Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chapels I Have Known

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
I Corinthians 3:16

The other day, while visiting Mom S. in the hospital, 
I happened to notice the little chapel next to the elevator.

It seemed to beckon to me...especially, the picture of Jesus hanging over the rostrum.

He seemed to say, 
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

I was so tempted to stop...on more than one occasion...during more than one visit...
and just pause for a few moments...
to bow before Him and seek His presence.

It never did work out, time-wise.
I wanted to be in her room...with her...as much as possible.

But, seeing that sacred, little spot, tucked away and secluded,
brought back a flood of memories....
of other hospital chapels I have known.

Like the one last April where my family and I went to sob out our hearts,
after watching Mom breathe her last breath of earthly life
in an ICU bed two floors above us.
How long we lingered, I can not say.
Time kind of fogs over when your heart is broken.
You really don't keep track of it, like you do when life is at its best.

And the one I visited when Dad
was having bypass surgery and suffered major complications.
My visit to the hospital chapel that day turned out to be an experience of enlightenment for me.
You can read about it here.

And all of the others through the years....

I have found hospital chapels to be sacred spots.
When I step into them, I feel I am standing on holy ground...
right in the midst of confusion.

They are quiet.
Far removed from the cold, frightening, clinical atmosphere
just outside their doors.
They are places of rest.
Places to pray.
Places to shut out the chaos...and listen closely for the whispers of God.

It takes real effort to come aside and do that.

Kevin and I love to visit old churches, chapels, & cathedrals.
While living in Florida, we used to take frequent trips to St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city.
One of my favorite parts was walking down the city streets,
searching for places of worship.
Some were open to the public during the day,
and I loved stepping inside...
stopping to pray and enjoy their beauty and serenity.

I love the history.
I like to daydream and imagine how many
have hungrily sought after God within their walls throughout the years.

I remember two St. Augustine places of worship, in particular.

To say the Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church,
located at 36 Valencia Street is magnificent,
is quite an understatement.

File:St Aug Mem Presby Church02.jpg

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Click here for a visual tour.
(Turn your speakers up, too. :~)

I remember feeling completely awestruck,
as we crept in silently, were seated in one of the sturdy-built, over 100 years old wooden pews,
and I gazed around at the amazing architecture and design.

But, it wasn't just the fine construction, grandeur,
and character of the church that enthralled me.

It held a greater intrigue for me because of what we found
as we got up from the pew and explored deeper.

The church was built by Standard Oil magnate, Henry Morrison Flagler in 1889
as a literal memorial to his one and only beloved daughter, Jennie Louise Flagler Benedict.

(Photo courtesy of www.drbronsontours.com.)

Jennie gave birth to a baby girl named, Marjorie,
who died just a few hours later.
Jennie's health began to decline, due to complications she experienced during childbirth,
and as she became weaker,
she was advised by her doctor to travel to Florida aboard the yacht "Oneida".
Just a few weeks after giving birth,
she died at sea off the coast of South Carolina, at the age of 34.
Her father found out about her death as he waited for the Oneida to dock in Charleston
and saw its flag flying at half mast.

Henry, Jennie, Marjorie, and Henry's first wife (and Jennie's mother), Mary,
are entombed inside the church mausoleum in the Flagler Family Memorial.

I found myself completely drawn in to Jennie's story, as we stood outside her tomb.

Jenny Louise <i>Flagler</i> Benedict

(Photo courtesy of www.spfmpc.org)

She is buried here, along with her baby.

In the legal document that turned the property over to the Presbyterian Church,
her father spoke lovingly of her
"spotless life, her virtues, and her Christian devotion...."

How deeply loved was she!
In her honor, her father spared no expense in erecting one of the most grandiose
buildings of worship in the United States.
Parishioners still meet there weekly for regularly-scheduled worship services.

Thinking about its splendor reminds me of Solomon
and the temple he built long ago in ancient Jerusalem.
As beautiful and impressive as Henry Flagler's chapel is to behold,
I don't suppose even it could hold a candle to the one Solomon constructed.

The second St. Augustine chapel I most fondly remember is
the Mission of Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche
located at 27 Ocean Avenue.

I will never forget the day Kevin and I stumbled upon
this quaint, little, vine-covered chapel
while exploring the city one day.

(Photo courtesy of Robert C. at www.yelp.com)

We walked up the walk,
 and this is what we saw when we stepped inside.

Mission Of Nombre De Dios And Shrine Of Our Lady Of La Leche

(Photo compliments of www.americanheritage.com)

I remember how I didn't want to leave.
It was so serene.
So quiet.
Undisturbed and unaffected by the world rushing by outside.

We found that Nobre de Dios means "name of God",
and Lady Le Leche means "Lady of the Milk".

Infertile women often visit the chapel to pray for a child of their own.

I was barren at the time of our visit.
We were given little hope of having a baby,
and I remember sitting in that little chapel pleading with God
to answer prayer and grant us a child,
in spite of medical science and my own medical condition.

I begged Him for healing.

Some time after, He granted my request,
in the form of a sweet, bouncing, healthy baby boy,
born 12 1/2 years after Kevin and I were married.

Zachary continues to bless and enrich our lives every, single day, 12 years later.

As I recollect places I have visited to connect with God,
I come to the realization that the quality of my worship has always been the same....
it has remained unaffected no matter how primitive or how grand my surroundings.
If I am sitting on a fallen, broken down log, or in a majestic cathedral pew.
If I am in a remote mountain, alone with Him, or in a crowded sanctuary.
If I am at home in my prayer chair, or in a quiet hospital chapel.
If I am surrounded by chaos, or off someplace quiet and serene....
at an altar, on my knees, standing or lying down,
it matters not.
Bodily position and outward surroundings, regardless how impressive,
do nothing to determine the depths and quality of worship.

Because true worship comes from deep inside.
It springs from a place much deeper than human touch can reach.
True worship is a heart matter...
an inward communion that cannot be affected by what is seen with human eyes.

Though we feel His presence when drawing nigh to places of worship,
God does not dwell in humanly-constructed buildings...
no matter how grand they be.

"God that made the world and all things therein,
seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth,
dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
Neither is worshipped with men's hands,
as though he needed any thing,
seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things..."
Acts 17:24, 25

We impress Him not with our creativity and resplendent architectural accomplishments.

Because He is the Creator...of all things.
He is Lord of heaven and earth.
He needs nothing.
He provides the life and breath, mental capacity and brawn
that enables us to do anything and everything we do.
Without Him, we can do nothing.

He needs nothing....but there is something for which His great heart longs!
The God of Heaven yearns to dwell in the most humble of abodes...
God longs to dwell within the human heart.

I love the song, "The Temple of God" written by Daniel S. Warner.

"Not in the temples made with hands,
Though beautiful by art,
But God in mercy condescends,
To dwell within my heart.

Oh, glory to Jesus, so sweet in me,
My body, Thy temple shall forever be.

How wonderful that He would take,
This poor abode of sin;
And wash me in His precious blood,
And now abide within.

No more I think of God afar,
But see Thee, Lord, within;
Oh, shine in me, Thou morning star,
And keep Thy temple clean.

O Lord, enshrined within my breast,
My constant joy and peace;
My soul can now forever rest,
Secure in Thy embrace."

Isn't that glorious??

How blessed we are to live post-New Testament!

There was a time in olden days when His presence literally descended
upon mountain tops, into a man-made tabernacle, and inside the Temple walls.
He dwelt among His people.
They worshiped Him from a distance.
They confessed their sins to Him once a year, not directly, one-on-one,
but through a priest.

There was a gap...a span...between Almighty God and man.

But, bless God, there came a day when Jesus came and built a bridge that spans that divide,
and opens a pathway to reconciliation,
and a means of connecting the two!

"For he is our peace, who hath made both one,
and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity,
even the law of commandments contained in ordinances;
for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace..."
Ephesians 2:14, 15

Don't you just love these verses?
Praise springs from my soul every time I read this passage.

Jesus broke down the middle wall of partition between God...and me.
Between God...and you.

So, that now we can worship.

It is not a matter of where you are,
who you are with,
or the grandeur...or lack thereof...of your surroundings.

It has to do with what is inside...of you.
Because God now dwells, not just among, but within His people.

He promised that it would be so one day.
Now that Jesus has ascended, and the Holy Spirit is available to each of us,
God dwells within the human heart.

"...for ye are the temple of the living God;
as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them;
and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
2 Corinthians 6:16

We provide the temple!
A place for Him to dwell..
and move...
and walk...
and talk.

What glory and elevation...for us!
What condescension....for Him!

How unworthy I feel...and so completely, abundantly, overwhelmingly blessed!

I enjoy chapels....of all shapes, sizes, and conditions.
I enjoy their charm and history and the emotions they awake within me.

But, the thing I cherish most is the fact that Jesus dwells within my heart.
He lives in me!
Bless His holy, wonderful name!
I can worship Him anywhere...because He is always with me.

When God dwells within the heart, no matter where we go...

praise His name, He is always...automatically there.

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