Scientology: A Load of Hooey?

Tom Cruise has made Scientology famous after his notorious couch-jumping Oprah episode and his critical comments directed toward Brooke Shields after she treated her post-partum depression with antidepressants.

Since I have been exploring religions on this site, I thought that the whole scientology trend is interesting enough for some commentary. There are two points that I wish to make concerning Scientology. First, I want to mention what Scientology says it is, according to its website, and my basic impressions and opinions of Scientology. (Again, my goal is not to offend, but I am clearly in opposition to some of Scientology’s basic premises, just to give fair warning.)

According to the website, Scientology is a religion invented by L. Ron Hubbard, who is a science fiction writer. “Scientology is about the individual man or woman. Its goal is to bring an individual to a sufficient understanding of himself and his life and free him to improve conditions in the way that he sees fit,” as the website states. There are two aspects of Scientology: Dianetics and the religious side of Scientology.

Dianetics, from my basic impression, although the website link to this concept would not open, is most likely related to the purging of mind and body from harmful things like chemicals, medicines, and other food materials that do not contribute to having a clear mind and body. It may also have something to do with psychological treatment. Not really sure. The link on the website had an error.

In any case, the website also says that “Scientology follows a long tradition of religious practice. Its roots lie in the deepest beliefs and aspirations of all great religions, thus encompassing a religious heritage as old and as varied as man himself.”

The thing is, here are my basic impressions and opinions. Again, after only having briefly read the website, so I’m no expert. A scientologist does not need to feel threatened by me, and people don’t need me to convert them or turn them away.

Scientology is not a religion really about God. It’s about the individual. In which case, it’s not about reliance on an outside source; it’s about reliance on yourself (and technology, which the website keep insisting it has…)

I wonder what the services would look like? Instead of the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, would it be more like a reading of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself or passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson? In my personal opinion, it’s rather silly to say that you align yourself from traditional practices of all religions. What the crap does that MEAN? Does one kind of cut and paste ideas into a scrapbook in order to accomplish that? (Imaginary dialogue in my head: “Well, I kind of like the arms of that Hindu chick, and I think it’s cool when Tibetan monks meditate, do martial arts and wear orange, so let’s have a little of that!”)

I just don’t get it. If you take pieces of traditional religions, then the religion ceases to be traditional. This is a religion invented in 1955, for heaven’s sake.

I like the emphasis in Scientology about getting involved in the issues of social justice, and I wish more churches were less self-involved in their theological issues and hangups and more involved in the world around them. If we can’t say that we’re caring and compassionate, then why do we even bother to exist? It shouldn’t just be about us getting to heaven and waiting for the riches to fall all around our heads when we get there, but about representing God’s kingdom on earth while we’re here.

I would have a really hard time relying on L. Ron Hubbard to tell me what to do in terms of my life and in terms of my religion. I have heard of cases in which Scientologists refused medical treatments, which deeply worries me. Are there abuses of medical treatments and pills as people try to drown out the physical signs of psychological and physical stress? Of course. Are too many kids given ADHD meds when their issues are more psychological and bad parenting? Most definitely. But it doesn’t mean that all ADHD medication is bad. I have worked with some students who would never get through their high school education without it.

From what I can see, Scientology looks like it could very easily be taken over and turned into a huge corporation dedicated to profiting off of the emotional basket cases in the world. It could very easily become a network of control and political string-pulling. Creepy.

Basically, it’s a mish-mash of a pick-and-choose your truth philosophy. If you want to believe it, go ahead. Just make sure that you use the technology and preserve your body and mind by eliminating unnatural medications and food products. No wonder so many celebrities in Hollywood are for this. This is a religion for the rich and famous–those who can afford to shop at organic grocery stores and pay for special psychoanalysts. In terms of practical health, I can’t see that it is really that reliable.

Website: If you feel the need to research deeper than my cursory glance at the site, here’s the link for your convenience. Try not to send me hate mail. If you are a Scientologist, you can avoid being offended by simply shaking your head at my abundant ignorance and tsk-tsking.

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The Christian Housewife

This little post may spark a whole new level of debate, I don’t know. It all focuses on the “s” word: submission. (What word were YOU thinking? Geez!)

There are plenty of things I have learned since I married my husband.

#1–You don’t have to be a stay-at-home mom in order to be a housewife.

#2–Building trust and respect with your spouse is an unending and hurtful task at times.

#3–The pressure for women to be “Super Women” is beyond ridiculous.

