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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Clothed in Shekinah

Posted by admin in June 9th, 2009
Published in Uncategorized

Just four years after mainland China reopened to the West, I went there to live and teach. During that time I had the privilege of visiting a Chinese underground Church. The government was in the middle of a new campaign to crack down on what it called “spiritual pollution.” Of course, the Church was its main target. Christianity was defined as a pollution of the mind. I only had the opportunity to fellowship with the Chinese Believers of the underground movement about four or five times during my years in China. My attendance put them at great risk. As a foreigner, I stuck out in a crowd and called way too much attention to the Church’s activities. It was bitterly cold up north where I lived and to venture outside I had to bundle up and quite honestly I looked like the Michelin Man. No one ever mistook me for a Chinese. The extra attention I received was not good for the Church’s being on the down low. But occasionally the Church leaders would let me know that it was safe and they invited me to attend and I would go.

The church building was made of cinder blocks. It was small, about the size of a three-car garage. The building was shabby with a tiny dirt packed courtyard. Nothing in the appearance of the building would let you know it was a church.

Though the temperatures in winter averaged 10 to 15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, the only source for heat in the little cement building was an oil drum set up on its end with a small square cut out of the middle. Coal was burned in the drum and an exhaust pipe, rigged through the top of the drum, was threaded through a hole in one of the concrete blocks and that served as a chimney. I think more cold air came in from the hole in the block than was actually heated by the makeshift furnace. The fumes were ghastly and the only heat that could be felt from the contraption was if a person actually sat directly on it. Which of course no one did.

The pews were old wooden benches with no backs and the floor was cracked and pitted concrete. The place was cold and no one removed coats, hats or gloves for the service. The building was packed, mostly with the elderly, but a few young people, a few middle-aged, mostly women and all of them quite poor. There were no children.

Communism had worked hard to destroy Christianity in China. They had taken not only Believers’ reputations in the community, but also their right to earn a decent living. As Christians, these people were labeled imbeciles and counter-revolutionaries and as a result their children were taken from them and raised by the State. Though some had university degrees, their jobs were janitorial or some part of the hard labor force. They were disenfranchised because of their faith. They lived in constant oppression and were ridiculed because they believed in Jesus Christ.

It was a motley crew. The Church members were shabby. They were dirty. They were well-worn. When my teammate Irma and I entered into the building our Chinese brothers and sisters greeted us warmly and insisted we sit up close near the “furnace.” Men sat on one side; women on the other. Irma and I settled into our little wooden bench. My hair was long then and I had it tied back in a ponytail peeking out from under a woolen cap. As I was sitting there looking around I felt someone touch my hair. I got kind of dizzy and I felt this warm sensation like oil flowing from my head to my feet. I thought I was going to pass out. I turned around slowly to see who was touching me and an old woman with a shiny bright wrinkled face squeezed my shoulders and patted me. My ponytail was losing its ribbon and she simply was retying it for me. But when she touched me there was such an anointing on her hands that I almost fainted. She smiled at me and welcomed me. My tears started flowing. I couldn’t stop them. I had never experienced anything like it. I didn’t have a category for it.

The Church had an old piano and most of the keys didn’t work. But they had a woman playing it and someone leading the songs and they sang. They sang loud and clear and off-key. They sang with joy and feeling and without any shame. I still couldn’t stop crying. I’m such a dope. When the song service was over, we all sat down.

An old man, with a head like a yellow onion, slick and shiny, was asked by the pastor to open the service with prayer. As the old man stood I wondered at the huge chunk of his skull missing. All I could think was, “How in the world does this man live and function with that large portion of his skull dented in?” It was literally like a piece of his head had been removed. Anyway, the old brother stood and he prayed and as he prayed something really extraordinary happened. God’s presence fell on that place. It was the most powerful thing I have ever experienced. It was overwhelming. We literally couldn’t lift our heads. I was a little bit scared. I whispered over to Irma, “Irma, what is this?” She answered, “Shhhh child. It is the Shekinah glory.” The Shekinah glory of God filled that place and His presence was clothing His Church. His presence was their array. And it was mighty. It was frightening. It was awe-inspiring. I have never experienced anything like it. It was warm and powerful and holy. In the midst of terrible persecution and oppression at a time when God’s people had no money, no heat, worn out clothing and their children had been taken from them, in the midst of all that suffering, God showed up and He clothed His people with His very presence and He filled that dirty cinder block building with Himself. I don’t have words to describe it. I don’t have the ability to explain it well.

