28 September 2006

In His presence

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
To be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings to the far western horizon, you'd find me in a minute-
you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"

The Message Psalm 139 7-11

The Practice of the Presence of God is a book by Brother Lawrence. Of all the things I have read it has been the second biggest influence on my life. I have been meeting with a friend each week for the last 3 months while she has been working her way through the book. She asked me what was keeping me sane on this journey I have been on this year. I shared with her that I had long ago read the above and continue to find it an inspiring.

When I was very young I went to a school in Washington D.C. We were close to a Catholic school and whenever one of us would have a bomb threat both schools would turn out and head to a field to play softball. Sister Luke would usually umpire. One time while at bat I made the comment that I really didn't want to play ball. She told me to "offer it up to God". At the time I had no idea what she meant. To tell the truth Sister Luke had always seemed a little bit scary to me. It wasn't until years later that I understood what she meant.

While I was in a Sunday School class in England, a teacher brought her copy of Brother lawrence's book. She let me borrow it. Things have never been the same since. This was the first time I had thought about how God could and should impact my daily life. Brother Andrew did everything for the Lord. When he was working in the kitchens, it was for God. If he was scrubbing the floor, it was for his Lord. In every situation he found himself he saw each as an opportunity to work for his Savior. I tried then to adopt his plan. I will confess it was much later when I realized how often I fell short of practicing the presence of God.

Earlier this week I spent quite a bit of time in an airport. After having traversed all the terminals more than once I found a comfy spot to sit and have a snack. While resting I met another woman who had been waiting several hours too. She asked me how I could be so cheerful in such a uncomfortable situation. I explained I had once spent much more time in the same predicament. Once upon a time I and my family spent 21 days in an airport waiting for a military space available flight. She was dumbfounded and said "that's a story I have to hear." So... I shared with her how we were home from the mission field and needed to get back to Okinawa. This led to her sharing how she used to go to church as a girl but hadn't gone once she left her mother's home. We talked for a couple of hours. I am grateful I was open to the Lord's presence and in turn able to share the same with another.

Thankful for the chance to see difficulties become opportunities,


06 September 2006

Church...what is it good for?

My church recently had a "Town Meeting" to clarify decisions made by our denomination this summer, to discuss our plans for the future, and to ask any question you may have been wanting an answer to. One thing brought up in the meeting was the fact that all major US denominations are seeing shrinking numbers in church membership. This led to the inevitable questions of why and what do we do about it.

Several ideas were put forth at the meeting. One ideas was described in visual terms which I initially found appealing. It likened church today as trying to get a message through using a rotary dial phone in a cellular phone world.

To some the answer to building church numbers has been to tell people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Some have gotten Disney engineers to design their children's areas to lure kids in knowing that a good deal of American families are driven by the children's wants rather than the parent's desires. Some are reaching out to people through advertising. One church here in town has placed ads in men's room above the urinals. They are even so committed to the importance of advertising they are developing a brand to foster brand recognition for their church.

This caused me to think about why there are churches in other parts of the world where they are seeing great growth. In Asia and Africa churches are flourishing. They haven't had money to remodel, advertising is out for the same reason. They certainly haven't seemed to water down the message they are preaching. So why are they growing when they are not doing the things being tried here?

I think part of it is because they have had to work hard to keep their churches alive through famine and hostile governments. They have stripped away all the hoopla and kept the message of the comfort and hope that God offers. In a country where hope is a rare commodity and comfort cannot be found, it is treasured all the more.

I had lunch today with a couple of friends who are back in the USA for a month to settle some family business. In October they will return to a clinic they have operated in east Africa for fourteen years. Their Sunday services have had to move outside because they can no longer house all who come to worship.

This afternoon I came to a realization of why I really don't like the phone illustration. It's the members of the church who are to be the message delivery system. It's the members who are to be the billboards for their church. Brand recognition should be realizing the presence of God in us.

Churches need to deal with the business of church, not fifth avenue.

Trying to be a great billboard,


05 September 2006

Learning again and hopefully always

It seems of late that life is overwhelming me. I have taken time to slow down and eliminate a lot of non-essential things, but still I can't keep up.

Evidently my warranty has run out because things are falling apart in me faster than I can repair. I've got two great Doctors who are helping to keep me together. One lives in town with me and one I reach through daily consultation.

He is the Great Physician who can tend me like no other. He has a whole approach to healing me. He reminds me that though my body will last for a short while, my soul lives forever.

In a rather splendid twist I have noticed as my body suffers my soul has learned to fly.

On Monday I could barely move. A friend called and we talked for over an hour sharing all the wonderful things we have been able to learn from and about our Lord this year. Her struggles with a difficult job and an inappreciative staff have caused her to rely more fully on the Grace of God. After I hung up I thought of how ironic it would seem to those who don't know Christ, that what others would see as crisis has become a haven for us.

I have another friend facing possible blindness. She and I talk several times each week and pray with and for each other often. She has been through several life threatening illnesses and now is facing what she considers to be the hardest thing yet. Still, she thanks God for the faith He has gifted her with to face this latest trial. We have both stated we don't know how anyone who does not have this faith can make it through their life.

Both of these women have been such an encouragement and a positive life lesson for me. So thoughtful is my Lord that He not only gives of His comfort, but put these two great women here to comfort me as well.

Thank you God,

and thank you gals,