Category Archives: Religious stuff

Still Here :)

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Never fear.  I meant I wanted to sleep in a very literal sense of the word.  So I spent a few days doing nothing but sleeping and trying to come to terms with my new depth of depression.

Scared the shit out of my friend and worried my husband, which sucked, but I’m okay and I think they forgave me.

I think at least part of my bipolar disorder is less mental illness and more how I process life.  I’d just read three books in rapid succession that confirmed for me things I’ve known instinctively since I was a kid, but also made me realize that what I know is the exact opposite of what most people acknowledge.

From an egotist’s perspective, I’m awake, but most of you are asleep.

From a realist’s perspective, I’m half asleep, half blind, and a little over half crazed, but a whole lotta people are more than half way there, so maybe I’m not the worst possible person to have insights I want to share that might be useful.

I dunno.

Maybe.

So here’s my thought for today.

There’s a lot more to life than I will ever know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn it all.

There’s more to learning than just memorizing facts.  Knowledge doesn’t do you much good if you keep it locked up in the musty attic of your thinker.

The coolest part is figuring out how to integrate the knowledge into your every day life.  The bad news is, it often includes learning how to reprogram your unconscious mind, which can be slow, difficult, and painful, but is totally worth it.

It means realizing that you don’t actually live in reality, you live  in a story that is a little bit what you tell yourself, but is mostly colored by conditioning you got before you could think.

Which is why it’s so hard to change.  Most of your reactions have nothing to do with the situation you’re in, or what your conscious mind thinks is happening. It has to do with what you accidentally picked up from parents, siblings, in preschool, or where ever you spent your first six years of life.

So you do what you don’t want to do, and you say what you don’t want to say, and you don’t do things you know you should do, and are generally fucked up most of the time.

Yeah.

And from what I can tell, all the major religions began with people who figured out how to reprogram themselves.  Buddha advocated letting go of attachments and practicing compassion. Jesus talked about loving god, others, and ourselves, and being merciful [compassionate]to all. [exact same concept from a different perspective…letting go of everything vs connecting with everything, but both with the same results: compassion].

And they both taught that it wasn’t easy to reach a point where you can love everyone, or love nothing, but be compassionate either way.

You have to systematically deconstruct all the false impressions, ideas, perceptions you picked up along the way.

I’m most familiar with Jesus, and he’s my favorite anyway, so he’s the one I’ll be expounding on in the future.

For now, though, I think it’s important to know that there are a LOT of programs in your brain. Some of ’em are good and make you do kind, compassionate things, and some of ’em are destructive and false, and make you act like a complete asshole.

So do you have more good programs than bad?  I dunno.  Are you an asshole most of the time, or just once in a while?  And if you’re an asshole more often than not, does that make you a bad person?

I don’t think so. Even serial killers have people in their lives who matter to them, people they value as human beings.  It’s just that instead of cutting people off in traffic or being rude to a waitress, they kill the people who don’t matter.  The serial killer is what lack of compassion looks like when taken to its most violent extreme.

This is reality.

But it’s no excuse not to try.

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Nagalicious Brainworm: Matthew 7

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I can’t get Matthew 7 out of my head.  Which I suppose is a good thing, since Jesus said the Holy Spirit would remind us of his teachings.  I’m still disturbed, though, because I’ve had something else percolating in the back of my brain that worries me a little.

A slight disclaimer: these are just my thoughts and impressions. I’m not using any commentaries or other interpretations of what this chapter means.  It’s mine [and I like to think I’m not completely out of touch with God] but you know:  filter of crap around my heart.

So here goes.

 “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.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

[Matt 7:1-6]

I think it’s safe to say most of us know and have heard this particular scripture quoted  on a fairly regular basis.

Here’s what bothers me, though. I know a lot [and I do mean a LOT] of seemingly sincere Christians who talk trash about so-called Welfare Queens [thank you, Ronald Reagan, you jerk] with their iPhones and manicured nails and expensive clothes in the checkout lines with EBT cards.

A lot of those same people [who are incredibly kind in real life] disparage undocumented workers, GLBT people, “Liberals,” drug addicts, unwed mothers, prostitutes, and poor people.

This is textbook ‘judging’. And according to Jesus, these are mere SPECKS. Not only that, but if God judges us all, then everyone who ever had a judgmental attitude toward anyone without asking forgiveness, is being judged in the same measure they used to judge the slut in the checkout line.

I don’t know about you, but that worries me. A lot of people judge like this on a daily basis [I can tell because I see the Facebook posts].  And if God judges in the same measure, what then?

I’ve found that there are two main reasons people judge. One is Pride [à la the Pharisee praying, “God, I thank you that I am not like this sinner here at the altar with me.”]

