Wednesday, December 9, 2015

You Just Had To Be There

I'm borrowing my mom's car temporarily, and it has a luxury I've never known before: I can hook my iPod up and play my music in it! I knew this technology existed for others, but it never has for me until now. I'm in love. And I've been hearing a lot of songs I forgot I had (because I haven't listened to my iPod in quite a while). Today on my way home from work, I heard this one:



Today I also had an old friend call one of my Facebook posts blasphemous. This was the post:


I shared the meme because I believe what it says. It's that simple. This is a theologically-inclined blog, but the last couple of years I haven't written much that has been theologically inclined, and what I have written probably didn't sound much like me to those who knew me previously. That's because what I believe has undergone a HUGE, slow change. I believe differently than I used to. Before I was ultra-conservative. Now I am pretty progressive. Before I was Pentecostal, now I consider myself a progressive Christian (who occasionally doubts the existence of God, if we're being honest). (But most of the time I believe.)

I'm not there yet. I am still on my journey. And just as I respect you and your journey, I would love it if my friends would allow me the freedom to come into the truth on my own terms and not theirs. I could (and no doubt will, to some extent) share my experiences and understanding as I feel like doing so, but my words are just black and white and inadequate to explain to those who knew me before how I got to where I am now. Like the song above says so much more eloquently than I, some of the things I have experienced, you just had to see it in color to really get it.

However, I will say this: I do not take my spiritual beliefs lightly, and I do not ever mean to treat others' beliefs lightly or disrespectfully. It is not my intention to blaspheme, I promise. I have come to believe what I do through living not-in-a-bubble, and through a TREMENDOUS amount of searching and studying. And, since I am not there yet, I believe my understanding of the truth will continue to evolve.

If my beliefs differ from yours, I hope you do not take that personally or feel attacked. They just do. I can't help it. It is where life has taken me. I wish you peace on your journey, and I will endeavor to not let naysayers ruin my own peace as I continue on my own.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

7QT - Ohio, Saints, and Cemeteries


-1-
Since August of 2002, when I moved to Joplin for college, I have lived in Missouri. Since this August or September, I have been considering moving back to Ohio...it just seems that besides jobs, I really have nothing holding me in Missouri anymore, except a handful of friends I never see anyway. I got some employment opportunities in order and decided to move on December 12 - pretty much finish out the school semester subbing, but still have time to get paperwork through for jobs in Ohio to start after the first of the year. But things worked out so I got to move a month early! My bosses were very understanding - I had great jobs in Springfield.

-2-
My brother Sam came to Missouri to visit, and so I moved back with him. On the way we stopped at Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, near Collinsville, IL. We decided we should do YouTube videos of "tours" of popular tourist sites. For instance, as we approached the north end of the temple mound where I think the chief's home would have stood, we looked over the side and reminisced how this was where the chief peed every morning...and learned the hard way which direction the wind was blowing.... And on the "platform" (flat space of land) between the two large staircases leading to the top of that mound, a bench had been built. We commented how this was where the chief probably took his afternoon nap every day, before having his squaw make him a sammich.... 

We would, of course, have a group of friends act the part of believing tourists in these videos. It could be a lot of fun. Next time I'm bringing a video recorder, cuz you probably just had to be there to get the humor of it.

Really, though, the place was very interesting. I love learning about past cultures, and the fact that a thousand years ago this was the largest city north of Mexico flabbergasted me when I first discovered it a couple months ago. Right here in 'Merica, guys! So cool.

Here is a picture viewing westward from the top of the temple mound. You can see St. Louis in the background. 


-3-
Since arriving in Ohio, I have been catching up with family and interviewing for jobs. Friday night I got to go watch my niece cheer at Mount Vernon Nazarene University's homecoming basketball game. She's very good. While the girls (and a couple of guys) do their thing in the background (which my niece is part of half the time) the coach usually has her in the foreground tumbling. Pretty nice privilege for a freshman, methinks. 

-4-
Today (Thursday) I had a little down time, so I took my dog and went to the shrine park in Carey. The shrine is Our Lady of Consolation. Before hitting the park (which I haven't been to in years, but used to walk there sometimes with a friend and it was beautiful!), I decided to check out the gift shop. So I walked in and a lady asked if she could help me find anything. I said, "Well, I've never been in here before...I was wondering if you had any rosaries." 

