Church Without Walls

ImageOnce again, I’ve been inspired to write by a Facebook post.  The friend posted about working with a group of people to help the homeless on the streets of San Francisco.  They weren’t just feeding people, but were interacting with them and really listening to their stories.  He commented on the big dreams that were still in the hearts of some, but had been held out of reach by the evils of addiction.  The friend related their activity to being “a church without walls”.

It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with a guy who was cutting my hair.  We got onto the subject of churches and he voiced his somewhat negative opinion of them.  I asked him what the ideal church would look like to him.  He said, “It would be a church without walls”.  That statement stuck with me and I’ve pondered it many times since.

I was raised in church and we moved often when I was growing up, so I got to see many differences in each church we attended.  Even when they all taught out of the same book, each minister seemed to have their own interpretation of how church life should be done.    Early on, I was exposed to the negative impact that results when a leader makes church life all about rules rather than a relationship with God.  I saw the damage that’s done when the one in charge abuses their power and uses the sermon to manipulate people rather then empower them to live their life in a positive way.  Early on, I saw the destruction that comes to the members when the Pastor lives a secret, darker life, on every other day than Sunday.

Disclaimer:  Don’t get me wrong here.  This post isn’t meant to bash the whole church.  I’ve seen and experienced way more good from church than I have negative.  I’m looking at the negative here, because that’s what seems to get the focus of the world outside the church and gives justification to those who want no part of it.  My wish is just to see that be different.

A church is more than just a name on a building down the street.  It’s supposed to be about the people.  The people in the building are the church.  That phrase, “a church without walls”, I had previously thought of more from the perspective of each individual church’s or denomination’s beliefs.  Many might identify themselves as being part of the same religion, however, the beliefs or interpretation of scriptures is often very different.  I saw these differences as being the walls that divided, walls that kept many people outside and have locked others inside.  No one is influenced in a really healthy, positive way by these models and any benefits gained, are limited.  These differences have caused issues, even wars, since the beginning of history.  How to get these walls to come down is a daunting and even though I hate to use this word, it seems to be an “impossible” task.

My friend’s Facebook post helps me see this in a different light, though.  It is possible to have a church without walls that every person on earth could be a part of, if they so choose to be.  We’ve all heard about “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness”.  Many of us have enjoyed being a part of the Starbucks line where each person pays for the coffee of the person in the car behind them.  It sounds so simple, but what if we all made a conscious choice each day to love the people that cross our paths through our actions?  Even better, what if we looked for opportunities, even went out of our way to help someone, whether it be feeding the homeless on the streets of Phoenix or allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced to help a someone in need.  Making a lifestyle choice to “love people however I can with whatever I have” doesn’t have to be based on what we believe or if we attend a church or not.  Call me a dreamer if you want, but what a wonderful dream it would be, if each individual in the world could become,

                 “the church without walls”.   Just imagine… 

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The Power In the Pause…

Oh, how I love the fact that the TV remote control has a pause button!  I can be in complete control of what I watch and when I want to watch it.  During a workout DVD, I especially like being able to pause when I need a drink of water or an extra minute to catch my breath.  The fact is I like to be in control with the ability to order my day as I see fit.  I can control the TV, the music, the ceiling fan, lights, even the waterfall in the pool, all with a remote control.  I hold the power to control those things, but that’s about as far as my super powers go.

Unfortunately, I have no remote control for life.  Regardless of what I would like to think, the reality is that I have no control over other people, nor many of the circumstances that happen around me.  No amount of planning, organizing, ordering, goal setting or manipulating gives me power over many of the situations I live with on a daily basis.

I’m making a tough confession here.  I’ve spent several years of my life feeling unfulfilled, like there was something more for me somewhere out there, some purpose that was just beyond my reach.  There was nothing I could do to bring it to me any faster.  I just had to wait.  Most of us don’t have the patience for waiting or being placed on hold.  I particularly hate waiting and yet I’ve been doing it for years.

