Monday, May 31, 2004

Amy Loves Books

Amy Loves Books

amy and her husband nail the church's consumer driven christianity with their jesus pez dispenser!

this has to stop. how can it not be in the news every day? is it because they have no oil that we continue to ignore their cries?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

egg hunt

i remember when i was about 10 years old my cousins came up for easter. it’s one of my most vivid memories. my parents decided to take us all out to easter brunch at a local resort, which for our family was a very big deal, we were pushing it to say we were 'middle class'. the resort had set up one of their conference rooms as an easter egg hunt for the kids. i remember the excitement we all felt as we could hardly eat the food placed in front of us that day.

when we were finally excused from the table, we lined up outside the door as we were given instructions. “only one egg each, you can stay in the room as long as you want, but you can only come out with one egg, remember, there is only one golden egg, and the person that brings out that egg wins the prize.”

the room was dark, it had lots of stacking convention chairs and tables in it, great places to hide eggs, especially since we could only feel around with our hands. we were pirates, searching for booty, each of us knowing that we were going to be the one to find that ‘golden egg’ and win the huge easter bunny and basket set at the entrance to the restaurant.

i entered that room feeling like charlie on willie wonka, just knowing i was going to be the one to find that golden ‘ticket.’ we were let into that room, and in the darkness we searched and searched and each found our egg.

i exited the conference room clutching my choice, hoping, praying, wishing my egg to be gold. my eyes hurt from the light of the real world and my hopes fell. i can picture charlie pulling the paper and foil off his wonka bar and seeing the disappointment on his face as his hopes for a bright future were crushed as he realized there was no golden ticket. like charlie’s, my hopes were crushed.

in my 10 short years of life i had never wanted anything more.

that easter basket represented wealth, success and good fortune to me. none of which i suspected i would ever have in my life. i grew up in one of the wealthiest tourist destinations in the midwest. i knew the difference between the ‘have's’ and the ‘have-nots’ - we were the have-nots. this loss just confirmed that for me, it ingrained my deepest fears way down into my soul; etching the word ‘loser’ into my brain. convincing me that others were always going to get my golden egg, and that there were never going to be enough golden eggs to go around.

i feel that way in the kingdom of god many times too. my life has been one big easter egg hunt for a ministry. i don’t know how many times i’ve exited that room with a crummy plastic egg filled six rotten jelly beans while others (mostly men) got the gold egg.

this past year has been a reconfirmation of my hunt, a reconfirmation of my call, that god has something for me that is just for me, the purpose of my life, the culmination of my past and the destination of my future.

i was speaking with one of the elders at my church recently asking for prayer and guidance as i journey this path, and was so moved as this illustration came to me, and as i voiced it to him all of the emotion of the loss of the “golden egg” filled my voice. he heard me, unlike so many elders in my life, he listened, and processed and connected with our father and blessed me with these words of wisdom.

“bobbie, there is a golden egg out there that you should keep looking for. god has given you the gifts of listening and counseling and he has a ministry for you. but on your search for that ‘golden egg’ don’t forget to pick up those other eggs you find. the people along the way that need to be heard, that need your ministry. that are crying out to be placed in your basket as you travel on your search for that golden egg.”

i could weep now in remembrance of that conversation. so many times i think it’s got to be about that ‘big ministry’ that i miss all of the opportunities i have along the way. it is a beautiful picture. the thought that anyone would want to be ‘placed in my basket’ is almost shocking to me, but i love the comforting picture that story tells.

i have a basket, i have a hunt, where it will lead, and if i ever find that golden egg isn’t the most important thing anymore. how i fill it along the way is. god help me to fill my basket and not miss any opportunities i may have to minister today.

