Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spirit Made Manifest

I have been absent here for awhile. In that time, I have weathered conversion and doubt and so much more. My friends have inspired me to write again and document my journey. I promise to go back and talk about what has led me to this point. There's a lot to be covered.

I've been thinking a lot about how the Spirit makes itself manifest in our lives. I had an amazing spiritual experience years ago here:
Heilig-Bloedbasiliek, a Catholic basilica in Bruges, Belgium

And recently here:
The Sacramento Temple (LDS)

What is it that we are feeling when we encounter the Holy Spirit? How does one decipher what the Spirit, or this powerful force, is revealing? Is a spiritual experience in nature just as authentic as an encounter at a church or place of worship? What if the encounter falls outside of the boundaries of one's personal faith story?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Room in the Hive?

I spent a very long time wondering about a certain religion from afar. And then, one day, I asked a question. I think that one question was my first step in testing out the waters.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One of my favorite prayers

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the journey continues

It has been several months since I last posted here. Now I wish I had been journaling my faith experience during the past few month. What's new? I am still on this journey. Ever moving closer to God. Still unsure about the right path for me to get there. With each step closer, more questions arise. New pathways open up, as old doors close. As sunlight draws me toward one pathway, another pathway that I thought I'd left behind beckons me back. How can one discern whether a powerful feeling, a stillness or calm, a warmth that overcomes oneself, how can one tell if any of these "feelings" or "experiences" mean that one is on the right path? Can't we all get swept up in something that isn't true? And is there one Truth or many?

I used to feel very strongly that there was/is one Truth. One explanation for life, for all that is/was/will be. Many people claim that they own the Truth, that their Truth is The Truth. But, really there is only one Truth. I felt this strongly - that even while we may not be able to discern in this lifetime what the real Truth is, there really is only one. And then I began to feel differently about this. Perhaps there are many truths out there. Is one person's experience not true if it's not The Truth? How could an evangelical, a Muslim, a Catholic, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, an agnostic, a philosopher, a wanderer all have different, yet powerful and spiritual, experiences and not have them all be true to some extent? I have so much I'm thinking about that it's hard to even put words to my questions. I have a friend who left organized religion some years ago and is now on a path of discovery that has led her back to God, in some ways, but not in the traditional ways. I'm not sure she'd say she's a believer at all. She finds divinity in her own way. She is one of the most present, spiritual people I know, but she is not religious.

Right now, I'm feeling so drawn to the LDS faith. But I have so many questions. And having not grown up in that faith (in fact, I'm pretty certain my relatives would be shocked and probably upset to see me convert), I don't even know where to begin.

What I love, at this point, about the faith:

the idea of a premortal life
eternal progression
a heavenly father who loves me
a heavenly mother
the strong community
the faith being a life-faith, not a Sunday only faith
the emphasis on families
the de-emphasis on the cross and suffering, sorrow (in comparison to other experiences I've had in other faiths)

What I am not so sure about:
the Book of Mormon as historical fact
the patriarchy
how accepted are single mothers, single fathers, working mothers, liberals, people of other ethnicities, people who still love and cherish their family and respect other faiths?
the stories i've heard of what happens when one leaves the church. (Obviously if I converted, I wouldn't be considering leaving. But the sad stories I've heard of being abandoned by one's friends and family when one falls away seems so un-Christlike, so terrible, so unfortunate.)
and lastly, would God and Christ truly have abandoned His children for over a thousand years until there was a restoration?

What I still love about the Catholic faith:
the ritual
feeling part of an ancient faith
the sacraments

What I am not sure of (and never really have been):
the Pope
the adoration of Saints (and prayers of intercession)
the abuses of power of recent and past
the obsession with the pro-life agenda (at the cost of other, very important issues that Christ calls us to)

What I love about the progressive Protestant church I have attended for much of my life:
the inclusive, reconciling congregation
the intellectual stimulation (intellectuals are not feared)
the feeling that it's ok to question things
the hymns
the emphasis on social justice

What I feel is lacking for me spirtually there:
a strong community of families and younger members
a feeling of structure and identity (while I truly appreciate and find so welcoming the acceptance of people on whatever stage of their journey they are on in this denomination, I have always longed for something more - something I could grasp and say, yes, this is what we believe, how we worship, what we do, this is our culture and our religion).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunday Sunday

As Sunday approaches each week I feel excitement and a need for nourishment. Of course, one can converse with God and find their spirituality any day of the week, any time. But I desire and need community. It's which community that's always in question. For the past few years I've been a frequent church hopper. I always have thought I'd know my spiritual "home" when I found it...that I'd feel intrinsically at home in the right place. The problem is, I feel comfortable to a degree in many places, but never completely at peace in any one place.

I've been to Sunday services at mainline Protestant churches - Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Congregational, United Church of Christ...and I've visited the Roman Catholic parish in my community (perhaps it is here that I've attended the most). I've participated in services at several non-demonimational Christian churches. They've varied from mega churches to small "house church" style communities, more traditional services to modern rock concert versions of "church." And I attended my first LDS service a few weeks ago (that will be another post).

Here are a few of the issues I've encountered (and they are mainly things I likely need to resolve within myself):
1. I find myself (for the most part) a Democrat. While this, of course, does not necessarily have anything to do with finding a church home, in a way it does. I feel a pull towards social justice, helping the poor, providing support for a community, believing what Jesus taught was radical at the time and called for social change and peace. Many of the churches I've attended - especially the non-denominational churches - are conservative politically and socially. I do have moral values and stances that are conservative, but my social/political bent has generally been more liberal. Where does that place me if I attend a church that preaches extremely conservatively? Does it matter if I'm finding spiritual community there? Or will I feel alienated there forever? I love and support diversity, but I'm also looking for structure and guidance. I don't want to feel like I'm floating out alone at sea with no spiritual raft or direction. I like structure. I like some guidelines. I like to have a moral framework I can live my life in accordance with. I believe everyone needs to find their own direction spiritually and what may feel right for me may not feel right for others. But I want to find that path. I crave direction.

