Friday, February 26, 2010

Hugs, Handshakes, and Hellos

In my previous post I mentioned hugs, handshakes, and hellos. This is a first hand experience of my family trying to find a place to meet God every week in a house of worship. I think it might help others who have faithfully been a part of the same congregation for many years be more aware of just how hard it is for a new person and family walking through church doors for the first time!


Sweaty palms gripped the steering wheel and an anxious heart made my foot press unknowingly further down on the gas pedal until my eyes caught glance of the speedometer. As I gradually slowed the car, I prayed and asked the Lord to ease my fretting over my children attending youth group for the first time at a new church. The onslaught of questions and statements flooded my mind as we pulled into the parking lot.

“Would anyone notice we were new?”
“I hope people are friendly.”
“I hope they don’t just stare at the new people.”
“Would this congregation be kind and welcoming to my children?”
“Is this the place where the Lord would have us worship and be fed?”

Question after question followed by statement after statement flooded my mind until at last I took a deep breath and released my grip from the wheel to enter the unknown.

My family and I have relocated several times in the past eight years and each time I know it is imperative for myself, especially as a stay at home mom, and for my family to get connected to a church body. I get very anxious (even though Paul warns us to be anxious about nothing) over the entire process of finding a new church family, but also excited for what God has in store for us as he opens doors to new friendships of everlasting proportions.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Upon entering a church for the first time, a “warm fuzzy” environment with an embrace of love which seems to envelop the entire church body in a bear hug is essential and key to my family ever attending for a second time. After entering some places of worship, we did not make it past the sanctuary doors because the glares and stares portrayed an unfriendly environment. These unfortunate Sunday’s were met with great sadness followed by brunch out to soothe our dismal encounter.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” I Peter 5:14

If we make it to a pew, preferably the back, I observe the people of the congregation. I want to see deep devotion, care, and love (very essential) between the parishioners. I like handshakes, hellos, and hugs, followed by a greeting of genuine friendship. A rare sighting of a greeting with “a kiss of love” as Paul speaks of scores extra points. However, I get excited when my observing is interrupted by a tap on the shoulder and a fellow brother or sister in the Lord greets and welcomes us. Hey, they noticed the new comers! Above all, I must see love! I must feel love for without love God does not exist for God is love…hands down!

“Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God, everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:7-8

Not only do I observe how the congregation interacts with each other, but I also look at the age of all who attend. If all I see are canes, walkers, and white hair a red flag goes up. I begin to look for the youth and young couples. If I don’t see them I believe I may have stumbled upon a stagnate church afraid of change. This may be judgmental on my part for which forgiveness is needed, but I have children who also need fellowship and friends with the same values. It is my God given role to raise them in the way of the Lord and to provide them with a secondary means of learning about Jesus surrounded by a church body.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

So, I’ve read my last post about ten times. Do you think I may have been a bit judgmental and harsh? Well I would have to answer, “Yes!”, as the Holy Spirit whispers to me I realize I have left out one important word…LOVE! Once again, I am reminded of my own humanness amidst the struggles we face in this world.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,

I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

I Corinthians 13:1

I don’t want to be a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal that would cause others to cover their ears and not desire to see change amongst fellow believers…brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. I want to present how love wins overall causing believers and non-believers to step into a deeper more intimate relationship with the heavenly Father.

First, I would like to correct my former statement in my previous post of church being an “institution”. “The church” is not an institution. The church is not the building in which one goes on a Sunday morning for a service. The church is those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

“For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes

in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

John 6:40

The church is also known as the “bride” of Christ and Christ as the “bridegroom”. This analogy is stated in Ephesians 5:22-27.

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

And Christ will return for his bride the church.

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”

Revelation 19:7

So may I ask the church, those who believe in Jesus Christ, have you made yourself ready for the bridegrooms return? Ready? What do I mean by ready you ask? Have you spent time in fellowship with your bridegroom (Jesus) to know him? Do you renew your mind daily as you read the Word of God. Do you have quiet moments in prayer and silence to allow the Holy Spirit to speak sweetly nudging you in certain directions?

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his

Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

I Corinthians 1:9

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—

his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us,

not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,”

Titus 3:4-6

I realize as well in my previous post I blamed pastors and leaders of a church body as the cause of the lack of loving others well because of their business like attitude. Who am I to point a finger, because I have three other fingers pointing back at me! I am every bit as responsible and so are all believers to ensure the well being and spiritual growth of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!

So "church"...get out your Bibles...find a quiet spot...pull up an empty chair beside you for Jesus...and let's spend some time with Him! I'm only just beginning...stay tuned for more posts on the current state of the church and some possible solutions as seen by a fellow believer and God chaser heart!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Flame Goes Dead

I currently attend St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fleetwood, PA. I have come to love this church and believe my family has found a place to meet God every Sunday. My comments and views in no way reflect St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, but deal with the angst of several friends now suffering pain as a result of what seems to be churches who have lost focus.


I’m a little steamed today as I try to keep things in perspective. What has worked me up you ask; an institution known as “church”. I have several friends at the moment who are struggling with the condemnation, lack of love and acceptance in times of need, and the ongoing plight of an attitude of “business as usual” instead of “love one another” from pastors and leaders of congregations.

One thing that has bothered me most has been the politics that play into the church setting. I wish I could say it isn’t so, but it is and does happen. It’s sad to see strong leaders become weak because of judgmental attitudes towards others and lack of grace. Did they forget the mercy which the good Lord granted unto them?

