Sunday, January 18, 2009

Experiencing God at Southbrook:Monroe

Today my family visited Southbrook Church's Monroe campus (where our friend Geoffrey Janes is campus pastor). They've got a great thing going on down there, and I'd urge you to check out that church if you're in the area. It's a video campus, which I thought would be kinda weird, but honestly it really works well there. The live house band is an incredibly talented group of guys and gals — wow! We truly had a neat visit there.

The visit ended in a very strange way, however. As we were leaving the service, I felt for my wallet and found it missing. Now, on the way to the church, we'd stopped by the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru for breakfast, and I remembered that I'd put my wallet into the console between the front seats of our car. I was a little nervous about having left my wallet in the car unattended, but, trusting that all would be well, we didn't bother to rush out of the church. We took our time, picking up the kids from the child care area, chatting with Geoff and his wife, Nancy, and so on. In fact, we were one of the last folks to leave the building that day.

On our way out to the car, I used the remote entry fob to unlock the doors from a distance. When I got to the car, my wallet was not in the console. Now, because I'd used the remote entry device, I couldn't tell if the car doors had been locked or unlocked throughout the church service. Had I left the doors unlocked, and my wallet in plain sight? We looked around the car for signs of anyone having rummaged through it — nothing. We looked around the car for my wallet — nothing.

I went back into church to see if maybe the wallet had dropped out of my pocket inside somewhere. Again, no luck. I spoke with Nancy and Geoff to see if anyone had reported a found wallet — no dice. After giving up on the search inside, I returned to the car. Amy and the boys had been continuing to search for and pray about the wallet. They looked under and around seats, in the glove compartment and console, under the console, around the car, and so on. Everywhere that could be searched, they searched.

I want to pause here to mention something that merits mention. Throughout this entire ordeal, I was perfectly calm. Anyone who knows me well will assume that either I am lying about that, or that I simply don't know what "perfectly calm" even looks like. I can't explain why (in psychological terms, anyway), but I was just confident that God would see us through this mini-crisis.

Anyway, as I got back to the car and heard from Amy that nothing had been found, I grabbed my cellphone to contact banks and credit card companies and start blocking card numbers. While thumbing though the address book, I asked (somewhat naively) if Amy had looked under the car seats. She said she had, showing me that — multiple times, even — she had looked right … what?! There it is! My wallet was sitting, pretty as you please, almost in plain view to the right of the console!

Clearly, some rejoicing and prayers of thanksgiving were in order. Once we finally calmed down, I drove the car over to the entrance of the church (which, by the way, we — and only we — had passed through three times in the past five minutes or so). I asked Amy to hop out and run inside to tell Nancy the good news about my wallet. As she stepped onto the sidewalk, I saw Amy bend down and pick something up. Can you believe it? There was a dollar bill lying in the middle of that white sidewalk! So not only did she get to tell Nancy the good news, but she was able to donate an extra dollar towards to the ministry of that facility! What an incredible, incredible experience it all was.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A neat day of worship and affirmation

I wrote over on my family's blog about our recent decision to leave our church in Charlotte to pursue service in our hometown of Harrisburg. But I just wanted to share a little bit about how God made our last service there so rewarding and uplifting. Our prayer for Plaza has always been for its success as a church. But that's even more the case now as we leave that assembly and, in doing so, take our service energies and gifts with us. I mean, we have absolutely no delusions of being key to the success of that church, but practically speaking we've reduced the labor force there by some amount. And so our prayer is, "God, make that church flourish, if only as a clear reminder to us that Plaza is Yours, and that we are nothing but tools at Your disposal."

I was praying that prayer particularly hard prior to this past Sunday morning's service. I knew that the plan for the service involved some things that aren't typical. For one, I would be leading the "Praise and Worship" service segment with the electric guitar instead of the acoustic, which has never gone over very well there. Secondly, I knew that Amy and I would be announcing our departure, and doing so during a brand new "Family Time" segment of the service. Change, change, change all around, at a place historically hostile to such. But where I would have forecast disaster, God brought Himself to the party instead in a visible way.

Our Bible study class had a visitor, which is a somewhat rare event. After that class, we met still more visitors in the hallway. Four of the missionaries that the church supports happened to be in town and in attendance this week, and I later found out that of the twenty-some missionaries the church supports, my dad had wanted to speak with exactly those four people about a time-sensitive matter and was completely surprised to see them all there and on the same day, even. There was a spirit of happiness and hope in the air. Just prior to the service, I was standing outside the sanctuary getting some fresh air (I always feel like the heat is set too high in that building). I was approached by a dear lady who said to me matter-of-factly that our departure was no surprise to her — God had laid it on her heart a couple of weeks ago that we would soon be leaving in obedience to Him.

For the P&W segment of the service, I did something a little different. I asked that the house lights be turned down, and that the congregation engage in free worship. I wasn't going to ask them to stand, to sit, to sing, to listen, or to do anything except worship as they saw fit to worship. Wanna bang a drum? Come get it. Hiding a tambourine in your purse? Play it. Wanna lift your hands? Lift 'em. Wanna dance? Go for it. But by all means, focus on God instead of on the band. And you know? Many seemed to do exactly that. I felt like I was witnessing uninhibited worship for the first time in … well, in a very long time. And that atmosphere persisted through the entirety of the service.

I don't know what plans God has for Plaza Baptist Church. But I have to believe that if the spirit — or more accurately, the Spirit — that was present there this past Sunday morning sticks around, revival will come to that place.

From the "duh" department...

My wife asked me this morning if I'd ever read — really read — her Suave shampoo bottle. Turns out I hadn't. I mean, not really, anyway. And in that act of utter negligence, I had overlooked an amazing claim that Suave makes about their product:

Cleans and conditions hair in one simple step — for less than more expensive brands.

That's funny stuff, or at least funnier than less funny stuff.

(Thanks, Amy, for keeping our marriage light-hearted. And full of extra body and shine.)