Magnitude

Before she walked out the door with our oldest son, my mother-in-law instructed me to take my wife to the hospital right after getting a bite to eat. At this point, my wife’s contractions were eight minutes apart. Up until this point, it seemed like her contractions were closing in on the 5 minute mark – the point at which we were encouraged by the doctor to head to RVH.

The problem is that my wife’s contractions became erratic. One contraction was almost half an hour over the last, and then they seemed to settle somewhere between 9 and 11 minutes apart. After dinner, my father texted me and warned that a second pregnancy goes fast. He convinced us to go the hospital despite my wife’s contractions being in excess of 8 minutes apart. Prophetically, he said, “Do you want to have your child on the side of the 400?”

In the birthing unit, it was determined that my wife was dilated close to 3 cm. We were encouraged to go down to the atrium and walk around for two hours before coming back up for re-examination. So my wife walked, or more exactly she waddled around the atrium. I told her “they,” as in the RVH staff, referred to the pregnant women walking the gamut as “waddlers.” My wife disagreed with me and demanded proof. I said we’d ask when we got back up. At another point, after my wife was leaned over in the painful throes of another contraction, in jest I tried to convince her that opportunistic men would still fixate their attention on the woman’s butt. My wife asked me if I could be so brazen. When I admitted my guilt, she told me that she sensed a shortage of empathy. Later, she said blankly: “You’re an idiot.”

Back at the birthing unit, my wife was told that over the course of two hours of walking that she had only dilated another half cm. It seemed reasonable to assume that she couldn’t be admitted until 4:00 am at this rate, maybe even later. Then came the ultimate decision: stay in the bed waiting to be admitted or go home. For my wife, the tub was her main source of comfort during labour. She yearned for the hospital tub again, but this wasn’t an option for her. So when we chose to go home, it was the relief of the tub that beckoned us to retrace our steps.

I napped for an hour while my wife sat in the tub. When it seemed too quiet, I checked on her. She was shivering uncontrollably, and so I helped her get warm the best I could. At this point, the contractions were still in excess of 6 minutes apart. I reminded my wife that the nurse told us to go back to the hospital when she couldn’t take it any more. My wife nodded and said she would let me know when she reached that state. When I was sitting on the couch, I was concerned. If my wife had not been so cold, I would have insisted on going back to the hospital right away. As it stood, she was warm and her contractions were holding steady. When I heard a particularly agonizing moan, I insisted that we return to the hospital. While my wife attempted to get out of bed, I went to start the car, gather blankets, and get everything ready.

By the time my wife was in the car, it seemed her contractions had sped up to 5 minutes apart, and quickly to 4 minutes. I had the impulse to take her to GBGH, but our original plan was not leave the house until 5 minutes – so we kept to the plan. Our road was extremely bumpy, with each groove sending a wave of pain through her body. We eased to the end of the road and off we sped. By the time we reached the 400 from Victoria Harbour, my wife was probably experiencing contractions at less than 3 minutes. I sped to RVH at over 130 km/hour. My wife told me to go faster. While her pain increased, I found myself praying. We’d have to make it. Then my wife said that she had the urge to push, and that she couldn’t help it. Then she announced that her water just broke. Then she announced, “Ring of fire . . . ring of fire . . . By the time we passed the Horseshoe Valley Road exit, she told me to call an ambulance.

While on the phone with the 911 operator, I pulled over the car on the exit ramp to Forbes Road. My wife had just let out an ear piercing shriek of agony. I went and opened the passenger door. I pulled my wife’s pants down, and I noticed she was already crowning. I raced to the back of the car to grab sheets. My wife kept saying “cold, cold” from the car door being open. The 911 operator called me back to give me instructions on how to coach my wife and deliver a baby.

I put my phone on speaker and set it on my wife’s abdomen. He instructed her to breathe, as did I. Although I was calm and attentive to all the instructions I was being given, I felt the deepest sense of horror I had ever experienced. My wife chose to return home out of pain. I agreed to go out of deference to her intuition. Now, it felt like the weight of our decision was squarely on me. I was terrified for her safety. I was terrified for the well being our child to be born.

We had been so deliberate the whole time we prepared for this birth. In fact, “prepared” is the operative word. My wife had prepared down to the finest details for weeks. And yet here we were on the side of the 400, with the crowning increasing. Images of our son sleeping peacefully at his grandparents, my father and mother, her parents – their confidence in my judgment, sat before me as I prepared to deliver our son on the side of the highway. Then the ambulance arrived and my wife was brought on a stretcher into safety.

Minutes later, I watched my son being born from the vantage point of the front seat of the ambulance. Tears rolled down my face as I considered the conditions of our new son being born and how much I want him to feel loved and special, just like his older brother. I hated that he seemed to be born in such a careless, haphazard way. At the time, it did feel like my carelessness had led to his dramatic entrance into this world and I didn’t think it was fair to him.

I was invited back into the ambulance to cut the cord. I watched my wife take little Wes into her arms for the first time. In all honesty, I felt numb – like shock was spreading through me. Then I followed the ambulance to RVH. While driving, I prayed a prayer of gratitude for the safety of my family and the safe delivery of Wes. By the time I joined them in the birthing unit, I was able to smile about what we had just experienced. By the time I started posting his first pictures on Facebook, I was full of joy. My wife was glowing and happy, and our little guy was determined to be healthy. I realized that Wes’ birth was just as special as our other son’s birth – only more dramatic. But the magnitude of that realization on the highway will never go away, and I will use it to better my decisions going forward.

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Dean Spanley – The Celebration of Being a Dog

I’ve taken some time to think about the movie Dean Spanley and how the story was able to evoke such an emotional from me. As a huge dog lover, part of me is forever grateful to the scene in the movie that portrays a beautiful day in the life of two dogs who formed an unlikely friendship.

When I welcome new dogs into my home, it is my hope that they still are given the freedom to exult in their dogness from time to time and forget about the demands of being part of a human family. Just the same, I recognize that I am responsible for their protection and there are always limits on how far I allow them to run – even at the secluded cottage where they love to roam.

In my own book, A Dog’s Religion, I portray the dogs at the Shelter as religious types. For instance, Tory is a mixed breed boxer who tends to prefer the company of other dogs. I view him as representing a humanistic religious type. Lady, on the other hand, is so wrapped up in pleasing her master that she knows no joy outside of this relationship. She represents the fanatical religious type.

