Yes! I’ll have money soon!

Some of you probably know that for about a month, I’ve been without a drivable car.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be allowed to use the company car, but obviously this can’t be permanent and I’m limited as to where I can take the company car.

A few kind people sent small donations to my car fund (thank you very much to those who contributed!) but the GoFundMe was a bust and I took it down.

I’d been worried about my tax refund (I worry myself into a frenzy every year) which my daughter and I filed together (since she lived with me much of last year).   I had no reason to worry, because it’s more than I expected and should be enough to put at least a good down payment on a decent used car and might even be enough to purchase a used car upfront, if I’m careful.   I’ll be using my 2001 Ford Taurus as a trade-in or I might try selling it on Craigslist first.  It’s got several great things going for it: new tires, a new transmission (rebuilt last year), and an amazing sound system (I will miss that!)   Between the money I get from the car, my tax refund, and the little bit I’ve been able to save from donations, I should have enough.

I was a nervous wreck before DD and I left for the tax preparer, but I came away feeling great because the news was actually good (it always is).   I don’t know why I drive myself insane over this every year.   I waste so much time just worrying and fretting over everything.  Worry flies in the face of faith; if you have enough faith you don’t worry.

After we left the tax preparer’s office, DD and I celebrated by having a late lunch at Waffle House.    I wouldn’t let her take any pictures of me, but here’s a few of her enjoying her meal (and her phone).

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   Worry is useless, because if what you worry about never happens, you’ve worried for naught, and if it does happen, you lived through it twice. — Unknown

Why I love liturgy.

A view of the famed Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.

A view of the famed Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.

Back in April, during the Easter Vigil mass, I became a Roman Catholic. This came as a surprise to many people I know, since I’d spent most of my life as an agnostic and at times veered close to atheism. I’ve also toyed with Buddhism and Scientology (and I admit I still have a soft spot for Buddhism because it appeals to my rational mind, and that isn’t likely to change). Due to the recent charges of sexual abuse taking place in the Catholic church, this oldest and largest of all Christian denominations has become more criticized than ever, and probably rightfully so. I don’t think it’s the only religious organization that has been guilty of such behaviors, but I think it’s the most publicized. I’m also not ignorant of the fact that the Catholic Church has a bloody and often very un-Christlike history, especially during the Middle Ages, as well as being the wealthiest religious organization in the world and often full of hypocrisy. In addition, I do not believe that being a Catholic is the only way to salvation. Any Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior in their hearts will get to Heaven, regardless of denomination (why did I almost spell that DEMONination?) and don’t necessary even have to attend church at all.

So why did I become a Catholic, you ask. Why did I join a church that’s so rife with its past of violence, and a present still full of intolerance, sexism, and heirarchy? The answer to this is complicated.

I was raised in a family that although nominally Christian, was basically agnostic. We did not attend church regularly (although I was sent to Sunday school as a young child), and holidays like Christmas and Easter were recognized more for their fun/materialistic secularity (gift giving, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, new Easter dresses and coats, etc.) than for the solemn events in the life of Christ they actually honor. My family regarded them as “children’s holidays” that adults indulged and that would eventually be outgrown. Although I was baptized Methodist (and I was surprised to learn my Protestant baptism was recognized as valid by the Catholic Church), we never became very active in any church and therefore were not part of any enduring “church family.” When church was attended, it was a sterile, secular affair, full of feel-good stories of God’s unconditional love, lessons about tolerance and social justice (nothing wrong with that, of course, but it wasn’t very religious nor fill me with a sense of awe or wonder), and very little that was Biblical or traditional. Services revolved mainly around the sermon, always a feel-good pep talk about God’s all-encompassing love and loving one another. All of this clap-happy, touchy feely reformed-Protestant stuff flew in the face of the constant anger, rage, loneliness, and discord that was constantly going on at home. Due to that, all the messages about positive-thinking and feel-goodness seemed insincere and meaningless, and didn’t address the very real problems in my family that made me feel so defective and different from everyone else.

