Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pardon My Religion

Date Written: July 16, 2011

This is an actual exchange between me and Buck (that's her nickname anyway), an internet friend of mine I met several years ago on a site called “Wondir” which no longer exists:

Them: “I really hate Christians. They're always forcing their religion on other people or talking about how great God is. Or taking things and making them their own. Or seeing religion in songs which aren't religious at all!”

Me: “I know what you mean”

Buck: “Are you athiest?. I am”

Me: “No. I'm a Christian”

Buck: “I'm sorry?”

Me: “I'm not”

Buck: “No, I mean: how can you be a Christian!?. You're so... normal”

Buck: “I mean nice!”

Buck: “I mean... I don't know what I mean”

Me: “I do. And it's fine. I know the kind of people you're talking about. They annoy me too. I just don't happen to be one of them”

Buck and I stayed in contact and talked a lot. After awhile, she met some other Christians, both online and in real life, who she didn't find annoying.
Then one day, I saw this quote on her profile on another site we were both on:

“Give thanks because you are grateful, not because it is expected. It is the only way to be honest with yourself, those around you, and God” ~Buck

When I asked her about it, she said that she now believed in God. But she wasn't sure what to do now. She didn't fully agree with the Catholic Church or Baptist or any of the others either.
She felt that, because of this, she could not truly be a Christian.
I explained to her that I'm not Catholic or Baptist or any of those either, but I'm Christian.
I just believe what I believe. I believe in God and what the Bible says.
I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and that God answers all prayers, though not always in the way that we expect.
Buck was startled by this revelation and wanted to know more about how I be what she calls “A Free Christian”. I wasn't sure how to answer her question.
What, exactly, did I do?. I mean, I've always been Christian. I don't know how not to be.
It's very similar to a child who has always been public schooled asking one who has always been homeschooled what it's like. There's no frame of reference.
In Star Trek: The Voyage Home Dr. McCoy asks Spock what it was like to be dead.
Spock refuses to answer on the grounds that there was no frame of reference.
McCoy would have to be dead before he could understand it.
What could I say?. Her questions made me think about what it is that I believe. And why.
Some Christians believe in evolution, some don't. Some pray every day (religiously, if you will), others hardly ever. Some go to church every Sunday and believe you can't be a proper Christian if you don't.
What was I to tell Buck?.
Finally I told her this:

“Well, I read the Bible sometimes, but not as often as I should. I pray when I feel like I need to, and think about God's work and promises when my thoughts go that way. I listen to Christian music, of which there is a wide variety, not just Hymns. I don't go to Church, mainly because I've never found one I really, truly agree with in my heart. Faith is just a part of everything I do. It's so much a part of who I am, that it's hard to explain”

Buck is now a fully fledged Christian, quite probably stronger in her faith than I. Her favorite artist is Jeremy Camp and she is currently reading a King James Bible, though she does read others, to see what the differences and similarities are in them.
She's come a long way from that person who, years ago, told me she hated Christians.
She actually regularly reminds me of my religion, and that I should look to God for answers, not myself or the people around me.
But I have something I want to say.
Christians, what we're doing is wrong.
Now before you beat me to death with your Bibles, hear me out.

