What do you do with your Sunday’s now?

Currently I’m reading a book called “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans. She was raised in a religious home and was a model child in the church growing up. However, when she went to Seminary College she began to doubt some things and eventually left her home church. I know that by the end of the book she is back in a church again but I don’t know which one or how she gets there yet. She makes some statements that certainly resonate with me even though our experiences are different.

She writes of her involvement in her church as a young person:

“I’m not sure I can ever calculate the value of that community, the sense of belonging and of being loved. It never occurred to me that such a fire could be washed out.”

Just as I never ever thought I would leave the meetings.

She also writes:

“There are recovery programs for people grieving all kinds of things….or books on how to cope…but no one really teaches you how to grieve the loss of your faith. You’re on your own for that.”

For me, I didn’t lose my faith but I lost my group.

Later she says her fellow Christians didn’t want to listen to her, or grieve with her, or walk down that frightening road with her. They wanted to fix her. Boy, I could relate there. No one has ever asked me how I got from Point A to Point B. This is a large part of the reason I started this blog. I want people to know how I got from Point A to Point B. It was that important to me.

The author went on to say,

“Looking back, I suspect their reactions had less to do with disdain for my doubt and more to do with fears of their own. They weren’t rejecting me for being different, they were rejecting me for being familiar, for calling out all those quiet misgivings most Christians keep hidden in the dark corners of their hearts and would rather not name.”

I think this is true of the friends and workers as well. I’m sure many of them have asked similar questions like I did, or had similar doubts and fears but they are terrified of anyone knowing. I get that.

She goes on:

“I was so lonely in my questions and so desperate for companionship, I tried to force the people I loved to doubt along with me. I tried to make them understand.”

I think an important fact here is that we as friends and workers or ones who are former friends or workers think of our experience as uniquely ours, when in reality, we are finding out that others in other groups felt the same thing and experienced much the same thing. That was an eye opener, I remember. For instance, the author of that book wrote about her experience and further said,

“I wasn’t the only one who was lonely on Sunday morning.”

She tells about having friends who struggled for years to disentangle themselves from abusive, authoritarian churches, and others who were kicked out for getting divorced or for being gay. She said that wasn’t her story though.

I have no serious injuries to report, no deep scars to reveal. I left a church of kind, generous people because I couldn’t pretend to believe things I didn’t believe any more.”

That is my story as well. I didn’t leave because I was offended or mad or bitter. I left because I didn’t believe in the same things the group did and I no longer could pretend to.

Elizabeth Esther recently wrote on her blog a post about “When loneliness threatens to swallow you whole“.  She writes about the empty hours that result when you leave a church you’ve been in your whole life. What do you do with your Sunday’s?

She says:

“The unscheduled hours often felt like a cavernous vacuum. We didn’t know how to live our lives without someone telling us what to do, where to go, when to arrive, and when to leave. What did normal people DO with all their spare time?…I’d told myself that leaving The Assembly was the solution we’d been waiting for, that freedom was all we needed to create our new-and-improved lives. I’d assumed that I could easily cobble together a patchwork quilt of belonging. If I drank Diet Coke, wore the right clothes, attended a thriving megachurch, and made friends with Southern California Christians, I’d find my place. I’d find my home.”
(~excerpt from Girl at The End of the World, page 152, 154)

Here’s one thing I know for sure: loneliness is real and it keeps coming back.

Perhaps loneliness is a kind of homesickness. What if my loneliness is homesickness for God? What if loneliness is homesickness for home I’ve rarely known, a home more Person than place? I’ve tried to assuage this homesickness with everything other than God.

I feel she is right and it is definitely worth spending some time thinking about.

And then there is trying new churches. Rachel (Searching For Sundays) explains:

“I scoffed at the idea of being taught or led. Deconstructing was so much safer than trusting; so much easier than letting people in.  I knew exactly what type of Christian I didn’t want to be, but I was too frightened, or too rebellious, or too wounded, to imagine what might be next.  My cynicism protected me from disappointment, or so I believed, so I expected the worst and smirked when I found it. Perhaps the most unsettling thing about a new church is the way the ghost of the old one haunts it.  For better or worse, the faith of our youth informs our fears, our nostalgia, our reactions, and our suspicions.  I measured every new experience by what I loved or hated about evangelicalism (her previous church) which put all these good churches filled with good people in the rather awkward position of a rebound boyfriend.”

