Sophia Seeker

May 3, 2014

Redux

Filed under: general spirituality — by Kristen @ 12:38 am

For the most part, I had been in a pretty good place. I was even feeling like old things I’d left behind or lost were returning. I hadn’t felt so good, so connected to what was around me, in a long time.

And then something happened, something big in the life of a family member, which resonated so much with one of the issues that first started me on this path that some old spiritual (and emotional) wounds were torn wide open again.

Right now, I’m just trying to hold those things closed until they at least scab over. I feel like I could fall apart if I let myself — but I’ve got stuff I need to do, people who depend on me. In short, I don’t have time to fall apart. I’m trying to use that to my advantage, reminding myself that it won’t always feel like this. I’m not necessarily starting all over again, as much as it might feel that way. It hurts now. It hurts in very primal ways, ways that leave me angry and grieving over things that aren’t “supposed” to happen — even though they do, all the time. I’m trying to live with it, acknowledge that it is there, without it eating my spirit whole.

If I let myself think about the possibility of having to start over, of having to re-do 20-some years of trying to get to that happy place I had reached just a few weeks ago, I would sink into utter despair. I probably don’t actually need to go that far or cover that much ground. But it is very hard to see the way back right now.

Prayers, energy, good thoughts — whatever you have, I could sorely use them right now. A sympathetic ear belonging to someone who can tolerate my having some pretty unkind things to say about certain organized religions without taking it as a personal attack on their own faith. The system I was raised in failed me, personally. Revisiting that failure, coming in contact with it again, is what has brought me to this point — and back to posting here, to try to sort it out again.

December 22, 2008

Happy Hanu-mas-tice!

Filed under: general spirituality — by Kristen @ 11:22 am
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Ever since I became aware of the idea of other religions with other holidays, there has been part of me that just loves when those holidays coincide or overlap in some way. This is especially true of the winter holidays. I respect that they are all celebrations of different specifics — but there is part of me that also loves the idea of so many people celebrating, all at the same time. To me, that really speaks to what the season means: Being with family and friends. Renewal. Continuance. Candlelight in the darkness. Greenery that survives, or even thrives, when all else is brown and grey and black.

Last night, I spent over an hour in front of the stove, presiding over a pan of peanut oil (as suggested by the SimGod’s cousin’s wife, instead of vegetable oil). I will be keeping an eye on the skyline over the next few weeks, watching for signs to confirm what the calendar says about sunrise and sunset times. I will be spending my first Christmas at home with the SimGod, missing the rest of my family but celebrating nonetheless with a tree and stockings and gifts.

Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Solstice, Merry Christmas, and a lovely new year to you all.

October 9, 2008

Forgiven, not forgotten

Filed under: general spirituality — by Kristen @ 1:01 pm
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Dear you,

It’s been some time since we last spoke, and that under less than desirable circumstances.

I confess my share of our problems. I hope that whatever I did that hurt you, you have since forgiven. I am a very different person now, in ways that I don’t think you could even guess at.

I’ve been thinking it over the last few days. Trying to decide if I’ve forgiven you — for the deceptions, for the hurt at the end. I honestly can’t say. But I’m trying. I’m no longer living with it every day. Scars remain, and though they fade with time, I still see them. But I’m still trying to forgive, actively trying to let it go. I suppose that will have to be enough.

Thank you for what you were. I wish you no ill. Nor am I looking to impose. Truthfully, I just want closure for myself.


Dear you,

You’re another one I have to forgive. It would be nice if you were to ask it of me, but I know better than to expect that. You won’t be the one to reach out to me, and honestly, I’m not sure I want to reach out to you directly. I’m still trying to forgive you, too, though I suspect I’ve made more progress than even I realize on that. Maybe someone will point you here. Maybe you’ll feel it somehow inside yourself.

I wish the best to you and yours.


Dear you,

I still miss you. I would still like your forgiveness, and your friendship again, someday. I hope you are well.


Dear you,

Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for being part of such an important day. Thank you for everything you are.


Dear you,

Thank you for everything you are to me. Thank you for being part of my life. Thank you for forgiving me, continually, for being less than I can be, and for accepting me as I am. I love you.

April 27, 2008

Bingo! Sanctuary lamps

Filed under: denominations — by Kristen @ 2:07 pm
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In my last post, I asked if anyone had information or feedback on candle usage in various religions or spiritual practices.

Perhaps in my earlier searches, my Google-foo failed due to trying to be too specific, or maybe too general, about what I was looking for. But I finally found something: sanctuary lamps, a Wikipedia article that discusses the use of an “eternal flame” in both Jewish and Christian sanctuaries.

Win! Now I can finally finish up the intro to my wedding ceremony…

April 11, 2008

Comparative religion: candle usage

Filed under: denominations — by Kristen @ 12:02 pm
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Just over seven weeks until I get married, and I’m terribly excited!

I’m putting the ceremony together myself, with some up-front assistance from H. Now I’m at the point where I need to give things one more polishing, fill in some holes that I left earlier. And a big hole, right at the beginning, has to do with how candles are used in different faith traditions: Catholicism, Judaism, and Unitarian Universalism.

