Hallelujah, Mr. President

“As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife. We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done. We see faith driving us to do right.

But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try. And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.

And, first, we should start with some basic humility. I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.


“And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends. And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.

There’s wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility. They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.

But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment. And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks. Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech. Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.”

(the entirety of the President’s remarks)


Unfortunately, it comes to no surprise that in a 5 page long speech, the so-called Christian conservative pundits so-often featured on Faux News centered a week’s worth of outrage on two sentances taken entirely out of context…

It is unfortunate that such close-minded and close-hearted individuals are so lacking in integrity and intellectual honesty. It is even more unfortunate that so many buy their crap. Putting your head in the sand regarding one’s own history when pointing out the atrocitites of others makes one a hypocrite.

Personally, I though it was spot on (even if I’m not entirely fond of the venue or the religiousization of politics).

Meatless Monday: Creamed Zucchini Soup

I have to write this down before I forget…

I just hacked a recipe for creamed zucchini soup.  OMG, total delish.  See, I saw a recipe for cauliflower soup but didn’t have any in my fridge didn’t want to go to the grocery store til Friday.  So…I made a roux.

And then I grated some garlic into the roux.  How much garlic, you ask?  A lot.  Something like most of an elephant garlic clove.  HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…let me breathe on you, lol…  We are garlic lovers, and its soup–its not like you actually need a recipe.

Then I used my all fave Better than Bullion (I love this stuff) veggie soup stuff (willing to bet the chicken would have been good too) and water, tossed in some super thinly sliced onion and 5 small-to-medium chopped up zucchini, a bit of thyme and marjoram and red pepper, and a couple of shredded carrots.


(before adding the carrots)

Simmered it (and stirred in a wee side of magic), and the blendered* the crud out of it.  After that, stirred in some (homemade) yogurt and melted in some grated Parmesan (meatless doesn’t mean cheese-less when the hubby is from Wisconsin).



Definitely not lo-cal…but totally delicious.

*Note to self:  Scour thrift stores for an immersion blender.  If necessary, use Kohl’s cash.

Paving your own path

So, I stumbled across this new bloggy series recently, and thought I’d share…

We get many (oh, so many!!) posts over at Pagan Forum (plus I see them elsewhere on the net, and sometimes in person at the local shop I frequent) on “I believe X, what does that make me?” or “I don’t know what tradition I should look into” or “Tradition X is really interesting…but its not the perfect fit” or “I’m new to Paganism and don’t know where to go from here” or…well, you get the idea… Lots of people out there, looking for the name of what they believe in, or a structure to follow that fits what they believe in, or just a place to call their spiritual home where they can meet like minded individuals.

Sometimes people find that. Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes, even when they do, they grow out of it and into something else. I started my path some 22 years ago as a solitary eclectic pre-teen Wiccan armed with Buckland’s Big Blue, Margot Adler’s excellent Drawing Down the Moon, Starhawk, and a battered copy of Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess that I found in a used book store (also a battered tarot card set and some other repurposed-for-witchery accoutrements I found in the local church thrift store). Today, I’m something entirely different. And along the way, I’ve wandered down a number of paths and learned something from each of them.

But the most important thing I’ve learned is that (whether you are in an established tradition or not) is that we are always paving our own path (now, I probably would have said blazing our own trail…but since the bloggy post series I’m getting ready to link is called Paving Your Own Path, I thought I’d stick with the theme).
Go forth and read!!!


Who is your God/dess

Choosing religious symbolism

(and I’m guessing she will have more to come!)

11 Things to Answer (about your religion)

As some of you may know (my regular readers and my PF buddies!!), I’m one of the administrators/moderators/co-owners/long time members of Pagan Forum, which is a multi-faith religious forum with a mostly Pagan perspective and I’ve been Pagan of one flavor or another for 22 years now, in a variety of settings (speaking in terms of practice, belief, and just plain geography), so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see people new to Paganism wonder wherem in a plethora of traditions and world views, that they might fit.  When most of us discover Paganism (or any religion, really) it seems that we generally pick the one that resonates with the beliefs we already *grok* as true and sort of evolve from there, rather than the other way around.

Over the years I’ve had some time to take stock of my own journey and the journey of those around me and I’ve found it helpful (and fun) to think about the ideas that are the backbone of my own world view and the practices that I have based them upon.  With the help from the folks at PF, I’ve compiled (what I think is) a useful list of questions…sort of a belief self-inventory.  Whether you are new or old to Paganism (and even if you aren’t Pagan), its good to check in and touch base with those things that we *grok*–IMO, its particularly interesting to see how they change as our experiences shape our views!


…and feel free to add your own questions!