The other is that we tend to judge others because they have  a character trait that we have and dislike in ourselves.

There are probably others, but those are the two I’ve struggled with the most.

You see, I once sat in the judgment seat against all the examples I listed above. And a lot of the time, I did it with the sincere belief that I was doing the right thing. I believed I was ‘speaking the truth in love’. I believed that line of bullshit about, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

The snag is,  I spoke the truth as I understood it, and most of the time, my understanding was clouded at best, flat out wrong and twisted into wickedness at worst.

Here’s the thing that still boggles my mind:  I did all this judging with what I believed to be a genuine desire to see people turn from their ‘sin’… I had no idea that I was inflicting deep emotional and spiritual wounds on people I claimed to love.

I didn’t realize that not only was I doing what was wrong [malice,  gossip, slander,  arrogance and boastfulness], I was encouraging the same sin in others.[Romans 1:29,30]

But then..

I guess you could say my eyes were opened.

I  realized that my so-called love wasn’t love at all.

I realized that most of the time, I was just angry that “they” couldn’t see what I saw, that they didn’t agree with my understanding of scripture, that they didn’t live the way I thought they should [and regardless of the fact that I had scripture I could use to back me up, I was really just pissed off that they didn’t interpret scripture the way I did].

Sure, I thought I was right, [which should have been a red flag], but I couldn’t see my own ‘plank’ of pride because I was too busy focusing on all the specks around me.

I live every day with the knowledge that I took what was sacred and threw it to the ‘dog’ that was my own twisted heart. I was the pig that trampled the pearls. I turned the greatest love the world has ever seen and I used it as a weapon of destruction.

Because although I had deceived myself into believing that I was doing what was right, with the right motives, the truth is, I was just rationalizing my own wickedness. The wolf in sheep’s clothing was me.

Listen, the truth is, judgment, when heaped upon innocent heads by the guilty , breaks the spirit, even if you never say the words out loud.

And after you realize what you’ve done, how much pain you’ve caused, and how little you can do to heal the scars you’ve left on the hearts of others, trust me when I say, your soul shatters.

For this reason alone, I deserve Dante’s Inferno.

So needless to say, all those comments about poor people, etc. are a pretty big trigger for me. Sometimes, I handle it with grace. Others, I repay evil for evil and start flinging bricks.

I see and recognize that I sometimes use ignorant, assholian posts by others as an excuse to focus on someone, anyone else’s judgmental attitude besides my own.

But other times, I see the path to destruction they’re on, a path that I traveled on for far too long, and I just want to scream, “Stop!  Turn around! Go back! That way leads to death.”

I struggle every day with the knowledge that I have personally caused untold suffering with my thoughtless words, insensitive heart, and judgmental attitude.  I live with the knowledge that I can do precisely nothing to fix it,  take it back, or heal those wounds.

Even worse [for me, at least] is the knowledge that I can’t prevent others from being thoughtless, insensitive, or judgmental. I can’t do much to protect their victims, and I can do even less to change the behavior or hearts of anyone but myself.

So there’s the first part of my thoughts on Matt 7.

Having a Moment

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Wow. I joined Facebook in 2009, and in that time, became FB friends with three of my former pastors’ wives.  I wasn’t very close to the first one who left, so I wasn’t all that surprised when she defriended me.

The second one left after I disagreed with her about politics. She posted a comment on something I’d written, and I disagreed and told her so.  She got completely irrational and was using a lot of exclamation points by the end of our conversation, and a few days later, I noticed that her name had disappeared from my friends list.

Your number of friends is listed right on your front page, so if you knew how many friends you had, you can’t help but notice when the number gets smaller.  If it’s someone you talk to on Facebook quite a bit, you remember them and just have to check the list to see who’s missing.  If someone leaves that I haven’t spoken to in a long time, I don’t worry about it too much. But I knew I’d pissed off my former pastor’s wife, so I naturally noticed that she’d gone.

Yesterday, my list got one person smaller. I looked at my list and noticed that the people I care about the most and could remember in about ten minutes were still present and accounted for. But this morning, I remembered I hadn’t seen a post by someone who posts quite a bit, so I went to her page to see if I’d missed an illness or something.

You guessed it. The button said, “Add Friend.”

This was the third and final former pastor’s wife.

Now, I know better than most that Christians are just people, and they’re all human, but this one was shocking because when last I’d spoken to her [and not that long ago] we’d been fine. I knew we disagreed on politics, but we just didn’t go there.  We had enough other stuff to keep in touch about, so I just figured I’d avoid commenting on her completely batshit crazy political posts, and she would continue to ignore my occasionally obnoxious, but amazingly fact-based ones [don’t even start. I never post anything I haven’t double checked to be true].

