Category Archives: God Stuff

If God’s going to all the trouble of sending a tornado after you….

When I was little, I wasn’t scared of tornadoes.

My Dad always said, “If God’s going to go to all the trouble of sending a tornado after you…” and I actually don’t remember the exact words of what came after that, but the idea was, just give up. If God wants you to die in a tornado and you survive that tornado, he’ll send another tornado. Or a car wreck. Or a brown recluse spider.

I found that profoundly comforting when I was a child and beyond, but I’m sure my Dad’s calm helped, too. (Note to self: try not to freak out ENTIRELY as you’re fleeing your own home, your child in tow, to your parents’ basement across town. When I said, “Get in the car right now!” I’m pretty sure I had the same intonation & volume as “You can’t handle the truth!”)

Back in the 70s, there were watches and warnings pretty much all the time, it seemed, from March through September. We ignored watches entirely, and only grew concerned about warnings if the sky turned green.

Dad and I used to stand in our garage and watch sheets of rain come across the open field northeast of our house. He was probably smoking a pipe. I was probably petting Wooly and Daisy (the best dogs ever in the history of the world).


I now note several problems with Dad’s tornado wisdom.

1. Even if my belief in God had not changed, OH MY GOD. Really? I’m a good Baptist girl and God might just, out of pretty much fucking nowhere, send a tornado to kill me? And I can’t get away no matter what?

2. My belief in God has changed. I have a kind of wacked-out sort of X-Files Mulder/Scully hybrid of beliefs. As in:
a. I want to believe.
b. Maybe God could steer tornadoes in a pinch, but tends not to.

3. The basically impossibly huge question of how a loving God could allow horrible things to happen. (I’m not going to solve that here. Sorry if you’re disappointed.)

When I lived in the second of a series of three trailers I called home as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University, I began to have a recurring nightmare about tornadoes. In it, I would wake up in the middle of a horrible storm, feel the trailer begin to shake, watch the walls suck inward, watch the roof blow away, and then try to hold onto my bed to keep from getting sucked into the sky. Then I would wake up.

I suspect this had to do with being in miscellaneous precarious emotional situations in those years. And also living in a trailer. “God’s bowling alleys,” my brother always called trailer parks.

(So, o.k. What is it with men in my family and tornadoes?)

But during one actual tornado warning, I stayed in Trailer #1 and announced to God, “I’ll just die here with my cats, thank you.” Very green sky. Large branches flying by the window. Trailer rocking in real life, not the dream world. (Oh, that girl. I could just smack my 21-year-old self!)

I think, over the years, I’ve just grown less and less fatalistic. Certainly less suicidal! It is also possible my frontal lobe has developed some.

And then having a husband I love and I son I am OVER THE MOON ABOUT makes storms really stressful.

We’ve had a wacky weather week in Wisconsin. More storms coming.

Is it possible, in what I now called the land of “Zen Baptist” on my faith journey, to take wise precautions and yet be at peace about whatever comes?

Sure hope so.

Because what comforted me as a child, comforts me not at all right now.

Here’s what fun about social media. Someone named Kevin posted this on Channel 3000’s Facebook page. The comments are hilarious. Including: “it’s sunny in beloit” and a whole thread of “don’t take pictures while you’re driving” and “it’s not a tornado.”

So. Probably not a tornado. (No one actually said it was.) And also not my picture. But gracious. I wouldn’t mind some boring weather.

Not a tornado.

Not a tornado.

Bread to the Wise

for a friend whose battles are more private than mine

I know it’s not the same.
I’m not saying it’s the same.
It’s just I wear my shame.

It’s a fat suit I can’t take off.
Can’t seem to take off.
Have put back on, after taking off.

And oh, my house–it’s a mess.
In some ways glorious, in all ways,
or almost always, still a mess.

Skinny women with clean houses
are not (necessarily) full up on bliss.
In my head, I know this.

And a woman round as me
who is also a clutter-monkey
might not be a mess like me

inside her head.
She might not dread
the things I dread.

I know what you’re going through is different.
But if it helps, please take this offering
of what I couldn’t if I wanted to keep private.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the skilful; but time and chance happen to them all.”

Being as I am not particularly swift, not lifting weights regularly at the moment, not as wise as I’d like, not using my intelligence every time I ought, not using the skill-set I do have, lacking the skill-set I need…well then, by golly–this verse sounds like terrific news today.

