Tag Archives: faith

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: #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:

 ***************

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

Caution: influence may appear much bigger in rear view mirror

I was cleaning my office on Sunday – I’ll wait while you pick yourself up off the floor – and for reasons I can’t explain pulled out the old CD player and a box of my favorite CDs and started blasting music.

I mean, blasting music. Windows open, breeze blowing in, music pouring out.

I haven’t done that in a long, long long time, since before I crawled under my emotional rock and curled up into a ball with the dogs and dust bunnies.

But on Sunday? It was rock and roll and sing out loud and dance with whichever dog was closest to me.

I’m no musician, and I couldn’t tell you anything about the art of making music. Which, of course, is why I always felt like a fraud when I was covering music. I just know what makes me happy,  makes my blood tingle and my spirit soar. And doggone it, I love a song I can sing along with. Loudly and off-key.

What I loved about covering music was the people. I’d go to music events and pick the unknown bands to interview, especially the ones who had the time to hang out and talk, who weren’t dishing out pat, rehearsed answers about how they wanted to share Christ with their music when in reality, they just loved making music and being on stage. Which of course was often not only the more honest answer, but the one that may actually have served God the most.

So this music I was blasting away on Sunday made me think of old friends. A lot of CDs were from artists I know or I’d interviewed and remained friends with, or music that was playing while I was with friends having fun times and making memories.

But I didn’t just listen. In between listening to music and doing the cha-cha with Bandit, I actually contacted with those friends. Sent a little Facebook “I’m thinking about you today” hello.

It was awesome.

I had a discussion, for example, with an artist pal who caught me up on the band and added that he hoped big things would happen soon. I told him, “Hopefully big things will happen soon – but remember that just doing what you’re supposed to be doing might actually be the ‘big thing’. You just might not get to see how big it is until it’s in the rearview mirror.” He said that was actually encouraging.

The truth is, that was something I needed to be reminded of, too. Trying to lift the boulder I’ve been living under has been exhausting, and when I look at the work that needs to be done to clean house – literally and figuratively – I can get overwhelmed.

Which is why I am so grateful that, while at a writing conference a few years ago, someone encouraged us to create a writing mission statement to help guide us when things got overwhelming. Here’s mine:

“Connect. Inspire. Change the world.”

Nothing drastic. No plans for world peace (I can’t even manage dog peace in my own house). No specific goals to save the world or feed the hungry – although those are all tasks that happen within that little mission statement (although not nearly as much as they used to happen, which may be one of the contributing factors in my years under the rock. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

I’m reminded of that quote by Cardinal John Henry Newman, which I often share but will share again because it’s so darned inspiring for me (bold emphasis mine):

“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 shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

There’s nothing in there about meeting page view goals, making money, or being a literary rock star. I’m good at a few things: connecting people and encouraging people, and hopefully in the process facilitating others to fulfill their missions in life and thereby be a link in the chain that will change the world. 

So here I am, halfway through the week, feeling so flipping fantastic, so happy to have reached out to people and found them still there, to be reminded that nothing more is expected of me than to do exactly what I’m supposed to do today.

Which, if I’m reading the signs right,  means some serious puppy snuggling.

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.”

My word for 2012 is “No”. And I mean it this time.

My regular readers know that over the last few years I’ve tossed around several ideas for books. More than several. I still think they’re all great but my problem has always come when it’s time to sit down and actually write.

I often feel like I need someone to help me get me started, tell me what to work on next. Or at least give me a kick in the pants. But when you’re a writer, there is no one to do that, because you’re the writer. If what you want to write about doesn’t make you frantic to sit down and get the ideas out – or you are frantic to get the ideas out but can’t seem to figure out how to do it in a way that makes sense –  maybe the book isn’t ready yet.

Or maybe there’s something else going on.

Lately, I’ve been kicking around an idea for a book. A good idea, a timely idea, an idea that would allow me to write about something that interests me a lot. And – knock on wood! – the ideas are coming out in a fairly sensible way. I’m excited.

The problem is that, much like every other time I think I’m on the right track, something happens to bar the way. It often comes in the form of other people – people in crisis, people who drop into my life to suck the life out of me, people who demand my time and energy and creativity. And in the past, I’ve always acquiesced to their needs, taking myself off my own path in order to quiet their chaos that I’ve allowed to descend into my life.

Sometimes it’s people with seemingly simple needs, who pretend they can’t figure it out on their own, and I drop everything to show them how to … let’s say find the ketchup or check their email … because for them it’s a crisis, when if they just took five minutes they’d figure out the answer on their own. But they make it such a big production it’s easier to just do it for them and end the stress.

It feels so much like pyschological manipulation; I recognize it, and yet I fall for it every time.

Or I begin to feel positive and the world seems calm and full of potential. Then out of the blue someone I haven’t spoken to in months or even years drops in to gloat and boast, and my fears of failure sneak back in to remind me that I’m not really that great of a writer anyway, my idea was doomed for failure, maybe it’s better to just curl up on the couch and watch a movie. Because I was afraid to move forward anyway, and the gremlins in my brain only needed to raise a small counter attack for me to raise the white flag of surrender.

Or the phone rings non stop with people complaining, arguing, accusing, and the days become filled with problems not created by me but left for me to clean up. It’s almost like clockwork. Whenever I’m ready to move forward, it starts, like a spiritual test or just someone trying to screw with me mentally.

And it’s started again.

I’m not going to take it anymore. This time, this year, I’ve made a vow not to let toxic people or situations steal my bliss, so to speak.

Continue reading

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!

Gay marriage legalized in NY

Last week, New York State legalized gay marriage. I don’t know that anyone doubted that it would eventually come to pass, New York being a bastion of liberalism. I confess that I don’t really know how I feel about the new law. But here are some of the things I ponder:

1) Yes, the word “marriage” does have religious meaning for me, so I struggle with pairing “gay” and “marriage”. But even more at the forefront of my dilemma is that the word “marriage” has lost its religious meaning, even for religious people. The divorce rate in this country is astronomical, so I think that unless those who are rallying for “traditional marriage” get their own acts together, the debate over “gay marriage” is a moot point.

2) Just for the record, marriages in the Bible usually involved more than one wife and/or lots of concubines. So the word “traditional marriage” needs to be tempered with “American traditional marriage”. Just saying. Continue reading