Monthly Archives: May 2012

Can’t Stand the Heat; Getting Out of the Kitchen

This photo was recently posted on my friend’s Facebook page:

Kind of a welcome message of sanity after the whole Christian vs. Bible-thumper vs. rational thinker circus that happened here in North Carolina during the Amendment One fiasco.

Here’s a comment that one of her friends posted:

I think you all miss the point and satan is winning by splitting the church. Why is it that agreeing WITH the Bible that clearly states marriage is between a man and a woman AND standing with God now all of a sudden Hate? I think you all need to look in the mirror, seek God to convict your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to help you see and understand exactly what you are being manipulated into. Abortion is losing popularity and we can only pray that legalized murder cloaked as a womans right is stopped soon. Abortion is not birth control, if someone cannot control themself then put God’s child uo for adoption where a loving family can provide the love and care he or she deserves. I do not understand how compromising God’s Holy Word is denying rights there is NOTHING equal about a man and a man being married as there is to a man and a woman being married. Are we really trying to become a nation of Soddom and Gamora, really? We know where it got them… Please pray about this, Please.

To which one can only respond, “Heavens to Betsy!”

But after the opposing view had its say, this wise soul added a smidgen more (which I edited to eliminate personal details that might identify the original poster or the commenter) (also, I don’t actually expect you to read this whole slew of nonsense, just put it here to make my point):

There are several verses in the bible, and before I begin I am not trying to take a stand of hate, I pray for anyone that struggles with homosexual feelings just as I do for someone that struggles with alcohol, drugs, not knowing Christ as their personal savior, the first 3 are sins and the bible states if you are living in sin knowingly it is detestable to God, whether homosexuality, alcohol or drug addiction. Continuing to practice without a desire to turn from it or change is not accepting Christ so it is not just the homosexual that risks not going to heaven it is anyone that does not turn from their sin. Most of the verses in the bible do not refer to “homosexual” most of them refer to words such as Leviticus 18:22 “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable…” Romans 1:26-27 “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” 1 Corinthians 6 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The point is that the bible states that many types of sins will be exclusion from Heaven, so many think that just asking Jesus into their heart is all that they have to do and that is not it, you must take up His cross and expect to be condemned as He was as written in Matthew 16:24-27 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Fathers glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” The verse in Matthew that goes with Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Meaning if you judge with hatred or without knowing all of the facts (jumping to conclusions) that is how others will judge you, if you judge harshly you will be judged harshly, I am not sure how this comes into play in this discussion, other than you feel that I am judging which I have stated to you in previous posts I am not doing that I pray for them as others, I know many who are and they respect my conviction on this and our relationship is fine and they know that I pray for them daily, without hate. The part that I do not understand is this has been on most state and most other nations laws for centuries, in fact before 1994 or somewhere there about the old Greek dynasty was the only culture to allow homosexuality and they fell as a nation. Currently there are only, I believe 19 of 268 nations worldwide that allow homosexuality (you can verify on Wikipedia, many nations still enact punishment by death as cited in the Old Testament – Thank God we are under a new covenant). The above post referring to Matthew 12:31 is not just taking the name in vain it is referring to giving glory to Satan for work that the Holy Spirit performed such as stating that when someone is healed saying that it is the works of the devil is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, ALL other sins are forgivable but not if you continually commit them, God will forgive you if you get drunk but will not forgive if you are a drunkard, God will forgive if you commit a homosexual act but will not forgive if you refuse to turn away from what God states is detestable, God does not changes and for the many that think that simply asking for forgiveness gives the license to continue will be sadly mistaken at judgment and the sadder part is that many individuals that practice homosexuality to not feel that they are committing a sin and will never ask for forgiveness, that is the saddest part, many believe that most or all will go to heaven and I believe that is a mistake, there is a church called the Emergent Church, one of its leaders Rob Bell (wrote a book called Velvet Elvis (and others) very popular on the Christian circuit) that states all will go to heaven and pretty much contradicts the Bible in complete errant disregard that God’s word does not change just because society does, Bible based teaching churches are trying to get the message out that it is incorrect teaching, I do want to go back to your comment regarding freedom of religion and can’t help think what it would be like if we allowed Sharia law and the way that they treat women and have a right to kill family members if they do not follow the law, please do not take this as an attack on Muslim as it is not, I pray for them as well and pray that our world can get along at some point but also believe that much of this is exactly according to God’s greater plan. I am sorry, I am not trying to make you angry nor challenge you I am simply stating my belief’s and not trying to challenge what you are stating, the post was on my page as well, (I am not asking you to defriend me as I am not wanting to defriend you) I pray that we can both have differing opinions and even be convicted with where we stand and not have it turn into a hate fest between friends. God Bless You and I hope that you know in your heart that I am not trying to attack you I am simply stating my views as well and do welcome your feedback and comments. Please disregard all of my grammatical errors, not that I even notice them but I know that they are there.