Likewise, in Dean Spanley, a religious theme is explored, only in this situation a case for metempsychosis is made. Dean himself is suspected to be the reincarnation of a family dog, with memories of his past life that pour out of him when he starts to drink a rare type of wine called Hungarian Tokay. The movie isn’t really as much about dogs as it is an invitation to reflect on how little you know about existence.

The love of a gruff, bitter old man for his old dog and the heart melting explanation for the dog’s sudden disappearance is as rare and exotic a work of art as the wine Spanley drinks. When thinking about this movie, it’s as though I can only do so in sips, fully taking in the aroma and flavour of something uniquely satisfying. When I reflect on the scene of the two dogs and their celebration of caninehood, I almost inevitably end up hugging my own dogs.

I am indebted to this movie and I hope it not only changes the way we view dogs, but our perspective of the people we encounter in life as well.

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Original Prologue for November in White Sands

Waves lapping, distant island superimposed on pastel spread, surrounded by the whitest sand–reminding me of . . .” I paused to think, “. . . of scorn, I suppose . . .

Recovering my pencil from the sand, I scratched in my economy-sized notepad:

A day pressingly beautiful, enough to inspire loneliness: Promise’s contamination, one big swallowing motion, yet unrecognizable in the mirror of human faces; Desire with no conceivable correspondent–beyond-this-world, concentric-circled . . . desire . . .

A lone swimmer disentangled herself from the liquid expanse, and drifted toward me, sultry in shadow, drying herself with a towel.

“What are you writing?” she asks disinterestedly, sitting beside me.

“Nothing,” I replied. “The stars will be here soon.”

“I’m cold,” she says with a coaxing sadness, “but I won’t complain, and I know a fire tonight is out of the question . . .”

“You’re shivering,” I observed.

Through chattering teeth: “You need . . . the clarity . . . and I need you to survive another nightfall.”

She leaned against me and the colours of twilight seemed to ebb and intensify.

“Back off,” I warned, kind of pushing her away. Her eyes of reflective grey, they moistened with hurt as I moved away from her disconsolate–the colours, I observed, becoming less distorted in proportion to the distance between us.

“What could you have written?” she says all upset, fumbling on the ground for the notepad.

From a few steps away I observed the process of inversion, where the Dream collapses under its own recognition.

She looked up at me, her eyes mirrors of the island superimposed on pastel spread, whispering softly: “It doesn’t have to be this way, I . . . I was helping you . . .”

“To what end, Karis?” I said sharply.

By this time I was on my feet, walking briskly along the beach.

Turning to see her following me, I encouraged her pursuit: “Come on, I’ll drop you off at home.”

“You mustn’t think this way!” she pleaded. “You cannot . . . for your own sake you mustn’t–”

“Come on,” I repeated.

Resolved to the worst, she hurried past me with a furious, accusatory glare, crying out: “Don’t trouble yourself, I’ll find my own way back. I only hope clarity doesn’t render you sightless!”

And I watched her disappear into the mouth of the horizon, wondering what, exactly, I had done.

* * * *

Opening the shutters . . . On what? Access traditionally suppressed. Experience requires anesthetic, Realization swift sever. Mind-sanctuary inevitably betrays itself, marking the capsizing of the Dream under its own weakness, ashes to dust, and the dawn of an outlook-shifting sobriety.

With the waves lapping, and sky reflecting the pre-struggles of yet another death, I found myself an impassive observer to the destruction of the Dream’s promise within, behind and under the illusion of its possibility.

How long can the alcove hide one from the storm? Prescriptions from the past, the fallacious “quintessence” and karmic dance to lush promised land plumed with grapes and rivers flowing with milk and honey–they all describe her mendacious attempt to lure unsuspecting travelers to the remote, dizzying heights she’s claimed as her home, where the owl noiselessly prowls the evening air and the auspice of a rainbow stretches across daybreak, settling uneasy stomachs.

Gathering myself, my disappointment, my impulsiveness, I continued my trek along the water-hardened shoreline toward my car, night birds whisking all around me, skimming the water as though I was a spectator to be impressed.

Don’t get me wrong, I welcomed her company, adopted her as my alcove, my security . . . my objectified passion. Karis invited every bit of experience and knowledge, all literature and art to follow, into the warm, golden sunlight, where no arabesque of shadow could infiltrate, no anxiety could unsettle the stillness. To reside in Dream meant never to live, and that was fine with me, only . . . only there were too many instances when my sleep was disturbed and my eyes would slowly open to the very real spider spindling its way across the ceiling, or a gathering of multi-coloured clouds spreading across the skyline, incandescent in the unnatural, deep feeling orange of another day swallowed by hell.

These instances of clarity invited her recognition–unquestionably with her sanction–and the satisfaction of somnambulating through life became a hazy recollection at best, now too remote to dwell on and too far away to regret. A period of restlessness, as I suspected, began to fill the void. I had woke up to find the shutters partly open, and Karis recoiling from the golden light of her own conjuring to cold, less conspicuous ground. It was there–within, behind and under the setting Revelation–that she turned herself toward herself, there with the dark of my shadow cast over her.

. . . For an instant, Dream became conscious of Dream, incorporating lyrical expression to the musical flow of our emotion: the sanctuary could no longer hold the tormented and the tormented could no longer place foot in the sanctuary. So we went our separate ways, not before she could flash those brilliant eyes in my direction, though, invoking a spell of nausea-regret-hesitation. But I was not to reconsider, at least for the moment, merely to suffer, and she disappeared into the congestion of colour and stretch of endless white sand before I could change my mind, leaving me to ponder my clarity.

Her absence almost instantly precipitated this sense of being irretrievably alone . . . and while traversing the beach, a voyeur of my own senses, the sun fading mercifully, I came to appreciate her precarious, poetic stance, that, for all her eloquence and elocution, the one thing she could offer to me “personally” required the dissolution of all she came to embody as meaningful.

Call the object of our relationship what you wish, Effective Stimulant, Worthy Diversion . . . but I needed her companionship, if only to appreciate the dull throbs of soberness I sacrificed my deceptive sense of “resonance” with the grandeur of God’s beauty to embrace.

* * * *

Many writers have erred just as tragically, have tried and failed to interpret the world through those unspeakably beautiful grey eyes. I mean, in the inundation of loneliness throughout history there have been some panoramic attempts at resurrection, call it the Great Nostalgia (Renaissance nostalgia), but I’ve dismissed the possibility, settling on resolution. No doubt I would have to recover my senses quickly. Thrust into the dire situation of a fiddler crab whose demands had outgrown its shell, it was time to move forward and reevaluate my resonance with the world, either that or suffocate.

