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What you need to know if you’ve been hurt by the church

You went to church seeking hope, support, love, friendship, and truth. Instead you felt like a number, were told lies, saw hateful or scandalous behavior, and felt unwanted and judged.

I know how you feel. I’ve been there.

Church is supposed to be a place of refuge and encouragement; a gathering place for followers of Christ, people who are called to love like He loved, serve like He served, and speak truth and light into our wounded and broken hearts the way He did. But too often this is not the experience people have when they go to church, and so they walk out the doors never to return. In fact some would say the number of people leaving the church because they’ve been hurt by the church has grown to epidemic proportions.

According to Pew Research, there are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., a number that increased by roughly 19 million since 2007, and nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) who were raised in a religious faith now identify with no religion. Furthermore, the Barna Group reports that 35% of millennials who have left church cite hypocrisy and the moral failures of its leaders as two of three primary reasons why.

And my heart breaks for these people because I know what it’s like to be let down and injured, and feel like you will never find a church that gets it right. I have been in churches where staff members were having affairs, where I felt I was only valued for what I could give, where I saw angry and hateful words spewed during board meetings, and where man-made rules and procedures got in the way of grace and ministry to the community. I have hung up the phone with pastors and cried at the thoughtless words, and walked out of church doors vowing to never return again. I have spent months not attending church because it was too hard to always be the new family, and I wondered if in our endless searching we’d ever find the “right” church.

So I want you to know, I understand your hurt and anger, your trepidation and frustration if you are in this place.

But can I offer you a bit of hope? Some good news for all of you who have left the church or are still searching for the “right church”? It exists.

The place you seek where you will find hope, support, love, friendship and truth — it’s right here in Winchester, and in Charlotte, in Bedford, and Atlanta, in Des Moines, and Franklin, Lancaster and Phoenix. The church you are looking for is within a short drive from your home. But here’s what you need to know about that church before you go:

1. There are people leading the church. OK, you’re thinking, duh! Of course there are people leading the church! But here’s the thing: there are people just like you and just like me leading the church. And maybe even some like your neighbor down the street whom you don’t like very much because they always blocks your driveway and let their dog poop in your yard. And all of us? We are a mixed bag. We make bad choices, we get angry, we say hurtful things, we forget important dates. We send too many emails and do not place enough phone calls. We are all sinners. Even that pastor standing up front each week. It’s just some of us wear our sins more blatantly than others.

If you are looking for a church where every person is kind all of the time, the pastor never makes mistakes, and you will never see sinful behavior…well that church doesn’t exist…at least not here on earth.

2. Bad things happen to good churches. As mentioned in point one, churches are led by and made up of sinners. Even the most faithful congregations can realize scandal and unthinkable hurt due to the mistakes made by a few members or leaders of their church. But here’s an important truth: One bad event or scandal does not define a church.

It may badly damage the church, it may require big changes to be made. Some people may leave because the hurt is just too much to recover from, but there is hope for redemption and rebuilding, even after the worst sin. I’ve seen it first-hand. Don’t believe that just because a church went through a scandal that church is not worthy of your presence.

3. Churches change, and people change…sometimes it just doesn’t happen at the same time. Most churches I have been to or know of have changed over the years. Whether it be through their leadership, their mission statement, their size, or even their core values, in order for a church to continue to meet the needs of their community God will likely call them to make changes at some point.

Similarly, most Christians change over the course of their spiritual journey. Through both life’s circumstances and God’s workings within your life, a Christian can only stay in the same place so long before their relationship with Christ grows stale or distant. Unfortunately, sometimes a person’s spiritual journey leads them to places their church isn’t headed for. Similarly, a church may make changes before everyone in the congregation is ready or willing to hear the call…or they may, unfortunately, make decisions that are not aligned to God’s timing (see point one).

It’s OK to leave one church for another because you are not equally yoked. This does not mean church, as a whole, is a lost cause or that ALL churches will fail to meet your spiritual needs. God will always provide a group of believers to “hold in your heart as partakers of grace,” if you are willing to let Him do the leading (Philippians 1:7, paraphrased).

God will provide a group of believers

As a recovered “church shopper” I can tell you that perfect doesn’t exist in the church; because perfect only exists in heaven. It took me a long time to realize this and change my check-list of requirements. In fact, I pretty much had to throw out the entire list and narrow it down to one simple question: “Lord, where do you want me to be?” Once I made that my only criteria for selecting a church He put me right in the middle of where I needed to be (not at all what I would have chosen on my own, based on my own list of wants, by the way).