To which I can only say, I give up. I cannot imagine wholeheartedly adopting the Christian faith and have to listen to this on a regular basis. I cannot and will not ever take the Bible literally. I really do NOT see how limiting Spirit to words on a page is a constructive exercise. I see it as the act of a childish person too afraid to think for themselves.

I do believe in Jesus. I believe he is the Son of God. I believe he died on the cross to save humanity. I believe he worked miracles, and that he was resurrected.

But I cannot be associated with these people. I cannot say “I am a Christian” and risk people thinking I agree with even half of what these people say. I’d rather say “I’m a Buddhist” and have them simply be worried that I’m going to hell. (Because after all, isn’t that what a label is for? Presenting a certain face to the world, who is going to judge you based on the string of syllables coming out of your mouth? When no one can ever really give a name to their personal relationship with Spirit?)

There’s nothing in Buddhism that precludes me believing in Jesus or studying the Bible, or anything else for that matter. But there is plenty in “Christianity” that says, “OH NO! Don’t step/look/think/be over there! That’s oogey-boogey land! The cooties will surely send you to hell!”

Done. I need to be done with this struggle, and come to peace with the fact that I can’t, as Thich Nhat Hanh recommends, return to my spiritual roots, which is Christianity in general, the Catholic faith specifically. Can’t do it. I can still learn from and interact with the people and the texts and ideas. I can still accept Jesus as The Way, but I can’t adopt “Christianity” as my foundation and my path. I’m done.

Kid Connections

Probably only parents with lots of kids make weird lists like this, trying to compare the similarities and differences between their kids. (I guess you’d  need at least two, wouldn’t you?!)

I’ll refer to my kids by their birth order number, to save typing their names over and over.

Here are some of my rambling comparisons:

  • 1 & 2 are from the 20th century, 3, 4, & 5 are from the 21st.
  • 1 & 4 are Tauruses, 2 & 3 are Geminis, poor little 5 hangs out alone in the Libra camp.
  • 1, 2, & 3 were born in Oregon, 4 & 5 were born in North Carolina.
  • 2 & 3 were born at a birthing center, in the same bed, with the same midwife, 6 years apart. 1, 4 & 5 were all born at different hospitals (4 is the only one delivered by an OB instead of a midwife.)
  • 1, 2, & 3 were all born in even years, 4 & 5 were born in odd years.
  • 1, 3 & 5 are girls, 2 & 4 are boys.
  • 2 & 5’s names both start with “G,” the rest are all different.
  • 1, 3 & 4 were all born in May, while 2 has a birthday in June and 5 is in September.
  • 1 was born premature, 2 & 3 were born after their due dates, while 4 & 5 were both induced.
  • 2, 3 & 5 were all born in the same city they were conceived in, but 1 & 4 were conceived in one state then born in another.
  • 1 & 2 were both born in the early morning, 3, 4 & 5 in the evening

I’m not sure why, but when I see two of them hanging out together, their random detail association always seems to come to my mind. It means a lot to me that they be there for each other throughout their lives, so the more connections I can foist upon them, artificial as they may be, the more reassured I am that certainly they will always have tights bonds.

