My soul

On December 28, 2012 I went “public” with my desire to explore religion.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

I thought I’d have a little op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times about how I was visiting lots of places of worship. People who read it might think “that’s nice,” and then toss their papers into the recycle bin.

At the bottom of the op-ed, the editor asked if she could print the internet address for the blog I had just begun. I was only toying with the idea of doing a blog; I didn’t cough up the internet address until the very last minute.

It came as a complete surprise to me when that original article was re-printed in other newspapers. It popped up in Dallas, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Atlantic City.

People from across the country—and around the world—logged on to my blog. Some began to follow my journey and comment along the way (I love you, dear readers!). Others wished to send me a note telling me a bit about their own journeys—in, out, around—religion.

Many who sent messages said they would pray for me. A few said their entire church group was praying for me. In my secular lifestyle, I’d rarely had anyone say they were praying for me. I thought it sounded nice, like they would place my name on a gentle breeze. “Thank you,” I typed back to each and every one.

When the numbers who said I was in their prayers climbed, I started to get nervous. I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean: my entire nervous system began to jangle. I felt caffeinated even when I wasn’t. I had trouble sleeping. It was hard to concentrate. I had heard that praying can be a powerful act: all that thought-energy directed at a single source. Now I believed it. I thought too many people must be praying for me. Then I thought they were simply praying too hard. This wasn’t my name on a gentle breeze; this was a bolt of electricity to my poor synapses. I wanted to write them again and ask if they’d dial it back a notch.

Perhaps all this praying was a bit presumptuous. Was my soul in such a sorry state? A week or two into January, it dawned on me that I had unwittingly become a poster child for the “unchurched.” I fancied myself a “religious explorer” but, apparently, that’s not how others perceived me. One morning I looked in the bathroom mirror and glimpsed what they saw: a face of the “Godless” masses.

How had this happened? And, more importantly, why?

After some initial wallowing, I decided to buck up about it. If this was my calling, I would accept. See, world, we aren’t so bad. Some of us are even curious.

People sent me letters and packages. I got books and expansive thesis statements. I received CDs of sermons. I spread out these gifts on a table near where I write. Something about my little essay had spoken to people and inspired them to affix postage to envelopes that appeared in my mailbox. These kind people were sharing with me words and ideas that rang true for them. I committed to reviewing every last item even if it took many months. Who’s to say God wasn’t giving me a message through some sweet lady living in Milwaukee?

Many of the people sending me stuff were, in their own ways, encouraging my journey: they wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something they held dear. Others, perhaps, thought such an exploration sounded unnecessary and were hoping to save me the bother. They had found the right answer and were passing it on to me.

One DVD I was sent is entitled “The Biggest Question.” I put off watching it for fear it might provide the answer.

A few days ago, I finally popped it in…

 

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107 thoughts on “My soul

  1. Come on you guys. . . talking about the end of your lives. . .Corinna talking about the end of the Blog. . . . . . . . you’re breakin’ my heart. . .

  2. Well, Dear Corinna, you must know that you have to write a book about this at some point. You have hit a nerve in American society. You have touched the lives of many and if what is happening here is any kind of portent the book will quickly be on the best seller list. I enjoyed your words about feeling the effects of prayer. It reminded me of a funny experience I had when someone told me that one our church members was in the hospital. I called the patient on the phone to let her know I was thinking about her and that many people were praying in her behalf. She said: “Well, don’t pray too hard. I don’t want to get out of here until they find out what’s wrong with me.” When I hung up I broke out laughing.

  3. Hey Carmen….I had the same thought about half-way through….but then I knew Corinna was leading up to more suspense….Here we go! 🙂
    As they say in France: “Bonne journey” (good day)

  4. Hello friends. Church today was glorious, and the lovely lunch and fellowship afterwards was church all over again. I am slowing down and quietly enjoying my Sunday evening. Carmen, do 120 Chicken Mole enchiladas beat your 243 fishcakes??? 🙂

    Corinna’s words reminded me of something too, Frank. One year – around 2001, I think it was – my daughter spent 18 days in medical intensive care on a respirator. Her lupus was out of control, she’d developed a systemic staph infection, and we just barely got her into ER and ICU in time. She also developed ARDS, a respiratory infection that has a 25% survival rate with people who start out healthy. I think I mentioned all of this in another post.

    I was pretty much living in the ICU waiting room. You get to really know each other there, and just about EVERYONE spends much of their time and energy praying for each others needs. It becomes routine to ask how someone’s loved one is doing when you’ve been sleeping on the concrete floor next to each other for days. You rejoice with them and sometimes you grieve with them.

    The first or second day we were there, this small group of church members came in. They were there waiting for the girlfriend of a homeless man their church had helped to get better. Or not. They were SERIOUSLY Pentecostal. As we talked, and I told them of my daughter, they said they would pray for her. They went home that night, and the next day when I saw them, one of them gave me a very small piece of cloth and said “This is anointed with Holy Oil, and our church prayed over it for your daughter.”

    At the time, we were still Lutheran. Not staid Anglican, but staid Lutheran. Not going for the ‘Holy prayer cloths’ thing in much of a way. But never would I have said no to these kind people. So I took it with thanks. When I was allowed to go in for the 15 minutes visit, I watched Rachel laying there, pretty much in a drug induced ‘coma’, so she wouldn’t fight the intubation. I thought, “Why not? Their prayers are real.” And I placed the cloth on her forehead (Frank, you will laugh) just at the spot of the ‘third eye”.

    For the first time in 48 hours, she fluttered her eyelids. Rapidly. And seemed to calm..

    She spent 16 more days on the respirator, and I will forever believe that those prayers helped heal her.

    So, Corinna, you are right to wonder just what you have gotten yourself in for. 🙂

    • Patti, so glad your dinner was glorious!! We served over 300 people so guess who ran out of fishcakes?? ha, ha. .
      Your story reminded me of one of my own. About ten years ago a very close friend of ours (I’ve known him since I was 6) got sick with lung cancer (and yes, he was a smoker). The story, of course, spread like wildfire (it’s true what they say about bad news – it travels FAST) and everyone seemed to be of the same mind – ‘John’ was going to die. After a couple of months of only hearing bad things, I ran into his sister-in-law in the middle of the hallway at school. I said, “Kathy, tell me honestly what John’s prognosis is”. She told me that John was told, right at the beginning, that 4 out of 5 people do not make it. He replied, “I feel really bad for the other four”. She went on to say that he was receiving strong drugs and that they were hoping for the best. I said, “I can’t believe all this negativity from people – I have decided that he needs some positive energy and I’m going to think positive about it – some amazing things are happening to cancer patients!” She agreed with me and said she felt the same way I did. We had a few tears in the middle of the hallway, with kids streaming past us going to class, then went on our ways. I am happy to tell you that John did make a full recovery but it was a fight. Patti calls it the power of prayer, I call it the power of positive thinking; John (who’s an atheist) says it was just the luck of the draw and good drugs. One things for sure – none of those things hurt!
      It’s Canada Day here!

  5. Corrina, your blog has become something so much more than just a narrative of your faith-journey. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the few places on the Net where people can have an intelligent (and fun) discussion about religious beliefs without 1) knocking each other over the head with dogma, or 2) reaffirming their own preconceived notions. I’ve been through a lot of phases in my religious journey, from Roman Catholic to a None to a “Catholic in name but Not Much Else” to an affirmed Anglican. One of the great benefits of that journey has been my ability to reject the “my way or the highway” doctrine of denominational division. God created us as unique individuals and gave us the free will to take our own paths to find Him (or choose not to). Your blog Is that unique place where we’re free to openly express our beliefs, knowing our views are respected, and in turn learn a thing or two about others. I always thought it was presumptuous to say “I may be an Episcopalian, but here’s what I think Baptists, (or Mormons, or Methodists, etc.) believe. For one thing, it assumes everyone of a certain denomination thinks the same way, which personal experience shows to be untrue.

