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.

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