Posts Tagged ‘Religion’
Today’s title is actually ‘stolen’ from a lovely book by Joyce Rupp that takes you on a daily journey of spiritual growth. I’ve had this book since the week of guided prayer that I enjoyed in June of last year. My Prayer Guide, Margaret, suggested it to me as a means of something to continue with after our time together had come to an end. Over a period of six weeks Joyce uses the image of a cup in its various guises to teach us something about our spiritual selves and our walk with God. The open cup, the broken cup. . . you get the meaning. I bought the 1997 version of the book second hand because I loved the cover and the woodcut prints, but it’s available in a lovely new version too and I’ll put the links to that at the bottom of this post. I didn’t actually use it last year but I picked it up a week or so ago and it’s been part of my morning ever since.
Part of the joy of this book is that you have to choose a mug or a cup to travel with you, I have a thing about mugs 😀 . I chose the cup that I use the most, my ‘Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’ mug. It’s not the prettiest but it is my favourite and it’s the one that’s with me most often when I’m praying and spending time with God. I was sitting this morning with my chosen cup [full of lovely frothy coffee I might add] after my prayer time and reflecting on today’s entry which is about what the cup can teach us. In the past I have often felt that ‘life’ got in the way of my relationship with God. That having to leave for work or do the school-run were distractions that, quite frankly, irritated me because they disturbed my link to the divine. As I looked at my cup I realised that although it has sides that contain and hold my spirit safely, it is also portable, allowing me to transport it with me into my daily life. Influencing what I do, how I think, how I react. Touching all those who enter my life, however briefly. Faith does not have to be reserved for those quiet and often brief moments alone in prayer, at church or in the car. Faith is ‘portable’, a 24/7 gift that is infinite and omnipresent so it doesn’t suddenly stop when we leave the house or speak to someone. I know now that I was wrong to feel so frustrated by the interruptions of ‘life’ coming between me and God, because my life IS my relationship with God and it’s meant to be shared.
Blessings to one and all.
Links as promised . . . I am not sponsored by any of the products linked below.
Posted in Crochet, Daily Life, Faith, Family, Lent & Easter, Private Vows, tagged Christianity, crochet, Faith, Family, Private Religious Vows, Religion, Spirituality, Work on Saturday, February 11, 2017| 2 Comments »
It has been a long time. Life has moved on. I have moved on. A few times I nearly deleted this blog, but then. . . . I just couldn’t quite bring myself to. I am back at work, albeit it very part-time. I provide lunch-time cover at a school for children with severe physical and learning disabilities. It’s rewarding and humbling. You think you’re having a bad day and then you realise that your worst day is a hundred times better than their best day.
Ethan is half-way through his second term at our local Catholic Senior School. For the most part he’s enjoying it and has [according to his tutor] transitioned really well but the step-up in homework quantity, compared to Primary School, has taken some getting used to. I’m sure he’s not alone in that challenge.
Si has also got himself a new job. His night shift at a local distribution warehouse has been cast aside for the dizzy heights as an IT Consultant, a job he did for fourteen years back in the days before he worked in education. The hours are so much better and so is the money. The whole nights thing is not conducive to family life or having any quality time together. Made worse to be honest by a truly ridiculous off-duty rota that included far too many single nights off. Anyone who’s worked nights will appreciate that a single night off is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard……!!!
My crochet continues on at a steady pace. I’m not churning out a project a week, or even a month, but I enjoy what I do and I’ve got three projects that are all going to be finished within the next few weeks. A shawl, a pair of socks and a blanket. I’ll post photo’s of the finished articles when I get there. I have however, finished Ethan’s Cosy Crofter Blanket and the photo’s of that are at the head of this post. The perfect finishing touch to his new bedroom.
There is big news on the Faith Front and this has been one of those subjects that I’ve spent a while deciding whether or not to write about/share. The thing that finally swung it was that I myself would have liked to have a found an article like this when I was trying to discern my religious path. Interestingly this is not something I’ve shared much in real life apart from a strictly need-to-know basis. It feels a little boastful and overly pious to make this public but hopefully it will help someone else. So . . . . . .
