Archive for the Faith Category

“Do you want to be healed?”

“Drop the rock. Just drop the freakin’ rock, and quit picking it back up!”

I had a little meltdown in church today. It started near the end of the sermon and lasted until a couple minutes after we were dismissed. It wasn’t one of those meltdowns like a couple of weeks ago where I heavy sobbed for an hour in the fetal position, but it was enough that I had to grab a tissue – and soaked it.

“Do you want to get well?”

The sermon text was from John 5:1-5 which is the account John gives of the healing of the man at the pool at Bethesda. The man there had been ill for 38 years. That’s a long time to be sick. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, but the man answered with the reason he hadn’t been healed as if he had given up all hope of ever being healed. Someone always beat him into the pool. As Pastor Jared put it, the man answered the question with an excuse. Jesus still healed him.

I sat there thinking, “Do I want to be healed? Do I REALLY want to be healed?” Then the tears started welling up. Pastor Jared said, “Remember who you are!” I grab a tissue because they are spilling now. I write on my teaching notes, “I am not my childhood.” As Pastor Nate wrapped up after the service, I completely soaked the tissue. I remember him praying, but not really what he prayed because I was praying about that rock I keep picking up and carrying.

With every meltdown, there is release of a little bit of the pain. It is part of the healing. But it’s not all of it. When I first got a sponsor, I am pretty sure she asked me if I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober. I said, “Yes,” having no idea what that was going to mean other than completely changing the way I think about everything. I had no idea the can of worms that would open. Last week, Pastor Nate posed a question in his sermon, “When tests come, am I willing to go the distance with Jesus to experience a miracle?”

Today Pastor Jared said this:

“If you’ve never been broken/had a need, you can’t really know Jehovah Jireh – the Lord who provides.
If you’ve never been lonely, you can’t really know El Roi – the God who sees me.”

Am I willing to pick up my mat and walk? Can I drop that rock and walk away from it?

What makes a whitewashed tomb? Part 2

I remember the 80s quite well. I was a teenager for most of the 80s and was completely enamored with the 80s culture of music, fashion, and television. There is still a special place in my heart for shoulder pads despite the fact that I have shoulders that do not need any padding. My favorite running shirts are neon yellow which hearken back to the florescent colors of the mid-80s. I don’t miss the big hair, though. That’s just too much work now.

I loved Ronald Reagan. He was entertaining, and he was strong. He had a great sense of humor, but he wasn’t going to back down from the Soviet threat. Being a cold war kid, and a good old southern girl, communism was the ultimate enemy, and the Soviet Union was it’s preeminent face. God Bless the USA was the ultimate patriotic theme song, and I fully believed that we were the favored nation of God (second but equal to Israel) which is why we were the greatest nation on earth.

There is a lot more to my hard-core conservatism, but I will attempt to sum it up since it’s not particularly exciting. I dabbled in politics a bit as a kid in the 80s, escaped from reality during the early 90s & gave birth in the late 90s (and therefore have a lot of blank areas), and became a news and political junkie in the 00s when I started blogging. I went all in with conservative politics in the mid to late 00s, and looking back, I was a self-righteous ass. Something happened to me just before the 2008 presidential election that I can’t explain. I knew Barack Obama was going to win the election. I had no doubt. I realized that I was okay with that, and I still am. I disagree with him politically about nearly everything, and so I didn’t vote for him either time. But I have just never had this feeling of certain doom with him as president.

Something changed in me. I can’t take credit for it because I had no intention of changing. I was on the right side (pun mostly intentional); why would I need to change? Now that I look back on it, I can see that my focus was on the wrong thing. My patriotism defined me to a large extent and was driven by a narrowly focused mindset that understood valued freedom only as a means for my own personal prosperity and comfort. The poor and the homeless needed to stop spending their money on drugs and alcohol and get a job in order to stop leeching off the government thereby wasting my tax money. Women (and girls) just needed to keep their legs closed. Illegal aliens needed to be shipped back to their country of origin, and by God speak English! One nation under God! ‘Murica!

