Sunday, November 29, 2009

Uncanny Coughs and Messiah Moments

There's one thing I'm sure of. As soon as the auditorium hushes, the first fiddle has sounded the note to which to tune, the conductor is applauded, and the music is about to start.....the air conditioning guy releases COUGH-inducing particles into the vents and lets 'er rip!

How else can the horrible and sudden need to cough (and cough violently) always happen (and ONLY happen) right when one is most supposed to be silent? It's uncanny.

There were actually quite a few uncanny moments at last night's Handel's Messiah. It started off with arriving at the auditorium and discovering it is part of a Mormon sect headquarters and right next to their huge temple, which is shaped like a giant slide from the steeple right down to the base--apparently Jesus is supposed to reign from there when He returns to Earth. Right there in Independence, MO. Who knew?

So we contemplated this lit-up oddity in the dark, with the full shining moon hanging up there, and prayed for the true God to bring light to these people stuck in such darkness.

The oddities didn't end there...

Two separate ushers looked at our tickets and "ushed" us, but it wasn't until we met the third, at the back row of seats, that we were told we were on the wrong level. When we did settle into our seats, and the lights were blinking and the doors were on the verge of being closed, a woman in a row in front of us ungraciously tells a group who want to get past her to their seats that they have to go back up, out the doors, and around to the other aisle, as she is not moving. Luckily, they were able to do it all before the doors actually were closed. I tried to dismiss her ungraciousness from my mind, along with my shock, and settle in to enjoy the evening. Not so fast...

Our group organizer and her daughter were a few moments late, and the doors shut them out. One of my seatmates saw them looking through the little window and, not acquainted with the etiquette of such productions, became very agitated, believing the door itself was locked and had to be opened from the inside. She figited and wiggled and wanted to get past me to the aisle to go open it for them, while I tried to explain in the nicest way possible (and the lowest possible whisper) that the ushers would let them in during a moment of applause, and that the door was not locked - she didn't need to go open it. It was a few very uncomfortable moments for me as I wondered how long I could hold her off. Meanwhile, in the background, the tenor is singing "Comfort ye my people." She is to be commended for her heartfelt concern for them, and so is the usher who - praise the Lord! - ended up bringing them in before the song was over. Whew!

So, I settle in again for a peaceful evening. Wait. Not only are the ushers bringing in random late-comers, a whole group is tenderly lowering a handicapped and blind man step by step to his seat in the 3rd row of the balcony. I watch, holding my breath as they go down each stair rise in the darkened balcony, until finally he is settled safely into his seat. This whole oratorio is about the coming of Christ, and I begin praying fervently that Jesus would soveriegnly heal this man's eyes as he listens to the scriptures ... "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined (Isaiah 9:2)." I start looking around the auditorium from our bird's eye view and realizing how many of these people do not know Jesus. Just as I begin praying for them all to see the Light, and a pause comes in the music so that all the auditorium is in a hushed silence, screaming cries pierce the cavernous room!

Two aisles to our left, right on level with us, repeated crys come - paniced, angry, and odd. The conductor froze. A half-dozen or so people jumped from their seats. Though I was looking right at the spot, I could not see who was in such horrible distress. Wendy, doctor-extraordinaire at my side, sat tensely, half out of her seat. But in a moment a woman came up for air, clutching her drink to her bosom. What sounded like a very verbal heart-attack turned out to be a fall down a step - and the victim had in the process somehow managed to keep her drink from spilling. Holding it close, and crying aloud "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she walked uninjured to her seat in the front row of the balcony, apparently (according to the good doctor) inebriated. That's a more hopeful conclusion than my own, which was that she might be psychotically unbalanced. I think you'd have to be either one or the other in order to repeatedly scream like that, over an extended number of seconds, while several thousand people gaped.

Satisfied that the scene was over, the conductor started things up again. But before long, another just as surprising - though not as disruptive - oddity graced the evening. The soprano. Oh, in the words of the man in the row ahead, she "hit it right on!" Not only that, but her whole body moved in sympathy with the words of scripture she sang, as she swayed and waved and jerked. Finally, as she ended with "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heav'nly Host praising God and saying," she threw her head back, inviting...and the huge choir mounted behind her broke into, "Glory to God in the highest." I could see her physically rejoice in the power of the noise of them praising God. She rejoiced as it swept against her back, in response to her song, and flowed out over the audience. She rejoiced as she stood there for a moment, swiming in the noise of the glory. She rejoiced as she took her seat and threw her head back again, like Eric Liddle as he ran, to listen to the multitude of voices praising God. It was stunning and particularly surprising in such a trained performer - especially compared to the carefully contained, stoic stance of the alto and the tenor.

That woman was a joy to watch the rest of the evening. But it broke my heart.

Her next air was spent entreating us to "rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion...behold, thy King cometh unto thee." How many times did she with great beauty and great fervency - of both body and voice - plead with these several thousand of us to "Rejoice!" Everything she had was put into this plea, this command, this entreaty. And we, oh we!, sat silently and deadened in our seats. When she had done and her last note had faded in the empty space, polite applause greeted her.

I began to imagine this song being sung on the New Earth. As she entreated, the saints would have risen to their feet - a wave of joy and dance would have spiraled among the thousands - a roar in unison would have greeted her last note... I hope she gets to sing it there, and to enjoy leading a company in the high worship of God!

I'm not even half through the evening, and as you can imagine the serendipitous events kept coming...but being more than half through this particular night, I will leave them to your imagination. If, though, you do decide to imagine, put in a cd of Handel's Messiah and imagine this -- what he wrote about, actually happening; the dear Messiah, actually returning; the trumpet sounding, the King reigning, the dead rising, and in your flesh-and-blood ... seeing HIM!

