Friday, May 28, 2010

Teachers: Public and Sunday school

Last Sunday was Sunday school appreciation day at our church.

Recently on another post, I was ruminating with a cyber-friend about why and how people growing up in similar circumstances relate the different ways that they do. I still don't have a definitive answer, but it did get me to thinking about where my initial concept of God came from. And with Sunday school appreciation day so recently come, I thought I would post an appreciation for those who work with the very young.

I know that between the ages of one and four I lived with Grandma at least part of the time. I don't know the true time-line because my family is so full of secrets, but as best I can tell I spent most of that time at Grandma's house.

Grandma was a devout Southern Baptist, so it is a given that if I were living with her I was in church every Sunday from an early age. Not that I remember anything before the age of five, but I know that just based on the fact that my Grandma went to church every Sunday without fail.

Grandma also liked to tell one story from those early days about me in church. The story goes that when my Sunday school teacher shared with me that "God loved you soooo much! He even gave up his only Son just to have you in His family", I responded precociously, with an awed expression, "Isn't that amazing?"

I have no reason to doubt that is true, and I am extremely grateful to the teacher who put in my head from the start that God loved me. I wrote her a thank you note a few years back, but that doesn't begin to convey the depth of my gratitude.

The next person to really influence my young heart was my kindergarten teacher in public school. She read to us a story book at Halloween, Gus Was a Friendly Ghost. This turned out to be very fortuitous.

Fast forward to the second grade. My parents are in the middle of a nasty divorce. My next door neighbor invited me to an evening church service with her. I don't know why my twin sister didn't come, except that the next door neighbor was my best friend and my twin didn't always hang out with us.

The teacher of this class was the one who presented the gospel to me in terms that I was able to really grasp. She used flannel graphs, and I can still mentally image the heart. Next she put the throne on the heart, and the old man of sin on the throne. That's what makes us do the bad things we don't want to do. I didn't want to do bad things. I wanted to be a good person!

Next she told us that we could ask Jesus to sit on the throne of our heart. He would kick out the old man of sin and help us to do what's right. Plus he would never get angry with us if we slipped up and did something wrong again, but he would forgive us and help us go back to doing right. Sounded like a great deal to me. (Still does, actually.=)

But wait, there's more! God, who as I already knew was Jesus' father, would become my loving Father too! She told me that he was not like earthly fathers, who can be mean or leave us (she must have known about my parents' bitter divorce) but that He would always be good to me, always understand me, and no matter where I went He would be there too. Could this get any better?

Why yes, it could! Jesus would send the Holy Ghost to be with me always. Immediately my young mind conjured up a being very much like Gus the Ghost: friendly, strong, big, yet invisible. Sort of like a ghostly big brother. How cool is that?

Now I will lose some of my readers, because this was a charismatic gathering. She asked if she could lead me in a prayer, asking Jesus to be my Lord, God to be my Father, and to receive the Holy Ghost. Well heck yeah I did! She told me the Holy Ghost would give me a special language, like baby talk, and encouraged me to start babbling. That was awkward, but the rest was amazing!

God loved me! He was now my Forever Father, who would never be mean to me or abandon me. Jesus was going to sit on the throne of my heart, helping me to do what's right and forgiving me if I slipped up and did a wrong thing instead. And the Holy Ghost- big, cheerful, powerful, invisible friend- would be with me everywhere I went. Awesome.

I never went back to that church. My mom left my dad shortly after that and we moved to a small town in another state thousands of miles away. But God was still my Father, Jesus ruled in my heart, and the Holy Ghost was always near. These facts made the heartache and confusion of the changes in my family bearable. I was not alone, and I was not unloved. This I could now know for sure.

So thank you to all who work with the very young, and a loving reminder to please tread gently. You are laying a foundation in the hearts of children that their mental, emotional, and spiritual health will one day depend upon.

I am so grateful for each of the early teachers I remember being so instrumental in the formation of my faith. (Let's not forget author Susan Thayer as well, though I am sure forming my early impressions of the Holy Ghost were not on her mind when she started her Gus the Ghost series. ;-) I will never be able to thank them enough. God bless them every one, now and for eternity.

ps The converse is also true. Be sure that you do NOT offend one of these little ones! A grown woman in a twelve step meeting tearfully related that once when she had merely indulged in typical childish misbehavior, her kindergarten teacher showed her a crucifix on the wall and told her that every time she sinned she pushed the thorns deeper into Jesus' head. This grown woman was a guilt-ridden, anxious, broken-hearted person because of that kindergarten teacher's cruel manipulations. My own twin, far from the wonderful introduction to a loving good God that I had, walked the aisle in response to being terrorized by images of eternal damnation. Her mental image of the Christian god has always been a cruel, hateful being sort of like Jonathan Edward's insect-hating Eternal Being.

"Words are forever, when we speak we set them free, so watch your mouth and you be careful what you say to me.+ from Cup of Tea by the Newsboys

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A plan in hand

Time for another disappearing post. I look forward to the day when they can all boldly go up and stay up! I know that day will come, and then people will have an accurate and honest portrayal of my journey away from yet another crappy home school marriage.

Our problems are unique to us and yet many people can probably relate. We are two wounded souls (flashback lyric: we're just two lost souls living in a fish bowl, year after year, running over the same old ground, what have we found?...=)trying to make it in a love relationship together, but the wounds keep getting in the way.

For my part, I have known I have PTSD and childhood traumas for all of my adult life. I have been through a season of twelve step meetings with Adult Children of Alchoholics, and been in short-term counseling three different times. This is not proof I am messed up, it's proof I am a clear minded realist who takes responsibility for her emotional health. And it was all very helpful to me, along with the many books I have read about recovering from child abuse and specifically being raised by an NPD mother.

Not only do I have my family of origin traumas, but then are all the extra traumas that come to wounded, unloved children who start partying at a young age in an effort to kill the pain and find some acceptance. There are a lot of not so nice people in the world who feel no guilt taking advantage of an unprotected wild child. In fact, the counseling times were to deal more with the traumas of my teen years, rather than my family of origin stuff.