At the latter end of 2008 [before I became Catholic] I found the wonderful community of Turvey Abbey where, for many years, I walked the path towards becoming a Benedictine Oblate. A time of formation ensued towards taking the vows of Stability, Conversion and Obedience. For all sorts of reasons I never took that final step to oblation. All I can say is that it never felt quite right. I love Turvey and the community and I still love going there, in fact it’s probably one of my favourite places on this Earth to worship, but I felt that God was calling me elsewhere. However, it’s taken me a very long time to discern where that might be.
Somehow I felt that God was asking me to make private vows….promises just between Him and me, not attached to a charism or a community, just a way of aligning myself more closely with Jesus and hopefully bringing some of His love to all the people in my life. Easy you’d think huh? Hmmm well in reality, not easy at all. Firstly, it took me a while to find out anything about private vows [we’re not talking consecrated vows of chastity, poverty and obedience here] and secondly what would that/they even look like? With the blessing of the Turvey Nuns I gave up the Oblate path and decided to focus completely on Private Vows, asking God to guide me. I devoted the whole of Lent 2016 to this cause not really expecting much to happen in what is after all just a few short weeks. A good starting point seemed to be working out exactly what the vows would be. Clearly I’m a wife and mother so chastity or the eremetic life were out of the question. These would have to be vows that challenged me yes, but that would also fit around my family. I also felt that they would have to benefit everyone [without exception] who touched my life. These are not vows to benefit me, they’re for the benefit of my community, they’re to bring the face and love of Christ to all. So, with much trepidation and the loving support of Sr Yvonne who is the Vicar for Religious and the Pastoral Administrator of my parish, I moved forward in faith and prayer. Over the coming days words soon made themselves clear….Obedience, Simplicity…and ??? That last one was illusive to say the least. One day I was dusting upstairs with the TV on in my bedroom and I suddenly heard the word, ‘Caring’ and I knew instantly that was the last one. I’ve no idea if it was from the TV or God but there it was, loud and clear. So I had them all ~ Simplicity, Obedience and Caring. I wrote posts on Simplicity and Caring when I was discerning last year so you can read a little of the thought process behind them if you’re interested.
I have not yet made these vows but, as we approach Lent 2017, I know that the time is right to move forward with this and I will be sure to share how and when that happens. The one thing I do know is that it will be very private and simple. If you pray keep me in your prayers, if you don’t, think of me kindly as I make this amazing journey into the arms of God.
I’m just back from the school run and sat here with my cup of frothy coffee. The rain is battering the windows and the horses in the paddock opposite look mighty unimpressed, although some of them are wearing some rather fetching overcoats. I’ve been up since sparrow’s fart [5.30am] because, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today is D Day regarding secondary school place offers here in the UK. Now, I knew that the offer would probably ping into Si’s email just after midnight and yes, I was originally going wait up and read it. However, as the fated hour drew round I realised that A) Si was at work as he works nights only in his new job so I was alone to face any potential disappointment, and B) If the offer was not what we’d hoped then I’d probably be awake for the rest of the night worrying. So, I decided to NOT open the email and go to sleep. Which surprisingly I managed to do. Whoever said Essex girls don’t have self control?? Ha!
So, there I was at 6.20am with the farting sparrows; the tablet fired up; a cuppa in the pot and suicidal cats wondering where their food was; waiting for Si to come in from work. [Honey, our Basset wasn’t ‘up’, she really doesn’t do mornings lol] He was equally as amazed as you guys that I’d not opened the email lol. The good news is that we got our first choice of secondary school for Ethan!! **does victory dance around the lounge** However, we also know how lucky we are and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who will undoubtedly not have got their first choice and quite possibly not even got a school that was on their list of choices, this does and has happened. Ethan’s off to the only catholic secondary school in MK. I think relief was actually our overriding emotion to be honest.
