Posted in Church, Faith, Overwhelmed

Saying No

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Oftentimes, it’s difficult to utter that tiny little word, “no”.

I ponder this shortly after I’ve agreed to yet another task I should not be tackling. But it’s too late. I’ve committed myself, stretching myself too thin once again. In an effort to please everyone, I end up exhausted, weary, and longing to hide from all who pursue me.

I somehow pull myself together. I trudge forward, determined to finish what I’ve started. When it’s done, I vow to never step into that trap again.

I repeat this cycle until a startling realization hits me: in my quest to please so many, I’ve failed to give my best to anyone. The opportunities I shouldn’t follow consume me, leaving me too tired or busy for those I should be pursuing.

This is no way to live. Yet, this is exactly where so many of us reside, day after day. Coming up for air only to have the weight of our to-do lists push us under once again. Spending a good part of our lives in this place of trying hard to please others, of rarely saying no, of feeling guilty when we do.

But slowly, somewhat reluctantly, I am learning it’s okay to say no – and it’s possible to do so in a truthful, yet kind and loving manner.

The kicker is this … before we can appropriately answer “yes” or “no”, we must have an inkling as to what it is we should be doing.

So how do we distinguish between what God is calling us to do, and those other “good” things pulling for our time and attention?

How do we guard against doing things simply out of habit or obligation rather than the desire God has placed within our hearts?

Although I have yet to figure it all out, nothing has helped me more than time spent with God. Reading his word. Studying it. Meditating upon it. Taking my options to Him in prayer. Listening intently for His response.

After all, it makes sense that our Creator, who expects His goodness to illuminate through us, would certainly direct us to the good He intends us to do.

And therein lies peace.

Rather than focusing on when to say “no”, let’s begin praying for -and searching out- our “yes” opportunities. And as they are revealed, let’s grab hold, moving forward with the peace and joy that comes from knowing we’re doing exactly what we should be doing.

That, my sisters, is freedom.

Posted in Church, Everyday Life, Faith

Welcoming the Unchurched

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What message are we communicating to our unchurched neighbors this Easter?

I hope it’s one of hope and love and acceptance, but when I read some of the church signs I’ve seen recently, I can’t help but wonder.

Signs that suggest that coming to church on Easter is a bad thing – if you don’t show up on other Sundays as well.

Those signs make my heart hurt for those who will read them and feel shamed by them. Perhaps they were thinking about attending church this Easter, but now feel unwelcome. I can’t say that I blame them.

When did we become a people who criticize others when their church attendance doesn’t match up with ours? When did we lose sight of the wonderful opportunity Resurrection Sunday brings? The opportunity to extend God’s love, grace, and compassion to those who aren’t sitting in our services regularly. What a tragic mistake on our part.

I suppose this matter resonates with me because there was a time when I also attended church only on special occasions. I have family members who still do this. I also have family and friends who never attend, not even on Easter. How thrilled I would be to have them join me at church sometime, anytime, even if it’s only once a year.

My challenge to you, my fellow church-goers, is this …

When you notice unfamiliar faces in church this Easter, give them a sincere welcome. Silently lift up a prayer on their behalf. Rejoice in your heart that they are there. Who knows, maybe your kindness will make them feel as if they belong, or at the very least, fill them with the hope of belonging. Maybe your hospitality will tear down the wall guarding their heart, enabling them to breathe easier and hear a fresh word from God.

Maybe they’ll experience enough goodness to bring them back. If not next week, maybe the week after. Or three months from now. Or next Easter. Regardless of when, or even if they return to a specific church or building, the love and truth shown to them on Easter Sunday will not be forgotten.

But before this message can be conveyed within the church, it must be conveyed outside the church. On the signs mounted in our parking lots. In our attitudes as we talk and do business within our communities. In our actions as we choose to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Let’s work on creating a message that sounds something like this —

Yes, we are open on Sundays. Won’t you please come and join us?