When Good Things Happen to Good People, #1

Here’s something that’s true: Ecclesiastes 9:11 “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the skilful; but time and chance happen to them all.”

Another true way of saying that true thing: there are lots of things that suck all over, all the time.

But here’s what’s also true:

Sometimes really great people have really great moments, and I’m totally in the mood to celebrate some of those.

[Biblically, we can move from Ecclesiastes, pretty much my favorite book in the Bible, to one of the epistles of the apostle Paul (I like to say it that way because about half the time, in my head, when I say it, it comes out the apostles of the epistle Paul). I have issues with Paul, sure. Or should I say, ISSUES. But he had his moments, such as Romans 12: 15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” We’ll get to the weeping some other time.]

Ryan Martin teaches & researches at UW-Green Bay. I’ve hung out with him some at events focused on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. He’s fun to watch on various social media outlets. And he’s a great blogger. Recently he got to have one of those moments academics dream of, a good meal with an important scholar.

[That’s one vision of Heaven, for academics, that I’m sure would feel like Hell to others, but wow–what if we could have good food and meaningful conversations with people we’ve read for years? Ah….]

I was so happy to read about Ryan’s meal with Dr. Albert Bandura (I recognized the name!) & very interested to read a “5 Things I Learned (or was reminded of) During My Dinner with Dr. Albert Bandura.”

Ryan says Bandura is “doing important work that changes the lives of people across the globe.”

You know what? Bandura isn’t the only one.

Cute pic, even with Ryan's zombie eyes. And hey! Billie Holiday was there, too!

Cute pic, even with Ryan’s zombie eyes. And hey! Billie Holiday was there, too!

Prayer of Worry, Prayer of Love

On seeing pictures of bombing suspects, I thought
how very much they looked just like my students.
And now on hearing that “they’re not from here,”
I’m worried about my students, who are from everywhere.
I want to say my students, to the world, to God,
How much I love them. They’re why I do this job
(however well or badly I end up doing it).

I love all my students, damn it.
I love my Muslim students. Christians, also,
of course, and atheists, and everything else, too,
But today it’s Islam someone might be using
as an excuse to beat up a much-loved student.

We come to God so many different ways.
Or not at all. Let’s go where we find more love,
let’s offer hopes and wishes, good thoughts and prayers,
let’s be for each other what we all need more of.

“Eat Me” Said the Breakfast Cereal Mascot

Mommy bought the wrong cereal.
Don’t throw a fit.
Mommy is sorry.
Just eat the damn shit.

Look, see how pretty?
Those crunchy bits–
they’re Jezebel’s hands!
And also her feet!
And, oh my. A skull.

But look on the box!
Look, see how pretty?
She’s all dressed up!
She’s wearing makeup!
So pretty by the window.

Let’s open the box!
You might get a prize.
There’ might be a dog.
See the puppy dog?

If you don’t eat your cereal
the puppy will eat Jezebel.
It will eat her all up.
It will be a big help.
Mommy’s so sorry.
Be Mommy’s good puppy
and gobble her up!

If you’re a little rusty on the story, here’s 2 Kings 9

Found Poem, from Jezebel

“Maybe it’s not the greatest of patriarchal injustices
that cockeyed toucans, skateboarding frogs,
and vaguely pedophilic white rabbits hawking
sugar-blasted cereal to children are all male.”

“Even Fruity Pebbles, a cereal that actually includes
the name of a Flintstones character,
decided not to put Pebbles on its box.”

“Think about that the next time you see
some unsupervised child standing on his tippy-toes
to reach a box of Count Chocula. Then approach
the child and ask in a friendly voice,
‘Need help, little guy?’ Invariably the child will nod
shyly, which is your cue to knock the entire shelf
of Count Chocula to the floor and walk away.
Don’t feel bad — you’re doing your part,
however small, to erode the patriarchy’s power.”

Thus far in NaPoWriMo I have resorted to a sort of haiku, a like-ku, a parody, and now some found poetry. Also a couple of poems I actually like (see “Scavenged” for what I think is the best from the week).

This “found poem” was “found” in an article tweeted from Jezebel, “Ever Notice That There Aren’t Any Female Breakfast Cereal Mascots?”

Happily, the found poem led to a poem of my own, which is what’s up there at the very top of the page. Lovin me some Jezebel Crunch.

