Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Silver Lining

I’m completely overwhelmed today with gratitude for the silver lining beginning to appear after the hardest 2 years I can remember.

I used to say that I didn’t wish for anyone to experience what we witnessed this last 22 months. Now, I’m wondering if all of us wouldn’t be more compassionate and brave if we did live through similar circumstances. I’m talking about the kind of hurt, deception and accusations that cause you to break. That cause you to question everything. That cause you to depend on God for your very survival. That cause you to look desperately for even one or two who will stand with you.

I can’t believe that thought even found its way out of me. I’ve been so angry and disappointed in so many and so much over the course of the 2 years. But, here’s the silver lining for me. I’ve never allowed myself to be completely broken in the past. This time I lived every minute of it in honesty. I felt every hurt deep in my soul. I’ve surrendered the “put together” version of myself and settled into the authentically broken version of myself. I’ve allowed others to see me struggle without attempting to cover myself with religious church speak.

I still don’t agree with what transpired. I’m still disappointed in people I trusted. I still wonder how we can treat people with a disregard for grace and forgiveness while claiming to carry out our actions at the prompting of God Himself. I still wrestle with anger over it all.

But, I’ve learned so much about my own relationship with God over the months and months of anguish. I’ve relaxed into being me. I’ve relaxed into my need to ask questions and rethink what I’ve been told over all these years…without the guilt, embarrassment and fear I could count on in the past.

And, here’s the most beautiful part of the silver lining…a deep love for those who were broken alongside me has taken hold of my heart. It’s a love that I can’t adequately describe. Some of us were flung to other parts of this town… some to a different town…some to another state…some to another country. But we are connected. We are honest about our ugliness, failures, fears, hopes. We are changed forever because of the storm we weathered together. And, for the first time in my life, I’m missing friends with a desperation I’ve never allowed myself to feel before. I love them. I respect them in their honesty. They are a part of me. 

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hearing From Him

Amidst all the questions and doubts, I still feel I’m hearing from God. And He consistently communicates with me in two ways.

1. My Children

Over the years, my children have had an uncanny ability to “read me” and address the tender hurts of my soul at just the right time…and in just the right way. In those moments, I always sense they are relaying what God wants me to know, consider, rethink. It amazes me every time. If any other person were to say the exact same words to me, I would be angry, sad or defeated. But, somehow, when my sons say the words, they stop me in my tracks and make me think…hard. And I am grateful. Thankful for sons that feel comfortable enough to speak the truth to me. Thankful for sons that aren’t held captive by a fear of honesty or conflict. I respect them for their loving approach to difficult conversations. I respect them for the convictions they hold and the boldness they show at times they feel moved to speak up. I often wonder if we, as a society, recognize and respect the wisdom of young people as we should. Just because they lack experience in years doesn’t mean they have nothing wise to say. Sometimes wisdom comes from a place of youthful honesty and purity.

2. Music

I’m not sure I could survive without music. Sounds silly to some. Others know exactly what I’m talking about. In the midst of excruciating hurt and sadness, music soothes. Music motivates. Music helps. It may be one phrase, one title, one melody or a few instrumental bars that carries me until I can see a new day and the hope of something better. And, contrary to what some in church have suggested, God can speak to me through more than just “Christian music”.

Lately, I’m struggling with letting go of some lifelong fears. I began asking God several years ago to push me from the comfortable life I’d been building and show me what He intended for my future…as opposed to what I had in mind for my future. My life slowly imploded over the next 2 years. At times, I’ve wondered if He was even paying attention to what was happening in my life. I wondered if He could see the pain I was witnessing. Did He care? Why wasn’t He stopping it? All the while new opportunities were coming to fruition. Unbeknownst to me. Plans that are beyond anything I could have dreamed up. Plans that are NOT me. At least not the old me. Plans that make me so uncomfortable that I want to run and hide. And I have hidden for a while now. He keeps presenting the plan…over and over…upping the ante each time. I’m finding myself saying “yes” to things I can’t even believe I’m agreeing to. Things that I know I can only accomplish with His help. I bet this is where He has wanted me all along. The road has been painful…and it’s terrifying as I look ahead. But isn’t this what I asked Him for? It seems He’s just answering…

So, once again, He speaks to me through the music. I’ve wasted too many years on half trys and cold sparks…


“Aligning stars that you wait for
Always know if you're holding back
Don't slow yourself down anymore

We watch the days fly
While all the years try
Telling us something
Don't waste a whole life
On just a half try
It's all or nothing

Cold sparks are seconds from burn out
Everyone has an hour glass
To turn back upside down”


Friday, November 22, 2013

What I Learned From a College Athlete

I remember the first time I heard the statement. Coming from a young man so alive, caring and entertaining. But a man of few (if any) words when it came to talking about his sport, his accomplishments, his abilities. At game time, he simply said, “Time to represent.”

Sure…it was time to represent his school in the game. But, I knew he meant so much more by the statement.

Each time he experienced success on the field, he immediately shifted the spotlight to the One who had given him the opportunity and ability to play. Each failure he experienced on the field, he took and quietly dealt with…trying to discern the purpose for it in God’s bigger picture for his life. He brought “humility” to life for me.

When he said those 3 words, I knew he was representing more than his school to the thousands of fans watching.

Recently, I’ve become keenly aware of the lesson he modeled for me. And how painfully short I fall of following his example.


Something has been eating at me for months.

Several years ago, my church was exploring the possibilities of relocating and building a new facility. I remember there being a lot of discussion about which part of town we should choose. Many felt we should move to the heart of the new development in town. Some suggested moving near the major highway running through town. Some mentioned that we should choose a spot with a high elevation…making the church visible to the town. Most agreed that we needed to establish a presence in the community with our new facility. Our visibility was central to most of the discussions.

We built the 15+million dollar building on a high point in the city and attached a gigantic steeple in a special steeple-raising ceremony. Church members arranged their lawn chairs on the church grounds for a front row view as a crane lifted the steeple into place. The job was massive…taking nearly all day. The local TV station was present for coverage of the ceremony. The congregation was joyful.

The steeple…highly visible…allowing the church to be easily spotted by those who were searching…making an unspoken statement to the city that God and His people were alive and well…drawing the eye heavenward.

The steeple. Representing our faith to the community.


Fast forward 7 years. I can say without a doubt, we accomplished our goal of visibility.

I see the steeple when I pull out of my driveway each morning. I see it from the school parking lot while I wait for my son every afternoon. I see it when I walk to my car after shopping. I see it from the highway. It seems to be “in my face” all the time.

The irony.

It serves as a constant reminder of brokenness, hurt, deception. Not exactly what we had in mind.

