Here I sit at Alton Baptist Church, thinking back on my ride this morning from the neighborhood I live you. This is the neighborhood where I grew up for a few years of my life and I always enjoy coming back here.
I left a little early this morning with the purpose in my heart. I thought I might pray for each church as I passed by along the way. I drove slowly, making Ephesians 3:14-21, Philippians 1:9-11 and Numbers 6:24-26 the core of my prayers, adding to those this simple prayer: "Lord, lead those folks to walk in humility before you, and to worship you from a free and true heart, and to love one another as Jesus loves us."
I had to slow down a couple times, because I really wanted to pray that over each congregation the buildings represent. At one point, I drove behind a elderly woman, driving so slow it could have been called stopping more than going. Usually, my heart struggles to ride behind a driver like this. But, not today. Not even close. I imagined she was praying, too. I followed her for several miles and turns, till she turned into a church's parking lot.
I kept riding; rolling and praying.
A calm; a peace-filled balm began to dominate my heart, and compassion began to well up in me. What began as an exercise of my mind became an exercise of my heart, as I strained to worship God and love the Body of Christ in this tangible, needed act of prayer.
The first church I passed by was New Life Independent Baptist Church. Then I passed by Roxboro Church of Christ and immediately after that Warren's Grove United Methodist Church. On the edge of town, I passed by Westwood Baptist Church and then, a few miles later, Stories Creek Primitive Baptist Church; a couple miles later, Theresa Baptist Church. Several miles went by and a couple changes of roads, but the next churches I saw where Bailey's Chapel AME and Mt. Pisgah AME churches. In between those two were Hyco River and the Virginia / North Carolina state line. As I turned onto Harmony Road, immediately passed by Harmony United Methodist Church, and then a couple miles down to where I sit as I type this in my car.
I also saw people mowing their grass, getting ready to go to the lake, swimming in their pool, riding horses and doing a host of other things, including playing golf and simply sitting on the porch. I saw a very cool convertible car with two smiling people, happily riding together in the sun; they looked relaxed and happy.
Sometimes, on my way to church, being the Scribed-up Pharisee my-honest-heart hates to confess I can be, I imagine such people are doing so many unnecessary things, and that they ought to be in church. In other words, I judge them. I act as if I know their life schedules -- maybe they already went to an early service; maybe their church meets at 6:00 PM, like the one I'm a part of; maybe this or that ... doesn't matter ... I shouldn't judge -- I act as if I know what they ought to be doing every part of their Sunday.
Something shifted in me... I began to pray the same prayer for folks that caught my attention that I was already praying for local churches.
Maybe this is much better. Yeah, I'm sure it is.
As my friend's song says, "God is working on my heart..."
*Scripture referenced above: