Day 1 (January 2nd)
Today was weird… I was pumped and excited for the conference, then I walked into the 1st main session this evening and was struck by how numb I felt and how distracted I was. I knew when to clap, when to say amen, which lines in the songs people would raise their hands to. It was all a formula in the worship session, but I wasn’t connecting. My mind was racing.
“I wonder where they got that new female singer… is she singing harmony or melody? Christy usually sings harmony, but maybe they brought the new woman in so Christy could sing melody… or maybe she was brought in to sing melody. Wow, the entire choir is all fashionable… but they aren’t wearing bright colors… they’re all muted colors like brown, tan, gray, black, navy, white…. They probably told them all to do that. That’s such an interesting color scheme, but you can totally pick out who’s part of the band by the colors they’re wearing… Wait… did they just say that God’s name should be the highest on our “alter of praise”? Shouldn’t His name be the only name on our altar of praise? And “The cross was enough”??? I think it’s more like “The cross was more than enough.” Well, unless you’re thinking legalistically… then it’s a good way to reason with someone who is trying to justify themselves by works…”
It was like that the whole time. I kept wondering what my problem was… thinking I should lift up my hands at least once to not look like an uninterested person forced to be here, but I didn’t want to fake worship. Then Louie Giglio got up and talked about Jesus resurrecting the widow’s son who was on his way to be buried. Louie asked us if any of us were on our funeral processions needing Christ to reach out and touch our coffins and say “Hold up. Arise!” I kept thinking “Yeah…. Yeah… that’s how I feel, but why?” Then he touched it. Louie hit that chord. He was going through the “maybe you’re…s” and got to “Maybe you’ve been hurt. You have a failure, a disappointment, a wrong done to you and you can’t let go of that bitterness, that hatred, that pain, that brokenness.” Oh hai, ya um… that’s me! You don’t just get PTSD out of the blue. You get it after (hence the “post”) something big and not so fun (hence the “traumatic”) happens in your life. And in my life, it left me in a place of bitterness, hatred, pain, and brokenness, feeling disappointed, wronged, and like a failure.
With the PTSD symptoms flaring up more nowadays and with that having constant reminders of the event that occurred, my walk with God has become… numb. Too much knowing… no feeling. I guess taking Bible classes at my college and having scriptures turned into academics has added to that. And it’s difficult. I don’t want to beat myself up while I’m trying to heal, but at the same time I don’t want to give myself excuses. God is understanding, but God deserves my everything. I say and believe that God is good… but it feels like “God HAS BEEN good in these areas of your life, so you can’t complain about the other stuff.”
It’s funny… growing up, I always wondered if something terrible would happen to me. It was like my mind was constantly circling the bad events that could happen in my life. I would think about how it probably wouldn’t happen to me, how if it did I would be fine, and how afterwards I would recover quickly. But this… this isn’t what I expected. I didn’t expect to be upset with God. I didn’t expect to blame myself for something that should not have been my fault.
So, on to another day, to see what I’ll learn, to see what God has for me… God, what DO you have for me?
Day 2 (January 3rd)
Started out the morning with community group/family groups working through Ephesians 2. I was really disappointed in my family group. All of their answers felt so… Sunday school. Basic. Textbook. Flat. Bumper sticker Christianese. And one girl in the group would only talk about herself. Every other person, she would interject about her life. It was really hard for me to be patient, loving, and had a good attitude towards her when she was taking all the time to focus on herself and not pouring into others, like the other members of the group were doing. I was mostly silent the entire time, trying to choose my words carefully and prayerfully address my thoughts in regards to my group.
The first session had worship led by Matt Redman. My sister, brother-in-law, and I had a discussion before the session on the worship last night. Apparently I wasn’t the only one having problems with the lyrics. My sister also brought up how almost all of the worship was “pump up” music, and we wanted to sing WORSHIP and PRAISE. So, seeing Matt Redman I was very excited because he usually sticks to a God centered worship… and I was so disappointed. One song they sang, all but 3 lines had something about “I” “Me” “My” etc. I didn’t want to sing about myself, even if it was my response to God’s work in my life. I wanted to sing about God. I left worship that session very dismayed.
