Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Transition and the Journey 5: Giving for something other than a tax refund.

Giving... another hot potato. Me and Myself discuss the difference between what used to be the norm and the rule, and what is coming from the heart now.

Me: Good morning!

Myself: We really need to curb these early mornings.

Me: It was your idea to start working out.

Myself: Just mine? Actually, now that you mention it, don't you feel somewhat better now that we have incorporated some physical exercise into our routine?

Me: I do, I am tired, but I do feel good. We are back on a routine. How does that feel?

Myself: I don't know if it is a routine. I don't feel bound to it. I have missed the odd day to stay at home for a bit in the morning. It is just a nice space to be in. It is a place to go where I know I am contributing to my health in a small way.

Me: Maybe even a big way. Contributing... that is what we want to talk about today. Do you want to open up today's can of worms?

Myself: I can hand over thousands of dollars a year to a organization, get a tax receipt and no one tells me I am wasting, or being unwise with, my money. In fact, giving that way is not only encouraged, but mandated as a way to get the blessing of God in most churches. I don't want label all the sheep with that. Just most of the flock.

When, out of the blue, I want to give something to someone, get no tax receipt in the process, I get the following comments...

"You shouldn't have."
"What's the occasion?"
"I can pay for that."
"Why don't you put your money towards (such and such an organization)? You will get a tax receipt."

Me: The power of an income tax deduction. That seems to be the primary motivation for giving.

Myself: You aren't far off on that one. It is definitely "unorthodox" and "unwise planning", if you give without the opportunity to reap a precious tax receipt.

Me: Giving is done more through organizations and encouraged by organizations. What is the reward for you? Your income tax refund.

Myself: I liked my income tax refund. I know that since leaving organized church, it isn't as big.

Me: It is harder to give now, for the very reason you described. No one questioned us when we dropped a cheque in the offering plate. Now when we want to give, we have to defend our motivations. When church was a part of your life, did you ever drop money in the offering plate without a return address?

Myself: Not often. And when I did, it wasn't much.

Me: Do you remember your reasoning?

Myself: Why give anonymously, when you can give and get a tax receipt. The money is still going to the same place, you are just getting a bonus once a year for it.

Me: Be totally honest with this one. In all your years of dropping cheques in the offering plate, did you ever experience anything but obligation.

Myself: If you are asking me if I ever felt joyful... I don't know if I can give you a "Yes" answer. There wasn't a face in the offering plate. I was giving to a cause and I seemed satisfied that I could do that. Even when it was a missions offering, I was still giving to an organization and still expecting to reap a reward for it. I don't believe I can compare the obligation of tithes and offerings to the joy of spontaneous and anonymous giving.

Me: Do you have any stories about the spontaneous giving you have done that didn't get you a tax receipt?

Myself: I remember going to Subway for lunch when I lived in Calgary. I picked up a Sub and a fountain drink. I hadn't gone more than a block when I saw a girl sitting on the sidewalk busking. I ended up sitting beside her while she ate my Sub and drank my ice tea. I won't forget that day. I have often wondered if that is something I could do more often.

Me: What did that feel like?

Myself: Inside, it really felt good.

Me: Does anything else come to mind. Something bigger than a subway lunch?

Myself: A few things. But I haven't learned how to give without providing an excuse. I do remember my Dad giving me something once.

Me: Your Gusdorf office desk.

Myself: I won't forget what he told me. " This isn't for your birthday, it isn't for Christmas... you need this. " And he sent me to Staples to pick out an office desk and he paid for it.

Me: That seems like joyful giving.

Myself: Yes, but he had to explain himself too, or I would have resisted the gift.

Me: Why is that? Why is it that we can't graciously accept someone else's blessings.

Myself: That's because we feel like we have to earn everything we get. Not too many people are comfortable with "charity"... except the organized church. And they almost demand it.

Me: Demand seems like a harsh word.

Myself: Manipulation is a better word. Most are guilted into feeling that God won't bless them if they don't hand over their monthly dues or tithes. I am going to get nasty here.

Me: Go ahead.

Myself: Real giving isn't what you drop in the offering plate. It is what you drop on your neighbour's front steps.

Me: You will have to elaborate on that one.

Myself: I am not talking about the regular delivery of the Watchtower magazine either. I am talking about meeting the needs of your neighbour in a way that isn't motivated by what you get in return.

Me: I like how you put that.

