Thursday, January 22, 2009

Open Doors

I didn’t tell anyone where I was going today, except Chad. More about that later.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about church and relationships and how those two things should fit together. And how they should fit together in my own life. It’s caused me to reevaluate and redefine some things. And it’s caused me to have a pretty rough couple of weeks. I ended up in a place that didn’t feel so good and before I knew it, I had worked myself up into a full-blown spiritual crisis.

So today, I wanted to go find God somewhere.

Like other people who grew up in Sunday School, I learned early on that God is everywhere. He’s with us all the time. He’s in our hearts. I get that. But I wanted to find him where I hadn’t looked for him before. In a place apart from my own religious traditions.

I remembered the ancient (by American standards, anyway) Catholic churches I visited as a child in Santa Fe. These buildings – some a couple hundred years old – stand open every day to welcome people in for prayer, whether they are Catholic or not. They didn’t care that I was an 11-year-old Church of Christ kid. They even let me light a candle to a saint I had never heard of.

I wanted to find God in a place like that. A place with ornate stained-glass windows and heavy wooden doors and people in robes who say things like “Eucharist” and “Maundy Thursday” and “diocese” and swing metal birdcages around with incense wafting out of them. A place with kneeling benches and stone floors and a general air of holiness. Surely there are places like that in a city like Little Rock.

So I googled.

And I found one. Christ Church Episcopal. It’s downtown, near the Capitol. Christ Church is known for its stone building with red doors. Sort of like a spiritual Elizabeth Arden. They keep the red doors open on weekdays for people like me to come in and pray. So I went.

I walked in through the red doors and instantly regretted wearing boots. It was so quiet in there, and my boots on the tile floor made it impossible for me to sneak in. I sat toward the back and an official looking man approached me. He apologized for all the activity going on in there at the time (some people were working on something at the pulpit and a janitor was mopping the floor) and offered to show me to the chapel. He took me to a smaller room off to the side – a room with marble floors and wooden kneeling benches.

“Stay as long as you like,” he said as he left.

I was kind of disappointed he wasn’t wearing a robe. I guess they only do that on Sundays.

I looked around the room. Stained glass, of course. Candles and a gold cross engraved with “IHS.” (What does that mean? There’s so much I don’t know.) Red prayer cushions dented by the knees of the faithful. Except for the city sounds outside, I sat in silence and took in a couple of Psalms, as well as “The Book of Common Prayer” in the book rack in front of me. Then I just tried to be there and be still – something so hard for me to do. I tried to focus on letting God in through all my senses. Breathing him in and letting him be… enough.

And I knew that in his infinite enoughness, God still gives me a wonderfully comforting husband who doesn’t act too perplexed when his wife cries for a week straight. And friends who pray from hundreds of miles away. Friends whose prayers really work. And two girls who continuously bring me joy. I am ridiculously blessed.

I wrote earlier that this process has taken me to a place that did not feel good. But it did today. Today, it led me to an open door.


  • At Thu Jan 22, 02:12:00 PM, Blogger Carol said…

    Beautiful post Deana. I love the way you said, "infinite enoughness". Beautiful! May God continue to bless you with a loving family and faithful friends!

  • At Thu Jan 22, 08:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your best post...

  • At Thu Jan 22, 10:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a wonderful post! I have been a "lurker" on your blog for about 2 years and have never commented, even though I have said "Amen!" outloud many times. Please excuse me for commenting anonymously, but under the circumstances, I think that is best. You see, my husband is a minister in a traditional C of C. You would know him if I identified him. For years, I have felt that I could worship and pray more effectively if we had kneeling benches in our sanctuary....errr...auditorium. Those will be added right after the piano is brought in. And remember, I said we're TRADITIONAL. So it will be freezing down below before either one of those things happen! I guess what I'm trying to say through all of this rambling is "I understand what you are saying". When I began reading this post, I was anticipating that you would tell us you drove out to a mountain and hiked to the top to meet with God. But an actual mountain is not needed in order to have a mountain top experience. Sometimes, all it takes is a kneeling bench in a quiet place of worship. I agree that the robe would have helped! :-) May God continue to bless you in your walk.

