Finding God’s Fingerprints As We Are Able

Week Eleven of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #11, Nov.16, 2014

“As We Are Able”

a Lutheran congregation of about 150 people at their second service

Finding God's Fingerprints Week 11

Message: The Parable of the Talents – Visiting Minister

Fingerprints:

We received a warm welcome as we entered the beautiful sanctuary. As we waited for the service to begin, we enjoyed the organ prelude. There is something truly majestic about the sound of a pipe organ played by someone who knows how to do it right!

The Lutheran liturgy is similar in many ways to the Roman Catholic mass, but unlike last week when I was in need of a missalette, this time we had been handed a bulletin with the liturgy laid out for us; it is so much easier to participate that way. Oddly, I would have thought that it would also make me feel less “genuine” in my worship, but it doesn’t seem to be having that effect.

The sung Psalm was unfamiliar to me and took a little getting used to. It was printed in the bulletin and I read music, so I figured this would be a piece of cake, but instead it was tricky to get my brain to know when to move to which note and when to stay put and chant on an individual pitch. I got the hang of it about half-way through, but in all honesty I wasn’t thinking much about the words of the Psalm until I figured out how to sing along. The next time I’m in a Lutheran liturgical service, I’ll probably keep my focus a lot better and know how to participate without so much concentration on the music.

Fred and I loved it that the pastor and assisting minister and acolytes bring the Bible down into the aisle to read the Gospel. Jesus came down to dwell among us, so His word is physically carried down among the people as the gospel is read. Really beautiful picture!
The visiting pastor’s message was a different take than I had heard before on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. He framed it against the pressures of the last days in which we live, the godless world that sucks us dry, and the need to remember that ALL that we have was given to us by God in the first place. All came from the Master, all work was done in response to His will, and we only find the stamina to continue in kingdom work when we stay thankfully aware of the Source of all good.

In prayer before Communion, the pastor said something that really “made” the service for me, that “Ah!” moment that I knew I would carry with me specially through the coming week. He said, “We acknowledge that we worship You not as we ought, but as we are able.” The picture of Jesus’ grace making up the difference between my “able” and my “ought” was profound.

Fred found taking communion to be very meaningful this week. The physical process is very similar to the Roman Catholic mass with which he was raised, but here it was clear from the bulletin that we were welcome at the table as baptized Christians – whether we were Lutheran or not – and it was a blessing to take the bread and wine with thanksgiving.

Personal Notes:

I love the heart for service in the community at this church. Everywhere I looked were evidences of concern for the poor and hungry, those serving in the military and their families, and the elderly. Good stuff! Gospel in action, in the name of Jesus.

Finding God’s Fingerprints in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Week Ten of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #10, Nov. 9, 2014

a large Roman Catholic Church
Message: THE DEDICATION OF THE LATERAN BASILICA
Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 / 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17/Jn 2:13-22

Finding God's Fingerprints Week 10

Fingerprints:

Eight years ago, a local Catholic school allowed my homeschooled son to play football on their team. It was a great experience for him, and I was always grateful that they included him as they did. I spent many hours at the football field, but I’d never been inside the church. When I realized I was 10 weeks into my Finding Fingerprints adventure and hadn’t yet worshipped with Catholic believers, I decided that was the parish to visit.

I failed to pick up a missalette on my way into the sanctuary, and because I don’t attend Mass very often, I found it harder to participate without it. For those of you who haven’t attended a Catholic Mass and don’t know what I’m talking about, the service has a many congregational responses throughout it, and the missalette is a little book that allows you to “follow along” so that you can read the responses at the right times in the service.

I loved the procession that begins the service as the congregation sings a hymn. The reverence shown for the cross of Jesus and the written Word of God (lifted high over the head as they enter) is beautiful. It makes me ask myself, “Do I begin my times of worship by respectfully lifting Jesus’ sacrifice, example and word high and bowing down before Him? Do I begin my days this way? My work? My conversation?”

This particular Mass was to be a celebration of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in the early 300’s. Huh? This was all new to me, and as the priest shared the story, the reason for our continued celebration of it these many centuries later, I learned a lot. Church history reminded us of the precious gift of worship without persecution, and challenged us to be living out our faith, boldly identifying as followers of Jesus, because God has allowed us the opportunity to live under a government that does not forbid it. We were also challenged to pray for the persecuted church of Jesus Christ in other countries around the world.
The homily (that’s “sermon,” for Protestants!) encouraged believers to care for themselves and their fellowmen in a way that is respectful of the Holy Spirit of God who dwells in us as His temple. The priest reminded us that we easily remember to treat with respect a facility like the sanctuary in which we were sitting, but slow to respect the true temple of God – US, according to His word.

