What Does It Mean To Practice Taoism in America?

What Does It Mean To Practice Taoism in America?

The word "Tao" is merely a placeholder, a title to describe the unique path that each and every one of us walks over the course of our life.

Oftentimes when people ask me about my faith, I usually receive one of two responses: People either ask me what Taoism is, having never heard of it, or they proceed to correct me, claiming that it's more of a philosophy than a religion. Chances are if you inquired about Taoism in any Asian country, people would most likely know what you were referring to, and might even describe it as one of the founding religions of the far East. At the time I announced my own religious denomination, however, I quickly realized that I was knee-deep in a severe minority.

Initially, this really didn't irk me all that much. One of the perks of Taoism is that it functions very smoothly in private practice. In America at least, any sites of worship are states apart from one another, and organized communities are scarce. But Taoism is primarily concerned with the individual and sustains the belief that one can better their community and their connection to the world through betterment to oneself. In close relation to Buddhist precepts, Taoism emphasizes mindful awareness of self, spirit, and nature, and interconnections that form between the three. Regarding deities, their acknowledgment has varied greatly given the different Asian demographics, but original, general census holds a very agnostic posture. We neither deny nor affirm any central divine figures, not because of a sense of correctness, but out a respect for organic ambiguity. The mystery and the connotation of the unknown stirs a great reverence in us, and although I myself have a measure of confidence in an iteration of higher power, I acknowledge that I cannot know for sure, and perhaps am not meant to. Because of this viewpoint, people often like to write Taoism off as a secular belief system, and although for me it is a spiritual experience, that doesn't mean it has to be for everyone else.

The word "Tao" is merely a placeholder, a title to describe the unique path that each and every one of us walks over the course of our life. There is no overarching umbrella trait that I could think of to describe every single American citizen. We are a very eclectic people, and we are comprised of many distinct facets and interests. There are certainly the few, like myself, who take the ancient Taoist scripts and find religious significance therein, but another person might seek them out for purely philosophical or scholarly endeavors. I take great pride in my faith's ability to be open and accepting of individual perspectives, and therefore any religious snobbery would be counterintuitive to the belief system.

Truly, when any religion or philosophy travels from one country to another, permutation and evolution of that doctrine is all but inevitable. There is no crime in tradition, but as the societies of the world continue to reshape and grow, so too do our beliefs. 50 years from now, the paradigm for what we would consider an American Taoist may be entirely different than it is now, and that's alright. We needn't concern ourselves with keeping strict scrutiny on labels, so long as we remain open to possibilities and understanding of each person's unique take on things.

And so, if I correct someone who calls my own American Taoism a philosophy, I do so to assert my connection to it, not to detract from someone else's. Such questions no longer give me insult; rather, they serve to reaffirm my own values.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.taodirectory.com

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Dear Future Husband

I love you, now and forever.

“Dear Future Husband...”

When I was 13 years old, I read a series of books called the “Christy Miller” series. In these books, it shows the main character, Christy, periodically writing letters and prayers for her future husband. I knew that I had to do this, too. So I grabbed a purple notebook and a pen and started writing. Now, when I tell people that I do this, people seem to think that this is my hopeless romantic side seeping out into my real life. But that’s not exactly what this journey is for. God continually calls us to pray over not only our communities, our future spouses but also our own walk with the Lord. A lot of what my journal represents is my specific prayers for God to be working in my life and in my future husbands. While I’m waiting for him to find me, I’m praying over the future of us, the present for us individually in our walks with Christ. So, because this is such a big part of my life, I want to break down the process of these letters, so that way you might be able to participate in this amazing journey of doing life, and falling in love, not only with the Lord but also your future husband.

Be Yourself:

This whole experience and journal journey, begins with you just being yourself. This is your future husband that your talking to: the one who is going to marry you despite all of your insecurities and quirks. He’s going to love you like Christ loved the church and he’s been chasing you a while. Just be the girl who he is going to fall in love with, and that's YOU. The first ever entry I did as a 14 year old, I introduced myself as my full, three names, complete with awful handwriting and spelling mistakes, and told him about my 14 year old self.

