Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Transition and the Journey: An interview with myself about Religion and my choice to let it go

Me: I've never interviewed myself before. I wanted to share the story of my journey through forty years of religion and why I am letting it
go. I figure that it could make the story telling a bit easier to do
in question format. So here goes.

Some ice breaker questions first. Where did you grow up?

Myself: Fort St. John in northern B.C.

Me: What about your family? In one or two sentences.. Your father
first?

Myself: My Dad was a carpenter, builder and farmer. He rotated between those careers for most of his life. He's an only child. Only children
usually grow up before the get to experience childhood. He passed away
over two years ago.

Me: What about Mom?

Myself: My mom was a school teacher before she got married and
became a wife and mom after. She grew up a middle child in a family of
four. She still lives on the farm with the goats, chickens and llama.
She is one very special lady.

Me: And your sister...

Myself: My sister and I are very different and I am sure that's a
challenge and a joy to any set of parents. She out ranks me by two
and a half years. She's married with two grown boys and farms with her
husband.

Me: You just got married over a year ago. Tell me about your husband. Where did you meet and what does he do, both for a living and in his
spare time.

Myself: Manfred and I met over ten years ago. We both worked for the same heater manufacturing company. Ten years later, he is still
selling heaters and is quite passionate about it. He also is very
passionate about his guitars. He plays acoustic and electric.
He is also the lead guitar player of a local classic rock band.

Me: Where does he fit into his family?

Myself: He has an older sister. Kim is about seven years his senior. But with the age gap and his identity as a first born son, he has a
lot of first born traits. He sometimes reminds me of my dad.

Me: Birth order seems significant to you.

Myself: It is how I like to figure out personalities in people. Most of the time, I can figure out a person's birth order by the way they
behave. Also knowing someone's birth order helps me to understand the
best way to communicate and interact with that person.

Me:
You are the last born on your family. How do you feel that has
defined your personality and behaviour?

Myself: I am challenged in the organization, focus and detail
departments. It drives my hubby and my sister nuts. Both with
firstborn personalities. But I do Iike to have fun!

Me: We are leading into the topic of your spiritual journey, how do
you feel your personality has affected your spiritual journey?

Myself: I bounced around quite a bit in the last twenty years trying to fit my religion into my personality. I tried to fit in where ever I
went, whatever church I ended up in was a personality choice of some
sort.

Me: You mention bouncing around. Do you mean church hopping?

Myself: Something like that. Some hops were longer than others.

Me: Let's talk about your childhood first. You grew up attending a Lutheran church, right?

Myself: Actually, my first memory of church attendance wasn't
Lutheran, it was Mennonite. I was four years old when my family moved from Fort St. John and out to the farm. My grandparents attended the local Mennonite church that was only a few miles away. So instead of commuting to Fort St. John on Sunday morning to the Lutheran church, my parents, my sister and I went to the Mennonite church in the community.

Me: Lutherans and Mennonites are somewhat different in their
doctrines. How easy was that transition?

Myself: I don't remember doctrine being an issue for me when we were
in Flatrock. But if I remember correctly, it was doctrine that motivated my
parents to return to the Lutheran church a few years later.

Me: That's interesting. I know we had planned to talk about your God
Journey, but your religious upbringing and institutional choices bave
very much affected your journey. So let's go down this path for a bit
and see where it leads us. What was the deciding factor that motivated
your parents to make the drive into town to attend the Lutheran church?

Myself: I will have to ask Mom again. I think the neighbours had
something you do with it. Doctrinal issues ... Maybe they didn't want to confuse their children with conflicting theologies. They too were Lutherans that were attending a Mennonite church.

Me: Did the move back to the Lutheran church spare you against
confusion?

Myself: My denominational track record would suggest otherwise.

Me: Do you recall now any God moments you had as a child?

Myself: God was distant, if He was real at all. He was another
character in a story. I don't remember even connecting the God I
learned about in Sunday School with a real person. It wasn't until I
was nineteen and at bible school that I started to think that maybe
there was a person behind all the religious hoo-ha that I had embraced
in my growing up years.

Me: Did you connect with God on a personal level at Bible School?

Myself: Looking back, it's hard to tell what was personal connection
and what was religious performance.

Me: When did you start questioning the belief system you were raised with?

