The following articles were authored by DragonLady

15 Years – I Haven’t Forgotten

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I think it was last week when it hit me that it’s been 15 years since the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. It still seems like it was yesterday. But yet I also still remember what it was like pre-9/11 – when we weren’t always on high-alert. When I didn’t have to fight through a million what if scenarios in my head whenever I traveled.

I remember when people would talk about the United States and how no one would dare attack us on our own soil. I remember thinking how arrogant that was, and I knew it was going to happen eventually.

I don’t have the seething anger I did in the first 10 years. I don’t have the fear I used to have either.

I’m not saying I’m not still angry. I am still angry over the senseless loss of life of the innocent civilians over a twisted extreme religious ideology.

I spent a lot of time in the weeks immediately following 9/11 reading a lot of intelligence reports. Well, many of us did. I absolutely scared the living shit out myself doing that. That’s how I learned that just because you CAN read intel doesn’t necessarily mean you should. I decided that I didn’t need to know what I was consuming. I no longer have the fear I did. Not because I don’t read intel, but because I can’t stay on high-alert 24/7. If I’m constantly on guard watching all around me for danger, I am missing being in the moment. I’m not really living, but simply surviving as a control-freak – as if I can control everything going on around me. I’m no longer willing to be a slave to my fear.

If I live in fear, the terrorists win.

The world changed September 11, 2001, and I along with it. I will never forget.

Here’s the post from 2005 that I reposted 2009:

9/11 – Repost

And the one from 2013:

Remembering

Trump is not savior

I used to read Charisma News regularly. But then I stopped because there was just too much prosperity teaching and imminent end-times prophecy, that I decided it wasn’t worth weeding through all the false teaching for the few good articles. I am not a cessasionist, though I was raised to be one, so it’s not the charismatic gifts that put me off.

What happened is that I couldn’t let a political discussion go by on Facebook without adding my 2 cents. They are good friends, so I tried not to be a jerk, because I love and respect them. We just disagree. That said, the following article came into the conversation as part of the justification to vote for Trump. I have found no argument for Trump, Christian or secular, that remotely convinces me he would be a good choice. I did not want to vote for either of the previous 2 Republican candidates for president, but I held my nose each time to vote Republican rather than the Libertarian candidate even though my values are more in line with Libertarian than Republican.

Anyway, I disagreed with almost every single point Dr. Garlow makes in the following article, and because I can’t just let it go, I decided to respond to each of his points. The title told me it would me another fear-based argument.

If You’re On the Fence About Your Vote, This Pastor Clarifies How the Very Future of America Is At Stake

1. I can’t necessarily speak to this one. I’ve read neither platform. I have read the Libertarian platform, and it is more in line with my principles. I’ve never been liberal enough to be a Democrat, though from 1988 until 2004 (when I became an NC resident) I was a registered Democrat in Arkansas. The Republican party tarnished itself in my eyes with it’s treatment of Bill Clinton (of whom I am not at fan) over the Lewinski affair. Pun intended. I considered myself a right-wing pundit when I first started blogging in late 2004, and up until late 2008, was a staunchly conservative who fit right into Donald Trump’s base. It was in 2008 when I started going to church again for the first time in 19 years that led to a fresh encounter with the risen Jesus, and I have not been the same since. That’s when I really started hearing the right, and rejecting the fear-monging and hate. When I was a high school senior, I was chatting with one of my teachers, and I asked her if she was a Democrat or Republican. She told me, “I vote for candidates, not political parties.” Mrs. Lynch made no effort to hide her strong Christian roots and her absolute trust and love for Christ. She was smart, and kind, and I have loved and respected her for many years. She also knows first hand about persecution, because she is a black lady who grew up during Jim Crow.

2. Everybody is flawed. But the “Trump-type” is just the flip side of the “Hillary-type.” They are both liars. They are both on the far ends of the political spectrum. They have equally bad character, and the fact that Trump is so open with it makes it blatently obvious that he is not fit to represent our country as a leader.

3. This is flat out false. His blatent rude, crude, hateful behavior and speech show that he has neither character, temperment, nor demeaner befitting a leader. He is a bully who made himself a caricature of the far right with all of it’s fear-mongering, and sold it to a constituency who has been fed false fear for decades.

