Monthly Archives: January 2009

dear god

Dear God,

Thank you.

Thank you for giving me the ability to love.

For instilling in me the courage to love again.

Thank you for helping me to remember those whom I should love more openly.

Thank you for being the constant example of how to love.

Even when I didn’t think it was what I needed,

You knew I could do it.

You trusted me, and I thank you.

I’m overjoyed reflecting in what the seeds of that love have sowed.

Thank you for never letting me forget how important it is to open my heart.

The examples are endless,

The results mean everything to me.

Thank you

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football with the angels

My son found his 2nd grade composition book in his room last night and brought it to me to read. I love the stuff that kids write about. Here are my 2 favorite (original misspellings included!):

Once I dreamed the world was a ball and god played kickball with the angeles. And the world was a football to and god played in the super ball and won, we got so diseye [dizzy] we almost died excpet he said sorry. The End.

You know what, for all we know, this is actually what happens. Hey, at least he said “sorry”!

And of course, you gotta love when they write about mom!

Dear Mom,
Thankyou for being so nice. I think you’re the best because you let me do lots of fun things and you and me both have fun whenever and wherever we go even sence we havent seen each other in two full days or three. I hope you will never cange your very nice ways and keep up the nice love and work you are doing for me. I love you.

For a letter like that, God can make me as dizzy as he wants.

sunnies and shiites

A very short, and very informative article on understanding the difference between the Sunni’s and the Shiites. A MUST read for anyone not educated on the subject – like myself 5 minutes ago.

quaker wisdom

I just finished A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith (it’s on the book list). Truly amazing book. If you just want a reminder on how to be a positive influence in the world, read this. It’s not about God, or the bible, or doctrine, it’s about realizing we are here to make a difference through love, which is the simplest form of Jesus’ message that I can imagine. Simple, in the Quaker way. I loved it.

abundance of caution

Ok, this I love, from the Houston Chronicle:

Chief Justice John Roberts has administered the presidential oath of office to Barack Obama for a second time, just to be on the safe side.

The unusual step came after Roberts flubbed the oath a bit on Tuesday, causing Obama to repeat the wording differently than as prescribed in the Constitution.

“We decided it was so much fun …,” Obama joked while sitting on a couch in the Map Room. Obama stood and walked over to make small talk with pool reporters as Roberts donned his black robe.

“Are you ready to take the oath?” Roberts asked.

“I am, and we’re going to do it very slowly,” Obama replied.

After a flawless recitation that included no Bible and took 25 seconds, Roberts smiled and said, “Congratulations, again.”

Obama said, “Thank you, sir,” and then added: “All right. The bad news for the (reporters) is there’s 12 more balls.”…

White House counsel Greg Craig said Obama took the oath from Roberts again out of an “abundance of caution.”

Don’t you wish that God had done that – just that extra bit of clarification to make sure we really got it? He had the chance. He comes down with the whole Jesus thing, then 600 years later he’s talking to Muhammad, why not take that opportunity to clarify things? You’d think he’d treat his only son with an “abundance of caution”. Think of wars we would have avoided, the conflicts erased! C’est la vie…let the debates draaaaaag on…

non-believers

Obama used the term “non-believers” in his inauguration speech to be inclusive of those who don’t believe in a God. Ok, so why not just call them atheists? I’m not a fan of using negative speech, the “non” the “anti” stuff. Is the term “non-believer” offensive to any atheists out there? I admit I wouldn’t like it if that descriptor was used for me. I’m sure atheists believe in a great many things…just not God. But then, how else would it be phrased? Are there non-believers that fall outside the atheist category??

Just curious.

election reflection, and quaker oats

I started this post a few days after Obama’s election and never posted it. I’m finishing it now because I’m sitting at my friend’s house for a Quaker Oatmeal Obama Inauguration blog party (really!) and it just seemed appropriate. This is an awesome day to spend with fellow bloggers and fellow Americans who are as excited as I am.

Oh and just an aside, to those conservatives out there who feel the need to remind liberals that Obama isn’t God and won’t fix everything…no duh! The great thing about equality is that now even Barack Obama can be “The Man”. Isn’t it great!?
So here goes.

Emotion #1) Elation

Elated that a country I had come to almost pity over the last 12 year (yes, I extend that pity into the Clinton years thanks to his impeachment and highly questionable personal choices that taint the office) had the courage to elect a black man, a progressive thinker, and someone intelligent (!) for president. A little disappointed that it came at the exact same time as the first really viable female candidate, but there you have it. The enormity of the moment Barack gave his acceptance speech was profound. I was completely struck watching this black family walk on stage and thinking “this is my first family”!? I soaked up the scenes from around the world of others cheering on the same courage I recognized in my fellow Americans – it was a truly awesome moment.