One particularly ugly thing that I have to deal with still is reducing the intensity of my PTSD symptoms through EMDR therapy. I am really looking forward to this. There was one summer of my life that my mom was more than just emotionally/psychologically abusive and she was beating the crap out of my and my twin sister with increasing severity. That't the summer I started partying. I would say I was spending the night somewhere (she never checked, didn't really care) when in reality I had nowhere to go. I'd just ride around with friends until late and then have them drop me off at the abandoned house across the street. I slept in a chair in the back of the carport of that house, getting eaten up by mosquitos. But that was one night I wasn't home, and so one night she couldn't hurt me.

And that really complicates things with my all my husband is going through. When he behaves aggressively towards me, it would be great if I could just walk away and say, "You know what? This is not a good time to talk. You need to take a breather." I KNOW this would improve things between us a tremendous amount.

But, when he speaks/acts aggressively towards me, it touches something deep inside me. It terrifies me with the all the terror of every incident of the past, those with my mom and those from him, and it is intensifying every time. I don't choose to be a wreck inside and weep for days afterwards. Trust me, I do not want to react that way. It just happens.

And so EMDR can help me. If I can reduce the intensity of those feelings, and get over past traumas, then I can live in the present and deal with the now and only the now. This will help both of us out!

At therapy yesterday we continued the intake for my husband. He is much more deeply depressed than I knew. My heart goes out to him. I want him to be healed and loved and have joy again.

Some of his symptoms he identified as having been present for ten to fifteen years. My son is fifteen. It can definitely trigger childhood traumas to see yourself in your same gender children. I was warned about that in ACoA meetings.

Some of his symptoms are lifelong. I don't know if it's possible to fathom how deeply wounded this man was by his parents religion. I don't know if it's possible for anyone to understand the terror of abandonment and rejection not only from your parents but from God, because the abandonment and rejection was in the name of Jesus.

Stop and think about that.

I found healing in the arms of God, because I know that even though my mom did not want me or love me, God did. How can you find healing from God if you believe that HE IS THE ONE WHO DECREED YOUR ABANDONMENT?!?!

Imagine that. What if every time my mom hurt me, she told me it was because God told her to hurt me.

And not only that, what if everyone in my whole world- teachers, neighbors,EVERYONE- backed her up on that? What if everyone all agreed that my mom hurting me was the will of God, a God I must love and serve perfectly because anything less than your all and you are not worthy of God?

I am so angry with fundamentalist religion and the whole industry of the religion. I do know some truly loving Bible translators, and I have no doubt that among the many who are simply practicing useless dysfunctional religion, there is a genuine work of the Holy Spirit happening.

But elementary age boarding schools should be outlawed, and it should be obvious to everyone that you first and primary responsibility is to the children you personally brought into being. Your ministry will not prosper if you are forced to do evil to the least of these in order to serve in that capacity.

This weekend we have to go and see my husband's family. Please pray for him. He is very depressed. He is still in denial about the severity of the emotional abuse and neglect he has suffered. He is still in denial about the severity of the physical abuse and neglect he has suffered. The facade of having had the "perfect Christian family" is not enough to hold back the pain anymore. He needs healing.

I am sure that seeing his family will trigger a lot of repressed pain and anger. Pray that God will help him- us- deal with it in appropriate ways that don't increase the damage to this family we have built together. We need miraculous grace.

So the plan right now is, counseling/EMDR for Ted first, and for me as the appointment opens up. He is in more pain right now than I am, and if he is in less pain then there will be less aggression in his heart, and therefore less to trigger my own fear and sadness. The teens are in on the plan, so that helps. We have a crisis plan in place too- timeouts of various lengths, and eventually separation if need be for a season. We both want to stay married in a love relationship, but we both want everyone to be safe while this minefield of trauma is diffused.

Peace and love to all of you. This post will come down later tonight.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Do you KNOW Him?

Do you know Jesus? Or do you know a lot about Him?

Could people tell that you've been with Jesus? If a stranger spent fifteen minutes with you, would they come away saying you know a lot about God, the Bible, Christianity? Or would they come away saying they felt refreshed and lighter in spirit, more hopeful about life, because of the few moments their life met with yours?

Would they be impressed with you, either favorably or unfavorable?

Or would they be impressed with God and His great heart of love?

My teens and I were discussing these questions this morning. They are good questions.

Of course we all know what the right answer would be. But what would be the honest answer? We are all so good at deceiving ourselves, but I wonder what the neighbors would say? About me? About you?

I know what my children would say about their fundamentalist missionary/pastor grandparents. My daughter said that she thinks they are most selfish people she has ever met. She spoke about how she was looking forward to her first sleepover with them, expecting to hear great adventure stories of how God had moved mightily in their lives in some way. Or even just about the wondrous beauty of the jungle. Or perhaps about a person that they had come to love during their time of "ministry" there.

What she got was boring, boring silence. Now if she had asked a question about doctrine, either grandparent could have answered any question at length.

But she was looking for stories about their having been with Jesus. And you know what, they don't have any to share.

I think that is a tragedy of epic proportions.

They sacrificed everything for religion. They abandoned their sons to the care of strangers because religion held that up as a virtue. They left every modern convenience and suffered poverty on a scale unknown to most Americans, because religion held that up as a virtue. They spent years treating minor illnesses and creating an alphabet and a written language for a remote tribe, because religion held that up as a virtue. They spent their whole lives striving to be virtuous.

But they never cared about anyone. Not their children, not the indigenous people they "served", and not each other. No one ever saw Jesus in them, and so, no one was ever drawn to Jesus by their ministry.

Their own grandchildren felt just as unimportant to their grandparents as those tribal peoples must have felt in years gone by. Time spent with grandma and grandpa is a drudge to be endured, not a refreshing time of being in the presence of one who walks with Jesus.

What a sad, depressing legacy from the "ministers" of the good news in my children's lineage.

And what did I, their starry-eyed daughter-in-law, find in the lives of these "men and women of God"? How lucky I thought I was to get to marry into a family of committed Christians! I was expecting compassion, mercy, kindness, joy- all those things that I saw in Jesus when I read the gospels. After all, they were ministers of that very gospel! Wow.

