Awakenings

Glimpses of the Divine in the Mundane

One of the biggest changes of having a baby, other than different sleep patterns, is the renewed realization of how precious and miraculous life is.  All life. I’ve always believed this and held true to this, but having a child has solidified this truth to a whole new level.

And in that deepened understanding, I’ve also come to feel the heart-wrenching sadness when life is abused and mistreated in others.  I’ve sensed it at a new molecular level when watching the news or hearing of a story of abuse or loss.  It’s as if I’m the mother of those refugee children.  Or I’m the little 6 month old abandoned by her parents.  What’s crazy to me in a whole new way is how most of these atrocities are done by fellow human beings who contain life and the ability to love within themselves, but they end up choosing a different path of death and hate.

One day, while trying to get my baby girl to sleep, I was in her room, holding her and playing a lullaby CD.  One of the song’s lyrics struck me deeply.  Here are the lyrics of this well-known lullaby:

“Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine.

Little one, when you play,
Pay no heed what they say.
Let your eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine.

If they knew all about you,
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes,
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But, you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be, baby of mine.”

The part that really grabbed my attention as I was snuggling with my little one was “little one, when you play, pay no heed what they say…”  If only this were so easy, right?  As I looked down at my daughter’s peaceful face awaiting slumber, I felt sadness at the fact that there will be people who will say hurtful things to her.  I thought of all the hurtful things that have been said to me, whether as a child from other children, or as an adult from well-meaning broken people – mostly church-goers, who have placed their demented pictures of self and God on me.

And then I wondered, do I pay no heed what they say?  Do I let my eyes sparkle and shine, regardless?  Do I find my identity in something greater than mere human opinion? Because if I don’t, I will only teach my daughter to let others define her worth, and then she will do the same to others in defense of herself.  And thus the cycle will continue – the cycle that is at the bottom of all wars.  The cycle of hurt. The cycle of love lost.  The cycle of death of human spirit.

Then this next part struck a new chord within me:
“If they knew all about you,
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.”

Wow.  Let those words sink in…

If we knew all about the other, would we end up loving them?  Instead of scolding, judging, and killing (be it words, thoughts or in literal terms), once we heard each other’s story, would we long for the right to hold each other, to love each other, to protect each other?

Think about what would happen in our world if we viewed each person, or group of people, or country, this way!  Whether it was a differing political view, religion, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or belief system. If we really knew all about each other, perhaps love would reign supreme.  What if we slowed down enough to really hear another human soul?  What if we opened our eyes to see, really see, the beauty in the other person, apart from our biased views (which, ironically, come from our own brokenness)? If we knew the story of each other’s brokenness, I believe healing would begin to happen.  If we pictured our enemies as helpless babes, needing to be held, needing to be protected, needing someone to dry their tears.  If we saw each person on this earth longing for a home, a hug, a smile, imagine what would happen to this world…

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As we left the hospital over 3 weeks ago, we felt so unprepared, yet so ready.  We hobbled out onto the hospital curb, blinking back the sunlight, so ready to rid ourselves of nurses disrupting our sleep every 2 hours.  We crammed the new little bundle of our DNA into her car seat, and drove the familiar road home, feeling like we had just got back from traveling to outer space and had returned to an alternate universe.

As we walked into the front door of our house, our dog met us, excited at first and then confused as we introduced him to the new family member.  We took her into her room that we’d prepared while she was in gestation.  It was a surreal moment, as the tiny body lay in her gigantic crib, and stared at the decor we had chosen.  She was here.  We could see her features, feel her tiny grip on our finger, hear her cry, see her breathe.  Wow.

Seeing her room for the first time

Seeing her room for the first time

What followed that first week was an exhausted, blissful seven days, the three of us living mostly in our living room, where our existence consisted of feedings, sleeping, rocking, cuddling, changing diapers, and staring at wonder at this new tiny human who didn’t exist prior to our exchange of love.  Time didn’t exist, just light and dark and sleep and eat.  Our sanctuary was each other – the 3 of us – figuring out our new schedule of living as a family, our new routine, our new rhythm of life and love.  The week after, neighbors and friends brought over meals and oogled over our new little earthling.  Parents came to stay for a few days getting to know the newest grand-baby.

