Church: It Is More Than A Place Of Worship

WORSHIP (1)

I sat in the small room, facing my pastor, and desperately tried to listen to his words.  Questions were swirling around in my head and I had to keep internally slapping myself and screaming, “FOCUS!”   A couple of weeks prior, my pastor had confessed a sinful nature to the congregation.  It rocked the church to its soulful core, dividing the members, and fueling harsh criticism of his behavior.  I was numbed by the news and tried to make sense of it all.

My pastor and his wife had asked me my husband to meet with them to hear their side and ask for our support.   This was the man who spoke at my sister in law’s funeral, counseled my children, and prayed for us during extremely difficult times in our lives.   After he asked me the question, “Can you support me in continuing my role as the pastor?”  I collected my thoughts, and whispered to myself, “God give me the wisdom.”  I proceeded to tell him, I loved him and forgave him, but at this time, I could not trust him to lead our church.  My husband agreed and we made the decision to walk away.

Church is a sanctuary for me.  For the past several years, our family has been part of an awesome church.  As I grow older, I find myself wanting to be more involved in church activities.  I could have easily been dissuaded after my previous church experience, but have come to an understanding of what defines a church.

A church is nothing more than a gathering place of sinners.

A church is made up of people, some who are Christ followers and some who are searching for answers.

A church is a place to worship my Lord and Savior and to strive in improving my heart and mind.

Because the church is built and led by humans it is not a perfect place.  But I have found if I make the effort in building relationships in the church, the members become more like family.  And we know family is hardly ever perfect!  A church home has been an intricate part of my Christian journey and I believe it has a purpose in our world today.

Strength in Numbers– I believe God listens, blesses, and comforts those who gather together in His name.  Whether it be Sunday morning worship, bible study, prayer circles, or community service, God is present.  He hears our prayers, sees our good deeds and is pleased with His people.  The members’ actions of a church can be the light shining into the numerous dark places in this world.  “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them.”-Matthew 18:19-20 NIV*

Encouragement For All-Our church provides many services open to the community such as Celebrate Recovery, Grief Group, Discovering your purpose, finance classes, mission trips, and bible study.  The support groups and classes provide a service for both members and non-members.  What a great example of demonstrating how Christians are not “perfect” and have issues and need assistance like everyone else.   We can open the doors of the church and invite anyone who needs encouragement or support to come in.  “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”-Hebrews 10:25 NIV*

Lead by Example-Our church has a focus and commitment to future generations.  The mentoring of the youth is a priority for our church and offers Sunday school, bible study, vacation bible school, and Sunday evening worship for the children.  Classes are also offered to learn the different volunteer areas in the church (music, video, mission work, scripture memorization, etc.) and assist in developing the talents of our children through media, music, choir and play performances.  We have a ministry called AIM (All Inclusive Ministry) which meets the special needs of people in our church and community.  We also host an annual Special Needs Family festival to celebrate the abundant life of special needs families and provide connections to vendors in our community.  “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”-Proverbs 22:6 NIV*

 

Human beings are made to be social and worship, or have faith, in some object or ideal.  I choose to have faith in Jesus and to worship Him as my God.  I also choose to be in a setting with other people who share the same ideas of God, praise, and worship.  I see the church as a safe place to be social and practice my faith.   It meets all my personal needs and provides aid to those who are less fortunate in the community.   So when someone asks me the question, “Why do you belong to a church?”  My response is “because it feels like home.”

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

A Study Plan to Enrich My Worship Time

WORSHIP

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17*

I have a confession.  I am a Christ follower and have difficulty studying God’s word.  I enjoy Bible study groups and listening to others’ teachings, but find hardship in reading scriptures on my own and unraveling the message.

I enjoy reading books and generally don’t have an issue with understanding the plot, but I am intimidated by the pages of the Good Book.  Why?

The Bible has some beautiful stories nestled in the Old and New Testament with rich and infallible teachings written in several different versions.  I prefer the New International Version because of its simple and current English translation.   I have wondered where to start the Bible and opened up at the beginning and have gone through page by page.

Only to get stumped by the Chapter Numbers and asking myself “Am I pronouncing the names correctly?”  I am determined to get to a comfortable level of studying the Bible on my own.  Below is an outline I have started following to achieve this personal goal and deepen my worship.

