Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hodgepodge and Even Other Stuff

(The painting at the right is titled "Hodgepodge" but I can't find the artist's name)

It always takes me a week or so to recover when I've been out of town and this week is no exception. I've had many thoughts of things that I wanted to write about but then, a form of writers' block ensues. I think when your mind is racing it is hard to let it sit long enough for the clutter to settle out.

I do want to try and steer away from all the psychological talk I've done recently. Just that it starts to become redundant.

But maybe if I can clear out a bit of clutter, the more important topics will rise to the surface.

Unrelated Item 1) Besides work, I've been consumed lately because the Nepalese Embassy has lost my passport. I sent it there in August for a Visa, but they don't know where it is. I had to cancel my old passport yesterday and order a new one. To add some drama, it should arrive a couple of days before my departure for Nepal. I did have one Evangelical friend say, when I told of my ordeal, that this is probably God saying, "Don't go." But that again is typical Evangelical tea-leaf reading. How can we ever get through life if we believed that every event has a purpose? I would put a twist on this, maybe it is God's test to see how faithful I am to go. But then, just maybe, it was an accident, where the guy at the embassy stuffed my passport into the wrong envelop . . . hmm?

Unrelated Item 2) More Lenard Cohen. I spoke about him a few postings ago and he was really new to me. Since then, I ordered concert of his on DVD (netflix) and watched it. It was a great concert with not only him, his great lyrics and baritone voice, but great musicians and back-up singers. They had the longest encore that I've ever seen . . . almost as long as the concert proper. The next day I read a synopsis of his biography. I learned that he was born into a Jewish family in Canada. I also learned that he suffered from some severe years of depression and that he had a hard time making into the music word because of his dark lyrics. His novels succeeded first. Then I learned that he eventually became a Buddhist monk. But in his concert he seemed to joke that both treatment for depression and the Buddhist experience was a waste of time.

But it got me to think again about the dark-artist figure. There's many of them. I think the reason is that artists tend to feel deeply. When you feel deeply, you feel all things deeply, including sadness. I relate to that. I was voted senior class "clown" (actually wittiest) in high school. I did (and sometimes still do) have a sense of humor, but I feel the grief of life too.

Unrelated Item 3) More on the church front, but that too I want to lay to rest. It is becoming more and more of a paradox. We had dinner with the pastor a few weeks ago and my wife was happy to agree to become much more involved with this church. This again makes any idea of mine of leaving even more difficult. Sometimes I do wonder what's the use in all of this. I've always had the option of becoming an evangelical again, smiling all the time, seeing God working in each event of life (supernaturally), hating the Muslims and seeing all world events heading to the second coming, any day. I could fake it and if I did I think life would be so much easier again for me and my family.

More to come.


Scott in Boston said...

So much I could comment on, but for what it's worth, some practical encouragement: I recently renewed my long-expired passport, paid double for expedited service (just so I could drive through Canada--no other international trips on the horizon), which they said would arrive within 2 to 3 weeks. To my amazement, it arrived no less than ONE WEEK in the mail. So might yours...maybe just in time for the Nepalese consulate to lose it again?

MJ said...

Hey Scott. I hope you are doing well. I won't let the Nepalese embassy get their hands on my passport again (especially after they were sooooo unhelpful in trying to find it). I will get a Visa in Kathmandu. BTW, Federal Express were extremely helpful in looking for it.

How are things in your fair city?

Anonymous said...

I think when your mind is racing it is hard to let it sit long enough for the clutter to settle out.

Happens to me constantly. My brain spends most of its time "thrashing in place".

We had dinner with the pastor a few weeks ago and my wife was happy to agree to become much more involved with this church.

There's an article that used to be on the "Church for Men" website about why women like church and their husbands don't. Mostly about how churches tend to go for female-oriented forms of socialization. The punch line of the essay was (addressing women) "Your church is doing what it was designed to do: Keep you Happy and Volunteering."

Headless Unicorn Guy

MJ said...

That's interesting HUG and deserves a lot more of though, on my end.

I know I've written about this before and may again. But often the scenario goes like this.

