No update tomorrow

Today the family and I are heading to the beach with friends for our second annual Goodbye to Summer Beach Weekend. We’ll be spending the night there so unfortunately that means I’ll be missing church tomorrow. I do plan to visit another church next weekend, as well as keep up with my reading the Quran. I have not yet decided which place of worship to visit next weekend, so if you have a suggestion, I am happy to hear it. I don’t want to visit a Muslim mosque yet, as I have not finished the Quran, and I would like to read the Guru Granth Sahib before I visit a Sikh temple, and the writings of Baha’u'llah before I visit the Baha’i church. A very nice woman from the local Baha’i church has asked me to join her for lunch, though, so I’d love to do that before I visit them. This weekend some very nice elders from the local LDS/Mormon church came by to introduce themselves and welcome me to their church, but my very good LDS friend said it is better to go on the first Sunday of the month (except for October) if I had to pick just one day. So I’m aiming to go their on the first Sunday in November. There are several places I contacted that have not yet gotten back to me about visiting - Jain, Church of Christ, Hindu, Brethren, Ethiopian Orthodox, Krishna, Zoroastrian, Kabbalah, Opus Dei, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science, Chan Buddhist, and Jewish, and I’d like to at least speak with someone before I go. I guess that sort of narrows it down a bit? I’ve emailed the Buddhist temple three times now, because I’d really love to participate in their precepts ceremony. I’ve been a Buddhist for about 8 years now and have not yet officially taken my precepts in front of the monks. The ceremony isn’t until Oct 26th so I still have time, but I don’t want to miss it, as they don’t happen but about once a year and I’ve missed it every other year. I suppose I’ll have to call them, but I really hate talking on the phone.

Why do we love Jesus?

The more reading and studying I have been doing, the more religious people I have come into contact with. I’ve been frequenting a lot of religious Facebook pages under my Religion Reflection account and interacting with a variety of people from various religions. One question has been standing out to me a lot lately, and that is why do different people love Jesus? Not because I am curious what is lovable, only what are people’s motivations. From what I have gathered, there seems to be three different camps of people. A) Those that love Jesus because they fear him. They are the people who will tell people like me ‘you must love God and Jesus and say he is your savior, or else you will burn in hell! Aren’t you scared to not believe in Him? Don’t you know what will happen if you don’t worship Him? B) The people who love their Jesus because they want favors. They are the ones who tell people like me ‘You really need to become worship Jesus. HE answers my prayers, makes me feel safe and comforted, protects me from evil, smites my enemies and when I die, He will give me a home in Paradise!” and C) The people who love Him for who He was in his human life. They admire and love Him the way people love and admire the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, etc. They see Jesus as a political and social activist who stood up for the poor and meek, healed the sick, and created a real change in the world. These people may or may not believe in the rest of Christianity. For most of the first part of my life, I fell into the first camp. I came from a church background of fire, brimstone and damnation so I was taught to fear God and Jesus. I spent way more time fearing religion than being grateful or feeling loving thoughts toward it. For the latter part of my life, I’ve been in the third camp. I have fluctuated in my belief in the divine nature of Jesus, but I have always held Him in extremely high esteem. I would be the first to announce that I loved Jesus, even if he wasn’t magical and even if he couldn’t punish or reward me. Now that I look at it though, I may have even thought I was a little better than the first two camps because I loved Jesus without expecting anything in return. Is one camp really better than the other? Is there a correct way to love Jesus?

Do unto others

‎”Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” – Confucius

“Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.” - Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BCE)

“Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.” – Pittacus (c. 640–568 BCE) Ancient Greece

“Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.” —Bahá’u'lláh - founder of the Baha’i faith

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” - Buddha

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” —Talmud, Shabbat 31a (Jewish)

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” Luke 6:31 New Testament

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.” - Hindu texts

“The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.” Muhammed PBUH

“Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion.” —Suman Suttam Jainist text

“Thus today we have two golden rules for happiness: 1. Be able to experience anything; and 2. Cause only those things which others are able to experience easily.” —Scientology

“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” - Taoism

“These eight words the Rede fulfill, ‘an ye harm none do as ye will.” —The Wiccan Rede

“Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.” — Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29. Zoroastrianism

“All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.” - Black Elk, Native American Spirituality

“Be charitable to all beings, love is the representative of God.” - Shinto

“Don’t create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone.” - Sikhism

“We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” - Unitarian Universalism

“One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.” - Yoruba (Native African religion)

