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?

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Why I dislike blind faith, and how understanding more about Bible prophecy helps me heal from abuse.

My husband and I watched this prophecy update video by JD Farag and I was blown away by the depth and simple truths he expounded upon in God’s word. After it was over I told my husband that this is why I dislike being told I need to ‘trust God with blind faith’ and ‘believe just because God is God’.

Furthermore, if I had to make a choice between ‘just me and my Bible’ versus ‘me and a room full of seemingly loving Christian’s without the Word’– I’ll keep my Bible. Thanks.

To me it is clear that God gave us prophecy so that we could reason our way into a belief in His existence. Rather than relying on the things we were told by parents (who in my case are not to be trusted) or ministers (some well meaning; others not so much) to ‘just trust’ ‘because God is God’ and ‘He Said So’ (which is far too similar to the kind of tactic the abusive people in my life used to keep me quiet, ignorant and compliant).

Before I expound further — I should explain some things. My Christian upbringing was in an outwardly Christian, but inwardly crumbling, home. The verse about ‘whitewashed tombs’ fits my family dynamic well. The protestant church we attended weekly, (which taught me a basic gospel message for which I remain grateful!), was very liberal. They did not touch on the fact that ‘the end was near’ or that ‘Jesus was returning soon’. They stressed blind faith just because ‘God was God’, over biblical inerrancy and the real proof of God’s existence found in the prophecy portions of scripture. Prophecy was only mentioned in the context of Christmas and Easter — and then it was merely part of the weekly readings, not exactly highlights of the sermons.

The minister in my family, who sexually assaulted me as a child and then harassed me into adulthood, called the church people who got excited about whatever was currently happening in the Middle East: ‘fundies’ ‘bible beaters’ ‘religious nut jobs’.

Oh, he’d be polite to their face, but stabbed their character when they weren’t in earshot. He acted as if he was above that kind of thing — more educated and therefore not prone to ‘conspiracy theories’ about ‘when the seals were gonna open in revelation’.

According to him, and many other ministers that influenced me in my early years: people have been in a tizzy about Jesus’ returning for years- -and he hasn’t yet. So why bother preparing yourself, just live your life and trust God and you will be fine no matter what. Or something like that. All of which never gave me any peace of mind whatsoever. I like facts. Proofs. Things written down that I can dig into and eventually logic out for myself.

Years later when I read the following in Matthew 24: 48-51

But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The Master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I knew why the minister in my family dismissing the idea of Jesus’ imminent return had felt so unsettling to me. Because only a wicked servant would talk like that! To believe in Jesus’ imminent return has always been one of the hallmarks of a Christian convert.

Thankfully it was hard to take the family minister very seriously when he started talking scripturally because usually he was too busy being an abject pervert or a mean spirited gossip to ‘talk shop’ around the table with his family. On those rare occasions when he did, as already stated above– I was left feeling even more uneasy around him than prior. And that’s saying something as I was rarely not on edge around him.

But just as we are promised in Romans 8, what the enemy meant for evil, God redeems for good. One of the main reasons why I came to study, and love, prophecy, is because of the minister in my family’s poor example.

I have written before about how reading the Bible for myself is what helped me own my own abuse, particularly Jesus’ warnings about ministers who are actually wolves dressed up as sheep (those verses continue to give me affirmation that abusive ministers are to be expected — and therefore the shameful things which it seems I ‘participated’ in were not my fault, or my doing, at all). Studying scripture on my own also helped me to see that my family had been spiritually abusive to me — and that their outwardly pious but behind-closed-doors-abusive natures is not what God intended His church to be like at all.

But regular readers are likely bored as I’ve shared all that prior.

I haven’t yet touched on my love for prophecy. And that love grew the more I delved into it and started to (somewhat) understand it — and it is complicated; has taken me years to even begin to wrap my head around it. But I believe it is worth it. I also believe that this modern obsession within the church — where we insist it is somehow ‘more noble’ to ‘blindly trust’ God, than it is to reason and logic and crawl our way through the scriptures looking for solid proofs– is only causing further damage to those of us (me included) who are victims of clergy abuse and spiritual abuse.

It’s time we dug into what it is that makes God so very trustworthy and solid — so UNLIKE an abusive, shape shifting, smoke and mirrors, self-serving and disordered personality who wants you to obey just ‘because he is god of this house, or leader of this church’ and because he ‘said so’.

