How Being Ghosted Has Haunted Me

How Being Ghosted Has Haunted Me

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

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Being ghosted. It’s not a term I was familiar with but the moment I read about what it was, I realized that’s exactly what had happened to me. I didn’t have a name for it, but I carried a lot of pain from it. Being ghosted has haunted me.

Sadly, I realized it’s hurting a lot of people even within the church body.

What Does It Mean to Be Ghosted?

Ghosting someone happens when one person in a relationship (be it platonic or romantic) decides to end all forms of communication with the other person.

In my case, a person I considered a very dear friend vanished. Like, literally vanished. One minute we had planned a play date for the following week, the next minute there was nothing. We literally went from communicating all the time to absolutely no response to any type of reaching out.

Yes, we did have an issue arise, but what relationship doesn’t?

It was never something I thought couldn’t have been talked through and worked out. But that was the issue, it’s impossible to discuss anything when all lines of communication are suddenly dead.

What broke my heart the most was that this was someone I trusted. This was a fellow sister in Christ.

I believed her to be a true friend and then “poof” it was like our friendship had never existed. And of course my heart hurt for my children as well, because all of a sudden their close friends had vanished too. They begged to see their friends again. But how does a mother explain that she has no clue when they will get to see their friends because the person she thought was her friend won’t return a text, a call, a message, or anything?

The Pain

Years removed from when it happened, it’s hard to believe that it actually did. It’s difficult to conceive that a friendship so close could vanish into thin air. At the time it hurt like the dickens. I remember breaking down in the middle of a Bible study one night not wanting to share what was going on but unable to control the tears.

Wise women gathered around me and one asked if a friendship was hurting. I couldn’t even answer initially. Then quietly with these two women, I remember sharing through sobs how I went from having a friend to stone cold silence, how it was affecting my children, and that I wanted to make things better but didn’t know how.

With empathy and love, one of the women asked,

“Would you want your children going through the same hurt you are feeling right now?”

Of course, not!

“Then maybe it’s the best thing because the children will learn from the mother how to treat others.”

Such wisdom took root but it didn’t start to grow until almost a year later. Up until that time, I was grieving the lose of a close friend, one who had not died but was haunting me with her silence, and praying that somehow we could at least talk through things. That never happened.

The Affect of Being Ghosted

The ghosting haunted me and kept me from allowing others in. Because of what happened, I unintentionally guarded my heart from forming deep relationships for a couple of years. Those who had been with me up to that point, I held onto, but others I didn’t initially let in until I realized what was happening.

Through prayer and God’s help, I’ve been able to grow deeper relationships again. God has truly blessed me with some amazing women, who have literally been with me through my highs and lows and whom I’ve been able to encourage and cheer on through their highs and lows.

That is what true friendship is! I’m not sure who to attribute this quote to, but I find it very true:

If you want to find out who’s a true friend, screw up or go through a challenging time, then see who sticks around.

At the Heart of Ghosting

It is only possible to overcome a conflict when we are willing to take down our guard, engage each other in conversation, and listen. It’s impossible to reconcile or fix a situation when we are trying our hardest to avoid it.

Avoidance is at the heart of ghosting. Some think it is easier to quickly say they “forgive” what is bothering them but if the issue is never addressed then the situation can become more frustrating and painful before the other person even realizes what all is going on.

Honestly, the hardest part of being ghosted is being haunted by what happened. Why did such a good friendship have to dissipate into thin air? Why could we not just sit and talk things through? We are both Christians and yet somehow it was “easier” to cut off all communication than choose what might have been uncomfortable and talk to each other.

I believe anything can be worked through. God did a miraculous thing when he redeemed us through Jesus Christ. If God can do that I truly believe with him any relationship can be redeemed.

Why Speak About Ghosting Now?

Several years removed from being ghosted, I can finally speak to this situation without physically hurting. I don’t believe the person who did this is a mean individual or even intended for this to happen. I just don’t think she wanted to deal with any type of conflict.