Here’s what gets me, though. I’m a liberal, and such a minority in my group of family and friends that I think I’m beginning to understand how the one biracial kid in my school must have felt being outnumbered and hated by virtually everyone around him. In fact, I’ve let it affect what I post on Facebook, because as much as they’ll deny it, conservatives [and especially conservative Christians] are positively venomous when they disagree with you.

They also assume that you can’t possibly be a good person or a Christian if you’re liberal. Now, I’m not a Christian anymore, but I became a liberal WAY before I deconverted.  One may very well have led to the other, because in order to be a liberal, you have to be willing to admit you’re wrong.  Once I realized that so many things I’d been told and believed about politics were blatantly false,  [and since those things were told to me by my religious leaders…that led me to question Christianity, too] I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Oddly, I’m actually more considerate and genuinely care about the people around me WAY more than I did before, but very few Christians will even admit the possibility that what I say is true.

So this final pastor’s wife de-friending me shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve known on an intellectual level that she was extremely judgmental and very likely disagreed with me about politics on a very deep level. I suppose I should be happy she just defriended me instead of yelling at me before she left, but on an emotional level, I’m pissed. And I’m pissed because I’m also hurt.

I guess on some level I really really want to be wrong.  I want to believe that everyone can rise above hatred and prejudice and love each other in spite of our differences.  I keep hoping that we’re moving forward instead of backward, and every time some dumbass state passes a new law aimed at subjugating women, or the GLBT community, or some other historically marginalized group of people in ‘God’s’ name, I just sit here flabbergasted as people on FB applaud and scream craziness about taking over the country for God.  And with the same breath, they condemn Muslim theocracies for being evil…seriously?  Talk about the pot and kettle.

All the evidence seems to be pointing to religion being the instigator of all this evil, and that goes against everything I want to believe.  There’s a part of me that wishes I’d just stayed asleep, uninformed, and brainwashed.  Because now, I’m stuck in the middle of a bunch of maniacs who would probably like to beat the hell out of me [or at least get me to shut the fuck up] and I’ve never felt so unspeakably lonely in my life.

How can one person ever make a difference when they’re so outnumbered and considered less than intelligent for disagreeing?  And the damnedest thing is, I’m not wrong, and I’m not stupid. But my voice is being systematically chipped away at.  I can’t even count the number of things I don’t post because I’m actually afraid someone is going to start yelling at me. Or calling me on the phone to beg me to stop talking about what I believe in.

How is it possible that the people who say they love me want me to lie about who I am?  And if I say something they don’t like, they de-friend me?  Is that what love looks like?  Seriously?  How can anyone love their opinions more than they love a fellow human being?

 

Right now, I pretty much hate everyone.  Thanks for nothing.

ARGH!

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So am I the only one who sees the sick irony of our country today?  I hear so many people talking about the government trying to steal our money, and how evil President Obama is for trying to create a healthcare bill that will enable the poorest of us to have access to affordable healthcare, and frankly, I do not understand how we can have so little compassion for our fellow human beings.

How is it possible that we claim to be Christians, but refuse his call to love and compassion as long as we or someone we care about isn’t in trouble? And sometimes even then, we pretty much just offer to ‘pray’.

I went without health insurance for five and a half years, and spent another five years without enough money for the co-pays so I could get the help I needed.  I got a helluva lot sicker than I needed to because I couldn’t afford to see a doctor when my issues were mild.  I remember what it’s like to hope and pray I didn’t get sick and end up in the hospital because there was no way I could pay the bill.

I remember what it was like to go in to the ER without health insurance and be sent home with some pills when I probably should have been admitted and undergone some actual medical testing.  And the few times I did end up getting tested for something [only after we had insurance, but not quite enough to cover my expenses] I remember sobbing because there was no way I could pay the medical bill and feed my kids, too.

I also remember being on Medicaid and going into a doctor’s office for my kids and being treated like I was an uneducated piece of trailer trash who didn’t deserve any respect because I was part of the problem in America, sucking on the government tit. I remember going into the WIC office to get vouchers, and jumping through the hoops of proving I was poor, just so I could pay for formula so my kids could live.  I hated all of it, but I had no choice.  We were in a situation where I couldn’t work because of my health, and Steve had a job, but it didn’t pay well enough to cover our living expenses, let alone pay for health insurance [which wasn’t offered where he worked].

So yeah, I’m all for a healthcare plan that gives the poor access to medical care.  And I’m willing to pay for it even though I’m still not rich, and still living paycheck to paycheck.  Because the ends finally meet at the end, and I’m willing to share what little I have so that others have an opportunity to live a life that’s just a little bit easier than what I’ve been through.

