I can’t eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie without craving watered down tropical punch Kool-Aid to go with it. Weird, I know. Cookies and Kool-Aid are actually time traveling devices that transport me back to 90 degree mornings outside on the front walkway of the church during the best week of my summer, Vacation Bible School. Every summer, at our small Lutheran church, the halls were transformed and the cookies were baked. I loved our little church. I went every single Sunday, well almost. I had a God-mother who took her title very seriously and expected us to show up, me with my panty hose and patent leather shoes. Church was a place where I belonged, even though most of the time I was the only kid in my class. My teacher still showed up every week, to teach, just me. I wasn’t ever combined with another class or made to feel like I wasn’t important enough to be taught.
After Sunday school I would walk over to the church building, where the women were scattered about in the kitchen, making coffee and serving cookies. The men were picking up chairs or standing waiting on their women. I would sit next to my grandmother, waiting for her to dig out a piece of gum for me, always making too much noise and gaining disapproving looks from everyone around. She would simply roll her eyes and make all the noise she wanted, even during prayer. I made sure to memorize all of the liturgies and “sayings’. I would flip through the hymnals and pretend that I could sing, and that I knew them all. I don’t ever remember saying that I didn’t want to go, or that I was ready to leave.
I loved church.
I still love church.
Church was such a safe place for me, away from the realities of my somewhat dysfunctional and painful life. Somehow, a midst all of it, Jesus found me there in that church . I was in Christmas plays, and read from the Bible on Sunday mornings. We went to banquets and dinners and celebrated holidays and grieved the dead.
Best friends were made at church, and those friends, somehow became family. Life happened at my little Lutheran church on the corner of that aging neighborhood. I found eternity at church, ministry was planted in my heart at that small church, the love of Christ became real there through people and family and experiences.
There is a part of me that feels like this is the intended definition, and maybe what I still search for. Or maybe it’s just a really great childhood memory that I relentless try to recreate. Whatever it is, it’s something. And I keep looking for it. The countless churches I’ve tried and prayed about it and sought after all were missing it. Even though ‘COMMUNITY’ was in the name of most of the churches, community is what lacked most. I give high fives to those that try to create and imitate, but it just can’t be forced. It just can’t be programmed or designed or modeled.
That little church growing up really understood genuine love and concern.
Most churches miss that…
Our society misses that…
How do we fix it?! Ironically, the church is where it must start.
What is your favorite church community memory? What are some things you see working in the church?
The best place to start is online. Google-ing and researching. Checking backgrounds and bios and music preferences. Before you even plan the date, you can find out with just a few clicks whether or not it’s even worth your time.
Some results prove to be misleading, with fancy words and fantastic photos. But then you show up and it’s a whole different scenario, nothing like you expected. All of those hours online can backfire on you. You build that day up in your head, with great expectations because of all you see on this website or that blog, only to be completely underwhelmed an hour later.
It’s all worth it. If you find “the one”. The one that connects with you and provides a sense of comfort and makes you feel loved. The one that makes you want to be a better person. After years of searching, I’m not sure there is just ONE, like that one soul mate that is meant just for you. Like in anything, don’t we have to sacrifice one for the other? Aren’t there just some non-negotiables and some things that you just let slide? I mean, if the music isn’t your rhythm, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?
Sounds like a finding a boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, wife…
It kinda is.
Afterall, we are Jesus’ bride, aren’t we?
My two year search for a church was painful, and discouraging, and in the end, gave me a new perspective of the church as a whole. I spent many months resenting the Americanized definition of a place of worship. At times I even just refused to go. I have endured criticism and been accused of being “judgmental” (Christians love to use this word). Overall I have been heartbroken at what I have found the church to become.
My journey, although painful and frustrating, has given me a new perspective of people and brokenness and more than ever our need for a Savior. I am still convinced that the church is the place that has the potential to save the world, I’m just not sure every pastor believes the same. Oh, they may say they believe it, but their churches, with the programs and the glitz and all the other stuff that gets in the way prove to be the absolute opposite of what I believe the church was designed to be.
I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong…but who knows I might actually be right.
Join me over the next few weeks as I share with you how searching for a church for my family and I has changed me, grown me and given me a new perspective of Jesus.
