Together. Always

This year I’ve come to understand what it means to be content. Not complacent but being able to look at my life and smile truthfully. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, in fact this has been one of if not the most challenging year of my life. I’ve had to balance multiple commitments with work, church, fellowship and a thesis that may have robbed me of most of my brain cells and self esteem.

What’s responsible for this contentment has honestly been the faith community I’ve found myself in. Not only did I find a women’s fellowship which has taken me leaps and bounds over the limits I had put on myself and my relationship with God, but I’ve found a community of young people where Christ knits us together in love and fellowship. Both groups have lifted my confidence in myself and have helped me address my own insecurities. They’re not the reason I’m writing though.

I watch a lot of faith conference talks, apologetics and sermons on YouTube and on occasion I’ll look into the comments. YouTube comments 80% of the time contain the less attractive traits of humanity but these video are almost always filled with encouraging comments and thought filled discussions. On one such occasion there was a plea from a 13 year old boy who explained how he kept trying to follow Jesus and be good and holy but he felt like he was never good enough for God’s love. My heart broke for him because if you’ve ever been accused of being too hard on yourself this boy was exactly that.

The response was the most honest out pouring of love for this boy who felt so alone and so persecuted in his own heart. I commented as well and afterward he wrote to me in thanks. I told him that I could empathise with his fears and that the response from all those who commented was exactly what family is. The church is a family. Not the building, not the denominations, not the arguments but the individuals who live and love Jesus are a family. God through his love gave us a family we never would have thought to ask for. Brothers and sisters who want to walk with us on the path to holiness and people who genuinely want to see us get to heaven.

I was telling my dad about the youth group I’m part of and when I described it to him these were my words:
“There’s such a genuine atmosphere of love and acceptance. I think this is what it was like for the early Christians. They were a community of believers who loved God and each other.”

I really believe the Holy Spirit gave me that.

It’s because of this experience that I’m so passionate about church. It’s not just time out of your week to sing some songs, say some prayers and listen to a encouraging words. It’s an opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries and be part of a community that doesn’t pressure us to be anything other than what God made us. It’s friendship, faith and family.

It doesn’t always play this part and no church is perfect, they’re all lacking in something but they are human. If God is the foundation then they will not fall and instead He will raise them up.

We all need to get our churches to that place. As individuals we need to be those people who love, encourage, serve and support all leaders in the faith not just those in our respective churches and denominations.

Family doesn’t begin in the united joys of heaven. It begins in the day to day wanderings of this life. Take from this what you will saints, but all I ask of you is to love. Love like Jesus. Love like a friend who would give everything up for the sake of a neighbour.

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Only You

(if possible, please listen to this as you read. Thank You)

“Have you come to a decision about your church situation?”

I was asked this question by a dear new friend of mine. As most of you will know I’ve been struggling with people criticising Christians and, narrowing that down, Catholics.

I went silent on my blog while I was back home with my family. It was fulfilling, enriching and reminded me of everything I love about the church I was born into. I have tried the others and I’ve enjoyed myself dearly. Everywhere I went I saw and met people who had dedicated their lives to Jesus. Some made me feel so at home, as though I were someone they’d all grown up with. Others never really made me feel like I’d ever fit in and when I bump into them now they act as though they’ve never met me. Maybe they feel like I abandoned them, or I’m a traitor or just another one who will be thrown in the fires of hell.

I’m back in a place where I’m being judged and occasionally I feel attacked. Even though I’m not brave enough to go door knocking or evangelising in the streets I’ve grown enough to even seriously mention Jesus in a group of people whose spiritual affiliation is completely unknown to me. I felt terrified that I’d be ridiculed to put my relation to Jesus out there and the great thing is nothing happened to me. I didn’t feel attacked and I relaxed a bit more on my heart and the tiny cross inside I grip to so tightly.

I know that as a Christian part of who I am is meant to be someone who goes out and calls people to God and I’d love to do that but, with Jesus as the roots to my tree, I need to grow and branch out a bit more. I don’t want to hide my faith under a blanket or only whisper my prayers in public. I want to be loud and proud about what I believe in. Now, this has nothing to do with my church back home. Everyone back home is so focused and ready to praise God at the slightest suggestion, and they do it in a way you can really feel.

The thing I love is how all the people I’ve encountered over the past year, with flitting through group after group, just adore God and everything about him.

So the next time my friend asks me that question I’m going to give her this answer;

My time at home reminded me of everything I love about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as well as my family, friends and myself, and yes, especially everything I love about the Catholic church, and all the Christians in it and those in other churches too. It will be a sad day when I put what church someone belongs to before Jesus and my relationship with him. He will always come first and I’ll leave judgements like that to Him. When I was growing up, up until I left for university and even when I go home, my friends and I were able to praise and worship and pray together. We are Catholic and Methodist and Pentecostal and Anglican and who knows what else. We all love God and we love Jesus and we put him first. As long as that’s the foundation to their faith, then we’re all in this together.

Dear Father,

Thank you for loving us. Thank you for love and your light and for family and friends. Please be our guide in all our struggles and may we remember to put you ahead of everything because only you can save us. Only you can heal us. Only you can fix us. You and only you.

Amen