Archive for the ‘decisions’ Category

Bittersweet Changes Hitting Us All At Once

A couple of years ago, my sweet hubby and I set our sites on a piece of land near the edge of town. It’s a place where horses and chickens can roam without bothering anyone, yet where we can have access to everything except a mailbox. It’s a place where kids can roam and feel like they are in the country, yet walk a block to school.

It’s a pretty cool space.

In a way, tragedy brought us the first piece of the puzzle. My hubby’s younger brother had a dream to build a small golf course on part of the land. He did a fabulous job in so many ways. He poured his heart and soul into it. Then on Thanksgiving Day 2001….after being called up for duty in support of the 9/11 operations, at age 38, he went to bed and never woke up.

Seven years later, as my kids began to fall in love with animals….larger than are allowable or practical in our “citified” back yard….we began to discuss the possibilities of the almost-wide-open-space that remained unused, unenjoyed for so long.

And in a ceremony of tears and symbolic letting go of the past, our sister-in-law graciously handed it over to us. It was and continues to be Cox’s Acres.

And as we looked around Cox’s Acre’s, we dreamed of moving in a house so we could live on the almost 9 acres full time.

Then some of my truth-telling made that appear to be an unwise decision, so we shifted the focus a bit towards a reality we could believe.

And a few years later we bought a small two bedroom house near the property and next door to my hubby’s elderly parents….mostly to protect them from what could be.

And we considered the possibility of eventually living on the properties we’d come to see as our refuge…our summer retreat.

Then thought occurred to us that his parents were not likely to be able to stay in the house forever and if we built our own, there would eventually be an extra house on the property that would require upkeep. We began to discuss the possibility of postponing our dream until the inevitable time that no one wants to discuss.

It sucks to think of his parents not being there.

It sucks more to feel like a vulture just waiting for life to take its course.

Then, in the midst of my own personal change (career, income, etc.), it happened. The time came. Quite suddenly, it seemed. Another health setback. Another fall. Another scare of what could have happened. Much discussion of the advantages of living in a space where the beds help lift a person up, the hallways are clear, doorways wide, breakfast, lunch, and dinner served on schedule with someone else doing the cooking and the cleaning 24/7. Where weekly beauty shop time meets wheel chairs and silver streaks of aged wisdom. Where there is more to do than sit in front of a TV 16 hours a day watching the mind-numbing crap on Fox News.

Where there once was fear, there is acceptance, recognition of a safer environment, and possibilities for a few more happy years.

And there’s a house. A part of our dream. A bittersweet moment when the generations pass the torch and there is both sadness for what was before and anticipation of what lies ahead. I’m not sure yet how it will all work out, and yet things are shifting.

It’s definitely been a summer of bittersweet changes. Releasing the security of a long-held job, writing about and releasing my spiritual baggage, sending my oldest across the ocean and soon to another state for school, and now this. All tinged with sadness, yet all pointing toward the next great adventure.

It makes me wonder what lies in store for next week.

Lessons Learned from a Wild and Crazy Week

This week has been full of enlightenment. Several lessons have come about as a result of my adventures.

1. Religious beliefs can really mess with a person’s ability to accept new ideas for personal improvement.

2. My home is perfect even though Martha Stewart would be appalled.

3. My children are fabulous entertainment for company. I believe the term “reality television” was used more than once this week.

4. I have emotional baggage. The Samsonite version. Without wheels. Bleah.

5. It is possible to add wheels to emotional baggage and roll it right on out. Thanks, Andrea, for helping me with this.

6. Getting a kid to the airport is easy. Getting her off the ground can be a bit more challenging.

7. Hurricanes affect more than just the coastal regions. They can also ground planes and wreak havoc with connecting flights out of the country.

8. It rocks to have family who live 15 minutes from the airport where my kid is locked in a grounded plane that is stuck on the tarmac with weather and mechanical issues.

9. Delta customer service is much better than I ever anticipated. Two hours and 15 minutes after the panicked “what do I do” call, we had a plan and a new ticket.

