Monday, May 31, 2010

Loudmouth

I want to rant.
I want to scream and yell and throw a fit.
I want to walk out the door and not walk back.

What do I do when I'm stuck in a place where I don't agree with what's happening?

What can I say when the people in charge are unwilling to listen?

How can I get through when I feel that the longer I sit there, the more I'm showing my support for something I strongly oppose?

Oy.

I'm looking for the good.
I'm looking for the lesson I'm supposed to learn here.
I'm looking for the Universe to explain people/ideas/situations I don't understand.

If anything, over the last few days, several things that I do not believe have become clear as filtered water to me:
-I don't believe manipulation, coercion, guilt, and shame are good methods to use for anything or anyone. Ever.
-I don't believe in a fear-based agenda in which being scared is supposed to motivate meaningful change.
-I don't believe it is ever right to yell at another human being. It's not right and it's not necessary.
-I don't believe that we should be baptizing ten year-olds.
-I don't believe that the childrens Sabbath school model is having the effect we wish it was.
-I don't believe that organized religion is really making the world a better place.

But, let's end on a positive note here in this rant:
-I do believe that love, kindness, and understanding are excellent methods for reaching people.
-I believe that truth sets us free and fear mongers should be kindly called out.
-I believe that speaking in a calm voice with a smile on your face puts people at ease. It's the fastest way to get someone to like you.
-I believe that the minimum age for baptism should be at least sixteen.
-I believe that kids can learn a lot about God and the Bible, but we should not be requiring them to make such important decisions at a young age. They shouldn't be forced to pray, repeat "our" beliefs, or sing songs that they don't even understand.
-I believe that an individual can use their knowledge of God and the Bible to make the world a better place.

Some people have a bad habit of trying to speak for God. May it be telling someone what God's will is for their lives or who God would want them to vote for as president. We have to stop doing this. We have to stop acting like we have it all figured out and God needs us to speak for Him.

God is God. And in a world that seems to forget that, I still don't believe that all is lost. I just cling to truth even more desperately.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NYC



Today, I saw Lady Liberty in person. I've seen her on TV, of course. I smelled the hot dogs. I laughed at the street performers in Battery Park. I imagined myself bumping into Rachel Green and the other Friends in Central Perk. It didn't happen, but I'd be lying if I wasn't thinking of just about every movie and TV show ever shot in NYC, and hoping I'd stumble upon a few movie stars filming a scene. I definitely had my famous people eyes on the look out. I suppose I don't really think of Diane Sawyer or Barack Obama as real, breathing people because while I thought it'd be cool if we saw them, half of me was thinking, "No, Heather. They only exist on TV."

I had a similar experience when I went to Washington D.C. last summer, also my first time. I kept seeing all of these memorials and buildings I'd only seen on TV and trying to figure out if they were real or it was in my imagination. This obviously says something about my quite skewed view of reality. "D.C." and "NYC" have always been those far off places where big things happen and I could only dream about seeing. For example, D.C. had run-down homes and dirty gas station bathrooms. D.C. had stoplights. D.C. was full of regular people doing their thing just like every other American town as I watched in amazement, "Yeah, but these are regular people in 'D.C.'!" I suppose this all depends on your definition of "normal."

I walked around the World Trade Center construction site where the towers once stood. As I/we have all moved on, NYC constantly remembers. How couldn't they? The rubble has been cleared, but the obvious absence of those towers remains.



I saw Times Square. The giant jumbo-trons, the Naked Cowboy, and the New Year's Eve ball. I walked down 5th Avenue and ascended the Empire State building.



I saw all the places I only believed existed in movies. Apparently, the world is full of regular people doing regular things, just like me. Plus, I like to think that celebrities are just as dysfunctional as I am and this makes me feel a teensy bit better.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creating

I think we "create" in some way every day. But let's just say the creating I've been doing recently has been more fun and rewarding than creating that Origins essay last semester.