I found a man who openly and regularly belittles his wife- her thoughts, ideas, projects and dreams. A man who fills the car with noxious farts and doesn't even say "excuse me" or roll down a window. A man who expects people to treat him with respect, even though he personally doesn't respect others. He has never once asked my husband an important or personal question. He watches football on television, studies his Bible, eats and never ever shows a personal interest in anyone's heart, hopes or dreams. He does, however, do the dishes at his house. For what it's worth. I think he believes it's the proof of his "servant leadership".

I found a women with pinched lips, who silently endures her husband's ridicule. A woman who is really into setting tables and having regular mealtimes with all in attendance, though there is no life-giving conversation at these meals. A woman who is very proud of keeping to her schedule of annual Bible reading, and the many, many times she has read it cover to cover (Scofield Bible, of course!). A woman who is a diet Nazi, referring to the book "The Ten Commandments of Nutrition" to explain why her cookies are better for you, even if they do taste awful and the grandkids can't stand them.

It is a strange, strange world where righteousness is not defined as walking "even as Jesus walked", but by a lack of debauchery. By this definition they are very righteous. They don't smoke, don't drink, don't dance other than square-dancing, don't read popular fiction or go to movies or listen to the radio unless it is labeled CHRISTIAN. They are fine CHRISTIAN people.

And still my teens, their grandchildren, are left wondering. Will Jesus say to their grandparents, "Depart from me, I never knew you?"

If doctrine is the important matter, then no, the grands have said the sinners prayer and so are "saved" according to their doctrine. If it's about fitting in to the strict Christian subculture, championing the Christian political causes, joining in the right boycotts, etc. they are in like Flynn. No one can doubt their commitment to fundamentalism.

But if Christianity is something more, if it's about really pressing in to know God and personally seek to become like Him, to walk even as He walked, well then, that's a little murkier.

In the end only Jesus knows a person's heart, but he also told us that we would know each other by our fruit. So it's a muddle, and one I can't clear up.

But it is a question I should ask about myself every day, and one I resolve to keep before me regularly. Do I know Jesus? Can people tell I have been with Him this morning? Will people be impressed by the love of God for having spent time with me?

Good question. Very good questions.

The PTSD is the worst

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wednesday was not a good day

Okay, I will likely never publish this. I don't even want to write it. I wish it were not true. But it is. So, here it is: Wednesday was not a good day.

Even though the beach has always been a haven, and I have had no bad memories of a time at the beach, this trip was different. Heck, everything is different these days. My understanding is different. My life is different. Still I was hoping that a beach trip would not be different. I was hoping it would be good still.

And for four days it was. But Wednesday was not a good day.

I am reading at It is very disturbing. As I read down through the list in the left-hand sidebar (Withholding, Countering, Discounting, Disguised Jokes, Blocking and Diverting, Accusing and Blaming...) I am feeling nauseous.

Under the topic Withholding:

When a man refuses to empathetically listen, validate, or share emotions, he's destroying the core of what sustains an intimate relationship. He's withholding.

For a relationship to be truly intimate, it requires mutual and empathetic listening, validation, and sharing of emotions. These acts of sharing listening and validation must be empathetic. Without empathy, you cannot share in your partner's joys or sorrows, therefore have little investment in goodwill towards your mate. At some point, you'll begin to resent "giving happiness" and begin to await payback. If you feel owed a "payback" when you give because you can't empathize in their happiness, you'll constantly feel ripped off - your unrealistic expectations can never be filled. In short, it's your job to make yourself happy, and it's your partners job to be happy with you.

A couple may not always understand each other and may have times when it's difficult to share feelings, but the intention to empathize is there with expressions of goodwill such as "Is this what you meant?" or "Help me understand how you feel..." or "It upsets me when you're upset . . ." or "Your laughter is my favorite sound at the end of a rough day. . ." (Don't you just want to be happy for your mate to share in it? Such goodwill towards you! That's intimacy.)

Withholding sounds like "Whatever. You're always upset about something or another."

Under the topic Blocking and Diverting, I read:

Blocking and diverting specifically controls interpersonal communication. The verbal abuser refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed and withholds information, thereby preventing all possibility of resolving conflicts.

Blocking may be accusatory; however, its primary purpose is to prevent discussion, end communication, withhold information, or "win" an argument.

Through diversion the topic is changed, often turning the tables on the partner so she must defend herself on an unrelated topic.

Under the topic Countering:

Abusers see adversaries, not partners. He must maintain power over her to keep "his enemy" from getting too close and seeing his vulnerabilities.

Under the topic Disguised Jokes, I read:

An abuser may also startle or frighten his partner, then laugh as if it were a joke, especially if the startle causes her to damage something. This is not a joke, it's physical intimidation.

And it all comes back again. The whole incident.

My husband wanted to go ocean kayaking with my son. When we had walked down the beach the day before, I saw red flags by a life guard stand. No one knew what they were for, and I assumed they had the same system as Florida beaches. A red flag would mean unsafe swimming conditions. Still, some people were swimming, though close to shore. So it did not necessarily mean unsafe conditions.

Also I had recently read that the general geographic location we were in was prone to riptides. I remember reading stories about people getting lost at sea in our area because the folks renting boats, scuba tours, etc., are unregulated. On one of our last trips, we had been to a beach that was clearly marked as having dangerous riptides. So, since there were no signs like that near, it was probably safe. But on the other hand, we should probably ask.

So I shared my concerns with my husband, and he more or less just discounted them. I thought of the times in the past my husband had discounted my concerns, and I in my misguided understanding of theology and marriage had just...shut up. Shut up and let my husband decide things on his own. And I knew that I absolutely could not ever do that again.

On those occasions, my life, my son's health, the life of a beloved family pet and my precious daughter's fragile emotional state had all suffered. They suffered because my husband discounted my valid concerns and made decisions based on how he felt about them. He did not consider the danger or potential harm to the people he was supposedly responsible to care for; he only considered himself.

