Is Not Attending Church a Sin?

Pleasant Hill

I have had the discussion, more than once, about whether or not it is a sin to not attend church. Often the argument is thrown out that, “I don’t need to attend church to have a relationship with God. I can read my Bible from my home.” at which point the opposing side will counter with, “Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves” which is a play off of Hebrews 10:25 which, in its entirety says (this once I’m quoting in KJV so you can see the resemblance between the two quotes), “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

…and thus the argument continues back and forth with no one actually reaching an agreement or decision. So what, exactly, is the answer? Well, I’m not sure there is a solid one. First, there are too many extenuating circumstances to give a blanket answer. I can, possibly, address a few situations with my opinion and see if that helps.

First, one of my pet peeves is when anyone takes just a portion of the Bible and runs with it. I think that in order to fully understand what God is trying to tell us then we need to look (at least) at the passage as a whole. From here out I’ll be using the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The passage from Hebrews that is often used to as a defense of mandatory church attendance really should be backed up to, at least, verse 19 and reads like this:

19. Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 HCSB

To me, this passage speaks about so much more than just getting your butt to church on a regular basis. It also talks about the emotional experience of church. Well, what happens when something has affected that experience? Then where do you go and what do you do? What if you truly long to attend church (I’m not talking about just slackers, if you are slacking then turn off the tv and get your tail to church; there, I addressed that) but, rather, have had a spiritual battle that prevents you in one way or another from attending? What do you do then?

Well, I can tell you what my husband and I did.

Figure it out? That’s right, you keep trying. Either, you attend your church-despite the spiritual struggles-or you look for a new one. And, even when you go week after week after week and you still don’t find the one that you belong in, you go again until you hear God speak. I won’t lie and say that we were faithful and kept trying like we should, but I wish that we had. If we had, if we hadn’t given up and spent months at home moping, then we would have found the fellowship and love that we have now sooooo much sooner. I know how hard it is when you have been wounded spiritually, and I know that sometimes you need time at home to talk to God and pray; personally, I think that it’s ok to take that time. However, I do believe that God intends for us to be in church regularly to hear His Word, to be ministered to, and to minister to others. God will heal our wounds, if we’ll let Him.

Love,

2%

They Listen More Than We Know

Hila Fay being silly and scaring off a bear at the museum.
Hila Fay being silly and scaring off a bear at the museum.

Hila Fay LOVES for me to tell the story of how Chuck proposed to me.  It goes like this:

A long time ago, before Mommy was a mommy, Hila Fay was Hila Fay, and even before Mommy was Daddy’s wife, she was just a girlfriend.  One day your daddy took me hunting.  While we sat out in the cold winter evening, so cold that our breath formed clouds and floated away, I saw a deer coming right towards us!  I hadn’t gone hunting many times yet, so instead of sitting still I got excited and hit your daddy to get his attention.  My movement scared the doe and she ran away.  I was very sad.

Since dark was almost there, and we wouldn’t be able to see any more deer, we decided to pack up our things and go back to our homes.  As we walked out of the deer woods (at this point in the story HF is covering her mouth in delight and trying not to squeal) Daddy looked at me and said, “I have something that will cheer you up.”  I looked at him like he had lost his mind and simply replied, “I seriously doubt it.”  His eyes sparkled in amusement as he asked me, “Will you marry me?”  I was so shocked that the only thing I could think to say was, “That worked.” 

At LEAST every other day HF begs me to repeat the story, always giggling in delight when her daddy says he can cheer me up and then jumping up and down, clapping, and shouting, “YAY” when I reply that it worked.  I knew that she liked the story, but I didn’t realize how much she actually listened to it until last week when I had come down with strep throat.  I was laying in my bed, feeling miserable, when all of the sudden she came into my bedroom and kneeled down on Chuck’s side.  She looked at me and said, “Momma?  I got something that will cheer you up.” “Really, baby?  What?”  “Will you marry me?”  I could barely contain my laughter as I replied, “That worked.”

Her moment oozed with love and the child-like faith that anything can be cured with love laughter and it is a memory that I will treasure forever.  It reminded me, though, to be careful what I say (what stories I tell and what things I laugh at around her) because she is watching and waiting for the moment to mimic those that she loves best.

Love,

2% Mom

Homeschool for Us

HF's WeeSchool Graduation
HF’s WeeSchool Graduation

It’s finally official.  After years of going back and forth, and even starting the process of enrolling HF in kindergarten, we have decided to homeschool her.  It’s weird (to me, anyway) how God speaks to us sometimes.  As I walked into the school building to take HF for her THREE HOUR testing, I was filled with an immediate sense of dread.  Not sadness at her growing up so quickly, that is always present, but dread: like I was doing something wrong.  I wasn’t allowed to stay with her so I went back to the office and watched the time s-l-o-w-l-y go by.  As I drove around to pick her up a certainty filled me and I knew what God was telling me.

