The following is a testimony I presented at my church on March 1, 2015. My friend Betsy read the script while I pulled things out of my “bag of tricks”. Since I don’t have to worry about time constraints, this is the “un-cut” version of “my story”.
Good morning everyone! “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” [Psalm 118:24]. Amen? Amen! My name is Lydia. As you can plainly see, I am in a wheelchair and I have a physical disability. I was born with a neurological condition called cerebral palsy which usually is caused during the birth process, when there is a lack of oxygen going to the baby’s brain, resulting in brain damage. The extent of the disability depends on what areas of the brain are damaged. In my case, the parts of my brain that were damaged were the areas that control the right side of the body – My right side is much weaker than my left side [I am not able to use my right hand to do very much]. And the part of the brain that controls speech was also damaged, resulting in slurred speech. That is why Betsy Wassmann is reading my testimony to you. Thanks Betsy. Just to let you know, the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. So, medically speaking, I am in my RIGHT MIND, as are all “south paws” [The jury is still out on the “Spaceman” Bill Lee.]. I just wanted to throw that out there.
[Putting on my various sports caps]
Many of you know me as more than a woman in a wheelchair whose speech is difficult to understand. You know that I am a RED SOX fan, a PATRIOTS fan, a BRUINS fan, a CELTICS fan, and an Oregon DUCKS fan [my youngest sister Sophie lives in Eugene, Oregon and is a DUCKS fan, so I want to support her team]. Many of you know that I have a quick wit and a quirky sense
[My rubber chicken is dressed in a vest and bow tie. My apologies for the blur.]
of humor. I also love to eat gourmet food, such as chicken with dressing, and I appreciate fine wine which will complement my gourmet meal. Because I have “Champagne Taste“, but am on a “Beer Budget“, I have learned how to make inexpensive food taste delicious and am still working on finding inexpensive wine that tastes better than its price. Practice; it takes practice. How many of you read my blog, “Lyd’s Look on Life”? For those of you who know me as a “Christian Woman Blog Writer”, you know that my blog posts sometimes tend to be just a tiny little bit LONG. I think they are long because my blog has become my “VOICE”. It’s where I can share my thoughts and ideas and also what God is teaching me without my speech being a hindrance. Thank you to Melanie Lamere for helping me to get my blog started. Above all these things you know about me, I want to be known, first and foremost, as a “WORSHIPPER OF God”, just as my Name Plaque says – a worshipper of God who loves Jesus and His Word [the Bible].. My Name Plaque has Psalm 29:2 written on it: “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” My heart’s desire is to be like the Lydia found in Acts 16:13-16, 40:
“And on the Sabbath day we [Paul and his companions] went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a WORSHIPER OF GOD. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon [convinced] us. [After Paul and his friends spent time in prison for preaching the Gospel, they were released and]…they went out of prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers [and sisters, no doubt], they encouraged them and departed.”
[My Mom and Dad and me at my high school graduation]
Just as the Lydia in Acts 16, the Lord “opened my heart” to the Gospel and I became a “worshiper of God” right here at College Church, when I was eighteen years old – just about 10 years ago. Okay, would you believe about forty years ago? After so many years, I am still learning what it means to be a woman of prayer. Some things take a lifetime. All of us need to develop an attitude of prayer. College Church became my home and the people of College Church became my family. People like Jackie and Browny and their family, the Marions and their family, the Websters, and so many others accepted me into the family of God at College Church. I became a member of College Church in 1975 [I think] and I was baptized in the lake at the D.A.R. in April [back in the day when baptisms were not performed only during the summer months, in an inflated pool – not that there‘s anything wrong with that“]. In the years that followed, I attended Holyoke Community College, American International College and Springfield College. During my college years, I always was able to come home to College Church on most weekends.
After my College days were over in 1981, I was a housemate with Pam Hiser before College Church “found me faithful to the Lord” and sent me out as an indigenous missionary, to work at a Residential Christian School for children and adults with disabilities in Carmel, N.Y. During my time in N.Y., Mark and Holly Dowling lived close by in Bethel, Connecticut. Because all the staff lived at the school, it was such a blessing to be able to get away on the weekends to the Dowling’s home. After being away for six years, I came back home to College Church and my family in Christ “found me faithful” to serve them as one of their deacons. I did have to promise that I would not help in serving Communion. Things would get pretty messy if I did. Instead, I became the moderator, who told therest of the deacons how to “JUST DO YOUR JOB” [Patriots‘ motto]. I was part of the “Lean Keen Deacon Machine” along with Ruth Lacey [and Bob], Shirley Pierson, Steve Kowalski, Rick Light Jr., Rich Winnick, Jack Finn and a few others. It was such a blessing to be able to get to know these men and women of God, while having the honor and privilege of working alongside them, as we served our family of God at College Church. During my six years as deacon, I also got to know Fran Fern and Rick and Pat Light because I spent a lot of time at the church office doing deacon stuff. In fact, when a mother and her little boy came to the office for something, the little boy asked his mom, “Does Lydia live here?” During a time on Search Committee to find an Associate Pastor, I got to know Wendy Dunphy, Dave Neal and Bill Porter. I also attended Bible studies at Don Anderson’s house [and attended Don and Carol’s wedding] and Dan and Pam Dissinger’s house. I also have hosted and led Bible studies at my house. As I look out into the congregation, I see so many dear friends; friends I met while serving on church committees or studying the Bible together. I consider all of you as family. As a family, we love each other, accept each other and belong to each other because we belong to our Heavenly Father.
I believe everyone has the need to belong and to be accepted and loved. Everyone wants to be known for who they really are; not only by what is seen on the outside, but also by what is unseen on the inside. Look at the people around you. How do you see them? As human beings, we all have our own prejudices and misconceptions, our own likes and dislikes and we do judge people with our own “measuring stick”. But, how does God see the people in this room and the people on the streets of Northampton? I believe I Samuel 16:7 gives us a glimpse at how God sees everyone: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees NOT as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” Yes, I know the Bible also says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]. But the Bible also says, “And I [God] will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My rules and obey them. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God” [Ezekiel 11:19-20]. I believe God is talking about us, as well as Israel’s Remnant.
As Christians God sees us through the blood of Christ. We are holy [set apart] because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. As the hymn goes, “Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe”. Because of Jesus we are able to “worship the Lord in the beauty of [His] holiness”. Worship has little to do with individual preferences – what kind of songs we sing or how we celebrate Communion or whether we lift up our hands or not. Some people cannot physically lift up their hands. Does that mean their worship is not as worthy as those who are able-bodied? Certainly not. Worshiping God has everything to do with our hearts giving to God His worth. A few months ago, Gary Davis led us in Communion and the very next time Bob Goss led us in Communion; two very different styles. Bob focused on the Supreme Sacrifice of Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Gary focused of Christ’s Second Coming and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Last time I checked, these two different ways of celebrating the Lord’s Supper are talked about in Scripture. I Corinthians 11:26-27 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord‘s death until He comes. Whoever, therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord”. Revelation 19:6-10 talks about the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”: “‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory. The marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” [vv. 6b-8]. There is more than one way to celebrate Communion, as long as we make our hearts ready and everything is done “decently and in order“ [I Corinthians 14:40], with the focus on Christ and not on ourselves. We should prepare our hearts to receive Communion before we come to church. I believe the Lord wants to teach us, before He gives us a Senior Pastor, to appreciate our differences, as well as what we have in common – namely Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Romans 14 says this:
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother [or sister]…For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building” [vv. 13, 17-19].
What about the people outside of this House of Faith? James 2 teaches about the “Sin of Partiality”. I want to share verses 8 and 13: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well…For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Sometimes, we forget to show mercy. Instead, we judge. But, most of the time, if not all of the time, we judge wrongly because we do not know everything. God knows everything and that’s why He is the only One Who can judge justly.
When we pray for our neighbors, we need to pray for their salvation. When we see our neighbors doing what grieves the Lord or when they gives us a hard time about our faith, we need to have the heart of Christ. While Jesus was dying on the cross, He looked at those who nailed Him to the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34]. Jesus was known for His love for the untouchable, the disenfranchised, the poor and needy. .Jesus was known as a “Friend of Sinners”. Let us pray to have the heart of Christ – a heart full of compassion mercy and grace.
[I’m holding an old red Tupperware cup with a handle.]
There is one more thing I want to show you. Does everyone know about the RED SOLO CUP, the plastic red cups used at parties? This is my RED COMMUNION CUP. I ask the elder who is serving Communion to pour the grape juice in this cup because I can’t hold those small little cups. This cup is not for solo use, but for Communion use, as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a community of believers at College Church. So, the next time we celebrate the Lord‘s Supper, let us prepare our hearts beforehand to receive the bread and the cup and, as the song by Toby Keith says, “LET’S HAVE A PARTY!” I say, “TO THE KING!”
(Please ask the Worship Song Leaders to sing, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns; written by Mark Hall and Matthew West.)
I’m told women can’t preach. But, they can share LONG testimonies.
The Peace of the Lord be with you all!
“Don’t poke the Bear”