Rites of Passage in Interfaith Families

Our two children receiving the blessings of their elders at their Hindu coming of age ceremonies.

Rituals can help kids integrate both traditions.

Raising kids in two religious traditions can be quite challenging. Honoring both parents, making the grandparents happy, trying to fit it all into an already busy schedule can seem daunting. With all the challenges, many families just give up on the tradition and give in to the desire to not do anything. But in the end, wrestling to redefine what these rituals mean to our kids will benefit everyone. When we learn how to balance these different aspects of our lives, it models navigating complex situations to our children. The hassle is totally worth it.

Make the time to walk with your kid on their faith journey.

Continue reading “Rites of Passage in Interfaith Families”

Shraddham, remembering the dead with traditional prayers and food.

Our “Amma” and “Appa” in a rare moment when they smiled for the camera on a visit to Chicago!

How do you honor your loved ones?

Do you take time to remember the people you loved who have died? American Christians often get lost in our own grief–or worse do not know how to grieve well. The economic demands of capitalism and customs of limited time off for bereavement get in the way of remembering. Our faith suggests that a Christian burial is all that is required. We do not have rituals around remembering the dead other than the few days leading up to and including the funeral–and these days, many are choosing not to have a funeral at all. Occasionally, people will choose to honor their loved one year after they have died by spreading their ashes or gathering for a meal.

Flowers from my garden for this years’s shraddham pooja–yellow and red roses, daisies, lavender, and jasmine.

In Hindu Iyengar traditions, the rituals around remembering those who have died, especially our parents are quite specific.

Continue reading “Shraddham, remembering the dead with traditional prayers and food.”

25 years in a Multicultural Interfaith Marriage

Me: "Honey, why don't we renew our wedding vows..."
Him: "Why, have they expired?"

Keeping it fresh–still cultures collide.

Celebrating 25 years of marriage with my husband Sriram.

We celebrated 2 weddings in 2 religions on 2 continents over 2 months over 25 years ago. How do we keep our relationship fresh while respecting and celebrating our different cultures? It isn’t easy. Americans want to go out to dinner and have grand experiences. Indians want to go to temple and receive the blessings of our elders and wear traditional clothes. Americans want to celebrate with a champagne toast. Indians want to celebrate by sharing sweets with family and friends. Like every year of our lives together we negotiated our own blended way of celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.

Continue reading “25 years in a Multicultural Interfaith Marriage”

Leaders Need Sabbatical Rest in these Traumatic Times

During a 2022 sabbatical visit to Washington D.C. MLK Memorial.

People’s nerves have worn thin. Parents are weary with worry. Job openings remain unfilled. Employees are working overtime to take care of increased needs and demands. They are burned out and are walking out on good jobs. We are all suffering from compassion fatigue.

I recently witnessed this as I undertook a long trip made longer by frayed ends and frazzled emotions. Carefully, I watched travelers and airline staff alike, all doing their best and losing their cool.  We are under stress—high levels of expectations with new protocols and a river of fear running through it all. Leaders of all kinds have seen the worst end of ugly and received the angry brunt of a public who has lost all hope that their life can be restored to a time before the pandemic began.

Continue reading “Leaders Need Sabbatical Rest in these Traumatic Times”

Birthdays, Seva & Social Activism

Want socially engaged kids? Show them your faith.

When we celebrate Deepavali every year, we focus on what we will give.

It starts with birthdays.  In India the question is, “What will you give in honor of your birthday?”  In America the question is, “What will you get for your birthday?”  Getting versus giving, this is the fundamental shift in understanding between our competing cultures of Indian values verses American values.  In our multicultural interfaith family, we deal with this tension between giving and getting, sharing and receiving, serving and being served.  By celebrating both Deepavali and Christmas, star birthdays and date birthdays, attending temple and churches we have strived to teach our children the values of service and activism. 

Continue reading “Birthdays, Seva & Social Activism”

We had an Arranged Marriage—Two In Fact.

Offering puffed rice into the Agni fire during the Hindu Marriage Rites in Madras, India January 19, 1997.

What do you do when cultures collide?

When people from India meet us for the first time, at some point they ask the inevitable question, “How did you meet?”  They look at my husband a handsome brown man from Bombay who speaks Tamil, Hindi, English and some Gujarati—’enough Gujarati to eat,’ we say—and then they look at me, an outspoken curvy white woman from the American South with blonde hair and they can’t imagine why or how we became husband and wife.  My husband of now 23 years should have had an arranged marriage by his parents to a nice, black haired light-skinned South Indian Tamil Iyengar woman who was trained in either Bharatanatyam dance or perhaps she was trained to play the stringed musical instrument called the vena.  She would have been educated, had a professional job likely in business, would have been younger by 3 years, and also she would be strikingly beautiful, Bollywood worthy, and even then, she would  have not been good enough for their first born son. 

