After Chariots of Fire-esque photo finish last week (minus the race number and bad hair), you’re taking a victory lap, relishing crossing the Thirty by Thirty finish line. Fergie’s Glamourous is playing in the background of your elation, and you’re coasting… happy and excited to take on the Summer of the Book Draft. I hate to wag my finger in your well-earned glory, but someone has to remind you…
There will be days very soon, possibly tomorrow, when you’d rather have your foot run over by a car than continue your life’s work.
You’ll look in the mirror and curse yourself–loudly, in the manner of a sailor overboard– for putting yourself, your heart and your journey out there for the world to pass judgment on.
You’ll want to quit more than a germophobe working in a sewage plant.
In the face of self-doubt and loud protestors, you’ll want to rip off the bull’s-eye that is Thirty by Thirty, and wave it like flag of surrender.
When you look in that mirror, go ahead and curse (because it feels good!). Then remind yourself –loudly, in the manner of a Baptist preacher–that you put yourself, your heart, and your journey out there knowing full well that a few will pass judgment in the wake of many being inspired. It’s just collateral damage, babe, just collateral damage.
Instead of quitting, look squarely at that mess of sewage and rock a cannonball. There’s no way out but through… (the manure).
Then paint a huge bull’s-eye on a sandwich board and suit up. Some offensive arrows will land, but your sign will also give Seekers everywhere a shot of encouragement.
Writing is sometimes awkward, as when you rear-end a guy in the rain and get stuck huddling with him under a small overhang while the waiting for the police. But writing about religion? Other people’s religion? That’s awkward in the manner of wrapping your car around a tree and breaking lots of bones. Just get used to it. Because you didn’t choose it; it picked you. Besides, your fingers will itch forever if you fail to share your journey of transformation…and itching totally sucks. (Recall: the Holiday of Hives.)
And stop crying already; it wrinkles the skin. Do you really wanna be a crying, cursing, poop-covered, oldster-sandwich board in traction? Didn’t think so.
”I immersed myself as deeply as possible in the rituals, beliefs, practices, and culture of 12 distinct faith systems (one each month for all 2011) and in the process, changed my life forever.”–Andrew Bowen
The house was empty last night; my wife and kids were out of town and I was left to my own devices. I did what any good, observant Jew would do: I said prayers and studied the Torah and other books on Judaism. Right now I’m studying the creation account in Genesis and paying close attention to the relationship between God, Adam, and Eve. We are told of how God visited Adam in the “cool of the day” and basically chatted about…anything and everything. It was a relationship. The Tanakh (Old Testament) is full of them, and they were down right intimate and personal. Rabbi Groner spoke about this relationship as being intellectual, practical, and emotional. We see this dynamic between God and the Children of Israel page after page, yet it seems so foreign, so far removed by all these years. I wondered if the Jewish people feel that intimacy today, if God can be as conspicuously present in their lives as he seems to be in those stories.
So I cracked open a bottle of wine and asked him to come over for a chat. No special prayers (except one specific for consuming wine), no rituals, no religious primer, I just sat down in the fading light of my livingroom and asked God to hang out with me.
Simple enough, right? I’m not asking for money or health or anything selfish, just for God to visit me in the cool of the day. Well, the day became cooler, and darker. I lit my fire pot and poured another glass of wine. I sat quietly and patiently as I stared into the flame. I “called” again. No secretary, no voicemail…nothing, and by this point I’ve got a healthy buzz. Did God just stand me up?
I was disappointed and confused. All I wanted was some company. All I wanted was what those folks in the Tanakh had. Was I asking too much? Did I do something wrong? Does God not like cheap Merlot? Doubt crept in during my weakened state. The rabbis of the Talmud, a commentary and guide on the Torah, recognized two forces within us: the Yetzer Hatov or Good Urge, and the Yetzer Hara or Bad Urge. These forces are constantly at war within us and Judaism states that only good action (as pointed out by the 613 mitzvot) and repentance to God will defeat the Bad Urge.
I thought my invitation to God was a good thing. What’s wrong with asking God to hang out?
“You’re being selfish,” my wife said. After a verbal beating for getting drunk, my wife went on to lambaste me for
forgetting my lessons so far. “Didn’t the Hindus teach you that God is everywhere? So why would you get upset that God didn’t show up where and when you wanted him to when he’s been here the whole time? And you really think he wants to talk to a drunk?”
Wow, no gloves, huh? She was right. It seemed so innocent to ask God to sit down and talk. But what was really going on here?
1) Deep down, I was jealous of the stories in the Tanakh, and we are asked not to covet what others have.
2) I set limits on God. If God is everywhere, why do I need him to sit in my chair? Which leads me to my next point.
3) I wouldn’t need a physical representation if my faith was strong enough to begin with. Let’s face it: when we ask God to “show us a sign” or just show up in general, what we are really saying is that we don’t believe enough by default that he is there. Our fast-paced, materialistic world has conditioned us to only pay attention to what we can immediately see and consume.
God presented himself to the faithful when they had no previous physical representation. It seldom works the other way around. This doesn’t mean that one should increase their faith just for the reward of a divine peep show. I would have done well to remember my Hindu lesson in the Upanishads stating that enlightenment and moksha is reached once we realize the divine in everything and as everything, therefore making representations useless obstacles. Think about it, if God showed last night, my impression of him would be forever cast into that limiting aspect. I would lose all ability to recognize the divine in all of creation because for a split second, he was reduced to a point in space in my living room. This is why God (in many faiths) strictly forbids the creation of idols, not because of jealousy on his part, but because he knows how such an image limits our perception of him. Ironic, isn’t it, that the abstract then becomes a far greater representation than the specificity of a physical form.