I’m speaking up about this now because it has become too common in our culture and it’s invading the church. We as followers of Christ should be setting a pattern of how to navigate conflict and difficult circumstances. We will not be perfect at it because none of us are perfect. I know I am not, but we should try.

To Ghost or Not to Ghost

There is a prevalent idea in our culture now that if someone is weighing you down, draining you, not making you happy, or happened to hurt you somehow, or your just done with them, then they are nixed from your life. (I am not speaking of abuse. That is a totally different subject.)

In any relationship there should be boundaries, but we should also expect true relationships to look messy sometimes, if we are really being open and honest with each other. There will be times that conflicts arise, but this idea of dumping people who we have a conflict with goes against what the Bible says. It goes against how Jesus handle his friends who hurt him.

Jesus reaches out to those who are in absolute need and cannot encourage or lift him up at all. 

Jesus reminds those who will turn their backs on him to come back and know they are still loved.

Jesus gave forgiveness to everyone. He calls us to do the same.

Jesus reiterates the importance of forgiving and the “limit” on how often we should forgive.

Jesus calls us to resolve any issues that we may have with someone.

Jesus knowing that relationships will face challenges, gives us a road map of how to navigate conflict in Matthew 18.

How can we as a church body teach the world how to resolve conflicts, if we are unwilling to try and resolve issues that come up between our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Prayer Over Our Hearts

Lord, you know more than any other how difficult it can be to deal with people sometimes. With so many different personalities and misunderstandings, the devil loves to create issues where there are none or fan the flame on an issue that could easily be extinguished. He loves to make us think the worst in each other instead of giving the benefit of the doubt. He loves to have us focus on our hurt instead of extending grace and talking to each other to hear the heart of the matter.

Lord, help us not to allow Satan to sneak in and destroy the good you are doing. Help us to individually examine our hearts and if we are hurt to reach out to the one who hurt us. If we are the one that hurt someone else, help us to see it and be willing to acknowledge our part in the problem.

None of us are perfect that is why we need you so much! Help us to extend the same grace you have given to us to others.

In the One who while being crucified asked you to “forgive them because they know not what they do.” – Amen

 

Becoming a Parent Who Is Slow to Anger

Becoming a Parent Who Is Slow to Anger

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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Becoming a Parent Who Is Slow to Anger

How often do you find yourself feeling angry toward your children? This is hard question to ask myself. I make significant effort to be gentle, but truthfully, it is quite often that I notice myself raging inside as my eldest, almost 4 years old, is becoming more familiar with right and wrong.

My moment of internal strife might play out in this way:

Why won’t she just listen and obey? What if someone gets hurt? What if she behaves like this in Bible Class? 

I can’t let her act like this! I have to show her who’s boss! 

In my anger, I lash out. The power struggle begins.

I make irrational statements in awful tones. I give ineffective punishments.

I feel horrible. She feels horrible.

Later on I hear her talking in the same ugly tone. Hmm… where did she learn to speak in that way?

Why is it that anger is the first instinct for so many of us, especially in regards to parenting? I believe most parents have good intentions. We want our children to act respectfully and we burn inside when we can’t convince them to cooperate. We are desperate. I believe that James, the brother of Jesus, and servant of God, speaks to the heart of this issue.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20

Anger Won’t Bring about Righteousness Living

In our Bible Class we recently studied this passage, and though James doesn’t specifically mention parenting, my heart couldn’t help but hear these words from a parent’s perspective. How often am I angry with my daughter because I want her to live righteously. Yet anger won’t bring about this righteousness- in myself or in my daughter. It is my experience that hasty anger often only brings about shame.

Let’s read on to hear the solutions that James offers.

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:21-22

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27

Righteous living is something that our children will learn through a lifetime of observation and loving instruction. James makes it very clear that being religious is about guarding our hearts and humble service.

Do our children see that in us?

Do our children see that we are humble and compassionate, ready to listen, and slow to become angry?

Do we have a tight rein on our tongue when we speak to our children?