The pace of Mass is particularly of note. I saw God’s fingerprints so clearly in it. Mass is not rushed. The entry procession is slow and dignified. The priest takes time for silence between the various parts of the Mass, allowing reflection on what has come before, and preparation for what is coming next. I never felt that I was being entertained and the folks on the altar were afraid they might lose the “audience” if they waited too long. Instead, the pauses reminded me without words that I was there to worship God; what happened on the altar was designed to aid ME in the activity for which I was present.

Preparation for Communion includes my favorite moment in the Mass. The priest presents the bread and the cup and the congregation says together, “Lord, I am not worthy…” I will admit that this is where I get a little befuddled, because the wording of the response was changed in 2011 and I still identify most strongly with the original wording from the Centurion’s response to Jesus in Matthew 8:8 –

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

The new response is, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

But either way you say it, for me the ritual is powerful. To acknowledge on a regular basis that I am unworthy to receive the Holy Spirit of God in myself, and to acknowledge that because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus I have been made holy by Him so that we CAN dwell together…ahh! So rich; so beautiful!

Personal Notes:

I was raised in the Protestant tradition. When I was 18 years old, I became interested in the Catholic mass through a friend I’d made at work who was a devoted Catholic. She talked with such joy about her church and the celebration of Mass that I wanted to learn more. She spent a precious afternoon explaining things and answering questions, and then took me to daily Mass for the first time. It’s still such a special memory.

A couple of years later, I found myself needing to find a church body with which to worship corporately for just a couple of months before making a move back to my home state. Rather than “church-shopping,” I began attending Mass at the local Roman Catholic parish with another Catholic friend from the office where I now worked.

There was something beautiful to me in the reverence of the Mass. I had differences of doctrine with the Catholic church on some points that meant I didn’t want to pursue joining the church, but I loved worshiping there.

When I married Fred, I married a man who was raised Catholic, but didn’t find a real, personal saving relationship with God in Jesus Christ until he was in his late 40’s, and that was through friendships with Protestant believers. So he chose to stop identifying as a Catholic after that time. His family is still devoted to the Roman Catholic tradition and finds his choice very odd.

Fred doesn’t understand why I love celebrating Mass the way I do. For him, it feels like mindless ritual; for me, it feels like meaning-filled ritual. We have the most interesting conversations in the car on our way home after the various family events that include our attending Mass together!

Finding God’s Fingerprints with Thankfulness

Week Nine of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #9, Nov.2, 2014

an Independent Baptist Church
about 150 people in attendance
Message: Give Thanks in All Things

Finding God's Fingerprints with Thankfulness Week 9

Fingerprints:

This independent Baptist church is very close to our house. Fred had never been to a Baptist church before, but I spent several years worshiping in one as a child. The hymns had a gentle “Gaither” sound to them, and the feel of the service was conservative without being stuffy. I was glad we’d thought to dress a bit more formally than we would for some services; it was a suits and dresses congregation for the most part. It’s kind of nice to purposely put on your Sunday best to go to church!

The pastor greeted us when we arrived and made a dedicated point to be sure we knew we could follow up with him if we needed anything or had any questions about the church. His message was really good; well-planned and easy to understand, but rich with meaning. He admonished us to put the time and effort that often go into complaining or criticizing into, instead, thankfully counting our blessings. Simple? Perhaps in theory…but Fred and I had a good talk about how to put it into practice and hold each other accountable on the drive home!

One thing I’d never seen before: once a month they take a few extra minutes after the sermon to share what is being taught in children’s church for those 4 Sundays of the month so that everyone can be aware of what the kids are learning, and can be a part of talking about it with them. I thought that was a lovely way to allow the kids’ ministry to be in a different place in the building and age-targeted for them, but still encourage unity across generations in the church.

Personal Notes:

This is getting easier and easier each week. I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of how to be a visitor. I am not feeling weird about introducing myself to people. My smile is genuine. I am looking forward to seeing what fingerprints I can find at each church I visit. This adventure is starting to really be fun!

