Tell me all your thoughts on God

I’ll be honest. I’m not really sure what I believe about God most days. I grew up in a charismatic church, married a Lutheran, and then attended Baptist and Calvinist churches until we decided to leave. We’ve tried a few other churches, but our beliefs have morphed and changed. Since we experienced a lot of spiritual abuse at the hands of the leaders of our last church, it’s been hard to go back. And at this point, we are pretty much done with the church.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Over the past few months,  I will say, I’ve thought a lot about my relationship, or lack thereof, with God. I still feel as if I have one. I often will pray prayers in my head and I think about verses I’ve learned and I still try to be kind, loving, and forgiving even if I don’t know where I stand some days with my faith. I still desire to know the truth about God. I find him even more mysterious than I ever have, but I haven’t written him off as uncaring, unloving, or not hearing me. I just feel as if this journey requires me to dig my heels in and decide. It calls out to me and asks, “What is it that you really believe about me?” And that question is something I keep asking myself and fine-tuning as I go.

I am a very observant person. Growing up rather sheltered and withdrawn, I learned early on to watch not what people say, but what they don’t say. And to keep an eye on what they do. People tend to say all kinds of nice sounding things, but it’s what they do and what they don’t say that interest me.

When I tell people I don’t go to church, they automatically assume I’m going to hell. They can’t believe I’ve walked away from God. When I try to explain myself, I am faced with a lot of odd looks and strange body language as if I birthed an alien.

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The look I get when I tell people I don’t go to church. Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

I’ve noticed over the years something about Christians, especially those who religiously attend church and swear by the tradition. They say a lot of nice sounding things, but if you end up not agreeing or have doubts, they quickly turn into people that become hurtful and angry.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the past week. A friend of mine decided to attend church and then wrote an email to the pastor about some things he found that went against the scripture. The pastors reply was more or less “I don’t like what you said, so don’t come back to my church. Signed, Pastor, PHD”. Interestingly, I was out on the lake looking at God’s beauty in creation while thousands of people were sitting in pews “going to church”. I told my friend, “This is what church really is: Admiring God’s creation instead of playing dress-up and trying to impress people”.  It’s true I feel more connected to God in nature than I do sitting around his so-called people.

But after I read the Pastor’s response to my friend, the thought occurred to me that the church itself–I mean, buildings of people gathering to watch a Pastor perform every Sunday–is in and of itself Satanic. And maybe I don’t trust that word anymore either since I don’t always buy into the entire idea of Satan, but the church could be defined as something evil. It’s idolatry, really.

Got Questions defines idolatry this way:

The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God.

Exodus 20 states, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

Yet, what is a Pastor these days? Nothing more than an idol. And when you try to point out how corrupt and evil this is, you will see the way you are treated. It’s pure evil. Most Christians I know treat their pastor as they would Jesus Christ. They see him as the messenger between God and themselves. They see him as a person who is granted some sort of special powers and has the ability to be called. This is hogwash. And it’s idolatry.

In my last church, people asked the pastor if they should get this or that car, how to parent their kid, if they should go on a special diet, if they thought certain diseases were real, how to spend their money, mental health issues, marriage problems, abuse problems, and on and on. They wouldn’t look outside the church for help because to do so was frowned upon. The Pastor was seen as the guy with the answers.

frida-bredesen-317281-unsplashTo go against the pastor is to go against Jesus himself. And to go against the pastor is to be treated as the enemy of the church. I recently read a comment about people who write posts such as this one and they said that anything that is divisive is of the devil. If that’s the case, then so is Martin Luther, Galileo, or in modern day, Rachel Denhollander.

