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.
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.
Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome (PTCS) is the term I coined to describe the myriad of symptoms: mental, emotional and even physical, and aftershocks following a departure from a stringent religious culture. PTCS presents as follows: 1) Sufferer is exposed to a trigger, such as a televised minister, extreme talk show host, religious song or discussion 2) Sufferer experiences one or more of the following: disgust, mental anguish, flashbacks, anger, rage, sadness, depression, crying, headache, nausea, vomiting, and, in rare cases, hives. If the sufferer is somehow immersed in a religious situation, whether by accident or coercion (such as attending a church service or being blind sighted by a fundamentalist at a dinner party) all symptoms may occur simultaneously, causing the victim to run (possibly screaming) out of the sanctuary/cocktail party/dinner table and seek refuge in the nearest bathroom/car/basement/dark hole. The sufferer may or may not later experience a spiritual hangover for several hours or days, wherein the symptoms continue unabated.
Though the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: the primary text used by doctors to diagnose psychological conditions) has yet to pick up on my idea, I am hopeful for the next edition. [And, while they're at it? I'd really appreciate a diagnosis for the neuroses I deal with when faced with large numbers of numbers, such as spreadsheets. Preferably one that would give me a doctor's note to avoid creating and/or interpreting said digits. Perhaps something along g the lines of Severe Numberlexia and Excelphobia? Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the psychiatric world, for your serious consideration!]
If you think I am being facetious, I assure you, IAM NOT. [Well, except about the numbers.] An occupational hazard of conducting a project like Thirty by Thirty is being verbally vomited on by fellow PTCS victims who are so glad to find someone who understands! (It is, quite frankly, exhausting. Especially since I am still dealing/healing from my own case. Still, I welcome my fellow sufferers because solidarity and support are important components of recovery.) My personal experience is that there are PLENTY of folks suffering from PTCS out there (of people I talk to, about 20%), placed along the spectrum from mild cases: my parents dragged me to church and I hated every minute of it!, to stubborn cases such as my own which require extreme measures such as Spiritual Shock Therapy (enter: Thirty by Thirty) for there to be any chance of recovering faith.
Many people assume the origin of PTCS is spiritual abuse: that is, being wounded by fellow believers/religious folks all in the name of God, and the spirit of brotherly love! This is not the case. Or, perhaps I should revise my statement: spiritual abuse is not the exclusive cause of PTCS. Typically, limiting theological beliefs and their attachment to the identity of the individual play a large role in the onset of symptoms. Not that spiritual abuse should be dismissed; it is a very serious issue running rampant in the church today, usually employed to cause members to conform or be punished. However, the core belief system, and the breaking away from it, comprise a large percentage of severe cases.
In my own life, the below beliefs (and my decision to cast them off) has caused the majority of my PTCS, perhaps as much as 70%. The balance was inflicted by fellow believers, but those are stories for another day. So, here goes:
1.) Everyone (except us!) is going to Hell. And if you don’t share the gospel with them, their blood is on your hands. Do you want to get to heaven only to see all those you could have saved from eternal damnation? Really? Everyone from the beginning to the end of time, regardless of race, family origin or life circumstances is damned to hell for all eternity? Even a democratic people who believe in their laws have judges and juries to make sure justice is carried out. And sometimes “justice” means setting a person free who did commit a crime, because of extenuating circumstances. Do we really think an all-powerful, all-loving God would not have some sort of sliding scale? That we have the exclusive corner on truth?
2.) Your identity is found in God and your family. These are the things you can always rely on! Everything else is temporal and will fade! So what happens when your family falls apart, or someone passes away, or you fail to believe in the God you were raised with? A shattered person. Very dangerous.
3.) It is better to be hot or cold in your faith, lest God SPIT YOU OUT OF HIS MOUTH!!! (Referencing Rev. 3:16) This is further extrapolated to mean God will quite literally vomit you up if you fail to be (their version of) a “hot” believer. [The common interpretation of this passage is that ‘hot’ means enthusiastic, wholehearted or zealous. ‘Lukewarm’ means half-hearted, uncommitted, wavering, indifferent. Someone who is ‘cold’ would then be antagonistic and hostile, rejecting the Gospel. Referencehttp://makestraightpaths.com/hot_cold_lukewarm.htm] Talk about social control!
