Finding church

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Those of us who are Christian have often struggled with finding a place to worship that feels right to us. I think that part of  this disconnect comes from our struggle with Christians themselves…including us. We keep wanting to find a place where Christian behavior fits Christ’s lessons to us. Yet we never find it.

There is a reason for that. Churches are made up of people and people are flawed. Not only are we flawed but each of us has our own beliefs and our own ideas of how to live them out. Probably no two of us would agree on everything. Some of us want to be given rules or directions to follow. We are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Some of us want to think for ourselves and are not afraid of asking questions and doubting answers. Some people are in the middle and expect a blending of both.

All of this makes finding a place where you feel at home more difficult. However, we need to think about a family. Families certainly don’t think alike or function in the same way.

Henri-J-M-Nouwen-Quote-Christian-community-is-the-place-where-weThe conclusion that I have reached is to try and find a place (at least for me) where you feel at least accepted. One where you can be challenged to grow and where you can hear stories of the struggles and journeys of others. We will always agree with some and disagree with others. This is normal. Church is not perfect and never will be. It was created by mankind not by God. God speaks anywhere at any time. Church gives us a place to share our faith and a community of believers even if we don’t agree about everything.

It is very hard to follow the teachings of Christ outside of community.

Strange apathy –missing what?

apathy1200xLately I have felt apathetic about going to church. There is no specific reason for this that I can see. Nothing is wrong with either the church I worked at or the church I am attending with my husband. They are both friendly churches that adopt members as part of the family. You always feel welcomed and loved. It makes me wonder what’s up?

I am not really sure. I have not backed away from my relationship with God. It is growing stronger than it has been in a while. When you work for a church there is always the danger that you are working more than worshiping. I know I fell into it easily.  Now I actually spend time with God. Not enough but much more than I was. My connection with God is enriched and I am grateful for that.

I do still miss greatly laying hands on people and praying for healing. This is a part of my past ministry that causes my soul to ache, It fed me in a way it is difficult to explain. I was not doing anything myself for it was God who was using my hands and my love….outpouring for others. I still tear up when I think of what it meant for me. God was physically present each moment.

My spiritual life is much more solitary and I am not a solitary person. This is a struggle for me but one that God is pushing me into. I am caught in the longing to do something more physical instead of meditative. Maybe I need to try moving meditation. (which actually is a thing) I would still want to do it with others.

connection-004I have always been aware of my need to deepen my relationship with God and at times during my life have had a deep and amazing connection. Now I need to re-connect.

So why does this translate into a lack of passion for church itself? I wish I knew. I can see clearly that stepping away is not the right choice. It is so easy to develop a pattern of staying home on Sunday morning and it becomes a habit that is hard to change. Church is also not about my feelings although for me, until now, it has frequently been an emotional boost. Church has not changed. I have and I need to spend time delving into myself to seek answers.

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I need an emotional boost. I need to find an amazing conference or heart rending speaker who challenges me and reignites the fire that I can’t find.

God will supply my need. I just wish he would hurry up!

Will you stand up for your faith?

Having studied a good bit of history and over the years a lot about the history of my faith I have noticed some interesting parallels in today’s world.

women in the churchIf you learn about the early church and the followers of Jesus it is apparent (although seldom mentioned) that women played an important role. After all, they were the first to see Jesus after his crucifixion. Mary Magdalene was a follower of his and important in his ministry and NOT a prostitute. She was relegated to that role later in church history when the Roman church did its best to disavow the roles of women. Women were the personification of sin and not allowed to be a meaningful part of the church. The church did a good job and it wasn’t until centuries later that the protestant traditions began to reverse the trend. It has always been interesting to me that priests were not allowed to marry in spite of the fact that our beliefs sprang from Judaism which believed that men should marry.

So much for the past. Now, in a parallel to removing women,  the culture seems to be set on destroying belief in any religion. They are intent on removing the one system that wants to employ a moral code. Religion is being mocked and followers are thought of as not intelligent enough to see reality. This may also follow the “I” principle. “I am more important than anyone else. Others don’t matter nor can I be held to someone’s outdated moral code.”

stand upI am offended by this trend and concerned for the life of believers. Who knows…maybe we will end up being persecuted and it will revive the faith. Hardship and persecution does seem to bring out the best in belief.

At my age I have learned to speak my mind and not be afraid of the outcome. I will continue to follow my faith and be willing to stand up for it.

 

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A big question ?????

bad thingsFor those of us who are Christians the question is often asked “if God is so good why do bad things happen?” Unfortunately, this is the unanswerable question. I wish I could say that I know how to explain this. I don’t

Over the years many theologians have written about this question and some have attempted to answer it…. none to my satisfaction. Many people who question there being a God jump on this problem. If there is a God why doesn’t he/she do something about the many tragedies in the world? It always puts us up against a hard spot. To them, it seems trivial for us to say that we don’t know. It seems that we can’t defend our belief.

Why is one person’s cancer healed and another’s not? Why did a friend’s child die in a car accident? Why does a pastor friend’s grandson have brain cancer? How I wish I could come up with an answer that made sense.

