Alone at Church

I could also entitle this post, “When there aren’t enough volunteers”, but I digress. First, I need to clarify something. I’m not really at my church alone. My husband is usually serving behind the media desk, and my sons are usually sitting with their friends, but I think my experiences over the last several months have been realistic enough that I can write this post.

Now, I think we can all agree that every church depends on its volunteers. And there are many who do volunteer–from the people who sing, to the people who serve on the media team, to the people who serve in the children’s area to the people who pass out communion and the offering baskets, to the people who serve on various committees, to the people who are elders, to the people who are on the greeting team, and I could go on and on. These are all valid jobs within the church, and I don’t have a problem with any of them. I serve on the greeting team myself.

There is another side to this though where spouses and families are encouraged to worship together. I don’t have a problem with this either except for one thing. What happens when spouses aren’t able to worship together? There is exactly one volunteer job at my church where spouses aren’t able to worship together at least for some part of the service. You might see where I’m going with this. That job is serving behind the media desk, and that is where my husband serves. He is good at this job. It is the calling God has given him. So, when I feel alone at church, I feel guilty. When I feel awkward about asking if I can sit with someone else’s family, I feel like an impediment to my husband’s ministry. God and I have had a lot of conversations about this. I don’t want to interfere with how my husband serves God. I want us to serve God together, and I want to support what he does. But, I will admit these last few months have been deeply discouraging for me because there haven’t been enough people available to keep him from having to be back there.

I’ve realized a few things though. One is that the awkwardness I feel in talking to people and being around people is a part of my personality. It has nothing to do with how I minister, and it’s not something God means for me to feel guilty about. The other thing, and the more important thing is that there are people who walk into our churches alone, who don’t have anyone at all to sit with, and who are waiting for someone to ask them to sit with them.  So, I think God is issuing me and all of us a challenge. A challenge to make sure we are careful with our language in talking about how families should worship together and a challenge to make sure people who come into church alone or who are sitting alone always have someone to sit with.  Who knows? You might be Jesus to someone who needs Him.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

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Being Thankful

November is the month when people talk about being thankful especially since Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of the month. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to be thankful though because we think about all the things we don’t have or the people we think live this life better than we do. The question we should be asking though is, “What does God say about being thankful in Scripture?”

It turns out He says plenty about being thankful.  Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Another example would be from Hebrews 12:28. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

There are quite a few examples from Psalms. Here are two of them–the first being from Chapter 106, Verse 1 “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

The second example is from Chapter 107, Verse 1. “Give thanks to the Lord. for he is good; his love endures forever.”

And finally, from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

There are many more where those came from. I usually don’t post that many examples, but my fingers just started typing, and it’s come to mind why God wanted me to find so many examples of being thankful. Sometimes, I look at other people, and I see how much better they are at living the Christian life than I am. I am broken, the worst of the worst, and I am completely inadequate. I know this. It is not a surprise to me. But, God is in my heart, and I have the Holy Spirit in my life. He gives me the strength to live bravely for Him. To be the person He wants me to be, not anyone else. To use the gifts He gave me–to do the things that are familiar and to try new things too.  And He wants me to be thankful for all of it. I will do another post that states exactly what I am thankful for on Thanksgiving, but I wanted to write something today that showed what I had learned from God about being thankful.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Letter to God

Dear God,

I know you want us to be real and honest when we talk to you so that is what I’m doing with this letter today. I know, in my reading of the Psalms, that David was very honest with you so I am hoping you will hear me.

What do you want from me, God? For the last several days, I have steeped myself in music that declares your majesty. Declares your love for us. It calms my spirit when I do that. But, then, I think of relating to the outside world, and I am terrified. Is this a result of my depression? My introversion? I don’t know. I just don’t feel like I’m contributing, and I feel like I’m a disappointment to you.

I should have the capability to leap past this like so many others I know do, but I just don’t. Not today, anyway. Maybe it’s the grace part I’m having problems with. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” These verses can even be seen at the top of this blog.

