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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When It’s Overwhelming

A truly interesting experience
To step into
Fall into, really
When you don’t know what to expect
And then God embarrasses you
Seeing your heart
Whispering in your ear
What do you have to be ashamed of?
When I have redeemed you
Rescued you from shame

Too much
Too good
Too crazy
And wondering what am I?
Amidst the chords and insanity
I don’t know how to follow this
Can I dwell in this glory?
Can I be free in this?
Or am I locking up my heart and throwing away the key?

The seats are empty around me
Because they all live at the altar
But maybe this is my altar
Making my sacrifices alone

70 times seven apologies
Cities he’ll give you
Cities he’ll take
Even when we don’t want to say it
We belong to him
In him
And he will take us over
If only we’ll let him

Maybe something broke within me
Every time I step a little closer
A little more love spills out of me
Overflowing
I can’t control it
It’s too much
Feeling I’ve become too much
Again

Drive

Long drives on county roads
Tall grass tracing existence
Giving me something to dream on
Noah on the speakers
But it’s God that’s speaking to me
This is church
This is worship
Presence on my mind
Behind me
Before me
At the top of my lungs

I am more myself here
With no one else around
Me, Noah, and God
Truth rings out in this car
Constantly craving authenticity
Believing I am failing at being authentic
Find me here

I have tried to drown myself
In self medication
Living in denial
Waking up to too many empty mornings
I need another drive
I was found there

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

A Mess Worth Loving

I just saw the move Suicide Squad.  And this blog is not about that.  But it made me think.  There are so many psychological things going on in that movie.  I think that’s how I can tell good screen writing.  It’s  a mess.  There are so many levels in the simplicity of the story.
I just rewatched Avatar: The Last Airbender series.  That’s another show with so much psychology.  Everyone is a mess.  Everyone has a dynamic.  It isn’t just good over evil.  It’s more than that.

I love messes.  It’s probably because I’m a mess.  I’m a psychological mess.  I live in organized chaos.  And I can hate it, hate me, keep trying to change myself, or I can accept myself.  Just like I’ve accepted every mess of a person that has walked into my life.  And we can’t deny that we all have a little mess in us.

I have a talent for finding broken people, the messes.  It’s like I have a mess magnet in my heart.  And my heart loves them loves them loves them.  I don’t even want to fix them, I just want them to be accepted.  I crave acceptance and I try to hand it out like candy at a small town parade.  I would be lying if this acceptance has not hurt me in past, but it’s still all I know how to do.  I don’t want anyone to feel the hate that souls, my soul, are so capable of churning up.  Hate will never make the world a better place.  Who cares about disagreements?  Hate will never change anyone into who you want them to be.  Love might.  Acceptance might.  And if it doesn’t, it won’t matter, because love always wins.

It’s so funny to me that this is my philosophy on life, when I am so quick to turn it around on my own self, my own people, my background, my roots, where I came from.  I get so angry at Christians because in my eyes, I still expect them to judge me.  I still see the judgement toward those who have chosen a different lifestyle.  I still hear the judgement in their voices when political disagreements become apparent.  But aren’t we supposed to be Christlike?  Aren’t we supposed to be loving, just like the God that we say we follow, that we say created us to love?

I want to accept.  While I expect to be unaccepted.  In every walk.  When people get excited that I decide to show up somewhere my mind is blown.  I don’t expect it.  It almost makes me want to leave.  Because I’m a psychological mess that loves psychological messes.  As soon as I hear your brokenness, your struggle, your story, I’m likely to fall into your soul.  I’m likely to want you by my side, in my heart, near me, with me.
And I know it’s time that I take a step back.

Today I took a step in a different direction.  I forgot my notebook when I went to church, so I couldn’t write, which is my protection, I think.  Yes, it is my identity, but I’m vulnerable without it.
When the music started playing, it suddenly occurred to me to join my friends on the floor, rather than staying in my seat.  I haven’t been that person in years.  Because of my fear.  I’m constantly expecting to be watched.  Because I don’t dance.  I don’t jump around.  And when I lose myself, I’m more likely to be still than I am to be some spiritual craziness.  I’m more likely to be like Mary, lost at Christ’s feet, than I am to be like David, who danced before the Lord.  I always expect judgement in that.  But it is my reality.  Stop judging me for my reality.  Or maybe you’re not.  Or maybe I don’t care anymore.

Blogging Everyday in July|A Poem for Allie

My friends here have honed in on a particular talent of mine.   I can write poems quickly, pretty much about anything.  And a lot of times, if the mood is right and if my heart is right and if I’m hearing right, I can write prophetic poems about people.  A few weeks ago I was at a Bible study and my friend, Hannah, asked me to write a poem about her, and I did, and now I get asked to do it for other people.  But only on occasion.  This would be one of these.  But this girl, when she asked me to write a poem about her, didn’t realize that I had already been formulating one in my mind.  So this a poem about Allie Simmons, for Allie Simmons.  If you know her, you are blessed.

 

Royal
Queen
Commanding attention without saying a word
Silently ruling in peace
Atmospheres shifting
Try not to hold your breath

Harmonies resonate through the room
Melodies take souls and shake them
There is joy
There is peace
There is love

Every step has purpose
Every word has thought
Nothing careless
Nothing meaningless
Coming alongside with authority

Set aside for a reason
Not fully realized
Created for preservation
Re-birthing royalty
Renewing a line of peace

Storm

A storm is coming
We’ve seen the rain
Felt the cold
But are we ready to experience this shaking earth?

The ground is shifting
And we can move with it in worship
Go with the flow
Embrace the change

Or we can try to fight it
Brace ourselves to be broken
To fall to our knees
As the floor beneath us disappears

We can run away
Take to the seas
Find sanctuary in the skies
But this storm is everywhere

There is no hiding
So we might as well accept it
Our fate has never been in our hands
Remember?  He’s got the whole world in his hands

He is dancing with us
And if you’re not prepared
Dancing can be scary
He never asked us to be fearless

So let’s dance in the rain
Leap with the rolling earth
Drift in the crashing seas
Because with destruction comes rebirth