The pastor creates a program (the program looks good to him on paper). He ask for volunteers for his program, but then makes volunteering for it a sign of faithfulness to God. So either you succumb to the guilt and do something that you have no desire to do, or you don't do it then you have to live with the guilt and the mentioning from the pastor about the greatness of the faithful, who came out for his program and the sadness of the uncommitted Christians, who did not come out. Rarely, in my sense, is there even the discussion of why are we doing this program.

Here is one personal example. Recently I heard a pastor talking about the importance of the Sabbath and how Christians not keep the Sabbath is one of the major reasons that Churches are emptying out these days. Then, almost in the same breath, he asked who were the faithful people who would be with him at church on Sunday morning at 5 AM to cook a breakfast that he is doing for a festival that is coming to town.

My point is, I am in total agreement that we need more of the sabbath. Most of us are worked almost to death with stressful 50 hour a week jobs. I have one day that I try very hard to set a side to rest, in God's rest. Then, it is often the Church that steals away that rest time by doing more and more programs to keep us busy on the "sabbath."

I see the perfect, God intended, Sabbath is 1) sleeping in on Sunday morning (making up for the rest the body needs). 2) having a quiet, stress free day. We don't need works on Sabbath to prove that we are faithful to God. That is what His true rest is all about, REST, letting God do the work of making us righteous.

Anonymous said...

The pastor dude sounds...seriously unhealthy/manipulative. Likely it's not intentional---he's probably just a true believer, but, if it quacks like a duck...

I still firmly believe that the, "we have to go to the same church to be happily married" is one of those, "should's" that is problematic, at best. Nowhere does it say that spouses must see eye to eye on religous matters, or that one spouse must stay in a religous setting that he/she finds deeply disturbing, or that the happy-to-be-in-that-church spouse must leave their happy church if the other spouse chooses to go elsewhere.

I think that the, "we have to attend the same church" is much along the same lines as the Christian tea-reading. It's a myth. Two people's spiritual journeys do not have to be identical.

Loved hearing the update....always enjoy reading here. :) Hope the passport situation works out!!!

MJ said...

Yeah, Molly, I agree.

I think it would take a book chapter to explain my entire thoughts on this. Certainly (the part I agree with) there are no rules about couples attending the same or different churches. The issue becomes the quality of marriage and how my wife views the issues. I will try to explain.

My wife is normal . . . I am not. I think, like most people, she sees my questioning, doubting, searching for honesty and etc. as more of a liability than an asset. I’m sure that there are many days she wishes that I would just be quiet, play along . . . and be normal. So, in her view, my desire to go to a different church is for frivolous reasons.

Therefore, I see the writing on the wall (as I’ve seen this play out in the lives of other couples).

If I left our present church, the pastor—even if I tried my best to explain to him why—would conclude that I was doing it for less than honorable reasons. The reason why I think he would react that way is from what I’ve heard him say in the past. For one, he agrees with John Bevere (author of The Bait of Satan, the pastor’s favorite book right now) that if anyone leaves their local church (except for extreme circumstances) is in sin (of course I see this notion as manipulative).

Also, the church which I would attend is outside the box of what the pastor considers a “Christ-centered” church because of: 1.) They have a woman pastor and 2.) The new church has a soup kitchen for the homeless. They forbid other churches (such as ours) from using that soup kitchen for proselytizing. Our church therefore stopped its association with this church several years ago.

So, if I were attending "church b" and my wife continued attending "church a" I can see this subtle wedge being driven between us over time. The same thing if I attended a Mormon church. My wife's best friend is the pastor's wife.

I think for a marriage to stay healthy there has to be a mutual respect and it is in that area that I could see trouble.

However, I have not given up on the hope of doing church separately but these are the questions it raises. I'll think about this when I get back from Nepal.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...those are some really good points. Attending two different places of worship wouldn't work out so well if one spouse was being convinced that only the one church had the full truth, and that people who didn't like it had some sort of problem (ie, nothing wrong with the church at all). That could be a wedge driver, alright. I suppose I was speaking more out of the perspective of the person who had to (wifely duty) attend the places her husband chose (and was hired at)... It was quite a revelation to me to discover that I didn't have to do that. Then again, I'm getting a divorce, so, erm, I should probably shut up... *sad smile*