A Love that Will Not Let me Go

Whenever we go to church conferences I always here the same thing “How do we get more families with children to come to our church?” We have about 45 active members at our church, 20 of those being children under age 9. Our nursery is for ages 1ish to 4ish. So at any given Sunday, there are roughly 8 to 14 children worshiping the whole time during our hour and a half long service. If your church doesn’t have lots of children, I am not sure you can quite conceive of how loud and fidgety 8 to 14 children can be while they are trying to be quiet and still. I love our church, but the noise and movement does take some getting used to. Sometimes visitors attempt to race out during the last hymn only to realize that all 20 children have beat them to the back of the Sanctuary so they can dance during the last song, blocking their only hope of never having to sit through a crazy Sunday like that ever again.

Having families with lots of children is a huge commitment and I always speak up during those little breakout sessions and go from the “the cool mom with blue hair and a nose piercing” to the “why are you dashing our dreams you ignorant youngster”. There are tantrums, fights, spills, crying and 8,000 trips to the bathroom even though “OMG you just went and you’re being rude and if you don’t stop going to the bathroom during church you’re going to lose dessert. I don’t care I’m going to pee on the floor. I don’t even like dessert!” angry whisper speeches coming from the pastor’s wife’s pew near the front left.

In the Anglican tradition we take Communion every week. It’s my favorite part of the service. It’s all memorized, the same beautiful language every week (depending on the season). Literally no matter what the noise level is, how many distractions there are, it’s the same. I can correct a child by snapping my fingers, giving a death glare and never miss any of the call and response. My oldest daughter is learning to read and we are teaching her read the words out of the worship book. She is working really hard to pay attention with the promise that she’ll get to go to acolyte training this summer. Teaching someone else out of the worship guide just makes everything come alive again. All that being said something happened a couple of weeks ago during our Communion. It isn’t uncommon that children don’t sit with their families. We have several families that don’t have kids in our church and we would be lost without them helping us. I don’t think my two oldest daughters have sat with me (unless they are in trouble) for an entire service since they have been out of the nursery. Communion was wrapping up that Sunday and a family with two small boys had sat back down in their pew. My husband turned around at the same moment his mother realized that their usually mild mannered sweet 4-year-old boy had snuck past the pastor and the servers and was laying at the foot of the alter. His mother ran forward to grab him. He would have none of it. He threw an epic tantrum. Screaming, thrashing, yelling “NO!!! I’M NOT LEAVING!!” He never looked out like he wanted attention, he never wavered in his desire. He knew what he wanted. Eventually both parents, had to come get him. Aside from feeling bad that I knew the parents were embarrassed, I had an overwhelming feeling of “I’ve been there man.” I’ve laid at the foot of the Cross and cried. I’ve laid at Jesus’s feet and thrown a tantrum. But at the alter is where things get changed. At the window to Heaven is where we should throw our tantrums, our wails, our laments. I’m reminded of a song:

                O love that will not let me go I rest my weary soul in thee I give thee back the life I owe That in thine ocean depths its flow My richer, fuller be

O light that followest all my way I yield my flickering torch to thee My heart restores its borrowed ray That in thy sunshines glow its day May brighter, fairer be

O joy…

O joy you seek me through the pain I cannot close my heart to thee I trace the rainbow through the rain And feel the promise is not vain Then morn shall tearless be

 

In all the drama and craziness that comes from having almost half your congregation being under the age of 9, I would not give it up for anything. I don’t remember what my husband’s sermon was about that day. I was probably taking a child to go to the bathroom anyway. I do remember how God spoke to me through that unwavering child. Maybe, it’s the stage of life I’m in, but over the last seven years I’ve been a mom, God has pretty much only spoken to me through my children. From when I was in the emergency room losing an unborn child and heard God audibly tell me what name to give the baby or a mysterious feeling of peace after a long frustrating day.

“O love that will not let me go” Let me always be like that child. Not wanting to move from the most holy place on Earth. “I rest my weary soul in thee” “O joy you seek me through the pain” “I trace the rainbow through the rain and feel the promise is not vain. Then morn shall tearless be!”

If you say your church needs more families with children, be prepared and brace yourself not for the foolishness of children’s innocent ways, but for the intense way God will call you out and speak to you. Show you how much you need Him. How we cannot do this on our own. We need a community. We need to see Christ from the eyes of a child throwing a tantrum at the Alter. “O light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee. My heart restores its borrowed ray! That in the sunshines glows its day may brighter, fairer be!”

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Enough

Enough. Is that a word we really ever say? Maybe when we are at an Italian restaurant and they are grating cheese over our fettuccini we may say “Enough.” But only because other people start to look at you funny if the parmesan piles up too high. I am 32 years old and I sadly cannot think of a time in my life I have said “I have Enough :blank:” and truly meant it. I could blame it on my upbringing or that I’m an American (whatever that means), but really its because deep down I am broken. Broken beyond my repair, a brokenness so deep I cannot say “Enough” because its true, I am not Enough.

In our tiny Anglican church in our tiny Midwestern town, we began with a dream. A dream to minister to our neighbors; a dream to save people, bring them out of despair and fill our used donated folding chairs with sinners. And we have ministered to our neighbors, we have filled our chairs with sinners. Even so, we are letting the word Enough hold us back. Every planning meeting I go to seems to the same theme, if we had more :blank: we could do this ministry better. More people, more money, more resources, more, more, more… Maybe in our desperate need to always have Enough we have yet again put a pretty dress on Enough and called it something else. Maybe we have just what we need; enough people, enough money, Enough, Enough, Enough. God has ordained us to serve this community. When we have needed something and abundance has poured in. Am I letting “if we had more” hold me back from following the ministry that God has for us?