The reason Buck hated Christians and God (though she claimed not to believe in Him) was because of us. As Christians, we want to share our faith, convert people and try to get them to see things the way that we do. And, as humans, we want everyone to agree with us. Sorry guys, that's how it is.
But to non-Christians, this behavior generally comes across as obnoxious and insane.
To them, we might as well be a bunch of chimps waving bananas at them and chattering.
The people who changed Buck were not those people. They were people like me.
People who believe in God and aren't afraid to say it, but don't feel the need to slap someone with scripture until they agree with us.
Faith is in every part of my life. Before doing anything potentially life-changing, I stop and pray, asking God if that's what I should do. But I do have other subjects.
I can talk to Atheists about things because I don't feel like I need to make them believe.
Surely, I would love it if they did what Buck has. But I can accept that they have their own view, and nothing I can say will change that.
I don't hide my religion from them, but I don't beat them to death with it either.
And Churches aren't really helping that much either.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with HAVING churches, going to Church or even thinking that you MUST go to Church to be a proper Christian.
What is wrong is trying to force everyone ELSE to do that too.
Nearly every time I've gone to Church, it feels almost like I'm watching an advertisement for being Christian. Like they're actually trying to talk to non-Christians.
But they sound so.... (if you'll excuse my pun) preachy. I feel repelled by it.
Each kind of Christianity has its own particular habits and beliefs on the fine points.
But shouldn't we all just be happy with the fact that others believe like we do, if not exactly the way that we do?. After all, no two people see the world exactly alike.
Take this vase for example:
My Grandmother believes that it is burgundy red, my mother is convinced that it is brown and I think it looks more purple than anything.
We can all see it, hold it, turn it and look at it in different lights. Yet we see three different colors.
This is the way that people view the world too.
We see things alike, but never exactly the same, even if it seems like we do.
Why should our beliefs be any different?.
God has not called us all to the same purpose, so perhaps those other Christians aren't “wrong” and neither are we. Since we can't truly know everything, we must make leaps of faith.
Because of this, who are we to say that another's leap of faith is wrong?.

Who are we to say “no, you can't believe that” or “you must do this”.
I'm not against trying to convince others to come to God. That would be neither Christian nor human.
But I am against trying to FORCE others to believe.
All we, as Christians, can really do is stand up as an example and offer others the opportunity to learn more about our beliefs. After that, it is between them and God. No one can MAKE another become Christian. And by trying, we drive Buck and others like her ever further from Christ.
I don't claim to know the answers. I only believe what I believe.
And I can only live by my own beliefs.
It isn't my place to tell others what to believe or do, because maybe God called them to a different purpose than mine. Maybe they see a blue vase where I see green.
And who am I to say that's wrong?.

Buck's name and story were used with her permission.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This Is What We're Here For

I haven't been writing these because I've been working on a new story. I realized I'd likely be doing that for another little while, so I dug up this old post on one of the blogs I've pretty much retired. I remember that night as if it happened yesterday and remembering it made me tear up a little *sniff*.
So anyway, here it is, completely unrelated to film or my opinions and written as though strangers might actually read it someday.
Written on January 9, 2011

