Archive for the 'Spirituality/Religion' Category

Dec 29 2011

Yes, I’m bitching at a charity.

Published by under Rants,Spirituality/Religion

Dear Episcopal Relief and Development:

Is it terrible that today when I received your e-mail, subject line “The Meaning of Our Faith”, I immediately filled in “…is apparently sending daily spam e-mails and weekly newsletters begging for money”?

Look, I get it. Things are bad in lots of countries right now, and not bad in that American “I can no longer afford my home and must downsize to an apartment” way, but rather the “I have to drink the water from that puddle over there, and it is cholera-laden, but it’s either that or die of dehydration” way. I do understand that. That’s why, every Lent, we send you guys money. It’s not a ton of money, because while we are not as bad off as some Americans right now, we still don’t have a ton of money, but it’s money. And you repay us by putting on the e-mail and letter campaign the entire rest of the year.

I know the need doesn’t diminish just because it’s not Easter time. I know that people in Africa still need goats, or malaria nets, or clean water, or school lunches, or any of the other massively amazing things that you guys help provide. It’s just that…the rest of the year, we kind of need to keep our focus on the problems in our own backyard. There are soup kitchens to be stocked and children to be clothed and old people who need toilet paper. There are homeless people who come to the church four days a week to get one meal. Easter is yours; the rest of the year belongs to them.

Stop sending me guilt trips about “The Meaning of Our Faith”. I’m doing the best I can. My yearly contribution of ducks and bee keeping supplies will be sent as usual around Easter. In the meantime, my money is going to canned food.

Sincerely,
Jas

(And yes, I did the much more practical thing of unsubscribing from the e-mail mailing list as well.)

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Feb 15 2010

Christian in isolation?

Published by under Spirituality/Religion

I am not an especially social person.  I do not like meeting new people.  I am shy and awkward when I am in groups that do not consist exclusively of people I’ve known for years.  I am not good at making small talk.  I blush constantly, and I say tactless things.  New situations with new people terrify me, and I can rarely be compelled to go to new places alone.  I also tend to find groups of people loud, obnoxious, lacking in manners and courtesy, and annoying.  I also know that these problems and prejudices are not exclusive to me.  Many of my friends and family members feel the same way – given our choice, we would rather huddle together in a familiar place, and keep the new and strange at bay, especially new and strange people.

So why does someone like me voluntarily leave her house most Sundays and go among people I do not know well, people who after over a year are still mostly “strangers” to me?  Why do I go to church?

I go to church for many reasons – some of them are selfish.  I like the ceremony and pageantry that the Episcopal Church provides.  I’ve always been one for a good show, and the Episcopal Church provides a good show.  I like the singing, the chanting, the routine of prayers.  However, there are other reasons I go to church, and those reasons not so easily expressed.

Darren, my priest at St. John’s, likes to preach about the difficulty of following Christ in your life.  A common theme of his sermons is the turning away from your old life, your selfish life, and turning towards the life that Christ calls us to live – a life that is, in many ways, harder, full of greater demands, and somewhat unpopular practices.  Darren talks about how each of us has something (or many things) that is personally difficult for us to overcome, or to continue to turn from.  Something that is compatible with our old life, but if we are to follow Christ, something we must work at overcoming.  For me, that “something” is my tendency to hide myself away, to avoid interaction with people, to limit my circle to the familiar.

Christians are called into fellowship with each other.  Christ himself was constantly going among new people and new places, spreading the Good News as far as he could in the short time that he had.  The Bible doesn’t tell us if Jesus the man might have been shy, if he was ever nervous about leaving his home and family to go among strangers.  It doesn’t tell us if his mortal heart pounded when he came to another new place and confronted yet another group of strangers.  It just tells us that he did these things, and he commanded us to do these things as well.  The Bible, it seems, doesn’t have time for excuses.  There is a mission to fulfill, and everyone is called to do his or her part. (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19-20a)

The early church was persecuted, and its followers were sometimes forced to worship in secret.  However, these early Christians did not isolate themselves from their fellow believers.  Community was paramount in their lives – to such an extent that today, we would label them as Communists.  Their money was pooled, they lived together, they ate together, they worshiped together.  (“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and their goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:44-45) Christ himself commanded us to love our neighbor – he said this was one of the great commandments.  So, the question is asked, can you love your neighbor when you do not know him?  Can you be a Christian in isolation?

