could be anything. might be nothing. might make you think. could make you wish I would stop.
breathe people...everything is easier when you breathe!


elephant in the room

I left the church officially 6 years ago. My exit happened fast and first. My man was a little confused. A little hurt. I just could not stomach another "worship service". I could not face putting my children in another bible class where afterwards I would feel the need to debrief them to see if they had been taught any lies about my Lord and His love for them. I just quit.
My man kept going. He faced the looks. He became the spouse that is to be pitied because their significant other has tanked. He wondered why I could not just go and only pretend to listen. I couldn't. Not if he wanted a sane wife.
So it came to this...I could go and just shut down my heart. No discussions about the things that bothered me. No family debrief at the lunch table. Just get my butt in the seat.
I felt that if I did this I would soon be a powder keg one hallelujah away from standing up in the middle of church and exploding years of pent up angst all over those believers.
Maybe I should have done just that.
My husband decided that he would like to keep the spark in my eyes. I honestly do not know if I convinced him to quit going. I didn't try to. He had been raised to believe that you had to go to church. You had to. If you wanted to be a Christian you had to go to church. I was raised that way too. I had long ago faced down the thought that this thing we called church could not possibly be what was meant. My man was not convinced. But eventually he quit too.
We were done.
We actually thought we would go on to another church body. We waited for the Lord to direct us. Every Sunday that passed seemed stranger...and more comfortable.
People, I don't feel like I have words to make you understand. You probably wont.
Unless you just do.
Being out of church is the hardest and best thing I have ever experienced.
Sometimes I miss it terribly. It was all I have ever known. Security. This is what we do. We go to church.
I have already talked about how I didn't go to church for years. But that was slinking around sowing my wild oats don't let daddy find out skipping church.
Deep breath.
This was/is grown up choosing to be absent from the gathering of the body of believers.
This is forsaking the assembly people!

I feel free. Free-er to love and be loved. Free to be me. Unchained.
I like me better here. I used to bust against those chains. Trying either to break free or to gather enough sustenance to live within their constraints. Neither was possible.
I was not meant to live in chains.

When I first got out I felt bad. Dirty. Wrong.
But it felt delicious also. There was this warm delightful feeling that began to creep in. I have written much about it. It is a feeling of true love.
Not obligation. Not should have. Not if only.
It is that thing that I know on one level with my mate. I look into his eyes and in that moment nothing else matters. I am here with you. That is all. That is so not all.
I know that not all of you have that feeling with a mate. But you know it. You know when you get in a moment with someone and everything else just goes away. It is that.
These words fail miserably.
I could hardly ever get to that place while I was bound to "church". I had everybody and their ideas and interpretations so heavy on my heart that I could not look up. Life was too treacherous. Too many ways to screw it up. Too many ways to fail. Sure there was grace and all that but I could not understand. the scriptures as I had been taught them did not make sense.
Grace and mercy seemed only available when I had done everything I could do to live by the rules and had fallen short.
The trouble with that...I was really really super good at following the rules. I followed all the rules and they did not ease the desperation in my heart for something I could actually feel.
They did not make me love Him. They certainly did not convince me that He loved me.

All I could see was another and another and another way to suck so that He could swoop in and make it all better.

I am not saying that this is the same for you. This is how it was for me. Hear me!
When I got away from everybody else's truth, God's truth for me had room to grow in my heart.
I could see it and feel it. For the first time.
I could make use of it in my life. Applicable to living. Not just for going to heaven.

There had been moments of this before. But they always ended hours after the last conference session. I learned the difference between living under an "open heaven" and the rest of the time when I was obviously needing to "be filled". I learned over time to push really hard for "breakthrough". But really all I felt was constipated and I just went around birthing turds all day. I was a mess. Demons around every corner. Satan out to stop God's good and perfect will for me.
I became quite adept at emasculating the Creator of the Universe every time I went to battle for him.
But it felt so good in those juicy little moments of complete heavenly immersion. Glory.
Glory covered by rules. Recipes for success. Methods lined out to get to that next level.
More rules.

They are gone too. And that is hard. I lost the rules that protected me. and the power that empowered me. All I have left is vulnerability and weakness.
And that is where He finds me. That is where He loves me.
I don't have to be strong or good.

