SOO...just in case you didn't know, Savannah, Katherine, and I took a weekend trip down to the beautiful Southern state of Alabama where people say y'all without putting too much of an accent on the "'ll" part of the word and where the accents are just so...southern. It felt like 'home' partly because of that southern-ness and partly because of the so like-minded fellowship. It's really true, when you have a gathering of like-minded believers, it is home in a sense because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Oh and yes, I obviously forgot to mention in the above paragraph that we were there for the wedding of some friends. :) Kyle and Shelby, neither of whom we had met in person until the day of their wedding, so kindly invited us and even made sure we had a place to stay while we were there! It was a joy to see these two, very much in love, stand and covenant one to another before God and through God's blessing to hold fast to one another faithfully even through the trials and temptations of life.
Wow...the whole weekend, from Saturday through Monday morning when we left beautiful Alabama, had a cohesiveness of thought, of theme...I was brought to my knees (figuratively) in wonder and awe and thanksgiving at the forward marching of the kingdom of God. "The gates of Hell can n'er prevail..." From Saturday through Monday I found myself, multiple times, with tears in my eyes...tears of joy, of awe, of conviction, of...of nearly every emotion.
I believe that the sermon Sunday morning encapsulates the overall "theme" (ordained before the foundation of the world!) of the those three days so well that I want to share my thoughts on it with you. I actually did not take notes during the sermon, but started writing them yesterday morning...I didn't finish for various reasons.
I really didn't have a plan for my blog post until yesterday morning when I looked over in the house we were so hospitably invited into and there was a wood-burned plaque that read: "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ."
I reached for a pen and pulled old bulletins out of my Bible cover and started scribbling something along these lines: "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ."
I have a solid head-knowledge of this principle and even a heart knowledge of it frequently enough to give me an increasing desire to cling to it. I still frequently stumble at applying it. Praise God for His wondrous works! I am trying to learn to praise Him even when things do not go "my way" (if I remember, I'll try to bring in a topic we discussed on the drive home yesterday that ties into this). I know, but was additionally clearly and convincingly reminded of in the sermon Sunday morning that I am just a puny, tiny piece in the glorious kingdom of my almighty, glorious, wondrous, awesome, sovereign God and Father. To Him be all glory and power and dominion from eternity and henceforth to infinity!
To try to explain the thoughts I have had banging around in my head, bringing me to tears, I thought I would run through the Beatitudes from the main passage Mr. Nelson worked from, Matt. 5:3-12. I believe his was the clearest summery I have heard to date on the passage and he used it to encourage his listeners towards right living before God, to apply the Law of God to all areas of life.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Verse 4: Being poor in spirit causes us to mourn our sins...and praise Almighty God! He comforts us in our mourning.
Verse 5: Meekness. What is it exactly? I always 'knew' it was being humble...or something like that, but as Mr. Nelson spoke, I understood more clearly. It's not just "being humble" (and I mean actually humble, not the self-righteous humility that I suspect we all at time to time must needs face). Rather it ties into the being poor in spirit and mourning our unrighteousness--our realisation of our smallness, our wickedness, makes us (or should make us) meek; or as clay in the hands of the potter. Malleable to the will of God, not resisting or rebelling, but willing to do anything, undergo anything for the glory of God and the expansion of the kingdom. May our Lord make us a meek people in boldness for Him!
Verse 6: "hunger and thirst for righteousness"...this should be the desire of a meek people! He shall not leave us to starve in a world of wickedness.
Verse 7: I actually do not remember what he said of this verse. I suppose I may have still been meditating on the previous verses and missed his explanation. However, I find seven to be fairly self-explanatory.
Verse 8: Blessed are the pure in heart...we can only be pure through the covering blood of Christ. Lord, give me righteous, pure, holy thoughts and deeds!
Verse 9: "peacemakers"...we must live at peace with one another and the world--BUT with one another first...for how shall we be a witness of the orderliness of God if we ourselves are full of strife and bitterness! (I had forgotten until just now that the fact of the orderly nature of God and His Laws were brought forth from the beginning of the sermon.)
Verse 10-12: I do not remember what he said here either. How I could have forgotten I'm not sure...unless I it was at this time that I was wrestling within myself with a particular train of thought and praying.
God uses the ordinary means of grace to really impact His people. I have had it happen many times. I have come home challenged to bring my heart and mind and deeds increasingly more under submission to the Word of God. This is my ultimate desire...I pray God that it always is my ultimate desire! That I would be willing to give up my secret sins, my wishes dearest to my own heart (even if not "sinful"), in order to see the kingdom of God ever marching forward in strength and honor and dignity and righteousness.
Well, now that I have just been all rather emotional all over again...how about something more on the amusing side? :) There are, of course, a few amusing little tales to tell; after all, my sense of awe doesn't exactly mash my sense of humour. :D These are not going to be in any logical order or in consecutive time.
When we arrived at the church Saturday, some thirty or so minutes before the wedding started, we were greeted at the door by none other than brother Caleb. I am considering calling him my "almost twin" despite the fact that our brains work in two entirely different ways. :P But anyway, that's what he gets for being the same age as I am and having been officially adopted (along with his brothers) by our family. I like adopting brothers...but that's beside the point. Anyway, he greeted us and almost immediately Dan and Andy appeared, said hello and disappeared again. :D Andy was one of the groomsmen so he had to be off. :) Dan and Caleb were ushers.