10. Thirty-five year old single German-speaking guys who don’t have children don’t place much urgency on notifying receiving end parents that their kid-for-a-month won’t be on the plane as expected. Note to self….just make the dang call myself.

11. The guilt of knowing said parents were probably freaking out with stress because their kid-for-a-month didn’t get off the plane as expected sucks rotten lemons. Note to self….just make the dang call myself.

12. Never allow a child to experience any place more beautiful than home if you wish to see her reside in your part of the world ever again. Just don’t do it. They tend to send you messages from abroad that say things like, “It’s beautiful here. Think I’ll find a man and stay forever.” That’s okay honey. Just be sure you build the mother-in-law quarters, b/c I’ll be coming to visit. Is that really what you want??????

13. Having everything calm down and return to quasi-normal rocks. I’m going to take a nap for a few days. Don’t bother waking me.

Portrait of a Cult

Say the word cult around here, and immediately thoughts of Jim Jones, David Keresh, and Charles Manson come to mind.

Dictionary.com defines cult as

1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.

3. the object of such devotion.

4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

A search of the internet quickly produces a Checklist of Cult Characteristics, many of which we all expect to see in such a list, yet a few that might make us a bit uncomfortable.

Such as….

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I openly admit to browsing the selection in order to choose the items that are most relevant to my point.

Now think for a moment about our concept of church and/or religion in this country. The Church is often one of the first, most vocal, and most direct critics of cults. We pity the poor souls who fall victim to the cult mentality, who get trapped in a viscous cycle of incorrect beliefs and who put their trust in a particular set of rules in hopes of being saved from the evils of the world.

Am I the only one seeing an irony here?

Every single organized group of people who establish rules for worshiping something or someone are in many ways a cult.

The Pharisees were a cult.

Several other flavors of religion are a cult.

My faith heritage fits WAY more than its share of cult characteristics. It is a cult.

257,000 flavors of Christianity have a majority of the characteristics of a cult. Christianity is the mothership of cult mentality.

I readily admit than many of what I see as cults do much good in the world. However, the point here is to examine the less favorable characteristics of such groups.

Jesus came to set people free from the prison that is cultism. Why else would he give us just two rules? Love the entity that is universal life force, and love each other…unconditionally. Need more specifics? Love those who don’t see the world through your same set of rose colored glasses. Don’t exclude them. Don’t refuse to do business with them.

Jesus never promoted the organization of groups.

Jesus never promoted the concept of isolationism.

Jesus didn’t come to organize an exclusive club.

Jesus brought a message of freedom, not cultism.

Jesus came to deprogram us, not enslave us to an ideology/theology.

What do you think? Is organized religion a group of cults or am I horribly misguided in my thinking?

High Dives and My Wild Heart

Reality is setting in. Finality is becoming very present and very real. Panic is creeping up on me. I’m standing at the edge of the high diving board with my toes hanging off and the line behind me is too long to go back. I’m headed over the edge.

I have officially been replaced. My position at work has been filled. There is a name and a face, and he’s showing up tomorrow to receive a download of data from my brain into his. My boss is transferring “usernames” to him. Days of employment remaining is down to 5.

And I am scared bleepless.

But I am not.

Because I know — I KNOW — that I did exactly what I was supposed to do. It was time to step away. Time to experience something new. Time to do what I love. The question is…..

How do I get there from here?

There’s quite a free fall between this diving board and the water below.

I have a very bipolar relationship with safety. On the one hand, I prefer the safety and security of the known quantity. Feet solidly on the ground. Steady paycheck. On the other hand, when the wild calls, my heart usually trumps my head. It’s been awhile since wild trumped safety and security. Last time that happened, I promised myself to a man who did not seem to be my match at all. He was wild, a little bit dangerous, different from what my safe head always told me I SHOULD have. Twenty years later, I thank God on a daily basis that my wild heart trumped my safe head.

Now here I stand once again….wild heart said let go of safe and boring. Let go of what’s sucking the life out of me. Wild heart said reach for adventure. Trust the Great Provider to meet all my needs. Do what brings me joy.

Jump.