And so we’ve oozed into our new reality for the rest of our lives:  parenthood.  It’s weird.  One day you’re a singular human being, the next day you are a mother, or a father and your life is suddenly not your own.  You are suddenly thrust into a culture shock of living for another human being and the used-to-be small details of everyday life suddenly are very huge hurdles to detour through.

What I am learning is the gift and reality of being present.  And this new creature is my mentor on this epic new journey.  I thought I knew what it was to be present.  Parenthood has definitely upped the ante.  Sure I knew bits and pieces of the power of presence, but not to the extent to which parenthood brings you. For example, any time we’re going to leave the house, it takes a whole lot of planning, as if we were leaving for the weekend on a camping trip.  We have to make sure we pack the car with everything we may possibly need, and then I have to feed our little one, sometimes multiple times.  And then the changing of the diaper, and as you’re changing the diaper, another mess occurs, and so you can go thru up to 5 diapers in one changing, not to mention all the cleaning that now has to take place of the changing table and anything else that got splattered on.  Time really kind of disappears as the new challenge becomes just to get out of the house to go to Safeway – an hour trip that used to only be a quick run down the hill for 20 minutes or so.

Let me give you another example that just happened today.  I was determined to get out of the house for a walk – something of a luxury as of late.  And at this point I knew it would take some planning.  So the planning started with the feeding – which took about 40 minutes.  Meanwhile, our dog has gotten wind that there is a walk coming soon, so he’s now whining and ready to go NOW.  So the next thing on the agenda is to figure out how the front carrier works.  After figuring out that cool contraption, now to change the diaper.  Which triggers another feeding.  After some time of eating, she looks like she’s done and about to nap, so I lay her down while I get changed.  I get my pants on, and she is still hungry.  So pause for a feeding.  She’s done – so I lay her down and get my shoes on.  She’s now hungry again.  So pause again for a feeding, upon which she looks drowsy again and I think “this is it!”  So I run to pee, come back and she still needs a bit more of a top-off before she’s finally satisfied.  At this point, my dog is laying exasperated on the floor, with the most hopeless look on his face.  So I put on the front carrier, get her situated inside, and we finally are able to leave on our adventure!  Which made the walk that much better!  This just isn’t a walk – it’s a freakin expedition!  4 weeks ago, in the time it took us to get ready, we would have gone on the walk and been back for a while.  But that was then.  This is our new reality.  And it’s all about being present.

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Before we embarked on our adventure

Time kind of disappears as reality is all about being present to the situation at hand.  Feeding.  Changing.  Cleaning.  Playing. Feeding.  Cuddling.  Sleeping.  Hopefully showering.  Feeding.  Sleeping.  Feeding.  Changing.  Did I mention feeding?! Whew – Being present.  I’ve noticed that stress enters the equation when I have an expectation of what should happen when and how much time something should take.  If you take time out of the equation, and let go of your expectations, the whole experience is actually quite enjoyable.  Because all you are is present.  And isn’t that the real challenge for us?  We’ve learned to not be present, and in the moments we could be present, we’ve learned to think of mental to-do lists, or to check our social media, or run errands.  Faster cars, quicker meals, more tv channels, longer hours at the office, smarter phones, drive-thru windows, and many other “conveniences” that have stolen our ability and desire to be present.  Parenthood, in these past 3 1/2 weeks, has taught me the power of being present.  And, to be honest, I am not as good at it as I’d like to think.  But my new teacher, this tiny human, is persistent and I’m learning more and more everyday to let go and just be … present.  As i finished typing that last word, she has just awakened and sounds hungry. And so my new teacher returns with the invitation to keep practicing presence and to embrace the power that is found in NOW…

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I was sitting there today, in Whole Foods, eating my sandwich and watching the crowds.  I felt you move against my abdomen wall as my sandwich became food for you and me.  I’ve been sensing your wild nature from the beginning, even before I could feel you move.  I am aware of your warrior-ness, your tenacity, your fight for survival and to become life in this world we inhabit and call home.

