Tag Archives: faith

to the Christians

We can’t only be there when the worst happens. When there’s blood and tears and fear. If we’ve shamed, shunned, or just ignored every other day, our attention isn’t wanted on the dark days. We will be met with distrust, anger. Why would anyone take refuge with us if we’ve stayed silent when other crisis build, or raged when something we don’t agree with has come to pass?

I’m not saying we all have to change our opinions.

But we do have to love. Every day.

What does love look like? Is it constantly telling people what we think of their lifestyle and nothing else?

If you want to share an opinion about someone’s life, you had better be in their life. You had better be side by side with them through the bad times and good. Otherwise, why should they care what you think? Why should they believe you even care about them? What have you done to prove yourself as a good friend?

Don’t be surprised if your attention is rejected, especially if you haven’t shown much grace in the past. Reassess what’s more important  – preaching loudly or loving boldly?

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being shamed

Today was hard, in a way that’s kind of hard to explain. Someone decided they needed to unfriend me, but that wasn’t enough. He needed to message me and shame me, blame me, for the unfriending. I’m not close to this person. At all. In fact, he’s contacted me before about my beliefs, saying that because I call out certain politicians/pastors/public figures, I’m not a good Christian. Apparently, I stand for nothing, because I don’t stand on things the way he would like.

Even though my life is unchanged by this person unfriending me, it rattled me. It especially disturbs me when people in ministry do things like this, and it serves to harden me even further against “church people” and the church in general. This leads me ask several questions:

If he had known that “churchy” phrases and certain language serve as triggers when they’re used as weapons, that they can make me feel sick to my stomach all day and derail my thoughts, would he have chosen to write differently?

If he had known that these kind of encounters are actually very disturbing to me and I’ve written extensively about how these sort of out-of-the-blue accusations about the state of my faith, would he have started out his message with, “I know this won’t phase you at all”?

If he had spent any time at all getting to know me as a complete person, and that I don’t actually spend all my time “mocking” Christianity (which I actually never do, just institutions and people I believe misrepresent it), would he have decided I haven’t actually “strayed from the straight and narrow,” but that it’s all just part of being young, having questions, and working through challenges?

I don’t know the answer. All I know is that he was completely inappropriate, hurtful, and intent on shaming me. If he hadn’t intended that, he would have just unfriended me and said nothing. Unless you know me, know my struggles, and have made any attempt at all to connect with me, you don’t get to tell me what I’m doing wrong and make statements implying that I’m spreading darkness. That need to shame, to accuse, is not from God. It’s not coming from a place of love, because God’s love does not seek to bring on guilt.

This person said that he “felt sorry for me.” I feel sorry for anyone else who has to experience this kind of treatment from someone who claims to be in position of spiritual authority, because apparently if I don’t agree or comply, I’m not worth bothering with in his eyes. Apparently, I can’t even be tolerated.

I won’t miss that kind of treatment. I want a life full of love and understanding, even in the midst of disagreements. I will keep fighting for that, and I know I’m not alone. God does not shame me, so I feel no shame. I’m free from that.

 

faith is just letting go of the horses

Screenshot 2016-02-03 at 6.35.08 PM.pngSo much of my life has been about control. When I was young, strong emotions scared me. They were like wild horses that had been leashed to a cart that I was riding in. If I wasn’t able to rein the horses in, they would take off, hurdling me towards some other unknown doom.

Trusting God and control do not well together. Jesus wants to take the reins, but I’m white-knuckling it, telling him, “No way, man. You’re going to take me someplace weird, someplace I don’t know, without signs. And these horses. You don’t know them like I do.”

Depression is a wild one. You would think he would be an old mule, slow, but Depression doesn’t work that way. This guy wants to take us all off a cliff. He is bent on destruction and he’s very hard of hearing, so no matter how often I tell him that it’s okay or how loudly, he never quite believes me.

