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

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.

 

 

Has God Been Call You To Step Out?

Have you been feeling God call you to step out? Do you want to start something organic and let God direct the movement and conversation?

You don’t have to wait for permission to grab some girlfriends or the lady at the bank who’s been on your heart and go for coffee.

We want to help you facilitate connection, encouragement and inspiration…

We are very excited to announce that our first in the series of Praise and Coffee to Go’s is available on Kindle for $2.99

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

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

Defining Who You Are

From my study: Becoming Me Through Him…

button Becoming Me copy

Labels.

Maybe the key to becoming me, becoming you, is to face the labels instead of fighting them.

Face our weaknesses, faults, sins and past.

As I studied the story of Rahab, I was bothered to see that Rahab is still called a prostitute in Hebrews. How is that fair if she had changed her ways? Why does it seem that she cannot shake this title? Shouldn’t God want her story to be about how her life is new? I don’t want to keep calling her a prostitute. She moved on from that life, can’t we focus on her good choices instead of her bad ones?

Then I realized that the power in Rahab’s story is not about how she had changed her life, but in the fact that God redeemed her story.

Ladies, your past is still part of your story, labels and all.

God doesn’t want us to deny our labels, He wants to redeem them.

Let God redeem your past, let God redeem your labels.

Whether it’s abuse or sin that defines our past, it does not have to define our future.

When God redeems our past and our labels…we put the shame behind us.

You are a new creation in Christ. Through Him…you become the woman He wants you to be. We no longer have to live under the shame of the mistakes we’ve made, the sins we’ve committed or the abuse we’ve endured. Shame causes us to fear that we are unworthy of love and belonging. But when we let God redeem our past, we can own our story and live free of shame.

Yes, I hear you and I understand, owning our story can be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Shame is debilitating. It keeps us isolated and alone, completely missing out on the life God has for us.

Rahab shows us that though some of the labels may remain, God redeems our stories. She tenaciously reached out in faith, trusted this God whom she had heard about and He valiantly saves her and her family. Spoiler alert…she is later named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

Yes, you have sinned, but that sin does not have to define you as a person.
You may have been abused, but that abuse does not have to define you or haunt your thoughts, God is our Healer and Redeemer.

Shame grows in secrecy and judgment. It’s like mold. It likes the stale darkness. We pretty the outside but when the layers are peeled back we find a wounded little girl that’s been huddled in a corner, afraid that we’ll find out her secrets and believing that the fresh paint job could fool us.

The word inspire means to breathe, to take in air and life. Shame doesn’t want us to take fresh air, it wants us closed up and stagnant. Shame wants us to become a breeding ground of un-forgiveness, a petri dish of bitterness.

It’s time to let God ‘inspire’ us. It’s time to bring fresh air in, it’s time to own our story and let the Father redeem it. The power of shame is broken over our lives when we let God redeem our story instead of letting the past and the labels define us. Stop hiding.

Owning our stories and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we can ever do.

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 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.’

You cannot fully love others until you love yourself, until you love the woman that God loves, labels and all. Redemption says that we are worthy of love and belonging, first Him loving you, then you loving you. Choosing right now to love yourself, not in a few weeks when you lose the weight or stay sober or when you get yourself cleaned up, but right now-today.

My prayer for all of us…
Lord, help us to see ourselves in the light of your love and forgiveness. Father let us glimpse the beauty that you want for our lives, teach us to love ourselves. Show us how to belong to the family of God and take our place as your precious, valued and worthy daughter.

You Were Not Created To Be Perfect, You Were Created To Be His

Excerpt from our online study: Becoming Me Through Him

button Becoming Me copy

Perfectionism.

I spent a lot of years wanting to look like I had it all together with the perfect little life.

Wife and mom…bible study, worship leader….I was hiding from my past by being good.

The enemy loves perfectionism because it halts our healing. A woman who struggles with shame will often use perfectionism to conceal her pain. It’s a giant wall that we hide behind, thinking it’s keeping us safe but it’s really just keeping us captive.

Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of shame and no one will know that behind that pretty church face is a scared little girl who desperately wants approval.

