Church People

July 3, 2005



I’m going to get to a money post, but that was the one that was Interrupted. Meanwhile, go on over and read Aphron’s take on the subject.

There are a few folks who read me who have a degrre of spirituality and a few of those are Christian. But even fewer who attend church on Sunday. The primary objection seems to be that churches are filled with hypocrites who, having some form of Godliness somehow fall short of having the Spirit of God within themselves. Or that maybe these very same folks who criticize church goers might fail to measure up themselves.

These are truths of a sort, but they aren’t very good excuses. For you see, the folks going to church on Sunday aren’t a lot different than you. Or me. In fact, I’m one of them. Am I a hypocrite? YES! Which is why I enjoy going to church in order to commiserate, converse and otherwise hobnob with my fellow sinners. The difference between meeting in a church as opposed to a bar or nightclub is that we are all trying to improve ourselves and conform ourselves an each other into a little bit closer image of God. There is a certain committment that we all share towards God and moreso to each other through said association with a church body.

When you first walk into a church, you should be greeted by someone fairly soon. If no one talks to you after a couple of Sundays, you can safely move on. There are churches that fit every flavor of Christian from evangelicals, who have a more strict adherence to Biblical teaching, to the more Unitarian style who have no real doctorine or affinity outside of simply having a loving community. Some churches seem stodgy and rigid while others will embrace a more contemporary style. There are even subgroups within each group. There are Baptists that have a more relaxed style and there are Baptists that preach Hellfire and damnation. There are even churches in the North Georgia Mountains that handle rattle snakes and drink poison, if that suits your fancy. The nondenominational churches vary tremendously and usually depend more on the personality of the pastor. You might find some congregations shouting and clapping, some speaking iin tougues and others who don’t move much at all. There are churches that reflect the cultural make-up of every possible combination of natiionality, language and culture. Here in Georgia, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a church. There are a half dozen churches within a mile of my house. We happen to attend a Methodist church in town about 6 miles away.

The point is, is that churches are made up of folks just like you. You see people at work and you may not know if they go to church. Others make sure to let you know. But every type of individual is represented in churches every Sunday.

So why should you go? Well, even if you aren’t religious it is a good place to make friends and meet people. Some folks will say this is not a proper reason to attand church, and I might agree except I know too many people lukewarm in the faith who will gladly attend the various social gatherings. Church, for good or ill, is a place to see and be seen.

Another reason people go is to get spiritually recharged. I hear this one quite often where they complain that if they miss a Sunday the rest of their week seems to drag for them. And then they also feel better after going to church.

One girl I dated commented that one of her girlfriends always seemed to have better sex after church. I think this girl told me this after church and after sex. Not the case with Arwyn nowadays but I do know my oldest was conceived on Mother’s day…after church. So there might be something to the spiritual driving the sensual. Or it might just be that after being dressed up and looking so good, it is just natural to get the groove on while changing clothes.

Some people go to church looking for God. Of course God is everywhere, but if you haven’t found Him, church would seem a natural and likely place to look. At least until you get there and see just ordinary, everyday people there. For Christians, God lives within us, so it is a bit pointless getting up early, getting all dressed up and heading out the door just for that. Why bother?

Well, the trouble of going is part of the reason, IMO. It *is* a lot of trouble, muss and fuss especially if you have young children. But that is precisely the point. Christianity flourishes most when and where it seems to be persecuted. The more people have to struggle to get in, the more they want in. How much is your faith worth to you? The higher the price you pay for it, the more precious it is. A lot of you folks aren’t willing to even pay the minimum price of admission which is simply walking through a door. What does this say about your faith?

There are aversions, to be sure. Aside from all the inconvenience of just getting there, you will have to listen to a fair amount of whining. People complaining about other people, the paster whining about attendence and the amount of money that is coming in, other people complaining about all manner of problems and ailments disguised as prayer requests. Then you may have to listen to a boring sermon and your mind drifts and your eyes drift over…

Is she wearing a thong under there? Is my hair okay? I wonder if anyone knows I’m wearing a chastity cage? Kids acting up in church add considerable distress for their parents while amusing the older folks and lots of other folks are acting bored. Some are nodding off. And then your stomach starts growling and then you realize you need to fart.

And God smiles.

Sunday after Sunday we go through the same rituals, trials and miniature tribulations. Going to church is sometimes hard. But is it really any harder than getting ready to go to work or go to the club? It seems so, as the kids fight a little harder on Sunday morning and getting there on time seems to be even more of a struggle. Is it worth it?

This morning we were sorely tempted to skip as our adult Sunday school class wasn’t doing anything special except socializing. The kids were tired as they were already there all week for vacation Bible school. We figured it would be a slow and sparse crowd with a long holiday. There were other things we would rather be doing. But once there, we were surprised to see a lot of our frinds there. My oldest got up with the other 6 year-olds and sang a couple of songs he learned last week dressed in his cowboy hat. He also lost a tooth, so we noticed all the other 6 year-olds trying to wiggle their teeth. He was also recognized for having perfect attendence having not missed a Sunday since January. It turned out to be a pretty good time.

