Archive for the 500 Words Category

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.

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.

No resolutions

Happy New Year!

I am certainly glad to be done with 2018. I had some firsts last year. I went on a cruise, I sang karaoke. I always said I’d never gotten drunk enough for karaoke, and I’ve been blackout drunk a few times. But apparently I just needed to get sober enough.

I had goals last year. I wanted to lose a bunch of weight before my 30 year reunion. I lost 5 pounds – while on the cruise. Stairs, man. We walked a lot of stairs. Also, Petra made me eat healthy. Anyway, I intended to do yoga every day, and tried to get back into meditating every morning. I wanted to eat healthier. For the most part I failed at them all.

This year I have goals again. But I started working on them before Christmas because I have to combat the stress. I’ve been doing yoga, and signed up for a 30 day challenge again. I’ve been making little dietary changes starting with cutting out the syrupy Starbucks. I’m walking the stairs at work several times a day already with a goal of going from basement (where I work) to the top every hour. I didn’t get that done last week because I was very busy and trying to get a bunch of stuff done and wasn’t finding good stopping points.

And I’m going to get rid of my house. I sold my mom’s house, which was my security net. But this house I’ve been in just got way too far out of hand. It was not a good investment for a couple of drunks. I’ve been working on decluttering. It’s going very slow because there is just so much shit scattered everywhere. But I made a LOT of progress in the kitchen over this long weekend, and I’ll just do what I was told – one room at a time.

I intend to blog on the regular again. I want to start back working on my fiction. It may or may not happen as spring semester starts Monday. The fiction, that is. Speaking of school, I have 3 classes this semester, and all that’s left will be the internship. Oh, maybe what I’ve been trying to prove with school is that I can knock this out without dropping out at least once. Because I dropped out of undergrad once and graduate school twice. Then again, I’m not losing interest partway into each semester like I always did before. Because I am following my calling. And I’m sober now. That makes a huge difference. Go figure.

And this time next year, hopefully, I will be changing careers. Because I am not too old to do that.

Back at it

I haven’t written in a while. Life got in the way. Going to school full time and working full time leaves no time. Especially when I am also going through a divorce and managing a household alone. I’ve hit critical mass with my house and I’m ready to get rid of it. Things happen with an older house and that was manageable(ish) until I was alone. There are still things I can and will fix, but there’s just so much overall.

I’m tired.

This past semester, I took 5 classes – while working full time in a new role where I’m still learning, and we just did a hardware migration. Those things never go smoothly. Half of our team quit, and while we were undermanned before, we are ridiculously undermanned now. I was busy. And there was a lot of life happening with the kids and ER visits and wrecks and hurricanes and plumbing issues.

Friends told me I took too many classes. My therapist told me I took too many classes. My sponsor told me I took too many classes. But I barreled on, and I paid a high price – mentally and physically – to get straight A’s.

Was it worth it?

I got a massage the other day as a birthday present to myself because everything hurt. She told me she could feel the inflammation, and let me tell you, that massage hurt like hell! I was very sore for a couple of days, but I had better mobility. She assured me I can combat the physical by working on my diet and getting some exercise in. Which I have already started on because I am tired of hurting.

But the mental…

My therapist asked me what I still have left to prove and to whom. This is the question I don’t like answering. Because, really, what am I trying to prove? That I’m smart? That I’m self-sufficient? That I can do all the things? And to what end? To whom do I need to prove this? And the big question, why?

There is a quick and easy answer, but it is incomplete because the problem is complex. And so there is no quick and easy fix. It’s not helped with cliche or a prooftext bible verse or a pep talk. There’s not a sermon, formulaic set of steps, or special diet. (Though a good 12 Step group does help.) Mostly there is just a lot of hard and painful work involved to let shit go. And make no mistake:

It takes a lot of hard work to let things go that have been stuffed and suppressed your entire life.

It takes a lot of hard and painful work to reject as false a set of beliefs you were indoctrinated to believe were true that aren’t.

It takes a lot of hard and painful work to stop thinking you don’t measure up even when looking at tangible and obvious accomplishments.

