Forever a Church “Visitor”

 

I’ve forgotten how to “do church.”

It wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do. On the contrary, I love church, I love fellowship, I love God and all He stands for. My family and I were part of a “church family” for 15 years. We stayed after on Sundays and helped clean up, we filled in where needed, we washed dishes at the annual church-wide Thanksgiving Dinner, we helped with the youth, we served time in the nursery (some of you will relate to my wording there), I sang in the choir, I sang on the worship team, I led a women’s Bible study, whatever we were asked…we did. Because that’s how a church body works.

And then we moved 2000 miles away from our church family, and had to start over. That was 5 years ago, and I still feel like a “visitor” in what we call our “home church.”

We have been to 5 churches, and it’s downright embarrassing when someone asks us “where we’re going to church now?” But we can’t find our “fit.”

I’m not looking for perfection, I’m not working on an emotional response. I’m not trying to replace my “first love” of our last church, because I know it had flaws too. But I’ve never before experienced a point where I just didn’t feel compelled to go to church. And my kids feel it too. Of course, they’re older now, being pre-teen and teen aged, and having to get up on the weekend and get ready for church doesn’t exactly elicit cheers from them. But it’s more than that.

There is no connection. No real, connection.

They don’t even know the names of most of the kids they go to Sunday school with, and they NEVER mention them…ever!

The churches where we live tend to be much bigger than we’re used to, bordering on mega-church status. And I have to admit that, though large churches have their advantages of a vast number of “activities,” I find that people get lost in all that “busyness.” It’s easy to fall through the cracks, even if you do try to get plugged in, it takes so much longer to make any real connections than in their smaller counterparts.

I’m really at a loss as to what to do. We can’t keep searching. My daughter caught me checking out a smaller church, closer to our home, and she flipped. Not because she has made so many good friends at our current church (she can’t even name one of them) and she would hate to leave them, but because she’s just tired of switching, as are my husband and me. It isn’t fair to them, or to us.

I’ll admit that the big churches are intimidating to me, and I’m a rather social person. But getting plugged in to the right connections seems nearly impossible.

I want to lean on one another, and experience each other’s lives. Not just the cleaned-up version that people present on Sunday, but the dirty version you are on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week.

I can’t figure out if it’s a symptom of the area we live in, or if it’s a symptom of the age were living in.

We’ve prayed about this, believe me we have. And we’ve had no clear answers.

So, I wonder what church we will “visit” tomorrow? Should we go to our “usual church” and blend into the background, smile politely and shake hands, knowing that those relationships will probably never go any further than that? Or should we let the kids sleep in, and just my husband and I go to the “new” church up the street?

If anyone has any useful suggestions as to how they changed churches successfully, I’d love to hear them. Because I’d like to get rid of my “visitor” name tag one of these days.

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I Need a “Cause”

 

Some might say, “You’re a Mom, that’s your cause,” or “You have a house to maintain, that’s your cause,” and both of those statements are true.

But those causes go without saying. My children aren’t babies anymore, they’re in their teens. For the most part, they can take care of themselves…well, you know what I mean.

I’m talking something OUT of myself that I need.

I used to volunteer at my church, and at the pregnancy center around the corner, and various other causes that came around. But then we moved 2000 miles across the country, and I lost all those connections.

Since we’ve been here (5 years now), I have tried reaching out to find my “thing.” But it seems like every charitable door I’ve tried to open comes crashing closed. I know, it sounds crazy, right? Charities are ALWAYS looking for people.

I’ve tried the senior center right down the street. I had to take a class and everything, and then? Nothing. Not a peep. Most of the women in the volunteer meeting that I went to were senior citizens, so maybe they only want seniors to volunteer. I’m not really sure, but they didn’t want me.

We’re still looking for a church where we feel completely comfortable. In our area, there are mostly mega-churches, and it’s easy to get lost in the “corporation” of a big church. Not to mention, since I don’t drive, I’ve had a hard time finding one that I can get to on my own.

So, I’m looking for ideas. Any suggestion?

I’m fairly crafty. I can sew and knit, but I can’t crochet. I’d like to find something that I can be a part of, and not just send something off to once a month. Volunteering in a group is always more fulfilling.

I’m definitely more of a behind-the-scenes type of person rather than the one out in front of the crowd. I’m one of the “worker bees.”

So, what do you think? Does anyone have any good experiences with volunteering they’d like to share?

The End of the World?

If you haven’t already heard, the world may come to an end this coming weekend. If it does, I guess this may be my last post.

I’m not one to buy into prophesies and panics. I mean, remember the scare of New Year’s Eve 1999? Yeah, well, we all saw how that turned out. No computers crashed, or nuclear sites went rogue. We just partied like it was 1999, thanks to Prince.

