Category Archives: Reflection

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.

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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!

just purging this from my brain has made me feel much better

On a friend’s recommendation I’m reading the Quaker book Let your Life Speak, by parker J. Palmer – and apparently mine has been bound and gagged in a corner for years – professionally speaking that is.

Now, unlike the author I was probably closest to my true vocation in high school than I am now as a marketing manager for corporate America. I desperate wanted to be a private detective. This was shocking to my mother – as it would be to any sane parent. But my future loves of history and genealogy follow the same lines of looking for clues to find answers.

…So how did I end up here, on the 11th floor of an office building creating powerpoint presentations and web pages? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I work for a good company, they pay me well, I enjoy my peers, and many would probably love to be doing exactly this!

Well, for starters I went to business school, which for the record I LOVED! It challenged me to do and study things that I never thought I could be successful at. So that was all good. And then I got a job and a promotion, and then a better paying job, and so on..

But job after job (12 years later) I’m less and less satisfied even though I’m more confident, smarter, making more money, and much better at what I do than ever before. I realize that there’s a huge gap missing for me that this type of vocation – that occupies 8 hours of my waking day – doesn’t and never can fill. This isn’t just a “I’d-like-to-read-more” gap, this is the soul punching gap that makes you think “what the F am I doing here??”

The one gap it is filling and the one that can’t be underestimated is $$$. And for many years that was enough. When I was a single mom I could tolerate the daily grind better; I had no choice so I did what I needed to do. Scary thing, choices are.

I’m married now, and for the first time in my life I am faced with the reality that I could quit and do whatever it is I really want to do. Great Right?!

Several of my personal psychoses are standing in the way:

1. Guilt (that’s always a top choice) – guilt over the fact that my not having this job will mean taking my kids out of private school. My son’s school I especially love and it’s been so good for him. We aren’t zoned to great elementary schools. Am I doing them a disservice for a selfish reason?

2. More guilt – I just got married and we bought a new house, expenses are going up not down. My husband has changed his life style a lot to be with me, is it fair to make him the sole bread winner? Massively changing our lifestyle after only a few months of marriage?

3. I don’t have any clue what else I would do! Well, not NO clue, but not enough of a clue that I could justify it by saying “I’ve always wanted to do this!” – Whatever this is. I’m not exactly following a dream, I’d be sort of test driving dreams.

4. Ego – could I go from corporate, six figures to nobody overnight? I would be much harder than I think.

5. Stupidity – people are killing for jobs in this economy and I’m talking about giving one up? Am I crazy?? Should I just be stuffing cash in a mattress as fast as possible until the world implodes?!

Ok, I don’t really think the world will implode. I’m quite an optimist normally. But, admittedly, impatient. But how do I tell the difference between just being impatient for my attitude/job to improve vs. denying myself the opportunity to be truly happy and contributing – in whatever vocation that may be??

Time is the biggest tease in my life. I have a lot of great ideas that I’d like to pursue (at least I think they’re great), but with what time? Between work and kids and possibly more kids I think I may be able to do something I want in the year 2030! I’m drowning in not-for-me-ness…so I tie the gag on my life a little harder and go back to work so that everything will continue to work.

P.S. Writing this is the first time I’ve smiled all day, including the chocolate milk shake I got for lunch.

Any advice is good advice!

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!

a christmas reflection

I’m reflecting on Christmas this Christmas morning and have read a blog post from Slate that does a great job articulating much of why I like the secularization of Christmas. I’m by no means a non-believer, but I spent a very non-God Christmas (no church mainly) and loved it. I loved letting go of the guilt (at least for a while) of not doing it right, and focusing on my family, good friends and just reveling in as much happiness as I could.

Merry Christmas everyone, whatever that may mean to you!

the happiness challenge

A friendly challenge to blog about happiness has been opened, because apparently it’s contagious and, as I consider myself a very happy person, I’d like to spread the wealth. Since the topic of this blog is religion I’ve decided to write about something religious or spiritual that makes me very happy. Hmm, it is at this point that I realize I don’t typically associate my writing about religion with happiness – not that it makes me unhappy, as a matter of fact it’s quite fulfilling, it just doesn’t bring that big smile to my face :). So time to change that!

