Monday, March 19, 2018

Spiritual Abuse Nonsense

"In the past, I've never looked at you as your weight. But from now on, when I look at you, your weight is all I will see." 

Woah! Shocking? Sticks and stones may break my bones but those words still sometimes haunt me. And that was a bit ago. Spiritual abuse is the topic today. And we are overcoming it!

So, let's talk about Spiritual Abuse. And let's try to do it in a godly way. Because it is real, it is devastating and it is evil. And scripture has a lot to say, And so do I. Because I am a victim and also a survivor. I pray to God I've never been a perpetrator. Let's also examine what is NOT abuse. And it will be a rough read and raw. I'm going to tell you about some real events. It won't be pretty. But hang on. Jesus always  holds us in His hand. Always.

Victim is not a word I would ever use to describe myself, as a rule. I am a survivor and an over comer. I am sassy and fierce and a rock! I have walked through hell and back and if you remember, I Don't Even Want To Smell Of Smoke. I do not sit around and wallow, for the most part. I don't ask anyone to feel sorry for me, which is good because I am not a person that people care to worry about too much. (Too sassy maybe? Too blunt, plainspoken? Yup. I get it, No shade throwing here. I can clearly take care of myself.) If I have a pity party, I am party of one in general. I am a "pick myself up by my bootstraps and man up" kind of girl. I am strong, I am invincible, I am...well you get it. Yet I  spent a few years, trying to get over some of the most hurtful things I've ever experienced in my life. I'm hoping to help you if you've been there. And if maybe you see yourself in the evil parts of this, it's not over for you. There is always forgiveness. And I'm still a work in progress. But I have forgiven. I have been forgiven. And I have found peace. 

Let's wade in easy and start with criticism,  Criticism isn't always abuse.  And it can even be well meaning,  It doesn't always come from an evil person who intends harm. I think. I mean, don't we all know how to fix other people? The log in "their" eye is so obvious! Let's help "them!" Hurt feelings be damned! (To hell ya'll. I'm not a potty mouth. Don't write to my <redacted> and tell <redacted> I've converted to crass language. <Redacted> tried to help me think of a better word. Disregarded? Danged? Ignored? None really make the point. I'm leaving the word in and your objection has been noted and reported to management.) I want to start this thing off with this example from my own life because I still find it downright funny. A pastor's wife needed to meet with me, come along side me, if you will. She was not rude or condescending. Just to the point. Her concern? My weight. She wouldn't admit that it was a problem for her. Her issue, she said, was that it didn't seem to be a problem for me. I carried myself like a " regular" size person. I seemed to like myself. As the Women's Bible Study Teacher and Youth High School Girl's Teacher, I was clearly sending an ungodly message, as a leader (bless my heart) that God was OK with being overweight. That is not the message I was trying to send. The message I was trying to live out was that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I am a daughter of the King, made in  the image of GOD ALMIGHTY,  and I am also one who is struggling but will not walk with my head down in shame. WHAT? My God is not a Good of shame. Scripture says: 
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I KNOW THAT FULL WELL." Psalm 139:14. 

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in our own image, in our likeness...'" "So God created Mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and FEMALE He created them." Genesis 1: 26-27 

These verses tell me who I am. No person gets to do that. But I also don't pretend a weight problem is not a problem and can even be sin. (This will be a theme as we go on.) And this woman didn't hurt my feelings. And to be sure, I addressed it in class lest anyone be led astray by my great hair (boy, do I miss it) and esteem. It led to a great discussion and no one was confused as to whether I was pleased with my weight. And we discussed the logs in our eyes. After all, scripture doesn't say not to judge, just be sure you're not guilty too. And this well put together woman had no log in her eye and her intent was honest, I think. This was not abuse. It was not mean. It was not bullying. I didn't enjoy it. So what? We don't have to get our drawers in a twst if there's no need. Try to get the "constructive" out and move on. 
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others. you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7: 1-2

I struggle with my weight. It's a life long struggle. I struggled with it before I even had anything to struggle with because it was my identity in my family. My sister was the "skinny one" so I was the "fat one" even though I wasn't really fat at all. "You're just chubby, honey," well, at least as far as any adult in my family was concerned. And they were very verbal my whole life so it is a hard shell I have there. I developed it early and it is hard to break through to cause harm. I have a mirror and I buy my clothes. I do not live in denial. I also have a doctor who keeps my feet on the ground and is not playing with me or my health. I also feel sure God wants us to have healthy bodies. Scripture doesn't really address weight loss. Probably because very few people had the privilege of "fat" back in that day. But about "fit," we have some direction.
 "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of The Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a HIGH price. So you must honor God with your body." I Corinthians 6: 19-20.

"Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship." Romans 12:1

I'm including this so you don't think I'm ignorant to the scripture. I don't pick and choose what I like. I am NOT saying it's good, or OK to be overweight. It's also not OK to pick on or make fun of people with that struggle any more than it is OK to do the same to anyone with any other struggle, or sin. God is not mean. He does not tell us to be mean. 

Here is a real life example of mean. And make no mistake, it's also abusive. I have a friend who is one of the most amazing people I've ever met. He has personally invested in my family. He invests in the lives of others much more than his own. If there is any need, I mean ANY NEED, this man will help you out. No questions asked. He loves the Lord with all his heart, soul and mind and has dedicated his life to sharing that every way he can. EVERY WAY! He works in ministry. If you know him, you do not see his weight. It's likely you see all of those things I just mentioned and more. And I've also witnessed him being the butt of his boss's fat jokes. I've witnessed his boss belittling him and preaching publicly against his weight and his habits! I witnessed the boss going to an event held by my friend and doing pull ups on the beams from the ceiling while making fun of the fact that my friend probably couldn't do it. Who was his boss? His PASTOR! What does scripture say? A LOT! A small sampling:
"Toward the scorners He is scornful, but to the humble He gives favor." Proverbs 3:34
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such that is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29. 
That does not mean build up your muscles doing pull ups at the church pot luck y'all! It means to build up, lift up, encourage the BODY, our BROTHERS AND SISTERS. This is so abusive. It is tearing down. Suddenly people may begin to see you as your weakness and not your strength. Remember, this pastor, as well as you, are fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image! If this is a practice you see in your life or the life of someone you know, put a stop to it. Do not stand for it. Do not just walk out in disgust (as I did.) Go to your brother and show him his fault. Don't allow it to continue. It may take time, but a true person of God will appreciate you showing him or her their error. Be prepared to be disliked if necessary. Take a stand. And don't be afraid to apologize to your friend if you didn't do what was needed, even if it's 9 years later. 

In the Church the only sin we love to cast stones at more than the ones we aren't committing, are ones we've overcome. Addiction, abortion, weight issues and adultery, among others. No one is harder on a person who is overweight than a person who WAS overweight 5 minutes ago. And we can be MEAN about it while sounding like we're trying to help. ("Oh Honey, you have the most beautiful face, but I'm worried about your health. Have you tried {insert health/ diet supplement/ diet book/ celebrity diet popular at the moment here}?  I was HUGE, like you, until I discovered it! God used it to help me overcome my ungodly ways. It will save your life and you'll be as pretty as your face. You'll never need to eat again!") Ugh! 
("Donna, your weight talk is making me uncomfortable," you are likely saying by now. Don't worry. It's going to get worse then better. Well that's the intent. I'm not finished writing yet. So keep reading. Unless "fat" is a trigger for you. In that case, hit the X and go with God.)
So let's get to the ugly. Real ugly. Evil ugly. Then let's talk about the solutions. Because why point out a problem if you don't point out solutions.

