it’s okay not to know

The article Betting on A Generous God, by Peter W. Marty in the latest issue of Christian Century has so many lines I love, I decided it was worth a blog post. He perfectly captures my hesitation to join churches. It’s also a review of the book Love Wins by Rob Bell, which looks like something I must read.

From Marty:

When Christian people convert their spiritual confidence into theological certainty and then apply that certainty to their account of God, faith becomes ideological. Humility all but vanishes.

The truth of this is striking to me mostly because last Sunday my pastor did just the opposite. His sermon was about Jesus’s statement in John 14:1-14 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” These words have been used by many to exclude those from the kingdom of heave who do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. A phrase and practice that makes my blood boil – that’s for another post!

But he stood up in front of us and said, “I don’t know.” I don’t know if this is how it really happened. He couldn’t say if that’s what Jesus really said or if it was written to speak to an audience over 2,000 years old. When was the last time you heard a pastor say they didn’t know something about a bible passage? For me, I think it had been never. It was so refreshing, because his admission in no way detracted from the message, and it made it okay for me not to know, for all of us to have unanswered questions.

More from Marty:

Have you ever noticed how love takes a backseat when self-righteousness is behind the wheel?

When the focus is on absolute certainty in knowing the mind of God, the journey of faith quickly becomes impoverished. All that is incomprehensible and all the unanswerable questions have to be ignored or shortchanged. The wonder and glories of mystery get shelved. God begins to be more domesticated than our favorite pet.

Seriously, I love this stuff.

i finally get Easter (mostly)

Being a Christian who does not take the words of the Bible literally, I always struggle with both Christmas and Easter. These two very holy celebrations center around specific events in the life of Jesus. Events that, because I don’t believe they actually happened, I have a hard time celebrating. I need to know how these sacred stories apply to me/us today. I’ve rarely had a convincing answer. Then, last Sunday, listening to the Palm Sunday sermon at my church, I grasped a very real understanding of what the Easter story can mean.

Well, the pre-Easter story anyway. Our minister was talking about the trial of Jesus, Pilot’s asking the crowd which prisoner to free, the crowd fervently insisting on Jesus’ crucifixion and Pilot declaring his hands washed of Jesus blood. it’s a tense, sad scene. With our benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to be appalled at the crowd’s hatred and callousness, at Pilot’s acceptances of the seemingly irrational decision to set the hardened criminal free and to execute Jesus. We are angry.

But then we have to ask ourselves, would we have acted any differently than that crowd or that judge? Oh, we’d like to think so. But if we had really been a Roman politician or a Jewish citizen of Jesus’ time, what makes us so sure that we would have gone against all we knew for the sake of one man. Would we have had the courage to be one of twelve devoted followers of a stranger with a radical message? To stand against law and loved one to say ‘set this man free?’ We’ll never really know.

The real question for us becomes, do we have that courage today? Can we stand up for the weak, the disadvantaged, the wrongly accused in the face of mass unpopularity? Do we have the courage to do something even if it’s not what everyone else is doing, or runs contrary to what we thought we knew?

This is what I take away from the Easter story – a reminder to stand up for what is right, not what is popular. To stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. To picture myself in the crowd condemning Jesus and accept that that would have been me and I now have the power and passion to change that.

If you believe that Jesus died for our sins, then you must know that it was exactly those people who sent him to his death, their sins, that he was dying for. He didn’t look into a crystal ball and see “us” in the future that he would sacrifice himself for. It was for those sinners right in front of him. We are all among that crowd. We are not above them. And we will continue to condemn Jesus to death until we can truly move out of the crowd and examine ourselves, our motives, and defend the undefended.

these people are really kidding themselves

Wow, a dangerous excuse for teaching the bible in public school. The only way this is even slightly okay is if other religious texts are taught in the same class for their “literary and historic qualities”. Can’t help but wonder how well those students who disagree with the literature of the bible will do in this class??

