I have decided that I am a somewhat unorthodox Christian. I have difficulty following the rules. I am enamored of those who stepped outside of the norm: Matthew Fox, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi. Hildegard of Bingen, Jesus and many others. I also love the stories/parables of Anthony DeMello and the plain speaking of Marcus Borg. I grow reading them.
I grew up in an eclectic family. My grandparents were Methodist, my parents Presbyterian and my Aunt and Uncle Lutheran. I guess I decided early on that no denomination had all the answers. I still feel that way. Jesus did not follow rules but loved people. He broke the Sabbath rules and many others.
As the “church” grew throughout history it took the message of Jesus and added rules/doctrines to try and be sure that we all follow the norm…. that we are all in sync. This is not wrong in and of itself as we do struggle with the meaning of the writings in the Bible and the words of Jesus. We must listen to the teachings of others and weigh them against our own experience. We also need the community of other Christians. We learn and are supported by the stories of others. I hope that I find a middle ground in all of this.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t find our own way. It’s freedom within form. I don’t ask others to follow my path. Each of us must find our own way and I pray that God leads me in mine. May he also be with you in yours.
Those of us who are Christian have often struggled with finding a place to worship that feels right to us. I think that part of this disconnect comes from our struggle with Christians themselves…including us. We keep wanting to find a place where Christian behavior fits Christ’s lessons to us. Yet we never find it.
There is a reason for that. Churches are made up of people and people are flawed. Not only are we flawed but each of us has our own beliefs and our own ideas of how to live them out. Probably no two of us would agree on everything. Some of us want to be given rules or directions to follow. We are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Some of us want to think for ourselves and are not afraid of asking questions and doubting answers. Some people are in the middle and expect a blending of both.
All of this makes finding a place where you feel at home more difficult. However, we need to think about a family. Families certainly don’t think alike or function in the same way.
The conclusion that I have reached is to try and find a place (at least for me) where you feel at least accepted. One where you can be challenged to grow and where you can hear stories of the struggles and journeys of others. We will always agree with some and disagree with others. This is normal. Church is not perfect and never will be. It was created by mankind not by God. God speaks anywhere at any time. Church gives us a place to share our faith and a community of believers even if we don’t agree about everything.
It is very hard to follow the teachings of Christ outside of community.
My friend Deirdre loved and cherished all those who crossed her path. She welcomed people from different faiths and different cultures. Her death was so amazing with people of many faiths joining together to send her on her way. I wrote this poem following that experience. The “all shall be well” is a loose copy from Hildegard of Bingen.
The Death of De
The light is waning and the gloaming is here.
There is a hush in the turning of the earth
it holds its breath for just a moment.
We stand watch sensing each breath
matching it with our own
anxious with each pause
while darkness encompasses the room.
Her soul loosens but holds
I sign the cross on her brow and Christ is here
A Hindu friend joins and her prayers are added.
Another comes and the prayers to Allah are lifted up.
With loving hands we anoint her with sweet lotion
brought from France by another.
All faith is here, we can feel God's gentle breeze,
there is true communion
My friend is held in the arms of love
She is suspended between life and death
through the night.
As the sun lifts itself into the heaven
love lifts her on her journey
and with the smallest wisper
she is gone.
Behind her from the air come the words...
All shall be well
and all shall be well
and all things shall be well.
Lately I have felt apathetic about going to church. There is no specific reason for this that I can see. Nothing is wrong with either the church I worked at or the church I am attending with my husband. They are both friendly churches that adopt members as part of the family. You always feel welcomed and loved. It makes me wonder what’s up?
I am not really sure. I have not backed away from my relationship with God. It is growing stronger than it has been in a while. When you work for a church there is always the danger that you are working more than worshiping. I know I fell into it easily. Now I actually spend time with God. Not enough but much more than I was. My connection with God is enriched and I am grateful for that.
I do still miss greatly laying hands on people and praying for healing. This is a part of my past ministry that causes my soul to ache, It fed me in a way it is difficult to explain. I was not doing anything myself for it was God who was using my hands and my love….outpouring for others. I still tear up when I think of what it meant for me. God was physically present each moment.
