To Be an Iowan

https://www.facebook.com/events/944673085705518/?ti=as

I am sincerely hoping that this meeting has an abundance of attendees!

I have now had a fifty-four year love affair with the state of Iowa. Its big draw for me isn’t just that I was born here. And the extremes in weather are certainly not my cup of tea(or glass of iced tea).

I can’t even say that growing up on an Iowa farm was all good. We had no air conditioning, the house was drafty in winter and the work was hard year round.

No, I love Iowa for our people. It’s a unique place that has historically welcomed all who want to be here. Where I live, in what we call the “Corridor”, is very special! Over seventy nationalities are represented in this area that encompasses Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. We not only have ethnic and cultural diversity here but a wide range of religious beliefs, as well.

In Iowa, we understand how immigrants enrich our lives.

The first Muslims who came here built The Mother Mosque, which is the oldest standing mosque in all of North America!

Cedar Rapids alone has two mosques, a Jewish synagogue, a Zen center, and many Christian churches. This, in a city of only 120,000 people (approximately).

So, when I hear about ICE raids and parents having their children taken from them, it makes my blood boil!

Treating other people as we wish to be treated is really what Iowa is all about. We are diverse. And we celebrate diversity! We understand that diversity makes us stronger. This is farm country. We know that diversity in seed and in livestock are advantageous, not things to fear nor to loathe!

We are a beacon of hope for people seeking a better life. We take pride in saying our farmers “feed the world”. There is truly something sacred, I believe, in feeding the hungry.

We all got here through our ancestors, who were immigrants! In my family we came from Germany, England, Ireland and probably other countries, as well. I have been told there were black people on Dad’s side and Jews on Mom’s side. And in those days people were not completely accepting of them.

But just as Iowa is called “A place to grow”, our ancestors grew to embrace those of other countries, cultures, and religions. I think the vast majority of Iowans would agree that every human being deserves to be treated with kindness and dignity. We don’t care where you’re from so much as what your dreams are when you get here. When you make your dreams come true here, all of Iowa benefits!

We ARE a place to grow! So it is my fervent hope that we can reign in these ICE officials, letting them know we will NOT be tolerant of their intolerance! I also hope our leaders will have a change of heart about our Southern border, as building walls to hide behind just isn’t America’s style.

This is Iowa. This is home. These are my people. This is where we make our stand! This is where we say, “Give me your tired, your poor…” and we really mean it!

Of course, some will disagree but I can only pity them. They’ve apparently not figured out yet how wonderful we are in all our differences, as well as our similarities. I pray they grasp that much very soon!

Advertisements

Help For Yemen

For those of us who live in the United States, events half way across the world barely catch our attention. A bombing in a Baghdad market kills thirty people and we shake our heads, then go back to work or golf.
I think there are two main reasons for our seeming lack of empathy.
First, we are too concerned with our own lives to worry about lives in some other country. We have jobs, kids, and numerous bills to pay. School activities and our own social lives leave little time to research news reports more fully. The main stream media gives us numbers and we quickly move on.
The second reason we seem to ignore human tragedies, such as the situation in Yemen, is that those numbers the media report are just that-numbers. No faces, names or ages are given. They are simply called “collateral damage” by the military and government. When no one is giving us a deeper understanding of the human toll, we tend to pay no attention to pleas for help.
What if we knew the victims? What if we saw what is really happening there? Would we be more likely to open our hearts-and our wallets? Possibly so!

My friend Adel and others began a local charity in Yemen called Human Needs Development-HND. With donations, they are able to purchase very basic but nutrient rich food and distribute it to hungry families. They are the “boots on the ground” in the fight against severe hunger in Yemen.

The link to their fund is here:

https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/save-a-family-in-yemen

I discussed with Adel the dilemma of convincing more Americans to donate to this cause and I encouraged him to put a face on the victims. I gave him a list of questions about the people there and life in general, before and after this war began. What follows is a “transcript”, if you will, of that interview.

Me: What are the languages most commonly spoken there?
Adel: The most commonly spoken in Yemen is Arabic which is the mother tongue of Yemen’s nation people. English is the second language spoken here in Yemen but with few speakers. You know, English is the language of the world’s people, which is made the second language in the country.

