Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rites of Passage

from June 2009

Stay with me on this one:

"Thou art the sum of my heart in the morning; thou art the dawn of truth in my soul, thou art the dew of the rose's adorning, thou art the woven whole. Thine is the grace to be steadfast in danger; thine is the peace that none can destroy; thine is the face of the need-driven stranger; thine are the wings of joy. Thou art the deep to the deep in me calling; thou art a lamp where my feet shall tread; thy way is steep, past the peril of falling, thou art my daily bread. Thine be the praise of my spirit uplifted; thou art the sea to each flowing stream; thine be the days that are gathered and sifted; thou art the deathless dream."

My faith is at the center of my being, and that being so, I am very protective of it. I hold my faith to be mine and mine alone, as no one has seen or done or experienced events exactly as I have in those exact same moments. Our faiths may intertwine, or they may run parallel to one another, always within in reach but never quite able to meet in the middle without derailing all of humanity.

My religion is an amazing one for me, as one of the tenants we hold dear as congregants is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning in each of our lives. "I" "teach" a class to a group of 8th graders each year that explores the big questions in life: Is there a god? What happens after you die? Why do bad things happen to good people? What do you believe in? I use quotation marks because really there are four of us, and mostly we ask questions and then listen. We are the ones being taught. We are the ones having our faiths challenged.

It's just that simple.

At the end of the year, the youth put together their own service in which they lead the worship and throughout the service they answer these questions alone in front of the entire congregation. Twice.

This year was flat out AMAZING. They quoted Max Ehrmann, Dr. Howard Thurman, Abraham Lincoln, Gloria Steinem, Melissa Etheridge, and most importantly their grandmothers.

My Grandmother Margaret baked the best cookies, made the most amazing homemade strawberry preserves, and put together possibly the most horrendous dish I have ever laid on taste buds: Italian Enchilada Casserole.

My other grandma was my "Nana" Dora, who had the same 8" yellow skillet of refried beans on the stove for her entire life. Every time I'd visit, she'd heat up the beans, adding another spoonful of Snow Cap Lard to the pan. How this pan managed to stay at the same level over the years and still taste like refried beans escapes me to this very day...  Magic.

Both of these great women passed down a love of food to me, and they're with me every time I cook at some point in the process.  They may have felt completely differently about actually cooking and I'm pretty sure they looked at it as yet another chore, but in my minds eye it was always done with love.  Whether it was my Nana burning a hot dog over her gas stove until it charred, or my Grandma looking quite surprised when I drenched everything with her red wine Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing, it was always done with love.

While I may not sit down to a burnt hot dog and lard fried pinto beans drenched in Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing tonight, or ever really.  I will think of the way my Nana measured salt by how it felt between her fingers, and how my Grandma would pull the raisins out her Post Raisin Bran Cereal if she needed to.

And she did.

What about yours?

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