Sunday, November 16, 2008

When the World Presses In


It's so hard to be a person of faith in this world sometimes, particularly when the people you love most cock a skeptical eyebrow at your faith or look askance at your invitation for them to join you at church for Christmas. Sometime those looks or the perceived thoughts and feelings behind the looks can really get you down -- at least they get me down. It isn't easy to swim upstream against the current.

And then I read this verse: "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first" - John 15:18 (NLT) (Jesus speaking to his disciples in the gospel of John).

I figure that if the world hated Jesus, who am I to think the world should love me? So I made that my Bible verse of the week, the one I would commit to memory and recall throughout my day. This verse will, I know, stick with me much longer than a week. It will be my touchstone for those moments in which I feel the world is coming down on me, when I feel alone in my faith and in my walk with God. It will remind me that Jesus faced the same challenges we all face because he was fully human in addition to being fully God.

Recently I read the book "The Shack" (Wm. Young) which presented the Holy Trinity in a unique and awe-inspiring way. I don't want to give anything away, but let me say that it was one of the most comforting books I've ever read. If you find yourself feeling distant from God or if you're feeling that if there was a God, He wouldn't let these bad things happen in the world, read this book. If you need a little boost to your faith, read this book. And if you're at the end of your rope, read this book.

The verse and the book have done more to bring God's love, faithfulness, and steadfastness home to me than anything I've encountered in a long time. My closer walk with God continues. He is more real to me than anything in this world, and I love Him.

Peace - D

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Long time no post

This week's Bible verse for memorization:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love." - Romans 8:38 (NLT)

I'm really sorry for not posting in a while. I am not going to ever be posting as often on this blog as I do on my primary blog. That one is my baby and gets most of my "free time," what little of that there is these days.

I do happily report to you, though, that I was accepted into the graduate program in Thanatology at Hood College and will be starting there in the spring semester! I'm still trying to let that sink in, too. I know that I'm happy about it, but I haven't felt myself jumping for joy. I'm not sure if it's because I expected to get in or if it's because I am still in shock a little bit.

Nevertheless, I would like to share with you my personal statement that I enclosed with my grad school app. I think it will tell you how I feel about this next step in my life. Enjoy, and thank you for reading - D


I am no stranger to illness or to death. In 2006 when my siblings and I sat with our mother as she spent her last difficult week in this life, I realized that life had taught me many things, not the least of which was that there is nothing to fear in the human continuum of birth to death.

During my formative years, when I was a young teen, my father received a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. Our home quickly took on a new air, as my father first had surgery, then radiation, and then chemotherapy. My mother managed his medications, and we frequently had vials of morphine along with the butter in the refrigerator. There was nothing to fear or hide; this was simply life happening. Seven years later, he died, and while it was difficult to navigate the grief of losing a parent, I found my way.

Later, when we lost my father-in-law to a sudden heart attack, I knew the familiar pattern of grief and helped my husband and his family through it, as well as dealing with my own grief over his death. In 2006, it was Mother’s turn. Unfaltering, we all stood by her and bathed her, fed her, called for the nurse when necessary. We were with her through the worst of it, and there was no fear. She demonstrated tremendous courage and grace; things could have gone much differently.

Though my career has taken me from network engineering to technical writing, I feel called to do more for my fellow humans. Having worked in military hospitals and clinics, I’ve seen people in all stages of illness. I’ve been through illness myself, including a frightening intestinal bleed caused by medication that caused me to lose half of my blood and end up in the ICU at Frederick Memorial Hospital. This experience was as close to death as I’ve been personally and helped me become an even more compassionate person. I have come to appreciate care workers from a very personal level, and I feel drawn to help others myself.

I have a strong faith and have recently become part of a local church. At my church we are in the process of forming a local chapter of our “Care and Prayer” group, which provides for hospital, nursing home, and in-home visitation. This is something I hope to volunteer with. I am also planning to volunteer a few hours a week with the local chapter of Hospice, if possible. I’m exploring that option because I feel it is a unique calling to provide for others in their times of illness and grief.

