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

Now Available In Print: Praise and Coffee to Go

Connect, encourage and inspire…
Now available in print!

Praise_and_Coffee_to_Cover_for_Kindle

Six Praise and Coffee Conversations to help you facilitate a Praise and Coffee group (or any small group or personal devotions) as you gather in coffee shops or around kitchen tables.
No preparation required.

Invite two to twelve friends to a coffee shop/restaurant or around your kitchen table. It’s that easy!

Consider these six conversations a springboard. Do not hold rigidly to them, instead let the conversations serve your group fluid and flexible. We pray they lead you into conversations that promote connection, encouragement and inspiration. No one in the group is required to participate, but do encourage anyone to share.

Praise and Coffee to Go is not intended to resemble a classroom with students and a teacher but, instead, a group of friends sharing life, laughter, tears and the desire to connect, encourage and inspire one another!

Praise and Coffee to Go is set up for gatherings of two or more, but of course you could use the lessons as a personal study or devotional.

And to answer the question: why this book? I thought you wanted these groups organic and self led???

I do. The reason I put this together is: so many women wanted to host a Praise and Coffee group with their friends but were uncomfortable with the idea of how to do it and what to say. I DO NOT want you to use these as a script, with ladies sitting stoic around a table, answering questions when she is called upon. I want you to use this as a springboard for conversation that will lead you to connect, encourage, and inspire one another. I trust that when we meet, 2 or 3 or more, and He is with us….He will direct the conversation. You don’t need a book for God to move among you, but I wanted to help you take some steps into conversation with this book.

$$? I certainly did not create this as an income source, I added pictures to make it interesting and I think I make about .12 cents per copy sold on Amazon…and only because they would not let me offer it cheaper.

I pray that this helps women do what God intended us to do, connect and love one another, appreciating that we are all unique and beautiful women.

We are hardwired for connection… Click here to read why connection is so important.
If you are interested in starting a Praise and Coffee group in your community, feel free to join our online group page:

Praise and Coffee Leaders

Trust God

climb up and trust Him praise and coffeeWhen you’re hurting, feeling alone or facing the trial of your life…He’s there.

He never intended you to dance alone.

Trust Him.

 

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!
Proverbs 3:5 The Message Bible

 

Fitting In Makes YOU Irrelevant

Anyone can fit it, but you are not anyone. YOU were created with a purpose and a plan in mind. YOU were not created to just fit in.

Be yourself, stand out and SHINE for Him and who He made you to be.

fitting in show up

Psalms 139

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

 

When the Journey Is Not What We Expected




journey trust praise and coffee

I look at my life and never could have imagined the journey that brought me to this place in my life.
I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t love every twist and turn and re-route along the way. I took some detours and jumped right into a few ditches along the way. BUT I love that God has been with me through it all and when I look back on even the most confusing and painful times in my life, I see Him.
I see His hand, I see where He was loving me and guiding me towards His plan.

Take a look around and see where He is in your current circumstances. He is there. He is loving you right now.

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” NIV
 My dear friend and ministry partner Ronel Sidney has shared some of her testimony, broken roads included, in this radio broadcast. I invite you to grab a cup of coffee and take a listen:

Courage Calls Us Out of Hiding

denise postMy very good friend Denise Dykstra posted this on her blog and I loved it so much I had to share it with you.

She pours her insecure heart out for all of us to see and bravely shares what so many of us would rather hide. The post: Praise and Coffee

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.

Praise and Coffee to Go ~ Available on Amazon!

We are very excited to announce that our first in the series of Praise and Coffee to Go’s is available on Kindle!

Praise and Coffe to Go Volume 1

Available on Amazon

Six Praise and Coffee Conversations to help you facilitate a Praise and Coffee group (or any small group) as you gather in coffee shops or around kitchen tables.
No preparation required.

All you have to do is grab your Kindle or iPad and invite two to twelve friends to a coffee shop/restaurant or around your kitchen table.

Consider these six conversations a springboard. Do not hold rigidly to them, instead let the conversations serve your group fluid and flexible. We pray they lead you into conversations that promote connection, encouragement and inspiration. No one in the group is required to participate, but do encourage anyone to share.

Praise and Coffee to Go is not intended to resemble a classroom with students and a teacher but, instead, a group of friends sharing life, laughter, tears and the desire to connect, encourage and inspire one another!

Praise and Coffee to Go is set up for gatherings of two or more, but of course you could use the lessons as a personal study or devotional.

Conversations include:
Get Things Brewing: These include three ice-breaker questions to warm up the group. These are intended to launch comfortable, casual conversation. You can go around the table and ask the ladies each question or read each one and let the participants choose a question they would like to answer.

Steep: Scripture and thoughts to contemplate and consider how they apply to each of our lives.

Press It Out: This is the heart of your gathering, questions to spur conversation. Do as many or few of these as you like. Use them as conversation starters, not classroom questions. Note: if your conversation takes you in a different direction, GO THERE and have an authentic discussion. Connect, encourage and inspire one another!

Extra Shot: Some days we just need another shot; that’s what these are for. Take the discussion farther with scripture. Discuss how each of the verses apply to your life and help you become the woman God created you to be.

This is the first of many that we hope to publish for you and we also plan to have them printed, I’ll keep you posted about that!

The book is available on Amazon here: Praise and Coffee to Go

Special thanks to Ronel Sidney for ideas and encouragement and traveling this Praise and Coffee journey with me, you are the greatest friend and strength to me, and Anna Fontaine for helping me with edits early on in this process.
You are welcome to use these in groups not labeled “Praise and Coffee,” but if you are interested in starting a Praise and Coffee group in your community join our Facebook page to connect with other women who meet around the world: Praise and Coffee Leaders

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.

Loneliness Is Not About Being Alone

Loneliness is not about being alone, it’s about not feeling connected.

depression robin williams

Rest In Peace Robin…you will be missed

Robin Williams death has set our thoughts again on the desperate truth of depression and our human need for connection.

Connections are what make life worth living. God is all about connections. The Bible is overflowing with stories of connection.

Connecting us to Him and then to each other.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt 22:37-39

Connecting with God and connecting with others. Connection requires taking the risk to care about someone outside your own skin. It’s the willingness to lower the gate on our heart and allow someone in. You do have something to offer, even when it’s just an ear to listen. There are women just like you, overwhelmed with marriage, motherhood or maybe just getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

We are not lonely, we are disconnected.

Get connected.

Praise and Coffee ~ Connecting women to encourage each other and inspiring them to draw closer to God.

More: Why Big Conferences and Mega Churches Are Not Enough

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