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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church When You feel Rejected

(To get to the beginning of this series click here)

It was during the Brownsville Revival when our prayer meetings started heating up.   We were praying every Tuesday night and would occasionally hold 24-hour prayer meetings.  These meetings were so anointed.  God was there.  The prayer room was thick with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  When you closed your eyes and prayed you felt as if you were transported to a whole other place.  It was just incredible.   God was answering prayers and we added more prayer times.  More and more people were coming.  We moved from the prayer room to the sanctuary.  Then someone had an impromptu prayer meeting at their house, which turned into a weekly event.  Not that it was bad, it was actually a great thing to have happen!  But in doing so less and less people came to the church to pray. They favored going to the house prayer meetings instead.  

I remember at first feeling so mad about it.  Then I felt rejected.  I thought people didn't want to come to our prayer meetings because of the way we ran them, or maybe it was the way we prayed, or had other people pray.  I had so many thoughts go through my head about what we might be doing wrong.  We even tried to make our meeting like the others.  Then I started to do what I still do when I’m feeling unwanted, I retreated to my own little world.  We kept the prayer meetings at church going as long as we could, even if it was just my husband and I that would show up to pray.  We prayed for the church, the pastors, the city, everything we could think of.  Even the other prayer meetings.  It was especially hard when there was talk about the other meetings during a service.  It was like a punch in the stomach.  I cried out to God.  Asking him why and what did I do wrong?  There was no answer to that then.   I retreated more and more, until finally a decision was made to end the Tuesday night Prayer Meetings.  We just could not compete with the others.   In hindsight maybe we should not have stopped those meetings, but we still had a lot of learning to do.  Eventually the other prayer meetings ended too.  

It was a difficult time for us at church after that.  We struggled to go to church then. When we got there, we would quickly find our seats and then quickly leave after service.  We weren’t serving in any other ministry for a time after that either. Honestly, we didn’t want to.   We felt as if we had put our all into that one ministry and then it was taken away.  We again questioned if we should stay.  Our Pastor would try to  encourage us by telling us we were going to make it.  We also had 4 kids to think about.   Our kids were involved in ministries and most of their friends were there at the church.  We just could not pull them away from the life that they knew.    We decided to hold our heads up and stay in church.  We still believed that God called us to grow in this church.    We pressed in.  We shook the devil off by reading and praying more in our own prayer closet.  It was through that time that I was learning what God was trying to teach me.   I had to get rid of “Me” in the ministry.   The prayer meetings weren’t about me.   They were supposed to be about Him.   Now I can admit that my head got a little bigger.   The amount of people that would show up and the way God would use me to pray for people was quite an experience.  I can also say that it didn’t end solely because of me.   There should not be a competition between ministries in this way.  We serve in ministries to serve God.  We should not try to “out serve” our brothers and sisters.   It should be about serving together.  We all have gifts and should serve in the capacity of those gifts but, remember that it is God who equips those he calls.  We should serve with a humble spirit.  It is a privilege to be used in any ministry, in any capacity.    

When a door closes on a ministry, we should not leave the Church.  There is so much more that needs to be done!  God wants to continue to use us.  It just may be in a different area.  We need to learn to be teachable and maintain a humble spirit.  We can’t let our ego get in the way of what He wants to do.     Humbly step aside, even if you think you’ve put your all into it.   Let God do what He’s going to do.  It's always exciting to see what He does next.   

Click here to read the next in the series 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Holding Your Head up in Church When You Feel Like You’re Being Judged

In my last post I talked about resolving to stay with my church, and that resolve was not without more times of testing and trials.  Testing comes in many forms.  Like when you feel like you’re being judged and you don’t really know how to handle it.   Not in a godly manner anyway.  Especially when you’re a new Christian or when you’ve just found the courage to walk into a church.   It’s the thing that keeps a lot of people from going to church in the first place.  “The church is full of hypocrites” or so I have heard.  I didn’t want anyone judging how I lived my life.   It was not until I truly saw my need for Jesus that I was able to get over that and go to church. 

