Mom to the Left

I'm a mom who tends to live just to the "left" of most of the people around me here in Indiana.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Yesterday we spent the day at our district's annual Scout-o-Rama. All of the Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops from our entire district were there. In addition to being a fun day, it was a milestone day for my 11yo. He received his Arrow of Light award (highest honor in Cub Scouts)and "bridged up" into Boy Scouts. As the den leader, it was nice to watch the boys I'd worked with for years receive this honor. Here are 3 of my 4 boys after receiving the Arrow of Light award. (The fourth boy had a scheduling conflict.)

Here's my son crossing the rope bridge that was the symbolic bridge to Boy Scouts.

And now they stand as Boy Scouts at the end of the bridge with their new Scoutmaster and one of the older Boy Scouts.

My oldest son was also involved with helping to run the event. He did the cooking for his troop. Here he is making chicken and noodles.

And here he is (on the left) with a boy from another troop serving as emcees at the campfire circle in the evening. (The audience is off camera to the left.)

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Vegetarian Discussion

It's that time of year again when the topic of vegetarianism comes up again in our family. Now that the cold winter is behind us (for the most part) we are more inclined to want to get away from meat. Intellectually we are all behind it (okay, maybe except for the 11yo and the 6yo). The problem is much more pragmatic.

You see, I am Busy. Yes, that's Busy with a capital B. When I was working full time back in February and March, I didn't even set foot in a grocery store. There was no time. Dinner was left up to the hubby and the delivery man. Now that I'm back to subbing, I have a little more time for luxuries like grocery shopping...but not much. I have time to shop, barely. I don't have time for clipping coupons, meal planning, and list writing. So in between my many other errands, I stop by the grocery store, grab a cart and weave in and out of the aisles throwing things into the cart.

At this point it is all muscle memory and habit. I can come up with meat-based meals on the spot without a list because I've done that for years. When I am in the grocery store, I can see frozen chicken breasts or ground beef on sale and immediately 4-5 recipes pop into my head and almost simultaneously so do the other needed ingredients and where I can find them in the store. My mental store of vegetarian recipes is much more limited. I mean, I can do Boca Burgers and Mac and Cheese and I'm about spent. Now I'm sure people could comment to this post and say "you could try ...(insert whatever favorite veggie recipe)". I know that there are lots of other vegetarian options and I have cookbooks at home to help me. The point is, they aren't in my head. To get to them I have to sit down with the cookbooks ahead of time, plan my meals, list the ingredients, check what we already have at home, and then shop. That becomes real Work that takes Time.

My husband is getting irritated with me. He has gone back to eating strictly vegetarian a week ago and I keep making meat for dinner. Last night it was frozen chicken breasts in one of those meal in a box kits. You know the kind, put chicken, stuffing mix and seasoning in one pan, cover with a can of sauce and pop in the oven. Five minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking in the oven, and dinner is served. He frowned. He stopped on his way home from work and bought a frozen organic spinach and feta pizza for himself.

I've told him he is welcome to make dinner himself if he doesn't like what I'm making. Right now this is what I have. I'd like to be able to run through the grocery store and pick out vegetarian meal items (preferably a week's worth at a time) the way I can with meat-based items, but I'm not there yet. Sigh.

Maybe I need to watch Fast Food Nation again. That would probably jolt me into action.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

It was meant to be

On yesterday's post about our leaving the UU church, michiganme commented that the UU church helped me on my journey to find the spirituality that worked better for me. Actually, that is something I've thought a lot about.

My spiritual path has wandered all over the place and I feel like each step along the journey was meant for me to guide me in the direction I needed to go. When I look back at my life, there was a time when I never would have set foot in a Christian church of any kind. I had an animosity and distrust of organized religion, particularly Christianity. I wasn't ready.

Eventually things in my life led me to want to explore spirituality even though the idea of Christianity was still something I couldn't embrace. I was only ready to begin seeking and see what ideas where out there. That was the next necessary step.

My spiritual seeking led me (via the Belief-o-matic quiz at to discover UUism. I began reading up on it and I checked online for UU churches near me. I was only ready to find a UU church as an environment to let me explore spirituality with other people. That was the next necessary step.

After discovering a UU church that I really liked and which fit my spiritual needs at the time, we became members. I had never belonged to a church of any kind before having grown up unchurched. I became involved socially with the community, volunteered in RE, and began exploring different religious beliefs. I was only ready to discover what it meant to be a part of a religious community. That was the next necessary step.

