Spotlight on Agnosticism

Interestingly, my Agnostic subject is also my Christian subject’s sister, Chrys! Both ladies are relatively new but increasingly dear friends of mine. Read on to learn about agnosticism.
img_2087Agnostic
a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
1. How long have you practiced this form of spirituality?
I believe my entire life has been spent learning and searching for my beliefs on spirituality. Since childhood I considered myself a witch, and even accepted Christianity and tried hard to believe those teachings, until around 1985. I turned my back on all I had been taught and set out on my path of finding what I believed.
2. What about agnosticism fulfills your spiritual needs?
I don’t need to look to a religion or a book, a place or religious figure in my life to give or suggest what I should believe. I read, to learn about other belief systems, and look for truth and love in those systems and how those who believe these things live their lives. The freedom to choose what I accept or reject is what fulfills my spiritual needs.
3. What challenges does being an agnostic pose in everyday life.
I am challenged everyday to put my beliefs into actions. To love unconditionally. To judge no one’s beliefs and to remember we are all here on a spiritual journey that can create peace.
4. Are there any misconceptions people have about your belief system you’d like to clear up?
I have been asked about faith, and why I don’t have any. I usually answer that I believe I may have a stronger faith than most. I have no answers and I don’t fear a fiery pit or hope for eternal bliss…I have no answers to any questions…the only thing I believe is that I know nothing and I am content with that…that to me is faith.

Meet Author Kristina Rienzi!

KrisI had the pleasure of meeting Kristina Rienzi when we were both signing books at an event. We later friended each other on Facebook and she is a wonderful person and terrific writer. Learn more about her below!

  1. To date, how many novels have you written? I’ve written a few of everything! In terms of published books, I have three full-length novels: Choosing Evil (Ensouled Series #1), Breaking Evil (Ensouled Series #2), and Among Us, which recently became an audiobook (so fun!); two novellas: Luring Shadows and Winter Road (soon to be an audiobook!); and four short stories: Again, Train Girl, To Preserve Protect and Defend (standalones, as well as in – Twisted: A Collection of Short Stories); and Gone on the Fourth of July (included in 30 Shades of Dead: A Sisters in Crime-Central Jersey Anthology).
  2. Where can your novels be purchased? My books can be purchased through my website (KristinaRienzi.com) or Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Audible, and Apple Audiobook.
  3. Do you currently have a Work In Progress? Always! I’m currently writing a paranormal thriller, Unleash the Wicked. Like my other stories, it’s set at the Jersey Shore and follows Mitzi Everson, a former NYC socialite who is forced home to the mysterious beach town of Tidal Falls. While facing her tragic past, Mitzi unwittingly activates a deadly centuries old curse intent on destroying Tidal Falls, and everyone in it, forever.
  4. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing? My bio says it all, but these days when I’m not writing, I spend almost all of my time cuddling with my new baby girl, Sofia Linda. As a new mom, balancing work and home life is a challenge, but I’m enjoying every minute!
  5. What’s your best advice for aspiring authors? A positive mindset is everything. Persevering through downturns—be it a negative review or a rejection of any other stripe—is critical. If being a professional author is your dream, show up for it, and never give up on it. Believe in yourself, know anything is possible, and do whatever it takes. Dreams do come true!

Kristina also provided the bonus information below:

 

Check out Kristina’s debut audiobook, AMONG US. This new-adult sci-fi thriller was chosen as an April 2019 Audible Editors Select Pick and featured on Audible’s ACX University 2018 webcast series.

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Danger lurks in the unknown…

Marci Simon lives a double life: conservative professor of English by day, and controversial blogger of aliens by night. But when a classified document lands in her lap, her two worlds collide in an explosive revelation of shocking and deadly secrets.

Despite imminent danger at every twist, Marci embarks on an unstoppable quest to expose the terrifying truth. Only she never anticipated the entangled nebula of dark lies, nor the never-ending wormhole the government would spiral through to silence her forever.

Knowledge can kill.

And Marci knows too much. With global security at risk, no one can be trusted. To debunk the stratosphere of deceit, Marci races at the speed of light to escape the grips of the clandestine Extraterrestrial Security Agency (ESA) hunting her before she vanishes like all the others. But Marci is unique. Despite being the ESA’s prime target, she’s also the skeleton key to the deadliest truth in the history of the universe.

