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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

a little more love

A couple of years ago, I wrote in my postThe Church of Sunshine through Trees“:

If I feel compelled to visit a church, I will. I will go with that flow.

Until then, my church will be the sunlight through the trees, the wind through my hair, the prayer of thanks at 3 a.m., the sweetness of fruit bursting in my mouth, the sound of my little boys’ laughter. It will be in the “for,” not the “against,” and most of all in the love I hear resounding around me when I only

remember

to listen.

Drew Downs, an Episcopal priest who’s guest posted here twice (“Loving Joy” and “Don’t Be A Priest“), commented on my post. He wrote:

I love the sensitivity you use in describing your experience – it is so honest and generous. So many of us within the institutional boundaries need to hear you, that we can share in your experience honestly and generously. Thank you, Deborah!

As always, his words eased my heart.

A couple weeks ago, I texted my sister and husband a link to one of Drew’s posts. “I’d go to church every week if Drew lived in Long Beach!”

Soon after, I read his post on Satan (“You and I are the real devils“). I texted that link, too, and affirmed my prior statement.

I wanted to post a link here and say “I am a Christian now,” but I refrained. I was concerned people would look at all my rage-y posts of the last year and think things like: Read more…

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On heroing

Once upon a college-time, I found myself so useless–to myself, to others, to the world–that I wanted to die.

I challenged myself to find one thing I liked about myself; if I didn’t, I’d kill myself. If I could find one thing, though, I figured I could probably find more … with some patience.

I decided my calves were pretty rad. Seeing that one good thing paved the way for my sticking around to see more, so that one little thing meant everything: choosing life, as opposed to suicide.

Over time, I came to have faith in words. I understood them and became adept at shaping them to express precisely what I meant.

Then I began reading Neil Postman, who helped me understand some of the biases in words and word combinations, particularly English ones. Nouns are especially appropriate to represent some physical items (table; car; sandwich), but help create the illusion of stasis in some more dynamic “things” (language; people; school).

There’s a lot to this, but some of the biggest questions Postman opened for me were about this illusion of stasis, or unchangeability. By referring to “language” instead of “languaging,” English speakers may perceive language as an unchanging behemoth instead of sets of ongoing processes. By referring to people by individual, set names, we tell ourselves each person is one relatively stable unit instead of a changeable, changing entity who does the hard, ongoing work of “personing” in a rapidly changing world.

Some statements presented as fact aren’t, really.

“Projection,” as the term is used by semanticists such as Korzybski and Hayakawa, means that we transfer our own feelings and evaluations to objects outside of us. For example, we say, “John is stupid” or “Helen is smart,” as if “stupidity” and “smartness” were characteristics of John and Helen. A literal translation of “John is stupid” (that is, its most scientific meaning) might go something like this: “When I perceive John’s behavior, I am disappointed or distressed or frustrated or disgusted. The sentence I use to express my perceptions and evaluation of these events is ‘John is stupid.'”

When we say, “John is stupid,” we are talking about ourselves much more than we are talking about John. And yet, this fact is not reflected at all in this statement.

Language might actually be used to conceal more than it reveals.

At first, it felt liberating to be able to see some of the processes behind purported “things” I’d wrongly perceived as more or less stable. Slowly, though, it destroyed my faith in something that had almost always been a bedrock for me: that I could set forth words that showed precisely what I meant to almost everyone who read them. But if meaning is projected onto words by a perceiver instead of simply absorbed as stated, what I stated was far less important than the meanings being projected onto my words by readers/hearers.

With everything apparently objective revealed as potentially quite subjective, then, I lost faith in my ability to English-language … or that there was much merit in bothering to even try. I was especially disturbed by one kind of illusion I began seeing everywhere, especially in my own words: one of scale. Words can help things I’d consider enormous seem small, and can give small things an illusion of comparative enormity.

