Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Best Is Yet To Come

This past Saturday night we listened to the last broadcast of "Prairie Home Companion" on public radio.  Garrison Keillor has been producing this show for the past 42 years and we have been listening the majority of Saturday nights since 1983.  As we got older we would have pancakes or waffles on those nights while listening to the tales told. We don't eat pancakes weekly anymore but we do still enjoy having pancakes periodically while listening to Keillor speak about Lake Woebegone, "where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are all above average."  A place filled with a lot of Lutherans, church suppers, and faithful people with character.

The foundation for our faith comes from the Lutheran churches we were raised in.  I like to say that Joel was raised with the Waltons in Lake Woebegone.  If you are too young to remember the Waltons or are not familiar with Garrison Keillor and his stories of Lake Woebegone, do a google search and you will understand.  Joel's family church, Aastad Lutheran, was less than a quarter mile from the farm he grew up on.  He remembers fondly the church community, mowing the yard and graveyard as a kid, Lutifisk suppers, and all the fellowship that took place there during congregational gatherings.  He credits his pastor with answering his many questions as he went through confirmation, a time to learn about and confirm his faith in God.  He was between the ages of 6-8 when he started having dreams at night where he was preaching.  God chose him at an early age to be a "proclaimer of God"~ which is what his name means.  Prayers were prayed, the Bible was read, and their faith was lived out in their daily lives.  It was a good place to live, with the Waltons in Lake Woebegone.

My foundation came a bit later in my childhood.  My sister Jan took both of us to be baptized at the Lutheran church where we lived when I was around 6 and she was 17.  We seldom went to church then, but when I moved in with my older sister Jo at age 12, St. Olaf Lutheran Church became a major part of my life.  We always attended Sunday services, were involved in Sunday School, youth groups, Vacation Bible School, Lenten services, Bible studies, and served in the community surrounding us.  I confirmed in my faith along with over 100 others when I was in 9th grade.  My sister Jo worked at the church and it became like a second home, a very comfortable place for me.   Joel and I met at the Lutheran Bible Institute in Golden Valley MN. This foundation of our faith has served us well.

Four and one half years ago, God opened up the doors of healing and more of Holy Spirit to us.  It has taken us on a journey that has blessed us in so many ways.  We really have had no desire to leave the Lutheran church where Joel has served as a minister for 36 years, but after being shaken and stirred, Holy Spirit has led us on a slightly different pathway.  It has brought us to this time of transitioning. What we would love to have is a church that embraces and practices the gifts of the Spirit, healing as for all, and an openness and acceptance for what is alike about us all and what is different.

We did experience that at Gold Canyon Methodist Church in Gold Canyon AZ.  It was great to hear the senior pastor embrace other denominations and tell the congregation that we have something to learn from each and every one of them.  His illustration on this was so powerful that we were astonished by it.......and blessed.  I  think I shared it before, but felt it was worth repeating. Pastor Fred had everyone stand and then asked them to think about another denomination other than theirs but not say it aloud until the count of three. At three everyone said what they were thinking and we heard a variety of denominations named. Then he asked everyone to say at the count of three who all these denominations worshiped and believed for salvation.  At three everyone said.............JESUS.  Yes............Jesus.  Many doctrines and traditions rise out of many denominations, but Who we worship and believe for salvation is only one.  The One.  Jesus. Pastor Fred went on to say that every denomination that had Jesus at the center had something to offer us as Christians.  I remember him saying that the Catholics bring ritual, the Lutherans tradition, the Pentecostals, Holy Spirit, etc. etc.  What do we have to offer?

This illustration has been held close to our hearts as we transition into who Christ has called us to be.  I just love how He is guiding us.  I don't necessarily like the stretching and shaping, or the pruning that is going on, but I love how God is guiding us as He prepares us for this "Senior Season" of our lives.  I am so glad we went with my sister and BIL to the church they frequent while in Arizona.  I am so grateful for what the pastor had to say.  It confirmed what we have been thinking, and it certainly was from God.

Joel does not live in Lake Woebegone anymore.  It was a good place to be, but we have traveled quite a bit since living there in 1968.  I no longer think of St. Olaf Lutheran as my second home, either. We are not sure we belong in the Lutheran traditional church anymore nor are we comfortable out of it.  We are not sure where we fit in yet as we journey along this bumpy pathway, but we do know that with Jesus in the forefront, all will be well.  We have had many adventures with God leading the way, and this one also has a guaranteed outcome!  The best is yet to come!

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