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Walking in the Light #43- Sunday Church

Walking in the Light #42- The Sunday Church

The Sunday Church is Charismatic/Pentecostal. Service there is very different from the Saturday church. The first time I went was last Christmas and it was the children’s performance of the nativity scene. A lot of proud parents and grandparents and relatives enjoyed seeing their children. I did not have any children there so it was not as enjoyable for me. It was several weeks later before I attended service there again.

Worship service lasts almost an hour. That is when they play music and sing. Most of the congregation stands during this part of the service. The music is loud and consists of drums, guitars, keyboard, and violin. Gone is the music of my childhood Methodist church where there was only a choir and a single organist. Here at this church, the congregation raises their arms and some jump or twirl and some kneel in prayer, some lay on the floor and some in the back waive banners. Mostly I have found it  very distracting to me.

I find that I can barely keep from staring at all the activity. Finally, I have learned to just close my eyes and tune out the jumping, twirling, and just allow my thoughts to seek the Lord. When I tune out the distractions, I  feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. I smell a sweet fragrance, almost like honeysuckle or like warm oil or like the air after a rain storm. I feel a gentle touch like a change in the air pressure on my skin and I am filled with a sense of acceptance and love braided together. I’m sorry that it is so hard to explain in words the sensations I experience there but words are just inadequate.  I know that most of you will not believe that what I feel is real and tangible and that it is not just a trick of my mind or a flashback from my drug days.  I accept that I will not be believed and it is ok because I’m certain that what I experience is real.

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The Sunday Church preaches the gospel and it is compelling and highly spiritual.  I’ve learned so much from their sermons.  Having no bible background, I have to take good notes and research the sermon later at home.

The Sunday church believes in leadership by a group of elders rather than a single pastor. One of the elders speaks strongly about the gifts of the spirit. He is a Profit of God.  Another elder is very knowledgeable about the Bible and teaches a lot about repentance and giving all to the Lord of yourself. He speaks very loudly, and passionately. He uses a microphone but I don’t think he needs it. He usually teaches the Wednesday bible study group. The third elder is more the traditional pastor personality but I have not gotten to know him very well as he was out sick for an extended time and now has gone out into the mission field.

It has been hard to get to know people in this congregation. I’ve been so closed off for so many years, it is a challenge for me to be open and connect with others. My method has been to watch people and I noticed that most regular attendees always sit in the same area. To get to know people, I have changed my seat from time to time so that I sit with a different group after a few Sundays. In a way that has been successful. I always go alone. I have a few friends from my ladies prayer group that attend that church but I usually can’t find any of them so I sit somewhere by myself. Also the majority of the congregation is made up of young people. I don’t have anything against young people but there are differences that make it hard to establish a rapport.

Attending a large church where I don’t know more than ten people has been and continues to be a huge challenge for me. The church membership is about one hundred and fifty and there are always lots of visitors or others that attend regularly.  I keep going and trying. I’m set to join the Greeter’s team next month and maybe that will help. I try to attend some of the extra activities too. Once I brought a visually attractive desert and that got a lot of attention so the other women spoke to me and it helped to break the ice. I’m fighting years of bad habits and it is not easy to change. The Saturday church is a little easier because it is smaller.

 

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#136 — Looking for the “yes” by Walking out of darkness into the Light

Finding my “yes” is a little more difficult than I thought.  I’m passionate about learning.  I’m passionate about helping others; especially if it can be anonymous help.  If I could  rid all the violence, anger and aggression in the world I would do it.  So what do I bring?  How do others see me?  I don’t really know.

I try not to concern myself with what others think or say about me.  I used to be a people pleaser and now I try  not to do things just to please people.  Being a people pleaser landed me in some bad places.  In my zeal to change my attitude, I may have swung too far to the left.

In the secret place I lift up these areas and ask for guidance and healing.  I’m not perfect but I’m better than I used to be and I know the Lord is working on me.

Meanwhile, where is my yes?  Some say when I know how others see me, I’ll know my yes.  But I think that when I know how God sees me, I’ll know my yes.