Through many different authors, over thousands of years, God took care to tell us exactly what was and is going to happen, so that when it happened, (or happens)–we would NOT have to blindly trust Him with doubts in our guts as if he is just some carnival hawker with plush toys, greasy hands, and a rigged game. We can trust Him with our eyes wide open and seeing clearly that He is good, because He keeps His word — every jot and tittle of it, despite how many wicked sorts would twist it and turn it and use it to suit their aims.

The rest of the world? Nope–it is not good, it is in fact-evil. (also part of the prophecies and warnings found in the Word) but Him, yes, He…is good. Prophecy proves His goodness!

 

Battle Interference

Last week I had the thought that showing up is 9/10 of the battle (courage is not the absence of fear, courage is acting in spite of fear) and the other 1/10 of the battle is sticking it out to the end (perseverance).

This week I had the thought: you can’t fight another person’s battles. Doing so would defeat the entire point. As a Christian, I believe all those holes we get from a battle are spots where the light of Christ can shine through us uninhibited by our self. By nature of that process — one simply cannot fight in the place of another who would benefit from engagement in a battle (humbled, wizened, strengthened, etc.)

I’ve caught myself fighting another person’s battle for them, in the past. In my family of origin, triangulation and emotional incest were common occurrences. I found myself ‘handling’ ‘managing’ and ‘parenting’ my parent’s and other family member’s dilemmas as if they were my own. I am a fighter at heart. Engaging in battles came/comes naturally.

Particularly with my children’s battles. I was easily engaged in those to a harmful point; still can be.

But I am starting to see that this is not only hard on me; it could be crippling to others as well.

Again, I am a fighter at heart and can often sniff out a battle brewing. It is hard to sit on my hands when something is off and I know it; even when I know it would be harmful to engage myself in it. What bothers me most is when someone doesn’t even realize they are IN a battle. It’s clear to onlookers that there is real trouble, say, in someone’s marriage, or workplace, or family dynamic. But the person who is meant to be in the middle of the storm with a sword in hand — drank a cocktail of delusion mixed with denial and went to sleep instead.

In those cases, not engaging means keeping my mouth shut; until the sleeper awakes. And if he or she doesn’t ever awake; again — it’s not my battle to fight.*

*Note to self.

Have you ever entangled yourself in another person’s battle? How did it turn out?

When Kissing is Abuse (A Survivor’s Thoughts on The Purity Movement). Part 2.

(Continued from part one here)….As an adult, coming to terms with my child abuse, I can remember feeling literal pain when talking with sisters in Christ who had upbringings that fell in line with The Purity Movement. They recalled childhoods wherein their fathers sat around the dinner table expounding upon the Bible. The minister in their family would lead worship songs and take them to summer camps (without assaulting them). Their mothers guarded their encounters with other children and adults. They actually threw out, or burned, the questionable toothpaste and the smut books…why hadn’t God put me in one of those homes instead of the one I was in?  That realization hurt. As an abuse survivor: The Purity Movement can sting in so many ways.

I was jealous for what these sisters in Christ had been given. Their caregivers had shut the door on the devil. Mine had invited him in for coffee! In contrast, I felt even more defiled and abandoned–and unsure if I even belonged within Christianity. I also learned that jealousy can be physically painful. It hollows out your chest cavity and burns your guts. I felt weak; exhausted. It wasn’t fun to sit through these stories others shared. But it was necessary to my healing. It also wasn’t fun to finally share my own stories of defilement. But it was necessary to my healing. Because it was my story. I’m more like Tamar from the Bible than I am Laura from Little House on the Prairie. And owning that made for a whole lot of pain; but it also made all the difference too. My own religious double-mindedness was disappearing, the more I owned the truth.

In time those feelings of jealous pain passed and I began to take a hard look at my relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t following Jesus because someone had been sure that I was ‘kept pure’, leaving me determined to ‘stay that way’ by jumping under Jesus’s Umbrella until marriage. No. Furthermore, my sexuality is only one part of what Jesus purified. The Purity Movement runs the risk of making everything about sex, instead of about Jesus. Sex was a frequent topic of discussion in my perverted upbringing, also with a hyper focus on the ‘sexual status’ of young girls. And so if we are ‘truly guarding’ a woman, then shouldn’t her sexual status remain private? Is ‘ensuring virginity’ something God told His people to do? We know they often made it public in the Old Testament but it is unclear if that publicity was a command of God. Because I grew up with religious people hiding their own perversions, who also loved to find out such intimate details about others, (particularly young people)– I question whether showing off a daughter’s purity cloth, or a modern day purity ring, isn’t simply more evidence of the human tendency to get fixated on sex; and particularly the innocent sexual status of young people. It’s a scary thought, to me.