For example: If it’s a “disaster” when I flub an important meeting, what is it–apart from, of course, a crime–when hundreds of thousands of people lose their homes and retirement funds due to the bad behavior of a small number of extraordinarily powerful bankers? When those bankers aren’t even held accountable, but slapped on the hand by having less-than-incremental fees effectively taken from investors … as punishment? (How is that “punishment”? How does that deter abuse of power?)

If it’s “crushing” to remember a particularly bad memory, what is it, then, when entire villages are literally crushed by American-sold (and, often, -dropped) bombs? Especially when many of those bombs are “gifts” that keep giving for decades to come?

If an especially tasty hot dog can be “awesome,” then what’s the feeling you get standing and looking upon grand portions of the Grand Canyon?

If it’s “amazing” to get a great bonus at work, what is is when a family is granted asylum … and thus given a chance at life when they’d have almost certainly died had they stayed in their (prior) home?

With so many hard-to-see flaws in tools of meaning conveyance, words, I stopped seeing the point of trying to negotiate them.

If I was no longer a(n effective) worker-of-words … what was I, even?

Last week, I was fairly bludgeoned–multiple times daily, each day–by a word that I’d always translated as representing goodness. Read more…

Prescribing Joy: Pouring Light

Belle (SuperMommyOfTwins) has a knack for warming my heart while also making me giggle. I hope you’ll visit her blog and feel for yourself the abundant love there.

prescribing joy

Pouring Light

Joy is the sound of pitter-patter, little feet echoing down the hallway when my two-year-old twins wake up each morning and run to embrace me. Joy is when my tiny daughter throws her arms around me and exclaims “huggie!” while exerting all her might into a perfectly formed bear hug. Joy is when my little son begs to be tickled, then laughs until he can hardly breathe, despite me barely touching him. Joy is hearing them say, “I love boo too” after I tell them how much I love them.

Joy is having my eight-year-old daughter ask me to show her how to cook a meal then enjoying the fruits of her labor. Joy is having the privilege of reading chapter books about values and Godly principals to her and having her gladly and enthusiastically listen. Joy is hearing her laugh and I love that she “gets” my silly sense of humor.

Joy is the feeling of pouring light into the life of my would-be abandoned, seven-year-old niece. Even with her mother in and out of her life and her father gone, she smiles, she giggles, and she enjoys simple, everyday play with my other children. Joy is seeing her rise above that adversity and Gracefully delight in her childhood.

Joy is hearing my two-year-old nephew sing to me over the phone. We don’t live close anymore, but he knows me and keeps me in his sweet little heart.

My children bring me joy! God gave them to me because He knew I needed someone to need me and I needed to hear both laughter and tears of these precious little ones ring through the walls of my house and my spirit. Every moment with them is an opportunity to give and receive joy. Each second, a precious gift from God that I vow to never take for granted.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4

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First grade, first week

Graduating kindergarten, a couple months ago

Graduating kindergarten, a couple months ago

My five-year-old just finished his first week as a first grader.

He knows his mama doesn’t believe in bad people, just bad acts. When I chastise our dog, he says, “But he’s good! It’s just the act that wasn’t good, right? He’s still good.”

All the same, my little man finished his first week with the proclamation, “It was good! I’m a good boy!”

My faith isn’t as firm as his papa’s. It varies day by day, and sometimes minute by minute.

When Li’l D asked religious questions this week, I wanted to say, “It’s all mythology!”

Instead I said, “These are great questions. Let’s answer them together,

in the weeks ahead!”

The Church of Sunlight through Trees

My mother was raised Mormon but left the church early. She couldn’t, she told me, abide a faith that told her she’d only make it to heaven if her husband called her there. She opted for non-denominational Christianity when she was finally free to act on her own faith.

My father was the born-again sort. He’d take me to church with him on some of our rare visits, but I don’t recall much about the visits. I do remember having an increasingly hard time with his faith, which–as he told it–would allow him forgiveness as long as he said “praise Jesus!” after any transgression. To me, that translated to, “I can beat your mom any and every day, just as long as I say sorry to Jesus afterward!”