My head knows there’s no going back. At least not to the place I am leaving. My head also knows that I have no idea what I’m walking toward, who is waiting in the water below to catch me, what dangers lurk in the water. My head says this is not very safe.

In five days, I will be free-falling. Between now and then, I stand with my toes on the edge of the diving board, nervous, crying, panicky, wanting to go backward but knowing I will miss the adventure if I do. The water is safe. I can swim. My loving Father/Mother waits below arms outstretched to catch me and help me to shore. I have faith.

In five days, I will take a deep breath and jump.

Blind Belief vs. Faith: Overcoming the Myths

What is faith to you?

Many Christians equate faith with belief in something they cannot feel, see, touch, smell, or taste. They say (and I have said) they have faith in God, faith in the resurrection, faith that Jesus was God in human form, faith in a miraculous virgin birth, faith that the miracles recorded in the Bible really occurred, and more.

This is perpetuated by a leadership that teaches us if there was no literal resurrection of Christ, then everything we are doing is a waste of time. Hence, the ultimate demonstration of “faith” is a public confession of an individual’s belief that Jesus did in fact spend three days with no vital signs and then stood up and walked among his disciples for a month and a half.

We’ve been discussing this “faith” thing over at Ronna Detrick’s A Conversational Space. I’ve seen some new definitions of faith with which I am much more comfortable. Faith to me is more about trust. I trust that everything in my world will work out for ultimate good. I trust there is a universal entity that wants what I want. I trust my family is safe. If we substitute the words “have faith” for the word “trust”, it makes sense.

I have faith that everything in my world will work out for ultimate good.

There is evidence to suggest that this is true….at least in my world.

If I apply trust in places where we have typically applied faith, it becomes a bit more challenging.

I trust that a virgin birth occurred. I trust a dove descended on Jesus and a voice from heaven spoke audible words. I trust the miracles of Jesus actually happened and people experienced instantaneous healing. I trust Jesus was dead all over for parts of three days and then just got up and walked away.

What is the evidence to accompany the trust?

Belief vs. Trust — can they possibly be the same thing?

I think we fear being labeled a doubting Thomas. Thomas wanted to see the evidence before he would trust the mysterious stranger who claimed to be Jesus. The writers (whoever you believe they were) made a point to use him as condemnation for requesting evidence as a condition of trust. Thus evidential trust was relegated to status of lame and pathetic and replaced by blind belief.

And yet Jesus was more than happy to oblige Thomas’ need for the evidence.

That brings us to some more tough questions. Questions that I have been asking lately. Questions that challenge my previously unquestioned beliefs. Questions whose answers beg for evidence.

Was Jesus born to a woman who had never had sex? What is the historical evidence? Historically “virgin births” were quite common at that time. Sort of like 8 pound premies were somewhat common in the 1960’s. Do you believe or do you trust your answer? Why?

Did Jesus spend parts of three days inside a rock tomb with no vital signs after hanging on a cross for several hours and being beaten and then come back to life and physically walk among his disciples? What is the evidence? Do you believe this or do you trust it to be true? Why? What would happen if it simply were not true?

Is the Bible the inerrant divinely inspired precise and final Word of God or is it a collection (a library) of historical writings, some of which are accurate and some of which are written too late to possibly be accurate? Which version do you believe to be the inerrant divinely inspired Word of God? Why do you believe this? What is your evidence?

My point in all of this is that whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin is irrelevant. Really. It is.

And whether or not the Bible is perfect and literal is irrelevant. Seriously.

And the toughie…..Whether or not Jesus arose from a state of dead-all-over is irrelevant. Yeah. I know. That one just sent a few people over the edge to grab swords and come kill the infidel.

Those “beliefs”, which are not supported by one shred of historical evidence, do not change the original message and purpose of Jesus.

If everything else is stripped away, and Christianity were to look ONLY at the words of Jesus, and ONLY at the most historically accurate words of Jesus, we would all be in a much better place. Humanity would be in a much better place.

Too many of our beliefs have been handed to us from others, twisted and flavored a bit, and then accepted because we’ve been brainwashed to fear what might happen if we don’t believe them.

