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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

August 31, 2008 AFTER Grace Church

(This is a followup to a previous post... if you haven't read that one you might want to check it out before reading this one. It'll make better sense that way.)

After I had brought the children back to the choir room and everyone had finished praying, a few people were still just visiting. My 8-year-old son Mikey loves to talk to people, and especially about spiritual things, and he started telling Shelley about a dream he had which he believed to be a spiritual dream. He based that belief on something I had said: when I remember a dream in vivid detail hours and days after I wake up from the dream, that's one thing that alerts me that it may be a spiritual dream. Anyway, Mikey's dream was about him trying to get through a life-sized maze, but he couldn't do it. Shelley told him basically that she believes that God is teaching Mikey at a very young age that Mikey can't do what God has for him to do without God's help. She also spoke a little bit about that anointing God has on Mikey's life. This wasn't an OOOOOO-SHALABABA heavy-duty IvegotawordfromGOOOHD type of time, but more like casual conversation... I'm not trivializing it because Shelley wouldn't say she believed God was showing her something if it wasn't true. I'm just characterizing the mood in the room at the time. It was all very conversational. Maybe God made it non-threatening for a kid's sake. Mikey doesn't scare easily when it comes to that sort of thing, but it might have been a distraction to him if it had happened a different way.

We left at the same time as the rest of the congregation, went home and changed clothes, called my parents to make sure they were OK (usually they are at the early service and pick up the kids after, but they had had a rough night and didn't come to church at all. They were fine), and then decided to grab some pizza at Cici's Pizza Buffet. We knew we were going to go over to Brad & Hayley's house that evening and frankly, we wanted to eat a whole bunch of pizza in the middle of the afternoon to cover lunch and dinner both so we wouldn't have to worry about it later! At Cici's I was at the buffet getting some pizza and a little girl in her Sunday dress came positively flying past me, and I spoke up to one of the girls who was working behind the buffet, telling her about something funny Robert had said to me at church... Robert's little granddaughter and her friend, who are both roughly Mikey's age, had been running around in the church sanctuary during our choir sound check. I said to Robert, they still run around like crazies even if you put them in a dress, huh? He said, I think that makes it worse because they can feel all the air up in there! So I was telling that to one of the young ladies working at Cici's, and she kind of grinned about it, and another one of the young ladies piped in and asked me what church I go to. I told her it is Grace Church, which used to be called Grace Fellowship (I usually sort of qualify for people who don't know about the name change). She asked what kind of church it is; I told her it's a "non-denominational" church. She said, I was asking because I go to an Adventist church and the name of it also has "Fellowship" in it.

I went back to my seat and told Cathy about it, and we decided that on our way out we would buzz by and invite her to hear Mario Murillo next week, so we did that. She told us she works on Sundays so she probably wouldn't be able to make it; Cathy mentioned the upcoming Saturday services to her and we went out. Unless the Holy Spirit creates some other opportunities for her, I doubt she'll ever come to Grace, but it is very unusual for me to feel comfortable inviting someone to church. I'm a very shy person and I don't like to "intrude" into people's "business". So for me to be that aggressive about something like that, and to feel comfortable while doing it, is honestly not too short of miraculous!

The afternoon for us was uneventful; Cathy took a little nap (and overslept, which made us a few minutes late to get to Brad & Hayley's house... D'OH!) and I just kind of hung out with Mikey. The kids went to Meme's house and we headed all the way down to 131st & Elm to pray with everyone. Cathy and I were discussing the evening prayer time last night; again, it's hard to remember exactly all that happened. First we spent some time talking about some of the things that had happened that morning. Linda spoke up about something that had been on her heart, and we all gathered around her and prayed about that situation, and then Hayley put on some music that she said had been recorded in a meeting where the Holy Spirit was just sort of flowing. It was very repetitive, soothing music, and it was perfect for the time that came next... a time of "soaking" in the presence of God. I spent the whole time sitting on the floor, which is kind of where I like to be when the Holy Spirit is moving. Not "eating carpet" but sitting or sometimes kneeling. I sat there and just relaxed in God's presence. My body actually felt a little bit tense, but it was from the physical exertion that morning plus a lack of sleep in the days before; my spirit was at peace.