"In the past, I've never looked at you as your weight. But from now on, when I look at you, your weight is all I will see." 

We, a group of 5 were together in a room. Four of us had made the other one, my boss, very unhappy and we were apologizing. Sincerely. Even though we had done nothing wrong but be misunderstood. Still, I had asked them to join me in apologizing because we had inadvertently hurt his feeling and I felt apology was the right thing to do. But he was mad. Very mad. Hulking out, scary, might rip my face off and wear my skin as a mask, mad. In all of my years in Church and in Ministry, I've never witnessed this. Usually, people apologize sincerely and the offended forgive. Not this day, not this man. Not my boss, who was also my pastor. This man could not control himself. And for me, it was terrifying My friend Kristine was one of those there that evening and she wrote about this incident twice. Once here: Glimpse of Being Fat and once here: Too Fat and Back- a glimpse of my journey of acceptance and healing. She's a gifted writer and I urge you to read it. 

I had been working as a volunteer Women''s Ministry Director on staff at a small church. And it had been very hard. I had been pushed as low as I could go. That had never happened before. I am generally not treated poorly. People are generally kind or at least nice to my face. I am not bullied or put my face. I am also not a person who accepts abuse. I never understood those who stayed in abuse. I always thought I certainly wouldn't put up with it. Not for a minute. Until I did. Impossible demands? No problem, I'll meet them. Lots of yelling at me then apology and asking forgiveness? I forgive.  I would quit my "job"and then change my mind. Seeds of discord were planted behind my back and I was made to apologize to anyone who didn't like my decisions. Then I had to try to make them happy. No problem, it costs me nothing to apologize and it keeps the peace, was my thinking. Making sure that I knew I had no voice with the church leadership because he was their leader happened often. Forced to try to please every single person? Yup. He acted like we were friends one minute and enemies the next. So confusing. Such a whiplash of confusing emotions. If someone gossiped, there was "gossip in the Women's Ministry" and all of leadership was alerted to my failure before I was.  Was I blameless? I honestly have no idea so I can't claim to be blameless. My personality was certainly shut down. I could barely hold my head up and sometimes could barely get out of bed. There were days I cried all day. I felt I was disappointing God. Why didn't I just leave? I really felt God had put me there and I was hoping to be used of Him for however long I could endure. I was mostly alone. My one friend that I had left at the church was driven out. I was afraid to talk to anyone, even those who had been my friends long before any of us joined this church. Most people were afraid to speak to me. So I held on too tight. I didn't let anyone in. I appeared rigid, unfriendly, unapproachable and disapproving. I held my head too high. I shut down my listener. I autopiloted my way through. That was all  ongoing for a couple of years before the meeting above. After that, this man and I did have a Matthew 18:15 meeting. (Look it up) I was physically afraid but scripture says go tell him his fault and I did. I cried the snotty, ugly cry through the whole thing but I got through it. And it made him feel powerful because everyone knows I don't cry in public so I had no power there. But still,  I hoped it was getting better. The first change I noticed was not good. He began calling me "Miss Donna." (I'm older than him by 3 years, I think) Soon, everyone was calling me "Miss Donna" and I felt old and useless. So,  it was not going to get better. And it didn't. I stayed for another year, believe it or not, and then I resigned and not a day too soon. In months the walls of everything came crumbling down around the man. At least that's what I thought had happened. But sometimes, evil is allowed to flourish. I did not remain silent. But I also didn't tell anyone else's story. I only told my story to those who asked. No one cared, really. People called, but most didn't care what happened to me. They wanted gossip. So where is the good in all of that? Well, there is no good in all of that. Scripture says: 
"And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
I loved God and was called. But there is one thing it doesn't say. It doesn't say "all things work together for good RIGHT NOW." I prayed and I waited. And I hurt. I couldn't walk in a church without fleeing and having an anxiety attack. No pastor would I trust. I was raw. And my Church family was hurting too, over different things. They couldn't be there for me even had they wanted to. We all sat and licked our wounds in separate corners. It was worse for them because the confusion continued for them. Tragic. Inexcusable. Yet still, forgivable. 

Why did I tell you all of that in such detail? First, God "sends" me so many people who have similar stories. I want you to know you aren't alone. I sat in a lecture recently on kinds of abuse and part of the lecture was on Spiritual Abuse. Yet, it was brushed right over and most knew nothing about it. So I can help there. I know. And with knowledge comes responsibility. And I want you to know there is healing. I want you to know that neither God nor his Word ever changes. When He says He will never leave you or forsake you, you can be sure of it, even if you can't imagine it or feel it in the moment. God has chosen to use people to do His work here on Earth and as it turns out, we are a mess! None of us is perfect. Not a single one. And God desires to have a personal relationship even with those who struggle with doing the right thing. Because there is forgiveness for everyone. And as I remind myself of that, I want to remind you of that too. No matter which end of those stories you may relate to.
"If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 1 Chronicles 7:14. 
"Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sin is proclaimed to you." Acts 13:38

Second, there is power in bringing things to light. It's therapeutic. It's healing and it's also important not to sit by and allow evil to prevail. If you have a story, tell it. But tell the whole story. Not just the bad parts or just the good parts. Scripture says that what is done in the dark will come to the light. I pray that I am a light and that I am transparent. I don't claim perfection.
"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." Luke 8:17. 
"For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." Mark 4:22
(These are both the same story. It's important enough to be listed in two of the Gospels. Don't put your light under the bed y'all!)

Third, I want you to see the pattern of abuse. It's not special. I wasn't special. It's as old as time. It's textbook. But I couldn't see it from the bottom of my pit at the time. If it resonates with something inside you, I beg you to do something about it. Reach out to me. I will help you get help. I know people. They can help. Because you should know, you probably weren't the first. I wasn't. I was pretty far down a list.. I pray that he has gotten some good help. I pray there has been repentance and restoration of relationships. I pray that the cycle ended. As you can see, I pray for this person. First, because scripture says to, second, because it's healing for me and lastly, there is a long history in scripture of imprecatory prayer that turned into real, honest forgiveness. Here are a few books that can help you in identifying and overcoming Spiritual Abuse. They were helpful to me. They aren't theology books, but still good reads.

And the final thoughts are these. I have not been left nor forsaken by my God, not even in the darkest of days. I have found ways to continue doing what God has called me to do. In places and ways I never even imagined or dreamed. I am able to understand the abused in ways I could not before. Walking in someone's shoes is not imperative for understanding, but it does not hurt at all and it sure helps to have empathy. And we have been able to go to a church service without fear, heart palpitations, anxiety attacks or running out. Because I am loved. I am precious to God. He has sent people into my life in surprising ways to minister to me. This was new for me. I'm used to being the one people go to. He has shown himself faithful. I am still in the struggle with my weight. We are not friends. I turned 50 recently and it really helped me focus on what is important. Christ and Him crucified. That's what I want to be my focus from now on. I want to hear well done. I don't want to even smell of smoke!