Anger comes next. I’m not even sure she’s a horse. She might be part dragon; that would explain the smoke. She snaps at the other horses and wants to trample everyone in our path, even the people I love. She wasn’t always this hard to control, but as I get older, she’s getting worse.

The third horse is Anxiety. He’s very skittish and gets sick to his stomach a lot. He will slow down whenever we’re heading into a new place, and he’s terrified of strangers.

And then there’s Fear, Anxiety’s mother. Fear is the oldest, and her eyesight isn’t very good anymore, so she’s very paranoid. She looks a lot like Anxiety, but don’t be mistaken, she’s much different. She’s a leader. She’s not as unsure as Anxiety. Fear can pull this thing in any direction she wants.

—————–

There’s been one thing in my life I have had the most troubling thinking about letting go: Yoshi, my dog. It’s been a very real possibility three times in my life. The first was when we were trying to crate-train him, and he barked all night. The second was when we moved to an apartment and he hated it so much that he developed severe separation anxiety, and would bark all day, bothering the neighbors. The third was very recently, when Chris was waiting to hear about a job that would take us out of state, and not necessarily into a position where we could take Yoshi back from Chris’ parents.

Thinking about giving Yoshi to a shelter literally made me feel ill. I couldn’t sleep at night. Whenever someone brought it up, I dug my heels in. I didn’t even want to consider it. It was too much to bear.

Then the new job became a real possibility, and I had to face it, because I knew if it came through, but we wouldn’t be able to keep Yoshi, I would have to let him go. Chris really wanted the job, and I couldn’t tell him, “Wait for something else, one that lets us keep Yoshi.” Chris loves Yoshi, too, but in the end, we both knew it was ultimately my decision.

I would lie awake at night, my emotions running through my veins like fire ants, like wild horses. This was when I prayed, though it really just seemed like a form of a panic attack. I would focus on the one thing, on my desire to keep Yoshi, and lay it before God.

Lay your burdens before God. 

I’ve heard that phrase my whole life, but I’ve never really known what it meant, exactly. I do know, or at least, I know what it means for me. It meant letting myself feel the stress, the fear, the anxiety, the anger, with the intention to expose it all to God. He sees everything, but there are times when we hide ourselves, like Adam and Eve did in the garden. We don’t want him to see. This time, though, I wanted Him to see it all, in its shredded, blistering wreck. I went over and over my one prayer again and again, from all angles. My wish broke down piece by piece, from, “I want to keep Yoshi” to “I want to not feel sick when I think about letting go of Yoshi,” and finally to, “I want to be able to go of Yoshi.”

And there were still more layers, because I knew that I had faced this twice before, and both times, I had gotten to keep Yoshi. I didn’t want this to be a test, where I faked letting go with the expectation that God would “come through” at the last second. So I prayed for that, too, because pretending to let go and letting go are completely different things.

I don’t know how long it took, or when it even happened. That’s the most important part of the story, though, because it proves that it wasn’t anything that I did. I made a choice, yes, to even try to let go, but I can’t explain the actual thing. Three things happened:

  1. Chris got the job.
  2. It was better than we could have imagined.
  3. We are able to keep Yoshi.

——————-

The horses are calm. I look at Jesus, shocked, and see how he handles the reins. His hands are rough from years of taming these creatures, strong, and supremely more experienced than mine. Where I frighten them, He soothes them. Where I am lax, He is firm, and where I am brutal, He is gentle. We are far from the cliff, from the places where their hooves catch on stones, and where there is no grass or fresh water. Something else is different, too. He has brought His own horse, a breed I don’t recognize, and a color I’ve only seen in that moment between sleep and awake. It is leashed to the front of the cart, leading the others so confidently, it’s like they’ve become one body. When I ask what His horse’s name is, it all makes sense.

“Love.”

