Archive for the Semi-confessional Category

Learning empathy

Last week was kind of a rough week. By rough I mean busy. And as an aside, if you ever get desperate for entertainment, go spend a day in traffic court. Oh, my word. The only thing I will relay though, is James’ case is now over. The court was merciful with the DWI to the extent the judge could be, and for the next year, I am the only licensed driver in my household. What does that have to do with anything? More than one would think. The kids were bombarding me Sunday with their needs (aka wants), and I finally had to say, “Look. I know I am currently the only responsible person in our household. I can’t do everything for everybody. I can only do so much.” Given the awkward silence, I think maybe they got it, and they quit making demands. Well, until we got to Walmart anyway. ;)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, ESV)

I was profoundly moved last year when I attended an AA meeting. It more exemplified James 5:16 than I’ve ever seen in church. That was the final push I needed to finally start attending Al-Anon. It’s in Al-Anon where I see 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 in action. Not that I haven’t or don’t see it in church. I’ve just been more able to see it in targeted manner in Al-Anon. Because in many ways that’s what we do because while our individual circumstances are different, we can all understand what each other are going through. Those who have been in the program for a long time are a huge help to us newbies just by understanding and listening.

Over the post few years, I have slowly started first facing and then working through my childhood issues which are “Daddy issues.” I didn’t really realize to what extent I had been affected and why until I read Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp. I was able to identify the root of a lot of my issues and some of the root causes. And it is still on-going as I try to come to terms with them while also working through the issues of being married to an alcoholic and drug addict.

My life has been hard from an emotional standpoint, and it could have been so much worse. I have bounced back and forth between avoidance, suppression, and acting out. I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression for almost as long as I can remember. Sometimes all seems right in the world, and I feel great. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I want to run away and hide. Sometimes the pain and the darkness are so oppressive that I can barely function. Often there is nothing going on around me to match how I am feeling. This makes me wonder how much of my emotional turmoil is just delayed response.

I have done my share of questioning with why me. Why did that happen to me? Why do these things keep happening? But sometimes, I can look at myself and wonder why did God choose to redeem me. I know the choices I have made that I can’t blame on abuse. I know the things I’ve done that I can’t even attribute to peer pressure. I’ve been both the victim and the bully. God knows those things too. Jesus died because of those things. Yet He called me and redeemed me. And so I have a completely different view of the suffering I have and do endure that I did not bring on myself, as well as what I did. I can empathize.

I think empathy makes it much easier to show compassion. Therefore, I am able to see the crap I have had to deal with that I didn’t cause, while it sucked big time, has a greater purpose. And the crap I’ve had to deal with that was self-inflicted can also have a purpose for good.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17, ESV)

And in all of the mess and pain and chaos, I can be thankful because it has forced me to rely on God instead of trying to push through on my own strength. One of the sayings in Al-Anon is “Let go and let God.” This is what I am learning much more slowly than I would like. But even in my deepest despair, I still can have hope. Not “I hope things get better,” because that is a really a wish. I have hope knowing that there will be a day when God Himself will wipe the tears from my eyes. And with the empathy and compassion I am being taught through my pain, I can pass this hope on to others.

2013 Goal Wrap up

At the beginning of the year I made a list of goals for 2013. Now that the year is almost up, I thought I would recap. Because I need a topic that can allow me to be a little ADHD. ;)

Goal 1: Learn to rest

This didn’t turn out the way I originally intended. Meaning, I really didn’t know what kind of rest I needed, just that I needed rest. It took me nearly the whole year to finally comprehend (actual meaning – surrender) how I needed to rest.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a, ESV)

I was carrying burdens that weren’t mine to carry, some of which I have been carrying since I was a kid. Once I figured that out, and went through painful process of understanding what are my responsibilities and what belong to others that I have been taking on, it has been a lot easier to chill out. It took a lot of prayer, psalms, texts, therapy, Al-Anon meetings, and happy pills to get to this point. It is still a work in progress.

Goal 2: 13 races in 2013

This was met and exceeded! I did 14 races, and so signed up for 14 next year. I have a plan to do a race recap post sometime before the end of the year.

Goal 3: Crochet

I need a lot of practice yet with this one. However, I tried my hand at knitting and it is just so much easier for me than crochet. I finished a scarf for Chad, and have (twice) started a scarf for Jamie.

