An Inconvenient Date (Revisiting the Hits)

In 2004 I and two other friends started a blog.  Funny, I can’t remember the name of it.  And if you remember the name of it, keep it to yourself.  Because my kid can read now and doesn’t need to add anything else to the list of what to tell his therapist about his mother.

Anyway, the blog ended up getting quite a nice little following, and it was delightful to do.  It was a mixture of personal essays, political satire, neurotic rants, and things that made us laugh.

I’m gathering up a few of my essays from those old archives.  I’m publishing them here so you can have easy access to documentation for your restraining order applications.  I’m nothing if not helpful.

Some of my essays were about my misadventures in the dating world.  Gee.  LOTS has changed there.  (twitch)

Here’s one of them, published around the time of An Inconvenient Truth:

“Al Gore’s global warming movie is a bunch of propaganda. Those glaciers are just melting because the Ice Age is still ending.”

We met at an amusement park. I brought my 5 year old son. He brought his 9 year old daughter. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s usually not cool to do a first date with kids, but we agreed that we’d just meet like friends inside the park, not act like it was a date, and it’d be just fine.

Never before in my life has it been this easy to act like it was not a date.

I positioned myself in the Place You Can See Him First But He Can’t See You At All Just In Case You Need To Run part of the park. I’ve never before run out on a first date, even though some I probably should have, but somehow I always feel safer if I have the option.

I’m here to meet a 45 year old man, 5’10”, average build, brown hair and eyes, with a business/finance degree who works for a construction company. He talks on the phone about working out, eating healthy, relationships, and open, honest communication.

Now I’ve done this internet dating thing for a long time. It’s pretty common knowledge: women tend to lie about their weight; men tend to lie about their height.

So no big surprise when Amusement Park Guy shows up and seems quite a bit shorter than his stated 5 foot 10 inches. And he doesn’t really appear that he either works out or eats healthy. Eh, certainly not a deal breaker. No big deal.

But then as suddenly as I’d thought “no big deal,” a host of big deals immediately came out of the bushes and almost knocked me flat.

Did you ever see the Seinfeld “close talker” episode? That was this guy. He quickly moved into my space and stayed there like he was in basketball practice doing a shadowing drill.

I become obsessed with this.

I start making sudden moves to see if I could throw him off. I move three feet right. He moves three feet right. I stop. He stops. I suddenly turn and walk in the opposite direction. He’s right there with me. He stays six inches away from me no matter what I do.

Damn, this guy was a pro.

Let me also mention his magnified eyes.

He wore very thick glasses which made his eyes look quite large. I’ve dated guys with these glasses before, and I have friends with these glasses. In general, no big deal. But if you wear these glasses, you know that you WEAR THESE GLASSES. If you send out ten pictures of yourself, you can bet that in at least one of these pictures… YOU ARE WEARING THESE GLASSES.

So in addition to my being obsessed about his shadowing me, I became obsessed with his large eyes and trying to match this up with the pictures. Was this even the guy? Had he sent someone else and the joke was on me? Was the other guy standing in the Place You Can See Her First But She Can’t See You At All Just In Case You Need To Run part of the park?

On we go.

His daughter picked out a ride, and we started walking in that direction. She was a quite a bit out in front of me, my son, and my large-eyed shadow. I was starting to walk faster to try to catch up with her.

“Don’t worry about her. She can be by herself. She knows what to do if a man grabs her.”

Silence. I was trying desperately to rearrange those words into something that didn’t sound creepy. No luck.

More silence. I was trying to figure out how to explain to my son why he and I had only pretended to get on a ride, jumped over the railing, crawled through the bushes on our bellies, ran serpentine through the parking lot to our car, and sped off without getting a Sno-Cone. I almost had it figured out when I heard:

“Does your mother know about us?”

Silence. Did he really say “us?” He did. He said, “us.” Did he mean he and his daughter “us” or he and I “us.” Does it really matter which he meant? No. How long is that damn ride going to last?

“My mother knows I’m at the park with my son.”

I wondered if murder-suicide scenarios started this way.

Finally the ride was over. Funny how rides normally last about 90 seconds. I couldn’t believe they let this one go on for 15 or 20 minutes.

On to another ride. We did idle chit-chat about amusement park rides. As we stood watching the kids go around in little boats, I hear:

“My father had heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s when he died. I got my sense of humor from him. My mother wasn’t very funny.”