To those in pain the statement that God/Jesus will be with us in our pain and suffering doesn’t help. The fact that Jesus also suffered is little consolation. So if we can’t answer the question what can we do?

fixedI long ago learned that I can’t fix everything but I can be there. I call it a ministry of presence. I can’t take away the pain but I can let them know that they do not have to go through it alone.  Not only does God promise to be with them but the community of faith is called to love, comfort, and sustain them through the pain. The caveat is that we have to be in a community of faith that companions those in need.

 

We need to search until we find that place. We have to keep looking and keep in mind that only if we offer ourselves to be part of that will it work. To just appear in church during the week and go home does not make you part of the community. You must open yourself to become a caring member. This may not be easy and it won’t work until you find your place but don’t give up.

Christian loveRemember, churches are made up of people and people have flaws. No church is perfect. No church has all the answers. Just find one that fills your soul in some way. It won’t be everything that you want it to be but it can still be home. After all, our families are also flawed and imperfect and yet still family. Find a church family with all that implies.

 

see more on this topic on https://wordpress.com/post/heargodinothervoices.blog/1028

Finding Home

home2For the last 40 odd years I have been connected to one or the other church home. First it was the Episcopal church I attended with my husband. The people there are wonderful and at that time there was a great minister. Later, after I was working for the Lutherans there was a minister at my husband’s church whose moral core I couldn’t live with so at my husband’s urging I disconnected myself from there.

Then 20 years ago (while still a member of the first church) I was hired by the Lutheran Church as the Parish Nurse. That was the perfect job for me as it married my vocation with my passion. The 20 years I was there I felt at home and completely fulfilled. Since leaving there I have been at a loss. I don’t feel the same at the first church and don’t feel connected to the second since their removal of my position was not done well. I think the powers that be in that church did not get the difference between a ministry and a job. I am sorry and feel that it was their loss.

The bottom line of all of this is that I don’t feel at home in either place. I know that I need to let all of the disappointment with both places go and seek out a place where I do feel at home. It matters greatly to me. For some reason I am reluctant to move forward with this and so don’t often go at all. This is not a solution but I seem to have little motivation to do anything.

home-G-Gawne-KelnarMaybe there are times when we just need to sit back and just BE. I may be in one of those eddies where you just spin around and around. I feel connected to God but not to church. I do struggle with this when special seasons of the church hit me in the face. Holy Week is one of them.

It is important to move forward in whatever way will work for me. A period of absence and reflection is not wrong. I just need it not to go on for too long.

This verse seems appropriate.:

On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Psalm 62:7 NRSV

Why lent?

Lent-2015 - christchurchcolumbia_org

Today is Shrove Tuesday.  The term shrove is the past tense of shrive which in old English has to do with confessing and being forgiven or shriven. This Tuesday is also called Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of lent). Most people would think of this as being the last hurrah of Mardi Gras a big festival day in New Orleans. For those who are not in liturgical churches lent is a season of penance and fasting. Society pays little attention to most of this.

I love the seasons of a liturgical church. I love how the colors on the altar change and the mood of the music is different. I think that it is somewhat like those who depend on the seasons of the year for their livelihood feel when seasons change.

joan-quote1_edited-1Lent calls for some change to be made in our lives. Many people give up something, sweets, alcohol, smoking or some habit they would like to change. I am more inclined to take on something….working to be more kind, reading something spiritual, visit someone I have neglected….whatever I seem to have forgotten or put off.

Lent is a time to take stock. A time to look inside ourselves and change what needs changing to make ourselves see the beauty of Easter. The more you observe Lent the more meaningful Good Friday and Easter become.

 

 

Kindness

Today I went to church with my husband. Our favorite retired minister was there. I always love his services as he melds the liturgy in different ways and it is always beautiful and meaningful. His sermon was wonderful. It is seldom that I take notes from a sermon but today I did because I wanted to think some more about the ideas and to share them.

one kind wordHe started by reading a short excerpt from one of his favorite authors whose name I didn’t get. The story was about a man who brought a newspaper every day from someone who was grumpy and rude yet this man was always pleasant and kind. “He said that he had no control over the grumpy man but did have control over himself and he chose to be kind. To return good for evil is a prescription for our own emotional/mental health.”

Pastor said ” we were created in the image of God and are called to behave like him. Life is not about how we act with other people but how we react.”

I found this to be very powerful. Too often we do react to the mood or actions of the person we are faced with. We return rude with rude, sad with sad, etc. The interesting thing is that if we do the reverse things change.

My father was not only a wonderful father but a unique man. I never heard him say something negative about someone else. People who knew him said the same thing. He always responded with kindness even with someone who was very angry. He told me that two things would happen….the whole situation would defuse or all hell would break loose. Either way he remained calm and kind.

be king 2We do have control over our behavior. I visit a physicians office where one of the employees was always a little brusque and not really pleasant. I made it my intention to make that change and spent time complimenting things (only genuine things and getting to know her. Be genuine for false is easily detected) and we now have a great relationship. I enjoy her and she always greets me with pleasure. A little kindness on my part well spent and a new relationship formed.

How we treat people makes a difference. We have to be genuine but we can be kind. I hope this is a step toward becoming the person God wants me to be.