Of Terror, my camera, my three layers of coats (it’s really cold these days) and made my way to the restaurant near the end, and ordered some margaritas and proceeded to think really deep thoughts, like What’s My Plan For This Year.

I love the calendar year turning over. It’s very visceral for me, I’m able to look at things without the stupid cloudy shit that was in the way mere days ago. I’m able to see how dumb I’ve been in certain areas, and how I can stop being dumb in those areas again.

And though I went down there with every intention of making a plan as to How I Can Get Where I Want To Go Career Wise, I found myself first scribbling other things in the Tower Of Terror Dream Book like How Can I Connect And Rely On God More, and How Can I Be Genuinely Happy For Other People Instead Of Finding Them Highly Annoying?

The list is highly private because I don’t need to be in a conversation with any of you and have you thinking She seems so genuine! Is this on her list? Is she curling her fist into a ball in her pocket with the strain of trying to be happy for me!?

But I will say that I am throwing myself whole hog into the whole rededicating myself to trying to learn who God is, because I wanna know Him, not know what He can do for me. I still harbor faint doubts about this process, because I can’t shake the scenario of me sobbing, screaming Help me! Help me! Help me! And God’s response is Love me! Love me! Your pain is not important to me so much as I want you to GET TO KNOW ME AND HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU! To which I say, If you love me, you’d HELP ME! And His comeback is If you love me, you’ll go read the book of Isaiah again and again and again and love all 66 chapters of it!

Yeah, it’s probably not gonna come so easy. But I’m gonna try anyway.

And yes, I did also sketch out some career goals, including how would I reach them if my hands got mangled and/or amputated in a disastrous cooking accident (voice recognition software, learning to type with toes, designing oversized keyboard for writing like the keyboard in Big for piano playing so I can hop and skip and lose weight while writing.)

And yes, I did watch the sunset, trying desperately to connect with God Show me your beauty. Show me connection. Let me feel your presence.

But all I felt was mighty damn cold, because the wind chill was killing me. Next year, I’m bringing four layers, scarf, hat and gloves. The works.