Confession: Church people freak me out a little bit.

candice-18

Photo credit: Lisa Snell Photography.

I use to think church people had their lives together.
So I stayed away from the church.

They few times I accidentally ended up in one I just smiled and kept my eyes from making real contact with anyone. I thought my clothes weren’t right and my kids weren’t lined up perfectly the way they were supposed to be.
I never spoke to anyone because I didn’t want them to find out what a mess my family was or that my marriage was a little out of whack…scratch that, a LOT out of whack.
I thought I needed to tame my hair, hide my tattoos, and buy nice church clothes in order to fit in.
I didn’t want to learn about Jesus because I thought he was for the good people, the ones that dressed right, acted right, lived clean lives, and knew all the verses in the bible. I didn’t want to be rejected by Jesus because I couldn’t get my life together.

Then I met a “church lady” and she was real with me. She sat me down one day and told me what a mess her house was, physically and emotionally. She was real and honest and showed me that you can be broken and Jesus still sees you. I love you for that, Barbara. You saved me.

So I took off my mask.
I realized I wasn’t made to fit in and that’s okay.

I often get asked why I tell my story, good and bad. I get asked if I worry about what people are going to think when they learn about where I’ve been and what I’ve done.
Nope. I sure don’t.
God already knows what I’ve done and what I’ve been through and he loves me anyways. He forgives me and adores me and that’s the beauty about following Jesus.
You can come to him frayed and stained and he opens his arms wide open.

I’ve learned how important it is to not pretend to be something that I’m not.
My kids will never be dressed in church clothes, whatever those are. On that note, I’ll always be the girl in church who makes people wonder what the hell I was thinking when I got dressed that morning.
I’ll always have a tattoo peeking out somewhere.
My house will never be clean, like never ever.
There will always be a wrinkle in my marriage.
I’ll always need forgiveness for something.
I’ll always need to forgive something.

But here’s the beauty of church.
It’s filled with messy church people.
It’s a place for the broken to gather.

If you’re showing up to church feeling like you need to fit in or put on your best face, let that lie go!.
The people on the outside looking in need to know how messy we are.
We need to set an example of brokenness.
We need to show that we are the hurting and Jesus is the healer.
We need to take our masks off for the sake of those who don’t know Jesus but are desperate for what he has to offer.

If you’re on the outside looking in let me tell you about the people inside.

The pastor is a sinner.
The youth leader sometimes wants to throat chop the teenagers.
The Sunday school teachers loves the little kids but doesn’t always like them.
The marriage counselor sometimes wonders why the hell they, themselves, ever got married in the first place.
The lady preaching to the women’s group cusses a little too much and enjoys adult beverages with dinner (sorry, that one’s me.)
Every person in the building has something they need to stop clinging to and hand over to Jesus.

To the people inside the church,
There’s a lady hiding in the back pew. She’s desperate for truth and honesty. Her marriage is a mess and she spanked her kids in the parking lot for not acting like humans. She needs you. She needs you to kneel next to her and say “We’re all jacked up in here. Sorry for pretending like we aren’t. You belong here. Our sweet Jesus loves you just the way you are. Welcome home.”

Not Just A Quarter

Church Under The Bridge

We were lucky enough to get to go to Church Under The Bridge last week. I took half of my daughters, my W3 sister and her son.

Church Under The Bridge started out as just that, church under a bridge for the homeless and after the church service they would get a hot meal. I’m not sure when they got a real building but they now have a beautiful and simple building with a kitchen and sanctuary.

I would like to give a huge shout out to the owner of Little Caesars Pizza for donating the kitchen equipment and for being there having fellowship with the homeless during service. Go eat at Little Caesars this week, or heck, go twice!

Meeting Jesus

I honestly didn’t have any idea what to expect when we got there but I did expect my kids to be a little withdrawn and slightly nervous. They are wonderful little girls but this was out of there element. By the time we got there everyone had already gathered in the sanctuary and the cafeteria was empty.

Before we went through the doors I reminded my girls that we were going to church with some of God’s people and that no matter what, these were our brothers and sisters and we need to be kind and loving. My oldest triplet jumped with glee and said “Are we going to get to see Jesus in there?”. Before I could answer, my youngest triplet told her “Jesus isn’t in there, He is in all of our hearts”.

Wow, they really do listen to everything that we say.

I had no idea that we really were going to see Jesus when we walked through those doors. When I opened the doors and ushered my girls in, I prayed that they would not comment loudly on the way that the room smelled. They didn’t say a word. As a matter of fact they smiled and said hi to everyone and didn’t cling to me like plastic wrap or my jeans from last year.

During the service I looked over at my friends and my daughters and they were all singing and praising God. The sight of my six year old standing in the middle of a group of homeless people, with her arms raised in praise as if it was all so normal was the best thing that I have ever seen. I don’t think that my daughters had any idea where they were. To them it was just church and they liked all the attention that they were getting from their new friends.

The Offering

There were a lot of amazing moments that night and things that I will never forget but there was something that took me completely off guard and changed my life forever. In the middle of the service the pastor said that it was time to take up the offering.

What? Did he know where he was? These people lived on the streets, they hadn’t bathed in a while, had the same clothes on that they probably had on for the last month and tonight might be their only hot meal until the next night at CUB.

The pastor reminded all of us that the people sitting in front of him, the “street people”, are no different than the people in the multimillion dollar church just a few miles away and that God tells us to give and in return we will be given back ten fold.

Well, it goes more like this. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. There’s also this one, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” Proverbs 3:9-10.

When the pastor called for the offering, the most amazing thing happened. Almost every single person in that room stood up and walk to the front of the room. Some had to be pushed in their wheelchair and one lady had to be guided by her friend because she was blind. Each one of them had years of wear and tear on them. Only about a third of them wore a smile. Each one of them put something in the small basket that held their gifts.

I watched as some let go of a handful of change, some put down a dollar and a child threw in a quarter. A child. Can you imagine what a quarter means to some of them? I don’t even want to think how much a dollar means. They gave it anyways.It wasn’t about the money for them, it was about giving themselves and obeying the Word. It was about honoring God and giving Him thanks for the blessings that He has given them.

I can imagine the joy that it gave God to watch His most struggling children give in His name the way that they did.

I was jealous of their faith, submission and joy.

What have I been doing?

I’ll be the first to admit that when the offering tray comes around my way a church I start to calculate my bank account in my head. I think about what bills I have to face in the upcoming week. I think about what my girls need at school (you know it’s always something).

How much can I spare? SPARE! Who the hell do I think that I am!! Tithing is not about what we can spare, it is about obeying Gods word. Period. When I slip my envelope in the tray I wonder if God says “Silly girl, I know you have more to give”.

My husband and I seriously volunteer in any way that we can at our church and outside of our church but we are fools if we think that it is enough. God will always provide, always. That means I should stop visualizing my bank account every time the offering comes around.

Even if I emptied it we will still be okay because God will provide. I never thought I would say this but I want to be more like the homeless people that I sat in church with and a lot less like me.

Let’s Pray

Abundant Father thank you for always providing for us even when we think that we don’t have enough. Bless each any every one of the amazing people who gave everything that they had in order to honor Your great name. Remind us that it is Your will for us to give of ourselves and of our riches. Help us to give completely without worry of what might happen to us if we empty our pockets. Please let that sweet child who gave her last quarter find abundant wealth and health. In Jesus name, amen.

When we got home from church my youngest triplet brought her piggy bank to our room and said that she wanted to give all her money to the people who don’t have any.  She watched a child give away her only quarter and it made her want to give away all the money that she has earned over the last six years. What’s in your piggy bank?