Newsflash: The doctrine that if you submit to your husband no matter what, God will still protect you, is a lie. You won't ever find that stated plainly in the Bible because it's foolishness. Submit to people who know more than you and have your best interests at heart. Otherwise, look out for your own safety. Never blindly surrender to someone who takes the responsibility for your life lightly. Do I really need to even write that? Duh.

So now I not only need to make it plain to my husband that I will not allow my son and daughter to go out on kayaks until I have determined it is safe, I am having to deal with all the trauma of being dismissed and abandoned in the past. I am talking life-threatening situations for me and my children, not a little inconvenience here.

And since my husband had been so open, communicative and kind the past few days, I expected to be able to talk to him about it. You know, I was expecting that he would empathetically listen, validate, and share emotions with me, like partners in love relationships do for each other.

But instead I got withholding, countering, blocking and diverting. Why I was so foolish as to continue looking for love and empathy in the face of all that abuse, I do not know. But I did. I kept trying to break through what I saw as an inability on my part to communicate clearly. I pleaded. I reasoned. I was stupid to do so.

He blocked me by saying we weren't going to discuss it anymore, and I foolishly gave it one more try. That's when his anger no longer stayed veiled and he began to physically intimidate me.

He jumped up from where he had laid down on the bed, "Okay you want to fight? Let's fight!" He kept repeating this while pushing his chest out and walking towards me.

I retreated to a corner by the door, saying, "No, I don't want to fight! I don't want to fight! Don't say that about me! You know it's not true." I was crying. I huddled next to a pillar by the door, covered my face with both hands, and started praying desperately through my tears, asking Jesus to please help me and protect me and show me what to do.

That's when he got quiet, silently crept up next to me, put his face close to mine and then said BOO!

This scared me when I was already scared! Of course I jumped and then I started crying harder, I couldn't stop. I left the bedroom and went across the hall to the teen's room and tried to collect myself. My daughter wanted to go and confront her dad but I told her no, please just let me stay in here awhile, and let's all pray together.

I stayed there for fifteen minutes or so. The kids prayed with me. I went back to my room and knocked quietly on the door. My husband told me to come in and told me he was sorry for losing his temper. The next day he told me, "You know I didn't mean physically fight, didn't you? I would never do that."

As if by merely not physically assaulting me this is all okay. :\

He was truly humble later that day, saying that he knew he was messed up and he was so sorry and he's getting help.

The thing is, now that I know it's not me, it really doesn't make things any better. In some ways I wonder that if I get treatment for the PTSD I already had, then maybe these incidents won't rattle me so badly. But then I find a website like You Are Not Crazy and I know each new incident will still be a new trauma for me.

I have an appointment Wednesday. Say a prayer for me if you read this. If I even post it, it will disappear the next day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

OK Go and The Well

OK Go "This Too Shall Pass"

My teens introduced me to this video (if you like it, go to youtube and find the marching band version and watch that as well- band geeks of the world unite!) this morning after church and I loved it! My smile kept getting bigger and bigger as the video progressed, and I broke out into a laugh at the colorful end.

Thanks OK Go! You make the world a better place with your art.

I love the Rube Goldberg machine concept. They take all these mundane, everyday objects and put them to use in totally unexpected ways. Yet because of the crafty work of the machine designer(s), even what seems pointless and nonsensical eventually all works together to realize the machine's objective- in this case to make people smile.

It reminds me of my church, aka The Well. I mean it is downright hilarious all the people that God has brought together in this place, and the totally unexpected ways he brings something useful out of such a motley crew.

We have a psych major who functions as a musician/worship leader/tutor; a trucker/preacher/drummer who collects pies for prisoners at holidays; an ordained minister who is always redecorating our space; several seminary students who blog, pontificate and make coffee; teachers who teach (no surprises there) and a whole gaggle of youngsters who praise God every Sunday in impromptu dance, shrieking, giggling and dinosaur roaring. There are film producers, rappers, artists, servicemen and women, IT professionals, photographers, surfers and even a guy whose goal it is to become a professional dancer. We have all kinds of people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, burdens, ages,vocations- you name it. Any way you can divide people up, we can probably fill the niche.

And yet God brings us all together, giving us a unity in purpose that we can't see or understand even if we wanted to. Because we are not in charge of the big picture. Nope, each of us has only to follow Jesus as we are individually led, to do at the time what we are Spirit led to do, be that speak or be silent, sing or dance, read aloud or pray in a whisper, serve coffee or work in the nursery. It is the Spirit at work in us each and all that makes the whole thing work together in love.

I Corinthians 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

Truly we are many parts, unique and strangely different from one another. But God brings us together in his perfect plan, in ways we don't even see yet, to bring His good news to fruition in the world. It is so cool to be a part of this great work of art!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Doctrine over person

Fitting the Rigid Mold (Pg 109, Martin's summary)
Doctrine Over Person consists of fitting everything under the leader’s dominating control into a pre-concieved mold. This involves:

· Human experience and the interpretation of those experiences.

· Human feelings and the interpretation of those feelings.

· Disregarding one’s feelings or sensitivities.

· No appreciation of someone’s talents, individuality or creativity; the only goal is to fit everyone and their personalities into the dominating vies and influence of the one in control, opposing diversity and individual differences.

· The rigidity of the doctrinal mold resists adaptation even when adaptation may prove to be best.

· The rewriting of history to fit the system of the doctrinal mold.

Stating it another way, the controller reinterprets the personal feelings and experiences of the group members to fit his own dominating views and influence. He disregards and remolds past events, individual differences and capabilities to fit his own preconceived mold. In essence, the controller rejects everything that does not fit into his preconceived mold or framework.

from Under Much Grace

A whole week with no computer

Yes, there is life without internet.

I have been at the beach for a week, and I did not take my laptop. The other three family members monopolized the only computer we brought with us, so I mostly enjoyed a net free life. I did bring my brand new nook with me though, so I can't say it was an electronic free life. It came pretty close, though.

I return refreshed, relaxed and ready to write some more. As soon as the laundry is done, that is. So, tomorrow?

Peace and love to anyone still bothering to read here. The Lord Jesus loves you and me with an everlasting love. His mercies never fail. They truly are new every morning. And there is no end to His faithfulness. We can relax, because He is for us, and that is all we ever needed anyway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Turning a corner?

