How Is The Air In Your Church?

If a bad substance is breathed in and is strong enough, it can make a difference in your joy or misery, peace or confusion.

Can a poisonous environment hinder spiritual or personal growth? The main word on everyone’s lips these days is the environment. The air we breathe, and the health of our surroundings make all the difference in how long our planet survives and how well we live while we’re here. The atmosphere is important ecologically and spiritually. Take our homes for example. In every home, there is an undercurrent, a feel. Often you can sense it when you enter a house, but more often, when interacting with the family members, you get a feel of how they engage with one another. If there’s anger, and resentment, abuse, a code of silence, one can pick it up in the body language and the words used. It all has to do with the messages that are between the verbal lines or sometimes just in the air.

When I was growing up, I received the unsaid message from my father that unless you were perfect, you would not be loved. He never said those words. He was very careful not to say it. He didn’t have to. He acted it out every day. If my sister did something independent, she was branded a troublemaker. He treated her differently, negatively, suspiciously. I never wanted that treatment. I wanted love and approval from my father. So I did everything necessary to get that love. Of course, I did my share of teenage and childhood crimes, but on the surface, I complied with every rule. I was a good girl. I was a soldier in my parent’s one person army. To my father, my sister had gone AWOL, but I was the dutiful one. The one he could brag about with As and Honors and Ivy League education.

For me, in adulthood, that translated into people-pleasing, and fear of losing approval and acceptance. Our home was so chaotic and violent, and there was so much manipulation, I never really felt safe and my parents never really talked to me about my actual life or my problems or even who I was as a person. They were too distracted with their own mess. When Christ spoke to me about my life, I needed him, and even though I felt I had the external parts of my life together, the spiritual component was a disaster.

Initially, our church environment had a lot of love, and that’s what I craved. I had new moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters in Christ. The love shown to me was incredible, and I thrived spiritually in the atmosphere.

I was sincere in my love for Christ, and I could ignore a lot of flaws because of the love of God that was in the air. However, as with all parts of life, when love and acceptance cool off, the flaws in the relationship became impossible to ignore.

Here’s how poisoned atmospheres affect your spiritual life.:

An Example

Recently, my granddaughter had a lead count that was higher than usual. We were all very alarmed. She’s nine months old. We don’t let her touch tap water, she still uses “baby” water. We gave her good food.step0002

step0002 Where was this poison coming from?

So the doctor notified the state and a guy came out and found several areas in the house that had high lead counts. On the scale of toxicity is was on the lower side but the doctor wanted to investigate the source.

The inspector said it was our old front windows!Georgian-Sash-Window.jpg

Georgian-Sash-Window.jpg

No one could tell! Some poisons are tasteless and odorless and extremely deadly.

The inspector said that because the house was old and the front windows were the only ones that were never replaced, he suspected that this was the major culprit, spreading lead through the air. His meter reading went off the charts when he came near the windows. There were other minor places in the home with higher than normal readings, but he said that those things combined in the atmosphere could be breathed in and cause a problem.

Can this happen on a spiritual level? Of course.

If a bad substance is breathed in and is strong enough, it can make a difference in your joy or misery, peace or confusion.

Honestly, there are a lot of things you can ignore in your spiritual surroundings. There will always be a few bad actors: those who use the church for a social club, or those not interested studying their bible, then there’s always the self-righteous ones who think they’re the only ones toeing the line and don’t have any compassion for anyone but their friends of course. Then some people just want to be seen accepted and like their status, or those looking for a quick wedding night and not a marriage, the dishonest people. However, if such people are not held accountable, it can ruin the air.

What if such people are allowed to flourish and take over until the atmosphere is toxic, selfish and stagnant, and the church becomes a mixed goulash of unresolved problems, hatreds, and bitterness and you can’t seem to separate all the ingredients that made up the stew in the first place.

All of this creates a climate change. And in the words of Al Gore, an inconvenient truth.

What Makes the Truth Inconvenient?

When we see our environment is messed up and harmful to us, our initial reaction is to get away from it. But getting away can be inconvenient. This is where the problem starts. I spent years trying to fix what couldn’t be fixed, and God had to show me that I couldn’t function in lousy air and spiritually survive.

Do you still ignore dysfunction? What if the church is run by the dysfunctional people? Is that OK to endure because the doctrine is right? Does good teaching outweigh the need to breathe freely?