If that makes me a bleeding heart liberal or a moron, then so be it.  At least I never, EVER forget that each and every person on the planet has a soul that is just as sacred as mine is, a human being that is just as deserving of dignity and respect as I am.  Not because they’re extraordinary, or even decent human beings, but because they were created in the image of God, and bear his reflection, no matter how dim it may seem to me.

As for why I support the government using my tax money to help the poor, well, it’s because the people who were supposed to do it dropped the ball in a bad way.  Yeah. I’m talking about the majority of the citizens of the US because most of us claim to be Christians.

If we had taken up the responsibility given to us by Christ himself and taken care of the poor, the weak, the widows, prisoners, and disabled, the government would never have had to step in in the first place.  But we didn’t.  We didn’t give a shit, and let them suffer and die alone.

And so when the government says, “You know what, this is wrong.  We need to do something about it,” Those same “Christians”, who refused to offer succor to the helpless on their own, stand up in protest, saying their money is being stolen from them.

At least the government is trying to help.  Christians today seem more concerned about having their huge church buildings and social clubs than actually doing something useful that will not only give someone immediate relief from suffering, but have eternal consequences as well.  I think it’s a sad sad day when a government as corrupt as ours seems to have more compassion for the weak and helpless than the people who were charged with being a “light in the darkness”.

I can’t count the number of massive buildings I see on the outskirts of town and when I get to looking at them, find out they’re church buildings worth millions of dollars, that cost thousands each week to keep up, that are open for ‘business’ a whopping two or three days a week.  If that was a business, it would be closed down in no time.  I’m sorry, but if you give a quarter of a million dollars to various charities or missionaries or whatever, but spend millions on maintaining your building, where are you really storing your treasures?

I fell into the trap for a long time that said if the political candidate claimed to be a Christian and was against abortion, I was morally obligated to vote for that person.  But once I got to looking at how these people voted for the already born, I found that they did nothing to prevent child abuse, nothing to make sure our children get a good education [and the one time they tried, after it became clear it wasn’t going to work out the way they’d hoped, and became a nightmare for everyone involved, they did nothing to fix it], and were all for killing or at the very least disrespecting anyone who doesn’t believe in Christianity.  Not only that, but they did nothing to make sure that anyone who can’t afford exorbitant insurance premiums and co-pays have access to decent healthcare.

How in the bleeding hell is it better to have no access to healthcare than to have some?!?  How is it better to pay an HMO countless thousands of dollars to tell you that since you’re probably terminal, they aren’t going to pay for your chemo?  Or that since you’re schizophrenic, you’re better off living on the streets with no medication or money than in an institution?  And how much of an asshole does it make the people who say that stuff out loud, whether literally or figuratively through their voting?

Who are you to tell anyone they don’t deserve medication because they don’t have a job?  Who are you to judge someone who doesn’t have a job as unworthy of compassion?  You don’t know their story.  You don’t know how they ended up where they are.  As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that I was never uneducated trailer trash, and even if I had been, I would still deserve to be treated with respect by virtue of my being a living entity on this planet.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done to  me.”  If that’s true, how many ‘Christians’ are gonna feel like shitheels when they see the one they claim to serve?

More About the Other Night.

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So it occurs to me last night after I turn the computer off that I might have left you with the impression that I found the Great Vespers service dull and boring.  I can’t really say that I was bored, in all honesty.  I did have an incredibly hard time paying attention to the words being spoken, though.

I found that my attention span is less than a gnat.  I knew this already, of course, but I was in denial about it.  When we go to our protestant church here in town, I have a hard time paying attention there, too, but there’s only one point the guy is trying to make.  And ten or twelve scripture verses.  At Vespers, they might have read fifteen chapters of the Bible, and I tried desperately to listen to it, because when I managed it, I could tell where they were reading from [for instance, I could tell that part of the time they were reading from Psalms, and part of the time, I could tell that they were reading prayers from the prayer book, because I recognized some of the words].

I liked the service because everyone participated for quite a portion  of it.  They recited prayers, bowed and crossed themselves a lot.  They sang responses to prayers and parts of what the priest was saying.  And the priest!  He was doing something [although I’m not sure what he was actually doing part of the time] the whole time he was in there.

