Today I am hosting my friend Nacole Simmons’#ConcreteWords community while she takes a sabbatical from writing. The prompt is microphone. Scroll down to the end for an explanation of how the #ConcreteWords link-up community works.
Each week we pass the microphone. It goes skimming past those with hands clasp tight in their laps and finds it’s ways to the hands raised and grasping. And sometimes those hands shake a bit and the microphone booms a breathy word and it’s reigned back before they start again.
It’s praise and prayer time, something I’ve rarely seen work before.
I’ve seen cheesy versions during small groups before where the praise time ended up being a monologue of how awesome we all are for Jesus because we witnessed to the lost and fed the hungry and checked our selfish flesh and served our husband pot roast and on weeks we didn’t, we put on our shame faces and promised to do better for God and won at humility.
And everyone shared the good stuff or the tiny prayer requests, but not the stuff you’d write in your journal, not the stuff you really cry out to God when no one is looking.
But here, in this church with the chairs pushed too close together and the bad acoustics, the place that people wander into accidentally looking for coffee only to find a body growing together under the preaching of God’s word and fellowship, it works. The place where we all gather week after week and stories grow together and you learn that each one is carrying a burden, each one has encountered God, and each one has a place right here in this coffee shop where there are no professional Christians, only people who get it wrong a lot but cling to the fabric of grace.
These people make much about Jesus. He’s always coming up as the microphone passes between trembling palms, and sometimes the voice shakes and tears fall and it doesn’t seem like a production. Sometimes words are spoken by people used to speaking words and sometimes they’re spoken by voices that answer the why of their children a thousand times a day and sometimes they’re spoken by people whose faces flush red as the microphone comes close and their voice pitches up as their throats tighten and this isn’t something they do but they have to share. Because God is doing stuff. And He is.
And sometimes what is shared is the wretched hard path this life leads us on, sickness unto death, foreclosed homes, addictions, financial problems, marital problems, and prodigal loved ones. And sometimes what is shared is God meeting needs through the hands of His people, freedom from bondage, relationships resurrected, and the return of the wanderers.
And sometimes what is shared is the hard and the glory, the broken and the beautiful and it all points to our savior.
All of creation groans and the word of our testimony is always ever Jesus when you strip down the packaging.
Because even the tears that fall and the pain that is revealed is a testament to the coming Lord. We feel the weight of His love and mercy in this place, the call to Holiness even when we falter, and the fellowship of the saints.
We’re real in this place and it’s a mess.
Don’t think for a second I’ve found the perfect church because remember I go there. Truly it’s a train wreck on any given Sunday. But I think I’ve found home. After all the years of searching for a church that tells the story of God, the way the gospel rips us from death and breathes life into our dead souls, and then walks around a bit in the mess of it all, embracing that fact that we are flawed and failing but pushing forward in grace, this is the place I belong.
Because sometimes all I see in church is the guy with the mike. And he does a real good job of telling us all the stuff but we never really hear how the guy sitting in the chair next to us is sinking under the weight of choices made during the week when temptation is high and following Jesus seems to cost so much and it’s so easy to forget the pain when everything goes blurry and wide and you can snort it or smoke it or drink it down but it’s all the same, you just lay back and look up and feel nothing at all but you know that everyone will wonder where you are and this is your family and you can come anyway. You can come and tell the truth.
And we won’t say it’s ok and it doesn’t matter because that’s not love either but you haven’t even begun to grasp the majesty of God’s grace. And this is the hard stuff. The stuff you’re not supposed to say in church. The stuff you’re supposed to have together before you come, spiffed up and shined before you come in your Sunday best.
But I’ve never been too fond of Sunday best because the rest of the week is just so long and I’d rather we tell the truth. Because it’s only truth that sets us free.