4. This in no way excuses Trump’s behavior. The Clintons are not worse than him. He has his own scandalous past and he is completely unrepentent. At least Bill Clinton apologized over the Lewinsky affair. Not that anyone on the right accepted it. Hillary has the emails, Benghazi, and Whitewater. Nixon had the missing 15 minutes of recordings, Reagan had Iran-Contra, George W. Bush had deleted emails. Congress held multiple hearings on Benghazi and could not find evidence of willful wrongdoing. And for all his aggressive investigation, Ken Starr could not find enough evidence to bring any charges on Whitewater. He bribed an Attorney General. Meanwhile, Trump refuses to release his tax returns while pointing to the Clinton Foundation. What’s he hiding? He’s awful friendly with Russia…

5. Trump is not being surrounded with good people. He is surrounding himself with white nationalists, and fear-mongers.

6. Trump is wrong on most issues. Hillary is not wrong about everything. This is standard right-wing propaganda that conservatives alone know the truth and the liberals are evil and wrong. It is a lie and it is this polarization of us vs them that is the biggest problem right now in our nation.

7. More fear-mongering. Trade and partnership among nations is not evil in and of itself. “Principalities and powers” is not referring to humanity, but is referring to demons and spiritual warfare. “For we do not war against flesh and blood…” He conveniently left that part of the verse out.

8. He has the right to be wrong also. Christians absolutely should vote their conscious. And if that means not voting because they can’t in good conscious vote for any candidate, who are we to judge? I beleive Paul had something to say about Christian conscious/liberty, and it wasn’t about someone with “stronger” faith coercing someone with a “weaker” faith.

9. This is flat out bullying and a LIE. A 3rd party vote is a vote for a 3rd party candidate. Period.

10. Trump didn’t move pro-life. And being anit-abortion does not make someone pro-life. This is another matter where Trump is playing the right. And Trump’s overall rhetoric echo’s/parallels that of Nazi Germany. Roe v Wade is not going to be repealed. That fight is over from a legal standpoint. But we can stop shaming unmarried pregnant women by stop holding them solely responsible for their pregnacy. Stop calling them whores. Treat them with the dignity that we would want shown to us if it were us in that position. Most women who go for abortions feel they have no other choice because of the way they are shamed – most often by Christians. Support pregnancy centers. Support adoptions. This will do more to drop the abortion rate (which actually has dropped during the Obama administration) than name-calling and fear-mongering. As for the talk of “giving an account,” either the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover every sin, or we have a works-based salvation. And if it is works-based, we are all doomed.

11. This is just a load of crap. Trump supports torture and killing of innocents.

12. Given our history of human trafficking and enslavement of Africans during our early history, further treatment of black people as “less than” (even to this day) since the Civil War, the forced relocation of the indiginous peoples of North American (which amounted to genocide), along with breaking every single treaty made with the Native American peoples, I think we have never really been the pillar of morality as a nation. We are no worse now than we ever were. As the proverb states, there is nothing new under the sun. This is a whitewashed narrative of our nation’s history, and I emphasize “white.” Our nation is just another Gentile nation with no special significance over other Gentile nations. We’ve always been temporary. I grew up with plenty of end-times teaching, and so I know that the United States is not mentioned among the nations who will be players in the end times. Oh, and we have been in the end times since Jesus ascended. The writers of the New Testament refer to their time as the endtimes. No one knows the day nor hour. And NO party or candidate is going to hasten or delay the day and time that God has already set.

13. The Republicans are just as bad as the Democrats with regards to government spending, and Trump has filed bankruptcy 4 times. He clearly is not financially responsible.

14. Cronyism is not just a problem with Democrats. And Trump isn’t going to have that kind of power to stop it particularly when he is surrounded by his own cronies. He is a rich kid who inherited his money, profited off of gambling and objectifying women, and is known for not paying his contractors.

15. Doubtful. Wait, is this guy claiming to be a prophet? Because isn’t this said of every Republican? And Republicans are just as guilty.

16. We have not lost any religious liberty. What we are losing is religious privilege and we NEED to lose that because we shouldn’t be expecting – and certainly not demanding – special treatment. This is not what Jesus taught.

17. This is again, complete bull. The right complains about the left legislating from the bench, but wants to put conservatives on the bench to do the very same thing. It’s hypocritical, and just more fear-mongering.

18. We honor Christ by voting as the Holy Spirit leads us. Any Christian leader telling us we need to vote for a certain candidate or party or “suffer dire consequences” is engaging in spritual abuse. It is controlling behavior, which is a character defect I have making me able to easily spot it. (“If you spot it, you probably got it.”) Jesus called us to lead by being servants, not tyrants. The Gospel is good news, and love drives out fear. When we base our vote choice on self-preservation (whether individual preservation or tribe), we are not only acting contrary to the Gospel, but we are acting contrary to the spirit of American freedom which is to work for the common good of ALL people – not just those who look like, act like, and agree with us.