Me: What religions are practiced in Yemen?
Adel: The official religion of the country is Islam. That is the religion of 99.0% of the population. There are Jews in Yemen but they are the only non-Muslim minority of the indigenous population.

Me: What does an average Yemeni man do on most days? For work? Recreation?
Adel: Most Yemenis work in low income jobs. They are taxi drivers, bus drivers or work in local shops. However, many of them have lost their income source due to the war. Even those who work in public service in the government have not received their salaries for nine months! Most of the people here are now dependent on foreign aid to survive, with 21 million having great humanitarian needs.
Recreation in Yemen is very different now, since most usual places for that have been bombed.

Me: Do the children there attend school regularly? What do they do after school?
Adel: Since the war, an estimated 3 million children have not attended school. Some parents cannot pay the fees and others need the children to work to help feed the family.
War has left millions of children with no education. This is a threat to an entire generation of Yemenis. Parents are too busy just trying to find resources to survive and teachers in the country have not been paid in nine months.

Me: What is the role of women in Yemeni society?
Adel: Yemeni women work in general institutes and study in Yemen’s universities. They become doctors, teachers, activists, and are essential reasons for a better Yemen. The Yemeni women, much like the men, still suffer from human development issues such as ignorance, poverty and disease. But, they work hard to try to feed their children. Some Yemeni women and children are forced to beg in the street just to survive.
Unfortunately, some parents in Yemen don’t allow their daughters to complete their education. They study the primary level and then are forced to stay at home. I do not agree with this and Islam does NOT promote this. True Islam teaches that women should work, study and be one of the state’s builders.

Me: What sort of celebrations are there in Yemen? Holidays? Parties?
Adel: In Yemen, we celebrate all the traditional Muslim holidays. For example, Eid Al-Adha. We have a three day festival, called Eid Al-Fitr, to mark the end of Ramadan. We also celebrate the Islamic New Year, called Muharram and Mouloud, which is the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
National Unity Day is a public holiday, celebrating the uniting of North and South Yemen.

Me: What are common favorite foods and drinks?
Adel: Fahsa is a lamb cutlet stew, made into soup with spices and holba(fenugreek). It is eaten with traditional Yemeni bread, which helps scoop up the food, like a spoon.
Salta is a common food here, also. It contains rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs, and vegetables.
Drinks include red tea, which is made with ground cardamom, and Arabic coffee. The coffee is ground lightly and it, too, is mixed with cardamom. Traditionally, it is roasted on the premises(home or a special occassion), ground, brewed and served in front of the guests.

Me: How do people in Yemen view those in the United States?
Adel: With the current U.S. involvement, with either the Houthis movement or the AQAP( Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Penninsula), many Yemenis of both movements hate the U.S. administration, but NOT the American people. They believe the U.S. government is the cause of much of the unrest in the Middle East and that it is simply trying to steal the oil resources here. Others see it as the U.S. protecting its own interests, much like any country.

Me: What has been the effect of recent attacks on Yemen and its people?
Adel: The attacks have led to one of the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history. 21 million people now need urgent humanitarian assistance. 18 million people here are food insecure, with 8 million facing famine NOW. 600,000 children are acutely malnourished and about 3 million chidren are out of school this year. 3 million people have been displaced due to clashes and air strikes. Those internal refugees are the most vulnerable group affected by the war.
The tragedy in Yemen is worse than the news media is highlighting. Many people do not know how they will get their next meal!

Me: Are there any other aid agencies on the ground there providing relief? Is aid getting to most people?
Adel: Most of the aid agencies left in March 2015, when the current civil war broke out. Our organization, Human Needs Development-HND has been working alongside a few other local agencies on the ground in Yemen.
With no international aid agencies and very few donors, we are completely dependent on the generosity of foreign donors to help us get food to Yemen’s children who are facing starvation! There are markets here but so many people have not been paid, or lost their jobs, and they cannot afford to buy food.
Most importantly the war must stop and the blockade must be lifted. The coninuation of these will cause ever more suffering to the people of Yemen, especially the children.

