We were once members of a great local church. It was a church we were deeply devoted to. A place where theology was not so black and white. A place where people could truly “come as they are.” It was growing, God was moving and we were serving the local community and the world. We were packing AIDS kits for Africa, we were feeding school children in Panama & we were serving coffee to the homeless in Willimantic. Then about three years ago, it all fell apart. This was devastating. We held on for about another year and then most of us eventually scattered like sheep. Up until recently, Earl and I had been going through the motions. Attending another local church on Sundays, volunteering where we could, but doing little else in regards to spiritual growth. As we saw it, we had the wind knocked out of sails, but couldn’t find the means to get it back.
Last October a friend recommended that we start reading through the Psalms. That was a good place to start. We started outlining goals. And we agreed that by May of this year we would start looking for a new church. Now every Pastor in a 30 mile radius must know about the MacDonalds. Pastors must send out warnings to each other, “They’re leaving our church. They might be heading your way.” We’re nomads. We travel a lot. I guess we don’t like to remain stagnant. We don’t like to warm the pews. And we’re not always quiet. We like change. We like to see God moving. But the biggest problem was, we were members of a church that was doing God’s work. We knew the power of a local church. And every other church paled in comparison.
We checked out a church in Hebron, conveniently located nowhere near our house, but on the way to skateboard camp. And it fit one very essential criteria… we had never been there before. The Hebron Church of Hope.
The Pastor’s first message was about Hope. Fitting. And we needed hope. We were intrigued and came back a second time. His next message spoke to me as we came to terms with Logan’s recent diagnosis:
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5 and 11
Yet. The little word that changed my life. Here’s this guy, seriously down on his luck and he’s praising God! It’s easy to do that in good times, but when you’re feeling defeated? Wow. That’s faith and hope. This was a turning point for me. An upward climb in my spiritual walk.
Here’s what Pastor Kevin had to say about this passage:
Put your hope in God! What do we usually put our hope in? I will tell you. We put our hope in our feelings. That is bad news. Feelings fail us. Feelings fool us. If you wait until your feelings tell you to put your hope in God, you won’t. I love this little word found in verse 11.“Yet.” I will YET praise him. That word Yet says, “I may still not feel like it, but I am going to praise him anyway!” That word “YET” recognizes that God is worthy of praise whether or not I get warm fuzzies in the process of praising him. The word “Yet” doesn’t care about circumstances. I will YET praise him.
These words resonated with me, because I was waiting for a “feeling.” But God was waiting for me to make the first move. Once I made the shift in thinking, things started to fall into place and there was finally a sense of clarity and peace.
The psalmist continues on, his soul still dark:
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon –from
Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:6
He’s saying, “I can’t shake this feeling, BUT I will remember the times when you blessed me.” We seem to forget the times when He’s good to us. It made me think back to the times when he answered a prayer or met one of my needs. This message was good news for me and helped me climb out of my rut. Don’t get me wrong, things aren’t always perfect just because I’m a Christian. But when I’m downcast, I know I have tools in my toolbox: Praise Him and Remember.
We’re becoming members of this church tomorrow. I never thought I’d become a member at another church. This is another prayer answered. We found a new church. It’s small and there’s lots of work to be done. And I’m really excited about what God is doing there!