This is the story of my morning, Sunday August 16, 2009.
I sing in the Voices of Praise Choir at my church. I am calling out the name of the choir because 1) there are like 5 choirs in my church and 2) I love them jokers! Anyway, we only sing every third Sunday. And this was our Sunday to sing. Now, the reason I joined this choir is because this is the silliest group of folks in the church. As a matter of fact, the reason I joined the church – on my first visit – was that the pastor is silly too. On my first visit, I watched him wrestle a palm tree across the pulpit. Sold! This is where I wanted to be. They crazy up in here! LOL!
So, we have two services. During the first service, we kind of ‘try out’ all our songs on the congregation to see if we should bring it to the second (larger) service. My choir has a reputation for putting on a good performance. But this morning, we were SO off. Nobody had practiced, the tenors didn’t show up until rehearsal was over and our director Calvin looked like he was about ready to bite somebody. We just couldn’t get it together. And it came across in early service. We got a lukewarm reception – pastor looked at us a little sideways like “what the heezy?” The only thing that saved us was the one song on which Old Dude sang lead. (I don’t know his name, so that’s what I call him.) He pulled it out and saved us. And early service was kind of … meh…
After early service we all went to breakfast, and Calvin laughed and talked about us, and the rest of the choir showed up (the 11 o’clock additions) for rehearsal. This time in rehearsal, Calvin really pushed us to do better and reminded us that we were a great choir and capable of more. And at the end, he prayed (as he pushed us out the door) “Lord please let us sing and do our best and let it please you Lord, and get some folks in the spirit and save some people today Lord. In Jesus’ name…” Hallelujah, get out! (He didn’t say that, I added that…)
As we are walking out to the front so we could march in, I am NOT in the spirit. I will admit it. I was distracted with my own thoughts and problems. I am already planning to NOT come to church next Sunday. I was thinking about my own wants and desires. I was watching this lady with a C-cup walk by and wondering why she thought she didn’t need a bra. She needs to read my rant #3 on ‘dress code’. No club clothes at church! Clearly, my mind is not set on the Lord. And as we march in, we are singing a song that not only do I NOT know – but have never heard. So I tried to fake it as best I could. I am watching the lips of other people and trying to mimic the shape of their mouths to try and guess the words. It sounded something like “Ayyyyy..oooonnn… Yiiiieeeeouuuuu Lorrrd” (I knew it ended with Lord…)
We get into the choir stand and I immediately kick off the shoes (why did I wear new shoes today?). Pastor Barnes pre-empted our first song and just started singing old stand-bys that he knew, having lost faith in us. And Calvin is just going with it and giving us a “you know you deserve it” smile. We sang about 4 little old-school songs and then we went into the one song we had murdered in early service. But this time, we tried harder – and we did well! And now that we are somewhat redeemed, we all relaxed a little bit. We welcomed visitors with our special “Welcome to Macedonia” song. We are singing “Welcome to the plaaaace…where love makes the difference…” and Javon (lead tenor) is up in the first row doing the snake. So that catches on and soon I and the rest of the sopranos are snaking it up and fellowshipping and just generally having a blast. Until Calvin gave us the “church mama” look from the organ. Then Javon went down to direct us in the next song: Old Dude’s song. Now I told you that he had pulled it out in early service, but this time, it was special. It was the song “Broken But I’m Healed” by Byron Cage and Varn Michael McKay
There was something about this song that touched me. I actually listened to the words I was singing:
God can heal, he can dee-LIV-ah (that’s how we sang it)
He can mend your brokenness
He has a miracle to fit your needs
Once you trust Him, you will receive.
There was an element to the lead singer’s voice: it sounded like he meant what he was saying. Like he had been through something and he wanted to tell you about it with this song. And I was hearing it. My eyes started to get a sharp pain in them and I had to close them and look down, and then I realized that my shirt had spots on it. Was this from breakfast? No! Am I crying? I’m crying! I don’t cry in public! What’s going on with me? And I look towards Javon, and his face is crumbling too. I realize that I am singing and I can’t hear myself – but I must be on key because nobody is giving me dirty looks. (Quietly, that is a small miracle in and of itself.) Tears are running down my face because I am FEELING this song! I am wiping them and magically someone puts a tissue in my hand. And the song is over but I don’t remember singing it. Did I sing? Did we do well? I look around and the piano player is feeling it too. He starts the happy-dance song (you know that song I am talking about). And I look over at Miss Tina (my play mother) and she is pumping her arms and they are holding her. I am still crying. Am I bouncing? I think I am. Wait, I don’t bounce. What?
We start another spontaneous song, something like “I’ve got a praise and I’ve got to let it out!” I don’t know that song either, but I know I sang it along with everyone else. I look out at Javon and he is happy dancing in the first row. Calvin has gotten up from the organ and is doing high kicks to the right of the pulpit. Pastor Barnes is jookin’. By this time, Javon has left the choir stand and taken off running back and forth across the front of the pulpit. RUN, Javon! RUN! One of the lead sopranos on the 1st row tried to get out of the stands but didn’t make it, and ended up doing her happy dance right where she was. The lady in the 2nd row in front of me is bending from the waist and then throwing herself back. We had to hold her. I am fanning her with one hand and trying to wipe my eyes with the other. I am yelling “Hallelujah!” … But I don’t yell. I don’t act out. I don’t ‘get happy’. But did I? Yes, I think I did. Wow, seriously?
That was my novel experience. I will be honest with you, I have never really bought in to the whole ‘happy dance’ phenomenon. I used to think that people were faking. I still think some are. I used to think that maybe I just wasn’t capable of feeling that, or maybe … I don’t know. I will tell you this: I had Steve Harvey’s voice in my head at some point when this was happening. Steve Harvey? Strange choice, huh? But at the end of each of his morning shows, he says “don’t be ashamed to pray, don’t be too proud to pray…” Was this my problem? Not the prayer, per se, but the praise. Had I been too proud to praise the Lord like I should? Maybe. Too ashamed? Sometimes. But not anymore. And here’s another image that flashed through my mind while this was happening: Remember the movie “Fallen” with Denzel Washington, where the bad spirit would jump from person to person, chasing him? I wondered if maybe the spirit of the Lord could travel from person to person in the same way. It sure looked like it. You could almost see the spirit moving around the congregation. And I wondered: if I am a part of this conduit, what happens when I don’t let it out? Am I blocking someone else from getting the spirit because I won’t let it go through me? Had I been doing that? We all kept praising and crying and shouting until Pastor Barnes calmed us down. And he knew just what to say to help get us all under control again, and break the spell:
“There is a red Nissan out in the parking lot, license plate 9Q7…”
LOL!! Okay, Pastor Barnes. We’re good.
He went on to preach an amazing sermon about faith, and its healing powers. (Matthew 10:46, if you’re interested). Sometimes we have 20-20 vision and yet are still blind. If you want to receive a blessing and have your sight restored, and really SEE, call on the Lord. And don’t let anyone stop you. And coincidentally, about 15 – 20 people came forward today (remember Calvin’s prayer?). And since we still had too much energy at the end of the service, Calvin let us Reebok it out. Yes, you read that right. I told you we were silly!
I wanted to share this experience with you because I felt I had to. Sometimes, I get things in my heart that I just HAVE to let out. I am a generally happy person, but I have never ‘gotten happy’ before. I hope to experience that again. It felt good. But not every week – it makes my contacts cloudy and I don’t want to have to change them out constantly. But I will now look at the other people in church, whom I may have unfairly judged, with new eyes, now that I can SEE. And for those who wonder why I am quoting comedians and fictional movies – you can get a lesson from anywhere, if you are open to it. I could have published this earlier, but I figured: if I put it out on Sunday, then it will probably be another week before you have to decide whether to get up and go to church, or sleep in. Wake up! Jesus is calling you! Time to do the happy dance!
Rant Volume # 20 done, and I’m out.