Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blinding-speed lifestyles everywhere

In this crazy rocket-speed world, does anyone have any time to process anything, or to slow down and really listen to each other, let alone our creator? No-- we either have spread ourselves too thin, or compartmentalize everything into skinny little time slots and then we wonder why we are miserable and cranky?
I'm finding that I have been a speed and adrenaline junkie in so many ways... and have thought it's normal, but my health suffered for it.
Most of the time I have completely disregarded my health and needs... Is this what God has called me to-- a crazy life, where I've acted like I have no limitations? A lot of that was put on me by my family upbringing and re-enforced by the system of "the way things are"... But isn't it just everywhere?!
Isn't most everyone spread in a gazillion directions, trying to make a buck or trying to please and fit in? I see it everywhere; I was part of the latter.
How do we not spread ourselves too thin? How do we really devote time and attention to what's really important, like our children for one? That has become my prime priority in a more serious way as of late. Though it always was a priority, I still tried to do too much other stuff, and ended up just getting too cranky...
I think freedom from this begins by unplugging from the mindset that this high-speed, spread in a million directions, running around like crazy life-style is the way it has to be. Sometimes it must be, I suppose, but NOT most of the time! It makes us all nuts and caffeine junkies. Don't get me wrong, I have no qualms with coffee. I love it. But my body doesn't tolerate it so great and I literally will get caffeine hangovers! They stink. I definitely can't drink it everyday. It's something with my chemistry... So I can only have it in small portions, here and there...
My problem has always been with seldom feeling like I fit in anywhere and striving for that, sometimes blindly and relentlessly. Lately I've become more okay with that. Aren't we strangers and pilgrims here, anyway?
When we live knowing we are loved, and religious fear and obligations fade, we begin to more confidently live as strangers to this world, with no apologies for it.
We are calmer and less cranky (binding hormonal issues...) and we can really process and connect in meaningful ways.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Addicted to church stuff?

Are people addicted to church stuff?
I've heard people say they need to get their worship "fix"?
Is this the right reason to go?
How real can people be in a context where there is always an agenda and set structure?
Do people even notice how they are shut down to their own thoughts and problems, and think they are justified by having "participated." Can they even hear the Spirit for themselves?
Do they become addicted to this pattern?
I believe so. I was.

And how are we supposed to share life together?
I think it begins by acknowledging how we've let ourselves be enslaved to merely a system, which Jesus came to free us from.
People don't "think" they are enslaved, and maybe some aren't, but most are and gladly so. The whole thing provides a sense of security, but at what cost...?
And then we wonder why we feel so lonely...? This isn't what real life is about. If we suppress God in us, we suppress God in us to the world and also expect others to follow our path, to feel better about ourselves.
Who's gonna want to be a slave to church, after they have been freed from slavery to the world? Is that the only two options?
I don't think so!
Many people who have left the system, end up going back because they don't realize how addicted they were to the whole thing...and they think it is a better choice than being enslaved to the world, or their own sin.
But slavery is slavery, no matter where you're at.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My perfectionism and the institutional church (made good buddies)

(this is sort of part two of my story... Part one, if you are interested, is here : My story)

Not too long after meeting Jesus....
I became one of those crazy people who felt they had to evangelize everybody they came in contact with... That then turned into inviting everybody to church or my small group- I thought they needed to be at my church. I've always had a pretty genuine relationship with God (despite my many flaws), so some folks would see that and come. And I thought I was doing what was right. But too much, I felt I had to say something about my walk with God to most everyone or I was not a good enough Christian. I couldn't do it all the time of course, so I would beat myself up for that. I constantly felt like I was not doing enough. I got so used to living this way, it became normal within the Christian settings I was in.

This fear, of feeling responsible for the world, is hard to shed. For me, it came from my upbringing and the impossible expectations that were placed upon me in my home... and not being accepted for who I was. And it was deep-seated.

