Tag Archives: church

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The Religion Of Your Soul ~ Michelle Church

Each year, for more than twenty years, on Christmas day we pack our family into the car and head to the Oregon coast. It is because of this tradition that we ultimately built our home here Lincoln City. Even as I write this I am sitting on the bed next to my Mr Dreamboat and though the doors and windows are closed I can still hear the crashing waves charging the beach just steps away from where we lay. Sometimes our Christmas vacation lingers into the New Year.

The tradition of leaving our home on the homiest holiday of the year might seem strange to you as it seems peculiar even to me, and I am the author of this particular tradition.

The ocean is lovely, dark and deep...
The ocean is lovely, dark and deep…

So many years ago when our children were young, with all my soul I wanted to begin our own family traditions, away from those from our histories. There seemed no chance of doing so when we had so much family around, and so we devised a plan to pack up our little family and go away from all the things our lives were normally comprised of.

And 21 years later I am quite literally sitting on the bed of our convention. And strange as it is, I love it.

There is no doubt your traditions are lovely and comforting. I’m certain your elf on the shelf is pleasing, your Yule Log burns bright each year and figgy pudding is the great, undiscovered, practice your family holds dear.

What is wonderful to me in all likelihood feels foreign to you and vice versa. Though the religion of our fathers may be the same, the way we each honor them and live them out in our own lives has as many variations as there are people. There are as many religions as there are souls.

As we each step into the baby days of the beginning New Year, let’s celebrate our differences, find our common grounds and bring with us upon every doorstep we visit, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

pansy and snow

The Winter That Would Not End ~ Michelle Church

The weather here in North America has been nothing short of surprising this past winter. Maybe if I’d checked the Farmer’s Almanac I totally would have seen it coming.

My friends in the Northeast were pummeled, humbled and frozen by the wrath of the angriest weather gods, while those of us on the west coast enjoyed what was the mildest winter in years. There were days so blissfully temperate I thought I’d gone to heaven.

Just yesterday I saw a picture of one of my friends celebrating the opening of the lovely gardens near her home. She did so in the snow. Spring has sprung, but perhaps only technically, depending on where you live.

And so it goes most years. We are at the mercy of the weather, we are caught by surprise, by the fickle nature of existance.

One of the benefits of getting older is that regardless of the weather we may be experiencing in the moment, we’ve come to recognize patterns. We might be freezing our toes off and barely able to remember what the sun looks like, but we remember it. We recall it fondly and we know from experience it will come again.

The last few months before Mr Dreamboat returned from Rock & Roll Camp were simply grueling. If my life had been expressed in the form of weather, it was the coldest and longest winter on record. Apocalyptic even.

As the days until his return shortened and we were advised of his release date, there came a time when it was almost impossible to believe that he would ever return to me. Winter, it seemed, might never, ever end.

Once I realized I had these feelings I simply took myself through the logical process of it all. As crazy as it sounds, I sat myself down, not just once, but every time my faith began to fail, and remembered that every single year of my life there has been a July 23rd. Not once have we skipped that date in all the years I’ve been alive.

This year would be no different.

As sure as the sun is to rise, as sure as spring follows winter and July 23rd rolls around every single year, the things with which we struggle, they too will wane. It is a gift that is sometimes hard to remember, but is ever so.

Spring has sprung quite a lot early here on the Young Family Ranch. Every day when the sun shines and the trees blossom, I am caught up in the delight. And as sure as it has come to my house, no matter what you might be feeling in this moment, it will come to yours too.

Like, share, comment, tweet and “Be still and know…”

michelle and mary

Join Us For Michelle Church In A Soulless Hotel Room

As I write this I am sitting on my comfortable bed in a Marriott Hotel in California. Maybe it’s something about the soulless hotel room that somehow robs me of the words I love so much. Who’s to say?

What I know for sure is that over the last three days I’ve set at the feet of master teachers and communed with like-minded individuals. It is for further training in my career that I am here, and though I miss Mr Dreamboat, there’s no other place I’d rather be. I feel both full and empty, full of love and light and possibility… and empty of coherent thought.

Or maybe that’s just the soulless room talking.

These last three days have taught me things I never knew and reminded me in a powerful way of things I already did. Perhaps what’s come most clearly into focus is that knowing a truth is quite different than knowing about it. If I am not living it, the depth of the knowing is of little worth.

If I preach judge not and yet I judge, I don’t know it’s true. If I say kindness is the best of all attributes but I am miserly and mean, what is it I really know?

It is of little concern to me to what particular religion you subscribe. What it is I’m far more curious about is how you live, how you love and what beliefs are so deep in your soul that you don’t just know about them, but you breathe them into your life and the lives of those with whom you cross paths.

