July 9, 2009

on my faith...

Under normal circumstances, I really dislike prefacing any of my posts with a disclaimer. But I guess that I just want to make sure that I'm not stepping on any toes, or hurting any feelings. When it comes to religion and faith, it's obviously a very personal thing, but at the same time, I still worry about putting it all out there. It's a little ridiculous, I know, but it's something that has been weighing on me for some time, and this post has been a long time coming. I just feel like I have to write it all down.

Please know that this is my own, personal story. If you want to share your own experience, I would absolutely welcome it, but I do want to avoid any truly negative feedback, because that would hurt my soul a little. Okay? Okay.

So, my faith is a huge part of my life. I don't know if this will come as a huge surprise to some of you who don't know me personally, because I'm not one of those people who wear their religion on their sleeve (so to speak). As the years have passed, I've seen a lot of things within the church, I've experienced many different denominations, I've met countless Christians, and I've done my share of figuring out where I belong in the mix.

When it comes down to it, I realize just how much of a personal thing it is for me. It's not a matter of joining a church and hosting bible studies and quoting bible verses to people and giving people the "sad face" when I hear they aren't a believer. To me, it's the calm assurance that I know I have a relationship with God. I know he knows my heart. I know he is someone I can talk to about anything, anytime, anywhere. I know that God has been there for me, guiding me through life as I go along. I know that when this life ends, I'll be spending the rest of eternity running along golden streets with my ancestors, eating graham crackers dipped in rainbow-chip frosting for hours upon end. (Well, okay, that last one is open to interpretation, but whatever.)

Growing up, I attended church every Sunday. I attended Sunday school, youth group, Vacation Bible School, all of that. I'm honestly grateful to my parents for those years, and for always showing me an example of what Christianity should be. Throughout the years, even though we were expected to go to church and participate and all of that, my parents were never horribly forceful with any of it. I had friends who were held to such a rigid standard, based completely on the bible and the church, and I always remember being grateful for parents who seemed to have an incredibly good balance in their expectations. More than anything, it was the way they lived their lives that inspired me to be a good person.

Now, obviously, many years have passed since the days of dressing up in fluffy dresses and tights, coloring in my Jesus coloring book during the sermon, and wondering who this Jesus guy really was and what he meant to my life. Which is a good thing, because I think I've come a long way. (Although, I do miss that Jesus coloring book. It was good times.)

My frustration at this point, is with finding a church that both my husband and I can attend together. Where we both feel accepted, both feel challenged, both feel fulfilled. Although we were both raised in the Lutheran church, I don't feel like I truly connected with my faith until I experienced a much more non-denominational setting. These days, when I attend a Lutheran service, I feel like I revert back to those childhood days and my mind is numbingly blank through most of the service. I simply don't connect to any of it. I can't feel moved by memorized prayers, or like I'm worshiping while attempting to sing hymns that I don't know the tune to, or as though I'm going to take anything away from the sermon when it doesn't apply to my everyday life. And although I understand that the point of having different denominations of Christianity all has to do with how you prefer to worship and connect with God, I also understand that the Lutheran church is simply not a fit for me. And, of course, it's a perfect fit for my husband. So, that's where the difficulty comes along.

I think that the worst part for me is the closed communion. The Lutheran church (most of them, anyway) practices communion, but they are pretty open about the fact that only members of the church are welcome to participate. If I can be completely honest, the communion thing is a huge part of my frustration. I can't even express the anger that I feel when I'm sitting there, alone in the pew, as everyone else around me gets to experience something that is a free gift from God, that is a part of being a Christian. Every single time, I turn red and have to fight back tears of frustration and embarrassment. I literally have to bite my lip to keep from crying. As I sit there, all I can think of is how elitist it all feels. Am I not good enough, just because I don't worship the same way as you? Am I not good enough, just because I prefer not to pray the same way as you? Am I not good enough, just because I don't follow the same rules as you? Also, WHERE IS MY JESUS COLORING BOOK, BECAUSE I COULD REALLY GO FOR ONE RIGHT NOW WHILE I SIT COMPLETELY AWKWARD AND ALONE.

In all seriousness, it's difficult to truly express the hurt I feel when I attend a Lutheran service. I just feel...empty. I feel...like I'm welcome, but only to a certain extent. Like, "You can be here, but you can't take part in everything. Sorry." Is that how anyone should feel in a church?

When I was seventeen, I started attending a non-denominational church. I was at the age where I didn't attend church with my parents every Sunday, and sort of wanted to go out on my own. My experience at the new church completely changed my entire view of religion. They had a huge worship portion during which I sang songs I knew and loved and connected with. The pastor was absolutely incredible, and every single Sunday I walked away feeling completely challenged for the week ahead. There were small groups in which I was able to connect with people my age and we encouraged each other every week. It's the first time in my life that I realized God was slowly going from being some guy I talked to through the ceiling every night, to being someone that I felt in my heart. Constantly. I finally knew Him, not just knew of Him. I could pray out loud, and not worry about someone thinking I sounded funny or was using the wrong words. We could laugh and clap and wear flip-flops, and it wasn't looked upon as sacrilege. I could sing my heart out in praise. I'd found just the place where I belonged. And my heart felt like exploding with joy and peace and happiness.

I remember one Sunday, while we were singing during the worship portion of the service, I actually felt the desire to lift my hands and close my eyes. It was a huge moment, because I realized just how intimate a moment like that can be. It wasn't about someone seeing how "spiritual" you were, it wasn't about making a show of your faith, it wasn't about raising your hands because it was expected. It was simply me, singing words to my Savior. There's nothing like it, really. And I haven't felt that peace in a long time.

Sometimes I ache to rediscover that level of faith in a church setting. I'm definitely beyond the thought that church is what makes someone religious. It is obviously something that is a huge part of community and growth as a Christian, but it's not what makes a Christian. Still, I crave those feelings I used to have when I felt like I was surrounded by people who loved God and worshiped God in the same way I do. When I was a part of something that I looked forward to attending, it really helped keep me accountable, you know? And I felt like God was a part of almost every moment of every day. I had an almost constant monologue with God throughout the day - and it was comforting and exciting.

I hope that my husband and I are able to find something that will satisfy both of our needs, as far as church goes. It's odd, because although we believe the same things, the way we choose to worship is very much not the same. And it's difficult to find a happy medium because he is so traditional and I am kind of not traditional.