2. This may sound superficial, but I want to look around my spiritual community and see myself represented. I don't want to be the only person under 40 in attendance on Sunday. I want a flourishing children's ministry. On the other hand, I do not want to feel like the oldest person in attendance. I'm not looking for a college church.

3. I'm not sure what kind of service style feels the best. I grew up in a traditional church service style of hymns and sermon. Visiting contemporary style services feels awkward for me a lot of times. I really appreciate the effort to have the church grow and be relevant with the congregation. I've felt a lack of connection between many sermons and my life, believe me. But all of the Christian rock songs and everyone's hands waving high in the air to Heaven feel more like a concert or a trip to the mall rather than a spiritual experience. Maybe it's just not what I'm used to, as I'm sure those people are definitely feeling the Spirit. I've been attracted to the ritual and spirit I find during Catholic mass. But having not been a cradle Catholic, even it feels like I'm trying to fit into someone else's skin at times.

I realize no church service will be perfect, but I am just hoping at some point I'll feel at home somewhere. So I continue to church hop, and this Sunday I think I'll be heading back to my local Catholic parish. But still searching...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Here I am

I could start at the beginning, but where the beginning actually is depends on which story I'm telling, how much one already knows, and where I plan on going. Right now I'm just on a faith journey and where that journey takes me is much more important than where I've been. But since we're all part of a story that doesn't begin today or tomorrow, but is built upon our past stories, I'll be pulling on memories and experiences and opinions from all points in my life up to now, as they relate to my current story. To put it briefly, I'm on a journey of faith. I've already begun this journey...in fact I've been on this journey my whole life. But the importance of faith in my life is growing...and so are my questions. I don't know where my journey will end, and perhaps it will always be a journey. But I do hope to find some answers, as I build a life for me and my family.

I am a Christian. I was raised in a Protestant family in the western part of the United States. We were only semi-regular church attendees, but I did attend Sunday school regularly in my preschool and elementary-school years. My church was a mainline Protestant denomination and our church was fairly progressive, too. I went through confirmation as a middle school student - although, I never had a deep conviction about the experience. Like many children growing up in church, I have many memories of drawing pictures on notecards in the pews, singing hymns that I didn't understand, and feeling bored many times. And noticing that while I wasn't the only church member my age, I certainly wasn't surrounded by young peers. However, I did feel passionately moved during holy day services and I longed for a deeper religious experience even from an early age.

My earliest conceptions of God, Jesus, and religion included:
  • God as a kind, powerful Grandpa in the Sky. Capable of anything. Answerer of prayers. Healer. But also a bit of a Santa Claus with the "naughty or nice" list. He loved me, but I'd better watch out, better not cry...
  • Jesus as a sandle and robe wearing pacficist. He loved me, He loved all children. He was the Son of God. He taught people to be kind. He loved the poor. He loved sinners.
My idea of Jesus as the ultimate in love was a point that somehow was really ingrained in me. In contrast to my earliest fears of making a mistake or accidentally taking God's name in vain and suddenly not being a "good girl", my idea of Jesus was one of ultra-acceptance and love. If you made a mistake or sinned, he loved you still! In fact, he maybe loved you even more. There was no one in the world he did not love or accept. So, when I visited a Baptist church in town one Easter with a girlfriend and her family when I was 10 and I heard the pastor asking the congregation whether or not they had "proved" themselves to God, I was confused. Of course, I was only a child at the time, so I could have misunderstood what he meant, but still I found it shocking. My version of God by this point in time had melded with my conception of Jesus - lover of all, accepter of all. He may not approve of a sinful act, but He always loved the person. I ran into a similar experience on a church retreat that I attended during my teenage years at a different friend's church. She attended an evangelical church in town. At some point during the weekend retreat - after a few rounds of Pictionary and Scattergories - some brave teen asked the homosexuality question. The youth pastor didn't skip a beat, but declared "God hates homosexuality. God hates the homosexual. You will never ever get into Heaven if you are gay. Period." I didn't regularly attend this church, or any church that outwardly discussed this stance, so once again I was shocked. What? Didn't the Bible say that Jesus and God loved everyone? Even sinners? Especially the sinners? Weren't all who loved Him accepted into Heaven? I was a very shy teenager, but I was brave enough at that point to confront the pastor on this subject. Where in the Bible was this? Didn't God love everyone? He quickly pointed out a few anti-homosexual passages in the Bible, but I pressed - but what about His unconditional love? Even if someone was broken? No go, is the response I got. And perhaps that began my confusion in my faith. The beginning of my faith and convictions unraveling. Prior to that my only real questioning had been when my Grandmother had died of cancer when I was just 7 years old. I'd prayed for a year for God to heal her and save her life. When she finally passed away, I was furious. So God doesn't answer our prayers after all? What was the use then? thought seven-year-old me. And while I began to have an enormous fear of cancer and some anger towards God, I still believed in Him. After the high school incident, I still believed in God, although I started to doubt some things and started to feel lost as to what the "truth" really was.

My journey has led me through periods of deep questioning, an interest in Mormonism and the Quaker faith, a conversion to Roman Catholicism in college, an appreciation of Buddhism, and years of on-and-off church hopping...and fast forward to today where I am deeply interested in religion both for myself and as a mother raising a young child. So I'll be using this blog as a way to chronicle my journey and sort out my thoughts and experiences. It's mainly for my own personal journey, but if you stumble upon this blog and want to share your experience, please feel free. Spammers and ill-wishing commenters, please go elsewhere. We all need more joy in the world!