Silence. I wondered if somehow I’d been involved in any conversation about mothers, fathers, disease, death, or humor to which I could attach his comment. No luck.

And what do you say in response to that? “Sorry about your mom’s not having a sense of humor. Usually debilitating diseases are pretty damn funny.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

On to another ride:

“My ex wife prayed for years for my salvation. Then after I was saved, she divorced me. So now I’m just praying and leaving it all up to the Lord about who I should go out with.”

Silence. Since he was out with me, I wondered if the Lord had for some reason sold me out, but then I decided if I were going to have a crisis of faith it probably didn’t need to start while I was on a date standing in front of the Tilt-a-Whirl.

“Well, I guess that’s the way to do it.”

On to another ride. As we watched I mentioned how hot it was outside:

“Al Gore’s global warming movie is a bunch of propaganda. Those glaciers are just melting because the Ice Age is still ending.”

For some reason, this time there was no silence. For some reason, I snapped. “Don’t EVEN go there! Don’t EVEN talk to me about global warming! Don’t EVEN talk to me about An Inconvenient Truth!”

Silence.

I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at a first date before, and if I have it certainly was not about cataclysmic environmental events.

I wondered why I said all that and moreover, what the hell I meant. I felt like I’d spewed out a string of words belonging with some conversation, but not necessarily with this one. Even so, I was definitely impressed with how forceful and dramatic my delivery had been. I had made a strong point! I just wasn’t sure what point.

And I didn’t even care that ten people around me now knew just how passionate I apparently was about global warming.

I also realized he now had a better first date story than I had. “Buddy, let me tell you about this match.com woman who went totally psycho when I tried to talk with her about the environment. Man, she is nuts.”

While I was considering whether or not to apologize, I hear:

“Just so you’ll know, if we go out to dinner anytime, it’s perfectly okay for you to bring your son.”

Silence. Dude, I just screamed at you about global warming in the middle of a crowded amusement park and you are talking about dinner?

“Dad, let’s head over and ride some of the adult rides for a while.”

Thank you, nine year old daughter who knows what to do if a man grabs her and who has at this moment obviously been inspired by the Lord to walk up and speak the right words at the right time. My faith was renewed in front of Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Off they headed to the other side of the park.

“Son, you want a Sno-Cone before the glaciers all melt?”

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Sex, Love, Dating, Though Not in That Order

Andy Stanley is lead pastor at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m an Andy Stanley groupie.

A year or so ago, he did a series on love, sex, and dating.  One of his points is that there’s not really anything significant which is a true “marriage problem.”  Instead, “people with problems get married,” and that’s the heart of marital conflict.

He suggests single people formally schedule dating downtime, even up to a full year.  During this time, concentrate on “becoming the type of person that the type of person you’d want to be with would want to be with.”

I tell you this because this is where I am.  And this is probably part of why some of my essays are so annoyingly angst-ridden and soul-searching.

Pardon me, I’m sweeping up my psyche.  Please don’t step in the piles of dirt and scatter them about.

Anyway, though there are seven thousand ways in which I am utterly charming and healthy (cough), still there are one or two or (cough) more ways in which I could use some fine tuning before I jump back into the dating pool.  (That’s like a baptismal pool only there’s no promise of coming up again).

For those of you reading this who know me personally, I’d offer to let you tell me what I need to change about myself in the comments, but ya know, maybe we should have that conversation over pizza and beer instead.  You buy.  Because if you are gonna go talking smack about me to my face… it’s gonna be on your dime.

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Easter Lunch Report

Here’s the report on the post-Easter God-directed lunch with my mother and aunt.

Ready?

It’s an easy summary:

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Where’s the state of grace I’m supposed to be walking around in?

But to God’s credit, at the lunch table I did have a few times where I consciously thought, “This is about … love.  This is about love.  This is about love.”

I said it three times because one time always came out like, “This is about … the time when I want to kill myself.”

After about ten minutes at the table, I had to take my 10 year old son outside and have a “meeting.”  I’ve got to adjust my heart on these matters every bit as much for him as for me.  These things drive him crazy, too.

So he told me how much he hated all this.  And I listened and then told him, “Yes, I get it.  But then there’s Jesus.”  You know, that love thing.  He pointed out that it’s impossible to make yourself feel something you don’t.

Well. Yeah.