Goal 4: Pushups

Fail. I know there is still time to at least do one, but whatevs. I did a 30 day plank challenge in July, and barely managed that with all the drama.

Goal 5: Make my marriage and family priority

This has been both a win and an epic fail. I won’t go into great detail (though it’s mentioned in Goal 1 and I have blogged about it off and on), but it has absolutely been the biggest area of personal growth for me, and it was/is absolutely painful growth.

Goal 6: Journal every day

Yeah, no. I did ok, and then slacked of after a couple of months. But then I started blogging more and putting a lot of junk out on the blog that normally would be in a journal, so there’s that. ;)

Goal 7: Eat healthy

I have been on and off this wagon. Eh. Another ongoing work in progress.

Will I make another list of goals for 2014?

Maybe. If I do they will be more measurable. Like finishing Jamie’s scarf. ;)

“Love never ends.”

Last week I was in quite the mood. This week, I would really like to take a different tone. Not that I am not still angry over what happened, but because the last time I held onto and dwelled on some incident that happened there, I ended up with a physical demonic attack.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV)

So, since there isn’t anything I can really do (besides either blog about it, or go get in someone’s face), I “let go and let God.” Sometimes I have to do that multiple times a day. ;)

I wrote about demons a couple of weeks ago because I don’t think (at least among the more conservative/fundamental churches), spiritual warfare is being taught in a way that prepares believers to fight. Spiritual warfare is not simply a battle of wills within your mind. The battle of wills is putting sin to death within you. But I digress, and I’ve already written that post.

I think something else that has been neglected in being fully taught is love. And therefore, we have a culture that largely has no idea what love is both inside and outside the church. We largely equate love with affection for another person or sexual attraction to another person or even pity or sympathy. Each of those can and do operate outside of actual love. Because love isn’t about what you get out of it.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV)

Love honors “for better or for worse.” It’s what can recognize the repentance of an adulterous spouse, forgiving and remaining. It is what stays with the alcoholic drug addict when almost everyone tells them to boot them to the curb. Even when they deserve to be booted to the curb. Love doesn’t care what your social class is. Love doesn’t care what color skin you have. Love doesn’t care what political party you belong to or even whether or not you belong to one. Love doesn’t provide a list of rules to earn the love because love knows everyone is created in the image of God and no one can ever be good enough to earn the grace that Jesus provides through his death, burial, and resurrection.

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)

Love doesn’t wish ill on others. Love doesn’t dance on graves. Love reaches out to the broken.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21, ESV)

When I started this post, I didn’t know how in the world I would write it. It just seemed so hard, probably because I am still learning how to truly love. Turns out, though, that the scriptures speak more than I ever could. And I fail so often on most of these. But I will wrap this up with one final appeal to the church. First, always remember that even we who are believers were once enemies of God, and were reconciled only because the Holy Spirit drew us and enlightened to us the once for all sacrifice that Jesus did for us enabling us with the faith to believe in him as Savior and make him the Lord of our lives. We have done nothing to make ourselves better than unbelievers nor one another. Jesus did it all, and He did it because he loves us.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11, ESV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, ESV)

Funday Friday #18

Oh, man. This has been quite the week. I’m not exactly firing on all cylinders today because I had a really hard time going to sleep last night. The cats (Tiger and Sushi/Mako) played a very large role in that until about midnight. But additionally, things that I had been trying to ride out for the last few weeks just kind of dumped on me this week, and I spent some time connecting dots. Also, I think much was easy to mask thanks to my “happy pills” so that I was reverting back into my old coping skills that quit being effective decades ago. And other stuff that is for a post of its own.

Anyway, big shout out to Petra for looking me in the eye and speaking some hard truth to me last night. And praying for me. Also, she needs to blog. ;)

Another shout out to Molly for listening to me dump a little the other day, and then praying for me. She is running her first half marathon tomorrow. GO MOLLY!!!!

For the second time in a week I had to change the wifi password over the kids not getting their work done. :sigh: Chad and I had a pretty good talk yesterday morning about school work in which there was no belligerence or threatening. I really love it when we can sit and talk to each other rationally. Jamie and I have mainly communicated through texting this week. I got a good laugh yesterday when I texted her the new password. She replied with “Can’t you not make stupid passwords?” No. :) And that password got that stupid fox song out of my head finally. Until I just typed that. ugh.

