Tuesday, November 20, 2012
This Spiritual Journey...Part 4
"I wonder what it would be like to worship God the way that Jesus, His Son, did..." What a journey began in that moment!
There was a ministry group (several members belonged to our church) which began to have monthly meetings at our church on Saturdays. This was the day the worship team came in for practice and as things will work out we were soon asked to provide the music for their ministry. I confess I was put out by this and didn't want to participate in this ministry at all. I had good reason to believe that 'somebody' belonged to this group. I was especially upset one particular Saturday, almost to the point of open rebellion. The guest speaker had been announced (and as memory goes, I cannot for the life of me tell you who she was other than her name was Gisele something), and I was adamant to John that immediately following the music portion of the program I was going to walk out and go home. John had attempted to coax me to change my mind, but I was having none of it.
As I stood at the dresser, fastening my necklace, I had one of those moments in which the leading of God is so particularly strong that it cannot be ignored. "You must stay and here this woman speak. She has a word for you." That was what I heard in my spirit. I attempted to argue, to reason it out, but no it came a second time "Stay. She has a word for you." And a third time. "Hear her. She has a word for you." I wept with frustration. I did NOT want to stay but I am a child who wants to please my Father and arguing had gotten me nowhere. John was surprised to see me crying when he walked into the room. "What's wrong?" "We'll stay and hear what this woman has to say." "But if you don't want to..." "I have to. We have to." "No, we don't..." "YES, we do. God said she has a word for us." No more arguments from my husband who had been trying to coax me into leaving, because he thought I was just trying to please him.
So we stayed after our music program for the ministry. The group who came to hear Gisele speak were all on one side of the room and because they were praying when we finished we sat on the opposite side of the room. We didn't get up and move to join the group. Gisele glanced at us a time or two but mostly ignored us. She told of her life as a child in Nazi run Europe, of their movement all through the war to keep ahead of the Nazis. She gave her testimony and then began to speak to various women in the group that had come to hear her. At no point did she look at us or speak to me.
At the end of the program, I sat still in my chair as many went forward to greet her. John asked if I was ready to go and I told him no. "She has a word for us." Finally Gisele walked over to us and thanked us for coming. I told her I'd enjoyed her talk. She smiled. "Are you believers?" "Yes...and I don't mean to put you on the spot but God..." "...told you I had a word for you? Yes, I do."
Several weeks before this speaking date I'd been sitting here at home praying when I felt strongly that God wanted us to move. I've shared many times how much I love my home and the family tie to this land and that feeling that we were to move shocked me, hurt me. I was so shaken by it that I didn't mention it to John. I guess I thought if I ignored it, didn't share it, God would forget it, lol. Imagine my shock when John came in a few nights later, sat down and took my hand. "We have a lovely home and I know how you especially love this land, but I felt strongly this evening that we're going to move." I sobbed. "I know. God impressed me with that same thing."
So when Gisele said to me "You're going to move..." I wasn't surprised. I was however surprised to hear that we weren't leaving our home at that time, but God was going to move us to a new place in our spirit life with Him. "Are you ready to let God do what He wills? Are you ready for more of God?" she asked and John and I both wholeheartedly said "YES!" "Then get ready. God is going to bless your socks off!" There was more to what she had to say. I'd have to find my journal from that time to tell you all of it and I'm not sure I got it all down on paper even then. It is pretty heady stuff to have God impress something upon you and then send a person to speak at your church and tell you that He wants you to stay so that she can speak to you for Him.
And here's where I must say something because I don't want anyone to think for one moment that I am special or extraordinary or that John and I have an exclusive inner line to God. I know there are plenty of ministers and prophets who can give that impression and make the people to whom they are speaking feel they are just not that lofty. John and I are ordinary people. We have our struggles (oh how we struggle). We don't know a great deal. We are not so special or spiritually elevated. We wake up with the grumps and grouches, we get tired and irritable, we struggle with trust and faith on a daily basis, we fight and we whine and we love God, just like you do. We are so very ordinary, but God, the God we've come to know, is so very extraordinary that He reaches out to ordinary folks like us, like you and just wows us, floors us right there in the middle of our ordinary selves.
I'm no good with the time frames but somewhere around this time we visited a Messianic synagogue. John, having taken my statement that Jesus worshiped God as a Jew, had looked online and discovered this rabbi and synagogue and communicated with him by email. He made arrangements for us to go visit one Saturday morning, which we did. It was a small group, friendly enough but we were a bit rushed since we had practice that afternoon and had to hurry away. We didn't return, as we got very caught up in the usual sort of life busyness that takes all your time and attention. In the meanwhile 'somebody' was still at work in our church and John and I found ourselves arguing hard during the drives before most services. Since this had not been our nature we were both disturbed by it and eventually we mutually agreed to step away from church for a bit and take a sabbatical time. The intent was to do as we'd done a couple of years earlier: find a place to retreat and spend time in Bible study and prayer. Previously we'd been gifted a lovely cabin in the woods in the mountains and we spent some very special time alone with one another and God. We'd studied individually and shared with each other what we'd learned and come away refreshed.
We came across a Larry Huch teaching on Shabat ritual on Friday evenings that had intrigued us and we began to have our own Shabat ritual evenings. We didn't do it 'right'. We did it the way we felt God led us to do it, though we did try at first to pattern it after the ritual in Huch's book. It was such a sweet thing and it felt as though we drew close to God during that time. We continue that even still.
So we looked for a place to 'retreat'. We found that spot in Orange Beach, Alabama. We didn't leave our room except to go to the grocery for food. We studied and prayed and studied and prayed. We didn't know where we were going, what we were going to do, but we knew that something had to change. When we returned home we went out to visit other churches. One of the places we visited was a little tiny building that housed a Messianic synagogue. It was the same Rabbi and group we'd worshiped with months earlier, now moved to a town in our usual area of trade. This visit we were moved by the ceremony and ritual of the service, by the readings of the Siddur. We felt that here we would finally learn how Jesus worshiped God.
We began to learn about the Torah (the first five chapters of the Bible are Torah). It was while we were in Orange Beach that I'd read in the Bible that we should read Torah every day. Every day. And for the past three/four years I've read Torah over and over and over again. Yes, it gets tedious. I don't understand everything I'm reading at times, especially in Numbers. But I learn every day. I'm reminded every day of God's promise and provision for man's troubles and failings.
As I said, the congregation was small, sometimes 20 showed up for service and sometimes 5. The Rabbi was worship leader, cantor, Rabbi, official greeter and planner. John offered to help with the music, by playing guitar and was soon ordained as Worship leader. Another young man came into the synagogue and within a few months he became part of the Worship team and carried service on John's work weeks. And later a shy young girl asked John if she could join in playing on his Sundays. That shy young girl and that young man are now leading worship at that synagogue and this week we received with great joy the news that those two are 'courting'. John and I could not be more thrilled.
We learned a great deal. We learned about how God made the faith for the people through His own instruction. We learned how to draw closer to God by doing those things He commanded. We learned so much. I had a lot of personal struggles during this time. Granny's dementia and death, loss of major roles in my life (parenting and singing come to mind right away), troubles that hurt me deeply, that hurt us at times in an unbearable way. When you determine to draw closer to God it does seem that the things which come against you become more difficult. We didn't give up. We pressed in harder. God pressed out more from us than we knew we had. Storms raged and roared around us but we were privileged to see God at work in so many ways.
But we weren't done yet...Nor are we done now.
No, we no longer attend synagogue and why we don't is long and complicated and difficult to explain without putting others in a bad light BUT we sincerely believe that this was God's answer when we went into yet another sabbatical time this Spring, a time of far more intense and deliberate prayer and study than any we've experienced yet. It was 70 days of seeking and the answer came on the 70th day. It was unexpected and it hurt and the aftermath was not pleasant. When it was over and done, we realized that we'd been released from the synagogue for God's purpose and we'd also been released from some rather painful things that bound us and kept us from moving forward. We're in the waiting room at the moment, waiting for God to direct us where He'd have us go and waiting for His teaching.
Just today I sat here after John left, putting on my makeup for an errand run into town with a sermon playing on the TV. I was sort of half listening and suddenly I heard a segment that answered for me some questions I've been asking for the past four years. I've whined and whined and cried out about the 'losses' I've experienced in my life, things that I thought were my identity. I don't need those roles to identify who I am in God. I need God to show me how He wants others to see Him in me. So maybe I won't be a singer (or maybe I will) any longer, and maybe I won't actively parent my children but there are others who will benefit from my skills as a loving mother. Perhaps I won't be a well known author, but God will use my dishpan full of dirty dishes and my ability to stretch pennies and make over leftovers to reach the heart of someone.
Never think anything is too small or too ordinary for God to use to speak to someone in your life or to an unknown. I'm reminded strongly of a blog I used to read a few years ago. I can't recall the name of it but it was written by a young woman whose mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer. As she became more and more ill, this young woman blogged about her home decor at her mother's request. By the time I'd found the blog her mother had been dead a bit less than a year. One of the things the young woman shared was something her mother said over and over again. "I don't always understand God, but I always trust Him." Her mother had died but that phrase of hers ministered to me in an hour of time when I needed to remember that understanding didn't always matter but trust does.
I don't know where we'll worship God in the future, in a corporate body. We know what we're looking for and yet we haven't been anywhere to find it yet. We've spent a lot of time with our family of late. We've watched sermons on TV and internet and we read our Bibles and we pray every day. Yes, occasionally we might miss watching a sermon or Bible time but not often. We need that time of one on one worship to connect to Him and draw near, to press in.
This week while on vacation I did my annual review and I wrote about my Spirit life: "I wanted to get to know God better." It's a continuing story, a journey that hasn't yet ended. I want to get to know God better. I want to press in and hear Him speak. I want to know who He is and how He wants me to be.
And this is where this story ends, but the journey continues.