zenglican

Anglican, Zen Meditating, Trade Unionist, Liberal, Left Wing, Foodie

Black Dog.

Winston Churchill often referred to his depression as the Black Dog. I never really understood that, mainly because I had a friend in my teens who had the most beautiful flat coat retriever. Dylan was a beautiful loyal gentle big black champion. And he was smart and magnificently trained. We all loved that dog.

We all know the other dogs though. The snarling, angry, snappy ones. The maulers and biters. The untamed, wild fighters who will savage at the slightest provocation.

These dogs are I think Churchill’s Black Dogs of the soul.

For me my black dog is not depression it is anxiety. And by this I don’t mean a propensity to worry too much. I mean gut wrenching, nerve jangling, vomit inducing anxiety.

I have been anxious as far back as I can remember, as a child I was a disproportionate worrier and I kept this to myself. It is ironic that someone so extroverted and such a talker did not talk about the worries, I internalised them so as not to bother anyone else.

Things got totally out of hand in my 20s when I became a teacher. My first year of teaching in New Zealand became my last as I found myself in a toxic unsupportive school that had hired me to do two teachers jobs and then isolated me from support because in their religious special character school I was an outsider.

Predictably I suffered a bad burn out, and after weeks of very little sleep due to my anxiety and a regular routine of vomiting up my breakfast from stress I went to the doctor, had to take 2 weeks of to recover and…most importantly I got some medication for the anxiety.

In hindsight I should probably have handed in my notice and not gone back to the school. But I was concerned for my students and had a huge sense of responsibility coupled with a powerful fear of failure. So I stuck it out till the end of the year and then left High School teaching forever.

The anxiety issue had been miraculously cured by a magic little white pill called Aropax. Also known as Paroxetine, Paxil, or Loxamine.

All was well! Or so I thought. What the doctor did not tell me those 14 years ago, perhaps because he did not know, was that this drug is fiendishly difficult to get off. Withdrawal is hideous, and there are side effects to the drug in the first place.

Firstly of course the anxiety returns, and it is much worse than before, much worse. It is accompanied by nausea, flu like symptoms, electric jolts to the head and other symptoms.

14 years later I am still taking it and I want to stop. There are indicators that it is damaging to an unborn foetus and my husband and I would like to have a baby. This drug causes significant weight gain and the subsequent other health issues that come with that. Having sat at a healthy BMI my whole life my weight shot up 30 kilos when I stared taking this drug and I have never got it back down.

There has got to be a better way of handling the anxiety than this.

I want my body and my mind back.

So the battle is to begin. Millimetre by millimetre I am coming of this drug. It takes years to slowly crawl off it.

I am hoping that by blogging my progress and writing about it I will find relief from the anxiety and understanding of myself. Journaling has always been a relief for me but this time I will do it on line. Maybe I will find support, maybe there are other people out there walking the same road who have tips that will help.

The plan is to tame this savage beast, to understand it, to listen to it, to allow my fears a voice. Because even if there is no one out there listening, and I don’t believe that for a minute, I am listening, and maybe that will be enough.

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An epiphany during epiphany (on the sacred feminine)

I had the strangest experience today at church…it was strange because it did not start in church, it actually started on a visit to a Reiki practitioner and massage therapist. A friend of mine gave me a voucher a few months ago for a reiki session or massage by this woman she had been going to see.

I had two options, I could play it safe and go for a massage, or for what used to be a good little evangelical girl; I could take a walk on the wild side and have Reiki…this was for a number of reasons far to scary a decision to make so I procrastinated, I love a good massage, and I was intrigued by the idea of Reiki, which is a spiritual healing practice. I was pretty un-nerved because of my evangelical upbringing. After all the Christian crowd of my youth would have labeled her a witch, cautioned me on the thou shalt have no other Gods before me commandment and advised me that I would at the very least be dabbling in occultish practices that would bring the wrath of God and very likely a demon down on me.

Dilemma, dilemma…what to do?

This was all to tricky for a zenglican, a bit of a step too far…so I did what every sensible Anglican does when they are spiritually freaked out…I did nothing.

Christmas came and went as did my wedding and mini honeymoon. And then it happened, smack bang in the middle of Epiphany my troubled stepson called me a fat whore.

Did this push my buttons? It sure did…I was a mess, I went to my room and bawled like a baby, which seemed a better approach than screaming at my son and having an emotional meltdown all over him. My husband made him apologise and tried to comfort me but despite him doing all the right things I still felt lacerated and raw…like someone had taken 2 layers of skin off my soul.