Are Christians really demons? Are they really filled with Christ or with the power of Satan? It’s as if they can’t search the Bible, if that’s what they claim to believe, and realize that most of what they say and do is not even in the Bible! The term “Pastor” is only used once and the term “shepherd” is not defined by ruling over a group of people and having their unquestionable loyalty. I appreciated this video by Servus Christi:

Most churches are run by marketing and business efforts. Pastors go to seminary to be a tool of change in the hands of God, but money corrupts the best of us. And so does power. I don’t believe that Jesus really wanted his church to be defined by the love of money (which is the root of all kinds of evil) or by commending ourselves with titles and status. If you read scripture, you will notice how Christ sees those who are outside of prestige and popularity as the ones who will inherit the kingdom, not the proud and boastful who flaunt their professions and call themselves “Pastor, PHD”.

Of course, I’m being a little cheeky when I say that they are demons. I know most Christians are not. But I wonder about their reactions. It’s this put-up-your-dukes-and-lets-fight attitude. It’s accusations and name calling and assumptions about salvation and hell. To argue against a pastor or a church’s ideology is to be shunned and treated as Satan himself. It makes me wonder if these people are truly of Christ, or of the devil himself. Because to love Christ is to be patient, kind, and respectful. What I see is a bunch of rude, prideful people who claim they are defending the faith but really are defending their choices. To question those choices is to place doubt into their minds about the very thing they believe and put their hope in–their church and pastors. It has replaced their need for Christ, although they falsely assume they are still loving and serving Him by going to church and defending their beliefs to the death.

Of course, most Christians won’t want to hear a thing I have to say. Steven Hassan, an expert on mind control, uses the term BITE to describe how people can be sucked into cults (including pastor worship and church worship). Cults seek to manipulate our Behaviour, the Information we access, our Thoughts and Emotions. You can see a bigger version of these images here.

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Most times, it’s not this obvious or in your face. Sometimes it’s subtle and elusive, but when you step back, you can see exactly what it was. Some churches are cults by definition. Some are toxic. Some are “cultish” and exhibit some of these behaviors, but not all. In any case, why would anyone want to be associated with such things? Even if you only exhibit one thing in this entire list, it’s too much.

It’s why I can honestly say the church is evil. And I won’t be running back to the same place I escaped from. While my relationship with God still hangs in the balance, the church won’t be the place where I find him again. The church did so much damage to my thinking, my emotions, my sense of self that I can not imagine what my life would be like if I had stayed and kept enduring their lies and control.

It might look ugly right now where I’m at, but it’s my ugly. I’m free to think, be, and make my own choices which aren’t influenced by some dude with a suit and a narcissistic personality disorder. I’m not sure why Christians call themselves “free” or claim they have “freedom in Christ” when they are so wrapped up into their churches and what their leaders or pastors have deemed important. So many Christians lives consist of serving in the church, giving all their extra income to the church, and attending church. They can’t imagine life outside the walls of their church!

There is life and joy outside the walls, the people, and the events in a church building. I’m learning to enjoy the real world and each person I encounter. There is no line of who I can talk to or not talk to, where I can go and can’t go, or what opportunities I can join or not join. My calendar is not booked up with church events and my mind if not bogged down with guilt, shame, and sorrow from being manipulated by the teachings of the church.

If the Bible is lovely and pure and holy, I sure never found it in the church.

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How to be Christ-like

We had a grad party this weekend for my oldest. I shared something personal with a Christian friend of our family. I told her about some struggles with my youngest daughter. Instead of empathy, she got a bit riled up and told me I needed to cast out Satan. Then started talking about the culture and how evil it was. When I mentioned my daughter broke her tibia and was upset she couldn’t drive, she rolled her eyes. I walked away.

Later she asked my husband & I where we attended church. I snarkily said, “Church of the Holy Comforter” meaning my bed. She got defensive, “I’m just asking”. But I know her. She’ll write me off and act like I’m trash because I don’t go to church. She already was being super rude.

Is it not obvious to her that she acts like a religious nut? And is it any wonder then why I don’t want to attend church? I mean, if she acts like that and we are supposed friends, I can only imagine what people I don’t know well will act like.

The concept of Christ, in and of itself, is beautiful. His dying to save humanity. His selfless life. His deep love for people. But often times all I see in his followers are judgments, criticism, and pointed fingers. Empathy is nonexistent.