All this to say, I think I’ve been doing the wrong work. I’ve spent my whole life working to live up to what I think others expect of me. Not what I know is expected, what I think. There is a difference.

It seems a simple thing to just let go of that rock, but here’s the thing. I didn’t pick up the rock. It was tied onto me by someone else with multiple tight knots that I can’t untie alone. Heck, I can’t even see them all. And that’s why the work is hard and painful.

Joy Beher and hearing God speak

I have not heard directly what Joy Beher said. I don’t watch The View, nor do I follow it because I don’t care. I don’t watch any talk shows nor do I listen to talk radio. They don’t entertain me. If what I keep reading about on Facebook is true, Joy Beher is wrong in her assessment that Mike Pence hearing God is mental illness. But I’m not about to go on a rant against Joy Beher in defense of Mike Pence.

While I think she is wrong, and not solely because of my belief in God and having heard from him myself, but because I have a little bit of knowledge about mental illness, I refuse to call for The View to be canceled because I’m offended that she is wrong. She has every right to say that. She is entitled to believe it and to say it. I will wholeheartedly support that right because I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That includes the 1st amendment that her opinions are fully protected under. Just as I will support the right to speak of the opinions of the outraged Christians who are too thin skinned to handle criticism of the world. But to them, as a follower of the risen Jesus the Messiah, I ask you this:

What do you think you signed up for when you decided to follow Jesus?

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:18-20

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

How are you going to stand firm in the face of true persecution when you can’t handle being offended? Is Jesus not enough? How do you expect to lead a nonbeliever to Jesus when you can’t quietly go about doing the works that you were called to do according to Ephesians 2:8-10?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:13-16

For far too many generations we have been indoctrinated into a false christianity. We have been taught to look at the sin of the world around us and fear the consequences of the sins of the other without ever being taught to look at ourselves and whether or not we are following Jesus or following the world. This led us to following “bold Christian leaders” who stand against the world to save us from destruction, which was always to keep us “safe and comfortable.” And so we turned to political leaders to save us. But putting our faith in the world system (even a “good” one) instead of putting our faith in our only true hope which is in Jesus Christ is antichrist. Jesus says in Revelation, “I am making all things new.” This is the fruit of the Gospel. Not that we will be saved by the world’s system, but that only Jesus saves. Not that the world provides the “safety” and “security” to follow “religious conscious,” but that Jesus provides us the faith to follow Him against the wisdom of this world.

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

Following Jesus is NEVER about fighting for our rights or security or safety or comfort. It has always been and always will be about loving God with everything we are, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It’s not a fight against people, it’s a fight against the demonic whose mission has always been to turn us against God. And we are to accept being outsiders to the world with joy.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14

Anyone claiming that God is saying something different than that, isn’t hearing the voice of God as revealed in Jesus.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Galatians 1:8-9

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air (Elvish translation). Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. It began with the forging of the great rings: three were given to the Elves, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. Seven to the Dwarf Lords; great miners and craftsman of the mountain halls. And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of men, who above all else desire power. For within these rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race. But they were all of them deceived, for another ring was made: in the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the dark lord Sauron forged, in secret, a master ring to control all others. And into this ring he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life.

One Ring to Rule them All.”

What is Addiction? – A response (It’s not just a sin problem)

Paul Tautges posted an article January 5 on his blog titled What is Addiction?.

He got some things not quite right. In his attempt to show the disease model of addiction is false, he singled out alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, and Alcoholics Anonymous specifically, only he didn’t quite tell the whole story about AA.

It is true that Bill W began his journey to sobriety with the disease model. William D. Silkworth, M.D. had a theory that alcoholics have what can be described as an allergy to alcohol that most people who drink do not have, and shared this theory with Bill W. Bill thought he had the solution now that he knew what his problem was, but self-knowledge was not enough. He was unable to keep from taking that first drink until after he was visited by an old friend who had “found religion.” This friend had been part of the Oxford Group which was a Christian organization. (Summarized from “The Doctor’s Opinion” and “Bill’s Story” in Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, and Pass it On, Chapter 5.)