There are many different styles of parenting, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. Often parenting requires direct and assertive responses, but I believe this can be done gently and in love. It is my conviction that the instruction to be slow to anger also applies to our interactions with our children. Does this mean that we will never be angry? No, of course not!

It means that our instinct will be patience,  kindness, and gentleness rather than anger.

We will have open arms and listening ears.

When it is time to be direct, we will try to stay calm. We will be our children’s “safe space.”

This type of parenting does not come naturally for me. I pray multiple times each day for the Lord to help me. I boldly pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be displayed as I interact with my daughters. This passage in James was a strong reminder that I need to make a conscious effort to tame my tongue and be slow to anger in my responses to my children. I absolutely can’t do this on my own. I need Jesus to work through me as I train up my children in the way they should go. We all need him to!

Praying Over Our Hearts

I’d like to end this thought with a prayer.

Father God,

You are our Heavenly Father and we praise you and thank you for wonderfully making our children. Work through us as we train them in the way they should go. In us, express your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Help us to be slow to anger, with tongues that are tamed through faithful dependence on you. May our children see glimpses of you in our interactions with them. Forgive us for our selfish ways and for the times we respond poorly to our children. Give us strength and help when we need it. Soften our hearts and help us to find your joy every day. 

In the name of Jesus, Amen 

 

 

The Grace-Filled Marriage

The Grace-Filled Marriage

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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In a Christian marriage there is a goal to put God first, but I’ll be honest–my husband and I didn’t really know what that meant when we got married. We knew we wanted to honor God in our life together and be part of a church family, but we really didn’t know the extent we’d be called to put God first.

At the beginning of our marriage we were consumed with personal needs. We’d read all kinds of marriage books talking about needs and love languages and respect, and while we tried hard to please each other, we got upset when we didn’t feel the same effort in response.  Now, the lessons in those books are great–but we didn’t have the right mindset. We needed a mindset of grace if we were ever going to really put God first in our lives. Thankfully, over the last couple of years we’ve learned more about how to live a grace-filled marriage and it’s made such a wonderful impact on our life together.

kristin's wedding

Here is the new foundational truth for our marriage:

Our relationship with God is more important than our relationship with each other. This is how we truly put God first in our lives and in our family.

Now, you might not like the way that sounds but hear me out—

Supporting each other on your individual walks with God is the most important thing you can do for your marriage. 

 

When your spiritual life becomes top priority you think differently. Your mission in life is no longer about your happiness on earth but your eternity with God–and this affects your marriage in a good way! When you are focusing on your eternal destination more than your current one you will be a better spouse. How do I know this? Well, focusing on my eternal destination means that I’m striving to be like Christ, and who can love my husband better than Christ? My best love for my husband will be fruit from my relationship with Christ.

 

“Every marriage goes through moments of anger and temporary failures. But you must determine your goal. What matters most: winning arguments or resembling Christ?” – Francis Chan (You and Me Forever) 

Francis Chan

 

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to resemble Christ. That’s way more important to me than making sure my needs and love languages are met. I’m not saying love languages and meeting needs are bad–they can be a very good thing when you are putting your desire to please Christ above your desire to please yourself. Then you will use those methods as God intended–as a way to serve your spouse.

Now, as wonderful as all that sounds we still have a little problem.

Are you still with me? My husband and I have a very tricky enemy working against us and he can use those needs and love languages as a stumbling block. Sometimes our spouses don’t meet our needs and don’t speak our love language and then what?? How will we respond?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The devil is looking to devour me. The devil is looking to devour my husband.

 

When a spouse messes up (no matter how insignificantly), you can bet your bottom dollar that Satan is on the hunt for victory. He’s watching how we will respond. This is why we need to lavish our marriages with grace.

Why? For us it’s simple.

Because the devil will NOT gain victory in our household.

No, he will not get an ounce.

Christ gets all the power, all the glory, and all the victories in our house. 

