Get an independent view of God

Church is where I met a veteran who served in Afghanistan. I talk about it in my memoir, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter. Roland told me about when overseas, he got caught in a melee of explosions, and in his words said, “I remember sh*&#ting my pants and then waking up in the hospital.”

He recovered and retired from the army after twenty years.

Today, Roland and I mostly talked about God.

It’s weird because the word God is loaded too and involves a lot of wars and battles. But it also involves blessings and healings, and because I’m in the mood to celebrate July 4, I’m making a new connection.

July 4 is the agreed upon date we remember the United States Declaration of Independence, made public in 1776.

First, it’s important to recognize that a declaration is a far cry different from winning independence. Eight years of combat fighting was necessary before independence was won, so it stands to reason that a fight, or at least hard work, is required to win an independent thought about God, free of past mistaken thinking.

People’s views of God are vast and famous. But over the centuries many views are proven irrelevant.

Examples:

Because we can experience hell or heaven on earth, then God didn’t predestine us to heaven and hell after death. Might as well aim for heaven.

Because we’re still learning about everything, then we can’t say God created mortal human beings. Because we’re still discovering, we can say God created unseen spiritual beings.

Quoting from science & religion to God, “Let us prepare for the supremacy of Spirit—the government and law of universal harmony, which cannot be lost or remain forever unseen.”

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The Greatest Showman

The film, The Greatest Showman (2017) entertained me immensely last night. It was clean. It had dancing, singing, and a story-line that doesn’t match history.

The protagonist is Phineas Taylor Barnum, most familiar to me as the guy who operated P. T. Barnum’s Grand traveling museum and circus in the 19th century.

I remind myself, most movies aren’t real and writers and actors are paid to entertain. It’s curious to me however that fiction can generate real feelings and emotions when I’m watching productions. And The Greatest Showman brought out feelings of good-will, dignity, spirit, and faithfulness.

In the movie, Barnum comes out as a man who celebrated the diversity of humanity. Maybe so in real life, but I don’t know. History has it that Barnum started his gigs after buying the right to rent an aged black slave. He told his audiences she was the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington.

I have no idea how many people believed the tale, but human mind is pretty good at believing what it wants.

Thankfully, we have divine mind and a spiritual consciousness to decipher reality.

Quoting, from science & religion to God:

“The ideas of Mind are real and tangible to spiritual consciousness. Mind’s ideas have the advantage of being real and good, whereas objects and thoughts of physical sense are contradictory and not absolute.

“There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth, matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal, matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and person is God’s image and likeness. Therefore, person is not material, but spiritual.”

 

A Chapter from my book

A chapter from my book, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter

Keeping It Straight

The farmer’s market got a reputation. Officials from other markets, including from the Seattle Pike’s Place Market, visited Pasco to watch its operation. I’d give them tours and answered questions. They took notes. The standard comment to me was, “I can’t believe you don’t have theft problems.”

The comment tempted me to pat myself on the back. I diligently prayed for honesty and believed my prayers had positive effects. Cash was the main currency. In the crowded hubbub, purses were opened and closed. Pants pockets were dug through for money and dollar bills were handed to farmers, who threw the money in shoeboxes and crates.

In an apron tied around my waist, I carried thousands of dollars from paid vendor fees, even serving as the local bank for change. Theft was only mentioned once.

A vendor noticed a pair of handcrafted wooden earrings missing from his rack. Two weeks later he told me, almost incredulously, “Cheryl, those earrings reappeared on the table.”

My prayer for honesty was fine and good, but I knew the people and atmosphere had a lot to do with it. The customers genuinely appreciated the fresh produce, handed to them by the very people who put their hearts and souls into the products. The vendors were from family farms, not corporations. There was no middleman to dilute the authenticity. The good outweighed the bad.

Not that it was all hunky-dory. Irritation, jealousy, and plain old weariness crept in periodically to throw us off guard. Fortunately, we’d help one another get back on track quickly, even when we didn’t know it. Like the time a woman helped me correct myself.

It was a scorching August day when more than seventy vendors showed up. I wiped salty perspiration from my eyes and was menstruating, not always a trouble-free task for me. I moved cautiously so blood wouldn’t start rolling down between my legs. People kept asking me for help, keeping me from walking across the street to where the bathroom was located.

I watched three vendors walk up to me at once, all talking, or rather complaining. When they were standing within an arm’s reach in front of me, I held up my hand, palm out as a stop sign. They stopped and quieted. I pointed to the person I figured would be the quickest to deal with. “I need change for this $50,” he said. I made the change.

I pointed to the second person, who said, “I need plastic bags.”