 

Walking in the Light #135 The First Day of Fall by Walking out of darkness into the Light

You know it is Fall in Florida when the license plates change color.  Today is the first day of Fall, my favorite season.  You would never know it by the temperatures in Florida as we are still having 90 degree days with 85 degree nights.  The calendar says it is Fall – time for the harvest.

It’s been 879 days since I left my family and moved out on my own.  That’s 126 week-ends and 23 holidays.  I’ve gone from being the black sheep of my family to most of the family asking me to be “friends” on Facebook.  I guess that is forgiveness.  I’ve gone from having no Miss Manners guide-book on acceptable dysfunctional family interaction to writing my own rules of engagement with the Lord’s help.

I’ve struggled through a lot of soul-searching, deep revelation about who and what I am.  I can’t say that I’m proud of my past but I can say that I see improvement.  I see a glimmer of the woman I was meant to be.  I’m not there but at least I’m not where I used to be.  I wrestle with myself and the Lord frequently and above all else, I’m grateful beyond all measure for the healing I’ve received.

Its Fall and time for the harvest.  What does your harvest look like?

 

Walking out of darkness into the Light #134- Day of reflection

I’m not Jewish but I read a little about Yom Kippur and what it means.  It reminded me of my typical New Year’s reflection as I look at where I have been and where I need to go.  Then this morning I read my daily devotional and it also talked about walking in God’s calling and setting goals.  I’ve never completely understood what Christians mean by “calling” or “ministry”.  It seems the church has its own language that I’m trying to learn.

I started to think about what God wants for me.  I don’t know that I’ve ever considered what exactly that it is that the Lord wants for me; only what He may want from me.  God does not want anything from me other than my love and obedience.  So what does He want for me?  I think He wants me to be naturally joyful, interested in others and life and not locked away.  I guess the absence of depression.  He wants me the way I was as a very small child.  That is not to say He wants me to be back in diapers sucking my thumb.  No He wants me to be at peace, pleasant, content and cheerful.

I think that I have a way to go on that one.  I am much better than I used to be but there is room for improvement.  He wants me to show compassion and not turn away.  That one needs work too but again, I’m much better than I used to be in that area.

He wants me to be healthy, and whole both physically and spiritually.  I’ve made a little progress there but I have to admit I do have plenty of room to improve.  I absolutely hate to exercise.  I just feel that jogging or doing workouts at the gym is such a waste of time.  Now if the same benefit could be had from getting something productive completed like mowing the lawn, weeding the flower beds, building a new fence or re-screening the porch, I would feel better about exercise.  Fine excuse words I know.  But the truth is I have so much physical pain from arthritis, de-conditioning and whatever other medical condition labels the doctors try to affix that all of it is a major challenge.  Clearly this area is going to be my difficult area.

Spiritually, I’m an unfinished work in progress.  The Lord has been merciful and shown me many areas in my life that need to change.  He has done much to change my mind and attitude and to heal wounds I did not even know were there.

Has anyone else ever thought about what God wants for them?

Walking in the Light #133- In the ditch again by Walking out of darkness into the light

Just when I think that I’m doing okay, I realise I’m in the ditch again.  Maybe I never really got out of the ditch completely.  The Bible tells us that we are to forgive others and that by doing so, our Father will forgive us.  As I meditate on the scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to change me into the person God always intended, I receive a revelation.  I’m still mad at someone from my past over their treatment of me.  Yep, I’m in the ditch.

I thought I had gotten over the anger but no, that was a deception.  I’ve intellectually walked through the years of abuse and rationalized that I did not think highly of myself and therefore no one else did either.  I see that in some sick way, I’ve tried to punish myself by allowing others to treat me poorly.  I see that I did not behave in a very positive way.  In my head, I have rationalized that people in my past should be forgiven.  I have even gone as far as to ask them to forgive me.  But the heart is still hurt and angry.  That is not forgiveness.  That is hypocrisy.

In the ditch is not where I want to live.  I do not want to continue to look and dwell in the past.  I want to look forward.  So recognizing my own part in hurtful past relationships, how do I get free of the anger and truly forgive others?  I’ve meditated on much scripture about forgiveness but it only condemned me.  This is not what God has for me.  Jesus died for my sins.  I have been forgiven and the price has already been paid.  Perhaps I have not really understood my identity.