I carried this for 24 hours and the my best friend called. She had booked herself a session with the reiki massage therapist and for some weird feeling did not want to go…did I want her appointment. Talk about the universe conspiring against me. I knew it was exactly what I needed an so with a few hours to spare I consulted the boys and then off I went.

When I got in to her room she asked me wether I wanted massage or healing, it was a no brainer, I was feeling bruised and sore, I needed healing. And so I lay down on her table and while I leaked tears she went to work on healing me…

I had visions,
I immediately connected with the sacred feminine,
I had a vision of my unborn children
She knew exactly where my spirit was at
She offered me some piercing insights into my psyche.
The complex and unexplainable pain from my stepsons attack subsided and evaporated.

I then went home exhilarated and un-nerved.

This week was tough, back at work after the holidays, bit of a financial crisis and then thank the lord the weekend again.

This morning abandoning the boys to their own devices I headed off to church.

It was different I was different
2 things happened…

1. I realised that I had been desperately needing connection with the sacred feminine, I had for the last 40 years been connecting to God under a patriarchal framework. And that connection had been a struggle, and over the years the link had become weaker and weaker and it was like the signal had been slowly fading away. I needed to connect with God the mother, the sacred feminine spirit of God and this deeply spiritual woman had led me back…or was it forward into her presence.

2. The healer had asked me if I knew I was psychic. Back in my old spiritual tradition they called it prophetic…and I did know but it came and went. Today at church It came back. I had at once an epiphany with the sacred feminine and reconnected with the divine. And all at once I had a knowing. The sense of being plugged in stayed with me through the whole service. I wrote a poem, a psalm, after having been blocked for years.

It turns out that the Lady Holy Spirit of God blows where she will, she uses who she will as a channel of her Grace and Healing and when we are ready, afraid or not she comes to us and fills us with her grace.

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Hypocritical priests (the girl ones)

So this occurred to me during the Anglican Synod here in Auckland and it has been bugging me ever since.  I don’t really understand why it makes me feel so gut angry that my head wants to explode but it does, so anyway I figure I will blog it and see if that helps.

Here goes..

It’s the evangelical women priests at synod. I of course am all for woman priests, I am all for ordaining women as bishops…obviously I am pretty liberal. I am liberal on ordaining women, homosexuals, on substitutional atonement and this all comes from a consistent liberal interpretation of scripture.

What bugs the crap out of me is women who are conservative in their interpretation of scripture, and are happy to be liberal on the reading of the scriptures regarding a woman’s role in the church, but then insist on sticking to a literal interpretation of scripture when it comes to homosexuality.

it seems to be if you are going to stick with your holier than thou, love the sinner hate the sin interpretation of scripture, you should be consistent and not just pick the scriptures that conveniently apply to someone else.  One would think that having experienced the discrimination and frustration of having your vocation challenged and denied you because of your gender you would have empathy for others who face similar discrimination.

it seems to me that if you are an evangelical female priest who insists upon refusing to allow homosexuals to be ordained and to be married in our church then you should be consistent in your interpretation of scripture, take of your dog collar, put on your hat, hand your licence in to the bishop, sit down in a pew, shut your mouth and learn in silence and submission.  

Otherwise you are a hypocrite, a whited sepulchre, no matter how you contort your interpretation of scripture to make your ordination ok but a homosexual person in a committed relationships an abomination, it is what it is. Hypocrisy. Be aware that for those of us that recognise this, anything else you try and preach to us is coloured by this lack of credibility. It’s hard to hear your words when your lack of integrity is screaming at me so loudly.

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On ditching the bible and finding God

I had a bit of an Ah Hah! moment in church today. Somehow in the middle of a sermon about the resurrection I began to reflect on why I have struggled for nearly 20 years to sit down and read the bible.

Being raised in the evangelical and pentecostal church there was a huge focus on the discipline of prayer and scripture reading. My Mum was a great advocate of the quiet time and Mum, my Dad and my older Brother were impressive examples of Christians with a disciplined devotional life.

In my teens and during my time in Bible College and again during a year working with a mission in Thailand I was actually pretty good as well.

But 2 years out of 40 ain’t really that impressive when you think about the fact that for 35 years I have had a strong Christian faith and spirituality.

