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

Take Your Stand

Freedom: the condition of being free, the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints.

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We picture a woman in an abusive marriage or children being freed from trafficking…
But what about you, are you free?
Are you able to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints?
Are you free to be yourself or are you restrained by living up to others expectations of you?
Let’s take it even deeper. Are you free to be who you really are or does some inner voice silence you?

Does fear keep you restrained from stepping out with power to do the things that burn in your heart?
If fear did not hold you back, what would you do?
What would you say?
What would you create?

Freedom always costs something.

Jesus came and paid for our freedom from the power of sin and death. I’m hoping you’ve experienced that freedom.

But even after receiving such a glorious freedom many Christian women still live in self-imposed slavery.

We live stifled.

We read book after book about how to become a better woman, wife or mother but still ache with the feeling of being smothered by the expectations of others. Guilt flows as we read the Facebook status’ of women who cherish every waking moment with their children while we pray at noon for bedtime to come.

We step into our capris, grab our yellow markers, attach our plastic smiles and stroll into Bible study with an ache in our heart hidden behind a giant shield of perfection. We may fool these ladies but we’re not fooling God or ourselves. He knows that even though we spend a half hour each morning reading a devotion and reciting prayers from our favorite pocket version of the “power of a praying someone,” we haven’t spent any real time with the Father.

We’re so programmed to “do,” that we don’t even miss the “be.”

But we know something’s wrong.
We know that our heart and our words don’t commune.

We haven’t rested in His love.

Being a good Christian wife and mom doesn’t earn His love. He doesn’t love you more when you finish your exercise video than He does when you stuff yourself into your fat jeans and throw down another peanut butter cup.
In fact if we are honest, we carry a mental list of all the things we should do before we are loved by Him.

Our prayers are filled with requests but void of the heartfelt “Father, this hurts, help.”
We’re missing the prayers that draw us to His heart and let us crawl into His lap for comfort.

The performance is thriving but the relationship is lacking.

Intimacy with God cannot be replaced by good deeds.
Ladies, there is more. The Father wants a relationship with you that brings freedom.

It’s the freedom to be who He created you to be.
It’s the freedom to breathe, the freedom to shine.

Freedom to be vulnerable and leave the plastic smile in your make up bag, admit that you’re struggling and watch the masks fall off other women like paper mustaches when they hear that they are not alone in their prison of performance.

Freedom to be brave, because when you know that the God of the universe loves who you are, bad words, secret sins and pity parties, it makes you brave.

You don’t have to DO something to be accepted by Him, you have to BE something: His daughter.

When you choose freedom through a relationship with Jesus, He gives you “the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints.”
 Take your stand ladies, because when that happens, everyone is blessed.

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1 The Message

From Angry Moms to Happy Moms ~Part 1

Taken from my segment with Tommy and Brook on Star 105.7. Tuesdays at 7:05 AM.

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First off let me say, I get it, I understand. I’m with you in the trenches of this one friend! We can all relate to being an angry mom at times and it doesn’t feel good to us or our kids. There is no doubt we have a tough job- I think it’s the toughest job there is. The kids are bickering, they’ve disobeyed or talked back and we’re yelling or worse…and then we feel awful. We feel like a failure.

For the month of February we’re going to talk about how to go from being angry moms to being happy moms.

This week we’re going to: admit it.

If we’ve blown it, we should own it. Pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t change the fact that we lost our temper and yelled at the kids.

Whether we do this alone in front of the mirror, in prayer, or with a trusted friend; we need to admit it. Being in denial doesn’t help; it just creates a bigger weight on our shoulders. The heaviness of guilt is miserable so getting it off our chest and putting it out there is freeing, even when we’re just admitting it to ourselves.

Taking responsibility for our actions can be difficult and humbling but it helps us start over. We may need to apologize to our kids. There is nothing wrong with asking our kids to forgive us, it gives our kids a great example of how they should handle their own mistakes. We can say, “I blew it and I’m sorry,” and if we said something cruel and we’ve torn away at their trust and respect, we need to use our words to do some repairing. It is a powerful way to teach them about what to do with guilt and bad behavior.

So, let’s take a step towards being a happy mom by admitting it if this is a struggle for us.

I admit it and will tell you that I need God’s help to overcome it. I can’t do it on my own and I have often stepped behind a closed door to pray and ask the Father to help me calm down and forgive me for losing my temper.

My friend Lysa Terkeurst wrote an excellent book: “Unglued~ Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” I highly recommend it, you can get it at this link, on Amazon or anywhere you buy books.

Here is an excerpt:
“In the quiet, God lifts us up to a more rational place. When we are in the heat of tangled mess, crazy emotions drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution, so ‘that God may life you up in due time’ (1 Peter 5:6.”

Moms, if you struggle with anger, you are not alone! I’m praying for you and for me and trusting that God will fill us with peace and joy and help us be happy moms.
I’d love you to leave a comment and let me know about your struggle or remedy to help you with anger.

 

If you’re not in the West Michigan area you can listen live on iHeart Radio anywhere in the world!

Check out Tommy and Brook’s page online at West Michigan STAR: Tommy and Brook

Their Facebook page: Tommy and Brook

And their Twitter: @TommyAndBrook

Be Still And Know

Be still and know

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God
Psalm 46:10

This has been my go-to verse over the last season of my life.

When I feel overwhelmed, confused or just exhausted, this reminds me to breathe.

It brings me to the quiet place of knowing that He is God and that He loves me and is with me, no matter what condition my head or heart are in at the moment.

There is always room for you in the presence of God.

 

Finding Happiness

What will make you happy? What do you really want?

More of __________________________.

Less of ___________________________.

And how much more or less will be the indicator of your supposed happiness?

If that which is outside us could fulfill and bring us joy, it would be evident in those who have so much and are so happy. No, we see a world filled with an excess of things and yet empty of joy.

The only true source of joy is found within. It’s found in the quiet place of our heart that doesn’t have to run from the pain or noise of this life.

Peace is what’s lacking.

We will scratch and claw our way through life, blaming others and ranting about injustice until our hearts find this place of peace.

I don’t believe it can be found until we rest in the love of the One who created us.

When we find Him in our loneliness and experience that He is enough, we will have touched the eternal.

It’s not a process, it’s not a physical place, it’s not a person and it’s not a church or group.

It’s Him.

When we believe that we are loved and have been put on this earth for a reason, even without fully understanding that reason, we begin a journey that is evidenced by peace and then joy.

The question is not “what” will make us happy, but “who” will make us happy?

It’s the One who left the stones on the ground and embraced the rambunctious children.
It’s the One who never promised an easy road but promised to walk the stormy journey with us.
It’s the One who walked away from the righteous to embrace the mess of humanity.

It’s the One who loves you. Yes you, mess and all.

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