More than anything, I would love for Jay and I to connect more spiritually. There are so many ways that a marriage brings two people together, and I think that the next step is for us to be able to grow together in our faith. As different as we may be, I'm sure that we'll be able to find something that brings us both that peace. Because I think that I'm ready for that.

80 comments :

  1. Reading your feelings of being in a comfortable church where you can praise and feel God reminded me how much I miss that deep unexplainable feeling. Thank you.

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  2. You wrote this beautifully, love.
    I'm not religious. Agnostic, I suppose, in the fact that I am not against religion, I'm just not sure what to think of the whole deal.
    There are certainly aspects of Christianity that I am against, but the part that you just wrote about - the way it makes you FEEL, that must be incredible.
    I truly hope you and Jay can find a church that fits both of your needs, and that the two of you can grow even closer together through that.
    Oxo.

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  3. I wish I could find a church that made me feel the way you do. I tend to keep to my own in prayer and church-going. As in, I go when there is no service because I feel that is when I can truly connect with God. I have yet to find a church that I feel comfortable with in terms of the values they preach (I'm fairly liberal and that creates issues in most churches) or when I can be me.

    As I read this I felt jealous. A little saddened because I haven't found that. And oh so happy for you! I hope you and Jay can find a church that fits the both of you!

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  4. This is a beautiful post. I was also raised in a Lutheran church, and remember sitting alone in that pew until I had completed 2 years of confirmation classes before I could take part in communion.

    Shortly after, we started going to a non-denominational church that brought in different pastors and speakers each week... it was incredible. So much more to think about, so many different views. I long to find something like that again.

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  5. This was a truly beautiful post.

    I was raised Baptist, but I reached a point where I could no longer sit in a church that didn't challenge me or fill me spiritually. The kind of service where I walk away with doodles, rather than any actual new insight.

    I attend a non-denominational church called Central Christian and I absolutely love it. My family no longer goes to church and I decided to go back when I was 16, so it's been over four years now that I've truly found my home. I've grown so much in that church, knowing the beauty of having a relationship with God. Knowing that it's not about what church you go to or how many times you pray a day, etc. It's about this beautiful relationship with God and knowing He is always there.

    & I love the fact that I can wear flip flops to my church as well ;)

    The best of luck finding a church.

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  6. I just want to say that I can totally relate to your story. My husband and I are somewhat in the same situation as you and your husband. I have had some not so great experiences with churches but as I have found out down the road there is always a reason for everything. You will find it, when you are supposed to.

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  7. Hello!

    At first, reading this, I was outraged (over-exaggerated) w/you about you sitting alone, and YES they are elitist...and then I thought about it from 'their' side, and this is what I think: they want their congregation to be a community, to do things together. So, their members take communion TOGETHER. They worship together and hopefully live out their lives together in a community. I don't think anyone is purposefully exluding the non-member, their philosohpy is probably, if you come here every week, then why not be a member?

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  8. I have been lurking for awhile now and have truly enjoyed your writing--and this is definitely one of your best! I am sitting here laughing to myself about the similarities in our lives--my husband, also names Jay, and I have the same issue when it comes to finding a church. He is much more conservative when it comes to worshiping and he really likes hymns, while I prefer more contemporary worship. We have recently found a church that we both enjoy though I do not think that I will ever feel the way you describe there. Thank you for sharing, I truly enjoyed reading this today!

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  9. I'm not a religious person - spiritual yes, religious no. But I loved this post. I went to Catholic school my whole life, and I could never really connect with the religion. I completely identified with you when you describe sitting in the pews awkwardly while everyone else gets confession. I always felt so embarrassed that I wasn't REALLY Catholic (never baptized). I even had a period where I tried to pursue Catholicism, but it never felt right with me. I think sometimes we just have to go with what feels right to us. I'm hoping you and Jay can come to an agreement with this because it sounds really important to you. Also, I admire your writing.

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  10. I know that it can be hard to write feelings like this out there for all of the internets to read. I know it was for me. I guess I was afraid of how people would judge me. But I'm glad you wrote this, and quite well might I add. Nicely done.

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  11. Thanks for sharing!

    My husband Lee and I have a similar problem. I'm Catholic and he's Presbyterian. Going to mass every week is super important to me but going to service every week is not as important to him and I've never really wanted to find a "middleground faith" because then we would both be compromising what we really believe (although that works for some and that's awesome). So what we've been doing is I go to mass every week and if he can come too that's awesome and if he wants to we'll go to his church too. That's been working well so far, and it normally gives us an excuse to go to Krispy Kreme in between services.

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  12. I knew when I read the title of this post, that it would be first time to comment. I've been reading your blog for awhile and don't remember how I got linked to it, but very much enjoy it. This post really speaks volumes to me. It reminds me so much of how I grew up and also exactly the way I feel at church when I do go. Very well said. Also, I wanted to make a note on the part about connecting with your husband spiritually. The Family Life Weekend to Remember conferences that they do for couples is amazing. I definitely recommend it for connecting in that way with your spouse.

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  13. At my church you don't have to be a 'qualified member' to take communion but you do have to be a member to go to meetings about how the church is run, to have a say about the pastor and finances etc. To become a member you have to have been baptised, ask to be a member and then the current members have to vote you in. I think they always vote everyone in, no-one has been declined.

    But anyway, it's weird how you can run the kids group without being a member, you can help with teas and coffees, you can do things for the church but you can't be involved with the decision-making unless you're a member. It's like you're good enough to work for them but not good enough to be involved.

    We have a joke amongst some of us more cynical members - 'Good enough for the Kingdom of God, but not good enough for the Baptist Church'.

    I'm sorry my post was a bit waffley, but it probably reflects the fact that I'm not really sure about the whole members thing. I can see why it's important but sometimes it seems a bit hypocritcal.

    I sincerely hope that you and Jay manage to find somewhere that helps you both on your journies with God and your journey together with God.

    Love,
    Blue Eyes xx

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  14. Can we hold hands and dance through the prairies? Ok that was a bit emo :) I feel e-x-a-c-t-l-y the same way as you do. I was raised the same way, not in a Lutheran church but non-denominational and always have attended the same type of church. We always went to church together as a family. It wasn't until we got a bit older than it was more of a "choice" to go, but I always still went.

