Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Old Fish Bones and Bent Puppy Dog Tails
Peggy Mack
January 14, 2014

I wish you all could have been with me at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church.  It was one of those gorgeous Sunday mornings on the inlet and marsh where a cool crisp breeze is blowing gently as the warm sun warms our backs.  The congregation is growing so quickly that the ushers have to bring in dozens of folding chairs to serve as extra seating while this little ultra conservative congregation literally battles over whether or not a contemporary worship service is part of its future.  There's also been quite a feud over the need to replace the old organ (on its last leg).  A group of "elder and influential" members who have supported the church for decades have become quite adamant about their dislike over either.  Meanwhile the church is bursting at the seams and the organ was straining to produce music. 

When we entered the church Sunday a large roll of black plastic was draped behind the altar on the wall where the organ once resided.  Time has moved on and the new organ is being built in Pennsylvania and will be delivered the first week of February.  Preparations to make room for it have already begun.   Meanwhile, we have no organ and I wondered with the pews overflowing if we would be able to even hear the piano well enough to sing our hymns.  Then, I wondered if the choir would sing an anthem.  The choir in recent months has been somewhat lack luster and unenthused.  Now, with no organ, I silently wondered if we should have come to worship.

The chimes rang and I whispered a prayer for God to be with us in this place of worship.  I asked God to bless all those gathered to worship Him and asked that he be present in our hearts and minds.  The service began and I was pleased the piano had been amplified well so those in the far back pews and even seated in the Narthex could hear well enough to follow in the singing.  It was becoming a lovely service after all.
Time came for the congregation to be seated and the choir to stand.  That is when I noticed the choir appeared to have grown in numbers.  There seemed to be forty or fifty members in their robes.  Then an amazing music recording began and my heart soared. You see, years ago I became an "undercover" contemporary Christian.  The music speaks to my heart and the experience is wonderful.  I know the power of this "newfangled" concept of worship and am hoping our church continues to work toward adding it as part of their Sunday morning services.  The music intro. was playing and my heart felt a burst of joy.  As the song continued to build, I can best describe it by comparing it to baseball, I can only say the choir knocked it out of the ball park.  Their voices were perfect and strong.  Their faces were lights of joy.  I was overwhelmed with the message in its words and I knew I was about to blast out one of those loud, messy ugly cries because I could no longer hold in all my joy and emotion.  I was hemmed in on both sides on my pew with no way to move anywhere.  I kept hearing the message return in the chorus, "All of my past has been erased, nothing ahead but amazing grace.....I've been changed!" No truer words have ever danced inside my heart!  I resorted to an old trick to save myself from embarrassment by bursting into ugly tears.  As the choir kept building on the chorus, repeating those precious words, changing keys and building to a crescendo and finale, I was secretly whispering, "Old fish bones and crooked puppy tales".  Ha, ha, ha!  I laugh out loud now thinking of what I had to resort to but my friends, those old fish bones and crooked puppy tales helped force me to concentrate on something other than the sheer power of the music in the church and kept me from making a fool of myself on a perfect Sunday morning.

What followed was even more amazing in this tiny, ultra conservative, does not like changes, congregation steeped in tradition and clinging to the good old days.  The broke forth into a glorious round of applause for "I've Been Changed"!  What a morning!  What an experience!  But the blessings have not ended there for me.

You see, I have carried the burden of guilt for two "unforgivable" sins for dozens of years and while I knew logically God forgives our sins, I had not experienced total, freeing forgiveness.  

Since Sunday, the phrase "all of my past has been erased", keeps ringing in my mind and playing in my heart.  The image of those two events in my life being erased from my soul has been so freeing and so complete. 
This morning in gratitude, I realized there were others I had not completely forgiven.  Oh sure, I had come to a place of logical understanding and had no ill will toward them but the hurt remained.  I thought of the two instances where others deeply and repeatedly hurt me and I erased their sins from my heart.  The past has been erased.  Their trespasses against me are forgiven.  The burden of dragging my own guilt and hanging on to their hurtful ways are gone.  Now, in their dark and heavy corner has come light and hope and joy. The transformation was immediate. 

It all began with a song in a tiny church on the inlet facing the marsh on a perfect Sunday morning.

Dear Heavenly Father,
What joy is ours when we release the burdens of old hurtful memories caused by ourselves and others!  We praise your name and although we cannot understand your power, we know nothing can separate us from you!  Nothing is ahead of us but amazing grace and your endless love.  We are so blessed and remain in a place of gratitude.
In Jesus' Name,

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