At church on Saturday I was reminded of the triumphant story of GIDEON and his seemingly ill-equipped self and just a few dudes willing to fight with him. So much goodness from all of it, but there’s THIS that just won’t go away…
…and put trumpets into the hands of all of them & empty jars & torches…. [judges 7:16]
Gideon was a scared-y cat, a runt, an unlikely pick to lead an army. He answered God’s call to defeat the enemy. Through a drastic selection process, of sending the scared home, and watching how each of them drank water, God dwindled Gideon’s army down to 300. Through major showing off-because God does that- he handed Gideon and his soldiers
- empty jars
These were their weapons, their tools…well those things and a great faith. Then Gideon instructed his army, to blow their trumpets, to smash their vessels, to hold their torches high. And they were to shout…
For God and for Gideon
I’ve spent most of my life as one form of Gideon’s soldiers. In His process of selecting me, God has tested my vision, my focus. I have willingly left in fear. I have done it wrong and was sent home. I have been handed tools, but instead of great faith, I have compared myself to what my enemies hold, as well as my allies. I have complained and sulked and whined.
I sat in church wondering how many other woman have done the same. How many of us have discarded what God has given us as not worthy to win the battle?
So often we wish we could be artists, or writers. We desire perfectly clean houses, and God-fearing children and a husband who is bound to be called into full time ministry at any moment because of his stellar spiritual leadership.
We hold our trumpet–our noisemaker–and instead of a weapon to slay the day, its sounds more like fighting children, siblings who seem to hate each other. And a snoring husband, who falls asleep before he prays with you.
And we stare at our dishes in the sink for two days & we can’t remember the last time we washed our hair (true story). We don’t even write down our grocery list, much less the next best seller at all the Christian book stores, that all the mom’s who have THEIR *ish together read between yoga and playdates at Chik-fil-a and putting something in the crockpot for dinner.
And we sit and think of the degree we should have finished, and about that other lady at church who leads so well and started her own non-profit and in her first day got 3,000 likes on Facebook, which is weird because there are only like 85 people at your church.
And we want that families income, and her house, and her wedding ring, her job and her self-discipline to wake at 5 am and drink a cup of coffee from the Keurig before Crossfit.
Only to be left to become the noisemaker ourselves (as we yell at our kids) and utterly empty. An empty vessel, nothing left to give. nothing. Hand us a torch, and we will burn it all down, just so we don’t have to do laundry.
But there must be a time — a time in our life — in my life–like now.
Yeah, a time like now.
To rise up, gripping whatever God has handed us…
All of our beauty, all of our flaws, all of our giftedness…
The gift of rocking a baby or saving an animal…
We must embrace our weapons, of kindness, of patience, of love…
Holding tightly to the gift of organizing, or multi-tasking, or encouraging or serving, or just making it through another Monday…
We have weapons of forgiveness, and a clean car and shaved legs…
All of them exactly held by the exactly right person.
We are not noisemakers!
We are trumpets, sounding loudly to drown out the voice of comparison, rejection, shame, self-hatred.
We are not empty vessels!
We are merely poured out in total surrender, daily being filled by living water so we may thirst no more.
We do not live in darkness!
We have a torch to carry, to usher light into the darkness that surrounds us. This torch is to be passed on to the very bratty kids we raise, the ones that hate each other.
All of us, in this camp together, can sound our trumpets, fill our vessels and proudly hold our torches, and we can all shout together
For God and for [insert your name here].
We can defeat this enemy that daily rises against, whispering that we aren’t enough, that we don’t have enough, that we don’t do enough. When we do this, we don’t have to be afraid, for the Lord is with us….
And God’s presence is enough.
Humans of New York published a photo of a lady in the subway, who is a Christian, planting churches in New York. I see these in my Facebook Feed, anyone can subscribe, which means anyone can comment. And people are mean, and hateful and tell you that your trumpet is useless and your vessel is ugly and your torch isn’t Scentsy so it’s not good enough. Boldly she proclaimed the Gospel, and then said, “Feel free to share it. I won’t be reading the comment section.”
So let’s do that.
Let’s not read the comment section.
Instead, let’s live in obedience, and the safety of God’s gifts to us and his calling to use them accordingly. His gift of humanity, of being real and imperfect, Let’s stand with our different versions of trumpets and should with confidence and peace, because he assures us that it won’t kill us.
Those 300 of Gideon’s men were victorious with what God gave them, because of the faith to do what he instructed them to do. We can, too. They won. We win.
FOR GOD AND FOR TIFFANY
If you know me … You know I’m not a huge fan of Twitter. I have a Twitter and tweet occasionally but it’s just a little too much self promotion for me.
But then there is PERISCOPE and I think I might be in love. The blogging world is very static-y right …there are so many. So. Many.
But PERISCOPE! It gives me the chance to voice my thoughts on the go–no filter-no editing. And if you can watch live, awesome! If not .. There it is for you to watch later!
It’s simple to use and catching on. Head over and die laid the PERISCOPE app. Then follow me tj_crawford!
Hope to meet you there!!!