Thursday, February 11, 2016

behind the scenes of a sunday morning sermon

It was half past 8 on Saturday night when Joey came in to find me laid out on our bed in pain.  My eyes were glassed over from hours of studying and tweaking my message for Sunday morning.  On top of the mental fatigue I was hurting physically from some health issues I’ve been dealing with lately. 

I think you should go to urgent care.
You’ve got to call somebody at the church and tell them there is a chance you won’t be there tomorrow.  They need time to make a back-up plan.

I shook my head ‘no’ while simultaneously holding my abdomen.  

Give it thirty minutes.

He leaned over and propped his head on top of mine cupping his hand behind my neck.

Can I pray for you?

Yes, please.

He whispered a pleading prayer filled with truth.  Tears of pain and frustration leaked from the corners of my eyes.


I don’t know why I said thirty minutes.  In hindsight I think it was God saying it - give him thirty minutes.  It was exactly thirty minutes later that the pain began to subside.  I rolled over to the pile of notes and Bibles keeping me company on the bed.  

I was preaching at our church the next morning and despite all my preparations there was a part of the message that was not sitting right with me.  
Unfortunately, it was a little too late, 
a little too invested,
and a little to exhausted to make any major changes.  

I tried reading through my words over and over.  Every time right there, in the middle, that same part gave me a sick feeling.  I couldn’t get it right in my head.  I couldn’t make it work.  I had spent so much time studying the story of Joseph and picking out nuggets of truth.   Then, just as I had been trying to tie up loose ends in those last few days, I stumbled upon a passage from Luke and 
THAT was what resonated the most.  
THAT was what I was excited about.  
THAT was where I sensed God's spirit speaking to me 
and yet I kept trying to make Joseph work.  I wasn't going to just trash all that work!  I tried tacking the Luke passage on at the end but it felt wrong.  I would have to rush through to cover everything and stay under my 30 minute time limit.  My head felt like it was going to explode.  I literally felt like I was in the middle of a wrestling match.  And I wasn't winning.

I crawled out of bed and got down on my knees on the hardwood floor and prayed with my hands open wide.  I pleaded with God to make it clear.  He assured me that he already had.  So I set aside my original agenda and, finally, at nearly 11:00, when I didn’t think I could keep my eyes open any longer I surrendered.  I threw up the white flag.  I cut out the entire ‘meat’ of my message.  All the points I was going to make about Joseph got cut down to one statement.  I would leave the rest of the time for that passage from Luke.  

As my pen made a giant X across the paper God’s peace dove deep down inside of me.  I had finally made room enough for Him.   I could breathe again.  My own ideas were no longer stifling the fresh truth God wanted to communicate.  There was room for him again. Yes.  That was it.  
When will I ever learn?   
I fell asleep within minutes.  When I woke up the next morning I was clear-headed and confident – not that I had it all under control, but that he did.  

You know what's funny?  That message I was teaching on?  It was about crisis.  Do you know how I felt in the days leading up to the delivery of that message?  Like I was in crisis.  Seriously.

A crisis is when conditions outside of your control combine to create a situation that threatens to destroy you.  Mentally and physically, I was being destroyed.

Crisis also requires major adjustments on our part if we are going to survive.  Yep.  That was true too.  

And the major adjustment I had to make is the same major adjustment we all have to make when facing crisis - release my plans and accept His.  
It's called surrender and it's HARD.  

Surrender doesn't allow us to be in control.  Sometimes it doesn't even allow us to have a clue what is going on.  And sometimes it even has the audacity to make us dispose of hours and hours worth of our time and effort!  That can bring fear and frustration, but it also can bring freedom.

Saturday night I was reminded that as much as I love God and believe he has a perfect plan for my life, I still hold on too tightly.  I still crave control.  
I still try to make my own way instead of following His.

And Sunday morning reminded me that he is faithful when I follow.

Are you working overtime to make your way work today?
If so, I get it.  I do it.  
Maybe try loosening your grip, 
letting some of the things you've worked so hard on fall away,
until your hands hold only what He has placed in them.
Then watch what happens...

If you would like to watch the message I finally surrendered to you can find it HERE.
If you would like more words and wonder personally delivered to you just enter your email address below!