The nightmare is real, and it’s only just begun. Marci must take a nefarious leap of faith before her options, and her breaths, evaporate into a black hole for all eternity.

 

“It pulled me in and kept me on the edge of my seat until the final word.”

 ~Chad, Audible Listener

About Kristina:

 

Kristina Rienzi is a Jersey Shore-based new adult thriller author, certified professional coach, and the former president of Sisters in Crime-Central Jersey. An INFJ who dreams beyond big, Kristina encourages others (and herself) to embrace the unknown through her stories. When she’s not writing or drinking wine, Kristina is spoiling her baby girl (and two fur-babies), dissecting true crime stories, singing (and dancing) to Yacht Rock Radio or rooting for the WVU Mountaineers. She believes in all things paranormal, a closet full of designer bags, weekly manicures, the Law of Attraction, aliens, angels, and the value of a graduate degree in psychology. Connect with Kristina at KristinaRienzi.com, on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

The cribbage board

An afternoon never went by that my folks didn’t play 3 rounds of cribbage. They taught brother Bill and me and we played quite often.

When I brought Dave home for the family to meet, he was unfamiliar with the game. This was quickly remedied and my folks happily taught their future son-in-law their beloved cribbage. In fact, for our first Christmas together, my dear parents gifted us with a cribbage board identical to theirs, which we’ve put to good use for the past 33 years.

I was inspired to blog about this unassuming little game board because next month what would have been my dad’s 102nd birthday arrives, and every time I play cribbage or even look at our well-worn board, I think of him.

As a moody, surly teenager I sometimes grew to resent the game. During one such occasion. Dad said, “Let’s have a game,” and I grudgingly acquiesced.

Slouched across the table from Dad, I went through the mechanics, playing the cards, moving my pegs, clearly not enjoying the process. After awhile, Dad looked at me with disappointment and ” You don’t want to play another hand, do you?”

No, I didn’t, and I shot out of the chair making a beeline for my room.

As teenagers get, I wasn’t nearly as rude and disrespectful as some, but that singular moment creeps into my thoughts when I play on this board. I did make sure to apologize, years later, for my rudeness. Turns out Dad had forgotten the entire incident, or so he claimed.

But even now, recalling that moment of surliness, it brings tears to my eyes. I’d do anything to get that moment back and happily play a round of cribbage again with Dad.

Spotlight on Islam

According to Wikipedia,:
A comprehensive 2019 demographic study of 232 countries and territories reported that 24.4% of the global population, or 1.9 billion people, are Muslims.

I especially looked forward to my friend Toni’s responses to this interview. She is a Sunni Muslim,  and I have heard so much negativity flung at this faith out of ignorance and fear I hope this little interview leads some to think Muslims are not the “other” not to be tolerated.

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Photo by Khairul Onggon on Pexels.com
1. How long have you practiced this form of spirituality? Almost 10 years
2.  What about it fulfills your spiritual needs? Pausing a busy day to pray for 5 minutes, 5 times a day is like a mini meditation each time and a way to connect with myself and my Creator.
i 3. What challenges (if any) does being a (fill in the blank) pose in everyday life? Iwear hijab which can be a hardship during the summer months.  It also points you out to people as a Muslim which can be difficult at times.  I have been yelled at by strangers on more than one occasion which is jarring and upsetting for myself and my children.
4.  Are there any misconceptions people have about your belief system you’d like to clear up? There are many misconceptions about Islam especially regarding the treatment of women.  Islam is similar to the other Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Judaism) in belief and culture as they are all from the same tradition.

Spotlight on Christianity

According to Wikipedia;

With around 2.4 billion adherents,[202][203] split into three main branches of Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox, Christianity is the world’s largest religion.[204] The Christian share of the world’s population has stood at around 33% for the last hundred years, which means that one in three persons on Earth are Christians.

My friend Drista graciously participated in my series of interviews on faith, and her answers are below;

1. How long have you practiced this form of spirituality?I became a believer in Jesus at the age of thirteen. It was at our church camp and I heard the gospel message that Jesus died for me.  The realization that I was far from God and that there wasn’t anything I could do about it except through Jesus – became real to me that night.

