Thursday, December 5, 2013

God loves you. He just loves you.



I am commenting on another post today. This one is from one of my favorite sites, Recovering Grace.


I remember the exact moment when I realized that Jesus loved me—and LIKED me—ALL the time, not just when I had performed correctly. My life seemed like it was falling apart around me. I was no longer able to control everything and come across as a “godly” person. I started having panic attacks, and because I didn’t know what they were, I was worried that I might be dying. I was trying to find the reason all of this mess was happening (because there is always a reason, right?), searching my heart and past actions until I was completely confused.

Somehow, in spite of everything, I was still clinging to my relationship with Jesus because I did understand that I was a sinner and He was my Savior. So I took a walk in the woods at my favorite park and talked with Jesus. I told Him that I was a mess and I didn’t know what I’d done to make it this way, but that I was sorry. I remember exactly where I was standing when I knew in my heart that He loved me anyway. There wasn’t an audible voice, but the God of the universe spoke clearly to my heart:

“I have never loved you more than I do right now.”

It is truly an amazing moment when you realize that God loves you. He just loves you. It isn't dependent on what you do, good or bad. He just does. Many people think that means that you are going to go crazy and do sinful things-- or things they consider sinful- because you don't have to earn God's favor. But why would you want to displease someone who loves you no matter what you do. You want to please Him and that love will check your actions better than a list of rules you don't agree with or understand ever will. And you will feel so free because your motivation is completely different.

I can’t pin point the exact moment when I began to realize the true love of God. There are still times when I fall back into old patterns, but I am learning, and, I hope, pleasing the One Who loves me because I want to and I get to, not because I have to in order to be pleasing to Him. It is a fine line of difference, but one that makes all the difference.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baby Ponderings



So, I have been working my second job, 17-29 hours a week, and to be honest, I really haven’t made any extra progress on paying bills off or increasing my savings. It does keep me from using my credit cards, or at least I can pay them off completely if I do use them, but why aren’t I using the extra money to pay on my loan? If I really want children I know I have to be getting close to $15,000 put back just to cover costs for embryo implantation. So why am I spending my entire second job’s salary for the year on a trip to Israel? Why am I contemplating building a barn once I am out of school instead of building a baby? It really makes me question myself. Am I just sabotaging myself or is there a part of me that doesn’t want a child and that part is winning?

Mostly I think that as much as I want a child, I’m just not sure that I can or should do it alone. And if there is a Mr. Right out there for me, it appears that the timing is still not right.

The holidays are so hard for me. As much as I love my family, I see my nieces and nephews growing up so quickly, and it reminds me what I have missed out on. I get to go to each event alone and go home alone. And I wonder if this is punishment for something that I’ve done, or for all the years when I didn’t want to get married. After all, this is what I wanted then. How do I beg forgiveness? And even if I obtain it, it still doesn’t turn the clock back the ten years that would give me back my fertile years. Really, I need a do over for the last 28 years. And that’s not going to happen.

So I keep working almost 70 hour weeks while going to school part-time, knowing that my future is pretty bleak. Perhaps the barn instead of the baby is because goat keeping is a more sure thing. It is the easier path. It is something that I want, but I really want it all: the goats, the husband, and the children. Traveling instead of paying off bills is because I feel that if I don’t travel now, it may never happen.

And perhaps I should not be psychoanalyzing myself!

Blogger and Internet Explorer

I apologize for the lack of posts. I've been struggling with getting Blogger to work. I finally thought of trying it in Mozilla instead of IE and it MAY be working. If this works, I'll get a new post up shortly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Culture of “Metaphors, Cruelty & Crossed Lines”



I’m writing a paper for my class, The Body in Western Religion, and, naturally, the professor and tutor don’t like all the best parts. Okay, that’s in my opinion. But since I can’t use them in my paper, I’ll get them out of my system by posting them here. “Metaphors, Cruelty, and Crossed Lines” is a religious category termed by William LeFleur in a chapter entitled “Body” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies edited by Mark C. Taylor. So, I didn’t come up with that on my own. And I’ve taken out all the parenthetical citations since they disturb the flow. Also, I don’t disregard the fact that the Christian is called to a life of purity, but virginity has been elevated to the point that it is determinative of one’s spirituality and worth as a person and that, I believe, is not what God ever intended.