    When it gets down to it, God is going to choose to work with each of us according to the way He created us. I think that may be His greatest joy—and heartbreak. He creates billions of unique people, each of whom He loves uniquely, and each of whom has the chance to show his or her unique love for Him in return. Some choose not to—more is their loss. But as this blog shows, those who choose to recognize that unique relationship, whether through traditional denominations, personal spirituality, or other ways, bring tremendous gifts to one another. I have truly enjoyed following your journey for the past few months and look forward to what comes next!

    • Thanks, Tim. I appreciate your contributions so much. What strikes me as so interesting is how fluid many people’s journeys, including your own, have been. I guess I always thought people had an association and never budged (which would make my wanderings seem strange), but that’s not the case at all!

  6. Dang Corrina – you pulled a “hanger on-er”…cant wait to hear what you experienced or thought, but as usual you will be able to write about it in such a way that we all feel we are there with you!

  7. From the time I read that LA Times article, Corinna, I thought of you exactly as you did: as a religious explorer. I’m so sorry that so many folks found it necessary to try to convert your “godless self to their Answer. That must have felt pretty insulting and invasive. But I must say, you have handled it with great grace! How had this happened and why? you ask. The answer to that is found in human fears I think. Fearing the unknown, the unboxed, the wild and mysterious…having to domesticate it and trot it around on a leash? I dunno. But that is part of this exploration, isn’t it? Not only your reactions to religion, but others’ reactions to your reactions. Of course, you could have done the exploring without telling anyone. But then we, your gentle readers, would have lost so much!

    • Thank you for saying that, homewithin, because I have felt -from the responses Corinna has put on the Blog and from the personal corresponding we have done – that she is just fine the way she is. However, getting to know people through this epistolary form (I remember this from English Lit days) has been an experience, too!

    • Homewithin…..my not so gentle side came out and I was snarling when I read this blog entry……but I have since calmed down and very much appreciate the response above. I love your words: Fearing the unknown, the unboxed, the wild and mysterious….having to domesticate it and trot it around on a leash. Wow. Thanks.
      MET

    • Hi Shelley, The entire thing has been so much more nuanced and interesting than I could have imagined. My reactions to others’ reactions and then others’ reactions to mine and all around again. Thanks again for being a part of it.

  8. I’m just going to throw out a question because I am sincerely curious about your answers. I am not trying to sound judgmental or arrogant, so please don’t take it that way. It is God’s place to judge….not mine.

    Based on what I’ve read on Corinna’s blog since the beginning of the year, I have concluded that quite a few followers of this blog don’t believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God or that a person can even have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and know for sure that this earth is not our final home. (please correct me if I have reached the wrong conclusion) My question is this: When times get tough in your life, who/what do you lean on to get you through it? I’d appreciate all feedback but am particularly interested in the answers from those who are not followers of Christ.

    As a Christian, I don’t expect my life to be easy and free from trials and hard times. God never promised that. In fact, John 16:33b says, “In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I personally don’t know how on earth I could cope with hard times, let alone daily life, without knowing that I can claim the promises in the Bible and that God has promised me that He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5b).

    • I’ll take that one on Jo! Since it’s raining cats and dogs here and our plans have changed, I’ve got the time. First of all, you’re correct in assuming (at least about me) that I don’t think the Bible is God’s word – men wrote it and, in my opinion, it should be taken metaphorically. There are important messages/lessons there so I ‘cherry pick’. I’m allowed (smile). In the United Church of Canada we don’t adhere to the thinking that the Bible should be taken literally – it’s all about interpretation. I didn’t have an invisible friend when I was little and I don’t have one now. (that may sound blasphemous but that’s the way I feel). As for hard times, which I believe happen because we’re HUMAN, I lean on the same LIVING people I’ve always counted on for strength – my husband (whom I met when I was 17), his awesome sisters (3 of them) and the many mentors – male and female- who have figured prominently in my life since that time. You may be wondering why I attend church. Well, as I’ve said before, I have no problem believing 1) that Jesus was a real man who walked the earth and 2) that, as a good person, He is worthy of emulation. I also think that the church (and the people in it) does real good for society. I like that our church supports the local Food Bank, a homeless shelter in the city, and Missions elsewhere – we give generously. I could give you many more examples of ‘faith in action’ but you get the idea, I’m sure. So I can try to do good, even though I may not believe the same thing as the person next to me. I like to think of myself as an optimist and I see that trait among the people who comment on this Blog. I think that’s a good thing. I wish I could write as profoundly as most of you! I see that two others have commented since I started writing this so I’ll have to go check their responses out – no doubt they will have said things that I wish I had!

      • P.S. I forgot to add this. I DO believe that this is our final home and if you could see where I live, you’d say that it’s not a bad thing. I love what Nature has to offer and I’m very fortunate to live right on the Bay of Fundy, in a rural area where the air still smells good all the time and I can look out the window and say, “Isn’t it beautiful here?” every day – even when a gale is blowing. As I’ve said before, if there is somewhere else I’m headed after death, I’ll worry about it when I get there.. .

    • Jo:
      Guess I didn’t think about answering this before, mainly because you wanted the non-followers to answer.

      A couple quick thoughts. We were missionaries in Senegal, W. AFrica for 8 years. I was really determined to be a “great” missionary, but neglected my first ministry, which is to say, my wife and children. (This is a not uncommon problem with Christian leaders who get sucked into this trap when they are immature as I was (am) .) When we left Africa (best thing that ever happened), I really felt God had pulled the rug out from under me and my dreams for me. At that point, I wasn’t too keen on turning to God for “comfort.” My reaction might shock you, but I was simply being honest, reflecting a BIG difference in what I thought I believed–that God works all things together for good–and what I actually operated by inside, what I call my ‘functional theology’. I’ve discovered over the years that most evangelical Christians actually see God more as “The Judge” than as their Abba Father who genuinely delights in them. This leads to the same kind of performance mentality that motivates a grown child who spends his life trying to please a father who will never be satisfied (in the child’s mind).

      It took about 15 years for me to come to honestly understand that my Father delights in me and I can now honestly turn to him knowing that he does indeed work all things together for good. I often think that I wish I could do my life over….but I have come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t change a thing because of where my Abba has brought me… 🙂

      • Well, you learned all about your loving Father, and if it took that, wasn’t it worth the journey? I appreciate wisdom that is born from experience, and thus your words hold much wisdom for the rest of us, Walt.

        The thing that I would have to add to what I have read so far in this week’s blog entry is that one of the most important things that God does for me is that He is utterly different from me. Some here see us as a part of God and do not differentiate the creation from the Creator. But for me, if creation were a part of the creator and vice versa, then there’s no more power in us that what we possess. And that doesn’t “create” in the true essence of the word (ex nihilo – out of nothing) But I believe that the Creator is actually different from us. And, in following that line of thinking, for God to actually reach out to us, communicate to us, and be involved in this world is a massive expression of grace and love toward us. I love to explore what God is like, what God cares about, and what my part or purpose is to this world. That, to me, is what it means to be made in the image of God. And God allows us as human beings to participate in God’s creative activity in the world to “fill” it with families and communities and cities and nations, and all of those things that we “create,” thus participating in a very real sense in His creative power.

  9. Hello and good morning friends.

    Jo L, I understand your question, because it has always been one of mine about people who don’t have a belief system. How do they survive? How do they manage when the abyss of the night and you are all alone time comes? Without the strength and support I receive from the prayers of all my community in Christ, I do not know what I would do. Yet I know many people who seem to do just fine. I would be interested in knowing how they do it, as well.

    There is a comment I feel the need to make about your comment on some of the followers of this blog who seem “not to believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God.” First, I think that the WORD of God is Jesus Christ. I also believe that the Bible is absolutely TRUE, but not absolutely LITERAL. That may be the difference you see in some of us, if you yourself are a biblical literalist. I sometimes understand what is being said as literally true, in it’s psychology or understanding or compassion or complete, spot on observation of human beings, while not being true, literally, as in “the sun stood still in the sky.”

    Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Yes, as much of one as I can fathom. If “What a Friend We Have In Jesus” can be a theme song, it’s mine. And yes, Heaven is my desired final home. With that said, the PRIMARY importance of this walk with Jesus in this life is also about THIS life, and how well we bring Jesus into IT.