In my spiritual seeking, I kept finding myself drawn to liberal Christian authors, bloggers, etc. Discovering that there was a liberal way to be Christian was mind-blowing and life-altering for me. I felt that God was leading me in a specific direction. I was only ready to discover and accept that liberal Christianity spoke to me more than other faith traditions. That was the next necessary step.

At this point, I began to feel unsatisfied at church. I felt a longing for God and an obsession for this man Jesus who was suddenly, to me, different from the Jesus I always heard about growing up. I wanted more of God and Jesus in my life. But at the same time I felt tangibly the absence of God and Jesus from my church. This put me in conflict. This was a difficult stage for me because I loved my church family but I also felt it wasn't "doing it" for me. It took me a long time to realize that I was ready to consider other options and began looking at liberal Christian churches. That was the next necessary step.

I tried some UCC churches and a Methodist church. They were nice but I just didn't feel that they clicked. I had developed a list of liberal Christian authors/books that really spoke to me and, for a while, it felt like I would have to rely on my reading for my spiritual needs. Liberal churches in central Indiana are hard to come by. But one of my favorite authors was Philip Gulley. He's fairly prolific, having written or co-written several non-fiction books as well as a fictional series. I'd read almost everything he's written. His theology spoke to me in a way that seemed like a perfect fit. I feel like I was being led. I was curious when I discovered that his Quaker meeting was only 10 minutes from my house. I was ready to visit the meeting and see where it took me. That was the next necessary step.

And now we have been attending Philip Gulley's liberal Quaker meeting. It feels very right at this point. However, every step in my journey has been necessary. I never would have walked through the doors of the Fairfield Friends Meeting if I hadn't gone through all of the previous steps. I wasn't ready.

I don't know what the next necessary step is on my journey, but I know now that I am being led by God on my journey to be closer to him/her. I needed UUism to teach me that one can be religiously liberal and to provide an environment where I could explore religious ideas that would eventually lead me to a more liberal understanding of Christianity. I had to go through that door to arrive at where I am today.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Switching churches

We have decided to leave our UU church. It is a fairly painful thing and I think I am grieving the loss. Some of my friends think they know why we've chosen to leave, but they may be wrong. Actually, this decision was based on two different things.

The first and most obvious thing is the division that has developed in our church over the past 18 months or so. There was a very vocal and powerful group of people who became adamant about forcing the minister out. They would not back down and just last week they finally forced him to resign. From my perspective, I didn't really have a strong feeling about him one way or the other. He wasn't perfect, but he did have potential and he sincerely tried to make changes to please the malcontents. But they were unforgiving. What bothers me most about the entire situation was the lack of compassion and forgiveness exhibited by some of the congregation. Granted, this wasn't everyone (and I doubt if it was even a majority) but it was, like I said, a vocal and powerful group. Now being UU's, they don't necessarily follow the teachings of Jesus and this is where I personally run into some inner conflict. Jesus taught compassion and forgiveness as being the most important thing. Period. But these values weren't a high enough priority for this non-Christian congregation. Do I blame their not being Christian for the problem? Do I expect Christian churches to act differently? No. But at least in a Christian environment you can ask the question "What would Jesus do?" and people might at least consider it. Some of the mean and hateful actions that came out of this did not illustrate the compassion of Christ. And the way they turned their heads and ignored all efforts for improvement showed their disdain for forgiveness. Sigh. Frankly, I just don't feel like the values of this church are the same values that I hold dear. And the values I see are not ones I want to be a part of nor do I want my children to be a part of.

But that isn't the only reason. Concidentally (or not), I have also been feeling a spiritual need that has not been met by the UU church for quite some time. I've posted often on my blog about my spiritual yearning and how I feel unsatisfied at our church. I want and need to feel God and to worship how God is moving in my life on a Sunday morning. For the past couple of years I haven't felt that at a UU church. Even the mention of God often gets gasps or eyerolls (which, to be honest, may have been part of the problem with the minister, but no one admits that). Church often feels dry. I mean, I am very much a believer in environmental issues and social justice issues and I believe those things are exactly what we are called to do. However, I can attend a lecture on carbon emissions or the life of Martin Luther King Jr. at one of the local college campuses. On Sunday mornings I'd rather be moved and feel closer to God.

And so I don't feel compelled to stay at our church or even to seek out another UU church. I still feel very strongly that I support the 7 UU principles and in theory I will always be a UU. But in practice, I need more.