My life experience will help me to provide grief support and support for the terminally ill with compassion, understanding, and courage. In that final transition in this life, I have come to know the importance of being surrounded with people who can hold your hand and walk you through it, as well as to deal with those who are left behind. I look forward to being such a person.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New Path

For some time now, I've promised to tell you the story of my answered prayer. Here it is, with a twist!

You see, for a long, long time I have either been a writer, been dreaming of being a writer, or been working towards being a writer--not necessarily in that order. As a child, I had the talent, and I knew it. My parents knew it. My teachers knew it. But it wasn't really a supported talent. Like many talents, unless you are very, very good, you can't pay your bills with the earnings you'll bring home. Not thinking I was very, very good, I moved on to other dreams.

Life happened, and I ended up in the computer field in 1986. By 1990, I was a computer operator for a government contractor (a computer operator is someone who monitors, interacts with, and supports big systems, usually mainframes or server farms). By the year 2000, I was working for a large international company as a manager of their U.S. customer service department. My talent with numbers, my instant recall memory banks, and my sheer determination got me there. I was sailing right along in that field until 2003 when the big layoffs came. Meanwhile, I had written one network engineering book and contributed to another. I figured I would ride that path for awhile.

Eventually, I landed a job as a technical writer, which is what I still do. I am fortunate enough to have a stable job with a good company, and I do contract projects on the side. I completed my degree in technical communications in 2007 and was accepted this year into the MFA/Creative Writing program at American University. I had every intention of going, even though it meant taking out more loans.

Then my health started going awry again, and tomorrow I will see the neurosurgeon yet again to have my Chiari malformation re-evaluated. Will it be time for surgery now? I don't know the answer to that, but I'm at the point of screaming, "Something's gotta give!" I am deferring my acceptance to AU until 2009 so that I can see where I am at that point.

But I don't think that's where God wants me. I prayed a lot about that acceptance letter and about the long commute it would mean from my house to downtown DC, about the late nights and trouble with juggling a full-time job and full-time school again, about the fatigue that has wrecked my life.

One day, some months ago, I came across a technical writing website/blog that had an interesting article I wanted to save for later. I bookmarked it. One evening after a fervent bout of prayer, I was perusing my bookmarks and came upon the article. When I got to page 2 and all the way to the bottom, a Google Ad caught my eye. Online MFA in Creative Writing.

Huh? I had searched for 2 years for such a program and had never found one. Well, there it was, at the University of British Columbia. For about half of what the same degree at AU would cost, I would be able to finish my MFA in about 2 years online from a really good school. I had lots of praise for God over that one!

But it seems He wasn't finished with me. I kept feeling that something just wasn't right.

My initial intention upon going back to college was to get a degree in Psychology. I changed my degree program after getting the technical writing job, so I could improve my skills for my new career. Yet I have still felt that pull towards counseling. In fact, I spent a lot of my time with the therapist I saw after Mom died going over my identity crisis. I explored all kinds of options with her as I went through being turned inside out by my own deconstruction. She (my therapist) loved my creative writing, and so she naturally encouraged it.

The thing is, I can hear God asking me, "Who can you help? Who can you serve?"

I was signed up to be a Hospice volunteer about 6 months after I lost Mom. I really wanted to help. What I didn't realize was how frail my own emotions still were. Between illness, car situations, and more illness, I had to decline the training when it was time. Now I'm feeling that pull again.

Turns out that the only college in the U.S. that offers a full MA program in Thanatology (the study of death and dying) is about 10 minutes from my house. How often have I thought about that program since meeting the Hospice volunteer coordinator who had graduated from that program? How often have I thought about the growing need we have in this society for support of the terminally ill, the grieving, and the lost?

You see, God hasn't taken away my free will. He showed me the two paths open to me, but now He's waiting for me to choose. "Who can you serve?" Answers to prayers are not so clear-cut. They are often anything but.

Peace - D

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brief Pause

I've been quite busy these last couple of weeks, and I've neglected to post here. However, I have an interesting series of posts called "This Used to Be My Beach" going on over at my other blog: Poetic License. Please read those, if you have time.

By the time this weekend rolls around, I should be back to regular postings here.

