Category Archives: faith/spirituality

50 thoughts on turning 50: #21 Reading the Bible

Judges 19 and 20 - one of the stories in the Bible that still haunts me.

I used a daily devotional Bible and kept a journal of notes and questions. Judges 19 and 20 – one of the stories in the Bible that still haunts me.

Religion, faith and spirituality have played a large part in my life – both good and bad. So it only makes sense that I address the issues as I muse on 50 years.  There’s no way I can tackle them all in one post so I’ll break them up.

Today? The Bible. Or more specifically, reading the Bible.

A few years ago, author John Marks interviewed me for his book, “Reasons To Believe“.  He had introduced himself to me as a former evangelical and he was writing a book about religion and faith. I can’t remember a lot of the questions he asked, because years later I still dwell on the first one: “Do you believe everything in the Bible is true?”

Of course, I told him, but as the words came out of my mouth I felt this check in my gut. Wait, I said. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it like that.

Turns out that a lot of my answers to his questions were “I don’t know” or “I hadn’t really thought about it.” How he managed to actually find enough to use for the book is amazing.

I met John in 2005; over the next year or so we talked many times but his questions challenged me. So I set out to read the entire Bible, cover to cover, to find out if, in fact, I believed everything in it was true.

My answer to that question today: I still don’t know. But I can tell you this. After reading the whole Bible, I have a heck of a lot more questions than answers. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #20 Put a face on the problem

Once upon a time, I had a lot of opinions about stuff. People, religion, politics, lifestyles, sexual orientation. Most of what I believed I learned in books and church.

Then I actually put faces to issues and life changed for me.

This is on my mind this week thanks to news reports about proposals to create local housing for illegal immigrant children out of former warehouses and retail space. A lot of people are questioning where the children came from and why are we taking care of them rather than sending them home.

Illegal immigration is a tough one for me. Yes, I believe in obeying the law. Yes, I believe illegal immigration is causing serious problems – like people entering the US without proper immunizations and sparking a resurgence of diseases like measles; crimes caused by illegal immigrants; the destruction of private property along the border (check out the 2006 documentary “Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration“); the crushing burden on our educational and health care systems.

But there are these other nuances to the issue that, unless you really look for them, would leave you with the belief that the problem can be solved with the wave of a wand.

Like what to do with illegal immigrant children.

A few years ago, I watched the 2009 documentary “Which Way Home“. It completely changed the way I view illegal immigration. The number of children trekking from South America to the United States is staggering. More than 100,000 children were taken into custody every year, on their way to a better life, in search of their parents, or escaping abuse and poverty. And that’s just the number we know about; who really knows how many children die or are lured in the drug and sex trade along the way.

It caused me to think more about the reality of the situation – could I put a child on a bus back to Mexico if I knew they were going back to forced prostitution, for example? What do we do with otherwise law abiding illegal immigrants who’ve been here for years and are ingrained positively in their communities? I ended up with no answers but a lot more insight into an issue that really doesn’t have a blanket solution and can’t be addressed with bumper sticker politics.

The broader lesson? If you’ve got a strong opinion on an issue, take time to put a face to it. Against gay marriage? Befriend a gay couple. Anti abortion or pro life? take someone of the opposite opinion to lunch – once a week for a year. Pro gun? Befriend someone who has lost a child in a gun accident. Anti gun? Take a class in gun safety and learn how to fire a pistol.

I don’t have any answers to the problems or political issues. But I do know that you can’t really have a legitimate opinion on something until you’ve honestly faced the other side of the issue. And the best way to do that is to listen.

I think I’ve developed more compassion and a broader world view, as well as more desire to actually consider an issue rather than just blast an opinion on social media and move on with my day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand on an issue or argue for reform or believe with every fiber of your being that your side is right. It does mean that you move forward with more grace and humility in all areas of your life.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

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50 thoughts on turning 50: #15 Greetings from your alternate reality

sheldon and penny big bang dancing alternate universe

Bandit and I went for a walk this week with my new friend Beth.  I met her a few years ago when I interviewed her for a pet magazine, and although we’ve kept in touch on Facebook, I confess that when she asked if Bandit and I wanted to go for a walk with her, I was afraid she’d find me boring in person. I suggested we go to Mt. Hope Cemetery, where I knew Bandit could meander about on a long leash and we’d have a nice walk.

