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Many struggle to blend religious and the secular in daily lives

POSTED: March 31, 2013 12:40 a.m.

Every morning as Jeanne Fields gets ready for work, she slides a bracelet onto her wrist. The bracelet reminds her to be faithful and thankful for all that she has, even her struggles.

As a hospice nurse liaison with Hospice Northeast Georgia Medical Center, she and her co-workers keep a professional distance from their individual faiths when helping patients face their final days. But that doesn’t mean faith takes a back seat at work.

“We are neutral to all faiths,” Fields said. “But our faith shows through our love and how we care for them.”

Fields said patients generally want to connect more deeply with their spirituality as they reach the end of their lives. She has found that patients who are able to fulfil their spiritual needs seem to be more at peace when they die.

“Since people are facing the end of the life, their spirituality comes to the forefront,” Fields said. “It makes you look at yours more often.”

Fields said being exposed to people of faiths that may differ from her own has taught her more about what she believes and how to live in accordance with those beliefs.

“It brings out forgiveness,” Fields said. “You want to forgive others and yourself because you know that life is short. We have to make peace with things. The other thing is brings out is a lot of gratitude.”

Fields said she’s fortunate to have a career that provides daily opportunities to take notice of her faith.

“I had faith before, but it’s grown so much because of hospice, because of the patients and the people I work with,” Fields said.

These days, not everyone is able to focus on their spirituality in the way Fields is. It can often be difficult for many people to balance their spiritual and secular lives.

But local pastors say that balance can be achieved if people of all faiths take time to recognize the imbalance and adjust accordingly.

“It’s a real shame that what we’ve done in our society is to separate the holy and the mundane,” said the Rev. Will Dyer, pastor of discipleship at First Baptist Church on Green Street.

He said the trouble with such separation is that people have generally stopped noticing the sacred as they go through their daily activities. They tend to focus on their faith only once or twice a week at church, he said.

“I think God is with us all the time,” Dyer said. “So the danger in dividing God and the secular is we don’t see him in the midst of our lives.”

He said the separation isn’t all bad, however; in some ways, it can make people more reverent with the recognition that “God is very different from us.”

This time of year, Dyer said, the separation becomes more evident as parents ask for advice in telling the story of Christ’s resurrection to their children.

“An increasing number of people, especially children, have their conception of Easter as bunnies and eggs,” Dyer said. “What I tell them is that the heart of Easter is ‘God loves you more than we can imagine.’ That loves wins over hate. I think that’s a universal message you can tell everyone.”

But Dyer said the questions relating to balancing a spiritual life don’t just come up once a year. One of the places that separation is most evident is in his congregation’s job satisfaction.

Dyer said it’s fairly routine for people to tell him they don’t feel like their work is meaningful, but he reminds them that it is.

“God is with the man who cuts your grass as much as God is with me when I stand in the pulpit on Sunday morning,” Dyer said. “It’s about finding divinity in everything. And we need to do a better job of it.”

Chuck DeBardeleben, senior pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, said nothing is really secular; everything is inherently spiritual.

“Every Christian believer has the opportunity to live out his faith in everything that he does,” DeBardeleben said.

Even though some jobs by their nature are less fulfilling than others. Pastors want people to know that their work, no matter what it is, makes a difference and is important.

DeBardeleben laughed as he recalled his efforts at carpentry, an experience both difficult and frustrating. Though the work was hard, DeBardeleben said, Jesus worked as a carpenter to glorify his father.

DeBardeleben said the key to keeping or finding a spiritual balance in life is to simply focus more on faith.\

“It’s always easy to get distracted by what’s going on in the news or your own personal life,” DeBardeleben said. “I personally believe that God is in control of our circumstances and wants us to cling to him no matter what is happening in our lives at the moment.


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