Flirting with Faith

Flirting with Faith


On Being Cool Redux…

posted by Joan Ball
Not sure why, but starting 2009 with a repost from Sept 13, 2008 just felt like the right thing to do on this snowy day in New York.  Happy New Year to all…
I don’t think I am remotely cool enough to roll with some of the new Christians. I’m forty-two and I sometimes watch mindless television. I wear pointy high heels and makeup and I don’t drink beer.

Of course, I used to be cool enough. Back when I sat on the roof of my apartment smoking cigarettes, reading A Clockwork Orange and looking down my nose at the people who didn’t get it. Back when I didn’t wear shoes or makeup but I did drink beer…and rye whiskey, which I preferred.

When I was cool God was in the poetry of the Bhagavad Gita or captured in a rose quartz crystal or dancing next to me at a Grateful Dead show. God was in a kiss or on a breeze or buried in the deep recesses of my mind when I’d created the perfect chemical storm.

And then, once I’d applied my considerable intellect and more considerable arrogance to the question, God was nowhere. I stopped searching and I was alone.

Fast forward a couple of years, a couple of kids and a couple of drinks and God became a “power greater than myself.” And, armed with a hint of humility I began to change.

Jesus had not called me yet—but I think he was watching.

When he came it was unannounced and uninvited. There was no frenzied altar call or sinner’s prayer. There was no hip pastor or tail-kicking band. No French roast coffee or modern art. There were no candles and no incense. No Power Point presentation or fill-in-the-blank bible study. It wasn’t even a particularly welcoming environment.

No, my Damascus Road was not modern or post-modern or denominational. It was God doing what God does wherever and whenever God wants to do it. Once I assured myself that the pain in my chest, inability to breathe and nausea was reverential fear and not a heart attack, I somehow knew that I believed something and that I would never be the same.

Of course I knew nothing of Christianity or Jesus or the Bible at the time. I thought I did, having debated the atheist party line for years. But, in the true spirit of Amazing Grace, I went from blindness to sight in a moment and was compelled to learn.

This story could go on for pages—and it eventually will—but I need to get back to my original premise, why I am not cool enough to be a new Christian.

It has been a little more than five years since I came to believe. In that time I have had some of the most wonderful and some of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I have learned from everyone—the whole mismatched Christian family—including televangelists, silver-haired, hymn-lovers, Southern Baptists, emergents, people who used to believe and Mike Seaver from Growing Pains.

While I might not share their style, or their politics or their history or their views on what it means to be a Christian (or a follower of Christ), each and every conversation, sermon or rant is a gift from God. These folks— like it or not—are my new family. And I am learning to love this new family; every quirky one of them. Even when I don’t really like what they say or how they act or what they claim to believe.

This unconditionally loving approach to life is brand new for me and it makes little sense. It is often uncomfortable and always counter intuitive. Sometimes I fail miserably. But sometimes I don’t. And when I don’t I have come to believe it is a gift from God.

Because, back when I was cool, I loved conditionally, starting with myself and extending to a small group of people who also read A Clockwork Orange and smoked cigarettes and drank beer…or rye whiskey…and looked down their nose at people who just don’t get it.

Thankfully, I’m just not that cool anymore.



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Julya Brown

posted January 2, 2009 at 12:49 am


One of the finest pieces of modern literature. You are cool to be sober and you are cool to be Christian-but you’re really cool to be selfless, honest, and brave enough to share it with others. This comes from one you looked down your nose at, and that’s cool too.



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Joan Ball

posted January 2, 2009 at 1:05 am


Hey Julie! What a pleasure to see you here and a gift to read your encouraging words. I hope you are doing well. Would love to hear about what you are doing these days…



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Lawrence

posted January 2, 2009 at 6:15 am


Great message. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes the New Year seems both promising and overwhelming at the same time. Your words are very encouraging and empowering. You’re cool. If you get a chance, check out my site at http://www.joshuamethod.com Be encouraged. Lawrence



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shrinkingthecamel

posted January 3, 2009 at 5:29 pm


Great post Joan. I, too, have the same spiritual year as you. I go on a retreat every year in September. Just me n’ God, to kick off the next 12 months and get a spiritual re-charge and refresh. I’m trying to do this 2 times/year, but have not been able to swing it yet.
BTW, I would love for you to check my Jan 1 post on “How God Saved My Life Through Writing.” (www.shrinkingthecamel.com). It’s a tribute to this year, as well as an explanation of how I got started blogging, and you are definitely one who has influenced and inspired me. This whole blogging community thing is weird, but its real.



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Dave Carrol

posted January 8, 2009 at 5:00 pm


Wow! What a wonderful piece of writing. I just stumbled by your blog and really enjoyed it.
Thanks
Dave



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Richard

posted January 13, 2009 at 3:27 am


Joan, after years of doing every other religion on the planet, I’ve just found christ under the bed… and I feel very uncool at the moment. Wonderful to read the stories of someone such as your self. Nice to know I’m not the only one!



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Joan Ball

posted January 13, 2009 at 8:47 am


Hey Richard: Welcome to weird and the wonderful. Would love to learn more about your story.



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Richard

posted January 29, 2009 at 6:37 pm


Miss your posts….thanks for stopping by my blog.



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Raizza

posted February 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm


Professor Joan Ball,
We miss our coolest professor. Hope all is well!



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Joan Ball

posted February 3, 2009 at 11:20 pm


Hi Raizza! How are you?



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Christian

posted February 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Don’t you think that you might have just found new flavor of “cool”? The cool of uncool? A rebranding and new product launch?
Comparing the foolishness of some of these bad preachers to the unfortunate circumstances we are subject to with family was a very clever hook. Excellent marketing technique.
Oh, I see, you are writing a book.



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karilona

posted February 23, 2009 at 9:25 am


Not to dis you or anything- but isn’t trying to be “cool” part of the adolescent part of life?
I still drink beer, not trying to be cool, and read the bible too.
I do think it’s pretty funny how you mention all the crazy hodge podge of christians- i.e. the ones with the funny poofy hairdo’s. To love unconditionally is a hard one.
But I do think certain “churches” will take the “beautiful” people who believe in Christ and use them as “advertisements” for their brand of spirituality. God forbid they should show a poor, homeless person on one of their adverts. (Although I have seen ads by the Salvation Army with the poor- and God bless them for this.)
Anyhow, thanks for your blog- I enjoy reading it.



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Joan Ball

posted February 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm


Karilona: I don’t feel dissed at all. In fact, I agree with you. If I take a good hard look at myself, I have come to see that I took my “adolescent part of life” way too far into my adulthood. Thanks for stopping by.



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