Joshua 1:8


I haven’t had a lot of kind words for Christians lately. As a Christian, I know that Christians are quick to judge someone who makes such derogatory statements, as one who is deceived and in need of salvation. I don’t want to be associated with a group of self-righteous intolerant religious people who seem to believe that God’s eye twinkles when he looks at them, but not when he looks at me.

If I were ever a lost soul seeking salvation, I would be more disillusioned than ever after being “welcomed” into a fold of the faithful followers of Jesus I have known in my life. We are told that salvation is free. We don’t need to change, we just need to accept redemption. Once we have prayed the sinner’s prayer, and are baptized, we are gradually told about all of the things we are no longer allowed to do, and how we are supposed to behave now.  If we don’t change, we will lose our salvation. We will lose the salvation that we received, and which we were told we was told was ours for free.

We live in a pretentious society. People smile and lie as naturally as they breathe. It’s practically considered normal.  But when Christians pretend to be people we can trust with our lives, with our children, with our darkest secrets and fears, turn out to have deceived us, it can shatter our faith in God. It can make us wonder if we were wrong to believe in God in the first place. Yet, Christians don’t seem to care if someone has been hurt or deceived by their pretense. In my experience, I have seen them continue to preach and pray, never giving a thought to anyone who has been hurt by their lies.

I’m grateful my experience with Christians isn’t the same as my experience with God.  God has shown me he is real lots of times, and in a variety of ways. I’m not an easy believer. I don’t want to be deceived. If there is no God, I don’t want to spend my life believing there is one. So I wonder, I question, and I pray. I think about the ridiculous and shameless hypocrisy of Christians, and it makes me doubt.  But the behavior of Christians has nothing to do with whether or not God is real.   I think maybe I still believe in God, but not in Christians.

One morning, over thirty years ago, when I was an evangelical Christian, I was spending some time praying and reading my Bible. I prayed for the Lord to lead me to the scripture he wanted me to read. That’s how I always read and prayed. I asked the Lord to show me what he wanted me to read, and he always did.  That morning he had me read Joshua 1:8.

 

Joshua 1:8King James Version (KJV)

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

 

I knew that was what the Lord wanted me to read that morning, even if I didn’t know why. So I read and prayed some more, and went about my day.  After I finished reading and praying, I turned on the Christian radio station to listen while I did my chores.  The station played music, but they also had a lot of Bible lessons and messages. When I turned on the radio that morning, they were about to broadcast a sermon. The speaker said, “Today’s lesson is going to be about Joshua 1:8.” My ears perked up then. I grabbed my Bible and sat down to listen to the lesson. I don’t remember the lesson anymore, but I sure do remember being blown away when he said he was going to talk about Joshua 1:8. I knew God wanted me to trust that whatever his plans were for me, they included me trusting him, and in that verse.

I wrote the verse on a piece of construction paper and I taped it to the bathroom mirror. Everyone always says to tape reminders to the bathroom mirror so you will see it every day. To be honest, it just got in my way, but that’s beside the point. Haha.

On Sunday morning when I walked into church, I noticed the pastor was wearing army BDUs.  I was late, and he was already preaching. He was an enthusiastic evangelist type with a lot of energy. He never stood still. He charged from one side of the room to the other with his fists raised high, and with unbridled passion.  I took my seat on the second row. I was close to the action, and I could swear he was moving so fast he created a draft when he walked by.

On the shoulder of his uniform, I noticed a patch. It said, “Joshua 1:8.” There is was again, for the third time! It had only been about a week since I first read the verse in my Bible while I was at home reading and praying.  I knew from the moment I opened my Bible that morning that verse was what God wanted me to read, but if I had any doubts, I wouldn’t have after seeing the verse on the pastor’s uniform.

Joshua 1:8 is only one of many ways God has confirmed his existence to me. Years have gone by, and I never did learn why the Lord wanted to impress that verse upon me, but I know he wanted me to know it.  I’ve faced a lot of difficulty since then.  My son Michael died when he was twenty. My husband Billy suffered more than I have ever seen anyone suffer, and died of alcoholism when he was only 53. My youngest son, Justin, has lost a lot of loved ones who died unexpected deaths. Justin is an atheist. He has witnessed a lot of the pretentious behavior of Christians too. It did influence his belief system.

I am critical of people who are quick to condemn others, but are unashamed and unapologetic at their own pretense, and how it affects the lives of other human beings. I don’t have tolerance for liars. I wish  Christians’ behavior and how they treat others didn’t affect whether or not people believe in God, but it does. The truth is that Christians are just as messed up as anyone else, but we view them differently.

When I start to doubt the existence of God, I remember Joshua 1:8, and I know he is real. That knowledge is what empowers me to speak against the hypocrisy. I’m not judging anyone, but I won’t be silent about it.

In Defense of My Own Truth and Humanity


You need to stop trying to fit me into categories that are familiar to you, but are inaccurate in describing my motives, or my character. Guilty people seem to feel vulnerable around truthful people because you think someone who strives to be an honest person exposes the dishonesty in your own character. It is because I have been hurt by lies and inhumanity myself that has made me care so much about truth and humanity. I have learned that a lot of people are very uncomfortable with the idea of realness.