So, there you have it. These are HUMAN BEINGS! They are not numbers, nor are they “collateral damage”. They have faces and names. They are parents and children. They go to school, just as we do(when they CAN!), and work at jobs, same as us. They celebrate holidays and have traditional foods, just as we do here in the U.S.

I thank Adel for the work he is doing and for helping us to see everyday life in Yemen. Maybe when the news reporters just give the numbers, we will all see the faces, too.

If you would like to contribute to Human Needs Development-HND, please use the link below. Any amount is deeply appreciated!
And remember, sharing is caring, too! Feel free to repost!

https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/save-a-family-in-yemen

Until next time, be happy on your journey…

The Tragedy in Yemen

What is happening to the people of Yemen is a story not well told in the West. Here in the United States, much of what we hear about are “terrorists” being fought in that part of the world, with little mention made of any civilian casualties or refugees.
I have noticed something interesting in the last couple of years, from Gaza, to Syria, and now in Yemen: Local people are caring for their own as best they can, while the world looks away. I ask myself how we all got here and the answers are never easy to find.
I recently made contact with a young man whose aid organization is providing food to very hungry people in war torn Yemen. As I am unclear what the security situation would be for them, I will use his first name only.
Adel and I met several weeks ago through Facebook, as he was searching for a way to increase the amount of food aid his non-profit group, Human Needs Development-HND, is able to offer in the midst of the brutal conflict in Yemen. According to a May 19 article this year in The Intercept, “President Trump appears to be outpacing Obama in Yemen, with more than 80 strikes since January and a disastrous Special Forces raid that killed 25 civilians, including 10 children.”

https://theintercept.com/2017/05/19/u-s-drone-strike-in-yemen-killed-men-who-had-nothing-to-do-with-al-qaeda-according-to-relatives/

Now, the International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that a cholera epidemic has put Yemen’s health care system “on the brink of collapse”.
A November 2016 article in Motley Magazine stated. “There is also the issue of how the children of Yemen are suffering during the conflict. Malnutrition seems to be the major killer of the children of Yemen, with the UN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien saying that the situation is “absolutely devastating”. Yemen are in desperate need of food supplies where it is estimated that there are 1.5 million children suffering from malnutrition. Cholera also is a major problem among the youth due to the poor access to treatment. UNICEF spokesperson Julian Harneis said “This outbreak adds to the misery of millions of children in Yemen.”

https://motley.ie/yemen-a-war-overshadowed/

How can any of us look upon this situation and then turn away? The U.S. Congress just passed a bill to give Saudi Arabia $500 million in arms, which will surely be used to carry out further attacks on Yemen and result in many more civilian deaths. It is against this backdrop that Adel is attempting to aid his fellow citizens.
I discussed with Adel early on the reluctance of Americans to donate money to anyone in that region of the world. By law, if that money falls into the hands of a terrorist organization, the original donor can be charged with conspiracy and imprisoned. It is ironic that the terror raining down on Yemeni civilians is coming, in part, from the United States.

In Part Two of this post, I will be bringing you a more vivid mental picture of the people of Yemen, their customs and daily life before and since the start of the war. I firmly believe that war victims should have a face, and a voice that speaks for them. With the help of my friend Adel, I will attempt to get beyond the statistics and show you the people who make up Yemen’s very human population.

Until we meet again, take care on your journey…

P.S. If you want to help Adel’s organization, click here:

https://www.generosity.com/projects/save-a-family-in-yemen/payments/new

Jane of All Trades

Hello again, my friends!

The sun is shining and I need to mow the backyard. But first….

I was just thinking back over the jobs I have held in my lifetime. They are many and varied. Perhaps your resume reads like mine-schizophrenic at best! But along the way, I had some fun and met some really fun people!

Healthcare has always been interesting to me so that was my longest career.In high school, I took a nurse aid training course and easily left with an “A” and a certificate in hand. After graduation, I went to nursing school, for a three year RN program. It was going well up until the end of the first year. By then, I was drinking, smoking, and generally feeling very anxious about my career choice. What if I screwed up and killed someone?

