Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Spitballs From Heaven

(Since 12/12/18 was last week and the 20-year anniversary of my mom’s death, I thought this warranted being republished.-PQ)

I apologize in advance if this post depresses you. It’s about the death of someone very dear to me and, while it is meant as a tribute, it’s…well, about death. You’ve been warned.

Every May you can’t help but see it-‘Happy Mothers’ Day’. Flowers. Cards. Mugs. Ads for the latest kitchen gadget. They’re everywhere. I suppose that’s all well and good for those who are trying to find presents for their moms, but it doesn’t do much for me. I know she’d hate this, but I can’t stop thinking about how I don’t have a mother. Not in this plane of existence. Not anymore. I don’t normally sit around feeling sorry for myself (well…), but sometimes it just comes.

I remember the day she died. It was December 12, 1998, approx 11:45 pm. Yes, I remember the time. I always will. She had breast cancer…she lived for about a year or so after she first got the diagnosis. For a while, she did relatively well. But then, she didn’t. I saw how the chemo changed this once active and vital woman I loved into someone who didn’t even want to move or eat. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she was in.

I guess one thing is good, though; she gained a completely new outlook on life. She stopped coloring her prematurely-gray hair. She would laugh and smile more. She stopped feeling depressed about things like her weight…yes, she lost a lot of it, but that’s not the point. The point is that she seemed to see each new day as a gift-a much more positive “lease on life”. I remember she would say that she didn’t want to color her hair anymore and if other people didn’t like it then, tough, because this was her. She did her best to instill confidence in my sister and me, even though she didn’t have much herself. I remember some of my friends were surprised to see me back at school for the semester after she died, but I didn’t know what else to do. It was my last semester of college, so I guess it would have been stupid for me to stay out when I was so close to finishing. But the thing is, she wouldn’t have wanted me to. She would have shot spitballs at me from heaven if I hadn’t gone back. To this day, that’s what I call hail-spitballs from heaven.

Come to think of it, that’s a good thing to do. Remember. I remember the Snickers bars. I remember that it was she who gave me my first Dr. Pepper, and I’m still addicted. πŸ™‚ Dr. Pepper from a can, the drink of the gods. I remember telling her when I got my period. I remember that she had depression issues, and thus was a very good help to my sister and me when we had our problems. I remember how she didn’t want people to put themselves out for her, but would do anything for anyone else. I remember our ‘agreement’ that Pierce Brosnan was gorgeous…I’ve seen some unflattering pictures since, but there’s something about a man with an accent…:)

I remember the stuffed cows she gave me. We both loved cows. I remember how she once saw a stuffed cow in Walmart and bought it for me. What made it special was that she only had the money with her to go to lunch, but instead she used that to buy me the cow. She didn’t eat lunch that day. I’m tearing up a bit…I know It seems small, but it reminds me of what I *don’t* remember. I don’t remember a single selfish act on her part in all of the 21 years I’d had with her. Not one. She devoted her life to our family in a way we may not have noticed growing up, but that made a huge difference in our lives. We truly are better for having known her. If I’m lucky, maybe one day I’ll be *half* the mother and person she was. One can only hope.

Before I forget, here’s the cow:

20150216-201455.jpg

18 years later, I still have it.
I miss you, Mama. I hope I’ve done you proud.

Oh, and, one more memory-I remember how upset I was when I was told that she died rather than being healed on this planet because she didn’t believe God could heal her. That opens up so many other doors for discussion I’m not going to go through here, but I have one word for that-bullshit. She asked us to pray for her on a number of occasions, and prayed herself. Still, despite her treatment, she died. But if you think about it, she was healed. She suffered a number of things on this planet, and now she is somewhere where she will never want for anything ever again. Her depression is gone, her pain is gone, and she is with God. If that isn’t healing, what is?

Goodnight, everyone. Goodnight, Mama.

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Soil or thorns?

