Last week--I think it was Wednesday, not that it matters--I spent some time at the Lititz Springs Park, Bible in hand and journal open, as I relived the early months of my Christian life. In the summer of 1973 I attended (at Scott's invitation) Thursday evening Christian gatherings in the park, which were led by some youth leaders in the area. These were, as far as I know, non-denominational gatherings that drew kids like me and Scott. We gathered, studied the Bible, prayed together and worshipped. On occasion, we would plan times where we went out into town to share our faith on the street.
I came to these meetings hungry to know God. Here, I learned the basics of the Christian faith and God laid down some important foundations in my life. I learned to pray by first listening to others pray. I learned the basics of Bible study as I listened to people share what God was teaching them and as I stumbled around in my paperback Good News for Modern Man version of the Bible. I grew into a personal relationship with Jesus that summer that did not include any of the trappings of traditional religion--only the bare essentials of a love relationship with my Lord. As I did so, my life changed in dramatic and not-so-dramatic ways. It shaped who I became and who I am to this day.
I do not remember a lot of the detail from that summer. But I have vivid memories of one event. We met in the open pavilion near the concession stand. I remember exactly where I was sitting when this experience occurred and I went there this week and sat at the exact spot. One evening when we were worshipping together, one of our leaders shared that as he was praying and reading scripture, the Lord gave him a song. It was based on these words from Psalm 20:7.
Some men trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the Lord our God.
As he sang this verse to a tune that he received from the Lord, I felt a significant spiritual movement in my life. This was the first time I experienced anything this "personal" with God and the first time I remember witnessing this kind of movement of the Spirit. I have remembered this verse all these years and can still sing the tune. Amazing. (Really amazing if you know anything about my significant lack of music ability.)
What significance does this have? Why did this event, out of many others that I had that summer, impact me and stay with me for over three decades of life--decades packed full of events, change, adventure and experiences with God? What does this verse mean for me? Though the verse and tune were given to the leader that evening, I have often felt it was also for me in some significant way, I feel even more so now. I have been asking myself this, and prayerfully discerning how this verse and this experience relates to my life message, the call of God on my life. Whatever it means, the concept of this verse forms part of the foundation of faith that has guided me all these years. Some people--some pastors even--trust in their own abilities, cunning, intellect, personality, human gifts, strength and the like--but we--no, I--will trust in the name--the nature and character and power--of the Lord, my God. Foundational, bedrock.
There remain many other foundational things I learned that summer, but the gift of this verse and its accompanying Spirit tune, set in motion in my life a journey of mystical and sometimes, mysterious, experiences with God. The magic of those fresh experiences that summer cannot be recaptured. I know that. My life now comprises layer upon layer of feelings and memories and encounters and experiences accumulated over the years which shape me and my walk with God. But the relationship remains. There is no sweeter voice than the voice of God spoken sweetly into the soul of one he loves.