 

So what do we do when the devil is prowling at our door? How do we let Christ get the glory in our home? Well first, we stay on our guard and know who our enemy is! It’s really easy for me to feel brokenhearted when things aren’t going my way. In return, I can act pretty ungodly, treating my poor husband like he is my enemy. I know that my husband has triggers too, times when the devil is crawling at his feet. There are going to be misunderstandings and times when we mess up and end up hurting each other.

However, Satan is our enemy in these times. It’s not my husband. It’s not me. Knowing that Satan is the enemy makes it easier to extend grace to each other because we know that we are each on the pursuit of holiness. We want to encourage each other on this process, not get in the way. We want Christ to come first in our marriage. This means that we want to be like Christ and we want to show Christ’s love to be fruitful in our marriage. We want God to take the victory, and he does! God takes the victory every time we set our personal needs aside and extend loving grace in His name!

Live a grace-filled marriage.

When you and your spouse find yourself at odds, offer grace. Once you extend grace, you can then demand the enemy leave your home. If you’ve seen the movie War Room, then you remember that powerful scene where Elizabeth Jordan literally yells at Satan to get out of her house–she even yells him out of her front lawn! There is something to be said for verbally voicing Satan to leave. It shows we really mean it and we want him to hear it! Also, then you should pray.

We can’t fight the enemy on our own. We need God’s help. So get down on your knees -together or alone. Beg God to fight the enemy out of your life and your household.

Let God do all the fighting in your marriage.

“God will fight for you; you need only to be still.”- Exodus 14:14

Let God claim the victory in your grace-filled marriage.

Exodus 14:14

Forgiving School Bullies

Forgiving School Bullies

Toni D

Toni D

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D

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I just watched a video of a man who publicly confronted one of his school bullies thirty-five years later.  The video was heart-wrenching.  Thirty-five years after the fact, this man told his story and relived the terror that he lived through.  No one came to his aid.  He went home one day and got a gun and put it in his mouth.  He did not pull the trigger and is alive today because he did not.  He survived such abuse and one could see that it still greatly affects him.

School Bullies – The Long Term Affect

Over the last few years, I have thought a lot about my school bullies.  Mine was not nearly as bad as this man.  I did not attempt suicide over it.  I remember hating to go to school.  I could not wait to go to college and leave that school behind.  I have no physical scars, but I now realize I have emotional scars from it.

Mine started when we moved back to my hometown when I was in the first grade.  My brother and I were the only minorities in the entire K-12 school system.  We are half oriental and half white and were, therefore, ridiculed because we looked different.  They would ask us if we knew “kung fu” as they would try to imitate martial arts to hit or kick at us.

This then evolved into bullying/sexual harassment in junior high because I was quiet and painfully shy.  Older boys would make crude comments and act like they were going to touch me.  This led me to not being able to talk to boys as I was very afraid of them.  The worst, I believe, was in high school when some boys taunted me and made fun of me in class and the teacher joined in.  This was after having dealt with a different teacher that disliked all Orientals because he fought in the Vietnam War.

Do the school bullies even remember?

I really do not remember who my bullies were from grade school because most were older than me but I have seen many of my high school bullies as adults.  Many of them probably do not even remember what they did to me or realize that it was even bullying.  Some probably were just joining in with the others, not realizing that what they were saying or doing was hurtful. I am sure some of them do remember and did realize at the time.

When I see some of these former bullies, I have felt awkward and introverted around them.  I have avoided some of them because when I see them I revert back to my quiet, shy high school self.

Face-to-Face with the Choice of Forgiving School Bullies

I did not realize the affect this had on me until a while back when one of my bullies died.  Someone told me what had happened and I was very callous about it.  As I thought about it, I felt terrible about my attitude about a life lost.

My initial reaction should have been, “Did he have a personal relationship with Christ?”,  “How could this have happened?”, and “He was so young!”  I felt bad about it and realized that I had never forgiven these people for what they had done.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other; just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:32 (NASB)

I am sure that they have changed just as I have.  We have all grown up and I know that some of them have come to have a personal relationship with Christ.  Even as I am writing this, God is working on my heart to have true forgiveness toward these people.  God tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and for us to forgive those who have wronged us (Ephesians 4:32).