 

 

To The Brokenhearted: Being a Christian with Depression

My first Kindle ebook is now available for purchase on Amazon. It costs $4.99 and is enabled for lending on the Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get it on your computer or smartphone using the Amazon Kindle app. Here are some instructions:

http://jeanienefrost.com/discount-ebooks/how-to-read-an-ebook-without-an-e-reader/

I hope some of you check it out!

http://www.amazon.com/Brokenhearted-Being-Christian-Depression-ebook/dp/B013HPUO00/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440533993&sr=8-1&keywords=to+the+broken+hearted+being+a+christian&pebp=1440533995385&perid=1CJ7SKS136KKVP032WFT

I wrote a book!

So, I wrote a little book called “To the Brokenhearted: Being a Christian with Depression,” and it will be coming to Kindle very soon. I’m using their direct publishing service, and I’m super excited for everyone to check it out. It’s about my experiences with depression and anxiety, specifically as a Christian, and the lessons I’ve learned on how to deal with symptoms, people who deny mental illness, and so on. I have an author page on Facebook set up: https://www.facebook.com/eshubertyauthor

“Like” me and stay tuned!

With Unexpected Speed

I did not expect to be dealing with all this so soon.

I had recently passed my two-year anniversary and was looking out the car window at the blur of fields and barns. Occasionally we would pass clumps of trees, but they would fly by so fast, it was like they had never been there at all. When I tried to focus on a small detail like a single branch or house in the distance, it would immediately bleed into the oddly-linear hues of gray, green, yellow, brown, and blue. My mind was wandering. It had only been two years since I signed a piece of paper, said goodbye to my dog as he left for his new home with my in-laws, and woke up a married woman. In a lot of ways, it seemed like yesterday. However, it also seemed like forever ago. In those two years, me and my husband have dealt with mental breakdowns, horrendous medication withdrawals, a crisis of faith (ongoing), employment turmoil, sexual identity questions, loneliness, relationship doubts, and looming financial challenges. I was not naive when I got married. I knew all this and more was part of the deal; I just didn’t expect it all to happen so soon and so quickly.

Isn’t marriage supposed to have a honeymoon period? You know, that brief time when everything is rose-colored and you’re just happy to wake up next to your person every morning? I’m not saying I’m unhappy to be waking up with my person, but there was never a time when that happiness wasn’t mixed with anxiety and questions chewing on my brain like termites.

Is my unemployment a burden to this clear-eyed, optimistic, occasionally goofball-ish man I’ve yoked myself to?

Will the pharmacy screw up my medication again and disrupt my entire week with crippling muscle pain, headaches, and frantic doubts about everything? Are those bone-shaking doubts just symptoms of an unstable mind, or legitimate concerns I should be listening to?

Should I have gotten married when I did? Am I too young and immature? 

Will I ever be in a place to have kids? Do I even want kids? What happens to us if I don’t want kids? 

Even before we got married, we were faced with having to give up our dog Yoshi and the distinct possibility he would never be adopted. Thankfully, Chris’ parents took him back to Indiana with them, but that raises its own issues, like feeling the self-inflicted internal pressure to make enough money to get a place where we can take him back.

Do other married people have these problems? I’m sure they do. And I’m positive that couples have faced worse unemployment, worse debt, worse mental illness, and so on. I want to always be aware of the privilege I have, but I’m selfish and self-pitying. I see other couples with Instagram-perfect lives and go between feeling glad I’m not a fraud, and then furious that we’re not them. I see other couples having or planning babies, and I’m flabbergasted that they aren’t freaking the f*** out every minute of every day. I envy identity/orientation confidence. I envy white-picket fences and Tuesday date nights and dishwashers. But mostly, I fear.

I fear I will never be happy at the same church as my husband.
I fear 9-5 jobs and “work shoes” and imperfect bosses.
I fear eternal debt.
I fear little pink capsules and inefficient pharmacies.
I fear loneliness because I don’t dare get close to other women.

I fear God and His timing, which is so unlike our own, that to Him nothing is “unexpected, “too soon,” or “too late.” 

