Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just Like Family

Last Sunday night, Blake preached a sermon in a series on "What is the Church" and posed a statement at the end for us to finish..."My church felt like family when..." He closed by having various church members share their personal stories and by the end of that sharing time, the tears were flowing for me. I take for granted sometimes the work of God when I see it happening all around me every day, but when I take time to reflect and hear testimonies...testimonies of people I walked some of those roads's overwhelming.

I began to would I finish that statement? Honestly, I could write a book. But, instead, I'll do what I do My church felt like family long before I took my first breath. My Dad accepted Christ at my church and it was where he learned at the feet of many a man who has made him the spiritual rock he is today. My parents struggled with infertility and the loss of a child born premature and my church was there. When Mom was expecting me, the church provided many things (cribs, high chairs, etc) for her to use because she just couldn't bear buying anything for fear this baby may never be born. My church felt like family because it was my home away from home. My Dad was a Deacon and Sunday School teacher, and my Mom was a Sunday School teacher so if we weren't at home, school or work, we were at church. Even those folks they served side by side with became family...and their children and grandchildren are my family today.

When you think about family, you may let your mind only go to the good times. But every family has struggles, tragedies, and hard times. My church has been no different in my life. In 1991 my Dad went through a difficult time in leadership as one pastor was departing and another one was working to come on the scene. It was hurtful and hard to watch my Dad, who spent all hours of the night praying for our church's future, to be humiliated off the platform. But in families, you have those times. Even in that darkness, one staff member reached out to me in love, of which I'll never forget. Nine years later our church suffered a dark time again. The very things my Dad tried to help prevent had manifested itself and we all feared that God would remove His Spirit from our church for extreme disobedience. My church felt like family when a sweet saint and pillar of our church walked up to us as we all were in tears, fearing our family was crumbling away, to remind us that God was not finished with us yet. Do you know those times in your family when you think there is no hope for some situation? We felt it then. We experienced hurt and pain on every turn. Not a time one would reflect on positively. But as the problems of the past were removed and we started fresh and anew, God was ever so faithful and the blessings and joy that came out of that pain and hurt were unbelievable. No one who stands in the midst of our church family today would believe we ever experienced a painful time. True evidence of God's amazing grace.

My church felt like family when my Mom passed away....even during the months preceding her death. The love of my church showed as they prayed and wept with us while Mom was strong and ready to be free from the pain of this world. The visits, the food, the was family. And my Dad will still tell you that many people will say they will pray for you and you wonder if they truly will, but there was one church member who stood with him at my Mom's casket and prayed right there. Two months after my Mom's passing, a family invited us for the Thanksgiving holiday so we wouldn't be alone. That is family. My church felt like family the times I've been in the hospital...or been unemployed...or needed rides to the airport...or fill in the blank. I've made friends for life through my church family from Tennessee to Trinidad. There are very few states in the union I could visit that I could not find a family that has moved on from our church that would take me in and let me visit. No matter where I roam, even if I leave my hometown, this church will always be home.

From a person like me that has very little biological family, my church has become my family. I have been blessed and pray that I'll be as much a blessing to others as many have been to me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Table Topics - VBS Memories

Tis the season for Vacation Bible School! For those not familiar with this annual summer ritual, churches host a week-long event - sometimes during the day, sometimes in the evenings - inviting children to come and learn about Jesus. There is always some catchy theme to get them hooked and make learning about the Gospel fun! My church is having VBS the week of June 21 and our theme this year is Saddle Ridge Ranch - "Roundin' up Questions, Drivin' Home Answers." The kids get to be together in worship at Worship Rally Valley and get lunch everyday at Big Sky Grill. I am helping this weekend at our VBS work day to help prepare crafts and truly wish I could actually be able to be at VBS everyday seeing those cute kids running around screaming "Yeehaw!"

Thinking about VBS made me think about my favorite VBS memories. There are so many, but I'll narrow it down to two - of which neither include raw macaroni cross formations or other craft projects. When I think of VBS, I think of being able to wear shorts to church! When I was little, the only time I was allowed to wear shorts in the sanctuary of our church was during VBS, per my Dad. I felt like such a little rebel as we lined up on the porch each day waiting to march into the sanctuary to "Onward Christian Soldiers" whilst wearing my t-shirt and shorts. Life at church has gotten much more relaxed, but I will still never forget that memory. The other memory that sticks out in my mind is the treat we got every year on the last day of VBS. My family attended a church for a couple of years that was close to our house and the pastor was a good friend of my Dad's. He pastored the church I attend now before I was born...Dr. Beach. He was the pastor that walked me through my decision to accept Christ and baptized me. One of his favorite things was White Castles. (For you southerners, that's a burger similar to Krystals) Each year on Friday, we all were treated to White Castles. They carried in bags and bags of those little square burgers and I remember the quirkiest thing - the teachers asked us to break down the little boxes that held the burgers so we could make our trash more compact. Why I remember that, I have no idea.

So, that brings us to today's Table Topic...

"What are your favorite memories from VBS?"

Attention...Salute...Pledge (that's an inside joke for you VBS-ers)