When I came to know Jesus, I began to relax a bit, until the church grabbed hold of me and my weakness-- my perfectionism. I was enrolled to do all sorts of things because I was so ready and willing to try (and they always need workers!). The bad patterns from my home life were just re-enforced, because, by golly, now I could work myself to death for the Lord and his people's acceptance!
Somehow, I still continued to find me in bits and pieces. And I found these were not nurtured in this environment because I needed to fit into a mold. Some people were accepting, but only to a point, within the system- only if I served it and remained loyal to "it".... For a long time I thought the problem was with the particular church I was at, so I church hopped. In the last 15 years I've gone to a lot of different churches of all shapes, sizes and denominations- never staying anywhere for more than a year or year and a half tops (plus I moved a lot too). I knew from the get go something was way off, but I didn't know what to do or where to go, so all I did was try harder, until I decided to try to work within the system and perhaps change it. This to no avail. You have to be a leader there to have any real power I thought. And so I would interact more with the leaders trying to influence them, only to see they were enslaved to the whole thing so heavily, and also contemptuous of my challenges for the most part, if not me altogether! Though not always. Some would agree and concur but felt it was the only viable option to surrender to this system.... that most bow down to as if it were God himself.
So, I decided to leave and for good this time. God gave me the green light. In a way, I feel like I earned it (only saying...) I tried so hard.... I was never a really big honcho, and I'm glad for that. If I influenced anyone for any good, praise God for that. Mostly, I see all my mistakes (it's the nature of the perfectionism :) ) Mostly, I am being undone so my perfectionism is truly healed. It could never happen in the institutional church because it is just another world-like system of doing things and it requires outward performance... and perfectionism breeds on that!!! I'm telling you and I should know!
Perfectionism is an addiction and a compulsion; a way to cope with the pain. And it is as bad as any addiction, I'm finding. It is destructive to self and others. It drives you to a pulp (and puts CRAZY demands on those close to you) It is a most easily disguised "addiction" because the person often appears so together and "productive." The perfectionist is sure to appear balanced in so many ways, having such a handle on what is important, until you get real close to them (and that doesn't happen too often in the IC context) Only people close to the perfectionist see the real problems. And its' root is fear deep down-- fear of rejection, fear of abandonment. I see how the institutional church exploited this in me. I know many folks didn't specifically, but it is the nature of the beast.
And so I left and I am not going back and guess what-- I am healing!!! The chains are falling off and they keep on fallin.'

I don't know what the future holds, but my times are in his hands, and they are hands where I can truly rest.

Already by Rush of Fools

I try my best to work for Your love
I never rest, hoping You'll want me to

When it's already
it's already
it's already been done

I never stop
believing there's more I can do

I just can't resist
searching for ways to please You

When it's already
it's already
it's already been done

There's nothing more, there's never less
It's only You
and I am blessed

Well, there's nothing more, there's never less
It's only You and I am blessed

it's already, it's already, it's already been done...

Monday, March 2, 2009

What is real prosperity?

