Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I {mostly} don't hate my church

Okay, I love my church. I love my church. I love my church. I will keep repeating this until I can say it and really mean it. {sigh} I often find myself having to the do the same thing with my children. When I say "my church" I am NOT talking about the physical building. I am talking about the people that make up the congregation that has been an incredibly important part of my life for over a decade. It is just that lately things have been a bit challenging for me there.

My church has one huge problem that is hard to ignore and impossible to fix and causes me heartache regularly - I did mention it has people in it, right?

This, of course, is ironic, because it is the people of my church that are my greatest source of joy and what keep me coming back each time. But there are days when I seriously question just what the heck I am doing choosing to be involved with this bunch. 

It is even worse since I also WORK at my church now. My instincts told me this would be the case. For years I joked that I never wanted to be employed at any church I attended because then I would end up hating it. I am not pulling any punches here, Folks. People can be AWFUL to each other. When you work at a church you get the privilege of working way too many hours for way too little money AND the added bonus of seeing just how truly nasty we can be too each other. I had caught glimpses of this over the years which is why I always said I never wanted to end up working for my church. Gotta say - God has a wicked sense of humor.

When I listen to friends talk about how they used to attend church, but don't anymore or how they keep looking for one but can't find one that fits them I totally relate. I do. There are some days when I have leave the building and seriously wonder what is the point? Why do I keep coming back? Am I just a glutton for punishment?

I have been a member of my current congregation for 12 years now. The last year I have also worked as the Youth Director. It has not always been an easy or pleasant ride. In that time we have seen pastors and other staff come and go. That is a common enough occurrence as we are United Methodists, but some staff changes have been rather unpleasant. And every single time a changeover happens it is accompanied by members leaving in protest. Sometimes other members have returned once a pastor they did not like finally was gone. Makes you wonder just what makes a church a church some days. 

We have also had knock-down, drag-out (fortunately mostly verbal) conflict over lost dishes and silverware, a huge building campaign to connect our two main buildings, adding a projector screen in the sanctuary, adding a contemporary worship service on Sunday mornings, how and what time during the year youth should be moved up from elementary programs to junior high programs, should teens be allowed to volunteer in other Sunday School classes when they have of their own to attend, how often communion should be served, whether people should be allowed to participate in different activities if they are official members or not, how the storage of items for different groups in the church should be handled, how political is it appropriate for the church to be in supporting or opposing issues, how low-cut is it acceptable for a women's shirt to be if she is serving communion, whether it is appropriate for a female pastor to wear a sleeveless shirt, whether our male pastors should preach in jeans (unless, of course, it is during Frontier Days). And on and on and on........
I realize as a member of the staff that I have a responsibility to the people in my church and I take that very seriously. I also know that I cannot nor will I EVER please everyone. That is tough, though, because I am a recovering people-pleaser. 

So, why do I do it? 

Did I mention God's wicked sense of humor? (I can just hear some folks I know cringing because I used the word 'wicked' in reference to God. Trust me, God can handle it.)

I listed a few of the serious and equally ridiculous conflicts my church has seen over my time there. I have an even longer list of acts of love and joy that have happened there. Over the years they have continually worked to serve God as best they knew how. They serve the poor, visit the sick, feed the hungry, pray for each other and the world. They have donated money and time and talent over and over again doing what they believe to be God's work. I can't even begin to list all the ways they strive to reach out and be God's Hands in the world. Do they always get it right? No. But they always keep trying.

On a personal level my church was there when my first husband deployed for over a year to Afghanistan. I had a pastor chase me down after the service one time when I was obviously having a hard day just to ask if there was anything he could do. He literally had to run because that was one of the days I just knew I couldn't face people and tried to skip out of the service early. I have been welcomed and hugged countless times. I love hugs so, so much.  My kids have been loved there. My church opened their arms even wider when my first marriage ended. They cried with me and prayed with me and for me and my girls. They hugged me and my kids even more which is always the best way to win me over. They have laughed with me at the joys of being a mom and held my hand at the heartbreak parenting brings as well. They have joined me in Sunday school and bible studies and helped me wrestle with my faith and walked alongside me in my journey to know God and try to figure out just what He wants from me. It was so comforting and encouraging to know that many of them have the same hopes, fears and questions. They have rejoiced with me as I somehow found the courage to accept love from another man and have begun the journey into a new relationship with all the challenges of ex-spouses and step-children and discovering just what becoming a "blended" family means.