I hold on to the beauty of Christ however small it is right now. I don’t feel like I love God or want to pray or read the Bible, but I do recognize the goodness in His life. If God is real (which I haven’t judged against as of now), then he’ll have to swing me back through his own methods. And it won’t be from judgy church members or finger pointing Christian “friends” .

God, I just don’t know

My stance on God these days is, I just don’t know. He might care about me. He might not. The Bible might be true. It might be a giant lie. God might be doing something but he also might not be doing a damn thing. I just have no confidence to swing either way. I’m not done with God nor am I a believer, at least not a wholehearted one with no doubts. I’m not ready to say he doesn’t care or doesn’t exist, but to the level he is in my life, that’s up for a ton of debate. I clearly have not decided what to believe.

My entire life has hinged on this God thing. When I was growing up, I was not lovable enough unless I was doing things for God. I needed faith and a sinless life. I never really read the Bible but the church we attended pushed this “works based religion” and I believed it. I was young and brainwashed and grew up pretty angry at God.

Then I found myself in my late 20’s still trying out this God thing. I couldn’t just walk away. So I sat in churches of a different kind that told me that God loved me no matter what. That he paid for my sins. That I only needed to believe. So I read the verses and thought I knew exactly what they meant.

Later, I attended a church that took this a step further and claimed I couldn’t even take credit for my belief. God had elected me to believe and no one could snatch me from him. But I was to be so thankful and grateful that I’d only ever want to love him and serve him. So for years, I felt guilt that I couldn’t love God. It wasn’t that I didn’t try but that my love felt forced. It was an obligation. A duty.

So we switched churches and I was told more of the same but this time, I sobbed in the pastors office. “If God created me, why am I supposed to be different? Why didn’t he just make me how he wanted to begin with?” I still felt as if who I was would never be enough.

I heard stories of changed hearts, growing in grace, loving people who were abusive and cruel because “that’s what Jesus would do. ” I knew people who adopted children, took in criminals, and didn’t press charges when stabbed by a criminal. This was how a Christian lived. Do not take revenge. Give up your dreams and be an orphanage. Or go on mission trips and start up a church. I wanted to do none of it. It all made me cringe. It just wasn’t something I felt born to do. But there was guilt associated with this because the vast majority of church people felt called. Why didn’t I?

I’ve always been a bit of a lone ranger, a person who questions the culture and societal norms. I’ve never been much of a follower. This has put me in positions where I’ve been shamed for not going with the flow. I’ve been told I need to be more humble, to love more, to try to have grace for others, and to fit in. But I don’t want to. So then I am treated like I am an evil hearted person. More shame.

I wish life was simple. If God was real, he makes himself utterly elusive and distant and only some have managed to hear from him, or so goes their stories. It seems a hard thing to swallow. Just read the Bible… Everything I need to know is in there. A bunch of verses that have been disputed over the ages. But I’m supposed to figure it out? And honestly, couldn’t have God made the text a little more clear? If he knew thousands or millions of people would rely on it for ages to trust in Him, why make it so difficult and a source of conflict? Didn’t he see that coming?

Let’s not forget how women are treated…nothing more than sex slaves and property. But within the pages is a story of God’s love for me. Why can’t I see it then?

And his people are reflections of him but they are horrible. Some use Christianity to hide evils. Abuse is rampant. Power trips are seen in every church you attend. Mixed in with the good stuff is a whole lot of brainwashing… Everything from sexual and spiritual abuse to theft to hiding criminal activity from the authorities. Yet this is who Christ called to represent him? It’s embarrassing.

I want to believe there’s a power that loves me. I want to believe my life doesn’t just end and that it matters what I do today for eternity. But I’m struggling to know it. To feel it deep in my bones. To live it and breath it. Maybe it’s because it’s just not true. Or maybe it’s because I’m not one of His. Or maybe the answer lies somewhere I haven’t seen yet.

If I just believe just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Charles Spurgeon Idol Worship

Sometimes when I’m truly bored, I take a look at my former church’s Facebook page. It’s good for many laughs.

