Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Mable walked slowly down the aisle, as the rays from the morning sun made their way across the room. “This place sure is dusty, why you can see the dust just floating in those sun beams,” Mable said to herself.
As Mable made her way down the aisle, as she had done so many times before, her mind spoke “How long has it been? Well, this old mind doesn’t work like it used to. How many years now? Well, ‘ol girl, Mama started bringing me here, what was it now? Yes, that’s right, ever since I was three years old. This church seemed so big back then. And the memories. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, all kinds of preachers over the years – some good, some, well, not so good. “Mama used to say, it’s okay Honey, God will bring us somebody better.” I remember how my little hand felt so secure in Mama’s hands. “Lord, it was right here, that I grasped Mama’s hand for that last time. But it was different. I was older, and now her hand was cold and lifeless. Mama wasn’t really here. That’s the last time I saw Mama here on this earth,” Mable thought to herself.
As Mable turned, (if someone had been there to see her, they would have noticed, as they always do), those tired, aged hands preciously holding ‘The Book’ close to her heart. Edges cracked and curled, a book whose pages are well known to her, some tear-stained, some worn from where fingers have followed along ever so gently, passionately as she read. “Such good words, loving words,” her voice echoed off the walls. Words that have brought her hope, and comfort in good times and bad throughout these long, yet “Why, it seems so short at times,” years, Mable again spoke out loud. Not to anyone in particular. Unless you listen to people talk. If asked, they would tell you that “It seems like Mable’s been talking a lot to herself lately.” Mable would hear their whispers, bits and pieces of their conversations and simply smile. She knew. Let them think what they want. It seems that some Christian people just don’t understand. After all, Mable knew that she was talking to Someone very dear and special to her, a very personal Friend Who often spoke to her mind and heart.
Mable eased herself down into ‘her’ pew. A welcome place. Some will tell you that Mable and her Mama, and her Daddy those last few years of her life, had sat in that same spot, ‘why it seems like forever’, or so they say. He eyes purposefully moved about the room, at times, settling a few moments here, a few moments there, as sweet memories flooded her mind of ‘those special times’ within these old walls.
“Lord, I have so many good memories here. I was baptized in that baptistery. It was here in this pew, all those years ago, I began my journey with You, as your Spirit spoke to my heart and soul, and You poured out Your love for me. The love of my Savior. Remember Lord when I got up and walked right down here, to this old altar. And I met You, my precious Jesus. Right here Lord, You became my Savior.” Tears were streaming down Mable’s face, now, but not of sadness but rather from joy. Mable wiped her eyes with her handkerchief when she suddenly found herself in that very spot, kneeling where she had so many years before. “And like I have so many times since, too. Goodness gracious, how did I get from that old pew down to here?” she laughed out loud. “Maybe I am losing my mind. Well if I am, then so be it!”
Mable purposefully retraced each step as she made it back to ‘her spot’ in the pew. “These ‘ol bones don’t work like they used to,” she smiled. As the oak creaked beneath her, supporting her weight. And yet, it was almost as if a greater weight sat down with her.
Mable was troubled. “Lord,” you know, we have a problem here,” she said.. “There are a lot of new people coming. All kinds from all walks of life. Why we’re bursting at the seams. And I sure do like to see the excitement of all the children.”
“But Lord, Your body seems to be divided. There are those here who don’t want to leave this place, this building, it’s almost as if it’s become an idol. But the others aren’t much different. They are looking at the new facility as an end in itself. I guess it bothers me that It seems as we’ve lost our focus. All I hear people talking about is one of the two buildings, or their preference in styles of music, or some other dang thing. Oops, I’m sorry Father. It’s just I don’t know what to do.”
As Mable’s heart quieted, a stillness came over her. Almost, as if unseen loving arms embraced her and held her close. It reminded her of the times she used to crawl up in her daddy’s lap and he would wrap his arms around her when she was little. She felt safe and loved there. And the best part was she could see her reflection in the smile and warmth of his eyes. And as she placed her head against his chest she would hear and feel his heartbeat. Mable knew this moment. One that she daily came to cherish, of being in her Heavenly Father’s lap and feeling His loving embrace.
“Mable”, said The Voice.
“Yes, my Lord,” Mable responded
“Mable, you have realized that the precious times we have spent together, here in this location, are not because of this building, service or programs. My daughter, it is not because of this place, or any place. It is because of a Person, and My agape love.
“My children have become confused and deluded by embracing religion over Relationship. For ages now they have built large buildings thinking that they honor Me. Presenting these structures to My creation as if this is where I dwell, and that these edifices somehow represent Me. And yet, My Son said, “No longer does God dwell in buildings made with hands. For you now are My temple and the place where I dwell. My children worship their buildings, visions, and goals just as Israel worshiped the serpent, that My servant Moses lifted up in the wilderness. Their ‘religious rituals, objects, and expectations’ have replaced Me.