Warning: A very long and crappily-written whine sits below. I’m not sure if “crappily” is really a word, but there’s a first time for everything.

I was reading an essay from on Bible.com talking about how to know if you’re ready for the Second Coming. I don’t normally think about the Second Coming at all (which the article said wasn’t a good thing), but I thought of it because there was a “blood moon” last night-a lunar eclipse that made the moon look blood-red. I’m not sure how that happens, but that’s not really important. I’m not sure I’m ready, or if it’s really something I should think about.

Anyway, I got to a part about soils, which reminded me of the parable of the seed sower…some fell among the rocks (didn’t take root at all), some in the thorns (that took root but it wasn’t very deep and could easily be removed), others fell into the fertile soil, took root, and grew. There was a point in my life that I would have considered myself one of the seeds in the soil…hungry for the presence of God, devout in public and in private, taking root and growing. For the past few years, however, I’ve felt like a “thorn”. Or, in keeping with the story, “among the thorns”. It’s not that I lack faith or have stopped trusting Jesus so much as that I don’t think about Him as much as I used to, don’t always keep myself from sin, don’t read/pray as much/go to church/seek to serve.Β  When I do pray, it’s more of a short babble than anything else. I can’t remember anything in the sermons or liturgy in church, assuming I’ve paid attention to begin with. That bothers me, but what bothers me the most is that I used to feel God’s presence and love very deeply. Even if I wasn’t bouncing up and down in my seat with joy, I felt a deep happiness and peace. Other times, I felt a deep gratitude, a deep feeling of reverence and felt the significance of everything around me.Β  But I don’t anymore. I don’t feel much of anything. I know that I should appreciate things like that, should be hungry for God, should seek Jesus and put Him first in my daily life. That I should make Him my master. And yet, I sometimes see church or Bible study as an obligation, a duty. I don’t have the excitement I used to, or the deep love and need I see in other people. I don’t feel the “high” I used to…come to think of it, I don’t feel the “low” either. I don’t feel anything.

I spend a lot of time reading online and playing Candy Crush on the couch with Grey’s Anatomy or Bones on in the background. I know I should do more, serve more, write more (for pay or otherwise), but I don’t. I end up wasting time without intending to. I’d say it’s depression, but I don’t feel sad. I don’t feel hopeless or helpless. I don’t feel anything.

Do you see the pattern here?

I know it’s possible that it could be my medications at work. I know it’s possible that I could just be deeply bored. It’s just frustrating that I can’t tell if this is the reason I feel so numb or if it’s become I’ve become a “thorn”. If I have either moved to different soil or never was that deep in the first place.

Is it possible for someone to become a thorn, to be choked by the weeds in the rougher part of the soil when you used to be deeper?

I know I should do something about this, but I know that the moment I get off of the computer here I’m either going to take a nap or go back to watching Dr. Phil while playing games on my iPod. If I start a “program” or whatever, I know I have a tendency to forget about things and never finish what I start. I haven’t finished a book in months.

My friend K told me that the fact that I know I should be feeling something, know that something is significant and powerful means that I’m on the right track. She also says that my bipolar/ADHD could be to blame, since one of the major problems is the inability for anything to “stick”. The Velcro doesn’t work. I wonder, though, if this is true or if it will be seen by God as an “excuse” for an unwilling, seared and stale heart or if this is part of what’s behind my numbness.

So I ask anyone reading this-is it possible for someone to have thought they had taken root when they actually hadn’t? Or maybe they took root, but they weren’t as deep as you thought? Is the numbness something all Christians deal with, or is it just me? I know that my current Episcopal church is nowhere near as emotionally-charged as the Baptist/Pentecostal/non-denominational churches of my past*, but I used to think that was a good thing. Is it really? I have no desire to go back.Β  Does my lack of thought and feeling mean I’m not really saved, not ready and never will be?

