Passing Back

The pick for my spirituality book club is Without Buddha I could not be a Christian, but Paul F. Knitter.  I am only about ¼ into it but loving it. It is one of my “underline just about every sentence” books. Like, Knitter, I have been around the block as far as trying out different religions and types of spiritual expression. I started out Catholic, as Knitter did. I married and had kids, then chose a career working for the Church. He joined the priesthood at age 13, then left and married and had kids. We both received our degrees in religious studies…he as a priest, me as in preparation for lay ministry in the church. He went on to higher level studies and ended up teaching theology. While I did not continue formal studies in theology beyond college level, I continued to study, somewhat obsessively, as though I were going to have to pass some big-time exam. We have both studied alternative theologies and visited various religious expressions. This book, as you’d surmise by the title, is about his experience with Buddhist thought and how it has helped him as a Christian.

Knitter writes humbly, from the heart, not forcing his beliefs on others. It is his own faith questions that he brings to the page. I have had many of the same questions. “Passing back” is the phrase Knitter uses for a cyclical journey of trying out other religions, gleaning from them what holds value for him, then bringing these jewels back as he returns to his faith of origin. This is what he has done with Buddhism. I have done the same in every religious expression I have tried.

When I was working for the Church, there was a great worry among the parents I served that their children would end up abandoning their faith (referred to as “fallen-away Catholics”). As it turned out, most of their children did leave the Church. Parents often blamed people like myself who managed the religious education programs or the priests for being either too conservative or too liberal. A few respected the individual journeys of their children. None of my children are practicing Catholics today, but what can I say? I am not either. I have followed my heart and I am not one bit sorry.

But who knows? I have been very interested in the new Pope Frances and the statements he has been making. I was one who was excited about Pope John XXIII who revolutionized the Church and was one totally discouraged when the Church lapsed back to the pre-Vatican II teachings. I have a nephew, unchurched in my brother’s liberal family, who sought baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church when he was in his 20’s.  Meanwhile, due to his influence, his mother’s Catholic faith is being reignited. I think that people who are honest searchers are more likely to leave a religion. I don’t think God minds one bit. God doesn’t have favorite religions. He loves searching hearts. (Forgive me for speaking for God) I have a granddaughter that is investigating the Muslim religion right now and another who is studying and reconsidering the teachings of her childhood faith with all the honesty that she can muster. God only knows where these two, or any of my children or grandchildren, will land. Some people question and search but never actually leave their religion of origin. I have many friends like this. They are a blessing to their communities. I prefer to gather around me friends who take their faith seriously over those who could care less, whether they stay put in a religion or shop around.

I apologize for all the gab here. I just want to share my sense that we worry too much about the faith decisions other people make, whether they are our own family members or not. I think when we get all bent out of shape, the problem lies with us, in our own lack of faith in the God who continues to watch over them.

Seize the Day

With our granddaughter gone and our daughter’s fundraiser for the arts over, it would be great to just lay back and do nothing all day. But we have apples to freeze into pies and more chard to put up and the last of the tomatoes need to be canned. Bernie is already peeling tomatoes into a pot for sauce. He hinted that I should move along and start helping him.

I am pretty selfish about my morning routine. I don’t let go of it without a fight. Read…blog…exercise…then get on with the day. I can spend 2 hours reading in the wee hours, predawn. My favorite part of the day.

Well, I can’t totally fink out. Carpe Diem…the seizing must begin.

Plans “Shot to Hell”

Not much to say this morning. It will be a cool day and my granddaughter is flying in from Denver, to arrive around 11 am. My daughter is picking her up at the airport. I called Heidi and told her to grab jacket for Alissa. “She was cold all the time when she was here last.”

This started out to be a busy week but at least we had a sense of what we were doing from day to day. One phone call last night and the plan was shot to hell. So we created a new plan this morning…God only knows whether this is the correct one.

Shot to hell…where did that expression come from? There I go again…curiosity killed a cat…where did that expression come from?

 

Slow Recovery

This is what I am hearing about the economy:  the recovery is slow because people are hesitant to spend money out of fear that their jobs may not be secure. They don’t trust that the economic collapse won’t reoccur and want to be more ready the next time. This sounds to me like the years after the depression.

The way my family lived when I was a child was like this: People like my parents learned to live with less. They repaired what was a broken and used things up before buying a replacement. They lived within their means. They saved for things they wanted instead of going into debt. I don’t know how much of a down payment my parents had on their first home, which they bought after both of my brothers had left the nest and I was a sophomore in high school, but I remember the chart my mother created to keep track of the payments. They made double payments when they could to save interest until finally they owned the house.

