Send the Fire {Pentecost}

The answers were as I expected: “speaking in tongues”, “flopping on the floor”, “snakes”, “long hair and long dresses”. I’d asked the question, ‘what do you think of when you hear the word Pentecost?‘ Their answers didn’t surprise me. I’d expected much the same were I asking a group of regular churchgoers’ rather than men with a variety of biblical/church knowledge and experience.

No one answered the Holy Spirit.

My answers would have been similar. I went to Jr. High with a girl who had waist length hair, always wore dresses, to her knee dresses and this was 1970 when the rest of us had them a few inches shorter. She told me it was her church belief. She belonged to a Pentecostal church. That and seeing an older woman get all shaky when she went forward to pray one Sunday and my dad went up to calm her. We didn’t do that. We clapped to songs and people said ‘Amen’ right out loud and on a very rare occasion someone might say ‘hallelujah’ but we didn’t do that shaky stuff. We didn’t holler and shout or dance around. We didn’t even pray out loud all at once. We might sing rousing songs, play brass instruments and beat a bass drum. We might even stand on street corners in our less-than-subtle uniforms playing these instruments and preaching the word but, heavens, we’d prefer our Holy Ghost to come in a more contained manner.

base drum

1930's Open Air service

1930’s Open Air service

We don’t do Pentecost.

For years we didn’t observe Advent or make mention of Lent and now many of our congregations incorporate at least a mention of these in the church year. Our founder wrote a moving song about this third person in the Trinity, this spirit who I often ignore out of deference to my need to have order (reads as control). But we are a holiness church. (I’m not even good at practicing that!)

In concert with Phil Laeger

Worship at the Port-au-Prince Salvation Army church

Worship at the Port-au-Prince Salvation Army church

Alumni Sunday

We all seem wired to be drawn to styles of worship. I get that. But this Spirit that is part of God the Father and God the Son is not a style of worship. He is that very part of God himself that Jesus said he would leave with us.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:16

In the early church, that first day of Pentecost, that was the day that this Spirit was seen and heard and caused a ruckus and maybe it’s that day that centuries later has us, at times, manufacturing these acts. Maybe we’ve forgotten this spirit is as likely to talk to us in that whisper as he is in the rushing wind. Maybe I’ve forgotten to listen for his voice, his urging.

Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
Thy blood-bought gift today we claim,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
Look down and see this waiting host,
Give us the promised Holy Ghost;
We want another Pentecost,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!

To make our weak hearts strong and brave,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
To live a dying world to save,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!
Oh, see us on Thy altar lay
Our lives, our all, this very day;
To crown the off’ring now we pray,
Send the fire, send the fire, send the fire!

– William Booth, 1894

Having a moment

It was fleeting. The thought, not the feeling. Sitting in a waiting room I was feeling weak, tired. I felt needy for prayer and for a split second I thought, I should post that on Facebook. “prayers needed”. That’s all. It was never more than a thought because the next thought that quickly entered my mind was, people will get concerned and nothing is wrong and I’ll just look needy and weak. 

That’s just what I am. For this moment. Needy and weak. Although I think I confuse a tired soul for that of a weak one but I didn’t post anything. Because I’m……what?

Because I’ve been the person who has thought those things. Thought less of someone expressing need in a public forum. Suck it up. Move on. Too much drama.

Be Yourself

But we have those moments, you and I. Sometimes they last the day but most of the time they last until the sun shines or a stranger offers a smile or you name your daily gifts or a favorite song comes on the radio. But heavens, just don’t ask for prayer on a social media site unless you…well, unless you want prayer because they will. Oh yes, people you didn’t even know paid attention will pray for you so I ask myself again, why so careful? So guarded?

I’m saving it. Like the boy who cried wolf, why ask for prayer for the everyday moments when I need to save the request for something bigger. Sure, that makes sense! And you know it does. You know just what I mean because it’s what we do. Again and again.

I haven’t lived in a world where people ask for prayer for the everyday because we are, what? We are people of faith and faith means strength and we aren’t the ones who ask for help because we’re the ones who offer it. That is easier, helping another rather than being the one helped.

But I am needy. Every day needing grace, love, belonging, redemption, prayer. I need because I cannot do it on my own. I recognize that more than ever and some days just a little more than the others.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.        – lyrics Annie S. Hawks


The tune of God

I come to the garden alone….”

In Memphis, the men sang this song full-out. They moved with the waltz tempo and gave heart to the lyrics. I’ve never been able to hear it since leaving that place without hearing Preston’s voice echo in my memory. His falsetto on the chorus and just his love to sing these old church songs.

Music is different here. There’s no Beale Street with musicians on every corner, decent ones too. The men in the ARC here aren’t so familiar with church songs in general and today, when we tried that old standard, “I Come to the Garden”, I shut my mouth and listened. I heard men singing, out of tempo and picking notes not part of the melody or harmony. From my seat in the back, it was a mess. I kept my mouth shut to listen more to this wreck of a congregation choir. And I smiled.

Alumni Sunday

I smiled at their attempt. At their offering, meager as it was, it was offered with heart and sincerity. No doubt it was received in heaven with love and I believe, I really believe that when our voices reach God’s ears He hears it always in perfect tune, the rhythm moving just right. He receives our offerings, the ones given in truth and willingness and sincerity, He takes them as gifts laid on an altar of service and love.

I’m no singer. Not me. The rhythm I’ll have down, every sway and hesitation I’ll feel it, know it. But the tune gets lost in my head without something to guide me. I’m the worst kind of musician who knows just enough to know good from mediocre and worse. Most of the time I sing along in worship but not this day. My silent voice allowed God’s joy to be heard in the barely mediocre singing from a group of men who may miss the notes of the songs, but know the tune of God.