And how can I get that “about me” section below every post to stop showing up? πŸ™‚

Thanks for indulging me.Β  I’d better give Haley (cat) her pill and let her out before she plots her revenge on me. Assuming she hasn’t already. πŸ™‚

*In fact, the numbness was part of why I left. It was the inability to feel God’s presence, the feeling that He hated me and left me, that pushed me to seek treatment for bipolar. I’d suggest this was the case now, but I’d have to feel something to do that. Oops.


A Different Look At Being ‘Born Again’

John 3:3-[to Nicodemus] Jesus answered and said to him, β€œMost assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (New King James Version)

2 Corinthians 5:17-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (also NKJV)

Hi, I’m [river in Ireland], and I’m not an addict. I’m not an alcoholic either, although such things run in my family. I’m not a sex addict, since it’s kind of hard to be one of those when you’ve only been with one person. I’m not a criminal, have never been homeless and had a pretty good childhood. And yet, I am what you could call a born-again Christian. In a sense, anyway.

When I first came to know God, I was part of a very small Independent Baptist church. I was fifteen. For most of the [censored] years since then, I’ve traveled in various Baptist and Pentecostal/non-denominational circles. If you’ve been there, you know that those churches tend to be full of ‘born-again’ Christians. One of the biggest things I’ve heard them say is how God brought them up out of the pit of Hell in the form of addiction, sex, abuse, crime, etc. I’m not discounting their conversions at all-in fact, I admire them. I can’t even begin to imagine what their lives were like or how difficult it has been to change. If this describes you, bravo-you are a better woman than I, my friend. Or man. Or whatever.

One thing I also saw, though, was how these were thought of as the only “real” conversions. It seemed that, the more dramatic the change, the more “legitimate” your faith. I heard it said that people who grew up in traditional churches or always lived on the straight-and-narrow couldn’t be really Christians because they couldn’t be “born again”. We weren’t ‘new creations’ because we have always lived the “Christian” life, even if we didn’t call it that. I wasn’t raised a Christian so technically my conversion “took”, but I had always lived like one. Leaving one denomination for another as many of my sorority sisters did counted because their previous churches were “dead” and they needed to go somewhere else for an “authentic” experience of God. I’m not saying that every new Christian I met felt this way or that this is the Evangelical “party line”, but it was something I hadn’t heard before and it made an impression. Some were downright rude about it, but others just spoke from their own experience. I see their point, but I think they’re missing something.

A big part of being “born again” is recognizing your need for God; that you can’t do it all by yourself. People being brought up from the depths of whatever usually acknowledge that a change is needed, that they are on a path that only leads to destruction. The “good kids”, however, usually think they’re doing just fine. That’s how I was, anyway. They might not see their need for God because, to them, He’s always been there; they’ve never known what it’s like not to have Him in their lives. They never “look for” Him because they don’t think they need to.

Then, enter college. I say college because this is a time that many people are away from home for the first time, but it can happen anytime a big change comes. At some point in our lives we will sit back, take stock of what we’ve believed so far and decide where to go from there. We’ll decide which pill to take and whether or not to walk through the door we’ve been guided to.*

For instance, take my friend D. He was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school the whole way and was pretty devout until he went away to college at 18. The first thing he thought when he got there was, “yay, freedom! I can stay up as long as I want, watch dirty movies and sleep late on Sunday because no one will make me go to church! Yay!” He thought he didn’t need to go to church or keep up a relationship with God because He was always going to be there no matter what.

He was partly right. God was there, just as He always is. However, it wasn’t long before he felt that something was missing in his life. Am I homesick? Not really. Friends? That’s what email is for. Is it a girlfriend? Maybe. When all those needs were fulfilled, though, something was still lacking. Then, he came across a Catholic campus ministry, found a church and resumed the observances that he’d been ignoring. The “hole” he’d felt was filled and he went back to the way of life he’d gotten “freedom” from before.

