Saturday, November 28, 2009

Popping In

Well hello there! Just want to thank all of you who've left comments. I feel badly about not acknowledging each of you, but I hope this collective thanks will do for now.

It's been my practice for the last few years to compose a gratitude list on Thanksgiving. Here's one for this year, a couple of days late. I'm thankful for...

1. My family -- husband, stepdaughter, grandson
2. My family -- Parents, brothers, nieces and nephew
3. My friends
4. My old church
5. My present church
6. The ending of an unhealthy relationship
7. The growth of healthy relationships -- old and new
8. My pet chinchilla
9. Angel Food Ministries
10. Employment for my husband and me
11. Good health
12. Caring people who helped me transition to my present church
13. Food, shelter, transportation
14. Facebook and Facebook friends
15. And most of all, God's providence, comfort and guidance through all life's joys and trials

This is considerably shorter than past lists, but I think it covers the main things, and many of the little things I listed before are covered in the broader categories.

I am so grateful that my stepdaughter J and grandson S like to go to church with me. Occasionally my husband joins us, and I'm thankful for that, too. I pray that each of us will find our relationship with our Heavenly Father strengthened as we worship.

It was a tough summer. I didn't want to leave my old church, but with the deteriorated relationship with its priest, I felt I had to. But I also knew, deep down, that God would redeem this situation. This unhealthy relationship had to end, and perhaps the unpleasantness was the only way either of us would be motivated to end it. (I guess another option would have been to change it, but I don't think either of us was very motivated to change, at least not significantly.)

As cliched as it sounds, it did turn out for the best. J likes our present church, and S loves the nursery, where he hammers and the playground, where he climbs and slides. S once sprinted towards the Communion rail as soon as the Lord's Prayer was completed.
I am also growing in faith, as I am allowed to serve where God calls me. And I feel that guiding my family in faith is helping me grow spiritually.

I learned, with God's help, just how strong -- emotionally and spiritually -- I truly was. Other people confirmed that my impressions about what I had experienced with Fr. X at my old church were not misconceptions or skewed thinking. That was a relief, and though I still have thoughts about things that happened, they are becoming less and less -- especially since I decided to leave those events at the foot of the Cross.

There are other situations that are also challenging, but I can't blog -- even indirectly -- about them. Perhaps in the coming months, when they are resolved, I'll be able to share them with you. In these situations also, God is present, ready to give guidance, strength and comfort. I hope to be able to report a joyous outcome soon. And God will be present in that too.

I hope you all have had a most blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Some years ago, I learned that my birthday falls on a special day on the church calendar. We Episcopalians call it the "Commemoration of the Faithful Departed," or "All Souls Day." It's a good time to think about those who have gone ahead of us to the nearer presence of God. We remember how their lives had touched ours, and we have hope that we will see them again. I don't know a lot about the specific customs associated with "Dia De Los Muertos," or "Day of the Dead", but I do believe in setting aside time for remembrance, and not only on November 2.

Today I did something a little different on my birthday. Amidst the celebratory activities, I visited with Fr. Z and celebrated the Rite of Reconciliation, popularly known as Confession. Usually, this is something I do during Advent and Lent, but I felt a need to
closely examine and deal with some problems now.

The Catholics consider Reconciliation a sacrament, one of seven. Episcopalians don't see it as a sacrament (we recognize two -- Baptism and Eucharist), but rather a sacramental rite. To be honest, as a former Catholic, I'm more inclined to simply consider Reconciliation a sacrament, as I'm a bit fuzzy on the finer distinctions.

I think Reconciliation/Confession has been given a bum rap over the years. Certainly there have been instances of insensitive or punitive priests, but mostly, my experience has been that of cleansing of the sin that has cluttered my spirit. Sin separates me from my fellows and from God. I find it healing to expose the sin and repent. Of course, God forgives, and has forgiven, even without the presence of a priest. For me, it is useful to confess to someone who is, presumably, a bit further along the spiritual path than I am. It is humbling, and a bit embarrassing, to confess one's shortcomings to someone else. I'd just as soon try to ignore those shortcomings or concentrate on the other person's faults -- especially if the sin involves a conflict with another. When I come to a priest, I realize that God is working through him (or her) during the Rite of Reconciliation.

There is, also, the sanctity of the confessional. I know that my confession will not be part of conversations amongst my fellow congregants. While I know that I can avoid that problem by confessing privately to God (I don't say "directly to God" because I believe that confessing in the Rite is directly to God.), I do believe that another person can provide perspective that I can't usually get by myself.

Penance is also another aspect of the Rite that I appreciate. Not all priests use that word, but in their counsel there will usually be some concrete act I can do to make things right, or at least get on the right road towards that end.

So, I found that celebrating, yes celebrating, the Rite of Reconciliation was a a good addition to my birthday celebration. After all, what better way to celebrate my birth than to be reminded of my new birth in Christ?

Be blessed.