Meanderings Of A Restless Mind

My friend Lilly made the bookmark in the picture. it is tattered and a little torn from use just as I am today. I am dictating this as I am laid up, or I should say my hand is laid up with a bent finger.

The bookmark is placed in a chapter in the book, He Still Moves Me, by Max Lucado. I am on the chapter called Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks. The chapter addresses being frail, like a bruised reed bent but still standing by the rivers edge.

This chapter, as well as the entire book resonates with me this morning because the first thing I thought of when I woke up, for some strange reason, is are we overthinking our purpose in life? What if our only purpose in life were to be kind to one another? I posted that on my Facebook page this morning.

I think the thought came to my mind because of all the unsettling news in the world today. Yesterday all I wanted to post was the words “I am a Christian and an American.”

I am not defined by a political party or by a certain denomination. I am defined by what is in my heart and by what I believe to be right and wrong and how I live my life.

That doesn’t mean I am the perfect person. I let myself be defined by outside influences. And because of it I define others or perhaps I should say I create an atmosphere in my relationships, or in my interactions which causes me to put a definition, right wrong on my friends or family that may change the path of their life, blurring their expectations of who they really are. Yes our words do influence others, occasionally in the wrong way.

This paragraph in Max Lucado’s book hit me hard this morning. It asks us if we are that bruised reed. If we once stood tall with confidence but the words of others, the criticism, words of anger, words of failure by religions rigidity, wounded and bent us and left us blowing In the wind.

Many of us are that bent reed. I don’t know what happens for you, but I know for me it makes me strike out or retreat because I want to stay out of the way of the harshness. And it makes us feel less than ok with ourselves, operhaps turning us into someone we are not, someone of harshness or anger. A person who wounds and lashes out to keep ourselves safe from the wounds of others. We retreat or attack.

I’ve always been a talker, I talk fast and I ramble on and I have always been made fun of for talking so much. And it makes me feel bad. But I have never said anything to those who criticize my talking. I have never shared that I ramble on because I feel less than, or I ramble on because I’m nervous, or I ramble on because I am just so uncomfortable in social situations.

When I am teased or criticized for talking too much I hide my hurt, and sometimes I retreat and I’m more silent because I am uncomfortable in the presence of the person that made fun of me and my personality. It makes me feel that I’m less than and it is not acceptable to be who I am.

My reading this morning made me realize that I am that bruised reed and I imagine there are so many people out there just like me. I also know that I probably many times have been the cause of making someone else feel that way.

The past weeks myself and others have spent an enormous amount of time and energy defending our views and not listening, or trying to understand the views of one another, making each of us feel wrong or attacked because we believe what we believe. And when we feel cornered we attack too and nothing is accomplished except losing our own integrity.

I have noticed that many attacks on the political front come from people who are normally outgoing and outspoken, and yes sometimes I am the outspoken one. I think we get louder and talk more if we feel we are not being heard or we want to bully someone into taking our side. Doing that makes others cower in fear and retreat and be silent, because they feel speaking out causes attack and they want to be peaceful. It stops us from hearing the wisdom of those silent voices.

There seems to be a certain criteria to be an accepted Christian depending on what denomination we choose, and there seems to be a certain criteria that says we have to take sides and be one or the other, Republican or Democrat. Depending on which side we choose, which denomination we choose, determines whether we are good or bad.

We are told we have to have a purpose in life and that too is causing us stress because that is even become an arguable point. If we aren’t helping or volunteering enough or choosing to be very busy then we need to look for our calling. I once was told by someone that my calling was to take my mother-in-law into my home to care for her when she had Alzheimer’s. I couldn’t care for her the way I knew she needed. It was a detriment to her health if I took care of her but yet I felt the pressure of someone feeling that. There is never a day when we can live up to all the expectations put on us by society.

I don’t claim to be an expert on anything especially the Bible, but this chapter in this book spoke to me. Matthew 12:20 says a bruised reed will not break, and a smoldering wick will not be snuffed out.

So I will say it again; I am a Christian. I am an American. I am a talker and I am going to work on my purpose in life, being just to be kind and see where that takes me. I am that bruised reed, bent and blowing in the wind, and you know what? I accept that.

Be kind, especially if you comment on this post. Laugh out loud, because instead of writing, I dictated this so I guess I do talk maybe too much at times, but I am accepting that part of me. It is who I am.



A Summer of Ponderings

Since I quit my column, Something About Nothing, I have been more silent on my blog. This summer I needed a step back to see where I have been and where I am going. I am not sure I am there yet, but I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you. I have never been good at keeping things inside and yet I found there were so many feelings I was stifling because I wanted to keep friends, not cause a ruckus, and that is what I was trained to do most of my life. Don’t get angry, don’t yell, be strong.

I remember a be strong moment when I was pregnant with my first child and my dad died. I was an only child and everyone told me I had to be strong for my mom and I was until…   I remember walking down the aisle following the casket after the funeral. I heard someone sobbing loudly and realized it was me. Strong took its toll at the worst moment. This summer I found I had never properly taken the time to grieve for missing my dad, and it was 48 years ago that he died, but I held those feelings inside of me because I needed to be strong.

I like to think of myself as an authentic person but I realize I am not. I have said things are ok and fine when they really aren’t. When I felt my voice and feelings didn’t matter or they wouldn’t be heard so to avoid conflict, I would stay silent, but hurts don’t disappear that way, they may diminish, but until they are acknowledged they never go away or get resolved.

This summer seems to have awakened a journey in my heart. We have been dealing with the illness of a loved one, that is invisible to others and there is a level in which you don’t talk about it because when you don’t know how to cope, it is hard to explain it to others so you retreat or… you put on a smile and hide the heartbreak.

I also have been examining my faith journey and what I was taught to believe and what I have experienced throughout my life. I could say I have been putting together the pieces. I wouldn’t call it a faith crisis, although some would because I haven’t been to church much this summer, but it isn’t a crisis as much a faith growth. I started my life in the Catholic Church and after my marriage joined the Lutheran Church. At the time it was more about the leadership of the Priest in my church community when through conversation during our pre-nuptial counseling, he revealed himself to be racist. My husband recognized it, I didn’t, and my soon to be husband felt he could not belong to a church led by a man that felt that way about another race. Looking back I brushed it off and thought my decision with leaving the Catholic Church was more to do with going to church as a family because as my dad was of another religion, the Catholic Church at the time didn’t allow that. Examining my heart I now know that Priest’s comments were also a part of my decision, even though at the time I tried to make light of it to excuse the behavior. So right now, after 48 years I will say, “The Priests behavior was not ok.”

This summer in my faith journey that is still going on, I was fed by friends of different religions and different backgrounds. I was fed by book studies with strangers and discussions with different beliefs. I was fed because though there were basic differences we disagreed upon, we listened to one another, not always understanding and expressing that in a graceful way, but coming through it with love and kindness and a feeling of relief that we could come together with differences and leave with differences, but we were allowed to speak and be ourselves and not be judged. I learned church family doesn’t always mean those from a brick and mortar church. I learned a Pastor or a Priest make a difference depending on their leadership. I remember when I joined the Lutheran Church one of the reasons is what I saw in the leadership of Pastor John MIkkelson, a wise, kind, strong leader. He showed us who he was. He let us know where he stood. He could lead and delegate and make all feel welcome. The rest was up to us. I have heard the words “I don’t go to church because of a Pastor.” But I will say this, we need to respect the person who leads so that we can respect the message that is being taught to us. That respect does not mean they are perfect but they show us their flaws, can admit when they are wrong, and they know how to feed a flock that inspires us to go out into the world and treat each person we meet that are searching for their church family to feel accepted and welcomed. Have I done that? I don’t think so.

I used to be very involved in the church when I was younger. It wasn’t something I planned but at the time our Pastors, after Pastor Mikkelson visited each and every home in their congregation. The visits only lasted five minutes but they felt it was important so they could meet their congregants where they lived. Some complained the majority of the congregation actually liked the visits. It was because of those visits and Pastors I got more involved in the Sunday School and was in church more often. They knew who we were and it was easier to go to them with problems because they took the time to get to know us.

Last Sunday in my home church it hit me what I was looking for and what I think many are looking for in a church and that is to be accepted. To be able to show others the good, the bad and the ugly. For someone to say I don’t understand, but I care about you and I will tell you if I feel you are harming yourself or others and do it with love and acceptance of the person, not the actions. I am looking for a church that follows the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28. I think the Message Bible speaks to me the best. Matthew 11: 28-30. Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” That is the feeling I want when I enter my church. As many of us are, I am tired. I am weary. I judge myself so much I don’t need to be judged by others. I can do it far worse than anyone else can and I need a place to go and people to be with that is a safe haven no matter how I dress, no matter what I look like. How about you?

