The following is part of a letter I wrote to my husband while he was deployed. While he’s away I do my best to write naturally about our day-to-day happening. In this particular letter I wrote about my first visit to Catalyst Church. The mushy parts have been edited out of consideration to you, the reader. ;)
Our children and I had just returned to FL after a wonderful and busy December visiting with family in IL. We had endured long drives through bad weather to and fro and fought a nasty sickness that caused Joy and I to spend three days, including New Year’s Eve, in the hospital. At the end of our stay in IL I was ready for a fresh start to the New Year, a fresh season of our lives in FL. Praise God for changing seasons and the disasters in life that lead us closer to Him!
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
Letter written on Jan. 11, 2015
Broken glass - Answer to a four-year prayer
As part of our bedtime prayer last night I included, “God, guide us tomorrow on the path you’d like us to be on”. Sunday mornings always bring extra stress as the enemy tries to crush our Joy and keep us from meeting with Christians.
Before I went to bed I had enjoyed some Earl Gray tea as I made some online purchases for water and milk kefir. I watched an episode of “Big Bang Theory”, followed by a randomly selected BBC show, “Rosemary and Thyme”. I went to bed at 2300. I was wide-awake so decided to check out some local churches online. A local radio station has a church finder link they’ve mentioned on the radio.
Following the links, I listened to a few sermons from local non-denominational pastors. One in particular had me cracking up with his overuse of the phrase, “Ya know man?”. He presented a good message, but I was distracted. However hard I tried to concentrate on the Spirit of his message, I envisioned my husband snickering and giving me sideways glances as he counted the number of times the phrase was spoken.
At 1230 I concluded that Earl Gray does a better job at keeping me awake than coffee does most of the time. I lay awake praying for a church home. My prayer was much like that I’ve prayed before, “Give Cam and I mentors. Like-minded, family people whose goal is to raise our children to seek Him and His purpose for their lives in a manner that is likewise as unique as they are; A church where our children will make amazing friends, where they can learn and thrive; A church family rather than a church building; A church that drives and inspires us to dig deeper into God’s word, stopping at nothing short of finding His will for our lives and His great love. No spoon-fed religion, a place that combines history, theology, heart and Spirit. A church home where we feel we’re needed as a part of the great Mission. “
The morning started with the usual yell, “Mommy! Please wipe me!” from Joy. I do not like to wake up to that request. I uncovered my eyes and was met with the bright light of morning. After tending to the girls the three of us climbed back into bed for a bit of cuddles to warm us up.
A short time went by before we got up to get ready for church. The plan was to attend church with my friend Amy’s family or another local church, depending on the vote (and time). I woke Marie up and went back to my room to finish getting ready. I stumbled over the girls as I tried to get dressed, answer their questions and brush my teeth. James came in to the bathroom crying. His chapped lips were hurting. I slathered his lips and chin with Chap Stick.
“Thanks mom. I’m sorry I broke your glass.”
“Uh, What? Glass?” I hadn’t heard anything break over the singing of our girls. I went to the kitchen. Marie had started cleaning up the glass. It was obvious James had jumped onto the counter to get a glass from the cabinet next to the sink and stove. I’ve asked him a hundred times not to climb there, “Get a stool” as I pointed to the one four feet away. There were snowflake sized flecks of glass all over the counter, stove and floor. Marie needed to get dressed so I finished up while shuffling the twins out of the way and explaining to our son yet again, the importance of my words. He thought to assure me, “At least I didn’t get hurt.” I paused and wanted to growl and glare with piercing eyes, but instead took a deep breath and nodded.
He was right. I was thankful the glass didn’t cut him or anyone else. I wiped down the surfaces and swept while giving directions to the older kids as they helped get the twins ready.
Followed by the rush of chaos I realized we only had 30 minutes to get everyone fed and to church. Where had the time gone? We had to eat breakfast. I needed some coffee.
By this time my friend Amy’s church, at thirty-five minutes away, was impossible.
At the other local church, we’d be about fifteen minutes late. I didn’t want to miss worship music. I need worship!
Breathe. Relax. There are services that start later than 1000 I reminded myself. Another local church has an 1100 service. Too big. Too impersonal. I need people to talk to me. I’d been curious to check out other places anyway.
“Let’s explore! “
When I got around to eating I sat down with the iPad and looked to see what churches started later. I found one that has a 1030 service. We’d be about ten minutes late once we made the fifteen minute drive. I hate being late to church, especially having to get the kids settled into their classes before interrupting service so Marie and I can find seats. That would have to do today. I was worried that if I sat around the house long enough to wait to go to an 1100 service we’d decide not to go at all. Inevitably, something would come up that would make us late again if I waited any longer. I tossed the dirty dishes into the sink, put away the bread, butter, jam and eggs and herded the crew out the door.
Kathleen and James were disappointed we weren’t going to the church that passes out suckers. They like to play in the gym and have snack there. Marie was silent as she sat next to me in the passenger’s seat, staring ahead. As we drove I talked about how it’s an amazing thing to be able to walk into a church, any Bible teaching church, and have Jesus in common. I spoke of how sometimes you feel comfortable in one place more than another and that’s okay, but we need to be flexible and willing to take chances to find blessings we may not otherwise experience.
I stopped at the red light near the library on the corner of 9th and 77. From my position in the van I could see white signs with black letters flapping in the breeze near Robert’s Hall for a church that meets there. We’d seen the signs before, but I couldn’t make out the small print as we drove by. In the past we had noted as we drove by, “We should research to see who meets there.” but never got around to it.
