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Posts Tagged ‘therunamuck’

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Last Sunday I featured a guest post here called, Struggling To Love Her, about the difficulty to sometimes love the church (small ‘c’ church … as in the local church). I was amazed at the responses I got, in terms of readers, but also in terms of personal comments, messages, emails). It is obviously a hot topic!

My inspiration, or guest was Amber Haines, who writes at www.therunamuck.com and www.incourage.me.

Toward the end of her post she said,

Once in a while you find yourself in the arms of your broken church, and she looks exactly like THE church, and THE church looks like Jesus. It’s worth pressing on, going to commune with the homesick ones, going to find a hand to hold, a bag to carry, wine to taste.”

And it is here where I want to start … where is the struggle to love her?

I have heard it said that more than the style of worship, more than the way that scripture is delivered, more than whether the pastor wears gowns, or jean or a tie, more than the programs that a church offers, more than whether the coffee served is free trade …

the one thing that will decide whether a church will survive in the coming years is …

drum-roll-please

… is it real?

Are those welcoming people into the church service, welcoming from their hearts … or playing a part?

Is the pastor preaching from how God has moved in his life?

Are the people in the pews, in the chairs, prepared to take you home for lunch?

Are people using their God-given gifts to spread the good news of Christ’s love for them, to meet the needs of people in their community (not just those in their church community)?

Are people praying for each other, more than just Sunday during church?

According to Thom Schultz, in the book (Why Nobody Wants Church Anymore) he co-authored with his wife, Joani, the four top reasons why the majority avoids church are :

1. they feel judged … aka not perfect
2. they don’t want to be lectured … reminded they are not perfect
3. church people are a bunch of hypocrites … people who act like they are perfect
4. they feel God is irrelevant to their life, but they’d like to know there is a God and he cares about them … they know they are not perfect, and want to feel loved in spite of their imperfections

That all pretty much boils down to … they want what is

real

People, both Christ-followers, and Christ-deniers, want life to be real, want relationships that are real, want people to accept them for who they really are … want church to be real.

We are not living in the garden of Eden … perfect is left behind.

We humans, and our human lives, and our human churches are :

messy
dirty
wrecked
flaw-filled
sin-filled

And it is in being who we really are
(flawed, pimpled, grayed and scarred)

and being able to look at, and Sunday sit-with

others,
(who are just as wrecked as ourselves)

and feel, and be accepted … just as we are.

But, that is not all!

If we are being really real, we do not just love others as they are,

we love others enough to not leave them where they are …

in the mud, mire and dirt of life
in the dark, blindness and deafness of the present
in the middle of their mess, their heartache, their

sin.

We can be really real enough to stay with them, to support them, to do what is practical, and to do what is immaterial, spiritual. To do more than just keep their head afloat, but to also teach them to swim in stormy waters, when no lifeboat is in sight.

To point them to the lifeguard who is always on duty, and to remind them that we are His flotation device.

Come on church,

let’s get

real.

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I knew it … but I wasn’t sure.

I thought I was alone … but felt confident that there must be others.

I felt guilty for my thoughts, my feelings … but …

When I read a post at www.incourage.me, called “When She Looks Like Jesus,” by Amber Haines (of The RunaMuck blog), I knew I was not alone, I knew there was at least one other kindred pilgrim out there who … who …

struggled to love the church.

Okay, so maybe that is not news to you. Maybe you just read my words and made the big ‘L’ on your forehead, and said, “DUH!’ Remember though, my hubby has given his life to her … our bread and butter is provided by her … our family is expected to represent her well! And here I am saying, for all to read and know, that I struggle to love her! This is where you might want to drop to your knees and pray for the sanity of my poor hubby!

But, this is not about hubby, or where he works, or what instrument I can play (I can play iTunes … but that is it). This is about my struggle, as a fellow pilgrim, to love …

her.

Oh, I don’t hate her, it’s just that, like myself in my own Christian life, I know that she could be better … has the ability to be better.

