Sunday, July 14, 2013

Iowa Summer Writing Conference - FABULOUS!!

Old Capitol Building...
University of Iowa campus
I have just completed my second writing adventure and it was absolutely amazing!  I have learned that a college campus feels like a home away from home to me... and I relish the experience.  I have definitely found my adult summer camp ... and I hope to return for at least one writing course every year (one woman in our class will celebrate her 75th birthday next month.  I would love to be alive enough to participate in this camp experience when I am her age!)

The Spiritually Journaling class was exactly what I expected:  probing writing prompts that help me to focus on the important priorities of life.  The instructor was absolutely perfect in every way:  knowledgeable, informative, with a calming presence.  The students in the class were varied, from all over the country and across all aspects of faith - but despite the diversity, there was a high level of respect and compassion for everyone.  As an added bonus... I was able to attend this class with my darling sister-in-law, which made it all the more special.

While many of the prompts were quite personal, I did share this draft essay with the class and received some positive feedback.  I thought it might be appropriate to share here so you could get a flavor of the experience.  The idea came from the book, Journaling as a Spiritual Practice by Helen Cepero in which she outlines the spiritual compass:

  • East = Sunrise or New Beginnings/Transformations
  • South = Sunny or Creativity/Imagination
  • West = Sunset or things that need to be "let go"
  • North = "true north" guiding principles that lead us to our purpose in life

Letting Go of Old Beliefs
I have often read in the Bible, and heard often preached, that we are not saved by works but by faith.  Yet I have lived most of my life striving to earn favor by working hard, with perfectionism leading the way.  I considered it the ultimate compliment if my mom would say, "I don't know how you do it all?"  Surely I have value now I thought.  Surely I am good enough I thought.

But I don't feel good enough - ever.  There is always someone who does it better or faster or easier than I do.  And I have come to realize that living a life focused on good works has only caused me to become weary, disillusioned, and empty.

I need to bury the idea that I have value because of what I do... and I need to adopt the concept that I have value simply because I am.  But that is far easier said than done.  Admitting value of self requires love and acceptance of self... which I feel is rooted in the conscious awareness of God's love and acceptance of me.  But there are all kinds of old tapes playing in my head that try to counter that truth.

My elementary years were spent at a parochial school.  We attended chapel every Friday and the Bible was our only history textbook.  I LOVED school and earned many gold stars for memorizing scripture (interesting... even then "good works" were reinforced as a way of earning favor...).  But the God I remember being taught was the God of the Old Testament - the one who had so many "thou shalt nots" and who didn't seem to think twice about exacting revenge on those who failed to keep His commands.  "Fear the Lord" was always preached... but as a young child fear meant "be scared"... and I was.  And I continue to be.

I do not remember hearing "God is Love" until I was in my early 30s.  In fact, I never realized the Old and New Testaments were even connected.  I liked the teachings of Jesus:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"  ... "Turn the other cheek" ... "Do not worry" ... I even liked the command to love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul.  But ... then the mental tape comes in with ... "or else He will exact His vengeance on your life."

I think I have come to an important crossroads in life.  I simply do not have the mental nor physical resources to keep on living this relentless life of works.  But I believe... no, I know.... I will not find the peace I am searching for until I reconcile this discrepancy of God's character.  I want to believe He is a God of unconditional love.  I want to believe He loves me just as I am.  I want to believe that He longs for me to love and accept myself.  I want to believe that I have value and purpose and there is a way to marry the desires of my heart (which He put there) with a vocation that helps others (which He mandates).

Lord, I do want to believe... please help my disbelief.  Please reveal your true character to me and help me to erase those mental tapes forever.  Amen.


3 comments:

  1. My heart breaks for you, that you were taught to fear our Creator, who is a God of infinite love.

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  2. I LOVED having this experience with you!! Thelma and Louise need to keep up this adventure tradition! :)

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  3. I loved having this experience with you!! Thelma and Louise need to keep up this adventure tradition! :)

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