I Want to go back to Church

Without question the last few weeks have been poles apart from others in my now lengthy life, and I quite expect that until my last day on earth has come and gone, I will never experience such ones again. Additionally, I am of the strong opinion that you who read here join me in this state of affairs. From east to west and north to south our amazing planet has been affected by COVID-19. We have been turned upside down and shaken to our core as this pandemic has swept through the peoples of the world.

New words, phrases and other concerns envelop us. We practice social distancing, cover our faces with masks, spray our mail with disinfectants, renew our understanding of our constitution, learn of new internet tools, deal with emptied grocery shelves, giggle about toilet paper hoarding, grapple with human rights and with being quarantined–among a myriad other issues.

I will deal with none of these in this post–except at a slant. The quarantine has nixed group gatherings including church services. For weeks now I have not been to church, and I’m missing it dreadfully. Oh, we’ve had live-streaming of preaching and teaching and choir singing and other music. We have watched baptisms in bathtubs and in nearly deserted church sanctuaries. We have paid our tithe and given our offerings over the internet. We have been spiritually stirred, intensified our personal devotions, and have had numerous prayer meetings in our living rooms. Candid discussions have evolved that speak to the positive results of this situation. I believe all that . . .but I want to go back to church.

I want to be with you. I want to shake your hand and hug your neck. I want to see what you’re wearing today and how you’ve styled your hair. I want to open my Bible and follow my pastor as he delivers the Word of God–and as he spouts off those phrases he uses all the time. I want to feel the fidget of the youngsters, observe the flirting lowered eyes of the beautiful young ladies, admire the strength and handsomeness of the young men. I want to pray with you. I want to admire you who struggle with walkers and pain and poverty. I want to hear the choir and the soloists and the keyboard and the drums and read the words on the screen and sing with you. I want to dig in my purse for my dollars and when the pan or the bag is passed, I want to drop it in.

I want to hold your baby.

I want to pray with you. I want to stand by you and weep, and take your hand.

I want to be there–in the church of the living God–as His intense presence moves over the congregation . . .and sometimes we know angels are there . . .and we are silent, not daring to speak. I want to be there when animated joy elicits words of praise that rise from our throats . . .our hands are raised . . .hallelujahs ring. Dance. I want to see you dance in worship, as only you can.

I want to interact with young families and see them pose for pictures after the worship service. I want to go out to eat with you, and plan outings and parties, and tell you how much you mean to me.

I want to have fun and honor you and cherish you.

Yep, I’m done with it. As wonderful as this live-streaming and such has been I’m through with it. As soon as we get the permissive word, on Saturday night I will lay out my clothes and choose my shoes and my purse, and I will set out my little red Bible. On Sunday morning we will not be late, but will rush to our sanctuary, our church, our people. Once again, an exhilarated group now, we will enter into His majestic courts. Our praise will fill the temple.

Of Strangers and Angels

It was late, our first night there. We were in our motor home parked by the side of the church in Safford, AZ. when I heard a forceful and rapid knock. Without thinking, I unsecured both the locks and swung wide the door. A man stood there staring at me. I was startled, for our friends Pastor and Mrs. Kris Keyes had just dropped us off after a nice dinner together, and they had said they needed to go into the church for something. I expected to see one of them when I opened the door. Instead, one who appeared to be of the homeless types stood there.

The young man stared at me. Jerry was in the shower, and had the man evil intentions, he could easily have rushed me and pushed right into the motor home. I don’t know if I asked what he wanted, or if my expression did so, but he motioned across his throat and made some unintelligible mutterings. “No,” I said, and slammed shut the door.

I sat down on the couch, and immediately had regrets about slamming the door…and yet, one part of me acknowledged the wisdom of such action. But, maybe he was hungry, and I could have made him a sandwich or something like that.

This morning I told Jerry about the incident. And I thought again of this scripture.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

While, again, I acknowledge the need for caution, I do want to be kind to everyone, including strangers. It is easy to make snap evaluations and to judge a person by their demeanor, their clothing, and by their level of skillful articulation.

This morning I learned of this person who indeed was homeless and destitute, but who now may be indeed rich. I love this story, and think you will also. Just click on the link to read about him.

To my visitor from last night, I send prayers and wishes for your well-being, both physically and spiritually. And…if you are an angel, please forgive me. 🙂

Of a Particular Angel

“Good morning, Christ Alive,” I said into the church phone that resides in our motor home.

“An angel came into the office this morning,” said the voice.

“The what?”

“This is Nancy in the office. An angel came by this morning and paid your space rent and your utilities.”

“Who, my husband?”

“No, an angel, I’m telling you. An angel came by and paid your bill.”  I paused then, my mind focused, and I knew.

“Did he have blond curly hair?”

“Well, yes. I didn’t tell you his name, remember. But yes, he had blond hair.”

I said a few more things to Nancy in the office, and then I couldn’t talk any more, for despite my trying to control it, I was crying.

Angels. Ever see one? Ever know one? Ever sat by one? Ever given birth to one?

________________________________________________________________________________________________

My other blog is here.

