2011 was the year that we stopped going to church on Sundays.
It was not something that we schemed or thought out. It just happened. Bill was working very hard over the spring, baseball was going full speed ahead and Sunday became the only day where we had an opportunity to sleep in and catch up on some serious down time.
We did not stop altogether….there were days here and there where we went to our old church, and days we went to a new one. We love our home church and the people in it. Our pastor is wonderful and it was nothing in particular that had us wandering away. When we moved here, finding that church was a blessing to us. We walked in the doors and immediately felt comfort. The kids felt safe and loved getting to know everyone. They were pretty much the only children in the congregation, so the attention they got was a God send amid the chaos of newness.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately and as I sit here typing I have to compare it to the security of the small town we moved away from. It was like slipping out of the familiarity of the womb. That nice, soft, safe environment. To this day I am still discovering what God’s intentions were in leading us away. I think that sometimes when you are enveloped in contentment, it is hard to grow in Gods love.
Although why we left is important, I am writing about the journey afterward and the revelation I have had that God was calling us all to know Him deeper. Sometimes, coming off the mountaintop is the only way to fall deeper in love with our Creator. After all, we can’t make the journey to the top if we are constantly there.
I am not sure I have anyone that I would consider a close friend here. I have met people that I enjoy, but outside of Billy and the kids, I have resisted a bond. I don’t know why. I used to be a pretty social creature. I think maybe I was afraid to get hurt. I sort of gave up on people and what their motives are. I really, really lost myself for a great number of years and I needed to collapse into myself and focus on getting to know who I am…who God made me to be from the beginning. I needed to stop concentrating on the voices from all directions telling me who, what, where and how the spirit of God is in my life. I stopped going to bible studies, although I didn’t really know why I did that at the time. I sort of just fell off the grid. I had to get to know God and my relationship with Him in MY life. Not anyone else’s.
Spiritual growth is life long. I just had a conversation with a dear friend and she said basically “I always question people who say they have the answers already and are sure of what God is all about and how we are supposed to worship Him”. I agree. There was a time I felt sure of who God was and I felt that I knew Him……until I was isolated here, went through a challenging illness last spring, and had a month of surfing in September and October that grounded me and opened my eyes. Three days stick out as nothing short of Holy.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
It was one of those days that you know are special from the minute your feet sink into the warm sand. You squat, waxing your board, looking out at the water and can’t believe that there is not another soul out there. The air temperature is in the 70’s, water in the 80’s. It feels sensuous on your skin as you wade out, jump on your board and paddle out to the waves.
The water is like glass. Waves are rolling in around thigh to waist high and they are peeling off toward the pier just for you. There was this one wave I caught….a nice set came in and it was bigger than the others. It as probably waist high, and it was perfect. A long ride, and peeling off behind me. I looked down and saw clear water to the sandy bottom. Fish swimming fast along with the wave. It was surreal. I paddled out again and sat, just feeling ethereal. I put the palms of my hands on the surface of the water and really felt it. Pelicans landed all around me, floating in the water like angels. It was heavenly and I felt the presence of God hovering above the water….there since the beginning of time. He came swirling around me with the light breeze. A pelican flew by me and I got goose bumps and cried out to it at the top of my lungs “Do you have any idea at all how beautiful you are?!!!”
Another day I sat in similar conditions, smaller waves. A mama dolphin and her baby swam around me. I sat up when I spotted them about 15 feet away and after they dove under, I could feel the water swirl around my feet in little, watery tornadoes…..evidence that they swam under me. They stayed close to me for a bit, then swam off to feed. I would like to imagine she was saying to her baby “The ones sitting on those long things and playing in the waves on them? They are okay. They won’t hurt you.”
The third day the waves were small and fun. What a beautiful day it was. I surfed some fun little waves and at one point I watched as a dolphin came right up to me while I was sitting on my board waiting for a wave. It spy hopped with it’s mouth open them swam by and I reached my hand out and it passed 2 inches from my fingers.
I think sometimes, euphoria is God bursting forth from us in a rush of exaltation. I just could not contain it any longer. I was slapped hard with beauty and divinity.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you….the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (Corinthians 3: 16-17)
I personally could not imagine feeling the spirit of God like that in a brick and mortar building. We have made structures and try to define God in a tangible way because it is our human way of trying to understand and be aware of His presence. We worship together inside and sing beautiful songs of hallelujah directed heavenward. We commune and remember Christ’s sacrifice for us and it is GOOD.
But……truly, He can’t be contained inside!
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24)
The Lord of all the earth is all around us. Every day. We just have to hold our hand out and touch someone else who is hurting and, just like that, we are in Church. We can forgive someone for a wrong and we are worshipping. You can’t define God. Our rules of worship and rituals are beautiful, but they do not make us Holy. It is God who makes us Holy. It is the blood of Christ. I don’t know what worship is right for you. How you commune with Him is a VERY personal journey that leads through the mountains and valleys….but you can’t hear Him speaking to you until you hush the voices around you.
I want to scream His name over the roar of the ocean. I want to be bathed in the water He created and be surrounded by His creatures. Without the voices of humankind whispering what they think is discernment into my ears and drowning out the voice of God, I want to be acutely aware that he has placed his hand deep in my heart and is stirring my soul to Holiness. Once again.
I sit on my board and I sing hallelujahs that walk on water out to sea, passing over whales and dolphin….to the ears of God. I hear Him answer me in the wind that curls around the tip of a breaking wave. He whispers: “All of this is mine and I give it to you all to enjoy. No matter where you are in your journey to be one with Me, you are always Mine, forever.”
**someone asked me if I felt going to church was important. Oh my gosh, yes, I do. I grew up in the Episcopal church and I find great comfort in the traditions and service. My Catholic roots go back to Rome, Italy with my grandmother Balducci, extending back since the beginning. My mother and her family were Roman Catholics, so it doesn’t get much more Catholic than that guys. BUT!! I don’t think that going to church means you find salvation. Salvation comes from Christ’s death on the cross. Period. No strings attached. When you take Him into your heart, and truly live life with Him inside you, acts of mercy and love become natural to you. You want to walk in His steps. Faith without deeds is dead. You can’t love Christ and not try to be His hands and feet. It is a natural extension to loving Him. Loving Him and ignoring suffering is rejecting Him. You can’t have one without the other. Having said that, you cannot earn Gods Grace by doing deeds and attending church. Savvy?? Church should not be your focus. God should be. Christ should be. Christ died on the cross and that justified the grace God gives to you freely. A Catholic priest once told me “Don’t be like a dog that when I point at something, looks at my hand instead of where I am pointing.” Church is not the means. It is a place where people gather in His name and worship Him. Many broken people come to know Christ in church. But many come to know Him through talking with individuals who are His hands and feet. THAT is Christ’s Church. Not a building. Not the rituals. Christ’s church is you. It is me. Every day. It is all of us acting and moving to bring an end to suffering and pain. It is called mercy. It is empathy and patience. It is LOVE. I hope this makes sense.