  • At Fri Jan 23, 02:48:00 AM, Anonymous dadandlinda said…

    We've been attending the catholic service and protestant service at our chapel for a time now. A number of the young people are marrying each other. The weddings are usually conducted at the castle with the priest officiating. Then church attendance is something like

    Sunday am--Protestant
    Sunday pm--Orthodox
    Wednesday--Charismatic [see]
    Saturday--youth group which is truely non denominational

    We love you Deanna, and know God is pleased with you.

    email is my maiden last name no space my married last name at hotmail

  • At Fri Jan 23, 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Jared Cramer said…

    As a former CofC kid, campus minister in Abilene, turned Episcopal priest. I'm so pleased you found an open door in one of our parishes. Just so you know, IHS is the abbreviation for the name of Jesus in Greek. It's the first and last letter of his name in Greek along with the main vowel, the standard way Greek abbreviations are done.

    I hope our doors are always open to you.


    "O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." - Book of Common Prayer, 832

  • At Fri Jan 23, 07:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Deana, I've been lurking for quite a while but wanted to post and tell you that this post moved me because I am there with you right now. I am in what we call "the dry spell" of my walk and I try to seek God out just as you have. I was raised in a very traditional CofC as well, but now attend a Bible-based non-denom and I have found such a blessing in His spirit that I never knew existed before. God bless you.

  • At Fri Jan 23, 08:41:00 AM, Anonymous Scott F said…

    Wow. Love this. Have just added your blog to my favorites!

  • At Fri Jan 23, 08:55:00 AM, Blogger jettybetty said…

    I have a lot to learn from the Episcopalians. Sounds like you learned something from them, too.

    Why don't more churches leave their doors open?

  • At Fri Jan 23, 09:07:00 AM, Blogger Liane Jerry said…

    A thoughtful post, Deana. I have struggled with church and relationships since I've lived in Arkansas. There is a connectedness in the churches you describe. A connectedness in the liturgy of the Church, in the history related by the prayers. A longing does seem filled. I pray you found whatever you were seeking and that in the search you felt peace.

  • At Fri Jan 23, 09:16:00 AM, Blogger Scott Walters said…

    Dear Deana,

    I guess I'm the "official looking man" who met you briefly at Christ Church. I can't thank you enough for letting us know about your blog. Your words are insightful and lovely-what a rare combination, and they are a wonderful affirmation of simple ministry of leaving the doors unlocked.

    It's clear that in making these stirrings and experiences (even uncomfortable ones) available to others you're offering a generous blessing. Count me now among the blessed.

    Scott Walters

    PS My wife adds forcefully that if the urge to wear those robes every day, she'll be the first to set me straight.

  • At Fri Jan 23, 12:16:00 PM, Blogger J. Brent Bates said…

    I'm another former member of the Church of Christ, who has now become an Episcopal priest. I went to Harding & ACU! A friend of mine sent a link to this post and I found it to be very insightful and articulate. I just had to comment :) Part of what drew me to the Episcopal Church was the spiritual peace and beauty I found not only the ritual of its worship, but also in the stillness and silence of its prayerful spaces. Thank you for your words.

  • At Fri Jan 23, 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Mary Lou said…

    Deana, I've been there too,in my spiritual life, but unlike you, I didn't find the courage to just walk into another house of God. I used to long to sit "in His presence" in same way you described. I imagined myself seated in a sanctuary with icons on the walls and a rough rustic cross on the walls, not one made out of flowers (like in our building). God bless you as you walk your own personal journey. May we find tolerance and understanding of diverse ways of coming to the cross. I think our yearnings to be with God is what He had in mind for us.

