Tag Archives: religion

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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.

comfort and joy

Holiday Fear… I Meant Cheer…

It is December. It is the season. The season of FamilySpendingStressWorshipandTonsandTonsofFood. I believe that’s the official name of the entire season. But really, I don’t want to talk so much about the holidays. I want to talk about you. And me. And living life in a brilliant way.

I recently read that in order to have successful New Year’s Resolutions, one should start 6 weeks in advance. Technically we’re already past that date, but today is the last day of November and, let’s be honest, if we start working on them today it’s way sooner than we’ve ever done before.

“But it’s FamilySpendingStressWorshipandTonsandTonsofFood season,” you might say to me. “How am I ever going to have the time and energy to focus on anything but that?” (Let’s call it what it is, you whined that part.)

Yeah. I get that. But recently I had an epiphany. It was in mid October when my mind rankled me out of an autumnal bliss and reminded me that the holidays were nearly upon us. “Rude!” I screamed to myself, but then I remembered: Whatever experience I’m having, I am choosing to have it. While circumstances, like holidays and viruses may come and go as they please, the way in which I experience them is all me.

Booyah!

It is nearly December and holiday cheer is sidling up to each and every one of us like a cuddly kitten that may or may not scratch us without provocation. We can ease our holiday anxieties with too much food and an attitude of simply getting through it all, or we can focus on creating goals for the coming year and experiencing the holidays with gratitude and humor.

I’ll take a second helping of the latter if you don’t mind.

flirt

I Am Shameless & You Should Be Too

I practice a weird sort of magical thinking. It’s kind of a belief system cum superstition a la religious practice. If you will.

Whether it stems from my own delightful form of mental illness or from the smorgasbord of my various interests, the “program” runs constantly in the back of my mind. My religious/philosophical/life coaching convictions can be summed up in four, simple words;

Flirt with The Universe.

Mercilessly.

To flirt with The Universe involves nothing more than a sassy attitude, a genuine smile and a belief that when we make ourselves available to the good things that inhabit life, they likely will come to us; somewhat like the phone number of a highly desirable partner, written on your hand while he looks meaningfully into your eyes.

Who doesn’t want The Universe to do that to them?

love hugTo Flirt with The Universe is to wake up every morning in possibility. It is to believe in real and meaningful connection and to consider that every interaction is possibly the most important one of your life.

To Flirt with Life requires a willingness to see the beauty that is inherently in every moment, whether that beauty is obvious or not.

Each day is another opportunity to start dating life.

While I may have deftly named my practice ~ if I do say so myself ~ if I’m being honest Mr Dreamboat has made this ideology his custom for many years. His every transaction is with an important person, every conversation matters. Regardless of whether he’s buying a soda or a piece of property, my Dreamboat is engaged with life, so life engages with him. That’s so hot.

When we Flirt with Life we believe in Possibility, we Hope for the Best and we pull our shoulders back like the pretty girl at a middle school dance. When we are certain the very best partner has his eye on us, he does, he will, we are, we win.

May we each put on out very best, brush our teeth (for The Universe loves good dental hygiene) and look to life like it has everything to give us, every day of our lives.

Because of course, it does.

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.

instinct

God Is On The Combine ~ Michelle Church

I was 13 years old and working in the potato fields of southeastern Idaho. The sun was pouring down from the early October sky and I was being paid to simply sit there. It was not a bad gig though the farmer paying me while he went to find parts for a broken tractor couldn’t have been as thrilled as I was.

Like this, only it was so long ago the world was black and white.
Like this, only it was so long ago the world was black and white.

There’s no way to know the name of the girl I worked with that summer. We were not bosom friends, we didn’t even really like each other but circumstances required quality time as the hours passed that afternoon.

“I sure hope the second coming isn’t soon,” she confided. My initial response I did not verbalize. I think, considering her line of thought, she would not have resonated with my, “What the hell are you talking about?”

As the afternoon unfolded she shared her concern that she hadn’t yet done her family history and it was troubling her young soul. I cannot recall what exactly it was that I did say, but it is my hope that I somehow assuaged her seemingly real pain.

It’s almost certain this wasn’t the first time I’d considered the state of my immortal soul, but it was the first time I think I’d ever felt so very far away from God. At least in my childish mind I had bigger fish to fry than simple sins of omission.

Since that time so many sunny days ago, I have struggled and suffered in the name of God.

Far from simple family history concerns, I have made massive mistakes. Gluttony and selfishness, lying and laziness. Name the sins and it’s likely I’ve dabbled in at least most of them.