He was telling me that He gave her to ME, not to anyway one else.  He told me that I need to trust His reasoning, whether or not I understood the why, and follow Him.  After I accepted this, and talked it over with Chuck, God filled my whole being with peace.  I know it won’t always be easy, but I also know that if I’m following His will I can never go wrong.

GAP

Love,

2% Mom

Why Tears Are Shedding All Over The Place

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Mommas all over (and even a few dads) are sniffling and reaching for kleenex. It’s that season where mailboxes fill with cards and photographs, and vehicles all around town loudly yell “Congratulations!” or “Class of 2015”.

For a small group of kids they are reaching one of their first milestones, Pre-school graduation. These tiny imps are running around with high pitched laughter and careless dreams while hearts are breaking all around them. This morning, as I dropped Hila Fay off for her last day of Wee School, I was reminded of her first. There were as many red eyes and glistening cheeks today as there were that day nine months ago: only this time it was the mommas and not the kiddos.

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Today is a first of many lasts and, honestly, I’m just not ready for it. Time is going by so quickly and I find myself constantly questioning and second guessing the moments I have had with her. I wonder if I was loving enough or if I should have been stronger. Have I given in too many times when I’ve seen that puckering lip or, perhaps, do I need to ease up more? Am I teaching her the right things, investing enough time, and leading by example? Did I pack enough snacks? Am I ruining her teeth by not insisting strongly enough that she stop sucking her thumb?

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I imagine that these are questions that never really go away. I reckon I’ll worry her entire life and continue to tear up at every milestone big and small. I’m not sure that there really is a cure or “sure fire fix” for a momma’s fear, but I know one thing. From the moment that I found out I was pregnant I prayed to God for one thing, consistently. I prayed that God would give my baby a heart for Him.

I thought about my prayer long and hard and came up with one conclusion; if Hila Fay has a heart for God then everything else will come out in the wash. All my other fears and worries will come to naught and she will be the woman that God intends for her to be.

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And with this newfound confidence I dry me eyes. ..

Just joking, I’m still bawling. 

So, here’s to all the parents out there who are spending the next few days weepy while their little one rolls their eyes and say, “*Ugh* Momma, are you crying, again?”  For this moment we are all united in our heartache, doubts, pride,  and tears.  We will, as one, snap picture after picture and flood all forms of social media with them. We will tell anyone who will listen that our baby is graduating. We will fret over their hair and outfits as we prepare them for the big event, and we will commiserate with the other parents about how fast this year flew by and how it only seemed like yesterday when …

We will, also (eventually), be ok. We will continue to do our best and to try and be the parents that our pride and joy deserves. But, most importantly, we will know that our God is in control and loves our babies even more than we do. We can be confident that even when we fail, He will not.

With Love and Tears,
2%

Life on the farm

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Just before Christmas my mother-in-law was in a single car accident. Thankfully she survived, but as a result has some partial paralysis in her arms. Chuck, Hila Fay, and I have temporarily moved in with her until we can get a double-wide moved to the farm.

When you arrive at the farm it is almost as if you’ve stepped back in time. The meals are all homemade and ate together with the family all piled up around the solid wood kitchen table. The only internet access is what we get on our phones and the TV is a mere decoration. When there’s a big job to do it’s “all hands on deck”. Everyone pitches in all the while laughing and joking around.

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Our evenings are spent sitting in the living room sharing personal (most of the time humorous) stories, visiting, and playing games (charades is a favorite). I have found that many of the modern day appliances, knick-knacks, & gadgets that I thought I HAD to have are not even missed. What really surprised me, though, was how well Hila Fay adjusted. Instead of whining for a movie or fussing because she can’t play on abcmouse.com, she plays outside, creates amazing crafts (I’m not biased at all), and performs musical numbers to entertain us.

The whole situating reminds me just how much God loves us. He has taken a heart-wrenching situating and used it to teach me innumerable lessons: like the importance of family, the benefits of slowing life down, and where real happiness comes from.

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Though times are tough right now, and it seems like every time we turn around something else (or someone else) has broken, God reminds me every day that He Is in control. Because of that I know that we can keep trekking along!

Psalms 29:11 HCSB

The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.

Love,
2%

Depression

With the news of actor Robin Williams’ passing my attention is drawn to the pain he must have endured. I don’t mean the physical. I mean the aching emptiness that surely consumed him as he took his own life. I’m not sure that anyone who has not experienced this type of depression can wholly understand the abyss that one can fall in.