Enough basking in glory then and onto to something else ~ clarification. Hmmm I was thinking last night, during my long wait until midnight, that although I did historically have regular followers on my blog who ‘knew’ me well, there might be new readers [due to the change in focus to crochet etc] who don’t know anything about me at all. The bit I’m thinking of here is faith…. I don’t want people to think I’m all pious, that Catholicism is the only way forward and that I’m bigoted or dogmatic about my choice of religion. I just want to put this out there and make it crystal clear that yes, I’m catholic [converted in 2009], Ethan is being raised a catholic and we love our faith. My husband however is not religious and no, that does not cause us any problems. Most of my friends are not religious and among the few who are some are Muslim, some are Hindu, some are Christian [and of many denominations] and some are just spiritual. I celebrate and appreciate all religions and faiths, I don’t choose friends on the basis of their faith or beliefs. I am not judgmental and have a past that is cringe-worthy at best [sounds of skeletons rattling in the cupboard] and I spent many years not being of any given religion, and in fact was Buddhist during the years leading up to my conversion to Christianity in 2006. I don’t tend to talk about my faith anywhere except here and sometimes at church. If anyone asks me about it I’m absolutely happy to share but it won’t be me who raises the subject first. This blog started back in the day as a means to record my faith walk and it [the blog] has changed focus and direction many times along the way. I no longer feel the need to record that journey in quite so much detail but it is nice to have somewhere to write about the ups and downs that come with being a woman of faith. To be honest, it’s really hard to find anyone to talk to properly about religious issues because it is such a taboo and inflammatory subject so this blog can be a good outlet for that occasionally.
Okay, I just wanted to put that out there before people think, “Ay we’ve got a right one ‘ere.” and never darken my blogstep again. . .
Right, I’m going to wake-up Si who is off tonight and we’re going out for brunch…have a lovely day all…stay warm and dry XXX
There was a discussion on the dreaded Facebook yesterday about banning the wearing of the burka [not sure if the niqab comes under that ban as well] in the UK. As many of you will know it has been banned in France already. Now, I have to say at this point that I totally understand the security based reasons behind this school of thought. However, looking at the bigger picture from a different angle, I am worried that we are picking away at our freedom of choice that we are so famous for as a nation. If we start dictating what people can wear then where will it end?
Historically, I can remember a nurse and a British Airway’s clerk both of whom were banned from wearing a christian cross at work. I wear my crucifix all the time, in fact I rarely take it off. Although wearing a cross or similar is not a security issue, I can see similarities here, and feel an equal amount of injustice at both situations. Again, removing our freedom of choice, and this is supposed to be a christian country first and foremost!!
I know that for those muslim women who choose to wear the burka for the right reasons [i.e. based in faith as an informed choice, not through fear or oppression] being told they can’t wear it in public would cause, at the very least, feelings of distress, anxiety and frustration. They would feel they are compromising their beliefs. Interestingly, part of the discussion produced the comment that ‘they should go to a country that shares their religious views’. Fair point, but that could be tricky if they’re white british. White british muslim converts are often the most devout and passionate about their faith, which has lead to some of them choosing to take the veil. These women belong in the UK regardless of their religion, their lives and families are here. We have a huge, and still growing, muslim convert community here in MK and I think that’s something to celebrate.
So, going back to my initial fears, how free to choose are we really? I’m starting to wonder in this rapidly developing ‘Nanny State’. I used to celebrate and feel lucky at being British and living here. At times now I feel suffocated by, and disappointed at the country I live in and some of the people I have to share it with. I am obviously aware of the terrible extremist based crimes taking place, but in my opinion they have nothing to do with real faith or religion. God/Allah pbuh, does not sanction genocide or terrorism, so no religious label or scripture will ever make that right, no matter how hard they try to justify their crimes under that banner.
I found these quotes last night and they really made me think:~
“Not enough people know or understand just how little freedom we have left.” Korban Blake
“As free as you allow others to be, such freedom you create for yourself.” Bryant McGill
Finally, I found this in an article in The Guardian by Andrew Brown and I wonder if maybe he’s right:~
“The burka debate is not so much about religious obligation, as about the public rejection of the surrounding society, and society’s tolerance for that.”
Today’s gospel during Mass was John 6:60~69 and Fr James used verse 67 as the focus for his homily ~ Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ …..
Fr James was reminded by this Gospel reading of an ecumenical retreat he did on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, and specifically to the standard ‘ice breaker’ that the group took part in during the first session. Each person had to liken their feelings at the start of the retreat to a song title of their choice. Apparently one of the other participants there, a Methodist Deacon called Ruth, gave her title very honestly as ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?’ [by the punk rock group The Clash]. Whilst recalling that moment today Fr James wondered if those were the thoughts going through the disciples’ minds when Jesus asked them if they wanted to go away too? Should we stay with Christ or should we go our own way now?