2. What about it fulfills your spiritual needs?Everything! Absolutely everything! Regardless of what challenges I faceI know I can trust Jesus to take care of my every need –  physical, emotional and spiritual. I know he hears and answers my prayers for myself and my family and friends. His Word can lead, guide and comfort me. Just to whisper His name brings me peace.

3. What challenges (if any) does being a (fill in the blank) pose in everyday life? As some of your other interviewees answered it’s people’s expectations and assumptions. I’ve been in positions where other’s expectations of me – about how I should respond or act should measure up to their understanding of Christianity. Which is usually misunderstood. Most religions are looking for God, where Christianity understands that God already gave us His love by giving us His Son. And we can have a relationship with God the Creator through His Son Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit. That absolute assurance of this is what people don’t understand and affects their concept towards me as a Christian.

4. Are there any misconceptions people have about your belief system you’d like to clear up? 4. Christians aren’t perfect. We’re just like everyone else – fallible. Being a Christian is a relationship not a religion. It’s not a set of do’s and don’ts or just going to church every Sunday. Having a one to one intimate relationship with Jesus is what being a Christian is all about.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Cutest Kid My Dad Ever Saw

Every time a new great nibling of mine is born, I’m amazed at how, in such a minute group of humanity, the most perfect, beautiful children in all of creation are all related to ME!

Yes, I am quite a prejudiced great-auntie.

But I come by this prejudice naturally.  My dad apparently had his favorites among us 7 kids. Take my brother Tim, for example, (shown in photos around the age of 2-3 on the left and at 65 on the right). Today this dear darling brother of mine turns 66.

Dad pronounced (on multiple occasions, even after seeing 2 more of his own babies, 16 grandkids, and several great-grandkids) that Tim was “The cutest kid I ever saw.”

Makes me wish we had more than black-and-white photos from back then.

I never felt hurt when Dad would say this, because Tim has always been a great champion of mine. Always supportive and a great listener. His little sister’s first hero.

So I am posting. for all to see, the cute face of Birthday Boy Tim! Love you, brother Tim, and may you be blessed with many many more happy birthdays!

My Gal Willie

willendorfWhen I was on the verge of puberty, my sister Judy (17 years older than I) gave me a book about women’s bodies and how attitudes, trends, styles, etc, have changed over time. In the beginning end papers was a photo of a plump female figure carved from limestone. Always a lover of history, I was immediately fascinated and later learned this little figurine was known as the Venus of Willendorf (later changed to the Woman of Willendorf).  At only 4.4 inches high she lacks any facial features and may not exactly depict  modern day feminine beauty, but it can’t be denied that she exudes a strong personality.

I never forgot that image, and as I grew to embrace an earth-based spirituality, Willie, as I came to call her, became my favorite depiction of the Earth Mother. I got a T-shirt. I got figurines. I got a necklace. I had her image tattooed on my left leg.  When I learned a cousin was traveling to Vienna, Austria, I begged her to send me photos of the actual figurine, displayed at the Naturhistorisches Museum.

willie

My cousin came through and I was THRILLED at the series of photos she sent me! (see above).

In my younger years I had a few brushes with anorexia and now, after a myriad of up and down weight cycles, my physique resembles that of my beloved Willie. Health issues arise because of it, but strangely (or maybe not so strangely, since Willie represents feminine strength and power to me) I feel EMPOWERED being a “woman of size.” That’s right–I DO take up space, so MOVE OVER!  When I was of average size and working with the public, male customers would call me “babe,”  “hon,” “doll,” and the like. When I resemble my little Paleolithic icon, men address me as “Ma’am.”

No, I don’t play the diet game anymore. I do expect there to be further health issues as I age, but that’s to be expected anyway. If I DO lose weight, that would be great too.  But no matter what size I am, Willie will always be my role model.

 

 

The Spiritual Eclectic

Spiritual eclectics see beauty and validity in all belief systems, and happily, I am not the only spiritual eclectic out there. Although she wasn’t sure how to reply, my incredibly dynamic friend, Margie, shared her answers to my interview questions below.

