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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I’d like to address a few of the questions I’ve received on my recent Thirty Day fast:
So…what did you eat? Nothing. I didn’t chew for 30 days, nor did I drink alcohol. I also tried to limit medications. I did take in copious amounts of vitamins, lots of juice (organic if possible), and sugar-free protein on workout days. (Yes, I still did boot camp.)
Isn’t that UNHEALTHY? Well, not for me. Obviously I’m here, I’m fine and, it could be argued, in better health than I have ever been. But I would like to be VERY CLEAR that an extreme fast could ABSOLUTELY be unhealthy for a given person depending on factors such as overall health, weight, lifestyle, mental state, etc. PLEASE DO NOT CONSIDER an extreme fast without A.) A very specific calling to undertake it and B.) Consulting your doctor.
Why did you choose to fast for thirty days? First, I didn’t choose to fast for 30 days. God asked me to. (There will be much more on this when I cover the fast in depth between April 15th and May 15th). A 30-day fast is something I never would have thought of, nor did I think I could do it. I was called to fast in December, and it took me nearly three months of wrestling with the concept and telling God there was NO WAY I could possibly ever do that before I surrendered and… just did it. Once I got towards the end, I wanted to do 40 days, but that was made impossible by a pre-planned family vacation.
How much weight did you lose? It is inconsequential….that was NOT the point. This was purely spiritual venture. I like to say some of the excess weight enabled me to complete the fast, but it was in no way a diet attempt. There isn’t enough willpower in my world.
Why did you stop blogging during the fast? Part of the reason fasting, especially long-term fasting, is spiritually effective is because it clears out your life of everything that isn’t entirely necessary. Due to the vast physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strain, fasting forced me to re-evaluate every activity in my life by these two questions: 1.) Is [activity] actively bringing me closer to God and/or 2.) Is [activity] absolutely necessary? In addition to ceasing blogging, I limited my activities to work, prayer, meditation, necessary household duties, spending time with my husband, and LOTS of sleeping.
Why didn’t you tell anyone? Fasting is a personal matter between you and your God. It is extremely difficult, and there is no place for the critical negativity of others. You’re already doubting yourself…you don’t need anyone else to doubt you. Also, to be brutally honest, I often thought I was going to fail. (Daily. Sometimes minute-ly.) I didn’t want to announce, “Hey, I am doing this 30-day fast!” only to say, “Hey, I quit on day 10.”
I hope that clears a few things up! Also, as mentioned, I will be writing in detail about the fast and what I learned starting on April 15th. But if you are interested in the basics of how I got through it…check out this post.
Please excuse my short hiatus from the blog. I am working on a serious project that is an extension of Thirty by Thirty, which I will reveal on March 12th. Until then, the Project is taking much of my time and energy, so forgive me if my posts are fewer and shorter (for now). I’ll be back full force in March!
Today I’m disconcerted because I’m searching for an interfaith devotional…and can’t find one. With all the devotional books in the world, wouldn’t at least one contain daily inspirations from global faiths?
I am bothered by the lack of the book I’m looking for…but even moreso by my wavering resolve to continue looking.
Most troubling is my unbidden desire to simply give up the search and instead slip into Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest or Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God–the Christian daily devotionals I have read many times.
I own both of these books, and many more: my dog-eared, underlined copies with accompanying journals showcase my former devotion to daily Christian devotions. If you open these journals to any random page, you will find the desire of a teenage girl, for the very Spirit of the [Evangelical Christian version of the] Lord to descend upon her, reveal Himself to her, use her for his Glory.If you read them cover to cover, you would understand the purity of her heart, follow her unrelenting journey towards the God she knows so well and loves so very much. There are rarely questions, because her faith is absolute. She hears Him in the quiet of the night, in the chaotic hours of the day, and fully believes she is Called. She is Chosen. And her every step is guided by the Invisible hand of the Almighty.
Residing in the darkness of my Mom’s attic, the Rubbermaid tubs that hold these books and journals mirror my life before The Breaking… before I left behind the faith of my youth and, in the wake of that tidal wave of change, lost my identity, my purpose, and my God.
And this morning, as I seek a devotional book, I consider the gravity of my undertaking. The sheer monumental breadth of the task I have set before me: to rediscover my identity, my purpose, my calling. My God.
