Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rummage Sale

It is no secret to anybody who knows me remotely well that I have been battling intense disillusionment with the Church. In the past few years there have been times when I have felt like giving up on it altogether. Some people find my admission offensive...and get defensive. But alas! I am what I am and my experience is what it is.

I do have a theory that the Highly Sensitive Person (its a thing, really, I'm one of them) struggles more with Church. We notice more. We sense more. We feel more intensely. Things don't just roll off our backs.

This morning I was worried. I was beginning to despair that perhaps there was no place for me in the Church when my husband shared with me this reading from New Monasticism As Fresh Expression of Church.

"Discontentment is a gift to the Church. If you are one of those people who has the ability to see things that are wrong in the Church and in the world you should thank God for that perception; not everyone has the eyes to see, or to notice, or to care. But we must also see that our discontent is not a reason to disengage from the Church but to engage. Ghandi said, 'Be the change you want to see in the world' -- our invitation is to 'be the change we want to see in the Church.' There are things worth protesting - in fact 'protest' is half the word Protestant - but we also have to be people who 'protestify.' For too long Christians have been known by what they are against than by what they are for. We have often been known by what we hate rather than by what we love. But Church history is filled with holy dissenters, rabble-rousers and prophets. It has been said that every generation of Christians needs a new reformation, that every age needs a revolution. As some Church historians have pointed out, every few hundred years the Church gets cluttered and infected with the materialism and militarism of the world around it. We begin to forget who we are. One historian has said that the Church needs a rummage sale every few hundred years to get rid of the clutter and to cling to the treasures of our faith. "
It is amazing how in the matter of a few words God could pull me from the brink of total disillusionment to a desire to engage and to gave me to courage to work for the change I think the Church so desperately needs. And I am all for a rummage sale.

It is high time we got rid of the crap we have accumulated along the way. The materialism and militarism. The cultural particulars that we are so convinced are biblical mandates that we load them onto the broken backs of weary souls. It is high time we got rid of the racism. The nationalism. The sexism. The elitism. The Christian perfectionism. The my-theological-formula-will-fix-you-ism. The institution-is-more-important-than-the-person-ism. The circle-the-wagons-ism. The looking-out-for-my-own-ism. The church-as-social-club-ism. The health-and-wealth-gospel-ism. The my-way-of-doing-things-is-better-than-yours-ism. The you-only-fit-in-here-if-you-pretend-to-have-your-shit-together-ism.

We have to get back to the justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God...and embrace the rummage sale concept and offload all that other crap. Then again, maybe we should just take it to the dump instead. I have a truck.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Factory Presets and Renewing My Mind

I have a problem. I run from God. I run from God a lot. Every time I feel that I haven't lived up to some hyper-spiritual expectation, I haven't jumped through all the hoops, checked all the boxes, performed up to par and obeyed all the shoulds...every time my life isn't what I've been told it is supposed to be (told by who? I'm learning to question), I run from God.

I have always viewed God as the taskmaster. The angry father. The disappointed mother. The boss who expects more than I can produce. I don't know why. It seems to be written in my DNA to fear God in this way (not in the way respectful "fear of the Lord" sort of way). Maybe it is my wiring (OCD, anxiety, Highly Sensitve Person, you name it). Maybe it is my life experience. It is likely a combination of my wiring interprets my life experience.

This frustrates me about myself. I will go days, sometimes weeks, running from God because I feel bad that I haven't lived up the the shoulds. I haven't read my Bible for X number of minutes (in college I learned 30 minutes minimum was required), I haven't parented up to some standard, I haven't relished some great theological insight. I haven't done enough. Been enough. And so I cower, duck and run.

And then something will remind me that I am running from a God I have made up in my mind. Not the one who is there. The one who is there is kind and compassionate and eager for me to run to him, not away from him. That his yoke is easy and his burden is light. And I have to reset my view of God all over again.

I get frustrated that I have to set and reset, again and again. And I remember the radio in our old truck.

