Category Archives: Baptism


I’d be lying if I said spirituality is easy for me, but I’d also be lying if I said it didn’t matter or was difficult. My spirituality is by far the most important and integral part of my life, but it’s also one of the most complicated facets.

On my way back to coffee shop I visited yesterday, on my way back to actually complete my lesson plans for next week, I went past Taylor University, a small very conservative Christian college in Upland, Indiana. I am not a fan of their theology or their ridiculous set of strict rules, but I do feel like many of my favorite people in this world have gone there and gotten out relatively unscathed. Some of them seem to have even learned a thing or along the way. Taylor is also a somewhat rivalry of my theological alma mater, Anderson University, an equally conservative and rule-ridiculous college about 45 minutes away.

Anyway, I bring up Taylor University because my spirituality these days is heavily influenced by Jesus and Buddha, but not by any official church or religion. I pray, I meditate, I try to be kind and compassionate. Some days are more successful than others, but I haven’t been to an actual church service, except for watching my grandchildren be baptized, for about two years, I’d say. This is not because I don’t find it valuable—the Episcopal Church has my organized religion heart—but I just find that I can practice my spiritual pretty much anywhere. If I am not careful, I am moved to spiritual tears by pretty much anything.

Back to this morning—all these asides make my head spin, but that’s just how my brain works—when I drove past Taylor Lake on my way to some of the most beautiful scenery in East Central Indiana, a road that, when I was in high school, people called Devil’s Backbone, ironic because of TU being right there, I had a feeling in my gut that was so familiar.

If you know my story, you know I was baptized at a very young age, maybe 6, after accepting Jesus into my heart in an old, brown recliner chair where I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer with my mom one night before bed time. If you know my story even better, you know that I by no means believe that is how a conversion experience works, or that we maybe don’t even need conversion, because we are all good and pure and beautiful on the inside anyway, but that is how it happened for me at 4, 5, or 6.

As I drove past TU this morning with a beautiful pink sunrise and the fall leaves reflecting on the smooth water of the lake, I was transported back to 40 years ago when I wore a little white sundress and waded into a cold, slightly mucky, and very weedy, Taylor Lake to make a public profession of the faith that was shaping me. I waded in to the water, said I confessed my sins, promised to live a good life, and then I was under the water, looking up through a blur into the sunlight above the water.

As I drove past that lake this morning, my heart moved, my spirit stirred, I began to cry, and I wondered when everything in this world got so unbeautiful and so difficult and so mean. I wished I could go back and see the world through the water into the sun, weeds wrapped around my little ankles, safe in a feeling that everything would be alright.

Sunday, Sunday: Some Thoughts About Lent

WARNING: This post is very disjointed. Sorry about the hop, skip, jumpiness of it. In the words of Nehemiah: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Apparently, I can’t write today either. Ha!

I sat in church today thinking about the purpose of Lent. I noticed a couple of things that I’d like to find out more about. We didn’t do the confessional part of the liturgy, I suspect because Lent is supposed to be focused on being confessional. Our retired Rector, Fr. Charlie, unintentionally spilled the water that is hidden under the lectern for the speaker or preacher of the day, I suspect to remind us all in a hilariously accidental way of our baptisms and of our own humanity. I learned a new term: Ember Day. With a quick Internet search, I found that ember days are for prayer and fasting, and they are days that mark the quarters of the Christian calendar. I still would like to learn more about this new liturgical observation.

For me Lent has always been a time in the liturgical calendar to pray, fast, and re-find myself in the face of Christ. This year for me Lent is the most wilderness it has been for a long time. Mind you, I have been so far from Christ for a few years that I haven’t really paid any attention to Lent other than it being a season in the calendar. For a couple of years, we haven’t really regularly attended church, so Lent was just the thing that lead up to Easter. There’s this idea that the way we understand ideas or concepts is by gaining a better understanding of the opposite, and I am pretty sure I fully understand the beauty that is Christ because of my propensity to wallow in the opposite. I know the wilderness. I know the desert. At points in my life, I’ve known the barren lands so well that I never thought I’d find my way back, or want to.

But now I am here. In the symbolic wilderness of Lent. I feel the sadness. I feel the temptation. I feel the loneliness. I feel this in juxtaposition to the joy, the warmth, the holiness, and the grace I have felt in Christ since the first Sunday of Advent. I feel like I have been called home only to be cast back into the dark. The cross is covered. The baptismal font is gone. The confessions are removed form the liturgy. We are in utter theological darkness. This concept, as I tried (but poorly) to articulate in my post about the road trip, has never been so clear to me in my life as it is in this particular Lent season.

Because of our impending move, this Lent season brings for me lots of last moments. Yesterday when we were at the Mounds, I said to Bec, “Later this spring, I’ll bring you back and we can walk the route of the race I just ran, because it’s beautiful.” Only I won’t, because she’ll be in Minnesota. Later in the say I said to my brother, “Next year when we run this Shamrock Beer Run, we’ll know to get here really early or really late to avoid the horrible bottle neck at the start line.” He said back to me, “Only you won’t be here next year, you’ll be in Minnesota.” True. My parents brought Bec and me a few dozen eggs, and I thought to myself that pretty soon I’d not be getting delicious farm fresh eggs every week, nor would I be able to just call them up for a coffee or to see me run a race. So far this Lent I’ve had the intense pain and pleasure of having many lengthy conversations with both friends and family to help me discern my future.

