Statement on Abuse in the Church

I only break my social media silence for very important things. With the spotlight on the SBC and abuses of all kinds, I can’t stay silent. People within the church and within the SBC have sexually and emotionally abused me and many I love. The cover-ups by the church and the SBC specifically further perpetuate this abuse.

If you have been abused by anyone, report it to authorities in law enforcement. Do NOT go to your church to report abuse in an effort to “keep the peace.” Go to the authorities. It is not the church’s job to investigate and penalize criminals. It is not man’s duty to protect the church. God can do that just fine on his own. He has his work cut out for him and it could only take God to bring good out of the egocentric tarnishing that continues to happen as people use his name for their own advances and to cover up their fears of being found out for what we all are—human—and for what some are—criminal. Being human is not a mistake.

Being a criminal is and criminals need to be held accountable for their crimes.

One Year “Lean on Me” Anniversary Sale!

Get a copy of "Permission to Speak Freely" for free!

LOM-Promo

Can you believe it?

It’s been exactly a year since my last book Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Committed Community published! To celebrate, if you order a copy of LOM from my store and use coupon code FREEPTSF we will send you a copy of my second book Permission to Speak Freely for FREE!

Yup!

Thanks for all your prayers and support over the years!

Summer Reading Fun!

Get all three of my books autographed & delivered to your door before you head out for your vacation

(or curl up for your staycation!)

three-book-bundle

 

 

Mad Church Disease: Healing from Church Burnout
Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace
Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health
for only $30 + S/H
********

Price: $30.00

All proceeds go directly to support our ministry efforts!

 

********

Your Anxiety is Not a Sin

The Texas Rangers just walked the bases. It wasn’t that exciting of a baseball game. I was doing my Algebra II homework with the TV playing in the background.

I’ve never been good at math, but this particular assignment was tough. While trying to assign some numerical value to letters (a concept as a writer I will never understand: letters are for words. Numbers are for nerds. Just kidding. If it weren’t for the numbers people in my life, I’d be in jail.), my heart started palpitating.

I placed my hand on my chest and could feel each beat through the muscles under my collarbone. What was happening? Was I going to have a heart attack? I was only 14. This can’t be happening.

I didn’t realize it, but my breathing became fast and shallow. I got lightheaded. My muscles tensed. Not wanting to alarm my parents, I quickly went out the front door unnoticed. I climbed on the top of my mother’s car where there was nothing to trap me; I could simply look out into a big, west Texas sky full of stars.

star-195187_640

But my heart kept pounding and my head kept spinning and I wondered what they’d say the next day at school about the freshman who died on top of her mom’s car last night.

My dad came out a few minutes later and asked what was wrong. I sat up on the car’s top and gave him my symptoms, interrupted by punctuation marks of tears and sobs. He put his hand on my dangling knee and told me he felt this “irrational fear” before and it would soon go away.

It did.

For a little while, anyway.

But for the last twenty years, it’s stayed. It hasn’t been just a season, though sometimes I find relief in weeks or months. Anxiety is the weakness that can either boast Christ’s strength or it can break relationships. It’s either managed or I let it run wild. I’m almost certain it’s here to stay, and with spiritual help, counseling, support from friends and Tim, and even medication, I’m usually okay. I’m functional and happy and it lays dormant in the chemicals and synapses in my mind, hushed by medication that knows when it starts getting too loud.

neuron-160944_640

I went to speak about sex one time at a college. I’m fairly certain my parents are uncomfortable every time I say that, but hey, it’s one of the things I get to do with my time. Normally after that talk, I get a few girls and maybe a guy or two say how they now feel like they can talk about something they’ve wrestled with sexually.

At this one school, I learned from the Dean that most trips to the counseling center have to do with anxiety. Interesting. In my talk, I mentioned anxiety in a sentence or two, not really going off track. Afterward in the chapel lobby, multiple students came up to me – not because of their questions about sex or pornography – but because they felt so free when I talked about my anxiety.

Really? I thought. I didn’t think there was such a stigma about it anymore. I guess I’m wrong. Noted.

Two weeks later, I logged into my blog and there were two comments from someone I’ve never met, or even heard of online. A google search revealed little. I’ll save you the lengthy comment, but one thing stood out:

You are a false teacher.

Your anxiety is a sin.

Wow.

My anxiety is a sin?

I get it. I’ve heard the lectures on worry as a sin, and trust me, it’s something I lean into my God for every day. And I believe that not trusting God consistently or even rejecting the desire to trust Him, yes, is sin.

But, Mr. Commenter…and those who think like him, let me clearly say to you my anxiety is not a sin.