Texas Board of Education … be very afraid

YouTube video of an opening prayer at the Texas Board of Education meeting.

Article from the Texas Freedom Network.

misplaced

I’ve started writing this post at least a dozen times. The daily dose of information makes me dizzy. Now, I think my head will explode if I don’t get it out.

There are so many BIG issues surrounding both the planned Islamic Center in New York and the “suspended” Quran burning in Florida that it can seem overwhelming. One word I find myself using over and over again is misplaced.

Burning the Quran to send a message to respect our constitution is not only misplaced, it’s stupid. The potential danger to American troops is of course a concern, but it’s not the only concern we should have. We need to be totally outraged by the very suggestion of this act of aggression. It does NOT send the message that we “accept you as long as you respect our constitution.” It will NOT stop terrorists from doing anything they don’t already want to do. It will NOT make Muslim Americans feel that this is a welcoming place to practice their religion. It is completely disrespectful and goes against what we as Americans stand for. I could go on and on, but we’ve all heard these arguments. If only we could just ignore this guy and move on.

Some think the American government should move in and forcibly take control of the situation. Arrest Mr. Jones, do whatever it takes to stop him, because he’s a “threat to national security.” He’s a threat because we’ve spent so much time drawing attention to him. But he still has rights. We can’t squash people’s rights every time we are afraid or think something is too “radical.” Whose definition of what’s radical and dangerous are we going to use? This is a VERY slippery slope. It won’t be long before we or someone we know and love are on the losing side of that argument.

Opposition to the Islamic Center near ground zero is gravely misplaced. Blaming all of Islam on the acts of terrorist extremists is like judging all Christians on any of the completely insane things people have done in the name of Christianity. Remember David Koresh? I wouldn’t want people to assume that he represented Christianity’s main core.

Newt Gingrinch has made some comments about the Islamic Center are so off base they don’t even warrant a response. Moving on.

Donald Trump’s offer to buy the property from the Islamic group so they can move it at least 5 blocks away, totally misplaced as well. What’s the real difference between 3 blocks? Doing anything other than building that center right where it’s planned only teaches us that when we overreact to misplaced fears, it will be rewarded. It teaches us that we CAN deny other Americas their rights if we raise enough hell. Back to the slippery slope; it WILL bite us in the ass. America, we’ve been here done this, have the T-shirt too many times. Surely we don’t have to learn this lesson again?

So where do we put it? Where do we put all that misplaced fear, anger, blame? We want so desperately to find a place to set it down that we’re making some potentially big mistakes. We are letting that fear control us. We are forgetting who we are, what our nation stands for. But we can’t put it down just yet. Apparently we still have some things to learn from it. When we finally do feel we can let go of it, I bet we won’t even remember where we left it.

Anne Rice vs. Christianity

When I first heard the news clip about Anne Rice “quitting Christianity”, I thought what most people probably thought – ah, she’s gone back to atheism. That would have been an interesting story considering her public recommitment to Catholicism and her books on the subject of Christ. Turns out it’s not that interesting, as a matter of fact it smacks of a media ploy.

Her much publicized quote again:

“In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control.

“In the name of… Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

And now she feels better about herself. Congratulations. Really, what’s so new about this? People get fed up with Christianity and/or Christians every day because of some non-compassionate, backward stance. And it’s no different for Jews or Muslims. I’m willing to bet everyone’s got a beef with some aspect(s) of their religion.

The real problem is that this is just a cowardly response to the hard issues. Is it right to turn your back on something you supposedly care about because of disagreements? What about sticking it out, making it what you want it to be? Be the example you don’t see. I would have been much more impressed with Anne had she said that those positions were not Christian at all. That, indeed, she would continue to embrace Christianity while fighting for the acceptance of all those things.

By quitting, she’s saying: Yes, that [anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti....] IS what Christianity is about.