A Culture of “Metaphors, Cruelty & Crossed Lines”
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m that chewed up piece of gum. Nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away’. And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value”, Elizabeth Smart, who as a 14-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped, and imprisoned for nine months, recalls that her thoughts after her first rape centered around an abstinence lecture where premarital sex was compared to chewing gum. “I felt so dirty and so filthy”. (A portion of her talk can be viewed at http://fox13now.com/2013/05/06/video-elizabeth-smart-speaks-at-johns-hopkins-university/ .)
In a culture where virginity is sometimes viewed as a stigma to be thrown off as soon as possible, youth programs have been developed that encourage premarital abstinence. The intended goal, along with prevention of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), is to teach young men and women to respect themselves. However, the metaphors used to describe virginity—purity, gift, jewel—and to the lack of—ruined, tainted, dirty, cheap, soiled—can have the opposite effect for the young person who is sexually active. Terms like these are cruel because they can cause a loss of self-respect as well as a lack of respect for those who are referred to by negative metaphors. That lack of respect can lead to crossed lines—wrong actions rationalized by the essence of the metaphors as permissible.
Yet the cult of virginity, sometimes called the purity culture, has seen an increase in popularity in recent years through the use of abstinence education, purity balls, and other programs as Christian evangelicals and other social conservatives began to call for a return to traditional or family values. Young celebrities including Jessica Simpson, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus (Yes THAT Miley Cyrus), Selena Gomez, and the Jonas Bothers publicly announced their virginity and, while their commitment may not have lasted long, abstinence has reemerged as a pop culture trend.
Another trend is the purity ball. In 2006, over 1,400 purity balls were. A purity ball is a prom-like event where the girls and their fathers dress in formal wear, enjoy a formal dinner and father-daughter dancing, and the fathers sign a pledge committing to “cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity”. (This is the pledge used by the founders of purity balls, Randy and Lisa Wilson, posted at their website: http://www.generationsoflight.com/html/thepledge.html .)
            Along with the return of the culture comes the revival of the old metaphors. An advertisement for the 2008 Abstinence Awareness Week in Washington, D.C., advised women to “guard your diamond”.  Abstinence educators use a piece of Scotch tape to demonstrate how premarital sex can undermine one’s future marriage. A piece of tape is placed on the arm of a student, removed and stuck on another student’s arm. This is repeated until the strip of tape is no longer clean. It is then placed on the future bride’s arm and the tape doesn’t adhere. The educator then explains how having many partners can keep a couple from being able to bond. (This is an idea from Freud who decided that a woman experiences imprinting upon her partner during her first sexual experience.) At the Eighth Annual Abstinence Clearinghouse Conference, Darren Washington told teens, “Your body is a wrapped lollipop. When you have sex with a man, he unwraps your lollipop and sucks on it. It may feel great at the time, but, unfortunately, when he’s done with you, all you have left for your next partner is a poorly wrapped, saliva-fouled sucker”. 
 Products sold to promote abstinence are themselves metaphors. One example is a gold, rose shaped pin with a card attached that explains, “You are a beautiful rose. Each time you engage in pre-marital sex, a precious petal is stripped away. Don’t leave your future husband holding a bare stem. Abstain”. Other jewelry items have become a popular way for parents to nurture their children’s commitment to abstinence. Purity rings may feature sayings such as “Love is patient” from 1 Corinthians 13 or “True Love Waits” or may resemble a promise or engagement