Peace - D

Saturday, August 2, 2008

God knows exactly what He's doing

He is working in my life right now to a great degree. There are so many things happening, so many changes, that I can only credit Him.

I am also having a difficult time, though. Not everyone in my life is happy with the changes in me. I'm being challenged at every turn not to turn my back on God once more. It's difficult and painful, and sometimes I wonder why I've decided this is the right path for me, but I know that it is! I know that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. God doesn't make mistakes, no matter how many times I felt that I was a mistake, that my birth was a mistake. He doesn't make mistakes.

Sometimes I wonder why God is so interested in me. Why does He want me back? And then I wonder if it isn't my mother working to intercede on my behalf; like a Catholic saint, she may be praying intercessions for me. I hope so, because then there may be a chance for things to be alright in my world.

I hope so.

D

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Good vs. Evil

**If you haven't seen The Dark Knight, there may be some spoilers here. Read at your own risk.

I've been considering the age old war of good versus evil, particularly because I finally got to see the movie The Dark Knight last night. The movie lays it out very simply for us: Batman is good and the Joker is evil. Well, it isn't quite that simple, because there are moments in which we feel sorry for the child the Joker once was (until we realize his story keeps changing). There are also moments in which we wonder whether the darkness has crept into Batman a little bit, too. And what about Harvey Dent? Dent's accident in which the gasoline covering half of his body (and face) catches on fire leaves him maimed. He is pushed over the edge into madness by the Joker and becomes the vengeful "villain" Two-Face. Perhaps Dent is a symbol of the capacity for good and evil that lives in each of us. It gave me a lot of food for thought, and I could not sleep for hours last night.

There have been many times in my life in which I've said that I don't believe in Hell. And I really don't know if I do. I tend to think that Hell is here on Earth because we each become the recipients of the free will of others. A young man chooses to stick a gun to your face and take your wallet? His free will was just exercised. Like it or not, you gave him your wallet of your own free will. You could have chosen to run, fight, or die by his hands, but you gave him your wallet.

There are times when others use their free will to take advantage of our good nature. You see a woman walking in the heat of the day, struggling with her grocery bags. You give her a ride. She lifts your wallet from your purse on the way out the door. You could have chosen not to give her a ride, and in fact, you never do give another person a ride. Her free will and yours intertwine.

We hear many versions of what Hell is like, just as we hear many versions of what Heaven is like. I'm not willing to test the system, so to speak, and find out if there is a Hell. I tend to think that if there is, it is more "hellish," if you will, because of an absence of God, an absence of hope, and an absence of good. Imagine a reality in which there is never any hope of things getting better, never any promise of God healing us or lifting us up from our burdens. That would be Hell.

We're told that in the end, the ultimate battle of good versus evil will be waged. Unlike Batman, though, God is infallible and perfect. He will not make mistakes or doubt Himself. Satan's voice will finally be silenced in us, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That will be the perfect ending, don't you think? No cliffhangers. No villains who won't die.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Missing Church

Today is the first time since I returned to church that I have been unable to go. I was sick yesterday - sick enough to go to the ER - and today I am reeling with a Chiari headache. Either the medication caused a rebound effect or my hours of lying on the hard gurney with no pillow put too much pressure on the base of my skull. Either way - Ow!

I am very much missing my friends in Celebrate Recovery. They are the ones who keep me going. They are the ones with whom I share the deepest secrets of my soul.

I am missing the music of my church right now. About now, they are getting ready to head into the second song of the morning, their beautiful voices lifted high to God.

Next week, God willing, I will be back. It hurts me to miss church. It frightens me how quickly one missed service could become two or three or more, extending into a very long absence, as I had before. I am not willing to let that happen.

For now, I will rest and pray for God's healing hands on me. Next week, I will rejoice even more to be in the presence of my church and the blessings of their fellowship.

Peace - D

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dreams

I've been having a lot of dreams lately, some of which I remember, some of which are just receding images in the morning.

Last night I dreamt I was talking to a young man who was in the arts. I had been listening to someone else refer to herself with the statement, "I am the Arts!" I thought, I wonder if I'm brave enough to refer to myself that way. Am I steadfast enough in my talent and productivity that I can reliably refer to myself as though I represent the realm of Art? While I was mulling this over, this young man, seated on the grassy expanse of a park with me, expressed the same doubts about himself. Suddenly I was filled with love and acceptance for myself.