I’ve studied the scriptures regarding love and realize that as long as I hold on to that anger that I have no love.  So what now God?  How can I change and get out of this ditch?  Apart from the Lord, I can do nothing on my own.  I have confessed my sin and asked for God to change me because this is not something I can do and if God does not change me from the inside then it is not going to get done.

Walking in the Light #132- Daring to dream by Walking out of the darkness into the Light

For years I have not dared to dream.  Life was just slogging through one day after another.  It seemed like getting through each day was all I could manage.  Over the last several months, I’ve felt an interest in going back to school.  The first time the thought crossed my mind, I immediately discarded the idea.  I thought I’m too old to go back to school, my energy levels cannot handle what I already have on my plate  and I would have to continue to earn an income so there is no way I could go back to school.  I came up with a thousand and one reasons why going back to school was impossible.

As I grow stronger in my faith and begin to see my true identity and the idea has begun to take root.  It is sending out green shoots and buds are forming.  I think that maybe I can do it.  I’m not a fast learner.  I don’t have a photographic memory but surprisingly (even after all the harmful things I have done to myself years ago) my brain works very well.

If I keep my job, I can afford the tuition I think.  Already, I’m starting to put conditions on the dream.  Ugh!  I need to just trust that God will make a way and not concern myself with the details.  Why do I still seek to control my path?  I know why.  It is fear that intercedes to squash the dream.  I’m willing to be brave only if I can be safe and secure.  That is not bravery or faith.

I foresee many sacrifices I will have to make for this dream to come true.  I foresee a great deal of difficulty and very little support.  I doubt my ability to do this; to make this dream come true.  I think maybe this will be too big for me.

But every time I think about applying for school and being accepted, my heart leaps into my throat and thunders like wild horses.  I want to stop thinking about it and just let life go on as always. But the idea keeps invading my thoughts and I feel like this is a door opening and that if I don’t walk through it, I will spend the rest of my life regretting the decision.

Shame on me.  My thoughts whorl around with negativity.  I think of a million and one reasons why my application would be rejected. I think of a million and one reasons why I will not succeed.  Then I hear this quiet voice remind me that I am never alone; that whatever I need He will supply; that I belong to Him.

I think this is where I learn what blind faith truly means.

 

 

Walking in the Light # 130 Growing Old – It’s not for the faint of heart. By walking out of darkness into the Light

If I let go of my control, He is free to move in ways I can not.

My mother used to tell me that growing old was not for the faint of heart.  Inside you feel young and vibrant.  Outside the body is aging.  You no longer have the stamina and strength of your youth.  The reality of the changes can be difficult to accept.

Many American churches say they honor the elderly and point to them as the mothers and fathers of the youth.  But a lot of that seems to be merely lip-service.  However some American  churches try to link the elderly with the younger members and encourage mentoring.

What is difficult is when an elderly person comes to the Lord and is new in the faith.  They are full of life experiences but not full of Jesus’ experiences.  That is where I find myself.  Old but new.  I’ve plenty of life experiences but my walk with the Lord is new and fresh.  I battle years of negativity while I seek to grow at an  accelerated pace in Christ.

My journey began many years ago at age 12 and went on pause for 45 years.  My covenant commitment began just a year and half ago.  During the last 18 months or so, I have been driven to make up for all the lost time; frantically seeking the Lord.  I’ve run so hard and strived so much until I have worn myself out.  Now as I sit quietly in the home the Lord provided for me, I just listen.

What I hear is beautiful and perfect.  I don’t need to be anything or do massive physical exhausting things.  I just need to listen and obey.  People come to me and need to be encouraged.  They need words of truth.  They need compassion and love.  It is not what I think and it is not what I feel.  It is what the Lord wants to tell all of us.

But, you know, how we feel at any season of life, is not important as what is in our heart. This world with all its pain, difficulties and strife is not what this life is all about.  It is easy to get wrapped up in our individual trials and situations and allow them to set our point of view.  Our view of life never sees beyond what we are going through.  It is as if we are unable to step out of ourselves and see it all from a distance; from a wider perspective.

