Friday, February 18, 2011

A Settling Pilgrim

By Grace, by Agape Love, by Providence the Mullaney Pilgrims have had the same address for over a year now. Settled? Not quite. However, we are taking steps to settle into a community of believers and this too is a part of the pilgrim journey. Where would this be? Just north of Worcester in West Boylston, MA at Bethlehem Bible Church (BBC).

This past Sunday I finished taking a membership class at BBC where we have been attending for the last year. I had lots of questions and the ones I asked were answered. There are still a few I would like answered before I take the plunge and say yes I'm in. In a number of ways I am already in, that is pretty good for a New England Church but after all I am a native. Actually, I was more skeptical of them then they were of me.
In the past nearly 8 years, we have been blessed by many believers up and down the east coast who have welcomed us into their midst, loved and cared for us, made us feel at "home." Upon returning to our motherland i.e. Massachusetts, we have visited several churches and had done just that - visited. Not until Dan started to attend BBC regularly (and yours truly dragging her feet which we won’t get into here) did we actually start to dialogue about making a commitment to this local body of believers.

It is still quite an adventure. Yes, this is in New England and in Massachusetts and in fact when the kids were little we went to BBC for Awana for 1 year. However, we are here at BBC meeting new people and digging deeper into the Scriptures, discovering and uncovering more truth as we continue on the pilgrim highway. No matter what anyone’s position is in this body of believers, one thing is clear; each and every one is human, imperfect, dependent on God’s grace, hungers for truth, loves one another and desires to serve the LORD, one another and those in their sphere of influence.

(Massachusetts seems to be the next stop for us. This being said after 3 years 3 months and 15 days back in the Commonwealth)

This type of settling is making a commitment. It isn’t quite like picking out the best spot on the beach and “settling in there” because we like it. A lot of Americans go to and become members of a church because they like it. And like any other blue blooded American I like to be comfortable and be at ease. It is a good thing to want to be at home with the people who you would want to call your church family. We need to want to belong to a local body of believers who love the LORD Jesus Christ, want to honor Him in all things, know the grace of God, preach and teach the Word of God, we would want to live in obedience to Christ and encourage one another to do so and above all Glorify God.

We had to pretty much push the like question down on the list. The questions ran more like this: Is BBC teaching sound biblical doctrine? Do they worship in spirit and in truth? Do the people at BBC love one another? Do they extend the hand of friendship and love welcoming those who come into their midst? Do they love one another enough to confront with the truth and exercise church discipline? Is Jesus Christ being lifted up and glorified? When these questions are answered in the affirmative, which they have been. Well then, YES we like it. (Are there things we don’t like? Sure but hey there are things we don’t like about ourselves and one another everywhere we go when we take the time to get to know one another. However, we are given the grace to put up with those things.)

For any of you who know of my pilgrimage, it has been quite interesting (and I am not talking about the 18 moves). So why this church? Well, Dan started to listen to the pastor’s radio show on the local Christian Station here and he like what Mike was saying. Dan couldn't believe that a pastor was saying what he was saying. Dan started going pretty regularly and I visited a couple of times. It wasn’t good for our marriage to be doing church separately especially since both of us wanted to become part of a community of believers. So, I finally came around and started attending, a bit reluctantly but with an open mind. Then something happened that I had never seen in a church and had only vaguely heard about and that was the exercise of church discipline. My second to last question was:
“Do they love one another enough to confront with the truth and exercise church discipline?” It was done with integrity, with love, with anguish and in the spirit and manner for doing so as it is laid out in the Bible. This was the tipping point for me. I could belong to a church like this because if I get really off the mark, I hope someone loves me enough to call me out, loves me enough to want to restore me and bring me back to the LORD. It was real, it was raw, and mostly it was sobering. And I thought “but for the grace of God there go I.”

In Churches there are weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. Do we gather on Sunday to praise the LORD, to hear the Word preached, to be equipped to go out into the world? You betcha. But life is not always “all good.” God is always good but life is hard. If you believe that God is sovereign, ruling over the good and the bad in life, then you need to be willing as a church family to take the good with the bad and deal with it effectively. Be mature, do the right thing, even with strangers in the midst. I recently heard someone say, “my life got harder after I became a Christian. I became aware of my sin. I want to honor God in my living not in order to earn God’s favor but out of gratitude for His saving Grace in my life.” Obedience to God is not so I can get into good standing. I want to obey because the LORD God has made me righteous through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. Obedience is birthed out of gratitude. I have been bought by the blood and I now belong to Him. Just like a father loves his child enough to discipline him, a church ought to love enough to exercise discipline for their family members, don’t you think?

So what is the meaning of this post? To say Dan and I are looking to become members of a local body of believers and we know it will not always be pretty or perfect. Like I said earlier in this post, in a lot of ways we are already welcomed in as a part of the BBC Church family and it is our hope that God will continue to get all the Glory as we continue on the Pilgrim Path toward the Celestial City.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

No longer children

A continuation from a July Post (click post)

This past Friday my son Michael turned 18 years old. Some say, now he is an adult but my husband has been readying me for this day for the past 2 years. After he turned 16, Dan started saying, "stop treating him like a boy, he is becoming a man." Michael can probably attest to the fact that it has been a struggle at times for me. Some readers may wave it off and say boys don't become men until way into their 20s these days. I say if you treat your daughters and sons like children into their 20s you will reap what you sow.

Signs of Manhood
The fall before Michael turned 16 Dan broke his foot and was unable to do any nursing for almost 3 months. After his surgery and once he was feeling better, Michael and Dan worked several nights a week at Dan's brother Billy's store. Dan trained Michael mostly from a chair since he could have no weigh baring for 6 weeks on his foot. Consequently, Michael learned quickly and was able to do the work.
Shortly after Michael's 16th birthday, Dan and I ran Billy's store from mid May through mid July. (Billy had his hip replaced) We both know that we could not have done it without Michael's help. He got up four or five mornings a week before 4 AM. We would work until we were done. On occasion we would get out of work by 10 AM, most days by 12noon and other days not til 2 or 3 PM, Fridays were busy and rarely got out before 1PM. Since we were running the business, if something came up we of course stayed or came back to the store to take care of whatever needed taking care of. Michael did a great job and continues to do a great job (he and I work at the store one day a week). The customers and other employees have grown to love him and he does whatever needs to be done with excellence, whether that is waiting on customers, making coffee, putting together the Sunday Paper or putting up the grocery load (I could add a lot more to that list). Many have commented to me that they thought he was older than he is.

Those are school hours! [say those who like to find at least one thing wrong with those of us who do not have their kids in school] Yes, I was picking up from that post in July. Our family subscribes to Mark Twain's philosophy, "we never let school get in the way of education." If you have read any amount of my post that refer to education or you know me personally, you know that I am not a fan of the term "homeschooling" and prefer to say "educated at home." As I was saying at the end of that July post we also have had the benefit of walking through this life and in this world along side of our children. The three of us working at the store together was doing just that. It was a real challenge for us and it is now a treasured memory of watching my son growing into manhood and having to be his boss in the work place helped me tremendously in learning to treat him like a man. Perhaps I was actually succeeding in doing so and that is what some of those witnessing customers saw as well.

The fine citizens of Dedham once in a while would ask Michael about school but for the most part that was it. The way in which Michael conducted himself, worked hard and served well earned him their respect and there was no cause for concern about the way in which he was being educated.

There hasn't been a lot of time to reflect lately which can be a good and a bad thing. I need to take time to reflect and write about the closing of this season and look ahead to what is to come sooner rather than later. It has been a wonderful adventure thus far and I imagine it will continue to do so.