I'm going to give the last words to Kristine, taken from her blog. Because it's beautiful.
"Dear friends, I know I probably have offended some of you by this post.  I am very sorry that was not my intention, at all.  However, I felt very strongly that this needed to be said.  If you are one who is in my shoes, who feels unlovable because of the way you look or how you have performed know that you are loved.    Please know that God's love for you is not dependent upon anything you do, on how well you talk, or what you look like.  God's love is not based on anything you can do or be.  God loves you because you are His creation.  God loves you inexplicably and completely.  I will be praying that you will feel His love tonight. -Kristine

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"A redeemed family is better than a perfect family." - Irreplaceable

Sunday, June 12, 2016

We sing

We sing, it's what we do. It's in our marrow. At some point, it became the center of who we are, not just who we were. Some of us were never great singers, and still aren't, but it's not about the talent. We are scattered to the winds yet, we are still as close as yesterday. We inherited a superior musical heritage and we have guarded it and represented it well. Those who came before us made sure we knew what a precious gift they were passing to us and then they melted us into their family. We have forgotten nothing. We have shared common values because we were raised together. Have two years passed? Ten, thirty? No one could tell. We are blessed to be a family that was forged in years of harmony, fruit slinging, bus tripping, sight seeing, contesting, musical-ing, ugly dress wearing, small town rearing, praying and yes, singing. We were trained to.sing together, think together, breathe together, blend together and take musical beatings together. We learned to dress appropriately, enunciate, make round vowels and not lock our knees on the risers. We will never forget to praise the LORD and not the LARD. We were not ever, for a second, allowed to act a fool. We saw one another in curlers, without makeup and in swimsuits and half shirts. We learned to start and stop together. We know each other's insides. We know each others hearts. We know each other's character. We know each other. After  a while a beautiful, sacred thing happened. It is unbreakable. It is timeless. It is indescribable. It's untouchable.

Every now and then we gather and sing. In a large groups or in small groups. Because we must. Because life comes at us hard. Because it's how we deal with anxiety and stress. Because there are things to celebrate. Because we are sad. Because there is a hole in the calendar and we don't want to waste it. Sometimes we must gather at a point between here and there and pull out the hymnal and sing. Because that's how we were trained. We will sing in a hotel room, a banquet hall, a church, a restaurant, a museum, or a car. We will sing for our supper.We sing, in unfamiliar places and unfamiliar songs. We will not, however, sing in robes. We have limits.

 We were taught old school ways. To read music. To sight read. Musically...whatever it is...however old we are at the time...however much time has passed...we have been prepared, as a wise man recently reminded us, "for such a time as this." We gather and sing at weddings. We gather and sing at major life events. We gather when one of us loses a parent and we sing.  We love our parents. Because we shared them. Because they invested in us.

We recently lost one of our own so we grieve collectively as one. We hold her parents and children. We hug them and reminisce with them. We mourn deeply for them. They feel like our own parents. Could be our children. We love them fiercely.  This was our sister. We hold one another and we cry together. We pray with and for one another. The loss of one of us is a loss we can almost not bear. It's a hole in the harmony. It's a missing part. It's unresolved. It's hard. It hurts. We don't understand. So we sing 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Formerly Cute Capri Courthouse Nonsense.

It was the 8th of July in the year 2014. It was a quiet, relatively uneventful morning at the courthouse. I’d go so far as to say it was a little boring. Then something historical happened and now the events of the day shall forever live in infamy. In an unfortunate, yet hilarious turn of events, I became the MVP and entered the “Shame Hall Of Fame.”

You see, I've been attempting to mend some of my evil ways and have lost some weight. So…what had happened was that I had food poisoning or something equally heinous all night and was clinging to my ceramic bowl for hours. When I had to wake up about an hour after it stopped to get ready for court, I was not rested or in any way alert. I saw my cute linen black capris, wondered why I hadn't worn them recently,  quickly put them on (thinking how cute I was going to look today) and sat down to begin the tape, floating, caulking and spackle required for this woman of a certain age to be fit for public viewing. Grabbed my cute black sandals running out the door and off to the courthouse I went, ready to advocate for children.

As soon as I got out of the car in the parking lot, I remembered the “issue” with this particular ensemble. The dry cleaner had killed the elastic waist in my cute capris and therefore it was completely stretched out. Also last time I wore those shoes they were so slippery, I slipped down the stairs in church during prayer time (coming off of singing on the Praise Team) and caused a scene. This concerned me but I have worn the capris (on accident) with the elastic stretched out and nothing happened so I wasn’t too worried. I joked with my friendly neighborhood security personnel on the way in to keep the cameras on me because it could be the day they get their money’s worth.

I sat down on the bench in the court hall to wait for court. As time progressed, all the players gathered for my case. At last, it was time to move downstairs. I stood up and…it happened!!!!!!! I could feel air!!!! All around!!!!! My pants had fallen down in the Collin County Courthouse right there between County Court 6 and District Court 417. Yup. That’s right. I am not a small woman and my derriere did not have warning enough to get in shape. I’m quickly trying to pick up my pants before my humiliation is complete. No luck. No elastic means a bunch of fabric that is not easily manageable in an emergency situation. It was a full moon type of situation.

In times like these, your mind goes into slow motion and these were my thoughts:
1    1) Well that happened.
2    2) I sure wish this were someone else’s broad behind shining to the entirety of the Halls of Justice.
3    3) I’m super glad I’m old and can laugh at myself. Turns out I’m not someone who, in the words of the great Designing Women’s Charlene, goes down the freeway of life with the back of her dress tucked in her pantyhose. “ I am someone who goes down the freeway of life with her pants on the ground.
4    4) I sure am glad my shoes didn't slip out from under me causing me to crash my currently exposed backside to the cold hard marble and probably cause lots of sprains, strains and contusions. I could almost visualize…as I’m in midair falling…these blasted (no longer so cute) capris shooting right off of my body and down the hall like a rocket had launched them leaving me half nekkid on the floor waiting for paramedics. That would be worse.
5    5) I sure am glad I wasn't at the Children’s Advocacy Center surrounded by bunches of children. Pretty sure that would land me on “the list.”
     6) Sho am glad it's not a thong!
As I gathered my now enemy fabric, my posse instructed me to hold onto all sides! (No one wants a repeat, especially that poor fellow waiting for court who up until then was probably bored to tears. Now he’s scarred for life. Sorry potential felon. I hope that earned you “time served.”) The male attorneys (who shall remain unnamed) for some reason, chose to ride a different elevator. We made it to court but we could not stop laughing. I’m sure the judge wondered what on Earth had caused such behavior in otherwise professional people. As I was walking out of the courthouse holding onto those blasted ugly and now dead to me capris, I heard behind me, the musical stylings of two of my former friends, singing “Pants on the ground, Pants on the ground….” That folks is when I decided I need new friends.

You’ll be happy to know I did make it to my car without further incident. I got out of the car at home, and noticed my pants were on the ground again (sorry neighborhood.) SO I waddled it on inside hind quarters exposed and I kicked them right onto the doggie gate and hauled myself into my room for some real pants!
Now you may be wondering why I would ever tell this to you all. There are three reasons:
1    1) If you can’t laugh at yourself it’s a pretty sad day and more importantly…
2    2) There were witnesses. Oh so many witnesses! Some of them I just know are racing me for the story. Pretty sure it’s all over Collin County by now. You can probably find my now famous hind end on YouTube. If so, I hope I’m trending!
3    3) Last and most importantly, I knew diet and exercise could lead to no good. I knew it would ruin my good name in “the end.”