I challenge you to ask yourself why you believe what you believe? Do you really trust it to be true? Really? What is your evidence? What is the source of your evidence? Does your belief REALLY matter in the overall big picture? What laws of nature have to be suspended in order for you to cling to your beliefs?

And is that really faith?

Here’s a little something to ponder. Its presentation here is not an endorsement, but rather exactly what it is….a presentation…an opportunity for you to hear a different point of view.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBmBYxiroc8&feature=player_embedded]

Born Again: A Journey From Daughter of the Kingdom to Sacred Feminine Goddess, Part 11

Read Part 10 here.

I am a seeker. I am searching. I am expecting. I am on a journey in search of a holy grail of sorts.

As I continue to put together this story of my journey out of religion and into faith and spirituality, the realization of what it is I am seeking has begun to take shape. I am not sure I knew what I was seeking when I started this journey. I’m not sure I even knew what I was seeking last week as I began to write this story. I just knew I hadn’t found whatever “it” is in the places I should have been able to find it….

So what is the “it” I am seeking?

This seems to be an ever-evolving list, but for now, I think there are several things:

I am seeking freedom. I never have been big on following arbitrary rules. They annoy me. My faith experiences should be liberating, not binding.

I am seeking logic without 20 gazillion exceptions to the logic. Let’s move past the legends and get to the real history. What really happened 2000 years ago? Really. Where’s the evidence?

I am seeking a miraculous experience that defies logic. If all those amazing and cool things REALLY did happen back then, and if Jesus was straight up when he said their sons and daughters would do even greater things than these, then I expect my dose of amazing. I’m waiting…….

I am seeking respect and dignity. My thoughts and perceptions are a bit out of the ordinary for this neck of the woods. It’s okay. Let me have my opinions without judging them as right or wrong. There’s not really enough evidence to render a verdict in most cases anyway.

I am seeking a tribe with whom I can hang and not feel like I am a fish to be caught (or re-caught). Thank GOD (and Al Gore) for the internet. Okay….yeah….that was a bit tongue in cheek. But seriously, technology is doing a fine job of keeping my sanity intact. I am not crazy. I am an intelligent person. There are plenty of other intelligent “allowing” people out there. It’s nice to know they exist and will occasionally talk to me.

I am seeking equality as a woman. The male dominance/authority in religion thing has got to chill.

I am seeking release. I keep finding little burrs to dig out from under my skin….little irritants that I want to release, but that have their spiny little tenticles entrenched in my soul. It’s time for them to go away. Forever. Goodbye.

I am seeking the Jesus of Biblical legend. The one that healed the sick and restored the lame and the blind. The one who felt the energy leave his body when a woman put her hand inside his auric field to touch his cloak. The one who took a little kid’s lunch and fed a whole lotta people. The one who loved skanky women and little children and lepers. The one who cried when he arrived too late to save his friend’s life.  The one who connected with people and loved them. The one who pissed off the leadership and got himself racked up on a big nasty pole to suffocate to death.

That Jesus.

I’ve seen glimpses of him, but not where I expected to find him.

Finally, I am seeking to find myself. All of me. All of the divine, powerful, feminine goddess that is me connected to Mother Earth and all things in the universe.

Indiana Jones couldn’t begin to survive this adventure.

Lilies, Birds, and Faith–Tuesday Randomness

This morning I sit here at my computer, less than one month from my final REAL paycheck. Only one more month of knowing exactly where my income will originate and when it will be deposited. And only three more weeks of showing up to work for someone else because I think I have to.

It’s a very sobering place to reside. Maybe even a little bit uncomfortable.

Maybe a lot uncomfortable.

But a little bit exciting.

Maybe a lot exciting.

Here’s what I know that I know that I know. Just before spring break, I made a decision to break free. After almost two years of talking about leaving, I finally read the signs, cut the ties, handed in the resignation, stopped trying to figure out how to make something else work, and said  “I’m outta here”. Of course with education, that simply means that summer will mark the end of my services to the organization. The “outta here” gets dragged on for months.

