Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Large Crowd Panic Attack.

I am noticing a pattern as I continue to heal. Whenever I experience positive growth emotionally, within hours or days something negative comes up which I thought I wouldn't have to go through again. I have been enjoying my denominations District Convocation. An week long convention held at the Oakland Marriott involving several thousand people. I have not attended every night, but have attended Tuesday, and Wednesday. I was preparing to go to the Saturday goings on, where I'd get to see our new Presiding Bishop for the entire denomination. On Wednesday, it appeared the preacher was "working the crowd".

After being deeply involved with Dr. Scott for 14 years, I've seen various ways of "working a crowd" in the name of God. Scott relied on fear and guilt with some flattery thrown in, just to be on the safe side. He told us we were worshiping God, but we were just being used to make him rich. Everything was a crisis. Everything came down to giving money.

This is the first year I've attended my denomination's local Convocation. Meetings with lovely music, a sound stage and at least two thousand people present for each night's service. The meetings are loud and designed to excite the audience to the possibilities of God coming across with a miracle in their lives.

But, then the old throw-money-at-your-problems gambit was pulled. "How bad do you want God to DO something in your life?" I went cold inside, but stayed for the rest of the service on Wednesday. I was very angry, but prayed with my Pastor, in case I was misreading the proceedings. Everyone else seemed totally caught up in the movement of the Spirit. I wanted to walk out, as a protest in disgust.

Saturday was the final night meeting with our denomination's presiding Bishop giving the sermon. I had a wonderful surprise when I got to the Marriott for a light dinner before the nights activities were to begin. My favorite waiter was working (as they were very busy hosting several conventions). I ordered a small Caesar Salad and coffee. I'd blown most of my money on a beautiful church hat, so I was watching my pennies.

James surprised me with a full sized dinner Caesar Salad and my favorite desert. He bought my dinner! I was truly stunned. I have been dining there for almost ten years. I am still amazed how lovingly I am treated by all the staff at the Marriott. It is always such a nice feeling when I dine with them. With dinner over, it was time for the night's meeting.

The Bishop again began to work the crowd, getting them all riled up for that miracle in their lives. I could feel the energy building and was not going to change my financial decisions, no matter what incentive was offered. Frankly, God has done so much for me, I have real difficulty getting in His face and demanding more. It just feels tacky and selfish to me. He's healed my mind, taken my back pain away and loved me in a thousand different ways. Why would I want to "demand" anything of such a loving Father?

As the intensity of the sermon continued to build I realized I was getting frightened, really frightened. I was having trouble breathing and felt a wave of nausea wash over me. I felt like I was being crushed inside. I haven't had a panic attack in years, but I realized I had to get out of that room and away from all the noise FAST.

I took my offering and hurried to the back. As I moved my panic was still mounting. I had to get OUT! My friend was following me, trying to persuade me that I was fine. I found an usher, shoved my offering into her hand, and explained that I was ill. (I learned a long time ago that keeping it simple and non-dramatic speeds up exits very nicely). My friend then wanted to get a ride for us. I just wanted to take a bus and get home, away from all the noise. I didn't want my friend to leave something I knew she was enjoying.

She finally let me take a bus and returned to the meeting. She was kind enough to call me when she got home, to make sure I was alright. I let her know I had experienced a panic attack. If I'd tried to force myself to stay, I might have gotten emotionally out of control, crying, or even screaming. I am so glad I followed my instincts about taking care of myself.

You might ask: what is a panic attack? It is a state of mind where your body and emotions swing into a severe flight reaction. I've only had a few of these, but they come on quickly and can escalate into hours of hysterical crying and screaming. For me they start with a very strong sense of danger and fear. My body reacts by pumping extra blood and Adrenalin into my system with a racing heart. I then feel like I can't get enough air into my lungs. At this point I know I have to try and get away from what ever is frightening me.

If I begin to have these episodes on a regular basis, I will have to see my doctor at my HMO, as it may mean I need a medication change, or some intervention, short-term group therapy. This is not necessarily a bad thing, or a failing on my part. I can't pray for God to heal a condition I'm not aware of having. It seems that each move forward into positive emotional growth gives me the strength to re-live some of the terror.

