Archive for August, 2008

“Under the Tuscan Sun”

My blogs have been kind of boring recently.  Part of me feels like I’ve been neutered — there’s a lot of water under the proverbial bridge that threatened to drown people I care deeply about.  And I still struggle with what this blog should be.  Thought-provoking as I feel like my meanderings are, I’m sure I’m a minority of one.  I am quite the foodie (tonight — homemade vegetarian egg rolls and veggie Pad Thai — yummy and a hit among the family), but I don’t think I’m good enough to make the ranks of the best food blogs.  I love movies, books, political banter … what, oh what, should hippie be?

My natural eclectic tendencies make me a certified blog-wanderer.  And try as I might, it’s tough to not speak truth when I see injustice, stupidity, or a simply question begging to be asked.  So I struggle when I look at this blank computer screen … inviting me, taunting me, whispering to me, “Write, write, write…”  What to do?  How to live in the juxtaposition of “real life” that takes things I say in cyberspace and use them as tools to threaten “real life” aspects of my life?  Still working on all that …

Anyway, this blog is going to be about an “old” movie to most, “Under the Tuscany Sun.”  But I bought it at Goodwill today for a buck and watched it tonight with three of the kids.  If you don’t know the story, it’s about a writer (it had me there!) who goes through a nasty divorce and ends up buying a villa in Tuscany.  There are a lot of memorable lines … perhaps my favorites were “taking a bad idea and make it better,” and “you got your wish …” when the protagonist did get her wish, but nothing like she expected.  Yeah, it’s a “chick flix,” but a good one that reminded me that nothing can destroy me — unless I let it.  This woman went through more than one broken heart.  Yet she still holds on to hope.  It moves me, because hope is a rare commodity in my life right now.  I’m trying — there are glimmers — but I cling to the reminders I get.  This movie is one of those things.

Other things … been training a lot at work.  I really enjoy it, although it takes me away from the kids more.  I’m good at what I do, and I love helping people learn and believe in themselves enough to do a good job, too.  But then I think about it, and realize that “work” isn’t really a thing that gives me hope.  It’s fun; it makes me feel like a viable human being for a brief time, but overall it’s just another element in my life bent on sucking the “me” out of me.  It’s calling for conformity (something I am forced to do often, but which is not my strong point).

Another thing about this movie … although her circumstances were not something I’d ever want, the fact that she found herself in a beautiful location making a living as a writer … wow.  I could almost smell that ocean air … the colors made me want to touch them … the soft smiles of the Italians (and the Poles) made me want to go out and tool around Europe for a while.  Or maybe just go “somewhere” for a while.

I just watched Mr. Obama shore up the crowd at the Democratic Convention after Mr. Biden’s acceptance speech in Denver.  Wow.  I know there is so much on both sides of the coin when it comes to this whole presidential thing but the words that the man speaks give me hope.  Call me crazy, but I can’t help what I feel — what I know.  I told Bruce four years ago this would be the situation.  And while I’m no prophet, I can’t help but “feel” it’s not a bad thing … although seeing he’s given his acceptance speech at the Bronco’s stadium, inviting all who want to join them to be there, and on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech… I told Bruce I hope every thing’s OK, and nobody does anything stupid.  Anyway …

I think it’s time for bed.  And I think I’ve gotta be OK with the ADD way I write this blog.  At least, for now.

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Not Going Tomorrow …

I’m taking a break from the questing thing tomorrow (ever notice how close “quest” and “question” are???). Anyway, I need a little break from trying and figuring it all out. I’m not getting anything, and I’ve pretty much decided it’s simply a part of my life as long as I’m married … which I’m thinking is going to be a long, long, long, long time — if I’m lucky! So I figure it’s a trade off — I keep the man and endure the “thing” he is chained to. Unless something

I’m going through a pretty introspective time. Nothing’s “wrong” — it’s just a stage, I guess. It’s like, all the energy I have has to be invested into the family right now. The husband — the kids — the dad. Plus, I finally made a “master list” of things that “need” to be done around the house. So, aside from reading a bunch of books (just finished Left to Tell, an autobiographical account of the Rwandian holocaust) , I’m exerting my task orientation side and getting stuff done.