I rationalized that all the signs from God I had been requesting had been quite clear, and that my continuing to ask for signs might result in my being hit “upside the head” with one.

I don’t really want to be hit upside the head with a sign from God. Those sometimes hurt.

With my sweet and ever patient husband on board (at least somewhat), I let it go. After all, what’s the worst that could possibly happen? I could fail miserably and have to go beg someone to let me teach again? Meanwhile our already insane debt load could climb higher and higher and I could bankrupt our family.

No big deal.

I just gotta have faith.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=883t2Pac8pk]

Besides, didn’t Jesus tell us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air? Matthew 6:28 says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” Okay, so there aren’t any birds in that verse. I thought there were.

And I’m thinking his lilies never met up with a good ol’ West Texas hail storm to rip their pretty little dresses right off.

Needless to say, I am down to only one more “steady” paycheck from a tax-payer-funded entity. I am struggling to keep my mind away from fear and onto the positiveness of knowing I made the right choice and my family and I will be provided with everything we need.

I’m just not so sure Visa will get everything it needs.

Or Home Depot.

Or Citibank.

Or GMAC Financial.

My only ace in the hole is a massage therapy license and not nearly enough clientèle to replace my current income. For that matter, I currently have enough steady clients to almost pay the bills at my wellness center.

Almost.

And actually, I have lots of aces. I have tons of fabulous knowledge and expertise that blesses people every time an opportunity presents itself. I just haven’t quite figured out how to get people in these parts to pay money for what I am offering up.

They call it marketing. I apparently have a weird aversion to it.

I can market the heck out other people’s stuff, yet when it comes to something I am promoting, I seem to get weirded out about it and don’t give it the massive effort it warrants.

So I sit here, typing away, trying to convince myself that I am not a stupid doofus who quit her job with bills to pay and a daughter headed off to college this fall. I sit here telling myself that opportunity is about to explode all around me and my dreams are about to come true. I play the affirmation game telling myself that I am worthy, cared for, and quite capable. I discuss with my goddess brain the fact that I have a ton of skills, information, and talents and that the world is about to knock my door down begging (and paying) for my knowledge.

Hey, God? Do you think you might send a few paying door knockers a bit early so I’ll know you aren’t calling me a stupid doofus, too?

I guess I have some marketing to do. See you later.


Born Again: A Journey from Daughter of the Kingdom to Sacred Feminine Goddess, Part 9

Read Part 8 here.

Where was I to turn once I realized every place of worship in my immediate environment has a different size or flavor of the same box? The very box from which I was trying desperately to break free?

I turned to the only source I had left. I turned inside. My own spiritual wisdom had led me to this place. God and I would figure this out together.

Since before the beginning of my journey, I had read and listened to books and speakers who were just past the edge of my comfort zone. Each time, that edge began to move a little farther away from the center.

My opportunities to listen for extended periods of time increased when I decided to attend school in a town 70 miles away. For almost a year, I drove nearly 3 hours round trip 2-3 times a week, usually in solitude. It made for the perfect time to listen to a number of edge-stretching material. It also made for lots of quiet time in which to meditate and think on the logic of what I was hearing.

A number of things began to occur to me.

I listened to some basic information on Buddha and his message. It sounded a lot like the message of Jesus. A lot. A whole lot.

I pondered the concept of reincarnation. Did God actually create a brand new soul every time a sperm and an egg got lucky? And if so, at what point did he zap the new soul into the little zygote? Or was it possible that souls exist in another dimension in a different frequency that is just beyond the range of perception for most humans? Could this human experience actually be the soul’s ultimate adventure vacation? Could there be “actor” souls who would come along on the vacation to help complete the experience? If so, that would mean the ones who play the parts of “bad guys” and rape, steal, or kill our loved ones in this life might not actually go to hell when they completed their mission.

What does that do to my perception of hell?

And if in fact, God loves us SO MUCH, and he deeply desires our unconditional love in return, but he doesn’t want forced love….why would he create us with a free will, then tell us that if we don’t do it exactly right, we will burn in hell?

Where’s the free will in that?

That’s no different than a parent who says, “I love you. I want you to love me if you want to, but if you don’t, I’m going to have you arrested and sent to prison where I’ll never see you again.” Gee. I think I’ll conjure up some love somewhere.

I also listened to some historical information about how our Bible came into existence. There is a reason most churches don’t and won’t spend much time talking about this subject. It blows the whole Divinely Inspired Perfectly Preserved Word of God theory completely out of the water.

The realization hit me that this book, this collection of writings I was so convinced were written with the the fingertip of God as the pen, had been compiled mostly by men, transcribed by men, interpreted by men, approved by kings, authorized by councils, transcribed and interpreted some more by men, selected for inclusion by men, and on and on. Men. Human men. Not the presumably inspired authors of the original texts. Average, ordinary, doing-the-best-they-could-not-to-get-their-heads-chopped-off men.

And then there was the question of WHICH of these various collections is actually the Divinely Inspired Perfect Word of God. My Bible had 66 books. My Catholic husband’s Bible had a whole lot more. I felt as if I had been fed a crock of poo my whole life. My thoughts about what constituted divinely inspired writing shifted dramatically.  I knew I had been exposed to people and resources each of which had delivered a message to me that could only come from what I knew to be God.

Besides, how can something that is truly of God be the source of so much bickering, fighting, division, and even murder? The concept simply doesn’t align with the teachings of Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as your self. Love your enemies and forgive those who persecute you.” And Paul’s words: “…the greatest of these is love.”

It was becoming painfully clear to me that there was no possible way to apply logic to what humans had done to Christianity and still remain a Christian.

As I continued searching, devouring every bit of outside-the-box information I could get my hands on, I discovered beautiful religions like Shamanism, Wiccan, Buddhism, and the enlightenment of the yogis. What I discovered in each of these forbidden and even demonized philosophies was that in their purest form, they were teaching the exact same thing Jesus taught. The similarities are uncanny. Unfortunately in many cases, various groups within each spiritual philosophy have twisted and contorted its original message into a legalistic mess much like Christianity has done to the message of Jesus.

I encountered people who became my friends,  each claiming one of these as part of their spiritual path. My daughters had been told that the concept of yin and yang was of the devil. I came to realize that the concept of yin and yang was very Biblical. Ignorance breeds discrimination and injustice. Fear breeds violence. Maybe this is why Jesus worked so hard to teach the masses and tell people not to be afraid.

I also had many of my right wing political views shot to hell (if there is such a place). It is very hard to oppose gay marriage when one makes friends with beautiful people that happen to see relationships differently than I do. It is difficult to know that I have looked into the eyes of a 7 year old thinking to myself, this child will likely be gay, and continue to believe that if he fulfills his inborn sexual desires in a loving monogomous relationship,  his will be living in sin. It is nearly impossible to want to persecute gays and lesbians after having massaged a person who is a living breathing hermaphrodite, a he/she if you will. Such things change a person’s perspective forever.

And it becomes next to impossible to justify taking away a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, while standing for freedom of choice in medical treatment, the right to keep and bear arms, or the right to choose whether I consume pastured homogenized milk or straight-from-the-cow-raw. I can be pro-life and also be pro-choice. I do not need my government legislating morality to protect me from my ignorant self. For that we turn to Darwin and the theory of evolution. Those who cannot educate themselves and choose intelligently will eventually procreate themselves out of existence.

And so my journey turned a corner. The edge of the canyon is so attractive. The scenery from this vantage point is so incredibly beautiful revealing the fullness of God’s creation. My heart skips a beat and my stomach knows the feeling of butterflies all to well. It is sometimes lonely at the edge of the canyon. Most people are afraid of falling of the edge.

But I wouldn’t miss this for the world.

Part 10

Born Again: A Journey from Daughter of the Kingdom to Sacred Feminine Goddess, Part 8

Read Part 7 here.

I was done. Finished. Through. Moving on.

My feathers had been ruffled, but I had determined to move past that and be an agent of change. God had other plans. There were times I felt as though he had said, “Angie, you are the one seeking to grow and change and expand. Not them. Leave them alone. If I allow you to stay, you will only cause grief and heartache, and maybe even split something that is working just fine for them. Back off.”