To me, the answer is plain – Christians should not isolate themselves from each other, or from the greater world.  It was not easy for me to start going to a new place, among new people, and to learn a new way of doing things.  However, it is an important step onto that new path that I am called to follow.  I don’t always feel like going to church on Sunday morning.  I might be tired, or cranky, or not really feel like singing and praising God for whatever reason.  Sometimes, the social anxiety rears its head and I don’t want to go to church simply because I don’t want to be around other people.  But part of walking on the path of Christ means doing things that the old me does not want to do, to make myself part of a community, to be in communion with my fellow believers, to hear inspiration and instruction from the pulpit, to worship God as part of a group, to pray as a congregation, as Christ wanted me to do. (“Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  Matthew 18:19-20)

Invariably, I do force myself to attend church, and once I get there, and see my fellow worshipers, and fall into the rhythm of the service, my mood improves.  It might be from hearing a message in the sermon that fits my own situation, it might be from getting a smile and handshake during the Peace, it might be because we are singing my favorite hymn or because the choir is singing a particularly beautiful song.  It might just be because I am once again celebrating Holy Eucharist with a group of people who I know share my belief in Christ and are themselves trying their best to do what is right and who are encountering their own struggles.  

Many people have said to me that they don’t go to church because they don’t feel they need to.  They read their Bible, they pray, they try to live their lives as they believe Christ wants them to.  They don’t see a benefit to attending services. They don’t like church, and they don’t like being around the people who attend church.  There are, of course, very good Scriptural reasons to attend church:

  • We are commanded to worship God, and the main focus of any church service is worship.  (Psalm 100)
  • We are commanded into fellowship with other Christians, and church provides that fellowship.  (Heb. 10:24-26)
  • We are commanded to honor and keep sacred the Lord’s Day, and church services set that day aside as something special and sacred  (Exodus 20:8-11)

However, I think Christians should also go to church quite simply because they NEED to.  We need that contact with God and with our fellow Christians, because it helps us evaluate our own lives and makes us think about the things we need to do differently.  It gives us a space to reflect on our successes and failures.  It is a time to acknowledge wrongs and receive forgiveness.  It offers us a way to pray for those who we didn’t even know needed our prayers, to worship God in a manner that is both public and personal.  It is a moment in the week where we sit back, and rest in the presence of God, and get ready to try, always try again to live our lives in the way that we should.

To say that church is unnecessary or a burden to is say that God’s commands, your fellow Christians, and perhaps even God himself is unnecessary and a burden.  If you are not finding joy and peace from your church life, you might have the wrong church or the wrong denomination.  Not every church is a good fit for every Christian – there are Episcopal churches that are too contemporary for me and where I would not feel at home.  However, if you keep looking, I think you’ll find a place where you feel comfortable worshipping, learning, and praying as part of a group.

10 responses so far

Mar 25 2009

Is it spring yet?

Wow, it’s been awhile.   How about some updates?

I kept doing 30 Day Shred until a few days ago, when I woke up and had a real problem climbing stairs due to the pain in both of my knees.  I think I had tendinitis or some other such injury, but my knees are finally back to normal and I have decided that that workout is too rough on my joints.  I need a lower impact thing, so I’m going back to Turbo Jam, which will be enough cardio for me.  I’ve also been doing my strength training on the Bowflex, and have been making progress (adding weight) there.  Well, adding weight to my legs anyway; my arms seem to be stuck at 20 lbs. right now for my bicep curls, but that’s OK.  I still think I’m getting stronger.