I can't begin to sum up the love and support I have been shown over the last twelve years. These people truly are my family. Like any family we have fights and disagreements, but I am so very blessed that, at least for me, they have proven time and time again that love wins. 

My role at church is very much like my role as a mom. I am constantly convinced that I am screwing it up. Some people don't like to hear me say that. They want confidence, they want hard answers and a solid game plan - but they got me instead. I love this prayer: "Lord, this is what I desire. Please do it or something better! Amen." I pray it constantly when I am striving to figure out how to do what I need to do. In the meantime I will not stop being honest about my insecurity, because that is the only way I know how to overcome it. And I will not stop trying to do the best I can to serve God  because I love Him and I love His people.  It can be easy to forget that when times are tough and criticisms abound. I actually love my church all the more because they are all so very, very messed up - just like me. This is probably why most of the time I feel completely at home there. 

'Til Next Time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ultimate Blog Party 2014 #UBP2014

Joining in on the fun....a little late, but there is still plenty to enjoy!! Click on the link about to read what all the hype is about!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Just Be Real

I read a post the moment can't remember who it was or where I saw it.....anyway, the gist of the comment she made that stuck with me went like this, "I wrote a blog today that was fueled by anger....where all truly inspired posts come from."
It stuck with me because my first thought was, "That is soooo true. I am much more motivated to write when I am angry or righteously indignant about something than when life is happy." And then I had the uncomfortable thought that if anger and frustration were my greatest motivators to write there might be something wrong with me. I don't want to be a negative person and I don't want to be a writer who only gripes about life. But then I thought I also don't want to be falsely positive because frankly like is NOT always wonderful. And then I thought I should write more when I AM motivated even if it is negative. And then I thought, "But you don't want to just be a crabby B!&^ch all the time.
And then I thought, "This is making me tired. I should go have some coffee." And once again I talked myself out of writing something because I was worried about how others would start to view me.

This thought would not go away, though. So I finally let myself take some time to really work through it. I asked myself, "What posts do I like to read? Who do I resonate with? What grabs my attention and will get me to scroll past more than the first paragraph? Admittedly many are gripe posts...but more are positive. What stays with me the most are those that are genuine.

These tend to be stories that don't paint a completely negative picture and neither are they coated in sappy positivity. They might have a little of both but more than anything they are honest and real and blunt. That appeals to me. I want to be able to write like THAT. Because life is never all bad or all good. Sometimes it helps to air the complaints and quite often once I do I am able to laugh at it...or more likely am able to laugh at myself. Because another thing I am learning the longer I live is that life and the people in it are really rather ridiculous. And shouldn't we celebrate that?!
In my continued journey to teach myself how I want to write I hope I can keep this always in mind. Be real - when it is uncomfortable and scary and ridiculous.

'Till Next Time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rambling about Failure

Well....I had set myself a goal of doing a post a day for the 46 days leading up to my 46 birthday last month. Typically I started off well.....but then fizzled out half-way through. I have been tempted to do the usual self-flagellation for not finishing what I set out to do. But I am trying to look instead at what I can do differently so that next time I CAN say I got 'er done. Evidently trying to post something every single day is not going to fit into my schedule. But I have this continuing personal quest to figure out just how I want this blog to work and just how I want to work this blog. Like the rest of my life this is still a work in progress! Something tells me that my nemesis word (DISCIPLINE) will figure into this whole equation.

But I don't want to hear that right now.

So, while procrastinating about how to get back into writing on this durned page I searched through images of "Failure" on Google. Here are some of what I found:

This is for my children.
Yes - there is always a catch.

This one is my favorite.

Obviously there were hundreds and hundreds more images talking about failure. It made me feel much better because I got the message I am not alone. Failing at achieving a simple blog-posting goal is NOT the end of the world. My life contains much bigger failures. The biggest was the failure of my first marriage. It lasted 23-years, but it really was over long before that. I can't even count the number of times I have experienced little daily failures such as losing my temper with my children or forgetting to add water to the coffee pot or leaving my cellphone at home. (Although - maybe that last one should be considered an accomplishment.) Failure is a part of life. It really is true that the most important part is what we do AFTER we fail - not whether we ever fail in the first place. Because if we are living life  - we are failing. But, God-willing, through those failures we are also learning and growing and improving. 

And now - to hit the publish button - and get busy moving on.

Monday, January 20, 2014