Weeks Seven and Eight: Finding God’s Fingerprints on the Interstate

Weeks Seven and Eight of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sundays #7 and #8, Oct. 19 and 26, 2014

On the road to Florida with my husband, Fred

Messages from  Andy Stanley –

Parts 1-5 of “Starting Point”

and a worship music mix of some of our favorites

Week Seven Finding God's Fingerprints on the Interstate

Fingerprints:

Fred and I were taking a road trip to Ft. Myers, FL, and his work schedule made it necessary for us to cover many hundreds of miles on each of the 2 Sundays we were away. So we took it literally that if two are gathered in Jesus’ name, we got us a worship service, and we had church together in the car both Sundays.

Andy  Stanley’s podcasts provided the teaching, and excellent series (we listened to 5 messages) called Starting Point. He has been explaining how the faith of our childhood often gets battered as we enter adulthood, and instead of just feeling guilty for not believing like we did when we were little, we need to create a new starting point with God as adults. The messages are so very good, and so timely in helping me understand more and more of the struggles my kids have all had carrying their childhood faith into adulthood.

Fred and I had rich conversation after the messages, and then prayed together for all sorts of needs.

He had me make a mix of 35 worship songs on his iPod before we left home, and we sang along and listened and prayed and talked to the music. Particularly meaningful to both of us: Casting Crowns’ “The Voice of Truth.

Personal Notes:

I love traveling with my husband. I love having the time in the car to talk. And I love having church in the car with him. It doesn’t take the place of gathering with other believers in larger groups, but it’s precious. It truly “felt like church” both Sundays!

Week Six: Finding God’s Fingerprints in a Converted Warehouse

Week Six of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #6, Oct. 12, 2014

A Smallish Non-Denominational Community Church with about 100 in attendance

Message: Honor Your Father and Mother (guest speaker)

Finding Fingerprints Week 6

Fingerprints:

The vibe this week was casual. This small, contemporary fellowship was similar to many in which I’ve worshiped over the years. It was easy to feel at home, and a few friendly folks smiled and said hello.

The worship band played and sang well, and the pastor greeted the congregation with a reminder of the importance of knowing The Ten Commandments, the foundation upon which the Old Covenant rested, and which was so beautifully fulfilled by Jesus in the New Covenant. A series on The Ten Commandments was continuing this Sunday, and a guest speaker shared. The pastor had preached on the Sabbath the week before, then had taken a week of rest for himself and his family. I thought that was pretty cool. It is a beautiful thing when people see their shepherds take care of themselves and their need for rest.

We celebrated the Lord’s Supper at the end of the message, and everyone went to the table and took the bread and juice as they felt ready to. It was nice to be able to participate as a body of believers but also feel very much focused on my own personal prayer time as I remembered the sacrifice of Christ for my sin.

An unusual, neat side note was an announcement that was made for a financial planning event to be held in the near future. One of the church members is a financial planner and was offering a free information session to help people figure out what was strong and what needed work in their personal finances.

Personal Notes:
The church meets in a newly renovated space that used to be an electronics repair shop and warehouse. I can remember taking some electronic device or other there when I was a kid for repair. It was somehow really cool to see that space converted into a worship space.

I got a lovely follow-up email from the pastor after my visit here. I liked getting to share with him about my Finding Fingerprints adventure; I’ve begun keeping a list of all the churches I visit on the wall of my office so that I can pray for all these congregations.

(Further Note: This pastor has continued to reach out by email over the intervening weeks, and has been praying for ME and my adventure, even as I’ve been praying for his church. Isn’t that cool? Building unity…building unity…building unity…)

Week Five: Finding God’s Fingerprints in a Lonely Place

Week Five of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #5, Oct. 5, 2014

A Medium-Sized Non-Denominational Community Church with about 200 in attendance

Message: John 3 “You Must Be Born Again”

Finding Go'd's Fingerprints in a Lonely Place

This one is hard to write about.

I decided I’d chosen liturgical services for the last couple of churches so I’d go with a non-denominational contemporary service this Sunday. I’m leaving off the name of the church because the whole point of this adventure is to celebrate God’s beautiful fingerprints everywhere I find them, and never to add to the disunity already running rampant in the family of God.

