“God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They are filled from the abundance of Your house; You let them drink from Your refreshing stream, for with You is life's fountain. In Your light we will see light. Spread Your faithful love over those who know You, and Your righteousness over the upright in heart.” (Psalms 36:7-10 HCSB)
It is not that often, gathered with the immediate members of the vast family of God, that my mind wanders and my thoughts drift away from the course of the message being given or the lesson being taught. Because I so love to listen to the virtues of the Word and the imagery that He’s given to someone about a particular passage or thought that is being expounded upon. I used to be, in the earliest of my new life, particular about the whole ‘functionality’ of the pastorship and those who are put (or put themselves) into positions of leadership for a congregation simply because it was MY ears they were reaching and it was MY family in which they were ‘in charge.’ I’m probably not alone in that, and it is a sad state of affairs that the body is so fractured because of the human side of the equation…..we still tend to elevate those in pastoral, directorship and even elderships into extremely isolated pockets were only the godly can walk (or so we assume) and the righteous lounge without fear of eviction (or so we believe).
It is not that often even absent of the fellow believers that I know (even if they don’t know me) that I wander when approaching the manner of being in the Word. There have been only a few times, and a few choice places, where the ‘fortunate’ occurrence takes place….without my noticing, at least in the beginning…
I call them ‘God-moments’ because the clarity and profound peace that I feel during them can only mean He is very near……..molecules of air close…..
Worship was heightened for me today, I just couldn’t seem to stop smiling even as my heart was carried away by the essence of the songs…the words both meaningless and profoundly impacting, even though I’ve heard them before. The worship band, led by Marshall Mobley, performed both as they normally do (exceptional) and with an apparent brush of the divine whispering amongst the chords and strums, beats and depressions made on the musical instruments and interspersed among the amplified voices of the singers. It wasn’t that Nellie Fowles was helping or even that she gave a powerful reading from the Word, stepping boldly into a powerful song with a heart dripping with the passion brought on by the Holy Spirit…something I’ve seen her do, miles away behind some dark red doors in a environment called New York City.
Maybe it was her voice so burdened with a heart for God that tripped the ‘God moment’ for me, or at least started the turning of my world into the mystical, peaceful and charged place where God sits in the Holy of Holies. If so, I owe her a debt of thanks.
Maybe it was the heartfelt prayer before service, where I asked to be emptied of the blessings given before that moment so that all could be filled with an overwhelming, overfilling amount of the Spirit so that we were driven into the streets burning with the flame of the redeemed.
Maybe it was my son, as they read off the announcements today and the Bowery Street Mission trip was once again mentioned, who tugged on my arm and whispered as I leaned close, “You’re going there, Dad!”
Most likely, it was simply a matter of God’s success in getting and securing my attention beyond the realm of the physical and the mental. A firm grip on the hand of His son, a moment where the world was put on hold as we sat together and He displayed the wonders of the plans that He set aside for me even before the world I know began. A simple invitation to “Come, worship Me.”
I know it wasn’t Shannon Nielsen, the lead pastor for the church I go to called Mosaic A2, and his need today to expound upon the minutia of the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel that is the central focus for the topic today from Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods….. how marrying your cousin and marrying more than one wife was not the ‘truth’ of the Bible but rather humanity’s customs at the time that bothered me to the point of drifting, though I was bothered by the necessity that seemed to overwhelm the meat of the topic today, “Love is not all you need”, by a defense of what was being read. A momentary thought of annoyance drifted in my mind and was gone, as was my centering on the voice coming from the stage.
I spotted Shannon Carey sitting down in the seats on the main level (I have taken to sitting in the back upper level, off to the side) and I was filled with a happiness for her, a certain and expressed ‘knowing’ that whatever God was facing with her, whatever dealings He whispered in her ears as she swam the mighty oceans of His Word or whatever prompting He was gently prodding her with was a great and mighty thing that is leading her closer and closer to the ‘sweet spot’ He’s reserved for her even before her world was begun. I would’ve loved to be a part of that, just to watch it unfold in the life of such a special daughter of God, but that seems to be a momentary, selfish wish that isn’t going to happen. Maybe it was meant to be but was altered by the wounds of this world, but I think it wasn’t meant to unfold other than the way it did. Still, I know our paths will cross again someday as God draws us both into the paths He would have us walk as we journey towards home. And in the end of it all, that is what matters. Today, that was a moment glimpsed that God gave me to settle a part of this life.
There were others in the group, this band of members that I fellowship with silently among the borders of their community, where I felt a heightened sense of “blam, there He is” or “Hoooray, He walks there”….. some that I have known and been known by and others who, though part of the same family and community, have never crossed that invisible line between seen and being known. But each seemed to glow with a certain light or a different posture that whispered “God’s there” to me.
For me, I was ensnared by the picture I carry in my bible from the Bowery trip last year, one of many that are stuck in the zippered outer compartment of my bible pack……..one of the Red Bowery Doors and nothing else.
I want to go back to behind those doors, I realized today, with a very intense and powerful desire. Tim Keller tells us to think about what we daydream and what whispers in the darkness of our sleep, for there are what the gods of our lives reside and drawn their enslavement of our hearts from. Even good things, born of a desire that shadows out God and replaces our relationship with Him for the objects hidden behind our mind’s eye. It is not my desire to go to the Bowery Street Mission because it’s a week away from the kids, family responsibility and a chance to travel; nor because I want to be preaching again at the famous Bowery Chapel where Presidents and other notable figures have stood and given God’s Word to the community there. In the intensity of the God-moment today, it was simply one reason and one reason alone.
To be joyfully broken by my God.
To be used as an instrument after being crafted again at His hand, to embolden and incite a community and to be a piece of the work that is being overseen by the Holy Spirit and those God has emplaced in that city to be His eyes, ears, hands and feet to a people who would turn from His salvation for the lack of experience.
The money needed to go will come, the ‘babysitter’ for the kids will be identified and the experience of the Bowery will once again grow me further and farther than I have been in a week for in the midst of the desire to be an instrument for the caring of His people, both the lost and the found, there is the welcomed opportunity to be shaped and molded by walking alongside Him in the work He is doing.
As the service wound down and the moment that I was given to walk hand in hand, step to step with my God faded into the backdrop of this reality, all I could do is whisper;
“Wow, what a great and mighty God is He……”