Category Archives: pride

Until ALL Love Wins

I spent most of yesterday morning and early afternoon celebrating the SCOTUS decision… And then sat down to watch the Reverend Pinckney’s funeral. I still have an hour and a half left to watch, which I hope to finish today. 

And this morning in Charleston, a brave black woman removed the Confederate flag from its place of “honor”. And was promptly arrested. And the flag was raised again for the 11am white supremacist rally.

And last time I checked, 4 black churches had burned since the Charleston terrorist attack. 

So until LGBTQIAA POC can fully celebrate yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling, my joy at that ruling is bittersweet. Until black lives matter no longer needs to be said, until phrases that end in “while black” (walking while black… sleeping while black…) are a distant remnant of the past, I will stay woke and dream of the day when ALL love wins.

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Filed under equality, GLBT rights, human rights, lgbt issues, pride, racism

Query on Motivation

There is some conflict/drama in a local organization I’m involved with. This conflict is causing–and is caused by–suffering, and as a bodhisattva, one of my “duties” is to end suffering when I’m able. But even before taking my bodhisattva vow, I’ve always had difficulty in just seeing a conflict and letting it work itself out. I’ve always felt the need to get involved, to help resolve things and restore tranquility to the conflicted party. Growing up, this was one of my family roles, even: to help resolve conflict. And I appeared to be pretty good at it.

This morning, before rising out of bed, I was mulling over the current conflict, wondering what, if any, actions I should take. I found myself daydreaming…

I was addressing the group as a formal “mediator”. I was saying beautiful, heartfelt things that were clearly moving those who were listening. My words pushed against the knot of conflict, unraveling it one heart at a time…

This daydream gave me pause and reminded me of another time where I was considering helping someone. That time, I made use of a query: “Do I want to help her or do I want to be the one who helps her?” I ended up not helping her because I found that my motivation was more of the latter than the former.

So, I’m asking myself now:

Do I want to help resolve this conflict
or
Do I want to be the one who helps resolve this conflict?

And I think that, once again, it’s more of the latter than the former.

Here’s the thing: if I’m more interested in “being the one” who’s providing help, then my actions aren’t going to be about really helping the other person–they’re going to be about me: my pride, my ability to “help”, my dream of greatness. If I’m more interested in”being the one” who’s providing help, my actions very well may be harmful.

So until I’m certain my motivation is not to build up my ego, I will refrain from becoming directly involved in this conflict.

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Filed under daily life, discernment, ego, pride, vanity

Testing

Someone in my family is going through a tough time right now. I found myself thinking last night about whether I should reach out to her or not. It seems like it should always be a good thing to reach out to help someone, but I thought I should test it first. “I want to help her,” I thought. But then, as I let the sentence echo in my mind, I heard something else: “I want to be the one who helps her.”

“I want to help her.”

vs.

“I want to be the one who helps her.”

Not the same at all. And with that realization, I realized that I’m not in a place right now where I can help her, because I’d be doing it to build up my ego instead of doing it out of real compassion for her.

Two weeks ago, I had a scheduling conflict with my Meeting’s Worship and Ministry committee. It seemed very possible that I’d have to withdraw my membership from this committee. I found myself thinking, “I want to serve my Meeting.” Now, thinking back, I wonder:

“I want to serve my Meeting.”

vs.

“I want to be the one who serves my Meeting.”

I’ve been in a period of discernment about whether to take on a second term with this committee (my first term ends this December). While eating breakfast several weeks ago, I offered up the following prayer: “May I do Your will, Lord.” And then I thought about what I’d just said and was struck with discomfort.

What if God doesn’t want us to do His will all the time? I couldn’t help but think that if God had wanted us to do His will all the time, He wouldn’t have given us free will. He would have made us as puppets. Is it even right to ask God always, “What do you want me to do here?”

I’ve found myself recently saying things like, “I’m waiting to see what God says,” or “I’m waiting for a leading about this” when I’m asked a question that I already have an opinion about, but know that my answer isn’t the one the questioner wants. I used to do this with Rob, too: blaming unpopular decisions on him when it was me who made them.

Before I can follow God’s will, I have to be able to stand up for and follow my own.

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Filed under compassion, daily life, discernment, ego, emptying, faith, family, God, leadings, obedience, pride

Confusion and Applause: A Slogan Post

Today’s slogan post is:

Seeing confusion as the four kayas is unsurpassable shunyata protection.

Pema Chodron’s explanation is absolutely necessary for today’s slogan:

Kayas:

  1. Thoughts pop out of nowhere–dharmakaya.
  2. Thoughts are unceasing–sambhogakaya.
  3. They are not solid–nirmanakaya.
  4. All together: no birth, no dwelling, no cessation–svabhavikakaya.