At the steeple-raising ceremony, one of the ministers was interviewed and this is what he said:

"This is marking a very significant time for us and setting the steeple on this new facility puts the finishing touches on the outside of the building when we've got a lot of work still to do inside.”

I doubt he realized how much truth there was in his statement.


So I’ve been thinking of the young college athlete.

Few words.

No pomp.

“Reppin” with his actions.

I prefer his way of representing…over the steeple.




Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gaining A Perspective vs. Regaining A Perspective

Nearly one year ago, I sat completely broken before the pastor. The events of the previous year had taken a devastating toll on the families of several of our ministers who had been publically slandered and accused, threatened into silence and forced out. And now it was taking a serious toll on my own family as we watched their pain…helpless to change the momentum started by a few, but fueled by the apathy of many.

The pastor asked me a direct question. “What do you want to see happen?” I felt it was a straightforward and fair question. My answer went something like this: “The men who publically spoke the untruths about these ministers to groups of Sunday School classes need to be held accountable for the hurt they have caused these families. They spoke the untruths publically, so someone in leadership needs to publically address the situation with the congregation and separate the truth from the fiction. Someone needs to put these rumors to rest and restore the reputations of these ministers. We need to apologize, as a church, to these families.”

I’ll never forget his response. He said that what I had just described could never happen because “this church does not have the organizational capacity”. I sat stunned. What do you mean? I asked him to clarify more than once. I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I reacted with tears…anger…hurt…disbelief. In an attempt to help the words penetrate my resistance, he just kept saying slowly and clearly over and over, “Listen to me…this church does not have the organizational capacity to look at this situation and do what you are suggesting.” I kept saying, “No. This church has the capacity to do whatever it wants to do. It may choose not to make this right, but it’s not because it can’t…it’s because it won’t.” He mentioned in that conversation that the church had “violated its own values” in its actions the previous year, but still insisted that the church was not capable of addressing the hurt and slander in the transparent way I was suggesting. I remember looking at my husband at that point and saying, in tears, “Here we go again.” We had been through this before and I knew where I was headed with the refusal of the church to acknowledge the truth about what had transpired and address the hurts it had caused and allowed. Disillusionment…I was on my way.

My mind was racing. How could we…the congregation I loved and trusted…claim that we did not have the organizational capacity to act in a Biblical manner? What the heck was organizational capacity anyway? More religious jargon…more veiled church speak.

Then, the pastor addressed my broken state. He expressed his concern for my wellbeing, my marriage and my family. He suggested that sometimes we need to step back from a situation in order to regain our perspective. He recommended that I step back from the church for a bit until I could regain my perspective. I believed he was suggesting this action out of genuine concern for me and I knew I needed to heed the advice.

Looking back, I find it interesting that he (and several others) suggested that I step back from the church or find another place to worship…for my wellbeing…rather than addressing the problem at that church openly and honestly with the congregation and working toward reconciliation. I wonder if they were hoping that I would step back, regain a perspective that was more in line with theirs and then return as a compliant sister? Or were they hoping I would simply step back and take my female emotional mess somewhere else?

I did exactly as he instructed and stepped back from church. In the months since, I’ve walked through some dark days of questioning and doubts. And I’ve gained a new perspective rather than regaining my perspective. They are two very different things.

Let me be honest. I can be pretty sarcastic, but I want to be clear here. I mean this without even a hint of sarcasm. Even though I didn’t necessarily agree with his rationale, I am truly grateful for the pastor’s advice/permission to step back and give myself some time. I’m seeing the world from  a whole new perspective and it’s slowly completing the picture of faith in God for me. I’m seeing the positives, as well as, the negatives of the way I’ve “done church” for so many years. I doubt I could have ever gained this larger perspective without taking his advice.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Silence Hurts

There are a couple of things I’ve always hated. Darkness and nighttime. As far back as I can remember, I’ve dreaded dusk. I dread the fall when the days get shorter. I don’t like cloudy days. I don’t like dark home interiors. I want lots of light, lots of windows and lots of white…all the time. Just ask my friends who are perplexed by my decision to have a mostly white home with a family full of boys.

A couple of days ago, I ran some errands in town. The weather was miserable…wet, cloudy and slightly chilly. As I was driving, I suddenly realized that I didn’t feel as down as I normally do on dreary days. In fact, I felt pretty comfortable. Then I began to realize that something else was different. I wasn’t feeling the nausea and anxiety I’ve felt too often over the last two years. I had an “Aha Moment”, as Oprah would say. “Oh my gosh! This is how normal people feel nearly every day.” All day long, I mulled it over in my head. What has changed?

The next day a friend shared a video with me and it all began to click.

I hope you’ll take the time to watch it even if it’s uncomfortable. Ash Beckham’s point about our closets (however different they may be) and the stress of remaining in the closet spoke deeply to me.

Ash Beckham

Ironically, I think “my closet” has been silence itself. For a lot of my life, I’ve been mostly silent about the pain and doubts I’ve experienced. At times I’ve remained silent out of fear. Sometimes out of embarrassment. Sometimes out of the desire to prevent others the pain I knew they would have to confront if I spoke. Sometimes out of my longing to appear normal. And other times I’ve been intimidated or guilt-tripped into remaining silent.

The last two years have been some of the most painful I’ve experienced. The pain has been amplified by the fact that the hurt took place, once again, inside what I believed to be a safe haven…the church. The deception, the apathy, the abuse of power, the lack of grace, the secrecy…it all became too much.

Unfortunately, my experience over the last 21 months convinced me (again) that we have created a culture of “appropriate” sharing in the church. Some things are appropriate to share, others are not. And the truth becomes extremely inconvenient if it doesn’t fall heavily in the “appropriate” category.

The video hits home:

“All the closet is is a hard conversation.”

“Coming out of the closet is universal. It is scary and we hate it and it needs to be done.”

“In our lives, we all live in closets and they may feel safe…or at least safer than what lies on the other side of that door. No matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live.”

“If you’re going to be real with someone, you’ve got to be ready for real in return.”

“If you want someone to be real with you, they need to know that you bleed too.”

Here’s the part that I KNOW FOR SURE:

“Not having those hard conversations can go on for years and your body just can’t handle that. Chronic exposure to adrenaline and cortisol (stress) disrupt almost every system in your body and can lead to anxiety, depression, heart disease…just to name a few. When you do not have hard conversations, when you keep the truth about yourself a secret, you are essentially holding a grenade.”

Over the last 21 months, I spiraled slowly into depression as I wrestled with the “appropriateness” of remaining silent and the “divisiveness” I was told I would cause if I broke the silence. I was holding the grenade. My days began to look different. I barely slept and the church trauma was already on my mind when I opened my eyes each morning. There was no relief. My body began to rebel. I gained 20 pounds yet felt nauseous nearly all day every day. My heart raced and I sweated through my clothes at the mention of the church or at the sight of the building. I had a flare up of back pain that lasted for 8 months and became so intense that I resorted to physical therapy. I wrestled with the diagnosis of IBS. I slowly stopped meeting friends for lunch or attending parties and weddings. I rarely left the house except to go to work or grocery shop for my family. I was sad…deeply sad…most of the time. At one point, I confided to my husband that I was so emotionally and physically tired that I was struggling just to get out of bed and make it through the day. I began to understand why some people can no longer find the strength to live with the pain. This was terrifying to me, but I was too exhausted to worry about it. I was numb. My love for my family and my resolve to stand by those being hurt by the church kept me hanging on. And my belief that God would somehow help me through gave me just enough strength to muddle through the darkest days. Day after day, I watched as ministers’ families were being slowly devoured by a church culture that valued preserving the image of our church in the community over speaking the truth about problems and attempting to reconcile. I so desperately wanted to stop the momentum and prevent the damage, but there was no stopping the train. I watched it bulldoze right on through leaving destruction as far as I could see. I wondered if I would ever feel normal again…if I would ever experience joy again…if I would ever be able to shed my coat of cynicism and anger…if I would ever trust again.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting this week. I realized that not only do I feel differently about the cloudy weather, I have also begun recently to turn the lights down low in the evenings and enjoy some candlelight rather than keeping every light in the house on until bedtime. In addition to my favorite white interiors, my pinterest boards are filling up with pictures of dark cocoon-like interiors of steel grey, natural wood and black trim. Friends are stopping by more often and I’m enjoying their company. Why? What’s changed?

I think it’s this: I’ve broken the silence. I’ve “risked the ocean” and found grace. I’ve been to the depths of depression and  survived…by finding a voice. I came out of the closet of silence. I spoke about my hurts and doubts. I confronted the darkness. Some people discouraged it and some questioned the appropriateness of writing about such things on a blog. “Putting that out there isn’t  going to change anything or fix anything. It won’t make you feel any better.” I was afraid they were right, but it was something I felt I had to do. For me. For others who are still living in the closet of silence and trying to find the courage to step out. Writing has been a purging of sorts. And it feels scary, but good. It feels so much better on “paper” than trapped inside slowly devouring me from the inside out.

Although the pain is still present, I’m beginning to feel a gratefulness for the sifting that has taken place in my life. I’m no longer quite as worried about what others think of me. There was a pivotal moment 21 months ago when I chose to step out of the closet of silence despite the consequences. It was a bit unnerving…knowing that some relationships would probably never be the same again. Knowing that some would disapprove of my actions and question my character. The beauty has been the flip-side: The relationships that weathered the storm and finally broke through the wall I’ve built over the years to protect myself from further hurt. The sense of self respect I gained from doing the hard thing and having the hard conversations. The ability to ask questions about my faith…openly, honestly and without embarrassment or guilt. The friends who were not scared off by the real me.

NM Pics (22)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Misgivings About The Building Part 3

This post has been the hardest for me to write. I considered not writing it at all. However, the scenarios I mention have been recurring themes in my experience over the last 25 years and the topic seems to be mostly off limits. Some church members stay so far removed from any church business that they are probably not even aware of what is happening. Some members have no other frame of reference having spent their entire lives in one church. It’s all “business as usual” and “why fix it if it isn’t broken?". Some members understand the “system”, and benefit from it. Some members are uneasy with the “system”, but are afraid to speak up for fear of the repercussions. Some members become disillusioned with church altogether when they begin to understand how church business works.

So, I’m going out on a limb here. Trying to address the elephant in the room. Knowing it will make some people angry. Knowing most will deny it. Knowing many will simply dismiss my thoughts as being spiritually immature or vindictive. But, hoping it will open a dialogue about how we are conducting business while trying to ensure the survival of our buildings.


Here’s the scenario (the elephant in the room, if you will):

We decide to build a new building. The price tag is in the millions. The church does not have a lump sum to pay for the building in full at the time of construction. The church leadership asks church members to pledge the amount of money they are willing to give over the next X amount of years to pay for the building. Based on the pledges and the money on hand, the church moves forward with the building process. Because the church cannot pay for the building upfront, the building is financed which adds to the total cost of the new facility. The utility bills are in the thousands every month. The cost of maintaining the facility is also in the thousands each month. The payments are easily met as long as there are tithers being faithful with their giving. If, at any point, a significant portion of the tithers or any large sum tithers stop giving, the church will be in danger of not meeting its financial obligations with its creditors.

How do we then, as a congregation, ensure that the money continues coming in to meet our financial obligations? Is it as simple as trusting God to meet the obligations?


Another scenario:

A church member places his tithe check or cash in the offering plate. If he pays with cash, it’s sealed in an envelope with his name on it. If he pays with a check, his name is printed on the check. This is important because the church needs to keep a record of his gifts to ensure that he gets a tax deduction for his contribution. At the end of each quarter, he receives a statement showing the total amount that he has given.

Because each offering is counted and recorded, certain members of church leadership/staff know which members give…and how much each is giving. When making decisions or addressing conflict in the congregation, who might leadership tend to hear? The member who gives thousands of dollars each quarter? Or the member who gives hundreds? What about the member who has grown uneasy with this system and chosen to place his offering in the plate as unmarked cash…making it look to the record keepers in leadership as though he is giving nothing?

If a “top tither” voices a concern, do we take action for fear that he might withhold his tithe? Or do we search scripture with him and agree on the Biblical basis for his concern before deciding whether or not to take action? Are we willing to upset the tither and risk losing his contribution to the church?


Another scenario:

A committee member stands behind the pulpit in a church business meeting and makes a plea to the membership to give more money. He reminds the congregation of their responsibility to give regardless of their feelings about how business is being conducted in the church.

If we are trusting God to provide the income we need to maintain our facilities, why must we make a plea for money? Why are we falling short on our budget? Should we address the disease rather than the symptoms? If tithing is an act of obedience and worship between the giver and God as we’ve been taught, why are we getting involved and asking for more? If we didn’t have a large debt to pay, would we feel the need to make the same plea?


Another scenario:

I meet with a “senior” minister to address the rumors circulating around the church about several other staff ministers. One minister has already been forced to resign in secrecy. I take a list of rumors that I have heard and ask the “senior” minister to respond to each one. I am looking for the truth. He responds to each rumor. Some he says are partial truths. Some he says are false. Some he has no knowledge of and cannot give a response. At the end of the meeting, I ask him if he would be willing to stand before the congregation, as the highest ranking staff member, and tell them what he has just told me in private. I am concerned that the rumors he knows to be false or misleading will result in more ministers being forced to resign if they are not quickly addressed with the congregation. His response: “It’s crossed my mind (addressing the rumors with the congregation), but I don’t feel it’s in my job description. My job is to keep the lights on in the building and keep the church programs running.” Shortly thereafter, another minister is forced to resign amidst the rumors.

What have we, as a congregation, allowed to happen in our church that would cause a minister of the Gospel to choose keeping the lights on in the building over speaking the truth he knows about rumors that might severely wound the families of his colleagues? Would telling the congregation what he told me in private put his own family at risk of being forced to resign? Would saying the truth jeopardize his ability to “keep the lights on”? If so, how?


After I wrote Part One of this post, I received the following comment from a member of a church:

“Believe it or not, like it or not, we are held hostage to the debt obligations on our buildings. How can we not count heads? How can we not focus on the financial spreadsheets? How can we not maintain a reputation that appears more appealing than others'? How can we not have program upon program to entice people to come to our group when we have to meet the terms of a multimillion dollar mortgage?”


One final scenario. I’ve never actually witnessed this one. It’s completely hypothetical. But it seems to be our “worst case scenario”:

We begin conducting our church business in transparency rather than secrecy. We refuse, as a congregation, to engage in coffee shop, parking lot or small group meetings meant to craft an agenda pertaining to church business. We begin directing one another to address concerns and problems one-on-one with other members rather than gathering a group of concerned individuals before speaking. We hold each other accountable and are open to being held personally accountable. When the dialogue becomes painful, we press on rather than excusing ourselves and refusing to talk. We are honest with one another rather than deceiving one another when we experience fear. The honesty becomes too emotionally raw and some cannot handle the fallout. Many members become angry. Many members leave the church. The remaining members are unable to meet the budget required to maintain the building. The remaining members are forced to forfeit the building.

How would we feel? Ashamed? Embarrassed? Free? Would we worry mostly about how it looked to the community that we lost our building? Would we be honest with the community about the events leading up to the end result? Where would we meet? How many members would stick around without meeting in that particular building?


Many are blessed through the use of our buildings. Some are hurt by the importance we place on our buildings. All of us are responsible for the choices we are collectively making regarding our buildings. Are we making choices that please our Lord?

Picture 031 edit

Monday, October 21, 2013

Misgivings About The Building Part 2

As I continued struggling with the uneasiness I was feeling, several situations unfolded that deepened the ache in my heart. The first one…

I was asked to design centerpieces for a local charity dinner. I was not familiar with the name of the organization. When I arrived at the venue the day of the event, I was met by the kind people who headed up the organization. As they helped me unload and then watched me set up, we talked. I asked about their organization, Family Promise, and was amazed at their story. I listened as they talked about the way they help homeless families (with children) in our community by meeting their immediate needs of shelter, food and clothing through the local church congregations. They, along with the congregations, help get the children to school and provide tutoring after school, provide GED assistance and job training and résumé writing for the parents, provide a private room in the church building for each family to sleep and provide meals prepared by congregation volunteers.

I was impressed by the organization's attention to detail and “big picture” goals. The families in the program are families that have a strong desire to gain independence that will last. They agree to cooperate with the guidelines of the program which require them to gain independence within a specified amount of time (meaning this isn’t an open-ended arrangement) and use their days working to secure the education they need to find a job. They learn how to handle financial commitments and budget their money. As I listened, I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this program. I couldn’t believe that my church wasn’t involved as we had one of the largest facilities and memberships in town. I figured my church simply had not heard about the program and I was excited to tell them. So, I mentioned my congregation to the organization officers. They told me they were familiar with the church and had been talking with one of our ministers who was trying to get the program approved. Perfect.

As I left the venue, I was excited for the opportunity to participate in this ministry. I thought of 1 John 3:17-18. And I thought of all  the resources my congregation had at its disposal …a large, beautiful and comfortable building with plenty of room…a commercial kitchen and large area for dining…multiple vans for transporting people to school and job interviews…a beautiful playground for the children…and a congregation full of people with skill sets that would bless each family.

In the coming months, the congregation was surveyed regarding interest in the program and many members responded positively to the survey. Family Promise was placed on the agenda for discussion at a church meeting. I attended. I have to be honest here. I knew, from being a member of this congregation for over 20 years, that there were some members of the congregation that would probably oppose participation in Family Promise. However, I was not prepared for what seemed, at times, to be a blatant disregard for scripture.

Sprinkled throughout the discussion about the program were these viewpoints:

-Some of us know every inch of this building. We helped plan, design and build the building and we need to take care of it.

-Having these people in our building might be out of compliance with city regulations and/or fire codes.

-We’re not equipped because we don’t have showers in the building. (the program offers alternative places for showering if your building doesn’t have showers)

-What if the couples aren’t married, but living together?

-Let’s just buy a fourplex in town and put them in there.

-[If they are at a separate location], we could drop the groceries off on their doorstep and they could cook their own meals. They aren’t going to learn responsibility if we’re doing everything for them.

-We don’t need to use our vans to transport these families around town. Let them take public transportation.

-If we allow these people to use our facilities, we need to require them to attend our Sunday and Wednesday church programs.


I was shocked. It seemed as though we were desperately trying to find a loophole…a way out. These verses were rolling around in my head:

17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18


41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matt. 25:41-46


That meeting ended with a minister standing and saying he would take on the responsibility of finding a director and getting the program started. Nevertheless, I left the meeting in disbelief. I wondered how we, as a congregation, could have such vastly different views of what scripture says about caring for those in need. I wondered how a congregation willing to spend thousands of dollars on mission trips to Estonia, Germany, Czech Republic and Zimbabwe could justify potentially turning away homeless families with children in our own town. How could we elevate the wellbeing of our building over the wellbeing of people? In the grand scheme of life, what did it matter if the families broke something or spilled something in the building? What did it matter if the couples weren’t married? What did it matter if the families were not interested in attending our church programs? These families were in obvious need. Didn’t Jesus show compassion and care for the poor, the prostitute, the leper and the rich man? Did he give us the right to claim exemptions?

I realize it’s natural to have differing opinions and viewpoints in a congregation. I even cherish and welcome the diversity. I know we are human and sometimes misjudge what we are supposed to be about in this journey we’re on. So, I considered these other viewpoints over the next few months and wondered if I was the one overreacting to concerns that had been voiced (there’s that word again). I wondered if it was acceptable to God for us to give our money to remedy a need, but deny the people in need access to our facilities. It just didn’t seem right to me. But, if the need was being met, did it really matter? In the end, I only felt a deepening sense of unrest about the importance we, as a congregation, were placing on the building when making decisions.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Misgivings About the Building Part 1

Several years ago, I began to have an uneasiness about how some of us, as congregations, are choosing to spend our money on large and lavish facilities. I had an internal debate about it for months and months.

On the one hand, I have been a member of two large churches over the last 46 years…one as a child and one as an adult. I know the rationale…

The skating rink, football fields, and cheerleading program serve as an “outreach” to the community. We’ll draw in people from the community with our facilities and programs and then share Christ with them. We need a large well-appointed foyer to accommodate congregational, as well as, community gatherings. We will serve our community by allowing them to use our facilities. We need to build a larger sanctuary so we can all worship together in one service.  We’re a family and we need to be able to worship together as a whole rather than divided into multiple services because the sanctuary isn’t large enough to accommodate everyone.

I can understand the rationale behind these points. And, over the years, I’ve seen kids from the community join a church football team or attend a lock-in and roller skating party…and eventually develop a relationship with God because of the relationships they made there or the devotional they heard. I’ve seen whole families get involved in church after attending one of these activities…and the facilities played a part in making the activity possible. I’ve seen our building used for school concerts and large funerals.We’ve used the building to house assembly lines of church members preparing care packages for those in need. We’ve hosted both workers and victims during storm relief efforts.

So what could be wrong with having a facility that accommodates such positive work in the community? I wasn’t sure, but I couldn’t shake the uneasiness each time I entered the building.

My mind just kept saying…yes, but on the other hand…

We’re sitting in a 15+ million dollar building. We must not only pay for the building itself, we must also pay thousands of dollars every month for utilities. We pay custodians to keep it pristine. We pay for landscaping and an automatic sprinkler system…and the maintenance that comes with those…to keep the acres of grounds pristine.

And then I saw this video…

World on Fire

…and I was completely convicted by a recording artist’s “secular” video because it so accurately portrays what the Bible has to say about our responsibility to those in need. If $150,000 could make such a huge impact on the world, what would happen if my church resided in a 2 million dollar building and gave 13 million dollars to make an impact on the world? And how many other churches do we know that have as much or more than we have?

From that day on, the battle raged constantly in my heart.

The last 20 months have further honed my perspective.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Putting Another Fear To Rest

My “unchurched” journey started just 7 months ago and I’ve been pretty open about my struggles. The months have been ridden with guilt and fears.

One of my immediate fears was a surprise to me. After years of hearing that we are meant to be in a church body and no one will take care of you in your time of need the way the church body will, I believed that statement. I began to have thoughts like: “What if I get sick? Who will care for my family if I’m not involved in a church body? It will be my fault if their needs aren’t met because we’re not involved in a church right now.” It’s always the guilt and the fear that come and weigh on me.

I had to face my fear last week. I had surgery and have been unable to care for my family in the days since. I worried that we would “get what we deserved” and have to go it mostly alone with the exception of a few close friends and family members. As I was taken to the operating room, I felt completely at peace with what would occur as it related to my body. I wasn’t concerned about complications or death. I might be doubting a lot of things concerning religion and faith right now, but I realized I am not doubting my love for my Maker.

As it turned out He was caring for me even in the midst of my fear. He’s patient with me when I doubt Him. When I awoke in my room after surgery, still groggy from the anesthesia, I knew He was putting another one of my fears to rest by showing me that what I’ve been told simply isn’t the only truth. Yes, church bodies are important. Yes, some believers find the comfort of a church body unlike any they have found outside the church walls. But, there is another story I hadn’t been told…

Around my bed last Friday were family, co-workers and friends. All ages. Churched and unchurched. Then the emails and texts started coming. Friends that I’ve never met in person from the floral design world, college students, patients, a young couple, a neighbor… from Oregon to Texas to Virginia to Russia. It’s continued every day since the surgery. Visits from friends. Offers to do laundry, scrub toilets, pull weeds. Home cooked meals from my teenaged son’s high school teachers. I’ve never felt so loved. These are the people in my world day to day. They know me. The real me. They know my good and my ugly. We move along life together. And, so, despite the fact that I didn’t receive the customary visit and prayer from a Baptist minister or a single Sunday School Class casserole, I feel completely loved and cared for by God. He answered my fear and put it to rest. I don’t believe He’s put off or threatened by my doubts and fears. He seems to meet each one head on at just the right time…and in such a way that I know He’s paying attention to where I am. He’s slowly beginning to heal me in my brokenness.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


“Wounds caused by our own people aren’t the same as the wounds of an enemy. We can’t chalk them up to random acts of unkindness. They’re personal.They are inflicted by people who know us, by people we believed have loved us or at least thought kindly of us. When it is not just our people but God’s people, the wound can gape wide open into a maelstrom of confusion.




                                                       -Beth Moore

  (in the Forward to Wounded by God’s People by Anne Graham Lotz)


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I Continue To Go There (revisit the situation)

For all of those who ask, “Why do you continue to go there? It’s in the past. We can’t change the past.”…

The answer: The pain. I can’t get away from the pain. The pain of knowing that untruths have been told and they have severely wounded many people. The pain of knowing that some people “at the top” in this church know the truth and no one is willing to address it with the congregation. I hear church members repeating the explanations they’ve been told regarding the actions of the individuals responsible for the forced resignations of our ministers. Many of the explanations are not accurate. In some cases, they are simply untrue…a rewriting of history to cover the real story and appease those asking. Maybe I will eventually move on and not “continue to go there”, but, at this point, almost every day someone approaches me in town and tells me that they still have no idea what happened inside the church. I run into them at the grocery store, the hospital, the school and the drug store. They ask if I’m still attending the church. When I say I’m not, they proceed to tell me that they still have no idea what actually happened. They say they have asked church members they respect and not been given a straight answer. They say things like, “Well, I asked, but I didn’t get an answer…and I don’t want to be nosey.” How have we made educated adults feel so unsure of themselves in the church that they feel they are being nosey if they ask questions about what is happening in the church in which they hold a membership?  It’s handy when we can make the church members feel that difficult church business is really none of their business. That way no one will ask questions and no one will be held accountable for anything. Brilliant. But not Biblical.

I will “continue to go there” until someone is brave enough to stand up and tell the truth to the congregation…or until God takes the pain and conviction from me. I’m sure the church leadership is hoping for the latter.


“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”  Ephesians 4:25 (The Message)




Sunday, October 6, 2013

People Are Concerned

Several phrases have become “red flags” to me over the last 20 years as I’ve heard them repeatedly spoken at church. “People are concerned…” is one of them.


This phrase usually signals the presence of a group of people who are upset. The “people” are never identified, but they manage to find a spokesman to voice their concerns. It usually sounds something like this:


“I’ve had dozens of calls this week from people who are concerned about what you said in business meeting last week.”

“There are many people who are concerned about what you posted on your blog this week.”

“I’ve had lots of emails from people who are concerned about what your wife said.”

“We’re receiving calls from people who are concerned that you are not dressing appropriately to be in front of the congregation on Sunday mornings.”


When I hear this phrase, I wonder:

1. Who are these “people” with concerns? How many of them are there? Do they really exist? Why do they wish to remain anonymous?

2. Why didn’t they approach the person they are “concerned” about…one-on-one?

3. Is the concern really a concern…or is it more of a complaint?


In my experience, “People are concerned…” actually means:

1. Person A doesn’t like what Person B has done or said.

2. Person A has not gone to Person B and talked to him about the concern.

3. Person A talks to Persons C,D & E about his dislike of what Person B has done or said.

4. When Person A finds a couple of other people who share his viewpoint about Person B, he contacts someone in authority and voices “the concerns of many”.

5. The person of authority (perhaps a minister, deacon, teacher or committee member) contacts Person B and tells him that “there are many people who are concerned about what you said (or what you did).”


The actions taken by church leadership, while using this phrase as a basis or excuse, becomes the worrisome part of the scenario. We’ve seen it play out this way in recent years:

1.The authority figure approaches Person B with the concerns and Person B subsequently removes the blog post or makes sure his wife watches what she says in the future or changes his Sunday morning attire…as a result of pressure by church leadership, not personal conviction.

2. Person A skips talking to Person B and, instead, takes his “concerns” straight to a committee who subsequently investigates the concerns and forces Person B to resign without the offer of forgiveness/reconciliation…and without ever naming the people who brought the concerns or stating exactly what the concerns were.

3. Person B finds that his voice in the church is subtly limited or snuffed out by those who disapprove of him.


So, when I hear “people are concerned”, I think about Matthew 18:15-17.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they

refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”


Then I consider:

1. Is this “concern” a sin? Or is it a complaint, dislike or difference of opinion?

2. If you are concerned over a sin, are you willing to go to the person…”just between the two of you”?

3. If you take your concern over the sin to the person and they listen, are you willing to let it go? Or will you still feel the need to talk about it to others?

4. What is your goal in voicing the “concern”? Loving restoration of the relationship? Helping the person move forward in unity with the “church body”? Or is the goal to punish, shame or force the person out of the “body”?


Unfortunately, it seems we ignore this verse much of the time and rely, instead, on man-written church by-laws when dealing with our “concerns”. I wonder how our church business would change if we operated according to this verse.


In the future, I plan to handle hearing “people are concerned” like this:

“Thank you for calling. I appreciate you letting me know that people are concerned about what I said (or what I did). If you would have them call me personally, I would be happy to hear their concerns and consider what action I need to take.”


“I’m sorry that people are concerned about what Person B did. Could you please have those people call Person B and speak to him personally about the concern?”

Picture 030 edit

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rest for the Soul

A friend reminded me of this song this week. I’m grateful.

“Come all you weary with your heavy loads
Lay down your burdens find rest for your souls
Cause my yoke is easy and my burden is kind
I’ll take yours upon me and you can take mine

Come all you weary, move through the earth,
You've been spurned at fine restaurants and kicked out of church;
I’ve got a couple of loaves, so sit down at my feet,
lend me your ears and we'll break bread and eat

Come all you weary
Come gather round near me
Find rest for your souls”

Thanks J!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sifting & The New Thing

Sifting…another buzz word around here. I hear it every week. I’ve grown to dread hearing it…not because of what it actually means, but because of how it’s used to describe what is happening at this church. “You know, Satan is just sifting this congregation.” It implies that what has happened in this congregation is a natural divine series of events. It implies that the sour grapes are being sifted from the bunch. And this statement is often followed closely by a recitation of  Isaiah 43:18-19 …"Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

There…we’re all better now…right? I mean we had a little disagreement, the sour grapes were divinely sifted from our midst and now we need to forget things that happened and not dwell on the past. After all, it says it right there in the Scripture. God is doing a new thing! He loves this church and wants to bless it. And those who are hanging on to their hurt are just preventing the New Thing from moving along at the pace we’d like to see.


Hang on. I’m wrestling with this idea a bit. Here’s why:

1. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

Some versions of the Bible say that Satan wants to sift “you”. Other versions say that Satan wants to sift “all of you” or “the apostles”. Either way, it seems that the verse is talking about a sifting of the useless parts from the useable parts in the life of an individual…not sifting certain individuals from a group of people (or from a “body of Believers”). I think it’s much more personal than some of us are willing to admit.

Sifting wheat is a violent process of ripping, tearing and beating the grain out of the chaff. While I don’t believe that I’ve been sifted from this church as some might suggest, I do believe that I am experiencing sifting as it’s referred to in this verse. I definitely feel my beliefs being torn, ripped and beaten. I don’t like it and it hurts like hell…but God allows it.

In this verse, Jesus prays for Peter…that the harsh sifting will not destroy Peter’s faith. And He must know that Peter will doubt and question, but survive with his faith intact, because He tells him to strengthen his brothers “when you have returned to Me”.


2. In our current situation, it’s interesting to me that the people who purportedly “got sifted” were often the ones who looked beyond the story that was being presented to the church, discovered the truth about the forced resignations of two ministers, questioned church leadership and tried to expose the untruths spoken against those and other ministers by church leadership/members. None of those who manipulated the process, spoke untruths to Sunday School classes, knew the truth about what was happening and refused to reveal it to the congregation…not a single one that I know of…was “sifted” from the congregation.  Please correct me if I’m wrong.


3. I’ve read many interpretations of Isaiah 43:18-19. I don’t believe God wants us to live in the past and allow our previous mistakes to keep us from living a fruitful life. I can’t imagine, however, that He doesn’t want us to acknowledge our mistakes, confront them and attempt to clean up the mess we’ve made before moving on to the “new thing”.

I wish church members would just stop for a moment before they recite this verse in response to what has happened in this church…and think. Imagine that your husband has been accused and his integrity has been questioned. Imagine that he is never given the opportunity to face his accusers. Imagine that his request for reconciliation is flatly denied. Imagine being told that your husband’s severance pay can be taken away if either of you reveals the truth about your situation to your closest friends/mentors. Imagine your closest friends believing you are happy about leaving your current job, home and schools because they believe you have made the choice to leave. Imagine how you will react to their giddy congratulatory remarks and hugs. Imagine you must find a way to allow them to believe a lie…in order to save your family’s ability to pay your mortgage and provide food and insurance until your husband finds another job. Imagine telling your children that they will have to leave their school, their friends, their home. Imagine trying to explain why they must move and leave these things behind. Imagine receiving anonymous mail suggesting that you leave town. Imagine leaving your life as you know it behind. Imagine rebuilding your life in a new place. Imagine the struggles of starting new schools, finding new friends and mentors, starting a new job, making a different house into a home…all while deeply wounded.

