Tag Archives: Faith

Sundays That Do! (Go better, that is)

My precious granddaughter, Charis, had spent the night on Saturday night.  She is an early riser, as a rule, and I felt her slip into bed beside me just as I was ready to get up on Sunday morning.  The smell of roast beef was wafting up from the kitchen, and I remembered that it was “Carry-in Sunday” at our little country church.

The man who was supposed to bring the morning message had been waylaid by surgery that hadn’t gone as well as expected, so Friday night, the Leadership Team had decided to have a “fifth Sunday” plan for the morning service and that meant we would have a song service instead of a morning message, and follow that by a potluck “dinner on the grounds” kind of thing.  Only it wasn’t dinner on the “grounds” to be honest.  It was “dinner underground” in the basement of our church.  It’s a beautiful and convenient gathering place and will easily handle our congregation.  I was so glad for the decision to have carry-in.  I missed last month’s when we were in Missouri, and it’s always a good time with our church family.

So Charis and I got ourselves up and betook ourselves downstairs.  We stirred about, she having coffee and a breakfast sandwich and watching Veggie Tales, and I, making succotash, getting the roast out of the oven, making gravy, collecting the mushrooms for the mushroom dish I like to take with the roast, and trying to calculate if there was enough tea concentrate to take Garden tea along for the meal instead of the usual Southern Sweet eat that we take.  Certain Man came into the kitchen and carefully sliced the roast into the usual pan, and Middle Daughter came down and helped out with the dinner preparations, and we finished in good time.  It’s always a scramble to get out of the door on time any Sunday, and this day was no different, but with the good, good help of everyone, we got everything loaded and got to church on time.

We had a wonderful time at church.  The “mature women’s class” had a splendid time together.  There was so much to catch up on and there were things to cry about, things to laugh about and lots and lots of things to pray about, for sure.  And the song service was heartwarming and worshipful and familial.  And yes, I did mean familial.  If there’s anything we are at our church, it is that special feeling of being a family.  We don’t always agree, and we don’t see everything eye to eye and sometimes feelings get hurt, but most of the time, for most of the folk, people are caring of each other and how people feel and think.  And we really do love to sing together.  I thought Sunday’s songs were especially thoughtfully chosen and enthusiastically sung.

But it wasn’t just the service and the meal.  It was the announcement that was made during the service.  The announcement had to do with a notice that was put on the back bulletin board.  And for all of you who haven’t heard, this is now the official word.

Here, see for yourself.

Clint & Sharon

Now you know!

(This is the “happy news” alluded to in the last post, and it is exciting for all of us.)

My heart truly does give Grateful Praise!

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Holy Fire and Human Flailings

Lord Jesus, please hear the heart of Your Handmaiden.

I read this morning in Leviticus 10 of the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu.  As is the case every. single. time. I. read. it, my heart aches for Aaron and his wife and his family.  Here is Aaron, in his mid eighties at least, and his sons — were they reckless youths?  We know they had no children according to the scriptures.

It seems so harsh, Lord Jesus, so final, so – well, so without warning.  I always struggle when I plow my way through this passage and read of a father who “said nothing,” when it happened.  A father who wasn’t allowed the “comfort of mourning,” wasn’t given any time off from his job, all under the thread of death.  “And Aaron . . . obeyed.” (Lev.10:7)

What must he have felt, though, and how could he have dealt with it?  There was no arguing about who had passed the severe judgement, no arguing with this God who had, always had, the final say, the trump card, the final word, supreme power , ultimate authority . . . This morning I feel like this fuzzy, rebel brain is at the very edge of an answer that can help this aching heart.

First of all, Lord Jesus, I do not know the whole of the circumstances that let up to this.  From what it says, the boys, (young men) were duly warned, thoroughly instructed and well aware of what the protocol was.  And because you are GOD (who has the final say, ultimate authority, etc.) what you did was right – and (though I choke when I say this) GOOD.

Father-God, in this whole nitter-natter about “Why?” and seeking to come to acceptance and peace, I feel like I am missing something important.  Something to do with your Holiness.  Something about the God-Fire Purity that is the essence of this “I AM” God, whom I’ve chosen as my God, but whose very essence I do not begin to comprehend. I cannot capture the depth, the intensity, the incomprehensible HOLINESS that is God.  Awesome, Powerful, and Eternal — and yet, You love me like a protective Father; care (infinitely more than I can imagine !) what is going on in my heart and call me to reflect that Holiness with purity.  And it occurs to me that when I offer anything else back to you except “Holy Fire,” it spells DEATH.