Yet today, I am part of a church family that I love with my whole entire being. Where I am loved and supported, and filled with hope and truth every week, while also being stretched and challenged where I need to be.

We most certainly don’t get it right all of the time. People have come to our church and left for a variety of reasons. My feelings have been hurt by things said or done by others, and I would not be surprised if something I did or said inadvertently hurt someone else’s feelings. We don’t all agree, all of the time. But we are a group of believers who have been placed together by the Lord’s design.

It is my “right church” for this part of my journey.

Yes, it’s true, there are some “Christian” churches that really should just take the word Christian off their sign because they holistically ignore the teachings of Jesus Christ, and show no intent to change. But I truly believe those are few and far between.

And I believe the right church for you exists. God has a body of believers He wants to place you with. Ask Him to show you the way.

Don’t give up yet.

Image copyright: malyeuski / 123RF Stock Photo

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Healing in Pine Ridge: Part One

On October 3rd, 2015 ten of us landed in the tiny airport of Rapid City, SD. Four more were making the long drive from Virginia to South Dakota, and our group of 14 would be spending the week working on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Who knew so much could happen in one week?

This is part one. To read part two, click here.

Why Pine Ridge?
Five months ago I knew little about Pine Ridge Reservation or the Oglala Lakota that call it home. Very little.

I had read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee years ago, and vaguely remember hearing about the plight of the North American Plains Indian at an Indigo Girls concert back in my college days. But beyond that I couldn’t tell you much. What I was oblivious to five months ago is now what consumes much of my thoughts and has taken up permanent residence in my heart.

Pine Ridge Reservation encompasses about 2 million acres along the southern border of South Dakota — it is roughly the size of Connecticut. Home to the Oglala Lakota, one of the seven bands of Lakota tribe within the Sioux Nation, Pine Ridge has roughly 32,000 people living within its borders.

Pine Ridge Reservation

Oglala Lakota County, which encompasses most of the reservation, is the second poorest county (based on per capita income) within the United States. The unemployment rate is estimated between 80-90%, with very little businesses or jobs available on the reservation.

The alcoholism rate is estimated at 80% and 1 in 4 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome or related effects. But perhaps the worst epidemic within Pine Ridge is the rate of suicides. A reported 30 suicides have occurred within the last year, and between December 2014-March 2015 there were 103 reported attempts. Most of these attempts were made by teens and young adults, with the teen suicide rate in Pine Ridge being four times the national average.

Life expectancy in Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States, and the second lowest in the entire Western Hemisphere, only after Haiti.

(Sources: www.re-member.org and NY Times)

Once you learn something like this, you can never unlearn it. Now that I know this — know that there is a forgotten place smack in the middle of the U.S. with a forgotten people who are struggling to survive, struggling to find hope — everything has changed for me.

Five months ago when a man I had never met stood up in front of our church one Sunday and shared these statistics and some of the stories behind them, all I could think was “I have to go.”

Getting there and getting to work
Making the decision to go was an easy one. Getting there proved a bit harder. The weeks leading up to the trip were full of challenges and I felt a full-on attack from the enemy. I thought about cancelling. My presence wasn’t really needed that much, I reasoned, the team would get along fine without me. Of course, what I didn’t consider was how much I needed to be there.

Within three hours of landing in South Dakota I sprained my ankle. I’ll share more about that story in Part Two, but let’s just say that I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel at that point. Thankfully, God is steadfast and merciful, even when I am missing the big picture and wavering in my faith.

The mission we were coming to support is called Restoration Church, led by missionary Wade M. Wade and his family, who also served as missionaries in West Africa for many years, have been working with the people of Pine Ridge for about four years. The original Restoration Church is located in the capital of the reservation, also called Pine Ridge. The heart of the ministry is to love and serve the people of Pine Ridge the way Jesus loved and served. They offer a food pantry, emergency assistance, counseling, a prison ministry, and do work to improve living conditions on the reservation, such as home repairs.

While driving through the reservation you will see a number of church buildings, most of them are relics left over from when the reservation was first established over 130 years ago and assimilation was the primary goal. I won’t go into politics here, as is my general policy with this blog, but no matter what you believe about the history of our country and decisions made, the bottom-line is within the reservation Christianity is largely associated with the government and government actions from the last 130 years, and therefore there is a general sentiment of mistrust when it comes to the church.