I’m sure that as the next few days and weeks pass there will be some real dialogue about depression and suicide, and I hope that it sparks some thoughtful contemplation. My purpose of this post is not necessarily to bring attention to the issue, Robbin’s act of desperation already did that. My purpose is to try to bring some understanding and compassion to those who have never experienced this enslaving disease and therefore discount or minimize the overwhelming subjugation  of depression.

Too many times I have heard people-celebrities, politicians, neighbors, and friends-place the blame solely on the sick. I’ve heard comments like “They just need to get up and stir around” or “It’s all in their head”. I’ve sat by silently as fellow Christians make comments like “They just need to turn to God” or “They are being selfish, life is not all about them. What about their family and friends?”  I can promise you, readers, that depression is far more than any of these opinions grasp.

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Image from rgbstock.com

Before I address the above comments, though, let me try and create a visual analogy to help y’all better understand.  To me, depression is like a sea-coast fog.  Not the kind of fog that we experience here in the south that comes in the early morning morning hours, softly blanketing the fields and slowly floating across the roads.  No.  Depression is like the thick, clinging fog.  The kind that prohibits real vision beyond a foot or two and leaves a damp footprint on everything it touches.  This fog lingers for days at a time.  It awakens and caresses every one of your scenes and enters you with every breath.  The clarity that you once viewed life with is now hazy and blurred and no matter what you do, the fog lingers and clings on.

Imagine that instead of living in a town where this happens for a few days and then a strong wind and bright sun come along to clear the way that this fog is part of your every day life.  Now imagine that your daily life is spent walking through a hazy mist, that no matter how hard you try the fog of your life wraps around you and crushes you a little at a time.  If you can picture this then you might get sense of what it is like to walk through life while battling depression.

Now, let me take a moment to address those comments from earlier.  I think that for some reason because depression affects one’s emotions that people don’t see it as a “real” disease and that is where the ludicrous comments originate from.  Let me set that falsehood straight.  Depression is as real as cancer or diabetes or even a broken bone.   In an article on the Psychology Today website entitled “The Modern Mind” Dr. Liah Greenfield describes depression as being […a real disease, severe and often fatal…]”

Would you tell a cancer patient to “just stir around” or read their Bible?  While both of those probably have major benefits, they are not the solution.  I know that God can heal and that keeping Him close brings comfort, but He created people and called them to disciplines so that they can continue His ministry in a physical form.  Just like a cancer patient needs to go see a doctor and get on a treatment plan, those that suffer from depression need help.

When a depressed person succumbs to their disease and takes their life there is no way that any of us can know what goes through their mind.  While those of us looking in from the outside may see their life as filled with wonder and love, they (obviously) did not.  While we may see their death as an act of cowardice there is a good chance that they see it as the only solution or as a gift to their loved ones.  When a person is in that state their view on life is warped, like a fun-house mirror.  They may see their life as a complete drain on others and they may genuinely think that their family and friends would be better off in life without someone to constantly bring them down or drain them: or, their vision may be so clouded that they do not see the love and admiration that others hold and feel so alone and lost that only one solution seems viable to them.

Whatever the reason may be, remember that when a person is in “that place” they are lost in the fog and genuinely cannot find their way out.  Those that suffer from depression need our sympathy and love, not our judgments and ad-libbed, sure-fire cures for whatever ails them.  Depression should not be a disease that is hidden under the rug and discussed in hushed tones.  It should be talked about and fought against as much as breast cancer or Parkinson’s disease.  There should be marathons, bumper stickers, and ceremonies honoring those who have succumbed and survived.  We, as a society, should treat those who suffer from depression with as much sympathy and dignity as we do any other person who suffers from any other disease.

I believe that until we actively remove the stigma that is attached to depression that recovery in large will always be stymied.  Treatment cannot be received if people are afraid to tell others that they are suffering and people will always be afraid as long as we allow depression to be ridiculed, mocked, and dismissed.  It is time for a change; a change of attitude and a change of perception.  I am praying that by combining our small voices we can create a roar that echoes for centuries to come.

I am ready to fight and I will do that by refusing to be ashamed and no longer treating depression as if it is a dirty secret.

My name is Melonie and I have suffered from depression since I was twelve.

 

With all my love,

2%

Why I choose Joy

This morning I did my first, bi-weekly devotional at the local Senior Citizen Center.  I was extremely nervous, not only because I am a bit of an introvert but also because I felt inadequate to speak to such a group of people.  I was, after all, taught to respect and honor the elderly.  I was taught that they have wisdom that we should cherish and are often the ones I’ll seek out when I have a problem. Therefore, trying to choose a topic that would be relevant for them yet that I felt “qualified” to speak about was quite daunting.

