In my year+ of spiritual seeking, I’ve found one inalienable Rebecca-Truth. If I have a severe reaction to something, it’s either A) Spiritual shrapnel that needs to be removed or B) Progress yet to be made. Either way, it needs digging out.
And, in the case of this blog article on Christian modesty “I Was Confronted For Being Immodest” ? It’s shrapnel.
When said post recently went viral, I allowed myself to be sucked into its downward spiral.
(Progression: Read Post. Read comment thread. Get ANGRY. Slam doors. Slam more doors. Read more. Get angrier. Say aloud: My whole damn project wasn’t worth anything! Why? Because I have trouble just saying Live and let live—when a nice young mother–with an innocent heart– if an ill-fitting wardrobe– is being bullied in the name of the Lord for her church-dress choice. And submitting to said bullying without a fight!)
Upon expressing my frustration with the article and with myself, I had this conversation with a friend. Me: Is it judgmental if this post makes me go Uggggggghhhh! ? Friend: Why can’t you just say that’s one way to do it and move on? Me: That’s totally easy if it isn’t personal. Friend: You’re making it personal. Me:UGGGGHHHHH!
I considered his point—albeit huffing and puffing with disdain. I recognized that this post had nothing to do with me. I do not know this woman, nor am I involved in a religious environment that would pass this type of judgment. ( And I highly doubt the all-loving Divine wastes time being incensed over an allegedly improper skirt choice. Isn’t He kinda busy, like, running the Universe-at-large?)
So why did reading this feel like an MRI machine, pulling up bullet fragments from long-forgotten wounds? Why did it feel so personal?Because this post magnetized my every memory of being shamed in the name of God, every time I was bullied for the Cause of Christ. Every time I had submitted to spiritual abuse because I needed to have a teachable heart, and God clearly wasn’t happy with my learnin’.
This article called up a militia of bad memories, ready for action and lined in a neat row stretching back as far as kindergarten. It made my heart do an involuntary quick-draw, pointing my weapon at a viewpoint that had decimated my faith. It inspired me to raise my gun of rationale, wave it in the face of all that hurt, and demand it step aside because You are SO not allowed in my space anymore.
It also caused my newfound faith to briefly falter because due to my past pains, I briefly forgot my belief that there is Truth in all genuine viewpoints. And instead of gently untangling my feelings and simply moving on,—Live and let live–I got stuck in a mental battle, the kind that never has a winner.
This is how it is between me and this viral blog post on modesty. I would much rather have a pentagram drawn on my forehead than have a deacon’s wife bully me about the choiceness of my dress… or let anyone else be thusly shamed. (Hell, I’d rather eat rat meat sacrificed to an idol!) This post and its comment thread? It’s my ex-est of ex-boyfriends, armed with a firearm that’s pointed straight at my temple.
After a few days of mulling over my reaction though, I realized ANY judgmental beliefs, even (and especially!) mine, are like raising a gun to the head of someone else’s worldview. Just take one menacing step towards me, and I blow your brains out, sir.
But for every gun you have pointed at someone else, there’s an infinite number pointed at you. It’s like a gangster movie stand-off, if said gangsters were clad in self-righteousness instead of leather jackets.
For example, if you say a skirt touching the knee is godly, there are a hundred ladies who would declare you immodest. For those who think mid-calf length is appropriate, plenty of sects would tell you that God only approves of ankle-length skirts. And don’t forget the Amish, who believe a woman may only worship in a head covering. There are even religious guns pointed at their bonnets because many think them too religious (bound up by codes that presumably jumped off the deep end when they declared electricity to be evil). This struggle is not unique to Christianity–no– it is pervasive in most faiths, the veritable What Not to Wear of religion.
Today, I’ve decided that if crying about your clothing choices and tossing an offending dress in the garbage makes you feel like a better person and makes you feel closer to honoring your God in spirit and in truth, who am I to say it doesn’t?
So I’m laying down my weapon, kicking it aside, and waving my (possibly immodest!) clothing –depending on who’s judging my sweatpants & t-shirt— in a gesture of surrender. Granted, I’ll still be at the mercy of everyone else.
But at least I won’t be the one with the gun.
