The Evolution of a Necklace

This soliloquy is something I wrote over a decade ago and which rings more and more true every year that passes–it is about the undoing of what I knew of faith; in order to find real faith. It seems especially prescient now– as I watch what in many ways was a scary summer for all of us– turn into a fall that holds just as many unknowns. The urge to know as much as I can and help as much as I can is tempered by old lessons from those furious cycles of my past wherein I tried to figure it all out and came up short. Every. Single. Time.

It still seems a bit crazy, selfish, and callous– to be at rest, and even to dare to laugh when the whole world seems to be burning down around us. But then I look back and I remember it’s been this way for a while. And that God already showed me what to do once before in times like this. And when He gave me those revelations– I usually put them down on paper–or into a file in my computer– for later use — if nothing else just to be able to minister again to my own self. Knowing how to be your own minister, especially when you were abused for forty years by a minister–is one of the greatest gifts–and I am thankful God gave it to me.

The Evolution of a Necklace

In bed with Montezuma’s flu,

late in the morning,

when I turned thirty-two—

twisting my head on the pillows

I thought I saw

a tiny container of woven straw.

 

Under the round Caribbean lid,

a bit of turquoise tissue hid—

Dominican blue

Larimar stone

set into a simple silver cross.

 

Its clean lines,

a contrast from the frilly amber

set in golden lacy designs,

had stood out in the lighted glass display

the evening we roamed the street

pretending not to be looking

for my birthday treat.

 

That hazy morning I found it,

head spinning—

tongue tasting bile—

The joy of discovering the hidden gift

made a trip turned miserable—worthwhile.

 

At home it matched every outfit,

from casual and messy to dressy—

the bright color of sky lit up my eyes.

Forget the jewelry in the box,

I thought that necklace the best looking

piece ever formed into a cross.

 

But everything changed as thirty-three

was revealed to me.

 

Many things were found.

 

Others went missing…

 

Perhaps it had stuck itself into a sweater,

fell through a pocket,

or slipped into the washer for a whirl.

I scoured the floor, and every drawer…

It was stolen, I halfway decided,

since so very many had admired it.

 

Days passed, and a few sleepless nights—

I saw that I had been wrong,

and done wrong, while doing the very things

I’d thought were good; and right.

 

I’d always known that the Savior had died for me—

and I had worn His symbol with pride—

rejoiced in what it did to my eyes—

held it up to the light—

like some sort of prize.

 

That cross was a gift given

in a different season.

And was lost, when it was,

for a good reason.

 

In time the sting of its loss went away.

I no longer needed

to put Him into a symbol.

He dwelt in my heart, where He belonged.

 

…sincerity, prosperity, generosity, and charity—

Theology, idolatry, prophecy, and eschatology…

I tried to find a balance in all the Y’s.

Back and forth I went,

As more and more things

to which I used to cling

just up and left my head—

or got kicked out of my heart.

 

Sometime after thirty-four,

I knew there had to be more

than living in the extreme,

seeing ‘Pagan’ in everything,

having to walk so slow,

when you’d rather skip and run…

 

On my knees yielding a wet rag like a sword,

head stuck deep, in the bathroom cupboard

cleaning crannies I hadn’t touched in eons—

I found it inside a bag full of tampons—

an irony which caused a smile,

and a burst of laughter too.

The joy of re-discovering the hidden gift

made a trip suddenly turned miserable—worthwhile.

 

Holding it gingerly in my grasp,

I opened the clasp with dirty scuffed fingers,

stood from creaking knees,

and watched in the mirror

as the cross settled down

above my heart.

 

Returning the bag

to its place on the shelf

I thought to myself—

He’d simply been waiting

for me to see that He doesn’t bless

in ways understood by the world.

Even if made of expensive stone—

a symbol has no worth.

Just as nothing we do, or own, or give,

realize, theorize, or give permission to plagiarize

…means all that much after all.

 

Yet, with Him involved; it can.

 

That second time around,

after finding the gift unexpectedly

under the sink—

I didn’t even pause to think.

 

I slipped it on without hesitation,

fully aware of my humble station—

a past partaker in the debate

over graven images; works done in vain;

and many other truths that can set us free—

or steal our joy.

 

The evolution of the necklace

wasn’t about finding

some deep hidden meaning,

discerning all the rights

from all the wrongs…

it was about laughter, and peace,

Him letting me know He’s

taking great care of me,

and smiling upstairs,

wanting me to smile too

while my heart is repaired.

 

When He put that pretty stone ’round my neck again,

the journey, quite frankly, became much more fun.

What is our work?

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29

God impressed the simplicity of this verse upon my heart over a decade ago; when I was frantically trying to prove myself as His disciple. When I read the verse in context — I noted that the disciples asked this of our Lord shortly after He had performed many miracles. Perhaps they were wondering how they would ever be able to do the miraculous work Jesus was doing.

