Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When We Were on Fire, pt. 2

I don't want to make Campus Crusade for Christ all bad.  It did help me in some ways. I had a great group of friends.  We ate together, lived on campus, and met together a lot.  Some were even my roommates.  My first year of college I was not in Campus Crusade for Christ, and had a horrible roommate.  Not only that, there were female bullies on my floor, which was a new experience for me.  I thought bullies only came in the male persuasion.  I was sadly mistaken.

Also, Crusade helped me leave a particularly legalistic church that I had been going to.  One that I went to in my middle school years, and then came back to after I quit drinking and decided to live a Christian life, whatever that meant.  This church had no name, could not be called a name, and definitely no denomination.  There was no pastor, but three or four men would stand up during "remembrance" meetings and either read from their trusty King James Version (KJV) Bible, pray in KJV, or suggest we sing a song from either of two hymnals, which sounded more like funeral dirges.  Women were not allowed to speak.  Women were not allowed to be leaders.  They could only teach Sunday school to little kids. I was not allowed to partake of the bread and wine.  I don't know why, a coherent explanation was not forthcoming.  We learned that this was the only RIGHT church, and if we left, we were headed straight for hell.

When I was in college the local branch of this church had only four members, including me.  It was even more boring than the one I went to growing up.  My Crusade friends were going to a local Evangelical Free church and they loved it.  I thought they seemed pretty spiritual, they must know what they are doing.  So I started to go with them.  At first I was in a panic state, worrying that I was doomed.  The songs, the preaching, it was so different.  But I stuck with it and after a while, I felt like I was going in the right direction. 

How sad that this "church" and others like it still exists.  My parents feared I was being brain-washed.  In a way I was.  As an adult I realized it was more like a cult, and I had experienced spiritual abuse. I really don't know the intentions of the people there.  I think most of the members just want to do the right thing.  The church may preach about grace but it certainly didn't seem to live it.

As with Crusade, this church wasn't all bad.  I had friends and families who loved and accepted me.  I felt a part of something bigger than me, which was nice for this lonely, introverted girl.  But I learned that I can have both.  People who love me and a church that doesn't abuse me. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Speaking of God bringing something good out of something bad...

Almost 20 years ago my best friend, my cat Nibby died.  She wasn't old, so this was a shock to me.  She wasn't in the vet's office, being put to sleep.  No, she died under my bed, in her favorite spot. 

I was going through a depression at that time.  Having moved back home from college with not a clue as to what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I was going to a church that I didn't like, but had given up finding one that I would. I searched all over for a spirit filled, alive church.  I wanted a church where people were not just going through the motions, holding up the status quo, and not daring to let God of the neat and tidy box they had put him in.

But when my cat died, I started to think about my death.  I knew where I was going, I just didn't know what to expect.  Eternal life in Heaven was something I couldn't even grasp or wrap my mind around.  All I knew was it was going to be different, and forever.

At the church I didn't like, they had members trained to be counselors, so I decided to meet with one to talk about this.  She was very nice, and had the wisdom and maturity I needed in spiritual matters.  I had complained that I didn't like the church we went to.  Instead of being offended, she told me about Church of the Open Door.

I had erroneously heard that Open Door was charismatic.  I suppose any church that dares to let God out of box seems that way.  Having known Charismatic Christians in college and attending their services, I was nervous.  For this Scandinavian woman does not get excited in church. 

I prayed about it, wondering what to do.  In desperation, I told God this was it.  If Open Door didn't work out, forget it, I am no longer going to church! 

Now I don't recommend making such ultimatums with God, but I think He wanted me to try Open Door and experience what He had in store for me.

Lo and behold!  It was not charismatic!  Just a Spirit filled, living church, with people who love God and each other, and who allow God out of the box! 

I have been there almost 20 years now, and have found healing along the journey of faith.  So I do believe that whatever happens to us, God can bring something good out of it, if we let Him.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I was born with a rare congenital condition.  The docs thought for sure I would die or be a vegetable, so they wanted to put me away in an institution.  Forget about this baby, you have a healthy one, you can have another healthy one.  But my parents would have none of it, taking me home, not knowing what the future would hold.

