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!!!


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?

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)


“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

– James 5:16


“There is no form of therapy, no technique, no method, that even comes close to being as healing as the simple and courageous act of becoming truly and honestly open with another human being, and then being fully accepted by them in return.”

– Matt Atkinson

During my years of therapy, I eventually spilled everything, all my deepest darkest secrets, all my worst thoughts and deeds. There was much healing in that, far more healing than I had dared hope for. But something was missing…and, as a Baptist Preacher’s kid, what I longed for seemed crazy at times, the result of watching too many old movies, of having an overwrought imagination, of longing for the impossible…

My spiritual journey has been taking me into the Anglican Church. So on two different afternoons I found myself at a coffee shop with the priest, pouring out my story to him. The telling took two installments. It was a confession of sorts — he was even wearing his collar.

But something was missing, and by then I knew what it was.

Our particular flavor of Anglicanism believes in and practices the Sacrament of Confession. So I went last Saturday for my first ever real confession. I’d prepared prayerfully, and I felt an overwhelming grief over the enormity of my sins, even though I’d confessed most of them to God and fully believed myself to be forgiven.

It was not exactly how I’d always imagined from childhood on…I didn’t slip into some beautiful cathedral and find myself in one of those mysteriously beautiful wooden confessional booths, separated from a priest who seemed to always be there, hidden in the shadows, just waiting to hear my confession.

It was more simple…two chairs back to back. I faced the altar in our little church, where I could see the Crucifix.

That broke my heart. My beautiful Savior…

I confessed.

The priest said the perfect words. He stood in the place of Christ for me, because that is what the Church and its ministers are supposed to do and be — we are supposed to be the Body of Christ, His representatives here on earth.

He gave me penance…not punishment, not a “work” to “earn” forgiveness, but ways in which I can better care for my soul.

The whole thing was far more emotional than I expected. And it wasn’t as hugely and immediately transformative as I’d always imagined, when I used to tell people — only halfway joking — that I wouldn’t have needed years of therapy if I’d had a priest to confess to.

But as I was processing the whole thing, after I’d done my first act of penance (which seemed more like a wonderful reward and blew my preconceived notions of penance right out the window) it suddenly struck me that I felt cleaner somehow…lighter…a greater sense of freedom.

Forgiveness was no longer a theological concept. It was real. It had a voice, not just any voice, but a voice that spoke authoritatively. (Yes, I still believe in the priesthood of all believers, but I also believe in…well, in the priesthood.) Forgiveness had emerged from the abstract and from words on a page — even from sacred words on sacred pages — and had become immediate, here and now, part of the physicality and reality of my everyday life.

The next day I had the awesome privilege of doing the reading from the Old Testament and the Epistles during Mass. It’s been years since I’ve read Scripture out loud during a church service; there isn’t as much of a call for that in most protestant evangelical churches. But I remember that, each time before, I approached the responsibility with great fear and trembling, not out of nervousness about reading out loud in front of people, but out of a sense of inadequacy. I am a woman of unclean lips…how dare I read God’s Word in church? Yesterday I still had a sense of reverance and responsibility, but I knew my lips were clean. I felt much joy.

Partaking of the Eucharist was even more precious than ever.

Today I sent a text to my priest, wanting to make sure that he knows that I want to be confirmed in the Anglican Church when our bishop visits us in January. As I was sending the text, I joked to myself, Haha, after hearing my confession, Father Chris is going to tell me that I should wait several years until I’m hopefully less of a vile sinner! but then I remembered:

I’m forgiven.

The Bible says so. My priest says so. The Church says so. The saints and angels say so. Most importantly, God says so. He has always said so, but now…now I know.

When husbands hate their wives

“The problem is…my brother-in-law didn’t [come] out of nowhere and become a murderer. These people are cultivated, they’re raised by families, they’re raised by friends, they’re raised by churches, they’re raised by their educational institutions, and they are chronic bullies from a very young age. I knew him, my friends knew him, my family knew him, and all along the signs were there, and they start small, and they turn big, and this is what it comes down to.” — Aleksandr Katane, brother of Lyuba Savenok who was murdered this past week by an abusive husband

To donate to Lyuba’s children, go here.

My podcast episode addressing this tragic situation can be found here.

For husbands of survivors| Trauma Tuesday

This short video is an excellent resource for Christian husbands of survivors, although I would urge caution about one of the recommendations made by the speaker.

My reaction to this video was almost entirely positive. I especially liked what the speaker said about husbands pursuing their own healing and growing in sexual purity. The husband who takes this video to heart would truly end up being a tremendous blessing to his wife as well as receiving much blessing in return.

However, I do want to voice a few serious cautions to husbands about seeking support from other men:

  1. Only disclose your wife’s sexual trauma to someone with her full knowledge and consent. Do not pressure her — not all women are ready to go public with the most traumatic events of their lives, especially trauma of a sexual nature, and the thought of a man knowing can be especially frightening, shameful, and humiliating. Your wife’s ability to trust you and feel safe should trump your need or desire to tell “the guys”. A therapist might be a far better source for support, since not many men are equipped to offer the wisdom, insight, and confidentiality you need.
  2. Choose your confidante carefully. We like to pretend that men don’t gossip, but this is sadly not the case. Furthermore, the last thing you should want is to confide in a man who believes in rape myths, insists that your wife made the whole thing up, tells you to “make her submit!” or even angrily confronts your wife about “crying rape just because she regrets her slutty behavior, and is making up a lame excuse to withhold sex”. (One woman had to deal with more than one such angry confrontation after her husband confided in his men’s group at church.)
  3. Choose as a confidante only a respectful, godly, tender-hearted, safe, loving, compassionate man who is a friend of your marriage. Such a man should not press you for details about what happened to your wife or about any of her current sexual struggles. (Those issues should probably be dealt with in therapy anyway.) Instead, he should encourage you to be more Christ-like. One husband was shocked, and later convicted, that the man he confided in was moved to tears — in marked contrast to the husband’s own lack of tenderness and compassion. The best confidante will challenge you to grow in sacrificial love, rather than further enable you in selfish indifference or impatience.
  4. Be prepared that telling people may make your wife the target of gossip, false accusations, harassment, intimidation, and even worse. One wife was continually harassed by a man who accused her of lying about her sexual assault because, as he insisted to her, “you are too ugly to rape”. Some survivors have had to endure “rape jokes” or “incest jokes” supposedly in order to get us to lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously. Men have attempted to intimidate rape survivors with, “I hope someone rapes you again.” Even more frightening, a woman was confronted in her own home by a “friend” of her husband who threatened, “I could rape you too, you know, and this time no one would believe you.” The worst case I know about personally is the woman who was assaulted by her “pastor” after he learned of her past sexual trauma. Predators and abusers don’t usually identify themselves as such in advance, and are all too often the last person we would suspect.

Obviously I am not suggesting rape survivors hide in silence. After all, I’ve gone public. But it should be our own choice, and we should not be outed as survivors without our consent — especially not by the very men who have vowed to love, honor, and cherish us.