The Scene Beneath Rarely Gets Seen

My son attends a multi cultural urban school in Grand Rapids (shameless plug – www.tphgr.org) and he sings in the Gospel Choir there. Recently, they were invited to sing at the Christmas dinner for one “section” of one of the largest retirement communities in West Michigan. Some of us parents came along as chauffeurs (sounds more important than taxi driver – doesn’t it?)

We got to sit in the back and listen to them. They did a wonderful job and these kids and their love of music and the way Mr. Nate leads them is truly amazing to hear.

But I got to see something more.

As I looked around the room, there were maybe 10 to 12 tables with maybe 10 to 12 people sitting at each one. They were obviously just finishing dinner and enjoying dessert. As The Potter’s House Gospel Choir was introduced, you could see they were looking forward to hearing the choir. Many pushed their chairs back so they could drink their coffee and see and hear the kids better.

Now I’m totally guessing, but I believe that, based on what I saw, that many of the residents expected to see and hear a traditional choir singing traditional Christmas songs.

The PH Gospel Choir is a traditional Choir.

It’s just not the same tradition that the audience was used to.

And that’s where it was really a privilege to not only hear these kids but to see the change in the reactions in the audience. It very quickly went from expecting the traditional “Caucasian” Christmas concert to a sense of curiousity.

“Who are these kids?”

To

“I think I recognize that song”

To

“Oh, I like this.”

To

“This is something special”

To

“These kids are something special.”

To

“God is up to something special at that school.”

Okay, I have to admit I wasn’t the most excited about being a chauffeur to the other side of Grand Rapids wasn’t high on my list of “things to do” on that Monday night.

But I saw a scene that rarely gets seen.

I saw 10 high school students use their God given gifts to share with another generation.

And God made a difference.

And it was good.

TV

Grief – Wrapped in Worship

It happened again this morning. Pastor Dave was finishing up his sermon on Isaiah 6. If I had to summarize the sermon, I would say it this way, “We serve an awesome God who is way bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine.”

At the end of the sermon, Pastor Dave had the congregation sing the song, Holy Holy Holy and do it without instruments.

The singing was powerful.

The song is powerful.

As we started the second verse, the feeling hit again.

The grief hit again.

It has many times since March 23 when my Dad entered heaven.

Not only do I miss my Dad but I also get a very strong sense that when we are worshipping God, when we are gathering as believers, those who went before are somehow gathered and watching and supporting us.

I don’t know if it’s theologically sound or not, but I firmly believe that when we are gathered in worship it can quite often be an opportunity to feel closer to those who have gone before us.

This morning, my Dad wasn’t there singing Holy Holy Holy with us.

But he was. And it hurt. And it was good.

Because God is good.

All the time.

Tom

12 Words – a Powerful Statement

You know, I never really gave it much thought.

It was just part of the Sunday morning worship service. Sometimes the pastor would say it and sometimes the Pastor wouldn’t.

But after a while, I began realizing that no, he didn’t say it sometimes. It was a consistent statement, a solid foundation to build the rest of the worship service and frankly your week on.

It’s a conversation. Actually, it’s more of a testimony.

No matter whether you lost your job or someone you care about lost their battle with cancer or depression….. (We could name a million challenges that you could face in a week.) Even though we hurt, even though we suffer, even though we question, we acknowledge this one true foundation:

“God is Good!” said by the worship leader. One of the church leaders, someone who knows more about the pain that sits or stands in front of them than pretty much anyone in the church up and firmly proclaims that God is good!

The congregation plays an important role in this. They respond, in one voice:

“All the time.”
Even when jobs are lost
“All the time”
Even when loved ones die
“All the time”
Even when hate crimes seem to be on the rise.
“All the time”
Even when illnesses don’t heal.
“All the time”

And then the call is reversed.

“All the time”
“God is good”

What a powerful statement to make in light of the world we live in.

What a powerful statement to make in light of all of the illness, sickness, and death in this world.

What a powerful statement to make in light of the increase of publicized racial tension.

God is good. And we must hang on to that.

All the time. Not only when the going is easy.

All

The

Time

TJV

“GOD is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, No matter how desperate the trouble.”
Nahum 1:7 MSG
http://bible.com/97/nam.1.7-10.msg

Talking to Yourself

No, I don’t think I’ve totally lost it (though if I have, how would I know?) but seriously, I don’t know about you but I do a lot of talking to myself – but I do it on digital paper. What’s digital paper? It’s the computer screen. I can usually think and type way faster than I can write and so my thoughts to myself make more sense that way.

So back to the real subject that I want to share with you.

I was talking to myself about some of the things that have happened in my family this past year. There have been highs, there have been lows, there have been really low lows. The lows were often a lot harder than we expected they would be. Thanksgiving without my Dad here was hard.c  After my son read a poem in church that he wrote about his grandpa, it was hard and it was good. Hearing Pastor Joy pray a prayer of gratitude for all my dad has done and the people he has blessed. All of this took place in a prayer request time. There were many prayers of thanks but also many prayers filled with sadness.   In addition, I could go on about my medical issues (which are still ongoing), about…..

As I was talking to myself in my journal, I found me saying, “At the same time, I don’t want to stay where I am.”

I stopped, looked at what I had written and said, “How do you mean that?” Do you mean, “I have a plan and here’s the way I want it to go?”

Or do you mean, “God, I don’t know what “all of this” is for, I don’t know why it has happened, I don’t know why I’m still dealing with side effects, rather nasty ones, from a medical procedure for an AVM (Google it if you want to know more), 10 months later when it should have only been two to 4 weeks. What do you mean?”

I don’t want to stay where I am.

But

I can’t seem to see where you want me to “go.”

At that point, the words of Pastor Darrell came back to me from a discussion that he and I had over all of “this.” “Tom, do not doubt that the Lord has you exactly where he needs you and you are right here and right now, for such a time as this. Be still and know.”

I think you and I both know that God isn’t using major life events to bring us back to “where we were.” He’s using them to change us so we can be the change that our communities are.

So may we all spend more time being still, more time listening for God and a lot less time trying to force our plan into motion.

Tom

Thanksgiving:

In spite of sadness

In spite of things that haven’t gone right.

Thanksgiving:

In spite of an empty chair at the table tomorrow

In spite of medical questions with very few answers.

Thanksgiving:

In spite of differences that seem to be much more visible

In spite of the hostility that much of this world shows towards the church

Thanksgiving:

In spite of friends who are struggling.

In spite of misplaced priorities by so many in so many parts of the church,

But……

Thanksgiving:

Because God is God

Because God is here. And God is good.

Thanksgiving:

Because God is bigger, bigger than everything.

Because even though the church is not perfect, the church desires to be used by God.

Thanksgiving:

Because God has given us another day to be.

Because there is someone out there who needs to see God through you

Thanksgiving:

Because no matter how much has gone wrong or has gone different from the way you wanted, we all have something to be thankful for.

You don’t have to be happy to be thankful…….

TJV