AND you’re welcome. And that MVP? It stands for “Most Visible Panties.” Bet your day is looking better isn't it?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Donna Took Up Drinking? Nonsense!

I'm going to start this post with a warning: Some of you will be horrified at me after you read this saga. You will be so disturbed by the ways I treated your best friend that you won't be able to think of me the same way again. It's OK. I understand. It's not personal. However, because of the potential entertainment value, I decided to share with you the "inspired by true events" story of Donna vs Red Wine. That's right. For a whole five days, this Southern Baptist born and bred girl...took up drinking, came very close to breaking a good man, and offended everyone who knew about it. For different reasons than you might think.

I don't drink. I never have (more than a yukky sip or a delicious cruise ship hot chocolate-y thing) and I probably never will. I'm not a prude, nor is it really much of a religious issue. Because I often write on matters of faith here, I want to be clear on where I stand. No where in scripture does it say that drinking alcohol is forbidden. That water that Jesus turned into wine at the wedding in Cana was real wine. Not good Southern Baptist Welch's Grape Juice as many of us were taught. (I know...I was shocked too!) The Bible says not to be drunk and in scripture bad things happened to those who were drunk, starting with Noah in Genesis 9:20-23. If you're unfamiliar, look it up. As a good southern woman, I shy away from being shamed when I can, and Noah had a shaming that no good southerner could come back from! Lucky for Noah, he wasn't from below the Mason-Dixon Line. I'm just saying, y'all!

 I happen to have three very good reasons for not being a tippler. 1) Growing up, I watched it consume an uncle I loved, and I watched him destroy his life and the lives of anyone who was close to him, and often that included me. The man behind the drink was amazing when he wasn't drinking. His "habit" took his life  when he was much to young. Because this tendency already runs in my family, it has always seemed wise to abstain. 2) I think it could be confusing to some if I were seen publicly drinking because I've always been a non drinker. Starting when I was very outspoken about underage drinking in my "East  Texas dry county, nothing to do, underage high school days," a minority for sure, and also in my University of Texas days where every day was a party for almost everyone and being a Christian non drinker is NOT cool. I was cool with being not cool. I AM a Christian and people associate my faith and non imbibing with me. Scripture tells me not to cause anyone to stumble. This is MY thing, doesn't have to be yours. It's easy for me to avoid that because.....3) I can't stand the smell, the taste, or the fumes of alcoholic drinks. Even the hot chocolate-y things would have tasted better without alcohol, I thought. I've never tasted beer, but based on it's appearance I'm pretty sure it tastes like pee. If that's your bag, hey, I'm not judging. I just don't get it.

Now to get on with it. A few years ago I was struggling with terrible insomnia. Worse than usual. Mr. Perfect, who has a co-starring role in this story, had told me for years that a little wine would help me sleep. One evening I saw yet another news story about how a glass of red wine every day was good for your heart. As a woman who is fighting the battle of the bulge, er bulges, I realized that it might be good for my heart and my sleep if I took up the habit. The queen needs her beauty sleep, y'all! I can't be looking all "rode hard and put up wet!" A lack of sleep makes you ugly.  I am NOT going to "go gentle into that great goodnight." I'm fighting it with all my Southern spunk! I knew I didn't care for the taste of red wine because I didn't care for the smell but surely I could stand 5 ounces once a day. Surely. So, temporarily tossing reason number two aside, I looked to Facebook for advice. I have a lot of those wine aficionado friends so I asked them for a recommendation. They were all happy to oblige and a little surprised this teetotaler was taking up spirits. I got a lot of recommendations. I also got about seven (secret) messages from friends who are also nondrinkers asking me to let them know (secretly) if I found a wine I could tolerate. I had started a secret society! What followed broke the heart of my man and left him in a heap on the floor, lost me a few friends AND denied me a sweet gig as the "Worthy High Princess of the Secret Southern Baptist Wine Drinkers Society." (I made that up.)

Day 1: Perfect had stopped and picked up a highly recommended bottle of red. After dinner, I went and got a measuring cup and measured out 5 ounces, which I had read was the heart healthy "dose." My hopes were high that I would instantly be healthier and probably drop 50 pounds from my healthy lifestyle change that very night. I took one sip and gagged!!! That is some nasty stuff. I held my nose, and drank the rest even though it took me about 30 minutes, whining and saying "stuff" the whole time. I believe my status on Facebook for my friends said something about it tasting like "mold filtered through dirty miner's socks." How do people drink this on purpose? I was obviously not born to be sophisticated or classy. I thought I could at least fake classy. Nope. Not so much. Perfect was encouraging. It will get easier, he said. You did great (cough lie cough.) My Facebook cheerleaders were encouraging and gave me new recommendations. I concocted a plan for day 2.

Day 2: Perfect had picked up a new bottle of recommended wine because I had clearly rejected bottle one. I had decided that the problem was clearly the glass. I had just used an old plastic cup day one. So I got a glass wine glass for day two. Aren't I smart? Nope. Still tasted worse than anything I've ever had! So, much like day 1, I held my nose, whined, griped, said "stuff" complained and yelled for about 30 minutes until it was done. Perfect was probably wondering how this was helping my health since I was clearly raising my blood pressure. I was hoping it was good for that too. My Facebook friends were concerned that I still wasn't converted after day 2. I had written something like "swine swill fit for zombie mean girls that you hate." I formulated a solution for day 3.

Day 3: New bottle. Recommendation, etc. Y'all are catching on. No problem, I've got the perfect fix for day 3. I need it to be cold and numb my tongue so I poured it over ice. Perfect's face went red. He said some stuff about "how dare I?" He couldn't participate in this and left the room. So, hopeful but alone, I took a sip. OH MY NO!!! Ack, gag, gross! So nasty. Not better. I held my nose, yelled, stomped around and told that glass just what I thought about it for the next 30 minutes! My Facebook post that night said something about "If we took space aliens who were out to destroy us as POWs they still wouldn't deserve this worse than paint thinner junk" ....or something like that. I was un-friended by two of my besties who could hear no more. New idea for day 4, but I was losing hope.

Day 4: Perfect refused to buy me a new bottle. Something about a "waste of good wine" and he was "going to have to handle all my wasted bottles himself" and I'm pretty sure he accused me of driving him to drink. glass. 5 ounces of red nasty. What it needed was some sweetness. So I added sugar lots of it. About equal parts sugar and wine. Perfect LOST it, y'all. He was stomping, yelling, pretty sure he called me undeserving and wasteful! He told me the "wine" didn't deserve me. Whatever! I was about to have some delicious SWEET red wine. Then...DEAR SWEET GRANNY up in Heaven who told me not to take up drinking lest I come to ruin, you were right!!!!!! That was nasty! Not better!!! So yell, stomp, hold nose, 30 minutes, etc. Blood pressure rising, man losing his grip on the will to live. I believe my Facebook post that night was something like: "A spoonful of sugar does not help the wine go down." Also, I'm pretty sure I took to calling the wine some personal names and for that I'm truly sorry. I mean, I never met Mama Grape and I shouldn't have called her ugly. That was my bad. 4 more Facebook friends "disappeared."