Beth Moore had a great message though. She talked about the woman with the issue of blood in the gospels, and how her story is just written smack dab in the middle of the story of Jairus’ daughter dying and Jesus raising her up from the dead. Beth was talking about how this man’s daughter was dying, Jesus was teaching his disciples, the crowds were pressing in around Him, and yet God allowed for this woman to be ministered to in the midst of this chaos and healed. She was trying to communicate that often times we see all of the big issues in the world, and we don’t think God has enough provision or that it’s right for us to ask for healing for our own issues. I was definitely appreciative of that message. I felt like I was hearing God say “Yes Kelsey, I have a big work I am doing globally… but I haven’t forgotten about you. Healing may take time (the woman had her blood problem for 12 years!), but don’t be idle while you wait. Keep at my purposes. I will be ministering to you throughout your work.” Definitely needed. It kind of addressed that area of “yes I believe God is good, but I feel like that means I can’t complain when things don’t feel so good.” God is good. I can say He is good when I am at my lows, not just because He already did good things and so I am obligated to be thankful, but because He is going to do great things yet to come in my life. Christians should be living a life of hope, and right now for me that means praising God for His goodness yet to come because He promises to watch over me.
Kristian Stanfill led worship for the main session after lunch. It finally started to feel like it was shifting into worship and not pump up music. He played a new song that I really liked and would post here… but being that it’s new it’s not published, recorded, or available for a lyric search anywhere. Darn. Anyways, after worship, Christy Cain spoke about human trafficking and slavery. She brought the reality of it all down from the statistics and to our hearts.
After dinner, my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and I all sat down together in the Dome. The evening (final session) was getting ready to start, and I saw Chris Tomlin and the Passion band getting on stage. I felt my heart sink a little thinking it would be more pump up music. The lights all went out and suddenly tons of bright lights shot out from the back of the stage into the crowd as the Passion band sang one word “Yahweh.” It was then that I knew that this evening was going to be good. It finally felt like things were back in focus. They led worship for awhile, then Chris invited a few artists on the stage to join him… from Jakarta, Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. They all took turns sang How Great Is Our God together in their different languages, then Watoto Children’s Choir came on stage midway through the song and joined them for the Chorus. Everyone of them all sang at once in their own language and I was absolutely overwhelmed. It was just a glimpse of the heart of the global church and it was astounding. North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia… all gathered together for the same purpose: to worship the King. Astounding. It’s safe to say I was in awe. Crying and frozen all at the same time. Charlie Hall came up and led worship for a while and it was so refreshing, authentic, and Christ focused. So thankful. So blessed.
Following worship, Francis Chan spoke about knowing God for ourselves and loving the scripture. He talked about how we shouldn’t take anyone’s interpretations for absolute truth until we study the scriptures ourselves and how we should compare the lives of those we are taught the word by to Jesus… of course the only way to know that is to know Jesus. And you can’t know Jesus if you’re not in the word. Francis Chan was such a great practical speaker full of passion and love. Really great to hear him speak. It was like having a heart to heart with him… only there were 44,000 other people in on the conversation with me.
Following his message, the passion band came back on stage and we sang starting with the simple phrase “I will follow you.” It was hard for me at first. I wanted to slip back into that distracted place, or that numb place… I felt moved by the wondrous view of God I had gotten at the beginning of worship, but was not moved personally. Then I just forced myself so sing. I found myself telling God “I don’t want to make promises to you, because I want to sin. I want to break them. I feel like they won’t last. I can’t even offer you 30 seconds of focused worship, and here I am supposed to be singing about how much I love you and will do for you. God, I don’t want to say what the lyrics on the screen say, my heart doesn’t feel it, but I have no doubt in my mind that that is precisely what you deserve. So I’m asking you to give me the desire and the strength to want it and to work for it.” It was so different having a moment of worship not emotionally, but mentally. Admitting to God that it was connecting up in my mind, but my sin was keeping it from my heart. Asking God to remove that barrier. Who knows what will come of that in the days ahead at passion and in my life?
Family groups after the last main session of the night were interesting. I got to hear more personal answers. The talkative girl in my group still only talked about herself. She specifically brought up a certain aspect of her life she was having trouble with, and I found myself immediately thinking of something encouraging I could tell her… but someone else was already talking, and I could find my disgruntled spirit not wanted to open up the floor to her to speak again. Then I felt the twinge of conviction: God saying – If you are wanting her to pour into other members of the group, show her what it’s like to have other members pour into her. So I told her what I had to say, and other members added on. She sat there blinking with a smile on her face and thanked us for the new perspective on her problem. Being that this was at the end of the night, there really was not any impact I could see on her aside from that… and that may be all that there is out of it, but at least God taught me how to love those I’m not so naturally inclined to love.
