Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Silent Betrayal

This is an excellent article from World Magazine about how we exhibit (or don't) exhibit our following Christ.

I enjoy Andree Seu's articles since my Mother in Law turned me on to them, and just recently gifted World magazine to my Sister in Law.

In this article, she points out how she doesn't really wear her faith on her sleeve. She likens this tendency to someone who might be exultant of their lover in private but almost secretive about the relationship in public. A good point.

I don't think she is alone in her tendency to keep her faith to herself. Unless your faith is something that is considered "hip" like Kabbalah, the religion of celebrities, or "deep" like Buddhism... then it is more ok to talk about it. There is more Western tolerance (at least on the West Coast) for Islam than if you are a Christ follower. It doesn't surprise me that there is a general "fatigue" about Christians. Christians with the biggest voices also do the faith the most damage often times. And the ones who are without blame are still in the crosshairs of a culture that views Christian tenets as parochial, quaint or hypocritical.

Anyway, it's worth a read.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Before I ever knew Him pt. 1

I trot out every now and then to Jeff some stories of my first experiences with religion. We giggle. So I decided to commit them here so I could not forget about them.

When I was growing up, I lived in a cul-de-sac with a couple other girls. They were from Christian families. Mine wasn't really that way so much. Dad drank beer and worked around the yard smoking cigarettes with his shirt off, sweat socks pulled up and bandana around his forehead. We had a big yard and it had no landscaping when we moved in, and over the 15 years we lived there, dad installed basically a small forest in our back yard. It was pretty cool actually, but that was weekends for us alot of the time. My dad, at his heart, was and is a farm boy. A wildly successful farm boy, but that is another story.

Me and Karen and LaVonne played together alot. Karen went to an Assemblies of God church. Karen to this day is one of the sweetest people I can think of. She had a child like wisdom of good behavior and kindness that seemed to be a preternatural part of her character. I thought very highly of her. One day I was over at her house for lunch. Before we could eat, we had to pray. She put her hands together, bowed her head and then in a little bit she stopped and ate her pb and j. I watched this. I thought this was good, like she was.

When I went home that night for supper, as we gathered around the table I announced "We should pray!" My parents looked at me rather quizzically.
"Ok then, pray." I stalled. I had never prayed before I realized at this point, and had no idea what praying really...I just had no idea.
"Ok, well you have to stand up,"
"Because that's how you pray." The family stood up. At this point I am feeling really in trouble because here the same people who usually interrupt me and talk over me at the dinner table are doing what I am telling them to, and I have no clue what I am doing.

"You have to put your hand on your heart"
"What? You do not," says someone.
"Just pray already, I'm hungry," says someone else. So I piously put my hand over my heart and said

"I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America..."

This was the only thing that I knew that was even remotely close to a prayer. My family laughed at me. But laughing at the dinner table was what we did, and so I laughed too.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My little town

About a year and 3 months ago we uprooted from my home of Portland where I had lived for 16 years and moved to a smaller community snuggled against the large hills that flank the Willamette Valley. We did this because my husband had gotten a very good job that allows him to have very flexible hours with good pay and from Portland his commute was about 4 hours a day.

It was messing up our lives.

We looked around the small communities South of Portland. I was not really excited to leave Portland, but didn't focus on this, rather thought of how nice it would be to settle his commute down to a hour a day, rather than 4. We looked at McMinnville, Canby, LaFayette, Donald, Aurora and even, against my will, Salem (West Salem was nice).

Each seemed to have some fatal flaw.

In Newberg, the homes were not only affordable, but there was relatively an abundance of decent little homes. It had a little downtown. It had alot of desireable things like a private college, lots of parks, coffee shops etc. So we just did it.

And from very early on, I realized that our choice was very good indeed. Thanks be to God.

Driving around Newberg and the outlying areas you cannot go too many places without passing an orchard or a vineyard or at least being able to see them. The sprawl is under control. The people are laid back. There is a fine balance of ages here. While I haven't gone there yet, the rumors of the school system is that it is very good, imbues confidence in the parents.

I am happy my babes will grow up here. I look forward to making some friends, its been so quiet around us since we left PDX.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Christmas conundrum pt. 2

Stuff we do to make Christmas our own particularly enjoyable holiday, rather than a stress-laden consumeristic extravaganza.

J and I were talking about how in other religions there are very specific prescribed rituals to observe on certain festival days. Since Christmas is holiday shared with alot of people who might not believe in the religious significance of the season, it seems like there aren't any "rituals" that must be adhered to. That's all good and fine, but sometimes a ritual lends some structure and can make a festival season easier, because you don't have to wonder what to do to celebrate.

The stuff that is done like putting up a tree and giving gifts are pleasant and done with joy, but they don't really strike any resonance with the actual birth of Christ.

So here are some things that either J's family or our family does to impart to our daughters the significance of Christmas.

The Advent calendar. J's mom gave us one that gives a blow by blow of the christmas story in little books that are then hung on the tree.

An Advent wreath that was given to us by my sister in law, we light the candles throughout the month to remember/remind that Christmas has more meaning than just a mess of new toys.

Reaching out to family and friends. We try to do this all year, but it seems like now more than any other time it is a good time to check in with those who we haven't been in touch with.

Remembering the stories that go along with each of the ornaments on the tree.

Going to the Grotto here in Portland.

A brunch on Christmas Eve morning.

Making special cookies/breads/cakes and certain meals only prepped at Christmas.

Christmas specials and Christmas books for A.

We watch "It's a Wonderful Life"

Christmas Eve services at the church.

Before I post this, it might be important to note that its not for feeling like we are so great that I write this stuff, to an extent it is to remember it. I would be interested to hear about other folks traditions or thoughts about a lack of tradition...