Seeking the right church fit

Perhaps one of the hardest parts of moving has been the search for a new church to call home. After visiting several churches, my husband and I recently went to a service that felt more right, not a perfect fit, just a better fit than the ones we’ve visited already.

It wasn’t because of the Christian pop rock concert that blared on stage as we took our seats. I’ve been to my share of loud concerts (probably more than my share, as my brother played in a rock band when I was in high school, and I went to as many of his shows as I could, and I still love to go hear live music). But this was too loud for my increasingly tender ears, a sad reminder I’m not as young as I used to be. The band tucked in a traditional hymn, though, and my spirit lifted a nudge.

The preacher was warm and inviting, delivering a strong sermon with a deprecating sense of humor. We took communion, the first communion my husband and I have had since arriving here in December. Too long to fast from such an important sacrament.

We decided we’d go back again.

My husband was away this past weekend, but we talked shortly before the service time, and he encouraged me to go, even though I’d be going by myself. I went but arrived late, not a surprise for those of you who know me. But this lateness was intentional—I was hoping to miss some of the loud music at the beginning.

Shortly after I arrived, a young guy with an old beard stood up and welcomed us, offered up a prayer, ushered us in to a time of worship. And then it happened. He picked up a banjo and sat down with the rest of the band.

A banjo. The part of my heart that so loves bluegrass sat up and payed attention, hopeful about what was to come. Romans 5:5 promises, “and hope does not disappoint.” The band launched into one of my favorite bluegrass gospel songs, I’ll Fly Away. I sang as loud as anyone around me, maybe louder.

The sermon, part of an ongoing series about the names of God, focused on the story of Abraham, Isaac and the provision of a ram in the bushes following God’s test of Abraham’s faith. In that story, Abraham named God as Jehovah-Jireh, the God Who Provides.

God provided me with what I needed to feel more at home at this church, beginning with a few chords from a banjo and a familiar, well-loved song.

God showed off a little more, then. The old-beard young guy invited us to take a gift at the end of the service, to remind us that we are meant to find ways to be a blessing to others. The gift? Balm (and an arrow loosed toward the heart) for this gardening girl:


Did the church know how much this tiny clay pot with seeds and soil would mean to me?


I’m excited to see what these seeds become, but the gift has already been a blessing.

Are you struggling to find a church where you feel you belong? Let me encourage you to keep trying. You may have to try many different churches, and you may have to try a lot of services at the same church before you find a home.

If you want to understand better the “why” of belonging as much as the “how” of belonging to a church community, I encourage you to read Lessons in Belonging by Erin Lane. I read this right after moving, and it helped remind me that I was going to have to do more than just sit in strange pew after strange pew but that the journey was so worth the effort.


She approaches the whole topic of belonging to church in an honest, funny, sometimes breathtaking way. She quotes Emily Dickinson in the book, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” I could have highlighted truths told slant on every page of her book. Read it, and you may just find it’s the kick in the pants you need to start visiting churches. And who knows what ways Jehovah-Jireh will show up and show off by providing precisely what you need to get your heart to open up to the new possibilities of church?

The vanishing front porch

Welcome to the front porch

One evening, as my husband and I sat on our front porch, one of our neighbors walked by and called out to us, saying, “I love to see people using their front porch!” He was pointing out a rarity in our neighborhood, despite several homes having beautiful, welcoming front porches. Most of those porches sit vacant and unused. Even ours sits unused more than it should.

I think air conditioning has forever changed what used to be a sacrosanct aspect of southern hospitality: gathering on the front porch with friends at the end of a day’s hard work. After all, who wants to sit out on the porch battling mosquitos and suffering from the heat and humidity when indoors is so cool and refreshing, not to mention bug-free?

Maybe busyness has also changed how hospitable we are. And I don’t just mean those of us who live in the air-conditioned south. Continue reading

The marathoner’s psalm

I was out doing a really tough run this morning, not tough because it was the longest run I’ve ever done (that was last week), but because of the warm, humid conditions. While I was running, I kept thinking of something my husband said to me this past weekend. He advised me in his ever-so-gentle-way to find ways to think more positively as I run.

He’s right. Negative thoughts don’t usually creep in during my training runs, although there are hard runs where I don’t feel especially happy afterward. But in tough races, for reasons I don’t understand, a negativity sets up shop in my mind.

Then the grumpiness pours out along with the sweat. And who gets the brunt of that ill temper? My husband. And I’m usually at my grumpiest right when he sweetly comes back from his finish to run back in with me and cheer me to a strong finish. Not at all what he deserves.

So this morning, I tried to use the especially soggy conditions to force myself to think of positives. I found myself grateful for many things along the run: the ability to run at all, the time to run, a shaded path and much more.

Then – because I had a long time still to run – I started thinking of Psalm 23 and ways that it applied to my life as a runner. I started adding new words, and the result became my prayer of gratitude for the morning, a psalm for marathoners that I hope you’ll enjoy reading, whether you run at all or consider yourself an unrepentant couch potato. Maybe it’ll encourage you to take a challenge or negative mindset you’re dealing with and turn it into a psalm of praise: Continue reading

Two lives imitating trees

In last week’s post Two trees imitating life?, I wrote about two tree sculptures imitating life, or death, or maybe even tennis balls, depending on how you view the art. I promised to follow up this week with more about the blessed life being like a tree planted by water, and here’s a picture of some pretty cool tree roots to get you thinking of what the tree planted by water may look like:

Trees and their roots growing by a creek

The passage I shared with you last week actually describes two lives that are like trees, just very different kinds. One life is blessed, but the other is cursed.  Continue reading

Holiday wishes

I hope you won’t mind a shorter post this week, as I’m still catching up on rest after many blessings this Christmas: presents to wrap and open, many good things to eat, and a house filled to the brim with loved ones. Most especially – I found the blessing of forgiveness at our Christmas Eve service in offering a communion cup to someone who had deeply hurt me. The moment was the best gift for me this Christmas.

I wish these same things for you in the coming year – blessings that fill your home and heart to the brim, forgiveness for those who need it, and, most of all, the comfort of loved ones near you. Thank you for reading through the year. You – my blog readers – are a treasure to me.

A gift from a dear friend, a favorite “treasure” on this year’s tree