Sunday, September 07, 2008

Can I encourage one or more of you?

This is a picture of my kids at our church picnic/service two weeks ago. It was a beautiful, sunny day and a really wonderful time of getting to know others on a more casual basis- with games and food and a message outside and singing- a fun afternoon for all of us.
I have gone to church my whole life, and have to admit that I haven't always enjoyed being in church on Sunday mornings. Not all churches are "created equal" and there is certainly something to be said about that- which I could totally write in length here, but I won't. I'll just say that I believe "church" is about people, not about the building or the denomination, or even who is preaching/teaching from the front during the services. I believe that the word church is a place, but more importantly is what goes on in the lives and with the service and money and time of the people within those walls.
Why am I writing about church? Well, for the past several Sundays I have felt like I should come home and post about how I was moved by the message or the music or how I just sensed God in such a real way. But I haven't done that and so today, when I felt that same tug on my heart, I decided I had felt it enough times to actually follow through with posting. This is that post.
I mainly want to encourage someone out there who reads this who maybe hasn't gone to church for a long time, who maybe has been 'burned or hurt' by the church and feels totally turned off as a result, or for someone who just maybe thinks church doesn't really matter all that much.
I feel blessed to be able to attend a church where the people there really, truly want to be there on Sunday mornings, and many times those people are doing "church-related stuff" throughout the rest of the week too. It's not just about the sermon and singing on Sunday morning, but the people of this church really feel compelled to reach out to others in so many different ways. It's neat to be able to hear a lot of those stories and to be challenged to do more- which is what oftentimes happens in our service. We get opportunities presented to us to get more involved, to share 'life' with others, and there's never a Sunday when we aren't asked, "what's the take-away value [of what you just heard], or how can you apply this to your life?" I love the challenges.
But beyond that, I have to say that, while our church isn't the biggest church out there (most of the time there is about 175-200 people there), God just seems to move and stir my heart every week. I feel so grateful that I have a place where I can worship and 'give back to God' in such a small way, as a response to the way He has been so good to me, week to week. I just love that we can put money in the offering and know that it is going to help change lives. I love singing the songs and know that it doesn't matter if it's an old hymn or new worship song, that God is blessed by it. I love that I have a place to put the stress of my days out of sight and mind for even just an hour and my heart can focus on who God is and how He desires to know me more...and it in turn makes me want to know HIM more. I love that it doesn't matter what I wear or how I look or what my job is or what political party I belong to or where my kids go to school, or any other number of things at church.
It's simply about God and giving glory to Him, and praising Him- no matter if things are going well in life, or if things feel as though they are falling apart.
I write all this to encourage someone out there who has given up on church or who has never given church a chance. I would love for you to pray and ask God to lead you to a place where you can worship Him and 'feel Him' and fall in love with Him more. No matter what building you're in...no matter what name is on the sign out front.
I know God is everywhere, but there just seems to be something so special about sensing Him and His presence when you're in community with others. It helps me to feel affirmed in my faith and what I believe. It helps me feel challenged to do more, to want to be more. It helps me to drown out 'daily life' and trade it for an hour of time that is drenched in Truth and grace and song.
Going to church doesn't make me perfect. It doesn't make my life easier, as a result. In fact some Sunday's it's a major effort to get everyone fed, dressed and there on time! But it does fill my heart with blessing and I love the good things my kids are hearing and learning in their classes. I am humbled at the relationships and friendships that develop and grow each week, and I am especially moved that God makes Himself known in such a tangible way nearly every Sunday.
That's my sermon for whoever needs it today. I will pray for whoever needed to hear this and now feels challenged to find a church and start going there each week. I hope that God will direct you to a place where you can grow in your relationship with Him and fall in love with who He is.

16 comments:

Sara said...

I get it. I'm homebound due to illness and haven't been able to attend to church for about 3 years now. I used to be crazy active, helped plan Masses and cantored almost every weekend. I miss going, but you're right that church is the people. I don't know how I would live the life I now have if I hadn't had those people in my life being a community to me.

Nice post.

sara
http://gitzengirl.blogspot.com

ABCDH said...

Perfect stranger here again....

Once more, love your post and can relate more than you know.

For whatever reason I have found your life to mimic mine in many ways.

Thank you for your blog.

Lisa-Kate said...

Just dropping by to say hi! Haven't been online in a LONG while and your blog was one of the first I came to :) I really needed this message after I missed church today :(
Hope all is well!

http://mysweetabbeyrose.blogspot.com/

Randi Jo :) said...

I agree! :) great post! :)

Rosie said...

Today was a rough day at church for me. My 3yr old and 8 yr old just were not in the mood to be reverent and quiet. We were attending with my husband who is the Bishop(LDS) of a single student ward. So there are not children in this congregation. We go to give support, etc. Today was a hard day for me to feel the Spirit. I appreciate your words of encouragement.

