The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Archive for the ‘Alien Spirituality’ Category

The Rapture Happened and I’m Still Here

Harold Egbert Camping (Yes, that is his middle name)

According to 89-year-old Harold Camping, the Rapture actually happened, but in a “spiritual” way. Since I’m not feeling spiritually rapturous, that must mean I’m Left Behind. That actually makes me pretty happy. In a spiritual sort of way.

Yep, as a very left-leaning-liberal-lotus-sitting Christian, I’m pretty glad to be here with all the rest of you non-Raptured folks. The Rapture, the belief that Jesus is coming and will float all the “good” people up to heaven naked so the End Times can occur, has no appeal to me whatsoever. First, I’m not going to be naked in front of strangers for any reason. Second, my experience of some folks who believe in the Rapture is that they have an ulterior motive.

And that motive is not to convert folks to belief in Jesus.

My first Rapture-ready acquaintance was a woman who did day care a short distance down the road from me. Since she was close, and I was in need of a new provider for my 4-year-old daughter, I did a test drive. Attention parents: Never leave your kid with a stranger for hours on end the first time. Try it for just a couple of hours. AFTER you check references.

Anyway, I left my daughter with this woman while I went to the grocery store and ran a few errands. I was gone two hours. When I came back, the kids were playing horsey, with a rope, around a child’s neck. I put an end to that and went into the house (yes, the kids were outside without supervision) to pay the woman. There I found her “disciplining” a little girl by making her stand with her nose in a corner for an HOUR! A four-year-old.  So, I guess you know my kid was never going back.

This was during the time when, as a Lenten discipline, I challenged myself to wear a cross, visibly, every day for the whole of Lent. Talk about a challenge for a closeted Christian closeted lesbian out journalist.  Anyway, the woman sees my cross, and sensing a kindred spirit, proceeds to tell me about the Rapture and the End Times and how she can’t wait. Why, I naively (and somewhat snarkily) ask.

She says, “I just can’t wait to sit in Heaven and watch the sinners roast in hell.” Oh. My. God.

Some people just need people to be “beneath” them, and this women had this trait to the extreme. She thought heaven was a ringside seat to Hell. Hell-o?!?!

I suspect that at least some of Camping’s followers suffer from that same insecurity. If they don’t feel good enough about themselves, then they need a God to validate them. As long as that God doesn’t validate those they believe are not good enough, or beneath them.

I fit that category in so many ways. Right off the bat, I’m lesbian. Then I’m a liberal Christian and a Unitarian to boot. I vote Democrat most of the time. I actually support new taxes. I’m appalled at how backward the US is compared to the rest of the first world in so many ways (including the ridiculously low taxes we pay. There, I said it.) I think kids SHOULD attend public school and be exposed to all sorts of things. I even took my children on field trips so they could be exposed to things and people they didn’t get to meet in their home village. I don’t believe in the Rapture. Although I always thought the bumper sticker was pretty funny. You know the one. “In Case of Rapture, This Vehicle Will be Unmanned.” I put that bumper sticker in the category with the one that said, “If the Car’s A’Rocking, Don’t Come A’Knocking.” Don’t know why. Just did.

Does this guy look like a rocket scientist to you?

Oh, there was that one time. Back in August of 1989, some guy named Edgar Whisenant predicted the world would end on September 1st, 1989. Mind you, he’d already predicted (and written a book about it) that the world would end September 1st, 1988. But he claimed, you guessed it, a math error. And this guy was a rocket scientist. Well, a retired rocket scientist. As in used to work for NASA. A REAL rocket scientist (hmmm….now I’m wondering if he was responsible for the misplaced comma that caused all that trouble?!?).

Anyway, he predicted that there was a 96 percent chance the world would end in 1989. Then, just in case he was wrong again, he raised that to 97 percent for 1990, 98 percent for 1991, and so on until he hit 100 percent in 1993. FOUR MORE CHANCES TO BE WRONG!

How do I know all this? Well, I cut the article out of the Oregonian, if you must know. This was just too weird to let

Formerly available at Amazon; Currently unavailable. Must be a collector's item.

pass and I have kept it, in my WELL-READ Bible, all these years. Yes, I have actually read the Bible. Several times. Took notes, underlined, my RSV Bible needs duct tape to hang together.

So, there I was, on Friday, September 1st, having forgotten all about it. Driving home from the dentist. I’m in a bit of a rush, because I set off a bug bomb that morning because of a major flea infestation (we also had plagues of tree frogs and slugs in our house. Don’t ask. Just more proof that I’m among the damned.) The kids were at school, but I had to be home in time to keep them from going into the house. Oh, and I was pregnant. Very pregnant. That probably played into what followed.

So, I’m on the freeway. And the freeway stops. Not grinds to a stop. STOPS. I’m thinking there’s a wreck so I turned on the radio. Nothing. I checked the overpass sign. Nada. Not a wreck. Then it hits me! It’s the Rapture. All the cars are suddenly unmanned except mine. I’ve been Left Behind. In spite of the cross, in spite of all that Bible reading. (Did I mention I was VERY pregnant at the time?)

When I started to think rationally, I noticed that other drivers were also left behind. In fact, all of them were left behind. Relief. Of course, now I had to figure out how to get off the stopped freeway, get to a phone, and call someone to go keep my kids from being poisoned by the bug bomb.  Remember, it’s 1989. No cell phones. To make a long story short, I pissed some people off by forcing my way across two lanes of traffic, then backing up on the shoulder to get to the off ramp. They probably wanted to watch ME burn in hell. But, the kids were rescued. I’m still here.

And I am still here. And so are you. Until October 21, 2001. Because Harold Camping made a mistake. And not his first. Back in the early 21st century it was a math error that undid him. Oddly enough, he is also an engineer. Went to Berkeley. What is it with rocket scientists and the end of the world, anyway?

Word of the Day: Pumeism

No, it’s not a real word. It’s actually one of those stupid alphabet salad things you have to type to prove that you’re a human. But sometimes those things make me laugh. Especially when I’m sick and my brain isn’t too sharp. So, given that I have bronchitis and am drinking cough syrup right out of the bottle, I thought pumeism seemed like a good word.

I think it has to do with pumas. As in the religion in which one worships a puma. Sort of like proof that cats were right all along and they really ARE gods.

Which brings me to this. I know, it’s bad. But the good ones wouldn’t embed. For the Garrison Keillor fans out there, you know the translation. Join me as we sing along:


I’m a cat and

You are not

And cannot be

And I don’t care.

C is for Catch

One of the best greeting cards I ever got had Henry David throw on the outside and Henry David catch on the inside. Maybe you have to be a Unitarian and big into the Transcendentalists to get the reference without a hint, so there’s the hint to the left.

But I’m not going to talk about Thoreau, or Walden Pond, or any of that. Although I will tell you that H.D. was not the hermit you might think during that time at Walden Pond. In fact, he was quite the gadfly. But that’s an aside.

Today’s word is catch. For some reason, I’ve been thinking about this word because it has so many uses and means. There’s catch as in catch the ball (which is what Thoreau was doing on that greeting card. Catch as in catch the fish—a whole different type of catching, and catch as in what the fish are after you’ve caught them.

Then there’s catch as in Catch-22, meaning something that gets you coming and going, catch as in what a lock does AND sometimes the lock itself. And what does “Catch as catch can” even mean?

Anyway, maybe it’s just musings more appropriate for Walden Pond in the 19th century, but it has amused me. What words amuse you?

This post brought to you by the words catamaran, calico, cadmium, cantaloupe, and cesium. Also by the Roman numeral C, the French nombre cinq, and the Spanish numero cinco.

All together now: “Uno, dos, trace, cuatro, cinco, cinco, seis” to quote some song my kids used to sing. Watch it here. It’s by Offspring.


Thursday’s Three Theological Things

  1. As a person who trained as a theologian, I can’t help but see the numinous in all parts of life. Some days this is like an infestation of termites, chewing away at me. I call this the dark night of my soul. Those days where the Holy Whatever breaks through and I want to pull the shades and tell it to go away. Fortunately, those days are few.
  2. About the Holy Whatever. I believe in something some people call God and other people call by a huge variety of other names. I have no presumption that I know what that thing is, hence the Whatever. Yes, I do call it God at times, but I don’t ascribe it gender or human characteristics. But I think God with a big G is taken way too seriously by people of all faiths in ways that are not life-giving. I like to keep my humility by reminding myself that I don’t have the “true” God by the tail anymore than anyone else does.
  3. When I started seminary, someone told me that by the time I finished I would have lost my faith. In some ways, that’s true. I no longer am as limited in my perceptions as I was back then. This larger perspective informs my life (and my writing) but it sure makes it hard to admit that I am a follower of Christ. People interpret that so narrowly sometimes, and put me in a box. Being a liberal Christian is not easy in 21st Century America.

If you want to know what I really believe, here are some sermons. Here or here. If you need proof that I can find something theological in everything, check out this post on football here.

Three things I learned today:

  1. I worry too much, sometimes senselessly, and there are good people in my life who can help me calm down.
  2. How to use Networked Blogs
  3. That hot peanut butter on apples is really good.

Missed a Day Already

Whoa. Failing my Sabbath year already? Yep, I got busy with work and then date night, and never got around to my post. Guess I owe y’all one.

Had our first meeting for the new business venture (be patient…a few more days and we’ll go public) and we are so jazzed. Ideas flying, assignments handed out, hard to believe we just started on January 2nd and we’re already swamped with work. Of course, I was so excited afterward that I could talk of nothing else. I’m sure Jenny got bored after the first couple of hours.

