All posts filed under: Spirituality

I Sent My Anxieties Downriver — On a Grapefruit

A scene from the sacred Loy Krathong ceremony in Thailand A hand reached out of the darkness to give me the pomelo. The hand belonged to my 12-year-old son; the pomelo, a Southeast Asian grapefruit, was mine. On this night, alongside an urban creek with the sounds of rush-hour traffic rumbling in the distance, that pomelo was about to become something magical. I tried to act casual — as casual as is possible for a 51-year-old woman standing in the dusk holding an outsized fruit stuffed with four carnations, a small candle and a scrap of paper. I don’t know whether it’s legal in America to float a flaming piece of citrus fruit down a creek. But I wasn’t going to ask. I had one shot at this, and it mattered. I couldn’t wait a whole year for this opportunity to come again.  A man peered at us through the moonlight from a public bench, watching as we approached the rocky edge of Pine Creek. I pulled a book of matches from my pocket and …

My Struggle With God Ended on a Plane

It was my best friend, Brenda, who introduced God and me. I was four. She was eight and lived in my grandparent’s trailer park with her mom, dad, several rabbits and a dog that scared me. To say that I worshipped her is to put it mildly. She knew everything, and, if I were lucky, she would teach it all to me. When Brenda fell in love with Shaun Cassidy, I was determined to fall harder, even though I still thought boys were sweaty and full of cooties. When she picked out cowl neck sweaters and velour V-necks from the Sears catalogue, I begged my mom for the identical style and color. And in the summer of 1977, when Brenda signed up for Bible Camp, I tagged along without hesitation. Before school started up again that fall, we were both saved. Jesus was our new crush, and we competed to be his biggest fan. We never swore, never took the Lord’s name in vain, always respected the Sabbath by going to Sunday school and always, …

My Proof God Wants Us to Keep Laughing

When I was a kid attending church with my family, the worst offense we could commit was to laugh in the middle of the service. Which is why my siblings and I regularly prodded each other into laughter so forceful that it seemed to emit from our mouths, noses and ears. My brother and sister and I were regularly reshuffled to opposite ends of the pews by parental glares set to “SALT PILLAR” until the moment Miss Smith arose and called the kids to follow her out for Sunday School. The lesson was driven home at an early age: God and humor do not mix. So I was so delighted, as an adult, to find a church in my adopted hometown in NorCal where a) our priest is an accomplished stilt walker and never misses a chance to explain a parable from ten feet overhead; b) the send-off gift to newly ordained seminarians as they head to their first big jobs is a flaming Bible (to be used ironically, of course); and c) when a …

Finding God and Letting Him Find Me Too

I have never known a time when God was not in my life. He was a foreboding presence from my first memory. God was everywhere, critically watching everything. I never questioned his existence. Not the way I did Santa when I realized there was no chimney in my house for him to come down. There may have been no Santa, but God was absolutely real. I grew up going to Pentecostal churches with my mother and my younger brother. First in D.C., where I was born, and later in Philadelphia, where I lived from the time I was nine until I went to college. My father believed in God but saw no need to go to church. In both cities, my church was predominately black. You dressed up for service. Men in suits, women in dresses — never pants. The adult women like my mother typically wore lace coverings that looked like doilies over their hair. The differences between denominations were confusing for me at that time. I just knew Pentecostals to be a lively …