  1. How long have you practiced this form of spirituality?

I am not sure how to answer these….See I do not define my spirituality as any ONE thing. I believe in LOVE. I meditate, am a student of Buddhism, Taoism, A Course in Miracles, Paganism , Gnosticism, & several different Christian based faiths. I am kind of a conglomerate of all these teachings. From there, I just do what I believe is morally good for my soul. How long is hard to say, it just kind of evolved. I was born into a Catholic house, and when to Catholic School as child. When I had my own children my hubby and I searched for a religion that was more in line with our beliefs. I started going to several different churches, I tried Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist. While they all had wisdom, non were quite right for me, personally. I started meditating for stress benefits, per my doctor. I have been mediating is years, and that is where I got interested in more Eastern Religious Philosophy, which then lead to learning about Buddhism, Taoism, which then lead to me learning about A Course in Miracles, Paganism , Gnosticism, etc…What I found is almost all are supposed to be based in unconditional love and are full of wisdom, but we as humans seem to muck it up, using our Religious beliefs to ostracize and judge others. When that happens that is the antithesis of unconditional love, THAT is the definition of love with conditions. My soul can not align with that. I believe we are all equal, who am I to judge…We are all free to believe what we want, and then I relized after much searching, that maybe I do not have to define my religious beliefs as ANYTHING but LOVE. If going to church heals your soul do it, if going to nature is your church do it, if meditating heals your soul do it. Do whatever resignates with your own soul.

2. What about it fulfills your spiritual needs?

Funny once I stopped trying to define my religion, and just focused on a genuine connection, things shifted for me. I am FAR more spiritual now than I ever was when I was going to church every Sunday. I am more at peace, far more loving, far more forgiving, far more compassionate. Things do not affect me as much as they used to, I am far less reactive, (though I still have moments, none of us are perfect). But I can not take people or things as personally as I used to, I can see that we are all human who need varing degrees of healing. That hurt people hurt people, and they probably need the most love. I am just at peace in what I know morally and spiritually, and that fulfills my soul.

3. What challenges (if any) does being a (fill in the blank) pose in everyday life?

None really, I just do what I believe works for me. The only issue I have is that other people try to put me in some religious box. I work in the metaphysical field, so people ae always asking what Religion I am, when I say none, they are always surprised, some assume I am an atheist, and that is not true for me at all, I just try and take the best most loving parts from all the religions I have studied and try to put them into my personal practice.

4. Are there any misconceptions people have about your belief system you’d like to clear up?Again, I think once you tell people that you do align with any one organized religion, that they assume that you do not believe in a higher power, that your are faithless, that you have no morals, that you are a rebel of sorts. Honestly, nothing could be further from my truth. I am far more open to love, I have become far more tuned into miracles, and the love of source energy (How I define God). But again, I do not let the misconseptions of others affect me. I wish more people would stop using their belief systems/ morality to judge others and focused on their own personal connections with their “God” as they define it. I wish we all, as a society, could be more accepting and learn that just because we do not have the exact same religous beliefs, political beliefs, perspectives, morals, etc, that we can still Love one another. We are all one. I think that ,we as a society, have over complicated things. We all just need to go back to the golden rule, “Treat Others How YOU Would Like To be Treated”. Just be kind and share love.

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Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

 

Spotlight on Nichiren Buddhism

I only learned about Nichiren Buddhism a few months ago. I was more familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, practiced by the Dalai Lama.

My friend Rodney happily volunteered to participate in this series of interviews. Read his replies below on why he follows this form of Buddhism;

1. How long have you practiced this form of spirituality? 38 years
2. What about it fulfills your spiritual needs? I feel tremendous confidence — even when faced with the most daunting outward situations, and by the negative workings of my spiritual interior — that I can transform everything into the positive. I do this through my diligent practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and staying connected with my faith community (a.k.a., sangha), SGI-USA.
3. What challenges (if any) does being a (fill in the blank) pose in everyday life? In the first couple years of my Buddhist practice, I sometimes encountered awkward social situations rooted in the double-whammy of others misunderstanding my faith as an SGI Nichiren Buddhist, and my own shyness about it. But as I grew more comfortable with explaining my beliefs, the awkwardness went away. Now it’s just a happy part of my daily life.
4. Are there any misconceptions people have about your belief system you’d like to clear up? Misconceptions? I guess the biggie is the notion that *the* spiritual practice for all Buddhists is to depart the trappings of society for meditation on a mountaintop. Rather, with the SGI practice, we are completely engaged in the comings & goings of day-to-day life. My practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo before the Gohonzon (our object of devotion) causes a vast spiritual landscape to unfold before me, right in my own living room (or when chanting with friends — at their home)! So, it’s not necessary to physically go to another place, when I have somewhere special to go in my own heart. But words cannot do it justice: it’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s kind of like taking a “spiritual shower” or “the best drugs ever” — but without any of the negative side effects, legality issues, or cost (since it’s completely free).

