Monday, July 11, 2016

Again...and Again... and Again... and Again...

There's this fantastic song by Casting Crowns that I've already quoted in previous blogs. I know this because it's one of my favorite things I've ever heard and because I feel like I've written this before. I have this sense of deja vu lately, like all of this has happened, and it's happening again. It's probably because all of this has happened, and it's happening again.

If we are the body
Why aren't his arms reaching?
Why aren't his hands healing?
Why aren't his words teaching?

"Innocent" is such a powerful word, isn't it? Just as powerful as "guilty". Just as powerful as "truth".

The truth is, there's no such thing as innocent. The truth is, not everything is black and white. The truth is, nobody understands anything unless or until it affects them personally.

One of my readers asked me to write about the body of Christ, and how we are all a part of that. It's hard for me, because I try to keep this blog as non-"religious" as possible. I will admit that I'm a Christian (don't you just love how I said that like it's a confession, because so many people that say those words treat people in ways that contradict its very nature?) I'll admit it, but then I'll also be quick to tell you that I'm NOT innocent, that I'm NOT judgmental, and that I'm NOT the one with all the answers. Or any of them, most of the time. Just some ideas here and there. And right now, there are so many ideas swirling around in my head, it's like the movie Twister.

People are murdering people. And I don't understand why.

What is it about the color of a person's skin that makes someone else assume that person is guilty? What is it about the color of a person's skin that makes someone else feel frightened, or defensive, or superior, or entitled, or any number of other instantaneous thoughts, fleeting or otherwise?
What makes white people so incensed by hearing the words "Black Lives Matter"?
What makes anyone think that their God loves them any more than anyone else?

I grew up listening to vinyl (kids, ask your parents) and when the needle would get stuck and play the same thing over and over, I wouldn't just sit there and listen to it. I'd immediately get up, pick it up and put it back down, or 'scootch' it over even though that wasn't the best plan, but I couldn't stand just hearing it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again... you get the picture?

Yet, I feel like we're stuck in this endless loop right now. A loop of hatred, of retaliation, of revenge, of bitterness, of mistrust, of betrayal, of despair. It's deja vu. I've written this before because I've felt this before because this has happened before.

For those of you who consider yourselves Christians, we are to be the body of Christ. He did not judge, he did not show partiality, he did not kill. He loved, and he gave, and he healed, and he taught, and he was killed for it. Sometimes, you do absolutely nothing wrong and you're killed for it just because someone doesn't like who you are, even if you're the savior of the world.

Because they're afraid.

The Jesus you think you know doesn't look like those pretty white boy pictures you see in your churches. He wasn't a white, long-haired, clean-cut guy with a pretty white robe. His skin was probably just as dark as most of the people in those neighborhoods where you drive through and lock your doors.

Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34 both say that God does not show partiality/favoritism. Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, offering her living water, when Jews didn't speak to Samaritans, much less male Jews to Samaritan women. Jesus railed against hypocrisy in Matthew 23 for pretty much the entire chapter, talking about how those in power weren't the special snowflakes they thought they were.

So again, if we are the body... why aren't we healing those who are emotionally sick, why aren't we reaching our arms out and embracing those who look different from us, why aren't we teaching our children that racism is one more of the evils of this world? Why aren't we walking towards justice and peace? Why aren't we using our voices to speak up for the oppressed as Jesus did when he was on the Earth?

Stand up, pick up the record needle, and fix the problem. People need to stop murdering people. People need to be heard. People need to be loved. People need to be rescued.

What can we do?
What can YOU do?

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Antidote

In the wake of the devastating news from Orlando, I've been unable to find the words to describe just how I feel about such a circumstance. It is wholly undeniable, however, that this is an attack on the LGBTQ community and that makes it attack on my heart. The biggest mass shooting in the history of the United States was perpetrated by a man who walked into a nightclub - more specifically, a gay nightclub - and killed 50, wounding over 50 more. Lives ended, lives changed, lives forever damaged by the choice of a single person with a gun and a terrible idea. Blame it on ISIS, blame it on homophobia, blame it on a lack of gun laws, but in the end there's only one thing to which the blame will really stick.

Hatred.

"Whoever says, 'I love God' yet hates his brother is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." --1 John 4:20

Of course guns don't kill people. Guns are inanimate objects, they do not choose their owners or their victims. But a gun in the hands of the wrong owner can wreak havoc on not just a hundred people, not just a community, but an entire country. Because of hatred.