I was feeling similar at the time–wondering how in the world I was going to serve God as the saints of old had done. How was I going to evangelize, partake in miracles, raise children, keep myself unstained from the world and somehow still put food on the table too? The freedom that came to me in our Lord’s response, John 6:29, was so very welcome to me in that moment that it became a cornerstone verse for me going forward. I began to repeat that verse aloud every time I felt that niggling in my gut that I ‘wasn’t doing enough’ for the kingdom.

“A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.” Emily Bronte.

I came across this quote just this morning and it gave me a niggling trace of guilt. I was reminded me of the extremely productive person I once had been. These days I am someone who spends hours each week in passivity–often just listening (not even evangelizing) to various people who find their way to my back porch.

I try to do home improvement projects and I garden a lot every summer. But those things often get interrupted and remain unfinished. Either by company stopping or my own limitations. I still work outside the home and go into the office in the afternoons when it is needed– (I am a business owner. But I stepped away from the daily grind when I got sick several years ago. My husband still does the heavy lifting for the both of us at our business).

I changed because I had no choice. When I got hit with crippling PTSD, I knew I had to make some changes to my workaholic ways as that was only making me worse.

I began leaning into the day slowly. As anyone who has suffered from an anxiety disorder can tell you — it is the most debilitating upon first waking. For months I forced myself to relax and just stay home, cancel appointments, etc., until the anxiety lessened and finally went away. I wake up calm these days as I no longer have PTSD or an anxiety disorder.

But I continue to lolly-gag at home in the mornings. Slowly emptying the dishwasher and doing a load of laundry, letting my mind fill with the thoughts God puts there, and the Bible verses that come to my heart. Sitting down eventually and reading a devotion and daily Bible reading- or looking up the verse that came to me upon waking. Doing some writing now and then. Gardening, house work, baking, cooking- all of that– alone. With Jesus, of course. In the early hours before the phone rings or someone knocks on the door.

I find this easing into the day approach gives plenty of opportunity for pondering the things of God, as well as spontaneous singing out in worship. The contrast of these slow and quiet mornings compared to my years of getting piles of ‘work’ done before ten, (lest I not get anything done at all –highlights all the ways the world intrudes upon a morning — with its rushing about, it’s appointments, it’s buzzing and ringing phones and other siren calls to either ‘be productive’ or to waste time in utter distractions…

Parts of my belief system (like an entrenched Midwestern Work Ethic that ties value up in one’s ability to make money) are still so entrenched in my heart that I automatically return to them when reading things like that Emily Bronte quote above. And then God’s truth slowly settles me down again.

Because if the work of God is believing in the one whom He sent (Jesus); then spending a slow morning at home IS actually far more productive, from a Kingdom mindset, then rushing about getting as much ‘worldly’ work done as I can before the crux point hour of ten a.m.

I know, from past experience, that if I do not spend my early mornings with God, then chances are good that I will not spend much time at all with Him during the rest of the day.

 

 

 

True Freedom

I’m sitting on my porch as I write this. It’s a pleasant seventy degrees. With a slight breeze and warm sunshine- a near-perfect June morning in Middle America.

A fountain splashes in my garden and birdsong surrounds me, as soft as the sweatshirt around my shoulders. A motorcycle roars down a nearby highway. It is obscured from my view. But I know the rumble of a Harley.

I envision a helmet-less male driver with legs outstretched, a bandana and a beard blowing in the wind…

FREEDOM

This morning that word, impressed upon my heart, was followed by an urging to read Romans 8

Romans 8 confirmed that chaff is, indeed, being sifted from kernels of wheat; in the latest winds.

What is freedom? And have we lost it?  Or did we never really have any at all? It seems some have little to no freedom while others have too much and are abusing theirs. After 9-11 we all agreed to exchange freedoms for (a sense of) safety. It seems we are doing that again.

I have heard others express their thankfulness to live in my rural area where we can still be relatively free and safe.  I am thankful too, because I know it is where He planted me and would still have me be; for now.

Here is where this freedom paradox gets sticky: 

Gun memes are popular amongst Christian friends of mine. Gun sales are up; as are enrollment in gun classes and self defense classes.

At first I was alarmed about what is really happening. But I have now heard so much about Bill Gates’ microchip and Michelle Obama waiting in the wings as our next president, that I don’t trust any of the conspiracy theories whatsoever and see them as just more deception now… (I live in openly Trump country, and that allegiance gets lathered with a veneer of holiness). I am far more concerned, now, about what could be happening to the hearts of professing American Christians.