And God smiled.

God would have been with us to share in whatever we decided to do that day, but the fact that we chose to devote some of our time to Him made it all the sweeter for us. We go, and we can feel God’s pleasure. We are surrounded by other folks struggling the same as us, some harder some not seeming to struggle as much. We can share in each other’s struggles and triumphs in a community of faith. While the place is packed with hypocrites, these are, for the most part, good folks or folks who are making an effort to be better. Not better than you or me, but better than they were when they walked in to the place.

God is with us no matter where we go. He will never leave or forsake us. But we lose out on some of that transformational power when we insist on going it alone. Church attendance is as much a physical act of discipline as a spiritual one. I’ve never met anyone who was able to successfully exercise spiritual discipline without mastering the physical one first. I’m not going to say which causes the other, but it seems that they do tend to go hand-in-hand.

A couple of you are going to say “yeah, this all sounds good but….(insert excuse here).” I’m not here to judge anyone, as what you do is entirely up to you and between you and God. I’m just saying that you are missing out on experiencing that part of God’s pleasure. There are other ways to experience God’s joy, such as when we tend to each other and to our own children. But the experience of corporate worship is truly unique. Some of you know of what I speak, but may have gotten out of the habit. Getting back in is difficult but the difficulty is only in your own mind. No one reading this far is going to be an intellectual light weight. Bridle your doubts, put the saddle on your mind, your will in the stirrups, dig in your heels and let your spirit fly. In church, you can experience the reality of redemption like you can in no other place.



July 3, 2005

Perfect example of the breakdown in communication. Let’s take a look…

I’m typing away on my PDA and Arwyn sits down near me and asks what our plans were after church. I put the PDA aside and say it depends on the weather. It’s supposed to be hot, humid with a chance of T-storms in the afternoon or evening, sort of like today. A friend of ours (who is in the midst of a divorce) had called earlier and wanted her boy and our boys to get together. This seemed fine. Arwyn then talks about this other woman’s quest to find a job and began a meandering conversation. At this point, I’m fine with that and figure we’ll get to tomorrow’s plans soon enough, all in good time. It was almost nice having a regular conversation.

But then trouble came and rained on the parade. As Arwyn talked, she would pause. I would begin to say something and Arwyn would interupt and run over the top of me without even an acknowledgement that I was even saying anything. You know, like “Excuse me..” “Pardon me…” “What were you going to say..?” These are just the most basic parameters of a basic conversation. After about the third time, I picked up the PDA and resumed my typing.

“Do you mind putting that thing aside?” she asked.

“I can listen just fine. If you want to have an actual conversation, we can do that, too. But you’ve already interrupted me 3 times.”

She lost it. She got up and stormed off, saying that she didn’t even know that she had done that. But she also refused to talk any more. I had already put the damn PDA up. She grabbed the phone and went into our room and is presently talking to this other friend. I need to come up with a name for this other person as she is becoming a more regular fixture.

In anycase, this was a classic example of a seemingly innocent exchange turned contemptuous, defensive and finally she stonewalls me. All in the space of 30 seconds. Are those chest pains I feel? I’ll go have a smoke and simmer down.

When it comes to grinding an axe clear to the handle, Arwyn and I are nearly well matched. She actually wins because her memory is far better than mine. But we both can hold grudges for a long time. We are both quite stubborn and obstinate. In fact, when it comes to more subtle forms of emotional warfare, she has me whipped simply because she can ambush me, and then run away with lightening speed. She’s like an insurgent, who blows the bomb and then disappears, leaving me to clean the bloody mess. It is in this environment that I’ve become conditioned. I can never react fast enough, I can never see it coming, but my mind and body try anyway. I get all ramped up to fight, and stay that way for a good 45 minutes.

I’m not sure writing is even helping.

This is where things get tough in the decision-making process. We do a fair job of buffering the kids from our conflicts. Not perfect by any means. The research on divorce and kids is pretty definitive. It almost always has a negative impact. Arwyn is a case in point. Her psychopathology, whatever it is, can be largely attributed to the reults of an alcoholic father and divorced parents. As adjustment goes, she has really done quite well.

But the toll all this takes on me is heavy. I can taste it in the air. On the present trajectory, my days are severely numbered. On one level, I can see my journey Heavenward as offering exquisite relief. On the otherhand, I do worry about my kids. Consigning them to God’s care is more difficult. The day will come when I’ll have to do that but I’m not sure I wish to just yet.

This criminal investigation also adds sauce to the goose. While things look hopeful that I may have a remnant of my life back, it is still hanging over me. A heaviness that never sleeps. I can not get into specifics, obviously, but it is just one more thing. No matter the outcome, I am a changed person. For the better in some ways, but less of a person than I was before.

This is why Pete’s Prison Blog is on my roll. A very real reminder of one possible destiny. I’m optimistic, but still, it is like a long shadow cast over everything else. I’ll know one way or another by the end of the month.