Bill W wrote the initial text of the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” and does not reduce alcoholism to simply a physical disease, but understood that “we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, page 64.) Now I am not going to write an entire response based on AA, but I will point out that it is not a “self help” program, nor is Narcotics Anonymous, or any other 12 Step based groups that help people find a way out of addiction, obsession, and co-dependence. AA developed the 12 Steps that every other 12 Step group is based on. Each of the 12 Steps is done in the order they are because each builds upon the previous step. Step 1 is admission of powerlessness, step 2 is coming to believe in a higher power for restoration to sanity, and step 3 is the “decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand him.” They have been written such that nonbelievers as well as believers can find sobriety, but while I didn’t go through the remaining steps, they model the process of coming to faith in Jesus, and growing in sanctification. (The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous) In fact, the AA Big Book quotes the book of James on page 76, “Faith without works is dead.” That marks the beginning of the description of making amends. After all, the alcoholic who wants to be free of his “spiritual malady” must take full responsibility for all of his or her actions that caused harm to others, and not hide behind the drink. It is not a program of “cheap grace” or “easy believism.”

One last thing before I move on. From page 60 of the AA Big Book:
“Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
(c) That God could and would if he were sought.”

And Step 12, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Paul quotes from Ed Welch’s book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, “The Bible says that we first choose our addictions, and only then do our addictions choose us.” I own a few of Ed’s books, and have read 2, and found them very helpful. But that statement is not entirely true. The reason I say that is because I became an addict when I was 8 years old, and it was through absolutely no choice I made. I became an addict at my first dental appointment. Our family dentist gave me nitrous oxide (laughing gas) before he began to work on my cavities. I was not given a choice to go to the dentist. I was not given a choice whether or not to have laughing gas. But from that point on, I looked forward to going to the dentist because I loved how the laughing gas made me feel. The hallucinations didn’t even bother me.

I was 8 years old. I didn’t really know what addiction was even though I knew one of my uncles was an alcoholic. But I didn’t understand what that meant except that it involved drinking, and that was wrong because the Church Covenant hanging prominently on the front wall of the church auditorium said it was. I knew absolutely nothing about drugs. I also had a very limited concept of sin which was really just a matter of following rules so as not to get in trouble. Despite being a deacon’s kid and accepting religious teaching without question, at that point, I had no tangible concept of God. Even after coming to know Jesus at 12, I had a hard time with seeking out things that made me feel good because of a complex mixture of rigid legalism, outright false teaching, abuse, and a good dose of genetic disposition. That combination resulted in a “Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.” approach to life while seeking anything that would bring relief from my inner turmoil. (I did finally find that peace in Jesus, but it took me until I was in my 40s, but it took a lot of “environmental” change.)

Last semester I took a course called Substance Abuse Overview. I felt we only scratched the surface, but it is just a freshman level overview. It isn’t designed to be that in-depth. However, between it and a general psychology course, I learned quite a bit about the physiological affects of drugs in the brain. I’m going to post portions of a paper I wrote where I compared the addictiveness of marijuana to alcohol and opiates.

Dependence is defined as a physiological dependence on a drug that is marked by withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer taken. Addiction can be defined as both physiological and psychological dependence resulting in compulsive use of the substance. (Van Wormer and Davis, 2014). Dr. Kevin McCauley looked at the neurological factors that play a role in dependence and addiction. The frontal cortex is where our conscious selves reside with the reasoning and logic that govern our morals, spirituality, socializing, etc. His research has shown that drugs do not affect that portion of our brains, but operate on the midbrain, which is the survival portion of the brain that contains the instincts to eat, kill, and have sex. The midbrain gets sensory information before the frontal cortex. (Fifth Direction, 2015). The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is thought to modulate and dampen the amygdala (which is the portion of the midbrain that is the center of the base survival emotions) as it communicates with the frontal lobe. (Rhodes College, 2012). In the Olds rodent experiments, they used cocaine to discover two spots that trigger addiction in the midbrain, the ventral tegmentum and the nucleus accumbens. When the drug was administered in either of those two locations, the mice would do only the task(s) that would give them the drug. The drug goes to the top of the survival hierarchy, and they will do it to the point of death. (Fifth Direction, 2015).

