Can I be honest? I haven’t been to Sunday morning church since Christmas Day. I can tell you that it is because I am avoiding germs, the stomach bug, bronchitis, and that is true. More true is this: I’m intimidated by it. The people we know in Houston who have ties to churches attend VERY LARGE churches, 10,000 member kind of churches. My town has a population of 5,000. Not to mention that in a crowd, I feel like a middle school girl at a dance with a bad haircut and ugly dress…AWKWARD. So, I’ve worshipped in (if that’s a thing). It’s easy to do, to watch Bethel or Grace Center, to interact with God, to ponder, to consider, to look at Facebook, all the things I do in church, right? I’ve tried guilting myself with my standard thoughts, “Isn’t God worthy of your time?” “You’re a pastor for goodness sake!” Yet, I don’t go… I would make an excuse, but I would just be lying. Yet I am experiencing the profound importance of the Church as I never have in my life.
We just watched This is Where I Leave You. I have watched so much TV because most other forms of entertainment make me car sick. Anyway, there is a line in the movie after Jason Bateman explains that his wife has left him after having an affair with his boss, and his father died that his love interest responds, “You are having a profoundly bad year.” Cary looked at me and said, “Do you think we could say that?” I suppose we could (I won’t, because I refuse to have a bad year). Last May Cary’s father passed. It was the first time I knew the impact of visiting a funeral home. We are overwhelmed by the people who stopped by to say goodbye, the line out the front door. I just didn’t know how important the little things are: the cards that were sent, the little gifts and notes. It means something to know you are seen in a crisis, that other people realize that the world should stop for a bit because you have suffered a major loss.
This week, this month really, I have understood again how much little things matter. For some crazy reason, I thought it would be fun to have a hashtag contest. Just for fun. So after three days of suggestions and voting #notmybattle (submitted by good friend Rachelle Boggess) beat out #KatieAli (a nickname given to me by my grandfather when I got in a fight at 16 – I won, btw🥊) and #katenip (submitted by Ron Dockery) along with several other clever suggestions. Then my best friend for most of high school, Preston, sent out a request for people to send in pictures and scriptures and funny videos to lift us up, and boy did people get on board! My heart is overflowing with the scripture that showed up at the right moments, the crazy videos in Message, a vase of sunflowers on the table from ‘Team Katie’, a box of goodness, the precious faces of people I love & who love me on Facebook. Sunday morning I sat at brunch with happy tears destroying my mascara because one of my schools posted a picture with their faculty to support us. My pharmacy, both my sister in laws, friends from preschool, the list goes on and on, and it all is overwhelming! Today I had 5 greeting cards in the mailbox, and each touched a different part of my heart. (Can we just say that greeting cards trump bills any day!)
I didn’t know how much it all mattered. I’ve always thought no one noticed if I made it to an event, a birthday party, a graduation, a funeral because I was so lost in the crowd at those places. So, if I have missed something that was important to you, I am so sorry. I would like to blame it on my insecurity, but really I am just selfish and more worried about my feelings of loneliness than how my presence might support you. I am changing… slowly.
So, back to church. We were invited to a home church today. We didn’t go. I didn’t feel great at meeting time, but I was so much more comfortable with the idea of going there. We have had home church at our house several times. I like the freedom, that things are different every time. My kids ask often if we can do it again. I think it’s their preferred worship setting. Our home church experience didn’t pan out, and I got a little gun shy, but I think maybe it is time to start it again.
Because, what if I hadn’t spent years in community with other people? So many people in so many different bodies of faith. How lonely would this be? Who would text with a prayer when my faith is weak? Who would remind me that Psalm 91 is for me & that healing is coming? And how many people are in that boat? Of the 5000 people in my little town, how many look at my tiny church and are just a intemidated as I am by the 10,000 member church? How many of them long for community, for people who will really be there, but they don’t know anything like that exists? They don’t know the importance of Christ’s body because they haven’t experienced Church, real church, in the trenches, people surrounding you, God speaking today Church & it’s sad!
You know what hurts my heart? The people at M.D. Anderson with kids. The ones with sick kids destroy me, but the couple last week in the waiting room with a 3 & 4 year old scaring the fish in the tank and yelling “Poppy! Poppy! We are going to daycare here!”made me happy, because I miss my kids, but sad because they looked tired, and I knew they probably didn’t have the support that we have. And it made me thankful for my family (like my sister who is spending a week at my house with her babies), and my extended family who ask what they can do, anything, and they mean it.
So, I’m convinced scripture is true. Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Here’s a little truth. I wouldn’t have all these amazing people if my mom hadn’t brainwashed me into church. When I complained about going as a kid, she made me go anyway. When we were in Owensboro for the weekend, we went to 1st Baptist. She made being part of the body a habit in my life until I was old enough to fall in love with Christ and his church. At home, I church hop. I’ve been a member of the same church for 19 years, but I find joy in a wider exposure to people who do things differently than GUMC.
I took off the month of December from Shaver’s Chapel because my schedule was so unpredictable and we expected to start treatments weeks earlier than reality allowed. During my unexpected time in the ‘Berg, I visitied Living Word, a church God has given a unique vision to produce productions that draw a generation to him. While there, a comment was made about me & friends with us, that we were people working to bring the churches together for Christ’s purposes in our region. I was incredibly humbled. This is my heart, but it isn’t a named, defined ministry, and to have someone recognize that was, well, humbling. I visited ACC for the kicks off of their new college and up ministry, I got to see my friend C.B. lay his heart and testimony on the line to tell the greatness of God’s goodness and glory.
Church doesn’t look like it used to. God is doing a new thing (or an old thing, if you return to the first 100 years of the Way). As the Church, we need to stop and think about some things. 1. A traditional church is super intimidating to someone who hasn’t attended before, or who has been hurt by church people. 2. New church expressions are going to be equally uncomfortable for people who have been raised in a church, any church, because it’s different, and change is hard. But we have to find a way to support one another in the ministry God has called us each to live out. 3. People still need Jesus and his Church because HE IS AWESOME! Jesus is so much more and so much bigger than the Bible Belt has allowed us to believe. Here’s the reality: the creator of everything, of time, of space, of air, of land, of cells, and protons, that Creator saw you and everyone you have ever met from the first beam of light breaking through darkness, and he loved. That’s what he did. He created us to love and to be loved and to know him, not just to know about him, but to KNOW him, to talk to him and to listen to him speak (do more listening, actually). That God, wants to have influence with you, like your best friend has influence with you, not like the president of the company has influence with you.
Some day you are going to have a cancer diagnosis, or your spouse is going to have an affair with your boss, or your father will die, or some crisis will come that you can not control and your are going to need people and a God who is bigger than your problems. So, Go to church. Start building that support system now. Make your kids go with you, especially the winey ones. For me, I’m going to a home meeting with people I’ve never met, in the 3rd largest city in the USA. I’m taking my daughter, because she’s coming to see me this weekend (so excited!). If you don’t know where to go, say a little prayer, shut up, and go where you feel led. God is bigger than your confusion and mine.
Blessings & love from Houston❤️