Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First Things First





Dear Friends,

Well, I suspected that this day would come:

‘Margery’ might inadvertently mention something that might provoke controversy.

Let me assure you, that is the one thing…the main thing…I have hoped to avoid with all of my heart. But I see that it is probably unavoidable if we are to have the honest and vital conversation for which I’ve long wished.

Please let me assure you of this: I am not speaking for any others who happen to share my particular faith. I am not speaking for a denomination. I am not espousing any outside causes. I am not representing anyone or anything…other than myself.

I am not a theologian, a pastor, a psychologist, or in any other position of spiritual or emotional authority.

I am just a very faulty, flawed human being who is trying to tell her personal story the best that she can. In the hope that I may, in some little way, have an opportunity to “comfort as I have been comforted.”

I’m sorry that I mentioned specifics in the “Beautiful Brides” posting that evidently got us away from the main point.

The reason I shared the prayer story is because I thought it illustrated something important: The unconditional love of God ministering to a hurting heart. I felt that the idea of God’s spirit revealing to the young woman that she was the opposite of how she felt was transformational. It was an example of the tender, extravagant, supernatural love of God that is so much greater than our love even for ourselves. She received a feeling of acceptance and validation that no mere human being could transmit.

Let me reiterate that I am not any kind of an official “prayer minister.” This was a situation that just popped up. I was faced with a choice of whether to respond to the need, or to play it safe. As I said, the whole thing was a leap of faith that took me way out of my comfort zone.

There are many points of theology that will not be unanimously resolved until heaven. Frankly, it sickens me to think of all the fighting and wars and destruction that have resulted from disunity. I think it sickens God even more. Grieves him. Because of that, I do try to keep in mind Paul’s recommendation to avoid “senseless arguing” at all costs. That’s why I’m so mad at myself. I suppose I would have been more vague and guarded if I had thought that there were any chance that my reference might have the effect of not keeping ‘first things first.’ It just didn’t dawn on me because it was a peripheral detail.

The last thing I want to do is offend anyone. But we must admit that we all have our personal opinions, and they are not all the same.

This reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to say for a long time:

I hope (and pray) that I am not just “preaching to the choir.” It would delight me to know that I have not chased everyone else away. (“Oh, no, the woman’s quoting scripture…I’m outa here!”) I have assiduously tried to avoid as much 'God-talk' or 'Jesus-speak' as possible. Still, the original blog was born out of a major miracle. World-renown men and women of science referred to Katherine’s case as miraculous from Day 1. There is no rational explanation for why she survived her severe brain rupture. The supernatural* has been an essential element of our story from Day 1. It cannot be avoided or denied due to embarrassment or fear of misinterpretation. I feel that this is a major theme of my writings: Those moments when the miraculous invades the mundane. When the supernatural supersedes the natural order. In ways both large and small.

I would like to think that there are still some out there who are free enough to listen to opinions not their own. To hear other voices. (Don’t anybody even think about taking that the wrong way! You know what I mean.) To respectfully learn from those who are different from us.  To be able to be challenged by differing opinions and world-views. To be teachable and open-minded. (But not so much that our brains fall out, of course.)

In other words, just because I happen to be a middle-aged white Southern Protestant Christian woman, it doesn’t mean that I hope to limit my readership to clones of myself.

Not a Christian? You are so, so welcome here! It is an honor to have you visit.

Not Southern? Please keep reading! I’ll try not to be too overtly provincial.

Not Protestant? Yay! Some of my most awesome spiritual experiences have been in Catholic, Russian Orthodox, or Greek Orthodox churches. And I had a pretty amazing time at a Bat Mitzvah once. Fascinating and moving.

Not white? Thank God! He absolutely adores diversity!

Not middle-aged? Good. I wasn’t always. Help me to remember it.

NOT A WOMAN???  Ding! Ding! Ding! You win the booby prize! (Really…just kidding.) You have shown yourself to be graciously open-minded in attempting to glimpse life through a woman’s eyes. We are the same species, after all. And you were most likely birthed by a woman, may give birth to a woman, love a woman, marry a woman…so it can’t hurt to be familiar with a woman’s mind. Consider it research.

The point is: I don’t think we need to be afraid to learn from others from a different demographic. We are all students in the school of life.

 C.S.Lewis said, I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through.”

Oh no…I just realized that that quote may be greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. I give up. (But am leaving it in as illustration.)

It is hard for me to put a filter over everything. I’m afraid that if I do, the writing will dry right up. If I weigh how every chance reference may affect each person reading, there will not be much to say. Because everything offends someone.

If my writings confuse you, frustrate you, or anger you, then the solution is quite evident: PLEASE DO NOT READ. Remember, no one is twisting your arm. It will take 15 seconds to find someone whose world-view you can more easily stomach.  There are something like 10 million blogs out there.