When I was younger, I didn't beg to go to the toy store. I would ask my mom to take me to Hobby Lobby. In fact, (not especially proud of this) Hobby Lobby is the very first place I drove on my own once I got my driver's license. So when I see all these great DIY (do-it-yourself) blogs I get incredibly jealous because as a college student, I just don't have the time for it.

But the last 2 glorious weeks since I've been home in Colorado, I've had more time to do some fun creating. Granted I'm no DIY queen, but I'd like to do more when I have the time.

First, I made a Mother's Day card for my momma. Granted, that's all she got (and me of course!), but she seemed happy.



Then, I felt ambitious and made dinner for my mom and dad. My gluten-free diet makes things interesting, but this was yummy. We had quinoa biryani, in which I used cashews instead of almonds. Then I fried up some spicy tempeh and used it for tempeh and pineapple kebabs. With that we had sugar snap peas sauteed with ginger and I made up some peanut sauce for dipping.



If you are a female who has ever worked at a Christian summer camp, you'll understand this next project. Finding a one-piece swimsuit is hard enough, but finding a modest one is even worse. I found this green suit at Old Navy, but it was obviously a bit too low for junior campers. Amazing what 3 inches of fabric can do. I layered a gold-ish mesh fabric with some black I found in the basement.





It looks pretty goofy from the inside, but you can't see that part anyway. I sewed the black inside the gold fabric and finished of the edges to keep it from unraveling. I decided to only safety pin it in, because well, I won't work at camp forever.





I did some mending on a dress I bought in Cambodia, then had some scrap material left over. I used it to make a handy pouch for my new, currently-scratchless sunglasses. Simple, but functional.





This very well may be the oldest trick in the book to those familiar with a sewing machine, but this next trick very well changed the fate of my closet. So many times I'll buy a shirt or a dress that is just a teensy bit too big. If you turn the garment inside out and sew the desired amount (usually an inch or two) beyond the existing seam, the shirt/dress/skirt is magically the right size. Such as this dress.




Cute, but just a little too big. So, as mentioned, an inch or three out of the back seam. After this you can cut off the extra material if you are absolutely sure it's the right size. I adjust a shirt in highschool knowing full fell I'd want to wear it for awhile. I left the fabric inside, then let out the seam when the shirt started to get tight.



All right, this last one I must admit I am most proud of. My friend, Kylie, recently showed me her nifty cell phone case that someone made for her. It was cute and colorful and I became covetous. So I browsed the remnant materials at Joann fabrics and found some cute material with which to make my own.














So I didn't make any beautiful paper flowers, handmade dog sweaters, or cotton feminine pads (yes, some people make their own), but it was good for my soul to do some simple creating.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

God Saga

I just posted a series of articles I wrote in our school newspaper, The Clocktower, called "Re-Believing in Spirituality."

The process was educational, challenging, but so important. The articles reflected the journey I've been on over the last four years. I posted them in order one at a time in order of printing. So if you want to read them from the beginning start with "Re-Believing in Spirituality: The Search for Truth," then move forward to the conclusion article.

Read, if you so desire. I'd love to hear your thoughts on God.

Re-Believing: The Conclusion

I’ve always been jealous of people with conversion stories who have this passion for God that feels fresh and surprising. Christianity is all I’ve ever known. It’s not surprising, it’s just familiar. If you were born into a Christian family, maybe you can relate. I sang the songs, I went to the schools, and by the time I could decide what I wanted to believe; I felt like it was too late to ask questions. I was baptized at ten years old. Wasn’t that supposed to take care of all of my doubts? Well, it didn’t. So here I sit taking apart the structure of my faith that I’ve been building since I first uttered the word “Jesus.” I’m deciding which parts to keep and which parts to change. I’m starting over and building a solid structure that I trust, not just one that I “should” trust. This series has been part of my own journey in building a foundation I can believe in. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

I believe in God because I want to. No one can prove or disprove God though they’ve tried for thousands of years. I’m taking a hint from the universe: Belief is a choice. I don’t want to spend my whole life stubbornly sitting on the fence. It’s a painful place to sit anyway.

I believe that church is one of several ways to connect with God. Attending church does not make someone a Christian. To worship God I can attend church, I can connect with friends, I can bang it out on the piano, I can disappear into the mountains. God is not limited to a building.