We did sit down for a few minutes while a lady named Lois read about the lives of the saints for that day [which I forgot to mention last night].  I liked that, but I wondered what Steve would think when she read that the relics of the saint had caused miracles.  Steve likes to think he believes in miracles, and maybe he does, but if they don’t fall into a certain mental category in his mind, then they’re dismissed as fake.  I get it, you know?  I’ve been there, and although I was there more because I was angry than because of wrong teaching, I’m beginning to feel just how extensively different protestant teaching is from Orthodox, and I’m realizing that only a bona-fide miracle would ever convince someone to convert to Orthodoxy from Protestantism.

People seem to come to Orthodoxy from Protestantism out of sheer desperation, and I’m no exception.  I just wanted to know God, to really know Him, and I didn’t really care what religion that meant I’d be a part of, I just wanted Him.  So it was easy for me to chuck everything from Protestantism and start over from scratch in Orthodoxy.

Protestants don’t venerate icons, they don’t pray with saints, they don’t believe in the real Presence during the Eucharist, don’t do confession, don’t believe in elaborately decorated sanctuaries…these things are borderline blasphemy [or outright blasphemy] to my protestant friends and family.

And you know what?  That’s as good an excuse as any not to convert to Orthodoxy.  Because Orthodoxy isn’t just different and foreign and strange and ancient on the outside.  There’s nothing ‘hidden’ or esoteric about it, but Orthodoxy quite literally means giving up your rights, giving up your very life, in every way imaginable, to God. There’s a contemporary Christian song [actually, most of them are like this, but this one is really popular right now] you can go here to hear it and read the whole song, but some of the words are:

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with you.

I love this song.  It’s catchy, the tune is pretty, the words are my prayer, and always have been since I first became a Christian.  And the one thing that has frustrated me beyond belief is that in Protestantism, they don’t really teach you how to empty yourself.

They try, don’t get me wrong.  There’s a system and a method for reaching that goal and it is:

Study the Bible

Pray

Get involved in a local church [evangelicals will say get involved in a Bible teaching church]

Get out into the community and do a ministry of some sort

If that doesn’t work, then you read books.  Lots of books.  Every year or so, there’s a new book that comes out that becomes a best-seller because it’s ‘life-changing.’ Some examples of books and studies I’ve been a part of are:

The Road to Reality [I might have blogged about this one…can’t remember now]

A New Kind of Christian [for emergent Christians..I wrote a whole series of blog posts about this one]

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

“Experiencing God” and “The Mind of Christ”

A Ragamuffin Gospel

“The Purpose Driven Church” and “The Purpose Driven Life” [Didn’t actually finish this one]

The list goes on.  Every one of these books made me think about God in a way that I hadn’t before.  They all made me cry, and made me want to do better in my walk.  The one thing they didn’t do for any length of time was help me succeed in doing better.

In finding a church, my three criteria for finding a ‘good one’ were:  Good Preaching, Good Music, Nice People.  If you have good music, it moves your spirit and gets you in the mindset of meeting God.  Its purpose is to get us into a worshipful attitude so that we can feel God’s presence.  It works, too.  When I listen to Christian music [like the song above] I feel moved.  Sometimes I cry.  I praise God and feel love for Him.  But if the song isn’t good to me aesthetically, it doesn’t achieve that.  The words may be great, but if the music isn’t something I like, I don’t feel much.  Sometimes the music is great but the words annoy me.  Same result, no feeling of being closer to God, or wanting to be closer to Him.

The same is true for preaching.  If a preacher is teaching the Bible, but he’s not a very good speaker, I can’t get into it.  If he’s not entertaining, engaging, interesting, and funny [funny is a big thing for me] then I probably won’t get much out of the sermon.

Worship for me has always been about what I like, about what moves me emotionally.  I left my last church [and so did a bunch of other people] because the music was horrible, and the preaching wasn’t any good, either.  Not only that, but the personality of the pastor is about as appealing as a porcupine.  He doesn’t exude love, he exudes an “I don’t really give a crap about you” vibe that’s really hard to get around.

I left because I felt like I was starving spiritually.  Like I wasn’t “being fed” at all.  My walk was getting more difficult.  It was getting easier to skip church altogether, and skip Bible reading, and studying, and praying and all the rest.  I felt like the pastor wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain.  He wasn’t making me feel like I wanted to continue in my Christian walk, and that scared me.  A lot.

But then I gotta wonder.  If I depend on the music or a good sermon to worship God, and I can’t feel His presence if I’m not moved emotionally, then am I really feeling His presence, or am I just moved emotionally and nothing else?  What if what I thought was the Holy Spirit is just an emotional reaction?  I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I’d like to believe that it isn’t, but what if?

