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Monday, September 1, 2008

August 31, 2008 at Grace Church

Yesterday was a wild and crazy day for Grace Church, particularly in the Worship Arts Ministry ("WAM" which consists primarily of the worship leaders, choir and band). I think there are as many perspectives on what has happened and what is happening as there are people who were involved, but I'll give my perspective. Maybe I can get Cathy to post hers on here later, too!

(I'm going to name people's first names here if they are relevant and if it's not something personally embarrassing to them. I'm not going to give last names. You members of my WAM family, if your name appears here and you are embarrassed by it, email me or call me and I'll take if off immediately.)

At Grace we have two roughly identical Sunday morning services, one at 8:30 and one at 11:15, with about an hour in between for Sunday school classes. The song set is the same, the message is the same... the only thing different in theory is the people in the congregation. In practice, with different people and at a different time of day, and since God knows every person in the congregation and what they need to receive from Him, the services are sometimes radically different. This particular morning, worship in the first service was an incredible experience... and not just for us on the stage. People we talked to in the congregation had similar stories to tell. The atmosphere was positively charged with the presence of God. At the end of the last song, something happened that is rather unusual... the band quit playing, and the whole congregation was praying out loud in tongues. I don't remember hearing anyone singing at all; just speaking. There was a brief misstep when a video got played while we were still praying; I think maybe it was supposed to occur on Pastor's signal or something. At any rate, it didn't seem to stop the flow of prayer from the people. We prayed for maybe a minute or so after the video, maybe not quite that long, and then Pastor came out and moved on to the next thing.

Once the music is over, the people in WAM exit the stage to a hallway in the back, and then we are free to go to our seats in the congregation for the message, or after the second service, most of us go home (we've heard the message already at that point). Since I stand on the back row on stage and usually near the end of the row, by the time I get down there, the hallway is usually mostly clear of people. Not this time. When I got back there, I saw my wife Cathy with Stacy (her buddy from praise team), and also Amy and Mike (not Amy's husband). I also saw Shelley, who is a very intense spiritual leader in WAM, on the floor. She told all of us later that she basically was just glad she could make it off the stage and onto her face back there. She was praying in intercession, and she was pretty loud. The others were in prayer as well. I kept praying myself, but I wasn't really tuned in to what was going on so much. Cathy came over and hugged me tightly. I actually wondered if our friend and co-member of the choir who is in the hospital, Jimmy, had taken a turn for the worse or died! He hadn't; they were just praying. Cathy and Stacy and I, who had saved seats for ourselves together, left after a few minutes and went into the service, but we found out later that Shelley and Mike and the other Mike (who is married to Amy) and Amy went back into the choir room, where our choir director Cheray had gone and was playing softly on the piano. They were there for the rest of the service praying.

After first service at Grace, we have tons of Sunday school classes. There is an informal Sunday school class in the choir room; it's not part of the official Sunday school curriculum, so we are free to study about worship or read the same book the "regular" classes are reading, or just pray. It is mostly attended by members of WAM, but others are very welcome and WAM members are also very welcome to attend other Sunday school classes instead. This morning when we got to class, Shelley was intense still (remember, she and a few others had been praying during the whole rest of the service, probably something like an hour doing what Shelley described as "eating carpet"). She said that what she wanted to do during Sunday school time (she's the teacher of the class) was to continue in prayer and see what God wanted to do for us. What occurred after we started praying I think maybe if we all got together in a room we could map out a timeline, but I honestly only remember it as kind of a series for vignettes. I remember that we started out basically sitting in our circle of chairs, like we do every week. We were praying and praying. I remember that I started physically experiencing the power of God in a way I haven't before; always before when I've sensed the presence of God as a physical sensation, it felt kind of like electricity, like a vibration. This time I felt that, but I also felt something else; I felt the power of God in my hands. It felt like a tingle, like when you sleep on your hands or arms and they get numb. Now I'm no Oral Roberts and I don't think I need to buy a tent and set up healing revival meetings, but I think God was telling me that I need to not be afraid to put my hands on people and pray for them. It was positively like He was saying, I've anointed these hands to work for me. The same hands that are typing these words right now. I found out later that not only had Cheray also felt the power of God in her hands during that time, but Brad had also. I also had another sensation that Brad described later; I felt the presence of God in the part of my body where my stomach is. It was not uncomfortable at all, but if I hadn't known it was the presence of God I might have wondered if I was going to throw up. Have you ever seen a special effect in a movie or on TV where they superimpose what looks like a galaxy in someone's stomach to show that something supernatural is happening? That was what it seemed like in my mind's eye. A very strange sensation.

Anyway, I felt the power of God in my hands, and I looked down at them... I don't really know why. I don't know if I expected them to look different somehow, but they looked totally normal. But I just wanted to make sure I didn't disrespect and misuse the anointing that I felt God had put there, so I tried to listen really closely to the Holy Spirit inside of me to make sure I put my hands and that anointing on whoever God wanted to touch through me. The first person I touched was Cathy. I grabbed her hand and held it; later she told me that my hand felt warm. After that I got up and walked to another part of the room, and immediately after that Shelley called on Cathy, who had been on my right before I got up, to pray for and speak over Mike (Amy's husband), who had been on my immediate left. It was like a chess game where I was moved out of the way so that Cathy could make the move she needed to make! When she (and a couple of others) started praying for Mike I came and put one of my hands on him as well. Cathy had some pretty interesting things to say to Mike; we didn't know until later just how relevant those words were. But that story is Cathy's and Mike's to tell.

