Category Archives: modern faith

Non-gender God-ness: Why God can’t be “he” to me

Climbing roses

God-ness in my mother’s flowers

It makes my shoulders rise and my teeth clench to I hear God-ness referred to as “he.” To me, there’s something misguided about that.

It’s not because I hate men or have suffered trauma at their hands; I haven’t. And I don’t have father issues; my father was what everyone would describe as a “good man.”

Describing God as “he” feels inadequate to me, off target. Dangerous even. It’s like referring to gravity as “he.” 

To me, making God a “he” personifies something that cannot, and should not, be personified. It turns the Source, the Manifesting Force, the Creative Essence of our natural world into the Old Man in the Sky, and that causes all kinds of problems. The minute we personify God-ness we give a non-human force completely inappropriate human intentions.

The Old Man in the Sky can be blamed for things, thanked for things, asked for things. 

We would not consider blaming gravity for an airplane that falls out of the sky, and we would not assume that gravity had evil intent. We would not thank gravity for holding our TV on the stand while we binge watch The Crown, and we would not assume it had done so as a special reward for our goodness. We would not ask gravity to alter its natural state to accommodate our favourite sports team and keep that home run ball from sailing over the fence. 

Good things and bad things happen that involve gravity, but we don’t blame or thank gravity for those events. We simply accept. We don’t personify gravity, and so it goes about being gravity without everyone making judgments about it.

We can’t change gravity, but we have learned to work with it and to leverage it for our purposes. Accepting it and understanding it helps us to navigate through our world more effectively. We can choose to not believe in gravity, sure, but we’ll stick to the ground just the same.

Good things and bad things happen in our ever-creating world, and I believe we shouldn’t blame or thank God for those events. Simply accept. If we don’t personify God-ness, it can go about evolving and creating our world without everyone making judgments about it.

We can’t change God-ness, our creative source, but we can learn to align with the flow and leverage it for our purposes. By accepting it and understanding it we can navigate through our world more effectively. We can choose not to believe in God-ness, sure, but we were created, we will keep creating our whole lives, and we’ll create something else when we’re gone just the same.

If you ask me, an Old Man in the Sky has nothing to do with it. 

My son, ready to make use of gravity.

My son, ready to leverage gravity.

 

 

 

A candle of hope, advent, and football

Advent. Something’s coming. Get ready. 

candle-of-hopeAt our house on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas we light Advent candles during a pre-dinner ritual: candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love lit one by one in a countdown to Christmas. Most of those candle-lightings take place at our dining room table. Quiet, dignified affairs.

Not the first one.

As it happens, the first Sunday of Advent falls on the same date as an important sporting event: the Grey Cup. [For non-Canadians, that is the final game to determine the championship of the Canadian Football League (CFL). ] As it happens, a group of neighbourhood friends traditionally gathers at our house to eat unhealthy food, drink beer and watch the Grey Cup game. [For non-Canadians, think Superbowl party.]

We don’t let the raucous game and the noisy gathering get in the way of our ritual. At some point in the evening—at the time it feels right—we still the TV, quiet the conversation and we take the time to be peaceful, to appreciate each other’s friendship and to light the candle of Hope. Sometimes the team we’re cheering for wins and sometimes the team loses, but there is always Hope. Something’s coming. Get ready. Then it’s back to nachos, ribs, beer and raucous cheering.

The Grey Cup and the lighting of the candle of Hope have become so linked in my mind that if the CFL ever decided to change the date of the final I would have to take a moment during the game to light a candle just because. I would have to take a moment to remember, there’s always Hope.

Yesterday our hometown Ottawa REDBLACKS played in the Grey Cup. They were the underdogs, a long-shot to win against a Calgary Stampeders team that dominated the league all season. We took our quiet time to light the candle of Hope after the first quarter. Our team was ahead, but against Calgary a lead did not feel comfortable. We lit the candle.

Hope. Something’s coming. Get ready.

Against the odds the Ottawa REDBLACKS won in an overtime nail-biter. We jumped around the living room. We cheered. We blew our air horn on the street.

There’s always hope. Something’s coming. Get ready.

__________________

Just for fun, you’ll want to see these spectacular photos of the game the REDBLACKS played in the snow the previous Sunday. LIFE IN A SNOW GLOBE: EASTERN FINAL THROUGH THE LENS OF LANDON ENTWISTLE

 

 

Attention! Beating ploughshares into swords: Remembrance Day

poppies-in-franceOn Remembrance Day last year, I journeyed to my hometown in the Ottawa Valley to honour our veterans at the ceremony there. In her tribute that day, the minister, Rev. Patricia Van Gelder, spoke about the old testament passage from Micah about “beating swords into ploughshares.” The passage assures us that someday—that elusive someday—peace will reign so unequivocally that weapons will be redundant and the metal from them can be turned into tools used to provide us with food.

But, she said, when she attended a presentation by the local historical society, she noticed something. The presentation was about a shift in farm machinery that took place in the early 1900s from horsepower to tractor power. Tractors allowed farmers to work faster, cover more ground, and they didn’t need to worry about horses breaking legs in groundhog holes or other similar tragedies. Farmers adopted the technology and soon there were tractors on almost every farm. Early versions had flaws so there were rapid changes and turnovers. Tractors, tractors everywhere.

So why then, asked a person in the audience at that presentation, were there so few old tractors of that vintage still around?

The answer? The war.

The metal from implements that farmers used to grow food for us was donated to the war effort to turn into weapons. Rev. Van Gelder realized that what happened was the opposite of what the passage in Micah talked about. “The stuff of life turned into the stuff of death. Isn’t that a grim thought?” she said. 

So, how do we hold onto faith when faced with that grim truth?

Rev. Van Gelder suggested that the passage reminds us that war, hunger, fear have no place in this world. We need to pay attention when we make choices that contradict that. If we wake up to the incongruity of what we’re doing, maybe we can change our course.

We need to re-think choices that take us toward death and away from life. If make the better choice, if we feed each not kill each other, perhaps that elusive someday might actually arrive.

 

Some thoughts on life and death for El día de los muertos

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I recently read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. The woman behind The Order of the Good Death gives readers an interesting perspective on the life/death experience (if you don’t mind some occasional gory passages).

In her book Doughty references a 1961 paper in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology that outlines seven reasons why humans fear dying. The paper suggests that fear of death arises from concerns about

  1. Grief caused to relatives and friends
  2. Plans and projects that coming to an end
  3. The process of dying being painful
  4. The end of  being able to enjoy life experiences
  5. No longer being able to care for dependants
  6. What will happen if there is life after death
  7. What will happen to the body after death

To that list I would add my own personal concern: my house needs a thorough cleaning and things are a little disorganized. I don’t want to leave a mess behind for others to clean up. I know I’m not alone in that: an acquaintance told me she never leaves her house without making sure the kitchen is clean and the beds are made, in case something happens to her when she’s out.

In Europe and North America we don’t like to talk about death. We are “death phobic,” as The Order of the Good Death describes it, which makes it all the more difficult for us when the inevitable happens. Regardless of which of those seven fears resonates most clearly with any one person—and I suspect it’s different for everyone—death comes to us all one way or another.

People in Latin America have a more open approach. Beginning on November 1, El día de los muertos (The Day of the Dead) is a two-day celebration that recognizes death as a natural and necessary process and part of the human experience. During El día de los muertos, the dead share in the celebrations, eating, drinking and being merry with their loved ones.

“. . . let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die.” —Isaiah 22:13

Today I will eat, drink and be merry with some departed loved ones—after I clean the bathrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Labyrinth: Ready, Release, Receive, Respond, Reflect

I spent the weekend at the Galilee Retreat Centre in Arnprior, ON. It is a multi-faith “welcoming holistic spiritual life centre that is an oasis of peace, care and comfort.”

Part of the labyrinth at the Galilee Centre

Part of the labyrinth at the Galilee Centre

While there, a person may choose to walk the labyrinth. According to the Labyrinth Society, a labyrinth is “a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation.” Unlike a maze, which is a complex puzzle created to confuse or challenge, a labyrinth is a single path with a clear destination. A labyrinth doesn’t confuse: it clarifies.

Labyrinths are not some New Age loopy out-there phenomenon. They are an ancient tradition, and walking one can soothe a scattered soul. Different people need different things, so there are no firm “how to” rules for a labyrinth. But if you’re unfamiliar with the practice it might be helpful to make use of the five Rs: Ready, Release, Receive, Respond, Reflect.

  1. Ready. Before entering the labyrinth, think about a question you have, a worry you’re carrying or an intention. Come up with a phrase, a word or a question to carry in your mind.
  2. Release: Enter the labyrinth and walk at a pace that is comfortable for you. Don’t overthink it. Just walk. As you walk silently repeat the phrase, word or question that you chose.
  3. Receive: When you reach the centre of the labyrinth, stop there. Spend some time receiving whatever comes to you in whatever way it comes.
  4. Respond: Leave the centre of the labyrinth and as you retrace your steps out, respond to what you received.
  5. Reflect: When you finish the walk, spend some time reflecting on the experience.

As you can see by the picture, the Galilee Centre labyrinth is grassy with stones outlining the path. From my labyrinth walk on the weekend, I learned this:

  • The path is not always clear.
  • There are weeds on the path.
  • There are flowers on the path.
  • Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever reach the destination.
  • Sometimes you think you’re almost there, but then there is an unexpected turn.
  • At the destination just “Let It Be.”
  • You don’t need to make the path.
  • You don’t need to tend the path.
  • You just need to walk the path.
  • If you’re really lucky, at the end of the walk there will be a dragonfly on your shoe.
Credit: Pascal Gaudette (Doundounba on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Credit: Pascal Gaudette
(Doundounba on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Failure to communicate: A lesson for our galaxy from Sesame Street Martians

As a child I giggled out loud every time the Sesame Street Martians encountered another Earth object and tried without success to understand it or communicate with it. The ringing phone? Still cracks me up all these decades later.

But these days, when I despair about the harmful actions people are taking in the name of hate-driven agendas, I think those Sesame Street aliens illustrate part of the problem. Groups of people from the same galaxy but different neighbourhoods can’t figure each other out. Research in books leads to wrong or incomplete conclusions. Even if two groups stumble across a common word or phrase, the true meaning of what that sound communicates is misunderstood.

Sometimes the misunderstanding and miscommunication leads to a distrust so profound that people murder each other because of it, without remorse and sometimes with glee. 

Sesame Street doesn’t provide the solution, and guaranteed there is no fast and simple one. But if the Martians spent a little more time on the ground with the Earth objects, instead of just descending now and then in their spaceship, they would figure out what a cow, a cat and a chicken really look like.

Perhaps the modern transportation and communications system of our big galaxy will allow people from different neighbourhoods more time to just be together. Then, perhaps, in time, understanding will grow and everyone will learn that a ringing telephone needs to be answered.

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