But I want you to know that you are all welcome here, whether we agree on every dot and tittle of theological detail or not.

As a precious Jewish friend whom we met in ICU said, “We are more alike than unlike.” We all experience the human condition. We are all related.

I referred earlier to “putting first things first.”

This is my priority:

 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-36)

This is my desire:

 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-20)

OH NO….the woman’s quotin’ scripture again! Run for the hills!

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*Supernatural:
1.of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena.
2. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or attributed to god or a deity.
3. direct influence or action of a deity on earthly affairs.

***************

All that said, I do want everyone to know how very much I appreciate your comments. Other bloggers think I’m crazy for leaving the “Anonymous” option open, but I did it so that people who are afraid to expose themselves may still have a voice. (A first name would be nice, though. Even a made-up one.) I don’t want you to think that I welcome only those opinions that echo my own. But because we were drifting into theological debate, I thought it necessary to state clearly that that is not my intention. Still, I loved seeing the interaction of the various comments. It was a conversation! Yay!

17 comments:

catie said...

Keep speaking your wisdom and sharing your experiences. I LOVED meeting you this wkend at Miriams wedding. You are a special person and an inspiration in more ways than you could ever imagine! Thank you for being so transparent. Catie

Laurel said...

A little heated discussion never hurt anybody...as long as it isn't mean spirited. I haven't caught a whiff of that here. Of course, I'm Baptist so I expect religious debate. If I weren't Baptist I'd probably be Jesuit ;).

You have to write your own experience since a) it's all you know and b) it's dishonest not to. No filters, please. I like my Kim freshly squeezed, unadulterated, and not from concentrate.

Laura said...

I loved your post on beauty and it touched my heart in a way that I absolutely needed when I read it. Sometimes I feel so guilty about my own insecurities, but then I feed them by pouring over people's pictures on Facebook, etc. and feel inadequate in comparison. Your post reminded me how blessed I am to know the Lord and to be loved so completely for my whole being. It also reminded me that we all can look glossy and perfect in a still image, but that we all struggle with our own versions of perfection.

Your faith is inspiring and I love reading your blog. I hope that you'll never be stifled by criticism of it. For every person that leaves a negative comment, there are probably fifty that smile and nod in agreement. I have been one of those for some time and look forward to reading on!

Anonymous said...

Yes, controversy is a guarantee if you wish for comments and a REAL dialogue. I have had one 'best' friend for 25 years--we have survived unruly teenagers, the potholes of marriage (we are both still married to the 'starter husband') returning to the work force...and all sorts of other traumatic events of life despite the last 20 years mostly separated by 3,000 miles. We share the hills and the valleys, probe deep, ask the hard questions.....we don't always agree and have even said 'I told you so' and even warned the other that a 'I told you so' is in the future!!' but underneath it all is an undying admiration for our separate strength that counteracts our separate weakness....It's almost physics..for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We KNOW will always support each other!! ex; if you shoot your husband, I will still fly across the country to visit you jail! LOL But you get my drift.....

And so, having said all of that--if you want a REAL dialogue then there WILL be controversy; but for heaven's sake, stop apologizing and then trying to explain yourself in light of someone's remarks. Frankly, it makes you appear weak, unsure, and 'all the other girls don't like me because I am prettier than they are.'

Your writing is from the heart...go for it!! As you said, there are a million blogs. If this 'one' is so objectionable, then there are plenty of others. On the other hand, don't ask for comments if all you want is affirmation. As the old saying goes....if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Now personally, I enjoy your musings and the scripture brings it all together. Just write and don't be so concerned 'with pleasing all the people all the time.....' It's an exercise in futility and will destroy the transparency we have come to expect.....

Anonymous said...

PS--I need to add..... expect AND admire.

Kim Arnold said...

Touche'...I hear you.

Thank you for your honest words spoken in love.

You are right.

I have a couple of friends like that, too. Our disagreements have just made the friendship stronger and more unconditional.

Thanks for the insight,
Kim

p.s. I am weak and unsure. For sure.

Allison said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog:) As I was reading your post, I just kept thinking....you are so real. So honest. So loving. No matter what our insecurities are we are "Rooted and grounded(your version says established;)) in love."

Supernatural. Well, I wrote this particular verse on a dear friend's caringbridge site this morning. Mainly because of another dear friend's artwork depicting this very verse. You can visit my friend, Laura's blog at www.to-be-salt-and-light.blogspot.com She painted an amazing picture of a tree...rooted and grounded.

