BN Channel Religion & Philosophy

Prison Break

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh MagazineOriginally posted on Ponderings.
first appeared on Blog Nosh Magazine on August 12, 2008

I attended a funeral for the father of new friend of mine recently. In our understanding he died too soon. He was only in his early 60′s. Although I never had the opportunity to meet this man, his funeral impacted my life. The tributes and memories shared by family and friends were beautiful. We viewed a slide presentation set to music, tracing the journey of his life. The one thing that really spoke to my heart was that this man had truly lived.

He was an adventurer. Fear didn’t hold him captive. He lived out loud. He wasn’t afraid to follow the dreams God had placed in his heart, and yet he didn’t take foolish risks. He enjoyed life to the full. In many ways he has gone from living to living.

My life in comparison would be such a shadow. Many of us would be likened to “dead men walking” in contrast. Oh, maybe outwardly we’re going through the motions. Jumping through all the right hoops. We know how to play the “Game of Life”. For generations it’s been the same. We’ve read the rules. We know the expectations. Years go by, but our passion is getting buried deeper and deeper. We are allowing ourselves and others to dig our own grave…only we’re still breathing. We’re being buried alive.

I read recently of someone who, though living, described themselves as dead. Have you been there? Have you been to that dark place that numbs the heart. Apathy is your new normal. You feel indifferent…listless. You’ve lost interest in all your surroundings. Dejection and weariness characterize your existence. You are no longer a participant, but a spectator. You have eyes that see, without seeing. Ears that hear without hearing. A heart still capable of loving has become your prison. You feel empty, drained, alone.

Unbelievers are not the only ones held captive. Many Christians live life behind locked doors. Self-imposed cells. Discouragement, pain, rejection, insecurity, fear, accusations, past, present, future all build up walls. Gasping for breath you feel smothered, yet weakness and familiarity keep you hostage. It’s often comforting to stay in the security of this new normal. Realizing work and effort may lay ahead, awakening holds too many uncertainties. A strange part of you enjoys the attention, pity and compassion from others. Silence is your truest friend and your most consuming enemy.

The problem? Right now life seems too overwhelming. Negatives far out-weigh the positives. Somehow your focus has shifted from what can be, to what is. Often it’s a slow fade. Unfulfilled desires in a marriage, demanding children, a stressful job, painful, abusive memories, illness, …disappointment in God. Oh, you’d probably not come right out and say that, but somewhere along the line, you’ve felt God has let you down. You had plans. You had desire. Your life was filled with enthusiasm and drive. You’ve been robbed in the cruelest way possible. You don’t have to worry about being one step closer to the grave, you’re already there.



Canoe Day

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally published at Graceful}

A few weeks ago I realized that I am getting better at praying.

We were canoeing in the Boundary Waters, a remote, uninhabited wilderness in northern Minnesota. I should preface this by admitting that I am not a canoeist. Prior to this outing I had canoed twice in my entire life, both times when Brad and I were first dating (that alone speaks volumes). But Brad wanted to take the kids on a little adventure while we were in Minnesota, and I wasn’t going to be the only stuffed shirt who stayed home.

We glided across the glinting lake, our paddles dipping rhythmically in and out of the water. The kids dangled their fingers in the lake as we wove around lily pads and through golden lake grass, undulating like ribbons just beneath the surface. Noah admired the lavender iris springing from the edges of the marshy shore. It was, in a word, Heaven.

After about two hours of easy paddling, we pulled the canoe onto an island and portaged (i.e. lugged really heavy, cumbersome canoe across dry land while being viciously attacked by massive swarms of mosquitoes) to the other side. But as we rounded the corner on the far side of the island, we were surprised to find ourselves nearly knocked flat by a gale force wind. Somehow the wind that had been a barely perceptible breeze at our backs had escalated to Hurricane Andrew.

Brad and I secured the kids’ life vests, and as we plunged in, pushing off the rocks lining the shore with our paddles, it took about 30 seconds for me to realize that the return trip was not going to be relaxing. Though I was paddling as hard as I could, when I glanced at the shore, it wasn’t moving; we were literally paddling in place. To make matters worse, the water was no longer gently lapping but was instead gushing over the bow of the canoe in a torrent, and every few minutes the canoe threatened to turn broadside against the waves.



Hope

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine

{by Maggie from Okay, Fine, Dammit.}

They march into his home, the law on their sides, and rip him and his father from their family like scabs. It is November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht. The “Night of the Broken Glass,” the night of the breaking family tree branches, all crushed beneath the German soldiers’ boots. Obliterated.

At night he lies on an eight-foot plywood “bed” with seven other men and he thinks, This is the end. The crisp, frigid air is as merciless as his captors and so he gives his own underwear to his father to give him just one more layer of warmth. He watches men murdered in a manner too wretched, too unbelievable, to be written casually by a stranger here. He notes that the officers are hardest on the most devout of his people, the ones praying on broken knees each night for a saving that never comes.

