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Karen's Song
On Obedience and Church Attendance

In the Pentecostal Church (I think that is what I will call it although I was never a member of a United Pentecostal Church, but an independent Apostolic one), if you didn't make it to church -- say, maybe because your child was sick -- the immediate thought was that you are backsliding. I had more personal experiences with God in prayer after putting my little kids to bed than I ever had at church. Actually, I felt worse leaving the church than I did walking in. Even though the presence of God was there. It was the fear and guilt that J**** mentioned earlier today. I didn't win enough people, didn't knock doors, etc., etc. I can't tell you how many people I took to church and how many were "saved" according to them. There were still people in the church that I "won" to God. However, it was never enough.

Also, I had a very bad marriage. My husband was physically abusive and was out sleeping around. . I met him at that church and was not interested in him except for friendship. The church told us that we were to get married because that was what God wanted. Six months after our wedding, the behaviors mentioned above began. Every time that I went to the pastor, he told me to pray, fast, and read my Bible. I took it that he thought that I wasn't doing it enough. He preached that if you didn't pray an hour a day you weren't saved. There were evenings that I would pray two hours straight and the next only 45 minutes. Somehow because I had a troubled marriage and my husband's 20% <tithing> wasn't as much as the husband whose wife still cut her hair, I was too much trouble and obviously not doing enough spiritually. I even fasted while I was pregnant because I was told to do so. I was faithful to say the least but it wasn't enough.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that church attendance can be more harmful that edifying. I never want to subject myself to that again. Also, I see church attendance as idol worship. You sit and listen to a man who drives a Lexus and dons the $600.00 suit. To me, it is preacher religion. When you don't go to church, the members ask you "Why weren't you in church on Sunday?" How come they don't ask you how is your relationship with God? Isn't a relationship with God more important that showing up and sitting on a pew in a church building? Anyway, that is how I feel about the subject and am glad to know that church attendance isn't a Heaven or Hell issue.

Feeling God Outside of Pentecost

I just had the most wonderful conversation with an Islamic priest. I was taking my son to his friend's to spend the night. As I was leaving, I noticed the man and his daughter who live up-stairs were cleaning their car. The daughter wears the thing wrapped around her head, but wears regular clothes underneath. I asked my son if he knew what religion they were. He didn't know. I thought while driving that one day I was going to ask him what religion he was in and if he could tell me about it. When I came back, he was still outside.

I introduced myself to him because I had never done so before although I had opportunities. Then I asked him what his religion was. He told me Islam, and that he was a priest. I told him that I was on a spiritual quest and was open to learning about the different religions of the world and asked if he would tell me about his. We talked for 45 minutes and tears welled up in my eyes a few times. He started telling me about how loving God was and that He loves all of us. That God wants a relationship with us in our heart. God wants us to be conscience of him and treat neighbors with love. If I forgive someone, God will forgive me. He talked about humanity. He asked me why a few months ago I had scared car thieves away from stealing his son's car. I told him, "because I cared. I didn't want someone to take from someone else." He said that it wasn't my business, and why I had done it. I said, "Because I cared." He asked, "Why?" I said, "Because I cared."

He said, "That is humanity!"

That was a big step for me to ask someone of another what they believed. Although I am sure his beliefs go deeper than what he revealed to me in 45 minutes, what I found is that his basic beliefs about God are not different than mine. It was wonderful. God is much bigger and broader than we imagine. We try to put Him in this box, or that box -- that Islam priest loves God and is loving to his neighbor. Anyway, just wanted to share with you what God has shared with me.

Editor's note: These are two email messages that Karen sent us. They illustrate part of her journey from a hypocritical "outward" based system of earned salvation to finding out that God was bigger than we could imagine, or that our religions could describe.


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