Saturday, October 10, 2015

JV Basketball

Yeah I played basketball.  As a tall girl I was thrown in there whether I liked it or not.  I always felt like I had 4 legs and 5 arms when I played, running or tripping akimbo down the court.  It took me til 11th grade to know what boxing out meant.  But at least it gave me a great analogy.

I was wrestling with a difficult situation, where I was worried about a loved one and didn't know what to do.  I needed help from somewhere, but I'm not down with the Christian version of God.  But then I thought about the young man who managed our JV basketball team.  That's who I thought of as God last night.

The guy that brought out chairs during time outs.  The guy that made sure out water bottles were ice cold, or better yet, had some lemon-lime Gatorade in them.  The guy that slipped me some recon on the center on the other team, about a weakness of hers I could exploit.  The guy who said "No biggie, you'll get 'em next time," after I missed the foul shot at the end of the game that could have won it for us.  The guy who rode in the back of the bus with us to away games, laughing at our silly jokes and indulging in "Never have I ever" games.  The guy who met us at Bojangles for breakfast on home game mornings.

He cheered.  He listened.  He offered advice.  He kept secrets.  He laughed.  He cared.  He gave us the confidence to go out and knock skulls, praising us individually for the things that made us special, for the skills we brought that no one else had.

That's the God I needed.  Not a holier than thou omnipotent deity I can never touch, hear or see.  But a flesh and blood partner and cheerleader, assuring me I had the gifts to get through even the toughest spots.

So instead of praying about my problem and hoping it would resolve, I got up, took action, and found a resolution myself.  Power in people, everyday people.  The Gods next door.

Thanks Marc Campsen, JD Saunders, and Tom Gill.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


So I have continued my tricky tango with God of late, sitting on the fence of belief and non-belief.  But all my moods and ruminations have finally lead me to a tenet or a truth I can believe in.  Here's what happened:

After ten years of being sure there was no God, about a year ago he came to me.  I started praying and he answered.  It felt comfortable.  Then I lost touch and he seemed to wander off, leaving me wanting.  When I really really needed him earlier this month, I prayed and wore a special cross necklace and sought peace in his power.  What did I get back? Nada.  In fact, the day I needed him most I got drug through the mud by the scruff of my neck....I had a horrible day.  I tore off the necklace and cursed him.....I never wanted to feel that needy for his grace again.  Not a happy place to be either.

But now I think I's like this.  When I blamed God for abandoning me, he said this:

"Dude.....(voice lowered and in a Point Break lilt)....duuuuude.  I'm not who you think I am.  That's not me!  I had no power to make or break your day!

You all, all you humans, made me.  You wrote the story and you made me in this way:  a thousand miles away, in Heaven, up above and beyond you, unseen and untouchable, something you can't feel or hear, an almighty "holier than thou" father figure whom you must love, honor, worship, and obey.  You separated me from you, and you made me this impossibly powerful, infallible, omniscient fearful being.  You've made yourselves so small in my shadow.  You made me a guy who caused floods and plagues, a guy who can cast you into eternal hell and a guy who has caused some of the greatest loss of life in wars in his name.  You painted me in a very one-dimensional box where you can only see me in 3D at the end of your long, fragile, difficult life.  You made me a ghost.

THAT'S NOT ME!  And it's not what I want to be.  I want more than anything to be with you, in you, close to you.  To hold your hand and kiss your forehead and see you and be seen and give you hugs.  To throw you a surprise party!  To toast you at your wedding!  To laugh at your jokes!  To watch your son score his first soccer goal!  To love you in a very real, palpable, living way.  To be a best friend.  To be "your person."  I want to know all of you and for you to know all of me.  I want you to know the color of my eyes and the softness in my voice and the care in my worn hands when I clasp yours in mine.  I want you to laugh with me, and AT me, when I make very human and humble mistakes.  I want to cheer you and I want you to cheer me.  I want to share my secrets with you and show you all that I know.  I want to take you right to Heaven's front porch and sit with you in a rocker and sip sweet tea and watch a sunset.  I want to show you how unbelievable strong and smart and beautiful and graceful and loving you are.  I want you to see you as I see, my dear one, you are the God.  I marvel at you every day.

