Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Two weeks ago, on a Thursday afternoon, I went with my city service Interactive Arts group to Spoon Me, a frozen yogurt store in downtown Redding, to bless the community with creative arts, e.g. art, face painting, balloons, and music. We set up a table outside of the store and started making arts and balloons. As the sun began to go down, we still hadn’t talked to many people yet. It was chilly outside, and few people had walked past our table.
I had been sitting down most of the time making signs for the table: “Free Balloons!” “Free Art!” When I was done with that, I decided to make one more sign. On the paper, I wrote in beautiful letters, “May I sing a song for you?” and decorated it with musical notes and treble clefs.
Earlier that afternoon, before we had headed out into the community, our group had gathered together to pray and share one thing that each of us wanted to be “activated” in that day, i.e. something we would challenge ourselves to do that would be outside of our comfort zones. I shared with the group, “I want to step out and sing over someone.” I added, “I also want to serve them in a way that really makes them feel special, because it’s not about me. It’s all about showing them God’s love.”
Having finished my new sign, with the words “May I sing a song for you?” printed on it, I got up from the table and decided I would hold it out in front of me and flash it in front of every person who passed by. No one walked by, but I noticed two men standing about half a block away from me. They were smoking in front of a bar.
Two people from my team had gone to talk with them a few minutes ago, wanting to gift them with a free balloon, but they refused. When my teammates came back, my team leader looked at me and said, “Do you want to go talk to them? You can bring your sign. I’ll go with you.” Not wanting to allow my hesitation to increase further, I quickly agreed.
With sign in hand, I approached the two men. One of them was a taller man with a grayish beard; he leaned against the wall. The other man was shorter and had a stern-looking face.
“Hello,” I smiled, “I’m here with my group today, and we just wanted to bless the community.” I held up my sign, “Would you mind if I sang a song over you?”
The taller man with the beard answered by asking, “A song? What song?”
“Well, it’s more like a spontaneous song,” I replied. “I’m learning to hear from God, and I believe that He has a song in His heart for every person. I’m going to try to hear the song that He wants to sing over you. Would you mind if I sang that song over you?”
“Sure,” he said. “I am also a believer.”
“He is a strong believer,” the other man interjected. “He tries to talk to me about God all the time. I am an atheist, but I am a good listener.”
“Oh, that’s awesome!” I said and looked at the taller man who was also a believer. “I think God really has a song in His heart that’s just for you. May I sing it over you?” He agreed, and I laid my hands on his shoulder.
“This is from the Father’s perspective,” I said. Then I started singing:
“I am so proud of you, my son. You are my child. I am so proud of you—you have no idea. I’ve seen all that you’ve done, and I am so proud of you. You are my favorite child.”
Tears started welling up in his eyes. His head was bowed, and I could tell my words were impacting him in a deep way. When I finished, I gently lifted my hands from his shoulder. There was a moment of silence as he tried to compose himself.
“Thank you so much,” he whispered.
“You’re welcome,” I said. “God loves you so much. He really is proud of you.”
“It’s hard to believe that,” he responded, “but it does mean a lot to me.”
Remembering my prayer earlier that afternoon, I decided to dig deeper. “What did that mean to you?” I gently inquired.
“Well, my wife and I were married for 10 years, and we have been separated for 7 years. I have been faithful all of this time, but it’s been very hard. I used to live in another city, and I just moved here. Life hasn’t been easy, you know?” He went on, telling me details about his life and the struggles that he was going through.
I was amazed at the power of a simple song. Suddenly this man was opening up his heart to me, sharing vulnerable details about his past, and all I had done was sing a simple spontaneous song from the heart of the Father. Somehow music is able to break down barriers and create a highway to the heart.
I looked him straight in the eyes and told him with all sincerity, “God is so proud of you. I really felt like He wants you to know that.”
As he was soaking it in, I turned to the other man (the atheist) and started chatting with him.
We landed on the subject of religion, at which point he said, “I appreciate that some people need religion. I just know too much to believe in that stuff. I could tell you a whole bunch of scientific facts about how the Bible simply does not add up, but that would just depress you. I am a very logical person; I like to think with facts and reason. Religion just isn’t for me.”
I nodded in acknowledgement of his reasoning. Even though I knew enough apologetics to perhaps make a case, (“Case for a Creator” by Lee Strobel is a great book about scientific evidence that points to God), I knew that debating with him about science and the validity of the Bible would be a bad idea. Instead, I decided to share my dad’s testimony:
“I totally understand where you’re coming from,” I said to him. “My dad is a lot like you. He is also a very logical person, and he loves to reason. He has a PhD in computer science, and before he became a Christian he loved to argue and debate about this sort of stuff. God and faith made absolutely no sense to him at all. He was an avid thinker and scientist.