That attitude reduces individual people who are (just as I am) created in the image of God to an abstract group without faces or names broad-brushed with caricatures and absent of feelings, dreams, and purpose. It is an attitude absent of empathy. It is an attitude that does not love people. It is an attitude that thinks God needs us, and not the other way around. It is an attitude that does not believe “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It is an attitude of fear. It is an attitude that demands treasure now because I said the sinner’s prayer and was baptized and “America is a Christian nation.” It’s us versus them, and we are right.

It’s another type of whitewashed tomb. There is little compassion for the poor, and none for the addict. There are no gray areas, and no nuance. Right is right. Liberals are wrong. We are reaping what they sowed. “God hates fags!” Westboro is the visual and vocal extreme, but while many conservative Christians would never picket funerals nor say it out loud, they believe it. They will say “Sodom and Gomorrah” whenever gay marriage is passed or a ban is overturned because they are afraid of the same. But really, if you read the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, it wasn’t homosexuality that was the problem, it was the rape culture.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:8-10 ESV)

Love is action, not a feeling. Real love is messy. It’s so messy because it isn’t self-serving. It isn’t about getting paid back. It sees a need, does it’s best to meet that need, and does not seek out recognition for what it’s done. Whitewashed tombs cannot love because they are just rocks on the outside and dead on the inside. Raising the stars and stripes over it doesn’t bring it to life. Only Jesus can raise the dead and turn a heart of stone to flesh.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10 ESV)

What makes a whitewashed tomb? Part 1

Matthew 23:27-28 ESV

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

I love exploring cemeteries. If you follow me on Instagram you can see on my profile that I am a member of the Instagram group Graveyard_Dead. I have no qualms about going out into a cemetery and snapping a shot of a headstone, marker, or statue that I think looks cool. It’s an artistic appreciation, but it does not often go beyond the marble.

In the movie Galaxy Quest, the “Captain”, Jason, gets stranded on an alien planet where he ends up fighting a rock monster. Actually, he’s running from it while talking to the crew members on the ship trying to find a way to get out of his dire predicament. Alexander, the serious actor, asks Jason what is the creature’s motivation. Jason replies, “It’s a rock monster! It doesn’t have motivation!”

A Christian who is just a whitewashed tomb has motivation, but it’s the wrong kind. He or she will look good on the outside, and even serve in various ministries, but the ultimate goal is to look the part so as to not have their character questioned or to have others tell them what a good Christian they are. You probably won’t be able to recognize it unless you get close enough to them to get to know them.

For instance, you might have someone who has seen a need in the community and started a ministry to meet that need. From the outside everything about it looks good and you even help with it. But then you walk up on a conversation by one of that ministry’s leaders. The conversation does not stop but continues in a diatribe about how that ministry was not mentioned during announcements along with attribution of malicious intent rather than giving the benefit of the doubt that it was not intentional. Before long the leader surprises the entire congregation with a diatribe of his own during what was supposed to be a children’s sermon. While both ministries are good ministries and the leaders appeared to be committed to serving, the self-aggrandizing showed their hearts to be more committed to their own recognition and honor from other people than to humbly serve.

In another case, you have a deacon. He’s very intelligent, and an excellent handyman. He’s a good teacher. He takes care of several widows in the community in addition to his sisters. He has a beautiful wife who is also a gifted teacher. They are active in the local church and even in the association. But at home, he is domineering and abusive. He rules his household through fear and shame. Grace is absent. No one really knows because there are no physical marks – only deep emotional wounds. He has become convinced he is always right. Eventually he crosses the line and cannot justify and rationalize his actions to others which now extend beyond his family. But he can’t see his part. Even as he sits in prison, he is a victim and not the perpetrator.

