Posted in Spiritual Sundays

Spiritual Sunday: A Quick Note About the Election

I am seriously so ready for campaign season to be over.  Is anyone else with me?  As I commented recently on a friend’s status update about unfriending someone who had become too hostile about those who disagreed with him,
“It’s one thing to be supportive of your candidate; it’s another to be hostile or disrespectful to anyone who disagrees with you…What frustrates me so much about the campaign season is people tend to forget that at the end of the day, we are all not only Americans, but HUMAN.  As such, that’s how we should treat each other.”
Suffice it to say I have low-to-zero tolerance for people who are mean, rude, or violent to others just because they have an opposing viewpoint.  It’s not necessary, and quite frankly, in many cases it can be defined as hatred, prejudice, bigotry, or all of the above.

There is a point to the above soapbox, and I promise I’m getting to it.

I think the most poignant part of this campaign season for me was listening to one especially interesting part of the vice presidential debate.  For some reason I never picked up the fact that both Joe Biden & Paul Ryan are both practicing Catholics.  It doesn’t really matter the religion they are.  For all I care, they could both be practicing Jews.  The great thing I took away from this (other than the fact that both were infinitely more respectful both towards each other and the moderator than the presidential candidates were…ugh…migraine medicine was considered after those) was that our country is so great in our diversity that two people in the same religion could have such differing viewpoints that one is considered Republican and the other Democrat.  Yet they are united in a Catholic faith, and as I mentioned above, in being Americans, and in being HUMAN.  There is something beautiful about that.

When you all in the U.S. (and even the world, for that matter) check out the election results tomorrow, I urge you to remember to be kind to one another, no matter the outcome.  Hostility and violence towards each other shows weakness, and that is the last thing we want to portray.  We are the UNITED States of America, and I hope that we continue to act that way as a country.

In Hopes of a Peaceful End to the Campaign Season,

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Posted in Spiritual Sundays

Spiritual Sunday: Little Surprises

How was everyone’s weekend?  Hubby and I had a fabulous four-day Date Night run, Tuesday to yesterday (pictures and recaps to come tomorrow).  It’s been a really long time since we’ve had the opportunity to spend nights doing things that are outside of our normal day-to-day lives, so it was quite the welcome break.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Sunday post, but a few things that have happened over the last few weeks have really driven me to type up a short little ditty here.  (Or, at least, short for me.)

First, let’s get the formalities out the way, shall we?  Please read this disclosure before continuing.  🙂  Thank you!

Here’s the weird thing.  All of these interesting instances involve my other half.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal on the surface, but as I’ve mentioned before, we hold pretty different spiritual beliefs.  Of course we respect each other in what we believe and don’t believe (this marriage wouldn’t work otherwise).  But when either of our beliefs are challenged, shaped, or changed, it’s pretty significant.

As a (really condensed) summary, I identify myself as a rebel Catholic with respects for other beliefs/non-beliefs.  He is hesitant to label himself any one particular religion/denomination but for all intents and purposes considers himself to be somewhat spiritual.

So imagine my surprise when he feels pulled to a certain church!  There is a gorgeous Lutheran church near where we live, with fragrant trees out front that give off the most heady, delightfully-sweet perfume.  I’m not very good with my plant and tree identification, so I’m not sure if honeysuckle grows on a tree or a bush or if it’s a flower, but that’s the scent I most identified it with.  The neighborhood seemed very friendly, and a couple of parks were in walking distance.  We even saw advertised on their sign that one of their services was going to be on the lawn of one of those parks.  The church seemed to be very accomodating and inclusive and all-around pleasant.  We drove by it recently and he said, out of the blue, “I’d want to attend a service there one day.”
“Really?”
“Yeah.”
“Huh.  Like when?”
“I don’t know.  Sometime before Christmas.”

The second thing that took me by surprise was yesterday while we were walking around a lake.  We were having a good, lazy conversation about everything and nothing.  Then he felt compelled to tell me about something he did recently.  First, I should explain that my husband has a weird relationship with prayer.  He doesn’t pray often, for the wonderful reason that he thinks praying for something is selfish.  It makes perfect sense to me when he says it seems awfully self-centered to ask God for, say, a new car instead of peace in Syria.  So he tries to keep his prayers to a minimum.  I should also remind you guys that I’ve been looking for work for over six months now.  Okay, back to the action:

“You know how I told you that I don’t like to pray?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, awhile ago I prayed that you’d find a job.  And I really thought that it was going to work this time because you’ve been getting so many interviews.  Now I feel bad for expecting you to get a job.  I think maybe I asked for too much this time.”

