Saturday, August 1, 2015

What I'm Into (July 2015 wrap-up)



It has been quite a while since I've posted! I wanted to stop in here and chat you up with something kind-of light, so I thought I'd join this link-up for the first time when two of the blogs in my feed reader featured the same title today! So...

WHAT I'M INTO: JULY 2015 EDITION

Music


All things 70s. I, as the last person on the planet, bought two new albums via iTunes yesterday: Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. A friend and I went and saw Elton at the end of March, and I read a biography of him after that, and this is far-and-wide purported to be his best album ever. To think, six months ago I barely had any clue who the rocker was. I knew some of his songs, but had no idea he was the artist behind them. Even the Lion King, people!! My favorite songs on this album are "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (of course), and also "Sweet Painted Lady" and "Roy Rogers" (not necessarily in that order). And when I listened to Rumours my first thought was, "This is okay, but I'm not sure it's as great as everyone else seems to think...." But I do like several of its songs, and the whole theme of the album seems to fit my life well right now. I probably would not have "gotten it" if I had listened to it before this year.

It's been too long since I just indulged in listening to great music!!

Since the 70s seem to be my musical era at the moment, I looked up some other great albums from the decade. I did some listening to Pink Floyd (and was not impressed - someone PLEASE explain all the hype here, please!!), Led Zeppelin (a little better than Floyd, but still...), and Roxy Music (it just didn't really hit it for me). I of course love me some Dylan, and some sixties groups like the Beatles and the Beach Boys still rock my world, but I'm beginning to think the 70s as a whole aren't really my decade, and I've already discovered all the greats I'm going to from then! We'll see, I guess. I am, however, definitely a fan of the coherently themed album.

Oh, also, a Facebook friend posted this recommended playlist of current "repeat" songs of public radio hosts. I have cued it up on YouTube, but haven't listened yet. I'm all about the creative!


Reading

I was going to post this as "Books," but even though I've downloaded and ordered several still on their way to being delivered, I'm really reading more on the Internet this week than I am reading in book form. I discovered J. R. R. Tolkien's essay (originally given as a lecture) on Andrew Lang called "On Fairy Stories," and this week blogger Richard Beck has broken down the essay in a (so-far four-part) series called "The Theology of Faerie." I'm working on the essay and plan to read the blogs next. The title caught me, and the cross between fantasy literature and theology is RIGHT up my alley!


July 21st I finished the book Catherine: Inside the Heart and Mind of a Great Monarch and fell in love with this long-dead symbol of feminine leadership. She had a couple of obvious flaws, one of which was that she came to love her authority more than her youthful ideals of justice for peasants, and thereby missed an opportunity to capstone the legacy of her greatness. The book is well-written, though (even if I would fault some of the technical editing shortcomings), and keeps one's attention from beginning to end. It read differently than any other work of fiction I've ever come across - I guess that can be attributed to the author's style, and the style made me feel like I was reading more research than fiction. I recommend this read!

I found this (and several other interesting reads) through a daily email service from Bookbub.com. It allows you to choose your favorite genres, and in a daily email you receive a recommendation in each category you chose, at a very cheap price or free. I've ordered quite a few books since a friend recommended Bookbub to me a couple of months ago.

Small Space Living (and extra money)

Okay, I know this craze has been going on for a little while now and I'm late to jump onboard the party boat, but I'm not into it in such a way that I want to buy a little pop-up camper and park it in the forest over by Walden Pond. I just live in a small house and am looking for ways to optimize my space. I know I will move again at some point, anywhere from very soon to a couple of years from now. I'm tired of moving beind a hassle; I'm tired of clutter being an ongoing enemy that surrounds me and tears at my mental-health defenses...I'm just tired of pointless "stuff" and all the wasted money that goes into it.

