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.

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Distracted.

When I was in college, and even after I finished college, I was always on my computer.  So if I wasn’t on Facebook, or Tumblr, or doing homework, I was usually writing.  I didn’t have to make time to blog, because I was already on my computer.  Now, it’s true that I am writing a little bit less, but the reason that I’m actually blogging less is that I literally have to remind myself to bring my computer with me, or I have to set aside special time when I’m at home.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is something that I should be doing.  It’s just funny that this is my problem.  I don’t even watch that much Netflix anymore, at least not by myself.

It’s possible that I have been distracted, as of late.  It’s possible that something in my life is worth spending time on that isn’t my blog and my dreams and a future career.  It’s a different part of my future.  But it has distracted me from this part of my life.  I’m trying to learn how to balance it.

A little off topic, but something that I have been watching is Z: The Beginning of Everything on Amazon Prime.  It’s about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.  It’s about how they met and fell in love.  It’s about his writing.  I’m only a few episodes in, but I just watched the wedding episode.  On the train on the way to her wedding, Zelda’s sister tells her what to expect on her wedding night.  She tells her to keep the lights off.  And she tells her to let her husband do what he is going to do, and to lay back and think about the magnolias in the garden.  I know that things were different then, but it really annoyed me.  It annoys me that there was a time where women were expected not to enjoy what happens in the bedroom.  It annoys me that people still think that way.  Relationships should never be about pleasing your husband.

I have a lot of thoughts.  And I would love to take the time to collect them.  I’m going to try to do that this month.  I’m going to try to set a goal to set aside time to myself to write and be and enjoy.  Because I’m worth it.  My dreams are worth it.  So I’ll try not to get too distracted.

Life in the Slow Lane

I talk fast.  I think fast.  I drive fast.  I make decisions fast.  I move fast.  Everything is fast.  But I think it might be time to slow down.  Welcome to the South.  Where even the state troopers don’t drive the speed limit.  Where people have a drawl, even when they’re hyped up on caffeine.

I never quite learned to rest.  I wrote a while back about staying put.  About how it might be time for me to be present where I’m at.  But I think it’s more than that.  I wonder if I’ll settle here.  Although I may never settle. My heart is learning to beat for the land.  And this land ambles.  It does not run.  It does not race.  It does not scream at you to speed up.  If anything, it whispers to slow down.  It calls you to rest.  It asks you to wait and see what might be around the next bend,  because if you take it too fast, you might miss it, you might hit it, you might kill what could have been an opportunity.  Life in the slow lane means not jumping to conclusions.

I think my heart has been so miserable because it is always racing, and I won’t listen to the beat.  I followed it here, and then I forced it to keep me awake so that I could do far too much again.  I’m not going to do far too much anymore though.  I am going to breathe for a little while.  I’m going to take things in stride.  I’m not going to worry, I’m going to listen to the constant streams of consciousness that might be telling me that everything is okay, that good things do happen.  I think I’ll live here, in the slow lane, for a while.  And for anyone who tells me that it’s time to speed up, they can exit the vehicle.  Because this is my life, and I’m going to claim it.

Blogging Everyday in July|A Little Prophetic Poetry

Today at The Ark, some prophetic things happened during worship, which I’m realizing is a regular occurrence.  During this time God gave me a word, a poem, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to share it.  Also, I’m an awkward and uncomfortable individual, so, even though I am very comfortable speaking in front of people, drawing attention to myself in order to make the sharing of a word happen is hard for me to do.  I haven’t been at The Ark long enough to cause commotion.
Anyway, I got this word, and I wasn’t sure if I should share it, but I had the feeling I should.  I just kinda told God that the attention would be put on me, I wasn’t going to take it, if he actually wanted me to share the piece.  I made eye contact, but no movement to jump in.  However, now that I am home from work, I still feel the need to share it.  Thus, here it is.

Sometimes we feel let down
And we sing words, repeating
“You will never let me down”
Feeling we are already down
Not realizing the down
Is not really down
But leading to the highest high
The upest up
It’s all just a part of the journey
And looking back
This down will be nothing
But a stepping stone
A learning block
Left behind you
As you have moved on
To the bigger and the better
So keep your head up
Your eyes forward
As he will never let you down
He will never let you stay down
In fact, you are not even down
Held aloft
In his arms

As a Planner

As a planner, let me tell you a little something about plans
They change
And that might sound a little strange
Maybe as you’re hearing this you’re thinking, “this girl does not have her life together”
And that might be partly true
But in the best way possible, I have learned to just. let. go.

See, I knew where I was going to college three years before I enrolled
As for actually having a clue, I was at the top of the polls
So when the sands of time began to shift, I refused to acknowledge them
And I. began. to sink.

I would hold onto failed relationships, because I said they were forever
I would hold onto my future, even as I watched it crumble
I couldn’t dare let someone see me stumble
I was nothing, without my word

Every change made me feel like a liar
I became unable to promise anything at all
I began. to fall. apart.

Broken in pieces from my crash landing, somehow, I was found
They picked me up, helped me pull myself together, put my feet back on the ground
I became brave, strong, and full of ambition
Not sure who I would be or where I would go, my plans changing every minute

Eventually, time caught up with me, and I realized this was no way to live
It was time to dream again, plan again, do again
So I thought, and I prayed, and I thought, and I prayed, and I figured out a direction for my life
I would work, save, and move around, instead of settling down and becoming someone’s wife

But work started and my heart grew uneasy
I watched my life fall apart again
Calamity struck my family in a way I couldn’t ignore
And I knew the only thing I could do was open a new door
And just. be. there.

Living 45 minutes from my childhood home isn’t somewhere I ever wanted to be
Not knowing what is next sure doesn’t sound like me
I was the girl, forever looking forward, never dwelling in the present
But now, instead of worry, stress, and fret, I am simply content

So plans usually change
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make them
Don’t pull away, or forget who you are, just remind yourself to remember
That things rarely end up as we expected
But we can still keep our expectations high