And here’s the thing. If I speak to 800 college students and ten of them tell me they’re wrestling with true, clinical anxiety, I’m sure there are a hundred that didn’t say a word who are also living in that shaky, unescapable landscape. Statistics tell me that there are a lot of you who struggle, too.

Anxiety presents in a lot of ways: panic, physical symptoms like a rapid heart rate and shallow breathing or lightheadedness, upset stomachs, tense muscles, and insomnia. It can also have emotional and relational symptoms too: anger, isolation, and irritability.

Wondering why you get headaches all the time? It may be anxiety. Notice you’re lashing out with some built up anger at someone you love? It may be anxiety.

You may have heard the reason you have anxiety is because you’re living in some secret sin, or maybe you’ve even been told the anxiousness in and of itself is sin. The first may be true, and if it is, you know it.

But if you’re certain you’re right with God and others, your anxiety is not sin.

I’m not a doctor or a counselor, in any official sense anyway. However, I’d like to share a few things that have helped me manage my anxiety.

  • Routines: Morning and evening routines help start my day off right and help put me in the right place to sleep soundly.
  • Bible study and prayer: A constant one-sentence prayer I pray in moments of panic is “He keeps in perfect peace whose mind stays on Him.”
  • Talking about it: I have my husband and a group of friends I know I can reach out to in my “craziness” and I know they don’t see me as crazy. They pray for me and offer truth and help me refocus my thoughts.
  • Counseling: It’s expensive, but I’d rather have it than cable, a smart phone, or food at times.
  • Healthy Stuff: Eating right and exercising work wonders for anxiety. They really do.
  • Medication: Yes, I believe we are over-medicated but I also believe if you need it, you need it. It took me probably six or seven tries to get the right medication and even now, I have to adjust the dose depending on the season of life and stress I’m in. Some people need SSRIs or SNRIs and some need benzodiazepines (which is what works best for me). There are always risks, but work with a doctor and find the best balance for you.

addiction-71538_640

Anxiety sucks. There’s really no other way to say it. In the church world, let’s speak freely about it and help others in their journeys by owning up to our own. And if someone says your anxiety is sin, shake your head and walk away confidently, knowing God made you in His image and that you can let your greatest weaknesses show His strength.

Recommended Reading: The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?

Give Someone the Gift of Speaking Freely (Book & Bracelet Bundle!)

 You know, it’s time to do Christmas shopping.

We all know.

Let me help make it a little easier for you!

Permission to Speak Freely Bundle Anne Jackson Anne Marie Miller

Do you know someone wrestling through a difficult season? Who maybe needs some encouragement and needs to know they aren’t alone? Or just enjoy a good story?

It just so happens that I have a lot of these books, and I’d like to make them a little bit gift-able for you.

IMG_0880

For $25, you get two autographed copies of my book Permission to Speak Freely, with two “Gift of Going Second” bracelets, and a cute little ribbon to boot.

And I’ll even ship them to you for free.

IMG_0881

If you haven’t read this book, the poetry, or seen the crowdsourced art in it, maybe now’s the perfect time. You get one and you can give one to a friend!

Or maybe you just want to give a couple copies away.

IMG_0877

Just click the button below, and these books will be on their merry way!

In the voice of an engaging but battle-scarred friend, Anne Jackson questions a church culture that “sacrifices the beauty of confession and brokenness for religious trappings and the malady of perfectionism.” Read through the poems, essays, stories and confessions in this book and join Anne on this journey. It’s time to face our fears. It’s time to live in a community of healing confession. It’s time to move past shame and into hope. It’s time we had permission to speak freely.

Price: $25.00

***

 

Four Things You Must Know!

Please accept my apologies for being such a sporadic writer as of late. Inconsistency is one of my least favorite traits and online, I’ve been extremely inconsistent. However, there are four things coming up in the next couple of months that I thought you simply must know!

1) I am finishing my third book. It does not have a title at this point but I am hoping to email the complete first draft to my publisher by this time next week. It has been the most difficult thing to write because, well, it has caused me to reflect much more deeply and try to use words in the best way possible.

I was 27 when I wrote Mad Church Disease. 29 when I wrote Permission to Speak Freely. I’m almost 33.5 (yes, I celebrate half birthdays) so I pray that whatever maturity I have gained in the last four years shows. This book will release in Spring 2014, likely in April.

2) New website PLUS bringing back the old FlowerDust. Since it has been over three months that I have not been Anne Jackson, I realize I should probably change my website. I hired a talented lad named Sam to work on this and he feverishly is doing so. All of my old domains will redirect to the new website once it has launched (likely in August) as to not lose anyone in the shuffle.