Day 5: I got this now. I just need a combo deal. So I grabbed the measuring cup and measured out my 5 ounces of old wine because Perfect still refused to purchase new wine. Poured it in a glass. While Perfect was at this point probably consulting an attorney about having me put away, he was equally curious about what was left for me to do. And he was nervous. Very nervous. He said something about how he couldn't stand to watch it. So...I took my glass of wine, reached for the sugar, stirred in less than the night before. Perfect blew the top of his head right off, y'all! Not to be deterred, I went over to the fridge, added ice to my concoction and... "Perfect, Perfect!! Are you OK?? Wake up! Honey, are you in there? Should I dial 911? Help!" He was in a heap on the floor, twitching like he had been shocked. Eventually I got him back but that was a close one! He almost missed my "nose holding, stomping, 30 minutes, etc ritual." My Facebook post that night said something about "How neither ice nor sugar were still my friend" and that the next night I would be mixing in delicious iced Dr. Pepper." Also, I'm pretty sure I said something rather judgy and not very Christian to all my wine drinking friends about their taste level being lacking. Again, that was my bad. I meant to say OTHER wine drinkers that I didn't know. 7 less friends. Oops.

Day 6. I have a plan. Um, where's the wine? Perfect, barely recovered from the previous evening, sat me down for a talk. An "intervention" if you will. He said he didn't like me when I drank. That we couldn't afford my habit and if I didn't stop, he was pretty sure I was going to die. He didn't say the words exactly, but I distinctly get the feeling he meant he might have a hand in my passing. He said I had to give it up for the sake of our marriage and he couldn't keep "cleaning up" my leftovers. He pointed out that I was obnoxious to my friends and they too were concerned. So, I've given up my drinking habit for the good of my family and my Facebook friend count. I now get fired on Facebook for entirely other reasons. It's been several years now and I think I've been forgiven. I told a friend this story the other day and I had another genius solution. I told her I should get a box of wine, freeze it and then just cut off a chunk every night. I just invented WINESICLES!!!! Let's see if Perfect goes for it. I'm not real hopeful.

Well, I think that's what occurred. I may have embellished a bit. The memory is fuzzy. That's what happens after 5 straight days of drinking...5 ounces a day. It gets you in trouble. So I'm back to delicious Dr. Pepper on the rocks. To those of you who went through this with me and still love me, I thank you. It was a hard period for all of us but we made it through.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Where Have All Of The Old People Gone?

I had a conversation last week with an older gentleman I deeply respect about an issue that was troubling my heart. A personal issue that I couldn't seem to find the answer to, no matter how hard I searched or prayed. He was able to lay the wisdom on me and give me a very detailed answer to how to best handle the issue and he did it without pause. This is a man who is a mature Christian (married to a mature Christian woman) and was active in every kind of church leadership for most of his adult life. The key word is WAS. I am blessed to have access to such wisdom. However, that kind of wisdom is hard to find in today's church. I will explain why (from my point of view and in a circle as is my way) and end with some questions I hope you will help me answer.

Disclaimer: I grew up in the Southern Baptist Convention so it's all I can speak to. The following is likely not applicable to other denominations and certainly not all SBC churches or seminaries. Just a generalization from my point of view. Double Disclaimer: If you're a fan of the Church Growth Movement, you should probably not read the rest of this post or you'll want to pummel me. I really don't have time to get pummeled right now.

It seems to me that we, the Church, have hung out a "not welcome" sign for the people of my parents generation and older. We've told them we don't need their "wisdom." The same people who raised us, discipled us and who led the church for many, many years have been programmed out of churches. Or at least in some places they have. They are very uncomfortable in a modern worship service. Where I live, I can't find them. There is an Assemblies of God church here that is "marketed" specifically to those over 55. I can't get behind that either. Why lock all of that wisdom up in one place?

 In a way, it's kind of their own fault, I suppose. They created the "Church Growth Movement" of the 60's which planted the seeds for the "seeker-sensitive model" and other "models" which led the church to decide to be more "cool" and "relevant" and "relational" and less discipleship oriented. The "growth" in the CGM was numerical (butts in seats and cool new buildings)  instead of spiritual maturity. The church began to grow in number but not in the Great Commission way...interestingly enough, while calling it a move of the Great Commission. Obviously this is a vast simplification of one part of the whole story.

As my generation rose up to leadership we decided we knew better. We didn't like the "fuddy-duddiness" our parents passed down to us in a church service or even church programs. We liked youth camp and conferences and the like. So we set out to re-create that experience in our worship services. (Again, an oversimplification.) We kicked hymns to the curb. They're theology, but no fun. We adopted a contemporary Christian guitar and drums rock band style and sometimes even played secular music in "worship." We changed the unofficial-but you better not break it- dress code, even for pastors. We even changed pastors. Gone are the old men teaching Bible. In are young men who are personalities and can draw a crowd. We changed the exegetical and expository preaching and brought in life application preaching that is entertaining and useful to anyone, not just Christians. We made church mostly about non-Christians and made sure they were comfortable. Seminaries began to teach a non-literal Bible. We hated business meetings so we became pastor led leaving all of the church's decisions to one man and probably a young man at that. We focused more on programs, especially for young children because the Church Growth Movement says you must have mostly young families to "grow" your church. People became less vested in their local body because if one church doesn't meet their need, they can shop for a new one that better meets their family's needs. So leadership got in to the marketing game.

Today, churches now have demographics and visions and branding and marketing and consultants telling them how to reach the people they've decided to reach and how to raise giving and all sorts of useful things. We've become a consumer driven Church just as the society has become a consumer driven society. We have kept up with the times. The church now mirrors society. Even our divorce rate is the same as the world's. Not all of this is good nor bad. I do believe it's led to the issue at hand for the purposes of this post.

Where have all of the old people gone? In my adult life I've only attended one local church that had more than a handful of old people. And by old people, I mean people in their 60's and up. Not necessarily OLD people. In every other church where they had the handful, they were not in leadership. One church had a few in leadership left when I was there but ushered them out pretty quickly by deciding to rotate deacons off and let them stay off. They were told they'd earned their rest that they didn't ask for. Change can be good no doubt but we still need wisdom in leadership and sometimes that comes through the grey hairs. One church had a retired pastor in the congregation who wasn't even allowed to be a deacon. He would have like it, as far as I remember from the long ago conversation. But all of that experience was never made available to that local body by their own choice.

My heart grieves for the man I conversed with last week. He and many of his ilk are no longer in church. After a lifetime of service to his Lord and his church, he can no longer attend a worship service or even Sunday School. He taught Sunday School for many years, has the most biblical knowledge of any man I know, yet I bet his Sunday School class is taught by a thirty year old. The music in a modern worship service is an affront to his senses. The preaching is confusing. He already knows how to live and doesn't need to be taught to be a better parent from the pulpit...if there were still pulpits. He loves scripture. The dress code of today is offensive. Who comes to church in their pajamas? People really do these days.

So here are my questions and I hope you can help me.