Were you bullied?

Have you forgiven your bully?

Finding His Eyes of Grace

Finding His Eyes of Grace

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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When was the last time you felt yourself losing your patience with someone? Was it on the freeway when a stranger cut you off? Was it with your kids during the difficult hour before dinner? Was it with your husband when he irritated that last nerve you had in you? Oh, there are plenty of opportunities to practice patience in our lives! More than patience though, what we really need are eyes of grace.

Using Eyes of Grace Instead of Judgment

Do you ever find yourself judging others? Of course you might not want to admit this, but I’m willing to bet that all of us have. Maybe it was the single mom who walked into church halfway through the sermon with her two children, all of them looking sloppy and making noise. Maybe it was the teenager wearing a “dress” that should be a shirt. Perhaps it was the older woman who never has a kind word to say. Yes, there are often times when it’s tempting to be judgmental. What we really need are eyes of grace. 

Do you suffer from insecurity? Or wish that you looked different or had nicer clothes? Do you feel defeated before you even begin to try something new? Do your failures and shortcomings speak louder than any victory? If so, sweet friend, you are not alone, and you are desperately in need of eyes of grace.

Grace is life-changing. Of course, the best example of grace is from our Father in Heaven.

 

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies us intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:4-6

Undeserved Grace

The Lord envies for our hearts intensely, yet time and time again we give in to the world. At least I do–I can’t speak for you. What a comfort to know that God extends me more and more grace. Grace I do not deserve. But really, grace is never deserved, it’s a gift we are given because we are loved so greatly. God’s eyes are full of grace when he looks on his children. As a daughter trying to be more like her Father, I must also try to see myself and others through His eyes of grace. 

 

When we exchange our pride for eyes of grace, we see ourselves not just for who we really are or who we want to be, but for who we are in Christ. This is not a place of insecurity but a place of victorious security! 

As we interact with others if we exchange our judgmental thoughts with eyes of grace we will see others the way God sees them. We will look on their disposition with love and understanding. This does not mean that if we notice a sin in their life that we accept their sin, just as I don’t want to accept the sin in my own life. What it means is that we see their heart, and seek to lovingly nurture it.

When our patience runs thin, and we exchange our anger for eyes of grace, we will remember to let the Holy Spirit shine through us in those times. Mercy and forgiveness will be on our hearts because we know that we’ve received it often ourselves.

 

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Recite Before You Respond

In the book Toddlers on the Move by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller I’m learning lots of tips for staying patient, as that’s a needed skill with a toddler! They suggest when you find yourself turning angry to recite the fruit of the spirit before you respond.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

 

You see, we can’t offer this wondrous grace on our own. We are only human, and we most definitely fall short. But if the Holy Spirit is living in you then you’ve got His eyes of grace living in you. You must call upon the Spirit and beg that you see through HIS eyes of grace.

When we use His eyes of grace it reminds us that we want to treat others and ourselves the way Jesus would. The best way to do that is to let the Holy Spirit’s fruit pour out from us.

Eyes of grace–we all want to be seen through them–and the good news is that we all are.

But he gives us more grace. (James 4:6)

 

When Church Doors Close

When Church Doors Close

Amy B

Amy B

God has blessed us with a great big world, and I try to go see it whenever I can!Admittedly, I have an unusual life where I get to teach what I love 8-9 months out of the year and then go travel and serve the Kingdom in my other home the rest of the time:Edmond, Oklahoma and Vienna, Austria. A lot of what I write revolves around what God teaches me through those experiences and I invite you to "travel" with me in those times! Basically, I want to be Rick Steves (the travel writer) and Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs 31 Ministries) when I grow up! :)

I have a bunch of college "kids" I call my own, 2 dogs named Abby and McGee (yes, I love NCIS) andI get to be "the cool aunt" to 2 beautiful nieces and 3 handsome nephews.They make great play dates!