ring.  Girls may be given a heart shaped lock pendant to wear on a necklace while their parent keeps the accompanying key to be given to her groom at the wedding. Even the wedding veil and white wedding dress are widely recognized as metaphors for virginity, although neither originated as such.  (Frankly virginity tees, rose pins, purity rings and necklaces, and publicly posted pledges all advertise to society sexual status just as effectively as Hester Prynne’s scarlet ‘A’.)
Abilene Christian University professor Richard Beck theorizes in Unclean that these virginity metaphors are particularly cruel because “One feature of contamination psychology is the attribution of permanence”. Beck bases his research on work done by Paul Rozin on the topic of disgust psychology. Of nine areas of “disgust electors” found in North Americans,
one is sexual behaviors. “Such sins become emotionally traumatic . . . ‘contamination sins’ carry an enormous load of guilt, shame, and self-loathing”. Jessica Valenti in The Purity Myth: Virginity is Hurting Young Women says that such metaphors are cruel because it teaches young women “that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain ‘pure’”. Beck says that purity metaphors are especially powerful because they activate feelings of disgust and non-rehabilitation.
            Beck cautions that “disgust and contamination psychology structures the way these metaphors are used and experienced . . . these metaphors can have noxious consequences”. The absorption of these disgust metaphors can lead to a conclusion of crossing of lines that should never be traversed.  Tina Anderson, featured on ABC 20/20’s investigation of independent fundamental Baptist churches, had been sexually abused by her stepfather. With full knowledge of that fact, a man in her church who worked with the youth then raped her twice. Also featured in the investigation is Rachel Griffin who was sexually abused by her father. When she confided in her youth pastor, he also began abusing her. Similarly, Jack Schaap, a senior pastor in Hammond, Indiana, took on the counseling of a 16-year-old girl who had gone “too far” with her boyfriend. Somehow, this justified his beginning his own affair with her. The elevated worth put on virginity had so pervaded the thought processes of the “men of God” that is almost seems as if they felt that they could assuage their lusts on these girls because, according to purity metaphors, these girls were already “damaged good”.
It is not advocating premarital abstinence that is cruel or crosses lines. However, doing so through the use of purity metaphors affects not only how an individual values themselves but also how they value others and how others judge their worth. That for even one second a victim would consider not reporting a rape or would give up and stay with a captor or that a predator would consider a non-virgin as less and thus fair game are proofs that the metaphors are emotionally cruel and cross as well as contribute to crossed lines.  LeFleur in his category “Metaphors, Cruelty, and Crossed Lines” says that we can never be free from metaphors because as long as there are bodies there will be metaphors but just as “illnesses such as tuberculosis, cancer, and AIDS have, largely through the metaphors used by society to depict them, been made more tortuous to their subjects than would otherwise have been the case” so have the purity metaphors been cruel. Le Fleur advises us that it is our responsibility is to expose the “specific metaphor, representation, or religious idea that causes or sanctions cruelty” rather than trying to do away with religion itself.




Thursday, July 18, 2013

Forgiveness, Final. . . Finally!

The conclusion to the saga:
So did gossip ruin my life? Well, I’m not dead yet. It did certainly contribute to the fact that I won’t ever have biological children of my own and may never marry. Is it totally the fault of the gossipers? No. I could have handled it better. But I didn’t know how. I’d been taught to just keeping “doing right” and God would handle it.
I should be able to see that He did handle it. He used these events and others to rescue me out of IFB extremism. That was His plan and it was what was best. So why do I feel such anger when reading this blog, reading about her husband and her beautiful children. That was God’s plan for her. If I’ve really forgiven, why did this truly evil and sinful part of me say, “Hah, someone she was really close to died. So did someone close to my sister’s accuser. They got theirs”? I don’t even believe that God works like that. He isn’t going to kill someone to punish them or their loved ones because He punished all sin and poured out all His anger for all time when He placed our sins on Jesus at the cross. People die because this world is cursed and because the old adage, “Shit happens” is true.
So I’m struggling with all this anger and so much hurt when another blog that I’ve mentioned here before discussed the topic of forgiveness. http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/07/07/5-unique-ways-to-forgive-and-let-go/
There is great value in every act of forgiveness.  You can forgive yourself, you can forgive others, and you can forgive even when you don’t know exactly who to forgive, because forgiveness is not about who is to blame or who is at fault.  It is about letting go, completely and permanently within yourself.
Forgiveness is recognizing the reality that what has happened has already happened, and that there’s no point in allowing it to dominate the rest of your life.”
“There is an obvious shift in your heart and mind that happens when you go from feeling hurt and upset to peaceful and loving, but it’s not necessarily forgiveness that’s taking place, it’s just the realization that there was nothing to forgive in the first place. . .
To help you wrap your head around this concept, try to look at your situation from 40,000 feet.  Imagine a more seasoned, wiser and more compassionate version of yourself sitting at the mountaintop of life, looking down and watching as the younger minded, current version of you hacks your way through life.
You see yourself holding onto to false beliefs and making epic errors of judgment as you maneuver through life’s many obstacles.  You watch the children of the world growing up in challenging times that test their sense of self-confidence, yet they push forward bravely.  You see the coming generation radiating with passion and love as they fail forward, learning through their mistakes.
And you have to wonder:  Would this wiser version of yourself conclude that everyone in their own unique way was doing their very best.  And if everyone is trying to do their best, what needs to be forgiven?  Not being perfect?
Perfection doesn’t exist.  Forgiveness is oftentimes the simple realization that there is nothing that actually needs to be forgiven.
So—someone has been reading my mind. I have had one person tell me one-on-one and another mention it in passing to a group that all this hurt can lead to cynicism. Well (if you hadn’t already figured this out!), I’m there. And while I thrill to see blog such as the one that started this many part post (A True Shepherd’s Heart if you have forgotten), what I need now is God to inspire someone to write a blog talking about how to get past the cynicism.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 5 of 6

