Monday, July 06, 2015

Why I Decided To Return To Church

You may recall my leaving church because of it's non-relevance in my life back last summer/fall. I was sick of sermons that I'd heard a zillion times before, tired of being hit up to do things someone else decided were important that didn't matter to me, just so over the hate for gay people, transgendered, people that think differently and mostly just completely burned out of most things religious - especially the dramaz and gossiping that occurs at about 99.99% of all churches.

Recently I decided to go back. I'm no less over the gossip, the sermons, the triggering by hate and scriptures. However I miss worship too much. Worship is as essential as breathing to me. I cannot live happily without it. I no longer sing on worship team, but I still do flags and creative worship.

Another reason was that my poor husband just could not understand why I would walk away from his church, doesn't see that many there are treating it like a social club, the country club without a golf course. I got tired of constantly explaining myself to him.

But the biggest reason is that someone I know from my old church, Gina, a young lady that was one of my daughter Laura's best friends for many years, has been hired to lead worship. She started yesterday as the new worship leader. I know what an uphill battle she's facing there, the struggle to try and get people to do something different there amid a chorus of 'We've always done it like this!' I cannot leave her alone in this.

During Gina's adolescence we'd hauled her with us many times to conferences at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and other places. I'd sometimes work with the youth group activities  and youth worship team when she was on them. So yeah, there is a larger sense for me of helping and protecting someone that was close to us, almost another one of my kids for awhile.

Another aspect of this is that I feel pretty certain from what I've heard that there will be some folks from the old church coming to attend this church. People who once told me that they could have nothing to do with me for attending this church, filled in their minds with homosexual abortionist approving types, will be landing at our contemporary service. I feel like I'm needed, if for nothing else but to be helpful to the jarring sense of dislocation many will feel. It's not something I want to do, no, not at all. It's something I feel I need to do. It doesn't impact my faith or lack thereof.

Once the old church split happened a few years ago I've witnessed many old friends wandering from church to church, not finding a good fit at all. This contemporary service, which is currently the biggest and growing service in the county, is going to be a better place for most of them than some of the more wacky IFB churches they've drifted through. 

One thing is going to be very difficult for me, putting up with the ignorant rolling out of the mouths of some of our old church members. What was it Queen Latifah said in "Hairspray"? 'A whole lotta ugly coming out of a never ending parade of ignorant'?

I've already experienced that. Last week one of the old members of the original church stopped Jim and I at the gym and excitedly babbled out that how happy she was that Gina had the worship team leader job and how Gina was going to bring "The Holy Spirit" and "God" to our church finally. This is someone I used to be good friends with who told me in the same health facility that she could no longer talk to me after I left 'The River' and started going to a dead dry church without the Holy Spirit. I wanted to smack her then and I was wanting to seriously smack her upside of the head now. How dare she judge what we were doing at this new church? Like I said earlier our service is the fastest growing one in the county, so we must be doing something right. With her words she dishonors the hours, the blood, sweat and tears, the work of creating a new service out of thin air, reducing it to something of a placeholder until Gina got there.

So it looks like this is a season in which I will have to keep my mouth shut to the parade of ignorance, keep a very short offense list and grant grace. I'm not necessarily good at any of those things in the natural and I don't want to be good at them. But I am focusing on the good things instead, like everyone from worship team embracing Gina and trying to help her navigate the very different theology and church culture here. I hope she succeeds.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

I've Seen Fire(works) & I've Seen Rain

The Fourth of July was like this scene from "Office Space" for me..

I did nothing, I did absolutely nothing and it was all I ever thought it could be. I read, I watched a little tv, I worked on a quilt, I took a nap, I ate and I watched fireworks. Jim ran about and did his things, going out to the town July 4th celebration to help out at the church's booth, trying to sign up people to take the church's new English as a second language lessons geared towards our burgeoning Hispanic population.

I hate crowds, so I prefer home. Much easier on my asthma if I don't have to be exposed to everyone, the scents they wear, the cigarette smoke and assorted chemicals. If that means avoiding the town celebration so be it.

Glad our church is involved in helping out the Hispanic population instead of the usual response by many here that echos the recent words of Donald Trump. As time goes on and I get to know more of the ones that have chosen our small town as their new home, the more I realize that most of them are good additions to our community and country at large. Hard-working and family-oriented. The family that used to live next door would routinely bring me things like a flat of flowering bedding plants in the spring and other things and I'd help translate when things like the police or an ambulance needed to be called, even with my crappy tiny amount of Spanish. The family I know down the street are also equally wonderful. I'm always surprised and happy about how giving and sharing they are. They've sent over food from their family fiestas and birthdays.

