Monday, April 27, 2009


Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to The Shack. My brain has been full of herbs, perennials, vegetables and good old fashioned dirt.

I’m not sure I can say that I love the book. Did it move me greatly? Yes it did. But like Mack trying to get Sarayu into focus; the ground seems to keep shifting under me and it’s more than a little difficult to write about. And to be honest, I’m a Methodist/ Celtic hybrid so I’m about seventy percent on the theology as it is.

To the reviewers who have such a problem with the book; it’s a work of fiction; darn it. No where does the author claim his work is equal to scripture; enough said. I guess everyone needs a hobby. Really, I'd rather be in the garden. I suppose one of the reasons I don't have a problem with God taking on the apperance of a woman and an African American to boot is that I'm absolutly sure that God has been hanging out in our garden. It's the best explanation for how much we've gotten done in the last week.

Seriously, the novel is one modern writers’ attempt to come to grips with the questions that were old when an unknown author wrote the book of Job. If God's creation is good how can there be evil in the world? How do we deal with suffering? How can we possibly forgive someone who has caused us nearly unbearable physical or spiritual pain? Mr. Young's answers may be incomplete. He's not the first to try and he won't be the last.

I found the question of forgiveness especially moving. It appears that it doesn’t matter if the person being forgiven even knows I've forgiven him. My act of forgiveness not only allows God (however we conceive him or her to be) to complete an act of redemption, it also allows God to work the miracle of healing for me. Granted that redemption may never happen, but I suspect that’s where miracles come into play. Stranger things have happened.

During World War II Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was an Irish priest attached to the Vatican. Among his “unofficial” duties he worked with other resisters to hide Allied soldiers, pilots and Jews. To put it bluntly he entered into a game of wits with the SS security chief in Rome, Colonel Herbert Kappler. The colonel was accused and convicted of war crimes after the war. Sentenced to life in prison the colonel reportedly had one regular visitor; father O’Flaherty. In 1959 the former Nazi was baptized as a Catholic. I guess miracles do happen once in awhile.

For me, one of the most important messages is that no matter how bad it gets we don’t have to go through it alone. We may stumble, we may find ourselves facing great pain, but at least there is a hand stretched out to catch us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

First I want to apologize for being so..."gone". Like all of you, every day I have ten more things to do than I can possibly accomplish. Does the list EVER get shorter? I'm finding my blogging time dwindling, but I don't want to lose the experience all together. I'd like to breathe new life into my personal blog, participate more here and at the Blogger Community Photo Challenge. My heart's in the right place anyway.

I am sitting in an airport right now, on a short layover. I want to get back here and get caught up on what's been posted here. I'm anxious to read the waterboarding post. I am horrified.

But, my topic of choice today is Earth Day. Now more than ever, I feel like this is a day that should become a national call to action. Since Earth Day first began, communities all over the country have put together events to draw attention to the issues that face our environment. But why can't this day be embraced with the fervor of oh...say...St. Patricks Day. Everyone knows it's St. Patrick's day and tries to participate in one way or another. But, what's the point? (I know....public drukenness). No one misses the "traditions" of many other holidays, but why not Earth Day.

Environmental action is a cause that most of us see of value, but so few ever take steps to participate in. What if every community in the country had squads of volunteers doing litter pick up? It would be a great tradition. I think it must not catch on because, in reality, no one wants to pick up someone else's trash. Now that I live in a "beach community", I am constantly faced with the piggishness of the general public. We have beautiful natural areas on Long Island, but I'm trying to think of a single one I have visited lately where litter wasn't a huge problem. I'm tired of mistaking that plastic grocery sack in the tree for an egret.

On a global scale, litter is by far, not the most serious issue. But, I bring it up because it's something everyone can see. If you open your eyes, you will notice it everywhere you look. And it's something that EVERYONE can easily do a little something about, if it's nothing more than not dropping the trash on the ground in the first place. As I walk along the beach, I often feel guilt that I didn't bring along a plastic bag to pick up some of that crap. I should start. However, it almost feels like trying to bale the ocean with a thimble. What I can do, will have miniscule impact. But, if everyone had a conscious regarding the environment, if everyone respected their role in protecting and nurturing it, a difference could be made.

As I'm writing this, I feel like I'm just talking to hear my head rattle....but I wanted to at least speak up on behalf of the planet today.