I used to be an Evangelical Poster Child. Today, I am contending for the coveted title of Most Uninspiring Spiritual Seeker Ever! (And? If the Academy was voting this very second? I would totally win. I mean, I’d win hands-down with the most-unanimously-unanimous vote in the history of voting.) I’d be crowned Victor of Un-Inspiring-ness (and Princess of Pitiful, if I had anything to say about it, which I do not) because I have been creatively angling for the title for days.
My winning tactics for are as follows. (They are my gift to the world, and I give them freely–provided I keep the shiny statue upon my victory).
- Contract staph infection which manifests in the form of a strange red walnut on your chest, otherwise known as a 3rd (albeit alien-style) breast. Take two double-strength antibiotics twice a day for 7 days, and wait for the 3rd boob infection to shrink. It does not.
- Severely sprain ankle whilst walking home from a bar, after celebrating the completion of Husband’s 2nd year of law school with too many shots of chocolate-whipped-vodka shots, which should not be taken with double-strength antibiotics. (Achieve this by drinking to excess, wearing heels, then staging a Hostile Sidewalk Encounter. Pain is certain to follow.)
- Wearing Frog Prince Flannel pajamas, lay in bed for two full days. Sleep intermittently and read Kindle between naps.
- After falling asleep while reading, roll over, effectively breaking Kindle’s screen.
- Only when completely necessary (as in the case of actions your Husband cannot do for you, such as visiting the ladies room) hobble about on borrowed crutches (slightly janky but lovingly appreciated!) which feature hand-holds at different levels and a lovely green washcloth taped to (only one) armrest (for comfort!).
- While staring at your bedroom (because you no longer have anything to read, except business reports, which are bor-ing and totally incompatible with pain meds) complain that your space has taken on the distinct look of an episode of Hoarders, minus the dead animals and trash. (Mostly. Dog, still being very much alive, has scattered bathroom trash amongst dirty/clean/unknown-status laundry.).
- After taking brain-addling pain meds, attend bi-weekly conference call which is typically as easy as third-grade math with boss, who, during said call, morphs into a sadistic version of your college statistics professor and gives you a pop exam that you are not ready for, regarding the bor-ing reports you failed to run/read. [Note: I really do love my boss. He is a great guy and will teach me A Lot of Great Business Stuff. Eventually, when I get a warning that the Spanish Business Inquisition is coming.]
- Hang up from Evil Call and dissolve into a mess of tears, which causes two-day-old mascara to run all over your face, in the manner of an angry abstract painting, but not as pretty.
- On the way to the ladies room, glance in the mirror. You will see the reflection of a Winner!
At least I have four days to get my s*** together before Thirty by Thirty is over, and can still hope to achieve Inspirational Spiritual Seeker Status in the future…someday. (But, dear readers, should I become a totally famous author? Please deflate my balloon head by reminding me of this post. XOXO.)– Reba
Continued from Beltane
We fear that which we do not understand. But what causes even greater fear? That which we believe ourselves to understand.
The Maypole celebration ended with a ritual wherein the Priest, Priestess, May Queen and May King ceremonially offered cookies and juice to each attendee along with a Blessing. We formed a line, and one at a time went forward to receive a dual blessing: one each from the God and Goddess. I hung back a little, taking in the situation. It looked an awful lot like Holy Communion (if Holy Communion took place in the woods and was offered by people with flower crowns). Granted sprinkle cookies replaced bread, and orange drink the wine, but I couldn’t shake the similarity or decide if I wanted to ingest a Wiccan Blessing (er, Communion?).
I inched forward in the line while giving myself a silent pep-talk: There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s a Blessing Ceremony, silly, not a sacrifice! It’s just cookies and juice, baby, just cookies and juice. I flashed back to some unfamiliar things I’ve done this year (like bowing to idols and medium/psychic readings), and reminded myself that I’ve always come away with something good from every experience. Just as my fears cooled and I was up to bat, I noticed the ritual included the Priest and Priestess drawing Pentagrams on the foreheads of those being blessed, the same way a Catholic Priest would make the sign of the cross over a Christian in communion. It’s just cookies and juice, baby, go forward!
