Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts on Church

I know a lady who was always very deeply involved in her church. She poured her heart and soul into everything she did and was a huge blessing on the congregation. However, because she is a woman, many people were offended by her leadership. There were many issues that arose over the years, but eventually she was pushed out of the church she had been serving for many many years. She recently told me that she has stopped going to church all together. I asked her why, and her answer was both moving and thought provoking. I’ll share her letter below.

Why I don’t attend Church.

First, I was deeply hurt by things that happened at [my old church.] especially the last month. [The pastor] did and said some pretty horrible things to me. I still don't know if he was angry because I was leaving or what was going on. He did apologize to me last year for those last few things, but not for lying to me and about me for all those years.

Second, as I was just taking a break I began to examine what was going on inside of me. I started teaching Sunday School when I was 16 and I worked or volunteered in a church somewhere for the next 34 years without a break. I've done pretty much everything that can be done in a church. And for the most part, I loved it and I was good at the tasks.

However, as the days without church went on, I felt such an utter sense of quietness and peace come over me. So much tension went out of my heart and mind and body. I realized that working in the church has been such a huge source of inner turmoil for me. I have never liked church. I'm not a social person, I could be a hermit and not miss anyone.
However, I know God wanted me ministering to people with my gifts, so I did it. I detest almost all worship services. I don't care for hymns or choruses. I especially resent greatly that one man gets to get paid to study the Word of God and then stand up every week and tell us what he discovered. and most of them do a pretty poor job at communicating. And my beliefs tend toward the traditional so of course, I'm NEVER going to hear a woman preach although I believe one should preach every other week. Men just communicate and use different examples than women and we as women have to always switch it to apply to us.

I gave one talk at [my old church] once at the end of the worship service and you would have thought the sky was falling! I was good and funny and interesting and [the pastor] hated that. And so did others. So sad.

So I realized that I have been staying busy in a church my whole life, just tolerating the social aspect (which wears me out) and the worship service (which I find a waste of time). If I was using my gifts and doing something, I actually was able to enjoy myself. I literally cannot go into a church and sit and feel anything but anxiety, panic, disgust, anger, frustration and criticalness.

I'm not upset with the Church. I think that local churches could do better, but I understand ALL the barriers and issues toward change.
Many many people are served and helped and led to Christ because of churches. I'm not mad or upset with God or Jesus. I know with 100% certainty that Christianity is the only worldview that makes sense and can transcend every culture and every time period. I love Jesus.

I just find church a complete waste of time, unless I am doing something... and I can't do anything anymore. I'm hurt and tired and don't want the fight. And I certainly could never sit back submissively and let all the men make the decisions.

So I worship all week with amazing little vignettes within my life. I'm resting. It has been almost exactly 4 years. I have only gone to church once and it was because my whole family was here. with all the girlfriends or wives and everyone looked so striking I wanted to go show them off and we sat in the 2nd row and we had so many comments. Not very spiritual. :) But there it is.

I find being part of the unchurched very interesting. I am now just beginning to explore what would bring me back to a church. I have very interesting thoughts about that and how to market the whole church experience. For instance, why is the only gateway into church life through the worship service itself? It is really hard to pick and choose and be part of a church society without attending the all- hallowed worship service, why? It is such a narrow gate and one I find many people just endure in order to get the other things they need like a pastor for a funeral or wedding or conversations over coffee etc.

Sorry it got so long. I could keep going. But I'll stop now. It is the first time I have written it all down. Thanks for asking! That was a nice little gift you gave to me without even knowing it.

Have you been hurt by the church? Is there anything you would change if you had the chance? I’d LOVE to hear your stories!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Powerful Insignificance

I threw away all my skirts a long time ago, but today I found one more, buried in the back of my closet.

 It was brand new when I bought it last year. I haven’t done laundry in a while, so I decide to wear it to the office.
It’s just dressy enough.

I check the mirror more than usual this morning.
The skirt is floor length, and it looks really good on me.


So why am I so uncomfortable?

I make myself hurry out the door for work. If I let myself change again I’ll be stuck in the closet all morning.

