Spilling the beans

My wife and I have been on quite a long spiritual journey that has, so far, brought us to our current space via a pretty rough road. We both were raised in gerally fundamentalist, evangelical homes in which our particular religious sect was right in God’s eyes, thus we’d cornered the market. 

Long story short, my wife is far more spiritually and mystically open because she has actually spent a significant amount of time reading, practicing yoga and meditation and largely preparing herself for divine encounters. Me on the other hand, I’ve chosen a much slower evolutionary path that is essentially, “I don’t want to invest that much intellectual and mental capital, so I’ll just punch the cruise button and fall asleep for 3 or 4 years. 

Now, I’m starting to come out of my self induced bout of ignorance and have really found the spiritual practices my wife has been apart of to be extremely valuable. Not just for myself, but in creating a deep sense of love and compassion in my cold heart for the community and world around me. Thankfully my wife has been massively supportive as I floundered around her intentionality for the past four years. We’ve always kept open the lines of communication which has proved to be an asset that we will continually invest in. 

Something has recently come up in our discussions, though, about how we maintain familial relationships with people to whom we view the world quite differently, especially when it comes to matters of our understanding of Creator/God/Wisdom/Universe, (however we choose to describe the ground of being) and how that…thing… interacts/interacted with the world in new or old, measurable or mystic, real or imagined ways. We have a fear that when and if we spill the beans about what we really believe about those things which they hold so tightly as foundational to their very existence, they’ll just cut us off completely, which is most certainly not something we are interested in. Nor are we interested in causing a crisis of faith for those family members. But it seems like we are approaching a tipping point where we aren’t able to as easily sit quietly and disagree. 

Our silence will likely continue for the time being as we haven’t come up with a good way to open that can… However, something I was thinking about this morning gave me a little bit of pause. Am I taking myself too seriously? Where’s the humor? Is there really not room for both of our viewpoints at the same table? Why does it have to be either we tell them and we’re cut off, or we don’t tell them and we’re miserable?

Again, middle ground. There has to be a place where we exist that isn’t concerned about the poles. Why must we choose to be separated? Of course we will disagree, on a great number of things I imagine, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still eat together, vacation together and let our kids play Star Wars together, right?

I’m not sure what it looks like yet, but I feel like something good is brewing, so I’ll take some intentional time to let it simmer. 

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Ignorance is…

I never understood quite what the phrase “ignorance is bliss” meant until I’d hurdled around the sun 20 or so times on this little blue ball we call earth. 

Even then, in my early 20’s, I think I assumed ignorance meant a lack of knowing details of sorts, that might cause worry or concern. My mother always used the phrase in the context of health or politics. “Ignorance is bliss,” she would say… “If I don’t go to the doctor and find out what this lump is, I don’t have to worry about it.” Or, “if I choose not to uncover the causes for suffering in the world, I won’t suffer as much.”

These are paraphrases of my early childhood, but they never sat well with me. Most would agree that suffering is part of the human condition, but one must not turn a blind eye or refuse to accept the part it plays for us. If we choose not to enter into suffering, that’s not really a defendable position for ignorance being bliss. That seems more to me to be an unfortunate choice not to engage with humanity. 

Healthcare… that’s an entirely different story. I’m not sure I can tell another person their methods for self care are flawed, at least not unsolicited. But I am the kind of person who would rather have all the details and make plans from there. 

However, I do think there are times when a bit of conscious ignorance is quite helpful. For instance, the current presidential administration. If I were to continue in my addiction to NPR (as unbiased as it is… or so we like to tell ourselves) I could not be present and, for example, enjoy my four year old’s birthday, because I’m might end up being too worried about the possibility that he won’t even have a place to live when he’s my age. 

Sometimes then, I will choose ignorance, I will choose when and where to consume news so that I can be here, in this moment, enjoying the peace of a lunch break and the view of the snow covered mountains not ten miles from my home. 

I don’t know what’s to come of this current administration, and if I’m honest, I’m pretty skeptical about the good that will come of it. I am not however going to be paralyzed by my fear of possibilities. I must make a conscious, deliberate, intentional decision to live in this moment with my two amazing boys and fantastically loving and compassionate wife. 

So, am I ignorant? When it brings me into this moment to love more fully and engage more authentically, absolutely. 

Where to now?

Yesterday was a pretty big day. The 20th of this month seems to have came and gone without much fanfare, but the 21st, the #Womensmarch, garnered quite a bit more attention. By the latest estimates, somewhere close to the tune of 4 million people marching all across the country.

