Do you know what I think about church people? Well, I’ll tell ya, but maybe I should work into this subject a little more delicately.
I’ve been working on my book. Yes. Still. It’s in a perpetual state of polishing. I presume, since this is my first rodeo with publishing that this is the way it’ll be all the way until it goes to print. Good gracious, please pray for my family! Nevertheless, there’s nothing like being on the other side of the manuscript. Now that was a doozy of a process.
July 1988 ~ Dad in my last hospital room before discharging
(Pardon me, just realizing I really need to lay off the country girl lingo if I’m going to have any friends make it to the end of this post.)
After I finished my manuscript I mailed it out to what I would call seven “preview” readers. I have since learned there is a fancy name for those people, and it’s called beta readers. If you were one of our seven, there’s your title! It sounds super impressive to me.
So there Mom and I were at Charleston’s after leaving the post office, having my favorite salad on planet earth (the Walt’s Champagne Chicken Salad) when Mom asks, “Heather, are people going to look at me differently after they read your book?”
Without a bit of hesitation or pause I said, “Yes, definitely so.” And then I added, “And they’ll probably look at me differently too, but that’s not why I wrote it. It’s not about us. I wrote it to talk about those hard places no one wants to talk about, those places that are so challenging to face.”
Okay. So my statement needed a little more clarity, but remember I was stuffing my face at the moment with some delicious Walt’s Champagne Chicken Salad relishing in the satisfaction of being finished with the manuscript.
The book is a memoir; so yes, it is a story about the people in my world. But the message isn’t about us.
The message is about how an imperfect family, with hurts and hang-ups navigated through an unspeakable tragedy. It’s a message about finding joy in the deepest sorrows, hope in the darkest circumstances and healing in the most painful places. And listen, it’s not pretty. It’s not neat and tidy, packaged up with a pretty red bow. No. It’s downright messy.
Which is certainly the reason Mom was inclined to ask a question she already knew the answer to.
All bringing me back to what I think about church people, because those are the exact group of people Mom was referring to when she asked her question. I know because we’ve been there before. We’ve been in a place where the body of believers we belonged to were the very ones knocking on the pastor’s door to have us evicted from the church. Yep. I said it. Eeeeviccccted! I don’t know who those precious people were, but I trust the Lord wrapped His gentle conviction around them because it all worked out, but it happened.
You see…we did business with people they didn’t feel was appropriate for someone serving in the church.
Dad had an accounting and payroll business along with an insurance agency. Many of our clients operated bars. And get this. Some of them were strip clubs and gay bars. Right about now your mouth may be on the floor (if so, please be careful because flies are thick this time of year).
It is quite possible you would be right there in agreement with those knocking on our pastor’s door. But let me share with you just a little bit more of the picture.
My dad came from what is sometimes referred to as the wrong side of the tracks. Dad had quite a journey, rubbing shoulders with some shady people, involved in some questionable activities and making some unwise choices. Dad’s story is a bit complex, woven into the pages of mine and shared throughout my book. Not to ruin the story, but Dad got on a different path; however, he never thought of himself as better than where he came from. He walked out Philippians 2:3 (NLT) “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
Our last Father's Day-- June 2005
It’s why he hung a prayer cloth in our office. Every year when strippers would come in to have their personal taxes filed I’d hear one say, “I cry every time I come here and I don’t know why.” Dad would encourage, “I can tell you. It’s because we’ve prayed for you and there is a God who loves you and has a good plan for your life.”
It’s why one of our clients called to tell Dad she finally accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and decided to get out of the business. Her beer truck driver led her in the sinner’s prayer. Dad wanted so greatly to lead her in that prayer himself; nevertheless, the seeds he was obedient to plant grew a beautiful testimony.
I think church people get caught up in what is considered presentable.
I feel like I can say this because I’m a regular church-going girl. I read my Bible. I pray. I lift up holy hands in worship to the Lord in my kitchen, car and shower. But I think sometimes we sit in the sanctuary and we determine what is and what is not presentable to God. I think we limit His power at work in our lives from what we decide He can or cannot use. And it’s having the example from what some would call “both side of the track” that establishes value in the presentable and UNpresentable parts of my life.
Please let me encourage you today, God can use it ALL! He’s just waiting for you to turn it over.
*many thanks to our friends Jon and Misty for the sign that sits on our kitchen countertop and served as the banner for this blog post. Thankful for their heartbeat shared among many in our church family!
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