After Mass: On Religion, Love, and the Gift of Faith

During Mass today, I realized what it’s about. Why I go.

Why we put up with all the idiosyncrasies of religion– the demands, the divisiveness.

We do it to be part of something bigger than ourselves. To share our lives in the midst of chaos and find a still point.

We do it to admit, “I need help. I can’t do do this alone.”

Admitting we need help is the hardest thing for most humans to do. We want to be self-reliant, we want to be okay, no matter what.

I love my church, because during peace, people walk around with open arms. They shake your hand, look you in the eye, smile.

My parents are local, and I enjoy seeing them. However, I don’t have siblings, and my family lives out of state. So I do feel lonely at times.

But in this church, I get hugs, just like I do with my family. And although there are still a lot of things I’m figuring out about my life, this church makes me feel anchored. Singing songs of praise makes me feel anchored. We spend the week busy, scrambling to get things done– we deserve to rest and just be thankful for what God has given us! To stand with others and testify that yes, we’re glad to be standing here, together. The services in my church usually run two hours– and I love that! At other churches, they are usually only 45 minutes to an hour, and everyone usually rushes right out after Holy Communion, and barely talks at all if they do stay. People in this church linger. A few times a month, they head into the parish hall for coffee. There’s no rush, they want to meet you, get to know you.

That makes me feel so happy. It’s just a simple church– and that’s why I like it. It’s not high-falutin’, it’s not about artifice.

It’s just about love, service, and appreciation.

Knowing that a family is depending on me to bring them Holy Communion anchors me.

I know that I can’t live my life alone, and that I’m never alone.

I’m learning that God is more than Bible verses and dogma. It’s more than prayer and Confession.

God is truly very basic.

God is a secure feeling of love.

God is a warmth in your heart that says, “Go ahead, you don’t have to be scared. I’m with you.”

God is the absolute confirmation that all you are, and all you haven’t been– is enough, because you’re doing the best you can.

And mostly, God is feeling so overwhelmed with that truth that all you want to do is share it with others.

And not by conversion– but by acceptance. By example. By trusting.

Be kind. Forgive. Help, with no expectations or conditions.

I feel God with me today. It’s an incredible lightness, to help us float through the storm.

We don’t need to know where we’re going or why– only that we’re on the right path.

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Giving More to God

There is so much love in my life.

I have my days where I feel moody– and I’m starting to write about them, to show a more realistic picture of myself. But over all, my personality is sunny. I wear a lot of bright colors, have a wacky sense of style, and don’t care if people think my clothes match. People are usually concerned if I’m too quiet or not smiling often– usually I’m a bit of a social butterfly with a very positive attitude.

Today I reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones.

It was a day of unending wonderful social activity.

I won’t talk too much about this church, because it’s new and special and I want to just kind of keep it to myself and really enjoy this secret right now myself. But last Sunday, I found a new parish that feels like home to me. Instantly, it felt like not just a church– but a family.

I loved it so much, I joined the choir and also volunteered to help with the soup kitchen. Today was my first soup kitchen experience. It was more healing than anything I can imagine– just serving others, I felt so grateful to be able to help them. I want to do this as often as my schedule will allow. I haven’t been to my first choir rehearsal yet, but I’m excited!

In high school, I loved being in our big Broadway style musicals. And since then, I haven’t found any opportunities to sing other than karaoke in bars. Since I quit drinking and recently have stopped going to bars, I really miss singing.

I have a hard time feeling connected during Mass because I can’t hear a lot of it– even sitting close, with my hearing-aids in. This way, I could actively participate.

The idea of lifting my voice up to the Lord instead of a crowd in a bar is so exciting.

I hope I get to sing “On Eagle’s Wings,” or maybe “Be Not Afraid,” — my favorite hymns.

I’ve also requested Sundays off from my job, and my boss approved it. After some much-needed time off, I’m now returning this week. It was risky to ask for a favor after I was just off– but my sales are consistently ranked #1 in our region, and I have good job security. So I asked.

Regardless, this is a gamble, because Sunday is the busiest day and the best opportunity for me to make money as a salesperson for my product. I’ll have to work that much harder to compensate for it on my other days.

But while I was at Mass Sunday, I had a very strong impulse this is what I should do.

Give that day to God. That’s the idea with Sunday, right?

I’ve almost always accepted jobs where I have no choice but to work on Sundays, or accepted Sunday shifts.

I feel like this is what God wants me to do, right now. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to keep Sunday work-free forever. Maybe I won’t be able to afford it for very long, even.

But for now, it’s my plan.

God has given so much to me– it’s my turn to start giving more back to Him.