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

Posts tagged ‘theology’

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.
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Thursday's Three Theological Things

Funny how hard times turn the mind to God. I’ve found myself praying that the slump in my business dissipate before I’m broke. But I’m also using the time off to work on other things. Like writing. Like renewing my teaching certificate and signing up to substitute. Like think about what I really want and need. All very spiritual pursuits.

I’m taking a class called Writing the Spirit that conveniently falls during Lent. A couple weeks ago, we were given the task of writing an “I am from….” poem about our spiritual lives. It was an interesting exercise, everyone in the group wrote amazing stuff, and I’ve decided to let you read mine.  If you want to do your own, all you have to do is write “I am from…” and get that pen moving.

So, for my first theological thing, here’s my poem.

I am from stained glass and uniforms,
Jewish boys carrying crosses they don’t believe in
While Christian girls with covered heads are excluded from the altar

I am from concentration camps and schism over buttons
The 1928 prayer book and the Coverdale psalms
Too many years in seminary and not enough in prayer
Messiahs and Prophets (blessed be their names).

I am from gentle lovers and fierce daughters, wise men and wiser women,
From evolution, revolution, metanoia, and koinonia
From words and the Word, bread and wine,
Matzo balls and latkes, Sabbath-keeping and rule-breaking

I from choirs of children in four-part harmony
From wanting what I could not have
Until women defied the church and paved the way
And I found I did not want it anymore.

I am from midrash and surahs, gitas and rubrics, Genesis and Luke,
From women’s circles and men’s rules
From broken vows and understanding abbots,
From priests and nuns, rabbis and teachers,
From buried and broken Alleluias.

I am from the holy, whatever be its form.
I am.

Second Theological Thing
Shifting gears a bit, but still staying holed up in the library of the UU church, this week’s assignment involved Carolyn Myss’ Sacred Contracts and her archetype cards. We each chose three cards from the deck, after setting an intention for discovering more about our spiritual path. The three cards represent past, present, and future, or where I come from, where I am, and where I’m going.  I drew the Hermit, the Fool, and God.  Interesting choices for me.

The Hermit, or Mystic, at its best, withdraws from society to focus on the inner life. While I don’t necessarily withdraw, I do like my solitude. Although I can’t say I always use it to advantage. Sometimes I do things that nurture my inner life. Other times I just play World of Warcraft. Which some might argue IS an inner life. Or at least an imaginary life. At its worst, the Hermit withdraws because of fear, intolerance, or to avoid the problems of the world.  I will admit to some fear, and some avoidance, but I’m in therapy again for the gazillionth time to work on that.
Therapy, for me, is a very Hermit-like thing to do. The self-reflection, with someone to call me on a tendency to navel-gaze, has been an invaluable tool in my life. And right now I’m not doing therapy because there is anything particularly wrong but because I want to indulge a desire to grow. Yes, part of that is looking at old stuff, but I’ve done most of the hard, painful part of that already. Now I’m spending an hour every other week in a very disciplined focus on my inner life. And I’ve found one of those once in a lifetime therapists who is truly gifted and is able to serve as both guide and friend. All in all, I’m enjoying my Hermit-age.

My present card is the Fool. In tarot, the Fool is the Zen ‘beginner mind’, the child just starting out on the journey, a reminder that we are always beginning again. In Myss’ archetypes, it’s the ability to communicate profound truth through humor and represents what we’d like to say if we just had the courage.  The downside, or shadow, is a tendency to use humor in cruel ways. I hope I don’t have that. But I am one who uses humor a great deal in my writing, preaching, and life and there are few sacred cows. I pretty much say what I mean, and often do it with humor.

My future card is God. I asked the question about whether this card was gendered, or if it included goddess. It is gendered, and is the male god. In tarot, it would probably be the Heirophant or the Emperor. I’m not done thinking about it so I can’t tell which for sure. Maybe it’s elements of both. This card is the ultimate in male dominance. If used wisely, it is compassion and benevolence (the Emperor). Used poorly, it is the dictator or despot. I’m guessing that Jenny might see moments of the dictator in me but I like to think that I am headed for compassion.

