Category Archives: Christianity

Did I used to sound like that?

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It was a silly Facebook conversation. It was not an earth-shattering ultra serious, life-or-death discussion. A friend posted a picture and made a funny comment. The photo did in fact touch on religion, but not in a “hater” sort of way. A few of us chimed in something funny, snarky, silly. It was a *Facebook* conversation for crying out loud.

And then along came one of my friend’s Facebook friends (a guy who was also in the group of friends I hung out with in college) and inserts an ultra serious, judgmental, downer comment into the discussion. You could almost hear everyone’s mental brakes screech, <crickets chirp>.

Aside from feeling like a little kid who just got his hand slapped for trying to sneak a cookie, all I could think of was, “Did I used to sound like that?” “When I was a faithful, sold-out Evangelical Christian, did *I* used to sound like that?” So un-loving, so judgmental, so condemning of others’ innocent fun?

Yeesh.

The other thing I wondered, hard on the heels of that first thought, was “Was *he* always like this?” In college, while we weren’t close friends, I remember how much I admired his passionate faith, his offbeat and quirky sense of humor. We were in the Christian clown troupe together, and he had been a lot of fun to clown around with – quite literally. But if I had been an “unwashed heathen” would I have seen this side of him? Or did he only show that side to insiders – his “brothers and sisters in Christ”?

The whole incident put my in mind of a conversation I’d had with another friend from college some years back. I’d only been living in our present city for a couple years, we’d only recently begun to suspect our oldest son of having autism – I think he was maybe 3 when this happened. I’d gotten her phone number from a mutual friend and called to see if she wanted to catch up some time. Now, unlike the other guy, this woman had been a very close friend of mine. I’d been a bridesmaid in her wedding. I don’t know what, exactly, I was expecting from the conversation but it wasn’t what I got.

We were sharing about what had gone on in our lives since last we’d met up. She and her husband had two daughters now. We were holding off on a second child till we figured out more what was going on with our son. I hinted in my conversation about my faith-doubts that had crept in in the middle of this whole experience.

Rather than offer sympathy, a prayer, *something* – she began to back away from the conversation. As though I were a pariah for having troubles, for having doubts about my faith in the middle of my crisis. She was acting like my doubts were a communicable disease.   We finished up the conversation, and I knew there was really no point in ever calling back.  She was living in her happy little Christian bubble, and I was disturbing her fragile peace.

Was her faith really so fragile?  Is his?  Maybe this is the *real* reason that Christians always need to be “ready to defend the faith”.  They are not standing up for God.  They are simply warding off their own doubts, and shoring up their own faith fortress.

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How does an empath look for a church?

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I seem to be a walking oxymoron these days.  I’m a Christian who is fascinated by and deeply respects other faith traditions.  I believe that it’s possible to keep your faith and your politics separate from each other.  And I am (seemingly) an empath who is trying to find a church to call home for me and my family.

There are no books that talk about this.  I am getting very discouraged.  I also wonder from time to time if maybe I’m the crazy one?  I’ve had numerous friends rave about their churches.  I’ve read numerous websites and reviews raving about local churches.  I’ve actually walked into maybe a dozen or more to see for myself.  The best of them simply felt “dead” to me.  And the worst?  One of them a couple years ago, the horrible psychic “stuff” rolling off the *pastor* sent me scurrying out halfway through the service.  One just this past weekend left me feeling like my soul needed a shower.  Both of those left me physically shaking for the rest of the day.

What the heck is going on in the churches today?  Seems like I have a choice of The Dead Church, The Cultic Church, and The Mentally Ill Church.  Gaaah!  If this is truly all that’s available in my area, perhaps I’m better off without a church “family”.

Assuming it’s God that gave me this gift (I’ve had it all my life, and have never prayed to other gods or entities about its usage) *how* does He expect me to go through the church hunting process without leaving pieces of my soul scattered around my city? I’ve been part of 4 churches in the almost 11 years we’ve lived here.  Two of the churches the only reason we left is they had split and were dying, and with a young family we could not help “bail out” the sinking ship any longer.  Had they stayed sane, we would have stayed.

