This is Fine

9d9f8a14c64d8900cdbc649c7aed5c78_-everything-is-ok-meme_1280-720.jpeg(Can I just leave the post like this with no context?)

Life is hard. Spiritual abuse is real. And this will possibly be a rant more than anything else, but lately it seems I have to keep taking breaks from writing about fundamentalism to deal with its effects that are still very present in my life. I’m working on getting out of my current situation (living with my fundamentalist parents) and there ARE good things happening. What’s been a long road to leaving an abusive situation is almost at a point where I can breathe. Not there yet.

My dad decided he “needed to talk to me” after I gave my parents the book Torn by Justin Lee kind of as a conversation starter. Just for future reference for anyone with fundamentalist parents, if it has gay in the title or the author is openly gay (ie, Justin Lee is over the GAY Christian Network), it’s probably not going to go over well. They may not be ready for that. Mine weren’t and I didn’t realize how angry they were even with the concept of their daughter being gay.

All that to take a deep breath and repeat some very vitriolic, damaging things my dad said that will possibly take me a while to process:

“I would rather die than have you be with another woman or be openly gay…”

“I want to pastor another church someday and I would be ashamed to do that with a gay daughter.”

If this is where a conversation is starting, 1. it’s not a conversation and 2. I’m so sorry.

And if your parents or anyone you know has ever said something like this to you as a queer person, I’m so, so sorry. My parents don’t understand the concept of sexual orientation much less someone being gay meaning anything less than sexual behavior. And like many fundamentalists, they’re not willing to be educated on anything outside of the Bible–and then, only their interpretation of it. If you think you’re starting at the bare minimum in explaining things, if you can’t have a conversation about differing interpretations, you’ll probably have to take that a few steps back. Dial it waaayyyyy on back.

I was told by my therapist when I first came out to my parents that it was somewhat of a grieving process for the parents. They’re having to come to terms with new information about their child and let go of certain expectations they may have had. I’m not a parent; I have no clue how hard that must be.

But I DO know, damaging rhetoric isn’t helpful and taking out that anger or grief on someone who’s already vulnerable is pretty fucked up. Sorry, it just is. Like, in case we need a reason to hate ourselves more as society so often does, hearing it from our own parents is never helpful. My dad basically thinks I am an abomination to God if I ever act on my sexual attractions.  As in, the God who I was told loved me all these years, now hates me for existing. While I know that’s not true, it’s still hard to digest.

I know folks say we’re supposed to have respectful dialogue with people. Honestly, being the better person is exhausting and in an abusive situation, it’s better to get out of it as soon as possible. It’s not ok. You shouldn’t have to sit there and take that kind of verbal onslaught of hate.

That being said, I’m really angry and doing my best to work on plans for moving out with even more determination. I’ve seen it do some awful things, so I’m trying to channel that towards being productive. Anger is a powerful motivator. Or a destroyer. Don’t let it destroy you. Don’t let anyone tear you down like that. None of us deserves that.

Fear Vs. “Respect”

(CN: discussion on corporal punishment)

This is one of those posts I’ve been trying to avoid writing for about a month but usually if it bothers me so much I can’t ignore it, I need to write about it. I may try to do some other posts on this at some point but for now, this is all I am able to write.

I’m not sure how common corporal punishment is in today’s conservative churches but in the 90s, most parents used spanking as their main disciplinary method (thanks, Dr. Spock et al). I don’t know many families I grew up with in my church who didn’t spank their kids, and those who didn’t were often shamed for not using the “biblical” way of punishing their child.

There are so many objections as to whether spanking is actually harmful or not for children. I’ll let you be the judge of that. Based on my experience and the experience of others, it didn’t have a good result. I didn’t realize how traumatizing it was until recently or how much it has impacted how I relate to others–especially those in authority.

As a child, I was told that spanking was good for me–that my parents didn’t really want to do it but that it would help me learn to obey and respect my parents. And by association, it would teach me to obey God. And this was taught even from the pulpit at my church. All it ever got me was an overly submissive nature and fear of those in authority. By fear, I mean I was afraid of most adults growing up. Not in a good way. I was terrified of doing something wrong even when I was often just being a kid (ie having the freedom to be a kid didn’t exist a lot of the time).

I think it’s important to establish that children are not inferior to adults. They are human beings worth if dignity and shouldn’t be seen as less than simply because they are younger and less experienced at life. Having respect for authority is not the same as fearing those in authority. Being afraid of my dad because he spanked me didn’t teach me to respect him. It just made me really afraid.

I was an obedient child by fundamentalist standards. I was a rule follower not so much because I was a “good kid,” but because I was terrified of the consequences of disobeying. If you think that’s the goal of parenting, I think you might be missing something. Terror of your parents is not. a. good. thing. (also…who thinks hugging after spanking is a good idea? this kind of sounds like abuse)

This tends to be acceptable behavior towards children in authoritarian churches. And it leads to submissive adults who are afraid of authority and will allow others to abuse their authority. Pastors, for example. Or politicians. If you want to know how we got the current president we have, I’m very positive this is one of the reasons.

In churches and homes, it leads to spiritual abuse which can traumatize people for a lifetime. When you believe that the pastor is the mouthpiece for God and you can’t question what they say, it screws up your view of church, God, and your relationships with other people.

Honestly, I felt more like a robot–programmed to please everyone lest they yell at me and reprimand me for being myself. I was an especially sensitive child. Really, all my parents or teachers had to do was raise their voices or use a stern tone to get my attention. I realize that sometimes yelling is required to get a kid’s attention. Especially to warn them they’re about to do something that could hurt them. When this happened for me, I connected yelling with doing something wrong and would immediately feel guilty. Even though I hadn’t done anything wrong and this was to keep me safe. I connected loud voices with having messed up. Sometimes I still do.

Now, I’m not a parent yet. But I can assure you, this does damage children in very real ways. I don’t care if this taught me “respect for authority.”

To this day, I’m still afraid of belts. Yes, that article of clothing that can make a fashion statement or hold your pants up. Sometimes I think my dad delighted in my sisters and I being afraid of him, because he thought the “respect” was a good thing. He thought this meant he was being a good parent. The fear equaled respect. If you think that’s a normal way of relating with people…this is abusive. It may not be intentionally abusive, but it is abusive. It can open up the door for abuse in other ways because adults are supposed to always in authority and know what’s best for the child. And it allowed for a man in my church to sexually abuse me. What was I supposed to do? He was in authority over me and I was supposed to obey him.

I’ll never understand how this came to be a doctrine in churches that they were willing to die on a hill for. It’s harmful to children and those children grow up into adults who then have to deal with the consequences of this teaching.


waking nightmares

(CN: for sexual assault and trauma)

Public restrooms have always been terrifying for me. Something about them makes me nervous. Yet somehow I guess I’ve had to teach myself to deal with them. But sometimes even now I can walk into one and be hit with panic attacks or a combination of a flashback with panic attacks. Those tend to leave me completely disoriented for the rest of the day.

And you’re probably wondering if something happened related to that which would cause the anxiety. And the answer is more complex than even I’m prepared to deal with, but the short answer is yes. (but also no…bear with me)

I fear what did happen and that it could happen again. Or that it could be something much worse the next time.

For background, the man who sexually abused me as a child followed me into the bathroom once. And for the longest time my mind blotted out the rest. I didn’t think it actually happened but I have this recurring nightmare about it.

(Side note: I don’t like the word molested because why do we need a special word for childhood sexual assault. that’s what it is, and maybe that word’s more specific? I find it confusing and kind of triggering. More later on that.)

This week is the week (March 12-18) approx. five years ago while on spring break from college that I remembered the abuser’s face and details from that part of my life. Before that the memories were really foggy (repressed memories are quite common with childhood abuse). Trauma is weird like that and I hate it. I thought I was in the clear because my spring break this semester was last week. Usually that’s the trigger and I didn’t have any issues. But again, trauma doesn’t allow for predictability.

