First, let me just add, I’m not a Pentecostal, but I do occasionally find myself in the position of shouting in worship. The Holy Spirit has a way of doing that to you. Sometimes you shed a tear, sometimes you feel a warm wave of the luminous Presence of God running through you, and sometimes you can’t hold back the shout. Lately it has been a rare event that I’ve shouted.
It reminds me of that April when the snow began falling in great big, ole “Granny’s plucking her goose” sized snow-flakes. I saw the snow coming, heard the forecasts about “significant accumulation” and waited. And as it came down I paced and got nervous. I saw the power lines and the tree limbs weighted down with the white stuff, and I wondered how this was going to end. I woke up the next morning to the sound of “Pop!” “Fizzle!” and “Tweet!” I popped up and started unplugging things. My TV was making funny noises, the refrigerator was growling in an odd way, and the lights were not turning on. A piece of the line that serviced our little parsonage had snapped. We retained all 220 power but everything on 110 was off or severely limited. We lost the microwave, the refrigerator, that TV and a whole big ball of nerve. At least three feet of snow had accumulated.
It wasn’t so difficult finding a way to preserve our refrigerator food. Some milk, cheese, sandwich meat and canned drinks were all we had, and we simply dug a hole in the snow bank and buried our goods in hope we could preserve their freshness for a few days. The most entertaining thing was watching my dog, Lazarus, try to move through the yard. She pitifully looked toward the house several times like “Man, aren’t you going to dig me out?” So I finally got my shovel and shoveled her a path, from our back door to the gate in the fence near my neighbors. They had called to check on us. They still had power so they invited us to come to them for our meals. Since we had heat, we stayed home most of the time, but fellowshipped with them at least twice a day.
I called the power company. I always got recordings, but I kept trying. Once I got an operator in Ohio or somewhere who assured me that the men were on the lines making repairs. That was my hope for the nine days it took to get our power restored. Each day I lost a little more sanity, and worried myself to death longing to get back to normal. I wanted it for my dog, my wife, and if they were ok, then for me.
When the truck finally arrived to check out our line, the snow had begun to melt. The food supply was just about gone from the snow bank. We found out we were the only house in Tazewell without power. It was the fault of a large tree near the corner of the garage, which found itself weakened by age and the weight of the snow. We had branches trimmed and couldn’t wait to get power restored. I can remember when it came back, we rejoiced with “joy unspeakable.” And we had to restore our refrigerator, and find a new microwave, and change several light bulbs. It probably took until well into May to get back to normal. But we talked about that April snow for years. We also learned to appreciate good neighbors, and vowed to be better neighbors ourselves in the future.
Along life’s way, there are times when things come along that darken our days, dampen our joy, and bring us pain and grief. No matter how hard we try to avoid these things, they come along. Sometimes the collective pain of life can cause us to withdraw from the source of life, to retreat into a corner where we try to preserve what we still have until the storm passes. In so doing, we lose our perspective, and we sometimes lose our joy.
There are so many things in our world today that threaten our sense of safety and security. These things are beyond our collective control. From Sept 11, 2001 to now there has been a steady departure from faith and joy in our land. People have become harder, and churches have become emptier. At the very time we should be drawing closer to God, we’ve pushed God away and chosen destructive habits and desires, perhaps in an attempt to cover our pain.
I was traveling through Claypool Hill, Virginia, the other day. I like to tune into a religious radio station there sometimes. I did so and heard a group of people trying to have church at the station. They shared prayer requests, and then one of them sang a song. This song is one I’ve been blessed by in the past. As they sang it, in spite of the lackluster voices, and the fact they were having trouble staying in tune, I felt the Holy Spirit in the words they were sharing. Before I knew it I was shouting. I don’t mean just hollering, I was shouting praise to God. I drove a little further and still had to shout a while. This happened three more times that day. I couldn’t stop. I know if its fake you can turn it on and off at will. If it’s real, though, it just comes when it comes, and stays for the time the Spirit says it will stay. I can’t tell you how joyful it feels to get your shout back.
It wasn’t that long ago I lost a granddaughter. Before that was a stream of well-loved relatives, and a little unborn daughter we miscarried. That and the spiritual malaise in which so many of us are living had taken its toll on me. But this day, this wonderfully random day, I found myself rising above the pain of life. I found the joy of the Lord residing in my soul once again. I couldn’t say “Thank you, Lord” enough. The snow of my soul’s winter began to give way to the first buds of a renewed spring. Jesus said that if you trusted in him, he would give you “life-giving water.” That gift is ours for the asking.
I hope in this season of spring, as the weather breaks, and the birds return, and the landscape greens up again, that you will find your “shout.” And I hope you’ll rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.