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CFS turned my spiritual life, and my church world, upside down

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by Jody, Dec 29, 2009.

  1. MEG

    MEG Senior Member

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    Joining conversation

    Jody and all,
    I really want to join in this conversation. My spiritual life needs help to say the least...Jody I am so glad you started this.
    However, just got home from the doctor and am exhausted.
    I will read more later after a nap and rest....
    Bless all of you...all of us
     
  2. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Jody - Where did you get the idea that the Fathers did not believe in Hell?

    I could give more examples - I have all the writings of the Fathers - but their comments on Hell can be found here.

    If Hell had been a later fallacy, then it would have completely negated Jesus' need to die on the Cross. If there was nothing to save us from, then why would he bother?
     
  3. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    I am reminded her of something said by St. Theresa of Lisieux, whose path was most definitely one of suffering. She said something to the effect that she wished God had one of those new-fangled elevators because she could not even lift her poor foot to the first step on the stairway to His heart. Thankfully, I have found that we don't have to lift our feet. RestingInHim has a name that says it all. If we rest in Him, He lifts us.

    Oh, I find the Holy Spirit very active within the Church. Unfortunately, there are those who reject the move of His love while there are others who operate, as Jody pointed out, as "name it and claim it" so-called charismaniacs. As a Christian, I know that I have gifts of the Holy Spirit. They came at the moment of baptism, not only for me but for all baptised people. Sadly, many either don't know they have them, or abuse them, when they are to be used for the building up of God's Church and His people.
     
  4. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Martlet,

    Let me see if I can dig up the articles and sites I was reading back then. It's been a few years -- at the time I could have rattled it off nicely, but ... it's been awhile.:rolleyes: I will see what I can find again though and will get back to you on this. I know some of the old websites are defunct but if I can have ancient book reports still show up in google searches, then surely some of this stuff should still be accessible.:D

    The message would have been, not that there was a hell to fear, but that a close relationship with the Creator was possible and that this Father of ours wanted it. Jesus was the illustration to the story so mankind could be made aware. He was the bridge -- not over a burning hell but simply to a loving Father.

    This was different from any other religion at that time. No gods felt that way about their creation. This was brand new. And ... very good news. :)
     
  5. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Marian,

    Rest up, girl. :)

    When you're up to it, we'll be here. :)
     
  6. spit

    spit Senior Member

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    Just wanted to say that this is an interesting topic and thread to read as pretty much a "devoted" atheist. I hope nothing I say here will overstep anybody's boundaries, and want to add that I have total respect for others' fundamental faiths. I will say that I've had trouble for a variety of reasons with specific religious beliefs that have applied in sort of drastic ways to my life. That's all sort of an aside from the topic of faith in times of sickness, though.

    I think that the quest to figure out one's relationship with... whatever -- God, the universe, the physical world, the emotional relationships with self and others, all or any that apply -- are all thrown into immediate chaos when we discover that the sickness we're living in isn't the life we feel reflected through all sorts of aspects of culture or others' knowledge or our prior self-awareness. The questions that build up become huge, both in terms of whatever faiths we may have and in terms of our own personal sense of self, and finding the answers through all of that is a process that I think is really intensely personal. I don't personally look to God or to religious ideals for those answers, but I can see how bringing that new and raw personal element to one's faith, whatever it may be, could bring a feeling of closeness to it -- or distance from it that requires rethinking -- that may be lacking for a lot of people who respond to their church or faith or belief system through an organized system or custom or tradition, without ever developing a really personal relationship with whatever they feel inside that brings them to that line of thinking.

    I know that even though I don't look to religion for answers, I find myself tending toward the philosophical, and the personal relationship to self and others and world that I've developed over my life is now all an open question. In some ways, though, I think that it's realistically always an open question, for everybody -- everybody on the planet is trying to find some sort of "who the hell am I, what am I doing", and to my mind, it's the asking of those questions, the thoughtfulness we bring to them, that makes us so amazing as far as living things go. I don't personally think there are answers to them, but I intend to keep asking anyhow -- there's this world, and I'm in it, and I get this amount of time to figure it out the best I can. I'll fail to figure it out, like all organisms have before me, but that we keep on trying is what makes it such an interesting and worthwhile place. I think when we ask the big questions, we may find totally different answers that don't relate to them at all, but that are huge and meaningful anyway in ways we weren't even looking for otherwise.

