Tag Archives: joy

Comfortable Christianity…Comfortable Church

“I’m not comfortable in that kind of church…”  “I’m comfortable with where God has me right now…”

I cringe when I hear those words. Church and christianity aren’t supposed to be comfortable. It is supposed to be challenging, convicting and causing us to grow. With growth comes growing pains.

2Timothy 3

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, [a]haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of [b]godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who [c]enter into households and captivate [d]weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the [e]knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as [f]Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, [g]perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is [h]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [i]training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NASB translation-Bible Gateway)

When it comes to worshiping God, in all of it’s elements, we do a horrible job.  We claim we do, but when was the last time you shouted out to Jesus during the songs, or were literally on your face crying out to Him? We can scream and hoot and holler over sports teams winning a game, but can’t even lift our hands in praise to the One who made us? We’d feel weird or out of place? The Bible tells us that David danced naked before the Lord in praise!!! (I don’t suggest doing that in church though.)

2 Timothy 4:2-4

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with [a]great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (NASB-Bible Gateway)

Have you ever been so convicted by a sermon or what happened in church you couldn’t speak?  The conversation after services now centers on what’s for lunch or where people are going shopping.

Are you comfortable in your giving? You shouldn’t be. It should hurt. It should be a sacrifice. If your giving isn’t equivalent to or more than what you spend on your wants, it’s not sacrificial.

The power of the Holy Spirit should set a fire in us. Fire burns. It hurts, and hurt is uncomfortable. I find no scripture in the Bible that tells us that the Holy Spirit wants us to be comfortable. The Spirit will comfort us, yes, but that is in the midst of trial and persecution.  I believe that if the Holy Spirit showed up in some churches today that the people would run screaming for the exits.

I know this post is going to ruffle feathers. I hope it does. But if we really want to see people come to Jesus, we have to stop wanting to be comfortable. I’m sure Jesus wasn’t comfortable hanging on the cross suffering and dying. We have to be willing to do things that make us feel uncomfortable. We have to go outside of ourselves and be willing to do the disgusting parts of ministry. We have to go to the homeless camps, the drug infested areas, the corner where the prostitutes work. The carnivals and mission trips are great, and yes, they reach people. But don’t make the excuse that something costs too much or is inconvenient or uncomfortable, because the true christian walk isn’t supposed to be about our comfort. It’s about helping the hurting and lost out of their discomfort.


Beauty for Ashes

I want to share my story with you so you can get to know who I am and where I came from. This is sort of a mini bio of me.

I’d like to start by saying that some of the things I will share are not to give glory to the devil, but to show God’s glory and how he has redeemed me. I grew up in a house with two alcoholic parents, who also came from a lineage of alcoholism. Alcohol was the one constant at every event we went to or held. I remember my parents buying cases of beer for me and my brother’s birthday parties. It was there for holidays, weddings, and funerals. If something was going on, you can bet there would be alcohol there.

When night time rolled around in my home, the chaos would begin. My father would have either come home from the bar or would have been drinking since he got home from work, and he would start yelling and picking fights with my mother. The arguing would sometimes go on for hours. My mother drank mostly at night, and when they weren’t fighting, I could hear her crying in the living room. One of my first memories of my childhood is my mom trying to stab my father while I stood by and watched. There were times I was humiliated in front of friends and family because of their actions while drinking. I would write out letters asking them to stop fighting which fell on deaf ears.. I would get scared while walking home from school, because I knew eventually the fighting would begin. I also swore that I would never end up like them….little did I know how wrong I would be.. I would ask my mom why she wouldn’t leave my dad because I knew she wasn’t happy. She always said she stayed for the sake of my brother and I. What my parents didn’t know was that I would lay in bed at night and pray to God they would divorce so I didn’t have to endure the arguing anymore.

I did pray as a child because I was raised in church and I did have a belief in God, but I didn’t have a relationship with God. I knew about God, but I never got to know God.

My father could be very mean. He could rip you apart with his words, and he could do it for hours on end. Throughout my life my father would tell me ‘You are just like your mother.’ Coming from him, that wasn’t a compliment. All I wanted was for my dad to love me the way I saw other dads love their daughters. Because of this and the denomination I was raised in, I grew up with a very distorted view of God.