I know, I know, churches are full of people and no church is perfect.  I can live with “not perfect”.  I can’t live with a church full of mentally disturbed or angry people feeding off my energy like the emotional vampires they are.  Just extricated myself from one of those situations.  Not going back into one….EVER….if I can help it.  I value my newly rediscovered sanity too much.

And the worst part?  ‘Twould seem my gift is getting stronger.  *Much* stronger, now that I have some understanding of what, exactly, it is.  I am trying to learn how to control it – so far it’s working about as well as trying to teach myself to play guitar.  I can manage a few chords to accompany myself on a simple song, but it would go a whole lot faster and better with a teacher.  How does a lifelong Christian find a teacher to help her learn to be a balanced and healthy empath?

I need a solution.  I cannot simply “wish” my gift away any more than someone with cancer can “wish” their disease gone.  I do not want to continue as  a Christian in exile, but I will not be part of a “church” that simply sucks me dry.

The nature of a gift

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All my life I have felt as though I were “different” from others around me.  Never quite fit in at school, never quite fit in at home, was teased a lot, told I was “too sensitive”, was thought to be a lot younger than I am (or conversely, referred to as an “old soul”, and seemed to inspire either a bizarre protectiveness or utter disdain from most of the people I met.

A year or so into my bizarre spiritual journey, I found myself not only attending a Unitarian church, but also checking out their Wicca meeting.  I thought it would be interesting to spend time with a group of folks who think so completely differently about their spirituality.  It was.  It turned out to be highly informative too.  I happened to mention during the discussion that I had a strange aversion to spending time in crowded places (like Walmart and grocery stores).  That I came home from them feeling utterly drained, even though being out-n-about causes me no anxiety and I don’t suffer from agoraphobia.  One of them immediately piped up, “Ohhhh, you’re an empath!”

I’m a…..what?  Thank goodness for Google.  I spent the next few weeks doing  a lot of research.  Empaths are people who, among other things, have a psychic ability called clairsentience.  Which, boiled down, means they can feel things – energy and emotions – that most people can’t (or, at an early age, chose not to).  There’s some argument about whether or how much of the ability can be learned.  And it’s not necessarily a weird, woo woo king of thing.  Think of it as simply some of us were born knowing how to use slightly more than the average 5% brain capacity most “normal” folks do.

I’m an empath.  Huh.  Just saying it feels like being at an AA meeting or something.  “Hi, my name is…… and I’m an empath.”  Weird.  And not easily reconcilable with my Christian upbringing.  So I did what I always do – more research.

And… here’s where the heretic in me comes out.  I think that the Christian community *recognizes* this ability.  They just call it something else – in Christian terms, I have the Gift of Discernment.  By the test of Occam’s Razor,  and from conversations with other Christians who claim to have this gift, it would seem we share similar experiences with those who call it a psychic gift.

I’m not going to argue theology. But knowing that the secular world has a name for my gift (and research to back it up, though relatively new) makes me feel less alone.  It also makes many of the weird experiences in my life make a little more sense.  Here’s a list of some of them……

1.  People were *always* telling me I was too sensitive and/or that I needed to grow a thicker skin.

2.  I always got teased in school, even though I was quiet and studious and did my best to be unnoticeable.  I learned how to be a chameleon as a coping mechanism.  (Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.)

3.  I have very few “neutral” relationships.  I constantly have the odd experience of people seeming to love me or hate me from the first moment, sometimes before I’ve even opened my mouth.

4.  In public places (mall, grocery store, churches I’m visiting) I’ll have people start staring at me for no apparent reason and I’ll feel their disdain, even though I generally do not dress in a flashy manner and always try to act considerately.