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Take out the sex, sorcery, and drunkenness, and you will see many of the other traits in a whitewashed tomb. They don’t drink, do drugs, smoke, have sex outside of marriage, or cuss. At least you’ll never see it. But they will point out any little infraction they find in you. They lack compassion, grace, and humility. Just like the Pharisees.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

It’s all about your motivation. Either you are working for the sake of performance to show that you are worthy of man’s praise (or seeking personal comfort), or you are working according to the fruit the Holy Spirit is producing in you. Our motives probably aren’t ever completely pure, but if we can keep our mouths in check and don’t sound a trumpet every time we do a good deed, we are most likely using our love for Jesus and compassion for other people as our primary motivation.

Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Real freedom

I’ve been a cultural christian. It’s a miserable life because it is all about worldly benefits in the here and now. It’s about what I think I deserve in this life based on my performance. It’s a modern blueprint for becoming a whitewashed tomb because it’s all about my glory and comfort.

I don’t want self-centered religion.

I don’t want politically labeled religion.

I don’t want to fight a culture war.

I don’t want a religion centered on an unbiblical notion of saving this country for my personal comfort.

The American church has embraced a national salvation by works by assuming the promises to Israel also apply to our nation. We have traded the kingdom of Jesus for kneeling at the alter of the United States. We wrapped our bibles in the American flag so tightly we believe whatever we are told it says by our pastors who seem to be living in the same fear we are of losing the culture war and therefore our “favored” status.

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12 ESV)

We have gotten so accustomed to parenting and preaching based on fear and shame that we’ve hidden grace as if it’s of little importance when grace is the whole point. Fear and shame do not bring about heart change. Only grace can change hearts.

Following Jesus Christ is not about going to church on Sunday, watching Fox News, listening to conservative/Christian talk radio, and listening to K-Love. It’s about serving. It’s about loving others as you are loved by the creator of the universe. It’s about telling others about the freedom found in Jesus which is so much greater and more beautiful than the American Dream. It’s about peace and joy in the midst of devastating illness, loss, and disappointments. It’s about knowing that we are treasured beyond comprehension and our lives have purpose and meaning by and for the glory of God.

It’s not about checklists and rules and appearances. It’s about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. He kept all the rules. He paid the price. He alone gives us the only real freedom there is. Freedom from our self-centered natures. Freedom to love. Freedom to really live regardless of circumstances.

I don’t want to be a whitewashed tomb.

But for the grace of God…

Dear fellow Christian,

You’re scared. I understand. Not being in control is very scary. And that is why you are afraid. You forget that God is in control. That He is sovereign over all. You grew up singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” and believe deep down that you deserve to enjoy the privilege of being an American. You are going to eat, drink, and be merry and no sinner is going to screw that up for you. You have been taught your whole life that the United States is a Christian nation highly favored by God unlike any other nation before it. You believe we are the modern day Israel.

The United States of America has never been the “My people who are called by My name.” That was only Israel. As I saw it in a blog comment not too long ago, “IS – RA – EL.” It is a covenantal name. God made no covenant with any other nation before or since, and that includes the U.S.
If you think that the current moral state in the U.S. is the worst this nation has ever been, clearly you don’t know the full history of our nation or you are just choosing to overlook it. You think homosexuality is the worst sin to take place here? If so, I have a fraction for you: 3/5.

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” – From Article 1 Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

That remained in effect until the 14th Amendment passed by congress in 1866 and ratified in 1868. This stands in contrast to a particular line from the Declaration of Independence –

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

– which only applied if you were white. African slaves and indigenous Americans (American Indians, not European colonists) were not endowed with these rights. Human trafficking is not a Christian value. Breaking every single treaty ever made with the indigenous peoples, driving them from their lands, and slaughtering them is not a Christian value. Institutional racism, still to this day observable in many lily-white churches every Sunday, is not a Christian value.

We have played the Christian card to our benefit for centuries without suffering the suffering promised us by Jesus. We have lived a safe and prosperous existence which is neither promised nor deserved. Jesus told us to pick up our cross and follow him, not sit down and kick our feet up while expanding our waistlines.