She laughed.

And so today I bought my first rosary. (My camera phone doesn't do it justice - it was not expensive, but it is quite pretty.)



I also let her know how brilliant I am by asking, "Who is the saint on there?" She said, "Well, I think it is the Sacred Heart...." 

"Oh. Cool!" 

Smh.

-5-
Here are a few pictures from the shrine park. There are stations of the cross that encircle the whole thing. (There is fresh candle wax all over them - probably from All Saints' Day celebrations, I am guessing...? Cool, anyway; a witness to devotion.) 




Other statues can be found, too - like one of St. Andrew (not pictured), one of Jesus sitting on the Cross (also not pictured), and one of the Holy Family (again, not pictured). Pictured are one of Rachel mourning for her children ("Memorial to the Unborn"), St. Francis of Assisi (one of my favoritest saints), and one of St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin (made me realize something: Jesus had grandparents!). 




This was the only picture the whole day for which the sun came out!
It was cold, and Albie was with me, and I had a flat tire...so I decided to come back and visit the Basilica another day (the lady at the gift shop told me it has a lot worth seeing, including a statue of Mother Teresa - my MOST favoritest likely-going-to-be-a saint). 

-6-
I am enjoying the rural scenery here in Ohio. I've missed it! (I would post a picture or two, but they are on my brother's phone - it takes better pictures - and he is not cooperating with sending them to me in a timely manner, so you'll just have to take my word for it!!) I have noticed that EVERYWHERE is surrounded by fields. You can seriously just walk right into one at any time. Arrowhead hunting available at a moment's notice. (That's another thing on my soon-to-do list.) 

-7-
So one other thing I've done a little of since being back is visiting old cemeteries. I just find them interesting - the old Civil War (and other wars) medallions beside some of them, the worn-down poems on the really old ones, and the mysteries.... Like a small family vault in a small rural (Smithville) cemetery I passed probably every day of my childhood. It features three Smith graves. One was from Connecticut, one from Virginia, and one from "Negro Town." I tried to look it up on the Internet to find out the history there, but that is all it said, too. Just a record. I still have no idea who Henry Harrison Smith was, or where Negro Town was, or why he had come to Wyandot County, Ohio. I will have to check out local museums and see if there is any other information on that. I also found it interesting that, in the same cemetery, most (probably at least 90%) of the gravestones with deaths between the years of WWI and WWII bore German names. There must have been a large German immigrant community in this area then, and it made me wonder what their lives were like here in such an era.

I stopped by a couple other cemeteries, too. And I am staying in my brother's basement for the time being - kind-of my own little apartment, but a basement nonetheless. And when I turned out the lights last night to go to sleep my dog decided to start barking at something I couldn't see because it was pitch black. And then I started thinking about all the things I'd ever wondered or heard or read about animal possession and avoided eye contact with poor little Albie for a while.... The only way forward for me was clear: I had a little talk with Jesus! lol

Oh, the things we fear in the dark. (Again, smh.)

For more Quick Takes, check in with Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kicked Out for No Reason

The other night one of the children at the residential facility I work at got up in the middle of the night and tried everything under the...moon...to keep from going back to bed. At one point she was reading to my work partner from a children's story Bible. My coworker said to the child, "You're really good at reading. What is your favorite part of that story?" The child replied, "The part where Adam and Eve get kicked out for no reason."

We laughed at this (not in front of the child). My first thought was, "Someone didn't listen very well when this passage was explained...she missed the whole point!" My second was more along the lines of...it probably does seem to her that they were kicked out (of the Garden of Eden) for no reason.

All they did was eat an apple.

They disobeyed God in eating the forbidden fruit, yes; but from this child's perspective, disobedience is part of everyday life - especially this child, one who is in residential care for behavioral issues. It made me wonder how she perceived the idea of "getting kicked out" by God for something as little as eating a piece of fruit He left on the counter but then said was off-limits. I mean, it's fruit! If someone doesn't eat it, it will soon go bad anyway. Isn't that a waste...? And there's always an abundance of it lying around, it's not like eating this fruit will be putting anyone else out of a meal or snack.