As a trauma survivor who has seen people injured, die and/or be threatened with death numerous times, I have no desire to arm myself against others. And the Lord also delivered me from political involvements a long time ago. Um, He also has done a mighty work in trying to cure me of presumptions, speculations, and using the Bible incorrectly (although I still do those things myself and so I am not in a position to judge others for it).

I will say this though: as a trauma survivor myself, I understand why war veterans, by nature, are often reluctant to fight. They know the heavy cost. Plus, Jesus did say: ‘those who draw the sword will die by the sword.’ Also interesting to me, when Jesus returns (in Revelation) the sword comes from His mouth…His Word seems to be the sword. Otherwise, wouldn’t He be carrying that sword in his hand?

Will evil fall by swords/guns/some kind of powerful divine destruction in the very end? or will it actually be destroyed by (at? from?) Jesus Word (or Words?)?

Either way: it seems to me we better choose our weapons (and our theology) wisely; right now. As for me, I realize the power in The Word and in my own words too. And in listening to Him and His word when my own words fail me. I don’t wish to trade that kind of power for the self-destruction of guns and fists and presumptions (theological or otherwise) and harsh words spoken in sin (even though I am still often guilty of the latter two; sigh).

Speaking of words: I just saw someone on social media using Patrick Henry’s 1775 rallying cry of : Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!

It is not lost on me that the country in which I live was founded upon rebellion and that we still tend to solve our problems by presuming we have no solutions other than to fight it out for ourselves. Those who live by the sword die by the sword; indeed.

True Freedom

I do wonder if some measure of true biblical freedom was either birthed here or brought here to America as an act of mercy; alongside that seed of rebellion.

Either way, somehow or other God saw to it that I would learn that real freedom is from Him and that it is the opposite of rebellion. True freedom comes from having my sins washed away in the blood of Christ. Through clinging to God in obedience and a pouring out of all my own strength. Which is seen as weakness in our human viewpoint.

But freedom in Christ is not weak, as in slavery, (to quote from Romans 8) but strong–as in we are the bought and paid for adopted sons and daughters of The King! Therein our souls and spirits will be kept safe (no matter what happens to us physically).

And I somehow learned that truth about freedom while living right in the middle of this vast land of the free.

To be proud to live in America– usually has more to do with personal liberty, and license, the ability to rent a private plane, to otherwise circumvent the usual systems, or to go to the store without a mask on…to gather in the streets and protest, and yes, to gather and worship as we choose, too. But in countries where there is a harsh consequence to worship (along with a lack of other basic liberties), we often see a purity and a devotion to God (that American fellowships seem to lack)–A clinging to their real freedom of eternal life.

In contrast: we who have personal liberties take our eternal life status for granted. Therein even religious freedom, for which American Christians are so grateful (rightly so), has a cost. Because it is only in such free places where we see that personal liberty is, by its very nature, antagonistic to the freedom we have in Jesus.

I had to be set free, myself, from a stronghold of personal liberty. Of gun-toting, Harley riding, wind in my hair, do whatever I want to do– freedom. In the place of ‘Give me Liberty, or Give me Death’, God wrote new words on my heart, and they are found in the first verses of Romans chapter 8:

…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life HAS SET YOU FREE from the law of sin and death.

To weaponize myself and defend any other idea of freedom would be to deny my real freedom. Even as I see other Christians speaking of doing just that. I cannot judge whether that means they never had real life in Christ to begin with; but it does give me pause.

As for me: I’m quite thankful to still have my porch and garden and other comforts. But: others can keep the Harley. And the guns. And the protests in the streets. Political this and that; too.

I LIVE.

Did you catch that? I am alive! I was once dead, but now I live (and will be alive forever, thanks to Jesus).

How much more free, could any person possibly be, after they are born again in Christ Jesus?

 

 

 

What if everything already happened?

I had a conversation with a friend years ago. She said she had this quiet feeling deep inside that a lot of the end of the world ‘stuff’ had already happened and everyone (in Christian circles, mainly) was missing it and that either made God laugh or annoyed Him.

Based on other things she says, and does, and her general state of being fallen away (from Jesus) now: I don’t give her words as much credit as I once did. I gave them a great deal of credit at the time she told me that. Back then most everyone in my life was a regular ‘church attender’. She was not. However, I recognized there was something in her which actually seemed more concerned with following God than others I knew (although when pressed: she didn’t seem to know how she felt about Jesus.).

I was waking up to the fact that church attenders may not actually ponder the deep things of God, or think all that much about how to really follow Him, aside from that requisite hour or two a week.

This remains for the most part: true — where I live. See, I live in a rural place and I still work in an industry that actually saw a jump in busyness since everything ‘went down’ this past March. Which is one reason why I haven’t been blogging much after I ‘picked’ it back up again this spring!