    So I claim the same promises as you, and I am also interested in how people who do not claim them cope with life with a capitol L. Many of the friends we’ve made on this thread have told us some of those ways. I am not sure if those who claim no spiritual path at all (stone cold atheists?) are going to involve themselves in this discussion of coping without faith. If they do, I am very interested in hearing what they have to say.

    Yours in Christ

    • Hi Patti,
      You got me…I am a literalist in regards to the Bible. This could be a whole thread in and of itself. However, to keep it brief, how could I possible pick apart the Bible trying to figure out what is literal and what is not? If God created the world, which I believe he did in 7 literal days, why wouldn’t He be able to make the sun stand still? If the Bible is not taken literally, how could any of the miracles be believable….the biggest one being the resurrection of Christ? I realize that there are parables and symbolism used in the Bible, but again, I’m trying to keep this brief:-)

      • I forgot to add that although I believe that the Bible is literal, I by no means claim to understand everything. I will never reach the point of complete understanding while here on earth.

        • Jo L, it’s amazing and sometimes awesome how it works for me. When really difficult times arise in my life I turn within. Usually the first words out of my mouth are ones Jesus said in calming the waters: “Peace, be still.” Those few words seem to center me. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not I believe Jesus or the Bible is real or true. I simply find comfort in using the words. If I think anything about Jesus in those moments it is not about the man but about his inner consciousness which is the same inner consciousness that is available to me. I have no feeling of being left alone. Quite the contrary. I believe that because I have traveled on several religious or spiritual paths that the recognition of all those paths come together as one to comfort me in a time of need. Often there comes an inner revelation of what to do and how to do it. This came in handy when I worked as a Registered Nurse in a busy Emergency Room. It enabled me to work in perfect calm while being in the middle of some terrible scenarios. I wasn’t crying out to Jesus. I was accepting that if I had the inner resources to feel that calm center, it was in the reach of everyone else in that room because it existed in them, too. Often everyone in the room including grieving family members, surgeons, the patient and other nurses moved from a state of overwhelming upsetness to a quiet calm as the medical team did its work. All, I’m say is that for me it isn’t only about Jesus. It’s about a power that is available to all if they choose to use it even Atheists some of whom were in the room. If such things can occur in an Emergency Room in time of trauma it can occur anywhere on earth and is not dependent on belief or non-belief. All of that said, I also believe that FOR YOU, YOUR belief in Jesus provides a similar touchstone. If you walked into my Emergency Room I would trust your cooperation in calling forth the spiritual help needed and recognize that you contributed to the sense of calmness because of your belief. Even a knowing glance might pass between us. I would only hope you wouldn’t ask afterwards: “Are you a Christian?”

    • Patti, I love the way you put it, that the Bible is absolutely true, but not absolutely literal. BEFORE you KILL ME JO, let me explain a couple things. I became a Christian in 1971. We (my wife Michelle and I) went off to a Bible school about a year later (I’d never recommend doing that so soon). We were thrown into Bible belt Christianity (including a very literalistic view of Scripture, e.g., 7 literal days of creation). The 70s were the time when evangelicals were fighting the “Battle of the Bible,” and many churches were choosing up sides and adding words to their doctrinal statements about Scripture like, “inerrant,” “infallible,” etc. As I look back, I really believe that era, following on the heals of the 60s when EVERYTHING was subject to question by so many (including yours truly–I came back from Vietnam in 69), that “Battle” did more, I think, to begin to drive people away from Jesus than most anything else in recent memory. On top of that came the politicization of the church when evangelicals became aligned with the political right–I think we got misled into thinking that politics was the way to fight for the values we believed in. The bottom line, as I see, is that we lost our focus on following Jesus and trying to make disciples (which is not the same as in-your-face witnessing and confronting people with heaven and hell).

      I believe the Bible is God’s word, that it is authoritative in my life, that the Holy Spirit had something to do with guiding the men who wrote it, but, especially, that it tells us what God wants us to know. Saying that, I don’t focus on “literal” interpretations, because even taking the Bible “literally” can lead to radically different interpretations and division.

      I was musing recently about how I came to initially understand the reliability of the Bible and who Jesus is. I wrote these out in my last couple posts in my own blog. (you might be interested: zigzagjourney.com. Just click on my name above this.) I’m not finished with that portion of my “journey”, but let me just say that I came initially through my training in history (life-long love and undergrad degree). This was before I was exposed to all the in-fighting about inerrancy and infallibility. I realized that the Gospel writers, for all their seeming contradictions, were presenting the same Jesus, who was teaching the same things, who did the same sort of miracles, and who died and rose again for our sins as the servant, lamb, Son of God. The Bible is inspired by God, but I’m comfortable now with leaving concerns about literal interpretation and any mistakes to him. I’m trying to focus on the big picture, the forest rather than the trees, so much.

      As for trying to “convert” Corinna: I take a lesson from Jesus in what he said to Peter when Mr. Foot-in-the mouth confessed, “You are the Christ.” “Flesh and blood” (ie, human thinking, earth-bound outlook as opposed to heaven-bound outlook, etc.) has not shown you this, but my Father in heaven…” (Matthew 16) My prayer, when I pray for Corinna (feel it, Corinna?) is that the Father would show her himself. That’s a pretty simple prayer, and by it I DON’T mean that she’ll become my version of a Christian. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was also pretty simple: “this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Getting to know God in personal relationship has been a life-long journey–“literally”–and I only began to understand the implications of him being my Father about 5 years ago. (I’m pretty hard-headed. My African family name, literally, is “Donkey.”)

      In my comments here and in my life, I’m trying to reflect Jesus and leave it go at that.

      • Hi Walt,
        Kill you? Na…but I will agree to disagree:-) Like I said, I knew I was opening up a can of worms and could start a whole new thread about the Bible being literal or not. BTW, I have prayed the same prayer for many on this blog, realizing as you do that I don’t intend to fit them into my little mold of what I think is right. Hopefully this journey has enticed people to open up the Bible for themselves and search the Scripture for answers instead of relying on what people are telling them. I know that this journey has stretched me and my faith

        • Jo Said:
          Hopefully this journey has enticed people to open up the Bible for themselves and search the Scripture for answers instead of relying on what people are telling them.

          This a great statement, Jo. I think way too many people across the belief spectrum rely on what others tell them instead of reading things for themselves. One of the Bible’s greatest gifts is that just about anyone can find a passage or series of passages that speak directly to them and the situation they’re in.

        • Jo, Just a thought about the Bible being “literal.” I’ve never been quite certain what “literal” in this context means. I think it’s possible that everything that’s been included in the Bible is material that was meant to teach us something–written, vetted, and comiled by many people-and is therefore “literal” as in an important “literary” document of information. I’m not sure it being “literal” means it all happened exactly like it’s written or that it’s meant to be a list of marching orders. Honestly, I don’t understand what the significance of thinking it’s “literal” means or if it changes the way your read it and integrate it into your life. Also, it’s not hard for me to think of the Bible as “the word of God” but the way I understand it is that this is one of the richest items we–as in humanity, together–has produced and, at it’s core, it speaks to our unity, which is what I think God is. Okay, I don’t know if this makes any sense. Now my brain hurts.

          • Corinna,
            When I say literal, I mean that the text means what it says. When it says that Jesus walked on water, He actually walked on water. When it says that Christ rose from the grave, He was actually dead and rose from the dead. Are these miracles beyond my human comprehension? Absolutely! That’s where faith as a Christian comes in. If I start discounting parts of the Bible to be true, the foundation that I have based my beliefs on is broken and useless. That being said, there are figurative statements used in the Bible and one needs to take word usage and cultural practices into account when interpreting Scripture.

      • Walt, you crack me up sometimes. . . I know, if we got a chance to meet, we’d be HOOTING with laughter in minutes. . .

  10. Jo L and Patti and others—
    I am here and thinking what to say. Meanwhile, go back and read what Carmen had to say. I could pretty much tweak the details: I have three sisters and many good friends, I live where you can see 360 degrees of glorious sky, and I belong to a Church that not only provides for my Spiritual needs, but also digs into help the community at large.