People get downright vicious towards me. Guilty people feel so threatened by my effort to be truthful and humane, that you seem to think I need to be reminded of my weaknesses and failures. I have had people repeat to me every bad thing I have ever done, to accuse me, and to convince themselves that I’m a fraud.

I have been dehumanized and forgotten by the cruelest people, who mattered enough to me that their actions and rejection continue to hurt. There is a corruptness in guilty people that makes you desperate to prove that anyone who proclaims to be truthful and genuinely humane must be a fraud. But in your desperation, all you do is project your lies, hate, and insecurities onto me.

I do realize that I’m a flawed human being. I lie sometimes, but I try not to lie. I strive to treat everyone with humanity, but sometimes I have trouble seeing humanity in people who have hurt me or others. I’m sorry if you’re uncomfortable with me. It’s not easy for me to be like this either.

The nature of my character causes people to attack and accuse me. I’m not sitting atop some self-righteous perch, with a smug smile, thanking people for accusing me. I’m human, and when you accuse me, I feel pain. When you betray me and spit lies at me like bullets to justify your betrayal, it hurts. When you tell me and others how bad I am, when you’re really describing yourself, it feels like I’m getting a beating. But when others decide to hate me based on what you said about me, that’s not your fault, it’s theirs.

I choose to be truthful and humane because those things about you that you use to hurt others, you have used to hurt me. I never want to make anyone feel the way you have made me feel.

This post is not addressed to a single person. It is addressed to a composite of people who have tried their best to discredit me to make themselves feel better about their own corruptness. And although the nature of your character will probably cause you to read this post as having an accusatory tone, I am not accusing anyone. I’m only honestly addressing a problem I encounter often.

48 Hours in London 


​In 1979, when my brother was sixteen he went to London and got detained for two days at Heathrow.  I  was fifteen,  but it was up to me to find out what happened to him because I’m kinda gifted in that area. 
He wasn’t permitted to use the phone, so I had to figure out what happened with no clues. After many phone calls to airport security,  American Embassy,  and the airline,  I was able to pin him down at the airport detention center. 
I learned the reason he was detained  was because he told customs he planned to live there. They never told me they were sending him back, but on a hunch, I thought they might be planning to do that.
For no particular reason, I  suspected he would be on a  flight from JFK that  was arriving at Will Rogers the second night.  We hadn’t spoken to him since before he left, but I talked my mother into driving to the Oklahoma City airport  airport from Altus on nothing but a hunch. 
I was nervous while watching the passengers getting off the plane. I was afraid my hunch might be wrong  since it was a long shot. 
As it turned out,  he was on that flight,  and he bounced into the terminal with his Gilligan hat and a huge smile. That made me angry. How dare he be so carefree and oblivious to what he put us through for the last 48 hours. 
The phone bill was over a thousand dollars that month.  Doc had given me a sailboat, that I was looking forward to trying out at the lake, but hadn’t yet been out in it. Doc sold the boat to pay the phone bill.
My brother soon became a world traveler. He has visited over fifty countries.
I have never been sailing.

My boat was a 12′ Challenger,  but it did look a lot like this one.

You Need a New Lens


I’ve been patient, polite, and tolerant in extreme measures to people who support Donald Trump, but to be honest, Trump supporters are not just wrong about him. These are people who are looking at life through one hell of a distorted lens. Not everything is subjective. Bigotry is never okay.

If you think there are certain groups of people who are less human than you, the lens from which you see the world is distorting your view. If you think you’re superior to people of color, to women, to gays, to Muslim or Jews, or any marginalized group, you’re a racist, a misogynist, and a bigot.

If you think this country needs a wall along the Mexican border, that undocumented immigrants need to be rounded up and deported, that Mexico sends us their rapists and murderers, that Muslims should be banned, that sexual harassment is not to be taken seriously, and that Donald Trump speaks for you, then you are in the lowest common denominator. Trump isn’t appealing to your intellect. He’s appealing to your emotions and fears. It’s a cheap shameless way to get a vote. The masses have always been upset about generalized issues, foolishly believing there is an easy solution to the problems in our country.

Now, there’s a narcissistic demagogue named Donald Trump, who’s clever enough to convince you that he alone can fix all your problems. But the more I hear him speak the less clever I think he is. He really just views the world the same way you do. So you, the lowest common denominator, and Donald Trump relate to one another over these biases.  I get that you think someone is finally speaking for you, but he’s really only saying what you want to hear, so you’ll vote for him, chant his name, and feed his ego. You are being used and manipulated.

I don’t think Trump supporters are necessarily stupid, but it’s not your intelligence at work here. It’s your fears and hatred of all of the terrible ways you think your country has let you down–and along comes this larger than life figure who understands you like no one ever has. Only Trump can’t fix these perceived wrongs any more than anyone can. Some problems are a matter of perspective. The country isn’t broken. Your lens is broken.

