Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Road to Emmaus

Today is a special day for several reasons: the sun is shining; my parents are on their way home from Palm Desert; we are having them and Gregg's parents over for dinner tonight; I finished sewing yellow & blue toile curtains for our bathroom and I have photos to post of the beautiful quilts that Erica of Unabashed Joy generously and kindly sewed for Katie's Quilter's project.
Thank you, Erica!
Today is special to me for another reason: when I got up this morning and read the scriptures for the day, this passage from the Gospel of Luke was included. This is the passage that the Lord placed in my heart when our relationship deepened and became more "one-to-one," and less general, less "religious."

Back in the late 1990s Gregg and I felt that we needed a larger home for our growing family. We had plans drawn up, found a lot, purchased it, and put our house up for sale. It took a while, but eventually, we sold our house and moved into a rental home (not a very nice one, but it had a big yard for the kids. My mom called it "le dungeon" with a French accent). We started to have the new house built.

Around this time, I left my old religion and began attending meetings run by a group called Bible Study Fellowship. BSF is not a church, but an international Bible study group, and was my first introduction to more "mainstream" Christianity. It's quite far to the right in the mainstream, whereas my old church was very far to the left; you could say I went from one extreme to another, and you would be correct. It wasn't a perfect fit for me, but it was a wonderful, diverse group of women; we all loved the Scriptures, and we loved our studies together.

In the course of taking BSF classes, I realized that I had never had the old "altar call" experience, and I started to wonder if I had missed an important step. Around this time, a friend told me bluntly that he thought that I didn't know Jesus, and that I should ask Him to reveal Himself to me. While I understood my friend's loving motivation, I was a bit insulted by his words, as I had been a Christian (as I understood that word, to mean a follower of Christ) since I was about four years old. But it occurred to me that it wouldn't hurt if I were to ask Jesus anyway...so I said something (in my heart) like, "Lord, I think I know you, but if I don't know you, would you reveal yourself to me?"

One night after I had prayed this prayer, I awoke with a burning sensation in my chest. It wasn't heartburn; it was warmth. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but sleep was not happening. The scripture on my heart was part of this passage: Luke 24:13-35, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" I got up, took my Bible and one of the booklets that BSF gave us that outlined the steps to clearly opening one's heart to an intentional relationship with God. I went through the steps, and it was kind of as if I had gotten married; it was beautiful, personal and sacred. I felt at peace, and it was a good beginning of a deeper relationship with God and Jesus.

Not long after this, Gregg and I discovered that we were being swindled by the general contractor we had hired to build our house. We lost a lot of our construction money, and for a time, it was unclear whether or not we were going to be able to finish (and occupy) this house. We ended up having to go to court to prove that we had paid the contractor, hiring a new builder, having large portions of the house demolished, and, because money was so tight, having to go to the job site on weekends and haul, sweep and burn what had been demolished. I mean that we had to burn the building materials that we had paid for, including two staircases and more, and watch the wood (and with it, our money and plans) literally go up in smoke. It was a very difficult time for our family.

The BSF ladies prayed faithfully with me; God helped us through the difficulties in many ways. I had to face a number of my fears, one of which was the huge fear of losing all of our money. It was a strain on our marriage, but we learned a great deal about each other throughout the experience. And just when things were looking the most bleak (financially), money came in from an unexpected source, and we were able to finish the house (with a lot of hard work, and patience). I helped perform some of the general contracting, and got to know some of the nicest, most skilled, honest and kindhearted contractors you could ever wish to meet, particularly the general contractor (David Rudesill of Crystal Springs Construction).

Before we moved in, I asked the pastor of the church that I had started attending to come over and ask a blessing on the house. He did this, and I later joined that church. The kids and I, and my mother, were all baptized there. I joined a Bible study class at the church, which encouraged my spiritual journey; BSF had been wonderful, but it was time for me to study along different lines, in my new church community.
We moved into this house nine years ago, and it has been a home of comfort and hospitality, a joy and a haven for us, our family and friends. I am thankful to live here; I am also thankful that I learned a number of important lessons before I moved in. As beautiful as it is, it's simply a house; home is where my loved ones are.

