The following articles were authored by DragonLady

A little respect

Topic 1 of This Series

This topic was at the bottom of my list. I was also what I was originally working up to with Love your neighbor but news of Ahmaud Arbery’s, Breonna Taylor’s, and George Floyd’s murders were more urgent to address loving our neighbors. Now that it’s Pride Month, it seems like the time for the topic of changing my mind about LGBTQIA.

It all began with Sodom and Gomorrah. All my life I was taught they were destroyed because of homosexuality. I just accepted that as fact because I didn’t believe the churches I attended would teach something false. After all, Landmarkism was developed precisely to refute wrong doctrine. (That’s a post that I’ve probably written at some point.) Hence, I believed the Procter and Gamble connection to Satanism when I heard it taught at church. (It was not true.) But the backward masking scare tripped my bullshit detector despite only being about 13 years old. (My intuition correctly detected it was bullshit.) That was the first crack in my “church is always right” (as long as it’s a Landmark Missionary Baptist) wall.

Still I believed what I had been taught about Sodom and Gomorrah because “the Bible is clear.” The story is clear, but it says something a bit different from the narrative I was taught. (Read the story, Genesis 18:16 – 19:29) Sodom wasn’t “full of gay men;” it was full of greedy rapists. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament when Sodom is mentioned with the reasons for its destruction it was not over sex. It was the wealth the city didn’t share with the poor and lack of hospitality. (Ezekiel 16:49)

All the teaching that LGBTQIA+ people in this country would cause our destruction is based on a false interpretation. “Teh gays” represent no threat to the nation. I felt duped even though part of the problem was that I didn’t read the passage myself for most of my life. The crack in the wall grew bigger.

I continued believing for a while that it was a major and damning sin because my indoctrination has deep roots. However, I was no longer “hostile” toward it. I had to many gay friends and family to ever wish harm to anyone. Eventually I reached a point where I was no longer confident that the Bible was “clear” about it.* As it turns out, there is missing context for what was likely being portrayed in the Law given to Israel after they were led out of Egypt.

God’s people, Israel, were set apart by God and were instructed in the Law how to look and act differently from the other nations who worshipped other gods. (Leviticus 18:3) Part of that had to do with sex. (Leviticus 18) The surrounding nations had fertility gods and were believed to have sexual rituals associated with the temples to and worship of those gods. As I wrote in Love your neighbor, “All of the laws about loving our neighbor either seek to prevent harming them, or provide justice to those who have been harmed. Even the commands to love God provide protection and justice to others because idol worship always leads to oppression.” Lesbian sex was not mentioned in the law though sex with animals was prohibited for men and women. The author of Diary of an Autodidact explains the meaning of the word translated “sexual immorality”:

First, the word translated “sexual immorality” is porneia, which has an…interesting history. The word is thrown around a LOT in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Porneia is used primarily to describe idolatry or selling oneself to another god. (The root of the word combines “sex” and “transaction,” that is “prostitution.”) So the Israelites seemed to be continually committing “porneia” with other gods. Esau committed “porneia” when he sold his birthright. (How crazy is that?) Christianity, particularly starting with patriarchal church fathers like Augustine, decided that “porneia” really meant sex outside of marriage, which is…not its clear meaning. To the Greeks and Romans, porneia had become an idiomatic way to refer to “acceptable” extra-marital sex – namely, men sleeping with prostitutes or raping their slaves. (There was a different word, moicheia, to refer to adultery – that is, a man messing with another (free)man’s chattel.) This could be an entire rabbit hole here, but suffice it to say that the cultural baggage of the Greco-roman world combined with the cultural baggage of Second Temple Judaism to create a whole doctrine that is rather foreign to the Torah or to the culture the bible was written in.

It does not appear that consensual sex was what the Bible writers were portraying as sin. I’m not saying I think it’s okay for us to go out and sleep around with whoever we want. I just don’t see how consensual sex between 2 people in a romantic relationship with one another is the abomination God was referring to – gay or straight – and certainly not marriage. He is much more concerned with oppression.