PRAYER– My first act is to pray and ask for guidance in what I should focus on in the Bible.  Recently, God placed on my heart the word devotion.  Oh boy, this is a doozy for me.   So in my quiet time, I have asked him to point me to specific scripture to study.  I have compiled a list of scripture relating to devotion and this is my current study.

PRACTICE– I start by writing the scripture down in my journal.  I read over it a couple of times and then I research around the scripture.  I want to know the background of the chapter such as who wrote it and to whom, what is the time frame, and what actions are being taken during this period.  I use reference materials such as Bible Notes.net, a Bible dictionary, and concordances.  A concordance is a book which outlays the different words alphabetically and their contexts for easy reference.  Another key component of my Bible study is to make time daily.  In focusing on opening my Bible daily, creates a good habit of taking time and being still with God.  To me, this is where my growth starts to get real.

PREVAIL-When I apply the first two steps I find I am becoming more effective in diving into the word and learning it through my eyes.  It is the opportunity to commune with God and comprehend what the Bible means to me.  I know my relationship with God is deepening and gives me the confidence and ability to talk to others about what I ascertained from scripture.

Believe me, I am no expert on deciphering and teaching the meaning of the Bible.  I have found it less intimidating for myself to use the three steps above in my daily devotional time.  I continue to go to Bible study groups because I learn so much from those who are blessed to be teachers of the Bible.  For me, the combination of church, group Bible study, and personal Bible study has drawn me closer to God and understanding my purpose.

Would you be willing to share some of your Bible study habits?  Please post in the comments what you find most effective in your study time and how to improve your worship.  Blessings!

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Sometimes The Silence Is The Answer

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“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”-1 Thessalonians 5:11*

It has been a while, my friends.  I didn’t plan on taking a writing hiatus, it happened.  You know what?

I needed it.

Life got really busy with family and I have so enjoyed it.  There were laughs, hugs, tears, and arguments, but for a small stretch of time, I had all my kiddos under one roof (and two granddaughters, a niece, and a third dog).  It was way overdue and I wanted to embrace this precious time and make memories.

But somewhere along the way, I realized I had not been writing and it appeared no one else noticed my absence either.  Which got me to thinking, am I supposed to be writing?  Is this truly what God has called me to do?

The answer is I don’t know.

When I started this writing venture it was to talk about my grief journey.  I have covered this topic a lot; maybe even beating it into the ground.  Now I wonder, do I have more to give other than relating to grief?

I hope so, but am not sure what it exactly looks like.  I am also not sure if I have it in me.

One thing I do know is I am not giving up, yet.

I have invariably been a person who likes to see the glass as half full, find the silver lining, and celebrate the small victories.  I have been an encourager, champion, and cheerleader for others.  I like to give rather than receive, and I consistently root for the underdog.  Now, I need some of this and I actually don’t know how to go about focusing on me.

It is scary and makes me feel vulnerable.  Not my strong suit.

So, I have been reading other people’s blogs, books, and articles.  Trying to let go of my pity party and look for a spark, a light, to inspire me not to give up and keep writing.  I am praying about it and trying to hear God in all this mess.

Sometimes the silence is also the answer.

I share this because perhaps you too have been discouraged at some aspect in life.  I find the best way to get out of the funk is to know I am not alone.  There are others who struggle and find their way up and out.  I know I will too.

I believe this is what God wants for all of us.  To be there for one another, boosting and lifting up, not fighting and tearing down.  Most of the time I love to encourage others, now I am the one seeking encouragement.

It will take patience, prayer, and peace.  I need to quiet my mind and heart so I can receive it all.  Help a sista out and pray for me.

Blessings!

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

At The End Of The Day We Are Family

Storge 1

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.”-Psalm 127:3*

In keeping with the “love” theme this month, I am exploring the storge love.  Storge is the Greek word which relates to natural, familial love such as the love between a parent and child. This type of love is not mentioned directly in the Bible, but in the new testament the negative form of this word, astorgos,  is used twice. **

I grew up in a typical middle-class family in the sixties and seventies.  My dad was an engineer with a major oil and gas company and mom was a homemaker.  Growing up we spent more time with mom as she volunteered at our school, took us to dance, made our costumes, and toted us around while running errands and shopping.  When it came to discipline, I remember mom yelling at us or sending us to our room, and I don’t remember the “wait till your father gets home” line ever being used.  There was a kind of awed respect or healthy fear in me which knew never to push the envelope too far with mom because she might get dad involved.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I was not beaten or verbally abused as a child.  There was this mysterious aspect to my dad and perhaps it was because he was away more than at home with us.  Perhaps it was his deep voice and when he spoke louder it rumbled through the room.  Or perhaps it was because he was larger than life and could fix any problem. For all of these reasons is why I was certain not to have mom engage dad in any discipline issues.

