Church Life Part 444

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Life.

Never am I more convinced in the goodness of humanity than in December bearing witness to what goes on in the church in which I work. As the Finance Manager, I am often the only person who is privileged and charged with keeping private, the special offerings people make in the name of a loved one or as a special intention. They are heart warming, but my favorite of all donations are the ones that come from the people I know have very little to offer.

This morning I got to be the recipient of an unmarked envelope filled with crumpled dollar bills and assorted coins. The simple direction given in broken English, “for the church”. I nearly burst into tears, but I calmly offered a hug and the largest thank you smile I was capable of. I know in my heart that this person saved all year to give this offering. I asked his name in order to give him tax credit but he wanted no part of it. God will surely give the credit where it’s due, this much I do know.

On the other side of my office door, a florist has arrived with huge plants and some beautiful wind chimes. The phone has rung off the hook with calls inquiring about a funeral taking place here this evening. Five days before Christmas a family will celebrate the life of their 27-year-old son. (I cannot begin to even imagine how I would cope with this. I have a 27 year old. It hits too close to home.)

Still in all I am witnessing the people of this church, come together in multiple capacities. One lady has called repeatedly asking for telephone numbers as she is trying to find someone to be a house sitter for the family; another has just dropped off food for the dinner they will have here this evening; another will be offering a prayer; another will play during the service; five ladies have offered to be receptionists this afternoon as people come to pay their respects; another lady just called to have me check to see if we have sugar for the coffee cart; another has arrived with linen table cloths for the dinner tables this evening…it goes on and on.

A reminder that it’s Christmas week and each of these people surely have other things they were planning to attend to, yet they’ve stopped their respective worlds in order to come together for their friends. It’s beautiful to witness.

I’ve spoken to the Pastor and I can hear the contemplation in his voice. Ahead him lies the daunting task of aiding and comforting the family of this young man; performing a service I am certain he wasn’t prepared to have to do so soon. Bless his heart, he isn’t that much older than the deceased. He’s at home trying to work on multiple things, yet I know where his heart is right now. It can’t be anywhere else.

I came in this morning not feeling my best self. I’ve spread myself too thin over the past months. Last week I catered three separate times in addition to being here and also working another part-time job. I haven’t finished my own Christmas shopping OR decorating; I’ve been stressing out over strained relationships; we’re still trying to close on the sale of my mother-in-law’s home and our car seems to be dying a slow death. Many times I struggle over whether I should keep my church job or move on to something full-time with benefits. I absolutely don’t make enough money here and there are no benefits.

Yet.

There.

Are.

Benefits.

Today I get to sit squarely in the middle of the warmth of God’s love and I get to drink in the love being shared in this building as I continue to field phone calls and answer doors to receive flowers.

Thank you, God, for placing me where you would have me today.

I think I’ll stay a while longer.

 


 

From The Angels:

divine-timing Divine Timing: Change can be fast, yet keep in mind the importance of patience and Divine timing, developing a trust in the unseen mysteries of spirit working in your life.

The more that you can approach your own shifting with loving kindness, the smoother your road of change will be. On some days it may still feel like a roller coaster ride, yet your self-love can help you to have the necessary steadiness within.

Pay close attention to doors that are open to you. As you continue the journey of rediscovering your Divine nature, angels surround you with their love and blessings.

surrender-release Surrender & Release: If we could see the miracle in letting go our whole life would change. Let go, allow God and the angels to help you.

When we willingly release and begin the process of healing from the unhappy situation, we may find we gain the necessary clarity that was not apparent to us before. In having gained clarity individuals often regain their own self-determination and strength.

The angels ask you to try not to control the outcome of your troubling situation. It can take a lot of courage to let go and trust in the decision to do so but It may also be one of the most valuable decisions we can ever make. Let go, and let God help you!

image Healing: The highest purpose of your healer guides is to restore your self-awareness and self-esteem as children of God and help you accept the love and unlimited blessings that God grants you.

Opening your heart and mind to your worthiness is the best healing of all.


 

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There but by the grace of God, Go I.

Church Lady Woes

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This morning before I got out of bed, I laid there in an attempt to pray. I was lying there asking God to take care of my loved ones and to keep everyone happy, healthy and secure. Also I was seeking help on my current employment situation. (I am just not sure I am supposed to be where I am any more.)

