Tuesday, January 12, 2016

scrawling grace

I keep a book in our church bag for sermon notes, and I actually use it. It's odd, I know, but I think better with a pen in my hand. Plus, the pastor sometimes quizzes me when we get home! (Ok, he quizzes the children, not me, but he does ask me for feedback.)

You would laugh to see my pages. My handwriting is terrible, and I can't simply blame the children, though sometimes I am forced to write at odd angles while one sleeps on my lap.

Under the date you might see things like "considering a call," or "dad in the hospital," or "first Sunday at Eastpointe," or "healing from motorcycle wreck."  This is me before church starts, writing down the loudest things on my mind, in the presence of God. It helps me to put a name to the things on my heart, and then set them down at God's feet... or, sometimes, sit with them clinging to me, but be with God there at the same time.

You'd see random names: prayer requests, or people I see or think of that might need a word of encouragement in the coming week.  Sometimes, I send a card, or bring them to God in prayer. Sometimes, I do not see the names again until the next church service, and then I bring my guilt to God along with those names.

You'd see an occasional note about our schedule, or food, which I write quickly to get it out of my head so I can try to go back to listening.  It doesn't always work.

You would see exclamation points, smiley faces, and big Xs, and I may or may not remember why I scribbled them.

In the middle of one sermon record, you'd see a hand traced, and then made into a turkey.

Last Sunday, at the top of the page about our new life in Christ and losing our lives to find life, there's a list of the littlest boys' names with check marks next to them. That's a record of their naughtiness, and a count of the laps they had to run around the cemetery when church was over.

The Divine Service is often not the straightforward soul-rest I wish it would be. I have this image in my mind of me going to church, frazzled and nuts with the kids (per usual), and then sitting down in service and being just... calmed.  Maybe I'd have angels tending to me, rubbing my feet and smoothing my hair and feeding me Jesus and letting me take a little nap.  I'd curl up in the forgiveness of sins like a pillow, cover up with a blanket of God's promises, and just rest.  Then I'd wake up refreshed and healthy and happy, and the children would be fully sanctified, no more hitting and teasing but telling each other jokes and racing to see who could be first to do the chores.

But it's not like that, is it? In this world we will have trouble, and yes, even right in the middle of church.  Yet as I look over the messy church notes, I see more than just life. I see the Christian life: the life of God, with us.

God with us, right in the mess and with the children fighting on laps.  God with us, when the grief is the loudest thing in our minds. God with us, when bones ache and we're not sure if we can stand for the entire gospel reading.

And we, His children come with listening ears and open hearts, with ready pens and eager spirits-- or, none of these things, and yet still, by grace, He comes.

He comes with His feast, and we are asked for no money.  He pours out His Word, and it is recorded with a sloppy hand, and yet it still sustains in that moment, and even throughout the week.

Dear friends loved by God, don't wait to gather the gifts God gives you until you can do it "perfectly." Don't wait until you're healthy or cheerful. Don't wait until the children have grown. Don't wait until you can get rid of those distractions. Don't wait until your handwriting is neat, or you've found the perfect church, or the baby learns to sit still.

Do come, and be fed by God. Come to church, where His Word is preached. Open your own Bible, and receive with open ears, and trace over the Words He gives in your own hand.  Scribble down your concerns, and write His Words of promise beside them.

You're even allowed to use crayon.

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