I love Cody Carnes' song, Nothing Else. The chorus says, I'm caught up in your presence, I just want to sit here at your feet. I'm caught up in this holy moment, I never want to leave. Oh, I'm not here for blessings. Jesus, you don't owe me anything. More than anything that you can do, I just want you.
As we sang Nothing Else at our prayer service, a memory from my childhood surfaced, suddenly reminding me of the first time I was caught up in His presence. It was 1956 in Twila, Kentucky and my mother announced she was not going to church that night. What? … What do you mean? How could we not be going to Church, I asked. You see, I loved going to church, experiencing the music, watching the people, and seeing what God would do. This church was the most happening place to be.
In my seven-year-old mind, missing out on church was unacceptable. I had to do something. My Mom had one of her severe migraine headaches and didn't feel like getting out of bed, much less going to church. She played the guitar in the worship band and never missed. I was distraught. But when I saw the bus heading up the holler past us, I told my older sister, Norma, Let's catch the bus and go to church anyway! With no time to tell anyone and no thought of the consequences, we ran to meet the bus at its stop. We gingerly marched up the stairs of the bus and blended in with everyone else with no questions asked. We were on an adventure all by ourselves, and we were ecstatic!
As I'm writing this, I realize every mother's heart is screaming "Noooo"! You're right, it was dangerous, but in our young minds, we had no thought of threat. We were only focused on our impulsive adventure of getting to church, and there was no stopping us now.
Entering the church, we sat half-way back, which was a new perspective for us. We usually had to sit up front so Mom could keep an eye on us. A contagious excitement was in the air, and I could feel it! Sis. Blankenship was in her regular seat with her five fidgeting children lined up beside her, the worship team was playing a toe-tapping instrumental, and many in the packed camp style church were already standing in expectation. What was God up to tonight? The singing and clapping began, and no one questioned where Mom was or why we were alone. As I look back now, it was a freeing feeling of being incognito.
I loved to sing along with the congregation at the top of my lungs. But somewhere in my new-found freedom and singing with all my heart, something unexpected happened -- someone captured my heart.
At this time, I don't know if it was a particular phrase of a song or just a sovereign touch of God, but suddenly, without me even realizing it, my arms were straight up in the air reaching toward God, who was reaching out to me. For the most part, I was unaware of what was happening on around me. I felt enveloped in His warm, accepting presence. It was as if He had pitched a tent of His presence over me, permeating my spirit and enclosing me in His love. I couldn't help but respond! I don't remember all that happened, except that I was "caught up in His presence, and I didn't want to leave."
When the music stopped, I didn't notice and just kept on praising God and basking in His love. I don't recall what happened to break me out of the bubble of His manifest presence, but I reluctantly returned to the here and now of the service. It's difficult now to describe what I felt or experienced, but I've since learned that God uses encounters like this to prepare us for what is ahead.
I find it interesting how I don't remember a word of the sermon or any of the songs we sang that night, but I vividly remember the experience of being caught up in His presence. God reminds me of that night every once in awhile.
My parents, at one point, found us at the church and were very relieved, as you can imagine. My Mom never punished us for sneaking off to church. I have to wonder if some kind soul might have told them about my unique experience, and my Mom didn't want to ruin it for me.
So on this night of prayer, January 22, 2020, while singing Nothing Else and noticing the young boy in front of me raising his hands high and singing with all his heart, I remembered being caught up in His presence for the first of many times. I prayed that he, too, would have the privilege of this extraordinary experience. Why? you ask. Because through all the ups and downs of life, I know, as the bridge of the song says, Nothing else, nothing else, Jesus, nothing else will do; I just want you."