So, back to our church finding adventure! I know it has been awhile but when you are doing this with a fellow nurse, and you both have to work weekend time, it is very tricky to find a date that works for the both of you, plus the person's church you are attending! Which led us to choosing a Sunday that turned out to be when we spring forward. A day when I usually purposely make zero plans until the afternoon so that I am only minimally affected by the time change. I am SO not a morning person (my definition of morning - anytime before noon). Growing up the Sunday wake up consisted of my Dad coming into my room and first turning off my fan (have to sleep with it). Me - annoyed but still able to cling to sleep. Then turning on my lights and throwing up the shades. Me - angry, but pulling the covers up over my head to darken things back up. Then he would come back cheerfully singing "It's time to get up! It's time to get up". Me - glaring under my covers that I have pulled over my head and giving meaning to the term "spitting fire". I guess I don't need to mention he IS a morning person???
So, this Sunday the church I am attending is called Hope which explains the title of my blog this week. I also feel like this might be the title of a Bill Clinton autobiography which I assure you is pure coincidence. I have nothing in common with Bill except a love of McDonald's and Diet Coke...although I do feel kind of fond of out of office Bill.....just me? Anyway, Hope is a church that two friends I work with attend and both love. So, the expectations are set way high. I know I will like all the churches I plan to go to as I have friends at all of them, but this church it goes double! Kristin was able to attend with Laura and I this Sunday, sadly Nicole was not (that pesky work issue again). We planned to meet for the 11am service. Kristin offered to drive (aka chauffeur) me, but felt her car might be too messy. To which I quickly assured her that I have been driven in a car with a dirty diaper in it and hopped out of a car where a beer bottle popped out with me and had no problem with it (don't worry I won't name names :))
The church was packed to the point that a police officer works Patterson Ave. to ensure people can get in and out of the parking light smoothly, which was great. I do confess I had encountered this same police officer doing this same thing when I was the one being stopped on my way home and did not find it so great then, but I didn't realize it was a church at the time. Besides, this time it was benefitting me so I was down with it (just kidding....kind of). Walking in there were kids and people everywhere. Kristin commented that there weren't alot of people here today.....what??? This place was hopping! We waited for Laura in the lobby and then took our seats. Everyone was very friendly and a good thing we went to sit down pretty quickly because about ten minutes later there were no seats to be found.
Once again there was a full band set up and they broke out into some great tunes. Didn't recognize them, but sounded awesome! Gone are the loud organ sounds and piano of my youth (and getting a little crazy for my church was adding in some brass and a string quartet). I will say I have been feeling a little nostalgic for the traditional hymns - nothing gets you in the spirit like a little How Great Thou Art or Amazing Grace, right? But, this music is infectious and easy to sing along too (they put the words up on a screen) Also, while following along with the words I saw "Child 213" flash on the bottom of the screen. I learned at my last church outing parents are given an assigned number for their child and this means they need to go get them from the church nursery. I envision a full on tantrum being played out and the parents inwardly groaning as they see their number on the screen. For some reason it always gives me a little laugh (sorry).
The pastor was David Dwight and I like him instantly. He talked about running in a 5K yesterday and having trouble keeping up with his wife, so when his wife kept urging him to pick up the pace he said "But, honey I am trying to walk with Jesus". Loved that! He also added in the bible Jesus is always walking, never running. Good point! I was looking foward to hearing what he had to say!
The sermon was called "The Exchange" and talked about how if you have ever experienced any mistreatment, exhaustion , betrayal, grief, etc Jesus experienced it all, takes it all on, and carries it for you. Uh oh. Is this going to be a downer? It sounds like it. I know the bible isn't all happiness and light, but it's a sunny day, I am feeling good, we have sprung forward...how about a little upbeat topic? My worst fears were realized as a picture of a lonely man looking out over the water on a dark gloomy day flashes on the screen and David asked "Have you ever felt like this?" I thought to myself, no I haven't.....I feel very lucky that I have never felt that sad, and I very much feel for those that have...I guess I will just listen and be grateful I haven't been there. But, then a connection! I remembered I HAD been there in a way and not too long ago either....
Hurricane Irene! No power, complete darkness, silence. Feeling so sad and depressed. For over a week! Richmonders know what I mean. Wanting to be excited when your friends power came back, but secretly jealous yours was still out. Feeling like there were two gangs - those with power and those without - and acting like you didn't want to be in the with power gang so as not to appear desperate, but secretly wanting nothing more. My friend Hayes and I were two of the last to get ours back and I remember us telling each other that we would be honestly happy for one another when the other would get it, but we hoped we would get it at the same time because there might be some jealousy. I remember when Hayes texted me she got hers - she later told me she knew she had to tell me because we had pledged we would, but she worried how to word it so as not to plunge me into the pit of despair (my words, not hers). And, upon receiving this text, I remember being happy for her but then curling into the fetal position and bawling. But, there was another part of this experience that I had totally forgotten about that David's sermon reminded me of - during this week of no tv, no internet, no music I do remember praying a lot. I am not going to lie, the prayer often started with "Dear God, please let me have power" but I prayed about a lot of other things too - really important meaningful things to me like the troops, family, the babies I take care of at work. Unfortunately, I had gotten out of the habit of nightly prayer a long time ago. In those moments when I prayed I felt so much compassion for others. I thought this is terrible, but there are so many people in this world that have gone through and are going through so much worse and would probably trade places with me in a heartbeat. I always felt during these times that my prayers were being heard and I wasn't alone.
With that identification of a bit of a dark period, I recognized and got what David was saying, and absolutely loved the message. He also stated that the pain and grief you experience in life can make you a more beautiful person and a better friend to Jesus. He acknowledged that the congregation probably was wondering - wasn't there another option for a sermon topic? But, such a great message with some positivity to it in a way....
So, two churches attended and two churches where I learned and enjoyed my experience. I thought it was going to be hard to find a church I liked, not hard to find one I didn't. Not a bad problem to have, right?
Happy Sunday everyone :)