Writing became my lifeline. Every thought, breath, impulse, urge, they found their way to paper. It was a violent response to a passive, degrading aggression. Actuality peeled off the filmy, sticky latex of Appearance, and shuddered in the cold breeze, moist and insipid, like a hatchling struggling to “become.” It was the first taste of reality since high school, when, at a late blooming seventeen, I initially experienced the grace of her company and was still stubborn enough to resist her persuasions. I wrote: “Karis, beautiful, don’t you realize that it’s the very same sky effusing hues of hope and promise inciting the most unspeakable . . . unsightly . . . decay . . .”

In search of a shell, advancing along the sand, I’ve discovered the prospect of survival-without-her to be a mesmerizing possibility. I’ve become passionate of late, to the point that I sometimes lose sight of my troubles, for hours and hours morbidly consumed with light, time, hunger, contour, space, colour, virility–until the spell is over, and then all I’m left with is an emptied sense of estrangement: “Karis, reality dictates an apparent disconnection with the grossly opulent craftsmanship of this world. Can I believe you’re attracted to me so?”

Extended circles of self-reproach over long, long years have led me to frequent park benches, lightly sipping cigarettes, or my familiar table at Silas and Priscilla’s Cafe–have urged me to surreptitiously slip into the dark quiet of commotion in the bar, all the time trying to figure things out: how I’m somehow integral to everything revolving around me, yet alienated by everything I circle, and how I lack a predecessor in the art of reconciling a disfigured soul to an ecosystem of aesthetic harmony.

There’s little question that Karis’ absence left me in disfigurement, and despite her departure that evening by the waterside this antagonizing sense of her presence continued to burn with an insatiable, molten-white intensity. The heat, I knew, would not subside until my outlook had been branded in such a way that every perspective included the image of our courtship. Defeated, I found myself slumped over in the November of mentality, and I just wanted to perish alone in my studio, a victim of myself and my own tainted outlook.

November means that everything’s laid bare, and things are exactly as they seem. The water’s dark and cold, inviting in its own convincing way, while trees vividly demonstrate the argument that death’s the sole threshold to life. It’s the same capsule an old man revisits when savoring his pipe, conjuring the war, and justifying everything opiate. November I recognize: snow that rarely lasts a fortnight, dismal sun, manufactured grey cloud, summer pond surviving scourge of autumn and cryogenically preserved.

November I recognize: childhood penetrated by divorce, social division, unjust distribution of talents, ambiguous moral code, growing lack of purpose. The pond of my memory enshrines the penetrative moment, spread in concealment, shimmering steel on the outskirts of a local farmer’s field where the tips of brown corn stocks could be seen reaching skyward through the snow, pleadingly perhaps, in supplication to the hand of all creation. The day of its discovery, I recall, even smelled of November, cold and dead.

Carefully I navigated the bank with my friends, each of us wary of motherly chastisement, and peered into the opaque window . . . only to discover . . . bone-chilling disappointment . . . apart from the wind’s icy squeeze prickling hairs on scarveless necks. Charsmith, our fearless leader, unhesitatingly smashed the ice with a branch he found, no doubt disgusted (children find nothing savory in tranquillity). And it was then, upon impact, that we saw the shadows bleed beneath the icy cover.

Our leader, reflexes of a jungle cat, haughtily dipped his hand into the frigid water before any of us could react. I think it was then that I experienced my first memory of being captivated. All of us innocents were captivated, intently holding our breath while the inverted, misty drama unfolded, where anxious fingers stretched like suction-cupped tentacles to extricate one of the bolting shadows from the shadow of cold mud in which it had disappeared.

In morbid fascination we were witness to a hand’s upper thrust from obscurity to stark, impending reality, lethargically successful in the cold air, with the prize in its clutches: a numb, protesting frog.

It croaked for freedom. But we kept it and caught more.

Autonomy, possibility . . . how can I envision anything beyond Nature’s scorn? November, however, I recognize: Dream by its very nature opposes contradiction . . .

Indefinitely, I trace circles in the sand in the knowledge that I’m an infinite set of irreconcilable attributes, exchanging shell for shell, and that I’m never to become.

Read November in White Sands – A Novel




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Poems from November in White Sands

Transient Etchings

Child in the corner by the fence, alone
in the schoolyard
Scratching with a stick
On the ground, pawing
painstakingly drawing
your story,

Of epitomizing your feelings in a picture
not knowing how or why
you stand alone, so prone
to the rejection you feel at their play

Under the shadow of tree you stand, blank page
benevolent gaze
Clouds condensing on your face
as you kick your picture into dust
I know it lad, I know you must
destroy your story

I love you boy as I love the sky
for you are me as I am you
just remember the picture in your rage
of us together, inscribed

And though we cry, friend of mine,
little sullen friend
We cannot let this harm us
though my soul bleeds
for your voiceless pleas
in the form of a story

that just can’t express what you feel . . .
while the angels sip
from God’s sweet chalice of wine
in the form of children surrounded with joy

And moan you not

Young child, young me
young wolf so alone
look past the imminent dusk
and see past the haze
past the loneliness of our days
to our story

that fades from the ground
yet not from our minds
So always we’ll see
the transience of this day and life

April

Withhold the rain. . . the snow. . .
        Let the sun not shine, nor the stars
        reveal their face . . . lessness
        Permit me no access to the sedate glow 
        of Moon, nor the smile on
        April’s seductive mouth.

Withhold it all from me and let me die
        Or live . . .
        But if darkness cannot be fixed,
        I wish for sleet
        Cold, cruel, gray sleet
        That I may be consumed by my morbid 
        Pondering– wet and cold
        And always in between.

April, kiss me, rest your lips on my own,
        Breathe whatever you want of me into me,
        As long as it’s not hope . . .

My Passion

“The snow is cold tonight,” she said.
      I nodded, it was true, it seemed colder.
        Perhaps it was the lusterless sky
        or the faded moon, obscured by cloud
        the patches of stars
        -even our visible breath
        It could have been us.
        No flare, twin icicles dispassionate
        or maybe the fact that our eyes were both blue
        The world smelled cold.
        And she walked as if animated, a corpse
        I could feel numbness running through my veins
        As though reaching for her.
        Our taxi came,
        She touched my hand …
        Ice upon Ice, Winter upon Winter
        Snow a little colder

Remedial Season

 Silenus, you call to me. . .
 Through autumn’s colorful mortality
 You call from eternity, for all to see
 That our sole consolation resounds with a dull thud.

 Of an acorn drawn to ground, burning leaves,
 Fruit’s rapturous rotting, spoiling
 Winter is upon us, thankfully upon us
 no more contradiction . . .