Not too long ago, I wrote a review about them and gave them one star. I didn’t write about uncomfortable seats or music or how no one greeted me when I walked in the door. Nope, I wrote real concerns. And so like the caring church that they are, they took down all reviews which deleted mine. Gotta keep up with appearances, ya know.

So when I went to their page the other day and saw a once baby faced pastor now with a beard… I laughed hysterically. Maybe you don’t think that’s funny but I do. Why?

Because they all have a hard on for Charles Spurgeon in that church. I’ve even seen one guy with a shirt with Spurgeon on it. Gag.

Charles Spurgeon this. Charles Spurgeon that. And now 2 of the 3 pastors and several congregants look like him. Oiy. If that doesn’t cry cult, I don’t know what does.

I truly don’t understand how church even remotely resembles the Bible. Pastors like these are trying way too hard to look important. It’s basically like their egos are so fragile, they must do all they can to feel important. Is church really about saving souls or is it more about saving their egos?

What tiny, silly men they are. I wish i could go back in time and give them shit for how they treated me. But, that’s rather childish I suppose. Instead I just laugh from afar.

I honestly don’t think they’ll ever get it. They got all their fans and money and their own religion of Spurgeon to keep them for a lifetime.

Is the Bible Problematic?

“The Bible is problematic.”

This was something I recently read. To deny that is to put your head in the sand and never grapple with your faith and belief system.

It’s true. The Bible consists of what looks a lot like misogyny, rape, incest, slavery, child murder, as well as Christians and even God murdering other humans. The old testament is a baffling display of these things. The new testament is less so. Most seem to think that the new testament wipes out the need for the old. Then why read it? Yes, problematic.

I’ll be honest. I can’t seem to read it. Maybe it’s PTSD from my last church and all the ways they used it against me. Maybe it’s that I’ve grown tired of trying to understand what theologians can’t even agree on. Maybe I get sick of hearing as a woman how I don’t matter and then contradictory, that I do. It’s confusing. And for 38 years, every problem was solvable with a verse. It’s a lot like going to a doctor and being told to take a pill without really hearing the problem. Problematic is correct.

I’m not saying I’ve dismissed the entire thing. I just feel like my experiences have often led me to some sort of berating that included the Bible. So much shame. It brings little comfort because it feels more like a list of ways I don’t add up. And I never will.

Over Easter, one of my in-laws was trying to convince the rest of us with brains that the earth was flat. He claimed science was evil and kept insisting our belief in a round earth meant we didn’t really believe in scripture. I’m not exactly sure what verse lends itself to a flat earth, but it made me wonder a lot about how each person can think so differently about the words in the Bible. Why is it so debatable?

In another lifetime I used to say that I can’t know the mind of God. His ways aren’t like my own. I still believe this. But I also can’t seem to let things slide so easily. I find this so called “life giving” book… The words Christians are to live by and be conformed into the image of God by… I find it a bit of a mess.

I think if God wanted us to truly understand how to live like Him, then the Bible wouldn’t be so hard to understand. Christians argue about election, salvation, heaven and hell, homosexuality, church, roles of women and men, and even what love looks like. Why is it so complicated?

And in the meantime, I struggle because I am not “one of them”. I am not a mousy, perfect looking wife. My kids struggle with depression and identity and definitely don’t make me look like a good Christian mom (and I don’t care). When my husband does something stupid, I don’t sit on my hands and pray for him. I use my mouth to express how I feel (something I’ve been told is not becoming of a proverbs 31 wife).

I grow tired of all the ways I see Christians hiding the truth. If Christ came to set us free and to live in truth, why do so many try to stifle hard things? Why do they cover up evil? Why do they see disagreement as a threat?

It’s the fact that they claim to live by the Bible but seem so unconvincing in their belief… Because their actions just show hostility and hypocricy… That I have grown weary of reading it. I don’t want to be like them. And being so influenced by the Bible, I just see something I don’t want to be.

