Monthly Archives: November 2011

Hostility…

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Last night as a friend and I were discussing gender inequality and women’s role in the church, I was accused of being hostile. Being called hostile might be the best way to find out how horrible that word really is. The synonyms make me shudder and are not words I want to reflect.

From Thesaurus.com: adverse, alien, argumentative, bellicose, belligerent, bitter, contentious, contrary, hateful, inhospitable, malevolent, militant, nasty, opposed….and the list goes on.

In all honesty I am not interested in most arguments. I rarely get riled about politics. I’m hard to ruffle with regard to my veganism. I actually don’t get too wrapped around the axle, as they say, about religion in general.

But when you start messing with things I do care about…I get passionate and am not easily intimidated into giving up ground. I feel this way about the children I love in particular and children who are mistreated in general. I feel this way about people who try to make others feel bad for seeking mental help. I feel this way about the homeless. And I feel this way about gender inequality and the denial of female gifting in the church.

But is it hostility?

Is it hostile to study the bible extensively on a topic and find that there is room for another viewpoint and be frustrated when others, who have studied it less, dismiss your thoughts and ideas?

Is it hostile to express your frustration about  having an nontraditional gifting and the knowledge that you are unlikely to ever be “allowed” to utilize those gifts in a church setting because the traditions that the church continues to uphold as biblical apparently trump the leading of God the Holy Spirit?

Is it hostile to be bewildered when you pour your heart out to a friend and they answer you vehemently with “What if your wrong?” ?

Is it hostile to be totally unsurprised by the fact that yet another man is convinced that while you might have some special gifts you MUST be mistaken about how God wants you to use them because it doesn’t fit the tiny little box of structure that was put into place by Rome a few centuries after the church was established in Acts 2?

Is it hostile to be continually confounded that 1 Corinthians 14:34 somehow WINS in a war with Galatians 3:28 and Romans 16:1? Or that the importance of Acts 2:38 is weighted more heavily against Acts 2:17-18?

Is it hostile to have it assumed that since I am a single woman of 35 the problem is that I don’t like men and am a feminist? (PS–I like men…I can give you a list and some references if you need them. haha!)  

Is it hostile to be nonplussed when I hear man after man tell me a story of a how a marriage fell apart because a women lost sight of her role of service and sought to be educated, use her gifts, or struggled for a position of equality?

Well…if so…I’m hostile.

And for the record…I believe that the cross of Jesus and the salvation granted me gives me the RIGHT to speak up when I see injustice. I believe his humility in going to the cross to be treated with the worlds most unjust punishment COMPELS me to speak on behalf of his name when it is being misused to keep people “in their place.” I believe that I have all the authority I need to have an opinion and a STRONG one at that on things that I have read, studied, and researched…even if I don’t have a penis.

Ok..I admit…that last little bit might have been hostile.

To make matters worse I said “Penis” and “Little” in the same sentence…that’s REALLY hostile to a lot of men. 😉

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Church PTSD

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I went to church yesterday.

But wait…not just any church. This church had three very interesting things about it that got my attention.

First…the church is on the grounds of an old weird western town or little amusement park place. I seriously had the following thoughts in rapid succession as I walked to the sanctuary in the center of “town”… “This place is straight out of a creepy 70’s horror flick. Gosh…I hope this really is a church. These people all look normal enough. Why didn’t Peter warn me about how creepy this place is?”

Second…on first glance it was a replica of “The Big Show” which is what I call that church I attended in Albuquerque for a while. And let’s just say that the little ghost town didn’t creep me out nearly as much as the chill I got from the feeling of walking into a part of my life I want no part of anymore. The graphics, stage setup, screens, and handouts made me feel twitchy from the moment I walked in.

Third…and most astonishingly…I left without the creeps. And while that is not necessarily the winning report that every Pastor wants for his church…it’s the best that I can offer right now. Heck…I might even go back.

Let’s face it…25 years in the denomination of my youth (including 4 years at Bible College), a year with the “LA Hippy” denomination, 3 years at “The Big Show”, and a year of misguided church planting, all mixed with about 4 years of Saturday church in my home have left me with a mixed bag when it comes to looking for a church again.

On one hand…I’m a church girl. Going to church is like breathing for a church girl.

On the other hand…the list of things I don’t like about organized religion and denominational politics creates a heavy smog which makes breathing, for a church girl, very hard and labor intensive.

Today I was discussing the service and some of my “fears” with my friend from work who attends this church and I heard myself say something that is so true and yet still surprised me. I said “Mark, the hard part for me is knowing, without a doubt, that to go back to church is to sign back up for more hurt. We always find ways to hurt each other. Someone will judge me. I’ll judge someone else. There will be deep family moments followed by a kick to the gut that only a family member can give. And I’m just not sure I want the good badly enough to take the bad again.”