So, if you are like me, and

you struggle to love her

Or, maybe

you have only known oneness in her community

Check out the pilgrim heart of Amber Haines:

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Once she loved me. She had held my face and known me like a mother knows a child: the smirk, the thumb smearing dirt from the face, leaning her forehead into mine. She was with me. She put her hand on my back and prayed for me deep. She made a home for me, served hot bread and good wine, but it’s been a long time.

Our baby has been sick again, and I’ve travelled. I’ve fallen in love with Jesus’ people from all over. My brothers and sisters here have had to divide and conquer. I don’t have a group here anymore. On Sunday mornings, I’ve gone back to her, and when she opened the door, she didn’t know my name, and I had a hard time recognizing her face.

I haven’t known how to find my way back home.

Waking in the morning, waiting for the coffee, I’m not sure the exact thing that makes me so angry. It feels chronic, like green eyes and Scottish blood. My heart beats like stomping feet. I pour the drink and go to the quiet room for my routine time alone, my quiet time. I’ve said that I’m not afraid anymore. I threw fear off like an ugly coat. I’m afraid my fear turned to anger. I peal it back – down to the anger. Down to the fear beneath. The fear that always, every single time, opposes love.

This pilgrim thing is not my favorite part.

I cling to the ones who share my strange taste in music. I cling to those of you who write in the same vein. I touch the spines of my favorite books like pictures of old friends. Once a couple asked why I don’t ever just write what I mean. I cling to you okay with the I-don’t-knows. I keep kilter with the ones who are a little off a rocker, more comfortable on porches with ashtrays and melting ice cubes.

I don’t belong here. I’m the girl from the woods with a Bible in her hand, and I don’t always understand why I don’t much feel at home.

I walk with Jesus, and the more I do, the more homesick I am. Are you a wanderer, too?

I have friends who have never understood the struggle with love for church. I’m not sure people understand that I don’t mean THE church. The picture I have of the spotless bride of Christ (she is me), and then that after party? Oh I am so good with that. I love her now and forever. It’s just the going to church thing, like it’s a place on a mountain where God hovers like a cloud.

Church is not what happens on Sunday mornings, is it? Is it?

Maybe it is. Maybe that’s a big part of it. Maybe I wanted it to be the whole. Maybe I wanted Sunday mornings to mean nothing at all.

If a hammered dulcimer plays, you can guarantee that my husband and I are about three seconds from a good lip quiver, because hammered dulcimers sound like Rich Mullins, and his music points home. At church, Josh had the dulcimer, and Seth had guitar, and then Shelly put her hands in the air exactly how I know we’ll all be doing when we see Jesus face to face. We were throne-room singing. That’s usually why I go.

When I first sat down, I looked around and saw in the sea of people only two that I know. But next to me were two of the only people of color in the room. At the awkward meet-and-greet part, I couldn’t place her accent, but she’s not from anywhere close to here. I wondered how far away from home she felt, her Spirit-Filled Bible in her lap. I felt close to her.

On my other side came to sit one of our elders, and he is one of those tender-tough ones, looks like he could beat your face in or kiss it – either one. When we sang our Rich Mullins, he might have been deaf for the tones, but he sang like he had written every word. I fell in love with him there, a man who is tender-tough. When I turned to him at the awkward meet-and-greet, he said my name and asked of my sons.

I was angry because church hasn’t felt like home in a long time. I’m starting to think it was never meant to feel like home, not any more than Rich’s music and my Mama’s banana pudding. But at church, when I got Titus early from nursery, and I asked the people in the back to pray, he limped his unfed body into mine like he would fall asleep. They gathered around us, and one whispered over us in praise. One said Jesus is Healer; that is His name. One said Seth and I were brought together to bring forth a godly generation. One prayed against the fear and brought the Bible verses out. They put their hands on my back, called me Moses.

Once in a while you find yourself in the arms of your broken church, and she looks exactly like THE church, and THE church looks like Jesus. It’s worth pressing on, going to commune with the homesick ones, going to find a hand to hold, a bag to carry, wine to taste.

I am a pilgrim, and I get so homesick.

Little church, you don’t have to know my name to be beautiful. I just want to see Jesus. Let me be like the child to you.

Suffer me not.

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