This morning as I awoke I saw the dim light of my alarm clock telling me it was time to get in the shower and get going. My little cat gave a “good morning” meow as I stepped over him, walking to the bathroom. I felt the hot water that soothed and awakened me at the same time, smelled the fresh scents of soap and shampoo. My mind wandered as I stood there and I said a little prayer in my head for John and for our church family. This would be a pivotal day for all of us.
I felt the chilly morning air on my face as we walked to the car. I saw a beautiful blue sky and the warm array of trees in various shades of yellow-green, orange and bright red zipping by my window as we drove along. My mind wandered to my church family again so I said another prayer, “God protect them, guide them, encourage them.”
When I walked into the church building, I heard the cheerful little voice of Nate, the 2-year-old son of my dear friend who was in the sanctuary finishing up the PowerPoint slides for worship today. “Hi Mimi, where’s Krissy?” I heard the clinking of metal as John and I set up chairs for the service. I felt a little hand on mine and Nate’s sweet voice again, “will you read this to me?” as he held up a toddler’s Bible story book. What a nice way to begin the morning, holding him on my lap and reading about how God created the world, elephants, butterflies and all. He had no idea what was going on in the lives of the grown-ups around him. Sometimes I’d give anything to be a little child again!
I heard the laughter of the worship team as they greeted each other. The sound of our voices blending together in praise soon filled the room, our hearts warming up along with our voices. God is good. We’re choosing to praise Him. I could almost hear their hearts saying these things aloud. I felt the familiar smooth keys of the piano under my fingers. My voice sang out and my heart agreed with the words, “You are God, You are what I’m living for….Let this be not of our hands, but by Your spirit, ’cause we don’t want to move without you.” I feel so at home in this role.
A somber, resigned spirit seemed to hover over those who were gathering. There were hugs and some smiles, but some were sad smiles. I saw the people of God coming together: couples, moms and dads with kids, friends – all taking their seats. I felt the comforting warmth of friends’ hands held tightly in the circle the worship singers and players formed before the service as we offered a prayer, “We only want to glorify You, God.”
I saw my friend Nancy, who almost always sits on the front row with me, flash me her familiar smile. I heard the instruments begin to play and the singers begin to sing; the people began to join in. As we kept playing, I heard the happy murmur of people greeting one another as they milled around in between songs. At times I just played and sang, at times a phrase or word stood out on the page in front of me and a lump grew in my throat. I felt my heart swell with praise for God who never changes, who loves without ceasing, who is always with us. He’s with us right now. “You are stronger, you are stronger, sin is broken, You have saved me!”
I saw the familiar scene of my husband standing on the platform, opening God’s Word to us, heard his voice praying for God to speak through Him. I heard again the moving story of the “sinful” woman whose tears washed Jesus’ feet, whose hair dried them, whose heart was overcome with thankfulness for the forgiveness she received. I felt convicted in my heart at hearing the story of the man who would save his son’s friend first in an accident at sea, even though it cost his son’s life. While he knew his son was saved and would go to heaven, his son’s friend didn’t know Jesus. He made a painful choice for the sake of that boy out of a love that can only come from God. How could someone make such a choice?? Could I ever do that? Could I ever be filled so fully with God’s sacrificial love?
I heard sniffs throughout the room and knew I wasn’t the only one convicted in that moment. We soon sat on one side of the room in rows, awaiting the opportunity to make a sacrificial choice. God never said the choices He asks us to make would be easy, or comfortable, or understandable. We were about to make the choice to give up the familiar, the status quo, even those we love, for the sole purpose of reaching those people all around us that don’t have that beautiful gift of forgiveness from Jesus – that life-giving knowledge that God loves them and wants to walk in relationship with them everyday. Odd to feel at peace and so sad at the same time. Odd to feel that what is happening is so right, but watch my friends’ hearts questioning and breaking. They surrendered. They decided to take a huge step of faith. They said “yes” to God’s plan – a plan we don’t really understand.
I saw the sad eyes of my friends as we stood to leave, then comforted one another with tight hugs and trembling voices – our shoulders getting wet with each others’ tears. I felt relief knowing the decision had finally been made. It’s been a long six weeks and the emotional roller coaster was getting old. Big sigh.
In my mind tonight I’m recalling the faces I saw this morning and this is what I see now: hope and a bright future. When people are willing to put God’s will above personal preferences or opinions, there is definitely much hope. I see God raising up leaders among them. I see Him strengthening their legs, arms, stirring the fire in their hearts. I see God filling them with such compassion that they can’t stop serving and loving others. I see His Holy Spirit flowing through them to the people in their lives, in their neighborhoods, in their schools – their love for Jesus vibrant and contagious. I see a people no longer satisfied with just being together, but heeding the call of God to share hope, shine light, announce freedom, offer a helping hand, speak truth.
God, cover my friends at New Life Community Church with your protection. Fill them with your Spirit, blanket them with peace. Turn their hearts toward You afresh, God. Make them eager, bold, fully alive in You. Provide everything they need in every way, Father. You know the needs at the bank and the needs in their hearts. Pour out overflowing blessing! Give them a glimpse of what You’re doing so it will encourage them. Somehow, God, whisper in their ears tonight and remind them how much You love them. I love them, too.