They're calling my to run. S

Monday, April 20, 2009


Playboy journalist Mike Guy did something I've wondered about: he volunteered to undergo waterboarding to see how bad it could possibly be. I don't mean that I'd volunteer to do this, even as a controlled experiement. I've been convinced from the beginning that waterboarding IS torture, but I've wondered why some of the more outspoken defenders of this "interrogation technique" haven't volunteered to do what Mike Guy did, if it's just a matter of not being a pussy. Mike Guy says in the beginning of this video that he bet he could withstand 15 seconds of being waterboarded, reasoning that anyone can stand anything for 15 seconds. Watch the results. I'm in favor of appointing a special prosecutor.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Has anyone read The Shack? And what did you think of it? Seems to be a book that people either love or hate. I'm not going to give my opinion right now, except to say that I'm reading it for the third time and that it does shake up your comfort zones. (actually that info may provide some clues about how I feel about the book.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Part 2: Choosing Reality

I was content to be a “sort of” believer for many years. It seemed impossible, and decidedly uncomfortable, given my personal history, to completely give up the God and religion with which I had grown up. At one point, I even decided that perhaps I needed to go back to church…perhaps that was where I would find what I was looking for. A little over three years ago, I embarked on a spiritual search of sorts…albeit a half-hearted and unsuccessful one. I blogged about it in a four-part “Seeking” series in January of 2006. When I reread those posts this morning, even I could see that I was setting the Church up to fail. By that time, it would have taken a conversion experience no less spectacular than that of Saul of Tarsus to bring me back into the fold.

(You can find that series here if you’ve a mind to... Scroll down to the last post at the bottom of the page and work your way up…)

The foibles of the Christian community with which I became involved when I was in my twenties planted the seeds of my conviction that religion was a gigantic exercise in self-deception. I had personally witnessed the phenomenon of believers wanting something so much that they decided God wanted them to have it. I myself had indulged in that same self-deception years later when my sister was ill. I wanted her to get well, and I was sure God could make that happen. When it didn’t, I realized that “God” had nothing to do with it. It was all me. I had wanted a healing. I had set my heart on it. I had created a God that could and would provide it. My bad…

Still, I had only progressed to the suspicion that we humans had a flawed idea of how God related to us and how he moved in our lives. I hadn’t yet rejected the entire human concept of “God.” After all, I was raised Christian. I grew up professing a belief in a deity that was so closely linked with the human race that it had taken human form. As this belief had been kicking around and influencing civilization for a couple thousand years, I continued to allow that Jesus Christ must have had some powerful connection to the Divine to have been such a huge force for such a long time. Surely humans were incapable of “creating” a Person with so much historical staying power. Impossible, I thought, to explain Christ’s enduring influence as some form of brainwashing or group-think so pervasive that it endures to this day. I could not fathom a set of circumstances under which such a massive deception could be perpetrated upon so many and perpetuated for so long.

Until I became an incredulous witness to the political events in the United States of America during the first ten years of the twenty-first century. Because now, I have witnessed firsthand the frightening power a group of men with a political agenda can exert over a populace made malleable by fear. A deadly attack on the American homeland created the perfect storm. The exact combination of shock, fear, anger and vengefulness, exploited to the nth degree by men with the insight and brass balls to play the situation for every drop of advantage it was worth. I’ve seen lies accepted as truth, fabrications become fact, evil embraced as necessary. And vast multitudes of upright citizens nodding their heads, pumping their fists in the air and lining up dutifully behind the ones who promised to preserve their lives.

I understand, now, exactly how capable we human beings are of choosing a reality. And that millions of people can believe, perpetuate at any cost, and even stake their lives upon something that has no basis in fact. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

It seems to me that religion is all about choosing a reality. How else to explain all the differing, and often conflicting, belief systems in the world? As a species, we understand that there is a spiritual realm, some kind of energy that runs parallel to our reality; we encounter it just often enough to know it is there, but we understand almost nothing about it. Being the creatures we are, with our insatiable need to understand (and control), we’ve taken that thing we know nothing about and created various explanations…which started out as guesses, progressed to theories, then became doctrines and gospels. And superstitions and hocus pocus…and ways to threaten and control each other. Have not Osama bin Laden and his ilk demonstrated how poisonous religion can be? We here on our safe American shores were brought to a fresh and stunning understanding of exactly how lethal a weapon religion is, in hands that choose to use it as such. And we humans continue, and shall continue until the last drop of blood is shed, to wield it with deadly accuracy against our fellows. It’s what we do.

So, since history seems to invite us to choose our reality, I have chosen mine. I choose to believe there is a Power behind the beauty and order of creation. And I choose to believe the Creator does not encourage or condone our tendency to manufacture an alliance with It, and use that imagined alliance as a means to destroy. And I choose to believe that the anthropomorphic image we’ve patched together of this sometimes wrathful, sometimes benevolent ultra-human “God” does not even approach—nor flatter, I think—the character of the Power that is responsible for our existence.

