As I am sitting in my living room this sunny, yet brisk December day, snuggled up in a fluffy blanket my sweet friend bought me, by a cozy (completely fake) fire, sipping on the most amazing cup of afternoon coffee, I catch myself reflecting on life this past year. I am going to warn the reader right here, what I am about to say, may offend some people. I can almost hear the religious nay-sayers from my old community of church people from my past life saying something to the extent of, “see, this is what happens when you walk away from the truth”. But I have always made my life an open book, and I have come to the realization over the last six years, that my decisions are my own, and those who want to judge are going to judge me anyhow no matter what I do. All I can say to that is this, you probably shouldn’t cast stones from a glass house. Especially, from a glass house sitting on top of a mountain.
As most of you already know, I spent twenty five years of my life in the United Pentecostal Church organization. That was nearly all of my early childhood, my teenage years, my twenties and part of my thirties. While in the UPC, I clung to the belief that if I followed all the rules and traditions I was a good person. If I walked the line and didn’t get into trouble for wearing something that offended someone, or not giving enough in my tithes and offerings, or missed a church service I would earn my way into God’s favor. I carried that burden with me for twenty-five years; the burden of perfection.
I hate to use the term, “missed out” but I did. I missed out on a lot of innocent, normal, youthful indescretions. And maybe it was for the better. For the most part, I think it was. I’m sure I was saved from a lot of heartache. However, I never felt the freedom to be myself. I lived caged in the prison of legalism throughout my most formative years and by the time I finally realized I had the freedom to leave that prison whenever I wanted, I was already thirty-three years old. I had no idea what my real personality was like. I had molded myself and persuaded myself to believe the way I dressed and the way I behaved was genuinely me. When in all actuality, it was a facade. My true personality had been hiding behind the mask of legalism my entire life. I had no idea who I was. Talk about scary.
Last December, I turned thirty-nine. It hit me like a ton of bricks I was almost forty and had never just let myself be myself. After being out of the bondage of man-made traditions for five years, I was finally at a point I was confident enough to explore things that I wanted to do. I made a vow to myself to take 2022 for me, and do ALL the things and have ALL the fun! Even if it felt out of my comfort zone, I was going to do it! I was going to allow myself the freedom to be “wild” for the next year.
And I did!
I hate to disappoint those who foretold of my impending divorce from my husband once I “discovered makeup”. (Actually was a rumor apparently.) I haven’t shaken up my life like that, and I don’t intend to, my husband has been the most supportive man alive. But I did explore new cities, took lots of girl’s trips, danced, drank, got another tattoo, wore “offensive” clothes, gambled, took the time to shop local stores, and even got a new job! And it was everything I imagined it could be!
I saw Elton John in concert. I went on a weekend girl’s trip to see Josh Gates and almost got mugged in downtown Milwaulkee. I took a weekend trip with friends to a small town winery and did nothing but drink wine, take pictures and relax by a firepit all weekend. I traveled to Hermann, MO and stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast where the elderly owners made us all say our prayers before breakfast. I took a trip to Orlando during a hurricane with my son, husband and cousin. I went on a cruise with dear friends I met online and ate authentic Argentinian food prepared by another sweet couple I met online. I have made a point to shop locally and support small businesses, something I never realized the importance of before COVID. I gathered up my courage and found a new job, one where I feel appreciated as an employee and have minimal stress, which I love. I started a podcast and YouTube channel with Jereme and our friend Gary. And to top it all off, my husband and friends threw the most amazing, thoughtful surprise weekend for me in Nashville for my big birthday, where so much debauchery happened in good fun I will never, ever forget it!
I say all of this to say, will I make a habit of this lifestyle? Nope, I’m too tired to keep up with traveling every weekend. However, I feel like my time of “Rumschpringa” as the Amish call it has taught me some things. You can meet great people in a bar. I can be independent and travel and still be a good wife and mom. Gin gives me the worst hangovers. I can still follow Jesus no matter where I go, and Jesus still loves me no matter what I do. And I have value as a person no matter what my past or my age.
What does the next year have in store? I have no clue. I’m sure it will envolve less traveling. I do know, however, my daughter is turning twenty-one next year, so I know I will encourage her to stay safe, be responsible, but also enjoy herself. I want her to do all “the things” before she starts her life as an official “adult”.
