Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The God of This City

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.

39 comments:

angie said...

He is the God of the City! It was a glorious day on the fields of 2nd B and we appreciate your prayers as our body adjusts through the coming months!

R said...

what a beautiful picture you painted. my north texas-area brain can't fathom what it must be like in that region.

Honea Household said...

Very good, Amanda. I so want to be in the same place you are, shaved of the silliness in my life. I don't want to want extravagance.

Mandi said...

Thank you for sharing this today. Being so far removed from Houston, I needed to be reminded of the devastation that has taken place there.
I like what your pastor said about allowing God to use the storm to do its work in us. This is so true whether we experience actual storms or just the storms of life.

Sheryl said...

Wow, great words! God has been shaving off the silliness in my life for the past 15 months. It's painful but how great to walk closer with my God. I only wish I had willingly chosen this path a long time ago.

Love to you, Melissa-
Sheryl

Suzi said...

I too get caught up in the silliness. I feel the Lord has been teaching me that all I need is Him and the essentials nothing more!

Praying that lives will be changed in your city.

Tamara said...

This is an excellent post. It brought to mind 2 thoughts:

1. Right after 9/11, I remember having the same thoughts...that the unnecessary an frivolous seemed almost obscene. Around the same time, a dear friend of mine was making do with so little, and I was receiving wedding gifts out the wazoo. I was humbled by her grace under pressure, and convicted that things would no longer be my priority.

2. I recently saw a documentary about a WWII train station Canteen, where the women in the area would get up at the crack of yesterday and ride a train a few hours to minister to the young men who came through the station just before shipping out. They would work from 6 am to midnight, then return by train to their own homes. They would bring homemade goods to serve, and they didn't have convenience products like we do now! Our church has been serving as a special needs shelter since hurricane Gustav. Our church members have been serving on shifts to minister to the needs of the evacuees. God has been reminding me that people are worth the sacrifice! God loves people more than anything! And that puts my desire for "things" into proper perspective.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - Houston is in our prayers!

Rose said...

You we sang it too (Lakewood), it was absolutely a beautiful service, our whole service was prayer and praise.. . Thanks for sharing this, I agree with what you said, I just got power yesterday, after 11 days. Let me tell you God did some sifting in my life of the 'uneeded' things. P.S. yesterday I was reading my hubs devo book by your husband, I hadn't read it. I thought I have to write to Amanda and tell her how wonderful it is. I love it, and hubs is almost done, this is the very 1st devo my husband has done and he loves it, I have seen a difference in the way he parents our 3 chidldren and they way he prays. . . Tell your hubs to hurry up and come up with #2!! :)

thanks!

Jamey Lynne said...

Hey Amanda... I'm just a Siesta from Alabama, but I wanted to let you know that this gave me chills. I think this is a lesson God is teaching His church all over the country, through a myriad of different circumstances. I know he's been opening my eyes to this lately... Also, I was at a store called Philanthropy in downtown Franklin, Tennessee this weekend shopping for benefit t-shirts, and I got one that benefits the Hands and Feet Project at Children's Village in Haiti. It made me think of your post about the hurricane damage to Haiti, and it was cool because you really increased my awareness and challenged me to get involved. :)
- Jamey

Kelly said...

Thanks for this today Amanda. Great reminder of what is truly important.

Spicy Magnolia said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. That song of Chris Tomlin's is very powerful and anointed. And I pray in agreement with your prayer!

Christie said...

I wept as I read this post. I remember the Sunday after Katrina hit. My husband and I were evacuated attending my parents' home church, my eldest was in the nursery and my youngest was still growing inside. We had no idea what we were going back to, if anything. The only thing we could do was praise. Blessed be the Name of the Lord (Matt Redman) was new at that time, as was
Praise You in the Storm (Casting Crowns). We sang through tears, our voices cracking, but full of belief and faith that God was not done with us, and He was not leaving us. We are praying for you!

Marilyn in Mississippi said...

This is beautiful Amanda! Thanks for letting us see deep into your soul..

God bless you and your church and your city!

Marilyn

The Bargain Shopper Lady said...

Preach it sister!
Great word!

Lauren said...

I really related to this part. I have been thinking the same thing lately:
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.

Angela said...

You are right on. When Hurricane Charlie came through Orlando, we had many of these same feelings. We were out of power for 3 days and that was the biggest inconvenience for us. Yet people all around us had trees in their houses, trees on their cars, no power for weeks, or a roof over their heads. Fortunately we were able to go out and help those who needed it, pick up debris, take dinners to those without power and most of all pray. I know I can't do most of these for TX, but I will pray. I'll pray for you, pray for those who have no place to call home, and pray for those who are inconvenienced.

connorcolesmom said...

Oh how this post touched me - I sit here in tears
You are SO RIGHT - we need to realize the destruction of the LOST and HURTING in this world
I know I am guilty of being too comfortable and I am so thankful that God is patient with me

Oh God open my eyes to those around me, help me to hear them b/c their souls are crying out for you! Show me how to shine your light to the lost and lonely...
AMEN
Love ya
Kim

Kiki@Seagulls in the Parking Lot said...

Thanks for sharing what Pastor Gregg talked about, we were out of town because we were without power. I so wanted to be there fellowshipping and worshiping with everyone.

And I am so thankful that He is the God of this City. And I want to shake the silliness out of my life.

Kristin

Cheri-Beri said...