January 8, 2011
The new year began much as I had expected. Just terribly. After spending the holidays trying not to scramble to help my mom make sure everything was ready and my grandparent's birthdays mushed in there, I was just about spent. I'd been sick early in December and it took a lot more time than expected for me to recover.
I have winter-time allergies to boot. And January is the WORST month of them all. I coughed and hacked my way through the first week of January, wishing it were summer, when my allergies aren't so bad.
I also wished that I could be getting up earlier. I'm a night person, so getting up early is a constant struggle. I'd just been about where I needed to be when I got sick, which completely ruined my plan. I was so FRUSTRATED!. 365 days battling myself and everybody else to get up in the morning is enough to do that to anybody. WHY?!. Why was it so easy for everybody else?. Why couldn't I get up in the morning and enjoy the day with my friends and family?. What was so wrong about that?. I'd tried everything I could, including skipping a night of sleep and going to bed early the next night. It's a very lonely existence here on the other side of the 24hr period. Nobody is there and everybody wants to give you advice on how to fix your sleep schedule. Or they poke fun at it. The jokes are funny at first. But after a year of it, you just want to strangle them.
So anyway, Jan 8th, we needed to go to buy some cat food. It's about an hour to buy the special kind we get, due to some of our cats stomach issues. I wanted to go with my dad to get it, I'd been desperately missing our outings since before I got sick. But I knew I'd never get up in time.
Well, the next day, I woke up just in time to watch my dad drive off with my mom and little sister.
Why couldn't I have gotten up just five minutes earlier?. Just five MINUTES?.
Sighing to myself, I wandered off to start my daily routine, trying not to think about how bitterly disappointed I was not to be going with my family on their little outing.
I supposed I ought to just get used to it. It didn't seem like it was ever going to change.
Of course, the house wasn't entirely empty. My older brother and his girlfriend (also one of my best friends) were around. My grandparents live in the same house, so they were there too.
My grandparents are in their 90s, but nobody believes it when you tell them. My grandmother even has dark hair which isn't dyed, hardly any gray.
I went back to my room and settled in for a long, boring day. I couldn't help but think of all those hours after everybody went to bed before I would finally be able to get to sleep. It wasn't something I looked forward to.
I like time to myself, I enjoy being left alone. But there's something sad about not being ABLE to find someone to talk to for most of the time you're awake.
My mind kept going back to: if I'd just gotten up a bit earlier. If I'd just set my alarm, which I usually didn't because I tend to sleep through it.
Scout, our orange and white kitten kept coming and making a pest of himself, scaring the fish and trying to tear up the curtains. No amount of scolding of ANY kind seems to sink into that thick head of his.
My emotions were already in turmoil, not just from the typical disappointment of not being up early enough to enjoy my family or help out with the day-to-day things, but from various other issues I won't mention here.
Scout persistently kept my attention, nearly driving me CRAZY. To make matters worse, he enjoys rolling in his litter box and I'm allergic to the stuff, so everytime I pried him off the dresser, his proximity made me sneeze.
About all I could think about was how unfair life was. Allergies, not feeling like part of the family anymore, that stupid cat that refused to leave me alone, how imperfect I was in so many ways....
After I few hours of this, I eventually put Scout outside and settled in to join an online game site that looked interesting to keep my mind off of things. Not more than ten minutes had passed when Mary (my brother's girl) came in and asked me if I knew Granny had fallen down.
My mind sighed to itself "great, as if I needed another person with their trivial problems". Falling down is not an uncommon thing. My grandmother has had multiple knee surgeries and is pretty unsteady. While she's very careful to hold onto things, she sometimes grabs something that isn't sturdy or has her hands full.
Mary also sounded pretty calm, so I thought it was one of those bits of information people give you after it no longer matters.
But then she added that Granny was bleeding. That got my attention.
She told me that my brother was in there and they'd called EMS.
I went over to my Grandparents' part of the house, which was swarming with EMS guys. Actually, I later realized, there were only four. But they were big and tall and took up a good portion of the room. My grandmother WAS bleeding from her face and one of the guys was tending to her. Evan (my brother) was right there, holding her hand. I watched for a few minutes, but felt in the way. I had nothing I could say or do to help and the room was small enough as it was without me in the middle of it.
Besides, I could feel that my emotional levels had reached a peak, and it wouldn't do anybody any good for me to burst into tears on the spot. Besides, all those guys talking SOOOO calmly would probably try to make me feel better, thinking the hysterics were directly related to my grandmother's injury.
It was a tough blow to me, but it was everything all stacked up that was too much.
I stayed as long as I could without crying, watching the EMS guys caring for her, asking questions in terrifyingly calm voices. And then I looked at Evan. He looked so calm and so confident, no matter how he really felt. He just stood there, holding her hand. And I realized that she had all the help she needed.
I needed to go, before I caused a bigger scene than was already there. I certainly didn't want to cause any drama. In situations like that, I want to be more or less ignored unless I can actually help.
So I went out and sat with Mary, and we talked of things other than what was going on in the other room.
Mainly Scout and Keiko, my kittens, and how they're not really like normal kittens.
It ran through my mind that someone should call mom and dad, but then I realized someone probably already had. My thoughts briefly strayed to my earlier disappointment, and I felt ashamed that I could be thinking about me at a time like this.
A few minutes later, my parents and little sister arrived.
I went out to see how things were going. The crowd had thinned out a lot, just two people besides my family members. I heard one of the EMS people say that Evan was a good helper, though I don't recall if she was within his earshot or not.
