Memories of Church-‘The Good, the Bad, and Everything in between’ ⛪️ Part I

Hi All! Thanks for joining me. I am truly grateful for the time you’re taking to read.❤️I pray it is worth your time.💕

Not all that I write will be about debunking church/religious lies and exposing Truth. But honestly~it’s where I’ve been for so long~and the fact that I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel makes me want to share Truth with you and uncover some lies that may be holding you captive.

A good friend told me when she reads a blog, or something similar~she likes to know who is writing and why they’re writing. Since so much of my life has consisted of church ⛪️life and ministry, I thought I’d share my background a little.

I grew up in Central Arkansas; Conway to be exact. It’s my hometown and I’ll always have fond memories of it. ❤️There is a road there, actually more of a highway, that I call ‘Church Row.’ Let me tell you how many churches are on that road-some literally within 1/2 a mile of each other. Twelve (unless I’m missing some).  TWELVE churches to choose from, all on one road⁉️And that’s just one tiny piece of Conway. There are scores more in the town itself.

No wonder there were so many church hoppers!😂😵 If you get mad one Sunday~no worries. Just walk out the door, cross the parking lot, and walk right into the church next door! 😱It might be a 1st Baptist or 2nd Baptist, or maybe even a 3rd Baptist⁉️😂 Is there such a thing?? 😂

I’m exaggerating slightly. 😏But this is how immersed in the Bible Belt my childhood was.

Please understand that I’m NOT saying church is bad, NOR am I saying please stop going to church. I’m simply presenting the idea of what ‘Churchis and what it’s become; what it should be and what it was never meant to be, and perhaps why droves of people are walking away from it. Why so many are dying, and why so many have simply closed their doors. So many exhausted and burdened and burned-out people. There’s a disconnect somewhere. Especially considering what Jesus says here👇🏽

‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace. ❤️I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’ Matthew 11:28-30 {The Message}❤️❤️❤️

WOW. The unforced rhythms of Grace. Isn’t that beautiful?💖

So what’s the disconnect and/or problem? ▶️ People want to be in charge.

What’s the solution? ▶️ The Holy Spirit should be in charge.

The bigger problem? ▶️ Many Christians, church members, pastors, staff members, religious folks, church attendees, and all those that find themselves in a church on a Sunday morning…have no clue who the Holy Spirit is or what His role is. And without His active role in the Church, we’re doomed.

Don’t get me wrong-I’m grateful for many of my church experiences and I have some great memories. But if I’m honest, a lot of those experiences have little to do with anything spiritual. 😧

I definitely grew up thinking that church attendance was absolutely mandatory. There wasn’t even a question about it. My dad grew up that way, raised in the Baptist church, and that’s what he wanted to carry on for his family. I’m not knocking him for it, he was one of the greatest men to walk the face of the earth.❤️ But he grew up in a legalistic environment in many ways. I remember overhearing many phone conversations when he would tell a person ‘you just need to get back in church.’ As if that’s the answer to everything. It’s not.

The church I spent most of my childhood in~a Baptist church~sadly doesn’t conjure up a lot of fond memories for me. I’ll do my best to explain why.

In this church-they were great, well-intentioned people. And I do have a handful of positive memories, some that are pretty amusing. 💜

I remember learning a ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ song~that I still have fixated somewhere in my mind to this day! It was like a chant~and I memorized that thing~I could even quote it to you now.😄But, I don’t remember ever learning what the song actually meant. I had no clue what ‘Spirit’ was. It was just about fruit to me 🍎 🍌 🍉

I remember my children’s choir teacher reiterating over and over again how to say the word ‘in excelsis deo’ when we were rehearsing for a Christmas play. She was very persistent in helping us learn this. I owe my correct pronunciation of that word to her to this day! 👏🏼

FYI: You pronounce it ‘eggshell sees’ 😵☺️

I remember one Sunday morning getting sick in my Sunday School class….and puking right in my Bible that lay open obediently in my lap. I still remember what book it was opened to-the book of Acts. 😨

Sadly, that light blue Precious Moments Bible had to go in the trash.😢

Funny the things you remember.