Why I Don’t Call Myself “Pro-Life” (As Defined By A Google Image Search)

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I’ve been sitting on this blog topic for a while now, because I have a lot of thoughts and it’s controversial. I like to work through things when those two things collide. First of all, I’d just like to say that I do not like abortion. I don’t like to really think about the process of abortion, because I do not like it. In my perfect world, no woman would ever want or need one. But the world isn’t perfect. So we make due. I would also like to say that this post is about the movement as a whole, and not individual people whom I know. Most of the pro-lifers I know are genuinely kind people. However, there are aspects of their beliefs that I do not understand. 

I cannot buy into the whole pro-life stance because it confuses me on a couple of different levels. It’s inconsistent. It contradicts itself. It approves of certain people who should not be approved of. It lies. It manipulates. 

I have two main issues with the pro-life movement and its numerous organizations: 1) Its emotional manipulation and 2) Its inconsistency.

  I’m not sure when the emotional manipulation began for the pro-life movement, but I’m betting a lot of it was sparked by “The Silent Scream,” an anti-abortion film made in the ’80s that is famous (or infamous) for its graphic visuals and videotape of an actual abortion on a sonogram. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist, was behind the film. During the showing of the abortion, he says, “We see the child`s mouth wide open in a silent scream. . . . It is moving away in an attempt, a pathetic attempt, to escape. . . . This child senses the most mortal danger imaginable.” This is just horrible, and not because it’s true. The fetus was 12 weeks old. Other medical experts denied the fetus’ ability to move with purpose and it’s unlikely that the part of the brain that perceives pain was even formed yet.  It does not sense danger, it doesn’t know emotions. Don’t mistake my skepticism of Dr. Nathanson as callousness about abortion. Like I’ve said, I do not like abortion. I am not “pro-death.” I also do not like being manipulated. “The Silent Scream” is not an unbiased presentation of facts, it has an agenda, and could be called propaganda. This is why I am wary of pro-life and its aggressive attempts to hit upon my emotions; it has a very specific purpose and will not present ideas that contradict that purpose. Like the idea that fetuses can’t feel pain until a certain stage of development.     

This is my problem: I don’t like child prostitution. I think it’s horrendous. Do I go around waving pictures of a child being raped? No. Why? Because it’s unnecessary and is more disturbing than anything else. It shocks people. It doesn’t necessarily move them to action. Now, this isn’t a great example, because pretty much everyone who isn’t crazy also doesn’t like child prostitution. Abortion is different, because a ton of people don’t think it’s that bad or that fetuses aren’t people yet, so pro-lifers wave around pictures to show that, yes, this is actually a pretty violent thing. I get it. A better example would be if I was protesting what happened in Abu Ghraib and other enhanced interrogation techniques, and had signs with pictures of soldiers and prisoners. Images like that mostly just shock people and don’t actually change anyone’s mind. It’s especially troublesome when emotional manipulation involves children. Lots of children are involved in pro-life events, and it disturbs me. I don’t think a six-year old boy who doesn’t know what a vagina or sex is should be holding a grotesque sign of an aborted fetus. That’s just the worst. Even those Pro-Life Across America signs with cute babies saying cute things bother me. People who get abortions rarely have problems with babies themselves. It’s the whole being pregnant and changing their entire lives thing. Seeing a sign with a baby is not going to convince them about anything; it could even have the reverse effect and harden their hearts further. Because they know they’re being manipulated.

      This December, a suit was filed by the ACLU against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops because of a situation where a woman received improper medical care from a Catholic hospital. After 18 weeks, her water broke and she went to the only hospital in her county, which was Catholic. She was given medication for her pain and sent home. She returned the next morning with bleeding and was again told to go home. The third day, she went back yet again, where she miscarried and the baby died. Medical officials reviewed the case and concluded that the hospital should have informed the woman that her baby had next to no chance of surviving and that removing the fetus was an option. The hospital’s actions could have resulted in the woman developing a fatal infection. The ACLU decided to file the suit against the Conference instead of the hospital because this is only one of many cases where religious policies put upon Catholic hospitals has resulted in dangerous medical practices.