“You can buy some bags at stall three,” I answered, and then looked at the woman who stood with an agitated, indignant expression on her face.

“You told me to sell from stall fifteen and there is no way I can get in that stall. Do you see all these people? I have a truckload of peppers and tomatoes and need to get them out of the sun. It’s impossible to get in stall fifteen. I’ve tried. There’s no way.”

In the middle of her verbal explosion, I saw a thought pass through my head that harkened unmistakably: Women like you are why we are considered the weaker, dumber sex.

Though feeling annoyed, I said to her, “Please take me to your truck and I will help you.” I followed and asked her if it’d be okay if I backed her truck into stall fifteen. She gave me her keys and within two minutes she was selling her produce, relieved and happy.

Oddly, I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt a bit chastened.

When walking to the bathroom. I quickly realized I’d judged the woman alongside the thought that some women feed male chauvinism. I’d spent my life dodging male chauvinism because plenty of men treated me with prejudice, as if I was weak and dumb. So, why would I entertain what amounted to a male chauvinist thought?

Later in the day, I took the time to answer that question the best I could. It dawned on me chauvinism wasn’t gender specific. It was simply narrow-mindedness, a laziness that doesn’t help others. I would be adding to it if I accepted that thought about the woman that had passed through my head earlier. I mentally re-routed my thinking to admit it was chauvinism that annoyed me, not the woman. I affirmed that I didn’t help the woman because she was daft, but because I could help her in a way she understood. We were equals.

It was an exercise in breaking apart thoughts and reconnecting useful thoughts to get a more inclusive picture. The exercise helped me later when reading the Bible at home.

I read the story about Elisha who met a distraught mother in debt. She was about to lose her sons as payment for the debt. Elisha asked, “What do you have in your house?”

The mother had some oil.

Elisha instructed her to borrow a bunch of jars. When she poured her little bit of oil in the jars the oil multiplied miraculously. She sold the oil and paid off the debt.

It was the question, “what’s in your house,” that shifted my mental strategy. Instead of thinking and acting from the premise that I lack, why not ask what I have?

I had food, shelter. I even had stuff in storage, nearly forgotten. We certainly had family love. And then whomp, the thought to foster children landed in my creaked-open mind. I needed to share family love.

I went to the phone and called the State Social Services Department. A social worker came to our house to start the process of licensing me and Doug as foster parents. She examined our house, nodding in approval. Where I saw puny, she saw modest. Where I saw ugly, she saw practical. Where I saw cheap, she saw affordable and clean. Within a few weeks, 2-year-old Junior came to live with us.

Leah and Carly didn’t mind a stitch when we moved their clothes dresser out of their bedroom into the kitchen so we could fit a crib next to their bunk bed. The girls had fun showing Junior the swing set and forts.

Unexcitable by physical color, shape, or size, Junior ambled as fast as his chubby legs could carry him to keep up with the girls. He adored hugs and book reading time.

Junior helped solidify in my mind the concept of a Father-Mother God that cares for us all. With a divine Parent, the temptation to condemn his human parents died off.

We continued fostering children for the next fifteen years.

I learned that I never lost what I didn’t have. I learned that I can increase what I have.

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Writing conference, part three

At the Writing for Your Life conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, I attended a workshop led by Jeff Chu, author of  ”Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America” It was top notch. An excellent speaker, Chu was honest and humble and helpful. He strove to take away fears that come with writing and to instill hope.

By this time, we attendees started opening up and getting acquainted with one another during “free time.” I discovered that although most of the attendees were pastors or preachers, they did not carry dogmatic attitudes. It was supremely refreshing. They left behind ministries and churches focused only on the opinions of leaders and outdated concepts and practices. They were willing to face their fears to learn how to write and join the conversations today meant to embrace diversity and unite and heal, rather than convert and make a homogenous society of believers, who ultimately portray an us versus them.

There was no us versus them at this conference, that I noticed. We didn’t use our differences as a means for demanding better treatment. The diversity was appreciated and combined to show a big bright picture of an infinite good God.

I barely could get to sleep that night. I was exhausted and riveted at the same time. Sleep finally came about 9 p.m. I woke at 12:45.

A.M.

12:45 a.m., awake and compliant to get out of bed and start driving home.

Nighttime traffic was much easier than daytime traffic.

Five hours later, I was driving out of Washington D.C. and could see on the other side of the highway lane incoming traffic. I’d just missed morning rush hour.

I made it home just before noon. Dog-tired but delighted to see and hug my cats. Worn but calmed to see my chickens. Drained but filled with the desire to keep living that which has no end, creativity and the sense of belonging to an expanding and generous mind.