After a time, Evan left and my dad came in. My Grandpa had gone to another room to call the family and tell them about what was happening and that joke about the world ending and needing to update your Facebook status came to mind. It came before Facebook, I can swear to it.
There still wasn't a lot I could do, but I did go to fetch Granny a warm vest and a change of pants.
The whole time, she kept going back and saying how thankful she was that Evan had been here.
We had apparently been told to go to the ER, though I had been absent at the time.
All I knew was that we were taking Granny somewhere. And I knew I wanted to be involved.
I asked Mom is if I should go and she said yes.
 The back of my mind asked myself if I just wanted to show I was as good to have around as Evan.
I quickly shushed it. I could help. I wasn't sure how, but I could.
Besides, I'd never been to the ER and it would give me some experience in how things work there.
I hurried back to put on some jeans and my shoes and grab my phone. I considered my purse briefly, but decided against it. We would have enough things to juggle without THAT helping. I paused with my hand over the small music box my Grandmother had given me years before. I could almost see my simple gold cross necklace which my mother had gotten for me when I was younger. Should I wear it?. Would it bring comfort?. Or would it just be in the way?. I chose to put my shoes on and decide while doing that. I was hurrying, I didn't want to be the one holding things up and I wanted to run back in there so I could help in any way possible. I pulled my right sock on so fast I didn't realize something was in it until it was all the way on. There was a lump in it, so I pulled it off and shook it. Whatever it was, it didn't come out. Scout appeared about this time and grabbed my sock, thinking I was playing. I pushed him back and tried the sock again, maybe whatever it was had come out. It was still there. I pulled the sock off, turned it inside out-.... and dropped it with a squeak. Sitting on the sock was a rather dizzy looking brown spider. I recognized it to not be a dangerous spider, but the bite would certainly be irritating if it had. My brain froze for an instant, asking that one, paralyzing question: just how sure was I what kind of spider this was?. How sure was I that it hadn't bit me?. What if it had been a black widow instead?.
I don't know how long I would have stayed in panic mode if Scout hadn't intervened. He grabbed the sock in his mouth and started to carry it off to parts unknown. The spider dropped off. Scout dropped the sock and grabbed the spider, then went galloping off to show his sister what he'd just found.
I hurriedly turned both socks inside out and back, put them on and checked my shoes for any more "surprises". I grabbed my necklace out of the box and nearly dropped my phone on the floor as I went.
My dad helped Granny into the car and carried the various things we needed. It was going to get cold, so coats were brought along. Purses, water, ID etc. all had to be gathered from various places.
It took several minutes for everyone to settle in the car and be ready to go.
Already wearing his coat, Grandpa couldn't lock his seatbelt, so I leaned around to the backseat to do it for him.
On the way, conversation drifted around and sometimes died out. Everyone seemed to be talking lightly, but I wasn't sure if that was because things were okay or because they didn't want to hit the panic button.
I wanted to ask what the situation was, but instead tried to stick to the topics which were brought up.
One of them was whether I'd gotten my netflix that day. I didn't WANT to talk about netflix. But I squashed that feeling and said yes. Fortunately, I escaped further questioning by the subject changing.
We got there, finally and I got out to see what help I could be. Grandpa grabbed a wheelchair and I stood by in case Granny fell. She insisted on using the car door instead of me, since she thinks of me as a rather fragile creature. I stood with my back to the door, the wheelchair just beyond. At one point, she pulled against the door and it knocked hard against my shoulder. I shuddered to think what might have happened it somebody hadn't been standing there.
She got into the wheelchair and Grandpa took her inside while Mom drove off to find a parking place.
I went in with them. The ER seemed almost completely empty on the outside. There were more security guards than hospital personnel. The guards didn't look very friendly and I was glad we didn't ask them for help, as had briefly been considered.
A nurse came out and wheeled Granny back, and I wondered whether or not I should follow.
Was I even allowed to?. I'd never been to a place like this. Was it like a normal doctor's office?.
Thankfully, Mom arrived and it became apparent that we were not only allowed back there, but it would be greatly appreciated if we WOULD go back there.
We found Granny answering a host of apparently unrelated questions. The nurse would look at her, ask a question, then tap on her keyboard intently. I could see the computer screen, but none of it meant anything to me. Then I began to realize that there was, in fact, a relation between what was asked and typed. But, just as I thought I might be able to figure it out, she announced that we were done and were going to move to a room with a bed.
Somehow, they got Granny into one of those hospital nighties and got her into the bed.
Moments after that nurse left, Granny's wound started to bleed again. We couldn't find any button to call a nurse except one, which turned out to be the emergency button. A nurse arrived and handed us the actual call button, cheerfully saying that it happened all the time (later that night she was proven right, as we heard someone else push the emergency button who didn't really have an emergency). She gave us some gauze and gave Granny some warm blankets upon request. Then she hurried off.
Not long after she left, the doctor arrived. He looked like a football player and would have been intimidating if not for his sweet voice and gentle smile. He examined her quickly, but not roughly, firing off question after question and answering a few himself. He then left, and minutes later two apparently high-energy nurses arrived. They set to work cleaning up the wound areas and "gluing" her. By this time, the high-spirits and calmness had quit grating on my nerves.
Especially as the nurses happily told us what a nice bruise she'd have and almost continually said that it was gonna hurt. Something about that told me that was the worst of it.
Before they were finished, two MORE nurses appeared. One was apparently sent to give her a tetenus shot. The other was going to take her off to get a CT scan.