Or maybe I just like lists of random details!

In any case, here’s a photo of me and my fantastic five:

“This isn’t how I go!”

Have you seen the movie Big Fish?  Brilliant flick.  A must-see, if ever there was one.

Anywho, inspired by this movie, I love the idea of “knowing” when you are going to die, although I DO NOT actually want to KNOW that information.

Allow me to elaborate.

I am one of those people who is mindful of the impending event of death to an excruciating degree.  Whenever I hear that wise advice, “Don’t forget, we are all mortal, enjoy every day as if it were your last… blah blah blah” I think to myself, “Welcome to my life.”

So on the positive side, death is not going to catch me without having appreciated every second of every day.

On the negative side, I think there is a damn good reason that most people live blissfully unappreciative lives, and that is because it makes you INSANE to think about death all the time.

Let’s put it this way: the joy I felt surrounding the birth of each of my children was painfully tempered by the realization that…

I was going to be afraid every day not only of my own death but of my children’s death, and…

In giving them birth I was simultaneously giving them their eventual death, as well as all the suffering they might experience in between those two events.

So I was able to appreciate the father character in Big Fish, after he’d seen his own death in the witch’s eye, as he went through his adventures, starting to feel afraid and then remembering, “Wait!  This isn’t how I go!”

I have thusly decided that I “know” I am going to die in my sleep when I’m 88.  (Anyone who’s suffered through enough of my blog knows that I am partial to the number 8.)

Now, whether this is what really happens or not, who cares.  The point is, I won’t face every single day-to-day perilous situation, like, say, driving down the road in the car, with so much fear.  I can look the oncoming semis confidently in the headlights and say to myself, “Don’t panic!  This isn’t how I go!”  I am absolutely exhausted of being afraid all the time.

(There’s no chance that I will actually put myself in a dangerous situation with a false sense of immortality… you can’t erase 41 years of paranoia THAT easily.)

But if I could only convince myself to play along, to believe against all reason that everything is okay… I might at least add a couple of years on to my life with lower stress levels.  It’s worth a shot, anyway.

The Volcano in my Heart

Okay, now I fully acknowledge that the story I’m about to relate to you is flagrantly insignificant in relation to events that occur around the world on a daily basis.

But part of the reason I’m sharing it is because I feel like these sorts of momentary, insignificant episodes, to which I too often respond badly, are contaminating my life with negativity. I want to let go of the anger in my heart, and not let it erupt in such awful ways, but then things like this happen, and before I know it I’m far too enthusiastically expressing my disapproval.

Remember how completely awesome (and around my childhood home, fairly rare) those cardboard tubes are that hold the wrapping paper? Well, yesterday my husband produced two of them by wrapping up birthday presents for our oldest. These tubes were smaller in diameter than usual and extra thick, rendering them quite sturdy. As a child I would have incorporated them into my play for at least a week, then hoarded it in my closet for years, occasionally pulling them out to use in some new and creative way (I was an only child until I was 13. Which helps explain why all of the sibling conflict I see between my children on a daily basis makes absolutely no sense to me.)

Our youngest, age 2 -1/2, asked me if she could have them.  I said yes. She played with them for about 15 to 20 minutes, even taking them outside, using them like ski poles, looking through them, tapping things, etc. Having a grand time.

At one point after she’d come inside and was still blissfully engaged in tubular play, our 5 year old son comes in. He asks her if he can have one. She, adoring him like a loyal subject does its king, immediately obliged. He proceeded to bash it into walls, chairs, the floor, and within 30 seconds it had broken in half. He abandoned it and asked her for the other one. Without hesitating she handed it over. He begins to bash the second one.

Enter a crazy, psychotic, raving lunatic, AKA their mother. Shrieking like a demon fresh from the underworld, I grab the still intact tube from him and howl about how he had just ruined everything for her.

Later, as I pondered it, of course he’s 5. It’s his personality to destroy everything in sight (PLEASE don’t tell me “He’s a boy” because there are boys who don’t destroy everything and girls who do. So just please don’t even go there. I won’t be able to hear anything else you say if you do because I’ll just figure you’re a genderist who assumes every single thing depends on genitals.)