We have a wonderful, rusty, beat-up old '91 pickup truck that I love to drive, even with its quirks, and they are many. The only thing that really bothers me about the truck is the radio (well, that and the fact that if you roll the windows down they won't roll up....oh, and that the windshield wipers only work every 8 seconds....but I digress). One of our kids put an after-market radio in it a few years ago and never hooked it up to the battery, the end result being that, every time I turn off the truck, it loses the radio stations I have set and goes back to the factory presets. Every time. Factory presets are never the stations I want to listen to. It isn't a big deal if you are going a long distance (which I rarely do in so unpredictable and gas-guzzling of a ride) but if you are doing a lot of starting and stopping, it is just a pain and you have to go in and reset your stations over and over and over again. Small potatoes in the broad scheme of life, I know. But I can't stand to drive without good music.

My brain is that radio. My factory preset is that God is scary and angry and disappointed in me so I must dance the perfect steps or flee the building. I think this way. I live this way.

It may be that every morning, every hour, perhaps, I need to reset my mind, like I do those radio stations. Maybe this is what Paul talks about when he tells us in Romans 12 to renew our minds.

I am sure somebody will take the analogy further and say I just need to hook my mind up the the battery and I won't lost my stations. Maybe. But I haven't figured out how. And maybe that is what heaven is for.

All I know is for now I have to live with my own factory presets. Every day, I have to remind myself of who God is and that I don't have to run. That's the music I need.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

You Are More Than Your Body

I grew up in a weight obsessed culture. Most of us did. It is still there. It seems that, for my entire life, being thin was the most important goal in life. It was the message I got, whether overt or covert. And that message is still out there. There's no denying it.

But lately I have heard from all sorts of fronts that "strong is the new skinny." In some ways that sounds great. People can attain strong much easier than they can attain skinny. Strong seems less flashy (sometimes). Less vain. Strong comes in handy for pretty much anybody. It performs a valuable function in health and self defense and moving appliances, which I do with an alarming frequency.

But even strong can fail you. Health conditions can creep in. Accidents can change your life in a split second. And if your identity has become that you are strong, you are setting yourself up for more pain because one day you will be weak.

When will we learn that we are not just our bodies? That we are more than our bodies?

A while back I listened to a TED Talk by Janine Shepherd. Janine was an Australian cross country skier who was set to compete in the Olympics when she was hit by a truck while on a bike training ride. She talks about her time in the hospital while she was in traction, not knowing if she would ever walk again, in a ward with others in the same boat. She talks about the relationships that were formed there. These people had all been stripped of everything other than who they were on the inside and yet they connected via conversation without the ability to move or even see one another. They connected at a heart level.

She reminds us that we are more than our bodies. That a broken body isn't a broken person. The heart of the person remains and that is who we are. Our thoughts, our experiences, our fears, our longings, our beliefs, our ideas. These are all still there on the inside, broken body or not.

I think it is important to remember that as we try to turn the tide away from an unhealthy pursuit of thinness that we don't just turn it into an unhealthy pursuit of strength or fitness or health.

Because we can lose all that in an instant.

Because we are more than all that in the first place.

Friday, April 7, 2017

You've Always Taken Me Seriously, God

Lately I have taken to reading The Message for my Bible reading. I know some people will gasp in disapproval and shake their heads but I needed to shake things up a bit. When words become so familiar they can lose their meaning. In The Message, Eugene Peterson doesn’t give us a direct translation of words so much as he tries to communicate the ideas of God’s Word in ways that are more accessible. It is less formal. Less churchy. More raw. I am all about raw. I AM raw.

This morning I was reading Psalm 61 and came to this.

“You’ve always taken me seriously, God.”

I have to be honest here. I’m not the kind of person people take seriously. Perhaps it is part personality, part birth order (does anybody ever take the youngest seriously?), in some situations part gender, and other times part I don’t know what. But I really don’t command respect in people. My words don’t count for much. My ideas, concerns, experiences, views on things, they don’t carry credibility with a lot of people. Especially people in charge. Powers that be and all.

But God….

“You’ve always taken me seriously, God.”

Somehow these words bring it all into perspective. So does it really matter if other humans don't take me seriously? The Creator of the universe does.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Addendum: For Divorced Parents

I had one additional thought (for now, of course) after I posted my on my Plea for Divorcing and Divorced Parents and this I feel can't wait.

I know that, upon the devastation of divorce, one or both parents can be emotionally obliterated. As one friend said, divorce is like an abortion, it damages, dismembers and takes away life. So of course those experiencing divorce may be facing an emotional ground zero, where everything is laid to waste. Of course.