My visit with the Catholic church

My first stop on the religious path was a Roman Catholic church called St. Angela Merici. I contacted Father Rooney last week and asked if he would mind if I joined them for mass, and he invited me to his church this weekend. He also invited me to talk with him a little about Catholicism also. I arrived about 20 minutes early, and said goodbye to my husband as I got out of the car (he was dropping me off). I said “I love you” and shut the door. I hadn’t walked far before a man laughed and said “I thought you were talking to me!” I replied “well, I do like you even though I don’t know you…actually, I love everyone. I love you!” His wife laughed along with us and we all introduced ourselves. They were Rick and Betsy and were just getting their 5 month old grandson out of the car to take him in. I told them I was new, and not only new but not even a Catholic at that. I confessed to having no idea what I was doing, and they immediately offered to take me in and show me the ropes. I was incredibly happy, as I’d been nervous all day about walking in and not knowing what to do and making a fool of myself. They introduced me to a few people inside, and one girl asked if anyone knew what St. Angela Merici (whom the church is named for) was the patron saint of. No one in the immediate area did, so I googled it and informed them that she was the saint of the disabled and ill. I think I may have gained a few brownie points with that They thanked me, let me know that I was welcome to sit with them during mass, and then showed me where to find Father Rooney. He welcomed me and told me how glad he was I had made it. He asked if I’d like to chat a little bit before mass and I did, so we had a seat. He said he was very interested in my project and wanted to hear more, so I told him what I am doing here and why. He asked if I’d ever been to a Catholic church before and I admitted yes, I’d been with my biological mother after I’d met her again right after I turned 18. He found it interesting that my biological mother was Catholic but I shared with him that she and I were no longer in contact. I spoke about the falling out we’d had over my being liberal (to which he informed me that a lot of catholics are liberal), for having gay friends (to which he informed me he believes that people are born gay and there is no reason to judge them or not be their friend) and because I am Buddhist (to which he replied that he thinks highly of the Buddhist religion. He said he believes that many religions have truth in them, and he admired the Buddhist philosophies of doing good and being compassionate. He shed a completely different light on his religion and fellow Catholics than the impression I had gotten before then. I told him that I had some questions for him, both from myself and from some others who were following my journey. We agreed it would be best for me to email them to him for him to answer. I will post them when he replies to me with them.
He had to leave to get ready for the service and I went into the main part of the sanctuary and joined Rick and Betsy in the front left. We started off singing a hymn - We Are Called

1. Come! Live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the Kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God!

Refrain: We are called to act with justice,
we are called to love tenderly,
we are called to serve one another;
to walk humbly with God!

2. Come! Open your heart!
Show Your mercy to all those in fear!
We are called to be hope for the hopeless
so all hatred and blindness will be no more!
3. Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign, and we’ll walk with each other
as sisters and brothers united in love!

and then we were instructed to greet the people around us. Father Rooney spoke about how important it was to welcome new people and really make them feel at home, and help them know what to do. They got an A+ at that in my experience.

From what I can recall (and unfortunately, I do not remember the exact order of things, or which hymns were sung other than the above) next was a reading from the bible that spoke of how the locals of the area were very upset with Jesus’s disciples for not following the ritual of hand washing before meals. Jesus had replied to them that it is not what goes into the body that makes someone unclean, but what we do. Gossip, greed, selfishness, blasphemy, hate, etc, that’s what people do the makes them unclean, not rituals and traditions. He also said that Jesus said all who praise his name are not his followers. Too many people worship Jesus and God with their words, but they don’t actually do anything that Jesus commands us to do. And what does Jesus want us to do? Take care of widows and orphans, and love our neighbors. This part made me smile, as I have two children whom I adopted from orphanages, and charities that care for orphans are close to my heart. Father Rooney went on to say, though, that we have all experiences loss. Deaths of loved ones, losses of jobs, income, friendships, etc. We are all widows and orphans in that sense. We need to reach out to one another and take care of each other in times of loss and need.
The priest read about the current church bulletin, cookbooks being in, a prison ministry they were starting for anyone who felt called, getting the children who could read to start doing more with the church, and about it being the 3rd anniversary of them being in that new church. They sang a hymn that was the first hymn they’d sung in the new place in celebration. I thought their church was very beautiful. It was decorated very nicely, and was welcoming and inviting without being so over the top that you would wonder if the money wouldn’t have been better spent helping the poor. Soon it was time for the communion, and there was a lovely ritual with a song and some chanting as the father blessed the wine and yeast he broke off. As we stood and got in line, my friends informed me to cross my arms over my chest and instead of receiving communion, I would receive a blessing instead, which I did. I noticed everyone else held their hands out as someone, a lady in my case) would say “the body of christ” and place a bit of the thin yeast wafer in their hands. They would eat it, and it seemed most people kept their hands in a prayer position as they ate it. In the middle was a line for the wine, which I did not enter. I observed that the priest would say something, I imagine was “the blood of Christ”, and they would drink from a gold chalice. There was a little more singing, and a man got up and said a prayer for everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. He prayed for the government, the people who make laws, the sick and injured, the kids returning back to school, parents, professional, the Pope, the archbishop, the nuns, you name it. Then Father Rooney led us in prayer and dismissed us. I was very excited that I had remembered the Lord’s Prayer from when I was a child in Sunday School at my Nazarene church. Pride may be a sin, but I grinned from ear to ear as I was able to follow along with everyone else and not be the only one who didn’t know the words. As we left, my friends reminded me it was proper to genuflect (bow) to the Christ on the cross at the front of the sanctuary, so I did. I told them that as a Buddhist, we’re often accused of worshiping idols because we bow to Buddha statues. They replied that people accuse them of the same thing for bowing. They didn’t know anything about Buddhism, so I told them that to us, the Buddha is not a god, but was just a wise man and we bow to the Buddha statues as a sign of respect for a teacher, much like martial arts students bow to their sensei. They do not believe their sensei is a god, they are just showing respect. They told me that as we left, there would be bowls of water that the priest had blessed, and if I chose, I could dip my fingers in it and make the sign of the cross. I did so, but I probably got it backwards. I remember saying “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” a lot in church as a kid, but I was never really taught how to do the sign of the cross. Father Rooney thanked me again for coming and asked me what I thought and if I enjoyed myself, which I told him I did. I said goodbye to my new friends and greeted several more people on the way out. All in all I am very glad I went and I did come away with a much higher opinions of Catholics in general for having gone. Not that my opinion was poor of all Catholics, but I did learn things that made me see them in a different light. I hope the rest of my experiences go as well in the future.

