Can’t We Have More Than One Church Family?

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If you have read my previous blogs you know my family is a mixture of religions. I have been a Catholic and turned Lutheran when I had my family. As I get older and ponder my religious upbringing the more I seem to question, not whether I believe in God, but why I need to attend one sole church.

The thought crossed my mind as I attended my Granddaughter’s confirmation. I knew why we had to belong to one church as my children grew up, so they could attend Sunday School, Bible School and learn more about God. That’s the way it is done. As I get older and have no children to raise I ponder why I can’t have many church families.

I loved the church service at the confirmation ceremony and the way my Granddaughter’s church, Cross of Peace Lutheran Church in Shakopee, MN, prepared their children for confirmation and made their day special. It made my day special too with the upbeat and contemporary service. You could feel the joy. I enjoyed the experience of worshipping in a congregation that was not my home church.

This week I decided to test my theory in my own home town. I decided to drop in and visit Open Doors United Methodist Church. It was my dad’s home church. I felt welcome the minute I walked in the door. The chatter and feeling of warmth immediately drew me in. As I experienced the services, different from my home congregation, I was moved. Looking at the bulletin I was drawn into wanting to attend some of their activities. It was Mother’s Day so the kids handed out homemade bookmarks to mothers. A woman I met briefly a few weeks earlier, invited me to dinner with her family. I already had plans but I appreciated the invitation. Another person invited me to a Bible Study.

After leaving I pondered visiting two different churches so close together, both different, but both feeding my heart and teaching me about the Lord and the gospel and church family. Each church, my own included, has an energy all their own.

I love the people in the church where I belong. My point is not unhappiness with my own home congregation, Good Shepherd Lutheran, it is something inside of me that wonders why we can’t have more than one church family in 2019. I know the doctrine of each church differs, but I also know very few people who 100 % follow the doctrine of their church. I am a mixed breed of religions and perhaps that is what is fueling my questions.

In my cozy mystery series books, the Fuchsia, MN Series, I think I addressed what I was feeling without knowing it. In Fuchsia, we have the We Save You Christian Church. Everyone in Fuchsia goes to the church. The denominations are not the same. The building is shared by all religions with the Priests and Ministers presiding over each denominations services but sharing the building. Residents can attend the service of their choice but many times they attend a service of another denomination because they want to change it up. Because they are all under the umbrella of one building, they are all one church family holding some events together. Maybe I pulled that out of some deep down feelings I have been hiding.

What would happen if we attended different churches on Sunday, expanding the church families that we have?  What if we weren’t so territorial about our people, but encouraged them to not only worship and take part in our church activities but of other churches too, and we welcomed others to join our activities without expectations. What if we welcomed and encouraged expanding church families and encouraged them to give their money wherever they worshipped for the Sunday? It would come back to us when others worshipped at our church.

I found events enticing me to attend in both churches where I worshipped in the last two weeks. At Cross of Peace Lutheran, I would love to participate in their Women, Wine and Woods event. At Open Doors I would love to participate in their Bible Study. There are things in my church too to attend. And there are events I wouldn’t mind helping with at each church such as a library and children’s book Sunday.

Am I advocating a pick and choose religion? Not really. I am advocating expanding and becoming part of a larger nurturing family of believers, rather than limiting ourselves to one inclusive congregation where attending another church or religion in your community might be viewed as a betrayal. I view it as enriching our lives with a bigger family brought together to learn about God.

I find I expand my world by seeing things through others eyes and the same can be said by learning about how others worship and what they do to feed their flock.

We have a fear in our congregations, I think it is underlying and not said, but in smaller communities perhaps, fostered silently, and that is that we are in competition with others churches and religions, and we need to keep people within our walls.

I love Billy Graham’s quote: Christianity means a lot more than church membership. And we’ve all heard the quote by Billy Sunday: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. I agree with both. But having a church family that has your back can change your life.

Spending time with others with like interests in various activities feeds us to come together in prayer and outreach, bringing with it laughter, and comfort and a deeper understanding of the word.

These thoughts are just those of a rebel old person. Whose hallowed halls will I still be welcome in?

Have You Found Your Calling?

Depression is real. It is a hopeless feeling that wells up inside of you and takes over rational thought putting fears, doubt, and paranoia inside of you so that you want the pain to stop.

I know, for me, when I feel anxious, sad and overwhelmed, if I keep on the path of those feelings the endless depression will overwhelm me. Occasionally my remedy is going to bed for a day and confronting it. It is the only thing which starts me back on my journey to being able to smile and see the light.