At Vespers the other night, I got the distinct impression that the service wasn’t about me at all.  The priest didn’t even face us except when he was giving a blessing or flinging the incense all around.  He faced the icons [which are representations of the people who are already in heaven:  John the Baptist, Jesus, The Virgin Mary, and St. Basil the Great at this church because St. Basil is the Saint that the church is named after]  he bowed to the icons, and he went into this little room with more icons and a table with some stuff on it [I saw a candle and some holy water, but I have no idea what the other stuff was] and he prayed out loud while the reader was reading part of the time, and basically did what he was supposed to do and it had little to do with me.

They read tons of verses from the Bible, but there was no interpretation.  The priest didn’t tell me what the scriptures meant, he just let the reader read, and sometimes the people chanted along when they knew the verses and prayers that were being read.  The whole thing was about focusing on God, not on what made these individuals happy, or what made them “feel” closer to God.

It certainly wasn’t about my comfort.  We sat for about five minutes during the whole service and stood the rest of the time.

Now after the service, everyone was incredibly nice and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.  They were all converts from Protestantism, so they answered some of the typical concerns that Protestants usually have coming into an Orthodox service, and mostly, we just visited for a couple of hours.  Like I said before, I felt at home there, and understood for the first time in a long time.

Heh.  These people were just as crazy as I am.  They know that from the outside, converting to Orthodoxy doesn’t make a bit of sense.  They’ve had to deal with the scoffing and the “That’s great for you, but it’s not for me” and “Why are you going so overboard with this?” from Christians who you’ve talked to about the ache in your heart because nothing you do seems to effect a lasting change in your life.  How sin is just as rampant as ever, and why doesn’t God do more to help you out of this miserable state you’re in?  They’re in pain, too, just like you, but they’re still clinging to the hope that if they just keep plugging away and doing the things they’re supposed to do, eventually, something will change and they’ll have a breakthrough and be able to live a holy life.

All of the things I listed above are good things.  I’m still reading books, but I’m reading stuff that’s almost 2000 years old now instead of the ‘latest greatest’ thing.  I’m still studying my Bible.  I’m still praying, but I read prayers that were written by saints who already led the kind of life I aspire to.  Their prayers are a lot less selfish than mine.  Instead of praying for what I want, I pray that God will have mercy on me, a sinner.

And I can’t quite put my finger on it, I have no idea exactly what happened, or how, or why, but after one Vespers service, I’m suddenly able to write about Orthodoxy.  I made the decision to become a ‘card-carrying member of the Orthodox church’ 😉 months ago, but I’ve been terrified to write it down and post it publicly.  And I’ve been afraid to step out and actually take the steps necessary to really join the Church. Why all of a sudden am I able to write volumes about it, and why is my fear suddenly gone?  Why am I suddenly willing to join the Church even if Steve won’t?  Why is it that I suddenly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’ve found the Way when I questioned everything about Protestantism almost from the beginning?

Something happened to me Saturday night.  While I was looking around and trying desperately to listen to the words being spoken and failing miserably, this strange peace and, absence of fear, I guess you’d call it, snuck in and took hold of me and hasn’t let go.  None of the things I used to look for in a good church service happened Saturday night [except for the Nice People part], and yet my fear is gone. I’m changed, and although I’ve been changing since I first started this journey into Orthodoxy, the fear has been a constant companion, the ‘biggie’ that I couldn’t conquer no matter how hard I tried.  And suddenly, without even asking God to take it away, the fear is gone and I am free.  Wow.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still a sinner, but I have hope.  I know that it’s possible to really, truly change and become the image of Christ, here on this earth, in this lifetime, because many, many people have done it.  The Orthodox church has a ‘system’ too, but it’s so different from what I’ve known that I’m still no good at explaining it.  It’s all still too new, but I’ve got bits and pieces, and the biggest thing has been letting go of my hangups about having a system.  I guess it’s not really a system, then, is it?  It’s a way of life.  It changes everything, and turns stuff upside-down, and it’s strange and wonderful and terrifying and difficult and downright hard a lot of the time.

heh.  it’s just like Jesus said it would be.  Man.  I gotta be nuts.

nervous…

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So I’m nervous about my post from before.  I had hoped to know a little more about [and have a little more experience being] Orthodox Christian before I started writing about it, because quite frankly, I’m an idiot.  I screw things up daily.  I use a lot of profanity, smoke cigarettes, and am generally a prideful, obnoxious, pain in the ass.  If anything, I’m a poster child of what a bad Christian looks like.

I hate to think of writing about Orthodoxy because I’m really, really not qualified.  I’m going to get it wrong.  A lot. And I feel like the Orthodox Faith deserves a better representation than I can give.  In other words, I don’t want something I say lead anyone to believe that all Orthodox Christians are as messed up, disjointed, confused, sometimes rude, and generally incoherent as I am.