I doubt there is a one of us who have come out of the meetings who haven’t struggled with this issue.  Finding fault with every other church was so much easier than letting new people in.  And do we ever get away from the ghost of our meeting background haunting everything new?  I don’t think so.  There are no perfect people, no perfect churches.

I’m not so different after all

This morning as I was walking from where I park my car to my workplace, I passed by a homeless woman sitting at the transfer station for the City buses.  She was wrapped in a blanket, she looked warily at me but her glance told me a few possible things about her.  I wondered if she was “judging” me as a white, overweight woman walking to her job with her designer dog in tow.  All of those assumptions are correct.  Perhaps she was a bit angry that I had some obvious advantages that she didn’t have such as the hot shower I had this morning, hot coffee, a good breakfast, and that I had a car to drive to work in.  She is likely confronted with her life choices that she regrets every single day.  But I suddenly wanted her to know that I am too.  I have made some foolish mistakes and foolish choices that I regret every single day as well.  I do not know her story but she doesn’t know mine either.  Her choices lead her to a more desperate place perhaps but I am only a couple missed mortgage payments away from being homeless myself.  Some of my choices have left me alone, in debt, stuck somewhere I’d rather not be.  But, as we all know, it’s what we do with our regrets that determines so much.  Being overweight got me out of bed at 5:20 this morning because my legs hurt BUT I had the most amazing quiet time I have had in weeks.  AND I had time to have a few minutes phone visit with my truck driving friend Sherlene at 6:00 cause I knew she was up too.

I have been reading lately about the ragamuffin group Jesus called when he was here and the group that chose to follow him.  Saints and sinners.  In fact, the group was so “distasteful” to the religious people of his day that they killed him for who he was hanging out with.

I just don’t ever want to forget that I am a sinner (big time) myself.  I am proud, arrogant, selfish, critical, cynical, mean at times, rude at times, impatient, a glutton most every day. But I know Jesus and that gives me some tremendous advantages that I wish everyone had.  By the totally amazing, undeserved Grace of God, I am forgiven, redeemed, clean, hopeful, and have every reason to be merciful, patient, forgiving and loving towards others.  Am I always?  No, but I know He is working a little every day at my heart and it’s ungodly characteristics and refining the dross away.  He is helping me see others with compassion rather than disdain or worse yet, superiority.  I have a long ways to go with my reactions to the homeless, the beggars, the drug addicts that I see every single day. We have violence in my city as a result of some of those issues people have. I see drug deals most days in the park where I walk my dog.   I live only 150 miles away from Roseburg, Oregon where the most recent school shooting happened just last week.  I pray for the peace of my city every day.

Maybe all I can do is smile at the homeless woman; let her know she is seen. I know that longing well.  Buy her a cup of coffee.  The Golden Rule is always a safe bet.

I guess the point of this post for me is that I need to remember that we really are a lot more alike that we care to admit.  The Pharisee who prayed, “I thank God I’m not like other men” missed the point. Samson was terrified of becoming weak and “being like other men” and yet when he was, he became great.  Man do I have a long ways to go.

Should I or shouldn’t I?

Hi blogger world!  I know….I know…..I haven’t posted anything for months.  I’ve been going through a strange phase and nearly every day I am posed with the question, “Should I write about this (or that) or shouldn’t I?”  For some reason and somewhere along the line, I became fearful of being vulnerable and open here.  Fearful of what my critics are saying.  Hurt at how they are misunderstanding me and judging my motives incorrectly.  So, potentially everything I thought about writing was immediately deleted.

Initially I stopped posting here because I felt like I had said everything I needed to say. Lately, a few new topics have come to mind that I think would be good for thought but I freeze up when I start to actually write them down.

I have realized that I MISS hearing from my readers. I miss the connection and community we had here.  And not only do I miss it, I NEED it.  (Even that is scary for me to admit in this format because I start imagining  what some of the friends or workers are saying)  I have isolated myself more and more the last few years to protect myself from being further hurt and while I am an introvert and love and need to be alone a lot of the time, I do need more live connection in my life. So, I hope I still have some kind readers out there who will listen and read and comment.   I have an AMAZING group of gal friends that are the best ever; unfortunately we live all over this country and so we don’t get to see each other very often but they are my community and my church and I couldn’t survive without them, but I need you guys also.

So, without further ado, I will make a real effort to write about a specific topic in the near future and let it loose into cyber space and pray like mad that God will protect me and whisper, “Fear not” in my ear once again and my heart will be still.

