So some of you are aware that Bill & I have been lackadaisically looking for a new church home for a few years now. Long story and old news, so I won't get into it here. Hubby moved around so much as he was growing up that it's easier for him to feel God in strange places, so he's been letting me figure out where I feel the most comfortable. Anyway, I haven't yet found a place that screamed out 'HOME' to me. Strange, perhaps, but I've been waiting for some kind of significant statement, feeling, sign, SOMETHING to say "stick around" at a particular church.
One of our family goals for 2014 is to find that home, no more putting it off and sleeping in on Sundays! We've made a list and are visiting twice. Thanks to a timely invite from Jessica, her church jumped the line. Divine Appointment, methinks. My soul desperately needed the balm of corporate worship today. (Everyday, really, but especially after this week.)
CONFESSION TIME: After growing up in a liturgical church with all the bells, whistles & formality that comes with being a conservative Presby maverick congregation, I sometimes struggle with churches lacking in the 'trappings' that I've always equated with church services. I miss the robes, the processional, the organ, the chancel steps & altar cloths. I miss the rarified air of a church building with pews and hymnals tucked into them. I know it's superficial. I do. Really. I don't want a replica of the church in which I was raised...there were many challenges, there, too. As you know from my last post, I resigned my membership shortly before my marriage (more old news). It is easy to become enamored of the trappings themselves and forget to focus on the One those things are meant to magnify. But still I miss them sometimes. Oh, the blessing of voices raised to sing the Lord's Prayer together!
This area is full of lovely churches in lovely little church buildings. Also full of churches held in borrowed school buildings. I usually gravitate toward churches in their own buildings--hard to transport a pipe organ in a church truck--but we've visited congregations of all sorts. Today was the first time I entered a church in a school building and felt like I was actually entering a church sanctuary. There was an almost tangible change in the atmosphere of that school auditorium-- I found myself expecting a sermon and not a lecture on bullying prevention. I settled in to worship, comfortable in a way I hadn't been a long time.
I've spent a lot of time this week wishing I'd been in touch with Linda more, appreciating the blessing of her friendship and mentorship. She's been there for me--even discussing this problem we've had finding a church home--and has often been a spiritual reference point for Bill & I. What Would Linda Think of this church? Weird, but whatever works, right? You will probably think this is weirder, then...
Partway through the service, a woman walked down the aisle to rejoin her family; if I hadn't known that Linda was already with her Heavenly Family, I really would have thought she was visiting the same church. Seriously. Same hairstyle as the last photos I've seen. Same color palette, same posture. My eyes teared and I wondered if I was just seeing things--but her hair bobbed to the music and nodded during the sermon. Gift from God #1...that somehow, Linda was there with me, enjoying the sermon as I had. (Don't worry, my friends, I know it wasn't her in the flesh!) Today's sermon was wonderful...laced with humor and depth!...and about the sovereignty of God and how sometimes that is tough to swallow. Linda would have liked it...her absolute faith and confidence in God's sovereignty AND His Grace would have been pleased by today's lesson.
Gift from God #2: The Benediction. Something I've oft missed in my visiting. Who knew that not all churches close with a Benediction??? And this one, today? The one that defines Benediction in my memories, my heart and my mind; these are the words that, to me, are "The Benediction." The God of Comfort knew I needed to hear familiar and meaningful words today and He gave them to me.
Are these signs that I've found a new home? Only God knows, today, but He has given me the comfort of knowing that there IS a church family out there for our family. Thank you, God. And thank you, Linda, for showing me that you are already looking out for me and my family. (And thank you Sovereign Grace folks for bidding me welcome as a stranger in your midst.)