Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Pastor's Pew.

She came to the door about 6 months ago,her hair coiffed and graying. She knew the family that had built this old house and her husband had hung a light fixture long gone in the entrance way near the stairs.

I just wanted to see the old house, she said, and I was wondering if the fireplace was still there.

I forgot, for a few moments, how strong memories are and how dear. 

To me, the fireplace is one of the most amazing things about this aging home, and so I threw the door wide and welcomed her in.

Only, this home isn't the home that she remembers.

The life that fills it now doesn't look the same as the lives who loved and breathed and filled these places when she was young and the shock came out in words of hurt over so much that had changed.

I wish she hadn't left so quickly. I wish I could have asked about the ones who dreamed up this space. - The ones whose faith marks it so deeply.

It's called a Pastor's Pew.

I had never heard of it, and haven't seen another like it.

But like the pew benches that held me when I was small in that quiet little church that was like a second home, I am wrapped in a feeling of familiarity when I curl up in the corner.

I am held in peace.

There is something sacred about a space used for worship.

Back when doctors still made house calls as frequently as the local pastor, this foundation was laid. And when the cold winter winds would howl and the wise would stay home, there was a fool for Christ who would brave the chill and walk up the front steps to pray with the ones who lived here.

This alcove, flanked on either side by the age old symbol of church and prayer and that one sweet gramma singing off key, it has held the voices of the ones laying their hearts down before the Risen Savior and these pews have held the tears and laughter and words of those no longer here.

The fire may have warmed chilled bodies, but there is rest to be found for weary souls here in the quiet of this space.

I received a text in the dark as I was making my way home.

Just two words with no other explanation and my heart raced in fear with all the possibilities:

Please pray.

Was it my children?

Did something bad happen?

Are you hurt?

I asked all the questions instead of just doing what the text said.

I didn't know that while I had been out, one of our older Madison House kids was in our home. This kid, angry and troubled, was breaking apart and he showed up here, on our front step, cold and undone.

My 3 older children, recognizing his pain, raced to help their daddy get hot cocoa to warm his insides while Tony fed the fire to full blaze and then invited this young man to sit on one of the pews.

And here, on wood that has been prayed over for more than a century, two souls sat opposite one another; one seeking answers, the other holding the Answer.

I walked in to hear yelling. 

To hear the broken sobbing of pain,

while my older three all snuggled together in the school room, completely at peace and unafraid.

Mama, they whispered, you need to pray. The boy in there is *really* sad.

And as the questions raged, I heard Tony's calm, sure voice speaking the Name of Jesus, inviting him to come and find Peace.

All I could do was pray. 

All I could do was stand in the kitchen, hip against counter and pray.

It was the silence that caught my attention, and it was the two of them kneeling before the fire in the space between the two pews that pulled me to the doorway as I witnessed the holy moment of a fatherless man tenderly lead a fatherless boy to the heart of the Heavenly Father Who will never turn either away.

In the past few days, this home that was ours to rent and then wasn't and then was ours again - this home that God wouldn't allow us to live in until all of my dark had come has become ours officially.

I don't know why it has in the way that it has. I'm overwhelmed at all the ways this has come together, but I am so incredibly grateful at the way God has shown Himself again as Father at the beginning of a season when this word is filled with so much pain.

Our prayer since the beginning has been that this home would be a light in a dark place. That refuge would be found here; that in the middle of chaos and confusion, the clarity of Christ would be seen most clearly.

I think of that family who first saw this plot of land and drew up plans for this house and in the heart of these walls placed a refuge for their souls.

They couldn't have known that all these years later, a lost boy would be found by the One Who knew him before all of time began right in the middle of where they themselves gathered.

The world seems to be spinning out of control. News channels and social media scream fear from all sides and terror turns us wild, devouring one another with words and opinions behind the safety of a screen. Everyone wants to change the world and the views of another.

But, right there, outside my own front door is a young man who needs a Father and a homeless woman stopped with her cart across the street talking with me about Jesus over a cup of water and a granola bar.

Each moment, each place I put my foot has the potential to be a space to build a Pastor's Pew, a meeting place to seek Jesus and the good of another. These moments, where we drop to our knees side by side place us on level ground. There is no scrambling to find our footing here, there is only utter dependence on the graciousness of God.

The fire is burning brightly still in the early hours of this morning as the pews wait expectantly reminding me that there is no one to far gone to come to Jesus, 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Are You There?

On this street that we live on we hear the rumors,

the whisperings of the ones who carry danger with them everywhere they go.

It's said quietly and hushed,

Avoid them, at all costs. Stay away if you see him (or her) coming.

Tony, he drives home in our car that is blue in a territory that is clearly marked red and he drives towards this one man as the sun is setting in the late haze of a summer evening; while the setting sun is blinding the other man's eyes who hesitates because he can't see clearly who is driving.

I was standing on the front porch spray painting desks when I watch his hand reach under his shirt into the back waistband of his jeans...while he begins to walk slowly towards the car my husband is in.

Tony, calm and sure, reaches his hand out of the rolled down window and calls out his name, says hi as though it's no big deal and diffuses a tense situation.

But it confirmed in my heart that truth we had been told,

This man is dangerous. Stay away.

October passed in a whirlwind of days of anniversary, ocean, birthday, and visiting.  We come home from the beach and I turn and prepare for 2 weeks of company and finally tackle the leaves that are building a fortress on our front steps.

There is that pile of dirt, stubborn and resilient that I can't quite get to budge out of the corner of the third step up and I'm more focused on that then I am on the street behind me. Barney, our dog, makes an odd sound as Tony steps out onto the porch and I turn and look toward the sidewalk and pause.

He is slowly approaching us on the other side of the fence, his eyes locked on mine while he asks if our dog will bite.

I don't know how to answer...mostly because I don't know how Barney will react. But I don't know why he's asking and so I say so,

I don't really know.

I turn to look at Tony because I know we are to avoid this man, and he whispers quietly, urgently,
Get. In. The. House.

Not fully comprehending, I tried to finish up what I was doing, not wanting to look panicked or make the wrong move when I realize this man has lifted up the gate latch and is walking up the front walk towards us.  As Tony steps around me, whispering again for me to get in the house, I quietly slipped in through the front door and sat down and began to pray.

There is always the possibility, no matter how small, when we have a member of a gang come by and sit on our porch with us, that an opposing gang could drive by and open fire.  For the most part, I have come to peace with this. And while I know how foolish this may sound to those around us, I firmly believe God has His hand on us and He will protect us. After all, as I was told before, we are bulletproof until God calls us home.

But there was something in the air that afternoon that had me shaken, and I didn't know what it was. So I prayed. And then I was able to listen.

I'm not sure how much alcohol this man had consumed, but it was enough to slur his words and open up his heart.

I have heard brokenness before - I've felt deep brokenness in my own life before, but I have never, in all my life, heard such all-consuming hopelessness in the voice of another.

Alcohol was making his mind wander, but Tony kept drawing him back to Jesus in the most tender and gentle of ways.

I'm too far gone.

I can never come back.

When he called Tony "good", Tony would quickly and confidently say,

No. I am a horrible man without Jesus. He makes me good. Without Him I would do horrible things.

I sat there as I listened to his words and thought of the apostle Paul - murderer, persecutor, cruel...

No one is ever too far gone when Jesus enters a life.

He stayed and listened while Tony presented the gospel to him and he didn't say much, but as soon as Tony started to read the words of Romans 6:23, he got up, shook Tony's hand and wandered away.

I felt torn over the next few days. He had shared much with my husband and I wrestled between the fear of, what happens if he thinks he said too much and tries to hurt Tony?, and He heard the gospel, please Jesus, let the seeds planted take root.

I'm grateful for the prayers of those around us, who were aware and prayed for peace and protection because the fear I felt lifted and my prayers for him have become stronger.

But it begs me to ask the question of myself,

Why are we here?

And by here, I mean here, in this house, in this neighbourhood.

I keep hearing the cliches, the prettied up sayings,

Just Free-fall into Faith.

Jump and the Lord will catch you.

And I get it, because I believe that the sentiment behind these sayings is true - but am I doing it?

Am I trusting the Lord so much that I will share the truth and beauty of the gospel with those around me, no matter what I have heard of them?

Now, I know that there is wisdom in listening to the counsel of those that Christ has placed in my life to guide me and who know this area and gang culture better than I do...


I almost allowed fear of man to close my mind to the possibility of the salvation of another.

And that's why I have to ask myself,

Why am I here?

Do I believe that the most difficult child in my classroom can be redeemed, or will I just roll my eyes and pray their 20 minutes in tutoring will pass quickly,

or will I come near and pray that the Holy Spirit will make Himself known to this restless child who experiences more horror at home than I will ever know, grateful that I can used by God in this moment?

Why are you where you are?

Have you thought of this?

I guess this isn't the normal blog post, because there isn't a neatly wrapped up bow in the end. We haven't seen this man since that windy afternoon last month. I don't know if or what he remembers, I don't know if he is still alive or not.

That little one in my tutoring room is still just as disruptive, still refuses to listen and sit still.

But my heart is changing as I ask for new eyes to see.

And you, the one reading this, may the Lord bless and keep you;
{may} the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 
the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

And may you come to know deeply why Jesus has placed you in this place where you sit, and may He open your eyes to the deep need around you and strengthen you to act.