I HATE that you wrote the story so I am so far removed from you. I'm tired of loving you at a distance.  I'm tired of you thinking I am the great unknowable, unfathomable, unseen spirit.  I hate that I have to patrol the empty, hallowed halls of Heaven, waiting for the moment I can see you face to face.  I hate that you credit or blame me for the great victories or failures in your life.  I don't have the power to cause those things to happen.  Life happens.  You win and lose on your merits and on the strength and kindness of others.  I'm not the great architect.  I'm just the Dude, watching and waiting for you to bring me back to your heart.  Waiting for you to breathe life into me, waiting for you to assume your own great throne.  Waiting for you to see that Love is the God, that you are the Gods and Goddesses.  When you realize you are the Great Gods of all time and shower each other with the love and worship you reserve for me, then we all walk in heaven together.

So write a new story.  Start over.  See me in your husband's or daughter's or best friend's eyes.  That's where I am right now anyway."

This envisioning of God lets me feel him as a presence, a great misunderstood presence, and helps me realize his own sadness at being so far from us.  It humanizes him and that makes me happy.  I hope we can start a new story....

Monday, May 11, 2015

The nuclear bomb of sentiments: "I am praying for you"

So this phrase, "I am praying for you," pops up on Facebook all the time.  It comes from a lot of Southern friends, but is not just limited to the South.  It's certainly not something I heard much in Virginia growing up.

So why is it the nuclear bomb of phrases, sending off sparks and shrapnel and behind the back snickering and snarking whenever it is uttered?

I used to roll my eyes when I heard it.  When I was in a tough time, I asked for hugs or thoughts, but not prayers.  As you might know, I steadfastly did not believe in God from about 2000 to 2014 (after growing up a "don't stop believin' Methodist").  I thought the phrase was at best quaint and at worst condescending or hypocritical.

But that has changed.  God welcomed me back to his embrace and to His house starting in September 2014.  I have not forsaken my "non-belief," or the strident condemnation of organized religion and its doctrine that appeared in my first book.  I am forging a new faith, that is big enough to embrace believers and non-believers alike.  So I still get pissed off at religion's failings.  But in general, everything has softened, and is haloed by a warm glow.

What I now hear when someone says they are praying for me is really "I love you." I still get it: the offense taken by non-believers and the anger at the facile assumption that one wants or welcomes prayer.  But I believe that most of those who say it are well-meaning, and are simply saying "I love you." Sure there are hypocritical and holier-than-thou evangelists that sneer when they say it, but I haven't seen very much of that.

The words "I love you" are tragically taboo in our world.  Sure, parents say it to kids, and girlfriends to girlfriends, and wives to husbands, and premier husbands to wives.  But men don't say it to men or boys.  Coaches don't say it to players.  Bosses don't (and actually cannot legally) say it to employees. It's rare to hear even pastors say it directly to a parishioner, in a parish that is supposed to be built on the one true love of God.  The love of God that walks on Earth in the form of love between men.

But we choke on those three words.  We are scared we will be seen as soft or vulnerable, or scared it won't be said back to us.  Unrequited love is the saddest feeling in the world and we are not brave enough to risk that sadness if only an echo answers when we say "I love you."

So I will take the phrase "I am praying for you," any day of the week now.  I cannot do this life, this hard and humbling life, on my own.  I need hugs, and thoughts, and love, and prayers.

I'm still reticent to say it to others in case of causing offense.  Maybe it's best for me to just say what I mean.

I love you.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oh what a wonderful and whacked out world

I had a crazy, painful, dangerous manic break in September 2014.  Adjusted meds, went up on Risperdal to 3 mg.  That helped for a month and then I went into a four month depression.  As always happens with me around Lent, I started to pull out of it a bit and quickly got manic.  Adjusted meds again after emergency trip to my psychiatrist in Little Rock with Nathan.  Did a hard scary thing to bring balance to my life and it has worked out.  Things are getting better.  

My spiritual journey continues along the winding, at times lazy, at times forced, at times joyous, at times scary path.  God or No God?  

Reading Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber has helped immensely.  I think there really might be a place for me.  I'm not tied to atheism or organized religion, one or the other.  I can bridge them, and I am starting to figure that out.  I don't have to be a manic second coming of Jesus, of all the prophets, though many times it has felt that way.  I can just keep working away at my life and lead with Love and the heart revolution will happen with or without me.  Some quotes from Pastrix:

"God was not sitting in heaven looking down at Jesus' life and death and cruelly allowing his son to suffer. God was not looking down on the cross. God was hanging FROM the cross. God had entered our pain and loss and death so deeply and took all of it into God's own self so that we might know who He really is. Maybe the Good Friday story is about how God would rather die than be in our sin-accounting business anymore." 