5.  People are always opening up and telling me their life stories, sometimes in the oddest places (like in line at the store, or at the bus stop).

6.  I have always been the “counselor” for family and friends.  Most of the time I have enjoyed this.  Sometimes I’ve had someone glom onto me who I wished would go away.

7.  I seem to attract a disproportionate number of nuts and whackos in public places.  I’ve had strangers in a mall or bookstore come up and tell me a sob story and ask for money.  I’ve had people come up and pick fights with me (unprovoked) who I’ve never seen or spoken to before.

8.  People are always bumping into me (when I’m walking around) or causing me near misses while I’m driving – almost as though I don’t take up any space – like they don’t even “see” me and are surprised to find someone there.  This has happened a disquieting amount lately – and anyone who knows me knows I drive very defensively and am not in the habit of charging around.

9. Sometimes I “know” things.  I know when someone’s depressed even though they are chatting away happily.  I’ve known twice now before someone died that it would be the last time I’d see them in person (my husband’s grandpa and my dad).  I know that a trip, or event, will go badly or cause some fallout even as I’m getting ready for it.  Many times I’ll know who’s on the phone when it rings…..without looking at the caller ID.  There’s other things too, but those give you a general idea.

10.  Even when I go to bed early and sleep for 8-9 hours, if I remember dreaming I’ll feel like I’ve actually been out-and-about all night.

11.  When my dad died, I was surprised to discover I could feel his actual spirit presence still around.  No, this was not simply memory and remembrance.  It had *location*.  Mostly he was around his own house – I got the idea he was making sure my mom was okay.  And then, his presence very definitely “left” somewhere around a year or so later.  One day when we went to visit, his spirit was simply “not there” anymore.  However I am pretty certain he was with me in the hospital when I was giving birth to his unseen 3rd grandchild.

12.  I have sometimes felt like I was being watched by unseen beings – call them angels, call them demons – some had good intent and some ill.  NO, I don’t hear voices in my head (or suffer from mental illness.)

13.  At certain times (particularly the “old festival” times of solstice and equinox) I have the odd feeling of straddling the seen and unseen worlds.  Though I’ve been a Christian all my life, Halloween night (Samhaim) feels different, special, hallowed, like it’s name.  Maybe it’s just all that Celtic DNA in me.

14.  I always feel ill and tired when someone around me is sick.  It’s worst with my kids – almost like they get better by sucking their healing out of me.  I have to be very careful to get lots of extra sleep and TLC.  Many times I can’t and I will immediately get sick after they’re all better.

15.  I have always had very vivid dreams/nightmares – some of them have been prophetic (though generally they only regard my own life events).

16.  I seem to have an uncanny ability to help people heal, either with massage or praying and laying hands on them.  That said, they have always been minor injuries/ailments.  I’ve never prayed over and laid hands on someone with, say, cancer.  And since I now know I am an only self-trained empath, I think it would be a bad idea to try (for my sake) unless it was for a loved one.

17.  I get deja vu an awful lot.

18.  I am very sensitive to changes in the weather, especially when the barometric pressure drops.  I will suddenly feel headachy, flu-ish, and very tired.  After the front passes I’ll start feeling better.

19.  I’m very sensitive to loud noises and strong smells.  Being at a loud crowded party drains me very quickly, even if I’m having fun.

20.  I sometimes feel physically ill watching horrible news stories and graphic movies.  I avoid them whenever possible.

21.  Animals seem to glom onto me all the time (whether I want them to or not).  Now, I love animals, but it’s hard when your friend’s two big dogs suddenly want to vie for your lap space.

22.  I used to get anxious and depressed at home alone – until we adopted our cat.  Laugh if you want but it feels like he helps keep the negative energy away from me.

Okay, that’s just the short list – I’m sure I could think of more if I sat here longer.

The point is, if I am really an empath, it explains an awful lot about the strange things that have happened all my life.  Evidently others who identify with this have had very similar experiences.

