I Don’t Follow Jesus

He’s not a Facebook page or a 140-character hashtag or a “like this photo to give this child a cup of clean water.”

I don’t follow Him – not like that.

We’re not far removed from the people of his day – but instead of wanting dominance over the Romans, maybe we want the biggest church building and those uncomfortable sinners “fixed.”

Instead of a flashy miracle show, maybe we want the best parking spot and a short line-up at the coffee shop.

(Okay, admit it, maybe we slightly want flash and dominance as well.)

They were wrong then, and we are wrong now.

But across these generations, we’ve claimed that, yes, we are Jesus Followers.

What do I do when I’m following someone?

I look where they’re going.

I turn left when they go left, I turn right when they go right, I go in a damn figure 8 just for giggles sometimes, if they want me to.

He’s always said, “Follow me.”

Not “Say the Sinner’s Prayer.”

Follow me.

Where is he going?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not about directions in a military style, but a way of life.

He is not a cause, a banner to be waved across battle fields, a dictator’s propaganda conquering the empire of Right (Wing) and Wrong (Wing) on the backs of his people from the comfort of his throne. He is a warrior, yes – not safe, but good. Like that Narnian lion.

He’s not a slick hair/suit/man, asking for your money. He doesn’t need money, or suits for the matter; he’s got the moon and stars.

He is Shackle-Breaker – for that alcoholic heart AND that sex slave sold over the Internet.

He is Daily Bread for the poor in the streets AND in the mansions, Justice for the mud-trodden foreigners.

He is Forgiveness and Grace extended for the 491st time and beyond.

He’s in the bars and brothels and bus stops – in East Hastings and West Africa.

A warm bed enveloping you after a long, hard day.

The orphanages full of those who believe they are unwanted.

A song you heard on the radio.

A sun-rayed backyard full of sprinklers and laughing children.

The tears in your eyes when a loved one receives bad news and all you can do is hold them wordlessly.

A peaceful protest that holds a watching world accountable for its actions.

He is King, He is Servant, He is Creator, He is Spirit, He is All, He is Friend Who Never Leaves.

Even when you’ve been a liar, afraid, depressed, filled with loss and anger, apathetic, insensitive, short-tempered, joyless, and hardened – he’ll take off your shoes and wash your feet.

THAT’S where He is going.

And thank GOD, that is where I want to go too.

One day, everything will be made right and true and good again. Maybe, if we follow Him to all of those places and start washing those impressively dirty feet, that day can get a head start.

That’s where I’m going.

You can come too, if you want.

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Skyfall (Family Matters Part 4)

If you’re in need of some back story, staaaaart here: Part 1     Part 2    Part 3

So far, I’ve kept things fairly serious and dramatic. But really, I’m just getting started. And since I don’t want to feel like shit for the rest of the day, I’m going to incorporate as many gifs as I possibly can. Prepare for a lot of facepalms and WTF? Thank God for Google.

Back in the day, I was quite the housesitter, and I loved every minute. As an illegal immigrant who couldn’t get a job or live on her own, it was the best way to have a place to live, food to eat, AND make some extra cash on the side. Throw in some free wifi to help me locate my awkwardly obtained family members, with erasable browser histories – I was in, I was out, I was clean.

So, in the spring of 2010 (OMG that’s 4 years ago already), I had a big beautiful house on the river all to myself. I have fond memories of this place; I started watching How I Met Your Mother on DVD there…played strip poker for the first time with some girlfriends and then couldn’t sleep that night because I felt so guilty there…started feeling numb down my side and smelling burnt toast at the same time, so I ran to the ER with a stroke, but really it was just the unfortunate combination of a pinched nerve and a sinus infection there…had my first conversation with my dad ever and thought I would die of happiness there…

Damn, if those walls could talk.

It all started with a night of searching.

Matthew Winters. The State of California. Insurance. (I guess the whole pastor thing didn’t pan out very well.)

I had located an insurance website that looked promising, but to be able to send any of the employees an email, I had to click on their name and then click on what kind of insurance claim I wanted to file. Otherwise, everything was locked up tight.

I thought about jokingly filing for some kind of “my daddy never paid for my upbringing” claim,

but I could be in trouble if he wasn’t actually my dad.

Taking a break, I went on Facebook chat to see if any of my friends were around. A guy I knew from a Bible camp a few towns over was online, and I suddenly remembered that he was, shall we say, really good with computers.

MeHey dude, what’s up? (keep it cool, dayum, girl)
Him: Not much, you?
Me: Eh, ya know. Same. So hey, was wondering if I could ask you something?
Him: Shoot.
Me: How do I…find…someone online, like an email address, if all I have is their name and where they work?
Him: What’s your info?
Me: Uh, Matthew Winters, State of California, insurance. I think he’s my dad.
Him: Cool! Hold on.
[Less than 10 minutes later]
Him: All I could fish out was this email address. Will that work?
Me: Really??!!?!? I’ll try it! Thank you so much! What do I owe you?
Him: Don’t worry about it. Next time you see me, you can buy me a Coke or something.

To this day, I have not seen him. Dude probably needs a case of Coke by now.

Okay, so. Holy shit. I have my dad’s email address. I hope.

At the time, I was sharing an email address with my mom under a fake name out of her paranoia of the government finding us and drafting me into the WWIII that is the Middle East, or something. So I created an entirely separate email account that had only my dad’s apparent contact information on it.

I emailed him, keeping the same unruffled, nonchalant stance I had taken when I messaged my sister. And then I tried to sleep. Didn’t happen. Checked my email in the morning, and received the greatest surprise.

Oh! My darling daughter! We’ve found each other at long last! I have been searching and searching for you and your mother ever since you left, but your trail went cold in 1998. I thought you had perished. But God has answered my prayers! How are you? How is your mother? Tell me everything.

He was so well spoken, and clearly adored me. I fell in love. We spent 6 days emailing back and forth, spilling ourselves and lapping each other up, all the birthdays and Fathers Days and Christmases we’d lost being recaptured. I was delirious. One friend said, “You got your Hollywood moment!” and I knew it was blissfully true.

And then our first phone conversation happened. His voice was like melted honey; I couldn’t get enough of it. Sometimes, I would check my phone and find a voicemail from him, just because he wanted to say hi and I love you.

After a week, we knew we should probably tell our significant others – that being my mom and his wife. Mom was over the moon, the happiest I’d seen her in a long time. And Rachel, dad’s wife, was fine with our contact under 2 conditions: 1.) that she be able to read any messages between myself and him, and 2.) that there be absolutely no contact between my dad and my mom.

This seemed fair and understandable. I told dad to let her know that I would abide by this fully. This was about me and my dad getting to know each other; I had no ulterior motives.

Another week of bliss went by. We had reached a nice rhythm of emails and phone calls, but never got around to Skype unfortunately. It would have been nice to see his face in real time, at least once.

All was becoming normal. And then…

Dad: How’s your mother doing? Feel free to pass along my email address to her, so we can say hi.
Me: Dad, you know the conditions. I need to respect them. I’m sorry.
Dad: Don’t be sorry, you’re right. I’m the one who’s sorry.

A couple of days later…

Mom: “So how are things going with your dad? You know, you can pass my email onto him, if you want. It would be nice to catch up.”

More lovely weeks went by, and they didn’t mention each other to me again. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Late May/early June came around, and my mom wanted to go for lunch with me, so we went to our favourite pizza place. I could tell something was different about her, but I couldn’t place my finger on it.
After we ordered our food, she said, “I have a surprise for you.” Tears filled her eyes and she smiled. “I’m in love.”

THAT’S what it was! She looked lighter and happier, with a bit of make-up on. I had never seen her in love before. She’d never dated or brought any men home when I was growing up, and now she had transformed into a giddy teenager right before my eyes. It was foreign and strange, but I was genuinely happy for her.

Wait.

Oh no. No no no no….

“What did you do?”

I’m in love.

What did you do?

Great start to the lunch conversation.

Mom: “Now I know you said you wouldn’t talk to him for me, but I went ahead and tried to find him myself. Miracle of miracles, I did! And it turns out that…*tears*…your dad still loves me and wants to be with me! I still can’t believe it, I’m just so thankful. So he’s going to come to Canada and marry me. We’re going to be a family again! And…I was hoping…you could help me shop for some nice clothes?”

For a moment, in that pizza restaurant, I drifted into an alternate universe where I was thrilled that my mom was finally happy and cared for, and WANTED me to take her SHOPPING.