*I’m not saying the Bible is not inerrant. I’m saying neither translation nor interpretation are inerrant.

Test and renew


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I have been planning a series of items of doctrine I was taught and indoctrinated (not meant as pejorative) with that I have changed my mind about. None of the changes were based on a whim or a “feeling” but from study after praying for discernment to see the truth. In every case I began with the Truth of God’s love for his creation as is shown to us through Jesus. No doctrine that is not rooted in the Truth of God’s love (though through a mirror dimly) can be correct. No doctrine applied in condemnation or oppression is valid because it does not come from a spirit of God’s love. Any doctrine applied out of self-interest to gain or maintain power and/or material comfort is not from a love either our neighbor or God. A good picture of how love for others looks (besides the Cross) is I Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This will serve as the foundation of each subsequent topic along with a previous post, Love your neighbor. I’m not claiming to be 100% correct. None of us can make that claim. My motivation for studying the doctrines has been part of my deconstruction and rebuilding upon a solid foundation of love rather than fear. It has been helpful in rooting out my bias and prejudices, but also from “unpure” motive of a desire to “win” debate/arguments. My motives aren’t pure and I want to share that because we all have biases and many, most, or all are rooted in the particular culture we grew up in and later chose as adults when choice is an option. For myself, given the career field in which I plan to work, it is imperative that I identify my bias and prejudice because we can’t care for and help someone we don’t believe deserves help. If we don’t believe someone (individual or group) deserves help then we are not loving them and therefore do not love God with our whole being. Without a foundation of love of our neighbor — neighbor or friend — all of our doctrine and works are useless.

Post #1

As the world burns


Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

I can remember once when I was either in my teens or early twenties talking with my mom about something related to the End Times. It was in a dispensational context, of course, because that’s what we knew because that’s what we were taught and everything outside of our Baptist sect was either false teaching or a “slippery slope” to falling away from the true faith. Our conversation turned to The Rapture at some point which is the only part of the conversation I remember. Mom said, “We probably won’t know the rapture happened because churches will still be full.” That shocked me at the time not only because she said it but the possibility it could be true.

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 NIV

These past few weeks have shown me that the tares are thick among the wheat. As we have moved into the worst pandemic in 100 years, I’ve seen Christians balking at having their rights violated by lockdowns and shutdowns. I’ve watched them grab onto outlandish and dangerous conspiracy theories with either no fact-checking or dismissing information refuting the conspiracies as “false news” and/or “liberal” attempts to destroy our freedom. I’ve seen pastors defiantly continue to hold in-person services and congregants attending with just as much defiance and cry about separation of church and state. I understand a lot of the behavior is denial. COVID-19 has destroyed what was normal life and it’s going to be a long time before we get that normal back – assuming we can.

Now we are in the midst of protests and rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The former officers might be innocent until proven guilty according to the way our judicial system works, but it is hard to watch those videos and see the photos and call that either accidental or justified even though it was not likely premeditated. I can’t help but wonder how many black citizens this happens to. It would still be happening unchecked if not for cell phones. Not that it brought justice for Philando Castile. I see a lot of denouncing of the looting and rioting from largely the same people who were offended by Colin Kaepernick. And I see a lot of silence.

I look at the way Conservative Christianity in the U.S. has morphed in the last *40 years and think of what my mom said all those years ago about the rapture. We spent so much effort focusing on the sins of others (those outside of our sects and non-Christians) that we failed to see the enemy turning us from the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20) to follow the god of this world in seeking power and domination to hang on to our position of privilege. We drew a line and made ourselves watchkeepers of Western Christianity which we made the standard by our own self-righteousness. We have dehumanized, demonized, and criminalized those who are different whether it is a minor doctrinal issue that has no impact on the saving work of Jesus, or they look or speak differently than us. We labeled other sects, political ideologies, religions, and people groups as threats to our way of life thereby making them an enemy to be destroyed rather than follow Jesus’ command to love our enemies. We look nothing like Christ whom we are to follow into suffering or death.