4. Believe it all, or believe it none. This is intrinsically related to #3, but (for me) BY FAR the MOST DAMAGING. It was this ingrained belief in fact, that forced me to walk away from my faith completely and totally because I didn’t think I was allowed to consider options outside the (very clear) boundaries of what I should and should not believe. Special note on #4: Once I got past this belief, with the aid of Thirty by Thirty, my faith found a place to root and started to bloom.
So there it is folks: an explanation of PTCS and the origin of my Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome. Or, part of it at least. (And my confession that I hate numbers, spreadsheets, and most especially spreadsheets with lots of numbers. DSM-IV–here I come!)
3.Place mustard oil lights around my home to attract Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. –I turn on every light in the house (including closests and bathrooms), prompting me to wonder whether I’m attracting wealth or an electricity bill. I don’t have mustard oil and (believe it or not!), it is not readily available at the grocery. I improvise by dabbing French’s Yellow mustard on spice-scented candles.
4.Set off fireworks. Problems: A). There is not a dearth of fireworks in Ohio in October. (Sexy Saris? Yes. Sparklers? No.) B). Setting off fireworks downtown is illegal C). My leftover 4th of July sparklers fail to spark. Instead, I watch authentic Diwali fireworks via YouTube. Excellent display, not unlike our patriotic holidays—if the background to our holidays included a soundtrack of hollering Indians.
5. Trace Rangoli (lotus patterns) on the floor with chalk and fill with powder. I discover that sidewalk chalk does not work on wood floors, so I use paper draw my poor excuse of a lotus flower. The type of powder is not specified, so I use chili powder. (Maybe some gods like it hot?) Oxley the puppy has to be outside for this part, lest he eat and puke up the chili powder, thereby offending Laksmi and dooming us to a bad financial year.
6.Open doors and windows to let Lakshmi in–Check. Thankfully it was a warmer-than-average fall day. (Oxley continues to be outside, lest he escape).
7.Decorate shrine to Lackshimi to attract propserity-–Check it out!
8.Finalize all account books to be ready for the start of the new financial year–Mmmm, avoided doing my expense report because I hate numbers. I paid bills instead!
9.Exchange gifts of nuts and sweets. We do not have nuts, so I exchange gifts of granola bars with my husband. Later I forced force him to eat an Indian dish. Usually he is a human garbage disposal, so I am surprised when he makes a face. “Tastes like…chai tea yogurt rice?”
Sister #1: I got a remote start in my car for Christmas!
Sister #2: I got an IPAD!
Me: I got a pair of socks from the emergency room…
Brother-in-law: At least your present was the most expensive.
Henceforth this holiday shall be known as: The Christmas Rebecca Landed in the ER. (For a case of hives that migrated to her throat, which started swelling shut.)
It shall also be known as: The Year a Doctor Scares Trent. (When, upon our arrival at the urgent care clinic, we were immediately sent away by the attending physician to the “Real ER, where they can do something for your wife.”)
And this is why I do not have a post about attending a Christmas service.
On the bright side, I did pray fervently between the urgent care and the “Real ER”.
Lesson Learned: Only go to the urgent care clinic with urgency…not an emergency.
Bonus Lesson: If, in the excitement of a swelling throat, you fail to wear socks, the ER nurse will gladly provide you with a pair for the
nominal astronomical price of your stay. But only AFTER you have bared your bottom* to your mother-in-law, your mother-in-law’s neighbor’s son [he is a doctor! I do not expose myself to visiting neighbor's sons for fun!], three urgent care nurses, one incompetent urgent care doctor, three ER nurses,two ER physician’s assistants,and a partridge in a pear tree.
(*My bottom would like to note that it prefers to remain covered. However, if it is called to duty, in such cases as it being eclipsed by welted, migrating hives and thus becoming a threat to the life of its owner, my bottom is very patriotic and willing to be bared, even if said baring causes much shame!)
I realize this post has nothing to do with going to places of worship, except that I skipped going to church on the biggest church day of the year. So….sorry about that.
In my defense, I am certain more people find God in the Emergency Room in one day than find Him in some mega-churches on Christmas.
