Monday, September 4, 2017

Heaven In My Heart

Morsefest is over. I think I'll be buzzing over this for a while. It was everything I could have hoped for and so much more. I need to back up a bit from where I left off in my last post to give you context.

After Friday night's marathon concert, we arrived in our hotel room around 12:30 AM. Considering how tired we both were, and the fact that we didn't need to get up early, one would think we'd get a really good night's sleep. But we didn't. Neither of us did. An attempt at a nap in the afternoon proved fruitless as well. I was running on fumes again. But God had reserves I knew nothing about.

At Friday night's concert, concern was expressed by the camera crew that Paul was not in the shot. He and Neal are good friends, and it was thought that Neal might want to come down and interact with him. They wanted to get that on camera for the DVD. There was talk of placing us in the center aisle, just beyond the ramp that extended from the stage. But Paul was concerned that when people stood, he wouldn't be able to see. Paul is in a wheelchair. After the Inner Circle concert Saturday morning, the issue was discussed further. By dinnertime on Saturday, they had figured out where to put us.

Paul and me in our prime spot Saturday night

At dinner, once again our group was seated at our table. We ate and enjoyed each other's company while more people came by to offer words of encouragement. We wondered where we would be seated for the concert. Wherever it was, we knew they would take good care of us, because of the servant's heart that everyone we came into contact with had.

After dinner, as we sat and talked, a man came to our table and asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed for the DVD. I thought he must be talking to the wrong person. No, he knew my story, and thought it would make an inspiring segment for the special features on the disc. He also felt the video would be very meaningful to the band. He asked our friend Mark to interview me, not knowing what a pro Mark is at that. He worked in radio for years.

We donned our lavelier microphones, sat as close together as we could for the shot, and Mark began asking me questions. I don't remember much of what was said, but it was very emotional. Both of us felt the presence of God as we spoke. When it was over, I expressed regret that I'll never see the DVD. It takes them a year to put these things out. By the time the night was over, I had more reason to wish I could see the DVD.

When we were ushered into the auditorium that time, we were escorted down front and center. Paul sat nearest the ramp. I assumed that his friend Angus or maybe Mark would sit next to Paul, and we'd be farther down the row like we were on Friday. But I was told to sit next to Paul. They wanted me in the shot. They wanted Neal to be able to interact with me on camera too. Whaaaat???

This was our view of the stage on Friday night.

Not bad at all, eh? We were thrilled with this view. Our only complaint, if you could call it that, was that we like to be on the other side of the stage, where our favorite guitarist Eric Gillette stands. He's the one farthest away in the above picture. But on Saturday night, this was our view.

Eric walked right up to me so I could get this shot. I've never had seats like this for a concert. And these seats were for the DVD taping and final performance of my all-time favorite album. In addition, they put a bunch of crazy young Brazilians in the front row next to Sharon and me. Yes, this group had traveled from Brazil to be there for Morsefest. Their enthusiasm was infectious. They were placed in the front row, along with Eric's wife Jaci, for entertainment value. They were also wanted in the camera shot.

It's hard to be a 62 year old white guy standing next to young guys like that. I tried to keep up with them, and surprisingly, did pretty well. Stamina-wise, I had enough adrenaline to bounce around with those crazy young Brazilians the whole night. God's reserves. On the uptempo songs, I rocked out with the best of them. At one point, Neal came right to the edge of the stage in front of me. He and I rocked out face to face while he played a guitar solo. How cool is that? I wonder if that will be on the DVD.

As fun as all of this was, what will stay with me is the spiritual impact of that night. The album they were performing for the last time is an album I talk about in my post The Album I Can't Stop Listening To. This album spoke deeply to me at a very difficult time. It's been a balm to my soul since I first heard it in January. And now, my favorite band was performing this album live right in front of me, so close I could touch them.

It was very emotional for me. Two songs in particular, Breath Of Angels and the climactic Broken Sky/Long Day finale, had tears streaming down my face. Breath Of Angels is a song I want sung at my memorial. It's loaded with emotion and meaning for me. At the end of the song, I was sobbing. When the Broken Sky/Long Day finale came around, I alternated between crying tears of joy (caught on camera by the concert photographer) and jumping around like a crazy young Brazilian, ultimately turning around to face the crowd and lead them in shouting "C'mon!" along with Eric Gillette at the album's climax. Not that anyone needed to be led. We had all been waiting for two hours to join in that shout.