I believe that a Christian is a follower of Christ. The term takes on many different flavors and definitions. Being a Christian can mean whatever I want it to. It doesn’t have to resemble what we see on TV or what we see in church. Being a true, Character Christian doesn’t require a label. People will know them by them by their heart, their character, and their spirit.

I believe that spirituality is a journey. Religious life shouldn’t be a license to look no further. I want to be a life long learner: to challenge, to listen, to wrestle with new ideas. Getting comfortable will most likely land me in a suburban neighborhood with a job I tolerate and friends I hardly know. Discomfort resists stuckness. Buddha says “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” It’s never too late to ask questions.

The Biblical story goes, that one night Jacob wrestled with God. At any point during the lengthy match, God could’ve broken Jacob like a twig, but God wrestled back. He didn’t have to. Maybe He knew it was what Jacob needed. I like to think that God is doing the same thing for me. He knows I need to wrestle with Him. God could probably humble me pretty quickly with the answers to these questions. But He doesn’t. If He meant what He said in the Bible then I have hope that this will be worth it in the end. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “‘When you come looking for me, you'll find me.” Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

Do I want to find God “more than anything else”? Probably not. If God was truly my first priority, my life would look incredibly different. Maybe that’s the idea. Seeking God should change me.

I believe that from the moment we’re born, God remains only arms-reach away like a hoola hoop encircling your waist. So when we feel distant from God, maybe it’s not God that’s moving. Maybe what changes is the amount of fog between us.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote, “To be spiritual is to be constantly amazed.” Too often I’m constantly overwhelmed or constantly burdened or constantly tired. I’m not amazed by God because I’m too busy living a life that requires more of me than I feel I can give. If I want to get serious about finding God and if He’s really right next to me and always has been, I have to start clearing the fog. Maybe we’ve made the pursuit of God out to be an uphill battle that sounds much harder than it really is. If God’s right next to you, what’s the fog that pollutes the air and keeps you from seeing clearly? A girlfriend? An addiction? An overfull schedule?

This is your journey. Believe in what feels authentic and true. Your view of God may be more or less clear depending on the fog that day, but God’s not going anywhere. If you come looking for Him, you’ll find Him. He promised. You won’t be disappointed.


(The Clocktower, May 2010)

Re-Believing in Christianity: The Search for Purpose

I imagine there are as many kinds of Christian as there are flavors of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. You might have your favorites and others may leave a bad taste in your mouth. Is one flavor superior to the others? Well, that depends on who you ask. Is a Christian that middle-aged man standing on the street corner with a bullhorn condemning homosexuals? Is it that well-meaning, little, old lady singing hymns at the top of her lungs? Is it a volunteer who devotes her life to serving overseas? Is it all about being nice? Volunteering at soup kitchens once in awhile?

There are a few flavors of Christians I’ve noticed. There are Character Christians who do their best to follow Christ’s example, living like He did. There are Culture Christians who take the title because it’s all they’ve ever known, but Jesus doesn’t affect their life much. Then, there are non-Christians who may not be quite sure where they fit or if they want to fit.

The non-Christian group was highlighted a few years ago in a nationwide survey revealing what a new generation really thinks about Christianity. They study was conducted among 20-60 year old non-Christians for the book UnChristian. The top six responses to describe Christians were: hypocritical, pushy evangelicals, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. What are Christians to do with this response? Reject Christianity all together or be the change? Well, Character Christians would probably want to be the change because they see the value in sticking with it. A Culture Christian might not feel enough a part of Christianity and would prefer to keep their beliefs quiet.

I was raised in a Christian home. But two years ago, I realized I was a Culture Christian and the title meant nothing more to me than attending church once a week. So I put down the label to see how my life would be different without it. Surprisingly, not much changed. I ate the same food, shopped at the same stores, and attended the same school. The only difference was how I designated my religion on paperwork. Now I reply: Other. This proved to me that my Christian beliefs weren’t affecting my character; they were only part of my culture.