Once THC is in the bloodstream, it is carried throughout the body, to each organ including the brain. (Yacoubian, 2007). Its greatest influence on addiction is due to its affect in the mesolimbic system (rewards area) of the brain much like other drugs. (Miller and Oberbarnschiedt, 2017). Once in the brain, the THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells (Yacoubian, 2007) due to its similarity in structure to an endogenous cannabinoid called anandamide. (NIDA, 2017). It is believed to act on the receptors much like endogenous opioids (Miller and Oberbarnschiedt, 2017). An endogenous opioid is a substance like an opiate that the body produces, such as endorphins. (endogenous opioid, n.d.) The endogenous cannabinoids, also called endocannabinoids, are produced by the body as well. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the synthesis and degradation of endocannabinoids. They are named such due their initial identification as the neurotransmitters that activated the same receptors as the cannabinoids in marijuana, of which THC belongs. Endocannabinoid synthesis acts as “on demand” synthesis because they are not synthesized in advance and stored in vesicles the way other neuromodulators are. (Mackie, 2008). Because many of the receptors are located in the area of the brain that control pleasure (the midbrain), THC stimulates the reward system to release dopamine (Yacoubian, 2017), but at much higher levels than normal. (NIDA, 2017). THC also binds to receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia which affects coordination and balance. (Yacoubian, 2007). Additionally, it disrupts the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex which are areas that are associated with memory formation and attention. (NIDA, 2017).

Most drugs increase the level of dopamine in the rewards center of the brain (Alila Medical Media, 2014), and alcohol is no exception. It interacts with the endogenous mu opioid in the brain similarly to opiates. Alcohol also increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity which is instrumental in the feelings of euphoria, disinhibition, anxiety reduction, and sedation with drinking. (Miller and Carroll, 2006). Interference with the neurotransmitter glutamate is believed to be a cause of “black outs,” or not being able to remember what a person did after drinking heavily. (NIAAA, 2015). Alcohol lowers the glutamate activity in the brain particularly in the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. (Gilpin and Koob, 2008). Alcohol causes increased levels of serotonin which helps regulate emotion (NIAAA, 2015), but the increase is temporary, and results in later serotonin depletion. (Gilpin and Koob, 2008). The brain adapts to the disruption of the balance, but these adaptations lead to alcohol tolerance and dependence, which result in withdrawal symptoms. Abstinence over time reverses many of the negative cognitive effects from heavy drinking. (NIAAA, 2015).

Each of the opiates, once they reach the brain from the bloodstream, attach to mu opioid receptors on opiate-sensitive neurons. Similar to THC in marijuana, opiates operate heavily in the mesolimbic (midbrain) reward center which produces more dopamine than normal. This increases the desire for the drug even in the absence of pain. With increased usage and dosage, the brain functioning is altered so that the brain functions normally when the drugs are present, but abnormally in their absence similarly to the brain’s compensation for the disruption caused by alcohol leading to tolerance and dependence. (Kosten and George, 2002).

Opiate dependence and some withdrawal occur from changes to the locus coeruleus (LC) which is located at the base of the brain. It produces a chemical called noradrenaline (NA) which when distributed stimulates many of the activities of being awake. Opiate molecules in the LC suppress NA, producing the intoxicating effects of opiates. After times of repeated presence of opiates, the LC will compensate by increasing production of NA. When the opiates are no longer in the system, the LC will continue to overproduce NA resulting in withdrawal symptoms such as jitters, anxiety, muscle cramps, and diarrhea. This is in addition to the disruptive activity in the midbrain. (Kosten and George, 2002).