Is the Bible whatever you want it to be? Is it anti-science or pro-wisdom? Is it against evil yet promoting it? Is it supporting love and honoring each other while demeaning your wife? Is it freeing you from shame yet holding you responsible for not being perfect? It can mean anything you want, is my guess. And so it keeps on going so long as one has a pulpit in which to spread their own personal interpretration.

It just seems to me that God is entirely elusive if the Bible is the one and only thing we have to know him. Are we all just cast under a spell and only some get to understand this enchanted book? It would seem so if you listen to some Christians. Apparently they have the inside scoop. How is that proof of a loving God?

I guess I don’t get it really. But at the same time, to believe in nothing seems rather depressing. These are things I question. Of course I want there to be a connection to the holy and divine but I fear that all I’ve known is just a story.

Problematic? Yes it is.

The Daily Fight For Joy

On my other blog, I try to share how to find joy. I write about the small moments and fighting for a thankful heart. I believe everything I write. I want to be the woman who embodies a thankful heart and encourages others to pursue love and peace through Christ.

But living that out is not easy. I fight feelings of failure. I try to squash my inner critic that likes to remind me of all the bad stuff. It is a real battle and sometimes I feel exhausted from trying to defeat my bad attitude.

As I write this, my kids are all playing a game together. It’s a rare moment. My middle child woke up depressed and forgot to take her meds which help her deal with her moods. My husband was going out so I forced her to go too. I struggle with not being resentful at her for refusing to do things like sleep & take her meds. But my little push made a difference and now she’s having a rare moment of fun with her siblings. I wish there was more of these moments but most of the time, my time is spent harping on her to take care of herself.

My dog is curled up next to me. The fire place is warm and cozy. Family life is pleasant for the moment. Yet I start thinking of the bad stuff–like wishing everyday was this way or wishing it wasn’t so hard for my kids to do basic things. Why can’t I just enjoy the rare moments and the warm dog cuddles?

I struggle just like everyone to keep moving forward. I struggle with loving my life. I struggle to keep a joyful perspective. I spend way too much time in my own head. But I’m thankful that God is reminding me of the good in life.

Sometimes we think we have to have arrived. But life is often a daily battle of our wills. We fight to think well. We struggle to not let our moods bring us down or affect our loved ones. These things don’t necessarily have an arrival point but are part of this journey called life. If we can remember that, then we won’t feel like hopeless failures. Instead we will have grace for the process and for ourselves.

Is joy a struggle for you?

Forced Religion at Christmas

Last Christmas, I sat around with my in-laws and thought the day would go as usual. We’d eat, open gifts, talk, and the kids would play. Instead, my father in law decided he wanted to make Christmas more meaningful and instituted “Bible Trivia”.  Enter eye rolls from me. This was because my in-laws usually talked too much about sports and he thought that wasn’t holy. Isn’t it a little too late for that? You should’ve thought about their sport addiction when they were kids. I digress.

Apparently, he told the little kids (not my bigger kids–they would snicker at such a thing) that whoever got the most right would get quarters. And being the frugal guy he is, I guess he thought that would work. Apparently, on them it did. But he wanted all of us to play, adults  & salty pre-teens included.

Of course, being the ex-seminary student that he is (like I freaking care), he made the questions. And my thought is that even seminary students would have been asking what the heck he was asking because most of the questions sounded like he was on drugs when he made them. They didn’t make much sense. Needless to say, the kids seemed to understand Grandpa logic better than I did and at one point, I got rather frustrated with the entire thing and asked if I could not play.

On a personal side note, I hate competitive games–always have. Goes against my introverted, non-confrontational nature. And I hate that someone, probably one of my kids, is gonna feel left out or is going to wonder if they are truly a Christian because they don’t know the answers. I honestly didn’t care that I had lost. I was more upset that the questions were STUPID as ever. But when I said I wanted to be excused from the game, my Father In-Law decided I needed to be fixed and stated:

“Well if you read the Bible better, these would be easy.”

