So I’m looking at my list and I am struck by the niggling feeling that I left something out. I know I said that it was a working list and that things would be added. But as I kept rereading my list I kept asking myself, “what did I forget to write down?” And I took the biggest intake of breath I’ve ever taken. How could something so important, so integral in my life be left out? How could I forget?
My faith and my relationship with my God is a fundamental part of my life whether I talk about it or not. I would, however, love to talk about my journey in faith much more than I do. I’ve always been afraid of sounding too preachy or “religious”. But why should I be afraid? Why should I not talk about a part of me that strengthens me, that more often than not, carries me through my life journey?
My faith and my relationship with God gets me through everything – all the highs and lows of my life are underlined by how I see God working in my life. Why shouldn’t I talk about this wonderful relationship that is a constant in my life?
So the first amendment to my list is this: To write about my faith more.
I grew up going to church every Sunday. I will even go as far as to say that I have 2 home churches, one that I grew up in and one where I grew up spiritually in. I went to Sunday school. I sang in the children’s choir. I eventually taught Sunday school and daily vacation church school. My summers were spent in church and I was there nearly everyday! I sang in the church chancel choir and completely immersed myself in all the church activities. I spent so much time in church that I think it would be natural for me to miss church at Easter.
I think it’s fair to say that Easter is one of the busiest weeks in the Christian calendar, apart from Christmas. Funnily enough, there is a Filipino term (Pasko ng Pagkabuhay) which translated means Christmas of the Resurrection. We start counting down to this week from Ash Wednesday. But it all starts unfolding on Palm Sunday, when Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem with a Palm Sunday service. The Catholics in the Philippines have their beautifully woven palm fronds blessed in church and they display this in their homes, mostly on their windows. I grew up in a Methodist church and while we didn’t have the blessing of palm fronds, children of the Sunday school class came into the church waving their palms to re-enact Jesus’ triumphant entry. This Sunday also marks the beginning of a very busy week.
I remember choir rehearsals in earnest because we would be singing during a series of services. Our church usually had a service for the last supper where we would have the washing of the feet ceremony. Our minister and members of the church would recreate the moment when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in a display of his humility and servanthood. We would have a communion service to commemorate the last time Jesus broke bread with his followers before his death and when he foretold of Judas’ betrayal.
One service that is closest to my heart is the Seven Last Words on Good Friday. We start off the service at one o’clock in the afternoon. We have seven speakers, a mixture of lay members and ministers, all speaking about the biblical basis of Jesus’ seven last statements. Interspersed with the short sermons are songs by the choir. The choir chronicles the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life with songs commemorating the kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ journey carrying the cross through the Via Dolorosa, His nailing on the cross, His message to His disciple entrusting his mother into his care and His subsequent surrender of His spirit and His life into His Father’s hands. Each song that we sings makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end because all the songs just underline the great sacrifice that The Lord undertook to save the world. And because the songs paint a picture of how it was to be there, it just shakes me down to my foundations. What it must have felt to be there!
We usually finish at three o’clock which is popularly believed to be the time of his death. After all the speakers have finished their messages, and the choir have sung all their songs, the church is stripped as a sign of mourning. Because Christ is dead and we are bereft without His divine presence.
Black Saturday is usually celebrated in silence, in contemplation. Nothing really happens on a Saturday. But the choir does try to sneak in a few hours of practice because we do have a sunrise service and an Easter Sunday service to sing in.
Easter Sunday is celebrated in so many ways. But my favourite is a sunrise start. We have an Easter sunrise service where messages of hope, joy and salvation resound in the sermons and the songs from the choir. As a Christian, it is lovely to greet the brand new rays of the sun with the reassurance that Christ is not dead, He is alive and sitting at His Father’s right hand and waiting to come back for all of us. We have an Easter Sunday service (yes, after the sunrise service, which is usually an ecumenical service with all the Christian churches in our community) that finishes with a lovely (and very traditional) Easter egg hunt for the children.
While I will enjoy the odd chocolate bunny and the occasional chocolate egg, and enjoy the bank holiday and the respite from the rat race, the reason for the season will always resonate in my heart. I will always know that Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s ascension to heaven. It is the fulfillment of the promises in the Bible.
Easter will always bring me hope, joy and a wonderful reminder of my salvation by Christ, but I will always feel a twinge in my heart because I will be missing my church family and the fellowship of Christians that I grew up with. It is always wonderful to celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promises with like-minded individuals.
Breakfast will always start one’s day right. I remember when I was growing up, Mama would never let us leave the house until we had a hot breakfast; we simply had to eat. I’m afraid to say that I haven’t kept up the practice. I get ready for work and rush out the door. In the process, I think I may have screwed up my eating habits!
I am a Christian by faith and a Protestant Methodist by denomination. I am proud to say I grew up in church, and I am thankful that I did. Living away from everyone I love can be difficult, to say the least. When you are, essentially, alone, there is very little to cling to: and for me it was my God and my faith in the God that sustains me. I am thankful to be blessed with a faith that strengthens me and I am blessed because my faith in my God has sustained me during the toughest times of my life. It has been challenging living away from everything familiar but that in itself has strengthened my faith.
I walk past the Chelmsford cathedral everyday as I walk to work and everyday I whisper a prayer for God to bless my day, for God to take control of my day, for God to help me achieve what I need to achieve, and my most fervent desire, for me to be a blessing to others. Somehow those words quickly whispered set my day off perfectly. Because I lift my day up to the Lord, whatever good, whatever bad, my day is the Lord’s.
I am reminded of a prayer I used to read and reread. It was a prayer I posted in my old blog. It was a prayer for concentration at work because the work environment then wasn’t conducive to concentration (there was a lot of swearing going around and being in an environment where profanity and bad language is about is never conducive to real positivity, I think!). It was based on a prayer I also read online and a prayer that I adapted so that it fit my thoughts. It’s helped me. I thought I’d post it here again, because it might help someone else.
I draw near You to seek Your help. I have the assurance that You love me so very much. Lord, the Scripture says that You love the prosperity of Your children. You know the importance of being able to concentrate at work. Father, bless me with Your guidance and let me work on my things to do list properly. Lord, I confess that I get distracted easily; I have more interest in less important things instead of what is urgent in my in-tray.
Please forgive me and gird me with You grace (I love the word gird Lord, because it makes me feel like I am going to battle, and oh I do love a battle! See Lord, I am digressing, yet again!) and strength so that I concentrate in my work. Without Your help I cannot achieve any success Lord!
Please help me to overcome all my weaknesses and strengthen my mind. Take full control of my wandering thoughts and give me Your wisdom and knowledge. Let me shine at work, Heavenly Father and let me be a blessing to to everyone. I lift all this up in Jesus’ name.