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.

As The Oil of Aaron

20150118-untitled (17 of 28)Yesterday I sat in a Sunday morning service, a special service, as it was the 5th anniversary of the pastorate of Rev. Patrick Garrett and his wonderful wife Holly in the city of Yucaipa, CA. I looked especially close at these three men; my husband, Gerald Buxton, the special speaker for the day, Chris Hodge, of Lake Isabella, CA. and Patrick Garrett. A sweetness infused the atmosphere. A certain holy presence moved as do fine draperies caught in a spring breeze, gentle and warm. and I was comforted. This morning as I recalled yesterday’s service, I was reminded of David’s writing in Psalm 133.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Unity. David was quite taken with the subject and compared its pleasantness to the all-pervading fragrance of the oil with which Aaron was anointed: It was poured generously on his head and thus ran down through his beard and, finally, completely to their hem, infused his garments. The oil was precious, had been prepared in a particular way, and any use except for holy sacraments was strictly forbidden.

Such a demonstration tells the beauty of brotherly love, and of unity. How blessed we are today when we sit in the presence of such attitudes. Stay the bicker, the nit-picking, the questioning of motive, the press of organizational structure. While holding firm to Jesus Christ and to the essentiality of His shed blood, and to the precepts of God’s holy Word, let us set aside our petty differences, cast our vision ever upward, and embrace our brothers and sisters in Jesus.

It seems fitting that my piece is posted on the day set aside to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King.

Unhurried LANDMARK and a Remarkable Family

Without question it is to my disadvantage that I do not know the Haney family well. Some of us are acquaintances, of course, seeing that for years Jerry and I were active in the Western District of the United Pentecostal Church, as were several of the Haney family. Though I do not know them closely, I deeply admire those great people and the work their family has done in the city of Stockton, CA; indeed around the world. I believe their church building is the largest in California that was actually built as a church; it seats several thousand. On another piece of property stand their older auditorium and multiple other buildings, including a Bible school campus.

Well beyond my admiration for the physical monuments the Haneys have erected is my respect for their attitudes, their closeness to God, and their obvious deep dedication to works of The Spirit. Last night’s service of their conference LANDMARK was an example of what I feel and am trying to say. I watched on my computer by live-streaming. Let me make a list; It is a short, but notable list that certainly will not encompass every positive aspect of the scenario, but it will help you understand the remarks I am making.

1. From the beginning I was struck by the lack of “hurry.” It was slow and deliberate, quite lacking in frenzy and any sense of desperation. The opening prayer service, led by Pastor Haney, lasted at least thirty minutes, and during this time, “we” were led into the Shekinah. True worship sang throughout that magnificent auditorium.

2. Pastor Haney gave every appearance and every sound and every sense of having been long in the presence of God. He was comfortable with it. He was authentic. He exuded a drift of foundation–deep, solid, robust. Yet, Pastor Haney appeared humble and unassuming. An aura of the Holy wound about him.

3. The musicians and singers were multiple, and almost without exception when the camera would pan on them, they appeared to be in a state of worship, sometimes with tears running down their faces.

4. Boldness, still without hurry, was marked throughout the service, as Pastor Haney ministered, calling groups to the altar area, and then other groups . . .and healings came and miracles, no doubt.

I believe it good for you to know these things.


The Mystery of Apostolic Preaching

Many years ago, I considered the matter long and hard, scrutinized its details, examined its ramifications, and came to a conclusion that even after this lengthy period of time has elapsed I remain sure of. There is nothing in this world like Apostolic preaching. Nothing. Hear me: Nothing. Anointed preaching is of another world. It goes beyond mere sentences found in a dictionary or printed on a Bible page. It exceeds words formed in his mouth and spat from the tongue of a human being. There is something about an Apostolic preacher that takes on the heavenly, and as a lightening spear alters drastically a black sky, so is that manĀ  transformed into an apparatus of divine deliverance. The Voice of God is heard.

Such a thing happened last week in Louisville, KY. at the National Youth Congress of the United Pentecostal Church Int. Watch here as a young man named Cortt Chavis, formed from the dust of the earth, is transformed into a pendant of glory. There is no earthly explanation.


God’s Unstoppable Church

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church transcends denomination, organization, or fellowship. The Gospel is supreme, stands on its own, and extends beyond culture, tradition, or man’s acceptance or rejection.

Yesterday morning Jerry and I attended The Lighthouse in Yucaipa, pastored by our dear friend Patrick Garrett and his remarkable wife Holly. Growth is evident there, Apostolic worship was apparent, and Brother Garrett preached from the Word of God. The Lighthouse is associated with the Worldwide Pentecostal Fellowship, commonly referred to as the WPF.

At 5:00 last evening, I settled myself into a comfortable chair here in my dining room, a cup of coffee beside me, and tuned in by computer live streaming to The Anchor, a church in San Diego pastored by James Larson and his talented and sweet wife Joni. The Anchor is associated with the United Pentecostal Church, commonly referred to as the UPC. A powerful move of the Holy Ghost unfolded, for as I watched, an associate pastor, Brother Sam Gutierrez, pushed past what seemed to be the “order” of the service, and called the congregation to an extended period of worship. Then followed the scheduled preacher for the evening, Youth Pastor Ron Boling, who was so moved in his spirit that he set aside the message he had planned for the evening, instead encouraging the congregation to continue in their deep worship. Several minutes into this distinct time, Pastor Larson took the microphone and said he believed Brother Andrew Buxton, a lay-minister, had a word from the Lord. Brother Buxton took the pulpit and spoke in a powerful way for 20 minutes or so.