Words don't kill people. They are simply a construction of 26 letters of the alphabet in different lengths and orders to make up our language. But words chosen by the wrong person in the wrong order with the wrong motives can ruin a person for a lifetime. Because of hatred.

Beliefs don't kill people. The wrong actions perpetrated by those who carry certain beliefs can devastate the masses. Because of hatred.

If love does not reign supreme in our hearts, in our country, in our world, then slowly another ruler will find its way onto the throne. Hatred is borne of ignorance and ignorance is born of misunderstanding, misinformation, and apathy. Choose to educate yourself, choose to care, and choose to love.

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Good, Good, Good... Good Vibrations!

Wah, WAHHHH. 
I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to let myself get totally thrown off track when something unforeseen happens. I'm an organizer. I like to plan, make lists, cross things off as I go -- it gives me a sense of accomplishment which, to me, is like a drug. On days when I don't feel like I've accomplished something, I find myself more depressed and annoyed. But even the best laid plans must be waylaid from time to time and, when that happens, how do you respond?

I know how I respond. I get really upset right away, start listing all the awful things that are going to happen because of the unforeseen problem, then I commence complaining about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. I mutter under my breath, I use phrases like, "I hate this" or "This drives me crazy" or "Why does this crap always happen to me?"

Newsflash: none of that helps the situation. Nor does it make me feel any better, not in the long run or the short run. It just makes me sound like one of those people I don't want to be around; you know the kind? There's always something negative falling off their lips even in the most joyous of times. Like Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live, you expect the dismal "Wah, WAHHH" sound to follow them every time they speak. Man, I don't wanna be that guy.

I keep re-reading stuff Joyce Meyers writes about 'words'. "Change Your Words, Change Your Life", "Power Words"... things like that. And I get very enthusiastic about it, deciding 'once and for all' to change the way I phrase things, to eliminate negativity from my speech, to speak good things as if they were (not that I can conjure them into existence, but just to breed positivity in my spirit while I wait and hope). And I'll go through a really great period of time when I focus on this and I'm all in.

Unfortunately, that period of time is about three hours.

What is it about us that lets things eat away at our spirits so much and so quickly that we can't just enjoy each day of our lives? Someone I love with all my heart can do something that irritates me, just something small, no big deal... and it's like it's the end of the world to me if I'm already in a negative mood. But therein lies the rub -- just as we can breed positivity in our spirits, negativity also breeds more negativity. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need an infusion of positivity.

My highly anemic sister has, in the past, had to go to the doctor to receive an infusion from time to time to get her blood counts to be in the right place. Beforehand, she'll be lethargic and afterwards she's like a new person, full of life and energy and color.

What the doctor does for her blood, we need to do for our spirits. Soak up positive vibes, do things we thoroughly enjoy with the people we love, express ourselves through art and other passions. We need to talk to other people with encouragement, talk about situations with hope and joy, and talk to ourselves -- yes, ourselves -- with affection.

I know this is June 2 and I'm a day late if we're doing one of those 'for the month' things, but, hey, better a day late than trying to start next month, right? Here's what I'm envisioning:

For the rest of this month, commit to a few things together. First, identify your phrases like I did. "I hate this" or "This drives me crazy" or whatever yours happens to be. When you find yourself thinking it, try not to say it out loud. Try to find something else to replace it with, like "I'm frustrated but this will pass" or "I'm annoyed right now but not for long". This is the first step in changing a negative to a positive. It's hard work, right? You can't just quit cold turkey or become one of those people who sing a simple tune and woodland creatures come to help you with your laundry. (P.S., if you CAN do that, please get in touch with me. I have a lot of housework and could use the help of you and your rodents.) Next, find some time or some situations each day in which you can compliment someone, express joy out loud over a situation that's happening, and/or uplift yourself by remarking on something positive about YOU. And last but never least, do at least one thing you love each day. Whether it's a short walk outside, listening to an 80s song you haven't heard in forever and dancing your heart out alone in your living room, reading for a half hour, drawing a rainbow with sidewalk chalk, or whatever happens to bring  you joy... DO it. Do something

We need joy in our lives. We need to be positive as often as possible. And trust me, with the regular media and social media, we certainly could do with a lot less doom and gloom every day.

-Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Purpose, Purpose, Purpose

It's becoming increasingly apparent to me as time goes on (though it has been revealing itself since I was in second grade) that my purpose in life is to write. After years of halfheartedly clocking into different jobs, always writing on the side, in the background, in one of a thousand notebooks, I'm finally working for myself from home. As a freelance writer and editor, a blogger on spirituality, a minister-for-hire for weddings and speaking engagements, I don't bring in a lot of income but it is with the support of my readers that I plow through and keep doing what I do.

