Yeah, I know I Just Started This Project, BUT…

I’m putting finding my religion on hold.  I am going to dedicate the next two months to my other book, Death Becomes Us, because I believe in it and it isn’t going to get plucked from obscurity without real work on my part.  I owe it to myself and to all the people who I wrote about to get it out there.

I thank everyone who followed this blog and commented. Like the Terminator, I’ll be back.

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I’m Mad as H E Double Hockey Sticks

Hey, Kirk Cameron, learn your Bible!

I was doing an internet search for Kirk Cameron because he was mentioned at church today and I found this article by one of my favorite writers and it was posted two days ago.  Talk about serendipity!

Anyway, today I went to church and both in the connection class and in the sermon that was supposedly all about love, there was mention of gay marriage and homosexuality and how wrong it was. Is this something that all modern day churches are focusing on?  Or is it just this church?  I would imagine that there are bigger fish to fry. Like maybe certain members of the congregation having a lack of faith?  I’m perplexed and a little, for lack of a better word, annoyed by all the attention it’s getting.  It’s so negative.  Can’t we focus on real problems like illiteracy, hunger, poverty, to name a few?

I would like to believe, as the pastor preached today, that God loves us despite what we do.
And if marrying the person you love is the worst thing you can do, then I wouldn’t have much to complain about. I’ve been married two times. Go ahead, throw your stones.  My first husband was a lot of fun and I thought I loved him, but we were married too young with baggage overflowing in insecurity and neediness.  We divorced amicably and have both been married (at least I think he’s married) to the people we connected with after our divorce. Erik and I are going on 15 years together.  With Erik, it took me awhile to learn that if you want to be loved, you have to be loving.  It’s simple really, but kind of difficult at the same time.

This passage was discussed today in the connection class, about God seeing what’s in our heart (which I’m guessing is the origin of the don’t judge a book by its cover phrase.)
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel,”Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”


Wouldn’t it be great if we could all do that?  It would save so much time.

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It’s a Good Friday

The only people in my family who I would consider religious would be my mom and my brother Brad.  My mom has read the Bible, knows hymns and can quote scripture but I didn’t know this about her until I started writing about this here journey.  Church wasn’t really forced on me growing up.  She was more concerned that I was nice to other people—the Golden rule and all that. My mom kept her beliefs on the down low and just lived them without making anything of it or doing it in an official building.  At the age of 78, she was hired as a hostess at an Olive Garden.  She is not your typical person.  She makes you feel happy by just being around her.

Anyway…

At my last Bible study the ladies talked about praise and worship.  Basically it boiled down to letting God know how great he/she was.  It could be singing an old school hymn or singing one of those new fangled Christian rock songs with your arms in the air, sans lighter. But I can’t help but wonder, doesn’t God already know what we think of him?  Why do we have to make a show of it?  I am reminded of a little prayer I used to say at dinner and I have no idea how I got this prayer but it was short and it didn’t rhyme, “God is great, God is good, thank you for this food, Amen.”

Did that count?

In my brother’s eyes it didn’t.  He found God while serving time in prison and when he got out, he decided that he wasn’t one of God’s chosen peeps.  He believes that God chooses you, not the other way around.  When my brother was a Christian, we used to argue a lot. After every phone call with him, I’d be mad because he tried to make me feel wrong or less than or that I was destined to spend all of eternity in H E double hockey sticks.  If “Love thy brother,” was one of the main tenets of Christianity, I knew I was going to have a hard time with it.  We still argue.  Heck, he doesn’t want to read this blog because he said I’m already attending a “false church,” whatever that means.

I said it might be interesting for him to follow my journey.  I’m not going to have any answers, but I might find some interesting questions along the way.  Still a no go, unless he’s lurking.  If so, hi Brad.  It’s okay to post on here if you’re nice.

Speaking of nice, one of the nicest men I’ve ever met ministers to men on death row.  He knows that a lot of the people he meets with are using him to get out of their cell, but he does it anyway.  The man is kind, he treats people with respect, and he shows up, which is more than I can say for most people I come across in my daily dealings.

In the last week, I’ve heard conversations in which different religions were put down: Pentacostals, Jehovah’s Witness People, Scientologists, Buddhists (which isn’t a religion, but a spiritual practice), and Catholics.  I have no insight on this, but I want to report it.  Happy Friday!  Have a great weekend.

 

Oh, you know it’s funny.

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I Hear You Knockin’, But You Can’t Come In

I have many thoughts running through my head right now and for the life of me, I can’t write about them and have it make any sense.  Blame it on the fact that I gave up nicotine lozenges yesterday and I’m totally losing my mind.  Today we discussed if smoking could be considered a sin and I’m sitting there tapping my foot thinking, No. It’s not a sin. It’s an addiction.  It’s a stupid addiction that hurts nobody but the person who is puffing away.  Okay, I take that back.  It might hurt others that are in enclosed spaces with them.  Upon further reflection, it might make the spouse who has quit smoking feel like stabbing the spouse who continues to smoke and well, that’s murder and it says not to do that in the Ten Commandments and I’m thinking that maybe thought and deed are a slippery slope, at least when looked at Biblically, so what do I know?