In a nano second my mind wandered away, thinking about how much I love my work and the many positive experiences I get to have while working in a church that isn’t of my denomination. I am Catholic. I work for a liberal Baptist church. Their hands are in everything imaginable and it’s a beautiful thing to witness and on occasion, to get to be involved in.

What has always interested me about this job is what goes on behind the scenes. Growing up a Catholic girl, I only experienced Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation Masses, funerals and Weddings. Aside from the one time as an adult that I joined a new church, I don’t recall ever setting foot inside a church office.

(Wait. There was one other time where I visited a favorite Priest to talk with him about my experience with The Blessed Mother and the Angels. That was a lovely experience I will talk about another day.)

The point is that I don’t think I ever thought about what goes into running a church. Who makes the decisions;how do things operate; how do the bills get paid; where does the money come from? Who steers the direction? Who decides what events to have, etc. Does “The church lady” really exist?

It is mind boggling. (She does exist, by the way, and she has lots of church lady friends.)

Catholics look to the clergy and the clergy have a very clear hierarchy. Most Catholic Churches have a Parish administrator who handles the business end of their affairs and there isn’t much wiggle room. This is not the case where I work. Everything done within my workplace is done by committee. One team handles personnel, another team handles, finances, another team handles worship, another team handles memorials and so on, and on, and on. Every three years the teams rotate.

For the most part everything works out just fine, but there are some years where the tides turn and I start to feel frustrated when things are done that I personally do not agree with. Usually problems occur when someone appears to be acting out of ego instead of what’s in the best interest of the church. This is where I am right now. I don’t like ego-driven anything especially when it interferes with my work happiness.

For the first time I find myself seriously questioning whether or not I am in the right place. It makes me sad.

Returning to my prayers with apologies to the Lord for being so distracted, I hear in my heart:

Dear Child:

Be still and know that I am near. You will hear my direction when your heart is clear and the time is right. For now, offer your best in all that you do. Do take better care of your temple. In this, you will find your joy.

Breathe in. Fill yourself with my love. It is there.

All is well.

God.


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  Matthew 6:25-34


From the Angels:

divine-timing Divine Timing: Change can be fast, yet keep in mind the importance of patience and Divine timing, developing a trust in the unseen mysteries of spirit working in your life.

The more that you can approach your own shifting with loving kindness, the smoother your road of change will be. On some days it may still feel like a roller coaster ride, yet your self-love can help you to have the necessary steadiness within.

Pay close attention to doors that are open to you. As you continue the journey of rediscovering your Divine nature, angels surround you with their love and blessings.

imageHealing: The highest purpose of your healer guides is to restore your self-awareness and self-esteem as children of God and help you accept the love and unlimited blessings that God grants you.

Opening your heart and mind to your worthiness is the best healing of all.

harmony Harmony: Strife, confusion and conflict be gone. A difference of opinion has clouded your thoughts.

If you change your focus and look for the common ground of peace, you can bring harmony into your relationships again.

You know that one of the most powerful ways you can fight for your relationships is to be a peacemaker? Beloved child of God, you are a peace-lover at heart. You are bringing unity into your relationships.

Focus and look for the common ground of peace, you can bring harmony into your relationships again, you become an Earth angel. Remember, God and the angels tells us that blessed are the peacemakers. When we dwell together in unity, we honor God and open the door for His hand of blessing in every area of our lives!


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Life is a tapestry: We are the warp; angels, the weft; God, the weaver. Only the Weaver sees the whole design.

 

Day Three – More on Community

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I grow weary of hearing people say, “All organized religion is nonsense created by humans, for profit and control”.

First, I hate generalizations.  It’s funny because I can remember a time growing up when that’s all my father used to say to me, “Stop generalizing”.  At the time, I didn’t really understand what he meant, but he was right.  I used to make statements like, “You always find fault in anything I say”; “This person is always wrong.”; “You never listen to a word I say.” etc… At fifty, I finally understand what my Dad meant.

I admit for a time, when I was being lazy in my faith and wallowing in self pity, I used to say things about organized religion too. I would tell myself that I didn’t need to go to church because God lives in me, etc.  “Church is a building”; “Faith is what’s in my heart.”; “God lives everywhere, I don’t have to go there to talk to God.”, etc.”

I was right (on some level), until I landed in the finance office of a church that isn’t of my own religion. (I laugh these days, because God absolutely does know what He’s doing at any given time.) I started there as an account temp because they lost their finance secretary to a full time job. I thought this job would be pretty clear cut: I’d do their finances and leave each day. NOT.