1. Do you know what caused the hives? No.
2. Have you eaten anything new or changed anything recently (add long list of things you think I may not have considered as a cause but, believe me, if you think your throat is swelling shut you ponder possibilities. Very.Very.Thoroughly.) No.
3. Can the doctor tell you what caused them? No.
4. Are you OK now? I am drugged up on Benedryl, steroids and various antihistamines. Everything is OK.
A big shout-out to Jen Lancaster, NYT best-selling author of multiple books (including my fav Bitter is the New Black),whose hilarious, sharp-witted voice I heard in my head while considering the absurdity of my Christmas Situation in the ER. Though I have not the faintest idea of Ms. Lancaster’s religious views outside of her former attendance at the Magnificent Mile Mecca,I believe we share an affinity for mild, mind-altering meds (Her: Ambien. Me: Benadryl). Thanks for your great sense of humor…it ( and the drugs) helped get me through My Very Bare-y Christmas.
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“Aunt Rebecca, do you believe in Santa Claus?”
(Carefully) “Do you believe in Santa?”
(Vigorous head-nodding and jumping around) “Yes!!!”
(More carefully) “How do you know he’s real?”
(Puzzled) “Don’t you know if you believe in Santa you can hear jingle bells when you close your eyes?” (Squishes eyes tightly) “I’m hearing them…right…now! Do you hear them?”
I shut my eyes, but all I hear is my seven year-old niece’s excitement.
How I wish I could hear the jingle bells: my niece’s irrefutable proof that Santa lives, that elves are working happily away in the North Pole, that presents will appear under the tree, that the world is full of joy and peace, that all is safe and right and magical.
Her bells hold all the magic of Christmas wrapped into a sound that fights the inevitable hows and whys. How can Santa reach all the children of the earth in one night? Why do people without chimneys still get presents? How do reindeer fly? Why is there a Santa at every store?
But all these questions? They mean nothing to her now. Because she can hear the jingle bells.
When my niece talks about Santa, she glows; her eyes light up with the wonder and magic of Christmas, and reflected in her is all the world’s joy. I encountered the same shiny look on the faces of the Mormon missionaries, and I wanted to throttle them—actually lean over the coffee table and strangle them with their Army of God-issued ties.
Because I felt very, VERY jealous…as evergreen with envy as a Christmas tree.Because they shut their eyes and hear jingle bells, but when I close mine questions are all I hear. I know how it feels to be so, SO certain of everything. To believe. To hear the jingle bells.
It is so happy and easy to have all the answers handed to you, to wrap yourself tightly in the peace that surpasses understanding. To share the belief, the wonder, the magic, with people who love you because you can hear the same jingle bells as they.
But what happens for my niece when someday her best friend whispers more questions in her ear, planting the seeds of doubt? When a boy makes fun of her on the playground, taunting “You still believe in Santa?Don’t you know he isn’t real?”
What happens when the Mormon missionaries open a closet before Christmas Eve, and all their presents tumble out?
When they all close their eyes…and can’t hear the jingle bells?
I’ll tell you what happens: you lose your faith. In Santa, in religion, maybe even in God. And you push it all out of your mind, ignoring the ache that lives where there once was magic. You denounce everything that you once put your belief in, grow up, and don’t acknowledge the hurt, the betrayal, because it simply hurts too much.
Nine years later.
You wake up and realize you want to believe in something real. You want to hear jingle bells without closing your eyes.
And seven months later, on Christmas Day, you realize you DO hear them ringing… loud and clear.
With your eyes wide open.
Because you are the one shaking them.
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Post-Christian Spiritualist Temple Experience, no one was more surprised than me to discover the existence of dark energy outside the confines of Paranormal Activity I, II and III.
I boast a long and rich history with Satan, wherein certain parents and pastors of mine systematically rebuked him in the name of Jesus, regularly banishing his malevolent minions from our house, my bedroom, and the church. I even witnessed the exorcism of a church camp sound system that was behaving badly. Clearly this was no ordinary power surge! The Evil One himself infested the equipment to keep 4th graders from hearing the message of salvation for the twenty-seventh time in six days! This process, known in Christian circles as Spiritual Warfare, was simultaneously comforting and frightening. I understood said warfare to mean that Satan could enter our house and possibly hide out under my bed (scary!), but my Dad could easily make him depart by praying (calming!) until he came back again (alarming!).