So I did. I backed way off. It wasn’t until I was involved with a couple of funerals three years later that I would even set foot in the building of my childhood worship again.

I had to stay away. I wasn’t supposed to be there.

While I had decided to leave the church of my upbringing, I had not chosen to leave church. It was so much a part of me. I wanted my children to have it in their lives. I, of course, was searching. Seeking. Looking for an experience I had thus far not been able to find.

I witnessed things I never expected to witness in a church service. I heard speaking and praying in tongues, on a modest scale. I heard interpretations of those tongues. I secretly hoped whatever it was that “fell” on those people would fall on me. I saw people raise their hands in worship and praise. I loved the fact that they did. I didn’t. Nothing compelled me to raise my hands, and besides, it just felt weird to me. Of course it felt weird not to do what the others did, but somewhere along the way I had decided that I would not do “it” just because everyone else did. I was holding out to be moved by the Spirit.

We finally settled back in our little home town at a little church with a fun, light atmosphere. The people were welcoming and friendly. The music was very cool. The pastor was a riot. I loved his messages. They always seemed to be exactly what I needed. My husband who had dutifully followed me to church to avoid the inevitable pout session if he didn’t, was now attending even if  for some reason I didn’t go. He even dusted off his bass guitar and filled in a few times when the band needed him.

It felt right.

We attended a few special services where a speaker from out of town came in and delivered a message followed by an opportunity to receive prayer at the front. “The Invitation” in this place was much different than those I had experienced most of my life. People actually stepped out of the audience and walked to the front. Others stepped out and laid hands on them and prayed. A few times, I witnessed someone simply fall back as if they had passed out. I found it challenging to process what was going on. I still had not personally experienced anything like that, so I didn’t know whether to feel cheated or feel admiration and appreciation for their experience. Try as I might to stay away from judging it, at times I also bounced over to the side of thinking they were just a drama-hungry nutcase.

I threw myself headlong into the opportunities this small group offered. I regularly attended the Sunday morning life group, the Wednesday evening life group, and even the Tuesday noon ladies group a few times. I was so excited to be a part of a group of people who did not place limits on what could or could not be experienced in worshiping God.

My idealistic new age-y views, however, got a reality check fairly quickly. The openness was limited to that which the long standing members of the group had decided was acceptable to God. The moment I began to approach topics that sounded a bit like Eastern Religion, walls went up. It was in that moment that I realized every organized group has their boundaries, their unwritten code that is the line in the sand for them. Once I, the observer/participant, crossed the line of “what we know and understand of God”, things got very uncomfortable.

It was heartbreaking.

I felt like I was on the verge of experiencing so much more of God, about what this immense entity was, and what s/he hoped for each human. Unfortunately this church that believed they had taken God out of the box of legalism and limitations actually had a box of their own design. It was certainly bigger, differently shaped, more spacious, and much more comfortable, but it was still a box.

I decided that I was not likely to find what I was seeking in a church in the Bible belt. I wanted a wide open expanse. I knew it existed. I wanted to experience the fullness and the awesomeness of something so big the universe could not contain it.

Yet everywhere I looked, there were boxes. All sizes, all shapes, but boxes nonetheless.

My search would have to continue some other way in some other place.

Post Script: In my morning review of other people’s blogs, I found this at FreakRevolution.com. It seemed an appropriate complement to my post today.

It’s not til after years of being scolded, ignored, snapped at, reprimanded, and conditioned that we gradually stop being so inquisitive, so bold, so freespirited. It takes conditioning to put us in the box so many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to get out of, because we’re inherently rule-breakers at heart.

We can learn a lot from children.

If we stop boxing them in, we can learn how to stop being boxed.

Part 9

Born Again: A Journey from Daughter of the Kingdom to Sacred Feminine Goddess, Part 6

Read Part 5 here.

Was it true? Was God REALLY telling me I was not supposed to go back to that place? The place where I had made lame attempts to worship him. The place where I  had studied to show myself approved unto him. The place where I was buried with Christ in baptism.