Furthermore, our depravity goes much deeper than sex, it involves greed and pride and a host of other ills too. True purity is about much more than celibacy. It’s about turning from our very nature as fallen humans. And so ultimately: I can’t credit the way I was raised, any certain movement or published book, for my salvation and restoration which covers everything about me: including my sexuality. I can only credit God Himself for it.

Eventually it became clear that few people are walking in sexual freedom, no matter their backgrounds, or marital status–and that those who had been public about private matters often lived to regret it later (as Joshua Harris now seems to be doing). I had to wonder if it was because they’d never believed they had a reason to wrestle with their own purity status? Or if it was because in their own ways, they were also victims of sexualization (which is abuse, too)–except it would be taboo to ever call it that in a Christian setting! Meanwhile, I wrestled openly with mine, and asked God for salvation from my damnation as well as the healing of my broken sexuality and past abuse. I came to believe that eternity, purity and sexual freedom is found through ongoing repentance. Active trust in Jesus, not my own past or present action (or inaction), is what makes me pure.

Therein is the freedom. In admitting your own defeat and declaring “Jesus makes and keeps me pure!” Having said that, I actually have no problem with people attempting to keep their homes pure, for their children’s sake. I would likely do the same, could I redo some things myself in the way I raised my own. But I truly hope I would never ‘broadcast’ the virginity status of any young person (even with their expressed permission — young people are too young to understand the ramifications of that). Nor would I take part in putting a young person on some sort of public faith based platform or pedestal, as few adults have the kind of maturity and groundedness-in-Christ to handle such exposure. Putting young people into the public eye prematurely is rampant in modern Christianity. (Amending this on 8-23-19 to add: I believe every now and again a young person comes along who does have the kind of maturity to be in ministry at a young age. Often that person has been given an inordinate amount of wisdom AND has also endured so many trials that they are more than ready for a spotlight or platform. However, maturity really is necessary to be in that kind of ministry or have that kind of platform. Unfortunately, I also know ‘older people’ in ministry who still lack maturity.)

The idea that we can even ‘stay pure’ in the first place, is another thing that gave me pause, about The Purity Movement (after I peeled through the hurt, anger, jealousy, and outrage over ‘broadcasting the sexual status of young people’). The way I see it, it is impossible to spend any amount of time on earth, single or married, and not have your mind defiled to some degree by your own thought processes.

Jesus said if a man even thinks about a woman in ‘that way’ then he has committed adultery with her in his heart. Which tells me that even the best homes (and marriages) — are still not pure enough for God’s standards — no matter how careful they have been. The antidote isn’t merely avoidance of the devil; it is utter dependence on Jesus.

I am no longer painfully jealous when I hear about other people’s upbringings. I am all the more aware of what Jesus continues to give me. And I cling to that the way only someone who can’t hear the word ‘kiss’ without flinching, would cling.

Wrong as they were about so many things, and implicit as they were in the abuses of a child (me) — my parents behavior, and the actions of a wolf in shepherd’s clothing— was the conduit for me to respond to the Holy Spirit’s offering of Christ’s purity in every way I needed it.

For that I am thankful.

Nevertheless, Shut De Do is a favorite song of mine and I often think of that song when I think of my upbringing. If only someone watching over me had shut the door and kept the devil in the night.

 

 

When Kissing is Abuse (A Survivor’s Thoughts on The Purity Movement). Part 1.

Trigger warning — details about sexual abuse follow. I have enjoyed reading about the fall out from the I Kissed Dating Goodbye author’s change of heart– here’s a synopsis if interested. So much has already been said, from many angles. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain my own feelings. (Or feel free to move along to another post as this  one will get lengthy!) Update: I have so much to say on this topic, I am turning it into two posts!

Joshua Harris’s popular Christian book was something I’d never heard about prior to leaving the protestant faith I was born into. To date, I still have not read his book! Therefore the things I write here should not be taken as reflections of his former work or current change of heart about it.

Nevertheless, posts about Harris and I Kissed Dating Goodbye kept triggering me. I sat with it a while before it hit me. When I was a preschooler, a minister in my extended family started abusive contact in the form of kissing. And so I learned that kissing brings with it a whole lot of guilt and yucky feelings. I still have mixed emotions about kissing. Jesus was betrayed by a kiss. And it seems I was as well. Like Judas, my betrayer was also imbedded within Christian leadership. It’s hard to enjoy something that holds a sting inside of it. The very title of the book, with the word kissing being so closely associated with a Christian movement and leadership; triggered me.

Triggers aren’t the problem. Avoiding pain is the problem. Therefore it’s taken me a while to process through this one and again, apologies for the length on these posts and thanks for anyone who ploughs through it all with me!