What if loyalty to families and particular people become more important than the gospel?

What if being on the Lord’s side becomes a conflict with the church’s agenda?

What if you try to discuss your concerns but then are tagged as an enemy of the state or a troublemaker or just ignored altogether?

What if every time you call attention to the problem, you become the problem?

All of these questions are questions that you have to work through to come to an answer.

No furniture, No Friends. My husband tells the story of how his dad took away all the furniture one year because he and his siblings just kept breaking the furniture and wouldn’t clean up the house–nine–I said, 9 kids. His dad’s solution was to throw out the couch, tables chairs etc.

It didn’t look like a home and you couldn’t be comfortable there. So for years, my husband didn’t invite anyone home. He was too embarrassed.

Sadly, I began to know exactly how that felt. 533de970ee6567a034d170100f190c25d437c126924fea92307fec5b0c07cd5d.jpg

533de970ee6567a034d170100f190c25d437c126924fea92307fec5b0c07cd5d.jpg

Having been in my organization for over 30 years, and knowing that it’s foolish to try and change an entire system. I found myself coming full circle. Seeking and working with God for myself. Besides I could see the writing on the wall.

O My! I’ve Been Replaced! Fun Stuff. I remember being sent an email one time by a Pastor’s wife who thought I was doing too much in the church. The email, ( I still have it) told me that I was being removed from heading up a project; that I would now be an “advisor” working with the women on a particular project and that she would now be taking over that project and she made sure to copy her husband. Ok. Fine. I’ve been replaced.

051263fe5ed94c24442863916fff95eff115d6-wm (1)

I’m just fine working in the background, but I never heard about the project again. No meetings or follow-up. It was just seemingly stomped out. Sadly, the women it was designed to help were the ones that suffered, not me. They actually had thought of it, not me. I was simply helping to organize but somehow it became all about me and political, the larger picture of helping people was lost.

Well, once a person wakes up to their surroundings, they have decisions they have to make. The struggle is not to accept dysfunction as normal. I remember telling the Lord, I didn’t want to accept political games, and bad behavior as ok. I couldn’t give in internally. I needed to hold onto what I understood to be right. I didn’t want to lower my expectations and begin to think principles don’t matter. They do matter. Environment matters. This is where people fall asleep, and start to get swallowed whole by the atmosphere. I needed to keep my inherent ethical values intact. And focus on my future in the kingdom.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me.  I’m 56 years old today.  I’m not one of those women that thinks it improper to tell their age.  I’m grateful for every year. I woke up this morning at peace. At peace with myself. At peace with the past and looking forward to my future and the future of my family. That’s saying a lot for me.  I had pined away about lost years and mistakes made, bad decisions but I made a decision one day. To make an affirmation to not dwell on the past and look toward the future. I can remember times, I would wake up depressed on my birthday because I was too worried about what my bad decisions had cost me.  I didn’t really understand what constituted success. Doing something big and notable what the image I was given early in life. Having a house and money was the goal. Since I acquired at least one of those, I was moderately successful.  But I was never enough, never satisfied, I was sent this message by my parents, family and later by my church that no matter how much you do, you are never really enough.    I’m so grateful to have learned so many lessons I wanted to pen them down not just for other people, but so that I can remind myself to continue to grow. 

I’ve Learned to Value My Family:

Jackie Kennedy said:

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” 

I wrote, “An Apology to My Daughter”  and we’ve become closer at a time she really needs me, raising her own daughter. After many mistakes, trying to be the perfect parent and following some of the rules of my church instead of seeking God for myself,  I still have time to be a good parent, a present, attentive parent.   I have a chance to pass on those lessons to my granddaughter and my youngest son.  I’ve spoken with children from our church group and realize how impactful that post was to open up doors for them to heal from their own childhoods. There was often this cult-like atmosphere that didn’t serve the gospel well– all children must act the same way and do the same things and act saved even if they’re not. However well-intentioned the motives, the results for the majority of those I have talked to didn’t work. Parents sometimes had to sneak and do things that would benefit their children so no one would know.  Some ended up having to openly repent about decisions they made as a family.  That should never have happened.  Every family is in God’s hands and not the hands of other human beings.  Many of the children in our religious group didn’t go through the normal development process of becoming adults because so many decisions were made for them.  There was so much unnecessary control over families who were not allowed to pray as individuals and come to their own conclusions.  Some were angry at me for writing about this, and others applauded, but whatever the case, it was something I needed to do personally to be genuine and honest about what I see and have experienced.    That honestly has meant volumes to my family.  

 

 

I’ve Learned to Value Myself

I am learning to value myself and the talents God has given me.  I don’t take that lightly. At one point I thought I was highly invested in my talents, but my talents were limited by worrying over what other people thought.  I allowed others to limit things God was giving me to do.  I was always the champion of good causes, but I’m learning to channel that in the right direction. 

I’m Learning about True Friendship

I am also finding others who find value in me as a person, that see worth in who I am, just as I am.  People that motivate me and aren’t afraid to celebrate my gifts.  Who actually want to know me and not an imagined version of me.  

There are people in life who will only associate with you because of a position you may hold, or what they think you can do for them. Or if you’re good at listening, they may just want your listening ear.  Or if you’re good at talking, they may just want you around so you can entertain them.  They’re not bad people, they’re just not that interested in you.  

They don’t really value you as a person. If they had a choice to get to know you, they wouldn’t. You have to recognize how much time to invest with such people. 

I’m Learning about Authenticity

I want realness in my life.  Jesus is real to me. He always understood me, even when I didn’t understand myself and he’s helping me to understand who I am and be comfortable with who I am. I am through with projecting images of success in home, family, church, business. But I accept who I am and what I am and I’m extremely happy with that because we have to learn how to value the simple things in life.  The small victories, the failures that teach us lessons, the atmosphere we give our children at home, the small moments we help other people. That is what is important.

I’ve been asked to take down posts about my real feelings simply to preserve an image and that never works.  What works is possessing the real thing and you will not need to cling to a presentation.

I’m Learning About Purpose

Finding out what the general purpose of life itself is easy.  The Bible tells us that the whole duty of man is to respect God and keep his commandments. Finding out your specific purpose is not so easy.  It takes trying different things, not being afraid of failure or how you may look to understand where your talents lie. That’s a process.  To be an instrument of God for His purpose, to be there for your family, your children and others around you with whatever talents he has given you.  That’s what’s important.

I’m 56 years old and happy about the things I should be happy with: my beautiful daughter and granddaughter, my two sons,  and my made-in-heaven 30-year marriage.

Just Happy

Someone asked me recently what I was doing with myself nowadays. I told them “I’m working on myself.”   The best present I could give me is to have a stable inner self.

I’ve learned to let go of past mistakes and people that want to hold to the past.  It’s important to encircle yourself with a village that will help you move forward. No one is successful on their own. People need other people.  Understanding this is truly honoring the gifts God has left to mankind.  We should respect those that are gifted, no matter whether they’re Christians or non-Christians.  All men have gifts and capabilities.  Every coach needs a coach, every therapist needs a counselor, every minister needs someone to lean on. All good mentors need their own mentors.

I didn’t find my worth in how many people were going to wish me a  Happy Birthday today.   I was satisfied. Although I’m conscious that everyone loves these things, I had no yearning today for praise, approval, and attention.  I am no longer trying to please anyone but God, myself and my family.  Other people matter but not in the way they once did.  My childhood was spent seeking praise and approval from my parents and much of my adulthood was spent trying to fit in and belong in a group that wasn’t that interested in me.  It wasn’t personal,  it was just system that wasn’t interested in anyone much as individuals.

One person I hadn’t seen in years knew me, but I didn’t remember them, told me  “you still have that salvation glow”.  Yes, I do, and that’s because, in the last 2-3 years, I’ve been seeking God for the next chapters in my life and learning new and wonderful things about Him and his Word.  I have been studying the bible to actually understand it, rather than to teach messages that will support what’s been already said. The Spirit of God is not stagnant and I’m trying to follow what he ‘s doing in my life and move along with Him, and that makes me very happy.

My Miseducation About Perfection

If I’ve learned anything it’s this:  It is not enough to realize that I had a difficult childhood. I must find out how this dysfunction affected my personality and behaviors so that I can be my authentic self.

