"Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God."

Friday, September 19, 2014

FF: You Don't Need to Go to Church

My grandfather was a preacher so I grew up in church.  But, throughout the course of my life, I've spent more time outside of church than in it.

At many times, I pondered the importance of going.  Sometimes it felt like the "right thing to do" but it seemed like I was just going to get an attendance star.  Sometimes I went long enough to "get my Jesus fix" but stalled when life got hectic.  Sometimes I left church altogether because of something somebody did or said, or because of major transitions.

And, the two points of my life when my walk with God got the closest were after tragedy and loss - when I wasn't going to church.

Often I thought, was church really necessary?

What I knew was...
  • You don't need to go to church to believe in God.
  • You don't have to be in church to worship Him.
  • Church (and God) had let me down.
So wasn't it just easier to be a Christian on my terms?
Did I really need to go to church regularly?

To get you to the end, I should start at the beginning.....


Growing up, for the most part, I only went to church when visiting my grandparents.  It wasn't something we did in my own childhood home.  My Mom didn't have a vehicle and the only church within walking distance wasn't our denomination.

Grandpa's influence led me to be saved at the age 9 when, on wobbly knees, I walked towards his smiling face and warm arms one Sunday.  Yet, even with that foundation, once married, I wasn't consistent in church attendance.  Major holidays and the occasional surprise visits were about the only time I went.  I believed in God but felt regular church attendance was something older people (like my grandparents) did.

When we learned that we were expecting, my husband and I talked of hopes and dreams for the future.  One included raising our children in church.  I'm not sure why that was a value, given that neither of us were brought up going.

Though we shared the Bible stories with our oldest from the start, we didn't make regular rounds of finding a church home until he was three or four years old.  And along the way, many churches failed us.  Some had too many restrictions and requirements.  One told us our son made too much noise.  Others expected service too soon, before we really even understood what being a Christian even meant.  For awhile, we just quit trying.

After the birth of our second child, six years into our marriage, we found our first church home.  Both my boys would end up baptized there.  But we were seasonal attendees at best, going for the kids and when it was convenient to our schedule.  And then, due to tragedy, we were forced into church limbo.

Given that we never consistently attended, it seemed strange to me that I struggled with our absence.  In our walk with grief from child loss, my relationship with God was a roller coaster.  I was angry, scared, and confused, but I still clung to what faith I had.  No matter how much I pushed God away, I could feel that He never let go.

There was something that kept pulling, kept nudging me to go and find a church home. Stubbornly, as I often do, I dug my heels in and didn't listen.  At least not right away.

Now, when think back on the blessings that our current church home has given us, I sometimes wonder what we missed out on during that time in limbo.  I only thought I was growing in my relationship with Him.

Because, in reality, my walk with God dramatically changed once I fully committed my time to Him.

  • You don't need to go to church to believe in God but you need to go to fully know Him because He+We=Church.  (1 Corinthians 12:12)
  • You don't have to be in church to worship Him but fellowship and discipleship with other believers is true worship.  (Romans 12:5)
  • Church (and God) had let me down but they also picked me up again.  and again. and again.    (1 Thessalonians 5:11)  And in truth, I'd let them down too.

When we quit asking, "Are we going to church today?" and just committed ourselves to go, amazing change began in our lives.

We had other believers helping us be accountable, in love not judgement.  We've had tremendous growth in our knowledge of the Word because we're in it on a regular basis, not just when we're in a pew.    We have others to share our struggles and joys and to pray alongside us.  As a family, our prayer life has grown.  We've learned what service to others is really all about and have found a place for everyone to use their talents and gifts.  Our family has become closer and stronger.  We've changed - for the better - more in the past three years than I feel we did our whole lifetimes before.

Maybe you don't need to go to church.
But once you fully get to know God, you should want to.

For me, it was worth the journey, the struggles, and every twist and turn this Christian walk took me to get where we are today.  I can't imagine my life without the Church.  My hope for you, friends, is that you have a family of faith like this too.  If not, it is my prayer I'm lifting up for you today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pull up a Plate

Our Kentucky family was a tad disappointed with the results of Miss America this week.  Of course, we were a bit biased, but I'm pretty sure it was a nationwide consensus that the talents of the top ten were not exactly equal.  And we missed not getting to see our girl with the green fiddle showcase hers.

{stepping down from my red solo cup soapbox}

Alas, I'm not a judge, but if I were given the duty to hand out "Best Food Blog" awards, this lady below would most certainly get my vote.

Coming from someone who is a Pinterest and Blog connoisseur, I don't quite know how I didn't happen upon on this gem sooner.  Instead, it was a sweet aunt who just knew I'd enjoy reading her stories that gave me her website digits one day.  An added bonus is that her recipes and tips are really, really, really good.

Yes, I'm aware I just used really three times in a row.

But seriously, she deserves it.  I'd post the link right now but when I do, I know you'll leave this little blog and head to hers.  So, I'm digressing just a bit to keep you more than a paragraph or two.  Please come back and thank me later.

My first "wow" moment, upon perusing her blog, was the best mixer tip in the world.  It seems so simple that I don't know how the thought never came to me.  Unless, of course, you count the fact I didn't own a mixer until this year.  Anyway, she has a tip for any ol' hunk of meat that will blow your socks off.  ....If meat has the potential to do that.

I found her at a point when there was a bit more time on my hands, having recently lost my job.  And it was like we became instant friends, even though we've never met and this sentence could make her feel I'm a scary stalker.

It just is so rare to giggle while reading recipes -and trust me, I read a lot of them.  It's unusual to smile while scrolling through pictures of country cooking.  Normally, I just fast jump to the ingredients on most food blogs to scour the list, see if it looks doable, pin it, and go.

The bonus, as I mentioned earlier, is to know that every recipe, of which I've already attempted many, is scrumptious, simple, and supper-repeat-approved.

I don't send you elsewhere often but this is worth a click.  Trust me, friends.  If you don't find a dose of joy at her blog, you need to check your pulse.

So, without further ado, I introduce to you Christy Jordan at the Southern Plate.  You'll notice that my love of fall and apple recipes thought this particular link would serve you well.  But please, don't stop there.  Browse and giggle, rinse and repeat.

There was no compensation for the posting of this recommendation.  
The writer would not turn down a free cookbook, virtual hug, 
or the opportunity to meet and greet her someday, however!  {wink}
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