My spiritual life is much more solitary and I am not a solitary person. This is a struggle for me but one that God is pushing me into. I am caught in the longing to do something more physical instead of meditative. Maybe I need to try moving meditation. (which actually is a thing) I would still want to do it with others.
I have always been aware of my need to deepen my relationship with God and at times during my life have had a deep and amazing connection. Now I need to re-connect.
So why does this translate into a lack of passion for church itself? I wish I knew. I can see clearly that stepping away is not the right choice. It is so easy to develop a pattern of staying home on Sunday morning and it becomes a habit that is hard to change. Church is also not about my feelings although for me, until now, it has frequently been an emotional boost. Church has not changed. I have and I need to spend time delving into myself to seek answers.
I need an emotional boost. I need to find an amazing conference or heart rending speaker who challenges me and reignites the fire that I can’t find.
God will supply my need. I just wish he would hurry up!
It is so hard to live without answers. I want to know how things will work out with my friend’s husband. I want to know how my granddaughter’s life will go with a new baby. I want to know how I will feel tomorrow. I want to know if my IBS will kick me. This is just a small portion of what I want to know.
We don’t do well with uncertainty. We want to have answers so that we can plan. We want to brace ourselves if the outcome is bad. We want to run and hide if we think we can’ cope. We want to know!
It is so hard not to be able to make plans even if they don’t come off. Somehow planning makes us feel better but life with anxiety doesn’t let you make many plans. Maybe I have to stay home tomorrow and just cope or maybe I can meet friends for lunch. But each of us has reasons to explore what life has in store for us. Giving up is not an option. There are good things…things that we can be thankful for. If we wake up in the morning it is time to thank God and get up. It is hard to learn to live in the moment but we need to keep trying.
Thank God and get up.
Having studied a good bit of history and over the years a lot about the history of my faith I have noticed some interesting parallels in today’s world.
If you learn about the early church and the followers of Jesus it is apparent (although seldom mentioned) that women played an important role. After all, they were the first to see Jesus after his crucifixion. Mary Magdalene was a follower of his and important in his ministry and NOT a prostitute. She was relegated to that role later in church history when the Roman church did its best to disavow the roles of women. Women were the personification of sin and not allowed to be a meaningful part of the church. The church did a good job and it wasn’t until centuries later that the protestant traditions began to reverse the trend. It has always been interesting to me that priests were not allowed to marry in spite of the fact that our beliefs sprang from Judaism which believed that men should marry.
So much for the past. Now, in a parallel to removing women, the culture seems to be set on destroying belief in any religion. They are intent on removing the one system that wants to employ a moral code. Religion is being mocked and followers are thought of as not intelligent enough to see reality. This may also follow the “I” principle. “I am more important than anyone else. Others don’t matter nor can I be held to someone’s outdated moral code.”
I am offended by this trend and concerned for the life of believers. Who knows…maybe we will end up being persecuted and it will revive the faith. Hardship and persecution does seem to bring out the best in belief.
At my age I have learned to speak my mind and not be afraid of the outcome. I will continue to follow my faith and be willing to stand up for it.
Today I am waiting for news of the birth of my first Great Grandchild. I can’t possibly be that old. My granddaughter is in labor and her mom and her aunt are with her. They are both nurses. Her aunt is an OB nurse so I’m sure she is getting great care.
It is amazing to think that this is a new generation. One that I am unlikely to see become adult. That is such a sad thought for me but that is how life goes. I do not expect to live forever nor would I want to.
There is a pattern to life. Some Hindus believe that at each stage of our life we have certain tasks to complete. The last stage is to gain wisdom and enlightenment. I really hope that I can do that but I will have to do better than I am doing now. I do not spend enough time in silence. I don’t listen for God enough. I am terrible about turning things over to God and letting them go. I am trying and I will keep on but enlightenment seems a long way off.
At some times in my life I have had the incredible experience of sensing God’s presence. It is a mountaintop experience. Each time I spent time immersed in meditation and let myself approach God fully. I know god is there just waiting. It is up to me to seek that communion.
Each day is a new day. Soon I will see a new life for my family. I think God is present in each newborn in a way that we can’t do as adults. Their connection to God is unique. They just came from His presence and can still experience the connection.
I look forward to meeting this new person and acknowledging God in his life.