We got the bed frame for the spare room – no mattresses yet.  It’s almost like a real room up there now, with a piece of furniture and everything.  The Man still has to do the trim, and once that’s done, it will be just about finished.

We also ordered the wood flooring for the living and dining rooms yesterday.  That will be going in sometime in the next few weeks.  It’s a nice hand-scraped oak.  Cracks me up,  because “hand-scraped” sounds so fancy, and yet the process makes it look rougher.  More distressed, I guess, which is perfect for our Victorian farmhouse.  I think it’s lovely, and The Man and I can’t wait to get rid of our rat-nasty blue carpet.  The downstairs will look one hundred times better once the floors are in.

I just got off the phone with a lady from our church – we had sent in money to contribute to the Easter flowers and music, and she called to let us know that she was going to give us a pack of envelopes to use for donations and offerings from now on, so they have a way to keep track of what we’re giving, so as to provide us with tax receipts.  We also have a lunch date scheduled with the rector for Palm Sunday, because I think he’s got some burning questions to ask us.  I guess we’re settling in there, but I for one will be glad when all the “getting to know you” stuff is over and we can just kind of…be at the church.  This is no good for my shyness.

We’re heading up north tomorrow for a long weekend at Dr. Mom and Moll’s.  They’ve been sending us pictures of the new baby animals, so I’m anxious to get up there and see them all in person.  We’re really looking forward to it, but I have a couple loads of laundry to do yet, so I’d better get on it.

One response so far

Jan 19 2009

One more day.

Hey, how about this new theme, eh? Do you like it? I’d love it to pieces if the columns were separated like on the old theme: column – content – column. But I can get used to this. My favorite part is the rotating image thing in the header. I think I’ve got seven different pics on rotate right now.

We’re leaving for Nashville tomorrow. Today I’m doing laundry, packing, and getting the last couple of things cleaned up so I can feel like I didn’t leave a craphole house behind me (or, as Julio and I might say, a “sheethouse”). I should be much more excited about this than I am, but I think I’ve had too short of a time at home. I need a larger break between my madcap dashes of adventure! After we get back from Nashville, we probably won’t go anywhere until April, when we’ll most likely dash up north for our last visit before Tick Season commences. We don’t do Tick Season, not anymore. Once was enough.

We went to church yesterday, and were welcomed back by the few people who we’ve met. The rector asked about our trip and was pretty surprised to hear we were leaving again so soon. It’s just one more thing to make me wish we’d had at least a week more time at home. Church is part of the routine now and I don’t like it when my routine gets all out of whack.

We also went to The Man’s stepdad’s yesterday for the last Christmas party of 2008! This gathering should have taken place on Christmas Eve, but The Man’s stepdad is in the snow removal business, and Christmas Eve was a pretty snowtastic affair in Michigan. It was nice to see him and his girlfriend – they are so much fun. We watched the Barrett-Jackson auction on TV and talked about the cars. They also dropped the news that they are seriously considering moving to Colorado? What IS it with Michiganders moving to Colorado? It seems like every time someone moves away, they head for Colorado – notable exceptions being the Eldest and Middle Miller boys – way to buck the trend, fellas. I think if I were ever to leave the state, I’d have to head to Georgia, just to be different.

5 responses so far

Feb 07 2008

Who knows where thoughts come from?

The inexplicable thing that’s stuck in my head today: the Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Haven’t been to a proper church service in years, and today this is stuck in my head. It’s not even a SONG, for crying out loud, it’s a CHANT. I’m going to have to blame Jen for this, with all her talk of the Lutherans. Every Sunday, in a pew or in the choir loft, trying to cram more syllables into a four count than belonged there. Good times. Anyway, chant along if you know how it goes.

Glory be to God on high
And on earth peace, goodwill towards men
We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee
We give thanks to thee, for thy great glory
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only begotten Son Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy;
Thou only art the Lord;
Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

2 responses so far

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