Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Clarity Of Church Bells

I have a confession to make - I am not a good Christian. I know this - not because somebody told me that, but because the Holy Spirit has revealed it to me this weekend. And it took church bells to help me see it. More on that later.

It's been a hard 14 months for Erin and I - on every level. The highlight of the last year has been finding a church home - not just going to church, but actually calling a church...home. That is a big deal, and I'm not sure that everyone who is a Christian knows what that feels like. That's been huge for us. And it has come at the right time for us, because, apart from that, things haven't gone our way. You name it we've been hit by it. And, honestly, the hits just keep on coming. I'm not going to get into the details of it all. But we're exhausted and fatigued, and we're really looking forward to the holidays and extra breaks (except for the fact that Erin has a difficult surgery coming up over Christmas). So, yeah, it's been a hard year plus.

Erin and I usually take a daily walk around our little historic town of Lebanon, OH. We live just three blocks from downtown and we love walking to town, stopping at shops, talking to shop owners, grabbing a chocolate at the Golden Turtle or a cupcake at Manna, probably a coffee for Erin and a frozen or hot chocolate for me. I'm not sure how completely healthy that is, but it usually is relaxing. Except for this weekend. As we took our walk, we decided to go to Manna (again). We each got a mini cupcake and a drink, and then we got some extras to take to some friends of ours from church who lived just up the street (they told us recently they haven't been there yet). So we did that, and talked with them a bit. It was nice, but I was distracted. As we left, Erin had a hair appointment - again, just up the street. I walked her there and then I walked the rest of the way back home. It didn't dawn on me at first that I was heads down in heavy thought. I was wearing discouragement like a coat - paying no attention to the beauty of the day. And then my ears picked up one of my favorite sounds - church bells pealing a familiar hymn. Having grown up in a Baptist church surrounded by hymns, my ears recognized the song immediately - "What A Friend We Have In Jesus". And my heart just squeezed as I remembered the words, "...Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer." Two things struck me right then as I continued walking listening to those noonday chimes: 1) My prayer life stinks; and, 2) How I miss those hymns. I purposed to go home and dust off the hymnal on my bookshelf to revisit that hymn. And, upon doing so, I just sat there and tried to let the message hit home. And I prayed, as best I could, because there is a lot built up in me. But it was a start. And I'm not talking about vain repetitions. I'm talking about just pouring my heart out to God. I've got a long way to go both in my prayer life and in getting through these accumulated challenges, but of one thing I am certain - I have a friend in Jesus. I am reminded of Hebrews 4:15 (ESV), "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." Amen.

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
Text: Joseph M. Scriven, 1820-1886 
Music: Charles C. Converse, 1832-1918 

1. What a friend we have in Jesus, 
 all our sins and griefs to bear! 
 What a privilege to carry 
 everything to God in prayer! 
 O what peace we often forfeit,
 O what needless pain we bear, 
 all because we do not carry 
 everything to God in prayer. 

2. Have we trials and temptations? 
 Is there trouble anywhere? 
 We should never be discouraged; 
 take it to the Lord in prayer. 
 Can we find a friend so faithful 
 who will all our sorrows share? 
 Jesus knows our every weakness; 
 take it to the Lord in prayer. 

3. Are we weak and heavy laden, 
 cumbered with a load of care? 
 Precious Savior, still our refuge; 
 take it to the Lord in prayer. 
 Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? 
 Take it to the Lord in prayer! 
 In his arms he'll take and shield thee; 
 thou wilt find a solace there.

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