      This is just one example of where the pro-life movement (especially in situations involving the Catholic church) is inconsistent in its claim that it values all life. Doctors have been excommunicated for performing emergency abortions to save the life of the mother. In Ireland, one of the strictest countries in terms of abortion law, a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant was told she was miscarrying baby, but was then denied an emergency termination. Despite the woman’s severe pain, the doctors said that they had to wait until the baby had no heartbeat. When they determined the baby had indeed died, they removed the fetus. Savita Halappanavar died four days later of a blood infection.

      In the Dominican Republic, where all abortions are banned, 16-year old Rosa died after her cancer treatment was delayed 20 days because the chemotherapy could have terminated her pregnancy.  The ban in the Dominican Republic made headlines in 2009 when it was put in place and received support from American pro-life groups. LifeNews, a popular pro-life website, quoted one of the Americans involved: “We have witnessed firsthand the grievous slaughter of innocent children in America, and we are committed to helping our friends in the Dominican Republic to avoid the same mistakes.”

Was he thinking about the women who might be affected by this ban? What about their lives? It’s easy to justify outright bans by saying how rare Rosa’s circumstances are, and even how rare pregnancy by rape or incest is, but that’s dangerous thinking. It erases all the women it does affect, which number thousands in the US alone. Each life is important, isn’t it? Or does that only apply to the unborn?

     It’s been a criticism of the pro-life movement for a long time, that they only seem to care about fetuses, and as soon as that kid is born, it’s on its own. We’ve got pro-life politicians voting to restrict abortion and then in the same day, voting to cut food stamps and arguing against minimum wage. I’ve seen people mocking those who want higher wages by saying they deserve what they have, because they aren’t “skilled” enough to get more. So you’ve got a sixteen-year old girl who drops out of high school to raise the baby YOU wanted her to have, and then you’re saying she doesn’t really need those food stamps, and that she shouldn’t be earning more per hour at McDonald’s because “McDonald’s was never intended to be a career.” Oh, the compassion. Again, I’m not saying all pro-lifers are cold-hearted monsters. Most of the people I know would want to help the 16-year old mom and wouldn’t be jerks about it, but what I am saying is look at who you are voting for and look at the inconsistencies. They may wear the Pro-Life badge, but what else are they wearing? Do they actually care about people? Or are they just spouting some emotional tirades about thumb-sucking ultrasounds to get your check mark?

    Another area where the pro-life movement is glaringly inconsistent is when it comes to sex education and contraception. Over and over again, abstinence-only education has been proven to fail. The idea that sex education promotes or hastens sexual activity among teens has also been proven false. Many Christian pro-life organizations continue to push for it. Face it: if someone is going to have sex, a teacher telling them not to is not going to change their mind. People also make mistakes and compromise their values. They need a safety net. You can’t just say that kids should learn about sex from their parents and that it’s not the school’s business, and then when the parents fail at that and a teenager gets pregnant, suddenly leap in the ring and start telling everyone what to do. Why so interested now and not before? Again, is it worth your time just because there’s a fetus involved?