Top 9 things about religion/spirituality that make me happy (10 just seemed too predictable 🙂

1. My children – because the miracle of birth will always be a miracle. It never ceases to amaze me how little doctors actually know about why things happen in pregnancy, why people can’t or can have children. All I can do is thank God for allowing me to raise these two precious souls.

2. The concept of God – I would be nowhere without this, and I certainly wouldn’t have a blog ;). But the belief in a greater being/spirit/whatever does make me very happy.

3. The Christmas season – see previous post, conflicted but VERY happy. We get our tree today as a matter of fact, yea!

4. The cross – I collect crosses and there is something very joyful to me about the symbol, despite all that I can’t decipher about my personal feelings on the subject of Jesus and the crucifixion, the symbol itself does make me happy…and maybe that’s enough.

5. Karen Armstrong – I must say, I get giddy excited when I hear she has a new book out or is speaking somewhere. The religious discussions that she inspires, and her charter for compassion are totally joy inducing.

6. The Quakers – I LOVED attending the Quaker meetings and felt happier than I ever had “going to church” in the traditional sense.

7. Graveyards – this may seem like an odd one, but ask those who know me, I’m gaga over graveyards. The history, the peace, the sense of seeing into the past, and for the spiritual unknowns of death.

8. Churches – much like the crosses, I’m drawn to churches in a way I can’t really explain. Or I should say houses of worship in general, not just Christian churches.

9. The journey – my journey with faith, the seeking itself, is so rewarding to me. It can present extreme moments of happiness and the opposite – which we won’t mention in a post about happiness. I’m very thankful and happy for my personal quest, and for anyone else seeking.

purging

I was 15 years old, I think.

Sitting on the edge of the hotel room bed, stiff as a board. Afraid to move almost.

My brother was watching TV or listening to music or something that I was far to consumed with fear to notice.

I wonder if he sensed the tension?

Amazingly I’m not even sure what the conversation was I’d had with my father, or if I’d even had it yet. But I must have because they were arguing about it, about me.

My best recollection is that I’d decided not to come back to visit them the next summer – my fear wasn’t about his reaction or anticipated anger that his daughter didn’t want to see him. On the contrary, anger would have proved he cared.

It was her, my step-mother’s reaction that I most feared. And fear is the right word. I sat there listening to them trying (maybe not very hard) to conceal their argument in the bathroom of the hotel room. I wanted more than anything to stand up and say “It doesn’t matter, I’m not coming. No one’s to blame, I just don’t want to.”

Sounds simple now anyway. Maybe I was afraid for him – she was always yelling at him. Maybe I didn’t want what I said to get him in more trouble.

All I know is that this moment is one that has had one of the most lasting impressions on me throughout my life. It was the first time I remember feeling that I wasn’t standing up for myself and it felt awful! Throwing up would have been a welcome relief.

How did that hotel trip end? I don’t even know. I have this habit – probably a good one – of blocking out the bad memories. Needless to say I don’t have many of my time with my dad and his wife.

But this one was different; even then as I was sitting on the bed, it was changing me. I never wanted to feel this way again. So completely left out of my own life, a total lack of control over my fear. It froze me in place and at times felt like my head would explode.

The situation may not sound too dramatic, and it probably wasn’t in reality. But for that 15 year old it was obviously the culmination of years of fear, silence, and dealing with an overbearing person. All I know is that I think back on that day with both regret that I didn’t stand up for myself in whatever small way I could have; and pride that I used it as a positive influence to change the way I let others interact with me now. I don’t know of any other memory that I have such conflicting and simultaneous feelings about.

It feels good to write about it. It is a relief, if for no other reason than it was good to get it out. I don’t think of my step-mother now as someone I fear at all. I’ve since stood up to her and even get the sense that she’s slightly intimidated by me now. But that day and those feelings are so easy to bring back up – that’s how I knew they were important. I had to understand them. That point may have made me more of who I am than any other single day in my life.

Thank You vs. Thankful

I had a particularly joy filled morning the other day. Now joy and morning are not two words that normally go together with me, but the kids were being angels and I was looking forward to my day at work. I found myself saying “thank you” to God as I drove to work. Everytime I do this I pause. Why am I telling God thank you? I don’t believe that God intervenes directly in our lives and that he made everything in my life just this way for my purposes. But it did feel right to say it; I felt that someone somewhere deserved a thanks for my blessings.

