My new letter-writing campaign is paying dividends in a big way.
Not everyone likes writing letters, but almost to a man, everyone loves getting letters written especially to them. I have enjoyed several lengthy phone conversations from recipients who do not care to write, but do care to keep in touch, in response to my missives.
Although I assured my sister-mom, Barb, that she could continue to use email because it's easier on her arthritic hands, she sat herself down recently, and penned a long, lovely letter, her penmanship as pristine as ever. I can only imagine what it must have cost her. I hope she knows, that as far as I'm concerned, it was well worth her effort. In the introductory paragraph, she invited me to enjoy a glass of iced tea with her, as she was enjoying one while she wrote. I accepted with gratitude and sat myself down.
I met Barb when I worked for Brighton School District 27J. She was the business manager's secretary, and our offices were in different buildings so I didn't see her often and I only knew peripherally that her husband, Jim, who I eventually learned was a darling, generous and wise man, was facing grave medical issues at the time. Barb's serenity, even in the face of these difficulties, was evident every time I saw her. My heart's hunger for truth and righteousness and my need to know my part in that, was then at a fever pitch, so one day, I dared ask her where she pastured, to be so well-fed in the Spirit, so sure of God's goodness.
Thus began my season in the pasture of First Baptist Church in Brighton, Colorado. Our pastor was the Rev. Richard Stratford, assisted by his lovely and loving wife, Jody, and their two children, a boy and a girl.
Shortly after we moved to McCook, the Stratfords left Brighton as well, but the congregation continued to pursue new pastures outside of town, believing that their lack of growth was due to the confines of downtown Brighton.
Over time, their dream of a new building east of town diminished, as pastors came and went and congregants moved to other pastures. In her letter, Barb lamented that the last of the sheep have been scattered and the family that had been so close, so loving, and oh so hopeful, had just faded away.
When I answered her letter I offered that the season for that pasture had come to an end and that the Lord had faithfully moved everyone to new pastures, still faithfully providing lush grasses and still waters; still faithfully restoring souls; still faithfully leading those who choose to follow along paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Those who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death have done so fearlessly, for he walked with them; his rod and staff their comfort and mine.
The Body of Christ at Brighton's FBC had finished its season and borne much fruit, a hundred-fold, or sixty or thirty-fold. Barb and Jim found green pastures and still waters in Loveland, Colorado, much closer to their doting daughter and their now grown grandchildren. Surely goodness and mercy followed Jim as he went home and they follow Barb now, as she learns to live without him. She is still well-fed in the Spirit, bathed in grace, and more certain than ever of God's very great goodness.
It seems to be a common problem for man. Since time out of mind, we have done our best to fit God into a place or position where he is more manageable, whether that place or position be in a box hidden under our beds, in a book long-neglected on the shelf, or in a magnificent cathedral, a great and glorious abode for a great and glorious God.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, she said to him, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." in John 4:19 and 20.
Jesus' response rang true with the first generation of believers, young or old, and rings true yet today, "... a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."
First century believers met in one another's homes, moving on to new pastures whenever and wherever the Shepherd led them. Church buildings, whether humble or grandiose, will not deter the Shepherd from doing the same today.
My heart will ever be grateful for the season I spent in the pasture of FBC Brighton. I have held on to the grace and goodness found there as arrows of faith for my quiver.
My heart will be forever grateful for the green pastures and still waters we have found in the faith community in McCook, sweet pasture provided in the most unusual ways, our souls, oft-wounded, oft-restored by our repose here.
"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:6 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him, together.