  1.  If you are over 60, are you still in church? If so, are you still growing there? 
  2. Does your church emphasis discipleship? If so, is it also growing numerically?
  3. What is the style of your worship service? (ex: contemporary, traditonal, blended?) 
  4. What is the model of your discipleship? (ex: Sunday School, small groups, home groups, cell groups, mix)
  5. What are the specific things that your church does to value the folks your age? Regardless of your age.
  6. Do you have old people in your church? Do they/ you participate in leadership? Is it their/ your choice, either way?
  7. Do you know the old people in your church or do they keep to themselves?
  8. Do you know the youth (students in middle school -college age)in your church? Do you know the children in your church? 
  9. Do all age groups manage to blend together into one church or do you feel that everyone does their own thing?
  10. Do you feel welcome in your church? If you bring a guest, will your guest be welcome?
  11. If you've been to seminary, how to they address this issue...or do they address it at all?
  12. What sorts of sermons does your Pastor preach? (ex: Expository, Life Application, Motivational, mix?)
  13. What else would you like me to know about your church that applies to the concerns at hand? Elaborate
I'm in no way endorsing a consumer church for old people. I'm not saying change everything to please them. I'm obviously not going to solve this one. I'm just trying to gain understanding about something that bothers me. I personally need children, youth and old people in my local body. I was in a church once with no youth and it was sad. They had old people and the old people "legislated" the youth right out of the church. So I understand it's complicated. But I'd love to hear from you. People generally don't leave comment but I'm hoping that you will choose to leave me feedback. You don't have to answer every question, just the ones you find relevant. Even if my views differ from yours. I'd love to be wrong! Educate me.

I'll end with some irony and scripture. The SBC is dying. Literally. Quite a while ago they decided to mold themselves to look like everyone else. So young people are deciding to not stay in SBC churches because they likely never knew they grew up in one. For that reason (and others) statistically the SBC members are dying off and not being replaced. What was once the largest is now shrinking in a big hurry. Because all they have is old people. Yet I still can't find them. Figure that out. I can't. 

"Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days."  Job 12:22

"Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone."   Psalm 71:9

"The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair."  Proverbs 20:29

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Decided Not To "Duck The Issue"... Fire Away!

I woke up with the need to poke the bull today. Apparently I have no sense. I thought I wasn't going to wade in but I was wrong. Ha! If you aren't aware of the controversy, stop here and click the link way down below...then come back.

I am a fan of the show "Duck Dynasty." Before it came out, people who knew the Robertsons were all over the media talking about how embarrassed they were about how the area they lived in was going to be portrayed by the show and how mortifying the family is with those awful beards! Those same people have changed their tunes and most are probably getting DVD sets of the show for Christmas. I grew up not too far from where the duck people live. They feel like family to me. Though we are in different states, the culture is very similar, especially to the Southeast Texas culture in which I was raised. Rednecks are apparently a confusing people. We can love you and disagree with you. We value faith and family yet church better not run into the Cowboy game or the Christians will leave. Literally. Church will either be empty the opening morning of deer season or filled with camo clad worshipers on break between stand times but who still love Jesus. Rednecks like to shoot whatever is available with whatever is available. Shotgun, rifle, bow and arrow, whatever! They also love to fish. It's a little different, I get that. I also love it. So I'm not completely unbiased here. I know a lot of Phil Robertson types and I love every one. But I also love a lot of people I disagree with on these issues that have been presented by Phil and sometimes struggle to be who I am without compromise, yet never hurt another soul on purpose. It's a delicate balance even for me and I'm not a public person. I can't imagine if I was constantly on the record! Oh the horror! Some of my most interesting conversations have come from people on the other side of this particular issue from me. Respectful conversations where both sides seek to understand. We all want to be understood.

 Here's how I see the whole Phil Robertson/ A&E controversy. I see it so very differently than most everyone else, of course. I like to be different whenever the opportunity presents itself. So let me start with:

1) Phil Robertson is a man of the Word and refuses to compromise his values or mind his tongue if he feels it compromises his morals. I know this isn't the first time he's said these things. We've all seen the videos circulate, as have the good people at A&E, who haven't said a word up until now, and the good people at GQ who knew what they were getting too. This is just the first time he said them to a mainstream reporter with an agenda who was licking his chops. Phil reminds me a lot of my daddy who was less preachy but certainly not too worried about what you thought of him. "What other people think of me is none of my business." If the whole world turned on him, his inclination would be to go hunting too. Actually, he probably wouldn't ever know. It's the culture in that area of the world. Phil is from my parents generation and they say what they mean and mean what they say. He has never pretended for a minute to be anything other than what he is...a sinner saved by grace and hoping for the salvation of everyone else but also a redneck man from the backwoods of Louisiana. From everything he has ever said, he hates no one. He grew up poor and has what most would consider to be a scandalous past himself. He is grateful that Jesus saved him from his own sinful ways and desires that for everyone. That is the ONLY reason he agreed to do the show in the first place. But for me, that really doesn't play much into the situation here.

2) A&E is a known entity with a particular audience. Willie is sharp. The Robertson's knew what they were getting into with A&E. They signed a deal with the devil. (It's a saying, y'all! I'm not saying that they are the actual devil! Y'all get it, right?)  A few years ago, if you accidentally clicked on it after abut 10 pm, you learned that the "Arts" part of their name really meant "Porn." They were a liberal network with a liberal audience until "Duck Dynasty" came their way and gave them an unexpected surprise hit with a large conservative and evangelical audience for the show. That large conservative and evangelical audience only watches one show on their roster. The show has never been a good fit with their real audience, but the money flows and so A&E had choices to make. They chose the beards and all that came with them and somehow it's worked. They've chosen to look the other way for a long time now.

3) GQ is also a known entity with a known audience, and if Phil didn't know that, he would be stupid. He is not stupid. This reporter has a definite spin they should have expected. Phil knew who he was talking to and knew the potential consequences but he is a redneck Christians and didn't (probably still doesn't) care about the sure to come consequences. GQ knows the way the winds are blowing these days and what a perfect time to hoist the sails and build business on controversy. Here is the article. I would normally never post anything that uses this sort of language, but the spin here is clear and you can read what all of the hub-bub is about here:
Phil Robertson's GQ Article
Phil gave the interview and they edited it how they see fit. That's how it works, folks.

4) I'm pretty sure I read at the beginning of last season that it would be Phil's last by Phil's choosing. He doesn't enjoy it and just wants to hunt. So all the bluster about suspending his seems to be manufactured to appease their audience. It wasn't intended to offend the audience of Duck Dynasty. I suspect that was a surprise. A&E probably doesn't know there are BUNCHES of rednecks just like the Robertsons and they probably didn't take into account that people of Robertson's faith would revolt. Their headquarters are in New York City and most people there don't understand a whit about a backwoods redneck...except my one Texas friend who lives you.


1) Phil Robertson had the right to say what he said and so he said it...knowing the deal with the devil they had signed with A&E. He flat out said what he felt he had to say and doesn't care what we think. He is a conservative Christian, and he felt compelled to use the platform given to him by GQ to say what he needed to say. He was allowed to say it. He said it as a private person as was his right. They have stated all along that A&E made no contractual "behavior" requirements of them so he didn't break any contracts by speaking.

5) A&E has the right to act as they wish. They are not the government. They are not stomping on his constitutional rights, nor did GQ. No one shut up Phil Robertson.

7) GLAAD and anyone else had the right to not like and it and make a stink. This is America.

8) I am an American and I have the right to respond as I see fit. My rights are still intact too. I have the right to agree or disagree. I can yell my head off on Facebook. I have the right to go onto this forum and write anything I want. I can choose not to watch the network, the show or anything else. No one has shut me up either. Many have tried and failed...but that's not relevant to this post.