(I might just start blogging my own answers to these questions)


Self-Inventory of Beliefs

1. Where do my religious beliefs arise from (in my life)? Were they taught to me as achild? Did I discover them as an adult? Have I developed them on the basis of personal experiences–are they a positive or negative reaction to events in my life? Have they been developed from books or other people’s experiences?
2. What is the purpose of my personal religion/spirituality (its beliefs and practices)? How do they add or detract to my inherent qualities—in my relationships with my family, with my community, with the world at large? Do the actions of my religious practices respect the individuality and autonomy of others?  How do I measure the worth of my beliefs and practices?  How do I decide to accept/reject and/or adopt/discard a particular religious or spiritual idea or practice?
3. What is the basic nature of divinity? Is it one(monotheistic), many separate and distinctly unique literal entities (hard polytheism), the universe in its entirety (pantheism), male and female divine forces (duotheism), as multiple figurative personalities that originate from one, or two, or several entities (soft polytheism)? As the very fabric from which the cosmos is formed?  As a wishful or even deluded thinking? As none of these…or several of them…or something that is impossible to say?
4. How is divinity expressed in the universe? (do the gods act directly? is there no action by gods? is there a “force”of some sort? etc…) What is the underlying nature of existence? (is everything alive? does everything have a spirit? a soul? why or why not? which things? ) Does our existence serve a greater purpose? How so? What is sacred? What is not sacred?
5. What are my religious practices? Do they work?  How do my actions, prayers, rituals, etc effect change (and where do they do so–within, without, etc)? What mechanism do I have to explain this? What is the purpose of these practices–celebration, thanksgiving, blessing, etc? Are there particular days or times where these practices take place?  Do they need to be performend in a certain manner or at a certain location?   Is there particular clothing or equiptment that is needed?
6. What is forbidden and/or encouaged in your faith? Do you feel that there are actions, events, or items that are forbidden because they are considered to be an affront or transgression against divinity? If so, why? What are they? Is there a method to achieve forgiveness, make restitution, or otherwise be absolved from one’s actions?  What about actions, events, or items that are proscribed because they cause harm?  What is the role of “harm” in choosing right or wrong action?  Is there are punishment for these actions?  Are there actions, events, or items that are prefered or required by divinity?
7. What is the role of science and nature in your spiritual and religious beliefs? What is our relationship with other animals?  What is is our relationship with the planet or planetary systems?  What is our relationship with the rest of the Cosmos?  If there is life on other planets (statistically is seems likely), how does that impact your religious and spiritual beliefs?  Is the material sacred?  How does our physical place in the material world relate to our relationship with the divine?   What should our actions be towards the natural world if they are to reflect our religious beliefs?
8. What is the role of culture and history in your spiritual and religious beliefs? Do you need your beliefs validated textually or to share a lineage with pre-existing beliefs?  Are you seeking to reconstruct (as historically accurate as possible) a religion from an ancient culture in a modern world (a reconstructionist)? Or are you seeking to revive the religions of ancient cultures in a modern context (a revivalist)? Or, are you simply inspired by a pantheon or mythology of an ancient cultures, from a modern interpretation without much concern for the historical context (I call this one an “inspirationalist”)?  Do you believe that a culture’s mythos, symbology, beliefs, and practices should be approached singularly and on their own terms?  Do you seek to seemlessly blend two systems into single system that works harmoniously together or to do you find the different bits and pieces of a myriad of peoples to fit together in your own life like pieces of  a puzzle??
9. What is the role of mythos in our lives?  Is myth meant to be literal? Figurative? Inspirational?  Do you feel the Eddas? The Vedas? Odysseus? Myths from Olympus? Or tales from Eire? Perhaps its the story of humanity, or a specific culture, or something a bit more Big History–Book of Nature/the Universe, or  the Story of Mankind?   Are you attracted to/inspired by a particular set of spiritual myths or a particular culture’s beliefs and practices?  Which myths speak to you the loudest, and why?  What lessons do you think you can learn from them? What do they tell you, or how do they inspire you?
10. Is there such a thing as fate?  Is there such a thing as free will?  What is the balance of fate vs free will in predetermination of our destinies (singularly and/or collectively)? How is fate and/or free will governed? Is there a way to change the balance of fate or free will at play in our lives?  How are we judged in our action or inaction?  What is the repercussion for a “wrong” actions or inaction?  What is the reward for “right” action or inaction?  How does fate and free will balance with ideas of “karma” (in whatever manner one chooses to interpret that word)?
11. What happens when we die? What is the religious/spiritual importance of death or after-death? How does one ensure a good death? A good afterlife (or after-death)?  Do the dead play in a role your religious beliefs and practices? How does one “pick” the departed that they include? Is ancestry important in your beliefs and practices (who “counts” as an ancestor, how do you venerate ancestrors, why)? What is the role of those that have come before us in our lives, spiritually or otherwise?  Do you “owe” the departed (ancestors or not) anything as part of your practice?

Yay for Recess: Pediatricians Say It’s as Important as Math or Reading

Originally posted on Health & Family:

Playtime can be as important as class time for helping students perform their best.

Recess is most children’s favorite period, and parents and teachers should encourage that trend, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Recess can be a critical time for development and social interaction, and in a new policy statement published in the journal Pediatrics, pediatricians from the AAP support the importance of having a scheduled break in the school day. “Children need to have downtime between complex cognitive challenges,” says Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician and professor of human nutrition at the Ohio State University who is a co-author of the statement. “They tend to be less able to process information the longer they are held to a task. It’s not enough to just switch from math to English. You actually have to take a break.”

The AAP committee that developed the statement began its…

View original 649 more words


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