Will I Tell The Truth in Love?

We had a lovely dinner with old friends, yesterday. The flavor of our relationship with these friends shifted a few years ago when we left the church they still attend. We did not agree with their decision to stay, as they probably did not agree with our decision to leave. But we have maintained a relationship. And we never stopped caring about one other.

Since that time, I’ve learned that life is not black or white, wrong or right, or easily explained. Good people make mistakes. Well-meaning people hurt others. Nobody is perfect. I’ve learned that “There is therefore no condemnation in Christ Jesus,” and I am sure glad of that because I’ve stumbled; I’ve made poor judgments; I have hurt others.

Hopefully, I have acknowledged these times and taken responsibility for the pain I have caused somebody else, whether intentionally or not. Hopefully, my harmful behavior was not self-serving or reactive in defense of protecting things I hold dear but that are not mine to hold. Hopefully, if I need to tell a painful truth, I will “tell the truth in love,” offering the grace and mercy I would want in return. Hopefully, I have never been cruel.

There is a difference between making an honest mistake and being cruel.

Please, O God, give me the courage to change the things I can change, help me to accept the things I cannot change, and grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

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What drew me to toxic-faith communities? Pt I

When I set out to write a memoir, I had no idea that my story would shape itself around my experience in toxic faith communities.  I expected to make some reference to my years at Community Chapel and Bible Training Center, the most toxic ten years of my life, but the incorporation of subsequent unhealthy church experiences surprised me.  How could I ignore the fact that  history had repeated itself?  And though these other experiences were not as dramatic as my CCBTC experience, I recognized, and could not ignore,  a pattern in my life.  What drew me to these types of faith communities?   

I began to search my soul.

Wannabe Writer

In all the books I’ve ever read about writing, real writers establish a regular writing time and place. And during this time, in this place, they write. They don’t read email, organize files, research, or stare at a blank screen. They write.

I consider myself a real writer. I have a regular time and place to write. Mornings work best for me, usually after my quiet time and first cup of coffee. I’ve tried to write upon awakening, but that venture is entirely too ambitious. Thinking first thing in the morning gives me a headache. If you knew me or ever saw me first thing in the morning, you would know exactly what I’m talking about. You would feel sorry for me. Marsha in the morning is not a pretty sight. But give me an hour of silence and coffee, and viola, I’m ready to sit down at my computer. Here in my little family room, sun rising, dogs snoozing, coffee reheated, I write.

Whether good or lousy writing, for the next few hours, thoughts become words on a computer screen. During this time, I will take a break to watch the Dog Whisperer, grab a snack or a cup of tea, throw in a load of laundry, then return to writing. My dishes and dusting, husband, children, and dogs are neglected, but I have accomplished something great. I said it. Whatever it is, I said it.

Now to confess. It doesn’t always happen that way. Some mornings, migraine-headache pain suffocates my creativity. Some mornings, I have other obligations like appointments and my paying job. Then there is the unexpected minor emergency: a family crisis, an unplanned doctor appointment, someone at the door, the dryer buzzes mid thought, fleas. One little thing after another knocks my good intentions into the afternoon or the next day. So, just like you, I don’t always stick to my schedule.

Or maybe you do stick to your schedule. Maybe you are a real writer. Maybe I just call myself a real writer and in spite of writing 66,000+ words/five drafts/seven years integrating general life into my writing life, I’ve gotta admit that I’m really just a wannabe.

5:48 a.m.

It’s dark outside. Dark and cold. My body clings to its warm cocoon, but my mind is alert. What noise awakened me? Like a cougar sensing prey, still as if frozen, eyes piercing darkness, nostrils flaring, ears twitching, I wait. Maybe I dreamt the noise. Maybe I can fall back to sleep and wake up gently in an hour. Maybe, if I can fall back to sleep, I won’t have a headache today. Then I hear it, unmistakable this time: a yip. A canine yip.

Beeker, my five-year-old West Highland White terrier wants out. I try to ignore it, but can’t. What if he has to relieve himself? Yeah, but what if he wants to chase a cat? That’s not a behavior I want to reinforce. He yips again.

By now, I’m fully awake. I get up and let him out, hoping he lifts his leg on the nearest upright object. But no. He runs to the fence, his short, white tail straight up like a beacon, surveying his territory. It is apparent that my dog has outsmarted me.

And so, I blog.

Author Bio

Marsha Tracy is a writer, dog trainer, and mom who lives in Idaho with her husband and two West Highland White terriers, the easy kids.

