"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty." Psalms 84:1 NIV
I was chillin' late tonight, reading an inspirational romance novel, and trying to figure out how to write one, when I came to a place where the heroine reads a passage of scripture. Psalms 84. I stopped. I was stuck with a longing so incessant that I put the book down and grabbed my Bible, but not before I heard the song in my head, and remembered.
That summer day, about three years ago. Kirk was on vacation with his family. He's my pastor on the rare occassion that I show up for church. You'd like Kirk. He leads worship in the summer in his bare feet. He wears t-shirts and khaki shorts when he preaches. He plays keyboard, and he loves Jesus.
There must have been several people on vacation that Sunday afternoon that Harvey called me to rehersal. I didn't always sing with the band. Maybe because I had those attendance issues. Duh, ya think? Most days I attend Frontline Church with a burdensome guilt and sense of shame and failure. I just didn't get it right. I never contributed what I wanted to on that very first day when I left home with a heart full of wishes that this would be the church I've dreamed of, prayed for. An artsy church, a ragamuffin church, and a church where I could be God's raga, and that would be a good, good thing. I remember that Ken said to me, "I hope it's everything you want it to be." And sweet Jesus, it was. And I still messed up.
Rehersal was a simple affair. Harvey led. You'd like him, too. He has the warmest eyes, and sweetest smile, and when he sings, you just know heaven gets quiet and listens. Harvey had his guitar with him, and a black man I'd never seen before. The man was a guest, and would sing with us that day. Back then my family was the lone black family at Frontline. The visitor was from Ohio, and had a strong, rousing, Ron Kenole kind of voice, with those soulful shades of rhythm and blues that you feel down to your toes. He was concerned because there was no drummer, and no one to keep time. But I had a set of rhythm sticks with me. I have no idea why I had them that day. It's not like I carry them on my person just in case someone needs an emergency beat. Maybe it was just one of those God things. I loaned them to him, and he was very happy.
We sang, and there was the steady pulse of the clave. Clack. Clack. Clack. Harvey's guitar wailed, and our few voices, rose past the cathedral ceiling and right to the Throne. This was before we got The Warehouse, with the hip, round, post modernesque tables, and church had the feel of a weird, but intimate nightclub. That day we were in the borrowed sanctuary of Calvary Presbyterian, and there were wooden pews and stained glass windows. Although it was small, and the lack of air conditioning made us sweat like we were rolling around on a rotisserie, it's classic structure offered a familiar solace, leftover from my days as a teenage missionary, back in the Church of God in Christ, when church was CHURCH.
That man, whose name I can't remember, taught me a Matt Redman song that day:
How lovely is Your dwelling place/O Lord Almighty/For my soul longs and even faints for You/For here my heart is satisfied/Within Your presence/I sing beneath the shadow of Your wings/Better is one day in Your courts/Better is one day in Your house/Better is one day in Your courts/than thousands elsewhere.
And I sang. I sang with my whole heart at that rehersal, hours before service began, and there was no audience of eager worshipers to hear. I sang out from the place within that wasn't ashamed of my life, my poverty, my depression, and years upon years of losses. It was a me and Jesus moment, and the disappointing past and present disappeared for a time, and my spirit danced like the sound vibrating in the air. Dear Jesus. Better is one day in His courts.
Not even a whole day. It was one perfect, chainless, freedom drenched moment, and it wasn't even time for service yet. That's what I remembered when I stumbled upon that scripture in the novel I was reading tonight.
I'm being evicted from the house I live in. My prayer for this weekend is constant: "Lord, let the landlord who interviewed us today say yes." Fear wrings my stomache in knots, and as often as it does, I pray to my Father, hoping his mercy will keep homelessness at bay, and praying as David did in the same psalm that inspired that song, that God would look in favor on His anointed one (84:8), this ghetto prophetess whose best thing is the words she gives that come from Him.
But even as I pray, hoping the threat of homelessness will pass quicky, I remember the courts of the Lord. The lovely dwelling place where God and his people gather, and I find hope in that remembrance. There is always a home for me in Him. And surely, He will provide a place for my family. But more than a home for my family, there is also a home for my soul. It makes me want to beat back these blues that keep me away, and take a chance and let myself be loved and in fellowship with my church family. No fear. No disappointment, just a new mercy and a new beginning. Yeah. I'm going to go to church. I've had enough thousands elsewheres.
I'll let you know how it goes.
In the shadow of his wings, singing.