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Remembering to go to Church When the Lights Go Out

July 12, 2020
Remembering to go to Church When the Lights Go Out

Half-way there today!

Today happens to be a Sunday in my journey, so I thought it would be fitting to discuss going to church when you are grieving.

Going back to any normal activity after the death of a loved one is difficult. Going to church can seem to even be harder. First of all you feel like everybody wants to "save" you. Second, you hear all about God's mercy, and you wonder where it was for you. So, yes... going back to church can be difficult. If you are not careful, you find yourself wanting to ball up in the fetal position in your bed.

Church has always been a vital part of my life. My earliest recollections of church services were when my mama started going to Red Creek Holy Church of God when Rev. David Robinson was pastoring there. I still remember, and teach my grands, songs that Sis. Pat would sing with us every Sunday. One that rings in my mind today, although I've not heard it sung in several years, was this:

There is no satisfaction without salvation -
S A L V A T I O N.
There is no satisfaction without salvation -
S A L V A T I O N.
Shout it out, loud and clear -
S A L V A T I O N.
Shout it out, loud and clear -
S A L V A T I O N.

My mom at some point found her way to Sand Ridge Church of God, and we stayed there until after I was married. We had several pastors during our time there, and I love them every single one to this day. They all had their part in making me who I am today. Ray and I spent 3 years at Fort Campbell KY, and during that time we went to Sebree Pentecostal Church in Sebree KY. In 1990 Ray decided to move back to AL once he was discharged after 8 years in the Army. (Notice I said, "Ray!" Sarah was ready to travel the world. The decision to come back to Alabama was all his.)

Back home we fell into the routine of work, taking care of our family, and going to church. Life did not come without problems, and yet, I found strength and courage at church. By 1998, Ray and I were attending Reynolds Holiness Church, and only a year earlier we had said our goodbyes to Ray's mom who lost her battle to cancer. I knew Ray missed her terribly. But we kept moving forward.

Reynolds became our home church, and I so loved the people there. Rev. Henry Sheppard will never know the extreme gratitude I have for him. After all, he's the reason for this book title. I made some lifelong friends while we were there, and God helped both Ray and me through some difficult times. But after Andrew's death, I struggled. I really didn't feel like going to church. I just wanted to close myself away and never come back out.

A few months went by, and Rev. ID Sullivan came to our home and talked with us. He wanted Ray to come to Waynesboro Holy Church of God as his assistant. Again, and certainly at this point in my life, the decision was Ray's. I didn't want to be anywhere. But being the dutiful wife I felt compelled to be, I went too. Put on a smile, and attempted to act as if nothing in the world was wrong in my life.

The next several years, actually about a decade, were really a blur to me. We dealt with so much during this time. But I kept going to church. I worked in Mobile at the time, and I remember many Wednesday nights I never made it home. I would meet Ray at the church as I came in from work. These years, this decade, was perhaps the longest, and darkest days for me. But my church family always stood by me. They loved me when I didn't even love myself.

Many times during this decade I felt like a complete failure as a mom... as a wife... as a person. Gideon came into his teens, and I was lost. I was pulled. I didn't know what to do. I felt very much alone during this time. And I will have to say it was only the grace of God that pulled me through. By this time, I think people thought I was fine. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

After several years at Waynesboro, Ray was asked to come pastor New Bethel Holiness Church, and again... I went. We were still having dark days. But I did try with all my might to help Ray. My job had me traveling almost every week out of town. I missed several mid-week services during this time. Ray was struggling as a pastor, and I felt so guilty when I had to leave him. It's ironic that you can have the best job you ever had in your life, and yet your family can still suffer from it. After three years at New Bethel, Ray resigned. I felt oh so guilty. I really did feel like I had failed him.

Ray and I decided to go to Independent Community Church (ICC) and just SIT... We were both tired... emotionally drained... feeling the weight of the world on our shoulders... And Ray's cousin (Mark Guy) gave us a place to just sit. He will never know how much it meant to me to have someone as a pastor who did not judge me... not one time... especially during this time of my life. I gave him plenty of reason... but he was patient and kind. I found myself about 1/2 way back on the left side of the church... I sat down... and for the first time in a long time... I rested a while.

After a few more years, actually five years ago, and a few other detours (like interim pastoring for the great folks at Progress Assembly of God while their pastor, Rev. John Brown recovered from cancer treatments), Ray and I said our goodbyes to our ICC family. He was asked to come pastor the Lighthouse of Living Faith church. You would not believe me if I told you all that God has done for me spiritually since I have been here. God gave me ICC to rest; God gave me LOLF to work! And work I have done my best to do.

Today, I still miss Andrew more than you can imagine. But God has allowed me the opportunity to do a great deal of children's book writing, and my heart is completely engulfed with doing what we can for children. (That's my ministry, not Ray's! ) I also teach adult Sunday school at the moment, and sometimes I teach for Ray on Wednesday nights (usually around Lent for sure). I am happy.

Staying in church through this trial was not easy. It was actually quite difficult many times. But as Rev. Larry Daugherty once said... "Sometimes you just have to have a little intestinal fortitude." (I always loved his big words. He's probably the reason I thought I had to have so many degrees!) But he was right... even though I doubt he even remembers saying that. Sometimes you have to look grief square in the face and say, "You've not seen intestinal fortitude like this before. Don't try me!"

If you are grieving today. Please, before you decide to leave your church family... before you feel like they do not understand... before you think they don't want to help you... I ask you to reconsider. A church family is very similar to a biological family. The kinship is important. We do not all have the same struggles, but we all struggle. I can tell you this. Every single person I've ever been to church with has made an impact on my life, and believe it or not, most of it for the good. (I don't even allow myself to dwell on the negatives. We all know they exist in the universe, so of course negatives make their way to church eventually too.)

Church folk... they know how to touch you. Like Martha Stafford and those homemade cookies out of the blue! Yes, I sure do miss that woman. Like Diane Dearman and her homemade meals that would make you gain 5lbs from one Sunday dinner. Like Jimmie Beasley and chocolate gravy and biscuits that would send your taste buds into their own heaven. I could list a thousand or more kind souls just from our little communities who have personally helped me "stay in church!" People who will cry with you; people who will do whatever they can to help you.
My advice...

If you don't have a home church... find one.
If you don't know what to do about your church... stay where you are.
If you think that God and all His people have forsaken you... go back one more Sunday.

When you grieve, it hurts, but you do not have to grieve alone!

I love to listen to a song by Cochren & Co... Church (Take Me Back). (I play it over and over on some days.) I wrote and told Mr. Cochren how much I loved his song and how it ministered to me. He seemed like such a humble man in his response to my email. You should listen to it. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eTOcrWu8mQ) It sums up how I feel about church and how it helped me through the darkest days of my life.

Take me back to church! And with that... I need to get ready for... you guessed it... church!

Much love to you all...
To Be Continued...