When I was a new convert, only attending services for a couple of weeks, I wore a red skirt just above my knees, 3-inch red high heels, red sleeveless sweater and a red jacket.   It was near valentine’s day.   I thought I looked good.  This was an outfit that I wore regularly to work in a professional office.  My nails were long and painted red too.  I had been so happy to go to church that day! I wanted to be there with my girls in their dresses and my husband in his suit.  I was not trying to turn heads at all.   But I did, and it was mostly the “church women” who looked at me.  I saw them.  I saw their eyes.  I saw their little gasps.  I felt “dirty” somehow.    I wouldn’t talk to anybody. Not because I was new, but because I felt them staring.  I wouldn’t dare go up during the altar call that day.  I didn’t want to go back the next week either, but my husband talked me into it.   He said I looked good to him and that was all that mattered.   I don’t believe I ever wore that to church again.  I also didn’t think it was revealing.  Maybe it was just too red. 

Later that year, I had begun working in the nursery.  At the time, it was required of moms of babies to work one service per month. One Sunday morning when I was scheduled to work, a leader came up to me and gave me a hug. She openly, and loudly, smelled my hair.   She turned to the other leader and said, “I don’t smell it.”   I, being who I was, said “What the h---?”    They were so shocked by my response that they could hardly explain themselves!  Finally, one of them said, "we thought you’d been smoking."  The truth is I was still smoking.  I hadn’t been delivered from that yet. Honestly, at that time I was not trying to be.  God was working on so many things in my life that it just wasn’t an issue.  However, I wasn’t about to admit to them that I was still smoking.   Had I been approached in love, maybe I would have admitted, and then they could have prayed for me. I wanted to run out of there.  I worked that morning anyway but couldn’t wait to light up a cigarette on the way home! 

There are so many other instances I could tell you about.  But I think you get the idea from these two stories.  It just doesn’t matter to me anymore whether people are judging me or not. Maybe that comes with age, or with Jesus, or both.  Maybe there is truth to the “judging” or maybe not.  I just know that there is a tendency to feel judged.   It could be coming from people who think they have “arrived.”   On the other hand, it could be that God is dealing with sin, and in our little minds we think that “everyone knows.” We feel like we’re being judged when really it’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit and we should take heed.      

We must fight this feeling and not run out of the church.  We need to look at and judge the situation ourselves.  Is there a reason?  Is it founded? Are we still smoking? Either way we need to hold on.  Hold our head up and keep serving God.  Trust that he will bring us through.  If people are being judgmental then that is on them.  We correct what the Holy Spirit is calling to our attention and leave the rest alone.  We need to learn from it.  If we hold on and get rooted there will come a time when the Holy Spirit will have us bring something to the attention of someone else. We need to know how to do it.  We should be helping and not hurting each other.  "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6:1.  If we are to correct one another it should be done in love, so the other person does not feel judged, but rather led to go further into the Kingdom of Grace.  It isn’t easy.    

The point is, we all have judged (admit it) and been judged.  But Jesus said in Matthew 7:1 -2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." The problem is, there are people in church.  People are made of flesh and the flesh is weak.  The solution is what we do with the problem. The last thing we want to do is get an attitude and leave!  Let God, through his Holy Spirit, change you and mold you into who he wants you to be.  Know that God can’t do that if we leave the place He has put us.

(I am happy to share that I was delivered from smoking cigarettes on August 1, 1997! I had smoked a half of a cigarette about a week later, because I thought I needed it.   I quickly realized I didn’t. I threw it, and the rest of the pack, out of the car window as I was driving.   To God be the Glory!)

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church When You feel Shame

In my previous post I talked about resolving to stay with my church and serving God through that ministry.  That decision did not come without times of testing and trials.   Funny thing is when we are in a trial, we often don’t realize it until we are on the other side.  We just know that life is really hard at that moment.  Sometimes a more mature Christian will help us to realize and pray us through it.   I think that is one reason why God’s Word says to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatian 6:2, NKJV.   We can’t make it alone.  We would just as soon throw in the towel than go through some of this stuff.   Before we knew Jesus, we would have handled things very differently.   And not in good ways.   Just imagine yourself handling some of the rough spots of life without Jesus.  I for one would have gotten drunk to numb the reality only to have to deal with it later.   Whatever the “it” was.  I would have made decisions that I’m sure I would’ve regretted later.   One such a time for us was when we learned our daughter was pregnant.