Testing the waters

I emailed about 17 different places of worship in my area yesterday, asking if they would mind if I joined them for a service. I explained all about my project and how I am hoping to visit a service for each religion, and how I really want to participate as much as I can. I got messages back from the Baha’is, Mennonites, Muslim and Hebraic Christians. I was welcomed at each. The Baha’i lady sent me some information and we chatted for a bit. She’s extremely nice and I liked her a lot. The Mennonite pastor was also very welcoming, and he offered to set me up with a worship partner so I wouldn’t feel alone and uncomfortable. The Hebraic Christian pastor shared with me about how she had been agnostic too until she went on a journey like mine years back. The Islamic center person told me that he and his wife have taught classes for 20 years or more, and there are always non-Muslims there, so there would be no need for me to feel out of place. It’s really made me feel more at ease about this. Not that I really expected anyone to tell me no, I’m not welcome at their church or temple or mosque, but I did feel uneasy just walking in and being so different and obviously out of place, and what they would think of me if they knew I wasn’t there because I was honestly interested in converting to their religion. I’m still waiting to hear back from about a dozen places, hopefully today. I had two emails bounce back to me, unfortunately, so I have no way of contacting them. Still other places had no contact info or website that I could go to. It’s 2012, I think it’s about time that churches and other places of worship got on the web, don’t you? It’s hard for me to know what that particular denomination is about, that particular churches’ attitudes about things, worship times, upcoming stuff, or even the pastor or leader’s name if they don’t have a web presence. Yes, I could call, but I absolutely despise talking on the phone, especially to people I don’t know. I get all self-conscious and weird.
So, wish me luck that I get around a dozen more emails back and that they are all as warm and welcoming as they ones I have received so far. I’m so excited for this to begin! Now I just need a cute pair of black flat shoes to wear with my new churchy clothes.

But I like their god better…

Last night I read two more chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book. I’m really digging it so far. It’s like the Old Testament for Buddhists. Hindu is to Buddhism as Judaism is to Christianity. These chapters I read, The Sovereign Secret and the Sovereign Science, and Manifestions of the Divine Glories, really struck me. In these chapters, basically Lord Krishna is telling Arjuna that the Divine (Brahma as he is named here) is everywhere and everything. All is contained in him and he is contained in all. He says there isn’t any one way to worship him because all worship given in graciousness, gratitude and sincerity is to him. Offering a sacrifice as little as a leaf, singing a praise, thinking adoringly on his name, appreciating nature that he created, being charitable to others, fasting, giving your wisdom and talents, chanting om, whatever it is that you do, it will be accepted by him cheerful if done with devotion and sincerity. And none who do this will be excluded. However, he says, futile are the works, and the knowledge of the people of perverted understanding who are deluded by their pride, cruelty and passionate natures. What happens to them? Do they burn in hell for eternity? No, they don’t discover the secret of the Divine and therefore they have to be reborn and do this all again so they can have another chance to learn. Krishna says of Brahma “I am the same to all beings. None are hateful to me, none are dear. Those who worship and dwell in me, I will also dwell in them. Even a confirmed sinner, if he worships me with devotion, he will be considered righteous. No devotee of mine will ever perish.”
It appears that to obtain oneness with the divine is to realize once and for all that you are not separate from him. He is contained in you and you in him. There is no separateness. You do not have to strive to meet the divine because you are already there. What is most upsetting, it appears, is to worship the divine in name and ritual, but not recognize that the divine is in all and acting accordingly.