So I'm trimming back. I've taken probably close to a hundred books to a local bookstore this week for cash. They give pretty decent trade prices, or you can cash out for half the amount they offer in in-store trade credit. (I always cash out.) And I'm finding extra stuff around the house to put on Craigslist. Double benefits: I'm clearing out the clutter and making a little extra pocket change to boot. I've been reading all kinds of articles on quick ways to make a few extra bucks. I opened an online checking account that offered two hundred dollars for doing so...but I set up my direct deposit a week after the deadline so that fell through. I also ordered an online prepaid debit card for the promise of an extra $40 in return. This was through Netspend. I did not get the $40, even though I called and verified that it would be put into my account within a couple of business days of uploading my first amount of money onto the card. (So I don't recommend doing that. The checking account, though, was through Nationwide Bank, and it seems to have been a legitimate offer of $200; I was just late on my end in meeting their very reasonable requirements.) The lesson learned in all of this: for me it is easier to earn "easy money" in the traditional ways. Just sell stuff I'm not using! It benefits me in more ways than one.

But don't be fooled; I still have not triumphed over my clutter.

But I'm working on it!!

Oh, and I signed up to be a mystery shopper! I have my first assignment coming up later today. It should be fun. It's definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme, but it'll be gas money! And without too much effort.


Community

A new guy started at my overnight job a few days ago. He was assigned to work with me that night, and we immediately clicked and had an hours-long philosophical conversation. It was so refreshing! Working third shift, you don't always meet a lot of new people or join a lot of extra-curriculars in which to chat it up with friends. It was pretty affirming in the direction my personal beliefs have taken over the last couple of years. I've learned I really value the Eastern "group" mentality, and that it sheds light on some of my grittier cosmic questions.

And also in the face of that liberal-ish statement, on the other hand, I'm thinking of checking out a local Catholic church's Catholicism 101 classes starting this month. (I think it's akin to RCIA, but I'm not sure. It might be a less commitment-oriented forum.) If I remain part of the official Christian community, the intellectual openness and expanse of the Catholic church draws me. As with so many other things in my life right now...we'll see!


Food

I discovered tomato sandwiches this month. Toasted bread, mayo, tomato, and just a smidgeon of heaven.... Goin' back to my Appalachian roots here!! ;)

And I finally found a really good pizza place here in town, after having lived here and survived on Domino's and Pizza Hut for over 3 years. It's brought a measure of peace to my life that has been missing....


Netflix

Damages. Pretty sure that's 'nuff said.


What are you into?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Aaaaaaand Maybe Not...

Ahh! My life is just completely stupidness right now. I don't think I'm going to do the challenge after all. Thank you for the support, though! And who knows, maybe I'll pop in from time to time and do something with it anyway....

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#100DaysOfPomeletry

Today I ran across a challenge that started YESTERDAY and runs through July 14th. It's called the 100 Day Project. Another blogger I follow is doing it with poetry.


Last week my friend and I went to Las Vegas and, while we were there, saw Elton John in concert. Totally worth the ticket price!! It was definitely the best concert I've been to, and I've seen a few great acts, like the Avett Brothers, and Bob Dylan! Anyway...I'm now reading an Elton John biography and am just so completely inspired by his and his songwriting collaborator's (Bernie Taupin) creativity, I think I am going to do the challenge with poetry, too. It's a continual interest in my life. Do I think I will be the next (female) Elton John? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha no. But it's fun. And maybe I'll end up with a song from this! That would be cool, and something I've always wanted to do (not with a passion, but with an interest).

So...on to #100DaysOfPomeletry! (I wanted a unique hashtag, so that's some kind of combination of "poetry" and my name, "Melody" lol.)

*Warning: The themes of my poems will likely shift depending on my ever-changing moods, so be prepared for both light and happy and very dark and depressing. O.o No one said this would be easy for you all to read...!! ;)

Catch up:

DAY ONE:

(Thinking about writing a song inspired by haiku...wonder how that would turn out?!)


Musical Van Gogh

Draw dancing vistas by croon

Keys unlock new doors

                      veiled worlds

                      dreamt chords

Fledgling painter with a tune


DAY TWO:

(I actually wrote both of these over the last two or three days, before I even knew about the challenge, and the following will already reflect one of my more somber moods.... Also, it would need a lot of reworking, but the idea is here.)