    I like to think that's the point. It is for me, anyway. Others' mileage may vary.
     
  7. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Spit - (love your name!) - Thank you for what is obviously a very thoughtful post. Personally, I would put you into the same slot as one of my sons-in-law - agnostic - because you are still searching for - something. Or have I read you wrongly? In any case, I look forward to more of your posts.
     
  8. spit

    spit Senior Member

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    Thanks for the kindness. I've enjoyed reading the other thoughtful posts here, even if they're coming from a place that's different from mine. :)

    I actually do consider myself, if I'm being picky, basically agnostic -- I don't personally think, if there is a spiritual truth, that it's something that people can ever exactly know for sure. I often avoid putting it in those terms, though, because people who do have a particular faith experience it as knowing, and I don't mean to diminish that experience.

    It just doesn't fit well for me; I think the asking is the point, and there's no knowing until we're dead, if at all -- if I have a faith at all, it's that if there is a God or Power all knowing whatzimahoozit that will judge me at the end, that he/she/it will see some value in the questions that I asked and the attention I tried to give the world, even if the directions my beliefs went went weren't the "right" ones. Until then, I can only go with what I see in the world, and do my best to observe it carefully and thoughtfully.

    But then again, I also think that the core of that is that I don't know much of anything, so I can't know much about what other people know, if that makes sense. I suppose that is pretty solidly agnosticism, yes. :)
     
  9. Tammie

    Tammie Senior Member

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    Sorry this is long, and I hope that it does not sound as if I think that everyone reading will share my beliefs. I definitely do not make that assumption, nor am I trying to convert anyone, or anything.....I am just sharing my story.

    From what I have read so far (only managed to get thru a little more than the first page) this is a great discussion. I hope to find the energy to read more soon, but I wanted to say that I can certainly relate to what I have read.

    I grew up believing in God and going to church, then starting at age 11 and occurring at various times and perpetuated by more than one person, I went thru a lot of abuse (various types, not by my parents or brother, thankfully)....anyway, it wound up impacting my feelings about God (not in the positive, but to just say it had a negative impact would be simplifying it too much....regardless, I pulled away from God & church for quite some time, and developed all sorts of bad coping mechanisms, which also affected my relationship with God (one of these was an eating disorder that lasted from age 11 till 31)

    After feeling lost for a long time and getting help for my various issues, I began to want God back in my life, and to feel envious of the people who seemed to have the sort of close relationship with God and with Christ that I wanted....I started to hang out more with them & to go back to church, but was still feeling a bit separate and sort of like I was faking it.....still I kept going. I truly believe that God and the people He put into my life were a big part of the reason I finally beat the ED. Ironically, the other reasons were that I wanted to be healthy :rolleyes: and I had also noticed that the ED was affecting my running and I could not stand to give that up. (Thank you CFIDS for destroying both my health and my running a few yrs later!:mad:)

    Anyway, I did recognize that God was still very much in my life, and was helping me thru stuff, though I still did not feel the connection that I desired. I had a few decent yrs (having recovered from the ED and worked on the other issues, and I started planning a career as a counselor. I wanted to help others with similar stuff, and I thought that was somethign that God wanted me to do, too. Right before grad school was to start, I was in a very bad car accident. I started grad school though I was dealing with post concussive syndrome and could not think clearly at all, was still working, but making very little (though I would welcome that salary now!), was stressed about money and school, and then my grandma (last remaining grandparent) died......all that did a number on my immune system and I got mono, and well, you can guess where that led......yep, the joyous days of CFIDS, FM, MCS, etc.

    I was really down, but shortly after the accident and the onset of CFS, I had been reading thru a Bible study and God somehow got thru to me that I was really and truly His child, He had really and truly included me in the salvation that His Son was sent here to accomplish, and I was really and truly loved and forgiven. I finally really understood that I was saved, and for awhile that helped my relationship with Him to improve so much. I had found the answers I had been longing for and I was prepared to trust God with everything, no matter what.

