Why this blog? Why Me? Why now?

Recently, after a series of particularly stressful events, I had a day that was full of tiny moments that all seemed designed to push me towards God. As I've never been a regular churchgoer and certainly not a believer, this came as a bit of a shock. I have never felt that I was missing anything, but it was too strong of a feeling to ignore. It is possible that in a month or week or day that the compulsion will pass. It is also possible that it will not.

I started this blog to document the process. I am starting from scratch, more or less, so please forgive me if I get some fact about your church or your faith wrong. I'm a work in progress.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes, vol 2.

--- 1 ---
Thanks for all the great comments last week! I'm even more excited to participate this week.

--- 2 ---
One of my new visitors, jen, posted this thought provoking C.S. Lewis quote that led me down a wormhole of adding all the C.S. Lewis books at my library to my hold list. That's gonna be an ugly day when they all show up at once.
--- 3 ---
This guest post over at Camp Patton on NFP made me think about pregnancy and birth control in a different light. I'm still light years from making that particular leap (and if I'm completely honest, I don't see myself being able to fully commit there), but it did present it in a way that makes spiritual sense to me. I've added it to the growing list of things peculating in my brain.

--- 4 ---
I read the first 3 or 4 chapters of Catholicism For Dummies this week and I have to say, the Dummies books are really well done. I wish they were named something else though as I suspect the mere titles make people hesitate to pick them up. I can easily see myself reading them for a number of other subjects, but I can't see myself reading them at the gym.

--- 5 ---
It is turning to spring here (usually we still have snow) and it's really easy to see the parallels to Easter with growth and life and all. It makes me wonder if I'm just looking for things to notice now.

--- 6 ---

As a first time participant in Lent, I'm finding parts of it harder than others. It hasn't been hard to give up candy, but I did inadvertently eat some in the form of a McFlurry. My husband thoughtfully bought me one and I didn't occur to me at all that it had candy in it until I had eaten half of it. I decided that it didn't count since I stopped when I realized it. Yesterday was my husband's birthday and while we had a (shocking!) offer of babysitting, we choose not to go out to dinner because he really wanted a big steak and it was Friday. I hope that babysitting offer comes again!

--- 7 ---
I didn't get this posted yesterday, it was a long week of illness in our family. Including my own, what exactly was the flu shot for, anyway?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, March 16, 2012

7 quick takes, vol. 1

--- 1 ---
I'm a bit nervous about today's post as it's my first time to participate in 7 Quick Takes Friday. Last week I read many of your posts, but failed to comment. This week I hope to do better!

--- 2 ---
My children continue to be the most ill behaved present at church each week. I have hopes that the more we go the better it'll get but at the moment it's not at all fun. We're slowly learning little tricks and I discovered this week that other parents do bring snacks. In fact, the bulletin specifically said that children, even fussy ones, are welcome, but please do not bring raisins to church (too hard to clean up when they are smooshed into carpet!)

--- 3 ---
I spent some time chatting with my Favorite Catholic this week. I haven't ever really talked religion with her, because it's a strange conversation to have when you yourself aren't participating. So last weekend we had coffee (alone! no kids!) and talked a bit about church. I had asked her to bring me some books about being Catholic and she admitted that she doesn't really read or study her faith. Despite this, she is the very definition of a devout Catholic. She goes to church, she needs church, she believes and participates and loves with her whole heart, she just doesn't study.  Perhaps it's just my personality, but I can't imagine not needing to read about it. (She brought me Catholicism For Dummies, so now I have both The Idiot's Guide and the Dummies one. I'm trying not to feel insecure. She also brought Handbook for Today's Catholic: Fully Indexed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which looks promising.)