Anyway, my assignment is to think and journal about these things. I guess I just did part of it publically. But I wanted to share about these archetypes, an idea that fascinates me and can be very helpful in looking at life.

Third Theological Thing

Gwyneth

Gwyneth

As we all know, God is Dog spelled backwards and I’ve found this dog to be unconditional love on paws so it must be true. We took a walk along Johnson Creek today, in the freezing cold, and Gwynnie found this pool. Now, given the temps we’ve had here the last few days, I’m guessing that water was pretty dang cold. I would have posted the whole sequence, as she first went in with front paws only, then her back toes, then up to her ankles (do dogs have ankles? Does God?)  But over the course of about 30 seconds, most of them captured on my new camera, she went in up to her belly. I was sure she was going to start swimming but she drew the line somewhere. Anyway, I’m thinking she was feeling the need for a baptism in icy water.

Here’s the strange part. We live on a freaking CREEK. About 30 feet off the end of our house is Beaver Creek. Has this dog EVER gone in the creek? No. She has her own little latrine spot near the creek (can’t train her to be environmentally friendly), and there is a spring that feeds the creek which is also her personal drinking fountain, but she has NEVER gone in the creek. First time she’s near a body of water that is not on our property, she’s right in there. Can’t be a desire to swim. She can do that right here. Nope, I’m pretty sure she was baptising herself.

And don’t start with me about dogs having souls or not. There was a whole theological debate on whether women had souls back in time and the debate was not souls or no souls. Nope, it was do women HAVE souls or ARE women souls. I vote that women are pure soul and as such have no need of HAVING souls. And I think the same is true of my dog. On the other hand, being the roommate of a purely evil cat, I’m pretty sure Sophie doesn’t have one, nor is she one. Some of you will, of course, argue with that. You know who you are. Feel free to comment. Just be civil. Now, talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday's Three Theological Thoughts

  • I asked Jenny if it was possible to flunk Lent and she gave me the answer I expected. Every day is a new opportunity to start over and minor failures don’t add up to a major one. That’s so Benedictine but also true. So maybe I’ll even write my thoughts on Ash Wednesday today.  Speaking of failures, the one thing I tried to fail at, I failed at failing. I was mad at my father for pushing me so hard for grades in college and then found out that he flunked a class in college himself. So I decided to quit attending a class I hated with. I got an incomplete. Now, in theory, incompletes convert to Fs after a few years. But mine is still there, thirty plus years later, as an incomplete. So, I am an incomplete failure. Should give me some hope for getting through Lent.
  • Why am I, a Unitarian, so intent on Lenten discipline this year? Perhaps because I need discipline in other areas of my life? Something to explore, anyway.
  • I find myself being judgmental more than I want, and I’d like to work on that, too. That whole “let God/dess judge.” But if judging is wrong, why did God/dess make it so dang fun?

Thursday's Three Theology Things

I’ve decided that each day of the week needs a theme, and that the theme will serve as a prompt for my Lenten blogging. I suppose I could just say I already did this (see So Far So Good below) but that feels like cheating, or making up the rules as I go along. So I will now elucidate three theological things I am thinking about right now.

  • Becoming a Unitarian after a lifetime of thinking in terms of the Trinity requires some restructuring of my belief system. Not that it’s been that profound. As I child I thought the Trinity consisted of an Old Guy,  a Dead Guy, and a Bird which made about as much sense as the actual “God in three persons” explanation. Isn’t God in three persons sort of reverse multiple personality disorder? Which may be as good an explanation of God as I can come up with right now.
  • I’m still working on the whole Unitarian thing. I get it that God/dess is one Force, one being, one holy whatever. But where does that put Jesus? And the Holy Spirit? I have an inchoate understanding which I can’t yet articulate. Stand by for more.
  • Someone once told me that Sufism was not tied to any particular religion and that anyone can be a Sufi and still be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever. Which makes me wonder if Christianity, in its following Jesus sense, might not have been intended to be more like Sufism than a religion unto itself. I know there are Sufis out there on my friends list. Maybe one of them will help me understand what I’m trying to say.

Three’s my limit. Sort of a post-Trinitarian trinity of thoughts. Maybe you’d like to share yours?

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