I prayed about this for weeks and (literally) at the last moment God used my humblest quality to open a doorway.  My ability to find joy in sometimes the bleakest of circumstances.  Now, mind you, I am not perfect at that this.  There are times when I get overwhelmed with the sheer 2%ness of my life, but overall I do my best to look for the humor in situations.  I have this saying that, “life is about the choices you make and the perspectives you take”.  I realized a while back that while there are many things that we cannot control in life, we can control how we respond to life’s situations.

We may not understand why God allows the tragedies of life to occur, but we can choose to have faith in our God and in His plan.  Sometimes I empathize with Mother Theresa when she said, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

James 1:2-3 tells us to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  In other words, whether we see it or not there is a point to everything and our trials will better prepare us for the future.

When we are in those trials, and it seems as if the struggles will never end, remember Psalms 30:5b, “[…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” and Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

We may not be able to change the path we are on, but we can choose how we face it.

Love,

2%

My Top 10 Rules/Mottos for life (as I see it now)

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1. Life is about the choices you make and the perspectives you take.

2. Break it, buy it

3. Pot/Kettle

4. Dancing in the rain is better than pouting in the dry.

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5. Family is forever; never forget them or push them aside.

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6. Real friendships take as much work as real relationships; neither of which should be cast aside lightly.

7. Divorce is not an option. Never let the thought enter your mind. Just go in the other room, chill out, and then work it out. People don’t go around divorcing their siblings or parents every time they get ticked off. That is proof enough that crap can be worked out….in due time (and with lots of prayer).

8. The moment that your first instinct, when dramatic news comes your way, is to text/call your sweety (instead of your bff or mom) is when junk just hot serious!

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9. If your instinct to call/text your spouse first ever changes you might want to re-evaluate your relationships.

10. Faith in God is not saying that He WILL do something but rather that He can. Praying with faith does not mean praying with the belief that God will answer how you want. It is praying knowing that God can and asking if He would. Jesus showed us this when He asked His Father to take His cup.

2%

Airing Your Drama in Public is Sin

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It seems that forgiveness and compassion have gone the way of corded phones and VHS tapes. They have been replaced by a desire to air out our dirty laundry in a forum of public opinion. Social media statuses are filled with needless “updates” about “some people” and their sins against us. Friends, let me be honest with you for a moment. Your vague references fool no one. It may feel therapeutic to be able to air out your feelings but in no way is right, good or kind; in fact it is downright un-Biblical.

Even when the subject matter is hidden behind ambiguous references of “some people” and “they” you are still sinning. Whether you sit in the beauty shop and tell all your friends “the situation” or announce it to the world: gossip is gossip is gossip. Our problems with one another should, in fact, remain exactly that way: solely with each other.

Jesus VERY specifically says: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15 NASB) Did you see that part there that said, “in private“?

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I’ve heard, and thought to myself, many reasons as to why one could not possibly go and speak to their offender one on one.
“They won’t listen anyway.”
“It wouldn’t make a difference.”
“I might do/say something that I’d regret.”
I think that if we are ALL honest with ourselves we’d admit that reasoning is probably more closely related to us wanting to avoid a face-to-face confrontation. It’s MUCH easier to sit bravely on the couch and update a tough sounding status than it is to call (or better yet sit down and talk to) a person that we are upset with. I get it, I really do! I hate (this is the point that Hila Fay would say: “We don’t say ‘hate’ Mommy.”) really, really, REALLY dislike confrontation. I go out of my way to avoid unpleasant situations.

However, John is quick to remind us that if we are going to claim Christianity we best walk-the-walk! (“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth”. Revelation 3:16 HCSB) We cannot sugar-coat a sin (“I wasn’t gossiping I was just venting.”) and expect God to be pleased. Jesus very clearly tells us that the only time we are to involve anyone else in our quarrel is when our private conversation yielded no results.
But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. (Matthew 18:16, 17 HCSB)

If we get to the end of the rope and extinguish all means of reconciliation then we are to simply ignore them. We go to bed each night knowing that we tried our dangest but in this case an amicable ending just wasn’t in God’s plan. We do NOT continually make random announcements or involve other people.

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We DO continue to genuinely pray them.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 HCSB)

God’s truth is sometimes hard to swallow, but that doesn’t change it. We can’t claim to be loving Christians if we are not willing to choose to love everyone.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. (1 John 4:7-11 HCSB)

Love,
2%