And yet I worry.  As I touch my belly and feel your beautiful life form growing, I know the world that you as a female will enter into.  I am well-acquainted with the fingers that will try to choke out your individuality.  I cringe at the misogynistic world that awaits to devour your humanity and unique feminine war-like strength.  I shutter as I think of how religion will try to put its foot on your neck and gently scream of who you are as a woman and what you can and cannot be.  I abhor the thought of anyone who would turn you into a mere object to lust over, and what if you feel you must succumb to their eyes and wants, and you trade in your wildness to become the object rather than the creation.  I want to strip all magazine isles of the images that will shout out to you of what beauty is – so that you may find and discover the beauty that is already within you, and wear it fearlessly to the world.  I know the well-meaning voices that will advise you and scold you and insult you for simply being you.  I fear for the self-hatred that may try to creep into your soul, where you will try to bury your gifts and your beauty – that you would compare yourself with others and try to trade your uniqueness for theirs.  I already feel angry at the bully who may attempt to squelch your fight, your joy, your you-ness.

I haven’t met you, but I already know you are so much more than the shell of the body you will be born into.  Your body, which I know will be beautiful, is not what defines you.  As you are being knit inside me, your personality and character is there within you.  You are wild.  You are beautiful.  You are undefinable.  You are woman.  You are warrior.  You are more than fashion statements and mascara.  You are more than the boys who will chase you, or reject you.  You are beyond the opinions of mere people who will try to control you and morph you into their insecure status.  You are here for such a time as this.  Never let yourself be whittled down to a grade, or how many likes you get on Facebook. Never let yourself become consumed with your waist-size or if you’re wearing the right clothing brand. Instead, find your strength in the old oak trees.  Find your passion in the moving waters of river and sea.  Find your joy in soaking in the sun, playing with caterpillars, or laying in the grass barefoot, staring at the never-ending sky.  For you were created from beyond this substance we call our world.  You came from the unknown mystery of Love – a place that cannot be defined, or boxed, or placed in a cage.

So when others try to handcuff your soul, remember that it is impossible, unless you give them the keys to do it.  And why would you?  You are a warrior woman from beyond the farthest star in the universe!  You cannot be chained!  Yes, this world will test you to your very core.  Yes, magazine isles will scream lies of what beauty is.  Yes, misogyny will continue to exist, and there will be those who will try to objectify you.  Yes, religion will attempt to crush your talents and skills, especially if they see your wild-woman nature.  Yes, you will be tempted to contain your beauty only in hair, clothes and makeup.  Yes, you will feel your heart being ripped out of your chest as it is broken for the first time when you lose your first love.  But – you are still wild warrior woman!  You were wild warrior woman before these things existed, therefore these things cannot change what you already are!  You are undefinable.

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So as I finished my sandwich, and stood to leave, I felt the eyes of those around me glance at my belly – at you.  Already you are doing it!  Your presence is already causing others to pause in the madness of their day.  Already you are reminding others of their true beauty and the miracle of being alive.

As I walk out of Whole Foods and carry you these next 7 weeks, and as your body completes the finishing touches of the rise and fall of legs, arms, toes, fingers, nose and ears.  As you finish becoming before you enter our world, I realize that every person I come in contact with is exactly what I have described you to be.  We are all undefinable.  We are all already beautiful.  We are in the presence of sacredness all the time when we are surrounded with other human beings.  Yeah, we all have the same sorts of body parts – arms, legs, heads, eyes, ears, mouths, etc.  But we are all completely undefinable in that there has and never will be anyone like you, like me.  Ever.  Ever!  So why do we hurt each other?  Why are there things like misogyny?  Why is there pornagraphy?  Why do we slaughter each other as if we’re replaceable?  Why do we use religion to cage the sacred, beautiful, warrior-like beings we are? Why do we let hate morph us into non-human creatures who will kill with our words, if not with our hands. When will it stop?  Perhaps when we believe that we are as sacred as we see our children to be.  Perhaps then we will realize that we are all, individually, sacred miraculous creations, sent from beyond the farthest star.  Perhaps when we see Love encapsulated within the flesh and blood walls of the population, a population that we are a part of.  Perhaps when we realize that we all hold the keys to stopping the misogynistic, lust-ridden, wounded, hate-absorbed, blood-drenched society we call our normal world.

