Wednesday, May 17, 2006

this weekend--part three

As if the morning service and afternoon potluck weren't quite enough to fill a day, we decided to go with Rick and Gina down to Calvary Fellowship for "Father's House," their Sunday night worship service with Brett Williams. Dave and I went a few times a few years ago, but Rick and Gina had never been. We were all eager for a night of great music and the kind of worship that rights your boat and fills your sails.

We arrived early, plopped our stuff down in on chairs in the second row, and went back out to the lobby to grab some coffee. As I was filling a cup for Dave and one for me, a friendly voice said, "How about some cake to go with that?" The voice belonged to a man named Dixon, who not only offered the cake but dished up two pieces for us. I thanked him and took my bounty back to the table, but within just a few minutes, he had reappeared again--this time with two still-wrapped CDs. "I pick these up whenever I find a good deal," he said. "I'd like to bless you with them."

We asked Dixon to join us, and he did. What a gentle man. He talked a bit about his life, and the motorcycle accident that almost ended his life on his 21st birthday, and the five children he supports through Compassion. I loved his heart for those kids--who, it was clear, he thought of as his own--and I loved discovering anew how God can knit strangers together with just a breath of His Spirit. It felt like we'd known Dixon a long time. I wish we had.

It was hard to leave when the time came, but we got Dixon's address and phone number. We're going to see if we can round up a computer for him so he can keep in better touch with his Compassion kids.

We went to our seats in the second row and waited for Brett. But Brett didn't come. Instead, a twenty-something guy opened. Brett's band was all there, but this boy was leading. I started to worry.

He led the next song, too. I noticed that Brett's guitar wasn't in its usual spot, next to the unmanned microphone just in front of us. I had seen Brett walking through a side door while we shared coffee and cake with Dixon, so I knew he was there, but for some reason he was keeping himself under wraps.

Now, don't misunderstand. I'm not a Brett Williams groupie (although I'm quite sure he has a few). It's just that Brett is the kind of worship leader who forgets the rest of you are out there. It's really just him and the Lord, and that sort of scene can't help but move you to your own place of worship. When he's leading, you close your eyes and look at God. It's refreshing and soul-filling to worship with someone so skilled at fading into the background. But I didn't want him to fade so far that he didn't appear at all.

After the boy ended that second song, Brett finally walked to a mic, greeted the crowd, and told us that he wouldn't be singing during the service, but would instead be turning it over to Tonio, the boy who had already been leading. It seemed that Tonio--who came to Calvary Fellowship when he was six months old--would be leaving shortly to rejoin his parents in their church plant in Nice, France. Tonio's father is French. When he came to the Lord at CF twenty-three years ago, he began devouring the Word. As his understanding of God's love grew, so did his angst over his homeland. As Tonio later explained to us, the French are a hard people to reach, and have very little in the way of Bible-teaching fellowship. So Tonio and his parents moved back to France several years ago and began Calvary Chapel Nice.

I was glad for France. But I also felt a few selfish niggles. "Sing a song or two," I thought, "and then let Brett sing."

It wasn't to be. Not only did Tonio lead, he did so mostly in French. I liked it the first song, and it wasn't bad for the second. But a part of me struggled to worship in English while all these exotic, interesting-sounding words kept floating toward me from those massive speakers. After awhile, I was doing much more listening than worshiping.

And then Tonio started singing "The Famous One." In case you don't know Chris Tomlin's masterpiece, here are the words:

You are the Lord
The famous One, famous One
Great is Your name in all the earth
The heavens declare
You're glorious, glorious
Great is Your fame beyond the earth

For all You've done and yet to do
With every breath I'm praising You
Desire of the nations and every heart
You alone are God
You alone are God

The morning star is shining through
And every eye is watching You
Revealed by nature and miracles
You are beautiful
You are beautiful

It's a definite favorite. Despite the intermingling of French and English syllables, I tried to concentrate and worship. And in the midst of my eye-scrinching, forehead-wrinkling determination, the words broke through and stole all my self-centered thoughts. Great is Your name in all the earth ... desire of nations ... every eye is watching You ...

And I suddenly saw the vastness of God, and remembered all over again that He's not just my God. He's the One that every heart--every English heart, every German heart, every heart in Sudan and India and France--longs for at its deepest, most silent level. He's the God of all.

I'm sorry, I told Him. And then the worshiping began in earnest.

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5 Comment:

At 5/17/2006 10:56 AM, Blogger Jim Martin had this to say ...

What a great post! And a great ending...Any believer reading this post could identify with your frustration during the worship time. But--your last line says so much, "And the worshipping began."

Thanks for this pointer toward what really matters...

At 5/17/2006 8:46 PM, Blogger Gina Burgess had this to say ...

Oh, sweet worship. Your experience is like life. We struggle to tune out the distractions so we can live as God would have us live when sometimes what we try to strain out is the very lesson God is trying to teach us. When we learn the worship begins afresh.

At 5/18/2006 9:25 AM, Blogger Bill and Glory had this to say ...

Oh Shannon, I know what you're saying. Learning to fade is more challenging at times than others but I'm the last person I want people to see when God leads me into worship of Him. I can almost imagine how strenuously Tonio must have prepared for leading the worship.

God bless your honesty, Shannon.


At 5/19/2006 5:06 PM, Blogger Sharon had this to say ...

Hey Shanny,
Loved this post.I found myself songing all the lyrics you had written out to Chris Tomlin's incredible song...it's one of my faves too...Beautiful post.
Love ya,Sharon :-)

At 6/27/2006 12:14 PM, Blogger Kevin Lauer had this to say ...

Yes, that is a great song. I love most of Chris Tomlin's material. I am the worship leader at my home church and we often do Chris Tomlin's songs. My favorite is "How Great is Our God" with a chorus of "How Great Thou Art" at the end. It is simply magnificent.


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