For two: most of the spare minutes I have are spent looking, anew, at eschatology, (biblical End Times).

I have long been intrigued by preterist view points. But find that I have too many spirit checks to get fully on board with the idea that everyTHING already is past. I consider myself a ‘moderate’ preterist, though.

I also think living as if Jesus’ return is imminent is important, and I don’t get a strong sense of that from the usual preterist theology.

I also think that before I can throw out the pre-tribulation rapture I need to understand and remember something Dave Hunt said (as I updated; in my last post): ‘if the bride isn’t eager for the wedding better call the whole thing off’.

That one gave me major pause. By and large there is not that eagerness in a theology which says it’s ‘all done’…the ‘come Lord Jesus’ sort of falls flat!

My pondering is this: Is it possible to retain that eagerness, without jumping fully into the notion that the rapture occurs before the tribulation? Can we retain the eagerness for a return with a pre-wrath rapture?

What if there is another option, entirely? What if much of the ‘stuff’ has already happened (to quote my aforementioned friend)??

And so I am looking at amillennialism with a great deal of interest now.

I am not saying that the desert fathers were on point with very much at all. Nor am I a fan of the Roman Catholic Church. Quite the opposite. It would be putting it very mildly to say that I remain highly skeptical of both. But in my recent research I stumbled upon the following quotation from the desert fathers. And it really spoke to my spirit.

I find myself wondering if we are now living in the times of ‘satan being unchained’ (Revelation 20). But that is also speculation on my part! Which makes eschatology so difficult. So much of it descends rapidly into presumption.

It is easy for me to see evil unchained given the struggles I have had (health wise and other) for much of my life. It might also explain the explosion in clergy sexual abuse, also happening shortly before my lifetime began and of which I am a survivor myself.

Certainly that is a sign of escalated evil.

And then, of course, there seems to be a massive and mounting deception of the nations. To quote an RN I chatted with recently, “I don’t trust what anyone has to say about this virus, and frankly just don’t believe anyone on either side of it anymore.”

Indeed.

 

 

Adopted at Birth

We quasi-adopted a young man years ago. It’s complicated. He isn’t really ours, but I do love him as a son. He never lived full time with us.  Though that wasn’t because we didn’t want him under our roof. That was always my desire. However, it wasn’t possible to break what family ties he did have; and wouldn’t have been right to do that either. Instead, he traveled with us and ate a lot of meals with us and worked with us and spent a lot of time with us, including some sleepovers.

But he isn’t truly ours. And now that he is an adult, this becomes evident on days like Mother’s Day when he calls on the same day as the birth children phone me (or are visiting face to face with me).

My sons and I have our own language. We also have zero subterfuge and can quickly get right to the heart matters. The good stuff. The things I like to talk about and hear about.

Bonus son still hesitates to go there. My birth sons were this same way as teenagers. I spent a lot of time being present and available and talking about small matters until they were ready to open up and share something deeper or more meaningful. But after their rebellion phase passed, they did enter adulthood much more willing to have the kind of relationship I always longed to have with them.

It struck me that this is how we are with Jesus. When we are adopted into the family of God it is important to live there, eat meals there, to be born again and start our formative years over at God’s table, as a fully adopted birth child who doesn’t want to return back to the home in which he was formerly raised.

Only then can we grow up to know the same language He speaks. And get right to the heart of the matter without any subterfuge. This is His desire. To know us as if we were birth children from the start. To repair the rift after our years of rebellion have passed.

I want to encourage anyone reading this to go ahead and cut the ties with your family of origin, or with your old former life of sin, and move in with Father God as a fully adopted infant about to grow to maturity– live full time in His house; learn His language and the way He speaks, and let Him see to your development in every way.

If you look around and see brothers and sisters in that same house–you are truly blessed. But don’t let them distract you from getting to know the Father as fully as He desires we know Him.

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

 

 

 

Rethinking the Rapture? Not so fast.

This post has been modified from when I originally wrote it. When I first wrote it, I was questioning pre-tribulation rapture theology.

As of this updated writing, I do once again believe the rapture of the church is a real event and that it is going to be a separate event from the final end time coming (of Jesus back to the world). I also believe that we who call on Jesus will avoid both the worst of the tribulation, as well as the final destructive wrath of God.

But before I came to that amended conclusion, I wrote the following:

The last time I took a big trip, I had an exit row seat on several airplanes. If you aren’t familiar: before the plane takes off the flight attendant asks the people sitting in those seats for a spoken verbal confirmation, agreeing that you will help evacuate the plane in an emergency.

As the flight attendant was asking for my verbal confirmation, I had the thought that I should be the last one off the plane. As a believer I know where I am going (heaven) and others may not be saved yet. So it is only just, and right, that others who may not be saved should be the first people to get off the plane safely. That way they could possibly still be saved before they die. And so, after having that thought and knowing it was true– I braced and steeled myself, in case any destruction did come on that plane, I would actually stay there and do the right thing. Not succumb to the flesh thing and escape myself, but actually stay and help others evacuate safely–just as I had pledged to do.

I mean, when you are sitting in a seat right by the main exit hatch, it’d be pretty easy to open it up and DUCK out yourself just to be safe…

I also knew that fending for my own safety, above the safety of others, would be a real temptation in a disaster. Because I know just how human, fleshy, and fearful I am!

As I was pondering the current times we are living in, it struck me that the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture theology could come across as incredibly flesh-y.

It’s a lot like saying– I’m sitting by the exit door and going to be the first one off the crashing plane! See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya, suckers! To everyone left behind.

Wouldn’t it be more in alignment with basic Christian principles, for those of us already saved unto eternal life to stay on a plane going down just as long as possible, to try and make sure those who aren’t saved yet, get saved– before the wrath comes and it’s too late to save anyone?

Like sitting by the exit door on an airplane. What would a Jesus follower do in such a situation? She’d stay on the plane and try to make sure others lived (eternally), if at all possible. Her days would be filled with attempts to wake people up to the seriousness of the hour. She’d use all her energy and talents to bring people closer to Jesus.

What would selfish, fleshy me do? bail and preserve myself/not keep my word to help others off the plane…

Christians do have an exit row seat and we will be pulled out of here before the wrath of God comes down to destroy the world. That part is and has always been VERY clear in scripture. But with that prime seating spot, I am thinking comes greater responsibility toward others on the same plane; not less.

When I first wrote the above, it all seemed pretty simple and I was willing to discard a rapture theology that I came into believing later in my life (I grew up protestant–and I was not taught to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture as a child).

Since then God has reminded me many times that He is God. He does the saving, I do not. And when He decides it is time, it WILL be time. I will either fall in line with His plan or be left behind myself. What makes me think I know better than God Himself, how to save people anyway? The Great Tribulation will have a sifting effect. In my eagerness to ‘help with the harvest’ and save souls, what if I am working in opposition to God’s plan for the world; instead of in sync with it?

Listening to some old podcasts and interviews with Dave Hunt also had me rethinking my recent rethinking of the rapture.

In one interview Dave Hunt said the following, “If the bride isn’t eager for the wedding, better call the whole thing off!”

That one got to me. In my eagerness to save other people from impending doom, I wasn’t simply eager for the upcoming wedding–for meeting Jesus face to face myself. Which should always be my first goal and earnest desire as a Christian.

In the end I concluded that it isn’t about keeping an eye on others. It is about keeping my eyes so fixed on Jesus that I am very eager for the wedding, and will not hesitate to leave all here on earth (including other people) behind me. So that I can go and be married to the bridegroom. Because, again, if the bride isn’t eager for the wedding; better call the whole thing off.

 

 

 

 

 

The Accepted Idolatry of Spouse & Family

Much has been said already in the blogs and youtube videos I follow- about how God has allowed for ‘the removal of our idols’. Sports, entertainment, leisure, restaurants, nonessential shopping…few mention church fellowship ties, or family ties, and how they can also become an idol before God.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you will see my insistence that we can still have church in our own homes ‘wherever one or two are gathered.’

Now I feel led to add an addendum to what I’ve already shared:

As humans we are very good at making other people into idols in our lives. With social distancing, it seems even that insidious idol has been revealed (for those with eyes to see and ears to hear). In many cases it has even been physically removed or threatened, as well.

We see horrible stories of infected people dying alone without family or spouse by their side. And I keep seeing news reports and stories of how spouses are willingly living separately and keeping their distance from one another to prevent spread of sickness. Particularly if they work in healthcare or had been traveling. Famous examples are in the news too. It was reported that Prince Charles stayed away from his wife during his illness. Oprah Winfrey insisted her long time partner stay in her guest house for fourteen days after he returned from travel.

This is, indeed, a very strange time. But I think there is meaning in what is coming through our news channels as well. I think these rich details, much like the rich details in scripture, are being put into the world for a deeper reason — for those who are willing to ponder it and pray about it.

In my own life the Lord has revealed my idolatry toward my spouse, toward my children and even toward those family members who once abused me in unconscionable ways. That last one took me a long while to see; as I was already keeping my distance! But idols grow in our hearts and physical distance is not always enough to knock them down. I also came to believe that one of the horrible effects of such acts of evil is to leave behind a type of bondage to the victim; which must be brought before God in order to be broken. And therefore I’m not convinced that we love and adore all our idols; sometimes we are fixated on an idol in ways we can’t even comprehend and need help untangling from. In this way we allow it to control us long after it’s initial evil attempt to control us!