I wonder how this story makes this child perceive God (and, in fact, everyone else in authority over her). Is she unwanted because she chooses to disobey? Is she going to be banished forever from the presence of those who brought her into being and are supposed to be there to care for her and love her?

Are we...?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Worldbuilding Wednesday #1: Creation Myth


I am excited to join with the link-up this week, but I don't think I'm far enough in my worldbuilding to think about transportation yet. So I'm beginning here by submitting the work-in-progress creation story for my world. One of the larger difficulties I've run into is coming up with good names (for people AND places). Where do you get your inspiration for names? Are the names I've chosen here too complicated? (Other thoughts on the following submission are welcome, too.) 

Here, too, is a rough, incomplete, and likely-to-be-changed map of my world:





[Beginning still needs fleshed out, but: gods overcome with plague – last to survive are the Sebestri siblings. Dying grandfather gives them each a handful of seeds to plant so another race will grow and take over where the gods left off. Sebestris put the seeds in their pockets and run as fast as they can, thinking they can escape the plague and continue living as they always had. Maybe they could even plant the seeds and raise a crop of slaves to care for them since they no longer had parents and didn’t really know how to do any work for themselves. But they ran so far and so fast that before they knew it they fell off the edge of their habitation.] 

They fell a very long way, through darkness and wind and chaos, to land with a fatal crash in the water below all that was. Their bodies lay there, partly submerged and partly above sea level, tangled and heaped over and around each other, until they eventually transformed[decomposed?] into land of a (mostly) fertile nature.

The seeds of humanity never left the pockets of the Sebestris, but took root where the carriers fell. The roots drew sustenance both from the lifeforce no longer claimed by the slain siblings, and from the ground where each now lay. Thus the tribes of the seven lands were born.

One of the siblings, Monsighe, fell on his side, so that one of his pockets lay submerged in the sea, while the other remained high in the air and became a mountain known as Mt. Grimeni. The mountain soon had a twin from the elevated backside of Frosketta who fell behind her brother, face-down in the water. The twin mountain is called Mt. Mostracea. Other, lesser, peaks eventually grew around these, but the two remain the most prevalent in the             range to this day. The mountains proved a rougher area for the seeds to grow, so the fruit they brought forth had a harder shell; this race of RACE 1 grew strong and solid, but short. Possible to mistake as part of the rocky landscape from a distance, their skin was a color between grey and brown, rough to the touch and difficult to pierce. Isolated by their geology, the RACE 1 kept to themselves and, because they were little-known to outsiders, they have long been feared and readily left alone.

Monsighe’s submerged pocket brought forth an altogether different set of circumstances. The abundance of moisture caused the humans’ roots to develop a fungal coating that sealed in the necessary nutrients to produce life, but also provided some of its own. The Nelsmarsh at the foot of Mt. Grimeni thus birthed the race of magic-wielding RACE 2/WIZARDS. They alone possessed magic, so they, too, were somewhat feared by the other races, but they were also sought out when extraordinary help was needed. With the aid of their special abilities, the RACE 2 had the means to become the most broadly traveled and well-learned of all the humans. And so they did. 


[This is still far from finished, but I am strapped for time! Still to come in my creation myth: Five more races (one for each Sebestri sibling); beliefs regarding what happens when humans die.]

Monday, September 14, 2015

Looking Forward to Worldbuilding Wednesdays

This is not a writing/fiction blog. However, it is my personal blog, and one thing I am doing right now is attempting to write a fantasy novel. One blogger I follow is beginning a biweekly hop:

There will be a prompt for each submission, but it is not necessary to follow it; more
information for those interested here.

I'm not sure I will participate every Wednesday, but I do plan to participate some. For example, the first week's theme is Transportation. I don't think I'm far enough in my planning to consider that just yet, but I may enter with another subject. (However, I may not participate at all this first week because there is a submission deadline and I just found out about the hop.) 

Thought I'd let anyone interested know about the hop, and let any of my readers know that it's possible they'll be reading some fiction here biweekly. But no, my blog as a whole has not switched genres. 

Hope some of you participate! I'm really looking forward to this. My goal is to get enough worldbuilding done that I can realistically participate in NaNoWriMo this November. I am going to use this bloghop to try to accomplish that.






Monday, August 31, 2015

Why Do I Read Those Things?