My father was not overly affectionate with me as I was growing up, but every once in a while, he would hug me or tell me he was proud of something I did.  As we both grew older, dad was more loving in his actions and words which encouraged me to reciprocate.

I would seek his approval for the rest of our lives.  Disappointing dad was far worse than any other form of punishment and there were a few times I accomplished this task.

I decided to get married at age nineteen before finishing college.  Dad said he would no longer pay for my college if we were going to make such a grown-up decision.  Education was everything to my dad and he thought once I stopped going full time, I would never go back.  I had to prove to him I would get my degree.

And I did.  It took me eight years but I did it.  I invited my parents to my graduation where I would walk across the stage.  They both were so proud of me and I could see tears in my dad’s eyes.  I knew the disappointment had been erased from his memory.

When Scott died in 2001, my parents were the first ones to come be with me.  We were all in shock and I asked them to assist me with the funeral arrangements.  I decided to buy dual plots for both Scott and me and my dad was almost panicked by my choice.  “You are so young and you don’t know what the future holds for you, I think buying your burial plot next to Scott’s is not necessary,” he said.  I don’t think he was disappointed as much as profoundly saddened on me making such a final decision.

I was reminded this weekend by my mom of how disappointed she and dad were in Randy and me for not inviting family to our wedding in 2005.  For personal reasons, we decided to keep it an extremely low key and not invite our family members.  We thought we were doing a favor for everyone and sparing them the cost of travel and lodging.  Instead, our family felt left out and was disheartened by our decision. My dad never mentioned this to me.

Through the years my dad became more affectionate and would hug me, tell me he loved me, and sometimes get weepy when our visits came to an end.  It became extremely important to him for the family to get together, take pictures, and make memories.  As we gathered around him in his final hours, he could not verbalize his feelings, but we could feel his love and knew he was proud of all of our achievements and decisions.

This is storge love.

Where parents love their children, regardless of their faults and the disappointments they will bring about.  In my family, there were accolades, achievements, disappointments, and failures.  But at the end of my dad’s life, we knew he had forgotten the negative occurrences and was pleased with our family and how we rally around, lift up, respect and love one another.  I pray this will be my dad’s legacy for the future generations of our family.

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

**https://www.gotquestions.org/storge-love.html

How I Pinpointed and Matured In My Faith

How I Pinpointed And Matured In My Faith

“We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”-2 Corinthians 5:7-8*

This month, I am focusing on faithfulness as part of my study and reflection of my 2018 word “devotion”.    The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines faithful as “steadfast in affection or allegiance**.”  I decided in order to discuss faith or being faithful, I needed to ask the question, “When did I discover my faith?”

All people have faith and believe in some type of idea whether is it a religion, a concept, or a theory.  I believe in God as my father, Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit who is within me.  I am not here to pass judgment on those who don’t believe like I do but to give background on what defines my faith.

I grew up in a Methodist Church, baptized as an infant, attending services, Sunday school, confirmation classes, and church camp.  I loved the singing of hymns, the activities we did in Sunday school and going away to camp for a week.  When I completed my confirmation classes, I understood the personal relationship with Jesus and believed everything I was taught.  This is where the seed of faith had been planted.

I left for college at seventeen, and didn’t think about going to church or being involved for the first few months I was away from home.  Initially, I didn’t understand why I was feeling out of sorts and had this gnawing sensitivity inside me. A few more months passed and someone invited me to their church one Sunday morning.  As soon as I stepped into the worship area I felt a warm wave of love and peace wash over me.  I was home and it was well in my soul.  I did not make it back every Sunday, but when I did, my time spent in the church was a way to ground myself and re-center my priorities.

Scott and I married when I was nineteen at my home church.  We decided when we moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, we wanted to find a church for us.  Early on we visited different churches but would not commit to joining one.  I did pray daily and God answered me sometimes obviously and other times not so much.  I was faithful in keeping conversations open between us but felt guilty for not making my Christian walk more evident to others.

