This past fall I was given the privilege of helping to plan and speak at a teen girls’ retreat at my church. With everything else ready, I took a few hours Friday afternoon to make preparations at the church building before the girls arrived. My ‘to do’ list included making sure my presentation was properly loaded on the computer, checking locations for the various breakouts, and assuring equipment and chairs were in their places.
With some of the adult volunteers at the girls retreat
As my duties led me throughout the building I could hear our worship pastor practicing down in the Family Life Center….or maybe he was just worshipping with his voice and keyboard and no agenda. What I do remember clearly is thinking how blessed he is to have the voice, the musical talent, and the opportunity to make music to the Lord in the place where we all worship together as a church family.
I acknowledged to God what blessing and privilege this must be. I wasn’t exactly envious of someone else’s gift. Rather, I was wishing for the opportunity to sing such praises, especially in that sacred place. Our Family Life Center is just a gym, complete with basketball hoops and foul lines. Several days per week it hosts well over a hundred running, screaming, playing children from our Christian school and our church family. So it isn’t the location specifically that is sacred, but the fact that God has come so faithfully to meet with us as we’ve worshipped Him for many years in that room.
The girls arrived around 7 that evening and we all got dressed up, shared a fancy meal, danced a bunch, heard an awesome message by one of the other leaders, played some games, and started a movie (The Princess Bride). We’d had a full, great evening, and the movie didn’t end until 3 am. I left the room before it was over, escaping to the loft of the old sanctuary, as the main floor was full of girls, scattered popcorn, and sleeping bags. Besides, one of my daughters had forgotten her bag, so I gave her mine and I found a couch upstairs where I could sleep.
Line Dancing after a delicious Mexican Fiesta!
Some time during the night I woke up cold and noticed that one of the teens had also made her way to the loft and found another couch to sleep on. She was clad in fuzzy pink footie pajamas and her blanket had slipped to the floor. I was extremely tempted to sneak over and nab that blanket, until I realized that when she awakened I would have to explain why I was snug as a bug under her blanket! So I covered myself with the couch pillows and made the best of it.
When 6 a.m. rolled around I awakened enough that I wanted to get up. All the fun and excitement of the night before were fresh in my mind, but I was in need of peace and solitude, so I relished the fact that out of sixty teen girls and almost twenty leaders, I was the only one awake. That is, God and I were awake. I was to be the morning speaker and I didn’t want to forge ahead without spending time with Him in preparation, so I made my way down two flights of stairs to the dark and deserted Family Life Center. Only the red exit sign was lit enough that I could see the dusky lay of the room. The lighted stained glass window behind the stage left a small halo of light around the corners of its covering, and my eyes quickly adjusted to the empty room and the stage where the pulpit is filled three times each week.
This was my opportunity. An unexpected gift from God. I was listening to worship music on my iPhone and suddenly I realized that no one could hear me from the other end of the church. I began singing quietly, and soon I was singing loudly, and with no care of who might hear. My voice filled the large room, and since only God was there to hear, I hoped it was beautiful. I sometimes danced as I worshipped. I prayed out loud, and I lay prostrate before the front of the church. For an entire hour I was alone with God worshipping, singing, praying. God was there. He is present in the praises of His people. I believe He empowered me to speak to the girls that morning, and later in the day He was with me as I led a 12 year old girl to trust in Christ for the first time. What a privilege to share in God’s work and to proclaim His message to a fallen world! I count is among my highest privileges in life.
Some freshman girls hamming it up
But this also day held something special for me personally. I had barely uttered a desire to worship Him in a certain place and in a certain way, and
My group of junior high girls
within hours He gave me the rare opportunity to do so. God hears our every prayer. He listens to the cries of our heart. And when it comes to relating to Him, He blesses oh so abundantly, exceeding our expectations, our hopes and our self-made plans.