The two patching up her face finished and cheerfully cleared the way for the new nurses. One took her to CT and the other told us to push the red button when Granny came back so she could give her a shot.
After that, we were left alone. Grandpa, Mom and I had very little to do except wait.
This was the first time things had stopped since they started, almost three hours earlier.
My brain hadn't even had time to worry about how bad the injury might really be or how this could have happened. I refused to let my thoughts stray there, as I might set to crying. And here I had no "other room" to go to except the nearby bathrooms. And I didn't want to do that at all.
So instead I studied the coloring of the floor, walls and ceiling. The floors were a light gray, the ceiling white. The walls were a kind of grayish green, but really a color I'd never imagined.
Then my eyes wandered over to the painting directly across the room from me.
After staring at it for what seemed like an eternity, I finally realized that the little black and gray smear in the middle was either a house or a shed. The blackish-green smear to the left was a tree... maybe. The splashes of gold-yellow were fields of... wheat?. But the gray and black striped areas I couldn't make heads or tails of.
I continued to puzzle over the painting until Granny was returned to us. The nurse with the needle came back of her own accord, before we called for her.
She wandered around while setting up the shot, until my half-crazed brain began to wonder who was really getting the shot here. If it suddenly became me, I knew I was going to punch her, no matter how nice she seemed.
At last, she meandered back over to Granny. She took her time getting ready, I guess to make sure everybody was calm. I closed my eyes for that. Not because I'm squimish, but because I hate needles practically more than anything on this earth. Even the sight of them is enought to make me squirm.
When she was done, she repeatedly said that it would probably be sore for a day or so and not to worry if it was. After a time, she left, needle and all.
Then the waiting began. And continued. One of the nurses eventually got off work and came to say goodbye.
Another wandered in to make sure we were okay, and Grandpa decided it high time that she knew that not only was Granny ninety, that was her natural hair color.
From time to time after that, I could hear the nurses outside the room exchange this bit of information.
We were right near what appeared to be the break room, so it was easy to hear bits and pieces of conversation without even trying. It was funny how many time that bit of information was passed around.
At long last, Grandpa called for a nurse because Granny needed to take a pill and her mouth was dry. It also needed to be taken with food. He went off with the nurse and returned with a cup of water, some Graham Crackers and some Saltines.
I spent the better part of forty-five minutes after that project holding a cup of water.
My mind said it must look pretty strange. Granny lying there, kind of half turned and eating Graham Crackers, Grandpa standing over her and peacefully munching away on his own crackers. Me sitting back in my chair with a cup of water held in my hand and resting on my knee. My mom in the wheelchair (there were only two chairs other than that, so she took that one), doing sudoku and sighing now and then because that's not really what she wanted to be doing.
I eventually began to feel hungry. As if reading my mind, Grandpa offered me some Saltines, which I gladly accepted. I'd eaten not too long before this, but it was headed for five or six hours ago and it had only been a bowl of soup. Still, it surprised me that I wasn't too tense to eat. Doctors and their offices put me on edge. I'd already been at the edge. And the situation seemed upsetting, though everyone was calm.
About midnight, a nurse came in and told us WHY it was taking so long. We were waiting on the CT results, which were sent off somewhere on the weekends and it was apparently training week. So basically the trainee and the doctor both look at it several times and talk about it. Yippee.
Mom decided that Grandpa probably needed to go home, since it was late. She decided to take him home and suggested taking me too. I said that I would either stay here or come back with her.
Granny wanted me to go home, until I made her realize that I would be up until 7 or 8 AM regardless.
She finally agreed to let Grandpa go. He didn't want to.
He wanted to stay with her, and that was a thing I could understand.
My mom didn't rush them, allowing them time to consider and say goodbye, even for just the few hours it was likely to be. I suppose it might be hard to understand that kind of devotion in a situation that doesn't seem to dramatic. But when you've known each other since you were fifteen and seventeen and you're now ninety and ninety-two and you've been married almost all of those years... beside both of them always being together for the seven years they've been with us, as neither of them works anymore. Being apart is hard. Especially since Granny didn't feel well and was in a strange place. I know I wouldn't let people leave ME alone there.
About the time they were ready to part ways, the doctor returned with good news. Everything was fine.
Nothing broken, fractured or even strained. Grandpa immediately asked where he played football.
He laughed and said he hadn't. Well, not since high school anyway. So much for the dumb jocks.
He then left and sent a nurse to help us change Granny back into her proper clothes and get her moved to the wheelchair. The nurse stuck by us all the way out to the car and helped her in.
The temperature had dropped by a lot and it was now raining lightly.
We drove home in the light rain in silence, stopping only for a burger for me and Grandpa.
The moment I smelled it in the bag I realized I wasn't just a "little" hungry. I was starving.
I finished it by the time we reached home and stood by Granny on the way inside.
She mostly used the patio chairs to balance, but there was a few feet between the last chair and the door where she held on to me. Once she was inside, I knew she was okay. There were plenty of things to hold onto and Grandpa was right there. Besides, there wasn't enough space, I'd just be in the way.
I went back out in the rain to retrieve the various things that needed to be carried in. The cold pack she'd had, the blanket, the various purses and extra coat.
I stood by for a few minutes, but realized my work was done. I was just in the way there.
I went back to my room and practically pounced on Mom when she came back to her room.
It was then I found out pretty much for sure how Granny had fallen. I also discovered that Grandpa HAD called Mom, so she knew in advance.
As I headed back to my room, I felt lighter than I had in months.
My mind went over all the ways it could have been.