In the church world perfectionism can take on a few different looks:

  • The church lady who “lives at” the church taking care of everything from the office to the nursery and leading Bible study.
  • The Bible “know it all.”
  • The beautifully dressed woman with the perfectly manicured nails and smooth hair and the kids who look like they star in a Macy’s commercial.
  • The house, neat as a pin, in fact the pins even have their own special drawer…nothing is ever out of place.
  • The good wife or mom who leaves all other women feeling “less than” in her presence.
  • And I’m sure you can think of more…

Please don’t feel beat up if this is you, we are just peeling back another layer of lies…with the goal of getting free and finding out who He created us to be.

There is nothing wrong with a clean house or nice clothes, but if we are living this way because it gives us a sense of security or we want to impress others, then it is perfectionism. The question is, what drives or motivates us? What is behind our actions? Do we feel better about ourselves when we “perform” well?

“Acting” like a Christian makes you an actor. Living an honest, imperfect relationship with the Lord makes you real. When perfectionism is our game, we never really feel worthy of love because we know that we’re being fake.

We are all imperfect. But, when we see that TODAY He loves us and He believes we are worthy of love…we start to accept ourselves and we can live authentic lives and let Him redeem the broken parts.

The desire for perfection is another sign of brokenness. We think that being “perfect” will bring us comfort and happiness but nothing could be farther from the truth. It sets us up for failure, promising something that it can never give us: love and belonging.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” NIV

Now read it in the Message translation:
Matthew 11:28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Religion has a way of pushing us to perform. Jesus did not come to bring us more religion, in fact he exposed religion for the lie that it was…

Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Jesus exposed perfectionism and called it wicked. He knew that it will only keep us from a relationship with the Father. Jesus came to show us a better way, He came to teach us about relationship not religion.

Religion is man’s best way to figure out how to perform better for God. Relationship is about family.

Having it all together on the outside while inside we’re striving for love, is empty and lonely. Let’s put perfectionism behind us ladies. We can’t be “good enough” to deserve God’s unconditional love. Unconditional =no conditions, no performance, no earning it.

I pray that the heavy weight of perfectionism is lifted off of you. Stop struggling to “get it all right” and start living. You were not created to be perfect, you were created to be His. Relationship first. Rest in Him. Let Him show you the ‘unforced rhythms of grace.’

You are loved.

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

F-A-I-T-H

portfolio cups copyI had a beautiful morning. Nine ladies sitting around a table at Panera Bread.

The stories ranged from a single young lady who loved to knit to an “experienced” woman of 92 who had raised five children and also started an organization to spay and neuter feral cats in South Florida.

This is what I love about Praise and Coffee. No agendas, just a springboard of questions to get the conversation going and see where it leads us.

It was Dawn’s first Praise and Coffee and she did a fabulous job! She encouraged us with Phil. 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and made sure that everyone had a chance to share what was on their heart.

I loved hearing about one woman who was becoming a Grandma for the first time. It would not have been her plan to see her daughter having a child right now, but God was giving her a love for this baby that she will help raise.

Another gal had just recently lost a lot of weight and another was feeling especially insecure about what God wanted her to do with her life.

Real women with stories to share.

I think Marty (she’s 92 but has decided to reverse the numbers and celebrate her 29th birthday each year from now on) blessed us most when she shared how she has walked all these years with the Lord.

She said that it’s all about F-A-I-T-H.

F- fantastic

A- adventure

I- in

T- trusting

H- Him

She encouraged us to be aware of Him in our lives every single hour. She said that luck has nothing to do with the wonderful things that happen in our life. It’s all about Him.

I couldn’t help but sit there and think about how she was exactly twice my age and still on fire for God, I love it.

Then Dawn, who seems to have the most solid faith of anyone in the room, shared how she’s struggled to find hope when her heart was broken.

It was a beautiful morning.
It reminded me why I started Praise and Coffee in the first place.
Just a few women, sharing life over a cup of coffee.

 

If you would like to share in this ministry, hop over here to find out how (or email me): How Anyone Can Start a Praise and Coffee

I am also starting a six week online study this Monday, October 7th. I’d love to have you join us!
Check here for more details: Becoming Me Through Him ~ Online Study 

 

 

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