Here is the research I’ve done so far. Can anyone, in looking at these links/quotes, tell me if they think any of these are on the mark or way off in left field somewhere?

  • Candles (Catholic)

    Light is pure; it penetrates darkness; it moves with incredible velocity; it nourishes life; it illumines all that comes under its influence. Therefore it is a fitting symbol of God, the All Pure, the Omnipresent, the Vivifier of all things, the Source of all grace and enlightenment.

    Even the use of wax has its symbolic meaning. The earlier Fathers of the Church endeavored always to seek out the mystical significance of Christian practices, and one of them thus explains the reason for the Church’s law requiring candles to be of wax:

    “The wax, being spotless, represents Christ’s most spotless Body; the wick enclosed in it is an image of His Soul, while the glowing flame typifies the Divine Nature united with the human in one Divine Person.”

  • Paschal Candle (Catholic)

    The Paschal Candle is a large, white candle used liturgically in the Western Rite of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.). A new Paschal Candle is blessed and lit every year at Easter, and is used throughout the Paschal season and then throughout the year on special occasions, such as baptisms and funerals.

  • Judaism 101: Shabbat (Judaism)

    Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited no later than eighteen minutes before sunset. This ritual, performed by the woman of the house, officially marks the beginning of Shabbat. Two candles are lit, representing the two commandments: zakhor (remember) and shamor (observe).

  • The Mystery of Jewish Candle Lighting Rituals (Judaism)

    The flame is a primary Jewish metaphor for the soul. Judaism enjoins us to be careful lest we put out the flame of someone’s soul through careless or deliberate words or acts.

    (This is the one I like best, and yet I’m most hesitant about it’s source, so if anyone can confirm/dispute this information in particular, I’d be most appreciative!)

  • Jewish Candles – The Power of Discernment (Judaism)

    The candles should be lit on the table where the Shabbat meal is eaten, and should be large enough to burn during the meal and well into nightfall, because ultimately the reason for the lighting of Sabbath candles is to create an atmosphere, a cohesive family unit.

  • Unitarian Universalism (UU)

    The most common symbol of Unitarian Universalism is the flaming chalice, often framed by two overlapping rings that many interpret as representing Unitarianism and Universalism (the symbol has no official interpretation). The chalice itself has long been a symbol of liberal religion, and indeed liberal Christianity (the Disciples of Christ also use a chalice as their denomination symbol). The flaming chalice was initially the logo of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee during the Second World War. It was created by Austrian artist Hans Deutsch, inspired by “the kind of chalice which the Greeks and Romans put on their altars. The holy oil burning in it is a symbol of helpfulness and sacrifice.”

  • The Healing Cup: The Story of the Flaming Chalice (UU)

    Specifically, reference to WWII and the beginnings of the USC, and the need for a symbol to identify documents, etc.

  • The Flaming Chalice (UU)

    At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice has become a well-known symbol of our denomination. It unites our members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of our work.

“Different from all others”…unless you’re a UU?

Filed under: denominations — by Kristen @ 10:40 am
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Dear UUA and associated churches/congregations/fellowships, etc.,

Please stop conflating the Jewish Passover and African slavery in the United States. It hurts my head.

“Go Down Moses” is a fine song for a service concerning slavery in some form. It’s an African-American spiritual, meaning it was sung by Africans who were kidnapped, chained, sailed across an ocean, sold as property with no rights to other human beings, and made to convert to a religion that was not their own. So they took from that religion — Christianity, by the way, not Judaism — what they could to comfort themselves.

It is not a Jewish song. It is not typically associated with the Jewish religious celebration of Passover. Some might even find such a thing offensive. (What can I say? I grew up in a very Jewish suburb of a very Catholic city.) After all, the Hebrews in Egypt were not kidnapped. They were not forcibly taken from their homeland to live in Egypt. They went there in a crisis situation. They decided they liked it there. As the years passed, there were more of them, and they were abused, and overworked, but from everything I’ve read in Exodus, they weren’t sold as property. A new king came along and got pissed that they were multiplying like bunnies, but didn’t want to lose his cheap labor. The “cheap labor” bit is probably the only actual similarity between the two groups of people, since we don’t know if the Hebrew people received a wage. On the other hand, it does seem as though they at least had their own homes, which is more than the African slaves got. They were still allowed to practice their own religion.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

My point is, we as Unitarian Universalists are supposed to be about respecting other people’s faith, whatever they believe. I proudly confess to being a spiritual ecclectic, but I also try to make sure that I do so from an educated, respectful point of view. I don’t look at my Buddha and claim it’s a Hindu god. I don’t look at Serenity and pretend it’s the Virgin Mary.

I’ve been in UU churches that go to some effort during Hanukkah to have a Token Jew come up and light the menorah candles, reciting the correct prayers, and explaining what they are doing and why. Haunukkah is a relatively minor Jewish Holy Day. Why, then, can’t we get Passover right when it’s not only a much bigger deal as Holy Days go, but as I understand it, much more important to Jewish identity? Why must we be so disrespectful, deciding that Passover can’t stand alone, can’t be understood unless it is reinterpreted in an American context that is, quite frankly, much more horrific and embarassing to our nation’s history?

