Religion. There, I said it. It's one of those taboo topics, like politics, that we aren't supposed to talk about unless we're looking for a debate. So let me be clear when I say I'm not looking for a debate (though you are certainly welcome to comment about your own thoughts and beliefs).
I come from a long line of Christians (mostly Baptist) and a lot of my extended family continues to go to church faithfully every Sunday. Some have taught Sunday school and some have served as missionaries. That works for them. My own experiences have been different.
I was more of an on-again/off-again Christian, attending church when my mom made me, when I visited family, or when I felt a particular desire to do so. I've questioned God, the church, and the Bible. There are some things that don't make sense to me and perhaps never will. I guess that's why the notion of faith is so strong in religion, right?
Part of my issue was that there were always so many rules of the "if you don't do this then you're not a good Christian" variety. It felt impossible to live up to. If you're in trouble before you even start, you kind of wonder what the point is.
One thing that has been fairly constant is I have continued to pray for most of my life, even in times when I was questioning God. I guess it's comforting to feel like we are connected to something greater. At the very least, I don't think any of us wants to feel alone.
A few weeks ago I started reading a daily devotional book called The One Year Women's Friendship Devotional by Cheri Fuller. Some of the verses I like, some of them I don't, and while I understand her accompanying anecdotes, they don't always move me. I do, however, like the suggested prayers based on the lessons. That part of the message resonates most with me each day.
So why do I bring this up now? I'm not sure I even know. I thought about discussing it here, but wasn't clear on what I would say. Perhaps it was Connie's post at Dirty Footprints today that helped the words flow out tonight. "Flow" is the wrong word. More like stuttered.
It's actually scary for me to talk about religion here because I know my family and old church friends will likely see this post once it feeds into Facebook. Hopefully they won't flog me for it.
The thing is it's been on my mind for the last two years or so as I've wondered where I stand while reading various books (the Left Behind series and The Year of Living Biblically, for example) and interacting with religious friends and family members. In this latter case I've often admired their unwavering faith, even while my own faith waved (still waves?).
I'm also a fan of Deb Owen's blogging from the days when she used to write about human resources. She has since started a blog called Future Smiling focused on her own religious experiences and studies. It was there that I first heard of another Christian blog called (in)courage, which I've been following for the past few months.
That brings me to the point of this whole post. (side note: In moments like these I laugh to myself as I remember Ellen DeGeneres' book titled My Point... and I Do Have One.)
At (in)courage, they have a book club called Bloom that is starting up a new session this weekend to read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. My copy of the book came yesterday.
According to the description, Ann talks about where she has found examples of God's grace throughout her life. She is a farmer in the Menonite community with her husband and six children. She also writes for the DaySpring division of Hallmark. I'm curious to see how she lives and what she has to say about her own faith. From the introductions at Bloom, including the below video with the book club leaders and Ann, she has already broken my notion of what to expect. She isn't what I would have pictured.
I feel like I made that sound dreadfully dull, so pop over to the Bloom page to find out more about Ann, her book, and the plan for the book club.