Living At The Altar

July 16, 2010
by Vena Poole

Psalm 84:3-4 – Yes, the sparrow has found a house and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed — happy, fortunate (to be envied) — are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long. Selah (pause, and calmly think of that). (AMP)

My mother-in-law was born in the early twentieth century, in a farming community. It was a time when wealth was measured by the results of a crop, or the unexpected birth of twin calves, or the wintering of a harsh season without any great loss of life to man or beast. Occasionally, a few families would gather to enjoy a hearty evening meal together. With the kitchen all cleaned up, the men would discuss around the table the latest knowledge they had acquired regarding their chosen and beloved vocation. The women would retire to the parlour, and as fingers flew through the brightly coloured fabrics and cotton batting of their quilting, the women would discuss the latest recipe or an awaited birth. The culmination of the life of this community would be the found on a Sunday morning at the local chapel as they listened to a simple but meaningful homily given by the country minister.

Into these pleasant conditions came a mentally challenged man to live. My mother-in-law could not remember too many details regarding this man and his family; however, she did remember with great clarity that he was always an angry man. Neighbours were kind to him, but this did not change his personality. They would give him odd jobs to do within his capabilities: clean out a barn, pick stones from the fields. For his labours, he was given a small remuneration, and to his credit, he scrupulously handed the coins to those who took care of him.

One day, for some unknown reason, he began to build what appeared to be an altar, with some of the gathered stones placed at the border of a field. The same day, he was a changed man. His temper had disappeared. Still challenged and unable to relate coherently what had happened in his life, he was nevertheless a changed man. The people could not understand how he had acquired the knowledge even to build an altar. Perhaps today's Bible verse had been read to him and remained in his mind, and aided by the Holy Spirit, it had slowly painted a wonderful picture in his mind of a nest carefully built into a crevice in the altar, and with this picture it had added a sense of peace and quietness.

Today, I know a very elderly woman in her late eighties who has a son in his mid-sixties who accompanies her to Christian ladies meetings and has all the attributes of a Christian. He quietly waits for her, looking through a picture book, ready to enjoy the tea with its cookies.

Perhaps it is your situation to have a little one dressed in adult clothing, and you question the value of your prayers, which appear to produce little change. Pray on, remembering that prayer also changes the one who prays. God entrusted that little one into your care because He had confidence in you to love and nurture that little life.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, we know that nothing ever happens in our lives which does not directly make us better citizens for heaven. We are indeed a prepared people for a prepared place. Please help us to meet victoriously our every challenge this day, and to encourage those around us who do not have this inner support known as our personal Comforter. Bless us. Comfort us this day. Indeed, may we also live at the altar. We ask this petition through the name of Your Son and our Saviour, Christ Jesus. Amen.

About the author:

Vena Poole
(deceased)

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