Just a quick update about my typically crappy home school marriage on its journey to the REAL Christian union of mutual support, affection and honoring one another it was meant to be....

Simply being validated that missionary kid abandonment at the age of six is a major trauma seems to have helped my man tremendously.

The incredulity of all outside of the fundamentalist missionary world is very affirming to him. NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD would send a six year old child to boarding school unless they were facing war and genocide if they stayed, or they were narcissist party people of the rich and famous.

No one else.

Hearing from so many people that he deserved to be loved and cherished, and that God certainly did not require so much sacrifice from such a young child in order to be pleased or to accomplish his will in the earth, this has really soothed his heart.

He has not actually started the EMDR yet, but just knowing it will help has helped him relax. Also, finding out just how emotionally unhealthy it was of his family to forbid strong emotion and live so superficially has really helped him to see that he is not defective for having feelings (nor is his wife!) and that he need not feel guilty about it anymore.

Also he does not have to blame anyone around him for "making" him feel a certain (bad) way, because feelings aren't bad. They just are.

I will take this post down later today, but I wanted to share this good news. =)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dispensing of Existence

From Robert Lifton's Thought Reform Criteria

Dispensing of existence.

"The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not... Those within the group who demonstrate non-conformity may also lose privileges or the status of enlightenment, a very potent method of negative reinforcement."

Enough said for today. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Peer pressure

I remember first starting out as an official home schooling mom, notice of intent to home educate my daughter duly filed with the state. It was so exciting, and so liberating. We were going to have so much fun on this journey of educational discovery together! And for the most part, we have. I am still as big a proponent of home schooling as I ever was, and for the same reasons that I started in the first place.

But as we home school moms have all experienced, it is not long until someone asks "What about socialization?" I wonder how many articles of rebuttal have been written in home school newsletters and magazines to that one question? Many, I am quite certain. I think I wrote a few of them. I know I have read more than a few written by others.

One of several ways home schoolers answer this question is to turn it around to the negative aspects of socialization, and retort that it is exactly what we are trying to avoid! The two most common negative aspects of peer socialization are what we call peer pressure and bullying. I'll write about bullying some other day maybe, but for this post we need a working definition of peer pressure.

Peer pressure: the use of social punishments like ostracization and name calling, to force a peer to conform to group social norms. From :
os·tra·cize exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc.: His friends ostracized him after his father's arrest. banish (a person) from his or her native country; expatriate.
3.(in ancient Greece) to banish (a citizen) temporarily by popular vote.
1. shun, snub, blacklist.
1. accept.

When answering our critics, by saying that we will avoid negative peer pressure, we imply a wonderful world (the home school subculture) where no one is excluded, all are accepted, and everyone has a place at the table. We probably even meant it at the beginning, because we wanted very much to believe it was true.

A second part of that answer, is that we don't want our five year olds taught social skills from other five year olds -how awful!- but from emotionally well-adjusted, mentally stable adults (we all think of ourselves that way, no? =).

Those were the initial answers, back when home education was about nurture and education. Then religion crept in and took over, and the answers changed. The religious answer is that we don't want our children, the children of the elect, influenced by the world (i.e. those other children whose families don't go to our church). This was just added to the earlier answers though, and this, dear readers, is where the bait and switch occurs.

There is no way a group can be inclusive and exclusive at the same time. While the Christian home school community was still touting the glories of home schooling as full of freedom and acceptance, they actually practice something quite different.

I believe it was in the early 80s that Christian home schoolers began separating from the greater home school community. They claimed that there was wisdom in having their children only be around people who believed the same things about religion that their own family believed. I myself bought into this at first, though I was often troubled about how this contrasted with God's Word that say we are "sent into the world" (John 17:15-18), we are to go "into all the world" (Mark 16:15), and of course that we should have the same mind of love as the Father, who "so loved the world that He gave his One and Only Son...not... to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" (John 3:16-17).

These groups required that people sign a statement of faith before they would be allowed to join and partake of any park days, science fairs, community field trips, etc. Ostensibly this was to protect their children from negative peer pressure.

However, unlike in a public school situation, this contact would be very limited in scope. Home schooled children spend almost every waking hour with a parent nearby, unlike the institutional school setting in which parents quickly become irrelevant to a child's school life.

In my mind, the many hours we spent together as a family should make my children more impervious to negative influences rather than more vulnerable to them. So, as a home school parent, I should have much less cause to be concerned about a few hours contact with a possible negative influence than any parent utilizing institutional education. All this isolation not only did not seem necessary, it seemed (and still does to me) unwise and stemming more from human insecurities than Spirit led living.

The longer one's children can grow up not knowing any one outside of your belief system, the less likely they are to ever challenge anything you as a parent teach or believe. The longer one's children can grow up not identifying any one outside of your belief system as a real person, with feelings and hopes and needs like your child's, the less likely they are to ever even try to understand them. This might ensure they will never be deceived by a false belief system, or it might merely ensure they grow up feeling at odds with the world around them, having a besieged mentality, us vs. them where everyone outside of their church is "them". Rather than keeping our children from sin, might it only ensure that the sins they indulge are the same ones we indulge? Abortion or homosexuality are clearly out, but self-righteousness and shunning "weaker" brothers are allowable.

Do you see the switch? While offering freedom from peer pressure and acceptance to all, from the moment a Christian parent signs up with one of these groups the peer pressure is absolute! We don't play with "those people". We don't associate with "those people". And if you choose to open up your own world to those outside, or buck the group think on any issue- dress, literature, movies, non-essential doctrine- you will find out very quickly that peer pressure is alive and well in the Christian home school community! And it is the Christian home schooling parents who are doing the ostracizing and name calling, not the neighborhood kids.

There are two really big problems with the idea of the Christian home school support group as an oasis of faithful believers raising up godly children to live for Jesus.

