Tag Archives: church

Because of Christmas #6: Worship

In NC there is this giant store of antiques called Granddaddy’s Antique Mall. If you take your time, you can spend hours in there. Today, I was on a mission. I had seen these metal angels with little bells attached to their wings. They were handcrafted and I knew i wanted to use for Christmas this year. So I snatched up the three that were there and was on my way out pretty quickly – until I went down one aisle too many.

 
My eye caught a small pulse of light off of something on the floor or close to the floor. I turned and saw a small mirror leaning against a chest of drawers. It was one of those mirrors that advertised a business during the 1940-50’s. There was a post war picture of a family in church singing out of a hymn book. Below that picture was a message: “Go to church”.
 
Zap.
 
Message delivered.
 
And – no surprise here – the bells on the angels dinged.
 
I plopped my money on the counter and slunk out to the car. God has a way of focusing me on His messages these days when I am trying to ignore them. Here is my horrible admission – I have not been leading by example lately. Going to an actual church as not been on my radar since we moved in January..
 
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been listening and watching services from a far. It is the one great thing about technology. I can catch the same sermon I would have heard on Sunday by Monday night. I can watch a service from Crossroads of Mansfield, OH, live. I can catch my favorite TV pastors with a click of the Roku. In fact – every night, I click on one of my favorites preachers/rabbis and fall asleep listening to some God-filled talk and praise (or not fall asleep because I get caught up in learning something new).
 
“Something happens in corporate worship that does not happen in private worship.”~Max Lucado (p67)
 
Double whammy! When God wants to wake me up, He usually hits me multiple times – in many different ways. Pass a church and something draws my eye to it, so I begin to wonder about the people in it – are they are a church of Laodicea or a 1st century church? As you can tell by what I am writing,  my devotions hit it again. Not to mention posts on FB by old friends decorating my childhood church in OH as they hung the greens for Advent. 
 
God is very good at giving me nudges when I am drifting instead of paying attention on the path that He has given me to walk. It is easy for me to praise God. Seems like I do it quite often these days. Stuck in a line – I start praying for those around me. Hear from the kidlets, and I’m immediately in praise mode after we hang up. Exercising – planting – driving down the road – I find myself talking and worshiping without even thinking about it.
 
Going to church to worship with others? Not so much.
 
The angels gave a song of praise when Yeshua was born in that tiny stable. They joined their voices together in a mighty choir and worshiped God choosing to be born on earth. Harmonizing a blessing over all people of good will that a gift had been given – a gift of grace – a gift of such great love that it brought the shepherds to their knees.
 
So too, do I need to come to my own knees in communal worship. Imperfect people joining in imperfect praise. Caroling into the dark night, the very carols that my extended family circled round me in traditional praise of a long ago night.
 
“Through Yeshua let us offer sacrifices of praise always to God, which is the fruit of the lips giving thanks to his name.”~Heb 13:15
 
The bells are still ringing in my soul tonight. Got the message. I’m on it – I hope – maybe…errr…the spirit is willing – the body – not so much. [google image]

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65TH YEAR FIRST STEP

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Somehow – this day got away from me. Then again – it sometimes feels as if my life as gotten away from me as well. After all – how did 64 years go by so quickly? But -that being said – my first step into my 65th year couldn’t have been any better….even though my family is spread across most of this giant country. OH – MI – CO – AZ …everywhere but NC. Seems like it should have been a rough day, doesn’t it? After all, what is a birthday without someone to celebrate it with? Yet – it has turned out to be a day totally blessed and up-lifted by the people and events Our Father has placed in my life. Almost every hour brought some new, tiny blessing to fill my day with joy and bring me peace.

Of course – there is something special about a “birth” day when it starts off in 1 mo Bryniechurch. I totally love early services because it starts my Sunday – and in this case – my birthday with so many blessings. Actually my day started with a FB msg from the youngest son wishing me happy, happy at 12:45 AM. Needless to say – I was asleep, but it did make me laugh when I saw it later because my mom used to do the same thing. She would call way early in the morning just to be the first one to sing happy birthday to me.

img012A little garden time – a little rummaging around in the photo albums and I found my baby book. I was born at 4 A.M. on a Thursday morning. Baby footprints. Stats written in a strange hand. 20″. 8lbs 11 oz. Mom liked to tell the story of grabbing the gas out of the nurse’s hand (watch the BBC series, Call the Midwife, if you don’t understand the gas thing) and get the img013“hell out of the way” so she could kick this huge pain out into the world. I know that there were a few times throughout our lives together that she would have liked some more gas to block the pain. Such is the way our family journeys work sometimes. I may have been the miracle child that she wasn’t ever supposed to have, but I wasn’t always an easy blessing. It is also what made her my greatest prayer warrior.