I think a great many of us don’t know Jesus any deeper than as a get out of hell free token. We’ve turned salvation into a formula which builds our churches and makes us appear successful, but it is a façade. We oppress to maintain our supremacy and call it faithfulness to the Bible while few ever go any deeper than a prosperity gospel similar to Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now while condemning him as a false teacher. We focus on sexual immorality and abortion while ignoring the sexual abuse rampant among our churches including pastors and elders. We don’t look at our own greed and violence and divisiveness. We’ve said our Sinner’s Prayer and we go through life never growing beyond publicly avoiding vices like alcohol, drugs, and cussing and blame the other for anything that causes us discomfort let alone suffering. We blame all the troubles in our country on others while refusing to see how we created or contributed to the problems. Rather than lamenting we rage. Rather than repent we cling to our idols. We are Americans first and nominally Christians second provided our faith doesn’t interfere with how well we think of ourselves and our possessions.

We have just celebrated Pentecost while many of our cities are literally burning. Pentecost for the Christian is when the Spirit was poured out on all people. God spoke to His people through Isaiah and said:

Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed. (Or justice. / Correct the oppressor)
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Are we going to listen to the Spirit, or will we be like those whom Paul warned the Thessalonians, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” We need to be on guard as to which voice we are listening to and whom we are following. Are we following Jesus and all he commands in loving our neighbors or are we following the world in seeking to serve ourselves? Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him, and he said this before he went to the cross. They knew what the cross meant. Do we?

*I chose 40 years because I remember next to nothing about Christianity other than going to church every time the doors opened for the first 9 years of my life. And most of my 10th year we went nowhere.

When you play with fire

Protesters gather calling for justice for George Floyd on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander’s video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving.
Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune via AP

The following was initially posted on my personal Facebook timeline.

Fellow white people, let me tell you a little story. And it’s gonna piss some of y’all off. A lot.

I grew up in an abusive home. I never knew what was going to be the thing that set my dad off because there was no rhyme or reason to it. So I became hypervigilant trying to stay one step ahead and not have to suffer the screaming and berating and having the shit beat out of me. When I failed to be “good enough” and got the berating, if I cried, I got a whipping. If I cried because the belt freaking hurt, I was often beaten more and told it wasn’t going to stop until I stopped crying. And so I began stuffing my emotions as part of my hypervigilance. And I became afraid of ALL authority because if your mom can’t (or won’t) protect you, who can? (I believe she did what she did out of survival also, but it doesn’t erase the damage.)

There came a point where so much had been stuffed that it started coming out on anyone. Puberty was when I couldn’t hold it all in anymore and I lashed out at people who did not do anything that should elicit my rage. It’s taken a lot of therapy to address my reaction to my injustice.

Now imagine that type of abuse only it’s directed at people with a darker skin color. You’ve got a large amount of people actively perpetrating injustice on an entire group of people which has been happening for centuries. Not only that, but there is another group who look like the perpetrators who do nothing to help. Those are the enablers. There are some allies in that group, but they remain a minority just like the victims. The black people as a group remain hypervigilant all the time and have for centuries. They are either ignored when they try to protest peacefully, or they are denigrated if they make the group with the power uncomfortable by not worshiping their idols and not staying “in their place” and providing entertainment. Or they march in the streets – unarmed – and are met with tear gas, rubber bullets, or real bullets. I don’t know what that’s like because I belong to the privileged group with the power. Mine was individual directed by a single individual. But I know that people can only take so much abuse. As others have said, it’s a powder keg that has sat near the fire getting hotter and hotter until a spark blows it. And when it does, just like an individual abuser, the collective abusers and enablers join to vilify the entire group and claim vindication about the “thugs” and “animals.” And the abuse continues because now it’s “justified.”

I understand why the rioting and looting happen. I’m not saying I condone it, but neither will I condemn it. Violence begets violence, and black people have suffered violence at our hands for far too long. (We reap what we sow) Instead of putting out the fire, we just move it and claim we are fighting it or have put it out. Yet it not only continues to burn, it continues to be fueled to make it hotter. Jesus is not on the side of the oppressor; He is on the side of the oppressed. The TRULY oppressed.

And now I’m really gonna piss y’all off.

