Day 70 – Sunday, Feb. 19th (70/296): Unexpected grace

I’m noticing how quickly I start to feel depressed at any given moment these past couple of days. It’s a subtle depression; not the clinical kind. Still… Sometimes it manifests simply as a desire to be quiet. Sometimes it manifests as a lack of interest in doing anything in particular. Yet even when it’s the latter, it seems to have a purpose. Perhaps I’m meant to use this time to listen to my body and see what it has to tell me about this journey…

InterPlay Graduation

Timidly approaching the "hooplah" at an InterPlay graduation - green feathers everywhere!


After publishing my blog post Friday, about my aunt’s passing, and adding the picture of the two of us, I felt uplifted. It shifted the experience from sorrow to an appreciation of the time and relationship we had over the decades. I have had two photos of her as part of my changing desktop backgrounds. I have enjoyed seeing her face on a daily basis for the past few years. In a way, since I’ve known she was gradually making her way toward her Maker, I’ve been saying good-bye to her for some time. Soon I will celebrate my aunt and our relationship with my InterPlay friends. Wonderful things, fun things, any-things can happen at InterPlay!

Today I hurried to church to be on time for the next installment of the Islam class. I had finally sent an email to both the presenter and the pastor, expressing my concern about the tone being set. (My post last Sunday – Day 63 – expresses how disturbed I was over some of what was said. The reply, which I opened today, disturbs me even more…) As it happened, the presenter was ill and we had no adult ed class this Sunday. So, I found myself with an unexpected hour before the service.

Serendipitously, I had not brought anything to read or do. (I suffer from a touch of boredomphobia, so usually have something to read/do with me at all times.) I had fleetingly considered bringing my Courage to Change with me, in case I had some time between the adult class and the service. Instead I had “fearlessly” decided to go to church with only a notebook for taking notes during the class. (Technically, I did have a sudoku book in my bag, but it doesn’t count because it lives there all the time.)

Faced with “too much time and too little to do,” I actually connected with a few people who were enjoying the extended fellowship time. I’m typically shy about engaging in conversation with people I don’t know and hesitant to join a group already engaged in conversation. It felt good to have taken even these small “social steps” this morning. It was an unexpected blessing.

Sadly, I learned that a much-loved, elderly member had taken a fall Thursday, slipped into a coma and died the next day. Between that sad news on top of my aunt’s passing and wonderful music that often moves me anyway, I was grateful to have my handkerchief and a few tissues with me. Hanky for the eyes; tissues for the nose. By the end of the service, the hanky was damp and the tissues soggy. It felt good to let out more tears. I knew I had been holding them back, even if I couldn’t feel them being held back. My aunt was too special to me not to have had more tears than I had shed on Friday.

This morning’s tears were likely also the result of a clash of several emotional situations. Sadness at the death of my aunt. Sadness at the loss of my fellow parishioner. And the stress of my financial situation. In a kind of “double-whammy” Friday, shortly after I posted on my blog, I decided to print out my recent checking account activity, just to be sure how much I had to work with for the week. I was stunned to discover that most of my meager savings account balance had transferred into my checking account to cover my gas and grocery purchases this past week! I truly thought I had been paying better attention to my spending. Quite obviously not! Sigh… Sometimes the learning curve feels awfully steep…

Then, in a moment of grace – or rather, an hour of grace – I ended up in a fascinating conversation with a gentleman who was visiting our congregation. We talked at length about things related to interfaith dialogue and how to create greater harmony among people of different traditions and experiences, among other things. He belongs to the same faith tradition as one of my cousins and asked what her name was, in case they’ve met. I asked if he knew a good friend, who’s active in the United Religions Initiative (, which promotes interfaith dialogue. I’ll be curious to see if my friend and my cousin ever become a mutual connection for us.

I suspect we could have talked much longer, but my body was talking to me, suggesting such things as lunch and a chair. (We were standing out in the parking lot.) We exchanged email addresses and will likely stay in touch. While it didn’t occur to me to mention my interest in administrative office work, this felt like a networking connection that might bless me in my ministry pursuits as they begin to develop. It was a delightful and wholly unexpected gift, one that left me smiling and feeling quite blessed by the entirety of my church experience today.

Action step(s):

  • Sent an email to the presenter of the class that disturbed me so much last Sunday.
  • Checked my bank balance (which turned out to be a darn good thing!).
  • Gave myself a quiet, self-care day on Saturday.
  • Let go the temptation to pull from the small balance left in my “retirement” account. I’d still rather learn how to do more with what I do have than wipe out everything I have.
  • Did some judicious grocery shopping with the $21 I had in my purse, grateful to have had some cash to tide me over till my temp-work paycheck lands in my account sometime this week.
  • Had more worthy social interactions at church – stretching me just a bit more out of my safety/comfort zone. 🙂

Day 63 – Sunday, Feb. 12th (63/303): Pompous Piety Derailed Serenity

I’m struggling with something. My anger and passion have been piqued around something about which I feel strongly, but I’m not sure this is a great time to actually write about the situation. I have experienced a lot of serenity this past week and have reveled in the grace of such a gift. When things have been a little scary or challenging, I have managed to weather them surprisingly well. Until this morning.

So I’ll keep breathing and taking my time with this, in the hopes that I write with more grace and compassion than I witnessed today.

We’re having a four-week adult class on the topic of Islam at my (Christian) congregation this month. The class description sounded interesting, so I had been looking forward to it. I missed last week, but was glad to be there this week…until I noticed a pattern in the lecture that disturbed me – a lot.

Rather than providing us with an education about Islam as a respected, if different from our own, faith tradition, this person kept comparing – in a denigrating way (from my perspective) – various Muslim characteristics, practices or beliefs to “Christian” values – as though all who might identify as Christians are the same, with the same values, moral codes, and interpretations of the Christian Bible. He used words like “sanitized” to refer to what is commonly known about Muhammad and “in stark contrast to Christianity” to emphasize something he apparently sees as particularly contrary to Christian values. I was shocked at the picture he painted.

The thing is, this man has done a lot of research over a long period of time. I don’t doubt that he offered a lot of factual data. But it was the tone and innuendo of his remarks that got my blood to boiling. As it is again now, just writing about it.


When he would make an “in contrast to Christianity” remark, I found myself wanting to ask, Which Christians? Grown Where? In What Century? There are so many ways that Christians disagree with each other that it is difficult to ascertain what exactly constitutes being “Christian.” Each denomination has its own understanding, its own interpretation of the texts that unite us.

It was not many decades ago, for example, that many Christians saw Judaism as a wrong path to God (as in, you won’t get there). (Many still do). Now there are many wonderful interfaith dialogues happening among Christians and Jews. Perhaps the growing acknowledgment and appreciation of the fact that Jesus was a Jew helped bring the Jewish and Christian communities into a greater appreciation for each other, but how many centuries was it before this happened? (The answer is, of course, “too many.”)

And how is the arrogant notion for many Christians that “we’re” (I must say “we” because I am Christian) the only ones who have it “right” different from the Muslim’s perception that Islam is the final, true understanding of God’s will?


What keeps coming to mind for me is something my World Religions professor said to us on the first day of class. He told us to approach our reading on each faith tradition as if it was the tradition we wanted for ourselves. In other words, he asked us to keep an open mind to the gifts and beauty and truths offered by each of the many traditions we studied. As a result, I saw in each of these faiths the same desire, the same yearning for the divine that I know in my own life and see in the people around me. I saw kindred spirits all over the world who simply approach the God of my understanding differently than I might or than my particular (Anglo, American, Protestant, 20th-now-21st  century, etc.) community/culture might. I felt blessed and uplifted simply learning about each of these traditions, including Islam.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with the overarching topic of this blog? I would answer, Everything and nothing.

The most disturbing aspect of my experience this morning was when one of the people from the class communicated to me afterwards her fear. Instead of providing an edifying introduction to a worthy and significantly global faith tradition, this man was unwittingly (I’d like to think) instilling greater fear of those who are different from us. One of the points he raised around sharia law (aka Islamic law), for example, is that it’s okay for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims in order to protect themselves. There was little context around this statement (or most of the others for that matter) to conclude anything except that Christians can’t believe what a Muslim might tell them.


I’ve been thinking on the Holocaust again this past week. I was thinking about how the Nazi slaughter of ten to twenty million Jews, Gypsies, “homosexuals,” people with disabilities, and several other groups of people impacted far more than the millions who died in those horrifying years. I was thinking about the impact it had on the survivors, the families and friends of survivors, the communities where the violence was perpetrated, and the countless other places in the world where such horrific events came to be known.

What was spread through that atrocity – and has continued to be spread through other forms of genocide and mass violence before and since – is fear. How can such events not shape our response to whatever is different in our world? It is too close to home. It is profoundly disturbing. And it seems to come out of nowhere simply because the leap from prejudice to violence can happen with such unexpected swiftness.

I was disturbed this morning because I went to church anticipating a similar education to the one I had received around Islam years ago – one that might lead to an appreciation of all that is good in it. Instead, I found a pompous kind of piety that gives excuse to denigrating a group of people who are no more homogenous than any other group.

It is interesting and perhaps ironic that the current (Feb.13) edition of Newsweek has a cover article titled “The Rise of Christophobia.” I picked it up at the store today after church and look forward to reading it. It is written by a Muslim woman who looks at the persecution and murder of Christians in the Muslim world. I pray that my fellow parishioners do not use it as fuel to contribute further to the denigration of Islam in the remaining classes this month.

This was a bit of a rant and longer than I anticipated. This morning’s experience disturbed me because I believe in a loving God who comes to us in many, many forms – perhaps as many forms as there are people willing to receive that love. This week, I will think a lot about the Serenity Prayer and ask God to give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change in this class at church, courage to speak up and say the things that need saying, and wisdom to know the difference.

Right now, I’m going to turn my DVD of Quincy back on and see if I can regain the serenity that was present when I began my day.

Your comments are welcome. Two resources came to mind as I was finishing this.


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