Archive for September, 2011

And after 10 years?

September 10, 2011

Have we learned anything?

I vaguely remember thinking in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that I hoped something good would come out of the tragedies.  I remember thinking that maybe we could be a stronger, better world because of a horrific act of hate.  I remember laying in bed in the nights after hearing the planes circle NORAD and trying not to be afraid.  I remember taking the first flight out of the Colorado Springs airport and finally grasping how we take mobility for granted.  I remember watching the national prayer service from a bar in the Salt Lake City airport with a NYC firefighter who had been on vacation and simply wanted to ‘get home to be with his brothers (at the firehouse)’.  I remember lying to my oldest nephew anytime I went through NY ‘because only bad people live in NY’.  I remember Paris in January of 2002 when at the top of Notre Dame, a Muslim told me he wished that somebody from his faith didn’t do that to my country: I remember saying to him a person of his faith didn’t.

But mostly, I remember the eternal hope that somehow we could become a better world.  By the 20th anniversary, I hope we have.  And I also hope we think of those who keep us safe first, instead of last when passing out invitations.



And about my driving . . . Day 23

September 6, 2011

Drive slowly. Most people rush through traffic,  honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out. And endangering
themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it  is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful. Give it a

Fact: I live in sprawlburbia. Problem? Traffic jams.  In the morning, I avoid traffic by going to work early.  I take the back roads in nice weather (read not snowing).  I find the drive to work relaxing.  Although it is town hopping, there are stretches of typical New England scenery: mills, trees, a few lakes, a bog and um, turkeys/ducks/geese.  Coming home? It’s double the drive time.  I am frustrated by the night-time drive.  Yes, usually I want to just get home.  Yes, being IN traffic means I’ve left before 6 pm.  Yes, I’m adjusting to the “everybody is back from summer” commute.  Still, my back road commute is far more pleasurable to the Pike (except during a Nor’Easter) which in the best circumstances is just a mass of cars and at the worst is everybody LOOKING at the random shoe on the side of the road (major pet peeve: accident on one side, the other side slows down).  Every time I hit the Pike and see people with out EZ passes, I think “seriously? you live here . . . you are paying more … and you have to stand in line!”

I have to say . . . road rage is one thing I don’t get.  Although, I do enjoy flying down the highway in those wide open spaces . . . .


And remember to chew your food: Day 22

September 5, 2011

Eat slowly. If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only  missing out on the great taste of the food, you are not eating healthy. Slow
down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more.”

Eh, not so sure on the back half: there are some leaps of logic as in “if i slowly eat a big mac, you are saying that is better than scarfing watermelon?” floating around in my mind.  This is one that I *try* to follow.  I’m good at it about none of the time.  Breakfast: a Luna bar and caffeine in the car as I listen to NPR if I’m good. Coffee if I’m bad.  Breakfast is always *in* the car.  I’ve improved in the fact that it’s no longer a drive thru breakfast.  Lunch … um. Yeah. It’s either a repeat of breakfast, something I’ve thrown together the night before or something that looks vaguely like food from the cafeteria at work.  Dinner … um.  Ok, I’m in serious need here.  While I like to COOK (more like I like the smell of cooking food), when it comes to sitting down and eating a meal? Like at a table? Well, I’m horrific.

My parents gave me a kitchen table a few years ago.  It was my first one.  I wish I could say I was 20. . . no where close.  My cat found it to be a launching pad.  True story, the first time he *saw* a table it was while visiting my parents ten years ago.  He jumped on it in the middle of dinner.  My parents flipped: I sorta explained he’d never seen one.  Jackson still thinks the kitchen table is a perfect winter sun spot (I see evidence of Jackson ON the table, never have been able to catch him).

The bad thing in all of this? I’m picky about my food: I am a huge fan of the slow food movement.  I am a member of a local food co-op, a meat CSA (LOVE 8 O’clock Ranch!) and a fruit/veggie CSA (Nourse Farm).  Where do I fail: In taking the time to enjoy my meal.  To savor the textures and tastes, to remember that even if I *made* the pickles, eating them for dinner is probably not the best dinner on the planet.