Given the opportunity, I want to encourage people when I can and remind them of the power of God in their life...or help them find Him in different ways.Fair warning:I'll ask you the tough questions!I treasure deep relationships - especially ones that will allow for "iron sharpening iron."

I love being outside, and I'm a huge fan of turning off the phone whenever possible to soak up God's creation! Actually, I'm a huge fan of turning off the phone in general...as the phrase goes: "Wherever you are, be all there", and if you are where I am, then I'm going to be all there!

I'm flawed, but saved by grace and learning daily to be loved by God.I'm thankful for the times he lets me wrestle with him because he knows my heart of hearts, and I'm ok with my hip being messed up (Genesis 32: 24-26) because growth comes from it.I encourage you to join me in the journey!

Love well...breathe deep....show mercy!
Amy B

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Have you ever experienced the doors of your church building opening and closing for the last time?  Maybe too many people moved away.  Perhaps spiritual truths weren’t being spoken.  Maybe your building was too big for the congregation to support financially.  Maybe something happened that caused a split in the church.

I’ve been there, done that.  Maybe some of you have, too.

That happened to the first church I remember attending when I was very young. When you’re little, you don’t remember the why. You just remember the Easter egg hunts with the new twirly dress your mom made. Or dressing like a scarecrow for the fall festivals, the cake walk, and bobbing for apples.

It was where I remember watching a “Jonah and the Whale” puppet show. My parents had worked tirelessly on a papier-mâché whale made from chicken wire and strips of newspaper dipped in glue and painted to look like the fish we all imagined in the Bible story. That giant fish was wonderful, and it made that story come to life for me.

It was also the place where I experienced my first foot-washing service. While I was only six or seven years old at the time, it impacted the rest of my life!  It was life-giving and life-changing.

The church building’s expenses had become too much for the congregation to maintain, so the decision was made to sell the building. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on, nor did I need to. I just knew we weren’t going to that church building anymore and I didn’t know why.

But church was a part of my family and it was a part of my life.  I never knew it any other way.

Fast forward ten years. Our family had moved to another state. I grew up with a wonderful, spirit-led and serving youth group, graduated high school, and was now in college.   One summer Sunday, I realized that Satan was doing a pretty good job tearing apart my church family.  That church had also been life-giving and life-changing to me. But it was clear those doors, too, would soon be closing.  And they did, but I still loved the people and missed that family.

Throughout college, I admit, I did the dance called “church hop.” I couldn’t find a church in the area that was like my home church, so I wasn’t satisfied. Allow me to put the emphasis on I, because, looking back, that’s what it boiled down to. I had made church about me and how it would best suit me. I wanted the worship music and the digging into scripture, the handshake and the smile at the door. While I wanted people to know my name and who I was, I didn’t do my part. Let’s be real: I didn’t want to commit to the flawed person I was, or to serve a Holy God for the sake of the church.

I’m not sure what I struggled with more during that season, the fact that I was contradicting what I had grown up loving and being a part of my whole life, or that I wanted it to be like my church back home, and it wasn’t.  Either way, they were lousy excuses.  Let’s call them what they were.

But by grace, God navigated me through that season by means of something I never intended…he tends to work that way.

My dissertation topic was over Church Interior Design.  The fancy, academic title for the paper was, “Church Interior Aesthetics: Do the interior aesthetics of a worship environment affect the retention of the post-modern generation?”  According to my findings, the answer is yes, but you can’t write the word “YES” for 100+ pages.  But, when you spend more than two years of your life on a paper, you’d better love your subject matter, because you will eat, breathe, and sleep your topic.  Thankfully, the experience taught me a lot.

In order to explore the topic efficiently, I read close to fifteen books, countless scholarly articles, attended upwards of thirty churches in the area, and others when I was out of town.  They were all different sizes, “flavors”, instruments, a capella, traditional and contemporary worship (everything in between), longitudinal seating plans (two sides with a center aisle), circular, and half-round layouts, warehouses, 120+ year old buildings, brand new facilities, stained glass, dark holes, casual, suits, dancing, “high church”… You name it, I probably saw it.

