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Archive for February, 2013

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break for awhile. Hearing that we shouldn’t quit, shouldn’t back down, should press on and move forward… those things reinforced my perfectionistic personal demands on myself, but they didn’t give a very realistic impression of God or life. The thing is, even God took a break after creation, and Jesus often left the crowds and pulled aside for awhile to rest and to pray.

The thing is, there are some times that we should press forward, and other times that we should just relax. But even “pressing forward” shouldn’t cause us undue stress. When it does, it’s time to reconsider what we are doing and relax.

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When I lived at home, my parents insisted on taking me to a church that my sister and I both strongly disliked. There was no youth group. There was one class for all the kids, combined. Mom taught it, and it was just basic Bible stories. There was no real doctrine taught, and no challenge at all for me, the oldest in the class (of 3-5 kids). But Mom thought the church was like the one she was raised in. One with THE Truth… as she knew it.

I wanted more than that. I wanted to go to a church where there were others my age, where I could learn, where there were activities and where others wanted to go, not just went because it was the thing to do on Sunday morning. Even my parents disliked going. Many Sundays we went to Sunday School and then went home rather than going to service. Dad skipped even Sunday School more times than I can count… and one Sunday while I was sick I discovered he preferred Tarzan to church. Or maybe he just thought his sick little girl would prefer that to cartoons.

When I got my license I was excited. I thought I might go somewhere else. Mom told me I would not be driving, that we would go to church as a family. To the church she chose. When I moved away to college, at the end of the day she handed me a phone book and told me they weren’t leaving until I chose a church to attend on Sunday. There was no discussion about trying out a few churches. Nothing about the possibility of going to chapel at the college. Just, “Here’s the phone book. We aren’t leaving til you choose a church.” And something about so many college kids quitting church entirely.

I had no intention of quitting, but I did want a better option than what I’d had growing up. A friend had told me about a visit to her grandmother’s Pentecostal church… and when I opened the phone book that day and saw that there was a Pentecostal church in town, I knew where I wanted to go.

Mom flipped. Suddenly I was informed that I needed to try several churches. It was clear they didn’t like my choice, but it was the end of the day and they had to go.

I visited one other church in town. None of the others appeared to be options for me at the time. And though I liked the other church, Pentecostal had my full attention from the first day I visited. There were others near my age. People wanted to be at church. They actually opened their Bibles at church. They could quote scripture rather than (as at my former church) taping the most familiar like the Lord’s prayer to the pulpit. There was an excitement there. So that’s where I chose to go.

My parents strongly disliked my decision. They came to visit. Dad brought me a copy of a book about why tongues was wrong. Mom argued. She told me she thought I had damned my soul by being rebaptized (a misinterpretation of “crucify the son of God afresh”). Dad tried to force me to wear pants to go to church when I was home (to cold for a skirt, looking out for my interests: “You will not leave this house!”). Dad threw fits about my new boyfriend, throwing some of the worst fits I had ever had directed at me. They argued and challenged… and everything they did only spurred me to continue going and solidified in my mind that I was right.

The fights have never stopped completely, sadly. I left two and a half years ago, but Dad still presses for where I go to church, what kind of church, and so forth. And if I ever told him it wasn’t Pentecostal? There would just be more that he would pressure me to do in that case, I’m fairly certain. Because if I’m not Pentecostal I should dress like he wants me to dress, marry who he wants me to marry, talk like he wants me to talk, do what he wants me to do. Sound familiar? Sure. Pastors insisted that I would do those things, and for years I didn’t question what they were doing, because Dad had always done the same thing. And Mom backed him, even on things that were wrong, harsh, and extremely disrespectful. “Honor thy father and mother” was quoted at me, but they never realized that ‘honor’ doesn’t mean ‘do everything they ask without question’.

We had another fight nearly a week ago. I haven’t called them since. We usually talk several times a week. But this time, with Dad blaming church and a request from the college for parents to stay away for awhile for rarely coming to visit, and then pressing and pressing-question after question: “Where do you go to church?” “What church?” “What’s the name of it?” “Where?” What church?” “Where are you going to church at?!” I finally had enough. I really don’t know what I’m going to do now. I wish they would respect me for who I am (or who they know me to be) because I don’t feel any desire to let them know who I’ve become when they continually refuse to accept who I’ve been.

They don’t even go to church themselves. Not even for the major holidays usually. Dad just within the last two years figured out that the priests who are mentioned in the New Testament weren’t Catholic priests, and that the Catholics weren’t the ones who wanted to kill Jesus. And then there’s the number of times that Dad has said that Pentecostal preachers are wrong for telling people what to wear (and do and so forth) while doing the same thing himself.

I’m conflicted. I’d like to just be myself. But no matter who I am, they have never been satisfied. At least this battle is familiar. Or was until last week. Now I’m not so certain. If I choose to stay in a hotel when I go home and not call them as much, it will hurt them. I love them and I don’t want to hurt them. But sometimes people are hurt because their own choices drive others to make decisions they won’t like. My parents may very well have done that.

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I had someone recently inform me that someone in my new church had manipulated me. They didn’t ask whether I’d made a decision and followed through or if the other person had pressured me. They didn’t know the other person. They didn’t ask any of the particulars. They made a statement and I said that wasn’t always the case and gave that particular situation as example. Their immediate response was not a healthy “maybe things are different in different places” or “how did you feel about this statement”, but simply “they were manipulating you.”

The situation I had used as an example is one I’m particularly happy about. It was a good choice for me. I’ve not had one regret about the situation, and have actually become more pleased with it over time. But their statement still troubled me deeply. I was manipulated in my former church. I don’t want to be manipulated again. But more than that, what they said was manipulative, in that they didn’t take time to find out “the rest of the story” but simply shot that back at me out of the blue.

What is manipulation? Is it open discussion and dialogue, leading to a well informed opinion, or statements that are sly or twisted with an intent to deceive or meet their own end? It’s most definitely the latter.

There’ve been a whole lot of times in Pentecost that I’ve seen things twisted that way to silence, to wound, to block another way of thinking, to stop someone from doing a thing. I guess what took my breath away this time was that I wasn’t talking to a Pentecostal… and I’ve been in a healthy situation (the one the person attacked) long enough to realize just how unhealthy the person’s statement was.

Now, if I could just go ahead and get over “furious” and get to “forgiveness” maybe things could get back to normal for me.

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“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” James D. Miles

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f…type=3&theater

I saw this on Facebook today. It brought back memories. In my former church, the men were expected to be “manly”… to laugh and be tough if others or themselves were hurt. One of the first indications I had that something was dreadfully wrong with my former pastor was that he sat and laughed while his son poked the eyes out of a live frog, then impaled the still living frog on a stick and continued playing with it. Both were laughing. The thought of it still turns my stomach.

Blood doesn’t bother me. Cruelty does. If he’d killed the frog and disemboweled it, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It was that the frog was still alive while he continued to abuse it that disgusted me.

I think of that situation that night several years ago, see this picture and quote, and think of the men I now know. Men who seem gentle and kind, who don’t see those as weakness or effeminate characteristics, but as strength, and as the fruit of the spirit.

For so many years I listened while my former pastor told me there was something wrong with me. I prayed that “something” would change, that whatever was wrong wouldn’t be anymore. And for years it seemed like I lived in fear that I would end up leaving or being kicked out and do my best to stay. It’s weird to wake up and realize that all the time you prayed for something, you fought the answer to the prayer. It’s strange to realize that I asked God to fix whatever was “wrong with me”, not realizing that the thing that was most wrong was that I would stay in that environment to begin with.

I’m thankful that God answers prayers… even when we don’t know what we’re asking, and even when we don’t want or are scared of the answer we’re given. He does know what’s best for us, He does care for us, and He did answer my prayers.

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It’s very interesting how differently various denominations/churches interpret certain verses. This morning my church ordained four deacons. Something was said about ordaining and laying on of hands, and I’ve been thinking “this I gotta see!” The ordination seemed about like a wedding, vows and such. Laying on of hands was funny–the pastor had them kneel, and then the two pastors and the two deacons walked BEHIND them and put a hand on their shoulder and prayed for them. One at a time–first person prayed for first deacon, then moved to second deacon while the second prayed for the first. First time I’ve ever heard more than one person praying out loud at the same time in a Baptist church, though! Also one of the only times I’ve seen more than just one or two men there wear ties.