Again I make a plea. This plea. Please do not ever, ever, ever look to your children to meet your emotional needs. Sure, things will change. Household duties will change. Someone besides Dad will be taking out the trash now or cutting the grass. Kids might have to get after school jobs or learn to make supper because Mom is working late to make ends meet. It is expected that kids will have to show some flexibility with life's new circumstances. But please, never, ever, ever look to your children to be a substitute for what you lost, or perhaps what you never had, in your spouse. 

Seeking to have your child meet your needs is not love, it is an exploitation of a relationship for your own ends. To be blunt, it is abuse. I know it sounds harsh. But it is.

If you find yourself tempted to do so, get help.. Find friends. Find a support group. Get counseling. Something. No child, no matter what age, can bear that burden.

A Plea to Divorcing and Divorced Parents

Last week I wrote these words on Facebook:
39 years ago today my parents marriage was declared dead by the courts and buried. Even though it had died months, perhaps years earlier, that was the official end. February 10, 1978. It was one month, exactly, short of their 32nd anniversary.It is disconcerting that a marriage that old can up and die and I find myself eager to make it to the 32 year mark with my own marriage as if some family curse may hunt me down and doom me to a similar tortured fate. And yet I still have 3 years and 3 months to go before I hit that mark.I have to remind myself that a marriage that dies at 32 years probably wasn't super healthy at 29 years. That most marriages don't die out of the blue. Yet I have to be honest. Even though I am married to the one person I trust the most on the entire planet, I fear. Perhaps that is the legacy of divorce.I sometimes wonder if anybody else has a similar fear. If your parents' marriage failed, do you ever fear yours will, too?

This was a hard post for me to write. More vulnerable than even what is normal for me, Ginny the Transparent. My hands got sweaty and my heart raced as I posted it and I felt heaping blobs of shame fall upon my shoulders. But I did it anyway because I wanted other people who may share my story to not feel so alone. Because this is how we connect.

Perhaps that is the legacy of divorce.

I fear that some of you, upon reading that line, if you read it and are divorced, may have felt the evil finger of accusation and the branding iron of guilt searing your soul. That was not my intention. It was so not my intention.

My mother was the one that filed for divorce. She did not do it lightly. She did so after decades of infidelity on the part of my father. She did so with evidence. She did so in spite of the fact that it was the last thing she wanted. If nothing else, divorce was a downright embarrassment for her. This was the upper middle-class South in the 1970s. But most of all, she did so in spite of the fact that she loved him because it was obvious that he no longer loved her and had moved on.

Divorce happens. It happens a lot. We all know it. Sometimes it happens flippantly because "we fell out of love." Not so cool. Other times it happens because one party forsook their marriage vows to love, honor, cherish....whether by means of adultery, abuse, or desertion. At these times divorce is a legitimate option for the non-offending party. (This isn't meant to be a treatise on the theological aspects of divorce and remarriage.)

But back to what I said. My parents' divorce impacted me in a way I didn't even comprehend at the time. The actual time frame, from when my mother told me of their impending divorce, to the time it was final, was perhaps less than 3 months. My father moved out about 2 weeks after I was told of the divorce. (From then on out I saw him about once, maybe twice, a year, even though he lived in the same town.)

For my mother, the trauma of losing her husband of almost 32 years absolutely devastated my mother. I can remember her on the floor, sobbing, screaming, yelling, crying. I had no idea what to do. I was 14.

My mother never really recovered. Not anytime soon. She was terribly depressed. She would disappear for hours. She quit speaking to me altogether for a few months. Now I know. Now I know that sometimes trauma is so great that it totally overwhelms your ability to cope. (I know what it is like. I have been there with my own children. I have had my coping skills overwhelmed. Surviving seems too lofty a goal.)

What I am trying to say is that I, in effect, lost both my parents that day. At least for a time. There were many professionals over the years who told my mother that she needed antidepressants but she declined. I don't know, for the life of me, why she didn't seek counseling and as much support as she could. It just wasn't done back then. Not in her eyes.