Come on guys. Let’s do this properly. I’d rather not advocate not doing it at all. So let’s try to get it right, shall we?

Sincerely and most respectfully,

Sophia Seeker

April 2, 2008

A little bit of redux

So, where did this blog with four years’ worth of entries suddenly come from? What am I doing, and why am I doing it?

To really answer these questions, I’d have to go back at least five years.

I grew up Catholic, in a city that is, if not majority Catholic, at least has a significant Catholic population. The bishop seemed to make the evening news on a fairly regular basis, according to memory. And for the most part, I not only accepted Catholicism, I believed it. Truly believed in a good deal of it. Was proud, when I was Confirmed, that I was doing it willingly, knowingly, and not just because I was the right age for the classes or because it was expected of me.

Which is not to say I felt Catholicism was perfect, even then. But it was so much of my identity that, even having a handful of things I disagreed with the church about, I had a kind of peace and connection that I valued. Rather highly.

But there were things that didn’t add up for me. Untimely deaths. Family health issues. Questions that I didn’t know how to ask, or to trust I would get an honest answer. Betrayals by friends. Too many of the above coinciding with what should have been joyous celebrations in the church calendar. And finally, sitting in Mass one Sunday morning, I found myself questioning the very nature of God as presented by one of the priests officiating — only to realize that, according to all the prayers I’d learned and recited for twenty-five years, the priest was right, and I was wrong. And yet, in my heart, I knew I could not accept it. I strongly felt that what he was saying was a kind of putting God into a box, which defied the very nature of what I beleived God to be — beyond human limitations of understanding.

I believe the exact words that crossed my mind were: “Oh crap. I don’t think I belong here anymore. What do I do now?”

What followed, I described at the time as a kind of spiritual free-fall. I desperately wanted answers, and yet everything I found only led to more questioning, more uncertainty.

In the middle of this, I met and started dating H. Grew up Reformed Jew, dabbled in Wicca during college. Currently identifies as a cultural Jew but isn’t terribly comfortable with formal religious institutions of any sort.

A few months after we started dating, after much thinking, searching, my need for a spiritual community led me to Unitarian Universalism. If nothing else, at the time, it seemed like a safe enough place to try to get some of my spiritual needs met until I had a better idea of what was going on with me and where I was going. When I told H, he practically broke out in hives at the word “church,” even though I explained (multiple times over) that “church” in this case did not mean “Christian,” and no, I wasn’t out to convert him to Christianity. I’d be happy if he joined me, since as near as I could tell he would certainly be welcome, but this was something I needed to do for me.

Well, here we are: nearly five years since that fateful day in Mass, four and a half years since my first UU service, and 59 days from marrying H. It’s been quite a trip.

This journal/blog was originally started four years ago this month on Livejournal, as a way to try to document some of the various spiritual corners I explored as I tried to sort things out. When I decided to relocate the blog, I wanted to be sure that the data was preserved, so I migrated all the old posts over here, too. I suspect that I’ll probably be more active in posting here than I was at Livejournal — I’d like to be, at any rate.

And there it is: my story in a nutshell.

April 1, 2008

Meantime, back at the ranch…

Filed under: general spirituality — by Kristen @ 5:19 pm
Tags: ,

I actually got myself to my church this past Sunday, and we did one of my favorite songs out of the new hymnal as the closing: Blue Boat Home.

I was singing it to myself as I was cooking dinner that night. I’ve got it stuck in my head again now. Seriously, I love this song! It just makes me happy.

Easter Vigil

Filed under: denominations,general spirituality — by Kristen @ 1:27 pm
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It really was a last-minute sort of decision.

I spent most of Holy Saturday with my parents and my matron of honor, running around the city trying to get various wedding-related stuff taken care of. Which we did, for the most part. But my relationship with my parents has not always exactly been smooth, and travel drains the energy right out of me, so by 4:30 that afternoon, I was exhausted. I’d made tentative dinner plans with my MOH and her husband, who had invited me to go to their church’s Easter Vigil Mass afterwards. I seriously considered calling to cancel the dinner plans and taking a nap, but I know from experience that napping that late in the day usually does more harm than good. Also, as tired as I was, I wanted to spend at least a little more time with my friends.

So I went. And to my surprise, not only was it not so bad, I actually got something out of it.

(more…)

March 18, 2008

New blog home, new altar, same sort of content

Filed under: general spirituality — by Kristen @ 12:37 pm
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Due to some differences of opinion with this blog’s former hosting service, I’ve migrated all of my old content over to this site. I’m still tweaking the layout — I suspect I’ll have to go dig up my old CSS book to make it play nicely — but it will do for now.

In the meantime, I am pleased to say that I successfully mounted that small shelf on the bedroom wall a few weeks ago. I expect the exact contents to change over time — in fact, a few items have already been added and removed. Isn’t it pretty, though?

Small Altar

Of course, once the camera was out, I was feeling artistic, so here’s a close-up of the Laughing Buddha for your enjoyment:

Laughing Buddha

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