The mystic in the Dutch library

(Christian Courier Column, September 26, 2011)

I’m the bulletin editor at our church. I was doing my Thursday job in the Dutch Library, running off 150 bulletins, 116 inserts for the mail slots, and 40 children’s bulletins. Yes, believe it or not, we still have a “Dutch Library.” And it’s used regularly! There are a few faithful seniors (mostly women) who borrow the (mostly romantic) books with their 1950s covers depicting glamorous young ladies who are in dire need of some sincere Christian gentlemen to rescue them. There are no cards to sign out the books, and no one is keeping track. To be fair, there are also a large number of seriously weighty Dutch theological books, unremarkably bound with plain, boring covers.

These are some other things in the Dutch Library:
1.    the photocopier and paper cutter, which I use for the bulletins
2.    stacked boxes of paper
3.    a stretcher and trauma kit
4.    a portable pulpit
5.    ropes to block off the back pews during the afternoon service (the non-conformists and rebellious just unclip them and sit where they want anyway)
6.    a TV/DVD stand for catechism (we still use Lew Vander Meer’s videos on the Belgic Confession from Faith Alive)
7.    extra tables
8.    a shelf with office supplies and Bibles and Blue Psalter Hymnals
9.    a blackboard covered with four Vacation Bible School posters portraying the story of Peter walking on the waves toward a charismatic Jesus who is flashing an astonishingly white smile. The last poster shows Peter also smiling broadly. This is the moment when Jesus rescues him, and Peter is feeling very relieved. The posters are from Gospel Light, a betrayal of Faith Alive that causes a ripple of unease to reach the beachhead of my denominational loyalty.
Sometimes I read the Bible while I wait for the bulletins to be copied, but mostly I pray.

Ten identical worksheets are taped to the wall, each of which says “Prayer: no worries” and has an illustration of a kneeling woman lifting up her hands in prayer. The GEMS have written Philippians 4:6 on their papers: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Allison’s worksheet stands out. She has used glitter markers to add some freehand special effects:  a bouncy and shiny yellow ponytail to the head of her kneeling woman and a sparkling yellow sun, partly hidden behind a blue cloud, with the requisite rays streaming down.

That Philippians 4:6 is a tough verse for me. I am anxious far more often than not. Worry is a strong contender for my besetting sin. (Those of you who know me can probably cite a few others, but let’s not go there.) Maybe that’s why there are ten sheets with the same message lined up on the wall where I do the bulletin each week! Allison’s drawing reminds me that whether it’s sunny or cloudy or somewhere in between, I can pray to relieve my worries. Last Thursday I prayed for my family. I prayed for my church and for the people listed on the bulletin. I prayed for several online friends, asking the Lord to prosper their ministries and their outreach. I prayed for those who are burdened with disquieting personal struggles. I prayed for the one who is dying.

It’s my kind of mystical. Saint Allison prophesying from a worksheet in a tacky Dutch library. Blessed are the fainthearted, the anxious, all you worriers who need daily reminders that God rules in the heavens. Blessed are you when you present your requests to him who controls the weather and your life. Blessed are you when you consider the rich heritage of faith and belief you’ve received from the wayfarers who’ve gone before. Blessed are you in those visionary moments when the Son’s rays illumine the far-flung network of believers to which you belong – at home, online, at Faith Alive and even at Gospel Light! Be thankful! Be brave! 

 My wavering faith is pulled from the billows. Whenever, like Peter, I flounder, which is far too often, Jesus reaches out, smiles, and says, ‘I’m right here.” Even in the Dutch library. He never tires of rescuing me.


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