This is a long long post... I'm just saying...
Happy 29th Church Anniversary to my Church, World Changers Church International.
I took that picture on Saturday evening, the night before the anniversary. It is rare that I go to church on Sundays. So Saturday evening service has started up, and that's the New York service and the Australia Sunday morning service, since they are 13 hours ahead.
The Saturday evening service was... interesting. It was a bit deep, directly related to some things I'd been pondering last year. I may post up my notes, because it's something I don't want to forget. The subject matter involved a different facet of trust in God. And I read a book last year that had a section on trust that had me so O_O, that I changed my prayers up a bit (Go back and look at my last post of 2014 and you will see why). Hmm.
And herein is what I particularly look to when I think of church... it is confirmatory. Well for me, it is. And I have an interesting philosophy about it all.
I feel that church should be confirmatory of what you are doing on your own. But it's not really like that. In general, it seems as if people go to church to check off that they went. It shows that I am good, and you are bad because you don't go to church. And that is something I don't do well with: the whole religious judgment thing.
Listen... I spend 1% of my time at church. That is all. The other 99% of the time is spent doing other things. So I can clearly state that, I am who I am when I'm not at church. Everybody is.
Specifically, we are who we truly are... when no one is looking.
And then when some craziness pops off with some preacher, or who we consider this great "Christian" person, we lose our minds. We are aghast. I'm usually not. That person is just being who they are. It just happen to come out from behind closed doors, that's all. They've been that way for awhile. If you think about, you know that's true. Just take a look at yourself, and your private habits... Those thoughts and things you do that you hope no one will ever find out. Hmm.
And I'm writing about this because, as I'm waxing nostalgic about my year on the cusp of my 45th birthday, I'm thinking about the deeper side of myself, the side I think about some 90% of the time: my spiritual self.
I don't consider myself religious. I could say that I am spiritual, but that is such a cliche answer, so I won't use it. I don't care for religion because I fail miserably at it. I'm not super good, whatever that means. I am not perfect and terribly flawed. I don't read my bible all day and I don't pray several times a day. And when things go bad, I don't call my pastor up. I don't really care to if I could. I wouldn't want him up in my business, lol.
I don't want religion... I want relationship.
I want a relationship with God... not based on what the masses think of how, where or why that should happen. But I want a true relationship with God. And I must say, I grow more and more in that aspect with each and every year. It's almost to the point where I almost can't imagine how deep things can go. I learn so much on a daily basis.
And this is why I love my church. I've been a member for over 13 years. And the aim has been to foster a personal relationship with God. Keep the world's definition of "religion" out of it. And that's fine by me.
I know that may be a little hard to understand. But if you've read this blog long enough, you know what I mean. I like to pull back the covers of religion, and get down to what's really going on internally.
But back to waxing nostalgic about church.
I remember 25 years ago, when I was a 19-year-old teenager, my current pastor had come to my church some 7 miles away, to preach a Tuesday evening bible study. He was a funny looking skinny dude with big glasses. But he was the best teacher I'd ever heard. He kept my attention with a sermon title "The Glory of Suffering". It was about the true meaning of patience, where patience meant remaining the same emotionally and attitude-wise through all your truimphant times and times of suffering. It was about not letting your circumstances determine your attitude. If things are going bad, stick with your prayers and goals. Don't flip out. Learn to be skilled in truly patient.
Now, you may ask why I remember that particular sermon some 25 years later... I remember because it got me through school. It got me through a bachelors, masters, and doctorate degree. When things were jacked, I remembered to bring everything back to being patient. I remembered to pray. And I remembered to stick with trusting God, and that goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. Period. Irregardless of how I was feeling.
THAT stuck with me. And I believe it even more 25 years later.
Another thing: I love to write a lot. And I love a good writing workshop. I've been in some type of writing group or writing class every year recently. Someone from the DC headquarters of my job put out a nationwide call for people to join a workplace creative writers group in that area. She shouldn't have sent that out over gubment email because I participate... over the phone. LOL.
Why do I say all this? Because the first ever writer's workshop I ever took was some 12 years ago at my church. My pastor's wife did something interesting with the women's ministry one year. She broke everything up into interest groups. So there was a business women's group, a community service group, a sports group, a crafts group... and a reading/writing group. I knew that I didn't want to get out and throw javelins (yes they were doing that type of stuff). And I knew how to crochet, but the crafts group was more of a sewing group, and I wasn't down for that.
But I loved to read. And I had been dabbling around in a little writing a couple of years earlier, but I didn't really understand what I was doing, nor did I have much confidence concerning it. I was a chemist, not a writer. Should I even be doing such a thing?
