I have many questions in my heart and mind as we begin 2006. I feel "winds of change"--wow what a cliche, but so true to me right now. I also feel the need for action. I feel unsettled, a bit anxious, and yet I face this year with anticipation and joy too. Something that has happened to me over these last weeks, particularly in the Advent time, is an increased awareness of the presence of God. As part of that refreshed sense of intimacy, I am rereading "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. Something else that has happened to me recently is an increased awareness of something very obvious. That is--I don't know much! I am increasingly comfortable with that, increasingly able to embrace and even enjoy the mystery of life, of God, of God's ways and purposes. And the mystery of people.
Assemblies of God churches in the USA are participating in a week of prayer, January 1-7. This poster is on our bulletin board and on the entryways to the church this week.
As part of that annual observance, the church is open for most of each day for people to come and pray. So I started the day in our sanctuary. Soft hymns played in the background, the cross on the platform wall glowed softly, and the interior was lit only by the white lights of our Christmas tree. It was peaceful. My husband mostly walked around, and I heard him softly praying for the various families of the church, directory in hand. (Today's prayer emphasis is families.) I pictured various people in my mind as I agreed with his prayers.
Once again, as seems to be happening to me a great deal, my awareness of God is centered on people.
What can we take with us into eternity? People. Nothing else seems to matter much anymore. I probably won't take my puny abilities, or my even punier intellect, my ideas of what "ought" to be, my doctrine, my various affiliations, my denomination, or even--praise God--my shortcomings and failures and mistakes. I don't know what to expect when I stand before the Savior, the God who is "Emmanuel"--with me through it all. I don't know much! But I believe that if God is to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" to me, it will be about people. It won't be about the size of my church, or the size of my bank account, or the size of my resume. It will be about the only eternal things I know. Love. And People.
So I start this new year with a renewed awareness of God and a renewed awareness of people.
Here are a few of the ones we prayed for this morning. The pictures were taken a month or so ago as the some of the church women gathered upstairs and the men gathered downstairs.
Nancy, my longtime friend and sister in Christ, with the most beautiful smile I have ever seen, and the softest heart. Honey, the servant and prayer warrior, Linda, another woman with a beautiful smile and a soft heart. And me and Pat, in our Women of Purpose shirts, smiling in this picture, and both, just now, seeking clarity on our pathway. And dear Laurie, stretching towards God like a growing plant towards the sunshine. And Sandy, longtime faithful Christian, and about to enter a new phase of life, once she understands what it is to be! Lord help us, all of us who are seeking guidance and direction. And Lynn, arm outstretched as if to embrace whatever and whoever comes. Thank you for Lynn and her enthusiasm and joy. And my mother, the "old lady of the group" as she says. Protect her Lord, and keep her close to your heart. Bless dear Kelly too as she continues to become who you created her to be. And Phyllis, a woman with a heart for justice and truth. Bless each of them as only you can, Lord.
And our wonderful guys...God bless them! Ray in front--in more ways than he knows! Be with him through all the changes that will come to him this year. And Jim, quiet and faithful and seeking peace. And John, seeking to be "on fire" for God...and Jeff. Bless Jeff, Lord, and bring into his place in the battle. Bless my dear Ken in his bright blue shirt! Bless him with spiritual brightness and renewed joy. And
Clayton too...bless him with JOY and renewed purpose. Bless the "dad" of the group, Gene, with his faithful and true heart for you. What precious guys! God, help them be all they are created to be. Grant them hope and peace and joy and love.
And all the others who are not in the picture this time. Bless them with awareness of your presence. Heal them, restore them, guide them, encourage them, convict them.
Use me in whatever way you choose in the lives of each one.
Lord, I thank you for the blessing of being the pastor of these eternal people--for the blessing of being part of their lives, and many others as well. I thank you for a renewed awareness of your presence. And I thank you, too, for the awareness of people. Eternal God--and eternal people! Amazing! May our connections and our interactions and our love be eternal, by the grace of God. Please speak to people through me, see, hear, and touch PEOPLE through me. What a mystery that you should desire that this be so! Whatever comes, whatever joy, pain, questions, answers, direction, blessing, loss or gain, through it all this year, may people be at the center. You, God, are "with us" as we are with each other on this journey. Amen