Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where Do We Invest Our Faith?

So today we had a visit from the Rt. Rev. James Folts, one of the local retired bishops. He is indeed gifted in oratory, though his voice does somewhat resemble Foghorn Leghorn's, the rooster of Looney Tunes fame. (Hope that's not offensive, since I like Foghorn.) My stepdaughter, J, dubbed him "funny", "awesome" and "cool", no small praise from a 20-something. And he and his wife were nice to the grandson, which earns more than a few points with me.

Anyway, the bishop knows how to preach. He delivers with enough zeal and energy that I would dare anyone to sleep through one of his sermons.


Bishop Folts' message was one I needed to hear today: The bishop stated that we all have -- every one of us -- all the faith we need. And that faith is as strong as it ever needs to get. So why do we feel lacking in our faith? It's because we haven't invested it in the right place. We can choose to invest our faith in either hope (trusting God) or fear (distrusting God). And when we choose to invest our faith in fear, we surrender to the Enemy who lies in wait, looking for any opportunity to alienate us from God.

Investing our faith in hope allows us to defeat the enemy. We are no longer enslaved to his schemes. We are no longer separated from God. God desires that we live in hope, that we know that He loves us more than we love our own families. That gave me pause, for I know how much I love my husband, stepdaughter and grandson. When we do things that God dislikes, even hates, He doesn't dislike or hate us. But it is our choice -- my choice, your choice -- to invest our faith in hope, and choose to be in relationship with God, our Father.

But even when we choose hope, we may feel fear. It's natural. Bishop Folts wasn't saying that we banish the emotion of fear. What I heard him say was that we do not allow fear to rule our lives. Instead, we gather our courage to "look fear in the eye" and refuse to be enslaved by it. We turn to God and allow our trust in him to give us the hope that allows us to take right action in spite of the fear we feel.

So where does that leave me? Well, I know there are some things I have been content to leave on the back burner because I have been afraid to take action. I make the choice now to invest my faith in hope and move forward. God is with me, and even if I fail in my tasks, I will never be a failure to Him.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Lovely Day

Spent a lovely day outside. Began first with picking up an Angel Food order (see www.angelfoodministries.com) and then continued with a workday at the church. The physical work was finished soon for me, as the supplies for the emergency kits got packed up quickly. Then a small group went on a prayer walk around the church campus and surrounding neighborhood.

I had never experienced a prayer walk before, and thought it would be a contemplative stroll. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but this was different, more active. We stopped at various points and prayed for the people and/or missions of each place. We even stopped by the youth group building and prayed over a young man who had hurt his ankle during a soccer game. We prayed as we passed businesses, thanking God for the people who owned them and asking God to bless their continued service to the community. It was a good way for me to get better acquainted with the church grounds and the surrounding neighborhood as well.

Then our group and those who were working on the church grounds stopped for lunch in the parish hall. I enjoyed listening to people's stories as we ate.

From lunch, our original prayer group and a few others went into the sanctuary and prayed again for our church and community. Most significant for me was when we laid our hands on Fr. Z and prayed specifically for him. Our rector, Fr. Y, has been ill and Fr. Z has been, with the help of the staff and vestry, holding things together very well. More accurately, we have been continuing to move forward, even as we eagerly anticipate Fr. Y's healing and return.

I had planned to go on a women's retreat this weekend. But the more I had heard about this workday, the more I felt called to participate in it. As it was, the workday was like a retreat for me, and even better, I got to return home that afternoon and spend some wonderful quality time in our backyard with my grandson, S.

God's blessings are abundant! Thanks be to God!

Friday, October 2, 2009

More Wisdom from Gump

My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump

Sorry I have not given you much to read. Life in the face-to-face world has been very demanding. Since the grandson's mommy decided to go back to school -- a very good thing -- my husband and I have been alternating babysitting duty during the week. I believe that since I give so much attention and care to the children at work, my grandson deserves my fullest attention at home. Actually, that would be the case even if I did not work with kids. So, anyway, I have little time for reading and responding to email and Facebook, let alone stringing together complete thoughts for a blog entry.

This is a rare quiet time in our household. Papa (my husband) is napping, stepdaughter J is reading, and grandson S has finally succumbed to a nap. That gives me -- Nana -- a chance to blog today.

So back to the quote -- life is such a mixed bag. Joy and sorrow tumbling together.

This Sunday is the anniversary of a most joyous day -- the birth of grandson S. He will be 2, and is learning to proudly say so when asked, "How old are you?" He is a delightful playmate, inviting me to see once again through childlike eyes the joys of playdough, coloring, and blocks. My husband has returned from a business trip safe and sound. J is doing very well in school.

There are sorrows too. I heard about friends who have lost someone close to them. I heard about a friend who is dealing with depression and alcoholism. People, myself included, are still dealing with the uncertainties of the economy. I still carry the scars from a pastoral relationship/friendship gone sour.

Since it's Mental Health Awareness month, I'll share a little about my own experience with mental illness. I've dealt with depression for as long as I could remember. There was a time, several years ago, when I thought that living was quite overrated. My thinking was beyond clouded and I said and did things that hurt those I cared about. I spoke with the priest who was my pastor at the time, expressing my sorrow and regret over those hurtful deeds.

His response was not the warm, fuzzy response I expected. He said: "True repentance is doing everything in your power to get well."

These words have been my guide in recovery ever since (Thank you, Father D!). It wasn't enough to be sorrowful. I needed to change course, to do the things my treatment professionals recommended, to get rid of things and attitudes that kept me ill. I needed to be patient, as some changes took time.

Recovery is an ongoing process, and I am constantly on the lookout for signs that I'm drifting into depression. Recently, I experienced a depressive episode caused by a painkiller I was prescribed. Because I was vigilant, I was able to stop that episode before it became more serious.

When you hit bottom, there's nothing else to do but reach up to God. During my most severe depression, I began to pray more regularly. Today I pray each morning as I drive to work. For me, it works because at home there are so many distractions. Ideally, I'd like to go to church and pray. That only works now when I'm able to go to choir practice early and sit in the quiet of the empty church. When I was a Catholic, I'd go to Eucharistic Adoration in the chapel and sit quietly in the presence of Christ in the form of the Eucharist. I need to find/create a quiet space, besides my car, to pray. Any thoughts?

For all those dealing with mental illness, whether personally or as friends or family members, I offer this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.