I’m writing this now because anniversaries of trauma are hard and because around 11:00 today I had to use the bathroom at work. Annnnd…cue flashback stuff. In case you’re unfamiliar, flashbacks tend to be extremely disorienting, I felt like the walls of the bathroom stall were closing in and the abuser was there.

He wasn’t, of course. But flashbacks make you feel your past in the present like you’re experiencing it all over again. Even if it happened 20 years ago. It’s been a while since I’ve shared a story like this because it’s been a while since I’ve had any major issues. Which is good, and today I was reminded this stuff is going to stick with me perhaps for the rest of my life. It’s important to share especially in de-stigmatizing mental illness.

This also came up after the Orlando Pulse shootings. It was particularly traumatic for those of us in the LGBTQ+ community. Watching traumatic things on the news can be difficult for those of us who have already experiencing trauma in other ways. And…a specific trigger for me was reading reports that victims hid in the bathroom from the shooter. That event sticks with me and many other queer people and it doesn’t seem like it’s been 9 months ago.

And all that to say trauma sucks. It can rob you of joy of living. I’ve lived through a lot and things are getting better. That’s encouraging. But today…was a bad day. So, I dunno.The world seems like it’s on fire all the time right now. Let’s remember to be kind to each other and support each other.


“Behind is your past. Everything you thought you knew…You listen for the voice of the Divine.

You’re waiting for a miracle. You’re waiting for the sea to part…That’s an old miracle…What about this?

What if the miracle was you? What if you had to be your own Messiah? Then what?”

The above excerpt is a monologue given by Raquel, a rabbi and character in the first episode of Season 3 of the show Transparent, a show about a Jewish trans woman and her family. Really, it’s talking about the Passover and Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.

I watched that episode over a year ago probably and went back and watched it yesterday because that monologue is something that stuck with me. Especially since this is my first year understanding Lent as more than giving something up for 6 weeks leading up to Easter.

Even now I’m struggling with writing this post. More so, how to articulate my first Ash Wednesday service–I haven’t fully been able to process it. But I understand the wandering and lament parts of Lent. One of my pastors who is also a very good friend of mine imposed ashes on my forehead and…how do you explain that in words? The next day, there were ashes still in the crease in my forehead.

Still not sure if it’s appropriate to say that I am celebrating Lent or observing it. Or both? I don’t know. But I’m trying to spend it in adding disciplines instead of taking something away because it seems to be more beneficial to me. So, I’ve been reading through Soong-Chan Rah’s book Prophetic Lament which takes you through Lamentations and the lack of lament in our churches/the need for us to practice lament again. For example:

“For American evangelicals riding on the fumes of a previous generation’s assumptions, a triumphalistic theology of celebration and privilege rooted in a praise-only narrative is perpetuated by the absence of lament and the underlying narrative of suffering that informs lament. The loss of lament in the American church reflects a serious theological deficiency.”

It’s a great read and I highly recommend it. And anything else Soong-Chan Rah writes for that matter (Forgive Us and Many Colors are two others that I’ve read; they’re incredible.). Anyway, that’s the theology nerd coming out in me.

I am also taking time to sort of study what I consider modern day laments–certain poets like Rupi Kaur and musicians like Ingrid Michaelson (break up songs, anyone?). It’s a bit of a weird journey my mind’s taken me on, but it’s been helpful in learning. Don’t get me wrong…lament I get. I’m in a place in life where lament makes so much sense to me. What’s difficult is making myself sit still long enough to process it and sit in the tension.

That I’m not so good at. I guess Lent isn’t exactly a celebration until the end. Everything builds up to the celebration, though. There’s a lot of mourning and death in between. Lately, in processing all this, I’m finding that all that sitting in stillness is a reminder that I’m lonely and wandering a lot these days. Battling with feelings of not being enough. Or having enough. Lent reminds me of a need and wants that I don’t always pay attention to.

