Archive for March, 2007

Another thing from my class:

Olson 12: Journal Entry

When I was in high school, the pinnacle of my high spiritual existence, I had a List. This List, though mental, and buried deep in my subconscious, contained all anyone needed to know about being a Christian. The first part was called “What you must do if you are a Christian.” The second part was “What you must NOT do if you are a Christian.” It looked something like this: DO: pray, read your Bible, witness and stand up for Jesus, be loving, be kind, rejoice when persecuted, be involved in a ministry (visit nursing homes, be on a traveling drama team, lead worship in church etc.), be in church every time the door was open, etc. DON’T: drink, French kiss, swear, tell dirty jokes, laugh at dirty jokes, hang around with non-Christians, read trashy novels, etc. I believed it was my duty to uphold the list (on my own, I might add) and let others know about the List—especially Christians who didn’t seem to understand it. Oh how I tried to follow these rules. How I WILLED myself to get it right. Although I had never heard of Pelagius, I believed that “humans have a natural ability to live sinless lives apart from any supernatural assistance of divine grace (Olson 270).” I didn’t even KNOW about the grace.

By my late twenties, I was tired and dismayed. I saw that I couldn’t do it on my own, and I felt so ashamed. Why I couldn’t do it anymore? Hadn’t I said ‘yes’ to Jesus and made that decision on my own? Didn’t it count that I had resisted the parties and the drinking and was a virgin when I got married? Why now was I finding it hard to read my Bible and pray? Why couldn’t I get close to God? Had I read Olson at the time, I would have found my answer: “all goodness—including every blessing, from desire for God to repentance and faith to forgiveness and inward renewal through partial participation in the divine nature (“divinization”)–is attributed to divine mercy and grace…” (pg 269) I only had one part of the paradox in Philippians 2: 12-13—I was always trying to work out my salvation. I missed the second part of the verse: “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (emphasis mine)

Now, in my mid thirties, I get it.


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Here is a journal entry I wrote for my class after I read about the Reformation.

Knoll 9, 10 Journal Entry

When I was in third grade at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, I remember thinking that if I stepped one toe into a Protestant church I would have to go to confession right away—as if the priest needed to wash away the dirty film that clung to my shoe as a result of my presence there. That same year, my Girl Scout troop visited a Lutheran church for a badge we were working on, and later that night I slept with my pearl Rosary under my pillow and prayed to Mother Mary for her forgiveness. I hadn’t meant to betray her or my dear Saint Bernadette.

Two years later, my family converted to Protestantism and attended Faith United Church of Christ. My mom put my Rosary and my first communion book in her special bottom drawer next to my baby teeth, and I was told that Catholicism was a cult, and I should stay from Catholics. This troubled me since my best friend Jill still went to St. Leo’s, but we worked it out by not ever talking about religion.
Because I come from both sides of the Catholic/Protestant debate, I was extremely interested to read about the Reformation, and the resulting reforms to the Catholic church. I never really understood the hostility between the two churches, and I am amazed that 500 years later, a little girl from Western PA unknowingly participated.

After years of being entrenched in the Evangelical subculture, I finally had a chance to go back into St. Leo’s church. My sister and I were doing a summer drama program while we were home from college, and they had the only stage big enough for our production. We walked into the silent sanctuary together, and the years disappeared with the smell of insence still hanging in the air from the morning’s 7:30 service. I felt the wooden pews and looked up into the soaring beamed cathedral ceiling and felt the presence of marble saints standing above us. I peeked into the confessional and finally walked up to the gold box on the alter where God resided in the form of the communion wafers. It was with wonder that I realized that I felt God there. I felt like I was home.

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One of my assignments for class is to write a letter to someone sharing something that you learned from the reading. Here is a letter I wrote to my jr hi/high school friend Becki.

Noyes, Shelley
Evangelical Theology
March  5, 2007
Olson Chapter 9: Letter Home
To my dear friend Becki~
Time stops, doesn’t it, at the exact place and time that friends part? When you moved away, I was in tenth grade, and very judgemental of you. How could you, my spiritual twin in everything, party the way you did before you left? You were closer than a sister to me, and I took your moral decay personally. I didn’t understand why you couldn’t just say no to the pressure like I did, and stand up for Jesus.
That was twenty years ago. TWENTY! I can’t believe it’s been that long. I think you knew, or at least sensed, my condemnation. Is that why you didn’t keep in touch with me much after you left? Or answer my letters to you after I got married?  I don’t blame you if you think we have nothing in common now.
I want you to know that I’m not the person I was twenty years ago. Would you please forgive me for my self-righteous attitudes and behavior? For years I truly believed that if I just tried hard enough, I could do it spiritually. If I could just follow my list of Do’s and Don’ts I could make sure God was pleased with me–and I expected this from all Christians around me.
What I’ve learned recently is that I wasn’t as much following Christ as I was living my life according to Pelagianism. This insidious alternative to right Christian thinking “appears wherever people imply that a simple act of the will apart from special, supernatural grace from God can accomplish something truly spiritually good.” (Olson 215) Basically, as a teenager, I was a punk with a list of rules and an agenda. I was so busy willing myself to be good that I competely missed God’s love and grace (for myself and others.)
It took me into my late twenties to understand that nothing I could do (or abstain from) was going to make God love me anymore than He already did, and screwing up didn’t make Him love me any less. What a relief it was to finally hand in my Moral Sheriff Badge. Seems that the Holy Spirit is doing just fine without me. And as for my own spirituality, I still struggle with perfectionism and earning my way, but now I KNOW that ‘without Him I can do nothing.’ The truth I have learned is that God is the initiator of any good I can do for Him, and it is only through His power that I can do it.
I wish we could sit down over coffee and talk for hours about where our spiritual journeys have taken us. And I want you to know that you are a shining part of my spiritual history, and I would still love the chance to be your friend again.
Say hi to your mom and dad for me, and take care. I love you still.

