“he’s just so nice”.

I have heard that so many times.  “He’s just so nice”.  Someone who’s just so selfless and does things for people all of the time, someone who goes out of his way for no reason.  Someone who’s just so nice.

Well, I used to think that.

I used to see all of the favors done, all of the thoughts thought of me or the prayers prayed to keep me safe.  I used to think the food handouts, spare change, and bought meals were just part of that perfect niceness.  But it’s not.  He’s not so nice, really.

What is it to be a good person?  Is it doing favors here and there, smiling, asking about someone’s day, and making materialistic contributions to others?  No, it’s not.  Not at all.  Being a good person is doing things for someone that often never get acknowledged.  And it’s NOT about donating money and things but more about donating time and making sacrifices.

It’s about staying behind after work – even if you have somewhere to be – to make sure someone makes it to the car store for oil, not about asking if they’re okay and handing them cash then going home.

It’s about telling someone else “no” to something you wanted to do, like sub in a volleyball game, so you can say “yes” to do something you know means way more to your friend, like be the only fan she’s ever had at one of her games and sitting the whole way through.

It’s about volunteering or going to church to better yourself, but it’s NOT about telling someone else what you’re doing in hopes that you can win them over in some way.

But most importantly, it’s about treating those closest to you the best.  It’s great that your mommy thinks you’re just an excellent, attractive good-doer.  (Part of that is she has to, she’s your biased mom.)  But does mom see how you treat those who are emotionally the closest to you?  Who rely on you to feel better about themselves?  Who invested trust in you and then you broke it fifty times along the way?  Mom only sees what you let her see, and you’re not letting her see that.

Why do people give money anyway?  Well, honestly, it’s a selfish act.  Donations make people feel good without having to really do anything.  Seriously, look it up.  Why we do things for others.  It’s actually centered around ourselves more than the people we’re helping.  So when he’s being so nice, isn’t he really just boosting his ego?

And when you give out money, ever considered how it hurts?  To feel so incapable of taking care of yourself that someone with a similar job has to be giving you handouts?  So there we go.  You boost yourself up, I bring myself down.  Who’s it really helping?

I don’t care how much money you give someone or how good you make your life look on a resume.  If you can’t make real sacrifices from your own life to be a true, supportive friend… If you can’t stop thinking about yourself long enough to keep from breaking trust and wounding someone… well then you’re really not such a nice person after all, now are you?

Think about it.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; It is not arrogant.”
-1 Corinthians 13:4

My week has been rough, but this day was subtly amazing.

We made ligonberry Swedish crepes for breakfast. It was a communion day at church and I was hugged like family. The pastor quoted the same passage that I had recently shared with Jeff. We cleaned off 20 or 30 snowy cars as the people left. We had good conversations and baked soda bread and made stirfry vegetables. Then we met his brother and brother’s wife to cross-country ski and had a beer after. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining. We made pasta and ate banana pudding. We watched the Olympics and The Help. We talked about people and gossip and respect and how people treat each other.

And when I left, I had sweet goodbye and was thanked for my persistence in convincing Jeff to try something he didn’t think he wanted, to watch that movie. It sounds silly, but it spoke volumes. Gentle persistence. Comfort zones. That came up a lot today.

Taking the time to have fun and be patient to understand, that makes such a difference. Slowing down enough to enjoy the smallest things makes anything feel refreshing. The pastor quoted 1 Corinthians today, and I thought it was a good thing to remember.

And in other news, I’m back writing full swing for the Athenian – and illustrating, too.

Actually Opening One’s Mind to Religion.

The idea of ever calling myself a certain “religion” type always gave me fear.  I too easily pictured “cults”.  I pictured these organized “cults” and then I remembered all of the negative history in the world that occurs under God’s “will”.  I’ve been trying to understand lately what it really is all about though, these pro- and anti-religious peoples vetting against one another.  I’m trying to see for myself what they’re about rather than spitting out words other people feed to me.

