31 Day Music Challenge: Day 24 A Song That You Want to Play At Your Funeral

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space (Photo credit: Sweetie187)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiypaURysz4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfLI1l_Pda4

“Holy Now” by Peter Mayer is a song that I would want someone to play at my funeral (preferably on the acoustic guitar).  I got stuck on this question because funeral songs are usually about saying goodbye or religious songs in my experiences.  Goodbye songs would be for other people to pick I think, so I picked this song because of the essence of the meaning behind the poetry is an outlook on life that I would like people to remember about me and carry on to their own lives.  It’s not a religious song per se, but it references religion and contrasts the childhood experience of going to church where we learn that once a week we worship to the idea of seeing every day life as worship and finding the divine in everything around us.  It very clearly sums up my religious beliefs.  “Wine from water is not so small, but an even better magic trick is that anything is here at all” is one of my favorite lines from the lyrics.  I’ve written before about my experiences with religion and my scientific philosophy. If you’re interested, here are the links:

Science Saved My Soul

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

30 Days of Truth: Day 5 Something You Hope to Do in Your Life

The lyrics to this song are a reminder to look at the miracle of life with humility and to see the beauty everywhere around us.  I don’t know what happens after death, but I do know that life goes on.  It’s amazing to think about the vastness of the universe and the diversity of life on this planet.  If our spirits do transcend to other realms or reincarnate to new beings that will be incredible.  It’s all a big mystery, and I would hope to leave behind that feeling of awe and wonder in those I knew and loved.

“When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven‘s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now”

See the whole music challenge list at DeBie Hive.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Life of Pi

I saw Life of Pi again today. My oldest daughter hadn’t seen it yet, and my two younger kids and I wanted to see it again. After reading the book and seeing it twice, I wanted to write a response to the story and what it said to me.

I loved how it mixed non-fiction with fiction and all the spiritual metaphors. It’s an incredible, unbelievable story told by the main character who survived against the odds. The story is framed as one that will make people believe in god. He is narrating the story to a friend of a friend, an author looking to write an incredible story.

Pi said we don’t know god until someone introduces him to us. Pi is born Hindu, but is also inspired by Christianity and Islam. His dad tells him to start with rational thinking and what science has proven. Believing in everything is like believing in nothing.

A common theme was appreciation of the diversity of life. Pi’s family owned a zoo with a plethora of creatures. When he survived the shipwreck during his family’s move from India to Canada, he found himself alone at sea with a tiger, hyena, zebra, and an orangutan.

Pi had compassion for animals and saw their souls in their eyes. His father told him he was only seeing his own emotions reflected in the animals’ eyes. He saved the tiger from drowning and said sorry to a fish he killed to feed it.

The tiger, Richard Parker, ate the other animals. He and Pi learned to coexist during their twenty seven days at sea. They faced life threatening hunger and thirst and were overwhelmed by the power of the stormy seas.

Pi surrendered to god, having lost everything. He didn’t give up hope.

Once he surrendered, the storm passed and the boat washed up on a carnivorous island. Beautiful and teeming with life during the day, it became acidic and brought death to the animals at night. After some rest, hydration, and nutrition, he decided to get back on the life boat. He didn’t leave Richard Parker behind because it would have meant killing him.

They finally washed up on a Mexican shore. Pi was so weak he could barely hold his head up. Richard Parker jumped off the boat, walked to the forest, and paused for a few moments and gazed into the forest. Pi hoped the tiger would turn around and look at him and was disappointed when he didn’t. After everything they endured together, he wanted some closure, an end, before he disappeared so unceremoniously into the forest.

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Daily Prompt: Un/Faithful (Tell us about the role that faith plays in your life – or doesn’t)

To me, faith is wishing, hoping, positive thinking.  I don’t think it hurts, but I also don’t think it helps.  In a religious context, I’ve struggled with faith over the years. In fact I wrote a blog entry the other day explaining my position on religion and faith.  Here is a link in case you haven’t read it yet.

https://susannenelson.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/what-does-christmas-mean-to-you/

I don’t have faith that prayer works, but I don’t think it hurts to pray (to wish and hope for a desired outcome).  But over and over, I’ve seen prayers come back with tragedy (especially in the case where someone dies and people have been praying and praying for healing).