--- 4 ---
Which leads me to the next thought- last week I didn't spend a lot of time on this. My life was crazy, we had out of town guests over the weekend, after a week of my husband being out of town. I did read Girl Meets God, but I didn't follow anything else. I found that while I still wanted to go to church, I wasn't as interested in it, the longer I was away from it.  I'm not sure if this will be an ongoing problem. Will I always have to read? Daily? A book, the Bible, a meditation? Or will it eventually be internalized? I suspect that it will need to always be in front of me, but we'll see.

--- 5 ---
This week was another hard one, much like the week that prompted me to start the blog. (If you wanted to click on those stupid ads, I wouldn't stop you.) There are some people in our lives who we feel are going overboard on making us suffer. It honestly feels like they are getting their jollies from our misery. Church must be helping, because I find that instead of hating them, I feel sorry for them. I can't imagine living their miserable, shallow, hate filled lives. I haven't quite managed to pray for them, but the thought is there and I'm as stunned by it as anyone. Hmm. Maybe that is a form of prayer in itself, the honest (not sarcastic) thought that someone should pray for them?

--- 6 ---
I had to run an errand this week that was difficult for me. As I was driving over I was in near panic. As I was sitting at a redlight I had the thought that maybe I should give this to God. Maybe if I said a quick prayer He would help me through it, and I wouldn't actually puke on the person I was going to meet. So I said a quick one sentence prayer (something like, "God, I'm giving this problem to you in the hopes that you'll give me the strength to handle it.") I'd like to say I was instantly calm, but I wasn't. I was better though, and I did manage to hold myself together and conduct myself like an adult.

--- 7 ---
The next books on my self imposed reading list will be both the Handbook mentioned above (though I will likely find myself wandering off on tangets from this one), and Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery by Karen Armstrong, which I am reading with a friend. I'm still taking recommendations for others, if you have a suggestion.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thoughts on Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner

I continue to read and study about Christianity, as well as attend church weekly, and this week's reading saw me finish Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren F. Winner. I've actually read this one before, shortly after it was first published. I wanted to read it again from the perspective of someone who was trying to decide her own beliefs about Jesus and Christianity.

Here's what the back of the book says:

The child of a Jewish father and a lapsed Southern Baptist mother, Lauren F. Winner chose to become an Orthodox Jew. But even as she was observing Sabbath rituals and studying Jewish law, Lauren was increasingly drawn to Christianity. Courageously leaving what she loved, she eventually converted. In Girl Meets God, this appealing woman takes us through a year in her Christian life as she attempts to reconcile both sides of her religious identity.

Ok, so this time I really did seem to read things a bit more personally than I did the first time. The first time I read it I enjoyed it, and gave it five stars on Goodreads, but it really didn't make me think about the religious aspects, beyond the intellectual. This time around I marked a few passages to think about further.

To start, on page 99, Winner is talking about skipping shul more to attend church, and in general being less Jewish. She says, "I doubt any of them knew I was filling my shul time with church, but they knew I was filling it with something, and none of them every said anything. None of them ever said, Hey, just checking up on you. Is something up? Is something the matter? Or, harsher, Lauren, you know, shul. You really need to be there. I was part of their religious body; saying those things was their job."

She explicitly says that it was the other members of her Jewish family's job to keep her going to church each week. That they share some of the blame (or credit, depending on your viewpoint) for her converting. Later in the book she's talking about her baptism, which happened during her years living in England, and lamenting that she will never again be a part of that specific church family- the ones who stood and promised to help her have strength in her faith. It is an interesting idea to me that other people have a responsibility to keep you on the straight and narrow, once you are there. It is a different thing from preaching to the heathens, and it is interesting.

A few chapters later, on page 190, a friend asks why she became a Christian. Winner considers telling her all the signs and all the reasons (which readers have already heard) but settles on, "I became a Christian because God gave me the grace to do it." She then tells a story about Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, who said people go to church for all kinds of reasons, but the real reason is that God sent them there. This is exactly how I came to feel about all the signs that pointed me to church a few months ago. God, if he exists, sent the signs that sent me to church. I realize this is not a new concept, that I am hardly the first person to realize that God may have sent me running to Him, but as someone who did not believe in signs, this is a pivotal moment for me.