Myself: I was down with bronchitis not that long ago. And I remember on occasion the snow on the sidewalk was blown away, so I wouldn't have to shovel. I am sure my neighbour didn't know I was sick. But I call that real giving. He saw a need and decided to do something about it. And maybe he didn't even drop anything in the offering plate that week or at all.

Me: What do you really want to get across?

Myself: I don't go to church anymore. I don't give money once a week or once a month to an offering plate anymore. But I still want to give and experience the joy of giving. I don't want to have to justify my giving with excuses or reasoning. I want to hear from God and have my husband's okay and that should be good enough. Even if it is extravagant... and even if I don't get a income tax receipt. Can I do that much?

Me: Doesn't seem like much of a request. I would hope more people get that kind of inspiration.

Myself: I am all worked up now. Can we go outside and shovel snow?

Me: We already did this morning.

Myself: I know... but let's do it again.

Me: Okay.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Transition and the Journey 4: Guilt over unorthodox communication.

Me: Work is over and we are back in the chatroom.

Myself: Not in the chatroom... in the bedroom.

Me: Okay... get technical.

Myself: Can I ask you something?

Me: Okay, but I thought I was the one conducting this interview.

Myself: I want to unload something, unleash, uncover something... but to do that would be of detriment to something I value much more. So I need to somehow be at peace with keeping it in my heart.

Me: I know what you mean. And I think I know what you are referring to. Remember we think alike. What is the question?

Myself: To guard something so sacred is difficult for me. It forces me into dishonesty. I know I have no choice in the matter, but I just want to be at peace. I know I can't do anything to change the circumstances I find myself in. I know God feels every breath I breathe ... He is not unaware of the challenges I face. I just want to know how to let the guilt go. How do I let the guilt go.

Me: Guilt is a heavy load. Heavier that those sewage pumps we sell. You can't carry the pumps without a backache, how can you expect to carry guilt without some sort of pain attached. Need I remind you... this isn't your burden to bear. You can't fix this problem . You aren't responsible.

Myself: Thank you for reminding me.

Me: That is what I am here for.

Myself: Guilt is a crazy thing. It is used by the most well intentioned individuals to motivate others into doing what they deem best.

Me: Every one has mastered the art of guilt at some point in their life... Either carrying it or giving it to someone else to carry.

Myself: There is something else I am very reluctant to share. Again... there is guilt attached. This time... I do have control. I do have a choice. The blockade this time is my feelings, my interpretations, my convictions.

Me: This one is hard to share... I will give you that. It is the feeling that "no one will understand".

Myself: Not many can. I was raised with the rule that there were certain rules in one's life of being a "Christian" that you don't mess with.

Me: But you have dropped that title. We have dropped that title. So maybe the rule doesn't apply for you.

Myself: Who will give me license on this one?

Me: Why do you need a license?

Myself: I am an approval seeker.

Me: Tell me something. Whose approval did you seek when you quit going to church?

Myself: I don't think I asked. I just did it.

Me: Tell me something. Is your life better or worse since you made that choice?

Myself: Better, in my mind. I am more flexible; Less restricted: Free. I better stop there.

Me: Where is the guilt coming from?

Myself: I am still not sure that every choice I am make is the best choice for me. There always seems to be someone older and wiser challenging my choices these days. That is why I want to hide this one.

Me: It has something to do with your communication methods with God. Right?

Myself: I guess we can say that much without ruffling feathers.

Me: Can I ask you a few questions to hopefully help you loose the guilt?

Myself: Sure.

Me: Are you still hearing from God?

Myself: In a weird way, yes I think I am. The whole hearing from God has changed dramatically, but He is still getting through. At times, the communication is weak. Other times, it is very loud and clear.

Me: Are you still talking to Him?

Myself: Yes, not every moment in my day. Some days, I feel like I am just checking in with progress reports. Some days I imagine Him in my brain, so when the words don't come out, I know the message is still getting through.

Me: So your method of communication with God is slightly unorthodox. You are communicating. That has to be what relationship is all about. Right? You have been married for almost two years. How programmed is the communication you have with your hubby?

Myself: I wouldn't call it programmed. But being that close to him, the communication is natural. Sometimes it is hard to get words out. But eventually they come out. And again I am reminded how much he loves me.