The Scripture about the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus is tied up with many memories, for me, but it always reminds me of my "burning heart" experience, which led me to believe that Jesus loves and wants me, personally. And if he wants me, I feel in my heart that he must want and love EVERYONE.

9 comments:

Elizabeth said...

What a beautiful post, Karen. Your faith is so inspiring -- I wish I had an iota of it. I have always found the language of born-again Christianity awkward and very contrary to the way I was brought up (Roman Catholic). When it became so entwined with conservative politics I grew to find it repugnant. When you speak of your convictions, though, I hear nothing but love and authenticity. Do you have a prayer that I might begin with? I have never been so low in my life, actually.

karengberger said...

Dear Elizabeth,
It is very humbling to have you ask this question of me.
Ann Lamott says something about the two greatest prayers being "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you," and I am a fan of both of those.
Interestingly, a lot of the best teaching I have received is from the Roman Catholic side of things (but I think it's pretty far to the left in the Roman church). The Buddhists have a lot of wisdom, too.
I receive a daily meditation email from this site, which really helps my prayer life. I love its author, Richard Rohr:
http://cacradicalgrace.org/getconnected/subscribe.php

I also signed up for a "daily spiritual seed" from this site:
http://shalomplace.com/seed/index.html, which I also love.
I don't know much of anything except love, and I can tell that you know that, yourself. I hope that these simple prayer emails might remind you that you are loved.
Thank you for sharing so deeply with me. If you ever want to email, my address is karenlboren@yahoo.com. God bless you.

Kay said...

Karen,

Thank you so much for sharing so much about your spiritual journey in this post! I really appreciate it and am always in awe of the many ways Jesus draws people to Himself!

Busy Bee Suz said...

I loved how you shared this part of your history with us....revelations come to us in many different forms and keep their memories tight in our hearts.
Love those quilts...she did a fantastic job.

Dawn~^i^Brandon^i^, Jordan, and Seth's mom said...

I LOVE this!

Love,
Dawn

~ I have served on "Walk To Emmaus" Ministry Teams....they are so special in my heart.

Jennifer said...

I was really touched by this post, Karen. You wrote about this subject with such truth and authenticity ... rather than proselytizing. And thank you for the resources you shared as well. I happen to have been brought up in a pretty strict Baptist church and remained an evangelical until a few years ago, when things really began to shift for me (similar to what Elizabeth spoke about). I am very slowly finding my way.

Your words on Love in particular have helped greatly in reshaping my view of God and have served as a continual pointing-back to the first and second great commandments about which Jesus spoke.

As a side note, I was in the wake of reading and then responding to an emotionally invasive e-mail from a person in that Baptist church in which I grew up, when I came here for a break. Reading your words of truth and authenticity and love for Jesus were a beautiful balm.

Bless you, Karen!

hdbl said...

I'm caught speechless again by your writings, karen. My husband has written a book called "The Blind Writer, finding faith beyond our Christian subculture" that addresses what true faith is and what it isn't. In the last several years, we have heard so many people share things so similar to what Elizabeth and Jennifer have spoken. That some of evangelical Christian theology is repugnant and awkward. There is some notion that we must follow that "Roman Road" and somehow that we have to have this very ritualistic intentional prayer in order to have relationship with God and his son, Jesus. I find that sometimes it is in our seeking:

Philippians 2:12b-13 "...work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure"

that we find God. Working out that salvation requires and everyday journey full of hesitation and joy, fear and trembling, closeness and distance. I wish it was as easy as one simple set of prayers that make everything all right and put us on the road to heaven. I believe it is rooted in love. Our love for God deep in our hearts and our accepting His love deep inside of us. Nothing is easy. Life is hard...especially the walk with the Lord. But it is so so so wonderful and so so so worth it. It brings me the greatest joy and peace at times and also leaves me striving for it at others.....

hdbl said...

by the way...if you send me your address..heather.bays@comcast.net I will send you one.

or you can order it at www.lulu.com.

you are a blessing to me....

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

What a beautiful quilt, house, story!

Wonderful! Inspiring!