But at the time, I was reacting to the horror of what I was seeing, the wanton wastefulness! The gratuitous injustice! The unthinkable evil of taking advantage of a person littler than you who worships the ground you walk on!

Absurd, I know. In the grand scheme of waste, injustice and evil, this wouldn’t even be let in the door. The Judge of all Horror would laugh and tell this incident to run along and play.

And why couldn’t I have just walked up calmly and said, “Dude, really? Give her back that one so she can keep playing. You got your share and now it’s destroyed,” or something similarly chill and wise.

If I could just stay up on the mountain in my mind’s eye, where everything appears to fit into the context of reality, and nothing is blown up bigger than it really is… Can a person live like that? And would it help, or would it just generate new problems?

Because I know that leaving my perspective down in the trenches of nitty gritty daily detail, where the bullets fly past my ears and the muddy bloody walls appear to be closing in, turns me into a very angry, overwhelmed individual that I don’t want to be. Down there, I feel like my only recourse is to explode out of the trench, gun blazing. That’s no way to live, and no way to parent.

Inclusiveness

I truly believe that the goal of homogenizing the world to follow one particular path (I am thinking specifically of religions that require everyone to conform to their beliefs and values) is, to over-simplify, a bad idea. Not only wasteful of the amazing and wonderful diversity that exists in the world (and I think one of our goals could be to be aware and appreciative of it all!) but also downright harmful in most cases.

from “Prayers for a Thousand Years”

You, the one
From whom on different paths
All of us have come,

To whom on different paths
All of us are going.
Make strong in our hearts what unites us;

Build bridges across all that divides us;
United make us rejoice in our diversity.

At one in our witness to your peace,
A rainbow of your glory.
Amen.

–Br. David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B.
Mount Saviour Monastery, New York

Can we each walk our path through this world and still hold hands?

Can I listen to Spirit with my own ears and not feel ridiculed that the symphony I hear is to a different beat than the one you experience?

Can I bring something new to the table, something that you don’t necessarily have to taste if you don’t want to, but we can share a meal and some conversation nevertheless?

Saved

I was saved the other day.

I’d been thinking about how much I’d like to begin afresh, to start over with some aspects of my life, to wake up one day and not be the same angry, neurotic basketcase I normally am (on the inside, at least.) I was thinking about how it might feel to be “saved” in the way you always hear about, “reborn” to a life in Christ. What sort of energy would that give a person toward being a better, more useful human? I thought about how much I’d love to have that kind of renewed spirit.

In the 13 months that we’ve lived in our new home, we haven’t once had anyone come to our door spreading the Good Word. Well that very evening, after I had the roundabout wish to be saved, a preacher from a local Baptist church came to my house.

In previous encounters in past residences, I have politely but firmly sent them on their way. But he was a much older man and it was hot outside, so I offered him a glass of ice water. We’d just gotten our new porch furniture, so I was able to offer him a seat outside and sit with him for a moment.

He gave me his schpiel and didn’t say anything that would have made me stop listening, such as talk of the devil or hell. I do not believe in them and I will not allow someone to harangue me on the subject, unless I’m having a philosophical conversation with a trusted friend.

His sales talk led him to ask me if I’d like to pray with him to be saved (I am paraphrasing everything he said, because I’m not familiar enough with the Evangelical lingo to parrot it exactly.) For a second I flashed on the story of the man trapped on the roof of his house in a flood. He prayed to God to be saved. A man rowing a boat came by and told him to hop in, but the man refused, saying God would save him. A helicopter flew by and threw down a rope, but the man refused, saying God would save him. A while later he died in the flood. When he saw God, he sadly asked why God didn’t save him. God said, “I sent a boat and a helicopter, what else did you want?”

I wasn’t going to send away this rescue mission, having just hours ago requested it.

So I said I’d like to say the prayer with him. He asked me to repeat the words after him and to believe them as I say them. I remember answering, “If I believe them, I’ll repeat them.” I wasn’t going to say anything I didn’t actually believe.