I got two books from the library: Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul, a tiny book that discusses what Scripture is really for, how to interpret it, and how people are spoiling it – and also The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  I thought, “Sproul will be so dry… but Dawkins should be pretty interesting, I think.”  That’s because his book was long and confident-looking.

Well, I have completed both books and I was completely wrong.

Reviews on GoodReads have, for the most part, coincided with my sentiments quite exactly.  Whilst Dawkins seems to give a much more modern and forceful view on religion, he does it in such a righteous, arrogant baby fit that I came to hate it more and more and more with each chapter.  It was also mind-numbing repetitious, dispelling numerous tests and experiments (which were highly interesting, but I don’t think possible to put scientific control on).  One such experiment supposedly proved that praying for an individual didn’t help them get better but, if anything, made them worse.  Well, okay, because they’re at a hospital so obviously ill, you ask them to be in an experiment, and it is likely that the more people who pray for them the sicker they are – and they know it.  Regardless, it was the style that got me the most.

Another thing that deeply disturbed me was the way Dawkins seemed to make so many radical claims, all the while demonstrating his lack of understanding religion.  I used to be like that.  When I tried opening my mind, I became less so.  After finishing some of my latest readings, however, I have gained an entirely new perspective for devout Christians and why they preach the things they preach and act the ways they do.  Dawkins clearly either hasn’t reached this point of understanding, or he denies it or just completely shuts it out.  On any conflicting issue, you have to meet in the middle before you can make a solid assessment.  I hate how he comes in from the flank and doesn’t take a moment to understand the people he is bashing, especially after I just finished the other book.

The other book, Knowing Scripture, helped me understand the “literary” and “literal” tidbits of the Bible.  I believe Sproul is the kind of man who would acknowledge that certain words have been mistranslated.  I really like his approach to how to read Scripture and the way he emphasizes the lessons taken from them as being the most important – which I agree.  Too much of the Bible is outdated, especially in the Old Testament.  Furthermore, I really enjoyed his section about people “tailoring” religion.  He calls them “sensual” Christians.  You can’t pick and choose the rules you think apply.  You have to pick a method of interpreting God’s word, and then you have to constantly apply that method regardless of the outcome.  You can’t by wishy-washy – and I’ve always felt that way about religion.  He calls these kinds of people “sensual” because he sees them as looking for that instant satisfaction of this generation.  He argues that this is the kind of difference that exists between love and lust – one desirable, one like a plague.

Comparing these two books just made me realize how many people might feel the same way about something, but they shut each other down if they don’t get to the same conclusions by walking the same paths.  In the end, what does it matter how you get there?  If you arrive at the same place, how you get there is just what personally defines you and makes you as unique as the mind you used to think yourself there.  I like to think that I have managed to open my mind pretty wide to be accepting and to form my own, non-intrusive opinions.  Sure, they might come off as forceful here time to time, but I’m never actually that way in conversation.

Then again, maybe my views are the reason why I’ve identified as UU the past couple of years.

Inexplicable Comfort.

I know I started this blog years ago with an intention of bashing satire, but lately I feel like I have turned it into a documentation of my transformation.  I think the combination of busyness and that the emotions plugged into my original satire all equally provide the reason for the turn.  Writing about my “little thoughts” just comes so much more naturally than always sitting down to ruthlessly tear apart a topic or an attitude.  Sometimes, doing the latter almost makes me feel worse.  Writing about pure Kayla Faith just feels healing and therapeutic, like a journal that I throw up to the world and don’t care who sees me for who I am.

I’ve found comfort in this kind of writing as of late.  And, today, I noticed that I found comfort in places I never expected to find it, at times that didn’t seem to be supportive of it.

It started last night, really, when a long Saturday at work turned into a fun night in the snow and an invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with someone I care as much as humanly possible about.  Never in a million years would I expect such an invitation from someone so busy this past week and so low on spare time.