One of the things that has been on my list to read more about is the Holy Spirit.  Winner spends a couple pages on that topic in the chapter on Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit is Elijah's still small voice.  The Holy Spirit (apparently) guides us in daily life, on what to do and what to say and how to live as a Christian. "Maybe that is what the Holy Spirit does. Maybe He silences all the voices in our head that keep us from hearing God." (p. 233) I take this to mean that the Holy Spirit is what is  urging me on in this exploration and study I've embarked on, and I've asked my friend G to find me reading material and verses to support this theory.

The last bit of the book that I marked is about sin (around pages 273-275.) I have never really stopped to think about sin beyond the ten commandments, and the idea that a person is inherently sinful, without having done anything wrong, is nearly new to me.  (I vaguely remember reading about this before, perhaps on my first reading of this book.) I am not quite sure how I feel about asking for forgiveness for my naturally sinful state, or about the idea that my toddler needs forgiveness. I like the concept of grace, but have never gotten the full implication of it before now. I suspect that this will be something that I stumble over again some day, and I'm not quite ready to tackle it just yet.

In general, Girl Meets God was still fascinating to me and I'm glad I choose to reread it. Winner is a lover of books and words and study and I could see myself in her (though I will never be the scholar she is.) I think she did a great job capturing what Christianity is like for her, what she gained and what she lost and why she did it. After I read this the first time, I checked out her other two books, Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline (Pocket Classics) and Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity. I recall that I enjoyed the former more than the latter, but I don't really remember much of either. I see that she has recently published a new book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, that I will add to my list and begin pestering my library to get.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts on Bible study, politics, Facebook

Bible study

I haven't posted in a week (I find it harder to write a post for this blog with my constant interruptions), but I am still reading my Bible(s) and thinking about God and going to church. I've been faithfully reading my Lenten Companion book every day.  I'm slowly starting to think about why one would believe in God, instead of just how one would participate in an organized religion. It's startling to me how different God is from what I imagined and what I thought I knew. Even as recently as a couple of months ago I could not have imagined going to church because you wanted to go to church. I actually had the distinct thought, that I could never imagine being upset about missing church. That it would be impossible to enjoy church.  Though I also think I'd enjoy it a lot more if I were there alone. (Note: Fill in "it" in that sentence with a multitude of activities- grocery shopping, the library, loading the dishwasher, etc.)

I am constantly stumbling across a pretty verse on Pinterest and pulling out a Bible to read the surrounding verses. It usually turns out that I like the verse much more as a stand alone verse, than taken in context. I struggle a bit with this, because it seems as though people who quote the verses maybe aren't reading them in context. Like the telephone game, does the verse become distorted over time? Does it matter?  Is it just as valid to quote out of context?  (I don't expect an answer to this, I just like to think about it. Feel free to offer your opinion but I'm not looking for it to be solved or anything.)

I'm also noticing a lot more religious intolerance in this political season. I'm not going to talk politics here. At all. I am not anywhere near entering that fight, and I suspect that I'd be even more conflicted and confused if I let it color my thoughts about God right now. I will say that the intolerance goes both ways, with both sides believing in absolutes with absolutely no room for  open discussion. Both sides are guilty of writing off the other side without considering the person behind the statement. It makes me sad and I tend to avoid Facebook more. I feel embarrassed to declare myself for either side of the fight, so I don't. This is partly because I am not sure exactly where I stand, but also because I don't want to be part of the ugliness.

I am still working on my spiritual reading list and I've asked my Favorite Catholic to bring me a handful of books when she visits in two weeks. I am not a book monogamist though, and my shelves are full of other interesting things as well. Most days I dip in and out of 2 or 3 different books, as the mood strikes.

Annnd, no good way to close this post up, but that's where I am today.