Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can We Please Leave Now, Lord?

"Lord, just get me out of here!" Bruce pleaded, and my heart echoed his plea.  We both felt like running.  The church situation had taken so much out of us, (see Groaning that called God on the Scene ) and even though everyone seemed to be working together now, we just wanted out.

We knew of a little group without a full time pastor in New Brunswick near Nova Scotia, and decided to take a trip there.   We did ask the Lord to guide us, but it was with a "could You please let it be anywhere but here, Lord?"

We traveled to New Brunswick, met with the families there, and since we had just closed the deal on our house in Chatham, we started house hunting.  We found a dilapidated clapboard  mansion, just what I thought we needed, a place for us to fix up and display all my paintings.  It was close to the busy Prince Edward Island bridge that had just been built, a great location, and I knew it would make a great house, gallery, and church combined. 

Somehow my own thinking was back in control.  The gallery business should have been buried long ago, (see Wrong Direction Part 1 and Part 2 and then  Decision ) but the size of the house and the location just seemed to make sense.

The price was under $25,000 and our minister friend, the former pastor, had offered to lend us a mortgage if his trailer sold within the month.

Back in Chatham the little church was floundering without a pastor.  Bruce had preached once or twice, but mostly they just met together and listened to taped messages.  And then one Wednesday evening, just before the service, a stranger walked in.

Bruce was still at the back, and I was sitting in my usual spot in the second row when the deacon came to set up the tape recorder on the front seat.  I couldn't believe it.  I leaned forward.  "Your not going to just play a tape when we have a visitor, are you?"

"What else can I do?" he shrugged.

"You could ask Bruce to preach," I whispered.

He looked up at me.  "Do you really think he would do it on such short notice?" 

My husband believed very strongly in the verse: "Be instant in season and out of season."  He also knew that the Lord had promised him, "open your mouth and I will fill it." Yes, I knew he would be willing to preach.

My husband preached a powerful message that day.  After the service we found out that the stranger was a backslidden  preacher.  The sermon hit its mark.  The man kept coming.

But the church knew that we planned on leaving, and the deacon came over and begged Bruce to stay and be their pastor.  We didn't want to stay. We had less than a month to vacate our house, and then we wanted to head for New Brunswick and the big house near the bridge.  Those were our plans.

But the Lord had another plan for us.  And Bruce began to be burdened for the church again.  He only wanted to help them find another pastor.  He agreed to pray about it.  He told them he would fast and pray for fourteen days and see what the Lord would say.

The Lord did speak to him, and we knew that He wanted us to stay for a while.  The trailer that the former pastor had for sale was sold during those fourteen days and would have provided the mortgage for the old house, but  he didn't tell us until after Bruce knew he was supposed to stay.  He was afraid  Bruce would take the sale as an answer to leave for New Brunswick, and he did not want his little flock to be without a shepherd. 

The Lord had a reason for keeping us there.  Part of the reason was the stranger who had walked in that Wednesday evening.  The next post will cover his story.

For the previous post (Father's Day) see:  My Favorite Daddy

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Favorite Daddy

I want to break away from the series I have been doing, to honor my favorite Daddy, and let you know what attracted me to him most in the first place.  It wasn't just that my heart skipped a beat, and maybe my voice, too, when his eyes met mine as I sang my first solo in that little church.  That was understandable.  After all he was an attractive man.

It wasn't that he looked like Elvis Presley, because I really didn't pay much attention to singers out in the world.  Or that he could sing like him, because he couldn't.  I distinctly remember being disappointed when I saw that he didn't enter into the singing.

What did attract me to him the most?  I remember my first get-together with that church.  Bruce spent almost the whole evening with the youngest member of the congregation, a little baby girl.  I ooed and aaahed over the wee thing quite a bit, myself, but I have to confess, my fascination had partly to do with the one who was holding her. 

We married six months after we met, and when I became pregnant with Samantha, the church folk all warned me that I wouldn't get to see much of my baby.  Bruce was a letter carrier at the time, and everyone seemed to think he would carry her along in his mail bag as he worked.

He didn't go quite that far, but he did do things like riding the buses with her and taking her and the other three who came after to fun places like storybook park.  And he always had one or more of them climbing on top of him, or sleeping on his shoulder.

Eventually they all grew up; they are babies no longer.  He even had to give a couple of them away, but he was busting his buttons with pride as he did.