This week I’ve been reminded of the things that I know about and the things I wish to bind with my DNA in a way that is everlasting. I want to live in such a way that when we meet you feel cared for and loved.

These days I concern myself less with “the great mysteries” I’ve yet to divine, and more with the simple things that really matter to me. I gather these things along the way and with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, they won’t just be a few nice thoughts in my collection, but they will equal a life of knowing the things that really matter.

Whatever your truth, live it. Whatever your beliefs, share them with others by living them. And whatever you know about, be about.

Like, share, comment, tweet and can I get an amen?

you are good

How To Be Bad ~ Michelle Church

Somewhere along the way I began to focus on those things I didn’t do over those that I did. That is to say, I found myself worthy based on those things I abstained from over the things I did in every day life.

There is something not right here. Something off.

Making choices in favor of well being is wise. Choosing not to do drugs or abuse our bodies is never a bad idea, but it is not a definition of who we are. And it is most certainly not a definition of who anyone else is relative to us.

We’re all subject to these tiny indulgences. Defining our goodness based on self-sacrifice and control is a vice none of us doesn’t indulge in from time to time. But it’s never healthy. It’s certainly not a worthy practice.

For much of my life I had very specific ideas about what and who was right and what and who was wrong. Based on my own background and history, there were “bad” things and “good” things in every circumstance.

What troubles me most about this very illogical line of thinking is how much judgment is going on. By definition I judged myself as a good person or a bad person depending on the day, the mood or the situation.

As much as I’d like to be able to say I judged no one else along the way, by definition all the world is dragged into our judgments by comparison. If I’m good because I do this, then you are bad if you don’t. Boom. Now no one has to wonder.

I remember being very young and very aware of myself as good or bad. I think the judgments tended to lean toward “bad” when I was still a little kid, for whatever reason.

There’s no denying that by anyone’s account I made some pretty bad decisions as a teenager. I did things that were dangerous and chose relationships that weren’t healthy for me. And I judged myself.

But if you were to ask my mother if I was a “bad kid” I am certain she would tell you I was not. I know her and she’s known me my whole life and while I wouldn’t call her opinion particularly objective, I would say we each know how it feels to love someone regardless of their decisions. Are they good or are they bad? Who’s to say? Not us.

It is only when I can release myself from judgment that I can release you too. You make some good decisions and you make some bad ones. It’s how being human works, but at our essence, we are whole and perfect. We are wabi sabi. And when we can embrace that at our most essential core, we can then gift it to others.

No matter what they do or don’t do.

Like, share, comment, tweet and repeat after me, “I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, harmonious, happy and grateful.” Feels niiiiiice…

tim mcgraw wisdom

love hug

Vicar Michelle & The Rebel Jesus

I have chaffed against The Rules for the entirety of my life. Rubbed raw by their inflexible edges, it is likely they troubled me because I took them so seriously. Perhaps most of all when I was breaking them.

As a teen I imagined myself a rebel. Rules were burdensome and so I threw them off to shatter on the floor of my life. This is a good way to hurt oneself, but the rules tend to remain undamaged.

Some people say Jesus was a rebel. I cannot speak to that. I’m no historian. But I like the idea of it. The idea of the powers that be, saying how things are and a man, a gentle and kind man, perhaps even a son of deity, standing up and saying, “This thing, I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

My kind of rebellion wasn’t nearly so worthy. I was irresponsible. I smoked and drank and practiced a sophisticated level of self-loathing.

This was nothing more than unattractive and a little sad.

But today, inspired by the Rebel Jesus, I wish to be a nonconformist once again. This new rebellion would look nothing like it did in my youth, all bold and aggressive and daring others to call me out. No. This kind would look kinder, gentler and loads more loving.

Every day we cross paths with people who deserve love but in our complicated society have none. Maybe they don’t fit into our norms, the norm for color or sexual preference or perhaps they are sad rebels practicing their version of self-loathing. But in a radical and rebellious world, they too would receive love. In this world, everyone is found worthy.

Conditional love is not really love at all.

I am grateful for rules. We all should be. Without them we would be slaves to our appetites, aimlessly wandering from one diversion to the next. But I am also grateful to understand rules and their inherent limits.

I will never chafe against the rules again. Just as anything else in this transient world, they are to be understood and evaluated and depending on whether or not they are found worthy, they are to be respected or thrown out like the garbage so many of them are.

They say Jesus was a radical in all the best kinds of ways. Let’s do that.

laughing buddha

I Thought I Saw The Face Of God ~ Michelle Church

It seems I have filled my days in a way that every morning of the week requires an alarm clock. I am not complaining about this, well, maybe I’m complaining a little bit just because I’m tired right now. But by and large I like the level of busy my life currently demands. Not big, bad busy, but enough to get me up, moving and shaking every day.

