Church

We recently moved after spending 20 years in one community. As I reflected on our years there, I could see one common thread that had anchored us in those years: our church.

The first Sunday we arrived in the summer of 2002, we visited the church where other family members attended, and we never looked back. It became a place of worship, of fellowship, of service, and even employment. Our children’s school met there, and I worked at the school for five years before working at the church for 11 years. My daily routine for 16 of those 20 years was to be at the church. Our kids went through all the children’s ministries, junior high and high school, sports ministries, mission trips, and retreats up until college. My husband and I served on various boards and committees and in the children’s ministries, and I discovered that service is the best way to meet people. You go to serve, thinking you are giving, and in the end, you receive way more than you could ever give, while making friends along the way! I participated in Women’s Bible Study which God used to shape me and change my life through the in-depth study of His Word. Our church was in walking distance of our home, about 4 blocks away. It was the center of our lives and community.

We went through the membership class in January 2004. I probably didn’t think too deeply at the time of the “membership covenant” that I was making. I suspect I affirmed the words as we were received into membership and then carried on. But as I reflect on it now and read it again, it was a significant commitment for us to join a church (through regular attendance, giving, service, prayer, the Word, and yielding our lives to Christ to allow His Spirit to fill us and bear fruit in us) and for the church to commit to us (to receive us into communion and fellowship, to watch over us with Christian fidelity and tenderness, to treat us in love as members of the body of Christ). I have to say the church and its body loved us well and have been there for us through every high and low of life.

In our society at large today, church is often not considered essential, and if it is, it can be at anyone’s discretion on when to go and how to give. We’ve seen the rise in other activities on Sundays—outside groups don’t consider Sunday as a day of worship anymore, and it seems we have gradually yielded to that mindset. And if we want to, we can easily find an excuse to miss going one week (“I’m not sure I feel so good today.”). A worldwide pandemic certainly added reasons to miss, but also reasons to re-assess: do I need this every week? Can’t Livestream work? Maybe this is a good time to try a new church while everything in the world is in disarray?

Church can feel optional in our culture. And perhaps that’s with good cause as we see various heartbreaking scandals in the news and realize church leaders are as fallible as anyone else—although I would submit that what we are witnessing in many of those cases is not necessarily the true church or true Christianity. And where it is true Christianity, it will be visible through repentance.

When we see brokenness in church, though, we don’t want to miss other images that show us what the true church is. Our church hosted Ukrainian pastors days before the war broke out in their country. They were eager to return to their country, families, and church, to help and support those suffering. That’s a true picture of pastors who were willing to lay down their lives for the church body. That is a more extreme illustration, but there are countless stories of faithful pastors who shepherd, lead, and serve their churches across our nation and worldwide that never make the spotlight. Quiet faithfulness may not be the story that makes the news, but it’s seen by God and available to us for Christian community if we prayerfully look.

Like most things, if we haven’t experienced church as it is meant to be, it’s easy to think it doesn’t exist in that way, that it’s not necessary, or underestimate its benefit to our lives. But as I look at the last 20 years, I see how much richer my life has been because of walking through it with a body of believers in the fellowship of the church. And I’ve had the blessing of seeing up close a pastoral staff who loves God and seeks Him and desires to see others know and follow Him too.

This is not to make church a legalistic requirement or to judge those who make different church choices as God leads them. We should go to church not out of drudgery, but for the joy of worshiping the true and living God who gives and sustains our lives, who has saved us by His blood and given us eternal life with Him. We want to see and acknowledge Him in community with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

As my husband and I now engage in a new community, I’m finding excitement as we meet other believers and begin to participate in the life of a church. Yesterday, I attended a “creative community” at the church we’ve been visiting. We had a wonderful conversation, and that inspired me to take up writing again and to attempt it a bit more consistently. This is my first offering in that regard, as I begin again to reflect on the faithfulness of God through many years, not least of which has come through the church.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

*For those interested in reading more about “why church?” there’s a short book How Church Can Change Your Life by Josh Moody. It’s currently on sale at Amazon.

* My friend and co-worker Ruth painted the watercolor for me that is at the top of this post as a going away gift. It’s a photo of our church and was the view from my office for over 11 years.

A Father’s Day Reflection

The first email I read this morning was from a godly, prayerful man at church. He had sent a mass email, asking “What is the best advice your father ever gave you?” My first response was to think he might feel bad if I wrote him back and said my father died when I was 10 weeks old and I never got any advice!

