Spiritual Food

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I knew I was craving the Eucharist and Liturgy long before I ever set foot in the Episcopal Church. Even in my time exploring witchcraft, I wanted to buy a chalice so that I could take communion at home on my own because my church only did it every quarter and I knew I needed it more than that. But I had no idea why I needed it, at that point in time I had no idea that the bread was the body of Christ and that the wine was the blood. I had been taught to eschew that belief, but I’ve had experiences that have made me realize how important communion is and how special it is and what a gift it is.

I craved ashes on Ash Wednesday but knew of nowhere to go and get them, so I did without and was very sad about it. I started observing lent two years ago because I felt that I needed to, even though I didn’t know a lot about that at the time either. I didn’t realize I was wanting deep inside of me to observe the church year and follow the liturgical calendar. I didn’t know I could crave something so deeply that I didn’t know a lot about. I mean I’ve taken communion my whole life and never knew how powerful it was.

Sara Miles walked into an Episcopal Church one day and took communion for no real reason except she felt compelled to, and her life was changed when she realized, as she put it, that she had put Jesus in her mouth and eaten him. After that realization, there was no way she couldn’t be changed, for Jesus had been in her mouth and it was spiritual food. She documents that journey in her book “Take This Bread”. A few weeks ago a friend of mine going through a tough situation and I were talking about how our faith was being stretched to the limit and we weren’t sure it could survive. And she told me she craved communion because she knew it was spiritual food, and so she came to church with me and she took communion. Jesus said that he was the bread of life but I had never taken that literally.

Me, my friend, Sara Miles, we all craved communion but didn’t really realize it at the time. Taking communion every week has changed me as I’m partaking of spiritual food that God has given to the church. The Eucharist is important, because not only do we remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but we partake of his body and blood and are given spiritual food, sustenance with which to go out into the world as people who have communed with Jesus and been changed through the experience.

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Extravagance

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Christmas last year sucked because my ex-husband and I had just separated and my then five year old disabled little boy was locked up in a hospital for Christmas and New Year and I didn’t know if and when I would ever get him back. I worked very hard this past year to get my other son back, and there were times when I didn’t think I would ever make it. I didn’t have access to my bipolar medicine because I lost insurance and I couldn’t afford the cash prices, I was financially instable to the point of selling off things I owned that were special to me just so that I could keep the water on to the house, and I felt so desperate and stressed out all the time because my house payments were two months behind and all my other bills were constantly behind. My car needed and still needs work, and I was afraid that at any given time I’d suddenly be without transportation.

I had to do a ton of repairs to my home that I could not afford and was given help for some of them. People were good to me and did things for me beyond my hopes. The plumber donated the labor for free and only charged for parts and a disability organization paid for the parts. Things like this happened all year but I was too stressed and overwhelmed to rest. I went from crisis to crisis to crisis. When one problem finally got solved another one appeared while I was still getting the last one solved. If I could choose any word to describe the past year it would be desperation. I bought my children the things that I needed and meanwhile I went without soap, shampoo and underwear so that my kids would be clothed and fed.

In November, everything happened. I got my US citizenship, I finished my Bachelor of Arts with honors, I got custody of my son back, and I changed churches in an effort to revive my faith. Once I had accomplished everything the depression and sadness hit me because I had been so busy getting stuff done that I hadn’t stopped to process what had happened to me, and how I felt about it, and I hadn’t had time to grieve my losses because life was requiring me to suck it up and be responsible and sort my mess out.

About six weeks ago I learned that a church group was wanting to adopt my family for Christmas and asked me what the kids would like and I threw a couple of ideas out there, and then didn’t think much more about it. All I can say is that I’m overwhelmed by the extravagance in which they showed love to me and my family after a year of desperation and secretly wondering if anyone really cared, this year people showed that yes they do care. These people really were extravagant in their gifts, gifting me with a brand new queen sized bed because mine was broken and new pillows and bedding on top of that. They bought the kids name brand toys in abundance and nice clothes and socks too. I’m so overwhelmed by it all and so, so grateful.

This year, for Christmas, I learned that some people do care, and that maybe, just maybe, God might even care what happens to me.

Baptism

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My disabled six year old spent most of the last year in an inpatient treatment facility for disabled people. One day during his stay there I woke up and felt God impress upon me to get him baptized. I was attending a Southern Baptist church at the time, and until that point I had always considered baptism something that comes after a profession of belief in Jesus Christ. Infant baptism wasn’t something I had ever before considered but it was impressed upon me that day and I actually became concerned about my son not being baptized.

At this point I was only considering baptizing the one disabled child as a picture of the fact that he belongs to God, and it was several months before I realized I needed to get all of my children baptized. Like I said I was in a Southern Baptist church at the time and they don’t believe in infant baptism, or christening, and so I wasn’t sure who I could get to baptize the kids. So I asked a friend of mine if he could come and perform the baptism and although he wasn’t an ordained minister, he said he would because I didn’t have anyone else to do it. I searched far and wide for a location to host the baptism but didn’t have any luck. I was frustrated over not being able to find a location but I see now that God was in that, that God had a bigger and more beautiful plan.