Pretty big deal it seems. My wife was able to go to the Denver march and was, for lack of a better phrase, completely overwhelmed not just by the sheer scale of the crowd, but the fact that so many people were gathered with the same purpose. ¬†All that to say, we probably should have joined her. There were families with kids, dads, mothers, a little of everyone there. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to kick this fear that seems to be wrapped up in our white privilege. “What if our kids get hurt?” “Is this something we should expose our family to?”

The truth is, we live in a bubble. There are people who have been struggling for years and years. A man on the bus with my wife and her friends yesterday took the time to ask about the sign she was holding and what it was for. He thanked her for participating. Without skipping a beat, my wife immediately responded, “Sir, I am not worthy of thanks. You have been blazing this trail long before I was even born. You’ve shown us how its done. So, thank you!” As they sat on the bus, this black man teared up and simply responded, “Thank you.”

I have a sense things are shifting. I hope that people beginning to see the necessity of shedding this tribal language, us and them, right and wrong. Things are a bit more nuanced than that. We need each other, that I’m sure of. The other bits, I’m not sure. Are we two easily distracted? Flashy, glitzy magazine articles telling us what will make us happy, LED screens constantly alerting us of things someone else thinks are important, I’m right and you’re wrong…

Ancient wisdom teachers, mystics and peace advocates of today all seem to tell us there is something more, something better. The universe is unfolding, growing, increasing in its depth, complexity and unity (thanks Rob Bell – Everything is Spiritual), though I couldn’t hope to understand it, I certainly want to join in the process.

I am hopeful of the places we are going. I am ready to be a person of true authenticity, living life with all humanity. We need strong men, as one sign I saw from yesterday said, “to grow a vagina.” I am privileged, being white and male, and I need to use that privilege not for my own gain, but to speak honestly, compassionately and forcefully for those groups who have been silenced over the centuries. We all need to stand for the greater good, because it’s right.

The world is a better place when we are all on the same team.

The middle ground

Today I can’t really find the right words to start. Often I can’t find the right words, so silence seems to suit me. 

I’m also not sure about a whole more stuff than when I was younger. If there’s something to be said about fundamental evangelicalism, certainty is at the top of the list. Without that construct, I’ve certainly got a lot more questions, within which I have become much more comfortable, even preferring a bit of ambiguity over certainty. 

I still struggle with church (largely organized religious activit) and politics. When I was young, my basic operating assumption was that America was god’s chosen country and its god-ordained method of leadership was the Republican Party platform, though we never had sermons about politics from our pulpits. It was kind of an unspoken understanding that all good christians vote republican. 

Of course my leanings now are quite a bit different. Now my struggle is not that I tend to err democratic, even socialist (gasp!), but that depending on what building you go to on any given Sunday morning, that becomes a rallying cry, a shouting match of us-versus-them. I hate to break this news to my liberal church friends, but you’re nearly as fundamentalist from the left side or the church sanctuary.

Now I realize currently that I am painting a you’re-wrong-and-we’re-right, which is now, the one thing that really turns me off about both the environment that I was raised in and the current system in which I’ve planted myself. It is very difficult to find people talking about the middle ground. Why do we all need to be on separate teams? And why, as spiritual followers of a 1st century Palestinian Jew do we think the American democratic system is going to solve all our problems? Isn’t that the system that killed Jesus for living a life that was other-centered, against the norms of his current system?

Maybe Gandhi’s age-old mantra, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” should actually be taken seriously. Maybe Jesus was serious when he talked over and over about looking out for the least, take care of each other (not drafting new laws, organizing committees or voting with a certain party), feeding each other, hosting each other in your home, providing for those who are without when you have plenty. As Rob Bell (I know my current library of inspiration is embarrassingly limited) says, “what kind of world do you see? A world of scarcity, or one of plenty?”

I’m ready to start seeing one of plenty, where I vote, but am much more interested in meeting actual, daily needs of the people within my community. Then hopefully they will do the same with their friends and family, and they will do the same, and so on…

That sounds like a much better place to be apart of, so that’s what I’m going to be working toward. I want to occupy the middle ground, where we are all partners, working for the good of us all,  not just good for a few. 

Searching

So, here’s the thing. I’ve been submerged in this notion of deconstructing my faith, without really knowing what to call it. The terminology has come about only recently thanks to folks like Rob Bell and The Liturgists podcast, among others. Having been wrapped up in this largely cerebral process of pulling my faith apart, logical piece by logical piece, I never lost my sense of community and the overwhelming need both for myself and for my family and honestly, for humanity as a whole to be connected, apart of each other’s lives. 

Having said that, I now find myself in a space where I am ready to begin rebuilding some sort of faith (I don’t know what else to call it at this point). I find great value and energy spending time with people in real, authentic, life giving and transforming sorts of ways. 

