Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday of Joy

It doesn't feel like Sunday. First, because I slept in until 10:59 and figured I wasn't going to make that 11 a.m. church service, and second because my weekend extends til Wednesday. I'm glad I don't have to brave the snow tomorrow at 7:45 for finals, and I'm surprised the school hasn't altered its finals schedule like other colleges in the area.

I've had a great day just lounging around inside watching the snow and beginning to pack. Snow makes me happy. Being alone makes me happy for the most part. I'm an introvert.

Being happy isn't the same as feeling joy though. Joy is higher, lighter, brighter than happy. I haven't felt joy in a long, long time. I used to feel joy every time we kissed after a long absence. I used to feel joy when I thought about how great our future would be. Now, I'm trying to find something in my life that will bring joy again, be a job, or something new, or someplace new, or someone new. I want to light up and smile for no reason and dive passionately into whatever it is that brings joy.

And yes, Christmas/Christ does bring me joy too, especially during this season of snow and candles and pretty songs. Joy to the world should the world accept it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday of Hope

I was happy to finally be home for the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the new church year. Advent is my favorite time of year, and this year more than ever, I need to get lost in the ritual, the time consumption, the activity, to calm myself and prepare for whatever lies ahead. I’ll go through some points of the day:

Lighting the candle: I love the Advent wreath; it’s the only time of year I ever really use candles. I like the restraint to not light all the candles at once and just focus on a singular flame during the darkest time of year. This Sunday was the Hope candle, but the sermon was on patience. I think the pastor was just as irritated as I am when people decorate for Christmas on November 1st. But it was also about patience with what God has in store, and mentioned putting in the efforts of schooling, graduating, sending out resumes, and hearing nothing back. I hate hate hate not being in control of my life right now, but at the end of the day, I know as long as I keep working and keep my eyes and heart open, my purpose will be revealed.

Installation of elders: It’s always a little awkward when we do official church business during a service, but it’s also nice. I like order. I like Robert’s Rules. I like that my church is run by laypeople, but also has a denominational structure. Nothing deep, just my taste.

Communion: This Christmas Eve marks two years of believing in some sort of transubstantiation. I won’t describe it; I can’t describe. There is no logic in this belief, and I wouldn’t even try to convert someone to believe that way if I knew how. I just know what I felt that night, and what I feel most of the time I take communion now. It’s real. It’s powerful. There is a weight on my tongue that is the weight of the universe. For that, I wish I got to partake in communion once a week, maybe even more. For now, it’s an rare treat. But because of that, my hearts jumps a little every time I see the silver plates set up on the altar.

Hanging of the Greens: It’s an annual tradition at my church, to decorate the building as a community, with a soup supper to follow. I like helping the church transform to its decorated highest. I wish I had time to look up the meanings of every single Crismon on the tree in the sanctuary or every angel on the angel tree. By next Sunday, the poinsettia tree will also be up. Even with the teasing of how some ladies will go back through and “fix” the decorations up to their standards after our attempts are done, I like the sense of family that comes from the united effort.

I’m ready to jump into the season, to sing Christmas songs and wish for snow and bake goodies and buy presents and look at lights and ponder baby Jesus. Everything else can be put on hold until January 7th.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Christmastime is NOT Here

I ignored the commercial that began running the first week of October. I ignored the gift baskets on the top shelf of CVS that appeared two weeks ago. But now that Halloween is over, every store has switched over to full-blow Christmas mode. It disgusts me. It just proves how secularized Christmas has become.

Christmastime consists of Advent and Christmastide. That's November 28-January 6 this year. Not November 4-December 24. By not observing this, stores just prove how little the religiousness of Christmas matters. They hijack the season to sell, sell, sell. Advent is about preparation and waiting and love, not about red and green discount sales. And the 12 days of Christmas apparently do not exist to stores since no one here buys gifts after Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is "Throw Out the Tree and Gift Wrap" Day instead of, you know, the birth of the Christ.

Christmastime is my favorite season, but I hate the secular aspect of it. Why can't we commercialize a secular holiday and leave Christmas alone? And I also don't act like Christmas is the most important Christian holiday, because it's not. It's just the beginning of the real reason to celebrate: Easter. Lent is left alone, and Easter has been commercialized too, but not as much, and I'm glad. Leave Easter to the people who value it, and leave Christmas alone too.

I'm not singing one carol til November 28.

[Photo is of the Christmas tree is the lobby of the university center of my state school, because, you know, Christmas isn't so religious that a public school should remain separate of it.]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blessings

If there were just a way to generate income by volunteering, I'd do it. I worked at the food bank run by the local ministry organization this morning. I had to do four hours of service for my Social Problems class and figured a food bank certainly addressed a social problem. While I certainly got my entertainment of people watching, I also just feel so good being useful. That's what I want to be: useful. Money just taints it, makes any work selfish. But money is the key to everything; all those who were there asking for help were doing so because of money or lack thereof.

I was happy to see how the food bank actually worked and to see all the services beyond just food that are provided, like medical transportation costs, help with rent, wood for heat (and yes, many still rely on wood for heat), and Christmas toys for kids. And to know it's funded by a collective of local churches is impressive. It's what the Christian community is supposed to be about. The offering plates wind up here, helping someone put food on the table and keep the lights on.

I worry about money a lot, but I know I'm lucky. The people I saw mostly generated no income at all. I don't know where they got what little money they had. I'm so grateful to have a family capable of taking care of me, and the health to take care of myself, and insurance to cover medical costs that normally wipe other families out, and savings to rely on should I not get a job right away.

Sometimes I wish we could just do away with the money system and rely on trade. In small enough communities, it would work, as no one would be overlooked. But societies are too big now, and too many people are overlooked and failed by the system. No system is perfect, so it's comforting to know that amid the scandals and hypocrisy that attaches to the Church, the Church is still a force of good in the world. I want to be part of that force, in a more selfless way than dropping in my dollar once a week.

In high school, I pondered going to seminary, mainly because I took an interest in studying religion. But I didn't get the call to go, and I knew it would be foolish to go along that path without the right calling, but now I'm wondering if instead of shutting that door completely, I should have looked into alternatives. I don't want to go into ministry, but I want to go into service. Is there still training for that? Or is it learn-on-the-job training of volunteers? And how can I be a volunteer without becoming one of the needy? I thought I had the answer, but confidence is the surest sign I'm wrong. In any case, something to think about.

Exactly two months from today and the status I've always known drops away. I become an actual adult.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Annual Easter Rant

The Maundy Thursday service is usually my favorite of the year. It's so barren and reflective of the betrayal. But this year didn't do the stripping of the altar, plus the choir sang, which seemed so out of place for a service usually ending in silence. But Easter service was good. I know Easter is commercialized too, but I'm glad it's not as hijacked as Christmas. However, a reason it isn't is because too many Christians place Christmas above Easter. Easter should be the holiday of the Christian faith, but it only gets secondary status because Christmas is more fun. We don't have to reflect on our sins and the costs of our betrayal and sins with Christmas. But Easter reminds us of our most darkest actions. It has a positive message in the end of course, but it's a grace we aren't worthy of. We don't like admitting how undeserving we are of God's love and mercy. But that's why Lent and Easter are so very important

[Picture is Bunny Cake from last year. I don't have any Easter pics from this year. While I think Easter should focus on Christ, I don't mind some of the commercialism that celebrates spring. After all, the Resurrection was the biggest spring of all.]