Maybe you are of the persuasion a Christian shouldn’t do such things, and perhaps you’re right. Maybe I am driving the bus to hell, as I’ve been told. But, from what I can see, Jesus hung out with “sinners” and ordinary people more than he did the religious folk of his day, and I love that attribute of him.
If you find yourself where I was, feeling like you need to let loose or you’re going to explode, please know, there will be no judgements coming from me, I get it, I see you. But now that I’m going to be officially middle age, I think I will be reaching more for my fuzzy slippers on the weekends than my dancing shoes. And I feel okay with it.
Although, it is still on my bucket list to learn how to line dance……..
I recently had shoulder surgery and haven’t been able to leave my house in days. Let me just tell you, you learn an awful lot about your neighbors when the highlight of your day is meandering outside to get some fresh air and something new to look at! Yikes! And it may just be the wacky pain meds, but I’ve also had lots of time to think and reflect about life in general. I’ve discovered my husband is a saint, like an actual saint guys! I am a very independent person, I hate when I can’t do things by myself. So, he patiently watches as I stubbornly attempt to do things, full-on knowing that with my entire prominent arm out of commission I am going to fail epically! Then, when I get frustrated and give up, he calmly steps in and untangles the shirt I’m trying to put on, or pulls up the blanket I can’t reach. He is such a great guy!
As I was sitting here reflecting on my week while the rest of my family is gone to church, it dawned on me, how much spiritual legalism is like me trying to put a shirt on unassisted right now. It’s all about my pride. I don’t like to ask for help, so I try really hard to do it on my own, and only when it is undeniable that I am not going to succeed do I then break down and ask for help. It’s like my salvation. How I used to do things. On my own.
I used to think God needed my assistance in my salvation like there was something I needed to contribute to the situation in order to make it work. So I tried for years to prove to God, myself, and everyone around me I was capable of pulling my own shirt over my head. I was capable of making my own way to heaven without even having to ask for His assistance. I mean, why do I need God’s help when I could simply read enough, pray enough, give enough, dress good enough, have long enough hair, go to enough church services, and make it on my own?
But that was exhausting.
I felt like I was slowly drowning.
It wasn’t until I let go of my pride and acknowledged Christ was indeed my Saviour did I discover that Jesus truly is my rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. I used to look down on the people who used terminology such as “accept Christ”. I thought they were missing out on some elaborate secret and were weak in their faith in some way. Turns out, they were stronger. Turns out it takes more humbling of my own self and faith in an unseen being to let go and completely trust God to save me than it does to run the hamster wheel of legalism.
I just imagine the Father standing there waiting, just like my husband has been. Watching from the sidelines as I struggle and wear myself out trying to do something on my own, too prideful to admit I can’t do it by myself. Then, because he is a good Father and the perfect gentleman when I stumble, he doesn’t swoop in uninvited, tell me “I told you so”, and take over. He waits calmly and patiently until I realize I need him, humble myself, and ask him to assist me.
Things tend to go much more smoothly now. No more struggling to make sure I have every little detail perfect. I know I can rest in Christ and have faith that the cross was enough.
If only I would apply this concept to my physical situation at the moment. I’m sure my husband would appreciate it!
I was sitting across the room from someone a few days ago and was broached with the question, “why don’t people just leave?”
This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this about toxic churches. A very good friend of mine, when she first heard my story, asked me the same thing. “Why didn’t you just leave?”
For a person who has never been in a spiritually abusive situation, it’s difficult for them to fathom why on earth someone would stay for so long. Especially, someone who acknowledges the fact the church they are attending is doctrinally incorrect or worse, abusive in some manner. Why do so many people stay and even defend the leaders?
This is a difficult and lengthy question to answer, but most of the time, I would suggest, it’s just easier. It’s often, and in many ways, easier to stay and function in survival mode than leave behind the abuse.
In leaving, we left behind everyone we associated with. I lost friendships, my children lost friendships. We left heartfelt ministeries behind, Sunday school children, choir teammates. In many cases people’s livelihood is the very church organization that is abusing them. Not to mention the fear, the fear of losing protection and blessings for your family, the fear of going to hell, the fear of having no friends, the fear of the unknown.