As I’ve mentioned before I grew up in a largely conservative Christian space, and though there are certain theological and social issues that separate us, there is a sense of community, of being apart of something that is so very needed in our individualized society. But we can’t see ourselves in those churches again because if my wife is a second class member, as well as my GLBTQ friends, we can’t hang, if you catch my drift. 

So, we gravitated to progressive Christianity. Which, theologically and socially speaking, most everything it stands for, I can get behind. There are some things though that may come as news and possibly offensive to my progressive friends. The democratic political process is not going to save the world. I’m as uneasy as any other liberal Christian about a Donald Trump presidency, but I don’t think Jesus gave a shit about Cesar or the unjust laws that essentially imprisioned the majority of the population. 

I think there is a middle ground that no one is talking about. A place between the liberal change-the-laws-of-the-land mentality and the everyone-is-wrong -except-us version of conservative Christianity. And I know some argue that Christianity as a whole is dangerous, but personally, I’m not sure. What could be wrong with actually taking care of each other, like, paying each other’s bills, feeding our friends, actually living life together? When I read stories in the sacred writings of Christianity, that’s what I see and that’s what I want. Though of course, one doesn’t need a church to do good in the world, I realize that. 

But, I still long for that group of like minded people. We are looking, but I have yet to find a group, church or community here that is interested both in the compassionate life, lived in community with friends and family as well as taking care of those around us. What really makes a difference for people who are living in, say, poverty? Saying I’m going to work to change laws to help you out, or actually paying for a medical bill or trip to the grocery store? 

I’m kind of rambling now, which I guess is progress. Needless to say, I may need to visit this one again. There’s a lot here. 

Clean out

One of my hopes with this blog thing is the clean out some of the calcified crap that has built up in my head through years of not practicing awareness, creativity and discipline. I’m not sure I will be able to identify when I’ve “arrived,” but again, this whole idea of a journey, an adventure, even an expedition seems like an apt description. 

I really want to make room for the important things that for one reason or another, I’ve simply let fall by the wayside. I also know that there have been several recent post where I mention silence, meditation (or prayer might be a little more comfortable description for some) and awareness as portals of sorts by which we tap into the greater movement of the universe. As I’ve also said before, I’m starting to crave those moments of silence. Even as I play some chanting in the background as I write, there is something overwhelmingly centering, soothing, right, whole. 

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Priest, suggests that from silence, true action arises, thus we must fully enter into that silence, otherwise we react and fail to fully experience our own lives. We get caught up in a cycle of looking toward the next exciting thing rather than fully embracing this current moment. He says, if we are bored with this moment, we will be bored with the next. Silent Compassion is the book and maybe I’m just in a place currently where I’m open, but yikes! There is some really good stuff in there. 

All that to say, I have a feeling that the combination of entering into intentional silence and meditation mixed with wise words from those who have spent their lives exploring these things has really been good for me. 

Also, as I am coming to more fully understand, the things that work well for me may not be what works for someone else and it’s high time that I quit expending so much energy trying to convince others to walk my path with me.  Doesn’t that just sound crazy? Well, that’s the conservative baggage I’ve been trying to shed for the last 5 years and I’m just now starting to get a grasp on it. Wow!

Needless to say, I can can feel life growing inside me and I’m ready to chase that light wherever it leads. 

Parenting 101

Check out what we found as my wife and I were getting ready to climb in bed. 


Oh, the things no one tells you when thinking about parenthood. I had my thoughts about it; wrestling on the floor, throwing every conceivable type of ball, learning to ride a bike. 

But it’s this little stuff that regularly catches me off guard. A stuffed storm trooper laying in our bed, boogers on toys, clothes, walls, sheets, two boys singing opposing choruses of the Star Wars and Tron themes. 

Most of this parenting gig is awesome, and yet I still feel like I’m screwing up my boys either because I just flat made a fool of myself, I’m too selfish to engage or in or I’m preoccupied with some nonsense that really, in the grand scheme of life, doesn’t matter in the least. 

Intuitively I’m pretty sure I know the stuff I can do better, but this damn ego of mine puts up road blocks left and right. As of late, I think that’s why I’m gravitating to the Richard Rohrs, Thich Nhat Hahns and John Philip Newells of the world. There is a peace and silence they advocate that is not simply turning things off or getting away (solitude), but entering into a different realm that we might become people who not only think differently, but we also act and interact more holistically with our families, friends, humanity and all things living, created and evolving, even this planet and our relationship to it. 

I am hoping, that as I begin to embark on this journey of purpose and intention with my wife and family, I will start to become more aware of the light in myself and those around me, taking time to relish the beauty of my kids rather than letting my ass get chapped because they sing the same song all day long or punch me in the junk for the ninth time today. 