I checked out this church on their website and read a lot of warm, fellowship-oriented language. A café awaited me, and since I was a first-time visitor I should be sure to take a mug home with me. I arrived 7 minutes before service time. I entered the building and walked through the café to enter the sanctuary. There were probably about 200 people milling about, drinking coffee and fellowshipping. I walked slowly and made eye contact. I smiled. I was clean and had brushed my teeth. I was dressed in a very fit-in-with-the-crowd outfit. I was alone (Fred was sleeping after a night shift).

I was never once greeted.

It was like I was invisible. I thought, “I need to make sure I look open, friendly, and also a little lost. Those are the marks of a visitor.” Slowly I made my way all the way across the back of the wide sanctuary, pausing to look at the bulletin I’d picked up, looking around to read the signs on the walls, catching the occasional eye of someone and smiling tentatively. I was completely ignored.

I took a seat on the aisle on the far side of the sanctuary. The service began, and the lights went down. Stage lights lit the worship band. The sound system worked well. The words flashed on the screen. All the elements of “the production” were solid, but honestly the musicianship was pretty poor. It seemed as if they were trying so hard to put in every possible guitar riff, every instrumental bridge that they’d heard on the professional recording of the song, that their focus was just stretched thin and they were out of their depth. They looked at one another frequently trying to get their timing together. It was mighty distracting, and I was truly trying to worship.

I knew the songs. It wasn’t hard to sing along…but I was so distracted by the production that it WAS hard to sing along.

A missions report, a message that was casual, conversational, and completely confusing (even though it was intended for those in need of salvation and should have been clear to anyone)…I began to pray for SOME evidence of God’s fingerprints.

All I could see was a club; it was a club of which I was not a part. The café and casual atmosphere gave them the illusion of warmth and welcome. The conversational tone of the folks on the platform gave the false appearance of relationship with the regular attenders and a desire for relationship with the newbies. So disheartening.
I did find one lovely fingerprint, though, and it must be spotlighted.

Fingerprints:
Monthly this church offers a dinner for foster parents in the community. They cook and serve, and babysit the kids in another room while the foster parents have time to talk to one another and share encouragement. They are caring for orphans that way, right in our community.

Isn’t that beautiful?

Personal Notes:
I was so sad that I looked that hard and found so little of God’s presence. I don’t doubt that there are people in that church who love Jesus and want to live for Him. But something was wrong there; somewhere the priority got moved from substance to surface. I am praying that they will remember what it really means to love God and love others in ways that will show His fingerprints to all.

Week Four: Finding God’s Fingerprints in Corporate Prayer

Week Four of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #4, Sept. 28, 2014

A large United Methodist Church at a lightly-attended Liturgical Service (about 40 people for their final of 3 Sunday services)
Message: I Cor. 13:1-8a “Radiating God’s Love”

Finding God's Fingerprints in Corporate Prayer

Fingerprints:

The building is huge and like a maze, and we parked in the rear and came in through the back door, so we were quickly lost. The people were very friendly, and in no time a lady offered to be our guide. They have a contemporary service meeting in one hall in the building at the same time that their third liturgical service meets upstairs in the sanctuary. An usher greeted us with coffee mugs and cookies and another warm welcome; nice people.

Formal, beautiful sanctuary, but the congregation is small at the 11:00 Liturgical service (maybe 40) so the pastor came down into the center aisle and kept the service conversational rather than staying in the pulpit. I loved the music; I like how Methodist hymnals have songs with tunes I know (classical pieces, old folk songs, etc.) with lyrics to the glory of God.

The prayer time was most remarkable to me. Before the morning prayer time, the pastor shared items from the news in the last few weeks, reminding us of our responsibility to pray for the community, the country and the world. We lifted up together by name victims of violent crime in recent news, the countries of the Middle East where the crisis seems hopeless, and we together declared God’s sovereignty over all of those situations.

The Bible message was short and sweet, teaching from a well-known passage on love, but still offering something real to chew on. Fred and I both found personal challenge in his image of “radiating” God’s love; that when we are filled with and guided by God’s love, it not only shines to light darkness around us, but it gives off warmth to anyone who gets close to us. He talked about a love that radiates warmth in spite of irritation, kind words in spite of frustration. It was timely for both of us; we’d had a frustrating and irritating evening the night before.

Personal Notes:

Getting out the door was, of course, a challenge. Jonah’s graduation party was at our house at 4:00, and I was up early cooking like mad. I never made it into the shower, but I got cleaned up enough to be presentable and we rushed off. It was well worth the effort. We visited with the senior pastor (he came right to us at the close of service) and found him to be warm and genuine and easy to talk to.