There are so many people who can give you whatever answers you need, but I’m probably not that person.  Doesn’t mean I won’t try, but my inadequacies will likely become painfully apparent to anyone who cares to look.  My guess is that I will write quite a bit about random stuff, including religion, and in particular, Orthodoxy, but I’m not a theologian, and I’m not very smart, so don’t expect much, okay? 😛

I’ve put off writing in here for a long time because I’ve begun a journey that I can’t even explain to the people who love me and understand me the most, what makes me think I’ll be able to write it down and do a better job?  Heh.  The answer is: I probably can’t, and I want to.  I want it to be perfectly clear, and perfectly written, and, well, perfect!

But then I think, this blog has never really been about being perfect, so why start trying the impossible now?  This thing is mostly a record of my journey through life.  A way for me to get stuff out of my head so it doesn’t drive me crazy.  Heh.  Consider this my disclaimer.  If you’re looking into the Orthodox Christian Faith, I’ll find some links to post on the side of my blog and you can go there.  If you’re curious about what a crazy housewife/wannabe writer is up to and what she’s rambling aimlessly about now, then read on.

New Things…

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So, last night, Steve and I took the kids and went to our first ever Orthodox Great Vespers.  The kids were amazingly well-behaved.  Matt was bored [“I didn’t like it because it was sooooooo loooooong!!!”]  Michaela had a hard time being quiet, but she asked if we could go back to the “Er do doc Chuwch”  which might be the cutest thing ever.  She liked it because there was a baby there, and she wants to go back to see the baby.

Although tonight, we were driving back from Shannon and Lindsay’s house and she said, “Can we not pray tonight?”  and I said, “No, we love God so we want to talk to him.”  and she said, “OH!!!  When you go to the Or tho doc Church, you have to pray.”  Michaela has gone to church since she was born, and somehow she’s never made the connection between church and prayer before in quite that way.  Wow.

Shaya was scared because when Father Elias was using the incense thingie [it’s called a Sensor, but I’m not sure if it’s Sensor or Censor, and I’m too lazy to google it right now] he was swinging it, and she thought he had his eyes closed [he may have] and she thought he was going to smack her in the side of the head with it.  Which made me giggle, even though it’s tacky to laugh when your kids are scared for the safety of their head.

After the service, which was held in Father Elias’s basement, his wife [I can’t remember her name and I feel horrible because it’s an unusual name and I kind of liked it and now I can’t remember it!  Grrrrr.] gave the kids sparkling grape juice, which made their night.  Matthew was dying of thirst.  I know this because he asked me if he could get a drink about fifteen times during Vespers.  I was a mean mom and said no.

So the service itself.  Well, I knew what to expect, so the chanting, incense and icons weren’t as shocking as they would have been if I hadn’t prepared myself.  Steve wasn’t shocked, either, because I had told him what to expect, too.  But all in all…  Well, if I’m being completely honest, it lasted a long time.  You really notice the time when you’re standing up the whole time.

I recognized several of the prayers from my prayer book that I printed out from the Internet, but I don’t have them memorized, so I couldn’t participate much.  During the Lord’s Prayer, though, man!  I was excited!  Because I know that one!!!  So I said it.  And I crossed myself, and I was happy because I’ve been teaching the kids to cross themselves when we say, “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” and that’s when they crossed themselves, too.  So I did it right!  Woo hoo!!

Side note:  When Michaela [the four year old with the speech impediment] crosses herself, she usually forgets to go from right to left, because she’s facing me as I cross myself, so she does mirror image instead of the same way, but anyway, she says, “In the Name of the Fathew, Son, and Holy ‘Piwit”.  I don’t know why but that makes me ridiculously happy.  I think God must smile, too, because it’s freaking cute, I tell you.

So anyway, Steve enjoyed the singing and the melodies of the chants, but other than that, he said he was kind of thinking, “What’s the point?”  He said at one point that he didn’t get much out of it.  Truth be told, I didn’t get much out of it either, but I went into it not expecting to get.

I did hope for a miracle, though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.  I wanted Steve to come out of the service and suddenly understand my fascination with the Orthodox Faith, but that didn’t happen.  He still doesn’t get it, but I told him that if this is how God wants me to worship Him, then I’ll do it that way until I die, because worship isn’t about me, it’s about God…and if He likes that, then I’ll do it.

Steve understands that.  He gets it.  And he’ll do whatever God wants him to do.  He’s just not convinced that that’s really how God wants to be worshiped.  So I thought I might study the Old Testament a little [or a lot] and figure out exactly how God prescribed the worship service of the Hebrews, and see if it resembles what the Orthodox Christians do.