I dropped out of school and moved back home, into my parents’ farmhouse. The succession of jobs began in earnest at this point.( My drinking became more and more an issue, as well). I landed a full time job as a nurse aide, at a nursing home ten miles from our farm. That is where I discovered how much I liked older people.

(That’s not me but I love both of their smiles!)

I proceeded to home health, disillusioned by the speed with which duties must be completed in a nursing home. To me, it was unacceptable and unfair to keep costs at a minimum by foregoing excellence in care! I moved on in less than a year.

I enjoyed home health almost as much and felt less stressed, at least at first. My clients were all older people, except one young, mentally slow mom of three kids. Two had already been placed in foster care. The third was at high risk, so I worked with this family to improve Mom’s parenting skills and to monitor for any signs of abuse or neglect in the child. Eventually, I took an extra training class to work in protective services. THAT was stressful! My main duties included taking children who were in foster care and supervising their visits with their parents. This put me in contact with children who had been molested, as well as their abuser, if it were the parent. I saw children who had been eating out of garbage dumpsters. When I was assigned to a six month old baby with a “mommy-induced” double skull fracture, I knew it was over. I could not handle seeing any more of this! Again, I moved on.

My other “careers” have included evening cook in a nursing home, cocktail waitress, motel housekeeper, commercial cleaning tech, census taker, cashier, catering assistant, fast food line worker, and concession stand help. In 1992, I had gone back to the community college and earned my LPN diploma. Oddly, where I worked my first nurse aide job is where I also ended up as a first time nurse. After a year and a half there, I got hired by another nursing home. It was farther away, and less money, but such a great place to work! I stayed there until 2005, when I had to give it up and go on disability. My back was shot, I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic depression, and the pain medicine that could have helped me was illegal.

Anyway, I always encourage anyone going to nursing school. It is a wonderful way to make a living and you certainly make a difference. One can earn an LPN diploma and move up as high as a doctorate degree. I have heard lectures by people with PhD.s in nursing!

That’s my work history in a nutshell. Another part of this strange journey revealed. So, what was my very favorite job? Nursing? Home health? Nope.

My favorite job was working the 2010 Census. I went door to door with a list of people who had not mailed forms in. Most were cooperative but no one was nicer than people from India and Pakistan. The language barrier was not too difficult, once we got passed their names! The food is awesome to smell cooking in these apartments! They use a variety of spices and the aroma is wonderful!

That’s it for now, folks. I am sleepy. Time to lie down, as you carry on!

Goodnight from America’s Heartland!

Facing Our Extinction

I was at work yesterday, starting my shift cleaning at a local gym. When I walked in, I looked up at the TV screens above the treadmills. What I saw was horrifying! Storms had ripped through the southern part of the Midwest, bringing huge tornadoes and record flooding. Fourteen deaths had been reported.

So goes spring in this part of the country. Flooding happens and tornadoes touch down, with the mightiest winds on the planet. Homes and businesses are destroyed and lives are torn apart. The dead will be buried and the rebuilding will begin, as it has in years past. To live in the Midwest is to face these stark realities. What is different now?

If you follow climate news at all, you have probably read that the global average temperature has not gone down in many, many months-years, in fact. Now, that is not to say that a month here and there has not been cooler. This is where confusion reigns supreme! Scientists look at trends and patterns in the weather, on a global scale, over a long period of time. Just because North Dakota had an Arctic blizzard a few months ago does not negate the fact that India is experiencing record heat waves, with many deaths resulting.

More scientists are finally coming forward to say we are in a dire situation as a species. Professor Guy McPherson was the first one I heard say “extinction” and according to his analysis, we are facing “near term human extinction”. Already, in the wild, there has been a 58% reduction in the number of vertebrates since 1970. That is a time span of less than fifty years! According to biosphereonline.com:

“In the same period of time as this study, the global human population almost doubled; increasing from 3.7 billion to 7.1 billion (The World Bank) with no sign of slowing, making it increasingly difficult to find realistic solutions to this environmental crisis.

The estimated carrying capacity of the earth is twelve billion people. On our present course, the human population will be an estimated fifteen billion by the end of the century. Combine that with climate change and it is a definite recipe for disaster.