It is our attitudes and beliefs which need to change, a turning BACK to God in full repentance and wholeheartedness of faith and love for Him, and trust that He will free us from whatever has us bound if we ask and seek that from Him–in this way I feel idols can easily be destroyed before God; through His power to save and sanctify us.

It was still a painful discovery, though, every time He showed me an idol I had made from another person. And inevitably, once I knocked it down, I healed a great deal. Other times my troubled relationship with that person I had made into an idol (particularly my spouse and children) then grew and improved. Because I was no longer trying to control their every move–as we tend to do with idols. Think of the super fan in the stadium or before the television. It is as if he can will his favorite team to a victory through his screams and clenched jaw and strong desire to control their performance.

Do we do similar controlling measures with our spouse, children, family members, church family?

I have certainly been guilty of that in the past!

1 John 5: 21 Dear children, keep yourself from idols.

Luke 9:59-60 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Luke 11:27-28 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs–how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband.

Luke 14:26  If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Right now the world is telling us we must be prepared to separate from a sick family member and die alone; in order to stop the spread of a sickness and, in essence, be able to live (to die another day).

God’s word has always been clear that real disciples are willing to lose everything, including parents, children, spouse, in order to gain Him.

Is eternity in His presence enough of a reason to separate our hearts from our idols; even  the idols we make of other people– which can seem so blessed and holy and not like idols at all?

Or will we choose to cling to our life here on earth– for who knows how long?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh church, where have you gone?

silver imac near white ceramic kettle
Photo by MockupEditor.com on Pexels.com

You may have noticed my tag line by now – clergy abuse survivor. I hesitated to identify myself as such. It can be limiting. Plus it might open me up for presumptions and false judgements.

But by readily admitting something key (and ugly) that molded me and my faith — those of similar belief as I hold might give me more credit; not less.

Being a clergy abuse survivor means that I saw directly into the nest of at least one of the (evil) birds Jesus said would roost in that yeast-inflated mustard tree. I realize I just mixed parables there–but yeast represents sin, and I personally believe that Jesus’ mustard tree parable was more along the lines of the church growing through unnatural inflation; than it was a sign of robustness and good health.

I think that’s why I am a little disturbed by this new way of ‘doing church’ — where we sit in front of a screen and tune in to a sermon or a pared down Sunday service and think that we’ve just had church together. And I’ve actually felt this same disturbed feeling in my heart before– it’s actually brewing for at least a decade. Back when it first started, I sensed we were ill prepared for what lie ahead. And now I see just how right I was to feel that way.

About five years ago, a minister friend and I were chatting. He was sharing some of the burden he felt for the congregants under his care. I recall saying to him, some of what I had felt stirring my heart, which went something like this:

“If something causes the church to go underground, into hiding, is your congregation ready and prepared, do they know how to have church themselves in their own homes–alone or with one or two or three? Because the way I see it, the task of every minister should be teaching every person and family and home they serve how to survive and keep being and doing church when there is no longer a church building to go to. And I do feel that someday churches will be hit with something, and our only option might be our own homes.”

My friend went silent at that curveball which he hadn’t seen coming. Then he slowly nodded. I was not sure if he fully got my sense of urgency; so I continued explaining how at our house, we had been doing just that. We’d been practicing ourselves, confessing sins, praising in songs, doing our own communions, praying more, skipping church services so that we could figure out what it meant to be the church in our own home. That way, if and when the time came; we knew how to do it on our own if needed.

I’ve been out of touch with my minister friend since this virus hit, and last I heard he had moved to a new, small congregation from the one he was serving back when I shared an urgency I had felt so strongly on my heart. So I have no idea if he began implementing some changes to prepare others for a time like this. Or if he fell back into the same old routine; where the minister holds court at the front and most everyone else participates simply by showing up.

Unfortunately: I had lost touch with my own strong feeling, and had slipped back into the easy participation of sitting and listening, being polite and withholding, instead of fully participating, diving full in, to a church gathering of two or more. So when our small fellowship stopped meeting recently, my husband and I tuned in to an online sermon and church service the next Sunday morning.

And we sat in silence and listened. Speaking to one another a little bit, later, about what we’d heard.

But that isn’t church.

There is no intentional coming together of the living body, in watching a screen.