Yesterday I attended a wonderful Baha’i celebration during which I was asked to explain Thirty by Thirty, and I took questions. The most profound of which was, “What is your religion today?”
Try answering that in one sentence, in front of 150 people when you’re writing an entire book on the subject.
But, unbidden, the answer quickly flowed straight from my heart through my lips, drifting over the room.
“Today? Today I am a Seeker of Divine Love.”
I believe if I was to visit the the teenage girl I once was, the one who wrote so passionately asking God to use her, and tell her all the pain she would go through before being able to utter those words aloud to a crowd of strangers, she would look me straight in the eye and say: I promise to keep searching, no matter the cost. I promise not to give up, even if I do for a time. I promise I will be there, on that day, in that crowd, and tell them.
And she would be proud.
As I am.
Even if I can’t yet find the devotional I seek, or everything I desire to understand.
This morning, the questions pulling at the hem of my faith are whispering:
What if, when God said I AM, we misunderstood?
What if God simply said I AM to us, to all of humanity, but that wasn’t good enough ? Maybe we wanted more, needed more: like the Jews of the Old Testament, who rejected God as their nation’s leader. We want a King, they cried. They needed more: more than Jehovah, more than Abba, more than I AM.
Perhaps we needed a predicate nominative, a fill-in-the-blank ad-lib in Whom to place our faith. An I AM______________: summed with words that we could understand, we could see…Something we could draw lines around and call our Own.
And what if, after we consumed the _______________,with our utterances, we still needed more?
Did we add to I AM? Did we follow all the nouns with verbs, round out phrases with adjectives? Did we complete all the parts of speech that never really existed? Did we create sentences wrapped into paragraphs which filled up pages and flowed into sacred texts? Did we cry out with words that formed Religions…whole cultures of grammatical dissent?
We fight and war, debating the -ologies with Holy Fervor: today, here, with our Voices; yesterday and elsewhere with our Weapons. All to defend the words that define our beliefs.
What if, What If?, the only phrase, the original origin of the world, was quietly I AM? An affirmation of Divine Existence… of all Creation…of God…of us…and the whole Universe. The whole Godiverse.
The simplest statement of Being, the first noun and verb we learn in any language.
What if all God really said was…
Next Post: The story of my hilarious visit to a historically African-Amercian Baptist Church… who won my Award for Best Talent and tied for Miss Congeniality!
“I’ve heard of things like this happening, but they’ve never happened to me…or anyone I know.”-Mormon Missionary #1 to me, after I invited him and his partner-in-missions to witness to me, handed over my cell number, followed through with a meeting… then asked to accompany them to church.
Sister #1: I got a remote start in my car for Christmas!
Sister #2: I got an IPAD!
Me: I got a pair of socks from the emergency room…
Brother-in-law: At least your present was the most expensive.
Henceforth this holiday shall be known as: The Christmas Rebecca Landed in the ER. (For a case of hives that migrated to her throat, which started swelling shut.)
It shall also be known as: The Year a Doctor Scares Trent. (When, upon our arrival at the urgent care clinic, we were immediately sent away by the attending physician to the “Real ER, where they can do something for your wife.”)
And this is why I do not have a post about attending a Christmas service.
On the bright side, I did pray fervently between the urgent care and the “Real ER”.
Lesson Learned: Only go to the urgent care clinic with urgency…not an emergency.
Bonus Lesson: If, in the excitement of a swelling throat, you fail to wear socks, the ER nurse will gladly provide you with a pair for the
nominal astronomical price of your stay. But only AFTER you have bared your bottom* to your mother-in-law, your mother-in-law’s neighbor’s son [he is a doctor! I do not expose myself to visiting neighbor's sons for fun!], three urgent care nurses, one incompetent urgent care doctor, three ER nurses,two ER physician’s assistants,and a partridge in a pear tree.
(*My bottom would like to note that it prefers to remain covered. However, if it is called to duty, in such cases as it being eclipsed by welted, migrating hives and thus becoming a threat to the life of its owner, my bottom is very patriotic and willing to be bared, even if said baring causes much shame!)
I realize this post has nothing to do with going to places of worship, except that I skipped going to church on the biggest church day of the year. So….sorry about that.
In my defense, I am certain more people find God in the Emergency Room in one day than find Him in some mega-churches on Christmas.
