Today being Sunday, we attended worship services as usual. This time, I knew that I was selected to give the congregational prayer just before the sermon. Let me explain my issues with being in front of people.
Some years ago, my first event of speaking before our congregation ended up being a disaster. Well, sort of. Everyone said I did a good job, but they don’t know the horror I felt being up in front of 300 plus people and trying to get everyone’s minds on having a meaningful worship service.
I walked up to the podium on that day with some dread, sort of like simply saying, “I just don’t really want to do this.” I laid out my bible, open to the verses I wanted to read, laid out my outline of what I wanted to say, and then looked up. Suddenly, an overwhelming fear overtook me, an experience which I had never felt before. Jo even commented later that she watched the color literally drain out of my face.
As many times since that I have been before the same congregation, I still have very serious reservations about being up there, with every eye and every ear trained on what I do and say. The only time that I don’t feel that sense of some fear is when I am praying.
During those times, I am thankfully looking down with a bowed head and focusing my thoughts on speaking to God. I don’t concern myself with the 300 plus people in the audience. At those times, I am completely comfortable, just as I would be with any other friend.
However, today was different in that I once again choked up. I was just fine until I got to the part where I prayed for God’s presence to be with our serving military and their families. In thinking of that very thin line of defense that our country has (see yesterday’s blog entry), it was enough that my voice caught, I hesitated for several seconds (felt like hours to me), and tears welled up and began to glisten in my eyes.
I was finally able to continue, but it was without the steady voice with which I normally pray. The catch in my voice continued for yet a couple of minutes until I finished. While I spent some time afterwards singing with the congregation and getting my composure back, it was still a bit before I felt comfortable to speak.
The times that I find it the hardest to continue with speaking is when I think of family members suffering, or when I really consider the sacrifices of Jesus for our sakes. Now, it looks like I will need to be concerned with my feelings toward our military, police, firefighters, and others that serve the common good.
Our military deserve special recognitions because they do their jobs in some of the world’s worse sinkholes of civilization. Oklahoma’s 45th Division National Guard has about 3000 or so of our citizens deployed into Afghanistan right now. Sadly, we have lost some of them to the evils of terrorism, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other Muslim extremists.
I pray that God will be with them and their families in their hours and days and months of sorrow. Fortunately, the United States is a nation of grateful people who have done an excellent job of showing their gratitude and embracing both the survivor’s and the victim’s families.
My heart swells with the stories of the Patriot Guard, those motorcyclists who serve as honor guards for the funeral processions and who quietly place themselves so that the grieving families do not have to see those that protest at the funerals.
I hope that we as a nation will never forget that thin line of defenders and their families, and that we will strive to thank those in uniform, regardless of branch, or whether military or civilian, such as our police and firefighters and other emergency personnel.
Thank you all, and may God bless you with courage and strength.