1 John 4:18 New International Version (NIV) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Religion and politics make strange bedfellows

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When I was a high school senior, I was pretty involved in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) club in my high school. I didn’t necessarily care anything about being a business leader (I wanted to be a pharmacist at the time), but I absolutely adored the FBLA sponsor, Mrs. Alveretta Lynch. One day I remember asking her, “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?” I have no idea why I was even going there, except that it was 1987, and I was going to be turning 18 soon. Her answer to me was not at all expected, and made a huge impact on me. She told me she was neither. “I vote for candidates, not political parties.” She went on to explain her decision-making process for choosing a candidate, and I took it all in because I not only loved her, but I respected her. I still do.

I’ve dabbled in politics over the years, though if anyone were to dig up my political posts from my original blog instance, it would seem more than dabbling. I was full on pundit, and staunchly conservative. When I turned 18, I went as soon as possible and registered to vote. I registered as a Democrat because the county I grew up in was majority Democrat to the point that if you weren’t a registered Democrat, you didn’t vote for local officials because only Democrats were running. Therefore, the local elections were decided in the primary. A couple of years before, I had worked on a campaign for an Independent candidate. After I was registered, there was a shortage of primary poll workers in our ward, and one of my friends recruited me to work along with her. 2 just-turned 18-year-olds working as poll workers for the Democratic primary. We still had paper ballots back then. That made for a LONG night of counting ballots. But I loved it. I was part of the process, and not only did I work the primary for the Democrats, but I ended up working for the county in the general election for 2 or 3 years. And while I was a registered Democrat, I voted nearly exclusively Republican. It was the 80s, and I loved me some Reagan. I also disliked me some Clinton.

While in the Air Force, whenever I came across a voting rep, I would get an absentee ballot. I still largely voted Republican, but the Republicans’ treatment of Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair (pun intended) felt so over the top. Yes, he was a dog and flat out lied about it, but prosecution over a blow job is overkill. I’m sure many of the Republicans pushing that were just as guilty of infidelity. (I’m looking at you, Newt Gingrich.) It was just enough taint on the “party of values,” that when I became an NC resident, I left my voter registration as “Undeclared.” I haven’t voted in most of the primaries, but the ones I have, I’ve picked the Democrat primary ballot. Mainly because I live in a largely Democratic county, and local candidates have a much greater impact on me personally than state or national. And I must say, the Democrats who have stopped by our house campaigning for local commissioners have been much more reasonable and pleasant than the one Republican who came across as angry and paranoid.

And I was also an angry and paranoid conservative.

Something happened when I started going to church again a few years ago. What happened when I started back to church was that I had a fresh encounter with God. I can state with certainty, and I think the scriptures back this up, that once you have had an encounter with the risen Jesus, you are never the same. I was devouring the Bible, religious non-fiction, religious blogs, and podcasts. I started praying real prayers instead of my previous prayer life of largely “foxhole prayers.” I threw myself into service at church. Meanwhile, my life was slowly falling apart. Work was awful. My marriage was deteriorating. I covered all my issues up by becoming a self-righteous Pharisee (and drinking a lot). Or maybe I always was a self-righteous Pharisee, and was just letting it out. Perhaps I still am to some degree.

At some point I became a single-issue voter. Because I am pro-life, I picked pro-life candidates, and that left me with just the Republican candidates. But this former Tea Party conservative finally started hearing the right wing and beginning to see so much nastiness towards others. I increasingly saw a major disconnect between my faith the politics of the right wing. I had seen how the left wing demonized and dehumanized the right, but suddenly I could see that the right was doing the exact same thing to the left. I started seeing people as people instead of nameless, faceless groups who were a threat to my freedom, and by freedom I really mean comfort. Eventually I realized that being pro-life is much more than being merely anti-abortion.

When I started reading the Bible (and I’ve read the entire Bible, cover to cover, more than once and more than one translation), I began to see things I had never seen, and certainly never heard in the conservative/fundamentalist/patriarchal/complementarian churches I grew up in and later attended. For instance, I have heard my entire life that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah over homosexuality. But in actually reading the account, that is not the issue particularly when the Bible elsewhere largely refers to their self-centeredness as the reason for their destruction.(1) Sodom and Gomorrah were full of rapists, and that is central to the reason for destruction.

I also started noticing that individual verses have a greater context, and that the books in the Bible weren’t written with chapters and verses, and defintely without subject headers added by publishers. “The Bible clearly says” rarely follows with a clear-cut black and white statement. I learned nuance, and that most circumstances are not clearly black and white. The Apostle Paul spoke about liberty as Christians, and I started to see what that really meant. Finally, decades after memorizing the verses as a child, I started to grasp “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NASB. So when I finally came to the end of myself, I was able to wholeheartedly surrender EVERYTHING: possessions, job, status, marriage, children, Mom, extended family. Even my freedom and my very life. Because either Jesus is enough, or the foundation of my faith is built on sand.

