Sunday morning, I got up at 4 a.m. and headed to just outside of Knoxville for a church's homecoming service. I'd never been to this church. I was going to be a part of a reunion of sorts of some friends with whom I had travelled many years ago.We were going to surprise our group's leader, who has been in ministry for many years. I told the kids on Saturday night that at least two of them had to ride with me. Immediately, Jack and Lily Kate wanted to go; Levi wanted to stay home and go to our church with Angela. It's still not clear to me why the two older ones jumped so quickly at the chance of riding 3 hours in a car, sitting in a long service, and riding 3 hours back. I think maybe it's because they know I am weak, and will invariably give way to their constant requests for all manner of snacks and treats. Maybe sometimes a pack of gum is worth just that much to a kid. I don't know. Either way, I was happy to have them with me.
They slept for the first hour or so of the trip. When they awoke, I decided it was time for some worship music. It was a beautiful morning. My heart was really tender to the Lord...what an amazing weekend it had already been at Living Proof Live Memphis (one of my favorite events ever)...and I was ready to worship. We fired up the iPod into the car sound system, and I headed to the place I always head when I am ready to go after it in worship: Kirk Franklin. We sang and bounced and laughed and got our groove on. When we got midway through a song called "Hero," I made the statement, "Ooo. This song gives me chills." And I gestured to my arm to show my son that I had chills, and the hairs on my arm were standing straight up. He had heard me say this before. He has seen me lose it over a song (or even a tv commercial, for crying out loud). He is used to me being moved through music. He replied while staring out his window, "I've only gotten chills once before while listening to music." That was all he said. I wondered when it was...what he might have been moved by, and if he really understood that it was the Holy Spirit speaking to Him and moving in his heart as he listened. But I didn't say anything. He seemed to be in deep thought, and I didn't want to derail him. I have a tendency to sometimes dig too hard and too quickly into their minds when they are in the middle of thinking things through. So I let it go.
We got to the service, and the reunion of sweet friends began. Lots of hugging and lots of laughing. And lots of rehearsing for a service that was to begin in less than an hour. We went through the songs we were singing together, and then just chilled until time for the service.
When the service began, 9 of us sat in the choir loft with the 9 or so of the regulars. We doubled their choir size (and had our pianist and bass player too). It was a small and sweet fellowship. A church homecoming celebration, honoring 150 years as a church. The service played out just as simply and sweetly as could be. No frills. No graphics. No monitors or drums or electric guitars. Just people. And the presence of God.
We sang a couple of hymns. And our group sang a song together. Then we filed back into the choir loft to sing the choir special with the choir. It was a very simple arrangement of "Thank You." You know...the one that says "Thank you for giving to the Lord / I am a life that was changed." The arrangement was so simple. Even more than simple, really. Still, I felt the Lord moving in my heart such deep groans of gratitude for everyone who had ever sown into my life in some way. I was having a moment.
Then I looked down at the front row. My two kids were intermingled with my friends David and Susan Moffitt's kids (David is my great friend and co-writer, with whom I've written many songs, like Alive Forever Amen, Jesus Saves, My Passion, You Changed My Name, Your Word Is Life To Me, to name a few). David and Susan and I had already shared a chuckle at what a great moment it was to look down and see our sons sharing a hymnal. Partly because it was moving to see the next generation worship together just like we have for so long, and partly because neither one of them hardly knew what a hymnal was.
Anyway, back to looking down at the front row. I'm having my moment in this song...and frankly, I have heard this song about 514 too many times in my life, and was shocked to be having this moment. But it serves me right. How dare we think that we are ever beyond being reached by WHATEVER song or WHATEVER message or WHATEVER He wants to use to speak to us. It's time for us to get over our "sophistication."
OK. Again...back to looking down at the front row. I'm having my moment in this song. My eyes lock with Jack's eyes. He has obviously been waiting for me to look down at him. He had that expectant look on his face, and a happy and peaceful grin a mile wide that I won't forget as long as I live. He raised his arm up in front of him almost at face level, pointed to his arm, and mouthed to me, "Chills! I got chills!"
No frills. No graphics. No monitors or drums or electric guitars. Just people. And the presence of God.