Eighth anniversary

Eight years ago today, I met Honey for the first time. We had connected through an online dating service, chatted for several nights, and finally agreed to meet in person. After spending the evening eating dinner and watching a movie with a very polite and quiet young man, I assumed he didn’t like me. You know what they say about assumptions…

This is now the longest relationship I have ever been in. I don’t want to jinx things, but I am happy, contented, and fulfilled. I consider him to be my greatest friend, and there can’t be anything much better than getting to spend your life with your best friend.

Losing my religion

The first week of February marks the last time I attended Sunday service at our church, and although I have had many periods of up-and-down with regard to religion, I am finding myself less and less inclined to participate in anything having to do with it.

My whole life through, Christians have been telling me how to live, how to believe, how to love, how to encounter God. They have also told me on numerous occasions that I’m not doing any of those things correctly. Christians are usually the most vocal group against social justice, equality, gay marriage, science, peace, etc. Anything that pushes humanity along a more gentle pathway almost always seems to meet resistance from those who claim to be followers of Christ. Oh, the irony.

It has gotten to the point where I simply don’t want to be associated with it anymore. Maybe I’ve outgrown it, or maybe I have just hardened my heart over the years. Whatever it is, I can’t deny that I feel outright contempt for most things religious.

I still believe in God. I even believe in the message of Jesus Christ. I just wish modern-day Christians weren’t so concerned with the size of their congregation, the amount of money in the offering plate, and being entertained on Sunday morning. And why does it feel like Christianity has been hijacked by right-wingers who love war, revel in patriotism, and hate their fellow man? Maybe because it has been.

I might feel differently on down the road, but for now, I’m content sleeping in on Sunday mornings.

Time flies

Today marks three years since we moved into our current residence. I can honestly say that it has only begun to feel like home over the past year or so, and I think Honey would say the same.

We still don’t have everything the way we want it on the inside, but we have almost completely redone the outside of the home since we moved here. New windows, roof, gutters, doors, front porch, back patio, steps, shutters, and landscaping. Construction on a roof over our patio is supposed to begin later this week.

So, yeah. I love it. Honey loves it. The cats love it (as far as I can tell). We may not live here for the rest of our lives, but I don’t think I would be disappointed if we did.

Communion

Despite attending church on a fairly regular basis over the past six years, I have never participated during our monthly observance of communion.

Communion was a very rare occurrence in the Holiness church I grew up in. I would be surprised if we observed it more than once in a five-year span, and it was typically accompanied by foot-washing. Because they were dispensed so infrequently, the sacraments were considered extremely sacred by our congregants.

Before the unleavened bread and cup of grape juice were presented, a preacher would deliver a sermon about the significance of what we were getting ready to do. These sermons always included the following verses from 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians:

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

We were told in no uncertain terms that we would damn ourselves if we partook of the bread and juice without being worthy. Although I might have participated in the ritual as a child, I have no memory of ever receiving communion. I simply never felt worthy.

I stopped attending church sometime around the age of twenty, and didn’t start again until 2006. The church I later joined offers communion on the first Sunday of each month. Sometimes it is passed out to the congregation on silver trays; other times it is given by intinction and recipients must line up the center aisle to dip their piece of bread in the cup.

Our communion is open to everyone, and although I have been warmly encouraged on several occasions to partake, I never have. Fear holds me back.

I suspect I hold myself to a higher standard than most, because I have seen several people treat it with little reverence. Some talk and laugh to the person beside them as the elements are passed. I even watched in dismay after one service as a woman ripped off a piece of leftover communion bread from the altar, said, “I’m hungry,” and shoved it in her mouth.

Even though I realize that no one is ever worthy of Christ’s mercy, I am surely no less worthy than they. I just can’t seem to overcome the mental hurdle, most of which is a result of those childhood sermons. The rest are my own hangups about being homosexual. Even if the jury is still out on whether homosexuality is a sin, I’m pretty sure we have a clear verdict on fornication. But then it’s not like we have the option of getting married in Kentucky.

I have accepted the fact that I may never receive communion as long as I live, and I’m okay with that.

‘Help Thanks Wow’ by Anne Lamott

I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s book titled Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. It was beautiful. Anne has a unique way of understanding and elaborating on religious doubt. I could see myself in many of the pages, including the prayer in the following excerpt.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.

I like the idea of being completely honest with God. I tend to completely shut Him/Her out of the equation when I am feeling low spiritually. This has actually been the case for quite some time now. I also completely identify with the idea of recoiling from most people who believe in God. Even so, I still pray. Often in the manner Anne descibes. Short and to the point.

If You are up there, please help this person get better.

If You exist, thanks for my home, my partner, my comfort.

Wow. You really outdid Yourself with these beautiful flowers. I’m in awe!

I’m never sure if anyone is actually listening, but I do it anyway. Since reading this book, I intend to do it more, and in a much more honest manner. If God exists, He/She already knows my thoughts, so there is no point trying to conceal them.

Anne sums up her book and my feelings perfectly with a quote from Matisse:

I don’t know whether I believe in God or not. I think, really, I’m some sort of Buddhist. But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer.

Special thanks to We Are Fambly for bringing this book to my attention.

Weekend getaway

chattanooga

Weekend before last, we journeyed to Chattanooga, TN. We managed to pack several activities into our two-day trip, including a visit to Rock City, Ruby Falls, the saltwater and freshwater aquariums, and IMAX theater. Although I had toured Rock City before, the other experiences were new to both of us.

Chattanooga was warm and sunny when we arrived Friday afternoon. We parked and headed straight for the aquariums. Although they were very nice, we both decided the aquarium in Newport, KY, is much better. Of course Newport wasn’t as crowded and had the added benefit of Mighty Mike.

After a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant, we watched a 3D film at the IMAX theater titled Cities Under The Sea, which was about coral reefs and their important role in keeping our planet healthy.

We arrived at Rock City early Saturday morning to find conditions very foggy and overcast. I was really disappointed that the view from the top wasn’t as good as it would be on a clear day, but the sun began peeking out and conditions improved quickly. I love the outdoor part of Rock City, but I find the cave section of the tour very disturbing. I’m not exactly sure what neon-colored fairy tale characters have to do with nature, and the whole things makes me feel like I’m on a bad acid trip.

After touring Rock City, we arrived at Ruby Falls to find throngs of tourist waiting in line. We waited for close to an hour before riding an elevator down into the cave below. From there, we walked half a mile through narrow, slippery passageways to catch a short glimpse of the waterfall. It was beautiful, but we felt like we were being herded around like cattle. Very little time was allowed for photographs, although I did manage to capture a few.

ruby_falls

All in all it was a nice trip, and I would highly recommend Chattanooga for anyone looking for a nice vacation with plenty to do.