Saturday, August 29, 2015

She's really religious

Thoughts on quotes from "Finding God in All Things," an episode on "On Being."
Fr. Martin: I think that joy is different than happiness. Joy is happiness in God. Joy has an object. Joy is about a relationship. Happiness can be very evanescent, can come one day and leave the next. But joy is a lot deeper than that.
Fr. Martin: I was walking up Madison Avenue the other day. I live in New York. And I was — sometimes you overhear these snatches of conversation. And these two guys, these two young executives, were talking and, [laughs] the one said, yeah, I've got to meet my girlfriend's mother this weekend. She's really religious. [said slowly and in a discouraged tone]
Isn't it a shame that people are bummed out when they say, "She's really religious"? If people are talking about me, I'd like them to say that about me. But I want them to say it with an upbeat, positive, hey-isn't-this-great kind of tone.

I think part of the reason people are often unhappy to hear or know someone is religious is because some people of faith are no fun to be around. They're pessimistic and negative. Or they're like what Father Martin mentioned later in the interview, "the frozen chosen."

But another reason, I believe, is because people of faith are often judgmental, or at least perceived that way. No one wants to meet someone who will look at them and judge them as not measuring up.

Both reasons are a shame, but I think the second one is the most common reason I see this perception of religious people as a downer. I may have written about this before, and I know I've told many friends this story, but years ago (over 20 years ago), I discovered a co-worker was gay. I saw him in the grocery store with his partner. Back then, he was not "out." He even had a photo of a woman with a baby on his desk (turns out that was his sister and niece). When I saw him, I said hello but I could tell he was uncomfortable so I just went about my shopping and left it at that.

After that, at work, every time we happened to interact, I could feel his agitation and discomfort. Finally, in one phone call I said, "Pete (name changed), it's all right, I know you're gay and that is fine. Don't worry." He said, with a sigh of relief, "Oh, okay. I know you go to church and stuff..." Wow. I know you go to church, therefore I am afraid you will be mean, or do something to hurt me. How sad is that? I so wish it were, "I know you go to church and stuff, so I know you'll love me."

I fall short all the time at reflecting God's love. I pray that I get better and better at it. And I hope that someday someone will say, "That Mavis, she's really religious. Isn't that great?!"

Have you had experiences like this, where you realize people perceive you as the opposite of someone who is a follower of Jesus?

Back to beginning of blog series.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


For years, we have hung an Ansel Adams calendar on our master bath wall, next to the mirror. As I curl my hair, I often look at and think about the picture for that month. This month, this picture called "Dune," taken in New Mexico's White Sands National Monument, came up. I keep looking at it and wondering, why do I think this is beautiful? It's just plants in sand and their shadows. Yet, I do. I think it's beautiful.

I looked at one of my favorite podcasts, "On Being," and the episode this week is called "The Landscape of Beauty."

Now I read a blog entry in "Brain Pickings" and it has a link to that same episode.

When this kind of thing happens, where I see connections to the same concept or thing over and over, I think of several things. First, I think of Carl Jung's collective unconscious, where we share an unconscious mind. And I think of the string theory of everything, "a single explanatory framework capable of encompassing all forces and all matter," where different events resonate, like a note of music or a vibrating string, and affect other events. And over all of that, I think maybe this is God talking to me. Like Samuel, I stop and say, "Here am I, Lord," and try to figure out what God is calling to me. 

Many times it seems easy. I think often of a person and I feel I need to connect with that person, and pray for them. In this case, it doesn't seem easy. What could God be saying to me when I see references to beauty over and over again?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Where Jesus was a good boy and did what his mother told him to do.

Thoughts on quotes from "Finding God in All Things," an episode on "On Being."