       Most people are also misinformed about contraception, and pro-life groups calling morning-after pills “abortion pills” (which do exist, but are not the same as morning-after) does not help. Christians all too often also promote (or at least passively approve) the idea that women who use contraception are “sluts.” A woman only needs to be having sex with one person to need birth control. So, relax. It’s not like every woman who gets her hands on birth control is going to lose her mind and start having sex with anything that moves. There aren’t some libido-boosting chemicals in those things. People also get upset at the idea that insurance will cover birth control and recently, that Obamacare will cover more women than ever before. Isn’t that a good thing? More birth control means less unwanted pregnancies means less abortions. This ties into the inconsistency thing for me – people get all red-faced about paying for birth control and then get super mad about abortions. One thing could have prevented the other, and if you really believe that abortion is murder, then paying for birth control is waaaaay less morally objectionable than having taxes go towards abortion (which they do not), so what is the real issue here? Is this really about saving babies, or is it about sex you don’t want women to have? It sounds like it’s about sex, especially when people say that getting pregnant is a “consequence” of having sex, so women should just deal with it and not get an abortion. I thought a baby was a blessing, not a punishment. Make up your mind. This is confusing to me. If I’m going to call myself pro-life, I don’t want all this extra “NO SEX FOR YOU” and “NO BIRTH CONTROL EITHER” hanging around.

    Abortion should not be banned. Number one reason: it does not actually stop abortion. In Africa and Latin America (where most countries have very tight restrictions), abortion rates are about 29 per 1,000 and 32 per 1,000. In Western Europe (where abortion permitted on “broad grounds), the rate is 12 per 1,000. In countries where the restrictions are the most strict, abortions are also the most unsafe, so more women die. Now, these numbers are not to be blindly taken as truth (the Guttmacher Institute faces a decent amount of criticism because of its number-gathering methods in certain countries, though I found only one legit source that criticizes them, and then the rest are all pro-life/Christian websites and blogs, soooooo a little biased there), but I’m inclined to believe that in countries that are considered “developing” – where there’s a lack of modern medical care in rural areas, high poverty rates, little access to birth control, and very strict abortion laws – there are going to be a lot of abortions done unsafely (either self-induced or by non-professionals). If a woman wants to have an abortion, she will get an abortion. And she might die in the process.

     Reason two – The women who are the most vulnerable and most at risk will be the ones to suffer most. I’m talking about pregnant women with cancer, rape victims, women at risk for infections, women who can’t bear the thought of their child being born only to suffer for a few hours and then die, women whose babies will be born dead….this is not emotional manipulation, these are facts. People can try and dismiss the statistics, and just focus on a teenager who made a mistake and wants a “quickie abortion,” but the reality is there is no one type of person who would ever want an abortion. That’s important to at least think about, to look at their stories, to hear their reasons, and not to just shame them and write them as “baby killers.” Who is that helping?

——-

Side Bar:

I also come across this thing where people are all like, “You care about this typhoon in Indonesia/any other horrible thing in the world? Well, babies are dying! Isn’t that worse?” Like it’s some kind of competition. Or this has happened a couple times, where I say how sad those polar bears commercials make me, or that Sarah McLachlan ad about the animals, and I get this aggressive “Abortion is the new Holocaust!” thrown in my face. Yesssss, that is also bad. Which is why I support more birth control, comprehensive sex education, and less shaming about children outside of marriage…what exactly do you think? And, as a head’s up, don’t go around calling things “the new Holocaust” or saying things are “like the Holocaust.” Because it’s not. It’s not the systematic extermination of a certain race and faith by a dictator, and yes, I do in fact know that Margaret Sanger was into eugenics, but did you know that organizations can change and not hold to every wacko idea that their founders had? Henry Ford was way into eugenics too, but we still buy Ford. Calm down.

Also, google “Pro life” and look at what comes up. A LOT of emotional appeals there. And shaming. Like that nice little bumper sticker that says, “The root cause of abortion is selfishness.” Really? Is it? Every time? Ok. I’ll stick that on the car of the politician who said that abortions in situations where the mother’s life is at risk are about “convenience.”

 

Sources:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-03-17/news/8501150835_1_fetus-dr-bernard-nathanson-abortion

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/us/lawsuit-challenges-anti-abortion-policies-at-catholic-hospitals.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/08/world/europe/ireland-abortion-controversy

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/18/world/americas/dominican-republic-abortion/

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/11/07/study-finds-abstinence-only-programs-fail-to-reduce-teen-sexual-behavior/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/brian-nieves_n_3640587.html

A Rough Patch

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The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.