Who am I? Who is God? Where do I find my worth? What makes me live? What is my calling? What brings me joy? What vexes me? How can I reconcile the various facets of my life? What the fuck am I doing? Why? Am I seeking God’s will? These are just a few of the questions I’ve wrestled with over the past few weeks.

At church this morning, the Eucharist had a different meaning for me, and I can assume for Bec, since we both shed a few tears when we went back to the pew to kneel and contemplate the mystery of Jesus’ body and blood. She carefully thread her arm through mine and held my hand tightly. I am not sure if it was for my benefit or hers. We both know this time of transition will be more difficult and longer than we’d like. At any rate, the Eucharist today gave me an intense hope in the future. The Eucharist has a beautiful of doing that: reminding me that God is bigger than the wilderness. No matter the darkness, no matter my lostness or helplessness, God is there. Christ is real and present in my friends and family. I am not alone in this journey. Jesus is there. With me. In the wilderness.

I love the season of Lent, because I allow myself time to think about the darker more mysterious parts of my Christian faith. And I hate the season of Lent for the same reasons. Perhaps this is why Easter brings such joy. I cling to this hope. I cling to the promise of a risen Christ.

Lent Day 31: Being a Grown Up Sucks Sometimes

Today’s weather was perfect for a run: 70 degrees with a nice lukewarm rain. As I came home from school today, my heart wanted so badly to go for a nice, long run. My spirit wanted to be unleashed and untethered to plod along the Greenway with my bare feet soaking up the rainwater as they splashed along the trail. I could feel the joy in that run.

I sat by the open picture window, looking out across the green floor boards of our front porch and watching the rain fall in the grass of the front yard. I admit that I have been feeling a little sorry for myself for the past month. My body doesn’t seem to have the same aspirations as my spirit when it comes to running or swimming. For example, today instead of wanting to go run, my body wanted to come into the house and fall asleep on the couch by about 5:30.

I’ve been sick quite a bit in the past month, and I wouldn’t say that it’s been a serious sickness. I’ve just been tired and haven’t felt 100 percent. This week, however, just when I wanted to really kick in my running to get ready for this 15K trail run, my body decided to rebel. I’ve had a temperature as high as 101 degrees, and I can’t seem to shake it. Of course, some antibiotics would probably help, but I don’t like to take medicine. Apparently, I’d rather wallow in my own illness than do something about it. How theological is that?

Along with not being able to run tonight, like I wanted to, I also wanted to go to Hartford City to see some bands—The Whipstitch Sallies and So What and the Deliverance—perform and to spend time with some friends. I have been planning to go hear them for several weeks, if not months, so I was really disappointed to not be able to go. But I decided that I am old enough to have to cancel some things when I am sick, which is kind of a big deal for me, because I tend to just keep going until I drop over. In fact, that’s likely why I am sick right now. Last weekend was a doozy, and since the end of February, I have been going nonstop. I’ve been going so nonstop, I was shocked when I looked at the calendar today and realized that April is literally a week away. I’ve missed March somehow. Time generally goes too fast for me anyway, but this was ridiculous.

Somehow I also missed the fact that the Huffington Post Religion section is running a special page for Lent 2012. Do they do this every Lent and I’m just oblivious? Probably.

Each day there is a meditation provided by one person from a diverse group of religious leaders and writers. Some of them are very moving, so I would suggest simply going there and perusing them if you’re so inclined. This one by Rev. Emily C. Heath was one of my particular favorites, and this one by Carol Howard Merritt is a particularly beautiful story of the grace of feet washing, to which I can thank my Church of God friends for introducing me. Enjoy the contemplation.


Lent Day 25, 26 & 27: Lost a Few Days in There

I think I must have been being too joyful over the weekend, because I lost a few days in there somewhere.

For today’s meditation I want to focus on the present, and not in the cheesy way that an email I received encouraged me to: they call today the present, because it’s a gift. Um, yeah. Pema Chodron writes: “One can appreciate and celebrate each moment—there’s nothing more sacred.There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!” I spend too much time, in fact, most of my time, focusing on what comes before each moment and on what comes after each moment. I don’t regularly savor each moment as it happens. Too frequently, I waste the moment by thinking about what I could have changed about the past or about how that present moment will impact my future. In general, I don’t just stop and think about how truly beautiful, or how truly sacred, each moment can be or is. I find myself trapped in the past, looking toward the future, and forgetting about the present, the right now, the “moment” of which “there’s nothing more vast or absolute.” I just squander the sacred beauty of what is.