I remember having the ‘lead’ role in a play and not telling my parents about it til the day of the performance, informing them that I needed a bathrobe for one of the scenes. They didn’t even know I was memorizing lines. Well, it was too late to go get a decent bathrobe, so I ended up wearing a ratty blue one that badly needed to be washed and my parents were mortified. 😧

I knew my lines though, and everyone else’s too. Someone else ‘video-taped’ it and gave my mom and dad a copy since they didn’t know to bring the camcorder (I’m dating myself👵🏼) that day.🎥

My poor parents.😨😂

I remember seeing a man who I thought was my dad from a distance in the sanctuary, and making a beeline for him. I grabbed his leg and was hanging on it for dear life. Only it wasn’t him. 😳

I remember going to ‘Children’s Church’, and carefully laying my stuffed frog ‘Froglegs’ 🐸 underneath my chair. Then I would sing my little heart out.❤️🎤

One of the songs I remember the most from that time is ‘Do Lord.’ Anyone remember it? Let me share the chorus to this classic.

‘Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me 🤔

Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me😐

Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me😖

Look away beyond the blue. 😨❓

What⁉️ 😂 But God doesn’t forget us! So why on earth are we asking Him to ‘remember us⁉️’

In fact, Isaiah 49 says this: ‘…but I will not forget you. Indeed, I have inscribed {a picture of} you on the palms of my hands.’ {Isaiah 49:15-16, The Message}💖

Or how about this one👇🏽

One of the verses to ‘I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy’

‘If the devil doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack!

Sit on a tack!

Sit on a tack!

If the devil doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack,

Sit on a tack to stay! 😂

And all the kids would playfully jump in and out of their seats to demonstrate sitting on a tack. 😨 We thoroughly enjoyed that song.

⁉️⁉️⁉️Hey-at least we were having fun.🤓

Although these aren’t bad memories, these things were beginning to shape me. Shape my perspective of what Church was. Who Jesus was. Who God was. The Holy Spirit?

Non-existent.

Oh, He was important enough to mention in regards to the Trinity, but other than that-Beware. 👻

There are also some not so light-hearted things I remember.

I was shy. Really shy. And misunderstood at times. I feel I’m still misunderstood. I’m not sure the world knows what to do with shy people. Being quiet doesn’t mean you’re snobby, or less than intelligent, or backward, or weird, or anything of that nature. It also doesn’t mean you’re ‘not happy.’ Nothing is wrong. It just means maybe we don’t have to hear ourselves talk constantly. We try and think things through, we’re reflective and deep-thinkers, we consider what others are saying, and we are keen observers. 👌🏼

So I remember feelings of exclusion way back then. I remember how it felt. Cliques. Snooty kids dressed in their Sunday best. Being ‘nice’ to people because it’s church and that’s what you’re supposed to do.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt the exact same thing as an adult, but only it’s not kids being exclusive, it’s adults. Some things never change I guess. 😐

But here’s one thing I know about Jesus, He ain’t exclusive. He was everything BUT exclusive. You know who He hung out with, right? Definitely NOT the religious folks. We would’ve always been in His ‘In’ crowd. ❤️ We would’ve been included as one of his ‘people’ and we would’ve been a part of his ‘tribe’ for sure. We would’ve been living our best life and we’d be taking pictures together-maybe even selfies-and he would’ve definitely tagged us in his photos. 💖

The Pharisees were exclusive.

In fact, they avoided anyone and everyone whom they didn’t feel met their criteria.

I’m veering off a little but I think it relates. Scripture indicates that they are the only ‘group’ of people that Jesus continually got frustrated with (and called out frequently) Why? They were screwing up His Message.

Did Jesus get frustrated?