Thanks for reading. Peace out.

Aside

“What does Christmas mean to you?” A friend asked me recently during a religious debate on Facebook. She and I think very differently and frequently have discussions on the topic of religion.

I respect all religions, even if I don’t believe them. If something in your chosen faith works for you, great.  It just doesn’t work for me. We are all entitled to our opinions.  In explaining the meaning of Christmas, I also have to explain my history with religion and how I came to think the way I do today.

At first blush, Christmas is about Jesus’s birthday.  I can get on board with that.  But do I believe the story of a virgin mother etc? No, I don’t.English: Oberhausmuseum ( Passau ). Nativity (...

I was born into a fundamentalist Christian (Methodist) family. My mom chose Christianity  for me. My ancestors include a Bishop, preachers, and my mom was a missionary in Japan for three years.  My family expected me to get on board and give my life to Christ.

Jesus H. Christ

My mom is/was a church organist. I spent every Sunday morning at church (three services) and attended hundreds of weddings where she played.  I went to vacation bible school in the summers and attended Sunday School and services every single week.  My mom baptized me Christian, but sometime between then and confirmation (around twelve years of age), my critical thinking mechanism kicked in.  I remember sitting through sermons and doodling on my program, wondering to myself, “How does he know that?”  about whatever it was the minister was saying.  I endured countless Sunday afternoon discussions about the sermons.  Every Christmas, I sat through bible readings and church services reluctantly to show respect to my elders.  But I never bought the stories. Never.  I didn’t go through with confirmation. I didn’t accept Jesus Christ as my savior. Why? Because I didn’t believe all the stories.  Nobody could answer my questions about how they know all that is true.

While most people are accepting of whatever religion they are born into, I wanted to make my own choices and find answers to the mysterious questions of life and death on my own.  After all, human beings created religion to address and answer the big question and in an attempt to explain natural phenomena all around us.

I never understood the connection between Christmas being Jesus’s birthday and Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer etc.  Nobody could explain that to me either.  Now I get it that these are characters involved with winter, and that Christmas was actually a replacement holiday for the pagan ritual of celebrating Winter Solstice.  It’s kind of like how Easter means Jesus’s resurrection to Christians, but it’s also based on a celebration of the spring, and a time of new life in the natural world.  From my understanding of history, Christianity adopted these holidays to attract Pagans (who celebrated the Earth long before Christianity came about.)

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My family treated me like ‘the black sheep’ because I didn’t accept Jesus as my savior. My grandmother told me I wouldn’t go to heaven and participate in the family reunion in the sky, and I wouldn’t go to hell (because I wasn’t a bad person), but that I would float endlessly in the void after death.

Yes, she really said that.  Fast forward to today, and it’s no wonder I have death anxiety.

In college, I studied eastern religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Japanese Shin Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Chinese Philosophy).  While they don’t believe in an outside God, they believe we all have a divine spark within us and that heaven and hell are right here on Earth. Our thoughts and actions (karma) decide what kind of rebirth we will have, and we continue on the wheel of life until we reach spiritual enlightenment.  Eastern teaching made more sense to me, although I would not call myself a Buddhist or the like.  I like the ideas of going with the flow of the universe and the focus on living life in a kind and compassionate way toward all living things.

Buddha

Buddha (Photo credit: eschipul)

As a new teacher, I taught a unit on world religions. It was eye-opening to learn so much about how the other cultures in the world think, their traditions, and the similarities and differences.

English: World Religions by percentage accordi...

English: World Religions by percentage according to CIA World Factbook 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The scientific revolution occurred long after the many authors wrote the books of the bible .  We now have evidence of early humans, dinosaurs, and billions of years of geologic time.  We venture into space and continue to explore the farthest reaches of the universe.  We understand a lot more about life on this planet than we did back in the days of Greek Mythology or early Christianity.