After that as I continued to pray, I walked around a little (I've always been a pacer, and especially when I'm praying) and touched several people, usually not even as a "laying hands on" gesture but just casually shaking a hand or whatever. I remember at one time squeezing Silvia's hand the whole time Jerry (Shelley's husband) was giving a word from God for the whole group. Someone called me over to put my hand on I think it was Christina's back while she was being ministered to; I actually put one hand on her and the other on a guy who was there who isn't in the choir who happened to be sitting next to Christina at the moment (he got ministered to formally by someone a few minutes later).

A while later Shelley called on all of the men who were present to come into the middle of the circle of chairs and begin to pray together. When we grabbed hands and began to pray it was an incredibly intense time in that little circle! Brad, who is very sensitive to the Holy Spirit and who spent a good bit of the morning (both in Sunday school and in the main service!) "eating carpet", was basically being held up by the circle... I had Mike on my left hand, and I was pulling on him and he was pulling on me because Mike was holding up Brad. Someone was on the other side of Brad, and Jerry was on the other side of that person, and Jerry was about to fall down too! Brad was leaning backwards, Jerry was leaning to his right, and the rest of the men were not letting them fall down. It struck me as a cool example of us giving each other strength in ministry. My prayers during that time were something about strengthening us as strong soldiers for the Kingdom. All of a sudden Brad sort of pitched into the circle and began laying hands on the guys. I grabbed him around the chest to hold him up while he was doing it; the other guys were holding both of us up or I wouldn't have been able to stand up either. Brad was just almost not supporting his own weight at all. Later Brad said that I kept putting his hands on each person, but I need to tell him the next time I see him that I actually wasn't doing that! I had both hands around his chest. I don't think anyone else was moving his hands either; I didn't see anyone touching his arms. I think the Spirit of God, or an angel, was moving his arms!

Brad laid hands on all of us, or almost all of us (I'm not quite sure if he touched everyone; I think he did), and then we let him collapse into a chair, and then put him on the ground so he wouldn't fall out of the chair. He laid there on the ground on his side with one foot on the ground and the other food about 12 inches away from it, up in the air. :) After that I just remember praying and praying. Then I remember noticing that it was almost time to go, and I was afraid that we wouldn't make it out to the stage without help, so I went to look for Elizabeth, the worship arts director at Grace, to come get us. Elizabeth had been busy with some other responsibilities of hers; later Cheray told her what had occurred and she was like, oh MAN why wasn't I THERE!!! :) Anyway, she was nowhere to be found, so I came back to the choir room. Shelley and Cheray were aware that it was time to go out, but they weren't aware of much more... they were so deep into the Spirit that neither one of them could really walk very well. But they said let's go out, and I put an arm around Cheray so she wouldn't fall and got her moving her feet, and I think someone else propped up Shelley, and we all got out to the backstage hallway somehow (Rhonda came up on the other side of Cheray at one point, so that helped; I'm glad Cheray didn't fall because I wasn't sure I could find an... ahem... "appropriate" way to catch her if she did!)

So we all got to the hallway, and we went up to the stage. I remember Cheray was mostly just standing there for the first few songs, sort of leaning on the music stand, then she started to become more coherent and started to direct us a bit, and by the end she was "sobered up" and didn't have any trouble getting off the stage. I didn't see how Shelley managed to get up onto the stage, but she was there. Some people later reported hearing angels during that service; all I remember was I was so charged up that I was singing as loud as I could and still be able to call it "singing," and I wasn't sticking out at all. The whole worship service seemed so LOUD! It was like a roar the whole time! By the end I was totally spent; the whole morning wore me completely out physically. We left the stage (that service had ended similarly with a time of speech prayer and no singing in the Spirit at all, and this time there were two words of prophecy as well) and went on to the choir room. What generally happens after the second service is that people go to the choir room to pick up Bibles, purses, whatever we had with us that we had left back there during the song service. Usually there is a little bit of chatter and laughing and sometimes there is a SHUSH! or two because we are right next to the sanctuary with just a little bit of acoustic insulation and a wooden door separating us from the service. Today, though, it was the most unusual thing... there must have been twenty people who just walked in there, sat down, and didn't say a single thing. I think we were so overwhelmed by what had happened that morning. We sat there for several minutes, not saying a word, then Shelley quietly spoke up and said that Hayley and Brad had extended an invitation to everyone to come over to their house that evening to pick up where we were leaving off. After that we prayed for Jimmy who is in the hospital, and then we started praying for people who were in the room and some people who weren't. I went over and picked up our two kids and came back and they were STILL praying! By the time we finished and left the room, the service was over and the congregation was leaving too!

There's more to tell... a conversation Shelley had with my 8-year-old son Mikey when we got back to the choir room, what happened at Cici's Pizza that afternoon, and especially what happened that evening at Brad & Hayley's house... but honestly, my anointed hands hurt and I need a break. Stay tuned and I'll blog the rest in another post!

(Click here for the followup post about that afternoon and evening)

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