People were walking in and out of the building. Boys were chasing one another. Was their service over or were they setting up?
I asked Marie what her thoughts were. “Can you read the sign to see if it has times on it? Should we drive by and check it out?” We were already late, what did we have to lose? If the detour took longer than a few minutes I could still make the 1100 church service at the other church.
I was intrigued, and continued to drive straight ahead toward the historic building I’d so often wondered about. The signs said Catalyst Church. The writing was bold. Under those large words were smaller ones, Reach. Teach. Grow. Go.
Although I could now read the church signs, a bigger bolder one stood out to me, A sign without words.
The children playing in the parking lot were full of smiles; full of joy. They weren’t overly dressed, a relief since we were all in casual clothes. They didn’t look as if someone had drug them there to be tortured with boredom (I’m very familiar with that look). They were close in ages to our kids! (Normal enough)
I drove around to the side of the building and parked nearby. Now that I knew the name, I quickly searched for the church on my handy dandy phone. Catalyst wasn’t listed in the radio station’s list. They were new.
Their Facebook page with 144 likes announced a six month celebration that will take place on Jan. 25, New.
Service was to start at 1100 (it was 1030). Look at that! We’re early for something! It must be a Divine Appointment. After skimming the pages, reading their mission statement and beliefs (no craziness so far as I could tell) I gave the okay to unload.
I was greeted by Tim who kindly chatted with me as he showed us where to take the children. Robert’s Hall is amazing! I knew it would be. Those old buildings tug at me. I’d imagined what the inside would look like many times as we’d driven by. It wasn’t the old mercantile store I had imagined. A lot of work has gone into updating it while keeping the early 1900s charm.
Tim introduced me to people as we walked by them toward the child check-in table where Dani was having difficulty with her computer. She explained that she always has trouble with computers. She’s a very friendly welcoming woman with a contagious laugh. I was pleased to chat as she sorted out computer problems.
As we waited I met Zach, the pastor. Zach was wearing a vest with a bow tie. (Dr. Who influence? Only time will tell.) He’s an ex-avionics troop. He and his wife, Sara, homeschool their five kids. Their youngest are near James’s age. We talked about having a lot of kids, about our military service, and other small talk. There was also a mention of them living in Utah, (I’ll have to ask about that later to see if they were there the same time we were.)
I was introduced to a woman who is prior AMMO. There was a lot of conversation in a short time. I gave a short version of how we’d come to find the church and talked a little about what kind of church we were seeking. Talking to Zach made me excited to be at their church.
Conversation came easily. I could sense his attentiveness amongst the hustle and bustle. He has a strong desire to minister to families as a whole; to build them up in Christ as a unit. He explained their service, children ages seven and up attend worship service with their parents. They don’t have youth group, but hold family nights every Friday. The men’s and women’s Bible studies include children 12 and up. Could the church we’ve been praying for ever since we left Utah be a few minutes from our house?
I ushered James toward the children’s area. He was scared. He began to chew on his coat’s collar. A father (Chuck) noticed his timid posture and called his son over. He introduced his son, Reagan, and began to ask questions to the two boys, helping them become aquatinted. The little boy talked to James and eased his apprehension enough to join the class. I walked the girls to their area where James got sight of me, ran over and hugged me tightly around my waist. Shy again. I gently pried him off of me, knelt down and spoke to him about making friends, how we can be a blessing to others, how others can bless our lives, but we have to allow ourselves to open up to them. I hadn’t noticed right away, but a young man of about 11 or 12 had come over and knelt down to my right. He was watching quietly as I talked to James. I paused and said, “Hello. This is James” He began to talk with him as though they’d been friends for years. I leaned over to our son and whispered my usual parting words,” Be a blessing”. As I got up to leave I thanked our new friend. I don’t think he knows how deeply he touched this mama’s heart. I left the two boys to chat.
The twins didn’t have any trouble at all when I showed them where they were going to play. Sara tended to them and smiled as I gave the “I’m making a run for it” signal. The older girls and I went upstairs to a wide open room that spans the whole top floor of the building. Tasteful, yet dated, paintings of beach scenes with prominent palm trees cover the walls. We walked past musical instruments and sound equipment to the plastic folding chairs, to take our seats.
Worship was lovely. I always forget how much I need that time of music and praise until I have moments such as the one I had today. My heart sang. The Spirit was sweet. No flashing light show. No drum beat that vibrated my spine. No shrilling soprano I can only match in the shower or alone in the car. Sincere worship. I didn’t know all of the songs, but easily sang along.
We prayed, and then greeted those around us. There was a shortage of chairs. I watched as about ten teen boys gave up their seats for others before going to get more chairs from the back of the room for themselves, which they set up perpendicular to the chairs we were in. The sermon was about the church in Corinth. Zach is a very good speaker. No habitual fillers or ticks so far as I can tell.
Members of the group read the selected passages throughout the service. Using historical facts/time line, he presented the passages in such a way as to help the congregation explore a clear perspective of the bigger picture. Starting with a passage we may normally skim over due to its confusing nature; (1 Cor 8:1-3) he emphasized his desire to encourage us to seek to understand every passage. He emphasized that every word and verse is relevant to the whole in some form or another.
I really think this church will help us grow, not only feed us for one day a week. Do you remember a series at our previous church where Steve and Brian talked about the silly things churches get caught in disputes about? How those silly things divide churches and turn people away? Today’s message was along the same lines; how the Gentiles were becoming more active in the church and the Jews were trying to figure out whether or not they needed to fall under the old laws.