Like it or not, it's true.

Like it or not, it’s true.

I studied science in college.  I’m fascinated by the Earth and Space.  Science has shaped my world view.  Over time, I’ve started to feel very humble by my place in the universe, and I can honestly say that I don’t know all the answers. I don’t think anybody else really knows the answers either. Have you seen the movie, Religulous yet?

Again, if it works for you great, but Christianity takes faith to believe.  When I press any of my Christian friends or family members for answers, the answer is ‘faith.’  I can’t have faith in stories that read like tall tales and there is scientific evidence against. I just can’t.  Maybe that is a fault of my intellect, but I’m  comfortable calling myself an Agnostic.  I think there might be a greater power, but I don’t know.  I don’t know where I was before I was born. I don’t know where I will go after I die. But I do know in the meantime, I will be a kind and loving person and have respect for the diversity of life on the planet.  To me, we are all human beings – brothers and sisters sharing this amazing Earth.  Religion inspires some, but it also divides people and cultures. Killing in the name of God is something I don’t understand.  I wish everybody could just get along, but I realize that is idealistic.

Coexist

Coexist (Photo credit: pbyrne)

As a child, we celebrated Christmas and Easter every year, and I still do so with my husband and kids. However, I give them a wider perspective on the holidays and on religion in general.  I teach them that Christianity is one of the major world religions, and even though it is the predominant religion in the U.S.A. Christians make up only one-third of the world population.  I teach them to ask, “how can one religion be right and all the other ones be wrong?”

To get back to answering the question, Christmas means the following things to me:

1. Time together with family. Let’s face it, that’s the best part of Christmas. 

2. A celebration of the winter. The celebration of light returning after darkness, snow, evergreen trees, wintry wildlife etc.

3.  The practice of giving to others to bring them joy. My son asked me the other day if Christmas is about giving or getting. Of course I said giving. He said no, it’s about getting. And isn’t that exactly what we teach them as kids?  As a kid, it is about getting lots of presents, and as adults we grow into the role of giving.  Again, that is where the Santa/Jesus stories are not very consistent.

4.  The opportunity to help others who are less fortunate than I am. We always adopt ‘angels’ to provide for.

5.  A chance to recharge, reflect, and reconnect. Our lives are so hectic with work, school, and extra-curricular activities. It’s so nice to have time to get back to being a family and get in touch with our true selves.

6. Abundance of food and joyous spirit. Happy children, aging parents, surprises, wishing, hoping, delicious meals and desserts.

In case you are wondering why Christ isn’t on the list, it’s because the dogma turns me off.  Here are a few specific examples:

1. Non-believers will go to hell after death (or in my case float around endlessly in the void).  Who are you to judge me and damn me to hell?

2. People who are dead are in a better place.  I think that is impossible to know.  And from what we can see from our side, it sure doesn’t seem better.

3. There is only one God.  Not according to the other religions.

4.  Jesus died to absolve us of our sins. I really don’t understand how that works.

5.  All the tall tales that people take literally – like the creation story, the talking snake in the garden of Eden, God created woman from a man’s rib so she could be man’s happy helpmate, 900 year old Noah filling the ark with two of every animal, the destruction of the tower of Babel so humans couldn’t reach too close to God, that different languages developed so we couldn’t conspire against God, the virgin mother, etc. The list just goes on and on.

6. The idea women are inferior to men, that men make all the decisions in the house. I think not.

7. The idea that humans should have dominion over all of nature. That idea is to blame for much of the destruction of the natural world.

8. That Satan exists.  Why can’t we just leave it as human nature having good and bad sides? Why do we have to make up a red demon character with horns and a tail?

9.  That you must have faith to believe all these things even though they make no sense at all. It totally reminds me of the spiritual message in the movie, Life of Pi, where the story is so unbelievable and he draws a comparison to all of religion being that way in the end.