Emotion #2) Shame

When Obama was finally announced as the winner, the shots in the park in Chicago of African Americans crying and cheering brought something back to me that I had thought about only fleetingly listening to a radio program interviewing black voters. I had vastly underestimated how important it is to have examples of “someone like you” in positions of power to make one believe it is possible. That even though blacks have had the right to vote for over a century (at least black men) there has still been a sense of disenfranchisement, a sense that their vote really didn’t count. They were always casting the vote for an outsider, for someone who was going someplace they could never be. I didn’t realize that fully until election night, and I’m ashamed it took me so long to figure it out.

Emotion #3) Pride

So post-election we’re all very excited. The kids are excited mostly because we are but that’s where their election knowledge ends. My son, on the way home from school one day asks me why this election is “historic”; presumably he’s heard this in school. Well, I say it’s historic because this is the first black president that’s ever been elected to the US. His response, “Why does that matter, black or white, it shouldn’t make a difference.”

I was floored; his response was so clearly right. And he was telling me this like I was the one making it a big deal! It doesn’t matter, but I didn’t realize that it was so obvious to my son, maybe all kids his age…maybe they’re just smarter! I’m sure it’s just my amazing parenting abilities…right 😉 but seriously, I was proud. There was nothing else I could say in way of explanation to him. Anything else would sound like I was trying to make it a big deal – when he already knew the truth.

and the fellow bloggers are….

Katherine Center

Laura Mayes of Blog con Queso and Kirtsy

Jenny of Good Mom/Bad Mom and The Bloggess

Katie of Happy Katie

Kara of What Would Jane Austen Do?

thinly sliced religion

I’ve always been interested in the protestant reformation and the split from the “Church” back in the day. Many of Martin Luther’s objections were more than reasonable – and the split in the church seems normal through the lens of history. But, I can’t help but wonder a) what our Christian religious landscape would be like if it hadn’t split, and b) where it will end? Churches continue to splinter off over comparatively small disagreements. And wasn’t at least one of Jesus’ messages about coming together and putting differences aside? Instead we’re slicing and dicing interpretations of scripture to thinly that eventually we’ll each just form our own individual church!

Several recent blog posts reminded me of this. One from the Evangelical Outpost – Church Branding is the title of the post. The central theme is that Americans are switching churches with more regularity and don’t seem to be loyal to any one brand of their religion. Without getting into whether this is good or bad – because I don’t think that’s even the point. The bigger question is why are more and more people “jumping ship”?

Couple this news with the recent article “Most US Christians define own theology”. To sum it up with one quote,

“A sizable majority of the country’s faithful no longer hew closely to orthodox teachings, and look more to themselves than to churches or denominations to define their religious convictions, according to two recent surveys.”

To me it’s clear that both these phenomena exist at least in part because, within the Christian faith particularly, we have a history of walking away when we disagree with each other. There’s no sticking around to work out differences. Denominations split and splinter continually over differences in interpretations of the Bible, and disagreements in Doctrine. Including the most recent divorce of the Episcopal Church from itself. Is it any wonder that individuals do the same thing? Or pick and choose what pieces are meaningful to them and reject the rest. The Christian faith has been the guiding light for this behavior.

And why? Because there’s far too much focus on WHAT we believe and not enough on how that belief should impel us to act. So, the more specific churches get on that What, it’s inevitable that people will look to other ships, searching for that ONE that will meet their needs and match their belief system. News flash, it will never happen! No church will be completely sympatico with any one person’s beliefs. So we continue to break off. And what then, once a church breaks away, is it more pure, more true to the “real” teachings of Jesus than what it left behind? If so, we’re creating a dangerous Christian culture of elitism. Each group thinking they are better than the rest because of what they believe. When in reality they might all be equally appalling in how they actually behave on the planet!

Recently I’ve been familiarizing myself with the Buddhist and the Quaker religion – for those of you who’ve followed, I’ve attending the local Quaker Meeting on and off over the past several years. What I absolutely love about these two traditions is the almost exclusive focus on HOW to act with an indifference to one’s personal interpretation of doctrine. In the case of Buddhism, there is no doctrine really. It’s not about a God at all; it’s about how you personally can achieve true happiness (enlightenment) in the world. Quaker’s are more closely tied to the Christian faith but there is no dictate of what one should or should not believe. It’s a very personal experience with God with true understanding only be achieved as a group learns together.

A quote from A Quaker Book of Wisdom, by Robert Lawrence Smith,

“The premise of Quaker Meeting is that no one person sees the entire truth. The group search after truth is more comprehensive and more exacting than the search of one individual. At Meetings for Worship, the shared silence creates receptivity to the continuing revelation of the truth. People who are moved to vocal ministry offer small insights that contribute to each person’s understanding.”