I used to beat myself up about it, I got periodically guilted about it from the pulpit and from various spiritual leaders. Never directly of course because mostly it was my guilty secret. The skeleton in the closet of my otherwise impressive spiritual house.

I ceased to worry about it around 3 years ago. Having followed my vocation into working as a advocate for a trade union, and having stepped out of the discernment process that had me heading for the Anglican Priesthood I stopped worrying about how I would sustain a life as a professional Christian. I just started living…

Then today in church it hit me. I struggle to sit down and read the bible because it scares me. I feel anxious just thinking about it. It’s not performance anxiety, it’s this is dangerous and any minute I am about to get clobbered anxiety.  The same kind of anxiety an abused child feels when their parent begins to raise their voice.

The small remaining evangelical voice in my head tells me I am afraid of being convicted of my sin, as well I should be, and shame on me for being a coward and burying my head in the sand and refusing to confront my sin.

But there is more to it than that.

I am scared of being clobbered with the bible like I was in those pente and evangelical churches. I’m scared that my own head will do to me what numerous pastors and super Christians used to do.  I will start to read and I will be unable to filter out 35 years worth of voices telling me that I don’t measure up.  All that I read with these voices are stories of spiritual giants who periodically stuffed up but still managed to walk on water, heal the sick and convert the sinners to the righteous path.

I am scared that it will some how drag me back in to those toxic communities.

I don’t read the bible because when I do I feel judged.  And I don’t think that is about scripture itself, I think that is about the way it has been used around me.

I am over following a  belief system I don’t measure up too.  And even though preachers have told me over and over again that Christianity is all about grace and us abandoning our need to be adequate and surrendering to God’s love I don’t believe them.  Because with one side of their mouth they have told me that whilst with the other side they have  piled me up with should’s and musts and have too’s.  And all of these have been justified by the use of scripture.

It’s hardly surprising I don’t want to read it any more.  It’s more surprising that I will even darken the door of a church, let alone be a part of its governing body.  The  ironic moment of grace in this is that my current faith community is finally a safe enough one that I am allowed to have the spiritual space to actually make these realisations.  And be allowed to sit with the questions and the fear and the anger and not be judged for them. Or have anyone try to fix me, to make me conform.  God bless my little Anglican Church.

It’s ironic also that I am the happiest I have ever been.  According to the  spiritual leaders of my youth I am in the worst spiritual condition I have ever been in.  Living in sin with my Buddhist lover,  having cast of the fundamental theologies of my youth for a wishy washy all roads lead to Rome, new age Christianity that accepts all faiths  as valid and refuses to believe in hell or even in sin really.

I am just so much happier, more contented, more at peace with myself, more connected with myself.  It turns out I did not need the bible for that. I needed to ditch great swags of baggage that I had been loaded down with and start being true to myself.  Maybe this new lightness and wholeness I feel is where God actually is.

 

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ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day has always been significant for myself and my family. My two beloved grandfathers served in World War Two to great personal cost, though they would not have seen it that way. They both came home physically unscathed but emotionally was a different story. Not different however than the thousands of brothers in arms who returned with them.

My paternal Grandad served in the Pacific on Guadalcanal and my maternal Grandad in Egypt and Italy. They were both proud of their service but only one of them ever spoke of it.

Grandad Brown (my mothers father) only started to speak of his time in the war when he was a sick, prematurely elderly man. And he told his stories to his grandchildren. This was both a privilege and a gift. He adored us all and when he died on Anzac Day of 1983, peacefully after attending the dawn parade to remember his fallen cobbers, the day became even more significant.

Grandad Hercock (my fathers father) died six years later and his flag draped coffin was a reminder of the pride he took in the service he rendered to his country but rarely (if ever) spoke of.

My Mothers grandfather was a veteran of that campaign that will be forever etched in our nations history and psyche, Gallipoli. He survived the campaign again to speak rarely of it. The only thing he told his family was that he got nasty boils whilst there. Of the real horror he said nothing. He also died young, my mother was his adored oldest grandchild. The apple of his eye she lost his loving presence when she was in primary school. Another veteran who died to young, prematurely aged by his experiences in the war that should have ended all wars.

Our families attendance at the ANZAC memorials and the cemetery on Anzac Day began with the death of Grandad Brown and continues to this day.

This year however was different.

This year I attended the parade and service with my fiancée Chris. And for the first time he wore the medals he earned as a peacekeeper in East Timor and marched with the veterans, the youngest by many years.

