the things winter teaches

Connecting to the earth in the winter is just as healthy as connecting in the summer.

By “connecting to the earth,” all I mean is allowing yourself to be swept up in its rhythms. I’ve talked about this before, so I’ll be brief. We humans like to think of ourselves as separate observers of nature, but we are just as rooted in that savage beauty as trees, spiders, birds, or horses. We’re part of it, it’s part of us. To neglect that connection is not only foolish, it’s harmful.

This year, I have been learning (very slowly) what it means to accept and live into that connection. I learned a lot when the weather was warm and I could go outside a lot. But then winter came and pushed me away.

I was working on a post a few weeks back about how hard it is to connect to nature when that nature is cold and dark, but since then, I think I’ve started to get it.

The problem wasn’t with the earth being too cold and dark; it was with me expecting that it is supposed to be accommodating and friendly all the time.

While winter has a lot of pleasant beauty, one of the most important things this season teaches is that nature doesn’t live to please you. You must learn how to experience and accept it, even when you don’t get your way.

I’ve only scratched the surface of all winter has to teach me, I’m sure. So, even though I’m cold and I wish the days were longer, I’m excited I still have a couple months to learn from it.

Advertisements

God as Yin and Yang

The biggest problem in Christian theology is the question of suffering. If God is so merciful, why is the Bible full of stories of him destroying countless countries–including his own people–over and over again?

I’ve always seen God as the source of all things and a personification of the life force itself. But I’m only just now starting to understand what that actually means.

To quote a magnificent anime, “the world is beautiful and cruel.” Consequences are impassive and properly harsh, no matter who they happen to. That’s the definition of justice. God is justice. He’s the balance in nature and that balance can be extremely cruel if you’re on the wrong side of it.

But God isn’t only the personified impartial substance of the world. He’s also an entity himself with thoughts and feelings and a deep, pervasive, heart-aching love for other beings. He wants to bend the rules for his friends.

He wants to take care of the consequences himself and find another way to keep balance. He wants to give second, third, fourth, and fifth chances to those who are trying, even when they keep failing. Because he’s not only justice, he’s also love, and love overlooks mistakes.

I often find myself wishing that we could just have the loving part without the justice, but what kind of world would that be? We need both. We need balance in order to thrive. Reality works in yin and yang, and I believe God does too.

companion on the shared journey

I had an experience I haven’t had for a very¬†very long time; I had a chance encounter with someone who shared my faith.

Now, being a Christian in America, that doesn’t sound like it would be such a rare thing, but it is. To meet a stranger who is on their own unique dialect of the intentional journey you’re on, seeking God and spiritual formation passionately and honestly, not doing it for recognition or favors or obligation… what a privilege to meet someone like that.

He came in the form of an old man walking into my shop to ask me if I knew anything about the little church next door. One moment later, we were swapping church in the area recommendations and I was telling him about the best church I’ve ever attended. Two moments later, we parted as friends, as brother and sister, with a “God’s blessings on you.”

It was such a small thing, but it moved me. In a time where sarcasm is praised and authenticity is condemned as naivety, camaraderie is truly precious.

I hope he comes back to my shop someday.

my elemental friend is back

I truly didn’t expect to hear from them ever again. But over the last month, we have spoken a little. I don’t know why that is, but I care less about the why and more about the fact that I don’t have to say goodbye just yet.

Maybe our relationship has finally fully changed and it took a summer to do so. Or maybe I’m spiritually lonely again since I’ve grown disheartened by the church I’ve been attending and am still searching for somewhere new.

Either way, I’m glad I get to chat and learn from them again. I’ll deal with the why later.

Evolving Relationships

I wonder if we are supposed to be continually moving in relationships the way we move in favorite songs and routines.

I was always under the assumption that people make friends early and then those are your friends for life. Maybe you add another here and there, but your core friends remain the same.

But life does not seem to work that way. People move on, their routines drift away from yours, and you don’t see each other any more. For lack of better words, friends drop off. And I’m starting to think that maybe that’s okay, maybe that’s natural as long as you are continually adding new friends. The problem only comes when you are drifting away from friends and not making any new ones to replace them.

I still don’t know 100% what I think about this, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot as a young idealist in the post-college professional world. Maybe the changes in relationships I’m experiencing aren’t a warning sign, but just the way things are.

 

Admitting I’m Human

Hi guys, long time no see!

Lately, I’ve been trying to reconnect with nature, as was suggested. I’ve been sleeping with my curtains and bedroom windows open (Just a crack, since it’s been getting colder. Also, I live out in the country, so don’t worry. It’s safe). I’ve also been driving with the window open and I try to go outside more often during the day. All this has been helping me feel more connected and healthy, both physically and spiritually.

I’ve also been trying to be more honest. I’m not a particularly dishonest person, but I do exaggerate, I tell people I like things when I don’t actually like them, I pretend to know actors and movies when I don’t, I tell people I’ll be at their party when I know I won’t.