But why?  Lord Jesus, Why?

Is it because that what is at the root of the “strange fire” is an attempt to appear right before you, and before those watching?  That is not only prideful and deceitful, but an affront and a contradiction of WHO you are, and WHAT you are.  And this strange fire cannot help but be swallowed up, consumed by the intensity of your Holiness and Purity.  It’s not as much a  judgement call by a Holy God as it is a very natural consequence.  It’s almost like a tiny flame, inching up a glowing wick to a stick of dynamite, assuming he is the victor because he burned the wick all the way to the end. None of us would say it was the dynamite’s fault for totally encompassing and extinguishing the flame.  We would think it ridiculously ostentatious for other flames, looking on to accuse the dynamite of wrong doing, or hasty judgement or of unfeelingly, arbitrarily “making rules” that explode with deafening brilliance and force and destruction and death.

Oh, Holy God, our God!  Passionate and pure and intense and full of fire.  Not because you decide to be, but rather it is because You ARE.  Somehow you decided to use poor, wretched humans to reflect your perfect Holiness — elevating us to sons and daughters (Family!) and we accuse you of being unfeeling or unfair when we fall victims of our own foolish, selfish, and prideful plans that cannot begin to stand before you- Glorious, Awesome, Righteous, Burning Holiness and Purity.

And it is just that, Heavenly Father.  I cannot stand before you, pretending to have any fire that matters to you at all.  I feel exposed, weak and useless in my wretched reasoning and the offerings I bring.  I want to cower in the darkness, away from your throne, wondering what to do next.  But I hear words of hope, ringing in this head that I want to cover.

“For we have not an high priest that cannot be touched by the feelings of our infirmities . . .  in all points, tempted like as we are . . . ”

Ah, Lord Jesus!  My Brother, My Redeemer!  The one whose fire is the only fire I can offer back to the Father – I eagerly and frantically and deliberately and with nothing to repay you, choose you!

The fear melts away, the bitterness running off my heart in rivulets as You become Righteousness in me; rekindling the Only Fire that is acceptable to God The Father.

And my heart gives grateful, humble praise.

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Another Sunday with the Littles

I got to spend time with The Littles at our country church in Slower Lower Delaware this morning.  The class has the same four children, but this morning I looked into their faces and saw how much they have grown up in the four short months that they’ve had another teacher.  Katie and Judah have a new baby brother, which got discussed thoroughly and delightedly.  Jamison, far more verbal than he was four months ago, joined in the conversation with feeling and much expression.  Charis, the oldest, was thoughtful and participant, but the only one without a brother (or even a sibling for that matter) was quieter than usual.

We sang the song that we had used to open class time last year, and they all remembered and helped along.  My heart warmed to hear each of their four voices soar in the familiar words and tune.  The story we were covering today was the story of Jesus coming to John the Baptist for baptism, and I laid the background of what John’s mission was, and desert lifestyle and diet and his message to the people of his time, and there were appropriate expressions of disgust at the garment of camel’s hair, and talk of “throwing up” over the locusts and wild honey.  (Especially the “grasshoppers” business.)  And then we got to the part about Jesus being baptized by John.

The teacher’s manual provided a cutout that made a dove “spinner” to emphasize the dove that descended upon the head of Jesus, and each of them had their own spinner and a chance to try it out.  Also suggested was using ribbons for blessing and praise.  I had made each of them a “Blessing Stick” by attaching ribbons to a 12″ dowel stick, and after speaking a blessing over each one of them, I told them that we were going to use the sticks with singing a song.  They gathered, excited and gloriously distracted and yet eager to sing.  We sang an old children’s song that I learned many years ago, using the sticks in different motions for the two different phrases.

Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!  (Shake sticks in front of you)
Praise ye the LORD! (Wave in a wide arc over head)
Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
PRAISE YE THE LORD!

About the third or fourth time through it they really got into it, and there was much waving about of the ribbons and the words were intelligible and they even got the standing up and sitting down motions that we were using.  But time was getting a little short to finish everything up, so we went back to the table to get the coloring pictures and take home papers and one last activity from the home papers.