No, it wasn’t that easy. As much as IFBx people claim that they are all independent, there is still a connection among the churches. Although the church we joined wasn’t as extremist as either of the prior two churches, they were still plugged in to the same sordid outlet. Which meant that the new pastor was buddies with the old pastor. Which meant that the sermon illustration of my family as “what happens when you don’t obey the pastor”, could easily be passed on to the new pastor. I did start working in the nursery, but refused to work by myself. I let them think that it was that I couldn’t handle a small number of children on my own, but the truth was, I knew I had to have someone there so I could never be accused of sexually abusing those children. I refused to teach Sunday School, though I did agree to be a helper only in the case that no one else was available.
I began to realize that whether I wanted to marry or not, I would never even get to make that choice because I would never be considered marriage material for any man in an IFBx church. Even if I married a layman, what if he were called to preach or the mission field? Who would support a man who was married to someone who had been labeled a homosexual- or at least allowed the gossip to flourish- by one of the biggest names in IFBx-dom? And slowly things got worse. Speakers, missionaries, college recruiters from this church started to show up at my new church. Although I hid in the cry room (a room for sick/crying babies so the parents could still hear the service), I couldn’t be sure that I would not be spotted entering or leaving the building. The teens were starting to head off to this church for summer camp and college. Anyone of them could bring back my story and the gossip would begin again. I liked to sing, so I participated in choir and special music but with YouTube postings being made of special music, I worried that I would be spotted there.
I left. Although it was only one of several big reasons, I knew I had to leave IFBx if I ever wanted any kind of a life. But, I had waited so long. I lost all my fertile years as well as any looks and personality I ever had in trying to hide myself.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 4 of 6

Part 1, here
Part 2, here
Part 3, here

And the saga continues. . .

The pastor’s anger at my dad escalated. Soon rumors that my sister was sleeping with a neighbor boy began to run rampant. My mom was “mental”. My brother was fair game to beat up on. The adults that were there to teach were told to turn their backs and to not stop the beatings. All the while we were crying out to God, “We are doing everything right! We are following the formulas, confronting our accusers! Where is our vengeance? Why have You done nothing to help us!” My sister ended up with spasmic colon, was literally skin and bones (although the gossip was that she was pregnant). My brother was growing angry. And somewhere in this it started to sink in for me why I was so hated.
Eventually, my parents realized this wasn’t going to stop. We weren’t going to be avenged. Our house was put on the market. We were going home to our family.
Can you believe that house sold NINE times? We were so excited the first time it sold. We would be home for Christmas. I quit my dream job that I loved working with animals . And then the buyers backed out. We went home for Christmas, but we had to come back. And then the house sold again!. . . and the buyers backed out. . . again. When we finally got to the week before ninth closing and the buyers hadn’t backed out yet, we had to scurry to pack, all the while wondering if this was really it.
It was. We were free. . . right?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 3 of 6