So little one, thank you.  Thank you for reminding me of my wildness, of my nature that cannot be caged.  Thank you for opening my eyes to remember that all humanity is a beautiful, unique creation that should be cradled with utmost care.  Thank you for your jabs and kicks – a preview of the way you’re going to rock this world!  And may you know, that through all the highs and lows of what growing up will mean, with all the stereotypes screaming at you, that you are beautiful, mighty, strong and undefinable.  Because you are the only human being EVER to be you!  You are my warrior woman!

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We didn’t expect to get pregnant.  My husband and I have been married for 12 years, and it hadn’t happened yet, so we just assumed it wouldn’t happen.  Then suddenly, walla!  I’m with child.  32 weeks along as I’m writing this.

My first reaction when I found out was “oh shoot!”  I know, not like the movies at all.  The first 12 weeks were a blur as I was away on Sabbatical getting my health back after experiencing chronic burnout.  We heard the heartbeat and “saw” her for the first time at 6 weeks. Pretty weird.

At 6 weeks

At 6 weeks

No, I didn’t cry – I was more stunned than anything.  At 12 weeks, we got another heartbeat and “saw” her again – this time instead of looking like a wormish creature from some bad sci-fi movie, she actually looked like a tiny human being with an alien head.  Wow.  That was fast.

At 12 Weeks

At 12 Weeks

Throughout the weeks and months that followed, we “watched” her grow and fight her way into existence, looking more and more human.  It’s been cool and weird to finally feel her movements, see her kicks and turning in my belly from the outside.  It’s been crazy to watch in helplessness as my abdomen balloons out to make room for this growing human being.  And I’m doing nothing to make it happen – except eating, exercising and trying to sleep.

At 18 weeks - Quite the Fighter!

At 18 weeks – Quite the Fighter!

Surrender.  That has been the beautiful thing throughout this process.  I’m not “in there” examining and micro-managing the process of her creation in my womb. I’m not leaving comments about how her toes need a different shape, or pressing a “like” button as I examine the process of growth.  It’s just happening. In fact, we have no clue what she will look like.  This is probably one of the longest things we as human beings living in western civilizations have to wait for.  We’re so used to taking an early peek, putting something on credit card so we can have it now, or over-nighting a product so we don’t have to wait.  But not with a human being.  9 months of waiting, wondering, fearing and hoping.  I’m not controlling a thing, and it’s still happening.  It’s pretty mind-blowing.

So I’m at week 32.  Haven’t “seen” her since week 18, but I know she’s there.  It’s fun to watch my belly move after I eat, as she dances (hopefully) from the delicious sustenance I’m providing her.  It’s cool to play music and feel a jab or kick, or perhaps it’s a twirl.  I can only imagine what it would be like to be a human in the womb.  Can you imagine?  The first time hearing something – ever!  Is it scary?  Is fear even realized yet?  And to start to see light coming through the pink lining of your world as your eyes open for the first time ever!  What is that like to experience as a human fetus?  Is there any wonder or joy at that stage?  Is there curiosity?  Do fetuses have bad days?  I actually looked up if babies cry in the womb before they’re born.  There’s substantial evidence that they do.  But what are they crying about? Do they have dreams yet?  Are they aware of danger, or surprises, or love?

All these thoughts have led me to other ponderings.  As they get used to their world, their routine, and their existence, do they imagine another world?  Can they fathom this world that they’re about to enter?  When birth happens, what the heck are they thinking?  Does it feel like they’re dying?  Are they disappointed to leave their comfort zone – forever?  In the resurrection of being born, can they fathom that this world is even possible?  As they take their first breath, does it hurt?  Is it scary to breath in air, and not amniotic fluid?  How does it feel to suddenly be flailing around, with no womb to push against?  Does it feel like they’re falling because of the expanse of space to move around in?  What’s it like to actually eat for the first time through the mouth?  Does it hurt to have the digestive system work for the first time with food-to-mouth?  What’s it feel like to experience touch on your skin for the first time as a newborn human?  And the brightness!  Can you imagine how the eyes must feel seeing the outside world?

