*Note: my computer tells me this was not posted as scheduled last week. If it is a repeat, I apologize; but I am scheduling it again in case it never posted as planned. Thank you.
You know how sometimes you feel God’s presence? And other times you just feel like there’s a wall between the two of you?
I’ve always been taught that feelings follow faith. That my relationship with God is not dependent on how I feel on a particular day, but on the truth of what Jesus did for me at the Cross. That’s a great thing, because my feelings can be like a roller coaster from day to day, depending on how I slept, what I ate, whether I’m feeling overwhelmed by demands on my time and energy.
Our church had a special worship night Wednesday. Don and I pulled into the parking lot a few minutes early, to find the lot almost full. We walked into the church to find the seating rearranged to give an “in the round” feeling. There was a spirit of anticipation, of eagerness to meet God, in the house.
The music was great, with mic’d vocalists scattered among the congregants. Bill Hayden, Pastor of the Villages Chapel, shared an anointed message of God’s power and grace. For the past 15 years he has lived with pacemakers. Recently, a parasitic infection from a well known restaurant led to a crisis because of which Pastor Bill required an immediate heart transplant.
Amazingly, God provided that transplant. Pastor Bill reported that the doctors were all amazed at how quickly everything moved.
God is always at work. One of our worship song says “even when I don’t feel it He’s working. Even when I don’t see it He’s working.” We are told to walk by faith. We don’t always feel God’s presence but he is always present and at work.
And what a joy when we do feel it, see it. I felt it Wednesday night–the power, the faithfulness, the goodness of God. Bless his holy name!
“What is heaven like?” This, as well as “How is my Papa?” were questions some of my Kids’ Club third graders wanted to ask God.
What great questions. And can we ask God without offending Him?
Yes! We have a Father who loves us and wants us to know Him better. Questions asked from a seeking heart are welcome.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Heaven. What will it be like? What are those we love who have preceded us into glory experiencing in the presence of Christ?
I love these words from a popular praise song: “For He holds the keys to the grave and forever He will reign.” (From Praise the Invisible by Harvest)
The hymnist Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1932) wrote
“When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see, ’twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me.”
I Stand Amazed in the Presence
My dear ninety-eight year old mother is eager to go to her heavenly home. She has walked with Jesus since she was a little girl, and helped me to know Him as well. She can hardly wait to worship her Lord face to face, and to meet her beloved husband, my father, who preceded her to glory eighteen years ago.
I too look forward to meeting the One who holds the keys to the grave, who will reign forever. To meet Jesus face to face, to be reunited with loved ones who have gone before, to meet Moses and the prophets and apostles.
Meanwhile I continue to thank God for leading me day by day, for the relationship we have now that will continue into eternity, for my husband and family and friends and life and the beauty of creation.
And I will work to help my third grade kids find answers to their questions.
It’s a lazy, sunshiny Sunday. After attending church this morning and enjoying a nap in the afternoon, I’m sitting with my feet up on our recliner couch, looking at the beauty of this day God knew about before the foundations of the earth were laid.
Warmth permeates. Sun shines. Clouds billow.
So I thought today I would share some of my favorite photos of churches, starting with this beauty in the Lexington/Concord area of our nation’s history.
The Fall leaves, a mix of red, green and gold, gave a bright surround to the white steepled church.
And from the gallery below, left to right …
Top Left: One of the original Christian churches on Kauai, set beside the ocean, containing original hymnals, pews and pulpit. Don and I could almost feel the history housed in this building.
Top Center: Springtime blossoms blanket a cement table and benches outside the soda fountain at Mount Hermon in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. I love to retreat here to worship, learn and develop my craft at a marvelous Christian Writers’ Conference.
Top Right: This little, sagging pine green church greeted Don and me as we drove around the island of Maui. What voices has this church heard raised in praise to God over the years? And, since it was being rebuilt the last time we visited the island, what joy will once again raise its rafters in the future?
Lower Left: A replica of a slave church on a plantation in the Southern United States. Hearing about the faith of many of the slaves and enjoying some deep, heart-felt spirituals that gave strength under often horrific circumstances, was very meaningful to us.
Lower Right: To the beautiful words and melody of “The Holy City,” our tour bus entered Jerusalem a few years ago. Seeing the golden dome of the Temple while hearing “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing … Hosannah in the highest, Hosannah to your King” was heart-stirring. Knowing our King walked these streets, carried his cross up the Via Dolorosa, died on Calvary and rose from the grave three days later raised chills as we entered the city where Jesus will one day return. And he will take all who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, to join him in glory.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 NIV
May you be blessed this week in the love of Jesus Christ.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV
I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.
We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members.
During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.
We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.
Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?
As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?
Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?
After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.
As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”
I felt at home.
After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.
Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.
But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.
The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.
We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”
Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?
You’re not alone. Let’s talk about it.
Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!
It was noon Sunday. I was nine years old, and I realized my parents had left church–without me! Frightened, I wondered how long it would take them to realize I wasn’t in the car.
Would they expect someone else to bring me home?
Come back for me?
Be annoyed with me?
Thankfully, my childhood abandonment was short-lived. Mom and Dad heard the silence in the car(!), realized they’d forgotten one child and, to my great relief, returned to pick me up.
I had very loving parents and I was terrified.
I grieve for the many children who are abandoned emotionally, physically, spiritually by addicted, incapable, or uncaring parents. I remember a former acquaintance who, along with his waste collection buddies, found an abandoned, live infant in a garbage can.
But for Christ, fully God and fully man, to say “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” expresses incomprehensible pain.
At that moment, Jesus, carrying all the sin of the world on Himself, identified fully with my sin, and the collective sins of the world. Although He did not sin, Christ felt the separation from God that we sense when we have unconfessed sin in our lives. In heaven, the Son was One with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The three experienced perfect communication, complete alignment, sublime love, total Oneness. Leaving all that only to feel forsaken, abandoned–how great a chasm that must have been!
Truth set me free!
After a God-honoring memorial service for my first husband, I fell into a deep pit of abandonment, aloneness, despair. I was crushed by the question “What if everything I have believed is a lie … there is no eternal life with Christ … and I will never see Jerry again …” My conclusion was that if the Bible was not true, and faith in Christ was based on a lie, life as I knew it was over. No hope. No sustenance. No future. I might as well quit now.
I was alone in another sense. Because I had experienced God’s faithfulness, presence and hope during Jerry’s illness and death, people often commented on my example of faith, and how they were learning from me how to respond in adversity. How could I now disappoint them by revealing my doubts, the anguish I felt, my separateness from God and others? So I kept my agony to myself and wandered through murky darkness for several weeks.
One day God brought Peter’s words to my mind: “Where else would we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.” And suddenly, my heart was free. Truth won out. The gap closed, and I was again in union with my Lord, who went to the deepest of all pits in order to give me hope and life eternal.
A dear friend once told me that God wants to be God even in my deepest despair; and that however low my pit, God has gone deeper still.
Where are you feeling abandoned? Where do you need to have God reach in to rescue you from your pit? Tell Him. Allow Him to touch you and renew your spirit. If you’re willing to share with me, I’d like to pray for you too.
Jesus agonized on the Cross. He suffered the greatest pain possible, both physically and emotionally, and He died. But then came Sunday, the day the world changed forever! This Easter week, let’s praise Him for His sacrifice and His resurrection, which give us forgiveness and life and hope and peace.