“Then a local pastor started coming to our house every week to try to convert my dad. They would debate for hours. My dad would use every logical argument against him. Finally, after weeks and weeks of this, my dad was sick and tired of this pastor coming to our house, so he said, ‘Fine! I will go to church one time, if you will just stop coming.’ The pastor agreed.
“The first time my dad went to church, he said, he felt the presence of God so strongly. The choir was singing a song that pierced his heart, and that day he gave his life to the Lord. Now, my dad is a pastor. He used to be a successful manager in a computer tech company, and he made a lot of money. We used to live in a big house, but my dad gave that all up to become a pastor.”
“That’s a big difference, I bet,” he said with a slight smirk.
“Yes, it was. We don’t live in such a big house anymore, but God has always provided for us. God has been so good.
“And the most amazing thing is that my dad has changed so much. Before he was a Christian, my dad had anger problems; he had a very big temper. I remember in my childhood, he would spank my little brother in the bathroom, and I would cry and cry, asking him to stop. His rage was explosive. If you know, the Chinese culture is very performance-driven, so if we didn’t perform well, we would be punished. I remember that being a huge part of my childhood.
“But ever since my dad gave his life to the Lord, he has changed so much. He is now incredibly gentle and humble, and I can’t remember the last time he has acted out in anger. Our entire family has been transformed as a result of it.
“The Bible says that Jesus came ‘to give us life and life abundant.’ A lot of Christians like to dangle hell in front of people’s faces to scare them into heaven, but I think there is so much more than that. God actually wants us to have life—abundant life! I can see it in my family. We are so much more joyful now than ever, and I absolutely love my family.”
The man seemed to take it in. He still couldn’t bring himself to believe in God yet, but he acknowledged that my family’s transformation was a good thing.
As we continued talking, I found out that he suffered from insomnia. For decades, he hadn’t been able to sleep for more than a few hours each night.
The night was creeping in, so I decided to ask him one last thing before we headed back to the rest of our group. “Would you mind if I sang over you for your insomnia to go away?”
“No,” he quickly replied. “I’d rather you not.”
“Oh, no? But I have seen people get healed when I sang over them. I really believe God will heal you if I sing over you.”
“No, I’d rather you not. I actually don’t want to sleep better. When I was younger, I remember someone said that you spend 1/3 of your life sleeping. Since then, I started sleeping less. So I actually don’t want to sleep more.”
“But sleep is so important for physical and emotional health,” I insisted. I didn’t want to give up so easily. I wanted this man to experience the power of God.
Then the other taller man who was also a Christian spoke up, “You don’t want her to sing over you, because you say that you don’t want to sleep better… That means you actually believe that if she sings over you, you will be healed!” I laughed in astonished agreement.
“What, no…” the man stammered. Figuring there was no way for him to get out of it, he looked at me and smiled, “Oh, alright, you can sing for me.”
Pleased, I laid my hands on his shoulder and began to sing:
“I release peace. I release rest. You will have the best sleep you’ve ever had. I release peace. I release rest.”
I repeated this a few times before ending the song.
When I finished, he looked up at me and said, “Can I give you a hug?”
“Of course!” I said. We hugged, and then the other taller man also gave me a hug. They both seemed very touched by this encounter.
As we were leaving, the man who was an atheist (or pre-Christian, as I like to say) said to me, smiling, “Hey… I’m proud of you.”
I was so touched. I felt like he was encouraging me as he would a daughter. Even though he didn’t say any prayers with me that day, his heart was clearly touched by the love of God.
The taller man also came up to me and said, “You really strengthened my faith. Thank you.”
We waved goodbye and parted ways. My leader and I rejoined our group nearby, and I shared with them what had happened. One of the girls said, “One of the guys seemed scary-looking.”
I said, “Really? I didn’t even notice. I just focused on approaching them with a warm smile and a sincere desire to show God’s love, and I feel like they were both really receptive and friendly.”
This experience has left me deeply encouraged. There is no heart too hard that the love of God cannot penetrate and soften. It truly is the greatest force in the universe. Love never fails.
I believe seeds of salvation were planted that day, and I rejoice that I was able to partner with the Holy Spirit in ministering to these two men. Don’t ever underestimate the power of singing a simple song from the Father’s heart or the power of engaging in a sincere conversation with someone. Amazing things happen when we tap into the well of God’s love. He always has something to say to his beloved children.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.