No Greater Joy

No Greater Joy

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Finding God in People

As it is after midnight I'm here because I can't sleep. My mind won't shut off. It's now Sunday morning. That puts me on the verge of a panic attack.

I blogged way back in July about some of my struggles with church. I wish I could say it has been better. We started a new church journey about 15 months ago. This church has a wonderful pastor, wonderful leadership, but that's about as far as I can get. I've tried being part by joining things, volunteering, and going to events. I'm still an outsider. Everyone is nice. No one knows my name that didn't before we began attending. I can't say I've learned very many either.

When will 'church people' wake up? I listen to the people in Sunday school show their Bible knowledge. I hear the church telling us who to pray for and how to serve. Everything looks great when you're observing as a newcomer. My heart hurts because I wonder if it's me. I know there aren't many my age with kids that match my kids' ages. Why does that matter?

I keep telling God my hurt, and I know there must be something else out there that's better. It's like being rejected from family.

....Lacking sleep and emotions are running high, but even though I told my husband I would go to church I don't know if I can handle it. I'm going to pray myself to sleep and hopefully feel better when I wake. I will hold to God's promises that are better than anything man can offer.

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
~Isaiah 41:10

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Church: A Love/Hate Relationship

I must begin by saying that what I write is my own opinion. You may agree, you may not, but this is from my own observations and experiences.

I literally grew up in the church, was saved at an early age, and have always held strong to my faith regardless of my circumstances. Church has always been part of my life...actively, not out of obligation or duty, but because I wanted to. I've spent countless years in church, teaching Sunday schools, leading VBS, women's ministry, Bible studies, attending summer camp from the age of 8 until I turned 19, and I even attended Bible college where I earned a degree in Biblical studies. This is to say that God has always been very important to me.

So what is the problem?

The older I get, and the more involved I have become with church I realize why some don't regularly attend and why some have left the church. Most of what is concerning the church right now is the people leaving during their college and young adult days. Research has been done that suggests we've lost these people back in their elementary years. Many churches are very good at planning events and having great entertainment to draw people in, adding programs to fit every stage of life, etc., but what about people that have always been in church and just suddenly stop? I'm in my late 30's and I often wish I would just stay in bed on Sunday morning. How did I get to this point? I can tell you it didn't happen overnight or because of one event, person, or church.

1. Priorities.
When I was growing up in the deep South most people attended church. It was like an expected behavior. My children don't get that experience. Instead their friends (even from church) have sports, sleep-overs, parties, and other things going on instead. It seems more and more that when their is a conflict with church on Sunday morning, church loses. I'm not saying you're less of a Christian for not attending church, but what is the message we teach our children when we can't say no to outside opportunities but can always say no to church?

2. Involvement.
Have you ever counted the number of people in your church that lead and plan activities and compared them to the total number of regular attenders in your church? Unfortunately I've seen where it's the same few people that make up the majority of the work that is carried out in a church. If I had to guess, I would say this applies to the majority of churches rather than the minority. As a parent it is frustrating when no one wants to help with children's ministries. One doesn't have to be a parent to work with children. If we only rely on parents to run children's activities, then I may as well stay home and do children's activities at home. Parents need a break, too. There are many needs in a church from helping its people to painting its walls. It doesn't require that you be gifted in an area to serve. You do it to serve God. It's time to step away from self-centered thinking in our churches.

3. Leadership.
Does your congregation show respect for its leadership? Do you encourage those that work so hard to lead and care for such a diverse group of people? When you don't like something do you bring it to the leader or take it to Facebook? Do you pray for your leadership? On the other side leaders must be in touch with their church body, too and show genuine care and concern for the needs of the people. When leaders don't listen to the people under their care or don't show interest in them, they leave, or worse, they mistakenly correlate the leadership's failures to failure from God. Do your leaders know about the lives of the flock? Do they notice when people visit or when people stop showing up?
Is your church mentoring and training its leadership? I applaud the churches that follow biblical guidelines for appointing leaders and that purposely train their leaders. In most jobs continued training is required to stay fresh, up to date, and knowledgeable about the job. Our leaders need the same in addition to encouragement from the church.

