Sunday, April 26, 2015

Personal Update

Hello from the "Land Down Under" aka Oz, aka Australia. I am now live from Karratha, WA (Western Australia). For those who don't know, I have accepted a posting at one of the local schools as their Visual Arts Facilitator. My purpose here is to create and teach a step by step Fine Arts Curriculum for K-12, create Procedure manuals and hopefully train someone local to take over after me. Their school year runs from January to December so I will be here and away from my wonderful family until Christmas. Both of my guys are being very supportive of this once in a life time opportunity.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Where I'm Coming From - Metaphorically

My inability to capture many of my thoughts can be very frustrating.  Every day my mind will wonder into imaginary conversations with various people. Usually the topic is Religion, how I “practice” my faith, and why I do it the way I do.

A large part of me feels that if I could capture the ideas of these imagined conversations and write them down they could potentially assist many others who struggle with faith, either their own or their lack thereof.

One idea that always returns to my head is that there is a perception that organized religion and God must be inclusive of each other.  One must exist for the other to exist. I don’t believe this. I do not believe that to be a good Christian, or Jew, or Muslim or anything else for that matter, you must regularly attend a place of worship and go through an excepted routine of ritual to prove your faith.

Before I progress too far with this incite to my Spirituality, I will share my religious history.

I am the daughter and granddaughter of Clergymen. My mother's father was a conservative Methodist minister, growing up my mother couldn't ever order an entree that had a wine sauce on it, I never saw that side, since he died when I was 16. He was the Grandparent I was closest to and I only saw the lovable and always smiling cuddly Grandpa that taught me how to use tools and gave great backrubs.  My Father is a liberal U.C.C. Minister. I also received my BA in Studio Art from a Methodist College where Old and New Testament classes were just as much a requirement for graduation as College Algebra and English 101

My brother and I grew up going to church every Sunday unless we were sick.  These mornings usually consisted of Sunday school, the Service, and then Fellowship hour. Church for me wasn't just a time to worship and follow my faith, it was a second home and the people were extended family, as is the case for many people.

When I was little, I loved watching the activities that the youth group did and couldn't wait to get old enough to do them too. I would love it when the ladies groups and adult groups met at the house, hear them talk, help when I was allowed and looked forward to growing up and being able to be a fully participating member of the club.

My church "home" was a place I could feel safe, be most myself, and comfortably be social.  I am very Social Phobic, something I've been working to overcome most of my life. By the time I reached 4th grade school was a torment that only got worse every year. Church was my social circle.  By High School my sole source of regular social activities was almost all Church related, either directly or outside but with people from there.  Church was the solid foundation of my life.  It was my safe place and the only place I was really at ease. I know that many people feel this way as a normal part of life and I will admit I sometimes envy them for it.

I lived the first 20 years of my life secure in this bubble.  I had built up protective walls around me in all other parts of my life, especially school, and worked very hard to be invisible.  Church was my comfort zone.  I believed that within its walls I could trust the people there regardless of who we were outside of church activities.

I was very naive.

The summer I turned 20 I lost all my faith in the church.  I learned that even within its alleged hallowed walls, people can still be manipulative, spread vicious rumors that have no foundation, and choose to deliberately cause harm with no thought of whom else may be collateral damage. I am still unable to write about the details of that summer. I will say that the few people I have related the experience to have shown me deep sympathy and understanding as to why I have been unable to heal from this enough to trust the Church as a place of safety again. I have made attempts recently to be involved in some very wonderful congregations.  There is still a tentativeness that I haven't been able to completely overcome but I am making progress

There is a Hindu tradition that "...teaches that all religions hold aspects of the divine" ( 04.08.2015)

The story cited above reports about a short film called "Five" that presents to the audience the trust in faith that 5 children of 5 different world religions share.

I realize talking about this film appears like I've taken a hard turn off the subject.  I include it for a specific reason.  When I viewed the film, my first reaction was a small amount of jealousy. Jealousy that these children still held that complete trust of faith in the people they knew within each of their respective places of worship and that those houses of worship where completely connected to their faith in the Divine.  Once I guiltily brushed that feeling off, I was able to rejoice in the message of the film and what its message was trying to say.

Many would expect that to lose faith in the church would also equate to losing faith in God. This is not the case, not for me, and shouldn't be for anyone else.  I know better that to blame God for the pain and sadness caused by some of God's children.  Equally important, I know now that the whole experience was necessary to kick start me into developing into the person I am still becoming.  To stop being a blind follower and become more of a leader.  A leader who isn't afraid to step back, look around and question things that just don't seem right according to my understanding of our God as well as the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I look back at the rungs of the ladder that is my life and I know everything I've experienced has been important in helping me realize and appreciate what I have, as well as what we have as God's children and what we could accomplish with the materials He has given us if we would just get out heads out of our asses, stop squabbling about little stuff and work together.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why "Following AFTER the Comma" ???

Why “Following after the Comma”?  Since I come from a line of English teachers, I should explain the whole meaning behind my chosen title for this series of thoughts, editorials and general wandering of the mind as it happens.

So, first, “Why the Comma?”

My Dad is a UCC (United Church of Christ) minister.  Even though I don’t attend church anymore, I still consider it my denomination as it follows a path of spirituality that is most closely in line with my own.

The best way to answer “Why the Comma” comes directly from the UCC God is Still Speaking campaign:

THE COMMA constantly reminds us of God’s boundless love.
THE COMMA reminds us that God is still speaking and that God speaks in multiple ways.
THE COMMA  carries the hope of God’s peace with justice; of religion relevant to our unique experiences; of the new light and truth still to break forth from God’s word.
THE COMMA reminds us that on our continuing faith journeys, God is still speaking.
Click Image to order these Bookmarks

Now that you know where the Comma comes from let us contemplate the word Follow as it refers to my title.

Follow: To adhere to; practice: follow the Lord God.

In other words, "Following after the Comma" instead of "Following the Comma" or "After the Comma" refers to my spiritual path. I focus on what we have learned about God's Creation since the initial interpretations were gathered together in the Holy Scriptures. Each individual sect of God's Followers has their own version ie, the Holy Bible, the Torah, the Qur'an and so forth.  The one thing that they all have in common no matter which version or translation?  They all were spoken about and later written down during a time when everyone thought the world was flat and we were the center of God's creation. 

Since then we have learned a lot, including:
  • The world is round not flat.
  • The Sun does not orbit around the Earth, 
  • We are not the center of our own Solar System or our own Galaxy, therefore we are not the center of God's universe.
  • There have been many versions of human beings since our planet's creation, we're just the most recent.
  • When you stare at the night sky, you are basically looking into forever.

We know so much more now about God's creation than they ever could have understood was possible.  All of these things and even more, like medical advances, DNA, and genetic characteristics, were there waiting for us to discover as we grew more able to learn and explore.

We must adjust our beliefs according to the information that we have discovered or we will never be able to appreciate just how glorious God's Gifts are.  My spiritual path includes following my understanding of God's Creation after the mental comma placed at the end of our recognized texts. God IS still speaking, we need to be brave enough to keep listening.