I long for someone to look at me and say, You are enough just the way you are. You are enough, and I see you. And I don’t want to change you. In the past, I kept looking for that validation in my family and finding it lacking. Recently, I’ve looked for it in my closest friends and church community, finding it wonderful that I am loved and belong. Yet still…is it enough? Am I enough? Am I giving enough to be loved by these people? Or is there…more?

Is there more to life that I’m missing? How is all this contemplation helping if I just feel more longing for what’s missing? Israel wandering in the wilderness probably asked some similar questions. They had what they needed. They had a great leader in Moses and yet were always aware of wanting more. More of…something that can’t be completely satisfied.

I feel so often that there was much I was deprived of by way of experiencing the world outside my sheltered existence. It took me so long to “catch up” on pop culture. Watching movies, tv shows, and listening to music everyone else listens to. Will I ever achieve a sense of normalcy? I don’t know. I wish I could settle for being myself. For being enough just as I am. And being ok with everything and everyone being enough in my life. This Lenten season I’m trying to rest in knowing that I am enough.

And also, Jesus became like us and became enough when I could not be. That’s what this is all about. And I don’t want to miss that. Still, we live in a world that is chaotic. Messy. Painful. Our hearts yearn for something better than this. It’s a thing yet to come. So until then, we live in the tension of the now and not yet. We’re hanging out in the wilderness, wandering until we get where we’re going. But in time, I think we’ll get there.



Not All Who Wander Are Lost

I know I’m a little bit off my regular posting schedule lately (usually I try to publish my posts on Wednesday/the middle of the week). Life has been kind of crazy since the new job and also by some miracle, I’ve been able to still be in school even when I thought I would have to drop out. Anyway, I’m probably going to be posting twice this weekend because I have a lot.

This past Sunday I gave my first sermon at my new church, which was an incredible experience and I’m still finding it surreal. So, I figured I’d share my transcript from that and maybe post the link to the recording of it if you’re interested at the end of the post. It was also a communion Sunday.

I plan on doing the other post on Lent/my first Ash Wednesday observance.


Not All Who Wander Are Lost

John 20:19-31

Vs. 19-23: What would you do if life as you know it completely changed overnight? What you thought you knew about your world got flipped upside down and you were left devastated. Would you be afraid? I think most of us would be. So…what are we so uncomfortable with fear and doubt? Specifically, when it comes to doubting God and our faith.

We give the disciples such a hard time. The disciples were faced with an uncomfortable reality that their world has been turned upside down. And then Jesus shows up in the middle of their grief and turns this fear to hope. Fear of the Jewish leaders is contrasted with Jesus’ pronouncement of peace. Don’t miss what Jesus means by peace here. It’s a common phrase that’s used in the early church but in light of the Resurrection, it is anything but common. In a world that seems to be falling apart in this current political climate, we need to know what this peace means for us. It’s certainly not an absence of conflict or leaving things the way they are. By challenging the Jewish leaders and government authorities who held power at the time, many of the disciples would face a great deal of conflict. Many of them would die. There is risk involved in this peace Jesus talks about but it’s a risk that leads to life.

Jesus was sentenced to death for challenging the power structures of his day at the urging of his own people. Let it not be said of us in the church that we would in a sense do the same to other human beings for the sake of holding onto power. Whether it’s policing who uses what bathroom because it makes us uncomfortable or not letting certain people into our churches or our country, our job is not to be driven by our fear.

Your belief in God should not be used to oppress people with your self-righteousness and rules. God is the God of the vulnerable, the outsider, the misfits of the world. (Parallel Passages: 16:1-8 – focus on fear of disciples/Mary Magdalene/women at the tomb and their reaction to the Resurrection of Christ)

(Vs. 23: This verse poses some complications as it implies the disciples will have the ability to forgive sins or not forgive sins.) To understand what’s going on here, it’s helpful to look at the parallel passages of Jesus commissioning his disciples in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1-2. It seems to be referencing Pentecost as well when the disciples and followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit. It’s more of a precursor to the day of Pentecost and highlights the disciples being commissioned to help others know and believe in Jesus.

