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?)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reading Through 2014; and Some Comments on Consolmagno's "Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?"

After completing my graduate degree coursework in September 2013, I decided to use 2014 to catch up on my reading for fun (instead of primarily for assignments)!! One of my year-long goals was to read at least one book per two weeks. I am now in the midst of my twenty-sixth, so...CHECKMATE! ;) I even caught up on a few classics I'd never had time for. Overall, I'm very satisfied with my year of reading.

Here are the books I read this year:

1) The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson
2) A Better Atonement by Tony Jones
3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
4) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
5) Dorothy Parker: Complete Stories
6) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
7) Wicked by Gregory Maguire
8) Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler
9) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
10) Three Lives by Gertrude Stein
11) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
12) Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen
13) Southern Living: Easy Gardening (Spring 2010)
14) Russian Fairy Tales
15) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
16) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
17) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
18) World Systems Analysis (Okay...this one was for a class....) by Immanuel Wallerstein
19) Democracy and Social Ethics by Jane Addams
20) Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
21) Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit by Joel Chandler Harris
22) Hollow City (Miss Peregrine 2) by Ransom Riggs
23) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Pat Rothfuss
24) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
25) Outlander... Diana Gabaldon
And the one I am reading now: 26) Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? by Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller

I linked to the ones I blogged about while reading - relatively few! I actually blogged twice, though, about both Anna Karenina and Mission at Nuremberg. I think Mission at Nuremberg was my favorite of all. The Miss Peregrine books were really cool, because they were inspired and illustrated by old black-and-white photos found at thrift shops. What a great writing prompt, eh?!

The one I'm reading right now is pretty great, too. Written by an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, it examines various questions by lay Christians regarding the intricacies of the relationship between faith and science.

Right now I am on page 56 of 286. The authors have been having a discussion about religious fundamentalists who insist on a literal interpretation of Scripture...and also scientific fundamentalists who also insist on a literal interpretation of Scripture, and dismiss it altogether based on its incongruity with scientific discoveries.
"After all, what is a 'fundamentalist' but someone who has a flattened, one-dimensional view of the subject, and who thinks that if his view of the universe is true, then necessarily all other views must be false? When you think that the 'fundamentals' are all that's important, or that knowing the 'fundamentals' is enough by itself, it's like seeing only the dots of paint in Seurat's [pointillistic] painting [Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte]." --Consolmagno
"And, what is worse, it leads you to try to use the 'fundamentals' of one topic to solve te issues of a different topic. You're using the wrong tools to try to answer questions they were never designed for. It's misguided to ask whether the Big Bang theory would provide evidence for or against a scriptural story of Creation; the Big Bank Theory is a scientific theory, concerned with physical causes that are proximate and contingent. And it's wrong to ask whether a scriptural story of Creation would provide evidence for or against the Big Bang theory; scriptural stories of Creation are concerned with ultimate origins and with humanity's personal relationship with God. Those are the wrong questions for the tools at hand." --Mueller

(The authors then begin a discussion of what are the right questions.) They have already talked about the progressive development of discovery, both in science and theology, and point out the necessity of living in tension knowing all things have not yet been discovered, and so Christians must have faith in the ultimate unity of truth. (I'm sure you've heard the saying "all truth is God's truth." This idea expresses the same sentiment.)

This semester in my Macroeconomics class I learned the fallacy of composition, which states that it is a fallacy to assume that something is true of the whole just because it is true of one or some of the individual parts. In other words, because an economist understands the microeconomics of a situation, he or she does not necessarily understand the macroeconomic picture. For instance, the real estate market in Iowa does not necessarily reflect the state of property values or trade in the nation as a whole.

Just so, scientific discoveries can enlighten how we interpret Scripture, just as scriptural understanding can help us interpret scientific data to discover things about the God whom we believe created the universe. Advances in neither, however, cancel out the validity of the other discipline as a whole. If there are differences, we must hold our rationality and faith in tension and believe that ultimately, each will be fully revealed in such a way that neither conflicts with the other.

I trust in the ultimate unity of truth.