I’ve been reading up on how others who are empaths cope.  One especially helpful thing I learned is that many untrained empaths walk around wide open, like a giant psychic sponge – absorbing all the energy around them.  Evidently if a person is an unaware empath, she unknowingly projects her aura *away* from herself, thus preventing it from being the spiritual protective layer it’s supposed to be.  Also, others can sense this power, or difference, and react by either being unnaturally attracted or repelled – even though they are completely unaware of why.

I tried some of the meditation exercises yesterday, and being more aware of my mind at places where I’d previously been *very* uncomfortable (like, at the bus stop, where I spend half my life waiting for my kids’ buses).  I realized that I have (probably ever since I was a little girl) “protected” myself from negative emotions by sending out “psychic feelers” wherever I go.  I do this quite regularly and unconsciously.  Without even realizing it I am making waves in the psychic atmosphere, and it is *this* that people are reacting to.

I made an effort yesterday to mentally “draw my aura in” and keep my feelings to myself and not unconsciously go probing around in other people’s heads.  It’s hard – like a muscle that’s never been used.  Hard too because I’m curious by nature. But I came home feeling so much less drained and so much happier.  I’ve evidently been invading people’s privacy without even realizing it.  Oops.  Ignorance is rarely actually bliss.

How odd to think that my subconscious recognized this a long time ago.  For years my favorite books and shows have involved people who suddenly find themselves with unusual abilities that they didn’t know they had, and need to figure out how to deal with them.

Something rotten in the state of Denmark

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Yesterday, after a year and a half of not belonging to any one particular church, and about 3-4 months of sporadically attending a Unitarian church, I got up the gumption to go try yet another area church service (a traditional Christian one).  I have come to the recent conclusion that I really like and miss many of the elements of my actual Christian faith.  Including, well, the Elements (Communion, that is).

I made the point to get up early – I was going to try the church/service a dear friend raves about.  I’d been to her church before, but had always gone to the later, more traditional one (having set aside contemporary ones for all the problems they’ve caused me.)

I should’ve guessed I was in for trouble when the band was still rehearsing past the start of service time, and the pianist said (with microphone on) “Who opened the doors without our permission?”  Yeah, that feels *really* welcoming to a visitor.  I bit my tongue.  Anyone can have an off morning.

Moving on, we didn’t move on.  One of the mission ladies talked our ears off for 10 minutes about why we should all help out in the food pantry.  I’m all for food pantries and service ministries, but 10 minutes at the beginning of worship….really?  What happened to meditative silence before God, Who, after all was the reason I *thought* we were here.

Sigh…..worship finally begins…. and, I start belting out beloved Christian worship songs.  And….. sneaking sideways glances, notice I’m one of the ones singing loudest and most enthusiastically.  Hmmm…. how odd, I’m just a visitor – this is their chosen service. Oookay, maybe everyone’s having an off morning.

Children’s time – a grand total of 3 children go up – this in the service my friend assured me was full of families with kids.  Children’s message was….weird, and not actually theologically (God was scared because he didn’t know where Adam and Eve were….um, really?) or even just logically correct.

Main sermon – happy fluffy pablum about how if we put God first then we will find out that all the other things in our lives will work out, or that we simply had the wrong perspective.  Oh?  Tell that to Deitrich Bonhoeffer and all the other Christian martyrs.  How about the Apostles?  How about Jesus himself?

Sigh…. I left completely flummoxed as to what on earth my dear friend sees in this mess.  And, the sad and frustrating part for me is – so *many* of the churches I’ve visited are *just * *like* *this*.   With bored and boring people who look like they’d rather be anywhere else and rush out the door the minute it’s opened.

It’s really no wonder I fell in with the Evangelical camp – at least there you’ll find some genuine enthusiasm for what is, after all, *supposed* to be the Body of Christ worshipping her Savior and God.  At least, I thought so.  Maybe I’m the only one who does….