For a short time–maybe one or two years–my father became fascinated by Christian Science, and I was sent to a Christian Science Sunday school. I was too young to comprehend the metaphysical beliefs they espoused, which basically preached that all that was material was an illusion, and only Spirit mattered (later my father would become active in Religious Science, a similar belief system that isn’t based in Christianity and overlaps a great deal with New Thought, part of the New Age movement). I couldn’t wrap my young brain around the metaphysical mumbo jumbo I heard on Sunday and I desperately needed something tangible to offset my growing feelings of dissociation from myself and the rest of humanity and from God Himself. I was filled with uncertainty about what was real and what wasn’t. Living on a diet of spiritual junk food, I was starving for emotional and spiritual sustenance. Although I coudn’t have put it into words, I needed to experience the Divine with my five senses.

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How I envied these girls!

Enter Catholic school. In 5th grade, the bullying at the local public school became so bad that my parents decided to take matters into their own hands and despite their misgivings about the Catholic Church, I was sent to a Catholic girls’ school. My grades immediately improved and I found it easier to make friends with these girls than at the public school. My parents were surprised (and probably a little disturbed) that one of my favorite classes (and the one I did best at) was Religion. I didn’t become religious back then, nor did my faith in God deepen (I was for all intents and purposes agnostic), but I found myself always looking forward to the masses we used to have at school on religious days. Although the highly liturgical services confused me at first (knowing when to stand up and sit down, memorize the various prayers, etc) I found myself drawn to the orderliness and beauty of the Mass. It somehow seemed Godlike and was steeped in history that the Protestant services I’d attended with my parents just didn’t have. I envied the cool trappings of Catholicism (when the other girls were going through Confirmation, they got a new name and a pretty dress and I wanted that too) and longed to be able to take Communion with everyone else. I wanted a set of my own rosary beads. Today I know these things really don’t matter (I think whatever denomination you are–even if none at all–is a matter of personal preference) but at my tender age, these tangible things seemed part of some wonderful, sacred, mysterious and heavenly world I couldn’t be part of. Sitting there in my folding chair watching the proceedings, I always felt the presence of God and a benevolent, forgiving love I never felt from my own family, even though I had to remain seated during the communion. It was one of the few places where I could feel the benevolence of God.

Many cradle Catholics remember negative experiences from their childhood about the Church and turned away from it as they came of age, but as someone who only knew it as a refuge from the harsh realities that took place in my agnostic home, I never developed those negative associations with Catholicism. I loved most of the nuns at my school. With one or two exceptions, they seemed so kind and compassionate, very saintlike–and they seemed to care about me in a way I never felt I got from my own family. Although I never talked about what went on at home, one nun in particular who seemed to favor me for some reason, guessed that things at home weren’t ideal, and told me to come see her anytime I needed to talk. I never did (for fear of what might happen if I “squealed” about the family to an outsider), but it felt good to know that she cared enough to reach out to me.

As I grew older I fell away from Christianity (not that I’d ever really embraced it much and knew next to nothing about the Bible or the life of Christ), and experimented with other belief systems, including Scientology and Buddhism, if anything at all. The Bible seemed to me like a book of ancient fairy tales with no relevance to my own life. I rarely prayed and looked down on churchgoing and religious people as ignorant and deluded. Although I never embraced full-on atheism (it was too depressing to think there was no afterlife at all), I thought that if God existed, he was pretty much hands-off and that everyone, other than the most hardened criminals and mean, cruel people, would get to Heaven, if there even was such a place. The concept of reincarnation made a lot more logical sense to me than the idea of heaven or hell.

But my soul was still starving and I think deep down I always knew this. Every once in a while, in spite of my doubts about the existence of God, I’d make time to attend a Catholic mass. I didn’t believe what they preached, in fact I thought most of it was pretty silly, but I loved the ritual and the order, and somehow always came away feeling transcended. I’d go take Communion (knowing as a non-Catholic I wasn’t supposed to) and feel somehow nourished. In a way I couldn’t explain, witnessing the reverence and beauty of the Mass, made me feel like part of something much bigger than myself and accepted for who I was, not (as in my FOO) expected to be someone I could never be.

