Tag Archives: god

One Time I Was Killed In The Woods

Many years ago I found myself in the middle of the forest on Mount Hood well past midnight. By myself, I had nothing but a wind up flashlight and an active imagination. I also had an ear infection, effectively plugging my left ear so that no sound could be accurately tracked to its origin.

The ear infection was a huge boon to my imagination and the four of us, me, the dim flashlight, my ear infection and my imagination had a hell of an adventure dodging all the criminally mentally ill escapees roaming about that night.

I had been asked to play the part of a pioneer woman for a youth group and with my escorts un-well, I’d opted to go it alone rather than abort my mission. I was perhaps only a quarter of a mile up the trail when I heard an unidentified thump just behind me.

I whirled around, certain I was about come face to face with the man with the hook of scary campfire fame. And there was nothing. Nothing but my wildly beating heart.

Possibly it is my memory romanticizing the moment, but it seems to me now, that just then the clouds parted and I looked up to the most beautiful, bright moon I had ever seen, crowned by the tall and imperial trees. Though I am no scriptorian by anyone’s standards, just then a comforting scripture popped in my fear enflamed mind, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I have thought about that foolhardy night many times in the years that have past. I’ve thought about how silly and afraid I was. But most of all I’ve thought about being still. Being still and listening.

For much of my life I’ve tried to run to the next answer, do the next required thing and push away any feelings that weren’t “worthy” or “helpful”. Though I have thought of that night and that moment many times, I’ve rarely practiced what the scripture counseled.

How rarely we are still. How typical is it that we make our way with too little light and diminished senses. How often do we fill in the blanks of what we do not know with the most outlandish and improbable answers simply so we can say we know what the answers are?

Maybe the reason I’ve thought of that night so many times is that I need the message just as much now as I did then. It’s time to add it in to the practice.

Being still, how hard can it be? Right?

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Where To Find The Best Christmas Lights

Perhaps we celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year because the winds blow cold and the skies rain and snow and the memories of summer feel oh-so-painfully elusive.

I am reveling in the joys of the holiday season, and even so, as I look out my window I see a bleak and inhospitable Mother Earth. I miss the sun.

Without nature to faun over us like the generous mother she is, it is imperative that as brothers and sisters we extend the kindnesses not handed to us by nature’s pure light.

The sky does not warm me with rich and growing light and so I naturally seek it elsewhere.

I am reminded of Christmases past when funds were short but there was no lack. I remember my mother providing generous Christmases from childhood and when we were a young, struggling family.

be-the-lightIt is happy to recall years when my sister and I would help each other back and forth. When I was in need she would find ways to help me. I will always remember a suspiciously needed $50 bill found in my car after visiting her home one holiday season.

While we are financially far more stable now, I still see kindness passed out like candy canes as I go into the shops and public places with my fellow man. Kindness is everywhere.

Most importantly I hope I extend those kindnesses to every single soul in which I come into contact. I hope that, not just during the holiday season, but all year long I practice kindness, I see people as the kindred souls that they are. That I put my comfort second and other’s needs first.

I miss the sun and will definitely do my happy dance when it returns. Until that time I will look earthward to find the light, to grow and to know we are the light on earth and to act as such will always bring the joy that might be missing in our hearts.

Thank you for your light.

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Losing My Religion ~ Michelle Church’s

As my children grew up a little, from time to time when something happened that vexed them just a bit, I would tell them God was punishing them for not honoring their mother properly. I was joking and they knew it and my needling them drew out the anticipated eye roll.

It’s a game we would play and they would turn the tables on me from When the opportunity arose. Telling me I had elicited God’s wrath in some form or other. Turn about is fair play.

I’m not yet sure whether I regret the provocation or not. Only time will tell, though I don’t think you find this sort of game in any reputable parenting manual.

Regardless of the parental wisdom or lack thereof, I will tell you that then, but even more now, I wasn’t really dialed into the Angry God model.

From all appearances, the way we shape our belief in God has way more to do about us than it does about our creator and if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not be any of the following things:

Monty-Python-God• Angry… obviously
• Jealous
• Vengeful
• Manipulative
• Randomly tormenting
• Legalistic
• Misogynistic
• Fill in the worst things you can think of or have been told here_________________

There is a place for order, good manners, integrity, kindness and love in this world. That place is the center of it. Further, I would submit that I’ve met some very fine atheists as well as Jews, a few Muslims (only a few because I don’t personally know that many), Christians and a Buddhist or two (again, I don’t get out much) who have these and other admirable qualities in spades.

When we define the world in which we live, we see what we are. Likewise, when we imagine a god we are contemplating exactly what and who we are, not who she/he/it is.

When I look out at my Fellow Travelers I most certainly might find thieves and abusers. If that is what I look for, I’m unquestionably going to need a god who is as incensed about this and can bring justice to a world gone wild. You know, like a spring break in Florida, only with demons and stuff.

Conversely, when I look upon this world and I see the tender gifts humanity is always inclined to give, when I focus on acts of generosity, lost purses returned in tact, children being cared for and chance encounters that change the world, it is then my mind creates a beneficent being, a god of love and wonder.

Perhaps the best way I can know god is to go out into the world and act exactly as I imagine she would act. Daily aim for a more accepting, kinder, gentler, more thoughtful way and in our tiny little offerings, perhaps we can shift the world just a bit closer to what we imagine heaven on earth could look like.

I’m searching for a god of love. And in doing so, I am certain that is what I will find.

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Holy Imperfection, Batman! ~ Michelle Church

“Practice makes perfect”,is an ugly sentiment in my mind. It imbues the idea that perfection can be had and thus, we long for it. The perfect home, the perfect family, the perfect life. And all at the low, low cost of practicing regularly.

