Sunday, January 19, 2014
A few days ago, I posted about studying Psalm 23. I ended by saying that we Christians make it through tough times by clinging to each other, to God, and to Psalm 23. I had no idea how soon that would be true for our congregation.
A respected elder in our church lost her daughter unexpectedly this week. We got a phone call in the evening, and my husband went to be with the family at their home. (He wrote eloquently about his thoughts in his blog.) Since then, we have been praying for the family, and my husband has been involved in planning the funeral.
Our congregation is reeling, as you might imagine. But in the midst of much pain, God is so very present. This morning, during our Sunday service, only two people came forward for healing prayer. This is unusual; there are frequently 6-12 persons.
One of them was the member who lost her daughter, and when the time came for the congregation to come forward and lay on hands as we prayed together, many of the congregation came to surround this mourning daughter of Christ with love and support. The front of the church was filled with people clinging to one another, tears in our eyes as we prayed for God's comfort and peace to encircle our sister.
I looked out over the sisters and brothers crowded to the front of the church, hands stretched out to bring love and healing, and I knew, once again, that God was deeply at work among these people. There is much pain and grief on the reservation; many people have lost loved ones too soon.
And I thank God, once again, for calling us to this place...these people. My faith is deepening and growing here among the Jicarilla Apache people. I pray that God will use my life to deepen and grow others' faith as well.
Your prayers for the work of the church in Dulce are much appreciated.
Monday, January 13, 2014
|What God Has Joined|
We talked a lot about fear, and how this Psalm (and other verses from the Bible) have helped us through difficult times. Have kept us from succumbing to our fears. Have reminded us of God's protection and love.
There were seven adults present, Jicarilla Apache, Anglo, and one self-determined "half-breed." There was a mix of ages, but most were on the far side of forty. In the course of discussing how God is present in difficult times, we naturally discussed "difficult times."
And my heart broke.
Tears filled my eyes when someone discussed the bitter aftermath of their marriage. And two others told of escaping violence in their own homes, bruises, blood, and children in tow.
And another told of the pain and grief of visiting a Holocaust museum in Germany. How the people there stood frozen by the reality of meat hooks hanging from the ceiling of a gas chamber. Collectively, we Christian Jicarilla and Anglo people, gasped for the horror of what was done to the Jews.
But my heart was shattered when a Jicarilla man told of visiting an Indian Boarding School museum. I've read about the history and the maltreatment of the Native children in the United States, but nothing prepared me for his telling of walking through the museum, heart-heavy, and coming around a corner to find a display of a barber's chair. The display included fallen hair in braids on the floor, and he drew in a breath before he could tell us that this was his history. His story.
He was taken to a boarding school as a child, where his braid was cut off. He described the violence of the adults, holding down the boys forcefully while their braids were shorn. He said that he had to leave the museum because it was so traumatic to remember.
Other Jicarilla people began remembering their time in the boarding schools here on the reservation. They told of being forced to wear a dunce cap for speaking Jicarilla. They told of the physical punishments given by their caretakers for "acting Jicarilla." The braids falling to the floor was a universal memory.
There is so much evil in the world, so much wrong in our collective histories, so much pain...
How do we cope with it all?
To each other.
To Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Did you hear that?
I will fear no evil, for you are with me. We can take our overwhelming feelings of despair to God; He never leaves us to deal with it alone. He is with us... Emmanuel...
My cup overflows. I have more good in my life than I can comprehend. My blessings are so many that my life overflows with them!
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. These anguishes will be extinguished. I cling to God's promise that every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more death or sadness. All wrongs will be righted (Revelation 21:4).
Amen. So be it.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
And I am struck by the thought that my knowledge and experience of God is the same way: Every time I think I've reached the pinnacle of closeness to God, He reveals an even greater glory to me. And every time I have a period where God's love and grace are shrouded by the clouds of busy-ness, distractedness, or foolishness, He reveals to me His glory behind the clouds. He reaches out for me, calling me to restoration of relationship with Him.
When I am close to Him, I reflect His love and grace to those around me, like the western ridges reflect this morning's sunrise. I pray that God will continue to work in me (He promises he will in Philippians 1:6!) so that I may do His work here on earth.
And may we all stop and experience the glory of God which surrounds us always.