The biggest problem by far, is that it depends on human effort. As so cleverly portrayed in the movie, The Village, it is impossible to build paradise on earth. The sin nature of humanity can't be socialized away, as it was never a product of negative socialization in the first place. It is intrinsic to humanity, and no amount of doctrinal purity, parental control or isolation from bad influence will keep a child from sin. In fact, it only encourages a false sense of security among members.

While my family took part in a Christian only support group, my daughter was exposed to sexual content from a Christian friend that was shocking! She was only seven years old. The other mother made light excuses for it and brushed the incident off. Again, a child from an entirely different family in that same group, typed the word pornography into our family computer while at our house for a play date. My son was a few months shy of nine years old when this friend exposed him to the concept of pornography! Yet another family had a father arrested for indecent exposure, and still another family for soliciting a minor over the internet.

All these families had signed a statement of faith, and were supposedly vetted as decent Christian people. The reality is that we all fall short of the glory of God, and there is no group on earth that is not going to be full of temptation and stumbling-blocks.

There is no "safe place for socializing" our Christian children, only a Good Shepherd who promises to guide them through the dangers of life safely.

In this matter, Christian parents who choose public school have an advantage over home schooling families, as they have been emphasizing this truth from their children's earliest days. Home school parents, on the other hand, go to conventions where isolation is likened to starting out seedlings in a greenhouse, so that they will be all the stronger when transplanted into the outside world. No one ever mentions the many occasions on which sin comes crashing through the greenhouse walls.

The second huge problem is that one can't accept and exclude at the same time, and so hypocrisy is woven into the very fabric of the concept of Christian home school support groups.

Peer pressure is the root concept of a group exclusively for people who think like us and share our goals, is it not? Ostracization is the key to having such a group, for in including only some we are de facto excluding others. Often those excluded are also believers in Jesus, brothers for whom Christ also died. The longer an exclusive group exists, the tighter and tighter the definition of what is acceptable will become. Again, that is human nature.

So far from protecting our children from peer pressure, it is the single most potent force at work in their young lives. And you, home school parent, are in control of that force and accountable to God as to what use it is put to in the lives of your children. And not only the lives of your own children, you are also accountable to God for the way you have wielded this force against those you have ostracized in the name of Jesus. That is a heavy responsibility.

While Paul exhorts us to accept one another in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7) and Jesus calls us to love even those we perceive as enemies (Matthew 5:44-45) so that we may be "sons of our Father in heaven", exclusive Christian home school groups have exactly the opposite agenda. The very first meeting they will have to hold will be to define who is a Christian and who is not.

This is why there are Catholic only home school support groups and Catholic-excluding home school support groups. This is why the children of Jehovah's Witness home school families cannot play on the playground with the children of Protestant home school families, and therefore will grow up without any positive evangelical influence in their lives.

But that is only the start. Before long, the families that allow non-Christian music will be whispered out of the group. Next to go will be the families who allow non-Christian literature and movies. Families that vote Democrat should keep that very, very quiet, even if they believe it is their faith in Christ that compels their vote. Jealousy also plays a part in this whisper game, and in the end the only safe families are the ones who whisper.

Each group gets more and more exclusive over time, so that eventually even the families who celebrate Christmas will be excluded by the neo-Puritans who eschew Christmas. If the group rejects the new stricter social construct, the more strict will, in keeping with the whole idea behind a Christian home school support group, separate themselves so that their children will only be socializing with children from like-minded families.

My beloved brethren, this ought not be so. And yet it is. It plainly is. Peer pressure: the dark side of the exclusive Christian home school support group.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

Mother's Day has come and gone without incident- other than my daughter being in the hospital, which is a random occurrence having nothing to do with the holiday. =)

Mu husband was working really hard to be supportive of me, and focus on the family he now has, rather than his family of origin. I think that was hugely helpful.

Thanks for all the prayers on my behalf. I do have a couple of hives from the stress related to the memories of last year, but Benadryl is taking care of that. We are on to new things now.

I have a long list of chores and shopping to accomplish as we prepare to go on vacation this Friday. Maybe next time I post it will be from a sunny beach further south!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

EMDR and Trauma therapy

Good morning, gentle readers. :)

I am at a loss for words (never thought I'd see the day!) but as you can tell I'm going to do my best to put some out there anyway. I wanted to be transparent about what life was really like for this Christian home schooling family at the very least. I think the church can only benefit from more honesty.

I wrote earlier about what I was feeling/thinking/experiencing when my husband begins to engage in what I have identified as obsessive/compulsive passive aggressive personality disorder. Because it is so highly personal, and does not only involve me, I take these posts down after a few days. I have put them all back up today for research sake, but I will take them down again Friday, fyi.

I also told you, my internet friends, that we each had appointments with a counselor recently. And so I should fill you in, no?

Many good things are coming out of this so far. First of all, the counselor who is trained in EMDR techniques, was able to explain what happens in the brain when a persona experiences trauma, and how that continues to affect a person over the rest of their lifetime unless they submit to trained intervention.

So as best as I understood her, I will share it with you. When a person experiences a great emotional shock (war, abandonment, violence, etc.) that experience releases a flood of stress hormones at the time. The presence of these hormones in the brain affects what part of the brain is accessed by the person experiencing the trauma.

Traumas get stored in the back of the brain, in a place where what we might call instinct is triggered. This means that a strong overwhelming feeling of danger will accompany the storage of this event in the brain, and that when something stirs up this memory, it will activate more as an instinctual fight/flight/freeze response to a feeling of being in the actual situation again, and not as a conscious memory.

Conscious memory and thought are activated in the frontal cortex. This is the biology we access when we make conscious decisions and recall non-threatening memories, like we access our lungs when we sing.

EMDR is a therapy used with first responders, war veterans, victims of violence, etc. very successfully. Using what neurologist know about brain activity, it is possible to actually change where the painful memory is accessed in the brain, moving it from a place of instinctually reliving the sights/sounds/feelings to the frontal cortex where it can be processed objectively and consciously.