I hate, absolutely hate, the concept of Sin as has been taught to us.  That we are born broken and only God can save us.  The Methodist Church here in town has really helped with that.  Jim Polk, the pastor, says it's never about how much we love God or whether we meet the mark or fail or if we doubt or can't feel love.  We just can know that God's overwhelming abundant love is always there.  The magnitude of His matters, not ours.  And that magnitude is unimaginable.  God-Love.  I'm not saying there isn't a place for secularists or atheists....I love them, they are my people too.  I get them, I really do.  I have spewed their anger.  I have been wholly satisfied that God is a fairy tale.  I have sought Him at times and only heard echoes.  I get it.  

"I'd assumed that God was nowhere to be found back then. But that's kind of an insult to God. It's like saying 'You only exist when I recognize you.' The kingdom of heaven, which Jesus talked about all the time, is, as he said, here. At hand. It's now. Wherever you are. In ways you'd never expect." 

Remarkably this seems a way to bridge my 'All God, No God, One God, We God' statement with my 'Heaven is on earth right now in present day' statement. That's the heaven I have seen, and that's the God I am experiencing right now, in ways I'd never expected.  Heaven is now and we all see glimpses of it here and there, but you know those times when the peace and perfection is so full you are swimming in it?  It might last an hour.  Well, for me that can last for days, or weeks.  For all of us it's coming, the kind that lasts forever and makes us all new and lovely.  Soon.  I promise.  

Bipolar is ugly.  Menacing.  And worst of all, it lasts forever.  There have been days I am so tired I can't eat a bowl of cereal start to finish but then cannot fall asleep at night.  Times when I think longingly of turning up a bottle of pills just to spare my loved ones from my misery and to finally sleep forever.  Something won't ever let me take my life I know, but Bipolar can be hell on earth.  Thank God for the mania, though that only lasts 2 weeks a year.  It's a long way to get from Norfolk Psyciatric in 2000 to where I am today....a wife, mother, Social Security Disability Attorney, mental health advocate, public speaker, and author:

"Somehow I have a home and a husband, two beautiful and smart children, and a meaningful job I love."

But while Bolz-Weber can't explain her fortune, I can.  I was born with a strength and hope that will move mountains.  Maybe God put it there, maybe not.  I know today His hand is guiding me.  I'm 39 right now and life is all about work.  Not just going to hearings for clients, no.  I mean relationship work.  Financial planning work.  Mothering work.  Therapy work.  Philosophical work.  But as of Sunday, I am starting to feel less like Sisyphus and more like I have a light, quiet breeze at my back.  It will all work out.  And I'll have to follow up my first book, Through the Open Door: A Bipolar Attorney Talks Mania, Recovery, and Heaven on Earth, with a second.  I am calling it Into the Light.

May you all have a peaceful day.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A 180º turnaround...I believe in God

It started simply enough.  An end of season softball party at the Presbyterian Church, a place I had not visited in over two years.  For I didn't believe in God.  That's what my first book was about, in part.  My two boys had a blast at the party, making their own sundaes and playing in the nursery.  "Mommy, can we come back?"  I thought, what's the harm?  "Sure, we can come back on Sunday."  But just this once, just for the kids, just to see old friends.  We went that Sunday and the songs sounded familiar and warmed me.  The so great, but the love from family friends was palpable.  And I felt good enough about it to post a church picture of me and the boys on Facebook.

At the same time, I was entering a difficult season in my bipolar year.  Labor Day is hard for some reason.  I get elevated, manic, angry, tired, hopeful and purposeful all at once.  It's hard on everyone.  We faced some big decisions, as well as the interminable sickness of my husband's grandmother.  I felt like I needed some external support and guidance.  The idea of God started to appeal to me.  But I felt guilty.  Like I was betraying my hard fought and still reasonable stance that there was no God.  That we are the Gods.  That we have unlimited potential and knowledge waiting to be tapped.  That heaven is on this earth in shining and stunning moments....not in some promised afterlife.  That the concept of sin has felled us, not sin in and of itself.  How could God exist if all this was true too?  What would my readers think?  Didn't I have some duty to stick to my convictions and my prophecy about the end of religion?

But God pursued me.  Quietly, lovingly, with patience, without pressure.  I prayed, not to Love as I had before, but to God.  And he responded in miraculous ways.  And I began to feel peace.  But still there was a guilt, and a feeling that my path on the journey had gotten confuzzed.  I called my great friend and a non-believer, Tim, and he chuckled and said I didn't need to feel guilty.  He said it's all about the journey and the self-discovery.  He asked if it brought me peace, this new belief in God, and I said "Yes."  He said that's all that matters.  He told me to keep thinking and listening and asking questions.