Many foundational beliefs of both the Quakers and Buddhists, living simply, adherence to truth, and non-violence are not at all different from Christian teachings. Jesus was one of the strongest proponents of these concepts. But in learning about, and being part of the Quaker tradition for a short time, the difference is, these are not just things to say we believe in, they are a way of life.

How or can Christianity regain the focus on the wonderful acts of Christ without getting bogged down in the thin deli slices of scripture?

simply tolerate

On a recent This I Believe essay on NPR, the speaker, Jim Haynes, talked about his weekly Sunday dinner party. Anyone can sign up to attend until space is gone, typically 50-60 people. He hosts total strangers, travelers, students, etc. who join him for dinner. First, what a great concept; but something he said in the course of the program really caught my attention.

I have long believed that it is unnecessary to understand others, individuals or nationalities; one must, at the very least, simply tolerate others. Tolerance can lead to respect and, finally, to love. No one can ever really understand anyone else, but you can love them or at least accept them.

What strikes me about this statement is that it seems to go against what one would normally try to do. We are always trying to “understand” someone. I’m constantly saying, “I just don’t get [fill in person’s name].” Mr. Haynes gave me a great wakeup call. Understanding should not be the goal. As a matter of fact, there are very few people in our lives we will truly and deeply understand. Even one’s spouse or dearest friend will do or say things you just don’t get. When I think about it, I don’t want to be understood; it implies predicability.

The next very cool thing about this statement is that the phrase he uses to “simply tolerate others”, at first sounds negative. Like we’re just gritting our teeth until they are gone or something. And maybe that’s how it starts if you really don’t “understand” someone. But the point is that the more you tolerate, the more you will accept and hopefully eventually respect as well. Tolerance is an overused word in today’s society. It takes on a watered down meaning. We forget what it really means to tolerate towards a goal of accepting.

Thank you the wake up call. And if I’m ever in Paris on a Sunday, I will definitely make a reservation to dine!

a good start

I’m definitely at an impasse, a fork in the road, or maybe just a dead-end. Time to switch gears. When in doubt I go back to my vision – I do find them so enlightening! So back to the cave. I’m standing in front of the empty black mouth of the cave wondering, do I go in after the screaming? No, time to move past that for sure. I didn’t like the violent end really, not fitting for a really positive part of the journey. But the journey’s not done of course, it never really is. So what is it I’m leaving behind in the cave?

Me. I need to be more outer focused. Looking around from the cave, it’s very flat, desert like with a dirt path leading away from the cave. Makes me wonder how I got here in the first place. But nothing to do now but walk back. On the dirt road. To wherever it goes.

I think I’ll be on it for some time, but you know, at least I’m at the top of that staircase! That I know for sure. Maybe that’s what I left in the cave, the darkness of the staircase, the uncertainty of who I was then, the fear of reaching the top or of not being able to reach the top.

As I walk down the dirt path, I breathe deeply and smile. Taking in nothing and everything. It’s calm and quiet. It’s a good start to….something. Something very positive.

into the dark cave

I had a vision last night of what my spiritual journey is feeling like. It’s not been good. As I reflected on my negative feelings about this search a flash of being dragged by my feet screaming into a dark cave by a big blob came to mind. I could see it happening, but it didn’t scare me, I just found the screaming annoying. Then the blob dragged me out of sight and the other me, the watcher, was left in silence, relieved that it was gone.

I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m finding my search, my journey annoying? distracting? something I’d be better off without? Maybe, I’m just not trying hard enough to just the opposite – too hard? Should I take it as a sign that I’m meant to be an atheist and give up the search?

I know one thing, that big black blob dragging me into the cave, that was me too. So where was God in all this drama? Where is he in my search? Is it to me focused to go anywhere? Maybe I should drag the “me” out of my search and I’d have more luck. Or at least more peace and quiet.

more and less

I’ve been reading lots of new years resolutions on blogs since Jan 1. I’m a big believer in writing down what you want to achieve as a way to help visualize and move toward your goals. As I look through past years resolutions I’ve been astounded how many have come to fruition, without even consciously thinking about them. So, in the spirit of expressing my goals on “paper”, here’s my list of what I will do more of and much less of in 2009 and beyond as well as a few actual accomplishments…

More
1. Write more
2. Smile more
3. Exercise more
4. Go to more Quaker meetings
5. Reflect on God more

Less
1. Smoke less (a LOT less)
2. Eat less carbs (I know it should be “fewer”, sacrificing grammar for consistency)
3. Yell less aka control frustration better
4. Slouch less

Accomplishments
1. Get my children’s book published
2. Find the perfect house for my family
3. Get certified as a genealogist

Interesting that there’s nothing about my job on this list – it’s such a small part of my emotional life…yet such a big part of my actual time. So, one more resolution is needed.
4. Find a way to earn a living doing something that is emotionally satisfying

I also want to learn Spanish but that may have to be a wait-and-see resolution. I’ll be a bit busy 😉

Happy ’09!