Years ago a great-aunt told my mother that mothers should just stay home with their little kids because they are so disruptive to the service. My Mom had 4 small children(same as me now). She said "Aunt Claire, I don't plan on staying away from church for the next 20 years just because I have children. If I don't take them how will they learn?"

Today I had to remember this.

Carrie said...

Wow. I can't describe to you how much this meant to me today. I read your blog often, even though I don't know you, I enjoy your humor, creativity, love for your children, family, and most important, God. I say I needed this today because it's been weighing heavily on me that I keep missing Sunday mornings in Church. My Church. I just love it, I love the Pastor and the worshipping, but I haven't been in so long. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it though.

If you have time, check up on my blog tomorrow morning and read what I'll have written later today.

Thank you. :)

Brynn and Chris said...

Hi--I got your blog off of Jeanette Herdman's, who is good good friends with my aunt and uncle (Jason and Marcy Burkum) and my cousins (Tyler and Ali Burkum, if you know who they all are). Just wanted to drop by and say I have been reading your blog once in a while--my husband and I are 19 and 20 and were married a month ago tomorrow! My dad was the minister at a church for about ten years, and because of some extenuating circumstances, resigned. Since we have left that church, it has been really hard for me to get motivated to get up and go to a church that is less familiar to me. I really really appreciate your words today :-)

Kathy in Michigan said...

You are a Godsend for me today!! We have been without a church family for 4 years now and even though we visit churches, we just haven't felt the connection with any one in particular. I know that God is everywhere, but I long to be in a deeper relationship with Him. I love your mini-message and it was a bulls-eye hit for me! Thanks for following the Spirit's lead and sharing from your heart -

Angela said...

Thank you Jody for words I so very much needed to hear. Your post has touched my heart more than you know. I haven't attended regular weekly services for about 10 years now. Some women in a bible study group a long while ago betrayed my confidence and splattered gossip concerning some deeply personal areas of my life at that time to an entire evening church group. I was deeply humilated and never went back to that church or really any other one for very long. I'd "church shop", but the main focus of my friends and I were to meet guys there. I had wordly relationships with boyfriends, got pregnant at 20, married at 21, had 2 kids by 23, my oldest was diagnosed with autism at 5 and was divorced at 28. My ex wasn't "religious" so we hardly ever attended services with my parents. After the divorce, I was angry with God. I had another wordly relationship and even moved in with this man for 2 months. Long story short, the Lord spoke to me very clearly and let me know this person and lifestyle were not what my kids and I needed and helped me gather the courage to leave. Ever since then, I have grown quite close to God and desire all things holy. I've taken a year so far and completely devoted it to serving the Lord and growing in Him. No men, no wordly influences. Just the Lord and my children. I have struggled with depression, social anxiety, guilt, etc, but He is helping me overcome so much of that. I have this amazing relationship with Him now, yet from the past trauma at a church, I cannot seem bring myself to attend service, not even at a different church. My parents have a nice home church with a great pastor & caring people, yet I am still struck with crippling fear. If you would, please pray for me that I can someday feel comfortable in a house of the Lord and I can be released from past hurts. You are amazing to think of others like this when you have been through so much more than I could ever imagine. God has clearly blessed you with the gift of compassion. I will pray for you and the safe upcoming arrival of baby boy :) God Bless you Jody, in all things.

Vicky said...

Do you realize you already encouraged me? I stumbled upon your blog just last month and have been drawn to your warmth and love and spirituality...(long story short) We literally started a new church YESTERDAY. It was the first time...in a long time. Even though I could not have articulated yesterday that you in fact had a hand in this... today I know. You have done more than encourage, you have inspired! God Bless! Feel free to check out my (lenghty) post for the full story!
http://thewestraworld.blogspot.com/

In gratitude,
Vicky

Lauren Kelly said...

Hi- I just checked out your blog for the first time today and it's great. Enjoyed it so much. I came across your blog through any person's blog and I was inspired and just wanted to say hello. Have a great day! Be blessed!

Lauren :)

Jill said...

Beautiful post Jody! AMEN!

This will bring rewards you might not know about until we all meet in heaven.

Praising Him for your obedience and abiding in the tugging to share about a "church" for everyone to worship the LORD!

Love and blessings,
Jill

Michelle ~ ~ said...

needed to read this today. thank you dear sister! blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

JODY
And I thought you were speaking just to me..LOL We were youth leaders of our church, clothes drive, food drive, dinners I helped on all fronts even was the only cleaning lady for sometime. There was a huge falling out over half the congration left most have found new church homes but we have not and it is really starting to hurt..it has been so long mainly because my husband doesn't want to go back anywhere. I am hurting so much but don't know where to start.
guess i need more prayers...
Thanks for you post and yes you encouraged me so very much

Heart

Anonymous said...

Jody:

You are amazing! Your words were just perfect. Thank you once again for your awesome post! God is GOOD!!! I am so blessed to have stumbled acrossed your blog. I enjoy it every evening! thank you. Amy in Indiana

lukabella said...

Beautiful, absolutly beautiful!!! Jenn