Such an Inner Strength

Yesterday, I listened to the latest sermon at Holy Covenant UCC. As regular readers know, I’m a very progressive believer, hardly even calling myself a Christian. I tend to doubt God’s presence a lot. I mean, why is there so much suffering in the world when God is loving and ever present?

The pastor delivering the sermon said that Jesus could’ve had these same doubts while on the cross. Yet what seemed like God the Father abandoning His son was, according to the pastor, the greatest moment of all creation, as God opened the gates of Heaven.

One of the things I find hard to deal with in Christianity is the idea that only certain people will make it to Heaven. I mean, according to the Bible, only 144,000 people who ever existed will be allowed entry into the Kingdom of God. My husband uses this as one of his reasons for being an atheist. My former pastor at the psych hospital though said that this number may be symbolic: twelve times twelve times a thousand is a lot! I like that. Some other progressive Christians at one point told me that there’s a theological theory that says that all of Hell was shattered on the cross when Jesus died for our sins.

At first, when listening to the Holy Covenant UCC sermon, I felt weird. The pastor said that God had hidden his treasure in the plain and ordinary, that is, us. That had me go uhm. I somehow wish I was more than just an ordinary being and a sinner at that. Isn’t that a bit narcissistic of me?

Then the pastor went on to tell the church that we are more than our outward appearance. In other words, we are more than ordinary beings. Because of God, we each harbor a huge inner strength. A treasure. We are more than how we come across to others. We are also more than our experiences. We are more than the racism, sexism, ableism, etc. we endured. Through God, we can overcome the odds!

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for what is right. The pastor, who I assume is of color, talked about the great abolitionists and civil rights activists, who maintained their faith in the presence of immense hardship. They kept going despite opposition and oppression. That is what we should do. Don’t give up, but fight knowing that God is by our side. Ultimately, even if evil prospers right now, it will not always.

Expressing Faith By Expressing Anger

Last week, for some reason, I felt called to listen to a church service. When I do, I usually listen to United Church of Christ services, though occasionally I check out Protestant Church in the Netherlands services locally too. The service I ended up listening to was delivered at Mayflower Congregational UCC in the Oklahoma City area. It was titled “disorientation”.

The topic was how many Christians think they’re not healthy or whole enough to attend church. Many Christians are taught to believe that we shouldn’t show our distress or be angry with God. Though I grew up in an atheist home, I too was taught not to complain or be angry. “Gets angry easily” was often written about me in psychological reports. This may have been so, but anger in itself isn’t bad.

Rev. Lori Walke, in her sermon from May 10, talks about the psalms, nearly half of which are psalms of lament. In one of the psalms she discusses, psalm 13, David cries out to God in anguish:
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (Psalm 13:1-4 NIV)

Rev. Walke goes on to recite the rest of the psalm:
“But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6 NIV)

This expression of anguish shows, according to Walke, that David deep down still has faith. After all, if he didn’t believe his anger would do anything, what good would there be in expressing it? As such, those who hold their anger inside and keep silent, usually are more hopeless than those who cry out.

This is why Walke invites us all to take our troubles to church. We don’t need to put up a happy face all the time. Indeed, in our expression of anger, we also show an expresssion of faith.

This totally struck a chord with me. I was taught as a child not to express my anger. Like I said, it was said about me that I was angry too easily. When I landed in the mental hospital at age 21, I even for a while had the unofficial nurses’ “diagnosis” of “angry and dissatisfied”. While there definitely was some truth to this, stuffing my anger only fueled my hopelessness. It was in my expressing my despair that I also showed that deep down I still believed in a good outcome.

Joining in with Let’s Have Coffee.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (March 8, 2020)

Okay, so the 10-day writing challenge is going nowhere. I actually missed yesterday’s prompt reminder and cannot think of anything to write on today’s prompt. Then again, the challenge is to write and that’s what I do. At least, I try. Today, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. I just had a nice cup of coffee and a slice of cake. There’s some left over, so come on in and have yourself some.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this week was a mostly good one. On Tuesday, I reached the recommended daily step goal, something I hardly ever do. I walked to our neighborhood supermarket for some groceries for the day activities group and bought some for myself too.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I also got weighed in on Tuesday. Though I had a tiny gain of 100 grams, I am very satisfied. After all, I’ve not been minding my diet much at all lately.

If we were having coffee, I would share about my renewed interest in religion and spirituality. As those who read my blog regularly may know, I don’t really practise any organized religion, but I do believe in God. I was discussing my renewed interest in particularly progressive Christianity with one of my staff on Wednesday or Thursday. She actually invited me to her church. I read one of that church’s pastor’s sermons and it touched me.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last Friday, I had a meeting with my support coordinator and the behavior specialist from the care facility and my community psychiatric nurse (CPN) from mental health. It was a good meeting. My CPN is going to look into getting me in touch with the team’s psychologist for trauma treatment. We are also working on my fear of rejection or abandonment. For this purpose, we will incorporate cognitive behavior therapy into our regular sessions.