With my newfound enlightenment (I say that tongue-in-cheek), I discovered that there is a huge lack of discernment among American Christians. We place our pastors and elders on pedestals where they don’t belong because we have somehow gotten the notion that they are more spiritual than us. I think we have also decided that they have special insight into politics, and so we make our political decisions based on our pastors’ and other religious leaders’ opinions. We say our hearty “A-MEN”s when they decry the world’s sin, and thereby feed our own self-righteousness by comparing ourselves to the world. Then we set about to fight culture wars wherein we demonize and dehumanize the sinners while thanking God we are not like them. (Luke 18:9-14) We fret and stew that if we do not win, God is going to smite us with his terrible wrath. So we have to work harder and harder to win control – to rule.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1 KJV

But, Jesus did not die so we could rule over others. Jesus set aside his divinity, and his ruling authority with it, to set us free from the bondage of self-serving. If we are to follow Christ – to walk in His ways – we should be laying aside our privilege and desire to control in order to server others as salt and light in a dark and broken world. Since the 4th Century, we have plenty of evidence to show that whenever Christendom is ruling, oppression and tyranny soon follow – from the ruling Christians. Jesus didn’t command us to rule, and he certainly didn’t tell us to seek out personal comfort and pleasure.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus did not die to set us free so we can live the American Dream. He died to set us free FROM the American Dream.

According to the American Dream, our individual success and happiness are dependent upon our individual effort. Hence our happiness is dependent upon our own hard work and opportunity. And when we don’t have the opportunity for our subjective happiness/prosperity, we run the risk at best for resenting whoever is blocking that. Therefore, without the perfect opportunity to match our hard work, we are going to be disappointed in other people/systems, then angry, then make them our enemy. We become self-absorbed and self-centered in our pursuit of happiness which we think we are going to find in something (or someone) external to us. That is what Jesus sets us free from by becoming the one who gives us our sense of worth and brings us into his family through His work alone.Then we are truly free to love and serve others – friends and enemies alike.

The flaw in the pursuit of the American Dream is in it’s individualism. “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The pursuit of happiness by humans, by our very nature, becomes a self-centered pursuit. We end up with a class/culture conflict because those with less opportunity want more, while those with more don’t want to give up anything (and often want more). This brings us to an “us vs them” mentality by both sides wherein each has to resort to dehumanizing the other side in order to maintain the resentments/fear against the other. Our politicians then play on that resentment and fear, and we all dig in deeper in our trenches because we are laying up our treasure here on earth. Our materialistic pursuits never ever satisfy us and always become divisive. That’s what Jesus sets us free from. Endless pursuit of temporary treasure. He alone can satisfy our pursuit of happiness because he did all the work, and we who believe in Him reap the reward of true worth and contentment independent of our national heritage.

You cannot simultaneously say “America First” while saying that this country needs Jesus. The message of Jesus is always others first. This is why we are in danger when we follow the Franklin Grahams, Wayne Grudems, James Dobsons, Jerry Falwells (Sr & Jr), and Pat Robertsons. They have been deceived by their fear and the human desire for power that we all possess. This is the only reason I can see that at least 3 of them have endorsed a candidate for President of the United States that has such appallingly bad character as to make the Clintons look like saints in comparison. This is the only explanation for why so many Christians would resort to spiritual abuse to try to guilt other Christians into voting for Donald Trump.

Jesus already won, and he didn’t do it with swords or guns or ballots. He did it on the cross. When we believe this, we will be able to vote for character rather than charisma, and we can vote with a clear conscious for a candidate with little to no chance of winning because we will not fear whomever is elected, yet will not vote for someone with terrible character. And we can stand up to the bullies who peddle fear to coerce us into voting the way they want, and tell them that our vote is not being wasted when we vote our conscious with complete liberty. Just like Mrs. Lynch taught me to vote for candidates, not parties.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36 KJV

(1) “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done.” Ezekiel 16:49-51 NIV. Only Jude 7 refers to the sexual immorality. All other references beyond the account of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction are either references to the destruction, or comparison to how much worse the people of Israel became.

A farewell for now

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I now belong to an “elite club,” as my cousin Carolyn Jo put it. My mom passed away May 4, and I now belong to that “elite club” of having lost both of my parents. As I said when my dad died nearly 9 years ago, you might think you have prepared yourself for that phone call, but when you get that call, you realize that you can’t ever be emotionally prepared. I say that as someone who does not like emotional pain, and whose default response to a negative emotion is to shut down. This becomes particularly true for someone like me who gets that call while I am out with a friend. Despite the fact that my therapist told me (as I melted down multiple times on her in one session) that it is okay to cry in front of Petra.

But I almost cried in front of Petra as she witnessed that phone call I got from Sharon.