I run all the way to the car.
In part because I am cold, but also because I don’t want anyone to see me.

“You look fine” I remind myself, frustrated with my insecurity.

 On the way to work, I am grateful for the thick soft warmth wrapping around my legs, but as soon as I arrive, my skirt gets caught in the car door and I feel foolish.

The long heavy material tugs at my ankles every time I take a step. I am acutely aware of it. It feels like shackles. An invisible chain holding me hostage.

I feel fatter than usual today too. My naked legs brush against each other when I walk: a constant reminder of that extra 10 pounds.

I slouch a little,
                                                              wondering if everyone can see what I see.
“I am thankful for this skirt.” I tell myself. “It’s hiding these unsightly legs, and this lumpy round butt.”

Confidence is a long lost memory today. I lower my eyes when people pass me. I don’t want to see the disgust I imagine I’ll find in their eyes.

Today when my boss yells at me, I forget how to stand up for myself.

                I just feel bad,
“sorry. I’ll do better.”

I waddle back to my desk and sink into my chair, defeated. 10am and I’ve already had enough of this day.

I long for my bed.
In part because I am tired, but also because I know the blankets are thick enough to hide me from the rest of the world.

What is wrong with me today?

The skirt.

It reminds me of my old life.

                  Reminds me of the shame,
                                                                   the embarrassment,
                                                                                                         the helpless frustration.

I am angry that something so insignificant holds such power over me.

I’ll take this skirt off tonight after work.                         I’ll throw it straight into the trash.

I don’t care if it was new when I bought it last year. Nothing and no-one has the right to make me feel bad about myself. I won’t let it happen ever again.

Tomorrow I’ll wear pants. I’m actually kind of proud of this lumpy round butt of mine. J

Monday, November 7, 2011

Identity, Dreams, and Boxing Gloves

I miss Martial Arts so much.
I miss the balance, the strength, the sore muscles, the confidence, the competition, and yes, i even miss the bruises. I used to be in the gym every day. Training. 3 hours straight most nights after school. My whole paycheck went to MMA.

 I loved it..........
                       Lived it............
                                                                                                         Breathed it............

I'd give anything to be back there now, sweating out all my frustration.

 The technique thoroughly absorbed me,
                                            the intensity cleared my mind,
                                                                           the balance calmed and energized me.
Martial Arts brought me a sense of identity i had never known before. The drills taught me to push myself. The ring taught me to believe in myself. I miss the adrenalin. I miss the pain. I miss the peace.

But we have to pick our battles, don't we?

I want an education, I'm determined to have the career i want.
 I study.........
                           i write.........
                                                i plan.............
......and I've never felt so close to success.
My entire paycheck goes to rent, school, insurance, and savings. I am building my future, one day at a time. So I'll keep working 8-5, doing my home work and paying my bills. I'll keep glancing wistfully at that MMA gym on my way to school at night. I'm on the road to where i want to be. I know who i am, and i know where I'm going. Someday I'll be back on those mats, pursuing the balance that made me who i am today.

I know my dreams will come true, just maybe not all at once :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Would Michael Pearl Approve this Savage Beating?

Hillary Adams, the daughter of Judge William Adams, posted a video this week of her receiving a "spanking" back in 2004. She was 16 years old and being punished for downloading pirated material on the Internet. In the video, Hillary's father and mother force her to bend over her bed while they beat her repeatedly with belts. They hit her on whatever part of her body is exposed while she cowers on the floor screaming and begging them to stop. I was horrified, but mostly I was reminded of my own childhood. I can hear the righteous indignation in the parent's voices, and the fear and the guilt in Hillary's screams. For those of you familiar with the Pearl training method, it is easy to recognize what is going on here. Even if the Adams family is was not following the Pearl method, it is easy to justify everything the father does in this video (aside from the swearing)  by using passages from the Pearl's books.
  1. Hillary has done wrong and her parents are dutifully punishing her. At the beginning of the video you can hear the father referring to the imminent beating as a "spanking."
  2. She is told to bend over the bed and she refuses, so in true pearl form, she is forced. The Pearl books recommend forcibly moving a child to where he/she is to be punished. They suggest that you "use whatever means necessary" to bring about submission.
  3.  There is "discussion" throughout the video of how Hillary "used to be such an obedient daughter" and she has now disappointed her parents. The Pearl books recommend that you pause in between bouts of spanking to remind the child why they are being punished. Good job Mr. Adams!
  4. As I mentioned, Hillary is struck at least 17 times with leather belts. The Pearls suggest at least 10 swats for small children, so surely 17 strokes is not too much for a 16-yr old. Switches, rods, glue sticks, and belts are all mentioned as acceptable tools for punishment.
If Michael Pearl heard a description of this "spanking" I’m sure he would say that the Father's only mistake was that he showed a little too much anger. Watch the video and tell me what YOU think.
When asked about the released video, William Adams said that it all "looks worse than it is."
"In my mind, I haven't done anything other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing," Adams said. "And I did lose my temper, but I've since apologized." This all sounds soooooo familiar......

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bound and Gagged by a Lullaby

Lying alone in the dark, I imagined monsters under my bed. They were little devils with bony grey hands, hands with fingers just long enough to wrap around my little ankles and pull me down. I tucked my blanket in tight around my body. Even a smidgen of space would be enough for a serpent to crawl in. I was petrified, and this was a normal night for me. My ten-year-old mind ran frantically down a list of the day’s events. What had I done to deserve this? How had I invited this evil into my bedroom? I thought about the lullaby from my favorite bible-music tape. Maybe if I sang it enough times, it would work like a dream catcher and keep the demons away from my bed.
“I will lie down and sleep, and sleep in peace. I will lie down and sleep in peace. You alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety. I will lie down and sleep in peace”
I chanted the song in my mind, begging God to keep the nightmares away from me. Sometimes I would fall asleep, only to find out that He had not listened.

As I grew older, my fears grew older too. I could push past my irrational terror of the edge of the bed, but nighttime still brought fear. My mind ran relentlessly through the tapes in my head: the tapes that told me how ugly I was, and how fat, and how stupid. I still tucked the blankets tightly around my body in hopes that I could somehow keep the bad feelings out. It never worked. I planned out dozens of ways to kill myself, and wondered who would notice if I did. Whenever things got bad, that same old song would start playing in my head:
“I will lie down and sleep, and sleep in peace. I will lie down and sleep in peace. You alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety. I will lie down and sleep in peace”
I would beg God to let me sleep and keep the nightmares away. Sometimes I would fall asleep, only to find out that He had not listened.

Last night I was lying awake in the middle of the night and my thoughts began to stray. I wondered why my husband hadn’t left me yet. I’m so different now from the woman he married. He must be so disappointed. I thought about how much happier he would be without me. My mind slipped seamlessly into old thought patterns. I realized how disgusting and selfish I am. I started counting the pills in the bathroom cabinet from memory. As my thoughts grew darker, I tucked the blankets around me feet. The corners of the room grew menacing.
“I will lie down and sleep, and sleep in peace. I will lie down and sleep in peace. You alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety. I will lie down and sleep in peace”
I reflexively called out to God, begging him to keep away the nightmares. And then I remembered all the times He had not listened.

Bad dreams and suicidal thoughts are evidence of emotional disturbance. A person experiencing these things needs love, support, understanding, and sometimes even treatment. But I was always taught to ignore myself. Bad dreams happened when Satan was attacking me, suicidal thoughts were just my selfish sin nature shining through. Every time I expressed emotion in my home, my parents shoved God down my throat and silenced me. I picked up on this right away. All those nights lying alone and afraid, I didn’t dare get up or call for help. I took a giant dose of God and shoved it down my own throat.

I silenced my thoughts,

Silenced my fears,

Silenced my emotion.

After 18 years of self-imposed silence, I am finally able to speak. When my thoughts grow dark, I am learning to stand up to them. I acknowledge my emotions. I express my thoughts. I confront my fears. I will not be bound and gagged anymore.

Physical and Spiritual Abuse taught me that I was not worth hearing. It taught me that my heart was not important. It kept me trapped and wasted whole years of my life.

What words are written on the tape over your mouth?