Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My grandpa's death and my spiritual journey

September 24, 2012 will mark 10 years since my grandfather passed away from pancreatic cancer. My grandpa and I were very close. I remember sitting with him on the couch in his family room as my mom and grandma met with the lady from hospice in the dining room. He said something to me about how he knew what they were talking about, and that "I so wanted to see you graduate from college," as he started crying.  About a month or so later, he was gone. It was the saddest time of my life, and the thought of not seeing him again, or at least not for 60 years or so, was unbearable.
My grandparents lived in a country setting, and my grandpa loved working outdoors. There was a creek down the road that we often walked to. It was a very peaceful setting, and as a child, I chose to spend almost every weekend there.  Grandpa taught me how to work the old player piano, the kind that uses paper rolls.  I loved that piano, and it is now in my living room.   I played it this summer for the first time in years, and boy did that bring emotions and memories flooding back. We often had marshmallow roasts, and I remember gathering leaves for the fire, and finding long sticks in the yard to put the marshmallows on.  I wonder if my and my sister's heights are still marked on the garage door.
This past year or two, I've started driving out to Fremont occasionally to visit a new friend. I drive on route 20, the same way we used to go to get to my grandparents' house in Luckey/Pemberville.  The first time I made the drive, as I passed by all the familiar sites along the way and then the road we would have turned onto to get to their house, I felt like he was there with me, and I had a long conversation with him.  I don't really think this was a supernatural event; I was just overwhelmed with the memories of driving a route and going to a place that I hadn't been in years.
I have struggled with my faith over the years, even before my grandpa's death. In high school, I was involved in Young Life, an organization which ministers to high school students to teach them the Good News of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this good news is that we all deserve to burn in hell for eternity, but that, if we just accept Jesus, we will be with him forever in heaven. All of our unsaved friends and loved ones, however, will be in hell. Alhough I had doubts, I accepted this for a while, and I hoped that my grandpa would come around.  He didn't, as far as I know. 
I started questioning my beliefs even more after his death. I considered turning to atheism.  I felt that if there really is no physical evidence of God in the world, and if you haven't had a spiritual experience to convince you otherwise, why believe in something just because you were taught that it is true? I wanted some evidence!

I think the only things that have kept me from being atheist are the spiritual experiences of someone I know, who saw the spirit of a departed loved one in one instance, and departed family members waiting for another person who was at death's door in another instance. I also have had my own indirect experience, in which a stranger told me my grandpa was as close to me as a 4 dollar bill, and I later found out that my husband had made a 4 dollar bill in elementary school, which I found in our basement. These experiences are my evidence that I can turn to when I have doubts.
Even with this evidence, I had doubts.  I was a jumble of confusion.  Besides my fear that there was no evidence of a God, my belief in hell was quite troubling to me and also threatened to annihilate my faith. I wanted to know if one could be Christian and not believe that everyone else was going to hell when they died. I could not accept a God that would put my loving grandfather in hell for eternity. I asked my pastor at the time about this, and he suggested the book, If Grace is True. I read that book and also The Inescapable Love of God, as well as looked on the Internet. I found that indeed, there are Christians who are universalists, and their reasoning is actually biblically based! I was so happy to discover this.
As I no longer believed I needed to be Christian to escape hellfire, I felt free to experiment with other churches. I attended a Unitarian Universalist church for about 6 months, and I really liked the teachings, but it just didn't feel very spiritual to me (not all UU's are the same though; my aunt-in-law is a UU minister, and her church has a very different feel), and I craved that. I attended a couple New Thought churches, one at which my son was christened. I learned a lot and feel that these experiences were beneficial. While I don't subscribe to all their teachings, I have incorporated some into my worldview. However, somehow I've found myself back where I started, the United Methodist Church.  I've found (or been led to?) two churches that really resonate with my spirit.  On one hand, I'd love to attend both, but on the other hand, I feel kind of like I'm dating two people, except not people...churches.  I am feeling the need to "settle down" and choose one, such that I can devote my full self to one church and also so my son can have a church family.  I really will miss the church I leave behind, as both of them are fabulous.