With that much neurobiological interruption, the claim cannot be made that there is no biological factor to addiction and that it is purely a sin problem. The neurobiological affects strongly affect the psychological functions. The brain is a very complex organ, and it stands to reason that it would be since it is the central core of how the rest of the body functions together and how information received via our 5 senses are processed. Sin is a result of conscious choice. Not all addicts are addicted because of a conscious choice they made. Not all people who use or abuse drugs or alcohol become addicted. Regardless, addiction won’t be thrown off just because someone tells them they are just being sinful. To reduce addiction exclusively to sin can serve to burden an addict or alcoholic with shame whenever he or she is tempted to drink or use because that temptation has a biological component to it.
———————————————————————————————————————————————-
References
Alila Medical Media. (2014, September 10). Mechanism of Drug Addiction in the Brain Animation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxHNxmJv2bQ

endogenous opioid. (n.d.) Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. (2009). Retrieved from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/endogenous+opioid

Fifth Direction. (2015, June 25). Is Addiction Really a Disease? Dr. Kevin McCauley [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2emgrRoT2c

Gilpin, N. W., & Koob, G. F. (2008). Neurobiology of Alcohol Dependence: Focus on Motivational Mechanisms. Alcohol Research & Health, 31(3), 185–195.

Kosten, T. R., & George, T. P. (2002). The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment. Science & Practice Perspectives, 1(1), 13–20.

Mackie, K. (2008), Cannabinoid Receptors: Where They are and What They do. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 20: 10–14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x

Miller, N. S., & Oberbarnschiedt, T. (2017). Current medical and legal status for smoked “medical marijuana” and addiction. Psychiatric Annals, 47(6), 335-340. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3928/00485713-20170424-01

NIAAA. (2015, October). Beyond Hangovers: understanding alcohol’s impact on your health. NIH Publication No. 15-7604. Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf

NIDA. (2017, August 1). Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

Rhodes College. (2012, October 9). Steven Schlozman – “How to Inadvertently Learn Some Neuroscience…” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM2oUPgymJ8&t=1s

Van Wormer, K., & Davis, D. (2014). Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective (4th Ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Yacoubian, G.S. (2007). Assessing the relationship between marijuana availability and marijuana use: A legal and sociological comparison between the United States and the Netherlands. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 51(4), 17-34. Retrieved from https://login.proxy033.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/217439225?accountid=9994

Culture wars and agendas #NaBloPoMo

I was going to start this off by saying that I think fighting culture wars are a colossal waste for Christians. But I sat long enough to come up with some cultures that are worth the time and effort to fight against, such as racism, rape culture, patriarchy, fascism, and the like. You know, cultures whose primary aim is to control and harm others. I am wholeheartedly for fighting for justice for the oppressed and the marginalized. There’s a few commandments throughout the Bible to do just that.

So really, what I find the colossal waste is the agenda wars. These so-called “agendas” are touted all the time by the right. I’m using the right rather than the left because I was part of the right wing for so many years. I not only heard the rhetoric, I spoke it. I was all in with it, and looking back, it’s because I never really thought the ideas all the way through. After all, you don’t have to think it all the way through when you are in an echo chamber and your adversaries are largely abstract epithets.

I wish I could say that one day my eyes opened and I could see the propaganda for what it is, and it is propaganda, but it was a gradual awakening that took a few years. I also cannot take any credit for the change in thinking. Additionally, I still have a long way to go, because I go from 0 to 88 mph when I get outraged. Like Matt Walsh tweets popping up in my feed TWICE today. To be honest, I mostly agreed with one of them (which is rare!), but his smug tone eclipsed his moral stand.

Anyway, I was listening to a sermon the other day, and I could not finish because of the presentation. The use of a particular culture’s “agenda” killed the message, and not in a good way. Harping on a secular/any type of sexual/atheistic/liberal/conservative agenda in a way the presents it as a threat turns the members of the target group into an enemy, first by stoking fear, then by demonizing which dehumanizes an entire group. It caricaturizes people making them objects to be fought against rather than fought for. While this method of preaching gets a lot of amens, I’m sitting there wondering, where is Jesus in this? How would He have us engage these groups? How do these menacing portraits of others equip us to reach them with the Gospel, literally, the Good News of Jesus Christ? If we are presenting these people as abstract entities with agendas that threaten our comfortable way of life, how are we going to “Go, therefore, and teach all nations?”