Now they all have lives of their own, but he still never quite gets enough of visiting with them; that love that he had for his babies runs deep.

His family all love him, too, and now that he is sick, they have been calling, voicing their concern.  Their dad is precious to them all, and they want to see him get better fast.

So do I.

To read the previous post on how God used my husband in a difficult situation, see Groaning that called God on the Scene

To read about Bruce as a grandpa see: Influence of a Christian Grandparent

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Groaning that Called God on the Scene

Bruce is sleeping soundly now, but I can't.  His fever was 101.6.  It's been like that often these last two weeks, and I'm almost getting used to it.  But it is the agonizing groans of pain still echoing through my brain that are keeping me awake making me wish I could help.  I have heard him groan like that before, only much worse.  It was back when we were in Chatham, and for a much different reason.

We had been in the Chatham church less than a year when the trouble began.  It was not any one thing that we could pinpoint, just an unrest among the small group, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction.  We had been instructed by the Lord just to be there as a help, and we did try to stay neutral.  We loved the pastor and his wife, and we also were close to the people in the congregation.  We walked a thin line.

The situation came to a climax when the deacon called Bruce.  "We are going to call a vote in Church tomorrow, but I want to talk to the pastor first in his office, and I want you to be there."
Bruce balked.  There was no way he wanted to have anything to do with the whole mess, but the deacon insisted. "You won't have to say anything.  I just want you there for a witness."

Bruce agreed reluctantly.  How could he even sit in that kind of meeting.  He had been so burdened over this situation; he felt the whole weight of the Church and its testimony to the world laying heavily on his shoulders.  

I have seen women in travail but never a man, and especially not my husband.  But God had made a different man out of him since he had fully surrendered his will.  I was beginning to see more of that gentle smile that had endeared him to me in the first place, and I was even catching an occasional glimpse of him all choked up with emotion.

But never had I seen this kind of groaning travail. I prayed silently with him.  I knew God was going to do something, but I didn't know what.  I didn't know until it was all over.

The next morning I sat praying in my seat in the second row from the front.  Bruce was still in the office at the back with the pastor and the deacon.  Then the door opened and he walked out.  As he came down the isle everyone could somehow sense that the Holy Spirit had been there in that room. 

Bruce reached for my hand as he sat down beside me.  "It's over," he said, but I knew that even before he said it.

After a short song service, the pastor got up and spoke to the congregation.  "This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life," he said.  But I love this church, and for the sake of its testimony, I am resigning."

Some of his faithful followers gasped, "No!"  His wife appeared in shock.  It was obvious this had not been part of his earlier plan.

Then he turned to each of the individuals that had fought for him, had been prepared to follow him to the ends of the earth. He pointed his finger and, one by one, spoke their name.  "Don't you dare leave this church!" he ordered each of them.  "If you leave now, what I am doing today will have been in vain.  Don't you make me the cause of a church split!"  He stepped down from the isle, motioned to his wife, and they left.

The church service proceeded somehow, but it was the time afterward that I remember most.  There had been several cases of hard feelings between various members of the congregation.  Suddenly these quarrels were over and people were making things right with each other.  The Holy Spirit had taken control.

I learned later what had happened in the room at the back, how the Spirit of the Lord had caused Bruce to start weeping for what was going on.  I won't share what was said in that room; what was more important was Who  had entered it. He had heard the groanings, and just as Bruce's groaning over his pain had caused me to want to help him, so his groaning for the little church had brought Christ on the scene.

The pastor never lost his burden for that congregation.  He continued to pray for them, and God used his prayers.  We knew we had witnessed his love for the church in a way far greater than if he had stayed and fought.

God has a purpose in everything.  All things work together for good even when Satan thinks he is getting the upper hand.  The events that took place in Chatham proved that (watch for my next blog).

Bruce's sickness will prove it too.  We are not discouraged.    The doctor is still looking for answers, but God already knows, and He is still in control.

To read the next post in this series go to: Can We Please Leave Now, Lord

For how God led us to the Church in Chatham read Wrong Direction , The Cottage and Finding a House
 To start at the beginning of this series go to Broken Mom Part 1
For the previous post go to Renovating - Our God is a God of Detail 

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Renovating, Our God is a God of Detail

The Lord had given us a good solid home in Chatham, (see Finding a House ) but it did need a lot of renovating.  The former owner had lived their for fifty years and had not felt the need to do any modernizing.

