Searching

Poetry and other random thoughts from a wandering mind and a searching heart!


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Even if it’s true, is it loving?


This Meme  angers me every time I see it.  For me it makes it worse because it is christians who post it.  This week I found it on the facebook page of an elder and a ministers wife.  As of today it has been shared from the original site 39000 times.   I am stunned.

At first reading it sounds possibly a correct assessment.   If you got hurt by “the church” or by those who go to churches…and you lost your faith in God, then perhaps you had faith in the wrong thing.  But how do I know that and who am I to judge?

In my younger days I was a part of a movement that turned out to be more of a cult.  They were legalistic and demanding…even controlling.  At first this movement brought lots of people into the church.  The message was good but the implementation was bad.   As time went along many people became disillusioned, hurt and left.   Some left the church and some left the faith.   I do not believe their initial faith was in men.  I can think of a specific young lady that was brought into the fold.  She was as excited about reading the bible and learning more about Jesus and God as anyone I have ever met.   There was nothing in her response for me to ever doubt that she fell in love with Jesus and wanted to follow Him.   But the practices of this group left her with a different vision of the Jesus she found in scripture and she was hurt and abused by the group.   She left the church and her faith.  I ran into her about ten years later and the hurt was still real and she had no desire to pursue God.   She still crosses my mind and I can only hope that in the ensuing years God found her again.  She was just one of many that struggled with faith after becoming disillusioned with the people who she thought knew more about walking the path than she did.

By way of disclaimer I will state that I have been hurt by “the church”…too many times.  I come from an abusive family but the hurt I have experienced from those who claim Jesus is far worse than any I knew growing up.   I never lost my faith in God but I did at times have to fight my way through a crisis of faith.  I was blessed to have Godly people who stood by me, stuck with me when I seemed to be going off track and who loved me back to higher ground when I had been so wounded by “the church”.  But the sorrow and anger I feel when I see this is not for me.   My relationship with my God is solid.   But for all those who have been hurt, whether young christians like my friend, or those just weak in their faith…or those whom satan managed to entangle,  my heart breaks.   This meme marginalizes those people, it blames the vicitim.   It reopens wounds.

I understand that sometimes there have been trivial issues that people allowed to pull them away from church…or their faith.  That should not be.  We should all be focused on God and never allow anyone or anything to pull us from that focus.  But the reality remains that “the church”, that christians have hurt people.  And too often it has not been small misunderstandings.  The pain is real and the damage is huge.

I am not a scholar but I do know that God calls us to love…all.  He tells us not to cause others to stumble…more importantly He calls us to humility.  If the actions of this thing we call “the church” has caused pain, enough pain to at least some people to cause them to doubt our God, should we not be concerned, humbled, gentle, repentant and do whatever we can to lead them to a purer faith in God?

This meme comes over as arrogant and mean..or that is my opinion of it.   With almost 40000 people posting it on facebook it helps me to understand why we are unable to reach the world with the message that Jesus is love.   We are all broken and if we have not been part of hurting someone we probably will be.  That should humble us.   We should never put our faith in people and we should never let anyone change our relationship with God but this “in your face” message does nothing to help reach those who might have lost faith or never had it.   If they are lost, separated from their God and we are truly part of “THE church”, then our mission should be to find them and bring them into the fold.   This meme does nothing to accomplish that mission.

Even if this message is true, is it necessary?  And if it continues the pain that any person out there felt because of being hurt by “the church”, is it worth being right?   

 

 

 

 

 

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It is time to break down the walls that divide us and embrace the things that unite us.


I just got back from seeing “God is not Dead 2”.  I love going to these spiritually based movies because they make me think deeply about spiritual concepts.  Today’s movie reminds me that we are at war, a war against the forces of evil that are way more real than we like to think about or talk about. I think the time is soon coming, if not already upon us when we will be called upon to defend our faith, when our faith will be challenged in ways we have yet to imagine, a time when we will be persecuted, called names, and perhaps be confined for our beliefs. 

Having faith, being a Christian becomes less popular by the day and there is a movement to wipe it out.  While we as Christians know how the story ends and that there is not a chance that God will not maintain a remnant of His people as long as the earth survives, we are already seeing people in foreign countries dying for their faith.  I believe the time is now for those of us who claim the name of Christ to unite together, for us to break down the barriers, the walls that divide us and embrace the things that unite us.  It is time to drop labels, to stop idolizing the particular brand of Christianity we adhere to or the buildings where we gather to worship.  We must be the church, God’s church.  God’s church includes all of those who have understood their need for him, have recognized their own sin and repented of it and who have committed their lives to following Jesus.  It is not confined by titles, buildings, denominations or styles.   

