Sunday, January 15, 2012

What A Difference A Day Makes

In her preschool years, my attention-challenged daughter had trouble marking time, memorizing the names of the days of the week, and keeping track of what order the days were in. The first day’s name she learned was “Saturday.” (That’s the day her Daddy was at home when she woke up.) We called Sunday “Church Day” in an effort to help her keep track of where we were in the week.

It stuck.

When we moved to Virginia, my Dad and I started asking each other this question:

“How was your Church Day?”

I still call him every Sunday afternoon or evening (sometimes I wait until Monday) to get a report. He tells me about Sunday school and church, if his quartet sang (and what song), if Mom went with him or not, and if he stayed home. You know—how his Church Day was.

This particular week, my Church Day really started late Saturday night. I was trying to catch up with my homework for
our women’s Bible study. My class, “A Woman of Purpose,” used a Dee Brestin Bible study on the Gospel of Luke. I’d made it to the last page of the book’s Introduction, where Dee explains the lens through which she approaches the study:

“Did you know that Luke is the Gospel that is most empathetic to women?”

I underlined phrases like from Mary's perspective, God astonished her, and amazed her with miracles. I read of the women being first at the tomb, running out to tell the men, and the men saying that the women's words seemed like nonsense!

Dee says, “Jesus valued women, reached out to women, used women for vital messages, and understood women’s deepest longings.” That particular sentence reminded me of something Betsy told me earlier in the week. When she attended John & Stacy Eldridge’s Ransoming Femininity weekend, Betsy said God touched her face and told her that He delighted in her, that He adored her. I thought, “Wow. How come that’s never happened to me? I could really use something like that.” Who couldn’t?

I was in one of those tough seasons—you know the ones, when the enemy’s lies about you—to you—are incessant. He’d been calling me a bad parent, an inadequate wife, and a pushy lay minister with a know-it-all attitude. He whispered, “It’s too hard to be your friend because you’re so demanding and raw, needy and messy.” He said...well, you get it.

The truth? I was still sitting in bondage to what I perceived other people might be thinking about me.

Both Betsy and Melisa spoke truth to me with great love. They pointed out the lies I was mired in, the wounds I was wallowing in, the nasty garments I preferred to the godly garments Jesus held out to me. And they were right. I had been stuck there. (But I thought I dealt with this already!!)

Untangling all the lies from the truth, finding a firm place to stand—it can be exhausting. My joy in worship-leading, in being Cami’s mommy, in being Michael’s wife, in being a Jesus-follower—pretty much gone. That Saturday night, I was mostly tired.

And my team was up to lead worship the next morning.

I wrote this prayer in the margin of Dee Brestin’s Introduction:

Jesus—please, meet me in this study. Touch my face—tell me I’m lovely to You. Please restore that wounded place in my heart that doesn’t believe I’m worthy. Of anything. Help me lay down the lies I'm wearing—wallowing in—[help me] slog through the enemy’s false puddles and run into Your truth of my significance and purpose.

Restore to me the joy of my salvation, and renew a right spirit in me.

On the next page, I circled “God is mindful of you (Luke 1:46-48).” I wrote,
Make this truth real to me, Elohim. Abba. Make it part of the very fabric of my being.

The next morning, I got ready for church thinking I had a lot more time than I did. The bathroom clock needed a new battery. By the time I headed for the car, I had five minutes before I would be late for worship rehearsal. It takes 12 minutes to drive to church. As I opened the door, the voice in my head was berating me with “You’re always late. How irresponsible! You’re wasting everyone's time when you show up late!” I was tempted to embrace those lies—I mean, I am almost always late everywhere I go. I opened the front door to go out, breathing the prayer, “I’m sorry that I’m late again, Lord. . . .”

I stepped outside the door and looked up to see the most brilliant rainbow stretched all the way across the sky. The sky behind it was dark, like unburned charcoal. I started exclaiming, “Oh, my!” over and over. God was extra-amazing with His sky painting that morning. Here I was, thinking I was late, and it was like God said, “No, HoneyBear, you’re right on time. Take a look at this!"

I stood there exclaiming my awe and wonder at my amazing God, verbally applauding Him with every word of praise I could think of, and my neighbor walked outside to get his paper.

Now, my neighbor didn’t seem like a happy man. He could be gruff and unfriendly, and I admit: I generally tried to avoid him. But he chose that very moment to step outside for his Sunday paper. I couldn’t help it---my gushing toward God just spilled over onto his sidewalk.

“Good morning! Did you see the rainbow?”

He turned around to look at the sky. He said, “Wow.”

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” I said as I started down my porch steps.

When he looked back at me, his usual scowl was gone. His whole face was delighted! He said, “You know, in the over-twenty-years that I’ve lived here, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rainbow on this block.”

I promise you, I could hear God chuckling. It was as if He was saying, “Late, huh?”

My neighbor looked back at me—the neighbor who usually didn’t make eye-contact (maybe because I tried to avoid it???)—and said, “Thank you for pointing that out to me.”

I said, “You’re welcome! Have a great Church Day!” (Yes—you could really hear exclamation points in my voice!)

I got in the car and headed to rehearsal. The CD was playing a Brian Doerksen song:
He is here. He is near us, in our hearts, in our minds, in our midst. I put the car in gear and backed out of the parking place. He is here. He is near us, calling us to trust in Him.

I turned onto the main road, and the other end of the rainbow—the one that was way south when I stood on my porch—filled up the sky above the road. I couldn’t see any clouds or sky—only rainbow. Brilliant rainbow. God-always-keeps-His-promises-rainbow.

Cast your every care on the One who gave you life. The tears began to flow. Lay your burdens down at His feet. Open up your heart to the Living Word of God. He is love. . . .

By the time I arrived at church, I’d already been dancing with Elohim, Triune Creator God.

And Church Day had only begun. God was just getting started.

We observed communion as part of our service that Sunday. During the first service, I sat with Melisa when I wasn’t on stage. As the pastor asked the elders to move to their communion tables, Melisa leaned over and began whispering to me. I leaned closer to listen, so I wasn’t looking at her. Just listening.

“God wants me to tell you that. . . .” She took a deep breath.

“Everything He did on the cross was for you.” And I felt it.
I felt Him touch my cheek.

“Because He loves you.” As sobs caught in my throat, Melisa’s tears plopped on my arm.

“He delights in you.” Oh.

“He is pleased with you.” Oh, my.

I hadn’t told her about the prayer I’d written less than twelve hours earlier. I hadn’t told anyone.

Except Jesus.

Hey, Pop!
(As Bill Gaither wrote,) "He touched me. Oh, He touched me! And oh, the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know: He touched me and made me whole."

Yep. That was a pretty good Church Day.

 How about you? How was your Church Day?

I’d love to hear about it.

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