Here are a few bits of elaboration on these points. A housewife is, by historical definition, a wife who stays at home and takes charge of the house. However, now that women work for a living and contribute to the family finances, it is a proven fact that women are still usually the designated people in charge of cleaning and maintaining the household. They are still the ones that men constantly ask, “Have you seen my keys? cell phone? socks?”

As for the concept of “Super Woman,” it just seems to me that we are not expected to pick and choose at the responsibility list, making sure to equally share in the weight of building a marriage and family with our husbands. Instead, we’re just expected to stretch–like the guy in the Fantastic Four. We’re expected to be everywhere at once and to be everything at once. You know that blue chick who could transform in X-men? Yep. We’re her. We have to become the role for the situation. Need an intelligent businesswoman? Zap. Here you go. Need a woman to clean your house? Zap. We can do that too! Need a mommy to clean your baby’s poopies and tote the kids to soccer practice? Zap. This is me with a mom haircut! Need a partner to join you in bed? Zap. Welcome to lingerie model me.

It’s so hard for me to simply mold myself into the “christian housewife” that I’ve always had shoved into my face since I was a kid. The concept usually goes like this. The Christian wife and mom knows how to bake fresh bread, keep the cookies in supply, bathe and dress up the child every day, keep the house sparkling clean, satisfy her husband in bed, and be capable of buying and managing a field. (Say what? A field? Nevermind. You have to know the allusion to get it.) Oh, yes, and she has to be able to sing and play the piano. And also attend church every Sunday. And perhaps be a bit of a looker as well.

The list goes on.

It is very difficult to build trust in your husband when you are expected to constantly provide buffers for his shortcomings. The husband is adulated for arriving home from a long day of work. He is allowed to relax. To sit back and watch some T.V. perhaps. If the baby cries or has a poopy diaper, no problem. He can always call wifey to come and take care of the problem. Good wives always have a nice hot dinner waiting for them, and it’s a husband’s job to simply take care of some carpentering tasks around the house. And to call the maintenance men when something doesn’t get fixed. It’s also his job to pay the bills and make sure the electricity doesn’t get cut off.

But what happens when your man doesn’t “get” his role even when you’re super busy trying to fulfill yours? It’s the woman’s job to make sure to pat her husband’s ego so that he is encouraged enough to keep going. If something doesn’t get fixed, she calls the maintenance men (and makes sure they get paid!) If the husband doesn’t work or his hours become less, she works a couple of extra hours at her job to make up the loss. If the husband doesn’t see the garbage by the door, she reminds him. If that doesn’t work, she takes it out herself, so as not to be a selfish nag.

For a woman in these circumstances, it is easy to lose trust that the husband will ever take out the garbage again. And yet, the Christian housewife always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. I just wish that the men would get with the program and appreciate this paragon of virtue once in a while.

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On My Birthday–Ideas on Spiritual Birthdays

On Monday I will be turning 30. It seems to me an incredible milestone as I am still remembering my thought processes and journeys through adolescence as clearly as if it happened yesterday. My passionate pursuit of life goals has not really changed since then. Instead it has just refocused. Before, I was (if you’ll pardon the term) hell-bent on establishing my career after high school, working harder than anyone on every single class or opportunity that came my way. Today, I’m more excited about remodeling my living room and dining room floor in wood laminates. haha! I’m sure, though, if I have the chance to study further, I will take it immediately and work just as hard.

My birthday gives me a moment to reflect upon what I know about two different ideas as to the “spiritual birthday.” Please do me the favor of listing any pertinent Scriptures that apply, or making any adjustment to my understanding of theology.

I grew up Baptist, which basically means that my church was evangelical in nature. I was fully trained in how to pray the salvation A, B, C prayer of “Ask,” “Believe” and “Confess.” As a child, the salvation prayer seems almost magical–a kind of talisman against all that is scary or terrifying about hell (or even storms outside at night!) Of course, it isn’t really a presto-chango kind of message that the Baptist church is really trying to give out to children or adults. My church always emphasized that it’s not enough just to say the prayer, but that your heart had to be in it. This was always reflected in your actions–in the way you interacted with others around you, and in the life changes that you make.

In my study about the episcopalian church, along with the Anglican church and the Orthodox church, salvation is more of a process. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t seem as though there can be a real “spiritual birthday” or a moment when you can reach back and say, “Yes, this was the day that I was ‘saved.'” The idea is that salvation is a continual process of sanctification, worked out day after day after day, in which we all stumble and fall sometimes.

