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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Heaven's Choir


Tonight was stunning. Absolutely stunning. There are days that seem so ordinary, that I tend to forget to live with great expectation, and then God just shows up and does something marvelous beyond what I could have imagined. Tonight was precisely that type of experience.  Five of us crammed in, all cozy in the van, to drive to Sunday Breakfast Mission, Philadelphia.  We know this type of ministry. We know rescue missions and we love them, because we are regulars at the chapel services in Wilmington- both the men's side and family side there.  And the services are always exquisite; the Holy Spirit pours out in doses almost too large for us to handle.

However, there seems to be this occurrence for most people—when we get into routine in our little worlds, we get so used to the atmosphere, so used to the scene, that we forget to be amazed when the miracles teem down. That tendency was shaken up for me tonight, though, as we relocated to another city, visiting our neighbors in downtown Philly, where God asked me once again to not hold onto the mindset of ordinary, but to rather exist in the midst of the extraordinary. He reminded me that He is alive and mightily at work and showed me this through the voices of one hundred men.  He drew my heart into His astounding glory amid seemingly wrecked and worn-out and weary souls. He prompted my mind to think upon the wonder of who He is as great King of heaven and King of earth. He revealed marvels of the mystery of the incarnation and the wonder of His presence here with us, every moment.  And He gave me a glimpse of what the heavenly choirs are going to sound like…Let me just tell you, it will be something overwhelming and breathtaking.


We walked into a room of men trying to warm themselves inside after a long day in the freezing November city air.  The aroma was strong…one hundred sweaty and soiled men finding their seats. The deep eyes—some downcast, some hopeful.  Hair matted by hats or grayed by the years.  A sea of mostly black faces with white sprinkled about. Wrinkles and aged freckles, sand-papered hands, and layered limbs…each representing an inimitable story, some just waiting for a chance to be told.

Chaplain Sam got the crowed “Amen-ing” and “Hallelujah-ing” off the bat, and we began to worship.  What followed was something of the Lord, not of human leading.  As we started the songs, there was an atmosphere of sudden grace, and a sense of angelic presence.  The notes resounding through an air of wonder, the worship reverberating from wall to wall.  There is power in the name of Jesus! We sang this Jesus Culture song and it was like I had heard it for the very first time. The booming men’s voices, all ages and timbres, soared through the room.  I can attest, this power was very real!  By the time we got to “King of Heaven” (Hillsong United), this mish-mash choir of bedraggled and blessed gentlemen were up on their feet again, boldly proclaiming praise. Emmanuel!  God with us!  Emmanuel!  Hallelujah! I could hardly hold back the tears.  The sound was more melodious than an Oscar-winning soundtrack. 

This was the soundtrack of the moment…the story of God-with-us in that moment.  We saved these magnificent few minutes. An ocean of diverse, yet unified voices rose in praise like I’ve never quite heard before.  It really was a glimpse of unadulterated delight—those faces.  A mighty crash of heaven meets earth in a hallowed moment of brokenness and blessing.  Tones and expressions of reverence toward God so striking.  I didn’t want the song to end.  I didn’t want this foreshadowing and taste of glory to be over, for us to go back to life as usual with its pain and disarray…back to the city night sadness and present uncertainty for so many of these lives.  But the moment went just like it came, unassumingly slipping into the night. 

The sermon was filled with vital truth and vigor.  Men found themselves walking forward during the final prayer, making decisions to follow Christ from this night forward.  Their voices rang out through the closing song.  I tried, hard as I might, to savor this heavenly choir and remember this night.  I want to go back to my hometown rescue mission with new inspiration and vision.  Sometimes stepping out of our own place of normalcy and comfort into someone else’s ministry, home, or  environment, sparks a new flame of passion, rekindles a heart of expectation, and reignites the eyes to see miracle’s fire.  My ears were most assuredly renewed in their sense of the holy.  I will remember those voices, that chorus of burly glory that sang tonight with such intensity, fervor, and abandon. I will recall the deep soul singing and I will ask God to keep me awake and aware to these miracle moments in the days and weeks to come.



(My new friend Abraham sketched this while I sang...I wish I could have sketched the picture of one hundred faces--tired, shy, beaming, bold, rugged, hungry, expectant, hurt, hopeful...)