Caged by Satan

He’s very good at his job–satan is, and he roams the world, capturing people, tying them up and shoving them into cages. He lies. He tells us that serving God chains us, binds us, and keeps us from being happy. He is a spoiler, a deceiver, a devourer.

“…satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” II Cor. 11:14

“…he was a murderer from the beginning…he is a liar.” John 8:44

“Think about it,” his filthy mouth says as he continues. His lying words are twisted, and are couched in positive terms, but the “truth” of his lies is: “You can’t be an alcoholic if you serve God. You can’t be a drug addict and have your teeth rot out of your mouth because of Meth. You can’t rob and plunder and kill people. Why, you’ll have to restrain yourself to a most drastic degree. You can’t be a “woman of the night,” or a whoremonger, or a pervert or a childmolester. You can’t lie and cheat and steal!”

“Think long and hard about it,” he sneers…

“You can’t sire babies and never take another thought of them. You can’t stagger around your town and leave your baby girl with some man in a motel and then drunkenly cry on the phone to your mother: ‘I don’t know where she is. I can’t remember where I left my baby.'”

Oh, yes, the devil is an accomplished devil. He never gives up, never tires, never sleeps–has no compunction concerning the havoc he leaves in his evil path. With no regard for race, creed, class or age, he roams our world, cursing and lying and snaring. Then, with his victims brutally shackled, he pitches them into hellish cages, into deep and dark lairs, paying no heed to their cries of agony, no mind to their torturous screams.

Yesterday, I read of a deplorable widespread practice in the Czech Republic where troubled children and adults in some institutions are caged like animals. When I read this, I was gripped with compassion for these helpless people, and I am using this column to speak against such cruel treatment.

The Czech Republic banned the use of cage-like beds in children’s care homes a year ago, under international pressure. But as Clive Myrie reports for the Ten O’Clock News, secret filming shows the use of the beds goes on.

Child in a cage bed in the Czech Republic

Anger at being locked up soon gives way to despair, say experts.  Please read this extensive article.
It was this report that caused my thoughts to go to the cruel caging and shackling done by Satan. As horrific as this physical mistreatment is, more enduring, and thus more significant is that of the spiritual cage and of the evil shackles of satan. Against both, I fiercely protest.
____________________________________________________________________
My other blog is here.

The Night that Changed the World

DSC_0015, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

Several days ago, something I read on Mervi’s blog prompted me to think at length about the effect the birth of Jesus had on those who saw Him that Bethlehem night. In particular, I believe Mervi mentioned the shepherds who left their watch and traveled to the crude shelter where Jesus had been laid in the manger. Can you even imagine how those men must have felt that night? The awe, the terror that gripped them, as, suddenly, in the dark of night, the sky was filled with heralding angels; multitudes of heavenly beings telling of the birth of a baby of all things, but with such convincing tones and appearances that once the angels disappeared back into the heaven,

“the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

Swiftly, the shepherds left the terrorized hillside and made their way to Jesus. No doubt reverently, they crept to the straw-filled manger where lay the Son of God. No doubt their lives were forever changed. When at last they were able to move from the presence of God,

“they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”

I wasn’t on a Judean hillside that faraway night in Israel, I didn’t see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem’s manger, but one day someone led me into the presence of God. I came away filled with awe, and my life has been forever changed.

____________________________________________________________________

My other blog is here.

Can’t We Have Christmas Now?

 

A couple of weeks ago I was in WalMart searching for a cannister of sugarless lemonade mix–their own brand–quite tasty, and a dollar or so cheaper than Crystallite. I knew I was looking in the place where it usually is, but couldn’t locate it, so finally I asked a clerk.

“Oh, it’s up front. Halloween stuff moves in tomorrow.” And now, couple weeks later, store shelves are bulging with friendly ghosts, ugly monsters and trick or treat buckets. And pressing right in there to claim a spot among the fall doings are ruffled-tailed Thanksgiving turkeys, cardboard pilgrims, and Be Thankful notices.

So, I’ve grabbed a fist full of courage, and I’m plunging right ahead this morning…to call for Christmas. Oh, I’m not wanting you to trudge steep stairs to your dusty attic for the carefully boxed ornaments, nor am I asking that you drag out the plastic tree leaning in the far garage corner. Don’t dig out holiday CDs, your authentic flashing Bethlehem star, or Rudolph. No, the part of Christmas I’m calling for in these early days of October is its spirit, its distinct joyful addition to the year–the Spirit of Christmas. The spirit that softens hardened old people, that fingers the hearts of Scrooges around the world, that fastens a thin glitter onto weary eyes, that sparks hope where only before had been the fading grey embers of the disillusioned.

Remember the Christmas Spirit? Seen it around lately? Felt its warm surge in your chest? Recently noticed its tingling excitement or addictive euphoria?