    Life can and IS difficult to cope with at times. Saturday was the 6th anniversary of my husband’s death; these years have been no walk in the park. But I have tremendous inner resources. I don’t know what to tell you about them, but they allow me to persevere and to be resilient. I am not trying to tell you that I am Superwoman, or anything like that. No way. But I can just dig deep and can tap into all that which I have been learning for the past 68 years—some through experience, some through my family, some through friends, some through my Unitarian Universalist Churchlife …..I also take time to write and to listen to the world around me and my place within it……..all of Life has taught me to be self-sufficient…that is not exactly the right word, but it will have to suffice. I define myself as an existentialist, and in that, I do see my journey as mine to take on my own. My journey. My choices. My consequences. My responsibilities. My joys. But not mine in an arrogant way. Mine in a humble way. I feel fortunate to be alive and to able to travel Life, not only with my own resources, but with others who can walk my path beside me for a while. On step at a time.

    This may, to some of you, sound bleak….or lonely….or too heavy a load. I don’t know. All I know is this is where I am. I am not a believer in a God who looks after me personally, nor do I expect there to be any heavenly afterlife……I am not depending on it, anyway!…..but I do rejoice in being alive with all the beauty of the earth and the warmth of good people.

    I am not an atheist, although I do not see that as an indictment. I am an an agnostic, but/and I do have a deeply spiritual side which is about my interconnectedness with all that is around me. I care deeply and honestly. I just don’t do it through Jesus or the Bible or any other of the specific Christian dogma/beliefs/traditions.

    OK, so I guess I did have something to say right now, didn’t I? But it is far from my the whole of what I could say about MY way of living. I, too, thought that Corinna was on a personal journey when this all started….and I have been here all along because I thought that there needed to be a liberal religious voice chiming in with the rest of you. But I am totally stunned—-how naive am I??—that she has become the “poster child of the unchurched.” I was incensed and totally and big- time- cranky that people would feel the need to inundate a religious traveler and seeker of wisdom with books and CD’s and what else…..especially trying to end run her quest by telling her to look no further….Just accept this. The thing that I like about our conversations with Corinna and with each other is that we provide checks and balances for each other…..lots of viewpoints provided with respect and even love.

    Fortunately for you, Corinna, that you don’t need MY protection…..think that you have this “under control”….Ha Ha. But really, I do think you have managed to keep your own path—if The Climb is any indication—and will continue to search for what is right and true for you. Looking forward to more.

    With deep respect for the choices you all make.
    Merrill

    • Thanks Carmen, Merrill and Frank for your honest answers. In reference to the comments regarding the things being sent to Corinna and the prayers being said for her, I guess that I’m surprised that it was taken as offensive to some. Have any of you ever received fantastic news or received an unbelievable gift? If you have, did you keep it all to yourself? I remember when my husband and I realized that we were going to be parents for the first time. We couldn’t contain our joy! We told all of our friends and family so they could share in the joy. This is how I feel Christians should feel about the gift of Salvation. Why should we keep this great gift all to ourselves…especially when we am commanded to share it with the rest of the world? Maybe they are just trying to share their gift with Corinna. Just a thought.

      • Jo, I am going to continue to be honest with what I believe. I am sure that you are hoping that one of us will say….”Yes, Yes. I see what you are saying. These are gifts from people who have something special to share.” A baby. That can surely be a gift to parents, family, community. We have agreement there. But generally speaking, we part at the trailhead on this one.

        I certainly don’t have any “gripe” with individuals who did not want to take their own lives, their journeys to the public. Corinna said she received e-mails from people about their travels “in , out, and around” religion. Those communications came in like first class letters in the mail. Cool. Personal, but private. We have been in the same positions, but we have gone public.

        That’s not what I object to. What I question is the unsolicited materials she has received…..books, CD’s, thesis papers, copies of sermons, etc……some helpful, I am sure ,and some which could be called junk mail. If I say I am going to California on a trip, I am happy when friends call me or e-mail me about places they think I might not want to miss: ” I loved the grandeur of the redwoods, they might say. I think you will love them, too.” That is advice I am glad to receive. And I may act on it.

        But books and atlases and personal treatises on California and its history and the political and cultural lay of the land are not helpful…… and what about the whole itinerary of where I should go and what I should see and how long I should stay there and how I should feel about all of this when I get home again? This is just interference from my point of view. I am plenty capable of planning and heading out on a road trip. Personal choice and freedom allows me to take time to stop at places I didn’t originally know about or to skip places I don’t find to be meaningful, even if my best friend says it was a must see!

        And to have my trunk and my back seat full of “gifts”—–no matter how valuable the giver believes them to be—-is just not helpful to me as I head south–or east–or wherever. I am am willing to take my own risks and am not afraid of what I may—or may not—-encounter.

        I do understand that you are committed to sharing your “gifts” of Jesus and the literal bible and salvation and heaven….all of the above. You can continue to share them…..and I may continue to feel that you are i hoping to interfere with MY personal journey. I will not, however, send you 4th class fliers about the UU Church. :–)

        To personal freedoms and choice. Merrill

      • With absolute and complete understanding of what you say, Jo L, (I felt/feel the same joy)…..don’t you notice along the way that there are some who don’t see the ‘gift’ in the same light? To use your analogy of parenthood, perhaps a woman who is completely turned off by the idea of motherhood, for whatever reason, saying ‘No thanks!’. Or someone who is so burdened with a difficult life and the responsibility of many, many cares, including children, who might privately think “Thank goodness it’s them and not me. Another child…………I couldn’t bear it.”

        There will always be those who do not view the gift of which you speak with the same response as you do. THAT is because it is the working of the Holy Spirit to direct THEIR hearts to it in a unique way. YOU have fulfilled every thing asked you of God when you share your joy. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. If the recipient doesn’t feel or respond as you do, it’s ok. You have shared. YOUR responsibility stops there.

        By the way, I am not saying that Corinna or anyone on this thread is or is not responding. I’m just trying to talk the basics of this idea.

        Merrill, there is no need for you to feel anger against the people sending these things (when they were sent in true faithfulness), or protective of Corinna, because, as Jo L. said, they were only sending their own joy and hoping that Corinna will feel it as well. ANY ulterior motive they may have had (become MY sect, or become MY version of Agnostic) was THEIR problem and should be dismissed as unimportant to anyone but them.

        Carmen, Frank, Merrill. I appreciate your thoughts even if I don’t share them in exactitude. I share the same vocabulary as Walt and truly appreciate his thoughts because I understand them best. That doesn’t mean I dismiss any of each of yours, simply that they don’t always resonate with me in the same way.

        And a last comment on literalness/non-literalness – I guess I began my journey to my present (poor) understanding of the Bible with the help of a geology professor back in 68/69 – the end of the eras of which Walt. In class one day we were discussing fossils and eras and methods of dating things. And of course, being in the midst of Bible Belt Ft. Worth, Texas, one of the students popped up with “But God made the earth in 7 days. The Bible says so, so how could these fossils be millions of years old?”

        My geology professor just quietly and calmly answered: “Who am I to tell God how long His day or night is?” Jo L….that is how I handle the concept of truly literal vs literally true, which works for me. If the sun did stand still……then it did. But I can’t prove it.

        With love to you all, and in Christ

      • Jo, I do feel that people are sincere in their wanting to share what they hold dear or what has worked for them. I think the motivation is heartfelt and comes from kindness. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments and the fact you engage everyone here with gentleness but standing firm in your truth.

  11. May as well weigh in to this “spirited” conversation. As a committed Christian, I firmly believe Jesus Christ came into this world for our salvation, and to initiate His kingdom on earth. Basically, what I believe is spelled out in the Nicene creed, which we’ve already discussed in a previous post. I believe, as a Christian, I have an affirmative duty to share the Good News through word and action. I happen to personally believe serving as an example of faith in action is more effective than preaching the word, but, as Paul said, we each have our gifts. I believe the Bible was inspired by God, but written by individuals (and edited by others through the ages), and it tells us how to live out His desire for us. It is not a history, science, or political text, and was never meant to be. Any given section contains the writing appropriate to the time and people for whom it was written. This in no way diminishes its message for us and for our time. (beat me to it, Walt)!