For most of us, we were taught a twisted version of Romans chapter one. We were taught God would give us over to a “reprobate mind” if we so even shadowed the doors of another denomination’s church. I thought, if I trimmed my hair, my children would die immediately and my husband would give way to his lust and temptations and sleep with another woman. All of these things weighed heavily on my mind.
And it was difficult. I won’t sit here and say it wasn’t, because it was. It was as awful or worse to walk though then I thought it was going to be. The fear, the betrayal, the loneliness, all of it. It was like grieving a death. I think sometimes we minimize the pain because it seems so outlandish that leaving a church could be so terrible, but when you leave a toxic church, it can be. And, I’ve learned, it’s common.
Over the course of running this little blog I have had countless people message me. Each one a unique story of all too familiar tone.
I just want you to know, I see you. There is a whole community of people who have walked ahead of you who see you. Most importantly, God, the creator of the entire universe sees you. You are not alone in this journey.
I have been a bit of a slacker about blog posts this last year. To be honest, my attention has been funneled more towards the podcast. The purpose of this, was to share my journey of healing from spiritual trauma, and thankfully, I haven’t had too much fall out from that as of late. I’m here to say, the hard work does pay off. Things get better and life does go on. Every now and again, however, I’m reminded of my past, and that is when I return to this blog once again.
When Jereme and I were contemplating leaving the UPC, one of our biggest holdouts was our children. Ironically, it was our children who pushed us to begin our quest for truth in the first place, and it was our children who kept us there for so long.
I have had many parents ask me about parent guilt. It’s common and only natural those of us who kept our children in a toxic church environment for any length of time feel some sort of responsibility for our decision to do so. I think those feelings, as difficult as they are to carry, only mean we care for our children in a healthy, loving manner. I also know every parent has regrets. The important things are, that we take responsible for our actions, make amends, and move forward. That is all we can do.
I say all of that to say this; as terrified as we were to take our kids out of “church”, I am beyond grateful we took that giant leap of faith and did so.
When we left the UPC, we took a two week long vacation to Florida to gather our thoughts. I remember watching my beautiful children sleep in the car on the way down, wondering if we were making a good decision. Like most other parents, my children are the most important thing in my life, and I was wrestling with everything I had always been taught was going to happen to them if we left the safety of the church. Remembrance of threats of everything from car accidents to them becoming drug addicts filled my mind. I had cut my hair, and by doing so I had supposedly unleashed all of Satan’s minions directly on to my babies. What had I done? What would happen to them?
I look back at that trip and to the person I was then with empathy. I wish I could go back in time and have a heart to heart with that mama watching her babies sleep in the car fretting about their future. I would tell her to relax! Things are going to be just fine! Accidents and drugs happen in or out of the UPC. Just look around at the church folk, not a single one of them have escaped some sort of trauma in their lives. Life happens, people make bad choices, it doesn’t matter what church organization you belong to, it doesn’t matter if your hair has been cut or not.
The good news is, God does not leave you nor forsake you.
Fast forward six years, have we had our ups and downs with our kids? Of course! Are they always perfect little angels who always make good decisions? Absolutely not! They do however, love Jesus, and that is what is most important. My daughter is going to school studying theology and apologetics. My son is still in high school, but loves to go to church and is not ashamed of his Christian walk in front of his unbelieving friends.
Did leaving scar them? Maybe. But it was also the best thing for them. I believe with all my heart my kids would not be as strong in their faith as they are right now if we had stayed. I’m not writing this with the impression I have been a perfect parent. I am also not so naive as to believe that my children won’t make mistakes. But God has them in his hand. He took what was broken and made it beautiful. My family is proof that walking out of the doors of a UPC church does not mean your family will fall apart.
Does that happen sometimes? Unfortunately yes. But I am under the belief that whatever the situation was to cause anything negative to happen, it was probably there while that family was attending a toxic church to begin with and was not caused by just leaving an organization.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because guilt is a heavy burden to carry. As parents, we love our kids so much I think parent guilt feels ten times heavier. But even if you raised your kids in it, or left toting your kids out the door behind you, you were doing the best you could with the information you had. Your kids will appreciate it one day. Don’t let guilt rob you of happiness, and don’t let the voices of a cult mess with your head.