I wanted to say a zillion things in retaliation but I just sat there upset. And of course, this is pretty normal BS from my in-laws. Apparently, I’m supposed to sit there and take it. Except I told my husband that I would not be participating again in “Bible Trivia” and he can take his trivia questions and shove it up his…well, you get it.

But let’s dissect this a bit. If you want to make Christmas meaningful and “Christian”, knowing the answer to trivia might make you seem like you are smart, upright, even holy. But all I learned from this meaningful Christmas was that my Father in Law is only Christian in word, not deed. You can’t make Christmas more Christian by fabricating holiness. Either you love Jesus or you don’t. Even the devil can answer bible trivia…see his quoting of scripture while tempting Jesus. I guess by my in-laws standards, Satan is a better Christian than I am. Maybe Satan can take my place at holidays then too.

Isn’t this how it is though? Some people think in terms of black and white. They think if they do A, then B will result. They must be pretty great because they did something “Christian”. Meanwhile, someone struggling or not so sure but is hanging on to Christ anyway looks like they are heathens.

I saw this a lot in church. One big thing they pushed was church attendance. If you came and participated (and spread all your flu germs in the process because no one stayed home), you were considered a really good Christian. In fact, they frowned on missing church. I was never “talked to” directly about our missing church, but I was told on many occasions how important it was to be there. One noticeable difference when we left, besides a giant weight lifting off my back is that our family used a lot less kleenex.

To this day, when I sleep in on Sundays and wake up, I think to myself “Thank God I don’t have to go to church this morning.” A day of rest, truly is a day of rest. But my point is that you might look like a good Christian, but looks are quite deceiving. I’m sure Judas looked the part up until the end. Yet not one of the disciples figured it out. But Jesus knew. And just like Jesus knew Judas, He knows our hearts too.

I might not be good at trivia or going to church or looking the part, but I’m glad that God does not give up on me, or think less of me. Christmas is meaningful to me not because I follow traditions or try to make it more “Christian” but because I see the way in which Christ sees someone broken as me and loves me as much as those who aren’t struggling.

This Christmas, I’m hosting and we won’t be playing Bible Trivia. Santa Bingo might be on the schedule though.

 

 

The Hope At Christmas (& All Year Long)

Christmas isn’t always easy. I find myself sounding like Scrooge a bit. It’s hard to see the good in Christmas. People running around, it’s snowing and traffic is awful, it’s cold, cashiers are cranky, store lines are long, and retailers enjoy sending me 50 emails about their “must have” product. I grow tired of all the commercialism. No thank you, I don’t need that newfangled gadget. I’ve lived without it this far into my life, I think I’ll survive. I don’t always have much hope at Christmas. In fact, I usually can’t wait for it to “just be over with”.

Today my son asked me, “Mom, aren’t you excited for Christmas?” I blurted out, “For your sake, but not mine.” Truthfully, Christmas hurts. It’s not a time to pity myself, but it’s a hard time for me every single year. I remember getting presents from my Dad. My first pair of pink roller skates. I remember the story behind it too. He didn’t have the money, so he got it from his mistress. It pissed my mom right off. She didn’t take the gifts from us, but the holiday sweets he bought went in the trash. I remember crying and asking why my mom would do such a thing, especially since we never had things like that on Christmas. I now realize my Mom was holding back in her anger, but as a kid, I was bewildered. I wonder now what my Dad was thinking. He was willing to hurt my mom’s feelings to give us gifts. These are things I don’t know I’ve ever truly understood about my childhood, or if I ever will. It reminds me that this earth is just a befuddled, confusing place in which to live where people hurt each other for odd reasons and sometimes there is just no good explanation as to why.

The last Christmas I spent with my triplet brother, my mom gave us all red sweatshirts and made us wear them. She wanted us to look like when we were babies and we all were wearing red. This was before those photos were cool–you know the ones where kids dress up like when they were kids and try to clone the picture except they are adults. Anyway, she got her picture. We laughed and made jokes and my Mom grinned ear to ear. Seven months later, my brother was gone. This is how the holidays are. They are always met with memories of joy and fun but traipsing behind it, are reminders of sheer pain that I don’t know I’ll ever truly understand.