I know all about PTSD from certain traumas I experienced in my early years, but the only treatment I knew about was talking about the trauma. This meant re-living the trauma, so to speak, in a safe environment where it could be reprocessed in the logical part of the brain and put in the framework of the present. This is only somewhat helpful. It helps a person to identify what sights/sounds/smells trigger these experiential memories of trauma. It has enabled me to rationalize the feelings of helplessness and panic I experience when I am around someone yelling or screaming, but it doesn't stop those feelings from recurring when I am in around what is called a trigger (yelling, for example).

I recognized that for myself, the escalation of the abuse from my husband was adding to my childhood trauma PTSD and that even though his incidents of PAPD are less severe now than they have been, my reactions (unbidden and unwelcome, I assure you!) were getting more overwhelming to me. EMDR looks like it can help me do more than just rationalize the panic and fear, it can eliminate those feelings altogether!

This makes me very happy.

But what makes me hopeful, is that the therapist is convinced it can help my husband too. And he is willing and eager to get started as soon as he can. She is a compassionate and kind person, with an interest in anthropology. She is empathetic to his experiences among the Indians, as well as recognizing that being sent 1200 miles away to the care of disinterested overworked strangers was a serious emotional trauma.

Another way that talking with the therapist has helped me tremendously is in understanding what exactly is happening when my husband slips into PAPD mode. Yes, he is trying to chase me on the basketball court to relieve his anger, but IT IS NOT A CONSCIOUS DECISION ON HIS PART. He is reacting out of the trauma center of his brain- rational, conscious thought is not even possible at that time.

So now, when I withdraw, as I must in such a circumstance, I will not be thinking to myself that I am not safe with him because he is being abusive. I will not be wondering if he will ever change. I will be thinking "at the moment it is not safe to be around him because he is reacting out of the trauma center of his brain, in fact it would be detrimental to try to talk to him right now.

That is a huge difference.

Now I understand and believe him when he says, after an abusive episode, that he didn't mean the things he said. He admitted that often he doesn't even remember what happened! The events are fuzzy in his head, but rather than admit that it was easier for him to say that I was making things up. That took a lot of courage to admit. I highly respect him for that.

Also, knowing that shame and guilt are such a source of pain for him, my therapist is helping me to find more neutral ways of communicating that there is a problem happening. His precious young heart is so full of shame and guilt that even rationally pointing out what is happening feels to him like an accusation. In the past, I would not have had much sympathy for that, but not that I see how much pain he has been hiding all these years, I am motivated to put on the kid gloves out of love.

The therapist is also helping me find ways to nurture myself and keep a clear head if/when I find myself interacting with my husband while he is the grip of a PTSD/PAPD situation. This is extremely important and very worthwhile to know.

Of course there is still much work ahead to be accomplished. Simply being able to identify the problem and map out a plan for dealing with it is such a relief, though. I am really hopeful for us.

For those of you interested enough in PAPD to shell out $90, here is the link to it on Amazon:Passive-Aggression: A Guide for the Therapist, the Patient and the Victim.

Most of what causes a person to develop this way of dealing with anger- shame (being taught anger is wrong-a sin), guilt (you experience the emotion anyway because you are human), rejection (up to and including punishment for being human), fear (because of the punishment, which can even be violent or with strong emotion) and confusion (a person raised this way really has no idea how to experience emotions in a healthy way) is present in rigidly religious households. (One does not have to be religious to parent in such a way that your children become passive-aggressive, but it is the most common motivation for a person to parent in this manner.) If you have married a fundamentalist man from any branch of Christianity or other religion, he may have been parented to become passive-aggressive.

For those of you interested in EMDR, here is a link the professional training site: EMDR Institute, Inc.

Once my husband has completed his course of EMDR, a suitable therapist will take over for any remaining talk therapy needed. We are excited to have found a good therapist who is a graduate of Regent University, so he can really understand life from a Christian perspective.

One more thing, since Mother's Day is coming up. We are trying to be pro-active about this and head off trouble before it begins. I purchased and mailed out Mother's Day cards early. We are going to brunch at a nice restaurant and skipping church in an effort to avoid bad triggers for my husband. He is not calling his mother! We are heading to the great outdoors in the afternoon for a hike, a place and an activity that are always soothing to my man and which I also enjoy.

Okay, that catches everyone up on the highly personal and sensitive news concerning this Christian home school family/marriage. As in the past, this post and all the other highly personal posts will disappear in a few days. Copy and paste them in a word document if you find them useful in any way. I give you permission to send them out to your friends that way.

Thing are definitely looking better for me and my marriage today than they did last week. So thanks for all your prayers and good will!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My final post on another blog

Thanks Sarah, Savannah, Darcy, Abby and L. It was wonderful to hear people so full of love and faith and seeking real truth.

I am saddened that questioning the doctrine that Christians are forbidden to marry unbelievers has actually shut this blog down, and surprised as well. Its not like its a basic tenet of the faith, like the fall of man, the virgin birth and sinless life of Christ, his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection, his sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us who trust in Him and love Him.

I assure everyone I believe in Jesus completely and in the inerrant Holy Scripture, but not in the inerrency of the church in formulating doctrine.

Peace and love in Christ to all.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Context, context, context

I recently read an enlightening book that looked at the letters of Paul to Timothy, including his letter to the church at Ephesus, in the context of the place and time they were written.

Now although all Bible scholars claim to interpret the Bible in context, the truth is that seldom happens. Many, many times in my fundamentalist experience, sermons and doctrines are proof-texted. Verses are taken out of the context of the whole book, the time and place there were written, and just placed out there in a sermon as if it were a sticky note from God, randomly popping up for no related reason on a particular page.

So many false doctrines are created and propagated that way. There are so many sacred cows bred and fed by this kind of Bible teaching. And it seems once one person puts it out there (dispensationalism, rapture theology, etc.) then other just repeat that same thoughts verbatim, using the proof texts out of context as if that actually meant anything.

Anything that has to be expounded upon at length, explaining that "this is what it really means", especially if you need extra charts and time lines to make it clear, a discerning Bible student should shun. But instead, it appeals to the pride of man to be one of the esoteric few to "understand" this hidden truth that no other Christians in the centuries before were smart enough to find.

The book I read recently, What's With Paul and Women? by Jon Zen, points out that none of the passages in the letters to Timothy or the church at Ephesus should be taken out of context, as so many fundamentalist do today. The message must fit in with the life of Jesus, the acts of the apostles and the other epistles. It should be read as a response from Paul to what was going on in that time and place.

But many fundamentalists read these passages as if the words were meant to supercede the previous words and actions of Jesus toward women. They ignore the times Jesus himself sent women to testify of him, the times women ministered to and with Jesus in the gospels and the times Jesus commended women for their faith and devotion to him. They don't mention the times Jesus honored women publicly, calling one woman to the front of the synagogue before healing her, declaring that another's devotion in washing his feet be told everywhere the gospel is openly proclaimed.

They read Paul's letters to Timothy as if they were written to modern day American congregations, not to a man combating false teachings in a city consumed with goddess worship. Fundamentalists ignore the entire context of the new covenant, and read these letters as if they were a sticky note- an interruption of the entire narrative of Jesus' life and the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the church since His ascension. Sort of like Monty Python, the British comedy from the seventies, would interrupt the show with the announcement "and now for something completely different!", modern complementarian/patriarchalists act as if context doens't mean a thing when reading anything Paul wrote about women.

Gender roles in the church, dispensationalism, and the so-called "rapture" are not the only sacred cows out on my char-grill these days. I want to root out and jettison every false teaching I have ever been fed. I am looking at everything with fresh eyes, and it is amazing.

I am reading books of the Bible, not passages, not even simply chapters. I consider who wrote it, when and where and to whom it was written. It is astounding to me how much poorly supported ideas I swallowed whole as "the word of God" when in reality, it's not there at all.

Ever heard the old rule that Christians should only marry other Christians, or even only be close friends with other Christians, or in the most extreme cases, even restrict their entire social life to Christians only (and by this they usually mean "our brand of Christian only"). The proof text for this is the verses in 2 Corinthians 6.

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."[c]
17"Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you."[d]
18"I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."[e]

Yet, in context, this whole book was written to combat false apostles who were contradicting Paul's teaching. They were written to pagan Greco-Roman society, with their pantheon of gods and goddesses. Clearly Paul is asking them to listen to him, to consider his life and how much he loves them and has suffered for the gospel sake. He is continuing to plainly teach that you can't just add Jesus to your pantheon of gods and goddesses. Clearly Paul is saying that being in relationship with Jesus is different, you yourself becoming the temple of God and that you cannot join that temple with prostitutes serving other gods, nor simply add the worship of Jesus to your worship of Zeus or Apollo.

How many times have I heard this lifted out of context and had it explained to me that it meant a Christian couldn't marry a non-Christian? Too many times to count. I am shocked at myself that I never once questioned this. 0.0

The more pious take the verses and make it mean even more restrictive things: you can't be close friends with non-Christians, or be partners in business with non-Christians, or yet stricter so that you can't be any kind of friend with non-Christians, or do any kind of business with non-Christians.

And yet those verses never say that. The verses that do talk about marriage, especially I Corinthians 7 and I Peter 3 give instructions to in one passage both Christian men and women married to unbelievers, and in the second to Christian women married to unbelievers. It gives instruction for approriate behavior in this type of marriage, it does not condemn this this type of marriage.

It does not plainly state that it is a sin to marry a non-Christian anywhere in the New Testament, though Paul has no problem plainly stating so many other things as clearly wrong- fornication and idol worship are two that come to mind immediately.

In fact, the only place I can find where it even hints that Christians should limit their choice of spouse to Christian only, is in I Conrinthians 7:49, but while it could mean that the spouse must be "in the Lord" it may also mean that the choice must be made "in the Lord" or in accordance with the leading of the Holy Spirit. It does however in the same passage declare "she is at liberty to be married to whom she will" the modifier "only in the Lord" following.

If we are to interpret scripture by scripture, the phrase "in the Lord" as used elsewhere has to the guide for how it is meant here. It seems to mean "in the reality of your union with Christ" in most cases. The question I have for my pastor next time I see him, is what exactly is being modified, the widow in choosing or the object of her choice "to whom she will"?

Contenders for the prohibition can come back with anecdotes of marriages gone wrong. I can come back with many "Christian" marriages gone wrong. They can appeal to common sense, i.e. the effect on the children of an unbelieving parent, will the believing spouse be free to live for the Lord and share Christ with any offspring? I can clearly point to many "Christian" marriages that end the same way, with one spouse leaving the faith or (even worse) living lukewarm lives that defy the dedicated believing parent's testimony and confuse the issue. What the other side can't do is point to any verse in the New Testament that plainly declares it a sin to marry an unbeliever. They can point to Old Testament commands not to marry adherents of pagan religions, and even commands that Jews should marry Jews, but if they take it as far as all that Christians will soon be looking for marriage partners among distant relatives, like Abraham did for Isaac.

Although Paul refutes the false teaching that forbade marriage, says plainly that marriage is not a sin, and counsels younger widows to remarry, he never forbids marriage to a non-Christian. And given the context of the world in which the new testament was written, a world in which people were not always free to choose their spouse, it would have been ludicrous to make such a prohibition.

The pagan world practiced total patriarchy. Women were given in marriage by their fathers. They had no say in the matter if the father did not allow them a say in the decision. Fathers also arranged marriages for sons as well, and again a son had no say if a father gave him no say. I think that is why Christian-only marriages were never commanded, yet Paul or Jesus or any other apostle could have made that mandate plain. If it were really a sin, I am sure the Holy Spirit would have made it abundantly clear, as clear as the many commands to abstain from fornication (Acts 21; Romans ;I Corinthians 5,6,7,10; Galatians 5; Ephesians 5; Colossians 3; I Thessalonians 4).

I know that people who have been indocrinated to believe in dispensationalism, the rapture and the invisible command that Christians can marry only Christians will not be persuaded by the fact that the Bible itself never spells these doctrines out. At best, people wanting to believe them can infer support from one or two passages taken out of context. As for me, I am done letting fundamentalism interpret the Bible for me. I will simply read it for what it says, interpreting it in context, letting the Bible interpret the Bible, and not simply swallowing stuff from teachers just because it sounds good at the time.