My pattern seems to be: I experience a sense of positive feelings, well-being and safety. Followed by re-living something seemingly negative. Once the negative memory, or reaction is out in the open, where I realize it is still a problem, I pray and God walks me through another level of faith and healing.

I did not return to the huge events on Sunday. Sunday School followed by another blow-out service. The room would be so packed that an announcement was made about not being allowed to save seats for people who weren't there yet. I really didn't want to endure another attempt to get my "hoper" all riled up, so I'd throw money at God. I'm glad others find this uplifting, but I find it depressing and down right frightening.

Thankfully, I know my Pastor understands the very real damage Dr. Scott inflicted on my ability to trust. I truly hope these meetings are authentic moves of the Spirit of God and not just flimflam in the name of faith. I have seen so much good in my church. This is the first set of meetings which have me wondering what is really going on. Like all things, time will tell. No human institution is without its faults and flaws. I will honor my sense of fright and wait to speak to pastor later in the week.

I look forward to returning to our small church with an attendance of about twenty-five people. I am surprised how frightened I became. It all happened so quickly. More healing work is going on, as old fears rise to the surface for God to heal. I am so grateful to have been able to get away from a situation which truly scared me. Time will show me how to handle crowds better in the future, but for now, I'm home, safe in the quiet of my room.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Emotional Thawing Out, Part 2.

My apologies to all that it has been such a long time since my last post. I am faced with a dilemma. I'm in the middle of some kind of amazing healing. I've arrived at a place I've never been before. I wanted to wait until I had a way of describing the changes that would be useful and clear. In short I'm now experiencing my feelings in real time, all the time.

It is very much like moving from black and white TV to color TV, or from a monophonic music player to one with stereo. This strange turn of events actually began with my awful upset about work and my latest "job". I had to decide how to view my world and the events in it. I had to admit that when it comes to going out there, selling myself, chasing the Holy Grail of work and all of the rest of that stuff, I have to stay far away, as the conflicts inside tempt me to return to suicidal thinking.

I have an easy test for all of you. If you attempt to do something and your reaction to the result is a return to wanting to kill yourself STOP! You may get stronger later in this life, but for the moment, STAND DOWN and turn to something that doesn't make you want to die!

I had to absolutely stop letting outsiders define my life. Whatever happens to me, from my viewpoint, comes from, or is permitted by God. Due to my terrible encounters with the world of work over the past several years, I frankly gave up. Yes, there it is friends. I gave up and honestly told God I'd HAD IT! I told God I would be happy with whatever He chose to put in my life. I would make efforts towards self improvement, but unless work came to me, I wouldn't chase after it.

Here's the wonderful thing about God. He knows where I am  in this process of spiritual growth. Frankly, when I reacted to the possibility of being ill-treated on a job with anger, that was probably healthy. When I was informed that the job was some one's attempt at "Charity" I fell into a pit of suicidal despair, I was disappointed in myself that I was still so sensitive in this area. However I decided to ignore what others were "calling" my work. I choose to assume God gave me a job.

After all, I have duties and I get paid. Even if poorly paid, its still a job. It no longer matters what others call this endeavor. God has also given me a potential job as a tutor for school children through my church. Thirdly, I have the unpaid "job" as webmaster and bulletin maker at my church. I only volunteered to make the bulletins. The other positions came to me. I did not seek them out.

Once I righted myself emotionally, with this turn of thought, I settled back down to living a life full of peace and adventure. While completing my last cat-sitting gig my emotional thaw-out began in earnest.

My routine with the cat is pretty straight forward. She'd get me up early in the morning, around 5 AM to let her outside.. I'd return to bed until around 8 AM. I'd get up, take my daily medication and put down the day's dry cat food, before settling down in the living room. 