The one negative instance I have with the local Hispanic community is the time I was in my living room quilting and my front door popped open. Some very inebriated Hispanic man was in my living room before I picked up my sewing scissors and told him to scram. It was terrifying to have someone break in like that, but the officer sent by the city police said he believed that the man mistook my house for his because there are so many Hispanic families in the subdivision behind ours. That could be.

Once the town fireworks started last night Jim and I were able to go out into our backyard, the edge of the backyard that backs up to the street to the next neighborhood, and see all the fireworks most clearly. It had rained very hard earlier in the day, soaking many at the local parade and celebration so I was glad the weather cleared enough to see the show.

This year the town moved the fireworks display down from the main park in town to the edge of the large graveyard a mile or so away. It made a big difference for us, usually we hear but cannot see the fireworks. This shift brought the display right to our backyard. We had people driving up on the road behind us to stop and watch the fireworks. Good vantage point as our subdivision is up on a hill overlooking the town.

As we stood on the edge of our property a large Mexican family we know that once lived in our neighborhood came by and we all watched the display. Lots of good conversation in a mixture of Spanglish.

After the fireworks Jim and I stayed up way too late watching the movie musical "The Music Man" marveling over the fact that here was a movie that was funny and good containing not one iota of sex or violence. I'm feeling the lack of sleep this morning.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Sea Changes

Okay, so I know I likely at some point in the last nearly 16 years of blogging I've mentioned at some point how rewatching the movie "Easy Rider" as an adult has shown me all too clearly that my ideas and memories have undergone something of a sea change. I remember seeing "Easy Rider" as an impressionable teen and thinking it was the coolest movie I've ever seen. Rewatching it in my late forties I found little to like in it, lots of crazy violence, racism, drugs, stoned sex in the graveyard. Struck me as a self-indulgent piece of tripe written/acted/directed by a fleet of dope heads. Didn't seem so 'cool' now.

I started to talk about this last year, how incredibly different things look after tide and time, I wrote a piece about the Voodoo Museum in New Orleans that terrified me as a child and how as an adult I realized how stupid my fear was. I never finished writing about how that related to a family relationship and how I'd gone last year into the zero effs left to give zone.

Tonight was another of those things that look so different after time. The movie "The Turning Point" came on television just as I was winding up a new batch of plarn to crochet baskets to store things in. Decided to watch it again, the movie was one of many different books and movies referenced in the book I recently reviewed for NLQ 'Jane Eyre's Sisters' by Jodie Bower One of the best books I've read in a very long time. I started reading the book thinking it would only talk about traditional portrayal of women in literature, but it was so much more, right down to psychological profiles of women in both life and literature. I came away from the book with a deeper understand of why I do some of the things I do and why others in my life make some of their own choices. Not so much 'right' or 'wrong' but the factors that play into how we forge our own lives.

I have always loved classical music and liked to watch ballet, so I was eager to see this film again. Oh, the insanely perfect leaps ending in a kneeling position carried out by a very young Mikhail Baryshnikov in his performance of "Le Corsaire" I was delighted to see performances by Suzanne Farrell, Peter Martins and other luminaries of the ballet world.

What I saw in the film that I'd not thought too much about was the corrosive power of resentment and jealous on the part of Shirley MacLaine's character. This time I could not help but see how not dealing with negative emotions the right way when they first appeared, but allowing them to fester and explode caused MacLaine's DeeDee to live her entire life without enjoying much of it. It ruined everything for her, leaving her bitter, twisted up too much to realize all she had to do was just let go of those things. I spent much of the film wishing DeeDee into therapy.

Don't live like that if you can help it. Let go.

I know I'm trying to do that, even if I'm here complaining occasionally about people showing their buttcracks at church or dealing with things that happened to me in the past. With the exception of perhaps two people in my life I can honestly say I've forgiven and forgotten. I'm going to have to work on the other two obviously.

One of them is a hopeless cause because he's the one that abused me and he's now dead.

The other one I'm going to have to figure out a way to let go, forgive and forget without allowing my own boundaries to be crossed again. Boundaries are new for me, another thing I'm having to relearn after my childhood and years in a cult. I am no longer willing to let my boundaries to be breached by anyone.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Furniture and Eye Styes

Thirteen days ago I passed a milestone and had my fifty-fifth birthday. Andy and Laura had us over for lunch and they gave me a wonderful present of a porch glider for the back deck we've been fixing up.We bought a beautiful tan and navy patterned outdoor rug for the deck and went ahead and ordered an all metal gazebo to replace our flimsy one.

