Categories
Love

Outliving your own History

I am a huge fan of the show “Highlander”.  For those too young to remember or if you didn’t watch, “Highlander” was a tv series spun off the 1987 film of the same name.  It follows a race of people called Immortals.  They are possessed of something called a “Quickening” that enables them to live forever.  That is, unless they have their head removed from their body by a sword.

The series traces the main character, Duncan MacLeod, a Scottish highlander (thus the name of the show) born 400 years ago in Scotland.  He has lived to, then present day (mid 90s) and has group of immortal friends of varying age.  He also befriends and falls in love with a cast of mortals as well.  Each week, there was an immortal bad guy that usually met a grisly, though well deserved, end at the hand of Macleod of one of his immortal band of friends.

What “Highlander” also did was examine, sometimes in uncomfortable detail, what it was like to live forever.  To outlive your family, your friends and your own history.  Many of the characters were fleshed out to look at just what it was like to deal with the grief of not only losing your connection with friends and family, but by doing this, losing your own identity.

It was a great show and I loved it.  It spawned website after website filled with fan fiction, and devoted followers.  I even went to a few conventions and met some of the actors.  The draw was obvious.  Put aside the hunky main character, the attractive co-stars and lovely sets and you still have a compelling tale of the immortals themselves.  The mere mystery and pain of immortality.

The show resonated with me in a way that no other show has since.  I longed to step into their world where death, though real, was not something an immortal had to worry about for themselves.  I longed to have lived in those past times and see the things they did with a bullet-proof, immortal and ageless body.  But as the show examined and as I have grown older, immortality would be mind crushingly lonely and heartbreaking.  It is a curse more than a blessing.  As I have aged, I fave found that living forever, for me, would be devastating.

Case in point.  I lost a cousin this week.  She was 58, only 9 years older than me.  She was one of my first contacts with an “older” girl.  She became a teenager and dated when I was an impressionable, starry-eyed tween with allusions of Hollywood, fashion and disco.  It was the 70s after all.  She handed down dresses to me, played Barbies and was just an older version of what I thought a hip teen was.  Along with my half-sister, she was a role model of what burgeoning womanhood was.

She was also the first cousin in my little group of childhood that has died.  I’ve had other cousins pass, but none that I was as close to growing up.  Ironically, the last few years- decades really- I rarely saw her.  I rarely see many of my cousins anymore.  I guess that is the way things are in our modern world.  Facebook, is about our only contact.  That and funerals.  She had moved away and I hadn’t seen her in probably 8 years.

I wanted to write how I felt about this, but it has become less a loss of her now as it was then.  That may sound heartless, but it’s hard to quantify a death when they aren’t part of your daily life.  It made me think that as I have lost an Uncle this year, an Aunt four years ago, and now her that living brings a sense of outliving your own history.

Like Duncan Macleod, my life goes on and I drop friends and family along the way.  The list of high school friends mount and so do others.  It’s the way of things, I know, but it begs a question.  Are you the sum of your history or are you constantly recreating it?  Is life just your memories to be plucked away as people die, or are you continually refreshing what your history is?

Back to Duncan and his friends.  Duncan was very sad many times and serious.  But he was also tender, giving, loving and grabbed hold of life by the ears.  He recreated his history over and over.  So did his immortal friends.  The ones that survived, that is.

So what can we take from the fabulous highlander and my story?  Though we mourn the loss of what was and those that made our history, we can’t let it hold us in place.  One day, it will be our turn to join that ranking of memory.  We are part of someone else history.  So grieve appropriately, but always remember what the show “Highlander” taught.  People are always alive in our memories, but to survive, to live, we need to continually make new history every single day.

Make your history count.  Live on.  To quote Methos, a “Highlander” character, “Live.  Grow Stronger.  Fight another day.”

Categories
Christian Life

Divorce in the Church Series: The Aftermath

When I last posted, I was trying to show that there is life after something like this.  With God, everything is possible, but with complete honesty, we are still struggling.  To some, I imagine that this seems like a little crazy.  Just get one with it!

The church situation that started all this, has, in a sense, resolved itself.  But not in the way I thought it would.  As hard as we tried, my husband and I just could not return to our congregation and family.  We severed ties, amicably, but severed nonetheless.  We have been visiting many congregations and though all have something to offer, we are finding it hard to find out place again.

Now is where the fear begins.  I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever find another place I will feel at home in.  What doesn’t help is that churches, in general, are changing in a way that my husband and I find distressing.  Let me explain.  We are conservative folks.  We like hymnals, pews and organs.  We like a traditional service.  The worship experience in many of the churches we have visited is decidedly more modern.  Not that it will be a deal killer, but unfortunately, many that we have visited like to use popular Christian songs as their worship music.  Much of the congregation struggles to sing along (even in the bigger churches) because most people aren’t professional singers.  To musicians like us, its very distracting.  When they throw in an older hymn for good measure, the congregation sings wonderfully.  I would think that would be a clue, but I guess it isn’t.  If it stopped there, it would be distracting, but ok.  But it doesn’t.  With the sermon that follows, it varies.  Some do a relatively good job of digging into the scripture, but others are more topical and I find myself walking away wondering what just happened.  I know bigger churches rely on their Sunday School time (now called other things in modern churches) to get into the meat of the Bible.  But in our tradition, the sermon is much more of a learning experience than a “feel good” one.   So then when Sunday rolls around I wonder if I really want to go back.

Living in a fairly small city, I run into several people I know at the churches.  I find that comforting, but I am still not feeling like I can commit.  The more conservative churches we have visited have their own issues that make me reticent to get into that.  But then I ask myself.  Am I being one of “those” people?  Fault finding with all churches?  No church is perfect.  It took us 8 years to find the congregation we eventually joined and were there nearly 15 years.  I know this won’t happen overnight.  But now I am wondering, will I ever be able to commit to another church?  Has the modern church become so watered down and the huge gaping chasm between what an actual Biblical congregation is and what we now have in modern America become so wide, that we will never be able to find somewhere we feel comfortable with?  Are the conservative churches so conservative that I don’t feel at home there either?

Looking for suggestions for churches is really no help either.  People want you to come to their church because everyone thinks their church is the best.  Most are really not able to make a critical evaluation of your own needs.  Nor should they.  That isn’t their responsibility.    But it isn’t helpful.  So Sunday rolls around and you decide yet one more time to stay home, watch sermons on TV and other people enjoying church while you sit at home.  To add to the problem, with health issues, putting myself through that anxious feeling every Sunday is enough to make me want to stay put and not go through it again.  So then the time between going to church and not gets bigger and bigger.  You find yourself wanting less and less to go to church.  You don’t even think about staying home.  The guilt of it wanes and you find yourself a Christian who doesn’t go to church.  When did it happen?

 

Categories
Chronic Illness and Coping

Slow Suicide: An autoimmune disease series-Introduction

Warning.  This is going to be a truthful examination of the affect of serious autoimmune disease on a person’s daily life.  Myself actually.  I am going to lay bare what its like to have your own body slowing try to kill you.  I am also going to examine what its like to be suffering and be in a family that has suffered from what the medical world considers “rare” disorders.  Though I will show glimpses of the good in my life and I have lots of things to be thankful for, this isn’t intended to be primarily an uplifting and positive series.  It will have those moments, but it is intended to be a raw and visceral representation of what its like to go through this.  So be warned, it could be triggering for some.

I also intend this to be a diary as my condition/conditions progresses.  I hope if you see this you will share it with other people you know that suffer from either my condition or ones like it.  Though this won’t be very cheery to the able bodied, it will be a comfort to those that sometimes find it hard to explain or express how they feel day to day.

Some people will find this overly dramatic.  Suicide, really?  Lots of people have autoimmune diseases and do just fine, you say.  Well there are levels of autoimmune diseases and some respond well to treatment and diet.  Others, do not.  But the definition of an autoimmune disease is your own body trying to kill itself.  So the title, in my opinion is appropriate.  I hope you get a chance to read this and it helps you understand what its like for those in your life that may suffer from this silent killer.

Categories
Christian Life

New Beginnings: Healing your heart Part IV of the “Divorce in the Church” series

It has been quite a while since I posted on my blog.  2015-2016 were crazy years for me and my family.  Surgeries, new jobs, health scares of family.  Quite a bit in a short time.  One of the groups of pieces I wrote was my divorce in the church series.  I thought I would delve back into this very painful part of my recent past and let you know where things stand.  I honestly don’t know how many people actually read my blog or follow any of this.  But my prayers are that it helps people, so I will continue.

So, where did we leave off?  I stated that my husband and I were the “walking wounded” and were irreparably damaged by what happened to us.  We had parted ways with a pastor and the process that ensued leading up to this was terribly painful.   But God is in the healing business and there is no such word as “Irreparable” to Him.

It hasn’t been easy.  Far from it.   We haven’t left the congregation I mentioned here.   We have been more absent, if you want to call it that.  In truth, we have not been attending worship much at all.  I could easily blame it on my health.  I have had my struggles there, and there have been legitimate times when I just couldn’t make it due to fatigue.  Those times will happen again.  But what has been happening is that we have nursing our wounds and healing.  I didn’t really know that was happening, if you want to know the truth.  I thought we were trying to make up our minds what to do about leaving or staying.  Starting over, or continuing.  In His normal, wonderful and loving way, Christ was giving us time. Allowing us to figure it out, while he held our hands.   His schedule is not our schedule, His ways are not our ways.  So what does that mean?

