About Church

One thing that I realized last week is that I’ve always gone to church because I’ve always had connection there.

I grew up going to church because my parents took me to church every Sunday.  And I went to youth group because my friends went and I liked it and I felt like I was learning things.  I felt a connection to the living God.

When I was in college I went to church because I had to be serving in church at least two times a month for my degree.  You didn’t have a choice to opt out if you were in Bible college.  But I got to know my pastors.  And I enjoyed being a volunteer, even if it wasn’t the fun jobs that I was doing.  I liked the connection.  I liked the family that I had there.

After college, I moved to Mammoth and I started re-attending the Lighthouse, and I found real family.  But I first knew about the Lighthouse because I would visit with my brother all the time growing up and when I visited during college.  I had friends there.  I felt community there.  And I connected with God there.

I’m just wondering how to get that community and connection back.  I’m wondering where it is here.  When I first moved to Florence I immediately started attending a church, but my only friends in Florence were a part of this church.   After being there for more than a year, I felt less connected than when I first moved.  My newness wore off and it kinda seemed like I wasn’t good enough to be connected.  I wasn’t good enough to be involved.  None of the original connections I had there include me anymore.  Unless they see me in public.  Then they complain that we never hang out, but I can’t remember the last time I actually got an invitation to do anything.
I got a text from the pastor saying he missed hanging out with Bobby and I.  I said he could ask us to hang out any time, but I never got a response.

I feel like church is something that I’ve had forced into my life for so long that I’m not sure what is real and what is fake.  I miss community and I miss connection, but it has to be genuine.  It cannot be forced.  I’ve visited other churches, churches with small groups, but I don’t necessarily agree with their theology.

I’ve felt a little lost lately.  I don’t like feeling lost.  So I might be breaking up with church for a while.  I can pursue my relationship with God and learn what I need, because I’m obviously not going to find what I’m craving.

Sorry I complain so much.  Sorry I’m not elite.

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For the First Time

I went home last week.  I was there for a week.  I adventured from LA to Mammoth, through Death Valley to Las Vegas, and as I always do when I travel, I didn’t relax at all.  But, this time I brought someone home with me.  My boyfriend and I flew on an airplane, and he went further west than he’s ever gone before.  It was easily one of the biggest adventures I’ve ever been on.

I’ve never taken a boyfriend home before.  I’ve never traveled anywhere with a boyfriend.  And now he’s met almost everyone.  We spent time with at least three of my closest friends, my dad, and my brother.  We went to the top of Mammoth Mountain and took photos.  We ate tri tip.  We drove through Death Valley.  We went from the cold to the heat.

While in Mammoth, we attended the Lighthouse Conference.  Most people know that Lighthouse is the Global Church family that I attended while living there.  There were words given.  There was music played.  There was community and food shared.  It was so good to be home.  It made me miss church.

Not that I haven’t been attending church here in Alabama.  I have.  But I have disengaged.  I hear far too much about the church politics.  I analyze the words without ever hearing them.  I am tired.

I brought a boyfriend home.  Because I’m in love with him.  And I fell in love with life again.  I fell in love with community again.  I fell in love with God again.  I tried something new, and I’m pretty sure I’m okay with it.

When an Invitation Becomes a Sale

One thing that I’ve really learned over the past few years is that my relationship with God is a personal one.  And I really believe it should be that way for everyone.  Your relationship shouldn’t be pinned to what church you go to.
I live in the South now, which means that I live in the Bible belt.  There are literally churches everywhere.  And that’s fine.  But every single church here believes that you should attend that church.  It creates a competition.  That competition between churches is one that exists everywhere, but I notice it the most here because the volume is so much higher.  Most Christians believe that everyone should go to church.  The problem is that churches want you to go to their church.  Don’t go to someone else’s church, come to my church.  There’s a sign outside the church near my apartment that says, “Need home improvements?  Bring your family to church.”    

My boyfriend and I visited a different church today.  It’s a fairly new campus here (as far as I understand).  But he attended this same church when he was in college in Tuscaloosa, so he’s been wanting to visit it here, since he enjoyed the church so much before he moved back to Florence.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the church, and I actually enjoyed the sermon.  It was a type that I missed, because it was just theological enough for me to follow.  It was the first time I’ve been in a church with a bulletin for a while.  But this church is huge.  There’s campuses with multiple services all over Alabama.  So they have money.  It’s practically a mega church, and the sermon was live streamed from the main campus, which is not my thing.
They kept talking about how next week is Easter, and Easter is the perfect opportunity to invite someone to church, which technically is true.  Unchurched people are most likely to visit church on Christmas and Easter.  Those are the two times a year that people go to church.  But every time they talked about inviting people, it was like a pitch.  It was like they were selling something.

I personally don’t want to sell anyone on whatever church I go to.  I don’t even really want to sell someone my savior.  Yes, this is a consumer society, but faith isn’t something that should be bought.  It’s not something that should be pitched.  It should be personal.  Yes, salvation is something that I believe we all need, but telling someone that seems so impersonal.
I’d rather be introduced to a loving God in the same way that I’d introduce someone to my best friend, my dad, or my boyfriend.