I keep coming back to the question, what kind of person do I want to be? How will we engage in lives of peace and compassion? We’ll see. Should be an exciting journey. 

Checking in

As this blog, as it were, is primarily a place for me to journal and record things floating around in my head, I thought I probably should take a moment to check in with myself and see how things are going. Though it may be surprising to hear that I’m really pretty bad at this, it is true. 

I aim to be better, to pay attention to my physical body, the mental and spiritual parts that make up this frankly odd gathering of protons, electrons and neutrons that I call myself. 

I’ve not spent time with the quiet today, and I miss it, I long for it. Perhaps I’ll take a moment after clearing out some of this noise. 

I said no to joining a (religious) board at our church. I’m still having a great deal of difficulty with the idea of organized (in a building, primarily on Sundays) religion and the thought of getting involved in church politics, the governing of the physical entity that is our church, just seemed, as Rob Bell suggested in a recent podcast, like an activity that would neither be worth my while or energy providing for my soul. So I said no, which also, is a bit out of character. 

I’ll have to dwell on that for a bit. 

My bike ride was snowy and chilly this morning in to work, but I love the variability of sketchy weather. It is the most obvious and tangible thing that I have no control over, and I can tell you that, in my well ordered and organized existence, I love weather changes. 

I also adore my wife. There is not another human being alive with whom I would rather spend my time. She is the most amazing, strong, well-spoken, level-headed mother, wife and woman I know. Of course, I might be just a bit biased. 

Life is pretty good at the moment. My wife isn’t working, so paying bills may prove to be difficult, but possibly for the first time in a very long time, I am really not terribly concerned about it. Things will work out. They always have. I don’t know how, nor could I provide a set of data that would prove that notion, but somewhere deep in my bones, I just feel like things are going to be okay. Because for the first time we are intentionally slowing down to give ourselves adequate time to figure out what we really want for ourselves and our family. 

It’s fantastic. I have no idea where we are going, but I think the mystery is exciting and I can wait to see where we end up. Or more importantly, I can’t wait to wake up to the journey. 

Until the next round. 

Silence, revisited

I’m sure this will be something I come back to often,  largely because I’m bad at it. Silence. I wouldn’t say it scares me, but I don’t yet know what to do with it. 

According to one bad-ass priest named Richard Rohr, silence really isn’t a thing to master, but something to enter into, like the air that completely surrounds us. To Mr. Rohr, without silence, we react, we jump from activity to activity and never really experience our own lives. Gut punch!

I like to think I’m a little more in tune with my own existence, but truth be told, I’m just coasting. Silence seems like a waste of time in this society, though I am not one to withhold criticism for the ridiculous amount of crap that happens in this country without so much as a blink from the majority. I’ll save that for later, since I’m still working out the usefulness of such critiques anyhow. 

One thing I do know for sure is that I am part of the human race and it is my full intention to live compassionately on behalf of it and if silence helps me get to a place where I can join in the journey of life with my community, I’ll practice until my death. I haven’t bought back into the organized religion stuff yet, but there are voices and movements of within the universe that suggest we are better off working together, finding commonality rather than dwelling on our differences. 

I’ll see where the journey goes and I’m hopeful for the good. 

Practice 

You know, some folks often say, “practice makes perfect.” Hell, I find myself saying that to my 10 year old all the time. I honestly can’t begin to imagine the number of times I’ve used that phrase which is quite interesting because there are others in my life who’ve been know to say things like, “practice what you preach.”

Well, we all know it’s much easier to point out the flaws in other people, especially our kids, because they don’t have any say in the matter; “I’m your dad!”

Truth is, I am not great at either of those two aphorisms. I have my days when I toil at something long enough that I gain a skill or actually pay attention to the things I’m saying, being aware enough to know when I’m about to put my own foot in my mouth. 

I think that’s the ticket, awareness. Seems to be a catch phrase lately, but my wife has been onto it for at least 5 years and she’s been doing her best to ivite me along with her on that journey. Sadly most of the time I more closely resemble a stubborn ass than a supportive husband and partner. That will change. As we like to say in our household, I need to “woman-up” and make some positive change for our family too. 

Side note: The whole man-up bit is, in my opinion, pretty ridiculous, especially, dudes, if we’re honest with ourselves, the reality is, we’re the pussies. Put me in a room pushing a baby out of my loins, sans medication. Ha! I can barely get myself out of bed with a cold and my wife is a fully functioning human being with a massive migraine, at the doctor’s office, kids screaming. And still she comes home to cook dinner, schedule a dentist visit, deal with insurance and sip hot tea next to my pathetic self on the couch. 

I digress. For the sake of my wellbeing and the wellbeing of my family, I must be one who practices presence and awareness, living life on purpose rather than hanging on and hoping things go well.