Recently I was reading a facebook post and one word that the writer used really hit me.  She was talking about making a “pivot” in her life, changing direction.  She talked about the “nothing space”, the empty void that there is when you take the risk to change direction in your life.  You take that leap of faith off of the cliff, often into nothing, thin air.  You then free fall for what seems like an eternity, but is really just a matter of seconds.  She described this time as also being a “pause”.  That’s the word that hit me.  That’s where I’ve been, in the “pause”, just waiting for that great thing, my sense of purpose and fulfillment to come along.

I’m sure some are wondering why I’ve allowed myself to be in this “pause” for years.  I encountered one of those seasons that I really had no control over.  Lots of “life” happened around me during those years, much of it involving family matters that required my full attention.  It just couldn’t be all about me.  Others had to come first.  Many of those years were extremely, overwhelmingly, stressful, to say the least.  I would say, even hellish!  I felt my very being was not only broken, but crushed beyond recognition.  This isn’t the time to get into all the events that took place, but as a result of those things, my life was put on hold.  Something bigger was holding the remote and interrupted my happy program by hitting the “pause” button.  The situations demanded that my plans, my ambitions, my hopes and dreams be pushed aside for awhile.  It’s been an excruciatingly painful, long pause.

Life has quieted down a bit over the last couple years.  Not that all the wrinkles have been smoothed out, but it’s not overwhelming anymore.  You see, I’ve discovered the power in the “pause”.  Valuable treasures have been built into my very being during this pause.  I’ve grown much as a person.  I’ve gained wisdom and learned important lessons.  I’ve developed tenacious perseverance, a never give up attitude.  I’ve become stronger than ever in my faith, which that in itself gives me strength and hope that’s unshakeable.  It allows me to “rest” in my pause.  That means I can be ok with being on hold.

Unfortunately, for most of us these treasures can only come to us through the storms of life.  Storms are a powerful force.  We’ve seen the fury of a hurricane.  We’ve seen the wide path of destruction in the wake of a tornado.  You’ve also seen the victims of these events, rise up and rebuild afterward.  My life storms had the power to break me, but they also contained the power to rebuild a better and stronger me.  It was a pause in my life.  It was inconvenient, maddening and uncomfortable.  But oh, how I love it’s power.

If you are wondering where I am at now, I’m still in the pause.  I’ve recently made another pivot though; yes a leap into thin air.  I know the one who is in control of my life and I’m no longer fighting for the remote.  Those hopes and dreams are being reawakened.  That thing, that sense of purpose and fulfillment is closer than ever.  I can feel it.  There’s a giant finger over that play button and it’s going to be “game on” any second now…

 

Holes in the Clouds

One week ago today, our family lost someone that we loved very much.  It was my father in law.  My husband and his brothers lost their dad.  My mother in law lost her husband.  Our children, nieces and nephews lost their grandpa.  His siblings lost their brother and on it goes.  This past week has been a whirlwind of activity, but the one thing that stands out to me is that family stands together through all of it.

My run this morning was at about the same time as last Wednesday when my mother in law and I were huddled close together in the hospital, having just been told that the one we loved didn’t make it.  It was cool, breezy and overcast this morning, much like it was that morning.  The clouds were pretty thick at the start of this day and blocked out the normal beautiful sunrise.  I couldn’t help but notice that there were holes in the clouds as in a slice of swiss cheese.  The rays of early sunlight were shooting through the cloud holes in every direction and it was absolutely beautiful.

Clouds are often associated with sad, dreary times, and we have good reason to feel sad and dreary right now.  But nature this morning sent us a message.  It was a reminder that no matter how dark and thick the clouds may be, the sun is always shining.  It’s light will find a path through the thickest, darkest cloud to light our path and allow us to feel it’s warmth.

Each beam of light I saw this morning reminded me of something to be thankful for.  I started thinking about all the many things I’ve experienced in just this last week that I am so grateful for, most of all, the abundant love of friends and family.  By the end of my run, my heart was overwhelmed with thankfulness and tears spilled onto my cheeks.  They were the good kind of tears, both cleansing and healing, all brought on by light shining through a hole in the clouds.

We all love you dad…