It wasn't a particularly happy birthday time except for the cookout due to some stress in my life.

First, the constant monitoring of comments and news on the Josh Duggar situation. It's been very depressing to me. While I wanted the show to be cancelled, this is not at all how I wanted it to play out. God help those girls.

It also means I have been working way more hours than ever on NLQ because of the large hit numbers and interest in the story. Lots of interesting hate emails have come my way.

Second, there's been real  drama, which I will not speak of except to say if you are upset with me it's always a bad idea to start off by calling me a name in the first sentence. It violates my boundaries and after everything I've lived through I just don't respond to it any longer. I disengage until that person and myself are both calm enough to rationally discuss the issue. That goes for friends, work acquaintances, family, bulletin board members, HOA board, blog and NLQ. Names? Nope. Later calmness? Yes. I will not do drama.

I'd pretty much stopped doing anything but working on NLQ for these weeks. Last week I finally had to do laundry as I was running out of clean clothes and today I've scrubbed and rearranged my kitchen. Tomorrow is my 'down' day, the day before In Touch magazine releases new nasty information on the Duggar family and the internet explodes again. Kim Kardasian's ass didn't break the internet, but Josh's bad touch just might. Tomorrow I will do laundry and try to focus on other things.

This Friday was the first time in nearly a month when I wasn't endlessly updating NLQ so I took a little trip with Jim. He took his sales materials, I drove and we visited furniture stores between here, Charlottesville and over into Waynesboro.

Remember the guy that is one of Jim's friends who I was sure was trying mightily to scam Jim and I? Mark? He, Jim and a friend of Jim's in Pakistan have been working on getting a furniture import business off the ground. At first I was completely dismissive of their efforts because of the high pressure sales job Mark kept trying to do on Jim. But as time passes and I saw that there was no way for Mark to force Jim to cough up money for this venture and that he seemed to know what he was doing I relaxed and thought perhaps this might work out.

Jim's made some sales calls and generated interest. He's gotten a handful of places to say they were interested in buying furniture made in Malaysia where Mark lives.

Then the factory that Mark works with said that they weren't interested in working with Jim and Mark, that they had enough work without exporting to America, and, get this, they didn't think it would work because Americans are so much bigger and fatter than Asians so the furniture would be too fragile for our American lard asses. Well, they phrased it a little differently than I did, but not much.

So now Mark is scrambling for new factories and factory contacts, but Jim is still out there chugging along talking to retailers in the furniture business. He says he prefers to have me along on the furniture calls because it goes more smoothly, I have so far been able to answer questions he drew a temporary blank on. I've been enjoying it as I get to see all this just gorgeous furniture and I've learned a great deal about the business and what types and grades of furniture there are out there.

Plus I'm starting to see how courageous Jim is for trying to start another business in his sixties. Even if that business never really takes off. Part of it is that he is worried about his upcoming retirement at the end of July, which running the numbers really shouldn't be a worry.

Originally he said we would take a year here and then move to Costa Rica. He changed that a few weeks later to say he would retire in December. That suddenly turned into July with a move in December to Costa Rica. Now it's a move to Florida in December and a year or two later to Costa Rica.

This has been part of the irksome unsettledness going on that's been making me feel sort of down. Make a plan, stick with it. I know this is all worry about retirement too, so I'm not going to believe anything until it actually happens.

Yesterday had to take Jim to the doc in the box followed by the hospital ER. He's been having trouble with a swollen eye the last five days and it got much worse on Sunday. They said finally it was an infected hair follicle and sent him home with antibiotic cream for his eye, but I'm not entirely convinced it's not an underlying condition. He's exhausted and feverish too. He's home today and has spent much of the day in bed.

I've relearned yet again that I am the worlds worst nurse while I shuttle up and down the stairs with the camomile compresses the ER doc recommended for his eye.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

How to Read Past the Coded Language to Spot the Dangerous Religion Aspects of a Candidate

My husband Jim reminded me early this morning in an email that today was voting in our town, a primary to pick the Republican nominee for our local state legislative body.

Yes, I realize I'm not a registered Republican, but neither am I a registered Democrat either. But one of the wonderful things about Virginia voter laws is that anyone of any party affiliation or not, can vote in any primary. That's how the Democrats and Independents managed to push out Congressman Eric Cantor in a primary and elect someone completely new, Dave Brat.

Sadly Brat seems to be something more of a joke that Cantor was. He's fallen a couple of times for urban legends and made a number of statement that make me question his intellect.

So getting back to today's election, I knew nothing about the three candidates and had to do a quick read of all three candidates websites to decide. Once I was there I ran across that coded language Fundy-speak that is part of many politicians belief set that they try to hide.

