My faith journey…lessons learned

This is a post discussing religion and faith, specifically my faith. If religion isn’t your thing, this might be a good day to skip BGIM…no hard feelings.

I make no secret of the fact that I head a Christian faith based agency and that prior to my taking the position I was in the process of applying to seminary. People often query me about my faith since to some I don’t exactly present as the “typical” Christian/religious person. After all, I have been known to use foul language, I drink, I practice yoga and I am pretty upfront about the fact that I am a deeply flawed human.

That said I am not one prone to discussing my faith because it’s just that, my faith. Yet this morning, I woke up with the thought that I needed to write about my faith and after spending all day trying to avoid doing so, here I am. In some ways maybe it’s the time of year coupled with recent events, I mean really, all one needs is five minutes of the news to wonder where exactly is God if God exists in the midst of such unspeakable horrors. Just last night in my community, two teenagers were shot dead by an irate landlord.

I found God for the first time at 22 though looking back I am not sure if I really had found God or more specifically taken out a God insurance policy since the idea of an eternity spent in Hell seemed like a pretty bad idea. In any event, after becoming born again after a series of events that made me glad to be alive and for the first time turned me on to the thought that there might be more to this world than what I could see. I threw myself wholeheartedly into serving the Lord. I went to church, I shared my faith, I paid tithes, read my bible every day, I even quit my job in sales and marketing to go serve the needy. That last one being one of the few things that has endured from that first phase of my meeting God.

For years I lived in my happy God bubble, silently judging others and parroting what I learned, all the while thinking of God and Jesus as my personal genies. The truth was I had no idea what was coming my way.

The first true bump in the road of my faith journey happened when my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer not long after I turned 30. It was scary, but as a family of faith we just knew it would all be well. After all, hadn’t God spared my father’s life when told he had less than six months to live? Hadn’t he raised my father off his death bed, sent him to seminary and seen my father dedicate his life to the Lord. Surely, this was Satan testing us, testing my mom. I won’t go through the play by play but needless to say, when my father called me simply saying “Mama passed” after I hung up the phone I was in shock and kept expecting another call to say that she was alive. After all hadn’t Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Surely, he could raise my mother from the dead?  Despite the fact that ten minutes before his call for some unknown reason, I had crawled into a fetal position, cried harder than I ever had and literally felt a shift in my being. I would later learn that at the exact time I was in that fetal position that was my mother’s time of death. That detail would later come back to me.

For many people this is the place where it would be easy to just say, maybe this God stuff doesn’t exist. Trust me; I tried that later down the road. After my mother’s death, my faith started to feel hollow, reading the bible provided comfort but also left me with many questions. My questions continued to grow when in an 18 month period, I saw so many people close to me die that I could have just started answering the phone with a “Who died now” message.

It was several years after my mother’s death when I decided I needed to know did God exist and if so, why did bad things happen to good people. Were all the rewards simply on the flip side of this journey or are we who claim faith just delusional?

That need to dig deeper led to the decision to go to seminary. In preparation for seminary, I started reading any and all biblical scholars that I could get my hands on. I was stunned to learn that the Bible while considered The word of God had a lot of back story that frankly most preachers never get into. Many of the so called laws and things we shun such as gay marriage are in fact decisions the church decided on. I did a lot of reading and literally not long after interviewing at one program, I got a call about a job. Long story short, I wasn’t exactly looking for a job but in the end figured I could help out a small agency for a year while I figured out where I would be going to seminary.

Instead of seminary, the past four years have taken me to the deepest depths of my soul at one point I was pretty certain that I had walked away from the faith of my youth and at another certain I might be a pagan. In the end coming full circle though and secure in my belief that there is more to this piece of rock than what we see.

Suffering is part of life; there is no way around it. The Four Noble truths say it best and I am paraphrasing for length the doctrines of Buddha: all life is suffering, the cause of suffering is ignorant desire, this desire can be destroyed, the means to this is the Eightfold Path.” Once I realized that to get to the root of my desire to know whether this entity we call God exists, I gave myself permission to look outside of the Christian faith tradition and realized that in other faith traditions there is a lot more clarity around suffering and pain. In the Christian tradition, we look at the Book of Job when discussing suffering but by and large too many pastors use the carrot and reward method to deal with their congregations and it fails. We tell people they need a personal relationship with Jesus or else, so in essence we are selling spiritual insurance policies since no one wants to take a chance on dying and going to hell.