I know the arguments that an evangelical church would make–that no one can pluck you out of Jesus’ hand, that no one can “lose” their salvation, or that this type of process mentality can turn into an emphasis on good works for salvation.

But the reality is that it’s not the doctrine of the Anglican church that good works bring about salvation, but continual reliance on the power of Jesus’ blood to purify us and forgive us of our sins. There is no such thing as a quick fix for everything that is wrong with us and with our world. There is no magical incantation or talisman to ward off the forces of evil from capturing our minds and our hearts. Instead, it is living a life of daily focus for God’s values and desires that can help us conquer our inner battles of the mind and heart.

Does this mean that I reject the theology of the Baptists in terms of being evangelical? Not really. I just am in the position now of perhaps leaning toward the Episcopalian church’s way of looking at it. I don’t necessarily think that the Baptists teach using the evangelical prayer as a talisman. If people want to celebrate their spiritual birthday and be able to recall when their lives turned around, so be it! Good for them! My major position is that the two doctrines aren’t really so drastically different in the way they are taught. Baptists aren’t peddling a “magical cure,” and Anglicans aren’t training people to rely on good works to get them to heaven instead of relying on Jesus’ blood. Why do we have to make such a huge deal out of everything?

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My friend’s comments on the Episcopalian Church

My friend recently responded via Facebook to my questions about the Episcopalian church doctrines, the Anglican church and trying to figure out what is going on with the Anglo-Catholic church and the Orthodox church. Anyhoo, this is what he answered:

In Panama…you’re pretty safe with all the Episcopal churches.

In the US… not so much. You really have to judge each church by its members and leadership.

I’m Anglo-Catholic…for the most part…which also means that I’m orthodox…and my church does REALLY care about people and not just about what’s “right” There are some “low church” episcopalians that practice a lot like baptists or methodists.

I’d say for you… pick a church that is good for you. If you come to the US you can go with me to my church!🙂

It’s not really all the confusing…just like baptists a can be conservative or liberal or pentecostal. ..

I think it’s a really excellent tradition in which to raise a child from a mixed protestant/catholic background.

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New Church–Assemblies of God?

So I come home today to find two flyers stuck in my door. One is from a local pizza establishment, and the other is from a new church starting up. (Say, What?) The first thing I noticed was that the flyer caters to the international community here in Panama. It had different images and words in boxes such as “challenge, change, celebrate and connect” with the motto “Reaching and Teaching the International Community.” I thought to myself, “I’m the international community! Maybe I can go here!” I brought the flyer to my husband and said “Look, honey! The services are on Sunday NIGHT!” He says, “Great! Let’s go!” (He is not a morning riser, which means that getting to church is frustrating, and gets even more frustrating when I have to go alone and also take the baby in order to attend.) The church is only about 10 minutes away, and I start to get my hopes up.

Then I see a little insignia on the back side.
It says “Assemblies of God.” Oh, no, I think to myself.
I have never attended an Assemblies of God church. I kind of flirted with the idea in my university years, and actually can attribute one of my most centered spiritual times to my interactions with notions of the pentacostal church. However, all of that emotionalism and the hand-waving and such just ends up being too much. My husband doesn’t worship that way since he came from a Catholic background, and I’ve had numerous experiences of people trying to trigger emotional responses and prophesying total nonsense. (I’m not a prophet, and I’m not married to a pastor, which were both things that were “prophesied” to me at various retreats.)

But I am hungry for connection and hungry for some time in the Word of God with other people. Maybe it will be such a mixed bag of people at this church that they won’t be preaching that I need to speak in tongues in order to be a Christian and won’t suddenly have someone stand up and mumble gibberish while another person starts translating verses from the Psalms interspersed with pronouncements that the Church will be great and grow like a huge flood, etc. etc., etc.

I don’t know. I’m a little skeptical, but I think I’m at least going to check it out. I know that Assemblies of God is very prominent in Panama, so we’ll see what it is like.

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Christian Education–Church of England Schools

I happened to run across this information from the Church of England website, and I found it interesting. As an educator, I find myself both cheering for the idea of Christian education and feeling disappointed in the directions that most Christian schools have chosen. While I appreciate the value systems set in place, the education on Biblical topics that are both spiritually and culturally relevant, and the nurturing attitude that many Christian teachers have toward their students, I have personally witnessed the tremendous conflict of interest that plagues Christian schools. In the end, most schools end up playing the “what’s more important?” game of Athens or Jerusalem.

