Taking my place in the Pews

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘new’ Christians. People who’ve just decided to accept Jesus or maybe they haven’t accepted him yet but they are ‘trying on’ the Christian life. I have some good friends who have just begun attending church. In fact, they were previously pretty Anti-church. So now when they sit next to me, I’m keenly aware of all the nuances of the service. How church members relate to each other. The rituals and habits we have. It must seem so foreign to them! I remember when it was foreign to me. The churchy language, the small groups, full immersion baptism. Oh man , THAT one used to freak me out! (I worked hard on my hair and makeup and you want to ruin it? In public??) I’m also aware of the expectations that can sometimes accompany church membership.


One of the things I dearly want for my friends is not to confuse who they are to the church with who they are to God.

I  started attending church again regularly after a lengthy almost  two decades  hiatus during which I royally screwed up life (another many stories for another time) I was happy to be there but I felt like such an outsider. It was like being the new kid in middle school and all the other kids had been friends since they were in Kindergarten. Fortunately, the congregation was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Plus they served snacks after service. Bonus! They drew me into their tribe, their culture, their lives, their conversations. It was amazing! I couldn’t get enough. After 14 years in my  2nd abusive marriage (no judging) my self esteem was next to nothing and I didn’t feel like I had anything of value to offer other than my hairstyling skills. But these people-they seemed to love ME and that’s what I so desperately needed. So, in true over achiever fashion I jumped right in to everything they had to offer. And there was a lot!! I did women’s ministry. I did Bible studies. I attended conferences. I helped with and planned events, dinners, children’s ministry puppet shows. You name it, I said YES. Heck , I even went to Bible college and graduated Valedictorian! I drank ALL the Kool Aid! I was killing this Christian thing!! And for a while it felt awesome! I was accepted. I was praised. I was wanted. I was appreciated.


When I was at my lowest God knew what I needed and He generously supplied.However, while I was moving up in church leadership I began to realize that something was off. My church family seemed more interested in what I was producing rather than what I was becoming. I was a major player. One of the ‘special’ ones. I also felt tired, judged, confused, stretched thin, and vaguely empty.

I began to realize that I wasn’t doing all this for God. I was more concerned with what people would think of me if I Didn’t do #allthethings  all the time. Ashamedly,  I also realized that I was addicted to the accolades that I got from being ‘one of the chosen’ who sat at the front of the church. Or being one of the few that attended the inner circle meetings of church hierarchy. I’d become one of the cool kids and I liked it. It made me feel special. Somewhere along the line I’d gotten it wrong. I’d come back to church and to Jesus because he accepted and loved  ME.  Not because of Anything that I did. He loved me when I wasn’t doing anything ‘special’. I didn’t want to have to do all the right things to be accepted anymore. Jesus had only one qualification for me to follow him and that is that I am totally Unqualified.

My marriage(s)  had left me with the wound of ‘ never good enough’. Even though I thought I’d left that at the door, all I did was bring it with me and put a Sunday suit on it. I’d moved my hamster wheel of worthiness from home to church. I’d spent years and years trying to become whatever people wanted me to be so that I’d be valuable to them. Constantly trying to figure out what they wanted from me.

What I didn’t understand was that all God wanted from me was– Me.giphy (1).gif


Because God likes to mess with my comfort zones, He led us away from that particular church and all the activities I’d put in His place. He removed my protective Armor of Productivity and put me on a ‘Busyness Time Out’.  I no longer had my committees and bible studies and women’s groups to take up my time. In the absence of movement there was only me…..and God. And you know what I began to realize? I didn’t need all the busy work. Not once. Not one single time did I feel any less loved for not ‘producing’ . In fact, I felt peaceful and comforted and accepted again. As I spent my time with God and reading His word it slowly dawned on me that He just wants me to love Him. Trust Him. Love others. Be kind. It doesn’t matter if I do that for 300 people or just the guy bagging my groceries.  I don’t need to do something that looks Big and Amazing to people. To God the smallest gestures of love ARE big and amazing. He knows that my giving of love produces far more results than anything else.