“Pra-a-a-a-i-i-i-i-s-e-e-e   y-e-e-e-e-e–e–e–e—e the L-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-d” warbled Charis in a vibrato mode as she pulled her chair back up to the table. “Ha-a-a-l-l-l-e-e-e-e-el-u-u-ujah!”  She was really putting her soul into the music as she sang with pronounced showmanship.

After a time or two of this, Katie looked at her with puzzled disdain.  “Charis,” she said with a hint of annoyance, “why are you singing that song like a goat?”

Charis looked at her pityingly.  “That’s opera!” she said and resumed her song.  It went on and on.

“Charis,” I interrupted.  “Do you like opera?”

“Oh, yes!  I love it!” And she resumed her song again.  I listened as she sang and could hear the “opera” in her rendition.

“I think you could be an opera singer some day,” I told her.  “You seem to have the voice for it.”

“Really?” She asked excitedly.  “I would really love that!”

“I think you could,” I told her, “but you would have to study hard and get a trainer and all of that.  But I think for now, maybe we’ve had enough opera.”

“Okay,” she said agreeably, bent her head to her papers, and started to sing again.  Then stopped.  “Oh, dear!” She said impatiently.  “Now I got that song in my head!”

I think we all did.

And I smiled to myself as I thought about this class of LITTLES.  They are growing so big and it’s happening so fast.  Life is moving right along and the happenings of our world are impressing themselves on their minds and hearts.  They live in a world that is divided by hate and bigotry and mixed messages and uncertainties and so much division in the Family of God.

And I’m trying to sing a song to this old world.  It’s the Story of Jesus and His Love.  I would like it to be vibrant and full of harmony and joy and hope and love.  I would like it to catch on with the people around me.  I would like it to stick in their minds and I would like them to wave banners of light and beauty and blessing.  I would like them to “jump out of their chairs” at the right moments and I’d like them to do it with unity and peace and courage — but mostly to bring His Love to the rest of the world.

I’m singing it the best I can.  I’m singing it with all my heart.  I’m singing it when I’m thinking about it, and I’m singing it when I’m not.  Because it’s stuck!  Not only in my head but also in my heart.

And it’s my fervent prayer that no one wonders why I’m trying to sing like an old goat. I do make mistakes in the music.  I sometimes jumble the words.  I sometimes even forget them.

But the basic melody of JESUS, friend of sinners, hope of the world, SAVIOUR — This, I pray will be heard.  And whether the listener likes opera or classical or modern or country, may it fill their ears, stick in their heads and find its way to their hearts, inviting them, drawing them into The Family.

“Oh, LORD JESUS!  May it be so!”

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Laws Mennonite Church, music, The LITTLES Sunday School Class

My Favorite Book

On this December 31st morning, at 10:24,  I finished reading my favorite book one more time.

People have sometimes wondered how many times I’ve read this book in my lifetime.  I honestly don’t know.  I do know that I have tried to read it through once a year for most of the years of my adult life.  But I honestly don’t know how often that has been.

There is something I do know!  And that is this:  No other effort of my life has changed me so intrinsically as This WORD from a Holy, Loving God.  And even though I’ve been warned that there is no force of hidden power or protection or daily assistance in this “habitual reading,”  I beg to differ.

People say that days only seem to go better,  things only seem to work out for good, life only seems to be smoother because I’ve conditioned myself to believe that.

I beg to differ.

Nothing I can say will change the minds of the scoffers, the skeptics, the  dissenters.  I can only speak what I have experienced. And that is an incredible grace, given to an ordinary Delaware Grammy through the discipline of reading HIS WORD.  I don’t do it perfectly.  I sometimes don’t think carefully about what I’m reading.  Sometimes I prop my head up on my hand on my side of our bed and “get through” — so sleepily I’ve almost fallen out a time or two — or three or four.  Sometimes I find myself needing to catch up when the busy days crop up against each other and I find myself behind.

But most of the time, when I sit at the counter in my kitchen and read the timeless words, the age-old principles, the life-giving doctrine, the inspiring poetry, the laments, the praises, the Godly instruction and even the reproof, I find important things that help me through the maze that is my life.  Through the anxiety, through the sorrow, though the demands of those who depend upon me, through the things I do not understand, through the interruptions, and through the good, good times, this Book tells the story of redemption and LIFE through the Son of God.  I’m here to tell you.  JESUS makes all the difference.

John 20:31  But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

I believe!

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