If you are not willing to give up or lose everything – EVERY SINGLE THING – in this life then you are not really following Christ.

Are you so concerned with your personal comfort and your entitlement to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that you lack compassion for others who are created in God’s image just as you are?

Do you think you are better than Jesus who laid aside his divinity to live and suffer as a poor man and die for you when you hated him?

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

There are many many people in this country who need to know the love of Christ and they aren’t getting it because they are treated as the enemy. And we as Christians pat ourselves on the back for telling them their place. Then we piss and moan and play the victim when they fight back. We have forgotten that but for the Grace of God, there go we. The Cross is offensive enough. There is no reason to heap on extra offensiveness just to stroke our own egos and make ourselves believe that we are any better. We aren’t. We never will be on our own. And we certainly can’t berate and bully other people into our image. God doesn’t do that. He gave up his Son to atone for our sins as well as theirs.

God doesn’t save and protect countries for the comfort of people. He saves and protects people for His glory. And not good people because before a holy God, there are no good people.

Luke 7:36-50 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Choice

It struck me in the middle of a conversation where I was sitting on my pity pot bemoaning the latest catastrophe to befall me.

Do I really trust God? Do I really trust Him?

Because it is one thing to pray and surrender everything to Him and His will, but when you’ve done that, and something happens that you didn’t anticipate, it’s another matter to follow through by walking in the faith you thought you had when you said that prayer. Talk is cheap, but living it out is going to cost something.

Clinging to control and self-sufficiency is going to cost you a lot more.

All the years I spent pushing myself and pushing myself trying to do it all and do it all perfectly exacted a heavy price. Multiple times. And I didn’t get it.

A few years ago I asked “Just how broken do I have to be?” I knew at the time. Completely. I just didn’t really know what that means exactly. I have a much better idea now. It’s whatever it takes until I become completely dependent upon God and quit trying to do everything (and do everything perfectly) in my own power in effort to be good enough.

Ah, but there’s more.

I was talking with a friend earlier this week and we got on the subject of legalism in the church. Since we both grew up Baptist, we were generally talking about Baptist churches since that’s what we have had the most experience with. I don’t know where it came from (I probably read it somewhere), but in response to discussing the logical though flawed thinking behind legalism, I said, “Grace is scary because grace can’t be controlled.”

If you can spot it, you got it.

The control freak in me doesn’t want to go down without a fight. She’s been calling the shots for decades because she has to head off every possible problem and either prevent it from happening or fix it before anyone finds out she messed up. Every time she thinks she’s hit bottom, it turns out to be a ledge, and she rolls right off over and over.

Can I really do this? Can I give up my control and self-sufficiency and really really surrender my will and my life over to the care of God?

Am I going to just admit where my best thinking has gotten me and just trust Him?

Am I going to accept the grace I can’t control?

IMG_3561

It works if you work it

I always thought I knew what faith was even though I couldn’t explain it. Oh, I could quote scripture about it, but I just thought I understood it. That being said, I still don’t completely understand it, and can no more explain it other than by telling you what it isn’t.

I played with the worship team at church a few weeks ago, and our only rehearsal as a group was Sunday morning before the first service. They were all easy songs to play, and I had played all but one before, so I felt fairly confident that I could play without any major screwups. That confidence did not keep me from losing my place in Cornerstone in every single service. Even though I did just fine in rehearsal. However, a couple weeks prior we had done a song called Relentless, and in one of the last choruses, there are 2 separate parts being sung. The first time we did it 2 weeks prior, I was one of the 2 vocalists to be singing the second part. We hadn’t had a rehearsal before that Sunday either, and since I hadn’t practiced it, I missed the cue every.single.time. This time I had it. One of the ladies pointed out during rehearsal that she could hear me and I had it down. I said, “I practiced that so hard last week!” And I did. I put more practice time into nailing the vocals on that one chorus than guitar and vocals combined on the other songs. This led to a discussion about faith, and how faith isn’t faith until it’s put in action. You have to work it.