All of this does not take into account the threat of nuclear war or the continuing radiation pouring into the ocean from the Fukushima  nuclear meltdown. According to the Center for Marine and Environmental Radiation:

“From the early days of the disaster, we have tracked the spread of these radioactive contaminants throughout the ocean and east towards North America. Since 2013, with the continuous support and sampling by citizen scientists with Our Radioactive Ocean (ORO), we have monitored the waters off the West and, in 2015 and 2016, samples collected by ORO volunteers showed the arrival and spread of contamination directly linked to Fukushima on this side of the Pacific. “

http://ourradioactiveocean.org/results

Today, wildfires near this same nuclear plant threaten to send radiation airborne, with devastating effects.

Then we have “super bugs”, those viruses and bacteria that are resistant to the drugs we would normally treat them with. Zika, Ebola, even Staph, and God knows what else down the road, that could kill millions around the globe. (Remember the Spanish Flu Pandemic?)

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef on the planet, has recently been diagnosed as “terminal”. Scientists are now saying it cannot be saved. Sea life depends on this coral to survive. As the ocean dies, so do we. Think of the food chain. Consider, too, the bees and butterflies that pollinate our crops and other plant foods. Their numbers have dwindled due to pesticide use and herbicides that destroy their habitat. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs in milkweed pods. Here in Iowa, herbicide drift from farm fields has killed much of the milkweed population. I suspect other agricultural states have the same issue.

By now, you should be staring at your computer screen, eyes wide and mouth hanging open! We are in the middle of the Sixth Mass Extinction. This is exactly when cognitive dissonance usually takes hold, because the probability of our demise as a species is too much to take in. How do we even face something like this?

With as much grace as we can muster, my friends. That is how we do it. Professor McPherson says that at the end of it all, “only love remains”. I try to keep that in mind. I messaged Guy one day, feeling very distraught over the future and asked, “How do I handle this? What do I do?” He sent a message back that said “Be here now.”

Two days later, I found a piece of wood I had painted to make a plaque. I am sure it was one of those projects I started and never got back to. I got out my youngest son’s colored markers and drew some flowers, a heart and a peace symbol on the painted surface. Then I wrote “BE HERE NOW!” in the middle. It is hanging in the living room, a daily reminder to me of what is most urgent. This day, this moment, this family of mine. My focus must be on them.

Looking back, I have had a good life. Materially, I have never had much to show. Some might think I am “poor”, but they would be wrong. I have been richly blessed with good friends and a loving family. The hardest thing to even ponder briefly is the future for my sons. But I will write about that another day.

For today, go out and look around you, taking in all that is beautiful in its own way. Hug your family, spend time with them, go out with friends. This is all we have. Let’s leave here loving one another.

Crazy Climate Change

Hi out there! Where has your journey taken you lately? I hope someplace pleasant and peaceful.

Here in Eastern Iowa, our temperatures continue to be warmer for this time of year. When we had roses blooming on Thanksgiving Day, I got concerned. When I walked out of my workplace on Friday, I was very concerned! It was seventy degrees! On March 24th!

All of my spring bulbs came up in February. This is IOWA! March normally brings snow and cold wind but we are now in uncharted territory and I am getting nervous!

Now, the climate change deniers can refuse to believe what scientists are telling us. But they cannot deny it is way warmer right now than it should be. Spring bulbs should come up in late March and into April-NOT February!

One of my brothers still farms the home place, where I grew up. He is a big burly guy, an avid fisherman and hunter when he’s not farming. He has this Grizzly Adams beard and is loved by all of Jones County, I swear! So, yeah, he seems redneck at first.

Last summer, I visited with him and brought up climate change. He can see it happening. Nobody watches the weather and seasons the way a farmer does. His very livelihood depends on weather patterns. He mainly cares about two things on the morning radio news-the farm market report and the weather forecast.

So,look-when my big brother says climate change is real and happening now, people really should take note. You can deny science but to deny what a farmer is seeing with his own eyes is pretty ridiculous!

With that, I will stop for now. Just for fun, type “methane and climate change” into your browser. We will talk later about what you find.

