Tag Archives: worship

Caught Up In The Moment

The last six weeks at work have been challenging as my observation of two and a half years’ worth of misguided movements came to a head.  Each step shifted the alignment of the organization off center, further and further away from its core mission.  I felt woefully inadequate as I was unable to cure the immediate hurts or address the over-arching cultural ailments.  I had been accustomed to working behind the scenes to reshuffle the pieces to almost any awry situation back to the center of the board.  By flipping switches and pulling levers, I could turn on the magnets that would draw people back between the bumpers.  As this situation continued to wobble further and further out of control, I leveraged every resource available to me to adjust the alignment back to center.  No matter how much strength I used or torque I created, I could not move the mountain.  My blood pressure then sky-rocketed, headaches ensued, and hope dissipated.  The Lord then said to me, “get somewhere and sit still!  To move mountains, you must have faith, you know, the size of a mustard seed.  I am not feeling faith.  I am witnessing you muster mortal strength in man’s world.  You are making a mockery of the miracle process.  I am responsible for those and simply sometimes use man as delivery vehicles.  As the devotional told you the other day, meet Me in the moment and leave outcomes to My Father.  Listen to the sage.  I sent her.  Calmly do these two things each day and leave the rest to Me:  Ask the Father what He would have you do today and work towards it with excellence.”

No words were rendered as no response was required.  I took a week of time off, went away, and did nothing but reflect on His guidance.  Each day I spent time with Him and I asked what He would have me do.  Everyday His answer was the same: love My people and see the wonders of My work.  And that is exactly what I did.  I engaged with as many people as I could and enjoyed the beauties of nature.  Five days after I returned to work, His glorious plan began to unfold.  The miracles of the Messiah moved the mountain.  He made a way for resolution to my plaguing problem and I am extremely thankful to Him.  As Lincoln Brewster tells us: Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.  The heavens declare Your greatness.  The oceans cry out to You.  The mountains, they bow down before You.  So I’ll join with the earth and I’ll give my praise to You.Majestic

The long, drawn-out difficult observation time that ended just before I took leave was chocked full of faith forewarnings for me.  Particularly, I had watched a high-ranking person determine that reaching the next rung on the ladder was worth everything and he was willing to do anything to get it.  In his haste to reach the next level, he failed to realize that anything received at any pace other than in God’s time can never bring fulfilment, but is merely an accelerant of spiritual degradation.  You see, “any cost” is the only price the devil is willing to pay and the moment we name that price is the second we sell our soul.  Every move from that point forward is a contorted turn or ill-conceived twist that leads to places of no return.  The intersection of greed and power is named Hubris Hill.  The crossroads of arrogance and opportunity is called Corruption Court.  “Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.” – Caleb Colton

At that point, anyone with half of the currency can now convince us to give the whole thing away, leaving us begging for borrowed time from hollowed hearts.  As the pace gets faster and the stakes get higher, we find ourselves over leveraging our diminishing worth while clinging to vacated promises backed by overdrawn credit. Suddenly, the suitors stop knocking and no one takes our calls.  It is then that we realize the time we spent perched in dark smoke-filled rooms sipping single malt scotch and savoring select cigars was likely in Lucifer’s Lounge.  We sat at the table listening to his lies while debating the Spirit’s voice in order to rationalize righteousness into a wicked situation.  By negotiating, we risked what we had to gain what we didn’t need.  We rolled the dice with the devil, the master of deception, and lost it all.  As two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, neither can God and evil.  By dismissing the Spirit, we gave the devil a foot hole.  The hunt is now over and it’s time for the kill.  The wicked one has won!