~If I'd gone with Mom and Dad, I wouldn't have been in such a hurry to put my sock on. The spider would have had a chance to bite me. I would have been wandering through stores. My feet would have been hurting and I would have been tired. And I would have had nowhere to go if I'd started to cry. And I probably would have.
~If I had stopped when Scout first tapped my sock and put him out, he wouldn't have been there to grab the spider. Or, if as I'd thought about earlier, I had put him in the crate instead of outside, he would have stayed there for the whole time. The spider would have been there. Keiko wouldn't have had a litter box. Scout would have been so hungry and thirsty...

And then it hit me: This is what we're here for. This is why Granny and Grandpa live with us.
So many people think it's in our interest and not theirs. But how can anyone think it's in our interest to take trips to the ER in the middle of the night, to stand in the cold rain when we'd rather be home in bed?. What sort of person thinks that way.
No, we're here to take care of them when they need it. Both when the dramatic things happen like this, and for the day-to-day things, such as making sure they eat enough and take their medications.
And I just think, who can say we're being selfish by taking care of them?.
But that isn't the point.
The point is: this is what we're here for.
We all live together and take care of each other. Even when things seem so dark, when it seems like things can't be going more wrong. We're here for each other. We make each other strong.
And I thought "just this afternoon, I got up and felt frustrated that I wasn't getting up early enough. If I was, I would have been tired and not very helpful. My antihistamine would have been wearing off.
Just this afternoon, I was scolding Scout for being in the way.
And just tonight, I saw the most beautiful thing. That true display of the "til death do us part" promise they made so long ago.
And, in my heart, I knew nothing could be greater. Nothing could be more important than what happened tonight. Nothing in this world.