Ummmmm…. I don’t think so.

Perfection is not something to be had, it is a way of seeing things, accepting that they are whole and good and perfect, each circumstance, every family, every home. Practicing doesn’t bring perfection, with the exception of one way.

When we practice seeing things differently, people differently and we practice radical self-acceptance, we don’t change anything, we simply allow the perfection to shine through.

This is much easier said than done. Messages bombard us about what is or is not good, who is or is not good. We are required to make judgments, to make people not like us into other.

We belong to this tribe. The tribe of humans.
We belong to this tribe. The tribe of humans.

Were I in charge of the world, and I am at least in charge of my world, but if I were in charge of everyone else’s world too, I would ask that just for small snippets of time, we drop our judgments, our labels for ourselves and for others. I would ask that we stop finding our identities in clans, religions and tribes, and that we simply be present in the community of humankind.

I know, I sound like a tree hugging, crystal wearing hippie, and if you’re nodding your head “yes,” then you haven’t yet done what I asked. I’m still labeled. Perhaps my messaging is uncomfortable to you. That’s fair.

My sentiments are not new even if the words I’m using feel unusual. Perhaps, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” might feel more comfortable.

Practice does not make perfect. Practicing self love and love of others simply uncovers the perfection that inherently resides in every moment. In every person. Applying beliefs in love and equality disperses the clouds and lets a perfect light shine through.

May we allow perfection to be a part of our holy practice. Not only on Sunday or on Friday when the sun goes down. Not when you’re trying to be good. You simply are good. You always were. You always will be.

You just have to practice seeing the perfection.

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The Tradition Of Shame ~ Michelle Church

The traditions surrounding our Thanksgiving festivities run deep and long. There are specific recipes and particular people to carry out those recipes. The faces that surround the table differ from year to year based on need and rotating schedules, but the holiday looks the same even from decade to decade.

One of the many traditions we follow each year, before the actual meal but after the reading of the Thanksgiving Proclamation, is the sharing of gratitude.

Surely we are not the only family to do this.

Of particular interest to me this year was the final share by my very own Mr Dreamboat.

The turn went around the table clockwise and I began. Mr Dreamboat sitting to my right spoke last and it was his poignant thoughts that surprised and touched me.

tidingsThis year, Mr D shared, he is most grateful that we are each, every single member of the company, living more authentically. Throughout this last year we have all grown in ways that have cast off the shackles of shame and have more fully embraced who we are.

I know my Mr Dreamboat well. And so it doesn’t surprise me that living more fully in the light that would be the thing for which he was feeling deep gratitude. His depth and integrity are beautiful to behold.

As the holiday season is off to a running start, were I to choose the theme for this year, it would be to truly see “tidings of comfort and joy” throughout the world.

I would wish to see less concern about which greeting we use (Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, la la la), and more concern over bringing peace, acceptance and comfort to our fellow human beings.

Whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ, Allah, Buddha, a curious traveler not yet decided on what exactly it is that you believe or any other variety of belief, the holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to stop worrying about what anyone else is doing. It is an open invitation to see the very best in others.

This holiday season, no matter which god you worship, no matter if you worship any god at all, it is my hope, it is my prayer, that we choose to succor the poor, comfort those who mourn and worry less about the choices of others and more about our place in the world as bringers of joy, serial givers and emissaries of “tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O-oh tidings of comfort and joy.”

At the Young Family Ranch & Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary, we are a family of traditions. And while turkey is nice and orange rolls are yummy, the most important tradition we try to practice in our home is unconditional love.

It’s a tradition for the ages. Let us all practice it liberally.

Like, share, comment, tweet and love your neighbor as yourself and if you can’t love your neighbor, at least take them cookies. Cookies = love.

Michelle Church ~ Funeral For A Friend

Yesterday afternoon as I drove the long miles to the funeral home, the skies opened up and obligingly doused my little car speeding down the freeway. I did not want the cheerful sunlight. A fitting day for a funeral is at the very least overcast, if not downright dismal.

I wonder about a life well spent. Does it consist of “greatness” and money? Or are those simply side notes?

As my friend Payton’s life unfolded in the fullness of pictures and stories from people who knew him much of his life, I was privileged to witness a life beautifully utilized in all the best possible ways.

FullSizeRenderIt doesn’t seem to me that a life well spent has one particular recipe to it. There are as many different ways to live a worthy lifetime as there are people to live them.

I don’t know exactly what Payton’s religion was. We never discussed it on the days we spent painting, but I’m not certain that part really matters.

What I know for sure about him, was that he was kind. I know that he was inclusive. He loved his wife, adored his children and was crazy about his grandchildren.

As people filed up to tell charming stories about this lovely man, what was most noteworthy to me was not how much they all loved him (which they did) but how loved they all felt by him.

Over and over again I heard friends and family use the word, “home” when speaking of him. He had a way of making you feel like that’s where you were when you were with him.

There was so much I didn’t know about my friend. I knew him only as an old man. But the further I get down this road the easier it is to see people aren’t born old, it’s a long trail to get there. And if you do it right, you have some scars with you at the end and some bitchin’ cool war stories to tell around the campfire.

Payton had scars and cool stories.

I hope when it’s my time to go that no one really concerns themselves with what religion I lived, what my specific beliefs were or myriad other things that, it turns out, have no real meaning. It is not what we affiliate ourselves with that matters so much as how we live out those beliefs.

I hope that when the music is over and people file out to eat thumbprint cookies and “funeral potatoes” that the word “home” is used over and over when they speak of me.

Yesterday afternoon I spent in the comfortable confines of the funeral home. And as I sat with bowed head and listened to the uttered prayers I could see the light sparkle through my eyelids. The rain had ceased and the sun was shimmering. A fitting honor for a life well spent.

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