Walking Our Faith: When the spirit moves us
Mom doesn’t always call on a Sunday afternoon, so when she does, I know she has something on her mind. Last Sunday was no exception.
At the end of her Sunday service, they sang an old familiar hymn, “I Surrender All.” As she sang, Mom bowed her head and whispered to God, “I surrender this broken body that cannot walk without a walker, this weakened heart. I surrender it all to you God, and give you my life.”
Later, Mom told me that Nick, her upstairs neighbor and dear friend who is also 92, told her that his Catholic priest informed him that people their age were no longer obligated to go to church when health or weather conditions would jeopardize their safety. And he said they shouldn’t feel guilty when they do miss a service.
On Tuesday, I volunteered at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Breckenridge for the weekly free community dinner. Although I have been volunteering during the winter with a team made up of people of St. John’s and my knitting group, this week’s team was made up of parishioners from my spiritual home: St. Mary’s and Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church.
Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, which commemorates the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Before Christ ascended into heaven, he promised the apostles they would not be left alone. In his place would come a counselor, a holy spirit who would be with us and among us.
The idea of the Holy Spirit always has been a challenge for me to recognize in my walk of faith. But with the three events of this week, I understand the Holy Spirit is not an elusive idea. Instead, the Holy Spirit is a vital part of our lives, always present and seeking to reach us and work within us within our communities and in the ordinary of our lives.
When Mom confesses frustration of so little to offer God in her brokenness, it is the Holy Spirit who helps her realize we have much to offer God at every age and in every state of health.
If God can use a broken 92-year-old woman who is a prayer warrior for her Presbyterian church choir and who hosts dinner for her neighbors, how much more can God use those who are younger and healthier?
When I reconsidered Nick’s suggestion that people of a certain age no longer need to go to church, it revealed a sad truth that it is easier to ask the elderly to stay home rather than visit them or offer them a car ride when they no longer can drive.
When I called Mom to read her the first draft of this article, as I do each week, she reminded me that her seniors’ church group uses the following verses as their inspiration:
“But the godly will flourish like palm trees / and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. / For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. / They flourish in the courts of our God. / Even in old age they will still produce fruit; / they will remain vital and green. / They will declare, “The LORD is just! / He is my rock! / There is no evil in him!” (Psalm 92:12-15)
This week I finished reading Dani Shapiro’s latest wonderful memoir, “Inheritance.” In one paragraph, she mentions the Hebrew word “nephesh,” or soul, and describes it as a breath, an abiding spirit. And I was reminded of Elijah asking to see God, and God came not in the wild wind but in the gentle whisper.
This quiet presence has been my experience of the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t it seem perfect that God created our souls of the same eternal material as God’s spirit so that like would recognize like?
When we look at the elderly, we often forget the souls within them are ageless. We forget there was a time when they were young, and though their bodies have aged, the spirit within them holds the same dreams and love and desire. I believe it is the Holy Spirit who comforts our old souls and our broken souls when no one else recognizes the beauty within.
The Holy Spirit also is among us when we gather to do good, among people of all faiths who gather to serve others. I experienced that Tuesday with the team from St. Mary’s and Our Lady of Peace. I am embarrassed to say that although these were people of my own parish, some I knew only in glancing recognition.
As I experienced the joy all of us felt working together to serve those who had come for dinner, I realized I needed to join this team. It’s not enough to show up for church once a week, building relationships in our faith communities also is communion with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit always is speaking to us, but we are often too busy making our own decisions, rushing from one thing to the next, to stop and listen. What if we spent five minutes each day in silent prayer listening to the Holy Spirit?
What if we said, “Come Holy Spirit, come into my midst and dwell with me, comfort me when I am sad and feel isolated, help me to see that I am not alone, that you are with me, directing my steps, into my community where I will share your spirit and where I will experience God’s love, and as I am loved, I will love.”
Suzanne is the author of “God Loves Your Dream” and other books available at Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco and Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver.
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