December 16, 1995 was a Saturday. My message needed work. Our church occupied a little Grange Hall West of Mt. Vernon, Ohio just off State Route 229. North of the church was a bit of woods wrapped around a pond. My study window looked out from high on the wall of the church over the pleasant field and the wood and the pond. I would sometimes watch deer come to water there.
When I arrived at the church that morning it was cold. The hall was shaded by Maples in the summer and the study was cool. In the wintertime it was freezing. I started the space heater – the only source of warmth besides my imagination – and rubbed my hands together before it as if it were a roiling blaze on a stone hearth in a rustic lodge. In fact it was the corner of a Grange Hall converted into a place of worship with a tiny study where I could read, study, pray and prepare meals to feed my flock.
My books were there on sturdy bookshelves built by a friend from discarded concrete forms. They are still in service today. I see them and use them every day and when I do I think of my dear friend Gary Mickle who built them and continually discovered ways to help me. (Ask me about the killer water-heater, root beer in the baptistery, the broken picture window, the spinning bumper, real peppermint patties, kissing an Amish man, and two hundred luminaries and a truck load of sand some day).
The hall and my study were humble, but they were answers to prayer and I was grateful for them. God had even let me see them in a dream before he provided them for us. I liked the peaceful silence. I liked the hardwood floors. I loved the window of a dozen small, frosty panes, aimed toward the wintry scene to the north.
I sat looking out that window gathering thoughts – forming a plea to God for help to feed the people. I wanted some quiet carols to inspire warm Christmas thoughts in me. I reached to the shelf above my desk and tuned my radio to the classical music station in Columbus, Ohio. Seasonal sounds filled my study – beautiful carols that tugged on my soul. Now it was getting warm in my little study. The music came to an end and the announcers offered a copy of a new CD by the group Chantacleer. The recording would go to the third caller. I dialed the number and … I was caller number three.
They apologized that I would not be able to enjoy the recording before Christmas. I gave them my address and an enthusiastic Christmas blessing and turned my thoughts back to my sermon preparation.
To my delight, the recording arrived in Tuesday’s mail – in plenty of time to enjoy it for almost a week before Christmas. They had made special arrangements to expedite the shipping. Since then I have purchased two other Chanticleer Christmas recordings.
When Christmas Eve came that year it was on a Sunday. That night we had a Candlelight service in our little hall. It was filled with dancing light, beautiful music, worshipful voices, excited children, and people who loved one another and loved the Lord Jesus.
From the highway that night our little hall and the ring of cars around it must have seemed like an anachronism. Travelers would have no way of knowing what was inside. People were saved in that hall. Three of our ladies would be with the Lord within a year or two. One of them, a single mom, left two teenage boys. One of our finest young men would not live to marry or raise a family but die in the prime of his youth – it’s been years since Travis died, and it is still a bitter shock to think of it. Two of the little boys are pastors now. It was humble, but Christ came there. He came sweetly and simply–but he came.
Where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.
An interesting post script: A few months later John Worth, my brothers father-in-law asked; “Do you like your Chantacleer CD?”
“Yes, I do,” I said. “How did you know about that?”
John smiled and said, “I was battling a winter snowstorm on my way from Michigan to my son’s house last Christmas and I was listening to the radio. I heard you call in and win the CD.”
Warm Christmas thoughts to all of you.
December 19, 2008