Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Daring to Hope

I started to write this as a response to a comment from Alan Knox, but it got too long, so now it’s a post...

It is a funny thing that we tend to have hope for others, but find it so hard to have hope for ourselves. I guess because to hope means risking having those hopes dashed. I must admit, often I try NOT to hope, for fear of disappointment (the glass-half-empty part of my personality, I guess.) And while it seems so easy for me to have faith and hope regarding my eternity, why is it hard for me to sometimes have faith and hope about the little stuff here on earth?

I am continually trying to learn from this experience- after all, it was so painful, I wouldn’t want the whole experience to be a waste. And I have learned a lot, about myself, about human nature, about the kind of person I want to be and don’t want to be. It has been a reminder- again- that God doesn’t go away, even when it feels like He has. That you can always find something good in the bad, if you are willing to relinquish your pain for just a moment. And that there is always reason to hope, as long as we hold onto faith that God is indeed in control, and that He really does care about what we care about. That kind of faith means letting go of our own need and desire for justice to look the way we want it to look and arrive when we want it to arrive. Sometimes, I just have to remind myself to “put my money where my mouth is”- I can talk all I want about faith, but then I just have to do it. Put it on the line, walk in it. Model it for others. Faith is actually more a verb than a noun, I think.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back Again

Well, I'm back. Kind of. Sort of. For now.
I guess I have a problem with committment.
I know I have a problem following through with what I start.

A couple of weeks off turned into a month, then 2, then 3, and I really debated whether I wanted to get back into this.
Because truthfully, it is much easier for me to just not think about certain things, or if I do think about them, it is easier to not have to try to get my thoughts down into something readable and decipherable.

I am still processing the events of the past year (the turmoil at our old church started exactly one year ago.) Sometimes I get really, really angry. Sometimes, I feel the beginnings of forgiveness and empathy. Most often, I just try not to think about it because I'm frankly tired of it all and I just want to put it behind me.

My family felt that we needed (and actually wanted) the anchor of belonging to a local church.
We are at a new church now, and we like the people we have met there. The pastor knows the whole story about what happened at our old church (most of those who left the old church at the same time we did ended up at the same new church) and he finds the goings-on at that place to be as deplorable as we do. (He lives in the same town that the pastor of our old church does, and I don't think ours were the first horror stories he had heard. Surely, not the last, either.)

I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Waiting to find out that there is some kind of masquerade going on, feeling like when and if I really get to know everything going on at this new church, I will discover something dark and sinister. I know God doesn't want me to spend my life building a wall, being constantly on guard, so I am trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. I am trying to have my heart open, but believe me, my eyes are open too. Slowly, I feel the heaviness of my cynicism falling away. I have the stirrings of something I haven't felt in quite a while. I think it's hope.

So, here I am, hanging out. For now.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Crazy August

Well I am sitting in the public library writing this because lightning hit our house a couple of days ago and took out our modem and a TV. So I have been living without modern technology for a couple of days, and you know, it's really OK. It is hard, thought, not obsessively checking the email every 30 minutes or so. Also, 2 days after the lightning storm, our microwave stopped working for some unknown reason. It less than a year old so it should still be under warranty.....except I can't find the receipt, so we will probably end up buying 2 microwaves in less than a year.

Life is crazy here as tonight is opening night for my daughter and I in the community theater production that we are in. I am exhausted. We have been getting in at around midnight every night for almost a week now. When the show closes in a couple of weeks, we are off on a 10 day vacation to Canada. So between our lack of internet connection, my crazy life right now, and our upcoming (much needed) time away, it will probably be a while before I check in again. Can't believe August is here and will be gone before I know it. How does that work, that the older you get the faster time flies by?

Monday, July 30, 2007

My Superpower: Invisibility

Somehow, I have become invisible.

In a couple of weeks, I will turn 41 (which means I will no longer just be 40, but will officially be “in my forties”- BLECH!!!) I have noticed recently when out in public, shopping, etc., that apparently, I am invisible. It seems people are able to look right through me, and not even notice that I am there. I have heard people who are disabled or morbidly obese describe this phenomenon. It’s really too bad that I haven’t learned to use this new superpower of invisibility to my benefit, say to listen in on certain conversations or pretend I am just not there when someone needs something for the umpteenth time.