And that’s when I said, “It works if you work it.”

I first heard that phrase in Al-Anon in reference to the Al-Anon program. Which is nearly identical to the AA program from which it was derived. It was about a year and a half ago that I stepped into Al-Anon, and I can say with absolute certainty, I didn’t work the Al-Anon program. I went to meetings. I read the literature. I didn’t call anyone even though I had 2 phone lists. I was my own sponsor. So I stayed perpetually on the 1st step – “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” I knew my life was unmanageable. There was no doubt about that. Powerless, though, I was not. Or so I thought.

I remember right before I started going to Al-Anon, I went to an open AA meeting with my husband. After the meeting he asked me what I thought and I said, “That is what church should be like. That is living out James 5:16.”

James 5:16 English Standard Version (ESV)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I am convinced that is the only way we can bear one another’s burdens.

Galatians 6:2 English Standard Version (ESV)
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This is the essence of love. And it was love that got and kept me sober. A group of drunks who loved me until I could love myself. Strangers who walked with me one day at a time encouraging me to keep coming back. The woman I picked out to be my sponsor that I didn’t have the nerve to actually ask – who reached out to me and helped me pluck up the courage I had sat on for 2 weeks. God doing for me what I could not do for myself. But I still had to work at it.

I had to go to meetings. I had to read my literature. I had to call my sponsor – especially when I didn’t want to. I had to listen to her tell me what I didn’t want to hear and do what she suggested whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes she pissed me off. But I followed her. I followed her because she had already been down this road and knew the way. I followed her because God told me he had been sending people to help me when I cried out to him asking why he hadn’t helped me, and therefore I chose to trust that he put her in my life. I work the program, and it works even though I don’t work it perfectly.

Ephesians 2:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Faith isn’t something we manufacture ourselves. It’s not a bargaining means to get God to grant our wishes. It is given to us to do what God would have us do whether his will is for us to act or be still. He gives us faith for His purpose and His glory. That is why it works if you work it. Because it’s not about you.

Wrapping up

This has been quite a year. I did not even accomplish half of my goals for the year. Life got crazy! For most of the year I was not only the only one in this house with a job, but the only one with a driver’s license. That wore me out and sucked up a large amount of vacation/sick time. But Jamie finally got her driver’s license, so the pressure is off to be everyone’s chauffeur. Oh, and we also only had 1 vehicle for much of the year, so I was still on the hook until we got another car.

I got my nose pierced. And I want to get my eyebrow pierced now. I also want a couple of tattoos, but that won’t happen until Petra gets inked.

My mom had a mini stroke. Adding that into the Alzheimer’s mix, she now has 3 distinct personalities. 1, she is still Mom, but has trouble saying the right words. She knows who you are, but can’t say your name. That’s the stroke effect. 2, she is still Mom, but she has no idea who people are. Thanksgiving, she would forget who the kids were, and thought I was Aunt Pearl. That’s the Alzheimer’s. It’s sad, but expected and fairly easy to deal with because she retains that same kind and loving personality of my Mom. But then there is that 3rd one – the paranoid delusional one. This one knows who I am, but thinks people are out to get her. This one infuriates me because she is nothing like my mom. Intellectually I know this is another aspect of the Alzheimer’s, but emotional detachment is not so easy.

The contract I worked on ended, and we switched to a new one with a new company. I got a 4 week paid staycation out of it which was great for the first 2 weeks. Those last 2 weeks, I was calling the security office nearly every day asking if my stuff had transferred so I could go back to work. And the first week back, I filled in as site lead while the site lead was on vacation. 4 weeks of nothing and then a week of everything because I was the only one left with working accounts. I still don’t want to be site lead. Oh, and I took a 10% pay cut. It hurts. But I love my co-workers.

