Hello…It’s Me…

 

It’s been awhile.  For about a year now, I thought of abandoning my blog for good.  I simply couldn’t find my creative spark anymore.  It was like a fight every time I would try to write here and I started avoiding it to prevent beating myself up and the frustration of what direction to go.

Well, I’ve been on a bit of a journey of reinvention lately.  I know–so deep.  It all started on my 58th birthday.  Over the past year or so, I kind of lost my mojo, so to speak, but when I turned 58, I realized that it’s either give up and grow feebly old, or keep fighting.  I am after all a fighter, so I made the decision to work on becoming the best I could be by the time I’m 60.  You know, make a comeback and not just physically, but mentally and emotionally-to connect to the world and find my center, to use a hackneyed phrase.

Anyway, as I began this journey, I knew I needed to make some changes (more about that another day) and I thought a lot about my love of writing and my blog. When did I get waylaid?    When I first started Blinders Off, I had a focus and an outlet for all my feelings and the writing just flowed. I loved it.  It felt so right.  I see now that my problem started when I tried to maintain that focus and when I couldn’t, I thought I needed to find another one–I don’t.

What is wrong with writing what ever I want, about what ever I want and see what it becomes?  So simple, yet I couldn’t see it.  I need to relax and breath and let my naturally creative juices flow.

I am enjoying my “journey of reinvention,” so corny.  I’m not going to call it that anymore–I promise.  Happily, even at this stage of my life,  I am learning so much about myself and others. That’s pretty cool.  There are some big changes heading my way, (more about that another day too) but instead of white-knuckling it, or saying I’m too old for this, I’m calling the changes adventures and am preparing myself for the ride.

For now, I’m leaving you this video here, which I would like to dedicate to The Church of Jesus Christ and its leaders.  I remember feeling this way when I was in The Church and also as I was leaving it.  I feel compassion and empathy for those who are still deep into it and are struggling.  Some day when you have had enough, you will walk away, then  you’ll skip, and then you’ll run and then life will begin.

Advertisements

The Truth About Love

love-2I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Corinthians 13.  People, not  always Christians, use this part of scripture as a reading for weddings and other events, regularly. When I heard it the other day, I realized how profound it is, and of all the scripture I have read, 1 Corinthians 13 is actually something I can hold onto as a guideline for my life:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Interestingly, these principles are the ones I have rarely seen in the Christians in my life, especially the ones that are closest to me. There have been a couple of times where I confronted my sister with these scriptures and let her know that when she says she loves me, but continues to be cruel and rejecting, she isn’t living out 1 Corinthians 13, which is part of her holy book.  Her response to me has always been the same; “I do love you, I just can’t be around you, or I don’t trust you, or I have a wall up between me and you,” etc., etc. Well, what is love then?  The apostle Paul seems to make it clear.  Maybe in “the original language” it means something entirely different.

I decided to look up the definition of love and here is a synopsis:  “Profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; to take great pleasure in as for a parent, child, or friend.”

Most hard core Christians, my sister and mother included, do not exhibit any of the aspects of 1 Corinthians 13 love, at least not to me.  I’m not sure why.  It’s like the more you study the scriptures and the closer you get to god, the meaner, more judgmental, and more hateful you become.  I saw it in myself and I’ve seen it in my sister.  In fact, seeing it happen to my sister caused me to take a good hard look at myself.  I have to admit it’s easier to exhibit 1 Corinthians 13 love as a secular humanist than it ever was as a Christian. I wonder why that is?  The apostle says that it doesn’t matter whether you have knowledge, or have faith; if you lack love, you are nothing and yet, many Christians are great at attaining knowledge and going on and on about their faith, yet love, real love, is rarely seen.  At least I have not encountered it.

It’s as if knowing and speaking the laws of God, or trotting out the faith card are more important than simply loving.  It’s all so pharisaical and you know what Jesus had to say about them?  Let me paraphrase; they were gross.

Come, let us Cringe Together

Calvin Kneeling Praying At Cross 2As I have been thinking about it, there are many things that are cringe-worthy in the Christian world, well, probably the religious world, but Christianity is usually my point of reference and so I’ll stick with what I know. It’s so strange to think that at one time many of those cringe-worthy things seemed like a good idea to me and now I am faced with how embarrassing they all are. There are expressions of Christianity every where I go and I’m not even looking for them.  They are constantly thrust in front of me, even just driving around town, on the bumpers and windows of cars:  Calvin kneeling at the cross, “NOW–Not of This World,” “I’m Not Perfect, Just Forgiven,” “Body Piercing Saved My Life,” etc. (I’m serious.  It really said, “Body Piercing saved my life” with Jesus on the cross—crucified.) I think Christians believe they are making some sort of powerful statement that is a witness to the world, or at least to those who see their message.  I know I did.  Now, it is a reminder of just how brainwashed (for lack of a better word) I was.