We had a little money for paint and a lot of wonderful friends who were willing to help apply it.  That was enough to get us in, but I did want to do something about the kitchen and bathroom. They would need complete overhauls, and that generally gets expensive.

And then there was the upstairs.  One of the bedrooms was just an unfinished attic, but Samantha was claiming it as hers. It would need insulation and lumber.  We would need lights and carpet throughout the upstairs.

Our experiences had already taught us that the Lord could supply our needs.  I was tempted to wish I had a car available to shop at Garage sales, but when our Father is teaching us something, He knows the exact limitations He wants us to work with.

 When we were ready to start the kitchen,  We were able to scrape up the materials to make some nice simple cupboards, and a friend offered some spare tiles he had left over for the counter top, but we still needed a sink.

I was catching a ride from church to a restaurant with a friend one day when she spotted a sink by the side of the road.  "Shall I stop?" she asked.  I was interested.  It wasn't a kitchen sink, and  that was what I needed right away, but we would be needing a bathroom sink, too, and this was kind of cute.

I picked it up but left the taps by the side of the road.  They didn't look like they were in very good shape.  As we loaded the sink into the car I said to my friend, Denice, "This is great, but what I am really asking God for is a kitchen sink, so if you see one of those by the road it's mine, OK?"  She agreed; as long as I knew that if we spotted a thousand dollar bill it was hers.

Early the next morning I got thinking about those taps.  What if it was hard to get the kind of taps that would fit that sink?  The garbage truck would be coming around soon and would take them, so I decided to take a walk to where I had left them and just take another look.

I had only gone a block and a half when I noticed pile of discarded treasure. There, by the side of the road, waiting to be trashed, was a kitchen sink.  This was not just any sink.  My secret silent wish was to have a white enameled cast iron double sink, the kind that never chips and that keeps the water hot as long it takes to do the dishes.  They cost about $500.00 new.

There it was, my dream sink, in great condition.  I rushed home (as though someone else might take Gods gift from me if I didn't hurry) and called a friend.  He picked it up and brought it over.  It was perfect for my kitchen.

The kitchen floor happened because the Lord caused a flooring company to have one vinyl flooring to go on sale super cheep, maybe because it was a hard color to match, but it had exactly the right color in it to match the walls of my kitchen.  We still didn't have a light fixture but then God gave us a unique antique fan light from a garage sale that I passed because I was doing an errand for someone with their car.

When we finished the downstairs we began to tackle the attic bedroom.  We were given some insulation that was left from a church renovation, but we needed some lumber to do the walls.  One day I was taking a walk around the corner, and I noticed someone ripping out a porch.  He was throwing the lumber in a pile; he had no use for it.  He hated working with used stuff.  We didn't mind taking it, not if that's what God was giving us. It was good clean lumber and enough to do the job.  

Soon we were down to carpets and lights.  A neighbor had given us a leftover piece of expensive new carpet and we thought it would work for the stairs, but the hall and two bedrooms still needed flooring.  At the same time, the local building supply center decided to have a garage sale.  A friend was going and asked if we wanted to go along.  There were carpets listed for next to nothing.

We were at the gates when they opened.  I made a dash for the carpets.  There weren't many, but there was one that was almost identical to the carpet we were installing on the stairs.  That would work for the hall.  There was a nice carpet for Anita's bedroom, and a beautiful plush carpet that might fit the attic bedroom.  That one had a bright blue stain on it, but I would have to do some cutting to fit the "Pit" under the window anyway.  For that kind of price, I had to try and make it work. The other carpets had been grabbed up by the time I claimed my three carpets.

I had no problem installing the carpets in the hall and one bedroom.  The attic bedroom was more of a challenge.  Carpeting the pit area required a lot of careful fitting if I was to have enough for the whole job.  I found it easier to turn the carpet over to do the cutting.  In all my measuring and cutting I forgot about the big blue stain.  I didn't think of it until I had finished cutting my last piece and had flipped over the 1'x1' square of carpet that was left over.  There was the blue stain.  Who but the Lord could have engineered that?!!

We needed swag lights for the Attic bedroom and den so I asked the Lord to supply those as well and He did.  There was a garage sale on the next block, and they had a strange looking pole lamp with two different lights hanging from it.  The smaller more delicate one was the exact color of peach Samantha had used to decorate her room; the other worked perfectly in the den, and they cost a total of $3.00.

The Lord was in charge of redecorating that house in Chatham, and when we sold it the next year, we made a good profit on the house.