I saw something yesterday that I have never seen in all my years of attending these parades and services. It has always been there but this year I noticed it myself for the first time.

The veterans assembled as they always do and began to get into formation. I was standing watching Chris and the other veterans and then a senior sergeant major sounding type began barking out orders. That’s when it happened, this man who I thought I knew so well changed before my eyes…and so I noticed did his elderly comrades. His back and head snapped up and into place. His eyes clicked into position and the muscle memory in his body snapped into action.

The man I knew was gone, he was someone else, somewhere else. I wonder how many wives and lovers see this happen and know where their men have gone. Somewhere they cannot follow, somewhere they would be frightened to go. I am lucky, Chris came back. He did not suffer the trauma of our forefathers, but there is trauma. It won’t affect his life expectancy like it did my grandfathers, but it has affected his life.

It will affect our lives, in many ways. Anzac Day gives us a day to remember, to grieve, and to be proud. There is little to celebrate in war, but it is part of our journey, it has made us who we are individually and as a nation. Chris was a peacekeeper, and still is in many ways. I am so proud of that. He is no longer a soldier, but that soldier is still in there.

My grandfathers carried their wounded soldier selves all their lives. The wounds never fully healed and they died early from them. They did what they had to do and they paid the price. It was high. Their friends and comrades paid with their lives. Because of this the horrors of occupation never came to our shores.

They never forget, their sinews and muscles remember, their minds remember, and to ensure it never happens again, that we only send our youth away to war as the last, most desperate measure, we too must never forget.

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Gay therefore Celibate – The evangelicals answer to the homosexuality debate

https://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2012/sep/30/church-england-homosexuality-liberals-won

A great article in the Guardian has sparked yet another debate among the various factions of the Anglican church of my acquaintance.

At the heart of the debate over sexual orientation and the ordination of Homosexuals (among other things) is the fact that the conservatives and the liberals simply see scripture in a totally different way.  Whilst your average Evangelical looks at the bible and says “God said it, I believe  it, that settles it”, your average liberal looks at the bible as a collection of holy writings, written in a historical context with great truths but not necessarily facts. The conservatives cry Inerrant!  The liberals cry Context!

Having concluded that according to divinely inspired, inerrant scripture homosexuality is sinful, or in that great old cliche ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’; the answer as far as the evangelicals are concerned is if you can’t pray the gay away then you must be celibate.

Now lets leave aside the conversation about whether this has worked for the Roman Catholic church (in my opinion it has not).  I want to shine a light on this so that there is no doubt to  these conservatives about what they are actually expecting of their GLBT brothers and sisters.

Modern psychology and sociology has come to the conclusion that the fastest way to a miserable, repressed, disordered sexuality is to regard sex as inherently dirty, shameful, unclean and wrong.  Back in the old days in the church they used the words sinful.

The vast majority of modern Christians,  be they conservative or liberal, now acknowledge that sex, sexual intimacy and sexuality is a beautiful God given gift and is part of who we are as humans.  We all agree that expressing our sexuality appropriately is all about context and consent.  Sex between two loving consenting adults = great!  Sex between one person and another non-consenting person for example = not acceptable.

So having agreed that sex is a God given expression of who we are, the evangelicals are now saying, well because the bible says that you can’t have sex with the same gender, then in order not to commit sin you must simply give it up all together.

Is this a massive step backwards or what?

Against all modern knowledge and understanding about how our psyches, and minds, and spirits work you are asking a large group of people to give up the chance of ever experiencing joyful intimacy with another person because their sexuality is wrong?

Now I don’t want to knock celibacy.  At the right time in your life singleness and chastity can be a great gift and a life giving one at that.  I have experienced this in my own life and I know that having embraced my solitude, and my celibacy, I came to know myself better than I could have, had I been obsessed with needing to be in a relationship.  I bring in to my current relationship the great gift of knowing that I do not need my partner to complete or fulfill me, I am complete and fulfilled with or without him.  Our love enriches my life but it does not define me.

But insisting on removing the opportunity for that kind of love and intimacy from another group of people is in my opinion a recipe for misery, psychological distress and at the very worst in a few cases dangerous and damaging behavior (See the RC church abuse scandals for that one).

Lets be clear, you are not simply advising chastity and self control in order to grow and develop into a human being who is ready for either a life of intimacy with another person, or as a happy fulfilled single person who chooses that for them self.   You are taking away the possibility of them ever having that. That loneliness?  Sorry its permanent!  Intimacy is never going to happen for you!