Absolutely. Justified frustration isn’t a ‘sin’, it’s a legitimate human emotion. And since Jesus was God in human form…👇🏽

‘He is the exact living image {the essential manifestation} of the unseen God {the visible representation of the invisible} the firstborn, {the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator} of all creation.’ [Colossians 1:15 AMP version]

He absolutely experienced every human emotion that we experience. That’s why He’s so relatable.💖

In the book of Matthew, in chapter 6, Jesus warns us. Actually, it was one of His most intense and urgent warnings to the Church. ‘Be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’

Basically this means (paraphrased) ‘Be careful of the religious people tainting my Message. They’ll misrepresent me. They’ll mis-characterize Me. They’ll insert things into My gospel that I’m not saying.’

Be careful.

The Pharisees were absolutely devoted to scripture~God’s ‘Law’~but adamantly OPPOSED everything that Jesus was and stood for. They hated him.

When Jesus came among them~who He was, what He did, everything He said, enraged them. They were totally opposed to His mission. Isn’t that interesting?

But…they had scheduled prayer times, tithed regularly, fasted twice a week, evangelized. They were dedicated guys. 👏🏼

But they were aggressively at war with Jesus. And Jesus urgently issues a warning to the Church against them. He singled them out as the greatest enemies of Truth.

There are people today that claim the name ‘Christian’ but who are greatly misrepresenting Jesus.  And in the process they’re turning people away from the organized church.

When they open their Bible..I’m afraid all they see are laws…rules….punishment…Hell. And when that’s what you’re focused on, there’s definitely not going to be any visible JOY on their faces when you see them sprinkled across your sanctuary. They may know the Bible like the back of their hand…but are distorting the Message by inserting things into it that fit their agenda, but that are not Truth.

They are completely missing the LOVE part. GOD=LOVE.

Rules without Relationship=Rebellion.

Jesus even refers to them as ‘snakes and vipers.’ 😳🐍 But He lovingly refers to prostitutes, thieves, alcoholics, those we might find on the ‘Most Wanted’ list, as ‘Lost Sheep.’ 🐑❤️

Yikes.

Did you know that Jesus never referred to anyone as ‘sinners’? If we call people sinners, we’ve learned it from the Pharisees.😵

I’m not talking about everyone you go to church with by any means. Nor am I talking about all people who bear the name ‘Christian.’ But could they be in your church? Of course they are.

I was one.

I didn’t know it. I thought I was ‘being the best Christian by ‘doing’ my quiet times, praying, ‘going’ to church, reading my Bible….and I was pretty sincere about it.

But meanwhile I didn’t realize how judgmental and angry I’d become at ‘certain’ sins, etc. I remember self-righteous conversations with some of my best friends that I had no business having. And for that-I am deeply sorry.❤️😔

I’m so thankful and GRATEFUL I’m not that person anymore.🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

It takes a looooonnnggggg time to unravel the lies and uncover the Truth, folks. So please don’t delay the process any longer.

Being a former Pharisee myself, I know how to recognize them pretty well.

They hide behind things like legalism, particular Bible versions, self-righteousness, prejudice, close-mindedness. Carpet color. Pews versus chairs. (had to throw that in!😝) They like to stir the pot. 😟Folks that have nothing better to do than call their church first thing Monday morning to voice their complaints….which really boils down to their…preferences. 😳

I’m coming from a unique angle, having been actively a part of 7 different churches in my life. Some of this may seem extreme but so many things over the years have shaped my perspective of God, and it’s taken (and is still taking) a lot of undoing. Unraveling. Silencing the lies and uncovering the Truth.

Maybe it was the time I was singing on a praise team at a church, and there was a lady who was very much into the worship-raising hands, closing eyes, very sincere. But as soon as we were done ‘leading worship’ and started walking down the long hallway back to the music room, she all but plowed over me in her haste to get to wherever she was going, with a scowl on her face. I mean the wind of her gait and whiff of her perfume about knocked me over.

Or maybe it was the time a friend told me her story about her abusive husband, who was a faithful groundskeeper at a church, who was always so nice to people and friendly at church, but then when he got home he would verbally abuse his wife, and then at a climactic angry moment, broke her arm.😔

Or maybe it’s lofty looks from lofty people. Judgemental gazes. We know you don’t have to ‘say’ anything to convey your point sometimes, the look gets the point across quite effectively.🤔Just because you refrain from speaking doesn’t make you holier.