I toyed with other Christian faiths, including Lutheranism and the Southern Baptist church. During the late 1980s, I attended a Lutheran church (and was confirmed as Lutheran) mainly because the man I married was Lutheran. The services were called masses and were very liturgical and quite similar in many ways to the Catholic mass, but they seemed watered down, somehow. For instance, the communion wafer was regarded as symbolic rather than being the actual Body of Christ. We never became deeply involved with the Lutheran church, and although we had our kids baptized Lutheran, we did not attend church on Sundays or otherwise do much to encourage their spiritual development.

When we moved to North Carolina from northern New Jersey, we were faced with culture shock–instead of having mostly Catholic and Jewish neighbors, suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by Southern Baptists who insisted we needed to be “saved.” Still looking for spiritual nourishment, I started attending services at the local Baptist church as well as Bible studies on Tuesdays nights. My kids attended 2 years of Vacation Bible School. I never cottoned to the hellfire-and-brimstone preaching though, or the literal interpretation of the Bible. I was especially turned off by the church’s conservative political agenda, that actually told us we were “going to Hell” if we didn’t vote Republican, as well as their dismissal of science. I decided to stop attending church there.

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Hellfire-and-brimstone preaching is a turn off to me.

A few years later, my daughter had a friend at school whose parents were Southern Baptists, and my daughter, age 9 at the time, decided to be baptized in their church. I was fine with that, even though I disagreed with the southern Baptist belief system, because it took the burden off of me to be responsible for her spiritual growth. I attended her baptism and was surprised at how modern the service was, with a pop-rock band that played contemporary Christian music rather than traditional hymns. Intrigued, I decided to attend a few more services, but I always felt like I was at a rock concert rather than at church. In spite of the emphasis on Biblical literalism, during the long, emotional sermons, I never felt my soul uplifted or any real feeling of spiritual transcendence. Although very different from the touchy-feely, heaven-awaits-no matter-what-you-do preaching of the liberal Protestantism of my childhood, this hellfire-and-brimstone preaching bookended by Christian contemporary music with the words splashed on a huge TV screen didn’t do much for me either. I longed for tradition, for history, for meaning.

I still occasionally attended Catholic masses, but never thought I’d actually become one. But shortly after I went No Contact with my ex (who freeloaded off me and mentally abused me for almost 7 years following our divorce and nearly bled me dry emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually) I began to blog. My mental and physical health came back first, and then I realized I was still starving spiritually. I needed God, who after all, had been watching and protecting me all the time I was in an abusive marriage and had shown me on several occasions how real He was. Last October, I decided to start attending Mass as well as RCIA classes (the classes you take to become Catholic). I had doubts about much of the doctrine (and truth be told, still do). I still wasn’t sure I wanted to become Catholic, but I thought I should at least take the classes and make an educated decision.

To my surprise, I found that Catholic doctrine isn’t very different from what I’ve always believed anyway. The Bible is held as important (more important than many fundamentalist Christians believe we do) but much of its content is not not interpreted literally and therefore doesn’t fly in the face of centuries of scientific discovery and achievement. Yes, we are saved by grace alone (all Christians are), but works are also important and are tangible evidence of God’s grace. Sacraments (communion, confession, etc) give tangibility to God’s grace although (I don’t think) they are necessary for salvation. Confession is not a punishment; it is an opportunity to unload to someone else and makes you feel better afterwards (very similar to a 4th step in a 12-step program). Although I had my doubts at first, I’ve come to believe the Host (the communion wafer) does actually become the body of Christ, due to the glorious, transcended way I always feel after partaking. I do feel like my soul is being changed for the better, even though it’s not a Saul-to-Paul-like sudden conversion full of fireworks and drama.

I admit I do still have some issues, mostly having to do with the Catholic church’s stance on social matters such as abortion and homosexuality, as well as the fact that priests still must be male. I don’t think the Pope is infallible either (he is just a man), but I understand the reasoning behind having a Pope and I happen to like the current Pope anyway. I don’t venerate Mary and the saints, although I have utmost respect for them. Veneration isn’t the same as worship, anyway. Only Jesus as God is worshipped so there’s nothing un-Christian there, a far as I’m concerned.

