Saturday, April 20, 2013


Enough: occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations
1: in or to a degree or quantity that satisfies or that is sufficient or necessary for satisfaction
2: fully, quite
3: in a tolerable degree

In most instances, I like the word “enough.”  "Enough" is an improvement from "adequate," but doesn't indicate "excess."  The demands or requirements are met, but I haven't gone overboard.  The word "enough" can be such a calming word.  It makes me think of phrases like:
You don’t have to keep worrying.
You don't have to keep struggling.
You have what you need.
You've done what you can.
You ARE enough.
Those are good thoughts. I like those phrases.

I know settling for “enough” in all aspects of life is not right.  There are places that call for continued investment or for not saying that where I am is enough.  Important relationships, learning, certain goals – those are a few areas where settling for "meets expectations" doesn't work. Those are areas that deserve my best efforts.

Yet, in places where "enough" is acceptable, I need to let it be just that: enough.  I know I have a tendency to obsess a bit about things.  Even after I've realized that more is not going to produce a better outcome or provide additional clarity or create a more desirable situation, I'll keep going back to it in my mind and over-thinking it.  Or over-doing it.  Or I'll keep going back to it and writing about it again and again from different perspectives.

Enough is enough, as they say.  The first place I need to accept this is in writing about how shattered and broken my faith and beliefs have been.  It's not that it doesn't matter anymore, it's just that to keep going back to it is splitting my focus.  It's time for me to turn my attention in a new direction.  It's time for me to approach new topics in my writing.  It's time for me to move on.

I've written about it enough. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

I Think I Found a Church

Yesterday, when I sat in the old, worn pew in the back of the sanctuary and we chatted, I have to admit I began a bit guarded.  When I'd called the church office to ask about newcomer classes, she suggested that rather than waiting for them to arrange another session, I come in and meet with her, the parish priest.  I know I'd readily agreed to it, but I was still a little nervous.

The rectory office was in the midst of a re-organization effort and the common area was busily being rearranged for an upcoming activity, so the sanctuary was the only free space when I arrived at our agreed time.  It was mostly quiet, save for the kids from the free preschool they run listening to a lesson up on the stage.  It's not an enormous church, but the last pew is far enough back that we couldn't hear them. 

She asked about my church background and what brought me to St. Patrick's.  In a few quick minutes I explained growing up in church and then trying to find the right place after the boys were born and then becoming a church drop-out to study my faith and try to figure out where I belonged.  I tried very hard not to ramble.  I think I did okay.

We talked about what I've been reading -- Richard Beck, Rachael Held Evans, Thomas Keating, Barbara Brown Taylor, Miroslav Volf.  She is a good listener.  Sunlight was streaming in through the windows and it felt like a holy moment, even though I'm not sure I believe there is such a thing.

Looking me in the eyes, she said, "You are so young and that is quite a journey.  You are brave to keep trying.  A lot of people give up."  I detected no hint of condescension or insincerity or flattery in her voice.  I kept my composure and asked about her journey, but my heart was breaking open in the most excruciating and beautiful of ways.   

When she considered her words and said that she knew there were some things she may be wrong about, but that she kept praying and seeking understanding and grace, I felt hopeful. 

When she said that I would find people in the congregation who held opposing political and social views, she stretched her arms out wide to demonstrate the full reach of those differences.  But when she assured me that the congregation strongly believes we are one in Christ and are called to share the table even with those differences, I felt like I was hearing the church I've been listening for

When she said that they aren't always perfect at it, that they are a place comprised of people which means they will never be perfect, I laughed and told her that if she'd tried to convince me her church was perfect I would have known it was not the place for me.  I told her that her congregation was the most welcoming I'd ever experienced and that each Sunday at least two people I hadn't met yet made a point of chatting with me, and she said she was very glad to hear I'd been made welcome.

She didn't try to pressure me to continue attending or for any kind of commitment, she simply said that based on our conversation, she thinks the Episcopal church seems like a good fit for me.  She encouraged me to call her if I have any questions and agreed to come up with some books for me to read to learn more about their traditions and beliefs.  And then she gave me a big hug and said she enjoyed talking with me. 

I waited till I got to my car to let the tears fall.

At the beginning of this year I didn't know if I would ever feel at home in a church again.  Four months later -- after only six Sunday mornings there -- and I can't imagine finding anywhere else that feels more like home.

They are having a dinner/fund-raiser Saturday night to benefit the local interfaith homeless ministry.  She'd seen that I signed up to attend and as we discussed it, she mentioned that she is going to speak for a few minutes beforehand.  The topic?  Weaving the Fabric of Life.