My granny used to say, there are  two kinds of people in the world; the givers and the takers.  Which one are you?  I used to think that I was a “giver”.  Then, I thought that I was a little of both.  Then as I got older, I wasn’t sure.  I would give of myself out of fear that I would not be accepted if I didn’t and not because I felt any joy to do so.  Giving out of fear of rejection is not giving at all.  I hated to admit I needed help or to accept any help.  That came out of my own pride to operate in my own strength and power  and also out of fear to reveal any weakness.

Since I started walking in the light, I’ve had people seemingly try to take advantage.  My challenge was to determine at what point to mark my boundary.  My decisions have been made by weighing the fruit of the situation.  If the relationship was negative and if I was giving out of fear of rejection or out of a sense of obligation or duty then none of it came from God.  Yet other times, God used the interaction to reveal an old hurt or offense buried in my heart.

Piece by piece, the Lord continues to bid me to come closer.  Life is all about Him and His will.  If I let go of my control, He is free to move in ways that I can not.  He looks at my heart and the old things He helps me to see and He heals each part.  Lord I thank you for all your many blessings.  Even when I don’t understand why my situation is whatever it is, I know that the Lord is  so much more wise than I and I trust Him.   Lord,  help me to surrender myself to Your will; Your plan and let go of myself.

Walking in the Light #131 Renewing my mind, by Walking out of darkness into the Light

I’m in training. It is difficult but I’m motivated. I think this goal will one of the hardest I’ve ever faced. No, I’m not training for some sort of athletic endeavor. I’m training my mind to have only positive thoughts.  For a person like me with such a long history of negative thoughts, this will be a challenge.

There is a clear connection between what I think, how I feel, how I perform, and how I respond to others. For the longest time, I never even knew that I had a choice about what thoughts popped into my mind.  Now I know that is not true.  I get to have a choice about what thoughts I allow to stay in my mind and I can actually take a bad thought and reject it and replace it with a good one.  I’m finding that the task is difficult.  It sounds so simple but it is anything but easy.

For example, I have never enjoyed balancing my check book or preparing a personal or household budget.  I have always “dreaded” the chore.  In school, I did not perform well in math class.  My mother thought I would fail the second grade for not knowing my multiplication tables.  She drilled me endlessly with flash cards every day.  It was a terrible experience.  Anyway, today I dislike any work with math and tend to procrastinate taking care of that chore.  So this month, I began the pre-work.  I told myself that I was capable and that I could do the budget and balance the checkbook with no problem.  I told myself that it was a necessary task and would not take me very long to complete and that I would be pleased to have it completed.  I did this several days in a row.  When the time arrived, I sat down and took care of the chore and it did flow easy and did it take too much time.

On Sunday nights, I found myself dreading work on Monday morning and would worry over all the items that had to be done.  I would typically toss and turn and not sleep very well.  Monday would arrive and it would be the stressful, wild day I had worried it would be.  This time, I started my pre-work by telling myself that I was grateful to have a job and one that did not involve working out in the weather.  I would tell myself that I would do well on Monday and that my calmness and purposeful plans would rule my day.  I told myself that I enjoy my job and that it is mentally stimulating and rewarding and serves to provide for me very well.  Monday morning when I wake up, I thank God for His goodness and for the opportunity to have this wonderful job.  I build up anticipation for what the day will bring.  I discovered my Mondays have been much more joyful; I’ve been more focused and joyful.  I went from haveing over 600 files to a little over 200 cases in just a few weeks.

Every little thought that pops in my brain, whether it be dread, worry or unpleasant thoughts of working with someone else and their personality, I try to immediately see it as negative, stop and reject it and replace it with something more positive.  I do a lot of “pre-work” if I know I’m going into the lion’s den where I will most likely be flooded with  negative thoughts.  This is not easy.  I don’t always succeed and when I don’t, it’s okay; I just try again.  I’m seeing what I think are remarkable results when I’m successful and this drives me on to keep trying.