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Because of my doubts and personal proclivities, I’ll probably never be the “perfect Catholic” or “perfect Christian” but that’s okay. I pray that God keeps working on my soul to cleanse it from sin and I’m willing to believe anything God wants me to believe. I’m willing to turn my soul and my life over to the Creator. Whenever I’m at mass, I feel part of a vast family and something glorious, beautiful and so much bigger than myself or all humanity. I feel accepted in God’s kingdom and have begun to fear death and the future less than I used to. The tangibility, beauty and order of the liturgical tradition–the memorized call-and-response prayers, the communion procession, the incense, the swelling organ music and the singing, the kneeling and the standing, the Sign of the Cross, and all the rest of these “silly rituals”–makes me feel that God is a tangible, real thing, someone who is RIGHT THERE and that I can see, hear, smell, feel, touch and even taste. The traditional hymns with their pipe-organ and piano music and the ancient prayers imbue a sense of mystery and history into the services that neither liberal Protestantism or fundamentalist pop-rock sing-alongs do for me. And I love the Bible readings too. I’m beginning to feel that the messages in the Bible do have meaning for me personally. The orderliness and ritual of the mass is regarded by some as mindless, dull and lacking spontaneity (and to some extent I can understand this view), but I find the repetitive and predictable aspects such as the call-and-response prayers and chants to have an uncanny way of eventually filtering down from my mind into the deepest part of my heart, in a way a hellfire-and-brimstone or feel-good, prosperity-gospel sermonizing can never do.

Before becoming Catholic, I toyed with the idea of becoming Eastern Orthodox, a religion which, if anything, is even more liturgical and steeped in ritual, history, and tradition than the modern Catholic church (and is somewhat more liberal in its stance on women’s rights and birth control), but finding a sizable Orthodox community here in the Southern United States is a huge challenge to say the least. I did actually attend one Orthodox mass about five years ago (my son’s Kung Fu teacher was Russian Orthodox and invited us to attend his church), and although it was incredibly beautiful (and the food served afterwards was delicious), the feel of the Orthodox mass was a little too “foreign” for my taste. Anglicanism (The Church of England) also has a rich liturgical tradition (please see my Christmas post “O Come All Ye Faithful”) but again, is uncommon here in the southern US, and it’s still Protestantism anyway. I like the idea of being part of the oldest and largest practicing Christian community in the world that has such a rich and colorful history (even if at times in the past it wasn’t especially Christ-like). I feel proud to be a part of that. Although I know the trappings and ritual are more a matter of personal preference than salvation, for me they make an abstract God seem more real. Coming from such a chaotic, unpredictable background, the order and predictability of the liturgy is food for my soul. My adopted religion may not be the only road to salvation, but it’s the only road for me. Thanks be to God.

Millennials and liturgical Christianity.
As an aside, the Millennial generation, although largely turned off by religion, are, when drawn to religion, are converting to “high church” (liturgical) Christianity such as Anglicanism, Catholicism, and the Orthodox church. They are a generation that (like me, even though I’m not a Millennial) longs for a sense of tradition and connection with history that’s lacking in the evangelical, fundamentalist, and liberal Protestantism or New Age or atheistic belief systems they were raised with, all of which largely ignore or dismiss 1800 years of Christian history and tradition.

Further reading:
Why Millennials Long for Liturgy: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-millennials-long-for-liturgy/
Millennials are Seeking Tradition, Sacramentality, and Liturgy: http://www.catholicvote.org/millennials-are-seeking-tradition-sacramentality-and-liturgy/

Patience, faith, and auto repairs.

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Patience isn’t one of my virtues and I often doubt my faith due to my trust issues. I need more of both, but I had just enough to get through my crisis. God proves to me over and over again that He does exist and He does listen to my prayers.

I’ve been praying a lot about my car/money situation and my recent depression. A few days ago, I decided to go to the church and talk to my priest about my issues, and also, on a whim, asked him if there was a car repair fund so I could get my car fixed. He said there wasn’t, but he would talk to a man who also attends my church, whose son owns a car repair place.

