a simpler season of Sundays

a simpler season of Sundays

{me and sis in a simpler season}

“Could you just come for me?”

The clarity of his question startled me. I wasn’t expecting it in my early morning hours. Instead, I was content to marinate the thoughts that assaulted me as I awoke from a restless night’s slumber, one enhanced by the fact that my young adult sons arrived home around 2:00 AM following a U2 concert.

I’m not a good sleeper. On any given night, I’m glad to receive a solid, four to five hours. So when the routine tumbles out the window for any number of reasons, I’m toast. Add to it a lot of miscellaneous extras and a Sunday morning routine that calls for more chaos than usual, well, you can imagine the thoughts I was harboring.

Cranky thoughts. Deliberate thoughts. Thoughts that serve no good purpose other than to whip me into an emotional frenzy prior to my car ever arriving in the church parking lot. And while this attitude isn’t a good fit for any of us who hold worship as sacrosanct and as a deeply-rooted tenet of our Christian experience, the truth is that there are some Sundays when I approach church with resentment rather than with expectation.

Some Sundays proffer more like work rather than worship. Anybody else?

When I was a child, I loved going to church, and most days, I still do. My parents didn’t have to twist my arm or coax my participation. Church is what we did; it still is. Not because we’re bound by legalism, but rather because we’re bound to the One who entreats our communal participation with other believers.

While growing up, church seemed less complicated. For me, it meant seeing my friends, sharing some laughs, and celebrating the simplicity of being together… and actually liking it. Somewhere along the way and as I grew older, church became more tricky. More problematic. More thorny and more self-centered. As my intellect grew alongside of my flesh, so did my ideas about how things should work. How church should be. How services should flow. How people should act and how preachers should preach.

After forty-three years of “doing church”, I’ve amassed a rather lengthy list of “shoulds”. I recognize this in me, and for the most part, the list has been drastically reduced and tempered by the gracious grace of God. But every now and again, it flares, and rather than approaching church with sacred expectation, I come through its doors with an expectation of failure—my deciding on the front end of worship that the “menu” for the morning’s events aren’t going to pass muster with my prerequisites. On those Sundays, my heart is hardened by the preliminary thoughts preceding my arrival, thus blocking my heart’s soil from the tilling of a Father’s love.

I don’t like it. It’s not pretty. It’s certainly not befitting for this woman who is in desperate pursuit of her God; still and yet, this is where I found myself this morning. A struggle I don’t want and one that sometimes gets the best of me.

Sometimes, but not today. Today, God interrupted my preceding thoughts with a thought of his own. A question he voiced early on in the unspoken banter that was taking place between me, myself, and I.

“Could you just come for me?”

A clear, simple, direct question posed to me from the heart of God, just as clearly as I’ve ever heard his “voice” within me. And with those six words, the matter was settled.

“Yes, God, I’ll come for you.”

I cannot tell you much else about my morning other than those six words from him and my six words of response. They kept repeating themselves over and over again throughout the morning and the rest of my day, drowning out any refrain to the contrary. It’s been a rich gift to me and helped me to refocus my thoughts around the true meaning of worship.

Today hasn’t been about coming to church. Today has been all about coming to God. About responding to the call from the King for an intimacy that cannot be found via our “shoulds” and menus and the complicated ways we approach the worship process. True intimacy and worship comes from an obedient heart that is willing to push aside cranky thoughts in order to receive the hand of fellowship from Almighty God.

Today, my church experience found its way back to a simpler season… a time when Sundays didn’t require my work, only my willing participation. My expectations were exceeded, and my hope was renewed.

Couldn’t we all use a dose of sacred simplicity? Of getting back to a basic understanding that church isn’t all about us, and instead, really is all about our coming to God? I know you’ve heard it before (I’m pretty sure it was the premise of a recent, best-selling Christian book…), but today, I’ve lived it again fully, with a fresh perspective and a newness of heart that have stoked my heart for continuing compliance.

“Yes, God, I’ll come for you.”

May all of our thoughts, cranky and otherwise, be settled by these six words of chosen and joyful obedience, not just on Sundays, but on everyday that is given us through the gracious grace of Father God. Walk your week well, friends. Walk it toward Jesus. As always,

peace for the journey,

PS: My good friend, Elizabeth, has written a post regarding her Sunday worship. Apparently, we’ve had a similar day. You can read it HERE!

26 Responses to a simpler season of Sundays

  1. Wow…. I needed this… I've not wrapped my head completely around it… but this is what I got from it:

    Elaine, you said: "True intimacy and worship comes from an obedient heart that is willing to push aside cranky thoughts in order to receive the hand of fellowship from Almighty God."

    I've been told in my recent past that I had the spirits of holier than thou, legalism and judgmental. I was prayed over for deliverance of these spirits. I still haven't figured out what people are talking about. I didn't view myself that way. I didn't and still don't see it. However, I claim deliverance. I know God is in control! I seek that obedience to God for true intimacy with HIM in worship and everyday life.

    Thanks for the reminder LORD. In Jesus' name, amen.

  2. Elaine,

    I have found that so much of 'church' is done for so many reasons other than Him. Legalistic expectations, a desire to be 'seen', a nagging spouse, and so much more. What a change heaven will be for so many! A place where we delight to worship the King. A place where it isn't at all about us, but all about Him.

    I love church because it is where I bring my offering of praise to the One who died for me. It is one among many places that I can do that.

    Love the picture of you and your sister.


  3. Even when I haven't had a hectic morning before getting to church, it's so easy to be distracted by other things–to do list, people watching,etc. I often have to deliberately focus on worship, but it's always worth the effort.

  4. Elaine, the Lord whispered to me in such a season as well. Sitting in the back pew, alone and complaining, I received only 3 words: "Am I enough?"

    Oh, to return to the heart of worship – it's all about Him.

    Praying that when you lay down, your sleep will be sweet,
    Love ya, Joy

  5. Love the old picture. What cute little girls and beautiful dresses! Isn't it fun to look back on those memories?

  6. I'm so very grateful church continues to be, for me, an appointment with the Divine. I never know how I'll be impacted, but I never leave the same. Sometimes it's the music, or something pastor taught, or something someone shared as I came-and-went. Sometimes it's a knowing that something in me needs breaking, or bolstering.

    I can't remember when it occurred, but the shackles of shoulds were broken a number of years ago. I don't miss them, but I'm also very aware of how easy it is to try them on now-and-then.

    This is a rigorously honest post, Elaine. Thank you.

    BTW … what a doll in your Sunday duds!


  7. You're not alone, Elaine. I have a Sunday struggle that's a little different from yours, but it's not pretty either. It helps to be aware of it and be ready to nip it in the bud, though.

    Loved your reference to your "my, myself, and I" banter. I'm right there with you 🙂

  8. Hi Elaine,

    I am a newcomer to your site. I dropped in to introduce myself and became a follower of yours. Your post sounded greatly familiar to some of my experiences in some areas and touched me so. I'm so glad I came by to visit because I am leaving refreshed.

    I'm inviting you over to visit me and if you feel like joiniing as a follower of mine, I would be honored.

    I certainly will be back to visit you again. You're blog site is amazing. My husband has been going through some rough days of heat issues, so I've been trying to get to my friends blogs when I can. I was meant to come in a visit you especially today.

    Thank you again for filling me up.

    Blessings, Love & Peace,

  9. Hi Elaine,

    Just a correction to my comment above. My husband has been suffering from "heart" issues not "heat" issues.


  10. I think we all go to this point from time-to-time, Elaine. We aren't perfect, after all…just forgiven! I so love your honesty. I think a mistake we sometimes make is feeling a need to present our most perfect side, and when you think about it, we don't help one another when we do that. We are all striving to be like Him, and in our imperfect state of humanness, we often fail. Knowing that others struggle with the same issues helps us pick ourselves back up and try again.

  11. Elaine, great post! I think Satan delights in our list of "shoulds" when it comes to church. When we become too wrapped up in what we think should happen on Sunday mornings, we totally lose our focus on why we are there. We shouldn't be worried about whether the pastor has a suit on or not, or if "so & so" is sitting in our seats. I love the song, Heart of Worship where it say's "it's all about you Jesus".

    Thanks for the great post and more for us to chew on this day!

    Love you!


  12. Hi Elaine,

    Thank you for your kind words on my site. I am not from Ohio and we have never been there. We live eight hours away, thus my reason for concern with tricky weather patterns at this time of year and the long drive. I've heard the Clevelad Clinic is HUGE so I'm anxious to get this visit over with. We are closer to Burlington, VT (about 3 1/2 hours away) where my husband had his open heart surgery in Dec. 2006, but with a recent heart cath done there in July 09 they say there is nothing more they can do for him. He is only 52 yrs. old so…of off we go to Cleveland. There is always hope especially in the Ultimate Healer above all in this earthly world. He gives me rest and so much grace.

    Love you,

  13. Amen…and Amen. It's way too easy to get caught up in the shoulds (especially when you have to get your family out the door, etc.) and forget Who we are really going to see on Sundays. I needed this.

  14. Oh, sister that is awesome! I know just where you were at. We have to come to that place where we are not just "doing church" but that we go worshipping TO church.

    Love to you!

  15. Elaine,
    I just love that picture at the top of your post. It is so cute and it reminds me of me and my sister when I was young too.
    I remember the thoughts and feelings of they should do this or that to. I think we all go through that at some point or another. I think it is called being a spiritual teenager. 🙂
    And, it makes us miss what God is trying to teach us somewhat at those times. Our eyes become clouded by the outside appearances instead of clearly seeing what God is trying to show us. I am so glad that I have grown out of that stage in my spiritual development and has taken me back to my spiritual childhood, where I feel as if I know nothing, and need to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And, church is where God births so many things in my heart that change my life. It is where God wants His family of children united in Christ. "Unless we become like little children, we will not see the kingdom of God…." Wow!

    "Yes, God I'll come for you!"

  16. It brought back sweet memories of an easier time…… I look ahead for that day also……. HE is enough and "religion" is just a terrible lie.. Many have followed that path…..

    The Jesus Christ of Christianity looked down on the Jesus Christ of religion and said "I know him not"

    How very profound…….

  17. wifeforthejourney:

    I will always prize your transparency, vulnerability and willingness to come before the Lord without excuse. When ministry life is our daily portion, sometimes it is a difficult balance to maintain – real worship vs. obligations. You handle it all better than you give yourself credit.

    Thank you for being a constant source of encouragement. Whether in simple times or when everything seems like a mess, I know I can always count on you!


  18. Love this…so real.

    I have my share of Sundays when I feel tugged in two directions… but then I remind myself of how much I need that fellowship and worship time every week. A little extra something I can't get out of a devotional book.


  19. Such a loving a tender call from our Father. Yes Lord we will come for you. The next time I struggle with lesson plans or wonder what to wear…I'll remember the words He spoke to my Sister Elaine and I too will come just for Him. Thank you for sharing this struggle because I could all too well relate. (((hugs)))

  20. Amen, amen. It's so easy to go to church for the wrong reasons or with the wrong heart posture. I pray God brings that gentle phrase to my heart and mind next time my thoughts head that direction…

    "Can you just come for me?"

    Humbling post.

    Love & blessings,

  21. Oh, PREACH IT, girl! It has not been the best of days, after fielding complaints from church folk who felt yesterday's service was just too long…I definitely needed this confirmation.

    Love the pic of you and your sister…

  22. Yes m'am! We need to remember it's all about Him and not us or our expectations of the choir, Sunday School, or the preacher's sermon. It's simply to worship Him–to let Him see our hearts.

    Thank you Elaine for this beautiful reminder. And…I love the outfits that you and your sister have on! Beth and I had some similar pictures!!

    Love ya,
    Susan–Come run with me!!

  23. This was an amazing post. As a preacher the "shoulds" overwhelm me some Sundays. I have to remember that God wants even ministers to come for Him, not b/c we have to do a sermon, Bible class, etc. I "should" 🙂 do a sermon along the lines of this post sometime! VEry good!

    Thanks for your visit to Family Fountain and nice comment on "Woe is Me."

  24. Praise the LORD!!! Elaine, a powerful message sister! Thank you for sharing. Love the photo.

    I'm coming closer and closer to GOD…He's so awesome.

    I just shared a post about you at Sharing Life with Lisa. I love and appreciate the JESUS in you.

  25. So glad that it was you and Elizabeth that the Lord led to write that post. I don't think I could have done it justice.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts… the deep dark ones… that some may question, but all truly understand.

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