Welcome Home Party

“Will you go?” her boyfriend asked her. “You really should. You’ll love it and it’ll be good for you.”

“I don’t know,” she responded hesitantly. “There’s going to be a lot of people there.”

“So? It’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

She didn’t know why she found it so hard to be around groups of people. Even going to the same prayer group week after week still caused her to get sweaty-hands-and-stomach-cramps nervous.

“But I don’t know anyone there.”

“You’ll make some new friends. Everyone is really nice.”

“I won’t know what to do.”

“They’ll tell you. The leaders are great. They will take care of you.”

“What if I can’t sleep in that room filled with women?”

“I’ll be praying for you.”

Finally she agreed, and within a week she was signed up and on her way.

The first night was filled with introductions, expectations, and a short teaching. Not too bad, she thought. Even sleeping on her little cot went better than she expected.

The next day was so full of activities and teachings that she barely had time to think about being nervous. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, looking out for her and making sure she was OK. By that night she had begun relaxing and went to sleep full of the presence of God.

The next day brought a time of worship, a last message, and some group discussions. Then it was time for lunch.

While she ate, she marveled at the acceptance she felt from these ladies. No one was judging or criticizing her. No one was expecting her to be any different than what she was. It was even OK for her to be quiet and silent most of the weekend. She was so completely accepted just as she was. She knew after lunch would be the closing session and then it would be time to leave. She didn’t want to leave. She didn’t want to lose the warmth she had experienced all weekend.

A sound brought her out of her thoughts. Music? Where was it coming from? She noticed all the other women had also noticed and were looking around for the source. The music got louder and louder, and now voices could be heard accompanying the melody. Suddenly the door opened and in came a line of men holding lit candles while singing along with the music. And in amongst the men was her boyfriend! They made a ring around the women and sang to them.  Most women were crying by then, and she was no exception. Only her tears were on the inside. The men were singing to them! The men were singing to her! She was loved and cherished and valued! She was overwhelmed!

On her way home, she struggled to put her feelings into words, to form a picture of what the weekend had been for her. And then she knew! It was her welcome home party!

That’s exactly what it was, she thought. I left God when I was young, just like the prodigal son in the Bible. Only I wasn’t smart enough to go back home like the son was. The Father had to come find me. We spent the last year walking together  along the road back towards His home as He taught me about His love. And now, I’m surrounded by my brothers and sisters – all who love and accept me because He does! This weekend, like the party the father in the Bible threw for his son, was the party my amazing Father threw for me!

And she was grateful that her boyfriend had been right.

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He’s Alive!

It was the first Easter after her encounter with Jesus and she was excited. Not just excited, but EXCITED. Jesus was alive! She had experienced His resurrection with Him during the previous week and was eager to celebrate His resurrection day.

As everyone went about their day, she told them the same thing.

“He’s alive!”

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“Yes, I know,” her mom said as she cooked a ham with all the fixings.

“He’s alive!”

“Yes, I know,” her sister said as she grabbed her overflowing Easter basket.

“He’s alive!”

“Yes, I know,” her brother said as he spread out his goodies.

“He’s alive!”

“I know.” another brother said as he looked through the TV guide.

But she knew they didn’t get it. To them, Jesus was more of a concept than a real person. They believed in Him, went to church to worship Him, prayed to Him, but they didn’t know Him. Sure, He was alive, but up in heaven where He’s watching them until He gets to come back. No reason to get too excited.

Disappointed, she spent the day with her family, celebrating bunnies and candy and family time.

The next year, she was anticipating the same thing. And her family proved her correct.

“He’s alive!”

“I know,” her mom said as she brought down the Easter baskets from the attic.

“He’s alive!”

“I know,” her sister said as she put plastic grass into each basket.

“He’s alive!”

“I know,” her brother said as he dyed hard boiled eggs pretty colors.

“He’s alive!”

“I know,” another brother said as he read the newspaper funnies.

They still didn’t get it, she thought. But someday they will.

On Sunday, after church and Easter baskets and family time, she left to go back to her house – a two hour drive. Halfway there, she stopped at a church hall to attend the prayer meeting as she usually did on Sunday evenings. She thought surely the people here would celebrate Jesus’ resurrection! After all, they knew Him just like she did.

And she was right! She had never seen them so happy, so excited!

“Jesus is alive!” said one person as he hugged her.

She watched in amazement as he left her to greet other people, dancing from one person to another. And he wasn’t the only person dancing! Everyone wore huge smiles, their faces almost glowing with their excitement as they greeted each other with “He’s alive!” and “Halleluiah!” When the meeting started, the praise and worship was longer and louder and deeper than she had ever experienced.

Thirty minutes later, she watched as the leader stood up to speak. “Jesus is alive!” he said to the group.

She shouted with everyone else, “We know!”

And they did.