To say I was touched by what he said would be an extreme understatement.  I was moved almost beyond words that he prayed for me.  I likened it to someone that had a genie who would only grant them three wishes and chose to use one of their wishes on someone else.

The gratefulness I felt inside had absolutely nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the fact that I felt so absolutely adored in that moment.  It’s like he pulled out the big guns for me.  It’s like if you’re dying from a rare disease and someone decides to send you halfway across the world to find the absolute-best cure known for that disease, even if it meant putting up your entire life savings, house, and car as collateral.

So in the end, my other half has definitely been surprising me.  I just never thought he’d be surprising me with religion.

To Experiencing Your Own Pleasant Surprises,

Posted in Spiritual Sundays

Spiritual Sunday: The Full Church Experience

I would so appreciate it if you could read my Terms & Conditions for reading Spiritual Sunday posts before continuing.  Thank you.  🙂

Before I start, I should mention that I have indeed seen the article about the nuns vs. Pope Benedict.  I guess the reason why I chose not to do a full-on blog post about this is because I feel it’s being discussed everywhere and the general consensus is to say, “God bless those nuns.”  Or, rather, most people are on the nun’s side, me included.  If you’re curious, this is what I said about it on Facebook:  “Oh, dear Benedict…you’ve definitely let this whole popetatorship go to your head. And with that, I say God bless these nuns.  Because, really? Poverty? Social justice? *sarcastic gasp* How DARE they?!? Also, WWJD (in the whole Who Wants Jelly Donuts sense…okay, fine. Really. What would Jesus do? Certainly not this.)”

Anyhow, when I set up this blog, I knew that I didn’t want to get horribly political in my discussions.  I suppose that’s what political blogs (and agendas) are for.  I want my posts to be civil and open-minded, and I want to avoid any heated debates at all costs.  Therefore, I choose to post things that are more friendly-discussion-based in nature, mostly for my own (and others’) education.  So with that, here’s my actual post:  🙂

*~*~*~*~*~*

As I’ve previously discussed, I’ve been to different kinds of church services.  With each experience, I learn something more about myself and my religious beliefs.  In addition to that, I start to form what kind of church experiences I enjoy and feel comfortable in.  Within the last year or so, I also came to form my (very humble and unique) opinion of what “the full church experience” should be.  In other words, I’ve discovered what my own personal “important parts of church” are, or which things contribute to it.  They follow, in no particular order of importance:

      1)  A welcome to everyone, new and visiting–I think it’s important to emphasize that the church is a welcoming community to all.  Taking the time to acknowledge everyone is important in a service to me because I want everyone to feel comfortable with the choice to come and worship.  And even if the ones who step into a church are not religious people, I want them to feel as if they are not being shunned.  I will always maintain that the God’s and the church’s message is one of love and acceptance for all.  If a church didn’t have this, I would say they’re not even practicing the fundamentals of Christianity.

  2)  The Bible, or equivalent religious text–It’s my assumption that churches and religions are bound together by a common set of beliefs.  In that way, I think some reference to these stories and ways of life is necessary.  I personally like having examples by which to live by; otherwise, I (humbly) believe that church would simply be nothing but a speech.  After that statement, though, my thoughts on religious text and how to present it in a church become much more complex.

I know I will get criticized for saying this, but I do believe that we as people should be smart and independent enough to figure out what parts of these religious texts to follow.  To put it simply, I believe religious texts should be used as a vehicle for good, not evil.  Keeping just those qualifications in mind, I would say that the Tao Te Ching (the book on Taoism) is perhaps the most perfect example of a “religious text” (though, as those following Taoism know, there really aren’t hard, fast rules when it comes to Taoism…just suggestions and simply being).  What I know of the Tao Te Ching is that it has applications, but no “you shoulds” and “you shouldn’ts” as most other religious texts do.

So I suppose in my perfect church world, we would reflect on the humanitarianism, love, acceptance, and miracles of the Bible, not all the horrendous things like murdering, casting people out, and suffering.  Now, I know what some of you may be thinking:  the Bible is God’s word, and it should be followed to the core.  Not true.  The Bible is actually composed mostly of human accounts, with many differing versions of the same event, because as we all know, humans aren’t perfect.  On top of that, it has been translated into so many different languages that original meanings can definitely get lost in translation.  And if one wants to follow the Bible to its core, then they should themselves follow through 100%–not just stopping at ostracizing those who are different from them (homosexuality comes immediately to mind), but also cheating on their spouses, stoning (i.e., murdering) disobedient children, wearing hats or having a shaved head when going to church (if you’re a woman), not owning any possessions (ANY.  Like, not even a toothbrush.), not planning ANYTHING in your life (marriages, kid’s birthday parties, what you’re going to have for dinner…), still have slavery, forgive all debts after 7 years…the list goes on and on.

How the religious text is introduced in church is another story.  Really, I think it should be in any way you feel comfortable with.  Personally, I’ve been uncomfortable in churches that treat their service like a college lecture, with everyone having their Bible for reference to highlight certain verses they cover during sermon, taking notes, and having those verses behind the pastor on a PowerPoint presentation behind them.  But that’s me and my own learning style.  Many people do very well in that setting, and learn the best in that way.

3) Prayer–I kinda figured this was always a given, but I’m not an expert on every single religion/church out there.  I’m more about the quiet, reflective prayer to yourself, or the group prayer where you and the congregation pray for peace, but if loud prayer’s more your style, go for it.  I just think a conversation with your respective god is important in the faith.  After all, if you’re believing in something you can’t technically experience with your senses (though I argue the opposite…I truly believe God is in nature and in humanity and you can see it through the beautiful colors He provides us, the sounds of laughter, what the heart feels with love…that is experiencing God through the senses…but that’s a different topic), then speaking to this thing you can’t see is the best expression of your faith, no?

4) Hymns/Singing–There’s something so healing about joining with the congregation in worshipful singing.  I especially like songs based on original prayers or hymns from the Bible (or your respective Holy Book), because then it’s applicable to what you’re being taught or what you’re “supposed” to read (see point #2).  To put melody to the healing/happy parts of the Bible/Holy Book gives one the chance to reflect in more detail on that passage, in my opinion.  With me, for example, the Prayer of St. Francis sticks out.  I’m not the type of person who could quote Bible passages by heart, but I can definitely tell you my favorite hymns and why, and refer fellow Christians to the lyrics of those hymns during difficult times.  I guess it doesn’t hurt that I used to be a pianist for a church and so would know hymns better than most, but I could do this before I even had that job. 🙂

5) Communion–Out of everything, I think this might be the one that most people would disagree with.  But there is something about the sacredness of communion to me, a symbolism of everyone coming to the table and being able to partake in something holy, no matter what your station in life is, is absolutely beautiful and very epitomizes what I think church–and religion, for that matter–should be.  I should now take the time to emphasize and repeat what I just said:   no matter what your station in life is.  I realize this is a major point of contention in many churches, but I believe that anyone, as long as their heart is in the right place, should be able to receive communion.  I disagree with churches of certain denominations (mine included) that have a sort of unsaid rule (actually, it’s usually written in a book or program) that if you’re of a different denomination, you should be respectful and not go up to communion.  But they don’t necessarily check up on these things beforehand (except for the incident where a lesbian was denied communion at her mother’s funeral, which, if you haven’t figured it out by now, completely disappoints and enrages me).  Still, this shunning practice is something that I believe should be done away with.  If someone is truly wanting to give their heart to this particular religion, who do the higher-ups think they are to stop that person?  There are many instances that I can think of where God/Jesus welcomed someone into His arms that society otherwise shunned:  lepers, blind people, poor people, etc.  Now, this statement is null and void if someone is going up to communion as an act of mockery and spite.

So that’s it.  The full church experience, as outlined by one opinionated Violet.  What do you guys think?  Is there anything I left out?  Any of the above that you don’t think should be a part of a church?  I would love to know below.

To experiencing things you have faith in to the fullest,

 

 

Posted in Spiritual Sundays

Spiritual Sunday: To baptize or not to baptize? That, among many others, is the question.

Please read my Terms & Conditions for reading Spiritual Sunday posts before continuing.  Thank you!  🙂

I have to start by saying I’m not a parent yet, but my husband and I definitely want a kid in the future.  If you’ve read my religious background, you may understand why I’m a little torn on the subject of how to religiously bring up our future offspring.

The topic of religion and what we plan on passing on to our kids (if anything at all) has come up many times in our marriage.  For the most part, I think we agreed that he’s okay with baptizing the kid as a Catholic, just to have a religious basis, but to let him or her decide for themself what they want to believe in (or not believe in, if the case may be).

This agreement has since brought up many other questions:  who would we choose as godparents?  Would my husband then agree to convert to the Catholic faith?  What about the godparents?

The idea of godparents are also a strange one.  Traditionally, godparents are chosen to help the child in his or her religious education and to support that child spiritually.  More often, though, godparents are seen as the people who take over guardianship should the legal parents become incapacitated.

One thing I have to disclose is I’m sorta kinda (okay, fine, REALLY) obsessed with the TV show Gilmore Girls.  I’ve watched the entire series at least 5 times over and can probably tell you the entire plot of an episode after only 3 seconds into it.  I tend to talk about the characters in the show like they’re real people sometimes.  So relating posts to Gilmore Girls episodes may happen more often than not.  (I promise this is going somewhere…)

There’s one episode that I remember when Lorelai (the mother) and Rory (the daughter) are asked to become godmothers to Lorelai’s best friend Sookie’s two children (Did you follow that okay?  Sorry about that).  Neither Lorelai nor Rory are terribly religious (they’re pretty accepting of everything), but both felt like they were under a microscope when they were presented with godparent responsibility.  They engage in a one-upping “I’m holier than thou” contest in front of the pastor who’s giving all the godparents a “religious interview,” for lack of a better term.  The comedic conversation goes as follows:

(Taken from crazyinternetpeople.com)
REV.SKINNER: So, I always like to take a few minutes before my baptisms to get to know the godparents a little bit. Of course I already know you two, but I just want to touch base and make sure you understand the obligations of what you’re getting into here today. Now, basically, godparents are responsible for the spiritual upbringing of their godchildren. I certainly hope the parents throw their two cents in, but the godparents are vitally important figures in a child’s life. So, tell me, what are your religious affiliations?
LORELAI: Oh, well, Reverend, you’ve known us forever.
REV.SKINNER: Well, yes, I have, and I still have no idea what your religious affiliations are.
LORELAI: Oh…
RORY: Well…
LORELAI: We’re a bit lapsed.
REV.SKINNER: Yes. From…?
LORELAI: Well, um…religion. But, you know, I can’t speak for Rory, but I have a strong belief in good…you know…over evil. I mean, if I was asked to choose a side…
RORY: I read “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”.
LORELAI: I have a bible. Although I may or may not have accidentally given it to Goodwill, because I’m remodelling. But Goodwill is a religious organization… I think. But even if it’s not, good will. It’s in the ballpark.
RORY: I buy tons of girl-scout cookies.
LORELAI: I have two “Mary is my homegirl” T-shirts.
REV.SKINNER: Well, these are all very positive if somewhat irrelevant things. And it seems like your hearts are in the right place.
RORY: Absolutely.
LORELAI: Definitely.
REV.SKINNER: And it says something good about you both that when a friend calls you up and asks a favour, you come through like this.
LORELAI: (obviously having figured something out) Right, right.
REV.SKINNER: Shall we?
RORY: We shall.

This brings up an important point.  Above even spiritual upbringing, I’d look for good role models for my children.  If they are good people and their hearts are in the right place, then I think that’s who I’d entrust my children to.  But what happens when the people you want to be your child’s godparents are atheists?  I would feel bad forcing someone who didn’t believe in God into such a religious ceremony.  And what would the church think?  Or would we all just try to cover up the fact?  Has anyone out there with kids ever run into this problem, or know what the solution is?

Then comes up the religious upbringing itself.  If our kid is baptized Catholic, he or she would then eventually be expected to participate in the other sacraments:  confession, confirmation, and communion being among them.  We’re both a bit wary of our kid going “that far” into the Catholic religion.  At that point, we’d feel like we’re forcing only that one belief on our kid, and he or she wouldn’t feel quite comfortable exploring other religious/non-religious avenues.  So why even bother with baptism, you ask?  I guess I’m not so sure myself.  To me, it’s just something that I’ve been brought up with…a ceremony as much of a rite of passage as getting a driver’s license or graduating high school.  It’s as logical to me as a first birthday party when it comes to normal childhood events.  Of course, this isn’t true for everyone.

What happens as the child grows up?  We’re both afraid of the time when the child is old enough to realize that Mom & Dad don’t go to church together.  How to explain that awkwardness?  Would I even bother to take the child to church if we want the child to be free to choose their own belief system?

In the end, I think we both want to provide our child with something to believe in, no matter what that may be.  If there is anything we both agree in, it’s that it’s important to learn faith in something, if in nothing else but humankind.

What do you guys think?  Do you think it’s important that both parents have the same spiritual/non-spiritual background?  How vital do you think religion is to a child’s development?  If a child is left to their own devices to figure out what they want to believe in, do you think this will just end up in them being spiritually confused or lost?

I know I’ve asked many more questions than I usually do, and that I’ve wandered in thought much more than I usually do, but it’s a conversation I’ve been wanting to start for awhile.  And I believe that the best conversations have lots of questions!

Here’s to believing in something,