My dad eventually found a job. As much as I wanted to live near my best friend, it meant that I had to leave a new love that meant so much to me (small livestock farming). I cried and cried, but we could never afford any land in that part of the country. Still, I was going to be near my best friend again, and I hadn’t made any friends since as the same church that forbade teen crushes also forbade having best friends. And even though I was screamed at from the pulpit, I never took off my half of the BFF necklace we had bought together. In that one thing, her friendship meant more to me than the approval of the pastor and youth pastor.
We arrived. I was still so broken hearted—and then I found that I was a pariah. My best friend wouldn’t talk to me. If I sat down, the person either moved, or if they couldn’t do that, they sat as far away as they could. When I was paired up with someone on activities, they were given sympathetic pats on the back. I think one girl was even crying. It was that awful to be associated with one such as me. I didn’t understand why. At first I thought it was just because I was new, and maybe my friend and I had lost some of the closeness having been apart so long. But she made no attempts to try to renew that closeness. My dad went to the pastor and demanded he put a stop to the gossip. The preacher said that while he did not believe it was true, since my dad refused to write an article criticizing the pastor at the church we were coming from, he would not do anything to stop it. Furthermore, I wasn’t allowed to participate in any areas of service that put me in contact with church children. I found out later that I actually was approved to work with bus kids. I guess they figured either they didn’t matter or that I couldn’t corrupt them anymore than they already were.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 2 of 6

Continuation from the last post which can be accessed here.
My dad had taken an early out from the military. Having been taught “you can never go back”, we didn’t head back to the church that we had attended before our last move and where my best friend still attended. We began to search for a new church home and found one that seemed to fit all the requirements that we had been taught were necessary for us to be “good” Christians. We packed up and moved several states away to be part of this IFBx church. It was even stricter than any church that we had been a part of so far, but we did not resent that in any way. We were happy to become “more Godly” than ever before. However, we did end up going back to visit the old church and I was delighted to spend some time with my best friend. She immediately wanted the low down on every single teen boy in this large church and was shocked that I wasn’t attracted to any of them. What I never even thought to explain was that this even more strict church taught that it was a sin for teens to act on any attraction to the opposite sex. No one was allowed to date until they had graduated from high school, so to openly “like” each other was taboo. Oh, there were a few “likings” going on secretly, fully approved by the parents, but officially there was no pairing up in the youth department. So while I was obediently stifling any possible feelings of attraction, this appeared quite odd to my friend who had parentally approved likings going on since her early teens. She, of course, reported this to her mother. I can’t blame her for this. It was right that she should have a good and open relationship with her mother. As I was foolishly loose-lipped as a pre and young teen, they knew that (at that time) I had no desire to marry, which is taboo in all IFBx churches. After all, that’s why God created women, right?
Completely unaware of the events going on in our old church, my parents were convinced that the move had been a bad idea (and in truth, that church had some scary stuff going on) and that despite our earlier reservations, we should indeed move back to the old church. But two moves, a low paying job, combined with the needs of a large family and a church that always had some sort of program that we had to fund in order to be right with God had depleted every bit of my dad’s early out pay off. He left us to live with family while he moved to the old church to look for a job. It was during this time that he actually heard my best friend’s mom telling people that I was a homosexual. Yes, a very na├»ve, impressionable, and sheltered sixteen-year-old who hadn’t been allowed to have a crush and had seen nothing that would inspire her to desire marriage must be a homosexual. (I’m going to insert a note here: I mean absolutely no offense to anyone that is not heterosexual, but please understand, even child molestation is more acceptable in fundamentalism than an alternate sexual orientation. There is absolutely nothing worse that she could label me with that her audience would even have a clue what it was! Murder, rape, etc. are things that you do that are sin. Alternate sexuality is a sin that you are.) My dad confronted her. I wouldn’t have wanted to be her! But even my dad’s anger wasn’t enough to shut down the gossip. She was warning everyone that the biggest sin the world has ever known was about to re-enter their lives, so keep their sons and daughters away from me. I will try to believe that she truly just wanted to protect them from my grossly evil influence.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 1 of 6