“But abortion!” Because that’s where we go when anyone points out how we oppress non-Anglo-European White people. (That’s called deflection, by the way.) I am pro-life from womb to tomb. But if all you do to be “pro-life” is vote for people who claim to be antiabortion and maybe you go to the March for Life rallies and do nothing else, congratulations for not doing jack shit about abortion. If you aren’t willing to fund pregnancy centers, and healthcare, and healthy food, and housing for pregnant women, sit your ass down and shut up. If you aren’t willing to provide all those needs to the children after they are born (healthcare, food, housing), sit your ass down and shut up. If you aren’t willing to provide birth control, sit your ass down and shut up. If you aren’t as willing to hold the fathers of the babies you claim to love as accountable as the mothers whom you probably call “whores”, sit your ass down and shut up. If you say women need to “keep their legs closed” but can’t manage to tell men to keep their dick in their pants, sit your ass down and shut up.

And finally, if you profess to be a follower of Jesus and aren’t willing to sacrifice anything you earn to help even the people you don’t think deserve any help, are you really following Jesus of Nazareth or American Dream Jesus? Because one of those isn’t Jesus the Son of God and will not set you free.

Love your neighbor


Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

I’ve been trying to write on this topic for 2 or 3 weeks, but couldn’t find a starting point. The exposure of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder on video this past week – TWO MONTHS AFTER THE FACT – with his killers walking free and uncharged during that time has given me that place to start. I’ve heard several white pastors call racism a sin problem not a skin problem. I agree, but I don’t think it gets to the heart of the problem: what makes an action a sin?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:24 NASB

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40 NASB

Humans have been sinning since the Garden of Eden. Much ink has been spent since that time over whose fault it was despite Adam consistently being named throughout the bible as the representative of humanity and from whom we all inherited our sin. Aside from the most extreme patriarchal Christian sects, this is orthodox across denominations. I find it curious that it was not until Adam ate the fruit that “the eyes of both of them were opened.” I once heard someone teaching on this passage who speculated that since Adam “was there with her” when the serpent was doing his thing on Eve, and did not attempt to stop either of them, that perhaps he was also thinking that maybe the serpent was right and let Eve eat to see if she died. When she didn’t, he saw that as proof that God had lied to him and so he ate. Genesis 3 contains no indication of why Adam ate, but God states that the cause of why He was about to curse all the earth was that Adam listened to his wife. It could have been that Eve handed him the fruit she might have said, “See, nothing happened.” Regardless, Adam took no responsibility for his part at all. Eve blame-shifted, but in the process of saying “the serpent deceived me” she confessed (albeit passively) that God had not lied. Of note, while God was handing out the curses, He did not say to Eve “because you have done this.” There were consequences, yes, but He didn’t attribute those to what she had done as he did with the serpent and Adam.

The next sin we see in Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel – which he avoided owning up to – earning him a curse, but also protection due to God’s mercy. Fast forward to the time of Noah. The corruption of mankind on the earth was specified by God as being full of violence. Fast forward to Abraham’s time and you have Sodom and Gomorrah. There were not even 10 righteous people in them, and all the men of Sodom descended on Lot’s house to rape his visitors (the angels of God). Fast forward to the Exodus, when God gave Moses His law for His people who are called by His name (Isra-el) to set them apart from the other nations. They were to be different from all the other nations and the nations be blessed through them. The essence of the law God gave to his people was to love God and love their neighbors without becoming like their neighbors who worshipped other gods. But, alas, they wanted to be like the other nations, and were scattered among the nations.

Now there is a lot of ceremonial law applicable only to Israel prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. The veil separating the Holy of Holies in the Temple was ripped from top to bottom indicating that the place where God dwells was now open to all. Jesus death, burial, and resurrection made the ceremonial laws unnecessary. “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

God loves us so much that he was willing to set aside deity to become one of us through Jesus, showing us what he meant for us to love others, and let us kill him in the most brutal and humiliating way after he had first been whipped and beaten until he was unrecognizable by us as we mocked him. He faced rejection, ridicule, betrayal, and torture without responding though he had the power to destroy us all. As he hung on the cross, he cried out to the Father not for vengeance, not to save him, but to forgive those who put him there and were mocking him. That is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for us and his capacity for forgiveness. His resurrection showed his victory over death and provides the hope we have in him that he will raise us up after death as well.