Maybe some people find that in church. Some people don't need to find that, I am sure.
I can't go on hating church. It is what it is. but it is not good for me. I think that I am not alone in this.
God can handle His church. He will call some to be loud for reform. Others He will lead out to do other things.
Heretical things that go against everything they have been taught about being good and right.
This is not new.

What I am learning right now...
-if I want to live in freedom, I need to let others live there too. I have to let them be free to live in bondage if they want to...or need to.
-my truth is not necessarily going to match your truth. This does not mean it is not truth.
Remember the story about the five blind men that had to describe an elephant based on the part each man could feel with his hands. Each man came up with a completely different description of that elephant. All were right. And all were wrong.
-God can be unchanging without interacting the same with everyone. It is stupidity (in my opinion) to think that the way God blesses me will work the same for you if you just walk the right walk or pray the right prayer or cast the right spell. (yes...I went there )
My husband would go to jail if he interacted with my children the same way that he interacts with me. But he is not changing who he is or being ingenuine to treat each of us differently.
I believe, with my whole heart, that God can guide guard and direct two of us in two completely opposite directions based on the exact same scripture or vision or leading. And they both be right.
-I believe that God has most definitely NOT left those shriveled up little churches that all the progressive Holy Spirit mighty wind-ers have declared dead. God is there. And He is working. And we need to shut up about things we know nothing about.
Me, most definitely, included.

You know this is not all. It can't be.
Please ask me more. Are you scared for me? Did I leave you hanging in that one part? This was hard to get out. So much. It is a big story.
I hope you are one that needs to know that you are not alone. You are not alone! You are not crazy and you are not going to be picked off by the enemy like a lone little sheep. Your Papa has got this! He has not left church or out.

love you


Leaving...a jet plane would have been easier

I just listened to a podcast. Just a couple of guys talking about life and community and walking with God. I liked it. They seemed genuine. Felt genuine to my heart. Two guys, hanging out and sharing that with me.
I liked that they did not tell me how to do anything. I liked that they were open enough to call a gift a gift without some self-deprecating mumbo jumbo. I liked that they seem to be fast on a road trip through that wonderful land of not knowing what is next. A pilgrimage they call it.
That is where I hang out. I feel lonely in this place I like the thought of having some buddies for the journey.

Before I is the link.

Commercial over. That wasn't so painful.

Now I want to talk a little bit. I know, surprises never cease. 
They said it was a conversation so I am conversing. 

If you have been following along you are not shocked to see that I, too, have been on a pilgrimage. Over time I have spit out bits and pieces of it in such a way that you may have wondered at the state of my salvation. 
Welcome to the club.
I wonder if today, seeded by these pilgrims, I could give you a short (stop laughing) road map of the where-i've-beens so that you might not be quite so scared for me and the fact that I have absolutely no idea about the where-i'm-goings.

I am a pk/missionary kid. Generations strong in the church of Christ. We don't drink, we don't chew, we don't go with boys that do. We also don't dance or have instruments in our church buildings. We take communion every Sunday. We know that Jesus wasn't really born on Christmas and will fight you for it. 
We also feel quite positive that you are going to hell if you haven't been baptized, although if you are on the brink of death and you have a disease where you cannot get wet or you have broken every bone in your body and cannot be immersed and you die before you get dunked...well, we will just leave that up to Jesus. 
He has a special circumstances file that is way beyond our understanding. 

You see what I have been up against.

I was that kid that never took to the status quo. When the preacher said that we (c of C) had the truth, I wondered if the denominations (of which we were definitely NOT) thought the same thing.
If they thought they had the truth...and we thought we had the truth...and we seemed by all outward appearances to serve the same Jesus...then who in the hell had the truth?! 

Never in your wildest dreams would I have said that out loud. 

My mom got sick one Sunday morning and then she felt good enough later to go to evening services. Obviously, she had not taken communion that morning. As was usual, they called everyone up front to have communion that night "if you had missed the opportunity of communing with the Lord that morning". 
She stayed in her seat. 
I thought sure she was going to go to hell. Lightning at the very least. 
Nothing. Not even a rumble from the heavens. 
She told me later that she had communed with the Lord that day. And it didn't involve grape juice and a little cracker. 
Troublemaker she was.

This began a long journey for me. A journey of "who said?", "what for", and especially "why the hell not?!"
Again, I am just flexing my grown up ability to cuss here. I never would have uttered such things. Back then my cuss words were Jiminy Cricket, oh my goodness, and cripes sakes. Jiminy Cricket got called down because it had the initials JC which we all know means Jesus Christ so that is cussing in that you are using "by-words" so that is not ok. 
But I still said it when nobody was around.

