Tuesday, May 07, 2013

a sacred delight (a bronx tale)

When I was at the end of my college experience, in the spring of 1998, I took my first mission trip to New York City.  I had done missions work here and there, usually a week at a time, before, but this was NYC... I'd never been, and I couldn't turn down the chance to go.  Problem was, this trip happened to come before, during, and after the Winter Quarter Graduation Ceremony at Troy State University.  Mind you, this was when Troy State was Troy State, and it was in quarters, not semesters--semesters came the following fall.

The problem really wasn't a problem, because I had missed the deadline for renting my cap and gown for graduation anyway.  I mean, it was like, $50.  I couldn't come up with $50 on the fly... now, if you ask me how I afforded a trip to NYC, I can tell you... I have no clue.  I'm trying to think back, and I really have no idea how I paid for that trip, or had the money to spend while on it.  Who knows.  Then again, with my credit card history, I might have just paid that trip off a few years ago.

Anyway, to finish that part of the story, on the Friday of trip, I glanced down at my watch, noticing it was after 2pm.  I was walking down 7th Avenue, and turned to my friends Melanie Jackson, Allyson Guy and Troy McConnell and said, "Hey, I just graduated college..."   My fellow graduate Dixon Brock told me some time later that they did say my name aloud.  I never even saw a program with my name on it.  Such is.

Sunday Drive "Doors Wide Open'  A pretty good CD, and only $2.99
on Amazon
Well, while in New York City, one of the plans we had for the ministry we worked with was to plan a neighborhood coffeehouse in the Bronx, and we had music, and skits and snacks and coffee and so on...

SIDEBAR!!!  I worked at a local radio station in Troy, and produced my own Christian music show on Sunday nights, called Sunday Night Power--every Sunday, 7p to 11p, and with contacts from various record labels and promotions, I got all kinds of CDs and backstage passes and interviews and so on... and ended up meeting this band named Sunday Drive. They were your typical Christian music band of the late 90s... a few dudes, drums, guitars, some fast stuff, some slow stuff, and a few albums that were forgotten within a few years. And frankly, their music, while good, was mostly forgettable.
However comma there was one song that I singled in on, namely "Sacred Delight".
"Did you smile when you made the moon, and gave the sky its color? Did Creation dance in rhythm to Your song of life, I wonder? Did the angels know You knew my name before I existed? Did you tell them out of all You made, why You gave me Your image? Is it true, I'm Your heartbeat? And You love me more than anything...?"
I loved that song. Love that song.
And in the weeks leading up to the mission trip, I felt it important to make one request... "Can I... can I sing 'Sacred Delight'?" Now, its important to note I am not a singer. I sing. I wail. I warble. I can't remember half of a sermon two hours after its over, but I can nail every word to Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" or "Jump" by KrisKross or "3am" by Matchbox 20 or even most Whitney Houston songs (pre-crack, of course)... but a singer I am not.  The Lovely Steph Leann can attest.
Back then, it was just as true.
My buddy Troy McConnell didn't care. He said, "Dude. I love it. Let's do it." We practiced, and I know he gave of himself alot in listening to me warble and such. In my defense, it was in my key, and overall, it wasn't too terribly bad... but still, he encouraged me.
The trip comes.  We are in New York City, spending our days in the community of Brooklyn and the Bronx, our nights in a little community church.  And its cold... there is snow, not Alabama snow, mind you, but real snow.  For me, it was the first real snow I'd ever seen.  It was like powder, and when you threw it at someone, it disintegrated into a spray of fine flakes, leaving very little moisture on your clothes--unlike snow in Alabama... throw a snowball here and you are likely to give someone a concussion with a good head shot.

So, the day of, it was cold and rainy. It was snowy outside, and I woke up with a head full of allergies and congestion. I could barely breath, my nose was so clogged. I thought of cancelling my little tune, but just wasn't sure if that was the right thing to do. This wasn't even about other people worshipping, this was about me telling God that I will praise Him no matter what. In a little empty church sanctuary in Brooklyn, I sat listening to both Troy and our friend Claire Baldwin simply tell me, "You do what you feel you should. But if you feel the urge to praise Him, then you do it. Who cares what anyone else says?  You are performing for an audience of One.  Its His worship."
Troy and I, in mid-song.  Well, Troy in mid-song, me in mid-song-butcher.

And so I did. That night, in the Bronx, I gave my first--and last--public singing performance. I had to start the second verse over at one point, as I lost my place. Troy on guitar was as patient as ever. I made it through it, as off key as I ever was... and felt proud of it. Not sure anyone else got anything out of it, especially the Puerto Rican family in the front row... they didn't know Sunday Drive from Reese Witherspoon, but for me, it was courage. And humbling before God.
What sacred delight. What infinite wonder, that I'm precious in Your sight. You love me like no other, not other. Sacred delight.
So, this coming Sunday, I'll sit down with my notes, my Sword, my lesson book and we'll discuss the proper ways of taking on Hell with a water pistol. I'm sure I'll "uh" and "um" and "...you know..." and "...so..." alot. Count on it.
But, if like that night in the Bronx, if can get my fat head and large ego out of the way, God just might say something important. Something delightful. Something sacred.

Did you think of me the day you died, and know that I'd intend this... did you know one day I'd come to you, in search of your forgiveness... is it true, I'm your heartbeat... and you choice to die than to live without me...  
Of course, it wasn't all serious... in one of many skits, Kendrick and I
do something a little more comical--a two person, five character skit
called something like "No No Not Today"

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