Monday, August 20, 2007

crisis of faith

We’ve had a number of those tragic situations lately where people bring up the phrase “crisis of faith.” The earthquake in Peru, the mining accident in Utah. The newspapers are fond of asking folks struggling through these situations, “What does this do to your faith?”

The question assumes that painful life experiences should be evidence that God doesn’t exist. But that’s only true if a person believes that God has the power (and the will) to end all human suffering. Many people believe in that sort of God, but other beliefs are possible that don’t present that problem.

I believe in a companion God, not a supernatural savior God. I sense a God that suffers with us through our painful experiences and who helps us find our own way out of hard times (when a way out is possible), but who does not have the power to contradict the laws of nature in a way that would prevent all suffering.

To me, theologies are not right or wrong but healthy or unhealthy. When faced with hard times do your beliefs help you heal and move forward, or when you really need the comfort of faith do your beliefs throw you into a crisis?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

what's on your screen saver?

I used to have a picture of Christopher Meloni. Now I've got a picture of Greg Louganis, shot from above about to do a reverse drive. Very inspiring.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

happy kid

As I was leaving home this morning for a meeting, I ran into my neighbor as we were both out in front of our homes in front of our garages. He was there with his dog and his little girl. She'll be two in October. She said hello to me, and I said hi back. And then she came over to me looking intently at my shoes. She stood in front of me looking at my shoes: a pair of cheap sneakers in a retro style. Her dad said, "she's really into shoes right now." Then he said to his daughter, "cool shoes, huh?" She didn't say anything but then she looked up at me and simultaneously through up her hands in the universal two year old symbol for "pick me up." I did, and she hugged me. I told her she had cute shoes, too: little sandlas with applicaied plastic flowers. And then I put her down.

But that image of her looking up at me with her hands up stayed with me all day. An incredibly genuine and innocent expression of love and connection combined with complete expectation that such love and connection is our spiritual birthright, even from a neighbor you don't know very well. And it is so.

really 45

At the gym this afternoon I had the first experience that told me i was really 45. My birthday is today. I sat down on the exercise bike, the same bike I ride 35 minutes 3 days a week every week. As you start pedaling it asks you to enter a pre-set course - cross country; then enter a workout time - 30 minutes plus a 5 minute cool down; then enter your age. The default comes up 35 then you use the down and up arrows to adjust. I used the up arrows: 36, 37, 38, 39... The last time I was at the gym, Tuesday, I stopped at 44. Today I hit the arrow again: 45.

I don't know whether it really makes any difference in the operation of the bike. But it made a change in me.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


We had a small earthquake in Los Angeles this morning: 4.6 centered in Chatsworth which is in the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley. It woke my husband and I. I said "uh oh" as it started, and as it quickly subsided didn't worry too much about it.

It did remind me though that just the day before I had been overhearing a conversation at the gym where some guy was saying that people weren't aware that Manhattan lay on a major fault line, much worse than San Andreas, he said, and because the buildings in New York aren't built to the earthquake codes that we have in California when an earthquake hits there it will have devastating effects. New Yorkers often play one up on Los Angeles but in this case we've definetely got them beat. I happen to know that all of North America from the San Andreas in the west all the way to the Atlantic ridge in the east is one unified techtonic plate. Earthquakes can occur within the plate when pressure on either side pushes in toward the middle, but not to the severity that can occur between two plates as they slide together.

Later I looked it up. The last major earthquake to hit New York was in 1844, a 5.2 quake off the Far Roackaway shore in Queens. Although a quake of 6.0 or higher is possible and would be devastating it's highly unlikely. Los Angeles had a 6.7 earthquake in 1994 called the Northridge though the real epicenter was Reseda. I was here for that one, too, in Santa Monica. That was the first earthquake to strike directly beneath an American urban center since 1933 when a 6.4 hit in Long Beach.

give to the one who asks of you

I was talking to a friend of mine about the need to say yes as often as possible in life. I told him that I thought it was God's responsibility to keep presenting us with opportunities in life that would lead to deeper, richer experience, and that it was our responsibility to say yes to God's suggestions whenever we could. I even told him I thought in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says we should "Give to the one who asks of you" (Matthew 5:42) that he wasn't talking so much about charity as he was giving advice about a positive and accepting stance toward the world. If the universe proposes something we should try to say yes.