While attending a series of stifling churches, she set out on her own to become a writer. In 2003, she earned her bachelor’s degree in writing from Boise State University where she won first place in the President’s Writing Awards, critical essay category for the essay “Which Lazarus is Spoken of in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’?” Tracy has also authored “Idaho’s Small Wonder,” Middleton Gazette, a story about a tenaciously successful undersized racehorse, “Eager Alumna Gives Time to Boise State,” Focus Magazine, and a series of articles criticising the foster care system for Foster Parent Magazine. These articles caught the attention of Idaho Senator Larry Craig and afforded Tracy an invitation from the senator to speak as an advocate for foster children. On the lighter side, Tracy has also written It’s Not Fattening If, or 120 Reasons for Enjoying Good Food Anyhow, a humor book that provides some of the best excuses to enjoy eating just about anything.

Today a satisfied member of Boise’s Grace Chapel, Tracy is active in her new religious community volunteering in its hospitality ministry and international refugee ministry. She and her husband also enjoy hosting foreign exchange students in their home. Recently Tracy has begun to tell others out about the painful chuch experiences in her past, leading to invitations to speak at local churches and community groups.

Last but not least, Tracy is also an avid dog trainer who enjoys the challenge of competing with her attitude-filled West Highland White terriers in American Kennel Club obedience events. In addition to obtaining six obedience titles on her dogs, two of her dogs have achieved status among the top ten West Highland White terriers in the nation as determined by the Delaney System, a system that ranks dogs who place first through fourth in AKC obedience competition based upon the dogs they beat during a given calendar year.

Book Update: Author Bio

Today I am working on the author bio section of my proposal.  Selling oneself as an author is a skill  dramatically different from the writing part of authoring.   It is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to many writers, including me.  For that reason, I can understand why many excellent writers don’t pursue publication.  For that reason, writing (and rewriting) my proposal feels like hiking in the high Idaho desert with a blindfold on.

I do not doubt that my story has tremendous value, but to condense that value into a few, concise, convincing words that target a precise audience, is not as easy as it may sound.   Why can’t writing a book be enough without having to sell a book idea to someone (agent) to sell to someone else (publisher) to sell to someone else (people who buy and read books/my audience)?  Why can’t I just write, presss a magic button, and have my proposal/manuscript arrive instantly at the desk of the perfect agent/publisher?

Charm is Deceitful and Beauty Fleeting–Part II

So, the young me has merged into the 58-year-old me?  Sounds good, but even as in my phyical prime of youth, the question remains Am I beautiful

The difference between then and now, however, is that now I know the real question was do I count? Am I valued? Am I worthy of love

The longing for acceptance, meaning, and approval that this question created in my youth made me prime target for an emotional abuse often swept under the perverbial carpet: religious abuse

Before then, when I was 14, I looked up at a brilliant, blue sky and talked to God for the first time in my life. 

“I don’t believe in you,” I said, “But if you exist, would you please wait for me?”

God would have to be patient with me because I floundered for several more years.

My foundering included three months in  a supposed Christian commune that turned out to be a front for the Moonies, and an excellent Christian church and Bible college that evolved into a cult because of an unethical religious leader and our willingness to deceive ourselves into thinking all was well.  In each place, I strived to conform to an outward image to gain approval and acceptance.

Eventually, I learned that physical beauty is a fascade that deceived me into thinking that I was valued based upon my strivings to conform.  But that is not what God says about me, or you.  He says that I am beautiful regardless of your opinion of me or even of my opinion of me.  Beautiful!

Be assured that regardless of your age, appearance, life’s success or unmet goals, You count.  You are valued.  You are worthy of love.  You see, charm may be deceitful and youthful beauty fleeting but YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL/HANDSOME

Charm is Deceptive and Beauty is Fleeting–Part I

I think that as human beings (my dog could care less) we tend to take stock of our aging process more consciously as we approach a new decade.  I know I do.  The other day while pondering the beauty of youth, I found myself  lamenting my youthful self.  Where did she go? While lamenting, I suddenly realized that the younger, smooth-skinned me I lamented had not evaporated into a place long past, but had somehow hitched a ride with me through the years.  In other words, that young me has merged into the cracks and crevices (and wrinkles?) of the 58 year-old me. She is me.  Now, that’s profound.

The young me modeling at Adams Junior High school fashion show, 1966

When Church Rapes Your Soul

I know people who have been hurt in church.  I know lots of people who have been hurt in church.  In some cases, their experiences in church have left a bitter gall in their belly. Church, once a joy, became a story told until threadbare, now discarded.   They have left church with no desire to return.

Other people I know still desire church community in spite of their painful experience.  They desire the corporate worship, friendship, teaching, and  ministerial opportunities often found in church, but they don’t want the part of church that raped their soul. 

I have been hurt in church.  What church took from me happened so gradually that I did not even know the extent of my injury.  Oh sure, I sensed something awry, but I didn’t know why.  I didn’t know what.  I blamed the unsettled feeling on myself.   I was selfish.  I was judgmental. I was not heavenly-minded enough.   I had to pray and seek forgiveness from God and from others.  I had to try harder to fit in. 

Now  I know better.