Or maybe it’s the conversation I had with a person who’s been in their current church for a certain number of years and has yet to feel welcome.

Or maybe it’s getting weary of always (not in all but most cases) being the first one to say hello, say how are you, make the first effort in conversation, make the first move, talking to someone and seeing their eyes scanning past you, looking at whatever they’re looking at or whoever they’re looking for. Asking people about their life, but never being asked a single thing about yours. I guess that really shouldn’t matter, but every now and then it’s nice for someone to ask how I’m doing, what’s going on in my life. Is that bad to want that?? Maybe it’s selfish. Maybe they don’t ask because they’re afraid I’ll ask them to babysit! 😱

We’ve never done that so that can’t be it.😂

People who aren’t affiliated with churches I find more and more freeing to be around these days.  So much less judgment. I’m not pointing fingers-I’m every bit as guilty. I’ve secretly wondered (when with another Christian) if my walk measures up to theirs, or vice versa. It’s almost like you can’t help it.

We’re so chained to comparison.

Sometimes I feel like it’s a contest-who can give the most spiritual answer and sound the most Christian-y. Pride and Judgment are sneaky little rascals. Sometimes we don’t need churchy answers. We just need REAL. Authenticity.

Let me reiterate the fact that I’m not slashing church. Rather exposing some things that a lot of us know already, but won’t talk about. Is there anyone out there that has experienced any of these things?

The title of this blog is ‘Chasing Joy.

After that first church experience, I was still a kid, without too many pressures of life. I’d say I had a pretty joyful childhood. I’m pretty sure I remember many times of genuine joy.

At some point though through the years, the joy began to fade. Life. Just stuff.

Joy and happiness are two different things.

There were plenty of times of genuine happiness. But how do you know if it’s happiness or joy? Happiness is often circumstantial and temporary. It fades.

Happiness fades, JOY remains.

And scripture says this:👇🏽

‘…In your presence is fullness of JOY.’ {Psalm 16:11}

Only in His presence. And I’m not just talking about reading your Bible.

Relationship. Not Religion. Please let’s not make Christianity another dreary religion. 🙁

Just like our pastor said Sunday morning:

‘Jesus is interested in a relationship, not your religious rituals.’

It wasn’t until later in life that I realized something was missing…and that something was JOY.

Are you missing it too?

Have I completely grasped and held onto that JOY? Not quite. The Holy Spirit is still at work-gently yet efficiently unraveling my mess.

He can unravel your mess too. Just ask Him. He’s the best teacher. 💜

You cannot find JOY in a self-help book, a happiness quiz, pills, money, programs, or anything else you’re desperately grasping at to try and fill the void.

‘…in your Presence is FULLNESS of JOY.’

That’s your answer. Now be proactive and go CLAIM it~it’s yours for the taking.💖

2 thoughts on “Memories of Church-‘The Good, the Bad, and Everything in between’ ⛪️ Part I”

  1. Laura, thanks for the reminder that we are in relationship with Jesus and not on The American “Christian” Idol judges panel….filled with all Simon’s!
    Satan wants to tear us down and destroy us, but Jesus has bigger and better plans. Unfortunately, many ‘Christian’s’ do the work for Satan leaving believers hurt, feeling inadequate, alone, and confused!
    We must be real, in the good and bad. None of us have it all together. We all need Jesus, abundantly, everyday!
    Keep sharing….continue to chase joy!

    Like

    1. Thank you, Brandon! You’re exactly right. All Jesus has ever wanted is a relationship with us, since the beginning of creation. How far we’ve taken it…
      Yes, scary thought to realize we can allow the enemy to use us to tear down the Church-the very thing we get so defensive about!
      I think we all crave more ‘realness.’ 😲
      And you’re right-we were never meant to ‘do life’ alone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts❣️😁

      Like

Leave a Reply to ChasingJoy Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s