My faith journey is quite a bit like sewing — a bit of perceived progress here, a bit of seam ripping there. Your comments to Sunday’s post about the “Novelist as God” have spurred me to once again consider what I believe and why. I’ll leave it to poor or rushed writing, but I absolutely did not mean to infer that I don’t believe in the Bible. For the first time in my life, I’m regularly reading the Bible and trying to understand the foundations of my faith. That said, I lead a life of social justice-fueled faith — one where everyone (and I mean everyone) is loved by Christ. Everyone is eligible for forgiveness. Everyone is expected to treat each other with kindness and great love in return. I am incredibly lucky to have found a church that promotes and supports this way of thinking.
So, when the authors of the Bible say that I’m not equal, I bristle. One commenter astutely said the Bible isn’t politically correct. So true. The politics of the time were completely different. Can you imagine sharing your husband with your sister and raising your children together in one giant tent of disharmony? Leah and Rachel did, loving and envying each other their entire lives. Or sacrificing your first-born? Or wandering the desert for 40 years? (How about 40 minutes? I think I’d be exhausted.)
The truth is, my view of the Bible is no more right or wrong than anyone else’s. Faith is completely personal and my relationship with God is too. There are several tenants of faith I’m currently working on, including humility (not my strong suit), obedience (ever tried fasting? Not easy.) and not being judgmental. I’ve got a long way to go but I’ve yet to meet anyone who had it entirely figured out. That’s the beauty of this journey — it’s never-ending. We get to keep searching for understanding and meaning in a relationship with God as long as we are willing. It’s like one of those around-the-world plane tickets that never expires. Each new arrival is a land of exotic appeal with both happy and sad lessons to be learned.
Books that have changed and encouraged my view of faith include: “The Red Tent,” “Lamb,” “The Alchemist,” “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “The Poisonwood Bible,” “Blue like Jazz,” and what I’m currently reading, “The Irresistible Revolution.” I’ve got “Velvet Elvis” sitting on my nightstand ready for the next read. (And while we are talking about media and things I need to change? Oh, this move to cable is slowly sucking my brain dry. I can actually tell you quite a bit about the Kardashian sisters and why I like them. Time. To. Unplug.)
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- Faith, Journal, Media
So, the thing about God is that He isn’t necessarily fair. A friend of our family died in an odd accident a little over a month ago. She was beautiful, young, newly married and her death makes me want to go to the top of Camelback Mountain and scream at the top of my lungs and pull at my hair. My mom isn’t taking it much better. We’ve cried together several times over the phone, which really sucks with two states in between.
She says she’s angry with God. As much as I’m trying otherwise, I feel the same. Initially, I tried to logically talk her down. Coya’s death was an accident. She was a wonderful woman and she had a great faith and her family would find comfort from their rallying community. And then I hung up, shut myself in the bathroom and wailed until my nose ran dry. We were about the same age and I’m certain that if the shoe were on the other foot, she’d be the one on the tile floor. I miss her and it makes me so sad to imagine what her parents and twin sister are trying to deal with. To make matters a bit more horrifying, her husband was killed too.
About 90% of the time, I’m one of the most optimistic and happiest people. But that other 10%, I’m overwhelmed. I feel like my relationship with God is tested with doubt and anger and I debate whether I am ever going to be able to feel at peace. It doesn’t help that in this shut down mode, I typically stop eating and answering my phone. Hunger and isolation rarely make things better, and yet this isn’t a time for logic. While my clothing will certainly be more comfortable next week, I’m not sure my heart is going to recover anytime soon.
I feel guilty being angry with God. I know better. I know we aren’t supposed to understand and there really is no rhyme or reason to tragedy and heart ache. Yet still, that won’t comfort Coya’s family and friends. It won’t provide any relief to the dozens of kids at the Beira orphanage I am missing so dearly. It doesn’t even help with the immature homesickness I feel for my family.
I’ll get through this 10%. I have worlds to be thankful for. I simply wish anger with God wasn’t possible.
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- Faith, Journal
I spent an hour this morning walking around Tempe Town Lake, watching the sun rise over the Superstition Mountains, the wispy white low pressure clouds scatter across the morning sky, a class of white cranes gather the edge of the water, waiting for a slow learning fish to swim by for a tasty breakfast lesson. I was listening not to the hum of traffic on the nearby freeway, nor the heavy engines of airplanes in the flight path above, but to Brother Thay talk about suffering, compassion and meditation as daily spiritual practice.
