Worship in the Afternoon and Forgiveness in the Morning

Our afternoon worship session (4-6 PM) was the best attended, besides prime time.  Felicity was in the zone, having really gotten in touch with her vocalization and riffing.  But of course, it’s not about the music as much as it is about the heart.  Her heart was clearly worshiping God, and that is what bumped her vocal style to the next level (perhaps even a few levels).

Bethany has shown a real talent for the flags.  She is able to make them dance in some really beautiful ways.  I love the flags, but I’m not at all good at it, and I’ve never waved them without the stick hitting something.  I figured that I should probably stop now before I put someone’s eye out.

After the session, I was feeling very tired, and wanted nothing more than to return to the hotel and sleep—yes, this was at six in the evening.  We have done late night, early morning, wee hours, and so forth, so that now I just need to go rest when my body says so, no matter what the hour.  So I went to the cloak room to put on my jacket.  The others were behind me and they were invited to share Communion with a couple of German men.  I saw Felicity go to her knees, and I knew that this could be a while, so I walked back to the hotel alone.

The following day, we were upstairs in the church’s coffee shop.  Felicity told me that she needed to talk with me.  So we went into the prayer room, which was empty for the first time (no babies, no nursing mothers, no small children).  There she told me about the German men inviting them to share Communion.  She said that she immediately realized that she needed to repent.  She confessed that she had been holding anger and unforgiveness in her heart because of Europe’s involvement with the African slave trade (Felicity is African-American).  She poured out her heart about how much she hates when people want to touch her hair or ask her what African country she comes from—she doesn’t know because her ancestors were kidnapped and taken to America as slaves.

We wept together for both her pain and for the loss of her heritage and culture.  Felicity knows that these are innocent things not intended to wound her, but she can’t deny the pain they cause her.  Before she took Communion, she knelt to forgive the Europeans, and to ask God to forgive her.

In the next teaching session, when we were invited to share our experiences at Tabernacles, Felicity asked me if she should share her pain and to ask forgiveness.  I told her that if that’s what she wants to do, she should do it.  So she did.  And several people told her that they forgive her.  But some people have since acted differently around her, avoiding her, particularly the German girls because it had involved their friends.

At the end of the teaching session, they called forward all the young people (those 30 and under), and we prayed for them.  I came and prayed specifically for Felicity.  The Holy Spirit urged me to also repent and ask her forgiveness for my ancestors’ part in the slave trade because my people, though not rich landowners, had some slaves nevertheless.  I had never felt personally responsible for the slave trade because it was all over and done with long before I was born, and I have always treated Felicity with the same kindness and respect that I treat all my friends.  But sins curse lasts to the 4th generation, and it was right for me to repent and confess the sin so that its curse could be completely broken.  Felicity forgave without hesitation, and we wept in each other’s arms.  It was a very cleansing moment for me.  Later she told me that nobody had ever asked forgiveness for the slave trade before.  It was very hard, but I am really glad that I did it.  It was the right thing to do.

Our last session was 6-8 AM.  I woke up half an hour before the alarm, and began to pray.  One person God led me to pray for particularly was Felicity.  Then God gave me a word for her: Isaiah 41:10:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous Right Hand.

And the Lord’s word to Felicity went something like this (I don’t remember it exactly):

I have felt every blow and every insult, whether intentional or not.  I know your pain, but I will take the pain away.  It is no accident that you are here.  You are here for your healing.  Receive your healing.  You are My beloved daughter.  You are loved.  You have value.

This prophecy came to me in the form of a song, and the Lord told me to sing this to Felicity—on the platform in the church.  I realized that this could be a very emotional moment for her, and I felt like it would be best if she knew that it was coming, rather than surprising her.  So we walked together to church while the others were still gathering themselves.  I told her about the word, without telling her what it is, and asked her when she wanted it: early in the session (when there are likely to be fewer people) or later in the session (when she won’t have to struggle with emotions and tears while trying to sing).  She told me she wanted it early, and asked me why I had to sing it.  I told her about how God had healed me to sing (see Dancing in My Dreams).  She said, “Oh, I get it!  Killing two birds with one song!”  Yeah, that’s exactly it!

So, the sanctuary wasn’t completely empty, but we warned the others about what was going to happen, and we proceeded.  Being first thing in the morning, and early morning at that, my voice was terrible.  But I sang anyway.  Felicity cried, but not a whole lot, and was able to go on with worship without any problems.  It was a nice worship session, nothing spectacular, but full of the right heart for God.  God is good!

In the Zone!

God made an amazing connection for Giuseppe, our bass player and musical director, here in Kalisz.  Giuseppe had long dreamed of playing worship music outside of Italy, but life sort of got in the way, and many years passed.  “The dream remained closed up in a drawer,” is how he described it to me.

When I invited Giuseppe to the Feast of Tabernacles, I knew nothing of his dream.  All I knew was that when I prayed about a worship team, I saw him and his son, Roberto, our drummer.  It was an open door for Giuseppe’s dream, and he went for it without a moment’s hesitation.

Our first day here, the leader of Team Israel connected with Giuseppe.  In fact, they were talking without interpretation, and made an agreement that Team Italy would join Team Israel (which you can read about in Worship All Night (Well, Almost!) ).  It was a great connection, and little did we know that it was only the beginning.

Adam, leader of Team Israel, wanted to invite Giuseppe to go with him to other places to play music together.  But for this conversation, they needed interpretation.  So we got together over an after worship beer.  I was translating for them, and baby, I was in the translation zone.

Translation has always been a difficult thing for me because in order to speak Italian, I need to be completely in my Italian brain.  It was always the switching brains that gave me trouble.  But this time it just flowed, and I was translating as fast as Adam was speaking, without him having to pause for me, and also going the other way, translating for Giuseppe.  We went on like this for about 30 – 40 minutes, then suddenly the lack of sleep and the beer caught up with me and it was like hitting a wall: STOP!

goofy grinLook at that goofy grin!  The beer hadn’t even arrived yet!

Happily, at just that moment, Bethany sat down to join us.  So she took over the translation and they were able to finish their conversation.  I excused myself and went to bed.

The funny thing is that I remember absolutely nothing about the conversation, itself.  But God used me to connect these two godly men and to help them discuss their plans.  Perhaps in the days ahead Giuseppe will tell me what they plan to do.  I was just the tool God used, but I can tell you, that even a humble tool in His hands is powerfully blessed.  God is good!

Worshiping in Dance

I brought my dance slippers with the intention of dancing in worship here at the Feast of Tabernacles.  And I did.  I also brought a thin scarf that is made exactly like an Italian flag to dance with.  And I did.  I danced and danced.  And it was awkward and terrible and felt so forced.

God was silent, but I think He was probably looking at me, saying, “What on earth are you doing?  This isn’t you!”  And it wasn’t me.  I had been trying to dance like others that I’ve seen. 

So when I got back up on the platform and started singing and especially in those moments between songs when we were truly free to riff, I was back in the zone because the worship was coming from my heart.  There on the platform, with my feet firmly planted behind the microphone, I began to dance as my heart felt led.  And it was awkward and terrible, but at the same time it was wonderful because it was me, and I could feel God smiling.  My dance style is sort of reminiscent of Joe Cocker’s, but with a genuine anointing of the Holy Spirit (for those too young to remember, check the link).

I discovered that there is live video feed from the sanctuary to the church’s large coffee shop this year.  Last year it was live, too, but only audio.  So far Team Italy’s worship sessions have been during the hours when the coffee shop is closed.  But tonight we will have 8-10 PM, while the coffee shop is open.  Last year singing and dancing on a video feed (and possible even being taped) would have really terrified me.  But I have discovered the freedom in the power of the Holy Spirit.  When I’m connected to God and focused only on Him, I don’t know or care how I sound or what I look like.  I am free to be a complete fool for Him, worshiping Him in my own crazy style.

Felicity noted the freedom that I had felt, saying, “I really like your spaz dance style.”  I smiled and said, “Yeah, I’m in touch with my inner spaz and it feels good.”  The reason it feels good is because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing.  So even if lots of people hear me sing and watch me dance, I am really only singing and dancing for an audience of One.  God is good!

Worship All Night (Well, Almost!)

This year the Feast of Tabernacles in Kalisz has more worship teams than ever before from all over Europe, and this year even one representing Israel.  And that’s what had us up worshiping almost all night.  The leader of the Israel worship team arrived a couple of days ahead of his team, and he asked Team Italy to play backup for him.  The musicians all said yes immediately.  Bethany was desperately tired, and I wasn’t convinced that I would be either wanted or needed, and so thought a good night’s sleep would do me some good.

Remember, yesterday, we did the worship from 2-4 AM.  Team Israel’s time was 10-12 PM, and our next session was 4-6 AM.  So Bethany was probably wise to get some sleep while she could.

I don’t remember what it was that changed my mind.  I think I just got excited about the idea of backing up Hebrew worship songs.  I think there was also the feeling that I should be with the team if at all possible.  It turned out to be a great choice.  The music was amazing and very anointed, the sanctuary was packed out, and best of all, God showed up.  I don’t know how, but two hours went blazing by in what seemed like 20 minutes at the most.

Then we went back to the hotel, slept for about three hours, and went back to do our early morning session.  Yesterday’s early session was only Team Italy.  This morning there were a few other people in the sanctuary, most of whom joined into the spirit of worship.  I say most because there were two girls who sat on the sofa (situated in front of the platform where the drums are, and right by the table where the Communion bread and wine were set out for us to partake of before our worship sessions).  For our entire set, these two girls talked and giggled, even though the church gave strict instructions several times that the sanctuary is not a place to talk.  It was very distracting for me and for Bethany, since we were angled to face toward the couch, and couldn’t look toward the other teammates without catching sight of the girls.

I had a shaker egg in my hand, and was tempted to throw it at them.  Then I remembered what the Holy Spirit told me about rude people: it is not my job to teach them manners  I’m just supposed to love them.  So then I prayed that they would get up and go someplace else.  They didn’t.  And when I complained to God, He said, “They are not the problem, you are!  You need to focus on seeking Me, and you should be able to focus on Me no matter where you are or who is around.”

So it wasn’t a fun lesson or an especially fun session—the techie didn’t do a very good job of hooking us up, so we couldn’t hear each other, and the music suffered (yes, the musicians all got borrowed instruments–God provides!).  But it was an important step in personal spiritual growth, and that’s what counts.  God is good!