So what I’ve come to understand for me is that I’m not saying Thank You in the traditional sense – where someone has done something for me and I’m showing my gratitude. I’m merely telling God how thankful I am to have what I have in my life. Recognition perhaps that everything I am and have is ultimately due to his loving me – a much bigger thank you than “thanks for the cool job” or that the kids were so well behaved this morning. It goes back to that familiar feeling that I can never really do enough to repay God for how wonderful I feel most of the time. Even when Shit happens as it does, my overall life experience is wonderful and I am turely thankful for that.

When I have this feeling of thankfulness, the need to give back kicks in quite strongly and I find myself making more donations than usual. We tend to give when we feel we’ve received so much for no apparent reason.

leaving the staircase

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks – I’ve started my new job which I love but which has also taken up a lot of my time. It’s also taken my mind off of God for a while, which is probably a good thing. It’s tiring to think about something that heavy all the time. I’m not sure how ministers and priests to do that full time.

I had an opportunity at the last Quaker meeting to continue my reflections on the staircase. This past Sunday was very odd indeed. I closed my eyes and did my usual visualization. I was feeling quite impatient for some reason. I saw myself on the stark white stairs again with the blinding white light. I was just standing there not moving – sort of thinking what to do. And then I just sprinted up the stairs and flew open the door at the top.

It was a dark, empty room. No light, no whatever I was expecting to see by charging up there. I sat down in the room, feeling very frustrated. I became aware of another presence on the staircase – someone had been following me. Before I looked I knew who it was – Jesus.

Great. Just great. The one guy I can’t get my head around at all is following me. I was annoyed and told him so. I started ranting at him basically – telling him I didn’t know who he was, what to make of him, I just wanted to find God, etc….

He, of course, just smiled and said nothing. But he did motion that I follow him and he started walking back down the staircase. Reluctantly I followed. I didn’t really want to leave the room, like if I hung around God would be right back from the grocery store or something. But I also knew how ridiculous that was and that this Jesus representation was not leading me in the wrong direction. He knew best.

So we go to the bottom of what was really a very short staircase and he opened the door. Outside it was a sunny, beautiful day. It opened out into a sort of park with beautiful green grass and trees and birds. People were walking around. It’s where I was supposed to be. Not off by myself pursing a God that I had no idea how to find.

What the Jesus figure was showing me is what I knew to be true, that I would only find it by re-engaging in the world with people and making myself open and vulnerable to them not just to God where I perceived it to be “safe”.

When I turned back around he was gone. And so is my staircase for now.

Ironically the two people who spoke at the meeting that day (after my staircase vision) spoke of the importance of being part of a community and giving back to people in the community of not isolating yourself. I got the message loud and clear!

notes from the edge of the river – V on “spiritual reflection”

These writings were from my solo vacation to a little red caboose cabin near Bandera, Texas this past week. A long weekend of relaxing, reflection and exploration.

A quote from the Barclay Press blog:

But my life is lacking when I’m not part of a greater cause, and living only for myself or my “own spiritual growth”.

I had to laugh when I read this line. Lately that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And there is defintely a sense that there’s only so far it will take you. I feel I won’t really begin to understand God and my relationship with him until I get out there and practice what I sit around thinking about. It’s easy to forget that we experience God so much through other people, which of course means you have to be around them.

During my weekend of reflection, I took the C. S. Lewis book Weight of Glory. Amazing collection of essays. When I first read the below quote I was offended, but it doesn’t take long to realize how right he is!

The attempt to discover by introspective analysis our own spiritual condition is to me a horrible thing which reveals at best, not the secrets of God’s spirit and ours, but their transpositions in intellect, emotion, and imagination, and which at worst may be the quickest road to presumption or despair.

How true, how true. Of course it’s the kind of thing you have to do to fully understand the limitations of it – so not a total loss 😉 And, being the hyper thinker that I am, I’m sure these to wise men won’t stop me. It will however certainly add other elements into my quest.

I also decided to leave my “weekend of refelction” a day early. I’m still not sure if it was the quote or the lack of city noises – but I felt very ready to move on!