Church in the Garden of Eden

Church in the Garden of Eden starts at ten in the morning, and Sunday School is at 8:30 a.m. Our church is a community church that has fellowship time between Sunday School and Church. Like any good church, we have our characters. No church will ever be perfect.

In fact, sometimes I am thankful for imperfect even when imperfect steps on my last nerve and makes my hair want to fall out. Imperfect tries to tell me what to do, where to serve, and how I can improve as a person. I’m sure you know lots of imperfects in your town. On the bright side, my Sunday School is wonderful.

S.M. likes to make copious notes. I like how he listens. His reading glasses make him look like a professor. He’s kind of good looking with glasses on. Our Sunday School is multigenerational. The sea of white and gray is broken by browns, reds, and blondes. Because our church is small, we only have one Sunday School. Some churches have small groups, but not ours. It’s not that big, but I like small.

When you are small, you get to know the people more intimately. You know who is having surgery, who is sick, who is having babies, and who is getting divorced, married, or remarried. When someone needs food, the pastor makes a collection. Our local food bank owner is friends with our pastor, but our pastor likes to make a good impression by having our own congregation provide for the person in need. S.M. likes to talk to him after church.

It’s the people that make a church. The teaching has always been good and we’ve been blessed with people who take us deeper into God’s Word. It’s expository. Without the people, it’s just teaching; and teaching is what can be found on the internet. The church in the Garden of Eden is loving; a mixed salad of greens and peppers. Some challenge and some accept. My friend and I talk about church all the time.

“Church can be hurtful.” She said.

“It can also help you grow.” I said. “You can’t focus on the hurt. You have to open your eyes and see the rest of the church, not just the hard edges. So many good people live and breathe here in the Garden of Eden. They grew up with scars and issues. You and I know this.”

“I know it,” My friend touched her head,”here. But not here.” My friend touched her chest.

S.M. is a guy so he isn’t as sensitive as us women. When I read the internet stories of church in the Christian world, I often wish we would stop harping on the negative and open our eyes to what God is doing in the church. We’re harming ourselves. Our Sunday School talks about the stories of how church is changing in America. My friend is worried about churches, too. She said to me last week, “We have to continue going to church even if church has left marks, because you are right that there are good people in church.”

That’s forgiveness. And forgiveness is what Jesus talks about often in the Bible. Humility happens when we realize we might have also hurt others, too.

So this morning…go to church. I know it’s been a long time, and you’re still feeling those wounds, or maybe they are scars now? Find a church that stands strong and boldly on the Word. Large or small, house church or traditional, it’s up to you to go back into fellowship with believers.

You are missed.

 

 

Speaking Truth?

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S.M. doesn’t like it when I take walks in the woods by myself. Our town is situated near a forest. It’s our very own Garden of Eden with miles of dirt pathways leading into quiet forests of pine and scrub oak. Wild flowers poke their heads up in the spring and adorn the Garden of Eden with color and cheer, and the forest is filled with browns and reds in the Fall. I take walks by myself here so I can hear God better, and we’ve had quite a conversation!

Lately, I’ve been bothered by my own fear of digging deeper into the Mormon religion. My friend met me at the local coffee shop in town yesterday where I was honest with her:

“S.M. asked me what makes Mormonism different than Christianity, and I had all the facts, but not enough of them.” I said.

“Maybe you ought to compare the words on the actual Mormon website to the Bible? What are you afraid of?” My friend ordered a large latte with a lot of whipped cream, and she does that because, she loves the whipped cream more than the latte.

I can only dream of eating whipped cream. But I stay focused on our conversation. “What if I can’t defend my faith? I know Mormonism is wrong, but I’m afraid that I won’t have all the answers.”

My friend shrugs and says, “You don’t need all the answers. But you do need to be able to explain why you aren’t Mormon anymore and that you aren’t one of those bitter ex-mormons. That you left because it wasn’t truth. Otherwise, you’re just another angry ex-mormon.”

“I’m not angry.” I said. I’m not upset at them, but I yearn for them to be set free, like I was, and to know the truth about God. Even self-proclaiming Christians get it wrong about God. Not like I get it right all the time, I hastily retract in my head.

“Then, research the truth yourself. Don’t depend on others to tell you the truth. Go right to the source. If you are right, you have nothing to fear, but you know as well as I that everyone has a bias, even if they have good intent.” My friend sips her latte again. The whipped cream is gone.

We’re sitting outside and the sun is warm on our shoulders. This Fall has been unusually warm. S.M. said to me the other day how everything is still green. What’s up with that? I focus again on my friend who just stuck her finger in the froth of her latte to lick the flavoring off of it.

“Do you do that in front of your husband?” I said and laughed.

My friend smiled and took a napkin out of the dispenser. She wiped her hands. “Yes. He’s used to me, and so are you!”

“So maybe I should use my blog to compare the Book of Mormon and the Mormon beliefs with the Bible?” I took a sip of my Earl Grey, but I realized I had drunk it all. When did I do that? That’s what friends do though–you have so much fun with them that you forget you drank your tea a half an hour ago!

“I think you should. Knowledge gives confidence.”

“But I’m not a scholar.” I barely got through school, I thought.

“You don’t need to be. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.” My friend pushed her cup away. “That was good.”

“But I don’t want to go all anti-Mormon on the site.” I said.

“No, the online world is real. You must treat them like friends. Love on them like Jesus.”

And that’s where we parted ways.

I walked to my car, got in, and drove home. S.M. was pulling weeds from the front yard. He looked up from the walkway. “Have a good time?”

“Yes,” I said. I sat down next to him. “This blog is going to be a lot of work.”

“Then why do it?” S.M. yanked another weed out from between the brick pavers.

“Because it needs to be done.” My friend is right. I watched him pull weeds and stared without seeing at the path.

You are all important to me. We can disagree, but we can still remain friends, right?