One evening this week, I was feeling sorry for myself. After visiting the dermatologist. I came home with two blood-red biopsy scars on my nose…about an inch apart. And a lot of allergies from the budding cottonwood trees meant I had to handle my runny nose with TLC. My nose looked gruesome after I ditched the band-aids. Dang it, despite this I am gonna go to the local church meeting.
There must have been 700 people in the auditorium when the first song lit up the stage. Lean on Me. An old favorite which boosted my spirits right there. The words and tune spoke to me (see words below). The place was rocking, with most of the audience singing along with the ten folks in the band, which included a hyperactive drummer. A girl with glasses across the aisle from me was swaying back and forth to the music, and looked to be about 30. In front of me were two women, mother and daughter I would guess, with the daughter about 20. Next to me were two men clapping energetically, both under 30. I think I may have been the oldest person in the hall.
As the songs turned more to worship, the beat and the volume continued. But now about 10% of attendees were raising a hand to God. I raised my hand, and instantly felt better…..good to remember my position in the universe, and acknowledge my need.
• The song leader had been a drug dealer in his previous life. He looked to be about 45, with a scar down one side of a rugged face.
• He spoke easily and directly about addictions and broken people, and that God provides peace and solutions. This reminded me of Jesus’ time on earth.
• Although the millennials (under 30) seemed to be in the majority in this audience, there was a wide range of ages.
• The pastor gave a talk about deception, and how we hide from it. The reasons we hide are (1) fear of consequences, (2) shame because we have failed again, (3) others would reject us if they only knew.
• The pastor talked more of pornography than other addictions such as alcohol and drugs. But he talked openly about all these. Gutsy talk. Unafraid to call a spade a spade. The solution is to bring hiding things to the light, he said.
• He asked us to write on a white card one thing we were hiding. I did. At the end he challenged us to drop the card on our way out at the foot of a large wooden cross in the foyer. I did. Along with many millennials.
After the talk, we could choose one of many support groups to attend. These included Men’s addiction, Women’s addiction, Anger, Codependency, Clean, Guardrails, Blended families, Divorce care, Grief care, and Stress-Anxiety.
I dropped into Stress-Anxiety, where about 40 people gathered. The leader, a professional therapist, talked about the Three Phases of Stress: (1) Alarm (fight or flight for a man or tend and befriend for a woman), (2) Resistance (the body eventually adapts to the stressor), and (3) Fatigue or Exhaustion (burnout after long-term exposure). The leader finished by talking about God’s cure for damaged emotions, based on Psalm 23 “He restores my soul”. We all get hurt – life is tough, he said. We get beat up by discouragement, depression, and despair. We have hidden hurts from our past. We carry wounds, battle scars, and emotional garbage. God wants to restore our soul: Let God remove our guilt, relieve our grief, and replace our grudges, because these three things keep our emotions unstable.
Altogether, it was an impressive evening. Impressive how this church is providing a venue for the broken people to come and feel welcome (aren’t we all broken or broken-hearted at times?). Impressive how they are reaching the millennials. I can’t help thinking part of the secret is being direct and honest with the young people.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Lean on Me by Bill Withers (1972) (click on the link to hear the song)
Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’d understand
We all need somebody to lean on
If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me
Withers’ childhood in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, was the inspiration for “Lean on Me”, which he wrote after he had moved to Los Angeles and found himself missing the strong community ethic of his hometown. He lived in a decrepit house in the poor section of town. (From Wikipedia).
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