In early 2000, I was pregnant with my third child and a girlfriend invited us to her non-denominational church.  It was a new and exciting surprise because this church offered a Saturday night service which fit our lifestyle.  Scott and I dropped the two older children off in the age-appropriate children’s church and walked into the worship center, which sat about three thousand and it was packed!  We found my friend and sat down when all of the sudden the music team started playing a song from a famous rock band of the 60’s to open up the worship time.  This was the hook to catch your attention and prepare you for the series, which was about getting your groove back in worship.  I don’t remember the details of the pastor’s message but let me tell you, it made a huge impression on Scott.  He was excited about going back to church and joining due to this one visit.  In hindsight, I know God was presenting the opportunity for us to put skin in the game and plant ourselves in a church.  It gave us the little time we had left to build our relationships back with Christ and allow me to build the necessary connections in the church to support myself and the kids after Scott’s death.

Scott’s death was my pivotal point in recognizing and living out my faith.  I made a choice the night he died, to turn towards God and all He could afford me because losing Scott was unbelievable, unbearable, and unendurable.

The harder I leaned on God, the stronger the Holy Spirit uplifted me.

The more I left at the foot of Jesus, the more God provided for me through others.

The angrier I became at God and my situation, the more inner peace I experienced from the Holy Spirit.

I have constantly believed in my God.  In the last seventeen years, my belief has deepened into an unwavering faith and a personal relationship with Him.  I strive to learn more, pray more, serve more, and share more of my experience with others.   Someone once asked me, “What if you have spent your entire life worshiping, giving, and praying to God, and when you die you experience nothing.  Don’t you feel like it was wasted time?”

My answer is no.

If I spent all my time going to church and giving selflessly of my time and my money to others, I don’t consider it a waste of time. I have enjoyed all of these activities, improved my character, and helped those who are less fortunate.  My faith has been with me for a long time and becoming a part of a church family, learning wisdom from the Bible, and serving others has only deepened my commitment and devotion to God.    This life is full of challenges and blessings and I am content with the lessons I have learned.  I know how my faith started and continues to grow and mature with every day I am privileged to live out here on earth.   And I know where I am headed on the day my last breath leaves my lips because of my faithfulness in Him.

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

**www.merriam-webster.com

GraceTruth-600x800-4 Linking up with Grace & Truth at https://www.embracingtheunexpected.com/

The Value of Connecting

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“This is my command:  Love each other.”-John 15:17*

This is a hard week for my family.  It has been seventeen years since my first husband and the father of my three precious children, Scott, passed away suddenly.  I find myself in a vulnerable and emotional state as I reflect back on our lives and pinpoint a common theme.

Scott was passionate about relationships.

FRIENDS-Scott grew up in a small suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, graduating from the local high school and pursued college, where I met him.  We dated, became engaged, and closed the deal in marriage.  We moved back to the suburb (which had grown considerably!) and I witnessed his people skills at work.  Everywhere we visited he knew someone.  There was always a handshake, hug, or pat on the back from Scott to his friend.  He would remember family members (and their names) and ask how they were doing.  Scott was genuinely engaged with the other person, a smile on his face, locking on their eyes, nodding his head in agreement, and being present for their story.

This kind of meets and greet were not limited to our community.  On a couple of occasions, we were on road trips, hours from where we lived, and Scott would run into someone he knew! It happened in a grocery store, airport, sporting events and gas stations.  Again, the rapport was demonstrated at his funeral when there were over four hundred people who came to pay their respects.  It was a visual reminder of how important friendships were to Scott and how he and his friends had a special bond.

FAMILY– Scott’s love for his parents was a marvel to witness.  He would always kiss his father and mother every time he left them.  We only lived a few miles away from his parents but he would talk to them every day.  We lost his father, Arnie, in 1988 and Scott made sure his mother was engaged daily.  He would visit her and help with items around the house.  I guess you could say he was a momma’s boy, but he was proud of the title and I respected their strong connection.

Scott also had an older brother and they were typical siblings, goofing around, arguing, and turning every event into a competition.  I know Scott was proud of his brother and would protect and support him in his choices.  Then there was the extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, niece, in-laws, too many to count but Scott was always up to visiting and catching up.  We would go to family reunions in West Texas and he was so excited to see everyone and to introduce me to the family.  Scott’s mom was the youngest of eleven living children so they were many older uncles and aunts.  To hear their stories and recollections of Scott as a youngster was hysterical!  I remember those reunions fondly and realize how many of the family has since passed on.