If you have one free hour this week, this podcast is worth your time. As a Christian, it may be strange to hear me recommend the wisdom of a Vietnamese Buddhist leader, but his vision is human — not denominational. Plus, doesn’t faith give us the ability to listen to leaders of other faiths and determine what we have in common? This teacher has much to share and I found his words healing and motivating. One of my favorite excerpts discusses taking each step with thought, being mindful of each breath:
Sitting in mindfulness, both our bodies and minds can be at peace and totally relaxed. But this state of peace and relaxation differs fundamentally from the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing. Sitting in such lazy semi-consciousness, far from being mindfulness, is like sitting in a dark cave. In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality. The person who practices mindfulness should be no less awake than the driver of a car; if the practitioner isn’t awake he will be possessed by dispersion and forgetfulness, just as the drowsy driver is likely to cause a grave accident. Be as awake as a person walking on high stilts—any misstep could cause the walker to fall. Be like a medieval knight walking weaponless in a forest of swords. Be like a lion, going forward with slow, gentle, and firm steps. Only with this kind of vigilance can you realize total awakening.
He also talks about how we can, through compassion, help those who are suffering in part by listening. Separating ourselves from ego to help others is a choice we can make toward enlightenment. This thought set off a chain reaction, bringing me back to a conversation I had with a girlfriend this week about how love isn’t an emotion, but a choice. You can say, “oh, I’m so in love” or you can make the choice to never speak poorly of your spouse or children, of showing those around you that your love for your family is profound — speaking vs. living. Through our daily actions, we love. We put our own needs aside to be loving and compassionate perhaps without realizing such choices put us in touch with our spirit.
This is how I want to live — like the thoughtful lion, strong and gentle. I am keenly aware of my ego, how it pops up at the worst of times and floods my mind with feelings of greed, jealousy and impatience. Thankfully, I believe God gives us the tools to recognize our human flaws and the choice to improve, and to become more wrapped in faith, compassion and love in the process.
He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)
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- Faith, Good to Great, Journal
Lately my morning routine starts by going to the gym, coming home and putting steel cut oats on to cook for breakfast, and then stepping outside to water the garden. I cool off from my workout while watering and talking to the the plants. By the time they are quenched, I’m ready for a shower and my breakfast is steamy.
I am trying to be more dedicated about reading the Bible. I sit down with my oats and a copy of “One Year Bible” and enjoy 15 minutes of meditation before leaving for work. I’d like to think this is making me a more focused and kinder person. If nothing else, it is giving me a peaceful start to the day and a better understanding of my faith. Undoubtedly, the silence alone is making me more aware of the simple joys in life I may have otherwise overlooked. I skipped this morning when I saw the first tomato growing away on its green vine.
The oatmeal today had a colorful companion. Greg gave me a dozen organic eggs from the Urban Farm yesterday. I can’t wait to have chickens at the community garden. The flavor of these eggs is unlike anything else I’ve tasted; the yolks are luxuriously creamy and thick. The perch like little golden suns.
I realized this morning when taking the egg shells to the composter what an unexpected life this is. I never imagined I’d find so much happiness in baking bread, knitting gifts, gardening and or spending time with God. For those most part, these elements were in my childhood here and there, but they weren’t ever what I thought would one day would be how I define who I am.
Teaching my roommate how to bake bread? Such fun. Taking two loaves, warm from the oven, to friends as gifts? Wonderful.
Making homemade salsa with ingredients from my garden? Fundamentally satisfying.
Time with friends, good music, great wine, healthy, fresh food, time to be creative and time to reconnect in prayer — these are my joys. I’m happy to be finding happiness in living with less and loving what I have.
- Faith, garden
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- Domestic Art, Faith, handmade, Happy Hippie
The culmination of Jars of Renewal — four Christmas baskets filled with homemade goodies being delivered today.
I was reading scripture I’ll be teaching at church this morning and it specifically mentions two turtle doves. Coincidence? Nah. Amazing is more like it.
So, Joseph and Mary had to pay God two turtle doves when Jesus turned 30 days old to officially buy him back from the Lord — per Jewish tradition. Isn’t that fascinating? I didn’t know anything about this until I was researching Simeon and Anna and how to present, once again, a daunting topic to children. Today’s I’m to speak of Anna’s grace.
This got me thinking — grace. It’s a concept I’ve only recently begun to understand. How should I explain this to a gaggle of noisy, Christmas-hyped children? I started thinking about ways I experienced grace as a kid, even though I didn’t recognize it then.
- That immediate sense of relief and joy diving into a cold pool on a scorching day
- The first time I held my baby brother
- That breath-taking moment between jumps on a giant trampoline
- The smell of wet desert
- The sneaky joy of catching your parents in a private look and witnessing their love
- The ocean or Grand Canyon for the first time and that moment when you think, “No! It can’t be!”
Grace is easier to understand as an adult — I find myself feeling that spiritual presence when instead of being characteristically impatient, I take a deep breath and keep listening, don’t flip the person off in traffic, stop to speak to a homeless person in need of conversation as much as change.
Here goes nothing!
- Christmas, Faith, grace
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- Celebrate!, Domestic Art, Faith, Journal, Recycle