You can apply this to anything, politicians, toxic pastors, emotionally unstable people, damaging Christians, teachers, you name it. Any people group, if they start speaking in coded language you can rule them out.

Let's look at some of these statements and decode what they really and truly mean.

Statement: "I believe that recent efforts to undermine traditional marriage in the Commonwealth are a direct attack on the family unit"
Decoded: "I fear and hate homosexuals"

Statement: "The excessive proliferation of government welfare programs has led to a breakdown in the traditional family structure by rewarding reckless behavior and contributing to a never-ending cycle of poverty, and we should work to remove from government the power to destroy marriage."
Decoded: " I believe everyone not in a two parent family is scum that does not deserve to be helped out of poverty."

Statement: "Bureaucratic red tape associated with adoption must be reduced significantly to provide a ready option."
Decoded:  "White middle class Christians should be allowed to adopt immediately no matter how unsuitable they might be as parents."

Statement:"Additionally, parental consent and involvement should be expanded for the safety and security of our children."
Decoded:  "I believe that children have no agency and are completely owned by their parents."

Statement: "we should prevent taxpayer dollars from being spent on the abortion industry – an industry that millions of Virginians find morally objectionable and should not be forced to support financially"
Decoded:  "No abortions for anyone, not even in cases of rape or incest."

Statement: "Thousands of Virginians are currently being denied the opportunity to provide for their families, achieve economic independence, own a home, or start a business due to onerous taxation and government regulations.  Government should not interfere with an individual’s right to work and provide for one’s family."
Decoded:  "Religious families should be allowed to do whatever goofy thing they consider a business and not have to put up with being regulated by the government. Home based businesses should have complete freedom."

Statement: "I pledge my opposition to any policy that limits the free enterprise economy, such as burdensome regulations that cripple small business or efforts to undermine Virginia’s “Right to Work” law."
Decoded: "Those isolationist Christian families should be able to pay you whatever they think is right and have the ability to fire you for something as minor as refusing to pray before meals. I don't give a rip about helping Virginia's workers and working families."

Statement:  "I will push back against the EPA and other federal agencies that usurp the authority of our Commonwealth"
Decoded: "Fuck the environment and your pesky whining about pollution. I think Global Warning is a lie and likely deny all science."

Statement: " I am committed to upholding the constitutions of the United States and our Commonwealth by opposing illegal immigration."
Decoded: "And I hate Mexicans too."

Statement: " Further, as with other infringements of law, illegal immigration imposes a great cost on the citizens of Virginia.  This is realized through public safety issues, expanded welfare programs, overcrowded schools, etc."
Decoded: "I really hate Mexicans."

These were all from one of the candidates website, but the two others were not dissimilar. Knowing that the world of Evangelical Christianity thinks it's their mission to take over the government to control those that think differently than them makes it important to examine the stated stances on issues while decoding their Fundy-speak more important than ever.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Modesty Struggles Or Is That Really Appropriate Church Wear?

I attended church today for the first time in many moons. Why? Because of something the pastor said to me all those months ago. The reason doesn't really matter.

But... what exactly is appropriate to wear to church these days? I don't want to return to the old church days of either loose jumpers over tee shirts or equally baggy clothing that disguises every bit of the human female form.

During my years at the old church you could see a long strange assortment of things worn by the ladies, from loose jeans and tees, through the Little House on the Prairie frocks among the most conservative. Our pastor even got up and gave a long lecture one day on what proper church attire for women consisted of. Basically anything that did not cause him to stumble into lust from the pulpit, no short skirts, no sleeveless shirts, no halter tops. Cover up and make is loose.

When he gave that sermon myself and several others all murmured that we were not about to give up sleeveless shirts during menopause in the heat of the Southern summers. I actually told the pastor that if seeing a bra strap triggered him or any other male into lust then it was they that had the problem, not the woman and to be grateful we weren't going braless and causing even more lust distractions.

So I've come away with the idea of whatever you want to wear to church that covers up gonads is a-okay, and if your church is at a nudist camp, like one shown on the news last year here in Virginia, going with the accepted flow is alright. Even if that means nude.

But this morning I was very distracted at my big mainstream church by a lady around the same age group as myself, in her fifties. Every time she got up, sat down or moved around she exposed the spectacle of her ass crack and tramp stamp. Had on the shortest shorts in the middle of church. It was distracting to say the least. We were sitting behind her and as much as I tried to focus on the service my eyes kept going to the carpenter's crack when we had to move.