One that bothers me the a lot is the Calvin decal. I really cringe when I see it.  I did when I was a believer too though–for different reasons.  Anyway, poor Calvin, portrayed as kneeling at the cross, I mean, I really don’t think Calvin would ever want to do that. His creator isn’t a believer, so I’m pretty sure Calvin isn’t either.

Calvin once said to Hobbs, 
 “This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? 
 If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it? 
 And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbs replied: 
I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

To which Calvin said, 
”Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

If Calvin were real, I think it would piss him off that he is portrayed at the foot of the cross—kneeling in submission.  He is the poster child for rebellion and non-conformity after all.   Perhaps he is praying for forgiveness for all of that…Now, that’s a strong message.  Hello?  HE’S NOT REAL, but Jesus is…ummmm…never mind.

The irony here is that this decal is a perfect example of blatant copyright infringement—you know, stealing? Hmmm, Christians stealing to get their message out.  I guess they get a pass though.  All bets are off when you are glorifying god and witnessing to a lost world.

I never had that ridiculous Calvin decal on my car window. I had something way more articulate and rational: A bumper sticker that said, “Darwin is Dead and He Ain’t Comin’ Back,” with a Darwin fish, legs in the air.   What?

Oh, there’s more…

No Jesus?

fear-of-flyingWhen I was a Christian I had so many fears.  I was afraid of everything, and that included flying.  I thought of this yesterday as I was flying home from New Orleans.  A storm was moving in as we were leaving and it was pretty turbulent throughout the flight. When I was a Christian anytime there was turbulence during a flight, I would immediately start praying and I still remember what I would pray.  It went something like this:  “Dear Lord, (I always started that way—very formal don’t ya’ know) if I have done anything to cause you pain, or if I am in sin in anyway, please forgive me.  If this plane crashes I want to know that I will be with you…blah, blah, blah, confession of sins, blah, blah, blah.” Oh, and I always ended with “in Jesus name, amen.”  You had to end that way, or Jesus wouldn’t hear you (thanks for that mom).

I remember the first time I flew after de-converting.  The plane dipped really fast and kind of shuddered.  I stopped and almost started to pray and then I sat back and thought, “Oh, that’s right, there’s no god to hear, no god who cares, no heaven and no hell, no god to make things right with.  I love my family.  I love my kids.  They love me, and I’m doing my best—I’m good.”  I smiled to myself and for the first time ever, drifted off to sleep and didn’t awake until we were ready to land in Boston.

I’ve heard so may Christians say that atheists must be so hopeless and they wonder how we even want to live, since we have no heaven to hope for.  They couldn’t be more off base.  You see, there may not be a heaven to hope for, but we also have no hell to fear.  We simply live our lives and for the most part we do it hopefully and happily in the here and now.

Christians have it all wrong.  It’s not “Know Jesus, no fear.  It’s “No Jesus?  No fear.

…And yes, I am fully aware I missed a day…I make no excuses and will now be continuing my challenge into January.  This is more difficult than I thought.  I guess that’s proof that I chose something that is truly a challenge.  I now have more respect for those who bang out daily blog posts and do it well.

Let the Challenge begin!

30-daysFor the past several months, I have been doing 30-Day Challenges, one every month, e.g., no alcohol, eating a clean food diet, no credit cards, no sugar, and no eating after 7:00.  The last one was a fail, by the way, and due to the rules I have set down for these challenges, I have to do it for an additional 30 days, and during the holidays; great!

I started this whole 30-day-challenge thing after talking with a friend who observes Lent.  He doesn’t do it for religious reasons, he does it to practice self-discipline; I liked that idea.  I also watched a lecture on TED about doing something different/challenging every 30 days, which intrigued me as well, and so it began.

Why am I telling you this?  I’m telling you because I have decided to make this month’s 30-day-challenge to post on my blog every day, for 30 days…yep, and now that I have written it, I have to do it; there is no going back (another one of my self-imposed rules).

I think this will be a good exercise because one of the hindrances I have to posting consistently is my desire to post perfection, which is ridiculous, since, as you all can see, none of my posts are perfect—not even close, but it’s the striving for it, that keeps me from finishing and posting.

I used to always say, to anyone who would comment on something being perfect, “Only God is perfect.”  I did, I truly did.  Well, we all know how that turned out, so I guess nothing is perfect…well, math is perfect…always perfect, and I suck at math, so there you go.  All that to say, I am going to have to let go of my perfectionism for 30 days, and that has to be good, right?

Time to get writing…I’m scared already!

 

Dammit Eve!

It was a Sunday evening prayer meeting.  I had not been attending this particular church for very long and was not completely familiar with the way things worked.  One of the elders was up front explaining how the evening would go.  “Feel free to read scripture if you feel led or simply pray what ever is on your heart.”  That sounded simple enough and then…”Even the women should feel free to jump in.”  “Even the women,” he said– even the women!?”  I was stunned.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week.  I wondered what he meant by that?  I wondered what role women played at this church.  It concerned me.  I couldn’t let it go.