Seventy years later he will stand, shaking, a 92-year-old Jewish great-grandfather, an honored guest in our tiny church, and in a thick accent he will tell the congregation that he left his faith behind in that concentration camp’s latrine. That he associates the idea of faith with certain death.

Ironically, his very presence will fill me with hope.

***

I grew up in the famed Driftless Area, a particularly beautiful patch of Wisconsin passed over by the glaciers and snatched up by blond haired, blue-eyed Scandinavians. My small town was 99% white, 105% Christian. I had dark hair and eyes, olive skin, and a nose not nearly as button-cute as those of my friends on the dairy farms. I knew my last name ended in –berg, but I had no context for what that meant and I didn’t think a thing of it. Every year we put up our Christmas tree. We wrapped gifts, hung stockings, told stories about the baby in the manger. I don’t remember when I figured out my dad was Jewish; he never went to temple. He eschewed all religion, hadn’t attended services since his Bar Mitzvah, fled New York at the age of 17, met my mother (a Wisconsin farmer’s daughter) at 19, and never looked back.



Can you change a flat tire?

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine

{Originally published by Andrea at Lil-Kid-Things}

There are a few things that I think every woman should know how to do. Changing a flat tire is high on that list. I know how and thank God, because I have had to call upon this knowledge many times. I am certain that I have changed a tire on my own vehicle a minimum of 5 times and for a friend at least once. Is this normal? How do I keep getting flat tires? For the record, I haven’t had a flat in over a year, and the last one wasn’t really flat. The tire split somehow and therefore couldn’t hold air. Thankfully I was .01 second from a Jiffy Lube so they did the dirty work.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I was just sitting here drinking my coffee, enjoying the quiet nap period and thinking about how life forces you to learn things you never expected to learn and how that knowledge can follow you to many different places. In my case, I learned how to change a tire on the side of I-95 one Sunny (read:HOT) Sunday afternoon in August. It was 1997. In fact, I remember it vividly because it was the day Princess Diana died. I however, didn’t find that out until much later that night because I was in Drama-Land, USA.

It might be helpful to give you a bit of back-story. That summer I was separated from my then husband, Micah and living in Florida. It was Labor Day weekend and I needed to get the H out of dodge so I decided to head north for a visit with family. I stopped in to see my Grammy in North Florida and she gave me $100 for my trip. This in itself was really amazing and wonderful because I really didn’t have the money for a jaunt up the coast. But I think we all knew that I needed it. I am the type of person that needs to clear my head by driving. I don’t know why but it has always helped me to put my life in perspective and return with a plan. So, off I went.



Embedded in Time

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally published on Angie Muresan}

When older people get together there is something unflappable about them; you can see they’ve tasted all the heavy, bitter, spicy food of life, extracted it’s poisons, and will now spend 10 or 15 years in a state of perfect equilibrium and enviable morality. Irene Nemirovsky, Fire in the Blood

12th century church

12th century church

I have a few friends who are well into their eighties; women who have lived their lives thoroughly and enjoyed the amassed daily moments to their fullest extent.  I love these women for what they are.  There is wisdom in their advice, a sense of humor in their actions.  They’ve come to terms with the destruction life has in store. Physical health and beauty deteriorating, husbands and friends lost to death or alzheimers, children and dear ones far away, their bodies betraying them daily.  But their kindness, their compassion, their love survived every treachery and evolved into a beauty transcending the physical.

I know they have fears.  Whenever I see them upset at their lack of control over their bodies, they fear for their dignity. For their self-respect and the respect, or lack of, others have for them. I like to remind them that their self-esteem need not suffer because their bodies fail. They are more than that. More than fragile bones and decrepit muscles. They are the light in the eyes, the smile on the lips, the love they exude.



Hineni

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally published in Wisdom Pursuit}

I learned a great Hebrew word in my quiet time recently- Hineni.

Hineni means “I’m ready, Lord; I’ll go if you send me; I’m listening, Lord, tell me what you would have me to know.” It is the word Abraham used when God called to him and asked him to sacrifice Isaac; it is the word Moses used as he stood before the burning bush, and it is the word that young Samuel used in the temple when he heard a voice calling to him in the night.

It’s a powerful word. A word that brought life- changing events for each of the people who spoke it. And I bet not one of them would take it back. Not one of them regrets grappling with the fear, but giving in to the will of the God who is Good, who has plans to prosper and not to harm us.

The hard part comes for those of us who are a little more seasoned in life and have seen that God’s ways are not our ways, and that our lives are not always going the way we think He should have them mapped out. His plans to prosper us and not harm us may be in the next life, and not right now. So, to conquer our fears we need an eternal perspective, a reminder that this life is but a blip on the screen of time. God sees it all, and He has a great call and plan for each of us, both in this life and the next.

Since we are but temporal creatures, our job is to be willing, just for today. We are not called to know what God has in store for us in the next life, or even next year or next week. We are called to take one step at a time to seek God’s plan and to follow it with conviction.