By definition, a Christian is someone who seeks to live and act and love like Jesus did. These would be Character Christians. But many of the gripes about “organized religion” and “Christianity” have nothing to do with God and everything to do with the people claiming to carry His name. No one is perfect and when I consider what makes me uncomfortable with Christianity it always comes down to a specific Christian: what that one person said or did. So, I ask you, if the Christian title makes you uncomfortable: What’s his name? What did she say to you? This might have nothing to do with God or Christianity, and everything to do with people who claim to be speaking for God.

We can’t lump all Christians together and assume that because of that one Christian, that one TV show, or that one story, that all Christians are created equal. Men sometimes cheat, but what about those great guys who stay true to their wives for fifty years? Women can be manipulative. What about that girl in your life who chooses love instead? Christians can be cruel, but does that disregard all the character Christians who are doing their best to love and truly follow Christ’s example?

Some Christians have a bad habit of speaking for God as if they know exactly what He would say about jewelry or Democrats or abortion. People don’t dislike Christians because of the Bible. They dislike Christians because of how some people twist the Bible to say what they want it to. Writer Anne Lamott says, “You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Following Jesus Christ has to mean something more than looking the part. It has to affect how we live our lives, because the world is crying out for true, Character Christians. If I end up claiming Christianity, I want to be one of those cool Christians, who mean what they say and truly live like Christ. I want to be one of those Christians who serves the forgotten of society and remembers they are part of us. I want to be one of those Christians who defies cultural norms and loves people extravagantly. I want my character—who I am—to be changed by being a Christian.

It all began when a man named Jesus started a revolution and changed the world forever. Some people live it, some people say they live it, and some people aren’t sure if they want it. Whatever your decision, Christianity must be your decision and your definition. I realize that by taking the title I may have to confront a world that has encountered many contradicting flavors of Christianity, but the more I learn, the more I feel like it might be worth it.

(The Clocktower, April 2010)

Re-Believing in Church: The Search for Community

Define church. Not easily done. According to the dictionary, church is both “a body of people who belong to a particular belief” and “a place of public worship.” While the exact definition of church may differ depending on who you ask, we can all agree on what it used to be. You could say church began in Acts 2:13 when, immediately after Jesus left the earth, His followers were left standing there in awe and someone said, “Whoa. Let’s go talk.” They met in their homes to sort out the incredible events that had just happened. Maybe they asked questions, recalled experiences, told stories, sang songs, or lamented His absence. Churches began when believers met in their homes and shared life.

People were “spiritual” long before churches began popping up in 250 A.D. Our modern-day churches are a cultural phenomenon of the last two thousand years. We pack into pews, where we sit when we are told, stand when we are told, politely listen to a sermon, and then go eat lunch. When did attending church become what it means to be a Christian? Billy Sunday quipped that “Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going into a garage makes you an automobile!”

We swim in a lot of messages about what it means to be “spiritual,” what it means to be a Christian. Is it all about church? I want church to be relevant, to somehow change they way I live the next week, to be challenging, a place of support, and a safe place to share struggles. If you have or are fighting any struggle or addiction that overpowers your life and requires all your energy just to get out of bed some mornings, then maybe, going to church doesn’t offer all the support you need either.

Church has been mislabeled as a solution to all of our problems. A friend recently told me, “Church is where you worship. Sabbath school is where you learn. Small groups are where you relate.” We need all three, not just one. When I’m trying to be filled only from church, I feel empty. Hearing a sermon may not always be the inspiration we need, but we have Sabbath school to learn and discuss, and small groups to connect one-on-one. Maybe the purpose of church has adapted over time and I’ve wanted church to be something it’s not.

In surveys I sent to many Union students and faculty; I asked, “Why do you / don’t you attend church?” Some people go to church for the “spiritual family,” fellowship, or “to experience God.” But the most common reason that people go to church is: to worship. The word “worship” comes from the word “worthy.” We worship by ascribing worth to God. Can we only praise God in buildings with crosses on top? I hope not, because that would rule out the Rocky Mountains. That would rule out evenings full of music, friends, and laughter. That would rule out life-changing conversations over a cup of tea at The Mill. Limiting worship to one building would rule out sitting in awe of powerful ocean waves as they pound the shore.

