Monday, July 2, 2012

How Beautiful

I've just returned from a vacation trip to Yellowstone National Park. It's very difficult for me to stay in motels or in other people's homes, so my husband and I travel in a 29-year-old campervan. The campervan makes travel possible, but not completely easy. Taking a trip always involves unavoidable chemical exposures, but most of the time the benefits of getting away make it worth the physical cost.

I've been to Yellowstone before, and my soul was as fed by the vast unspoiled beauty this time as it was on my previous visit. This trip had an added bonus, though. This time I was able to attend an outdoor worship service. Actually, I got to attend two: one Sunday morning and another one later that evening. The evening service was a bit problematic because of bug repellant, which many people applied at the same time and in close proximity to me. I moved away from the group, but was able to stay for the service, and was grateful for that.

 Fortunately, the chemical exposures were very low for the morning worship gathering. There was a lot going on in my head and heart during that service and I found myself getting very emotional. Primarily I felt gratitude and joy for the opportunity to worship with others, since it's a very rare privilege for me these days.

As I sat in the midst of strangers from all over the country who had come together because of a common love for Jesus, I kept thinking of a line from an old Twila Paris song: "How beautiful is the body of Christ."  Yellowstone is full of natural beauty, but I had to agree, looking around at the other worship participants representing parts of Christ's body on this earth, that they were beautiful, too.

There were also a lot of memories coming to the surface that morning. The summer after my freshman year in college I served as a summer missionary in a tourist area, and one of the things I did was to lead worship services in a number of campgrounds. The morning service at Yellowstone was led by a college girl, and when I looked at her I saw a younger me.

I began to wonder what I would tell the younger me, if I could. I wasn't naïve or untouched by life's challenges at that age. My mother died when I was 13, so I already knew that life could be hard. I never imagined MCS, though. I never imagined being shut out of church.

I think what I would tell my younger self is that corporate worship is a valuable treasure that shouldn't be taken for granted. I would say that providing worship services in unconventional settings is an important ministry and well worth the effort. I would thank the younger me for being part of providing worship opportunities for all sorts of people, some of whom might, like the current me, have no other options.

Would the younger me listen to the current me if I told her to value and store up in her heart every element of every worship service she was able to attend?  Probably not. At the time, the ability to freely worship with others seemed to be a "given" rather than the privilege it really is. Now I understand. Now, when I'm able to worship with others I soak up all the moments of corporate grace and I treasure them. I truly treasure them.


Glenda Funk said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our older selves could talk to our younger selves? Moving to Idaho made me realize how much I took for granted w/ the buffet of churches available. There is only one Southern Baptist church where I live, and the immediate area has a population over 60,000. Back at SWBU I never imagined I'd make the difficult decision not to attend church regularly.

Martha said...

There's so much I'd love to go back and tell the younger me, especially about toxins, but I really don't think the younger me would pay much attention. Unfortunately, I seem to have to learn some things the hard way. I really do hope my feeble efforts to educate will help somebody somewhere take the issue more seriously than I did.

Anonymous said...

Dear Martha, that was an inspiring article I just read about your worship expierence in Yellowstone Nat'l. Park. That is such an awesome place anyway and to be able to enjoy a time of worship of our Lord must have done wonders for your heart. I don't know much about your MCS condition but gather it wears on you physically, emotionally, mentally and maybe in others ways also. Am glad you got to have that experience and that I got to read about it. My love to you and your family, Ed Smith

Martha said...

Thanks so much. Yes, MCS is a pretty big challenge, which is one of the reasons I care so deeply about educating people. I would reallly like to save others from going down this road.

Anonymous said...

Can I just soak up the awesomeness of this experience of yours? So happy were given this gift of worship with other believers. Thank you for reminding me that worship is a privilege. ~Penny M :)