The theme of this many-part post is found at http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2013/07/a-true-shepherds-heart .
"God had become, in my mind, a god who demanded excellent Christian performance. When I excelled at the performance, I had no doubt that I was loved and accepted by Him. But soon the time came when circumstances fell apart all around me and shattered dreams threatened to tear me to shreds. I began to wonder if God had abandoned me. Later I realized it was the formulas and promises . . . that had failed me in my darkest hour. The legalism that had been engrained throughout my teen years came around to crush me in my time of need, and the formulas I had learned did not rescue me when I needed them the most. . . . Faithful church attendance and Bible study did not prevent wounds from a spiritually abusive situation. Doing everything I knew to please God did not remove a deep, dark depression that lingered for a very long time. It was then that the many principles . . . mocked and condemned me, saying if I had just done this or not done that then I wouldn’t be hurting this way. It was then and only then that I clung for dear life to the one thing I still believed to be true: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Ah, so true. This last week I have been dealing with anger and unforgivenesss trying to raise its ugly head. I ran across a former friend’s blog—which ironically she started within a month of when I started blogging. I guess after all these years, we still think alike! My fault. I didn’t exactly stumble upon it by accident, but as I read it, I just started to feel so angry. This person had “ruined my life” and yet has gone on with their life while mine is still so much unchanged because I hadn’t put as much effort as I could have into moving past it, mostly because I was still so bound by those formulas and promises. It bothered me that I could think that I have forgiven and still find so much anger.
You’re probably laughing and saying that every teenager thinks that their life is ruined so what was the big deal, that I should still be hurting over it sixteen years later? Well, I want to laugh too, but I still can’t.
To be continued. . .

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Led Into Temptation

Investigative Discovery recently aired “Led Into Temptation", the story of the murder of Christa Baker Alexander. Although I’m older than Christa and Couty so I never met them, we have acquaintances in common. Christa’s murder-- or more correctly the fact that Couty was the murderer—was one of many events that poked holes in the bubble I had been living in all my life. You raised your children “right”; as the child, you did “right”. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen to us. Things like this just would never have the opportunity to happen. Except. . . here was proof that they could.
I think that part of Couty wanted to do "right"-- which is why he courted and married Christa-- but another part of him just couldn't take the pressure and escaped into his job. That side eventually won and he snapped under the pressure of trying to live a double life. Those who knew Couty will tell you that they never saw this side of him. Everyone believed his original story at first because nothing else seemed to fit with what they knew of Couty. Some think that Christa was gathering clothes to leave him (maybe she had proof of the affair?). This would expose his cover. If his family found out about his double life, his relationship with them would be forever altered. I don't think it was that he thought that murder was the lesser of two evils—divorce vs. murder. I don't think he was that rational. I think he just wanted to stop his life from forever changing-- and then the gun went off. I feel for both the Bakers and Alexanders who did lose three members of their families that day—Christa, the baby, and the Couty that had been lost somewhere along the way.

I think the network did a good job at portraying a fundie family. . . though I'm snarky enough to point out a few errors!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Update

Nothing even minorly profound to post today (hmmn- did you know that minorly isn’t a word?). Since I last posted, I haven't been back to that church, though I plan to go this Sunday. I was contacted and I explained my fears. I was referred to the pastor. I suppose that I will call for an appointment, though I'm not sure why I should use up any of his time. This isn't anything emergent.

There is another church that I am considering. My biggest issue is that I hate the music service. It is 15 minutes of sitting in the dark listening to semi-professionals sing songs that I don't know. I usually just show up 15 minutes late, but it seems rather pointless to join a church where one of the things I most enjoy is missing. But I really like the sermons and, while this really shouldn’t be a consideration, they have a ministry for older singles, something I’ve never had the opportunity to be a part of. Is it possible to join three churches and just take what you want from each. . .

In other news, I finished two more courses earlier this month, and have already begun one of the two courses I will take this summer. I will start the fall semester with 30 credits to go-- I will officially be a senior!