I also knew that I’d have something to talk about, seeing as how I’m obsessed with a few of the residents at Mt. Hope and have been researching their histories. If I wasn’t interesting, maybe they would be. (You remember Emma Moore and Sarah Bardwell?)

Yes, I babbled.

But fortunately, Beth not only enjoyed the stories, she had a few of her own. And they were more interesting than mine, by a mile. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #14 We are not alone

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This one harkens back to one of my first posts, “We’re just frosting on the cake“, where I talked about the vastness of the universe and the impossibility of man to know what’s beyond our own universe, making the case for God.

I’ve learned over the years that questioning other life in space is just part of believing in an infinite eternity. If you can believe a Supreme Being – God – spoke the world into being, then it only makes sense that there’s more out there than we can observe or even contemplate. Life on other planets? Why not? Maybe, as someone once said to me, there’s a planet where they got this whole thing right.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

My first post at Paradise Uganda blog

I forgot to tell you that I posted my first post at the Paradise, Uganda blog. I actually posted it before my little musing the other day but it ironically touched on the same theme: being on the outside, looking in, and wondering why you’re there.

For the record, what I originally thought I was volunteering to write is nothing like where my blog posts are going – and with the blessing of my dear friends. Rather than help with the fundraising “rah rah”, I’m writing more about faith and life and … well, stuff that’s where I’m most comfortable. Yay!

Here’s the beginning of the post; there’s a link at the end that’ll take you to the Paradise, Uganda blog where you’ll also see a little video of Jesse in Africa:

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When my friend Jesse Sprinkle asked me if I wanted to be involved in a project he was working on, I didn’t ask what it was or what he needed from me. There are moments in your life when someone asks and you say yes and you know it’s exactly as it should be.

I’m not a musician. I’m not a missionary. I’m not a fundraiser or a world traveler. I’m not hip or cool or trendy.

I’m just a writer. For years I’ve written feature articles in magazines and websites on everything from entertainment to dog food. I love telling stories. So when Jesse asked me to join the team for Paradise, Uganda, I signed on for the one task I knew how to do: blog.

It’s never easy jumping into a project that’s already been moving along at mach speed. It’s difficult to find your place, to keep up, to feel part of the crowd. The things I’d originally planned to blog about … well, they just don’t seem like where I’m supposed to be. The ideas I had … someone else has them, too. The things I thought I brought to the table … not so helpful right now.

It would be easy to just back out, just say, “Gee, I don’t think I’m supposed to be here, I think I made a mistake” and go home and hide under a rock because I don’t fit in.

And yet I know I’m supposed to be here. I don’t know how or why I know, I just do. (Click here to finish reading on the Paradise, Uganda blog)

Three lessons I learned this month about following God

So I’m up at 7 AM because I need to write. Not want to write or have something I’d like to think about writing. I neeeeeed to write. Like, if I don’t write it, it’ll cause me great pain.

It’s about the concept of following God.

As you know, I’ve volunteered for a project recently. Without going into a lot of details, I was ready to work. Ready, willing, and able to do this and this and that, because I’m very experienced at this and this and that, and I’m very good at this and this and that, and the project needed this and this and that.

Perfect match, right? So I volunteered. And talked at length about doing this and this and that and thought I was part of the team and all was good.

Except – and if you’ve ever volunteered for something and God was in any way involved – this and this and that just wasn’t happening. That and that and this other thing were going full speed ahead, and a whole lot of other that and that and this other thing were happening and successful. Except me and my this and this and that were over on the sidelines by ourselves saying, “Hey, what about us?”