I'm thinking about how things usually get worse before they get better and how that just flies in the face of the prosperity gospel. In the prosperity-minded churches, (which I happen to think is the very vast majority) your spiritual maturity is measured by how comfortable you are materially and/or how free of problems your life appears-- If you are sick, you are sinning; if your marriage is on the brink, you are sinning; if everything keeps going wrong, you are sinning; if you have little to no money, you aren't right with God; if you are not doing what they are doing, you aren't walking with God; if you don't look so hot, you must be struggling spiritually.... I'll tell you WHAT makes people really struggle-- it's all the damn judgement they get for not "measuring up" to these superficial standards. It gets poor folks wondering, "God, where are you...?" And He is indeed hard to find in this climate.
It's really sick when you think about it. Even most "conservative" churches will say they don't preach such nonsense. Well they may not, but with their practice their words are made completely void. Then, devoted church people wonder why they are anxious and confused. Well, it's because what they are being told doesn't match what they see or experience in any real way, and deep down they know it. And so confusion is bred...
The good thing about it is that as the confusion gets worse, many people start looking for truer answers and really start turning more to God. They stop depending so much on being spoon fed everything and being told what to do. They start wanting to live outside this sick box. And the more they seek truth, the more alienated they will feel from their most devoted fellow church followers and leaders (in this dysfunctional system).
There is a difference between following God and following the church. There really is.
Bottom line, though, is we are a deeply prosperity-minded nation... prosperity is our God and we've neglected our families, our children, our friends, the sick, the elderly, the poor, the down-beaten and our very own souls, all for that all-American dream of comfort and wealth. Yuck. Look at the state we are in. If we were truly a "Christian" nation (and there is no such thing) then we wouldn't be in the state we are in. When will we stop following the stupid dream, that isn't real in any sort of way. When, oh when? Has this kind of "prosperity" brought us any real joy?! No. We are a sick nation. When I first came to live in the US as a 12 yr old from Argentina, I really noticed the difference in how competitive and image oriented everyone was (even as a 12 yr old I saw it in my friends who were way too "grown up" for their age). It definitely seemed a much colder place than back home in so many ways... and it affected me negatively in many ways also.
I don't hate America. I do hate this mentality, though. But for all I know it' s all over the world.... (to one degree or another, I'm sure) I KNOW there are good people out there in this land, but they are usually the "nobodies," the downtrodden, the wounded, the foreigners, the "struggling" ones that are judged to be "not walking with God." God forbid a Jesus-follower should be sad or even confused or seeking a new path. God forbid-- it will make the whole thing look bad. And if these people seek a new path outside the church walls and they are struggling, well it's because they left of course, or because they have no church "home"!! ( I'm completely being sarcastic!!) Unfortunately, I've been guilty of some of this thinking in the past...
Still, I know people do need support and community. But not a cookie cut system where you fill forms and shuffle around like cattle from meeting to meeting with no time to really breathe... no time to really share life together. I don't think this is what Jesus had in mind when he came to save us. He came to save us from this!

What is real prosperity...? Isn't it love, joy, peace.... First it is love; and what is love? Certainly not the charade that is going on these days. We are repeatedly told to settle for this kind of "love." And desperate people take it, thinking it's all there is....Well it's not. God is MORE and He is better than all this and we know it.

I don't want to sound too negative. I believe love is there in the unnoticed kind deeds that go on from person to person, life to life, in the everyday-- time spent; a meal offered; a sincere prayer, a non-judgemental listening ear, a helping hand, a kind note, shared tears... it's in the things that happen tangibly from person to person, eye to eye, hand to hand, soul to soul.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Praises springing up

Just cause I've been shedding religion doesn't mean I'm shedding EVERYTHING including the good... I'm keeping the good and tossing the bad, as far as I can tell... and Father helps me with that too. What I love about God is how very gracious he is through and through and through. It's his very essence and I again and again can rest my weary head on his loving breast and be replenished.
Lately I have had virtually no appetite, no desire to eat much at all. When I awoke today, I felt down, with no desire to eat and not too well rested at all. But I sensed a deeper hunger inside me... and I knew I needed to go read and meditate on scripture. So I took my time in doing just that... and it changed me and fueled me after only a little while. I even got my appetite for food back!

God is just amazing. The Spirit is amazing and I look for him all the time, everywhere and sometimes in all the wrong places. But there is no one like him. There is no other. And the very looking for him comes from him in me. It's all very amazing.

How can I be true to who he's made me to be outside the walls of institutionalized religion? I'm VERY slowly finding my way. The solitude drives me to deeper places with him and then I know I just can't go back... I have to keep moving forward. Even if I don't know where I'm going, I know the one who's got me and he propels me on. He won't let up... and it's all for my good.
And so I am really grateful and I know the heartache is not in vain at all. It is transformed for our good.
I love Romans 8. I continually go back to it. Today this really spoke:
...those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
(Romans 8:14-25)