I told the husband I want a log cabin on the “big water” up North, with a water-facing studio from which to write and paint. He smiled, and said, “When you sell your first book, we’ll buy it.” I take that as a commitment, my friends!

Oh, and babies … just saw my newest great nephew last night. What a freaking beautiful boy…

Also my good friends just had their little girl (www.chandybaby.wordpress.com). It makes me feel a little like a grandparent — but I’m hoping to not really be there for ten years or so!

I guess that’s it — just wanted to make sure I remembered how to do this!

Questing away

Today, I went to “church” (actually, I had a friend leave the word “spectre” and I like it!).  I tried to go to the “service,” honest I did.  But I got stopped by a friend I hadn’t seen most of the summer.  She works a lot of kids camps, and is gone.  Anyway, we ran into each other, then spent the better part of the hour catching up and talking to some other friends.   I left, and returned home to my sick 12 year old.  I had to go back, because it was … anyway, I had to go back.  Upon arriving, “service” was done, but I got tagged by a variety of people, and involved in friendly banter.  Nothing too significant — just conversations.

And it occurred to me in the course of the afternoon that maybe, just maybe why I’m anywhere near this organized religious place is simply because of such conversations.  The people I know because of this “gathering” place.  But I struggle with that, because I firmly believe we can “meet” at a variety of places.  And, like I stated in my last entry, sometimes “spectres” lull people into relational complacency, stripping us of potentially “deep” friendships. Not that those don’t happen.  But like I said, my quest involves the “need” for such places.

My husband and I had a long conversation about these things again last night.  We go round and round, but when someone has built their entire life around a system, regardless of its viability, purpose or success, he cannot see any other side.  Me?  To quote Joni Mitchell, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now.”  I see why some people “need” church as we know it.  But I’m tired of people trying to make it more than it is.  The things they say that the structure “does” or “stands for” are really things that should come from an overflow of our own spiritual journeys into the Divine.  Not things “manufactured” or coated in emotional experience to elicit a response — either physical or financial.   It’s not bad — but “it is what it is,” and no amount of calling a dog a cat ever changes its genetic makeup.

Anyway … because I’m looking for the “good” in it all is that I can meet people there that I might not encounter in other areas of life.  Because of the predefine structure, we have met and found some type of common ground.  Unfortunately, that’s where many people leave it.

But for me … my challenge is (and has always been) to take those relationships a step further.  Not just settle for manufactured one hour relationships that people often call “church.”  Instead, I compare it to the edge of the pool.  You ain’t swimming until you hit the water.  Just standing on the edge is just that — standing on the edge.  You can say you’re swimming.  You can pretend you’re doing it.  You can talk about it, pretend to know about it, study techniques and procedures, and read books about it.  But until you’re in the water, you just aren’t swimming.

And “in my opinion,” swimming is the thing.

The Quest continues …

OK, I have this great idea, then I drop off the map because of technical hi-jinx, courtesy of “Vontage” and a mysterious man from India who was crazy enough to drive my mild mannered husband to drink. OK, not quite. But this Vontage rep drove B. crazy, and that’s a thing even I haven’ been able to do in 21 years of marriage … we’re still “off line” that way, but the big boy got us back on-line with Speednet, so here I finally am …

If I were honest, I really have nothing to report. The first was a Friday, and at the institution on Sunday (8 – 3), I didn’t get to the “service” at all. I was helping doing other stuff … a food ministry, encouraging friends in the coffee shop, etc. So I experienced community — but nothing that couldn’t have been achieved in any social setting. This week has been filled with work, so I haven’t even visited “the church” at all.

But I have had some encounters with people I know because of the church, so maybe I should talk about that?

On Monday, some folks we know from “the church” came over for nachos. I love these guys, because they are open and honest and unafraid to question and challenge the status quo. Still, they choose to remain a part of the organized structure. Even though we have all been disillusioned, we still are there. My attachment is, of course, the hubby’s job. But why do they do it? I asked, and the gist of the conversation revolved around the relationships they have there. But wouldn’t they have the same friends if they’d met, say, in a bowling league, or at their kids’ little league games?

