After taking our bags and bikes into Steve's appartment we headed to a BBQ place for dinner. It was called Pat's (I think) and it was owned by the same family as another nice BBQ joint, but wasn't as expensive. There's one benefit to staying with a local (or, well, someone who knows the area)! I ordered burnt ends, which fortunately weren't too burnt. The BBQ lived up to the hype. I'm not sure how good the meat really tasted because it was so loaded with barbeque sauce. During supper, Stephen some of his story with us (sort of a prodigal son-type story) about his success followed by bad choices and finally, the life he now has in Christ.
We went to an International House of Prayer church service (in a separate building from the 24-hour worship and prayer) around 6:30pm. I was very observant. I heard a lot about IHOP and I wanted to see what I could learn and experience that was new. There wasn't much different in the worship and the service was fairly difficult to pay attention to (especially after a big dinner!). There was a prayer in the beginning about abortion and (I think) Israel that everyone said together. I can't remember what the crowd all said, but I'm sure it's online somewhere. It was against abortion and for Jews to become Christian (if I remember correctly). I nodded on and off for about 20 minutes during the talk, but tried to stay awake. Eventually, I was stark awake as the speaker was talking about Israel. Actually, that's how he started the sermon too. I don't remember what he was saying at this point, but I wrote this down in my phone:
"Is this what we need to hear? Have I less faith if I don't think about the end times? How much should I concern myself with prophecy about the end times? Only as much as what Jesus says to. He told us to love. Why do we care (why do we worry) about what is to come? We do not know. Even the prophets could not know the time of the events to come. So what should we do? We should prepare our hearts and live in the Kingdom of Heaven."
After re-reading that, I think what stuck out to me was the preacher talking about fulfillment of the end times especially in terms of Israel and the middle east. Politics entered the arena a little bit, which always bothers me a little. Listen, I'm not worried about the fulfillment of the end times. They will come when they come and what will happen will happen without me trying to match up events to prophecy. All I can do is live as Jesus taught us and follow him. I have not given enough thought to Biblical prophesy yet and its importance to daily life. Nonetheless, this particular sermon was not edifying to me whatsoever. I will love the people of Israel as much as anyone else in the world.
I could have probably left sooner, as much good as the sermon did for me. Stephen came down from his security perch (he leads some security teams at IHOP) and drove us to the 24-hour worship building. He parked his truck in the back and lead us through the building to the regular entrance. I felt like I was on the "inside" being escorted by Stephen. There were a lot of people sitting and visiting outside. We went into the room and it was fairly unbusy. Still, there was a worship team of probably eight people on stage and maybe 10-15 people in the seats in the crowd. Again, I sat and observed. I tried to think about the words in the songs being sung and thought about the people worshipping up front. Were they able to connect with all the songs they sang for such an extended period of time? I couldn't connect (I was just not in the right state of heart), so we left pretty early. While we were sitting there, a piece of paper caught my eye. This paper had some ground rules about the worship room. You couldn't take your shoes off and you could only dance in designated places. Also, you could pace, but it couldn't interfere with people trying to get in and out of seats. I can understand the need for rules, but some of them seemed goofy or unnecessarily restrictive. I guess if something repeatedly (or often) interferes with others' abilities to worship it should be addressed. But I digress.
We left IHOP and went straight back to the appartment. Stephen addressed the ant problem (a recent infestation... it rained and they were coming in the cracks) with his spray as he had done before. Those ants were crawling everywhere. I hope it hasn't gotten worse. I ended up talking with Stephen about spiritual gifts because he had brought up prophesying earlier. It was useful for me to get a more full explanation of what he meant, instead of assuming I knew what he was talking about. He said that it is all meant for the encouragement of people. I sure don't know how it works (as with so many things spiritual), but I believe it happens. It's important not to lose sight of what spiritual gifts are intended for. Some of them are really outside my realm of understanding and experience, and thus I was frustrated as I encountered stories about them and tried to understand, but couldn't. Stephen said that he wants to know God's voice. He wants it to be so familiar to him that it's like picking up the phone (without caller ID) and being able to identify the caller just by voice.
I went to bed late trying to update my blog. I sacrifice some sleep, but I will appreciate it later as I am able to capture more memories in words.
Tom and I woke up around 7am and Stephen woke up at 7:30am. Steve left 10 minutes later and we were out the door shortly after. We had no plans for places to stay in Missouri, so we would be making a lot of calls that day trying to make arrangements. It turned out the first two days were our toughest to find any help at all, which was very, very discouraging.
We drove to Kansas City, Missouri on Sunday, May 31, 2009.