Imagine this scenario happening in your church.

Now…imagine hearing the church members say or seeing people post on social media this Scripture: “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

Imagine how that would feel.


I guess the takeaway message for me is this…

While hearing the word “sifted” began to tie my stomach in knots, I appreciate those who have said it to me. The pain of hearing it made me search the meaning of the verse for myself and, in the end, brought some comfort. Comfort…in the prospect that I have not been sifted from the congregation that I loved and trusted for years. I am being sifted personally…to refine my faith…to tear away the part that I don’t need because it’s not helpful and it prevents the heart of my faith (the grain) from being used. I’m also comforted to know that God is most likely pulling for me…knowing that I will doubt and question…hoping I won’t lose my faith completely.  And He’s hoping that when I return to Him, I will encourage those around me. I’m praying this for myself.


Friday, September 27, 2013

The Guilt

I went for a walk this morning under a weight of crushing guilt. Guilt because I’m not able to move forward quickly enough to satisfy some of those around me.  When I feel this way, I feel like I could walk for days…walking and walking just to get away from this place and the pain. I barely feel my legs moving and I’m unaware of time. As I pressed “shuffle” on the IPod, “Beautiful Things” began to play.  The words were poignant and I cried as I walked.


“All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”


I’m an ugly mess right now. I wasn’t always this way. It’s not who I really am. It’s not who I want to be. It’s not where I intend to stay. It is, however, who I am right now until I can work back to a healthier place. It seems my church life has been a cycle of trusting, having my spirit and trust broken, slowly learning to trust again, finally trusting…and then it begins again. After the last 19 months…I’m angry. I’m cynical. I’m suspicious of the actions, words and motives of those in the church. It’s hard to imagine that God will be able to make something beautiful out of my life again. But He’s done it before.


Saturday, September 21, 2013


A little history that may explain why I’m having a difficult time walking away from our church experience this last year without resolution or reconciliation:

My husband was forced out of his first ministry job by a small group of people in a manipulative way that was veiled in secrecy. There were never any charges brought against him, no explanation given…he had done nothing morally or Biblically wrong. He had simply fallen short of the desires/unvoiced expectations of some very influential men in the church…men who could change what they did not like without revealing their actions to the church body. We were “encouraged” to quietly look for another job and then the church would make it appear as though it was our choice to leave. We were young. We were naïve. And we were nearly destroyed by the experience. The church as a whole never knew what actually transpired behind the scenes….and that included some of our closest friends.  We moved on to another church…only to witness the same thing happening to the pastor of that church. Unable to stomach the devastation again and again, my husband resigned and we left full-time ministry completely.

Eventually we returned to that original church where we had first served…only this time as “regular” church members. And this is the church where we witnessed the forced resignations of two ministers this last year…amidst manipulation and secrecy. Sounding familiar. When church members encourage me to move on and get over the events of the last 18 months, I have a bit of baggage to haul on my journey toward renewed religious bliss. It’s just not that simple.


After the second minister was forced to resign last year, I wrote a letter to the committee who made the decisions without providing either minister with a list of allegations, a formal complaint, a chance for reconciliation or a Biblical basis for their decision. I have not shared it publicly, but now I feel I need to put it “out there”…

…for those ministers’ wives who have experienced similar circumstances and been forced to keep it to themselves.

…for the ministers’ wives who have yet to experience it, but likely will during their lifetime in the ministry.

…for the “regular” church members who are kept in the dark by committees, deacons and teachers who feel it is “above their pay grade” to know the truth about what is actually taking place in their church.

…for friends and family members of these ministers’ wives who don’t fully understand the seemingly disproportionate amount of pain and anger.

…for the minister/husband who falls victim to these Clergy Killers and then becomes the recipient of his wife’s subsequent emotional breakdown.

… for the children of the ministers who live through these events and have their lives turned upside down…having to move, change lifestyles and live with the awkwardness of the situation.

My desire to speak out is no longer about seeking change in our current situation because the leadership seems to be making it clear through their actions, inactions and words, that they will not report to the church as a whole the truth of what happened in the past 18 month…and they will not make an apology to these ministers nor address the untruths and subsequent rumors that are still circulating around our community about these men today (I would love for someone to correct me here…with action, not words). I will learn to live with that. I will not, however, keep my experiences to myself because there are too many ministers, wives, children and believers in Christ struggling through similar situations…alone and isolated. There is healing and strength in knowing that you’re not alone in the struggle. So, for those who struggle, here’s the letter that described the truth of my experience:


Dear Members of the ***** Committee,

I would like to ask you to pray for [the wives of the ministers forced to resign] in the days ahead. I know the range of emotions and the depth of despair they are encountering at the moment and will encounter in the days, months and years to come. Life will move on and they will eventually re-engage in normal living, but they will be changed forever because of their experience at [this church]. They will fight disillusionment with the church, anger that their husbands’ integrity has been questioned and feelings of helplessness to ease the burden on their husbands. They will fight anxiety that, at times, may be debilitating…both physically and emotionally. They will watch as their husbands struggle with the burden of finding another job and providing for their families. They will try to convince their husbands that they did not fail the Lord or their families and they are still worthy of being ministers. They will have a hard time trusting church members again with their thoughts, feel suspicious of people in church leadership and feel abandoned by the church. At times the stress of the situation will cause them to unleash their anger and hurt on the only person with whom they feel safe…their husband…causing further stress. They will experience the accusatory looks from church members and members of our community who were given inaccurate information as grounds for their husbands being asked to resign. They will struggle to bury their anger and disappointment for the sake of their children. They will try to teach their children to trust in a foundation that has been rocked to the core in their own lives. And they will try to take people’s advice to “get over it” and “move on” because “it is in the past”. No one will be able to tell them how long the pain will last and no one will be able to speed up the process of moving past it. Only the Lord will be able to heal their hearts…in His timing. And, just when they think their healing is complete, they will witness another minister’s wife start the awful journey. The pain will be fresh and new…and the process will start again.

I know these things to be true because my husband was a minister in this church 25 years ago and, like [the two ministers who were forced to resign], he was asked to leave this church under similar circumstances. We left this church for another with the words of staff and deacons ringing in our ears…”May the Lord richly bless your ministry and your family in your new place of service.”  Just 2 short years later in our new place of service we witnessed the whole process again…this time as a bystander. As we watched the church slander and tear apart the ministry of our Pastor in the new church, we knew that we could no longer serve in church ministry. We made the choice to leave church ministry. Ultimately we returned to [this community] to be near family and friends. We made the tough choice to rejoin [this church] as a testament of our faith in the Lord’s ability to heal broken hearts and relationships. We have served in this church as laypeople for the last 18 years and rarely spoken of our experience here 25 years ago.

The struggles I mentioned above were mine. Maybe ministering to the brokenhearted wives of ministers was God’s calling on my life from the beginning. I would not have chosen this ministry for myself. In my case, it took 12 long torturous years and the words of my then- 4 year old son to finally start my healing. The other ministers on our staff and their wives have just witnessed the same heartbreak. They, too, will feel many of the emotions I mentioned above.  Please join me in praying for [the two wives mentioned above] and ***** (as her husband has been questioned and was mentioned numerous times in [the business meeting last night])...for as long as it takes the Lord to restore in them what we have robbed.


That letter was written 15 months ago. I bet if you asked the ministers’ wives mentioned in the letter if I got close to the mark on what they have experienced, they’d tell you it was pretty accurate. If you know a family who has experienced a forced resignation, ask them. They would probably be relieved to share their experience. Honesty feels better than secrecy…especially when it’s met with genuine concern.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Holy Spirit or Personal Conviction?

I woke up before the sun rose this morning. My eyes popped open and my heart hurt. I was remembering a letter written and sent to the church body in the very heart of our church turmoil. I could remember the letter nearly word for word. It haunts me. I got up and found the letter. To my amazement, it was dated June 28, 2012. Over a year ago. And I can still remember the words. And those words can still wake me from a deep sleep.  So I wonder…is this the Holy Spirit or my own personal convictions that causes me to continue being bothered by the contents of this letter? I mean, in the past, based on what I’ve been taught in church over my lifetime, I would say that they are one in the same. That stirring in your heart, the “gut” feeling…that is the Holy Spirit…that’s what I’ve been taught. On the other hand, many church people have told me in the last year that what happened in our church is over and it’s time for me to move on…without open and honest discussion or resolution. They’ve told me if I can’t find a way to move on (meaning stop talking about it and being bothered by it… “grace” is the buzz word) , I need to find a new place to worship…for my own health and wellbeing, of course. So, which is it? The Holy Spirit or my own convictions…or both? Maybe the reason I continue to wake in the night is not because the Holy Spirit is somehow speaking to me, but because  I am just deeply disturbed by the behaviors that I witnessed and the untruths that have remained unchallenged by professing Christians. Maybe the reason the contents of the letter bother me so much is simply because, on a human level, I recognize them as being in conflict with the actions taken by the church. Or, perhaps, God continues to bring the uneasiness and pain to me even in my sleep to keep me mindful that there is still truth to be told and it is not time to rest. I’m not even sure anymore. For whatever reason, either prodding by the Holy Spirit or personal conviction based on the Biblical principles I’ve been taught, I continue to struggle despite my desire to move on.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Moving Forward

I thought I had signed off for good…but, plans change…and so do hearts.

Day by day, as I walk this new territory as an unchurched believer in Jesus, I’m gaining new insight into what I never had a clue about as a church member. The biggest eye opener has been just how uncomfortable we are as church members with those who profess to believe in Jesus, but aren’t official members of a congregation. We seem to be comfortable with the “us” (Christians) and “them” (non-Christians) scenario. There’s security in the notion that we are the “saved” ones and we are comfortable with the idea that our job is to get all those “lost” people into church. But, how do you explain a person who professes to believe in Jesus, but isn’t ready or willing to be a church member? It seems that we’ve begun to equate church membership with spirituality. Such a person must not really be a Christian…or she must not be very  serious about her faith…or maybe she is just bitter, which makes her spiritually immature.

Several times a week, someone from my old church asks me where I’m going to church now. My response is a simple: Nowhere. After the bugged out eyeball look and the shock wear off, here are the most common responses:



-Well, you need to get somewhere and get involved.

-Don’t let Satan get a foothold in your life and rob you of your joy.

-Have you visited any churches?

-You should try X, Y or Z Church…X Church has deep preaching, but the praise band isn’t very good…Y Church is a good place to be anonymous and relax, the music is great, but the preaching is a little shallow…Church Z is great, but there are too many young people there. You’d probably like one of them.

-That’s not good. (*frowning and head shaking back and forth*)

-You’ve got to find a place (meaning church) to serve.

-You’re so talented, I hate to see your gifts not being used.

-We were meant to be part of a (church) body.



Honestly, people just don’t know what to do with people like me. So, most of them end up giving me advice and throwing a Christian cliché my way…and then they disappear.

However, there are a few people who have saved me from the crushing depression and anger I’ve experienced over what transpired in church over the last 18 months…and the guilt over my subsequent knee-jerk reaction to retreat from church all together for a while. They also love Jesus and understand His sovereignty and grace…which allows them to love me right where I am (and it’s ugly) knowing that I belong to Him…and he won’t let go of me. They don’t quote scripture AT me and tell me how to feel and how long I’m allowed to take working through the doubts and hurt. And they listen…period. And they are honest and real about their own journey. No pretense. No desire to prove their spiritual superiority.

On the days I scream at God to step up and make sense of this nonsense, he must be patiently waiting for me to learn how to treat people the way I want to be treated, not the way that we’ve become comfortable with and condoned in church. There absolutely is no other way I could have gained this insight than to be thrust into the position I find myself hovering in…

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By the way…here are the responses that are running through my head as I listen to all this advice:


-Well, you need to get somewhere and get involved. (Or what? What will happen to me?)

-Don’t let Satan get a foothold in your life and rob you of your joy. (Actually, Satan didn’t rob me of my joy…the deacons who told untruths about people, the ministers and church leaders who were too afraid to stand up and tell the truth and the people who chose to quietly turn a blind eye to the carnage…those are the people who robbed me of my joy. If you want to equate the two…that’s your choice.)

-Have you visited any churches? (Why? Will that make YOU feel better?)

-You should try X, Y or Z Church…X Church has deep preaching, but the praise band isn’t very good…Y Church is a good place to be anonymous and relax, the music is great, but the preaching is a little shallow…Church Z is great, but there are too many young people there. You’d probably like one of them. (Hmmm…)

-That’s not good. (*frowning and head shaking back and forth*) (He/she thinks I’m headed to hell.)

-You’ve got to find a place to serve. (Great! I’ll continue serving my patients and neighbors and friends and family!)

-You’re so talented, I hate to see your gifts not being used. (Why do you assume that church is the only place I can use my gifts?)

-We were meant to be part of a (church) body. (I was part of a “body” …that covered up the truth and did whatever was necessary to “save face” in the community. I’d rather not revisit that “body” concept again for a while.)