I smiled at him and said, "You know? I have spent my entire life trying to come back around to where I started in childhood! I was a creative sort then, and I spent too many years trying to be something more productive, more pleasing to the world. And here I am, right back where I started, and I'm so happy!"

He smiled and nodded. I had encouraged him to stay the course, to not be led away by the will of others. Not only with his talents but with anything about his life. God creates us as individuals, and we are expected to use our talents in some way - each talent - to give back to the world. If you are a painter, be the best doggone painter you can be! Glorify the God who gave you that talent. If you need a "regular job" to pay your bills, so be it, but don't give up on yourself. Where would I be if I had listened to my heart and stuck with writing when I was 18 years old instead of believing what other people told me - "Get a job! Life is hard! You can't make a living writing!" I used to think it was my mother's voice I was hearing in my head, but now I realize that it was so many voices. So many detractors.

I realize now that when people are unhappy with their lot in life (or their perceived lot in life), they want to make sure to share that unhappiness around. They want to make sure to put each person they encounter in their place. What would the world be like if we all just relaxed and used the talents we've been given? Conversely, what would the world be life if Georgia O'Keefe had never taken up the paintbrush for fear that she would be somehow shirking her responsibilities? What would the world be like if some of our greatest writers had thought they were wasting daylight by taking pen to paper or hands to typewriter?

The world would be dull, my friends. It would be incredibly bleak and without beauty. It would be like the stark Gotham City in Batman - sooty and gray, gritty. The world needs art. It needs paintings and photographs and literature and poetry and song. Without these things, our world might more resemble Hell than Heaven. And isn't it our calling to bring about the Kingdom of God in the world? I would like to think that the Kingdom of God is filled with self-expression, praise in every form, and beauty. Great beauty.

I hope that if you are reading this and wondering where your life is taking you that you will stop and ask what you can give to the world to make it more beautiful? What can you do to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth?

I am the Arts. I am the written word. I am expression.

Peace - D

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My Poem to God

This is one of my own, and it's called, Perfect Me, O Lord.
Please do not re-use without providing my name as the poet and/or providing a link to this site. Thank you - D

Perfect Me, O Lord
by Doris E. Pavlichek (c)2008

Free me, O Lord,
from doubts, fears, and worries,
from daily stresses, scurrying
toward my inevitable end.

Save me, O Lord,
from the world and its pull,
from the drawing away from Your will
toward a life of sin.

Use me, O Lord,
for Your purposes, Your will,
Your glory. I will be still
and recognize You within.

Perfect me, O Lord,
and give me strength and hope,
confidence in Your presence, so
I may cast my eyes on Heaven.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Getting Still


Job 37:14 "Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God."

It's funny how God works.

I used to be one of those people who ran, ran, ran all the time. It was as if I was in a race with myself and the rest of the world, and I had boundless energy. In my smugness, I thought I would always go at that pace, passing up people who were less driven. That hasn't worked out so well for me. When God wants to talk to us, the first thing He does is get us to be still.

Through illness and life changes, He has slowed me down tremendously. And even during my years of differing beliefs, I told my husband, "If I didn't know better, I'd think God was trying to test me or tell me something." Well, as it turns out, I didn't know better. He was trying to get my attention. And here I am, Lord.

I have had to get very still. I am often fatigued and have to lie down. I am often in pain and have to move slowly. And I am often alone. It is in these times that I pray. I get closer to God and listen to Him. It is only in this stillness that we can hear Him over the drone of our own thoughts and judgments.

This should come as no surprise. Even the winds would be still for Jesus. Consider the passage in Mark 4, "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."

Couldn't he just as easily get me still? He could, but He chose to nudge me toward stillness, therefore not taking away my free will. I could still wrestle against being still, forcing myself to press onward in a harried life, using the "power of positive thinking" to overcome what God is trying to do. Or I could give in. In Psalm 37:7, the author said, "Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act." This is where I am right now. I'm am waiting for Him.