GOD-The most important relationship to Scott was with God.  When I met this twenty-something year old, he told me he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  God was important to us but I have to admit, the early years we were not focused.  As a couple, we would sporadically go to church, sometimes tithed, and most of the time prayed before eating.  This all changed about a year before he died.  We were invited to a non-denominational megachurch in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and after a few visits, the experience transformed Scott.  I now know God was preparing Scott for his eternal homecoming.  Scott insisted we faithfully attend church every weekend and tithed on a regular basis.  Scott also insisted we prayed with the children each night before bed and we would pray together, the two of us, giving thanks for this life and lifting others in need.

In the last year of his life, Scott had a long-standing disagreement with his older brother.  On his last Christmas Eve, Scott asked if he could speak with me privately.   Scott confessed God was asking him to forgive his brother and make amends.  I told him if God is directing him to do this, he best submit.  He called up his brother who agreed to come over and the two of them spent the next three hours talking about their issues.  By Christmas Eve night we were all able to gather, as a family, and celebrate the meaning of Christmas.   I witnessed such a burden being lifted from both brothers’ hearts.

After Scott’s death, I too was able to find peace in knowing Scott was in heaven.  Early on a Sunday morning, I called a friend who I knew would be awake to let her know Scott had passed away.  She was shocked it was me on the phone because she had awakened from a dream about us moments before the call.  We were all at church and she asked me, “where is Scott?”  I told her to turn around and she would see him standing in the doorway.  When she looked, he was waving at her surrounded by a bright, beaming, golden light.   I was thankful for God to give me the confirmation Scott was with Him in His Kingdom.

God wants a relationship with each one of us.  He also wants us to develop kinships to lift up and support one another, not tear each other apart.  I believe God brings certain individuals in and out of our lives for a reason.  For my long lost friends and family, I will continue to find joy in the times we used to share together.  No regrets and no shame if we have drifted apart.  I would love to catch up, re-connect, and value my relationship with you.

Just like Scott.

 

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

disTRACTION

DISTRACTION

I am working in my office and becoming increasingly frustrated at the fact my “to do list” is not getting done. The annoyance in my demeanor is coming through quite clearly in my voice, e-mails, and the grunts and groans for all to hear in the office.  This is not one of my awe-inspiring moments and I feel the situation spiraling out of control.

I want to be calm, cool, and collected under pressure, but sadly this is not generally the case.  In these moments, I am drowning in the distractions and unable to focus and control my thoughts and time.  This is where I have to step back, take a breath, center my thoughts, and gain some traction.  Here are a few tricks I use to regroup and move ahead.

Breathe-taking a few moments to quiet my mind and take deep breaths to clear my lungs.  Sometimes there is a conversation with God about the circumstances at the moment where I can lay it down at His feet.  When I take a “breathe break” it reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”* To be still, allows me to renew and recharge and face the real world.

Sign Out-Isn’t technology the bomb Diggity?  It can also take multi-tasking to a whole other level.  In order to focus and complete my tasks, I will make sure my e-mail is closed down, and no other social media options are open on my computer.  Additional options are to shut my door and send my phone to voicemail to avoid any interruptions.

Focus-Frequently I will have to dig deep and use all my energy to stay sharp and on task.  Using time management, I will set time limits for certain tasks in order to hunker down and accomplish my goals.  For example, I have a project to complete in three days so I will break down what is needed to finish the project and assign time limits for all the parts in order to meet the deadline.

Count-I am reminded to be grateful for all my blessings.  What I realize is I am experiencing first world problems and should be thankful for my life, job, family, and give the glory to God.  This is the point where I gain traction and realize what the true priorities in life.  I can release the frustration of “in the moment” trivial issues and embrace the joy of my journey knowing I am blessed.  “From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.”*-John 1:16  tweet-graphic-4

If I take the time to go through these steps when I feel the pressure of an unmanageable situation mounting, I can take back the control and gain traction.  In addition, going through this process enables me to adjust my perspective and embrace the challenges placed before me.  After all, how else will I learn to grow in my purpose?

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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