"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't hit me with your rosary, please!

    Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who has these frustrating "out of sync with God" times which turn into glorious times which then go to the average times which go back to a really good time and then back to frustrating. And the cycle starts again.  Or, I'm I just the only one stupid enough to admit when I get out of sync with God occasionally?

  For example, and I really hate to tell this because I am liable to get whacked on the head by some little Catholic lady and her rosary.....but, I have had a very lousy Lent. For those who know me personally, you know that I would have probably said crappy instead of lousy, but using that 'c' word in the same sentence as Lent is a bit more that even I can do. Anyway, it's been a bad season.

  I have always observed Lent in some form or fashion. Rarely has it been by giving up my beloved food and beverages, but by giving of more time to church endeavors, to personal growth, to volunteer efforts in my community and in recent years to write daily thoughts of my own personal journey. This year, I had no inclination or desire to do anything. So, I didn't. I did tell some folks that I was giving up lemmings and Finlandian wines, but that was a struggle to even say without a giggle.

  During this season, I had two job opportunities. And I suffered with decisions. One I turned down; the other turned me down. But, for the weeks of talking and waiting, my levels of stress and anxiety flew (literally) out of control. I tried to turn the decisions over to God, but I kept picking them up. Every 'ding' alert for new email, everytime time the phone rang, sent me into a whirlwind of the jeebies. And then, decisions were made, and I crashed. I withdrew. I caved. As the true Southerner would do...I took to my bed for a season.

  Why did I care? My college life at Georgia Southern and my great friends at the Baptist Student Union (many who are still part of my life) was fantastic. I had a great career at Georgia State University and retired from there on top of the world. I guess the face that I triple-rolled my Explorer on the way home that final day should have given me a clue.

  I then took a job which beat me down, destroyed my self-image and wore my relationship with God to the bare minimum of acceptance. I was lied to, manipulated, censored on my writing and it finally threw me into therapy where I still have to go on occasion. Funny how  the church can and will eat it's own. Never again will I be a Professional Christian (thanks for the term, Micheal Elliott).

  So, I eventually ended up with my part-time Library job. That one, plus my retirement pension, plus my church music job (not as a Professional Christian....but, as a Gifted Christian), have given me a good life. Not the best financially, but I do have all I need, and then some more. I have peace. I am able to interact with people I like and who make me a better person. And that, my friends, is what it is all about. The one place to which I had always felt a calling...church ministry....was the one place who did not give comfort and acceptance. This is why I feel so fulfilled at the Tybee Bar Church. They are the true church, accepting of the misfits and the quirkys. Flip-flops welcome and expected. And they love me to come do my thing. Speak, music, laugh, worship.

  So, now the last week of Lent is here. I have thrown my focus back on the events of Holy Week and am re-reading and posting my thoughts of this special time and place. And I'm good. My faith is sound, my love for God is pure and true, my friends support and encourage me daily.....I only hope to do the same for them. "God loved us and sent His Son." "Love God, love others." You know the words, so, let's live them.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

From frantic to peaceful

  I am a frantic person. At any given time, I seem to have more than a dozen things going on at the same time while trying to remember my progress on each, rarely stopping to catch a breath, and eventually something snaps.

 Between keeping three jobs straight, keeping up a writing schedule for the Times newspaper as well as for my own enjoyment, having time for family and friends, it seems that my own time for solitude and (especially) for keeping close to God always suffers. And, as my family will tell you….when I get stressed….I get snarly. And I’ve been snarly and stressed for a long time now. My walk with God is suffering because of so many other things going on in my life and I know this has to be fixed. Our relationship with God is the most important thing in life, yet it is the usually the first thing to go when we get stressed and too busy.

   In the midst of my own personal whirlwind, I found out my sister was going through something similar and a friend of hers gave her advice which was passed along to me. It’s probably the best advice I’ve had in a long, long time. And, it is working. And, it’s so simple.

  My sister’s friend told her during a “spinning out of control” moment that she needed to slow down and begin to say “The Lord’s Prayer” out loud several times a day… and really think about what she was saying. Don’t recite it as a habit, but say it deliberately and with purpose and think seriously about each phrase. In beginning this project for me, I wasn’t putting my whole self into it, but just one of those things to get through. However, over a few days, I began to notice a slight change in my frantic ways. All the stuff I needed to do did not lessen, but the snarliness and my attitude seemed to be a bit better. Then, on my own, I decided to add “The Apostle’s Creed” to my daily walk as a reminder of my faith and what I believe. The creed is a very concise way for me to reaffirm who I am in God’s world. Plus, I have always found some comfort in it.

  “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty from where He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”

  Your walk with God should bring a joy and peace to your life that is unlike anything else. I had not had this joy and peace for a long time because, well, life and noise got in the way. But, after spending a few minutes, several times a day, to connect through these two simple scriptural statements of faith, I am beginning to glimpse a sense of peace again. My world is still crazy and my brain still spins way too much, yet I am learning to “Be still and know that I am God” once again (Psalm 46:10).

  May I encourage you to be aware of keeping the ways of God close so that the stresses and frustrations of life will not distract you.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.