In Isaiah 40:31, a promise is made that "....those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." I'm counting on that promise. I'm believing that God is a healing God and will someday see fit to let me freely move about again, perhaps once He is done, in His infinite wisdom and perfect timing, with speaking to me. Like Job, I have had trials (though not nearly as severe). In such situations, we have two choices: turn to God or turn away from God. Turning away didn't do me any good. In fact things got much, much worse. So here I am, Lord.

And when life is very hard and people don't understand my beliefs to which I've returned after all these years, I count on Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be still."

Peace - D

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Away for a few days

I will return on Sunday, hopefully, but I will be exhausted from a whirlwind trip to Florida. Enjoy your weekend - D

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Green Day

I read an interesting post this afternoon on a blog I've never been to before called Thinking Out Loud. The author, Ms. Green, had some interesting things to say about arguments that rage between believers and non-believers. I think I'm going to have to take her advice and just recognize that there is nothing I can say that will make a difference.



If you are frustrated because you are witnessing to one who is lost, and you feel you’ve exhausted all your efforts and they still deny the truth, God says you should back off and go your way. “And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” Luke 9:5

Put them in God’s hands. “Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.” Psalm 35:1. God can deal with them much better than you can.

Jesus himself did not argue (strive, i.e: Greek “erizo”, meaning to wrangle, engage in strife). “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.” Matthew 12:19. So neither should we.


If you want to read more, go here. - D

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Love Letter from God

We watched this today in my class at church. There are no words I can add to this beautiful video. Please enjoy. Peace - D

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Interesting Passage

The title could mean what I'm about to tell you or it could mean that this is an interesting passage I'm going through in life. Okay, it's both. I'm formulating my current stream of consciousness into some nice essays that may turn into something. I don't want to jinx it by saying more, because I'm highly prone to project abandonment. I flit back and forth between projects until none of them get done. Blogging is one thing I seem able to stick to, though I find that it can be very time-consuming. It's a pay-for-play operation in some respects. If you want people to read you and comment, you have to read them and comment. My reading list has grown so exponentially large that I'm going just a little bonkers. In the midst of it all, though, I am doing the following:

  • Reading a New Living Translation version of the New Testament. You know I never really read it before, and this translation is quite nice. Very readable. I find myself getting into this book written two millennia ago. Fascinating.
  • Reading up on Chiari I Malformations, as it seems that mine is becoming more problematic by the day. It's okay. God wants me to be still, and He's making sure to put me on my butt.
  • Working on several writing projects.
  • Musing about college. I still need to tell you that story.
  • Reading a couple of other books at the same time. Think maybe I have ADD? Maybe, or maybe it's just my workaholic ways.
  • Working full-time on special projects at work.

And as I was writing on one of these aforementioned essays this afternoon, I flipped over to John 15: 1-5. I had been writing about how I felt led back to the church as though I'd never left, and I landed right where I needed to be in this beautiful text. Jesus said to His disciples:

I am the true grapevine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit to they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

I feel that I was fortunate enough not to be one of the branches that was cut off completely. If anyone did the cutting off here, it was me. Maybe I just needed a little more sunshine and rain to bear fruit. Maybe I needed to grow out from the shade of those above me. Whatever put me here, I am happy.

Peace - D

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Am I My Brother's Keeper?


Since returning to my journey with God, I often go digging through the 'net to find different interpretations of Bible passages. The one that is on my mind since the incident with my brother is the passage from Genesis 4, in which Cain murders his brother Abel and is confronted about Abel's absence. God says to Cain, "What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground" (Gen. 4:9-10, KJV). Granted, I have not murdered my brother, but that doesn't stop me from feeling that if he dies, his blood will cry out to God from the ground, and I will be held accountable.

This is a question I'll pose to the Celebrate Recovery group on Sunday, because I really want to know what God expects of me, at least in their learned interpretation. I cannot save people who don't want to be saved, in my experience, and my brother has been suicidal for a very long time. While he was in the USAF during his youth, he and some friends went over the side of a mountain in Germany late at night while coming home from a party. He was 25 years old, and on the long roll to the bottom, his neck was broken, his pelvis was broken, and he wasn't expected to live. We got a visit from somber soldiers in a long black car to tell us that he was alive "as of the time [they] got this message."