What do I mean by this? If we take Athens to symbolize the body of knowledge, politics, philosophy and intellectual process and Jerusalem to symbolize the growing spiritual power of Judeo-Christianity, I mean to say that Christian schools do a very poor job at times in combining the two interests–that of secular and Christian education.

I can say this without feeling any kind of remorse because I grew up in a Christian school, and I went to a Christian university, and I taught in a Christian school for six years. Obviously, I believe that it can be done, and that Christian schools have much to offer in terms of moral education that a public school or secular international school simply can’t do. However, I become very frustrated at Christian schools who employ methods of book censorship, impose ideological directions on children or try to use the classroom in order to coax an evangelical prayer out of a child. I’m a literature teacher, so imagine my distress when I was told that “any book with sexual content should not be taught” at my Christian school. I guess that leaves out Shakespeare and the Bible! There is a general fear of contemporary novels, and many Christian school responses to this fear is to “stick to the classics.” In order to get people on board, there is a general attitude of superiority that leaders impart to the parents and children that affirms their choice to “stick to the classics.”

What on earth are we so afraid of? Confronting the reality of our own culture? Don’t we believe in the discernment of the Holy Spirit anymore or is it just that we don’t want to trust in the discernment of our own children. It’s just easier to avoid these sensitive issues–it will only confuse them. (Trust me, my dear friends, your teenagers are already confused on many things, regardless of what you’ve taught them. Isn’t it better to clarify their confusion by talking it over instead of letting them hit the library or the internet or their friends up for information on their own?)

Anyhoo, enough of my diatribe. Let’s just say that I am a voracious reader who has occasionally experienced the well-meaning censorship of the Christian church. And while I would not advocate pornographic or gratuitous material, I hardly think that we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

So, Church of England, what do you have to offer? Can you do a better job than my Baptist non-accredited elementary school? Can you do a better job than my amazing university, Messiah College, which really proved to me that a Christian school really can satisfy both intellectual and spiritual needs? Can you do better than the school in which I’ve taught for six years that still can’t figure out whether their textbooks should be Christian or secular publishers? Can you do better than A Beka Books, which continues to insist that all of the founding fathers were perfectly patriotic Christians with an intent to establish a Christian nation according to the Bible Baptist movement? (And edit “Out, damned spot! Out I say!” from Macbeth into “Out, foul spot! Out I say!”?)

Here, at least are the statistics from the Church of England website.

Key facts about Church of England schools

  • Around one million children and young people are educated in Church of England schools
  • Around a quarter of all state primary schools in England are Church of England schools – that’s around 4,450 schools.
  • Around one in twenty of all state secondary schools in England are Church of England schools – around 210 schools.
  • 12 Church of England Academies are now open, with a further 18 now at an advanced stage in planning – the majority replacing vulnerable or failing schools and many in areas of social deprivation.
  • Nearly one-fifth of all primary pupils and around six in every hundred of all secondary pupils attend these schools and these percentages in each case are growing.
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Episcopalian optimists

I made a post the other day, which had to do with humanitarian work that takes place in Panama because of U.S. aid or simply due to American individuals who happen to enjoy community service. The post I read was basically saying that the U.S. (or Americans) never do any kind of humanitarian service (or something along the lines of when they do, it is with strings attached). The funny part is that I live in the area of La Ciudad del Saber, which is dedicated to improving education and knowledge in Panama. The location also houses UNICEF and the World Food Programme. I also happen to be in contact with many, many retirees who work in orphanages, English language programs for indigenous people groups, inner-city youth programs and all kinds of different organizations for non-profit service. Some of these people do these things with a small salary involved, or they might just do it because they care and want to have some fun. I personally know a retiree who is obsessed about dogs and animals and their mistreatment. She regularly participates in spaying and neutering drives and has adopted personally a number of different animals as pets who were kicked onto the street. She doesn’t do this “with strings attached.” She does it because she loves animals and it is a cause that she cares about.

When I happened to give many of these concrete examples of specific organizations and individuals who provide humanitarian service to Panama’s communities (and who also sometimes happen to be American), my friendly comment was met with a cynical nasty one in return.

The idea was “who are you kidding? The U.S. never does anything in relation to humanitarian service” and that I needed to basically get past my “episcopalian optimism.” I found it interesting that I was able to give concrete examples whereas his comment was based primarily on cynicism and stereotyping. I thought to myself: I would rather be an episcopalian optimist than a stereotyping cynic any day.

