Tag Archives: a life journey

The Vote

8 Apr

I recently left my church as an official member. I needed a break from them specifically, but I have also decided that I do not want to be a member of any church. Possibly ever again.

It is hard to be frank about the subject without being offensive, I think, or at least on the verge of hurting someone’s feelings. Religion is a very touchy subject to most people, and with good reason. It talks about the very depth of our souls. The whole scale, from atheism to fundamentalism, relates to the core of humanity.

Are we good people doing bad things?
Or bad people doing good things?

It is the yin and yang of this life, a life lived on a swirling ball of fire and water and really, really good luck — for us. So far, at least.

When I told the pastors I was going to pull myself off the membership roster, and that I was quitting my deacon duties (really, what more could I have done anyway, and they picked really good people this year to be on the board), they told me that the session would have to vote on my release. It was very Giver-esque. Maybe they didn’t use those words, exactly, but they did both mention my “discernment process”.

The past four years have been some of the most moving and instrumental in my life. I am so much happier and evolved than I was at 26. Unmarried. Childless. That was a long time ago.

I said from the very beginning that I loved Morningside Presbyterian Church. I asked people to come with me all the time and sang its glowing praises. It is a beautiful, simple building. It is filled with wonderful people. I love the congregation. The music is uplifting. And the message, one of extreme welcome (Come one, come all!) is great. I liked the scholarly pursuit of the Bible that was spoken about on Sundays. And that at other times we would have fun together in simple fellowship (and usually with a glass of wine!).

When Dave and I joined Morningside, it was still pretty small. There were the older people, the married gays, the older young adults that had already formed their own clique, and established families that had come in through the preschool. We didn’t really fit in anywhere, but we liked it. Everyone was smart and nice and welcoming. We probably became closest to Leslie and Lloyd at that time, and Jack and Jill, both remarkable couples. A new pastor had just started at the church, and we joined during his first New Member Class. We ushered sometimes, attended church every Sunday, and helped Jack organize baseball games.

Then I was the social activities coordinator, Clifton Ministries shepherd, wedding helper, deacon, deacon moderator, part-time photographer, commitment committee volunteer, season of service committee volunteer, communications committee volunteer… All things I like, all things I wanted to do. But when the need is that great for your time, it becomes work. And the problem is, there is great need there. And I want to help, I really do. But personally (I know others feel differently about volunteering their time), I cannot afford, any more, to give my time away like that. Because to be brutally honest, at times, by some people, I felt un-thanked, excluded, and treated with hostility.

The funny thing is, I believe more than ever in God. Or “God,” if that sounds better. It happened while watching Naked and Afraid with Dave one night. I thought to myself, “How on earth could we have gotten where we are today without someone or something helping us???”

I plan on visiting the churches in my neighborhood. I strongly believe that churches should be the foundation of community ministry. Their main purpose should be to help those in need (which can vary from mental health to finding a good repair guy for your house to homelessness). And everyone who lives in the neighborhood should have to pay a subscription for these purposes. And possibly attend meetings so that we are aware of what is going on in our immediate worlds. We are so focused on our smart phones these days that sometimes it is hard to even meet our neighbors. If my husband wasn’t already booked Thursday night then I would go to our town meeting in Grant Park. I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls recently, and their town meetings always look like fun.

There is a lot going on with me right now, but I’m excited about all of it.

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Why I don’t ever have to make lemonade because it’s usually sitting right around the corner.

17 Jan

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I love this photo for many reasons, most of all for the awesome photo bomb by dude in the chair. This photograph was taken by a random but cool Facebook friend of mine who just appeared in this particular restaurant in real life (I’ve only seen him one other time in the five or six years I’ve known him). Also, this is a great group of guys. My husband has known them for forever (since preschool and beyond), and I really appreciate how fun they are to hang out with. A couple extra friends came to brunch and they turned out to be psychologists and graphic designers and UX-ers, and it was very inspiring to talk to them about what I already love to do and would like to pursue career-wise.

Last weekend was really incredible. Following a recent blog post of mine about some of the serious things in life, a lot of people in my life came out of the woodwork to talk to me. And speaking of woodwork, my husband and our friend Lloyd built a beautiful privacy screen on our back porch this past weekend. They finished literally as the rain started, so I haven’t had a chance to stain it yet! I’m glad the sun was out yesterday to dry the wood. It looks extremely magnificent even unfinished though!

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Lloyd and his wife, my dear friend Leslie, also invited us to Morningside’s Couples Group dinner on Friday night where Dave and I were the youngest people by 25 years (except Leslie who is my oldest brother’s age), yet we really enjoyed chatting with everyone there. And they like to play a simple game every January where everyone writes a resolution for his or her spouse, and then everyone else at the party has to guess who it is about. It was silly and fun. I was talking with a wizened photo editor in the kitchen and could hear all the laughter in the background. He was telling me what I should do better re: the Christmas card I designed for our church. The whole night seemed to be about life, purpose, career, and calling, yet in a very fun delivery. Even the prayer about our current world unrest before our delicious pot luck dinner was beautiful.

Fast forward to Sunday brunch with our friends at Stone Soup Kitchen next to Oakland Cemetary, and I feel like the world is showing me my new path. There are constant signs in this world if you simply want to notice them. I personally like to pick out the good signs, the signs that bring me to calm and peace and happiness and art and adventure too. Otherwise the downward spiral is not fun. I’ve seen behind that curtain and try to avoid it as best I can.

Stone Soup Kitchen is by far the best breakfast place I’ve ever eaten at. Every dish looked amazing and I wanted my stomach to be big enough to eat the menu. After our table got all their beautiful looking meals, I got my plate and it looked like it was going to be disappointing. But I was rewarded for my choice by then devouring the best plate of eggs I’ve ever had in my life. Our table was in the hidden back porch and the ambiance was the coolest I’ve enjoyed at an in-town restaurant yet. I want to go back there every weekend until we move to the burbs.

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Why I’m not an atheist anymore but I would never tell you what to be

21 Jan

Yesterday I was ordained as a Deacon in my Presbyterian church. It was kind of ironic since a few years ago I considered myself an atheist. I’m sure most people go through periods of doubting, or maybe just never really believing one way or another, but I was pretty adamant about my non-beliefs. I used to tell David that there was no way we’d be getting married with the word “God” in our ceremony. Now I believe that the only way to commit to someone is through your spirituality and that the civil or governmental implications of such a contract should be thrown through the window. That is about my evolution from non-political (probably a Democrat) to being a Libertarian, but that’s neither here nor there right now.

I read up on Richard Dawkins and actively scorned the people in Jesus Camp (one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen). I tried various churches, including Catholic, Baptist, non-denominational Christian, super Christian, Buddhist, Yoga… you name it, I was interested in going. I still am, actually. At the same time that I believed organized religion was a crock of honey, I have always been fascinated by the history and practice of world religions. You could never say they haven’t been meaningful in the growth of mankind and society. Blamed for both good and bad things that happen to people. The reason behind an infinite number of human decisions.

But I have since found a home in this Presbyterian church. Ours is a PCUSA type of Presbyterian and very socially progressive. We welcome everyone. Including a woman on the verge of herself, sitting on the fence watching others act and be and wondering what will happen to her.

The ceremony of becoming a Deacon involves answering a few questions and then the ritual of Laying on of Hands. I have seen this done before and thought it would be an amazing thing to do at our wedding, but I never dared to ask if that was even possible. So all the new Deacons and Elders who are being ordained for the first time kneel down, and then we are surrounded by all the previously ordained (for once ordained always ordained) Elders, who lay both their hands on someone’s shoulder. Thus everyone is connected to each other. It was very similar to the scene in Avatar when the Na’vi sit together praying to Eywa. Except we didn’t literally light up, which was kind of a bummer. But I’ve never felt such good energy from a group of people before. Sure, I’ve gone to plenty of concerts, where everyone is super excited to be there and pumped about the music, but there is something different about a sober, beautifully sunny Sunday morning energy.

In the process of becoming Deacon you have to share your faith journey during a meeting of the joint Session. This is a formality, as I’m sure no one would be rejected unless you started spouting how much you love Satan, but it’s a practice that everyone loves. You sit around with these people that you know and are growing close to and you hear some very intimate stories that brought them to where they are. And everyone is so different, so it’s very interesting.

Most everyone grew up in at least a somewhat religious family, as did I, but it didn’t seem as hard for them as it was for me to be a believer. Ever since I was a little kid, forced to go to Catholic mass (boring and stuffy) and CCD (Sunday school), I looked around at all those other chumps reciting their prayers and thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if I believed like they did. But I couldn’t. My mind just wouldn’t go there.

And then I was forced to attend a Catholic high school in the suburbs of Atlanta. Forced to take Catholic classes and confess to the school priests when I really wanted to be attending the Protestant classes that seemed so much more interesting. Although I did like my senior year Synthesis of World Religions class that the professor and I would sit there and argue about the daily readings while the rest of the kids fell asleep, eyelids heavy with senioritis. I remember during a junior year class being the only student that felt that there was the possibility of a just war. That was fun arguing me versus the rest of them. The professor spoke to me after class, continuing to try to convince me that I was wrong, but I think in the end we agreed to part in disagreement.

I then had a brief stint in a Baptist church that was mainly centered around a cute boy I dated there (although I did meet some great people who greatly influenced me during a difficult period in my life).

After that I was at Georgia Tech, a school well known for its scientists, Hindus and Muslims. Not much Christianity going on there. I did think I was friends with the only two Christians at the school, but it didn’t really matter because I was headed down the atheist road and I didn’t mind. I guess when you’ve been raised Catholic and then witnessed super televangelist Southern Baptist it’s a bit freeing to separate yourself for a minute. I called myself a “spiritual atheist” because, well, even if you don’t want to believe in God (or in my book religion was the biggest culprit of hypocrisy) it’s hard to completely deny the presence of the unknown and miraculous that infiltrates between our very atoms.

It wasn’t until I met David, who slowly introduced God and Jesus back into my life, that I began to loosen up. It’s hard to let in such a massive idea, even if you’ve not been opposed to that idea. When we were engaged we started looking for a church in which to get married. I had taught preschool at our current church several years back and thought the open-mindedness and small-community-ness of the place was appealing. Turns out their sermons and the people there were a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t help enjoying it when the main things they talked about were light, love, joy, happiness and beauty. Besides, it was like free therapy and I never pass that up.

So I’ve chosen to let Jesus and his teachings be my main path to God. I think most people believe in God, and to each their own path, and for those who don’t believe it doesn’t matter to me. I’ve either been there or I haven’t, and I have no right or interest in judging. I think that’s the libertarian in me. The smallest minority is a minority of one, and there are billions of these minorities. I wouldn’t want to discount anyone’s experiences or thoughts.

I also wouldn’t want anyone to criticize me for where I am in life. To some I’m young and to some I’m old but either way I am where I am and I know I’ll change one way or another. I’ve been discriminated against as a Christian, and it is surprising to me that there can be such a backlash. It is as if people want to be so open and unique that the idea of being a Christian (no matter how benevolent a particular church is) is just unacceptable.

I only hope that in all aspects of life — whether it be race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, height, etc. — we remember that we are all welcome here on this earth. And if you don’t remember that, then, well, what can I say. God’ll come get you.

Just kidding.

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Best day of my life — until the day my son was born.

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Simple beauty.