More Religious?

What makes you feel like something is religious? Is it something you feel, see, taste or refrain from tasting? Is it something you wear? 

When you feel like you’ve had a religious experience, what were your surroundings? Nature? Cement?  People? Music? Silence?

You must be wondering where I’m going with this. This week’s Portraits of White fan question was very thought-provoking. I’ve been chewing on it all summer.  

“Do you ever consider making Portraits of White more religious?”

I remember the first time I experienced someone who was obviously NOT religious—at least, not in the way I was raised.

I am 20 years old and I am working at Domino’s Pizza as a delivery driver in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, just outside the city of Tulsa. I am attending a two year Bible School program and need a job to help support myself for the next two years. 

It’s a fun job! In the winter, I do donuts in the parking lot in my little blue Mazda, when it snows. I eat plenty of great pizza—between deliveries, of course. I probably won’t stay at this job for long because it just doesn’t make sense (or cents) with the wear and tear on my car. But it’s all I can find for now. Not only will I learn the geography of Broken Arrow, I’m’ about to be introduced to the “world.”

My boss’s language was, well…let’s just say it was quite colorful. Though the words that I heard coming out of his mouth shocked me, I could tell that it was more than just his words that were different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I remember thinking to myself, “I thought you could tell if someone was religious by what they are wearing, but now I think I see that there’s more to it than just what you can see about someone.”

I had been raised in a very sheltered atmosphere at home, church and school. I was never aloud to say filler words like, “rats” or “darn.”  It just wasn’t proper or godly. I tried saying “rats” a few times, but my mother always scolded me. I didn’t like rats anyway, so it was no big deal to stop using the word.

As I grew into womanhood, I made sure I “looked” the part of being a religious person because it was easy to meet the standards. I knew clearly where the lines were. Well, mostly. I was never sure how long the dress should be, or whether I should wear my hair up or down. I just wanted to be perfect and loved. We certainly didn’t accessorize, though for some reason, a simple decorative pin might be ok from time to time. I didn’t really question the standards. I did what was recommended. I even tried to do above and beyond the expectations, just to be sure.

I certainly tried to make sure my heart was good too. It took me a long time to understand that there is so much more to living a God-life than the things you can see, taste, wear or say. In fact, some of the toughest times in my adult years came from conversations with my mother. She saw the world in black and white and sometimes I wanted to add some color—to my lips and my eyes. I liked fancy outfits and hair. 

In Oklahoma, I began to understand that I viewed God in black and white. It makes sense since that’s how I grew up. But, He was rather hard to please, in my opinion. I couldn’t have said this specifically back then because I was very busy and studious about trying to be perfect. I had always tried be perfect for Him, so He would love me. 

It’s taken me years to untangle myself from some of that thinking and to understand who God really is. I don’t have Him figured out yet and I’m old enough to know now that I never will. So I try to live with a much more open hand and heart, extending grace and compassion to others. I even wish I could meet my first “worldly” boss from Domino’s. I’d like a chance to understand his journey and what was really going on inside his heart, beyond his words. Instead of such quick deduction about him, I wish I could have taken the time to actually get to know him.

So back to Portraits of White. What would make it “feel” like a more religious program? Do I ever consider making it more religious? I just don’t know what “more religious” would look like. 

I write songs about my life. Snow. Sleigh rides. Miracles. God. Christmas. Loneliness. Death. I honestly don’t know how to compartmentalize my life. It’s all mixed into one big pot. All I know to do is offer up what is currently going on in my heart and life each year. I start with a blank page at the beginning of the planning stage and start writing according to what I sense I want to do in my heart. Everything I say, sing and write is an overflow of my heart. 

So you’re likely going to hear some sad songs and happy songs. You’ll probably laugh a little and might even cry. I want you to walk away feeling alive and inspired. I want you to know that some of the feelings you might experience during the holidays are normal and you’re not alone. 

I prefer to offer my gift and my heart to you. If you walk away feeling as if you’ve had a religious experience, I would be thrilled. But only you can know what that means for you.

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