Or has he?  He is jealous for me; loves like a hurricane.  I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy; when all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory.  And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me… And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.  If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.  And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.  I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us…Oh, how he loves us allHe Loves Us – John McMillan

Just like us, God gave the ranking person worth and his value comes through Jesus Christ.  Through our relationship with Him and community with His people, a paved path to the foot of the cross is always beneath our feet.  To the extent that we lose our way, simply say, “Jesus, please help me!”  He is a loving Lord and an eager savior, longing for a relationship with His children.  We strengthen that relationship through worshiping only Him, loving His people, reading His word, and praying.  As Matt Redman reminds us, When the music fades, all is stripped away.  And I simply come longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart.  I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required.  You search much deeper within, through the way things appear.  You’re looking into my heart.  I’m coming back to the heart of worship.  And it’s all about You.  It’s all about You, Jesus.  I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You.  It’s all about You, Jesus Heart of Worship.  If we simply remember that we cannot sell what we cannot earn, His grace will remain on the forefront of our minds, preventing us from placing our salvation in the showcase window of Hell’s pawn shop.  This life is about advancing His kingdom, not our selfish pleasures.

Now is a time for prayer and encouragement, not casting of stones.  As we have done so much for which we wish not to be judged, forgiveness is a large paving stone on the path to the foot of the cross.  We’ve all had the experience of being caught up in the moment.  Remember, character assassination kills more than just a reputation.  It massacres minds and slaughters souls.  The scars on His hands are reminders of our redemption, not reverberations of our self-righteousness.  Offer healing to the hurt and love to the lost by being fast to forgive.  We are His beacons who have been called to shine His light.  So beam brightly!

I pray fervently for the ranking official.  Lord, may his resignation resign him to Your ways.  May he raise his hands and heart to You to receive the blessings You have in store for him.  May he live the rest of his days gaining strength from time with You.  May we heal from the difficulties and offer forgiveness to our brother, remembering the experience as a shadow that casts shade on the dog-day decisions that we may one day face.  May pride never prevent us from calling Your great name long before our darkest hours – In Your son’s name, Amen.

Romans 12 tells us, 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  (MSG)

Silent Giant

Last weekend, I had the experience of a lifetime and the most interesting Palm Sunday ever. I travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit one of the city’s most unobtrusive residents, Dovey Johnson Roundtree; a silent giant who spent 75 years of her life using the lectern, pulpit, and the love of God to impact her community. Today, she spends most of her time in a wheel chair. Her mind seems perpetually adrift, when in fact she is ever-present in the moment, just selective about what she responds to.

The pretext for the visit was to find a lucid moment and tap into the brain trust about the relationship between the 14th amendment and education reform (the law and education – two disciplines that are embedded on her heart and embodied in her actions). Leading up to the event, I watched as many videos and read as much about her on the internet as I could. My readings included her book called Justice Older Than the Law, an award-winning memoir of her life co-authored by Katie McCabe. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had; one not of academic value, but of greater spiritual relevance.

I entered the health and rehabilitation center, signed the guest book, and walked straight to her room. Although she was not there, my unimpeded stroll to her sleeping quarters should have served as a neon sign that I would be in the presence of someone extremely approachable. There was a woman sitting in the dayroom across the hall whom I dismissed as possibly her because I was so certain I knew her physical attributes. I looked for her in several other resident gathering spaces and even asked staff members on other halls where she might be. It turns out, she was the first woman I saw in the dayroom. I should have known that she is a quiet soul who possesses the ability to blend in anywhere.

I began talking to her. Her eyes were closed, brows were furrowed, chin was tucked to her chest, and her arms were folded. She did not respond to my unfamiliar voice. I sang a song to her and it was as if there was merely a corpse seated in the wheel chair. My travel companion, quiet in her approach, gently touched her hand. Ms. Dovey’s eyes opened and her spirit awakened. She began to speak of spiritual things – blessings of the day, the glories of God’s gifts, and the mysteries of Christ’s love unveiled. I took the cover off my lens and began shooting the development of this organic bond building that seemed to authenticate this silent giant I had previously only read about. The knowledge I had obtained about her accomplishments and awards for her, were merely footsteps in a life’s journey that, until that day, had persistently ambled for 99 years 361 days. I wasn’t aware until then that stillness is both her sword and her slipper.