Red, red wine.

What I long for is the Welcome Table,
people singing hymns and drinking beer.
Apparently this isn’t possible.

If Jesus really was born in a stable,
It has to be o.k. I like it rougher.
What I long for is a welcome sort of table,

where, seriously, everyone can mingle
And hang out, peacefully, together.
Apparently this isn’t possible,

but I keep hoping. Church is more like hell
for me sometimes. Totally my fault, I’m sure.
What I long for is the Welcome Table

where the music’s hot. Nearly potable.
The Lord’s first miracle was wine (more, more).
Apparently it isn’t possible

to worship without being totally structural.
I just really want to toast the Lord.
What I long for is the Welcome Table.
Apparently this isn’t possible.

Leviticus Tattooing Lent

What I want to say this Easter, a.k.a. “the end of Lent,” is “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The snow feels like some sort of collective meteorological flagellation (another storm tomorrow). Meanwhile, I’m trying to give up comparison for Lent.

But this Lent does feel like a journey (more than usual, I mean, you know, compared to other Lents, oops) thanks to one of my online guides, Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran minister and founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. (Where they have had, among other events, “Beer and Hymns” and “Beer and Carols.”)

I like to imagine how fun it would be IF Paul’s bellicose advice in Ephesians 6 had said, in addition to,

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Also this, “Fashion sleeves of armour which are the holy images of God.”

Of course it didn’t say that, because if it did we might begin to think the Bible contradicted itself in the matter of tattooing. After all, if you were considering, for example, tattooing a verse from Leviticus that condemns homosexuality, you might want to consider the verse in Leviticus that forbids tattooing.

There will eventually be leaves on the trees, right?

There will eventually be leaves on the trees, right?

Or you could just go to Leviticus Tattoo in Minneapolis and get some sleeves in the fashion of Reverend Bolz-Weber who blogs and tweets as The Sarcastic Lutheran.

Or you could just thank the Lord for her and continue to make your way as a Zen Baptist in this world. (By which “you” I mean “I.”)

I started going back to church in the 90s (I suppose I could say Gay 90s but I honestly don’t think we were quite there yet), among other reasons, because I wanted my week and my year to be structured on something other than the work-week and the academic calendar.

Advent and Lent help me mark progress through each year in ways other than “grades turned in yet?” even now, when I’m not part of an official faith community.

(Let me just say, as an aside here, that Minneapolis is a happening place. Not only do they have a tattoo parlor called Leviticus Tattoo, they have a gay bar called the Gay Nineties.)

I’m too contrary to have followed each suggestion in this “House for All Sinners and Saints’ 40 Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent,” plus I haven’t quite remembered to look each day, plus on the day it suggested donating to Goodwill I wasn’t in a town where there is one when it was open, BUT, it has been one of my checkpoints this Lent.

Today’s suggestion is “forgive someone.” Tomorrow’s is “internet diet.” I’m on it for tomorrow, as long as diet isn’t interpreted as “fast.” This semester already I’ve avoided Facebook (which I dearly love) on several Sunday-through-Thursday stretches, just because I was feeling over-socialized. And this week is one of those weeks.

As for forgiveness, we’ll see. It’s not something I’m particularly good at. Perhaps I could work on forgiving myself for that. Or for something else. It is, of course, a point of pride for me that I am worse at forgiving myself than I am at forgiving anyone else.

I’m a mess.

On a morning after a night full of dreams when I went into buildings and couldn’t get back out the way I came in, or left buildings and couldn’t go back in at all, I think I will simply meditate on the path of forgiveness. Where does it start? How might I start?

And if you landed here looking for ways to condemn homosexuality and you’ve realized I’m ONE OF THOSE who love Jesus and support equality for all, or you want to condemn homosexuality AND tattoos and you’ve realized I think they’re both terrific, well–I forgive you. Do you forgive me?

(And by “I forgive you,” obviously I mean I will work on it. Seriously.)

But if we are in the business of taking the Bible literally (by which “we” I mean “you,” since I’m not in that business), we can agree that one is allowed, on the 491st visit to this site, NOT to forgive me, since Jesus said to forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven. (491! We’re talking serious blog traffic there.)

In benediction I will say I am finding my Crocs good footwear this a.m. for proclaiming the gospel of peace.


(photo from flickr, Creative Commons, by Lime Spiked)