Continue reading “We had an Arranged Marriage—Two In Fact.”

Mother’s Day, It’s Complicated.

Masks and sanitizer, greetings through windows six feet apart.
We have all become untouchable.
Moms that are still with us, aren’t.
Moms that are not with us
are worlds away untouched by time in our memory.
And then there are those moms who cannot escape, 
cannot get away because love chases them into the bathroom 
and down the halls into the make-shift-office-room zoom calls.

Pandemic Mother’s Day is complicated for moms who wanted to be
and could not no matter how hard they tried and tried and cried  
whose bodies couldnot wouldnot become what we wanted them to be. 
And the dads who are better moms than our moms could ever be,
mothering isn’t just for moms.  Some moms just can’t. 

For the lucky ones whose love dripped down the sides of our faces 
like ice cream, their joy overflows like spilt milk 
on the countertop next to the oreo cookies.
We can still feel their touch and the kisses 
in clockwise directions on our faces 
filled with laughter or tears, over the years, 
those kisses fade into the photos on the wall.
They are now missing from our minds.  Gone on this day.

But for the grannies and mimis and granddaddies and pattis and tathas and pappas and mammas that make life just a little sweeter 
with drive-by birthdays and package deliveries,
the complications of Mother’s Day are no match 
for unbridled love.
Boundless expressions of joy cannot be hid by the hand sewn masks
and poster board signs hurriedly colored while tears fell 
making rain marks on homemade cards.
You can see a smile with your heart, if you try.

And so we do.  We try.  We forgive. We remember. We regret.
Our mothers. 
And those who wish our mothers were 
something more than they could be,
we sigh and breathe in one more day.
Mother’s Day has always been complicated,
but this year more of us understand why.

Faith & Fault-lines in a Pandemic

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Poverty is the Pandemic

We are not in the same boat.  We are not in the same storm.  In fact, an economic storm has been raging all along and we have left many without a boat or paddle to weather the most recent epidemic to hit Rock County, Wisconsin.  Continue reading “Faith & Fault-lines in a Pandemic”

The New Prophetic Age:A Demand for Love & A Call for Justice

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Angels and Prophets

What is the difference between angels and prophets? Both have a message from God, but with one very important difference. It is a little bit like the secret every grandparent knows—one gets to give the kid back, the other has to raise the kid up. They angel brings the good news and. then leaves, the prophet must stay and walk with the community in through all their ups and downs.  We have had our ups and downs over the years, and even in this last week together.

So, which would you rather be?

An angel or a prophet?  One is loved, the other often thought of as inconvenient, and often criticized. Me too, I would rather be angel too. But since I haven’t learned how to grow wings…

Our Prophetic History

Over these past 5 years together I have spent time reading our history, studying the stained glass windows, walking the halls of every room of this church and I have listened to what the angels of this church have been telling me about you, and about the legacy that has been handed to us, here in this very place. A place where worship has been going on uninterrupted for 175 years—more than 6 generations of people have learned what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to love God with all their heart…in this place. And you are among that great legacy of faith.

What I have learned, is that this church has a strong prophetic tradition—a tradition that has produced great community leaders who did not accept no for an answer, who believed they could make a difference, and even if they didn’t, they knew that they should try because they believed in hope. Rev. Hiram Foote, the first called pastor after the founding was a national figure in the abolitionist movement. Willing to take a stand on freedom of all people. Fredrick Douglas, a. black freeman spoke here in support of abolition of slavery. Rev. Hiram Foote helped to establish this church’s call toward justice.

Most recently, I have learned of a remarkable woman, and member of our church, a prophet in her own right, Rhoda Lavinia Goodell. You might know that she was the first woman who accepted to the Bar of Wisconsin as a lawyer. What you may not know, is that she spoke out on many subjects, including the appropriate place of women in the church—in the pulpit. Hear her words from 1872…

“Miss Smilie, preaching in the .. pulpit, seems to have shaken ecclesiastical authority… it is amusing as well as instructive to observe upon what general principle the objection to woman preaching is based. ….The reason that woman must not preach is – not that …it is incompatible with her other duties, … not that she lacks any intellectual or spiritual qualification – simply and only that this would be coming out … and asserting equality.”

Continue reading “The New Prophetic Age:A Demand for Love & A Call for Justice”