Sometimes religious organizations give us what is perceived as “fertile ground” for relationships. There is an assumed commonality (The “Family of God” concept) and often we Christians give into that presupposition. But I think some of that innocent acceptance sets us up for disillusionment. See, religious institutions are made up of people. In any given group — religious or not — there are people clamoring for power. There are people that have to gather status, respect, control, etc. There are people who set themselves up as “teachers” or “leaders” simply because they think they know what someone else doesn’t. And once they — or someone else tells them they are “teachers” or “leaders” or whatever — accept this about themselves, humility is often thrown to the wind, and they lose touch of what they say they believe or follow.

I think, after spending time reading the bible and studying for the better part of my life, I’ve learned some things but I would never presume to be more than I am. In fact, the bible is very specific about people calling themselves teachers and the like. It also speaks a lot about genuine humility (something I don’t see a lot in many religious circles), about leaders being servants, about putting people down because they are young — either in age or in the faith — etc. It blows me away when I hear stories from genuine people (like those we hung with Monday) being belittled or discouraged by “christian” teachers who presume they are somehow more “mature” because they’ve been stalled in a religious organization most of their lives. But I digress …

On Tuesday (9-5) a dear friend’s grandfather had his funeral. Now, I know this family because of the institution. But they have nothing to do with it anymore, and yet we’ve become closer and closer friends. In fact, when we stopped relying on the church to provide our opportunity to socialize, we became closer, because we had to work at the relationship, and invest time not preassigned as “gathering” time. Still, I have “the institution” to thank for bringing this beautiful family into my life. Would we have met without “the church”? I dunno. Probably, because they owned a coffee shop, and we all know about my addiction …

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this week. Thinking … would I be such a voracious learner if I hadn’t spent time in “organized” religion? Probably. (By the way, does anyone else think “organized religion” is an oxymoron? Just wondering …). Would I be the spiritual person I am? I dunno. I’ve always had a real connection with creation and the Divine that created it. Even before I had the words or theology to begin to figure it out. Would I “do the right thing” even when I really don’t want to? I’ve always loved people. I’ve always wanted to help … again, I dunno.

I promised a day-by-day, didn’t I? OK, Wednesday my “little” boy turned 12. What a great kid! He’s growing up much faster than the first two did. I’m really focused on appreciating and loving him right now. But that has nothing to do with organized religion, as far as I can tell. That is based on my unrelenting love of my kids, I think.

Thursday is a lost day, and Friday I worked. One of the women I’m training was ready to quit, and I talked her through the crisis, and think I helped her not give up. But again, I’m not in a church setting. I couldn’t use “church” words or concepts. And yet, she left being built up, encouraged, and ready to try something that was very, very difficult for her. So again, I see a “good” life, not apart from “God,” but having little to do with “the institution”.

Today (Saturday) was another long one at work. And while it was stressful, it was beautiful and we hung together as a team, having only the goal of surviving a Saturday rush understaffed and overworked. All the while experiencing community that had nothing to do with church or God. So when I hear preachers saying that you can’t have “fellowship” outside of relationships with “fellow believers,” I roll my eyes. Obviously, they don’t have any friends that don’t mimic their belief system. In fact, I think statements like that are unbiblical, because aren’t we suppose to be “in the world”? Aren’t we suppose to let our lives speak to those who don’t ” know the truth”? Where does it say we’ve to verbally beat people into a posture of belief anywhere in the bible? I guess I haven’t found that passage yet.

All in all, it’s been a good week. But I really haven’t found a lot to bolster my quest. However, tomorrow is Sunday …

The Quest

New month, new idea …

While I tend to pull on prophetic clothes when it comes to organized religion, I do understand that not everything that comes from that place is evil.  And I’ll admit, it’s the one area of my life I tend to strain out the positive to distill the negative.  Somehow, I believe by subjecting people to the “eyes wide open” truth, maybe, just maybe, things will begin to change.

This month, though, I am on a quest to find any type of redeeming characteristics I can about the place I am bound to.  I won’t make stuff up; if I can’t find things, I’ll simply write “pass” for that day.

At the end of the month, I’ll do a summary of my experience.  But I’m laying some ground rules for myself:

1. The experience must be at “the building” to justify it being a part of “the church.”  I believe the church to be much bigger — us — living, breathing, experiencing life together.  But to justify the existence of an organization, the positive happening must hinge on it being directly connected to the organization.