In light of the sacrifice of Jesus, can we really love God if we don’t understand just how much he loves us? If we don’t just love him but also trust him completely (“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”) can we really love our neighbors? If we don’t love our neighbors – including our enemies (real or imagined) – do we really love God?

The law gave Israel a guide for loving God and loving their neighbor. It wasn’t all-encompassing specific, but it was a strong enough framework to build upon how to love. If we get past the letter of the law to understand the spirit of it, we can still be guided somewhat to treat other people well. There are certainly problematic aspects of it especially with sexuality regarding women, but even those provide protection and care that would not otherwise be given. As Israel slid away prophets were sent to warn the people to repent and what was going to happen if they didn’t.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?” Micha 6:8 NASB

All of the laws about loving our neighbor either seek to prevent harming them, or provide justice to those who have been harmed. Even the commands to love God provide protection and justice to others because idol worship always leads to oppression. Hence, Jesus fulfilled the law’s intended purpose to show us who God really is, and how to live out paying forward God’s love to us to our neighbors whether they are friend or foe, family or stranger, without exception.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:12 NASB

Anxiety in a time of uncertainty

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But  that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with  the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring


Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash
unsplash-logoSam Burriss

I’ve had a lifelong battle with anxiety. Whether I developed it from abuse or it has always been a part of my self I do not know. It could be either or both. I can recall a time when I was little having recurring nightmares about ghosts and monsters. Every now and then I’ll see an upright piano that reminds me of a particular nightmare and for a brief moment, I can see it with eyes and a mouth ready to eat me. I vividly remember a ghost walking across the living room to me and biting me. I remember hearing the C-130s out of LRAFB passing and nearly panicking, convinced we were about to be bombed. I can remember the nightmares of one or both of my parents just leaving me somewhere alone while they just disappeared. I developed an extreme fear of storms, though that has an explanation. It was around the age of 6 that I started having panic attacks. The abuse guaranteed that I would be hypervigilant every waking moment because there was no telling what might set my dad off at any time. Then there was the threat of nuclear war or even an accident at one of the nearby missile bases.

I learned some coping mechanisms to get through all of that. Dissociation, denial, and eventually alcohol kept the panic at bay most of the time. But those only go so far. I have had a recurring nightmare since I was in elementary school about plane crashes. Different planes, different scenarios, different places (though several of them take place at my childhood home of Birdtown), and never if I am on a plane in my dream where I’m usually the pilot. All of those dream plane crashes happen near where I am to include on me. I think one of the reasons 9/11 affected me as it did that day (I was a mess) was because when I watched live as the second plane hit the second tower, it was a nightmare become real life even though I was in another country and had physical distance. I was able to continue to put on my concerned but calm face except for when the first tower collapsed, but a month later I started having the panic attacks again. I had them 2 or 3 times a week for 3 years. THREE YEARS. I can’t count the number of times I ended up in the A&E at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in England. The panic attacks were that bad. It was certainly an additional factor to my increase in drinking from every now and then to every day.

Now I am sober and have had a lot of therapy and take medication to combat both the anxiety and the deep depression that always follows the anxiety following a period of high stress. I know the physiology behind the symptoms, and have a good idea the things that either caused or exacerbated the physiological responses, but knowledge alone doesn’t mitigate chronic psychological conditions. In my case, it did lead me to recognize when I became suicidal – again – and reach out to my sponsor, my therapist, my doctor, and my closest friends instead of trying to bottle it up via my default stuffing and suppressing.

All that said, with COVID-19 we all find ourselves in interesting times to say the least. Almost all of us have had to make dramatic changes in our everyday lives. Some have lost jobs (even if temporarily) that they can’t afford to lose. Some can’t afford to self-quarantine even if they weren’t considered essential personnel. Some of us cannot telework. Everything we’ve been doing socially, even church, we are having to do radically differently not just for our own health but for the health of others, particularly the most vulnerable. It is a time of great uncertainty not knowing when the virus will run it’s course and we can get out and about without risking spreading it unchecked. We know people are going to die, and it will be someone we know if it hasn’t already. Our economy is going to take a major hit no matter what steps we take or don’t take. Our collective health and wealth is threatened and it feels like judgement not just on the United States but the whole world.

At this point my life hasn’t been affected. I’m still working and I haven’t gotten sick. My children are not sick, and the one who was sick was fine after a couple of days. (The doctor felt confident it wasn’t COVID-19.) I’m anxious, but not hoard food and toilet paper anxious. I’m not freaking out. I was obsessively washing my hands before the virus was discovered, and I am minimizing trips or stops between work and home. It’s mild anxiety due to the uncertainty associated with a global pandemic though it’s not keeping me up at night. I’ve been through a lot of things in my life, and I’ve developed enough healthy coping tools to neither panic nor deny.

I want to say to those who might be panicky/freaking out/very anxious that I understand. This is a dangerous time without a physical enemy to direct our fears toward with anger. There is a lot of misinformation, conspiracies, and flat out lies that hide and/or distort the facts coming from political leaders (both sides) and religious leaders. Anxiety in this chaotic environment is perfectly normal and you’re not alone, you’re not crazy, you’re not weak, and you don’t deserve to be ridiculed or shamed by anyone.

Rehashing the past decade

I was going to do a year in review, but I am opting for a decade review like a lot of other people. So much happened over the last 10 years. I went through some stuff that was really hard and was suicidal more than I really like to admit. In fact, I denied I was suicidal only to find out later that I was. I never had intent or a plan; I just wanted to die. My sponsor, therapist, and doctor all know and after the last bout, I got back on an antidepressant. But anyway, I’m going to break the decade down by year.

2010: I changed jobs because of a hostile work environment. Ended up in another. Finished grad school with a Master’s in IT and realized I hated IT. I started singing in front of people and did my first VBS stint as music director thanks to Molly. This was also the year I started to realize I had some issues I needed to address.

2011: Hit my first deer. Quit new job and went back to old. Started running, also thanks to Molly. Went gluten free thanks to my dr and Petra. Finished the year with the worst depressive episode I’d ever had.

2012: Went chemical free, and now I can’t use regular deodorant without breaking out. Had my second sinus surgery to remove a nasal polyp. Dyed my hair for the last time and had a horrific allergic reaction. Ran my first half marathon thanks to Karyn. Lost a dog. Had second biopsy on one of my boobs. Husband totaled the van and got his 1st DWI. A longtime friend from high school was killed in a car wreck.

2013: The year I fell apart. Switched churches. Started taking antidepressant. Started seeing a therapist. Started going to AlAnon. Attempted homeschooling. Did 14 races.

2014: Quit drinking after realizing that I too was an alcoholic, albeit a functional one. Husband totaled the truck and got DWI #2. Amber the cat ho had her first 2 of 2000 litters. Got my nose pierced. Oldest got driver’s license. Mom had a stroke.

2015: Met the Fonz who held Petra’s hand and not mine. Saw Fleetwood Mac in concert. Stopped the antidepressant. Separated. Spent my last Thanksgiving with Mom.

2016: Stopped therapy. Mom died. Tried reconciliation. Saw Stevie Nicks in concert. Started writing the fictional story I have in my head. Trump. Became cynical and disillusioned.

2017: Separation #2. Started back to school after being told I wasn’t too old to change careers. Youngest got driver’s license. Lost 3 dogs. Got a tattoo.

2018: Went on a cruise. Got laid off but got a new position at another organization on same contract with same company. Quit church. Got a new sponsor. Started seeing a new therapist who deals with trauma. Filed for divorce. Half of my team at work quit. Cut my hair very short.