4. Busyness.
This is the one I notice the most. I often notice that we have become so busy with our own lives that we have no time to invest in the lives of others. Usually I'm the person that tries to make people feel welcome. I greet the new people and over the years our family has hosted numerous people in our home for a meal or offered help to people when needed. I've spent years in a church where I served as much as I could and yet felt I couldn't depend on many people to notice if I was there or not. I think the most hurtful thing was to see a church that was my family, that I invested in for years, make no effort to contact me when I missed a month of church. You'll understand my offense when the church embarked upon a season of change which included contacting those that had left (as they told the congregation) yet no one called us, nor did anyone call some of the others I knew that left. I'm sure it was all with good intention, but apparently something came up that pushed this aside. Don't assume I harbor anger against this church. I actually have a lot of great memories and friends from there. My kids are also still involved in groups there. As we have found a new church we have found some of our needs met that weren't met previously, however people are busy everywhere. I don't know that anyone would notice our absence where we are now, and like most other places I've been, no one asks much about us or tries to get to know us. It's just a sad reality that probably causes the most harm to the church.

5. Music.
For years I've heard all the protests over music. Music has become a dividing and deciding point for many people when it comes to church. It sounds like nothing more than sibling rivalry over hymns vs. praise music. Obviously one is more godly than the other, right? Well, the arguments over the type of music, volume, hand raising, and instruments has replaced the argument of King James vs. NIV! I love both types of music, but I don't understand why we think God wants one more than the other. It is about Him, right? Somewhere we've lost that. In reality the arguing over music is part of a bigger problem in the church, the problem of unity. Is it so hard to get along? Is it so hard to find a compromise? Must we alienate people by their choice of song? Do you look at the heart of the song leader or the songs he chooses? When you don't like the music do you throw up a wall that prevents you from worshiping? If so, that's a problem of your own heart, and how you react becomes a problem in the church.

I know there are many other things that could be added to this list. I titled this a love/hate relationship because I love the church and what it is suppose to stand for. I hate that it can make me feel so unwanted and can turn people away from who God really is. There's always room for improvement. Let us be aware of the people sitting in the pews around us on Sunday morning and find ways to invest in them and not just for a couple of minutes on a Sunday morning. Otherwise people like me will give in to that desire to stay in bed on Sunday morning where it's much more comfortable.

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Finding Value in the Me God Made

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and wonder who you really are? Sometimes, okay often, I stop and wonder exactly that. I wonder how people really see me, what will I be remembered for, why would anyone even like me? I remember being told once that for every negative comment you need something like 7 positives to fix it. I know personally that it only takes one comment to ruin my day or even make me question my own worth. You know...that well meaning family member that wonders if you've been stressed lately because you've gained weight, the person the de-friended you on social media, the lady that thinks you're weird because you home schooled your kids, the commercial that tries to convince you you're not fine the way you are, and on and on it goes.

I face my own war daily with myself. I do realize that it's not healthy and that the things questioning my self-worth are all lies, but it's not enough to just know that. Somehow I need to believe it. That's easier some days than others. The days I am home spending time with my family boost my image of myself. Listening to my teenager tell me she's thankful she can talk to me about anything, hearing my six year old tell me she loves me more than anything except God and Jesus, my eleven year old who wants to cuddle up with me as much as I give her time for, the husband that shows appreciation for the meal I made, all make me feel valued because someone else is showing interest in me. But what about the next day when you try the new recipe that flops, you don't have your daughter's favorite outfit clean, or you're too busy with paying bills and doing laundry that you can't give extra time to the kids or even your husband? You see the problem is I've let my self-worth become directly connected to other people in some way. So many days I've convinced myself that I'm only valuable if I make others happy and satisfied in some way. Until I get my mind out of this pattern of thinking, I will continue this war I've waged with myself where I am both my adversary and ally. So what do I do?

