IN CELEBRATION OF THE FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MY EXPERIENCE IN LIVING OUT OF MY CAR, I AM POSTING A SERIES OF JOURNAL ENTRIES NEVER BEFORE REVEALED. THE HOPE OF MY WALDEN SERIES IS TO SHARE BOTH A JOURNEY AND … Continue reading
I got stuck doing bulletin duty before church last week. Christian did it with me. Dutifully we greeted the general attenders taking extra care to greet the ‘new comers’ with a welcoming smile and warm disposition. We wanted them to come back.
The bulletins were designed in the way that they always were: A generic flower picture with a clichéd scripture beneath it. “We’re glad you’re hear” is what it was meant to say, but to me it said: “Old ladies with cross stitch await you”. I smiled to myself. It wasn’t too far from the truth these days, but you know, we’re praying for something big. We really want to see God break into people’s lives anew. And it was as I handed out my last bulletin that it happened.
I think I had seen the spirit before. She had been in the service once or twice maybe. She introduced herself to me when I first got saved and then disappeared. But now here she was in the flesh! And coming to our church!
My buddy Christian saw her coming and greeted the Holy Sprit with a smile and a polite handshake.
“Hey Man, it’s awesome you’re here.” He said excitedly pulling out a bulletin “Wait right here, I’ll go get the pastor.” Christian ran off before either Holy Spirit or I could stop him. I smiled a little sheepish. Christian was rather enthusiastic. I wondered if Holy Spirit didn’t want to just go in and enjoy the service. But she waited patiently until Christian returned with the pastor.
“Greetings!” The pastor said reaching out his hand for another shake. “It’s good to have you here.” He smiled. Spirit nodded. “It’s been awhile,” The pastor continued “I hope you like the service.” He grabbed a bulletin from Christian and opened it up taking out the stuffer with the service outline.
“Hey listen,” The pastor said, “Since you’re here. Let me just explain the service and where we want you to interact okay?” Holy Spirit cocked her head to the side quizzically.
“The first two songs are really exciting. So if you could maybe work up some joy. Maybe some gifts,” The pastor rethought “well, maybe just one or two. You know, nothing that would disturb the order the of service or embarrass anyone.” I watched, a little embarrassed myself while the pastor took the bulletin from Holy Spirit to open her own copy so she could see. He took care to point out the ‘next phase’ in the schedule to her.
“After that if you would just come in and quiet it down, you know make a few people cry, really get intimate with us. And then, here are the notes to the sermon this week. If you could” He hesitated a little “just come in and convict the people with my message, you know, a real life changer. But of course you know how to do that,” The pastor said laughing “but be sure to be done by eleven, okay. That’s when the service ends and you will be dismissed.”
There were a few more pleasantries exchanged between the two of them, “it’s good to have you”s and “this will really be good for the service today”s and then the pastor excused himself, quietly ushering Holy Spirit into the building with his hand in the small of her back. The pastor assured her that he would find a good seat for her to sit, you know not too obvious so as to attract too much attention. We wouldn’t want her to be a distraction in the service. It was, after all, the Apostle Paul who said to worship in an orderly fashion.
I watched them go even more embarrassed. I didn’t know what Holy Spirit thought of that. I can’t imagine it made Her feel…well comfortable. I turned to Christian who was still ecstatic.
“Oh man, can you believe it!” He half shouted at me “Holy Spirit hasn’t been at this church in forever!”
Yeah. I thought to myself. I wonder why she doesn’t come more often…
Last week in Maryland, a girl named Chelsea was hit by a mack truck and died. I know this because I decided to be a Christian and not a coward.
I was in route to help my fiance move out of her college apartment in Philadelphia. Traffic was a nightmare. 26.2 miles in two hours. I was belligerent.
My stomach was growling, and it was time to pull over. I chose to go to McDonald’s because they have free WiFi, and I needed to download an audiobook to my Kindle. I took the next exit.
I will spare the details of what I ordered. It was bad for me, and my body still regrets it. All you need to know is that my audiobook was downloading a little slower than I expected, so I decided to wait it out.
After about 15 minutes of waiting, two men sat at the table across from me. One I recognized as the manager, a 50ish-year-old Indian man whose uniform was ironed and whose shoes were squeaky clean. The other, a 16 year old African-American kid with a variety of facial piercings, some dark make up around his eyes, and a skateboard.
“A job interview” I wondered. “No, I can tell these guys are friends… Why are they friends?” They were 7ft away from me. Eavesdropping was inevitable.
Quickly I noticed that the boy was weeping.
He was talking about a girl, Chelsea. Her smile, her laugh, memories, and the wreckage that took her away. There was no explanation. He was supposed to see her that night. Then she was gone.
My heart broke.
“What the heck am I supposed to do?” I thought to myself. “Something. Right? I’m a Christian. Christians love people. A Christian would at least offer to pray wouldn’t they?”
My mind began to race. “Why am I so scared?” Doubts poured in.
“They have each other” I thought. “They don’t need me to come in and be all religious.”
But I could not shake the impulse. I was there. I had to act. When humanity was in despair, God did not just sit back in His plastic bench and eat His french fries. He intervened. He embraced the brokenness. He was born in a manger and eventually died on a cross.
They stood up and we naturally made eye contact.
“You lost a very close friend.” I whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
A moment passed.
I asked to pray for them. We prayed. Other customers watched. The boy left to go smoke a cigarette, but had left his stuff there. When he walked back in he instinctively sat down with me.
We talked about Chelsea. We were silent together. He asked about me, then I asked about him. I spoke peace and encouragement into his life. He came from a broken family.
Everyone thinks he is a screw-up. I didn’t think that.
And I was there to tell him.
Where is God when everything falls apart? Isn’t that the question people ask during times of crisis.
When you see tragedy, are you going to step into the brokenness, or are you going to walk away?
Because if we continue to walk away from people, then we are going to continue to wonder why it is so hard to feel connected with the Father. It is time to walk the path of brokenness with those who are hurting. It is time to set aside our insecurities and love people. It is a hard road to follow, but it is worth it. Love is worth it.
Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Father, I pray for Chelsea and her family and friends. Lord, let you Kingdom come here on earth as it would in Heaven. Give them everything they need to get through this tragedy. Let your grace fall on them. Lord, be a light to guide them on the path of brokenness. Give them comfort. Keep them from further evil – temptation and the enemy. Raise up more saints to speak words of life to them. Amen”