Choir, sing our benediction: Ice and frost will melt away, and
only mud will remain, gleaming in the sun, for all to trudge
through and smell.  No more contradiction . . .

Sometimes it frustrated me that the outer world didn’t conform to
my inner reality,
at other times I grew ill and claustrophobic when I realized the perfect
resonance of the two and couldn’t escape.

 Choir: the mud shall never dry!
 
Nevertheless, these undulations led to an indifference– a
confusion, I suppose– in which the God-provided beauty around us that
draws us to him, received new definition– a negative definition– and
indifference toward my situation in life proliferated in the margins of
my reality.

 Choir: the sun shall ever shine!
  
The outer world from this point was a continuum of the inner
life, and I sank into the perplexity of knowing that it was I who was
responsible . . .

Choir: Christ placed it in our eyes!
 
Only an inner change could remove my security in indifference and
prompt an inner and outer distinction.  For the outer to become
beautiful again, enjoyable again, and reflective of an inner peace, I
had to find an internal remedy.

 Choir: that we can finally die!

 Silenus, we’ve been offered seasons. . .
 Hopelessly annexed to reason
 no doubt, that we can despair to treason
 before our sovereign and indiscriminate Lord.

 But you and Christ have brought us autumn
 Remedial, cloaked in dwindling beauty
 Announcing death in terms of grace
 I feel it: No more contradiction. . .

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Sexuality and Ripening Morality

In my post on sexuality and fossilized morality, the main point I wanted to make is that sex and shame should not intersect.  This week, I listened to a sermon that described how the flesh and the spirit are at odds with each other.  This is a belief that’s been passed down through the centuries, creating ascetics, stoics, monks, hermits, and masochists intent on mortifying the desires of the flesh.  But is controlling the flesh really what’s in the best interest of the spirit?

I have a desire to be part of a church, but, ideally, it would be one that chooses to evolve rather than cling.  Since I would like young people to have something that will draw them back to church with the intent of helping them enrich their spiritual lives, the paradigm has to change from living by the values and beliefs of biblical times to the values and beliefs that have ripened throughout the ages and are relevant now.

The shift has already taken place all around us, with the emphasis on overall wellness and holistic living.  Instead of repressing our bodily desires, we learn how to nurture them in a healthy way with the expectation of growth.  This applies to fitness, nutrition, intellectual and spiritual development, sexuality, recreation, vocation, etc.  The idea is that balance is the key to wellness, which means that neglecting your bodily needs will have a negative impact on your spirit and vice-versa.  Flesh and spirit are not in a constant struggle, but are interconnected and dependent on each other.  If you over-develop one dimension of your life at the expense of another, you’re probably going to feel like something is missing.

In a previous post, I promised to make some suggestions to modernize the way the church views sexuality.  The flesh vs. spirit discussion provides a good backdrop for this discussion.  I think it’s possible for the church to maintain that sex within marriage is the ideal circumstance while acknowledging that almost 100% of people are going to have sex outside of marriage, either before marriage or post-marriage.  Since Jesus has been singled out as living the only fully loving human existence (perfect in love), it seems pretty natural for Christians to be able to acknowledge that sexual purity is lived out almost on the level of myth.  The big change, then, is not to treat sexuality expression outside of marriage as something sinful in itself, yet the idealism is able to preserve a bit of room for people to fulfill their sense of rebellion against institutions like the church and even the values of their own upbringing (a psychological breaking away and assertion of individuality).

As in the case with other biological needs, it’s the nurture of sexuality that can lead to either abuse or neglect, with either extreme creating a climate for suffering in one’s self or others.  Exploitative sex is hard to paint as natural and healthy and consistent with Christian love.  But a couple of mature teenagers who responsibly make the decision to have their first encounter with each other have created, in all likelihood, a beautifully awkward moment in their lives.  They will remember it forever.  Likewise, two people who have sexual histories that end up forming a relationship are almost always going to have sex.  It’s pretty much imminent, even if they try to resist temptation for a time.  Unnecessary moral standards only cause needless shame and guilt that offer no clear spiritual benefit.  Obedience for the sake of obedience is just not something that we do nowadays: there has to be a clear personal benefit.

The problem in Christian circles is that young people still have sex without doing so responsibly.  Using birth control and protection is tantamount to sinful intent, which is why they tend to have irresponsible sex.  This shows us that the Christian attitude toward sex has to change.  Instead of emphasizing a repression of the desire, the church could talk about how sex is most fulfilling when love and physicality come together.  Maybe the church could talk about the consequences of irresponsible sex, and how any encounter can lead to pregnancy.  This could include discussing the repercussions of promiscuity or infidelity.  Or perhaps the church could talk about how the decision to have sex will alter a person’s life forever; once you create the appetite, you can never go back.

If you’re engaging in the activity, you have to be prepared for the consequences.  In other words, maybe it’s not a good idea to have sex with someone you can’t envision yourself having a child with.  But the last thing a church should do is draw a hard line when it comes to sex and label all sex outside of marriage as sinful.  It just might not be ideal for some people, since disease, unwanted pregnancy and emotional turmoil are the inherent risks.  But it’s still the free choice to make one’s own decisions that matters—something that we should never lose sight of.  And Christians should acknowledge that sexual exploration is a normal and healthy part of human development even if this is experienced outside of marriage.

In the previous post, I also touched on how Christianity has to keep pace with the social consciousness.  While the idea of abstaining from masturbating is a meaningless discipline that the Catholic Church contends will help people avoid “gravely disordered” behavior, the disapproval of homosexuality among Christians is the perfect example of the lack of empathy in the church experience.  I don’t think most young people buy it.  They’ve been raised in a more tolerant society.  If you consider homosexual intimacy to be unnatural or gross, just imagining almost anybody you know having sex seems unnatural and gross.  You would never allow your mind to go there.  The world of sex is private, just like what you do in the bathroom is private.  But nurturing this need in a healthy way is so important for the soul.  For homosexuals to have to abstain from intimacy altogether is like asking them to live out hell on earth on the off chance that they’ll be rewarded with eternity.  The scary part is that nobody really knows anything about the afterlife, or even if there is an afterlife, so there are no guarantees that foregoing a sex life will pay dividends.  It’s almost like we expect homosexuals to gamble their existence on a future happiness that may never find fulfillment.  The unjustness of this expectation is appalling.

