Today I begin the second half of this sabbatical. Surprisingly, I am only now really beginning to feel relaxed and released, for lack of better words. I sensed this yesterday in worship. Let me share a bit about it.
As I wrote earlier, Doris and I have been trying to worship consistently at Ephrata Community Church. In reality, we have been getting there every other week, and attending worship with our kids on the other Sundays. Anyway, this past week was a really moving time for me in worship. The ECC band did their rendition of "Taste and See" (Hillsong). Every church has songs that seem to hold special meaning for them and I sense "Taste and See" is such a song for ECC. Anyway, the congregation really cut loose and the worship flowed freely. I love seeing people worship with abandon and seeing a church really open up in worship. And since I had no worries about what is coming next, I too could just let my heart go. From this song the band went into "Holy" by Brenton Brown. Part of the lyrics for "Holy" go like this:
"Holy is your name in all the earth.
Righteous are your ways, so merciful.
Everything you've done is just and true.
Holy, holy, God are you."
As we sang these words, I wept. They were tears of joy and praise and thanksgiving for the righteous, just and true ways God has moved in my life over the years. They were tears of joy and praise and thanksgiving for the love God has for me, as unworthy as I am, and how gracious and kind and amazing God has been. It has been a long time since I was able to let go like this in worship, and it was so very good.
Why this moving experience now? Not sure, but it had something to do with what I have been working on the last few weeks. I have been reading, studying and praying. There remains in my soul a great quest for increased intimacy with God and I have been asking him for this, wondering if I am being selfish. But God heard my prayer and on Sunday gave me another glimpse of his glory and grace.
Also, I have been spending some time reviewing my spiritual journey over the years, as you know from previous posts. And I had just spent some time with two close friends of mine--two guys I went to high school with whom God grabbed and and set on a path of following him during the same eventful year that I blogged about. As I was hanging out with these two guys and their wives, including attending a wedding reception for one of their children, I again saw how gracious God has been in our lives. We three couples have ten children, and now a host of grandchildren. The ten children we raised are all believers who are actively following Jesus and are plugged into the church. Those who are married (all but one) chose well and have spouses who are also Christ-followers. Some of our kids are on staff at their churches, some serving abroad in missions, some pursing advanced degrees in biblical studies and psychology, some following the call to ministry and some providing important services in their communities. And emerging now is the next generation--little people to invest our lives into. God has been so merciful and gracious, and unbelievably kind.
As I reflect on this, it comes with great humility. I speak for myself and Doris, but we were not perfect parents. We made our share of parenting mistakes. There were times when we wondered if our inadequacies and blunders would leave scars on our children that would turn them away from God. But righteous are his ways, so merciful; and everything he does is true and just. We give God all the glory. I know there are many families where the parents were just as sincere in their faith as we and their family stories are very different. I do not know why. Many factors come to bear on the lives of our kids, some far beyond our control. But God is sovereign and his ways righteous and merciful, and so I trust in him and thank and praise him for his mercy.
So as I worshipped on Sunday, the goodness of God flooded my soul. My heart filled with joy and gladness as God blanketed my soul with is mercy and love. I cried tears of joy (and clouded up my contact lenses for the rest of the day!). It was sweet and refreshing. Tears have a way of cleansing more than just your tear ducts. Doris and I worshipped side by side, arm in arm, as we basked in the glory of the Lord. It doesn't get any better than that.
Sunday was a great half-way point for this sabbatical.
Here are some YouTube renditions of the songs I mention in this post. The videos are, naturally, from other places and by other bands, but you get the gist of the songs. (Reminder: some of you who receive this by email will not be able to see these links and will need to log on to this blog directly to see the videos. I do not know why this is. Sorry.)