Vegan Food Gifts More than 100 inspired recipes for homemade baked goods, preserves and other edible gifts everyone will love Joni Marie Newman Fair Winds Press, 2012 Baking Preserves Drinks Mixes Sauces Spreads Candy and Chocolate
I learned yesterday that Jonathan Crombie died. I didn’t recognize his name at first: my eyes skipped over his name and fixed on his age. He was 48 when he died. My heart hurt for his family when I read that. Death of a loved one isn’t an easy thing to accept at any age but 48 is so young. I hate to sound ego-centric but my next thought was “holy crap. He’s only 12 years older than me” and a sense of my own mortality swept over me. Then, I realized Jonathan Crombie was the actor who portrayed Gilbert Blythe in the “Anne of Green Gables” movies and my heart broke. Jonathan Crombie has been a fixture in my life since childhood.
The “Anne of Green Gables” movies were, and still are, among my favorites. They were, and still are, among my favorite books. Anne’s world was one to get lost in and then find myself. When I read L.M. Montgomery’s words, I was Anne: red-headed, awkward, too easily lost in a world of my own making. I too longed for raven black hair. I wanted a friend like Diana. I loved Gilbert Blythe. Oh sure, I hated him alongside Anne for making fun of her, but I regretted Anne’s choice not to be friends when he asked her, my heart broke when he told her he was engaged to be married, and I knew love triumphed over all when they finally joined their lives together.
I don’t remember if I saw the movie first or read the books. I was six when the first movie aired and may have been reading Anne of Green Gables at that time. All I know is that I still read them thirty years later and it’s Megan Follows I picture as Anne, Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla, and Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe. I’ve never outgrown the movies. I never miss an airing on PBS and have tracked them down at the library whenever I’ve wished to re-visit that world.
I am well aware my sense of loss is nothing compared to that of Mr. Crombie’s family. I only wish to tell them that he has been an important part of so many lives. We mourn with you. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this devastating time.
I attended a dinner party with some of my co-workers two weeks ago. One asked me about the book I was writing and I told her: it’s a series of seven fantasy novels using imagery drawn from The Bible. She asked me if I was religious and I said no. She then expressed surprise at the difficulty at the research involved with such an undertaking when I wasn’t religious. I tried to express that, while I have no religious label I can apply to my beliefs, I have a vibrant spiritual life, but it wasn’t something I could put into words and the conversation shifted. That conversation got me thinking about our desire to understand our fellow human beings and how labels help or hinder that process.
In my opinion, labels hinder the process. I can say “I’m a Christian” but that word carries with it so many different belief systems and countless examples of mistreatment and hatred, old and new. Not that I wish to say that because some Christians have not positively represented Jesus’ character that all fail to do so. “Christian”, while accurate, doesn’t describe all I am and all I believe. “Christian” is broken down into different denominations like Methodist, Lutheran, Charismatic, Pentecostal, etc: perhaps to negate confusion but, for me, it has the opposite affect. I never belonged to a denomination when I attended Church in the modern understanding of the word: services on Sunday, sometimes Wednesdays, being involved in the choir, etc, so none of those labels have ever applied to me. The dinner party made me ask myself; how do I describe what I believe when someone asks me? When I used to internet date (yes, I had dating profiles-don’t ask) there was a box I could check to describe myself as “Spiritual but not Religious”. What does that mean? I suppose I could use it, if applying a label to myself is absolutely necessary, but what does it really say?
It’s been ten years since my foot was first placed on my current life path. I was doing everything right, I thought. I was heavily involved in a Church. I attended at least two services a week, I adopted the proper worship postures during the half hour or so devoted to worship before the sermon, I listened to the sermon attentively, took notes, studied, and served the church in whatever capacity I could. Why then was I so miserable? I constantly felt like I was falling short of the Glory of God, that there was some deep character flaw the kept me from living the successful Christian life like all those around me.
I’m simplifying, I know. I’m sure no one’s life was as perfect as it looked but I can’t deny Church seemed to work for them in a way it didn’t for me. I was desperate to stop feeling despondent and, in an attempt to drum up the joy I was supposed to be experiencing, I listened to as many teaching tapes I could get my hands on. Good old Joyce Meyer: I was listening to one of her teachings-so long ago I can’t remember which one-and she said something that caught my attention. She was describing everything I felt and then she said; “if God is telling you to leave your Church, listen.” Could that be it? Was it okay to leave my Church?
