Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stash in my Nightstand, aka Glad to be Home

I have an old nightstand that belonged to my great grandparents. It was a washstand in its previous life. Sometime in the middle of the twentieth century, it got booted to their back porch. In the 1980's, my grandmother rescued it and had it refinished, revealing stunning quartersawn oak, also known as tiger oak, beneath five or so layers of paint. Thankfully, the refinisher had some talent and refrained from using a high gloss finish coat like some mistakenly do on antiques. Instead, he gave it a nice soft finish that resembled a patina.

I've been using this washstand as my nightstand for the past 15 years. I cleaned it out the other day and found a couple old pairs of glasses, an old pocket calendar with once-memorable dates recorded, an ancient address book that possessed names of folks I used to know, some of whom I barely remember, a lint remover, book marks, two tubes of Burt's Bees lip balm, cough drops, and pictures my daughter has drawn for me on scrap paper (those I saved).

On the bottom shelf, behind the old baby monitor we no longer use, was stashed a small treasure trove of sermon notes written on old Christian Fellowship* (CF) church bulletins. The most recent was from 1999. As I pulled them out and thumbed through them, tears filled my eyes. That stack of papers represented so much more than just a collection of old sermons. That church had been my family. After four beautiful years, we moved away and were officially sent to their sister church NL (another name change), which ended up being too far from where we lived for us to participate in their ministry.

Tragically, a year after we were sent out, CF split. Yes, the building still stands and still bears the same name, but it's not the same body of believers. The flock scattered.

When I got word that CF had split, my heart broke. It took me a long time to admit that I was angry at the Lord. It took me even longer to realize that He had spared me the brunt of the blow by removing me gently from the midst before it was torn apart. Still, I found myself longing for home. A home that, I felt, no longer existed.

We attended a Messianic Jewish congregation for a time and learned some amazing things about the Hebrew roots of our Christian faith, but we soon discovered that the Messianic movement had an ugly side. It was full of individuals who had left protestant churches because they were offended. Sadly, divisiveness follows those who leave a church the wrong way out of offense. Hence, that little congregation lasted just a year after we joined, before many of the members left, as the division caught up with them and pushed them again out the doors. The rabbi and ribbetzin, discouraged because this was not the first time their congregation had split, decided not to rebuild it.

We moved to our current city seven and a half years ago, and have since attended several different churches. Though we disagreed with some theologically, nothing like that was ever insurmountable. It was the absence of the Holy Spirit's sweet presence and His healing power in their midst that left me cold. We wandered in this desert for six and a half years before the Lord pushed us in the direction of another church, which I will call RC. I say pushed in retrospect, because we stumbled into it quite by happenstance.

I was stunned that first Sunday. The Lord had much to say, and discouragement had left me tone deaf. Finally I was in front of a pastor who was, apparently, in tune with what the Lord was saying in my frequency and was willing to repeat it. But it was more than the sermon. It was the worship music, and the freedom that the worship team gave to the Holy Spirit in their midst. It was the prayer team that waited at the front after the service closed, ready to pray with and minister to those in need. It was congregation family member--a complete stranger--who looked at me and said, "welcome home."

I've recently started accumulating sermon notes again. RC actually provides transcripts of the previous week's sermon, which makes it much easier to read them later on than my silly scribblings sideways on a faded bulletin. But regardless of whether they were already typed out for me or not, these sermons are worth keeping. Much like CF, this church holds a precious and rare commodity for me: the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by granite Scriptural foundation and a passion to see God's people healed...emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

As I bagged all the items I no longer needed from my nightstand, I returned the small stash of sermon notes to their proper place on the bottom shelf, then added the new notes to the top of the stack.

It's so good to finally be home again.

*Church names have been truncated for privacy. Those who would need to know the name already do. For the rest of you, it doesn't matter.

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