My point is that, despite his upbringing, he still had to make an active decision whether or not he still needed or wanted God in his life, which is the same thing I did when I “got saved” and my hard-living sister did when she found God and got onto a better path. It wasn’t a dramatic change and it didn’t look like the “brought up from the pit of Hell” things we often see, but he was still “born again” because he had analyzed his circumstances and decided that He still wanted to follow Jesus. However, a lot of people I’ve known would say that his experience isn’t “valid” because he didn’t “get saved” and make the 180Β° turnabout that many think is required. Even so, he still had to make that commitment, he still had to renew his focus on God and accept the charge that is given to all Christians to do God’s work on earth.

When I first learned about God, I was taught that our past wasn’t of concern to Him so much as our present and future. We often take that to mean that He can redeem even the worst of sinners because they are the ones most in need of it. This is true, but perhaps it’s the not the only “right” way of looking at it. Perhaps the past God doesn’t care about also includes our past of thinking we could earn “brownie points” by being good and of not thinking we need Him at all. Like I said before, the people who know they are on a destructive path usually know something needs to change and will do what they have to to make it happen. They’ll turn to God because they will learn that there’s really no other way. Those of us who think we’re okay without God might not see it this way. However, I still think you could say that we’re even *more* in need of being “born again” because then we will come to the realization that it’s Him that saves, not our good works. It’s not about what we do, but what He already did.

Each person has his/her own path to follow. Whether it starts at age four in Children’s Chapel, age 18 when entering a transitory period or age 40 after decades of hard living, each person experiences God and the message of Christianity in their own way. No one else can tell us whether or not our walk started in a “valid” way; it’s following Jesus and giving Him our whole hearts that matters most. I’m not the best at this, but I guess that’s part of the process that is the Christian life.

My cat Toby agrees, which I guess is as much of an ‘endorsement’ as I can expect. πŸ™‚ He probably just wants me to feed him. Typical cat.

*Please forgive me the Matrix references. It was a big franchise when I was younger, back in the dark ages.


What *is* sin, exactly?

I’ve never been very good about reading my Bible or putting time aside for God. I know I should but, every time I start a new ‘kick’ of reading or devotion, I seem to fall to the side as the ‘regular’ pressures and distractions of life come to me. Even if I *do* remember, there’s no guarantee that my mind will stay where it should be for long. One minute I’ll be reading the Sodom and Gommorah story in Genesis…that usually leads to a mental recitation of the scene in Dogma where Loki and Bartleby (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in all their glory) are shopping for a gun while recounting stories of raining down fire and brimstone. From there, I’ll go over other Kevin Smith movies in my head until I find myself arguing with Jason Lee about whether or not the cookie stand is part of the food court at the mall or playing roller hockey with Dante on the roof of a convenience store. I suck, by the way.

I usually pass it off as a function of my bipolar/ADHD, but that only goes so far. I usually try to fight it, but today I’ve decided that I’m not going to. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

I know so many people who think of religion as a series of ‘dos’ and don’ts’ for life. Some groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention-my former ‘stomping grounds’-put more emphasis on the ‘don’ts’. The Episcopal church, on the other hand, seems to focus more on things like prayer and service-things we ‘do’. That’s how the liturgy in my church looks, anyway. I suppose each group has to teach the Gospel in the way that works for them, but these things greatly affect what kind of relationship a person has with God. For instance, do they love Him or fear Him? Do they pray to praise Him or only pray to ask for things? I’ll admit I do the latter most of the time. Do they feel like a beloved child, or do they feel like a bug who gets ‘zapped’ if they go too far in the wrong direction? Or is it all of the above?

We’re taught that the reason sin and death even exists in the world is because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Basically, all of humanity inherited that tendency from them. Maybe that’s true and maybe that’s where the emphasis on sin as an act comes from, but I’ve come to see it in a different way.

