Thursday, January 27, 2011

Don't Give Up & Other Random Thoughts.....

Hmm.... what a roller-coaster ride life can be.

I have been desiring for some time, to have clarity about the events that happened when I was 2. Last fall, I got a 'gut feeling' concerning the gist of it and touched on that in my post from October. But last night, while having an imaginary argument with my mom....

Me: Don't you understand how what you said to me - what you did affected my whole perception of God - made me feel like it was all my fault?

Mom: Well, it was your fault...

Me: What do you mean it was my fault? I was 2 freakin' years old! How was it my fault? I just toddled in on him while he was jacking off...

Then my brain shut down and I felt like I had been kicked. But the image of that moment was there as those words tumbled out and it is still with me. And I feel a little sick. I know there is more... but I have hope now that I will reach a place of clarity and resolve with this, even if I never actually talk to my mother again.

And then I wake up this morning to a debt collector calling.... and my car is in serious need of help.... and I still don't have a job... and unemployment benefits run out in about 10 weeks.....

And it is all very heavy. And yet, even writing about it, a little peace is seeping in. But the old familiar pain - the pain I haven't felt this intensely for a long time - is back, like a weight on my chest - ebbing and surging in waves.

Hmm... and through this, a steady conversation with God. And learning to relax in his peace and quit trying to "DO" something. Hmm... and that makes me think about how I have gotten to where I am with Him. It is definitely still a work in progress, but I realize that the past few years have not been about me trying to redefine who God is (Kripes, THAT is a tall and futile order). It has been about learning to let Him define Himself to me - not destroying what I thought I knew and building something else... It has been more a precess of peeling away the layers of definition piled on by Religion, family, society and getting back to what I knew as a very small child - getting back to WHO I knew as that small child.

And that has been a journey that requires willingness to look at my own history with honesty that alienates family and even friends (or so-called). It requires wanting to know what my mother said to me when I was 2 that twisted up that knowledge.

And I still struggle with GUILT, and FEAR and SHAME and all the usual suspects. After the phone call this morning, I had to fight through shear panic just to get showered and dressed and OUT OF THE HOUSE. Got some oil for my car and off to Starbucks to get online and look for a job and check in on friends and write....

And the only thing I am really sure of at this point is that, on a deep knowing level, God is real and the things I need will be on that path when I need them... and the only thing that is required of me is that I don't give up, don't quit - and to be clear, not quitting isn't about beliefs or religion - it is about living. Don't give up on moving down the path....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On Religion and Stuff...

Hmm... some of you may have noticed that I made a slight change to the banner - the subtitle. I think it more accurately reflects what my blog has evolved into.

Hmm.... I've been thinking a lot lately about religion and what it represents to me. It has been a process of 4+ years - letting go of religion. It started with letting go of the particular teaching I was getting at the cult (church) I was a leader in. But over time, I have let go of more and more of religion itself.

I guess I need to define what religion is to me. Well, first, maybe what it used to be. It used to be "the right way to be in God's favor." Really, although I didn't recognize this at the time, religion (what the church I grew up in and even more what my Mother said about God) and God were interchangeable. It took me a long time to realize that God and religion were two totally different things. When I began to see it, I was both relived and angry. Hmm.... angry at the deception and manipulation - relieved that God was not that.

Now, I see religion as a construct by and for men with the purpose of controlling men and of trying to define and control God and how He is viewed. And I also recognize that that is a bit of a simplistic and generalized statement. I realize that religion can serve a valuable purpose if it is kept in it's proper perspective and not worshiped as the beginning and end all of who and what God is. God is in religion. But He does not confine Himself to that.

It is interesting to me as I dismantle the religious beliefs I have held, to realize how nonreligious God is even in the Old Testament. An area that has been a mental camping spot lately is Job. The way religion interprets and defines what the Book of Job is all about really misses some points. We all try to find what it was that Job did that 'brought this suffering on him' so we might learn and avoid it - show me what not to do.... but, um, the text says that in everything Job said (including all the complaining) Job did not sin.... (I don't think sin is even the point). Even now, I am tempted to try and come up with an impressive reason why Job went through what he did. But in the end, I don't think that question is answered in the text. In the end, God showed up in person to answer Job's demands for an answer. And God challenged Job to understand who God was and in doing so caused Job to see more clearly that what was going on was not about crime and punishment....hmm....

And then there are Job's friends. There were actually 4 of them. Three older and a younger. They all came and sat with Job in silence for 7 days. Wow, that's is actually pretty amazing. I don't know many who would do that.... But then the 3 older ones took it in turns trying to get Job to admit that the reason he was in the mess he was in was because of some sin that he was hiding and not admitting to because God did not punish people without cause. Again, assuming it was about crime and punishment.... Job stood his ground that there was nothing he was hiding from them. Then the youngest one spoke and called the others out (including Job) for trying to speak as though they understood who God was.

And after God talked to Job, he turned His attention to the friends. He didn't say anything to or about the youngest one. But the 3 older ones... He told them they had lied on Him, misrepresented Him, disrespected Job... and they needed to ask Job to forgive them if they wanted to be forgiven. Hmmm.... interesting that He put that ball in Job's court. And I see Job's three friends as religious pillars who insist that their interpretation of God must be the correct one and if your life doesn't fit that, then YOU are the problem. Religion and those who are steeped in it haven't changed much.