I’m excited to reestablish a home online that is both true to my name and has all the good posts from FlowerDust. If you’ve been around since the beginning, you remember that old FlowerDust.net blog and it’s 1000 posts that we are combing through and refining. So all that material (from 2005 – 2011) will be available again. Woo!

3) New email list opportunities!. Everyone I admire says I need one. I trust them. With the launch of the new website, I will start offering a special email list that has what the website has, but then has a little bit more. I’m excited about the way email lists have returned and I’m excited to share new content with you! What do you think about the resurrection of the email list?

4) I was going to include a fourth thing you must know, but I decided it was worthy of its own little announcement (and no, mom, I’m not pregnant). How about I talk about that one Monday. Cool? Cool.

See you Monday. You will not want to miss this bit of exciting news! If you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might want to just in case.

I don’t like hyping things up, but the announcement on Monday is super, super exciting!

Have a great weekend –

Anne Marie Miller

Permission to Speak Freely – Free Excerpt #7

So, you’ve made it to the end.

But it’s not really the end.

You’ve just read six essays of my new book Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace. This is the final one…for today anyway.

There are still 22 essays you haven’t read, plus all the art and poetry and other things that have been compiled into this lovely four-color book.

But fear not, you can pick up a copy of the book here. Or if you’d like an autographed copy, or a T-shirt, you can click here.

Or you can leave a comment below and tell me how you landed here (whose blog did you first stumble on?) and I’ll choose two people to each win a copy of the book on Friday.

Now, without further adieu…the seventh essay.

—–

Essay #7 – Listening


Julie and I both had some friends in the Kansas City area. Two of them were in a band, and they drove down to Dallas in their band’s van to help us move. We trekked nine hours back up to the Midwest, where we rented an apartment we had never seen before with a roommate we didn’t know very well.

A few weeks after we moved, their band played at a youth group event at a local megachurch that was Baptist but pretended not to be by calling itself a “family church.” It wasn’t too far away. Since moving, I had developed a huge crush on one of the guys.

We walked in, and Julie went up toward the front. I stayed in the back, with an overwhelming since of panic gripping me. Taking a seat, behind a partition, I rested my head in my hands and attempted to get the sense of dread from overwhelming me. My heart was racing, and I could feel it pulsating through my body.

More clearly than I have heard God in my life, He said, “Remember the letter you wrote to Me when you were sixteen? Remember the times you’ve wondered where I am? I’m here. This is My church, and it’s time for you to be a part of it.”

I told the Voice in my head to shut up. I was probably going crazy. Surely God doesn’t speak like that. I thought back to the last time I had taken one of the many pills I would take to feel normal and wondered if it was still in my system.

But then it happened again.

More loudly.

“HEY! Remember the letter you wrote to me when you were sixteen? Remember the times you’ve wondered where I am? I’m here. THIS IS MY CHURCH, AND IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO BE A PART OF IT.”

Go away! I silently screamed back.

Maybe it was time for another pill. I started to dig through my purse.

A girl with bright red hair who was about my age came up to me between songs. She introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Kristi. I work here. Can I pray with you?”

For some reason, my panic turned into anger. My skin began to crawl, and I wanted to run out the doors of the church and never stop. I didn’t want to let this random girl in on the dialogue that was unfolding between the voices in my head.

Or the fact that I had voices in my head, for that matter.

What? Why? Who is this girl? No. No, you can’t pray with me. I don’t think I still believe in your God anyway. Just because I’m in church doesn’t mean I have to buy into this crap like you do. Seriously!

But acting nonchalant, like people offered to pray with me every day, I shrugged, casually pushed my hair back from my face, and calmly responded, “Sure. I guess so.”

She took my hands, but I pulled back. Instead, she put her hand on my shoulder, which tensed up at her touch. She began praying for me, for my friends, and then she said something that made my pounding heart stop dead in its tracks.

“I pray for Anne’s involvement with church. With this church.”

She wasn’t trying to manipulate me. Her prayer was very genuine. She was very genuine. I started to get a little more nervous as I wondered why in the world she would pray such a thing for a complete stranger. Later on, I asked her. She simply said she felt like that’s what she needed to pray.

Growing up in the South, I learned that even if you don’t agree with someone or like them, you could still be nice. So I responded nicely and said thank you. She asked if I’d be up for getting coffee with her sometime. She gave me her phone number, and a few weeks later I called.

Kristi and I became friends, and eventually I started attending the Baptist Family Church (known from this point on as “the BFC”) with her. She worked on the student ministry staff, I started volunteering at youth functions. Slowly, I began to fall in love with these teenagers. They made me think of myself when I was in junior high and high school. They were seeking a God and a faith they truly believed in. And through them, I remembered what it was like to be found and loved by God and to chase Him on a crazy adventure where anything was truly possible.

