Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saving Faith

I think it's sadly profound how a throw away statement from thirty years ago can still have a palpable effect today. When I got married the first time I agreed to marry in a Catholic church although I wasn't prepared to convert. My prospective husband called me a heathen as my faith and understanding was of an eclectic nature. Even though I had a faith and was prepared to say my vows in a Catholic church even though that was not my choice. I graciously agreed his parents' preferences.

As a preteen, teen and young adult I had an ongoing journey in Faith. My baby brother had a best friend whose family were involved in the local Baptist Church. My brother and I attended regularly, every week we were an avid part of Sunday School and the sermon. I praise my parents in my prayers often for their attitude which they bestowed upon me. I loved learning about the Bible and I was comfortable to ask questions. I felt blessed that I could take part in communion without having gone through a rite of passage. My dedication earned me a lovely Bible and various bookmarks which I loved. I knew the chapters of the Bible off by heart. I attended choir performances in Melbourne, I went to countless pot luck dinners. I loved it there. The church was in a colourbond shed, plain, nondescript. Inside it was a simple church with pews and pulpit. I'm sure there was a cross somewhere. Simple, plain and full of wonderful people.

I wanted to convert to Baptist and my parents in their wisdom told me to hold off until I was older. I felt such a sense of belonging to that church. My parents never attended, nor felt pressured to. The Minister would come and call on Mum from time to time, if I remember correctly Mr. Green even started the lawnmower for Mum when she wanted to help and surprise Dad.
My parents let us attend all the events we wanted to go to. The only time Mum ever took umbrage was when we had communion (once a month) and the roast lunch had to be delayed because we would be home later than usual.

When I began my first job I had a girlfriend who was Catholic. I spent a lot of time with her and her family. I'd attend the beautiful Catholic Church and went on some camps. We would go to an evening mass and it was special. The priest was young and we'd be invited back to the presbytery afterwards for pizza and lemonade and it was great I loved it. I could have stayed there and perhaps not made some of my early life mistakes had they not jumped on me and tried to convert me the moment they knew I wasn't Catholic. Such a shame. This wasn't the last time that church folk thwarted my journey of Faith. Unfortunately my stubborn nature often felt pressure when I was confronted with opinions differed to my own and rather than wade it out I left. It's a shame. They too were good people wanting to share their faith with me and I was frightened. Not strong enough within myself or my faith to take it for what it was. Too young and stupid and scared of what might transpire.

Enter stage left a prospective husband who has no willingness for church attendance but because of familial pressure insisted on a Catholic wedding. I have no issue with that. I'm a Christian after all. Denomination means naught to me at this stage. Even now it means little.

The only point I took issue with, was that I wouldn't say 'I obey' and I'd ask curly questions at the pre marital sessions. Those questions endeared me not to Catholicism at that time. Again my faith was tested and I was pushed away.

It was because of my questions and curiosity that my first husband labelled me a heathen.

Fast forward seven years...........

Now I've had two failed marriages and I'm painfully and debilitatingly ill with a slipped disc. I'm sad and believing I have come to a point where I've seriously given God a reason to finally do me in. After all my sins and transgressions God has finally had enough and has decided that a normal life was too good for me. Why else was I in the prime of my life, with two failed marriages, few friends and I'm in and out if hospital in chronic pain.

I spent a lot of time on my own. My parents were wonderful during this time and spent hours sitting with me, I honestly don't know what I would gave done without them at that stage of my life. I still had too much time on my hands. Time to pray, to think, to ponder. Someone on the nursing staff brought me a Bible. It was a little red New Testament Gideons Bible. I can still remember the evening after many days of searching for answers when I came across a Psalm which made me realize that God wasn't punishing me. I can still feel the relief wash over me. That moment when I knew that God was neither vindictive nor punitive.

During the months of pain and the time around my surgery I felt at peace and I had an inner strength gained from my prayers. For a few months during this time I attended the Lutheran Church in Nambour. I chose here as that is what I was baptized and my brother, his wife and her family worshipped there.

I never felt a connection with this church. Again my faith was stalled. My Christian growth once again went into hiatus.

I never lost faith or ever doubted in God. It was no longer a priority in my life.

I've always prayed. Often even just reciting the 'Lord's Prayer'. I was so conscious of not always coming to God with a shopping list that I wouldn't pray my own prayer. The Lords Prayer said it for me. It was a comfort. I knew the lines of communication were still open but I wasn't putting any conscious thought or effort into it.

I fell in love and married again. Years later, ten years after my hospital stint, I had a baby who was quite ill. I knew that God was with me during that time. Apart from when my Dad was in hospital and had his triple bypass, and my illness, I'd never before known that level of uncertainty which can come with the 'unknown' or where the future is uncertain. A premature baby who has breathing difficulties is wrought with worry and uncertainty, but the whole time we were in hospital I felt sheltered in a way I can't explain.