My family has been touched with a lot of medical conditions-high blood pressure, high cholesterol, alcoholism, breast cancer, sinus issues etc-that have a strong genetic component. That’s not to say that they can’t happen independent of such things, but those of us who have such conditions in our families have to be especially vigilant to make sure that the negative effects don’t happen to us. We have to eat right, exercise, lay off the liquor and carry tissues around with us everywhere we go and have everyone in school make fun of us. Okay, that last one was just me, but you get the point. It seems pretty obvious that the condition of sin can be better controlled by staying away from things (and people) that cause us to stumble. I’m definitely not disputing that because I’ve had to take such measures myself on a number of occasions. Perhaps you have too.

What happens, though, when the illness ‘hits you’? If you get a sinus infection, you go to the doctor for antibiotics. When you get cancer, you have several treatment options. If you fall and break a bone, you go to the hospital to get a cast. In other words, you deal with it. You don’t sit around and blame God (much) or expect a cure to happen instantly. You do whatever you have to do to get your condition treated and get on your way.

Perhaps we should see sin the same way-a condition that needs to be treated? I’ve heard of churches referred to as a ‘hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints’. Perhaps the treatment for the condition of sin takes place in church among a community of other believers and starts once you begin to trust in Jesus as your savior. When I had the hip replacement surgery to repair damage from an accident about eight years ago, my faulty hip was replaced with a new one that gave me back the range of motion I lost. Perhaps my new hip can be likened to the new heart and new creation we become when we come to Christ, and the damage it repaired to the punishment He took when He died on the cross?

Also like my hip, we can’t stay idle. My surgery was over in five and a half hours, but it took a while before I was able to do much for myself. In order to walk again, I had to do a lot of work. The therapy exercises were painful and difficult at times, but I had to keep at them so that my muscles could heal and get strong enough to support my weight. There was no ‘shortcut’…it took as long as it took. Such is the Christian life…difficult at times, but we have to keep on going and working in order to grow stronger in the faith. The process of becoming more and more like God is like my recovery-it happens over time and takes as long as it takes.

I have recovered very well, but there will always be precautions I will have to take to ensure that I don’t dislodge my new hip. Otherwise, I’ll end up right back where I started and might even do more damage. I have to trust that the doctors know what they are talking about when they tell me how to care for my new hip properly. To give another example, my ‘recovered’ friends will have to keep working their Twelve Steps and live their lives differently so that they won’t fall back into the trap of drugs and alcohol that got them in trouble to begin with. It’s not easy, but the effort is worth it. Maybe the same can be said about our walk with God…we have to trust that He knows what He’s doing? Without this trust, we’re liable to fall even harder than before? This isn’t to say that we’ll never stumble or fall again…in fact, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will. There’s always the temptation to have just one more cigarette, to put off laying off the junk food and soda for ‘just one more day’ (another issue of mine) etc. With the support of others, however, we can continue on the right path. Could this be likened to the way that we’re always going to have trials and tribulations but, with the support of Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can get through them?

I don’t know…I’m probably getting way off track and sounding like a blithering idiot. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. I guess what I’m getting at is that our faith isn’t just about what to do and what not to do-it’s about a lifelong change, a lifelong effort at a relationship with God and becoming like Him. Sin isn’t an act so much as a condition, a condition that will need to be taken care of. It takes time and work to ‘get better’, and we have to trust that the Person who we’re trying to serve knows what’s best for us. We can’t do it by ourselves or in our own way. The support of a community of believers can help keep us on the right track, and help pick us up when we fall.

Speaking of which, I’d better go eat something before my mind goes and I start typing even more nonsense. Oops, too late. πŸ™‚


My first by-line!!!!

Well, my first article that has my name on it that isn’t on one of those ‘content farm’ websites that anyone can post on. Yes, I understand that this means you will all know my real name, but half the people who read this blog already know it anyway. As for the rest, well, my name is pretty common. I’ve found several on Facebook in my area, with the exact same spelling…and that’s saying something! Anyway, here it is. Feel free to tell me how much I suck. πŸ™‚

http://www.religioustolerance.org/richey01.htm

I really like this website. I’m so excited that they went ahead and published this essay, because I really respect their work and have seen that they are pretty picky about what they publish.Β  I’m not getting any money from this, but I don’t much care. Just my name here is good enough for me!