me in the middle and Grandma MacI’ve been following Mom’s 1955 journal this year. Knowing that it was exactly 60 years ago when I was walking into my 5th year of life, makes it fascinating to me. We still lived in a small little house at 218 Campbell Street. It is amazing how I still can see that house in my mind. She painted my room and listed all my gifts in tiny cursive writing. Cousins Bunny and Mike came to play. Big Jr Hi brother gave me 1 dollar as did my Grandma Mac. Simpler times.

This year was simple in a different way. Garden time – church – clean the car – play with the dogs – answer messages – talk to friends – eat some steak – shrimp – and a hot fudge malt to celebrate. Celebrations of birthdays are always different depending on the season of our life. I loved my first step into my 65th year and now wonder – where will this new path lead me this year? Wherever it leads, I know that Our Father’s providence has already seen it, and all I have to do is have enough faith to take each step in His Grace.and Light. Not always easy – but always worth it.

“1HAPPY IS the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stood in the way of sinners,
Nor sat in the seat of the scornful.
2But his delight is in the law of the LORD;
And in His law doth he meditate day and night.
3And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water,
That bringeth forth its fruit in its season,
And whose leaf doth not wither;
And in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper.” Ps 1:1-3Bryn 1 yr

Commandment Series: Love God

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17 NASB 

10-commandments

Today was a good day.  Church and then lunch with Daughter’s family. Exercised.  Enjoyed conversations with those around me. Wasted time playing jigsaw puzzles on the computer.  Read a couple chapters of new book.  Took a small nap.  Watered a newly planted magnolia tree.  Played “ball” with the puppies – a million and one times.  Thanked God for the blessings of feeling sick over the past couple of weeks.

Did your eyebrows go up to your forehead?

Yup – I thanked God for having to deal with an aging body and a minor illness.  Illnesses slow me down. They come a little more often as I get older (cranky joints, nose that are sensitive to a million things that it never, ever noticed before, germs taking up residence in places I never knew existed – whoa – TMI).  Infections center me on the important things; they remind me upon Whom I really depend, because – believe it or  not – I do get all wrapped up in me.   Can you tell that humbleness has never been one of my strong points?  Well – it’s true.  I have a healthy ego.

I sin a lot.  Not the kind of sin that people gasp over (those I hope are in the past)– but sin, nevertheless.  God is not a respecter of any kind of sin.  He gasps at any sin. The old adage: sin is sin is sin, reminds us that to Jevhovah-Tsid Kenu, one sin is as grievous as another.  It is still wrong.  In a world striving to say that there are no absolutes, even saying the word “SIN” can bring a smirk, eye roll or sharp derision from family…acquaintances…best friends.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Gen 2:16-17

Once upon a time, there were absolutes.  It started in a garden when men and women decided to reached for a piece of fruits.  First absolute rolled upon the grass of history, and the Evil One chuckled.  Lucky for us, God has a soft spot for silly, rebellious people and not so much for angels in open rebellion.  (I think that they too had healthy egos.)  After watching His bumbling, stumbling people for the next few centuries, God reached out to a man named Moshe (who also had His share of mistakes, but, lucky for the rest of us, not much of an ego).  Moshe listened to God and walked up a mountain where he stood, kneeled and fell flat on his face on Holy Ground.  A new covenant was drawn up; rules were established once again.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Ex: 20:2-3  

When I was a child, I always thought that “gods” meant those little things you saw in the movies or books…carved figures that had human characteristics but looked a little exaggerated in many of their features.  As I got older, I finally figured out that those figures really had little to do with what Jehovah-Tsid Kenu was talking about in this verse.  Yes, there were societies that had “gods” that they thought would answer all their needs: rain for crops, victory in war, peace in their cities, a good marriage, children for barren wombs, and the lists could go on and on.  After all, isn’t that what “gods” are supposed to do?  The Evil One would not be much of a contender if he didn’t create a few false gods to muddy up a world that was already trying to hide much bigger things than a bite that they took from a piece of fruit .