Not long after him agreeing to do the baptism, I started attending and Episcopal church which was much closer to what I believe than any SBC church. The Eucharist started to spiritually nourish me and I began to partake of the body and blood of Christ. My children began to crave a blessing from the priest as much as I had craved the liturgy initially. It was recently that I decided that I really wanted my children to all be baptized together into the Episcopal church, and I asked the man who I now consider to be my priest, if he would perform the baptism.

So now I am planning a baptism for some time early in 2015, and sometimes I worry that something will happen before the kids get baptized and the grace of God won’t be on them in the same way it will after the baptism, but I’m trying to trust God that God will continue to make a way for this baptism as God has done up until now.

The Body and Blood

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Holy Communion does something to me, and the more I ponder it, the more I wonder if it’s something I’m not supposed to fully figure out. For a long time I’ve had a hunger, a craving, for the liturgy, and for some reason I never made the connection to the fact that I was hungry and craving a meal, the Eucharist. Jesus says to take and eat because it is his body broken for me. He says to drink the wine because it is his blood. Every Sunday I’m partaking of Jesus’ body and blood, his very life which he gave on the cross and gives again for sustenance for his people.

Instead of taking part of Communion once every three months and on Christmas and Easter, I’m now in a denomination where the Communion is the central point of the worship, and that has been amazing for me. Instead of Communion being tacked on to the end of the service almost as an afterthought, it is the focus of our worship, and I can feel the sustenance that the bread and wine are giving me.

I came to the liturgy on a spiritual stretcher and being rushed to the ICU because my faith was dying and I was in critical condition. After a few weeks of partaking of the body and the blood of Christ each week I’m still in the hospital but I’m in stable condition and out of the ICU and making progress. I had spiritual anorexia but after the sustenance of the bread and the wine my faith is getting new life. I’m no stranger to real life eating disorders and so this food and sustenance thing is deeply personal to me and my everyday struggles.

I used to think that Communion was something that was somehow symbolic and meaningful for a few others but not for me that we tacked onto a service either just to make it longer or to check off “Communion” on the list of things to do every quarter. I know that’s not what those churches did it for but sometimes for me it seemed like an irritation that just extended the service and didn’t really mean anything.

As the priest breaks bread and hands it to me, he’s giving me a gift from God, spiritual food to sustain me. As the Eucharistic Ministers serve the wine, they are giving me a gift from God, spiritual drink to sustain me. Every Sunday now I go to worship God, and every Sunday, God gives me bread and wine, for my nourishment. And my faith is reviving and I’m alive.

Thank-you, God, for your good gifts of bread and wine, spiritual food and sustenance, Jesus’ body and blood given to me because of your love for me.

God in the Eucharist

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I step into the aisle, and I bow to God before walking up to the altar. I kneel alongside others, and put out my hand to receive the bread. The presence of God is here, and I’m awed by it. This altar is a sacred place and whether or not the bread and the wine become the literal body and blood of Christ I am not yet sure of, in fact there are many things I’m not sure of these days but I do know that kneeling here waiting for the priest to serve communion to me, that God is here.

I kneel in surrender, submission and outright awe, it’s a humbling moment but humbling without inducing shame. In fact I am secure in the knowledge of God’s acceptance of me despite where I’m at right now. God’s presence is here and it’s real whether I’m perfect or not and we all know I’m not. I don’t have my shit together and both God and I know it, and yet there God is. God knows my doubts, my questions, and my sin.

Most times I approach the altar I’m feeling unworthy and undeserving and yet, as the priest reminds us each Sunday, the Eucharist is “the gifts of God for the people of God” and I realize that although it’s been rough between me and God lately that I still belong to God. The weekly reminder that I still belong to God even though it’s been a hell of a ride lately helps keep my faith afloat on an otherwise drifting sea of uncertainty, and I finally feel that perhaps my faith can survive because God is there.

I was afraid that by going to a liturgical church I would be returning to my fundamentalist roots because of the ritual and the structure and the “rules” but the thing is rather than dictating exactly how I should live my life these rules focus mostly on worship and there are beautiful and symbolic reasons for them. This is nothing like fundamentalism at all in fact, because God is truly here. As a fundamentalist I used to have a lot of negative things to say about liturgy, even though I didn’t have a clue what it was all about. In fact there were several times that I outright mocked such expressions of worship.

I recant every single one of those words, it’s truly humbling to realize how incredibly wrong I was and how God speaks through this. I’m learning not to trash talk things that I don’t understand because life has a funny way of bringing me to the very things that I spoke evil of. Oh God please forgive me. I had no idea what I was talking about.