Musings of My Mind

"To a great mind, nothing is little." Sherlock Holmes

Month: November, 2013

On Being Poor

Recently, incredibly popular author/speaker/person Dave Ramsey published a piece extolling the virtues that the wealthy possess that the poor do not. (You can read that post here). In response, there have been many people around the internet responding to this elitist attitude and reminding everyone that Jesus, was in fact, poor.

I grew up poor. Not paycheck-to-paycheck, don’t have anything in savings poor. More like “remember that month we lived in the car” poor. My mom raised me the best way she knew how. She worked at least one full time job; sometimes two. At times we qualified for food stamps, many times we didn’t. We faced eviction more times than I care to remember. More than once, I was home alone after school and answered the door to find a police officer at the door. We owed so many people money. I don’t have memories of ever going without food, though the food we did have was always junk: processed and high in sugar and chemicals. I hate to break it to you, but eating real food is expensive. I became a connoisseur of boxed mac & cheese.

While she was never a religious person, Mom took me to church as often as she could. She told me that Jesus was a carpenter, born in a stable; a man who understood being poor. When I watched Indiana Jones try in vain to pick the cup of Christ, Mom pointed out that He would have had something simple. “Jesus wasn’t rich. He was just a normal guy.” This woman, who didn’t come to really experience a relationship with Christ until I was in high school, preached the truth to me in love.

Members of our churches, on the other hand, were less than understanding. They talked about poor people as lazy or unmotivated. Poor people, I was told, weren’t being good stewards of the gifts God had given them. Or perhaps they didn’t have enough faith. It only takes the faith of the mustard seed, they said. My teenage brain often wondered why God would make us poor. Was it a punishment or a lesson? Both? I didn’t understand, but I was ready for it to be over.

It’s taken me a lot of my growing up years and a decent amount of time studying theology for me to see what was really happening. We were poor for a multitude of reasons, among them being the failure of the system and a minimum wage that is (still) too low. Now is not the time for that. More importantly, I learned that God does not favor the rich and fiscally responsible. Monetary success is not a sacrament. My Lord is manifested in the bread and wine of the Table; the love of a friend; the poetry of the liturgy; the truth of His Word.

Christ tells me I don’t have to be ashamed of or burdened by my past. My story is His story.

Note: You can read some incredible reactions to the original posting from Rachel Held Evans, Preston Yancey, Nish Weiseth, and Zach Hoag.

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Shine On

When I took my first Myers-Briggs personality test, I was 17. A senior in high school in the WORST AP Psychology class possible. I was still in my painfully shy phase and was therefore shocked when I came back with a fairly strong Extrovert score. How could I be an extrovert? Talking to people, even my friends, could send me into a tizzy of anxiety. Even my teacher laughed. Then again, he laughed at me often. He was not a nice man. (Remind me to tell you the spider story some day).

I’ve taken the MBTI test a few times since then and have still scored clearly on the Extrovert side of things. However, a closer look will show that I’m actually almost equally introvert and extrovert. Turns out, there’s a name for this. It’s ambivert. We’re a little bit of both. It’s nice to find a category that I actually fit in to. I feel energized by people, but sometimes I need to be alone. There are days when I need to observe people while not necessarily interacting with them. Crowded coffee shops and bookstores are an ambivert’s best friend. I’m surrounded by people but in my own little bubble. Life is good.

I’ve tried my whole life to fit in. I like things to be categorized. My calendar is color-coded. Things need to fit somewhere to make sense. I was no exception. I wanted to be labeled; typecast. Turns out, that’s really hard to do when you identify with more than one group of people. I always thought that was bad. I liked too many things, I had too many different personalities. There was no way I could be a fangirl; a professional; a budding theologian; an aspiring professor; a goofball; a sweet daughter; a quiet spirit; a good friend. I needed to pick something and be it.

Turns out, I was wrong. Just as I discovered that I was actually an ambivert; so too I found that I could be a person with as many facets as Queen Victoria’s diamond. Each change in the light shows a different kind of sparkle. No longer is being undefinable a fault; it’s a gift. If you find yourself ever wondering why you just don’t fit precisely into a category, remember, darling, that you are a diamond; shining with multiple facets.

Shine on.

Intensity

We think of intensity in extremes. True love is intense. Hatred is intense. We leave intensity to the outliers and find other words and emotions to express whatever is happening in-between. 

That’s part of the problem with life, I think. At least with mine. I’m content to let mediocrity and contentment wash over whatever is happening in my life because I don’t see any place for intensity. Then I learned that it’s there if you look for it. Intensity is in the way traffic stops when I’m in a hurry. Intensity carries on every note of a Beethoven piano concerto as they hit my ears. Intensity dresses as joy when I have a cup of tea made just right or hold a book in my hands that takes me somewhere else. 

We live a life designed to reduce intensity. Everything is about comfort and taking the sharpness out of the edges. We turn into creatures of mediocrity and complacency in an effort to not experience anything that would leave a mark. How easily we forget that scars tell our stories and that the heat of the summer sun burns while we dance in her rays. May we use this season of reflection and thanksgiving to seek out intensity in our lives. Let’s start feeling something real.