When it hurts too much to tell the church

Somewhere along the way we get to this place of comfort and assurance in our Christian lives where people finally accept us without judgment, then a storm comes and we suddenly find ourselves too afraid to come to the church for support. What we all misunderstand from time to time is that we aren’t alone. Our churches are full of people wrestling with this same problem. Add to that the problems we’re already facing and we end up feeling lost, isolated, alone, condemned, defeated, and helpless.

If the churches had a real down to earth confession time we’d see that we aren’t the only ones who are facing very complex issues within our families, neighborhoods, and work places. Everyone is suffering from some kind of issue and it could be within themselves, with a spouse, a child, a sibling of their own, or their own parents.

What we shouldn’t be doing is living in fear of being authentic people. How can friends learn to trust each other with their heartaches?

The short answer is by being people of grace. Yet, this is not as easy as it sounds.

As soon as you let people know you understand complex issues by name, some people automatically assume you agree with those issues. Being an understanding person doesn’t mean you agree with what you’re understanding. To refuse to hear people out and insist you don’t need to understand them is not how you establish your own personal boundary. You only end up closing people off when they need you most.

memories by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

Christians face adultery, homosexuality, legalism, abuse, addiction, debt, gluttony, anorexia, abortion, and all sorts of other things. Just because Christians belong to a church doesn’t mean they are without their own dysfunction. We’re all fallible.

Some say Jesus came to show us how to be perfect, but I argue that Jesus came to show us how to be human. He didn’t ask us to relate to him, he came in human form to relate to us. Jesus showed us how to be angry, stand up for injustice, how to be in the presence of gluttons, tax collectors, and harlots. He showed us how to love, how to extend grace, and how to cry. He didn’t puff himself up as an idol to say, “Look at me, I’m so perfect. You need to be just like me, perfect in every way.” Not at all. He came to show us that we are just as we were created to be, human. Any amount of divinity that shines in our lives is a wonderful glimpse at who he is, but we are still humans.

I believe Jesus came to say, “it’s ok to be human” and any fallibility we see in ourselves is balanced out because of his grace. We suffer in this life, but he embraces us in that suffering. We face temptation in this world, but he never leaves us nor forsakes us.

I don’t expect a congregation to replace Jesus in our lives. I don’t expect them to perfectly extend grace, just let people know God does. I have hope that congregations can grow up more and learn to understand others. Even though we have Jesus, we still need one another.

We need Jesus-with-skin-on, a human Jesus. Maybe we can practice hiding our condemnation so people don’t have to feel like they need to hide their humanity.

Linked up to “Life UnMasked” at Joy in this Journey

Sisterlisa

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Encourage and Empower Yourself in the Lord

Have you ever been in a situation when the person you crossed paths with seemed to suck the life and joy right out of you? My daughter and I quietly refer to them as emotional vampires. It’s very possible they have been spiritually, emotionally, and mentally neglected for a long time, but nonetheless be on guard.

I firmly believe that people carry energy. It’s scientifically proven by the positive energy our bodies create through the life source we have in the flowing blood under our skin. When we rub our hands together quickly, creating friction, we create warmth between our hands. This is positive energy. It’s also been proven psychologically when Dr. Henry H. Goddard conducted an experiment with how children behaved based on giving them words of praise versus condemnation. Giving authentic praise feeds people with energy which can inspire them to rise to a higher level of happiness and joy. In turn they may end up giving positive energy to others too. It’s like a domino effect.

There’s really only so much we can do to build people up and when they continue in that ‘vampire’ mode they are dependent on stimuli to make them stay happy or they simply just love misery. This isn’t a healthy relationship for us. We have the freedom to walk away from relationships that are draining. We can send a postcard or email from time to time to let them know we’re thinking of them, but they need to find that inward place of joy that will carry them through even if no one is around to lift them up.

1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” ESV

Every person ends up having a day that doesn’t seem to get any better. We need to learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord.

Cup o' Tea by bevland, on Pix-O-Sphere

Our identity is in Christ. We are hid in God, like a cleft in the rock. He is a strong tower and we run into it and are safe. No matter what, our souls are in his safe and tender care. As nice as it is to hear what a good housekeeper or parent we are, on those days when no one gives us any appreciation or affirmation, we can always rest in God’s truth about us. We are loved and valued in his sight.