So, if you want to find me at church don’t go looking where the volunteers are. That may come at another season of my life again; but not now. For now, you can find me sitting in the aisles next to my newbie church friends and just being with them.

A Declined Invitation

Have you ever had someone turn down your invitation to join you for a party or an event? It stinks, doesn’t it? I mean, the whole point in asking them to come is because you want to be with them. You want to share the experience with them. Partake in the enjoyment of it together.

This happened to me last week. I sent an invite to someone I really wanted to spend time with. It wasn’t just that they declined, they didn’t even bother to respond.Initially. I gave them the benifit of the doubt thinking they must not have seen the invitation.We’ve all missed evites that got buried under the spam mail, right? So, when I saw them I asked, ‘hey, did you see my invitation? I didn’t want you to miss it!’ Yep….they’d seen it. Seen and Dismissed. Ouch! Not only did they not answer, but they couldn’t give me an explanation as to Why they didn’t want to attend. All I got was shrugged shoulders and a mumbled “Idunno’. Dannggggg ya’ll. I’m not going to lie, I was pissed. And hurt. RSVP

Issuing an invitation entails a certain degree of trust.

You trust that:

they will share your interest

they will make an effort to attend if possible

they will, at the very least, RSVP.

Here is the thing about Invitations though. They come with options.

Yes. No. Maybe.(like those notes we passed in elementary school)

Invitations don’t guarantee someone’s presence or participation. They are not commands bereft of  a choice. The invited are allowed to exercise free will.

And really isn’t this the way it should be? If I invite someone to be with me I want them to attend with the same enthusiasm that I invited them with. Attendance out of obligation is meaningless.

Issuing an invitation is an act of vulnerability. We put our hearts out with every invite by offering a piece of ourselves to the other person. We are saying ‘I want you. You matter to me and I want to share some of my time with you’. That’s why it hurts so much when we get declined.It doesn’t just feel like a negative response to the event it feels like a rejection of US.       expectation

So, as I was licking my wounds and being really ticked off, I started wondering how God would want me to respond. I was pretty sure that my initial reaction of being sullen and snarky wasn’t the proper way to handle it. It made me think of how many times He issues invitations to me that I decline. Or invitations I don’t even acknowledge. How many times does God beckon me to come spend time with Him? How many times has He asked me to do something with Him and I just hit delete without responding? The awesome thing about God not being me is that He never gets sullen and snarky about my lack of response. He just keeps inviting as if I never rejected Him. He’s far more secure in His worth than I am in mine.

In thinking of how God responds to me I came up with a few guidelines for me to remember when my invitations get rejected:

A negative response does not determine my worth or value.It’s never personal When I say no to God it doesn’t mean I don’t love Him. My response is solely based on what I’m feeling or focusing on at the moment. Yes, I know that’s selfish. Don’t judge me.

My joy is not based on their presence or absence. I have expectations of people and when they aren’t met I get hurt and disappointed and sad. I don’t think God has these unrealistic expectations of us. He wants us to decide to be with Him. I believe He’s delighted for US when we choose to accept His invitation but I don’t think it ruins His day when we don’t.

I can’t control what people will say Yes to or when.I can only hope they will. And they will, when the time is right for them. I say ‘yes’ to God when I’m ready. He doesn’t try to control my decision, He just keeps issuing the invitation. No pressure. No expectations. Just patient and continual offering. He doesn’t give up on me because I initially reject His offer. He knows that being with Him is awesome!  (that is some amazing self esteem) The ones who think that being with me is awesome will accept my invitation. The ones that keep ignoring it…well they’re going to miss out but it’s no longer going to ruin my day.god pursues

I’ll be honest. Even with this insight my feelings are still bruised. Except now instead of being a deep purplish one it’s turning into a pale yellow one. A few more days and I should be healed. Maybe next time I’ll dodge the blow altogether.