Oh, how that troubled me. But I went with it, because–what else could I do?

One afternoon a little later, I watched a cheesy horror show. Its happy ending was a villain in hell. Read more…

Life beyond the leash

I started a new job two months ago.

I will leave it next Friday.

This is not typical for me.

predictability

From a February 2014 post. Yes, really.

I cherish stability, a fact I recognized long before I learned my DiSC personality type is C for “conscientious.” (Is anyone here surprised, looking at the description? No? Right, then.)

But there can be a dark side to stability. Sometimes it means staying with someone who hurts you because the pain you know can seem better than even the possibility of worse pain somewhere else. It can mean sticking with something that limits you while keeping you comfortably, predictably “safe.” It can mean living with your wings wrapped tightly around you because you know you’re less likely to fall if you don’t even try testing your wings.

Of course, avoiding falling means you also never learn to fly.

I only saw this a few months ago.

I used a different analogy then, though. Read more…

Oh, Yes I Did!: Don’t Be A Priest

Drew Downs caught my attention a couple of years ago with his words on faith. At first, I was simply astonished by the revelation a priest was actually a person who might be interested in reflecting on life and faith outside of church. I took guilty pleasure in peering in, as if I were still ten years old and still trying to stick my nose where it didn’t belong.

It wasn’t too long before I began enjoying his posts for their insight instead of for the feeling I was being granted a view into some secret place. Even as one whose faith is undefined, I am moved by the thought and feeling behind Drew’s reflections, whether they are about faith, parenting, or more general musings. The world feels smaller in a good way thanks to him, and a little less lonely. I’m honored to share his words here.

graduation 3

Don’t Be A Priest

Unless you are really sure, and I mean really, really sure, don’t be a priest or a pastor.

There is probably something wrong with the idea that I, an Episcopal priest, don’t recommend people seek ordination.

Really, it has nothing to do with job security or the experience I’m about to share. It has to do with certainty. It has to do with knowing for sure, not just in your brain, but in your heart and your gut, that this is what needs to happen.

Because the truth is, your certainty probably isn’t even enough.

In my tradition, we have many different opportunities for the church to test your call. We have bishops, commissions, leaders, mentors, seminary professors and deans, and then, at the end, the standing committee of our diocese. You’ll spend years of your life wading through red tape and answering the same few questions told a hundred different ways.

Then one day, you’ll give an answer someone doesn’t like. And you’ll get stuck. It will happen. [If it doesn’t, I am worried for you.]

For me, it was at the very end of my process. I was asked about my call to ministry. I was asked how I came to believe it. What I felt called to do with it. This is not a surprising question. I certainly expected to face it. And so I responded.

Train wreck.

The bishop stepped in, sent me out of the room, and looked to salvage my entire process. Years of work, three years of study, four different congregations invested in my training and praying for me. All on the brink of collapse.

Because I didn’t play the game. I was rational. Honest.

Everything was vanishing before my eyes. I was about to graduate from seminary with no support and no place to go. So I had to throw all my chips into one basket: the bishop’s compromise. A trip to a ministry counselor for evaluation.

The fact that I’m a priest should clue you into what happened next. A good visit with the counselor, support from the committee, then ordination by the bishop. I did it.

The truth is strange, though.

My return visit to the standing committee (the people who had rejected me the first time) was completely different except for one thing: my answers. They asked me the same questions and I gave pretty much the same responses. They just didn’t recognize them. Not because they had forgotten them or that I had been transformed or some black-hole event sucked the memory from their minds. It was different because I stopped worrying about what they thought. They could choose not to ordain me, but they couldn’t take my call to ministry from me. I was more confident and true to myself than ever.

I wasn’t really different. But I was better. And I did it.

You know, with some help.

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