This all sounds like a great idea to me. What a difference it would have made to a lot of citizens if they had lived this way before the recent economic collapse. It will make a difference now in the way our economy grows if the citizenry is stable and wise. I believe this: we are all part of the problem and we are all part of the solution. Unfortunately, history shows that, at least in this country, people forget and, sadly, industry depends on this forgetfulness.

Grandparents

I love this grandparent role. It outshines being a parent a hundredfold.

First of all, I am way smarter now than I was when I was a parent. Back then, I had these crazy expectations of my children. But with my grandchildren, I sit back and just watch the show. I let them tell me who they are, rather than me telling them who they should be.

I don’t worry about the judgment of others as I did when I was raising my own children. The problem with that kind of worry is that one may react more out of reaction to the judgment than out of the child’s real need in the moment. So a grandparent may be the first to notice when a child needs to be heard or is hungry or tired and may stop the adults from talking so much to pay attention. Grandchildren love that.

Grandchildren don’t have the ability to pull my strings the way my children could. Some grandparents may disagree with this, but really, I have a longer-range view of their lives than I did with my children. So it is easier to say “no” because I know they will survive a little disappointment. I know my limits so it is easier to say “yes” because I am better able to measure my abilities.

My grandchildren rarely have to say, “But you promised!” because my children have taught me to be careful about promises. I can follow through on the promise to always love them, but I know that sometimes life circumstances are such that I can’t do what I told them I would do.

My grandchildren seem to like hearing what I have to say. When our children are in the process of breaking out on their own, sometimes “on their own” means “everything except what my parents tried to teach me.” Not doing what parents want makes them feel more independent, I guess. I get that. But, I watch my adult children today and note that much of what they believe and do today is what my husband and I wanted for them…they just needed time to figure out what fit and what did not. I get that, too. But with grandchildren, I am one of those influences outside of their parents. Never mind that what I say may be exactly what their parents are trying to teach them. The fact that I am not their parent makes them feel freer to listen.

I have learned to say to a grandchild, “I was wrong” or “I am sorry.” When I was raising my children, I somehow equated this with surrendering authority. Boy, was that wrong thinking!

Grandparents have already tried what parents are doing – making a living, trying to figure out their children’s education, struggling with the marriage thing, scrambling to make family time, trying to balance the duty to family, to work, and the duty to self…all that stuff that causes anxiety and confusion. We know that some outcomes suck and some are terrific and that we have less control over that than our egos want us to believe. So grandparents can relax when things start to spin. We can be the eye of the storm, sit and read a story to a child no matter what is happening. Grandchildren need that. And grandparents need to be needed, too.

Sticky Notes

My granddaughter, Cynthia, started a conversation on Facebook about sticky notes. She said she uses them to mark places in books where there were interesting or meaningful passages. I am a person who will write in books so I often buy a book just because I think I foresee lots of meaningful words.

I have shelves of such books in the case behind me. Some of them I never really found much worth remembering but the title fooled me and I got suckered into spending hard earned bucks. Some I underlined practically the whole book and wrote in the margins of page after page. These I should just throw in the box where I put my old journals.

I once borrowed a book from a friend and did the sticky note thing like Cynthia suggests. By the time I was finished with it, I had just about ruined the binding from stuffing in so many sticky notes. I removed them and returned the book. I never really used the notes and after a year or so of seeing the green  pile on may desk, threw them away. I more recently borrow a book in which I very lightly penciled in the margins. I had to erase all the little pencil marks before I gave it back to my friend even though he told me I didn’t have to do that. But one should return a borrowed thing in as good as condition as when it was borrowed, right? It is too bad for my other friend that I don’t know how to rebind books.

I got a book from the library the other day: The Jesus Discovery. It is a book about archeological digs around Jerusalem. I thought it would be dry stuff, but the author has a way of writing that isn’t text-bookie. I won’t be writing in it, but I think maybe some sticky notes would be in order. If I find myself putting too many little stickies between the pages, maybe it means I should invest in a second hand copy that I can keep.

I know this is meandering, but sometimes I learn about an idea that is so obviously a sensible one, that I wonder why I didn’t think of for the first 68 years of my life. Anyone who thinks they ever come to a place when they know all the answers is a lunatic.

It might interest you to know that those sticky notes that we have all come to love were actually an ingenious recovery after someone invented a glue that didn’t quite make it. I take encouragement in that today.