It’s hard to come to Food Pantry once a month and maybe only have 1 or none families show up. God didn’t ask us to have an opinion on who showed up just to be available with food for when people do. God asks us to feed the poor, the sick and the hungry. Maybe all the people that would have come that week were blessed by someone else doing ministry in our town. Praise God!

It’s disappointing to come to church after the annual bazaar after having such fun conversations with people in our neighborhood the day before and see no new faces in the pews. Did I mention we have beautiful donated pews? Ones we didn’t have to pay for or really even know we needed? Maybe those fun conversations were the most important “church” they ever experienced. Maybe that snow cone one of our shy bearded men handed them gave them the joy they needed that day to hope for a better future. God didn’t ask me to have an opinion only to stand out in the sun all day and sell junk for a quarter.

My favorite hymn we sing is “Here I am Lord” I  sing it to Tully and Mo every night. I know Lee gets annoyed because sometimes I forget the words or run verses together and I just make  stuff up, but I have never gotten the chorus wrong “Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart!” If you lead me? Allowing God to lead me is the scariest thing I have ever done.  I must be annoying to God. God gives me a direction, I go asking the whole time “Are we there yet Dad? Are we there yet?!” I cannot even enjoy the ride because I am so anxious about what the next step will be.  I may have missed the blessing in the day because I was wanted more when actually what I had was Enough.

Enough. It’s a strange word. Strange because its alien to us. Strange because we live in a world that would crash and burn around us (or so we’re told) if every said “Enough” and actually meant it just once a day. What would that look like if we practice saying “Enough” once during our day. Start by saying it on something dumb, like the candy bowl on that sweet old ladies desk “No I’ll just take one chocolate, thanks. One is enough for me!” and actually sitting down in their office to ask how they are doing. Or maybe saying “Enough!” when the radio is playing that stupid song again this hour and listening to silence. I truly believe if we start saying Enough in the small things in life it will spill over to the large things. That is my imagine statement  I want us to be able to say “We have Enough” and not let our brokenness and fear hold us back. We can change our world, our town, our neighborhood because that is what God has called us to do; one blind step at a time. “Lord if you lead me- I will hold your people in my heart!”

Sunshine Breakfast Casserole Recipe

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Sunshine Breakfast Casserole 4 eggs 1 cup milk 1 lb sausage ½ cup onions, diced (optional) ½ cup button mushrooms (optional) ½ cup diced fresh tomatoes (optional) 2 cups cheddar cheese 1 can of croissants Salt and pepper Directions- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook sausage, onions and mushrooms. Spray 9×13 casserole dish, place uncooked […]

Career Day!

Career Day

Let’s rewind a few years and look at the 15 year old me. Far enough away from college that it still didn’t seem real, but close enough away that teachers and adults still seriously asked what you want to be when you grew up. I knew my answer without the usual shyness of a 15 year old southern girl. I wanted to be a counselor. I wanted to save the world with my… counseling. I wanted to sit in my lovely office and have semi-broken people come to my office. They would hear my “counseling”, turn their lives around and be happy normal people. Praising me and of course Jesus, but mainly me. I would become rich and famous from the counseling technique I developed, sell many books and use 10% of my richness to tithe church to further saving people with my…counseling. Fast-forward to today. I’m thirty-one and a social worker for the state. That’s a different story of how I changed from counseling to social work. To sum it up I like the hands on approach of social work instead of the theories of counseling. Every day I descend unto the boughs of Hell from 8:00am-4:30pm. You wouldn’t believe and I cannot fully describe the evil, hatred, greed I come in contact with and that s just from the institution I work for. The people, oh the people. The level of despair, gluttony and entitlement shoves any hope I had of “saving and fixing” these people down into a level its hard on a good day to see out of. I have literally stood in a yard while firemen broke down a door and the coroner had to carry my client out in a body bag.  Her daughter said “Well Mom didn’t want to go on vacation so we left a bunch of food and locked her in the house. We thought she could go a few days without her diabetes and cancer medications.” Do those people go to jail? No they get lost in a sea of paperwork and forgotten about on a dusty desk. We have been forgotten. My department is the end of the line. It’s a dumping ground for criminals, homeless, sick mentally and physically. There is no funding, the placements are overcrowded and run by greedy people who look at check books to see if someone fits their criteria for placement. Our case loads are triple the size that is manageable. The despair will suck the breath from your soul. The darkness has won today and the Kingdom isn’t here.

In a little store front church on a balmy Saturday night few gather. All in attendance have been worn weary from fighting this Kingdom of darkness. As the Priest blesses the Host and the fatigued people cry “Holy!” a renewal washes from an unseen place, ever so slightly moving the flames that light up the pictures that tell their stories: The stories of a God breaking down  the doors to Hell and breaking the prisoners free from a home they deserved, the story of a dirty carpenter dying on a cross for a people that will never comprehend and a story of a great Savior ascending to a throne with promises to come back for his people.  A baby cries; an out of place noise during such a Holy ceremony. A window unto Heaven has been cracked and even a child can feel the presence and a desire for God.  A baby cries for her mother and will not be satisfied as we cry unto God and will not be satisfied. The mother picks up the child in her free arm balancing her weight. In the other hand is the Gospel book, filled with Hope, high above her head they process out of the people behind the Cross. The weight of the child and awkwardness of the large leather bound book becomes no burden as the mother realizes this is her true calling in life.  A calling to follow the cross where ever it leads, a calling to carry the weak and broken , a calling to always passage the One True Story on her lips and  in her hands. Whispering “I love you, you are mine!” to the child, she joins the others voices singing “Holy! Holy! Holy! Though the darkness hide Thee, Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see. Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee, Perfect in Power, in love and purity.