This morning and afternoon, I went to one of the satellite locations of the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit. It truly was a privilege that the staff at Lighthouse was able to be there. The messages were incredible and God used two in particular to really challenge me in areas that I have yet to fully step out into (but will now take the first step). One of the speakers was Newark’s Mayor, Cory Booker. What a dynamic speaker. He spoke powerfully about what it means to stand up for something. His message was heart-felt (no notes, BTW) and I don’t think a person could have walked away from his session without some sort of motivation to stand up and DO something. I loved his humility and how he gave honor to where honor was due; acknowledging his parents’ influence and honoring Christ. He recognized the impact of one life on another – not just his own impact on someone else but how he has been touched by so many lives. Many people spoke into his life and he is who he is today because of them - and he is making a difference in a very difficult city. “If it is to be, it’s up to me,” he said. A challenge to stand up.
I'm a quotes junkie so I could post a ton but it's past my bedtime so here's just a few: "Stand up from the banquet your ancestors prepared and metabolize your blessings." ... "You have a choice: grow fat, dumb and happy with the blessings you've been given or use them to move forward." ... "Show me first in how you choose to live and give, or I won't hear one thing you've said." If only you could've heard it all. So, yeah. That was my morning. Only the beginning…
The satellite location was at the church I attended and worked at before I first moved to Chicago in 2002. In between sessions I had the opportunity to see many people who I haven’t seen in years. It was like a trip down memory lane and just seeing some of the faces of people was like a flashback of many wonderful experiences. It’s wild to think it’s almost a decade since my Christ Tabernacle days. God blessed me with some special times with a great group of friends back then (He's been faithful to bless me with great friends throughout all the seasons of my walk). And the brief moments with certain people, without them even saying anything specific, brought me back to things God did and spoke in those early years of my serving the Lord. It was like a gentle breeze of little reminders. And then came the wind...
The only afternoon session I was able to stay for was on “Courageous Leadership for Catalytic Times.” Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil was the speaker and she was anointed. I'm at a loss for words. Well, not really, seeing how long this 'quick' post is turning out to be. I'll rephrase - I'm at a loss for words to share. It's still marinating. Big time. The message rocked me so hard. She spoke about Global Christianity and breaking through the barriers. I will not even attempt to re-write my many notes because I wouldn’t do justice to what was spoken. The Holy Spirit was present and speaking straight to my heart. Though I am sorry I missed out on the last two sessions, I was kind of glad to be leaving early because after the message she shared, I needed some serious alone time with the Lord. I left the building with tears in my eyes. Bill Hybels said in the morning that sometimes leaders need their bell rung. Well it was rung alright. And it rang the entire car ride. Those of you who know me well know that some of the greatest encounters I’ve had with God have been in the car and my car has been appropriately named ‘Nissan Tabernacle.’ And Nissan Tabernacle it was.
The reason I left the summit early was because I was going to a wake. It was a family I knew as a child – the husband passed away and two days later, his wife passed away suddenly. A double funeral, an incredible shock. I had not seen Mr. & Mrs. C in years but my parents still had occasional contact. I remember this couple, Mrs. C in particular, because I went to school with their daughters when I was very young and also because of their relationship with my family years ago. The service was held at the church I was born into where my grandfather pastored, where Mrs. C worked for many years, where my parents were married, where I went to school as a young child, where many many many things took place. I had taken a trip down memory lane one decade back in the afternoon, but in the evening, it was more like three decades.
This couple was loved by many. They were clearly known by their love and servitude to those around them. Death is hard for family members and friends, especially unexpected death(s). As my Dad shared briefly tonight, "grief is messy." That's the truth. But for the believer, there is hope and no need to grieve like the world grieves. I thank God for the hope that was evident in the building and in the family of this precious couple. I pray that they experience God's grace and peace in abundance during this season.
Whenever someone passes, it’s always a reminder of just how short life really is. Memories are triggered of previous loved ones who have gone on. And here I was in the church of my childhood remembering my amazing grandparents and the impact they had on my life and on the lives of many people in that sanctuary. A lot of different things passed through my mind as I sat on that pew. Particularly memories with my grandparents. They were phenomenal people and their love, prayers and influence has shaped who I am today. Tonight is not the night to write about my grandparents but I really need to.
It was an interesting day. A leadership conference, a divine car ride and a funeral. Looking ahead to the future and remembering the past. More importantly, listening to God speak in the present. I knew in my heart that though I could never articulate everything that went on inside, I had to put a marker on this day to remember that God spoke. The way that Abraham did after God spoke to him (Isaac and Jacob, too). “There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.” – Genesis 12:8. The way that Joshua and the Israelites did after crossing the Jordan…
When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day. – Joshua 4:1-9
They hadn’t entered the Promised Land yet. Not everyone had crossed even crossed over. And when they did, it was going to be work to get there. But the Lord instructed them to take up those stones as memorials of what God did that day. I’m sure that when the battles came, it would have been easy to forget what God did at the Jordan without those memorials. But with those stones, they remembered the covenant of the Lord.
I haven’t entered the Promised Land. I have not even fully crossed over yet to where God is calling me and what He is calling me to do. And I know there is going to be a lot of work to get there. But today, August 11, 2011, I build an altar – a holy memorial – and I remember the covenant of the Lord.
Today is my Memorial Day. I will remember.