I called the man, named Mike, and left a message, not expecting much from this. He called back today, and said his son was going to come over to take a look at my car (I could not move it out of my driveway and haven’t driven it in almost a month). A few hours later, Mike’s son, David, arrived with a “doctors toolkit.”

First, he plugged the car up to a diagnostic computer that told him what the problem was. Actually, it was several problems, none of them severe on their own. After jumpstarting the vehicle (because it hadn’t been started in so long the battery had no charge), he was able to get to work–without ever removing my car from my driveway!

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Three cylinders out of six weren’t working, due to bad spark plugs, a worn gasket, and a bad coil. I was worried about the price, but was told it would cost me nothing (he was informed about my lack of ability to pay). He test drove the car, brought it back and asked me to drive it for abotu 20 minutes until the battery was fully recharged.

It was a beautiful day and I drove for awhile, enjoying the music from my above-average stereo system (which is one reason I’ve held onto this car so long). It still doesn’t do great going up hills, but it can, and other than that, the car is running just fine!

I also spoke to my father, who apparently had been informed by my son about my car issues and had planned on helping!:o He wants me to set up a Skype account since his Parkinson’s makes it hard for him to have phone conversations without the visuals.

The moral of this story is prayer does work, but sometimes you just need a little patience. God doesn’t always answer right away, but he does hear you, and if you have faith, He will come through, often in unexpected ways and when you least expect it.

I feel a little less depressed now that I have a roommate again (who seems fine so far) and a running car! And a father who DOES care.

I feel good today.

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No matter how bad things may seen, it’s not forever.

I came home yesterday from an exhausting day at work and all I did was reply to some comments. I didn’t even write a post last night–THE HORROR!). After writing my replies and eating some pizza (because I was too tired to cook anything), I just crashed out on my bed and never woke back up until this morning. I think I needed sleep.

I actually started feeling better yesterday about my haters and detractors because of the article CZBZ posted, which I reblogged. In fact, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my weary shoulders.

I’d been praying about this matter and I believe God led me to read her article. I think everyone who blogs should read it. It’s amazing what reading someone else’s words can do for you sometimes.

I woke up this morning feeling good. The first thing I did was open my window and let the sun and air in. I’m going to cook a nice breakfast and start my day. I’m meeting my daughter later and I think we’re going to the movies. I haven’t been to a movie theater in five years!

I feel creative and I know I’ll be writing today when I get the chance. A few days ago I actually thought about taking down this blog or not writing in it anymore. I can’t believe I would have even entertained that crazy thought. (Never make decisions when you’re depressed).

The moral of this story is that no matter how bad you feel at the moment, it’s only temporary. Have faith that God loves you and will address your issue, no matter how hopeless it seems. If you don’t believe in God, you can call it serendipity or universal justice or whatever. Sometimes “bad” things happen to teach you something. Your enemies can even be your teachers. Everything that happened to me this past week taught me some valuable lessons. I actually feel blessed today.

Faith.

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No matter what sort of bad things happen or how many people disappoint you, you are not alone. God loves you unconditionally and is always there for you no matter what. Turn to Him when you’re afraid, dejected, sick, sad, hurt, angry, or just feeling unsure of yourself. Turn to Him when you’re feeling good too and remember to give your thanks. Trust God. He is your friend and will never betray you.

We All Need a “Mother”

This article is right in keeping with my own attendance at RCIA (the classes one takes to become Catholic) and what I am learning. As the child of a malignant narcissist mother, Mary is about as unlike my mother as it’s possible to be. I need a ever merciful Mary in my life! I’m also finding that, rather than the dogmatic, intolerant, bloated religion Catholicism has a reputation of being, that’s it’s actually one of the most loving and tolerant of all Christian religions–and probably the most authentic (being the oldest and apostolic church Jesus actually founded).

I’m also taken with this writer’s affinity for Buddhism, which I’ve dabbled in myself. Buddhism, rather than being a religion, is more of a philosophy. You can believe in one God or not. I don’t think reincarnation and karma are reconcilable with Catholicism (or any other form of Christianity), but these beliefs have a lot going for them and there are a lot of good arguments in their favor. I’m reblogging this article because it puts a lot of the thoughts I’ve been having into words much better than I can.