I was forced to admit that I’m an alcoholic. By forced, I mean I was told I needed to quit for a while and I couldn’t. For those who don’t already know. Assuming more than 3 or 4 people read this blog anymore. Once I did the 3rd step, I realized I essentially rededicated my life to Jesus, and decided to get rebaptized as a matter of owning my faith as my own. And I am 11 months sober. One day at a time.

Throughout the year while working on my recovery through therapy, and through a 12-step program (which a LOT of people could really use), I have learned a lot about myself, and have come to terms and dealt with issues that I had never dealt with. I have grieved, and I have forgiven. I have learned to accept responsibility for my actions and reactions, and how to ask for forgiveness. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.

1. Life is more peaceful when you cease to be a victim/martyr.

2. Other people are responsible for their own choices and therefore their own consequences.

3. Life isn’t meant to be lived in isolation.

4. Trying to live up to a manufactured facade of other people’s expectations (real or perceived) will drive you insane.

5. It is okay to feel. Emotions are God-given. But let them be indicators and means of healing rather than living by them. Life isn’t sunshine and roses. You take the good, you take the bad.

Not earned #NaBloPoMo

I do a lot of reading. I was thinking about how many books I have read this year, and then I checked my Goodreads account, and maybe not so much. I’ve started a lot of books in the last 5 years, mostly non-fiction. Many of those didn’t get finished because I would just lose interest. I decided a couple weeks or so ago that I would not start another book until I finished the last book of R.A. Salvatore’s Hunter’s Blades Trilogy. Seriously, I’ve been reading The Two Swords for like 3 years. It’s time to finish. So I did finish it. And it didn’t wrap everything up so I now have to find the next book(s) in the series. Ugh! Or I could just tell myself that I killed King Obould Many Arrows in Neverwinter Nights and call that closure. ;)

The nonfiction I’ve read has been mostly Christian living books and most of those I have come to view as how-to books though that is probably not the intent of the authors. So many of them left me feeling even more that I don’t measure up. Less worthy and more unlovable. Totally inadequate. I had fallen again into thinking that I had to do a bunch of right things to be worthy of God’s love. The false gospel of salvation by works.

It is kind of ironic that while I grew up in church that I really started to learn about who God really is through recovery from alcoholism. In church I learned how to feel perpetual guilt and shame. I learned through addiction that I could numb and ignore my feelings. I made alcohol my higher power. In recovery I am learning that God really is the Higher Power I really need.

I have heard several well meaning Christians over the years say something to the effect of “Just believe in Jesus and your life will be great.” That’s just a subtle form of prosperity gospel which is not the Gospel. I can also tell you that there is a world of difference between being freed FROM sin and being freed OF sin. Salvation does not free you of sin. You are still going to sin. You won’t be perfect no matter how well-dressed and well-spoken you are when you go to church. And if you have a potty mouth, you’re going to say “shit” at church no matter if you’re 18 or 41. Or that might just be me. ;-) The point is, keeping up an outward appearance of holiness is such a deadly façade. It is completely deadly to nonbelievers who consider us hypocrites. Which, by the way, we are because we don’t live up to our own standards if we are truly and completely honest.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Perspective and attitude

Perspective has a way of changing your attitude. Being the control freak that I am, my perspective has always been self-centered. My personal comfort took priority in how I looked at the world and situations. When things didn’t (or don’t) go the way I think they should, I end up on the pity pot only seeing the bad and never the good.

This has been most evident with my relationship with my dad. Yes the verbal abuse did a lot of damage. Yes, the lack of affirmation negatively affected me psychologically which in turn affected every relationship I’ve ever had with anyone including God. This was understandable and even excusable when I was a child. I didn’t have the capacity as a child to do anything more than develop ways to cope that allowed me to emotionally survive. Those coping skills long outlived their usefulness.

Since my mom worked outside the home when I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my dad. It was practically 24×7 until I started school so I am naturally like him in many ways. My mom did her best to counter many of the negative traits I picked either by imitation or genetics, but in ways that did not teach me to disrespect either of them. I am grateful for that now. Now I can see him as a father who did the best he could amidst his own character defects. And he tried to raise me to be respectful of others and independent and grounded in faith in God.