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It’s been a whole month now. There is still a lot of emotion. No matter how certain I am of the eternal resting place of her soul, I still miss her. Much. With the Alzheimer’s and it’s associated dementia, I’ve been losing her for a few years. I am grateful that those years were few. When my Aunt Florabel started losing her memory, I remember Mom telling me that she was afraid that would happen to her. And then it did. She never completely lost her memory, and she never lost her core kind and humorous personality. She didn’t suffer from pain, and she considered the complications from the COPD (recurring pneumonia) a mere annoyance.

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There’s a story behind this next picture. One year just before Christmas, Mom asked me more than once if I had gotten a Christmas card from Carolyn Jo. I thought it odd that she asked me more than once, but didn’t dwell on it. Then I got the card, and died laughing! A couple months prior my cousin Jill (Carolyn’s daughter) had gotten married. Mom got picked on over all the beer (which she didn’t partake of because she didn’t drink), and someone made the remark to her that she couldn’t even bring herself to pick up a bottle. So, Mom being Mom, showed them, and picked up and empty bottle and posed. Carolyn took the photo and made Christmas cards. Of course, Mom about died, but the entire rest of the family LOVED it! I framed mine, and Mom gave me the stink eye over it.

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Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. Her wisdom, her laughter, and her love. It’s farewell for now, but I know one day I will see her again.

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The edge of insanity

“Very few people could stay sane in your home. You are not a failure.”

Drews, Toby Rice (2011-03-30). “Getting Them Sober, volume one — You CAN help!” (“Getting Them Sober” Book 1) (Kindle Location 1445). Recovery Communications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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“I was standing on the precipice. Something had to give or else I was going to have to numb more often.” I was standing in a friend’s kitchen when I had that epiphany. Granted she had said something that flipped the switch so that light could come on. But at that moment, I realized just how close I came to losing it – completely.

Truth is, I had already lost it. It just hadn’t become apparent to anyone else. My bubble of control of my carefully crafted public persona had burst and I couldn’t get it back together. It’s probably safe to say that bubble was cracked and extremely fragile from the get-go. Lord knows I was sick before I ever took that first drink.

Lately I’ve been pondering why. Why when I hit that wall and fell apart did I reach out for help instead of turning to my old standby of numbing and escaping? I mean, I did, but not what I would have done had I not sought out therapy and group support. Why was I able to get that honest with my doctor?

I think back a few years to a periodic reinvestigation I went through for work. It was by far the worst one I’ve gone through. It occurred to me during that process just how isolated I was. I didn’t look at it that way exactly. I just looked at it as a red flag that I didn’t have any kind of a social life outside of work. And since I had been considering going back to church anyway, I decided that going to church would keep me from looking so isolated. Because I had an appearance to maintain. We found a church we liked, and I was able to make enough friends that I could list a few for my next reinvestigation and wouldn’t look like such a loner.

I always laugh when I think about that one. I listed Petra as a reference, and then I turned around and told her my junk. Of course at that point in time, I didn’t dare tell her everything, but a lot. I hadn’t set out to make “real” friends. My goal was my typical not-too-deep friends. (Which I differentiate from shallow.) Molly and Karyn got all up in that inner circle too. Actually, Molly is the root of that whole circle. She is the one who wouldn’t let me sit quietly on the sidelines observing. This might seem like I am digressing, but those ladies, Sarah, and Jessica (whom I don’t know quite as well as the others) played a key role in the beginning of my journey back to sanity.

Although I still had to hit bottom.

But it became real easy to get real with Petra and Karyn. Not surface-level, but “Hey guys, here’s my junk! I’m depressed and my marriage is a wreck!” I couldn’t train for 2 half marathons with Karyn and not end up in some deep conversation. I still say it was all Molly’s doing. She “forced” me to help set up for VBS with Petra and Brittany. Heck, she somehow managed to talk me into being the music leader for that VBS. She got me running by talking me into joining a newly formed local running club. She wouldn’t have asked me to lead the music if I hadn’t managed to become one of the worship leaders on Sundays. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t joined the worship team due to an intense prodding in my gut. The girl who quit the youth choir in high school because she wasn’t going to do a solo ending up leading worship? That’s doesn’t compute.

None of it computes.

I was just thinking the other day about how several people I know who grew up in similar legalistic Baptist environments as I, and walked away wanting nothing to do with Christianity. Sure, I walked away, too, but I always felt called back.

I’ve been through a lot of doubt and blaming God, and the doubts and blame have always boiled down to wrong beliefs about His character based on wrong teaching. I’m even no longer willing to go so far as to call it false teaching because I am less inclined to attribute malicious intent and instead give the benefit of the doubt that it’s just lack of discernment because we naturally expect our pastors and teachers to be humbly teaching us truth.

