Friday, January 25, 2008

Shaking Like a Leaf

"Hold me, Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf, You have been King of my glory, won't You be my Prince of Peace." Song by Rich Mullins. Lyrics I've always admired... "Hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf..." I'm not an avid Rich Mullins fan, but whenever I would hear the song on the radio, I would respect it. It was written several years ago, so I don't hear it that often, if at all, on the radio anymore. But the plea of this song came back to my mind last week. I didn't just need to hear the song, I needed to pray that prayer, and I've listened to the song practically every day since downloading it. There were several versions to choose from on iTunes, but I wanted to hear the writer of the words himself, his heart, his cry. And the song is only that much more provocative because Rich Mullins died tragically in a car accident in the mid 90's. KLOVE seemed to make their station an auditory memoriam for years after his death. He contributed a lot to ccm, "Awesome God," "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," "The Maker of Noses,"... Okay, that last one not his most well-known song, but the Christian radio station I listened to while on my internship in Sacramento played it enough for me to take notice of the title, and consequently listen to the lyrics (which was also downloaded last week). But right now it's all about, "Hold Me Jesus," because that has been my plea for almost a week, now. Of course, it is my eternal desire, but the need for His embrace is so obvious for this present day. This little leaf needs a hug from the Creator of the tree. I am so thankful for a God who has hugged, is hugging, and will hug me for the rest of my life. Peace...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dear Dr. J...

Dear, Doctor Jay, I told you a couple of years ago I would do this, write to you about the fateful day in Homiletics class in the Spring of '92 when your friend Dan Elledge spoke to us. I came across your email address on a slip of paper, and in an attempt to clear off my desk, I decided to finally sit down and check this task off my list. That day was a milestone for me, a benchmark in my journey with God, one I've shared with many an individual and have included in many sermons. At that point in time, I had been leading worship for about 5 years at home in youth group and at Bethany College for chapels and such. I was in my Sophomore year at Bethany (and the only Sophomore in the class since it was a Jr/Sr class. Don't know how I eeked in there, but it only adds to the impact of this account), still not sure what to do with my major of Church Leadership. You had your Sr. pastor come speak to us, but this was no class lecture. We had church! Pastor Dan preached a message about hope, for us, for our future ministries as Church Leadership majors. He blew me away. I was so inspired by his enthusiasm, and the fact that this 3 hour class was so out of the ordinary. After he preached, he started going around the class laying hands on people and praying for them. Katie was sitting behind me and I knew she was having a bad day. He started with her and prayed for her as tears rolled down her cheeks. Sitting in front of her, my only thought was, "I'm next!" I was so excited to have this anointed man pray for me. I couldn't wait. He came to me and laid his hands on me and I waited for his words with great expectation. He spoke the word, "worship." It caught me off gaurd. I didn't know if he was telling me to worship or what, so I waited for what he would say next. Again, he said, "worship." I was getting a little restless because he was hitting close to home. Finally, he said, "God is going to use you in worship, as David worshipped..." and I can't really remember what he said after that because I was so excited and I knew in that moment, God was speaking to me. I had never met Pastor Dan Elledge before in my life. He didn't know me or have any idea about my landing somewhere with my major and becoming a music pastor being one of the options. I had a divine moment with God. I had heard other people talk about those kinds of moments, but, now, I had one, and if I've ever been sure of the Lord's voice speaking clearly and directly to me, it was sitting in that desk in the W building at Bethany College in the Spring of '92. It was after that class that I decided to make music my emphasis in my major and let God use me to be a worship leader wherever I would go. I had a chance to thank Pastor Dan later at District Council that year, shake his hand, tell him what that class session meant to me. When I heard he had died the following Summer, I was affected. Of course I was heartbroken for his family, but it seemed like, for me, God allowed him to be here on earth long enough to speak into my life before taking him home. His divine words and sudden death left an impact on me that can never be clearly communictaed with words alone. There have been times in my ministry when I was entertaining leaving my current position and as I prayed, God brought me back to that moment in Homiletics class, reminding me of what He has called me to and making sure my heart was still the heart of a worship leader whether I stayed or left. It truly was a defining moment for me, so I thank you for being my Homiletics teacher 16 years ago. God bless you, Dr. Jay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New ER!

We had no plans for New year's Eve. Forcing 3 kids 5 and under to stay up 'til midnight just didn't appeal to us. Besides, each of them have some form/degree of Hand Foot and Mouth disease. Charming so far, huh? Julia came up with last minute plans. I was in Max's room putting his laundry away when I heard the thump. Julia started to cry that basic "I fell down" cry, but it quickly upgraded to "bloody murder" shriek. I hurried into our bedroom and found her bowing down before Gramma Louise's antique chair, which she met on the way down because her stocking feet caused her to slip as she was running to the bathroom. Blood was streaming down her face from her forehead and we immediately had plans for New Year's Eve. Our neighbors took the little ones while we drove to the ER. Pulling up to the entrance, the inside looked like an after Christmas sale. The place was packed. I knew it was going to be a long night. Marty stayed for a while, but went home to put Ella and Max to bed, and Julia and I waited it out. She had since calmed down. Actually, she had calmed down while still at home, even though her head was still bleeding. As we sat in the emergency room, no crying did she make. The only thing that remotely sounded like a complaint was when she said, "I wish I could go home and take a nap." She was ideal. It was getting well past her bedtime and she was tired, but she waited so patiently for her name to be called. People started to notice. How could they not? They had hours to just sit and observe all the sick people while they waited for their number to be up. It was like being in The Hotel California. "Guests" were checking in, but it seemed they could never leave. People started to comment on how well Julia was handling herself. Shrek was playing on the silent TV, so she watched it, filling in the dialogue from her memory banks. When Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Eve came on, I told her we were probably going to be sitting in that room until next year. It was around 11PM that they called her name. "Thank God!" I exclaimed out loud, and began wishing a Happy New Year to my new ER family that I had been sitting with for hours. I had explained to Julia that it was going to hurt when they gave her a numbing shot before they sewed her up and asked her if she could be brave. She reluctantly nodded. I wanted to be realistic about it. I wanted to be honest about it. Sometimes life is going to hurt, but I told her the pain wouldn't last that long and tomorrow it would all be over. She cooperated. She whimpered as they prepared, but she lay still. Of course she cried when they stuck a needle in her forehead, but she looked at me as I tried to distract her with musings of her upcoming birthday girlie tea party she's having and how she could tell all her friends about what happened to her head. As soon as the doctor was done, Julia was done crying. Back to the same level headed, even tempered great kid she always is. She didn't flail, she wasn't uncontrollable, and she even walked out on her own 2 feet even though it was 2 1/2 hours past her bedtime. When we walked back through the waiting room, our ER family smiled, waved, clapped and wished us a Happy New Year. By the time we got home, gave Julia a much deserved cookie, got her jammies on and tucked her in bed, it was exactly midnight. So I kissed my wife. I have a great kid. So thankful for her. I pray she can grow up facing life the same way she faced stitches, calmly and patiently waiting, crying when it hurts, and getting up and walking in her own strength when it's all over. Come to think of it, I pray that for me, too.