The approach of Wade and the rest of the team at Restoration to serve within the community has earned respect, and a reputation for being genuine and honorable. In large part due to this, just three weeks before our team arrived Wade and team were granted use of a second location, in the town of Kyle, about 55 minutes drive from the location in Pine Ridge. The building had sat unused for years following a bad experience with a previous church in residence. Getting approval for use of the building from the council leader, who is not a Christian, was significant. And the timing of our arrival was providential.

We attended church service in Kyle, their third service since securing the building, the day after our arrival. As we took inventory of what needed to be done, the list seemed endless. The floor was a bare concrete slab; only one bathroom worked and was in bad shape; lights were out, walls needed patched, and a mountain of boxes of left-behind items filled the room that needed to become a nursery; the kitchenette where we helped prepare lunch that day was the kind of dirty that only a paint scraper, a gallon of vinegar and several hours of work could fix; the yard was overgrown, screens were torn and the front door didn’t lock. That’s just what we saw on the first day. As the week continued we also uncovered HVAC, electrical and plumbing issues.

We had 14 people of varying skill level, and only five working days to get as much accomplished as possible. Like the loaves and fishes, God somehow managed to multiply our time and resources and when we left, I say with no ounce of pride, it was a completely transformed building.

Before: Exterior
Before: Exterior
After: Exterior
After: Exterior
Before: Main room
Before: Main room
After - main room
After – main room
After: Main room
After: Main room
Before: Kitchen
Before: Kitchen
After: Kitchen
After: Kitchen
After: Kitchen
After: Kitchen
Before - Nursery
Before – Nursery
After - Nursery
After – Nursery

Healing in Pine Ridge
The day we left Pine Ridge a special event called the “Wiping of Tears” was going to take place at the building in Kyle. One of the elders, explained that the Wiping of Tears was an ancient condolence ceremony practiced by many Native American tribes, (it is done every year in Pine Ridge on the anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre) and is seen as a time to move on from grief and suffering. This particular event was for anyone who had been impacted by or lost someone to suicide. They provided a hot meal and then prayed over those who were hurting and mourning.

We were boarding our flight in Rapid City before the event took place, but Wade has since told me that everyone that came that day was amazed by the transformation of the building. Even the council leader, who four weeks earlier had granted use of the building, could not believe the transformation. She was especially drawn to the nursery and said she wanted to bring her grandchildren there to play in that room.

The work we did in Kyle is not really about a building. It’s not about laying tile or painting walls or cleaning a kitchen. I know that a fixed-up building will not solve the problems plaguing the people of Pine Ridge.

But God can.

On the surface it may just look like a safe, clean, nice place to receive a hot meal, be prayed over, and receive the love of Jesus. But my God can do more. He can use this building to heal hearts, provide hope to the lost, and even save lives. I’ve seen what He’s doing and I can tell you healing is happening in Pine Ridge.

To hear the rest of the story, read Healing in Pine Ridge: Part 2.

If you’ve been convicted by what you’ve read and feel led to do something, here are four things you can do right now to help the people of Pine Ridge and the mission of Restoration Church:

  1. Watch this video and then go and tell people about the healing that is happening in Pine Ridge! Creating awareness is key to solving this problem.
  2. Pray for the people of Pine Ridge, for the team at Restoration Church, for Pastor Wade and his family.
  3. Go and serve. Grace Community Church in Winchester, VA is planning another trip in May. If you are local and would like more information, please email me: jelise@neitherheightnordepth.com.
  4. Give financially. If you feel led to give financially, you can mail a check to:
    Restoration Church
    938 Walnut Ave.

    Hot Springs, SD 57747

    Restoration Church has a 501c3 status and donations are tax deductible.

    UPDATE: About 12 hours after I finished this blog post and hit “publish” I got an update from Wade. Included was a link to this video he put together documenting the transformation of the building in Kyle. He also let us know that one of the women we met while we were there decided to give her life to Jesus and was baptized since we left. God is good!