I do try to make Christmas fun for my kids. Some years are easier than others. The older I get, the more I long for a world I’ve never known. I long to be done with the chaos, the sadness, the loneliness of this life. I long for a God I’ve not seen face to face. I long for heaven.

Maybe that seems a bit ridiculous. I mean, how can someone long for something they not seen or experienced? I am not sure, but my heart longs to be loved like I never have been. It longs for closeness. It longs for true companionship and acceptance. It longs for a place where I’ll never see death, dying, sin, and sickness. I’ll never be hurt, abused, teased, and told to measure up. I’ll never be looked down on for being female or treated like an incompetent because I’m a woman. I’ll never have to explain myself or be given conditions for which I am loved. I’ll never be confused by a lying tongue and never be manipulated by an evil agenda. I’ll never have to bury a brother, a mother, or a Dad. I’ll never have to experience what it is to lose a family member, and then lose friends too because they don’t understand your grief. My joy will be pure joy, not a moment…a period in time–but forever. And that joy will not be mingle with confusion, bad memories, triggering moments, and sadness.

I can’t imagine what purity, charity, compassion, and empathy is because I’ve never truly known those things here on earth. I’ve only seen minor glimpses. They are lovely when I see them, but fleeting oh so quickly. They come and they go. I can not rely on them. They fly away like dandelion tufts, only to return seasons later. And in-between, I fight to cling to Jesus, a personal God I sometimes question and doubt exists. I wonder if He, like everyone else, has left me too. It’s at Christmas, I’m reminded that He’s with us. He’s holding on to us through our fears, our feelings, and our losses. He’s the one keeping our heads above it all. So much of it, we just can’t see or know. So much of it we question. The hope I hold to is that there are things I just can’t know and I will continue to be confused and misunderstood, but underneath are the arms that will carry me–that have carried me–and will continue to. That’s the hope I hold to at Christmas. It’s the only hope I truly have left.

The Shaming Game

I’ve not blogged here for awhile. I think I was trying to desperately to forget about church and abuse and all the negative feelings that go along with it. And it worked, somewhat. But pain doesn’t go away completely.

I still believe in God, but I falter in other ways. I can’t seem to pick up my Bible. I don’t want to pray. I think I’m still working things out in my head about what it is I do believe. Because for years, I was told what to think, what to feel, how to talk and was shamed if I didn’t do it THAT way. That’s what church, religion, and the Bible has become for me. And I’m trying to find my way back to what I’m supposed to be. I think though, if God is loving, kind, and merciful, He’s ok with my struggle.

In the back of my head, I still hear old pastors, leaders, and their wives. Some of their comments come to mind when I think about how I’m struggling.

Are you gonna disobey God and doubt his word?

You need to be more loving, more serving, more forgiving.

It doesn’t matter what you feel. Feelings aren’t important. God’s word is!

We are sinful and deserve hell, so you think too highly of your own self.

I could keep going. You get the idea. In almost every church I’ve ever been, I’ve been told to squash who I am, my thoughts, my struggles, my feelings. It’s the way of the church. They don’t want to address real issues or have them come to the surface. They want you to hide them, cover them up, and say a quick apology to God and be done with it. And after 40 years of that, I’m struggling to know how to relate to other Christians, to my family, and to God Himself.

Even in churches like my last one, where they said one thing at the pulpit and another behind closed doors–I still feel the sting of their actions. My heart still hurts. Sometimes it’s the things that were never said that hurt the most too. Showing up in tears and being ignored. Being secretly gossiped about and shunned and people avoiding you every Sunday. When your entire life has been “the church” and you release yourself from that lifestyle, it’s very hard to figure out who you are.