Thank goodness for the Muslims after the 9/11 bombings that stood up and said: this act does NOT represent my religion, it is NOT what we stand for and I will continue to embrace my God.

So, her statement becomes either a media play with no real substance, or an easy way out of dealing with what makes her uncomfortable with her chosen religion.

Get a backbone Anne.

what’s up catholics?

When will those outside the womb be considered as precious as those inside?

Nun Excommunicated For Allowing Abortion

compassion fail

It was one of those situations ripe with an opportunity to be compassionate. And I didn’t even bite. I’m driving home from the grocery store, leisurely mind you since I had NO ONE in the car with me for the first time in forever and I wanted to savor every second! One block from home neighborhood kids are riding their trikes in the street. I slow down as they clear off to the side. Where upon Dad feels the need to stand in the middle of the street with his hands out as the self appointed traffic cop to ensure that I stop completely. Then as I proceed past his house and the next few houses before mine he motions that I should slow down.

I was completely enraged by this man’s act. And at first I wasn’t sure why. But I’ve concluded that likely it’s because he wrongly assumed ineptitude on my part. As a mom myself I was driving more than reasonably around the kids, and I didn’t need Dad out there directing me, when he should be teaching his kids how to stay out of the street.

But whatever, it doesn’t even matter why it upset me. It did and I let it get to me so much that I really had and still have less than pure thoughts about what I would say to this man should I meet him face to face.

What I didn’t do was take time to recognize any sense of what he may have been feeling. Ok, we all want to protect our kids, that’s a given. Maybe he’d had a bad experience with a not-so-careful driver and one of his children. Maybe he’s trying to save the planet by not driving and is therefore leery of all cars. All admirable reasons to stand in the middle of the street and force me to stop…even if I disagree with his actions. Then again, maybe he’s just a frustrated control freak – point is, it doesn’t matter why he did what he did. What mattered was that I let him control my anger, which blocked me from even considering a compassionate response.

Compassion isn’t just about feeling for those who have less or need your help. To truly be compassionate I would have been able to put myself in the shoes of a man that I had the urge to get out of my car and punch. To rise above my own knee jerk reactions and consider other options. Obviously not there yet!

passion

Yesterday the mailman delivered the latest issue of my business school’s monthly magazine. I never read it. But today I glanced through it and realized why I never read it. It’s littered with overachievers. This makes one stay at home mom from the same school have a twinge of loser-not-using-expensive-business-degree-ness. Just a twinge mind you.

One common theme that all the profiled entrepreneurs, CEOs, VPs talk about is passion. They have it in boatloads apparently. And it’s the one thing I’m looking for. My lack of passion for marketing is one main reason I left my job. So is it possible that I’ve reached 40 and haven’t discovered my life’s passion, or worse, that I just don’t have one?? Or maybe I’m just too fickle and my passion changes constantly. I’m really good and getting completely sucked into something and then abandoning it for years at a time. But, as I’ve realized lately, better to zealously devour something for a short time than to suckle at the teet of mediocracy for a l o n g time.

So I’m on a search for my passion, or passion de jour at least. Right now I’m limited to stuff I can do at home with a small child.

1. Learn to cook – liking it more and more
2. Garden – really enjoying this!
3. Learn Spanish – Rosetta Stone rocks!
4. Write more – I can never get enough
5. Learn to sew – this is still in “to do” mode, but hope to break out the sewing machine before summer hits

Not a bad list really – all stuff I thought I hated or couldn’t do, and now I know otherwise. Thing is, I know I could be a corporate VP of Marketing and I know I would be miserable. I was miserable as a director of marketing, one rung one the ladder can’t make that much of a difference.

So here’s to finding your one big passion or lots of little passions, and recycling the B-school mag before reading it!

the compassion of gardening

I’ve always claimed to be a lousy gardner. No green thumb, not even a slightly brown thumb. Turns out that it’s not that I don’t like gardening, it’s that I’ve never had the time to really dedicate to it. While on maternity leave I’ve had that time and it’s been amazingly rewarding. I’ve planted azaleas, petunias, herbs, you name it!