Now there are plenty of religious teachers proclaiming this to be “the End,” and who am I to contradict them? I am not a Bible scholar by any means. I just finished reading a very well thought out argument for the planets aligning, and the world ending by a well-read Bible teacher. And it was convincing. But I do know that these teachers are “men” and not God, and only God knows the time and place.

But here’s my main point: I wouldn’t blame Him one bit if He did decide that this weekend is going to be the time and place.

I mean, look at what we’ve done to His plan.

From the beginning, we’ve done nothing but deny Him over and over. He’s got to be getting awfully tired of it.

And I’ve never been witness to so much hate within the human race in all my 48 years on this earth. It’s downright embarrassing what we’ve become. Brother against brother, sister against sister, parent against child.

We’ve made ourselves judge and jury, usually over things we know nothing about. The loudest voices are the ones that get heard the most, whether they are speaking Truth or not.

If the trumpets don’t blare, and the sun doesn’t turn dark this weekend, then maybe we should look at it as a second, third, fourth, or billionth, chance to start over, and thank God for this life that we have.

Maybe we should take this weekend to be introspective. And for those who are believers, then it’s time to look Up. Find out what God wants us to be doing with this life.

Spread some love where there is hate. Share some mercy where there is judgement. Speak the Truth where there are lies. Show some kindness when it isn’t deserved.

God bless, and best wishes. That’s just my two cents.

The Sky Is Falling…or is it?

The world seems to be living by standards set by Chicken Little…The Sky is Falling!

It feels like we’re all on edge…no matter what your belief system, your political affiliation, your socioeconomic influence, we all seem to be living like that animated chicken who sadly mistook an acorn falling on his head for the ENTIRE sky falling.

It’s all about the extreme headlines, the ratings, who can get there (where ever ‘there’ is) first. We’re all in a panic! It’s not about whether or not you’ll reach your goal, it’s about reaching your goal FIRST!

And when things don’t go our way we immediately run to the extreme of anticipating the sky to fall. We’re absolutely sure of it! And if we can just scream louder than the next guy, then we’re convinced WE can hold up the sky one more day.

I’ve got news for you…the sky is NOT falling…at least not today. And you CAN’T hold it up ON YOUR OWN.

I’m not suggesting we don’t try to change the world. I’m a writer…it’s why I write. But I am suggesting that we don’t forget to breathe. We calm down. We don’t forget ALL of our manners. Whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice…?”

I swear there are days that I think we’ve lost our collective mind!

And I am no better than the next guy – I find myself sucked into the mania at times too. And it depresses the hell out of me. And I can’t live like that. Can you? It’s exhausting!

We’ve gotten mean-spirited. Or maybe it’s just the headlines focus on the ugly parts of our world. My soul begs for “feel good” stories most days.

So to prove the sky is NOT falling, please share a brief inspirational story below. Tell me something good, something uniting, something kind. I really need to hear it.

Let It Go…Again

Let It Go.

It’s not just an overplayed Disney song (my apologies if you’re singing it now), it should be a way of life.

I am guilty of obsessing over trying to fix things that I may not be able to fix. I spent my morning doing just that.

Ever since my husband’s employment status changed last year, our income took a hit. We were living comfortably until then. Not richly, but comfortably. Taking a vacation was not out of the equation. Paying for the unexpected car repair wasn’t a choice between eating steak or ground round. Fortunately he found work within two months, but at a significant pay cut. And we feel it.

I can easily fall into the trap of juggling numbers and stressing over bills, and trying to pay for the dentist bill, the cable bill, and our children’s college all at once. By the way, my oldest won’t start college for 4 more years, but that won’t stop me from pretending that Rush Week starts on Monday.

I could get two more jobs, reinvent myself, put the kids to work (not really), or I could keep on trucking. I mean, we aren’t poor by any measure. We get by just fine, it’s just that the budget is tight and we have to account for every penny. Mostly that’s because of my own fear. I’m the penny pincher. My husband is much more relaxed about our provisions than I am. But I think that’s the difference in our personalities.

That’s where Elsa’s song comes to mind. But before Elsa knew to sing about letting your fears go, Jesus knew it. In fact, he instructs us to do it. He wants us to come to Him and lay our burdens at His feet. So why does it take me so long to figure it out? Why do I let it go only to pick it right back up again?

I think it happens most often when I’m not walking beside Him. When I’m not seeking Him daily. When I don’t hear His voice in my ear, then I tend to fill it in with my own voice. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that my voice can NEVER replace God’s. But isn’t that exactly what I’m doing while I’m obsessing and stressing? I just need to trust, to listen, to let go and let God.

I need to work on that. What things in your life do you keep picking up that you really should let go?

Letter to my teenage children

 

It’s a precarious tightrope that parents walk: wanting to keep you safe and needing to let you go.