I follow 'The Christian Left' on Facebook and while I don't agree with everything they post, much of it resonates with me. I have seen that they have a call for donations each weekend and have struggled with whether or not I should do the same. I don't get paid for blogging, nor do I think most people should, but I feel that it can't hurt to put a donate button at the bottom of my page and let the chips fall where they may. I actually do run my writing and editing as a business, so I'm not a non-profit. I just don't make much profit, hah! Donations would be claimed as income and I pay my share of the taxes that we all do, so while you wouldn't receive a tax deduction for donating, you'd certainly be helping me put baby food on the table (and sometimes his face, shirt, bib, high chair, the table, the floor, and/or the dog.)

None of this is said to make you feel, in any way, like a donation is mandatory or that you should feel obligated. If what I write resonates with YOU, and you feel it's a worthy cause and want to make a one-time or recurring donation to A Journey of Reinvention, I will be incredibly humbled and appreciative. Should you choose not to do that, I'm still humbled and appreciative that you read this blog at all, and very thankful for each and every follower who takes the time to scan through these words that I feel so drawn to write.

If you go to www.AJourneyofReinvention.com on any given day, you'll see the donation button at the very bottom on the left if you scroll all the way down. PayPal and all major credit cards are accepted. I've also placed the button here in this post so you can click here anytime as well.

Thank you, whether you choose to donate or not, because without you, I'd just be typing to the air.

With Sincere Gratitude,
-Stephanie Jean


Friday, April 29, 2016

Words. Great Words. All the Words.

There's something that's been irritating me for quite awhile now and, while I rarely get political on here in such a blatant way, it's too disturbing for me not to comment anymore.

I can see how some people may find Donald Trump a viable candidate for president. I've heard the 'he can't be bought' arguments, the 'we need someone that's not a politician' arguments, the 'he tells it like it is' arguments and while I disagree with any and all of these being a reason to elect someone, something else bothers me much, much more.

Those people who are calling themselves Christians who are firmly behind this man as president. Unabashedly rooting for him, a paragon of wealth, greed, arrogance, and bigotry. All of the things that Jesus would have stood firmly against had He and Trump wandered this Earth at the same time. I've found a way to put this into a visual aid that I think might finally get through to these people and, hopefully, point out a few of the more glaring reasons why this man should not get their vote.

Behold, I give you JesusTrump. Pictures of Jesus with quotes from Donald Trump. If you cannot imagine your Lord and Savior uttering these phrases, if you feel that what I have done here is somehow blasphemous, then I urge you to reconsider your vote for this man and try to find a much more sane choice.

Said to a breastfeeding mother who needed to pump.

Because those were definitely Jesus's priorities.

Definitely putting down people's looks, that was Jesus's M.O.

Blessed are the very rich because they can buy the stairway to heaven.

Just so everybody knows.

Am I right? Greed is good!

I can't even imagine Jesus saying this, and He's the Son of GOD.

Murder the innocents! Make them pay!

Looks  are really, really important because God looks at the outward appearance.

Keep those dirty Mexicans out, you guys.
I think this blog stands on its own, but if not, I'd like to encourage you to read what Jesus said about material wealth, those who think too highly of themselves, and what loving people actually entails...

BEFORE you vote.

--Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Stuff

"A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff." --George Carlin

Did you ever just sit in the center of your room, whatever room you're in, and stare at all the stuff around you? Because, seriously, I don't need all this stuff. I have Disney movies on VHS. I don't even own a VCR. [Note to young'ns: A VCR is something that came before Blu-ray, even before DVD, and it played these big blocks called VHS tapes and, if your parents are as old as I am, they might have had a Betamax player before that...] I have literally hundreds of CDs and DVDs, and never listen to anything except Pandora online and never watch anything but streaming shows or movies on Netflix, Hulu, and the like. But there's something that keeps saying I should keep it. Why? They're not a collection, nor are they 'collectors' items'. None of them are worth anything, even the $10-$20 apiece we originally paid for them. They might glean a buck or two at a yard sale. But they take up a tremendous amount of space in our tremendously large for the three of us house, and collect dust that I complain about on the two occasions per year that I dust.

I have candles, and mugs, and magazines, and trinkets, and whozits, and whatzits, and so many things that I feel like I'm in a Dr. Seuss story sometimes. We have a collection of vinyl and a record player that gets used maybe once a year. [Note to young'ns: vinyl is... ya know what, never mind.]