The prayer was about accepting and trusting Jesus, following him, stating that he died for our redemption, that sort of thing (again, I’m paraphrasing). I really did believe everything he said.

Then we exchanged some further niceties, he said he’d see me in heaven, and he left.

Afterwards I was very aware of how I was feeling, and what might have been different. He had talked about how now I was saved and forgiven of all my sins, past, present and future. I’ve always rejected this idea, because it seems like a carte blanche to engage in all kinds of less-than-holy behaviors, and it also seems to eliminate accountability for future errors.

But I felt a bit lighter, and it occurred to me how much Catholic guilt I’d been living with my whole life, and that this might be an experiment in letting go of all that. I’d operated my entire existence under the assumption that I was a horrible sinner who had probably committed some awful sin when I wasn’t paying attention and if I got hit by a bus, I’d see that my tally sheet was woefully in the red.

According to this man, I was now saved no matter what. You can’t earn heaven, he’d said, it’s a gift, and all you have to do is accept it.

How would my life look and feel different if, instead of feeling this constant, nagging guilt, I had a sense of lightness and joy? If I had a sure sense that Jesus really did save us all with His selfless life and sacrifice?

In the days since I was saved, I have mostly forgotten to remember that I am saved and to live accordingly. Old habits die hard. I’d love to live in joy, even if I feel pain. I’d love to always come from a place of love, even in the face of challenges. I’d love to trust completely in SOMETHING, anything, even the ground under my feet.

Have you ever been saved? How did it change your life?

Starting a Religion, Part The Third

(I can’t let it go, can I? I blame the recent controversy surrounding Amendment One to the NC Constitution and the fact that I’m reading “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer.)

Here’s a thought. If we start a new religion and want to give the leaders/moderators/facilitators a title, instead of “minister” or “reverend” or “pastor,” what if we call them “agent.”

I know, spies, insurance, IRS, KGB, all kinds of craziness.

But just hear me out while I explore the definitions and what they might imply.

(I’m perfectly willing to be talked out of it, but you have to actually do the talking to make that happen!)

The definition of “agent” according to Websters is

“1 a: something that produces or is capable of producing an effect.” Thus our agents are active participants in things, getting down on their hands and knees to do the dirty work, jumping out of their seats to come to the assistance of someone, never resting on their laurels (although everyone is entitled to a break now and again!)

“1 b: a chemically, physically or biologically active principle.” So our agents have a link to reality, to the physical earth.

“2: one that acts or exerts power.” Again, active participation.

“3: a person responsible for his acts.” Put a star next to this one! No matter what one of our agents does, they will have to accept personal responsibility for their choices. There’s no pope to point to and say, “He made me do it!”

“4: MEANS, INSTRUMENT” I think these synonyms imply that the agent is channeling another power, is acting as a conduit for another purpose, although, as stated above, they are still held accountable for their participation.

“5: one who acts for or in the place of another by authority from him, as, a: a representative, emissary or official of a government, b: one engaged in undercover activities.” I think this would clearly represent that we as agents would be assuming (hoping?) that God/Tao/Oneness has sanctioned our intent to help, heal, console, teach, inspire, or whatever loving activity we had decided to engage in.

If you think of agents, whether insurance, advertisement, government or spy, they are a go-between, they are supposed to be serving two parties to get them both what they need (okay, well not the spy, that’s pretty one sided, but the other ones…) I feel like if a person claimed to be a spiritual leader, they would be serving as a go-between for God/Tao/Oneness as well as the individual who is suffering from the illusion of separateness.

And the goal would not be for the individual to become dependent on the go-between, but for the agent to restore agency to that individual. To help them take power over their own lives, to get them to a place where they can move forward by making their own choices, with the love and support of a community.

I guess I’m thinking the religion will be that community. The agents will be the facilitators, the servants of both the Oneness and the people, to bring both together in harmony, humility and compassion.

Please point out where I’m seriously trippin’, because a lot of this starts to make real sense to me.