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

The problem, of course, wasn’t the project. The problem was me. I was focused on what I’d volunteered to do, not on what was being done. Sure, I can do this and this and that, but maybe this and this and that isn’t needed any more. Or maybe someone else stepped up to do this and this and that and they do it just fine.

But I wanted to help. I wanted to be part of the whole thing. I offered and they said yes and then everything moved and I was left behind.

Really. Even I see how glaringly arrogant that sounds.

So lying in bed last night, feeling left out – boo hoo for poor me – it occurred to me that if I focused instead on what did happen instead of what didn’t, maybe I’d learn a lesson.

Or three.

Here goes … Continue reading

Learning to say “yes” again (except when I have to say “no”)

I needed a photo to run with this post, and Bailey taking a dip in the Fountain of Eternal Life at the cemetery seemed as good a choice as any.

It’s been a crazy week, what with my outing to McGraws last Thursday and my last minute decision to attend my 30 year high school reunion. That’s more social interaction than I’ve had in the last six months.

But I’ve been mulling something over in my mind and I think maybe it’s fermented enough to mull over out loud.

Regular readers of my blog (or my column) already know I freely blab about my creative fears, hopes, successes and failures. I sometimes feel like a creative train wreck.

But I had a long chat last week with an old friend, Pastor Samme; we know each other from my days in Christian music. I had finally reached a place where, before I imploded, I needed desperately to talk to someone who knows and understands me (as opposed to, oh let’s hypothetically say, a relationship counselor of some sort who knows jack about me but still needs to offer advice because I’m paying her). And while I don’t attend his church (or any right now), I just knew in my heart Pastor Samme would understand what’s going on in my head and be able to offer some insight.

I was right. He gave me two plus hours of talking and crying and pondering. Continue reading

I’ll never be a leader in my generation. I’m not even a leader in my dog pack.

“I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.”

     – Cardinal John Nenry Newman

* * * * * * *

So I’ve had this book idea rolling around in my head for a while. It’s a great idea. I even had an agent tell me he’d work with me if wrote the proposal. I never did anything with it. If you read my blog earlier this week, you know that fear of failure, fear of success, and a host of other fears keep me rooted in place more often than not.

Anyway, while doing some research for another idea I set out to contact a writer who I once worked with at another publication, and lo and behold, she has written a book that is very, very, eerily similar to my idea. Got a major endorsement from a famous name in Christian circles calling her the next leader in our generation, blah blah.

She didn’t steal my idea, I’m not saying that. It’s a very general idea, and once I can’t believe more people haven’t written about. She just wrote the stupid book I never did.

Someone once told me that God will get the job done, whether or not you obey when he gives you the assignment. Is that what happened?

Sigh. I’ll never be a leader in my generation. Shoot, I’m not even a leader in my own dog pack. Then again, maybe I’m not supposed to be a leader of my generation. I’m just supposed to do the job God gives me. If I fail, I have to believe he’ll use me again. I feel strongly, for example, that my mission right now is to be a voice for people who can’t find the words to say what they need to say or find a way to make people listen.

You know what? I don’t need fame or accolades to do that. As Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.”

I’m blogging at Patheos.com

If you’ve been wondering where I am lately, here’s some big news: I’m recently taken over the Heavenly Creatures blog at Patheos.com, where I’m blogging about animals, life and spirituality! It’s a fun new writing opportunity, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about something I love and (hopefully) make a little money at the same time. Check out the new blog at http://www.patheos.com/community/heavenlycreatures!

TripBase “My 7 Links” Blog Project – My favorite posts and 5 blogs for you to check out

I was “tagged” this week by Carol Bryant at Fido Friendly’s blog to take part in the TripBase “My 7 Links” blog projects, designed “To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.” Thanks, Carol!

My task: to share with you 7 links from my blog and then 5 blogs you ought to check out. So here goes!

My most popular post – Strictly in terms of page views, this is the post that has gotten the most views all time on the Notes From The Funny Farm blog: Continue reading