Oh, and the organ Toccata Giocosa (Martin) that was played for the postlude literally made me cry. The power of God, reflected in music!

Week Three: Finding God’s Fingerprints on a Personal Retreat

Week Three of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #3, Sept. 21, 2014

Something a little different – A Day of Personal Retreat

Bible:  Word Study – Pride, Proud, Arrogant, Arrogance

I looked up every occurrence of these words via my concordance and then studied what God says about it. That led me to make notes for further study on the following passages: Hezekiah and Sennacherib of Assyria (Is. 9, 37, 38), Sodom, Jerusalem and Samaria (Ez. 16), Moab (Jer. 48), Romans 11

I listened to John Piper podcast messages: Renewing Women” and “Preparing to Know Christ Deeply.”

Finding God's Fingerprints Week Three on Personal Retreat

Fingerprints:

It was my birthday and Fred was working. The day was gorgeous, and I took a day of personal retreat. In addition to the word study above, I took a one-hour walk listening to sermon podcasts.

Personal Notes:

I also rested, read, and napped much of the day. I was amazed at how much energy and focus I had Monday-Friday the week following! Reminded again that I have to take care of myself – body, soul and spirit – if I expect God’s blessing on my work.

How about you? Any place you noticed God’s fingerprints this week?

Week Two: Finding God’s Fingerprints on Stained Glass Windows

Week Two of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #2, Sept. 14, 2014

A large Presbyterian Church with about 300 in attendance at the traditional service

Message: Matt. 18:21-35 “The Power of Forgiveness”

Finding Fingerprints on Stained Glass Windows

Fingerprints:

First observation this week:

The sanctuary itself is beautiful. A vaulted wooden ceiling, stained glass, wonderful acoustics for the organ and bells that open the service. God made creation beautiful, and He placed in us the ability to make things beautiful.

The visual beauty was an unexpectedly effective call to worship for me.

In spite of the formality of the sanctuary, the pastor was friendly and informal in his greeting and opening remarks to the congregation. The members of the congregation were very friendly, and I felt genuinely welcomed. The passing of the peace of Christ was no rushed ritual; people were warm and chatty and seemed genuinely glad to greet one another and share the unity of the body of Christ.

The music was so enjoyable for me. I got to hold a hymnal and sing a written harmony line. I got to sing all 4 stanzas, and some of them had words like “Thine” in them. I didn’t realize how precious more traditional church music is to me. It felt like genuine worship, it just felt like a different kind of worship.

The responsive readings/prayers and the congregational affirmation of faith gave me a chance to join my voice with others in the proclamation of truth, and the written record of those words went home with me in the bulletin so I can look at them again in my personal devotional times.

The pastor’s message was both well-researched and personal. He shared about his own struggles with keeping a record of wrongs. His 20-minute message was simple but challenging. And his charge and blessing to the congregation at the end of the service was a strong and clear reminder that we step out of the doors of the sanctuary into a mission that God has given us to share Him with the world.

Personal Notes:

Again, it was not easy to get out the door to the service. I have had a lot of emotional and relational work to do with people close to me in the last week, and that combined with a busy few days of physical work left me struggling to get up and moving this morning. In addition, I had a situation with one of my kids hanging over my head, and was trying to decide whether to go ahead and address it in the morning or just wait until after church. Fred is working today, so I had to go by myself – but oddly that ended up being much easier than I had anticipated once I made up my mind that I was going. I think that instead of worrying about how he was feeling about the visit to a strange congregation, I was able to just take care of myself and any uneasiness I felt.

For the message to be about forgiveness when all week I have been hurting over the brokenness between us and some folks in our life was the grace of God. The word was a timely blessing and challenge to me.

We had Gathering (a small group that meets monthly with no particular agenda except to share with one another what God is doing in our lives by His word, in prayer, and through circumstances) with the Culleys and the Smythes last Thursday evening, and Kym posed a great question to me:

“What would it look like if the Bride of Christ DID unite in love, focus on commonalities instead of differences, and honor their uniqueness while refusing to exclude those who worship differently?”

I realized that Jesus Himself gave the answer in John 17:23 – The world will see and know that God sent Jesus and loved the world even as He loved His own Son.

