Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Broken and Spilled Out

shattered-glass-1-daniele-smith

Often when reading blog posts I’m triggered.  Not into a downward spiral of despair.  More of a remembrance.  A remembrance of who I used to be.  A remembrance that causes me to take note of who I am today in relation to that person.

As I read this post at VictoriaNeuronotes and the subsequent comments I was brought to just such a remembrance. I remembered when I thought so little of myself that wanted nothing more than to be broken and spilled out because of what my supposed savior had done for me.  I was, in my mind, such a wicked person; so evil and vile that only a perfect blood sacrifice could atone for my shame, my depravity, my iniquity.  Unworthy of such a sacrifice I would be willing to sell my soul to the one who had made such a sacrifice.

I was reminded of this song by Steve Green which used to be a sort of personal anthem:

Broken and Spilled Out

One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn

And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a prisoner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of You, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee

Broken and spilled out
And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Lord, You were God’s precious treasure
His loved and His own perfect Son
Sent here to show me the love of the Father
Just for love it was done

And though You were perfect and holy
You gave up Yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of me, Jesus
God’s most precious treasure
Lavished on me

Broken and spilled out
And poured at my feet, in sweet abandon
Lord, You were spilled out
And used up for me

I so identified with the very first verse of Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

I even took to heart that John Newton had originally written, “…that saved a worm like me.”

A worm.  I was nothing more without Jesus than a wriggling worm in the dung heap of life. As a result of being told over and over that I was born as an affront to God, his enemy, I needed Jesus to mediate on my behalf. Made in God’s image, of course.  But I marred that image from the start by my own unrighteousness.  Anything good, and noble, and beautiful were the remnants of God’s perfect image.  The blackness, the ugliness, the humanness, that was all me. And that part of me deserved eternal damnation in a lake of fire. I needed a savior. And like anyone who has ever been saved from a sure fate of hell I was enamored with the savior.

This, folks, is the prescription company defining the disease and selling the cure.

I wanted to be broken and spilled out and used up in sweet abandon for any cause to which my savior called me.   And I was.  I was broken.  Every bit of my essence spilled out.  Shattered into a million little pieces.

You see, just as Victoria states in her excellent post, this all comes at a price.  Any notion of self-worth is hijacked and jack-knifed. Why would any loving parent want their child to be so broken?  How can this be called love?  In any other setting, if you removed the super-natural being from all of this, we would see it as twisted and abusive.  How can we just excuse this and say that because this is God there is some sort of caveat that makes this all different?somethingnew

So I’ve taken my million little pieces of broken and spilled out mess and I’m putting them back together.  I’m making something new.  I am reborn.

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Inculation, Inoculation, and Insulation

Inculation – Part 1

in·cul·cate (ĭn-kŭl′kāt′, ĭn′kŭl-)
tr.v. in·cul·cat·ed, in·cul·cat·ing, in·cul·cates
1. To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill: inculcating sound principles.
2. To teach (others) by frequent instruction or repetition; indoctrinate: inculcate the young with a sense of duty.

From a very young age I learned about heaven and hell, good and evil, and God, Jesus and Satan.  No, my parents didn’t go to church every Sunday.  In fact up until my dad died when I was twelve my family didn’t go with any frequency at all.  This sweet little couple with two kids of their own operated a bus ministry.  They ran a route on Sunday that came by my house and one day they stopped and asked my parents if it’d be alright if they picked me and my sister up for church on Sunday mornings.  So they came around in their re-purposed school bus painted green and white with Northside Baptist Church scrawled in cursive down either side every Sunday thereafter.  Sometimes I got on the bus and sometimes I didn’t, but they always came around.

While my parents slept in on Sundays, frequently, I’d tool down the road to church.  Seemed harmless enough at the time.  They took all us kids into “children’s church” where we learned about Adam and Eve and creation, Noah and the ark, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Moses, the Isrealites and all their obstinance, David and Goliath, and all the stories of old.  They taught us all about sin and where it came from, about the wages thereof, and about God and Jesus, and mercy and redemption.

