There is always a story waiting to be told.
Grab a cup of coffee and join me as I share some Salt & Light.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I Hate Shopping *updated

My kids will tell you that I said hate, a bad word. In our house, bad words are hate, dumb, stupid and Remy gets the spelling of h-e-l-l, not that we say it around here, or that she really gets it I don't think. She learned at school, trying to rhyme words and spell words. How would she know? It's never used in a negative context, it's the opposite of heaven as far as she knows. It's a noun. Anyway, what I should say is that I really dislike shopping. There was a time I was like any other teenage girl, and could shop til I dropped. As I have gotten older, I hate nothing more than setting foot in a mall, especially if it involves any article of clothing for myself, even more so if I have to try things on. It's depressing. Not fun.

Well, now that we are somewhat settled up here, the shopping has begun. A different kind of shopping. Church shopping. I don't know who coined that phrase, but it's what we are doing. Sunday we went to an ELCA church up the road. I looked it up online and learned more about their community. Big nice building, it's been added on to as it's grown, has a mom's bible study during the week like Good Shepherd had. There's only so much you can tell from pictures though. Mark said a few times as we would drive past, "I really think we should try there." Can't judge a book by it's cover... er, a church by it's steeple?

So we got up and ready last Sunday and ventured off to First United. Around here in the summer, services change to one service on Sundays and one on Thursday evenings. The summer service schedule started with this past Sunday, and the time was good. Driving to the church and finding a place to park, I felt how nervous I was. Why was I so nervous? I kept asking God to keep my heart open to this new place. We found our way in and got seated. We sat toward the back. Inside it was more wide than deep. It was interesting. I noticed that the ceiling was like a hull of a boat. All beautiful woodwork. The decor on the other walls was all religious nautical. If there is such a thing!?

The pastor was nice enough. But, I couldn't get past the traditional service. They had kneelers, a small orchestra, and don't forget your red hymnals folks. I actually began to cry during the third or fourth hymn, and we'd only been there a few moments. It was kneel if you are able, stand if you are able, red hymnal, kneel, stand, red hymnal, sit, hymnal, hymnal, stand, sit, sermon, and we left. I think Mark could either tell how uncomfortable I was, or the pastor just didn't do it for him either.

I missed the Eighth Day band, the words on a screen for me to read (I have never ever been able to find any songs or pages in a hymnal, ever, I fluster through it so horribly!), jeans and casual dress and mostly Pastors Greg, Gary and Bob. I missed actual bread with wine. I don't like dipping a wafer. I missed smiles across the pew and my friends' hugs in the Narthex . I missed my kids getting excited to see their friends, too. I felt depressed.

But wait, there's more to the story. Tuesday's tale is coming.

*Updated with Tuesday's tale...

So, I went back to the drawing board. In this case, the internet. I started looking up all the churches in the area and checked out web sites for the those that had them. I looked in to what the church's mission is, learned about the pastor if I was able, what they offered for the children, not to mention all the ministries and small groups each had to offer for Mark and me. I really enjoy being able to listen to previous sermons online, too. One church near here that I was excited to check out, as they were MS and offered a contemporary service, had the sermons on-line! Well, I listened to two and a half sermons. Suffice it to say, we would not be shopping at that church. I had to stop two of them half way through. I really couldn't believe some of what I was hearing, I think more because of the way it was being presented. I am not one for sermons that point proverbial fingers, blame and pour on the "you are a sinner, sinner, sinner, sinner!" All I heard from these few sermons was the bible is a bunch of rules to be followed, and that no matter how we try - we will never live up to being able to follow said rules. Give me a bunch of rules and tell me I'll never amount to anything? Well than, sure, rules are made to be broken when you say it like that! I just might be a bit stubborn, though too, and that's what I hear.

What I became used to in sermons was learning about a relationship with Christ, and how to incorporate that into my everyday life. How we should be salt and light. Instead of pointing a finger at me from the pulpit and telling me what I'll never do because of all I've done... tell me about Jesus. Tell me what Jesus did while he was here, will you please? Jesus shared the love of God sometimes just by "being there" for someone. I can do that, I already do. He was a friend to sinners. Takes one to know one, right? He told Martha to chill out in the kitchen and just sit at his feet, like Mary. We all need to chill. I got this daily devotion from Purpose Driven Life and I think it says perfectly what I am trying to say:

"The good news is you’re able to enter into a relationship with God through an attitude of trust in Jesus Christ; not through religion, rules, regulations, or rituals. When we trust our lives to Jesus Christ we’re given three incredible, fabulous, wonderful benefits. So, when we tell others about the good news, we can let them know: God forgives your past; he gives you purpose in the present; and, he offers you a future."

And this one from another daily devotional:

"Something happens to you when you want to try to act like Jesus. You begin to change, not all at once, but you do change. What you want begins to change. Your whole life takes on a different focus. As I began to change, my family thought I was flipping out! It didn’t happen for me overnight. It took a long time to change bad habits but God placed His hand on my life that day and has continued to guide my every step. My life didn’t change at home. I was still living in a dangerous place but because I was willing to let God turn me into a new creation, my attitude began to change. And I hung in there because I finally had Someone who loved me, and I had a lot of wonderful Christian people who cared for me. God’s plan for us is that we all become a Christian. He doesn’t care what we’ve done or where we’ve been. He just wants to take us right where we are and begin a good work in us. When we make the choice, God makes the change. The first critical step toward a relationship with God is trusting Jesus Christ to be the leader of your life. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV)
Good Shepherd changed my life in so many ways, for the better. At one point during CRHP I think the community at church literally saved my life. I was really in a dark valley with Mark, we were very close to just some bad stuff and possibly divorce. The small groups, ministries and CRHP helped me through. I was able to confront Mark about where we were in our marriage and what was going on. It was the beginning of laying it all out there and talking it out. We started to work on our marriage. It led to everything we've been through the last year. So, to me, Good Shepherd is a tough act to follow. I pray to God that I have an open mind to all the churches we visit, and we'll know when it feels right. Through all we've been through, we know God is leading us in the right direction.

When we visited up here, months ago, before we moved, we drove past one particular church. I commented "Oh, look, they have their own green box!" There was a church near us in Illinois known as the Yellow Box. A very contemporary church on the move. Some of what Good Shepherd was incorporating into it's ministry was from Yellow Box. One of Mark's CRHP brothers was a member of Yellow Box. (People, the church is not called yellow box, but it's what the building looks like, a big. yellow. box.) I quickly followed my comment saying, "I shouldn't joke, that will probably be our church!"

So Tuesday morning after I listened to the other sermons, I then tried out the sermons online from what I will call, the green box. ;) Did they ever hit the spot. Everything I was used to and more. The pastor made a statement in one sermon that was exactly the spot Mark and I are in living up here. It spoke to me on so many levels. The site also listed their play lists from each service and all of them were songs that we know and sing along to on KLOVE or other christian stations. (There are few few few up here, but that's what the internet is for!) The church has all different kinds of programs for children, men and women. (And you can't beat free doughnuts and Starbucks coffee before services, right?) This was the next stop on our shopping adventure! I was excited to try this new place. Can you believe I was nervous at the last church? I think that says a lot!