When I left protestantism and began exploring other Christian faith traditions — The Purity Movement came onto my radar. I was uncomfortable with it. I was still trying to reconcile what had happened to me — with my own sexual purity stolen by abuse, and the discomfort I still felt from the continued voyeurism, and focus on my body, which I had experienced growing up.

I tried to make sense of what I was feeling. I knew that the way I was raised had been wrong. But I did not feel The Purity Movement was ‘getting it right’ either–and it took me a long while to realize why I felt that way. As a survivor of voyeurism, I saw how The Purity Movement, and book’s like Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye zeroed in on young people’s sex lives (a non existent sex life is still a focus on another’s sex life), forcing teenagers belonging to the movement to inadvertently become ‘public’ with very private information — thereby the adults and others looking on were also, in some ways, participating in voyeuristically viewing teenagers in terms of ‘sex’.

That irritated me.

I was also secretly jealous of the homes that had attempted to keep their children pure, adding yet another layer to the convoluted onion I needed to peel.

The Protestant home I grew up in was outwardly Christian (church attendance, having funerals and weddings ‘in the church’, getting confirmed in the teen years, and sprinkling/baptizing babies). But my immediate family was not ‘hit’ by the Jesus movement, that gained momentum in the 70’s and 80’s; or the homeschooling movement that took off in the 90’s. Though there were some charismatic gospel records that made a rotation on the record player.

The minister in the family practiced a strange mix of religious behaviors with licentiousness. When I first began to take my faith seriously, the ‘trained theologian’ in the living room mocked me openly about being a ‘fundie’, asking why I was ‘getting so weirdly religious lately’. He would talk quite skillfully and sincerely about ‘faith’ when needed, but show a very tawdry side if he knew his audience would actually appreciate a ‘minister who cusses’. He was ‘intellectual and modern’, about faith, often arguing from a near atheistic-sounding viewpoint, (that is when he was willing to talk ‘shop’). Ordinarily he avoided religious discussions, preferring instead to start gossip, or share jokes lifted from raunchy comedians.

His influence left a heavy mark.

…But the truth is, many family members seemed to operate with similar double-mindedness, as the family minister had.

My father was often perverted and displayed some serious lapses in moral judgment. He had another side, though, that would surface at church. And in the sweeping Christian movements of the 70’s through 90’s, we had frequent encounters with people who were participating in all kinds of faith movements and new rules — which left impressions on me, and contributed to my longing for a ‘serious’ faith walk myself. My father sat piously, listening to a visiting minister (not the one who abused me), or a religious relative passing through the area, as if in total agreement. One such visitor even insisted that Proctor & Gamble products had a satanic seal and should therefore be boycotted by all Christians, prompting my dad to dig out some deodorant and toothpaste, as well as a magnifying glass to look them over. The next day at the dinner table he was troubled and asked my mother, ‘Maybe we should stop buying that brand–what if that really is the sign of the devil on our toothpaste?’

Like the rest of the family my mother didn’t watch after my purity, storing her vast collection of explicit romance novels on my bookshelf, and ignoring the other pornography to which I was being exposed. Yet she also had her own type of faith and devotion life too. One which she occasionally shared aloud. So I wasn’t sure what to expect in that moment…and my hopes were kindled a bit. But she just snorted and waved her hand in front of her face in response to dad’s momentary crisis of conscience. Our P&G toothpaste continued without interruption. But I remember spending a lot of time looking at that tiny moon-man symbol, fearfully wondering if that’s why I kept getting cavities.

After toddlerhood, all of the abuse escalated, throughout the family. One abuser was beyond reproach, though, being a minister.

I blamed myself.

(See part two for more).

 

 

“Whoa! That’s a lot of Salt!”

person holding pen and planner
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It’s been a year since I began making regular-ish posts. On the one hand, not much has changed. I still approach this space with a mixture of a strong desire to write and share; combined with a fear of doing just that. On the other hand, there have been many changes.

*Last august I still presumed many of my physical illness symptoms were psychosomatic–as doctors and therapists had been *insisting*. Then I came to believe that there is also a very real physical component at play, to what is thrown around as ‘anxiety’. This belief first began to change for me as I read other blogs. That exposure to other’s vulnerability, combined with things God kept showing me in ‘real’ life, eventually led me to take a look at what was going on physically with me–and realizing it was/is a manifestation of physiological responses which many doctors remain clueless about and which would descend me into a deep rabbit hole; trying to figure out for myself…

SOOO: a huge thank you to those bloggers who have shared their own health journeys! I believe there is POWER in sharing our story!