You got this mom and dad!
I am not even quite sure how to begin. There are so many thoughts going on in my mind recently. With the reports of the scandals in the SBC and the school shooting in Texas yesterday claiming the lives of several innocent victims, it seems like the bad news just keeps coming. What is going on? More importantly, how do we fix it?
I don’t have the answer to this. I don’t believe there is one right answer to any of it, but I will say this, be a cycle breaker.
I’ve began using the term, “cycle breaker” lately during conversations with many brave souls I am privileged to know. Many of us grew up in some kind of trauma situation, and most of us now have our own children. We are all terrified of our children graduating childhood with the same scars we did, and I have to say, that’s a very real concern. Generally speaking, abuse breeds more abuse.
I don’t usually divulge much in the way of abuse in my childhood. It’s personal, and I tend to downplay it by saying, “many people had it much worse”. Because it’s true. But trauma isn’t that easy to dismiss is it?
I remember getting “spanked” a few times growing up. An innocent family member told me recently, that she has a vivid childhood memory of being in the same house as I received one of my “spankings” and she was terrified because she could hear my shrill screams coming up from the basement. She was traumatized so much, she still remembers the event thirty-five years later. That memory is one that my brain has since blocked out, along with a few others I’m sure. I guess my therapist and I will have to dive into that one at some point.
Sprinkle some spiritual abuse into the mix and it is no surprise I am a little concerned about carrying the cycles of abuse on to my children.
My kids are older now, my daughter is in college, my son in high school. Whatever has been done is done at this point, and I will be the first to say, I have made some grave mistakes.
When my kids were small, unfortunately, I began parenting them similar to the way I was raised. I was young, which is no excuse, but that was literally all I knew. Fast forward to my son’s mental health diagnosis when he was four, a kind psychiatrist sat down with my husband and I and explained to us healthier ways to parent. I decided right then and there I would do better by them.
Five years or so after that, my husband and I made our exit from the UPC. Scars had already been made I fear, but I am thankful we got out when we did. My children were thirteen and nine at the time.
Ever since, I have strived to do better. Make myself better, for them. I have worked on me in order to make their worlds a safer place. Have I been perfect? Absolutely not. But I do hope and pray that stopping the abusive situations they were in when we did made a difference.
I pray their scars are not as deep as mine.
I often jokingly say, “we all mess up our kids in our own unique way”, and it’s true. But hopefully, as generations pass, the scars will get lighter and lighter until they are nonexistent.
How are we going to solve the world’s problems? I don’t have the answer. But we as adults, with or without kids of our own, HAVE to do better. We HAVE to step up and heal our own hurts in order to stop the cycle of abuse from continuing to hurt our kids. If we save the kids in our own lives from the abuse we suffered, we’ve made a difference.
So cheers to everyone who is working on themselves. Kudos to those working hard to challenge the flaws in their own upbringing.
We HAVE to be the responsible generation.
We HAVE to be the “cycle breakers”.
Hey everyone! I just wanted to take a minute and give a you all a really cool life update!
Some of you may already be aware, but I am excited to announce, my husband Jereme and I, along with our good friend Gary have started our very own podcast!
We had some technical difficulties the first few episodes, so until I got things going smoothly, I wasn’t going to announce it, but here we are! I wanted to take this opportunity to give some details about this super fun project!
What is this podcast called you may ask?
The podcast is called, Amateur Faith Night!
Why in the world is that the name?
Because we are amateurs and are completely winging this! Plus, we think we’re funny! The name made complete sense during a rather hysterical brainstorming session.
Who are the hosts?
My husband Jereme, our friend Gary, and I will be hosting. We plan to have different guests on from time to time as well, but it will usually just be us three. Jereme and I, as you probably already know, have a United Pentecostal Church background, and Gary has an amazing testimony about God delivering him from a lifetime of drugs and alcoholism. The three of us have been friends for a number of years, of the which none of us can quite figure out the exact number of. I think we bring an interesting compilation of viewpoints to the table.
What is the planned content?
We will be discussing anything and everything from trying to sort out our own issues, to our crazy kids, to current events in the world of Christianity and/or Oneness Pentecostalism.
What is the format like?
Like I said, we are totally winging this! None of our episodes will ever be scripted. We will have notes that we have researched for some of the topics, but for the most part, we are just three friends chatting over coffee. Real life. Real conversations. No pretenses.
Where can you stream?
Right now, Amateur Faith Night can found on Google podcasts, Spotify, and Anchor. We are working on Apple, however, we have had some technical issues there, so it’s not happened just yet.
Is there a YouTube channel?
I have gotten this question a lot, and in my normal fashion I’m going to give you a straight up answer. No, we do not have a YouTube channel set up yet, and I am going to be honest as to why. We record our episodes late in the evening, so we all look a hot mess. Trust me, ain’t none of you want to see that! We also have our “studio” set up in my office, which is also a hot mess. Jereme and I get to share a work space since he has been working from home because of the pandemic and it is a rather small work space. However, my children are beginning to move up and out soon, so this issue may be rectified as soon as a room has been vacated. We’ll see how it goes.
How to stay up to date on podcast info?
Follow our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/Amateur-Faith-Night-Podcast-105394378728516/
I want to let you all know I appreciate the support of each and every one of you! Some of the topics we discuss can be difficult to talk about, but need to be openly talked about. I’m not in the business of talking smack about the UPCI, however, I am in the business of speaking truth about the UPCI. The hard truths that can make people uncomfortable, but I think are super important. People need to be validated in their feelings and experiences. It always helps to know someone else has “been there”.
I hope you all give us a listen, I promise you will laugh at least once per episode, no matter how uncomfortable the episode topic is! We are beginning a series about the history of Pentecostalism, I promise, you will NOT want to miss it!
Love to you all.
Google link here:
We are now on Apple Podcast!
The following blog should not be taken as judgmental in tone. This is not the intent. However, people have questions, valid questions that I feel should be honestly and blatantly addressed.
Recently, the superintendent of the UPCI, David K Bernard has made some posts on his public Facebook page regarding women’s “modesty”. I use quotation marks for the word modesty because as most of you know, this word has a completely different meaning in the UPCI church.
The definition of modesty according to Marriam-Webster is:
Propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.
Some synonyms of the word are: humbleness, humility, lowliness, meekness. Some antonyms are: arrogance, assumption, pretentiousness, pride, loftiness, among others.
Now that we have given the word modesty the proper definition, let’s look at some of David K. Bernard’s definition according to his Facebook post from March 24, 2022. I’m sure he has much more to say on the subject, but this post probably sums up the gist:
“The NT teaches basic principles of Christian adornment & dress: modesty, moderation, avoiding personal ornamentation (which is why we don’t wear makeup and tattoos), distinction between male & female. (See 1 Tim 2:8-10; 1 Pet 3:1-5)”
Is he wrong about this? Actually no. Well, not all of it. As Christ followers, we should be modest. We should be humble, lowly, and meek. The idea that modesty has EVERYTHING to do with outward adornment such as makeup and tattoos and less to do with our attitudes and spirit is wrong.
One can try to tell me the UPCI doesn’t teach that modesty is all in your outward appearance. However, if you begin scrolling through some of the comments under DKB’s recent posts, you will have a difficult time convincing me otherwise. The more people began expressing their concern with his statement, the more pushback they got, including many pictures that “modest” women uploaded of themselves to show off their particular brand of “modesty”. Of course, upon seeing the pictures of these women, I immediately thought, “yes, this comment with a picture certainly embodies the definition of modesty such as meek, humble, and lowly.” (That was complete sarcasm if you couldn’t tell.)
I ask, how is bragging about our modesty to others modest?
This isn’t the only question people are asking of the UPCI. Many in the post comments asked how the expensive clothing with flashy purses, crazy hairstyles, and extravagant cars, homes and such things that are commonly seen among UPCI churches are okay, but a little bit of makeup or a tattoo is considered immodest?
It doesn’t take a long time of scrolling through social media to see sequin skirts, jewels in their hair, Gucci shoes and handbags, and I’m not talking about us sinners. I’m talking about UPCI influencers.