I remember like it was yesterday, calling my pastor and having to tell him that my 15-year-old daughter was pregnant.  My husband and I were co-leading the Sunday School Ministry with another couple. We thought our Pastor was going to tell us we had to leave the church, or in the least step down from the ministry.   We also thought we would make it easier for him by just offering to leave.   In our minds, we would leave our beloved church with our heads down and tail between our legs.  What a shame we were, leading a children’s ministry and our very own child was pregnant at such a young age.   So that’s what we did, we called our pastor and told him we were sorry for being “’bad examples” and that we would not come back.    His response, in part was, “You will not!  Do not give the devil the victory by leaving the very place that God placed you!”   He didn’t even require us to step-down from co-leading the children’s ministry.  He showed us such mercy and grace.   

You may be scoffing or wondering why we would ever feel that way.  We were going to be first time grandparents after all!  Or maybe you’ve had something similar happen and you too felt like such a failure.   We felt like failures as parents, and ministry leaders.   The devil was quick to jump on our emotions and exploit them.   He caused us to feel shame for our situation.  We struggled with all of this for a short time, but after the initial tears were shed, and words were said, we prayed and let God rule.   He was still on the throne no matter our circumstance.   We loved our daughter in spite of what was happening.   She was 4 months along when we learned she was pregnant and delivered a short time later at just 7 months.  Our grandson was born weighing only 2 lbs 6 oz.  During what seemed like a “brief” pregnancy we held our heads up and went to church anyway.   We served God with an even greater zeal then before.  When we went to service, we lifted our hands high and praised God anyway.  We sat together as a family. We protected our daughter as best we could from hurtful words. It was hard when other Mom’s didn’t want their daughters hanging around ours anymore.   Yet God brought new friends into her life.   When we were working in ministry, we worked.  We knew that others were thinking the same thoughts we had had.  But we gave it our best to serve God and our church family with all we had to offer, anyway.    We stopped the “rumor mill” in its tracks by simply announcing it ourselves.  It was done, and it wasn’t changing.   God was holding our hands and completed a quick work of grace in our lives.  He had grace for us.  We had grace for our daughter.    God knew we were going to need our church family to pray and surround us with faith and love during this time.  And this unborn child?  Well he was a plan of God.    Jeremiah 1:5  says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”  There was absolutely no reason for us to feel “shame” except by the worlds standards and the enemies lies. 

“Don’t give the devil the victory by leaving the very place that God has placed you!”  These words from our Pastor have stuck with us through many trials.  The devil has and will probably continue to shoot his fiery darts at us.  We know he would like nothing more than to move us and you out of God’s will.   If you are out of his will then you can’t do anything to further the Kingdom of God.   You get wrapped up in you, your feelings, your self-pity and you can’t hear what God is saying to you.  Is this  the church God has put you?  He didn’t change his mind did he? Don’t let the devil make you think he did.   Hold your head up.   Go to church.   Lift your hands a little higher.  Praise a little louder.   Pray a little harder.   Serve as if your life depends on it, because it does.   God didn’t change his mind.   He puts us in places where we can be taught, if we’ll allow it.   Our first grandson just celebrated his 16th birthday, he is saved and serving God right along side of us, in this same church!  To God be the Praise! He is good, we just need to let him be God! 
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Monday, March 4, 2019

Holding your head up in church when…

It breaks my heart when I hear that someone has left my church.  I’m quick to say “oh no” but I no longer ask why.   Truth is I don’t want to know.  I know that there are many reasons for leaving a congregation. There are legitimate reasons and there are reasons that are just excuses. People move. People church hop. People don’t want to be rooted. Some are just looking for the next best thing. Some don’t want others to get too close for fear of exposure. Some are not letting God lead. Some have been hurt and think it’s beyond repair. There are those that leave because families have split up. Sometimes people have “fall outs” much like getting a divorce. Sometimes the Bible is not being preached and saved people are waking up to it. Some are just stubborn and stiff necked and won’t take correction. And others are just full of pride, letting their flesh decide.  There are more reasons than I can name. Whatever the reasons are, and whether they are “legit” or not, you decide.   But be sure to count the cost of leaving before you go.   It will disrupt, and in some cases destroy families. It will affect your children. It affects others in the church, especially new Christians.  You may not realize it but there are people that look up to you.  Where you go to church is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Even if you choose to not go to church. Not to say that you “have” to go to church to make heaven your eternal home. But as Christians, we’re supposed to be rooted. Church is where we learn and grow in all things spiritual.  Hebrews 10:25 KJV “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  When you’ve really given yourself to Jesus you want to be around other Christians, you want to know more, be more, experience more.  Your eternal destiny is at stake.

