Bible study

Yay! I found a daytime Women’s Bible study!

I’ve been looking since we moved to Virginia seven months ago. I expect it to be a place to meet with like-minded women, hopefully make new friends, maybe even find a church home.

It was important to me that it meet during the day. My evenings with my husband are already short; by the time we eat dinner, it’s almost bedtime! And so I like to be home with him in the evenings. Besides, I have lots of free time during my weekdays, so I’d prefer to spend a couple of hours for a group study during the daytime.

Yesterday was our second week, and the women were just as friendly as at our first meeting. There was coffee (whew!) and several round tables with comfy chairs. The study is a video format by a popular Bible study leader – Believing God by Beth Moore. The table discussion was good and the video thought-provoking.

In fact, the Holy Spirit has already pricked my conscience, and I’m finding God’s Word quite convicting, as it should be. I realized through last week’s study that I’ve been “resting on my spiritual laurels,” and then wondering why my faith didn’t feel strong. I’ve looked back at my life before our relocations, and compared my present-day faith to what it looked like then. I’ve been longing for a vibrant faith like I had before, but see now that my faith needs to be active to grow.

While I’m not currently in any kind of church leadership, that’s no excuse for a lazy faith. God has given me time to spend with Him, time to grow in His Word, and I’ve wasted it. My lack of spiritual friendships is also no excuse for my “stuck” faith. I can grow in my faith by studying God’s Word, spending time in prayer, and cultivating our relationship. It shouldn’t be dependent on others.

At the same time that these things are true, I do need other believers in my life. I need a regular weekly dose of God’s people, which means regular church going. It’s been easy to not go to church since we haven’t found one yet where we’re comfortable worshiping and serving. But that lack of attendance has been to my detriment, and I’ve missed out on hearing God’s Word on a consistent basis.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.  Romans 10:17, NIV
So back to church. Regularly attending Bible Study and doing the daily homework. Continuing my bi-monthly prayer group (even though it meets in the evenings, Moms In Prayer is important to me). Time in God’s Word, getting to know Him more. Watch out as my faith grows!

Finding a church

We’re shopping for churches. Sort of. I mean, we’d have to attend to officially be shopping, and we aren’t really trying yet. In the five weeks I’ve lived here, we’ve been to one church one time.

I don’t like the shopping analogy, but that’s what it is – trying on different congregations. Finding a church to attend regularly. Trying to determine if it’s a place where we want to become active participants, where we can contribute to the local body of Christ. Where the message of the Gospel is taught. Where we can become engaged, not simply entertained.

Some people never miss church – it’s where they are, every Sunday. On vacation. In snowstorms. Not fair-weather attenders, but faithful followers. I can’t say that’s me. I know church is important, and I have been an active member of several congregations in my lifetime, where I’ve been able to serve and be ministered to. But not since my childhood have I attended every single service the week has to offer. Not even close.

When we were first married and we missed a Sunday, I was overwhelmed with incredible guilt. Hard to distinguish if it was the Holy Spirit, or my own accusations. But like anything, it became easier to miss the more I missed. When I felt particularly guilty about missing, I might do a Bible study lesson or watch a sermon online. Not always because I wanted to, but sometimes simply to assuage my guilty feelings.

These are not pretty things I’m admitting to. I’m not proud of my spotty attendance in this search for a new church home. And I don’t want to make excuses. I’m hoping that if I write it down, it will help me figure out why it’s so hard.

In the 15 months we lived in Florida, we attended 3 different churches – repeatedly each time – until we finally felt like we might have landed in one where God could use us and we were comfortable. We were just getting settled into a routine there; that lasted a few weeks, and then we moved to VA.

So now we start over. Like I said, we’ve been to one church one time. We haven’t been back, nor have we been to the other churches on the list of potentials. It takes effort, and it’s easy not to go. It’s hard to always be the strangers, the ones sitting in the pew alone. A greeter shakes our hands and we are welcomed. Barely.

But I’ve been in this place before, and I know that relationships happen in small groups, in repeated fellowship. So I’m joining an evening women’s Bible study at this church. Maybe it will make Sunday mornings easier.

The Church’s Rooms

Lately I’ve been thinking about floor plans. Old ones, like from my childhood. I’m picturing our house from my early years, my old church, my grandparents’ Lake house. I’m drawing them in my mind, and imagining the flooring, the room locations, the wall colors. These are a kid’s memories, so I don’t know about the accuracy of them, but I do know the magical recollections in my head.

I woke the other morning thinking about the layout of Macedonia Christian Church. I grew up there –  we were at church all the time in my early years – Sunday mornings and evenings and mid-week evening services. Add to that Vacation Bible School and church revivals – we spent hours there. My folks were very actively involved in Children’s Ministries, so there were even extra hours for them to prep, and that meant that my sister and I often had run (i.e., without adult supervision) of the building to play and explore.

My favorite part was the old section of the basement. The ground floor of the Sunday School hallway was uneven and slanted – it felt like the cement had simply been poured over the ground below, without any leveling involved. The five or six classrooms were paneled, so very little light came into the hallway, and it was fun to run through the hall in the dark or play hide-and-seek.

Up the stairs at one end took me outside to under the covered driveway, and another half flight went up to a hallway with a large room used for Sunday worship for the youth group and other gatherings. There was also the Pastor’s office, the church library, bathrooms, and the nursery area. Then a short hallway with coat racks went from there to the narthex and the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary seemed huge with lots of long wooden pews, the two side aisles and one center aisle all leading to the front of the church where the worship leader led singing and where the preacher spoke from behind a podium.  Below the podium, still on the main floor with the pews, was a large heavy wooden table with a chair on each side – green upholstery, I think. The table was carved with “Do This In Remembrance of Me” along the front edge. This was where the communion trays were brought and from where it was distributed. There was a door on either side of this center space at the front of the side aisles, one leading to stairs to the basement of the church, one leading to two tiny rooms off the baptistery. The organ sat on one side of the front of the church, and the piano was on the other. Behind the communion table and along the raised platform was a small railing to guard the edge. The podium was centered on the stage behind the communion table – it had a small microphone attached to it. Behind the podium was a little space, then the choir seats. Behind that was the baptistery.

There were two rooms at the back of the sanctuary. One was set up as the “overflow” room and the other was sometimes seating and sometimes the folding door was pulled so it could be a classroom.

There were two sets of stairs from the narthex to the outside. One went down to the front of the church, and the other went to the side parking lot. All the way down those stairs was the hallway – to the right was the old basement hallway again, and left took me into the Fellowship Hall – a large room that was full of tables and lots of food on Sunday pot-luck days, with the kitchen to the back. More classrooms lined this area, and there were the bathrooms, a tiny elevator, and the drinking fountain that smelled and tasted funny because it was well-water. The back stairs were mostly off limits – they went up to the door by the side of the sanctuary platform – a big no-no when my sister and I were running around!

I have lots of memories of the different rooms at Macedonia for all kinds of different reasons: Sunday Schooling, helping in the nursery, putting together communion trays and washing them all at the end of a service. Visits every Sunday to the library. Walking into the tiny baptistery room on a Wednesday night to get ready for my dunking after I had told the church that Jesus is my Savior and Friend forever. Hours in the large community room for Junior High Worship or Vacation Bible School evenings. Running in the hallways. Playing in the churchyard. A very good place to grow up. Indeed.