Christianity, Emotional Health, Faith, Family, Growing Up, Health, Hope, Marriage, Prayer, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Trust, Uncategorized

Sunday Morning…

I can’t think of a better way to start a Sunday morning than getting to spend time on the porch with my lovely wife. The heat may be here to stay in North Texas, but the porch is shaded and inviting. On morning’s like these, it’s not too hot to enjoy yet, so we lingered a little longer and soaked up the gorgeous morning…

This past Spring has brought more wildlife around our home than usual. The cardinals are in abundance this year, which I take to be a blessing. The old folks say that a cardinal in the yard is a visit from a loved one from “the other side”. If that’s true, our whole family is back together again. They’ve been in abundance this year.  The young mockingbird, who has claimed our yard as his own, flew down to see what we were up to and then flew off to the pecan tree to sing and seek a mate. A toad hopped across the porch chasing the bugs that hang out in the bed of wildflowers in front. Apparently, we have a new opossum family frequenting our backyard. A raccoon (which I pray does not figure out how to get in our attic) drops by just to aggravate the dogs late at night. A host of other bird species, the plethora of squirrels, and the occasional bobcat or coyote sighting ever remind us how blessed we are to have found our little home here.

I think about all the years I went about without seeing any of these simple pleasures – the birds, the wildlife, the flowers, the neighborhood. I was so self-centered, I couldn’t see anything beyond my own needs and pursuits. Even when I tried to do something for someone else it was to gain points toward something I want. I remember thinking my Dad was so silly because he was so intrigued and grateful for the little things in life. Now I’m becoming him. My kids laugh at me because I find myself doing the same things that he did. Go figure…

After my time on the porch I came in to go online for my church’s Sunday morning service. I still haven’t ventured back inside the building itself (baby steps…), but I try to attend online since my friend Rusty is the “online minister” and a couple of friends are hosts. I enjoy the insights that are shared “from the pulpit”. Still, one of my biggest frustrations is the one-sided communication that is called “preaching”. It’s probably a personal thing. I have never responded well to preaching. It always seemed like a way to remind me I wasn’t good enough. Then again, maybe I’m just one of those folks who doesn’t take to auditory learning. Perhaps it’s from far too many years of hearing “do as I say, not as I do”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t limited to preachers. I guess I’m just a “touchy-feely” kind of guy when it comes to learning lessons…

I’m fully aware that I bring a lot of baggage to the table when discussing “church”. My experiences were not always positive and usually left me with more self-loathing than when I got there. That’s why I love recovery meetings so much. They allow me to start peeling back all those layers of erroneous understanding about God and begin seeing him in a new light. Heck, they didn’t even say I had to call him God; a Higher Power would suffice. Besides, I’ve come to believe he doesn’t care what you call him. He just seems to love our conversations.

Sometimes I’m jealous of those who had no religious upbringing. The “God or “Higher Power” thing comes somewhat easier for them. When they experience the liberation of grace, God isn’t such a foreign concept. They experience God in fresh, new ways so it’s not surprising they find him to be loving and caring, instead of judgmental and pissed off all the time. It has taken me a long time to figure that out. My family and friends loaded me down with some well-meaning, but serious misconceptions about God, and it has taken me many steps along the path to get rid of the onus. Now I finally get it – His burden is light and a real pleasure to walk with…

Still, I’m grateful for the family (and community) I was raised in. While their view of God and grace were somewhat suspect, their motives and moral education were always well-intentioned. I never learned about (or experienced) grace until I found recovery. I think that’s why recovery meetings feel more like I always thought church was supposed to be – a bunch of ordinary people who have found a relationship with a God of their understanding, still don’t have all the answers to life, aren’t afraid to say so, and are finding out it’s okay to be human.  Like the Rabbi says, “Those who have been forgiven much, love much”. I like “churches” like that…

I’m grateful that my baggage has gotten much lighter over the last few years. I’ve been open to the guidance of my predecessor’s in this life and sometimes I get to learn from their mistakes and not make them mine. I’m grateful that I’m able to hear what I need to hear and that I’m able to see the beauty of the world around me, whatever the situation is. I know none it would’ve happened had I not been around a bunch of folks who, if I may paraphrase the Apostle James, “confessed their struggles to one another so that the healing may begin”.

I guess that’s why I struggle with ‘church’ as most of us know it. I seem to learn better when I hear others be honest about their struggles. They go through the same things as I do and through our sharing our experience we collectively find the strength and hope to make it another day. I just don’t sense that when I’m sitting in worship services. I used to think that was “just” me, but I know a lot of folks for whom that’s also true. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

Maybe it’s time we re-evaluate what constitutes ‘church’. That’s probably way above my pay grade so for now, I’ll just have ‘church’ every morning here on the porch. Worship usually starts after I wake up, sit down on the porch, and have my first cup of coffee. I get to see the goodness of a loving God all over my front yard. Maybe tonight, I’ll make a recovery meeting. Church isn’t just for Sunday’s anymore…

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