So I stepped up to receive my blessing from the Priest and as he started drawing the first line of the Pentagram on my forehead, everything in me jumped backwards, taking my body, almost unwillingly, with it. Whoa, I said, no Pentagram. I can’t handle the Pentagram. Then the Priest jumped back and almost simultaneously accused, “You the Christian? Someone said there was a Christian here!” Without thinking, I retorted, “I’m not a Christian!” (Meaning: I’m not the kind of Christian you are thinking of!), then realized what I’d said. All four of us were very worked up in a kind of energy gridlock, so it took all I had to step back up to receive the cookie minus the pentagram. The Priestess said she could give me a blessing that wouldn’t offend me, and I was all tears and sniffles and You’re not offending me! I don’t know what’s going on but I just can’t do the Pentagram!
Graciously, she blessed me with a simple hand on my head with a prayer that would be acceptable in any religion: it ended with May you never hunger…May you never thirst. Still teary, I drank the juice, while apologizing profusely for my behavior. It was all very intense, and I had to sit down to consider exactly what in the heck just happened?! I’ve done all kinds of things this year and all the sudden I back down from a Blessing? Great job, Reba, invading their Sacred Space only to ruin their ritual.
We discussed the incident later by the campfire, while the others were drumming and singing, and the both the Priest and Priestess were very kind: more concerned about the balance of my energy than my Blessing breakdown. I, however, took my perceived failure home with me. It took 3 days to sort through exactly what happened in the moment I collided headfirst with the Pentagram…then 8 more to fully process. (Eleven days for an incident that lasted maybe two minutes…like I said, it was intense!) But, eventually, I did figure things out and learn more about myself and this journey in the process.
More to come…
With accidental start and end dates of Pentecost Sunday (’11) and Easter Sunday (’12), I have successfully completed my 30+ visits.But…I’m not done yet! The completed are, in no particular order:
1.Living Word Church (my childhood church) 2. King Ave Methodist (GLBTQ Reconciling) 3. Lake Erie Drive-in 4. Buddhist Temple 5.Pentecostal Mega-church 6.Baptist 7.African-American Baptist 8.Movie Theater Rock 9.Hindu Temple 10.Synagogue 11.Roman Catholic 12. Eastern Orthodox 13.Vineyard 14.Jehovah’s Witness 15.Mormon 16.Atheist 17.Stadium 18.Christian Spiritualist 19.Emergent Independent 20.Quaker 21.Hare Krishna 22.Scientology 23.Unitarian 24.Baha’i 25. Storefront Redeemed 26.Christian Science 27. Stone Village 28.Sikh 29.Naturalist 30.Taize 31. Vertias (church of the boot camp) 32. Seventh Day Adventist
(Note: My blog checklist is typically behind because I have to rely on my web programmer to change it.)
I was heavy on the Christian churches, especially in the beginning, so I am doubling back to attend a few originally on the list and several additions before the 5/15 deadline:
–Native American–Amish–Pagan and/or Wiccan–Kabbalah–Mosque
Though I’ve not had luck locating the following in my area, I am still interested in:
–Zoroastrianism–Tao–Sufi–Xenos–African/tribal–Voodou–Virtual–Rastafaria–Gnostic–Jainism–Confusionism–Shinto–New Thought–Polytheistic (any culture, but particularly Celtic)–Shamanism–Snake-handlers
With continual help from the Spirit, I’ve gone from Post-traumatic Church Syndrome (barely being able to enter a church) to being able, and excited, to attend places of worship of all faiths and even non-faiths. I’ve also completed a Thirty-Day fast, studied Ancient Christian and Buddhist meditation, read extensively on multiple religions, sorted out my own beliefs, found a faith I can believe in, known and seen my God, changed my career, discovered my ministry and calling, started this blog–thanks to the good advice of someone wise, written nearly 100,000 words for the book (probably only 10,000 that are any good!), survived three physical and one spiritual bootcamp & , (surprise!) found a church, and much, much more. But these are stories and conclusions for other days! I still have much more to write about. So, let the quest and the blog continue
I nearly quit Thirty by Thirty at least a dozen times. So…for all those who have followed and encouraged this journey…thank you! For those who have criticized it…thank you as well. Everyone who has touched this path has helped it toward completion. I’m not done yet. And probably never will be!