The littlest evangelist

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

I read a story today about an early Twentieth-Century evangelist named Gypsy Smith. As the story goes, Gypsy came to know Jesus as a child, but he was worried about his uncle’s salvation. Being a child, he knew it would be seen as disrespectful to say this out-loud to his uncle, so he fervently prayed instead. One day his uncle said to him, “Child, why are the knees in your trousers worn out?” And little Gypsy replied, “They have been worn out from praying for you to know God and become a Christian.” Gypsy’s uncle put his arm around the boy, and then fell to his own knees and accepted Jesus into his heart.

I don’t know how much of this story is true, but after watching my own children, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a pretty accurate re-telling. As a parent I spend a lot of time thinking about how to raise my children up to have a strong relationship with Christ. I see my husband and I as their teachers and my children as the students, and so it always seems to catch me off-guard when God uses my children to teach me something.

But the truth is my kids, with their child-like faith and audacious love, have taught me a lot about discipleship and evangelism. You see my kids are chronic “inviters”. They will not hesitate to invite a friend to come over to play, spend the night, even join us for an entire weekend! And they are constantly inviting friends and neighbors to come to our church, or join us for small group Bible study. It is second-nature to them and they never think twice about extending an invitation or coming up to me and begging “puh-leeese mommy, can’t my friend Susie come with us to Bible study? Pretty, pretty please!” They ask with earnest and sell the idea to their friends with conviction.

They are uninhibited by the lies we adults tell ourselves. Things like: “oh, I can’t invite my neighbor to church, they’ll think I’m a Bible-thumper,” “I can’t talk about my faith at work, it will make people uncomfortable,” or “I’m not going to tell that stranger in Target all about the Bible study we’re doing, they will think I’m crazy!”

This fear of making others uncomfortable by what we believe, it’s really more about our own comfort zone and our unwillingness to push past it. Our worry about being politically correct or being rejected are all lies that the enemy plants in our hearts. I’m ashamed to admit I have succumbed to these lies too many times.

Matthew 18:3

But my kids? They are amazing. In the last year all three of them have invited friends to church or our small group Bible study. And you want to know what has happened? In at least three instances the parents have followed! Instead of being offended or uncomfortable about this invite, these families were eager to accept. Some of them were looking for a church. Others were waiting for an invitation and someone to welcome them. And some have been broken or hurting and needing to receive hope and love.

I believe when Jesus said “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:3) this is what he was talking about. We grown-ups need to let go of our insecurities, ignore the lies of the enemy, and stop worrying so much! We need to live our faith boldly, bravely and invite everyone we meet to join us. Because for every five people who decline, there will be that one person. That one who’s been waiting for an invitation, praying for God to give them a sign.

And don’t for a second underestimate how God will use you to answer other’s prayers. He has big plans for how He wants to use us, if only we’ll let Him. If only we will become like little children.

Why church?

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, this will be the blog post that assures you I fall short in my faithfulness in so many ways!

True confession time. Prior to January, if you asked me if I thought that weekly church attendance was critical to my spiritual well-being I would have said “eh, not really.” Big moments of spiritual growth didn’t happen for me on Sunday morning; they happened at retreats, where intense focus, study and community for 48 hours straight set my spirit to overflowing. Or it happened in small group Bible studies where there is a measure of safety that allows me to be raw and honest, sharing real truths. Or large conferences where amazing key-note speakers reignited the passion I felt as a young believer and being in a room with 800 other people singing 10,000 Reasons moved me to tears.

Sure, it was important to have a church home, someplace to feel connected. But church for me was primarily an entryway to learning about those conferences and retreats, finding a small group Bible study to join, or getting connected to other Christians. It was a chance to serve and give back (if the area where I served even required me to be there on Sunday morning, which often it didn’t). But Sunday morning service? It was not something my soul yearned for each week. It was just a means to an end. And the truth is I’m not the only one to think like this.

According to “Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters” by the Barna Group, 51% of people surveyed say church is not very important to them, and 40% of that group say they find God elsewhere — outside of church. That means at least 20% of believers aren’t looking to Sunday morning worship to be a source of spiritual growth. And those that do think church is still relevant? Well these days going to church once a month is considered regular attendance by that group, compared to my parent’s generation where 3 or more times a month was considered regular attendance. And I get it, because until very recently I fell into that group.

I’m sure the reasons for this trend of Christians moving away from church are varied, and I don’t proclaim to speak on behalf of any large group. But I do know what it feels like to be hurt by the church. To be disappointed or let down. I’ve been there. I also know what it feels like to be uninspired and unchallenged, walking to the parking lot thinking, “well, checked that off my to-do list.” I know what it feels like to enter the sanctuary doors and just feel like a number. These are all reasons that have caused me to leave a church. And maybe you have left the church, or rarely attend anymore for one of these, as well. But if I’ve learned one thing in my ongoing quest to find the “perfect church” it’s that no church is perfect.