I wasn’t feeling good this weekend and I tried to decipher if it was a real illness, meaning my stomach picked up a bug, or if my feelings of being overwhelmed with responsibility were the cause of my stomach and my tears of sadness.

I turned on meditation music and gave myself permission to wallow in bed. At first thoughts of all the things I needed to do kept churning in my mind. Did I really have to do any of them or was it my expectations that were stealing my peace? As I wandered through my life’s experiences and memories—I’m a firm believer in learning from your past to go forward to your future—I knew what was causing me to be on the edge when it came to expectations this time. I will save that for another time but what did hit me in this day of rest and meditation was the “calling.”

What was my calling? And was that part of my anxiety? We hear the question all the time from our churches, from the media, from friends and from strangers. Self-help gurus, some very good ones, promote all of us to find our calling. And our churches ask us continually “What has God called you to do?”

If I read the news first thing in the morning we have a constant bombardment from the news headlines and almost every headline has the word Trump in it, for or against. Almost every headline has a disaster in it.

My cell phone updates frequently warn about the winter storm warnings or the flood warnings. A plane crashed, kids are hungry and illegal immigrant children are being kept from their parents and mistreated. The Social Media tells us if you’re a Republican you are supposed to be upset or hate Democrats and if are a Democrat you are supposed to be against and hate Republicans.

We feel helpless in the midst of all of this chaos. So not only are we supposed to find our calling we are supposed to find it in the mess we are bombarded with everyday.

There are so many volunteers needed everywhere. I have friends that spend their lives giving and giving and giving. They are busy 24-7. Not only do these people spend their time volunteering, they also have to juggle taking care of their family and spending time with them in the midst of the good things they are doing. Have they found their calling? I often wonder about how they keep up, or do they have to make those difficult choices for society over family? I remember at times being too busy volunteering to have time to help someone in my family.

What about parents who have to run with their children, work a full time job, and still expect or are expected to be the ever present volunteer to make the world better for their kids. Have they found their calling?

I lay in my bed this past weekend pondering these questions. I do think too much. It is hard for me to just be. I pondered these questions because I felt guilty being down and depressed when so many others are spending their time helping others. How do they take care of themselves so they can give back to others?

I know we need to stop hunger, stop global warming, stop sex trafficking, stop gun violence, stop ignoring the elderly and their needs, feed the homeless and the list goes on and on and on. I know we need to raise a next generation that is respectful and responsible. These are all things I know. I read the headlines and the list seems impossible because inside all those headlines we aren’t given any good news.

I don’t know about you—these things bother me because I can’t do anything about any of it—but if I am called to do something as everyone tells me, what am I called to do? It seems when people preach or bellow about our calling they always want to make us think if we aren’t doing something out there for the world to see we are failing. We are drug down to believe rest or being busy is laziness and failure. We have to be on the move all the time. Is this what we are teaching our youngsters? Nothing we ever do is good enough in the eyes of the world.

My sister-in-law, who lived states away, years ago came to visit my mother-in-law who was in a nursing home. After visiting, my sister-in-law came to my home and told me I was called to bring my mother-in-law out of the nursing home into our home and take care of her. I felt guilty because I didn’t want to do that. Was that my call and I was ignoring it? That time I was at a good place in my life and I knew just because we had a responsibility we needed to do or had a responsibility that we could do, didn’t mean that was what I was called to do. We all do things because we need to do them. We all do things because we might be good at it. That doesn’t mean it is our calling. At least I at the time, didn’t feel like that was my calling.

As I took care of me on this lazy weekend day I felt guilty for taking the time to get it together. In reality, if someone would have asked me to do something for them that day I probably would have said yes and put my “me” day on hold. And it would have been because I have been programed to put myself second and so have many people.

The day did me good. I, in my head, know if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of anyone else. But yet…what is my calling? Should I feel guilty because I don’t know?

What if I said, after my day of rest that I do know what my calling is NOT. I am not called to make another person feel bad. I am not called to use my words in a way that will degenerate another living human being. I am not called to hate. I am not called to judge. I am not called to be cruel.

I don’t know what my calling is. I don’t know if I need one. If I stick to what I know I am not called to do, would that be enough? If all of us did that, would we need all the venues we need today to combat those things?

Perhaps our calling is the gift God gave us when he gave us our magnificent bodies and what we are called to do is to take care of them, and then the rest will all fall into place because we will be peaceful and whole.