After the last encore, while the packed house roared our enthusiasm, the band lined up at the front of the stage for their group bow. You know you have good seats when the band lines up for their bow and it looks like this.

Afterwards, no one wanted to leave. We stayed for at least an hour talking with friends, taking pictures and basking in the afterglow. Several who were not staying for Sunday came to say their goodbyes and express their love and support. New friendships were nourished. Our #progfamily didn't want it to end. And for us, it wasn't ending. But wait, there's more....

Morsefest ends with a worship service on Sunday. Or two. The first service was held in the same church worship center where the concerts were held. The second was at a small church plant in the Nashville area called City On A Hill. At the start of the day, Sharon and I only intended to attend the first service, then go back to our room for a much needed nap before we left for the airport. But those plans changed.

In the first service, Neal led us in some worship songs, then opened it up for testimonies. Anyone could share whatever was on their heart. I knew I would speak, but I also knew they were planning to pray for me. I thought I should wait to speak until it came to that time of the service. When the time came, Mark stood and introduced me. I remember asking if everyone there knew my story. Some didn't, so I gave them a brief synopsis. Then I began sharing from my heart. Like the interview, I remember very little of what I said. This was no prepared speech, like I'm so used to delivering. I was being given the words to say in the moment.

After I spoke, a large group of people gathered around me, placed their hands on me and prayed for my healing. Sharon and I joined hands at the center of this circle. Everyone prayed aloud, all at once. This was a sound I hadn't heard since I was a teenager. An elderly man approached me and asked if he could anoint me with oil and pray for my healing. I agreed, and he dabbed a bit of olive oil on my forehead. He placed his hand on my head and took control of the group prayer in a commanding voice. He prayed with great authority, confident that God had healed me in that moment.

I felt no change, except for a great spiritual boost. God was very real. I can't tell you if I was healed or not yet. I've been given no spiritual sense that it happened. But I get a blood draw a week from today. We'll know for sure a couple of days later. Stay tuned. Some are already calling me the Morsefest Miracle. Maybe I'll get to see the DVD after all.

Afterwards, I was hoping to get a chance to talk with Neal. I had a question I wanted to ask. But he had to leave for the service at City On A Hill. He asked if we were coming to that service. I asked if he wanted us to come, and he said yes. He wanted a chance to talk, and didn't have time then. I think he also wanted me to share in that service like I had in this one. So our plans changed. We rushed back to our hotel, packed up, checked out, and managed to get to City On A Hill just as the service started.

How many rock stars do you know who lead worship in a church plant held in a small basement room? Exactly. This tells you everything you need to know about this man. This service was much like the first. Worship music followed by a time of sharing from anyone who felt they should share something. One person after another got up and spoke. It was amazing how each testimony seemed to lead into the next.

At one point, I felt moved to share how God had used cancer to bring me "to the end of myself" so I can learn to trust him and finally become the man he always intended me to be. After the service, Neal and I talked. He told me to stay in touch and let him know how I'm doing. I asked him the question I wanted to ask, and got the answer I was hoping for.

This was my last wish for Morsefest. My first was to experience the music and the production. The second was to have some contact with the band, since most of them, if not all, would now know who I am. The third was to meet people I've been wanting to meet for a long time. The fourth was to have that conversation with Neal. All of my wishes were granted and more, beyond my wildest dreams. Front row seats both nights? Interviewed for the DVD? Getting to share with so many what God is doing in my life? These were not on my radar.

The title of this post is also the title of one of Neal's songs; Heaven In My Heart from Sola Scriptura. The first two choruses of that song go like this:

So in my hour of pain and sorrow
Jesus will walk me through the dark
'Cause if I die with him, I will rise again
With heaven in my heart

I don't know if I'll be the Morsefest Miracle or not. No one needs to convince me that God can heal me. He may very well have done that yesterday. The question is not can he, but will he? Did he? There's only one way to find out. But I can tell you one thing. There's no other rock music festival where I'd even be talking about that. And as you know, I'm on board with whatever God wants to do. Because if I die with him, I will rise again with heaven in my heart. Until then, the heaven on earth I experienced at Morsefest will have to be enough. #waroncancer #bearingwitness #morsefest2017

1 comment:

  1. Mark, it is no exaggeration for me to say you have become a kind of hero to me. Thank you for your honest and regular writing on this forum. You will likely never know the extent of the impact this is having on those of us who know you, or maybe don't know you but have somehow gotten on this blog. SDG, my friend. And kudos on the concert. Wow!