Writing Conference, second part

First part.

Second part:

Arriving early in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the Writing for Your Life conference, I drove to St. Mark’s Methodist Church, host to the Writing for Your Life conference. The hotel where I was staying let me check in early.

The conference started with an amenable worship service. There were about 140 of us attendees. Then Barbara Brown Taylor spoke, giving us tips on writing based on Imagination, using the imagination to say what the reader wants to say, using body language to transcend the body.

Barbara brwon taylor 2018Now, I never heard of Barbara Brown Taylor, but other people had. The woman sitting next to me shed tears after she got to meet Taylor personally. I asked the woman if she wanted me to take a picture of her with Taylor. Yes, she did. I took the photo with her phone and then thanked Taylor for her advice on writing. She really was a good speaker and teacher.

Workshops were attended during the day. I learned what I’ve been doing wrong. Ha, lots.

But, that night, I lay awake figuring out how to fix my mistake, or oversight is a better word.

Apparently, the title, subtitle, and back page are SUPER important. Well, on my memoir I don’t have a subtitle at all. Easy fix. I’d do it as soon as I got home. I slept a few hours.

The next morning Taylor spoke again but on provocation. The importance of provoking yourself as a writer to venture into new ideas. Take risks with creativity, work hard, and respect the “incubation” period. Sit on an idea and let it grow, before the illumination and translation processes.

More in a few days.

Trilogy on a writing conference

If you want to attend a writers’ conference, I recommend “Writing for your life.” It is Christian based, but the leaders aren’t preachy. In fact, they tell attendees, “don’t be preachy in your writing.”

I just returned from the Writing for Your Life conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Before leaving for the conference, I mapped my route from home to Raleigh and figured it would take me about 11 hours to drive. The big decision was whether to drive it in one day, or two days.

I chose the two-day plan, to decrease the chances of me showing up at the conference feeling dazed and wiped out.

The first day, I made it to Fredericksburg, Virginia and stopped at a Tourist Center.

“Hi, can you tell me about the Monopony Indian Reservation?” I asked the staff.

Silence on his part, embarrassment on my part. I was weary and only could remember the term Monopony. I’d looked it up before leaving because I knew I’d have extra time and I wanted to visit an Indian Museum or reservation instead of visit a Civil War Battlefield or Colonial Museum.

When studying religion, I realized the world lacks written material on the spiritual practices of Native-Americans, a population traced back 15,000 years. So far.

I dare to say that Indian spirituality transcends my Bible backed spirituality, despite my conviction of not pinning the Bible stories to a timeline. I don’t believe Adam and Eve were the first human beings on the planet Earth about 6,000 years ago, or whenever.

Mattaponi river sunriseAnyway, the gentleman on staff at the Tourist Center was kind enough to understand what I was referring to and gently asked, “Do you mean the Mattaponi Indian Museum?”

“Mattaponi,” I repeated twice. Mattapo-nee. “Yes,” I answered.

“Their museum isn’t open but three days a week,” he said.

“Could you give me directions?” I asked.

He did and when I looked out at the traffic on Interstate 95, I knew I would not make it before dark. I found a motel. It wasn’t fancy, believe me.

Awake early, I drove to the Mattaponi Indian Reservation. As the road got less and less dense with traffic, it was easy to find, following sparse signage.

I watched the sun rise over the Mattaponi River from a dock in the Mattaponi Indian Reservation. It was solemn, silent, sacred and inevitably nurtured my appreciation for the thousands of Native-Americans who did, somewhat similarly, the same thing for thousands of years.

More in a few days.

 

Freedom of the Press

Check out below this full-page ad in the New York Times, from the New York Times. Admirable.

NYT read many paperssmall

Freedom of the Press means freedom of the readers. We are the image of universal Mind. We reason with divine thoughts that meet our individual circumstances. We are the reflection of eternal intelligence. We have broad views and big pictures. We are the children of Truth and this enables us to read even those things we don’t want to hear.

Don’t get isolated on an island by reading only the words you want to hear, or that are familiar and adored. As the New York Times encourages, read, read, read. And if words don’t speak to you: dance other dances, paint different pictures, run many races, or embrace new friends.

Quoting from science & religion to God:

“Taken literally the words, “Clean your room,” produces decent results. But when dealing with less concrete concepts, open to wide interpretations, such as, “Be nice,” the results can vary. Spirituality comes to our rescue.

“Divine interpretation gives us the deeper meaning our hearts yearn for. Spiritual interpretation maintains our life purpose and makes our experiences, words, expressions—even myths—useful. It points the way to non-intrusive healing.”

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