Worship Visited

On the last day of our Sabbatical weekend in Yoder, Kansas, we rise to worship and spend a few hours with the local body of believers.

Amish horse and buggyWe are invited to the Journey Mennonite Church – a group of Christ-followers who share some of the Amish beliefs and ancestral beginnings. Simple values. The Bible as its guidebook. Friendly folks who shake our hands and treat us like family.

The church is an old structure, repurposed for more contemporary worship. We wear our blue jeans and T-shirts, comfy shoes and no one cares. So different from the traditions of my past. I like it. I know that even Reverend G would feel welcome here.

This modern group of believers includes many young families, and they keep the children with them in worship. I love that. The children learn how to pray and how to serve. The young ones are in charge of passing red buckets for the offering.

This is a sad day for this body as they say good-bye to a pastor. He is leaving to tend to family dynamics in another state. A brave man, committed to God’s will. A valiant church, willing to send him away.

God will fill the gap, send another to minister to these sheep, to ease their grieving hearts.

God also fills the gap in me as we worship together. First, we sing the contemporary praises with guitar and voice, then we move into a couple of hymns. My soul gasps as the words of one of my favorite hymns project onto the wall.

“When peace like a river attendeth my soul. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well. It is well with my soul.”

As the chorus builds, the guitar is silenced and we sing in the six-part harmony of my youth. Worship comes easy within such beauty. The blending voices of young couples, us graying folks and the next generation – all together in one spirit praise God that all is well.

I raise my hands even as my throat fills with tears. The Alpha and Omega of my soul is in this place.  Worship swells in abundance as the chords build a crescendo within this aging building.

And I know that wherever I am, whether on sabbatical in the small town of Yoder or on ministry duty in the busy-ness of Kansas City – it is indeed well with my soul.

Being with Sabbatical Friends

Within the respite of our sabbatical visit, we eat well, laugh and tell stories. My friends and I, on this girlfriend weekend in Yoder, Kansas – we catch up on twenty years of lifetimes with each other and without.

Once we lived in the same town, worshipped together, hurt each other unintentionally and built a relationship that still lives today. We have grown older, forgiven each other and ourselves, learned to be women of God.

2 Carols and meI wonder if my friends realize all they mean to me. Have I told them so? Do these friends of sabbatical know how much I need their hugs and laughter, their friendship and joy as we walk among the Amish shops and eat in quaint restaurants – the harvest of natural products and the joy of companionship?

We browse through a hardware store that is equipped with Radio Flyer wagons, butter crocks and filaments for kerosene lanterns – all the things an Amish family might need. A man stands at the counter, his long white beard and black hat pegging him as unique to the world and special to God. An Amish farmer. He leaves the store and walks toward his tractor.

This particular brand of Amish drive tractors, but not cars. They ride in buggies behind horses. Their women wear no makeup yet I would love to have their fresh, clear skin. Their children dress alike in the colors of nature: blue, pale green and brown. No accessories. Their quiet life and the peace on their faces the only accessory needed.

I envy their lives in this tiny village. No one here seems to struggle with Alzheimer’s, yet I have not seen an older person. Perhaps back home, in the white farmhouses that hide behind cedar brush, a woman like my mother struggles to remember her children. Maybe even here, families grieve through 36-hour days as they care for loved ones who sometimes forget.

A horse and buggy parks downtown next to a tractor, driven by a bearded father. The mother and children bundle into the cubby van, a small horse trailer in back. A traffic caution sign is pasted in full view, warning those of us who are the “English” and drive fast cars.

Slow down. Breathe. Take time to enjoy the living.

Sheep and cows stand like furry dots against the growing green of wheat fields. Fresh butter and hormone-free milk leads us in a discussion with a local businessman about the importance of what we eat – what we force into our bodies.

Is our food from a plant created by God? This is good. Eat it with joy. Is it manufactured in a processing plant? Danger. Avoid it.

Fresh applesauce and fruity preserves. A young mother with three little girls – all dressed alike in grey coats, blue dresses and white scarves. Worry-free faces – all of them – no worldly masks. Surely they also bear pure hearts.

And I wonder – what have we missed in the busy city with all its traffic and noisy consumption? If the city is so wonderful, then why does my soul long for another sabbatical even as I finish this one?

Surely there is purpose in both lives and both places of living.

In the city with its opportunities to serve God by helping others – so many nonprofits and churches reaching out to the teeming thousands and their hungry hearts.

In the country with its beauty and sincerity, preserving a way of life so many of us have forgotten, harvesting from the land to share its goodness with others.

Somewhere in the middle of both lives, a balance cries out and refuses to be ignored.

Learn to be still and know that He is God. Learn to serve and reach out to the harried and hurting.

But most of all, learn the difference and when the pendulum swings to the extreme, gently nudge it back toward the center.

For only when we are centered in Christ are we most effective and most content.

Only when we are “being” with Him can we share and maintain hope.

The Secret of Yoder, KS

In the stillness of the morning, I meet with God – here at the Sunflower Inn in Yoder, Kansas.Sunflower Inn

Two friends join me for this weekend away, this girlfriend time that also counts as my sabbatical from ministry.

No flipping on the TV, no computer screen bleeping messages from cyberspace. Just my friends, God and me.

Birds sing morning allelujahs and I wait for something – that cacophony of sound that usually assaults me when I open my eyes.

But here in this quiet place, I do not hear it and feel blessed by its absence.

Traffic. The roar of engines and the hurry-to-work-revving is not present in this place.

I discover the secret solace of Yoder, Kansas. Amish buggies move silently except for the clopping of horses’ hooves on the pavement – a subtle sound that speaks of contented life without the scurry of automation.

Sunflower bedroomSunflowers decorate my room, a reminder of Kansas and of vibrant life that promises to burst forth as soon as winter gives way to spring.

And I am reminded of my own personal mantra that I share in speaking venues – when life unravels, take a break.

My soul, so grieved with the hurts I hear and see each day – needs this respite. My family is thick into the caregiving of our mother who struggles through Alzheimer’s. I need this time away.

Although brief, it is like a gulp of air to a woman who is drowning in the cares of life. The reminder that life is to be lived, and I have a purpose. Yet I do not need in this quiet place to even think on that purpose or to meet the needs of anyone besides myself.

And that is okay. It is not selfish to take time for self-care.

So I listen blissfully to the stereo of Yoder sounds: the trill of the birds and the mew of a kitten, the bellow of a cow begging to be milked and in the distance – the putt-putt of a tractor on its way to the fields.

Sounds of contented life in Amish country. Sounds I miss in the city life I lead. Sounds I need to hear on this sabbatical weekend.

Should God allow my timeline to continue, He will enable and equip me to meet others’ needs again. He will pour through me the abundance of His Spirit.

But for now, he bids me rest.

He whispers to me in this early morning hour from Psalm 54:4, “God is my helper, the Lord is the upholder of my life.”

Uphold me even today, Lord. Cup your hands around my face and pour into me your healing spirit. Bless me too, my Father, with your love in this quiet place.