I was afraid to talk about visiting a new church today, because it feels like people get so offended when you don’t go to their church, or if you even miss a week.  I didn’t visit a new church to offend anyone, or even because I’m unhappy where I am.  It’s not because of the worship or the sermon or anything else.  Church services, to me, seem to be a way to teach someone about God.  But I know about God.  I paid to study the Bible for four years.  Then I spent another year paying to focus on my relationship with God and his Spirit.  I don’t want to be taught.  I don’t want to be bored.  I want a family.
I have a family where I am.  They’re there when I need them.  But we’ve become a bit estranged, because I got used to a certain routine, and that routine was then disrupted.  I got used to the community that came from life groups that happened once a week.  It was something that gave me life.  One of my favorite things is doing life with other people.  Community is something that I have craved for a long time, and every time I seem to grasp it, it’s almost like it pulls away from me.  But I’m not going to blame anyone else, because I easily get too tired to chase a community that changes with the flow of the river.
“Life groups” are starting again, but not in the way that I’m craving.  They want to read a Bill Johnson book together.  I just don’t feel like going to a book club.  I don’t want to read another Jesus book that’s going to bore me.  Which is okay.  It’s okay that other people find life in an environment that drains me.  We are all different, which is something that I recognize and do my best to celebrate.  I believe that everyone who goes to these new life groups is going to get something out of it.  I’m just not sure that I would.

One of my favorite classes that I took in college was Teaching Small Groups.  Yes, that sounds boring.  The point of the class was to learn how to teach small groups.  But the class was so small, we actually got to be a small group.  We actually got to do life together as we learned.  That’s the kind of community that I’m craving.
So no, I’m not switching churches.  That’s not what this is about.  I’m not even trying to bash churches, like I have done so often.  I just don’t want to be told to sell my church.  I’m a terrible salesman, and I’m not even usually sold on church.  I don’t even always want to go to church, but that’s where my friends are.  I want to be sold your small group.  I want to buy your community.  So pitch it to me.  And I’ll invite you into mine, when I find one.

You can invite me.  And maybe I’ll invite you.  I just wish it was more about community and growing in relationship with God, than about selling all of the great programs and resources your church can provide.

And who knows, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m just too darn cynical.

A year.

A year ago today I arrived in the city of Florence, AL, the city that I now call my home.  I got here with no job, no place to live, and no idea what I was doing.  And I still don’t really know what I’m doing.

I thought moving here would bring me better writing opportunities.  And I have gotten offers, but none that have followed through.  Sometimes it seems that I’ve been so caught up dreaming, that I’ve forgotten how to write anyway.

Since moving here, I’ve gotten my first apartment on my own.  I got my own car insurance.  I have a dog and a real relationship.  Every decision I make is mine alone.  I’m finally fully discovering adulthood.

Florence has shown me that community is like the tide.  It comes and it goes.  When you really need it, community is there for you.  But community disappears when you stop asking for it.

Florence is a place I have fallen in love with.  It’s unexpected, but so am I.  It’s the place where I fell in love.  And, for now, it’s my place.

I’m one year in.  I’ve made it.

Body, Mind, and Soul

We are told to love ourselves.  We are told to stay healthy and eat right.  We are told to exercise.  We are told to go to church and to find a good community.  Because all of these things are important.

But I think we get too focused and forget the main point.  Love yourself.

I set a New Year resolution to go running and do yoga four times a week.  And I’ve done great.  My mileage is up, and I am stronger.  I look better.  I feel better.  But I’ve also been opening at work almost everyday and not sleeping the best.  So some afternoons I’m just tired.  And the last two or three weeks I’ve felt almost under the weather, but not quite, so I’ve napped, and then not felt good enough to go out on a run.  My boyfriend tells me it’s fine, and that it’s good to give myself a rest, but instead I beat myself up over it.  It depresses me that I’m so tired, and I’m so tired because I’m depressed.  I keep feeling like if I miss a day of exercise, I will be fat.  I’m terrified to lose my routine again.  It’s like I forget why I’m doing it in the first place.

I want to be healthy.  And it’s so easy to just focus on one realm of health.  It’s so easy to focus on clean eating and an exercise routine, but then forget to nourish your mind and your soul.  It’s easy to get caught up in a mantra of a having a healthy mind, but neglect your spirit and body.  It’s easy to beat yourself up if you miss church, so you focus only on that, but forget that your body is a temple and your mind a control center.

I am one, whole person.  I have a mind, a body, and a soul.  (Some would say I am a soul, but that’s beside the point.)  I’m not going to get fat if I occasionally skip a run because I’m exhausted.  My happiness is just as important as my appearance.  And no one hates me, especially not God, if I want to stay home and sleep in on the occasional Sunday morning.  Church is for community, not salvation, anyway.

Love yourself.  Body.  Mind.  Soul.

Lost, But Not

Lost, but not
In a sea of commotion
Home is right around the corner
Just out of sight
Close your eyes
And you’ll find it

Excited at prospect
Impatient for time
Essence overtaking
Hands opening
Dropping all expectations

Artist spilling over
Out of the corner of your eye
Angels watching
What will she do next?
Touching the seams
Where heaven and earth collide
Feel it break

Interrupted in thought
Caught up
In whatever this is
Lost,
But not

Blogging Everyday in July|About Breathing

About breathing, take a breath.

Tonight we talked about breathing.  We talked about fear.  And we talked about courage.  And if you’ve followed me at all, you know that I talk about the air in our lungs, the breaths we take, probably far too much.  I reference breathing and suffocating and drowning in my poetry far too often.  Because when I am stuck in anxiety it’s almost too hard to breathe.  And I like breathing.  I like air.  I like life.
So here’s a couple more little unnamed poems about breathing etc.

Fear, have no fear
Suffocation, you can breathe
Pounding heart, settle
You were made for this

Wings of doves overhead
Promises fulfilled
Home.  Here.
Enhancing the blend

Community
Satisfying cravings
Whole, unbroken
Anxiety reconciled

 

Breathe every breath with intention
Your thoughts fill your lungs
And you can rest here
On your father’s breast

Every moment is not fleeting
Be aware of your reality
It’s not always easy, not always hard
But it is always real

Welcome to emotion
Holding back, letting go
Drowning in vulnerability
You are safe here

Life is not an accident
Live it on purpose
Take a breath of courage
Take a step in bravery