Wednesday, 25 May 2011

dollar store faith trinkets

When I started this blog, I wondered whether to talk about my faith.

Because in some circles, following Jesus and calling myself the big "C" word is so not cool. I'm from the "quiet in the land" Mennonite clan, where we preach the gospel through our actions and if necessary, use words.

As I shopped for craft supplies the other day, I realized that Christianity isn't even dollar store cool anymore. Plastic nightlight Jesus has been replaced with fake stone garden Buddha. Sad skinny bleeding half-naked man on a plastic cross, nails in feet has been replaced with chubby jolly half-naked man, coins at his feet.

I'm not knocking Buddhism here - not at all. There are many profound things I've learned from this faith. And I see why Buddha is more appealing for garden decor than Jesus. I guess what I'm looking for is for it to be OK (even cool?) for people to talk about faith in general - even if it happens to be of the Christian variety.

There are some places where we're just not encouraged to talk about faith. Like at public schools. Or in government. Or when we meet our neighbours on the street. Or at a neighbourhood barbeque. Or at the dollar store selling faith trinkets. Or until we know people really, really, really well.

And I wonder why. These are the questions I love. I love to be a detective of faith, looking for little clues and snippets of God. I find that especially with new friendships it takes months, sometimes years, before questions of faith arise. But this is even true with some people that I've known for years. How do we broach these topics?

Sometimes the closest I get to a conversation about faith/spirituality is this:

You: I do yoga. I love it.
Me: Ya, me too. Very relaxing.

or this:

You: I find God in nature.
Me: Ya, me too.

Yoga and nature are great, and they're part of the whole spirituality package for me. But there's something about the human interaction element of spirituality that I find I need. I need people to push me on - a community to support me, nurture me, and question me. I need to see glimpses of God in others to inspire me. I need inspiring ideas and words to hold onto. I need others - in addition to my personal practices of yoga or prayer or meditation. I need to be part of something bigger than myself.

And so maybe these dollar store trinkets are a good thing. If I saw one in your garden, perhaps it would open up a conversation about faith. Perhaps they are little things for us to hold onto that remind us that we are spiritual beings.

If I could get up the courage, these are the questions I'd ask you:

  • Where do you see God in your everyday life?
  • Who are the people you talk to about faith?
  • How can I remember you in my thoughts and prayers right now? What are your hurts, struggles, questions?
  • How can we help each other down this road called life - to live with courage and meaning and depth and joy?

P.S. I do like to have conversations about other not-so-serious things too, like lilacs in the spring, flavours of ice cream, bubble tea mixtures, thrift store purchases, garage sale finds, and travel stories. So don't worry - I won't pester you with the heavy questions every time we meet.


  1. When I was in Mexico in January I was struck by the plethora of Christian religious articles everywhere, some of them extremely tacky. Here you mostly find these things in stores that cater to new immigrants, and not in mainstream stores at all.
    How do religious articles open doors or conversations about God? What about a cross around your neck or a rosary in your car? Or (gulp) a bible in your purse? From my work as a chaplain I know that even nominally religious people can find a religious item like a little cross or an angel medallion enormously helpful, helping keep them in touch with a deeper reality.
    I have challenged people in my congregation to think about having a motto in their house...this used to be very common, a verse on a plaque that you would read every day. In my bedroom I had a picture of Jesus at the door with the caption, "I stand at the door and knock". Visitors who enter in will see it; it's an open door to begin a conversation.

  2. Carol! So nice of you to stop in here! I think I had the same experience in India as you talk about in Mexico. Reminders of gods/goddesses everywhere - shrines in homes, small altars set up in nooks and crannies along the street, bobble head Krishnas, so many obvious reminders that we were living in a spiritual society accompanied by god/s. Many people had their favourite gods on small cards in their wallets, and I was struck by the number of Hindus that carried a Jesus card.

    I like your idea of a motto in the house. I've actually felt a bit of jealousy towards traditions that carry rosaries as reminders to pray. But I can't seem to get my mind around wearing a cross. One professor likened this to wearing an execution chair, and I can't get that image out of my mind!

    But I have wondered about wearing something as a reminder of faith - a necklace, bracelet, whatever. It strikes me how Old Order Mennos are so easily picked out and identified for the faith/lifestyle they've chosen. You'd never pick me out of a crowd for anything but a tendency to wear bright clothing.