 

 

The Truth Can Just Suck!

My husband was sitting down one day, with his Android, watching an interview with a man named Guy McPherson. Guy is a college professor, and an expert on climate change-AND on “Near Term Human Extinction”. What is that, you ask?

Well, basically, humans are on pace to become extinct in the next twenty years and probably sooner. The cause of this is runaway climate change, which our leaders refuse to talk about, but surely they understand.

Currently, there are 200 species per day(plant, ocean life and wildlife) going extinct. A major contributing factor is loss of habitat due to the warming of the planet and subsequent changes in weather and climate. This does not even take into account the marine life that has been reduced or killed off by the Fukishima  disaster in Japan. The loss of major parts of the food chain does not bode well for humans.

So, when my husband told me all this and I was able to chat with Professor McPherson on Facebook, things suddenly looked quite grim. I felt shocked, frightened and angry. How could this be happening, so quickly? How can we have only one or two decades left? What about my children?!

Nope-this has not been easy to deal with at all. What has made it even worse for me is the fact that our leaders keep denying what is happening right before our eyes! All around me, I see people taking notice of the odd weather patterns we are seeing. When I say “It’s climate change”, they don’t scoff. They solemnly agree. You cannot deny that rose bushes in full bloom on Thanksgiving Day in IOWA is an oddity! Spring bulbs are not supposed to come up in February here and flooding of rivers should occur in spring and summer, NOT in September!

Maybe people are waking up here because my state of Iowa relies so much on agriculture to keep our economy humming along. Changes in patterns of weather will affect all of us here, from the farmer to the lady who pours his noon coffee at the café. Farming is the foundation the rest of the jobs here are built on. My own brother farms and has told me he sees the future not looking too bright. He knows what is happening-no point in denying it.

So, there is the bad news. Now, for the good news: YOU get to decide how to respond. Yes-YOU!

Will we go out with divisions and hatred, or united in love, acceptance, and peace? THAT is up to each of us to decide. In addition, I firmly believe that those who can adapt to communal living and sharing what they have will be the ones to survive, if anyone can.

Billions of people around the world are not going to make it and that just sucks! The truth can hurt but that does not mean it should be ignored. Rather, let us help those that we can now, and let us not make a bad situation worse by warring over the resources we have left. At least, let us make these few years ahead the best they can be, for ourselves and our families.

You can contact Professor Guy McPherson at the website “Nature Bats Last”, listen to podcasts and access his report on Abrupt Climate Change. See links below.

Until next time, be happy, laugh often, and hug the ones you love!

Nature Bats Last

Climate Change Summary

“Extinction Dialogues, by Carolyn Baker and Guy McPherson

Going Dark, by Guy McPherson

 

God Turns Out To Be a Jerk

That could have been my personal headline and public service announcement a couple years ago. Now, this is a rather winding tale but I will do my best to tell it as simply as possible. Grab a cup of coffee. This is finally where you get to me, post-religious zealot “Gypsy Gail”! And yes-we will be backing up soon, as usual! You are getting used to that, right? But to begin…

I had decided to join our local YMCA to lose weight, get fit, be stronger, and all that. I had a tour and one free session with a personal trainer to get started. She was very nice and was understanding of the fact I still smoked. I had been back to outpatient drug treatment and was now ready to take better care of myself.

When I began walking, cycling, and lifting weights, I was not able to do more than twenty- five minutes total for all three. It was somewhat embarrassing but I was determined to do what I could and try to steadily improve. I went to the gym five to six days a week.

Additionally, I went on a diet. I bought some weight loss shakes and cut out pop and much of the bread I was so smitten with. Instead, I snacked on celery and almonds, and drank water with lemon juice all day from a Mason jar.

I was also attending four to six AA meetings each week. That may sound like too many but I can safely say that I’ve never gone to too many meetings; I have just done too many drugs and drinks.

Well, wouldn’t you know it? AA proclaims it is a spiritual program. The founders of it made a point to distinguish between religion and spirituality, though. They said one need only have a willingness to believe in a “Higher Power”. Then, you simply attempt to pray and/or meditate to improve your contact with that Power. At times of stress or temptation, you ask your Higher Power to help you. Seems simple enough, right?

