Last Sunday, in response to the Burnette Chapel Church shooting, we began our service with Mercy Me’s video, Even If. Then we prayed this prayer:

Holy Father,

We come to you in the name of your Son, the Worthy One, the One who was slain and by whose blood we have been purchased – not by a righteousness we have earned, but in the name of Jesus Christ.

You are worthy to receive glory and honor and praise, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.

And though your creation is good, there are times when evil seems ascendant. This is one of those times. We have not yet learned to say, “It is well,” in all circumstances. Teach us to trust so that we will neither fear nor be seduced by violence.

We ask you to bless the family of Melanie Crowe (the woman who died as result of the Antioch shooting) with comfort. That you bring healing to the wounded. We pray for the soul of Emanuel Samson – that he will come to know the Prince of Peace – that he will live into the true meaning of his name; Emanuel – God with us. We pray that the Burnette Chapel Church will continue to be a city set on a hill and a light to the world. And we pray for the healing of our nation. We pray that we will be faithful . . . even if. Amen.

When Peace Like a River Attendeth My Way . . .

After the prayer, we sang the classic Horatio Spafford hymn, It Is Well. Little did we know that just a few hours later, another community would be shattered by even more inexplicable violence. In Los Vegas, nearly 60 people were murdered, hundreds wounded. That night and for days after, I pushed hard against the obvious questions – Did God even hear our prayers for healing and peace? Did our prayers rise no higher than the ceiling in our sanctuary? Were they caught in the cob webs the spiders have stitched in the rafters?

Did you ask those questions, too?

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll . . .

Horatio and Anna Spafford’s first son died at a tender age, full of life and discovery and though still too young to dream, surely the repository for the dreams and hopes of his parents. Spafford had invested heavily in Chicago real estate and lost it all to the Great Chicago fire of 1871. A recession two years later drained his finances further. The family had already planned a trip to Europe, but last minute business concerns delayed Spafford’s departure. He sent his wife and daughters ahead, planning to rendezvous with them a few days later. Then, tragedy multiplied. His four daughters died when the ship they sailed collided with another and sank. Anna, his wife, cabled this message; “Saved alone. What shall I do?”

Whatever My Lot . . .

After such devastating loss, the Spaffords had three more children – a son, who died of scarlet fever, and two daughters; Bertha and Grace. Eventually, they settled, of all places, in Jerusalem. There, they engaged in philanthropic work, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, taking in the homeless. They served anyone whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

Thou Hast Taught Me To Say . . .

I am indebted to blogger and old friend Holly Kooi for reminding me of this quote from the famous Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. There are always helpers.”

Like the Spaffords.

And the church members in Antioch who tended to the wounded, subdued the gunman and extended immediate forgiveness. And the concert attendees in Los Vegas who showed the way to safety, bound up the wounds of strangers and put their own lives at risk for people they did not know. Like the medical first responders who ran into the field of fire to rescue the fallen. And the hospital staffs who worked past exhaustion to save lives. Like the police officers who ran toward the sound of the guns.

It Is Well . . .

There is another verse to Spafford’s old hymn that we never sing. We should. It answers the questions that plagued me – and maybe you, too – earlier this week.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

Before a gunman shattered the Sunday morning peace in Antioch; before a millionaire maniac opened fire on a country concert; before Sandy Hook and Columbine and 911 and Vietnam and Hitler and the loss of Horatio and Anna Spafford’s children – before all the tragedies, travesties and terrors of history, God regarded our helpless estate. His plan from before the beginning was to subdue death and sin and violence through love and grace and peace.

And so he came and lived among us for a while, helping the helpless. Feeding the hungry. Healing the sick. Teaching the confused. Confronting the high-minded. Dying on a cross. Languishing in a tomb. Rising in victory. In these bloody days, look to the Helper. Follow Him. He knows the way.

(This version of It Is Well by Kristene DiMarco and Bethel Music is a welcome addition to the many songs inspired by Spafford’s original.)

Why Our Members Chose Twickenham

Although we were coming from a more conservative background, we quickly noticed that there was an openness and sense of welcoming that made us feel very at ease. We embrace fully what seems to be an environment of healing for the broken. We believe in moving from maintenance to mission. We have been impressed by the engaged nature of the shepherds, staff and membership.

I want to learn more about God’s Word and hold Him close in my heart. Twickenham seems to be able to guide me by offering similar perspectives to which I can relate as well as unique views that open my mind.

I was very impressed with the love, compassion and how sincere the worship is.

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