Early in my wanderings, I stumbled into a hidden pit

The walls were steep, and I was weak; I couldn’t climb out.

 

I lay there dying for years, glimpsing passers by above

I called out numerous times

Sometimes you tossed down a word of encouragement, slowing, gawking, as you passed

But the translation said, “You can walk with me, but only if you’re spry.”

Maybe you were limping, wounded too, but your gait looked fine to me

 

I ripped my nails and strained my bones trying to reach that little patch of sky

Visible beyond the high peaks of my enclosure

I think you would have helped, but you were distracted.

Why should I have been your problem anyway?

 

Where does my help come from?

I must help myself or perish.

 

What didn’t kill me left me weaker than I’d ever been before.

I lost my faith, my hope was baked; I couldn’t reach out.

 

It took time, but I learned the way of the hike again

I stumbled numerous times

Sometimes I thought I might see color again, someday, maybe laugh

But I never forgot what that deep dark hole looked like from the inside

Sunday, March 1, 2015

To Bee or Not To Bee...? (A Theological Question)

Having been deeply involved for most of my life in a religious tradition most people would probably classify as "hyperspiritual," I have made it a point these last few years to try to examine spiritual phenomena through as objective and reasonable a lens as possible. Now engaged in studying History, I found one of this week's lessons particularly interesting. It was an excerpt from Laurie Winn Carlson's book A Fever in Salem, in which she hypothesizes that the physical complaints prevalent during the Salem Witch Trials were plausibly caused by an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. She goes so far as to list side-by-side the symptoms from the trial documents with those of a 1930s encephalitis epidemic. Allowing for discrepancies in terminology, it seems the manifestations of the symptoms would have looked the same. Here is a duplication of Carlson's list:

1692 SALEM                      1916-1930s ENCEPHALITIS EPIDEMIC
fits                                        convulsions
          spectral visions                    hallucinations
mental "distraction"             psychoses
pinching, pricking                myoclonus of small muscle bundles on skin surface
"bites"                                  erythmata on skin surface, capillary hemorrhaging
eyes twisted                         oculogyric crises: gaze fixed upward, downward, to side 
inability to walk                   paresis: partial paralysis
neck twisted                         torticollis: spasm of neck muscles forces head to one side
repeating nonsense words    palilalia: repitition of one's own words
Whether Ms. Carlson's suspicions were correct, I do not know. But I do know that because of scientific discoveries, people's interpretations of "inexplicable" events change over time (as explanations become accessible). This knowledge caused me (a while back) to begin questioning what I had always taken for granted to be true about the (hyper)spiritual world. I began to question the validity of demon possession, and even instances of supernatural revelation (i.e., God "speaking" to someone, which claim so often leads to...um...let's say "non-positive" ends...).

WHERE THE BEES COME IN...

In one of my undergraduate courses, our professor had previously been a missionary in the Philippines for a while. He told of an individual who used to roam the streets there, crying out that bees (which were visible to no one but himself) were stinging him. But here is the clincher: he had visible stings.

Upon hearing this story, half (or most?) of me believed it an obvious proof of demonic activity. Another part of me wondered if the marks on his body were psychosomatic manifestations of whatever mental illness the man was experiencing. (Now I wonder if he might have had encephalitis too!) I guess I'll never know.

ON THE SWEETER SIDE OF THE HONEYCOMB...