The interesting part is that, while my name on this blog is episcopalianwoman, I have never been formally adopted into any episcopalian church. This is merely an exploratory name as I try to work through my own faith and denominational affiliations in order to find a home church and a place where I belong spiritually. I’ve actually blogged about why I don’t necessarily agree with all of the practices of the Episcopalian church in the U.S., and why I support both an intellectual and emotional experience within the church. You won’t find me rolling in the aisles or claiming daily miracles, but you will occasionally find a tear rolling down my eye during a meaningful hymn or a heartfelt impromptu prayer on my lips.

While I’m offended that someone would respond to me in such a nasty way when my comment was both polite and reasonable, I think that I begin to see it as a little bit of a compliment. I believe that a sinful nature exists and that we are prone to sin. But I also believe that God has placed within our hearts a means to full restoration in the future and that the Holy Spirit gives us the power on a daily basis to overcome some of our weaknesses in order to show His ability to restore what was lost. If I am optimistic because I am capable of believing that the world can be a better place from one individual’s contribution, then I refuse to stop being optimistic. As a matter of fact, I refuse to be cynical and live my life in criticism of everything that’s wrong with the world.

I’m reminded of the character Coach Sue Sylvester from the hit series “Glee.” Mr. Schuster is constantly looking for ways to build his students up, while she’s constantly looking for ways to bring them down. She pits them against each other as spys, tries to play off of their insecurities and generally pick at all of the weaknesses around her while steadfastly turning a blind eye to her own. And yet, despite her scheming, the students find ways to make life meaningful, and the more we see of her interaction with her Down’s Syndrome sister, the more we realize that Sue Sylvester’s cynical, pushy, and negative outlook on life is only a facade for the real person underneath–a person that we can sympathize with at times, and a person who occasionally reveals small “weaknesses” that make her seem more human and less like a one-dimensional character.

The truth is that the way we treat other people matters. Trying to understand our makeups, the reasons why we make choices, the reasons why we build up a solid wall of cynicism are just as important as the wall itself that I am forced to confront every day. If I didn’t have a spirit of optimism on some levels, I would never be able to get through the day.  I must admit that there are times when I want to wallow in my “everything is horrible” mentality, but it’s just not possible if I want to survive in this world. I work two part-time jobs. I juggle caring for my daughter, caring for my husband and striving to be the best teacher that I can be. Sometimes I just don’t do all three at the same time. My husband and I live week to week with finances, and yet we still manage to make ends meet. Our neighbor has been trying to sue us in retaliation after we called the police after a “machete” incident. (Don’t ask.) and yet we are still alive by the grace of God, and we are still a family, and we are still managing to look on the bright side of life. I would never want to lose that.

So if that’s what Episcopalian means to you, feel free to call me Episcopalian. Whatever.

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Brethren In Christ Church

I had the great privilege of attending a very well-known Christian college–Messiah College. Although I worked very hard there in order to earn a high G.P.A., and spent much of my time stressed out, I definitely enjoyed the spirit, the community and even enjoyed the Christian emphasis. It was a diverse community of opinions, but we as students were always challenged to think for ourselves–to understand God on an intellectual level, not just on an emotional one. The idea is that you should be able to take ownership of your faith–not just accept it as an inheritance passed down from your parents. At the time, I never really imagined that I would no longer consider myself a Baptist–I didn’t really ever have any major problems with my home church. I loved it, as a matter of fact. However, there were some times when I felt a little frustrated as the “sheep” mentality of blanket statements, the mire of Christian voc abulary and the lack of original ideas or statements. I felt as though their understanding of the Bible was really limited to what they had heard in church instead of what they themselves had studied or really done their best to research. Ideas about politics, society and other denominations were very cookie cutter and standard. Anyone who didn’t fit the mold was perfectly fine as long as they didn’t rock the boat too much by voicing too many strong opinions.

My problem is that I’ve always had strong opinions and feelings about things–I’m a passionate type of person about anything that I do. When I was a child, my favorite verse was “Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men,” and that really spoke to me about pursuing each task with your best effort and with everything that you are and everything that God made you to be. I suppose that is why I really appreciated Messiah College’s environment. (They’re not paying me to say this, btw. I’m serious!)

The Brethren In Christ Church is the “official” church of Messiah, and while I never actually attended the campus church, I certainly heard plenty of special speakers from a variety of traditions. I had the BIC church pastor as my Old Testament professor, and I actually really enjoyed his take on geographical, historical and cultural references in relation to the Bible as a work of literature (as well as an inspired document.)

So here is a bit of information about the BIC Church. Their roots are Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan. If you want to know specifically what that means, click on the link I’ve posted here:

Basically the Anabaptist movement has influenced them in regard to Baptism. The Pietist movement has meant that they believe in living a holy life (as well as living simply–they come from the German farmers who arrived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.) The Wesleyan movement means that they believe in the Gospel and evangelism alongside living a holy life. Basically, they believe in being a brotherhood of believers who are baptized in the faith, live in peace with each other and the world (Pacifists politically), and in living a holy life after conversion.

The only problem is that Brethren In Christ is really a small denomination, I believe, in comparison to some. I really would never be able to find a BIC church in Panama. However, I would at least be returning to some kind of denomination in spirit with which I have some kind of experience.

The only place where I see myself likely to have problem is with the Pacifistic aspect. The funny part is that I was the one who wrote a strong “balanced” article about Pacifism and Messiah’s BIC background after 9/11 happened for the college newspaper, and yet I’m not always certain about where I stand in terms of strong military action. I can’t condone everything that Bush has done, but I also feel that with Obama’s leadership, our national defense may end up being tested much harder than before due to a  more pacifistic/diplomatic approach. It is easy to say that you’ll be a pacifist until you are confronted with an extreme situation. Of course, I realize that pacifism means many different things, including (for some) the assumption that self-defense is not against pacifistic ideals. My husband loves the movie series “Band of Brothers,” and the main leader is a Mennonite. However, he’s also the most responsible, driven, calm and centered person in the movie.

Right now my family has been dealing with the harassment of a very territorial neighbor in our apartment building. He has gone to such lengths as to hold up a machete toward my husband, fence off common land for his own personal use and make statements that we are being negligent with our daughter (we’re not.) I have spent the last week in terror in the hopes that we avoid any and all appearance of negligence simply out of fear that his personal grievances will not go to the lengths of affecting my daughter just in case he chooses to interpret something one way according to his bias and call Panama’s social services to investigate us. Talk about stress! I adore my daughter, and of course I would never do anything to harm her. So I’ve been cleaning everything I can find in the house, planning maintenance projects and doing my best to make sure she has shoes and socks on at all times…the list continues.

My point is–there are moments when regardless of your attempts to keep the peace, tolerance eventually ends and it is time to take action against something because it is simply the right thing to do. We needed to bind the apartment building together as an association in order to keep him from undermining our rights and the rights of others in our building. We are now in the process of beginning our own legal action against him for overstepping his boundaries of personal behavior with the people in our building. I don’t see this as a bad thing to do. On the contrary–my family and the others around me will never cease to be harassed by this man until he is stopped and put in his rightful place by the strong arm of the law itself. It may not be the most pacific approach, but I’m sure hoping it will work. Some pacifists believe that a person should not take legal action, and it is true that there are some Scripture verses against it. However, unless we want to be forced to move out of our home, we need to act on our own behalf.

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Being an Outsider

I know what it is like to be in a foreign country and know no one. I know what it is like to have to adopt a new family of in-laws and to be separated from my own family by an ocean. I know what it is like to try and sustain a marriage and raise a child and hold a job at the same time. I also know what it is like to struggle to find a church home while living in a foreign place.

For this reason, I can identify with Abraham. My New Living Bible says that “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Granted, I made a person choice originally to come to Panama as a single woman. I made a personal choice to marry a Panamanian man. I made a personal choice to have and raise my daughter here. But it also says that “even when he (Abraham) reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith…Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” (Hebrews 11: 8b, 10)

Abraham knew what it was like to be a foreigner. Even when called by God, he was forced to be an outsider. How many times have I felt like an outsider here in this new place? Even though I know enough of the language to build some bridges, I am continually struggling to understand how to be a good wife and a good mother without having complete access to my own family. I have been assimilated into a well-meaning but entirely too interdependent Panamanian family because that is a part of the culture here. I struggle to ensure that my house is clean, there is food in the refrigerator and my daughter has taken a bath in between working two part-time jobs to make ends meet. All without the comforting contact of my own parents–I never thought I would miss them this much!!

And yet, I see Abraham’s life as a kind of promise. I know that there is eventually a house designed and built by God waiting for me. (Hopefully, God will have designed it to clean itself! ;-p) And I know that He can reach me no matter where I am in the world. When hard times come, He’ll always help me find a way to move beyond it into a better place. I cling to this idea even as I write my blogs and continue investigating for a new church. While I may be an outsider in Panama, I am not an outsider with God.

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Psalm 118: 5-7

In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free.

The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?

Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

(New Living Translation)

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