You hit me hard, dear! Just recently I started reading a bunch of home decorating blogs. I started to get obsessed - literally obsessed - with the decor in my home. How it could be improved, how it could be changed, blah, blah, blah. I was sitting at my laptop feverishly lapping up another blog when His sweet Spirit said to me, "Your house never bothered you until you started reading these blogs." Ouch. So I threw away all the fabric swatches, measurements and put the meausring tape back where it belongs. You're right - it really is silly to worry myself on such temporary things. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder all wrapped into one.

Mainly a midwife said...

That service sounds like it was amazing!

Ashton said...

Thank you for your heart, Amanda in this writing you posted.

A friend of mine, a prayer warrior shared with me that this storm was to bring renewal to the city, a cleansing. A spiritual revival if you will. I believe that is how she worded. Certainly needed in my life.
Allison

Michelle said...

I feel your heart in this one. I'm praying for you all.

creative gal said...

THANK YOU for sharing!! I so needed that today!!

Joni said...

Wow, what a great post. There is some silliness I need to address as well. Thanks for the reminder.

LeighAnne said...

Amanda,

What a beautiful and sobering post. Thank you for being so transparent. I have been struggling with the "silliness" of this world lately too. It is so hard to not become caught up in having a certain image and having things that really don't matter a bit in God's plan for our lives. Thank you for reminding me today of what really matters in life. I needed to hear this. My "tiny" cross is just that, "tiny." I needed to remember that others are going through things that are so much bigger and more devastating than me! :) You're a wise lady! Thanks again,

LeighAnne

Lisa said...

Amanda, you and all the Houstonians continue to be in my prayers. God has been doing some skimming around here too... some irrelevant things just don't hold dominion over my heart like they once did. And now, seeing what has happened to all those in the wake of Ike, I feel like my priorities are once again being realigned.

It's also comforting to know we're not the only parents who spank when the situation calls for it (which, thankfully, is rarely, but it does have to be done once in a great while). You're such a breath of fresh air, and I learn so much from you!

Blessings and prayers,
Lisa

kara with a k said...

What a beautiful and thought provoking post, Amanda. I hardly even know what to say in response. Being so far removed from the devastation in your city I have a hard time relating, but right now I'm trying to imagine what Houston and Galveston and the surrounding area have been going through and will continue to go through. My prayers for you and the people of Houston are going to be a little deeper today.
He is the God of This City. What an anointed song! Just recently I was driving to work and as that song played it was all I could do to worship, cry, and keep my eyes on the road at the same time. I drive through a rough part of my small town every morning. A neighborhood crippled by drugs, broken homes and poverty. Then I go to work at a gift store where comfortable middle class and wealthy people drop sometimes hundreds of dollars on stuff that can never make them complete. Oh how we need HIM to be God of this city. And I know Houston needs him to be God of this city too.

Thank you for writing this,

Kara in Oklahoma

petrii said...

I so have goosebumps right now ~~ I absolutely dig The God of the city and the country and the suburbs and the sticks ~~ He is God of all!! Thank you for this post and the reminder that we still need to be prayin' for dear Houston and the area.

Blessings to you sweet one, Dawn

Fran said...

What a beautiful word Amanda. Thank you so much for sharing. This is sticking with me.

Blessings,
Fran

Jen said...

You write so eloquently! Your description of church on Sunday was to a tee. It was so small and intimate and just... it seemed like everyone was taking a deep breath. I too was SHOCKED at the amount of people that still do not have power. My parents live by Cypress Bible Church and they are still without power. Crazy times!

Hope you're feeling well!

Dana said...

You are so right Amanda. We didn't have power for a few days and then we lost water. BUT we had such fun around the candlelight. Our church is without power and water but a church down the street opened its doors to us and we had church in the afternoon. I think that is how it should be. Church's helping each other. I still get chills. It was wonderful.

Kristen said...

Oh how I miss church! Thank you for filling me in on the services...your post gave me goose bumps.

HisTreasuredPossession said...

Amen and thank you (one almost 30 year old to another)

Lindsee said...

All I can say, with tears in my eyes because of the crazy week it's been, is Amen!

katiegfromtennessee said...

Wow Amanda,

I am glad God is working in Houston and in your church and the Church Body there. I do love that song, although I have not heard it very many times. When I go to places on mission trip, even in the U.S. where there is poverty, it really makes me thankful for what I have been undeservedly given. I believe with the temp gas price rise, and the other damage it did in Chicago and Ohio, God has used that storm to get America's attention. Humility is crucial for us now. I am soo thankful for His mercy and forgiveness-as far as the east is from the west...God has been teaching me too Amanda, He is loving towards us:) Yes, LORD, "I know You love us. You are not done with this city. Strengthen the remnant. Build up Your Kingdom here, Lord."

katiegfromtennessee

Jenny said...

thanks for so eloquently putting into words what i've been feeling since the storm. awesome post! oh, and i'll talk to you if we ever decide to move, but after tim's hour long commute from my parents' house at 6am...he says he's never moving out...ever! we'll see :)

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I've been thinking about the phrase "shave the silliness off our lives" ever since I read this, Amanda. It's something God has been teaching me, too. I struggle with knowing how to balance the wisdom and depth of God with my sanguine personality.

There was a time in my life that was so dark, so painful, that I thought I'd lost all penchant for silliness forever. I couldn't watch TV or listen to pop music or watch a movie. It all felt too frivolous. But eventually, as God healed my heart, my sanguine personality started to assert itself again. I know this is how God made me, and I'm thrilled to be laughing again. But ... I struggle.

greatgang said...

Amanda
Very moving and exhorting. Thank you for putting it into words!

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

He is the God of every city! It's a beautiful song. Thanks for sharing.