The day Robin Williams died I found myself out of sorts. I went for a drive. I sat in my truck by the lake and watched a kingfisher in the rain. I cried. I felt the heaviness of defeat hovering over me like the gray sky above. Not for myself, but a painful sadness for the desperate cries of those who end up taking their lives. The Catholics say that to despair is to sin. It is the ultimate in unbelief. I was suffering the pains of life in this world, with its failures and cynicism. I kept crying, and crying. At one point I was on my stairs, back in my home, when I finally surrendered to deep sobs and crying out to my Lord, “It hurts. Oh Lord it just hurts here so bad. So much suffering!” And then he was next to me; sitting bloody and torn with wounds all over and nodding in understanding. “Yes. Yes it does.” He was smiling, His tone lighthearted. He knew all my pain. And more. So much more. I felt a certain affinity toward Him; a connection.
As I write this I remember encouraging a pregnant woman who was only a few minutes from pushing. Her labor was at its most intense, and almost over at the same time. And she was looking at me with fear and in pain. She was so desperate. And I was smiling at her. Not because I had no compassion. On the contrary, I knew all about giving birth without the help of drugs or epidurals. And I knew it was well worth the effort. And so, she could look at me, and see my faith in her. My demeanor said this was a wonderful thing, not a bad thing. And she composed herself, got down to the business of pushing, and delivered her little girl.
“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” John 16:21-22
The night I was voted onto the planning board, the chairman took me aside and welcomed me. He was a relaxed fellow with an easy armchair manner.
“It’s like watching paint dry,” he shared. I nodded. A slow-moving venture; I liked the sound of that.
Yesterday, Michael held the car door open for me to get in, and then scraped the near-April snow from the windows and mirrors and windshield. He was wearing dress pants and cowboy boots and had agreed to come with me to church. This is the man who I reached out to fourteen years ago with the gospel. This is the man whose atheism challenged me to convert him. This is the man who I fell in love with, dashing all of my evangelical confidence. This is the man who made me recoil and stop sharing the good news; for fear that I was not a trustworthy vessel. And now this man is my dear husband, scraping snow off the car so we can go to church.
Has he been saved? Not to my knowledge. Yet twice in the last week I have witnessed him pulling out his phone and sharing scripture stories and trivia with those gathered around the table. Those listening to his readings are perplexed, thrilled, or a little turned off. His own father says with some sarcasm, “I think he’s going to fill in for the preacher up there,” signaling toward the church uptown.
I beam with a smile I cannot hide.
I look back on the years this story has taken to unfold and wonder if it has even begun yet. He gets in the driver seat and off we go. My head spins a little thinking of the first conversation we ever had about God. We arrive at the Catholic Church. The standing and sitting and standing and sitting don’t deter him. But the big surprise was the kneeling. The man knelt down like the rest of us.
This is a little more interesting than watching paint dry. Even if the pace is similar.
Recently I’ve discovered Catholic radio. For a few months now, whenever I am in my truck, I have the station set to hear what interesting broadcast is next. It’s the call-in shows that are the most fun. And once in a while I catch Mother Angelica. I’ve seen her a few times over the years on TV and always love her. She has little expressions that I try to memorize for future use like, “Now wouldn’t that be a Cracker Jack?” She makes it look like fun to love God and to be good.
Well for some mystical reason, these times in my vehicle with the catholics have made me miss communion. I mean really miss communion. I was raised Catholic until I was around eight or ten and we stopped going to church. My siblings say it was buying the cottage that did it. Once we stopped going in the summer, we stopped going when we returned home in the winter. But I’m not so sure. There were seven of us to dress, nag, and get ready for church. And my mother had cancer. At any rate, I went long enough to receive my first communion.
A few years later, after Mom’s death (and some other tragedies) I called myself an athiest. This lasted a good long time. I stayed mad at God and denied him for 10 years or more until I was in marital trouble and decided to pray for help. I remember being in the middle of a big messy crisis, and seeing this little pocket bible. I think I’d received it in basic training years before. I picked it up and opened it. The scripture I read said,
I’m pretty sure I threw the bible down. I stormed into my bedroom, opened the closet and sat down underneath my hanging clothes, batting them out of the way and feeling like a real idiot. I shut the door and sat there. I prayed (with some sarcasm) “Okay GOD…if you are real…here I am. Can you get me out of this mess?”