There are just some things you cannot help but look at, no matter how hard you try to look away. Which leads me to wonder if there really is a line of things you should not be wearing to church. What does that look like and how do you enforce it?

It's not good to run off folks from church because of their clothing choices... but ouch my eyes!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

What TLC's Duggar Family and Charlie Manson's Family Have in Common

Lately I've taken to watching NBC's new show "Aquarius" It's set roughly in 1967-1968 time frame and deals with the Manson Family's early years. Plus it's a good solid cop procedural, and you know how I love a cop procedural show. The two lead cops are a straight-laced 1950s style cop named Hodiak and his younger hippie-esque counterpart Shafe. And yes, some of the stories are mixed up with law enforcement and the Manson Family.

It's not 100% true, nor is it 100% fiction, which makes it even more intriguing to me. I was a kid during the Manson area and as a teenager became fascinated with the Manson Family, particularly in light of the era I lived in of sex, drugs and rock and roll. I could see how middle class kids from dysfunctional families could be caught up in the mystical bullshit constantly spewing from master-manipulator Charles Manson. Had I been the right age in the right place I can see where I might have been sucked in too.

The actor playing Manson, Gethin Anthony, on "Aquarius" played Renly Baratheon on "Game of Thrones" my favorite show and he somehow has managed to get the speech cadences and accents of Charlie down perfectly while being believably menacing at the same time. Of all the guys that have played the role of Charlie Manson in various productions Gethin manages to be much more believable than the others.

I admit, I'm getting sucked into this by NBC because they took the Netflix approach with this series, releasing every episode on Xfinity On Demand immediately after airing the first episode on their broadcast channel. I've been zipping through the episodes like an addict.

But, as I'm watching this I'm reminded anew that Bill Gothard, Jim Bob Duggar and Charles Manson all have something in common. They all are master manipulators leading apocalyptic cults. They all base their bullshit brainwashing on the Bible and they all twist what's actually said in the Bible to suit their own agendas.

So, okay, perhaps I'll give Jim Bob a pass, after all I have always gotten the vibe that he is following his wife Michelle. Plus he's also under the headship of Bill "Grabby Hands" Gothard. He's more a follower than a leader. A Tex Watson to Bill Gothard's Charlie Manson.

Earlier in the year I read a book on Manson, one of the few that is a genuine scholarly attempt to look objectively at the life of Charlies Manson and what shaped him. The name of the book is "Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson" by Jeff Guin In the book Guin points out that Manson spent many of his early years and teenage years attending a fundamentalist type church and took many of the methods to manipulate others straight from his years in the church. He learned his methods right from the pulpit, combined with early exposure to strange Biblical interpretations and the counter culture of the 1960s culminating into a strong manipulator that got others to do his dirty work.

So how was The Family like the Duggar family?

1 - Women solely exist for sexual pleasure and to take care of men.
2 - No birth control is allowed.
3 - Both are patriarchal groups
4 - Isolation of group from the outside world. A closed system.
5 - Indoctrination of followers to a belief system anyone outside of the group can see is harmful.
6 - Bible verses twisted to uniquely fit leader's need to keep everyone obedient.
7 - Women kept unnaturally child-like.
8 - Biggest threat to followers to insure obedience is being cast out of the family group.
9 - Communal living with most possessions being shared.
10- Free thinking or questioning the leader is punishable.
11- Sublimation of ego required.
12- Group controlled by fear mongering by leader.
13- Women have no rights to their own bodies or personal autonomy.
14- "Us Versus The World" group thinking.
15- Women are required to have a joyful attitude all of the time.
16- No disobedience to the leader is allowed.
17- Women not allowed to say no to sex.
18- No protection against sexual abuse for the children of the group.
19- Molestation of children by family members.
20- No legitimate educational opportunities for children. Education is denigrated.
21- Natural home birth is upheld as the ultimate goal of motherhood.
22- Children are handed off to others in the group to raise instead of each mother raising their own children.
23- Women do all of the work of running the home.

I know I've missed a few, but these are the ones that jumped out at me this morning. Don't believe me about the total control the patriarch exhibits? Just take a look at how Jim Bob Duggar deals with catching a son masturbating.

Be sure to check out "Aquarius" and the NBC site for the show. There's lots of interesting things at the site, like this blog about 1967. I've been loving the soundtrack as it's the soundtrack of both that time frame and my childhood.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar will be appearing on Fox News to be interviewed by Megan Kelly over their son's sex crimes. It takes place Wednesday at 9 pm est. Feel pretty sure it's going to be the biggest pile of bullshit since the last time Charlie Manson turned on the charm to seduce girls into joining The Family.