Instead of highlighting that Jesus can be a source of strength, joy or inspiration, he becomes this magical man and we miss his humanity. Most churches aren’t discussing the historical and known man of Jesus.  Frankly as a believer it doesn’t surprise me that so many are not interested in what we are selling, truth is if life circumstances were different, I might be turned off too.

Too many churches are hung up on “laws” and miss the heart, again even if we use just the Bible as a primary text, most Protestant and mainline denominations are missing the boat and in the end, lose people.

This New York Times piece made me stop and think; people aren’t interested in the church of their grandparents so churches are looking to reinvent themselves but really hasn’t the church always done that? After all what we celebrate as Christmas was really the ancient Pagan celebrations that predate Jesus’s birth.

In the end, maybe I am just a dreamer and when I leave this rock I will simply cease to be. But at this stage in life I have lived too hard and seen too much to believe that even science in all her wisdom can explain everything. I think that there are too many mysteries that can’t be explained, I believe the human spirit can’t be killed. I think that even in the unexplainable, there is a quiet still presence that connects with us and gives us what we need even when we aren’t aware of it. I think the church as a whole fails because it is unwilling to acknowledge what it doesn’t know and in the process loses people. When I look at the sun setting and the ocean, what I see moves me in the deepest place of my being and for me is more than what science says.

Ultimately though the greatest gift that the Divine gives us is free will, we can choose what to believe or not believe and that is indeed a gift.

If you feel moved to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you. However I don’t debate my faith because it’s mine, it’s a long standing policy that I have whether online or offline. The software I use is being wonky, so it may look like your comment didn’t go through but it did.

 

Irene is coming…oh Mother is talking!

What a week for weather here in the US! Earthquakes in places that aren’t typically known for earthquakes, hell even up here in Maine I felt the ground move. Granted I thought maybe my evening glass of vino had caught up with me and was quite relieved when I learned it was an earthquake and not me losing my mind. Especially since the Spousal Unit didn’t feel a thing, but as a California raised boy unless things are falling off shelves earth movements don’t register with him.

No sooner than folks were over the unexpected earthquake now we are being told to prepare for Hurricane Irene, apparently Irene is expected to slam into the east coast, places like New York City are actually making preparations and folks are freaking out. Of course in places like Philly and New York City one doesn’t typically expect to be impacted by hurricanes, so it makes sense folks are freaking out but there is also the irritation that plans are going to be disrupted.

The thing is there is no arguing with weather, we cannot coerce weather into giving us what we want, in fact she gives us what she wants. I have been in Maine nine years now and it’s a lesson I have learned well in my time here. When we first landed in Maine back in 2002, I was the typical impatient big city gal and well in Maine especially in winter, weather happens. Oh, coming from Chicago I understood snow and cold but in big cities life rarely stops due to bad weather so imagine my surprise when I learned that a seemingly not so big storm in Maine could mean being stuck in my house a few extra days. It was maddening.

Yet the longer I am here, I have learned to surrender to the weather, whatever she brings I accept because arguing with reality because it doesn’t fit my desires makes no sense whatsoever. Instead I find that when the weather decides that I need to stay in my house rather than doing whatever it was that I had planned, it often comes at a time when I need to slow down, take a break and be present in the moment both with myself and those closest to me. In recent years I have come to see stormy weather as an unexpected gift to myself and my family. Now I plan ahead when I hear of a storm, sure I go to the store and make sure we have edibles and all that jazz, but I also detour over to the library to grab some books and maybe a film or two.

With all that is going on in the world and on this planet I can only imagine that Mother is not happy with us and that the unexpected and violent weather we are seeing is proof of that. Sure we all love a gorgeous summer day and while Mother gives us those days, she gives us the not so beautiful days as a message too. Yet it is up to us to decide what we will take away from what she gives us.

Good and busy

This is one of those weeks where I am living life at about 90 miles per hour but in many ways, its all good. In my mind I want to sit down and write a meaningful post but the truth is I just don’t have the energy, in light of the death of public enemy #1 there is so much one could say but I think I will leave that for others.

Instead I will leave you with a few shots from our weekend, where we celebrated May Day and relaxed.

After dancing around the Maypole and celebrating the spirit of the day, we were hungry so what better things to eat.

Oh and a trip to the candy store!

PS: The Spring Campaign of Support for this blog is wrapping up in a few days, I know times are hard and your choices of good blogs are many, but I would greatly appreciate it if you consider supporting this blog with a financial contribution. I am now hosting the site myself which does cost money and would love to have a better designed site but without reader support my plans to gussy the place up will have to wait. So I don’t want to hit ya with the sob story but just one (okay maybe 1-2) reminder to consider making a donation.