My husband did warn me not to work on too many things at a time. I agree with him that wanting to progress too quickly is a pitfall for me.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my husband came by for a visit yesterday. He didn’t make it here till past 4PM because he had a problem with his car. Thankfully, he was able to fix the car and make it to Raalte anyway. We drove to a nearby forest intending to go for a walk, but there were no roads and I can’t walk through the bushes. Then we drove to McDonald’s, but it was overcrowded, so we ate at the Subway restaurant next door, where we were literally the only people.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would tell you that one of our staff is going to buy us clients Chinese food this evening. The reason is that she graduated from social care school recently. I think I’ll love it.

What have you been up to lately?

Something Between Me and God

So Christmas is over. My own family doesn’t care about it much. We didn’t visit my parents this year. My sister, brother-in-law and three-month-old niece saw our parents for a few days before Christmas. My husband had to work, so we didn’t have time to come over then. We could have come over today, but I personally don’t like visiting my parents if my sister and brother-in-law aren’t there too. All of us live in different corners of the country and my sister and husband both work irregular hours, so ideally we find a day when we can all be together. That doesn’t have to be at Christmas. It helps that my family aren’t religious. My parents are both atheists.

I am not an atheist, but I prefer not to subscribe to organized religion. Yes, I derive meaning from reading Christian devotionals and listening to Christian music. I also sometimes pray. I no longer attend church and never attended regularly. I take the Bible with a large bucket of salt. Yet I feel very touched by the nativity story.

Recently, when going through my Facebook profile and privacy settings, I chose to delete my religion off my profile altogether. It listed “progressive Christian” up to that point, but really I think it’s none of my 500+ friends’ business. My husband says religion is something between him and whatever higher power he believes in or not. It is not that I don’t want to share – I am doing that now -, but I don’t want to label my belief system. Maybe in some respects I’m still a seeker.

And yet, sometimes I wish I subscribed to an organized belief system. I mean, I love to connect to spiritual and religious bloggers, but it’s hard to find this connection without sharing their doctrine. Am I truly being honest when I tell a Christian blogger that I agree with their spiritual message even though on fundamental matters of doctrine, we most likely strongly disagree. I mean, my husband at one point read me the Nicene creed, on which all Christianity is based and I didn’t agree with some points.

Then again, it’s not up to the humans who wrote that creed to judge me at the end of times. They may kick me out of their blogging communities, but they won’t ultimately decide whether there’s an afterlife and if so, how I get to spend eternity in it.

I love to derive meaning from all sorts of spiritual sources. Most are either Christian or New Age-based. I don’t think believing in God and Jesus contradicts belief in one’s inner spiritual power. I don’t think I need to take the Bible literally or even semi-literally to consider myself religious. Like I said, my spirituality is something between me and God.

I’m joining in with RagTag Daily Prompt, for which the word today is Spiritual.

Religion: My Thoughts on Spiritual Belief Systems #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to a possibly even later day 18 post in the #AtoZChallenge. I was visiting my sister-in-law with my husband earlier, so didn’t have time to post this one earlier today. Today’s letter is a hard one too, in that I didn’t have a topic set for it prior to today. This post may be controversial, as I am going to share my thoughts on religious belief systems.

I was raised atheist. My mother grew up in a small, sectarian Christian church, so she despises Christianity in particular. My father did tell me about religions when I was young. However, when I went to a Christian school for the blind, because it was the best school for the blind, the teachers refused to respect the fact that we’re non-religious. This got both of my parents to hate religion even more.

I started developing an interest in spirituality at around age 15. At first, it was just New Age’ish stuff and I didn’t look into it deeply.

At around age 18, I started being interested in Christianity. I didn’t go to church, as I didn’t feel ready to do that. However, I did start to read Christian devotionals and Bible verses and stuff.

When I was around 26, I started going to church regularly, only to stop going again by age 30. I still feel Christianity has a lot to offer in the way of spiritual guidance, but like I’ve said before, I don’t like the politics associated with it.

My husband got confirmed into the Protestant Church of the Netherlands in 2010. I attended the service and felt really off, because one of the hymns played made me feel like those who don’t believe, will burn in hell. This thought has always sat uneasy with me. It did with my husband too, which is why he rejected Christianity ultimately.

I currently use both Christianity and general spirituality as inspiration. In other words, I subscribe to what in the Netherlands is called “something-ism”. This means that people believe in a higher power but don’t subscribe to any particular religious belief system.

More of Jesus

Today, I am joining in with Five Minute Friday (FMF), for which the word today is “More”. I regularly read the posts from other bloggers there, but rarely join in, as I”m not a practising Christian. I do believe in God, but am generally a lot more progressive than most Christians and do not like the practical requirements and political implications of organized religion. This feels odd to me sometimes. I crave spiritual guidance.

I found out through Five Minute Friday today about Betsy Cruz’s Book More of God and the title struck a chord.

I want more of God. I want more of a spiritual life. I feel I should be engaging in meditation and prayer more, but I don’t.

I also feel I want to connect to other believers more, but feel generally left out because I’m too progressive. I was kicked out of an apparently conservative Christian blogging community when I mentioned (without condoning it) the possibility of connecting to a higher power other than God in a post on my old blog. I felt sad about that, so I got angry with the Christian blogosphere and by extension with christianity as a whole. I wanted no more Jesus. But yet I do.

Jesus didn’t kick me out of that community. He loves me (and I’m sorry if this gets me kicked out of FMF too) even if I don’t follow the rules of conservative Christianity. He can and does help me find inspiration in life. I want more of Him.