Oh the drama some people bring!

Last week after lunch with a dear friend we got to talking about a subject I had never thought of before and it has become new, thought-provoking and even a little exciting to think about.

My friend told me about a friend of hers that brings high drama everywhere and seems to thrive in that kind of atmosphere and how it was so wearisome to her. I agree….I really do not like dramatic people (dramatic in a negative, ‘it’s all about me’, and no-one-has-it-harder-than-me way) and am always amazed and mystified by the people who seemingly thrive on it, and thus create it in their own lives on some level. My friend was praying about the situation she was in with “Drama Friend” and found herself asking Jesus if he ever had to deal with any drama from others. Right away she was reminded of the time He and his guys (the disciples) were arguing about who would be the greatest when he was gone. Good grief! Talk about drama!

I immediately thought of the verse that tells us He was tempted in all points that we will ever be and yet did not ever sin SO THAT he could then faithfully and with total understanding, awareness, empathy and remembrance of how each temptation felt (I don’t believe he has forgotten one single feeling of what it felt like to live down here) pray for and interceed for us in our temptations. In light then of my conversation that day, we realized that this would have been another area he was most definitely tempted in, and that was how to be a friend while at the same time not get caught up in someone else’s stuff to the degree that you became an enabler or join in the gossip or criticism yourself. Jesus always remained focused on the bigger picture and continually pointed people to a solution rather than more of the muck.

For instance, when the disciples were trying to outrank each other on who should be the Top Dog once Jesus was gone (Mark 9:33-34), Jesus asked them what they were arguing about outside as they were walking. By this time, they were in somebody’s home and it says that Jesus called the guys together and then proceeded to tell them how to become the greatest if that is what they wanted to know. They had been embarrassed when he had asked them about it cause they didn’t think he could have possibly heard them. Ha! He did better than that….he read their thoughts!

Anyway, Jesus didn’t retaliate and blast them by saying something like, “Why are you playing that game? That is not what this is about! Knock it off!” (That’s what I probably would have said anyway) But instead he says, ok, if you want to be #1 then you have to be the last one in line and serve everyone you meet along the way. Silence. Crickets chirping. And then he picks up one of the little children of the home and uses that child as an example. Huh! I thought we were talking about greatness here? He was! Smile.

I so admire his patience and wisdom here. He used their anxieties and showed them a completely different way of thinking about it. So cool.

Another time after he had fed the multitudes, he and the disciples are on a boat afterwards and the guys are whining AGAIN but this time about the fact that they forgot to bring something to eat along. Hello guys….he had just fed 5000 people with a little bit AND you had a bunch of leftovers. What happened to the leftovers? Did they go and leave the doggy bags behind like I have at restaurants sometimes? Or did that excess suddenly seem like not enough? They were sitting with The Bread of Life in the boat! I love this quote from a blog I recently read about this very portion of scripture, “…but instead of rolling his eyes and pushing them overboard so he could be alone with his sanity…” he reminds them of the excess and that he didn’t only provide enough, he provided more than enough and he would do that again and again.

I then just realized Jesus was constantly confronted with people’s drama. Yes, many came with real needs but sometimes they also came with a pity party. Like Martha complaining about Mary not helping her out enough. Or the Pharisees complaining about how the disciples didn’t keep some Law but instead chose to help someone of all the nerve. I can’t even imagine how exhausted Jesus must have been at times.

Jesus was tempted countless times in these situations to be impatient, to be rude, and to use his power for his own convenience, to scream at them to go away but he never once did. He just loved them, listened and showed them a better way to live and a better way to think about things. But trust me, He well understands how draining these people can be.

The difference between Him and us (one of MANY!) is that Jesus truly could help every situation and we sometimes can’t much. We can choose to not surround ourselves with Drama Kings and Queens but sometimes we have to.

There is much to consider here.

Those kinds of people may seem to be almost thriving in those situations because of the attention they get, but really, they aren’t at all. They are in a mess in it. They are overwhelmed and do not know what to do about their mess. Their own negativity is eating them alive. They need Jesus. And sometimes, they may know about Jesus, like the disciples, but they may not yet have a clue that they can give Him all their mess and He will sort it out. They may not yet have the faith to believe there is another way to live. They may not yet understand the concept that Jesus cares about every single part of their life and that they can talk to Him about every part of their life.