Yes, we are to be counter-cultural, but we aren’t counter-cultural when we just want to preserve our way of life and/or we fear God’s wrath. That makes us just as worldly as the rest of the world. Instead, if we are going to truly follow Christ, if we are indeed his disciples, we will be counter-cultural because of our love and kindness to our fellow man – even those who hate us and want to kill us. Because we serve a risen King who has already won the battle. Satan isn’t just at work in the world, he is at work in the church as well. Jesus warned about tares among the wheat. He warned us about laying up treasure on earth rather than treasure in heaven. “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

It’s been a while

I was told today that I haven’t blogged in months. Technically that’s true, but it’s only been two and half months. These things happen when you go back to school full time while you’re working full time. Ain’t nobody got time for blogging! But I have gotten caught up(ish), and I’m going to take a few minutes to throw out some non-pot stirring things.

These boys crossed the rainbow bridge at the end of July. I fully expected one or the other of them to not come back from the vet. I did not expect neither to come home. I haven’t cried over an animal since I was very young. I didn’t even shed a tear a few years ago when I found Darci in the road, and she was my girl. I cried over these boys for 2 days, and decided I finally grew all of my emotions.

I went to DC in August. I promised my family for years that I would take them, and this was me fulfilling that promise. Chad backed out a couple days before, so I will probably still take him sometime. Or send him if his friend can meet him there. This wasn’t my first time, though, and I made Jamie take a picture with me at the Marine Corps Memorial just as I had done with my mom in 2000.

We went Arlington National Cemetery, but I ended up going to JFK’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown by myself. As I was walking up that last hill to the Tomb of the Unknown, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I was sure I would make it up there, but that I would never make it back to the entry. As I was walking up to the Tomb, I heard a bunch of clicking and I knew what it was that I was hearing, and stepped up my pace. I just happened to get there for the end of the changing of the guard. That was pretty stinking cool!

If you’ve never been, you can’t grasp the size of Arlington unless you are there in it. And I was able to make it back without having to find a ranger to rescue me.

I took the above photo from the WW2 Memorial and thought to myself, “Jenny ran though this?!?”

I got to have dinner with my friends Michele, Heidi, and Todd while I was there. Darrel couldn’t make it because I forgot to tell them all until the week of and he already had plans.

Labor Day weekend I flew home to AR for a birthday celebration. There were 3 “big” birthdays right together and my cousin Sharon (who turned the big 50) threw a shindig. It was really nice for so many of us to get together without it being for a funeral. Our parents came from large families that came from large families so there are a bunch of us. This is just a few of the girls:

I’m not sure who took that, but I stole it from Sharon’s Facebook.

Almost a month ago, Evie started having seizures out of the blue. I took her to the emergency vet, dropped way more money than I ever thought I would drop on an old dog, and she was in such bad shape, we let her go. I cried after talking to the day vet the next day (before we made the decision). I cried a little bit every day after that for 3 or 4 days. And then I melted down when I went to pick up her ashes.

She was a puker, but aside from that, she was the absolutely sweetest dog ever.

Chad finally got his driver’s license, so now when he writes “milk” on the white board, I give him $5 and tell him to go get it himself. Unlike Jamie, he is quite happy to go get stuff I send him for.

And back to that whole thing about going to school full time while I’m working full time?

I will NOT take 4 classes next semester. I spend a crazy amount of time at Starbucks because I cannot get homework done at home. I have never wanted to clean and organize so much as I have since school started.

Oh, and I got a tattoo.

Epiphany #1294

I was thinking about how crowds make me uncomfortable. Going to a party or function where there are a bunch of people I don’t know or don’t know well causes me a great deal of anxiety and has since I was at least a teenager. Now, I could go to a dance in high school, or a football game, and I was fine. I was always at those functions with my gang (as my mom called my friends and I), so it was just like normal hanging out with them. But if it was just one other of my group and we were at a big thing? Oh, man. Anxiety city!

I learned how to get around that anxiety though. One drink would chill me out. Of course, it was rarely just one drink, and if there were 2, well, who stops at 2? Not this girl. Needless to say, going to functions without that liquid courage have been met with all that anxiety. Therefore, the DragonLady does not do them if she doesn’t have to. And this is a problem the drinking was a symptom of.

