Liturgical worship and ADD

When I was in my 50’s, it was suggested that I be tested for ADHD. My diagnosis with the inattentive, non-hyperactive type of attention deficit disorder did not take my older kids by surprise; they told me that they could have spared me the money and the ordeal of undergoing four hours of rigorous testing and screening. (“Seriously, Mama? You really didn’t know you have ADD? Everyone else knows.”)

The diagnosis, and the reading and research that I did as a result, was one of those wonderful AHA experiences: I wasn’t stupid, after all! I wasn’t being purposefully careless, or willfully disobedient, or “just lazy”, or trying to drive people crazy! And wasn’t crazy either!

The psychologist who tested me told my husband something along the lines of, “You have no idea how much effort it takes for your wife to do the things that you think should come easily.” He actually said that I tried so hard to do well on the tests that it was “painful to watch”.

For about a year, I was on wonderful ADD meds. I actually felt smart! I was waaaaaay less distracted. Reading, which I’d always enjoyed, became ridiculously easy, and I could even remember most of what I read. I could think in a linear fashion. Conversations were so much easier to follow. I didn’t get lost watching movies with multiple characters and complex plots. I could teach karate without misspeaking, without my words becoming a weird jumble. (No more did my students stare at me in bewilderment after I said, “Put your feet out over your knees” only to have me ask them, “What did I just say?”) I managed to organize the chaos and disorder of our upstairs room without dissolving into tears of frustration. It was amazing!!!

But…

The medication that worked best for me was expensive. In order to keep costs down, I supplemented the wonder med with a cheaper med, but the monthly medical bills, paid out-of-pocket, still mounted up. And, in order to be able to sleep at night, I had to make sure that the meds wore off in the evening, which meant that I appeared my same old self to my husband. I suspect he had hoped that the meds would turn me into a different person, someone who was actually efficient and productive. The psychologist had warned us not to expect a dramatic transformation: meds wouldn’t make me “normal”, but would make it easier for me to learn how to do things that were too difficult before. Life would no longer require such exhausting effort on my part. (One of the most amazing things is that I finally figured out how to cook and clean up the kitchen…sort of…at the same time, instead of cooking and leaving a disaster area behind.) Since my husband wasn’t inside my brain, he wasn’t impressed with my enthusiastic claims of, “But I feel so smart now!!” and “Everything isn’t so hard any more!”  The wonder drug may have been wonderful to me but, from his perspective, the cost-benefit ratio was disppointing.

As if that wasn’t discouraging enough, my already high heart rate started getting scary high, and it seemed that I had no choice but to go off my beloved ADD meds. I felt almost like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. Once again, I was the dreamy, disorganized, forgetful, clueless space cadet who bumbled her way through life. Once again, I found the most ordinary of tasks to be dauntingly exhausting. (But I can still wash dishes and wipe a counter even while cooking food on the stove — without disaster or calamity. Though my husband might disagree, since he was actually paying for the expensive meds and doctor visits, I think that alone makes all the money well spent!)

I grew up in church, with my father as a pastor. When I was a kid, it was our family tradition to have a really nice Sunday dinner after church, during which we inevitably discussed my father’s sermon. The two of us kids would sometimes be quizzed to see if we had really been paying attention. My older brother had the amazing ability to be able to listen to one thing, even if he was reading another thing at the same time, and he could remember the Scripture references, the three main points, and the illustrations. Despite desperate attempts to pay attention, I was lucky if I could remember even an illustration. (So I started cheating: after the service, I’d sneak a look at the outline in my father’s sermon notebook, and manage to quickly memorize at least a point or two.)

My mind still wanders during sermons, and it takes a great deal of effort to rein in my errant thoughts. To add to my difficulty, far too many churches these days are so obnoxiously visually distracting to me — I end up thinking about wires and amps and keyboards and drum sets and movie theaters and weird lighting and bare walls and ugly architecture and why people hate pews so much that they replace them with chairs, etc. If you’ve been in the typical modern evangelical church, you probably get the picture. Then I leave and wonder what if anything can be done with someone like me. Church services are so hard.

At least that’s how it used to be.