When God puts you in a church, you know it. He doesn’t later change his mind as the enemy would have you believe. He knows where he wants to "plant" you so you can grow spiritually. Jeremiah 17:8 KJV  They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not  fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” 

It is too easy these days to not get “planted.” Some people just keep themselves in a bucket and never put down roots.  There are churches on every corner, or so it seems. Just like gas stations and convenience stores. If you don’t like this one, go to another one. This one is offering free coffee with a fill up and that one you can have a donut and a coffee...and so it goes. It’s marketing. And we are caught in the middle. We can pick up our "bucket" and move it from place to place, get a little watering here and there but never get planted. We need to choose and stay with the one. The one that God has sent you to. The one that preaches truth, from the Word of God, where the leaders are open and honest and real people.   Test it.  Read your bible and listen to what the Pastors are preaching.   Does it line up? 

I had been saved and serving God in my church for more than a few years when someone very dear to me left.  Other people had come and gone during that time and I paid no mind to it.   This was someone to whom I looked up to during those formative years as a new Christian. I emulated her, I wanted to be “as Christian” as she was.  It broke my heart.   I just couldn’t understand.   And I found out she left through someone else.  I was devastated.  She didn’t even tell me!  I questioned my own attendance at this church.   I thought if she left, maybe I should I leave too.   It sounds almost as if I was making her my God.  I assure you I wasn’t.   I had just come from a place where I didn’t have Christian examples in my life and looked to her as a teacher.   I was just a new convert.   And to top it off when I asked her about it, she said “I can’t believe you don’t understand.” And then she said, “we can serve God anywhere.”  True, but it hurt.    And like I said earlier I questioned my own attendance at my church.   The church where I knew God put me and where I was first saved, baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit.   That’s how I got through this confusing time.    God doesn’t bring confusion. The enemy does.   I knew I was where I was supposed to be and from that moment on, I decided that this was my church, I had no intentions of leaving, and was going to get involved and stay involved.    It was a resolve that I had to make.   Making that decision then is what helped me get through lots of trials.   It helped me to grow spiritually.  I have since learned that God doesn’t just place us in a congregation for our own good, but also for the good of someone else.  You don’t know who you are influencing, or who comes from afar and is encouraged because you’re still there.  And I can say I’m still resolved to stay.  I don’t have intentions of leaving.  I won’t say I’ll never leave, because we just don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t intend to leave.   I love my church and my church family. Since that time, God has brought many other strong Christian women into my life who I look up to. I am involved and plan on staying involved.   

In the following weeks I will be sharing stories of how I was able to “hold my head up at church” during the different trials we have been through.   God knows that I know, we are not done.   There will be more trials I’m sure.   But God is on my side.  My desire in sharing these stories is to help even just one, to have a change of heart, and not leave the church where God has put you. My intention is not to make anyone feel condemned or to stay in a place where they feel they are being abused in some way, but rather to see Christians grow and be strong and be who God has called them to be.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Something New is coming

Miss Jo's Shabby Life is turning a corner.  The content of my blog, and other social media platforms is changing but the name remains the same because it still fits.  My life is still shabby.  It’s worn, faded, imperfect, frayed in places and has lots of scratches and dents.  But more than that it’s warm, it’s cozy, it’s forgiving, filled with love, caring and most of all Grace.  His Grace. 

My hope is that you’ll stay with me as I find my writing voice, but if you chose not to that’s okay. God called me to Write.  I’ve been writing for myself all of my life.  It’s therapeutic.  Now I’m to share what I write with others.  I know my writing won’t resonate with all of you, but if just one person has a change of heart then it’s worth it.  What matters to me is that I am doing what I’m called to do.  Stay close.  In a few days I will share the first story in a series I’m calling “Holding Your Head Up” 

My blog is changing by adding to it and not necessarily taking anything away.   I will still occasionally post about my booth, treasure hunting and tea cups.   If you'd like to be notified of my future posts please follow my blog through my email list or bloglovin'.  You will find both on the right sidebar.    

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