At 31 Weeks

At 31 Weeks

So many thoughts and questions and wonderings!  Which makes me think of the Divine and the correlation between pregnancy, birth, and life on this planet and beyond.  Is this planet like our womb?  Do we think we know everything about it?  Do we feel scared when we experience something supernatural, like the fetus hearing noise for the first time but not knowing where it’s coming from?  If we haven’t “heard” God’s voice, does it mean He doesn’t exist, or maybe our spiritual hearing hasn’t developed yet.  Are there moments when it seems like we’re stuck and can’t breathe and maybe we’re ready for a birth into a new reality?  But are we afraid to leave our comfort zones, be it work, religion, etc?  Are there times that we feel out of control, when in reality perhaps we’re being born into a new experience that will bring us greater life, greater depth, greater love?  Just because some are not conscious of the Divine, does that mean the Divine does not exist?  Is my baby completely conscience of me?  Or is she happily living her life, doing whatever she does in that confined space all day, and not even thinking about me?  And yet, I’m in awe of her and her growth and movements.  Is the Divine even more in awe of us than a mother is for her growing child?  Is God mesmerized by our movements, our growth, our “becoming”?

As I hold my belly and feel the kick of this tiny human inside me, does she feel my hand cradling her punches and kicks?  Does she know she’s not alone?  As we think about where we are in our life and existence today, stop for a minute.  Have you sensed the Divine in some way?  Have you heard a faint voice?  Have you experienced some form of sustaining strength, comfort, wisdom or love that has fed your soul?  Have you felt the labor pains of change encouraging you to take that next step, even if it’s scary, because it might just be a breath of life that will expand your lungs and your horizons?  And if you haven’t sensed anything at all lately, could it be that you’re at some point in life where you are developing sight, sound and spiritual muscles that will soon open up worlds of wonder for you?

I still have a lot more expanding (literally) to do before this tiny human emerges upon the earth.  And then, as I’ve been told, the lesson of life will continue.  Lessons of surrender will deepen.  But ultimately, I find comfort knowing that the Divine carries me within this womb we call life, cradles me within the Almighty arms of ultimate Love, and sustains me whether I acknowledge the existence of a Higher power or not.  May we continue to live in awe of this life, and may we find hope that there is a possibility of another world to be born into.

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We just wanted to get $200 worth of “free” stuff to use for 2 weeks in Hawaii.  The deal?  Snorkel gear, beach chairs, beach umbrella and boogie boards.  Free, if we were willing to subject ourselves to 90 minutes of a sales-pitch at a Timeshare Resort.  So we decided to take the bait.  And now here we were, sitting inside a plush office on Kauai’s south shore.  I wasn’t looking forward to this, but what we put ourselves through for a deal is sometimes amusing.  We meet up with Craig who informs us that he’s new on the job, and is hoping everything goes well for us today.  We follow Craig, our new friend, to a table surrounded with wicker chairs and Hawaiian music playing in the background.  There are a myriad of refreshments, and we even both get real Hawaiian leis!  Not bad, not bad.   And so the sales pitch begins.

“It allows the rest of us to live as if we’re rich…”  Those were the words that escaped from his lips.  He seemed like a nice enough guy.  He asked us where we like to travel, what we do for a living, etc.  Fellow human soul, dancing behind the mask of sales-pitches.  “We’re in the midst of a 60 million dollar upgrade and renovation…”  For what, I wanted to ask?  This place seemed nice enough.  But what desperate souls will do to find minute solace from their crazed-driven lives – lives hungry for peace, self-acceptance, and, well, vacation.

After about an hour of small talk and hearing about the importance of investing in vacations, we stretched our legs and took a tour of the place.  “This piece of  land had apparently been a fishing town from years past,” Craig explained.  Now it was a renovation project for the few to make billions from the desperate souls who sign their names, “investing” in a future solace from lifestyles they could change now.   A land parcel of shrubs in the middle of the property “honors” the bones of ancestors gone and buried – resting in graves surrounded by commercialism and facades of self-worth.  It was ironic – the “dead” surrounding the dead, when living still is a choice for the former.  Craig explained that while they were building the resort, they unearthed a burial ground.  According to Hawaiian tradition, if you find bones, you have to stop digging and building.  So instead was this parcel of shrubs in the middle of this resort, with signs commemorating their remains.  It felt sacrilegious for all this to be there, and for us to be a part of it, even if just on tour.