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I was looking at the curve of Sadie’s chin–and the way her jaw meets her hairline in the shape of a half-heart–and I thought that I might never stop staring at my child. How amazing to see her long lashes close and point to the spattering of freckles on her cheeks. How amazing is it that this separate person, who has opinions and leans out over one hip and rolls her eyes to crack a joke, is a part of me and of Dan. Sometimes the frame freezes and dust particles float in the light and my eyes are opened. To be the recipient of such a Gift–to be given the privilege of tending God’s little girl for Him has me dazzled; humbled.

I have often wondered if I love my child enough. I have worried that the post-partum depression and OCD I experienced after Sadie’s birth had stolen away my love, and left me with only pain, regret and sadness. I have worried that somehow I have blamed her sub-consiously for the darkness. But here in the light, where the dust floats, I know only this staring love–and this wonder.

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I was searching for a clean sheet of paper for my grocery list, and I came upon this poem that I wrote about a year ago. It feels just as true today as it did then.

One can’t pretend


But I will try to convince you

I have reached

Maslow’s peak.

Slight scrutiny will reveal

a precarious pile


pulled tightly around me

like an identity blanket.

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Random bursts of well-being. That is what is happening to me. How unfamiliar, bewildering and lovely! I’ll be just loading a glass into the dishwasher and something I can only identify as a ‘good feeling’ spreads through me. It feels like happy anticipation; or like this Emily Dickinson poem:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Yesterday, I de-cluttered a hideous, dusty corner in my bedroom AND worked in our throw-it-in-and-shut-the-door-quick spare room to get it ready for overnight company.

I am Queen of the World!




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Sadie found a butterfly with a broken wing today. We were at a nearby lake, and as we came off of the trail into the parking lot, about 7 yellow-winged pretties fluttered up around us. One couldn’t seem to get above our ankle level–hopping up, spinning in the wind, then falling back onto the ground. Sadie and I chased and caught it–she wanted to feel how soft the wings were. I was holding it by one wing (the poor creature was not long for this world…) and handed it to Sadie to hold. She pinched the wing between her thumb and forefinger and the thing started flapping its other wing furiously. “I have never had a butterfly before, ” she said, awed. “I’m going to take this home and keep it in a little box in my room.”

I told her to leave it there, but she really wanted to take the thing home. So she got in the car, still holding it by the wing. I figured it was mostly dead, or at least, would die before we drove the 16 miles home. But that stupid butterfly kept flap, flap, flapping the ENTIRE way home, and Sadie, still holding on tight, was yelling “IT’S OK BUTTERFLY. YOU’RE OK. ” Then, as we were rounding the last corner into town she accidentally let go and it started crawling up the shoulder strap on her seatbelt and she FREAKED OUT. She started crying, terrified and certain that it wanted to eat her nose. “Get it mommy, get it!!” She hollered. So I unbuckled my own seat belt and grabbed the should-have-been-dead-by-now butterfly off of Sadie’s shoulder and said “Why don’t I throw it out the window?” NO! came the wail from the back seat. “I want to put it in my flowered box!” (Even after all that?) So there I sat, with the blasted thing flapping in my hand–flapping as if by it’s own furious movement it could stave off death…and I must say–I was pretty freaked out. Then Dan made some snarky remark about nature having a way of getting me back and wasn’t it me who said yes to giving the insect a ride home in the first place? Yes, I was reaping what I had sown.

So we pulled in the driveway and I lunged out of the car and ran into Sadie’s room and tossed the still alive yellow butterfly into her flowered box and shut the lid tight. I could hear it’s wings beating against the side of the box. “Do not open the box, Sadie.” I said. She promised she wouldn’t.

The whole incident went out of control, what with all of the unexpected flapping. I didn’t mean for us to have participated in nature torture. I suppose the circle of life would have taken care of it, and some bird would have gotten fed. I never should have let her take the stupid thing in the first place.

They don’t warn you about these things when you have a child. Nowhere in the mommy manual (that you don’t get, by the way) does it say “Do not pick up an injured butterfly and hold it in your hand for 16 miles. It won’t die and you will feel like you should be jailed for cruelty to animals. Just leave it there, you idiot, even if your child cries and begs to take it.”

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