Archive for July, 2009

07.31.09

Guilt

Posted in Excerpts at 09:30 am by admin

Guilt

Last week I spoke to a book club about my book, Divine Betrayal.   At the end of the presentation I left about 30 minutes for questions.  One woman asked a very interesting question which made me spend several days trying to answer it for myself: “Did you feel more guilty as a child, or as an adult?” 

First, what is guilt?  The dictionary defines “guilt” as the “feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong doing, etc… whether real or imagined.”  Hopefully we have all experienced this feeling, unless one is a sociopath and unable to have the feeling of guilt. In Portuguese, however, there is no translation for this guilt. The only words which are used to describe guilt are “culpa” (a legal term meaning culpable or at fault), “delito” (offense, misdemeanor, crime), and “pecado” (sin). Nowhere is there a word for the feeling of responsibility or remorse for the wrongdoing.  I think this is a very significant difference between the Brazilian culture and American culture.  Can you imagine a child raised without guilt?  What might be the result?

Children in Brazil are idealized.  My children always loved visiting Brazil because there they always felt like “real important people.”  They always boarded airplanes first, and in Brazilian restaurants, the waiters came first to the children, took their orders, and served them first. Later the adults would ask for menus and service.  Whenever there was an adult birthday celebration, children were welcome.  They were never left out and were seldom punished. Once I had a Brazilian family visiting me in the U.S. and the teenage son told his mother a very obvious lie.  His mother told me as she laughed, “The little rascal, I know he is lying.”  I’m sure her son felt no guilt in telling the lie, and the parents did not try to make him feel remorse or guilt. 

As a child in Brazil, my parents taught me to feel guilty.  “The wages of sin is death,” they would say, and “It is sin to disobey your parents and the Lord.”  I was given a large dose of guilt but this became confusing when I stopped speaking English and our communication was in Portuguese. I no longer had a word to describe the feeling of guilt.  The difference was very subtle and when I did something wrong, I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me but I did not feel remorse, or guilt.  Up to age eleven, I did my best to please my parents.  When I did something wrong, as in Chapter Fourteen when I purposefully went out on a boat instead of going to Sunday school, I felt sorry for my Dad. I knew it was making him sad, but I did not feel remorse or guilt.  Dad punished me and I accepted it and felt that I deserved it because I disobeyed him.

After returning to America things changed.  I remember when I was about twelve years old we visited my mother’s family in Minneapolis.  My cousins, Judy and Ruthann took Dorothy and me to see a Laurel and Hardy movie.  During the movie I waited for a bolt of lightening to come down and strike me.  I could hardly look at the screen as I felt so sinful and guilty for both disobeying my parents and God.  I could hardly wait to get back to my Aunt Edna’s house and kneel down in front of my parents, pray out loud and ask forgiveness for my sins.  Both Dorothy and I received a long sermon from Dad on the evils of the theater and to this day, Dorothy brings this up. I’m not sure she has ever forgiven me for telling Mom and Dad what we did!

When I returned to Brazil as a 15-year-old, I felt the most guilt.  First, I wanted to please my parents, and I also wanted to please Jesus.  So anytime I did the slightest thing that I knew was against the church rules, I felt extremely guilty.  For instance, when I took the braids out of my hair and let my long hair loose in school or when I spent time after school with friends who were not from our church, I felt guilty.  When I found myself enjoying the hypnotic rhythm of the Brazilian Samba, I felt a pain in my abdomen from the terrible feelings of guilt.  (more…)

07.02.09

Speaking In Tongues

Posted in Excerpts at 03:29 pm by admin

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

(Glossolatia)

Divine Betrayal is the story of my early years, up to age eighteen, as the daughter of an Assemblies of God missionary.  The Assemblies of God is called ” Pentecostal” which means that they believe that the Holy Spirit manifests itself in believers through  ”speaking in tongues” as written in the Bible in the book of Acts 2:3 and4: “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. “

I spoke in tongues until I was nineteen years old. I’m frequently asked, “What was it like?”  “What do you think of that now?” “How do you explain it?”  My answer is that it was a wonderful experience, and sometimes I miss it, even today.  I will explain what it was like for me.  As I recall,  I went  to the “prayer room.” after Sunday morning or evening service.  Most churches have a room on the side or in back of the sanctuary for believers do go and pray.  I knelt down, closed my eyes, and started praising the Lord, in short simple sentences.  For instance: “Thank you Jesus.”  “I love you Jesus!” ‘Praise the Lord.” I repeated these words over and over.  Often I would get tears in my eyes and be overwhelmed by the presence of God.  The time lapse would differ anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, but eventually a wonderful peaceful presence took over my being, I surrendered voluntary control, I lost control of my speech and started speaking with words I did not understand.  This was involuntary and I totally lost my sense of separateness, and let the sounds flow out.  I felt relaxed and at peace with God. To this day I strongly recommend speaking on tongues with anyone who is so inclined.

The closest I have been to this feeling of total peace and joy has been through meditation, yet it is a different and I could never describe the difference in words.  Recently, though,  I read a book written by a leading neuroscientist that actually measured both the brain activity of Pentecostals while they were speaking in tongues and the brain activity of nuns and Buddhists who do frequent and long meditations.  The book is called “How God Changes Your Brain” by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman.  I recommend this book to anyone interested in either meditation or speaking in tongues.

The most exciting thing Newberg and Waldman discovered was that there was scientific evidence of the “peaceful feeling” people get through meditating, praying or speaking in tongues.  Their research suggests that spiritual practices, are helpful for the health of the human brain.  Different spiritual practices affect different parts of the brain-prayer and speaking in tongues primarily stimulate the “emotional” and “language” centers of the brain, and deep meditation primarily stimulate the “logic” center of the brain.  But tests showed that all the types of stimulation were beneficial. The research is documented on the authors website, and there are picture of brain scans that show how spiritual practices actually stimulate different parts of the brain.  Check out the following websites for more details.

http://www.andrewnewberg.com/reseach.asp  

http://www.camlawblog.com/-518-speaking-in-tongues-result-of-different-brain-function.html.

Many evangelicals shun meditation because of its association with Hindu, Zen, and Buddhists philosophies.  However, in the Bible there are many positive references to meditation, such as: Genesis 24:63 Issac -He went out in the field to meditate.  And Jashua 1:8 Do not let this Book of the Laws depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night. And the book of Psalms has many positive references to meditation. (more…)


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