Wrestle with the fear, and beat it down if you must. But, if you truly seek God’s call on your life, then offer to Him these words:



What I loved about Christmas was Christ

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally Published on Conversion Diary}

When I was an atheist, Christmas was my favorite time of year.

The huge haul of top-of-the-line gifts stuffed under the tree each year (the spoils of being an only child) certainly helped my enjoyment of the season. But that actually wasn’t the most important thing to me. There was something else, something that stirred my soul more than any number of boxes wrapped with shiny paper ever could. I could never quite put my finger on what it was, but I sensed it every year when December rolled around.

There was a change that came over my family, my neighborhood, my town, and even my whole country in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Things weren’t perfect, but they were better. And better in a certain way.

Kitchens that were normally empty, only waystations for frantic parents to rush home from work in time to pick up the children for private tutoring or soccer practice or violin lessons, were suddenly filled with laughter and the smells of apple cider and baked goods. School was out, lessons and sports were on hiatus, workloads were lighter, and kids leaned on the counter and chatted with their parents as they cooked dinners from the old family recipe book.

Neighborhood folks who usually offered little more than a terse smile and a half wave opened their homes for Christmas parties, showering neighbors with the warm welcomes, relaxed conversation and even some homemade cookies.

Airports were filled with the sounds of high-pitched greetings of loved-ones who hadn’t hugged one another in months or years; highways were dotted with cars jammed with luggage and presents, families driving for hours and hours just to be in the same room with the people they loved on Christmas morning.

Workplaces normally filled with politics and stress came together to adopt families in need; miserly curmudgeons uncharacteristically slipped a couple bucks into the Salvation Army bucket; longstanding grudges were more likely to be forgiven; people seemed to spend more time thinking about others than about themselves.

When people would ask why my family loved Christmas even though we weren’t Christians, these are the images we’d point to.

We’d explain that the kindness, togetherness and love that permeated the holiday season were what made it magical for us. “You don’t have to be burdened by religious superstition to appreciate love, kindness and goodwill toward men,” the thinking went. For us, Christmas was a season of love, and that’s what we were celebrating.

What we didn’t understand, however, is that we weren’t as different from the Christians as we thought we were. We atheists celebrated peace, love and goodness; our Christian neighbors celebrated the One who is Peace, Love and Goodness itself.



Sangria time!

Sangria time!

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally published on theRunaMuck.)

I seriously feel like I just had my lights knocked out, and I’ve woken seeing red and dusting off my rear end.

Making pitchers of sangria in kitchen

It’s sangria time, people. Are you raising your cups?

My husband and I can’t stop saying: we only have this one life.

I’ll say it again - we only have this ONE and it’s riding like a breath on the wind, already in disintegration. So what are we doing here?

If God doesn’t shine through this spot of air He’s given me, may my computer fly to the moon, let the world wide web scramble to a fuzz, and may we meet outside weeping at each other’s necks for what we’ve been missing.

Luke 12:48 (The Message)

47-48“The servant who knows what his master wants and ignores it, or insolently does whatever he pleases, will be thoroughly thrashed. But if he does a poor job through ignorance, he’ll get off with a slap on the hand. Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!

I have been given much. That is my confession today.



Anne

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally posted at Flowerdust.net}

Her name is Anne.

She has fallen victim to some bad curry.

Or maybe it was the pizza.

Either way.

She wears no makeup today.

She doesn’t fix her hair.

Her eyes are red because she’s been crying.

And her bed has been one of her two closest friends.

(I’ll let you guess what her other friend has been).

anne-in-india



Yom Kippur reflections

Religion and Philosophy Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally Posted at Domestic Felicity}

One day, we will all go home.

To a place where our earthly possessions, our looks, ambitions, frustrations, demands, petty fights and competition with one another won’t matter anymore.

Where it won’t make any difference how much money we had, how big our house was, how fashionable were the clothes we wore; where it won’t even matter how much we excelled in housekeeping, gardening, cooking, sewing, or any other skill we prided ourselves for.

Our blunders won’t matter, either, nor will the blunders of others. The clumsy child who was scolded by his mother for smashing a cup, and had his little heart pointlessly broken over this, will be finally healed. The woman who felt torn apart because of cruel gossip, will have her heart restored.

There will be no more place for misunderstanding, suspicion and offense, no negative assumptions, and no need for explanation. It won’t matter what we had wanted to say, what we meant, tried, and failed to express. It will be possible to look into each other’s hearts, into our very souls, and see the goodness in there.

And finally we can cry over all the hidden treasures of goodness, kindness, forgiveness and love – tears of joy because they were found, tears of sadness because we never discovered them here on this earth, because of our human limitations.

We will be enveloped in infinite love. We will be, again, beautiful, beloved, sweet children. We will be forever with the One Who shaped us in our mother’s womb, and there will be no need to part again.