Sift the truth from the lies. The fact is I am loved. Regardless of any mistakes I make, I know there are people around me that love me if I take the time to recognize their acts of love toward me. Besides that my worth lies in my Creator. I am made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Not only I, but everyone around me. We are in the image of the same Creator which means my value is the same as everyone else's.

Find forgiveness. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12) God is waiting for everyone to come to Him, and we can start each day made new. A wise mentor in my life told me to keep short accounts with God. I mess up, I stumble, I fail, but nothing is beyond the forgiveness of God. My wrongs are no more or less than anyone's. I have experienced personal renewal when I go before my God and give over my load of junk. My conscience is clear, my heart is without burden, and I have demonstrated a trust in Him alone, not other people.

Someone sacrificed a life for me. One of the most popular verses of all time is John 3:16, but the message will NEVER change. God loved us ALL, loved ME, so much the He sent Jesus, His Son, to die for us, to die for ME. I am ashamed to admit that I don't demonstrate enough thankfulness for this sacrifice, that I don't share enough of His sacrifice for everyone around me. This great sacrifice, my trust in the One that gave Himself for me, has secured my eternity!

I write this message for myself, but I am thankful if it helps someone else, too. God is my redeemer, He values me, and I need to surrender in this war from both sides and realize that this war I've waged is without merit. I will not give Satan a foothold into my self-worth. "For I am His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that I would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Growing up I was always the first to jump at opportunities. Always an extrovert looking to make new friends, go to events, hang out with get the idea. I didn't want to miss anything.

I don't know what it is. Is it getting older? Increased responsibilities at home? Tired from working? No longer do I want 'out' as much as I formerly did. I enjoy being home. I don't want to spend time on the phone. Facebook has been perfect because I can still know what people do without leaving my couch.

I also have experienced a lot of hurts in my life. Hurts from people that are supposed to care, supposed to be my friends, my family. I think in other ways that has made me prefer to be more alone. My enjoyment is found with my girls, being home with my own family. I have tired of trying to understand people. I don't want any more disappointments. I don't want to explain myself or try to figure out why people can't accept me as I am.

Well I suppose this seems a depressing blog! There are days that I am. I just keep talking to God even when no one else wants to listen. No explanations are needed for Him. He already knows. Maybe someday my faith in humanity will be restored. Maybe I will enjoy the way I once was. For now I will try to find peace with how I have changed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Perfect Mom

Another year is

I am looking forward to another year of Hearts at Home in March! This year's theme is 'No More Perfect Moms'. I understand the idea behind that, but here are my thoughts about that.

A Perfect Mom

A perfect mom

is able to jump out of bed in a single bound when she hears a crash downstairs

knows that a quiet house is not a good sign

can feel as defeated as her daughter over algebra homework

cries with her children when someone hurts their feelings

yells at the careless driver on the road for endangering the lives of her precious cargo

successfully hides a stash of chocolate in her room because it's not good for the kids

knows just when to put the kids down for a nap so she can enjoy her favorite show

provides a courtesy to her children in the restaurant when she offers a special trip to the restroom

gets tired of driving to the orthodontist, school dances, play dates, and sporting events yet does them anyway

forgets to wash that special outfit for school the next day

invades her child's Facebook account and may or may not post a sweet message about Mom on their page

tags pictures of her children on Facebook doing 'interesting' things

lets her 5 year old pick her clothes and do her own hair before taking her out in public

knows when to admit she's wrong to her children

realizes how quickly her children are growing up

gives out lots of hugs, kisses, and 'I love you's' even when they're not wanted

knows this job was assigned to her by God, and is easier with His help

Therefore I declare, "I AM A PERFECT MOM!!"