Another brother, Evan, was amongst the groomsmen as well. He informed us later that he hadn't slept so grandly the night before partly because the talking and singing went on past midnight (!!) and partly because he had been given a cup of coffee by the bride and groom earlier in the day (his first ever) and had been jacked up something awful by it! I confess his telling of how he ended up drinking this cup of coffee and it's after effects really did amuse me. (Oh, and he was beginning to like it by the time he got down to the bottom of the cup--just in case you wanted to know.)
*raises coffee cup* "Shoot...it's empty!"
Anyway, let me tell you...trying to catch up with the three R brothers Sunday afternoon as they were rushing around trying to get out of the place was hilarious. I'd spot one, only to have him disappear again. Andy was really spinning...I didn't feel like I had the right opportunity to grab ahold him and tell him to just breathe a minute. :D I have the same tendency to get in a whirl, so I can sympathise with that sort of spin.
I had finished Dan's kilt hose on the way to Florida in December, so this was a prime time to give them to him and at first I had given the bag to Andy...but he had left it in the church (I'm glad I went back to look and see if he had), so I got to give Dan his socks in person afterall. :) The deal was that he was going to pay me for them, but I never intended on taking his money anyway, so when Dan reached for his wallet, I blurted out, "No", (in my "no nonsense" voice even! Probably not really necessary...) He may have said something, I can't remember, but I do know he looked pleased with them. :) Hopefully, the foot fits perfectly...
I also made Caleb a pair of socks because I didn't want him to "feel left out"--the notion of which he rather laughed at, but he accepted the socks and I think was rather pleased. :) I didn't have a foot measurement for him, but I knew that his feet are a bit longer than his brother's so I went with an 'average' size. I made some comment about "looking at pictures trying to guess the size of his feet" and Caleb quipped something along these lines (dead-pan! how does he do it??), "Yes, I take lots of foot selfies and post them online." It cracked me up and so my attempt at explaining how I had been looking at the photos from the Scottish Ball where the three of them were seated on the stage was severely undermined...
I found out several years ago that giving gifts is as much fun (if not more) than getting them myself. It simply gives me a warm-fuzzy feeling (what sentimental bosh, eh?) to give 'my people' stuff. Speaking of knitting socks and such, I realized at some point on the way south that I had forgotten to pick up my knitting!! Current project: finishing my own knee socks. I'm about a third of the way through the second one.
Sunday afternoon there was a hymn sing. I hadn't brought my guitar (not that I had room for it to begin with), but one of our friends allowed me to play her's...though I admit I didn't play very long. Partly because I simply cannot keep up with Andy and his "funky" chords, partly because I find that I cannot sing alto when trying to keep up with Andy because I can't watch his fingers and the notes in the hymn book at the same time. I almost always sing alto now (and if I sing the melody line, I don't sing it as written), and I think I had a break-though with it not overly long ago. How horrid I sound, I don't know. You'd have to ask the people around me. (Savannah said she could hear me during church and she was sitting in the row in front of me.) Anyway, that was enjoyable. I do so enjoy listening to the R's sing because they all have trained voices and they harmonize so nicely.
I think the following event took place when I went back into the church to see if Andy had left the bag with the socks in it...but the timing doesn't matter. I just like to place things in rightly in my head.
Anyway, so I was going into the building and one of the men was standing there, holding the door open and his young son was charging up from the left. I slowed my steps to ensure that if the little man didn't pay enough attention that he wouldn't plow into me (not that I think I would have minded too much anyway...I love kids). Well, the youngster went in front of me and started to go through the open door when his father stopped him with a word. It was something like this: "Hold on there! Back up..." There was no need for him to say anything much more; that little boy stopped in his tracks and stepped aside to let me go through the door first. I was blown away. Now I wish I had stopped and knelt down and looked him in the eye and thanked him for being a gentleman. My brain wasn't working that fast at the moment being pre-occupied. Anyway, I scarcely had to get the door for myself while there. It was really wonderful. :)
We took hardly any pictures...the ones we did get were taken primarily by myself Saturday night at the steakhouse were we went out to eat. And would you know it, but those brother's of ours bought EVERYONE's food?? (Again!) I thought we were all going dutch, but I guess they had other ideas--so THANK-YOU for your generosity!!
Here are the best ones...I couldn't get photos of everyone because we were at two different tables. I guess I COULD have gotten up, but the idea didn't cross my mind and I was so tired that by the time we left the restaurant I was ready to put my head down on the table and start snoring. Speaking of snoring...the tales of the young men about camping out in the travel trailer the night before elicited some laughter from my sisters and I. They had five in the trailer and all had beds. We used to pack seven in a motor home and not everyone had beds, so I'm afraid we weren't as sympathetic as we should have been. (One brother informed me [for some reason] that another brother snored...and I immediately thought of the story Daddy tells about once when he got bunked with some guys, someone who had been bunked with him at some point previously was like, "You have to bunk with Sgt. --?? He snores terribly!" I didn't tell that story, but I thought of it! :D Daddy's snoring has only kept me awake once...)
I drove all the way home and while we squeaked out of about two wrecks (praise God!) we arrived home safe and sound in one piece around nine o'clock Monday evening. We talked and talked and talked about everything on the drive. I like to travel sitting next to Savannah for we have all kinds of wonderful conversations. She challenges me in a really good kind of way. Katherine, in the back seat, says she thinks she needs to sit in the middle seat in the back next time so she can hear better. :D (We did not intend to exclude you, Katie...but you know how road noise is!! Um...and the mousy-ness of Savannah's voice. :D)
I think I had better get off of here now. I look forward to the next time we get to see these friends (or framily as another brother would call them)...God bless y'all!! [And yes, you did see me stand up when Andy played "Dixie". I couldn't stay in my seat... ;)]