9) I see all of this as OK. All of it. It seems to me that everyone has acted within their rights. That's what I love about my country. Yes, Christians feel like the world would like them to just shut up these days. But we don't have to. Because we are still protected. Many feel those rights are being eroded but as of today...for this controversy...everyone was protected. Let's be honest here, a lot of Christians would like to shut up people that espouse values they believe to be wrong or sinful. But that isn't going to happen either. I may disagree with those who differ from me, but I cherish our right to disagree. I love America. This too, shall pass.

Now to the real issue I have here, the flip floppers! You all are ON NOTICE. You can't be embarrassed by the beards one minute and then call them family the next.

Oh wait, you can. That's how we roll down here. My bad.

I think it's time to get back to the REAL issue at hand...the Merry Christmas/ Happy Holidays Infringement of 2013. I find it ridiculous to ban the actual people/ employees selling Christmas trees and Christmas ornaments from saying "Merry Christmas" yet I have never been offended by a PERSON telling me "Happy Holidays." They are wishing me well. I get it. I wish it were your choice of what you say or don't say. But anytime someone is kind to me, I love it. Because sometimes....

OK, Fire away! I'd love to hear your thoughts. Really.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Queen's "Florida Evans" Moment.

Woke up and remembered our toilet paper free status here at Casa Lawson (oops) and had to find alternatives. (Don't ask.) Realized my ankle still hurts and I will be limping today. No, it's not sprained, long story. Stayed in bed whining to myself as long as possible. Then I remembered a phone call I was supposed to return yesterday and work I had to do. (Oops.) Worked on that for a long time when Mr. Perfect explains to me that due to traffic issues I should have left 15 minutes ago for a visit on the other side of Dallas. I am still mostly pajamed. (Oops.) So I run to get ready. NO BLOW-DRYER. Ashley took it somewhere upstairs. Errrrbody knows upstairs is the same as dead to us. I will be au natural today. (oops, sorry Public.) Had to go only 50 miles. Gave myself an hour and a half. Rush hour! (Oops.) GPS routed me around 4 accidents. (Thank you.) But it was a mess. It seriously took me off of the highway and onto the tollway, just to tell me to take the first exit and go back and get on the highway right where I exited. It took me 3 hours to go those 50 miles. When I was almost there, it felt like the shocks went completely out and I was bumping up and down, up and down, up and down hard! I about gave myself a black eye with my bouncy parts! Low rider at it's finest. Finally made the round trip, no issues with the shocks on the way home. . Discovered Perfect and Ashley had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory without me (RUDE!) So I stopped to grab a sandwich and as soon as I limped in the bleach smell hit me & my sad lungs (they were cleaning up to close.) So they took my order and me and my sad lungs waited in the car and they delivered it out to me. Then I limped into the house and went into the bathroom only to discover...NO TOILET PAPER!!!!! Then my angel baby of a daughter tweeted my words making it sound as though I had planned to burgle the Jungle Burger and take their toilet paper. And this my friends is when I had a full blown "FLORIDA EVANS" moment. (A few of you will get that.) DAY SAVED!!! They brought me cheesecake. I will live to rant another day. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scripture Shaming Nonsense

Christians. we've all been there. We've somehow found ourselves on the wrong side of Sister Bertha Better Than You or Brother Buster Better Sinner. Sometimes it's because you have offended one of them and sometimes because they don't like you. But rest assured, if you have not yet been a victim of this phenomenon, it's coming. "What is it," you ask?


This is the act of tossing out a scripture as though it were a grenade and hoping for some damage, or aiming it at the heart of one shameful sinner as though you were a sharp shooter. This newly connected world we live in makes it so much easier. In ye olden days, the shamer would have to come to you house and yell it at your door from the yard or go to the trouble to write it down and waste a stamp.

The best scripture shamers I've encountered are preachers. They can be the best and most skilled but certainly they are not the only scripture shamers. I had one whose sermon every week was personalized to some shameful sinner in the congregation. I had to march out in anger more times than I can count. I was always tempted to grab my Moses robe and beard and march down the aisle singing "let my people go..." But it's HARD to come back from a Masterful Moses Shaming, so I have not yet done it. Plus, I'm pretty sure that sort of behavior makes Jesus cry. Or at least consider it. Because Scripture doesn't say don't be angry. It says "in your anger, do not sin." (Ephesians 4:26) Pretty sure that would be sin. Almost positive.

So that leads me to social media. When you toss a scripture out generally, that YOU KNOW that SOMEONE ELSE WILL KNOW is aimed at their specific thing that is going on in their life, it is wrong. It's wrong enough when you do it face to face. But these days we like to go on our social media sites and throw them there. All of our friends will know we are very holy and love the Word, but the three or four we just hit with a grenade will be hurt. God doesn't want us to use His word to purposefully hurt one another. To convict, yes. But if you want to convict someone, that's not your job. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict. (John 16:8.) 

Rightfully used, the Word of God is a weapon all right, and many times (if not most) the Holy Spirit will use it to convict us of our sin. But it's not a grenade to be carelessly tossed to leave shrapnel and destruction everywhere. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12. It is all you need and a sword is not a weapon of mass destruction  it is a weapon for close up work. 

I am a believer. If you are my brother or sister and you see me in sin, it is your job to help me see my error. "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6:1. Just remember, I am much less likely to listen to you if you shoot me in a drive-by or blow me up.

For the record, this post is not written to shame any scripture shamer, thereby making for a double shaming. That would be shameful. It's just a thing I've noticed on Twitter, Facebook and the like and today, I just had a chance to sit down and address it. To shame a shamer by shaming would be utter nonsense and I don't participate. I'm the Queen after all. I know better. If you feel led to post scripture on your personal page because it spoke to you and you think it would do so to others, please post it! Every time. But be sure your intentions are right.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Avoiding Social Media Nonsense

Ten year old Donna could never have even imagined the world we live in today. Such innocent times I grew up in. I grew up with no car seat, often nekkid in a creek, running a Girl Scout Cookie Mafia, going to church, visiting family and their churches, swimming, catching my own bait and fishing, living on a dirt road "exploring," talking, riding bikes, being tortured by my little sister, conspiring against her with my cousin, talking, singing, singing in any church I could, digging holes and getting in trouble for it. (Turns out, adults don't appreciate a proper hole in their roads...something about shocks and u-joints or something.)We spent our weekends at the deer camp (usually with family) where the children had to be "outside" regardless of the temperature or weather patterns, on a deer stand or at the rifle range. It was a time before many of the conveniences and technologies of today. I was just myself because I didn't know I could be anyone else, nor could I have even begun to imagine how one would do that or why? What you saw was what you got. Not a single person on this planet (except for my Grannies and my Pawpaw) hung on my every word and no one asked to see a picture of what my Mama cooked up for supper. (At our house we had supper, not dinner. That was for high fa-looting city people.) People in my very small world knew the real me. My likes, my dislikes, my faith and how I wore my hair every day. They knew that I was never still and that I was a talker. When I got a new toy, I told everyone I knew and they knew what it looked like because they had one too. If I was excited, I was excited!!! Everywhere!

 I grew up in a time where my Daddy's policy was "What everyone else thinks about me is none of my business." He was always himself. Always. Everywhere. All day. Every day. While I didn't go to work with him, I was often surrounded and loved by those he worked with. I heard their stories. Don't like him? He didn't care. He was a hard working, well respected and honorable man. His word was good and his handshake was as good as his word. For reals. He was always the same person. The light he shined was "man's man." No shadows.