I can’t recall a specific moment when I finally chose to surrender my heart to God again. That makes me even wonder if there was a specific moment. Maybe it was just a lot of little moments stacked up on top of each other. God didn’t prove Himself trustworthy to me in one big burning bush. He didn’t guarantee my happiness or take away all my fear in one fell swoop.

But He did find me again.

Or perhaps, maybe I just allowed myself to be found.

——

To read all the essays, you can take the below route. Thank you to each blogger who so generously opened their virtual doors and shared part of the story with you today.

Donald Miller (Essay #1 – The First Brick)
Jon Acuff (Essay #2 – The Final Brick)
Carlos Whittaker (Essay #3 – Losing Faith)
Pete Wilson (Essay #4 – Finding Love in All the Wrong Places)
XXXChurch.com (Essay #5 – Shattered Pixels)
Catalyst Conference (Essay #6 – Ghosts of Churches Past)
FlowerDust.net (Essay #7 – Listening)

A Tough Confession to Make

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a retreat with a handful of people who earn their living from the platform. That platform could be writing, public speaking, or doing music professionally.

At one point early in the retreat, somebody said something along the lines of,

“Self-promotion is the opposite of the character of Jesus.”

Given I had just written about my hesitation on how to market and promote a book, this statement made my stomach churn.

The group shared some thoughts on that – the difficulty of realizing the complete truth of that statement (I mean, how many times in Scripture did Jesus actually say, ‘DON’T GO AND TELL ANYONE I DID THIS‘…um…a lot!) and also feeling the tension of having to let people know about whatever message and platform we have to share.

My confession: The last two weeks I have not been healthy. I have tucked myself away for twelve, fourteen, and at one point seventeen hours in my little office. If it weren’t for the one window I have, it would be like a casino and I’d never know if it was day or night and would probably somehow grow a beard (or more likely really long leg hair) and look like a lesser tanned version of Tom Hanks on Castaway.

Tomorrow, my book Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace OFFICIALLY releases. Yes, I realized Amazon shipped it two weeks ago and I can’t say thanks enough for your kind feedback.

But tomorrow, it’s official. There will be blog tours and I’ll probably tweet a few times more than normal and then, over the course of the next three or four months, will be traveling almost every week to talk about it at a church or a conference or a retreat or over coffee. (More coffee? Really? My hands are twitching because of the amount of espresso I have consumed in this two week period.) There are interviews and airports and hotels and shaking hands with strangers and wearing my grown up clothes in order to look my age.

I still battle.

I love this book. I love that people are responding the way they have so far and the message of it, the redemption of the broken pieces of my past and my present, are being used to help others find confession, transformation, healing, and hope. People are learning they are not alone. And if any statement was one my heart beat for, it would be that:

You are not alone.


People often imagine a book release day is a grandiose day and that you get flowers and balloons and as you walk down the street people stop and say, “Congratulations!” Or maybe I give too much of my guilty pleasures away when I say the illusion of being on a street in New York City and seeing a bus go by with your face and your book on it (i.e., Carrie Bradshaw) is what we authors dream of. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ll wake up. Shower. Put on my jeans and probably a grey tee-shirt (my summer wardrobe), battle myself on how much coffee I need, give in to a double, drive to my office and walk up the stairs. I’ll check my email, wish there were more messages from people with names instead of “Google Alerts” in the sender’s field, and keep tabs on my Amazon sale ranking – which means absolutely nothing in the publishing world. It’s simply a time-waster for authors who need their egos fed. I’ll work on editing a project, writing an article, making some phone calls, and check my Amazon sales rank again. And again. And then I’ll lock up my office, walk downstairs, get in my car, and go home.

Having a book release is a special thing. It’s a privilege I don’t take for granted. At all.

But, is it the end all? The one thing that fills the void when you close your eyes and go to sleep?

No way.

Does it even help fill that void?

Nope.

As poet and author Mary Oliver says,

“Writing is only writing. The accomplishments of courage and tenderness are not to be measured by paragraphs.”

Referring back to my post earlier, the measure of a man is the love by which he engages with humanity. I suppose in a small way, sharing words from my heart with others is a simple act of that. But just know, the tension is there. It’s a tension I’ve yet to understand or even be able to balance in a healthy way all the time.

All of this semi-sensical rambling to say I would love your prayers for the launch of this book.

I would also love for you to buy it. But I’m not going to hold a social media gun to your head and blast you in the face with that very often.

So, more than anything, your prayers.

That people will be helped.

That people who are hurt will be able to open up and share and have their weight lifted.

And that people will realize they are not alone.

That it’s okay to speak freely.

I appreciate each of you.

Thank you.