It is time for us to show the world Jesus.  He says that the world will know we are Christians by the way we love each other.   If we are going to be prepared to fight the forces of evil and stand firm in our faith we must figure out how to unite in love.   We must stop fighting each other, we must hold each other accountable to live in righteousness, we must be kind to each other, help each other, offer grace to those who stumble and we must walk in humility.   We must settle our disputes, we must practice reconciliation and forgiveness.  We must learn to love as Jesus loved and commanded us to love each other.

The movie also made me realize how much I hunger for deep, spiritual community, for people to talk with about truth, the challenges of walking in faith….people who will help me to be accountable and who are willing to be held accountable, for a safe place to explore the world around us and the loving response to it.  

If you have not seen the movie check it out.   And if it challenges you or causes you to think, let me know what you take away from it.

 Ephesians 6:12  New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.


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Vitamins for the soul.


A friend texted me on Friday to see if I wanted to meet for coffee. She only had an hour to spare but I readily agreed to meet her. We ordered our coffee and found a table. We launched immediately into talking, filling the hour so quickly and covering quite a few topics. Too soon it was time to part.

I had entered our time together feeling pressed and frustrated about so many things. But I left it feeling calm and renewed. After several weeks of snow, too much time spent at home alone and pressures at work that were dragging me down, it was like a breath of fresh air to get to sit down with a friend and talk.

As I got back into my car to continue my errands I realized that I was craving connection and real conversation.   Not the chatter at work, not the pleasantries that I exchange with people at church, but real conversation, sharing of life.

That thought took me back to a question that had been asked on Wednesday night at church about why people leave the church. I have so often talked to people who say “I don’t feel connected.” That set the gears in motion for me and I started to wonder, what is this connection we all seek? And we do all seek it.   Everyone wants to fit in, to belong, to be a part of something. Everyone wants to feel wanted, needed, special. Everyone wants connection.

I heard a report on the news this week that research was being done to try to discern why teenagers and young adults are leaving their countries to go and join terrorist groups.   It was discovered that at least in some cases, these young people had sought relationships, had tried to find a place to belong, only to meet with failure over and over. And so they go to join this cause, something they can unite around, a place where people want them, accept them, where they are part of something bigger than themselves.

That brought me back to the church question. Don’t we have something bigger than ourselves to unite around? Jesus died for each of us, sinners, bought with a price, washed in the blood….saved by grace. Why does this great truth and His extravagant love for us not pull us together and cause us to pour out lavish love on each other? Why does any member among us feel unaccepted, unloved, like they don’t belong? Why do they feel adrift and not connected?

Is it our own individual sin that causes us to feel disconnected? Is it that as a people we are too distracted, to busy, to unwilling to make commitments?   Is it that we have let ministry take the place of ministering? Is it that while we say it is all about Jesus, it is really more about us?

Do we let our backgrounds, our hurts, our slights, our perceptions and misconceptions, our passion and desire, our pride and our pain, keep us from pursuing connection, from offering connection? Do we walk by hurting people on our way to take care of that tasks that is on our to-do list, do we put up walls that keep people from coming near?

As is always the case with me, I have more questions than answers. What I know is that God created us for community. He did not create us to journey alone. He has left us so many instructions on how to treat each other, how to love each other. Will you join me today in praying that he will show us each how to love as He wishes us to and in learning to do that, find community and connection with each other?

That hour on Friday, that cup of coffee and real conversation….it was a vitamin for my soul!


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He Loves me


I grew up in a house where love was hard to come by. If anyone truly loved anyone else it was really hard to tell by the way they acted, by the way they treated each other. I am not sure how old I was by the time I realized that not all families operated the way mine did. I know by the age of ten I knew that much of what I was being taught in my home life was not truth and so began my never ending quest to make sense of life.

The need for love and affection created huge holes in my life and I sought attention from anyone who would offer it. I overreached and made quite a pest of myself at times as I sought to find someone who could fill those empty holes. In the absence of adults who could offer me the guidance and the stability I needed, I spent much time alone thinking and trying to sort out life.

I was sent to church with my aunt and uncle from a very early age and in that environment I found some of the direction for life that I so desperately sought. As I got older my interest in being there became more than just a way to get out of my house and I became involved in activities and was deeply interested in the scripture.