Friday, May 28, 2004

sick jokes

i was raised in a tiny denomination that called itself a 'new testament church' and believed in the 'priesthood of all believers' (well not 'all' just men), no pastors, only laity and itinerant speakers. three, hour-long services each sunday (one at night). the first was 'the breaking of bread' or 'the lord's supper'- a quiet contemplative service where men, nudged by the holy spirit (or their wives) would be moved to share through scripture, prayer or suggesting an a capella hymns all focusing on the death of christ.

women were to be silent with their head’s covered. i grew up in the left side of the fourth pew, learning to daydream and that god didn’t care what i had to say, or if i had an opinion. it was a very confusing time for me.

my father wasn’t given any ‘up front’ or public gifts, which the church didn’t respect and regularly forced him to the podium. he would get physically sick every time he had to participate publically. because the church was small (dying actually) every man needed 'to carry the burden'.

i watched my mother, outspoken and resentful most of the week, except in church on sunday, where she would feign not only a covered head, but a covered heart, slowly erode and crumble in her spiritual life because she had no outlet for her gifts, which by some sick joke of god were the 'up front gifts' that my father was lacking.

the church taught me that my father was weak and my mother was shameful. and it also taught me that god had a sick sense of humor.

as i aged i realized that i too was 'honored' by the sick humor of God because i was so much like my mother. i fought every tendency within me to distance myself from the gifts rising to the surface in my own life. i longed to be the 'silent, submissive woman' the church ideal held up. what i saw in my own life were the same gifts that so ruined my mother, and made my parent's marriage so painfully difficult.

watching them relate was confusing. they'd reverse their roles for sunday morning and fight the rest of the week because they were learning that neither of them were equipped for the kingdom of god.

my father was a helper, an encourager and the most dedicated, loyal worker a church could hope to have. that was never honored. his confidence was ruined, he was a failure to god and ashamed of himself.

my mother was an evangelist, a teacher and a speaker/writer. god had no use for a woman with those gifts. she couldn't sing or play the piano, and teaching children's sunday school was not 'up her alley', so she too was ashamed, disgruntled and seethingly angry at a god who would 'save' her for this.

this heresy made a mockery of spiritual gifts and the love of god. to those of you who don't 'get' why it's so damaging to misinterpret pauls teachings this is why. the wall that it places in lives and the damage that it brings is so completely ungodly.

i hated the parts of me that reminded me of my mother. why did i have to be like her? why couldn’t i be quiet and content, respectful and silent. wasn’t it bad enough that god wrecked her, why me too?

it has only been since coming out of that brainwashed 'sect' that i have had the understanding that god has made me (as he made my parents) to be exactly who i am - and that he doesn't want me to be the singing submissive silent piano playing stepford wife.<b>r>
he truly adores my opinionated, passionate zest for life, my perspective and my voice. he created me this way for a purpose. i don't know exactly what it is yet, but i do know that i am not a reject in the kingdom of god - not a sick joke. god doesn't have a warped, punishing sense of humor.

how sad that it's only been in the past six months that i've realized the true implications of all of this. how it distanced me from my mother, how failure still haunts my father, how distorted teaching masquerading as the 'truth' forced my family, and so many others from having a close, personal, intimate relationship with the god they were so trying to promote.

emergent church, church of the future - please get this right. please allow each of us to participate by using the gifts god has placed in our lives - and honor each of them for the glory of god. if you screw this up you will truly not be changing anything but the decorations.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

my arms are tired

i have recently realized that although i am 38 years old i am post-modern. i attribute this to the fact that i have had to work my whole life to "construct" the things my parents should have had in place for me. coming from a family of generational alcoholics i realized that i live 'deconstructed' in my natural state (i.e., no one watching).

it's the modern stuff i have to work at - try harder for and pretend at to make the modern people in my life (my church) happy.

i long for an emergent church in my area so that i can stop holding up the 'xian mask' and playing the nice game. it's exhausting. i used to think it tired everybody else out too - but then i realized they came from 'constructed' lives - deconstruction was too much work for them, they felt safer with the mask, and some even had it permanently etched to their faces.

i hope we find it soon, my arms are getting tired.

