Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gifts, Church, and Asteroids - Not Necessarily in That Order

In January I attended my nephew, Danny's, baptism.  Though I had not been to church in a long time, I was raised Catholic. Finding myself again sitting in a wooden pew, standing and sitting at intervals and crossing myself in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit felt mildly comforting.  But when my sister-in-law handed me my freshly baptized nephew - just handed the baby, bundled in a white christening gown that had been handed down for generations, right over the pew and into my hands - I felt something pretty powerful.  My hands were instantly warm and kind of tingly.  I started to cry. Then I looked at my little brother and laughed at myself.  But he didn't laugh.

This Sunday, I went to church with Luka, my friends Jamin and Ryan, and their 8 month old daughter Angelina.  Luka had asked me to go to church and when I told Jamin - she said "I'll go too."  So we decided to check out some different churches in Portland in an effort to expand our sense of spirituality.  I would not say we are shopping for a church to belong to.  Rather, we are looking to expose ourselves to spirituality as a whole.  I can't say I believe in any one church or religion or god.  Maybe I believe in them all.  Or maybe I don't think anyone's got it quite right yet.  But I figure now's as good a time as any to do some exploring.

We started with a beautiful old Episcopalian church.  It is built of dark stone with bright red doors.  The service is quite similar to a Catholic service and we stood up, sat down, kneeled (or at least realized kind of late that everyone else was kneeling and we weren't.)  We watched some babies and grown children get baptized.  We sang Hallelujah and stumbled through some other songs.  We read along in the book of scriptures and when Jamin said "preserved" instead of "persevered," we guffawed and snickered for probably 3 minutes.  When it was time to recite the Our Father - we did so perfectly.  Jamin even new the end part - something about "thine is the kingdom and glory," but I can never remember the rest.  Luka sang and played with Angelina.  We ate "the body of Christ," - I let Luka have the wafer even though she hasn't had her First Communion - oops, hope that doesn't offend-.  We put some money in the bucket and shook hands with our neighbors and said "peace be with you."  It was familiar.  And peaceful.  Next week we might try a Buddhist temple.

My mom always told me that my ability to write was a gift.  Presumably from God.  I did explore this gift and did a lot of writing in my twenties and then kind of put down my pencil and picked up a camera.  Taking pictures took less time and thought.  Less discipline and concentration.  Recently - as you can see - I have taken to writing again.  I made a pact with whichever God or Buddha or Saint or Big Tall Redwood Tree was listening.  -I promise to use my gift.  Please let me live.-

My husband's gift is music.  I like to listen to him play - he can play pretty much whatever instrument you put in front of him.  I have been encouraging him now more than ever to use his gift.  It's hard when he has this role as "caretaker." As the put-up-with-everything-your-wife-does-and-says-because-she-has-cancer guy.  Because I know I can still be annoying and bitchy even though I have cancer, and maybe even more annoying and more bitchy.  I want him to go play drums for hours.  To write thousands of new songs.  To not let my cancer stop him from living his life.  From using his gift.

My husband has another gift. It's called collecting things.  Some people may not think of this as a gift.  Even I have thought of it "something other than a gift" (to put it mildly) as I've tried to maneuver my way through piles of  "collected things" while just trying to throw in a flippin load of laundry.  But Scott is the only person I know who out of the blue can pull out an Atari System from 1982 in mint condition with 10-12 games including Donkey Kong, Pitfall, Pacman, and yes, people, Asteroids.  

Sometimes  I really believe that playing Asteroids is my cure.  Visualizing in my head the radiation and chemo as the little triangle thing blasting at cancer cells is one thing.  Actually playing the game and blasting the big colored blobs into pieces is another piece of healing altogether.  Yesterday when I played I got a score of 7140.  When Scott plays, he gets like 16,000.  He is really into blasting those things away.

Church, check.  Using gifts, check.  Blasting cancer away by playing Asteroids, check.  Go away now, cancer.  Go on along now.


  1. you should try some of the black churches in NE. Great music and I bet Luka would have a great time! those services bring tears to my eyes in a way white churches never do... no offense to any white church goers out there...

  2. Wouldn't it be funny and ironic if it were Scott and his unending piles of collected things that found the one weapon of mass destruction that blasted those nasty cancer cells to bits? He could put the cancer docs out of business and he could be the Bill Gates of previously owned Atari Asteroids. I'm hoping this is true. I love you and yes, I always knew you would be a published writer. Mom

  3. Imago Dei hosts an informal Christian service at Franklin High School (I think at 9 am, 11 am and 5pm on Sundays) around the corner from y'all. When they were located in the Old Laurelhurst Church up the street, we attended fairly regularly for a few years. We especially liked the worship songs and the lack of any dress code. Although it's the most youthful and liberal Evangelical church that I've ever visited, it can still be a bit preachy at times, and that's why we stopped going. Once, I told the pastor that I struggle with some of the righteousness of the sermons, but I found much spiritual enrichment from the more humble sermons. He noted that in a community, everyone can't be served by every sermon. So, you might try a church a couple of times as your search continues. Can we join you sometime, too?

    Also, have you heard about the Unity Church on Stark? Mostly older intellectual hippies, and I love the spaced out meditation in the middle of the service. Plus, they don't stick to any particular dogma or try to tell you what you should or should not be doing to find enlightenment.

    One last note, if you haven't seen the Atari champion movie, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, check it out. My hands-down favorite underdog documentary of all time.

  4. i can't stop crackin' are a fabulous writer! keep it comin'! julie catanese