Shunyata: complete openness.

…Okay. I admit that I have trouble with slogans like this one, ones that rely on an understanding of Tibetan Buddhist words that I just don’t have. I think the point of today’s slogan is to realize that confusion is caused by thoughts, which pop out of nowhere, are unceasing, and not solid, and that realizing this allows one to remain open in a situation where one would normally succumb to confusion, panic, and close down.

I will try to keep this one in mind today, but the slogan I really would like to tell you all about is one that’s so important it’s taped to my monitor. This also means that it’s a slogan EVERY DAY instead of one that I pull out of the pile, so I want to make sure I have the chance to talk about it.

Don’t expect applause.

I constantly struggle with this one, but I’m reminding myself of it today because I’ve been falling into that trap recently with my Monthly Meeting. I want people to notice what I’ve done, I want to feel appreciated, I want to be thought of as a “weighty Friend”, etc.

And this leads me to an important question: when I serve the Meeting, am I doing it from a desire to follow God’s will or from a desire to serve my pride?

I need to keep this in mind today.

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Filed under buddhism, daily life, pride, quakerism, slogans, third haven

Paradox

I’ve been wondering about the first commandment recently:

“I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me.”

It seems like a fairly straightforward commandment: basically, don’t worship anyone or anything other than God. I always assumed that this commandment at least was one that I didn’t have to worry about. But recent online conversations I’ve both been watching and a part of have made me start to question that assumption.

I think evangelical Quakers (and other conservative Christians) are right to criticize us liberal Quakers about the fuzziness of our faith. Let me be brutally honest and not stereotypical: they are right to criticize me about the fuzziness of my faith. Ask me if the God I worship is the God of the Bible, and I’ll reply with something like: “Well, yes, I think so, but I think I maybe see a different side of Him than what’s portrayed in parts of the Bible.” Ask me if Jesus is the Son of God and part of the Trinity, and I’ll say, “Well, I don’t know, but I do believe he led his life in accordance with God’s will more than pretty much anyone else.”

Fuzziness. Ask me any specific question about the God I worship, and my answer will be fuzzy. Even the most basic question of His existence, and I’ll account for the possibility that I could be wrong!

How can I be sure that I am worshiping God and not an idol of my own creation if I don’t know — can’t say — who He is? I want to be right, but I don’t want to be right when it means other people are wrong. What’s left? How can I say or think things like “I believe in God, but it doesn’t bother me if you don’t”, or “I could always be wrong”? What kind of commitment is that? If I’m too scared to jump in, to have a faith that has real definition, why should I be disappointed when I don’t feel God’s presence as often as I’d like?

And yet, there are problems with defining God, and I don’t just mean philosophically. If I can say without any uncertainty that I know who God is, how do I reconcile that with my flawed humanity? (Perhaps humanity isn’t flawed, but that’s another discussion.) How can I relate to people who don’t know God, or know another God, or know God differently, without making myself superior to them? And any who say that that wouldn’t happen, frankly, have some trouble with empathy. If knowing God is better than not knowing God, then knowing God is a good thing, then those who know God are, at least in that aspect, better than those who don’t. Frankly, I’m not comfortable with that. How could I respond to that of God in them if all I see is that of God in me?

(There are also theological questions about how the nature of God could possibly have limits, but I’m not interested in a theological debate here. I’m interested in a purely practical one.)

I just feel very stuck here. If I can’t move past the fuzziness, I feel my faith will suffer, as it is hard to maintain a relationship when one party is undefined (and that’s what faith should be: an ongoing relationship between deity and person). But if I move past the fuzziness to a solid definition, I worry about that knowledge, that certainty, feeding my ego and diminishing God’s other creations.

So the question remains: how do I truly follow the first commandment without breaking Jesus’s commandment (…“that you love one another as I have loved you.”)?

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Filed under belief, different faiths, discernment, faith, God, Jesus, pride, quakerism, struggling with faith, that of God, the bible, universalism, worship

The Danger of Religious Blogging

I have not been updating this blog because I’ve found myself obsessing over how long it’s been since one of my blog posts has been featured on QuakerQuaker. I’ll write a post, think “Surely this post is so inspirational and moving that it’ll be QuakerQuakered”, and then am inevitably disappointed when it does not. Posting on here to be QuakerQuakered is not why I created this blog. This blog isn’t about my ego; or, at least, it shouldn’t be. It’s not about whether anyone else finds what I say interesting or thought-provoking or inspirational.

It’s about encouraging me to keep a written record of where I am on my spiritual path so that I am better able to discern where I’m going. It’s about becoming more comfortable sharing my faith with people I don’t know and whose faiths inevitably will differ to some degree. It’s not about announcing to the world how spiritual or how faithful or how Christian or how Quaker or how Buddhist I am. It’s about offering my faith to the scrutiny of others so that it is tempered and strengthened.

Unless God calls me to do otherwise, I will not be updating this blog again until I can post an entry without wondering if it will be featured on QuakerQuaker. Please read my livejournal for updates on my life (and, recently, for updates on Sugar, my Siamese cat, whose kidneys are starting to fail her). I will continue to comment on blogs and check QuakerQuaker and I hope to see you all on here again soon.

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Filed under blogs, discernment, ego, leadings, pride, quakerism, QuakerQuaker

Being Loved by God

When I was growing up, going to Mass was supposed to be a coercion. Kids went to Mass because their parents forced them to, but going to Mass wasn’t supposed to be enjoyed by the kids. Even in my father’s family, where everyone except Aunt Amy (who’s Jewish) was Catholic, all the kids complained about having to go to Mass on Sundays. Even the adults complained, with the notable exception of my Grandmère. (My Godfather, Uncle Tony, has found the perfect church for him. In an approximation of his own words, “It’s 45 minutes. You’re in, you’re out. It’s done.”) We all went to Mass because that’s what good Catholics did. And Grandmère was convinced we’d be heading to hell if we didn’t go.

In all the time I spent in CCD (Catholic Sunday School), I never met another kid who was there because they wanted to be. Everyone was there, without exception, because their parents were forcing them to go. They all had other things they’d rather be doing at that time. Being Catholic was something they were doing for their parents, who had probably done it for their parents. I learned early on that normal kids didn’t really care about God or faith or Jesus; so I hid how much God and my faith actually mattered to me.

Eventually, I came to be proud of how religious I’ve always been. Last night I was reminiscing with Rob about how I was always the only kid who enjoyed CCD and Mass and felt a familiar surge of pride.

The story from the Gospels of the two men outside the temple has always stuck in my mind. One man, a tax collector, can barely lift his head and begs God for forgiveness. The other man, the not-a-tax-collector, looks straight up to heaven and says, “Thank you, Lord, for making me so much better than the tax collector.” (Or so I remember the story going.) I always thought that man was utterly absurd.

Last night I thought back to that story, and to one conclusion I’ve always drawn from it: that God loves everyone equally, no matter what they’ve done, no matter what they believe. In my pride, I’d been feeling all these years that God loved me better than He loved those other kids who didn’t like going to Mass or CCD, than those other adults who didn’t have faith like I did. My faith had become a source of inner pride: “Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much more than those other people, who don’t have faith like I do.” I never said that in any prayer to God, but it was how I was feeling.

A spiritual 2×4 hit me over the head last night with just how wrong that feeling was. God loves everyone equally, no matter their faith, no matter their actions. He does not love me more than everyone else because of my self-professed strong faith. He loves me just as much as He loves those kids I was in CCD with, those Catholics who only go to Mass on Sundays because it’s what a good Catholic does.

This also means that He doesn’t love me any less than everyone else, either. In the see-saw of my personal worth, both are important. But I think that what’s most important is not my personal worth; rather, my worth to God. Knowing that I matter to Him. Knowing that everyone else matters to Him also.

All at once I am alone and part of something infinitely larger than me.

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Filed under faith, God, love, pride, speak and listen with love

Security

I’ve been struggling for a while with the idea of people needing God: needing Him as some sort of security blanket, needing Him to save them from hell, needing to know He’s there and has a plan for them. In the depths of my mind, I thought that the faith of these people was less valid than the faith of individuals who want God, who choose to believe in Him but don’t need to. I thought that the people in the first group had something lacking in their lives or had a weakness of personality that required them to need something stronger than themselves to cling to. I assumed I was one of the second group, the strong people who believe in God because they want to, but are self-sufficient otherwise.

But when the second phase of my arthritis flare struck on Tuesday, I was brought to my knees (quite literally) with the pain and the uncertainty. I avoided focusing on how scared I was, knowing that crying would just cause my neck muscles to spasm, thus creating more pain. But underneath my apparent lack of fear and veneer of control, I was terrified. In my journal Tuesday night, I wrote the following:

I know that God has a purpose for my pain. I will try to remain open to Him instead of closing my soul with fear’s gates.

Instead of praying for other people, I started praying for myself: “God, please grant me the strength to get through this. I don’t think I can do it without Your help.”

At 5:30 this morning, as I was stretching my knees, I started thinking about the kind of praying I’ve been doing recently. How was it different from “using God as a security blanket?”, I wondered. And then, like a whistle in the dark, it came to me:

It’s okay to need God.

It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders that I hadn’t even known was there. “It’s okay to need God.” I thought back to previous times when my health, or other situations, have broken me and how I’ve always reached for God during those times… how much I needed Him. I’ve looked to those times to inspire me in my faith, but I never realized that the only thing different about my faith in those times was that I accepted that I needed His help. I let go of my ever-present pride and said, “I can’t do this on my own. I know I can’t. I need Your help.” Needing God isn’t a display of weakness of character. It’s an acceptance of the reality that I can’t do this alone, no matter what “this” is.

When I got the leading months ago to reach out to Rob’s sister, I thought the purpose of the leading was to help her. I see now that God’s hand was slowly bringing me back to Him, in a way that I would accept. I wasn’t ready at that time to accept that I needed God; but I was ready to try to make things better between Rob’s sister and myself. I was ready to trust God to lead me, but in the depths of my being I thought He needed me more than I needed Him.

Through reading “Pretense”, as much as I found the characters’ faiths cheesy and generic, I was able to recognize my own prayers in the prayers uttered by the characters in the book. This allowed me to realize, however subconsciously, that there was something similar between my own faith and the faiths in the book. Looking back on it now, I think what repelled me most about the characters in the book wasn’t their faith, but their apparent inability to think for themselves. They seemed to swallow whatever their church expected of them and whatever the Bible told them without really thinking about it. They never seemed to question their faith or their church, and I think that’s dangerous (but that’s another topic).

My pride is still trying to restrain me from finishing this post, and from publishing it. I know now that I need God, but part of me doesn’t want to accept that. Part of me wants to believe that believing in God is still a choice, something I could change later on if I wanted to. Part of me wants a way out if this way becomes too difficult, too challenging.

You all are my witnesses as I write this: I am not self-sufficient. I cannot get through this on my own. I need God.

And that’s okay.

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Filed under belief, christians, faith, God, in-laws, leadings, physical pain, prayer, pride, statement of faith, struggling with faith

Compassion

I’m currently reading a lot about compassion in Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh. His basic premise, which I agree with, is that the only way to truly deal with anger is by feeling compassion for the one you’re angry with. I’ve been kind of shrugging this book off as “stuff I know and do already”, as I’ve always prided myself on my compassion and my empathy towards others. And, in a way, my reaction towards my anger towards my sister-in-law 10 days ago cemented my pride in how I deal with anger and how compassionate I am.

This morning I had a dream that upset me so much that I could barely stay asleep; and after my husband left to go to work and I went back to bed, I slept fitfully for another 3 hours before giving up. The dream was simple: my husband’s company was transferring him to work in an office several states away for several months. Since it was temporary, I’d be staying in our house and he would get an apartment. When he told me, I was angry. “How can you leave me by myself,” I asked him. I used every excuse I could think of to get him to turn down the assignment and stay with me. The thought of him not being with me every day for months on end terrified me and I felt like crying in horror.

Finally, I gave up and called a dear friend of mine. She told me that he had been worried about how to break the news to me because he knew I’d be upset. And I suddenly felt bad because all this time I’d be worried about how I’d deal on my own and hadn’t recognized that he also would be suffering.

When I woke up, I was relieved to see that the dream wasn’t true (though I asked my husband, just to be sure), but it stuck with me anyways. And I thought about the friend I had called in the dream, whose husband is currently overseas in the Army. I realized with a shock that what I had been so scared of in the dream was what she was going through right now.

I don’t know how she does it. I don’t think I could. But I hope that, the next time I talk to her, I’ll be a better friend to her than I have been.

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Filed under anger, buddhism, compassion, friends, pride, speak and listen with love

Vanity

There are two sins I struggle with the most: vanity and pride (how different are they, really?). Because I feel that wearing make-up encourages me to focus on my face, I don’t wear make-up. In the same vein, I try to avoid flashy, tight, or form-enhancing clothing. I guess one could call me a plain dresser. My sister would have a hard time believing that I struggle with vanity because I’ve never cared much about fashion, but vanity sometimes threatens to overwhelm me and completely distract me from God.

It is with vanity that I struggle today. My hair has grown past my shoulders. It is pretty, and I love the way it glows in the sunlight, as if lit from a fire within. I love the feeling of it against my neck. But my neck does not love my hair, for my neck, with the weight of my hair, is nearly constantly spasming now, which shoots the pain up to my jaw. I wish I were exaggerating, but for the past 2 weeks, my jaw has been hurting so much that even eating cereal hurts. It’s possible that the length of my hair is not the main cause of this, but it is, at the very least, a factor.

I need to cut my hair. I need to cut it short so that it weighs almost nothing. But I don’t want to. How unfit am I to serve the Lord if the thought of cutting my hair has me balking and trying to find excuses! (Have I mentioned how cold it is and how my hair helps keep me warm?)

How thankful I am that God has given me a pain in the neck as inspiration to better serve Him!

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Filed under God, plain dress, pride, quakerism, vanity