I told a close friend not too long ago that I am the most arrogant insecure person she will probably ever meet. (Naturally I have to be the best at both. Or is that the worst? – haha!) But self-knowledge only goes so far. I know I’m arrogant and I know I’m just as insecure. What hit me this morning was something that friend tried to tell me a couple years or so ago about the insecurity. I just wasn’t ready to understand it.

One morning a few weeks ago as I was trying to listen to a podcast while my mind was wandering to a conversation some people had a few days ago, I kept coming back to those times when I have to go to an event, but have intense anxiety. I was slowly working through why I get anxious, while knowing it’s insecurity, but I just have to know why. Well, it’s because in my mind, everyone there is looking at me and judging me and confirming all those negative things my mind tells me to fuel the insecurity. Ugly. Fat. Old. Weird. Stupid. Yes, I know I’m not any of those. Ok, I am a little weird, but everyone has quirks. And I am overweight and I’m no spring chicken. Much like a lot of people my age. Hey, I made it to my age! But anyway, those are just variations of baggage I’ve carried since I was a little girl. In the moment, I’m not conscious of the specifics of the shame under the fear.

Then the epiphany happened.

My insecurity is every bit as much a manifestation of self-centeredness as my arrogance. It’s that whole “The world revolves around me” mentality. Most people at those functions aren’t constantly looking at/thinking about me, if we’re not directly interacting. I’m thinking about them thinking about me way more than they are actually thinking about me. Seriously, no one is as focused on me as I am. If they are, well, bless their heart. Haha

And as long as I am looking at me, I’m stuck.

Roughly twice a month I stand on a stage with the worship band at my church and both play guitar and sing. At my former church it was almost every Sunday, and a few times just me and my guitar. Admittedly, I get a little nervous each time, and I do a lot of concentrating on remembering the chord progressions and words. I’m not worried about how I look. I’m not even that concerned about how I sound because I practice the vocals hard during the week prior. I know people are looking at me. I mean, that’s part of it. But once the lights dim, and that click track starts, the fact that there is a sanctuary full of people in front of me takes a back seat to the greater purpose. We are, all of us, worshiping together. Sure, the worship team is leading it, but we’re doing it as a team, with the rest of the congregation to the glory of God.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:15-17, ESV

Anxiety from my insecurity seeks to keep me isolated. When I isolate, I don’t grow. I don’t contribute. Insecurity lies to me about who I am and whose I am.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10, ESV

When I am focused on me, believing myself to be the center of the universe (whether subconsciously or not), I am believing a lie about who I am and whose I am. I’m living life according to “what if” believing that if I do the wrong thing or don’t do the right thing, that catastrophe is sure to follow, and ultimately that it is God’s judgment upon me for not living up to his standard. Granted, I cannot ever live up to his standard. That’s where Jesus comes in.

Jesus is much more than a get out of hell free card. He is life. Not just life after we die. He is life in the here and now. The Pharisees held law in one hand, and nationalism in the other. Their hands were full of self-sufficiency and self-interest, and they were unwilling to let go of self to serve others and too afraid of losing their status in their tiny world that they wouldn’t even listen to Jesus, let alone follow him. Reputation was everything to them because as long as they kept the law better than the common sinners, they would keep their status and privilege. Their earthly treasures (wealth and power) proved, in their minds, that they were accepted by God. But this thinking is contrary to the message of the teaching of the bible, which is what Jesus kept pointing out to them. This has never been the way of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus repeatedly turned everything upside down.

The world values power and wealth. The world cares about self.

Jesus gave up both power and wealth to live among as as one of us to give himself for us. He doesn’t do it by force. He does not play the victim. He simply demonstrates how much we are loved, how much the God who created our universe loves us and is willing to give up to keep us. All we have to do is believe this and that Jesus is enough. Not just enough to get us to heaven, but enough to fill our deepest desires, and to set us free from the bondage of self-interest that causes us to view other people as threats to our security, whether real or imagined. Either Jesus is enough, or we are following the ways of the world and seeking treasure on earth which is temporary.

And if I truly believe Jesus is enough, then I have no need to hide out of insecurity because I am no longer the center of the universe. I am free. Free to be salt and light. Free to love as I am loved.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 ESV