Double-edged euphoria.

“When did this happen?” I asked.

“About 6 weeks ago. Oh gosh, Carly, you know how terrible I am at keeping good secrets, so I’m quite proud of myself for keeping it THAT long! Ooh, here’s our pizza!”

6 weeks…6 weeks…doing math in my head…Dad and I had reached each other 8 weeks ago…which means that right after I had told them I was going to respect Rachel’s boundaries, they went behind my back and broke them anyway.

“So?” she said. “I know it’ll take some getting used to, but what do you think?”
“Uhmmm…well, what’s happening with Rachel? Does she know what’s going on?”
“Your daddy’s still trying to figure that out. She’s a bit of a bitch, keeps threatening to commit suicide whenever he asks for a divorce. His current idea is to fake his death, and then disappear up here. Of course that would be drastic, but it might be his only way out.”

This is the End…hold your breath and count to 10…feel the earth move and then…hear my heart burst again…for this is the End…I’ve drowned and dreamt this moment…

To be continued…

Lost & Found (Family Matters Part 5)

How to “Let It Go” (Without Making the World Hate You)

Hi there.

Have you been living under a rock for the past 3 months?

Are you a soulless robot that doesn’t care about Disney?

If neither of these things apply, then you’ve probably noticed that the newest animated installment entitled Frozen has taken the world by storm. *ba dump shhh!* *that’s a rim shot and cymbal crash to accentuate my excellent joking skills*

A million YouTube covers (some of which you’ll see later) – not to mention that two friends of mine made a Facebook video of them singing “Love Is An Open Door” to each other, so that they could use the impromptu proposal at the end as a way to announce that THEY WERE ACTUALLY ENGAGED.

Saaahhhh Kyewt!!!

A thousand and two blog posts (Two belonging to my site, thank you very much!) all about Disney making a brilliant comeback, family, sisterhood, LGBT equality + metaphors, the twist they didn’t see coming, and all the questions Frozen left us so they better freaking give us a sequel.

It’s big. It’s huge. It’s Oscar-nominated x2, and for all the best reasons. Even though I love movies, whenever Oscar season comes around, I always find myself having watched only one or none of the films that have been nominated, and catching up later.

This year, I’m rooting for Frozen all the way, because at this point, it’s the only team I’ve got! I’m already clearing a spot in my shelf for that beautifully frosty blue DVD case to make a permanent home, counting down the days until March 18th, when it’s finally legal to buy.

I have never done that before. My passion for this story is a completely new territory. It might make sense to me if I had a sister I’d grown up with, or an abiding affection for swallowingly deep snow (I do not, on both counts.).

Ultimately, I think it’s mostly to do with this scene here:

Elsa Lets Go

Are you surprised?

I am either listening to, playing, or just singing this song at least once a day – Steve has been known to hum it around the house, which is by my pure osmosis because the poor, unfortunate soul hasn’t even seen the movie yet.

Those lyrics and that melody set fire to my soul. It’s my battle anthem before I go conquer my world that is dirty dishes and cat hair and insecurity.

As a woman and human being, I, too, want to let go, let my soul shine, let my voice be heard without fear of being judged or disregarded when I have emotions and words that other people sometimes don’t get.

Because I’m weird and unprecedented and dangit, I didn’t come with a manual. Only because I can’t be owned or used; that’s really all manuals are for, anyway.

I am always clawing to be free, to be unstoppable, to beautifully create my own life without hesitation.

Clearly, the 100 million+ views of that scene indicate that I’m not the only one. Something about Elsa and her vows to change her own life have resonated with the rest of us. Here are my favourite people who have bravely followed in Elsa’s footsteps.

I live vicariously through them because I myself cannot make a cover of this song to save my life. I’ve tried karaoke, piano, ukulele and acapella – it’s all one big, fat, NOPE. My fingers stumble over the passionate simplicity, my voice cannot communicate the power of its message.
To make a totally nerdy, totally brief Supernatural reference, I feel like a human that so badly wants to be possessed by an angel – but when they are, it turns out that their “vessel” isn’t strong to contain such a perfect being, so they eventually explode.

I don’t know how these people got their shit together enough for this, because I can’t even.