I became a Christian at the age of 13 confident that this was the life I wanted, that I wanted to worship and serve this God I had learned so much about. I involved myself with people in my church and got involved in youth activities. It was not unusual for me to stop by the preacher’s office after school in the afternoons to talk with him about some new question I had or to ask questions about his sermon from the previous Sunday.

But even though that provided me with some support and some guidance I am not sure I ever truly understood who God was or what it meant to be loved by Him. I was much older when I realized that much of view of God was formed by my relationship with my own father. He was cold and distant, always busy and often impatient. I think I expected God to be the same distant parent.

Through the years my relationship with God waned hot and cold. I had a period in my middle twenties when we were so close and I felt His presence as if He sat right beside me…so real that I felt I could reach out and touch him. But I suffered much hurt at the hands of people, people who were supposed to be His and I confused how they treated me with who He was. It seemed like everyone that I ever loved hurt me or left me at some point. I felt the weight of guilt and shame, always believing that somehow there was something wrong with me that caused them to go. I came to see God as someone who would be there as long as I was good and who would leave me if I messed up. I alternated between seeking Him desperately and pulling back into the shadows to try to deal with guilt and shame.

About ten years ago I was part of a church that split and not too long after that my best friend told me that God had told her not to be friends with me and ended our friendship. The split left me hurt in ways I could never put words to. With that hurt and the end of the friendship I found myself in a deep depression. I was not at all sure where God fit into all of this and sincerely went through a period of time where I believed He hated me. I know that everything in scripture speaks against that but it was the only thing that seemed to make sense for the way my life was going. Like Job I needed for something to make sense.

I decided I was done with God and with church. For most of my life it seemed those two together had only brought me incredible hurt and sorrow. And so I went about trying to ignore Him, to keep my distance from Him. Still I could not escape my desire to know Him, to want to understand His word, to figure out what all of this life meant.

On a Friday morning several years later I found myself heading to Charlotte, NC to go to a Beth Moore conference, alone. My adventures alone always have mixed results. Sometimes I really enjoy doing things and going places alone and at others I plan to do something and find myself feeling uncomfortable and awkward. This day found me looking forward to the time away, hoping to find some renewed hope and faith. I had managed to book a hotel in the downtown area within walking distance of the arena. Once I settled into my room I set off to explore downtown Charlotte. I had a wonderful time wandering around and finally stopped to eat dinner. I walked to the arena, found a great seat and looked down to the floor below to see the person who had ended our friendship sitting in the floor seats just below me. Twenty thousand women and I had to find a seat right where I could see her. I sank into my seat wondering how the weekend could possibly bring me the hope and the comfort I had hoped it would when it had started this way.

Every time I go to one of these events it is always my prayer that God will speak to me, that He will show me why I have come, that I will get a word that I can know is from Him. It had been my prayer driving there and I had come desperate for some kind of direction from Him. But with this turn of events I was discouraged already. Nevertheless I prayed again and soon we began to sing and worship. If you have never been to a Beth Moore conference I encourage you to go. There is nothing quite like the experience and the worship is fantastic. Soon I was lost in the music and the praise and the most amazing thing happened. Suddenly in a way I never had and still cannot explain, God overwhelmed me with His presence and the message that He loved me, that no matter how confused or lost I felt, no matter how messy my life had been, no matter how broken and messed up I felt, that He loved me. He loved me just as I was. As strange as it sounds for someone who grew up in the church and who had committed to Him at age thirteen it was the first time I had truly known and felt that He loved me, not the masses, not just the church, but me. I cannot tell you what the message was that weekend or much else about what happened. I just finally knew that I was loved deeply and personally by the God I so longed to know.

Seems a strange story to tell here and it is deeply personal but I believe there may be others who abide in churches and church circles, that find themselves unsure of His love for them. Like me, you might think He only loves you if you are good, or your life is perfect or if you always follow after Him. But I want you, whoever you are, wherever you are to know He loves YOU! He wants you and He will never stop pursuing you.

In my darkest moments I always remember that Friday night in Charlotte when God reached down and wrapped His arms around me and told me that I was His and that He loved ME. There  is a great peace and deep joy in knowing that no matter what else is happening I am loved by the one who created me, the one who will one day welcome me home!

He loves you too! He never gives up on you…don’t give up on Him. In your darkness, in your grief, in your brokenness, in your sorrow…..no matter where you are, He loves you!

Zephaniah 3:17

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Music connects my soul to God’s and this song by Chris Tomlin is one of my favorites.