    Well, I haven't actually been to church in about 2 years. That's pretty weird to say (long story that involves an ex), and I often feel like I need to go at least sometimes, but when I've tried different churches I never feel like it clicks with me. There was only ONE that did and that would be to awkward to go back to.

    Sigh. I'm not really going anywhere with this, but I wanted to share that I feel exactly the same way, and I wouldn't be able to go to that type of church either. I'm sure you will find your common ground, if not you could always switch off maybe?

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  15. 1) if someone leaves something mean - send them my way.
    2) i love that you love jesus. i have a group of friends that i call my "jesus friends", i tend to have a lot in common with them.
    3) i've gone to church with them every now and again (EvFree)- it's so much better than what i grew up doing (kneel, stand, sit, sing, kneel, stand, sit, sing - see Amanda's comment).

    i think it's great that you are exploring your options and also tuning into what is inside you. in fact, that is what is MOST important. good luck, hon!

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  16. Hello,

    I'm a Lutheran and I've NEVER heard that you cannot participate in communion if you are not a member. I've been to a few different churches throughout the midwest and have never run into this. Maybe it's different out west or in the church you are attending, but that is something I've never experienced before. At some of the churches I've been to they even expressed how they have an "open table" for communion.

    Are you sure you cannot take communion?

    (My husbands Catholic and usually you cannot take communion in a catholic church if you are not catholic. When we started attending my husbands church I asked the priest about this "rule" and he told me in his church he practiced an open table. So my advice would be to ask, because I think it varies on the priest/pastor and it's not the general rule)

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  17. You. Me. Ladies pow wow. I have so much to praise abotu this post and so many, just, thoughts.

    You are beautiful, and it is no doubt that you hold the grace and goodness of God in your heart.

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  18. I'm with you on the scariness of posting on matters such as these. I'm always afraid that people will just stop reading my blog. Not that a lot do...but you know what I mean.

    I have had such a hard time since college trying to figure out where to fit in. The church we went to while we were in school was great when we knew everyone, but now it's a long drive and it just doesn't feel like home anymore.

    I have a really hard time feeling emotionally connected to God, especially lately, and it's made even worse when you feel like an alien or outsider in a church, like you were saying.

    Bleh.

    I'll pray for you guys if you pray for us? :)

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  19. I so appreciate your honesty. My husband and I grew up in the same church. And then left together when were newly weds to that church's plant. It felt like leaving home. Where as the hubs was excited about something new. I drug my feet. I didn't have a good attitude. But I supported my husband because I felt like it was important for him to be more spiritually encouraged than I seeing as he is suppose to be the head of the household.

    And something awesome happened. God changed my heart. And the things that bugged me about where we were going slowly bugged me less. Sure there were some changes made at the church as well, but overall through that time where I had the worst attitude and was so selfish was when God taught me the most about relying on him.

    Now we are equally as excited to go to church. (Maybe I am a little more cause they have FREE COFFEE and childcare...hehe)

    So all this to say, that while this very well might NOT be the right place for you, maybe it is and God is using this situation to teach you more about Him and even more about yourself. Whether you stay or go I pray that you will find Him, and seek Him daily, regardless of where or how.

    Hang in there. I'm praying for you.

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  20. I came across your page randomly a few months back and love reading it... it's like I'm reading something I would write. Talking about how you channel Monica... so me!! Haha.. but this one on religion.. totally relate, in fact going through it right now. It's hard growing up going to church with our families, loving them for giving us that oppurtunity and setting a good example for us, but at the same time realizing when we're older we didn't necessarily get so much out of it. I grew up in a Baptist Church, and after the church had a few issues, I left and had to find myself. It's taken a few years, but now attend a non-denom. church and when I leave, I feel like the pastor tuned everyone else out in the room and was talkng to me.. my soul. It's amazing! Don't loose faith or get discouraged.. it's all part of His plan. Best of luck to you and your husband in finding a good fit for you two... you'll be in my prayers!

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  21. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I can't even describe to you how much I love my church and the beliefs, doctrines and teachings that come with it. I KNOW that you and your husband would both appreciate the spirit felt at our meetings.
    If you would like to know more, email me at jcgardner825@juno.com

    Thank you for your blog! I love your words AND your pictures.
    Carolyn

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  22. I can definitely relate to you on this issue. I was raised in a catholic family, but most of my relatives only go to church on holidays or other sporadic holidays. As a child I never felt connected that that form of worship, to the point that I wasn't confirmed because it just didn't FEEL right.

    The most irritating part of it is that my family holds everyone to catholic standards without fully practicing the religion themselves. There are just so many things I disagree with...

    You did a beautiful job writing about this Kerri, and I'll keep you and your husband in my thoughts. I know you guys will find a common ground in your faith!

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  23. I'm a lurker coming out of hiding here...

    I just want you to know that I can definitely relate to your experiences. My husband and I both grew up in the same denomination and we both tend to worship in the same way (which you think would make it a little easier), but we cannot find a church in our community that we feel that we truly fit in. It is definitely frustrating not to have that community and to feel involved as a Christian, rather than just doing things on your own. I also want to start being more "spiritual" with my husband and sharing more of our faith together. Even though we are both Christians we often don't discuss those deep topics that I would love to talk about.

    So I'll send up a prayer that you will find a church you both feel comfortable in and will love, as well as sharing your faith with each other!

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  24. God bless you Richly and Abundantly :-)

    Love
    Esther

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  25. This is such a difficult situation. It is sometimes hard to find a church that can suit the both of you. If I wasn't able to par take in communion it would be really difficult for me.

    I just love the way you describe how you connect with God...it completely moved me and reminded me why I love Him so much.

    I truly hope you find a church that you will both be able to grow in your faith. I guess that's why I love my church. We have several services on a Sunday. Our morning services are more for 'family' the late afternoon is more 'traditional' and the night service is more young adult/youth oriented. So you can choose which ever service suits you best.

    I'll be praying for you both!

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  26. I think it is very difficult sometimes to come to the realisation that your views are not teh same as your husband's. But, coming from someone who is not even sure she is of the same faith as her husband (Islam vs christianity) I can tell you that belief in God alone is enough. Everyone's way of worshipping is slightly different,as I know from my husband's Muslim worship compared to some other people's.
    And I never went to church since I was little adn have always felt a very close connection to God,so I agree that church-going doesn't necessarily equate to religious feeling/experiences.
    I too have had the experience you speak of, with the non-denominational church. I went once t watch a friend play in their band and I left feeling as if I was on cloud nine. I just felt so amazingly uplifted and unbound from all the restrictions I'd experienced in the Catholic church growing up.

    And I think there is no need for you to apologise for your views;everything you write is very careful and measured and sweet. You really are an inspiration for me and for many others here I'm sure.
    xx

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  27. I love this! I may have to follow your lead and write a post about my own faith journey. Mine is quite similar to yours. I grew up Methodist and went to church almost every Sunday with my family. Then I went to a Baptist college where are my friends were super religious and I felt judged most of the time. Now that I'm on my own, I'm searching for a church where I feel comfortable yet challenged. I really hope I can find that place in Austin when I move back, but if not, I'll just keep looking. I wish you happiness and joy within your faith. You and Jay will find that balance of the perfect church home when the time is right.

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  28. This was a lovely post. I consider myself more spiritual than religious but I think its beautiful when people have found such an absolute faith and belief in their religion as you have. Finding a place where you feel complete peace is so important. I hope that you and your husband can find a place that works for both of you.

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  29. gosh, this post spoke straight to my heart very LOUDLY :) the tears won't stop coming either (thanks alot, jk) like so many of these comments say, i too have a story just like yours. & once you've experienced the presence of God in a place that feels so much like home, it is SO hard to ever find it again. & i get critical & judgemental as we look & look & look for that church that feels like home, & never seem to find it. it's almost like i miss God (does that make sense?) church was such a HUGE part of my life growing up, and now it's so lacking. and every single time i truly worship with my hands raised like youy talked about, i can't stop the tears. it's my most favorite time with God. so freeing.

    but all the while, God is teaching me, it's not about me. it's about Him. He never left..i can have that intimate feeling with Him all the time. anywhere. anytime. it's so dang hard sometimes.

    i could go on forever, but i just wanted to thank you for your candid heart..God is using you in this big ol' blogosphere in a powerful way, whether you know it or not.

    can't we all just start a church together? i mean, we're all in the same boat anyways? :)

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  30. I understand that...
    :/

    All I can say is that God, Your True Sheperd will guide you to a place where you and your husband can get closer to him and grow in your faith, for He takes care of His children ! :)

    I think you did a right thing by expressing the real thing you feel cuz it helps you to let it all out...

    Place everythin in HIs Hands and you'll hear His sweet voice in your heart

    :)

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  31. This is such a heartfelt post. I can tell you put your entire soul into it. Your writing is impeccable, & you stirred some emotions within me.

    While I can't share the way you feel currently -- if I had to have a label as to what I am, I would say that I'm agnostic -- I know those feelings all too well when I was younger. Between 8 & 17.

    I was VERY active in Church, too, growing up. I went to youth group every week & other church functions. I did AWANA when I was 8, & I went to church camp every year. Those experiences were amazing for me. Being surrounded by nature, with nothing but your bible & your friends... amazing. I miss those times, because things were much simpler then. & the church that I was apart of was my home. If I could go back to those times where I believed in something with all of my might like that, I would.

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  32. I just wanted to say that your post was beautiful. I pray that you and Jay find a church that meets both of your needs. Its very hard to find just the right place that makes you feel like home. But once you find it, you just know! Good luck on your journey!

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  33. I've read your blog for a while, but it wasn't until this post that I felt compelled to share anything.

    I grew up in a Baptist church and I often felt like I was following a set of rules... it was very legalistic. My senior year of high school the guy I was dating took me to a non-denominational church and it was so different! I actually enjoyed the sermons... and I think it broke my mother's heart. I went away to college and thought I'd stop going to church altogether, but somehow, that didn't happen. The church I wound up at is the one I'm still at today, with my husband. It's a non-denominational church focused on studying the bible. It's very community based, but not so legalistic, they want you to grow in community, not follow rules.

    That being said, when I go back to my parent's church, I'm amazed at how much has changed. i like to think I changed, but I think a little of both... me and the way the church is run.

    I'm sure you'll find somewhere you are both comfortable in. One reason I like non-denominational churches is that often tie the traditional worship in with the "new."

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  35. This is so beautiful- I went to my first church service (United church) this easter and I was more nervous than I'd ever been. It was silly. I felt like there were going to be handshakes I didn't know and I would give us all away.

    It can be SO hard in life to find a place where we fit, where things really resonate with us. Trying to find that place in your spirituality sounds extremely hard. You guys will make it to that place, especially with hearts that are as open as yours seem to be.

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  36. You're a beautiful soul. I know some my see me as anti-Christianity because I question so much so openly. But the truth is, when you get to the absolute CORE of what it means to be Christian, and who Christ was, and WHAT HE DID? Heck yes, I'll hop on that train. But there's too much static in the message and too much noise. That's why I, personally, am disenchanted with organized religion as a whole. I can't subscribe to something that shoves what I should BELIEVE and FEEL down my throat. (Hi, I grew up Catholic, is it obvious?) Yes, I am a very moral person and I believe doing good to others should be our number one priority. Yes, I believe we should love everyone we encounter and cast no judgments. Do I think I'm going to rot in hell if I slip up? No, but I'm not going to confess my sins to a priest, either.

    ...I think I just need to write my own post about this instead of ramble on your blog. But thank you for giving me a jumping-off point. In a nutshell, what you believe is SO incredibly personal and I would die for your (and my) right to believe it.

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  37. I have a huge amount of respect for you after reading this post. I'm sure you were nervous about posting it, but I think you did a great job. :)

    My family and I belong to a Lutheran Church in VA. I'm pretty sure that you can still participate in communion at my church, even if you're not a member. If I happen to be wrong about that, you're definitely welcome to come up to the communion table for prayer and to share the experience with the rest of the church. Our church is very welcoming and friendly. Maybe it's just a matter of finding the right church? Best of luck to you and Jay. I hope you can find a comfortable place for both of you to worship. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  38. Thank you for writing this. It's very beautiful and honest. I haven't been to church in years, to be honest, maybe one day I'll go back. No real reason, but no need, no feeling of wanting to go or anything. I have a huge respect for those that do have a relationship with God. Maybe one day I'll have that again.

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  39. I guess it's time for me to de-lurk, like so many others have. I hope you're never afraid/shy/nervous to talk about your faith because you did a beautiful job.

    One thing I thought of as I was reading this, do you and your husband pray together? If the two of you make it a point to pray together on a regular basis the Lord will help you find a church that suits you both, and you'll have the added benefit of growing spiritually together in the meantime. Church "shopping" is hard, but together you two will figure it out.

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  40. Wow. This post brought out a lot of lurkers. Including me.

    First of all, I love your blog; I love the way your write. And the fact that you shared your faith makes it all that much better. You are very courageous.

    I'm sorry that you are not allowed to take part in communion at your church, because you are not a member. I've never understood that rule.

    And I've also experienced "church frustration" in my life, not too long ago. I know how difficult it is to be attending a church that you don't feel is the right fit.

    I'll be praying for you guys, that you find something that is perfect for both of you, and in the meantime, that you are ever bringing your hurts and frustrations to God; that you keep connecting with Him in that personal way that sustains you and lifts you up.

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  41. This is the single most beautiful post I've read for a long time.

    It's all too seldom that bloggers post about their faith in a way that is non abrasive and challenging.

    Hubs and I have the exact same problem. Hubs's father was a baptist pastor, and thus Hubs is rather traditional and VERY baptist. I grew up in a non denominational church and was very active in the church until I moved to South Africa for ministry. Once I got here my spirtual growth declined exponentially. Suddenly, Baptist churches were the only churches with any type of Biblical doctrine. But with atttending a baptist church, very little emotion is allowed to be expressed.

    Not to bash on Baptists. It's just not for me.

    It's been so long since I've been fed properly. and I am hungry.

    In a small way, this post gave me some nourishment. Thank you.

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  42. Props for speaking openly about your faith - it is a tough thing to do for sure. I have a hard time because I never want to push my beliefs on anyone because religion and one's relationship with God is soooo personal and cannot be forced. What works for one may not work for another. It is like there are languages of religion as there are languages of love (reference www.fivelovelanguages.com)

    I did have a few thoughts to share in reference to the policy on communion at that church you attended, and this is in no way meant to offend or be shared in a negative tone. In some congregation/faiths there are things that are consecrated by the members. Because they are made sacred by those members, they want to keep it sacred by only letting those who made a covenant or promise to respect whatever it is, i.e. communion, take part in it. It is not that they want to leave anyone out, it is that they want to keep the act sacred. I hope that makes sense. In my faith (LDS) we have temples where a sacred worship takes place. A recommend from a bishop is required to attend and only members of my faith are able to get them. What happens in the temple is not so much a secret as much as it is so sacred that we don't share what happens to avoid any blasphemous anything. I don't know if that is the reason for that church you attended, but I just wanted to share a possibility of the other side.

    I love reading your blog and appreciate the honesty in your posts. Best of luck finding the church that accommodates your religion language.

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  43. I will be praying that you and your Hubby find your church. God already knows where it is and it is waiting for you. :)

    I attend a Four Square Church or you may want to try a Congregational.

    I hope you can once again feel the freedom and joy that comes with opening oneself to the presence of God during worship.

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  44. My grandparents are 100% catholic as far as practice goes, but they never pushed it on anyone else in our family. My parents were very laid back (as yours were). We did the whole church thing when I was growing up, but it was never forced.

    We were very involved in our church because of the community. It was a small town church with a bunch of children of all ages and that worked out well for us. We did plays, vacation bible school, youth group, festivals, road trips, dinners, etc. I loved the sense of "family" within the church members.

    Then something really horrible happened to my mom involving the preacher of the church that we trusted so much. Needless to say, we stopped going to that church. I didn't know why until much later when I was old enough to understand.

    My mom is still personally religious, as in she prays to God, she is spritual, but she (and myself) believe that you don't necessarily have to "park in a garage, to be a car" if you get what I'm saying.

    I believe a lot(not all!) of people feel they "have" to go to a church to be a good Christian (or whatever religion) and that's not true. God knows you believe in Him, worship Him, pray to Him, and the relationship you have with Him is really all that matters. Church is for community, and if you want that, I say that's great. But just because you go to church, doesn't make you the perfect Christian.

    The reasons you stated why you wanted to find a good church are so great. I love that feeling, too. I miss having that group of people who brought out the spiritual side of you. But there's also a part of me that hates how close minded a lot of it can be, especially with my "life style", it can get kind of complicated. What it seems like on the outside, is not what it is on the inside.

    Megan and I love the sense of community in church's and would love to try a universal or non denominational church one day. It's just getting the courage to stand up for yourself and not be put down by the stares and judgement, and just hope (and pray) that people accept and love you for who you are.

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  45. And PS? If you got a nickle for every time I typed the word church? You'd have 60 cents.

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  46. Thank you for sharing this. I loved reading it. I've been married for 28 years and can tell you that the churches my husband and I have attended have each had their own identity. Sometimes I feel more involved in the church than he does and other times, vice versa. But mostly I relate to feeling left out.
    I grew up going to church only occasionally. Attendance was an event, not a habit. After 30 years of church membership and attendance it still doesn't often feel natural, usually an act of obedience. I hope that doesn't sound cold. That act of obedience every week is usually rewarded with moments of spiritual transcendence.
    I don't doubt my relationship with God, just where I fit in, sometimes.

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  47. As a religious studies major and someone who has been both super religious and super annoyed with religion - I LOVE talking about faith. It really breaks my heart when people have negative experiences with Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter! But I suppose since I am a Christian, I feel a bit more ownership in that particular faith.). It equally breaks my heart when Christianity is used to justify hate, though.

    I'm getting tangential here, so I will prevent that and just say that I'm so appreciative that you shared this story. And I hope that others will share their stories, too. Thanks for not being (too) nervous about wearing your faith on your sleeve. :)

    (You know I adore you, right?)

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  48. I don't often comment simply because I have to leave my feed to comment and that's like "trying to enter communist north korea" here at work. Your post reminded me so much of how difficult it was for my husband and I to find a home church we both loved. We were married at a young age similar to you, (21/23) and visited SO many churches in the early part of our marriage and had countless disagreements.

    We have been at our church for 5 years now, and we had some long stints at others...but this is home.

    This is where I have know peace when I walk through the doors. This is where our marriage has grown to reflect truly what god intends in a marriage.

    It's a Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills (ca). I love our pastor who moves and inspires me and scolds me when I need it. Feel free to look it up it's a bit aways from you but, its non-denominational.