    What I DO NOT believe is that people who don’t share the beliefs I just outlined are in any way less deserving of God’s gifts or somehow “less whole.” Almost everyone here shares one key belief: that there is a universal good towards which we all strive. We define it in many different ways: “spirtit”, God, “inner essence”, etc. But what we cal it doesn’t change what it is, “A rose by any other name..” I believe the ”it” is God in the Trinity. Responding to that striving is what’s key.

    I believe the only people who may be “doomed” (depending on your definition), are the ones who actively reject the idea of an objective and universal good in favor of a selfish, inward-focused self-worship; the belief the world exists only for them. I have yet to meet anyone like that on Corrina’s blog, and I think they are few and far between in the rest of the world. I think Jesus’ message was very clear: love all people as we are able; do good, and leave the judging to God.

  12. Hi Tim. As usual, you have said what I wanted to say – better.

    I was going to say I was not as un-judgemental as you on those who actively reject God’s good, or good in general. Most of the time, with so much of what I have, I sadly have decided that to trend toward goodness is not always the first thing that humans do. I guess I am kind of Augustinian in that respect. Again I think of Frankel and his comments on people in the concentration camp. Some people chose to become worse than their captors. Some chose to become the saint within them. Sometimes, I have this heavy feeling that the former is more prevalent than the latter. But, that is on a bad day.

    With your last statement, however, I am in wholehearted agreement. I keep working on that ‘judge not’ part, lol.

    Yours in Christ

    • It’s like coming home from shopping or whatever and finding a religious tract stuck in my door. (sigh….again.) It’s like getting a lot of junk mail in by mailbox or mixed in with my e-mails. After awhile I simply press “Delete” or throw mailbox trash into the trash bin. I just get used to it. When I hear the “Christian” story again, and again, and again, and again, I simply accept it as a need that folks have and that they have had some personal experience like some of you have talked about that makes the Jesus experience special. I think I have experienced the same thing; I just don’t call it Jesus the Christ.

      • Frank, I really do understand. And you are hearing the same thing, over and over. I guess what I am trying to say is that the people saying it (like me, often) are saying it because it is part of their mantra (to use a word that is not quite so ‘Christian.’) It’s part of what they (I) feel is my offering from Christ to everyone I meet. I am fulfilling my vows, if you will.

        I know it gets tiring to hear, from your end. But to be honest, it is no different from ‘our’ end of hearing your end of things. For us, it is like saying 2 plus 2 is 4, and you are saying it’s 5??

        None of this is to say that EITHER of us is right. Just to say that I think the majority of people who have gifted Corinna with their paths and belief in traditional Christianity are doing this from a basis of love. Thank goodness, I don’t believe we have any of the Westboro Baptist church ilk giving her a hard time. I pray not.

        Yours in Christ

        PS: I am still waiting to hear your comment on my idea of Heaven, lol. Love, Patti

        • If I remember what you wrote correctly, your idea about heaven is what I have heard from many others. You plan on seeing your mother, father, and all other loved ones. I have no such certainty for myself. I have some sense that something of us may move on to another dimension but I’m far more attuned to the idea that we create our own heaven and hell right here right now. I never disbelieve people who have had experiences of “seeing” or “hearing” their loved ones speaking to them from the “other side”. It just hasn’t been my experience so I can’t vouch for it. I would not deny you your belief or experience. People are often comforted by these things. Several of my evangelical relatives who were dying told us that they saw Jesus holding out his hand to take them home and shortly thereafter died. If it’s what they really saw I imagine it was very comforting to them. At the same time I know Jewish friends who having read the Kadesh (sp.) were equally as comforted. Some pictures I have seen of Buddhists sending their loved ones body’s off on the lit barge on the river look equally as comforted. As the world gets smaller during this information age I suspect we will all become more tolerant of the different ways we think and believe and as long as some Christians believe they must tell the Jesus story over and over and Jehovah’s Witnesses must tell the vindication story, and Mormon’s must tell the story from Moroni some of us will grow weary of the repetition. Gratefully we live in a country that allows it.

      • Frank,
        I am not a big fan of door-to-door evangelism myself. In my everyday life, I try to live a life that makes people wonder what’s different about me. Since that’s not possible over the internet and you don’t know me from Adam, I’ve been more blunt in stating my beliefs. I never want anyone to feel like I’m shoving my faith down their throats. However, like Patti said, those of us who proclaim to be Christians listen to everyone else’s side of things. It’s only fair that we get to share our beliefs as well.

        All of these comments have given my a lot of insight. Thank you all for your honesty and for openness.

        • (smile) I hear you, Jo L and absolutely agree that “it’s only fair that we get to share our beliefs as well.” Probably my biggest disagreement is with your statement: “in my everyday life, I try to live a life that makes people wonder what’s different about me.” I keep trying to share that there is nothing different about you or anyone else who professes to be Christian. It’s a deceptive perception. It’s like saying, “I’m so proud to be so humble.” No one’s noticing. It wouldn’t surprise me at all in talking with people in your neighborhood and asking them how you are as a neighbor they would tell me how pleasant and wonderful you are. If I followed that up with: “Do you know she’s like that because she’s a Christian?” Many would say that they hadn’t given it a thought.
          Yes, there are bad people in the world and you’re not among them but neither are a lot of other folks. The more I read and travel and the more people I meet the more I see the likenesses rather than the differences. When I stopped thinking I was special because of my beliefs I simply stood in the nakedness of myself and finally realized I was fine just being me and whatever feelings of faith and belief I had were as wonderful perceptions as anyone elses. For those people who have cleaned themselves up from drugs or other addictions by becoming Christians I say, “Wonderful”. It’s not the ONLY way to do it but if it worked for you who am I to say it didn’t and I’m happy you are living a more productive life.

          • Hi Frank–
            Your post left me with some mixed feelings. Certainly, you don’t have to be a Christian to be good, nor does not being one make you good. Only individuals can be good or bad, and good people can do bad things (better known as mistakes). On that I agree with you. In fact, I’m thinking back to at least one of Paul’s letters, where he advises other church members to obey the local civil laws and cause no person harm. In other words, be good citizens just like everyone else. As you say, “nothing special.”

            But I have known people who I believe are good because their lives are informed by their faith. For example, there’s a guy at work whom I would define as a “saint”. He lost his wife to cancer in her 40’s and has raised three daughters (including a set of twins) on his own. He himself had a malignancy removed from his prostate gland. He has a job that can be difficult at times, dealing with some very unhappy and unpleasant customers. Yet, in more than 20 years of knowing him, I have never heard a mean-spirited thing come out of his mouth, and I’ve never heard him act bitter. He’s not a smarmy Disney-happy guy; his joy comes from someplace much deeper. He’s the kind of guy you would immediately recognize as being different, deeply at peace with himself and the world. I think we’ve all met people like that in our lives. Perhaps its because I know him from my former Roman Catholic Church, but I would most definitely say he is different largely because of his faith.

            Could a non-Christian have the same kind of inner peace? Most definitely. Think Gandhi or the Dali Lama. So on that we agree as well. But there are people, like my friend at work, who I think are better than most because of their faith, and who do serve as an example for those of us still on the road. And for what its worth, I see a lot of the same qualities in your writings, Frank–the inner peace an the ability to stay centered. I admire that quality in anyone who has it, no matter what their belief system may be.

            • Thank you, Tim. What you describe in your friend at work I see in everyone who comes to Corinna’s blog. Even when I “tease” Cheri or other Jehovah’s Witnesses who show up here I still recognize their inner goodness. I think this blog actually has a “consciousness” that draws such people to it even if they are not writing anything and simply reading. There’s a word for that and I can’t think of it. Doesn’t matter. It appears that Corinna welcomes one and all to share. She’s pretty special herself even though she defines herself as a “None”. Imagine that! 🙂

          • Frank,
            I guess I don’t necessarily want people to look at me to see if I’m good all the time. That’s impossible. I’m still a lousy sinner….saved by grace. I would hope that people would look at my life and see consistency. Do I walk the walk only when life if easy or do I continue to walk the walk when life stinks?