Sometimes the Drama Kings or Queens only want to hear themselves talk and you can’t get a word in edgewise. As their friend, or neighbor or co-worker at that point, what you can do is become a mighty prayer warrior on their behalf. Don’t ever underestimate the power in prayer. Be a source of calm and peace yourself.

One other sensitive area here: We may have a Drama Person in our life that is driving us crazy and we then turn around and tell everyone else about that Person and WE end up being a Drama Person ourselves. Ouch. Someone that other people don’t want to be around.

Jesus never got sucked to their negativity; He just poured out love and solutions. Obviously, millions today want nothing to do with Him but as the Great Physician, he will always be the answer. He can calm the storm, still the wind and waves. He knows how much we can handle and He has not left us on our own. There IS rest and peace with Him.

So, you saw someone from your former church and hid…..

I want to address some fairly common situations which those of us who have left a church group (such as the meetings) might face and how to better deal with them through insight, prayer and the strength and comfort of Scripture.

I am sure I’m not the only one who has ducked behind something or into another aisle in the store after seeing people from the old church, to avoid a confrontation with them.  And I just didn’t want them seeing me.

Why on earth would I feel this way?  Why would I react this way? These were once my people.  I have struggled with this for years, by the way.

At first, I believe the reason to hide was because I didn’t want them to see how I looked now. (Looking totally different than I did as part the church under their strict dress code.)  I knew they would not approve at all of how I looked and would be disappointed and judge me and/or be hurt that I had chosen such.  I didn’t want to see their pitying glances or the sadness in their eyes.  I didn’t want to be confronted with the confusion, disappointment or sadness I may have caused them because of my choices.  And the smugness of a few.

But still, I wanted their approval, even though I was the one who had left and changed, I wanted their approval but I knew I no longer had it.  And that was painful and hard to face.

In the church we sang the hymn, “Approved of God, what more could we desire?”  Well, the approval of others that’s what.  It’s very real and feeds a person’s insecurities enormously.  But another hymn in that group states a very real truth I found out:  “Honor from men is but a passing show.”  When I left I discovered who my real friends were and who weren’t.  It was painful seeing some ‘drop me’ when I still reached out to them.  I found out I was loved by some because of the ‘office’ I held in that group, not because of who I am.

Truth is; it’s easier often to have God’s approval
than the approval of others. 

But you know what also happened?  As the approval of others faded and all but disappeared, the approval of God became more tangible, available and possible.  Truth is; it’s easier often to have God’s approval than the approval of others.  I had a serious talk with God about this matter, to find out why the approval of others meant so much to me.  God took their approval away from me for a reason.  Staying in this group because of fear of what others would think or say if you left, is not being honest with yourself or God.

Also, let me state clearly that I have been very guilty of judging them. Big time. I now pray OFTEN to cease from judging them and pray that they would cease from judging me.  Neither side wins in judging.  I never want to have any hint of a spirit of arrogance or pride around them but also not to have a spirit of fear.

Oh God, why are we still trying to win the approval of others more than You?  May we let go of needing and/or wanting their approval in order to feel secure or safe because, like Your Word says, if we are still trying to please others, we will not be a servant of Christ.  It’s not a sin to have others approval but it sure puts us in bondage to seek it.  Help us to always keep loving our friends and family from our old church and cease from trying to please them because we have found, by Your Grace, it’s truly easier to obtain Your approval than it is theirs.  Help us, Father, to never be ashamed of the liberty and freedom we now have in Christ because we truly have been set free. You said to Jeremiah to ‘not be afraid of them for You are with us and You will rescue us’. Your Word also assures us that it is Your Perfect Love that will cast out our fear.  We thank you for that and cling to Your promises now more than ever before because they are SURE and STEADFAST. 

Bible Journaling

You guys, I am SO excited that I simply have to share with you my newest hobby/project. Yesterday, I stumbled across this post from a blog I read called Illustrated Faith.

It is a site about Bible Journaling.  I fell in love immediately!  I opened every single link and just got more and more excited.  Years ago I had ordered a NKJV journaling Bible. (It is a regular Bible with 2 plus inch margins with lines on each page for journaling.)  I have been making notes there for a while now; what a particular Scripture meant to me on a certain date and why.  But now, I can decorate those pages!!  On that website I found a book I also ordered from Amazon:

Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible by Lisa Nichols Hickman

Now, most of us reading this have been taught that we would NEVER hardly even write in our Bible’s let alone decorate!  But as I read some of the posts on that original site, the gals that were journaling in their Bibles with art stuff found that they were meditating on the words all the while they were working on their pages, so it did indeed become a time of worship.