The Tree

CLF - Olmstead Parks

Until August 1999, I had a vague concept of God and if anyone had asked, would have told them I was agnostic, leaning toward atheist. I was very far away from God in those days–embroiled in a deteriorating marriage to a narcissistic psychopath, drinking and smoking pot in an attempt to “put up” with him, all while I was raising two young children. I also was an unfaithful wife (as was my husband) and handily made excuses about my infidelity based on his abusive treatment of me and the fact he was unfaithful too. I never darkened any church’s doorway, and thought prayer was useless and silly. God was an abstract and mostly irrelevant concept to me–of no further consequence to my personal life than an Ebola case in Africa. My theory back then was that if there was a God, then maybe he created the universe, but then he left it pretty much alone after that, and was probably too busy creating new universes to give a damn what happened in ours. After all, if God was so concerned about our little human corner of the universe, why did He allow so many bad things to happen?

My ex was drinking heavily back then, and frequently became violent. During one of these fights, he blackened my eye and I had other bruises too, so I called the police. Given that he had no marks on him, but I was in pretty bad shape, he was arrested and went to jail for 90 days. During the time he was in jail, we had a stick-shift pickup truck, which I had never learned to drive. Since it was our only vehicle back then, and I had a six and seven year old that I needed to transport to dental and doctor appointments, as well as getting them home from their after school program, I had no choice but to teach myself how to drive the stick.

At first it was hard knowing what gears to shift into and when. It was very difficult to get used to how totally different a feel driving a stick-shift was over the ease of an automatic, which you didn’t have to “think” about so much. Some people told me they liked stick-shifts better because they felt they had more control over the vehicle, but it never felt that way to me. Still, over time, I got better, and soon was able to drive the thing adequately. Or so I thought. Obviously I still had a lot to learn about what gear to use when.

At the time, we lived in a house that sat at the top of a steep hill, and I’d usually take the long way around, following a gravel easement that looped around the back of the house, and continued down into our driveway, where I’d park so the truck was facing toward the road, so the gas could run into the tank.

On this muggy August day in 1999, after I picked the kids up after their after-school program, we stopped at McDonalds, and the kids were excited about their new Happy Meal toys and were contentedly playing with them in the back seat. Molly, just six and small for her age, still used a booster seat. Ethan, seven going on eight, no longer used a booster or car seat, and wore the seatbelt, which was still pretty loose on him.

When I stopped at the bottom of the part of the hill that merged into the driveway, I put the gear in what I thought was the correct setting for a parked car (neutral). Nothing had ever happened before, and no one had told me this was wrong, so I thought nothing of it this time. I got out of the truck and went around to the back to let the kids out.

Suddenly the truck began to roll. Downhill. The hill was steep and bumpy since it was unpaved. I watched helplessly, as if in a dream, as the truck bumped and rolled its way downhill, picking up speed as it went. I saw my son’s little face in the window of the backseat, frozen in a scream of terror. I heard my daughter cry, “Mama!” Suddenly I was moving, and racing after the truck which had picked up speed as it headed for the road. I threw myself on the ground and tried to grab onto one of the tires, as if that would make it stop. The truck continued to roll, and I was dragged along with it, bloodying my knees and ripping my clothes in the process, but I didn’t even know I was bleeding until later. All I could see was my kids and I had to save them.

The truck barreled into the road, and straight across it was a tree. A very large oak tree with a thick trunk. The truck was headed directly for that tree. At this point I had lost my grip and was screaming and crying, blood from my knees soaking what was left of my jeans. My hands were bleeding too. I watched in horror as the truck got closer to the tree. A few neighbors had come out and were watching the drama unfold, but I was hardly aware of them. Everything was moving in slow motion; I felt like I was trapped in some kind of nightmare. Desperately, I prayed: “God, if you exist, please do something!” I didn’t believe anyone heard my prayer.

The road and the tree were on flat ground, and the truck seemed to slow a little, and then the most incredible thing happened. The truck swerved to the right, and went around the tree, before continuing its journey across the neighbor’s property, which ended in a fairly deep ditch.

