Sunday, April 19, 2009

There's More Work To Be Done In The City

Tears warmed my eyes and seeped through, unexpected tears.

It had been nearly half a year since I’d been to church. I’d turned into the guy that goes twice a year, if that.

This service surprised me by the way it opened. It was painfully real.

Slides of people suffering flashed across the screen: a homeless child held by a homeless mother, a photo ripped in two—lovers lost to divorce—and best of all a big slide of a building with a sign that advertised LIVE NUDE GIRLS, LIVE NUDE GIRLS. Never thought I’d see a sign like that inside a church.

After the multimedia presentation we sang … and the power of the words surprised me. A voice stood out from the worship team. I thought him brave, a father of a son that is my daughter’s same age, a father of a son who fell victim to divorce. I’d seen the worship team singer at the day care where my kids go, and I’d heard him at the coffee shop opening up to friends. I knew his divorce story, but I had never heard him sing before.

So, with a father who had something to sing to God for, and with a congregation of many people I didn’t know, I sang words that surprised me: “There’s more work to be done in the city …”

I wiped the tears and cried some more because it had been so long since I opened my heart to God in song; so long since I’d thought about the cities we all live in with the hope that we could do something to help those who have been broken by life.

I yawned through the sermon and wouldn’t want to sit through it again, but I’d go back again in half a year; I’d go back to sing and hope that God would break my heart again.

I should go back again, and I should go soon, but I don’t want to yawn and yearn for something more than words I already know. I’d rather pick up a shovel, spend time with a hurting friend, or stop to listen to the mentally challenged. Amy and Harold, two stray cats who wonder the streets of my town, will talk with anyone who will listen for as long as they are willing to listen.

I don’t want to yawn in church. I’d rather talk with a mom about playground bullies and listen to why she would teach her son to hit back, even though she’s always believed in turning the other cheek and working things out. I’d rather talk about the tough issues and do something about it than sleep on Sunday. But man I miss what happens when a song opens my soul to God and I hope.

There’s tears deep inside me that I can only cry for God. I’d forgotten about that. Those tears surprised me and I wish that I could cry them now. I wish that I could cry a tear for every moment of pain until I am healed. Yeah, I’m still broken. Not homeless, not divorced, not so many of those tragic things, but there’s playground bullies in the world of big people and they’ve beaten me up bad. I’d like to fight them back. But, I’ve turned the other cheek. Now, years later, I’m still feeling the brutal kick in the ass. Yeah, there’s still work to be done in the city.

The sand box is a nice place to be. I’d like my sand box to start in Monterey California where my parents and grandparents lived. It’s a place where I have fond memories. I’d like that sandbox to stretch up the coast all the way to the rocky shores and grey skies of Oregon. I’d like to remember where I am from. I’d like my sandbox to continue on and wrap around the West Coast of Washington and onto the shores of Puget Sound, where I have lived many years as an adult. I’d like to let my feet sink into the wet sand. I’d like to watch the sun paint grey clouds red as it sets under the cloud cover, and I’d like to pray again.

I’d like to pray that God would let me walk on water. I’d like to walk down the West Coast. I’d like to show the world what hope can do. I’d like to show myself that there’s more to life than a pay check. I’d like to show my kids that God can do miracles.

I’ll settle for time with them in a coffee shop though, or the park, both are good places to be together. I’ll settle for hugging my kids and listening to them about the sand box and the rocks they climbed and jumped off of.

There’s so much work to be done in the city: the streets, the church, the schools, and the sand box.

God let me cry and not forget the day when I was five and my face was rubbed in the grass by a playground bully. Don’t let me forget I never told anyone. Don’t let me forget that I need to look for the work that needs to be done. Let me cry for the sake of others’ pain. And encourage me to do it more than once or twice a year.


  1. Dave, thank you so much for sharing this post. I believe the world is our mission field. You don't need to be in church every day yawing over a boring sermon if God would have you out "there". You can opt out of church every Sunday for your entire life and still make a difference in the world, still live out His will for you. But I agree that praising God in worship can be so moving. I love that you said you'd go back and sing so God could break your heart again. Being vulnerable to God is one of the most amazing ways to recognize where our relationship is with Him.

  2. Great stuff, Dave. The paragraph about the sandbox was excellent. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Wow, what a great blog. Thanks for posting it!

  4. Wow, this was beautiful. Poignant. Dead-on for emotions, and I can feel the honesty here. I agree that if we aren't serving what is the point of worship?

  5. It's hard to post such an open and honest story. For EVERYONE that commented, I give my thanks.

    Cindy mentioned that making ourselves vulnerable to God is amazing. I think that's what happened to me, and I hadn't expected it.

    One thing I wanted to do with this piece is be totally open and honest, both with the content and the rhythm.

    I've been becoming more aware of how we as writers can write with our "voice" or do things that muffle it.

    Be brave, open and honest, make yourself vulnerable to your readers. It's a challenge! : )

  6. thought-provoking post ... the power lies not only within the open honesty you brought to it but also in the moments and pauses the reader takes to reflect upon her place in this world, this sandbox, this city. thank you, dave :)


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