The family that I left the message for this morning are currently in Atlanta at the Shepherd Center. Brian was injured in an accident at work and is paralyzed from the neck down. His wife, Jessica, is best friends with one of my close friends. I even emailed with Katherine to ask her to pray for them soon after the accident. You can visit their site at www.caringbridge.org/visit/briandenny

Keep writing. Be yourself. Your real self. Be "rooted and grounded" in who God made you to be.....because you are dearly loved:)

P.S. My husband's aunt, uncle and cousin live in Athens:):) small world....hehe!

Kim said...

I just read a few days "in a row" because I've been out of town. SO much good stuff. My opinion is...keep saying the truth and don't feel like you have to apologize for your experiences and comments.

I agree that I like the unfiltered "Kim", and that discussions can clarify one's thoughts. I prefer the "non-churchy" comments as well as the scripture quotes. I find my self bouncing from emotions of delight to tears to deep gratefulness to God when I read your blog. I still pray for your daily. Warmly,
Kim

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim,
What makes your blog so wonderful is your raw and vulnerable heart which bleeds through your words and perspective. Please don't filter your blog to win over the skeptic. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. We who are in the trenches need to be reminded that God shows up in the most unlikely and unexpected ways.
Thank you for your investment of time and love for the sake of the gospel and for the glory of God.
Elizabeth

The Retarded Mother said...

Kim,
Keep talking, telling, listening, hearing. I am one of the "out there" flock types. More than anything, I can hear the extreme love and care you have for your family....for people--all people. It comes shining through in your words--between your words.
So, from this mongrel reader, stay your course.
I think it sort of boils down to this: Live your life with all that you believe. Stay true to yourself and your faith. Because it is then thay others might say, "I want what she's having."
When we see a great haircut, we always inquire, "Who cuts your hair?" By that same token, when we live our lives, people should ask, "What guides you? How can you live such an incredible life?"
If they notice my haircut, they will surely pay attention to my actions, my intent, my gestures---my love.
That's all I got today.
You are loved--and brave--and smart--and beautiful.
Marianne

The Retarded Mother said...

Oops. I think the original quote is, "I'll have what she's having."
I've never been too good with quotes. But you get it, don't you?
mmc

Kim Arnold said...

I love you all!

Thank you so much for your input and advice!

xoxo,
Kim

Anonymous said...

You are never going to be able to make everyone happy. You know you are doing something right to have people follow your blog for the past two years. You are who you are because of your Faith. Keep on writing without worrying about how someone could take it the wrong way or get offended. You are such an inspiration and I am so thankful that I found your blog and Katherine's. By the way- I am not middle aged, I am 24- and I LOVE reading your blog!!!! Love, Katie

ashli said...

just write...you are so real and raw and honest!

I appreciate it, respect it, and I will keep coming back for more insight.
I love a good scripture thrown in there. It solidifies your feelings and shows us strangers that you have a knowledge and understanding of God's word and his love.

As a Mormon follower of your blog I come back to read your insight and Love of the Good Word and Our Father in Heaven.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You mentioned at one point you grew up with household help and after marriage, had full time help as quickly as you could afford it. So---you may not have been able to keep the sock drawers straight, or the laundry basket empty....and your self discipline for exercise and healthy eating is lacking. However, as far as I can figure out, your life has been pretty charmed with sacrificial living confined to a Lenten exercise. No doubt, over the past 2 years you have met many families with far fewer resources to handle injuries equally as devastating as your own.....)

But your 'faith under fire" and the gift of written expression has given you a new voice through Katherine's journey..'(Why me?' takes on new meaning! Lord, I would have been happy writing an Advent devotion for the church newsletter in small town Georgia).

But as I understand it, your blog was always meant to be from your heart as you power through this unexpected challenge of Katherine's stroke ......how faith, and Scripture (not theology, there is a difference) give you the strength simply to get up every morning and face another day.

A picture, a memory, a flash from the past--either from Katherine's success.....or your own heretofore pretty predictable pattern (college, marriage, successful husband, beautiful home, gorgeous daughters (not to mention smart) healthy grandson...on and on) can trigger emotions you thought were buried deep! "(Why am I still crying over the past, when I have so much to be thankful for in the present")??

But you are NOT weak and unsure of your foundation...

Kim was a character...a mess.
But, oh, she loved her Lord.
And was not afraid to say so.

Anonymous said...

oh dear...there should be some way to save on a word document for further editing--it should read all in present tense...

Kim is a character..a mess
She LOVES her Lord.....

Everything else is just 'stuff.'

Alisa said...

I just want to say that the unfiltered Kim is the real deal. She is a gorgeous, wise, articulate, Southern belle, with a genuine love for God, others, and a sense of humor because she knows she no closer to perfect than the next person. If you have the opportunity to read her blog (and you do, b/c you're here.) you will be blessed. If you have the opportunity to get to know her IRL, you'll be even more blessed.