1. Do you know what caused the hives? No.
2. Have you eaten anything new or changed anything recently (add long list of things you think I may not have considered as a cause but, believe me, if you think your throat is swelling shut you ponder possibilities. Very.Very.Thoroughly.) No.
3. Can the doctor tell you what caused them? No.
4. Are you OK now? I am drugged up on Benedryl, steroids and various antihistamines. Everything is OK.
A big shout-out to Jen Lancaster, NYT best-selling author of multiple books (including my fav Bitter is the New Black),whose hilarious, sharp-witted voice I heard in my head while considering the absurdity of my Christmas Situation in the ER. Though I have not the faintest idea of Ms. Lancaster’s religious views outside of her former attendance at the Magnificent Mile Mecca,I believe we share an affinity for mild, mind-altering meds (Her: Ambien. Me: Benadryl). Thanks for your great sense of humor…it ( and the drugs) helped get me through My Very Bare-y Christmas.
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“Aunt Rebecca, do you believe in Santa Claus?”
(Carefully) “Do you believe in Santa?”
(Vigorous head-nodding and jumping around) “Yes!!!”
(More carefully) “How do you know he’s real?”
(Puzzled) “Don’t you know if you believe in Santa you can hear jingle bells when you close your eyes?” (Squishes eyes tightly) “I’m hearing them…right…now! Do you hear them?”
I shut my eyes, but all I hear is my seven year-old niece’s excitement.
How I wish I could hear the jingle bells: my niece’s irrefutable proof that Santa lives, that elves are working happily away in the North Pole, that presents will appear under the tree, that the world is full of joy and peace, that all is safe and right and magical.
Her bells hold all the magic of Christmas wrapped into a sound that fights the inevitable hows and whys. How can Santa reach all the children of the earth in one night? Why do people without chimneys still get presents? How do reindeer fly? Why is there a Santa at every store?
But all these questions? They mean nothing to her now. Because she can hear the jingle bells.
When my niece talks about Santa, she glows; her eyes light up with the wonder and magic of Christmas, and reflected in her is all the world’s joy. I encountered the same shiny look on the faces of the Mormon missionaries, and I wanted to throttle them—actually lean over the coffee table and strangle them with their Army of God-issued ties.
Because I felt very, VERY jealous…as evergreen with envy as a Christmas tree.Because they shut their eyes and hear jingle bells, but when I close mine questions are all I hear. I know how it feels to be so, SO certain of everything. To believe. To hear the jingle bells.
It is so happy and easy to have all the answers handed to you, to wrap yourself tightly in the peace that surpasses understanding. To share the belief, the wonder, the magic, with people who love you because you can hear the same jingle bells as they.
But what happens for my niece when someday her best friend whispers more questions in her ear, planting the seeds of doubt? When a boy makes fun of her on the playground, taunting “You still believe in Santa?Don’t you know he isn’t real?”
What happens when the Mormon missionaries open a closet before Christmas Eve, and all their presents tumble out?
When they all close their eyes…and can’t hear the jingle bells?
I’ll tell you what happens: you lose your faith. In Santa, in religion, maybe even in God. And you push it all out of your mind, ignoring the ache that lives where there once was magic. You denounce everything that you once put your belief in, grow up, and don’t acknowledge the hurt, the betrayal, because it simply hurts too much.
Nine years later.
You wake up and realize you want to believe in something real. You want to hear jingle bells without closing your eyes.
And seven months later, on Christmas Day, you realize you DO hear them ringing… loud and clear.
With your eyes wide open.
Because you are the one shaking them.
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Post-Christian Spiritualist Temple Experience, no one was more surprised than me to discover the existence of dark energy outside the confines of Paranormal Activity I, II and III.
I boast a long and rich history with Satan, wherein certain parents and pastors of mine systematically rebuked him in the name of Jesus, regularly banishing his malevolent minions from our house, my bedroom, and the church. I even witnessed the exorcism of a church camp sound system that was behaving badly. Clearly this was no ordinary power surge! The Evil One himself infested the equipment to keep 4th graders from hearing the message of salvation for the twenty-seventh time in six days! This process, known in Christian circles as Spiritual Warfare, was simultaneously comforting and frightening. I understood said warfare to mean that Satan could enter our house and possibly hide out under my bed (scary!), but my Dad could easily make him depart by praying (calming!) until he came back again (alarming!).