Other areas of my childhood were also difficult. I hated school because I was the girl who wore the hand-me-downs and had that ugly pixie haircut. I was made fun of everyday, and though I did well in school, each day was full of dread. I hung out with the other outcasts…or geeks as they were called. When I’d come home after being tormented, I would tell my mother what was going on, and she gave the famous line that mothers gave back then…’they are just jealous’. But I knew better than that. As I said earlier, my life at home was also filled with fear…so I had no place where I felt safe.

I was also quite sheltered and wasn’t allowed to do things most of the other kids got to do. This made me feel more alone. I had a few neighborhood friends, but as I look back, I believe they let me hang around with them out of pity. They would dare me to do things, sometimes stupid things, and I did them because I believed they would like me more. I was wrong. If we got caught I became the scapegoat, and I never defended myself. I thought if I got them in trouble too, I would have no friends at all.

As I got older and entered junior high school, not much had changed in my life. It is then that I discovered boys. If a boy showed any interest in me, I went out with them. I wanted so much to be like the other girls, and I craved the attention. I learned later in life that because I was rejected so much by females, I became emotionally dependent on men. I was desperate for someone to like me. It was during these years my mom started having health problems, mostly related to her drinking, which lasted throughout her life.

My first year of high school is when I drank for the first time. That night was pretty much a blur, but what I did remember was how good I felt. I felt pretty, I was outgoing and funny. Although I didn’t drink again for a few years, the desire to feel that way again stayed with me.

During high school I also had my first long term relationship. I was so afraid of losing this guy that I did whatever he wanted, even though I didn’t necessarily like it. He became so attached to me that he didn’t want me to hang out with any of the friends I did have. It was just him and I, always together. Eventually I got tired of the way things were, and I broke up with him because I met a guy I thought I would like better. A few days later, the first young man tried to commit suicide. Thankfully he didn’t succeed. I was an emotional mess for a long time. I believe this event, coupled with my issues at home, caused codependency to overtake me.

At the age of 17, my mom almost lost her life because of her alcoholism. She spent four weeks in ICU. I would visit her with my dad, and in between we would spend our afternoons in the bar. I didn’t drink, but I liked the atmosphere. To me, everyone seemed happy and carefree. I had to cook and clean for my brother and my dad, and take care of the house. Being alone in the house with him terrified me, I didn’t want to be the object of his wrath when he drank. My mom pulled through, but began drinking again several years later. I ended up with huge resentments toward her because of this.

I eventually met my husband; he was a man who liked to drink, and I found myself drinking with him often. I also started going to bars with friends even though we were underage. I stopped drinking for a while when I became pregnant at the age of 19. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, who we named after his father. It didn’t take long for the desire to drink and be in the bars to return. By the time my son was one, I found myself in bars at least three nights a week. I thought I deserved it because I was home with the baby all day. Many nights when my husband and I drank together we would argue. I was turning into my parents, and I didn’t even realize it. People would say things about my drinking but I would tell them and myself, I’m not as bad as them, I get up everyday and get my son to school, I cook dinner every night and so on. Can someone say denial? Jer. 6:14 says- You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there.

Things went on this way for a few years. At 24, I went to my first rehab for my alcoholism. I look back on it now, and realize that I went not for me, but because my drinking was apparent to others and they were still voicing concerns. However during those few sober months I believe that God was trying to reach me. I was alone in the house one day and thought to myself “how am I ever going to stay sober the rest of my life”. Very clearly I heard God speak to me saying “You have been afraid for so long, you don’t have to be afraid anymore.” I felt a relief come over me and shared it with others. But my sobriety didn’t last long because I started hanging out with the old crowd again and thought I could hang out in bars and not drink. 1Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be mislead, bad company corrupts good character.” In a very short time I was drinking just as much as I was right before I entered rehab.

My alcoholism continued to get worse for a few years. I lost apartments, jobs, friends, and the respect of my family. I had to live in someone’s basement for over a year. Due to an issue with my family, I was not asked to be in my brother’s wedding. It hurt me deeply, but I was in denial about how my actions played a role in his decision. I was working here and there in different bars…a gold mine for an alcoholic. Everyday was the same. I came to a point where I didn’t like my life, but I had so much guilt and shame that the only way I knew how to get away from the guilt and shame was to drink again. It became a vicious cycle of drink, guilt, shame, drink, guilt shame and on and on.