Myself: I think it would have been my second year at Olds College - the fall of 1991. I had attended the Lutheran church in Olds during my
first year and decided that for year two I would try something else.

Me: Was it a bad experience in your first year?

Myself: I didn't connect with anyone there, the presentation was
boring and the building was cold.

Me: But you stayed for a whole year before making a change.

Myself: Are we going to talk about guilt, religious obligation, self-
condemnation and betrayal?

Me: We can ... If you want go down that road.

Myself: Not right now.

Me: Okay, your second year.

Myself: I discovered the local Baptist church.

Me: How was that experience?

Myself: I found the people a little more interactive. I don't remember getting involved with anything that year. Then again, I don't remember
anyone asking me too, either.

Me: They were okay to have you pew sit for a year? That seems unusual.

Myself: Ya think? Most would strongly encourage involvement within the first couple months. Maybe my identity as a student gave me a free pass for
the year.

Me: But this was the year that the questions came out, right?

Myself: I was attending a Baptist church and college Inter-varsity. I was exposing myself to new theologies and making friends outside of the Lutheran realm for the first time.

Me: Did any one person influence your spiritual walk in that year?

Myself: His name was Andy Stahl. He was a Ag. Student like myself. But he was also an ex-Hutterite turned Pentecostal. You can imagine the transition he went through. His own family disowned him when he left the colony.

Me:
Wow!

Myself: During the two years around Andy, I started to believe it was possible to believe in something different than the theologies and
ideologies of my parents. But I felt guilty. So much so that in my
second year, there was three weeks where I didn't go to church at all.
It was after three weeks, and a significant talk with my mother that I
went back to First Baptist.

Me: What did your mother tell you that was so significant?

Myself: "Ruby, I don't care where you go to church, just go somewhere!"

Me: Let's fast forward to Calgary. You got a job working on a dairy
farm...

Myself: Shift work soon became the open door for me to experience
something new. I had to work 3 out of 4 Sundays a month. I now had a
reason not to go to church that didn't produce an overwhelming amount
of guilt. But my parents found a place for me to go when I did have a
Sunday off.

Me: Lutheran?

Myself: Oh yeah. They didn't know any other world. They figured I
would like it there, because the pastor was energetic and enthustastic.

Me: Did you? Enjoy it, I mean?

Myself: Mom was right in her assumptions. I liked the pastor. But in the year I was there (one day a month), I didn't get to know any people.

Me: That is sad.

Myself: Actually, my lack of ability to commit to Sunday morning
church attendance opened up the door to my involvement with Youth for
Christ. God isn't caged up in the institutional church system. For
five years I was part of a community that didn't care if I worked on
Sundays. How cool is that!

Me: Some don't care, but most do.

Myself: You are so right.

Me: Tell me about those four years on the farm. Did you still
experience guilt for not going to church ... Even though your job gave
you a valid excuse.

Myself: You're reading my mind, again.

Me: That's easy to do for me.

Myself: I felt guilty for choosing a job where I had to work on
Sunday. I felt guilty for staying so long. When I started going to First Assembly, I signed up as an usher and volunteered to do the shifts on the Sundays I had off.

Me: Obligation is an endless tunnel. Once you commit yourself to enter there is no way out.

Myself: But there are exceptions. Family, job, commitments...

Me: Exactly as I said... an endless tunnel. Tell me about the
denominational transition from conservative Lutheran-Baptist to Charismatic Pentecostalism. How did you process that change?

Myself: Honestly? By believing that I was right and everyone else was wrong.

Me: Oh. We need to camp on this one for a while.

Myself: Every denominational shift I made, I felt I had to justify as the absolute truth. I was right and that means every other belief system was wrong. And the awkwardness of communicating with someone when you believe you are right and they are wrong... How great that is! Oh yeah... can't forget the attraction factor. It was fun. The environment seemed to match my personality.

Me: How did the attitude resonate with your family?

Myself: If it's okay with you, can we continue this discussion next week. I think I need to call someone before I answer that one.

Me: Okay... we will continue this later. Thank you for sharing what you did.

(Tune in again, folks. We are not finished yet... it may get juicier.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Breath of God... and an overactive imagination

It is Sunday morning. 6:37 to be precise. Where am I? In bed. Hubby is still asleep, the cat is scratching something outside the bedroom door. The DVR is recording the Formula 1 race in Korea. The gentle hum of the furnace and the intermittent buzzing of the fridge are the other sounds that keep me awake. There are drivers on the road already. I can here them out my bedroom window, which is only about fifty feet from the highway.