Vs. 24-29: This now brings me to Thomas who was missing in action during the events of the previous verses. Why do we give those who doubt such a hard time? Interestingly enough, the word translated as doubt has less to do with doubt as we understand it. I mean, we call Thomas “doubting Thomas.” I think this is because we don’t want to deal with how uncomfortable doubt makes us. Because maybe we know all too well what it’s like to not be sure if what we believe is true. What’s interesting about this encounter is that Thomas wasn’t the only one who was afraid and doubting, but maybe he was the one to voice it the most. There’s much we can learn from Thomas’s response of “My Lord and my God” to the Resurrected Christ both about Jesus and about doubt in our own lives.

How does this change how we live our lives in light of this truth?

What does it mean for us today and not just for our eternal future? Does this help us in the midst of a chaotic world when we can’t make sense of our doubt?

Doubt is unnerving. It taps into our insecurities and questions we have about our reality and what’s going on in the world around us. We are afraid to ask questions because of what that may reveal about what’s going on in our souls.

But maybe, instead of a sign of weakness and lack of faith…doubt is perhaps a sign of deep faith in God. Thomas wanted to know for sure that Jesus really was alive. From the disciples’ perspective, they desperately needed to know that this Jesus they had been following and sharing life with was worth following.

The disciples walked with Jesus and saw him do miracles no one else could do. They watched their hopes and dreams of a better world–because HE IS THE MESSIAH after all–they watched those dreams of a King who would save them…die for crimes he did not commit.

Thomas says, in effect, I need to see him with my own eyes. I need to touch the scars. Then I will believe. He isn’t saying, he doubts that it could possibly be true. He wants it to be true and wants proof. Why does he need this to be true? And why do we need it to be true?

Because…A God who can be killed and bring Himself back to life is a God worth following. That God is a God who has walked in our shoes and seen us in our suffering and seen the broken, marginalized, oppressed and said: I see you. And I am for you. And I have been where you are. We need to know that this God who can die and be raised to life again is the real thing. Rachel Held Evans, in her book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, she writes, “We could not become like God, so God became like us. God showed us how to heal instead of kill, how to mend instead of destroy, how to love instead of head, how to live instead of long for more. When we nailed God to a tree, God forgave. And when we buried God in the ground, God got up.”

Vs. 29-31: This doesn’t just need to be true for Thomas. Jesus says at the end of this interaction with Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

On a more personal note, I can honestly say that I need this to be true. And that I’m not always sure I have all the answers or that this journey is worth it. Sometimes it feels like wandering around in the darkness and hoping to bump into God there. I believe this God is real, but I have so many questions. I grew up in a very conservative environment where God was painted as angry, waiting to judge me for messing up if I didn’t follow all the rules.

My relationship with the church is in a word, complicated. But I’ve been in love with Jesus since I was a little girl. I have been both the Pharisee and the man beaten and left for dead on the road to Jericho. More recently, I have doubted that God loves me because how can he love someone so many hate and want to change? I have had people say to the effect: This Jesus is not for you unless you stop being who you are. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to be estranged from people who say they love you but that their God is not for you. Some of you do know what it’s like to feel Other. To feel the doubt that comes from the Church not looking like Christ.

Can I just say, who I am and who you are, whether others are comfortable with our existence in this space or not, does not change who Jesus is and what He has done. Because Jesus knows what this is like. Jesus knows what it is like to be Other. To never be enough and to be too much for this world. And there is room for your doubt here. Because this Jesus is the One who says: This is my body broken for you. This is my blood poured out for you.

To quote Rachel Held Evans again: “Something about communion triggers our memory and helps us see things as they really are. Something about communion opens our eyes to Jesus at the table…This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.”

For all my doubt and confusion sometimes about Jesus and my faith, there is room for all of us here at this table. For he knows us and has walked in our shoes and his body and blood and his resurrection bring us together in love because one thing we know for sure: Not all who wander are lost and He was there in the darkness of death and here in these moments as we join together to remember that He brought peace for us to be here even in our doubt.


Here’s the link to the recording: