“What Happened to your Faith? I seldom see you at Church.”

It’s easy as a church member to become judgmental when someone begins missing church too often. But many times there is good reason for their absence.

I’d love for you to read Shona Smith’s letter below. I met Shona through a mutual blogger who featured her a few weeks ago. Read Out of Sight, Out of Mind

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Dear friend from church and /or confused family member,

Do you know what I would love to be doing right now?

Dreams

  • I would love to be dancing in God’s presence and singing at the top of my voice as I lead others into His presence.
  • Or be racing out the door with the kid’s work and playing energetic games with them. And then having a deep satisfying discussion about the things of God and praying with them.
  • I would love to have gotten up early this morning. Spent hours in preparation for some delicious food in order to invite some random church people back for fellowship and an afternoon chatting and relaxing in the garden.
  • Oh, to be offering to have a friend’s children for her, even overnight, to give her and her husband some quality downtime.
  •  What would it be like to have a pristine house where food could drop on the floor and not have to be immediately thrown away?
  • I’d love to be baking cakes to invite you round to share with me…and for us to while away a couple of hours chatting about nothing in particular but feeling encouraged and refreshed afterward.
  • I would love to spontaneously drop in on our grandchildren and whisk them away for dinner with us.

BUT THIS IS NOT MY REALITY AND IT WON’T BE UNLESS I RECEIVE A MIRACLE!

What I'd Like to be Doing ... But this is not my reality and it Won't be unless I Receive a Miracle. #thisisfibro #chronicpain Click To Tweet

Reality

I’ve spent the last few years trying to find a new reality in the midst of

Managing fibro pain

Photo credit: National Lupus and Fibro Association

an illness that means some days I cannot find the energy to get dressed, let alone shower. My condition means that the thought of holding a short but deep conversation with one other person in the quiet of my home can fill me with horror because I know it might cost me all of that day’s energy. Every decision I take, every action I make has huge implications for the rest of my day or even my week. (See Mandy’s link on the subject)

On my very bad days, I cannot manage to stay upright, talking or reading or even watching TV and rely on others to bring me a drink and food in bed without talking to me.

On my best of days, I have to make careful decisions all day long about everything which will use my energy: showering, cooking, Facetime with my mum, reading, shopping, housework, conversation with my husband and family: everything costs and if I “overpay” the “interest rates” in payback can leave me bed-bound again for days or sometimes weeks.

 

Church Reality

When I make it to church it has been a really good week. There has been resting for at least one day before it and there will be resting for the remainder of Sunday and most of Monday. I often cannot manage to socialize or stay for a whole service as sitting upright, singing, loud noise, lots of people, chatting are all activities which use a lot of energy. If I have made it to church to join in, I often don’t have the energy to stay and socialize so I have to choose how long I will be there.

This is not the challenging bit…

Sometimes I am feeling quite strong and well so I stay out for a bit longer, chat away with people. I pray out loud in the service. Stand and chat over drinks after.

And all the while I feel fine BUT the next day or two days later I am unable to get out of bed or shower or talk and that may last for up to a week. It’s called PEM – Post Exertional Malaise – and it just comes on after any increase in my limited activity. I can stand for longer than usual, be squat down at some task for a few minutes, spend longer than usual cooking or stirring something and then two days later.

It’s like I’ve been pushing it too hard at the gym …it’s the equivalent lactic acid build up… my body prefers anaerobic production of energy to the muscles… and pain causes a “short circuit” so my batteries won’t recharge at all when I am in a lot of pain. It would take too long to explain it all but you can read some more about the challenges of attending church in my leaflet, “Christians with Chronic Illness“.

How’s my Faith?

So, what’s happened to my faith, the “doing, loving, running things, lots of ideas and activities, dancing, exuberant praising faith”?

My faith is still here. It’s kept me alive; it’s allowed me to hope that one day there will be more to my life again, it’s battled through dark lonely days of pain and crushing fatigue and feeling worthless. My faith has allowed me to find purpose in praying for and encouraging others. My faith has become something I am much more than something I do. (Mandy’s faith with Fibro)

What's Happened to my Faith? It's Still Here. It's keeping me Alive. Click To Tweet

When I Can’t Do What I Want

When I am frustrated by wanting to do something to love others but simply not having the energy to do it, my pastor recently encouraged me to tell them what was on my heart, even when it isn’t possible, because it encouraged him to know I had thought of the act of love or kindness. I was so encouraged by that word…someone seeing my heart and being encouraged by my desires even when I couldn’t carry through!

My faith has allowed me to celebrate the small things. The days when I can stand up long enough to make a meal or join in with a song at church; the days when I can drive to do our grocery shopping; the moments when I can have conversations at church and make friends; the moment when I was able to join in with a game with my grandsons. Despite the fatigue, sleep doesn’t come easily, so I often pray in the night over family and friends and whatever is on my mind… precious still moments with God when I hear His heartbeat and know I am partnering with him in the stillness.

Not all Roses!

My faith has also been battered. Why does God put so many ideas and thoughts in my heart when I don’t have the capacity to do any of them? Why did He give me gifts in teaching and leading and planning when my brain is now so often in a fog and I can be sat watching TV for hours and not even take anything in? I have no idea BUT I am learning to trust Him that He continues to have “good works which He has prepared in advance for (me) to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)  (See Mandy’s letter, If God is my Healer, Why am I still Sick)

What has happened to my faith?

I’ve been on a wilderness journey and been through all the emotions of grief for my old life, the shouting angry hopeless flailing that just “gets it all out there” and I am finally finding a stillness and a glimmer of hope that God knows exactly what He is doing and He has a plan… and I just want to do His will!

Wishing to be with you,

Shona Smith

Free Download

Download Shona’s helpful flyer for more ideas on How the Church Can Help The Chronically Ill.

Tune in for Shona’s interview on Premier Radio Woman to Woman on 22 May, at 11am GMT (http://www.premierchristianradio.com/radioplayer

More information about How to Help the Chronically Ill


Fibro Awareness Jewelry

Click here and scroll down to “Soft Hugs” to purchase. https://kristinafarmer.magnabilities.com/catalog/custom-inserts/

joyful worhip

Worship with Kids Steps Toward a Joyful Sunday

Let’s Get Ready for Easter

With Easter coming up, I thought I might share a few tips on how I made it through Sundays with children. Regardless of how often you make it to church, Sunday worship with kids can be a challenge. Sometimes it can make you wonder why you bother going to church at all. Check out why regular worship is important here.

The day is completely different from any other day of the week and likely the night before was different as well. I remember Sundays when we arrived at church a bit frazzled just from getting ready for church.

Keep Reading even if you have no children, some of these steps all of us can take to improve our worship time.

Start Preparing Early in the Week

  • Check with the church office to see if anything is going to be different this week.
  • Will there be Children’s Church or Nursery Attendants available for your child?
  • Do the children remain in the service for a portion of the service?
  • What are the service times? Some churches change the time on special days.

Saturday Preparations for Worship with Kids

  • Plan a simple breakfast that is easy to serve and clean up. For us, muffins and milk or orange juice usually did the trick.
  • If you have babies or toddlers, clean out and re-stock the diaper bag.
  • Decide what everyone is wearing. Our daughter, by 4 years of age, was pretty obstinate about what she would wear. But we found that if we planned this with her the night before, there wasn’t a fight on Sunday morning.
  • Is everything clean and pressed; down to the shoes. Avoid having to find socks and shoes (or shoelaces) and hairbows at the last minute. When everything is laid out and ready to put on, it takes much less time and aggravation to get everyone dressed and in the car.
  • Lay out everything you need to take with you (Bibles, lesson books, etc) Have them ready to grab as you walk out the door.
  • Get your bath and hair washed. For as many as possible, do this Saturday evening. Especially with large families and/or few bathrooms.
  • Keep Saturday evening sacred. In the Jewish faith, the Sabbath begins at sundown, the day before. I see a lot of good in this because it keeps us from staying out late and being too tired for worship in the morning. So we tried to stick to the rule that everyone gets home by dark. It’s not always possible, but this definitely helps the whole mindset of preparing for worship the next morning.

Sunday Morning Schedule

  • Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. This keeps you on time even if something goes awry. Children do much better if they are not being rushed. This also give you a few minutes to visit with friends or just get your mind focused on worship.
  • Arise early and enjoy a cup of coffee before you start getting the kids going. Typically, worship starts later than the start of school or work days. Why not rise at the same time to make the morning more enjoyable?
  • Turn on some upbeat worship music. In one home we lived in, we had an intercom. I piped the music through the house. This was everyone’s wake up call or at least notification that I would be coming around to get them out of bed.
  • Breakfast for the children. If you cook something, such as bacon, this could be another way to get them rolling out of bed. I know it works for teenagers. 🙂
  • Get dressed. I never figured out which was better.. dress the kids first or myself. I’ve had that fail either way. LOL! Maybe get dressed and put on an apron! 🙂
  • Assign others to help with the littles. You’ve laid out the clothes so this shouldn’t be difficult.
  • Give a 10-minute “Time to get in the car” call. Start looking over everyone to be sure they are fully dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, etc.
  • Again, leave 15-20 minutes earlier than needed.
Worship with kids
image credt free on Pixabay.com Modified by Mandy