Something else I see here.... for those that insist that every verse of the Bible is the "Word of God".... well, according to the text of Job, what those three friends said was NOT the Word of God and was, in fact, contrary to the truth about God. That being said, should we take the words those three friends said and put them forward as truth? Just some things I've been pondering....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who Is God?

Hmm.... I've never participated in a synchroblog before, but this topic grabbed me. I've been on an interesting journey out of religion these last four years. It's funny how personal lives and religious beliefs are all intertwined and it requires untangling both to make sense of either.

I grew up in a Pentecostal home/church - a 'good Christian' home. Appearances, appearances. An emotionally, physically and sexually abusive home where it was an 'Event' if we missed a church service. Church doctrine was the Law (unless my mom disagreed with it, then HER opinion was the voice of God and trumped theirs in our home). Between the abuse and the church teachings, I was so afraid of God that... well, I really haven't found words yet to express the fear and even terror I felt when I was 7 or 8 or 9....

And this was all what people told me about God - who He was and how He thought and what He expected.... and it scared the hell out of me because I knew I was already disqualified by virtue of the things I had already done (translation: the things that had already been done to me).

And if this was all I had of God, I would not have survived. I'm smiling as I write this. The God I know is so much different than the one they teach us about in church. And He introduced Himself to me when I was very little - too little to even speak. Deep in my bones, I knew Him, even if I didn't understand what that was yet. When I was 1 and 2 years old, I loved Jesus....and He loved me back. And then life proceeded down a hellish path. I've struggled with the fact that He allowed this and where I have come to on this is a whole other post. But through the journey that my life has been - through every evil encounter and choices made out of pain and despair, He has never NOT been there. There were times that I couldn't conceive of Him being there, but I can see, now, that He was always there.

Something else that I see, now, is that the main thing that clouded my vision of His presence in my life was not the abuse that I endured in my family.... it was the teaching I received in the church. And through the process of disentangling from the familial abuse, I also have had to disentangle from the religious abuse. I have had to take everything I have been taught about God and throw it in a pile and sort through it and begin throwing away those things that do not fit with the knowledge of Him deep inside. Everything I thought I knew was reduced to a pile of rubble and ash. And that was a good thing - a VERY good thing. Because what I was left with was the necessity of examining what I really believe - and why.

And that brings me to the subject of the synchroblog. I don't believe that Jesus is real and alive and ever present because the church says so. In fact, I went to a 'women's meeting' with a friend a couple of days ago and got good and angry at some of the things that were being taught - things I used to believe because the 'people in charge' said so. And I was not confrontational. I was just able to listen to the teaching and hear what I heard growing up and say, emphatically, to my own heart, 'no! that is not what is true.'

The reason I believe that Jesus is alive and God is real and active is because of the ways He shows Himself in the details of my life - in unexpected and beautiful ways. He really is the father to me that I never had. And it is not just the way things always seem to work out (often at the last minute and in ways that defy logic) - it is also because I have seen Him. And that survives all doctrine and deconstruction of doctrine. It is where life is. It is where things are real and not theoretical. It has nothing to do with what any church teaches - many of them teach as if they have never met Him. It has to do with personal and close experience with the reality that is Him - a reality that is alive and ongoing with new epiphanies regularly. And nothing can take that away from me. And I think that is the point.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This post is part of a synchroblog: This month’s synchroblog’s theme is inspired by the season of Epiphany which begins on January 6 and ends the day before Ash Wednesday. The word “epiphany” is rich in meaning. Epiphany is derived from the Greek epiphaneia and means manifestation, shining forth, revelation or appearance. In a religious context, the term describes the appearance of an invisible divine being in a visible form. It can also indicate a sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. An “epiphany” might refer to those times in life when something becomes manifest, a deep realization, a sudden recognition that changes one’s view of themselves or their social condition and often sparks a reversal or change of heart. In the spirit of Epiphany we invite you to share stories, experiences and/or thoughts about “The Manifestation of God”

Others participating in this synchroblog:

Mike Victorino - What To Do?
Beth Patterson - A Robust Universe Includes the Botched and Bungled
Jeff Goins - The Manifestations of God
Jeremy Myers - Pagan Prophecies of Christ
Mark Smith - Manifestations of God
Minnow - When God Shows Up
Alan Knox - A Day I Saw Jesus
Ellen Haroutunian - Stories of Epiphany
Liz Dyer - God Breaking Through Moments
Kathy Escobar - Orphans
Josh Morgan - The Manifestations Of God
Steve Hayes - Theophany: The Manifestation of God
Sarah Bessey - In Which Annie Opens the Door of Her Heart
Christine Sine - Eve of Epiphany - We Have Come, We Have Seen Now We Must Follow
Tammy Carter - Paralysis In His Presence
Peter Walker - Epiphany Outside Theophany (Outside Christianity)
Annie Bullock - God With Us
Jacob Boelman - Where God Shows Up