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Most of you know I recently joined a mainstream church. Going there’s been interesting at times… They can quote a verse and understand it completely differently than me, can use a Bible term I’ve thought I understood and mean something else by it, and sometimes have a very different perspective that I do on things. This week there’s been more of that…

Two weeks ago there was a business meeting. There are some major changes being considered, and a few that already took place (someone resigned a position). I missed the meeting, but two days ago in class the meeting was discussed. Emotionally. In front of everyone. And the door of the class wasn’t even shut or guarded! Eeek! hee hee Seriously, though, at my former church people got in big trouble for much less than was said in class. People only disagreed with the pastor’s decisions in very private places with very close and trusted friends… if they even did that much. When I left, there were two women who called me begging me to come back… and begging me not to tell their husbands or the pastor that they’d even called me. They didn’t even trust their husbands to “reach out to a backslider”. There were some things that were only discussed in a car or in the privacy of a member’s house, just between two people. And even then in hushed voices.

So now I’m in a church where people begin talking about something openly and emotionally. I don’t know any of the ones in that class, and wasn’t sure at all what was going on, whether to just leave or stay or speak up or hold my tongue or what to do. It scared me. Above that, this was one of those “I’ll have a special meeting after the meeting and if you need information come ask me” type things–which always meant extremely dangerous water-taboo topics and no room for disagreements or discussion-in my former church. There are a few people I trust, but only one really knows much about my background and could easily answer my questions. The pastor. I’m not allergic to him (I ran from any pastor for a long time after leaving) so I asked.

He seemed very open and honest with me. He gave me some information about how the church operates, briefly explained what was discussed in the meeting, offered information about the doctrinal point that led to the resignation, and apologized if that was too much information.

I’m finding myself in a very nice place. Different language, different culture. New “foods” (Bible teachings), different clothes, whole different outlook. It’s weird sometimes. We live in the same country, in the same town, but I feel like I’m from a different planet. I like their culture. But sometimes something about it still surprises me. From now on I don’t think I’ll need to explain “due to past experiences”. I can just say, “well, I think I’m experiencing a little culture shock right now. Could you explain…?” And as I look back over the last year and a half, trying to find a church, I realize there may have been several times my hesitation or concerns might have been culture shock.

This is a good culture. It’s a healthy culture. Maybe the difference between Siberia and small town US… or more. There are no travel guides I could read to prepare for this journey, no Pentecostalese-Christianese dictionaries… so there has been some culture shock to deal with. But it’s worth it.

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So you’ve faced a storm lately? Faced deafening winds, the heat of fiery trials, earthquakes that seem to shake everything right out from under you? Listen closely. Maybe there’ve been a lot of earthquakes and fires and wind in your life. A lot of huge, noisy, tumultuous, chaotic occurrences. Disasters, if you will. But they weren’t God, no matter how many people would like to say they were. Listen closely, now that they’ve passed. Sometimes what sounds like silence after all that deafening noise is actually the whisper of God. (1 Kings 19:12-13)

Elijah knew that none of those things that came before God was God. He was on a mountain in an earthquake. Did he cry out? Did he wonder if what he was experiencing would crush him? I would have. But he realized, somehow, for all his fear and upset, in spite of the drought and the wickedness and a king and queen who killed prophets like him, that the fires and earthquakes and winds weren’t God. They came before, proclaiming the power and glory of God, but they themselves were not God. God came as a quiet whisper. Gentle. In the hush after the deafening noise. I wonder if Elijah realized the parallel to his life? That God wasn’t in the craziness of the world around him, in the actions of Ahab or the wickedness of Jezebel, the dryness of the drought or the fury of the rain, but was there, nonetheless? I wonder if he realized though that God would proclaim His glory even in those stormy situations, that His great power would be known even in those things that shook Elijah’s world? But that it would be through those quiet whispers, almost missed after the tumult, where he found God’s strength?

It’s easy, in life, to look at what we consider our most desperate and darkest situations and think that God isn’t there, or that there’s no way God could get glory from those. But we don’t stand where God stands, on the edge of eternity. We don’t know the plans He has or the beauty He foresees for each of our lives. But He does. The God who spoke to an earth without form and void and made something very good out of it is still speaking to bleak situations today. He is still creating, and recreating, our lives. Listen, and maybe you can hear His whisper, too.

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