As I sat there pondering on this it came to me that God always gives us a choice whether to follow Him or not ~ it’s never an assumption or an ultimatum, always a choice. I was drawn back to the time of my calling when I spent quite a few days wondering whether to take up the ‘offer’ or just politely ignore it, and whether in fact I’ve ever considered changing my mind since that day over three years ago…….?
I always start the holidays full of good intentions regarding my religious practise. With so many adults here in the house to amuse Ethan I should, in theory, have alot more free time to pray, study The Rule of Benedict, go to weekday Mass, visit Turvey and generally step-up my game. In reality the complete opposite is true, it’s chaos in all honesty. More people mean more mess, more meals to cook, more clothes worn so more washing, Ethan going hyper with all the extra stimulation…..you get the idea I’m sure. Also though this means that there is even less quiet time or ‘me’ space so in the end I actually spend less time with God. The first week I struggle along getting frustrated and then by week two I’ve all but given up even trying to find time even to pray my offices. I stop the whole charade of good intentions and promise myself I’ll resume normal viewing again when everyone goes back to work and school in September. So by now, which is about the end of week four, I am down to the bare minimum with a snatched prayer when I think of it, Mass on Sunday and very little else.
This means that in effect, because of this temporary change in circumstances, I emotionally move away from Christ during these religiously lean, long summer holidays. This year I have noticed a definite change in myself as a direct result of less time spent with God. My attitude is pretty poor, my patience is at an all time low, my compassionate nature seems to have taken a holiday and I’m not at all keen on the person I’ve become.
So, back to the question that Jesus asked his disciples, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ and whether or not I’ve ever considered ‘going’ and not walking with Christ anymore? Well yes, of course I have considered not practising religion anymore. If I’m honest there are times when I just plain can’t be bothered with it such as when I’m poorly or exhausted, times of major doubt and times like now during the holidays when it’s logistically nigh on impossible to find time, space and opportunity to just be. But then you look at the bigger picture, when I have intentionally ‘gone now’ and, like during these holidays, I am left craving God time and I realise that life without God is as the next line of the song says...“If I go there will be trouble, an if I stay it will be double”……To stay with God is not always a walk in the park but to go is to be in a place void of any meaning, of any love, where I morph into Mrs Snippy~Pants within days and the God shaped hole in my heart starts to bleed with nothing to fill it ~ trouble indeed!!
I have also realised though that not practising my faith does not mean that I’ve stopped believing in God. I look back to my pre~conversion years and know that I’ve always believed in God. Even if I gave up practising Catholiscism/Christianity tomorrow I know that I would always be aware of God’s existence. He’s there within me, like a permanent marker indelibly printed on my soul. It’s very difficult to stop believing in something you can tangibly sense is there. Life is much easier when I walk in the shadow of God’s wings for sure; and it’s true to say that I do occasionally move away from God. He however, never leaves my side…….
The last word must be Simon Peter’s reply to Jesus… 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68~69 NIV
I was at the checkout in Asda the day before Ethan’s baptism buying all the food for the celebration party. The lady serving me was a beautiful black woman. She could tell by my purchases that we were having a party of some sort so I told her what the celebration was for. There ensued a lovely discussion on the joy of baptism per se and our faith. At the end of the conversation we realised that she was Anglican and I was Catholic. However, that really didn’t seem to matter ~ same God, different building we said, smiling. For a while there we’d had a beautiful bond and despite the difference in our denominations we were singing from the same page in every way. It was a memorable moment for both of us I think and we hugged as we parted probably never to meet again ~ except in Christ!!!
I have often wondered and been asked if I think Catholicism is the only denomination ~ the right way, the path to eternal life. I’d have to say no, I don’t think that, but it is the right way for me. I love the Catholic faith, it fits me well and is the best way for me to express my love for God and He knew that which is why He called me to convert. I will always defend my right to practise Catholicism and am fully prepared to defend and protect both my church and my choice. However do I think everyone should be a Catholic? No, I do not, unless they want to. I am not arrogant enough to think that I’ve successfully manged to choose the only way to heaven! Would I like everyone to find salvation in Christ? Oh, yes, yes, I would, with all my heart.