He pulled through, but since then (and he'll be 59 this month) he has talked about how he cheated death, how he died a certain number of times on the operating table, how he was living on "borrowed time." When he wasn't talking about that, he was talking about how our dad died at age 59 and our grandfathers died in their 50s and early 60s. He has been waiting for death for a very long time. His behavior is always erratic and risky, and he has done many, many things that could have led to his demise. So, am I truly my brother's keeper? Is it my job to look out for him, let him abuse me, just to keep him alive?

Some scholars interpret the Cain and Abel tale to mean that, like Christ, we should look out for each other, go out of our way to be kind, and try to bring others to Christ. Some interpret it literally, to mean that we are responsible for our brothers and sisters (meaning all of mankind?).

Of course, I also found a bunch of nutjobs out there who said that liberals (that scathing word that the religious right use against those of us who don't agree with them) use this passage to provide support for taxing citizens to death in order to support indigents and illegal aliens. HOGWASH! If we are our brothers' keeper, then shouldn't we want to help a brutha out, so to speak?

You know, without getting too political here, I would just like to suggest that I think Jesus would have been one of those liberals of whom they speak so derogatorily. He hung out with sinners not saints. He touched the unclean to heal them. He didn't discriminate. If the "brother's keeper" tale is anything, I think it's a tale that teaches us to be more Christ-like. I don't know or care about the politics of that. God wouldn't want us to let someone starve, would He?

Politics were a big part of what kept me from church for so long. I really hated that the preacher who handled Mom's funeral service used the pulpit on that precious day to make a political commentary. The really funny thing - and there was only one funny thing - is that Mom would have scolded him for that. She wouldn't have agreed with his message or his style. Had I known him better, I would have dragged in a complete stranger to do the service, not the pastor from the last church she had attended.

I refuse to let politics keep me from God any longer, though. My soul needs to be fed, despite the atmosphere of the restaurant. This time, unlike when I was a naive, accepting child, I am really studying the messages of the Bible and am seeking to understand the messages. This time, I'm an informed, educated adult who really wants that closer walk.

Peace - D

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Tests Keep Coming


Because of my physical ailments, I've been tired lately. During an afternoon nap, which felt wonderful, I had a dream about my daughter.

In the dream, she had bleached her hair and cut it into a blunt style. She was at my house raising Cain, as my mother would have said. She was high. She was abusive, pretty much the way she really is when she's high or drunk. I've heard that my father was that way when he drank, too. She was at my house, trying to get my medication from me. (Due to a bleeding condition and my physical ailments, I do have narcotics in the house for my pain. I am incredibly careful about storing them, but she has stolen them from me before).

In the dream, I confronted her and told her to get out of my house, to leave me alone, but I felt the way I usually feel when I tell her to go away - guilty. I was sobbing in the dream, angry at her and at myself.

I woke up with my heart pounding and my pulse racing. I just wanted to shake off that feeling, so I had a long drink of water and went down to the living room to check email.

There was an email from my oldest brother who has been living in a mission in downtown D.C. for over a year because he refuses to get help for his narcotics addiction (he takes massive amounts of pills every day, to the point he won't get out of bed or look for work). He tried to kill himself last year with an overdose, and yet the VA keeps on giving him the drugs. My daughter tried to kill herself in December, and yet her doctors keep giving her the drugs.

The email I received today was a response to my last attempt to contact him in March, when our cousin died. He said this:

Too busy staying alive here at the moment. two weeks ago one of the guys on night duty found me beside my bed dead for all intents and purposes. The high opiate used threw the kidneys into lock up. I got the adrenaline shot into the heart, the paddles on the chest. the whole works. So am now missing a week out of my life, I can remember none of the action or ICU activity. They labeled it at oxycodone overdose and acute renal failure. Other than that, I'm still just peachy.

