Reflections on This Past Week: The Impact on My Faith

How my faith has changed in the last week:

  • Prayer heals. I think that D survived largely because of the prayers of everyone in the conference room when the surgeon was consulting with us. I’ve been keeping him and his family in my prayers since and all has been going fairly well. On Friday, I found out that he was upgraded from a 20% chance of surviving to more than an 80% chance. That’s definitely an improvement in odds.
  • As Christians, we know that death is our homecoming to Heaven. We know that putting our trust in Christ gives us the promise of eternal life. I saw some tears shed during Mary’s funeral, but it was *NOTHING* compared to the tears shed at non-Christian funerals I’ve attended. I have been hugged more in the last week than in the last 10 months — people have needed comfroting but it’s less intense than it could have easily been. After all, St. Paul writes:

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39)

  • Ministering to someone does not mean you know the exact words to say. If the Lord wants you to talk to someone, He will *give* you the words and frequently it’s what you *NOT* say that helps. Holding someone’s hand is just as meaningful as saying “it will be OK” and keeps you from looking like a fool when it is *NOT* OK. A hug can say more than words ever could. Praying confides that you are not doing this alone.
  • I really need to pray when I feel the urge to do so. Prayer has kept me sane this week. I’ve looked forward to getting to Sacred Space on my blogroll or reading the Our Daily Bread devotion for the day. My prayer time this week has kept me sane and I’m hoping that I can build better habits right now for my future. The urgings to prayer this week have also probably kept others sane as I know that the Lord works through our prayers for others.
  • I’ve figured out how to succinctly state the basis of my call to ordained ministry. Simply put, I love to tell the story. God’s promises are still amazing to me 8 years after the night I was led to faith in Jesus Christ and there is a hunger within me to tell people about them and to help people to work with them in their lives in all circumstances.
  • My deep appreciation for the words of the traditional hymns has increased. The hymns written a hundred or more years ago might not be as catchy or upbeat as today’s Vineyard music but many of them have much better lyrics and a better/more singable tune. I’ve extolled the virtues of “Abide With Me” enough in my journal this week; but I sing that nightly and hymns like “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” beat out “The Lord Is My Light” any day. “Amazing Grace” still makes me cry.
  • Reflections on This Past Week: Words of Wisdom

    Chris commented yesterday that after several hard days and hard posts from [me], [he] was strangely relieved to just see a Friday Five on mundane stuff like hair. Believe me, those posts have been part of the reason I’ve survived this week. It’s been healing to be able to blog out my feelings on things and just write about things. The other way I’ve been surviving is singing along to my various hymn CD’s while working on my computer at home. “My Life Flows on in Endless Song” is doing more for me right now than “Shout to the Lord”. (I just wish that the arrangement of the former wasn’t instrumental so that I could have some words to post. Ah well… I’ll get it off of Cyberhymnal later.)

    Some wisdom from this week:

    “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. ”
    -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if i go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. you know the way to the place where I am going.”
    -John 14:1-4

    “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
    -John 3:16-17

    “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
    -Job 19:25-27

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
    -Proverbs 3:5-6

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
    -Matthew 6:33-34

    Saying Grace

    In small group tonight, we were talking about prayer and witnessing before diving into the Book of Revelation. One of the contexts given was saying grace in a public place like a restaurant and it reminded me of this…

    Since I embraced Christ at age 14, I’ve been fairly intentional about praying before I eat. I was subtle about it at first and got bolder as time went on. By the time I left for college at age 18, I was praying before meals regularly. I wasn’t obnoxious about it — I’d just bow my head for a few moments — but I was very conscious to do so. At first, this really puzzled the motley crew of non-Christian influences with whom I hung out in college and the joke became that I was “waiting for the Lactaid to kick in” if I was eating with Das Group. People knew to just hold off on conversating with me for however long my head was bowed and I didn’t make a huge deal out of it.

    I was really focused on being inconspicuous at first because I thought I was shoving my faith in peoples’ faces but everyone was really OK with it and some people actually told me during some of the deeper one-on-one conversations we had that they really thought that it was cool. Others would bow their heads with me if we were all going out to eat and my friend Amy actually asked if we could say grace when we ate together in our apartment during our senior year. Granted, it was a silent prayer but it was a time to give credit to the One who made it possible to have the food on our plates. I’ve gotten lax about my quiet times lately and even praying before I fall asleep (I tend to fall asleep *while* praying a lot of the time) but I’m still very vigilant about saying grace. This puzzles me because I’m doing the little prayers instead of the big ones; but by the same token, I’m also acknowledging my gratefulness to the Lord for what I have and that I would not have it without Him.

    Another thing that came of saying grace was that it taught my friends about how much my faith meant in my life. In November 1999, my life was in pieces (literally) and I came into the dining hall one morning in tears. I was eating alone and my friend Amy came and sat down with me and asked me what was wrong, which made me cry harder. She then said the most magical words I’ve ever heard, “Jen, do you want to pray about this?” The reason they were so magical was that Amy was a non-believer (at the time) and it was like “SHE UNDERSTANDS!!!” She offered her hand and I took it and we prayed silently for probably a good 10 minutes. I still get weepy thinking about it because I don’t know if Amy will ever understand how much it meant to me that she sat there and prayed with me. All I know is that she understood that prayer was important in my life at the time and she wanted to help me in a way that was meaningful to me. Other of my friends would ask me to pray with them (also non-believers at the time though some have come to Christ since our graduation) and though I’d be judicious in my wording, it was still an affirmation of my faith and in a way saying that they understood the power prayer could have. Saying grace was a way I could witness to people about my faith and it was an expression of my dependence on God for everything.

    I heard a lot about being intentional and praying VERY audibly in restaurants as a way of witnessing. (By “VERY audibly”, I’m talking a voice level 3-4 times above normal.) I think that instead of praying so loudly that others DEFINITELY hear us (cf. Luke 18:9-14), we should pray as we normally do and let people notice us. Believe me… they WILL and I’ve gotten comments on it even when I’ve prayed silently to myself at $tarbuck$ (literally waiting for the Lactaid to kick in). I remember the impact it made on me as a newly-minted Christian to see two people praying over their bear claws at $tarbuck$ and I think that it can have similar impacts on other people.

    My $0.02 for what it is worth.

