Tag Archives: god

Churchless

I was in the 4th grade when we started going to my church. My family had hopped around from church to church, never finding a right fit or denomination for us, until the boys across the street invited us to Sunday School one week and my sister and I enjoyed ourselves so much that my parents tagged along the following week and the rest is sort of history. Though it had changed in a lot of ways by the time we’d joined, it was the church my mother grew up in and it became the church my dad found God again in. It’s a small old building that rests on a hill at the corner of two of the “major” roads in my little town, rooted pretty deep in the customs of the Southern Baptist that founded it. There are hardly any original members left alive, but one of them, Mrs. Silva-Jean sits in my pew with my family; her and my Maw Maw are best girlfriends.

 

In the time I’ve attended Towne Baptist, we’ve seen several pastors lead our church. When the first one passed away, a younger, hyper man took his place. When God called that guy to serve in another state, one of our own members got ordained and became the Pastor. That Pastor got involved in the mismanagement of church money and was ultimately asked to leave and at his exit, much of the church fell apart. Members left in anger or disappointment, others got tired of waiting for the “right” pastor to come and fill the void. And when we finally got a new Pastor, most of my church experience changed in a big way, for the better.

 

When I was younger, I mostly liked church for Sunday School and VBS and church camping trips. These things made it fun to learn about God. But when I graduated high school and could decide for myself whether I wanted to go to church or not, I mostly stopped going altogether. It was around this time when the drama surrounding the mismanagement of money started to create a hostile environment in a place that should be all about peace. Alliances were made and gossip was spread and the cattiness of it all was just too much for me. Even though I know you’re supposed to turn your cheek and forgive, most of us just couldn’t and the hypocrisy in that made me look at organized religion in a negative way. I was of the belief that you could worship God anywhere; you didn’t need a building and all that drama to find Him. While I still feel this is mostly true, I made the decision to come back to church when they finally found a suitable Pastor to fix the brokenness at Towne, because I felt myself needing to go to church; it was way too easy to drift from God without it.

 

Maybe it’s something about being older and having a better understanding about life in general, but that new Pastor awakened a desire in me that I didn’t even know existed. He didn’t preach AT you, he didn’t proclaim to be holier than us. His sermons weren’t always the uplifting, feel good types that have become so common in mainstream Christianity. He wasn’t afraid of touchy subjects, he told Bible stories from an obviously well-educated perspective and connected them to real life scenarios, and he could even laugh at and acknowledge his own mistakes when preaching. Lots of older people probably had a problem with him from the start because he’s only a handful of years older than me, which made him way younger than the average pastor we’d had for the last few decades when he first came on board. They also had a hard time adapting to his new age methods of spreading God’s word. In his time there, our church held functions most Baptists think are sinful to even entertain, like Halloween’s Trunk or Treat, and the reach in our community was huge. Literally hundreds of people who might have never even given our church a second thought showed up. The use of social media as an advertising platform also didn’t jive so great with the older members of congregation because, like some might say, “FB is the devil.” While I might agree that it can be a hellish place, I think the ways in which we reach new followers has to change with technology. You’re far more apt to reach someone with a FB post or Ad than you are by them driving by the church and noticing a sign inviting them in. In my eyes, he was already doing so much more than any of the Pastors before him and it didn’t even stop there. The guy is seriously an overachiever in life. Someone missing from the praise band for the 8:30 service? No problem, Phil can play every instrument up there and sing too. There’s something both unbelievable about his seemingly endless abilities and also really freaking impressive. I can’t tell you how many times I wondered how he’d managed to excel at so much in this life in only a handful more years than I’ve been alive. If I was a prideful person, I suppose I could see how that might be intimidating to someone who’d achieved less in more years. Luckily, I’m not. 😉

 

The bulk of people from Towne or who had departed Towne prior to his arrival never made it easy for him to do God’s work without some sort of ugliness surrounding his every move. Some even went as far as creating a FB prayer group, of which the Pastor and his wife were a part of, just so they could talk crap about how inefficient they thought he was as a Pastor. It made me sick to watch these “Christians” acting so un-Christian-like, to the point that I found myself wanting nothing to do with the church anymore. This feeling of disappointment in the congregation at my church was enough to even make my parents leave and attending church without them for the last year hasn’t been easy, but I did because Phil’s messages moved me more than anyone before him. His sermons are the kinds that make you take notes; that lingers with you long after you’ve left the sanctuary.