Petunias

I’m shocked by how much I’m enjoying this. Now it’s early going so we’ll see how it all ends up but as of right now I’m hooked. Gardening really requires a slowing of the senses. Every little blossom sparks excitement, each new green leaf is cause for celebration. Gardening has become a great way for me to stretch my compassion muscle. If I can care this much for a plant certainly I can manage more for my fellow human beings. That’s the hope anyway.

Sometimes we find it easier to feel compassion for those things that can’t talk back. Plants, pets, it always amazes me what people will do for a dog that they won’t for a human. Not that I don’t care about dogs as much as the next person but seriously!

Speaking of compassion, read this great piece from the Bloggess.

40

I’m officially depressed about turning 40. It just snuck up on me. I’ve never been one to worry about age or fret about birthdays, but this year is different. A large part of it is due to the fact that I’m still overweight and hormonal from having a baby – nothing will make you feel less sexy. And sexy is what you’re supposed to feel at 40 right? To usher in the new older, wiser, I-don’t-care-what-people-think you.

My other hangup is that I’m in a crossroads in my career. 40 is when I envisioned having all my shit together, great job, great family, the works. Luckily I got the great family part and frankly that’s what I’d rather have anyway. But there’s this nagging feeling that I *shouldn’t* be wondering what I want to be when I grow up at 40.

All the self pity got me thinking about compassion again. Why is it we seem to find it easier to feel compassionate towards strangers and we’re harder on those we know – specifically ourselves? If I were listening to someone else describe these same feelings, I can actually hear all the wonderful sage advice I’d have for them. But can I apply that same advice to myself? Well, only after some real yelling at my pity self to wake up and listen to my sage self!

We are always hardest on ourselves. For me, this starts a spiral of negative thinking that has to hit bottom before I can reverse the effect. But practicing self-compassion just feels wrong doesn’t it? Maybe it shouldn’t, maybe we need to try and have more self-compassion (not pity) and forgive ourselves more so that we can learn to forgive others. And if you end up losing 10 pounds and feeling sexy in the process, bonus!

Compassion vs. compassion

My new years resolution was to blog about compassion (in support of Karen Armstrong’s charter). Specifically, my daily attempt to maintain a compassionate outlook and breath a new life into living truly compassionately. I’ve found both the writing and the action more of a struggle than I’d like to admit.

The writing struggle was easy to explain, I just had a baby – good luck being productive with a 2 month old! But compassion? Well I just wasn’t feeling it… Reflecting on a day I couldn’t pick out one example. It was as though I wasn’t able to tell what was compassion and what wasn’t – which just seemed ludicrous. It was like being blind to only one thing.

Initially I chalked this up to a lack of sleep and hot showers. Two very underappreciated necessities until they disappear. I even drafted a blog post about how without these basic needs being met it was nearly impossible to see beyond one’s self. That of course is pure bullshit. People with much less manage compassion on a far grander scale than I ever will.

Now, looking back, I believe it to be a matter of not seeing the forest for the trees. When we look for Compassion (big C) it can be quite intimidating. The word takes on a life of its own. It becomes something so great we only expect to see it in the wake of a disaster such as Haiti. It’s too big to be happening to or by a very ordinary me.

I needed to change my point of view to remove the blinders. I started looking for compassion (little c). And there it was, all over the place. A “thank you” or “I’m sorry”, an acknowledgment of another you might have otherwise overlooked, giving into the bedtime story request when all you want to do is sleep. These are also acts of compassion. They are the seeds that nuture what allows us to ultimately feel and act on Compassion. Don’t overlook these small acts, search them out. I believe it’s the small c’s that will ultimately change everything.

And on that note, I’d like to thank the little one who liberates me from sleep on a regular basis :)

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