All my love–Reba
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I’d like to address a few of the questions I’ve received on my recent Thirty Day fast:
So…what did you eat? Nothing. I didn’t chew for 30 days, nor did I drink alcohol. I also tried to limit medications. I did take in copious amounts of vitamins, lots of juice (organic if possible), and sugar-free protein on workout days. (Yes, I still did boot camp.)
Isn’t that UNHEALTHY? Well, not for me. Obviously I’m here, I’m fine and, it could be argued, in better health than I have ever been. But I would like to be VERY CLEAR that an extreme fast could ABSOLUTELY be unhealthy for a given person depending on factors such as overall health, weight, lifestyle, mental state, etc. PLEASE DO NOT CONSIDER an extreme fast without A.) A very specific calling to undertake it and B.) Consulting your doctor.
Why did you choose to fast for thirty days? First, I didn’t choose to fast for 30 days. God asked me to. (There will be much more on this when I cover the fast in depth between April 15th and May 15th). A 30-day fast is something I never would have thought of, nor did I think I could do it. I was called to fast in December, and it took me nearly three months of wrestling with the concept and telling God there was NO WAY I could possibly ever do that before I surrendered and… just did it. Once I got towards the end, I wanted to do 40 days, but that was made impossible by a pre-planned family vacation.
How much weight did you lose? It is inconsequential….that was NOT the point. This was purely spiritual venture. I like to say some of the excess weight enabled me to complete the fast, but it was in no way a diet attempt. There isn’t enough willpower in my world.
Why did you stop blogging during the fast? Part of the reason fasting, especially long-term fasting, is spiritually effective is because it clears out your life of everything that isn’t entirely necessary. Due to the vast physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strain, fasting forced me to re-evaluate every activity in my life by these two questions: 1.) Is [activity] actively bringing me closer to God and/or 2.) Is [activity] absolutely necessary? In addition to ceasing blogging, I limited my activities to work, prayer, meditation, necessary household duties, spending time with my husband, and LOTS of sleeping.
Why didn’t you tell anyone? Fasting is a personal matter between you and your God. It is extremely difficult, and there is no place for the critical negativity of others. You’re already doubting yourself…you don’t need anyone else to doubt you. Also, to be brutally honest, I often thought I was going to fail. (Daily. Sometimes minute-ly.) I didn’t want to announce, “Hey, I am doing this 30-day fast!” only to say, “Hey, I quit on day 10.”
I hope that clears a few things up! Also, as mentioned, I will be writing in detail about the fast and what I learned starting on April 15th. But if you are interested in the basics of how I got through it…check out this post.
And now the Super-Secret Project and reason for my blog hiatus: I completed a Thirty Day total fast (no food, no alcohol) yesterday at sunset. The experience was completely incredible and entirely life-changing. Much more to come in the next month about how and why I did it, why I kept it a secret (even from family and friends!)…and what it did for me. Make no mistake: if you fast for 30 days? God shows up. For now…this is how it went… and how I got through it:
Ten percent Luck /Twenty percent Skill / Fifteen percent concentrated Power of Will / Five percent Pleasure / Fifty percent Pain /And a Hundred percent reason to Remember the Name [Lyrics Fort Minor]
Admittedly, this circa 2004 story is old news.
But, being it is almost old enough to be vintage-cool, I thought a few of you might enjoy a visit to the world’s first 3D Interactive Church….a quiet place to sit (via avatar), pray (via text), listen (to electronic hymn), and reflect (on your own). After my own visit, I think more churches should have online sanctuaries. Not even the most traumatized among us would be reduced to tears by a cartoon altar. I, for one, love this. It should totally be listed in the National Historic (Virtual) Record.
United Kingdom–25 May 2004–http://churchoffools.com/news-stories/03_41000.html
Earlier this week, Church of Fools welcomed 41,000 visitors in one 24-hour period. We document the extraordinary first 14 days of Church of Fools.
Since last week’s launch at the UK’s National Christian Resources Exhibition, Church of Fools has been welcoming, on average, 8,000 visitors per day. But on Wednesday, over 41,000 visitors crammed into the church in one 24-hour period, exceeding all expectations for congregational size.
The reason was a phenomenal second wave of publicity about the church which went all round the world. With headlines such as “Internet devils smite virtual church” (The Times, London) and “Cyber church reacts to ‘Satan’ visit” (CNN), the world’s media reported on the hacking and mischief-making that went on in the church earlier in the week.
“Church of Fools said Wednesday it had shut to outsiders its pulpit, lectern and space round the altar to stop less than religious types giving messages definitely not from the Almighty,” reported CNN. The church also recruited a team of 12 wardens, armed with smite buttons which can be used to eject people who log in to the church simply to cause trouble.
The church is now offering services of morning and night prayer (in UK time) each day, and response from visitors to the cyber sanctuary has been mostly positive.
“I have a friend who has claimed not to believe in God for many years,” wrote Sandy from North Carolina. “He had a crisis this week and wanted a place to try a prayer. No way would he ever go to a real church. But he went to yours, said his first prayer in many years and told me he felt much better afterwards.”
Jenny from Reading, UK, wrote: “I have only managed to get in once as a ‘solid’ but ended up having an interesting conversation with a Jew. I don’t really meet Jewish people in real life, so it was a good experience, especially as our religions have so much history in common.”
The strangest, and maybe the most heartwarming, offer of support during the church’s problems with disruptive visitors came from a self-confessed Satanist. Referring to people who were entering the church to shout “Praise be to Satan!” he wrote…
“I have been Satanist all my life and would never have pulled any such thing. So, for all the immature twits within the Satanic community, you have my sympathies as I truly hope to see you fix the problem soon. Best of luck, sincerely, Satanist with a heart.
Please excuse my short hiatus from the blog. I am working on a serious project that is an extension of Thirty by Thirty, which I will reveal on March 12th. Until then, the Project is taking much of my time and energy, so forgive me if my posts are fewer and shorter (for now). I’ll be back full force in March!
Today I’m disconcerted because I’m searching for an interfaith devotional…and can’t find one. With all the devotional books in the world, wouldn’t at least one contain daily inspirations from global faiths?
I am bothered by the lack of the book I’m looking for…but even moreso by my wavering resolve to continue looking.
Most troubling is my unbidden desire to simply give up the search and instead slip into Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest or Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God–the Christian daily devotionals I have read many times.
I own both of these books, and many more: my dog-eared, underlined copies with accompanying journals showcase my former devotion to daily Christian devotions. If you open these journals to any random page, you will find the desire of a teenage girl, for the very Spirit of the [Evangelical Christian version of the] Lord to descend upon her, reveal Himself to her, use her for his Glory.If you read them cover to cover, you would understand the purity of her heart, follow her unrelenting journey towards the God she knows so well and loves so very much. There are rarely questions, because her faith is absolute. She hears Him in the quiet of the night, in the chaotic hours of the day, and fully believes she is Called. She is Chosen. And her every step is guided by the Invisible hand of the Almighty.
Residing in the darkness of my Mom’s attic, the Rubbermaid tubs that hold these books and journals mirror my life before The Breaking… before I left behind the faith of my youth and, in the wake of that tidal wave of change, lost my identity, my purpose, and my God.
And this morning, as I seek a devotional book, I consider the gravity of my undertaking. The sheer monumental breadth of the task I have set before me: to rediscover my identity, my purpose, my calling. My God.
Yesterday I attended a wonderful Baha’i celebration during which I was asked to explain Thirty by Thirty, and I took questions. The most profound of which was, “What is your religion today?”
Try answering that in one sentence, in front of 150 people when you’re writing an entire book on the subject.
But, unbidden, the answer quickly flowed straight from my heart through my lips, drifting over the room.
“Today? Today I am a Seeker of Divine Love.”
I believe if I was to visit the the teenage girl I once was, the one who wrote so passionately asking God to use her, and tell her all the pain she would go through before being able to utter those words aloud to a crowd of strangers, she would look me straight in the eye and say: I promise to keep searching, no matter the cost. I promise not to give up, even if I do for a time. I promise I will be there, on that day, in that crowd, and tell them.
And she would be proud.
As I am.
Even if I can’t yet find the devotional I seek, or everything I desire to understand.