Another grand misconception is that we humans need to obtain salvation from a special class of individuals (priests, positive-thinkers, or whomever fits the role). Without going into the topic at length here, let it suffice to say that everyone possesses the capacity for enlightenment in this lifetime. Or as Nichiren stated (in 1275), “You will grow younger, and your good fortune will accumulate.”

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Favorite Recipes from Mom

Peni momLillian Sisk Sept 15 1920-March 21, 1991

In honor of my dear mother who would have been 99 today, I’m sharing SIX of her recipes for some of my childhood favorites! If carbs are not your friends, I suggest you turn back NOW!

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Combine: 4 Tbsp. Cocoa, 2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. butter, 1/2 c. milk, dash of salt. Boil for 1 minute. Take from heat and add 1/2 c. peanut butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, 3 c. quick-cooking oats and 1 c. marshmallows. Mix well and drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Scotch Oatmeal Cookies (My maternal grandmother got this recipe off of a sack of sugar)

1 c. raisins

2 eggs

3/4 c. water

1 c. lard

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

2 c. oatmeal

2 c. flour

1/2 c. nuts (optional)

Boil raisins in the 3/4 c. water for 5 minutes. Drain and save juice. Measure 5 Tbsp juice and mix soda into it. Cream lard and sugar, add eggs and beat well. Add salt, raisins, oatmeal and mix with spoon. Stir in juice & soda mixture and nuts. Add flour & mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 350 10min or so til golden brown.

Oatmeal Cake

1 c. quick oats

1 1/2 c. boiling water

1/2 c. shortening

1 c. white sugar

1 c. brown sugar

1 1/3 c. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tspsoda

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

TOPPING: 1/2 c. butter, 1 c. brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 c. milk, 1 Tbsp. flour

Mix the oats & boiling water. Let sit for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased 13×9 pan, bake at 350.

Combine topping ingredients. Bring to a boil. stirring constantly, pour on top. Sprinkle 1 cup coconut on top if desired.

Fabulous 5-Pound Fudge (makes 5 lbs of fudge and you GAIN 5 pounds just being in the same room with it!)

1/3 c. butter

4 1/2 c. sugar

1 -14 1/2 oz. can evaporated milk

Combine the above and boil 5 1/2 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly so it won’t burn. Remove from heat and add the following:

1 c. marshmallow cream

1 13 oz. bar semisweet chocolate

2 6-oz bags chocolate chips (or 1 12oz bag)

2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix until everything is melted and pour into buttered 9×13 pan. Cool until firm. Cut into pieces.

Carrot Cake (Mom often made this for Dad to take to his Lodge meetings)

2 c. flour

2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. baking power

1 tsp. cinnamon

4 eggs

1 1/2 c. oil

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. sugar

3 c. grated carrots

Mix sugar and oil together. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients together. Add well-beaten eggs and the dry mixture to the sugar and oil. Add shredded carrots and mix well. pour into greased and floured 9×13 pan and bake at 325 for 55 minutes.

FROSTING: 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, 1 lb. powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 stick butter, melted and 1 c. chopped walnuts.  Combine all ingredients and beat well. Spread on cooled cake.

Caramel Rolls

With any bread or regular roll dough you happen to have, roll flat into a rectangle about 9×15 or so. Butter liberally with soft butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon generously. From the long edge, roll carefully and tightly and pinch the ends and seams together tightly to seal. With sharp knife, cut into 1-inch slices.

Prepare 9×13 baking pan with 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar and 1/4 c. cream mixed well and warmed on very low heat until sugar is dissolved. While this mixture is still warm,  place cut cinnamon rolls in the pan and add more butter, sugar and cinnamon to each. Let rise til doubled. Bake at 375 30 minutes or til done.