I need to apologize. I haven’t written in a while and it’s not a good thing to just disappear from relationships with no warning or explanation.

Jim and I took a lovely vacation and then just as we were heading home, my dad fell and broke his hip. I spent time with him and also some hours attempting to make practical arrangements. Throw a few deadlines and additional commitments into the mix and I just now feel like I’m coming up to breathe – and blog again.

My dad went to rehab after the surgery. It’s been a difficult time for him because he’s usually so active. It’s tough to look at the same walls every day and be dependent on other people.

when-you-join-with-those-who-gather-in-his-nameMany years ago, after my mom passed away, my dad said something that stuck with me. “You don’t get ready for a crisis while you are in the middle of the situation.”

When you invest in developing a relationship with God and God’s people, you are not only enjoying community in the present, you are also preparing to face the future. When the bad thing happens, you will be familiar with God’s presence and confident in his love. When you need them most, your friendships will already be deep and significant.

Daddy fell in a condo parking lot a few hundred miles from his home. He had surgery in Foley, Alabama and entered a rehab facility around the corner from the hospital. In just a matter of days his pastor had made the four–hour-drive from Jackson, MS to Foley to pray with my father and tell him he was missed.

A couple of weeks after his fall, Daddy was able to make the trip to Jackson and although he’s still in a rehab facility, it feels good to know he’s getting closer to going home.

This past Sunday morning a friend from his class called Daddy before the lesson began. Members spoke individually with him and joked about whether he would get “credit” for attendance. Then they put the phone on speaker for the lesson. For the first time in several weeks he was able to fellowship with friends as they discussed and applied Scripture to their lives.

This was a really big deal to my father and I realized how important these relationships are to him.

Kids watch and learn from their parents as long as they live. In the midst of this stressful and difficult time, my dad has demonstrated once again the significance of a church family.

The reminder couldn’t have come at a better time.

Last month, Jim and I began a new chapter in a new church. Our Sunday school class welcomed us with open arms. We feel comfortable and accepted, but it will take a while for us to build community with these new friends. We must show up on a regular basis but more than that, we must participate and invest in the lives of those we want to know. We must be authentic and let others see who we really are — not some cleaned up Sunday version of ourselves.

Through the years I’ve grown to understand that the church is more than the sum of the individual parts. Something occurs when believers assemble to worship and pray and share. The Holy Spirit is in our midst. In those moments, we inhabit the sacred even as the sacred lives in us.

Whether you participate by phone from a rehab facility or find your place in a new congregation, the joy, the encouragement, and the divine direction is a gift God. You receive these blessings and many more because you’ve joined with those who gather in his name.

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