Recently, in Tulsa, OK, the WPF concluded its national youth conference named PEAK. Last week, in Louisville, KY, the UPC concluded its national youth conference which it refers to as National Youth Congress. More than twenty thousand persons attended this meeting which some referred to as perhaps the best conference they had ever attended. One minister who attended PEAK told me it was an outstanding meeting. I have not been able to determine the attendance there.

In Gatlinburg, TN, on September 4-6, the national conference of the WPF will convene. On October 1-4 in St. Louis, MO, the national conference of the UPCI will convene. (There are other apostolic organizations which have similar meetings with similar results, but I am only closely acquainted with the two I have been mentioning, thus my use of them for this discussion.)

So, Apostolic youth from across the country have recently been invigorated as a result of their national conferences, and in early fall both of the aforementioned organizations will gather from around the world to do their required business and to encourage and prompt each other. Propagation of The Gospel is the theme of these meetings. It is a precious thing, and of little matter is the flag under which God’s full Gospel is preached. . . “Unstoppable” is God’s church, Andrew Buxton said last night.

………And so it is.

No Kisses for Baal

We found our seats quickly as the service had already begun, and we wanted to lessen the commotion of our coming in a few minutes late. Those around us smiled and made us welcome. Soon the preacher left the platform, came to Jerry, shook his hand and had a short conversation with him, which I learned later included an invitation not only to sit on the platform, but also to bring the morning message. Jerry hugged the young man, thanked him, and indicated he would just stay where he was.

Because Pastor Claborn was out of town, Brother Brett Bockmann would be preaching this Sunday morning, and when he stepped to the pulpit, he remarked about our being with them in service. “My heart fell when I saw Brother Buxton step through the door,” the young minister said. He went on to profusely welcome us but to explain how inadequate he felt to preach before an elder, a seasoned minister of the Gospel.

His humility touched me deeply. . . and then I was profoundly moved as he began to read from Scripture, and his voice broke significantly. Deeply affected by the Word of God he launched into his message concerning Roots.

God’s Church is in good hands with young men like Brett Bockmann–and there are many of his ilk. Beware, lest because of style changes we may not appreciate, problems in local churches, and in church organizations we become as Elijah who in I Kings complained to God:

“. . .I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left. . .”

…….see that whisper of a smirky smile on the face of God as he patted Elijah on the shoulder, gave him a little vision of the power of God, and said, “Don’t worry about it…got 7000 in Israel who have never bowed to Baal . . . nor kissed his mouth!”

Love it!

Preach on young men! God’s church will prevail!
untitled (1 of 1)

Does Form Matter?

A few hours ago, I had a provocative talk with a young man who just attended a major youth meeting of an Apostolic group. He was very disturbed to observe that on the platform where sat many ministers, only one person had a bible. They had phones that had bible programs on them, and the scriptures being discussed were projected onto a large screen. So, in one sense they possessed bibles. From the platform, one minister actually read scripture aloud from his phone screen. Anything wrong with that?

Does it matter the form? Is there anything significant about holding in our hands a book that says Holy Bible as opposed to reading the same text on a computer screen, a telephone screen, or a projection screen?

I’m very interested in your opinion.

It greatly pleases me that this photograph I took last year has been viewed more than 6000 times. There are still many people who cherish and value the Holy Bible.

Inland Lighthouse Celebrates

This past weekend Inland Lighthouse Church of Rialto, CA. celebrated several significant mile-markers in the life of that great church. Included was the dedication of their new building, the 76th anniversary of the founding of the church, and some important anniversaries in the lives of Pastor and Mrs. Larry Booker. Sunday night was designated a “home-coming” service and all who had ever attended there under the ministry of any of the pastors were urged to attend. Of course we went, and before the preaching of Rev. Nate Wilson, my husband, as one of the former pastors, made special remarks. It was a delightful weekend of celebration, beautifully organized and splendidly accomplished.

Our grandson Nathaniel stands with Jerry just before we entered the building for the evening service.

The Worst Church in Town

Raging, the man looked at the few persons gathered for prayer.

“This is the worst church in town.” His flaming eyes swept across the stunned group. “Oh, not you.” He flailed his arms toward the leaders. “Not you. You’re good. . . but this church,” he continued. “It’s the worst in town. The scum, the lowdown, can’t trust anybody . . .”

As though a physical punch had knocked out her breath, the pastor’s wife trembled and caught for air. Her first impulse to shout “How could you say that about our dear church?” was repressed. She said nothing; hurt, defensive, shaking, a leaf in gathering storm.

Later, she came to understand. The man was right. It was the worst church in town– filled with lowly people, the pitiful, the addict, the undependable, the poor, the weeping, liars, and thieves. The beat up; the beat down.

She came to regard the man’s remarks as compliment. For had she not asked to be like Jesus, to take on His attributes, to enter into His mind? Had she not? Had not the leaders of the church proclaimed their wanting to be like Jesus? She remembered: Jesus once sat at a well with a prostitute; Jesus mingled with drunks; Jesus taught compassion and bandages for those who lie in bloody gutters; He held sticky messy children on His lap. He lived among the homeless. His group could not claim so much as a storefront, but a hillside must do for the church service some days. A small boat creaking in the water was the church platform more than once. Though He taught there every day, Jesus disdained lofty religiosity and once He went prowling about the elaborate temple where He ministered, and not liking what He saw, he silently plaited leather strips into a whip, then flying into the mess Jesus kicked over the tables, expelled the people and charged that His house should be called one of prayer. Jesus gathered an unlikely ragged group to work with Him and the lunatics followed along and the blind and the wretched.

Ours? The worst church in town? Could be.