We need answers. How is this okay? How can you judge my blue jeans when your outfit costs more than it would cost to feed a homeless family for a week? How can you judge my earrings when your women are carrying purses that are as expensive as a sofa? How can you judge other denominations about their modesty when you have changed the definition of the word entirely?
Other great questions that have been broached around this same general topic include:
How are red shoes okay now, but they didn’t used to be?
Why were TV’s so vehmently outlawed when we were growing up, but are now deemed okay?
Why do some churches think wedding bands are okay, yet others preach against them? So are they are all still going to heaven?
Why did the first general superintendent of the UPCI buy women haircuts, but trimming your hair is now considered a grave sin?
Why weren’t “holiness standards” addressed in the first Articles of Faith of the UPC if they were indeed upheld upon the formation of the organization as is always implied?
I could go on here, but I won’t.
But those of us with history of the UPCI as well as many of those who are still “in” have questions. We deserve answers, actual answers, not skewed definitions of words and out of context Bible verses.
For more on this subject see my other blogs on the topic:
I remember one night kneeling on the back pew of my UPC church, tears flowing down my face, I prayed to God with all I had in me, pulling every trick out of the bag that I knew, begging him, pleading with him to heal me. My pastor’s wife saw that I was struggling and came to ask me what was wrong. I completely word vomited all over her. I was distraught because I have a rare medical condition and the message the pastor spoke on that evening was that of the Word of Faith persuasion. Name it and claim it! Speak those things as though they were! If God didn’t perform whatever miracle you were demanding of him, it was because of your lack of faith.
I was a second-class saint.
No matter how many times I asked, no matter how I asked it, I was still bound to my medication on a life or death level. Clearly something spiritual was wrong with me.
She could offer me no comfort or solace. How could she? If she honestly believed what her husband had been yelling about from the pulpit, there was no other explanation other than me.
I thought God hated me.
Fast forward to this past week. I have been surrounded by sickness, sadness, and even death. While most of these things did not affect me personally, I’ve had to watch friends suffer through them. I also received a frustrating medical diagnosis and found myself going down the dark pit of self-pity and perceived second-class saintism.
I have questioned many different topics since I left the UPC, including the name it and claim it doctrine. As I was mentally trying to pull myself into a better mindset, a few verses came to mind.
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.
Job 13:15 ESV
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Psalm 31:14-15 ESV
Am I suggesting my situation is the same as these Biblical examples of incredible faith and trust? No way. However, I have found great comfort in believing that God hears my prayers, yet I have no right to demand him to do anything. I can ask him, and it is in every right of God Almighty to say no.
Do I believe God can heal? Yes! One hundred percent! Do I believe God always does things on our time? No. And oddly enough, that brings me peace.
It’s all about trust. It’s all about actually having faith that God’s ways are higher than mine. He really does have me in his hand and I have to trust in his righteous, holy love.
Jackie Hill Perry eloquently stated in her “Holier than Thou” devotional: “No one told or taught God how to be good, that is simply who He is, and He can be no other way.”
God is good. He only wants good things for his children. He has given us eternal life with him. That means, ultimately we get to live forever. You can’t want more than that. You cannot demand anything more from him. That’s not how this works.
Why is it the charismatic Word of Faith theology is so prevalent today? I’ve given that some thought this evening and here is my layman’s theory: Pride.
These are generally the same group of people who will tell you there is more to getting saved than just belief. They will tell you your salvation depends on specific works on your part. They will claim if you do not follow specific rules you can even lose your salvation after you worked so hard to get it in the first place. These people will tell you, you can do something to twist God’s arm into giving you what you want.
There is a whole lot of you in that paragraph, and not a whole lot of Jesus.
It comes down to pride. It comes down to humbling ourselves and laying down what we think we want and need and fully trusting in God. We as humans like to be in control, it takes faith to admit we were never in control to begin with.
God saves us, God keeps us, and God alone can heal us. It’s much more comforting to trust.
Happy Holiday season everyone! I don’t know about your last month, but ours has been a rush of going out of town, buying presents, and spending time with friends and family.