Who amongst us, if we’re being honest, hasn’t?

The trouble doesn’t arise from being human, I don’t think, the trouble comes when we believe the love of God is painful. That it should hurt. The problem is when we believe that to be lovable and to be loved we must run faster, jump higher, give and serve and love and pay penance and painfully pray that we may in some way measure up.

Because we never will.

It is said about human love that it should not hurt. And I submit to you that the love of our Creator should go beyond that and not only not hurt, but it should heal.

And if we consider ourselves followers of God, the love we give should be the same.

From time to time I think about that girl on the combine, laying in the sun and daydreaming about her eternal salvation. And I want to give her a big hug. I want to tell her it’s okay and that life is a journey and it’s about experiences and about honesty and weakness. It’s about being like the God you say you love, a God that is worthy of love.

And while I was there, I would give me a big hug too. Maybe that’s where it all starts. Self love.

Like, share, comment, tweet and allow yourself all that you wish others to have.

water balloon

God Is Not A Water Balloon ~ Michelle Church

Sometimes I think too small. If I’m being completely transparent, most of the time I start out thinking small. This does not serve me. In my dream version of Michelle I start out with big dreams, but it’s just not my way. I build up. I think some good thoughts, little ones, and when those work out, I build a few bigger thoughts.

Sadly, for me, this is how spirituality and God have worked as well. Did I mention that sometimes the whole “building” process is a very slow one?

For years God has been, what I like to think of as, a water balloon. Metaphorically speaking of course.

This Idea had specific attributes, tangible and understandable. Fluid, lifegiving and knowable. A sort of comfortingly understandable concept. Tidy even.

Here I find myself in my 47th year and in my mind I am standing with an orange water balloon in my hands. It is warm and cozy. ocean blue At the edge of the ocean I watch as the waves crash conversationally. I can see the vastness, the depth and the breadth of something beyond my understanding.

I can see it, and yet I know It cannot be fully understood. It is massive. It is life, and not even the most brilliant of scientists know everything about it.

So I pop the water balloon, and it releases into the sand, into the earth and ultimately it will become a part of the deep.

It makes a lot of sense that I’ve made the idea of God/The Universe into something understandable and finite, but I don’t think I was doing myself any favors by stopping there. And while certainly the water balloon might come from and be a part of the ocean, the differences are seemingly infinite as well.

I am standing at the edge of the ocean without my water balloon. And I feel a little like a child who grew fond of a toy now broken. I am disappointed and a little sad.

But oh! The discoveries that lie ahead.

Like, share, comment, tweet and embrace the metaphor as weird as it may be…

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.

People Aren’t Killed Because Of The Truth ~ Michelle Church

Mr Dreamboat and I see things very differently. Though we both come from the same, small sub-culture, even so, we interpret the world very differently. Once when I was laying out the bare facts of my life, his life and our life together, my therapist asked incredulously, “And you two get along well?”

She wasn’t a great therapist. Let’s just call that spade the spade that it is.

“Yes,” I answered emphatically, “very well.”

If you were to look at our histories as children and young adults on a superficial level, yeah, I can see how it seems like a hands of the worldstretch. But it is not. It is lovely and we work well together, not despite our differences, but because of them.

Yesterday Mr D and I went out on a date into the wild and wet weather of the day. Snug in the car we ran errands and I did much of the talking, I’ll admit that right now. He’s been out of town and it seems I’d stored up some thoughts and opted to give them all to him in one sitting.

Gracious man.

One of those thoughts was something like, though I can’t be certain of the exact wording, “I do not believe there are absolute truths.”

He is gracious, but never condescendingly indulgent.

“I completely disagree with you,” he said. “There are truths, absolute truths, but what most people do is grow up with beliefs, traditions and things that are familiar to them. And they call those things truths instead of comfortable. Right now there are people all over the world killing people because they believe ‘with every fiber of their being’ that what they have is the truth.

There are laws of the universe that are true. There are not just a few of them. That’s for sure. However, they never have anything to do with the traditions of our fathers, the dress code to which we subscribe or the foods that make us feel comfortable. Those things, by and large, are about customs and comfort and while yours are valid to you, mine are equally valid to me and that’s about the extent of the truth of the matter.

Mr Dreamboat and I are very distinctive people. We have had different experiences and those that we do share, we have interpreted in dissimilar ways. It is not that we have a strong marriage despite those differences, it is because of them.

And so it is with all the world, we just have to be willing to listen to one another and find the truths together. I recommend going out to dim sum afterward. It worked for us…

Like, share, comment, tweet and embrace the rainbow.