Because seriously, if God wanted to be worshipped with liturgy and vestments and chants and insence and icons in the OT, why in the world would anybody think that would change with the NT church?  And I have to admit, I’m curious.  I’ve read some of Exodus where God starts telling how He wants the temple built and all the stuff everyone has to wear and do to worship Him, but I haven’t really studied it.

For me, the path to Orthodoxy has been so similar and yet so different from other converts from Protestantism.  God kind of turned my world upside-down when Artem came into my life.  It’s probably the only way I was ever going to turn around and come back to Jesus, but still.  I doubt many people have had a crazy Russian hi-jack their blog and tell them the unvarnished truth about their ‘spirituality’.  😉

After I came back to Christianity, I really didn’t expect to ever talk to Artem again, but then an atheist hi-jacked my blog and Artem was the first person I thought of to go to for help.  And the conversation continued, and the next thing I knew, I was reading everything I could get my hands [or mouse] on about this Ancient Faith that was so foreign yet so familiar to me.

Orthodoxy had the answers I hadn’t found in Protestantism.  Everything about it was different but it was like it was one ‘aha’ moment after another.  Things made sense to me that had stumped and frustrated and downright pissed me off for years about the Christian faith.  I read in Acts about how the early Christians were completely transformed into the image of Christ, and how they were so freaking different, and I looked at my own life, and things had changed, but then the ‘first blush’ had worn off, and I was just struggling again and miserable.

Orthodoxy is different.  And understand that I’m really crappy at explaining things, so I can’t put it into proper words [which may be why my Protestant friends and husband look at me like I’m nuts when I try to talk about this stuff] but there’s no end, no cap to this Faith. There’s no limit to how far you can travel, or how close you can get to Jesus in Orthodoxy.

I’ve craved that ever since I first met Him.  To be able to keep going and growing and changing as long and as fast as I’m able [which unfortunately isn’t very] but the only limits now are because of me, not because my faith simply doesn’t have the answers.

So back to last night.  After the service, I talked to the people who were there, and every one of them, with the exception of the priest, were converts from Protestantism.  I listened to their stories, and it was my story. The paths were as different and individual as we are, and yet finally, finally I was with people who understand exactly what I’ve been going through, and who have reached the same conclusion I have.

I cried most of the way home because I felt like I’ve finally found my Home.  I hadn’t realized just how lonely I’ve been, how beaten down by the negative attitude of the people around me.  And I don’t hate these people, but it hurts my feelings.  Part of me aches, but a bigger part is just pissed off because they’re so offput by the externals that they won’t let themselves even entertain the idea that there might be something deeper here than they’ve found anywhere else.

Tonight I heard the same thing I heard years ago when I first became a Christian, “That’s great for you.  It’s just not for me.”  Strange that I heard the same thing from a Christian about Orthodoxy as I heard from my non-Christian friends years ago about Christianity.

It sucks, too, because my first instinct is to get all defensive and prideful about it and place myself above them.  You know the drill, “They’re just not as far along as I am” or “They’re just blinded by their own pride.”  BAH!!!!  It’s meI’m the asshole.  I hate it when I feel this way, and I hate it that it’s so freaking easy.  Pride is like breathing for me.  It will likely be the death of me.  I just hope that it’s not the death of others, too.

I dunno.  There are so many emotions I’m feeling.  This morning when I woke up, I was pissed off at Steve.  On the way home, he started asking me questions, and telling me how some of the stuff they did wasn’t stuff that Jesus did, and it wasn’t in the Bible, so it has to be bad, and then I tried to let it go so I could sleep, but apparently it just festered there like a boil on my ass and when I woke up it was about to pop.

Grrrr.

I woke up pissed off, partly because of the conversation with Steve last night, but also because I really wanted to go to Divine Liturgy this morning, and I knew I couldn’t.  I didn’t want to go to our regular church, and I haven’t wanted to go there in a while now, but this morning it was especially bad.

But then, I found a website I had seen last night but not paid much attention to, and found that they broadcast the Divine Liturgy live from Florida.  So I watched about fifteen minutes of it [we had to get ready to go to church] and I had peace all of a sudden.

So I wasn’t a jerk to Steve, and we went to the late service at church and I survived it, so I guess that’s good, eh?

I’m shockingly human here, and not a good example of humility or love at all.  I don’t know what I’m thinking, going into this Faith, and yet I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  I guess that’s kind of what I am.  I’m going toward the light, knowing full well I’ll likely be burnt to a crisp, and all I can think is, “It’s so pretty… I don’t care if I die!”

And I don’t.  I don’t care if the Vespers and Liturgy are the driest, most boring thing in the world, I just want to be there. Every time.  Forever if He’ll let me.