I live in a small town.
It is considered rural by today’s standards: 6400 souls call this beautiful place nestled in the lakes region of our state home.
Our church is small too, around 200 or so.
The regal old building stands on the corner of Main and High Streets, right across from the bustling post office and the local health food store. A simple white sign that announces the service times, the name of our dear pastor, and upcoming special events (this day, a cheery, town-wide invitation for a Christmas caroling bonfire on Sunday) stands on the wide front lawn. A beacon of hope and light for all who pass by in the midst of their busy pursuits. A reminder that there is more to this life than what they can see. A reminder that a Savior has come into this dark world on a rescue mission for their souls.
Through those doors, the Word of Life is held out to all who will come and take the time to hear. To see. To listen.
The church may be small but our great God is mighty and HUGE within those walls.
Just this past Sunday, we were all reminded that with our God, nothing is impossible.
For the past many years, one of our beloved elders has struggled with kidney disease. Every week, he would get up to do the announcements and always share a groan-inducing joke that would have all of us laughing in spite of ourselves. Until he was no longer able to do even that and the jokes fell silent.
Still, he was in the same pew every Sunday, faithful and steady, choosing to trust his very good God, even when he could not understand His ways. A smile often wreathed his face…even when one could clearly see the pain behind the upturned lips. His beautiful wife was always by his side. To me, she represents such a clear picture of the power of God’s grace that allows one to continue to stand and then, almost miraculously put one foot in front of the other when life hurts and hearts break and questions loom most loudly in the deepest dark of night.
Fervent prayers rose continually to the very Throne Room of Heaven. Day after day. Year after long year. We prayed full of certain and confident hope in the One who IS Hope. The One who hears every prayer, every heart- cry, every question, every wail of “Why???” The One who promises the comfort of His presence, the display of His power, the wisdom of His ways that are higher than ours, the One who joyfully declares that He is—even now in the midst of the mess—making all things new.
Unbeknownst to all but a very few, in the midst of all these prayers, the Holy Spirit began to whisper into the brave and selfless heart of a beautiful young mother within our congregation (who was no relation to this man) that she would have a part to play in this situation. Her husband was fully supportive. They waited for God’s timing.
Then one morning, our pastor stood up during the service. He said that the elder had not asked him to do this but he had to speak out on behalf of one of his dearest friends. With a voice filled with emotion, he told us of the seriousness of this man’s condition. Without a kidney transplant, he did not have long to live.
Would we please pray and ask God if we were the one to get tested, to offer the gift of life to his man who has done so much for
God’s time had come.
This young woman was tested…and found to be a perfect match.
What are the odds that in our little church a perfect match would be found???!!!
Our God is the God of miracles!
On Monday of this week, the transplant was done.
We all waited with bated breath to hear the news. I must have checked my email a dozen times an hour.
The surgery was a success! The donated kidney was already working!
And in a hospital room in the hills of New England, was the joyful celebration of new life!
A new beginning.
A fresh start.
Answered prayer…long (to us) in the answering, but right on time for the God whose timing is always perfect.
Hearts rejoice and spirits sing as we celebrate a Christmas miracle right in our midst of our little town.
The celebration of Christmas will be all the richer for members of our congregation this year, as we remember the ultimate stunning miracle of a God who came down to His creation in the form of a fragile baby to offer hope to the hopeless and the precious gift of LIFE to the dying. (John 3:16-17; Mt. 1:21; Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 5:8; I John 2:2; Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
He gave us the supreme Gift of Life in Jesus: a precious gift that we endlessly celebrate, both here in this fleeting flash of time and on into Eternity.
Back in January, I was diagnosed with dangerously high blood pressure. On my first Sunday back at church after a week of rest, I was still feeling pretty shaky. At one point, from our customary seats in the back row, I felt dizzy and quite weak and suddenly realized how very frail I was. I am not a person who is given to dramatics, but the question, “Is this it for me? Is this where my road ends?” flashed through my mind.
If so, how fitting, I thought, to go out on a Sunday morning in church, sitting with my family, worshiping our merciful and gracious God with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The present moment took on a sharp focus as I became fully aware of everything and everyone around me. My eyes swept the breadth and length of that familiar sanctuary with its burnished wood, upholstered red pews and stained glass windows. My eyes landed for a few seconds on each dear face and my heart overflowed with thanks to God for bringing us to this very special place: a place where God’s Name is lifted high, where His Word is revered and clung to and preached boldly and fearlessly, where there is much shared laughter as well as pain, where prayer requests are shared, where I am encouraged to stand when I feel like giving up, where I see living proof in so many of Christ’s power to completely transform a life.
I have been so blessed to be a part of all this and to walk side by side and shoulder to shoulder with these dear ones. Tears shimmered that morning and my heart overflowed with gratitude.
Needless to say, my time on earth was not up that morning. I am still here (and much healthier at the end of the year than I was at the beginning!).
And I am privileged to be part of this church.
A place of miracles.