So, of course, today, as my cycling group is milling around the Coffee Bean getting ready for our ride, I'm approached by a man who asks if I could give him some money so he can buy breakfast. I have a twenty dollar bill and three singles in my wallet and I give him the $3. And then he tells me his story of trying to hitch-hike to Illinois where he has some family. He shows me a place on his arm where a bandage he had been wearing has left a black mark. He needs a shower. He shows me the ID band on his wrist that has his name. I assume it was from the hospital but he says it's from prison. He doesn't take it off because it's the only ID he has.

He's still talking when my cycling group is ready to go and they start riding off. I listen as long as I can and then I beg off wiching him well and luck. He says with real gratitude, "God bless you." God does.

that guy with his bike

I get up at quarter to six on Thursdays. I put on my bike clothes, pump up the tires, and at about 6:15 ride down the hill from my house to a corner where I meet a friend of mine named Brian. Then Brian and I ride over to a Coffee Bean where we meet up with 6 or 8 (or today 12) other people and we all do a ride together around Griffith Park.

While I'm standing at the corner with my bike for Brian to arrive I see every morning a woman on the other side of the street walk down to the corner and wait for a bus. There's no bench so she stands. She's dressed appropriately for an office. Usually she drinks a bottle of some kind of nutrition drink from a bottle while she waits. She always times the bus exactly, waiting no more than a minute or two before the bus pulls up and she gets on board and starts the ride toward downtown.

This morning when she showed up I said to myself, "There's the woman who waits for the bus." And then I had the thought that she was looking across the street at me thinking to herself, "There that guy with his bike." I'm not only the one having thoughts about the world. Sometimes the world thinks about me. It's startling when we have occassion to realize that there are other viewpoints than our own by which to view the world. All of them "right." And all of them different.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

not again

I've been riding my bike on a regular Thursday morning ride with a group of folks in my neighborhood. We meet up at a coffee house and then ride through Griffith Park, up to the ridge. Unfortunately, since the fire a few months ago, the route down the other side of the hill is closed, so we usually end up turning around and coming back down the same way we came up (there is another way down but it's an extremely rough road it's no fun to ride). It's a little unsatisfying to retrace the route, although going down is different from going up, and the purpose of the ride is training our bodies, not to get somewhere or complete a specific route.

Once we've accomplished something in life there is no spiritual need to do it again. Repeating accomplishments unhealthfully snares us into the past, instead of allowing us that time for new experiences. instead of re-recreating past experiences, which are never as fulfilling the second time around, it's better to see what new experience we can undertake. Once we've already made some potential in us manifest in the world, the experience is forever preserved in God through God's role as the eternal rememberer. Doing it again adds nothing to the divine experience.

Of course, like my weekly bike ride on the same route, a lot of what we choose to do a second time or again and again, is not an atempt to re-create the past, but is in the service of something new. The weekly bike ride is in the service of growth in experience and strengthing muscles. And some experiences are so rich that it make take several repeitions before everything potential in it is actually realized. So the useful question to ask when faced with the possibility of doing again something we've done before is, "Is this an attempt to re-create an experience I've already fully realized, or, is this an opportunity to add to my experience of life by finding something new in the already familiar?"

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

feed the head

this week's favorite website:

vector park

weird and addictive. I'm warning you.

hey sailor

any time you can say, "I never did that before" (assuming what you've just done was in the service of joy) you earn a benefit of spiritual health and maturity. Spiritual health is linked to the abundance of life, living out all the potentialities within you, stretching yourself to do more than you thought, and growing into capabilities you didn't previously have.

I had an opprotunity to challenge myself over the last few months when I signed up tfor the role of a sailor in the opening production number of the Gay Mens Chorus concerts we had last weekend. We were singing the Norwegian Sailor's Chorus from Wgner's Flying Dutchman. I've never done any acting or dancing before, and although this was at a pretty low level it was still a stretch for me to move and pose, keep count in my head, hit my mark, and mime sailor-like actions such as pulling a rope, rowing and drinking beer with my mates, all while singing my part in the music.

14 of us worked together to create the scene. We worked hard, put in extra rehearsals, and ended up with a successful, number. And in the meantime we got to know each other better, became friends, and some of us, like me, gave birth to a part of ourselves that had never lived before. Here's a picture of the sailors in the dressing room at the theater.: