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Reader Question: Beagles, the Bible, and Birthdays

Ali writes:

Have you written on "birthdays?" My parents taught us the bible teaches that birthday celebrations are wrong and selfish. I remember King Herod being an example. I also was the example for my younger sisters as on my 6th birthday I acted selfish and ungrateful and I ruined having birthday celebrations for my 3 younger sisters. I don't honestly remember how I acted, but it must have been terrible to ruin "birthdays" for my 3 younger sisters.

I can understand why some religious folks get uneasy about certain popular movies or books or styles of clothing or genres of music. But birthdays? Sometimes you can push a line of thought too far and pull the whole thing down with it.

Apparently, the argument goes something like this. The Bible doesn’t have much to say about birthdays—certainly not whether we should celebrate them—and what it does say doesn’t show them in the most flattering light. Pharaoh had someone executed on his birthday. Job cursed the day that he was born. Herod threw a wild birthday party that included him ogling his stepdaughter’s exotic dance and wound up with John the Baptist getting beheaded. So, the Bible never says outright that we should celebrate birthdays, and the few times they’re mentioned at all, it connects them with sinful things. That proves birthdays are evil, right?


The Secret Life of Grief

*Please remember that articles at Quivering Daughters are written primarily to adult women struggling with a fundamentalist or patriocentric upbringing. Bear in mind that some content might be triggering for parents or siblings to read. As a writer in keeping with my audience, it is not to "paint with a broad brush" or "condemn" those who believe differently but to address the concerns of those to whom I write. Thank you for understanding.*

by Hillary McFarland

It's cold here, this January. Even the sun chills earth and bone. A squash bakes in the oven and I stare at my screen wanting desperately to tell you that grief ends someday ~ in this life, I mean.

But I can't.

The truth is, grief ends some days.

Other days, it tears through heart-skin kept tender and transparent by hope and faith and love. And then we lash out at faith and hope and love, because ultimately, these are the faces that keep pain alive.

Pain indicates that something is not as it should be. We flinch at the sight of blood. We learn to bandage soul-wounds so tightly that bleeding stops, and we think the tougher the skin, the stronger we are. Sometimes we must be strong to survive those midnight moments when relief seems light-years away. But what if, in a frantic quest to end our grieving, we miss the secret treasures which can only be learned through grief?

A new book by author Kierstyn King illustrates the surprising life of grief experienced by those who become unwelcome in their families because they aren't good enough, godly enough, or ideal enough. For asking too many questions or the wrong kinds of questions; for understanding and believing differently. There aren't many things more agonizing than feeling unwanted, or wanted only-on-condition. 

Rejection hurts. It's an action that says, I don't want you in my life if you [behave, believe, think] like that. Instead of rejecting the belief, there is a rejection of the person behind the belief. This subtle distinction spells death, and with death comes a type of weeping and gnashing of teeth that many I know experience every day.

What do you do with that kind of pain?

A Few Good Links

Ihope your New Year is off to a great start! Do you have any plans or goals for 2011? More reading, perhaps? If so, here are a few links that may be of interest...

A wealth of articles and links about spiritual abuse
Touching prose and thoughtful dialogue at A Deeper Story 

What are you reading lately? Feel free to link up or comment about your current finds.

Behind Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month: Guest Post by Lisa Bertolini

Your God reveals Himself to you, 
not just information about Himself. 
~ Steve McVey, Grace Walk Ministries

Hillary's note: I've invited Lisa Bertolini, founder of Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month, to share the personal background which inspired it and why bringing awareness to this tragic reality is important to her.

by Lisa Bertolini

It's been nearly two years since I exited fundamentalism with deep gaping wounds in my soul. I knew that God exists, and I love Jesus, so I knew I would continue to walk with our Lord but I couldn't face gathering with others in churches just yet. Fifteen years of mind control had done it's damage to my mind and heart and I needed to be unraveled from it all. My husband, myself, our children, and a few others who exited the same week we did began meeting several nights a week to sort through our emotional and spiritual distress. We covered our dining room table with Bibles, concordances, Bible dictionaries, and the Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible. We needed to know what we believed and why we believed it. We no longer sought to know what the institutional church believed and why they wanted us to believe it. We needed to know who God is to us personally. We had been told before that we needed our own walk with Jesus, not our parents walk and in this case not our former church's walk. We needed our own unique walkabout with Him.

We each went through days of various emotions, from anger of being spiritually abused and lied to, confusion, and long days of crying. Breaking away from a church was like going through a divorce. It was incredibly painful. Some days were better than others. Some days I felt like part of me was dying. Some church members, who we had once called 'family' would ignore us as we passed by them in the stores, and others would send hate mail and leave awful comments on my Facebook page. I was going through such a difficult time and I couldn't go back to the same church family with my pain. I had tried talking to some in leadership, but they chose to side with higher leadership and ignore my pleas for help. They sided with the leadership that was causing me so much pain. We tried the Matthew 18 approach to no avail. It could never reach the church level of accountability, the leadership would not allow it to get that far. So I felt outed. I had to put up with it or walk away. For my own sanity, I needed to walk away. My husband and children were all hurt as well. In varying ways by different people in leadership. The abuse trickled down through the hierarchy and into the people. Now that we were out...now what?

When Parental Obedience Brings Rejection

by Hillary McFarland

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy...
1 Tim. 3:1-2

Have you ever had this Scripture quoted at you? With ominous emphasis on last days and disobedience to parents?  I have.

I often hear from ostracized adult daughters who have made life decisions their parents believe are in disobedience (rebellion) to them and their teachings. Most of these women report that the difficult choices they make are a response to God's calling for them. Parents counter that God wouldn't ask them to do something that contradicts what they have taught and their understanding of Scripture.

Yet these same parents teach their children to obey God first, regardless of the cost, regardless of the suffering and sacrifice, regardless of what other people think. These same parents generally encourage their children to stay in the Word and ask God for wisdom. To grow in the knowledge of Him, take up the cross, and follow.

When these women obediently do so, they are condemned, emotionally (and sometimes physically) severed from their families, and rejected.

Broken, Revisited

I'd like to begin 2011 with an important reminder from Eric Pazdziora. This article meant a lot to me, personally, and I hope that you will carry the truth in this message with you this year. God bless you all.
~ Hillary McFarland


By Eric M. Pazdziora
Abroken arm is painful. A broken glass is dangerous. A broken mirror is unlucky. A broken heart is depressing. A broken toy is sad. A broken promise is wrong.

So it’s strange that some well-meaning devotional writers tell us that spiritual brokenness is something we should aspire to, an attitude that we should constantly maintain. The doctrine has it that God uses suffering to break us spiritually, forcing us to depend on Him and making us willing to serve Him.
The Bible says the opposite. Spiritual brokenness is destructive and unbearable:
The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,
But who can bear a broken spirit?
(Proverbs 18:14, ESV)
A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
(Proverbs 17:22, ESV)
Life has a way of hurting us, injuring us, breaking us. Sin, grief, injury, pain, suffering, bereavement, all of them act on our spirits like a hammer on glass. Some people may be in denial about it; some may be suffering from it every moment; some may be slowly recovering. Whatever the case, nobody needs to break us. We don’t need to break ourselves. We’re already broken.
That’s not a good thing. That’s an awful, painful, horrible thing. But it leads us to the only verse in Scripture that seems to put brokenness in a positive light:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
(Psalm 51:17, NASB)
That might be where some of those misguided teachings were extrapolated from. In reality, the verse is much simpler, deeper, and better than that. David wrote this psalm while he was in anguish over the guilt of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Sin breaks our spirits; remorse breaks our hearts.