'more' by mark osborne

more by mark osborne

this is very moving and disturbing short film call 'more', definately worth a watch.

the bus stops here...

bus brakes. about 14 times a day buses pass my house. school buses, picking up, dropping off. always engaging their air brakes at the four way stop outside my front door.

each time i hear them i jolt, anxious fear rises up within me - my children - i've forgotten my children. i could have just placed them on the bus at 7:35, but at 7:45 when i hear those brakes my soul lurches within me.

what is it that rocks me to the core every time i hear those brakes?

could it be the fear of god my mother placed within me that i would in fact miss the bus? missing the bus was the worst disappointment i could have afforded my mother. it was a way to wreck her day. i wasn't careful enough, fast enough, focused enough, vigilant enough.

the bus stops here.

anne lamott says, 'i have a black belt in co-dependency'. me too... disappointing my mother was a sure way to a day, a week or a month of 'it's all downhill from here.'

it was always my fault. i held the weight of the family on my small shoulders. maybe that's why my shoulders are so broad now? i don't know, what i do know is that bus brakes make me jump inside.

even after pink and buck are both home safe and sound for the day, hearing those busses stop outside my house lurch me into a place that i don't like to be.

missing the bus may have meant a ride to school, there were probably some of those. but i remember vividly the long trek up the hill, alone, feeling like i had let my mother down. crossing the four lane highway alone, wishing i'd get hit.

when the weather was right i would push my bike up that long hill (it's even long still now viewing it as an adult) just so that at 2:50 i could fly home. feel the wind in my hair. go faster than I'd ever gone before - flying like I so wanted to. i was tempted many times to just forget to hit the brakes and speed directly into the lake and have the water surround me, folding over me, enveloping me, hugging me.

those were probably my first thoughts of suicide. hoping to get hit crossing the highway or riding my bike into the lake. that would show her, she'd miss me then.

getting to school and beginning the day with those thoughts in your head just made for a really bad day.

as i write this the brakes just squealed outside. did I forget buck? is he out there in the street thinking i'm a horrible mother and about to be kidnaped by rapist pedophiles between the stop sign and my front door (20 feet?).

it wasn't, i've got 24 minutes until his bus comes. until the squealing is really the one's i'm listening for. heck, who am I kidding - i stand at the window 10 minutes early, or on the porch (even in freezing weather) so no one, not even the damn bus driver would think i was shirking MY stuff. that i was my mother.

that's really it, that's probably why they make me lurch. there must be forgotten memories of getting home to an empty house, being forgotten or having to make do alone.

i don't remember. maybe writing this will jar them loose.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

help, help, i'm being oppressed....

so, being very new to this blog thing i stumbled around html land yesterday and finally got 'extreme tracking' installed and excitedly checked it last night. 7 whole hits! i was thrilled. then i looked at the global breakdown and noticed a person in pakistan read my blog - whoa... i guess i thought that it was only going to be people who 'knew' me. that thought made me wonder all night as i slept about that person.

was it a man or a woman? young or old? how did they get here? did they read anything? then a startled thought came to me, what if it was a woman? will she come back? did she find a kindred soul, or did she just think to herself "lady you don't know what it's like to be oppressed, you think you've got it so hard?"

kind put things in perspective for me. i'm not minimizing the difficulty i and other women are facing in our attempt to serve god using our gifts and fulfilling the call of god on our lives, but really, how oppressed am i?

i have a wonderful husband who fully supports me, doesn't always 'get' me, but he supports me and never shushes or silences me. and i'm in a church that will let me teach, even elders in a small group that we're part of, but it's still not at levels where i feel like a full-fledged participant.

so please understand, i'm not the whiny serf on the side of the road in monty python and the holy grail, but i do think that my own struggle bonds me with women everywhere. so maybe for that i should be grateful? maybe for that i should praise god and be grateful i'm not birka'd and stoned for speaking to men, that being silenced and patronized and stuffed into a role that just didn't fit gave me a perspective of what it might be like for that woman i pakistan who could have read my blog?

i used to only be 'allowed' to minister to women and children - now i can't think of any honor i'd rather have. i think they are some of jesus' favorite people.