Ah, the Christmas Spirit–that distillation of good will that says aloud Merry Christmas to a stranger in the mall, that grins the mouth, that invades the fire department where turkeys and gifts are gathered and carried on the quiet to the Projects and to the shanties at the corner of the wrong side of town. That writes large checks, and bakes cookies for the neighbors, and transforms our world for a day or a week, so that peace and generosity are exceedingly more than words stamped on a paper page or etched onto an electronic screen. The Christmas Spirit…that animated magical time when a bathrobe on a boy produces a startled shepherd and glitter sprinkled on a paper wing yields an angelic messenger.

The Christmas Spirit…that time when around the world the Bible is opened, and rising to the heavens is heard in many languages, nuances, and tones the beautiful words of Luke as he writes in chapter 2.

“…And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn…and the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people…for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord…and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising god, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Can’t we have Christmas now?

____________________________________________________________________

My other blog is here.

No Question, The Burial Site of Jesus Is Unique


“In Tana Toraja, everything revolves around death. The graves can be very sophisticated yet sometimes, long after the coffins are destroyed by time, people gently place bones along natural cave ‘racks’. Often, the bones are offered cigarettes or various offerings. This is supposed to prevent dead ancestors from bringing bad luck and otherwise making the lives of the living miserable.”
Image: phitar [Flickr]

Earlier this morning, I came across a fascinating article depicting ten important burial sites around the world. The post makes for interesting and informative reading, and later today I plan to go back and read it again. I was shocked by some of it–for instance this:

The Sedlec Ossuary resides in a small Roman Catholic chapel in Sedlec, Czech Republic. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t have guessed that inside the unassuming building is an ossuary containing about 40,000 human skeletons artistically arranged to form decorations, chandeliers, and furnishings! Take a look.


The Schwarzenberg family’s coat of arms, done with at least one of every
bone in the body. Image: goldberg [Flickr]

Despite the intrigue of this article, the author missed speaking of the greatest burial site of all–that of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is because we’re not exactly sure of its location, or maybe it was because the author didn’t stop to consider the tomb of the lowly Nazarene. That tomb, that burial place, my friend, is the greatest of any. For you understand, do you not, that His tomb is empty. Dead, He definitely was. Empty, His tomb definitely is.

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come , see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:1-6

____________________________________________________________________

My other blog is here.

The Dreaded Backward Look

Exactly his words, these are not, but on Sunday morning, Jerry preached a powerful sermon in which he spoke such sentences as these:

“This escaping woman had safety within her view.”

“She was minutes away from a hellish inferno of destruction.”

“…but she looked back.”

He was referring to Lot’s wife, of course, whose story is in 19 of Genesis.

In verse 17, the angel of the Lord spoke to Lot: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.”

Verse 24: “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.”

Verse 26: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

Jump to the New Testament and Jesus’ own words in Luke 17. He was teaching the second coming of Jesus, warning of problems that would arise, and examining similarities between what would be the last days, and other historical days of destruction. The three words that comprise the entire 32nd verse are profound and startling:

“Remember Lot’s wife.”

One more scripture from Jerry’s sermon is in Hebrews 10:38.

“…but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him…”

And concluding with the next verse.

“But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

I take God’s words and His admonitions seriously, having no desire to look back into the inferno of death and destruction. Rather, I rejoice that I can place myself with those who do not draw back, but who are the faithful, forward-looking, overcoming  believers!

Of Heaven and Earth

Occasionally, I have attended functions that were two-pronged: one part was of “worldly” things–the other of God. There was nothing wrong with the worldly part–nothing vile, sinful, and objectionable. Just life and its projections, perhaps critical issues and valued considerations.

At the closing of the “worldly” part, came God. A Bible is opened, a prayer is said, a testimony is uttered. If you’ve ever observed such a scenario, I believe you will agree that something changes at this point. A Being enters, a Presence is sensed, a peculiar wave length circulates. It’s as though the door of the world clicks shut at our heels, and as we stand before the gate of Heaven, it smoothly, but surely slides open.

I’ve seen it happen more than once. For you see, God is real, and is supernatural. He is of another world, and we, His people, have Him living inside us.

Different wave length? I think so!

____________________________________________________________________

My other blog is here.

The Wonder of a Broken Wall

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without god in the world:But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;”Ephesians 2:11-14

Each time I read this portion of scripture, my heart springs up in joy as I consider again, that at one time, we who are Gentiles were alienated from God, could not walk with Him, and did not in any way have free and full access to Him. Happy tears come to my eyes as I ponder this, and talk about it, and share the Good News.

The crashing of the wall was thunderous; a righteous mix of blood, agony, shame, holiness and ultimate victory:

“…there was darkness over all the land…Jesus cried with a loud voice,…”My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?…Jesus…yielded up the ghost…the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose…And when Joseph had taken the body, he laid it in his own new tomb…

…In the end of the sabbath, came Mary Magdalene…and, …there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven….and for fear of him the keepers did shake…and the angel said, Fear not …for he is risen.” From Matthew 27 and 28

What a happy day was that. How marvelous, how wondrous was the breaking down of the wall; the barrier that separated me from the presence of God, that prevented me from knowing Him, that denied my reveling in His love and sweetness. Now, today, at this moment, I walk boldly, yet with godly fear and righteous awe, into His very presence.