So maybe no one's given you 15 $100 bills.
(see the post: His Mercies are New Every Morning)
And you are thinking, "Well, that's great for you. But I've been facing the rapids for a long time, barely keeping my head above water, and the money and free make-up haven't fallen in my lap yet."
Fair enough. I too have watched other people's good fortune, amazing luck, and blessings come at just the right moment and have thought... "uh-hum God it must be nice for someone to just hand you money. I wouldn't be in this predicament if you fixed it for me."
In that moment, not only am I setting myself up for failure by comparing my life to others and wallowing in my own toxic, poor-me cess pool, but more importantly, I am forgetting that having my physical needs met is only a very small part of the equation.
God has a magic wand?
To be honest, I have spent much of my life not believing that God blesses us with "stuff." I would hear stories about people who needed milk and milk showed up on their front porch; single moms who had cars given to them just as their old ones died; and people who got anonymous checks in the mail just in time to pay the bills and I thought, "that's so cool, but it's not God."
Not only did I hear those stories, but I saw those stories with my own eyes as they played out in my family. Still, even though I knew we needed ________ and were praying for _________ and that at the exact moment we needed ____________, it appeared; in my mind, this had nothing to do with God. It was more or less the result of people who loved God or good timing or simply because we made our needs known and that's what people do: take care of each other when someone else has a need.
I took God out of the equation. It wasn't exactly God. If anything, blessings were inspired by the people of God, so they were quasi-God, but He wasn't dishing things out with a magic wand. No way.
I guess I mainly thought this because with my incredibly intelligent brain I reasoned that God could not be a good God if he gave me lipstick and free make-up, yet he did not provide safety, clean water, or a simple meal to the people of impoverished nations. What kind of God would do that? Pick and choose?
A really unfair one. Only a perverse, awfully unloving God would do this.
Here's the part where you might think I am about to tell you that one day I heard a sermon or read a book or took a theological class that made everything crystal clear, and that now, I, Jenny Simmons, knows when and how and why and on whose behalf God works.
As if it is as easy as praying a prosperity prayer and believing you will get the desired results no matter what. Or picking one scripture verse that we can use to completely define God's job description and they type of people who qualify for His benefits. Or touting the words of an author or speaker as a shield to hide behind as I tell you that I know with complete certainty what God will and will not do for his children... with his magic wand.
But of course, I don't have that answer. And anyone who claims to have that answer is making a very big assumption that they know how the Holy God of the universe operates... I would be very weary of anyone who makes such a claim.
But I am not without any answers. I have some. I can know some of the mind of Christ. I can know something about God, because I know what Jesus did. I know how Jesus lived. And I have scripture verses, like Psalms 23 that I quoted in the last blog, that simply tells me I do not walk alone. Ever.
Does that mean manna and money and make-up rain down from heaven?
But more times than not God has simply walked with me. Held my hand. And spoken to me with a still small voice.
It means God has spoken with gracious authority to my soul when I am fighting my doubts, demons, and disparity.
I don't think the Bible defines exactly when or how or why God moves or does not move in a situation; there is no set formula. No checklist to which humans can hold God accountable. God is just God and by faith we believe He moves.
I spend so much time begging for the manna, money, and make-up. All too often I forget that God's intervention in my broken life is a spiritual transformation. A moment. A whisper. A nudge. A breeze of peace. A voice calling out in the wilderness.
A few weeks ago I wrote story number one, about a man named Dexter.
This is story number two...
it's about the other kind of blessings.
A Sticky-Note from God
I feel like I should start this story off by saying, "Long story short," and just jump to the ending because the beginning of the story is familiar.
It included 20 days out on the road in the month of January (we were only home 3 days in January). Lots of shows, finishing the new album in Nashville, etc. A really great month but oh so exhausting.
I have a friend who is a lawyer. He used to have big deals come through and he would work 60, 70 hour weeks. So, if I had a 'real world' job, say I was a lawyer, then I would have spent the entire month of January working overtime to push the deal through. Just in case you were trying to figure out an equivalent.
We get to the end of the month and play for a pretty big weekend event. About 4,000 people.
We are glad to be there, really glad. But tired. We are at the end of the deal. The month of working overtime.
Before the last worship session the guys are eating dinner in the hotel restaurant when they hear a youth pastor say to his table full of students, "I can't believe Addison Road sucks so bad. That girl hasn't been on pitch the entire weekend. I won't even be able to listen to Hope Now again because they ruined it. Their music is horrible." The students laugh and chime in.
He went on and on and ended by praying that the music would get better.
Now, cute Amy Stendenbach (I don't know your other, real last name :)) and Rebecca Wells, and all of you very loyal, encouraging, pit-bull, mama bear friends out there... don't hate this man. That's not the point of the story, I promise.
But there he is talking so bad about the band that the guys thought it was a joke. Any second they were expecting him to turn around and say, "Oh my gosh, what do you know, it's the band!" But he never did. Instead, his teenage daughter caught a glimpse of the guys and quietly told her dad that she thought the band was sitting behind them. He responded arrogantly and loudly, "Well, this is gonna be a good story to tell my friends. How I dissed on the band and they were right behind me. Guess that's what it means to put your foot in your mouth."
In the working world, I suppose this would be like my lawyer friend sitting down in the cafeteria for a break after busting his butt for a month only to hear his very own clients talk about what a dumb schmuck he was.
The guys were furious. They were shaking. I get a text to meet in room 1204.
(How cute is this? They are angry but instead of beating the guys head in, they just want to meet in room 1204 for a band meeting. A pow-wow. A gripe session. And they say men and women are different...)