To get TONS of other ideas, check out this on Pinterest.

I know this will only resonate with a few of you but those it does will definitely give a few of you the bug!  I am not artistic at all but I have been a scrapbook-er for years and I intend to use scrapbook supplies.  Those who are more artistic can use paints, pens, whatever.  I just think it will be such fun.  Am going shopping this weekend!!

Sleepless nights…

Ahhhh, I’ve reached that stage in life where I do not sleep well most nights.  Up and down. Knees hurt, feet hurt.  I hate taking pills stronger than an Advil so this is not a cry for sleep aids!!

What I do want to write about though is one thing that does help me get back to sleep when I am not dealing with the aching knees or gouty feet.

I pick a verse(s) of Scripture and say it over and over in my mind and it almost always settles me down, calms any anxieties or fears and I go back to sleep.  Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trust in You.”  It works; it truly does. The other night when I was worrying about all the evil in the world/this country/my town, right down to my neighborhood, the verse that came to mind was John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me.”

 Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Be anxious about nothing but pray about everything.  I have literally been doing this for quite some time now and it is a WONDERFUL tool that works amazingly.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t cling to the promises of God, of Jesus, literally, when I was going to meetings like I do now.  I don’t think too many others did either.  The reason I say that is because now when I might mention to a professing friend or relative how I am now literally putting God’s Word to the test, they are noticeably uncomfortable.  Are they uncomfortable because I am the one quoting Scripture and I shouldn’t be because I now have no right to do that because I don’t go to meetings anymore? Or are they uncomfortable because I am using Scripture in my every day conversation? Or would they be uncomfortable talking about any Scripture outside of a meeting setting?  I don’t know.  I wonder if I was still going to meetings and was talking about Scripture to the degree I am writing about, how it would be received.  I don’t know the answer to that either.

Another verse I pray often is “Deliver me from evil.”  Jesus suggested we pray that and I do.  I have been praying that for years now.

Another source of help I discovered a while back that helps me rest at night is a wonderful book of prayers called Yours is the Day, Lord….Yours is the Night” by Jeanie and David Gushee.  In the introduction of this book, the authors write:  This book “includes Christian prayers from every continent in the habitable world.  We primarily designed it with individuals in mind, to assist Christians in their daily prayer times with God.  This book is not meant to serve as a substitute for spontaneous Christian prayers but as a springboard for them.  We hope you will use these morning prayers as we do — as a way to wake up and greet the new day with God, inspired by the noble aspirations of some of the heroes of the faith, followed by talking with God about the feelings in our own hearts. The evening prayers close the day, asking for God’s blessing as we lose ourselves to sleep.  We find that they combine nicely with a personal prayer as we drift off, thanking God for the good aspects of the day just concluded.”  What I love the most is the authors of the prayers they have compiled span decades and centuries.  I love the honest and often eloquent prayers of individuals who may have lived centuries ago and yet obviously had a very real and relevant relationship with God.

I want to conclude this post by copying a few of the evening prayers I love the most.  Again, I highly recommend this book.  It is beautiful.


For New Year’s Day it was:

Grant, O Lord,
That as the years change,
I may find rest in Your eternal changelessness
secure in the faith that,
while we come and go,
and life changes around us,
You are always the same,
Guiding us with Your wisdom,
and protecting us with Your love.

Amen    (William Temple 1881-1944)

Watch, dear Lord,
with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
bless your dying ones,
soothe Your suffering ones,
pity your afflicted ones,
shield your joyous ones,
and all for Your love’s sake.

Amen (Augustine of Hippo 354-430)

Abide with me,
Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens,
Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail
And comforts flee,
Help of the helpless,
O abide with me.

Amen (Henry Francis Lyte 1793-1847)

Calm me, O Lord, as You stilled the storm
Still me, O Lord; keep me from harm.
Let all the storms within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in Your peace.

Amen (Celtic prayer)

O Merciful God, eternal light, shining in darkness…
since Thou has appointed the night for rest and the day for labor,
we beseech Thee grant that our bodies may rest in peace and quietness,
that afterward they may be able to endure the labor they must bear….
Defend us against all the assaults of the devil and take us
Into Thy holy protection.
And although we have not passed this day
without greatly sinning against Thee,
we beseech Thee to hide our sins with Thy mercy,
as Thou hidest all things on Earth with the darkness of the night….
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen (John Calvin 1509-1564)