I think, as I’ve blogged before, that 43 years of having very little faith whilst living a very tough life and then 2 years of trying various denominations on for size [and finding God in all of them] have left me very accepting and ecumenical. That’s alot of experience to just cast off and ignore. I suspect this is why Turvey is such a good fit for me. No matter what Christian denomination you are there is a place for you at Turvey. That warms my heart beyond measure. I would probably encourage people to be Benedictine before I encouraged them to be Catholic as the more I learn about the Benedictine way the more it enhances and encourages me. The Rule of St. Benedict helps me to be the best person I can be in Christ and consequently in life. Like the Catholic faith, being Benedictine fits me like a pair of good shoes, although I’m at the very start of that journey and a long way from living The Rule as I should but, as with all long journeys you need a pair of good shoes.
I expect that are many who will want to shoot me down in flames for these rather broad and relaxed views but I know that there’s a God shaped hole in all of us just waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I can see that longing, that lack of fulfillment in alot of the people I meet. Whatever Christian denomination it takes to fill that hole and bring out the love of the Holy Spirit in each person is all that matters from where I’m sitting.
I don’t feel that God loves me any more or less now I’m a Catholic. He called me as a non denominational person and that is all I need to know. I thank God for meeting that lady at the checkout out in Asda. She showed me the very best face of Christianity long before we even gave a thought to what building we worshipped in. I’m so glad that it was one of the last things we said to each other rather than one of the first. The first thing we knew about each other was that we both loved Christ and for those few minutes we loved each other in Christ. Thanks be to God!!
[The picture above is of Christ the Cornerstone church in the city centre of Milton Keynes where I live. It is apparently the first purpose built, ecumenical church in the UK and for me it is the best visual illustration of what this post is all about. All denominations meeting under one roof to love and serve the Lord. Amazing!!]
Okay, not a very inspiring title but my sense of humour has always been a tad dodgy at the best of times ~ nothing wrong with a bit of the ol’ cockney rhyming slang and all will become clear as you read on.
I thought I’d come back and let you all know how things are going on the ‘headcovering’ front [or should that be top? lol]. Having pondered upon my calling to cover my hair during prayer as outlined in my last blog post and also having struggled with what exactly to wear in order to cover without looking like I’m suffering from a nasty case of “Look at me, I’m soooo holy’ I’ve finally come to some decisions.
I realised that the single biggest thing holding me back was that I couldn’t find anything appropriate to wear that didn’t leave me [or my family] cringing in a public setting. The scarves were fine in the house but not appropriate anywhere else, far too ‘different’. I took myself off to the City last thursday late night shopping and acquired some Baker Boy hats from Accessorize in their brilliant half-price sale. I got various colours and designs to cover all occasions and knew the minute I tried one on that they were just the job for wearing outside the home. No one would give me a second glance in these.
The next issue was what to wear in the house as the scarves were a faff to be honest as they’re not easy to wear without regular adjustment. I had a think and a google and found some pretty little crocheted hats made out of cotton that looked like they might be okay. I ordered a couple and they came today. They are brilliant, not intrusive at all, easy to wear, don’t move around and no one thinks I’ve lost the plot so all-in-all a result I’d say.
I wore one of my hats to Mass on Sunday and no one gave me a second look which was just as I’d hoped.
During my internet travels whilst reading around this subject of head covering in women I found an interesting article by a Jewish lady who was writing on what calls Jewish women to cover their hair [apart from Jewish law] and the struggles faced by them in doing so in contemporary society. Here is the snippit that hit me square in the eye….
“Often times, the stimulus for a woman to go inward and to connect to her core are life changing events, such as life threatening illnesses (God forbid), losses, and various forms of adversity. Something that challenges the status quo motivates her to take stock and evaluate the authenticity of her life.”
by Rebbetzin Feige [the whole article]
….this struck a chord on the back of my recent loss. Although I’ve been considering head covering for years now how interesting that it’s in the aftermath of my bereavement that I’ve decided to actually act upon God’s call. It’s been a given that I’ve drawn on my faith hugely since Jim died and I’ve made no secret of that and I admit to having tried to keep my faith neat and tidy whilst seeking authenticity. But, on taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, there’s alot more going on and I’m constantly amazed at the different ways in which God draws me closer to Him in order to demonstrate His love for me and to bring me comfort.