I just finished reading Barnabas Piper’s book The Pastor’s Kid. I’m a deacon’s kid, but much of what Barnabas wrote mirrored my own DK experience. I found much healing through his experience as a PK. I can now look my on my dad with a different perspective not only because of what Barnabas wrote of his experience, but also through working through my own issues and character defects.

Daddy taught small groups off and on at church up until I was 15. Throughout those years I saw him do a lot of study in preparation for teaching. He didn’t do it silently and would discuss it with my mom. It one pretty much one sided, but he was teaching as he was preparing to teach. I reaped the benefits of his preparation in that I was given a strong foundation for my own faith. Both he and my mom always encouraged me to study scripture for myself and not just blindly believe everything I heard either from the pulpit or from the classes I was in.

Acts 17:11 NIV ”
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

This was instilled in me more deeply than Missionary Baptist doctrine. Daddy learned what other denominations believed and taught me that as well even going to far as to teach me there was no doctrinal difference between Missionary Baptists and Southern Baptists. He made sure that I knew salvation was in Jesus and not in a particular church. That was a priceless gift.

When I started kindergarten, Daddy sat me down one day and had what I thought at the time was a weird talk. He talked to be about black people. Up to this point, I really hadn’t been around many black people because church and family were lily white. I don’t have any preschool memory of black people who weren’t on TV. He made it a point to explain to me that there was no difference between us and black people except for skin pigmentation and that didn’t matter. They had the same hearts and minds and I was never ever to call a black person “nigger” because it was hurtful. When I was older the conversation made sense, and it’s another thing I am grateful for because even though I wasn’t able to completely escape Southern culture race issues, that one conversation always came back to me to remind me that we are all human and I need to respect and love other people no matter our outside differences. It’s what’s inside that matters.

Daddy was a very smart man who could do just about anything. He was electrician, plumber, auto mechanic, small engine mechanic, gardener, and carpenter. He was also a fantastic cook who made the best apple and coconut cream pies I’ve ever eaten. He taught me much of that though mostly by watching and listening. But I do remember him taking the time to teach me how to do simple auto maintenance like checking and adding fluid and changing a tire. He is why I know my way around a breaker or fuse box. Throughout my childhood he did a lot of electrical, plumbing, and carpenter work for his sisters, widows in our community, and other family and friends. He taught by example to help others. And much of those skills he taught me explicitly were done before he went to prison I think because he saw I had the desire and the capacity to do minor maintenance and repairs that my mom lacked. She could cook and clean, and even do some gardening, but because she worked full time, she didn’t have time to do everything that needed to be done and had no inclination towards mechanical stuff. He ensured we weren’t left hanging, utterly dependent on other people for little things.

I remember when I played softball, Daddy would practice with me. I hated it most of the time because he and Mom both concentrated on my weakest area of catching which was grounders that I had to run for. Haha. He only missed one of my softball games. He didn’t miss any basketball game I played. He was there for every play and concert. When I was in the hospital he was there when my mom needed to go home and rest and a lot of the time when she was there too. He made me stay in bed when I was sick and made me drink lots of water and made my favorite foods so that I would actually eat. He helped me with homework and would play games with me. He even taught me how to play poker. Thankfully I didn’t get inherit his ability to count cards and don’t like losing money so as not to have a gambling problem. ;-)

He was overprotective in a lot of ways and tended to over and under react, but I understand now that it was fear that caused it. He didn’t necessarily love me in the ways I wanted, but he did love me and I can look back and see that now. He made many mistakes, but he made those because he had his own sickness and demons to contend with. He couldn’t be a perfect dad because he was human. But he did love me and he did try the best he could to raise me to put my faith in God and to grow up to be a responsible adult rather than a perpetual impulsive child. For that I can be grateful and honor him with love and respect.