The Ghost Sitting In My Chair

I’m just going to come out and say this because I’ve wanted to blog about this for a while but have no idea how to put it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death. No, not that I want to die. I’ve had that before to an extent, but I’m doing pretty well now. No, I’ve been thinking about the more ‘philosophical’ questions concerning death.

For instance, I keep unintentionally reminding myself of the sign for the ‘palliative care’ unit of the hospital my mother-in-law was in when she had her stroke this past winter. You know what that is, right? Palliative care is when they can’t do anything else for you and know you are going to die, so they try to make it as easy as possible. It sounds so simple when written out like that, doesn’t it? In reality, it’s anything but. I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a dying person…I have, and it’s not exactly something you can see being summed up by a few letters or words. My church also had a seminar about ‘end of life decisions’. No, I didn’t go. I already had a pretty good idea of what they were going to say. It just seemed so…cut and dried when written out like that.

DNR-Do Not Resuscitate. That was the advance directive my mom signed that was put on the refrigerator when the people from the hospice came to get her. In North Carolina, any form like that has to be put up in plain sight in the house any time you have an ambulance or similar come to get a dying person. They would probably keep something like that in her charts as well, but that’s the law. It basically meant she didn’t want to be hooked up to any machines or be kept alive by any extraordinary measures. She said that that wouldn’t really be living, and I completely agree. That’s not a life. She didn’t seem to have lost any of who she was up until she died, but how could someone really have their personality and basically everything else that makes them them if a machine is doing what their brain should be doing for them? They can’t, and that’s the point. She didn’t want to be here if she couldn’t be herself, and I’m the same way.

Here’s another thing I keep thinking of. When I walked by that sign in the hospital so many times, I kept thinking about how it would feel if you knew you were going to die. Specifically, what would be going through your mind in your last moments, or when the doctors ‘broke the bad news’. Things like, ‘what, this is it? I have so much else I want to do! It can’t just be over, can it?’ How could a person’s life be written up in a medical chart as though it were nothing? Would the world even remember I was here? I wonder if these are some of the thoughts that went through my mother’s mind before she died. There’s no doubt at all that she made a difference, at least to me.

I’m scared to death that I will die, that I will leave this world and it will be as though I was never here. I don’t have any kids, and very well may never have any. My husband is older than I am, and so are all of my siblings. Who would be left to remember me when I died, if all of them were gone and I still didn’t have any kids?

Maybe my nephew Austin would…he’s 21 and really more like my little brother than my nephew. I’m only 12 years older, and he lived with us up until he was about six or so. We used to talk a lot and be somewhat close, but not so much now. Like I’ve said in other posts, I don’t get to see my family that often and he lives up in Virginia Beach. My sister has two stepkids, but they didn’t grow up around me. She also has 4-year-old twins, but they probably don’t recognize me much. They’re still pretty little, but the sweetest little boys you’ve ever met. Sev’s sister has a child who will be seven next month…maybe he’ll remember me. He likes to do art projects and stuff with me. I have friends and their families…several of my friends from high school and college’s families ‘claim’ me as one of their own. LOL “Panda’s” dad actually jokes with me, wanting me to call him ‘Daddy’! So maybe their kids will remember me. But even if they did, would I have made a difference in the world in general? I’m sure there are some people I’m forgetting to mention, and maybe it’s not something I should be thinking about. But here I am. Maybe these questions are kind of conceited of me to ask, but there you have it.