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To the non-christian, if there are any reading this, you probably won’t understand.  You may say I finally went through my final stage of grief and have moved onto acceptance.  Maybe.  But the author of the universe sometimes has other plans.    We tried to force it before it was time.  We tried to push through the grief process.  We tried to move on, we even considered turning our backs altogether.  But something held us there.  Many have left, many have moved on.   So, Debra, you say, “Where is this going?”.

God has healed my heart.  I believe he has begun to heal my husband’s.  We have realized that perfection is not attainable by us or anyone else.  Will things be perfect?  Probably not.  But that’s O.K.

Now, to get down to business.  If you have read these blogs I write, you know I love lists.  So here we go.  Keep these tips in mind if you plan to return to a church that you almost left and are planning to get back into the “Family”

  1. Don’t expect too much of yourself.    You will be tempted to jump back in with both feet.  Get to your previous level of participation.  Volunteer for everything that comes down the pike.  Whoa, there Trigger.  You have just come out of a very bad stretch of ups and downs.  Take it one day at a time.  Make sure your worship time is getting back to where it is, get back into fellowship.  Don’t become super Christian just yet.
  2. Don’t expect to much of those around you.  Yippee!  You’ve decided to come back.  Welcome me with open arms!  Again, whoa boy.  Though they will be very happy to see you (probably), remember there may be unresolved pain you caused someone else.  Be patient with those around you.  Let them warm up to you again.  If they wrap their arms around you like the prodigal, good for you.  But don’t be upset or hurt if that doesn’t happen right away, or ever.
  3. Don’t expect too much from the church. If a church has survived a split, it is probably struggling in some areas.  Things may be different than when you attended.  Key people may be gone and they are trying to make things right again.  Don’t throw in the towel because your “experience” isn’t what it once was.  You are there to worship the Lord, not be entertained.   I have a problem with the statement, “I’m not being fed.”  Well, children need to be fed.  Adults feed themselves.   
  4. Don’t expect too much from the Pastor.  Give grace to the new person.  If your pastor left or was asked to leave, this will pertain to you.   Don’t judge the new guy on the first day.  Give him time.  “Well he doesn’t do thus and so like the old pastor!”  Well you aren’t the same either, remember?  If you have a comment similar to “I’m not being fed…”  Well refer to number 3.

I’m not an expert or a theologian.  I’m just a church member who has gone through the fire and come out the other side alive.  God’s will can be weird and wonderful.  But His will be done.  If everything was rainbows, we would never get the opportunity to grow and help others.  By His stripes we are healed.  Amen.

christian-wall-art-lion-of-judah-lamb-of-god

Categories
Opinion

Tired and Sad

7 years ago, November 3rd, my mother died.  She had a disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy.  If you want more detail on that, there are other postings you read.  People told me I would learn to live with it.  I have, truly.  It got easier day by day.  But what hasn’t gotten easier is dealing with things that would have been easier to handle if she were still here.

In the past 7 years, several things have happened.  I have been diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (something I inherited from her), Thyroid cancer, lost both my ovaries (one by emergency surgery, surgical menopause hurray!), nearly lost my Dad to infections (twice), you get the picture.  I could go on.  Next week, I have my annual mammogram.  Since my surgery in April, I have been having discharge from my right breast.  I’ve had several tests, and all have been negative.  I was misdiagnosed with my liver disease for nearly three years, so I am not exactly feeling very confident.

So when I was driving home tonight from work  (oh yeah, throw in a new job into that mix, one with a commute), I was looking at the sunset, the lovely fall sky and there it was.  My Mom.  It wasn’t the overwhelming grief of old.  It was something far deeper.  A deep, throbbing ache, that made me close my eyes, grimace and almost run off the road.

So, besides the catharsis of letting all this out, what is the point of this post?

I would like to say I have an uplifting, “feel good”, conclusion to all this.  Frankly, I don’t feel very uplifted these days.  My life has gotten very complicated.  I have little to no energy when I get home.  I have had moments where I can’t even get enough thoughts together to deal with anything.  I’ve been told my thyroid meds may be off.  But then again, a doctor tells me its fine.  Yet another thing to fight for.  I am tired of fighting.  I’m tired of struggling.  I’m just tired.

So, I guess the point of this post is to say, despite what people tell you, there will be days when you are just sad.  You don’t need medicine for it, you will just be sad.  I’m tired and sad.

Maybe one day I won’t be.  But today it feels like it will never end.

 

 

Categories
Strong Truth in a World of Cheap Answers

Anxiety disorders: When its a problem or when its just life.

The definition of anxiety, according to Merriam-Webster is as follows:

plural anx·i·eties

  1. 1a:  painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated illb:  fearful concern or interestc:  a cause of anxiety

  2. 2:  an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it

If you would go back a 100 years ago, I wonder what the actual definition of anxiety was?  Trust me, I did an internet search, and I didn’t get many hits that were relevant.