And my friend didn’t disagree. Because he knows that it is true. But church girls (or in Mark’s case…boys) also know what it is like to make family with those who share your faith and who share your willingness to search the deeper things. We know what it is like for our spirit to recognize the spirit in someone else as kindred. And without that we feel a certain loss.

I don’t know what will happen when Sunday rolls around. If you want to know all I can say is…’We’ll see.’

Love Always Shows Up…

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Today has been a lesson in contrasts.

The news of the Penn State Child Molestation scandal lit up Facebook today. I was saddened to read so many people supporting someone who knew of a vile crime and didn’t do much to stop it or create an environment where it wasn’t acceptable behavior. This brought some old scars to the surface and while I didn’t feel it was personal for me, I did and do feel a strong sense of solidarity on days like this with all victims of child molestation.

On one hand…

The story of these children reminded me that despite the truth being true, for the most part my family has chosen to not believe me. Rather than hear my truth and trust in my desire to speak the truth over this situation, my parents have chosen to believe my brother over me. Also once my parents made this decision my siblings and their spouses have made it clear that they don’t want to discuss the situation and ultimately will not “rock the boat” by believing me or taking a side.

As a child I was molested…first repeatedly by a group of boys. Then repeatedly by my older brother (M not B for those of you who know them). I have spent much time and money on my therapy and healing. And I have come to a place of believing that I was not given more than I could handle and that I was meant to have gone through this because I’m strong enough and vocal enough to speak out.

Despite all of my healing, on days like today the child in me wants to be believed. Wants her parents, siblings, etc. to just believe that what she’s shared is true. Believe me…because I am honest. Believe me…because I have no reason to lie about this. Believe me… because I have proven that I won’t fold just because I’m removed from the family. Whatever the reason…whatever the motive…today I want to be BELIEVED!

To those who are unclear…it is the ultimate betrayal of the victim to throw his/her story back in their face and say that you aren’t sure what happened was abuse. It takes courage and strength to be brave enough to tell your story…and most people will never know the sense of betrayal that comes with having your most intimate and painful memories doubted and dismissed.

On the other hand…
I went on a poorly timed date tonight with a guy I met at a networking event. He is cute. Unfortunately he likes sports and wanted to spend a lot of time talking about the Joe Paterno story. He was opinionated though fortunately he didn’t take Joe P’s side or anything. Unfortunately I was in a very bad place to try to listen to this guy go on and on about college football programs. Even more unfortunate is the fact that I broke my own 1st date rule and didn’t drive myself. He picked me up. There was no escaping.

While we were waiting for our food, the Date got very involved in a football conversation with our waiter and a guy at the next table. So much so that I got my phone out and sent some texts. I sent a text to one guy I know and said “If you don’t see me in the morning, I’m in this guy’s basement.” I was only joking but he immediately said “Where are you? What’s his name? etc.” I sent a similar text to another new guy friend and the message quickly spread among a few folks that I know from this group. Next thing I know I’ve got 3 offers for a ride home. Later when The Date and I got ready to leave, a friend of mine was walking in the bar as we were leaving. He played the situation off well as a coincidence but made it very clear that he wanted me to call him later tonight.

I wasn’t actually afraid the guy was going to kill me or anything…it was a joke in poor taste texted to a few people who were protective of me dating in a town where I don’t know anyone.

But guess what…my friends were concerned. Even though I’d told them I was kidding and that I was just bored and annoyed, my friends texted and came to my rescue. I was worth THAT kind of love and concern.

Hands…

On one hand is my family. Who know me and “love” me yet treat me as though I’m the problem.

On the other hand are some sweet friends I’ve just met in the last 5 months who came to my aid or offered to come instantly.

This is just a reminder that when support and love are needed most, they will come. Sometimes in the form of someone you never expected to be your #1 champion.

But love always shows up!

Bitterness Made Sweet

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This past week I was given truth in the form of a very hard and old battle. I faced down some old bitterness and am now back to working on forgiveness. Does anyone else feel like we have to keep coming back to forgiveness way to often? No? Yeah, me either. 🙂

Let me tell you a story…

I once knew a woman. We’ll call her Bridget…because…well…that’s her name. She did some things to me that were mean and spiteful…in my estimation. When these things first happened I seethed over them for weeks and months. Then I stopped. I got centered and decided that I was wasting far too much energy on her. So I moved on.

Or did I?

