I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem! (Psalm 122)
I had worshiped with family in Virginia Beach, friends in Asheville, North Carolina, and the men’s conference in West Virginia. I enjoyed great experiences with awesome people. But First Presbyterian of Brandon is a unique environment, and it’s the place where I am loved, encouraged and nurtured.
It was fun to play guitar again, with the praise band. It was wonderful to stand and sing hymns with a congregation that’s not afraid to let loose with a little enthusiasm. It was inspirational to hear Rebekah preach (although I have been keeping up with her messages via podcast).
ENTHUSIASM: It may be summer, with scores of people traveling on any given weekend, but both worship services were well attended. Plus there’s this impossible to miss sense that fpcBrandon is a gathering of people who actually live their discipleship from day-to-day; that people show up at church because they enjoy a meaningful, active relationship with God; and that Jesus is a real friend rather than a childhood memory, an ideal, or a vague image frozen in a panel of stained glass.
This morning I’ve been thinking about my walk with God, and how critically important all of these experiences are to the forward progress of my journey.
- “SoulFeast:” North Carolina was a powerful experience. There was worship, and instruction, and I even spoke five times as one of the leaders, but the tone was contemplative, and my spiritual growth was anchored in my prayerful walks around the lake, and my study, and a lot of listening.
- “Extreme Faith- Bold Action!” Then, in the hills of West Virginia, the focus was intense, loud, visceral. The impact was more immediate and emotional. Men, singing hymns and weeping at the beauty of the experience of community. Literal SHOUTS of praise. Hard work, sweat, building things, building one-another, camaraderie. I felt at times as if I’d been hit full force with a tidal wave of faith. I was at the front, leading, but it felt as if I were in the middle, being embraced.
- First Presbyterian Church: And now, back here, at home. Home base is where the day-by-day work of knowing and being known plays out. Home is where long-term assessment, and prayer, and applied love works its way into the experience of growing in faith. Home is where the roots grow long and drink deeply from the cumulative nourishment of many years.
So it is good to be back here in Brandon, Florida. But God’s family is wide and generous, and rooted in many places; it’s been an eyes-wide-open kind of a summer thus far.
I want to continue to have an eyes-wide-open experience of faith. I want to continue to grow. And I want to continue to be the kind of faithful disciple who is willing to be part of God’s ongoing plan to strengthen and encourage and grow the kingdom of promise and grace.
Peace, and love – DEREK