That old man, all broken and in tattered clothes, prayed for the Church in America. He prayed for us not to be complacent and not to be overtaken with materialism. He prayed that God would protect our hearts form being luke warm and that God would bless us. He thanked God for His goodness. He prayed as only a man who really knows God can pray. He was allowing us to listen in on a conversation of love with a God he really knew well—he knew intimately.

The singing was beautiful, though the old piano was so off key. The preaching was invigorating and very evangelistic in its content. I was raised in church. My parents took me to church every time the doors were opened, but I have never before, nor since, experienced anything like this service. God was in the midst of His people and He was sufficient for them.

As I left the service five people came up to me at different times and asked, “Foreign girl, do you have Jesus in your heart?” When I answered yes, they each wanted to know when and where I had received Him. You see, at that time in China, it was illegal to ask me that question. Those five people could have been put in prison if anyone had informed the police of their question to me. Proselytizing in many provinces is still banned today. And yet, these Christians were concerned about my salvation more than their safety.

I have been to so many churches here in America (America where we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech and freedom to share ideas) where I came to services and went without a single person ever greeting me or even speaking to me. Not one person even asked me my name or welcomed me. And yet, in China they boldly asked if I had Jesus in my heart. They didn’t want me to leave the service without knowing Him Whom they served. They were risking so much to ask me that question.

Today it seems everyone is worried about the economy. I hear from folks weekly who fear Barak Obama in the White House. I’m afraid here in my country we have confused political conditions with heart conditions. God is not a politician. Jesus Christ is not a government worker. Our faith and our trust and our hope have nothing to do with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Wall Street. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. God is our Source!

I believe, because I have seen, that in the heat of persecution and tribulation, God clothes His people with Himself and allows His presence to strengthen and meet every need in their lives. I have never feared persecution since that time in that old dirty building in China when God’s Shekinah glory filled that place. In fact, I actually envied those Believers’ relationship with Jesus Christ—intimate, real, deep and sure. And the man with the onion slick head? He sustained those injuries when the communist soldiers came to his village. They had him kneel and they struck his head with the butt of a rifle commanding him to deny Christ until he passed out. But he never denied Christ. To my mind, his scars are a crown. Peace.

Here are a couple of links that can help us all remember where our hope truly lies:

http://www.tangle.com/view_video.php?viewkey=c5a5a7ba9e0a23b8c88f

And just as an FYI: Jewish Tradition and Shekinah
According to Jewish tradition the radiance of the Shekinah, with its untold blessings, “rests” upon all those who are pious and righteous. According to ancient Rabbis the Shekinah appears in the midst of at least a minyan of worshipers when they pray in congregation, and of two or more Jews when they engage in the study of Torah, or on a man when he recites the Shema. The Shekinah is said also to rest upon the chaste, the benevolent, and the hospitable, and upon husband and wife when they live in peace and harmony. The ancient Rabbis also said that the Shekinah appeared before Moses at the burning bush, rested upon the Tabernacle in the Wilderness on the day of its dedication, and in the holy of holies in the Temple at Jerusalem, and it has illuminated the bliss of the righteous (Heb. tzaddikim) in the world-to-come ever since.

The Talmudic Sages conceived of the Shekinah as a spiritual essence of indescribable beauty and exalting effect. It was generally spoken of as brilliant light or radiance and when it approached it was announced by a tinkling sound of like an ethereal bell. One interesting Jewish legend even described the dying Moses as being lovingly enfolded in the “wings” of the Shekinah.

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130. Deb said,
June 9th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Beautiful

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