Intense Beard Man

Africa Babies

Impersonator of Perfection

Vivaldi Lets It Go Too

That Perfect Girl (aka Zac Efron) Is Gone

Yet, despite this song being my everything right now, there’s one thing that keeps it from being perfectly perfect. I hate that fact so much.

It’s just this one little phrase: “…no right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free…”

*uuuurrrcccchhh* *those are my imaginary car brakes fiercely tasting the road*

I despise myself for saying it, but this declaration of freedom, this character depicted not to actually be a villain but a victim with a gift, is slightly marring the complete abandon that I want to give over.

Okay. I get it.

It’s 2014. Things are not as black and white as they once were. You can’t live your life by rules, ’cause then you’ll miss out on life itself.

soooo get it.

But as anti-2014 as the idea may seem, I still believe that right and wrong are real, and that being free doesn’t equal you getting to do whatever the heck you want.

Whyyyyyyyy

Unfortunately, I can give two very obvious answers.

justin bieber arrested

miley-cyrus-topless-rolling-stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two people are the current leaders of the “YOLO-I’m-rich-and-hot-and-only-God-can-judge-me-bitches” attitude of pseudo-freedom. They’ve been constantly assured of their flawless invincibility, while our world has given them money to burn. And they’re so young it’s scary.

What they think is freedom is actually a very sneaky form of slavery. They wholeheartedly serve money, fame, their own pleasure and happiness. They’ve made themselves their own gods, and as much as the world would like to insist that this is okay, there are still laws and hopefully consciences in place that insist otherwise. Not to harsh our vibe, or make us miserable, but to keep us alive. When we are our own gods, we self-destruct. Maybe not right away. ..

young-bieber    Young-Miley-miley-cyrus-7396196-268-399

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…but every sad newspaper headline has an origin story of innocence and boundaries. True freedom, in the hands of the unwise and inexperienced, can court true disaster.

On the one hand, they’re celebrities. I’m not, and I don’t really know any. But on the other hand, unfortunately that line can and has been smudged to include the other 98%.

This story broke my heart and made me angry. Essentially, this kid took 4 people’s lives with his drinking choices because his parents didn’t put any boundaries on him growing up. In response, the court let him go free with only a probation sentence because he’d never been disciplined in his life, so he couldn’t be blamed.

I’m sorry…so this kid obviously needs structure and discipline and help, and your logic is…to not to? You’ve basically just continued his parents alleged legacy and undermined the fact that 4 people died. I hope it doesn’t take another fatal accident for this guy to look at his life, look at his choices.

Yeah, okay, I’m such a mom, whatever.

Back to happier, Disney-er things!

Ultimately, I think that Elsa learned this same lesson by the end of the story. Originally, she didn’t know that her “letting herself go” was killing her entire kingdom. That’s some pretty serious biz. Arguments could be made that she was so shamed and abused and sheltered and orphaned, that she couldn’t possibly be blamed for what she did. But in the end, she realizes that she does have a responsibility to her people and she does have a choice in how she channels her emotions – and in the end, her gift blesses her kingdom.

That’s the difference.

In light of the Frozen craze hitting the planet right now, I pray for these children and adults alike whose hearts are coming to life as they hear Elsa’s anthem – that their cry for freedom would be tempered with love and compassion and justice, not only for themselves but for others too. Maybe my opinion on this is not that popular, maybe I’m the only one would say it (and I hope I’m not), but in that, I am letting it go too. And one day, when my kids experience this movie (which they will), I want to make sure that they know early on the importance of being themselves and not caring about what other people may think WHILE not just doing whatever the heck they want as long as they’re happy.

fallon smith interview

Jimmy: “I was just wondering, you’ve been famous since you were a teenager – do you have any advice for me, how to handle the pressure?”
Will: “…I tell them [my kids] all the time, you just keep LOVING PEOPLE. Right? The thing is to make sure that your art is a gift to people, to help their lives to be better, to be brighter…you see, a lot of times, people fail in this business because they’re in it for their ego and they start doing it for them. And it’s just NO, you help people get through the day and you do it really well.”

PS: I apologize for being so incredibly generic and “old news” when it came to choosing privileged celebrities. I am also thinking of people like Woody Allen or Kanye West – really, anyone who’s a douche because they have enough money or talent to make themselves into a brand name with no consequences.

All the warm hugs,

xoxo Carly