I grew up in an era where church was important. Most of the USA were church goers. That doesn’t mean that they were really Christians but they went to church. Which church people attended was sometimes chosen for social reasons. Going to church on Sunday was just what you did.
In my family we had a mixture. My father (of Scottish decent) and mother were Presbyterian. My grandparents were Methodist and my Aunt and Uncle (of German origins) were Lutheran. It didn’t seem strange to me that everyone in my family went somewhere different. The one thing that was understood was that we all had Christianity as our roots. Of all the family my grandmother’s faith was rock solid. She read the Bible every day and prayed faithfully. She also was the perfect example of Christian living. I never heard her speak against anyone, she gave generously, and was kind to all.
Because of this upbringing I grew up believing in and depending on God. Because of all the different examples before me I questioned often, read extensively and never felt constrained by doctrine. I was free to find my path. I think being able to explore helped me to never stop believing in God. God was never static for me.. God was and is bigger than any box anyone ever tried to put him/her/it in.
Today people are exploring God/spirituality in many different ways. Church is no longer the norm. There are many reasons why this has happened. Most of us explore during out formative years. Maybe they find a different path. The path of other faiths may draw them. I only hope that the path each person takes gives them the strength that I find in mine.
My belief is the thing that holds me up when things are not good. I turn to that faith and rest on it. It gives me strength to keep moving on and has done so for 77 years. People help to sustain my life and reflect God’s image to me often but this doesn’t stand alone. I don’t know what people hold on to who have no faith to turn to. Maybe they don’t need one. It certainly wouldn’t work for me. “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)
Our society doesn’t do silence. We are not set up for it. I have recently noticed some school programs that are teaching young children to meditate. I am glad that someone can see our dilemma. We have gone for so long being dependent on noise that silence is foreign.
Silence can be so scary. If we are anxious we don’t want to spend time with ourselves. TV or computer or whatever shuts down the voice inside is the answer. To think is to get more jittery. There is something about spending time with ourselves that is frightening. Thoughts race, heart rate increases, body responds to adrenaline.
The sad part about this is that silence could help us if we could tolerate it. Silence can mend the soul. It’s healing hands soothe us and bring peace. We have to find a way to explore silence as a safe place.
This past month has been full of challenges and opportunities for me to backslide. During all the things that worried me I have kept on going. The only thing to mar my moving forward has been IBS. I was so good for over a year until last summer and stresses jumped on me and it was difficult to keep worry and anxiety at bay.
The issues concerning me have not been mine to tell but they do impact me. Hopefully some progress has been made looking forward and getting a grasp on solutions. It is easy to know that plans don’t always work out but at lest I think the issues have been identified and are moving forward.
I think the other difficulty for me has been finding a home for my spiritual life. I am disconnected and feel a piece of me missing. I do relate strongly to music and ritual. That is why I gravitate to liturgical churches. The beauty of the liturgy moves me. I have been so blessed by amazing music over the last 20 years that that piece of me is also adrift. I can listen to the things I love at home but it is not the same as hearing it in a place with amazing acoustics and glorious musicians.
To feel immersed during liturgy is what I crave. I know that I have to find some solution but I feel incapable at the moment. I have a good understanding of where those things can be found but there are other issues holding me back. I sometimes end up just staying home. This is not a solution and not a good choice. I continue to grieve over the loss. Will I ever find that place of peace again?
Life goes on. Christmas Day is past but we are still in the 12 days of Christmas which no one recognizes today. When I was young we celebrated the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We didn’t go to the whole 12 days but at least the holiday was extended.
Now the world is done with Christmas. Today I went shopping and the store has put out Valentine’s cards…..on to the next holiday. . Today so many people are backing away from church and I do understand it. Church is filled with real people….some good…some bad. Many seem hypocritical. They go to church on Sunday and are not at all Christian the rest of the time. Many churches live to perpetuate themselves. They collect money to keep the buildings up and only a token amount goes to live out Christ’s mission. We need to re-think what it is all about.
On the positive side church does provide Christian community. At least I hope it does. The community can hold you up when you are in the depths. Their prayers can make a difference. This is part of living Christian.
So just like people churches are not perfect. They are only as good as the people who inhabit them. It is hard to live Christian in our society. Cynicism seems to often be the norm. It is easy to think that I can’t help people who don’t seem to help themselves. Whether it is logical or not this is what we are called to do. We are not called to judge the need but to carry out the ministry. Jesus didn’t ask what the people he healed or changed were going to do. He did tell them to go and make disciples.