I also wonder, how would someone know when it was time? Or would they? The show Scrubs is hardly a deep and profound series, but one episode sticks in my mind. It’s the one where JD and Turk were psyched and rambling about going on one of their ‘steak nights’. Some time before their shift was over, they found out that one of their patients wouldn’t make it through the night. He either didn’t have any family or his family happened not to have made it there in time, but whichever way, JD and Turk decided to stay with him rather than go out. They were talking with the patient-who was still perfectly lucid and knew he didn’t have much time left. He might of coughed or something, but I don’t think he had any physical breakdowns or anything. All he said was, “I’m ready to go to sleep now”. Except he wasn’t going to wake up. He knew this. He knew that closing his eyes then meant closing his eyes forever. I just can’t help but wonder, how did he know it was time to go? Or did he? When he got to the other side, would he remember that JD and Turk had stayed with him, or what they talked about? Would he have known when-I think it was a nephew or a son, not sure which-got there, even though he’d already died? I know this is a fictional character, but what if this were a real person? What if it was someone we knew or, God forbid, us in the future?

I like to think he would. It would seem to me that you can still talk to dead people and they will hear you on the other side, but they might not actually respond. I remember my friend Binky’s uncle died and she said that she hated that she didn’t get there in time because she didn’t get to tell him she loved him. I told her what I said above, that I believe that he knows how she felt, that now he’s able to know and see more than he ever did on this earth.

I’m not just pulling this out of my ass, by the way; I’m taking it from Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 12-
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.” (King James Version)

I know Paul might have been talking about something else, and there are other parts of the Bible that imply that the soul of a person who dies is effectively asleep until The Rapture comes. Even so, this spoke to me. Binky said that it made her feel so much better when I said that, even though I thought I didn’t know what to say. I know my viewpoint about people who have died still being able to hear or whatever isn’t the most conventional in the world but I just can’t bring myself to believe that there’s nothing else, or at least not for a long time.

I’m also not at all afraid of ghosts. Yes, I believe they are real, but not necessarily the horror-movie types we’ve grown up hearing about. If you think about it, you’d kind of have to believe in ghosts if you are a Christian-or at least, in one Ghost. I’ve seen my mom physically and in dreams many times since she died about twelve years ago, and I believe I’ve heard and spoken to my friend M after he killed himself three years ago.

One night I heard his voice asking me to tell his wife that ‘this is not her fault’. I just ignored it or thought I was losing my mind…it was in that place where you’re not quite asleep but not quite awake either. I put it out of my mind…until two weeks later, when I heard him again, asking me why I hadn’t delivered his message. I told my husband about this, and some of my friends, and the explanation I heard most often had to do with me being a spiritual person and ‘open to this sort of thing’. I don’t know. Once I figured out it was M’s voice, for some reason I wasn’t scared anymore. Seeing my mom the first time sent me into a panic attack, but seeing her in dreams now is strangely comforting. My sister says she’s seen Mama too.

After my accident, my cousin D told me that I told everyone that I had actually died and seen my mom…I told them that she said, ‘its not your time yet, get back down there’, and so I did. I don’t remember this, but then I don’t remember hardly anything from that time. My husband doesn’t remember it either, but it still makes me feel connected to my mom in a way I can’t adequately describe.

I’ll stop rambling and boring you now, but these are some of the thoughts that have been going through my head lately. Sometimes my mind goes crazy just when I’m trying to sleep, and wanders in weird directions. Judging from a conversation I had with a friend at church a couple of weeks ago, however, it seems I’m not the only one who has these thoughts in the middle of the night. It was just so odd but comforting at the same time that she and I had been having pretty much the same questions and thoughts running through our minds…it was good to be able to talk to someone about this without them thinking that I might be suicidal again like I was about three years ago.

Sweet dreams, everyone! Sorry this is so long, but considering the subject matter, I hope you’ll forgive me.


Civility a lost art?

Website Editors Aspire to Rein In Nasty Comments

Well, somebody had to say it.