There is a world of difference between choosing not to have sex because at this time in your life for whatever reason you decide not to, and knowing that you will have to be celibate for the rest of your life because your sexual orientation is some how disordered or sinful. There is a difference between experiencing your celibacy as a gift for a particular stage of your life (something that I experienced for many years) and as knowing that it is a permanent state of being because your inherent wiring and desires are wrong and therefore that form of intimacy is forbidden to you.

Be warned, down that path lies a world of misery and destruction, in the name of all that is holy, don’t go there!

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The Joys of International Insignificance!

Ten Years ago I spent some great times traveling extensively around South East Asia.  I took in Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

One of the great joys and privileges of being a New Zealander is the ease at which we get visas into these countries and the welcome we experience  when we travel around.  American?  No Kiwi!  Keewee? From New Zealand…Ahh Nu Zeeland ( nod and smile.)

Apart from the fact that the vast majority of the world cant find us on a map we enjoy the great blessings that come with not having pissed off anyone at all (accept the USA  but lets get to that later).  No terrorist is interested in blowing up the sky tower, we are just not important enough for them to bother.  As a Kiwi wandering around the world we are not likely to get chewed out for our foreign policy or kidnapped to teach our satanic government a lesson.  Our religious nuts are just local pains in the ass rather than creators of riots in the streets of cities with large Muslim populations.

Enter the US Secretary of Defense…

Having pissed of the US Government 25 odd years ago by refusing to allow their nuclear ships in to our harbors we have been conveniently ignored by them ever since.  As they have been stomping around the globe behaving like everyone’s nightmare international flatmate, we have by and large kept  out noses out of their conflicts, and our soldiers out of their war zones.  That all changed when we sent soldiers in to Afghanistan.  We helped them out there and now they want to be friends again.

Now I have never though that being buddies with the biggest bully in the school yard is a good idea.  Eventually the little guys get upset with having their school lunches stolen and they fight back.  And if you are one of the bullies buddies you sometimes find yourself getting a stray punch in the nose.

Well now the US Secretary of Defense is sniffing around and sounding us out as potential hosts for one of their military bases.  we are not positioned usefully to stage any kind of beat up on the Middle East; but Asia and the Pacific?  Well that’s another story.  We sit right in Asia’s back yard and all of a sudden we might be useful again.

I say that as small insignificant players on the international stage that we stay that way.  Let the Yanks stage their school yard beat ups from someone else’s back yard.  No terrorist worth their Molotov cocktail is interested in sending a suicide bomber down here.  By and large our Asia, Pacific neighbors regard us as a benign, geeky little brother.  lets keep it that way!

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How do you become a Zenglican?

Well, you start out in an evangelical Anglican church as a child.  You love the Anglicanism and you are spiritually precocious which thank goodness the Anglicans support.

Your parents drag you of to the Pentecostal church where you don’t at all fit, but some of their bone deep commitment to living out their (misguided) spirituality rubs of.  The Pentes don’t like spiritually precocious young woman however and so you follow your deep sense of spirituality to South East Aisa in a (misguided) attempt to live it out by converting those Buddhists to Jesus.

After a few years of working in and out of Asia and New Zealand the dissonance between your spirituality of grace and peace and the theology of sin, damnation and repentance becomes deafening.  You discover the ancient contemplative traditions of the church and realize that the arm waving hand clapping of the Pentecostals and the Evangelicals leaves no room for you to listen to the divine.

You move back to the Anglicans from the Baptists who you went to when the Pente’s kicked you out.

You can no longer live with believing in an all powerful, loving God who is love, but sends the vast majority of his creation off to an unspeakable concentration camp after death; because they worship him in a way that is different to what he defines in an ancient library of texts.

And any way how come the divine is a man, and his mates seem to despise women.

You go from an Evangelical Anglican to a Liberal Anglican church, you discover inclusive theology, you discover women priests.  You find a place that embraces your questioning and celebrates your intellect.

You are home!

You fall in love with a Buddhist and that is okay because your God is happy for anyone to connect to her any way that works for them.

You go with your lover to the Zen Center and you learn to meditate in silence listening to your breath.

You discover the divine in your self, your body and your community.

You continue to meditate using Zazen, you continue to meditate using Lectio Divina and your Rosary.

You are part of your Anglican Community and your Zen Community

Nether community resents or resists the other

You are a Zenglican.

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