We are going slowly with the liberal Quaker meeting we've been attending each week. We aren't going to jump into membership quite as quickly as we did with the UU church. But so far we really like it. My husband and I spend a lot of time talking about both churches and our experiences in each. We are struck by the compassion and joy of the Quaker meeting. We have also been going enough that we've picked up on a division of sorts that has happened at the Quaker meeting as well. This one has to do with a disagreement about building an extension to the church. But there is a major difference. Both sides of the issue feel very strongly that the most important thing is the unity of the church and that nothing should be done to harm that, first and foremost. The church was first established in 1826 and they feel a strong duty to their ancestors to respect the history of the church and to preserve the future. And they speak so lovingly to each other. It's so refreshing.

So I am sad but hopeful.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

We've Got the Whole World in our Hands

Today we went to the Quaker meeting again. This time was the first time my youngest son went to the children's class during worship. Since it was his first time and he didn't know anyone, I went with him.

The children (there were 9 of them) are learning a song to sing in front of the adults in a few weeks. It's an updated version of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". In the process of practicing this song, they are talking about taking care of the planet and how we all have the world in our hands and it is up to us to take care of it. They talked about pollution and recycling and what it means to "go green". It was very cool. The only way it differed from a UU RE class was that during the children's message, they talked about how God loves them all no matter what they do. Nothing that they could ever do would make God give up on them. And then at the very end of class they had the children bow their heads and they said a prayer thanking God for all of the children, asking him to take care of them this week and to help them remember the song they're learning and what it all means.

I thought it was a nice class. And they had snack which sold my son. ;-)

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Easter, new life, and church homes

I've been trying to think through my current spiritual state and make some sense of it. I feel like I'm at sea and being tossed all around and I'm trying to get my bearings and figure out which way I want to go. I haven't said much here because I, frankly, didn't know how to put into words what I'm thinking.

This year for Easter we attended the Quaker meeting that we've visited several times. We took the two youngest boys with us. Being Quaker, there wasn't a lot of pomp and circumstance like some denominations do. But that's okay. I feel very attracted to the idea of simplicity. That isn't to say that it was a small or insignificant service. We got there early (thankfully) and it was packed! They had to bring out folding chairs and set them up in the aisles because it was so crowded. And the message was lovely. They didn't try to say that they've got the answers of what happened. They merely pointed out that, no matter what your belief about what happened that day in the tomb outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, the affect that it has today on our lives/religions is obvious.

I especially liked the emphasis on the resurrection leading to new life. For the children's focus that Sunday, one of the meeting's members (who happens to be a farmer) brought in baby chicks and ducks to show the magic of new life coming from eggs - a symbol of Easter. And in the end there was focus on the idea that we can let Jesus be resurrected through us by bringing God's love into the world in the way that we live. What a terrific and spot-on message. I felt uplifted and didn't feel the weight of that whole "did it really happen" question that I often get at Easter. I also left the meeting that day feeling like it was the first day of the rest of my life. I feel like changes are coming and, instead of fearing them, I am excited about what my future holds.

I really love the services at the Quaker meeting. The formula seems to be (after announcements, joys and concerns, and focusing silence) reading of biblical scripture and then a narrative based on something contemporary and local that always ties in with the scripture and illustrates how we can interpret the bible in meaningful ways for our lives today and where we live. It is exactly what a service should be. It is definitely Christian, but I have not yet felt uncomfortable with its institutionalized Christianity. So far, this is the only Christian congregation I've attended where I can truly say that. It seems to be about the celebration of God's love for the world as exemplified by Jesus rather than worshipping the messenger and focusing on what happens after death, which seems to be what most Christian churches are all about.

I have even caught Big J reading the bible on more than one occasion! That is really quite amazing because he has some serious baggage from his fundamentalist upbringing. Until recently, he wouldn't even look at a bible. Now he is really interested. I think this Quaker meeting has shown him a more loving side of Christianity. He's discovered what he calls "red letter Christians" (as in those Christians who focus on the words of Jesus that are in red in the bible as their basis for Christianity). He has also been moved by people who are openly Christian and yet stand up for environmental priorities - something he doesn't recognize from his Christian childhood.

The more we visit this Quaker meeting, the less and less I feel drawn to our UU church. I'm still on the church membership list so I am receiving email messages that are being sent out detailing the painful process that is going on there now regarding what could end up being a divisive split in the church. There is just a lot of hateful meanness going on there and I just find myself repulsed by it. It makes me sad. Every week they say in the convenant that "Love is the spirit of this church," but at this point those seem to be empty words and the actions of the people in the congregation are actually the opposite of this supposed covenant. Sigh. So I feel I have one foot out the door where that is concerned. It is hard to be motivated to return when there is such a palpable feeling of joy and compassion at the Quaker meeting.

Oh, one last thing. Speaking of new life, don't forget to check out my new gardening blog at Dirt in my Fingernails. It's brand new and there isn't much there yet, but I have big plans for this summer.

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