Saturday, June 22, 2013

Does The Holy Spirit Come to Church Anymore?...

I've been on a silent search for a few months now, to find the Holy Spirit outside of my home and inside of a church. You would think that this would not be a hard task but believe me… it’s been somewhat of a challenge.

Not that I haven’t experienced Him in a church service lately, I have but it’s been short lived. He usually shows up in a song or a person’s prayer or by chance in another member who speaks to me from the heart.  I’m starting to believe that He is partially welcomed because there is so much on the agenda and we can’t have Him messing the order of service up and prolonging things that need to be kept short and tidy.

Some people think that the Holy Spirit is a havoc wreaker causing people to jump and shout uncontrollably for hours and that He is egged on by the person on the keyboard, piano or organ…I've seen that recently as well.  I don’t personally think that the Holy Spirit is unruly and needs music cues as much as He does a simple welcome.

I think that I need to make peace with the fact that church is partially spiritual but mostly informational by way of a motivation or spiritual dissertation. If I can settle that in my heart then I won’t be so disappointed when I go to church anymore.

With that being said, I had the unique experience of visiting a good friend’s church a few weeks ago that may be among the remnant that welcomes the Holy Spirit to come, stay and abide. It will not be because of what they plan for the service, as much as whom they welcome into the building. Being welcomed anytime you come is major.  Being treated the same by the members whether you come once a month, twice a year or every single Sunday is huge. Why? Because there is a feeling that one gets when he or she leaves a church to branch out on their own and actually seek God in other ways, when they see their former church “family” on the outside.

The feeling is like being the black sheep of the family or running away from home or in my case needing a divorce and knowing that my choice would be sorely disapproved by the powers that be and the truly religious.

I grew up in a cult (I mentioned that in a former blog) and I know what It’s like to leave a cult and have to start a new life…you are virtually disowned and it’s a tough road ahead. What churches don’t understand is that they are not so different from cults at times in the way that everyone is on the inside and once you leave, you are an outsider. People don’t know what to say to you, if they say anything at all. It feels the same, it really does.

When I visited my friend Ken’s church, I came in and got the feel of the building. I sat in the third pew from the front on the left side and waited, for what, I’m not sure. As I waited, I browsed through the church bulletin for the usual announcements and committee meetings but when I got to the Welcome I was overcome with emotions.  I can’t quite describe how I felt but one thing is for sure, I know that I felt welcomed. It was as if someone sat and prayed for hours thinking about the lives of everyone around them, including their own and wrote these words. I was told that the church came across this welcome on the internet and decided that it fit Mulberry perfectly.

If you are a stark traditionalist than the following words will mess with your theology in a way that will force you to disapprove but since I don’t prefer to cling to theology but only to Christ, I truly understand why this welcome was put in their bulletin.  Here it is:


We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no hablo ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsin,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.

We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion” because many of us have been there too. If you blew all your offering money last night at the club, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts…and you! 

After reading this welcome, I relaxed because I realized that if any or all of those people were sitting around me waiting to worship on a Sunday morning, then Jesus had to show up because those were the people that He preached to when He traveled on the roadside, the seashore and in the streets.  That’s when I said quietly “welcome Holy Spirit” and He showed up.

I would like to thank Ken Fuquay for allowing me to use this welcome in my blog. Your friendship is becoming more and more priceless to me every day and I thoroughly enjoyed your message, singing and directing of the choir. I’ll see you again some Sunday morning my friend…

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

You know you're living the good life when...

How do you know whether you’re living a good life? Do you compare it to your neighbors, family or friends? Is it in direct proportion to your bank account or children’s success?

Travel and plenty of it! That has to be a sign of the good life. At least that would be my definition. Oh, and good food, exotic food that you only get when you travel. Yes! That’s definitely what I call living well…

Oh but wait, what if I experience something more grand than travel and good food? Would my perspective change then? Would the grander thing become my new utopia? I could see that happening. 

I could change my viewpoint, only to check social media and find out that one of my 242 friends has achieved her lifelong goal of becoming a professional performer. Darn!! Just when I thought I was living my best life possible!!! Now I have to go back to the drawing board…or do I?

Why is it hard for us to understand that we are all called to different paths in life? Why must we constantly compare our lives to others in such a way that causes us to either become envious or inflate our own existence by exaggerated degrees? 

With current technology and our ability to share our day to day lives at the click of a button, it is incredibly easy to become discontent with one’s own mere existence. How did we get here? 

I mean, I love posting pics of me and my kids at the beach or having some fun event in our lives…but they could personally care less if I hit the “share” button right after snapping the picture. In fact, sometimes they complain and roll their eyes.

I’m trying to practice being in the moment a bit more than I am now. I listen when my kids say “this pic is not for facebook Mom!” So I just keep it to myself and look at it from time to time, simply to enjoy the sweet memory for what it is.  Ah, the good life, a beautiful moment with my family.

Of course, they still indulge me for the big events and for that I’m grateful. I have family and friends that I can stay connected with and watch the growth of their children in a very convenient way…it’s not all bad, in balance right?

The only problem is when we stop applauding each other’s accomplishments and big events and start trying to match them. That’s when it gets a bit weird. “Wait till they see this pic of me at the top of Everest! Everyone will just flip!!” 

Admit it, you've been there, not Everest but on the same pic posting head trip, I’ll admit that I have. I think we all long to feel applauded and special and seen. I posted a picture of my new haircut three days ago and got over 20 likes. After a while, I didn't know whether to feel special or embarrassed, especially since I changed it this morning back to its naturally curly state. Should I re-post a new pic? Would that be vain?

On second thought, I think I’ll just enjoy it and keep it to myself.

Being able to know when to hold’em or when to share’em while being determined to enjoy all of those beautiful, fun, fantastical moments just the same…now that’s the good life!