So it was on Friday morning after dropping the youngest man cub off to school I headed into the big city. As I drove into civilization the skies changed. Closer to the Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary the world was covered in a deep, dense fog. As we neared Chase’s school the fog lifted higher into the sky like so many tiny white balloons, both revealing and veiling the sun.

the face of godIt was dazzling. The dark, bare trees of the northwest reaching up to the light in a silent hallelujah. The misty, morning clouds covering its brilliance just enough that I could stare directly into the sun for just a moment and imagine I could see the face of God.

The dancing, morning light was so enchanting that no text message ever made me more dangerous on the road. I could not get enough of it. I wished to stay in that moment always.

Instead, I drove down the road to my next destination. I drove on highways and freeways and finally across the bridge into Oregon where the unfiltered morning light caught me unawares. And it was beautiful. Truly. Touching on the green blades of winter grass and sparkling off the Columbia River.

I will not complain about a cloudless, blue sky. Ever. I’ve seen too many dark days to take even one of them for granted. But if I’m being entirely honest, the clear blue sky couldn’t hold a candle to the filtered, cloudy, morning light from the moments before.

My life has been full of sunny days. I have been so high on life that the beauty of it infiltrated my very DNA and I take those times with me wherever and whenever I go.

It can also be said that the days I felt I could almost see the face and ways of God where those not short on clouds when the path was not always clear but the light shone through in a way that took my breath away.

Like, share, comment, tweet and look not for days without clouds but for a life that is breathtaking.

Living Outside The Box ~ Michelle Church

On Friday morning, bright and early, I drove the many, many miles inherent in an event that is away from the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary. I don’t mind the drive that much anymore since Deepak is my co-pilot via the audio books that keep me going every bit as much as the low gasoline prices do.

This was the first class since the end of October for me and I was glad to get back to my Friday ritual and pleased to be in the company of artists I both admire and like.

There in the chill morning air or the Northwest we settled into our folding chairs and we began to draw an antique fire truck on display at the Lake Oswego Fire Department.

I love art and I like to draw. That appreciation notwithstanding, I admit I was totally rusty. A craft of any sort requires consistent effort and it is not surprising to me that even though it’s been just a few weeks since I practiced, I felt awkward and the lines were tight. Without grace.

I wasn’t the only one. As each of us sat studying the intricacies of an automobile nearly 100 years old, we struggled and strained to capture the reality in a way that was beautiful even if only subjectively.

There are specific rituals my art teacher recommends. She likes us to draw with pens rather than pencils, she

mind = blown
mind = blown

recommends three or four rough sketches before any attempt at one’s main drawing or painting, and without exception, one must remember the four most important lines.

The four most important lines are simply these; before you start your composition, make a box. Then you draw inside the box. It’s amazing what the simple context can do for a drawing, taking it without effort from “meh” to “ooohhh”.

It’s a rule, and it’s a good rule to follow. And…

One of my fellow artists said as our fearless leader entreated us not to forget the box, “I hate the box. I always end up drawing outside of it.”

“That’s what it’s for,” she said, “you’re not supposed to work inside the box, it’s only to give you context, show you what’s important.”

If life is not an artistic event I do not know what is. Life is nuanced and striking and the colors and the elegant lines of it are so beautiful that I am sometimes brought to tears.

And just like in art, we need boxes. Boxes to give us perspective and dimension, boxes to help us know where to put things and when we’re getting too small. But the box isn’t the thing. It simply houses the thing. And it isn’t the point. The box is just to make a point.
By all means, live your life outside the box.

Like, share, comment, tweet and do something that breathes life into your art every day.

I Do Not Know The Name Of God ~ Michelle Church

It always strikes me as a bit unbelievable when someone tells me they know for sure the true nature of God. Maybe they were born with a direct line to heaven that was not issued to me, or maybe a back alley access was discovered on some roadway I’ve never walked down.

I amEither way – or some other way I’ve not yet discovered, my guess about the Almighty leans toward the ancient religions where there is no name for He/She/It. Because of the limitations of human thought and the vastness of the Great Unknown, because God resides someplace beyond our knowing, That is where He stays for me. Beyond.

But I admit that’s too far away for me. Though I cannot think of a word or an attribute I know for certain to be credited to the great I Am, perhaps then, I cannot think of one that cannot.

And so I search. In meditation I seek Him, in the actions of others, and in my own choices. I seek in nature and in the bustling crowds on busy streets and packed theaters.

And it seems to me there is evidence of a Brilliant Universe in every step I take, ever breath, voice and spider crawling on the wall. I find evidence in quirky coincidences and in the baby’s laugh.

It used to be I needed to know things for sure. I suppose most of us seek the sure thing. We need to know the truth and, to a certain degree, we wish to be right. Yeah, me too.

But the older I get the more comfortable I become knowing I have likely never been right. At the very least my intentions were good, at best, I made the road a little easier for myself and for others with whom I crossed paths.

God is in the details, in the smiles and in true companionship. And I will continue to seek Her. I will continue to meditate and continue to pay attention to the smiles of the people around me and the generous coincidences and I will choose to believe.

The truth is, well, my truth, is that I can wait to know the specifics. What I know now while very little, is certainly enough.

Like, share, comment, tweet and remember it’s enough.

God Is In The Chip Bag ~ Michelle Church Lists Ten Things

The books in which I’ve recently been indulging have taken me down deep rabbit holes of gratification. I am discovering for myself, philosophers and ideas, artists and adventures of which I was completely unaware. It’s like Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, only it’s reality… only better.

It is the delight of discovering like minds and new thoughts that keeps me going down the rabbit hole and I am blessed with time at the beach to indulge myself in my quasi-erudite pursuits. “Quasi” as I am no more erudite than the next guy. I’m only self-indulgent.

Because I am shoveling in philosophies like potato chips on a lonely night, I have few opinions right now, just a lot of ideas and they’re not yet catalogued.

In an effort not to spout off about things I’m not yet sure of, I give to you a few niblets of the beliefs I retain. Think of them as crumbs from the chip bag of my mind…

1. The best way to live is to seek the good, the positive, the kind. When we look for things to be happy about, we find them.
2. The hugest irony in life is that the more we focus on ourselves the more unhappy we become. God must be giggling as each of us must discover this for ourselves in our own way and our own time. Some of us are slower than others.
3. On the same topic, but seemingly counterintuitive is that we cannot love others until we learn how to love ourselves. No, I’m not talking out of both sides of my mouth, ventriloquism was never my strength. It’s a complicated idea, but both #’s 2 and 3 coexist.

Just because they're crumbs doesn't mean you can't use 'em.
Just because they’re crumbs doesn’t mean you can’t use ’em. Click on the pic for Sunday Dinner.

4. Living my beliefs has nothing to do with making you live my beliefs.
5. The best way to spread “the good word” is to live it. The love part. The love part is the core and the heart. The rest is commentary.
6. The most fundamental truths are universal. They include, but are not limited to, light and love and probably M Theory. Beyond that, I’m not sure.
7. One time I thought I was right and then I found out I should have been thinking more.
8. I know, for sure, that kindness is where it’s at.
9. As soon as I believe I know it all, I’ve stopped learning and growing. This is perhaps the most dangerous belief of all.
10. We are who we are, we believe what we believe and the best line of action to my way of thinking is live as our best selves and allow others the latitude to do so in peace.

I admit it’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got.

Like, share, comment, tweet and you do you. Amen.

It’s Hard To See The Truth When It Smacks You In The Face ~ Michelle Church

It is painful, and yet in the end I must own it, that I like to see myself as always in the right. This is likely true of us all and at least for me, the sooner I see this characteristic as one I own, I might then rid myself of it.

A belief I believe I can afford to keep is that my intentions are almost always good and even when they lean to self-serving, at the very least I believe they are good at the time. That’s about as far as it goes though.

Beyond those beliefs lie the next layer of truth and after that an ever truer layer and so on and so on.

What is right and what is wrong is rarely absolute. Most people are like me and they usually see themselves living in the first arena. Most of us live in the place of “right” and rarely question our own motives.

It is only when we’re willing to peel back the layers of reality and embrace the fact that we are only privy to levels of truth and not the ultimate truth that we begin upon the journey of understanding.

A friend of mine recently told me a story about his children. As he and his older daughter sat watching TV, she smacked her much younger brother on the head as he innocently passed by.

My friend, a very smart man, asked her why she hit her brother and was entirely at a loss when she told him she hadn’t.

To his credit, he remained curious over irritated and continued to question her.

angry_preschoolerThe truth at first appeared to be obvious. I little girl hit her brother. What had actually happened was that just ten minutes before the two of them, with their mother had been playing tag. As the younger brother passed by, his older sister continued the game. By all appearances, she had simply smacked him. But there is always a deeper truth.

Thomas Paine said, “My country is the world and my religion is to do good.” I would add to that to seek truth and find the good as well.

It’s all there. In layers. And it’s going to take some work to peel them back. But in doing so, we’ll get closer than we ever can in taking things at face value. I’m not always right. But I hope to find truths as I make my way along a very windy road.

Like, share, comment, tweet and if you’re going to smack people, do so more judiciously.