    Then my illnesses got worse....I did finish grad school, but doing so combined with the internship and everything in my life made the CFS much worse, so I could barley function at all, and have not actually worked (other than the internship) as a counselor. So, I couldn't work, I began to have no life, could not even make it to church many times, and felt like I was losing all the people who mattered to me bc they did not understand.

    This caused me to really question God. I mean, I thought I was doing what He wanted and trusting Him and how on earth was CFS supposed to fit into this picture? I could/can not take care of myself very well at all, can not work, so how could I help anyone else and if He put me on earth for a purpose what was it? Being useless and alone did not seem to fit with any purpose I could see.

    And, the responses from church members were often not the best. Some tried to understand, and I didn't get much outright condemnation, but there were certainly enough off responses that I began to feel like they thought I just didn't have enough faith or was somehow doing something wrong and bringing this on myself. Or, people just slipped away. They didn't seem to care that I was not there much anymore, or responded in other ways that hurt. There was even a pastor/counselor who automatically assumed that CFS was depression & that the time I wound up leaving church via ambulance unable to breathe, with chest pains, light headedness, etc was anxiety. (I have not had issues with severe anxiety and even if I had, church was the LAST place I would have felt that way......I loved church and often wished I could spend more time there.) Anyway, his response, though still compassionate, was obviously completely missing the mark and made me very upset - enough that I almost left that church.

    Since I am limited as to which church I can attend, though, bc I absolutely do not function in the mornings at all, and since I liked the church overall, I decided to stick around. I started praying for God to help me understand the passages in the Bible about illness and the ones about trials. I had been doing a good job of turning them into condemnation until that point, and I knew that's not what they were about. I also wanted answers to give to people who thought that I must be bringing this sickness on myself. I hung onto the fact that the church is made up of people - flawed human beings, and that though some of them might hurt me, they were not God. I was going to church for fellowship, but I was also (and predominately) going to worship and learn about God, and I couldn't allow hurt caused by fellow sinners to draw me away from church (I believe that we are all sinners - we all mess up- and that's why we need Him).

    Well, God answered my prayers.....and apparently He thought that I needed the answers really driven into my dense (brain fogged) head, too! :D (I would say that I agree with Him on that point) Over the next year and a half, the very verses I had struggled with were brought up repeatedly (& I mean repeatedly) by various sources, and I began to understand that they were meant to encourage, not to condemn. Additionally, God made His presence felt more strongly than ever, esp during those times when I felt so alone in this and so down and just did not want to be here.

    I began to feel that my illness had actually brought me closer to Him and though I would really like to retain that closeness AND GET BETTER, I have found it a little easier to accept that being sick actually has been part of God's plan for my life - that He is using even this for good. (I STILL WANT TO GET BETTER, but that realization has helped.) I also began to feel very strongly called to start a chronic illness/chronic pain ministry at my church. I saw more and more the need for it, and felt God telling me that rather than let the lack of support and understanding drive me away, I should step in and remedy things.

    Of course, I thought that He was crazy - after all I can barely function these days....how the heck am I supposed to do this?!!?! I prayed about it a lot, and wrote down a bunch of ideas and steps, and started running it by a few people who know me well and understand what I am dealing with. (There are still a few of them around.) Instead of shooting me down as expected, they all loved the idea and thought that I was uniquely suited for it. So, I brought it up to a couple of people in the church. They also thought it was a great idea. So, I talked to the pastor of grp life and he REALLY loved the idea, but he said that i also needed to talk with the very pastor who seemed to believe that I was a mental case. Ugh! :( Well, I did go ahead and email him and we have been trying to set up a day to get together to talk it over, and he does seem open to the idea, but I still have no idea how I am going to get the needed support to pull it off......but I am still trusting that if God wants it to happen, it will.

    Currently, though there are areas where it is tougher to trust Him (like money - rather the huge lack of it), I am mostly much better at letting Him be in control and trusting that this life is just a drop in the bucket compared to what is yet to come. Much of the time I really wish that He would decide to take me home, but believing that that day will come has made it easier to deal with this life.