They impressed on our young minds the truthfulness and reliability of all of the Bible.  We sang songs about all these things:

‘The B-i-b-l-e, that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, the B-i-b-l-e’,

‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the children of the world’,

‘God told Noah there’s going to be a floodie, floodie, Get those animals out of the muddie, muddie, Children of the Lord. God told Noah to build him an arky, arky, children of the Lord’,

‘I may never march in the infantry,
Ride in the Calvary,
Shoot the Artillery,
I may never fly over land and sea,
But I’m in the lord’s Army.’

‘Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear,                                             Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear,
For the Father Up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little ears
what you hear.’

‘Joshua fought the battle of Jericho,
Jericho, Jericho,
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho,
And the walls came tumbling down!’

We played games and listened to stories as the leaders ‘acted’ them out with the characters on the flannel board.  Learning about all of this was so much fun.  Sunday after Sunday the greatness of God and his virtues were extolled to us.

Children’s church is where I first learned some really big words.  They seemed big to an eight-year-old anyway; words like omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  We learned that there was only one God, he was the Christian God, and he was all powerful, all knowing, and all present.  God was everywhere all the time, he could see and hear everything and even knew my thoughts, and he could do anything.

We learned that Eve ate the apple, gave some to Adam, and ruined the perfect garden.  We learned that, just like that, sin entered the world and tainted every person ever since.  We learned that God sent Jesus to fix it all and all we had to do was trust in Jesus and everything would be okay.

Child-like faith was all we needed.


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A Bad Influence

Leigh and I had been really good friends.  Until her mother decided I was a bad influence on her.  We went to the same small Southern Baptist Church.  We were in the same youth group which, for the size of the church, was actually pretty large.   I’d sat at her family’s dining room table where after dinner they always had a family Bible study.

We had a really dynamic, energetic, youth leader.  She talked to us about Jesus, but she also made going to church fun for teenagers.  There was always something going on.  Not in that ‘lure ’em in with pizza and a movie and then manipulate ’em into getting baptized bait and switch’ kind of way.  Not like that at all.  In fact in her group you had to earn pizza and a movie.  There were all kinds of service projects from cleaning elderly church members yards to scraping and painting their houses.  If you wanted to go to Super Wow you had to work to go even if your parents were paying for it.  We always had fun doing all of it.  But I digress.

Leigh and I were really close until one night when we, Leigh, her younger sister, and me, went to the teenage “nightclub” in Big Town.  I wasn’t ever much for the nightclub scene.  Maybe that night ruined me on it.  I don’t know.  Anyway, Leigh and her sister were bumpin’ and grindin’ with all the guys on the dance floor.  I was uncomfortable and bored and decided I’d go cruise the strip with Folsom.  I’d never cruised the strip before.  Cars were bumper to bumper. There was no way out if you were on the inside lane, which we were.  Curfew was 11 p.m.  I was stuck.  On the strip.  With a guy.  At time to head back.  Sweating.  Nervous.  Crying by the time we made it back to ‘the club’.

I just assumed they’d wait there for me.  That was the agreement.  But when I wasn’t there at the the agreed upon time they got on the strip looking for me.  As if they’d ever find me in the sea of cars.  This was before the advent of cell phones.  There was no instant communication.  I didn’t know they were looking for me.  Folsom and I waited.  And waited.  And when they didn’t show back up we assumed they went home without me.  No sense all of us getting in trouble, right?  Not knowing what else to do, Folsom took me to Leigh’s house.  Where they were not.  Only her mother freaking out.  Leigh hadn’t even used a pay phone to call her mom to let her know she’d be late.  And by this time we were hours late.  Not sure how many.

Folsom and I explained what happened.  But she didn’t believe us.  And when Leigh and her sister couldn’t find us on the strip they headed home too.  By the time it was all over everybody was crying and I was banished.  Leigh’s mother didn’t know what I’d been up to with Folsom, but she was sure it wasn’t cruisin’ the strip.  Her kids had never done anything like that until I came along.

Admittedly starting a cruise down the strip at 9:30 when we needed to be rolling out at 10:30 wasn’t the best decision.  I had no idea that it would take an hour and a half to travel three miles and back.  But a bad influence?!?  And nothing Folsom or I said made any difference. In fact, the more we protested, the worse it made things.  She called my mother, my mother came to get me, and that was that.  I wasn’t welcome at their house anymore and Leigh and I only got to hang out at youth group after that.