Can I worship God by playing the piano and singing at the top of my lungs? If the disciples met in homes, can I learn from good people at my house? If you enjoy and benefit from attending church, go to church. According to the Barnum Research group, regular church attendees have lower rates of depression, alcohol and tobacco use, and suicide. These people are also more likely to have a strong moral compass. Attending church can be enriching and beneficial, but isn't the only way we worship God. After all, it’s what we do with this hope that makes the difference.

Spirituality has nothing to do with following rules, dressing appropriately on Sabbath morning, or eating the right foods. Whether you attend church on Saturdays or Sundays; whether you find God in an empty concert hall or an open meadow, God isn’t hiding. He doesn’t wait in our church structures all week until we come back to that one place to connect with Him. Irish singer and musician, Bono, said that, “God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.”
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he never said, “Thou shalt go to church.” He said, “Love God and love others” (Matthew 22:37). Let’s not get stuck on words and definitions. God is God, I am not, and there are endless ways to show that to Him.



-Bible quotes from New International Version

-2009 Survey by the Barna Research Group


(The Clocktower, April 2010)

Re-Believing in God: The Search for the Divine

Some people call it Allah or Vishnu. Others call it “the Universe.” To some it’s a He, to others a She. Some call on Jehovah, Yahweh, or a Higher Power. Others call it God. Could it be that we’re all talking about a similar Being? We may prefer different names, but in the end, many of us can agree that we believe in “something” bigger and greater than ourselves at work in our world. To avoid the reductionist approach that all of these gods are exactly the same, we have to distinguish what makes them different. For the purpose of this article, I’m basing my beliefs about God on what I know of the Bible.

Who is this God? This might seem an obvious question from a student at a Christian college, but I was born and raised Seventh-day Adventist Christian and I’m still trying to figure out what I believe. I’m building my foundation.

It was easy to believe in God when I was six years-old and the Bible told me so, or at ten years-old when the biggest trial in my life involved putting up with my older brother. It was easy to believe in God for most of my years until life really hurt me and I wanted someone to blame. How can there be a good God in such a bad world? Studies show that this is the most common reason that people choose not to believe in God. I had this belief as a kid that God was a generous king and if I lived in his kingdom and followed his rules, I’d always be happy. Reality hit me hard and I had to confront a world in which people are hurting and dying and killing each other for no reason at all. I was disappointed to find that the Bible says nothing about God guaranteeing an easy life. As the Bible says, His eye is on the sparrow, but the sparrow still falls. Not believing God exists because of hard times, is like not believing your mom exists because life is unfair, especially considering she told you from the beginning, “Well sweetie, sometimes life isn’t fair.”

I am no theologian. I’m just a girl with a lot of questions. So I took these questions to about fifty Union college students and staff. These responses helped further my ideas on God and faith and doubt. When asked, “Have you ever doubted the existence of God?” some people said, “No. Never.” and others said, “Of course!” Interestingly, most of the answers I received in favor of doubt were from teachers, like Tanya Cochran who said, “Of course [I’ve doubted God]. The why is too complicated for words.” And Edward Allen replied similarly, “Yes. During times of crisis I have wondered if God was really there.” Hearing these answers made me feel like I am in good company. Author Phillip Yancey wrote that God’s invisibility guarantees we will experience times of doubt. And Emily Dickinson said, “We both believe, and disbelieve a hundred times in an Hour, which keeps Believing nimble.”

After 6,000+ years on planet earth, if someone could prove—hands-down, without a doubt—the existence of God, don’t you think they would have done it already? Based on the laws of formal logic you can’t actually prove anything, not even the chair you’re sitting on. Bummer, huh? “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions,” writes author Rob Bell, “we are no longer dealing with God.” We cannot prove God, but we cannot disprove God either. There is evidence on both sides. We learn what we can and make educated decisions based this information. Novelist Albert Chamus writes, “Sometimes life calls us to make a 100 percent commitment to something about which we are 51 percent sure.” Believing in God is a choice. Much like love after twenty years of marriage, some days two people don’t necessarily feel it, but they choose to love the other person based on past experiences that have built trust between them.