More money is the answer to prayers?  A perfect marriage will solve all our unhappiness?  The “young, perfect” guy is a whole lot better than the “old, imperfect” husband?  That new car? New house?  New phone?  Notice that “gods” come in many shapes and sizes in our world these days, and sometimes we don’t recognize them until they have taken up residence in the home that we have built far away from Jehovah-Jireh’s kingdom.

Lucky for us, Our Father still has that soft spot for us.  Jehovah-Saboth still wants to help, so He sent His son.  Rabbi Yeshua stood on  holy ground where ever He walked, so instead of people having to walk up the mountain, suffer the elements, do without the comforts of “home”, Rabbi Yeshua walked among them.  He spoke to them in their language.  Yet, He knew exactly what choosing that “cup” held in store for Him at the end of His journey on this pitiful world. He spoke this old commandment to those around Him.

A new covenant to Love.  Love more than you think possible. Love that endures beyond hurt.  Love that forgives over and over again. Love that originated with the One who loved us first.  The One who taught us to Love.

I like to sometimes play with words.  In my head, I substitute “humankind” for “Lord your God”  and KNOW that is the commandment that Jehovah-Raah follows in His beautiful, peaceful, eternal kingdom. So…is it really so hard to follow His first commandment in our war-torn, stressful, finite kingdom?

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

MaKOM

When I was a child, kids could walk or ride their bikes just about anywhere, and you didn’t have to be 14 to do so -not to mention – helmets.  So from kindergarten on, I was always walking to school or riding my bike.  However, there was one bridge that was hard to avoid.  It scared me as I made the journey home – especially if I was walking.  The bridge seemed ancient from my 6 year old perspective – although in hindsight – it probably wasn’t at all.  Its wooden, narrow walkways were on either side of the car path that separated them; loose boards wobbled under the feet as you walked up and then down; not to mention the occasional missing board that reminded you just high over the railroad track this bridge was.  In the mid-50’s, trains passed under this terrifying bridge several times a day.  The bravest of us would often stand at the wooden railing and jump up and down as the trains approached.  Me?? I ran as fast as I could – until solid ground eased the heart palpitations, and I could turn back to watch the train and wait for my companions of the day.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Is 41:10 

loudonville RR

Not sure where this fear came from.  Others weren’t afraid, but heights have never been my friend even at the tender age of 6 or 7.  Luckily, we moved in my 8th year of life to the (proverbial) other side of the tracks, and I didn’t have to walk home over that bridge anymore.  My first real PTL moment. Instead, my new path primarily led me through Central Park and past our family church.  I don’t remember when or why I started stopping at the church…maybe I was just curious…maybe it was when my first kitty (Tommycat) died…maybe it was after dad had his first heart attack when I was 10…  What I do know is that I lost count – long ago – of how many times I open those huge, heavy, wooden doors to sit in the quiet of the of the holiest spot I knew.  Gazing at the stain glass windows, the altar, the cross, became an important part of my life.  One time our preacher found me stretched out on a pew and woke me. As we talked, he shared some of the things he found peaceful when he was in a church after he came home from a WWII prison camp. I like remembering the days when churches were never locked…in fact…I was shocked and sad when I first encountered such a church door after I moved to the city to attend college.

“And Abraham went [to pray] early in the morning to the place [MaKOM] where he stood [in prayer] before the Lord.” Gen 19:27

methodist church

Jewish wisdom and traditions have been part of my faith journey for the past couple of years as I have tried to understand more about Christ.  When tired, tested, or just needing the closeness of His Father, Rabbi Yeshua often retreated to the wilderness.  Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets – all had their special places where they would go to feel that closer connection to God.  It was their MaKOM.  In Hebrew, letters have a numerical value as well as a language value.  Without going into all the details (which I tend to find fascinating even though I hate math), Jewish wisdom says that if you square the letters of the word Jehovah, it equals the same numerical value of the word MaKOM.  Get it?

We find God in His “area”.  In other words, God honors us when we make the effort to come to a special place (area) to seek – to pray – to serve – to worship – Him.  That is why the Jews make an effort to go to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Is 55:9 

God doesn’t make it easy on us. He didn’t make it easy on His Son, did he? He doesn’t want robots or blind, obedient children.  He wants His children to choose to love Him.  Despite the pain…the obstacles…the complacency…the fear…the doubts…or even the world, He wants us to choose Him…f.r.e.e.l.y.  A new covenant that is enhanced by the older covenant – all comes down to our choice to commit.  Do you have a special place where you go to feel closer to Our Father?