So we meet at the room and the guys recount the story for me and they are trembling they are so angry. And we are about 45 minutes shy of leading people in worship. And I've got a man rebellion on my hands.
Long story short... the guys think of all the things they should have said to him and arrive at the venue half way defeated and half way on a witch hunt.
And me, well, I was too tired to cry. Too tired to be angry. Too tired for a witch hunt. I was just a big blah.
Blah, blah, blah.
I went to the back of the convention center to look over the audience and pray for worship. But as I got back there and I started looking at people, I started getting angry. Who are these people and why am I here sharing my most precious music and life with them? They don't even care do they? What a jerk-o. He was bald right? Short and stalky?
My mind was racing. My heart started pumping.
Wait a minute buddy, you can't just talk bad about my job like that. What I do for a living. Right in front of my boys. We need to have some words. A little come to Jesus if you will. You better hide because I am coming to find you...
I texted Travis, "Kind of thuggish looking, right? His wife and daughter were with him, right?"
I will find him. And I will tie him up and blindfold him like they did in the old Western movies and I will bring him back to my tribe and we shall discuss the punishment over a camp fire and some sort of roasted animal.
By this time, of course, the guys have moved on with their lives but I have only just begun my witch hunt (and a woman's witch hunt, especially when it involves her tribe, is one to be feared). I will find the short bald dude and I will take care of him before I lead worship. First go make peace with your brother and then come to the alter... isn't that a scripture verse somewhere? Well good. I am going to give him a chance to come and make peace with the tribe. I will kidnap him. And I will throw him over my horse. And I will bring him back with the pride of a tribesman who has killed a buffalo (oregon trail, anyone?).
As I look out over the 4,000 thousand people every male suddenly becomes bald. They were everywhere. Tall, short, thuggish, clean cut, old, young, in betweenies, and I swear they were ALL bald. Each and every one of them: B- A- L- D.
I turned the corner to pursue my witch hunt but right there smack dab in front of me was a prayer room.
I didn't even know this event had a prayer room.
"Go in," God speaks quietly to my heart.
"No thank you. One: I don't want weird people praying on me. Sometimes they start anointing me with oil and touching me and doing all kinds of things and I am not in the mood. Two: I am not in the mood. Three: I have to lead worship in 15 minutes and I will find this man before then... and God you know good in well he's not in the prayer room."
He speaks to my soul again. "Go in. Sit down. And rest."
And for the first time in a long time, I did not argue. I was not stubborn. I did not fight back. I just obeyed. Seriously, a rare moment for my prideful, rebellious spirit. And I have no other explanation except I was really tired and the idea of bounding a man and gagging him and putting him on my horse and galloping back to camp where we would decide his fate around the camp fire with songs and incantations sounded like way too much work.
So I went in the prayer room. Only the second time I have ever gone into one of those rooms while I was performing at an event.
I sat down at a big round table. There were sticky notes everywhere. All over the table. All over the walls. All over the crosses and poster boards that adorned the room. But there wasn't a sticky note in front of me. I sat at an empty spot on the table. With an empty pad in front of me.
I began to write. "I'm weary and unsure. I'm open to any insult and waiting to listen to any ugly voice. I'm feel cold. Tired. Fake" I wrote and wrote and wrote. And I ended by saying, "I want to believe you, but right now I just don't know what is true. You know what the last year has been like. So am I doing the right thing or not? I have no idea anymore. If this is a ministry, if this is my ministry, I need for you to tell me."
Tears are streaming down my face. Streaming. I am weeping and I don't even realize it.
I literally lay my head down on the table. I know I have to go lead worship now. Jen, you have to get up and go sing now.
I pick my head up and right where I laid my hands there is now a sticky note.
I did not see it before. I intentionally sat down away from other people's writings. Remember, I sat down at an empty spot. But there it was. A yellow sticky pad that was not there moments before, I promise, it just wasn't... and it said this:
And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfill it."
"TAKE HEED TO THE MINISTRY WHICH YOU HAVE RECEIVED IN THE LORD THAT YOU MAY FULFILL IT."
I've attached pictures. I am not making this up. I asked God to tell me if this was ministry and if I was supposed to be doing this ministry and I look down and a sticky note right before me says those exact words. A scripture I have never even heard before.
There was another verse, Col 4:2. "Praying also for us, for the Word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak," and then Col 3:23, "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men."
More Often Than Not
Sometimes God does not answer us by meeting our physical needs. And I am not sure why this happens; my theory is that more often than not we live in a less than perfect place and less than perfect things happen and sometimes our gracious God intervenes to meet needs and perform miracles, but sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes He just weeps with us.
Sometimes His answer to our prayers simply come from His presence. Mostly, at least in my life, my God shows up to be my strength... not my next paycheck.
He shows up, in a thousand tiny ways, and reminds me that I'm not alone. Sometimes it is a word of encouragement. A sermon that speaks exactly to my current situation. The song that tells me everything rides on hope when I am feeling utterly hopeless. A letter from an old friend. Or a sense that I am not alone in the room. The feeling that something bigger than me is holding me together, breathing the next breath, putting peace in my heart that passes my momentary understanding, and holding me together when I cannot do so myself.
Sometimes He's in the whisper of the wind or the old hymn my friend Becca prayed over me this week.
Sometimes He is in the scripture verse that speaks perfectly to my anxious heart.
Sometimes He shows up in the smile of my homeless friend Dexter.
Sometimes he shows up at a U2 concert where 10,000 voices join together and paint a picture of what true worship is going to look like one day in God's presence.
He shows up with a love letter on a sticky note.