 

A few months ago, Phil told us he was leaving. That God was calling him to plant a new church near his neighborhood. And initially, for me, the disappointment felt like anger. The idea of having to leave the church I’ve always went to because I couldn’t stick around through another transition of a new Pastor, because I couldn’t sit by and watch those naysayers gloat over his departure. But then my angry disappointment felt like relief because with my parents already gone, there was really nothing tying me to the church anymore outside of him. And while I might not love the idea of change, even when it’s good for me, I am okay with leaving finally.

 

So, it’s been 5 weeks since Phil’s last day and now 4 weeks since I’ve been to church and I worry about how long it might be before I actually get to see a service led by him again. Probably I’ll start going to the mega-church my parents go to for a while just so I don’t start drifting, but I’m not thrilled about it. It’s too big, like the kind of church you see on TV. My parents like it because no one has to know them personally if they don’t want – they don’t have to get involved in or know about the drama this way. But big churches like that feel impersonal to me. While I don’t want to be a part of the drama, I do want to feel comfortable in the pew every week, like I’m a part of a 2nd family I look forward to seeing once a week.

 

There’s a big part of me that feels bad about leaving the church I grew up in all because the leaders gone. Isn’t that just as bad as the people who left when he first arrived? How devoted does that make me? Except that devotion should always be toward God first, not a building. And I’m afraid that the brokenness of my church might never be healed. It’s fueled by too much negative energy and I just don’t think I can be a part of trying to fix that anymore. So until then, I’m sort of churchless. I’ll be honest, it’s a crummy feeling, but I just keep hoping and praying my Pastors new church plant takes off soon and successfully so I can get back to learning about God better than I ever had before him. And in the meantime, I’m pouring myself into my devotionals and prayer journal to keep me on track.

 

About the Church Plant: Connecting Church, Coming Soon….

 

Connecting Church 2016 from Connecting Church on Vimeo.

2015 In Review: Everything Else

 

Last year I had just five resolutions; that should have been doable, right? Not so, apparently, but let’s start with the ones I did achieve.

 

Get closer to God. I don’t know if it’s really right to say I nailed this one because I think this is something you should always be working on, but I definitely did work on it all year like I’d wanted to so I say it’s a win. I read my devotional everyday and even flagged the days that spoke the loudest to me to refer to later. I volunteered for the Sharing Table and enjoyed it immensely, so much so that it’s something I will always do when it’s my churches turn now. I was able to put some of my creative skills to work at my church during Vacation Bible School and hope to do that again this year as well. But even with doing all those things I set out to do, I missed a lot of church this year, for either being sick or bad weather or just because I was too tired/busy. I wish that part wasn’t true because it’s so much easier to drift from God without that weekly sermon to keep you grounded. I need to work on that for sure in 2016. I also didn’t write in my prayer journal nearly as much as I might have thought I would. In fact, praying as a whole is something that slips my mind all to often these days. I get it in my mind to, but instead of doing it right then and there, I collect my prayers and then forget to do anything with them. I really want to work on that in 2016 as well. Still, as a whole, I feel like my faith is definitely stronger this year than it was last year and even though I’ve got so much more room to grow, I feel like I’m moving in the right direction in my walk with Christ.

 

Get Healthy. This is another one of those resolutions that is always on my list and will probably stay on my list forever, but I definitely feel like I can call this one a success this year too, maybe even more so than years past. As I mentioned in my “Stuff I Loved” post, I got really into fitness in 2015. I had already been practicing the whole “clean eating” lifestyle from the year before, so that part wasn’t hard. In fact, once I started pushing my body past the limit, eating right seemed to get even easier – like my body was only craving the nutrients that would allow it to keep enduring all those grueling workouts. T25 is an amazing workout regimen and I’m so glad that I gave it a shot. In that first week, I keep starting an overly dramatic blog post about how I was basically committing suicide, but I’m glad I never finished it because I swear once I got past that first week my perspective changed 100%. Being the busy person that I am, it’s almost too easy to say I just don’t have time to workout, but I swear that somehow squeezing that 25 minute workout in everyday made me capable of fitting even more into my everyday schedule. I guess it just makes you more aware of your use of time? Something like that. I’m still disappointed I had to quit when I got pneumonia and that I haven’t been able to re-start it again because of my limited space/Christmas decorations, but I’m really pumped about killing it in 2016. And I’m really proud of/happy with the changes in my body so far as a result of the 7 weeks I already completed. By my wedding I’d lost 3-4” everywhere, dropped down 2 bra sizes and 1 size in clothing, and lost 15 lbs. total. Thankfully, despite my increased cookie/sugar consumption through the holidays, I’ve managed to keep it all off, too! I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m truly at a healthy place, but I feel like 2016 is definitely going to be the biggest year of success in this resolution.

 

Pay down debt. I don’t think I was able to pay off nearly as much toward my debt as I did last year, partly because I didn’t have the same amount of overtime and also because I got married/went on a honeymoon. But I did still put a significant dent in my credit with the help of another successful year of the Savings Challenge and in shifting my cards around to 0% interest rates so the money I was putting toward them was being used more effectively. I’m definitely not in the clear yet (or even close to be honest), but I do think I’m closer to being able to buy a house and am still hopeful that 2016 is the year for that. After we do our taxes and meet with the bank, we’ll have a better idea of what’s possible or not, but I’m still hoping for the best and I’m glad I’ve gotten in this saving/paying habit over the past few years because I’m confident I’ll be able to keep it up whether we can buy a house this year or not!

 

*Bonus: Get a Tattoo!* This was technically 2014’s resolution and I hadn’t achieved it by the end of 2014, but in reviewing those resolutions I felt confident that the day was right around the corner and I’d been right. I got not just one, but three new tattoos in 2015 (over 4 separate sessions) and gosh if it doesn’t make me want ALL the tattoos now. Seriously, it’s not even painful at this point and that’s when you know you’re in dangerous territory – lol. Thankfully the cost will keep my tattoo collecting in control, because boy is it expensive! Still, I’ve got a small savings started already for the next one and I can’t wait for more ink!

 

Tattoos2015

 

So for the things I didn’t succeed at….

 

Time Management. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to master this, not unless something major comes along to force me into it. Even then, though, I’m not sure. I really need to learn how to say no. Outside of all the creative pursuits I have on my own, I’m constantly saying yes to doing things for other people and thinking I can fit them all in my schedule together. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I want and need to do. Once again, this year I found myself sick with pneumonia for the first time in my life, as a result of trying to do way too much. People even tried to tell me to slow down, but I didn’t listen. It didn’t help that I had a wedding to plan, prepare, and participate in during the height of my busy season. That’s all I should have been focusing on, but instead I was doing so much more. If I could go back and do it differently, I would, but since I can’t I really just need to learn from it. I hope that I won’t find myself making those same mistakes this year, but I also know how foolish I can be. :/

 

Try to get Published. What a laughable joke. And not the funny kind either, no it’s the sad, pitiful kind. The most I achieved this year in the way of writing was reading through and redlining my manuscript. Not the one that’s complete either, not the one I wanted to shop around. No, just a regular old work-in-progress. And then I set it aside and literally did not write even one single new word in 2015. Failure doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings over this. I miss writing. I hate that my other creative pursuits eat up all the time I’d usually have for writing. I hate that I don’t know how to balance the two and be successful in them both. I miss my characters; they’re almost never even around anymore. I feel so out of touch with writing at this point that I feel almost foolish for thinking it’s still a possible dream to have. Am I even a writer anymore?

 

 

Babies, Obsessions, & Other Goodness

Last weekend I celebrated my birthday, but it was also my sisters surprise baby shower. Or at least it was supposed to be a surprise. Surprising Rachel is never easy. She will do everything in her power to get to the bottom of a secret. Despite the party losing its surprise factor, it was a great event. She made out like a bandit in the gift department. It took her almost three hours alone to just open gifts!


SO. MANY. GIFTS!

She was really happy with everything she received and I think it’s safe to say now based on the amount of things each individual person gave her that baby Gideon will be spoiled rotten. My sister might kill me for sharing this picture, but it was my favorite of the whole day and while she might think she looks fat, I find her absolutely adorable. Good thing she doesn’t read my blog I guess. 😉

I don’t even like kids much, but I have to admit I’m ridiculously eager to be an aunt. The further along Rachel comes, the more and more excited I get. It’s still so hard to believe my little sister will be a Mommy, but it’s still exciting nonetheless.

In other news this week:

I’ve got some new obsessions. Not obsessions in the way that I normally obsess over stuff, but the “need” to be submerged in these things daily is there. They are The Mortal Instruments Series (Books) and Sons of Anarchy (TV Show).