Monday, May 24, 2004

finding my voice...

i am a woman, i am called, i am finding my way to reclaim what has been lost, and redeem the time i have left. i am 38 years old. bobbie died at 43, that’s too young to die. she died with no voice in the church. silent and confused that the god who created her would gift her and refuse to allow her to use those gifts. how sad. even her writing wasn’t her voice. she tried to cram herself into the picture of what the church told her she should look like and it made her very angry and very sad. i long to fulfill her call and my own, to use my voice, that sounds so much like her’s, and the face that daily becomes more similar to her’s. the resentment that i felt toward her is being replaced as daily i grow closer to understand how difficult it was to be a woman in that tight, restrictive church.

god made her for great things. the kingdom of God lost out because my mother was kept from using her voice. god is replacing the anger and misunderstanding I had felt toward her because of the confusion of what a woman is supposed to look like, supposed to be.

as i learn to love her again i learn to love myself, and to understand myself more, is to understand her. i’m grieving again for her loss, for her early death. for the years of anger i had toward her for seeing so much of myself in her. but now understanding more about the damage done i long for her voice in my own life again, and i miss her deeply.

i have big feet...

i have big feet. actually all the women in my family do. have you ever worn a pair of shoes that didn’t fit, too tight, too small? i have spent my life trying to squeeze my feet into shoes that were 2 sizes too small. i only realized this a few months ago; that maybe they weren’t the right shoes, maybe these shoes were supposed to be thrown away. i have tried to fit the nice, silent, hospitable, help mate shoes that the church has been trying to squeeze women in since, well i guess since before there was a church to fit in to. and ya know what? they don’t fit.

i should have been a man. there, i said it. it’s not a sexual thing, it’s a gift thing. i make people uncomfortable. i am a natural leader, a challenger, a strong person, a person with a voice. a God-given voice. i notice things, i ask hard questions, i don’t like pat answers or being patronized. i should have been a man.

but i am a woman. and i have a voice. i have silenced myself and been silenced by the church for so long that what bursts out of me is like the steam whistle on a train as it rolls into town. it’s shrill and only plays one note. not because there aren’t more notes to play, just because i have no experience in playing anything else. i so long to give the rest of my notes a try, to learn to play my voice in an environment that allows me to misspeak sometimes, to sing ‘off-key’, to practice until i can get it tuned in. but it’s not safe, there isn’t that place.

i think i’ll just go barefoot for a bit and try to find it on my own. maybe here is the place? i don't know, bear with me. it might sound angry for a while, but i'll mellow and find balance as i go along. i think it's part of the grieving process. realizing the heresy that i believed to be true for so long really damaged me. replacing the lies with the truth is helping, but it is a process. barefoot sounds good. feel the grass between my toes already.

who is bobbie?

bobbie was my mom, she was a woman in a man's church too. she never found her voice. maybe this blog will help both of us recover what was lost to us, what we wanted to say, were told we couldn't say and heal the rift that was created between our souls and god.

she was such a strong woman. i hated her for that. the church told me women were supposed to be meek, mild and silent. she managed that at church, but at home she ruled the roost. i thought her a hypocrite, and i resented her and her inability to be "submissive" at home. oh how little i understood, oh how i'd love the chance to tell her 'i get it now'.

she was 'saved' in her thirties and wanted nothing more than to use her strong gifts for god. she was twarted at every turn. told that women and children were her only outlet, or maybe cooking at camp. that's where god wanted her to serve him.

her resentment and anger at god is something i can see now looking back. 'saved' for this? there's got to be more. she was 2 generations ahead of herself. she would have loved blogging. she was such a frustrated writer.

i can still see her at her 'smith corona' typewriter with her white out and typing paper. she'd type christian romance novels because thats all she thought anyone would ever want to read. they were horrible. if she would have written about her pain, about her anger, about her experiences with being terminally ill she could have released some of her talent. instead she made up stories that she thought publishers would want to read. they didn't.

some of my most vivid memories are of her getting the mail, and the big manila envelopes would come back with rejection letters and she'd be crushed, heart broken and rejected.

she is now my muse. my inspiriation. i need to say these things because they need to be said, not read, or published or validated, just because they need to be said. for both of us.

figuring out the damage that my religious heritage wrought in our lives this past year for me has been a journey of discovery. exposing the lies and the misogyny of that denomination has freed me to unlock years of spiritual abuse and self loathing, oh and don't forget god loathing.

i've fallen in love with bobbie again. all of those years i spent misunderstanding her, hating the things about myself that reminded me of her i now adore. they have replaced the anger and confusion i felt toward her, given me back my mother. it was easier being angry. i didn't miss her so much. but today, i'm grieving for her again as i type.

so mom, this blog is my tribute to you. i wish it was a book dedication or something more lasting or profound, but we'll have to start here. i miss you.