Coincidentally, that very same elder called my home later that week to inquire about how we liked the church and if we were planning continuing there, etc.  I did love the preaching and I so wanted to be a part of that church.  They seemed to be so “biblically sound” (shudder).  When he asked me if I had any questions, I thought hard about whether to ask about what was on my mind, but being who I am I couldn’t hold back.  I told him that I noticed that there weren’t really any women involved in the worship services, aside from singing.  I asked him if that was purposeful or was it that there just weren’t women willing to step up.  He said that the male dominated leadership on Sunday morning was by design and he gave me all the typical scriptures to back up “the leadership’s” philosophy.  He informed me that that is the way it is and will be and if I had a problem with that I might want to choose another place of worship.

I was a little taken aback by his words; it did seem a bit defensive, but I immediately let him know that I was willing to accept their decision about that. (Kook-aid anyone?) Undaunted, I asked him about the prayer meetings on Sunday nights and if women are typically “allowed” to pray then, He said that they were, but for some reason didn’t very often (go figure).  Then I did a baaaaad thing.  I made the silly mistake of thinking we were peers having an intelligent conversation and said, “I think it might be because the women are intimidated.  When you say things like, “even the women can pray.” It sounds condescending.”

He responded politely and calmly, “You know what this is, Barbara, don’t you?”

“No, I asked, what?”

He told me it was my sin rearing its ugly head.  He informed me that my attitude toward male leadership is a result of the fall.  He explained how God told Eve she would desire to rule over her man, but he would rule over her.  He chuckled softly and said,  “You just might need to pray about that.”

I immediately felt horrible, like a Jezebel or something.   He had pushed a button in me.  He had hit upon one of my biggest struggles and heartaches in my Christian walk.  I was always feeling like I was falling short as a Christian woman because I couldn’t shake the idea that we should be treated equally.  Why I didn’t run like the Devil (excuse the pun) away from that place?  I think it was because I truly believed the lie that women are to submit and there were things we were not allowed to do, due to our mother Eve.  The struggle between Christian doctrine, and what I knew to be true, were in conflict and the desire to be a “good Christian,” would always win out and to my detriment, I might add.

As fate would have it, what that Elder said would come back and haunt me eight years later when I would hear a similar comment made about a very dear friend and talented woman at our church, when I asked our pastor about her whereabouts and what had taken place.  It went something like this, “Well, she has always had a problem with the male leadership having authority over her here.”  It was at that moment, I believe that my blinders starting coming off.  I was done keeping quiet and making nice; it was the beginning of the end for that church and the beginning of a new and freethinking life for me.

Sometimes it’s really hard to look back and see what a mind-numbed robot I was, but I’m learning that regrets are counter productive and I am really thankful that I no longer feel duty-bound to fit into the “ good Christian woman” mold.

Free at last, free at last, thank goodness for my brain, I’m free at last!

Bigger Fish to Fry

I’ve been thinking a lot about the exercise of saying grace lately.  Even when I was a dyed-in-the-wool, fundamentalist Christian I always was nagged by the feeling that we were doing it all wrong.  Every time there was opportunity for believers to get together and pray it was always the same deal, “Please heal my friend Sarah’s next door neighbor’s friend from that nasty sinus infection.” Even better, the prayer that begins with, “Now Lord you know…” and then they proceed to tell God what he knows for the next 5 minutes.  I have literally thought, “Geez, God knows, we’ve already established that.  Who are you telling…us?  We don’t need to know the details, God does and…HE ALREADY KNOWS! It just seems to be so contrived–like a lot of Christian practices. I could never shake the feeling that God probably had bigger fish to fry.

Not long ago, my husband asked me to say grace at dinner.  Unbeknownst to him, I no longer believed, but  I began, as I usually would have; it felt silly to me. I didn’t like it. What should I pray for? Everything I thought of just seemed ridiculous to bring before the God of the universe, if such a God actually exists.  “Bless this food” just seemed inadequate.  What does that even mean?  I thought of praying for the war in Iraq to end, for the end to hatred and bigotry, or maybe even the cure for cancer, but I think my family would have thought I’d gone ’round the bend, for sure.  Not that they wouldn’t want to pray for those things, but not at the dinner table; that would be very out of character.  There are certain prayers for certain circumstances, don’t ya’ know.

I don’t even remember what I prayed for now; I just know my family looked at me in a way that said, “What the…?”   Oh well.  What do you do?  I can’t imagine what would happen if I simply said, I think I’ll pass on the grace thing today.  It would be…heretical, especially around our dinner table. We’ve always prayed.  If I decided to stop saying grace, what would I replace it with?  I’ll have to think about that and try some ideas out next time.   Maybe when I’m out to dinner with Christian friends… ah yes, praying in public, especially in a restaurant…well, that’s a blog for another day.