For the past seven years or so, I’ve been a volunteer moderator on a site called Beliefnet. Generally I like the job, but I’ve noticed this same thing lately too. I thought it was just the fact that the boards I work with are about religion (debating Christianity and Judaism), and thus are naturally going to be more ‘highly charged’, although some things I’ve seen are just ridiculous. If I see one more person come on and say they know more than anyone else about God/Jesus/whatever and that everyone else is going to hell (outright or implied), I’m going to scream. I’m sure you probably expected me to say that I was going to shoot myself, but I won’t say that because I fear I’ll see it the moment I click over to the sites and then I’ll have to make good on it. Um, no.

Like I said, mostly I like my job, and Beliefnet isn’t the only forum I’ve used. However, I’ve seen the quality or civility of discussion about certain things take a nosedive in recent months. It seems that anything regarding President Obama-for or against, mostly against-should be marked with a ‘hazardous’ sign because it’s only a matter of posts before someone starts fussing about him and his healthcare reform ideas, regardless of what the discussion started off about. I’ll be honest, I voted for him and am hopeful, but even if I weren’t, there’s no excuse for calling people names if they simply disagree with you. The same goes for subjects like the Iraq War and Islam (to a degree). I think a big part of it is the fact that you’re typing to a computer screen and thus can sort of ‘hide behind’ it…anonymity makes a lot of people much more brave and willing to say insulting things online than they would to someone’s face. I’ll admit I’m guilty too. Also, some subjects like religion are things a lot of people don’t talk about except on those boards and thus you’ll see a side of them you wouldn’t otherwise see. I’ve spoken with and met some people ‘in person’ that I’ve known from various forums and, while I try to be roughly the same person in both situations, there are always going to be some who are completely different in person than online.

Of course, some topics are more volatile than others. On Beliefnet, we have had to relegate all discussions of abortion and homosexuality-religiously based or not-to specific boards set aside for it. I’ve had people complain about this, particularly the latter, sometimes seeming like they expect me to make exceptions. I’m not going to, because I think I’m partly responsible for the policy being made to begin with. I say this because I am a moderator of a Christian debate board (Christians debating each other) and, when discussion of homosexuality was allowed on religious debate boards, the subject would completely dominate the board. It was usually the same two or three posters, but sometimes the conflict spread from thread to thread in a completely off-topic, disruptive fashion.. One thing Beliefnet specifically rules against are ‘ad hominem attacks’-personal attacks against other members. I get that it’s a highly charged subject, especially in the previous administration with a more conservative president, and especially in some parts of this country. There was some pretty hateful stuff posted, enough for me to have trouble keeping up with it, but it was hard to get another moderator to come and put their hands into the mess. This came from both sides of the debate. It ended up turning away members who enjoyed discussing issues related to Christianity in a civil manner because who would want to be around stuff like that? If I weren’t the moderator and weren’t there to try to make things better, I wouldn’t. We ended up suspending the worst offenders but over time it was determined that the subject could not be discussed on our boards without having an overall negative effect on the community. I would say I constantly lobbied my supervisors for the change, but the truth is, I didn’t have to because others had done that for me. At first there was only debate board for sexual orientation, but the need came for several other, faith-specific boards to be created to keep up with the ‘demand’. I found the whole thing rather sad because a lot of the posters were people who had other things in common and would probably have been able to be friendly if not for the arguments about that one particular subject.

There are some forums I used to frequent but that I don’t anymore because some people seem to be rude just for the sake of being rude. I don’t understand people like that. I figure, life is full of enough stress and bitterness, why add to it? But then, I think some people are just miserable and want to spread it around. That seems to be the case with some of the most nasty posters I’ve come across.

This has been said so many times it’s ridiculous, but ‘where is the love??” Whatever happened to being civil to people, even if you disagree? Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree? Like I said, I understand some subjects are very highly-charged, but the principle your mom taught you about dealing with the school bully could probably be put to work here too…just ignore it and walk away. The scroll button is our friend. Although I’ll admit I’m guilty of letting some jerk ‘have it’ on occasion, it’s not something I enjoy doing. Sometimes we all need to just turn off the computer and watch some Mystery Science Theater 3000 to calm down.

Speaking of which….see you later!


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