Today, despite a conversation that I had last night that tore me down a bit, I attended church as I have a few times now with said person.  I found so much comfort in going.  We always sit in the same place, I’m starting to recognize the same faces who always express their loves to see me, and I watched snow fall outside the whole time.  When I first attended, the music was my favorite part.  An actual band plays.  Now, it has become the application of scripture.  Perhaps that is because I have been reading the Bible to understand the preaching better.  And today, I had few qualms with what was being said.  I had memories of singing Gospel with my grandma, thinking she had the most beautiful voice in the world and that one must obtain such a voice by singing for God and that only,… so I suddenly began craving the scripture reflections and traditional hymns.  Furthermore, just the feeling of going to church makes me feel good.  I got up early in the morning, I went with someone I care a lot about, I supported his faith the way I like when people support what I care about, and I saw many kind – and now familiar – faces.  I’m not saying I believe things one way or another, but I’m just saying I have come to love those Sunday mornings.  I know he would say God is making me love them, but I don’t care what is – I’ll just keep going.

Comfort came to me again when we left and we drove through the snowy parks.  We ran up to Squire’s Castle, I in his work boots because silly me wore moccasins, and we just loved the snow.  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.  I love you, snow.  Snow is perhaps the silence that screams about peacefulness louder than anything else on Earth.

I always find comfort in fixing our meals, sneaking the dishes into the dishwater before he can yell at me for cleaning up, leaving notes and sending letters…  Sometimes I worry I look like I’m trying to hard when, really, I just can’t imagine not doing those things.  Maybe it’s actually selfish.  They make me feel good?  Because I make someone else feel good?  Maybe that comfort isn’t inexplicable, because my friend Rita already sat me down and explained to me years ago that I’m a “people-pleaser” like her.  It helped me understand why I feel so easily rejected and depressed when I don’t meet someone’s standards.  Regardless, I found comfort in doing those favors today.

I found comfort on the way home when I stopped at the store.  I usually avoid talking to people or making eye contact.  I always feel like some silly deer in the headlights.  People always come up to me and ask if I’m okay because I look frazzled or tired or stressed or like I’ve been crying… and that’s happened on my happy days, thus launching such days into self-conscious misery.  So I avoid it altogether.  But then I had the briefest of all conversations at the checkout counter with the grocer.  I recalled previous experiences at Whole Foods and nearly all of them include conversations at the checkout.  That never happens at normal stores.  Whole Foods definitely has a unique vibe, and suddenly I felt comfort that there are people out there who understand me but whom I have not yet met.  The world maybe isn’t as dark as I always think it is.

I found comfort in driving from the store to home and listening to my audiobooks.  I had previously finished Knowing Scripture, a book to accompany my reading A History of God while also reading the Bible (NKJV) cover to cover.  I actually really enjoyed that audiobook.  It was gentle, although set in its ways, and tried to express the importance of “literal” meaning.  What is literal meaning?  Taking something literally doesn’t mean word-for-word but instead the way it was intended to be taken, something that can be determined by its literary mechanisms.  Was that hyperbole?  What is that in the context of its time?  (Or, in the case of the Bible, things like What was the original word for this in its native language and how might it have been translated?)  I liked that, but then I listened to RIchard Dawkins.  I thought I would like this audiobook more, a much longer book which basically speaks against Scripture and is the opposite to the book I just finished.  Truth of the matter is this book is so damn arrogant, the claims so wildly inappropriate half of the time that I sympathize for any and all religious or semi-religious peoples.  Some moments, I agree full-heartedly.  Others, I’m appalled.  I think I was appalled maybe once or twice at some far-fetched concept in Knowing Scriptures and so I suddenly realized how arrogant the arguments sound.  Religious people often strive to be loved by and show love for their god(s), whereas atheists often display contempt for those loving people.  I’m not saying it’s either-or, but I suddenly felt comfort in places where I had previously felt uncomfortable: under the judgment of those who follow religion rather than those who follow proving it wrong.