            • Jo, I see you as a lovely person who probably couldn’t be mean to someone if she tried. So when you call yourself a “lousy sinner” I take offence. I wish that term could be stricken from the vocabulary. When I mentioned that I am anti-fundamentalist, this is the kind of thing I was alluding to. It doesn’t help when you follow it up with “saved by grace” – you’re giving someone else the credit for straightening you out! You are a GOOD PERSON – you, yourself. In my opinion, you need to give yourself a pat on the back for making good choices, for thinking positively, and for trying to do the best you can at all times. When I make mistakes, that’s what it is – and believe me, I make LOTS of them – but I do good things, too!. That’s what they are, though – mistakes, not SINS ( ick, a dirty word.) We’re human, that’s how it goes.

              • Jo and Carmen, Patti, et al:
                This thread is getting so long that it’s difficult to keep up and I know there are several things I haven’t read….sorry if I’ve missed some relevant comment. 😦 Carmen, I did see your comment to me about us having a hoot! and I agree!! 🙂

                The word “sinner” has taken on a life all its own within our culture. I hear it often used as a term of derision, even from Christians–so, Carmen, I understand your being offended by the term, and you have a right to be. Just know that everyone does not use the term in the same way. I am also concerned when I hear other Christians talking about themselves as “lousy sinners” because (though this may not be true of you, Jo) I hear them referring to themselves as people who are continually failing God, letting him down, etc.

                Some time ago, I did a search in my Bible program (remember that post you had, Corinna?) on the word ‘sinner’, because I wanted to figure out just exactly how it is used in the Bible. I came up with the following that I wrote as part of a thesis (just to say that it was cleared by my adviser for accuracy, a man who is really picky about biblical correctness). The following paragraph I copied from what I wrote earlier:

                Christians routinely refer to themselves as “sinners.” Let me be very clear about this: God does not call his children “sinners.” You will not find it in Scripture. “But what about Paul, who called himself the “chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15?” you may ask. Paul was here marveling over the grace that God had given him, in view of his previous life as a blasphemer and proud persecutor of Christians. Ecclesiastes 9:2 shows how the word “sinner” was usually used in Hebrew Scripture: “It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner….” “Sinner” is reserved for the enemies of God; for those looked down upon by the religious community (though Jesus frequently associated with these); and for those who come to recognize their need of God. Also, “sinner” is used as a term of contempt by those who consider themselves righteous. Verses that seem to imply that God’s people are “sinners” are unclear at best. When we use this word to describe believers, we are in effect calling unclean what God has cleansed.

                NOTE: Carmen, please don’t take from this that I’m calling you a sinner here. “Sinner” is really a general classification word, used to describe those who dig in their heels against God and/or those who think they are better off than everyone else. In the sense that we all “sin” (the word means to miss the mark), that we all do things that are wrong, then we are all sinners. I wrote the above paragraph to reassure Christian believers who are caught up on what I call the “performance treadmill”–always trying to please God, but always feeling like they never get better and are always falling further and further behind, meanwhile ever conscious of an ever-critical God.

                Jo and Patti et al: I hope this didn’t confuse the matter…let me know. ps: I do take the way the word ‘sinner’ is used in Scripture literally 🙂 !

                Walt

                • ps: Please understand Carmen et al (who’s Al?) if we gang of Christians don’t accept the appellation ‘good’. When the rich young ruler approached Jesus, he called him, “Good Teacher.” to which Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? there is none good but God.”

                    • Walt, in either case I was referencing the goodness in man which came up in the questioning of Jesus and the response, “No one is good but God…” To me it’s kind of an oxymoron because scripture also says we are made in the image and likeness of God which suggests that if goodness resides in God it also resides in man. Perhaps we’re talking about Goodness versus goodness suggesting that no one can be all the perfect avenues of God’s goodness but at our present level we can reflect it. Of course I also agree with Merrill who who I think would say it matters not because we were all born good to begin with without referencing God. It’s interesting how Christianity wants to throw up this shield of “I’m not good enough” and then depends on Jesus to spill his blood to break through the shield in a process that tells us we are good enough because it has redemptive value.
                      Once recognizing this “gift” people feel a glorious feeling within themselves and raise their arms literally or figuratively to shout out with smile and tears, “I’M SAVED.” and forever after feel they have a special and personal relationship with Jesus. It’s all o.k. but not a necessity for goodness. This little saying keep rolling through my mind. I’m not sure it’s even appropriate here but since it wants to say something I’ll write it: “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat.”

                    • Hi Carmen….yeah, I’m good! actually, I do accept that.
                      Frank, believe it or don’t, I agree with you more than you’d expect. My only exception is thinking about what Merrill said, that we’re all born good…..Whether we actually are or not is kind of a moot point, because we all get “programmed” with (as the bible calls it) “the sins of the fathers”….we’re more like our parents than we’d like to think, good AND bad. If you’ve been following some of the comments I’ve made, I’ve been rethinking an awful lot of standard Christian “doctrine”, trying to bring myself back into what I see is actually in the Bible and what Jesus himself taught. I know that that all gets filtered through my own presuppositions, etc., which are so flawed as to make me want to puke…..(sorry to be gross, but that’s about how I feel).
                      To what extent we humans can be “good” (and I think you have a good point there by positing Good vs. good) is the kind of question that just gives me a headache.

                      I’m really tired. Michelle and I and a friend spent the day at the Museum of Tolerance (Holocaust Museum) in West Los Angeles, so, in addition to be exhausted from walking hours on concrete, my emotions are all kerwompy from thinking about all that we humans are capable of…..An often-used phrase in the various narratives was that (Hitler and a few others excepted) we are ‘ordinary people’.

                      This compounds all I’ve thought about since being in Israel two years ago, including a visit to Yad Vashem (their Holocaust museum)…….so I bid you all good night…..going to relax and watch the idiot box…. 🙂

          • The only comment I can make to try to explain what Jo L and I are trying to say is this: What you see in us, by way of being Christians, IS NOT US. The us you see are plain vanilla and in no way different from any other human being. IF you see any difference in us, we say you are seeing Jesus Christ. “There is no goodness in us save Christ Jesus.”

            This is one of those flavor points. That is what Jo L is trying to show in her life, and Tim and Walt. Can non Christians show goodness. YES. We’ve discussed that here. And you will no doubt laugh when I automatically attribute that goodness in them to Christ, even if they or you don’t.

            But isn’t the bottom line that the goodness just IS there? That is what I hear you saying, and I can agree with your words. Can you agree to not perceive my words of Christ within me as being “I’m so proud to be humble?” Because that is NOT the intent, and I am not saying that.

            Another of those sticky wicket points. I think sometimes language is such a sucky way to communicate, lol.

            • I hear you Patti and again it points the way to how we perceive things. It’s perfectly o.k. to me if you want to believe that the goodness in me is the Christ in me. Buddhist perception might be that the goodness derives from the Buddha in me, Jews, the Moses in me. When we peel it all back it gets exposed as the God in me. I offer another poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox titled: “The Goal”
              All roads that lead to God are good;
              What matters it, your faith or mine;
              Both center at the goal divine
              Of love’s eternal brotherhood.
              A thousand creeds have come and gone;
              But what is that to you or me?
              Creeds are but branches of a tree,
              The root of love lives on and on.
              Though branch by branch proves withered wood,
              The root is warm with precious wine;
              Then keep your faith, and leave me mine;
              All roads that lead to God are good.

    • Hi Patti, from hot and humid So Cal!

      Sadly, I often feel the same way you do. Its been said a person’s true character is revealed under extreme stress. I’m thinking of Milgram’s experiments in the early 1960’s at Yale. He tried to identify how seemingly normal people could perpetrate the atrocities of the Holocaust. Way too many ordinary people were quick to follow authority and deliver what they believed to be painful shocks to helpless victims. I try to remember the one thing most truly evil people, from Eichmann to Manson, had in common was the supreme belief they were exempt from normal human morals—what I called self-worship before. The sin of arrogance can take many forms. I’d like to think most people are guided by “the small, still voice” that brings us back around to the right path, eventually.