Here is where we back up.

I was raised on a farm, near the sleepy little hamlet of Center Junction, in Jones County, Iowa. The town was so named because it is at the center of the county and there was, long ago(many years before I was even born), a railroad stop there. By the 1960’s, that was gone. However, the town did boast a small general store, one gas station, one beauty shop, a church and a tavern.

That church was a very small Presbyterian variety. Every Sunday, my parents took all six of us kids to Sunday School and the church service following it. Mom and Dad served as deacons, choir members and Sunday School teachers at various points in my fourteen years there. But by 1980 or so, they decided to leave and rejoin the First Congregational United Church of Christ, in Anamosa, Iowa. There were more kids our own age there and it seemed to be more active in mission work.

So, from the age of fourteen to the day I converted to Islam, the UCC was my home for all matters of faith.

Still, I was baffled from a very young age, as to why an omnipotent god would need anyone’s assistance so that He could forgive my sins. This, to me, was the story of Jesus in a nutshell. He was the guy whose dad had him killed on my behalf. I found little comfort or joy in knowing I was a part of that plan. Forgive me or not, but please don’t whip a man bloody and nail him to a cross on my account!

When I asked my mom why this happened, why God did that, she just said it was part of his plan to save us from our sins and keep us out of hell. Wow-that did not make me feel better! I had grown up with this image of Jesus being such a nice guy! He loved children and the poor and he helped people. Now, I was being told that his suffering was related to that lie I told last week! Pretty heavy burden for a kid.

Later in life, I would question why certain things happened, why tragedies were allowed. In other words, if God is omnipotent, then He is able to stop the suffering of his people. If he allows them to suffer anyway, then I’m sorry-God is a jerk!

One thing I really liked about Islam was the story of Jesus. To Muslims, he was a great prophet and he is the coming Messiah. But the Quran states that he was not crucified. Rather, the story in Islam is that God spared him and took him up bodily into heaven. From there, he is waiting his time to return and judge each of us. I thought it was a much nicer ending, certainly more humane and maybe even more plausible than the traditional version I couldn’t accept.

Alright, well, my next faith crisis came when a relative who was working in hospice care lost a four year old patient to a brain tumor. Upon hearing this, my heart sank. I sobbed, feeling such overwhelming grief for this family I did not even know! I asked my husband “How is it that his parents prayed for a miracle and they lost their son anyway? Some other family prays and their kid lives. So, this so called “loving God” picks and chooses like that?!” I was angry! What sort of God would do such a thing?

The final blow came several months later, after all my praying, dieting, and exercising took twenty pounds off me and then no more. That day, I was riding the exercise bike at the YMCA and watching a TV screen, when the local news came on. The top story was about a flash flood we had experienced the night before. The reporter said that a fourteen year old boy had been swept into a storm sewer and drowned.

Again, I did not know this family. But I felt something in me snap! This time it was more than anger and it was more than a questioning of faith and God. This was a visceral reaction. This was the end of my relationship with God. I was done!

From that moment, I’ve not regained anything of the faith that I lost.

I’ve tried to pray, meditate, and contemplate who God might be.

But now, it comes down to this: I am not convinced there is ANY God out there and I don’t want to associate with a traditional monotheistic version of God. Let’s face it-THAT God seems to have anger issues! He is also manipulative and judgmental. The Bible says that we are constantly angering and disappointing God. Well, you know what? He can get over himself! At least I didn’t have the power to save a child and then sat back and let them die anyway!

No sir, if anyone should be judged, perhaps WE should judge God! And from my vantage point, I can safely say that he looks like a big jerk! My honest hope is that there is a Creator of some sort and that after this life, there is a better one waiting.

But, I’m not holding my breath!

Hey folks, it’s all good though. Here in Iowa the sun has come out and it will be a nice day.

When we meet again, I think we should discuss climate change. It is March 9th folks, in Iowa, and the bulbs are all coming up and we’ve seen a robin on the ground already! That is several weeks too soon and does not bode well for what the summer will be like!

Until next time, be well!