    You Know You’re A Lutheran Seminarian/Intern/Pastor When…

  • you have to explain to your fluffball that he cannot collect multiple benefices for his multiple cathedras (chairs). (We refer to Finian as our “bishop”.)
  • you make the sign of the Cross on the “Mary mark” (the “M” tabbies have on their foreheads) on the forehead of your killer attack lemur and notice that it is corrupted with an Om sign along with the yin yang that appears on his side. You then attempt to explain to him that syncretism is not allowed at Casa K-M. (Cullen has a a few intricate designs on his head by virtue of being a tabby.)
  • you explain the yowling cats at 5 a.m. by saying “they’re singing Matins.”
  • you use the rings on a lemurpuss’ tail to count prayers.
  • you marry your spouse for their Greek Bible and Commentaries. (I did this, as did my Systematic Theology professor. Those things are expensive!!!)
  • your spouse is asked to do a funeral/wedding/supply preaching gig and you immediately think “groceries!”
  • you each have to have your own copies of the Lutheran Book of Worship because you don’t trust the other to give yours back if they borrow it.
  • you do LBW Morning Prayer so often that your cats have the sung parts memorized.
  • you know that the marking ribbons in your prayerbook make good cat toys.
  • you compliment your spouse on their form when they make the motion to bless people.
  • you discuss sermon ideas at 3 a.m. with your sleepy spouse when your sermon should already have been written. (Ahem JON…)
  • you show up to class with the last edition of the book your professor assigns with the pertinent passages highlighted and notes in the margin.
  • something from the Small Catechism or other parts of the Book of Concord come up in every discussion.
  • you can translate passages in archaic languages into English but cannot fold a map to save your life.
  • you discuss the pros and cons of the coffeehour at the churches where you supply preach. (Good coffee is a sacrament in the Lutheran Church.)
  • you have certain hymns memorized and they evoke memories of weddings/funerals/hymn sings in your family. (“Children of the Heavenly Father” is sung at every funeral in Jon’s family.)
  • you refer to “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” as the Lutheran fight song and can even sing both versions rhythmically correct.
  • you know how to sing “Amazing Grace” to the Mickey Mouse Club March. (It’s a Prairie Home Companion thing.)
  • you know which dishes to avoid at church suppers and how to tactfully explain to the maker of said dishes that their food will cause a severe allergic reaction/Crohn’s flare-up or violate your strict vegetarian diet. (This is how I avoid lutefisk. You know there’s a problem with the food when the EPA bans its preparation because the ingredients are toxic.)
  • you can tell how long the communion wine has been sitting in the bottle by a small taste.
  • you’ve ever gone to class drunk as a skunk from consuming the elements after the Wednesday Eucharist. (Like my classmates are going to let me live *this* down. Was it my fault that we had too much wine [see above] left over and it was the stuff from the bottom of the bottle?)
  • you can put a worship book together in under 3 minutes.
  • you speak a strange language in which acronyms like ELCA, LCMS, WELS, WOV, LBW, PLTS, TFBF, and WELCA have everyday meanings.
  • you have a roll of duct tape in every closet for the sole purpose of removing fur from your clericals. (I wish peach fur matched Jon’s clericals because Finian likes to sleep on them.)
  • you keep a spare tab in the glove compartment for emergency hospital calls.
  • it shocks you that your church choir is singing “Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus” *STANDING UP*!!! (One of the jokes about being Lutheran is that you always sing it *sitting down* because it’s usually a Communion hymn. We actually stood up to sing it during Communion today.)
  • you have to put a bumper sticker or something unique on your planner because everyone has the same desk planner in class/at cluster meetings. (Thrivent gives them out to all pastors and seminarians. They’re great because they print the lectionary for all the churches in there.)
  • your church conducts services in German/Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Finnish/Slovak at least once a year.
  • you sing random parts of the liturgy while walking down the street.
  • Under Fire

    Before I talk about the ramifications of my stress on my faith, let me direct you to this. This woman is an example of courage, grace, and God’s power to work in all things.

    OK… now on to Jen.

    Yes, I’m talking about my panic attacks and how miserable my life is. Yes, I am having a really hard time. Yes, I was hurt by what happened with my candidacy. Yes, I look like a raccoon because of the circles under my eyes. However… I will make it through this with God’s help. This doesn’t mean that my life will be all peachy keen; but it means that I have Someone listening as I am crying out. Psalm 23 is comforting; but Psalm 13 is my song right now.

    Rick talks about the whole brokenness thing in his journal entry from yesterday. In the comments section (where I thanked him for reminding me that I’m not the only one with issues), he commented that we all have issues and some are better at ignoring them. He prefers to be real and so do I. Ergo, there will be much whining from Jen in this journal (such as my entry from last night) because it’s how I’m dealing with things right now: venting them out in my blog. For one thing, I get feedback, which is usually really helpful in reminding me to keep things in perspective. For another thing, I’m paying for my domain space and I’ll use it for what I need to do.

    OK… Jen is done ranting on her emotional state. For the record, things are better this morning and I’m gonna be OK. I didn’t get to see my (big/fat/Greek) doctor this morning because he was ill. This was not a bad thing because the sound of the pouring rain woke me up at 3:30 this morning (well… more like my killer attack lemur mewing at me and being a scaredy cat was what really woke me up) and when my alarm went off at 7:45 for my 8:00 appointment, I was still not fully awake and drifting when the office called. It meant that I got an extra 2 hours of cuddle time with the three men in my life including the one who was being edged off the bed by me and the other two boys. (You can tell who matters in this household. :)) I also love rainy days, so it has been a lovely morning. The severe thunderstorms and tornadic activity seem to be passing to the south of us, so I hopefully will not have to import two very lemurish cats to the basement.

    National Day of Prayer

    It’s the National Day of Prayer so… let us pray:

    Almighty God, to know you is to have eternal life. Grant us to know your Son as the way, the truth, and the life; and guide our footsteps along the way of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever. Amen.

    (LBW Prayer for the Feast Day of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles)