Sunday, December 29, 2013

What I am Reading

It is a bit ironic that at this point in my life I feel very distant from the church I once considered my second home.  Yet, at this very same point in my life I feel like I am learning and growing more in my faith than ever before.  

Things led me to distance myself from my church (not the church).  Decisions were made that breached our goal of living the faith.  New people brought on with visions that differ from mine and little snippets of conversations overhead here and there that were mean and spiteful.  I realize that these reasons have to do with me.  What I feel.  How I feel.  They are not even rooted in my faith practice.  I know that faith is not about me.  

I have never understood why if you enter a Baptist church, you will find Bibles under every chair but if you enter a Catholic church there is not a Bible to be found, only misselettes, with little snippets of Bible scripture for each mass.  They are not in context.  They are not chronological.  It is up to the Priest to connect the two readings, one from the Old Testament and one from the New, together and through his homily, give us an undertanding of why they matter, or should matter, to us as we try our bests to live a Godly life.

This September the girls and I joined a non-denominational Bible study that met weekly.  Readings were assigned and the questions that tested our understanding of the scriptures were due each week.  We did this together, usually on Monday nights.  We read or listen to the Bible, answered the questions and worked the memory the verse.  Our study covered the 70 year exile from Jerusalem.  We learned more in those 8 weeks than I did in all my years of catechism, where we learned a great deal about the church, but hardly anything about the Bible.  I began to read the One Year Bible my Aunt had given me years ago.  When the weekly lessons would call for just a few chapters and verses, I would read them all.  

But once again, an institution of religion got in the way for me.  I learned that the girls were participating in faith practices that differed from our Catholic practice, and I made the decision to leave the group.  

However, now that my interest in the Bible was piqued, I could not just walk away from all I was learning, so in true homeschooler style, I choose to educate myself until I can find a Catholic Bible study that will allow the girls to participate.  

The girls and I began another 8 week Bible study but put it on hold until the New Year when we would have the time to devote to it.  I love these booklets and thought the theme of Heroines of the Bible very fitting for the three of us girls to dig into.  

I discovered the author Andy Stanley and loved the simple read: Since Nobody is Perfect, How Good is Good Enough?  Loved this book.  It answered so many little nagging questions I had regarding the variations on the thought that there are many ways to get to God like this one:

“So many gods, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind, While just the art of being kind Is all the sad world needs”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I went on to read another of Mr. Stanley’s books: The Best Question Ever.  This book made Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 5:15-16, come alive. 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 

These words can be a guidepost for our lives, if we stop in our process of decision making and ask ourselves the question, Is this choice wise?  Simple, yet profound.

I am ringing in the New Year with Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.  I have begun my own list of 1000 gifts, in a journal, not on the computer.  I wonder how long it will take me to list them all?  Not coincidentally, this book is also based on the teachings of Paul, specifically his teaching of thanksgiving, of Eucharisteo.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Romans 1:21  ESV

I pray that I find my way back to my church.  I pray that I can overlook the new policies and procedures and view them as annoying, restrictive and burdensome, but not as barriers to my participation in the community.  I pray that I can continue my own personal development, further my own understanding, deepen my own faith, and the faith and faith practices of my daughters.


Mary Prather said...

Jess ~ I really like Andy Stanley. You know, he is an Atlantan and has many churches in our area. I REALLY like his stuff.

Our pastor made an interesting observation today. He compared his upbringing in a Baptist home (his dad was a Baptist preacher) to his education then at a fairly liberal Lutheran seminary. He said something that really made a lot of sense to me -- he knew that neither his Baptist upbringing or his seminary was "RIGHT" -- what was right was the the Word of God and how it spoke to him. That is TRUTH -- not the denomination we choose.

I applaud you for your own discovery and letting God's word speak to you and your girls.

Diane said...

We love Andy Stanley too! Have you ever watched his online sermons? You can Google Northpoint Church for online sermons if you are interested. Northpoint is actually only about 1 hour and 15 minutes from my home. Over the years I have listened to many of his sermons, participated in Bible studies, and hopefully one day will make it to his church to one of their services.

Rosemarie said...

Anne Voskamps book is a wonderful read. Wishing you happiness in writing your 1000 gifts. It will make you appreciate so many little things.

Jessica said...

Thanks Mary. I know that I don't like change - especially big changes. Some people at our church welcomed the new direction it has taken recently, but I am not one of them. I know I will find my way through this, I just have to give myself time.

Jessica said...

I had no idea he had online sermons. I will definitely google him! I stumbled upon his work on another blog, I wish I knew which one to give it credit. I am so thankful that I did! Do you recommend any of his other books?

Jessica said...

It is already. I am only a few days into the list and it is helping me find the gifts on the harder days.

Mary Prather said...

Diane ~ We are really close to Northpoint -- we used to belong to a community group with Northpoint when we lived closer, but now we are about an hour south. Interesting fact -- my husband's sister went on a date with Andy Stanley in high school -- MANY years ago! ;-)

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