An event in my life, that should have got my attention, didn’t. It only made my drinking worse. During that same time period I called my mom to talk, and as usual asked how my dad was. She told me that he was in the hospital. He had woken up that morning and wasn’t feeling well, and asked her to call an ambulance. This was extremely odd for him, he was the type who have to be screaming in agony before he’d take a Tylenol. I went to visit him, and he was up in Intensive Care. I asked him what was going on, and he said he had something wrong in his stomach. I visited him a few times under the influence, and why he was there just wasn’t registering in my brain. Twenty days later, at age 65, my father died from massive organ failure brought on by chronic liver cirrhosis. I was devastated. My family and I always thought that my mom would be first to go with her constant medical problems. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that one day he was here, and the next he was gone. I had so many unresolved issues with him and I can’t make amends to him. But I know now that he did what he could with what he knew. Since I last gave my testimony, God brought to mind something I’d like to share about my dad. As I said my father and I didn’t have a good relationship. Shortly before he went into the hospital, out of the blue he started calling me daily to ask how I was and how his grandson was. He would tell me he was worried about my mom and her health. I thought this was very odd. I didn’t put these things together until recently. I believe it was my dad trying to let me know he loved me in his own way. I believe he knew he was dying, he just didn’t tell anyone. Today, I know my dad did the best he could with what he knew.

Shortly after his death it was decided that my husband and I would move back in with my mom. She was in no condition to be living on her own due to her health. It worked for a while. I eventually became overwhelmed with trying to care for her and my family, working, and trying to keep up my drinking. I ended up in a psychiatric unit after a suicide attempt. I got therapy and was diagnosed with depression and I needed medication. I got better for a while, stopped drinking again and life was starting to be sort of normal. My husband and I separated for a while, and during this time I was back to working in a bar. I don’t think I have to tell you what happened. Within weeks I was back to drinking almost daily. I ended up with a DUI in 1998. I was traveling down the wrong side of a major four lane road when I got pulled over. I was arrested and my boss bailed me out. That was humiliating. I lost my license for 120 days but continued to drive, again in total denial. I told everyone the only reason I got pulled over was because I was the last one out of the parking lot, not because I was drunk, the cop saw me walk out of the bar and I had a blood alcohol that was a .28. The frightening part is that I was on my way to pick up my son. I see it now as a blessing in disguise, as I surely would have killed myself, my son, or someone else that night. But I continued to drink. There were times I thought I was losing my mind because I couldn’t figure out if things I remembered happening over the last few months were dreams or if they actually happened. I hid booze, I drank while my son was in school and would go pick him up under the influence, believing no one would notice. There were times I thought “It would just be better if I drove into that tree.”

In May of 2000 my life was in shambles. One evening, as I sat on my couch I knew I had to stop. I had ended up just like my parents. I knew in my soul if I didn’t stop I was going to die. I made a call and was on a plane the next day headed for Florida. I attended a fabulous treatment center there. I learned a lot about myself and my addiction. I learned that throughout my life fear was my friend…it consumed me and I drank to try to overcome that fear. While in treatment Mother’s Day came around, and we were allowed to go to church. While there, the pastor asked the moms to stand and he gave a blessing over us while another Pastor went around and prayed for each one. When he got to me, it was like a dam burst. I was sobbing and could not stop. The first pastor looked at me and said, “God wants me to tell you he loves you. No matter what you have done, where you have been He loves you and wants to forgive you.” This I believe was the second time God was reaching down to me. I later found out that the Pastor was a recovering addict. There really are no coincidences are there? After two months I came home. I worked hard at my recovery and stayed sober by God’s grace. I attended another twelve step group, and I got a good foundation for my recovery. I was able to help care for my mom properly, I was able to be a mom to my son and a wife to my husband. I did not, however, deal with me and the fear that was always just below the surface.

September 11, 2001 is a day that we will always remember. So many horrors occurred that day, but I can tell you that even out of tragedy, God can bring someone hope and salvation. He did that for me. I watched tv as the towers fell, and as the planes crashed in Pennsylvania and into the Pentagon. Something rose up in me that day….all the years that I spent not dealing with my fear and depression came to a head. I literally couldn’t function for a couple weeks, and was admitted to a psych unit again. For some time before Sept 11th, I had stopped taking my medication because I was doing well. I was told that I was going to be one of those people who may have to be on medication my entire life. It doesn’t mean I am broken, I just needed some extra help. However, I have been off my meds for a year, and am doing well. I attribute that to staying focused on my recovery and the steps.