I've had a lot of struggles in figuring out my faith, but I feel like I may be close to being on the right path...for me.  While I am still a jumble of confusion, I am working out the tangles.  I've found a God, and a Christianity, I can love.
So, my beliefs have evolved quite a bit since my grandpa's death. Would I have had the same spiritual journey if I hadn't experienced his death? What would I be like today? I don't know. I just wonder, if my grandpa can see me now, is he as proud of me now and the person I've become as he was when he was alive? I really hope so.
To my grandpa: I love you; I miss you; I hope we get to see each other again.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my wonderful grandfather, for whom my son is named, and also in honor of my grandmother, who has survived the past 10 years without him.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Okay, I've learned my lesson.  I should never claim that I'm going to start blogging more frequently, or state what my next topic will be, because it just ain't gonna happen.  Well, anyway, back when Chik-Fil-A was in the news, I wrote the following but never posted it.  It could use editing, but since it's old news already, I don't want to spend any more time on it. So, here it is:

I've been seeing a lot of Chik-Fil-A silliness these past couple days, so I just thought I'd add my 2 cents... Chik-Fil-A's president recently stated that he is against gay marriage. So, apparently the Boston mayor then told Chik-Fil-A to stay out of Boston. Some have taken this to mean he is going to actually keep Chik-Fil-A out himself. If this is the case, I agree with conservatives that this is a bad move. Let Chik-Fil-A come to Boston (and Chicago, and San Francisco, where similar threats have been made), and let potential customers decide if Chik-Fil-A can stay.
However, I do find it baffling when I read from Christians that Chik-Fil-A is being attacked for being pro family. I would actually argue the opposite, that since the restaurant is against marriage equality, they are anti-family. Obviously, gay people want to have families as well. But certain Christians would like to deny their rights to have their own family. And it is a right. Marriage is a civil right. Legalizing civil marriage for gay couples would not be forcing the church to accept anything, because the church would not be forced to marry gay people. The church can believe anything it wants with regard to gay people. What gay people are asking for is a marriage recognized by the government, not the church. So, even if your religion causes you to be against gay marriage, you can still be in support of civil rights. Because you wouldn't want someone else's religion to dictate your rights. But, my main point here is that people who are against gay marriage are not pro-family.
Secondly, Chik-Fil-A is loved by Christians partly because it closes on Sunday in honor of the Sabbath, showing reverance to God. Supposedly the restaurant is choosing God over profits. Yet I doubt its profits suffered much, as more Christians eat at Chik-Fil-A because it closes on Sunday. But furthermore, would these Christians that love Chik-Fil-A for this reason be happy if every business closed on Sunday? Do they never eat out, or go to the store, on Sunday? I doubt it. If I am wrong on this point, and you actually would be quite happy if all businesses (except emergency/health services) closed on Sunday, then I do apologize for that point.
However, I'd also like to point out that being closed on Sunday, being anti-marriage equality, and being married to your first wife (as was bragged by the president of the company) does not make one a Christian role model. For example, I think Jesus would be more about loving God and neighbor than campaigning against gay marriage. Also, I doubt he would eat at Chik-Fil-A. I did look on the Chik-Fil-A website, and I found that they are taking measures to be good stewards of the environment. That's good, although they do neglect one of the best ways to help the environement, which is eating less meat. What I didn't see was any mention of where they get their chickens. Restaurants usually like to brag if they are making an effort to get "natural" or "humane" meat, but I see no mention of that on Chik-Fil-A's site, so it is pretty safe to say they are using factory farmed meat. And really, that is something I don't think Jesus would support. Even if Jesus would eat meat were he walking around us today, he would not choose factory farmed meat, which treats animals (also God's creation) as machines instead of living, sentient creatures.