So why was I drawn back? Why didn’t I lose faith and hope? Why, when my carefully constructed and controlled world fell apart, did I not give up, give in, and self-medicate myself into oblivion?

Grace.

Grace blows my mind. There is no reason whatsoever I should have been delivered from my self-destructive attitude and behaviors. Nothing I did to deserve deliverance.

Just grace.

Laws do no transform hearts. Legalism doesn’t provide any protection from temptation. Rules don’t heal broken hearts nor do they sooth deep crushing pain.

Oh, but grace.

Grace will turn a heart of stone into living flesh. Grace will turn self-centeredness into love – genuine love – for “the least of these,” and not because of what the “least” can give them.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

And grace will restore you to sanity even when you are sure you have passed the point of no return.

No magic formulas

When I have a problem, I want a simple, clear-cut solution. I want it fixed, and I want a simple plan to do so. I also want immediate results, but that’s another matter.

Being the self-sufficient perfectionist I am, I am all about some self-help. Ah, yes, give me a blog post with 3-10 steps on how to fix what’s wrong. Give me a book that explains the real reason that whatever it is is broken, along with the steps I need to take to fix them. Oh, it’s a Christian blog or book? Score! It’s gonna do the trick!

That is, as long as I believe that God moves according to the works I do or behaviors I do not do. Which is to say, I have to do certain things and avoid other things in order to earn God’s favor.

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What I found from the vast majority of the Christian “self-help” books is that they are largely written as prescriptive when they are actually experiential. They also tend to be upper-middle class, suburbanites who have “traditional households” where the husband works as the breadwinner, and the wife is a stay-at-home mom. Sure, the wife might write and speak at conferences, but the entire family dynamic is still “traditional.” (And I’m not saying nor wish to imply that there is anything wrong with the “traditional” family model.)

I fully believed that if I did the things in those books, that things would get better. Our marriage would be better. Our finances would be better. Our kids would be model students. Yet, the harder I worked, the worse things got. “I’m doing all the right things! Why isn’t this working?!”

The number one reason following the directions/suggestions in those books and blogs doesn’t work is this:

All that crap falls apart when active alcoholism, drug addiction, and/or abuse are involved.

And that’s when you are left with “you reap what you sow.”

You made the choice to take that first drink.

You made the choice to marry an alcoholic/addict.

“Submit to your husband and pray for him.”

Guess what? That doesn’t necessarily work. Especially if you both came from dysfunctional families and neither of you have dealt with those issues. Though you absolutely should be praying for him, and he for you.

I want to make perfectly clear that I am not saying the typical Christian self-help book is not useful or helpful. Like any other type of non-fiction, some are great, some are fluff, and some just stink to high heaven. Often even the fluff has really good nuggets.

What I am saying is that there is no quick-fix, easy step-by-step method – Christian or otherwise – that is a magic formula for fixing a marriage or getting out of debt or beating an addiction. There is no “Do this and everything is going to turn out great just the way you want it” system that can guarantee you are going to get what you want (or more honestly, what you think you want).

A marriage doesn’t get fixed by one spouse doing all of (or even most of) the work.

You don’t get out of debt by subscribing to a get-rich-quick scheme, and this includes the “magic tithe.” (Malachi 3:10)

Repercussions from abuse do not go away by submitting to the abuse nor by forgiving (voluntarily and certainly not coercively) the abuser.

Children raised in a dysfunctional home are not necessarily going to be model students no matter how intelligent they are.

Life is hard and takes a lot of work. Don’t let anyone sell you an easy path to happiness. There isn’t one, and this is particularly true for followers of Jesus. Odd are, when things get particularly rough, you will find yourself screaming at God, “I did all the right things! Why am I the one being punished?!?!” And you know what? He won’t strike you down. But in that moment, you will be left with a choice.

“Do I really believe?”

My answer to that question became the guide to how I look at my circumstances. Because ultimately that determines whether I will be grateful for what I have, or bitter at what I don’t have.

It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld–one attitude or the other becomes a way of life. – Elisabeth Elliot

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

What I read this week – 1/22/16

Bookstore-WM

I do a lot of reading, and when an article resonates with me or is interesting (or funny or weird), I will post it to Facebook. I posted an article recently in a private group along with a plain statement about who the article reminded me of. One of the members thought I had posted that comment on my personal wall, which would have been a bold move, but a jerk move. And that’s when she called me out for how I post articles clearly (from our perspective) directed at certain groups passive aggressively. #truth Anyway, same person made the statement that she sees articles I post and makes a mental note to read them later, but then doesn’t. So I offered to send her an email compilation. Instead, I’m going to do a blog post so that I am actually posting. And perhaps adding some commentary.