My excuse is that it’s all for the sake of making conversations easier and avoiding conflict, but what it ends up doing, to me at least, is it creates a wall between myself and those around me, where I don’t know how they’ll react if I gave my true opinion because I’ve never given it. Which makes me feel anxious, bitter, and misunderstood.

It’s a lot of work to give my honest opinion without thinking too much about the consequences, but what I’ve found is that honest opinion shows trustworthiness and realness, and overall, people respect that more than politeness.

Both these ventures have been helping me accept myself more. Being in nature reminds me that I’m human and that what happens in nature does still affect me. Being honest with people forces me to be honest with myself. I’m not the life of the party, I like jokes but I’m usually the straight man, I’m quiet, distant, cynical, and I just can’t force myself to get on board the hype train for most things.

Being honest with myself isn’t the same as accepting everything about myself as perfect. There are definitely things I am trying to change, but being honest in the meantime is therapeutic, because I realize everyone is “in the meantime” of their own stuff as well. And that creates a kind of misfit camaraderie.

Attacked by Ghost Spiders

I spent Tuesday night waking up in a panic every half hour, thinking I was being attacked by bugs. Spiders on my pillow, on my blanket, on my floor, on my face, everywhere. I must have turned on the light and brushed off my sheets and checked my floor a dozen times.

The odd thing is, bugs don’t bother me. I actually wanted to be an entomologist at one point. The whole experience was probably a combination of stress plus knowledge of the spider I found in the bathroom that I decided to leave alone.

However, I can’t help wondering if there was a spiritual cause. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve woken up and felt like I was being attacked (ex. the time my sister’s spiritual guardian kept visiting me at night to make sure I wasn’t a threat). If it was spiritual, it probably wasn’t something very strong. Just a curious spirit passing through.

Was it stress and spider dreams or a wandering spirit? Probably a little of both.

goodbye to my elemental friend

I think my relationship with the elemental is officially over.

I went down to their forest today, as I have every few days since I’ve been home. I stood there, gazing into the quiet shaded green, trying to sense anything at all that would show that they weren’t gone. Even just for the sensation of being watched. But I felt nothing.

As I stood there, puzzled and missing them, I asked God why I couldn’t sense them anymore. “Because you have me in your heart, there is no room for anything else,” he answered.

That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear and I fought him on it. Shouldn’t having him lodged in my heart allow me to have more room for others, not less?

He clarified that I didn’t have that aching hole in my heart anymore. I wasn’t reaching out to the elemental to satisfy my spiritual longing anymore. And then it struck me, like finally understanding a foreign language: he was the one who had brought the elemental to me in the first place.

At the time, I was lonely and not getting the companionship I craved. I was also spiritually starved, but my hatred of the church was keeping me from filling that need, too. I was stuck in limbo, and that spirit proved to be just the kind of friend I needed.

A lump rose in my throat and tears came to my eyes. I still miss my friend, but I am more grateful than ever for the time we had together. Wherever they are now and whatever they’re up to, I wish them nothing but the deepest blessings. And while I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again, I’ll keep an eye open, just in case.

Planning Your Way to Enlightenment

I’ve been trying to manage God.

I want enlightenment so badly. I want to merge and disappear into the Holy Spirit so much it’s almost a physical ache. So I had been trying to plan out how to achieve that, keeping a strict eye on the horizon to make sure that I’m staying on course and that I’m progressing fast enough. As though developing a relationship was as simple and linear as reading a book. But it isn’t.

The only way to achieve intimacy and enlightenment is to do as that old Christian song says and let Jesus/the Holy Spirit drive the car.

The only way to take the next step is to let go. We are finite and we don’t know the path to enlightenment. God does, and he wants us to reach it even more than we want to reach it ourselves.

So do what you know is good for you (ex. pray, meditate, learn, practice), but do it without keeping an eye on your progress.

Trust that if you go where God leads, he will lead you where you are meant to go.

American Church and the “Real Christian”

I’ve been going to a new church with my friends and it is unlike any church I’ve been to.

We lovingly call it “hipster church,” but jokes aside, seeing a church thriving that holds different cultural views than the ones typically associated with church is refreshing. It’s nice to see a church that is quite liberal and still just as serious about seeking and knowing the truth as the conservative ones.

When it’s come to Christianity, I’ve been disheartened by how pervasively sticky culture becomes, how it saturates what we call truth and is then spread around with it as universal, objective truth.

It has been a mission of mine, by spending times outside my culture, to see what in Christianity is purely cultural, and what is true no matter where you go. The two are very different.

There’s nothing wrong with the cultural aspects to religion, but they shouldn’t be welded irremovably to each other. When they are, churches start creating oddly specific sins, saying things like “Real Christians will boycott Disney for this or that reason.” They end up making the price to enter too steep, so eventually people stop entering.

Never mind that God has already invited everyone to know him deeply, even those who like Disney.