I have a kind of love-hate relationship with this time of year. I love getting to see people I don’t get to see often, love the laughter of cousins, yummy food, and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yet, on the flip side of all of the goodness, there is an overshadowing sense of commercialism and pressure of expectations to give the perfect present that I never can seem to live up to.
All of that being said, I have always loved to give to others. So much so that sometimes, my ever patient husband gets annoyed with me from time to time. As I was letting my my mind wander as we drove down a country road on one of our many recent road trips, it dawned on me, I have experienced a freedom I hadn’t realized before, the freedom of giving.
When I was in the UPC, and I’m sure many others who have ever been involved with fundamental religious groups can relate, I was expected to give. Not just to give, but to give exclusively to my church. Giving to any other charity was almost out of the question. Our church came first as a representative of God, and it was required if you wanted to participate in anything to give the church at least ten percent of your income plus additional offerings to be used as the church saw fit, such as building funds, pastor appreciation month, or any other ministry that needed additional funds at the moment.
Now, I am not saying that giving to your church is a bad thing. I give to my current church. However, in years past, I gave so much to my church that I did not have the financial freedom to even have the option to give to those around me.
If you are one who believes a Christian should give a strict ten percent to your church and your church only, I am not here to convince you otherwise. Although the amazing YouTube channel, Responsible Faith has a great video about tithing and Christians today, if you’re interested in researching the topic.
Here is my point: I was so wrapped up in giving to my own church, who, let’s be honest, wasn’t letting the money go too far past their own doors, that I neglected to give to those in my community who truly needed it. I was so consumed in my own little world of religious traditions I couldn’t see those directly around me who were hurting or in need.
Let that truth sink in for a moment. Conviction hits hard, at least for myself. I still give to my church, but I don’t give exclusively to my church. I do not depend on someone else to dictate where my gift goes, I get to choose and ensure the funds are used for their intended purpose. I am free from obligatory giving until it hurts and am free to bless others with a cheerful heart. I think this is how God intended his followers to be.
This holiday season, I challenge you to look around you. Don’t be blind to the pain others may be feeling as you are bustling around getting last-minute shopping finished or finding that perfect ham for Christmas dinner.
James 1:27 tells us the very core of religion is to take care of others who are in need. This can be in whatever way our abilities allow, whether with our time, our gifts, or our finances.
How does that old children’s song go?
Joy is Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
To quote a friend of mine, family can be a “tricky thing”. As time marches on, everyone spreads out, moves away and begins their own lives. The more involved we become with our own branch of the family tree, we end up communicating with the other branches less and less. We all have the tendency to make relationships work simply out of convenience, and sometimes end up unintentionally neglecting relationships that require more effort on our part and by default we drift apart.
I am thankful that although most of the above is true about my own family, we still have the ability to show grace and love when the situation calls for it. This speaks volumes about the very roots of our family tree.
As much as I would like to say I am my own person, and my parents and even my grandparents had nothing to do with my personality traits, that would obviously be false. We would be foolish when evaluating ourselves to not factor our heritage into the equation.
The fact my family has the ability to put our lives on pause on a moment’s notice and hold each other up when needed, says our family’s roots were grounded with just the right dose of love, tenacity, and grace. Not that our family is perfect by any means, but my grandparents clearly did something right and I would like to think they passed some important values on to me.
My grandma was a complex mixture of faith, spirited tenaciousness, tenderness, sassiness and love. She loved hard and I certainly would not have put it past her to throw a punch at anyone who would dare to speak against one of her children or grandchildren. She never let anyone walk over her, she always knew exactly what she wanted and made it happen. She showered her love on us by lemon sugar cookies, always-on-time birthday cards, and overnight stays at her house. Her love language, just as my own, was without question acts of service.
Today, as I was bossing around a crowd of people who are all taller than me, (something I seem to naturally be good at) my grandpa joked with me and told me I was acting like my grandma. And it’s true, I was, and I was totally fine with it.
My grandma was not without faults, but she obviously did something right when raising my mom and uncles.
I hope and pray that my children and grandchildren will be able to say the same thing about me. I pray I create strong roots so my children will always have each other and continue to pass on my grandparent’s values onto their own children and grandchildren.
What a legacy my grandparents have established. I am thankful for their influence in my life.
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
And that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.