Then, the miracle happened.  I was cleaning out my car in mid-September, in the midst of my manic strife, and I found a medallion with the Jesus fish on it on River's side of the car.  I thought, "ugh, not you.  We don't believe in you.  We don't need you.  Stop pursuing me."  I threw it away.  Instantly a shiver ran through me.  Should I not have thrown it away?  Was there some deeper meaning behind it?  Worse, was it something special to River?  No matter, I went on with my day.

The next morning, not 24 hours later, I was in Wal-Mart with River.  An older man stopped him and said "Have a lucky day, my son."  He gave River a penny.  I looked at it, and bless my stars, bless my heart, it had a cross carved into it.  God came back after I threw him away.  Literally, figuratively, and metaphorically.  I decided to stop running from him.  And I put that penny in a very safe place.

Then this thought occurred to me:  For ten years I was very angry at organized religion.  I called it a cancer that devoured the nascent love in our hearts.  I thought the followers were simple and hypocritical.  I wrote about it, cussing in my journal, weeping at religion's crimes.  That hate took up a lot of space.  It has slowly mollified in the last few years, and I no longer feel angry.  It is like it was drawn out of me, to heal me.  After the penny miracle, I thought...."God took the hate from me."  He said it's too much for me to bear alone, and he would shoulder that negative energy.  That comforted me.  I marveled at His capacity for healing.

I've been to three funerals this month.  Seeing the relics, the pieta, the bible, and the familiar notes in the hymnals has felt good.  And I've thought a lot about how to resolve my two positions on God.  There can be a God, and we can be Gods too.  As my mom said, "You can believe in both.  You can believe in ALL of it."  The supernatural strength of a higher power can serve to complement the supernatural strength and love in our human bodies.  We can share the Godness that resides in us.  "Then, face to face."  It can still be us in the mirror when we look at God's face.  I can forge a new faith, a dualism that draws on love and knowledge, that reconciles our past theology with the future rapture.  For the revolution is coming...the revelation is near.  I continue my journey to find the truth, and I believe I am getting closer.  My good friend Jess says she sees a light in me, that could turn on a light in others.  She thinks I will find the truth.

Meanwhile, I continue to crave knowledge about our religions.  I watched the IMAX show called "Jerusalem" with River at the Museum of Natural History last week in D.C.  He was rapt, as was I.  The birthplace of so many faiths, an outcropping of rocks in the high desert.  The city in which faith and ancient culture collide, in a holy trinity.  A place I must visit.  At the top of my bucket list also is this:  I will attend 52 different churches in 52 weeks.  The more I learn, the more there is to learn, and it all seems beautiful right now.

So the next book is in the works, and it will not be a betrayal of "Through the Open Door" at all.  I will simply finish the thought.  I will step "Into the Light."  And God will be there for it all.  Peace and Love.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Soccer and Sin

I don't believe we are born sinners, or have a stain, or should be ashamed of ourselves in any way.  We are born perfect, and only when we are taught that we are sinners by religion do we doubt and transgress.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy and could have no more obvious result.  It's so clear when you look at it this way, from a parent-child relationship with God:

If we think of God as a parent, why would he ever tell us we aren't good enough for him?  Every time, every single time, that I go into a Christian church, somewhere in the service we ask God to forgive us because we sin, and we don't know better, and we fail every day to act like we should.  And that somehow this disappoints and dishonors him.

Think of your child being on a soccer team at 6 years old.  You are his loving father.  You start off the season by saying,

"Son, you are not very good at soccer.  You may try your best but everyday you fail to be the kind of soccer player I would like you to be.  It's not your fault; you were just born being a less than stellar soccer player.  You should do everything you can every single day to try to get better because it disappoints me that you are so bad.  I have set a standard for perfection in soccer and you just don't measure up, and that dishonors me.  You should respect me more by being better.  You should worship me for how good I am at soccer (because in fact I am the best soccer player there ever could be!!).

I will always love you but I will always remind you that you are bad.  You will be tired and hungry and frustrated and feel alone during the game and I am there to cheer you on, but you can't ever really see me or touch me.  I am never there to give you a hug or shout "Hurray!  Good job Son!"  You are really not even sure if I exist.  And you won't find that out until the end of the game.  You'll just have to trust me on that one.