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The Hunt for a Tribe – Part 2

The reason I don’t say that I feel lonely is because, to me, loneliness connotes a bit of melancholy.  I’m not melancholy at all.  I just thoroughly enjoy face to face interaction.  I like being a part of a group.  I mentioned before how I had a lot of friends that I did things with before they weren’t solely my friends.  They were our friends. Mine and my former spouse’s.  We had friends.  And DagoodS pointed out something I hadn’t really realized until he said it.

“As I am the extrovert, we obtained most of our friendships through me.”

The exception to what he said was that I would prompt the invitations.  “Do we have plans?  Let’s invite so-and-so over for dinner.” As I realize it now, with the exception of one couple, I wasn’t particularly close to any of them.  We just had them over for dinner or we went to their house for dinner.  I was pretty much cut off from them in anything other than a “couples” situation.

So now I’m left with a couple of options.  I can give up the thing I love to do.  Or I can get over my shyness of first meeting people and start afresh.  Given those two options I choose number two.  I see it as a challenge.  Remember I said I’m tenacious? It is in that spirit I decided to give the local Unitarian Universalist Church a go.

I got up one Sunday morning, put on my Sunday best, and made the trek just outside of town to their nice wooded locale.  I’d arrived a few minutes behind most everyone else, thinking I’d have a chance to speak with, perhaps, a few people after the service.  As I drove into the shady dirt parking area it was pretty full, mostly with cars with out-of-town tags.  They were Honda Civics and Toyota Priuseses.  Is that even a word? How do you pluralize Prius? Here I came bustin’ up in there with my crossover SUV.  There were even a couple of cars that had Flying Spaghetti Monster and Darwin emblems stuck to the trunk where an Ichthys usually is.  I would have snapped a couple of pics with my phone but a)I was running a little late and b)I was afraid the folks might think I was up to something.

Dashing inside to get seated before the services started I rushed past the table where they asked for visitors to sign in.  They began with Children’s Church the children’s feature where they had all the little ones in a circle with a story time.  This was Conservationist Sunday so the story was, accordingly, about how God had left a well for all the animals to use.  But he or she felt the need to appoint a guardian of the well.  A lizard.  Who was selfish and wouldn’t allow any of the other animals to get water.  So God, he or she, banished the lizard from the well and appointed the frog in it’s stead.

Then there was a bit of music.  Traditional sounding hymns sung in praise of mother earth and how we are destroying her.  Instead of praise reports and prayer concerns there were joys and just plain ole concerns.  In the middle of the congregation were votive candles where, during the allotted time, members could light a candle for a joy or a concern.  After the candles were lit, instead of prayer, there was a moment of silence which was probably about three minutes but felt like ten.  We just sat there, our heads bowed, our eyes closed.  Well…they were supposed to be closed.  I got antsy and opened mine and began to look around.  I know. I’m bad.  I couldn’t help myself. I was way overdressed.  Everyone else had on shorts and flip-flops or jeans. There was one couple that wore something that appeared to be traditional cultural dress but I don’t know which. Then a lay-member snuffed each candle and allowed the smoke to rise into the air as a sacrifice to god the universe I don’t know what.

Then there was the sermon lecture talk.  Yes, talk.  A lay-member spoke about water conservation and what that means for our city and our state.  It was really rather interesting.  Our state’s water supply is fed off of the Flint and Oconee Rivers and there has been a big tri-state fight over water rights.  It’s a mess really.  But she showed us some interesting maps of places that are water rich now and what they well be like ten and twenty years from now.  The maps made it appear that within twenty years we’ll all be a desert land. Then we sang another song to mother earth and it was over.

I had first thought I’d hand around for a few minutes to socialize, but that particular Sunday they were having a business meeting following the service, so I spoke briefly to the minister of the church and then made my exit.  If I’m honest with myself I don’t think that was particularly for me.  It felt strange to be doing worshipful stuff but not really worshiping.  Not that I wanted to.  I don’t feel inclined to.  It just was odd to me to be all worshippy without worshiping.  Who knows? Maybe I’ll give it another go.  Maybe it would grow on me.  Or maybe I should give something else a try.  Yeah, I think it’s that one.  Something else….what will it be?