Monday, January 24, 2011

Mystery Messages: The tiny things that can change our minds.

I missed church yesterday Lord. The frigid winter wind you sent froze the fuel line in the car. It just wouldn’t start. Later that morning, Mom told me an interesting story of whispers from you. It seems that when we moved from New Jersey to Detroit, she was looking for a specific type of church. A specific denomination. I remember going to a few with her and she said she had another one picked out to try the next Sunday.

That next Sunday came and we were all washed up, dressed up and sitting in the car. The car would not start. There wasn’t a good reason for it to not start, it just wouldn’t. So, we didn’t try the new church. I remember the letdown of not going to church. We hadn’t been in awhile, mainly because we had moved to a new state. We always went to church, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and Friday evenings. Church was a huge part of our lives. Monday morning came and the car started. It started everyday that week. Sunday morning came and the family was ready to try that new church. Of all things, that car decided to not start. Again. Same thing happened that week, everyday from Monday to Saturday the car ran just fine. Until Sunday morning.
Well Dad gave up. He decided he was taking us to the church right down the street. On the same block. Walking distance. No excuse not to go. No car needed. We walked four houses down and enjoyed a different service. This was Dad’s church. He had grown up in this church, gotten confirmed in it and attended the school.

Beautiful. Wonderful. Mom didn’t go. By this time she was sick and miserable with some minor but nasty bug. She told me that she lay on the couch talking to you about how much she wanted to go to the church she had picked out. Then she heard you say, “What does it matter the name on the building?”

 It clicked inside her head. The car wouldn’t start on SUNDAYS. Only on Sunday. There was a perfectly good church right down the street. So close that it was almost in the backyard. Mom gave in and went to Dad's old church the following Sunday when she was feeling better. She joined the church. In fact we all did.
That church changed my life. It impacted my thoughts of you and helped me to grow stronger in you. My faith became more firmly rooted in you. Later on, when I was older, I taught Sunday school there.
We never worried about the car not starting again on Sunday morning.

Until yesterday. Perhaps this is a little test for me. Will I go next week? Will I give in to past temptation and sleep in? Nah. I think there is a reason that the car wouldn’t start yesterday. Maybe the cows at the neighboring farm were in the road again and maybe this time I would have hit one instead of narrowly missing them (Yes that happened recently, pretty scary!).

You directed Mom to a different type of church, one that YOU picked out for her. You led her there because you had a purpose for her, a mission for her to complete at that church. She listened to you. The mystery of the car was solved.

It’s funny how something so small can change our lives. A message from you that brought much joy, many tears and a whole world of serving you. I hope that I haven’t ignored some message from you that could have changed my life. Some chance to serve you. I started listening to your whispers in my heart again. That’s what has brought me to this point of attending church again. Another whisper led me to join the choir over Christmas. I’m sure you have something in store for me; I will just have to listen closer to your whispers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'll pray myself to sleep

Good morning Lord, it was nice worshipping you today. I know I’ve been a little lax in my daily devotions. It’s been hard to get back into the groove every day. That certainly doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about you. We have had those conversations.

Okay, okay, I know I end up asleep before I’m done with the prayer list, but you know what is in my heart. I have good intentions. Yes, I know I’ve done that all my life. When I was younger, I remember thinking I’ll just pray myself to sleep. I’m sure you got a chuckle out of that. I still remember where I was when it happened the first time, it was in mom’s bed in the loft bedroom in New Jersey. My Sally doll was right there beside me. I think I was a bit worried about something that had happened at school. I started praying and sure enough, fell asleep. I did wake up refreshed, as if we had talked all night long. That day was easier to get through, I knew you were there with me.

The worship service was especially joyful today. A tiny infant was baptized and entered your fold. She didn’t cry as the Holy Water touched her scalp. She seemed to welcome it. I really need to get my little one baptized. The song we sang about the baptism was one I hadn’t heard before. It had the most pleasant melody and the words touched my heart. It reminded me that you are there for all the stages of my life. Here is a snippet of the hymn:

I was there to hear your borning cry, I’ll be there when you are old. I rejoiced the day you were baptized to see your life unfold.

When the evening gently closes in and you shut your weary eyes, I'll be there as I have always been, with just one more surprise. ~ John Ylvisaker.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Whispers

I admit it. I ignored the voice in my heart for many years. I ignored it so well that it almost became silent. I wrestled with myself daily, then weekly, until finally the wrestling was seldom. Gentle reminders from my mother didn’t faze me, instead they washed over me until I just didn’t think about it. One day the whispers grew louder. I stopped what I was doing and said “Okay, I‘m going.”

That’s the day I walked back into the church. The hymnal was different, the service, not as traditional as I had grown up with, but wonderful all the same. The whispers had become the Holy Spirit talking in His normal voice asking me to come back. I did. I have been happier since that day.

Several events led to my decision to go back to church. I found myself often saying to my children; “You need a dose of Jesus in your life.” This usually occurred after I had to referee some serious sibling rivalry battles. I also tried to sing some Sunday School songs to my daughter Casey, 2, and had forgotten many of the words. Hmm, what a shock. Last Easter season, Good Friday I think, I talked with my cousin, who regularly attends the same denomination church in her town a state away, about favorite hymns at Easter. I realized that one of the big things I missed was the hymns. They had always made me feel warmer inside. Then I read about a well known author and her struggles with her conscience that ultimately resulted in her announcement to leave organized religion. She stressed that she had not forgotten her Christianity; she just didn’t want to be a part of the church any longer. I am not of the same organized religion as this author, but I realized that I had essentially done the same thing. I left the church, the worship services. In my case though, I need that service, not because I had lost my faith, that has always been unshakeable, firmly rooted in Him. I need that chance to sing and worship with others, to feel Him beside me in a different way. That day, I felt Him there. He was right beside me.
After that first service, I found myself singing all through the house. I sang so much that my Casey, started mimicking me. She sang La la lula at the top of her lungs. I had been singing This Is the Feast, which includes several Halleluiahs. My heart soared. It was really warm inside. I felt peace. I knew that I had done the right thing. The whispers were now a part of my joy.

My daughters and I have been attending church for almost 3 months. Occasionally my second son reluctantly tags along. My older daughter, Holly, is also taking confirmation classes. Holly and I joined the choir just before Thanksgiving. I hadn’t sung since high school, but I felt another whisper in my heart. So I swallowed some butterflies and joined. That was the second best decision I had made in a long while. We practiced 3 songs to sing at the Christmas Eve candlelight service. One evening, we also went caroling to some of the shut in members. As I stood there singing the old familiar hymns, the joy on the peoples’ faces made my heart flip flop.

After talking to the pastor, I joined the congregation. He asked why there was such a huge gap in my attendance. Of course, I had no good excuse, so I told him that I just hadn’t felt like it. I guess I just felt that there would never be a church to compare with the one I loved so much. The stunningly gorgeous one in Detroit, Michigan. As far as I know, the building still stands and I think there are still services but many things changed. I have been searching for another church just like that one. Now I know that church was always there, it was in my heart the whole time. I plan to continue to attend church, I need to. I need to feel that joy in my heart.