I find most of what comes out of the church is repulsive. I can’t handle the corny sayings and the fake concern. I can’t handle the group think. I can’t handle the cookie-cutter lifestyle that we all *should be* living. Because one thing that I do know–one good thing that’s happened to me–is that I found peace with myself, even when I’m struggling so much. I’m happy to be alone. I’m happy to do my art. I’m happy to live in loneliness sometimes. I’m happy to not be apart of the group think, the abuse, the insane thinking that goes on every week in most churches. Yes, it’s lonely–I wish I could find friends, hang out, and be apart of something. But I’m mostly just apart of the world which I had to make for myself where I take my pain and wrap it into an art project. That’s all I feel I’m able to do sometimes. Relating to almost anyone these days seems too hard.

I don’t miss church. I miss the thought of lying to myself and saying I was apart of something. The truth was it was just a smoke screen. Yet, I know there are people who still go to this church who think it’s great. They write reviews on Facebook and say how much of a family my old church is and how welcoming they are. I start to feel like I am, indeed, the problem! But I know that isn’t true. It’s just a photoshopped version of the truth. It’s how they’ve maintained their image. It’s a big, fat lie.

I guess what hurts the most is it feels as if they go on happily, never knowing the damage they caused. Never understanding how every day is hard; how I struggle more and more each day with my faith. They will never comprehend the damage done to my heart, to my soul, to my emotions. Yet, I’m thankful that I am no longer being duped, being lied to, being subjected to their abuse. I’m thankful I am free. I’m thankful I can take my pain and turn it into art instead of just squashing my feelings to save face. It all hurts, but not as much as when I was there, dying inside each day I was told I wasn’t enough.

If I know anything about God, it’s this: He loves those who are on the outside–the fallen, the broken, the hurting. He loves me. I know this is true. And maybe today, that’s all I need to know.

 

Christian Labels

I am in love with hand lettering. I’m obsessed actually and have a bit of a spending problem when it comes to new markers. I love creating art with quotes. And I’m often trying to improve. 


I was recently on Amazon (because of said marker addiction) and saw a book on hand lettering. I think it was called “Lettering for the Lord”. I can guess the book was a how-to letter bible verses or use lettering “for the Lord”. I didn’t click on it as my natural first instinct is an eye roll.

The Bible tells us that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. One of my favorite verses is in Deuteronomy 11 and it says:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

From these passages, I can conclude that everything I do and say should be “for the Lord”. 

It baffles me how we try to put things into categories. If I create art, but don’t use a bible verse in it, does that mean it’s not “for the Lord”? Don’t misread me, I’m not saying it’s wrong to use a bible verse. By all means, do! But I find it kind of silly to say “I quoted this verse so I’m doing it for the Lord”. 

If everything we believe — our heart and mind is after the things of God, then our lives are a testimony to His goodness whether we preach at someone or not. Art can be “for the Lord” even if we use no words. Hand lettering and beautiful drawings can show our love of Christ even if we aren’t quoting a scripture. Of course, I love writing out the verses too but often I don’t. But my heart is still thankful and happy to leave others with the beauty of a pen. 

We like to say things are Christian or not. We think certain music is Christian. We think certain books are Christian. We even judge people as Christian by if they attend church or not. But how do we really know something or someone is Christian? Is it simply because they look the part? Is it because a bible verse attached to it? Even Satan quoted scripture so by that definition, Satan was a Christian.

I’ve concluded that wherever I am, whatever I’m doing…no matter what it is, I am always guided by the loving hand of God. Even if I come across an evil show or hear lyrics that aren’t great, God is still with me, guiding me in His wisdom. So I no longer read books, watch movies, or listen to music that is labeled Christian. I decide that based on measuring it against God’s word. Even so called “christian” music and movies can’t measure up because of the false doctrine and manipulative style of the message. So I don’t trust the labels.

Every moment of my day and everything I do is aimed at being “for the Lord”. I don’t need to be a certain way or change into a bible quoting robot. He sees me where I am and uses me how he sees fit. It’s not up to me or my good works. It’s who God is and how He loves me that I can be used at all. There’s nothing I can do “for the Lord”. Jesus paid it all so I could walk in freedom and when I do that, He never leaves me but uses me as I am.