  13. I was also going to say that I probably sounded like a colossal prig in my manner of responding to each of you, and i wasn’t trying to be. I was just trying to be the ever vigilant English major properly answering points made. I’m sorry I sounded like such an idiot doing it!

    • Patti, I WAS irritated and cranky at first, not with the personal e-mails, but with all the unsolicited literature and advice…. I am no longer angry, but I do believe that being inundated with unsolicited materials is not in the spirit of Corinna’s journey. If you read my reply to Jo, you might have seen that I was just making a point: what one person sees as a gift, someone else sees as an intrusion or a distraction. I do not know or care, really what Corinna thought about beyond what she wrote…….whatever, I am darned sure that Corinna can take care of herself, as I have already said!……..I guess I am like Frank…..more or less?….. I am just tired of hearing the same thing over and over……..I think that you (as a group…not necessarily personally) think that if you say it often enough every one with “get it” and will embrace your message, because you are, after all, “In the Right”. I usually hear more tolerance for others’ paths in your words, Patti, but perhaps it was just in trying to say it correctly that filtered that out.

      We are all Standing on the side of Love, as we say in the UU church . We are just viewing Love from different perspectives, I guess. I know you might not agree with this, but MY message is as right and true and important as YOUR message. And I feel it is my responsibility to speak my truths, partly because they are generally in the minority. I am not selling anybody’s version of anything, including agnosticism……I just speak from my heart.

      Standing on the Side of Love.
      Merrill

  14. YES, Merrill. That is exactly what I was trying to say. And what I said to Frank above.
    The truth is that we all get inundated with all of this information. And we view the source and the reason from different perspectives. Sometimes, what you and Frank feel or apprehend as “I’M RIGHT and if you listen to me OFTEN ENOUGH, you will FINALLY believe,” is not what is being attempted to say. If I say something to someone, it’s because I wish to be the channel of the Holy Spirit and be an instrument in bringing all to salvation. As I said to Frank, I am fulfilling my vow.

    When you, as a Unitarian Universalist, tell me that you would rather not agree with that, my response has to be OK! BUT it does not mean that I get to shut up. Because if I do shut up, I am lying by omission.

    What I am required to do, and I think this is where so many people become really offensive, is that they don’t say “I love you a Uniterian Universalist as I know you love me an Anglican.” They keep saying ‘maybe I can change your mind.’

    I am NOT attempting to change your mind. But, and this is a BIG but, I cannot agree with what you say by NOT saying what I say, or I am denying my concept of Truth. All the tolerance in the world and all the love and all the respect I have for you cannot keep me from saying that what you believe worries me. Or that what Frank believes worries me. Or that what Carmen believes worries me. BUT THAT IS MY PROBLEM. Not yours. What I am not allowed to do is love you any the less for being worried about you.
    I guess the empass here in my trying to explain is that even if you tell a friend that you are worried about a certain choice in their life, they are going to resent your deciding that you have the right to worry for them. Alas, I am the same.

    Boy, am I getting confused with this one. I give up. Just know that I love you. And I am a pain in the ass. 🙂

    • Patti said, “All the tolerance in the world and all the love and all the respect I have for you cannot keep me from saying that what you believe worries me.”
      Well said! I have been crying off and on all day while reading these comments.

    • Hi Frank, Merrill, and Patti

      I’ve been on both sides of this conversation. As I’ve mentioned before, we still get none-too-subtle messages from Roman Catholic family members that we need to come back to Mother Church. Like you, I was angry, mostly because one of my pet peeves is being patronized, and most of the communications took the form of “If you only realized what you’re doing wrong.” I’ve finally gotten past the anger because 1) Jesus commands we love one another when that’s the hardest thing to do; 2) Nothing they say or do will change my mind, and I’m sure never changing theirs, and 3) they really believe they’re helping us. In my situation, the issue seems especially silly because Catholicism and Anglicanism are so closely related. But it is what it is.

      As a Christian, I’m obligated to treat all people with love. Several years ago, two Mormon missionaries came to our house when I was working in the garage. It was a very warm day and the guys were sweating jelly beans. They started their message, when I interrupted and asked of they wanted some cold bottled water. Of course, they accepted. I gave them the water, explained to them I was quite comfortable in my present spiritual situation, and sent them on their way. I suppose an “upright” Christian might have expected me to give them the boot right away, or get in a theological debate. But the thought that kept going thorough my mind was “When I was thirsty you have me water to drink.” I saw it as a simple act of human kindness.

      I guess my point is we’ve been given the command to share the Good News. I try to do that in ways appropriate to the situation. My biggest gripe with sending Corrina stuff is that she didn’t ask for it, and it seems presumptuous to assume she would want to read it. The blog is different, of course, because she’s asking for the widest possible spectrum of opinion, which I respect. I feel I have an obligation to state my beliefs when asked, but what Corrina or anyone else does with what I say is up to them.

    • Patti, that is an excellent explanation for, I think, the way most of us on the blog feel. Patronizing each other is not on the agenda. Each of us is free to express our beliefs and free to disgaree, based on our beliefs. I can never seem to find that Gospel passgae where Jesus says “Love one another, unless the other person says something that ticks you off.” So I guess I’ll have to join you in loving the folks here just as much as my Sunday pew-mates, and hope they do the same to me.

  15. Tim, I love your “never seem to find the Gospel passage”.

    The whole beauty of this blog and all our responses, when we understand each other and when we don’t and when we violently agree to disagree (violently in a completely polite way, of course) or when we violently DO agree, the point is that I have well and truly looked at my own personal faith more closely than I have in quite a while. I have gone over things I have felt and done right, and things I have felt and done wrong, and lessons I’ve learned from concepts that Frank and Merrill and Carmen espouse and those that Tim and Walt and Jo L espouse. The point being that I have LEARNED. I have looked at my faith. Even when it’s irritating in some way to myself or to others, that is a good thing.

    It is appropriate and human to hope that we have all learned from each other here, and are continuing to learn. It’s as much our journey as Corinna’s, in that respect.

    The only thing I would feel uncomfortable with here is that I found out that something I said or believed was a stumbling block to a fellow believer. At that point, I would need to very carefully consider how I expressed what I expressed. My hope is that I have never been that.

    To my good friends,
    Yours in Christ

  16. Patti said:

    “The only thing I would feel uncomfortable with here is that I found out that something I said or believed was a stumbling block to a fellow believer. At that point, I would need to very carefully consider how I expressed what I expressed. My hope is that I have never been that.”

    You couldn’t be that if you tried, Patti. You have much too good a soul.

  17. Corinna, et al – Good evening, it is late here so will try and make this brief. I have been trying to catch up and go through all the comments and find great value and sincerity it all that everyone shares. You all speak from the heart and that is the most important thing we can share. I appreciate spiritual freedom, and enjoy not having to try and convince anyone that they should believe as I do. It is my journey, and my path to follow. And aren’t there many paths to lead us all home?
    ….Great article, Corrina. You have a wonderful way of drawing the reader in and making your discovery ours. And you have the grace and wisdom to value each piece of the pie you are looking at.
    So a couple of thoughts on the discussion…reminds me of an ancient Irish saying that goes, “No one is better than I am, but I am no better than anyone else.” Might we say that about our spiritual journeys? and Corinna, people often refer to “my soul”, yet what if we are Soul and our bodies are the vessels that we use to experience life here? For what end? To learn how to receive and to give divine love. May the Blessings Be.

    • Thank you for those words, George, and welcome to “THE Blog”. I like the Irish saying – maybe I’m partial to it b/c of my ancestors. And yes, I have the hair colour to prove it. I agree with you about Corinna’s grace and wisdom, too – it’s come in handy on here! Since I get up early and I’m 3 – 4 hours ahead of most everyone here (which means I’m in bed when most of the folks on here are eating supper) , I have to play catch-up from the day before. . . it’s always an interesting and invigorating (and occasionally frustrating) start to my day – ha ha!

    • Hi George, I think you’re right it seems to me there are many paths, though they converge, and no one says you have to stay on teh same path your entire life…there are little paths between the paths that criss-cross and overlap. I enjoy pondering my body as my “soul suit.” Thank you!