But, today, God, today, I hurt. Today, I wish I was done with my journey here and in heaven with you though I know it is your choice when my journey is done and not mine. I know when I’m in heaven I won’t hurt anymore. I won’t wonder if I will be missed. I won’t wonder if my life counted. I won’t think or express what I consider to be bad emotions. Why did you make us with good and bad stuff anyway? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to make us with good stuff? Or did the bad come in when sin entered the world? I have no idea. I guess that will be another question you’ll answer later.

Back to the main question I had when I started writing this letter. Does it count as worship when I hurt, when I’m afraid? Is that what you mean when you say trust me? I know you are working in my heart. I know the Holy Spirit is present in my life. I just wish I could get past the idea that, to be an authentic or good Christian, my “church face” needs to be on or my shields need to be up. I wish that I didn’t feel awkward about asking for prayer for myself in person about things that other people don’t consider important. Do you truly see all my tears, God? I hope so.

At the beginning of this letter, I said I knew I could be authentic with you, and I am trusting in that. In the meantime, I will worship you. I will worship you even if I have tears pouring down my face because that is how much I love you.

With Love,

Your Devoted Daughter

Stewardship

Another year has rolled around, and it is almost Commitment Sunday at my church again. I thought about pulling my post out from last year and re-posting it, but I realized I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in my understanding from last year. I decided I wanted, no, I needed, to write these words down so I would remember what God has taught me.

Over the last few weeks, the Bible class lessons and sermons at my church have been on stewardship. I’ve learned things I never knew before. One thing in particular startled me.  There are several words we are used to seeing in Scripture. Words such as believe, praylove, and give, along with many others. Out of those words, the word give appears the most times, 2,162 to be exact.

I would have thought some of those other words might be more important. Like believe, maybe. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  This verse from Scripture is considered the go-to verse for those leading others to Christ, and it has the word believe in it. So, how many times does this word appear in Scripture? Only 272.

What about love? There are so many examples of this I hesitate to post examples for fear I would miss something, but here are just a few.  1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” This example, of course, comes out of the famous love chapter in Scripture where the word appears many times. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  And finally, one of my favorites from 1 John 4:9. “We love because he first loved us.” There are many more examples. But, does this word appear in Scripture more than give? No, it appears 714 times.

Finally, here’s an example of the word pray in Scripture. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Prayer is something Jesus talks a lot about. It doesn’t appear more in Scripture though than give. It only appears 371 times.

So, what is it about that word give that is so important to God? I probably should give some examples from Scripture first. You’re familiar with the words from Matthew 6:11. “Give us today our daily bread.” Here’s another example from Luke 14:33. “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”  Proverbs 25:21 is another example that a lot of us cringe at. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” And finally, from 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

God means for us to give. He does not mean for us to be focused on ourselves. That is why the word appears so many times in Scripture.  Let me repeat myself. God wants us to be focused on others. This is a hard thing to hear in today’s me focused society, and all of us who claim Christ face that challenge of where our focus should be each and every day. We should want to meet that challenge though and defeat it. We should want to show Whose we are to the world around us, and we can do that by what our giving priorities are whether that be money or time or a combination of both. Showing Whose I am by my giving priorities is the desire of my heart, and I pray that it is the desire of yours too.

I am going to quote some of what I wrote in last year’s blog post because I feel it even more strongly this year.

“Do we really want to win our world for Christ? Or is church and what we do at church just something to check off our list and not even the most important part of our list? I don’t want church or my faith to be something to check off a list.  I want my life and my money to show what I really believe in. I want people to see Jesus in me. I might not be able to give as much money as someone else, but, from what I can give, money, as well as time, I want people to see  what my priorities are.  And my very first priority is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!

It is Well with My Soul

It’s been almost a month since I wrote in this blog, and something big has happened since then. My husband has found full-time permanent work. We will not have to leave the city we have learned to call home over the last four years. We will not have to leave our friends, the people who have become our family. It is the first time in a long time that I have felt optimistic about our future.

The optimism though doesn’t come from anything my husband or I have done even though my husband was the one who got the job. It comes from our Lord and Savior who is the ultimate provider. I realized that God had to bring me to the point of saying, like the song, it is well with my soul, even if my husband didn’t get the job.  And I did. I knew that God would be with us no matter what. When I was able to say that, things came through, and it all happened.

