I have decided to read the Holy Bible from cover to cover.
Earlier this week I had finished my book and late one night felt like reading before bed. The closest thing to hand was the Bible on our coffee table, so I picked it up and started reading from Chapter 1 - Genesis. Four days later I am in Ch. 14 of Exodus and it would be fair to say, finding it a gripping read and often during my day I will start just thinking back over what I have read and it's meaning. Most of it is very familiar and the lessons I learned as a child are all returning to me with each book.
When I was in school we had Religious Studies on the curriculum and I therefore studied the Bible for a few years daily and sat a final exam. From childhood I went to church and Sunday School with my family, but as is often the case at times I felt under parental duress to go. So as an adult this resulted in me deserting and questioning the church until I moved here. This did not however mean I ever totally forgot many of the lessons or entirely lost my faith.
When I moved here I decided I wanted to return to church and since then I have attended pretty much weekly. Last year I decided to take the next step and reconfirm my faith by being re-baptised in church. The fellowship I have received there has restored my faith fully and I believe my renewed faith is helping me grow into a better and happier person.
I live in the American 'Bible belt' here and so I would say 90% of the people I know attend church weekly. Back in the UK I came from a wealthy, middle class respectable area and have friends who like me were brought up attending church regularly. We were all in the exact demographic where you would expect regular church attendance. But I have to think really hard to come up with anybody I knew who attended church weekly (or would admit to it anyway!), that's how far the UK has moved away from regular church attendance.
Going to church here is also very different to the UK version. In the UK churches are usually beautiful but ancient buildings, often chilly and with few modern conveniences. Here the churches may lack character and stunning stained glass, but they are heated, have video screens and sound mixing, fully carpeted, with toilets and a fellowship hall or room for socialising. It's all very different and far more comfortable than the majority of churches back home.
I have no doubt some of my UK friends will read this piece in disbelief, find it funny or just think I've totally lost it and will never be the person they knew again. In fact when I returned to the UK after visits here and said I had attended church, a few friends ridiculed it and so I just quit talking about it in the end.
But, and the following is obviously a comment on where I specifically live in the USA, I can honestly see for myself that people here are just nicer, more considerate, politer and still have respect for each other. Neighbours are quick to help each other, the power of prayer is believed in throughout the community and if this is what attending church regularly brings to your life, then I believe it can only be a good thing. Community spirit is also far stronger here than in the UK and the churches are right at the very centre of this.
I have been and am still on prayer lists throughout the area for my Graves Disease, I do believe this has helped me recover against the initial odds, without the radical medical intervention. One particular Sunday when I was feeling especially sick and scared I went up to the altar to pray during the invitation part of our service. As I knelt there and prayed I was flooded with the most extraordinary burning heat in my upper chest and head area, and my problem is centred on my thyroid at the base of my throat. For me that was a major turning point in the strength of my faith and since then my health has grown stronger by the month.
So for any of you reading this thinking 'yeh, yeh', I was once at that stage but turned back and I can say wholeheartedly my life is so much better now.
Returning to church was the first step back on the path for me, choosing to be baptised again as an adult was the second step and rediscovering and really understanding the Bible is now the final step on my own path to faith, fulfillment and happiness. I have always believed things happen in your life for a reason, now is obviously the time when I am mean't to read the Bible and let it enrich my life.
So I hope if you feel unfulfilled in life or like you're missing something, maybe you will also give the church and faith another chance in your life, you may like me, be surprised at the result.