I haven’t been to Al-Anon in like 3 weeks. So of course I have seen 2 people from my home group in the past week. The lack of attendance probably has a lot to do with my attitude this week. I did have a counseling appointment this week and it was terrible because I was all brain foggy and could barely make coherent sentences or say the right words. I did a lot of hand talking. I left so exhausted that I sat in my car afterword for a while recovering.

I’ve been eating and drinking like crap.

KitKat caught/killed another mouse in my office yesterday. I missed it which is fine with me.

Happy Friday!

The best laid plans…

…and goals. And who gets a cold on the eve of the beginning of summer? Oh, me. But I’m getting better (said in a bad English accent attempting to quote The Holy Grail). Anyway, I’m going to do a quick recap of the previous linked goals from January.

1. It took a couple of months, but I figured out what my lack of rest problem was. It wasn’t so much a work issue, but a stress issue. I got out of the one stressful situation I could, and it’s been easier to deal with the others. Way easier. And no, I will not go public with what that thing was.

2. I have done 7 races so far. I am registered for a half next month, and a full in October, and plan on doing the CARA 10k in August. I may even do the labor day 8k I did last year just to redeem myself from all the wrong things I did last year before that race. Bottom line, I am still on track with this one.

3. I decided I liked knitting better. Go figure.

4. :sigh: I did do a couple of pushups a couple months ago. I may not have broken the plane, but whatever. It was better than falling on my face on the way down. ;)

5. This has been so tough. That’s all I have to say about that.

6. Yeah, this hasn’t happened since like March.

7. I’ve had a lot of hotdogs and tater tots the last couple of months. And cider. And wine. And Starbucks. :-/

Speaking of Starbucks, this is kind of an aside, but I got about a half mile from the front gate and realized I left my purse at home. And this is the first morning I have deliberately speeded to work in forever because I pittle-farted around the house for way too long and wanted to limit how late I was going to be. First, I was both thankful and sad that I had enough change in the car to pay for a tall blonde. Sad because I wanted a triple venti vanilla latte and my Starbucks card is in my purse. However, in the parking lot I remembered that I have the Starbucks app on my phone. SCORE! So I was able to use that to pay for my fru-fru coffee.

Also, I gave up my semi-anonymity on Twitter and put my real name up on it. Figured I would make it less of an effort for NSA. ;) The DragonLady pseudonym/alter-ego still stands in the blogsphere though. That said, I was forced to use my real name commenting on some blog last week because I had to use my Google profile. Eh.

I ran across this by accident on Twitter yesterday morning and decided I’m going to give the 21-Day Plank Challenge #plankwithbex & Delta Labs a go. Did my first plank last night, and shook like crazy for the last 15 or 30 seconds or so of my 36 second plank. I’m feeling it today. Just sayin’.

“Run the only race worth running!”

I still have a love/hate relationship with running. It still takes a lot to get out there and do it, and I still usually hate it while I am running. Especially for the first 2 miles. Yet I still sign up for races knowing full well that I run slower than most and so won’t even place, let alone win. But I like the shirts and cups, and love getting finisher’s medals. And I love the feeling of actually finishing.

I’ve run 2 half marathons so far. 13.1 miles is a long way to run when you want to quit before finishing the first mile. I am planning on running a full marathon in October. By planning, I mean I have registered. I want to put a 26.2 sticker on my car along with the 13.1 sticker. And Karyn says I am a machine for being able to finish runs I haven’t properly trained for. That would really be both halfs. I did better training for the first half, but I went straight from not being able to run past 9 miles to the 12 mile run. That was also the half that I asked Karyn for an epidural about a half mile from the finish. The second half I should not have been able to finish due to lack of training. I have also gotten through 2 10Ks by reminding myself of that 13.1 sticker on my car. “You’ve run 13.1 miles; you can run 6.2!”

So, yeah. I’m ready to make the 26.2 leap. Once anyway. ;) It will be different, for sure. I can run 13.1 without having to refuel, but I know I will need to eat something during a full to replenish. I know I will have to be diligent about training. Not just the runs themselves, but running with “supplies” for refueling. With proper training, there is no reason short of injury or illness that I shouldn’t be able to finish – even if I have to walk (or crawl).

Funny thing is, sometimes I think I have been learning more about my walk with Christ from running than I managed to pick up otherwise. I have not fallen during a run (yet), but I know it is a matter of time. I saw a lady go down right in front of me during the last half, and she got right back up and proceeded to pass me again. :) This would correspond pretty directly to what Paul says about looking forward and forgetting what is behind. I’m going to trip and fall on my face, repeatedly, but that is not where I am to stay.

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV)

Training for a long run involves a lot of running with gradually adding distance to build up the muscle and endurance. Properly hydrating is also necessary as well as eating foods that provide energy and promote healing. Even with all the training, and even training hills, sometimes you find yourself in a race with a hill from hell. This is a hill that may or may not be steep, but it seems to just go on forever and ever as if you are never going to reach the top. Sometimes trials feel like the never-ending hill, and just wear you down no matter how you try to be diligent in prayer and bible study.

Sometimes, rather than a “traditional trial,” it can be a struggle with overcoming a particular sin that can feel like that never-ending hill. I have found myself here lately. I know much of what is going on is spiritual warfare, but I also know I alone am responsible for my actions and/or inaction. I’ve been tripping and falling repeatedly, but kept getting back up and running. But then I hit the wall. And when I hit the wall, I realized that when I thought I should share what was going on with my close friends that I should have actually done it. But then I still waited before I did it. And it’s still a problem like a never ending hill. :sigh:

Update: I meant to credit the title before publishing. I “stole” the title from the sermon notes I took during a sermon preached at newhope church. And because I didn’t have the notes in front of me when I finally finished this post (after about 4 weeks), I don’t even remember what sermon series it was (pretty sure it was Joyride) or if it was Pastor Benji or Pastor Chad that preached it.

Sometimes slacking is more rewarding

I skipped a tribe run yesterday. I brought my running clothes to work to change into. I even made sure I had a yellow shirt to run in for the Boston Marathon bombing (I wore a blue shirt to work), and that my iPod was charged, and that I had my hat, and my watch. (Stop judging my sentence structure.) I only half listened to my mom on the phone while trying to invent an excuse to give to Karyn who had a good reason to skip the run. But, I couldn’t really come up with anything and just went on home resigning myself to tell the truth. I didn’t feel like running. And I am glad I didn’t.

I got to sit and listen to my daughter tell me about having to both play AND sing in front of her class, and how scared she was. She said she had to stop at one point because she was shaking so bad, shake out her hands and pick back up. I know what it’s like to stand in front of people playing and singing and shaking like a leaf the whole time. I am so proud of her for having the courage to do it in spite of her fear (which I couldn’t do at 16).

I got to spend some time with my son trying to find super glue. Ok, he was looking for it and I was just telling him where it wasn’t. And to not eat my chips. ;)

I got to sit down with the hubby for a little while after he showered, and remove 2 thorns from his thumb. Contain yourselves. Very exciting, I know. But he can’t see well enough to get them out himself, and since I wear these handy-dandy progressives, I can see well enough.

And then I sat/laid (I was going back and forth between the 2 on the bed) and read. And the book tore me down, and led to exposing an idol which led to a time of prayer of repentance, which gave me an area where I could affirm and encourage my husband…which was itself an answer to a prayer.

So, yeah, I am glad I skipped out on the run, because the time with my family was much more rewarding.

And I did 2 pushups before I went to bed, so I did do some exercise. :cheesy:

Maniacal Monday #16

Why does the weekend fly by so fast while the work week drags?

1. The hubby and I went to Good Friday service Friday night. Oh, man. Talk about being undone. Although I have never seen The Passion of the Christ, I have seen enough bits and pieces that I can recognize it at any point, and know that I am about to meltdown.

2. I finally had a DNR – Did Not Race. I not only registered for the 3rd annual Jelly Bean race 10k, (the 2nd annual Jelly Bean race was my first ever 5k), I also bought a finisher’s medal. With 2 weekends to get that run done, I didn’t get that run done. :sigh: No, I don’t have a good excuse/reason. Actually, I did do some running Saturday morning, but it was to the bathroom. Still paying for that Papa John’s 2 weeks ago… I was, however, highly productive around the house. And at least my first DNR was a free virtual one. Well, except for the finisher’s medal. But I think I will just alter it to say “2nd” and “2012” and attribute it to last year. And by alter I mean tape paper to make it look obvious. lol

3. I’ve cooked 2 weekends in a row. Enough that I have been hooked up with a week of meals. Which is good since as of today, we are broke until next payday. Fun times.