And that was the first time I'd seen someone who looked like me and worked a job every day... talk about a book or a story they had written. And as with any type of thing we have at our church, there was a whole gang of women from other churches, so I'd met some really interesting ladies who again, looked like me and worked jobs every day... that wrote books. And the whole goal of the teachers of the workshop was to convince us that we had stories in us and that we could write a book.
I remember calling my best friend and saying "You know, I can write a book. I can write stories."
"Yes you can, girl," she said. "You sure can."
And that was the seed that grew up and blossomed into something spectacular: I love to write.
So much so that I don't care if I publish anything. I just want to WRITE.
It is insatiable, it is.
Then, there was something that I have wanted to write about, I've never written about: the Divorce Recovery Class I took some 11 years ago.
And what a class it was.
First of all, ain't no church suppose to be giving a divorce recovery class. What kind of craziness is that. And normally I wouldn't entertain such a thing. I was recently divorced and I was happy about it. It was a sigh of relief for me, to get away scott free with no real drama or money out of my pocket.
But we had just finished a January church fast, and I had promised myself that I would investigate anything spiritually interesting that came up. And let's face it... a divorce recovery class at church in uh... interesting. But you have to admit, there are divorced people in every congregation. It made sense to address their needs. Who even thinks of us, except to ostracize us?
It was an 8 week course. And honey let me tell you. It was a doozy. Folks had some DEEP rooted pain and anger things going on. I sat there wide-eyed, taking copius notes on whatever the instructor talked about that day. She had to convince folks not to be praying for God to kill their ex-spouses (now that was an interesting debate session... but let's just say, the instructor won that debate, hands down). I met a couple of women who were divorcing pastors of their churches elsewhere, and they explained how you're not only divorcing a husband, you are divorcing the whole congregation.
That had to be the most intense and most interesting thing I had ever gone through. And the biggest thing I came away with was..."God hates divorce, but he does not hate you."
And that we should treat it like a needle skipping on the record of life. The needle skips, but the song can keep playing. Go on with your life. God still loves you.
We each got up to speak at the last session during a dinner on the last day. Now, if you know me, you know how notoriously quiet, reserved, and observant I am, but I was so moved that I myself got up and gave a five minute speech about some divorce issues I had that I didn't even know I had.
Someone was struggling with the lost of family. Another was struggling with wanting God to kill her spouse. The ex-first ladies were struggling with divorcing not only the pastor, but the congregation... And when they learned that I was 34 years old, they referred to me as "The baby"... because I was so young.
And I was struggling with feeling guilty with being so doggone happy after my divorce. I felt so guilty. And all that lifted during the course of the class. I don't think I could have every spoken that elsewhere, only amongst that group of people. I'd only been talking about it in my prayers. And I could speak it to others, without fear of judgment.
The most interesting speech was from a 90 year old woman who happen to come only to the last class. And the last class was about divorce and how to deal with your children. It wasn't anything that I was particularly interested in, but it was informative. She stood up and said, "I asked my daughter to take me up to that church to that class I heard about. And I just wanna say in 1948, my husband left and didn't come back. He left me with 6 kids. And I've struggled in my mind and heart all these years, and if I would've had a class like this back then, I would've been alright."
Now that right there? I will never forget that. I know I got things I struggle with, but I don't wanna be struggling 50 years with nothing. But to get free in your mind, even after 50 years, means a whole lot. That woman had been probably praying for 50 years about it all. I thought about that for a long time.
When the 8 weeks (one day a week) sessions were over, we were sad. Soooo much had come out among the 25 of us in that conference room. I met so many good people.
This was such a long post, even for me. As blogger Chele has said... don't say I'm long-winded, say I'm prolific.
And so I am prolific about remembering my church experience on it's 29th anniversary.
I've always wanted to write about those 2 situations discussed here.
And I look at folk a bit strange-like when they want to argue me down about my pastor or my church.
I don't argue. I let them talk. I have to listen for the problem they have within their own beliefs, listen for their issues. Because it always shows up, the more they talk and point the finger at me. No one should be putting that energy into arguing with me about what I'm doing. It's almost laughable.
I'm satisfied. I rarely even talk about these things. But I always remind myself to look back at my growth. And how my church has fostered that growth and fostered my pursuit with a better understanding of an relationship with God. And that is my personal evidence that this is the best place for me... peace and personal progress.
Me and most of my friends go to different churches. And there is no judgment among us. What I love is that one will send me notes, another will text me what they learned that day, another will call and tell me of an interesting scripture they have read. And another will send an encouraging email. And 100% of it is always some answer to some recent prayer.
That is what I love. That is how I grow.
Through that and through church...
Enough waxing nostalgic about church. I've only told the half of it. I have more stories, but I will be writing all night, lol.
Happy Anniversary Church! And thanks for helping this Oldgirl grow in her spirit.
More nostalgic wax to come.
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