Where Am I Going to Church?

I often get asked where I’m going to church, *smile* I’ll get to that.

When we left the church in 2000 that we had helped plant in 1996 (let me be completely honest, we were kicked out for disagreeing with the pastor and “causing discord”), I was so hurt. I felt discouraged, displaced, and completely destroyed.

I have to add here…there was a day when I couldn’t admit that we were kicked out, I was ashamed and I would feel the need to explain, but not anymore. I will explain if asked, but I just don’t need to anymore. I know that Mark and I stood for what our hearts believed and would do it again, only this time I wouldn’t be ashamed.

Six months later when the group we were meeting with in our home grew too large for our house we moved into a building and had ‘real church’ (meaning we were in an actual building).

Six years of pastoring a growing church and it was finally time to focus on our own lives. Mark’s business (the only one we actually took a paycheck from) needed him more and we had just brought Lauren home from China so she needed me. We knew that it was time to hand the church over to our leadership team.

I was peaceful, content, and knew that we made the right decision. Thankfully, there was no pain or heartbreak this time, but I still had so many questions and didn’t understand the road we were now traveling. Why did I feel we didn’t need to be in church every Sunday? How could I be a Christian and not “plugged in” to a local church? I was a very good church girl and could preach a persuasive message on why we all needed to be there, but now, strand by strand, the fabric of that was unraveling for me.

I started this blog and began exploring what living for/with God really meant and my questions led me to a book titled “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” and a podcast called “The God Journey.”

The unraveling continued and God begin a beautiful work of knitting me back together by showing me that His love has always been there, that HE’s always been there, even in the midst of betrayal, loss, and pain.

Now I look back with gratitude for all that we walked through on this journey. The dark times brought me to the light. His light, His love, His grace.

This past year I read this amazing book which also gave me freedom to be myself and embrace the life I chose and not the one I was told I should live: Present Over Perfect. 

I have no desire to convince anyone that they need to do what I did, or follow the footsteps I’ve taken with my faith and choices. I just want to encourage you to follow Him. Trust Him. All of our paths are unique and yet similar in that as we lean on and follow Him, they will draw us closer to the Father and His heart…however that looks in your life.

So when I am asked about “where” I go to church, I smile, because it’s not about a place, church is not a place, the church is people, people who’ve chosen to follow Him.

I used to believe that the building a person sat in on Sundays was an indication of their faith, now I feel that nothing could be farther from the truth. Now I believe that that kind of thinking is just linear, and my walk with God has become so much more dimensional as my relationship with Him grows.

He is a part of every bit of my life. The times I’m doing “good” things, the times I’m blowing it, and everything in between. His love never changes for me and His grace is what draws me closer to Him when I need Him most.

As I write this I hear my former Pharisee-self asking “so now what, you just go off and do whatever you want, pray, sin, act a fool, and God loves you so it’s ok?” That is exactly what I would have thought if someone said all this to me when I was deeply entrenched in performance Christianity. Back in the day when I thought I knew best and believed it was my job to correct those who had it wrong, I would have looked down on the Me of today.

Ugh, no!

Living in His love does not excuse sin and it certainly does not encourage it, but gives space to the fact that we are so flawed, and yet we are loved. That love calls me to walk closer to him not farther down a path away from Him, though at times on this journey I admit I have strayed from the peace which comes from fellowship with Him.

So to answer the question, where am I? I’m right here. You might find me in a church building occasionally on a Sunday but more likely home with my family. Thankfully, I now know that the body of Christ is not a building we call church. I don’t forsake gathering with believers, it just looks a little bit different now. Please understand, please, I’m not AGAINST church attendance, I’m FOR relationship with God, however that looks in your life today.

I admit that I considered writing this post for about 3-4 years now but didn’t have the courage to do it. I was worried that it would ostracize me from people I care about or stop the requests for speaking engagements, but now, I hope it opens doors for deeper conversations. I am so happy to be in a space of freedom about my faith/church life and if I never speak in front of a group again, I am ok with that. I just want to share life with whoever God brings alongside me on this journey.

I really love this quote:

“Jesus didn’t leave us with a system to manage, but a Spirit to follow.”

Wayne Jacobsen, Finding Church

It feels so good to not be ruled by “shoulds” but able to follow my heart and hopefully His Spirit each day.