I need to give you enough rope to wander away, but not lose sight of home, yet still enough to pull yourself back home without getting tangled up in the process.

I want to guide you and help you with the circumstances that cross your paths, but I want you to use the tools we’ve given you to try to solve your own problems.

I want to give you freedom to experience things in your young life that will help form your opinions, your relationships and your joy. I want them to be your opinions and not mine, even if they are different from mine.

I can’t be there all the time. The world is a big place. It’s a place of wonder, a place of amazing sights and sounds, and, unfortunately, a place of danger too.

So how do I protect you without smothering you? How do I wait patiently by while you may not make the choices I would choose for you? How do I let you go and hope that you remember everything we’ve taught you? How do I know that you will come home when you get in over your head? How do I know you’ll seek wise counsel, even if it isn’t mine? I have to have faith.

I know you’ll try things you shouldn’t because, like you, I was young and curious once too. I know you’ll make mistakes, because I have, and still do. I pray those mistake can be reversed.

I hope that you find love, but not at the expense of your self. I hope you find success, but not at the expense of love.

So here’s where I have to trust. Here’s where I have to let you make your own decisions, and hope that I’ve equipped you well.

Here’s where I begin to set you free into the world, and hope you remember that you can always come back home.

The door will ALWAYS be open, the table will ALWAYS be set, and I will ALWAYS have the time.

Love,

Mom

I Should Be at Church

It’s a Sunday morning, and I should have gotten everyone up on time (and against their protests) and gone to church. But I didn’t. I chose sleep for the second week in a row, in a long string of sporadic attendance, over worship.

When we lived in California, we never missed a Sunday unless someone was sick. We went to a church of about 350 members. I ran a women’s group on Mondays, my husband helped with Youth Sunday school (both High School and Elementary) and at one point was an Elder. My kids were involved in AWANA and I published the church’s newsletter, not to mention the countless times we volunteered for church events. I don’t tell you all of this to brag, I tell you all of this to show the difference between then and now. To show you I’m not just complaining, that I know things should be better, and that I know they CAN be better.

Fast forward 4 years, and we’re living on the opposite coast, and we should be well established with a new church family. But we’re not, and I know I’m not alone. At least, I don’t think I am.

We’ve been to something like five churches trying to find our fit, our new church family. The churches have varied in size from nearly nonexistent to mega-church all in attempt to find the fit…not God, but the fit. God has been in every one of the churches we’ve been to. But the difference is the people, and not God.

I mean no disrespect to the Church. I love the Church. I believe in the Church. I’m just a little frustrated. The churches we’ve encountered are just different than what we are used to, or it could be a symptom of the times. They are much more corporate, especially the mega churches, which my area seems to have a lot of. I don’t think they mean to be, and I know it’s probably a symptom of trying to serve so many different people. But classes and groups meet generally in 6 week spurts or from September to May, so you never really get a chance to share in one another’s lives. I WANT MORE. I WANT the dirty, nitty-gritty that our lives hold. I WANT to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Christian brother or sister and go through their trials and celebrate their victories. And an hour on Sunday or a few hours during a class won’t get me the intimacy of those friendships that I miss.

The one thread I’ve found running through ALL of the churches, no matter what size, is the feeling of ISOLATION. It doesn’t matter how long we attend a church, we just never seem to connect. And we’ve tried. At the large churches, we never see the same people twice. From the time we walk in the doors and are greeted with a “hello” and a smile to the time we leave with a “goodbye, have a nice day,” sometimes those are the only words that will be spoken to us. Fortunately, my kids have managed to make friends in Sunday school, but those friendships seem to end as we leave the church doors. They seem to be reserved for “while in church only.” No one seems to linger after church is over. Most people race for the parking lot to get on with their Sunday.

As Christians we’re called to be part of the “Body of Christ” but that body has to RELY on one another and LEAN on one another to function. And it seems like a bunch of body parts not communicating, but rather working separately from one another.

I know there are other people within the church walls feeling the same as me. I know it’s up to us to get involved and reach out. But the times that I’ve tried, I’m either too late because a class has already started, or a group is already established. Not to mention that, for me, not being able to drive makes it really hard (if not impossible) to get there sometimes. And the church is just too big to make a friend that would be willing to give a girl a ride now and then.

So if you’re in a large church this Sunday or next, do me a favor and turn around and greet the person seated behind you. It may make the difference in them ever coming back again. And if you’re brave enough, go one step further and invite them to an upcoming church function, AND OFFER TO MEET THEM THERE so they won’t feel so alone. I promise you that you’re effort won’t be wasted. They may think you’re weird, but it’s a chance you should take. You may even make a friend for life.

Have you had similar experiences with church? How did you get past it?