I’ve written about perfectionism before, and yet as I go on in life,  I see more clearly the dangers of this insidious disease.  I’m reminded that the wrong type of perfectionism comes from damaged homes and false signals.  Some people bring this wrong mindset into their life and into their spiritual walk.  Years ago while participating in a married couple’s class at our church. The question on the floor was what is it that your spouse does that irritates you and how do you cope with it.   A minister’s wife got up and said, “Oh my husband is perfect.  He doesn’t do anything to irritate me.”  At first, I thought they were joking, but they weren’t.  How can that be?  Is he a clone?  Is he in a coma?  I couldn’t comprehend this at all. What had gone wrong there? Did she expects people to buy that? Continue reading “My Miseducation About Perfection”

Live and Learn

A friend of mine posted this:

21764763_1985247771758635_1725699572771677297_n

I laughed at the sentiment because I understood what she meant.  Not that I would call another human being trash, but I understand the thought.  People that are toxic to you emotionally and mentally, need to be removed from your life.  They are useless to your forward motion and your journey in life.  They become neither helpful or relevant. Part of walking on water is learning about people and who those people really are.   Those that withdraw love, friendship or contact with the wind are “fair weather friends”.

My mom used to use this phrase all the time and it’s taken me until 54 to learn what that truly means.  My son and I were up at 2 AM one morning and I told him that in life you probably only going to have 1 or 2 true friends.  That’s reality.  Everybody ain’t yo friend. When people withdraw themselves from your life, sometimes it’s a blessing.  It makes you see how much they did not value you as a person in the first place.  You were, to them, some kind of tool they could use temporarily.  Maybe your presence made them feel a certain way, or they simply looked at you as an acquaintance and not a friend.  It’s not that you become close to everybody—that’s impossible, but it’s the people who try to sell you on their love and care and then cut you off that are amazing.  You can’t think of anything that would cause it, or anything you’ve done but all of a sudden the contact stops.

It’s tough when the cold water of reality hits you in the face.

I was never that important to you anyway.

So you live and learn.

God encouraged me one time when cold shoulders have hit me in life that I had not wasted time at all.  Everything we do in sincerity and every person we meet teaches us something about life.   My husband told me years ago, “Because you’ve experienced these things, sweetie, now you know who not to be”.

  1. He encouraged me that hard lessons learned are the ones that stick, never think your time was wasted.
  2. He let me know that my sincerity is what HE values.
  3. He removed toxic people from my life because God is truth and he never wants us to be deceived about who people are.
  4. He reminded me that their removal was His design so that I wouldn’t lean on false support but only on Him.
  5. He showed me that anything we do with a good heart will never be ignored by Him and He is what is important in life.

Often you can look at the mistakes you’ve made in trusting people and say “how could I be so stupid”?  How could I have been so careless with my life and my time?   But it’s then you begin to see that those people who’ve cut you off, never did truly value you as a person.  You meant something to them but only in your own mind but not in reality.

And that’s the point, isn’t it?  The line between fantasy and reality.

A person showed me a chart one time.  On one side there was a circle called Fantasy and the other Side was an overlapping circle called Reality. There was a space in between where a person has to find a balance of what is achievable in a relationship.

Our fantasies about the character of people will eventually clash with the reality of their character.  We are all human.  Thankfully, I am learning to find those spaces where I keep fantasy at bay and deal with the reality accepting who they are and who they are supposed to be in my life.  Sometimes people are just lessons—that’s all.

When people say they love you and care about you, should you believe them or realize that people often just say things to fill up space or because they have a feeling of love, but don’t understand the reality?  You figure, “Oh… I get it.  It’s time for me to lower my expectations”.

It’s like buyer’s remorse.  You bought what they sold but you were sadly disappointed in the performance of the product.  No matter how hard the sell, (and you often do get the hard hustle sell “I really do care about you” “I really I do!”).  You look at their actions and sometimes you can even look into their eyes and you know it’s a scam.  It’s particularly disheartening when they are using the bible to sell the love product.

I was listening to a detective story one time and the detective explained his approach to his casework. “One or two coincidences, maybe, but when you have coincidence, after coincidence, after coincidence. Well to believe anything else is just plain stupid.”

I saw a sign one time that said:

“YOU WILL NEVER FIND THE RIGHT PERSON UNTIL YOU LET GO OF THE WRONG ONE”.

Lesson learned.

 

 

 

Nathanael’s Story is Our Story

Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me?  Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.                                                                                                                                      –St. John 1:48

I’ve read this story many times and didn’t get the depths of this until this morning.  I would read it and think ‘how did Jesus know that Nathaniel had no deceit’ in his heart. Well, of course, Jesus knew all things and as I began to meditate on this more, I realized the depths to which Christ knew men’s hearts.   Continue reading “Nathanael’s Story is Our Story”