I never expected that as the finance secretary of a church, I would be the only person who got to see what good “a church” actually does in a community. As a lifelong Catholic, my only experience with church was going to Mass on Sundays, receiving the Sacraments and tithing each week or month.  I never stopped to think or find out just where my tithes went.  I thought they were supporting the church building and the school, period.  I never went beyond this in my thinking. Why would I? I just showed up on Sundays, gave what I could, and left.

Until I landed at my current work place.

Yes, it is true that tithes do go to the upkeep of the building and the staff. Church’s are non profit organizations, which means that they do depend on weekly/monthly tithing and gifts from estates and outside entities.  Without the kindness and faith of others, they don’t get to exist.

I worked for about six months just trying to find my way in the finance office. No one could help me because the business of the finance office of a church is completely confidential. Thankfully, my life long accounting background afforded me the experience and knowledge to be able to create the statements etc.

What I did not expect, however, was learning just what it means to be a church.  What I get to experience every single day is happiness and love.  While we do have a small number of staff, who are paid, the place where I work is largely governed and staffed by volunteers who give of their time freely and willfully day in and day out.  This doesn’t mean that they just write checks to the church.  It means that they come into the office to answer phones, they write thank you notes when we receive memorial donations, they go out to visit the shut-ins and those who are hospitalized, they organize visits to the home-bound, they plan picnics for new members, they create ministries for the elderly and the youth and the children, they buy beds and clothes for people new in the country, they walk in parades, the list is endless.  In short, wherever there is a need, they are there.

My “ah-ha” moment came one day the first year of my employment, when a random envelope of cash was received and on the outside it simply said, “Please give to the church”. It was a substantial amount of cash and we worked hard to find out where it had come from so I could give tax credit. In the end, a random person had given this envelope to a congregant who was leaving Sunday services…he didn’t care about “credit”.

The day we finally figured this out, my heart just opened and I cried. Not knowing the story, I envisioned some stranger saving his pennies until he felt he had enough and then he gave it to the first person he saw coming out of services. The person who received this money and turned it in could only say that this was a foreign person who offered the envelope.

My workplace caters to foreigners and refugees and I love it.  Several times I’ve gotten to use my Spanish to help visitors looking for the “English as a Second Language” classes, which are hosted by the church. (I have a degree in Spanish yet have never gotten to use it for any reason until now.) (PS-Thanks God!)

The Minsters of this place work 24/7.  If a person has a medical emergency in the middle of the night, they jump up and go. Often times during the day, I witness the Minsters going on countless “appointments” to pray with the sick, the lonely, the depressed or those who are trying to figure out “God”, period. They go when they are called, period, and it doesn’t matter how many times per day they are called…they GO.

In short, I’ve been at this place for three years part-time. I’d be there full-time in a heart beat because I’ve finally learned what a church really is. It’s LOVE actualized.

Yes, you can love and pray and worship God all on your own and HE IS there, but a church is a community of people all working together to help others.  At least, this is MY experience.

Lots of times I’m the only person who gets to read beautiful letters attached to checks that talk about what this church has meant and why “this donation” is being made and I feel so honored.  I look at it as God entrusting me as the go-between.  I make sure the donation gets where it’s supposed to, I get to write the thank you note and I get to keep the secret of who gave it.  (That’s between God and me and the donor and it’s so fun!)

So.  Yeah, I’m weary of hearing that organized religion sucks because it doesn’t.  I didn’t even mention all of the money that my workplace donates to local charities OR what it does to take care of refugees from other countries. We receive calls daily from people wanting help on their rent or utility bills and we work in conjunction with other area charities to help as much as possible. I’ve seen our Ministers (and members)buy clothes and shoes for children  (sometimes out of their own pockets), buy a bus ticket to get a stranded traveler home, deliver food to those who need it; I’ve even seen them invite a person in to sit in our church parlor to eat a meal and just chat with a fellow human. I could go on and on.

If you think, for one moment, that organized religion sucks.  I hope you will do some more research.  We give away most of what comes in and what we don’t have to give away, we make up with our own money, time and effort.

I’m so Blessed.

Those who used to know me on Myspace have to KNOW that God led me here to this place and that I’m happy as a clam.  I don’t make much money, but my heart is FULL times infinity.  I haven’t even scratched the surface here.

I think it’s time for all of us to either re-discover or discover for the first time, what it’s like to be a real member of a real community.  Church might just be the first stop.  No. I’m certain it should be.

Praise God. (I do.)