Once again, the Historic Church holds the answer for me. For centuries her liturgy has been so conducive to worship that it seems almost custom designed for people with ADD. In my Anglican church, my entire being is involved — spirit, mind, body, and all five senses. I smell the incense. I kneel, I stand, I bow, I cross myself. I feel the prayer-book and the hymnal in my hands. I sing. I read. I pray out loud. I move forward for the Eucharist. I taste. I am fully engaged, rather than a passive observer. It matters that I am there, taking part with my brothers and sisters alongside me, and with the global church throughout history.

There are no long, drawn out sermons with humorous anecdotes, lengthy illustrations, Power Point presentations, and clever alliterations to distract me. The homilies are relatively brief, Scripture-based, devoid of fluff and filler, and well worth my attention. But even if my mind does wander, what I see — the altar, the crucifix, the icons — draws my mind to my Savior and to the wonderful mysteries of the faith, rather than to mundane thoughts. My soul is fed by beauty in an environment designed for worship rather than vexed by ugly, distracting things scattered across what looks like a concert stage. Everything I do and see and smell and taste has profound meaning and brings me back into acknowledging the very Presence of God.

When we gather on Sundays, everything works to point me — even the most easily distractible me — to Him. Isn’t that the very purpose of the Church?

I’m through with being evangelical

This was the last straw:

I have two main problems with this, neither of which have to do with the main point of giving President Trump a “mulligan”:

1. Tony Perkins seems to think he is a spokesperson for American evangelicals. Perhaps he is. All I know is that he is not speaking for me. (Silly me. I’m still stuck back in the 1990’s when character counted and our President was supposed to set a moral example for our nation.)

2. It seems “evangelical” no longer means what I thought it did. Just to check, I went to the source, the National Association Of Evangelicals:

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Historian David Bebbington also provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:

  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus
  • Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
  • Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
  • Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity

These distinctives and theological convictions define us — not political, social or cultural trends. In fact, many evangelicals rarely use the term “evangelical” to describe themselves, focusing simply on the core convictions of the triune God, the Bible, faith, Jesus, salvation, evangelism and discipleship.

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Wait — what? “These distinctives and theological convictions define us — not political, social or cultural trends.(The same website does have a page about “Evangelicals and Politics“.)

So why is Tony Perkins speaking about evangelicals as if they are a voting bloc, a subset of the Republican Party?

Because that is what has come to define evangelicals more than anything else. Someone highjacked evangelicalism, and turned it into a political movement. And lots of people are happy to follow along.

I quit. I no longer want to be part of what seems more and more like a political/social/cultural club with semi-Christian overtones. I don’t regret my lifetime spent in evangelicalism; it shaped me in many good ways. I experienced much blessing there, and I consider many evangelicals as my dear brothers and sisters. But, as a movement — at least as how it is being defined, taught, and lived out by its spokespeople — modern evangelicalism has been heading somewhere I don’t want to go.

Until now, I thought I could have my feet in both of my worlds, and be an ecclesiastical mutt of sorts, all Charismatic-Evangelical-Anglo-Cathodox. But I can’t. If I’ve gained anything these past couple years, it’s a far deeper and richer understanding of just how good the Good News — the evangel — is. That’s what draws me and feeds my soul these days.

That Good News has nothing to do with a political party.

Nothing.

It doesn’t matter what political party it is, whether I’m registered or affiliated with it or not, or whether I like the current evangelical in crowd or not…none of that is the Gospel. But I keep hearing more and more spokespeople telling me that I’m wrong, that what defines evangelicalism is not really the evangel… or following Jesus…or our commitment to the Bible…or the emphasis on a lifelong and ongoing conversion of becoming more like Christ — what defines evangelicalism is our political views and our favored candidates.

It’s not just Tony Perkins. He’s merely yet another in a sad series of last straws. Most evangelical spokespeople stopped speaking for me quite some time back, on a growing number of issues. It’s made me feel quite unwelcome at times.

So this is it. I’m officially out. It’s kind of a sad thing. No, actually it’s heartbreaking. I once had such high hopes for the evangelical church…but not any more.

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After I finished writing this post, I read this analysis of the latest unbiblical (or is it anti-Biblical?) statements from yet another prominent evangelical spokesperson. It seems more and more evangelicals no longer read or take to heart the Bible they are, by definition, supposed to obey. It seems they no longer hold the Bible in such high esteem as the very Word of God.

