It has been a long journey but I think we have finally found a church to worship and fellowship in. In that process, which was frustrating at times for me, I learned an immense amount about God and myself. Which, of course, is why most of the times these situations occur.
It has been four Sundays since my last posting and the churches we attended were much the same. In every case the music was way too loud for me and even the pastor's mic was very loud. One church we attended I held my fingers in my ear during the sermon it hurt so much. I don't know if the people in Hawaii are hard of hearing or it's just me(who has been told I have moderate hearing loss, go figure) but this has been the common thread in most of the churches we have visited. If you are looking for an investment opportunity, definitely consider the hearing aid industry.
On Saturday Jeri and I discussed where we were going to church the next day. We had pretty much run out of options unless we wanted to drive a long distance. I then suggested we go back to the "church of the ignoring" and give it another chance. For the past two weeks this church kept coming into my mind and I knew that we had to return or I was not going to get any peace. There are positive things about the church that I like. It is an open air facility which allows the gentle Hawaiian breezes to flow through; also the occasional bird or butterfly, and every so often you get to see a gecko climbing the wall behind the pastor. The music is not loud and the songs are similar to the ones I am use to. But most of all, the pastor preaches the Word faithfully from the scriptures. Jeri agreed and so we went the next morning to Grace Community, an evangelical free church. We decided that over time we would get to know people and the visitor "stink" would wear off.
So we arrive about two minutes before the published starting time which is 12 minutes early by Hawaiian time. Not kidding! We take our seats and about three minutes later the associate pastor, a man in his early 60's, greets three women from Arizona who are visiting a young couple from this church. We are the only people behind this group, the only people in our row of seats, and he does not see us. We are invisible! I'm thinking "what is going on, why is this happening, why did I come back here?"
The song service started and the third song was "Heart of Worship". The first verse goes like this:
When the music fades All is stripped away
And I simply come Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth That will bless your heart
I'll bring you more than a song For a song in itself
Is not what you have required You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear You're looking into my heart
By now I am starting to get an inkling where this is going when we then begin to sing the chorus:
I'm coming back to the heart of worship And it's all about you
It's all about you, Jesus I'm sorry Lord for the things I've made it
When it's all about you It's all about you, Jesus
Well, Folks, it finally became all too clear the reason for my long and frustrating journey. I needed to be reminded what the primary reason for church was, and that it is to worship our heavenly Father, His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. All the other aspects of church, the friendships, care groups, opportunities to serve, to teach and minister to those around us, are all just bonus features to being a part of a church family. The primary reason we come to church is to worship a Holy God and thank him for the many blessings he has given each of us.
Church is not a country club or social club where you come together once a week to fellowship. Friends and fellowship are important in a church family but it cannot become the primary reason we come together every Sunday. I had not lost sight of why I attend church, but I was looking for the wrong things in a church. My search had become self-centered; it was about MY need to have friends, about MY need to be accepted and wanted. Worship was not an issue; I knew how to do that and how important it is. I can do that in any church and any denomination. But my search had become centered on MY needs, not where God wanted us.
I believe that this church is where God wants us. It is a place that we can worship God, where we can be taught the truths of the Bible by a pastor who appears to love his congregation and preaches the word faithfully. The people are friendly and caring among themselves, the atmosphere and views are to die for, the music volume is reasonable and now that I have my priorities in place maybe we won't be so invisible. Jeri has already met a lady who owns a nursery and spends a good deal of time gardening and propagating plants. She will be a great source of information for our yard. We still have 5 more Sundays here before we head for Portland and my next meeting with the elephant in the room. Hopefully we will meet someone new every week and when we return in September we will be able to participate in a care group. Only time will tell.