Monday, March 28, 2016

Churches I Have Loved

Maybe you played that little game with your fingers, 

"this is the church, this is the steeple..."

The big finale comes when you turn your hand over and wiggle your fingers to see "all the people"!

My wiggling fingers made it look more like a battle ground than a group of people
who love each other.

I was a child when I learned what the church is.

And I learned it in a small country church. 

Family members I never knew built this church long before I was born.

On their land.

From their trees. 

When I was younger, we only went there for family reunions

but a heritage of faith was passed down from them to me. 

I'm not sure what it was about that place.

Maybe it was the picture of Jesus that hung inside the building.

Maybe it was the old hymns we sang there. 

“There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood, no lovelier spot in the dale,
no place is so dear to my childhood...” 

Whatever it was, it was in that place that I learned to love being there.

Being in the church.

It would be years later before learned that I needed Jesus in my life,

And God was good to me far beyond my understanding,
when He allowed me  to be part of a wonderful church in Jacksonville Florida. 

My first baby steps as a new believer were taken there under the guidance of some sweet older Christians.

I learned to study my Bible and share my faith with others. 

With the help of  these people, 
a wonderful foundation of the core beliefs of Christianity were planted in my heart.

After Bud and I were married we moved away from Jacksonville, but it was a priority for us that in each place we lived we found a church to be our own

The people we met in those churches shared themselves with our family.

Older women taught me by their example how to love my family and God.

Special friendships were made that have lasted through the years, 
and even through the moves.

One move however stands out in my memory. 

For the first time in my life, I moved farther than five hours away from my family. 

We packed up our small belongings and even smaller child, and moved overseas to England.
England was home for our family for six years.

Living there in that place was where I grew the most.

Because in that place I was the loneliest. 

Even though we made great friends there who are still friends today,

living so far from what was familiar made it harder.

I missed my family and I missed the life I knew.

Phone calls home were scarce. 

 Letters seemed to take forever.  

And my husband spent two of every six weeks working away from home in Europe!  

Even our car was a problem, 
always acting as if it was waiting for the mood to hit it in order to run.

Our church there was mostly made up of young families who were also far from home, like ours. 

So, we reached out to other new families in the church.

We looked for ways to help make things easier on them.

And reading my Bible became a huge priority. 

I read to find out if the things I'd been taught were actually in the Bible or if I was basing my beliefs on someone else's.

I struggled hard while I was there, but when I left, I had a stronger assurance of the things I believed. 

England is a country with an amazing Christian heritage!
From cathedrals to small independent chapels, God's name has been lifted high.

We took lots of small trips in the area where we lived; places that would have been familiar stomping grounds for John Newton, William Cowper, John Bunyan and the Wesleys.
Our own church met in an old chapel where it was very likely Spurgeon may have preached.
The towns where Tolkien and Lewis met and had their heart to heart talks about Christianity.

Surprisingly it is a small church that really stands out in my memory.

And one woman.

For a period of about ten years, this church had one woman.

Almost 70 years old.

Faithful every week. 

She went by herself and opened up the chapel .
Turned on the heater.

And waited on the Lord.


For almost ten years!

Just in case we ever feel like it is too much trouble to get up and go to church.

When our time in England was over, we were able to return to Warner Robins, Georgia.  

We had lived there before and were eager to be able to get back to the same church;
 a church where we knew we would be taught God's Word 
and loved on by people who were already like friends.

Those seven years were sweet years for our family! 

I hope you have learned the same thing for yourself.

The church is a rare group of people, and you would do well to find one where you can get involved.
  Be a friend.
And be loved on too.
By people who understand that we are all in this together.

You know...
The Church may not be made up of perfect people.

In fact, let's just go ahead and say it isn't.
It is made up of flawed people like me, who just happen to love a perfect God.
A God who forgives us and loves us all.

And in the good times or the hard times,
through the years, I have seen it again and again.  

God has used the church to bring us closer to Him.

That church where the woman went by herself week after week to open it up?
I don’t know if anyone ever joined her there.  

I just can't imagine that after awhile, her reason for going was to influence anyone else.

But she did.
She influenced me.

One day, I hope to meet her and hear from her  
what glory she knew during those times she went to worship her God.

In the church.


Until then, I will thank God that I am able to be part of that group of people
 pictured by a tangle of fingers.

Because this?

This is the church.

And I need it.

What about you? 

 Have your found your place in His body yet?  
Are you active in loving and being loved by a group of believers? 

Are you growing in your faith?  
Have you been blessed by the lives of others in teaching you and guiding you
 by their words and examples?

To what extent do you consider church a necessity?

Would you continue to go and open up a building if you were the only one there?
How long?

Know this.  

Your life?  
You have more of an influence than you realize. 

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