If Trump is elected, you’re still going to see the same problems you see now because that’s the way you view the world. Donald Trump doesn’t care about what is going to happen when you finally figure out he can’t fix all your problems because his only mission at the moment is to win at all costs. He won’t know what to do when he gets there, but for now, he doesn’t care. For him it’s about the win.

 

 

Best Laid Plans


I am learning that folks in the Northeast are not as impressed with my qualifications as I had hoped. So after months of a disappointing job search, I decided to take a different approach.  Actually, I’m just going back to my original plan to become a teacher.

 

To become an alternatively certified teacher in Oklahoma, I will be required to take at least one credit hour of post graduate coursework. So here’s what is going to happen. I am enrolled at Cameron in the graduate program to study to become a reading specialist. Sometime after January I am going to take the OSAT for English teachers. If I pass, I’ll be alternatively certified. I will take the OPTE last.  That’s the Oklahoma Professional Teaching Exam. When I finish grad school, I’ll be able to take the test to be a reading specialist. Then I will be considered standard certified which means my certification will be reciprocal in Virginia.
Then I can go to Virginia, take their certification and reading specialist test, and boom! I’ll be employable in Virginia, and I can finally get out of Oklahoma.  I think I can get it all done in less than three years. I wish Cameron had a concentration in adult literacy since I want to work with adults. I am hoping that as a reading specialist I will be skilled in working with adults.
So I will start classes in August. I’m not super excited. At this point I am just doing what I need to do to become employable. I will probably substitute teach along the way.

Success isn’t a Secret, it’s a Decision


Back to school one last time started on May 29, 2014. I was more afraid I would quit again than I was fiercely determined to press on.

Billy came home in October that year, and I was afraid he would derail me. Later he became very supportive, which helped me to start believing I might really graduate.

Then our dog died, Billy got a brain bleed, refused treatment, moved out, decided to come home, but died only a few hours after we decided he should come home, in December 2015.

I don’t know how I got through the spring 2016 semester. Billy died only three weeks before the semester started, and I was consumed with grief when I returned to school in the spring. I was very afraid I would quit again, since in the past I usually quit school whenever life got overwhelming. Dr. Hodgson, the department chair was also concerned I might drop out because it had always been my pattern.

It took me over fifty years to learn that successful people are the ones who choose a path, set goals, and keep going no matter how hard life gets at times.

I missed out on a lot by not learning the path to success a long time ago. Yes, it’s good that I figured it out, but not nearly as rewarding because many opportunities were squandered.

Life really is very short. We have to make the most of every moment we’re given to live the best life we can live.

 There are Certain Things Every Educated Person should Know


Three college professors influenced me the most of every teacher I ever had in my life. Donna Evers taught me how to write a news story.  I liked her because she loved newspapers like me. She taught us to report the news, when not every story was breaking news. You could smell the ink as soon as you walked through the doors of the Lawton Constitution. The newsroom energy was exhilarating with desk phones ringing, typewriters clanking, and reporters hurrying to meet deadlines.  News was Donna Evers world, and in 1983 she taught me about that world in Intro to Journalism at Cameron University. Journalism has changed a lot since then, and I am grateful to have been taught by an old school journalist, and to have been a part of that exciting vibrant culture for a moment in my life.

Larry Shanahan taught me how to write an academic paper. He had to, really. He already liked the way I wrote, and had recommended me for his wife’s honor’s English class when he found out I didn’t know how to write a research paper. In those days the university didn’t even have a writing lab, so he tutored me. He is the reason I know how to research and write an organized paper.

Mary Shanahan taught me how to analyze literature. She believed in authorial intent. She said the writers had a specific message in mind when they wrote a story.  When she first walked into Comp II class circa 87, her stance was commanding and fierce. The chatter among the students stopped, and we all looked at her because we could tell she was going to say something we needed to know.  She said,

“What important event happened from 1914 to 1918?”

She expected an answer. To everyone’s relief one student knew the answer.

“World War I,” he said with confidence.

“That’s right,” she said. “Do you know why I asked you all that question? Because there are certain things that every educated person needs to know.”

These three professors taught me how to think, so I could filter through the sludge and find the truth.

Mary Shanahan died on May 11, 2016, six days after I finally got my bachelor’s degree in English literature. I would come and go from Nance Boyer hall at Cameron University so many times in 33 years. My memories walked those halls with me every time I was there. I ran down the stairs with Susan Jackson, hurrying off to somewhere, laughing about something. I watched Kevin Bartram develop photos for the Collegian in his darkroom. The Center for Writers is located in the old Collegian offices now. Kevin’s darkroom is their break room now.

I don’t know when the Shanahans left Nance Boyer for the last time. I was gone to Tulsa by then. I walked out for the last time on May 4, 2016. My memories walked out with me. Mary Shanahan ‘s voice always echoed in Nance Boyer. Her presence resonated in the halls and classrooms. I imagine she’s enjoying a dry martini right about now. Thank you, Mrs. Shanahan. I’ll see you when I get there.

Go here to read a poignant tribute written by a family member.