    So, that is where I am in my spiritual journey, for what it is worth. And, wow, that was a bit of a book....did not plan to write so much, and that is actually making it as short as possible.
     
  10. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    You know, that is what the Catholic Church actually says. Naturally, it comes from the position that there is a hierarchy of belief, with the apostolic Churches at the top. i.e. those that have descend directly from the apostles, but it acknowledges the value of all faiths and even of those with no faith but who never the less seek truth and goodness with a sincere heart. We are all making our way through life seeking, aren't we?
     
  11. Countrygirl

    Countrygirl Senior Member

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    Tammie........thanks for sharing your story. I can so relate to much of what you have said

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I have asked myself this a zillion times. Perhaps we are on an accelerated soul-polishing course. It really does feel like that! Suffering is really a mystery. One thing I know for sure - going through the fiery furnace of M.E. makes you search deeply into the root of your beliefs and challenges you to the depths of your soul. It strips off the dross until you are left with the real. The experience of what I call stripping makes it difficult to relate to others in the church who haven't had this experience. Things that once seemed so important now are totally irrelevant to the genuine spiritual life. Infact, those whom I have found to be the most spiritually mature and whose faith really shines through are those who are housebound with M.E. who are ignored by their church and who struggle through alone. They have a depth, which those who are busy running the church committees do not, in the main, have. Well, that is my experience. :)

    The church community just does not 'get it' when it comes to chronic, debilitating illness. If you can't attend church, you disappear from view. Doesn't quite square up with the Gospel's teaching, does it! In a better patch, I went on a pastoral teaching course for visiting the chronically ill. :D It was toe-curlingly awful. :p We were instructed not to do anything practical for the ill person ...:mad: and when we left from 'having done good to them' (translation, in my view, ourselves) :D) we had to wash and shake our hands and change our shoes to 'get rid of their influence on us!!!!!! :mad:


    Well done, Tammie. You sound the ideal person for this. No shaking and washing hands or changing of shoes though !! :D :)
     
  12. _Kim_

    _Kim_ Guest

    I am daring to enter into this conversation with neither the shared experiences nor the religious background that most of you seem to have.

    As an adult, I have never sought religion. I wouldn't call myself an atheist or an agnostic, because I neither need to believe nor disbelieve in God and I am not seeking any answers. I believe that there is more than just me, but whatever Spirit is or is not does not concern me. All I need to know is what steps I need to take to stay on my path. And fortunately, those steps are always clear. I sometimes call them "whispers" - sometimes know it as intuition - but always, I am guided.

    For me, spirituality is very very simple. Do good, help when you can, forgive myself and others who have done harm, be grateful for every moment, and pray. Prayer, too, is simple for me - it means sending loving thoughts to those are suffering.

    Though I was raised in a family of practicing Catholics, we never talked about God or the Bible in my house. Instead, my parents modeled being "Christian". In my understanding, being a Christian meant that they drove the sick to church, they brought food to those who couldn't cook, did shopping and errands for those who were unable and then - they prayed for them.

    We had a unique dinner ritual. Before we ate, we said grace, then offered prayers for those that we knew who were sick. It was a running list of names that we all knew by heart. When people got well (or died) they were taken off the list and as other people in our lives got sick, they were added to the list.

    I am the eldest of four children and I clearly remember my younger siblings saying those names out loud. I think before they even learned the ABC song, they knew the names of those we prayed for.

    I would like to have a prayer list here. There are some members of our community who are very sick - those who would have qualified for my family's dinner list. I am timid about starting something like this. I don't know how it would work, but I have the feeling that no matter what religion we identify with, that prayer (loving thoughts for those who are suffering) is somehow universal.
     
  13. Holmsey

    Holmsey Senior Member

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    Kim, by your own words you are already beyond the 'names' without which this world would not exist, religion and the reality of spirit are not the same, religions are as the moon is to the sun, a pale reflection. You need not be concerened with spirit, spirit is concerned with you, Christians would say you are called, I beleive 'whispers', which belongs to no one but you says it better than any other name I have heard.