I don't know which is worse, living with a disability or having a child with one.  Being a parent is the most challenging job in the world; adding a disability compounds it.  Add to that the constant grieving that a parent experiences at each milestone that a child is supposed to experience, that everyone takes for granted: walking, talking, school, marriage, children, career.  I grieved these things too.  Of course I can walk and talk, but marriage and children?  That's just not in the cards for me.  It is not what I wanted, but what I have accepted as my reality.  But there are still times that I rail at God, "why did you create me this way?"

There are no easy answers.  God is not punishing my parents, God did not deem them "special enough" to bless them with me.  Sometimes life just happens.  And in that happening, God still wants to use it for good.

So I created an online support group for those with my condition, and a website for those having questions about it. 

I'm not saying God didn't create me this way for a reason.  I believe there is a reason for everything, that every life has a purpose.  But when people ask why does God allow this?  I feel at a loss for an answer.  For I know that any answer I give will not be enough.  Sometimes all I can do is listen, and pray. 

I think that is what people want.  They want to be heard.  They want to know that their feelings are valid.  They want to know that their feelings matter.  They want to know their lives matter.  And they do.  All of it.   All of it matters, to God, and to all of us.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mental Illness

I read an article a few weeks ago about Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback church, and how his son committed suicide last year.  I remember how, same as now, I cried when I heard of it.  I know what it's like to be a Christian and yet still struggle with mental illness.  It is the ugly thing that is buried deep inside many of us, but we are too afraid to tell others, for fear of being judged.  How many times over the years have I been told to cheer up?  Just pray about it!  You don't have enough faith.  Etc., etc., etc. 

I struggled with depression and anxiety for about 35 years off and on.  There would be years that I would be doing relatively well, and yet I'd have a nervous breakdown and have to quit my job or school.  After college, I was so depressed I literally laid around reading books and watching TV.  At a teaching job I had, I forgot everything so I put everything on sticky notes but then I would forget to look at the sticky notes due to anxiety!

I have been told that I shouldn't see secular (non-Christian) counselors.  I shouldn't use antidepressants.  I shouldn't be a part of secular therapy groups.  However, I have benefited from secular groups, and use meds that have helped me regain my life. 

Why is there such a stigma about mental illness?  Isn't it a disease, like cancer or diabetes?  And as a  disease, need medication and treatment from the medical field?  And like a disease, have both genetic and environmental causes?  Why have we been tortured by so-called Christians over the years who have no clue what they are talking about and do not have the love of Jesus in them? 

I know I'm not perfect, I know I have problems.  Everybody does.  We spend too much time and energy judging (I know I do), but do we use the same energy to love our neighbor as ourselves?  I know I don't.  Some people are just so hard to love!  But I so felt for Rick's son, for he needed help. He did get help in various ways over the years, but it just wasn't enough.  I can't imagine the pain parents go through.  All that mine did, all that the Warrens did, sometimes it's just not enough.  I assume it's like having a child with a disability or a disease.  They can't fix it.  All they can do is hope.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When We Were on Fire, pt. 1

I follow a great blog by Addie Zierman who is coming out on Oct. 15 with her first book: When We Were on Fire.  I highly recommend it as I am getting it myself!  It is a memoir about her life as a Christian "on fire" for God.  Oh, I know how that feels like!  I was like that in college.  I was in Campus Crusade for Christ, you know, the ones with the little orange booklet, "The Four Spiritual Laws."  I was heavily involved for three years until I burned out.  I went to weekly meetings, bible study, twice weekly prayer meetings, and leadership training.  I looked like I had it together but inside I was questioning my own salvation.  I was dismayed at the divide between the Christian groups and denominations.  I had friends on both sides of the aisle, but was told by some on Crusade that THEY were the only right group, THEY were the ones who witnessed right, THEIRS were the only right church.  Added to this was the pressure from my Bible study leader to witness and lead a Bible study of my own.  But I felt like a salesman when I witnessed, and not particularly honest either.  We would approach people asking them what they thought about the little orange booklet.  But I felt like I was lying, we didn't care, we just wanted to convert.  Writing this now, when I have never written it before and seen it in print, makes me feel like what a horrible Christian I was, what a hypocrite. 

Needless to say, I finally quit, believing that Crusade had become my god, not God.  I had to go back to square one.  And I did.  Thank you God!

I still regret being so pushy in my old Crusade days when I was "on fire."  I hope and pray that I didn't push anyone further away from God than to.  I still see the divisiveness in the church, and it saddens me that we allow this to dim our light to the world.  I hate to admit I do this too.  It's so easy to be judgmental, isn't it? 

When We Were on Fire