But I reflected a little longer. When my dad died, God met every need that my mother (who became a widow at 25 years old), my sister (who had just turned 3), and I had. We never lacked. God was faithful to us.

And the gift that I had because of this was that I always had a strong sense and understanding of God being my heavenly Father. My mother made sure we understood what the Bible said about widows and the fatherless, how He cares for them. And we experienced that. I never had to try to understand God through the lens of an earthly father. I knew God cared for me and loved me and was faithful and would take care of me. I felt a strong and direct connection to God.

So that’s what I replied to my friend’s email:

For me, the absence of my father (he died in a car wreck going to work when I was 10 weeks old) left me with a strong sense/understanding of God being my heavenly Father, so in a strange way, that was his gift to me. I always felt God’s love and care for me very much. 

And it struck me as I wrote him back. What could have created doubt or anger at God did exactly the opposite. It gave me confidence in His love.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m sure my mom wrestled with questions as she started to raise two little girls without her husband! Confusion, pain, grief. And I recognized once I had children and watched my husband with them that I had missed something and understood perhaps for the first time that my father had loved me like that. Yet God can handle our heartbreak and our sorrow and our questions. We bring those to Him.

Over time, in continuing to seek God, to trust Him, things begin to emerge. Faith continues to grow. We see things we otherwise would not have known and others can’t understand. God gives compensating mercies (as my mother talks about) that we could never have expected in the moment. My mother’s testimony–through the loss of two husbands–has always been the faithfulness of God, how good He has been to her.

That short email exchange today reminded me there is beauty from ashes, glories from devastations. It may take time to see, but we will stand in awe of all God does in the midst of our broken and painful world. Jesus has won the victory, defeating sin and death, conquering the grave, and giving us eternal hope.

On this Father’s Day, I remember and give thanks for my earthly father; for my step-father (who came when I was 14 and went to Jesus 12 years ago); for my father-in-law who faithfully follows and serves Christ; for my uncles (my father’s brother and brother-in-law) who always stood in the gap; for my friends’ fathers who showed me love; for godly men from our church growing up who remembered the widow and reached out to us; for a dear older man my mother worked for who included us in so many things (he told me when I got older and thanked him, “I knew you didn’t have a father”); for my husband who represents all these things to my children; for my mom who acted as a mom and a dad and raised me to understand these truths and pointed me to Jesus; and most of all to God for being my perfect heavenly Father. What gifts, what grace, what mercy, what kindnesses! On a day meant to remember one, I get remember many who have blessed and impacted my life! Thank you, Father. You’ve been so good to me!

A Good Friday / Easter Poem

Father, thank you for sending your Son
to “save a wretch like me.”
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving your life on Calvary.
And Spirit, thank you for filling me.

What wondrous love is this?”
You felt the betrayer’s kiss.
Our sinless Savior—despised, rejected, a man of sorrows,
carrying our sin upon your shoulders.

On the cross, you bled and died,
yet three days later you would rise,
defeating death and giving new life.

You’ve shown us what abundant life is like.
A life of surrender, obedience, and faith in Christ
leading to great joy and blessing,
everlasting life and peace.

This is what true love looks like, you upon that tree.
But will we deny and reject you, too?
Will we doubt and question you?
Or bow our knees and worship you,
with all the praise that you are due?

Soften our hearts, wash us clean,
give us faith to believe, for you are our saving King.
I rejoice and thank you and proclaim your praise,
may this be my song all of my days.


Sovereign God

I wrote this 12 years ago and refer back to it every four years!

  • I’m thankful for a Sovereign God who is seated on the throne in the heavens and whose kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19).
  • I’m thankful to know that He alone raises up and brings down leaders and rulers (Daniel 2:21).
  • I’m thankful that He alone is great and worthy of all praise (Psalm 145:3), worthy as the Lamb who was slain to receive all power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise (Rev. 5:12).
  • I’m thankful that He sets my feet on the Rock (Psalm 40:2) and keeps me secure.
  • In Him, I have complete confidence and hope, and I have no cause for fear.
  • He is my Rock, fortress, deliverer, strength, salvation, and shield (2 Samuel 22; Psalm 18).
  • He will not forsake those who trust in Him (Psalm 9:10).
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