10 Things That Scare Me About the “Purity” Culture

The “Purity” Culture came along after I was a teen, so I missed out on the purity rings and dating my dad stuff. Which, I didn’t want to go anywhere with my dad anyway. However, I was still taught much of the legalism behind the Purity Culture, and bore the weight of not measuring up alone and also got some added shame piled on me from not being “good” enough.

Sheila also wrote a great follow up to that one:

A Letter To All Those Who Feel They Have Lost Their Purity

Why You Should Tell Your Story, Even if It’s Messy

I have learned in the last few years that while my story is unique, it’s also not. There are loads of people who have gone through similar things and are struggling with similar stuff, and we need to know that we are not alone and someone else understands. Which isn’t to say that I’m not freaking out a little bit about speaking this weekend and telling my story. Even though I’ve done it before.

because this is the year you’re facing your demons & fears

“Have you ever had to face a monster? What did it look like? Where was it lurking when you found it? What did it take to face it without getting taken under?” I am actually in the process of facing a “monster” that’s been with me my whole life.

To You who Shames Yourself

I think those of us who grew up in an abusive environment are especially susceptible to self-shaming. Part of my “monster.”

What Have I to Fear

Petra and I had a really good discussion over this one even though she didn’t read the article. But I quoted the money quote with the article, so she got the gist of it. And I made this comment: “You know this is my “passive-aggressive” means of calling out all my uber-conservative christian fb friends who think the sun rises and sets on Franklin Graham and Fox News quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 as if it’s even applicable because they have their flags so tightly wrapped around their bibles they can’t see that they really worship at the alter of American prosperity rather than following Jesus and enduring the suffering that he told us would come with truly following him.” And that was when she told me to drop my shoulders and breathe. Haha!

You’re All One Team

Good stuff from Joseph. I don’t care where you are working, or whether it’s volunteer or paid, when your teams are not working together, it hurts everybody.

Biblical Womanhood … Not What Many Think (RJS)

I’ve had to say this before, and I will say it again. I am not a “man-hating feminist.” I don’t believe that women AS A WHOLE should rule. But, neither do I believe exclusive male-rule is what God planned for mankind. I believe patriarchy is a result of the fall and male headship is part of the curse. Men and women are each uniquely gifted, but not according to gender. Men and women were created to lead together. To have dominion over the earth together. To have one gender asserting complete control over the other will always end up resulting in oppression, abuse, and blame shifting.

Rather than end on a contentious note, I will share a bit of a conversation I had with Petra yesterday via FB messenger. The whole thing was made funnier by the fact that I didn’t have my glasses with me at the start of it and couldn’t read it properly on my phone. But she told me that we should have gone to Fayetteville last night to see Peter Cetera. Not that she was really up for it, but I have my own reasons not to go to, well, most concerts.

PeterCetera-WM

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2015 – Year in review – sort of

2015 was the year my world finally finished falling apart.

I don’t remember many of the details of the exchange between my daughter and I last summer. I remember saying something that ended with “my world is falling apart.” To which she replied, “It’s not falling apart; it’s just changing.” To which I replied, “Yeah, well, I guess I don’t deal well with change.” And that’s when she said, “Yeah, that’s the autism,” and the conversation ended.

Stolen from the friend who originally posted on Facebook.

Stolen from the friend who originally posted it on Facebook.

So much changed that I found myself several times last year asking myself, “Who even are you?” Really though, I’m the same person I’ve always been, but I’m just a little bit less scared. I really noticed it that day I stepped up and volunteered to sing at church in my friend’s place when she had to step down last minute. The DragonLady doesn’t volunteer for stuff, and she certainly doesn’t volunteer for big stuff. But I also got called out for being passive aggressive right at the end of the year, so, you know, baby steps.

Also, my son finally talked me into playing WoW. Gaming is such a time suck. *sigh*

Anyway, I know it’s the 2nd day of 2016, and I’m just now posting my year end review. Because I really don’t like them, but whatevs. Here’s my 10 most popular posts of 2015 according to one of my tracking accounts that doesn’t capture every visit. Because Google Analytics overwhelmed me. haha!

10. Raise Your Hands

This one is 2 years old, and I’m sure it’s still getting hits because of Bon Jovi. As a brief follow-up, I’m much less uncomfortable raising my hands while singing now.

9. When I realized my greatest loss

8. “and he will rule over you”

Oh, yeah. I dropped my shaky adherence to complimentarianism.

7. Triggering Onions

There was a LOT of onion peeling that went on.

6. “…and the wind won’t stop.”

“That’s my soul up there.” Oh, the pain. And it’s gotten much better. Until the next weather system moves in.

