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31Things | Day Four: Spirit

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

gold cross pendant
A baptismal gift from my godparents.

My mother grew up in the Methodist church, my father in the (northern) Baptist. So their decision to not "force" religion on their children but allow us to find our own way strikes me as... interesting. Although they never made any effort to provide a religious education or example for us, they never stopped us, either: in 4th and 5th grade, at my request, my dad took me to a nearby Methodist church, and I alone participated in worship services and Sunday school. He would drop me off and then spend the morning on the tennis courts of the high school across the street, working on his serves and volleys. It never occurred to me to wonder why he didn't go to church with me. It was simply the way things were. Interestingly, in spite of this hands-off approach to our religious edification, both my brother and I turned to God as we got older.

I think a lot of that had to do with my father dying of cancer in 1996. I was 17; Jeff was only 14.

I don't remember for certain, but I think it was probably my sophomore year of high school when my parents first dragged me to church at Abiding Presence. I didn't understand why at the time, but for a while my parents were going to a different church every week, mostly Protestant Christian, although at least once that I recall they went to a Greek Orthodox church. This one was Lutheran, and because it was near our house, they compelled my brother and me to go.

What no one - least of all I - expected was that I found something there. My world was rapidly turning upside down, and in the church liturgy I found comfort and stability in traditions two thousand years old. In the church programs I found a way to serve others and thank God for my gift of music. In Jesus I found forgiveness for my many, many sins as a typically rebellious teenager. As my own father was dying, in God I found the Everlasting Father.

The rest of my family moved on; my parents continued to search for God at many other churches, and Jeff resumed his normal Sunday morning routine, whatever that was at the time. But I stayed at Abiding Presence. Even after I started my first job, working as a hostess and cashier at the Mexican restaurant around the corner from our house, I went to church every Sunday. When I had to help open (and thus be there by 10:30am), I went to the early service. I think I was the youngest person at the 8:30 service by a good 20 years. I went alone, and I was totally ok with that. It was my place (outside of school) where I could escape to, where I knew I would always be welcome. When I was there, I didn't have to deal with my father's pain, my mother's grief, my brother's resentment. It was peace and solace.

Lutheran baptism
At my baptism on March 19, 1995.
At 16 years old I announced that I wanted to be baptized, and it was done.

I loved the liturgical service, which, sadly, I have not been able to find locally. It wasn't long before I had the entire service memorized verbatim, and knew many of the hymns by heart. I loved recognizing the ancient ties to the Catholic mass in the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Alleluia, Sanctus, and Angus Dei, which were sung or chanted, some even mixing Latin in with the vernacular English. I loved kneeling at the altar to receive Communion, being blessed and then feeling the sting of the wine on my tongue. I loved lifting my voice in song, my lips forming the words to hymns sung by generations of my ancestors. I loved hearing the pastor proclaim

As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ and by His authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
It felt uplifting and humble and joyous. It felt ancient and timeless. Like a mountain that had always been there, and always would be.

Needless to say, I am not a fan of the new contemporary worship services that have sprung up everywhere, with the rock music and the "praise teams" and the discarding of everything old that I had grown to love.

These days, with my lack of a church home, my focus is less on religion and more on faith itself (in fact, faith was my One Little Word in 2011). I do the best I can to see the hand of God at work in my life; to remember to thank Him for my blessings (even the ones I don't see as blessings at the time); to confess my sinfulness; to lean on His almighty strength when I am weak; to petition Him for the things I think I need; and to remember that He has a plan for my life and that I can trust Him. As in all things, some days I do better than others. I believe that God has sent me on a spiritual journey. Right now that does not involve a church community. Hopefully someday it will. As you may imagine, that journey is deeply personal to me, but I will share with you one moment of clarity that I had recently, and that is that
Faith is not a state of stasis. It lives and breathes. It whispers, it shouts. It questions and it probes. If it is not nourished, it withers. It is a powerful force; and as such it has the potential to do great good, or great harm. It should be wielded carefully.

The hardest part in all of this has been my children. Hannah was baptized as an infant in the (far, far away) church we attended at the time. William was not baptized until he was two - and only then because it was really bothering me that he hadn't been. I even allowed him to be baptized by Chris' hometown Presbyterian church, even though I have some major issues with both that particular church and with certain tenets of the Presbyterian faith in general.

For a year or so when she was four, Hannah attended Children's Church when I thought we had found the place we belonged (as it turns out I was so wrong about that). But as was usual during the early part of her life, her autism made it extremely difficult for us to leave her in anyone else's care. That, combined with the political climate of that church, meant that we didn't stay long. She also attended Vacation Bible School for a couple of summers around the time that William was born, simply because it was an inexpensive summertime activity and I had to get her out of the house. She had trouble there too, and she so obviously hated it so much that I felt guilty about making her do it any longer.

Aside from the day he was baptized, William has never been to church. (I should note that he behaved impeccably but was very surprised by the baptism! lol)

But I really do want to get my kids going to church, in fact I want it for our whole family. I believe it is my responsibility as a parent to give my children a firm Christian foundation. If they then choose to take another path as adults, well, that is their prerogative and I will solidly support any healthy choice they make. But it starts now, in childhood, with me. And that is such a tremendous responsibility, and yet I still don't have an answer as to how I shall accomplish it. But I do know where to start:

...with prayer.

Thank you, if you made it through this far! lol It's obviously a very deep topic that I (like many others) have some pretty strong feelings about. So thank you for joining me on this long and perhaps rambling post... :)


  1. This was a great post and an insight to a side of you that I didn't know. I am also having quite the same struggle at the moment. For many reasons, we haven't been going to our bible fellowship since around the time Aidan was born but we haven't found a great replacement. Despite its numerable flaws, there are many things about growing up going to this bible fellowship that were wonderful and very comforting to me as a child. It pains me to know that my children aren't getting that experience right now and I would love to find a place where we all can worship God and be amongst loving, like-minded people. The search goes on...

    1. Yeah it's something I really don't advertise. That's been one of the great things about doing this 31 Things class - it's getting me to document things that I normally wouldn't think to write about. Good luck in your search.

  2. By the way, is there any way you would consider removing the word verification step to posting comments on your blog? I usually don't have much of a problem with it but these particular word images are SO hard for me to read. I usually get them wrong at least 3 times before having my comment published :-).

    1. Done! I hate those things too but if I start having problems with robots I may have to turn it back on. It's off for now though. :)


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