Church… it’s my family

I have gone to church my whole life.  Even in college when no one was “making” me.  It has been something that I have always done; sometimes out of obligation, other times out of need but mostly because of the joy it gives me.  There is something so sacred about joining with others in worship and prayer.  And the connections run deep.  Very deep.  There is nothing like the love of church family.

My parents church... the church that i grew up in

My parents church… the church that I grew up in.

I witnessed it during a long period of health problems in my father. As an active farmer at the time of his stroke, he had many duties and responsibilities with livestock and crops that could not go unattended.  His church family was truly a life saver in that many people stepped in and assumed responsibilities and did undesirable jobs to continue the running of the farm.  And when it was discovered that he would never be able to farm again, they were there dismantling equipment and a farrowing house (which was a really yucky job). They drained lagoons, and got things ready for auctions.   They were there with all their combines and grain wagons when it was time for harvest.   It was truly one of the  most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.  A group of men linked together by God’s love literally being Jesus’ hands.

 

I have experienced the love of church family in my own life.  When I got a phone call late at night from my mother 12 hours away and friends and family are quick to step in to take care of  my children and church responsibilities.  The love of friends sending care packages as I travel.  The love of friends at church gathering around me in prayer when I got the call from my mother with the test results and her telling me it is cancer.

My Church and my beloved church family

My Church and my beloved church family

I was gone from my church for weeks at a time due to my parents health and I found myself missing it.  I missed the fellowship, I missed the community, I missed being part of something that was bigger than myself.  And when I returned, I was inundated with questions of how my family was. Because they cared about me.

It is for that same reason that I bake bread or make a meal for someone that just had a baby, or surgery or had a death in the family.  Because there is joy in the giving; a blessing to share God’s love with others.  And I share it not just with my church family but for my neighbors and friends regardless of their beliefs.  Because it is not just about church, but also about sharing God’s love with whoever needs it.  And really, we all need it.

I encourage you, if you are not part of a church, please find one. The denomination or the sign on the front door doesn’t matter as much as the part that you are part of something that you were created to be a part of.  God designed us to gather together in worship; to be part of something that is a unified community.  To be part of something greater than ourselves.  Where one can gather together with others of like mind, like purpose and a common love for our God.  See for yourself, there is something better when we are all together.

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Send me…

“Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people?  Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am.  Send me.”

Isiah 6:8 NLT

A reminder that God's blessing rests in our home

A reminder that God’s blessing rests in our home

This Christmas season has been one of reflection for me. I am experiencing all sorts of emotions that are whirling within my head and heart and robbing me of the peace that this season should provide.  I started the month of December with a prayer that I would truly experience God’s great love for me in a new and meaningful way.  I believe that God has answered that prayer but along with it brought confusion and questions that are still unresolved.

I work in our Children’s Ministry department on Sunday mornings.  We have three age divisions and I wanted to teach the importance of giving to others during the Christmas Season in a way that all the children, regardless of their age would be able to participate and understand the concept.  The curriculum we are using emphasizes generosity and to help put generosity into action, I chose to partner with Innercity Church in Oklahoma City with their Christmas program called “Christmas in the Hood”.  To help with this project, we filled shoe boxes with all sorts of goodies including candy, school supplies, toothpaste and toothbrushes, socks, gloves, hats and toys.    My two sons went with me to the church to deliver 50 shoeboxes.

My trunk was completely full of shoeboxes!!

My trunk was completely full of shoeboxes!!

As I was driving to Innercity church and driving in the neighborhood it was easy to notice that this is an old part of the city that is long neglected.  I drove past run down businesses with bars on the windows, abandoned buildings, neglected houses that are not taken care of, and children roaming the streets.  It was not a safe area and it made me a little nervous. As i approached the church, it also showed the same wear and tear.  It was an original brick structure with lots of buildings added on to it or adjoining it.  We parked and went in and met with the people to deliver the shoe boxes.  The inside of the building was a stark contrast to the old exterior.  The inside was clean, well taken care of and warm and inviting.  We unloaded the shoe boxes with the help of 4 men.  The four men were of various ages and ethnicity and their faces were a reflection of a life of hard work, poor choices and most importantly the joy of Jesus.

I was only there for less than 10 minutes, but that experience haunted me for the remainder of the week.  As I was driving away, I felt very aware of the difference of myself living the gospel contrasted with these church members living the gospel.  While neither is better than the other, it opened my eyes to what else I could or should be doing.

My sharing Jesus is based on teaching  children about God in a small rural town.  I help with the Women’s Ministry, I serve as a youth sponsor in our Youth Department.  Our family helps feed the homeless and needy at the City Rescue Mission.  Several times during the year, the kids and I load up and drive up and down the streets of downtown Oklahoma City and pass out bottles of water and crackers or granola bars to the homeless people on the streets.  It’s one of our favorite things to do (except for one of the kids – they are a little scared by it all).  We give to missions and pick tags off the Angel tree.  I enjoy each of these things and believe that they have great value and meaning to the people that I am reaching but it still doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t feel like enough,

What Christmas is all about...

What Christmas is all about…

Innercity Church’s Christianity is being the  hands of feet of Jesus every day to the needy.  To the people that don’t have enough food, they may not have a loving family or a warm house or a clean bed.  It seems wrong for me to go home to  my spacious, warm house that has plenty of food and lots of love to share.   My emphasis is getting great presents for my kids and family members and buying cute decorations for the house.  My Christmas seems so shiny and bright while the needy is so painful and raw.  It seems so selfish….

So I am struggling with where I fit into this picture of being Jesus’ hands and feet and knowing what else he wants me to do. My heart says “Yes, Lord. Send Me.  Here I am…. Use me”.  But I don’t know what that looks like other than what I’ve been doing.  So I’ll keep doing those ministry things and wait for more opportunities to share the love of Jesus.  I don’t ever want to get comfortable with where I am at and what I am doing.  So use me Lord, even if it’s messy or uncomfortable.

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Jesus is the reason for the season!