So what have I decided about my faith crisis or faith growth? The journey will continue. The climate we are living in today pits us against each other in religion but history shows it always has. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who worships the correct way? Who believes the correct way? Whose sin is greater than the other? We point fingers. We judge. And we are weary. And I have felt myself doing the same thing because of the climate of our country today and I don’t like myself for it.  I need to stop.  I wonder how God’s love or a higher powers love can shine through any of it, but it does if we look for it.

Next week…. more of my summer musings about writing and painting and family.

 

 

Can’t We Have More Than One Church Family?

ground group growth hands

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you have read my previous blogs you know my family is a mixture of religions. I have been a Catholic and turned Lutheran when I had my family. As I get older and ponder my religious upbringing the more I seem to question, not whether I believe in God, but why I need to attend one sole church.

The thought crossed my mind as I attended my Granddaughter’s confirmation. I knew why we had to belong to one church as my children grew up, so they could attend Sunday School, Bible School and learn more about God. That’s the way it is done. As I get older and have no children to raise I ponder why I can’t have many church families.

I loved the church service at the confirmation ceremony and the way my Granddaughter’s church, Cross of Peace Lutheran Church in Shakopee, MN, prepared their children for confirmation and made their day special. It made my day special too with the upbeat and contemporary service. You could feel the joy. I enjoyed the experience of worshipping in a congregation that was not my home church.

This week I decided to test my theory in my own home town. I decided to drop in and visit Open Doors United Methodist Church. It was my dad’s home church. I felt welcome the minute I walked in the door. The chatter and feeling of warmth immediately drew me in. As I experienced the services, different from my home congregation, I was moved. Looking at the bulletin I was drawn into wanting to attend some of their activities. It was Mother’s Day so the kids handed out homemade bookmarks to mothers. A woman I met briefly a few weeks earlier, invited me to dinner with her family. I already had plans but I appreciated the invitation. Another person invited me to a Bible Study.

After leaving I pondered visiting two different churches so close together, both different, but both feeding my heart and teaching me about the Lord and the gospel and church family. Each church, my own included, has an energy all their own.

I love the people in the church where I belong. My point is not unhappiness with my own home congregation, Good Shepherd Lutheran, it is something inside of me that wonders why we can’t have more than one church family in 2019. I know the doctrine of each church differs, but I also know very few people who 100 % follow the doctrine of their church. I am a mixed breed of religions and perhaps that is what is fueling my questions.

In my cozy mystery series books, the Fuchsia, MN Series, I think I addressed what I was feeling without knowing it. In Fuchsia, we have the We Save You Christian Church. Everyone in Fuchsia goes to the church. The denominations are not the same. The building is shared by all religions with the Priests and Ministers presiding over each denominations services but sharing the building. Residents can attend the service of their choice but many times they attend a service of another denomination because they want to change it up. Because they are all under the umbrella of one building, they are all one church family holding some events together. Maybe I pulled that out of some deep down feelings I have been hiding.

What would happen if we attended different churches on Sunday, expanding the church families that we have?  What if we weren’t so territorial about our people, but encouraged them to not only worship and take part in our church activities but of other churches too, and we welcomed others to join our activities without expectations. What if we welcomed and encouraged expanding church families and encouraged them to give their money wherever they worshipped for the Sunday? It would come back to us when others worshipped at our church.

I found events enticing me to attend in both churches where I worshipped in the last two weeks. At Cross of Peace Lutheran, I would love to participate in their Women, Wine and Woods event. At Open Doors I would love to participate in their Bible Study. There are things in my church too to attend. And there are events I wouldn’t mind helping with at each church such as a library and children’s book Sunday.

Am I advocating a pick and choose religion? Not really. I am advocating expanding and becoming part of a larger nurturing family of believers, rather than limiting ourselves to one inclusive congregation where attending another church or religion in your community might be viewed as a betrayal. I view it as enriching our lives with a bigger family brought together to learn about God.

I find I expand my world by seeing things through others eyes and the same can be said by learning about how others worship and what they do to feed their flock.

We have a fear in our congregations, I think it is underlying and not said, but in smaller communities perhaps, fostered silently, and that is that we are in competition with others churches and religions, and we need to keep people within our walls.

I love Billy Graham’s quote: Christianity means a lot more than church membership. And we’ve all heard the quote by Billy Sunday: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. I agree with both. But having a church family that has your back can change your life.

Spending time with others with like interests in various activities feeds us to come together in prayer and outreach, bringing with it laughter, and comfort and a deeper understanding of the word.

These thoughts are just those of a rebel old person. Whose hallowed halls will I still be welcome in?