With accidental start and end dates of Pentecost Sunday (’11) and Easter Sunday (’12), I have successfully completed my 30+ visits.But…I’m not done yet! The completed are, in no particular order:
1.Living Word Church (my childhood church) 2. King Ave Methodist (GLBTQ Reconciling) 3. Lake Erie Drive-in 4. Buddhist Temple 5.Pentecostal Mega-church 6.Baptist 7.African-American Baptist 8.Movie Theater Rock 9.Hindu Temple 10.Synagogue 11.Roman Catholic 12. Eastern Orthodox 13.Vineyard 14.Jehovah’s Witness 15.Mormon 16.Atheist 17.Stadium 18.Christian Spiritualist 19.Emergent Independent 20.Quaker 21.Hare Krishna 22.Scientology 23.Unitarian 24.Baha’i 25. Storefront Redeemed 26.Christian Science 27. Stone Village 28.Sikh 29.Naturalist 30.Taize 31. Vertias (church of the boot camp) 32. Seventh Day Adventist
(Note: My blog checklist is typically behind because I have to rely on my web programmer to change it.)
I was heavy on the Christian churches, especially in the beginning, so I am doubling back to attend a few originally on the list and several additions before the 5/15 deadline:
–Native American–Amish–Pagan and/or Wiccan–Kabbalah–Mosque
Though I’ve not had luck locating the following in my area, I am still interested in:
–Zoroastrianism–Tao–Sufi–Xenos–African/tribal–Voodou–Virtual–Rastafaria–Gnostic–Jainism–Confusionism–Shinto–New Thought–Polytheistic (any culture, but particularly Celtic)–Shamanism–Snake-handlers
With continual help from the Spirit, I’ve gone from Post-traumatic Church Syndrome (barely being able to enter a church) to being able, and excited, to attend places of worship of all faiths and even non-faiths. I’ve also completed a Thirty-Day fast, studied Ancient Christian and Buddhist meditation, read extensively on multiple religions, sorted out my own beliefs, found a faith I can believe in, known and seen my God, changed my career, discovered my ministry and calling, started this blog–thanks to the good advice of someone wise, written nearly 100,000 words for the book (probably only 10,000 that are any good!), survived three physical and one spiritual bootcamp & , (surprise!) found a church, and much, much more. But these are stories and conclusions for other days! I still have much more to write about. So, let the quest and the blog continue
I nearly quit Thirty by Thirty at least a dozen times. So…for all those who have followed and encouraged this journey…thank you! For those who have criticized it…thank you as well. Everyone who has touched this path has helped it toward completion. I’m not done yet. And probably never will be!
All my love–Reba
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And now the Super-Secret Project and reason for my blog hiatus: I completed a Thirty Day total fast (no food, no alcohol) yesterday at sunset. The experience was completely incredible and entirely life-changing. Much more to come in the next month about how and why I did it, why I kept it a secret (even from family and friends!)…and what it did for me. Make no mistake: if you fast for 30 days? God shows up. For now…this is how it went… and how I got through it:
Ten percent Luck /Twenty percent Skill / Fifteen percent concentrated Power of Will / Five percent Pleasure / Fifty percent Pain /And a Hundred percent reason to Remember the Name [Lyrics Fort Minor]
Continued from previous entry: Unitarian Universalists…Upset my Universe
…So the Truth, it sucker-punched me, in the car, on the way to Panera Bread. An inconvenient time, to be sure, when one considers the combination of a hungry husband and a sobbing wife.
The Truth of The Very Bad Mood? It was Fear. (Is it ever anything else?)
I’m afraid.(Sob) That I’m never going to fit anywhere. That I’ll have to do this whole Faith journey by myself, for the rest of my life. Or, I’ll have to shut up and sit in a pew with doctines I can’t buy in to, just to have a community. (Hiccup) And I’m afraid this book is never going to get published because I’m not going to have any story to tell because I can’t figure things out and (double-sob) I’m a total disaster. I’m even more afriad, that I’ll never be able to inspire anyone! And writing and inspiration are my purpose…I thought I was making progress, so much progress, and look at me. Look at me! (Continued tears)
My husband, ever the Voice of Reason said: Since when do you think you have to fit somewhere? You didn’t start this thing to find a church. It even says so in your About page.
(Wail.) Maybe I lied! To myself. I think…Part of me wants to just give up! Go back to where I used to be, before the whole Breaking. Just so I can let someone else do the thinking for me, tell me what to believe. Just so I can feel safe and secure in knowing I have all the answers. Yes, I want to give up. Lay down the fight. Curl up in a regular pew and die there (eventually)
Voice of Reason: You didn’t lie. You’re just going through a process. This IS good. This IS progress. If it was easy, wouldn’t everyone do it? And you KNOW you don’t want to give up. This, right here, this is going to be what inspires people. Because you’re doing it, you’re getting through it. And you’ll be stronger for it on the other side. And that is what counts,the process, not that you figure it all out.