2019: Another team member quit leaving me site lead. I’ve spent years avoiding being site lead. Got back on antidepressant and a migraine prevention. Primitive camped on my land in Arkansas deciding that I could totally live in a tent out there. One of our systems was permanently turned off so we moved to the other site. Did an internship. Got divorced. Finished school with a 4.0 overall. Started a second antidepressant. Learned right before Christmas that my position is the only one that will be funded after contract year ends. I’m literally last man standing. While having a job is a good thing, it’s not a 1-man job. Oh, and I met Felicia Day and got a side hug which beats the Fonz holding Petra’s hand.

Over the decade I have done a lot of growing, dealt with a lot of issues, questioned, balked at suggestions, most of my closest friends moved away, and I did a lot of questioning of my values and beliefs. I lost my mom, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. I’ve tried new things, made new friends, got out of the echo chamber I was in, and embraced my inner hippy flower child. I am a completely different person than I was 10 years ago, and that’s a good thing.

Revival is happening

I grew up attending revival meetings, and also hated pretty much every one I ever went to. In our Baptist sect, a revival was special preaching service every weekday night. The church would call in a visiting preacher, and it occurred to me as I was writing this that practice brings up a question. Why bring in a different preacher for the revival? Is the local pastor ineffective to lead revival in the church he is leading? The old revivals or “great awakenings” were the birthplace of the modern practice of holding revival meetings once or twice a year, I’m sure. The new revival taking place is a work of the Holy Spirit and does not look like the revivals of old.

It’s a turning away from individual/personal piety to relationship.

It’s a turning from institutionalism to community.

It recognizes the veneer of holiness from the culture war was just a veneer. Now stripped away, the lust for power underneath the veneer is exposed.

It is taking seriously Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 via Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40.

The revival that is happening is about turning away from seeking “comfortable” lives. It is turning from what’s “comfortable” and “safe” to follow Jesus into self-sacrificing lives in order to love our neighbors. Not just to get them into heaven when they die, but to show them the abundant life Jesus promises if you follow him now in this life.

Trauma and Jesus

I had a small mental crisis last week. I called it an existential crisis, but it wasn’t. Neither was it a crisis of faith though that would be closer to what it was. Experiential crisis would probably be a better term for what I was experiencing. I was listening to a podcast on the way home from work and they were talking about how your body stores trauma during fight or flight events in which you cannot fight nor escape and, therefore, freeze and shutdown. There’s no place for the energy of the adrenaline to discharge so it is absorbed. I’m probably taking a lot of license with that paraphrase. I may even be mixing in something I read this week as well that was related. Either way, that’s what I took away.

During the podcast, the guest said something that triggered a memory which led to me saying, “OH MY GOD!” out loud while beginning to question my salvation experience. I made a connection that a couldn’t see before. See, I was saved during a revival. Not at church, but at home if we are using the “sinner’s prayer” as “the moment.” I was 12, and the dude preaching the revival was an asshole. No, I will not tone that down. He was an asshole. He was so much of an asshole that I refused to go forward the next night of revival and give him the credit for my conversion (remember, I was 12). After all, when I said my prayer – WHICH I MEANT – the weight lifted, and I was at peace. You know, just like so many testimonials I’d heard growing up. What I can’t do is really explain why I didn’t do it after the revival was over. I loved our pastor, and still do. It had nothing to do with him or the church. I told one person within the next 2 ½ years, and it was one of the other kids who asked me point blank one evening before church.

Back to the asshole evangelist, 2 ½ years he was called back to preach another revival. Still an asshole, and I got that same feeling I got during the last one he preached and decided I wasn’t going feel that fear again (and it was absolutely fear) for any length of time and walked the aisle to make my profession of faith. I was baptized a couple months later, we moved a few months after that, and when I was 19, I walked away from the church and wouldn’t really go back until I was 38. And now I’m really digressing.

When my “OH MY GOD!” moment happened, I made a connection. See, I’ve always wondered why in the world God would choose that asshole to speak through to me. Because, of course, all preachers speak for God. I was well indoctrinated with that religious authoritarianism from birth being a deacon’s kid. What I didn’t connect for years is that my dad was also an asshole and that asshole evangelist used a lot of the same tactics of controlling through shaming that my dad did. Naturally, that would produce the same fear sensation but because it happened at church during a sermon, I assumed it was conviction of the Holy Spirit because I didn’t know diddly squat about trauma.

A few years ago, I went through a similar crisis though at that time it was absolutely a crisis of faith. I questioned where I had been emotionally manipulated into “getting saved” and that maybe I wasn’t really saved. There was certainly a good portion of my adult life that I was not following Jesus. I poured over scripture searching for assurance until I finally found the security I was seeking. In hindsight, the fact that I turned to prayer and bible study was a good indication that I was not deceived into a false conversion. But after my episode last week, while I did not question my salvation, as I said, I questioned my experience.

I only wrestled maybe for a day before I found peace with it. While I was hesitant initially at 12 and didn’t completely understand what I was feeling (fear) nor why, after some reasoning out based on other’s experience, I went to Jesus. And anyone I would have talked to at that age if I had talked to anyone about it (which I absolutely would NOT have done because “Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.”), they would have pointed me to Jesus. But the point is, I grew up in church and knew who Jesus was and what He did. At the risk of sounding like a Calvinist (which I’m not, nor am I Arminian), there’s never been a time in my life when I wasn’t a believer. This isn’t to say I haven’t questioned and doubted, but too many things have happened throughout my life that were absolutely supernatural – both external to me and internal.

What I have come to believe is that salvation doesn’t rest in saying an extrabiblical “sinner’s prayer” and “meaning it in your heart” when you say it. Salvation rests in following Jesus. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to “ask Him into their hearts,” He said, “Follow me.”

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

So, my “sinner’s prayer” was not so much about being scared by a hellfire and brimstone (aka “turn or burn”) evangelist as it was believing that Jesus was going to give me the peace I needed. It wasn’t the prayer that saved me, it was Jesus. It isn’t saying a formulaic prayer that gives me the assurance I’m in Christ, it’s the daily dying to self even if it seems I can’t bear my cross and try to run away. The proof is in the fruit. The proof is in the resolve to keep following Jesus and turning back to Him when the Spirit tells me I’m straying. He knows what trauma does to a person and therefore I can trust that He protected then and protects me now from false assurance in His salvation.

That time a light shined into the dark

I have a little story to tell.

My therapist asked me a question a couple of weeks ago, and I gave her a partial story which answered her question but did not get to the rest of the story which would have resulted in an ugly cry. Last week I read a blog post that included a story which reminded me of this one I had just told my therapist. And so I decided I’m ready to share it.

It was 6th grade. A lot of awful crap happened that year. Like the cut finger incident I wrote about before and significantly toned down Daddy’s response. But anyway, one morning I was waiting for the bus, and Mom had to make a long distance phone call for something. This was back in the dark ages when we were on a party line and you had to call the operator to call the operator to call long distance. At least you couldn’t direct dial. Daddy had told her exactly what to do because of course he did. She did not follow his instructions exactly as she began to talk to the operator and he began screaming at her and saying awful, hateful things.

And I fell apart.

When Mom finished with the call, she turned on him and asked him if he was happy for how that affected me. And that’s the extent I remember of their interaction as the bus came and I could leave.

That’s all I told my therapist. Which that was all that was relevant to her question.

What I remember of the bus ride to school that morning was trying to will myself away. Just away. Away from everybody. I didn’t want to deal with anybody and I sure didn’t want to melt down in front of anybody and have to explain. I just wanted to be completely invisible. And it pretty much worked on the bus. But then we got to school.

When I walked in the door to the building, 2 girls from my class were in the hallway outside the door to our classroom. Now these girls picked on me a lot, but I normally didn’t mind because they did it in a way that didn’t feel malicious, and was almost always funny. That morning, however, was not the time, not that they knew. I could see it on their faces and knew it was coming, and they started in. On a normal day, it would not have bothered me in the least. But that morning, I lashed out at them, ran into the classroom, and put my head down on my desk and started crying. Which again, I didn’t want to cry and have to explain.

Those 2 girls immediately came over asking me what was wrong with genuine concern. I gave them the oversimplified short version and they proceeded to try to convince me it was going to be okay. They were the light that I needed in that moment of darkness.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NIV

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