Seems like I haven't had much to say for a while, but all of a sudden the last day or two I've felt like posting several times. And not bad/stressful stuff, either! Yay!! :)

So...my last post. Yes, I know it may have been a little volatile. But I'm leaving it, because it's where I'm at. And the initial purpose of this blog was to be a place to discuss my theological thoughts, because I had MANY. All the time. I'm changing a lot. Discovering truth is a large part of who I am, and the lifetime JOURNEY to discovering that truth is something I treasure, even though at times I find it difficult being in an "in-between," less-certain place. So, I noticed I lost a follower. That's okay (though it just goes to prove the point of my last post). It's hard to face difficult questions or very opposing views to what we believe - it causes a very uncomfortable condition called cognitive dissonance. I've been there. It IS very uncomfortable, and that's putting it mildly.


But today, I have some other thoughts to talk about.

I came across this post by Modern Mrs. Darcy blogger Anne Bogel discussing WHAT OUR FAVORITE BOOKS SAY ABOUT OUR OWN CHARACTER. It's an interesting read, and it got me thinking about my own favorite things to read, and what they say about me. Like Anne, it's difficult for me to choose a particular "favorite" book...but a few do come to mind.

I love the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings. I've read many other fantasy series, too, and if I write my own novel, it will likely fit in the same genre. The creativity jumps out to me about these books - they contain all types of mysterious objects, diverse characters, and fluid "rules" for various worlds and situations. They involve heroes and villains and great personal struggle. Life in the story is not ordinary, ever, for the reader...but yet it is, for the characters - especially after the crisis has been overcome. The foreign nature of the fantastical setting gives a busy mind a lot of detail to pay attention to as the action unfolds, and the struggle usually requires make-or-break decisions to be made by the character/s on moral matters and personal values. In the end, evil is defeated (or set at bay), good prevails (usually), and the character resumes life-as-usual knowing he/she has played an important part in the unfolding of all things.

Historical Fiction is another genre I have enjoyed as long as I can remember. When I was young I loved anything by Scott O'Dell, and anything about pioneers moving into uncharted lands to live or interact with its inhabitants. I still love historical fiction (like the one I read recently on Catherine the Great, and the Highlander series, which I'm still working on). There are a lot of the same elements here, as in any story - the character facing crisis and making life-changing decisions, etc. The obvious conclusion is that I love history! But also, perhaps I find comfort in the idea that these stories represent people who have gone before - real people - who have already walked the road, survived the journey, affected their world, and determined their destiny.

Perhaps I long for some kind of adventure.

Perhaps what I desire is direction and assurance that it is right and things will be okay.

...Or maybe I just like a good plot!

What to you like to read, and what do you think it might say about you?


Monday, August 24, 2015

You Know What Isn't Fair?

Through a friend's social media post this week I came into contact with this article on how atheists find meaning and purpose in life. This was actually always one of the questions I could never wrap my mind around when I thought Christian evangelism was the highest purpose/call one could pursue. And I didn't see how everyone else couldn't come to the same conclusion and seek that higher meaning which, in my opinion, was to love, serve, and recruit more lovers and servers for Jesus. (Side note: I highly recommend giving this article a read if you are a Christian.)

But you know what isn't fair (besides pretty much most things)...?

The hipster-culture, materialistic jump-up-and-down-in-the-smoke-and-lights, first-world Christians of today who think the rest of the world to be arrogant rejecters of Christ, and poor Christians to be lacking in faith and not living in the full potential of the "abundant life" available to them, and poor "unreached" peoples as desperately in need of hearing a prosperity gospel with the hope that they, too, can have all their material needs met in Christ if they just turn from sin and believe with their poor heathen hearts...what's not fair is that these Christians will continue to live just as they are, and if they are wrong and atheists are right, these (dare I say it?) oppressive Christians (one of whom I have indeed been) will never know it. They'll just continue to live in ignorance, and then die, and...well, that's it. There's nothing else.

But if they are right...then everyone else will suffer eternally for just trying to live life and be decent people.

It's not fair because it makes God seem pretty sadistic.

If God exists, or if Christian religion/theology has any merit at all, then God cannot be as/what most Christians claim [Him] to be.

Because it's just not fair.

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.