So then I lectured him explained with great love and tenderness about how even when we don’t feel something, we can still behave lovingly.  Sometimes that’s the very best we can do.

Today was one of those days.

It was far from perfect.  But it was the best we could do.

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Roll Away the Boulder

Okay.  It’s after midnight – offically Easter Sunday.  Lots of people are going to church.  I’m not going to be one of them.

And now I shall launch into an in-depth discussion of why I didn’t attend church on Easter Sunday.  Ready?…

…I don’t know.

I really just don’t know.

If God were heavily invested in my church attendance today, He didn’t make it known.  At least not to me.  If God talked with any of you all about my church attendance, I’m pretty ticked off that you didn’t at least email me with the message.

(Some of you would make up a divine message just to mess with me.  Uh-huh.  You know who you are.  I’m not falling for THAT more than three times).

Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do later today.

I’m picking up my mother and aunt from their retirement center, and we’re going to lunch.

Early.

You know, to beat the church crowd.

And believe me, this isn’t just about lunch.  It’s about God.

Because while God hasn’t been so communicative on church attendance, He’s spoken volumes to me about ways I’m not living out my faith.

Here’s one way.  I’m not loving the way I need to be loving.  Not even with the people close to me.

I haven’t gone to lunch yet, but I can already tell you how it’ll go down.

My mother, with her severely failing short-term memory, will ask the same three questions about fifty times.  I can even tell you what they’ll be.

My aunt, who refuses medication for congestive heart failure and high blood pressure, will discuss how blessed she is to not have any health problems.  (Say what?!?)

Yes.  If Salvador Dali painted a lunch scene, this would be it.

I’ve always been so annoyed at my mother’s repeated questions and so irritated at my aunt’s abject denial of the reality of her medical condition.  I’m sure I’ll feel some of that tomorrow.

And I’m not loving the way I need to be loving.  The vulnerability they both embody is so painful to me that it’s just much easier to get caught in the annoyance and irritation of the surface conversations.  Thinking about their vulnerability — and mine — and the loss of what was and what could have been and what will never be — well, that all makes me want to vomit.  Best to be annoyed and irritated, no?   Annoyance and irritation keep me safe.

But here comes Jesus… since when was Jesus about earthly safety?

You know as well as I do, it’s easy to love people who are easy to love.  But Jesus has to come in and complicate the whole thing.  Love people who are easy to love.  And love people who drive you crazy.  And love people who it’s just as easy to hate.  Well.  Fine.

Some of you might be thinking how horrible I am to have trouble with love when it comes to my mother and my aunt.  Sometimes I think it’s horrible, too.

But God is a God of resurrection.  And it’s Easter.  And we’re going to lunch.

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God in the Closet

What an idiot I was for starting this public blog.  What a bigger idiot I was for writing an essay about asking God for answers about Easter and “what would You have me DO?”

I’m sure at some level I believed God would give me easy answers.  I would then be able to write a follow up essay which put it into a pretty package and tied it up with a nice big bow.

Here’s what God told me to DO.  And here’s what I DID.

Oh, yes, how very conversational she is with God!  Look at those nice answers from God.  She sure has it all together.  She’s an amazing CHRISTIAN.  (roll your eyes here).

Well, dear readers, I’m here to tell you.

I got nothing together.  Nothing.

There are a lot of people who read that and say, “That is SO not a news flash, Carol.”  And I love you, even when you publicly embarrass me.

All things considered, there is no way I’d trade my life now for my pre-Christ life of a decade ago.  There are so many changes, and I am so very grateful.

I am fundamentally different.

But at the same time, I am fundamentally no different.

Over the past 24 hours I have been hit square in the face with how I am in dire need of redemption — every bit as much today as a decade ago.

Though I haven’t done anything which you’ll read about on the news (if I had, this would be a better essay), still there’s that annoying thing Jesus said about God knowing your heart.

All that stuff you cram in the closet so visitors won’t see it?  God’s all up in there.

So while part of my heart is about prayerful connection with God, reading God’s Word, giving to others, loving obedience to God, loving others, fluffy bunnies and pretty butterflies…

… my heart is split.

The other part of my heart contains all the things which get in between me and God on a daily — ha, hourly — basis.  Some are just distractions.  Others are downright ugly and embarrassing:   denial, a strong sense of personal entitlement, self-righteousness — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg which sinks the Titanic.

