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Annie Turner

Annie Turner
Having a Conversation

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's the God Thing, the first day

Any Blog with the word "God" in it is going to raise all kinds of expectations. I know that. And I hope I won't disappoint you, but in many ways, this is a written log of the ongoing conversation I have with: my life, my world, my family, my inner self, and God. You may imagine all of these categories to be significantly different than how I imagine them, but I believe that reading about another's person's story of the soul (hmmm, didn't Therese of Lisieux use that first?) is compelling and helpful to the journeys you are on. Just look at Annie Lamott's essays, spanning at least 3 significant books. Didn't you cringe as you watched her spiral even further downward into self-destructive behavior? Did you mourn with her when she lost lovers and unborn children? And then, did you cheer when she finally said in her houseboat--with a sense of desperation and "I've-had-enough!", "F.... it, God, you win, come on in." I'm not sure of the etiquette of the blogosphere yet. Not that I have any problem with profanity, mind you, because I don't.
So this is what I'm intending to do: having just plunged into the Ignatian Exercises which are forcing me to take a long and good look at my life--where did you feel God to be present? When did you feel God to be absent?--I thought it would be interesting (nay, even cool) to write about my spiritual journey; its ups and downs, when it began, when I became blind, and when I started to wake up again and open my eyes to abundance, mercy, and grace. And to the kind of love that makes squeezing your puppy dog too hard look like the merest whiff of breath.
I was born in 1945 at the end of the war. That means something, because it means my parents were survivors of the Depression, and their values were shaped by that hard time: hard work, not too much self-indulgence, and caring for the vulnerable. Also a deep and abiding suspicion of politics and the establishment. They were wildly liberal, and I was brought up in the same fashion. We had a portrait by Leonard Baskin of Eugene Debbs over our dining room table, and those were the values I absorbed.
Religion was pretty much scorned, especially by my dad; "The opiate of the masses," he might say, without his customary twinkle. He truly believed that. My mom, maybe not quite so much, especially towards the end of her life as she was dying of lung cancer. However, being brought up by a printer (my dad) and an artist (my mom) taught me to look at things closely, to not take what I "saw" for granted. To look behind surfaces for the play of light and shadow, and how lines intersected.
What does this have to do with faith? Everything. Because faith is about seeing, I believe. At any rate, we pretty much shunned church in our family, except for a later stint of singing in the choir. (I liked that because all the cool and good looking guys were in the choir in High School.) My first sense that I was not the center of the world--that perhaps this world was held by something far larger than I could possibly imagine--came when I was nine or ten at summer camp in the Berkshires. We were sleeping out in a field, my favorite thing (I always searched for the plushiest mound of moss to put my sleeping bag on), when I woke the next morning about dawn, before anyone else was awake. I climbed out of my sleeping bag, stood up, and looked. Something had happened. Every tree, every branch, every twig, every leaf was encased in blinding light, as if it had been poured out over the landscape. I was so stunned I didn't have the presence of mind to shake a friend awake and say, "Hey, looky here, what do you think of THIS?" I just looked. And stared. And breathed in light. I had no one to teach me then, no one to say, "This is God." But as my heart pounded and my eyes widened with delight, I must have known on some wordless level that I was in the presence of the Divine. And man, what a grand light show he put on!
This was the beginning. I will tell more. And you are invited to come with me on this journey--its ups and downs, its high points, some mystic visions (yes, true), and more.