You should do everything you can in the game to make others feel better and make them shine because your ego has no place in the game.  You should put yourself behind the others.  Serve them first, because when they score, the glory is yours.  It's better to not be too proud; it's better to revel in their successes than yours.  But you probably won't succeed anyway.  I know you suck and have always sucked but be more like me and you'll get better.  I'm the perfect model.  Oh, and if you disobey me you will burn in hell forever."

How in the name of GOD is that love?  How, in any possible interpretation of that monologue, is that love?  What parent would ever in his right mind tell his child that?  Not one.  What parent who acts like that would ever deserve to have that child?  None.

But that's exactly what religion wants us to believe.  It is child abuse, plain and simple.

There's another way.  There is a way filled with light and love.  And that way leads us all to Heaven on Earth.  Read more about the new way on my past posts.  I also invite you to read more in my book, Through the Open Door: A Bipolar Attorney talks Mania, Recovery, and Heaven on Earth."  Available here:   Amazon.

Hope springs eternal.  Love to all.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Step into the sun, step into the light: The Wizard of Oz

Lots of great songs from the Wizard of Oz but this might be my favorite, which is possibly the shortest:

"You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light

Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place
On the face of the earth or the sky
Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate and bid it open

You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light
March up to the gate and bid it open, open"

The "glorious place" is the most hopeful, happy, peaceful place I have ever been: Heaven on Earth.  I may have been there through manic episodes, but I know it's real, and I truly believe I can share it with all of you.  People like the neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven, have been there too, and the chorus of people with evidence of Heaven is growing louder.  We're all trying to explain how we got there and how you can get there too.

The Wizard of Oz is a metaphor, I believe.  Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Lion, and the Scarecrow are all of us on our personal quests to find the light and the truth.  The Witch is our doubts and fears, everything that makes us feel small and scared.  The Witch is organized religion.  She rules with an iron grip.

The Great and Powerful Oz is the God we have become acquainted with in the Monotheistic Age.  He leads us to believe he is omniscient and omnipotent, and he scares us with his power.  Our quest is to find him, be with him, learn from him.  We feel that we need him to rule over us.  We feel we need him to be real.  But he is not.

He is the man behind the curtain.  When Dorothy pleads with him to have some compassion after he terrifies and tortures the Cowardly Lion, he just bellows commands and sends them on another quest, to kill the witch and bring back her broom stick.  "Killing in the name of God..."  Their long journey through the land of Oz was not enough for God.  That's the problem with God, you can try your whole life to find him and be close to him and still not find him.  And he keeps raising the bar: never forget you are a sinful human....stay scared and in the dark and small in his shadow....but search a little harder and try a little harder to be a better person each day.  And you just might see the "real God" in the end.

So Dorothy figures out he is really a human, just like us.  He becomes more like a dear friend when he is humanized.  Oz becomes the answer to her prayers when she unveils him, because she sees her humanness in him.  She finds out that she is really as Godly and full of potential and hope as any "God" there is.  We are the Gods, we are the masters of our fate and the ones who tend the flame of hope in our hearts.  All of the citizens of Oz practiced obedience to a myth, and as long as they feared him, they stayed in their place.  But when the myth was revealed, the four sojourners fulfilled their wildest dreams.

Glinda, the Good Witch, put it best to Dorothy:  When Dorothy asks for her help Glinda says "you don't need to be helped any always had the power (to go back to Kansas)."  The Scarecrow asks Glinda why she didn't tell Dorothy that before, and Glinda says "because she wouldn't have believed me; she had to learn it herself."

The power, the light, the love, the untapped is all right there in your heart already.  You don't need a God to show you the way.  When you realize humans are the Gods, you return home to the Eden that existed before we invented him.  It is the ultimate return to the throne.  It took me ten years to realize that God was not a personality, but Love Triumphant and Supreme.

The Wizard says "Remember my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved in return."  The trick is not giving unconditional love, as is prescribed by the Monotheistic God of our modern religions, but to RECEIVE unconditional love from others.  True love is allowing yourself to love you as much as others do.  To RECEIVE and BELIEVE the love others shower on you.  We love each other so much, but we doubt it all the time.  We don't think we are good enough to deserve perfect love.  We have been taught from birth we are stained, we are sinners, so how can we ever love as was intended?  Set aside the God construct, and love becomes a tidal wave, and you can't help loving others as much as they love you.

We can all walk out of the darkness and into the light.  It's right there waiting for us, right in front of our veiled eyes.  The light is breaking over this dark world, and soon.

God, to have these guys in a room together again....