What I am trying to say is that if you are a divorced or a divorcing parent, I plead with you to reach out for support and to get your emotional needs met in a healthy way so that you can be emotionally available for your children. They need you. They won't care (much?) if you are living in a dumpy apartment or somebody's basement or don't have the cool shoes like their friends. They will care that you are emotionally available to them.

There is no shame in doing what you need to do in order to be a healthier person for your kids. You are of great worth. To others. To them. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Switching Battlegrounds

Before all the immigrant hoopla hit the fan, we were served an endless buffet of news about the Women's March and the marches around the world. Suddenly the pro-life/pro-choice beast reared its ugly head and Facebook became a battleground over the reproductive rights of women and the lives of unborn babies. Even posts criticizing Trump for some non-abortion related behavior brought out accusations of "you want to kill babies." It got crazy. I got mad. And sick of it all.

The problem is that I do think that we all can agree on much more than we disagree on. At least we should be able to. The other problem is that both sides are so intent on protecting and defending their cause that they can't hear the concerns of the other, creating an Iron Curtain of communication and understanding.

My pro-choice friends often are so protective of the right to an abortion that they don't want to hear that so many women are forced into having abortions by family members or boyfriends. They don't want to hear that women can feel guilt and grief for years, decades. Somehow acknowledging this threatens their position. But it makes them appear heartless. A woman I know told me of taking her daughter to get an abortion in the early years after Roe vs. Wade. She said a curious thing. "I didn't have any other choice." Somehow, now that abortion was an option, the other options weren't considered viable. An ironic statement for someone who chose the pro-choice option.

My pro-life friends are so protective of the life of the unborn that they don't want to hear how very hard a decision this is. That choosing life isn't as easy as Nike's "just do it."

A woman's body is created to bond with her baby. So the process of continuing a pregnancy and birthing a baby, only to hand that baby over to someone else, goes against everything a woman was created to do. Yes, perhaps it is the best choice for all concerned. But we cannot ever minimize how very traumatic this is for the mother. Or for the baby. I grew up with a front row seat to the trauma of adoption. I saw firsthand the toll that being adopted takes on the very core of a person. Again, some children can adapt quite well, but others cannot. Adoption can be a wonderful thing but it a hard, hard thing and is not something to be thrown at a confused young woman flippantly.

The other option is to keep the baby. Until recently that just wasn't an option. A single woman raising a baby on her own was unheard of and an embarrassment to all concerned. Now it is ok. In some circles, at least. Being a single mom is the hardest job in the world. You work your butt off to provide for you child and come home to no rest whatsoever because you have a child, all the while all your friends are out having fun and not inviting you to anything because you have a child and they don't "get" you any more, and you worry how you are going to make it and you might cry yourself to sleep and hope and pray that one day some man will be able to love you with your baggage and love this child that isn't his.

Sometimes keeping the child means having a constant connection to the child's father, which can be particularly hard if that man was controlling or abusive. Keeping the child may mean that you will be forever hogtied to a man who brought you nothing but pain.

So unless pro-life people are willing to step up and acknowledge and step in and help with the long, long term needs of women who choose to not have an abortion, they are going to lose any credibility.

But here is the thing. Please notice who I have been talking about. The woman. Because all of this is happening to the woman and her body. She is dealing with the consequences. But she didn't get pregnant by herself.

That is what I don't get. Why does it all have to fall on the woman? Even birth control? The pill, the IUD, the diaphragm, the foam (yeah, that one is weird....kind of effervescent). Even most forms of birth control fall on the woman, with their own risks. Except the condom.

Why don't men wear condoms? Because they don't like them. That just seems really selfish to me. Because condoms are awesome. The prevent pregnancy. They prevent disease for both partners. And they are free at your local health department, so I am told (we don't need them any more...haven't for I have no need to go check it out). So why don't men wear condoms? From what I have heard, they don't think they feel things as intensely with that little raincoat on their member. That just really stinks. Because men want a more exhilarating experience, women have to deal with choosing between the three options listed above, all which are hard as hell. 

Where I am going with this? I don't really know except that I think the pro-life/pro-choice people have been fighting the wrong battle. We need to look at the deeper issues, such as the objectification of women (the topic for another post) and start to hold men accountable for their role in the painful decisions that run and sometimes ruin women's lives. We need to change the battleground altogether.