After walking around the grounds and seeing one of the best, most up-to-date rooms, sales pitches began to be more obvious, yet still geared to look like trying to make friends with us.  We felt the psychological ties to our new friend Craig growing, who, by the way, just happened to have the same last name as ours.  We danced the polite dance of “make me a deal”, both parties playing a role of friend – for we were just putting up with it for our allotted time and free snorkel gear, and I’m sure Craig was just hoping to get a monetary cut to help make ends meet.  Does he own a deed to this place?  How much of what he’s telling us is real, how much of it is from a memorized script?  A part of me wanted to ask, but fear of breaking the boundaries of client/seller and business roles kept my lips sealed.

It finally came time for the offer.  We both know what’s coming.  A part of me feels drawn to our new friend Craig and not wanting to let him down, and another part warns me it’s all just a game.  We taste the bait – it’s pretty good:  all with a picture-book of pretty locations all over the world.  A deal of even more select hotels you can get a huge price cut on.  Numbers fly like vultures around our empty, debt-ridden pocketbook.

Craig goes and summons his boss, a guy with a scar on his hand, and he jumps into the conversation.  Appearing flustered and making his way to us, his excuse not being here sooner is blamed on the fact that he just made a deal with another couple and it’s crazy how busy they are with selling right now…blah, blah, blah.  After more dizzying numbers from him, he makes this comment:  “You know, we’re not all millionaires. But this deal allows us to live as if we’re rich…”  Which seemed like interesting logic to me – almost obviously insecure.  Like we all want to be like the “popular kids” who seem to have it all – and if we can just look like we do, we’ll maybe find happiness.

That’s when I begin to wonder, who is this scar-hand guy?  What’s his story?  Does he even like his job?  His fingernails are crooked, and his thumbnail has some dirt under it.  And that scar on his hand, maybe some story from his youth … His humanity begins to be apparent and vulnerable.  He seems like a high school student taking a final exam, flustered, memorized speech flowing in and out of salesman cadence.  He seems to notice that I am looking past his business-act and appears caught off-guard that I’ve seen his soul beneath all his facades, and he goes in for the kill.  He offers us the “deal of a lifetime.”

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We explain that we can’t do it , too much money, etc.  So he tries to renegotiate.  More number crunching and more fast-paced talking and reasoning.  I ask if we can think about it – that’s when his true colors show, his anger and annoyance trying to stay hidden, but popping from the surface like someone trying to keep down a buoy.  He retorts we can’t think about it, it’s either now or never, and thanks us for our time.  He shakes our hands and tells us he will find someone to lead us out, and to do a survey on how the experience went.

So we’re left sitting with Craig, awkwardly at first.  Craig looks somewhat embarrassed, somewhat disappointed, somewhat relieved.  After some small-talk, Craig even turns on us, stating “you guys got what, about a $100 worth of stuff?  Yeah, it’s amazing what people will do for a few hundred dollars, but they won’t sign up for a vacation that could bring them a life of bliss.”  It’s as if he can’t help but put a jab in there, as if there’s someone pulling his puppet strings.  Or maybe he’s just planting a seed that will be used momentarily through our survey experience.

The game continues as we’re led downstairs to where the other “bad kids” are being held and “surveyed” – all of us who said no.  These chairs are not as soft and there is no Hawaiian music playing in the background.  I’m waiting for them to take the leis back.  The place looks more like the waiting room in a clinic.  After some friendly small talk, our new friend, a woman, asks us about Craig, how he was, if he was polite, etc.  Then the questions on the survey take a sneaky turn:  “do you own a timeshare?”  Upon hearing no, she gets all quizzical and asks us why…  I’m a bit surprised at the questions as they seem a bit personal. “I knew this was coming,”  I say out loud, and she laughs, but still continues.