It may seem strange, but I think I can still sense God in these moments. I think the sound of His breathing is what I hear. I can't see anything except the light of my iPod but He is here. Growing up around a lot of hymns, I remember singing and listening to songs about the Breath of God.

My husband is laying beside me, as I glance in his direction, I can see nothing. The darkness is too ... dark right now. But I can here him breathe. I reach out to touch him. He moans a bit. He is still very real, I just can't look into his eyes right now.

What is it like for us finite human beings to sense God in moments like these when we can't see him? Easy for some and challenging for others. What does the Breath of God sound like? Is it the wind that sometimes whistles through the cracks of our little house? Maybe it is the silence that is trying to exert itself over the other noises. Maybe, just maybe it is my overactive imagination. I have one of those. I think all writers are prone to live life with a mind full of the pictures that they have created.

How do I know? How do I really know that God is with me right now? That question is something that has been through my mind on occasion this fall. I am not that analytical. I live by emotion, imagination and passion... and faith. How does one analyze all that? I somehow think a great portion of faith is imagining it to be as real as the things we can physically touch.

The breeze creeps in through the window. I feel a tingling sensation on my back. I would like to imagine it as the Breath of God caressing my sore and aching muscles.

God is real to me. I can't analyze or explain any other alternative. But as for the sensations that I experience... maybe it is the breath of God or my overactive imagination?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Naked, I create.

Writing has taken on a whole new face for me. Last year Hubby got me an iPod touch. What an incredible little tool. With Wifi and my little iPod touch I can write almost anywhere and post to almost anything. No longer am I bound to desk or laptop to process my thoughts.

My favourite places to write are in bed and in the tub. I can't remember if someone told me this or if I created it in my own mind ...

"The best writing is done when the author is naked."

I tried it once about ten years ago... Me, my computer and my thoughts and nothing else. It worked. I was able to write some incredible stuff and the creative juices flowed. I think I know why that is. To write when your naked means no one else had better be around. So that would get the distractions out of the way and the focus on your creating. Writing in the nude allows my naked thoughts to come out as well. I am not into writing a feel-good sermon. I want to express my inner soul.

I do have another avenue to write the thoughts that no one needs to read, but still need a platform of expression. To expose those in a public forum, such as a blog would be like walking from the privacy of my bathtub out into the street without putting clothes on first.

I like to expose some things... As most who have read my book "Still Broken" have discovered. Some secrets deserve exposure, some don't.

Well, tub time is over. It is Saturday and I am sure there are things to do.

Til next time...

PS. For all you writers out there... Try it sometime. I don't want to see it, but would like to read it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back on the blog trail again...

I have been blogging for years. I loved it when I was in Calgary. The jobs I had where somewhat mindless and mundane, so my overactive, creative brain had a lot to write about. If you want to read some of the things I use to write about...

Check it out: www.rubyvoigt.blogspot.com

... I was just on that site last night. I have no way to edit anymore, so it remains untouched. It is life as I saw it back then.

Today, my job is far from mindless. It is demanding, stressful and energy draining. Since moving to the Edmonton area from Calgary, I have been on the road way too much. My commute to the office for the first year and a half was a day's drive of almost three hours. Since I got married, that has been cut down by half. With more driving, more responsibility at work and the life changes of the last three years... It has been difficult to write anything that the public would want to read.

Since I published "Still Broken", some people have encouraged me to keep writing. I enjoy keying my thoughts and find it a treat when others like to read what I have written.

Why "Bearz Blog"?

Bears are my husband's favourite wild animal. He loves watching nature shows especially when there are bears involved. He gave me "Bearz" as a nickname after we got married. It was something about being cute, cuddly and wild. Well, that was his interpretation.

I have no idea where this ""wild" writing adventure will take me. All I know right now that the thoughts that I release to "the wild" are just that... Thoughts. They are not meant to offend anyone, but chances are good that they might. Forgive me now if I write anything that you don't agree with... And I will forgive you for not agreeing with it. Then we can still remain friends.

You can leave comments, I appreciate feedback.

Cheers

Bearz
(Ruby Neumann)