For date night we went to some Chinese place down in Milwaukie, across from Nelson’s Nautilus. Chow fun! Real Chinese food. I’ve got to find out what the name of the place is as I’m sure we’ll be going back often.

Having an exciting new project is making it hard to do the  “same-old, same-old” of writing, editing, and indexing. But I still have to pay the bills. Should be working on making money right now, but instead I’m doing stuff for the new “upstart.”

I did, however, attend to my spiritual life this morning with an amazing group of women, and then I took a long winter’s nap. So the day hasn’t been a total waste.

Thursday's Three Theological Things: Time

  1. I just told a friend that I don’t have all the time in the world. Immediately, I realized I was wrong. What, really, do I have except time? And, I do have all of it. Hmmm….maybe it’s time to drag out the quantum physics guys again. Where is the real cutting edge theology right now? In their labs and crazy squirrel infested minds. When my daughter was getting her degree in physics she would sometimes talk to me about quantum physics. And, whether she knew it or not, she was talking about God.
  2. Which brings me to “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. This was the first “science fiction” I read, as a child of nine, and I was enchanted. Like quantum physics, which it essentially is, this book was first understood on an intuitive level. Which is the only way I can understand quantum physics. Math, even the basics like checkbook balancing, escapes me. Good thing I’m a writer and not, say, an accountant. L’Engle’s book was also the first piece of theological writing I ever read (well, except for the Book of Common Prayer) although I didn’t realize it at the time. As an adult, I discovered that L’Engle was an Episcopalian and one of the great (IMHO) theological thinkers of the 20th century. Why do I say that? Because she not only thought deep thoughts, she could put them in language even a child of nine could understand. And that, friends, is truly a gift.
  3. My daughter, almost 30, and I, heading for 60, had a great conversation today about age. I don’t feel 60, and she says I don’t act 60. Oh, sometimes my fibro-infested body lets me know, but most of the time (there’s that word again) I act much younger. Some of you are thinking “immature.” Well, that may be the case. But what, exactly, is wrong with immature? To be immature means I’m still growing, learning, developing, and becoming the full expression of myself. Yes. I do have flashes of maturity. But I really think I’d rather be immature and a work in progress than mature and ready for picking. You?

Sabbath Musings

Hi. My name is Susan and I’m a workaholic. (Hi, Susan) For many years now, I’ve had my own business. Working for yourself is dream many share, but it’s got some fairly predictable downsides. For example, the clock never strikes quitting time. If you have work, you are working. If you don’t have work, you are trying to find work. And, if you are a workaholic like me, you never know when to quit. So, for the last few years, I’ve tended to work daily, long hours, without vacations or even days off, most of the time. Even when traveling, I often take a computer with me and work.

So, approaching the first weekend of the new decade, my partner issued an ultimatum. If I didn’t take one day off a week, she would be really mad at me. I know. Not the biggest threat ever made. And she has been really mad at me before for other reasons. But I decided to take her seriously.

The first weekend solved itself. We had parties to attend, parties to throw (although the work was minimal as we’d had another party just the night before), and I pretty much did nothing except attend parties.  At the party on Sunday, my official Sabbath day, a friend and I cooked up a new business venture, but we didn’t actually act on it until Tuesday so I observed Sabbath in its entirety.

Today is my second Sabbath of 2011. I am writing for pleasure, avoiding work, and plan to spend some time being crafty. I like this new trend. Yesterday, I even avoided work most of Saturday as well. Maybe I’ll work my up to observing weekends again.

There are very good reasons behind Sabbath practice, and although I’ve written and preached on Sabbath observance on numerous occasions, I had fallen out of the habit of observing Sabbath myself.  Being a freelancer is a lot of work, with only yourself to rely on to make the income needed. My habit, though, was working myself into a total dithering collapse, and then trying to work anyway.

Now, with a bit of prodding from She-Who-Will-Be-Mad, I already find myself looking forward to a day of complete rest. In fact, I’ve decided that, within the confines of that which must be done to pay the bills, I will make this, my 60th year on the planet, a Sabbath year. I don’t really know what that will look like, but I do have some goals:

  • Observe Sabbath every week.
  • Take a real vacation, sans computer, for at least a week this year.
  • Find time for creative pursuits every day.
  • Spend time reflecting on the last 59 years and decide what would make the next few decades worthwhile.
  • Keep this dang blog up, not because I have to, but because I want to.

Anyway, that’s it for today. More to come I’m sure. I now return you to your regular programming which includes

Things I Learned Today:

  • My first book (which I reread in the wee small hours) needs a major revision of the first two chapters.
  • My second book (also read early this morning) needs some major plot reworking toward the end.
  • My third book is pretty danged good. At least the first three chapters. I fell asleep in chapter four, not because I was bored but because I took serious pain meds and they do that to me.
  • It’s Sabbath and I can revel in a life of creativity and rest.

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