Here are a couple of piccies of hats very similar to those I’ve described..
Baker Boy Cap
Pink Skull Cap
I’ve seen a few references made in the last few months to the fact that we bloggers only seem to post about positive stuff and it’s made me think [thank you Mrs Pogle and Tess xx]. Does that mean that we bloggers are ‘people pleasers’, trying to encourage more blog hits possibly or are we just avoiding reality and using our blogs as a form of escapism by painting only rosy pictures of ourselves? I’m sure none of us are naive enough to think that our lives are perfect as we all have to deal with the ups and downs that come with everyday living in this rather manic and materialistic world. As that’s a given I’m sure we bloggers have varying views on posting negative things and as Mrs Pogle put on her blog recently, it’s pretty deep stuff. Here are some of mine in no particular order: ~
A) It’s a given that life can be pretty tough on the whole so why would you want to read more of the same?
B) Although I initially set out to write this blog for myself I am now very aware how much it can influence other people and I don’t want to be a negative or depressing ‘read’. I like people to leave here feeling uplifted and I try and illustrate God’s unending love and compassion for us all and attempt to be Christlike in my approach [not sure I always succeed with that last one].
C) That said, just because I’m usually positive on here it doesn’t mean I’m not being honest or real or that I’m trying to avoid portraying my true-self. I am actually quite a positive and bubbly person in real life but of course my life is not just one big happy blog post.
D) Finally, as I am trying to live my life as a Benedictine woman there is also something quite pertinent written in the Rule of St Benedict, chapter 4:39 “Do not grumble.” I think that says it all really. My mum always says, “If you’ve got nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all!”.
When my lovely Jim was poorly and the majority of my posts held elements of sadness to a greater or lesser degree I know that I actually felt a bit sorry for my readers who had to repeatedly trawl through yet another emotional, tear jerking tome. It was one of the rare times when I actually used my blog selfishly for my own ends. To record important emotions and events that I may otherwise forget and as a kind of bereavement therapy. I often read those posts now and it’s beautiful to just read and remember………
Okay well, now I’ve got the above out of the way it leads quite nicely into me sharing something ‘real’ with you all about myself. It may leave some of you thinking that Sharon has finally gone over the edge and is in need of a long lie down in a darkened room but hey we’re not people pleasing today ;-). For a long time now, probably about two years or so, I’ve struggled [and I mean really struggled] with a calling to cover my hair when I pray. Not a problem I hear you cry, “go for it girl”. Yes, and indeed that would be fine wouldn’t it, when I pray in the confines of my little home chapel to pop on a scarf or whatever but……what if you feel that you pray without ceasing ~ like my last three weeks on the ‘phone to God?? Does this mean covering all day?? For me it very well might. Here is [hopefully] a link to the scripture that backs this up ~ 1 Corinthians 11:3-16
Now, I’ve fought against this for alsorts of reasons. The biggest one being that by covering my hair in public or during Mass I worry that I’d draw alot of attention to myself which would defeat my aim to try and live with humility. Only the African ladies cover their hair at Mass in my congregation. I don’t want to be seen as a Nun Wannabe or mistaken for a Muslim [no disrespect meant at all] as I’m most definately neither of those. I do cover my hair often at home and I can tell that my family just think I’m having a bad hair day and that it’ll all be fine tomorrow once I’ve washed it lol. I also know I have fellow bloggers who I will not name who have had similar callings ~ it seems to be a more widespread issue than I first thought.
Why do I feel [know] this is a calling ~ it’s become an obsession almost? Is it a huge disrespect to my Lord that I’m not going the whole hog and covering my hair outside of the home when it plainly feels that this is what He’s asking of me? [Answers on the back of a post card to……]
I’m not sure what, if anything, I shall do about this ‘calling’. I do know however that it won’t go away. God just keeps on nudging and nudging until you finally do something. I shall continue to pray about this. The one thing I do know is that when I’m wearing a head scarf or whatever I feel alot closer to Christ, alot more aware of His presence and more at one with my faith, the ebb and flow of the Holy Spirit and the rhythm of daily prayer. However, I’m also a very normal woman who really doesn’t want to appear extreme but I’m almost at the point of saying “stuff it, if I want to wear a flippin’ scarf on my head 24/7 then at 46 there’s no reason why I shouldn’t”. Historically this has been common practice among women of many faiths ~ Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish. So, erm well then, why haven’t I done something about it…………………?????