Maggie would come in sometime after 9 AM, grab her first bit of food and "play" in my presence for awhile. She developed the habit of encouraging me to watch her as she would "perform". She'd bat toys around the large living room area. She'd leap straight up in the air, flip herself around and land after completing a graceful somersault. She'd then look back, to make sure I was indeed still watching her! I'd bring my coffee and my iPod into the living room and make myself comfortable sitting cross legged on the floor.

After Maggie went outside, on a Saturday morning, I made more coffee and returned to my place in the living room. I love to look outside and enjoy sun streaming through the tree leaves on this beautiful California spring day. I enjoy the way the colors change in a leafy tree when the sun streams through the foliage. It is a visual display of dappled green. It is made even prettier when the wind blows the leaves slightly and they move from place to place, changing color as they sway in the breeze. They go from the darkest green in the shade, to a very pale green when they are in the sun. I was filled with total joy taking in God's creation as viewed through the living room window.

I wondered how my life would have been different if I had succeeded in killing myself in 1979. To my utter shock I realized that everything I now hold dear wouldn't have happened. My growth and recovery did not even begin until I went to the altar and pleaded with Jesus to take my mess and let me be one of His own.

There is a clear dividing line between "before" and "after" becoming a Christian. Since I know many of my readers have difficulty with God and the religious thing, I deliberately did not post a gushing love for The Lord and blah, blah, blah,article. Until you get your feet on the ground mentally and begin to figure out what really happened to make you so crazy, you can't even understand the message of religion.

I clearly remember being told the Holy Spirit was a man, living inside of me. My reaction: nausea, as I assumed that now, even God was trying to have sex with me! A bit off on understanding the message, eh? So, I waited until something else happened that I thought might be a more useful entry for this blog.

Returning home I was back on my own computer and very happy. As I listened to one of my many podcast feeds Phillip sent me a text message. I have an audio queue for text messages and when I saw it was Phillip - POOF! I felt something. Not a huge something, but enough of a something to make me stop in my tracks. ("what the hell was THAT?") I inquired mentally. It wasn't a thought, or a mental picture, but I FELT something nice inside.

One of the great gifts of Phillip's friendship is the safety to ask him questions about feelings and situations. I absolutely trust him as a friend. He may not know an answer, but no matter how strange my question, he won't abandon me. Oh, that is such a wonderful gift. Poof - "safety".

How do I describe my feeling? It was like sensing a fragrance on the wind. A gentle positive feeling . It felt good, what was it, what emotion? Phillip replied that it was joy, with a lower case j. It is a mild happiness to see your friends online. He feels it too sometimes.

I was astounded. Before, I'd remember having a chat with Phillip and THEN feel a feeling. But this was going on in real time! Wow. But is this one incident enough to create a blog post over? Hardly. Something was shifting and tumbling inside me. I could sense I was healing in a totally different area of my life.

It didn't stop either. I found myself feeling little puffs of goodness over lots of things, especially being around people at church. The music at church is by far my favorite part of the service. We are usually standing side by side, clapping with the music, or raising our hands in response to God. Some people actually use Praise and Worship as part of their prayer time with God. It is a lovely thing to think good thoughts toward God while being engulfed with a favorite gospel song everyone is singing.

Jesus talks about having your focus undivided:
Matt. 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
Matt. 6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

I'm at this mega church gathering in a room of almost 1,000 people. I adore the song we are singing. I think of the above scripture. I turn to my left and see Bobbi swaying and clapping to the music - poof! "Bobbi happiness". I turn to my right and see Gretta gently swaying, with arms raised towards heaven - poof! "Gretta happiness". I look in front of me and see a man I don't know dancing in front of his chair, obviously expressing joy - poof! "worship happiness".

Wave after wave of nice feelings were tumbling and swirling around my mind and body. Poof! "I'm getting whole inside!" God I love you! POOF! "God love!" (That particular reaction was huge. The hair on my arms stood up). My feelings tumbled around like clothes in a dryer. It felt wonderful and scary at the same time. I couldn't wait to get home to tell my girlfriend what I just figured out.

