The following articles were authored by DragonLady

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

via GIPHY

Growth that matters

Among Christian Church Culture “church shopping” is not well looked upon. It’s filed under fickleness for consumerist Christians – people who want their “ears tickled.” Sometimes it’s viewed as what “troublemakers” do who just cause some kind of issue and move on when they get run off or after having a public tantrum on their way out. To be fair, these are broad-brushed generalizations I’ve gleaned over the years of reading blogs and books and tweets by predominately evangelical Christian leaders. There may or may be that much truth to it, but it’s the understanding I picked up whether or not that was the intended message. So it is with this in mind that I struggled with the question: Is 4-5 years the most I can stay in a particular church?

I think so far, I have stayed about a year after I start feeling it’s time to move on. It seems as though I reach a point where I realize something is missing. And I wasn’t sitting there just absorbing and consuming. I was giving. I was serving. And I grew, but only to a point. I am so done with Baptist churches, and having gone through some of the literature and minutes from meetings my parents kept, I’m even more averse. (That’s a story for another day.) I don’t want any more modern “seeker-driven” church built on megachurch patterns of motivational speeches (“relevant” sermons) bookended by a rock concert creating an atmosphere of emotional experience but never getting beyond a series of how-to’s for living the American Dream to its fullest.

I was talking to a friend one evening a few months ago about that “something missing” feeling. He felt it, too, though we’ve never gone to the same church. I’ve had similar conversations with other friends. It isn’t just me. I’m reading it in books and blogs also. This disillusionment with a lot of the modern church here in the United States. I think we’ve been focusing on cultural Christianity without Jesus.

I can find just as much right as wrong in every church I’ve been in. I’m not out to find the “perfect church” because I know that doesn’t exist. I know that having so many choices of churches is, of course, going to feed Christian consumerism. But just maybe it can provide something else.

I spent about 2 years with my first therapist and went as far as I could with that therapist. She helped me see a big issue I’d acted on for many, many years and cut me no slack for my excuses. I learned and I grew. But there was something deeper I needed to work on and it’s not an area she specializes in. So I found another therapist who does, 2 years later. And there will come a time when I will have gone as far as I can with her, though I feel nowhere near that point yet.

By using this analogy of going to a different therapist, it comes across on the surface as consumeristic shopping to meet my needs. But, the 2 years I spent with my first therapist enabled me to heal enough to break some destructive behaviors. My current therapist is helping me identify and correct other thoughts and behaviors that are destructive. Each of them helped and are helping me to grow with my current one building on top of what the first built.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9a

Maybe this whole church search will continue to leave me still wanting more than there is. It all boils down to this: I want the focus to be on Jesus. Who Jesus was. What Jesus did. What Jesus taught. And considering that, how to love my neighbor. How to hear and surrender to the Holy Spirit and lay aside my self-focused desires and fears to do good to others especially the poor, the outcasts, the marginalized, and the despised.

I want teaching and fellowship that transforms me more into Christlikeness than whatever the current popular cultural church growth movement is. I don’t want to be entertained, I want to worship. I want to worship Jesus, not a system.

You have a voice

You’re got to feel to heal. That’s not what my therapist said, but that’s how I paraphrased it, and it’s now my go-to “trite” saying. I don’t remember what she actually said nor do I even remember the context. But that sums it up quite nicely nonetheless.

It turns out that I am very empathetic. I had no idea because I’ve spend my whole life shutting down at the first sign of a negative emotion. Of course I would somewhat do that for positive emotions also because that’s how stuffing, suppressing, and numbing work. It’s an all-or-nothing effect. It is impossible to selectively numb.

I emotionally triggered several times over the last semester. It started with my therapist. She asked me something, and I can’t really explain what all happened. It seemed to get horrendously hot, and I couldn’t answer her. I could not get any words to form in my head let alone to come out of my mouth, but I had a vision of sorts. Anyway, this was followed by a series of triggering assignments and activities across multiple classes at school. Not to mention more than a few of the talks at The Courage Conference. (The Conference triggering was anticipated.)

A few months ago, I had a Twitter conversation with Doug Bursch, and he said something to me that no one else ever has. He gave me permission to have a voice. “You have a right to your voice.”

Those words of validation breath life into someone whose voice has been silenced their whole life through abuse. And it took me a few days for it to fully settle in. I still struggle a whole lot with my voice because decades of being silenced through force or just being dismissed has left a lot of stuffed anger. I want to lash out with all the same venom that was injected into me. I was telling my therapist one night about how uptight I get when I engage in discussing/arguing on social media with this rush of adrenaline. She asked me why I thought I would have that reaction. Well, it’s because I wasn’t allowed to have a voice or an opinion and had to stuff for fear of a beating, or worse, berating.

I started this post 2.5 months ago. There was a point I was working up to but I haven’t written any on it in over a month, and so who knows what it was. But I recall having some sort of epiphany and deciding that I was done being silenced. And I am done with staying quiet so as not to upset people. We don’t grow without discomfort, and our lives aren’t meant to be lived for our personal comfort.

Cynical and disillusioned

Sheila Gregoire of to Love, Honor, & Vacuum did a series on her blog this week about problems she saw with the popular Christian marriage book “Love & Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I commented on the 3rd post because she said I’ve been thinking for a while – that Jesus often isn’t the center of our teaching. I started a comment and then realized I was about to typed out a big rant, and decided that the potential length called for my own blog post.

There are a couple of posts I should probably finish first, but I’ll start with this and let the other 2 be explanations after the fact instead of a build up to.

So here’s Sheila’s posts:
A Review of Love and Respect: How the Book Gets Sex Horribly Wrong
Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work
The Ultimate Flaw in the Book Love and Respect: Jesus Isn’t at the Center
Our Podcast: The Love and Respect Earthquake, Tidying Up, and More!
Your Stories of Women and Marriages Damaged from Love and Respect

Here’s my comment on the 3rd:

The church I quit last year did a sermon series on this book back around January 2015 (my guess based on when I added and updated Love & Respect in my Goodreads). I didn’t see a problem at the time. But this time last year I started to see what was consistently missing from most (if not all) of the formulaic sermon series (plural) that I was started to really listen to. The Holy Spirit.

I was about to type out a whole rant, but I’m going to save that for my own blog when I have more time.

The “Love & Respect” series was from November-December, 2014. That was during my first year of sobriety, and while I was “coming to,” I was still entrenched in patriarchal indoctrination. And I was still kind of desperate to save my failing marriage. So I didn’t see anything off at the time. That came later most glaringly with the InCite Conference of 2017 with fired pastor Perry Noble who was billed as a headliner of the conference shortly after his stint in rehab for alcohol abuse.

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 1 Timothy 3:2-3

Noble had no business being on that stage. Around that same time I noticed several megachurch pastors around the country using the phrase, “The Best is Yet to Come” just as ours had done in connection with a fundraising campaign.

By this time, I had a little bit of sobriety, I was working through some issues, and I was questioning everything. One of my twitter friends was talking about Robert Morris’ book “The Blessed Life” and Morris saying Jesus was “God’s tithe.” That reminded me that he said that garbage when he spoke at our church in 2014 for a sermon series based on that book. I found it odd when I heard him say it, but I was in early sobriety, and barely able to discern yet. Now? God didn’t “tithe” himself. Jesus is God. And even if we divide out the Trinity, Jesus is 1/3 not 1/10. But still, how can God tithe himself and who is he tithing to? HE IS GOD! I haven’t yet been able to get through that book. I have it, and started it because the pastor sent a signed copy when I started giving money only he addressed it to my daughter not catching that it was MY name on the check and apparently assuming that “Jamie” = “James” and as husband he was the spiritual leader. He was not. But I digress.

I had to step down from serving once I went back to school because I couldn’t put in sufficient practice time. If I was just singing, I could, but not playing guitar, and there were loads of vocalists by that time. Also, at this point, I was only attending when I was scheduled on the worship team. I was still listening to all the sermons via podcast, but then a sermon series happened that got all over me. The pastor made the statement, “Jesus was a carpenter. He was a man’s man!” This wasn’t the only hypermasculine statement, but it was the one that pissed me off. I am a carpenter. I don’t do it for a living, and rarely have time to do it as a hobby (for now), but I’ve been building and fixing things that fall under the carpentry umbrella since my very early 20s. You don’t need a penis to be a carpenter! Does this also mean that men who aren’t carpenters are less manly? That’s just ludicrous. He even made a statement about men who’ve been “wussified” and I was like, “That’s the ‘clean’ version of Mark Driscoll a few years ago talking about how men have been ‘pussified’!” That whole series could have been a Driscoll series, and may have been one of his recycled. And Driscoll is another disgraced pastor who has no business on a stage or behind a pulpit.

It was a couple of months after this that there was a guest preacher who gave a standalone sermon to tell parents what they need to do to guarantee their children will follow God. That’s the sermon when it hit me that there was no mention of the Holy Spirit at all, and only a passing mention of Jesus. It was all about doing a set of things “right” so that your kids will turn out all right. But you can do everything “right” and kids will still have a mind and will of their own. Without the Holy Spirit to guide your relationship with them, and without the Holy Spirit guiding them, there is just behavior modification to be accepted by your tribe. The odds are certainly better if you raise them up, but motives matter, and if it’s to make y’all look good and not for them to actually love Jesus and obey Jesus in order to love others, it’s just empty works. There are no absolute guarantees because “Christian formulas” are NOT Jesus.

I stopped listening to the sermon podcasts during that summer’s “Hot & Heavy” series. A story was told, that I have heard told before that I don’t believe actually happened. It’s the reason for following the “Billy Graham rule” because a female congregant tried to seduce him to go to a hotel room she had reserved right across the street from where they were eating as they had met for counseling. I am just as skeptical of that story as I am of Billy Graham’s claim of finding a naked woman in his hotel room. Maybe one of those stories is true. Maybe they both are. But even if so, isolated incidents do not indicate a pattern of women to fall on their backs with their legs up in the air for pastors. It goes right along with patriarchal and complementarian men blaming women for men’s lusts and fantasies while portraying themselves as hapless victims. It makes women enemies just by their very existence. And this is not of Christ no matter how big of a platform they get.

This turned into the long rant that I figured it would. I wrote about magic formulas 3 years ago. I guess once your eyes get opened, you just can’t unsee it. Sheila is right. If obedience to Jesus is not our primary desire in every aspect of our lives, all else will become idolatry and we will chase after and follow anyone who makes us feel better or promises us a comfortable life rather than following Jesus.