There’s alsways those ‘times of the month’ that make us feel especially down. These are the days we need to spoil ourselves rotten. Don’t be afraid to take care of YOU. Get up and make your coffee in your favorite coffee cup. Be prepared to do the following for yourself;

  • Take a long hot shower with your favorite body wash.
  • Get dressed up, including shoes.
  • Fix your hair and put makeup on.
  • Put on some sparkly jewelry.
  • Get your coffee and read a book, your bible, or even Facebook. Whatever makes you happy.
  • Have a few Identity Verse Cards readily available. Create memory verse cards about your identity in Christ. Pick the verses that affirm God’s love for you. Write them down on 3×5 cards and keep them in a pretty envelope or box near your bible. Read them to yourself, out loud!
  • Write yourself a love letter and include quotes or bible verses to reinforce your faith in yourself. It’s okay to believe in yourself, God does. Light your favorite candle and read the letter outloud to yourself. Lay claim on the abundant life you will live that day. Read the letter boldly. You are a Victor.

“I am deeply loved and have great value in the Kingdom. Today I’m going to live like the princess I am and proclaim love to the world around me. In turn I will feel good about myself, because I have a giving spirit.”

The candle is for a focal point and lighting the flame is a symbol of God’s all encompassing love and purification.

These are simple and affordable ways to lift ourselves up so we can be an encouragement to those around us.

I hope this has been an encouragement to you. Live life empowered!

Sisterlisa

 

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On Being Transparent

The cry goes out in the blogosphere, ‘be authentic’. Readers want transparency and originality and I understand that. I would much rather read a blog that has authentic heart and a realistic personality, but then we hesitate on being authentic ourselves. I think many of us secretly battle with insecurity and fear rejection if people knew who we really are. We get tired of hearing the same ol’ Christianeze cliches and pat answers to life’s challenges and we eagerly grab at water hoping to bottle it up and hook ourselves up to get an iv drip of grace. Can we get a life of grace in the midst of reality while wrestling with fears of not being accepted and loved?

After leaving a cult my mind began to unwind and at times it seemed to unravel far too quickly and I thought I would lose my mind. Each morning I woke up with racing thoughts and anxiety plagued my soul as I faced each day with uncertainty. The years of hearing nightmarish tales of what happens to people when they leave ‘their church’ were horrendous. You see, I became accustomed to making the church life my anchor instead of Jesus. The empty promises of ‘do this and everything will be ok’ had come to a screeching halt and each day was met with wondering when the ‘lightning’ would crash down upon us. Then seeing how people within the church were still suffering from adultery, pedophilia, abusive marriages, and teenage pregnancy it dawned on me that the ‘church’ was not safe. Or perhaps it was just that life isn’t safe.

Life, whether in church or not, has no promises to bliss. Life takes us on twists and turns all the time no matter where we gather, fellowship, or worship, but the key to facing this unpredictable life is to discover how grace fits into the grand scheme of things.

My husband had finally arrived at home after interviewing for almost 3 weeks at a distance of over 500 miles away. I am so glad he’s home. We enjoyed Saturday evening and we were determined to sleep in a bit on Sunday and enjoy being together. What is it about the desire to sleep in and you end up waking up before the sunrise? I opened my eyes and lay there listening to my mind and I was at rest. I thought I might cry. I don’t know when the early morning anxiety and racing thoughts had ceased, but this was the morning that I noticed it. I sighed a deep breath of relief.

The last few years have been painful and relieving at the same time. It’s difficult to compose into words and yet journaling our departure has been therapeutic for me. The hard part is when my thoughts, questions, and biblical interrogation of cult teachings made my loved ones uncomfortable. Friends fled quickly and at times I felt more lost and alone than before I encountered Jesus. There’s nothing like having everything you hold as sacred and special ripped out from under you then to see your loved ones leave you to squander in the mess alone.

Do we really want to encourage people to be authentic, genuine, realistic, and transparent? If we do, then we had better be ready to support them as loved and accepted in the process. Being transparent can be a filthy mess and if we can’t figure out how to give a relevant Jesus to a hurting believer then we have missed the mark on being  Christians.

Now we’re preparing to move to a new community and get a fresh start. Perhaps the past has finally died and the rebirth process is beginning again. Going through labor pains in life isn’t easy and it’s quite painful. To be birthed out of an enclosed and comfortable environment and into a new world can be frightening. Maybe this is why new born babies are born screaming and desiring to snuggle close to their mommas. We’ll be looking for community, a place to be encouraged and a place to serve others. I hope to be able to share more with you very soon. For now we’re totally going on faith…afterall..isn’t that what being a Christian involves?

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