Fast forward a few...lot...of years. We now live in a world where you can be anything you want to be. Maybe not in real life, but in the online world you can create an image that may or may not be the real you. There are entire virtual worlds dedicated to allowing people to be someone else. Not satisfied with who you really are? No problem. You are not bound by your looks, your weight, your job or economic status. You can role play online and make a virtual "who you wish you were" and get a second life or whatever is popular now.

We also have bunches of social media sites where we have "friends" or "followers" or what have you.. Many of them are very popular, there are new ones every day. and much like being seen on the the nerd side of Sonic, heaven forbid you get caught logging into one who's "out." I have an account on most of them and check in every now and then. As a parent, it's my responsibility to stalk my children and to know where they hang out, even online. Also, I'm a people-ish person. I like to keep up.

Lately, I've become convicted about something and I thought I'd share it with you. Here's my first huge realization: I choose the light I shine before this world. My real world AND also my online world.

As a child, my life was one big open life. As modern adults, we compartmentalize our worlds (home, neighborhood, work, church, weekends, hobbies, spare time, etc.)We really don't mix it up much anymore, at least not in my 'burb. We have different people who see and participate in different areas of life. So very few people really, really know me these days and that is hard. Especially when your opinion of me is not the same as my opinion of me.  I believe that I choose who you think I am, what you think I do, where you think I go, what I want you to think my passions and hobbies are and how much about my life you get to know. I can choose to weight it any way I choose.

There's another thing I noticed the other day while perusing Facebook, I noticed that what I think of many people is largely determined by what they post and the frequency and weight they give their "stuff." For example, there are people I truly assume just sit in their house watching "Duck Dynasty" all day. Do they sleep? I don't know. There are people I mistakenly believe live and die for the product they are selling. There are some who I believe live in utter despair because that's what they share with me. There are people who are grandparents and that is all they are anymore. There are runners, gossips, drinkers, crafters, knitters, potty-mouths, brainiacs, funny people, people of faith, people of no faith, pet people, dieters, complainers, scripture quoters, sad people, perpetually happy people, parents, artists, preachers, get the gist. But in my mind, they are very one dimensional. I only know of them what they choose for me to know.

Which led to my second revelation: I only control what they see, I don't control their opinion of me. I control the flashlight but I can't control the shadows that are cast. I can minimize the negative that is out there by being very careful what I share publicly.

To most of my "friends," I am one dimensional. If you only know me online, you know I have a twisted sense of humor, have puppies and have no problem being a ridiculous person on this planet. You know that I'm a Longhorn fan. You know I say I love Jesus, but you can't know if I walk the walk. You know I love people, and their kids and grandkids. I love their pictures. You also know I'm married to Mr. Perfect. I'm almost never publicly down, a few organizations that I'm passionate about and some authors I follow. You know I'm sassy and I don't generally use foul language. You will know that I have kids. You might know their ages or have see their pictures.  But that's about it.

If we attend church together, and we "chat" for 3 minutes every couple of weeks, if we run into each other on occasion or sometimes end up out with a group together, you will know a bit more. You will know I have a weight problem and that I don't always act like is a problem (trust me, it is) that I used to run a Women's Ministry and you might have noticed I don't drink coffee and have a big Dr. Pepper problem.You might even know the names of my children and that I'm proud of them. You may think that I'm an emotional robot with no feelings. You might assume, based on other people you've known, that I'm judgmental and have never sinned.

 Come a little closer, say if you're someone who is in Bible Study or in a volunteer organization with me. You will know I'm opinionated. Strong willed. Tenacious. That I really work hard to practice what I preach and that I am always at war with my hair. You know that I'm so proud of my babies that I could bust. You know I'm not only a Longhorn fan, but I hate sports on TV. You know I'm endlessly fascinated with what most people consider minutiae. And that I'm still a talker. You will assume that I don't wear my hear on my sleeve, but you'll know that I care about "people."I begin to take on a second dimension and I'm not what you expected.

But if you are one of the few who KNOW me, really know me, you will know so much more. I then become a real girl. You will know that my heart only truly breaks when I think that the heart of God is breaking. You will know that I'm aware that the person guilty of it is often me. You will know my children. You will know that when their hearts break, I've got the car gassed and ready to roll to "handle it" Mama style and I only don't do that because I've been forbidden. You'd know why I'm proud of them. You would know that one of them rarely allows me to speak of him on Facebook because he doesn't think I'm as funny as I think I am. You will know that I am a Longhorn fan because I'm a Longhorn married to a Longhorn and I'm terrified of stadiums because of that one time. You will know that I'm self-conscious. You'll know that I'm not good at showing emotions and I will almost never (only once) lose control of my emotions but they are there and they are strong.You will know that that sassy is sometimes covering up insecurity and that I am often almost eaten alive by those insecurities. You will learn to recognize when I'm NOT saying what I wish I was saying because I am very opinionated and outspoken and sometimes it physically hurts to shut up. You will know I'm learning to keep my mouth shut. Learning. You'll know I rarely suffer fools and generally know how to handle my business because my Daddy raised me not to need anyone. You'll also know that Perfect is my rock and I desperately need him and love him second only to God. You will know that I will walk through hell barefoot to try to drag out one methhead or alcoholic or depressed person or abused child (or almost anyone who need it) with me. You will know that to me they are simply people, just like me. You will know that I'm unshockable. You will feel the mercy. You will know I can't judge. You will know I struggle and come from a family that is no stranger to addiction. You will know my past. You will know that I have a will of iron and a backbone of steel and that if I am crashing, it's a BIG deal. You will know my Mama and my sister. You will also know that I stink at small talk and am almost incapable of it.  Awkwardness and social anxiety runs high in this one. You probably don't understand my fascination with politics and the law but you know I sometimes like to sit in court hearings and trials for no reason. You'll know that the things that terrify me are small to most people and the things that terrify most people usually don't bother me at all. You will know that I'm a loyal friend forever and I've never lost a real friend. You will know that I'm fanatical about knowing and understanding God's Word. I love theology. I love to hang out in the Christian Book Store in the Pastor section. I love Jesus with everything I have every day. You will also know there are dark days where I wish I could stay in bed and there are days filled with pain. You will know that I am actually funny. That I can sing and am a compulsive harmonizer. That I am a frustrating, complicated, beautiful bundle of me. I sin. You will know that I'm a real girl. You will also know that I'm not just a woman AND a broad, I'm also a lady. These are people who don't just "see" my posts. They "see" me and I "see" them. They are relationships sown and watered and cultivated in real live life and over time.

 The point of all of that is this: Don't assume you know people you don't know. Try not to judge them by the small slice of their life you are privy to. They, like you, like me, are so much more. Good and not so good.

Lastly: When you make posts on social media, blogs or whatever, remember that you are heavily influencing what people think of you and for those who aren't in your inner circle, that is the light that will shine brightest. If you are a child of God, please shine your faith the brightest. And if you ever get the feeling that I'm shining anything else brighter than my Savior, call me on it. Because I need you to know that He loves you. That He died for you to save you from a real and actual hell and that I really do, after all these years, believe it with all of my heart. And after that, I really don't care too much what you think of me, It's none of my business.