Maybe there is the slightest possibility I do believe in holy moments after all.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


"The price of recognizing Jesus is always the same: our idea of him, of the church, of the spiritual journey, of God himself has to be shattered. To see with the eyes of faith we must be free of our culturally-conditioned mindsets. When we let go of our private and limited vision, he who has been hidden from us by our pre-packaged values and preconceived ideas causes the scales to fall from our eyes. He was there all the time. Now at last we perceive his Presence." - Thomas Keating

I've immersed myself in theology as of late. I do have some non-theology books on my to-read list, but this is where I am right now, still mulling over the wisdom and experience of others to help me figure out where I am and what I believe. I've noticed several themes over and over again in the various books I'm reading and one of them is "shattered."  Whether it is a shattered view of life or shattered ideas as mentioned above, I keep finding this thought as I read.

Here is the thing about something that has been shattered: it cannot be un-shattered.  Even if you tried to painstakingly fit every shard back into the whole, it would never be as pristine and smooth as before it was broken.  If something is merely chipped, cracked, or broken into a few pieces, you can attempt to put it back together.  However, if it is really shattered into hundreds slivers, you can a) choose to use the pieces to make something else (just look on Pinterest -- people make a surprising number of things out of broken glass) or b) you can replace the shattered item with a new one.  Regardless of what you choose, you cannot put it back together to be exactly as it was before. 

I didn't realize it at the time, but this shattered experience had a lot to do with my break from church. I really could not continue to go to church week after week, trying to appear that I was okay when my idea of God had been shattered and I felt betrayed (at least in a way) by my own beliefs. The truth seemed too messy and made me feel too exposed and I wasn't in a place where I felt safe sharing any of those things out loud or face-to-face with anyone other than a few close friends.  I felt too broken and confused and lonely -- and maybe even scared -- when I went to church.  With my previous framework in shambles, I needed to take the time to become a student of my faith and sort out what I believe about God.

So, a lot of that is still true.  I am broken.  Any illusion of certainty I had before is shattered and has been for quite some time. The way I see it now is that I will either begin to perceive God's presence as something new among the shattered pieces or I will replace the pieces with something new.

This past weekend, I read the following passage regarding the way our preconceived ideas about God can keep our faith from maturing:
The means that we needed in the early part of our spiritual journey (but which we may have come to depend on too much) are gradually removed... Family, ethnic, and religious values are important and may support us for a certain time and to a certain place in the spiritual journey, but not to the place of total freedom that is God's ambition for each of us. - Thomas Keating
I may be broken, but I'm not scared anymore. I realize now that this is simply my journey. If I'm going the wrong direction, I will figure it out eventually. If no one else I know is going this way, that is okay. The more I read and learn and think about the beliefs of people I'll never meet and the generations of believers before me -- with all their passion and hunger for truth and differences and brokenness -- the less lonely I am.

I can't prove that what my faith is becoming now is what it is ultimately supposed to be.  I can tell you that even if it feels like God is so very different from who I'd previously thought, letting go of those preconceived ideas and acknowledging that I'm working with shattered pieces feels so much more like freedom than pretending at certainty ever did.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Nothing to Offer

I thought I’d unraveled to the point I could start putting it all back together, but that was an illusion.  Apparently there is more.  I’m okay.  I’m getting by.  But I’m still unraveling and I hadn't planned for that to be the case and it is messy.  I feel that I have nothing to offer anyone right now, but actually writing it out loud is something.  I was going to say that writing it out loud helps, but it actually just means that the three people who read my blog know about it now. Some things are what they are and have to be dealt with over time and I have to learn to keep going.  I am learning to keep going. 

Oh, and one place I'm going is back to church.

Over a month ago, I started reading the book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience by Thomas Keating.  I got up one Sunday morning with plans to visit a local community church, but after reading several sections from Keating's book with my coffee, I changed my mind and decided to visit a church that keeps to the liturgical tradition.

I Googled one I've frequently driven past to find out when their late service started and I went.  I sat in an old pew and I noticed the way the light filters in through the stained glass and I chanted scripture from a prayer book for the first time ever and I listened to the priest blessing, individually, members of the congregation who were celebrating birthdays that week and my eyes welled up with tears.  As new and different as much of it was for me, I felt what I can only describe as a sense of home.  And I experienced a tiny stir of what I think was hope.  I had a fleeting thought that maybe, somehow, I will find a place where I can start putting some things back together and stop feeling so alone in my faith experience.  Maybe.  Somehow.

I still have much to learn and far to go.  At the moment I'm still feeling like I'm empty, like I have nothing to offer.  I honestly have no idea yet if this church is the place for me, but I've gone three of the past four Sundays anyway.  I have no idea how long it will take before I know if I’m doing the right thing, but I’m doing it until I figure out if I am.   

I hate feeling like this and I hate feeling empty and I hate not having anything good to write about or talk about or give... but I think that is the way life is sometimes.  I think, sometimes, the dry spells teach us just as much as the abundance.  I think I need to stop thinking so much and just keep going.