It is bad enough when I am invisible to strangers, but it is really amazing that lately I am invisible to my teenage daughter. Last night we were out at a rehearsal for a community theater production that we are both in. She managed to avoid me most of the night, she was hanging out with her friends. Fine, I get that, she doesn’t want to hang out with her mom. But suddenly as we got in the car, all of that endless energy that she had for her friends evaporated and she was too tired to talk to me. Which, again, I can handle. But then she and her friend in the back seat start texting each other so they can have a private conversation in the car and make little comments and exclude me. I told them both how incredible rude it was. I have been relegated to the role of taxi driver who should be there to drive but should not really be there. Quite like how the refrigerator gets restocked and dishes get washed and dentist appointments get scheduled and clean laundry magically appears in the closets and drawers- all seemingly by some mysterious and invisible force. I came home and cried and cried, I was cut to the bone by a seemingly tiny incident, but to me it was just a precursor to what is to come- to get older, to become more invisible (unneeded?) in my children’s lives, to become less valuable in the eyes of our society which glorifies youth and beauty.

Even this morning when I awoke I was licking my wounds, thinking about how her actions and attitude had hurt me. And suddenly, sorrow and realization swept over me- God, is this how I treat You? Running to You when I need something or have a problem, but not really seeing You? Do I avoid spending time with You when my other “friends” (hobbies, work, chores, television) are around? Do I break Your heart the way mine feels broken right now? I am sorry, so sorry, God. I understand better now. You don’t want to be invisible in my life. You want me to see You for everything You are, not just for what You can do for me, not just for a fall back plan when I can’t seem to make things go my way on my own. You want me to need You and want to be with You, to not be too busy for You.

There is a great little book by Nicole Johnson called “The Invisible Woman.”
I love this quote:

Maybe disappearing can become a matter of choice. Maybe I can use invisibility as a disguise for covert love operations. Maybe I can use anonymity as a means of not drawing attention to myself, and fade into the background whenever I need or want. Perhaps invisibility is a gift, given to me for a greater purpose than I had previously seen…I can stop searching for my reflection in others and allow God the opportunity to answer the question in my soul…Invisibility is not inflicted upon me, it is a gift to help me truly serve.

Maybe being invisible isn't so bad.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Smallest Stuff is Big Enough

One of the things that I struggle most with is my need to measure up to the world’s standards. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to live a “big” life, do “big” successful things. I even want to have a “big” ministry for God. It is so easy for me to mix up our culture’s views of success with God’s idea of success. I tend to measure my self worth by what I have done lately, even though the Bible gives me a very different standard to live by and strive for. I tend to think that if only I can do big things or have a big ministry, God will be very pleased with me. More accurately, I will be pleased with myself. (Any questions, just see my profile at right. Oh, and my blogger name…)

I was visiting a church last Sunday and there was a man in the row in front of me, white and in his fifties, with a black boy, about 14, who was in a wheel chair with what appeared to be cerebral palsy. I don’t know anything about their story, or how the boy came to be in the man’s care. During the service, the man held the boy’s hand, gently touched his face, wiped his mouth. They were strangers to me, but I know that this man loved this boy. I cried.

I was seeing God.

I saw His glory displayed more magnificently than the most beautiful sunset and grander than the Grand Canyon. I beheld Him there, just a few feet away from me, close enough to touch. He was doing what He is best at- not preaching, not publishing best sellers, not on television or on a magazine cover. He was loving and serving.

And I was reminded (once again)- I can do that. I will probably never be famous or raise millions of dollars for charity or have my name on a building- but I can joyfully serve, I can love. I can cheerfully make my kids breakfast, attentively listen to my husband, tie my nephew’s shoe, be kind to the waitress who is having a bad day. I can go out of my way to volunteer at the urban afterschool program (something I said I was going to do, but somehow just didn’t get around to…). I can choose to be inconvenienced for the sake of love.

And that would be really big.

