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?

Are The Ten Commandments Old Hat?

I grew up in the Catholic Church. Although I am no longer Catholic I believe many of the things I was taught. As I read the news this morning the Ten Commandments came to mind. They were rules to live by in earlier days. Most Christian churches believed in the Ten Commandments. I knew right from wrong because of my upbringing in the church and those Ten Commandments. They were drilled in to me and I still use them to guide me today.

But those teachings seem to be muddied these days. Knowing right from wrong today is confusing. We fudge on those moral teachings because they are not as clear cut. Somewhere along the line we don’t hear too much about those important words. I’m not sure our young people today would be able to recite the Ten Commandments. Are they as important to Christians today as the Pledge of Allegiance we are fighting about in the news?

The Ten Commandments from the Christian Churches are pretty clear cut. In case you have never heard of the Ten Commandments here are a few that to me seem easy across any language and religion.

Thou Shalt Not Steal.

Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against They Neighbor

Thou Shalt Not Kill

It was clear when I was a kid if you stole something and your parents found out about it, they would march you back to the store to make amends. There were were consequences back home and then there was the guilt. A little healthy guilt isn’t all bad. It might keep you from making the mistake again. We knew what stealing was and that it was wrong.

Today the lines of that commandment seems blurred even in my mind. Is it wrong to take something from our place of employment? Maybe we pick up a few pieces of paper, or pens, or office supplies? Don’t we work hard and deserve the little perk? What about purposely entering the wrong information when we apply for a job? A clerk doesn’t charge us enough for an item—do we point out the mistake or tell ourselves the mistake was theirs so it lets us off the hook? That’s a perk right, and not stealing? What little or big ways do we steal and chalk it up to being accepted? But do we feel the same way if we are the ones on the losing end of a transaction?

What about taking the Lord’s name in vain? Everyone does it these days. It seems to be accepted in mainstream USA. It wasn’t accepted in my parents home or the school I attended. It used to bother me when someone used God’s name in vain in front of me, but I am so used to it now that it becomes a blurb in the conversation and on television.

Recently at a local drinking and eating establishment a group of young men were using God’s name loudly and repeatedly, along with other language. A couple sitting at a table near them decided to move and leave because of it. They were offended. We took their table and during our meal listened to the loud, crude language. What had happened to me that I blew it off? What happened that it no longer offended me so that I wanted to say something?

I know a few people who use the Lord’s name and profanity profusely in their life outside of the church, but when they enter that church their entire demeanor changes and the language is pure as the driven snow. Here is what I want to say to them, “Come to church, be yourself. Decide which of those people is you and be who you are all the time.” Why do others feel they have to change when entering a church. If you are not ashamed of the language you use in public, then use it in church too. After all, we know the chameleon you are and accept it outside of the church walls. God does too. Don’t confuse the kids who know you in both worlds.

Let’s get on to the Do Not Bear False Witness. Your neighbor these days is everyone you come in contact with. Read the Social Media and people are bashing and bullying their neighbor on post after post after post. And we join in.

We all break rules. We all break the Ten Commandments if we believe in them. For many of us we know we want to do better. We know we are not living the lives we want to model for others. We make mistakes but we try and rectify them and go forward.

What’s the point of this long diatribe? Not to make me any better than you. But the thought crossed my mind today as we listen to the left and right, and the interpretations of morals from sides using the Bible, perhaps all we need to do is to follow the Ten Commandments. We could adopt a generic Ten Commandments for those that are going to argue the Ten Commandments are for Christians only.

Generic Rules To Live By

I will not put money and power before people and compassion.

I will not make my house, my cars, my wealth or my electronics more important than living a life of integrity.

I shall watch my language so as to not degenerate or offend another person.

I will take time to rest away from the noise of the world and the media so I can hear my own voice in the clutter of others opinions.

I will treat my elders with respect. I will see that they live their lives to the end with dignity.

I will not hurt another human being physically or with words.

I shall be a loyal mate and friend.

I will not steal.

I will not talk about my neighbor unkindly or bully another person because of our differences of opinion, race or religion.

I will not be jealous of my neighbor’s good fortune.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we tried at least one of them?

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.