I know what you’re thinking: this guy has lost his mind. He’s a crack job. Fair enough, but just remember: I’m not perfect. I’m going to screw up–a lot–and I think we can file this one under “screwed up,” but not before we learn something, and that’s what this is all about.
We remember that every time someone messed up in these stories, God was there. He clothed Adam and Eve after they partook of the fruit (kind of what I did last night) in the Garden. He brought the Children of Israel to the Promised Land after wandering for 40 years. Like a Chinese finger trap, we discover the way out only when we stop struggling. In connecting with the divine, struggling isn’t the answer because we are literally in his presence 24/7. The epiphany only comes once we bring ourselves to rest and open our minds and hearts.
So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t drunk-dial God. He won’t answer, but he will show up in the morning to help you sober up when you’re ready to let him move freely.
Read more on Project Conversion here: http://blog.beliefnet.com/projectconversion/2011/04/drunk-dialing-god.html#ixzz1oIROa3l5
Thanks Andrew! And, speaking of drunk dialing, here is a throw-back article “Digital Hangover“. No God, but a lot of regrets! Enjoy. Blessings to you all in the journey–Reba
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!
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.
The $170+ sari? Totally worth the money…it saved me from chickening out. Seriously, if I hadn’t already been pinned snugly into my beautiful dress, this article would be blank. Because… upon driving into the parking lot… I realized A) I am the only Caucasian in a two-mile radius and B) People are wearing STREET CLOTHES.As in, JEANS! Great. I am the white girl with the Very Beaded, Very Beautiful, Very Expensive, Very Inappropriate Dress.
Well. I had a little moment with myself there in the car, wherein we argued about the pros and cons of going ahead with this Diwali thing. Pro: Awful experience=better story. Con: Awful! Experience! Pro: Getting out of my comfort zone.Stretching my spiritual legs. Con: Stretching! Comfort zone! I was terrified these lovely street clothes-wearing Hindus were going to think I was making fun of them or (worse!) laugh at me. (Out loud, or maybe behind my back. Either option? Unappetizing.)
But..since I was already wearing The Very Sari, I pulled myself together all Scarlet O’Hara-style, touched up my (matching red) lipstick, and marched my bejeweled behind right through the
front back door. (In my defense, the back door was the only one open.) All the while giving myself a pep-talk: I am Fierce. I am Fearless. I am Following my Calling. I am...totally unsure whether to wash my feet in the little foot shower in the coat room!
Now, to put things in perspective, the “coat” room was more like a giant shoe closet, with racks for placing one’s shoes before entering the temple. But it was shaped sort of like a letter C, so I couldn’t C around the corner into the main room,see? I still didn’t know if the people in the temple were wearing street clothes, or if they were going to giggle upon my entry. And, I was rather unsure about the cleanliness of the foot shower. Since no one else was in the room ( and I knew I’d soon lose my nerve) I quickly tore off my shoes and dashed (as quickly as you can in a beaded sari) around the C-curve.
And came face-to-face with a short, stout, jolly Indian gentlemen wearing…a loincloth. It was a LONG loincloth (to his feet), but loincloth was the first word that came to mind. Well, that and Buddha (because he looked like one), but this was a Hindu Temple, so loincloth won out.
Like this? Find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/thirtybythirty.com
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.
Please like Thirty by Thirty on Facebook if you enjoyed this post! www.facebook.com/thirtybythirty
And don’t forget to visit Jen Lancaster on FB if you need a laugh! www.facebook.com/AuthorJenLancaster
Faith, Faith blog, theology,Reba Riley,thirty by thirty, 30 by 30, thirty x thirty, 30×30, faith, faith blog, God, blog faith, on faith blog, faith blogs, faith & theology, faith theology, unreasonable faith,on faith washington post,washington post on faith,church, christian,Jesus,hope, Bible,what is faith,faith in God, faith book,world religion,religions world,the major religions, lost faith, lose faith,losing faith in faith,confidence in God, losing my faith,faith God, find faith,find your faith, jen lancaster,big lights,goodkind,jennifer lancaster,lancaster book, recovering christian, recovering catholic
“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.
Faith, Faith blog, theology,Reba Riley,thirty by thirty, 30 by 30, thirty x thirty, 30x30, faith, faith blog, God, blog faith, on faith blog, faith blogs, faith & theology, faith theology, unreasonable faith,on faith washington post,washington post on faith,church, christian,Jesus,hope, Bible,what is faith,faith in God, faith book,world religion,religions world,the major religions, lost faith, lose faith,losing faith in faith,confidence in God, losing my faith,faith God, find faith,find your faith
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.
Faith, Faith blog, theology,Reba Riley,thirty by thirty, 30 by 30, thirty x thirty, 30×30, faith, faith blog, God, blog faith, on faith blog, faith blogs, faith & theology, faith theology, unreasonable faith,on faith washington post,washington post on faith,church, christian,Jesus,hope, Bible,what is faith,faith in God, faith book,world religion,religions world,the major religions, lost faith, lose faith,losing faith in faith,confidence in God, losing my faith,faith God, find faith,find your faith, christian spiritualism, christian spiritualists
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…