I worked for a Lutheran church and I now go to an Episcopal church. I love liturgy. It has form and function. In the midst of a chaotic world it continues an age old pattern. That gives me comfort.
We are now in the season of Advent. Advent arrives in the darkest time of the year. Where I live it has been gloomy for the last week. We have had cold and rain. The sky is gray, the trees are gray…it feels as if the world is gray. The weather at this time of the year can be really depressing.
We are at the time of the year when a lot of the world is preparing for the (dare I say) Christmas holidays. Hanakkuh is also being celebrated. Even people who have no religious background or affiliation get into the season. It is hard to resist lights, trees, and presents. The commercial world is pumping out enticing ads and people are binge watching holiday movies. For most people the mood is bright.
However, this can be a difficult time for some. Think about those for whom this time of year is hard. For the homeless it is just cold and miserable. We see them huddled on the streets and in cardboard boxes cringing away from the cold. Those who have lost loved ones during this season struggle with their loss. There are so many memories. People who are without family or friends see the season highlighting their loneliness.
This can be a wonderful time. Anticipation can be joyful. It can also be devastating. Look around you at those who suffer in Advent. What is coming for them can be sad and lonely. Do what you can to help.
One of the most important things to accept and understand is that each of us is loved. I am not talking about the love of another person but the love that surrounds us. For me, there is a love that pervades the universe. We learn to accept that each of us is unique and as such never to be again. Our time on earth is a gift. We have to make choices about how we use that gift. We didn’t seek that gift. It was given freely and without expectation of some sort of return.
If we can accept that we are loved then we have love to give away to others. Not just people but also to the earth that we inhabit. There are times when we don’t feel any love directed toward us. We feel alone, alienated, and abandoned. We must learn to pull away from this idea. Regardless of how unimportant or unnoticed we feel we must accept the fact that we matter.
To me this feeling of being left out, ostracized and without meaning is insidious and can trap us in depression. Sometimes it is hard to believe that love surrounds us. You can see it as God, or whatever form you accept but it is there.
When you are in a bad place and can’t see your way remember the love and know that you can reach out and find a way out of the darkness. There is always a way.
When we are willing to share our woundedness it allows us to connect on a deep level with others.
This is a poem I wrote about that.
The pain is near
Close inside my soul
It holds my essence
The past that is me
It holds the secrets
Things not always shared
But given freely
To ease distress
The pain others fear to share
Pouring out over the torn
And bleeding hearts
Joining our souls
Connecting our depths
We are together
Melded by God
The place of suffering
The place chosen to connect
Suffering and pain
With no restraint
Feeling the aloneness
Ever after to pour over
The oil of compassion
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!
I have long felt that that pain and sorrow have an important place in the scheme of things. They come to us unwanted and hard to accept. We wonder “what is the point?Why is this happening to me?” We feel lost and abandoned. Suffering is lonely. It removes us from our everyday world and causes us to live within ourselves and our pain. Nothing else matters. We can’t see past it. We can’t make plans. We just live in limbo.
The up side of all of this is not readily seen or understood but it is there. For those of us who share on Word Press it should be noticed more easily. I offer this short poem as an explanation.
The pain of aloness
The pain of sorrow
Is an instrument
carving out the soul
to hold and heal
Our sharing on Word Press is an example of this. We share in the hope that our own struggles, journeys, ideas for healing…will help someone else. We share and find the belonging and acceptance that eludes us elsewhere and a life of meaning and importance.
Keep on sharing!
Lately I have been thinking about good and bad emotions. Good emotions run the gamut from a simple flash of a decent day to full blown joy. It is easy to see the negative ones. Fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, sorrow….I could go on. To counter these we can use the positive things we don’t often see as emotions: safety, relaxation, strength, gratitude, pleasure, satisfaction, friendship, kindness, and assertiveness. (From the article How to Tap into Your Light by Kalia Kelmenson in Spirituality and Health)
Most of these we don’t equate with emotion and so we don’t key into them. We don’t see them as positive emotions. We don’t focus on them. That is a major part of the problem.
I don’t know about you, but I am more likely to come home and relate a story about how uncomfortable I felt doing a mediation than that I did a good job. I let the good feeling be lost in the negative emotion. We tend to hang onto the bad feelings and nurse them. We are unwilling to let them go. Think of how often you have been angry about something and just kept bringing it up in conversation or dwelling on it. For some reason we must enjoy holding on to them.
When we don’t let go we experience physical changes. Negative emotions can cause an increase in heart rate and rise in blood pressure. They can decrease our resistance to disease and lower the ability of our immune system to function. They allow our bodies to attack us with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, asthma, ulceration colitis, migraines and irritable bowel. Oh, what we do to ourselves.
We have to learn to focus on the positive emotions and use them to overcome the negative ones. To do that we need to remember what they are and see them when they come. The list above can be added to I’m sure. It’s easy to see how we think when I realized that I had to find that list and couldn’t just come up with one from my head but the negative emotions were right on the tip of my tongue.
I think the most important piece is to be aware of what you are feeling. We can’t change it if we can’t recognize it.
As the song writer Johnny Mercer said “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!”
Sometimes, as children, at bedtime we would imagine monsters….monsters under the bed or in the closet. We would make our parents open the closet door and look under the bed before we would let them leave the room. Unfortunately the monsters are not just part of our childhood. We hang on to some of the monsters as we grow up. We may not recognize them. They don’t look the same.
The monsters we have now are bigger and uglier. They threaten us in ways we never imagined as children. The monsters follow us around just waiting for us to slip and suddenly there they are.
The monsters have many names. Some are self doubt, loneliness, regret, guilt, anxiety, depression, fear, addiction. I am sure there are many more but each one can ruin our peace. They take advantage of any crack in our defenses and take over.
We can fight. We can eventually wipe them out. Each day we have to learn new ways to right ourselves. Tricks that make them go away. Tricks like meditation, medication, turning to God, music, TV, anything that works for us.
The monsters can be beaten. We can chase them away. Don’t be afraid to tackle them. They are weaker that we are. We have the strength of God with us.
Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.