For me, the most difficult part of going to church is joining a body of believers (I’m not necessarily referring to the congregation I attend) who mistakes immorality for morality.  When it comes to homosexuality, we’ve come a long way since Oscar Wilde went to prison.  Even recently the DSM had it listed as a mental disorder.  The bigger issue is at stake is that people are made to be ashamed of who they are and expected to deny their primal needs as a result.  Living out your life in freedom to nurture your own existence and make your own choices should be among the highest moral positions (ethic of basic freedoms), as long as exercised freedom doesn’t violate the freedom of others (which is why it is ridiculous to compare active homosexuals and pedophiles, who have no regard for a child’s freedom).  When there is mutual consent among homosexuals, the same standard for nurturing any bodily need or appetite applies.  The right to marry validates their basic freedom to choose a spouse.  Love should trump semantics when it comes to the definition of what constitutes a marriage and it seems that society is going in this direction.  However, it should be Christians carrying this torch.

Neglecting or suppressing or overindulging the needs of the flesh will have negative consequences on the spirit, regardless of whatever appetite we’re talking about.  A poor diet or an indolent lifestyle are as unwise as poor sexual choices.  Likewise, neglecting the spirit will have consequences on the flesh.  We have to stop asking God to forgive us for who we are and take responsibility for our needs: physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  We can’t expect young people to keep coming to church and living out their stages on life’s way in a spiritual community if we continue to regard human nature as sinful.  Church should be a place where people are given the tools to help develop their own relationship with God and find healthy ways to nurture their own needs.  You can’t breathe life into a fossil.  Species go extinct for a reason.  That’s why love in this world has steadily evolved toward inclusion.  I’m on the side of inclusion.

A practical church should not imply that we relinquish our sense of the sacred.  The church experience should help us expand our knowledge and experience of sacredness.  How this can be accomplished will be discussed in a future post.

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Knox Song – For My Son at 9 Months

I like to crawl around
I like to crawl around
I like to crawl around
Cause trouble

I like to ‘noy the dogs
I like to ‘noy the dogs
I like to ‘noy the dogs
Cause trouble

I like to throw things down
I like to throw things down
I like to throw things down
Cause trouble

I like to pull the wires
I like to pull the wires
I like to pull the wires
Cause trouble

I like to cry ‘til dawn
I like to cry ‘til dawn
I like to cry ‘til dawn
Cause trouble

I like to grab Mommy
I like to grab Mommy
I like to grab Mommy
Cause trouble

I like to crawl around
I like to ‘noy the dogs
I like to throw things down
Like Daddy

I like to pull the wires
I like to cry ‘til dawn
I like to grab Mommy
Like Daddy!

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July 15th 2012 Sermon – A Trust in God Beyond Language & Logic

When my mom asked me to give the message this week, I agreed before I knew what the topic was going to be.  I was pleased when I discovered that this year’s VBS focused on trusting in God.  Being a new father myself, this is a very important subject to me.  I hope we can prepare our little boy, Knox, to develop his own trust in God to help guide him through the stages on life’s way.

As a child, it was easier for me to fear God than to trust God.  On the one hand, I understood God to be as loving as my parents; on the other, God was capable of inflicting punishment on non-believers infinitely worse than what any human could do to another.  This was my own child mind trying to make sense of what was then a terrifying reality that I had to come to terms with.

Our approach to helping our children interpret bible stories can impact the way they trust God in their present state of mind and in the future, especially when they start to take ownership for their own beliefs.  As children, we’re taught not to trust strangers and at the same time we’re being introduced to an uncreated creator who can somehow be experienced apart from the five senses.  In our early life, God is more of a concept or an idea.  My little niece, Elle, believes her dad is God and that he is responsible for the beautiful world we live in, the sun, the moon and the stars.  She believes this because any concept of father is inextricable from her own experience.

When we’re children, stories help introduce us to the idea of a divine creator and then we’re taught to develop our own relationship with God through prayer, reading the Bible, going to church and talking about spirituality with others.   In our early years, God’s existence is unquestionable, and getting to know God is experienced as a process.  Little do we know at such a young age that it’s a lifelong process, with great challenges and breakthroughs to continually try to make sense of in the context of our own unfolding.

If you read the message boards on the Internet today, God is more often viewed as the perpetuated delusion of religious fanatics intent on imposing their beliefs on others, causing much of the conflict in the world today.  Many of these people went to church and feel they were deceived.  Rather than having a relationship with the source of all life that can sustain them through all life’s trials, they look down on those naïve enough to believe in fairy tales – as if they are wise enough to make sense of the mysteries of the universe and religious people have been duped.  For many of us here today, nothing makes sense apart from God and I wonder how people find meaning without recognizing a higher power.

While people should question the Christian explanation for the meaning of life and decide for themselves, a fully experienced trust in God lies beyond all language and logic in the individual– it’s untouchable.  This type of trust is as valuable as anything that can be attained in life and it’s a treasure I am fortunate enough to possess that I desire for my own children.

What I love about the VBS content this summer is that the kids are being taught that God is worthy of our trust regardless of who you are, how you feel, what people do, where you are, and whatever happens.  In this service, let’s take a quick look at the 5 Bible Points from the VBS program this week to see how we can use this information to develop a deeper sense of trust ourselves.

Point 1 – No Matter Who You Are Trust God

Key Verse – “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Key Story – Matthew 8:5-13

This exchange between the Roman centurion and Christ is only a few verses, but I remember spending much of a class in seminary discussing the significance of this exchange.  This was a non-Jewish soldier in the army of occupation.  There would have been uncomfortable relations between Jewish people and the occupiers.  The centurion recognized that Christ would have been defiled by entering a gentile home and healing his servant, but he didn’t see this conflict of interest as something insurmountable.  He understood Christ’s authority and trusted that Christ could accomplish the healing by simply willing it, and it was done.

No matter who you are trust God.  What I like most about this statement is that it is all-encompassing.  Whether you’re an Amnesty worker in Syria right now (any person in Syria right now, for that matter) or an inmate waiting on death row, God is there for you.  It doesn’t matter what your cultural background is, your ethnicity, your family history, your employment status and income, your sexual orientation, your religion, you can trust God.

The centurion had many reasons to believe that Christ would turn him away based on who he was, but he didn’t overthink it.  And neither should we.

Point 2 – No Matter How You Feel Trust God

Key Verse – “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God.” (John 14:1)

Key Story – Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. (John 11)

I’m not going to read the whole chapter, but here are the main points in a nutshell:

-Jesus and the disciples are across the Jordan, when they receive a message that Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, is ill.  Jesus remains there for 2 more days after hearing the news.