AND

I’m already half way through CITY OF GLASS (The Mortal Instruments, Book 3) and will likely be into Book 4 or CLOCKWORK ANGEL next week. It’s almost funny to me how long I’ve had this series in my possession and have avoided it for some reason. I could kick myself now because this series is freaking GREAT! And I’ve watched all of Season 1 of Sons of Anarchy already this week and am a few episodes into Season 2 already. I honestly can’t even explain what exactly it is about this show I love, I just know I love it.

Lastly, I received two happy pieces of news this week that may seem insignificant to some of you, but have really made me feel good.

1. Despite all of the food I consumed during my week long birthday celebration last week, I still lost 2 lbs this week during weight in at “AA for Fatties”. 2lbs. isn’t a lot, I know, but it’s something and if I can lose 2lbs. every week, I’m that much closer to my end goal. I have to plug Xbox Kinect as the deeper reason behind this weight loss this week though. While WW’s new diet plan is far easier than the old system and I’ve mostly stuck to it, working out just 3 times this week with Dance Central on that Kinect seriously burned some calories. I was sweating like nobodies business and my body was aching afterwards, but it was SO FUN! If I can add this into my regiment on a daily basis I just know alongside the diet, this fat suit I’m wearing will finally start to fade away!

2. I got a raise. It was only a dollar and while I really could use more and deserve more, it’s something. Something I haven’t received in 4 years thanks to the crash of the economy and the crippling effect it had on my job field in particular. I feel extremely grateful and glad to finally be recognized for my hard effort (because most days work kicks my butt).

Those last two pieces of happy this week remind me of something I too often forget: Patience. It’s a lesson I feel like God is constantly trying to teach me and for some reason I fight him on it all of the time.

We live in a society that wants things NOW and most of the time we can actually have those things NOW. Some things don’t happen NOW though, some things take time. And if you expect, especially without effort, you will undoubtedly be let down. But patience, it’s a strong quality in oneself, if you have it. And being patient has its benefits.

It seems like every time I finally remember this concept and stop dwelling on what I want NOW and just accept that it may take time, God rewards me with my desires. I’m feeling humbled and grateful this week for the lesson.

Peace – Sarah

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– Happy Sunday –

Today I woke up rather early for me on a weekend. Heath was still in bed so it was completely quiet in our apartment (well silent aside from the jingle of Tay’s color as she followed me everywhere I went). I passed by my book shelf several times debating whether I would start the new Dexter books I received early for my birthday (thanks future in-laws!) or if I should continue writing where I left off last night.

In the end I decided I wanted to keep writing because I was really on a roll yesterday and I could still feel my characters emotions coursing through my mind. But I was still yearning for something to read quickly before I started, something to awaken my mind a bit, so I picked up “100 Ways to simplify your life” by Joyce Meyer. I figured its Sunday, why not read a devotional?

I received this book as a Christmas present and hadn’t opened it yet, but today when I opened the first page I was immediately reminded why I love her devotionals and the way God works through her words to speak to me.

The first Joyce Meyer book I read was, “Battlefield of the Mind: 100 insights that will change the way you think”. It stood out to me one day at Walmart when I was trying to emerge from the darkness I’d been living in at the time. It’s designed to read daily, and in 100 days adjust your mindset. I read the first devotional in the store and it completely targeted my current struggle, it felt like I had to buy it now and so I did. I didn’t read it every day though, like intended. I only reached for it when my life felt weak; when I needed a mental strength pick me up. And almost every time I opened it the devotional for that day was absolutely a message for me or someone close to me struggling. And those messages were so straight forward and real.

Joyce Meyer is a strong headed woman who came from a very rough past. Her ability to put her lessons in such a simple real life example makes her feel like a regular person to me, not some famous author/preacher.

So back to today’s devotional, it was entitled “Do one thing at a time” and went on to explain the importance of focus.

“By putting our hands to one thing and our mind to another, we divide the muscle behind our abilities and we make the task much more difficult….. The ability to concentrate and stay focused can only come from discipline.”

I think I’ve stressed enough this week how difficult focus has been for me lately and the consequences I faced as a result of this. I wasn’t truly focused on anything last week, just allowing my mind to drift around. And my work suffered because of it. How do two little pages rework my brain so easily and give me strength to get myself in order? I don’t know, but I’m grateful for it. I wrote quite a bit last night and revised a chapter and that was making me feel pretty good, but now I feel stronger and more determined to stay focused this week. (Thanks Joyce Meyer!)

Back to my book now, the scene involves angry magic, vicious storms, and unbearable pain. It’s coming together nicely 😉

Peace – Sarah

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Church music like this moves me…