“My people attend programs, conferences, and numerous Bible studies believing this makes them more spiritual and better disciples. And yet My Son has told you, “By this will all people know you are My disciples, if you love one another, just as I have loved you.”
“Mable, out of the abundance of their heart they speak. I AM no longer on their lips because I AM no longer truly in their hearts. Even in this fellowship that you attend, listen to what is most important to them. What excites them is shown by what they talk about. Everything is substituted for Me. Just as a small child cares more about their gifts and toys than the parent who gave it to them.
They are blinded and do not know it. They are zealous and say they embrace the truth, when The Truth is My Son. They have unknowingly left the passion of their first love.”
“I know Lord. I was that way for so many years. Until You broke through my ‘Christian Religiosity’ and broke the crust of this old religious heart and soul and brought me back to Your loving heart and arms,” Mable said as tears streamed down her face. Overwhelmed by The Voice that enveloped her.
“Mable,” The Voice responded, “Even through those times, I was always there. My love for you has never diminished or changed. I just had to woo you back to Me. To open your eyes and heart so you would stop performing for Me out your desire to please Me, thinking you could earn My favor and love - Instead of just living loved. To responding to my love, voice, and heart. You have always been in my embrace and arms, always close to My heart, and always will be. I just had to remove the religious garbage in your life in order for you to see Me again.”
“Lord, I am so unworthy. Why me?”
“Mable, I AM no respecter of persons. This relationship with Me is for all. For some, the control of religion has a very strong hold on their lives. Sadly some have chosen ‘Doing Church’ over their ‘Being My Child’. For some, it takes a while to break through the religious facade so they can see My face again,” The Voice said.
“Lord, what am I to do?” Mable asked.
“Continue in My love. And as My Spirit nudges your heart, share the awesomeness of My love with them. Allow Me to break through those barriers, and you just abide in My love – let them see the difference of the joy of walking with Abba Father over the hollowness of performing religious duties and obligations.”
“But, Lord, what if they won’t listen?” Mable asked.
“Lives are touched and changed, one at a time. Just as on the cross, I was in Christ reconciling the world to Myself. I am still continuing to do so today. Religion will never change anyone, but My love will.”
“I love You, Lord,” Mable spoke from the very depths of her soul and heart.
“I know My child. And Mable, I have and will always love you. I look for the time we can be together.”
A single tear fell down Mable’s face on to her Bible. “I don’t think that will be much longer, Father,” she said. “I look forward to it, too”
Overwhelmed, Mable sat there for a few more moments. The light was lower now coming through the windows. Mable began to gather her things and as she started to rise, she heard a creaking sound behind her. She turned her head to see the old wooden church door open and someone cautiously stick her head in.
“Mrs. Mable, is that you?” A petite young mother asked as she made her way down the church aisle, with a small child holding onto her hand, rubbing her nose.
“What is it dear?” Mable asked. “Sit down.”
The young mother sat down pulling the little girl on to her lap. “Mable, you know I’ve been coming here for some time now. I grew up in this church. Got married here. Trusted Christ here. I know I’m God’s child.
The young mother’s shoulders quietly slumped as if burdened with a heavy load while a tear trickled down her face. “I’m so tired. You know our family faithfully attends here we are so busy and involved. Children’s Church, Sunday School, Men’s Meetings, Ladies’ Meetings, Conferences, Services three days a week, witnessing, Praise Team Practice and Worship, Doctrine and Membership Classes. It seems like the list goes on-and-on. I don’t want God mad with me. I’m almost afraid to say this. But we are so busy doing things for God, I feel like I’m missing Him. I have no time with Him anymore. Is it supposed to be like this? Sometimes I just want to scream. The pastor says it is. After all, ‘Serving God is serving His Church.’ he says. But when it’s all said and done, we go home exhausted. And we’re so busy, it seems most of the time we feel empty. And sometimes we don’t even want to come. There is no rest. God sometimes seems like such a taskmaster. Is there no hope? And on top of everything else, we’re supposed to move into the new building in a few months. Now we’re being told there are more planning meetings, and…” the young mother’s voice trailed off.
“Mable, something is different about you. There seems to be such a peace, almost glow about you. What is different about your life?” the mother pleadingly asked.
As Mable sat there, she felt that well-known familiar Nudge in her heart and smiled. And with one hand on her Bible, she placed her other hand ever so gently on the young mother’s shoulder. Wiping the tear from the young mother’s eye, she looked at her, and said, “Honey, let me share with you about the awesomeness of God’s wonderful love”