After our time of "soaking" Shelley spoke up and reminded us of the word Jerry had given that morning... that if we would spend the time from then until midnight releasing to God long0standing things that have stood in our way, starting at midnight for the next three days God would work those things out for us. So we spent the next little bit of time in prayer "releasing" those things that had been hindering us. Now, this was all very personal time, not really human to human, but human to God. I don't think I spoke to anyone the whole time until Cathy came up to me. She walked up and hugged me very tightly like she had that morning backstage when everyone was still praying after the first service, and then she spoke some things that are personal about goals we haven't been able to reach as a couple, very personal things about herself, and some very personal things about me... in fact, she hit some things on the head about me that I wasn't even aware of myself until she said them. We have been married for nine years, and until now I have never heard her speak to me or anyone the way she did Sunday night, even when she was speaking by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. She was very direct, very articulate in a way that she usually isn't, and frankly, she seemed totally broken before God. I didn't say anything back; she didn't require an answer. It wasn't time for me to talk to her; it was time for God to talk to me and her, through her. It was just a minute or two, but it's my most vivid memory of the eveining.

After that we prayed for several people, and some of it doesn't belong in a public forum and some of it I wasn't close enough to be totally privy to so I'm going to be a little bit vague here. One particularly intense episode was when we prayed for someone who was dealing with some family issues in her past. At one point I walked out of the living room and out onto the porch (in my socks... most of us had taken off our shoes in the entryway, which was fine by me because it was comfy) to call my mom and dad and ask if it was okay that we stay a little bit longer (Mom said it was fine), and as I walked through the areas between the living room and the porch, everywhere I looked there were people on the floor praying. It was the most awesome experience! I felt positively honored to be in a house full of so many people who were desperately seeking God's will for them. Many people never get to have that kind of experience.

Eventually Shelley said "Well, let's seal this up," and everyone came back into the living room and got in a circle holding hands (a couple of people weren't holding hands because they were still praying about something else, but they were inside the circle too). We continued praying, and then Chris began to sing something and we joined in with that, and there were several more words from God that came forth. I have to apologize for not remembering the content of those very well; I believe that they were for the moment, they had the impact on us that they needed to have, and whether I can remember the words or not, they did what they were supposed to do.

After that, as I remember it, things kind of came down and people began to trickle out. There was a lot of visiting on the way out and talking about what had happened. Cathy and I left and went to pick up the kids (actually we just left Mikey sleeping, so he stayed over, but we took sleepyhead Hannah home), talking all the way. You would think we would be so excited that we wouldn't be able to sleep, but in actuality we were too pooped to NOT sleep. Once we got in bed and shut our yappers, I think we were both out pretty quickly.

As a postscript... Monday we didn't particularly do much; we mostly kind of rested. But this morning when I got up I had a task in mind. I ride the bus to work, and when I miss my regular bus there is a second route that is close enough to walk to that leaves about 15 minutes later. Twice when I've missed the bus and went for the backup plan, I've wound up waiting for the bus with a man named David who is there because the bus goes by the VA clinic, and from the VA clinic there is a bus that will take him to Oklahoma City to the VA hospital. He has throat cancer; keeps asking me if I know anyone who smokes, and "tell them to stop it!" I haven't ever prayed for him; I've been really intimidated by people and I seldom just reach out like that. This morning I decided that I was going to take my hands that God has anointed with power, miss my bus on purpose, and see if I could run into my friend at the bus stop. I spent the walk to the stop in prayer, not specifically for him but for all of us, whether we had been in Sunday school or at the evening time or even the congregation members who had just been in the services (which in themselves had been phenomenal!) to be strengthened against the attacks which surely would come from the powers of darkness. And I prayed specifically for myself that I would not lose ground but that I would keep whatever ground I had gained in one whirlwind day, and move on from there to even more incredible things by the Spirit of God.

I got to the bus stop. David wasn't there.

So was all that faith wasted? No, it was not! I believe that the faith I released in seeking out a meeting with him to pray for him and invite him to church was not at all wasted, and that he will see the fruit of that somehow. I can't miss the bus on purpose every day... that wouldn't be honest dealings with my employer... but I can believe that laborers will reach him, and the next time I do accidentally miss the bus, if he's there, I can follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and do what I knew the first time I met him I should have done... lay hands on him and pray for his healing. And invite him to church. Maybe that will happen this week; I don't know.

The miracle, for me, is that I was willing. I was totally, 100% ready to lay hands on a stranger and pray for his healing. Without reservation. That is as much a change in me as growing back a finger would be. I've been praying for that boldness to come on me for months now, and it is finally here. All I have to do is remain plugged in to the power source, and I believe God will finish the work in me that he has begun.

And I believe the same for WAM, the not-officially-WAM people who were involved Sunday, and the whole church body at Grace. I'm so excited! I can't wait for Wednesday night and next Sunday!

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