*I have been sporadic, but kept at it in my own way. I can now say, looking back at my archives: That’s a LOT of salt!! While many blogs have stuck to one day a week to post; or daily posts; or typical word lengths; I took a butterfly approach. I would show up and land on something repeatedly and then not be seen for a while again. A few posts are short; many are so long I don’t ever want to re-read them myself! Definitely too much salt for some. But, one thing has remained: I am still here *mostly* for me and my own healing. Therefore I don’t need (or necessarily *want*) a big readership. Yet I do want to be heard…by someone. There is power in just one set of listening ears or reading eyes. I have felt the healing power of simply being *heard* by several people who have come and gone and a few who stayed–Thank you for hearing me!!

*I began this blog with the idea that Christians are the salt of the earth–and of getting back to the basics/not trying so hard. The reference to salt was mostly figurative. Even though I’ve always loved salting my foods — when I started this blog I also used an abundance of other spices….but, a year later, the ‘just salt’ has become literal! It’s how I ask for my steak at a restaurant… so the ‘just salt’ in my blog title very much relates with the literal healing I am finding in a pared back diet with no black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon….and using even more salt than prior to ward off my frequent electrolyte imbalances.

And that’s a lot of salt as I’ve always heavily salted my food…Perfect strangers have shouted at me from nearby tables in public establishments, “Whoa! That’s a LOT of salt.” One woman, who clearly meant well, even added, “Don’t you know that salt is not good for you!?” And then she turned to her husband and shared with him just how much salt I’d shaken onto my eggs…the funny thing was she was wearing a Jesus t-shirt while eschewing the (dangers?) of too much salt…hmm…I had to giggle at the irony of that one.

I decided to leave Jesus’ insistence that we are to be salt, out of that conversation, sensing she wouldn’t find that humorous! Instead, I shared that I have very low blood pressure and need extra salt. She wasn’t convinced though. She still looked really shook up over my salt consumption throughout the entire breakfast. That was one time where I could have sworn someone else got high blood pressure just from watching me salt my food.

And so I can admit that a lot of salt may not be *good* for everyone. It can even be downright scary to some…But a year into this salt blog of mine and I can say with certainty that too much salt is very good. For me. 

side view of a bottle with salt
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The thing is, as I have changed — the world has also changed, a LOT, in the past year. As has the internet…We had mass shootings a year ago. That isn’t exactly a new thing. What is new, (or what I am now noticing?) is all the stories on my newsfeed of people fleeing the country in fear, to raise their children elsewhere before ‘its too late’, and other stories about how to ‘live through a mass shooting’ that are also now showing up in my news feeds. Meanwhile, my ‘groups’ on FaceBook are being scoured through, getting graded over their ‘fake news’ content. A few friends have already abandoned traditional social media for ‘safer’ avenues with less censorship. Is there even a future in blogging at this point?

Who gets to decide on the difference between true and false? Some dot.com guy in sneakers?

And so the title ‘just salt’ takes on even deeper meaning as the darkness before us continues to unfold and we all face the very real possibility of censorship and being told what we can and can not say or write about.

Will I even be here in a year?

Who knows. It’s in God’s hands. The important thing is that today— I got up and I showed up. (With a shaker of salt). Praise God for that!

The Germans Have a Word for Everything

Schadenfreude: pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

My son asked me if I had ever heard of Schadenfreude. I said I was sure I’d heard it before but I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. He laughed and said, ‘Oh, you know how the Germans like to come up with a word for everything…”

Indeed. I looked it up online and read it aloud while we chatted on the phone.

I admitted that I have felt schadenfreude. And I love finding a word that describes so accurately something I have felt myself. That recognition moment is the ultimate ‘lightbulb’ going off, combined with a wordie girl finding a new word — it was a blissful moment.

Typically, after feeling schadenfreude, I then regretted feeling it because it seems so very unChristian and I have tried very hard my whole life to look like a good Christian; inside and out. So then I overcompensated for feeling glad about another’s demise by rushing in to help the very person that I was at first secretly glad to see suffering and then later felt bad about feeling good about and eventually that cycled off and I found that I genuinely drummed up some real empathy and love. Time and again, though, — that whole process ended up disastrously.

Being human is messy.

Seeing people reap what they sow is rewarding; sometimes. Other times it calls for keeping a wide path; while the inevitable destruction happens. And with those I truly do love, the family which God let me choose for myself –I find that schadenfreude rarely occurs. When they are in pain; I am in pain.

And so naming things has value. Recognizing your feelings is sometimes all we need to do. We don’t have to act on everything*. (*Note to self).