Phew! Okay, here’s something I remember from Bible Study on Sunday that totally perturbed me.

Me: How do you get into Heaven?

Answer:  You accept Jesus Christ as your savior.

This makes me want to stomp my feet for some reason.  It seems so simple and also seems like people could just kick puppies their whole life and then while they take their dying breath, go “I accept you as my Lord and savior, see ya in a few, JC.”

Am I right?

For 41 years, I have lived under the assumption that being a good person counted for something.  Nope.  I could be as sinless as Jesus himself, but if I don’t accept him as my savior than I am Hell bound. “Good works” don’t get you into Heaven.  This is the first time I have heard this term, but apparently I’m not the first person to bring up the, but I’m a really nice person who does good things argument.  I am so confused.  Then we talked about what Heaven might look like.  Would we be with our family?  What about our spouses?  What if we’ve been married twice?  Who do we end up with?

We also talked about sin.  Basically, we’re all sinners and it’s not our responsibility to judge others.  That’s between them and God.  But have you noticed how judgmental we all are?  And yes, I’m including myself in that statement.  Today they were talking about the pastor at the church I’m going to this month.  I’ve only heard him speak one time and my notes from that day say, “He’s not the best orator.  It sounds like he has marbles in his mouth.”

Found out today that he’s deaf.  Open mouth, insert foot, pen, whatever fits.

Hey, if you’re the praying kind, Do you think that maybe you could pray that I make it through this nicotine withdrawal without hurting myself or anyone else?  Thanks!

 

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Open Arms

Okay, so I went to church for the second time this month and instead of going the traditional route, I went for the contemporary service.  Wowza!  Huge room, four screens, full band, at least 400 people in attendance and I felt like my usual neurotic self.

Last week I got to belt out the patriotic tunes that I kind of knew.  This week I didn’t feel super comfortable singing songs that I didn’t know, even though the lyrics were written on the screens in an easy to read format.  I guess I felt kind of self conscious singing words when I didn’t know where the song was heading.  A lot of the songs were about love for Jesus, surrender, “here I am arms open wide.”  I started thinking about Journey during the service and I don’t know if God planned that or not, but I’m going to post “Open Arms” for your listening pleasure.

I’m a fan of Journey now.  And it makes me kind of ashamed to admit that because when I was a teenager, I thought they were stupid and I couldn’t stand when I was at the roller rink and “Faithfully” would play because no boys ever asked me to skate with them.  Heck, I was practically seven feet tall in my skates, so maybe that had something to do with it.  It took awhile for those boys to catch up, just as it took awhile for this gal to appreciate Steve Perry.  (I still think his jeans are totally ridiculous in this video, but I guess that was the style back then!)

Shame.  This word stood out for me during my trip to church on Sunday.  I was standing in the book store and there was a whole shelf with a bunch of colorful t-shirts that said on the front, “I am not ashamed.”  I kept thinking, that’s kind of a weird message.  Do the people of this church feel as if they have to apologize for their Christianity?

It wasn’t until the service when I saw three baptisms performed right before the sermon that I figured out what those shirts were referring to.  Three children were baptized and they said, “Jesus is my lord and I am not ashamed.”  And then they were dunked.  I later had to ask at Bible study what that meant.  It’s in reference to a verse in the bible.  Romans 1:16

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Okay, so church was cool and I could probably write three posts on the contents of the sermon, but I need to think a bit more about what the pastor said.  And then there’s the whole Bible study that happened later in the day and all of my questions about sin and how to get to Heaven.

My head is spinning.  And not in a Linda Blair, exorcist kind of way.

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When in Rome

This post was going to be something else entirely and then my brain went off on a tangent, as it tends to do.  During the Bible study meeting on Wednesday, one of the women said she doesn’t drink here in the states, but when she traveled to Germany recently, she had a beer.  She said she imbibed because it was part of the culture.  I didn’t really think much about this statement until today when I had a conversation with my mother.

My mom told me that her parent’s religious beliefs informed her that it wasn’t okay to dance, drink or wear makeup.  My mom is guilty of all three and is one of the nicest ladies you’ll ever meet, but that’s beside the point.  I asked when she made that change in her belief system. “When I left home.”

So without the accountability to her parents and their church, my mom put on some lipstick, went to a USO dance with a friend, probably had a Vodka Tonic or two and ended up meeting my dad in 1950.

Hold on a second. This will possibly make sense in a minute.

Then at that same Bible study I asked if God was wrathful (as he has been portrayed in earlier times) or was he a kind loving God that you could ask, “Hey God, I’m really thinking I should dye my hair red, what do you think?”

One woman said he was like a parent who wants the best for us, but knows we’re going to mess up.

My dad once told my mom, “If they kids don’t turn out okay, it’s your fault because you’re always with them.” And she was.  My dad wasn’t around much.  So, in a sense, my dad was kind of like God in that we knew he was somewhere and that he probably loved us (at least we hoped so), but we were held accountable for our actions by our mom who was just a person.

Up next at the Bible study, I asked if technology (being able to watch a sermon from their church on their home computer) was making a physical church obsolete.  Were people important?  They all agreed that the fellowship at the church was very important to their spiritual journey.

So, if we think we’re cool with God, why do we place so much importance on what other people think about us and our actions?  Do we act differently with different groups of people?  Are you truly your self in front of the member of your church?  How about your best friend?  Your spouse?  Your kids?

My head hurts.

Do we fear God’s judgment as we take our last breath or is it really the judgment of people we surround ourselves with on a daily basis?  And if it’s the latter, maybe people attend church to be held accountable to their peers who supposedly play by the same rules that they do.

But aren’t we all guilty of something?  How do we behave when we think no one is looking?

We could drink too much or cheat on our spouses or cheat on our taxes or gossip like Perez Hilton or covet our neighbors new Lexus or swear like a sailor or whatever. If we think that everyone else is living to a higher standard because that’s what they present to us, we end up feeling like a failure.  So, do we stay in the gutter wallowing in all of our faults and shortcomings or do we say, this is who I am warts and all and I still want to have a relationship with God?

I tried to make sense of these thoughts by explaining them to a friend today.  She recalled a story of one of her friends who happened to be very religious.  This woman was having a party and she told my friend, “You may want to tone it down, my church friends are going to be here.”  In other words, I like you, but you can’t be yourself in front of my other group of friends.

And with that, I want to thank you for reading my totally rambling post that doesn’t make much sense to me at the moment.

But before I go, I’d like to leave you with a little exercise to think about.  I want you to think of your worst day, a day when you did something that you’re not particularly proud of.  Okay, now here’s the kicker.  It’s been videotaped and will be televised.  If you believe in God, then he/she has already seen it.  God was there when you were doing it, remember? But your friends have not seen it.  This is how you will be remembered.

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Fireworks

This week in the Frazzled Female, the activity that really resonated with me asked us to write down our worries on separate pieces of paper and place them in our “worry box.”  We had to give our worries over to God and commit to not thinking about them for a week.  I used an empty box of Hot Tamales for my worry box and the first worry to go in there was that I wasn’t going to fit in my clothes from eating too much candy.  I wrote probably fifteen other things down, slid them into the box and buried it at the bottom of my sock drawer.

Honestly, I haven’t been completely successful in surrendering my worries to God.  Ask anyone who’s known me for more than twenty minutes and they’ll probably say, “Pam’s a worrier.” I worry that if I don’t stay on top of things with my kids, my house, my manuscript, my hair color, my relationship with my husband, friends, you name it, that IT will fall apart.  I have a problem with the idea of surrender. It sounds lovely.  Peaceful.  Awesome.  But for the life of me, I can’t do it

I was actively worrying when I went to the Bible study this morning. There were five of us there and three of those women belong to the church that I’m attending this month. I had decided in my head that they were going to be mad at me for not finding Sunday’s service at their church to be the greatest thing since air conditioning.  But, I went anyway.  I’m learning that if something makes me uncomfortable, I need to rush towards it.  I learned this inCBT.  I’m notorious for catastrophic thinking and I need to prove to myself that if I go somewhere and hang around people whose views and beliefs are different than my own that I’m not going to burst into flames.

And guess what?  I didn’t.  In fact, I had a really nice conversation with these ladies.  We were supposed to be talking about Ruth, but once again, I monopolized the conversation with questions.

Is God wrathful or loving?

Do you listen to secular music and watch tv?

Where are the modern day miracles?

The take away message from this meeting happened by chance.  One woman had just come back from Europe for her son’s wedding.  She showed pictures and talked about the fact that she didn’t think her new daughter-in-law liked her.  I said it may take time.  As we were talking about learning from bad experiences in our lives, it occurred to me that maybe this was a lesson she needed to be learning in her life.  I’m fairly certain it’s a lesson I need to learn.

How do you love someone when you think they don’t like you? (And you can insert whatever it is about yourself that you think is unlikable in their eyes–political affiliation, sexual orientation, the color of your skin, the size of your thighs, the texture of your hair, the scars on your skin, the scars on your heart, the choices are endless!)

Take it away, John.

Happy Fourth of July!  Be safe.  Please don’t drink and drive and whatever you do, don’t set anyone’s house on fire

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