God’s timetable is never the same as ours, and that is the main lesson he has been teaching me through all of this. I recalled one other thing last month. It had been a year since we had started praying for full-time permanent work for my husband. I had lost sight of that when he got the contract job and then with everything he and we had gone through while he had the job. When I remembered this, I began to connect the dots.

God has taught me so many lessons this year and has poured out so many blessings. He has given me a strong desire to cement my knowledge of the faith I claim which I will talk about more in the months to come. But, for now, I will finish with the words from the song “It is Well with My Soul”

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Just Show Up

God has taken me on a journey this week that I wanted to share with you all.  If you’ve read any of my most recent posts, you know my husband has been out of work. We are approaching the two and a half month mark, and I won’t mince words. This has been hard. A lot of what I have dealt with has been in my mind. (Spiritual warfare is alive and well, thank you very much.) From worrying about what people think of us, to wondering how things were going to get paid for, to making sure our needs for space were met, to teaching my 10th grade son and adjusting to our college aged son being gone, we have had a lot on our plate. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether it’s been too much. And then on top of that, I’ve wanted to make sure I didn’t lose my heart for giving and showing that we were depending on God for our provision and stability.

I think that’s where I ran into a problem, and it’s where my journey started. I started thinking that the only kind of giving that counted was financial giving. I should have known better than that. Being willing to give runs the whole gambit, and it’s not just financial. Not by a long shot.

So, back to the journey. We’ve been waiting this week on news from a second interview. The job sounds like it would be a perfect fit for my husband. He had the interview at the beginning of the week, and now, we’re sitting here at the end of the week, and he hasn’t heard anything. I don’t know if any of you have ever been in that position, but it can mess with the mind as it has messed with mine. God didn’t leave me alone though–through the tears, through the prayers, and through the things He encouraged me to read.

Through all of that, He brought the important way to give to the forefront of my mind. It’s the one I think most people would consider the most important, but is done the most rarely because of the busyness of our lives. What way of giving is that? Being present or just showing up and doing what’s needed. After God gave me that realization, I thought back over the last ten weeks. Countless people have just shown up and done what was needed. From the man who called my husband last week to ask if he wanted to ride down to see our son at college, to the couple who bought us tickets to the movie War Room, to the people who sat with me and prayed with me while I blubbered on Wednesday, to all the people who have been on their knees praying for a job to come for my husband, people have shown up when we’ve most needed them. There’s not any magic to this. It’s just a commitment all of them have made to live in community with their Christian brothers and sisters. To just show up whenever and wherever needed.

Just showing up is something I need to recommit myself to doing. To being aware of who is and what is going on around me. I think that is just as important, no, more important than giving money because you see, I think that’s what Jesus did during the time He was here. He showed up to the people who needed Him the most.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Four Years

It sneaked up on me this year. On this day four years ago, we drove into Birmingham. I didn’t imagine then when we drove down 280 at 7 PM that this place would become home and that I would meet people who would become family. People who are so dear to me that I can barely breathe when I think of how much they mean to me. We came here to take advantage of an employment opportunity for my husband and though he is no longer at that company, I am grateful we were able to move here for the opportunity.

Yes, this year has been a struggle. We have dealt with sad and happy occasions. First, the happiest one. My older son graduated from high school and started college. When we moved here, one of my utmost desires was that we could stay in one place for both of my children’s high school years. We’ve managed that for the older one. He has made lifelong friends and put down roots getting to know other people–teens and adults who love and care about him. I wasn’t able to stay in one place for my high school years, and I wanted to do that for both of my children.

We have also dealt with difficult situations. With unemployment. With sickness. With going from a household of four to a household of three. There have been many adjustments. Sometimes the rope I was holding onto would fray and almost fall apart, especially over the last couple of weeks.

But, I would not change a minute of it. These last four years have been precious to me for two reasons. The first is because of the church home, the family we have found. I have learned about truly being a part of a community and about being loved as part of that community. Yes, it is imperfect. It won’t be perfect until we all get to heaven. But, knowing even that kind of imperfect love has meant the world to me. The other reason, the most important reason is that God has come back to my heart and to my home, and I understand what grace truly means. So very grateful to my Lord and Savior!

God’s blessings on you all today!