I choose to acknowledge my ignorance of the Creator and the mystery of Its connection to the human race and this tiny, insignificant marble upon which we exist. And I choose not to judge any other person’s attempt to peacefully and affirmatively define the Power.

Not so hard to understand, I think. Not so hard to swallow. The other day, I read an interview with Michael J. Fox—the young actor who has been struggling with Parkinson’s disease for over a decade. Answering a question about how he copes with his disease, he said, “To survive this…I must look to a higher power. For my purposes, I need neither define it nor have others define it for me, only accept its existence.”

Good answer. That’s PRECISELY the reality I choose.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On Becoming an Unbeliever

The most significant holiday of the Christian calendar—Easter—will be upon us in a few days. My dear friend Gannet Girl has posted a poll on her blog today, asking readers to cast votes about whom or what has most significantly affected their religious lives. As a devout agnostic, how would I respond to such a question? I suppose I would have to explain how I ultimately arrived at the decision to “unbelieve.” Which I did write about, and rather articulately, if I do say so myself, around Thanksgiving of 2005—back in the pre-cafĂ© days when I still had all my mental faculties.) You can find that post here:

There is more to the story, though. When I first came upon Gannet’s poll, two things—events rather than people—popped into my head. The first was the death of my sister in 1995. It is a very long story, too long to recount in detail here. Let me just say that there was a time in our lives—for several years after becoming “born again” Pentecostal Christians—that my husband and I were so intimately involved in our Church that it monopolized our existence outside of work. We had church functions—prayer meetings, board meetings, song committee meetings, Sunday school meetings—going on every night of the week. In 1984, we tearfully tore ourselves away from our Church Family in Illinois to emigrate to Oregon. But we never were able to recapture what we had known in our tiny church body back home. So we…fell away. Stopped going to church. Let “the cares of the world” take over our lives.

Then, in 1995, my sister became gravely ill. I went through a re-commitment of sorts. I suppose I thought that, yes, God was still there…and if I got back on track with him, he would be able to work miracles for my sister and her little family. When she died, and then her family fell apart, I just...lost my faith. It wasn’t that I was angry with God and turned my back on him because he didn't give me what I wanted. I simply could not reconcile the Pentecostal Christian representation of God with what was going on in the lives of the people I loved most. Why would a God, who had the ability to heal human suffering, NOT do it? Why would an All-knowing, all-loving God, supposedly intimately knowledgeable of every detail of our pain-wracked human lives, grant healing to some and not to others? It didn’t make sense to me. It was not God, but our human perception of "God," that was fatally flawed.

I existed in that confused state of questions with no answers, or rather, questions with answers I really did not want to face, for several years. I was raised believing in God. It did not feel good not to believe in God. And yet, I carried inside me the burden of those questions that no amount of “blessed is he who has not seen, yet believes…” was going to alleviate. As I looked back at my life as a born-again Christian, I remembered those fire and brimstone, bible-believing Christians with whom I had once shared a pew working themselves into a frenzy of desiring something so desperately—up to and including the permission to commit adultery—that they became convinced that it was God’s plan for them. They were faithful. They were saved. They had prayed and prayed. And if they wanted this (name your sin) so badly, it must be from God.

I began to suspect that the human constructs of God and religion were one huge exercise in self-deception.

But, I kept thinking, surely that could not be all there was to Jesus Christ. Surely if the religion based upon his ministry has endured for so many centuries, there must be something special, something real, about him. So I reserved my final judgment. I sat on the ledge, dangling my feet above the black hole of agnosticism, testing it out…but I did not jump.

Then George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth barreled up behind me and back-blocked me out into the void…

(…to be continued.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


We had an impressive visitor in the yard this morning. The shrub is about three and half feet tall so you get an idea of how big this lady is. And then a close up to show the beautiful markings; from the almost bluish tint on the head to the brown/cream at the tail. This neighborhood just continues to amaze me as the lawns get smaller and the non traditional yards get bigger. Granted they aren't exactly the brightest critter bulbs in the neighborhood but what a surprise.
The color scheme right now is brown, white and green with a dash or two of yellow and blue. The daylilies are pushing up-green; spring autumn crocus foliage-green; daffodils-white with yellow centers; Andromeda-white and green; get the picture LOL.
Mud. Lots and lots of clingy, heavy, clay based, brown mud. When we plant something we dig really big holes and fill them with compost and other good stuff. One of these days the yard will be in much better shape dirt wise.
Hey, it can't be too bad. The turkey liked it. :-) And I saw a humming bird yesterday. The rest of the week is bonus.