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Imperfect Serenity

I began this blog in 2005 while I was taking care of two young children and my dying mother, so the title, Imperfect Serenity, referred to my struggle to stay spiritually grounded during a difficult time. Eventually the title came to include my experiences in eco-justice activism, anti-racism work, and book publicity. As I started publishing my writing on Huffington Post and Salon, I stopped posting here often, but many of the topics are still timely, so feel free to poke around.

September10, 2010

In Response to Religious Prejudice

By |September 10th, 2010|Categories: Spirituality|0 Comments

I appreciated the responses to last week's Finding My Voice blog post, including Johan's musings on similar questions. I've decided to write a follow up essay for the Huffington Post on differing images of God to respond to the erroneous assumptions about believers that permeated the angry comments on my last article there, but since then the issue of the potential Qu'ran burning has made me feel I need to say something about that, also. Still, what can I say that hasn't already been said by Gail Collins, FCNL, or the UCC? What kept coming back to me was a song from Northern Ireland that tells a true story that occurred in 1974. As I listened to different versions on YouTube, I remembered that Jesus often answered his critics by [...]

September6, 2010

If You Want to Write

By |September 6th, 2010|Categories: Writing|4 Comments

I’ve gotten several requests lately from people who want to write about their spiritual experiences. A recent email asks, “Do you have any advice?” a question so broad that I could write a book to answer it, though I’m going to settle for a blog post. My hope is that this will be helpful to the many people who feel that longing to share their story in print (and that it will spare me the hours it could potentially take to answer each of these requests individually). Here’s my first and main piece of advice: if you feel called to write, start writing. I first started feeling the inner-nudge to write while I was working for a non-profit about 19 years ago. I started typing [...]

September2, 2010

Finding My Voice

By |September 2nd, 2010|Categories: Writing|9 Comments

screen shot onlyAs some of you may have seen, this week I have an article on the Huffington Post, which has so far gotten nearly 600 comments, most of them negative, some vitriolic. It’s been interesting watching the comments pile up faster than I can read them, let alone respond. Mostly they haven’t bothered me because it is clear that the anger people feel toward religion has very little to do with me, though I am trying to understand it. I don’t have a clear analysis yet, just a sense that what my writing tries to do—help people get past their negative stereotypes of God and find a mature connection to the Divine that’s not based on coercion—is needed more than I realized, not to force [...]

August26, 2010

Katrina, Five Years Later

By |August 26th, 2010|Categories: Climate Change, Racism, Writing|0 Comments

When I first started to write The Wisdom to Know the Difference, Hurricane Katrina was still fresh in my mind. Though the following outtake didn't make it into the book, this seems like a good week to remember some of the lessons from that sad chapter in US history: Blaming human caused misfortunes on God is not just a matter of history. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said that God was punishing the United States because of feminists, abortionists, homosexuals, and the ACLU. Likewise, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do [...]

August24, 2010

Health, Stress and Control

By |August 24th, 2010|Categories: Writing|0 Comments

This was a good outtake for me to reread this morning, as I am feeling a tiny bit stressed out with the book release nine days away. It reminded me that most of the stressors in my life are things I've chosen and actually want (I just wish that the kids were back in school during a week when I have the opportunity to write a number of articles ). Still, even though some of the timing is out of my control, I have many options, much to be grateful for, and it's good to remember that. So here's the outtake: Much research has focused on how our sense of control affects our health. At first this may seem to contradict the idea of accepting [...]

August21, 2010

Radical Freedom

By |August 21st, 2010|Categories: Spirituality, Writing|0 Comments

I'm really not sure how this summer experiment in posting out takes from the book has gone from a reader's point of view. There haven't been many comments, but my readership (according to my stat counter) seems to have remained steady. For me, it's been fun to scan through old drafts and the original interviews, finding bits and pieces I had forgotten as the book evolved. Some of them are turning into other articles for other publications. Here's a bit from one of my favorite books on Jesus: Dominican author Albert Nolan argues that letting go is liberating, rather than oppressive. In Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom, Nolan argues that many of Jesus’ teachings point toward what modern writers call detachment, an attitude [...]

August18, 2010

A Muslim View of God

By |August 18th, 2010|Categories: Spirituality|2 Comments

Between it being Ramadan and the controversy over the Muslim center proposed a few blocks away from Ground Zero in New York, Islam is getting more mention than usual in the press these days. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much of it fosters understanding of the religion itself or the places where our beliefs are not so different. So today I'm offering a previously unpublished part of my interview with an Imam who studied Comparative Religion at Harvard and now teaches history at a Quaker school. First, I asked him about whether the images of God were more benevolent in Islam than in Christianity: “I would think so. Every single chapter of the Qur’an, except one, starts out, ‘Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim. In the name of God, [...]

August15, 2010

Is Ego Good or Bad?

By |August 15th, 2010|Categories: Spirituality|3 Comments

When I decided to spend the summer posting "deleted scenes" from the book, I wasn't really sure what I would find on the cutting room floor. Now, with two and a half weeks until publication of the paperback and this blogging experiment reaching it's end, it seems more got cut from the book than included in the end. These two paragraphs represent an early line of thinking about the ego, though I never quite felt clear enough about what I wanted to say to include it. I'm curious what others think: Many spiritual traditions talk about the value of letting go of our egos. It’s the whole point in Buddhism. It’s a big help to Christian discernment. Why do so many faiths seemingly point us [...]

August12, 2010

Another Inspiration

By |August 12th, 2010|Categories: Climate Change, Nonviolent Direct Action|0 Comments

Wangari Maathai is another influential Kenyan. The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maathai angered many of the same people as Richard Leakey and received death threats from the regime of Daniel arap Moy (dictator from 1978 to 2002). Writer Alexandra Fuller describes Maathai as “a human-rights activist and environmentalist who ingeniously used an environmental campaign to oppose Moi’s regime and agitate for democratic elections. She recognized (and so, in a more sinister way, did Moi) that a hungry population in a country whose land was a growing desert would not have the energy to oppose a corrupt dictatorship.” Maathai's strategy: plant trees. Her Green Belt Movement “mobilized 100,000 women to form tree-nursery groups…30 million trees were planted across the country for fuel, building, shade, food, [...]

August10, 2010

An Inspiration

By |August 10th, 2010|Categories: Spirituality, Writing|1 Comment

Some of you have heard me say that it was pregnancy that inspired me to write The Wisdom to Know the Difference. That's mostly true, but the other thing that got me thinking about the Serenity Prayer was a 60 Minutes episode about Richard Leakey. This deleted bit of the book is one of the first things I wrote, though I later cut it, partly because I found out that Leakey was a more controversial and complex figure than I originally realized, and also because there were so many interesting people whom I got to interview myself. Still, I find his story intriguing: Discerning what we can and cannot change is one of life’s great challenges. Too often we waste energy complaining about problems that are [...]

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