I’m not even going to try to make excuses on this one.  I simply fail at doing this.  It is something I need to work on, to learn how to enjoy and savor a meal.  But really? I have made huge improvements on not eating in the car.

Needing That Alone Time? Day 21. . .

September 5, 2011

SalsaSpend time alone. See this
of ways to free up time for yourself — to spend in solitude. Alone time  is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take
practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, I know, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary
for finding out what’s important to you.”

Ok, truth time: this is one I thought I had mastered.  I’m a singleton (unless you count pawed creatures), my family is flung out from here to there (seriously, my closest relative is 8 hours away, my closest nuclear family member is 16 hours away) and truth be told, I’m pretty introverted.  I can blame my introversion on lots of things plus a dash of genetics.  I can be social but when I’ve had enough, I leave.  I don’t do well when I’m forced to be “on” for more than about 8 hours a day.  I don’t draw energy from other people …. a weekend with the nieces and nephews leads me craving quiet and sleep.

I realized while I am often “alone” it’s not recharging time.  It’s a factor of my life.  Meditation . . . not really my thing (I blame that on the unused seminary degree).  Art, eh. It’s a winter activity when I’m trying to refocus but not something renewing.  I found myself pondering this as I randomly decided to make pickled beets (ok, I had 3 pounds of beets from my CSA share and couldn’t figure out to do with them!).  Somewhere in the untangling of my thoughts I realized that my “alone time” was in the kitchen.  My culinary adventures and misadventures, canning, picking berries all have a point of rejuvenation for me.

I have a great little sous chef (the smell of boiling vinegar is a sirens sound to him).  I realized that during my cooking time, I decompressed.  I let go.  I played.  The benefit is, of course, a load of canned organic items for the winter (now what exactly I’m going to do with 5 pints of green heirloom tomato chutney is really beyond me).  Yes, I’ve found a bit of satisfaction in looking in my faux-pantry and seeing jars of items that I made but it’s more than that.  I found a place to rest my mind.  What I’m doing now will create interesting meals over the winter.  Since it’s just me, I don’t mind experimenting and can always ditch back to cereal for dinner if it’s really gross (hey, it’s easier to toss 1 meal without hearing the people are starving all over the world lecture from my grandmother in the back of my head!).

I realized while spending alone time, I’ve struggled with renewal time.  I’ve found something that I enjoy.  But seriously? What am I going to do with 8 pints of pickled beets?

Berry Picking

Proudly Spiritual, Never (again) Religious

September 2, 2011

Lillian Daniel wrote a daily devotional on the United Church of Christ (UCC, aka the Pilgrims) website that caused a bit of back and forth on my Facebook page.  I found her shortsighted and snarky in (to say the least).  I can give or take most comments/devotionals but one section grabbed me as probably one of the more broad brush strokes I’ve read in a while: “Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you.”  Can somebody show me where this appears in a religious text that conversations like this can only appear in a house of worship? Maybe I’m just fortunate,  I have a wide circle of friends, including a former-Marine dyed in the wool Libertarian.  We disagree on a ton, we agree on a ton: and we met by me yelling “Bullshit!” to her in the middle of a class our freshman year of college.  It was hardly a house of worship.  Using the Christian tradition of community, it is comprised as more than one: so my conversations with my friends are community, they are hair-splitting, they are wide-ranging and they are difficult conversations.  They are hardly religious but honestly? How many people actually attend a house of worship that has distinct political views/ethical views that they hold?  How many dyed in the wool liberals would attend, let alone join, a church that forbids card playing, dancing, alcohol?  How many dyed in the wool conservatives would attend a church that not only allows LGBT individuals to openly worship but openly ordains them?

I graduated from seminary. I (somewhere) have the diploma to prove it: I certainly have the debt.  Among my myriad of frustrations was the lack of engagement IN the difficulty of faith.  Start with the Revised Common Lectionary: it doesn’t even COVER the entire Bible.  What? In the 3 year calendar you can go to church every Sunday and not hear every verse of scripture read. Yup.  And the ones missing: the hard ones.  The ones that deal with rape, the ones that deal with social codes that are illegal in most parts of the country.  The part where a baby’s head is bashed against the rocks? Missing.  In my preaching class, I was dinged for not ending on a happy clappy note.  The text was the prodigal son: and I mistakenly challenged the congregation class to think about how they would react in two weeks (it would be Easter Sunday then): would we welcome those who attend once a year with open arms? (like the father) or would we react like the son full of disgust for not doing the work through the year.  It was an open challenge to think, think about faith, journey, how people might come back and the only comment from the professor was “Peter Gnomes wouldn’t like that ending.”  (note: I really don’t care.  Yes, Peter Gnomes was an amazing preacher but really? Who cares?).  I’m not interested in a sermon that is “we are wonderful because we are religious and not just spiritual!”

The more I stewed on Daniel’s piece, the more I realized one of the reasons I found her missing the point.  I heard a post-op transgendered individual say she didn’t attend church anymore.  She didn’t feel welcome.  Before her surgery, he had been active in his denomination.  After surgery, she asked that her Baptismal certificate be re-issued with her new name.  The Bishop refused (not a Catholic bishop, an Episcopal Bishop).  More interesting? The refusing bishop is gay.  For me, one of the most painful moments was when she said on Christmas Eve, she made herself communion and read the Christmas story at home.  She didn’t feel welcome: I’d say she was both spiritual and religious but Daniel’s would disagree.

A longer article appeared in the Christian Century.  I found her comments about the person who walked away from religion a bit disconcerting.  I vaguely remember something about not knowing how Christ will appear.  Her response? “Of course, this well-meaning Sunday jogger fits right in  to mainstream American culture. He is perhaps by now a part of the  majority—the people who have stepped away from the church in favor of  running, newspaper reading, yoga or whatever they use to construct a  more convenient religion of their own.”  I’m not suggesting the person sitting next to her is/was Christ: but the call to those in the Christian tradition to minister in the midst.  I find her comments regarding an individual’s commentary on his child more perplexing “But when you witness pain and declare yourself lucky, you have fallen way short of Jesus’ vision and short of what God would have you do.” So, according to Daniel’s God would have us do certain things: based on the tenants of her faith (and her denomination), she falls short.  I’ve watched love ones battle cancer: and I’ve felt lucky.  Does that make me shallow? Or does it make me human?  If I offer to help that person in any manner I can (asking friends of faith to pray, sending cards, bringing a meal) does that automatically make me a Christian? Jewish? Muslim? Buddhist? Or just a human who was raised with sound ethics and morals?

I’m not in the mood to hash out why I’m not a Daniel’s definition of religious.  Suffice to say there were 3 churches involved all of the UCC variety in different parts of the country. Do I read random theology books (including Barth?)? Yup. Why? It interests me.  Would I call myself Christian? No.  I’m not interested in what I see in action by that religious tradition.  I’m not interested in a religion that can’t even agree ON a creation story!

What upsets me the most about Daniel’s is that every once in a great while I float the idea of going to church in my head for a bit.  I was at that point: her piece reminded me why I left.  The Amish have a walk about year where youth leave the community for a year (or so) before joining the church to see the wider world.  It is part of their tradition.  Maybe sometimes you have to leave to see what you miss: and maybe sometimes you have to leave to see what you saw was a mirage.  And really? Sometimes people who write articles and blogs that are widely read need to remember that words do have meanings, and maybe all really aren’t welcome in her church or denomination.  And maybe, just maybe, some people struggle with the Christian tradition because of the judgement.  Even from the liberal side of the aisle.