A gravel parking lot where two streets met hemmed in our little white church. Inside I scooted my trousered bottom cautiously along an unpolished church bench – taking care to dodge the occasional splinter. I gave in at times to a curious temptation – running my finger-tips along the bench’s underside. A braile-like search yielded my prize. A random trail of chewing gum deposits – discarded and hardened. I don’t recall ever sampling more than perhaps one. Oddly enough, their presence supplied me with a sense of comfort – contentment derived from revisiting a familiar setting. Like being home.
Living Way church was home in certain ways. Clyde and Thelma Lout set the worship-attendance tradition in motion from the start. Sunday morning and Sunday evening; Tuesday and Friday nights. Four services every week. Increased to a fifth – the youth meeting – when my brother and I entered our teens.
The Living Way –
- Where with fellow preschoolers I first sang, Jesus loves the little children of the World
- Where a bearded prophet parted a Sea; an Inn-keeper denied a couple lodging; an unflustered Messiah calmed a wild storm. Witnessing them all through the marvel of
- Where a ponderous Leviticus sermon on ‘types and shadows’ lulled me to sleep
- Living way. Where fervent prayer over me against a life-threatening virus prevailed.
Where the mystery of Presence descended on eleven-year-olds one Summer morning.
Isn’t he just wonderful, boys and girls?
The portly gentleman exuded joy. With no pretention. Clearly Brother Addison loved Jesus.
Warmly commanding by nature, Brother Addison was an established businessman in town. A lay minister, he served in a spiritual renewal movement among Christian professionals. He delighted in aiding others toward a vital relationship with his Lord. We children – seated in the Vacation Bible School assembly that morning – knew Brother Addison. We liked him. And trusted him.
How many of you children would like more of him. More of Jesus in your life?
Hands went up speedily. Of course. Who wouldn’t wish for more of the Good Shepherd’s presence?
We were ten to twelve year-olds. It was our third day in VBS. His words conveyed invitation and our expectancy-barometers rose. What’s coming? It seemed something special could be ahead. What does having more of Jesus mean? Some of us wondered.
Addison acknowledged our raised hands.
That’s wonderful. His smile was large and warm.
He summoned us to a pair of benches near the front of the chapel. He directed the girls to one; the boys to the other. Brother Addison passively jingled coins in a pocket, letting us settle in. We knelt along one side of the altars.
Now boys and girls, we are all up here because we simply want more of Jesus. We open the way by speaking to him. Speaking our love to Jesus. He continued.
Begin now thinking of Jesus. What he is like. How good he is. How caring. And Thanking him. Let’s speak our thanks and our love to him.
Yes. He is meeting us here. Just now. In this place. We welcome him. He is good. And he loves us. He comes among us now. Bringing more. More. Speak to him. Let him speak to you in your heart. Let him love you. He’s here.
We offered our voices. Each spoke softly, sincerely. To Jesus.
Without trying, we began sensing him. We were aware. Even as young children. Then, hardly a moment passed and something happened I will never forget. Would never wish to.
Every child – perhaps fifteen or sixteen – was suddenly awash in delight. Rich, bubbling-up delight. It overtook us in a moment’s time.
And tenderness. Our pre-adolescent eyes poured tears. Self-consciousness went out the window. Words rolled from us – some intelligible, some otherwise. We didn’t care. We had yielded over for more of Jesus. And we knew he had come – in wave on wave of tenderness. Love. Delight.
We cried over and over our love of him. Then, as if on cue, we sought one another out. We rushed – bawling, laughing – to embrace another kid. Anyone in reach. Every boy found another boy or two to hug, and to laugh, and to cry on and with. Among the girls the same. Mucus and laughter mingled in the pleasure of affection not one of us had known. Ever.
The phenomenon carried forward a good while. No child took interest in snack time. Cookies and Cool-aid could never match this. This more.
We were loved. And we loved. We couldn’t love enough. Couldn’t cry, thank you! Enough. Simply couldn’t. We knew this was Jesus moving among us – filling us. I hoped the more could just go on and on.
After a time, quiet came – the most serene and pure sort. Purity bathed us. What words capture this? The purest of pure soaked the atmosphere. Today I would employ a companion word. Holiness. Us little non-theologians, immersed in holiness.
Brother Addison was speaking. He shared a simple encouragement. Of letting Jesus fill and refill us as we would afterward go our ways.
I’m reflective today. I relish this richer-than-rich memory – personal, sacred, marvel that it was.
Six decades have passed. While I have, by God’s kindness, savored many cherished times in his presence, I suspect I may never taste a sweeter, richer flavor. When, at age eleven, one summer morning my friends and I said, yes.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Acts 2. The Bible
©2015 Jerry Lout