(Sob.)I guess. You’re right. (Calming) Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t go back. Once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee. I can’t give up now.
Then, we ate sandwiches. Because carbs make almost everything better. (Sidenote: Upon returning home, I noticed mascara running squiggly lines down my cheeks. Next time, Voice of Reason, could you reason me right into cleaning up my face?)
I’m still not quite sure why the UU’s brought this all out for me, but I’m glad they did. Because I realized: when I am done with Thirty by Thirty (and beyond) I will have toiled and struggled to weave a Faith I can wear proudly.
But until then? I’ve given myself permission to dance around in my underwear, figuring things out, one messy piece at a time.
During my pre-visit research on the Unitarian Universalists (UU), I was pleasantly surprised by how well their statement of belief aligned with my own. So I bounced into their service, happy about their seven tenants….
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person 2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations 3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations 4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning 5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large 6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all 7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
…What’s not to like?
Well, Nothing. And Everything. I discovered that, FOR ME (and me only), believing in Everything seems a lot like believing in Nothing. Not that I begrudge the UUs their Everything, but something about the Nothing left me feeling a little…frozen. And by Nothing I mean: no set of concrete beliefs about God. Because whatever you believe, man, it’s totally cool. He can exist, She can not exist. There can be an afterlife, and there can be none. You can be an Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Pagan, Christian…Anything, or Everything, and be fully part of this place.
Given the intensity of my Openness to spiritual experience and the whole Interfaith thing, I should love this, right? Wrong. And I’m still not sure why. I walked in with the same tacit agreement with myself and the religious world-at-large: Whatever you believe, dude, I’m hangin’ with you. It’s cool. Yet, when actually face to face with the Everything-is-OK approach of a few hundred peace-be-with-you folks? I bailed. Not intentionally of course; it was a totally involuntary soul-jerk. Unexpected, unwelcome. Like when the doctor hits your knee a little too hard and you kick him in the shin. Oops.
The gender-neutral hymns featured politically correct lyrics saluting country and vague faith, but there was no mention of God. The special music jazzed and scatted with a rousing Spiritual, minus the Spirit. The Children’s talk, prior to dismissing them to [Sunday School? Themed Craft Time? Interpretive Movement?], given by the [Reverend? Lecturer?Director?] caused much laughter, but lacked any obvious moral. She wore a [Prayer shawl? Scarf? Drapery?] which I later discovered signified Nothing except its personal meaning to her. The building resembled a country club: wide windows letting in nature and streaming morning light, but lacked the look or feel of a Sacred space. The sermon and readings leaned to inspirational, but where was the transcendence? The familiar rhythm of liturgy? The tangible connection to centuries of history? I shivered spontaneously, but not because I was cold. I noticed the [Altar? Stage?] presented with multiple plants, a symbol of growth, of life. Yet I was shrinking, and feeling more lifeless by the moment.
Throughout the totally innocuous, completely uncontroversial, blandly unceremonious ceremony, my soul kept kicking me in the shin. And my mind kept trying to keep it still. This is good, I tried to sooth.See? Everyone getting along, Everything peaceful. Nothing to make you cry, scream or run for the door. This is eating plain, lukewarm oatmeal when other churches (the ones that give me Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome) are getting hot sauce in my contacts. I should love this. It should go down nicely, filling my belly with comfort. But it didn’t.
Please understand, this is not a reflection on the Unitarian Universalists; I still believe their premise of Peace is beautiful. This is me, gazing into a mirror, not recognizing myself. Who am I? What do I believe? Apparently not what I thought I did this morning. The same questions I started Thirty by Thirty with, still haunting me here, and causing me to wonder, Why am I still here, doing this at all? Not simply the service, mind you: this whole darn, difficult, exhausting project.
I did NOT realize all these Issues at the time, while happily standing and sitting, singing and thinking quietly (not praying, that would be too invasive a demand to issue from the [Pulpit? Lecturn?]). All This was swimming around in my subconscious, without my intention or knowledge, churning up ugliness I thought I’d packed away.
I left in a Very. Bad. Mood. I attributed The Mood to PMS, or a hangover, or a possibly brewing sinus infection (none of which I actually had), to everything except the blooming spiritual muckiness quietly overtaking me. Upon arriving home, I slammed cupboards and doors, growing annoyed (for no discernable reason) at Husband, Puppy, the couch, the messy countertop, everything within close distance. My sweet, amiable Trent, the one who usually adores me, declared, “I want to go to lunch, but I’m not sure I want to go with you.” Soul-jerk. Ooops. And I’m all apologies and sweetness on the surface.
But The Truth about myself? That the UUs smiling acceptance manifested? It socked me hard and fast, in the car on our way to lunch.
Read more about this in my next post…