Monday, November 16, 2009

28 Days of Joy - Days into Weeks

Oh dear - deepest apologies to all my blog-reading friends, as I seem to have left you out of the second half of my 28 days of joy. On the bright side, this is partially because so many good things were happening, I didn't have time to write. Of course, it is also because I spent a little time sick, a little time overwhelmed, a little time angry, and a little time figuring out all the deep stuff God's been doing - just to be honest.

For instance, on:

Day 13-19 - I spent all my free hours hanging out with my neice and nephew and their grandmother (except for one day I did take to write...but I chucked it for Chick-Fill-A at dinnertime). These children are endlessly amusing, and extremely high energy, and in the absense of their parents it was my job to relieve their grandmother as much as possible. Yep...not much writing got done that week, and no blogging, but I have lots of writing material out of it. Such as the new knowledge, supplied by Judah, that butzes and burps sound the same. (That was his reponse to my instruction that butzes should not be heard at the table. Apparently, if it sounds the same as a burp, he thinks it's legal. When did burps at the table become legal?) We took the kids to a harvest party at a local church; one was a pirate, one was a princess, and one a ballerina. No, I'm not the pirate. He's not pictured.

Day 19 - I was given an out-of-the-blue, two-part word at Shabbat dinner... 1. I'm a worshipper/musician (God keeps trying to remind me of this), and 2.) He actually, really, fully, deeply loves me. Yum. (Yum on the challah bread, too. I want to make some soon.)

Day 23 - my third nephew, John-Peter Wilberforce was born. (As his mother says, he's so cute he's kinda hard to take! though he looks a little concerned in this photos.)
Day 22-25 - I spent these days playing single-mom to my niece, Glorie, while her parents were busy about the business of birthing a son. We went to the hospital a few times, to get some holds in :) You can imagine the joy involved in all that! Odd, how joy often comes accompanied by sleeplessness, pull-ups, and an unending need for discipling children. But, as I put in my facebook status, none of that seems to matter when a little girl's hand slips gently into yours during the middle of closed eyes and a whispered Lord's Prayer. I almost died of love.

Day 22 - I got the longest love letter I will ever receive in my life (seriously, I have no doubt on this front) from a man who had never met me, only read my stuff. It was ridiculous, engendered many laughs, took me at least a half-hour to read, was full of overly romantic sentiments, and came my way from a far continent. However, it did pose a problem - how is one to respond to such a thing without breaking the heart involved? The easiest way would be no response at all, but my roomate admonished me that one must be careful "not to wound a man" - and no answer would be a harsh blow to someone who has handed me their heart on a platter. No response was sent that evening, however. It was just too much.

Day 23 - A little bit of affirmation made my heart glad :) Ah, the simplest things!

Day 25 - Got some prayer at the IHOP renewal (it's still going on, by the way) about a pretty deep issue. Spent a bunch of time during the service trying to remember which Psalm had the verse the Lord whispered to me (I don't tend to memorize the numbers, just the words, which can pose problems later on :) but finally gave up, only to have my friend turn to me to pray over me, pull out that very Psalm, and read it over me. Ahhh...beautiful.

Day 26-27 - Sick AND working. Bit of a bummer, that. But the work itself...God was there!

Day 27 - News from a beautiful friend that she will soon be engaged!

Wait, you say, you've left out all the bad days. That's because most of them turned out to be good!

Oh, ok.

On Day 22 I apologized to someone and was forgiven - see? Good.
On Day 24 I was mad and frustrated that I was mad, and tried to keep from getting bitter.
On Day 25 I confronted someone and knew I'd done the right thing.
On Day 26 that someone agreed that I'd done the right thing. See, again?
On Day 27 I watched the most time-wasting of a movie because I was so tired and sick. Yuck.

And on Day 28 I stayed home from church sick (ah, you think this is starting off in the bad-day list, don't you?!) and then bam! one-two-three God lined up row of stuff for me that took me from repentance, to encounter, to faith. And it all wrapped up at small group, falling in love again with the people Jesus loves.

Well now, there is a concise and very incomplete summation of the events (though not the substance) of the missing Days of Joy. Perhaps I'll have to just keep having more Days, as these ones have been pretty eventful. Even when they weren't "happy", they were good, because my great God was all intertwined in them with me.

That is by no means the last word on the 28 days...but it's the last word for tonight, as I'm tired!

Love to all,

Monday, November 02, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 15

I know that suffering for Jesus is super-hard, but I read Acts 5:41 this evening and was immediately sobered.

"And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name."

Dear, dear, dear. My little life has so many comforts, even in the midst of the great spiritual battles. Hard they are, yes, but no one is beating me, no one is arresting me, no one is throwing me into disease-ridden cells.

Am I not counted worthy?

I am not being facetious here, or hyperbolic; and I'm not trying to make a point. When will the church in America encounter physical opposition? When we do, I'm going to take it as a good sign. Not that dedication and persecution are causally linked (I can't remember the technical term, but you know what I mean). But power and persecution often are, I think! Once we get dangerous to the enemy's bottom line, the enemy ups his attentions. I don't want his attentions, but I do want to be counted worthy to suffer shame. (I guess that shame doesn't always have to be physical.)

The Lord did comfort me a bit with the reminder that time is a wider and less algebraic thing than I usually calculate. Perhaps I am worthy; that doesn't necessarily mean the "beatings" will happen today. Just eventually...

You've probably already guessed that I was reading my new VOM tonight. The back cover, with the photos of Marzieh and Maryam made me weep. I want to be counted worthy, but I also want every Christian to be rescued and spared the persecution they're under. Especially His women. Lord, make me worthy! But Lord, rescue your daughters!