Each of us siblings, except the other one who has addictions, has tried to help him. He ends up just walking all over us. The last time he was at my house, he hardly ever bathed, didn't want to leave his room, and did nothing but pop pills and lie around in his underwear. He wanted a fridge and microwave in his room so that he wouldn't have to interact with us at all. When I finally told him he had to go get a job or leave, he told my son that he guessed he was just going to kill himself. It was that passive-agressive kind of threat that Mom always made just to tell us she was hurting inside and that she wanted our undivided attention. It's a bad thing to do to your kids, and I wasn't about to let my son be abused like that. I asked my brother to leave.

Am I my brother's keeper? If he had just tried a little harder to be alive, I would have let him stay, but as things were, I couldn't. And now this. I dream of a daughter out of control and hear from a brother out of control.

I sent him all of my contact information and asked him to please give it to the Mission staff so that they could contact me if he needed help (or even prayers). I asked him to please give me contact information for the Mission so that I could check on him. I told him I'd be praying for him.

One thing I'm learning through my Celebrate Recovery group at church is that I cannot save these people in my life, these addicts and dependent personalities. I am working on me. I am the only one I can work on.

God keeps sending me tests, though. One after another. My pastor says that unless you are tested, you can't have a testimony. I should have an incredible one when this is over.

I've started doing something I never did in my previous Christian life. I have started reading through the New Testament. So far, in Matthew, I've noticed that Jesus keeps throwing tests out at his disciples, parables, and situations in which he can tell if they've been paying attention or not. I want God to know I'm paying attention. I don't always understand the lesson until it's past, but I am paying attention.

Next, I will tell you about my answered prayers about my masters degree program.

Until then, peace - D

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why I Left

I've been examining my life and my reasons for leaving the church so long ago. After all, I was a very devoted servant of God as I was growing up. I never thought anything would cause me to walk away, and yet I did.

Part of it, I think, was that I grew up. The church I went to during my teens was a "hellfire-and-brimstone" type, unforgiving, unrelenting. They were out to win souls by fear. My soul, being already won, began to have trouble understanding why things had to be so threatening. During this time, I thought I was in love with someone of whom my family and my church didn't approve. This boy clearly didn't love me, which I found out later, but it was the color of his skin that was the bigger problem for my family and my church. Apparently the whole "love your neighbor" thing didn't apply in south Georgia if your neighbor was black. I began to get intense pressure from everyone to "repent." I felt I had nothing to repent for.

Rumors began to fly about me, because the people of that church loved to spread gossip and to enhance it as it went around time after time. It was a small town and a small church, filled with small minds. For the first time, I began to think it might be a place I didn't want to go, but I thought, "What will I do without church? Without God?" Every time I walked into the building, though, I felt the eyes on me and the judgment behind those eyes. The pastor was the worst of them. (Of course I later found out that he was cheating on his wife the entire time and ended up leaving her for another - younger - woman).

I tried to cling to my faith.

Eventually, due to the unbearable environment at home and at church, I asked my older sister if I could come and live with her in Houston, where I had grown up. Long story. She said yes and sent me a plane ticket.

In Houston, we didn't go to church. My sister was in a bad marriage and her life isn't what she expected to have, particularly because when she met her husband it was in church. Her fairy tale was a nightmare. I began to work on the Sabbath, something I had not done up until that point, and to do chores around the house and in the yard on that day. Eventually, I didn't notice that I wasn't in church. I was in a new groove.

When I went back to stay with my mother for a short time after I graduated high school, I returned to church with her (she wouldn't have allowed me not to). Some of the people who had been the biggest judges had moved on or died. The boy I thought I loved was gone. I was a good girl. I had a white boyfriend back in Texas that I didn't know if I would ever see again. The church became part of my life again, but it was a festered part of it. My mom urged me to go to youth night and watch these films the church was sponsoring, so I went.

The film I saw was called A Distant Thunder. Like most things in fire-and-brimstone churches, it was based solely on the book of Revelations. It was all about fear and "the tribulations" in which the second coming happened and the people who were left behind must either take the mark of the beast or be persecuted for being believers. (I wonder now why so many people are presumed to become believers after the second coming. Is it so hard to believe in something you've witnessed with your own eyes?) The film culminated with people being ushered through a kangaroo court like setting. If they say they believe in God, they are taken out the back door. If they say they don't, they receive a mark.