Churches mess up because they are run by people. And people? Well we’re far from perfect and we mess up. A lot. All of us! And as long as we hold our church leaders to higher standards than we hold ourselves, we will be let down. If this is where you are and why you have left the church or don’t attend regularly, I encourage you to forgive and not give up.

Matthew 18:20

For me, despite having been let-down or disappointed in the past, my lack of regular attendance stemmed more from apathy than distrust. Church didn’t challenge me. It didn’t energize me. It didn’t fill my soul.

And this is where I found myself in the last couple of years, feeling like regular church attendance just wasn’t necessary to my walk with Christ.

But that all changed about 7 months ago. You see our church — the one I attended about once a month — decided to expand by adding a second site right in our neighborhood, and our small group Bible study was asked to be a part of the planning and leadership team. On the outside, I was all for it. But internally? I wasn’t sure I was fully on board.

Despite my uneasiness and resistance, I heard God encouraging me to be a part of this. To ride the wave and see what happened.

“Come on, Jelise, this is going to be really amazing! You need to share in this!”

“OK Lord, but I’m not making any promises for the long-term,” I bargained. “You know how I feel about Sunday mornings! I’m not sure I can commit to being there every week.”

So God laughed.

Then He found a way to get me there every week. I became part of the leadership team and my husband started playing in the band. Both of these roles required we be there every Sunday. The first few services, well they were good. I genuinely enjoyed them. But I still didn’t feel impassioned. I was going more out of obligation than some deep-seated desire to be in that chair every Sunday morning.

Then, about the 3rd or 4th Sunday things started to change. I remember standing there as the band played, singing along to the words and my throat started to close as my eyes welled with tears. I felt every word of that song. “Your love never fails, it never gives up. It never runs out on me. On and on and on and on it goes. It overwhelms and satisfies my soul.” And I was…overwhelmed and satisfied. Then the sermon started and I had a new-found intent and focus to how I listened. I was immersed in our Pastor’s words and I felt like God was using them to speak directly to me. And the next Sunday the same thing happened, and the next, and the next, and the…well you get the point.

Pretty soon it got so that I woke up Sunday morning yearning to go to church! Don’t you love that word, yearn? It so perfectly describes how I began to feel. Going to church was suddenly a must-have, a highlight to my week. It was no longer something I did if I wasn’t too tired to stay home, or a place I went out of obligation. And the work God has done in me and my spiritual growth in the last 7 months? Well, it’s been nothing short of phenomenal.

Matthew 18:20 says, For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Jesus himself tells us that when we gather with others to worship Him, He will meet us there! This is what I have experienced in the past seven months. God has met me there every Sunday, week after week. I just had to be obedient enough to show up!

It took some divine intervention to get me to start going to church every week, but once I did? Boy did I realize how wrong I was about the impact the church has on my spiritual well-being. I have been re-ignited. Each Sunday leaves my soul filled to the brim and overflowing with joy, peace, and desire to get into The Word.

If you feel like I did, that being in church every week isn’t critical to your walk with God. If you’ve been hurt, disappointed or uninspired by the church and feel like it’s become irrelevant and unnecessary, please, I encourage you, don’t put it off any longer. If you don’t have a church, find one. If you have one, but don’t attend regularly, commit to going every week for 8 weeks and see what happens in your life. I guarantee, God will meet you there.

 

Be still and let go of these things

This past Sunday my morning started like many Sunday mornings do for me. The alarm went off and I hit snooze because I was exhausted from the previous day’s activities. After sleeping a good 30 minutes later than I should have, I finally woke up and went to check on the kids. They were leaving right after church to spend a few days with my mom, so they had been given explicit instructions the night before that upon waking they were to start packing for their trip and once that was completed to start cleaning their rooms. Of course, none of this had happened. I was bombarded by whines and complaints the moment I opened my bedroom door. My eldest was completely outraged that her brother had just woken her up by bursting in her room and yelling “time to get up and pack!” My son  was running around in circles yelling “I have no clean clothes!” And my youngest daughter who, to her credit, had at least attempted to pack, showed me her packed bag which consisted of 5 shirts, one pair of leggings and a dirty pair of shorts. We had 50 minutes until we had to leave for church.