The quote below is several parts of the interview where Fr. Martin talked about "using your imagination to place yourself within a scripture scene and to see what comes up."
Fr. Martin: Yeah, so, the kind of prayer you're talking about is often called Ignatian contemplation or Ignatius calls it “composition of place.” And it's using your imagination to place yourself within a scripture scene and to see what comes up. By way of emotions or feelings or desires. And it can be very transformative. So for example, you take a simple passage like the storm at sea. Jesus calming the storm at sea. You would ask the person, on your own or maybe in a guided meditation, imagine yourself on the boat with Jesus.What do you see, first of all? What's the boat look like? What do the disciples look like? What's Jesus look like? What do you hear? What are the waves like? What do you feel? You feel the cold water on your back? What do you smell? Is there a smell of fish? What do you experience in terms of like what you're wearing? And you basically trust that God's going to be with you, 'cause, you know, God created your imagination and it's an entrée into experiencing God. 
And you notice what happens. And, oftentimes, not always, some pretty amazing things can come up. For example, you see Jesus asleep in the boat. And, you start to realize, wow, why is he asleep? Doesn't he care? You might connect it with something in your own life. You know, why is Jesus asleep? Why does God not care about me right now? You see him do the miracle and still the storm, and you say to yourself, wow, that's really beautiful. Are there times in my life where I was worried that God was asleep and things worked out OK? Do I need to have more trust? So, those kinds of feelings can come up.
And for Pete's sakes, His first miracle was at a party. A wedding party.
Krista Tippett: Mm-hmm. Where he was a good boy and did what his mother told him to do.
Fr. Martin: (laughs) That's right.
Krista Tippett: ...[laughs] That's what I appreciate about that story.
Fr. Martin: Although he's pretty harsh with his mother. That's a great story.
Krista Tippett: But he did turn the water into wine.
Fr. Martin: He did eventually.
Krista Tippett: If he'd been thinking about his legacy, he might not have had that as his first miracle, but his mother asked him to do it.
Fr. Martin: ...[laughs] I never thought of that. Right? He wanted another first miracle.
Krista Tippett: ...[laughs] I'm doing an Ignatian, you know, I'm being in the story.
Fr. Martin: And you know what's great about that, what you just said? Who knows, that could have been it. I mean, that's one of the things that comes up in Ignatian contemplation. You focus on Mary, and you say...for example, in the wedding feast at Cana what is she thinking? And you can get into the story and say what's going on there? And yeah, who knows? He's a joyful person, and I think if we miss the joy in Christianity, we are missing the point.
 My favorite part of this exchange is where Krista Tippett says about Jesus, "where he was a good boy and did what his mother told him to do." How funny that she thought of that! And how typical of a mom. It really makes Jesus human. Mary, too. And it makes me laugh.

This kind of Ignatian contemplation, where we use "our imagination to place yourself within a scripture scene and to see what comes up," sounds intriguing to me. I haven't tried it yet. I love it that Fr. Martin (and Ignatius) says, "God created your imagination and it's an entrée into experiencing God." I had not thought of imagination that way. And it seems to me that often people think Christians are an unimaginative bunch.

I'm going to decide what passage to use to try this. Peter is my fave; maybe I should do a passage he's in. For some reason the fig tree thing keeps coming to my mind. That was an odd one. Anyway, I'll let you know.

Have you ever tried imagining yourself in a passage? What passage did you use? What thoughts and insights came to your mind?

Back to beginning of blog series.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Your deepest desires

Thoughts on quotes from "Finding God in All Things," an episode on "On Being."

"The most fundamental vocation is to become the person whom God created...Your deepest desires, the things that you're drawn to, the person you're called to be, are really God's desires for you."
Krista Tippet says she loves the use of the word "desire" when she and Fr. Martin discuss vocation. That does seem like an odd word to use. I associate desire with sex -- sexual desire. It's interesting to reflect on another meaning.

Fr. Martin uses a married couple as an example when talking about desire. He talks about how a married couple started out desiring one another, they were called to one another.

Using that analogy in our relationship with God, it follows that we desire God, and we are called to him. What does that mean?

I do feel like I desire to have a relationship with God, and I believe that he is calling me to him. It is part of what grace is -- I turn to him and find he has been turning me toward him all along. It reminds me of this hymn:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea.
'Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
as thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul;
always thou lovedst me. 

Old fashioned words: sought, thee, didst, thy, enfold, storm-vexed, 'Twas, wert, lovedst. They make me smile. They make me slow down.

Beyond my desire for God, what are my deepest desires? It seems strange to sit and think about what I want when I'm reflecting on spiritual things. It shouldn't be about me. But what they're saying is that what I desire is what God desires for me.

I feel like this has been a kind of circular reflection. What do I desire? What does God desire for me? God desires for me what I desire. What do I desire?....

Enough for now. What do you desire?