A while ago I was part of a couple of discussions [christian forum style] on what church was to us ~ social, spiritual or both? We also examined ‘serving’ and our perceived calling to that. Did we feel called to serve and if so how, in what capacity and to whom?? Both of these subjects gave rise to some very interesting thoughts, ideas and definitions about community [in which we serve] and what community meant to each of us as individuals.
Now you know me well and know that I have to be inspired to blog and this really did inspire me and made me think. My initial thoughts on serving were difficult to define however. I read the other posts which talked about serving within the family, through employment or as part of the aforementioned church community or even all three. I looked at my life and as I don’t do a paid job the ‘work’ bit didn’t apply. I’ve held back from ‘serving’ at church as I felt I should focus on becoming a full member first before jumping in prematurely with offers of help with no experience to back that up. I do have my family to ‘serve’ and I believe that the domestic church is at the heart of every Christian upbringing ~ a truly vital [and rewarding] role especially when all around is mayhem and chaos in our oh so busy and impersonal contemporary society.
So what exactly was it that I was doing then? Who was I ‘serving’ other than my family which felt/feels like a job I could do standing on my head? I really couldn’t see any defined area where serving began or in fact ended. I thought I’d leave it for a while and have a think, oh and a bit of prayer helped. Maybe I wasn’t really serving any real purpose at all from a faith perspective??
The next day things became clearer as I concentrated on the word ‘community’. By defining who my community was it suddenly all became obvious. My community is anyone and everyone who touches my life immaterial of their religious persuasion ~ my family, my church, Turvey Abbey [secular and monastic], my friends [both online and off], people I may meet in a store or speak to on the ‘phone. However brief the contact, everyone deserves the same level of care and compassion whether long standing friend or brief acquaintance. This is what being Christlike is about. The length of time is not important, it’s how you touch someones life in that brief moment that stays in the memory, whether that be good……….. or bad.
And who am I serving ~ why God of course, not an individual or a group. I’m called to be a hand~maid of the Lord in order to serve God and be His representative on earth. No wonder it was tough trying to define my area of serving because I’ve realised that I try to love others in ALL that I do by serving God 24/7, not just for a couple of hours after breakfast. Jesus didn’t limit himself so why should we?? Community shouldn’t be limited to a single body of people such as our fellow worshippers at church. In fact as a good friend pointed out when I asked her opinion, “Jesus wasn’t fussy about who He mixed with and in fact those who were ‘religious’ were the most distanced from Him!”
Another Christian friend who I approached for her thoughts on this gave a very clear illustration on how important friendship and community outside of church is. Alot of her non~Christian friends behave in a very Christian way by giving their time, support and friendship through good times and bad. Does our Christian ethos rub off on others or is there a little bit of God in all of us under the guise of a different label? Do people associate what we do and how we behave with our faith?? I suspect they do sometimes [and not always for good reasons] especially if they already know we’re religious; many are curious and many dig deeper as a result. Who knows what seeds we sow? As Fr James says, we only sow the seeds, we rarely get to see the fruit, but that shouldn’t stop us planting as we go.
So, now when I think of serving and community I’m no longer looking through blinkers at a cosy little group of people who already love the Lord anyway ~ I’m gazing out at my world [albeit still a bit limited probably] and all those in it and I aim [not always successfully] to bless everyone who touches my life either with a smile, a word, a hug or something more. The only thing holding me back is ME. And is church [Mass] spiritual or social?? It’s neither and it’s both. Primarily it’s about me giving to God through worship, thanksgiving and the blessed sacrament, not so much about my spiritual need [although that is always renewed and fed] but either side of that there is room for friendship and social interaction where appropriate.
I’ve learnt alot about myself by working through this subject and about the direction and importance of my faith in the day to day things. It has focussed my intentions and given clarity and meaning to my purpose. It’s not always about the earth shattering stuff, in fact the reality is that it’s most likely to be about the little things, the things that matter to no one except the person whose life you’ve touched, the fruit you never see.
“The Mass is ended. Go in peace [into the wider community] to love and serve the Lord”.