The following week everything inside of me seemed to go awry. I was irritable and unkind. Finally, the dam broke and I found myself crying out, though I tried not to yell,  — we are doing this all wrong; we need to have church ourselves! A time where we sputter and wing it and bake some bread to break just for us and cry out in prayers–and it’s awkward and messy and beautiful just the same. Because this thing we did last Sunday where we sit passive and listen is no different than watching Netflix or the news. That is NOT church. And my spirit needs church more than ever right now…

Not to say there isn’t value in listening to online sermons. There is. I am ever thankful for the internet connecting us to one another and the ready information we can still seek and share (it may not always be the case). And if someone is truly alone with no ‘two or more’ to gather with, then online fellowship has to suffice in this hour. But a screen in place of a person isn’t church. If we don’t physically gather, we are in danger of hardening our hearts. For it is all too easy to become passive watchers; rather than active partakers in worship and study. If by and large most of us tune in to a screen, and tune out the urgings of our own hearts for real contact, what does that say about the church in this hour?

Zoom and Skype may bring us closer to that real connecting point; much more like face to face. Which is important. Even the apostle Paul knew the value of meeting face to face thousands of years ago.

If we have two or more people in a home — we can still do church and we can still be church. Gather together. Open the Bible and study and expound, the Holy Spirit will be the teacher. Enter into the initial discomfort of singing worship without a worship leader’s guidance, and saying humble unplanned prayers together. For Jesus has promised us He is there wherever two (or more) are gathered. Believe it. Don’t forget it.

The reason I forgot all that once burned in my heart about how to ‘be the church in my own home’ is quite simple. It was some mixture of laziness and complacency and a yearning for an easy sense of comfort rather than temporary discomforts which bring a more lasting satisfaction.

Laziness, complacency, and seeking momentary comforts are a dangerous combination in this hour.

So this week the two of us muddled through our own thing. Coming together quite simply.

My week, so far, has gone about the same as last; lots of curveballs and weirdness and a few health scares too. There is no magic fairy dust exemption of reality; merely from gathering as a church. But my heart is much more settled now that I know we still have a true gathering church after all; and it meets with Jesus at my own table.

 

“Even if the ground is icy, you can still plant tulips!”

Apologies for anyone who may have sought my blog in recent weeks and could not find it. It took me a while to privatize the original posts. I kept a few public. For those who requested access, you didn’t miss new content. Just access to old stuff I no longer wanted public.

I presumed my blog was going to be over. Now that I have safeguarded the things I once shared so freely: my anonymity feels secure again. Yet, I sense going forward that things around here will be more like the early winter out my window.

Colder. Less traffic than the little I received prior. But with more excitement for what could possibly be ahead. To quote a fellow Midwestern garden enthusiast, who was recently raving about tulips, “Even when the ground is icy, you can still plant tulips! The bulbs still bloom in the spring!”

…I am probably talking to nobody right now 😊. Or at best one or two. And that’s ok. I have pared down the blogs I follow. Conscience dictated that in so doing: I also remove the followers to my blog (if they belonged to any of the blogs I no longer follow). I hope it is not hurtful to anyone.

I am doing my best not to care about that. Recovery from people pleasing is not always easy. I wish I could say that I had the discipline and lack of eagerness-to-please-others to maintain a well trafficked blog.

I don’t.

Much has changed in my body and mind since I started looking into physiological reasons for what had been diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. I can’t get into that here as it’s too identifying. My body isn’t the only thing which has changed since I began exploring ways to heal it. My mind has as well. Gains I made in years of cognitive behavioral therapy were washed away by months of various toxins being released. Which can leave me so ridiculously irritable I could bite the head off a puppy at the wrong time of day. When it passes again, I find I have a boldness I’ve always wanted to possess. Wondering why I ever was so timid or afraid to say things simply and speak the truth. Confused as to why I once gave my money to a therapist telling me how to do just that.

The anxiety which occurs now is a passing physical type of anxiety and agitation, not one rooted in mental trauma. I know the difference, now, very intimately. I have no real idea how much of the ‘anxiety disorder’ and PTSD that I was diagnosed with was truly trauma or behaviorally induced or some combination of physiological, psychological, spiritual, and physical components.

I do suspect it was more physiological and physical than it ever was mental or spiritual. And I suspect that could be true for many people who are urged into medication or therapy (or told to JTJ- Just Trust Jesus) without someone looking carefully and deeply at their physical health.  I don’t believe I have seen a doctor, minister, or other professional who has come close to understanding any of it. Therefore I won’t pretend to either.

I will say, however, that now that some fog has lifted from my toxic brain, I see things clearer than ever before (even as my eyes are often blurry from vitamin deficiencies and toxins still leaving). I see that I was never a defect, or a reject. I know my childhood abuse affected me in every way possible, and knowing that is depressing even as it lets ME off the hook.

The childhood abuse affects how I approach receiving medical care, receive offers of friendship, and respond to the flames of narcissists. Had I not been mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually abused as a child — I likely would not have ever stopped looking for physical roots of illness. After my doctor stopped looking and wrote me off as a head case, I would have gotten a new doctor. Nor would I have been as willing to listen to ministers and Christian therapists giving me advice about how to fix my spiritual life–implying that I wasn’t doing something right or else I would be thriving instead of struggling. I would have said goodbye to many things much quicker than I did.

