Views of life

Right now I am deeply grateful for the varied glimpses of life I’ve experienced and observed, based on living in different locations around the United States, and being a reporter who covered numerous topics including religion and politics.

Reporting city council meetings brought me face to face with good folks on all sides presenting their cases on why city leaders must approve certain actions. You want disagreement? You’ll find it in the council chambers!

Sitting in varied religious places of worship where I focused on the elements we held in common. Whether in a Christian church, or mosque, or in a synagouge, beauty, prayer, reflections on the sacred writings are taking place. Along with little ones who are squirming to get free of parents and go run!

Yes illegal actions must be challenged. Stopped. Corrected.

Yes people’s rights as human beings must be affirmed and re-affirmed.

Certainly differences exist between us human beings. We all have differing views on life based on our experience, genetics, and views on life.

I writhe with frustration when these disagreements are played up to the max — possibly fueled by misinformation. No bridges of understanding allowed for. People saying “either you agree with me or you’re wrong wrong wrong!”

I can only speak for myself. My choice is to focus on we hold in common — and to show respect even when I don’t agree with the other person’s conclusions.

Peace be with you.

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.


Outside inside the box

Don’t stuff me in a box and paste labels on me.
I can think inside – over- and outside the box.
I want homes for the neglected people who sleep on US streets and for refugees who come here.
I am flawed and need forgiveness — and I will do what I can for those who need my caring.
I advocate for those not yet born, and for the elderly and those individuals who live with intellectual and physical difficulties.
I pray and believe I am heard. Loved. — and my appreciation of science lets me know the composition and names of the constellations.
I want businesses to succeed and provide jobs for people of my community, and for our leaders to address the challenges to our environment.
I comb through fragile documents for vignettes of the past — and welcome news of increasingly better current medications and treatments.
I am a human being who appreciates dialoguing with people from North America, Europe and Japan, Israel and Africa.
With each new encounter, I grow.

— Mary Louise Van Dyke

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Forged on rocky ground

I found myself transported back into the not so distant past this morning while reading a novel written by Emilie Richards.
rocky ground

Featured in Richards’ Sister’s Choice novel is a marriage begun out a woman’s reluctant promise to a dying sister to care for two nephews. The promise also included wedding the sister’s husband, a marriage formed on the barren soil of duty and necessity.

Flashpoint to my past and to the crisis raised by my (now ex) husband’s accepting a job that allowed him to be home every evening. Until then he worked as a long haul semi-truck driver, gone for days at a time. We’d been married about 10 years by then, and our marriage had fallen on similar rocky ground. I was the primary parent for our two sons, the maker of dinner and the attender of school conferences, while trying to establish a writing career of my own. Dad was a weekend visitor, someone loved but not depended upon.

But my husband was home now. Life had to change.  My sons’ needed to know their dad better and realize he occupied a place in their daily lives.  I handed him the role of teaching the boys about our family faith – and stepped back to give them space.

Did I make the correct decision? In some ways, yes, as it gave the three of them time together and something that was uniquely their. In other ways, I wish I’d encouraged some other connection with their dad. My husband believed in serving religion up as a full meal deal where our sons got stuffed with more high level information than they could process or comprehend – and I see those results now in them.

Change the past – I can’t no matter how hard I try to hue out the stones of doubt. But in the end, both sons love their dad as he is – in a relationship forged on rocky ground – and that I would not change.

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

What we share in common

Past experience has taught me to swaddle my religious beliefs into a tight, self-contained bundle.

book bundle

After all, religion is supposed to be one of those – shhhh, keep your opinions to yourself – in order to not alienate friends and family.

However, after reading a book titled “Post Traumatic Church Syndrome,” or PTCS, those bonds of self-preservation are slipping. Author Reba Riley highlights her struggles to come to peace after breaking away from her upbringing as a Pentecostal Christian. She seeks answers while making a spiritual quest that takes her to 30 assorted places of worship. Her goal is to finish the quest by age 30.

I began reading, even while questioning why I was doing this. Was there something in PTCS, I needed to learn? Or to use in resolving questions from my faith journey? About half way through the book, I am still pondering those questions even while finding it nearly impossible to stop reading.

My spiritual resume features being raised Baptist, converting to Roman Catholicism at age 17, and visiting a lot of churches as an adult.

Baptist and Catholic, although both Christian denominations, seem goalposts apart. That point was forcefully driven home soon after my conversion when family members discussed my decision. The overwhelming consensus was two thumbs down, in conversations that resembled mixing Diet Cola with Mentos.

My response was to find a place to hide and try and calm down. Were they correct? Was I wrong to feel – finally –- at home in the Catholic church?

Like Riley, I was at a point where I desperately needed answers. A wise woman was there for me. Her joy in being Catholic encouraged me to reflect on why I’d made the decision to convert.

I won’t say the journey grew easier after that. I stop attending church for a time during my first marriage to an agnostic. Eventually I began attending mass again. Regaining my spiritual equilibrium involved learning to appreciate the best of what I had learned as a child – and where I respectfully disagreed with my family, and yes, also with the Roman Catholic church.

Curiously writing as a religion reporter would broaden my outlook as well both in my professional and personal life. In reporter mode, I attended interfaith holiday services at Protestant churches, learned about the Orthodox Greek church, and was a guest of honor at Passover gatherings. Asked by a Jewish person why I was there, I respectfully replied I consider Judaism the parent of Christianity.

Although there to record, I mentally connected to what was happening at these varied events. The answer, I thought, was focusing on what we hold in common. Do good to your neighbor. Do not harm the person who asks you for help. Show caring and compassion to others.

I appreciated the times when people of differing faiths came together, such as the evening a group of Catholic and Muslim women held a dialog at a mosque. The facilitator said in this time of darkness she wanted Christian and Muslim women to share their faith.

The intent was not conversion, but understanding.

I covered an event at a Catholic college where the campus community were saying good-bye to a young Buddhist monk who’d attended classes there. He was returning to his home in Cambodia to operate a children’s home. Watching him, in his orange robe, hug the former college president, good-bye brought tears to my eyes. “You go with my love and prayers,” the president told him.

Truly, links between religions are possible. My journey includes forging connections between the church of my youth with the spiritual home of my personal heart. Yes I believe in the trinity of God, Jesus, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Serving as a lector, or reading the Bible, at services is another tie. Siblings and my mother have attended mass with me a few times and I sometimes attend their church services.

Now that I am in my middle years, I appreciate better my family’s distress. Parents want to share their beliefs, values with their kids. Be that in church – or not attending church. Atheists, agnostics have every bit as much concern about their humanistic values. Seeing sons and daughters questioning and breaking free of family expectations, isn’t easy.

But my faith is my own. I don’t expect others to fully share or appreciate it. I wrestle with it, fight to remove any blinders, and seek answers. Others must forge their own paths as I do mine.

© 2015 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.