Yesterday on Facebook, a very good friend of mine who, with her husband and two children recently moved to Hawaii where her husband is now the pastor of a church, posted this:
So thankful to the Lord for his protection our house caught fire last night while sleeping her a popping noise woke up and looked out window and back end of house was on fire . This is where [Daughter's] room is located [Husband] ran to put the fire out and I ran to get [Daughter] her room was filling with smoke got her out thanks to a helpful neighbor and then went to get [Son] he wouldn't wake up his room was full of smoke started dragging him down the hall he woke up then and got ou...t. I'm so thankful I know the Lord woke me up if not within a minute or two [Daughter's] room would of been engulfed as I got her out within a minute her window blew out. Thankful the Lord gave me 2 verses to pray yesterday over my kids and I told [Husband] the verses. My mom calls this morning telling me she felt a spirit of Death and the Lord gave her the Exact two verses to pray yesterday over her family. Thankful for my God!!
In a comment underneath, she later wrote:
Thankyou all for the sweet comments our pool pump caught on fire which is connected to the house. [...]the verses the Lord gave me yesterday were For he has given his angels charge over thee and in thy pathway is life no death. Also No evil will befall me neither shall any plaque come near my dwelling. I thought it was odd to pray over my children at the time but I did and laying here this morning the Lord reminded me of praying this and then my mom calls I don't tell her the scriptures and the exact two the Lord had her pray yesterday over her family. God had his hand on our kids and I'm so thankful. 
Things like this...just completely do a number on all my reason and objectivity. I KNOW these people; they are my very dear friends, with whom I have worked, spent holidays, and all but lived. I have known things like this to happen with them before (the freaky "knowing" part). I have known it to happen with other close church friends, too, just somehow "knowing" things, usually during times when they were in prayer. Yeah, you can chalk it up to intuition, I guess...but does intuition span so many miles...? Is it always so accurate...? What is intuition anyway?!

I don't know. I just can't explain it all away! I guess this is why, despite my changing beliefs about Jesus' mission and message, God's will and Being, and a host of other things, I still consider myself "Pentecostal". I still believe in the (not-so-hyper)spiritual. I still believe in the Holy Spirit.

Do you have any explanations or experiences you would like to share? Please do!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Coming Out, and Coming Into Myself

A couple of my Facebook friends shared this article yesterday, wherein Matt Moore describes how for years he plead with God to make him straight. Though I do not affirm his moral conclusions on the matter, I think it is a thoughtful post, and in fact quite gracious (from a Conservative viewpoint) to those who may be in the Church and experiencing same-sex attraction - it doesn't discount it or degrade them for their plight. Moore concluded, however, that his prayers to God were based not on a desire to be "right" with God, but on a desire to "fit in" or be found acceptable to other Christians. He cites the Romans 1:18-26 anti-homosexuality clobber text and states,
"Homosexual desire – and all other sinful desire — exists in the hearts of people because worship of God doesn't. ...So why didn't God answer my prayer to rid me of my homosexual desires? Because homosexual desires were not my main problem. They were a problem, for sure. But the root of my problem was that I didn't love God or worship Him, and my homosexual desires were just fruit of that, so to speak. God's desire was to fix the root of my issues."
He says a few more things and then this:
"Am I now straight? Am I now normal? Am I now free from same sex desires and attracted solely to women?
No, no and no. ...
But even now, in this messed up damaged flesh, I have experienced some change in my sexuality over the past four years. I can't deny that. And the shifting in my sexual desires is a direct result of my grace-given love for God. I've grown in my disgust of homosexual relations because I see what a twisting and perversion it is of the image of God. And I've grown in my desire for women (specifically, one woman.… I wrote about it here), and maybe even in my desire for marriage, because I see how a one man + one woman marital covenant so beautifully reflects the image of God."

I love it that Moore is so honest in relating his very real experience of same-sex attraction, and his desire to please God is obvious. I don't know Moore or anything about him. But as I read the last paragraph I quoted above, especially his language in the lines I bold-faced, I saw a young man whose psyche has been covered with the fingerprints of well-meaning(?) Christians intent on helping him to see the "truth" of their interpretation of Scripture. Maybe I'm wrong...? But I don't think so.

I've got my own experience to go on.

I loved God. I worshiped him. As a teenager I wore skirts to school and carried my King James Version with me all day to all of my classes, in case I got a few minutes to read it here and there. In fact, I read through the entire thing in study hall one year. It wasn't because I was "cool" for doing these things (believe me!! lol), but because I couldn't get enough of God's Word, and the skirts...well, I was taught that was what God required of me, so I did it.

As a teenager, I spent my free time listening to Jimmy Swaggart's radio station, finding church services in the area to attend as many nights of the week as possible, praying, and fasting.