    'It is not the power to know but the strength to do which I seek'


    This is where religions started, the intuition you speak of, the whispers, this was recently whispered to me, I beleive this to be the birth place of all religions before they were tainted by dreams of power and influence.

    Underlying this reality is a flow, a river of energy that is simultaneously absolute peace and unconditional love. It is omnipresent and can be accessed in an instant.
    Although not obvious the key to its door is hidden in plain view should we choose to look, the clues are in our words. Life exists through it and because of it, accepting this means accepting that the true nature of life is unconditional love and the true state of being is one of being at peace, anything else is illusion.
    Finding ourselves in a state of holding fast, holding on, standing firm or against we find that we toil contrary to that flow, in reality it is that flow we push against no matter the illusion otherwise. We subsume energy from it in an effort to work against it but neither rage nor outrage can stand in the face of love and so we suffer, as long as we continue to choose to suffer.
    In order to dislike, object or hate we must first exert the energy to construct the why and the wherefore of our objections, and even more in the action of carrying them forward, yet if but for a single breath we let go, we and they alike are returned to that peace, to that flow.
    This IS the natural state of being, all else, all else, is illusion.


    Religions are not called, spirit cannot speak through a church or a mosque, it speaks through people and it never seeks to condemn or control. If there is hate in it, it is of man, test everything in your heart, the heart always knows, but then I don't need to tell you that, someone (or thing) has already done that.

    You've brought such a smile to my face, and that's not good, I'm still at work.

    All the best.
     
  14. starryeyes

    starryeyes Senior Member

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    Jody - I find the history of Christianity to be very interesting. Thanks for writing about what you have found about the church community. I'm listening to the Bible online which I find very nice for those times when I'm unable to focus and/or in the CFS coma. It's free. :) Here's the link:

    http://www.audio-bible.com/bible/bible.html

    I have read many reports of Christian PWC stating that they paid their tithings to their church for 10 years or so and they always felt that they were part of the church community until they got sick with CFS and/or FMS. They say that they were treated like they were lying and/or written off by their church especially if they were house or bed-bound.

    I think that is very sad. I do believe that God loves us all and that the trials we go through here lead to spiritual growth.

    Martlet – your spiritual experience sounds like it was wonderful and I believe it was real. Thank you for sharing that with us.

    Tammie - I got a lot out of your story and I think it's great that you are taking steps to set up a support group for the chronically ill at your church. It's funny that you ended up having to email the pastor that has some learnin' to do. ;) I think one of the functions of us being chronically ill is to help others learn some things that they wouldn't have just by reading about it etc... I look forward to hearing what happens with this. I find it admirable that you have the courage to deal with him as well. I'm not sure I would especially in this fragile, vulnerable state we're in.

    Wow! That's eye-opening. Why wouldn't they let you do anything useful for the chronically ill?

    Kim, what amazing experiences you've had. I would imagine that you get a lot of support from your family. Do you?

    That is so profound and I believe that too.

    Holmsey – why can't you smile when you're at work?
     
  15. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    I am amazed by your family. WOW! Just speechless really... The world would be a completely different place if more kids were raised like that.

    I'm just going to take it in.
     
  16. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    The world would have more Kims in it!

    That would be fantastic, wouldn't it.

    It would.
     
  17. fresh_eyes

    fresh_eyes happy to be here

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    Ditto. Amazing. And are they wonderfully supportive toward you through your illness? (*envious, and embarrassed for being envious*)
     
  18. gracenote

    gracenote All shall be well . . .

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    a prayer list

    So many really wonderful posts. It's very heartening to see such beauty come out of such suffering.

    Kim, I think this is a lovely idea. Would we get to add our own names to the list as well as offering prayers for others? Count me in for both.
     
  19. fresh_eyes

    fresh_eyes happy to be here

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    Oh, yeah, forgot to say - me too.

    We could even have a (weekly?) prayer/meditation time together.
     
  20. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Me three. We could sync up according to our time zones and tune in together!
    :cool::cool::cool::cool::cool::cool: I'm excited now!
     

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