Was this message really telling me that I was NOT supposed to fight for change within that group of believers?

Some have suggested I was very stressed and dreading interactions with those who had chastised me. They indicated that maybe I had “manifested” the emotion and the migraine symptoms due to the trauma of the meeting with Mr. Elder. I guess that’s the way lots of outsiders see one person’s personal encounter with Divinity. Maybe I did manifest the episode. However, it is hard for me to believe I could be determined to stay as an agent of change in one breath and with the next breath make a leap to expecting cherubim with flaming swords to greet any future attempts to enter the place.

I don’t believe I manifested it.

I believe a message was delivered to me…a very clear, painful, emotional message intended to shake me enough to sever the tap root. My faith was rooted in soil that no longer fed my soul. I likely would not have been able to transplant myself out of that environment, so God did it for me.

In hindsight, I realize that hug was my farewell hug. The emotion was the letting-go of something that had been a part of me since before birth. If tears are truly a release of toxins, then I expelled a ton of poison that morning. A ton. The freaky vision? Maybe it was God’s way of letting me know that what I had always seen and expected to see weren’t real. Or maybe it was God’s wisdom knowing that it was the least it would take to get the message across. Whatever it was, it worked on me.

That evening, I sat on the porch in the cool shadows with my sweet man. We talked about what had happened that day. He was supportive of my thoughts, and when I suggested that maybe it had been a sign to experience some different types of worship, he agreed. We visited with my oldest who was 15 at the time. She was the one most likely to be affected by being pulled from the only church environment she had ever known. She was active in the youth group. She was (is) also a very intuitive person.

Her response was one of anticipation and excitement. She craved a taste of something different.

It was decided that we would check into some other groups in the area and experience their worship and their beliefs. I was looking for something more. Something mystical. Something miraculous. I wanted that first century church. I wanted a Jesus experience.

There was a church in a nearby town where my daughter’s best friend attended. I was good friends with her mom, so I didn’t feel like a total stranger walking in alone. We spent several months driving those 30 miles one way to experience whatever it was they were offering. I owe a good part of my spiritual growth to that experience. It was there that I discovered the works of John and Lisa Bevere. It was there that my oldest encountered high school kids speaking in tongues. When I asked her if she believed it was real, she replied, “You can’t fake what I witnessed tonight.”

It was late one night on the way home from that church that I realized the source of a deep hurt within me….a pain that I had repressed and ignored like a soldier ignores the human tragedy witnessed in war. It came to me with sudden clarity, and overwhelming emotion. I cried most of the way home driving alone in the dark.

It was that night I realized that for the first time in my life, my dad had not rescued me. He sat in silence watching me dual for my faith as Goliath dealt blow after blow. My dad had always been there to rescue me, if I needed him. That day, when he did not, when the code of the brotherhood overpowered the code of the father-daughter relationship, when he stayed in that room instead of immediately coming after me to  hold and hug me and tell me he was proud of me,  I knew I was on my own. Scared. Angry. Hurting.

In hindsight, I can clearly see several things. He did not abandon me. He allowed me the courtesy and the space to fight a battle that was mine and not his. He gave me space to work through my tears and grief. He stayed in that room and fought a private battle of his own after I left. He did come to check on me, but I was not where he expected to find me. I had run not to the arms of my father, but to the arms of a sacred feminine goddess…a mother.

By sitting in silence and allowing me to stand on my own, he permitted the severing of my faith from his. He allowed me to stand for my beliefs while not interfering by inserting his own. It was most certainly a precious gift from father to daughter, yet not without the pain of a knife wound in both my heart and his as that severance occurred.

I clearly see now how horribly unfair I was to put him in the position of having to be both elder and dad. I wanted him there to be my protector, because I was afraid of what I was about to experience. He came because I asked him. He came knowing that his heart would likely be ripped apart as he made his choices moment by moment. He came just in case his baby needed rescuing.

I thought I did, but I did not. Whether he knew it or not, he knew it.

He did the best he could do in that moment.


Part 7

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