At this point, I was home.  Expected mail was not in my inbox.  My place looks half-cleaned.  And I suddenly burst into tears in the kitchen.  I do that sometimes, maybe because I’m just confused about life.  About why I’m here, who I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, am I supposed to know these answers, are there no answers, where do I go from here, what is the point, etc. etc. etc.  Suddenly, from no where, I turn to the kitchen counter on my left and my cat Phantom is looking up at me, eagerly.  She has never jumped on my counter before.  She starts to nuzzle me, so I pick her up.  I have never cried into a cat so long before.  All she did was purr and respond to my scratching her ears until I set her down at the windowsill a good 10 minutes later.  Sometimes I’m convinced that people of our past are reincarnated into our pets, to somehow guide us.  Perhaps there is some god that oversees this.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy.  I don’t care, I still feel that way.  Just like I somehow know my grandma is there every time a ladybug refuses to leave my arm.  (And, yes, that exact experience has caused the only female on a construction site – me – to burst into tears in front of a slew of male drillers before.)

Finally, comfort came in the form of a text conversation.  One of my closest girlfriends from home texted me this evening, asking about the person I spent the day with (she saw a photo I posted of us hiking).  I briefly explained the situation.  I mean, she’s probably one of the better people to speak to about it.  She became incredibly passionate for my side that it made me feel, yet again, that inexplicable comfort.  Where did this come from?  She was so adamant to support me, being me, believing whatever I believe, no matter how it ever does or doesn’t change…  She was convinced that love is boundary-less, that it is foolish to throw out feelings over a difference that may not exist and that may only strengthen the diversity of something if it does…  Her argument made me feel sound and strengthened and not so hopeless.  She gave me courage after a day of mild confusion.  And, better than all else, she made me feel like my battle was not lost but just slow at being won.  It’s comforting knowing people so far away can care about you so much that they nearly lose their cool in expressing their support for you.

Ever since a conversation I had with a non-religious friend a few months ago, I have fully adopted his outlook on religion and faith: We are all religious, we just define our personally tailored religions in different ways.  This is, I think, completely true.  Even if you’re Christian, you likely interpret things a certain way, one in which others may not.  But what is wrong with that?  Follow the Scriptures all you want, but only certain ones were selected, they were all translated to varying degrees of accuracy, and who says they are set in stone?  (Okay, maybe the 10 commandments were originally but…)  With this in mind, I have no doubt that I am religious.  Religion is literally – there it is again! – defined as not just supporting a superhuman concept, but also following a set of beliefs with a certain upheld faith.  BOOM.  My beliefs may vary throughout the years, molded by whom I am near and what I have learned and seen, but I will have those beliefs nonetheless.  I’m adamant about adhering to certain ways of living and doing what is right, whether or not I’m convinced that right and wrong have to exist.

BOOM.  I am religious.  I always have been, but now more so than ever.  And I find it really odd, but I have been compelled to occasionally pray since I was about 8 years old.  Sometimes I pray because there is someone who asks for a prayer or who is struggling, so I pray for them and I pray to whomever their god is or gods are.  Sometimes I pray because I feel completely hopeless and what else should I do?  I always start off in my mind with “Dear God or gods or Mother Nature or whoever it is that I’m sorry I don’t know but who might have a say in this…”  I honestly hesitated to express in an entry that I am this way because I didn’t want people to regard me in a certain way, but then I decided why do I care?  I am who I am and I don’t know who I am but I’ll still be who I am whether I want to be me or not.

Seriously…my mind is such a freely flowing stream of randomness…but I just really felt like I had to record this moment, today, a day of highs and lows but of discovery and this odd sense of comfort in moments that felt so dreary.  Today, just when I felt like all was lost, I actually began to feel more hopeful.  Like, these are the tests we are going through to make us confident that this is actually everything we want.  We can handle this, because it is nothing.  There is so much compassion to be had and, like my friend told me today, love and respect are the center of it all.  And that’s there.  It will all be okay because that’s there, so I just need to focus on me, continuing to be growing, dynamic me, and this will work out because it’s meant to be this way.

Even if not everything has a purpose, as humans we always find it one.