Spiritual Topics

OK ... so I've put off working on this section of my website for like .... well, forever. My initial thoughts were that I would expound prolific on topics near and dear to my heart (those of you who know me know I can do that on occasion!!)

But I found the very PUBLIC nature of a website totally inhibited me from putting ANYTHING up!! Which surprised me, since when I'm talking with folks in person, I'm very comfortable sharing my views!!

Shy/Embarrased Kitty, photo by TungCheung, from Shutterstock

You want me to do WHAT???

So, what I thought I'd do instead is to provide links to posts, news articles, and other items on the web which resonate with me. I'll add in some of my own commentary, and soon enough you'll figure out where I stand on things!! And who knows, maybe down the line a bit I'll get a little braver with these things!! New items begin below the following introductory section.

Being Vegan and Being Spiritual

My vegan and spiritual portions of my life are completely intertwined.  This has been a gradual process .. at first my dietary choices were a totally separate part of my life, coming into play only at mealtime (and grocery shopping time!)

But now, 30-plus years into this vegan way of life, I find my vegan lifestyle totally reflects the spiritual aspect of my being, and vice versa.  Vegan choices reflect a decision not to cause harm to other living creatures in order to meet my wants.  Spiritually, God's teaching focuses so much on attention to others' needs and others' suffering, and being a change agent for such needs and suffering.  Vegan choices show an understanding of the connection between use of animal products (clothing, food, entertainment choices) and animal suffering.


November 9, 2014 --
So I absolutely, positively, was NOT going to comment on Brittany Maynard.

Brittany Maynard is a 29 year old woman who, after learning about her terminal diagnosis of inoperable brain cancer, chose to make use of Oregon's physician assisted suicide law, and died on Nov 1. When she first announced her plans publicly, there was a firestorm (and still has been) of commentary, both supportive, but also cruelly critical.

First and foremost, I was not going to comment on this story, since, as someone who has been healthy her entire life, I have absolutely no idea how I'd face the prospect of terminal cancer, especially back when I was in my 20's.

And, as an RN for over 35 years, I've seen, and had the great honor of being with, lots of folks who have died due to terminal illnesses. What I've seen from those times is that death is sometimes long and drawn out. Almost always, it takes longer than families and patients expect, and especially in the context of the hospital, which has been my only experience since I was a hospital based nurse, it involved days, and sometimes weeks of family members coming and going, sitting by the bedside and waiting. Waiting for death.

The hospital where I worked (I'm now retired) had a very active Hospice department, and I can honestly say that every single patient I cared for had their pain well-controlled. However, the amount of pain medication required, often left the patients groggy, if not totally asleep. So they were not pain, but they also were not interacting with their families in the way they had before their final days and weeks.

And the other thing that those years as a hospital nurse taught me is that death is generally messy. The human body, as it nears death, becomes very different from its healthy version. Secretions and other bodily fluids come uninvited and uncontrolled.

And even with a career that often included caring for dying patients and their families, I still couldn't see myself advocating for physician assisted suicide. I would never condemn those who have chosen that (see second paragraph above), but I had enough of my conservative, hell, fire, and brimstone teaching from my youth that at my gut level, I could never see myself choosing that, nor could I see myself advocating for it for another person.

Well, an article I read last night totally upended my thought processes, and re-framed the entire conversation.

Read it for yourself, and see if you don't also find yourself re-thinking old beliefs.

"No, Brittany Maynard Did Not Commit Suicide"

August 25, 2014 --
As a followup to my previous post (see below), as another example of Christians who are NOT making the news, but SHOULD be, is this article (1) I recently read in Sojourners Magazine.

Entitled Agents of Grit and Grace, this article highlights a teacher training program that focuses on equipping new teachers to make it through that first rough year, and to do so successfully. And it does so in some of the lowest performing schools, located in Memphis, TN.

Called the Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR), this faith-based nonprofit has become one of the most effective teacher training programs in Tennessee.

During their first year, new teachers serve as an apprentice in a local school and are paired with an experienced teacher who helps them learn the craft of teaching. At the same time, they also take graduate courses through Union University, a Christian college based in Jackson, TN, so that they can obtain their Masters Degree. They are obligated to teach in Memphis schools for at least 3 years. Most end up staying longer.

What struck me most about this article is how the Christian world-view drives this program. Organizers believe that every student in Memphis is a child of God and deserves a great education. They believe that providing great public education is part of the gospel. That's not to say these new teachers head into these schools thumping their Bibles: As one of the project's directors said, "We are not going in to evangelize. The best way you can witness and serve is to teach Algebra 1 effectively."

I think the spiritual base of this training program is what makes it so effective. Barbara Stengel, a professor of education at Vanderbilt University who is quoted in the article, says the faith dimension of the MTR program is what helps the new teachers thrive. Many educators focus so much on test scores that they forget the bigger picture. "One of the things missing in public education is the articulated understanding that this is moral work," she said. "You can call it a Kantian respect for persons or the idea that all people are God's children. But this is moral work. We don't talk about that in schools today. We talk about test scores."

(1) I'm a contributor to Sojourner's, so I'm not sure what access to their on-line articles is like for non-contributors. If you cannot access the above link, I have a pdf reprint available here.

August 23, 2014 --
Why don't Christians make the news in THIS fashion more often?

So darn often, if "christians" (small 'c' intentional) make the news, it is for cringe-inducing reasons (two recent examples here (1) and here (2) ). Almost without exception, media coverage of people claiming to be following the Bible shows behaviors that are anything EXCEPT Biblical. I've gotten to the point where **IF** I happen to mention I'm a Christian, I immediately qualify it by saying something like "But not one of THOSE kind.".

Well, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote an article on nuns (3). I wish these folks would make headlines every single day. THIS is what being Christian is all about!!

I'm never sure whether links to newspapers will remain active, so if you cannot access any of the three links above, here are pdf reprints: (1), (2), and (3)

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