Brahma sounds to me more like the divine Jesus spoke of than the Hebrew God, personally. But do we get to choose who God is? This one sounds nicer and more palatable to me, but it’s not like this is a democratic election where I get to cast a vote on who I want to be God. There are three different scenarios here. Either there is no God at all, or these are all manifestations of the same God and different people interpreted him differently, or this is a dictatorship such as in the Judaic religions where one God is real, the others are false, you either worship Him or Jesus will come along and knock you on your knees and force you to worship him before they send you to burn for eternity. Again, I don’t get a vote on which is real. I can tell you which one sounds nicer, but that doesn’t mean it’s how it is. Will I ever know which one is the real truth? I hope so. I’m trying.


I am hoping to really kick off my project in September and start attending some places of worship. I admit to begin a little scared though. Not the same type of scared as I feel when I remember I’m supposed to take a discovery flight lesson in a few days, but still nervous. I think my nerves are just my brain recalling being the unpopular kid in school. Having to walk into all my classes, not knowing anyone, worried no one will like me, afraid of being unsupported, and even a little worried about bullies. Walking into any new situation alone makes me anxious. My husband has had some very bad experiences with church and religion and has no desire to do this, and most of my friends are not keen on exploring other religions though I do have a couple who said they may join me occasionally, which would be awesome. I know I can do this, I just have a tendency to psyche myself out a lot. A LOT. I so very much want to accomplish this goal. I hope I don’t defeat myself in the process.

I’m discussing this topic with some really cool people I met on in the new forums. If you want to come hang out, you should join!

Ignoring the obvious

I was a teenager in the early 90′s, and thus I was right in the middle of the grunge era. Like most people my age, my favorite band was Nirvana. In the little fold out insert inside the Nevermind CD were the lyrics to all the songs, like Smells Like Teen Spirit. The lyrics to this song said “Our little tribe has always been and always will until the end.” Now, if you listen to the song, Kurt very clearly sings “our little group has always been and always will until the end.” So naturally, you’d assume when you can clearly hear Kurt saying group instead of tribe, you’d understand the correct lyric to be group, right? Oh not me. The lyrics clearly said tribe, so I sang tribe. When people would tell me I was wrong and the word was group, I’d correct them and tell them to read the lyrics. Even today when I hear the song, sometimes I catch myself still singing tribe. I suppose I was a Nirvana fundamentalist of sorts. You could not have convinced me the correct lyric was group, even though I plainly heard group. I wasn’t deaf or ignorant. I knew what he said. I always knew he said group. To this day, I don’t know why I insisted on believing the print when I very clearly heard reality with my own two ears.

I feel like this sometimes in regards to the bible sometimes as well. I feel like if I believe every word to be infallible and inerrant, I will have to believe the words and completely disregard the reality I can hear, see, and feel with my own brain. The bible tells me tribe when the world very clearly says group. Could I go back to believing what is written and ignoring what I personally experience? Would I want to?

Wait, I was a Nazarene?

My husband’s cousin Barbara posted a comment on another of my posts asking me to define what a Nazarene is. I was raised in the Nazarene church from the time I was in the nursery until I was an adult. At one time I would’ve told you I was a devout Nazarene. When Barbara asked me to define it, I realized I had no idea what Nazarene really meant. How does it differ from, say, Methodist or Baptist? To be honest, I had to google it.
This is was wikipedia had to say about it - “The Church of the Nazarene is an evangelical Christian denomination that emerged from the 19th-century Holiness movement in North America. With its members colloquially referred to as Nazarenes, it is the largest Wesleyan-holiness denomination in the world.” Their beliefs include ” one eternal self-existent God manifest in a threefold nature; the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit; the authority of the Bible; Original and Personal Sin; the work of atonement; prevenient grace; the need for repentance; justification, regeneration, and adoption; entire sanctification; the church; baptism by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring; the Lord’s Supper for all believers; divine healing; the return of Jesus Christ; and the resurrection of the dead.” All those years I was one, I don’t think I could have ever defined any of that for anyone. I knew we believe in the trinity, in the bible as the infallible word of God, baptism and that Jesus would return for those who believed in me. But I think that’s most Christian churches. So that leads me to wonder, how many of us really clearly know what our own religion or denomination is about, its history and the core of its beliefs? How many of us stay with the religion we are born with, and continue to follow it without ever asking questions or studying it? If you don’t know the basics of your religion, I encourage you to google them!