What I did get when I did a search on Google for “anxiety disorders” was 16,900,000 hits.  Yes, boys and girls, that is 16.9 million hits.  Even if you assume some of these are for benign definitions or something of the like, being generous, you divide these hits in half, you still have a huge number.  Anxiety is a problem for many, many people.  We can agree on that.

I will stand up, and in my best support group voice say, “My name is Debra and I’m an anxiety sufferer.”  If you have read this blog at all, you probably figured that out.  What is at the root of this anxiety, may not be what the average person may suspect.  Let me explain.


   worry

I belong to an online anxiety support group, Anxiety Zone.  I would check it out if you struggle with the many forms of this problem.  The other day I had something happen to me, via it happening to a family member, and I decided to list the things that had happened to me since I was a child.  I put them on the support groups PTSD board and asked the simple question, do you think I have PTSD?  I’ve always been under the impression that PTSD was reserved for soldiers, first responders and others that go through seriously traumatizing events in their lives.  But as I started to list my events, I realized that I may indeed have this.  But what does that mean?  Should I run to the closest therapist, sign up for talk therapy and get on meds?  The kind folks that responded to me said, yes.  But what I wanted to talk about today and what I thought after this exercise was, without the internet and the 24 hour news cycle would we even know what some of these were?  Isn’t this just life and doesn’t everyone have a “list”?

I could give you my information here, but I won’t bore you with the laundry list of events in my life.  But to be sure, I actually have reason to be anxious more than the average bear.  From the time I was small, I had some anxiety or another.  It started with being anxious over thunderstorms (I live in tornado alley, so..) to worrying about family members health, to my own.  Again, I have considerable reasons to be anxious.  One of the people on the support group told me she just got PTSD from “reading” my list, so you get the idea.

When I was younger, back in the stone age, I would do my anxious research via the encyclopedia.  I would sit at the local library and pour over symptoms of maladies that I thought I suffered from.  If you think google has outdated information, try this for a method of finding the latest stats on heart attacks and cancer.  It was excruciating stuff for someone that thought she was going to drop dead any minute from an infarction.

For a 20 something to do this sort of thing was far from normal in that day.  However, in 2016, it seems to be much more common than you would think.  The frequent flyers on my anxiety forums are usually of this age or younger.  The teens make up a larger group who worry if they have ALS, Cancers of all kinds, and other really nasty diseases.  It doesn’t matter to them if the chances of someone their age getting these diseases are about as miniscule as getting hit by lightening.  The repeated reassurances usually have little effect on their worry.  Again, the internet has made it really easy to feed this type of disorder.

But back to my original premise.  For those that truly have reasons to be anxious or find themselves facing something as scary as PTSD, couldn’t the argument be made that everyone could have a form of PTSD?  Isn’t life itself jarring and scary enough to cause this kind of trauma.  To be clear, I am putting aside the folks that have been through violent, life-changing events.  Soldiers in war, first responders, abuse victims or victims of other violent crimes.  Most people don’t have that in their past.  But just your garden-variety life altering stuff that everyone suffers through.  Deaths in the family, serious illness, upsetting childhood events.  We all suffer from some kind of thing, don’t we?  Doesn’t the mere fact that we are breathing cause many of us to fit the definition of PTSD?  I know that I am tramping on some serious issues here.  I know that how we deal with these life traumas separate us out from those that suffer from PTSD and those that do not.  But I am finding that the definition of disorders that may have been restricted to just a few people years ago, have made their way into the vernacular as something that effects a great part of the population.  If you haven’t figured out by now, my major anxiety is health related.  They called us hypochondriacs in the old days.  Problem is, I actually have health problems.  So where does that leave me?  Pretty much in the same place.  Because it didn’t matter if you worry or not, you end up at the same place.

I have no good answers for this, but I do have some thoughts of my own journey that I would like to share.  I am not a mental health professional and I know that my thoughts on this are probably pretty cursory.  But I do know what I have found out about myself.