5. Real Freedom

4. Dumping the junk

This is all well and good until I find myself having to do another 4th & 5th step. ;)

3. “The needs of the many…”

Blech. But I referenced Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

2. #medicatedandmighty – It’s complicated

Erin is a new friend, and I’m so glad I got to meet her before she got all famous. Ha! Seriously, she is such an inspiration. A Wonder Woman.

1. The pain of letting go

This. Still. Hurts. Funny how my most popular post is the one where I announce I kicked my husband out. Not haha funny. But, he called me yesterday, and we talked for over an hour. And it was a good talk. And then I cried for a couple of minutes until my daughter came out of her room yelling, “ARE YOU FINALLY OFF THE PHONE?!?”

So, yeah, happy new year!

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The Conservative Christian’s Prosperity Gospel

As Christians who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, why then, as many times as God tells his people, “Fear not,” do we spend so much time worrying and hand-wringing over things we cannot control?

I often think that the calls by some pastors for a national repentance and revival are borne out of fear of losing American entitlement more than concern for the individuals in our nation. I am not saying they don’t care about people, but that they care more for our prosperous way of life. They fear suffering as much as their congregations do, and rather than repeating God’s word to “Fear not,” they stoke fear.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for the United States of America.

There is a reason that the United States is not mentioned in the Bible.

We ain’t all that.

We have been undeservedly blessed with prosperity. Undeserved because we were not founded on Judeo-Christian values as touted by 20th century revisionists. We are no more sinful as a nation now than we were when our country was founded.

We were founded on the principle that only white men of European ancestry had value. Women had no vote. Male African slaves were worth 3/5 that of a white man. The indigenous people living in North America had no value, and were systematically rounded up, forced to relocate, and often slaughtered so that there is now just a small remnant of a few tribes left.

And we have the gall to think we are entitled to our way of life.

We have spent our prosperity on our own comfort, and above all we do not want to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is too much like suffering, and lord knows we do not deserve to suffer. We are to be healthy and blessed. It’s the sinners who are to suffer: the addicts, the alcoholics, the fornicators, the homosexuals, the abortionists, the feminists, the atheists, and certainly without doubt the Muslims. Not us. We made a decision to follow Christ and now God owes us health, wealth, prosperity, and security because we are not like those people.

We have followed a false American god for too long. We as Christians need to repent every bit as much as sinners. But not for our prosperity. No. So that we can once again be salt and light in the world and do good to others. Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and take care of widows and orphans. We are saints because Jesus declared us to be saints. Not because we were or are good enough to be a saint. We did not and do not deserve the grace we have been given. And rather than worrying and stewing about ISIS and Democrats/Republicans, we should give to others out of the abundance we have been given.

Because that is what the Savior we call Lord told us to do.

Without fear.

Without worry.

Without judgement.

With love.

Because He first loved us.

If what you are preaching and proclaiming sounds is indistinguishable from the messages proclaimed in a political debate or rally, you are not being salt and light in the world. Our hope does not rest in a political solution. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Not in “old fashioned,” “traditional,” or “conservative” Christianity. Not in “progressive” or “modern” Christianity. Not in the President of the United States, the Republican party, the Democrat Party, Congress, or the Supreme court. Not in laws or guns or gun control or a Confederate battle flag.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:18-21 ESV)

When Christmas isn’t so merry

LinusTree

How does one get through the holidays with so much broken in the world?

What about the military members who are spending the holiday season in inhospitable parts of the world rather than with their families? What about their families who acutely feel their absence?

What about the prisoner? And his or her family?

What about the elderly in the nursing homes?

What about the disabled in group care homes?

What about the fathers who will not be spending Christmas with their children because of separation or divorce?

What about the mothers who will not be spending Christmas with their children because of separation or divorce?

What about the children who can’t be with both of their parents at the same time because of separation or divorce?

What about the parents who can’t afford to buy their kids the gifts they want for Christmas?

What about the parents who can’t even afford to feed their children?

What about the families that will be together, but the holidays will be miserable because of addiction or alcoholism or straight up abuse?

What about the families who lost love ones during this or past holiday season who are dealing with the 1st or 3rd or 14th Christmas without?

What do you do with broken people at Christmas?

What do you do when you can’t fix what’s broken?

What do you do with the broken-hearted?

What do you do with your own broken heart?

How do you make a difference?

There is so much pain and suffering in so many people’s lives right now. Broken people who cannot be fixed by slogans and cliche. People who need more than a trite saying or Bible verse no matter how much truth is in it. It’s in these times of pain that we need our pain acknowledged as being real and complicated, and that someone is there with us. Not to try and fix us. Not to tell us we made our own bed even if our pain is due to our own making.

We need someone there to remind us that we are not alone in those dark moments where we feel utterly alone. Even if it is to just sit with us silently while we weep.

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