Oh, and begging, begging, BEGGING God to take away "unhealthy" sexual desires and habits. Not because anyone knew about them, or because they made me not "fit in," but because I believed they were displeasing to God, and wanted MORE THAN ANYTHING to please God. I LOVED Him. I believed I could really, truly know intimacy with God, and I absolutely sought it. It was not shallow or part-time for me: it was everything my life existed for.

But...those desires and habits and nagging feelings did not ever go away. In fact, I was almost always a little more physically attracted to women than men. And I was definitely always more emotionally attracted to women. But I chose not to think about it. I told myself I was just longing for a best friend, not a girlfriend. And honestly, yes, there were two or three guys I was really interested in dating during my time. But nothing ever happened with any of them. I never had a relationship before the one I am in now, with a woman, that started a little over a year ago (when I was 31!), and that just happened.

When I entered my current relationship, I felt like several people felt like I had deceived them, and covered up my sexual orientation. It simply is not the truth. I had never admitted it to myself. But now I can't believe I never did. It was simply a fact that was there all along, but I was conditioned to believe it was not possible that someone could be attracted to the same sex without being possessed by a demon. So I never allowed myself to believe I was LGBT.

I haven't said a lot about my experience in this last year - I have been thinking about it and finally looking honestly at it in terms of the whole spectrum of my life, and I think I am at last coming to understand what I have always known (or at least experienced, without allowing myself to admit).

It is so difficult to realize truth can be different from what you have always believed, or been taught to believe. When you seek God like I did, with my whole heart, for so very long, it is difficult to come to the place of realizing incongruence in what you are experiencing and what you think you know. I still love God. That hasn't changed!! But my perception of God is completely different than it used to be, and not nearly as paint-by-number clear. God is a wonderful mystery. I think we can still know enough about God to trust and love God, but I no longer think God looks like some extension of me and my ideals.

So...there's a beginning little bit about my experience over the last year.
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

What I Think About Chickens and God

When I was in the first grade, I discovered one of my classmates lived right around the corner from me. She became my first unrelated friend. We lived in rural Northwest Ohio and spent the summers riding our bikes and/or walking down the freshly tarred back road she lived on. Maybe three quarters of a mile away, past nothing except a neighboring farm warranting its own traffic signs

(My sister kindly went and took these two shots for me today.) :)

and fields growing corn taller than we were, we would visit a drainage ditch with two tunnels under an even "backer" road. We called this magical place "The Bridge".

I introduced my brothers and cousins to The Bridge right away. My older brother almost stepped on a snake there once. My youngest brother liked watching two small otters that played there one year. My cousin David caught a crayfish, a.k.a. the strangest-looking creature I think I ever saw outside of a zoo or a science book. Me? I would lie on my stomach in one of the tunnels really still and suddenly spring my hand to try and catch minnows in the small pool of water below the tunnel's edge. I never succeeded. But I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Whenever my hand moved in the water, the pool became murky and I would have to be still and wait for a while until I could see what was happening with the minnows again.

I've noticed this makes a good analogy for how my mind works. As I input information on a subject, it seems I can't think clearly about that subject for a very long time - like my mind takes time to unconsciously make up itself, with only data entry required by me. Also, my emotions and thoughts seem to be bound together somehow, because when I can't think, my emotions seem to make up the murky stuff I can't see through. It's akin to a snow globe sitting on an ever-shifting base. The confetti of my thoughts and emotions always seems to be in a blizzard through which I can only glimpse at what lies beneath it.

But every once in a while things settle and all of a sudden, for a few moments everything feels calm and I can actually articulate what I believe about things. Things like God, about whom my sense of perception is constantly evolving. I had one of those moments about 4:00 this morning. It was a welcome experience, because I have felt so completely ungrounded lately. I would like to articulate my thoughts here as a point of reference for my thinking in the near future.