Everything I’d been taught said it wasn’t. If I didn’t belong to a Church I was forsaking the assembly, a big no no. No Church meant I didn’t tithe and was thus robbing God, another big no no. Maybe I could leave my current Church but find another one. I was sure that was what God was telling me. I began attending another Church and met wonderful people whom I liked and enjoyed being around, attended home bible studies where I did learn a few new things, and started auditioning for the choir. In less then three months the uncomfortable, depressed feeling returned. I hung on for a year and then one day couldn’t take it anymore. I walked out of the Church and never returned.
I attended one Church after that and my ears bled after the ‘worship’ service. Since I’d need a healing line to restore my hearing if I attended too often, and healing lines hadn’t worked out all that well for me in the past, I stopped attending Church altogether.
It is not a popular decision. Some wonderful, loving Christians I’ve spoken with since then have been genuinely concerned for my spiritual well-being. I can see ‘backslider’ flash through their eyes and then they invite me to their Church. I appreciate the concern because I know it comes from a place of love but it also comes from a place of fear. I know because leaving a formal Church terrified me. What if I was backsliding? My life was not mistake free. Didn’t that prove leaving Church was the first and biggest mistake? What if I was one of those falling away in the latter days? So what, I asked myself. Anything is better than constantly feeling beat down and miserable. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I prayed a prayer. It went like this.
Father, I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing but I need something new. I put my life in your hands and trust that, no matter what, you have a hold of me. Whatever happens to me from this moment on is your concern.
I have not set foot in a church building since. It was the right decision for me because I’ve never been happier. God has honored the trust I put in Him and continues to do so, despite what my life might look like to those outside. My spiritual life is worth anything I may have sacrificed and any misunderstanding and yes, judgment, I might experience. And so, how do I express that to others? Is there a label that defines me as free to walk alone with God? Do I even need a label? And, what makes me so sure my co-worker was interested anyway?
I can’t be and I know I have a tendency to over think. But, the dinner party raised an awareness of how we humans use labels in our attempts to understand each other. A problem arises for me because no label fits 100%. I am a Christian who doesn’t attend a building called church. I read the Bible but don’t agree with most of the interpretations of scripture flying around today. I practice Yoga but don’t align myself with all the spiritual beliefs that go along with it-some, a lot, but not all. I am a vegan but perhaps ‘doing the best I can to be responsible and considerate in my day to day life’ is more accurate. No labels define me. I live both in and outside of the boundaries labels imply.
I believe I never see something but what I need to address it my own life which raises the question: how do I label others? Do I slap labels on people, box them into a place in my mind, and then claim I understand them? I hope not. I hope I look at others and see that they are all unique and that I can have no true understanding of them as long as I continue to label them. I must give them the freedom to live beyond such interpretation as I demand that right for myself.
How about you? In what ways do you strive to cast off the limitations a label has imposed on your life? I would love to hear about it.
End note: I borrowed the title of this post from “Lay My Love” by Brian Eno and John Cale
It’s 2014! A New Year, a time for resolutions, reinventions, and reformations. Or, at least, anything that starts with R. I’m not a huge proponent for making New Year’s Resolutions; however, I did resolve to start the blog I’ve been nattering about.
Deciding on a name for this blog was rather difficult. I am a writer but ‘writer’ doesn’t begin to cover all my interests; which are many and varied. No, I needed something more. I liked the idea of Renaissance Woman and looked up renaissance in the dictionary. The fourth definition I found bore a close resemblance to the thought I wished to convey: a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth, revival (more “R” words). And yet, it still didn’t feel right.
Google gave me the word ‘Polymath’. Polymath is defined as “a person whose experience spans a significant number of different subject areas: such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.” I learned that Polymath is applied to great thinkers of the Renaissance as well as the Golden Age of Islam. Leonardo da Vinci is considered a polymath; so are Omar Khayyam and Hildegard of Bingen.
I learned the term Polymath is used interchangeably with Polyhister and, while both terms seemed a more apt description of what I wanted to do with my blog, neither “Polymath Woman” nor “Polyhister Woman” rolled easily off the tongue. Fortunately, as I continued to read through Wikipedia’s entry on Polymath, I learned that Renaissance Man had been used to mean Polymath in early 20th century. Now thoroughly educated, and relieved I wasn’t stuck with polyhister, I settled on a title for my blog.
I imagine I’ll post an eclectic mix of writing, but the posts will always be about something that interests me. I also imagine yours and my opinions will often differ: I thank God for it. Imagine how boring life would be if everyone thought the same! I welcome comments and the opportunity to learn from all of you something I would not have seen on my own. However, let’s please keep it civil. I understand opinions won’t always coincide but let’s not belittle others for not seeing something the way we think they should.
Again, welcome! I look forward to 2014. The new year is full of possibilities.
P.S. Just for fun: here’s a quote from Robert A. Heinlein that sums up a polymath:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)