  1. Your physical health can cause anxiety to be worse.
    • If you have thyroid issues, hormonal problems or you simply don’t get enough sleep, anxiety can be a problem you find you are having.  All these things effect the main part of what causes something like PTSD.  Your coping skills about events that happen to you.  For instance, I have no thyroid, after suffering from thyroid cancer.  I still am not at the hormone level I am supposed to be at.  This seriously effects my ability to cope with stress.  Knowing this, I have to realize when its time to step back and rest and when its time to move on.  If you suffer from stress and anxiety, make sure your physical health is good before you try taking medications for your disorder.
  2.  You can’t change what happened to you in the past
    • Seems pretty simple right?  But people who suffer from anxiety and its tougher brother PTSD can’t let go of the past.  Again, I am not a mental health professional, so if you truly suffer from PTSD, you need help.  But self diagnosis is not a good idea.  Most people have a hard time letting go of their past.  From bad parents, to mistakes, to failures, we find that these events keep replaying themselves at the most inconvenient times.  For people like me, the reaction has become so ingrained you don’t even realize you are holding onto past issues.  They just become part of you.
  3.  What you are anxious about rarely happens.
    • I can hear it now, “But Debra, there are a lot of things that I have worried about that have happened.”  Did I say never?  No, I said rarely.  Again, I could give you my list.  Lots of really bad stuff has happened to me over my life.  But to be completely honest, 95% of the stuff I actually worried about is not on this list.  So though bad stuff happened, it happened whether I worried about it or not.  Just remember that when you are trying to figure out if that twitch in your leg is because you have sat at the computer too long or you have ALS.
  4.  I would never have gotten through all this without Jesus.
    • No eye rolls from the non-Christians here, please.  The blog is called “Christians don’t bite”  not “Atheists don’t bite”, so cut me some slack.    Yes, Christians and other people of faith do have anxiety.  To many Christians they think its a lack of faith to have worries.  Jesus knew you were going to worry, you are human.  Why else would he say “Do not worry?”  Its in the Bible, look it up.  Prayer and meditation really helps, whether you are a Christian or not.   Some people call it visualization.  I call it “talking-to-the-only-person-that-has-it-all-figured out”
  5.   Online forums really help
    • I belong to three or four online forums.  One for each issue I have.  They are invaluable for people who are just too scared to go to a doctor, don’t have the resources, or just need someone who gets it.  I highly recommend them.  Remember, though, most of the people on these forums are not professionals.  Seek help from a doctor if you are truly suffering.
  6.   People who don’t have anxiety can be real jerks to people that do.
    • You know who I am talking about.  The co-worker who is always busy and happy and involved who just can’t figure out why you can’t get past your issues.  Just snap out of it!  I’ve had people say some really dismissive things to me about my anxiety.  Don’t get me wrong, when an anxious person is in the middle of a bad episode they can really annoying.  I have anxiety and I can get annoyed by someone who just won’t listen to reason.  But be kind.  One day something will happen to you and then where will you be?  That person you were a jerk to will probably not be helpful and they are probably the person you will need the most help from.

So, what does all this mean?  I have anxiety, sure.   Do I have PTSD?   Do you?  I may indeed have the text book definition of PTSD.  There are many that do.  But just remember to look at your life and ask this simple question, “Is this something that happens to nearly everybody?”  If your answer is yes, then someone else is probably struggling with the same thing.  Reach out and talk to someone, even if its just on an online forum.  Not everyone has the same coping skills as the next person.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that I have wasted a lot of my life worrying about things that never happened.  Life is precious.  Don’t waste another day if you can help it.  If you can’t help it.  Reach out for help.  It will probably be the best thing you ever did.

 

 

Categories
Christian Life

Divorce in the Church: The Fallout

If you have read by blog on a regular basis, you have read my Divorce in the Church series.  As my readers, may or may not know, the blog was very personal to me.  It was precisely what was going on in my own home church when I wrote it.

Unfortunately, one of the things that I mentioned in that post that might happen, has happened.  I am referring to the following excerpt.

6. The Casualties: These are number 1-5’s, but number 1’s will think they won if they get their way, as will number 2’s. Number 3’s will continue to go along and the 4’s and or 5’s may or may not be the same. Many will become the “walking wounded” and will have to leave to just survive. They will be permanently damaged by the whole process and may not be able to commit to another relationship for years to come. No matter who wins, these people will find themselves losers.

My husband and I have found ourselves casualties.  Honestly, it was something I sort of expected, but didn’t really think, down deep, would happen to us.  I knew there would be some upset, some grieving of what we had lost, but I also knew that God was on his throne and we would be able to embrace what we had and move on.  After all, we love and care for the church we have called home and the family that has surrounded us in good and bad times.  We have had no intention of walking away from that.

To our chagrin, it has not been as easy as that.

So for those not intimately involved with this struggle with us, I hope that our journey will help others.   We pray that you will be able to glean something from this post that relates to your life.  Because, as I am wont to say, “Its going to get personal, and going to start raining some cold hard facts.”

This morning as I rose, I felt, as I have most Sundays since this all happened, a sense of emptiness.  I have been deluding myself  the past few months that it was related to the myriad of life struggles I have been facing, not about this.  I have gone through cancer, surgery, my Dad being found nearly dead, loss of a pet, changes in work, loss of another relative.  I had convinced myself that once these things had resolved, I would be able to get back into my congregation and be a participating and active member.  This morning, I realized, and starkly as tears streamed down my face, that none of these things listed above were the source of my intense sorrow.  It was the grief I felt about the “divorce.”  I likened it to the almost callous way most people deal with death and loss in our society.  The well-meaning friend who glibly asks a grieving mother who has lost a child, “Will you have another?”  Or the oh so kind relative when you are upset about the loss of a pet, “When are you going to get another cat or dog?”  Or when you lose a spouse, “When are you going to date again?”