Am I following through?
Christmas Eve I went to the service for the first time in years. We went to his church. It was a beautiful service but I had to leave during Silent Night. For some reason it triggers sadness.
I stopped going at the church where I was employed a while ago.. My husband always went to his church and it was too sad going by myself. For some reason I also balked at going with him.
I think the memories of Christmas when we had small children and young adults are strong and fill me with sadness and nostalgia. Life moves on and rightly so but sometimes the memories (although wonderful) bring on the loss of those times. As we grow older we a not so much a part of the core and feel distanced. It is not that anyone puts us to the side but that we are viewing from a different perspective. We raised our children to be independent. We are not left out of their lives we just have different roles.
Change is always stressful and accepting new patterns a challenge. I will grow into it. I am so grateful for all that I have had and still have. God is Good!
This is a wonderful letter!
Christmas is about here. I think today ( Christmas Eve) may be one of my favorite days. Sometimes anticipation is better than the actual event. However, I know that tomorrow will bring joy.
There are different thoughts about the importance of Christmas. Some theologians see Christmas as the central focus of their theology. They are called Incarnation Theologians. I am one of those (although I don’t consider myself a theologian). Somehow I like the idea that the greatest sacrifice on the part of Christ was leaving heaven. This doesn’t mean that his life, death and resurrection were not important.
There are others who see the resurrection as most important. I guess in reality I see his birth, life, death and resurrection as a whole….no one part more significant than the others. I don’t know what kind of theology this is but it is the complete image that connects me. His whole being and all that he offered is amazing. He truly is “God with us.”
He came as an infant, vulnerable and fragile. He grew up among us learning from those around him. His life and ministry showed us how to be wholly human. (Notice that the word wholly contains “holy”). He was radical in his time…accepting women, lepers, tax collectors and other outcasts as equal human beings.
If only we could follow his path of acceptance and love the world would be a different place.
I am beginning to realize that it may be impossible to think rationally at this time of year. For those of us who are Christian we are pressured to provide the “perfect” Christmas. We know that this is impossible yet we keep expecting it of ourselves.
This can also happen to those who are not Christian but who are caught up in the “season” and celebrate it as a secular holiday. There is so much going on and so much to do. Instead of things being spread out over the year we lump too much into one holiday. There are Christmas parties to attend even if they are no longer called that. Presents must be bought and wrapped. ….not an easy job. Just when we think we have it all done something else crops up.
After wrapping presents over several weeks I was elated that I was DONE only to discover that there were several more to buy and wrap.
The problem with all of this is that we can easily become short tempered and stressed. I’m sure that is what brought on my crazy day yesterday. We keep trying to accomplish too much in a short time. Christmas day comes and we collapse.
To help ourselves we have to do some things to de-stress. Deep breathing can help. Just concentrating on your breath is calming. A walk outside (weather permitting) is great. Listening to calming music or a relaxation tape is good. Praying and listening for God are a tremendous help. Whatever works for you.
Take time to relax and enjoy what you can. Many of us have sadness attached to the season. If the season is hard for you plan something that you enjoy and forget about the holiday.
We all need to try and remove the trappings that have been tacked on to this holy event and keep focused on the birth of Christ.
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
Today has been one of those days where nothing you do comes out as you expected. We are trying to deal with Dr’s issue regarding an knee surgery my husband needs. We decided to go see star wars and really were pushed for time. We needed to eat lunch before going and grabbed some fast food and choked it down in the car. Then I thought I left my cell phone/wallet in the fast food place and ran back over there to find it only to discover that it was in my purse the whole time! I felt like a crazy nut. By that time I was out of breath and stressed but we did see the movie and it was wonderful. It was a good way to seek calm.
While out we ran an errand and I had a phone call from one of two brothers whose mother’s will I am executor of. This has been a long drawn out process. The two have been on the outs forever which is why my friend asked me to take care of it. The brother that calls is upset about the will (he has had a copy for two years). Now is thinking about contesting it. WHAT A DAY!
Each day is different. Each day can bring challenges we don’t expect. They can be small but cumulative. All these little issues got bigger as my coping skills when down. I am home now and coming down from the fast heart rate and stress.
I try to remember when I have a day like this I try to remember the quote from Julian of Norwich who said:;
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
It helps me to ground myself in my faith. Today I repeated it over several times. It is very calming.