Archived entries for Christianity

a bird in the hamsa

My hand pressed deeply into cool marble. Millions of other and more earnest hands had worn deep fingerprints into the central column of the Portico de la Gloria just inside the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northernmost Galicia, and touching so many centuries of aspiration and supplication gave me a quick jolt. But, just as quickly I let go and headed back out into the plaza to grab a quick beer. As Tim at the gorge in Monty Python and The Holy Grail would have said, “Now, WHAT is your quest?”

I hadn’t walked thousands of miles, as a proper pilgrim should. In the summer of 1989, I was just another American twentysomething with a two-week Eurail pass who had impulsively opened her tattered Lonely Planet guide on the floor of Madrid’s major train station and realized that the next two days were the last two days of something called the Festival of St. James.  After twelve overnight hours sleeping upright in a third-class cabin, I was at the foot of a saint and at a big party. With yet another hand in my pocket.

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the golden wow

I begged my most Christian collegiate compadre to buy me condoms. Oh, the things a fledgling proselytizer doesn’t imagine they’ll be called to do. But, after two shocked eyebrows and one sigh of resignation as I bolted out of her post-collegiate apartment door for a date — and an impending affair — that I hadn’t thought I’d be having, I did find a dainty box of Trojans under her guest bathroom sink late that night, exactly where I’d asked her to leave them. Ecumenical, indeed.

In 1989, my one goal in life was to be somewhere else than I presently was and, by obvious implication, someone else than I presently was. But, blessedly, my running was just beginning to be less about running away and more about running, jumping and playing. My seminal trip to the Himalaya two years before had shown me just how big the world really is and had converted me in ways that at that point I had no name for. I see now that I had been converted to Curious.

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smells like protestant spirit

I was quietly sobbing over Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in a public library in graduate school. A revered early 20th century masterwork of sociological analysis, this book is nevertheless not commonly considered a tearjerker. But, as I read passages like:

Not leisure and enjoyment, but only activity serves to increase the glory of God, according to the definite manifestations of His will. Waste of time is thus the first and in principle the deadliest of sins. The span of human life is infinitely short and precious to make sure of one’s own election. Loss of time through sociability, idle talk, luxury, even more sleep than is necessary for health, six to at most eight hours, is worthy of absolute moral condemnation[,]

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dreamy buddhist woman seeks

“I meet the woman of my dreams and she’s a Buddhist?!?”

Happy Valentine’s Day indeed. The man who spoke these words to me five years ago was actually born on February 14th. We were on our first veryofficialnicerestaurant date. We were very drawn to each other. To say that we had chemistry is serious understatement. To say that I should have just punted when he said the above is serious rationality. But, that is like saying we should all live perfectly balanced lives, spiritually unfolding like elegant slow-motion blossoms drenched in dewy sunlight while mystical didgeridoo music envelops us. Meanwhile, back in my actual life…

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noooo way

The Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Christian were all sitting together. They were taking questions now. There was a big pause. I had not intended to cause discomfort. I had actually hoped for a different answer.

The Christian, a Methodist minister with a warm and quiet demeanor, had spoken gently about God as Love and about how we are all called to this Love by this Loving God. Lots of love, lots of God. Very nice. But, this Christian never actually got around to mentioning Jesus of Nazareth. This was confusing.

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first the ecstasy, then the peanut m&m’s

I was trying to eat peanut M&M’s in the First Baptist Church OF AMERICA. Only twenty-two, and in my first (and what would turn out to be my last) year at the Rhode Island School of Design, I saw its steeple each day from the hall window of my rickety apartment building on Benefit Street in Providence. An austere and elegant structure, I had nevertheless tended to skirt around it. Anyone who has ever grappled with the Southern Baptist Convention would understand.

Yet, this was The North. These were Yankees. I was the pilgrim from far far away, and I required of myself curiosity and open-mindedness in all other exotic lands. Why not New England?
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walls without sides

Mani walls are like generous mounds of pause buttons in and along the paths of the Himalaya. So called because each flat stone has been carved with the mantra “Om mani padme hum,” they are meant to be walked around, a momentary 360 degrees, a freely offered chance to take an intentional breath and get a glimpse of how wide the world really is between all the various point A’s and B’s.

I was twenty-four, sitting on a backpack and leaning back upon sacred words, but ruminating on how my father, in response to this little revelation, would likely mutter that I had been wandering around a bunch of mani for close to three years now. Twelve time zones away, so young and trying so hard to “get” somewhere in my life, and with the amazing good fortune to even be there at all, and I was still in Houston, Texas.  Running away, but arriving nowhere.
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pesky plumage and the right to bear wings

Feathers grace my path. Like fuzzy talismans, like they are saying Yes, so far so good, keep going this way. So many, recently, that I almost feel like yelling back to the universe, “OK!  I got it, really. I GOT it!”  But, of course, I don’t completely get it. I believe in signs, but I feel them more than I really understand them. I am, like all of us, an unfolding spirit. I do seem to be “getting” things a bit more and more these days, but never fully. I am never finished. Nor are you.
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the blog of Anne Elizabeth Wynn. Copyright © 2004–2010. All rights reserved.