I didn’t really move on…at least not entirely. The fact is that most of the time she doesn’t even cross my mind. But though I rarely think about this woman, when I do, I think mean thoughts. I think of all the ways I wish that I could get revenge. I plot the destruction of her career and her financial health in retribution for how she damaged mine. And though she only damaged my life for a season, in my revenge plotting I want hers destroyed. It is not an eye for an eye. I want her eye, her lying mouth, her bleach blonde hair…see…even now I go to the mean place and show a truly ugly side of my nature. *sigh*

I went back to the city where she lives this past week and the entire time I was there my spirit was in a loud noisy uproar. Spending time with people I love and who love me, namely Chad and Laura, helped tremendously. But another person, who I care about, expressed his doubt and I was hurt…all over again.

So I started wondering…

  • Why is it so important for me to be believed?
  • Why does the opinion of someone inconsequential to my daily life matter to my happiness at all?
  • What would it take for me to move on, shake this bitterness, and forgive?

While examining those questions it occurred to me…this is not about Bridget. Sure…on a generous day I still think all sorts of unbloggable things about her.  But I also know…just from my little bit of interaction with her that she is a deeply damaged person. I knew this about her when we worked together and I know this about her now.

It’s easy to recognize some of those things because I’ve struggled with them myself.

So really…hating her is just useless and unnecessary. Her self-hate is way more powerful a force in her life than my hate. She is a deeply flawed hurting individual. She needs care and understanding. She needs love. She needs…Jesus.

And how do I know this…because I am a deeply flawed hurting individual whose self-hate is more powerful than the hate of others and who needs care, understanding, love and Jesus.

So now what?

I need to forgive her…even if she doesn’t want or think she needs my forgiveness. Even though I am not ready to forgive her…I am praying for a willingness to consider forgiving her. (Stan taught me that years ago in therapy and I’m falling back on my training.)

I need to forgive myself. For all the ways that I could have tried harder to push through her walls and be her friend or submit to her authority during what seemed like an eternity but would likely have been a very short season of submission in my career. I need to forgive myself for how long I’ve harbored this resentment and all the ways I’ve put hurt at her feet that hasn’t been hers to own.

I need to stop apologizing for my truth. I won’t change the story to suit someone else. I won’t cave into the doubt just because a couple “friends” doubt me. I will own the truth to the best of my ability and accept the reality of human weakness and tendency to believe what is easiest, worst, or most entertaining. I will do this with all the lies in my life that I feel have damaged my heart or my character. I will trust in the honestly of silence and stop apologizing with my words by repeating MY SIDE of the stories. This is the final time I will discuss it. This is the first step I take to moving on.

Over the past months God, using the matchless grace of God’s character, has stepped in to create transformation during a season of transition. God is helping me to make my bitterness sweet again. And though it is a long road…I am willing.

PS–Arizona is still not high on my list of favorite places…but maybe next time it won’t feel quite so much like hell on earth. Unless it’s summer…in which case…it’ll still feel like hell. 😉 heehee! (That’s for you Chad!)

Raised from the Dead…

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Acts 14: 19-20

19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

I’ve read Acts 14 at least 100 times in my life (including 5 or 6 times in the last week). It’s good stuff.  But unlike any other time I’ve read these verses, tonight hearing them read at BSF made me cry. Let me see if I can explain why…

In verse 19 Paul is taken out to be stoned and is ultimately left for dead by the mob. In verse 20 his friends gather around him and he rises up and recovers so much that he is able to walk back to the city and leave the next day. Some commentators believe that Paul actually died during this stoning and that he was raised from the dead by the prayer of his friends. (Many believe this is the incident Paul describes in 2  Corinthians 12…)

But tonight as Alethea read these 2 verses aloud I saw this friend’s face in my mind…

And the tears came immediately because I thought of how over the past 2 years I have been knocked down, beaten, stepped on, mistreated, betrayed, and stoned by both those who claimed to love me and those who admitted to hating me. Several times over the past 2 years I was convinced that I had been left for dead by the world and sometimes even by God.

However…when my friend Cheryl gathered around me, I rose up and went into the city.

I have very few people in my life like my friend Cheryl. She is life-giving. She has breathed new breath into my soul when I was oxygen deprived. Cheryl has led the expedition to find me when I have lost myself. She never lied to me and said “It’ll be all right” when we weren’t sure if it would be. But she encouraged me. She prayed for me, with me, and over me. She pleaded on my behalf. And she listened through my tears to hear my heart when I was out of words and could only sob. She reflects all the goodness of Jesus onto those around her and calls herself…and her friends…to a better place. She is the friend who is willing to climb the mountain with you…sometimes ahead of you urging you on…and sometimes behind you shoving you all the way.

I am grateful for someone who came to stand over me and help me rise up after others had left me for dead. My wish for every person in the world is to have a friend like my friend Cheryl.

PS–Thanks Tim for switching to an unlimited text messaging plan! 🙂