The joy is in the journey

I've posted recently about the spiritual journey I have been on for the past many months. Or maybe I just imagined that I posted about it. Anyway, I have been on a journey, one that has expanded my mind beyond what I knew was possible before. I was meant to find Oprah's Super Soul Sunday shows, and I know I was meant to drink them in and learn all I could from the inspirational guests. Watching those shows has led me to follow interesting thinkers that would never have been in my world before. Some of those guests are deeply religious, and since I am not deeply religious their deep faith has started to make me question my own lack of religion. I saw Rob Bell and his wife Kristen Bell on Super Soul Sunday last weekend, and I thought their message was refreshing. Now I see that he has angered the established Christian community by saying that the church will eventually accept Gay Marriage. I went down a rabbit hole of articles about him, and I guess this is not new hatred for him. It makes me sad though, and somewhat reaffirms my stance on religion in my life.

I have never been religious. I grew up sporadically going to church - a very liberal United Church of Christ community, where honestly I still felt out of place. I went through the confirmation process through the church, and then decided I didn't want to go again, so I didn't. I haven't attended church regularly since I was confirmed. I'm not sure what that says, but it is what it is. Through my childhood I also went to Awana's meetings with some neighbor friends. Awana's and the summer camps we went away to, were probably my only real life encounters with evangelical like communities. I was asked to invite Jesus into my heart, and I did, but only because everyone else seemed to think it was super important and they really wanted me to do it. Looking back at those experiences - and there were others with different youth groups that came into my life through my teen years, it makes me cringe. That was not a path to god for me. It certainly may be the path to god for some people, but it wasn't for me. I have no qualms with people using religion to get closer to god, but I've made peace with the fact that religion is not my avenue to get there.

My journey has led me to a place where I can see god in everything and in everyone. I don't need to go to a church every week, and read scripture to tell me that there is a god. I know in my heart that god doesn't need me to be able to recite scripture, or to live by a certain set of firm rules to love me either. I feel closest to god when I'm in nature, when I look at my kids, and when I feel the love I have for others and that they have for me. Some people might say that I will go to hell because I don't fully abide by a certain religion's rules, but I don't buy that for a minute. It is okay for them to think it though, I don't need to change anyone's mind. I know that the god who created me, and everyone else in the world did not do so out of spite or with a large test looming that I need to pass. I'm enough just as I am, and while I do think there were struggles placed in front of me so that I would finally see what god is - or a glimpse of what god is anyway, there was no test in any of my experiences either. We are all given trials in this life, and we either learn from them or we hide from them. When we learn from the trials, our minds expand, and we do gain a greater clarity of what it means to be human though.

A bad picture of a wall hanging I have

It is great that for many people their paths to god come through religion and scripture, I think that is the whole point. Not all of us will follow that conventional path though. There was never any god in church for me, I only found static words on a page that had very little meaning for me personally. I can look back at my experiences in church with a different view now though. I think that at least in the Christian church where I have some exposure there are lots of great messages in the scriptures. I believe that Jesus was a very enlightened thinker, and he understood that god was in everything. Regardless of whether or not I believe he was the messiah, I do believe he gave the world a gift which was shifting from a view of a vengeful god that we see in the Old Testament to the loving and forgiving god we see in the New Testament. Ultimately scripture cannot give us the only way to find god, but I understand why people want to use it that way. Faith can be scary at times, because really what if we are wrong about all of it? I feel as though many people today want to interpret scriptures literally because they are afraid of what it means for them if they were meant to be fluid. I won't pretend to be a religious scholar, and my goal is not to offend anyone here. It is okay if you read this and you think I'm going to hell, I promise I won't hold it against you.

We are all on a journey in one form or another, and finding god for me has been incredibly joyful. I have no intention of telling others that god can't be found in a church, because I don't think that's true. I just know that church was not the way for me to find god, and maybe it never will be. I don't know what all of the hateful venom about Rob Bell is all about, but I do think that whatever is spewed says a lot more about the person spewing than it does about Rob Bell himself. I am not a follower of his, but from the brief glimpse I've had it appears as though he was a rising Christian star, and then walked away from it and found his own path. Maybe his early followers feel betrayed that he left the comfortable path they know. I do know that I never would have heard of Rob Bell if not for Oprah, and if his message was strictly from quoting scripture I wouldn't be all that interested in what he has to say. He may have deviated from the traditional Christian leadership path, but continuing to recite the same lines from religious texts was never going to get me to suddenly start going to church. I suspect is it the same for many others. Seeing the message that underlies all of the scripture is the ultimate goal isn't it?


A trip to London

I traveled to London for work this week. I've been to London before, always for work, and this time was no different. However this time around I left home Sunday night and got in decently early Monday morning. I also didn't absolutely need to work until Wednesday morning. This meant that I had a couple of days to adjust and sightsee prior to the real work commitments. After making it to my hotel I found one of my favorite colleagues and forced him to go on a walking tour of London with me. Well I didn't really force him, and what I thought was going to be a quick walk and then lunch turned into 3+ hours of walking.

The Tower of London
Tower Bridge
The Shard
Tower of London from across the Thames
The Tower of London

St. Paul's Cathedral

It was a great tour of parts of London I hadn't seen before. After we made it back to our hotel we caught up with 2 other colleagues who had flown in a little later than I did. We then went on another 2-3 hour walking tour of London. I was unprepared for the length of that journey, and my boots with 3 inch heels started to make my feet long for a pair of running shoes. We walked a third time that day as we looked for a place to eat. I finally changed into some flat boots for that walk though, and my feet thanked me tremendously.

Tuesday was an office day. I caught up on email, and tried to finish a business case that had become urgent over the course of the week. I even had a sad desk lunch in the office - although if you notice the sad desk lunch I often eat when I'm working from home you can see that the London version of a sad desk lunch is a huge improvement over what I come up with myself (I'll let you guess which is which).

Tuesday afternoon my UK based colleague took us to The Savoy for Afternoon Tea. This was a nice surprise, and an experience I'm sure I wouldn't have ever thought to have on my own. We had lots of tea, towers of finger sandwiches and scones, fancy pastries, and cakes. My lesson learned from the experience was that the scones were the best part of the whole tea, and I shouldn't have saved room for the pastries or cakes.

I felt badly at the conclusion of the tea for forcing my colleagues to go back to the London office with me so I could work on my business case more. I managed to get enough done after an hour or so though that I finally gave up on it and we all headed out of the office and back to the hotel. The next couple of days in London revolved around the purpose for my trip - a client forum. The forum was good overall. I think my presentation was well received, and I know I got a lot of great feedback from individual clients over the course of the two days. Then it was time to go home. While this isn't how I would structure a vacation to London, it was nice to fit in a few fun things in between the work.


3 Good Things

You might have noticed that I've been in a deep thinking mode lately. One of my friends told me that my blog posts were very heavy. While I don't think she meant that in a bad way, it made me think that even in the midst of deep, heavy thinking there is always space for the light and easy.

Every night when our family sits down to dinner we all say 3 good things from our days. I can't remember when we started this ritual, but it has been with us for several years. There are days when the kids are feeling rushed and crabby when they don't want to participate. However, even if it takes reminders about things we knew were good (maybe the school lunch was spaghetti or french toast sticks, or maybe the school lunch was horrible and they brought a lunch from home) we can get them to come up with their respective 3 good things.

When we started this ritual there was the thought of saying the bad things from our days too, but we decided to leave those out. I think we all find space to complain about things pretty naturally and easily, but finding things to be thankful for can take more effort. Saying the things we are thankful for provides us with far greater benefits than complaining ever can. I won't pretend that dinner in our house is always sunshine and roses, or that saying our 3 good things has the power to reverse a bad mood. I do think it matters though, and I'm glad we do it. I hope when my kids are grown and they find themselves having dinner with each other that one of them will say: "so what were your 3 good things today?" I imagine they will both smile and laugh and say their 3 good things, or maybe just quietly remember how annoying their Mom was when she forced them to be thankful every night.