Perhaps all we really are called to do is to love one another. Rather than being confused about all the material and societal mores to live up to, we could rest in our journey if we felt love from others, for others, and for ourselves. Wouldn’t the headlines be fun to read each morning? In spite of whatever is happening in our lives whether it showing others who we truly are, weathering storms, the personal and the weather related, love would get us through.

I Wish You Five Minutes

Chapter Six: I Wish You Five Minutes

img_1625Now that I have caught you up on my past religious institution journey, let me explain how I got to this point from the beginning blog about priorities and time and anxiety.

It’s a Sunday in January 2019 as I write this. I went to church on Wednesday night because churches have changed to accommodate the busy schedule we all have today. Our priorities have changed. Schools do not make time for religion. Sports and activities do not make time for Sunday and religion. And my Facebook people on Slices of Life, along with me, are filled with anxiety and fear and we can’t find five minutes to take a breath, pray or read a chapter in a book. And that in itself makes us anxious.

All I have is my own journey to critique. I write books for a living and am semi-retired. I work from home and yet…I am stressed and anxious much more than I was in my younger years when I really had things to be stressed about. Still, I found time in those days to read a book and be involved in my religion.

But I also know now at this stage in my life I am questioning more. I am frustrated frequently with the dynamics of society. Maybe it is because I am older and I have time to think about it.

Some questions that come to mind are these:

Why would my mother marry someone she thought was going to hell because he wasn’t Catholic? Did she become more rigid as she got older?

Does it matter whether I am Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist etc. as long as I believe in God and worship Him in some way?

What is more important in a church? Is it the appearance of a building or a person or the outreach and teaching of love for one another?

I know I need a church family but I can no longer color inside the lines because I feel the joy being stifled. We live in a society now made up of all races and religions and we expect everyone to fit into one box rather than embracing what one can bring to the other. I think I have always felt that way but have conformed to societies expectations because I was taught that was what one did as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a church member, and as an American.

I wanted to be liked and accepted. I wanted to be included so I fit in. But now I want to be me with my wild ideas, with my wild imagination and with my not caring about what is on the outside but what is on the inside. I feel alone some of the time when I am in a group that makes me feel as if a change is not progress, and wants to hold on to what was no matter if it turns people away or stifles growth. I feel like an outsider when others scoff at my ideas because my ideas don’t conform to what society expects.

Part of my frustration probably is that I am a sum of all my parts. Each person has to find spiritually, that which draws them closer to what I call God or to their name for their higher power. It may be Catholic or Lutheran or Methodist or whatever religion speaks to their heart. But the sum of all my parts are a conglomeration of religions from my ancestors and I think I feel that because I want to raise my hands in praise and shout loudly with joy. I want to clap, yes clap my hands. That may be why committing to one denomination and their beliefs are so hard for me. I come from roots of many religious belief systems and I loved those people. How could those good,  loving people be bad because they chose to worship a different way than me? All I knew from them was love.

Taking five minutes with Max Lucado’s book or five minutes just to be in the moment has helped me accept me and know that my anxiety and fear might also come with trying to live in a world that is loud in judgment at those who are different, or when not agreeing with the norm or the popular opinion. All my life I may have blindly accepted or followed, without taking time to think it through or question why the spoons had to be so perfect in a church. Was I afraid if I revealed my true self I would be asked to leave?

There is a lot of anxiety in wanting to be accepted, in wanting everything to be perfect and by disallowing how we truly feel and going along with what society deems is honest and truthful because let’s be honest and truthful –––honesty and truth in 2019 are not what they used to be. And it causes anxiety and fear.

Perhaps in our busy lives, we can’t find five minutes to read, to breathe, to be kind to someone or to take time for ourselves because we don’t want to face what we want to change in ourselves.

Those five minutes I take to read and refresh and pause, make me also realize I kept so busy because I didn’t want to take the time to face my life. I didn’t want to know me because maybe I didn’t like who I was, or maybe I was afraid to speak up because of the ridicule and repercussions.

My friend was right. I needed the forced time to confront my journey. It wasn’t easy. Life is hard. But looking at life and where we have been and where we are going is almost harder.

Right now my five minutes a day reading is a book called,  Catching Your Breath, the Sacred Journey from Chaos to Calm by Steve Austin. I have only made it to Chapter Two but this book is what prompted these few blog posts. He brought up many of the feelings I have wanted to articulate but have been afraid to. I can’t wait to read the rest, five minutes at a time. My journey is a work in progress and it will be for the rest of my life.

Thank you for reading and sticking with me during this diatribe. I wish you five minutes.