More from Rachael Denhollander

Here is a larger excerpt from her powerful victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nasser:

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings, you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

In the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well…

…In losing the ability to call evil what it is without mitigation, without minimization, you have lost the ability to define and enjoy love and goodness. You have fashioned for yourself a prison that is far, far worse than any I could ever put you in, and I pity you for that.

Genuine repentance and the Gospel

Yesterday I watched some of the victim impact statements in the sentencing trial for Larry Nasser, who pled guilty to charges he faced as a result of decades of sexually abusing young women and children under the guise of medical treatment. Over a hundred of his victims confronted him in court. One was Rachael Denhollander, who gave one of the most powerful statements about repentance and the gospel that I’ve ever heard:

If you [Larry Nassar] have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way. 

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.

That is my prayer for all who have abused me or my friends or loved ones in any way…that they would (or did before they died) experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so that they may experience true repentance and forgiveness from God.

This is not “cheap grace”. It is very costly indeed. Many who claim to have “repented” have little or no idea what that really entails. Genuine repentance isn’t feeling terrible about what you’ve done, or even making heartfelt promises never to do it again. As long as you are still clinging to one shred of justification for your actions, or minimizing them in any way, or blaming others (“Well, that’s not the way I remember it…how was I supposed to know?… I think she’s overreacting…besides, look at what they did!”) you have not yet faced the truth or experienced the “soul crushing weight of guilt” — what the Bible calls the “godly sorrow that leads to repentance”. One dictionary definition of genuine repentance is “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life”. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s ongoing. The real repentance is not telling people how sorry you are; it’s the changed way in which you live for the rest of your life.

So if you find yourself tempted to tell the person you’ve sinned against, “I’ve already repented! What more do you want?” because they just can’t seem to let go of the past…maybe you need to get down on your knees and ask for more of that awful truth, more of that soul crushing grief, and more grace to truly repent. [Preaching to myself here…]


Edited to tweak things a bit, correct the spelling of Rachael Denhollander’s name, and add a few things, including the following…

Later in her impact statement, Rachael said some profoundly frightening words:

…In losing the ability to call evil what it is without mitigation, without minimization, you have lost the ability to define and enjoy love and goodness. You have fashioned for yourself a prison that is far, far worse than any I could ever put you in, and I pity you for that.

May God have mercy on all of us. I do not want to be one who minimizes evil, who excuses it, who tries to make it seem less than what it is, especially if it is evil that has touched me — and, even more so, if it is evil that I have perpetuated.

Evil is a strong word, and I am tempted to reserve it for only the most heinous of acts; in other words, the things other people do, not me. But evil is the opposite of good; it is any sin perpetuated against God or against others. My very tendency to make evil someone else’s problem costs me “the ability to define and enjoy love and goodness”. It is too high a price to pay. I would rather suffer the most painful godly sorrow in order that I might truly repent — and walk in the glorious freedom of forgiveness.

I included some more of the impact statement in a separate blog post.

Divisive “discerners”

I used to be one.

But I repented. It finally dawned on me that God had never appointed me to be a member of the doctrine police.

Just this morning I ran across a comment I posted on some blog two years ago. I’ve forgotten the particular blog or the discussion, but I’d saved my comment. Here it is, with slight edits:

In what has come to be called Jesus’ high priestly prayer, offered in the hours leading up to His crucifixion, He prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

We cannot claim to love Jesus Christ if we do not share His heart for unity. Are we truly one with others in the Body of Christ or do we cause the world to sneer at our disunity, disagreements, bickering, and sniping at one another?

God forgive me for the times I have been divisive under the guise of “discernment”!

But, wait — doesn’t God require us to disassociate from brethren who teach what I am convinced are wrong things?

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Notice what’s missing on the list: teaching or believing theological error or false doctrine.

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)

We are also to avoid those who stir up division with controversies and quarreling over the Word of God, especially the law — because it is warped and sinful to do such a thing! Again, may God forgive me for the times when I was guilty of such terrible behavior, and so far from the mind of Christ that I actually thought I was protecting His Body, rather than attacking it.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

Lest you think this applies only to local churches, please be aware that Christ has one Body — one Bride — and not multiple ones.

Although I disagree with a number of things I read on blogs or hear in sermons, it is not for me to judge the salvation of the authors and thus I cannot say, “I have no need of them.” Instead, I must honor them as Christ would have me do — even in the face of disagreements that are probably irreconcilable this side of Heaven.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)