There is a church service video that has stuck with me for the last five years. The preacher invites a little girl to join him on stage and her job is to hold onto one quarter. She cannot open her hand for any purpose. If she is successful, she will get to keep the quarter. She agrees. Then he brings out a bag and starts pouring the contents over her closed hand. Hundreds of quarters fall to the ground. As her eyes are ready to pop out of her head, the preacher asks if her hand is still closed. You can tell she desperately wants a whole handful of quarters, but she continues to clutch only one as she promised to do. The visual has stayed with me all these years because how often do we cling to something big, or as nominal as a quarter, instead of opening our hands to what God desires to pour into them?
I’ve witnessed God pouring blessings on many, from an open-handed decision made three years ago. Come back with me to a conga-line of 15 hungry, tired and soot-covered women, lifting up praise and devotion to Jesus, as we danced the aisles of the food tent, requesting left-over scraps for our own dinner. We were the “food prep team” of a church’s woman camp weekend, yet when we arrived at the linen table clothes, candles and gorgeously displayed, wood-fire-cooked meal, there wasn’t any for us. I wish I could recall the specific song praising God, but in the moment and now my memory, I was soaking up the happiness we felt as we witnessed Jesus once again multiplying loaves, vegetables, and chicken collected from others’ plates. I’m giggling even now as I recall this, because in “normal life” we would never eat off a stranger’s plate. Funny, when God is changing hearts, He often pushes us out of social norms too!
For the record, camping is not my thing, but I desired an opportunity to push my Bible Study group outside the comforts of normal suburban living, you know – a heated home, with a solid roof, comfortable bedding, electricity to brew coffee, water for a shower … and a toilet to flush! I wanted us all to have a chance to focus solely on Him. So, when He prompted me to follow Him on this adventure, one that I normally wouldn’t choose, I opened my hands for Him to provide every piece of equipment and each person He desired there. Even as the phone calls of hesitation and concern started days before departure, He held me steady in His plan. Our first night was more about sleeping in the rain than under the stars, but we all stayed. With achy backs and barely brushed teeth, we greeted hundreds of other women who arrived Saturday morning. As we gathered around the worship tent, “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin was sung and our tears of surrender began to flow. God opened our hearts and the love of the Holy Spirit flowed through many.
By letting go of our comfort, letting go of one quarter, we said yes to sleeping in the rainy outdoors, achy from sleeping on thin yoga mats, drinking cold, smoky coffee because we didn’t know to bring a jet boil along, and I’m not even going to write about the bathroom situation! By saying yes to two nights of camp, we’ve watched blessings pour over each other year after year:
- A twenty-year seeker found her Savior and intimately learns more about Him as the months roll past,
- Two women return for baptism the following spring (Good Word Project co-writer Jen was on our first trip, and had the honor of being asked to baptize these friends on their return),
- Too many prayer circles, text chain encouragements & hardships shared and reunions to count, all out of devotion and love for each other,
- Solid relationships strengthened, not in familiarity or because of children the same age, but in a desire to deepen faith.
It is wonderful to stand back and watch each of our “camp tribe” listen and run after God, using her unique situation and giftings to bring more Kingdom to Cincinnati.
Music, praise, and devotion are all great ways to worship God. My small-group leader Ann opens each of our gatherings in worship music. She says it separates us from worldly concerns. And because God loves to worship, it will draw Him into our presence. I find it an amazing few minutes of pause, followed by hours of peace. I’ve recently been humbled when I recognize, unbeknownst to me, the “lamb is worthy” lyrics running through my head. It’s a song that has been embedded on my heart for over 30 years, from high-school FOCUS gatherings. I’ve found myself humming it throughout the day and even to sing myself back to sleep in the middle of the night. I’m not sure how my brain knows to cue-up this particular song, but I am thankful for the peace it brings:
“The lamb is worthy (x4), to receive power (x2), and the glooooooory, the lamb who was slain…(x4)”
It is awesome to find my song written in the pages of Revelation, being sung by beautiful voices, tens of thousands of angels were singing loudly:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! …
“The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped.”
Regardless of whether you worship in a rowdy conga-line, or in the silent surrender of your tears, our God is listening and present. He meets us in the wilderness as well as in suburbia. He pines for our time and our attention. He rewards with blessings we cannot imagine and peace that cannot be penetrated.
Dear Lord – Thank you for prompting us to follow you, for opening our hands to your desires and to experience more of You. We are humbled by your plan and your greatness. Thank you for working among us and in us, as you redirect our life to look more like your son Jesus’.
(Published on GoodWordProject Dec 2019)