To make a long story short, I found Jesus, or He came and found me. However it was, it was wonderful. And I read the bible a lot. And I went to lots of different churches. Some full of nice people, and pot lucks, and some with lots of rules about clean living: no smoking, drinking, or cussing. Some full of robust laughter, and praise and song and shouts of “Hallelujah” and “Amen brother! Preach it!”. Some with robed choirs, some with alter calls to come and receive Christ and prayer, some with draping cloths for people who are slain in the Spirit around the alter. Some even singing Jewish songs and implementing Passover and Sukkot and other Jewish traditions to their faith in Jesus (who is Jewish after all). I checked out revival meetings, worship services, and huge gatherings that would dwarf a rock concert.
In all these things, I felt the Lord. But never more than when we broke bread. And for all these churches, and experiences I wanted more communion. I wanted to break bread every time I was with another believer. I would break bread at home with my kids if they were sick. And I would expect to do communion every time I stepped foot into a church. But that was not the case. So maybe that is why, after listening to the Catholics for a few months on the radio, I have this pull to go and take communion.
So I went to talk to the priest 🙂
Standing at my kitchen sink playing an old Hosanna worship CD and peeling peaches for canning, I have the beautiful and familiar sensation of the Lord’s presence. Smiling, I enjoy a few moments of His smiling, my gratitude, and that awesome feeling that time has stopped. All is right with the world.
Then the Word comes. I capitalize “word” because it is divine. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. The Word of God usually refers to the Bible. But where did the bible come from? Holy men who were inspired to write it, so it says. So where did this inspiration come from? From God of course, via the Holy Spirit. If you have ever longed to meet Jesus; to talk to him, to dine with him, to bend his ear a minute, or sit at his feet, or even throw things at him, you may find yourself empty and frustrated that he is not here. But I will let you in on a little secret. He said he was leaving but would not leave us comfortless. He said he would send another, who would be with us always. That “other” is the Holy Spirit. He is God with us. The Omnipresent one. And He is the one who inspired those “men of old” to write what they wrote. And here is another mystery. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That verse is referring to Jesus. But it is also referring to “the Word”, before the “holy men of old” were inspired to write it. So the Word is not only the written word, but the living word.
This brings me back to my moment at the sink. In the midst of feeling that wonderful and personal presence, the word comes.“It’s harvest time.”
I think back over the years of prayer and sowing into the lives of my loved ones. I think over all the care and worry. I think of all I did that was right or good as a parent. And all the hopes I have gripped and lost and gripped again. And then I see a wonderful rest. It is finished. He is faithful to complete it. He has heard me, seen me, and assured me, and in fact HE put the desires there in the first place! 1 Cor 15:46 The spiritual does not come first, but the physical and then the spiritual.So here’s to the physical harvest! And to the anticipation of a wonderful spiritual harvest!
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I’ve been praying fervently for a friend. Health issues can be the best and the worst kinds of prayers. On the one hand, if a mate gets better, you can thank God, and go on your merry way. If they get worse, or die however, it makes you wonder about praying for the sick at all!
I have a vision in my mind of a praying tyrant who comes to the home of the sickly one and paces the floors. He wears a dark hat and long coat and maybe even steps out for a cigarette every now and then. He sits quietly in the corner and reads, he paces some more, and prays like a pit bull. He has no intention of leaving until that bloody evil thing gets off the person and runs for cover, leaving the victim sitting upright and smiling and asking for something to eat. Yes, this is the manner of person I want at my bedside if I am prematurely stricken. But this is a rare one indeed. Most who are evoked to pray simply are agreeing to worry, and look very sincerely upward, perhaps even with tear filled eyes, saying, “Do you hear me, God?”
Most simply don’t believe God operates that way. But Jesus said all you need is a mustard seed of faith. I’ve been giving some thought to this little seed, and doing a bit of research.
From Wikipedia regarding the parable of the mustard seed: There is a “subversive and scandalous” element to this parable, in that the fast-growing nature of the mustard plant makes it a “malignant weed” with “dangerous takeover properties”. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (published around AD 78) writes, “Mustard… is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”
So it is with faith! Once it has been sown, it can take over like a weed! And grow so fast it kills the plants around it! Well, stay tuned to see how it all plays out.
I have been inspired to add to this these thoughts. Ask and it shall be given to you, Seek and you shall find, Knock and it shall be opened unto you. These scriptures in the Greek mean KEEP ON ASKING, and KEEP ON SEEKING, and KEEP ON KNOCKING. With persistence, and with expectation. Have you ever been searching for a kitchen utensil that is missing? You frantically dig through drawers, and look through cabinets, and every place it could be. You search with a determination because you just KNOW it’s GOT to be there! You aren’t thinking you will never find it, you are SURE you WILL find it, and you are sure it IS there! So it is with faith. We KNOW God is merciful, we KNOW HE is good, we KNOW he is full of compassion. And so when we pray and look for healing, it is with a certainty that it exists, that it is there, and is right. Love hopes all things, BELIEVES all things. Love NEVER fails.