4. I’m going to do a detox next weekend (I finally took my new juicer out of the box after buying it a month ago), and will be giving up sugar and dairy – specifically cheese. I may expound on the why later in the week.

5. In the midst of my cleaning out of clutter Saturday morning, I happened across my taser. (I wondered where it went.) I wasn’t entirely sure it was still working when it went missing, but I went ahead and plugged it in to charge it. Sunday morning, as I was showering (which is a story in itself that I will spare most of you), I heard the hubby comment on the fact that I was charging my taser, and yes, it was plugged into one of the outlets in the bathroom. The following conversation ensued after discussing how long it had been charging (about 24 hours at that point):

J: “Well, it’s shocking me.”
M: “Did you seriously just tase yourself?!”

Sure enough, when I was done showering and opened the curtain, he was still standing there with taser in one hand and touching the contacts with the other while triggering it. And I’m thinking, “What if it had still worked?”

6. The hubby and I went on an impromptu date Sunday for lunch (because my taser didn’t work – lol). We finally decided on Red Robin because while I was open to Sonic tater tots, that would have been my lunch while he would have eaten a burger I want. So there we are at Red Robin, and our waiter decided he recognized me? From that point on, every staff that came by our table spoke primarily to me. At this point I should point out that when I am out somewhere, I really prefer to blend in to the background and not be noticed. I’ve built up this idea in my mind that I give off a vibe to that effect, but apparently I fail miserably at it. Karyn told me flat out that she has never noticed that from me, and my daughter took it a step farther and told me I shouldn’t look so approachable. Wait. What? Ok fine. I outwardly fail at my inward introversion. Probably the whole forcing myself to make eye contact and smile when I really want to scream and ball up in a corner in the fetal position. I have issues, and this wasn’t the direction I intended to take with the date. haha. Squirrel!

We also stopped by the American Tobacco Trail, and walked out about a half mile and back. It was a miserable walk because I needed to pee a little bit before we walked out, and I needed to go so bad on the walk back that I was afraid to cough or sneeze. And once we go back to the parking area and I headed into the hole-in-the-ground toilet, I couldn’t go. Ugh. I really hate that when I have to pee so bad I can’t. But eventually the dam broke, and then I was like “Am I ever going to stop?” And yes, you needed to know that.

7. I was introduced to “The Game” on Friday, and am not appreciative. Don’t ask. Don’t Google. Chad threatened to disown me over it. lol Same guy also introduced me to this:

Petra refused to watch the whole thing, but you should. Seriously.

Dieting sucks

Really, there is no other way to put it. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, at the end of the day, when you are trying to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. That means you can’t eat as much as you want, and you get hungry because you have spent the better part of your life not denying yourself any food or amount of food because food made you feel good. That sounded a bit confessional didn’t it?

I finally got a handle (mostly) on what I am consuming, and on regular (mostly) exercise, so it is down to it. And yes, I am keeping track of what I am eating. Not so much with a diary, but I am eating the same thing every day, at the same time (mostly), in the same amount. Boring, yes, but that in itself shows a problem. I don’t need my food to entertain me. That’s what Facebook is for right? ;)

Breakfast consists of 1 cup (cooked) quinoa & amaranth with 1 banana, equalish amounts of dried cranberries & blueberries (around 2 Tbsp each), and about a 1/4 cup of milk.

Lunch is about a half cup of wild rice, and sometimes a baked sweet potato and/or a probiotic yogurt.

Supper is a cheese omelette sandwhich which I look forward to ;)

And a multivitamin + vitamin D.

And starting next week, I plan to hit the farmer’s markets and get me some good veggies to go with the wild rice. :)

Creed before Christ

Note: I wrote almost all of this post last week, but couldn’t manage to finish it until yesterday. So all references to “tonight” and “last night” were actually made last Wednesday & Thursday.

This rarely happens. I think up a topic I want to blog about while I am driving to work and I actually remember it when I get there and began a draft. By begin a draft, I mean I typed in the title, selected the category, and saved. Now here I am at the end of the day wishing I was in bed asleep but waiting on a load of laundry to finish so I can put it in the dryer…because I need it dry and ready to pack in the morning. I don’t know where to begin. So this may be long and all over the place since I won’t be finished before I go to bed tonight.

I grew up in church. I’ve been told never to start a testimony with that, but that is a huge part of it. My dad was a deacon up until I was 15. He and/or my mom taught small groups off and on up until I was 19. I got churched at church, and I got churched at home. I knew all of the major Baptist doctrine by the time I was a teen. Saved at 12, baptized at 14, and walked away from the church at 19. My best friend told me not too long ago that I didn’t just leave the church, I wanted nothing to do with “organized religion.” When I walked away, it was over racism, but over time I realized that was just the final straw in what I perceived as institutional hypocrisy.

After 2 decades of wandering in my own self-righteousness and slowly getting more and more debaucherous in my behavior, I got turned back. Yeah, it turned out that living my life in pursuit of instant gratification is empty – totally and completely unsatisfying. But I still had my anti-church bias, and even still after being an active member for the past 2 or 3 years after 20 years of living my life for me.

I am a member of a Southern Baptist(SBC) church now. I grew up in Missionary Baptist churches (which split from the SBC in the early 20th century) that were American Baptist Association(ABA) and Baptist Missionary Association(BMA). The BMA split from the ABA around 1948 or 49 ironically for about the same reason the ABA split from the SBC. My point being, each of the 3 hold to the same basic doctrines despite what the ABA old-timers have said for years. Remember, I stated my bias up front. ;) There are also General Baptists, Freewill Baptists, and Independent Baptists. The Independents, if I remember right, also split from the SBC during or following the 19th century Landmarkism movement (which was a lot of what was behind the ABA split), so they generally hold to the same doctrines as the SBC, ABA, & BMA with the added tendency towards King James Onlyism. I know I throw all that out without any references, but I’m blogging not writing a graduate-level academic thesis. That would be really long. Just sayin’.

And then there are the Westboro “Baptists” of whom I have nothing at all good to say, so I will save them for a day in which I am feeling particularly snarky.

But anyway, my Baptist doctrinal background is ABA & BMA, which differs little from the SBC. One thing I have noticed that is different between the ABA & BMA and the SBC is what is prominently displayed on the wall in the church sanctuary. That would be a huge framed poster of the church covenant present in every ABA & BMA church I ever attended. Yes, is was/is the most prominent feature. You know what else? I never could read it past the first paragraph before losing all interest. I would even try to make it into a song (in my head), but to no avail. It’s just something that irks me now, and I know it is only because of the statement about alcohol. Why? Because it is unbiblical. I’m not saying teetotaling is a bad thing, it just isn’t a commandment. Drunkenness is prohibited, not drinking. And I don’t say that just to justify my drinking. My drinking habit is best described as binging, which is why I voluntarily avoid it. Now. Most of the time. Unlike eating McDonald’s, getting drunk is still a temptation…unfortunately.

Anyway, my perception of the Christian life based on what I absorbed as a child and youth (whether actually overtly taught or not), was a tendency toward performance-based gospel. Yes, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but then don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex until you’re married, and try not to cuss too much. Hmmm, and dress up for church on Sunday, particularly Sunday morning. Dress or skirt mandatory. (Not so much anymore) Recipe for failure. Oh, sure, I learned very well how to look the part, but I failed (at all of them) because I didn’t get enough read your Bible and pray. I’m not saying I wasn’t taught that either, because my parents always stressed that (yet didn’t force me – wise, in retrospect, letting the Holy Spirit do the work), and I had a really good mentor for a few years from 10-15 years old who tried her best to get that through to me. It just did not sink in for 20+ years.

Ok, it was totally not my intent to turn this into a confessional post. Perhaps I should have finished it last night when I was fully snarky. haha Or maybe I should go back and read the blog post that got me riled up to begin with. But my point really is this: yes, doctrine matters. Yes, creeds, confessions, and covenants matter. But they are not the main thing. They don’t save, they don’t regenerate, they don’t produce fruit. Only Christ saves. Only the work of the Holy Spirit in a person saved by grace through faith in Christ will produce fruit. And good fruit isn’t just outwardly following a set of rules. There is no being good enough to win God’s favor. 12 year old me got that, and promptly forgot. 40-something me has had to learn the gospel all over again. Jesus is righteous, not me. He knew how I was going to rebel before and after accepting him, and he loved me enough to suffer and die in my place. And even when I can’t see it for seeing all my faults and failings (which are numerous), I am being conformed to the image of Christ. Much slower than I like, because patience doesn’t come easy for me, but when I look back at what I was, I can see the difference, and it keeps me running.

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.
(Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)