      • Thank you. Quite an interactive and reflective environment you have created. And it is rich for those who participate, for as I think you have discovered, it is one thing to read and study different paths, the real key is our own experiences and living the path we are walking, or attempting to – every moment, for each moment is sacred. And that is what the folks who are involved with your journey are endeavoring to do. warm regards, George

  18. Hello, George. Hi Carmen! Tim…Merrill…thank you for the reasurrance that I have not inadvertently done wrong. Sometimes I think the worst ‘sins’ are ones we commit when we aren’t even looking to! Anyway…thanks. One of the very best aspects of this blog and the friends made on it is that we have become a sharing and supportive group. It is always good to be able to come here and visit my friends.

    Speaking of which, next week I will be in bed in Carmen’s house when the rest of you will be eating supper! Meeting Carmen here on the blog and connecting as friends has inspired a road trip and a vacation. David and I will be staying with Carmen and her husband and then doing some exploring of all of that beauty of which she has written. I am really looking forward to it. Carmen and I will be able to continue the discussions in person. After this week, I probably won’t be on a lot til August, but I will think of you all.

    Meantime, I like your description of your soul, George.

    Yours in Christ

  19. Ok, Ok. A person has to hit the floor early in order to keep up with all of you. I am up but have absolutely nothing elucidating to say! But good day to you all. Welcome, George. Patti, I envy your trip to the Bay of Fundy and your visit with Carmen. It is going to be another scorcher here today in the Northwest with triple digits….that would not be Celsius, Carmen! So much to read and digest here! Stop writing while my brain….and heart….catch up!! Merrill

  20. Gee whizz, I’m gone for one day and all this great conversation happens. Ya snooze, ya lose! Wow, Patti and Carmen getting together in the flesh? That is way cool. Has to be a chapter in Corinna’s book.

    I have a question for anyone who wants to answer. If you had to put into words your top 5 best philosophies of life, what would they look like? I guess I’m talking about your 5 most true guiding principles that you live with or try to live with. Here are 3 of mine just to get started:
    1. Be here now.
    2. Do the next right thing.
    3. Live loved, and love.

    Shelley

    • I was kind of on that trail a while back, Shelley….and lost my way, I guess….probably derailed by “One None…..” I will go back into my journal and see if I can’t get back to it. I thought at the time that it would be a good thing for me to pursue/ to try to get to my own guiding principles. Back to you later on this. Merrill

    • 1. Authenticity (Always tell the truth about who I am.)
      2. Transparency (Remain an open book as much as possible.)
      3. Compassion (For myself as I would have for others.)
      4. Forgiveness and Transcendence (Forgive and rise above it.)
      5. Let go and let God (Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for; the evident demonstration of reality though not beheld.) Hebrews 11:1

  21. OK, I’m stealing that Frank statement – “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat” – seeing how I live by the water and all. . .

  22. homewithin, you are asking a question that is going to make this thread ten times it’s present length and I have to be busy getting ready to leave the country!!!!!! I can’t even begin to wrap my head around this question at the moment. But you have given me something to chew on on the trip up to see Carmen. Three days in a car crocheting ought to give me time to think about this. 🙂

    Love,

  23. Homewithin said:
    If you had to put into words your top 5 best philosophies of life, what would they look like?

    That’s quite a challenge, Shelly, but here goes (in no particular oder):

    1. See past the mistakes others make and forgive them
    2. Forgive myself
    3. Speak plainly
    4. Be honest with others and myself
    5. Don’t fear what might come next

  24. God knows where this comment’s going to end up – the last one I thought I had replied to Walt’s statement about God being the only good one. . . and it wound up somewhere else. Oh well, here goes. (I think we should shoot for 100 comments on this thread, don’t you??) Shelley’s top five philosophies: (Thank God they didn’t have to be profound!)

    1. Be nice to you and others – smile lots!!! (even if you think you look like an ee-jit)
    2. Try not to hurt anyone
    3. Take a few risks; you never know when you might learn something
    4. Live and let live; laugh often -even (or maybe especially) at yourself
    5. Assume the best of people

  25. Here are my other 2
    1. Be here now.
    2. Do the next right thing
    3. Live loved, and love.
    4. Take the adventure that falls to you.
    5. We can do this.
    All these have special meaning for me and a story behind each. In a way, they are shorthand for how I live. Or try to. I find it easier to have some simple words to fall back on in a time of peril, fear, indecision. I’m sure each of you have stories behind your philosophies, how you came to them? Anyone care to tell one?

  26. Hi guys! homewithin….I thought of something to put here. I will STILL be thinking about your question all the way to Canada, BUT, here are is my short version And, lol, I apologize ahead of time because some of you are quite tired of hearing them. But you wanted to know about the simple words we fall back on, and these are mine:

    1: ALL shall be well. And all SHALL be well. And all MANNER of things shall be well. St. Julian of Norwich, one of the greatest mystics who ever lived, and my constant Mantra when in fear or doubt.
    2. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me. One of the oldest known Christian prayers, and I think one of the most profound.
    3: Hail Mary, full of Grace. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death.

    Those are the words that come to my lips in time of need, and what I fall back on. The fourth, which I find quite helpful for using as a yardstick of how and what to do is:
    4:
    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is despair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    Where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master,
    grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
    to be understood, as to understand;
    to be loved, as to love.
    For it is in giving that we receive.
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

    Amen.

    Honest, homewithin, you wanted to know. Can I help it if I tend to be a rather ‘formal’ person???? AND longwinded, lol.

  27. And let’s not forget the wonderful philosophy of Don Miguel Ruiz in his book, “The Four Agreements”:

    1. Be impeccable with your word.
    2. Don’t take anything personally.
    3. Don’t make assumptions.
    4. Always do your best.

  28. Well, it has finally cooled off enough that my brain can work. Here is my list:
    1. Love, but know when to let go.
    2. Act for the greater good.
    3. Live in the present.
    4. Laugh deeply and often.
    5. Keep one’s passions alive.

    I can think of more, but these were the first to surface. Merrill

  29. Shoot. I have never ever been very good about following the rules. I need to sneak one more in here!
    6. Work on forgiveness—-for self and others.

  30. Homewithin said:
    I’m sure each of you have stories behind your philosophies, how you came to them? Anyone care to tell one?

    I guess I’d choose “forgive myself” from my list because that’s the one I’ve struggled with the most. Maybe its leftover Catholic guilt, but I’ve always had a hard time forgiving myself for the mistakes I’ve made. Not that I’ve done anything everybody has. But if you carry guilt around for a lifetime, the weight becomes too much to bear. An Episcopal priest reminded me one of Satan’s aliases is The Accuser—he loves reminding you of all things you’ve done wrong in your life. The best way to combat that is to make amends where I can and remind myself God forgives freely if you ask. The priest also said something that really stuck with me. If God tells us He forgives us, and we still feel unnecessary guilt, we are telling Him we don’t believe Him and we know better. That really helped me release a lot of baggage.

  31. Tim, you remind me of what my Christian ‘milk mother’ told me once, and it has been one of the best pieces of advice I’ve EVER been given. I was wailing and weeping and harping over some misdeed of mine. She said “Have you asked for forgivness?” When I said yes, she said “When you asked Him for forgiveness, that ‘sin’ got sunk into the deepest well in the deepest part of the deepest endless abyss in the Universe. Now, PUT UP YOUR FISHING ROD.”

    It was good advice, just like that of your priest. 🙂

    Love to all.

    • Thanks, Patti! Holy cow, I just read Corrina’s new post. Dovetails rather nicely with this one, I’d say…

      • I am not sure I will have the strength to jump in feet first. I am trying to get us to Canada. Drat it, Corinna did something interesting just as I will be offline (mostly) for 3 weeks!

  32. Hi Corrina, I’m one of those “born-again Christian freaks”. To clarify, I don’t weave Christian jargon into every sentence (I know some do) but I do believe and cling to God with all my being. I just wanted to thank you for your honest and clear posts. I’m learning things about how my own religion impacts those who don’t buy into it. Thanks!
    PS Will tone down the praying for your benefit 🙂

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