Friday, January 22, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week Three - A Journey with the Church

I'm super excited to announce my first guest blogger, Judy!!!  I had the privilege of attending church with Judy when we were both teenagers.  She is now in our GMG group and her testimony has really convicted and blessed me BIG this week as I reflected on what the church truly is.  Judy is the mom of 5 beautiful kids (4 through fostering) and works for Big Brothers/Big Sisters within two school systems.  Her past experiences and influence with the church have given her such a strong desire to lead others to Christ! 

Judy and her beautiful family!

I didn't grow up in church. I can remember my Momma taking me on and off as a child. I remember sitting in my seat looking at the two doors up on the stage just waiting for the kids to come out of those rooms. I always wondered what it would be like to get to go to Sunday school. I had imagined in my mind what it would be like. I watched the other kids coming and sitting with their parents with cute little crafts and smiles on their faces.

Every Saturday Mother cleaned the house from top to bottom. She took all the chairs out of the dining room and put them in the living room. I would arrange them and pretend I was in Sunday school and I would teach and then I would be the student. I would sing and preach, haha! I was always intrigued by church but never really understood it. My Mother was the absolute best, she loved me and provided for me but as a child I missed out on the good part.

I was taken to VBS every summer as long as I can remember by my Aunt Brenda. I got under conviction when I was about 9 during the week of VBS. That Sunday we went to church before she took me back home. I went to Sunday school. Wow, how cool was that! It was exactly what I had imagined. During altar call I thought I was going to die, literally. I didn't know what was wrong, I just wanted to leave and leave right then. One of the sweet ladies at church saw I was in trouble. She came over and asked if I was ok. I told her yes, she then asked if I needed to pray and I said no. Oh but I did, but just didn't know how or what to do. We often forget and think that everyone knows all about church and what to do to be saved. That is soooo not true.

Family was very important to my Mother. Sunday was family day. We always went back to where she grew up (Grandparents house) and her brothers and their kids met after church. She got there early and cooked for everyone. Also we farmed. If the hay needed to be done on Sunday, that’s just what we did. Sunday was just not what it was intended in my home. You see my Dad, who should have been the spiritual leader of the house, didn't go to church and is still lost to this day. 

My Aunt Dean and cousins Tina and Vickie took me to Wednesday night services when I was about 12 or 13. My Mother always made sure I was ready to go before they got there. One night they called and told me they were having revival and wanted to know if I wanted to come. I really didn’t, but Mother told me I needed to. That was the night Jesus saved my soul. I don’t remember the preacher or even what he preached. I do remember turning around looking at the back door thinking, "I’m getting out of here." My heart was about to beat out of my chest. I stared at the altar and then at all the people in the church and thought what in the world am I going to do. I turned and looked at my cousin and when I did I just fell to the floor between the benches and started praying right there. When I got up, I wasn’t the same. The devil used that to taunt me for years because I didn’t go the altar to get saved. I finally overcame that. The Lord showed me that it doesn’t matter where or when you are saved what matters is that He called and I answered and the blood was applied that night!

I remember going home that night telling my Mother, she cried and cried. I really think that was a turning point in her life. She was saved as a child but I think she just let things hinder her and never really got grounded in church. She started going to church pretty regularly after that, still no Sunday school though. When I told my Dad, he grunted and walked away. Talk about a deflated feeling. I didn’t really understand then why he acted the way he did. Looking back I see that it was probably condemning for him and he just didn’t want to hear about it.

About the time I was saved God placed some very dear people in my life. We visited at Harmony one Sunday, it just felt right. I had a lot of family there and there was a love in the church like I had never known. Shelly and Earl Harper began coming by every Sunday morning and brought me to church- yes Sunday school also!  It took me a really long time to join the church after I was saved.

Even though I went each Sunday morning, I still didn't have a true grasp on what the church should mean in my life. I was not dedicated at all. (I still let Satan get me down at times about that) I struggled because my family didn't teach me to love the church like I should. Even though I had a wonderful church family, going back home to that environment just tore down most everything that I thought I knew and understood. After I joined, I came during the morning services when I didn't have to work. (Piggly Wiggly) I never went on Sunday nights. I mean, isn't Sunday morning enough? Why in the world would you go back that evening? Some things happened that I didn't understand, I was angry about, I just wanted someone to tell me how things should be done. I knew NOTHING about church rules or doctrine. It was nobody’s fault but my own, but not having a man at home to guide me was really a HUGE struggle my early years as a Christian.

I married Josh, he thought he was saved but wasn't. He didn't have the desire that I did to go and I felt something was wrong in his life. Fast forward we joined at Fridays Crossing. Roy Puckett took us under his wing and really helped us. He was like the Daddy I wanted mine to be. He was so caring and had a way of teaching that made me want to know more. Josh was saved not long after we started going there. We visited in revival at Taits Gap one night when Brother Mark Jones was preaching.
That was the turning point for us. We truly began to grow spiritually after all of those years of being ON the church role and not truly IN the church. God showed us the true Church and what she was all about. We learned so much and truly became devoted!

We went every time the doors were open. The church was absolutely beautiful to us and still is to this day. I think we got a little too devoted for a lot of our family and friends and grew apart from them. But oh my, how many more have been put in my life. My church family is my true family. They are there every time I ever need them. They love me unconditionally and accept my faults and failures. They have laughed with me, cried with me, and prayed for me for years.

I said all of this to say though my journey was long; the church has truly been everything to me. Heather Pentecost wrote a song that says, "Jesus saved my soul but the church saved my life." This is very true for my family. I always want to be that person who welcomes you in to our church and makes you feel at home. I want to be that person who takes a special interest in a young couple or a struggling teen. I want to be that smiling face that you see when you get up from the altar.

This study has shown me so much about the church and how many responsibilities come along with it. Not everyone can be a teacher, preacher, or a singer but everyone has a spot. If it’s nothing more than the door greeter, I want to be the best one that I can be. I teach K-2nd grade in Sunday school and I count it such an honor. I may be able to make a difference in a child's life just like I had so many different ones make a difference in mine. My prayer is that I never get slack and always remember there are lives at stake. We may be that one encouraging person that helps keep someone out of hell. I had so many in my life and I thank God every day for that.

As a teen, I was kept out of so much trouble just by spending time with my Sunday school class on weekends. We played rook and other games until all hours of the night. They opened up their homes to us because they loved us and cared about our lives. The different Sunday school teachers I had, are true heroes in my life. Even though I was saved, not having a strong foundation at home, it would have been easy to get right back out into the world. I need to remember that more when someone misses a few Sundays. Maybe just a phone call is all they need to realize that someone really cares about them and loves them. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to grow up in a home where God and the church is the foundation. I wanted each of you to know what a difference the church can make in someone.

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