Being aware

Earlier this summer I became aware of just how much I wasn’t being aware! When I stepped out on my front porch, there was a toad sitting by the door. Apparently he’d been there several days (according to my husband), and I had walked right past him each morning. I decided I’d better open my eyes!

He was there the next morning–but hasn’t been there since. For several days I saw evidence of him, since he’d decided to make himself a cool home in my pansy pot. But then that hole got filled in, and he didn’t bother to dig another one, apparently finding a new place.

But that experience challenged me to really pay attention to the world around me as I went through it…and I’ve been at times pleasantly surprised at what I’ve seen. It’s not that there’s been anything huge and spectacular, but maybe that’s the point.

There’s a song from Flower Drum Song that catches up the experience I’ve had…”A Hundred Million Miracles.” Part of the lyrics say “A hundred million miracles are happening every day…and those who say they do’t agree are those who do not see.”

I’ve become aware that miracles are happening every day. They’re not all big, spectacular ones…but when our eyes are open and our minds are aware, we can see them happening all around. Maybe I needed the toad to remind me to be aware…to open my eyes to see the miracles. How about you?

I am a Christian

I’ve been thinking about what those four words mean since I heard Anne Rice’s statement that she is leaving Christianity–although not leaving Christ.

While I do understand and sympathize with her frustration, I am sorry to hear her decision. If those of us who believe that Christianity is something different from what is so often presented, then we are conceding the defining of Christianity to those who (in my opinion) twist and pervert what following Christ really means.

I have come to believe that Christ did not come to start a church. He seemed much more focused on relationships–relationships between God and humanity, between human beings…

 His followers did that–with all good intentions, I believe. They needed a way to strengthen and support each other…to remind themselves of what Jesus said, what he called them to do… But at some point, the structure became more important than the relationships, and it’s been problematic since then.

As human beings, we seem to love to find ways to separate ourselves from each other…to claim “my” superiority over you…to want power.

But that’s not what Jesus said.

There were lots of rituals and beliefs that his followers grew up with–that they were expected to obey. And yet, when someone asked Jesus what was most important, did he respond with any of those? No…. He told the questioner that was was expected was to love God with all of one’s being and to love neighbor as we love self. We often stop there, but I think the next statement is probably the most important–that all of the Law and Prophets hung on those two commandments.

That’s what I believe being a Christian means. Not that we’re all going to have the same understandings and experiences. But that we’re willing to come together in community to learn–and yes, to struggle with–what it means to live in love of God and each other.

I can’t be a Christian by myself. There are aspects of following Christ that I can do by myself–but for me, being a Christian requires me to be in community, as imperfect as the community may be.

…as a child…

We visited Powell Gardens yesterday morning. We–meaning my husband, 12-year-old grandson, and me. Our primary purpose was to visit the butterfly house, and that was great fun. Lots of butterflies to see, although unfortunately it appears that none of the big moths have yet hatched. And we wanted to see the “big bug” sculptures that are placed throughout the gardens as well.

We hadn’t been there for a while, and in our wanderings, we came across a new area–the Fountain Garden.

Because we were under a significant heat advisory, we had arrived at the garden as soon as it opened so that we could try to get finished before it got too hot. And that had mostly worked. But we were still quite warm by the time we reached the fountain.

Several youngsters were playing in it…and it didn’t take our grandson long to decide that he wanted in there as well, even though we hadn’t brought any towels or dry clothes.

Nor did it take me long either! I need to watch the heat because of some health issues, and I sat under an umbrella back from the fountain a little bit…thinking that it sure looked like fun in the fountain. Finally I left my purse and phone with my husband…took my shoes and socks off…and joined our grandson in the fountain. The water jets rose and fell–and we got absolutely soaked…and it felt marvelous!

As we left, we passed another couple about our ages, watching the kids from a raised overlook. The man grinned a bit and asked, “How on earth did they talk you into that?”

And I thought…how too bad it is when we lose our inner child and think we have to be serious and solemn grownups all (or most of) the time. Lightening up is good for the soul!

Jesus told us to become as little children. I don’t believe that means we are to become “childish”–but to become as a child means to trust…to play…to enjoy life with all that life has to offer.

Let’s play!

Demonizing people…

I picked up a book at the library the other day..didn’t end up being quite what I had expected.

I had thought it was going to be a book on the Salem witch trials, but it is ending up being far more than that. I thought that the Salem trials were the witch trials, but that turns out not to be totally true. Yes, they were witch trials…but looking at the broader history, they came at the tail end of a series of with trials worldwide. I had not realized that so many people–primarily women–had been killed through the years, accused of being witches.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but there are some interesting insights and suggestions…and it got me thinking.

How–and why–do we demonize people today?

So many of those who were accused of witchcraft in what we tend to consider “more barbaric” times were women who were not afraid to speak their minds..who had some significant power as healers…who owned property that others coveted…who were not under the “rulership” of male relatives…were old…

Would we do the same today? Probably not in the same way, but don’t we find ways to demonize people who aren’t like us?

All it takes is a look at the newspaper. The two big groups of people that jump out at me as being demonized (in different ways) are members of the LGBT community and illegal immigrants. They are “other” in some way–skin color…culture…sexual orientation…language…poverty… And so we find reasons to consider them “less than” the rest of us.

But that’s not what we’re called to do. If I am a follower of Christ, I am called to see all as my brothers and sisters. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to agree with everything they say or do…but it certainly challenges me not to demonize them!

There’s a story Jesus told that I think is appropriate here. The Jewish people were proud of their purity…and those who were “other”–the Samaritans–were seen as “less than”. Really almost demonized. Yet when someone asked Jesus what he should do in order to have eternal life, Jesus told this story:

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

   Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

 Who are the Samaritans…the witches…the outcasts for us?

Isn’t live theatre grand?

Last night we went to see The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee. It’s a neat show–as good theatre should, it made us laugh but also had poignant moments as the spelling bee continued and the pressure built on the kids…and the songs allowed us to see some of the “back stories” of the characters.

The written characters could so easily have become stereotypes–the over-achiever, the nerd, the boy with ADHD, the neglected child…but they didn’t. Some of them were more fun to watch than others, but each of them became real people.

The show is also written to allow for additional “contestants” to be pulled from the audience to help fill out the roster of spellers for the first act–and that’s where one of the funniest–and unscripted–scenes occurred! As the act / spelling bee went on, each of the audience contestants ended up being disqualified for incorrectly spelling their words–and they weren’t exactly easy words! However…as the rounds continued and the last audience contestant remained, she was given a word that I’ve never heard of (and I consider myself a pretty good speller), a word that apparently only has one written occurrence. She thought for a moment and then slowly spelled out the letters. As each letter was spoken, the looks on the faces of the actors playing the vice-principal (who announced the words) and the woman in charge of the bee were priceless! When she finished spelling the word, the two of them looked at each other, then the vice-principal gulped and said, “That’s correct!” She took her place back on the bleachers–only to be called back up for another word–this time about a six-syllable medical term of some type. She got the first two letters out–“l-i-…” and the vice-principal rang the bell, indicating that she had missspelled the word and was eliminated. (Apparently it should have started “l-y-…”. And then they moved on to the final song of the first act.

 I don’t have any idea how many other times (if any) someone from the audience will force the cast to improvise a bit because of correctly spelling a word that’s supposed to disqualify them, but it was great watching it happen for the first time last night!

Live theatre…couple that with audience participation and you never know for sure what’s going to happen!