2. It must either make a positive impact on me or (better yet) be something I observe impacting someone else.  I don’t want “cute, teary-eyed” stories.  If this is going to be something that helps restore my hope in any facet of organized religion, it has to be personal and real.

3. I won’t blog these things every day.  But I’ll have an entry for every day:

August 1

August 2 …  you get the idea.

OK, so here we go.  This is difficult for me, but I decided over the last two days I need to introduce difficult tasks into my life to keep me sharp.  To fight against the complacency that so easily swallows up most people.  I’ve promised myself I won’t be that person.  I’d rather disengage from religion (knowing my faith will remain intact) than to allow it to form me into a mindless group-thinker.  And since I’ve begged the Divine to allow me to walk away, and I’ve yet been unable to do so, I think a quest for discovery as to why is appropriate.

Messy Spirituality – Part 1

Some thoughts on “Messy” Spirituality

“I go into churches and everyone seems to feel so good about themselves.  Everyone calls themselves a Christian nowadays.  How dare we call ourselves Christians?  It’s only for [God] to decide whether we are Christians or not.  I don’t think He’s made a decision in my case, and I’m afraid that when He does I am going to be sent straight to hell.  I don’t feel I can call myself a Christian.  I can’t be satisfied with myself.  We all seem to be pretty contented with ourselves in the church and that makes me sick.  I think all this contentment makes Jesus nervous.” — Robert Coles, Wittenburg Door.

“Maybe truth is scandalous.  Maybe the scandal is that all of us are in some condition of not-togetherness, even those of us who are trying to be godly.  Maybe we’re a mess, not only sinful messy buy inconsistent messy, up-and-down messy, in -and-out messy, now-I-believe now-I-don’t messy …”  Mike Yaconelli

“Spirituality is complex, complicated, and perplexing — the disorderly, sloppy, chaotic look of authentic faith in the real world.  Spirituality is anything but a straight line; it is a mixed-up, topsy-tury, helter-skelter godliness that turns out lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes.”  Yaconelli

“He who thinks that he is finished is finished.  How true.  Those who think that they have arrived have lost their way.  Those who think the have reached their goal, have missed it.  Those who think they are saints, are demons.”  — Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary

“There is no room for pretending in the spiritual life.  Unfortunately, in many (most — gl) religious circles, there exists an unwritten rule:  Pretend.  Act like God is in control when you don’t believe he is.  Give the impression everything is OK in your life when it’s not.  Pretend you believe when you doubt; hide you imperfections; maintain the image … pretending is the grease of modern nonrelationships.  Pretending perpetuates the illusion of relationships by connecting us on the basis of who we aren’t.  People who pretend have pretend relationships…”  Yaconelli

Quotes from a book I just began.  A book that was written by a guy the people at my church hold in high regard — our youth staff attend conferences he began every year.  Words I’ve spoken and lived and seen for many, many years.

Why isn’t anyone listening in the church?  How can we continually hear truth, yet turn our backs to it, when we say we follow the “author of truth”?  It’s no wonder we have little influence “in the world.”  Most of us only believe what we say to the extent that it doesn’t interfere with our nice, prearrange and predefine lives.

And we continue to pretend we have the answers to assure ourselves (and anyone naive enough to listen) that it’s a simple formula — if you do (a), (b), and then (c), you will be godly and spiritual and everything will be OK.  It’s BS, I tell you.

The closer I draw to God, the less I really know.  The more I learn about how life truly is, the more I lean on the faith that stirs within me — evidence of things unseen; hope in things unrealized.  The further I draw away from organized religion, the more clearly I see God for who “he” is.

I think we need a radical change of direction, or we too will spend all our time thinking we’re saints, when we truly are demons.  We need to come face to face with what we’ve become in the spiritual realms, drop the pretense, and be OK with not having all the answers.  And with God still being God.  Just because we live in a screwed up world doesn’t mean “he” is any less.  Maybe we just haven’t followed through with our responsibilities?  Maybe we’ve been so busy deciding who’s in and who’s not that we’ve forgotten it’s really not our call at all?  Maybe we’ve forgotten we’ve been given the here and now — and that’s it.  How sad we fritter it away, pretending somehow we can do anything but live it.

More later, I’m sure, as I read on.