Upon considering the Devil as an adult, I threw out the idea of a lurking,evil entity preoccupied with ruining church camp sermons. I also tossed the notion of intelligent evil altogether and, carefully refraining from exorcisms of inanimate objects, proceeded happily along in my life without the heavy burden and time-commitment of telling Beelzebub to Depart from me! In the name of Jesus!
Around the same time, I rejected praying out loud. There are more reasons for this than the exorcism factor, but it suffices to say here that 99% of the (few) prayers I uttered after my 21st year rose from my mind to the Almighty’s ear. I conscientiously objected to spoken prayer on the grounds that an all-knowing God needed not hear my voice. And, it was just too traumatic to pray out loud. Much to close to my past for comfort.
Anyhoo. An alert reader needs this background information to understand just how bizarre the events following my time with the Christian Spiritualists really were. Please keep said background in mind when I say this: something sinister followed me home from the witchcraft/Christian-craft conference.
You know that time you randomly stepped in a pile of dog poo? And didn’t realize it until you walked in the house, took off your shoes and sniffed? That’s how it was when I arrived home after five hours with the Christian Spiritualists.I discovered (too late!) some metaphysical ju-ju clinging to my spiritual shoe-shoe.
In the immortal words of bumper sticker-ists everywhere, “Sh** Happens”. And apparently it happens to me…in the First Christian Spiritualist’s temple sanctuary…with a crystal. Or maybe it was a tarot card–or a divination rod–or a hymnal?
It started simply enough— with a headache—which became a bad headache— that turned into The.Worst.Headache.Ever. EVER! My head hurt so badly I thought it was going to split open right there is the bed, which I was in for a full fourteen hours. Note: migraines have never, ever plagued me, but plagued I was, and would continue to be, for the next three days.
I awoke that night and the following two nights promptly at three a.m., with a disturbing weight on my chest and terrible anxiety. Once awake and thoroughly freaked out, I felt some kind of dark presence in our bedroom. Note:I have never felt unsafe in my own bed, unless you count the time Oxley knocked over the laundry basket and I thought someone was breaking in.
I prayed silently;it went away. I stopped praying; it came back. Feeling crazy, I woke up Trent, who rolled me into a bear-hug and told me to calm down. But calm down I could not…not while this creepy energy was hanging out with me.
After two days of this weirdness, my spiritual circuitry was so hot you could fry a metaphysical egg on my chakras. I was on high-level alert, like a red rating of spiritual terrorism. I considered calling a priest, even though I am not Catholic. Instead, what did I do? I called my father. In the middle of the night. To pray for me. OUT LOUD. It helped, until the next day when the weirdness forced me to do the unthinkable.
I personally got down on my knees and prayed. OUT LOUD. Rebuking whatever evil was lurking around me and commanding it to Depart from me! In the name of Jesus!
I refuse to name the weirdness Satan, and I suspect that invoking the power of Christ against it was a conditioned knee-jerk reaction based on my childhood and watching too many scary movies. My best guess is that in willingly (and foolishly) joining my energy with about twenty other psychics of dubious origin, I managed to carry home some transference of negative energy. Spiritual or natural I do not know, and I realize this whole thing is very New Age-y and stinks of sensationalism. But still.
If I ever consult a psychic, or medium, or Christian Spiritualist again, I plan to take a crucifix, garlic, and a rosary with me. And possibly bathe in Holy Water before and after.
I am thankful, however, that the spiritual ju-ju forced me to break through my praying wall. I can now pray out loud with anyone, anywhere, for any reason. Except maybe to banish Satan from church camp sound systems.
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The circumstance is the spiritual forum at the First Christian Spiritualist Temple, and I am sweating bullets. Is it because I actually feel heat radiating from Mr. Fro-Bro’s hands or because this historic church building lacks air conditioning?
I’m about to grab my sandals and bolt until I notice an angelic, white-haired oldster rise from a seat in the corner. She hobbles over, lifts her hands over my forehead, and begins channeling energy into my crown chakra. I relax. Nothing truly bad is going to happen to me in the presence of Psychic Grandma.
I’m in a church building, with a totally normal sanctuary and yet things are just….off.
Truthfully though, I do not recommend it based on what happened to me after I got home; it was not good. More to come on that…