It was some 20+ years ago that God caused a couple of life-changing factors to collide in my life. Actually, it was a couple of life-changing people God used to awaken a hunger for an annual season of spiritual enrichment in my soul.
The first was a local African-American pastor, Bishop Walt Mize. Walt was in his early 60s at the time. I was in my late 30s. He had spent 20+ years in Africa planting some 400 churches. I had spent 7 years in Spain planting…one. He had come to predominantly white Spokane a few years earlier to pastor a tiny little church on the South Hill and oversee his church denomination in the Northwest. I had come to my home-town, Spokane, to spend four months helping my big Northside childhood church heal before heading to Seattle to church plant. We both ended up pastoring in this community for the next twenty-five years.
I first met Walt at a Spokane Pastors’ Prayer Summit during three days of shared prayer. God was speaking through Walt. During one prayer session, he shared with a room full of white, Protestant pastors like myself, how he had for years been using the 40 days of Lent to fast and pray…all 40 days…all fasting and praying! He described how drastically it changed his life and ministry…every year. I was fascinated. And, to be honest, I was a little bit envious (spiritually speaking, of course), as I heard him humbly share how Lent annually reconnected Him to God in a way nothing else did throughout the year.
The second life-changing person was the now-famous Christian author and professor from U.S.C., Dr. Dallas Willard. Sandy and I had the privilege of sitting under his tutelage for one whole week, six hours a day, with a small classroom of other pastors from around the country who were also working on their Doctorates in Chicago. The entire week was taken up contemplating and discussing “spiritual practices” or “spiritual disciplines” and how they are the tools God has given us for encountering Him transformationally.
Just last Saturday I attended the memorial service for Bishop Mize. Five years ago, Dr. Willard graduated to Glory. I will be forever grateful to both of them for opening up to me a whole world of fresh “God-connectors” that I’ve enjoyed digging deeper into every Lenten season for over twenty years.
Which brings me to THIS SUNDAY. Without giving the service away, let me simply say that I am absolutely positive this Sunday’s experience with God in worship will be something most of us have never experienced. It’s going to be a Lenten service of LAMENT. Before you click your mouse and send this note to your trash bin, let me ask you, “Have you ever experienced a service of lament?” Lament is NOT to be confused with feeling depressed or hopeless. It is much more healing, therapeutic and powerful than that. That’s all I’m going to say.
So bring your Bibles and your hungry, even doubting hearts this Sunday. I think you will be amazed at how much you will learn and experience about God as you worship like never before.