Musings From A Musical Mind

Posts tagged ‘church’

Visiting The Past

Yesterday Greg and I were on a day trip, about an hour from our home.  We went to a park, explored a rocky beach, enjoyed the nice sunshiny day, had a run-in with a VERY LARGE dog at an off-lease park and after Daisy yelped and ran under the safety fence to get away from him – we decided it was time to call it a day.

We were driving past a city where 40 years ago, my Dad had been a music/youth leader in an Assembly of God church.  Our family used to make the hour-long trek to church twice a week so he could have this job.  I was about 10, but my memories are clear.  I could see the church in my mind.  The hallways and many rooms, the nursery where I used to love to help watch the babies, the youth room, the choir room and the sanctuary where we spent much of our time.

I learned to ride a bike at that church.  Oddly enough, it was in one of its downstairs hallways.  And then outside in the parking lot, with the help of an older friend.  I spent many hours alone, as I was too young to be in the youth choir and the youth group.  My parents did make some exceptions for me and there are even a few pictures of me with that youth choir, though I did not have a matching uniform.  Too young I often entertained myself in that church, downstairs in the many rooms and making up many games and imaginary people.  In the parking lot our missionette group practiced to be in a local parade.

I asked Greg if we could try to find that church.  If was difficult, because the name has now changed.  The area looks completely different as well.  40 years is a long time.  And my memory is not very good when it comes to navigation and direction.  But eventually we found it.

I expected it to look very strange inside.  After all, when you’re a child things always appear differently and usually we remember them as large – when in fact, they are small.  I walked in what must have been the front door, but I do not remember it being there.  It looked very much as I remembered it.  The same hallways downstairs and same rooms.  I rounded a familiar corner and took a look into the sanctuary.  How small it was!  What a strange thing to be standing there 40 years later and have the memories come flooding back.

When we visit the past, things can be strangely out-of-place but sometimes it is just as we remember it.

We all have a story.  We all have those crazy memories from being a child.  And sometimes we just need to pay it a visit.  I’m glad I did.

 

God Bless

We Are More Alike Than We Think

United Methodist Church, in

United Methodist Church, in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greg and I have had the privilege lately of visiting churches on Sunday mornings here in the Pacific Northwest.  We have been open to trying other denominations and have listened and taken everything in with no judgement or bias (well…maybe a little bias) and have appreciated things new and unfamiliar to us.

In our search we have met some really wonderful people, seen and heard some great music and teaching ministries. The most impressive have been the people in these different denominations.  Deep down inside I’m forced to admit, that I expected people who didn’t think and believe exactly like me to be unfriendly, hostile, pushy and illiterate, lacking depth and reasoning skills.  Pretty dumb.  But the teachings of childhood are hard to shake and once we get a preconceived idea in our head – it is very hard to change it.

As Greg and I have journeyed through our denomination and seen many changes happening in the music, it has been both good and bad for us.  Good in that our kids really enjoyed the progressive trend toward all things modern and new and bad for us in that some of it is just too much the same, some too hard to follow, some too loud etc.  We are somewhere between modern and 20 years ago – and to be honest the music of 15 years ago still suits us best.  Take away choir and orchestra music of our denomination and you’re left with just a worship band with not much variety.

So we have explored music of the more traditional denominations that we thought we would NEVER be interested in.  The Presbyterian and Methodist being among our favorite choices so far – for their depth of teaching, variety of music and beauty of the service.  I was never familiar with a more liturgical service (thought it was only in the Catholic church) had been to a Lutheran service once or twice where my Dad is the organist and was convinced that it was not for me.  But there is a beauty to the order and planning of every scripture reading – hymn chosen and scripture song sung for the message.

Nothing can compare to the pipe organ and huge choir at 1st Presbyterian Church in Bellevue.  The pastor is very interesting, uses humor and deep teaching to make his points clear – and honestly, it’s the best music in “church” I’ve ever heard.

But proximity is very important if hoping to become involved – and we are a couple of miles from Fairwood Community United Methodist Church where I visited yesterday.  I’ve always been curious because this is the lovely little church that I rent twice a year to have my recitals with my students.  I’m not sure what I expected – but it was certainly different (in a good way) than what I thought it would be.  The people were so friendly – had two people engage with me (I was late) before I even got into the sanctuary while standing in the foyer while the choir and teenagers being confirmed were on the platform singing an opening number.  They treated me like I was already one of them.  Then I found my seat toward the back and a nice older man behind me helped me as I stumbled a few times, wondering what book they were singing from.  There were 6 eighth graders that had been confirmed in the earlier service and were a part of the beginning part of the service that I was in – with introductions and explanation to the younger children and adults (like me unfamiliar with confirmation) of what was being done.

The pastor of this church is a woman.  I did not know how I would feel about this.  But my concerns were quickly diminished when I heard her speak and saw her with the children.  She uses humor and relevant topics to convey her point – yesterday she spoke on “Heroes” and used “The Hunger Games” as her premise.  It was relevant and interesting.  I looked around and saw many people just like me.  The same needs, concerns and place in life.  Many have never walked the road in ministry that we have – or ever will – they will never know what we have experienced in another denomination – never see things around the country and here in our own city inside a different type of church – and yet – I realized this:  we are more alike than we think.

I’m not sure where our journey will ultimately end – but in the meantime, I am reassured that God is not just restricted to one denomination.  He is everywhere – relevant to those who seek Him.  Ever present in our songs of worship, our traditional choir anthems and in our prayers offered up in reverence.  We have good friends from the Tri-Cities area who have been pastors like us in our denomination and have found themselves feeling quite at home in the Methodist Church.