And I understand and appreciate all the folks who want to step in here and talk about saving grace and redemption and forgiveness.  I’m totally down with that.

But there’s that little matter of the CLOSET.

I need redemption.  Over and over.  All the freakin’ time.  Every single day.

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Why Can’t It Just Be About The Bunny?

At first, I felt desperate about Easter.  I didn’t want to be in church.  In any church.

And now… I think we can call it.  Yes, it’s official.

Easter has depressed me.

That’s right.  The Christian mega-holiday celebrating Jesus’ overcoming death and the glorious path to salvation has given me heartache which morphed into melancholy.  According to the DSM-IV, if it lasts greater than two weeks, more days than not, I’m a candidate for an antidepressant.

So I’ve been reading a lot and praying a lot.

And I’ve come up with intellectual answers… the answers that look good on paper and hang together logically.

But in between constructing the nice, pretty, logical answers in my head, I’ve been hit with occasional disturbing thoughts I’ve tried to banish with logic.

Which — of course — are the real things.  The heart things.  The soul things.

The things that makes me feel a little nauseous.

Imagine following Jesus around — for years, or even for days, or even for hours — and watching him work.

Imagine being desperate for an earthly king — a deliverer.  Someone who was supposed to come to be a ruler — to bring about peace, abolish fear and tyranny of the Roman Empire, and solve all your problems.  You follow, or just hear about, this guy Jesus who works miracles, and you are sold.  And he’s right there in front of you.  The long wait is over.

Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord — the King of Israel!

Or so you thought.

But then the reality of what it really means to follow Jesus sets in.  And what?  His kingdom isn’t of this earth?  And he expects us to do what?

Jesus challenges your status quo.

But we just wanted saving!  We don’t want to DO anything differently!

Who IS this guy anyway?  He claims to be WHO?

So the folks who wanted saving, but only by their own definition of saving and nothing else, were threatened.  Here comes anger and a plot forms.  This Jesus has got to go.  Who does he think he IS anyway?

This angry grumbling becomes a movement, and Jesus is arrested.  The people who were welcoming him a week earlier as their king are now standing outside Pilate’s palace yelling, “Crucify him!”

The apostles — those closest to Jesus who knew first-hand his truthfulness and Holy Spirit power — started to freak out, too.  If everybody wanted to kill Jesus, then quite certainly they’d be next.  How’d this get so out of control?

Even Peter, having insisted he’d never do it, ended up publicly saying three times, “Who me?  Nope.  Not me.  I don’t know that guy, Jesus.”

The “crucify him” people were ruled by entitlement.  Peter was ruled by fear.

And how does this relate to my Easter depression?

Because deep down, I know that if I were in Jerusalem about 2000 years ago, I’d have probably been out there yelling “Crucify him!”

Or, if I’d had the honor of knowing Jesus for years, I’d have probably been the “Nope, not me, don’t know him” guy.

Blech.

I won’t go into a litany of confessions here, but suffice it to say that almost all the problems in my life have been the result of either fear, or entitlement.  And fear and entitlement are somehow intertwined around a core of not trusting God to be God.

Jesus’ main messages were really clear and really simple to understand.  One of them was that if you know Jesus — REALLY know Jesus — and REALLY follow Jesus… that you will be known not by what you say, but what you do.

You’ll be salt.

You’ll be light.

You’ll DO something.  You’ll be known by the fruit you bear.

And this fruit doesn’t grow in the soil of entitlement and fear.  This I know firsthand.

So I still don’t have answers about Easter, but the words of my prayer now take on new meaning:

God, what would You have me DO?

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Heretics Anonymous, although I guess I’m not so anonymous.

Easter is this Sunday.

And I feel desperate.

More people show up in church on Easter than any other day of the year.  It’s the church event to end all church events.

If you are running a church, you can’t just ignore the Easter service.  You have a chance to reach more people with your message of God, Jesus, grace, and redemption.  And yes, on some level, if just one person who has been dragged in by someone else is a guest hears it and is transformed on that Sunday sitting among the churched masses… then I suppose it’s worth it.

Maybe.

But I’m desperate for something different.

But I don’t know what.

And it’s emotionally upsetting and even physically painful — kind of like heartbreak is physically painful.

So I sit here and write and talk with God.

God, what would You have me do?

If I’m supposed to sit in church, then so be it.

But isn’t there something more than this?

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