A child born in 1914 of humble and meager southern beginnings, she persevered against the odds to become a teacher, an army officer, a lawyer, a civil rights activist, a minister, an author and an advocate for children and poor people in her community. Throughout her life, she blazed the trails before her and lighted the paths behind her while standing firm on the foundation of her faith. Wondering how she could and questioning if she would, were not threads in the tapestry that is Ms. Dovey; answering the call of her Lord and Savior are. She knows all too well the meaning of the words that Josh Wilson put to music in his song Pushing Back the Dark(Let your lights all shine…). Oh, oh, don’t underestimate the God you follow. He is the light that burns inside your soul, So keep on shining ’til the whole world knows. Whatever you do, just don’t look back. Oh somebody needs the light you have. Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart. Keep on pushing back the dark, Just keep on pushing back the dark.” His child still and almost an earthly centenarian, she continues to be a beacon of light that is used to repel darkness in this world.

A few hours into the visit, a stately spirit, with a spouse in tow, arrived. Being a woman of the cloth and of proper southern upbringing, she entered the room and gently inquired about our relationship to Ms. Dovey. Having been Ms. Dovey’s hairdresser and confidante turned minister, they had a special closeness that only comes with 40 years of friendship. When my travel companion explained that she built an affordable living apartment building for senior citizens across the street from the church that Ms. Dovey preached at for 35 years and named the building Roundtree Residences in honorarium, and I pulled up a photo of the building from my phone, the Mrs. Reverend warmly welcomed us and invited us to the service she and the Mr. Reverend were having for the residents.

We went to a multi-purpose room to worship and sat amongst people whose bodies and minds had failed them, but whose souls were still alive. The small crowd of 20 or so were a diverse group who enjoyed singing praise to the Lord and being fed by His word. Hymns familiar to any Christian denomination, including Amazing Grace, Jesus Loves Me, and It Is Well, were selected by the amalgamous congregants to honor the Savior. The Mr. Reverend taught a sermonette from Psalm 100 which says, “Raise your voices; make a beautiful noise to the Eternal, all the earth. 2 Serve the Eternal gladly; enter into His presence singing songs of joy! 3 Know this: the Eternal One Himself is the True God. He is the One who made us; we have not made ourselves; we are His people, like sheep grazing in His fields. 4 Go through His gates, giving thanks; walk through His courts, giving praise. Offer Him your gratitude and praise His holy name. 5 Because the Eternal is good, His loyal love and mercy will never end, and His truth will last throughout all generations.” (The Voice) The Mrs. Reverend, who had a voice and a hat that made Aretha Franklin sound and appear conventional and routine, then asked me to read from the gift my travel companion brought for Ms. Dovey – a copy of the District of Columbia proclamation which made March 13, 2013 Dovey Johnson Roundtree Day. The most widely known accomplishments and accolades in the proclamation were three pages long. As I read, the most muddled minds in the room became lucid as the crowd applauded and cheered. The spirits that appeared to slumber through the message, found voices that filled the room with amen, hallelujah, and praise God! The silent giant then gave a coherent speech that told a story illustrating that faith makes anything possible. By the end, I found myself lost in a fog of perplexity caused by the infinite number of relevant lessons presented when God fills a place with His spirit, reminding us that we are all his children and he has given each of us a calling as well as a purpose.

My greatest revelations from the experience were:

  1. David was not great because he slew Goliath but because God destined him to greatness and David answered his calling
  2. God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary for His kingdom
  3. Jesus gave His life to bring us all to the same place
  4. Amazing things happen when we come together with a common focus of worshiping Him
  5. Our most luminous moments occur when seeking and praising Him

Lincoln Brewster says it so well in Majestic with, “Oh Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. The heavens declare Your greatness. The oceans cry out to You. The mountains, they bow down before You. So I’ll join with the earth and I’ll give my praise to You…”