Since we can’t prove God, do we stay in this constant state of limbo never knowing for sure? Blaise Pascal said that belief is “a wise wager.” Either we are wrong and we die, or we are right and we live forever. Author Elizabeth Gilbert says if we knew all the mysteries of God our belief would not be a leap of faith or a courageous act of humanity, it would just be “a prudent insurance policy.” Based on my knowledge and experiences, I’m choosing to believe in God because I want to. I want to believe that there’s a purpose for my existence. I want to believe that good is working against evil. I want to believe in a Designer because evolution seems so random. I believe in God because I want to live with hope.

What are your reasons? Believing or not believing in a Higher Power is your decision. Don’t just go along because it’s all you know. Don’t just accept what people tell you to. Ask questions, challenge your beliefs, do everything you need to and build a solid foundation to stand on.

(The Clocktower, April 2010)

Re-Believing in Spirituality: The Search for Truth

Life hands us all kinds of ideas: Catholicism, veganism, climate change, hip hop, abortion, the Atkins diet, and socialism. We usually have one of two reactions to such ideas, either: That’s stupid or Tell me more.

“September 11th was just an elaborate hoax,” the teenage boy remarked. “You’re ridiculous,” I countered. “You don’t even know what you’re talking about!” This reaction slammed the door, put up a roadblock, a brick wall, and ended the conversation. But what if instead I said, “Tell me more”? This doesn’t mean that I agree with him or believe him. It means, “You deserve to be heard. Please continue.”

If your skin color, gender, religion, political party, or worldview has ever been stomped on, you know the feeling isn’t pleasant. Have you ever done the stomping? I think we all owe to each other what Evelyn Beatrice Hall described when she said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

For us to want to listen to an idea, we want to know what’s in it for us. If someone said, “I can help you get an A on your next Chemistry exam,” I think most anyone would say, “Okay! Tell me more.” But other times an idea may contradict everything you hold true and the only value in listening may be that they are a human being and they deserve to be heard just like any one else.

Open-minded listening can be downright difficult sometimes. For example, when I hear someone say, “I love Jesus” my mind instantly jumps to: How can you believe in someone you’ve never met? How can you love a character in a book? Even though I might smile and continue sitting there, I’m no longer listening to better understand; I’m listening to be polite. My own beliefs and doubts get in the way of a meaningful conversation when I put up the walls. New ideas don’t have to threaten me. I can always say, “Tell me more.”

Two years ago, a wealth of new ideas found me, so did doubt. I spent my second year of college in Cambodia teaching English and it shook me to the core. I was extracted from my safe, Christian community and plopped into a country where I was alone and scared. Bulimia welcomed me with open arms, as did the guy who sexually assaulted me. I was hit by a car and parasites that set up camp in my stomach. Children sifting through trash heaps and people selling their bodies for sex left me screaming: God, I thought you were bigger than this! Everything that used to seem so sure to me—Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so—no longer made sense, not in Cambodia. During that year, I felt that God—if there was one—really let me down. By the time my plane landed back in the States, I had no idea what I believed anymore.

At this time in my life I’m becoming more comfortable with the doubt that followed me home, here’s why: Doubt challenges me to examine what I believe. I’m a born and raised Seventh-day Adventist. I rocked cradle roll and earned more Pathfinder badges than my mom could ever sew on. But neither of those qualities constitutes a Christian or a solid foundation. I want Christianity to mean something more than going to church and reading my Bible. I want to actively seek truth, instead of pretending the rest of my life that I’ve found it. So I decided to take a step back, hang the “Christian” label on a hook, and truly search out: What do I believe? I want a trustworthy base to build on. If I’m just going through the motions: church, devotions, potluck; then what’s the point? If I’m going to be a Christian, I’m desperate for that title to mean something. I need to re-examine my foundation or re-believe in God. Then I can start building.

The next several Clocktower articles are about examining a foundation worth building on: Who is God? Why pray? Why go to church? Why be a Christian? These are basic, fundamental questions that require answers. Doubt—the state of being unsure of something—is not a dirty word. If we are totally honest with ourselves there are very few things we are 100 percent completely sure of. Asking questions and seeking answers builds a strong base. An unexamined foundation makes for a shaky structure and “a life not worth living,” according to Socrates. Will this structure keep out the rain? Will it keep us warm? Or will it all come crashing down because it was never built on strong truths? Anne Lamott writes that, "The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty."

New ideas can be terrifying. They rock our world, our values, and everything we hold true. But believe it or not, we used to use payphones to call people. New ideas change our lives, if not better our lives. We can resist or we can listen. The philosopher, Heraclitus, told us that the only constant in life is change. New ideas never cease. We keep listening. We keep building. We keep living. Let’s have an honest conversation about faith.


(The Clocktower, April 2010)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Life Changing

What constitutes a changed life?

When someone says, "That changed my life!", does it have to be big and dramatic and noticeable to the entire population? Because I'm wondering, what doesn't change my life?

For example, I watched a movie last week that surprised me. I picked it up at Blockbuster just expecting a good laugh, but not much more, but The Invention of Lying changed the way I think about God. You'll have to see it for yourself. Rotten Tomatoes, one of those movie review sites, gave the movie a 50% approval rating, which either means I have horrible taste in movies, or those people are a bunch of quacks. I'm sticking with the latter.

The movie captures a society in which no one has ever developed the ability to lie. When a man's mother is dying in the hospital, he suddenly gains this ability because he longs to bring peace to her death bed. Whereas she felt absolutely no hope before, instead he tells her that she will go to a wonderfully happy place where there is no more pain and no more dying (sound familiar?) in which she can eat all the ice cream she has ever wanted. She dies peacefully, but word gets out that this man knows what happens when you die and everyone wants to know about it.

I will never think about God the same way. Is that what it means to be life changing? An event occurs after which nothing will ever be the same? Well, I could say the same about the guy in front of me in Zumba class last week. He made me smile. He made me laugh. I'm changed.

I believe that events and people are more connected than we may recognize. I think I believe in a form of karma, of paying it forward, of a worldwide ripple effect in which, if we actually had the ability to trace one our actions to all who were affected thereafter, we'd be stunned. We'd take responsibility for our actions. We'd realize the importance of an intentional life in which people matter, words matter, and we really can change the world.

What doesn't change our lives? Probably the things we don't notice. That's why being in the present moment and living with eyes wide open is so important to me. I take it as a sign from the Universe (or God if you prefer) if regular themes continue popping up in my life. For example, over the last 6 months, the words "Geneen Roth" continue finding their way into conversations and things I read. "All right already," I said and bought one of her books entitled, Appetites: On the Search for True Nourishment.

Yes, I feel confident in saying, "This book is changing my life," and I've only read two chapters. This is a book about trusting and letting go. "Trusting that true nourishment is available and letting go of old beliefs long to discover what it is."

Here are a few quotes that are rocking my world:
"It has to do with stopping the war against ourselves, the war we engage in daily when we tell ourselves that what we feel, what we want, what we look like, who we are, needs to be different. Women with food issues carry on the way through their body sizes, the food they choose to eat or not eat on a particular day, the three sizes of clothing the keep in their closets, the morning ritual of weighing in. They rage against themselves because they believe that who they are is what they weight, and what they weigh in never good enough."

"You cannot end self-hatred with more self-hatred. You cannot learn to trust yourself by being frightened of yourself. You cannot stop the self-hatred of being fat with the self-hatred of being on a diet and depriving yourself at each meal. You cannot stop a war with another war. Eating what you want is a radical, subversive act because it stops the war."

Ding! Ding! Ding! She's onto something here.