snooze button
Image source: Shenandoah Country Q102

In fairness to my kids, they had all gotten to bed late the night before because we’d been helping the school they attend pack and move equipment and only finished about 9:30 p.m. with the last load. And because I had spent my entire Saturday helping to move the school and running my kids to a birthday party, I had neglected to do any laundry. But at this point, all I could think was how I needed to be at church early today because it was my job to set-up for communion and if everyone didn’t hurry up and get their act in gear I would never get three kids dressed, fed, packed, and teeth brushed, let alone shower and dress myself in 50, no wait only 45 minutes now! I should mention at this point that my husband had already left for church because he’s in the praise band and has to be there 2-hours before service, so I was on my own with this one. The next hour was a blur of over-cooked frozen waffles, yelling “did you brush your teeth” 500 times, putting hair into ponytails, time-0uts, and pulling clothes out of the hamper that looked “clean enough” to be sent with them to Nana’s house (every mom out there knows, if it passes the sniff test and has no visible stains, it’s perfectly acceptable to dress your kids in dirty clothes).

We loaded into the car 10 minutes later than I wanted to and I felt every bit of tension and frustration that had built up that morning. I started to list in my head all the reasons I was stretched too thin and something had to give. I started to resent the school and my church for the time they were taking (for things I volunteered to do, mind you) and for turning me into crazy, grumpy mom. By the time we pulled into the parking lot I had reached the point where one side-ways glance from someone would have sent me into a full-blown emotional meltdown. Thank God I go to church with the most amazing people and when I walked in I was greeted only with smiles and hellos. No one commented on my being late, and in fact, as if they could sense my stress, two other friends said they’d been having a difficult morning.

Lake Holiday
The lake in our community where we live and worship.

Those of us on the worship team typically gather to go through the service plan and pray about 30 minutes before service starts. Usually we meet in a small boardroom, but this day our Pastor had us follow him outside. I live in a community that has a 240 acre lake nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and we are blessed to be able to hold church service in the community club house which is situated right on the lake. So we walked down to the fishing pier and our Pastor told us he had called us outside so we could take a few moments to just be at peace and let go of whatever we were carrying that morning and have a moment with God. I stared into the clear ripples of the lake and felt the frustration of the morning come flooding back. My eyes welled-up as I was hit with guilty feelings. Guilt for having yelled at my kids, guilt for hitting the snooze button when I knew better, and guilt for feeling resentful of my commitments to serve the school and church when I knew I had asked to do those things. As the hot tears slid down my cheeks I heard God gently say to me “be still.” Two little words, but they washed over me completely. Then I heard it again “be still, my child. Let go of these things and just be in My presence.” I felt such an immediate rush of relief and release at that moment, and I almost laughed out loud because it was such a simple statement, but just the exact thing I needed to hear.

I realized how bringing all of my negative “stuff” in the door was a distraction and could have kept me from fully receiving the day’s message and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit. And I wondered, how many Sunday mornings have I entered the doors like this? (too many) And how often was the enemy using these every-day stresses to get in the way and prevent me from just being still and being with God? (more than I realize, I’m sure)

That night I happened to see a blog post from Christian author Jon Acuff that humorously addressed the fact that right before church was the moment of the week he and his wife were most likely to get into a fight. As I read his blog post and then read through the comments I realized that I’m in good company and Sunday morning conflict and stress is a pretty common occurrence. Well, duh! Of course the enemy is going to try and get in our way and do whatever he can to muddle our hearts, cloud our perspective, and maybe even prevent us from going to worship.

Ephesians 6:12 says: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” But, as my Pastor reminded us during the sermon that day, God has already given us all the tools we need to fight and defeat the enemy; and I believe forewarned is forearmed. There are things we can do to impede spiritual warfare, or at least lessen the impact. For me, I know my number one issue is time. By cutting my time too short I’m giving the enemy more ammunition to use against me. I realize I must start getting up earlier on Sundays so I can ease into the day and allow time for all of the things that might go wrong. Then, maybe, just maybe I can walk through those doors and leave it all behind. I can come in and “be still” and be truly present.

What about you? Do you find yourself consistently stressed, frustrated, angry or in conflict on Sunday mornings? What is one area you can change and give the enemy less ammunition? I would love to hear your thoughts.