While in respite, a friend of mine asked if I would like to start attending church with her. She had been wanting to go since the attacks, but didn’t want to go alone. I agreed to go. A few days after I got home we attended a church that wasn’t my usual denomination. They had an altar call and the song they played was by Michael W Smith…they lyrics were ‘You’re all I want, You’re all I ever needed’ Again, the tears came and I sobbed at the altar. THIS is what I had been searching for all my life. In Isaiah 61:3 It says that God will give us “a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” God has made this scripture so very real in my life.

Over the next few years my mom’s health got even worse. She had a few strokes and this changed her mental status greatly. My mom also had chronic liver cirrhosis. She was being treated for it so her health didn’t deteriorate as fast as my father’s did. I watched her slowly lose her physical abilities, her sight, and her metal faculties. I had the opportunity to help lead her to Christ shortly before her death. I told her before she died how sorry I was for the things I had done. One day I was there visiting, and she hadn’t been talking much over the last few weeks. On that day though she kept say “I want to go, I want to go.” I told her it was okay, she could go if she was tired. Her last words to me were “What about you guys?” I told her we’d be fine, it was okay to go. On January 1, 2005, my mom went home to be with Jesus. If not for my sobriety, I probably wouldn’t have had that moment with my mom. I thank God for letting me be there for her, because I wasn’t there for my dad.

A couple years later my walk with God and my recovery became stagnant. I felt like I wasn’t progressing. A woman at my former church recommended Celebrate Recovery. I looked up where meetings were and I attended my first CR meeting held at another church. I was welcomed with open arms, and I found the people to be genuine. Often in church we put our masks on and hide our pain. I had been doing that for so long, I didn’t want to do that in church too. I found I could take my mask off in CR. I could be who I am and people would still love me regardless of my faults and failures. In CR I can look at me and see myself how God sees me. I can see the good, bad, and ugly, and know that God is working in me to bring about the changes that need to take place. I have learned its not my job to keep other people happy, and that my happiness doesn’t depend on others or what they think of me. I have learned that setting boundaries is a good thing, both for myself and others. I am a loving mom and a good wife and my brother, who all but wrote me off at one point, now tells me how valuable I am to him and his children, whom I take care of on a regular basis. I was also able to help my brother through a very trying time in his life. I am a leader in Cr, when most of my life was spent as a follower. I have people coming to me for help, when I was always the one needing help. I now work part time taking care of children who’s moms are in recovery, and it is a huge blessing. If not for God and CR, these things wouldn’t have happened. These days I can wake up and not worry about what I did the night before. I had a huge God shaped hole in me, and Jesus was the only thing that could fill it up. Not booze, not people, not things. It was Jesus and Jesus alone. I have a life that 13 yrs ago, I would have never dreamed possible.

I can tell you that when you totally give yourself to God, he will shake things up. Recently, I was feeling stuck in my walk, and struggling again in my marriage. I told God, I am ready to give up again, but I am willing to do whatever you want me to do, but You have to open the doors. Let me tell you, He opened doors and slammed some others shut. I am now attending CR and church here at Our Father’s House and am seeing God, His power and myself in a whole new light. I have been asked to join leadership and am being sent to the Summit in South Carolina, by a huge miracle of God’s provision. Parts of this recent journey have been very difficult, but so worth it. A few months ago I got to meet two lovely Godly women who are a part of an online ministry for Unequally Yoked Marriages. I have become a part of their team and have been so blessed to be a part of that ministry also. (You can find them under Blogs I Follow). That ministry has been a huge part of helping my marriage. So I can tell you, if you open yourself up to what God wants to do in your life, he is willing and able to open doors and perform miracles like you’ve never seen. I’d also be lying if I told you things are always sunshine and roses. They aren’t. But when I am afraid, I can call on God to give me peace. When I have bad days, I can call my CR friends, who lift me up. I know that God is with me, that He loves me and wants the best for me and had a good plan for my life. There are times I feel unworthy of the blessings He has bestowed upon me. When I look back over my life, the fact is I shouldn’t be here today. But the truth is, God had His hand of protection on me. God really does take the foolish things of the world and use them to tear down those who are wise in their own eyes. I know that with God all things are possible.