"My father ate rots of Fig Newtons at one sitting and didn't gain weight. My brother drank Yoo-Hoo chocolate milk followed by Ring-Dings and Tastee doughnuts and stayed lean. My mother, trained by her mother before her, and I, carrying the legacy, labored like sea turtles under the burden of a "weight problem." We watched the boys eat their high-calorie treats as we surrounded ourselves with carrot sticks and melba toast and No-Cal coffee soda. . . If we ate anything fattening in front of anyone--especially each other--it meant we were satisfied with the shape of our bodies, that we had the audacity to be content despite the fact that we weren't as thin as we could be. Ought to be. Needed to be."

"Perhaps there is no size I am supposed to be. Perhaps what is important is not the size, not the weight, but the life I lead as I am getting there. . . It is not the size of my body I care so passionately about, but the size of my life."

"In a recent Esquire magazine, a thousand women were asked whether they would rather be run over by a truck or gain a hundred and fifty pounds. Fifty-four point three percent answered the would rather be run over by a truck. . . They would rather be brain dead than gain weight. They would rather lose an arm, a leg, a kidney, and eye, than gain weight. Because the size of our bodies determines the quality of their lives, they would rather be dead than be fat. . . You can feel the utter depravity of being in a culture that values being thin more than being alive, and you can ask yourself how you are going to live with that prejudice, what you are going to do about it."

Oh, Geneen. You're changing my life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Forty Days

Forty days have come and gone. My blogging lent has ended.

I went on a blogging fast to re-assess why I was blogging. Do I require constant feedback from people? Do I think I'm a lot cooler than I really am? Why do I write? What is the purpose of this blog?

On day one of my blogging fast, I sat down at my computer and wrote exactly what I would've blogged and then saved it to a file on my computer. No, I will not be posting all of what I've written in the last forty days. That would kind of defeat the purpose. But days two, thirteen, and thirty-six followed about the same routine. Every time I wanted to blog I would write in my new "Free Writing" file on my computer and this continued all forty days. I write because I like writing. By putting my thoughts on "paper," I grow. I can look back and see where I've been, what I've learned, and at times, how ridiculous I've been. By taking a rest, I remembered that I enjoy/need writing with or without an audience.

Writing is how I process, how I think, and how I pray. Saying words out loud to God feels hokey and strange to me. Always has. I realize that not every blog or letter or homework assignment is a prayer. I decide when/how/where/why I'm praying. Prayer is where your intention lies. I believe that just about anything can be prayer.

So, what's the purpose of this blog? I started it to write home about Cambodia. I continued it to cope with being home from Cambodia. Now, writing has become a big part of who I am. Granted the stories may be a lot less interesting, but this is life. This is where I'm at.

I started thinking, "Why do I read other people's blogs?" I do not read blogs because I feel sorry for them. I do not read blogs because I feel obligated to. I do not read blogs because I'm expecting them to be brilliant, or witty, or relevant every single day. I read blogs to hear another person's story: the pretty, the ugly, the random, and the inspiring.

I think I'll continue blogging. I want to tell an honest story. Blogging offers the venue for me to write regularly, which most every famous writer would advise a person to do. I obviously have a few resounding themes: Cambodia, eating disorder, spirituality, and life's daily lessons. I learn from reading about people and can only hope that I have something meaningful to contribute to the conversation as well.

When my friend, Ben, helped me design this blog, he put on this handy dandy feature called Sitemeter which counts how many people view your blog. I've decided that I don't need to know how many people are reading my blog, so I'm going to take it off. If I am really writing for my own healing and part in a greater conversation, then the numbers shouldn't matter.

So here's a little catch-up:
In the last forty days:
I finished P90X. Let me say this: I conquered P90X. That's better.
I attended a Zumbathon, quite a cultural experience.
Wonderful people helped me raise money for my student, Kagna, in Cambodia. Together we put together $1,000 for her to continue in college. Thank you.
I learned more about the LGBTQ community and how to support them. Funny how it almost always comes down to listening. Every time.
I was reminded that self-acceptance is one the most radical revolutions I can start for myself and others.
Final exams attempted to end my life, but I gave 'em the one-two punch.
I remembered the comfort of my home in Colorado and perspective and peace have come sprinkling down on me like a wonderful dream.

Onward.