So, I grew up there. In that fantasy land of right and good. 

Then I went to college. Christian college. At that time I only knew about secular colleges (all the others) and christian colleges (York, Harding, Lubbock, Oklahoma Christian, Abeline, and Pepperdine). Those last two had kind of strayed in some of their liberal teaching but you could go there if you were good and grounded...just had to be careful. 
I did not even know that other churches had schools that belonged to them. I really thought that this was the extent of the christian colleges. You can laugh now. 
I went to York College. York Christian College. York Church of Christ College where other people from other churches went but we didn't talk about that. (hopefully we can be a good influence on them tho)
Chapel every day. Mandatory. 
Church every Sunday. Strongly encouraged but nobody taking roll. 
Guilt trip for missing "worship", understood.

It didn't take me long to figure out that if I got up at 11 on Sunday, I could shower and put on my dress and pantyhose and get to the lunch line just on time. 
"Hey, I didn't see you in church today?!" 
Obviously I was there cuz...pantyhose...helloooo. 
After a few months I stopped with the dress up sham and just came in sweats like the other losers that skipped church. That group got bigger and bigger every Sunday. 

Other than pesky church attendance I was the almost perfect christain college girl. I went to bible classes (mandatory) and other classes and most of the devo's where they sang the disco jesus songs. I was a good girl. I got involved in all the campus activities. (all the nice mentionable ones) I made runner up to Miss YC. Runner up because I didn't make the grades. (They told me this so I could change my ways. )
My friend didn't make the cut to be Mr. YC.
He had the grades and all the right things but he still didn't make it...rumor said it was because he was a Methodist. That didn't feel right but what are you gonna do? Protest? Did the rules say you had to be a member of the church? 
Church being understood as THE church of Christ. The one true. The only. The church. (Uncapitalized in proper humility.)

My questioning heart was peering intently down the road marked destruction. I was questioning everything. I was cohabitating  with people that were confusing me. Christians (church of Christ members) that were into every kind of mischief. Baptists and Methodists that seemed to have their heads on straight. Church had always been dry as toast for me but my family was perpetually in leadership so I figured I would get into it when I grew up.
Now, I was growing up and church was dryer that I had imagined possible. Hard to swallow. 

It was all I had ever known. I might question, butI never  entertained the thought of not being a part of it.
Besides, I only went once in a while. I could just ignore it. 

Until that Sunday when one of the basketball players came forward to be baptized but the preacher refused to do it because he hadn't had the proper "so you want to be a christian" bible study course. Refused, in front of the whole congregation, to let that guy have access to the body of Christ. 
Refused to open to him the gates of heaven because he didn't know enough about how to give his life to Jesus. 
And so it begins. 
I had been slowly strolling on the road to heresy. Now I was at a calorie burning jog.
How dare that preacher judge that boys heart and his commitment? 
I didn't understand. Still don't. 

My church attendance actually picked up when I started dating my man. (I don't think you ever go to church so much as when you feel guilty about the state of your purity. )
I could sit beside him and stare at the baptistry and never listen to a word the preacher said. 
That hot body next to me was way worth it. 
We prayed before and after every make out session. Just like all good christians should. 

Then we married, we set off for the big city and Oklahoma Christian University.
Early marriage was a hit and miss for church going. Big college churches hurt my heart. I was a grown-up now and knew I needed to be in the pew every time the doors opened. But I could not find my seat. Nobody knew my name. I was as lonely as the other 1000 people in that building. And I smiled just as big through it all.
Life at home was hard that first year. Struggles with the should's and the I don't have to's. Marrying my faith to my husbands faith was way harder than toilet paper orientation or toothpaste lid negotiations. We finally just gave up. Stopped going to church. Stopped feeling guilty about it. Got way happier in our lives together. Didn't go back until we decided that our kids needed to be in church. (Plus we were scared that Grampa was going to ask someone about the 10 commandments and our cover would be blown.)
We made it through church for the next 10 years. Tried on a couple of c of c styles. Got away from the big college churches and were really blessed with some small congregations that knew us and liked us and let us be a part. That was sweet. We had little kids that got to go to bible class. They did craft thingys. We dabbled in some more progressive congregations and we learned about the Holy Spirit. Conferences about hearing God and doing great things for Him. Kingdom manifestos. Army of the Lord. Blazing Faith. Instrumental music. Women on the church stage. 
I was allowed to ask questions. Everybody was asking questions.
This was life changing.
We got soaked in the move of God that we believed was the only real deal.
And then I saw a man dance in church. Right up in front. And I watched after church when another man came up and told him "you've been warned before, we don't do that here."