With more nauseating number-crunching, she whisks up another great deal, involving monthly payments, one time to try-it-out…blah, blah, blah.  We’re now well-past our allotted time frame we agreed upon to get our free snorkel gear and beach chairs.  But we still somehow feel we have to be polite and stay, I guess to make sure we don’t have to pay for those darned fins.  We ask for time to discuss – she leaves us for a minute and my husband and I look at each other.  We both don’t want to do it.  We want to get out of debt, not to mention, get out of there!  We want to be free to pick our vacation spots yearly, etc.  Ok.  Let’s do this and be done with it!  My husband and I are glad we’re both on the same page.

She comes back, and we tell her “no”.  “Really??!!  Wow, that surprises me!!”  Her loud, obvious rudeness surprises me.  She then proceeds to loudly humiliate us, as she asks us why.  Not like we need to explain anything to her, but still we sheepishly tell her how we don’t want to get into debt, etc.  She kind of laughs and smirks at us, and then proceeds to tell us how we need to invest in a future of vacations.  She acts as if our desire to get out of debt is the most stupid thing in the world, and acts as if she knows what’s best for us. All this is with a raised voice.  I look at a man who is waiting for the same fate.  He and I share a look that’s hard to put into words:  embarrassment, kindness, and a sort of knowing kid-like look as if we’re both in the principal’s office at school.

I’m starting to get really pissed-off.  I inform her that we’d like to enjoy our vacation that we’re on now.  She keeps going, so I pull the same move that scar-hand pulled on us – “Thank you for your time,” I tell her as we shake hands.  She looks surprised that I put the lid on it, yet she lets us finally leave.  We stand and walk out, feeling giddy and free!  They didn’t get us!  We got away, with the Hawaiian leis, and got back to our real vacation experience, an experience that couldn’t be bought or sold.  Because vacation at its truest form is a frame of heart and mind, no matter where you are.

Then the thought hit me:  Does anyone ever feel this way when it comes to evangelism, religion or even church?  What are the similarities to timeshare presentations and church?  Are there people out there who become someone’s friend, just to “close the sale” and hopefully get a baptism?  Do church people ever belittle others for saying “no”, and maybe even use their eternal salvation as a means to strategize, negotiate, and manipulate?

I recently heard someone use the term “kingdom contacts” when relating to people they met that they may be able to get into a church.  Really?!   How is that loving spirituality?  Perhaps that’s when spirituality becomes man-made religion:  when it turns into a business deal, where people are seen as numbers, and the intangible is turned into a product that can be “invested” in or sold.  Maybe true religion is not something you can measure and make a graph out of.  True religion is not something you can package and sell in a nice, little 90-minute sales pitch.  In fact, perhaps true religion, also known as spirituality, is really a frame of heart and mind, led by Something so much greater than human hands can mechanic or manipulate.  In fact, living an authentic life connected to the Divine is something that cannot be manufactured or boxed into an agenda-driven sales pitch.

After more thinking, here are a few more possible similarities between Evangelism, a bad Church experience, and Timeshare presentations:

-Uses “survey’s” as a way to lead to a personal conversation, and hopefully a “sale”

-Both take about an hour and a half of your time -Sometimes you’re openly or psychologically humiliated if you don’t “buy in”

-You’re a part of a world-wide club – anywhere you travel, you can find other club-members.  This will keep you from exploring and spending money elsewhere

-You have fees to pay to be a part of the club – some clubs even discipline members who don’t keep up with fees

-Once it becomes a product, it depreciates over time.  Ritual form and ceremony is more important than the spiritual

-Many times people will act like they are your friend, but only time will tell if they are just doing that to get you in the door

-Both offer refreshments and free gifts (with strings attached)

-You feel like you can’t leave, or you’ll be humiliated publicly or forced to “pay” in other ways

-What you’re shown initially is not the true product

-Compares itself with other organizations (demonizing them) to convince you it’s the best option out there

-Often needs “higher-ups” to approve of the membership

-Has lingo that only those within the company/business understand

That’s the list I have so far  🙂  What might you add?

May we all be authentic people who experience the Sacred in the way it was meant to be experienced – outside of a political agenda and human control.  May we never take the spiritual and whittle it down to a formula.  May we remember the power and sacredness of relationship both with the Divine and our fellowman,  treating all humanity, and all creation, with the utmost respect, remembering that we are not God.  And may we continue to experience and reveal the love of the Sacred that is bigger than any creed or man-made form of religion.

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