I had a long walk from my hospital bed and to the Intensive care unit where Sammy was, and, again lots of time to think. Several times a day I would walk past the chaplain's office and I yearned to have someone to talk to and someone to pray with. Being the day before the Y2K. I had no chance of finding anyone to talk to.

Once home the reality of two young children hit me and it hit me hard. I was lonely. It was no longer easy to go out. my children needed their routine and they needed to be home and in their beds for naps.

A friend came and visited me one day and I told her I was lonely. She gave me a phone number of a lady who ran a mothers group for children at preschool level or younger.

I attended this MOPS group for many years. The woman who ran this group was to become my best friend. This friendship began the start of my life as it is now and she's also become the catalyst I was looking for to become part of a church I love.

I started at the MOPS group early on 2000. It was a fortnightly group for mothers of young children which was under the auspice of the local Church of Christ. The children were looked after for two hours and we would spend the time with other mums. The first part of the morning we would complete a craft. After a morning tea we would read from and discuss aspects of a Christian book on families. These mornings was a Godsend for me. I was able to be sans kids, make new friends and begin to build a special friendship with a wonderful lady.

The MOPS morning before Easter we were all given an Easter egg from the ladies if the church. Attached to these eggs was a strip of paper with church service times. That Good Friday I was there and my church life was forever changed. As I entered the church foyer I was greeted by sincere welcomes which overwhelmed me. On entering the church proper I was taken aback by the volume and tempo of the music and the sight of a full band up on a stage.

Week after week I felt myself being swept up with the worshipful mood and the wonderful songs of praise. The first time I'd heard Barbi sing, I felt goosebumps run up and down my arm. Never before had I heard such heartfelt singing in praise of Jesus. I was touched, deeply so. The first time I partook in Holy Communion I felt the Holy Spirit. A feeling of such serenity and warmth overcame me, I cannot explain it as anything else. I was where I was meant to be. It was like coming home into safe, comfortable and welcoming arms.

For the next few years I went along regularly and attended all the information evenings and talks as I was hungry for knowledge. I made a public acknowledgement that Christ was my Lord and saviour.

During this time I was again pregnant and spent a lot of time in and put of hospital. Pregnancy with Mickey was not an easy time. Sammy was still so young and such a handful. The church was fantastic toward me. I had their emotional support, as well as food and visits which were all very much appreciated.

Mickey was born and not well. Thankfully he didn't require a trip to Brisbane like Sammy. The pastor and his wife visited while Mickey was in the special care unit. I'll never forget how his vital signs improved as we stood around him praying.

The following years saw many changes in my life.

At this point Barbi and I were fast friends and our lives were firmly intertwined.

God was smiling upon us and we were blessed with the opportunity to buy our own home which was across the road from where we currently lived. That's a story unto itself though, so I won't go into that now.

We also started Daisy's during this time, so that was very exciting and while I'm no longer a business partner, Daisy's is an important part of my life. God has also blessed Daisy's from the staff who work there, to the whole ethos of the place. It's become Barbi's ministry and Daisy's is so much more than just a store.

Sadly the church went through so many changes during this time to the point where it was no longer the church it had once been. They caused so much hurt and pain for Barbi and her family, it was not a good time. I left the church. I couldn't be a part of a place that could cause so much hurt and heartache. MOPS changed the venue, they went from a larger centre to the church foyer. This felt that we were no longer welcome. The funny thing is that this area is used for gatherings nowadays and I no longer feel displaced.

I'd stopped going to church about 7 years ago and while I wanted to return the timing wasn't right. I went to the carols just before Christmas and then started going to church from then.

The pastor is amazing. Casual, learned, passionate and wise. I admire him. I enjoy how he interprets the Bible. I can use his translations in my daily life. Things I can do to become closer to God. Things I can do to become a better Christian.

While my knowledge of the Bible is still scant I enjoy devotional time and love my conversations with God. I have found an inner peace which is wonderful and I come to God now for everything. Sometimes I will forget and then it comes over me in a rush, that I'm not alone. That He understands and will alway listen.

Daily I pray for myself and for others. For those close to me, and for those I don't even know.

I find I am much more able now to accept that things are in God's hands. It's brought me a calm I've never before even imagined. I'm a long way from being a perfect Christian (I don't believe there is such a being). But it's something I will always strive for.

I see the Lord's presence in all areas of my life and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Now I look forward to growing in my Faith and to living my faith every single day.

I have loved this quote since I was a young teen.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Reinhold Niebuhr

The words have always had a powerful effect on me. Now the do more than ever.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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