How about you? Any place you noticed God’s fingerprints this week?

Week One – Finding God’s Fingerprints After a Very Hard Weekend

Week One of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #1, Sept. 7, 2014

An Assemblies of God service with about 200 in attendance.

Message: Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 “Eternity”

Finding Fingerprints After a Very Hard Weekend

Fingerprints:

First, observations about the church service.

This was way cool: those who need prayer simply step into the aisles when invited, and believers gather around them to pray. No one need come to the altar down front. No special pray-ers are in charge. The body ministers to the needs with love and prayer.

Communion was celebrated, and the pastor very clearly, succinctly and warmly explained that they practice “open communion” which means that membership at Church XYZ is not necessary, just salvation in Jesus Christ. He also explained that the elements would be passed in trays, that each person should take the two cups stacked together and find the bread in the lower cup, and that all believers would hold the elements until all have been served and we would partake together. It made it easy to participate in the observance of the body and blood of Christ for even a first-time visitor. There was no fear of offending others or embarrassing oneself.

Communion meditation from  I Timothy 1:15-17 spoke to a specific hurt in my husband Fred’s heart. The pastor gave the illustration of us reaching out to receive God’s grace with one hand while we allow the devil to twist the other hand behind our backs with condemnation. God wants us to reach both hands heavenward in gratitude and freedom, knowing that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1)

This church’s former pastor of 20 years was in attendance that Sunday and it was beautiful to see the respect and affection with which the current pastor acknowledged him and his shepherding of the congregation there. There was no sense of defensiveness, no need to protect his own position, no competitive nonsense.

Personal Notes:

It was not easy to get to church this morning. We had just left our home church of over 9 years, and it was painful to make that final separation. But this weekend I was ready; I was excited. And I got sick. “Girl stuff” had me flat on my back in bed Friday night and all day Saturday trying to deal with feeling lousy.

Then we had a very difficult conversation with one of Fred’s siblings about some long-standing hurts that just can’t seem to be healed. That had Fred really down last night and this morning.

We pushed through anyway, and I found great encouragement in the devotion below from Frances J. Roberts’ Come Away My Beloved. And then the motor on the well pump broke, and we found our house without running water. *sigh*

We got there anyway, and the conclusion of the sermon encouraged all of us to articulate what “crazy idea” God had placed in our hearts, to what effort with eternal value we felt drawn. And I smiled, because this feels like just such a crazy idea.

From Come Away My Beloved, “The Last Great Outpouring”:

Behold, you stand on the threshold of a new day. For I have truly great things in store for you. Yes, you have not power to conceive what I am about to do. For I will bring to pass a new thing. You will rejoice exceedingly. You have heard of the showers, but I say to you: I will send a mighty downpour. Many have cried out to Me from hungry hearts and have received of My fullness and seen My glory; but I say to you: In the day of the great deluge which is coming, many will come to know the reality of My power who have until now not even dreamed of such a thing.

Many who are scoffers and many who are honest doubters will find themselves swept away on the swelling tide of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For this is the time of the last great outpouring. This is the day of preparation for the coming of the Lord. Many shall rejoice together in the Spirit’s work who are now at sword’s point over doctrinal disputes and barriers of tradition.

But let your heart be encouraged; for a new day is dawning: a day of repentance and a day of gathering for My people. For they shall not continue to be barricaded and isolated behind walls of prejudice. I am the Lord, and I will be worshiped in sprit and in truth, and not in the bigotry of sectarianism and narrowness of denominationalism. The world is waiting for a robust Church to minister to its needs; and how can an ailing, dismembered Body bring healing to a sick and dying world?

Surely I will pour out My Spirit, and by prophecies, by signs and wonders, by many different types of miracles, and by healings, I will reaffirm the veracity of My Word and bring the message of the Gospel of Redemption to  many who would otherwise never give heed. I am the Alpha and the Omega. Stand firm in Me. Never waver.

Be faithful regardless of apparent failures and discouragements; for My word shall surely be fulfilled, and your eyes shall see revival in proportions such as never before witnessed in the history of the human race.

Keep your eye on  the end of the course. Victory is secured already. Do not let the hurdles cause you consternation. Stay in the running. Truly, I am at your side. According to each day shall your strength be; and the race is not won by the swift, but the obedient shall receive the prize.

 

How about you? Any place you noticed God’s fingerprints this week?