When was the last time you visited something different from what you’re used to and were forced to removed the box where your God exists for you?  When was the last time you were really open?  Will it surprise you to see some people from other denominations in heaven with you?  We are the ones who put people in denominations and categories of “spiritual” and “non-spiritual” – God does not.  He just sees the heart.

Lord help me to be open to things that are different.  Help me to see people the way you see them.  Help me to engage in a way that I am always open to your leading.  Amen.

God Bless

Finding The Church In People

[Hitterdals Church, Telemarken (i.e, Telemark)...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

My husband and I have been involved in full-time ministry for 25 years.  We have spent the majority of our married life (30 years in September) wrapped up in ‘the church’ on a staff of some kind – small churches and large.

Some church structures were very modest and simple – others were big and elaborate.

Last night we were reflecting on this subject in our small group.  Some of us grew up thinking that ‘the church’ was a building – a sanctuary that looked a certain way – where you came on Sunday and met with other people to worship.  We believed that God dwelled there and this was where people went to meet with Him.  Some of us remember growing up in this ‘building’ called church.  Remember the emphasis put upon that building and even the years in striving to have a bigger better one in order to reach more people.

There’s nothing wrong with a beautiful building.  I love them!  But it’s when we lose sight of what’s really important and put all our energies into creating, maintaining and supporting a structure we may miss the real heart of what Christ intended for ‘the church’ to be all about.  It’s about people. It’s about relationship. We can forget to meet the needs of those that the church was created for – we can get it backwards if we’re not careful – where the church building becomes the emphasis instead of people.

We now belong to a small church that meets in a junior high building.  It is rolled in and set up before service and then torn down and rolled out – every week.  It is so surreal.  Years of building and striving – and then finding ourselves in a completely different set of circumstances – back to basics – keeping the main thing – the main thing.  And we have found that we did not really give anything up.  It’s not about the building – it is about the simplicity of people meeting together – building relationships and continuing to build them throughout the week – doing life and sharing our journey with others.  It is about making a difference, influencing others and living in such a way that they will be drawn to what we have – and who we are – without the frills and comforts of a ‘building’.  It is there in that simplicity that we have found that He has really spoken to us – and we have found ‘church’ again in the people who have poured their lives into something they believe in.

And if the truth be told – the ‘church’ is people – it’s not a building.  And it is a revelation for some of us to find that God still prefers to reveal Himself in ordinary, unassuming people – who are open as vessels that He can pour Himself through in order to bless others.  In fact – it’s mind blowing.

The ‘church’ is not a building – it is in fact…us.

What did you grow up thinking or believing?  Did you feel that God inhabited a building structure and that it was sacred ground?  Would you find it a shift in thinking to understand that God is not impressed with that – but that He wants your heart instead?  Do you believe that He inhabits the praises of His people and dwells there? If a building was stripped away from you – would you lose your identity?  Your reason for doing ‘church’?  Or is ‘the church’ really inside of who you are?  Does it dwell in you and others around you?  Would your relationship still be solid without those things and familiar surroundings you hold dear?  Would those around you know about your faith – even if you didn’t belong to a physical building structure?

You and I are instructed to be the church to those around us that are lost and dying.  We may be all they have to hang onto – their only glimpse into who the Father is and what He is saying.   They may never enter a church ‘building’  – but if they have a relationship with you – they will have been to church.  And they will see Christ –  building – or no building.

God Bless

Good Friends With Like Minds

The other night we had some friends over – friends that we have reconnected with – knew casually in college and through this wonderful invention called the internet – were able to find again after almost 30 years.

It is a special thing when hearts and minds are similar – have shared common experiences and have put you on a parallel path.  Though unseen and unheard for many years – the hearts have stayed the same – and time and distance has not severed the feeling of understanding and being understood.

As we were sitting, talking and laughing – I was reminded once again of how important people like these friends are to me – as I am in a different ‘season’ of my life – and my journey.  Superficial friends are not my number one priority anymore – I don’t have time for just an ‘acquaintance’ – for the look of it – No – I want – No I need authenticity in my life and with those who are on my journey with me.  I don’t want to ‘sugar coat’ life in the “isn’t life great?” because sometimes it isn’t.  I don’t want to hide behind the ‘smiles and cute phrases’ anymore.  It doesn’t impress me.  It no longer works for me.  I need real friendship in my life.

As we talked – I knew we all felt like this – it is with very few people who you can actually be real and take off any ‘former’ ministry hat.  Those who won’t ‘judge’ you.  These friends have walked that road like me – there’s no pretending.  There is only understanding and honesty – and that is a rare thing among ministers – even former ones.  When I said that I want to have relationships like this – our friend Ron added, “and I am also wanting  church to be like this – simple – and not so complicated”  I totally agree.  Back to the basics of why we do church.  So true.  Back to honesty – simplicity and being your true self – with no fear – and no judgment.  Ah – it feels good.

Can we do this?  I don’t know.  But I know I’m not alone in wanting it.  I know I’m not alone on this journey – and as long as there are people out there like me – I know we all will find each other – and develop life long relationships.  There is strength in numbers – and in friendship of like minds that bind the heart together to help you overcome any adversity that may come your way.

I’m loving how God knew what things would come into my path.  And He placed loving friendships in my path to walk beside me and help me by daily encouragement – bringing simplicity and honesty back into focus once again.  Reminding me what’s really important after all.  It is to those friends that I say, ‘thank you’.  You showed me I am not alone.  You showed me that we all struggle and are a journey.  Thank you for investing in me.

Dear Lord – bless my dear friends who live close to me whom I have the privilege of being a part of their world and lives much of the time – and for those that I can’t see too often – but that I carry in my heart even though they are far away.  ♥  Be with them today as they too are on their journey finding good friends with like minds.

God Bless

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