PS. Here is the really hilarious irony – I am sitting here, wondering if this is too corny, too cliché, too simple to post- In other words, is it good enough, “big” enough??!!?? Just gotta get over it…………

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I know my posts have been infrequent. It is hard for me to just sit down and write, because I tend to analyze and rethink and rewrite everything, wanting it to be perfect, wanting to make sure I get down all of my thoughts on a particular subject (which is impossible, because one thought just leads to another....). As a result, publishing a post for me is a fairly time consuming committment. And it is a little overwhelming to know that some of my deepest thoughts and feelings are floating around out there for the whole world to read. But I have been encouraged by reading other people's posts and comments. Sometimes I feel like even having a blog is kind of ego-centric- like, do complete strangers really even care about anything that I have to say, anyway?????

I also don't want to constantly revisit the toxic church thing. There's a huge part of me that just wants to move on with my life and forget about it all. But I know that there are still things I need to deal with and learn from, and I know that there are lots of people out there going through the same things. I know that when my family was in the middle of it all, reading other people's stories that seemed almost identical to ours was really helpful. Maybe I can pass that along.

So, thanks to all of you for joining me on this journey.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ignoring the Lifeboat

As I look back over the last few months, I feel freer and more confident and comfortable in our decision to leave our church and its toxic leadership. It’s as if the fog is slowly evaporating, and things are becoming clearer and clearer. I am grateful that my family is free- free from the false teachings, the psychological manipulation, and the spiritual abuse, and free from the persistent pain and turmoil that filled our lives. Free to be ourselves, and to not worry about the repercussions of pissing off the pastor’s wife. I am glad that we made the difficult decision to go, a decision which now seems to be the only decision we could have made. We chose to protect ourselves and our family, and to not let fear of the unknown and possible backlash control us. At the time, it was agony. But in looking back, I almost laugh because as I begged God to give us a definitive answer as to whether we should stay or go, it was as if He was saying, “Hello! What do you call all of the information and insight I have given you over the past few months? What do you call that sick feeling that you have in your gut?” It reminds me of that joke where the guy is on the roof during the flood, confident God will save him. As the waters rise, a boat, a helicopter and a plane come along, but the man refuses help from them all, saying he’s waiting for God to save him. When he finally succumbs to the flood and goes to heaven, he asks God why He didn’t save him, to which God replies, “What do you mean? I sent you a boat, and helicopter and a plane!!” It was as if God was sending us all of these signs, yet we were waiting for the “burning bush,” or the audible voice of God. We were afraid to trust our own discernment. Even with Scripture to back us up (Acts 20:29-31, Matthew 23:27-28, 1 Tim. 3:11, 2 Tim 3:2-7), we still thought that maybe our leadership knew better than we did.

The Holy Spirit was leading us away from there, but we were afraid to do the wrong thing. Joyce Meyer says that if you miss God, He will find you. So true. We really didn’t have to worry so much about making a wrong decision regarding whether or not to leave our church, because no matter what we did, He would have taken care of us. If there was a lesson He wanted us to learn, He would give us that opportunity where ever we were. A lot of that fear came from the way we were taught to always be obedient, always submit. We were terrified that if we weren’t obedient to what God was calling us to do, there would be serious consequences. But I now see that if God absolutely wanted us there for a reason, He would have made it extremely clear to us. As long as we are seeking Him and His truth with all of our hearts, He will honor that.

I myself tend to get caught up in wanting a “burning bush” answer to all of my questions. I tend to play little games with God, wanting God to give me a sure sign that I am doing the right or wrong thing. It’s easy to do when you hear so many testimonies from people who talk about how God "told" them to do this or that and they did it and then they had a huge spiritual breakthrough, or became wildly successful in their ministry, business, etc. In thinking like this, I tend to get paralyzed by fear, terrified that if I don’t do everything “according to God’s will,” I will not be blessed and I will miss out on something. But my husband and I have learned that for the most part, God expects us to use the intelligence and discernment that He gave us. He expects us to investigate, question, research, and study, in addition to our prayer. He will send people to speak into our lives and provide wise counsel, but not to control us or run our lives for us (idolatry). He doesn’t send people to tell us what to do, but rather people will often confirm what He has already put in our hearts.

And when He sends the lifeboat, helicopter and plane, we should get out of our own way and jump in.