Sunday morning we slept a little later than usual, swung by Shipley's Donuts and headed to church. Sunday school had been cancelled, which is totally a bummer because I love that part. I'm such a fellowship person.
We entered the sanctuary and it was slowly filling up. What I failed to mention two weeks ago is that our church had just started meeting in the sanctuary again after a five-month exodus into the chapel, fellowship hall, and gym while it got a much-needed renovation. The exodus happened the second Sunday after we moved back to Houston. That first Sunday back in the new sanctuary was incredible. It was so exciting and there was a wonderful spirit of praise and thanks to God. We sang Chris Tomlin's "God of this City" and proclaimed that "greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." We sang it loud and proud.
The very next Sunday there was no church because of the hurricane. Then there was Sunday, September 21 - only our second service in the newly renovated sanctuary. I cannot adequately describe how different the mood was in the service this week. Quiet. Somewhat broken. Sweet. Humble. Sober. Unsure. Pastor Gregg poured his heart out to love on us and shepherd us. His sermon was directly related to the hurricane and he talked about what we can learn from it. Three things will stick with me. For some people, this was a correcting storm. For others, it was a perfecting storm. And God wants to use it to shave the silliness off of our lives. When Curt and I went to the mall last week to get Baby's two little outfits after the ultrasound, I can't tell you how ridiculous and obscene it felt. Were we really at the mall when there was so much devastation everywhere? I think that is what a lot of us are feeling right now. I'm sure it will wear off for most Houstonians, but hopefully it won't wear off the Church. I certainly don't want it to wear off for me. I really need it. This is something I feel God has been doing in my life for the past little while and I want to see the work made complete.
I remember when we were in England how different the elderly people were from everyone else. They had survived The War. Many had been shipped off from their parents when they were kids to live in regions of England where they would be safe from the fighting. They had been through a ton in their young years and they were not caught up in the silliness of the present-day culture. They made do with little and they didn't need extravagance. This way of being was not attractive to me at age 24. I wanted very much to project a certain image and to have as much as I could of what the world could give me, while having the things of God, too. (I'm not talking about things that are plain sinful as much as things that are permissible, but not beneficial.) I so appreciate God's patience with me at every stage of life. I also appreciate that He changes me. I am getting ever-so-close to my thirties and I'm happy that in 13 months I'll cross that line with a different heart and mind than that of my 24-year-old self. I will say the same as I enter my forties, I'm sure.
Pastor Gregg exhorted us let this storm do its work in our lives - to let it be more than the inconvenience that it's been for most of us. Honestly, I haven't even been inconvenienced all that much. As he asked the congregation how many were still without power, the vast majority raised their hands. I was stunned. My cross to bear has been a tiny one. Still, He has allowed me to take a look at my own life and see the silliness, and to gaze at what matters. I want to learn this lesson.
That morning we sang "God of This City" again. We did so loudly, not as proudly, but full of faith. As we sang, images of our damaged region flashed across the whole front wall of the sanctuary. Our words went up as a prayer to God. While we worshipped in our lovely new sanctuary, we knew that only a few miles away Second Baptist Church was meeting outside. Part of the dome at the top of their beautiful sanctuary had been ripped away during the storm and the damage was extensive. They are out of their sanctuary indefinitely. The body of Christ in this town is having a moment with the Lord, y'all. How I pray that the fruit will be sweet and that everyone who lives here will get a taste...and see that He is good.
God, You are the God of this city. You're the King of these people. We feel broken by You but loved at the same time. Like today when I had to give Jackson a spanking for locking me out of the house while I fetched the groceries, but he clung to me for a long time afterward. I know You love us. You are not done with this city. Strengthen the remnant. Build up Your Kingdom here, Lord.