Sunday, October 19, 2008


I know I just posted last night, but I'm on a roll here . . :)

Keith and I are visiting a church this morning called Riverz Edge Church. The misspelling annoys me -- too "cute" -- but from the website, it looks like an interesting cross between HOPE and Sojourn. I anticipate it being loud. I must be getting old -- every church we've visited so far has been too loud for my taste.

All but one. Our second trip here, we visited a very traditional, Southern Baptist church, very like the one I grew up in. It was so comfortable and familiar, I felt my blood pressure dropping by the minute. But I also kept thinking, "What's wrong here? Why is this not OK with me anymore?" I've always smugly reminded my Methodist HOPE friends of my status as the resident conservative Baptist (well, Randy and I, but he's further along this road than I am). So I couldn't figure it out.

It wasn't the music . . I love the old hymns sung to a good pianist. It wasn't the people . . they were very friendly, probably the most friendly we've encountered. It wasn't the activities . . they had a couple's retreat, mission work, even a kids' basketball program. It wasn't the smaller congregation . . I don't need a huge church. It wasn't the preaching . . it was Biblical and solid. It wasn't the markedly different atmosphere . . as I said, I found that rather soothing and worshipful. It wasn't the lack of young folks . . that was a problem for us, but it wasn't the specific thing that was bothering me right then. I just couldn't pinpoint it.

Then, toward the end of the sermon, the pastor was talking about discipleship. (All together now HOPE friends: "The process of being conformed to the image . . " yada yada ). He said that discipleship should be "obedience-focused".

And then the alarms went off. I knew what he meant: obedience-focused as opposed to knowledge-focused. Doers of the Word and not hearers only. And I fully agree with that.

But as soon as he said "obedience-focused", the voice in my head yelled, "No, no, no!!! That just makes Pharisees like me! Discipleship should be relationship-focused."

And suddenly, it felt like the last 15 years of my spiritual walk -- First E Free, HOPE Church, friends I've known, mentors I've learned under, Bible studies I've done, experiences I've had, trials I've lived through, books I've read, homeschooling, The Shack, Blue Like Jazz -- it all came into focus. So cool when that happens!

It was quite an epiphany moment. But we won't be going to that church. No kids. But the girls (at least Eastin) will be playing basketball there this winter.


Anonymous said...

Very Cool Gwen! The "process" you've been engaged in for the past 15 years which moved you out of your comfort zones (geographic,theological,
denominational,relational...) all coming together right at the time you are beginning a new era in your life. What an awesome gift the Lord gave you and at just the right time! Your journey has blessed so many her in NJ and I know He will use you to bless many more in Iowa or Idaho or whatever that state is that you moved to that begins with an "I"! : ) We miss you and are lifting you in prayer.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gwen,
Jeff read this blog entry during his sermon yesterday & all I could think of was "Gwen is MEANT to write!" You are SO good at it! So, I just went in & read all your Blog material & I was right. You could publish it--I really enjoy reading your entrys. I've just got to remember to go into your blog & read them.
I thought of you all week end anyhow, as 73 Forrest Hills did Close on Friday after much anguish; but the Buyers love it & really fought for it & all turned out great in the end.
Then on Saturday I saw a producrion of "Music Man" w/ all the references to Iowa & wished you could have been there w/ me. You would have loved being in it & playing one of the Pic-a-little-ladies. I did one of them 38 years ago! Miss you & love you. Jo