And my jog became a full on sprint. 

Someday I might tell you more about that dancing story. It is a lot to unpack. Honestly, it has been hard to sprint this road with that suitcase packed like it is. Soon that spring lock will burst, exploding pent up emotions all over the highway...and then I will run like the wind...but for now it just is what it is...a load of locked up crap. I will get the key soon enough. When my heart is ready.

We stayed at that church a while longer. I watched it curl in on itself. I believed at the time that God left. (I don't believe that anymore.)
Leaving was hard but we just couldn't stay in a place that "God had left".
If He was were we.
We visited a few places for a few months but that was too stressful. God led us. Not for the first time but now I was better at listening and following. I know He led us because we ended up at the very place I swore I would not go. ( I hate it when He does that. )
That was a lovely place. A big place.Full of lovely people. But we had a calling and it felt so good to be "allowed" to use our gifts.

 I am going to use the words -for a season- because that is what it was. For a season we thrived. For a season we grew and felt love and acceptance and useful. And then it seemed to just stop. I do not know the spiritual ramp up to this. Everything was fine. And then it just wasn't. 
No anger. No hard feelings. Just "time to go".
In my heart I feel sure that it was God's leading that got us to that point. After I heard/felt that call I saw things begin to manifest that were not good for us and our little family. Things that were not present before. (Or that I did not see before?)

Lots of things I wonder about. I wonder if we would have been spared some pain if we had left immediately. Then, I see how good God is to us to have spoken to our hearts so clearly BEFORE all hell broke loose. We knew His presence and when He opened the door we were packed and ready to go. When we left, we did so with whole hearts. I try to hold onto that.
After we left it got harder. We had been in leadership positions there. At one point we were small group leaders. We helped in the children's ministry. We had children in 4 different age group classes. We were deeply involved. But it was a large and growing church. When we left we were  not missed. And that hurt deeply. Still hurts. Nobody called. If they wondered where we had gone they were too busy to find out. It is the way with big churches. It is not right.

Our next and final stop was to return to the church we had left years before. That shocked us to the core but again, we felt directly led. If you have ever felt directly led then you understand me when I say that I went to a place I did not want to go, with such complete peace and security that I did not even question the rightness of the decision for one moment. I don't guess it always works that way but I love it when it does. 
I hate it when you seemingly have no leading and your wants and needs get all mixed up until you feel like you could explode. Also been there, done that. 
When I got back to this church it was like Norm walking into Cheers. Everybody knew my name. It was exactly what I needed. And it felt soooo good. I felt sure that this church had changed. That everything was going to be alright. That we were home to stay. 
I have never known pain like I felt at the hands of those beautiful people that I still love so much.
I feel certain that we were led back to this place to be support for a dear friend. This friend was mutilated and humiliated by the organizational structure of this church body. Those are strong, strong words but they are my truth. I feel sure that without someone there to stand beside, this person would have been convinced and convicted of being psychologically crazy and spiritually possessed.
I am thankful to God to have been able to be there at that time. 

I did not stay long in that place. I am glad to be gone. Of course the problem surrounding my friend was not the only issue at this body. It  was just one of many.
The thing that sent me out and locked the door on my return was the sure message being taught to my teen daughter. The message was this...

We have the truth. If your commitment is not here with us, you are being misled. We are your family. You should be here even if your parents say otherwise. You are old enough to choose for yourselves. If you are not are missing God. 


You know how the road runner just leaves a puff of smoke. Yeah. 

I want to end this here. But this is not the end. I have left the organizational structure that people have come to call the church. I would very much like to talk about how that feels and what it means. 
pray for me people.

I will post the next chapter tomorrow.

If you want to
Look to the left < just above the fishes and see the labels. Click on church and maybe angst to see more of my journey.

Here is the one that really says why I left...

This is a really hateful one...

Here is one on forgiveness that I might want to read again...

 Or this one because I love it...

Then again...all this is me. Go for it...I dare ya.