– C.S. Lewis

Church was never my thing. The concept of sitting with a bunch of people all staring into the same direction made me uneasy and I especially hated the part where we all had to greet each other. I don’t know these people, why accentuate that with awkward handshakes that varied from “the limp fish” to the “Hulk smash?” When I was younger, there was Sunday school, and I liked that even less. It required interaction with hyper peers and all I wanted to do was zone out in the big sanctuary or color in all the “O’s” on the dozens of bulletins.

The first church I was remember was one of those big churches, with the concert-like worship services, massive camera set up, and a thousand-plus people whose names I would never know. When I was about six, we moved to Belgium, and found a church there that was used to ex-Pats and other international connections. I don’t remember specifics about that church, except that I liked it better because I actually had a few friends there and it didn’t feel like I was going to a football game. Coming back to the States was tough. We church-hopped for a while and ended up going to a church where they also had a homeschool co-op group we went to a couple times. I remember nothing of significance there, except that that was around the time I knew I needed glasses, because I couldn’t read the song lyrics on the projector. Then it was back to the original big church, where my brother and I were ushered into youth group as is custom for youths. I hated it. I was bored and didn’t know how to react when other girls in my group asked questions like, “So did Jesus like get his period and stuff?” or when they learned I lived in Europe, “Do you speak European?” There were two female leaders who I both liked a lot, who would occasionally look at me with a mixture of pity and appreciation, probably because I was quiet.

We switched to an Episcopalian church after my parents persuaded me that I did indeed have to attend some kind of Sunday morning service and Wednesday night religious youth gathering. It was pretty much the opposite of everything the modern Lutheran church had been. Liturgy, pastors with robes, kneeling benches, real wine for communion…I liked it for a while, but soon the repetition made it too easy for me to zone out. I couldn’t connect emotionally with anything, I couldn’t relate my crushing depression and intense feelings of isolation to a serene, old tradition-based service where the Scripture readers would practically shout at the small congregation in a disconcerting monotone. The youth group wasn’t much better. All the kids knew each other very well and even though my parents pushed me into practically every event, I never got past a certain point of acknowledgement. I felt tolerated. Nothing more.

In high school, I started going to my boyfriend’s church. My favorite high school teacher was also the pastor and there were other people I knew there, too. I didn’t have to start over and the transition was smooth. It was the first place I felt at home. I loved the sermons, the environment was relaxed, there wasn’t a pressure to perform. This would be where I belonged for the next seven years (minus a few year gap where I just didn’t go to church or school, because of my mental breakdown). I worshiped sincerely there, I met some of my best friends, I taught youth group there, I even had some dramatic spiritual experiences. Then everything seemed to fell apart all at once.

The lead pastor left and I haven’t really spoken to him since, not by choice, but by circumstance, I suppose. It felt like a betrayal. The rest of the staff got switched up and after building the youth group into the strongest ministry at the church, a large chunk of the kids graduated out of it and it seemed to slip away back into obscurity. It no longer felt alive to me. I lost the one church that had meant something to me, after so many years of searching. I left the church and haven’t really been back to any since then.

I’ve tried a few. Chris goes to the church he found when he first moved to Minnesota, but I’m still grieving, and I don’t really know how to recover. We’ve been to one together a few times, but I’m terrified of trying to meet new people and that was what made a church feel like home. My social anxiety is especially high when being social and church/religion collide. The people who have hurt me the most have all been Christians; the risk factor is already too high for me to handle.

I haven’t lost my faith in Christ; I’ve lost my faith in His Body. It looks and feels so different than being with Him does. The contrast is so stark, it confuses and wounds me. I don’t know when I’ll be able to reconcile the Groom and the Bride. I do know that they’re supposed to be together though. They’re just going through a rough patch right now.

Linked In #2

Here is part two of Linked In Thursdays!