It is despairing to witness the change in mentality of the church being run like a business and that bigger is better. What gets lost in all of this? Love, fellowship, and hospitality…simple gestures of care and concern go missing amongst the shuffle of the next meeting or building to construct. As a result, the shepherd of the flock looses focus on relationships and instead becomes consumed with their week running smoothly.

What happened to hugs, handshakes, and hellos and the days of not having to ask if there is a new person attending, but actually notice a new God seeker when they walk in the front doors for the first time? I’ve heard many stand at the pulpit including pastors and ask,

"Are there any visitors today."

Take it from me (a person who has been the new one walking in for the first time on many occasions) you don’t want to be pointed out! You want to see the care between the parishioners, you want to feel the love amongst the flock, and you want to experience love first hand with a warm greeting.

I wring my hands together, take a deep inhale and exhale, and realize one word jumps out at me in all I have written thus far…relationships…the church has gotten away from relationships. There needs to be a revival of sorts in which the church gets back to the basics…building relationships. Now, not just with one another, but a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ first and foremost! How can Christ’s love shine in and through us as children of God, if we do not fuel our fire with quiet moments in fellowship with our Abba?

A fire ceases existence without oxygen. The flame goes dead and burns no more. So also have I seen this trend inside the walls of a church…the fire of Christ ceases without the existence of fellowship with Him. The flame of the fire to extend outside the church walls is dead as well because we have forgotten we need our Abba and His Holy Spirit to guide us. In seeking Christ, our flame will burn bright for others to see causing our blaze to dance in jubilation and reach to warm the hearts of others…including our own brothers and sisters in Christ who may be in need or want. We will not be ignorant of another’s poverty or pain because His flame brings awareness to the soul in need.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From Dust to Dust

I love Diet Coke. At times, I actually have thought I might be addicted to the popular soda drink. When I go without a sip of the sweet drink for 3-4 days, I begin to crave a gulp. Sometimes when I don’t have it on hand at home, I run out to buy it just to curb my strong desire for its taste.

Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of the Easter season. This day starts the six weeks preceding our risen Lord. Many people around the world will enter church sanctuaries and have their foreheads or the back side of their hands marked with the sign of the cross with ashes from palm crosses that were burned the previous year. The ashes signify a sinner’s repentance.

So, I know you’re probably wondering what Diet Coke has to do with Ash Wednesday. Some faiths believe it is a good thing to give something up for lent. Now it just can’t be anything, but something that truly has a hold of your life in some form or fashion. This, “something”, should be a type of surrender of sorts that would inflict a form of self-control on your part to not do for the entire six weeks. In doing this, it reminds a person of just how much Christ gave up for us when He surrendered in the garden of Gethsemane when His sweat was like drops of blood and He said,

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
~Luke 22:42

I’ve decided to give up Diet Coke and any kind of soda beverage for the next six weeks. It will be hard for me, especially the first few weeks when I have strong desires to want some. But I’m going to earnestly try to give it up so God can be in charge. Here are some other ideas to give up for Lent…

• Television
• Facebook
• Alcohol
• Chocolate

Lent can also be a time in which we add things that would be good in our lives and create a closer relationship with Jesus. I will continue to send my “Notes of Encouragement” every week, but I also have decided to set aside just five minutes every day to sit quietly and reflect on what Christ did for me. He freed me from the chains of bondage and sin through His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave! Some other things you might want to consider adding to your life…

• Apologize for a wrong you’ve done to another
• Daily prayer
• Daily reading of God’s Word
• Make it a point to sit down and have a family dinner at least once a week
• Encourage someone else

The point of doing these things is to begin to grasp just how much our Heavenly Father has done for us. It is a time for us to take responsibility of our own actions and hopefully in doing this it becomes a permanent part of our life and not just for six weeks. I would love to hear from all of you and what you have decided to give up this Lent season!

I’ll end with the words most pastors or priests might say as they place the ashes on a forehead or hand…

“…for dust you are and dust you shall return.”
~Genesis 3:19

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Splendor of Our God!!!

There is something about the fresh beauty of an untouched snow...

It's as if God reminds us of His power and majesty...

He made it all happen...

Maybe He does it for us to stop...

Stop our unending drive to get to the next task...

We run out of things to do...

Becuase we are stuck with no place to go...

Except to sit...

Stare out the window...

Play with our children...

And be reminded all day long...

How GREAT is our God!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

He Invites!

Have I told you all lately just how much I love my Wednesday morning Bible study! Well I think I have, but I'm going to say it again...I love my Wednesday morning Bible study! This time I set aside mid-week encourages and ministers to my spirit. The time of hear God speak...helps me to press on as I seek to reflect more of Christ in my life.

I'm the youngest in my group of brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't mind one bit, because they all bring such peace and wisdom to my life. They all say such interesting thought provoking things. I've decided to write some of them for you to read.

~Exaggerated restlessness is just as much of a sign of God's presence as a peaceful moment.

~He(Jesus)accepts me as I am with all my limitations.

~Grateful for life, but are you grateful for death?

~We often pray for God to be present in our life or someone else's life. But God is always present. We should change our prayer request and ask God to make us AWARE of his presence in our life and in the lives of those for whom we pray.

And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, this one...

~God doesn't demand...He invites!

Don't you just love their meaningful words of wisdom!