On Saturday night, I had the privilege of attending Mass at St. John’s in the big HC, my home town. I find myself wondering, in a good way, how people can be Catholic or Orthodox. How can they be in the very real presence of Christ every Sunday and be able to stand it? Whenever I think about the fact that Jesus body and blood are literally ingested into the bodies of the followers of those two denominations, I always wonder if they recognize the beauty, the sacredness, the absolute wonder and majesty of that idea. Jesus is real, he is present, and he is giving, yet again, his body and blood for our consumption. I, for one, can only be in that very real presence of God every so often, because I feel so small in comparison, so unworthy, so ignorant.


On Saturday, I wondered how this glorious and holy mystery impacted those people who shared in the Eucharist. I, of course, did not because I am not Catholic. I do believe in transubstantiation, but I haven’t been baptized in the Catholic church, so I always abstain out of respect for their rules, expectations, or whatever. It’s probably for the best, because I am not sure I could stand it. When the Fr. Dave was emptying the bowl that the body had been resting in, and combining all of the blood into one chalice, I began to think of the sacrifice. It’s Lent, who wouldn’t think of the sacrifice? But when he lifted the chalice to his lips and swallowed down the rest of the body and blood, I lost it. I always tear up in the face of great reverence. How purely beautiful to not want any bit of your Lord to be wasted, to take in all of that pain and suffering and redemption!

On Sunday, I had another great moment with God in nature. I know, I know, a good protestant (forgive me I think I was a nun once in a former life) experiencing Jesus in the Catholic Church and then again in Nature?!? Ack. Maybe I’m not such a good Protestant after all, but how can you not experience God in this:

Beauty at the Mounds

Especially with the flowers and the grass poking through the dead leaves and winter decay, how can a person not experience God?

So then tell me how is it with all of these bits of heaven presenting themselves to me, how is it that I can still get side tracked by thoughts such as these from Psalm 73?

For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

How can I be persuaded to compare myself to others? How can I let what other humans do bother me? I think it’s because

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

And that’s not likely to change any time soon. But, by focusing on the present, not the past and not the future, maybe I can become less and less of a brute beast (see that future focus?). And maybe I can escape the past of dwelling on what seems unfair or irrational. I’m trying. Let’s hope it works.


Lent Day 8: Remember Your Baptism and Be Grateful

Each day, I try to read at least a chapter from each of several books in which I am immersing myself at the moment. One of the books I am reading right now is Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro. Okoro’s voice reminds me a bit of the writerly voice I strive for: honest, quirky, humorous, serious when necessary, and compassionately smart. She achieves this voice in a way that I hope one day I will. In tonight’s reading, her thoughts about baptism reminded me of my own:

It is fascinating to me as a writer that the portal into the life of God is through water and word. Somehow the Holy Ghost shacks up in our souls with a verbal lease-to-buy agreement (depending on your tradition), and we are sealed to God for eternal life. I’m not going to pretend I get all that. But I do find the thought of it absolutely beautiful. Whenever I hear the words “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever” during a baptismal service at church, I clutch my heart and gush as though I’ve just seen a baby panda rescued by a fleet of tiny forest nymph-like fairy angels.

I was baptized when I was somewhere around five years old after “accepting Jesus into my heart” at the ripe old age of four. I had no idea what I was getting into (had I known the many twists and turns my spiritual journey would take, I might have run away) when I asked my mom to pray with me in the living room of our small ranch home. She was sitting in the brown recliner, watching television, and I had been reading my Bible in my room. I remember walking out and asking her about being “saved.” She invited me to climb up into the chair with her, and I think I remember sitting on the foot rest portion of the recliner while she sat in the seat. I think I remember her praying a prayer of forgiveness and confession, and I think I remember praying it, line by line, after her. I know I remember feeling holy when we had finished, like I had done something life altering and important. I remember.

After getting saved, everyone knows the way to seal or bind that salvation is through baptism, so I was the youngest person in the membership class at Hartford City First Church of the Nazarene (we quickly migrated to Methodism). I learned the quick and dirty version of what it meant to be a Christian, and shortly after the class, all of us who had taken it were baptized.

I wore a little white sundress that might have had blue trim and possibly had some fabric applique fruits on the front. The sun shined warm on my summer-tan skin. The slight breeze kept blowing my skirt, as I walked barefooted in the sand on the beach at Taylor Lake. The water was thick and brown with algae covering the surface in spots. The beach was clear as the brightness shimmered off the calm surface. I felt so important. I was making a public profession of my faith in Jesus. I had somehow missed the part about dying to attain life; I just knew I loved Jesus and wanted everyone else to know it, too.

Having waded out until the water was about chest deep, I remember feeling calm, at home, peaceful. The pastor pinched my nose and covered my mouth with his palm. He spoke, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Dunk. “Amen.” I went under the surface, I was lifted back up, and I was a new little girl. I had been born, died, and resurrected in Christ. I was a new creation. The old was gone, and the new had come.

This moment is one of the many reasons why I love swimming and being near water, why it is my lifeblood. Each time I swim, I can remember my baptism and be grateful. Each time I look out the window to see the river across the street, I can remember my baptism and be grateful. When I think about the spiritual formula presented by Okoro, I realize why words are so important in my life as well: water and words are the portal into life with God. Through those two elements, I remember my baptism. Each time I remember my baptism, I renew my faith, and it is absolutely beautiful.