I have also encountered a staggering number of people who appear, in hindsight, to have had personality disorders. Those were the ones I usually let ‘help’ me the most.

Had I not been so bound up — I would have looked at what I was eating, and also doing with my time, and dug deeper there. Instead I instantly went to navel gazing. I wouldn’t have been so ready to believe the people who kept telling me there was nothing really wrong with me (Except EVERYTHING important–like my belief system and basic thoughts and behaviors)…oh, the easy fuel that wide-eyed-me must have been for all those out there eager to restore me to Christ. Sigh.

But that was not the path God had set me on. There is a reason I spent the last five years going down so many rabbit holes labeled ‘this is actually your own fault’.  I was predisposed to blaming my own personality traits and character, first, rather than looking at all the physical and external causes as to why I might feel anxious, tired, and in chronic pain. My childhood set me up for people all-too-willing to tell me what else I was doing wrong and how to correct it. And that all started to lift earlier this year. Even as it continued, to some degree. I am a slow learner and I made another doctor appointment with someone following a restrictive diet who’d grown quite popular on social media. When he posted shirtless, a gym selfie, I finally started to wake up that something was off about him. His clinic called me to reschedule my appointment and I quickly blurted, ‘oh let’s just cancel it.’ The poor woman on the phone seemed confused by my eagerness to cancel an appointment I once was eager to make.

In the end: this world is fallen. There is no perfect pill. No perfect diet. No perfect lifestyle maintenance regime. No perfect church. If there were, then it would mean Jesus had returned and set the earth right again. We will all know it when that occurs. Until then, don’t be fooled*!

(*Note to self)

This has been the lesson of the last five years of bunny trail after bunny trail. Harsh, I know. But I need to say this for myself, so that I remember it going forward. Falling for the illusion of perfection from those who overly promote themselves is a weakness. So long as I remember I have such weakness, it will be more easily managed. It isn’t so much a weakness in my character, though, as it is in my experience. Growing up in an environment where so many people were claiming all the answers (even when they flew in the face of truth and reality) really messes up your ability to know and trust the truth. Truth is– again– there is no perfect way in a fallen world. It simply doesn’t exist. I do believe we can make gains, and get to a point of high function regardless of our limitations– and I will continue to try. But I am going to try not to fall for the perfection illusions that keep being put forth by oh, everything and everyone — from commercials for antidepressants to doctors who pose shirtless.

I do maintain that Jesus is the way. Beyond that — there’s a lot of ways to lay down your cross. The important thing is that we let it (whatever it is) go.

That is why I’m letting go of the idea that there is still something wrong with me that needs healing. Because I am ok just as I am, in some pain and with granny-size-underwear covering a butt full of cellulite. There is beauty in that; value in that. More than there is in something uncovered and overly promoted. This world is eager to tell YOU why you being you is giving you an anxiety disorder (or cellulite or diabetes). Or why your diet sucks and you need to eat the rainbow. Why pharmaceuticals are evil. Or why Trump is really a Russian spy operative. Most of the time, they have something to sell, or simply fuel to garner, by making such claims.

Very few are willing to navigate the overblown claims to try and find any nuggets of actual truth. The past five years were my training ground to do just that. To swim in that stream and not drown in it.

In the end — share what works for you, and tell me about you or your life. Care enough to dig into the claims others make, rather than dismissing or falling for them. That’s what I hope to do here. A bit more colder than prior, as I am still figuring out what I am doing myself — but hey, spring comes eventually. For now — I avoid a lot of foods and supplements too, as I have discovered that many of them were a root source of health issues plaguing me for life. They escalated into fibromyalgia, and a diagnosed anxiety disorder and PTSD the latter of which I’m not sure is even a thing anymore and the former of which I’m not sure is a root cause or a symptom of something else.

I’m saltier than I’ve ever been prior, too. The need to be nice is lifting, as the quest for real and true burns strong in me now that I am figuring this stuff out.

Furthermore: that ugly brown tulip bulb WILL turn into a thing of beauty after it’s been buried properly. Like blogs that were all over the place being put to rest in the cold earth. Like life after death. Like coming out of a lifetime of chronic pain syndrome culminating in a five year fog of anxious self blame… only to realize it was the abuse and abusers, combined with some food that doesn’t agree with me. Not, actually: me. There is the bloom after a cold winter. And it is beautiful. Truly Beautiful.

My arms hurt–as do about sixty seven other body parts. But I hope to plant more tulips in the icy ground regardless.

They’ll bloom eventually.

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
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