Truthfully, in the beginning of my research, I was so busy observing and taking notes that I wasn’t truly participating in the service.  I was also judging it based on my own preference.  And yes, you are going to have those, but my own preferences became a distraction and a stumbling block.  I certainly wasn’t worshiping in spirit and in truth.

As my visits continued, God began to do what God does–he softened my heart.  I began to see beyond the research and to watch God move in people’s lives!  I watched God answer prayer, and I saw people give of themselves to serve others. While visiting “other” churches, I encountered his presence. I experienced the warmth of a handshake; the depth and reverence of the old hymns and of contemporary worship songs; the intricate beauty of stained glass and the peace of darker spaces with candle light and hands lifted high.

I was watching Matthew 18:20 play out: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am among you.” 

And I John 3:1: “What kind of love the Father has given to us–that we should be called children of God, and so we are!”

Maybe more importantly for me, God was stirring up John 4:24 in my heart:  “God is spirit, and those who worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in truth” (emphasis mine).

It doesn’t say, “…and those who worship him must worship him with your own preferences in mind, judging the guy next to you, or the bad lighting. And make sure you are obvious about glaring at the guy who is slow to change the slides during the worship songs…”

I’m thankful to have experienced that not only for my own heart’s sake, but for the sake of how I interact with other people now in their faith journey!  Oswald Chambers once wrote:

“Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you!”

Praise be to God!!

Fast forward eight more years.  My church family is also closing the doors in its current location.  That building holds over forty years of memories. Children’s church and youth groups. Marriages, births, and funerals. Times of tears and rejoicing. People giving their life to Christ and experiencing the joys and trials of salvation.  LIFE!

For most, the congregation is excited about the new things God is going to do in the future.  For others, it has been a time of angst, fear, confusion, and sadness because of the connection to that location.  And both of those things should be respected: being a part of the excitement of the unknown and being empathetic towards change and the unknown.

Last night, we had a rehearsal for one last big Worship Night in this building. People from over the decades will come back into town to be reminded and encouraged of what God has done and will continue to do through the church.  As people were arriving, a woman I don’t know well asked me, “So, how are you doing with all of this?  Are you struggling with emotional attachment to this building?”

“No, I’m more attached to the people and the purpose!”  And I meant it.

I’m thankful that I can honestly say that now.  People around the world are potentially or literally surrendering everything–their belongings, their families, even their lives–in order to be a Christian and worship with others.  But they know He’s worth it! It’s not about a building.

In Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, he talks about how his wife and kids felt led to minister to China for a time.  In their underground worship gatherings, he said:

“The most surprising part of our time together was when they asked me about church in America.  They laughed hysterically when I told them that church for Americans tends to focus on buildings and that people will sometimes switch churches based on music, child care, preaching, or disagreements with other believers.  I honestly was not trying to be funny.  They laughed in disbelief at our church experiences, thinking it was ridiculous that we would call this Christianity.”

I wish this wasn’t true for churches worldwide, let alone the States. Unfortunately it is, because I’ve witnessed it. And it breaks my heart, no matter the language.  But I believe in a God who created us to worship him in spirit and in truth, even if we struggle with that sometimes.  I believe in his grace, his mercy, and his forgiveness, and I believe in his redemption!

God may be calling you to something new. He may be asking you to close the doors on something–for reasons you may or may not understand. Your faith may be challenged like crazy right now. But I am praying that God gives you clarity in your season. Not necessarily clarity in the sense that you understand his plan perfectly, but rather clarity of faith and unwavering trust in the God who has called you to his purposes!  I pray that you will worship him in spirit and in truth, no matter where he takes you.  That you will actively engage in people he puts in your path so you can be the Gospel to them.

So, if a door is closing in your life, please try not to look at it solely as a thing of death. Rather, see the new life that can come through the resurrecting power of Christ.  I encourage you to be life-changing and life-giving to someone. Watch God do what he does best: bring glory to himself!

Originally posted: March 2016

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