But that's another story for another post.

For the next post, see: Groaning that called God on the Scene

For the previous post, see  Traveling in God's Will 

For the beginning of this series go to: Broken Mom Part 1

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Traveling in God's Will

"You can't just take off for camp meetings.  That's irresponsible."  It was the same man who had helped us get our house, see Finding a House, but now he was scolding us.  "Remember you ordered those two e-books and they will be coming next week. I will have to have the $130.00 then, and besides you should be out looking for a job."

How were we to explain to these dear friends that Bruce already had a job preparing for ministry and assisting the pastor?  It didn't make sense to anyone else, but we knew that his days of working in the secular world were over.  We didn't have much of an income coming in.  When Bruce left the Post Office he had accepted a reduced pension, one that was impossible to actually live on unless the Lord was there to make it stretch.

And He did!  But it took some doing on His part to convince our friends that this is the way we were being asked to live.

We had no car on the road.  How ridiculous to even think of going to Alabama without a car.  But the Lord was training us, and one of the things we were learning was how to receive His gifts from whoever He used to supply them.  The car was a prime example.  Bruce had always been far too proud to ask others for favors.  But without a car it was hard to do some simple things like shopping for groceries.  It just happened that in our little church there was a sweet lady who loved to serve.  This dear woman felt called to drive us where ever we needed to go.  She loved doing it, considering it her ministry, and we were learning to accept her help as God's provision, but that didn't get us to Alabama.

We had no money either.  But Samantha and Anita, the two of our daughters who were still living at home, were packing clothes, and preparing lunches to eat on the way.  I'm not sure our faith was as strong as theirs, but we were trying to believe for their sakes.  They really felt that we should be at those meetings.

Some friends from church knew we were trying to get to Alabama.  They knew we were having no success getting a car.  Clarence talked to my husband.  "Look, I have the old Lynx that's still licensed.  You could take that if you wanted to.  It's not working very well; you would have to fill it with oil every time you stopped for gas, but if you want to risk it, you are welcome to it."  We said "Yes."  He said he would just have to do something about the tires and then he would bring it over.

Well if God was supplying the car He could supply money for gas and oil as well.   We waited on the Lord, and made preparations to go.

The day before we planned on leaving, we watched for the mail man.  We rushed to the door when he came.  We weren't expecting anything, at least we shouldn't have been expecting any thing.   There were no checks due to arrive.   But we all seemed to know that the mailman was bringing us something.  And he did.
There was a beautiful government envelope, and when we opened it we found a check for about $200.00.  To this day we have not figured out why they sent it to us except that our Lord had directed them to.

We gave Clarence about half the money to cover the front tires he had replaced on the car, and early the next morning we started out. At the first gas station Bruce topped up the oil.  The rest of the 14 hour drive went smoothly and not once more did we need to add oil.  The car appeared to have been healed of it's problem.

Right from the first day the meetings blessed us.  We knew that we had no money to return home, but at this point, our faith had been boosted to where we were not worried.  The Lord proved faithful.

A wonderful couple who had just moved to Alabama came and talked to us after the service.  "The Lord just  blessed me this week," the man said, "and I would like to bless you in return."  He squeezed something into my husband's hand.  Later, at a buffet lunch, as we sat talking to them and their bright young son, someone else squatted down beside Bruce and stuffed something into his pocket. 

Through these generous people we had all the money we needed to get home, and more. On the way home we stopped at a truck stop and there on a shelf was a large print Bible, exactly what I had been hoping to buy some day.  It was not expensive and with the extra money I was able to buy it.   When we got home, to the surprise of our friend in Chatham, Bruce placed $130.00 in his hand. The e-books were payed in full.

The camp meetings were refreshing to our souls.  They really blessed us.

Clarence claimed that his car had been healed.  He never had another problem with the oil again.

My purchase on the way home was a great blessing.  I still have that Bible.  It is my dearest possession and has traveled everywhere with me from that day on. It is all marked up with highlighter and tears, but it becomes more precious to me with every passing day, as one by one, we prove each of its promises.

The lessons in faith we learned on that trip have never left us either. Any time we meet an obstacle in our path we remember the times when God provided, and our faith grows stronger.  For that reason above all, we are thankful for the trip and the many people God used to bless us along the way.

To read from the beginning of this series go to Broken Mom Part 1
To read the previous post go to Finding a House

Don't forget, I always love to hear your comments.