Saturday, February 19, 2011

What The Heck is Wrong With This World?

       Have you wondered why so many people have fallen away from going to church? Before I even attempted to write about this, I prayed that I not sound blasphemous or sacrilegious because that’s not my intention and I would not have survived without the strength I’ve gotten in my life from God’s word. You never bite the hand that feeds you and I'm not in any way. These thoughts are nothing more than my thoughts, not meant to be true for EVERYone who reads it.
       I grew up Lutheran, and I love the Lutheran hymns, liturgy and the main belief that no one can save themselves, it’s by grace alone that we are saved. Try as you may, there's nothing you could do, that would be enough to pay for what’s been done for us.

        As a child, I loved sitting in the, slippery, hard, blonde pews in Hope Lutheran Church, in Coulee, ND and watching Lillian play the piano as joyfully as the reverent hymns would allow. She hit a few clunkers along the way, but it was genuine and real. A handful of people were scattered as far away from the front row as they could get. Whenever a prayer was said, you could count on little Myrtle to be one word behind the rest of the congregation, every single Sunday! I attended that church until my Dad passed away forcing us to sit in the front row. I don’t think we ever went back.
        Mom, Kathy and I moved our membership to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Blaisdell, ND. We all liked the new church, because A. It was closer to home. B. We had Sunday school on Fridays after school, so that meant longer to sleep in on Sunday! And finally, C. Mom liked the ladies aid group there; they were her area life long farm friends and later, her honorary pallbearers when she passed away. Once a month they had "ladies aid" or ALCW and the ladies took turns leading bible study. Whoever served lunch that month always worked hard to have a huge meal which fed all the local people, the churched and unchurched alike. A meal was dropped off for anyone in town who couldn't make it to the church basement. The sick, the blind, the elderly or anyone "batching" (those living alone). That was about as genuine and caring for your own people as it gets. These women cooked hotdish, served buns, Jell-O and homemade bars every time community people got married, had an anniversary, or buried a friend. The Lutheran people were a stoic bunch, quiet about their faith. They would not think of intruding on someone elses faith or lack of it. You would never hear them going around asking others “Have you heard the word of the Lord today? No? Well, let me corner you and tell you about it"! People just weren't like that!  Back then the old Lutherans didn’t tell people, they showed people what it meant to be a Christian. The same could be said for love, they didn't tell you they loved you, they showed you but thats a whole other blog.
       During my teen years, church wasn't as important to me.  I went to church because I had to. You couldn’t get confirmed and become an adult member of the church if you didn’t turn in so many sermon notes from Sunday’s services at three years of weekly confirmation class. In the front of my first Bible from my parents with my name engraved on the front, I actually had a picture of Elvis glued in the front cover. While the pastor was teaching confirmation class, I was dreaming about Elvis. What was the first commandment again? I must have missed that one! More than once I’d try the “I’m sick”, so I could stay home on Sundays, when really I was tired from being out too late on Saturday night but Mom wouldn’t buy it…EVER! The next best thing was to go, but try to sit behind one of the two huge poles in the center of the pew.  Then you could lean back, avoid eye contact with the pastor and be in your own little world while trying to grasp the highpoints of the sermon for my notes.
        I moved to Berthold, ND, and became a member of Zion Lutheran Church as a married Mom with kids of my own. This is when I first started to see the shift in thinking in some church people. When you have kids in Sunday school in a small town, you feel obliged to take your turn teaching Sunday school, bible school, ladies aid, doing artwork for the Christmas program, serving on the alter guild and of course, serving lunch for area occasions was part of being a member. It was there though when I became a little jaded about church and Christianity. I expected church people to be different I guess,  from the general population. The moral code of a church goer, let alone a minister should be ...well ok, not perfect but certainly trying to be. I didn’t expect the pastor to call confirmants “jackasses”, I didn’t expect every sermon to be about the pastors personal life and not in a uplifting way,  I didn’t expect the Sunday School superintendent to be one of the biggest gossips in town, I didn’t expect my church friends to take up against a school teacher for really no reason other than they didn't like him. Or probably the one that bugged me most, was the same people you worked beside at church would not acknowledge you if you ever ran into them outside of Berthold. That was absolutely crazy to me!  I knew too much, and I didn’t like what I knew, and it interferred with my abiltity to believe in the good of that congregation. Not all people there certainly, there were many nice, nice people. Just some of them were too glory seeking for my liking.  
       When we moved to Minot ND, I joined First Lutheran Church and went to church because I loved it again!  I liked what the minister had to say, how he said what he said, and how it applied to my life. Sometimes it was as if it was from his mouth, straight to my ears. I didn’t get involved in anything, I just attended church services. I didn’t want to let anything get in my way of my worship experience! 

        I’ve moved to Phoenix, and attend both a Lutheran church and a huge nondenominational mission. I don’t know too much about the mission yet, I just signed up for backstage but what I know, I love so far. They have groups that work with the homeless, groups that work with kids, groups that work with addictions.  I also love the Lutheran church, but you can love two right? When I want pomp and circumstance and the beloved hymns I grew up with, I go to the Lutheran church. If I want to rock out to a comtemporary band and a charged up sermon, I go to the mission. It's my relationship with God, no matter where I go, if I go at all. I'm convinced he loves me either way.

       Here comes the negative sounding part. I think a lot of Christians have and are turning people off these days. Those who profess Christianity the loudest and I even venture to say alot of times, rather than sometimes here,  have some of the worst behavior one could have. I have actually seen on Facebook, scripture and" F_____ my family and grandparents" maybe three or four status posts apart on the same persons page. And I have seen that several times and different people (not those words exactly but...)  I am tired of some Christians acting like they are the chosen ones, and not having the moral code to even start to back it up. That makes non church goers not real anxious to get involved with those hypocrites. Church malfunctions don’t just happen on TV, they happen every day in our own places of worship. Some of the most dishonest and mean people I know, profess to be Christians publicly all the time! You can say I’m judging others by saying this and maybe I am, but how can you form an opinion if you don’t take in what you see and apply it to your life.  I think there is much more to being Christian than asking others are you saved? If you aren’t saved,  you need to do this and this and this...cuz our interpretation is that you must be born again and that’s what that means. Hang on a second while I belittle someone, or brag about myself and my Christianity, my music, my money, my…my…my. Some people spout off about every church function they attend.   

      Shelbey has always liked this line referring to being a Christian because you attend church.  It goes,  “let’s all sleep in the garage tonight and in the morning we’ll all be cars”! How true that is!
        Do I always act like a Christian, certainly not!  I actually wonder many times if I should even call myself one because I have so many failures and shortcomings. I swear more than I wish I did, I don't treat my body as a temple ( I know your shocked at that one), and I love some pretty raunchy music for the artistic value of it and oh, so many more I could reveal. As much as Shelbey likes the car comparison, I like the fisherman’s prayer, look it up... it ends something like when I get to heaven I hope I will be "judged big enough to keep". 

        I prefer the old Lutheran humble way of keeping your faith to yourself. Reach out to people with a sincere heart, and an honest I want to help you, and my helping you helps me. When I go to church, my worship is between me and God. I visualize him to be like my father. I thank him for the things I he has given me, I ask him to guide me and guide my words and actions because when left to my own I fall on my face.  I ask him for what I think I need. Like any Father that has the wisdom of the big picture, sometimes he says yes, sometimes he says no, and other times he says.... maybe later. He stands back and lets me struggle sometimes. Good fathers do that, knowing you will become stronger.  I want the people in my life to see that my heart is in the right place, even when I’m not perfect or even close to perfect. Not because im saying my heart is in the right place, but because they can see that for themselves.   
        In conclusion, I think if today’s Christians talked less and acted more, the doors would be over flowing at the churches. The whole world really needs a moral compass, if you ask me. Where do you learn that, if not from church?  
       Today I was exiting a boulevard, and a big white pickup truck was parked illegally out in the street. As I started to go around him in the pouring rain, he started opening his door to get out which could have hit my car, or I could have taken his door off for him. I touched my horn,  barely squeaking out a beep as to not startle him but let him know I was there and drove on to the stop sign. I was shocked to see him running up  behind my car, and violently start banging on my window with both hands like he was wildly playing bongo drums! I wound down the window ( which everyone thinks I was nuts to do, but I didn't think). He called me a bitch, ask me why I beeped at him when he was just sitting  there with his wife and kids!  I calmly said, "I didn’t want to bang your door or have you step out in front of me. I didn’t figure that would be good for either of us". He screamed,  "mind your own f__king business"!  Shelbey and I were shell shocked! He was parked illegally, and I was trying to protect both our cars, and he ran me down?  Shelbey said, “Wow, I feel sorry for those kids in the car watching this"! We were both shaken and upset, but after talking about it five minutes or so I said. “Ok, he is NOT going to ruin our day, no more talk about it", and she agreed. 
       Tonight, I was prompted to write about what can be done in a world that seems so out of control. This seems to be a world where Christians are all talk, and not a lot of action that isn’t self-glorifying. Everyone is over the top angry, and the rest of us are scared of them.  What has happened to people? What has happened to the old Christians I knew? I miss them. Will the real Christians stand up? No, better yet… stay seated and do your best work. Like the song goes,” they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love”.

       This link below is my favorite Lutheran hymn...It tells  that God is there through all the stages of your life. Your birth, the the times you fall back, your middle age and finally your death.

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