10. The Rapture.  We should all live our lives in fear of judgement day?  What kind of loving God would be exclusionary of good people even if they haven’t chosen Jesus as their savior? What about innocent children who haven’t had a chance to choose for themselves yet?   And on that note, why does an all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful God let bad things happen?  Why does he allow  people to murder innocent people?

I do like much of what I understand Jesus’s teachings. For example, loving one another, and helping the sick, elderly, and the poor.  But I think these are concepts that are present in all religions.  In fact, love is the one thing that all religions have in common.  If Jesus came back to life today, he would be seen as a peace-loving, long-haired, sandal wearing hippie. I think he would like me just fine.

“I heard Jesus, he drank wine, and I bet we’d get along just fine.  He can calm the storm and heal the blind, and I bet he’d understand a heart like mine.” ~Miranda Lambert

lifeofpi

Thank you for reading this entry. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments. Peace out!

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

Daily Prompt: Time Capsule 2012

“The year is drawing to a close. What would you put in a 2012 time capsule?”

1.  A dance bag with ballet, jazz and hip hop shoes and gear. This is the year my daughter (12) became super serious about dance, and our lives now revolve around her practice schedule.

2.  An iphone.  Four out of five of us in the family have iphones. They are definitely a sign of the times.  They have itunes libraries reflecting today’s music too.

3.  My Obama victory magnet.  It’s on the back of my car. I’m happy that he won reelection this year!

5.  Camoflauge pants and combat boots to represent my stepson (20) who is now in the army, stationed at Ft. Drum NY.  He is an infantry man. We are super proud of him for his sacrifice and service.

6.  A Texas Tech flag and a Zeta Tau Alpha sign to represent our daughter (19) who is a ZTA at Texas Tech. She loves going to school there!

7.  My son’s (8) last baby tooth in the front that finally fell out (the yellow one).  It was yellow because when he was a toddler he fell down the stairs and whacked his face and mouth on the tile floor. It cut off blood supply to his tooth, so it turned yellow.

8.  My husband’s business card. This is the year he made partner at his law firm.  He also turned 40 this year (officially over the hill).

9.  An Algebra 2 book because I’ve been studying it a lot this year.  I’m a private math tutor, and I have kids everywhere from Pre-Algebra to Algebra 2 and in between.  This year, I have lots of kids in Algebra 2 and have been enjoying working with them.

10.  An electric guitar because this is the year I’ve been taking lessons consistently and finally learning more about music theory and writing solos.

People are People

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What makes people think people of other religions are any less valuable as human beings? We heard this before from one of our neighbors who said a life in Iran or Afghanistan isn’t worth as much as a life here in the US and that we are god’s chosen people and other countries look to us like a beacon on a hill.

I heard it again today in a message regarding a religious post I put on Facebook yesterday. My friend told me that nations that seek god are blessed and those who don’t are not blessed, even cursed (and uses Israel as an example).

I’m sorry, but I completely disagree. People are people. Period. Because one sect believes something doesn’t make them any better than another sect that believes something different. This is part of the problem in the world today. We can’t see each other as human beings sharing life on the same planet and respect each other’s differences.

My Christian friends think they are right about everything including the unknowable mysteries of the universe (despite scientific evidence to the contrary) and that everybody else in the world is going to hell. When we debate, it always comes down to blind faith. Nothing makes sense, but you just have to believe it anyway. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. I’m not saying they are wrong either. I’m just saying they can’t be right while everybody else in the world is wrong. And they don’t know the mysteries of the universe just like I don’t know the mysteries of the universe. It’s harder to admit you don’t really know than it is to have blind faith. There is no comforting story for what happens after we die. As hard as that is to accept, I’m sticking with agnosticism.

30 Days of Truth: Day 6-Something You Hope You Will Never Have to Do

I hope I never have to bury one of my kids. That may be a morbid thought, but it’s real. It would be hard enough to lose a spouse. I can’t imagine losing a child. I hope I never have to find out what it’s like.

Saying a special prayer of loving, positive thoughts for all those parents out there who have lost a child ❤