It’s been a long day full of confusion and heavy thinking. I am ready to get into tomorrow to hear some John Piper, and Lecrae, and focus on the true heart of worship. What’s next God?
Day 3 (January 4th)
I want to give a full recap of today like I have done for the other days… but honestly this morning is kind of a blurr. The morning session we sang worship led by David Crowder and his guys. Truly a blessing to be there for the last time they lead worship together. Then Louie invited us students to remain standing for the whole session, saying “It’s funny how we stand for the singing part of the worship, but we sit for the speaking part of worship. It’s all worship.” So, Lecrae, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Louie Giglio, and John Piper got up on the stage and read through the book of Ephesians, stopping after every chapter and inviting us to pause, be still, reflect, and ask God to speak to us. No preaching. No teaching. No exegesis or eisegesis interpretations. Just the word of God. It made me sad that about half of the stadium sat down despite Louie’s request for us to stand, especially since it was a reading of THE WORD OF THE LORD. (Give yourself a high five if your mind said “thanks be to God” after you read that). Oh, might I just add. I was amazed at how powerful Lecrae’s reading of the word was. It’s incredible how much his knowledge of the scriptures and his gift with words and rhythm have affected his articulation of the word. And as I was standing thinking that, I wondered what it was that made me think Lecrae reading it had so much more impact than me reading it for myself. It is the same scripture, and these are the same ears it falls on… so why was I swooning in amazement from the power of the words when it was big name Christians reading it? Idolizing people? Not allowing myself to pause and reflect?
The afternoon session was Louie interviewing many leaders from organizations that work against human trafficking. After the interviews, he informed us that we had raised over 1 million dollars for freedom. $1million against human trafficking, slavery, prostitution, child abduction, abuse, and more. Very cool. After this session the line for the Do Something Now booths snaked back and forth and stretched down the road. It was crazy. I can’t wait to hear the numbers tomorrow.
Then tonight Chris and the Passion band led worship. One of the very first songs they sang was one that had been grating on my nerves all weekend. It’s getting harder and harder. Everyone is jumping up and down, hands raised, voices singing at the top of their lungs… and what are they singing about? Us. Yes, it’s our response to Christ. Yes, I know the point the artists was trying to get across… but it’s not settling with me right. I keep thinking “Kelsey let it go. Just worship!” but it’s really getting to me. I can’t even sing the song. It was good singing songs like “Our God.” Straight up all about God. I guess what I should say is, I could sing the song as just an awesome Christian song because that’s what it is: a Christian song. And a really good one at that. But it wasn’t something I considered praise to God. I don’t know… I think I’m just complaining now.
John Piper spoke tonight. Felt so sweet hearing a voice that feels like “home” to me. He started giving us his outline and said that one of the 4 points was “the supremacy of Christ.” I nearly fell over when I heard that. John Piper. 40 min to speak. And he has the supremacy of Christ as one of FOUR points? There’s no way… Sure enough he ended up having to do the last two points in like 7 minutes. Oh Jonny… Either way, his sermon was very thought provoking. At one point he said “You can’t just choose to see something you’re blind to, to savor something that sickens you, to desire something that bores you.” How many times do I hear myself and others say “I need to read my Bible more. I need to make time for God. I need to pray more.” Why aren’t we reading, praying, making time for God? Because we don’t desire it, see it, savor it? Scary thought… very scary. I felt a holy weight on me when sitting in that session. Like my heart was coated in lead and being pulled right out of my chest. God saying “This is serious. I am serious. So take me seriously.”
The community group following was very good. It started out as the bumper sticker stuff I had mentioned before, then I just though “enough of this” and opened up about the personal implications of some very serious stuff that was going through my mind. Following that, other’s in my group opened up as well. Chain reaction. Deep conversation. And all it took was for me to get over my fear and speak up. Hmmm… God you seem to be showing that to me a lot lately. Just open up. Just say it. How much? How far? How long?
Here’s where my journaling for the conference ended. In the end, Passion 2012 raised 3.2 million dollars against human trafficking. It’s been good just obeying God and taking small leaps of faith he has pushed me towards in the days since the conference. I want to believe that things will be different when I go back to school. I want to be a light for him. I want my school to be a place where I am filled up to be poured out. I want my days ahead to be marked with my humility in walking in His will. I want people to see the hope I have despite my past, my emotions, my PTSD, my stress, my pride, and more. Hope in Christ. God move in me this year. Lead me and push me to where you want me to go. Lift me up through my struggles and humble me in my triumphs. Let the mystery of your grace permeate my life.