WHY do I have so much stuff?

I never watch the news. The news is depressing and reinforces all the negativity in the world and I want to focus on the positives. But I'm aware, believe me. I'm aware of all the horrible things going on. The fact that even the poorest in our country are rich when juxtaposed against the backdrop of poverty and starvation in other countries. I know there are children out there just a little older than my baby that are dying because of something that my child was routinely vaccinated against in thirty seconds or because they don't have a clean water supply or any way to bring down a raging fever.

I look at my meager pay for the year, the fact that I'm on Medicaid and WIC, the coupons that I cut, the bills that I have to pay each month, and the programs that I'm signed up for just to make ends meet and I think... wow.

I am so incredibly lucky.

I don't pity myself for being in this position, nor do I take for granted the aid that I'm relying on at this time. Because I know that I am rich. I am, in someone's eyes, living in a palace filled with baubles and I sit back and feel horrendously guilty.

I have food, I have clean water, I have a roof over my head, and the love of my husband and my family.

Everything else is just stuff. And I don't need all this stuff.

What can you and I do to eliminate stuff and help someone who really needs it? That's my goal for the year. Won't you join me?

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Just Another Year...

I'm looking at the date on my phone and realizing that I'll be 39 years old in twelve days. I remember being a little girl thinking how dreadfully old THIRTY sounded, and how life must be close to over at that age because, really, what was there after that? You get to drive at sixteen, become an adult at eighteen, drink fun stuff at 21... what good was getting older after that?

The insight I have at this age makes me look forward to what's still to come.

A lot of people lie about their age. Getting older is looked at, especially in America, as something agonizing. We don't want to see wrinkles peering back at us because we certainly don't see them on the models in magazines, even if they're in their sixties (*cough airbrush cough*). The plastic surgery market is huge, and cosmetic companies market different magical formulas to make us look younger.


So what's the obsession? Why is aging such a negative thing?

At one time, age was a sign of honor and respect, wisdom and understanding. Not just biblically, though there's certainly a lot in there about it. Proverbs 16:31 says, "A gray head is a crown of glory". Job 12:12 says, "Wisdom is with aged men; with long life is understanding." We learn more as we get older, and knowledge is important, that's true. With experience, we can answer questions for the younger generations. However, that still doesn't answer the question.

I found a great quote, though, that gave me a little more insight into why people are obsessed with staying young as long as possible:

"Why do people talk of the horrors of old age? It's great. I feel like a fine old car with the parts gradually wearing out, but I'm not complaining... those who find growing old terrible are people who haven't done what they wanted with their lives." --Martha Gellhorn (American novelist and war correspondent)

That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? As we get older and we haven't accomplished the things we've wanted to accomplish -- or perhaps anything of importance -- we start to panic. We look at the time that's passed already and the time we may or may not have ahead of us, and we weigh our options. Do I have enough time left to get everything done I wanted to? Or anything I wanted to? So we spend our money and our efforts on looking more youthful. But why? Looking younger does not make us younger.

What DOES make us younger?

Nothing. (If you thought I was going to give you some magical passport to the fountain of youth, or some great tips on how to add years to your life, I must apologize.) But I can certainly tell you what will help you to feel younger.

Joy.

Have you noticed that, as we get older, the joy just seems to seep out of our lives? Whether we have debt or divorce or death of loved ones, sadness and anxiety and anger and busy-ness begin to overtake our joy. When you look at a child sitting in the mud making an absolute mess, take a moment to notice the look on his face. It's euphoric. He's living in the moment, enjoying every drip of brown wet dirt that will later cake beneath his fingernails, and reveling in it for as long as his parents will possibly let him.

What makes you joyful? Spending time with friends, singing, dancing, acting, writing, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting? Do that. If you haven't done it in ages, do it tomorrow. If you do it once a year, do it more often. Bring some joy into your life. Smile more, laugh more, revel in happiness -- this will give you what you want. This will make you feel younger, even if it can't take years off of your life.

And, ultimately, isn't that what we're looking for?

Someone told me that we're only as old as we feel. Next year I'll be 40, according to my biological make-up. There are days when I feel 70, but there are days when I feel 20. My goal this year is to have more days that make me feel like I'm 20, to have more joy in my life, more smiles and laughter in my day, and to start working on the things I want to accomplish so that, when I do get 'old', I'll be able to look back at the time I've spent and know that it was all worth while.

I wish you the same!
Stephanie Jean