The ditch wasn’t visible from where I stood, and neither was the truck when it dove into it. My neighbors from the house across the street ran down into the ditch to see if the kids were alright. My heart was slamming inside my chest like a hammer. I still feared the worst.

A few minutes later, my neighbor appeared–Molly and Ethan each holding one of his hands. Molly was crying; Ethan looked solemn and pale as a ghost. Both children were fine, save a scratch on Ethan’s head (it turned out he had already taken off his seatbelt before all this happened!) They were scared, but fine. Mama, not so much! EMS workers had come and taken us all to the hospital by ambulance. It was me who suffered the worst injuries–deep cuts on both knees and severely chafed hands.

The emotional injuries were much worse, and would last for years. For months, I had flashbacks to that moment of sheer terror, when the truck started to roll and I could hear my kids screaming. Over time, the flashbacks stopped, but I’ve had a phobia ever since about ever parking on a hill–or even having to drive up one.

But overriding the negative aftereffects, is a conviction that at that moment when the truck had veered to the right and safely went around the tree instead of crashing into it, I had seen the hand of God at work, through one or more of his angels. Whoever or whatever it was made sure my kids stayed safe. No longer could I believe God just doesn’t care. I realized that it was the very moment when I called out to him through my skepticism, that he stepped in.

Sometimes we just have to ask and God will show himself, even if we don’t believe.

I made a little deal with God today

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In my post from a few days ago about my problems with Christianity, I discussed how lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about God and religion and how it all fits into my worldview.

I have a sort of dilemma though. I believe in God, and I want to be on his/her/its good side when I die, just in case there really is a hell, which I don’t think there is. But there’s still that niggling little voice in the back of my mind just the same: what if hell is real? What if the born again Christians are right and I am going there, no matter how moral a life I try to lead, because I have not accepted Jesus as my personal savior? I can’t accept their dogma (my brain and heart just can’t get on board with it). I have serious issues with biblical literalism and the divinity of Jesus, but…what if hell is real? I don’t want to go there!

Now, I’ve heard of Pascal’s wager, which basically means going ahead and getting “saved,” even if you have doubts, just in case they’re right. The logic goes like this: if they’re wrong, nothing’s lost but if they’re right then you’re safe from eternal torment. But my problem with Pascal’s wager is that I simply don’t believe in evangelical Christian doctrine. If my brain and heart don’t buy what they’re selling, then taking Pascal’s wager means I’d be living a lie, something I think is much worse (and probably more offensive to God) than being honest about my true feelings about evangelical Christianity. If God really is omnicient and knows what’s in my heart and mind, then he’d know I was being dishonest. It makes me wonder how many born-again Christians actually really believe the doctrine they’ve embraced–and how many of them converted only because they were afraid of what might happen if they didn’t. That alone is a huge problem for me. Religious fear tactics just seem so…wrong.

So I made a little deal with God. Not to challenge or test God or anything, but to help me out of this conundrum. Since I actually believe in God, this part wasn’t too hard. I told God I didn’t believe what fundamentalist Christians were selling, and that “praying for faith” in the past hadn’t worked. I told him that if in order to escape the fiery pit I had to embrace dogma I simply didn’t believe, then could he please give me some sort of concrete sign that would show me this was actually the truth. If I could believe it was real, maybe then I could accept it. I reminded him that conversions like this were performed all the time in the Bible–heathen Saul’s miraculous vision and subsequent conversion to Paul, for example–so if things like that happened so often back then, why couldn’t it happen today? I reminded him that sending me yet another person trying to save my soul or coming across some Bible tract in a laundromat or gas station would not work. It hasn’t worked before and it wouldn’t work now. I would need something more dramatic, much more dramatic than that. I would need an actual miracle, something like, oh, maybe Jesus himself talking to me (hey, some Christians say that’s happened to them). I told God that I was open to it, if it was his will for that to happen, but if nothing happened, I wouldn’t have any other choice than to go on assuming Jesus was just a man, heaven and hell are probably mythical places, and the Bible is nothing more than a collection of ancient fairy tales.

So far nothing’s happened. Maybe tomorrow.