Church Arrival & Worship with Children

  • Use the restroom. Non-negotiable rule. This keeps them from having to get up during the service to use the restroom. This is a no-no in our family. If you must take them out because they are disruptive, do so and get them calmed down. Then return to the service. If you don’t they will learn that you will take them out if they get disruptive. Children CAN learn to be quiet and respectful in church.
  • If you are a regular, watch for newcomers and greet them.
  • Find a seat. I suggest in the front half of the sanctuary. There are fewer distractions. Sit as a family. Another non-negotiable.
  • Prepare your heart for worship. Pray silently. Read some scriptures. The bulletin may have the pastors’ text. Go ahead and read it over to begin thinking about it. If the bulletin has the scheduled songs, meditate on the words of these songs.
  • Instruct your children during worship. They should learn to sing/sit/stand/pray along with the congregation. No toys or coloring during this part of the service.
  • Smaller children can have non-distractive toys or a book/coloring book. Save that container of Cheerios for the last few moments of the service when they are getting restless and the pastor is making his final point or call for decision.
  • Encourage your school-age children to take notes. You could even set up rewards for doing so. As a children’s minister, I created a small booklet for the children to take notes on days we stayed in the service. Such as this one. I gave them a small prize after church if they showed me their work.

After Worship Activities

  • Don’t rush out. Greet those around you, especially newcomers. Go straight to the ones you don’t know. They will leave quickly, especially if no one speaks to them. Your friends will be around and you know how to contact them anyway. If you need to speak with them, give them a quick, “Don’t leave before I talk with you.” greeting and then head to the visitors. If you are a visitor. Wait around a bit. Give people a chance to find you. Or just go ahead and speak to someone near you.
  • Clean up around you. Pick up bulletins, papers and anything you brought with you. Most churches have volunteers that do the cleaning. No one gets paid to do this, so help out and clean up your own mess.

Hope Your Sunday Worship is Joyful

Mandy Farmer
The Rest of God

Book Review: The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

the rest of god

A book everyone should read … probably more than once to be reminded of the importance of rest.

Buchanan took a sabbatical to research the subject of the rest of God. And found so much that pricked his own heart about taking too little rest. He noticed that “the harder he worked, the less he accomplished.” and he realized that “the Sabbath was a form of mending”.  There is some renewal that only comes from resting in the Lord and being still.

Continue reading

church attendance

How to Improve Your Church Attendance Experience

“…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”


Hebrews 10:25

Our world is seemingly becoming less concerned with God and more concerned with self. Society preaches being happy at all costs; putting our happiness above all else. When a weekly commitment that Christians are encouraged in the Bible to keep becomes a challenge to us because we do not feel like it, then it may be the time to remind ourselves that church is not really about us…it’s about God. Allow me to expand.


Of course, we receive amazing benefits from going to meeting Together (attending church),

But sometimes we need that powerful reminder that what tops the “Why Should We Go to Church?” list is the fact that the church/meeting together offers us an opportunity to give to God.

I can’t help but think that God is pleased when we give Him our best worship as we stand alongside our church family. #churchattendance Click To Tweet
attendance
free image pixabay.com modified by Mandy

Encountering the Irritating

Yet, in that church family, we will likely encounter people who irritate us from time to time. There comes a time to decide that pleasing God is more important than trying to avoid being offended by someone’s conduct, lifestyle, or personality. (Remember, there are others who put up with us on those occasions when we might be the ones irritating them!)

My Sunday School teacher, whom I happen to be married to, has said, “If you feel that church is missing something, maybe you are supposed to bring it.” In other words, instead of lamenting the lack of energy, excitement, or enthusiasm, perhaps we are being called to prayerfully initiate it. Instead of considering leaving a church because it doesn’t fulfill our needs, perhaps God is prodding us to stay and be a prayerful part of the solution. Instead of wishing people would change, perhaps God is teaching us to prayerfully change our attitude toward them.

If you feel that church is missing something, maybe you are supposed to bring it. #churchattendance Click To Tweet

Think of the possibilities

If our church is a Gospel-preaching, community-reaching, Bible-believing, Holy Spirit-receiving church, but there are some other aspects that we see as negative, just think what our positive, prayerful approach could possibly accomplish!

Lord, help me become excited about the wonderful opportunity of regularly attending church and being part of a church family. Help me to see and be thankful for the blessings I receive when I go to church, but to be even more concerned about the blessing I can be to others in my church family, as I put the focus on You and Your love. In Your name, I pray, Amen.

See you in Church!

Gwen