I have called you by name, you are mine.
I was baptized as a baby and attended church and Sunday School regularly. I am told that I was overheard saying at about my third or fourth Sunday School Christmas program "Aw, this same old story again?" I knew where to turn in the old blue book for any part of the service, long before I learned to read.
Through the years, many people and activities influenced my faith life—my parents and grandparents, peers, confirmation classes, my Sunday School students and friends, pastors, church leaders and various forms of media.
Books have always brought me great joy, as do music and film. I search continuously for devotional material that applies to my life. Whether I attend a symphony, choral or contemporary concert, listen to or participate in the choir, music brings a unique quality to my life. Film and television occasionally bring me unexpected faith discoveries. From The X-Files television series to K-Pax, a recent Kevin Spacey movie, I am constantly surprised how religion is quietly intertwined in secular media.
I have always been active in the congregation—a place where I find welcome, support, acceptance and opportunity to grow. My confirmation took place at a unique time in the history of the Canadian Lutheran church. The congregations of Gloria Dei and St. Luke had just begun to share space in the building called Luther Place. The Lutheran Book of Worship was not yet the official hymnal, and negotiations had just fallen apart between Lutheran Church-Canada (LC-C) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). I simply could not believe the stubbornness of some people, and the lack of forward thinking. All my life I had prepared for this highly anticipated merger, where a Lutheran in Canada was a Lutheran, period. It felt like a slap in the face to me.
Miraculously, these events strengthened my faith, and did not weaken it. I liked being part of what some considered to be a very radical partnership, worshipping together in what was fondly known as 'Gloria and Luke's place.'
I recently dug out the faith statement I wrote for my confirmation dinner in October 1979. I certainly have greater intellectual understanding of faith now, but I continue to hold it very close and tight. I have always felt that actions speak louder than words, but I still sometimes question how I fit into the big picture and if I am using the gifts I have been given.
During the last few months of my dad's life, I relied heavily on my faith to "lift me up on eagle's wings" and to provide me with the strength (physical and emotional) that I needed. Bible verses and hymns I thought long forgotten came back with incredible recall. Regular reflection helped me see that Dad was going to a better place, where he would not suffer any more and that he was ready to go. I witnessed his last breath and treasure this sacred moment, when I felt the presence of God. I must confess that I half expected to see Andrew and Monica from Touched by an Angel.
It never occurred to me that God chose me to live without a partner. Being a single female in a society developed around the nuclear family is a challenge. Many of my favourite Bible verses and stories enforce the idea that women who are not wives and mothers do not have a place in or little to offer society. I thank God for my circle of friends, who are each a very special gift.
Over the years, I have learned to trust my instincts, that little voice that nags and nags until I acknowledge what it is saying. When I follow it, my path is strong and straight, even though it may lead me down uncharted waters—at times a nice, quiet brook, at other times a raging waterfall.
When approached to serve on Council in 1999, that little voice kept telling me to take a position on the Executive. The next year I realized that I wanted the position of Chairperson. This came as quite a shock because I never imagined myself in such a role. However, here I am. I have learned much about myself through this experience, and have also seen the congregation through different eyes. I realize what a blessed congregation we are. For this, I give thanks.
Late last fall, while taking a class in adult education I had an unexpected faith rebirth. I began to question everything I had been taught, had previously believed, and even if God is still relevant. Now, as you can imagine, this caused me just a little bit of anxiety. I was supposed to be learning about adult education, but all I could see was my church, its people and mission. Why could we barely cover our share of sandwiches for the inner city mission? Why does it seem we are looking inward, instead of outward into our community? Do we still have purpose in our community? These and other questions flew at me at a furious pace. I experienced a symphony of 'aha' moments.
I finally got it. I am a steward of myself and of my purchases, employment, home, lifestyle, environmental footprint, social and justice concerns, etc. because it is all the same thing. Everything and every being is so interrelated that they can't be separated. My final paper incorporated much of my struggle and I felt a sense of relief and renewed faith upon completion.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to break down and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 - 8
-- Lisa Marie Gaudreau
Hosanna, Edmonton, Alberta