You don’t belong here.

Before I knew Christ, I spent a couple of years as a bartender.  I never really felt completely comfortable in that environment.  Honestly, it was an odd place for me to be because I was never much into drinking.  However, I had gone through a divorce, was a single mom, and had started a new business.  I seen it as an opportunity to help me support my family and my new business.

I remember feeling sick to my stomach every time I was there though.  I remember the emptiness I felt inside as I’d watch people coming in to have a good time.  It wasn’t just the fact that they were drinking though.  I didn’t see alcohol as an evil unless it was in excess.  Watching the people come in having such a good time, and there I was … working, serving, and something inside me just didn’t feel right.  I felt like I needed to be home.  Like I needed to be with my kids.  But then, I was divorced, so there weren’t any kids to go home to anyway.  There wasn’t a relationship at that time either.  It was a very lonely time in my life.

I tried to make the most of it.  Somehow, I recognized that there were many other people in my same predicament.  They didn’t  have anyone at home and had this intense loneliness so it seemed that this was the gathering place to run away from the emptiness.  Oddly, when these lonely souls walked in and I had a chance to lift up their spirits with my friendly conversation and a smile, it somehow made my nights working there bearable.  Of course, those conversations were always early in the night.  As the night progressed, the scene would change to something very dogmatic and ugly.

As I look back, I remember a comment made one night by one of my local patrons.  He was a regular and his comment stuck  with me.  This was a young man who could have been my little brother.  I could tell he drank a little too much, but I really liked this kid.  I could see that he had a lot of potential.  I would often spend my time encouraging him like I was his big sister.  On this particular night, he was a bit toasted.  He had just been telling me his troubles and out of the middle of nowhere, he stops and looks at me and says, ‘You don’t belong here.’

Somehow, in the middle of his misery, he recognized something in me that I was really feeling.  I didn’t belong there.  I knew it, but my circumstances were such that I didn’t have many options.  It wasn’t but a year or so after that I was finally at a point where I could walk away from that environment.  Shortly thereafter, I had my encounter with Christ.

But this isn’t a story so much about me as it is about this young man.  I don’t know where this young man is now, but I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t frequent the bars anymore.  I know that by the time I quit, he had stopped coming in.  In hindsight, I believe that night Jesus stepped inside this young man’s soul and spoke not only to me, but also this young man.  I’m fairly certain that those words he spoke to me that night resonated within himself.  How could he recognize that I didn’t belong without seeing that he didn’t either?

I know now that this was a stirring in both our souls.  A stirring and a drawing from Jesus.  A stirring and a drawing to come out of the darkness and towards Jesus.  This is what gives me so much confidence in our God.  He doesn’t give up on us.  He shows up in our lives when we least expect it.  He teaches us the way of love.

He will never lead you astray.  It’s us who get ourselves lost along the way.  He knows just when to show up and tell us, ‘you don’t belong here.’

As the body becomes united as One …

I think that Preacher’s have a pretty cool position.  I’m not talking about the fact that they get to stand on the platform and do all the talking while everyone else does the listening.  Neither am I talking about the fact that they hold the power in the room.  I had an experience that showed me something entirely different!  I invite you to take a peek from my perspective ….

It was the end of May.  I was on my son’s last field trip that I would ever have the chance to be a part of.  We were at a local state park doing lots of hiking, exploring, swimming, boating, and all kinds of cool outdoor things.  The temperature was perfect!  The bugs weren’t too bad and the sky held a deep blue with a hint of storm clouds that were running to catch up with us.

The winds blew and without us even noticing,  the clouds snuck up on us and now dark grays loomed over us, doing their best to let us know … the storm was coming.  The teachers sent the kids to the bus and tried to delay in hopes that the storm would move on without us.  The delay went from 5 to 10 to 15 minutes and soon, those 60+ fifth graders were beginning to take on a life of their own … one that was rather cranky and annoyed to be sitting on a hot stinky bus.

I decided to check on my boy.  He was of course, in the back.  I took a couple of snap shots of him then headed back to the front.  I turn around and look at these kids and a few heads look my way.  That’s when one little guy looked me right in the eye, started motioning, and singing ‘YMCA.’  I was intrigued by his beckoning to interact, so I did the best thing I knew how … I did the YMCA with him.  Next thing I know, the WHOLE bus (except my son who is now shrinking in embarrassment) joins in!

I was a bit overwhelmed, nervous, and completely engaged at the same time!  While there were 60+ individual children on this bus, I was watching as they all had united as one … literally one mind and in one accord!  After YMCA, it was my turn to take the lead.  I began with ‘The wheels of the bus.’  Once again, we became one voice.  Truthfully, I was shaking in my boots, but this was truly a blast!  After this song, they once again took the lead and began to sing out and pound on the seats, ‘We will, we will, Rock you!’    I got that one on video!  These children were truly delightful!

Wow!  What a blessing this was from God!  I imagined that this MUST be what it is like for a preacher when he truly allows God to lead the service.  Sure, he comes prepared with a sermon.  However, as the hearts and minds of the believers begin to become united and the spirit sweeps in, the preacher then begins to interact with the Body of Christ with Jesus taking the lead!

I can only imagine how the preacher gets a glimpse of Jesus’ hands reaching in and caressing a heart here, or uplifting a spirit there.  I have witnessed my own Pastor as he is heading one direction and suddenly, he begins down a different path as though Jesus had just tapped him on the shoulder and whispered in his ear.  What an incredible blessing it must be to witness this!

I am so enamored by God!  He truly amazes me!  We think so much of what we do is because of our own efforts.  Hah!  Boy have we got a lot to learn!  I think it is really cool that we have a God that is so interactive and truly teaches us how to live and enjoy the many blessings He provides!  We haven’t even scratched the surface to all that He has prepared for us!  WOW!