ImageI love the idea of this blog. I used his hiking guide to prepare for our first attempt at real walking in Gooseberry Falls. Hint: Bring almonds and raisins. I get tired easily and a handful of nuts/dried fruit actually gives me a really nice energy boost.

http://www.nerdfitness.com/

ImageI love Jonathon Merritt. He wrote “A Faith of Our Own Following: Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars” and he frequently writes about pastors who say controversial things and responds with grace, but never stops being assertive and firm. This particular article is about a joke Mark Driscoll made about climate change and how he intends to keep driving his SUV because “God isn’t going to burn up the earth anyway.” Driscoll responded to criticism by saying it was just a joke and everyone should relax. This excuse is all too common, most notably in cases where people make rape jokes. As Jonathon Merrit says, “Some things just aren’t funny.”

http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/05/15/some-things-just-arent-funny-a-response-to-mark-driscoll/

ImageThis is super random, but super beautiful. I especially love the excerpt at the very beginning.

http://ruhlman.com/2012/09/the-magic-of-making-salt/

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Lots of citations, direct quotes. I’ve always thought the weakest part of the Republican message in terms of relating to the message of Jesus was conservative economics, and this article shows some examples of how. It troubles me how these politicians blatantly misuse Scripture and either don’t know or don’t care.

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/09/25/2677421/how-house-republicans-are-preaching-a-false-gospel-about-food-stamps/

 

 

The Shepherd

ImageLately, I’ve been questioning my faith. Do I really believe what I say I believe? Or, more frighteningly, what if what I believe really doesn’t fit with being a Christian?

I feel the latter more often than the former. I’m constantly getting fed the message that one cannot be a Christian if one believes A, B, and/or C. People, as close as friends and as distant as major religious leaders, love deciding what convictions do and do not fall under the Christian umbrella. Since politics has apparently joined theology as a key factor in determining one’s stance with God, there seems to be a never-ending stream of do’s and do not’s.

I’ve always fought back against the stream. In high school, I remember being asked why God would create humans and after a little thought, replied, “Maybe He was lonely.” The teacher looked at the class and said, “Can God be lonely?” More than one voice said, “No,” and the teacher moved on as if that single word was the end of the matter. In my opinion, if God can’t be lonely, I don’t know how we could relate to Him at all, since at least for me, that feeling has dominated most of my life. High school continued to offer spaces in which I could argue and I’ve gotten used to disagreeing with the majority of the Christian representation in America.

However, my grounded fervor has begun to shake. I’ve felt distant from God for a while, partially because I’ve been too afraid to find a church to plug into, and also because I’ve been a bit miffed with how my life is going. I see the confidence with which people declare their beliefs as the one true way and I begin to tremble. What if I’m wrong and they’re right? What if believing X and Z really does mean I’m ignoring God’s truth?

Last night, I was thinking about this as I tried to sleep. I imagined being a ewe in a flock of sheep. The sheep around me were all huddled in a circle and when I went over to them, they stared at me.

“What are you?” they asked.

“I’m a sheep.”

“No, you’re not. You look funny. Your ears are shaped differently than ours. Your hooves are weird.”

I was troubled and a little hurt. I go and try to find the shepherd. After calling, I heard his voice and went over to where he’s standing.

“What am I?” I asked him.

“You’re a sheep,” he answered.

“But the others say I’m not.”

“That doesn’t matter. You’re a sheep.”

“How can I be sure?”

“You recognized my voice when I called you.”

So after all my doubting and anxiety, the answer is simple. I still hear Jesus’ voice. I am not so far off the path that I’ve lost my sense of Him, of His compassion and mercy, His patience, His humility. When I’m overwhelmed by all the descriptions of Jesus people are throwing before me, I shut my ears to every voice but His and His voice is full of grace. Even if I am wrong about some specific issue, it doesn’t change who I am.

More importantly and most importantly, it doesn’t change who Jesus is.