My husband and I have gone through something traumatic.  We feel a loss, we feel grief.  We have gone along with our society and have tried to dive back in as if nothing has happened.  But something has happened.  Its like a limb has been detached and we are still feeling its presence.  To the non-christian or the non-congregational Christian, this may seem really dramatic and over sensitive.  To the devout it may seem like straight up sin.  For we are called not to forsake meeting with the brethren.  So on top of grieving, we are feeling like sinners and drama queens.  Nice.

Nothing I am writing here is meant to hurt and shame anyone involved in this situation.  I write this blog, to help others, but I mainly write it as a way to deal with deep issues.  I know its a very public way to deal with it, but I have never been accused of not saying what I think.

Do we feel any less close to those still there?  Not at all.  If anything we feel closer in many ways.  But what those that remain need to understand is that we just are not able to move past everything.  Not yet.  But what we are now asking for is the grace that was given to many.  The ability to grieve, reorient ourselves and tap into God’s goodness.  This may be in a private setting for now.  My husband, specifically, feels a great deal of personal responsibility for some of the outcome of the “divorce.”  He was intimately involved with it and feels somewhat sullied by the whole experience.

So where does a Christian go from here?  What happens when you are involved in the following:  Either a break in a church congregation, a dismissing of a pastor, or simply a disagreement between members that has drawn in those around them.

1.  God hasn’t abandoned you.  

The Lord didn’t want this to happen anymore than you did, but He also isn’t going to leave you in your hour of need.  The Lord can take the brokenness of anything and make it beautiful.  Even if you feel like a cracked vase, God can glue it back together with no cracks.

2.  God still loves you, and the other person too.  

You may still hold a lot of residual anger over what has happened and much directed at the person or persons you deem responsible.   But God still loves you and love the person you are angry at too.  Just as a mother still loves a child that is throwing a tantrum, God is waiting for you to stop kicking and screaming in the grocery aisle floor of life and realize his decisions are best.

3.  Time away is ok.  

This one may get some serious backlash from the faithful.  For it is written in Hebrews 10:25,  “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

we are specifically told not to forsake the assembly.  There is one word though in that passage.  Habit.  As is the habit of some.  To me, missing church isn’t a habit.  On the contrary, I feel an upset in my soul when I cannot gather with people.  Are you sick sometimes, yes.  Are you unable to come due to emergencies, yes.  But to repair your soul and heart, I believe that God allows us time to heal ourselves.  If you find that you are not attending worship because you want to sleep in, hang out with friends, then you have a problem.

4.  Don’t forsake time with the Lord.

As you heal, don’t stop doing the things you did before.   Read your Bible, pray, do your devotions.  Personally, I listen to Christian radio.  It helps me stay on track, the sermons and teaching.   On Sundays, I make sure to spend quiet devotion time, then I usually watch Christian TV.  I personally like Dr. Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, James MacDonald and John MacArthur.  These are not substitutes for worshipping the Lord in a church, but they will help you as you heal and their doctrine is sound.

5.  Don’t over do it.  

If people who still love you wish to reach out to you and talk to you about what is going on, allow them.  It may be painful at first, but healing isn’t always roses and sunshine.  Allow positive interactions with people who care about you.  Don’t allow judgmental people who want to shame you into doing things you aren’t ready for, however.   But if a Christian brother or sister wants to admonish your behavior in love, don’t necessarily close the door to it.  They may be able to see more clearly what is happening to you than you might.  It also may be a sign that your grief may have turned to indolence or sin.

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I’m no expert at any of this.  Sometimes the best way to deal with grief is to be quiet and alone with your savior.  He is the only person that knows what you need, including yourself.

He will let you know when it’s time to rejoin the congregation.  He will also let you know if the divorce needs to be final, and you need to seek another home.   But that is for another time and another post.

 

 

Categories
Christian Life

When Trials are Blessings in Disguise

I know what you’re thinking.  Great, more Christian platitudes couched in a little pseudo-Biblical truth.  Trials bite, you know, where have you been?  How can this be a blessing in disguise?

The truth is, the reason why people run the other way when Christians give us their “blessings in disguise” speech is that we don’t practice what we preach.  Of course, that is the point isn’t it?  That’s why people aren’t running into the arms of Christ in America.  It’s because of us.  Not Him.

For it says in 2 Timothy 3.  But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient   to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, rural, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather  than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!”

Don’t be mistaken, Paul wasn’t talking about unbelievers here.   He is talking about the church going folk. Why would he say they have a form of godliness but denying its power?  Unbelievers don’t pretend to have a form of godliness.  They don’t care about godliness, in one form or another.   So basically Paul is saying that there will be a lot of fake Christians about, among other things.

So what does this have to do with blessings in disguise?  I, as much as anyone, have had my share of trials.  Many of them in this year alone.  But what I found, is that when things are the bleakest, I find myself the most drawn to the comfort of the Lord.   I’m not the most graceful in trials, mind you.  I’m the first to become frightened, express  my dismay on Facebook, etc.  Lamentations really is a book made for me.  Well you get the point.  But even though I get dragged kicking and screaming, the Lord has way of quieting me in ways I never thought possible.    He also shows us that most of the time, these things are a season, not something to last forever.

I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer this year, I lost a dear pet to old age, my Father nearly died, my aunt was put in a nursing home for a short time.  It’s been a tough year.  I was wondering if this was a permanent situation.  But the clouds have broken.  My cancer was removed with no treatment needed, my Dad didn’t die, my Aunt got to come home, and my heart is healing over my pet.   Though I sought help in many places the only help that calmed my soul was that I sought at the feet of the Lord.   If you don’t know what thats like, please reach out to someone you know that can help you become a Christian.  That’s step one.   Step two is to find a Bible believing church to attend where you can find discipleship.  Don’t expect the whole church to be full of perfect people.  Some will be like you, some will be like those listed above and some, hopefully will be the loving saints you need to help you find your way.

The Christian life isn’t an easy path.  Expect resistance.  Expect attacks.  But remember, those too are blessings in disguise.

 

Categories
Christian Life

Introverts in the Church: Not one size fits all.

About a year ago I read the book Introverts in the church, by Adam McHugh.   It is a book about how introverts can sometimes feel marginalized in today’s mega-church, evangelical atmosphere.  Though I don’t agree with everything Mr. McHugh stated in his book doctrinally, I do agree with much of what he said.    I am one of those strange beings that finds themselves in the middle of the introvert/extrovert divide.  I lean more to introvert, but I play an extrovert on t.v.  Insert hearty chuckle.

As a 30 year Christian, church-goer and observer of human beings.  I have gleaned some things out of my own experience that might be useful for you.

1.    “The room”.  I know this sounds ominous, but I visited a church once that took visitors into a “room” after the service, closed the door and talked to you.  I felt like I was going into the principals office or worse.  I was a practicing Christian, secure in my faith, and also had my equally astonished husband with me.    To someone looking for a church home, an introvert in particular, this would have been the most frightening thing they ever experienced.  They would have run, not walked, out of your church, never to darken your door again.  We didn’t go back either, mind you.  But not for just that reason.  Just a gentle reminder to those that want to make visitors welcome-in an introverted, computer driven age, where people can barely make conversation without a phone and Facebook, this is death.

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2.   The over-eager, commitment-bot–  You know who I am talking about.  The person that greets you and already has their clip-board out ready to put you on a committee.  Introverts move slow and won’t always commit to be part of your congregation, let alone sign up to help with Vacation Bible School.  (introvert hell, by the way.)  Your visitor may not even be a Christian, and if they are an introvert, they will be put off by the eager, glassy-eyed extrovert that wants to suddenly be their new best friend.  The introvert already has a friend.  They are probably sure one is plenty, thank you, and if you aren’t Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant or perhaps Martin Freeman, you aren’t on the list of new ones.  (This is more of a geek introvert, but I fly my geek flag as well.)

3.  “The Worship Team”  Introverts, as a rule, don’t like to call attention to themselves.  Especially in the middle of a room full of people screaming “God is good all the time”  to rock music.  Modern evangelical worship has turned into a campfire sing along designed for the extrovert and modern crowd.  Introverts and conservative folks as well, like the safety of their hymnal, a worship leader and a good old choir.  Whoever decided that four people standing on a stage performing for me and trying to get me to sing along while they waved their hands wildly was a good idea for worship?  Warning:  tangential rant ahead:  congregational singing is biblical and a church has an altar, not a stage.  I am a musician and I know the difference between worship and a performance.   Most of what is happening in mega-churches these days, is a performance.  They are singing songs that many in the pews can’t follow along with.  Music in church is to be experienced by everyone, not just the Michael W. Smith wannabe leading the worship team.  Sorry, end rant.