    I wish you the best of luck and you will find that church your looking for -- Rosie

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  49. My fiance and I are going through the same thing. I was raised Catholic, and although I haven't practiced in a while, it's hard for me to feel comfortable attending a different church. He grew up Separate Baptist (a very conservative Baptist sect) and he and his father were both ministers at one time. We have been looking for a church where we can both feel comfortable. Although we have started attending a non-denominational church that we love, I still feel guilty sometimes about it. And when I get up and go to church and he won't, it's disappointing, because I feel that we are both compromising some things. Still, i feel it is the right choice for use to find a church somewhere in between our values where we can relate to the content and sermons.

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  50. This is a lovely honest post that could easily be describing my own faith. Well done! I know what you mean about the church thing, it can be hard to find the right place for you - we're lucky that after graduating we stayed in our uni town and could keep going to the same church. Keep trying different places, and be open minded about where you try - our church is Anglican but it's so chilled and upbeat, it's not at all formal or high church.

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  51. I loved reading this. Thank you for sharing it! I don't usually read and rarely ever comment on things people write about their religion or spiritual beliefs, but this isn't pushy or mean. It's honest, and it feels clean and pure. So I'm going to read it again.

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  52. I loved how honest this post was! One of the things I loved about the church I grew up in was that everyone was able to take part in Communion, I went to a Catholic church once and wasn't allowed to take part, and it was pretty upsetting.
    I hope you find that place where you and Jay can grow spiritually together!

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  53. I'm going to echo a few people and say thy I haven't heard of Lutheran churches, at least in the Midwest, prevent non-Lutherans or non-members from taking communion. I've heard the Catholic church is like that. It saddens me to hear that a Lutheran church would deny churchgoers participation in a sacrement, especially one that involves the body and the blood of Jesus.

    I hope you and Jay find the church and the type of worship that you desire. I'm sure in time you will grow in your faith together. If it's important to you, it should be important to him.

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  54. GREAT post!
    Religion, on my blog, is a tough one for me to write about too. Not because I'm ashamed, but because the world tends to attack the things that are hardest to explain. you did a great job, though.

    In *MY* opinion, NO church should tell you that you aren't allowed to take the sacrament / communion. religion forgets that they don't get to determine YOUR relationship with God and Jesus... That's up to you and Them.

    I hope you and Jay find something that matches what you need and want. I'm LDS (mormon) and, after doing A LOT of searching for other religions, found this church to bring me and my family so much peace. I couldn't imagine another way.

    I hope you find that too.

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  55. i love how honest you are, kerri. i've been wondering when you'd make a post about faith :)

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  56. This is such an honest post and I am so proud of you for beings so brave to write it.

    I connected with it in a way you wouldn't believe. I was raised Catholic...but like you...went out on my own during high school and discovered a new way to worship God...with lots of music and fellowship and actual discussion. I felt alive!

    My husband was raised Southern Baptist...so we now attend a non-denominational church. They are straight from the bible teachers...which we both love...and they sing awesome songs...which I love. It where I connect the most and what I look forward to all week.

    Seriously...could I just get a whole Sunday of songs??

    But anyway...I know you two will find a place that suits you both. Churches are hard to find, but keep searching and God will lead you to where you are supposed to be!

    Hugs!

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  57. I would agree with the second viewpoint of Megan's. Some mentioned that some Lutheran churches have open communion. I believe that's mainly with regard to ELCA churches. I also think that the Lutheran churches which mainly practice *closed* communion are WELS. As I understand it, the LCMS practices *close* communion, which asks that you can answer a few questions in the strong affirmative, parts of Lutheran doctrine. LCMS: if you're a member, you can commune within the synod. WELS: you can commune if you're a member of that particular church. ELCA: They don't really care. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

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  58. I guess I will echo the many comments above me saying that 1) I have been reading your blog for some time now & think your writing is fantastic. So honest, and I can relate in SO many ways, it's crazy. And comforting to know people feel the same way I do.

    2) I grew up in Catholic Church and felt exactly the same way as you. Like I wasn't getting anything from it. I never felt the "relationship" with God. Since I turned about 18 I've experienced going to all kinds of different churches - Pentecostal, Baptist, non-denominational. I've always know that God was real, but now I feel Him. Now, I am struggling with picking a "home" church. I just hop around. But the one I am drawn to the most is the one that my boyfriend will go with me & actually enjoys it. He didn't grow up in church at all. His only experience is from a Southern Baptist church with his Gma when he was younger. I don't think I could choose a church that he did not like because I am wanting to marry him one day & to me, our marriage will only be strong with God's influence with us. It's hard because I think he is still unsure and doesn't quite understand the whole church-"I love Jesus" thing. I know he'll figure it out on God's time - just as I'm sure you will figure it all out with you & your husband and choosing a church. My suggestion is for you and your husband to just keep looking around. You will find one that you both love & can grow together. With God all things are possible, right? :)

    Keep up the wonderful posts!

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  59. I am a Christian, the "denomination" I am is Baptist, although I feel Christian should be just fine. =D
    I feel the same frustrations. Sometimes I feel "not spiritual enough", especially because I go to a Private, Christian university. I feel that if I dont go on one of our school sponsored mission trips or other things that I am not doing.
    Either way, I hope and honestly pray for you and Jay to get into a good church for you both, just try not to get discouraged.
    I havent even found a church that I am in love with down in Riverside where I go to college.
    I praise God that you and Jay are brothers and sisters in Christ.
    =D

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  60. such beautiful and honest writing! thank you for sharing. my husband and i both became christians in high school through a youth ministry called young life. we struggled in college and post-college to find a church we liked which at times make our faith feel very rocky. when we moved to socal in december we found an amaaaaazing church where we really feel at home and connect with. the teachings are solid. the people are real. the atmosphere is relaxed, not a "showy" church. it's absolutely restored my faith in the church and community. i hope that you'll find something similar.

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  61. What a moving post. I admire how spiritually self-aware you are. I grew up with parents that didn't want to take us to church due to their experience of the Catholic church when young. Before I turned 16, the only time I had been in a church was for a wedding and funeral. I obviously didn't have the whole God thing down. From there I began to try to find God on my own. I would attend church with my friends on occasion, ask questions to people about what all this was about, who was this Jesus man you speak of and why do I need him when I've only known life without him? This was nothing short of a strange period I went through.
    Today I am back on my spiritually journey. I've found a non-denominational church that is local that I adore. The best part? I can relate to the paster every Sunday. He moves me and motivates me and makes me excited about waking up every Sunday to attend this weekends service. He makes God seem real and meaningful and relates his words to our everyday life. I now feel like I can have a relationship with this man too that everyone else I knew so well. I couldn't be more opposite of you on the spiritually spectrum, but your post moved me. Thank-you for being so brave to talk about this.

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  62. I'm right with you (and everyone else it seems!), my husband and I have been struggling to find a place where our religious views can meet.

    I think what you say about the difference between "faith" and "religion" are extremely important. A thought that has really comforted me is this: My faith belongs to myself and God. Religion is separate. I guess what I'm saying is that as you go on this journey of finding the right religion, God is still with you, still loves you.
    You are not ever alone!

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  63. I am going through the very some of the very same things as far as church is concerned. I am having a hard time finding a church that is right for me. I haven't been doing the best in searching and really need to get back into the habit of looking for a church I can call Home.

    I know in my heart that God still loves me and he knows my ways. I also know that I will spend an eternity with God. But I also need to find a church for me to grow and thrive. Maybe I have high standards for a church, but I have been to a few awesome churches out of state and they too were non denominational, like the one you mentioned. Hopefully I'll be able to find a great church soon.

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  64. GREAT post. Wow.

    I can identify because my husband and I have been going through the same type of church-wandering for the past few years. We were both raised Catholic, but felt the same way you described (empty/detached), so we started looking into other denominations and non-denominational churches. Meanwhile, we had a son, and we reverted back to the Catholic church for his baptism... and now we are expecting again, and will do the same thing. I guess after that we will seriously try to find a good "fit" somewhere. It's hard when you crave a spiritual connection and can't find the right outlet. Plus, now that we have children, we want them to have a strong spiritual foundation too. I hope that at HOME we can give them a good start, and supplement that with church---somewhere....

    Best wishes to you two!

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  65. Mm.. I've gone to non-denominational churches all my life, so I can't say I know how other denominations do things, but I do hope you and your husband find a church that's right for both of you! Much love and God bless!

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  66. First, I just want to thank you for writing this. It's refreshing to read about how other people feel about religion.

    I grew up as a Baptist, but I never went to a Baptist church. (Odd? I thought so, too.) When I was young, I went to a Methodist church, but the only thing I remember is the spaghetti dinners on Wednesday night.

    In high school, I started going to a non-denominational youth group. I absolutely loved it. If I decided on going back to a church, I'd probably pick non-denominational over anything. My husband, however, grew up going to a Baptist church, and thought I don't mind the people or the actual church (I mean, we got married there), I can't ever connect with what the preacher is saying. I feel lost the entire time, and my heart isn't in it. (Plus, most everyone that goes to the church is over thirty, so it's hard to connect with anyone.)

    Anyway, I hope you and Jay can find that compromise. I hope you're able to grow together in your faith, and I hope you can both worship the way you want.

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  67. I completely understand your desire to connect with Jay on a more spiritual level, because Kenny and I are dealing with that now. We know that it's an important part of both of our lives, but it's like when we're alone we get shy and embarrassed of the way we interact with the Lord. We recently began trying to pray together- out loud. I know! It's so scary and weird and awful at first. But it draws us so much closer together, being able to hear each other's hearts on such an intimate level. We haven't been very consistent in our efforts, but when we do come through and commit to praying together as a couple, God has richly rewarded us each time. Sometimes I feel him calling us back into that place, and it's such a sweet feeling to know that He is wanting me, desiring me, and seeking me, along with my husband.
    Just an idea or whatever. And I've found that if I think of church more as a commitment to God, as obedience to him, as understanding that he is wherever I take him, I can usually listen and be still in a service that isn't my "style" and still see how God works there. I'm not quite sure that Christianity is always about being comfortable, although as a VERY lazy Christian, I sometimes begin to believe that. (And that's not to say that your spiritual needs are not legitimate. Not at all saying that!) Maybe if both you and Jay pray hard together about being open to the way in which God moves, you can find a place where you can both find your needs met. I'll pray for you guys, too!
    I hope this wasn't too long or preachy. Not my intention. But just some encouragment that you guys are not the only couple dealing with trying to mesh two different people into one flesh! And this may have already been said in the 60-some odd comments you've already received. I loved your post and how candid you are about your life. Thank you!
    (Feel free to ignore this. Oh my God, maybe you should!)

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  68. This is a great post, dear. I too know the peace that comes from finding a church where you feel you truly belong. But sadly, those days are behind me, and that pastor has moved on to "greener pastures." I hope that we can both find where we belong in our next stage of our spiritual journeys. Also, I understand how you want to grow with your husband in a spiritual way--and I want that same thing with Andrew. However, though not completely closed-minded, religion is not a part of his life. (Though he used to recite scripture from memory as a boy!) I hope we can still survive as a strong family unit, even if this one important part of my life is not something he can share in. xoxo

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  69. thank you for sharing this part of yourself!!! I feel like I know you so much better now... what a person believes is so much a part of who they are.

    I'll be praying that you and Jay can find the perfect church for your lives of faith. It is so important to have that... I think we hunger for it because God created us to need it!

    love.

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  70. I have been on vacation and missed reading your post! I was just catching up on them all, and had a lovely time, full of smiles. :)
    I grew up in an AG church. My husband and I are going to a non-denominational church right now, and it is really perfect for us.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings about Christianity. Mine are much the same and it is nice to know there are other people with the same beliefs as you.
    I really hope that you and Jay find a good church that you both love very soon!

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  71. I am blown away by your sincerity and how genuine this post is. I really understand and relate to what you wrote. I was born and raised a Christian, but really got serious about God about 7 years ago. I began to attend my Youth Group and there I just grew and grew, and eventually I began serving in various ministries. Some of my bestest friends were found there, and I just really loved how I had such an amazing Saviour and that He accepted me just as I am!

    I was so on fire for God, but I went through a horrible phase when I began to doubt Him and even His existence. I struggled and cried for many weeks and months, until one day God showed Himself faithful when I was really at the lowest point of my spiritual life. I think the key here was to cling on to Jesus, even when you don't feel like it or just doubt. But I had tasted and seen, so I knew He was real. I just needed to see that in a whole new light.

    I had been attending that church my whole life (my parents attended that church, too) but this year, I felt that I had reached a plateau in my spiritual growth there, and after much struggle, I felt that it was time to step down from my ministries (I was a youth leader) and move on. So I did. I 'wrestled' with God a lot (because of all the precious years of serving and growing there, it was hard to let go) but there's no point struggling when He leads you on a different path that you intended; it's always for our own good. So I gave in and found a church abour 20 minutes away from my home. I've been attending this church for around 3 months now and it's been nothing but GREAT! Every week I am given deeper insight about Jesus, about His character, about His heart.

    I agree with what you said - going to church doesn't affect ones spirituality, but it's important to be in an environment that encourages and helps us grow. :) My boyfriend is Lutheran, and while they're not as traditional as the one you've experienced, it's still very different and the both of us are trying to meet in the middle as well. He also serves in his church, so on Sundays he attends his church while I attend mine. We meet in the middle by going to cell group together on Fridays, hosted by my church members. It's important for couples to grow in the Lord together, so I'm really encouraged that you want that with your husband, too! :) I pray that you two will find a place where you both can grow spiritually and as a couple, but in the meantime, continue to nurture that faith! God bless, love!

    xx

    p/s: I'm so sorry - I got a little carried away. Hope you haven't fallen asleep reading this uber-long comment. Haha.

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  72. Wow, *this daisy, I loved your comment :)
    It is so inspiring and uplifting to hear of your journey.
    If you have any great web pages you'd recommend for me (as someone trying to find Jesus again after a few years of flailing about) please email me at swillou2@yahoo.com
    Sarah

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  73. I just found you via the book club email. :)

    I just wanted to tell you that I love your writing. This post, especially, speaks to me....for so many reasons. My mother is Catholic, my father was Baptist. I was raised predominantly in the Baptist church. I've attended many churches of many different denominations and haven't found one that speaks to me. Even though I do believe that religion is a very personal thing, lately I've been feeling the need to feel that joyful connectedness with a Christian community. So, I am now searching for a non-denominational church in the Los Angeles area. I know I'll find something great! I just need to keep searching.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and your feelings. I'd love to hear an update!

    See you at book club! :)

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  74. i think we are maybe soul mates on this issue.

    i grew up in a super conservative baptist church where we sang hymns every week, had to wear dresses, had an altar call, got the "oh...you're not a believer" frowns, and had closed communion. because of this, for years i thought of religion as something you do, rather than a relationship meant to be experienced.

    once i went to college i had the chance to test of the waters of my faith and tried the non-denomenational thing and found that i loved it and had a similar experience to yours.

    my husband and i have now found a church that we love where they combine some old traditions that i love (like the occasional hymn) with less focus on rules and more focus on relationships.

    you did a beautiful job of conveying your faith in a non-judgemental way yet without wavering in your own personal convictions. i'm always scared about putting it out there as far as my faith is concerned, but maybe i'll be a little less scared now that i know that it can be done without offending others.

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  75. i also grew up in the lutheran church. and when i was starting high school, i just wasn't feeling it anymore. i started going to an evangelical church with a neighbor and loved it. it was more contemporary and while they were a little stricter about certain things, i enjoyed it a lot more.

    {i don't recall people of our church not being able to take communion though.}

    when i left my home and moved away i wanted to find a church but it never happened. then i moved again, and it still didn't happen. now that i'm back home, i'm still not going anywhere regularly. my boyfriend is not religious at all, and my family goes to the same church since we were born. it's hard to find a new place that you feel comfortable in in every sense of the way.

    best of luck in your search. i admire your continuity and passion. xoxo.

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  76. In hope of assisting Church seekers across the nation, we have recently launched http://www.ChurchRater.com. It is a new website ran by a team including a former Pastor and a current Duke Divinity student that allows church seekers and members to rate and discuss their experiences at churches all across the country.

    ChurchRater is a combination of things: it's 'Yelp' for churches where visitors can rate and discuss their experiences at church, but it's also a social network for church goers and seekers, too, a place where people can dialog about their faith and their lives

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  77. I love the fact that Romans 8:28 is at the bottom of every page =)

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  78. Hi again! You left a lovely comment on my blog recently, responding to one I left on yours a while back. (It meant a lot to me, actually, that you took the time to do that so thank you!)

    Anyway, I'm just relaxing and checking out a bit more of your blog and I thought this was so interesting and honest and I really enjoyed reading it. Just wondering, have you and your husband found a home church since this post was written?

    Another thing I like about your blog is the fact that you don't post a lot of pictures. You have a large audience due to your honest, clear, and thought provoking writing and you don't have to fill your posts with pictures to entertain. That is really something!

    I hope this comment finds you well :-)

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  79. I just found your blog and really like it. I felt that I had to comment when I saw this post. I grew up in the Lutheran church and in fact, my husband is a newly ordained Lutheran pastor in Southern California. I'm sorry that you had an exclusive experience in a Lutheran church. There are different bodies of the Lutheran church. The Missouri Synod does not allow communion for 'outsiders', but the ELCA (which is what I am) allows anyone to take communion if they so desire. There are definitely some ELCA congregations that seem to be stuck in one liturgy, but in my experience as a Lutheran young adult, many congregations have a mix of traditional and contemporary music and worship styles. Maybe I'm biased, but my husband is a really good, relevant, current preacher :)

    You did a great job of expressing a frustration that I think a lot of people feel with religion and finding where you fit in. Thanks for being so open and I hope that you've found a good fit for both of you!

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  80. 1) I love that one of your labels for this post is "Jesus is my homeboy." Because he is mine too! THE BEST GUY EVER, RIGHT?
    2) When I was reading this, I totally missed my Jesus colouring books. I also missed Noah's Ark. Because who doesn't love having two of every animal to colour? If you messed up and it looked ugly, you could just say that that was the boy.
    3) When I continued reading, my heart literally broke in half. I can't imagine having such a huge conflict in a marriage, such as how you worship. But you made it pretty clear that it's not something that has affected your marriage which is awesome. I know that my church, even though I'm not married and only 18, has made me feel so much closer to God. It has also brought me much closer to my family. My church believes that the relationships we form here are to last forever and knowing that... Well, it helps me get through the days that I get in a fight with my sister or one of the days that my brothers just won't leave me alone. I know that families can be brought together by building their relationships on the teaching of Jesus Christ.
    If you want to talk more about religion and Jesus being our main man, please feel free to contact me.
    GREAT BLOG! You have a new follower :)

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