Sue

Leave Yesterday’s Mistakes Behind




yesterdays mistakes

 

Our past is a huge part of our future…our stories shape us and we become a women of our individual journeys. I don’t believe we can or should leave our stories behind us and think that we can just forget where we’ve been or what we’ve done.

But let’s not let our mistakes or sins keep us from the beauty that God has before us.

The ashes are a necessary part of the beauty, but don’t let the ashes direct us, let hope and trust in the Father direct us.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Get Out Of The Wake

boat-wake

When our kids were teens we had a 17 foot speed boat and took them tubing every summer. It became quite an adventure. What began as a fun family time quickly turned into “combat tubing” which included four tubes behind the boat, high rates of speed and acrobatics involving jumping over each other as we cornered and landing on top of the other tubers. The wake was their friend and often used to launch them into the air and Mom into a nervous break down. Thankfully it only made for great memories and no trips to the hospital.

The wake was a tool to propel them on to exciting heights but it could also be what held them back if they didn’t have the speed and momentum to get over it.

The wake can hold us back too.

We can spend our lives riding in the wake of our past, the words and opinions of others, and our own fears and insecurities or we can choose to get out of the wake and journey on uncharted paths.

What has been keeping you in the wake?

Who has been keeping you in the wake?

Whose opinion matters more than your hearts desire to launch out of the wake?

What fears are keeping you in the wake?

You are limited only by your belief that you have to stay in the wake.

 Isaiah 43:1-But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. NIV

 

 

 

When You Think You’ve Gone Too Far

As long as you’re still taking breaths…you haven’t gone too far away from His love.

No matter where you’ve gone or what you’ve done, He’s been pursuing you with His love.
Stop running…

god love is fierce copy

Fierce: /fi(ə)rs/

Adjective: having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.

 

1 John 4:9
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Proverbs 3:3
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Psalm 71:20
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

Earning God’s Love ~When Minstry Gets In The Way

Gods love praise and coffee The story of Mary and Martha used to fill me with guilt for being busy until I realized that it wasn’t a story about a woman who was busy. Jesus basically (in my paraphrase) said, “Martha, you’re a worried mess and you need stop trying to get everything perfect for me. I want you, not your performance.”

Whether or not she was trying to earn His approval, love or just impress everyone; she missed the point and I know that I have too.

Anybody else?

Mary knew that the most important thing happening was at His feet. Listening, learning and resting in His love.

Shouldn’t this be easy??

Shouldn’t it come naturally??

Yes, I think it does, but many of us have forgotten how to live instinctively. We know in theory that we should put our family first, that God has given us the gift of family and they matter most. But we are busy meeting everyone else’s needs, sometimes even at the expense of our own families. We’ve lost touch with His still small voice that is always speaking to us about priorities.

When my grown children were younger, I spent so much time away from them doing church activities and it grieves me to think that the church even used to pay our babysitter so we could do the work of the ministry. I left my own children OFTEN, too often, and even though they were in good care (excellent in fact), they were not with their parents. I thought I was honoring God, but now I think I was looking for His approval through performance. I thought I would be a better Christian if I did more for Him. And yes, I enjoyed the accolades and approval of others, though it took me a long time to admit it.

I did not know how to be anything but busy. I did not know how to rest at His feet. I was striving to earn His love.

Yes, I was doing good things, God things. I would compare it to having the whole family home but busy in different rooms doing different things and never spending time together. You can call that family time, but without connection, we’re just existing together.

Of course there are busy seasons, but I encourage you to ask yourself:

Why am I doing this?
Who is benefitting?
Does it strengthen my family?
Does it draw me closer to God?

Our walk with God will not grow while we’re trying to earn His love. God’s love for you is not based on your performance, you can securely rest in His love when you stop trying to earn it.

Gal 2:19-20 The Message
 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.

It’s Time To Stop Wishing That Life Had Been Different

 

mosaic

We run from our stories, but never allude them. We think that “becoming a new creation in Christ” means denying the abuse or sins that have defined us. We miss the point. God making all things new does not mean that they never were.

The beauty of our stories is the power of God’s grace to redeem our broken past. He takes the pieces, He makes a life. No two of us match, we are unique, each moment of our lives scored precisely the way He allowed it.

We are a beautiful mosaic today of every crackled shard, fit together, soldered with love to let the light shine through and dance.

Shame tries to cripple us, but God makes our lives new, He redeems our past and the power of shame is broken. We are no longer that person. We breathe Him in and let His life fill us.