-Jesus and his disciples are aware that if they return to Judea to heal Lazarus they may be stoned by the Jews.  Jesus makes it very clear to his disciples that he is aware that Lazarus already died, but there is an important lesson to be learned by going.

-When Jesus arrives in Bethany, he is aware that Lazarus has been in the tomb four days.  Martha runs out to greet him while Mary stays home.  When Christ says to Martha, “Your brother will rise again . . .” Martha mistakenly believes Christ is referring to the resurrection of the dead.  When Christ talks to Mary, it is clear that Mary believes that Lazarus could have been saved if Christ arrived when he was still alive.  It’s inconceivable to everybody that a dead person could be healed.

-Christ then does the impossible and raises Lazarus from the dead.

I can imagine multiple sermons being needed to cover this chapter.  There’s a great deal going on here, from the name “Lazarus” to the symbolic significance, the theology, and even the foreshadowing of Christ’s own death and resurrection.  In the key verse from John 14:1, the Greek word for trust is “pisteuo.” (pist-yoo-o).  This word is used over 90 times in John’s gospel.  Literally, it means “to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in.”

This verse is asking us to put our trust—our confidence—in God before our feelings, which can be quite difficult to do.  Have you ever been so spiritually shaken that there’s nothing you can do to find comfort?  You try to listen to music, watch a movie, read a book, go for a walk, get together with friends, but nothing is helping.  It’s difficult to intellectually separate from one’s feelings and just trust that things will work themselves out in the end, but when there is no immediate solution it’s often the best thing we can do.  Don’t let your hearts be troubled.

It’s easy to trust God when you‘re outdoors having fun, spending time with friends and family, feeling productive and enjoying prosperous times, but when you’re out of money and prospects it’s a lot more difficult.  Or when you’re being dragged through a painful divorce.  Or when illness enters the picture in your family.  Or when you turn on the news and see people’s freedoms violated and their way of life crushed and endless slaughter.  The pain of life is meant to affect us.  However, I trust there’s wisdom and spiritual significance to being exposed to volatility, chaos and decay and it’s easy to fall into the temptation to hold God responsible for everything.  What does God have to with the inhumanities being committed, corruption, war, poverty, animal abuse, ecological destruction, natural disasters . . . let alone our personal struggles?

While we should be affected and we should care about what’s going on in this world, we can’t let our hearts be troubled to the point where we give up and stop doing what’s in our control to better our own communities. The 19th century philosopher, Kierkegaard, defined sin as despair.  Regardless of your predicament or how you are affected by the destruction around you, to allow yourself to sink so far into your feelings that you no longer trust God only compounds your suffering.

Point 3 – No Matter What People Do Trust God

Key Verse – “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Key Story – Jesus is arrested and put on trial. (Matthew 26:36-27:31)

It seems to me that a great deal of people love to judge others, especially anonymously.  The Internet term right now for people blindly following one-sided reporting is sheeple.  They eat up propaganda and gossip like they’re at a dessert table.  Just look at all the anti-Islam sentiment out there right now.  Or the racial tension caused by the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin reporting.  When a celebrity or public figure has some type of misstep, the sheeple join in the stone throwing and mud-slinging as fast as the news breaks.  Tom Cruise receives surprise divorce papers from his wife, and all the sudden he’s the subject of ridicule in all the tabloids for his scientology and bedroom problems.  Jonathon Vilma files a defamation suit against the NFL to protect his reputation when he’s already guilty of paying out bounties for injuring players in the court of public opinion.  With such negative attention being directed their way—perhaps unjustly—do they continue to trust God?

Sticking with football, there was a top high school recruit named Brian Banks who was charged with forcing himself on his girlfriend while on campus.  Despite maintaining his innocence, he was told by his attorney that he was looking at forty years if he didn’t plead guilty.  The girl who had him charged was reluctant to come forward with the truth because she had received a 1.5 million settlement from the school. After five years, she met with him and agreed to tell the truth, although she wasn’t prepared to give back the money.

This is an excerpt from Les Carpenter’s article on Yahoo Sports:

Banks admitted there was a time when he was angry. It came after his conviction when the overwhelming feeling of unfairness tumbled on top of him. It’s an anger anyone would have had. Imagine starting a prison sentence for a crime you didn’t commit and no one seemed to care.

“I had the big question of why?” he said. “But I realized sitting in the cell with all those negative thoughts: What does all that do for me? It doesn’t do any good to have anger for the judge or the girl or at anyone.

“It kept me stagnant.”

He paused for a moment.

“You know, there really is no method to this – to me not going crazy,” he continued. “It’s making a decision of, what can you do for yourself? You can do nothing or you can take on the challenge of taking on the adversity. You have got to have faith. You have to have faith in whatever you believe in. For me it was a faith in God and that there was a reason for this. There had to be a reason for this.”

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–brian-banks–still-chasing-his-nfl-dream–could-help-the-league-as-more-than-a-player.html

In my theology, God had nothing to do with the circumstances that led Brian to being falsely imprisoned.  People were responsible for everything he endured.  The system let him down.  But you have to admire his maturity and forgiveness—his overall perspective of the injustice he suffered.  Brian learned to trust God in those conditions and he now has multiple offers to go to training camps in the NFL.  There’s little doubt Brian can see a reason behind the pain he went through, and he has demonstrated to us that those who put their trust in the Lord will find new strength, even when it seems like everybody is against you.  Never was this better exemplified than in the trial of Christ, where an innocent man was condemned as a criminal.

Point 4 – No Matter Where You Are Trust God

Key Verse – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Key Story – Jesus makes a beachside breakfast for his friends. (John 21:1-14)

When Jesus makes a beachside breakfast for his friends, the disciples had been fishing all night long without any success.  They listen to Jesus’ suggestion to cast their nets on the other side of the boat despite not recognizing him.  Again, this is a passage we discussed in seminary because of the absurdity of moving the nets to the other side of the boat and expecting different results.  It doesn’t make any logical sense since they’re still fishing the same water.  Yet something compelled them to do it, and they were rewarded with a boatload of fish.  Scholars sometimes refer to chapters 21 and 22 as the epilogue or postscript of John, and interestingly, there is some debate about whether this content was added later.  Many scholars argue that John is still the writer, since the text appears to be a firsthand account and both James and John, the sons of Zebedee, aren’t even mentioned.