Me: There you have it. Marriage is supposed to be the picture God gave you of an intimate relationship. The kind that He wants to have with you. Communication isn't supposed to be programmed, it is supposed to flow out of the freedom of the relationship. The problem is that you and I were raised with pre-written prayers and mandatory scripture memorizing. It is difficult to talk to God and hear back from Him when you are reading someone else's prayers and treating a love letter as if it was a drama script.

Myself: Love letter. That reality is far off right now, but you aren't the first person to say that. You are right. God's love letter.

Me: Does that help?

Myself: Yeah.

Me: Guilt is a crazy thing. Right? It doesn't help the relationship out much, does it?

Myself: Nope.

Me: It's bedtime.

Myself: Okay.

The Transition and the Journey 3: Finding a friend in the journey.

Coming back to a conversation between Me and Myself. It has been a while since the two have chatted. Let us see what they are up to...

Me: Myself!... where have you been?

Myself: Not far away. I just haven't been talking much to you ... that's all.

Me: Some would call that sanity.

Myself: I have been having some interesting conversations in the last few weeks with a good friend of ours.

Me: Yeah. I know who. She's pretty convicted about her understanding of life and her beliefs.

Myself: She is. And I am proud of her for that. My beliefs and understanding of life weren't so different from hers at one time.

Me: But they are now. How do you remain such close friends after all that you have been through.

Myself: I wonder sometimes. What I really love about our friend is her openness to discuss issues or hot topics that she may be so adamantly opposed to. We don't get angry, but our conversations are very intense. We have challenged each other on many levels of thinking.

Me: That must be painful not to share something so close to your heart with her.

Myself: I don't know if it is painful. We are very different. And we shared a lot and still share a lot. I am going through a major change in my life and she seems to be the one person that I can trust with the reality of it all. She knows where I came from and I think she may feel safe knowing that I haven't abandoned my faith in God... just a part of what most people identify with faith. Something that she still holds dear.

Me: She has invited you to church on occasion, right?

Myself: Yes. I have been to her church, once. It is not that I am opposed to ever going again. I am just not interested right now.

Me: Do you find church boring?

Myself: Sometimes and some places... yes.

Me: What do you find boring?

The program. The rigidity of the service, the rules and regulations that seem to leave a big hole when it comes to relating with people.

Me: You had been struggling with that long before you stopped "going to church".

Myself: Oh yeah.

Me: Do you want to elaborate?

Myself: I am scared to.

Me: Why?

Myself: Scared of offending those who still find great purpose within the walls of their local congregation. Offending people like my family, and close friends.

Me: What do you say when people ask you "Where do you go to church?"

Myself: You know something. No one has asked that in a very long time. I haven't had to face the awkwardness of that moment yet. My family knows, but we never discuss my reasons or convictions behind my departure. My friend and my confidant is the only one that has entertained conversation with me about this on a regular basis. It seems ironic. But the one person who is helping me through this transition is someone who may never go through it herself.

Me: She is content. As is your family.

Myself: She is. But she has given me chance to voice my thoughts. That is a true friend. One that is not offended by someone's differences. And I get that in her. I have seen it with her in other situations.

Me: We have to go to work. Can we continue this later?

Myself: Okay.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

When God smiles.

Have you ever seen God smile at you?

"That is ludicrous, Ruby. God doesn't smile. I have never seen God smile. How do you know God smiles?"

Okay, humour me and read on... even though ludicrous was the first word that came to your mind.

Think of your childhood. Did you ever do anything that resulted in a smile on one of your parent's faces. Maybe remembering those moments is a challenge. Maybe I can't recall the look on my mom's face when I brought her dandylions for the kitchen table centerpiece. But I think she smiled. I see a lot of smiles on the face of many a parent when their little ones do something cute, or out of the ordinary, or just something that causes joy in the heart of that parent. Often times the child is oblivious to Mom or Dad's facial response. But it is there.

God smiles. God who created your Mom and Dad; God who forms the smiles on your parent's faces when you give then joy; God who fires up the joy in the hearts of every mother and father... that is the God who smiles.... AT YOU!!!

Now every kid tries had to please their mother and father. Some do it to a painful extreme. I am not talking about this kind of behaviour. I am talking about those moments when you aren't trying to make a smile happen. Something just comes out of who you are and what you have become. It is so natural. It is those moments that bring the genuine smile from the Mom and Dad who love you very much. And it is those moments that bring the smile from the Father who loves you even more than Mom and Dad do. It is in those moments that you sheepishly smile back and get the one thing that your Father is trying to convey to you

" I LOVE YOU!!!"