If you follow on my personal page and on my other social media platforms, you will notice that I speak freely about my walk with faith. In 2016, some beautiful things had happened that really changed the way my faith and my personal walk with God. And even though this is a personal post shared on my business page, I really do hope, you take the time to read and watch this documentary. It is long both in the written blog and the video, but I promise it is worth it.
I must have written this blog post about 5 times and written it in my head about a 100 times. So many words and feeling floating around just not sure how to put them all together to make it all make sense.
I grew up believing there was a God but I didn’t really feel a connection in church unless it was done through stage lights, a big band and loud music. My husband on the other hand grew up in a very christian household and can pretty much tell you every story in the bible. He was a type of person that can continue to love accept a person when they did wrong and I was a type of person that had no problem letting them know that I did not appreciate their actions or choices. I thought of myself as a “christian” believing that I had God in my life but also picking and choosing between society and what was written in the bible. When a cousin of ours struggled terribly with addiction, I drew my line in the sand with this cousin and I was firm with my stance on him having no more communication with our family because of his choices. I had basically shunned him and expected my husband to do the same.
When I heard that my husband had been talking to him and seeing him without my knowledge, you can imagine how hurt, angry and betrayed I felt. And it seemed when I brought up the subject to my husband, that he just did not hear my heart and hurt on it. Which just boiled my anger even more.
What I did not know at the time was that our cousin had gotten himself into a faith based rehab program, Good Samaritan Program, which had changed his life drastically and was about to change my life too.
My husband had tried to set up a session for the 3 of us to talk with our cousin’s pastor but I basically laughed in my husband’s face stating that there was no way some pastor was going to change my mind about the actions that had taken place. I did not understand addiction and to me it seemed as simple as just turning off a tv. I know… I was stupid and foolish. Ignorant and I am deeply embarrassed for thinking such things.
A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself. – Proverbs 18:2
I can only say how ugly and ignorant I was. Childish and foolish. In those comments and remarks and body language, I also disrespected my husband. But again, I was a fool and I knew nothing better.
Not too long after that conversation, my husband came to me again and asked if I remembered our conversation about him asking to meet with our cousin’s pastor. Again with arrogance in my voice, I said “of course”, to then he replied, well, that is the pastor that was just shot.
I was speechless. I couldn’t believe the world we live in. I didn’t know the story or even about guns or bullets but from what I heard, I really had no words for what happened but I was for sure praying that Pastor Tim survived. Not only did he survive but he also overcame some pretty amazing medical hurdles.
My husband had kept talking in pieces about how much our cousin had changed. And more and more he kept bringing it up and the enthusiasm in his voice was starting to drive me bonkers. I was not raised in a way to believe that people could change. I had a hard time believing it unless it was proven – and him just telling me was not proof. I felt of course he was going to build him up in a better light, because he was family and my husband believed that you never leave your family behind. But there was something in my hubby’s voice, but I think I was too scared to trust in what he had to say about something I was so angry about.
When my husband came home one day and shared that he had found a church and asked if I would go with him, I was speechless. I couldn’t believe he had gone to church, I couldn’t believe he found a place that he enjoyed and I couldn’t believe he invited me. This was a huge deal to me. In part, I was a little nervous because he always spoke about wanting to get feed during the message and I was worried that I would be lost or even laughed at because I really did not know my bible. In fact, if you were to tell me to turn to Luke blah blah blah… I would be searching for it still while the next lesson was given.
We walked into The Altar Church together, hand in hand, and even though I was filled with anxiety, there was still some calmness in me. Everything was simple there. The faces were friendly, kind, warm and real. Nothing was fancy, or made up or even dressed up to be this “Sunday Best” thing. When worship started I had to listen to most of it because it was mostly old songs I never heard. There were no special lights or a big band – it was all so simple and yet beautiful. Again, in my foolishness, on my welcome card, I even wrote that there needed to be better music. Remember that is how I thought I needed to connect. When service started, I was pulled in like a child listening to their favorite teacher reading a story. I didn’t feel stupid. I didn’t feel uneducated. I didn’t feel lonely.
Then my most favorite part of church happened. The graduations. Each week, there are graduations of those who completed the Good Samaritan Program (The Ranch). They stand up and give their testimony. Each week, I cry and I pray and I am moved. Sometimes I seek out the graduates and ask if I can give them a hug just because and other times I just journal about them and keep them in our prayers.
So- how does this all fit together? Well, my husband was right about my cousin. He did change. And I didn’t need to have him prove it in some 5 step program or make him beg in some creepy way. I saw it in his eyes and in his heart but the biggest way I knew was from God. I was at church one morning and it was like the Lord called me up sit right next him and told me that He was still there waiting for me. I did not need to hang onto my anger, hurt, or bitterness. God was there for me, all I needed to do was ask for Him.
And I did. On my knees with tears down my face, I asked for forgiveness in all that I have done and become. I wanted my ashes turned into beauty the only way that I knew it could be done and that was to accept God back into my life. I needed to be cleansed and in doing so I was able to love again.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:9
When I saw my cousin the next time, I needed to ask him for forgiveness and apologized for my behavior, attitude and foolishness. I felt so ashamed for my thoughts towards him. I told him I was so proud of him for completing a program to help his addiction but I was even more proud that he was able to find God in his life.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and or abuse and needs help, please read about the Good Samaritan Program. If you need to talk to someone, please feel free to reach out to the church, a friend, a loved one, a stranger, a doctor or someone you can trust. Seek the help you need. Sitting in the chairs at church, walking in the building, and being a follower of God, I have seen so many wonderful things happen through our church and with this program. The facilitators are there to answers questions and can guide you more than I can, but I can tell you as a witness – you can FEEL and SEE that new light in them. As a church body we are there to keep loving them and making sure they don’t wander.
I am so grateful that we have found The Altar Church. Never have we felt like we are a part of a church family. For myself, I feel like I am part of a real family. I had joked with a friend and I had said, I feel like I am a child that has waited a lifetime to be adopted and finally my day has come. I am surrounded my loving parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. It is a place where I can walk through the doors and be who I am – on good days and bad days. It is a place where I can learn and be fed and the message doesn’t end at 12:30 – it continues through the whole week. It is a place where people actually love – really truly love on one another. The Altar Church is a place where you can be and lay your burdens down and not feel ashamed.
The Altar is a place where I have witnessed many beautiful things happen through tragedy (the shooting, a fire, addiction) and through wonderful things (births, friendships, family, health). Miracles happen every day but we as a society have been so brainwashed in a way to ignore them or to be embarrassed to praise them, that unless it is something so remarkable, we don’t speak of it. There is beauty in every day- a blessing in every day – in every person.
Pastor Tim had asked me to do a slideshow to show the recent events of 2016 at The Altar and unfortunately since I am still a newbie, I had hesitations that I wouldn’t be able to give him what he wanted. I am a storyteller by heart and all I knew is that there are some amazing people with amazing stories of faith.
Now I invite you to grab a drink, a snack and get the kids entertained for a while to watch this video about The Altar Church. The video is about 27 min long and parts of it are pretty emotional and speaks about drug addition and loss. If you are looking for a place to come worship or a place to come kneel, I invite you to come to The Altar Church, where everyone is welcome at all times.
The Altar Church from Jax Creations Photography on Vimeo.
I am so happy I have found my way home and my family but best of all I have found God again.