Biblical Expectations:

One of the things I focus on a lot in my journals is what I’m looking for in my future husband. These can be some of the things that I’m physically and emotionally attracted to, but it can also be some of the biblical qualities I’m looking for as well. As a Godly woman searching for my Godly man, I am looking hard for the leadership and husband roles in a person. Now, this isn’t exactly for my husband. This is for myself. This is a way to remind myself just how much I expect and just how high standards are set, because finding a man who loves me like Jesus loved the Church, is equivalent to setting the bar high and not letting myself be unequally yoked by men who distract me from my Heavenly father. I want a man who lifts me up spiritually and pushes me to run harder and faster towards the Lord.

Praying Over Your Hubby:

Most of the time, in the ends of my letters, I tend to add a bit of a prayer for my future husband. Just like I want God to be preparing me for my husband, I want the Lord to be preparing his heart for me. In Corinthians 13, Paul writes of this never ending love. This is a love that never fails, never leaves, is slow to anger, is selfless, is perfect and kind and it loves without regard for faults or insecurities. That love will never be found from ANYONE but God (Insert emphasis on the word anyone). This includes your future husband, and it includes you as well. As hard as it is to accept, there will be some faults in your future husband that you can’t stand, and the same goes for him. The only person that loves despite and for your faults is Jesus and our Heavenly Father. I always add a prayer at the end of my letters because I want my husband to be as completely fulfilled in the Lord as I am, so we can build our relationship on a strong foundation of the Lord. So, continue to pray for him, even if you don’t start writing. Pray, Pray Pray.

So What Happens After?:

So what do you do with your letters after you meet and marry your future husband? That my sisters, is completely up to you, just like the exact format, and content of these letters is. For myself, I’m giving my Future Husband his letters the day before we are married because that is the last day he will ever be my Future Husband. For you, you could decide to do a number of things. Your future husband doesn’t even have to know, or read what you have written. You can publish your story, or you can burn it. This journey was about you and the Lord and your thoughts and how God was readying your heart for your lifetime with your spiritual, emotional and physical partner.

In the end, this journey is for you. This journey is a way to prepare your heart for your husband with your Heavenly Father, and to also ask for his to be prepared. This journey is to showcase your life, your emotions, your expectations, your prayers, your hopes, and dreams and how you do life while running towards the Lord. “Run as fast as you can towards the Lord, and whoever keeps up, introduce yourself.” And I know most of us single Godly ladies cannot wait for our Godly man to show up, because we already have our prince, and that's our Heavenly Father.

“I love you, now and forever,

Shanyn <3”

Cover Image Credit: Leng MengKheang

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He Calls The Unworthy-Worthy, And To The Sinners He Calls Friend

You own the skies, and still you want my heart.

I think it's so human and honest of us when we feel inadequate.

Because we recognize we all have weaknesses.

Maybe it's for a job, a new position, becoming a parent, spouse, or being a friend

All real fears.

We all know our limitations, our flaws, and the mistakes that we've made.

Knowing we hurt people, we disappoint them, and maybe even fail ourselves at times.

And sometimes this fear stops us from pursuing something, and other times, it's through being that parent or spouse, realizing you have to push through, there is no way out now that you discover a grace.

That though you were inadequate before, and maybe still are, there is this grace that allows us to learn and to develop new skills we may not have had before.

I think the same thing can be said for Christianity. There are so many of us that see all the mistakes we've made, the disappointments, and flaws, and believe we are unworthy.

We are incapable of ever being a Christian.

We can talk ourselves out of it, and others do it to us as well.

The danger is that we are always going to feel underqualified, and incapable, and others will always be there right alongside us saying the same things, but you have to know what's true about you. Because at the end of the day, positive reinforcement, and love is not always going to be shown to us through our friends, or our loved ones, and we are the worst at giving that to ourselves.

But that doesn't mean we give up.

We all might not feel qualified, or worthy of something, but that doesn't mean we don't try, and we don't put our best foot forward.

In Mark 2:17, Jesus says, " I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners."

None of us meet the standard.

We will never be good enough Christians for other Christians.

We cannot meet the standards of others, and even some of the standards we set for ourselves.

As Christians, I think we need to stop pretending that we are any better than anyone else because it isn't true. No degree, no amount of missions trips, or Sunday services make you more qualified, or worthy.

We are all so unworthy, so underqualified, and inadequate.

Which is why we are ALL in desperate need of a Savior.

No one is too far gone, or undeserving.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Cover Image Credit: Milada Vigerova

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