We don’t pretend that the past didn’t happen, we celebrate that He’s redeemed it. He shines through and the crumbled mess bursts with His glory.

It’s time to stop wishing that life had been different, it wasn’t. But today is a new day and the sun rises again to splash brilliant light if we let it. The artist is waiting for you to pull back the curtain.

 

It’s time to unashamedly wake up to the woman God’s created us to be.

 

We’re one week in to our study, “Becoming Me Through Him” on Facebook. Feel free to join us. Take your time and go through the material (click on the files tab) at your own pace, join the discussion if you want or not.

Join here: Becoming Me Through Him

You are also welcome to print and use our files for your own Praise and Coffee groups. Start one in your local coffee shop.
Coffee with girlfriends, sharing life. Connecting, encouraging and inspiring.

Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

 

becoming me redeem stories

Your Life Is Waiting For You To Let It Happen

let go small

Why do we fight so hard to hold on to a life that is far less than what it could be?

Old customs, habits and relationships that are stagnant and lifeless, yet we cling to them like worn blankies because they are comfortable.

What are you clutching that needs to be released?

Is it ideas about what will make you happy, but have failed to for years?

Is it hope that the past could have been different?

How about today, you decide that even though the outside world hasn’t changed, you have, and you’re not staying in this puddle pretending it’s an ocean, any longer.

Your life is waiting for you to let it happen. Let go of what’s keeping you from it.

The Trap of Self Rejection

This quote is for all of us who have struggled with feeling unimportant and abandoned.
The sacred voice knows the truth. Hold on to it through every storm and sunny day.

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

I Prefer Nice People

I like nice people. They’re easy to get along with; they don’t stomp on your feelings by calling you a bad mom. They don’t eat your sandwich at the office or talk to your coworkers behind your back. They don’t tell you that you look nice on Sunday morning and then inform everyone in your Bible study that you dress like their Grandma.

Nice people are nice.

But then there are those others in life, there’s one in every office, family and small group. They are not nice. They hurt out feelings on a regular basis and make life miserable every five minutes they are around us. They get under our skin with condescending remarks about everything from the project we’re working on to the style of our hair. We don’t like them; we want them to go away. We wish they would move to Bangladesh or on really bad days we’d like them to be stuck in the woods with a pack of angry wolves like in the movie “Grey.” THAT would be awful for them, almost as awful as having to watch the movie, which was 2 hours past terrible. I’m a huge Liam Neeson fan and I still hated the movie.

Sadly, I have to inform you that we won’t have a life filled with nice people. The mean ones are out there and scouting new ways to make us want to curl up with a blanket and a gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream while watching reruns of The New Adventures of Old Christine. Which never should have been cancelled but that’s another post.

The moral of this is that mean people are not going away so we may have to put on our big girl pants (unless you are a man, and in which case, please do not do this) and deal with it. You can’t wait for them to be nice to you; it’s not going to happen. Stop blaming them for your bad moods and hang nails. If you need to address a situation, do it. Be all Sally Field in Norma Rae and start a fire, but if your in laws or the lady in the choir are keeping you awake at night, it might be time to stop giving them that much power in your life. Let go of what you can’t control and don’t let their smallness make you small too. You’re better than that! You drive a (insert brand of car, and it really doesn’t matter what it is because cars don’t make us better people, but this is a rant so go with it)!

I can get 100 sweet comments on Facebook, but it’s the one negative one that spins in my mind like a gerbil on a wheel. Over and over until the squeaking makes you scream at your kids because they forgot to empty the dishwasher.

If we’re going to be happy and successful in this life we have to stop letting mean people take away our joy. They do not define us…unless we let them. The choice is ours. When we find our worth and value as a person, from the God who created us, we will not be so quick to forfeit our peace.

Dare to make today different. Dare to believe that you are loved and cherished by God and that He is right there with you. Don’t let feelings dictate your day.

C’mon girls (and guys), we got this!

Throwing Stones At a Mirror

This has been on my heart for a while and I couldn’t wait until this post was live. I was touched so deeply as I studied this story.

We know Jesus loves us, but this story helps me rest in His love. It brings peace when my heart is guilty and shamed, yet it also makes me fall in love with the person that God is.

Jesus gives us a beautiful picture of the Father in this story, I’d love you to leave a comment over at the Cafe and share your thoughts.

Click picture to visit post: Throwing Stones at a Mirror

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...