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4.  Church governing bodies–If you are lucky enough for the introvert to get past the intial groupthink of some churches and they have committed to be part of the day-to-day operations of your church, you need to remember something about church committee/govern-body meetings.  Introverts are deep thinkers and sometimes they think slower than an introvert.  Just because an introvert is quiet in a meeting, doesn’t mean that they don’t have something to say.  I would recommend, doing a “round table” type of meeting, where everyone is able to input something on a particular topic.  It may take more time, but it will be worth it.  The introvert will know to plan ahead of this and will, more than likely, have something good to say.  Introverts have thought things through and will sometimes be the most ingenious and innovative member of your team.  Not all people like the Richard Nixon style of board room meetings.  Also, to those thinking that introverts are mainly women, think again.  There are equal amounts of both.  I have no trouble speaking my mind in a meeting.  I think quickly on my feet.  However, I also like to think things over and sometimes say nothing.  I’m what some in business call “bipolar”.  Insert another hearty chuckle

 

The point is, not everyone is the same in your congregation.  More and more I see not only introverts, but older Christians being marginalized by church’s more worried about filling their seats than serving their flock.  There are many younger Christians , as well, that like a more traditional service.  To some, all the rock music, flashing lights and jumbo-trons are just noise that distract you from what you are really there to do.  Worship God.  Remember Him?  The guy whose name is part of your religion?

Insert chuckle.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Chronic Illness and Coping

Chronic Illness: A letter to the able bodied

I was reading something on Facebook the other day about people with chronic illness.  The article was pretty good, but what got me were the comments.  It strikes me daily just how clueless people that never had a disease, or those that have had disease but not a chronic one, are.

So I thought I would write an open letter to the able bodied.  If you are a chronic illness sufferer, you know who I am talking about.  The co-worker that thinks if you just get a good nights sleep, you’ll be right as rain the next day.  The family member that says “boy, you are sure sick a lot”.  The well-meaning client that tries to get you on the newest diet fad, because, if you just lost some weight….

I suffer from Primary Biliary Cirrhosis.  Its an autoimmune liver disease where my own immune system attacks my bile ducts and destroys them.  Fun huh?  Well, it causes extreme fatigue, digestive difficulties and pain.  I was recently diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer as well, which is a nice little twist.  So I know about chronic illness.

At the end of this post I found a funny little video that you will probably enjoy.

Dear Able-bodied person:

I am very happy that you have never been affected by a chronic or debilitating illness.  I truly am.  I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone.  But there are a few things you need to understand.  When you get up in the morning the day is your oyster.  You have a long list of things to do and you have the energy, capacity and brain power to do it.  You may tire out a little here and there, but nothing a good stiff cup of coffee won’t fix.    When I get up, I have to slowly evaluate what I will be able to accomplish that day.  If I go to work, I probably won’t be able to go to the grocery.  If I have to stay after work to catch up on some paperwork, I won’t be able to attend drinks with you and the girls.  My life is all about choices now.  What do I wish to spend my precious energy stores on?  I can’t decide at the last minute to run off after work and go shopping.  I have to weigh how I feel, how much pain I am in, and how tired I am.  I may get lucky and feel fine so we can go shopping for shoes after work, but I won’t know that until about five minutes before.  

I’m sorry that you think my Facebook posts are depressing.  But unlike your life, which consists of endless barbecues, kids games, road trips and exciting activities,  mine consists of work, trying to make enough time for my family, and endless doctors apps, tests and waiting on results.   Life has taken on more meaning for me than the next mindless sporting event, shopping trip or vacation.  I found out I have an expiration date.  Something you have too, but seem to like to try to forget by your endless activities.    

Just because I showed up at an event doesn’t mean that I am suddenly “all better”.  I have good days and bad days.  This is a good day.  I decided to use some of my energy on attending this event.  I would appreciate you just take it at that and not try to plan my social schedule for the next week.  Because I chose to come to this event doesn’t mean that I can now attend so-in-so’s baby shower.  (note to readers.  I loathe baby showers.  Well or sick.  So I would probably skip out on that one anyway.  But I digress)

Thanks for the suppressed eye roll when I said I was tired the other day.  I appreciated your attempt not to be too open with the fact that you think I am making all this up and have no clue how I really feel.  (again, the bad person in me wishes just a little disease on you at that moment.  Devil on my shoulder and all that). 

I also want to thank you for telling me, “but I look so well.”  Yeah, it took me an hour and some pretty darn expensive make up and skin care to appear like I just rolled out of bed and showed up to do my job.  I know I look pretty good.  Thanks for that.  I would really like to show you a snapshot of how I feel, not how I look, but that isn’t possible.  I still have some self-respect so I do try.  I could just give up trying so I would look like I feel.  But I don’t need your pity.  I need your understanding.

Lastly, I would like to tell you that I really do understand that you probably will never “get it”.  Unless you walk down this road, you never will.  But a little understanding, a little patience, and a lot less annoyed sighs would make my life so much easier, m’kay?  

Signed,   Your struggling and chronically ill friend.

 

Now I know that was a little pointed, but its where many of us are.  I really have more to my life than doctors apps and work, but at this point in my life, its not too far from the truth.  However, I am still able to work, still able to keep after my house, help out my aging father and aunt and work on this blog.  I hope I can continue to do all those things, and without the eye roll.

 

 

video shared via youtube and created by Rest Ministries Illness support.