  • At Fri Jan 23, 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Nellie said…

    Wonderful post, Deana. I, too, wish we had a way to kneel in prayer in our CofC buildings. I once had the experience of wanting to literally move out of the pews and stretch out prostrate on the floor. Oh how I wish I had done it! I know that it would have been perfectly all right to do so, but at the time I did not feel I could do that. Given the same circumstances today, you couldn't stop me!(This happened while in attendance at a Taize service at the Chapel on the Hill at ACU.) I have had many wonderful experiences since that time as I have grown in my spiritual walk.

    I hope and pray that you will find more experiences like this one, no matter where you find them. And I also pray that your sense of crisis has been quieted and you have felt the peace that passes our very limited understanding. Love you!

  • At Sat Jan 24, 01:57:00 PM, Blogger WinSpin said…

    God bless you in your continued search to more like Christ in Spirit and in Truth.
    My dad's CoC generation of the early 1900's experienced the aftershocks of what I call the, "early fallout from the Restoration Movement."
    My generation dealt with the aftershocks of my dad's aftershocks.
    Now, in a like manner, your generation is dealing with the aftershocks of my generation's aftershocks.
    Strangely enough, each generation will have aftershocks of previous generations. I call this, "growth." In other words, I believe you are experiencing a continuing Restoration Movement. This is good but there will be aftershocks. There will be fallout. There will be conflict within your soul. The way you were raised, our traditions, the things you have learned along the way, those things you will encounter on your path to eternity...all of these plus whatever else will accompany you on your journey. I believe that all of this is good.
    I think that many in each generation believe that the Restoration Movement (whatever this is) is complete...that there is no more Restoring to be done. God forbid.
    Growing up in the Church of Christ and being a CoC minister for 28 years brought many experiences. Some beautiful and some bitterful (not sure "bitterful" is a word but if not, it should be.
    Now at age 73, I still am a rather traditional CoC type. But I belieive I grew in my Restoration much further than my dad's generation. Yet each generation may have been where it needed to be at the time.
    But I graciously accept and condone your Restoration growth which exceeds my Restoration growth.
    I see it all as a continuing saga. None of us will ever feel the complete fulfillment of peace, love and joy until that Day when we see Christ face to face and hear those blessed words, "Faithful servant, enter herein..."

    "Do not let your heart(s) be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so,I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." (John 14:1-4) --

    The Father is running to meet you and hold you in His arms...Abba Father...

  • At Mon Jan 26, 06:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well said! I have been a Church of Christ member all my life, but have always sought for more. My wife and I have found that at Christ Church in Little Rock. Since we still attend our C of C the majority of the time, I have commented to my wife on several occasions prior to the "beginning" of worship that I guess it would be inappropriate to try to kneel and pray before the service actually begins! With the noise and talking and laughing it is hard to capture the spirit of the occasion. But we truly love to go to Christ Church. For me it's just a beautiful part of continuing journey. The silence and visual beauty is really accomodating to the mind and its yearning for the spiritual.

  • At Mon Jan 26, 11:25:00 AM, Blogger Dr. J said…

    Re: IHS

  • At Mon Jan 26, 06:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Loved your post, Deana. Thank you for sharing some of your struggle with us.

    --Mary Lou in NC

  • At Tue Jan 27, 04:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Loved this! I was just telling Mark today as we were driving down around the Vanderbilt area in Nashville, "Put this on my bucket list. I want to take six months someday -- or maybe even a year -- and go visit as many churches in Nashville as we can, especially the beautiful old ones, and just see what kind of experiences God gives us." Seems like you received exactly what I'd be looking for.

    Shelli M.

  • At Sat Jan 31, 11:17:00 AM, Anonymous Wendy Abel said…

    Your post really touched me, too, Deana! I was one of the rare non-CoC kids at ACU, coming from a Baptist and non-denominational background. During most of my time at ACU, I was a member of the Church of the Heavenly Rest (Episcopal), thanks to the guy I was dating, and really came to appreciate the liturgy and solemnity of the services and saw a deep love for Christ and the church in the members. I'm now back in a Baptist church, but am struggling with feeling "at home" there. Your words gave me hope in many ways. Thanks for sharing your heart!


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