In spite of often bordering on doubt as to whether God even actually exists, I confess I do still believe in a fundamental part of who I am. I do not know who, what, where, why, or how God is. As for "when" God is, God was, is, and will be; God is eternal and always. I have an inkling as to who and what God is, which informs my understanding of who and what I am as a human. God is my Creator, and God is love. The expression of God's image in me, therefore, is in the giving and receiving of love. And this informs the "why," as in, "Why are we here?" and "Why does God put us here and allow evil to dwell here with us?"

"Heaven," or "where" God is (according to traditional thought), is supposed to be perfect, with no pain or injustice. But in such an atmosphere, how would the God-likeness in us (the imago Dei) ever know expression? I believe evil and injustice and lack break the heart of God; but they serve a purpose. What would break God's heart more? Perhaps a perfect void of love (a.k.a. "hell")? In the face of cruelty and poverty and oppression, individuals have opportunity both to give and receive love, whether is be in the form of a blanket, a refuge, a smile.... Just as people grow in knowledge and maturity in so many other areas, they also grow in "the Spirit"...which I think "living in the Spirit (of God)" means living as God would (and does) live - in the continual giving and receiving of love. A child may be able to love by sharing a favorite toy. An adult may be able to love by sharing their home with a friend, or even stranger, in need. The greater the darkness, the greater the opportunity there seems to be for expressions of love, such as smuggling/harboring refugees from an attempted genocide.

(unknown source: I saw it on Facebook!)
As N.T. Wright (and others?) has articulated so much better than I, perhaps our longing - for home, peace, justice, etc. - is an echo of something we know deep inside of us exists, somewhere, sometime. Do I understand it all? NO. Do I believe? Yes. Something in me just won't let go.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Boxing Day (Recycled Post)

Link Here to Bloghop at DL Hammons

[I originally posted this during the A to Z Challenge in April 2013, but recently it has been getting some hits, so because people seem to be interested, here is a timely review of Boxing Day.]

December 26 is a national holiday known as Boxing Day in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, and Canada. Many people do not really understand the historical meaning of this holiday (kind-of like Christmas and Easter!), believing it to have arisen from the need to empty the house of empty gift boxes the day after Christmas. Rather, from what I can tell, December 25th was traditionally the date upon which people exchanged gifts with their equals – family and friends; while the 26th was a day for alms – when people gave gifts to those subservient to them, such as employees, servants, and the poor.

Honestly, I think Boxing Day has a more applicable meaning than our current translation of Christmas Day to the true spirit of Christmas. Christmas honors the historic moment when God became incarnate in human flesh, as the epitomic act of unearned favor, to live and die a human life in order to offer humanity true compassion and the gift of reconciliation with Him. As it plays out, though, Christmas is more often a time of exhaustion, overspending, and ungratefulness. (Don’t get me wrong – I actually really love the Christmas season!)

Wouldn’t it be better to honor God’s greatest gift…one which could not possibly ever be reciprocated…by giving with no strings attached to those less fortunate, as is the traditional habit on Boxing Day?

But then again…

During Easter I had a chance to partake of Communion. As I sat there holding my cup and cracker, I thought of how many people now and throughout the last two millennia have participated in this sacrament. I felt like God was saying to me, “Melody, you are a part of this. You’re included.” And really, isn’t that the whole point?

What did Jesus do for us? He changed our status. No longer do we receive our gifts on Boxing Day…no longer are we just the poor beggars down the street, mostly forgotten, but for this one time of the year…but we have been brought into the “in” group that exchanges its gifts on Christmas Day. Through Christ we have all been made equals. As Christ’s, we understand that each person is precious to Him, and all are invited to the same table of celebration.

I want to begin to recognize Boxing Day as an annual tradition, by volunteering in some service to my fellow humans. But more than that, I want to live each day in the attitude of Christmas – loving my neighbors as myself and, more importantly, as Christ.

“…For whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine [the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned], you did for Me” (--Jesus, in Matthew 25:40, NIV).
(When I went to save this picture to my files [found via Google images], I was going to call it simply “poor hands” but found it was already called “giving hands”. I think I like that better – giving hands, though often dirty, are beautiful, don’t you think?)