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