Upon considering the Devil as an adult, I threw out the idea of a lurking,evil entity preoccupied with ruining church camp sermons. I also tossed the notion of intelligent evil altogether and, carefully refraining from exorcisms of inanimate objects, proceeded happily along in my life without the heavy burden and time-commitment of telling Beelzebub to Depart from me! In the name of Jesus!
Around the same time, I rejected praying out loud. There are more reasons for this than the exorcism factor, but it suffices to say here that 99% of the (few) prayers I uttered after my 21st year rose from my mind to the Almighty’s ear. I conscientiously objected to spoken prayer on the grounds that an all-knowing God needed not hear my voice. And, it was just too traumatic to pray out loud. Much to close to my past for comfort.
Anyhoo. An alert reader needs this background information to understand just how bizarre the events following my time with the Christian Spiritualists really were. Please keep said background in mind when I say this: something sinister followed me home from the witchcraft/Christian-craft conference.
You know that time you randomly stepped in a pile of dog poo? And didn’t realize it until you walked in the house, took off your shoes and sniffed? That’s how it was when I arrived home after five hours with the Christian Spiritualists.I discovered (too late!) some metaphysical ju-ju clinging to my spiritual shoe-shoe.
In the immortal words of bumper sticker-ists everywhere, “Sh** Happens”. And apparently it happens to me…in the First Christian Spiritualist’s temple sanctuary…with a crystal. Or maybe it was a tarot card–or a divination rod–or a hymnal?
It started simply enough— with a headache—which became a bad headache— that turned into The.Worst.Headache.Ever. EVER! My head hurt so badly I thought it was going to split open right there is the bed, which I was in for a full fourteen hours. Note: migraines have never, ever plagued me, but plagued I was, and would continue to be, for the next three days.
I awoke that night and the following two nights promptly at three a.m., with a disturbing weight on my chest and terrible anxiety. Once awake and thoroughly freaked out, I felt some kind of dark presence in our bedroom. Note:I have never felt unsafe in my own bed, unless you count the time Oxley knocked over the laundry basket and I thought someone was breaking in.
I prayed silently;it went away. I stopped praying; it came back. Feeling crazy, I woke up Trent, who rolled me into a bear-hug and told me to calm down. But calm down I could not…not while this creepy energy was hanging out with me.
After two days of this weirdness, my spiritual circuitry was so hot you could fry a metaphysical egg on my chakras. I was on high-level alert, like a red rating of spiritual terrorism. I considered calling a priest, even though I am not Catholic. Instead, what did I do? I called my father. In the middle of the night. To pray for me. OUT LOUD. It helped, until the next day when the weirdness forced me to do the unthinkable.
I personally got down on my knees and prayed. OUT LOUD. Rebuking whatever evil was lurking around me and commanding it to Depart from me! In the name of Jesus!
I refuse to name the weirdness Satan, and I suspect that invoking the power of Christ against it was a conditioned knee-jerk reaction based on my childhood and watching too many scary movies. My best guess is that in willingly (and foolishly) joining my energy with about twenty other psychics of dubious origin, I managed to carry home some transference of negative energy. Spiritual or natural I do not know, and I realize this whole thing is very New Age-y and stinks of sensationalism. But still.
If I ever consult a psychic, or medium, or Christian Spiritualist again, I plan to take a crucifix, garlic, and a rosary with me. And possibly bathe in Holy Water before and after.
I am thankful, however, that the spiritual ju-ju forced me to break through my praying wall. I can now pray out loud with anyone, anywhere, for any reason. Except maybe to banish Satan from church camp sound systems.
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The circumstance is the spiritual forum at the First Christian Spiritualist Temple, and I am sweating bullets. Is it because I actually feel heat radiating from Mr. Fro-Bro’s hands or because this historic church building lacks air conditioning?
I’m about to grab my sandals and bolt until I notice an angelic, white-haired oldster rise from a seat in the corner. She hobbles over, lifts her hands over my forehead, and begins channeling energy into my crown chakra. I relax. Nothing truly bad is going to happen to me in the presence of Psychic Grandma.
I’m in a church building, with a totally normal sanctuary and yet things are just….off.
Truthfully though, I do not recommend it based on what happened to me after I got home; it was not good. More to come on that…