This I Believe: Lisa Hull (2023)

Good morning! My name is Lisa Hull, and my pronouns are she/her.

I am very honored to share my story with all of you today.  My first introduction to this church was virtual.  I started watching services online in January 2021 and became a member in May 2022.  It had been over 25 years since I had attended a church.

I grew up in Michigan, in a conservative Christian, middle class family.  Church on Sunday and Wednesday nights was a given.

My experience with religion and church is complicated.  Whenever people ask me what my religious background is, I say that I am a mutt.  Growing up, my family and I attended a new church almost every two years, usually when my dad became disillusioned with the leadership and direction of the church.  I attended mostly Baptist churches early on, followed by Pentecostal, Charismatic Catholic, Methodist, Nazarene, and Presbyterian churches.

A frequent change in schools was another constant.  I attended a church run school through second grade.  One of my earliest memories at that school was taking a reading test, and based on the results I received, I was able to essentially skip first grade.  That decision would haunt me for the rest of my school years.  I was always the youngest in my class and missed out on building some fundamental skills.

I attended public school for third grade, then my family moved, and I attended another public school for fourth and fifth grade. Back to a church run school for sixth grade, and a different church run school in seventh and eighth.  I attended the same public high school all four years.

The church run schools I attended were very rudimentary.  My kindergarten class was a more traditional classroom format, while my second and sixth grade experiences were quite different.  Unlike a traditional classroom, where teachers guide the students, at the schools I attended, students worked through packets independently and graded their own self-tests.  Instead of desks, we had cubicles, and talking was discouraged outside of lunch or recess.

This curriculum is known as Accelerated Christian Education, or ACE.  The packets are referred to as PACEs which are chapters of textbooks, with a conservative evangelical and Biblical focus.  The ACE curriculum does not meet most state and national standards and avoids the development of critical thinking and scientific principles.

When I was five, my parents made a choice to remove the television from our home.  As a result, I have many happy memories of afternoons spent at the library, or in a tree reading a book.  Reading was and continues to be a nice escape from life. I have always enjoyed mysteries, biographies, or ones that take place in other countries.

Most Sundays after church, we would pack up the family station wagon and head to a local park where my dad and brother would fish, we would swim, sometimes have a cookout, and enjoy the peacefulness of nature.  Getting out for a walk or bike ride, or paddle boarding on a lake helps to quiet my mind and connects me with the universe.

I was painfully shy growing up, which carried over into my teen and college years.  I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence, which I attribute to the inconsistencies in church and school, along with persistent bullying that I received in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.

The main reason for the frequent school changes from sixth grade on were the result of my parents trying to support my younger brother, Mike.  Mike had a lot of behavioral and learning challenges.   He was advanced in math and quite articulate at a young age, but troubled.  This caused a lot of family tension, and he eventually moved out of the house at 16, when I was in college.

I was on the 13-year plan for college, completing my bachelor’s degree at Metropolitan State in my late 20’s in a self-designed major focused in Human Resources Management, Communication, and Psychology.  I received a graduate certificate in Human Resources Management in 2022.

I moved to Minnesota in 1991. I was married in 1993 but that relationship ended in divorce in 2011.  During my marriage I struggled with depression, and I found that I had a physical condition that led to infertility issues, but in 2001 we had a beautiful daughter, Liana, who is in her third year at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.

Travel has also been a big part of my life. One of my first trips was by train to Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears.  That was followed by visits to many national and international parks.  I have been to almost all the Canadian provinces, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, India, Costa Rica, Egypt, Peru, Nepal, camped in Zimbabwe and explored Tibet in a jeep.  I also lived briefly in The Netherlands.  These were not luxury trips, many were self-guided, or small tours with just me, my then husband, my daughter, and a guide.  These experiences took me out of my comfort zone and changed my life – taught me to slow down and exposed me to other faiths and traditions.

The level of discomfort I feel walking into a traditional church setting is extreme, and very emotional. These feelings are triggered by the negative responses to my not attending church or my questioning of what I read in the Bible.  I was told that these were signs that I was drifting away from God, was a sinner, and should put my faith in God, he will direct my path.  I received a lot of pressure from my mom about attending church. She was always questioning my faith, especially after my divorce, and it caused a lot of resentful feelings and pushed me farther away from the church and its beliefs.

I am fortunate to be a part of this supportive community.  I can be my authentic self while expressing my values of inclusiveness, supporting the right to choose, being an LGBTQ+ ally, promoting social justice, and the protection of our environment. Today I would consider myself to be an agnostic. I believe in the power of the universe and find meaning in spiritual experiences rather than religious rituals.

In 2011, I wrote a poem, ironically titled “I Believe” in response to my mom’s continual persistence that I needed to attend church and get myself right with God, and I will close with these words.

God loves me, this I know
But not because the Bible tells me so
The trees, the birds
The wind, and the rain
These are the things that make it plain

Mountain peaks, rays of light
Fields of wildflowers, stars at night
Oceans, lakes, and the blue sky
All of the natural wonders give me reasons why

A rainbow of promise
Clouds hiding the sun
Flowers in bloom
The miracle of life

Hikes in the forest
Walks on sandy beaches
Being on the lake
Hearing the crash of the waves

Rules of religion way over done
Church is a building, with windows and doors
A life filled with service, kindness, and love
Will reach more people than hate and opposition

I believe in the spirit of hope and love
Not in the traditions of hymns and white doves
Faith is something you hold in your heart