What a weekend it has been! Yesterday I took off for the East Portland Expo with friends. I came home sunburned, but happy that my neighborhood was host to what is growing into a truly multi-cultural annual event. It is a joy to see my immediate community embrace diversity in such a whole hearted way. As the child of an immigrant myself, it’s been something that has always been important to me, even before I grew up and accumulated a circle of friends from diverse backgrounds. People come in all kinds of shapes, colors, orientations and sizes. And that is something to celebrate, not fear. In fact, learning about other people and their backgrounds and ways of doing things can be pretty exciting. The older I get, the more important it is to me to be around people who understand that.
I think that’s probably one of the things that drew me to Bridgeport UCC when I first started going there, even though I have never really considered myself religious. It was in my experience a singular atmosphere, where all people were embrace and made to feel welcome, no matter who they were or where they came from – gay, straight, black, white, green, purple, whatever. I might not be gay myself, but I loved that I could bring my gay friends to a Christmas Eve service secure in the knowledge that they would be welcomed there just as I was. That is what church should be and it’s why I stayed for such a long time, even though I self-identify more with “spiritual” than strictly Judeo-Christian. There are aspects of Buddhism and nature venerating philosophies appeal to me as well. In my mind, they happily coexist with the idea of “doing unto others” and shining light, love and good will into the world. For me, whatever you want to call Deity, God is the love and kindness human beings are supposed to emulate. That is the most important part of any religion.
Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.
There have been of posts over the years on my original blog regarding the mixed, oogie feelings organized religion typically engenders in me, so I won’t gointo them here (at least not today). Suffice it to say that I have a lot of problems with the kind of conservative Christianity that operates from a place of exclusivity and “love the sinner, hate the sin” condescension.When I think of those sorts of people, I think of the religious zealot who chose the day of my father’s funeral years ago to inform me that it was a real shame I wouldn’t be seeing my dead father again with the not having accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. Where is the compassion or love in that? He didn’t even know me. And even if he did, could he not have chosen another day to proclaim me an unwashed heathen?
That was when I was in my mid-20’s and experiences with people like him made it a long time before I was comfortable setting foot in a church. Then, for some random reason, one Christmas Eve, my mom and I decided we wanted to go to a candlelight service. Somehow we ended up at Bridgeport and immediately felt at home. Even after I left, it always felt like a loving home that would always be there to go back to.
So it was with mixed emotions that I learned its founder and pastor of 13 years was retiring and taking her partner/minister of music with her. At first, I wasn’t going to go for their last day. For various reasons, I started to move on a couple years ago, so I wasn’t sure that being there for that moment was necessary. The more I thought about it, though, I decided I needed it for my own closure and to open myself for whatever the next step in my own spiritual journey is going to be.
It was an emotional day. I am one of those people who sees other people cry and starts to become weepy herself. The older I get, the worse it gets, so I knew that I would be affected. What surprised me after being gone for so long was how genuinely emotional the experience felt for me as well. It was kind of like going back home as a young adult on your own and finding that you actually do care that your parents are selling the house you grew up in to a stranger to finance their move to Boca Raton. Such a potent reminder that nothing stays the same forever and that it’s not meant to. We are meant to continue growing.
It also reminded me how much I need some kind of spiritual sustenance in my life. Whether that takes the form of church or mediation or music or writing or art or all of the above, I don’t know, but I realized today that it was missing. I also realized that while this blog started out as being about weight loss, what it’s really about is contemplating and celebrating all of the ways to create the best quality of life for myself and those I love, even if it means having the courage to leave what is comfortable in order to forge ahead.
The truth is that life IS transition. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s scary, but it keeps moving and so do we. Some times it takes people out of our sphere and that can be hard, but where one door closes, another opens. And new doors lead to all sorts of places…
Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
by Dr. Seuss
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.
(for the rest, see here)