These days, church doors may have locks that keep us out, but there are always “areas” that beckon us to draw closer to God.  It is up to us to seek them out.  The Jews have an outer wall that surrounded their destroyed temple (Kotel ha-Ma’aravi).  Christ had the wilderness.  I have my shady garden and my writing desk.  God is where you stand on hallowed ground and seek Him.  Find your MaKOM and be amazed.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  Matt 7:7

june 2014 011

I Love Sundays

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Ps 91:1

 love Sundays. I  Love the lazy pace of the day. I  LOVE going to church, feeling the Holy Spirit move throughout the building…or listening to a 10 piece band (led by an older trumpet player who knows how to make his instrument sing) that plays “How Great Thou Art” which brings people to their feet…letting a praise choir remind me why running to Jesus is so vital…best yet…learning something new in the WORD.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Ps 91:4

shadow

Today it seemed as if God was moving in many churches. I lost count of how many of my FB friends commented on their church experience today and the blessings that they felt after going there. I know that tears pushed past my lashes in church a couple of times. His Love, His mercy, His grace were pouring out over our heads, and all we had to do was be thankful.

“If you make the Most High your dwelling, even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come new your tent, For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” 91:9-13

Psalm 91 11#2

We tend to take those verses literally: tent meaning home. But according to Jewish traditions: tent means our connection to God. Go back and substitute that image as you read: “…no disaster will come near your connection to the LORD”. Bad things happen in our world. A much loved child dies way too early; 800 missile strikes have reigned down on Israel in the past two weeks; car crashes that break fragile bodies; spousal abuse, child trafficking, etc. Yet, if we trust our Father, live in His WORD, nothing will break that connection…N-O-T-H-I-N-G!

“‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” Ps 91:14-15

My daily Bible is getting a little dog-eared. I bought it in ’09 after most of my Bibles burned in our house fire…in fact, after a change of clothes – it was the first thing I bought. Chapter markers are falling off, pages are bent, colorful post-it markers protrude at odd intervals, old church bulletins hang out here and there, while tons of dates, notes and underlining decorate almost every page. Today when our preacher said to turn to Ps 91, I wondered what notes I could possibly squeeze in the margin…BUT I MANAGED. 

 love Sundays – but most of all – I LOVE the LORD.

Lenten Journey #17

It started on Friday afternoon. I saw a sign: “”Be still, and know that I am God…” ~Ps 46:10

I’m not still very often. Usually, I’m multi-tasking: watching TV and reading (articles/devotionals/newspapers/magazines, etc)or playing jigsaw puzzles on the computer…reading a book while watching TV as I look up things in reference to the subject matter/author/extending connections…. cleaning the house while listening to TV or radio or music or singing...even sitting in the hot tub is a series of stretches/exercises/
reading/singing…throw in running commentaries with my husband within each of those sub-groups and…well…I’m just not “still”. I may be sitting. I may be in the same room pretty much all day, and I’m still not “still”.

Can God get through to me, if I am not “still”?

So for the past few days, I’ve “stilled” my mind – not much – just a little here and there. Do you know if you are just watching TV, you actually see a lot more of the show? Writing in your journal, words take on metaphorical depth? Talking to your husband, you “see” beyond the words? Sitting in the hot tub, you feel like you could touch the stars on a beautiful night? That reading the WORD reaches a spot deep inside that makes you cry at the Love and Grace that are shared?

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow (the Hebrew word that is used is “tzel” which literally means “shade.”) of Your wings.” Ps~17:8

It is so easy to fall into the “world view” of what we should be doing. Even going to church (when we find time to go) is no longer just being “still”…rituals supersede “still”…changing rituals super-supersede “still”…back-lit technology replaces the dogged-eared tome…cellphones – even when they are delivering a Bible verse – intrude upon being “still”…

When Rabbe Jesus wanted to be “still”, He walked away from His disciples, away from the crowds, away from the world. He only had a few days left – and He knew. Yet – He made time to be “still”. We make time for what we think is important…the latest game, the dinner date, the TV show, the home project, the newest gadget, the latest [insert your own word/s]…

Tomorrow, I will try to be a little more “still”. The Jewish tradition is to wake up in the morning, singing the Modeh Ani. I don’t know the words yet – nor the song – but I think tomorrow morning, I want to read the words as soon as I open my eyes because I know that Rabbe Jesus woke up every morning saying the same words: “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”

“Be still, and know that I am Elohim…”