Now I get it why people feel good to her! When they are with you and you can feel feelings, it is a whole new dimension to life. Poof! "Understanding satisfaction." My girlfriend was indeed happy for me. We had shared our "if you had one more day to live" plans. She would spend the last day with close friends, eating and talking. I would spend my last day on earth at the Marriott Hotel. I'd be alone, swimming, eating and just hanging out. My girlfriend seemed shocked and asked: "...but where are the people?" I had retorted that the last thing I wanted to be around for my last day on earth would be people! I might take someone out for lunch maybe, but I wanted to experience the Marriott alone. She was truly stunned and I'd flagged her reaction as something I deeply wanted to understand, but currently, didn't have a clue.

Within days I was swamped with feelings. I had reactions to people, plants, animals, books and things I'd read in a friendly email. I had taken a brave step with Phillip, months ago, asking him questions about "what does it mean when..." I now decided to experiment with trusting another person with similar questions. I started to cry. (Oh, no!) Poof! "relief and gratitude". Gretta not only listened to my stammered tale of emotional release, but shared some of her personal story. I wasn't the only one to use books to try and figure out the world...

I felt like I was breaking out of terrible isolation that had always encircle me. I used to have dreams of being encased in a clear plastic cube. I could hear and see, but no one could touch me, or hurt me. It was safe, but utterly isolating. Even when I wanted to, I couldn't ever leave that invisible cube.

I've laughed, cried and even gotten angry, in real time! I have to learn restraint. Just because I have a feeling doesn't mean it is a good idea to act on it. I was at a meeting last night where the pastor said something that enraged me. My first gut reaction was to get up and DRAMATICALLY walk out. I decided against this action. as I saw that everyone else was experiencing something good. My memories of Dr. Scott and his strong-arm fund raising tactics caused me to react very differently.

I waited until I had a chance to speak to my pastor. I prayed about my attitude. I do not want to think ill of someone, if they are not doing evil. But I was so ANGRY! Hello adulthood, what a strange place Adulthood is!

I am thankful that people in my church recognize the healing I am experiencing. Life has a whole new texture. It "HAS" a texture! I'm still walking around like that guy from a small town who gets off a bus in down town New York. He wonders around in a complete daze for awhile.
So, that is why I haven't posted in so long. It is wonderful to feel. You have to use common sense about sharing some of this.

Not everyone is equipped to accept this part of my story. There is a very kind man at church, who likes to shake hands, rather then share a hug. I doubt he'd know how to respond if I asked him about what a reaction to a situation meant. But, he sees my happiness and shares in it. I have several friends who are filling in the gaps for me, as needed. poof! "satisfaction". I now move on to a more focused post about my very first hand-made designer hat.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Our Declining World Culture. Where Have All The Morals Gone?

I was born in 1953 post war America. In our upper middle class neighborhood the scandal of the day was some teenager stealing peoples mail, out of their mailboxes and dumping it down the street drains.

Today we have mass shootings, genocide and contaminated products being pawned off on unsuspecting consumers, world wide. Where has our sense of right and wrong gone? Sadly, I believe I found the answer from part of a book by Ravi Zacharias. Are you sure a world with no absolute truth ,rules or values is the world you want to live in?

Recapture the wonder by Ravi Zacharias

What children Have Lost

In the 1950’s kids lost their innocence. They were liberated from their parents by a
well paying job, cars and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term: “the generation gap”.

In the 1960’s kids lost their authority. It was a decade of protest. Church, state and
parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.

In the 1970’s kids lost their love. It was a decade of "me-ism” dominated by hyphen-
ated words beginning with “self". Self-image, self-esteem, self-assertion, it made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love. No one had the nerve to tell them that there was a difference.

In the 1980’s kids lost their hope. Stripped of innocence, authority and love and
plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.

In the 1990’s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth and logic. And they grew up with the irrationality of a post modern world.

In the new Millennium kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of
all this change they’d lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained
them till none could talk of killing innocence since none was innocent anymore. The
slide into despair began early, decades ago. The lack of innocence which is in reality the lack of wonder has a direct bearing on hopelessness and evil. The loss of wonder sets the stage for cynicism and doubt and unbelief.