I like to watch shows about survival situations and I try to think about what I’d do in a similar circumstance.  Les Stroud, otherwise known as Survivorman, often talks about people leaving the hiking trail for whatever reason and getting turned around.  It’s the panic that leads them to become even more lost as they frantically look for something that feels familiar.  The elevated blood pressure, the panic stops them from making sound decisions, so they make their situation worse.  Anthony Hopkins, in the Edge, one of my favourite movies, says that most people lost in the wilds die of shame. They ask: What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this?” And so they sit there and they… die. Because they didn’t do the one thing that would save their lives.  Thinking. . .”

Trusting God regardless of where you are suggests physically being in a certain place or situation, but it can also apply to where you’re at spiritually.  Some people experience some concerns about their faith and let their spiritual lives die to shame rather than trusting God and embarking on the spiritual quest they’re being beckoned to take.  In other words, they’re passing up on their opportunity to save their faith through thinking.  Be strong and courageous.  No matter where you are physically, emotionally, spiritually, trusting God can only benefit you.  For the disciples who were fishing that morning it meant a bountiful catch, breakfast cooked for them over an open fire, and the revelation of a lifetime.

Point 5 – No Matter What Happens Trust God

Key Verse – “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:38)

Key Story – Jesus dies and comes back to life. (Matthew 27:32-28:20)

Trusting in God doesn’t suggest inaction.  Christ’s passion meant that he continued his ministry knowing that he was going to die.  If you’re unemployed, there is no conflict between actively pursuing opportunities and trusting in God.  However, trusting in God doesn’t mean that the outcome is going to be favourable to you.  Even Christ said in Matthew 26:39, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”

Earlier in this sermon, I talked about a trust in God that lies beyond all language and reason, yet most of these points address elements of trust that we can consciously make a decision to pursue.  Trusting God no matter what happens can be experienced unconsciously and apart from volition, which is something I discovered when I was 18.

When my friends and I used to go to a cottage in Parry Sound, we’d get together with some local girls to party.  One night we were there, the girls insisted on being taken home right away.  Our driver had been drinking excessively, and it was obvious by the way he was crying that he had emotional problems.  He was upset because none of the girls gave him any attention, and there was nothing we could do short of wrestling him to the ground and hogtying him if we were to pry the keys away from him and keep him out of the driver’s seat.  I was faced with a decision: stay and be safe and not be able to live with myself if the girls were killed, or go with them.

It was the scariest drive I have ever been on.  I was in the front cab beside the driver.  As he wiped away tears, he drove at 140 km on gravel roads and fish tailed around every bend.  It’s the one time I hoped to see a police car behind us.  I was sure we were going to die.  The girl beside me squeezed my hand like she sensed the same thing.  Then I had a moment.  I had a realization come over me that the universe cared about me, and whether I died or lived at this point was beyond my control.  It wouldn’t have changed the most likely outcome of death if we had crashed at that speed, but the peace I felt in my heart cannot be described and it cannot be challenged.

So when Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most intelligent person in the world, says, “There is no place for God in theories on the creation of the Universe” it has absolutely no bearing on my faith.  My own experience tells me otherwise.  My trust is unassailable.  I, too, am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

This is why I am so impressed with VBS’ program this summer.  Our approach to helping our children interpret bible stories impacts the way they trust God in their present state of mind and in the future.  It is my hope that all children can grow up trusting God, not fearing God, so they too can be convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

NOTES:

My parents taught us very little about hell and never emphasized it, but I was a sensitive child.  Lazarus and the Rich Man, the portrayal of the devil in flames in cartoons, conversations with other kids . . . all these things forced upon me the need to develop a VERY sincere faith at a young age.  But what I really needed to alleviate my angst was for an adult I respected to tell me that no such literal destination for souls existed.

It’s difficult as parents to teach trust in God because on the one hand we teach our children not to trust strangers and at the same time we’re trying to instill confidence in an uncreated creator who can be experienced without being seen or heard.  It’s hard to be personal with an idea.  I think this is why many children focus more on fearing the consequences of failing God than trusting in his love.  Hell was a very real place for me in my early development.  The potential punishment is more meaningful than the benefits of unconditional love because consequences are the foundation for moral development and tie in with spirit growth.

When I consider all the kids born into this world in a billion of different circumstances, it’s interesting to think that each child has to find his or her own way to develop a relationship with God where trust can blossom.  In my opinion, trust in God is not intellectual, and it’s not a decision – it’s a deep expression of one’s soul that is shaped by knowledge, experience and intuition.  This can allow someone to look at a a personal tragedy and say it is well with my soul and mean it.  However, acquiring this trust has an intellectual component that is shaped by the stories and lessons we share with our children.

I don’t think we can blame God for natural disasters because we live in a self-sustaining system.  Natural disasters always happen for a reason, they just aren’t always predictable.

Sources:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/pisteuo.html

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–brian-banks–still-chasing-his-nfl-dream–could-help-the-league-as-more-than-a-player.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11161493

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119051/quotes

http://lesstroud.ca/survivorman/home.php

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Sexuality and Fossilized Morality

While journeying through the stages on life’s way, one indication you’re progressing from one stage to another is a sense of awakening.  In my mid-twenties, I almost spontaneously was able to recognize that the morality of the church was lagging way behind the social consciousness.  It’s like I woke up one day to find that I was fighting on the wrong side of the war.  One of the great disappointments for me as a Christian is that the church isn’t taking a more active role in breaking barriers.  The biggest obstacle is Christianity’s recognition of the Bible as the ultimate authority, which understandably creates ambivalence when it comes to social change.  If anything, the evolution of the Bible’s ethics demonstrates an unfolding social consciousness that ends somewhere in the New Testament, creating a closed system for growth.  Christian values in themselves may be timeless, but to take specific views of society from thousands of years ago and apply them now is anachronistic, to say the least, if not outright troubling.

The reaction of the Catholic Church to Margaret A. Farley’s book “Just Love, a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” is a perfect example of fossilized morality.  The Catholic Church responded by saying that her writings manifest a “defective understanding of the objective nature of natural moral law.”  Specifically, the Vatican rejected her views on four subjects, masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and remarriage after divorce.

Before I respond to the quotes that caught my attention from the Reuters article, I just want to say that I’m curious why the church still wants to be the conscience when it comes to an individual’s sexuality.  I’m not a psychologist, but when an institution adopts rigid views of something as individual as sex, the perfect breeding ground (couldn’t help it) for shame and sexual repression is created.  Just like spirituality itself, sex is something that has to be worked out by the individual and everyone’s boundaries and tolerances are going to be different.  To me, it’s comparable to the church enjoining people to go to the bathroom according to its standards.  In some ways, sex seems very simple.  It’s just people trying to give pleasure to each other.  On the other hand, it can be deeply emotional and intimate, not to mention that it has the potential to pass on disease, lead to unwanted pregnancy and even leave some people feeling exploited.  Sexual infidelity obviously can be devastating and tear families apart.  But if I do have any gratitude to the church for its views on sex, it’s for that sense of the forbidden that can even be extended into marriage.  Almost everybody craves that which is forbidden, so at least denominations that prefer to quiet and repress sexuality offer their members an easily accessible guilty pleasure.

Quotes from Routers:

Farley writes that masturbation, particularly in the case of women, “usually does not raise any moral questions at all” and that it “actually serves relationships rather than hindering them.”

The Vatican said the Church teaches that masturbation is “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”

My biggest issue with what Farley wrote is the “particularly in the case of women.”  My little boy was practically born with his penis in his hand.  But seriously, can you imagine a world where nobody masturbated?  What an angry world it would be.  Think of how many times sheets would have to be changed when guys have their wet dreams.  Obviously, men’s semen has to be released one way or another.  I’ve met athletes who purposely don’t have sex or masturbate before a big game so that they’ll be meaner.  Aging men have been known to buy Viagra to fuel their solo missions.  I’m also no doctor, but I’ve read that a steady stream of sexual release protects men against cancer (an orgasm a day keeps the prostate safe?).  It seems that pretty well all women have some type of vibration device. The main issue in marriage, as Farley pointed out, is that it can be difficult for people’s need for a sexual release to coincide with one’s partner all the time, leaving one to deal with the pressure on his or her own.  This is a case of masturbation contributing to the relationship by insulating against resentment.

I also want to point something out: if everybody does it, how can it be a gravely disordered action?  I don’t even think the Bible mentions masturbation at all.  This is a personal choice and an unnecessary discipline that I wouldn’t recommend for anyone.

Farley writes that “same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected.” The Vatican notification reminded her that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered [and] contrary to the natural law.”

Sorry, if you’re homosexual, no intimacy for you.  You can have the feelings – just don’t act on them.  Maybe it’s better to get married to the opposite gender and pretend.  That way you can have a miserable existence that’s holy in the eyes of the Lord and drag your spouse down with you.  This is a clear case of the Catholic Church lagging behind the social consciousness.  Personally, I don’t understand why it would be considered immoral for two people of the same gender to get together on their own terms.  Is it because of biology?  Well, there is plenty of evidence that other species do it naturally in the wild.  People’s freedom to be who they are is a much bigger moral issue in this world right now than homosexuality.

Farley writes that homosexual marriage can help reduce hatred, rejection and stigmatization of gays. The Church opposes gay marriage.

The Vatican said Farley’s positions “are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality” and warned the faithful that her book “is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church.”

From what I’ve studied, people who have long-term committed relationships are physically younger and healthier than people who are solitary and lead promiscuous lifestyles.  It’s physically hard on people who go from partner to partner, even if they profess to be more sexually satisfied.  If this is the case, why would the church be opposed to two people committing to each other and demonstrating that their relationship is just as nurturing and fulfilling as different sex marriages?  Farley is correct to think that marriages for same sex couples will reduce the hatred, rejection and stigmatization they receive, maybe because it would be very difficult to paint them as sexual deviants anymore.  This is another example of secular society’s morals being more evolved than those of the church, and it is saddening that scriptural adherence is more important than social justice, equality and compassion.

As to the question of people getting remarried being adulterers, it’s hardly worth a rebuttal.  People get divorced for many reasons, and to not pick one’s self up and try again would be a full-fledged surrender in my opinion.  If there is one ethic I think we all should follow, it’s to always do our best to get back on that horse.  We can’t let fossilized morality stop us from making the most of the time we have been given and sexuality is something we have to wrestle with and enjoy according to our own consciences.  We pay the price for our decisions, so we should have no problem claiming ownership for them.

Perhaps someday, we’ll see the church back off from sexuality and leave people to work it out on their own.  “We the church believe that it is moral and right that people nurture their sexuality according to their own consciences providing their behavior honors the golden rule and the laws of the state.

This doesn’t mean that the church should ignore sexuality altogether.  It’s a huge part of a person’s life and a contributing factor in one’s spirituality.  As I said above, the church should just stop trying to being people’s conscience when it comes to their intimate lives and take on more of a supportive role.  The way I think the church should  support people’s sexuality will be the subject of my next post.

Source:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/04/us-vatican-nun-book-idUSBRE8530J820120604

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How do You Interpret the Behavior of Your Loved Ones?

Last week, I listened to a sermon that discussed the lens we use to interpret the messages being communicated by our loved ones.  The study the pastor referenced came to the conclusion that the people who seem the happiest in their relationships are the ones who believe their loved ones have their best interests in mind.

What stands out to me about this finding is that regardless of the loved one’s actual intention, the power belongs in the hands of the interpreter.   This is especially powerful when considered in the context of the human/divine relationship: what we believe about God has personal consequences.

In A Dog’s Religion, Grant, the protagonist, comes from a rough, abusive family background that has left him poorly equipped to seek out any type of stability.  Grant is aware that he has emotional problems and that his perspective of life is tainted—the tension between his actions and beliefs attest to this—but he is driven to reshape everything about his lifestyle, starting with his understanding of the nature of God.  He hopes his experiences in the animal shelter will help him abandon a literal faith that doesn’t mesh with his intuition and into a faith he can experience as genuine.  As he pushes himself out of his comfort zone, he starts to realize that he can form conclusions about the nature of God using his own innate empathy.  Therefore, as his empathy grows and understanding takes place, he begins to be able to discriminate between healthy and unhealthy experiences of love and, as a result, is able to make a defining life decision.

As religions move out of literal interpretations of ancient texts and adopt allegorical approaches aimed at discerning spiritual meaning, God as revealed in scriptures will be measured against the knowledge one has of God within.  This is a significant shift if tolerance is to prevail.  People will be empowered to question whether or not the God they know would require animal and human sacrifice, that one nation is more precious to him than others, that religious observances and rules are more important than compassion, that salvation is exclusive, etc.  The lens we use to interpret God will not only help us grow in our spiritual life, but it will allow us to keep pace with the awakening of empathy all around us without requiring scriptural support and church backing.  And hopefully, the tolerance we have for differences can transform into an appreciation and exchange of knowledge.

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A Dog’s Religion Review by LL Book Review

It was great that Shannon Yarbrough from LL Book Review took the time to read and review my book. As a writer, an honest assessment of your work means so much – even if the review comes across as a mixed bag.

Read LL Book Review of A Dog’s Religion

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