At the end, the protagonist is led out the back door to who-knows-where. She looks up. The music plays. There is a bloody guillotine right there waiting for her.

Okay, don't you think that's a little too much for kids to handle? Who wouldn't - if they believed this - turn to God? Fear tactics. I understand them better now, and it's no way to win people to Christ.

I begged my boyfriend over the phone to get saved. I didn't want him to face the guillotine after the second coming. He was mortified that I was calling him up with such nonsense.

That boyfriend is now my husband. He still doesn't like church or organized religion in any form. It was used as a weapon against him when he was growing up. For awhile, we were on the outs after that. He looked on me with suspicion and disgust. How could I be so ignorant?

Yet somehow we got past that. I left the church for good and only ever dabbled here and there in other religions that I thought might be less of a threat to him and to my intelligence. What I didn't realize so much at the time was how different most churches are than those little small town hellfire-and-brimstone ones. But I didn't chance it. I didn't want him to leave me because of religion.

I've seen many more evangelicals since then who remind me of my church past: Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Fallwell...need I go on? They stand for things I don't stand for. And what about Ernest Angley? He has all this healing (really just smacking people in the head) on television. Remember what the Bible says about false prophets. They are everywhere.

Yes, I have a lot of healthy distrust of most religious "leaders" because they use their position to advance their own political agendas. My views aren't the same as theirs. And having tried Catholicism, I can tell you that I don't find the Pope to be infallible. I don't like the world's biggest good ol' boy network at all. I am going to continue to work on my feelings of keeping churches and religious figures at arm's length.

Fortunately, the church I'm attending now isn't like that, but I get the spiritual "fill-up" on Sunday that I need for my week. I am now also a functioning member of the body of Christ, as I was meant to be. It feels good to have this in my life again, but I do wish my family was a part of it. It was hard on Mother's Day sitting there without my family. It is hard when I want to go do couples things and I don't have my other half. But life goes on. I'm just working on me right now and getting my own soul in line with what I think is right.

The rest of my life will fall into place, I suspect.

Peace - D

Thursday, June 12, 2008

God, 1...Self, 0

The name of this blog comes from a quote that is often attributed to Carl Jung but was actually just a favorite quote of his from Desiderius Erasmus, "Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit." Literally, "Called or uncalled, God is present." Jung took this quote and had it carved over his front door and, later, onto his tombstone. I chose this as the name of my blog because I feel the truth and the weight of it. God is with us whether we call Him, believe in Him, or turn away from Him. He is here, has always been here, and will always be here.

And now part of my story....

I knew that when my mother died in 2006 things were going to change. I just didn't know how much they were going to change. At the time, I was practicing Buddhism, which I found to be a peaceful philosophy/religion/whatever you want to call it. I felt peaceful enough to make up with my sister from whom I'd been estranged for three years. I decided that I needed to swallow my pride and patch up a relationship that had always been very important to me.

After Mom died, however, I lost that peace. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, it escaped me. Suddenly Buddhism seemed too difficult. I didn't understand the things they were praying and chanting in the meditation center. I couldn't grasp the concepts. I felt - once more - adrift.

I wondered if I should just give up on the idea of spirituality altogether and simply live my life as those around me were doing. And yet there was something about that which rang hollow and left me feeling empty. I found that I had grown so angry at the "religious right" during the last couple of decades, however, that I couldn't see myself going back to Christianity, the beliefs of my youth. I struggled, fought back, and kept everything and everyone at bay.

Because I felt that grief was such a huge part of what I was feeling, I turned to a therapist. I've been seeing her for a year-and-a-half now and I am doing better, but I kept toying with the idea of going to visit a church. Now and then I would see a church during my drives or would look up the local churches on the Internet. I thought about trying some new faith. I grew up Southern Baptist, converted to Catholicism in 1994 (my husband is Catholic and I wanted to try to give the kids some faith - but hubby doesn't practice his faith at all), and then I tried Buddhism starting in 2005. Why did I still feel so lost and empty?

That's part of what I'll be talking about in this blog: how I got here, driving forces, mysterious occurrences, and how things are going each and every day in my new life.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Peace - D