Truth be told, I had a difficult time getting into the London spirit. Originally I was not planning on going to London but for whatever reasons still unknown to me, I ended up staying for about 5 nights. Sunday finally tugged at my heart-strings for the city. What made the difference? I finally immersed and engaged in three specific activities that spoke to the depths of my heart.
Number One: London Aquatic Centre
As I am sure most people remember, London hosted the 2012 Olympic Games. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is positioned in Stratford which is located on the Northeast side of London. Apparently prior to the Olympics, Stratford was smelly, filthy and deprived. Instead of focusing on areas that were already favorable for The Games, the city used the opportunity to renovate Stratford into a place to be proud of. To this day, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is an events center offering a wide variety of activities from swim lessons to professional soccer matches to headlining music concerts.
I stopped in to see the Aquatic Centre on Friday. I inhaled the chlorine. I sat in the same spectator seats that watched USA’s Missy Franklin emerge as a backstroking powerhouse. I heard the chaotic cheering. I sat in the same seats that watched South Africa’s Chad Le Clos upset USA’s Michael Phelps in the 200 butterfly. I felt the surprise of unexpected outcome. I sat in the same seats that watched the Chinese medal in every event in diving. I felt the pride that flowed from the podium as flags and anthems were raised. I sat in the same seats that are part of the 120 year legacy in bringing the world together for just a moment in unity.
It was not enough to sit in the seats; I had to swim. On Sunday morning, I grabbed my racing suit, cap and goggles (You better believe I am hauling them around with me!) and hopped in the pool. I did not swim fast. I did not swim long. I swam with intention and purpose…to see what it felt like from the pool. I engaged in a piece of history. I became part of it.
Number Two: St. Paul’s Cathedral
I knew I wanted to go to a church service on Sunday. I had already been “Googling” around to find a more contemporary, nondenominational, international church. A friend recommended a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey for a traditional Church of England experience. During the week, both charge an admission fee to enter but a bonus on Sunday is no fee to attend a service. It is a fantastic way to take part in a traditional experience and see the incredible beauty of the cathedrals. I decided to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral.
St. Paul’s Cathedral was founded over 1400 years ago and still operating on the original land site. The intricate building of the current cathedral began in 1675. I am guessing many people may not recognize the name but you may remember Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding photos; they were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I was not really expecting much from the service other than a beautiful setting, a lovely choir and the directed choreography of stand up, sit down & kneel. When I arrived, I was handed a bulletin listing the “Order of Service.” As I browsed the elements of the service, my attention was captured by the first Scripture reading of the morning. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents…” Hebrews 11:8-9a. Now, these verses may not mean much to you but for me, this was a moment that resignated in my heart. Over the past decade, I have been brought back to Abraham’s story a number of different times for a number of different reasons. And here I am sitting in London, traveling by faith in obedience, not knowing where I am going. You know what that scripture verse was for me? A reminder that even though I do not know where this journey is headed, I am okay because God does.
Through this Bible verse, I became engaged in the service. I closed my eyes to soak in the choir. I participated in the traditional call and responses. I took communion in remembrance of Him along with my fellow churchmates. I sang words to melody’s I did not know. I read the Lord’s Prayer in unity with the congregation. I joyfully shook hands and passed on peace to those near me.
The Bible really does have the power to change. It changed my mindset about the old traditional service in quick moment. That is why it is called the Living Word. It has life, it gives life.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Number Three: Hillsong UK
You will not believe this. I attended two, that’s right, TWO chuch services on the same Sunday.
Originally a church from Sydney, Australia – Hillsong has been long known in the Christian world for their incredible music. Record album after record album after record album of worship songs have been released for quite a number of years now. Years later, additional Hillsong affiliated churches have materialized with similar energy and passion for worship.
Hillsong UK has six different locations in England. Each church has several services. I was able to attend one of the locations in Central London which meets at The Dominion Theatre. Since The Dominion Theatre is home to Broadway style plays (currently “The Bodyguard”), the acoustics are incredible. As I mentioned on Facebook, the worship was like “a rock concert in the South with great British flare.” Yo T, what the heck does that mean? It means the music was loud and energetic. During prayer and sermons, the congregation from all different nations were in loud vocal agreement with what was said (like in Southern Baptist churches). Of course we were in London so they have their own British flare going on with clothing style, accents and other cultural mannerisms. Also worth noting – twelve musicians on stage represented eight different countries and four different continents. Whoa.
A moment came where the lead pastor came on stage with a stack of paper in his hand nearly three inches thick. He stood for 15 minutes reading prayer requests and answered prayers which had been turned in just that morning by members of the congregation. With each answered prayer, the crowd went wild. With each prayer request, the crowd vocally agreed God was in control and capable of doing mighty things. If you read my blog entry from the church in Dublin, you already know how this has been on my heart.
God promises miracles. I want to hear them. I want to see them. I want to be a part of them. I want to be excitedly watching in anticipation for what is going to happen next. I want to be seated on the edge of my seat waiting for the unexplainable to happen. I want to cheer for the aligning of details that make no earthly sense. I want miracles. Hallelujah! AMEN!
I engaged in this service as much as the last. I sang at the top of my lungs. I vocally agreed in the sermon and in prayer. I cheered with each answered prayer announced and I do not even know a soul in the place. But I do know that God is capable of every fulfillment made and He is capable of fulfilling every request brought forth. And that my friends, is worth cheering for.
With these three visits, I feel I finally found the London I was looking for. I was engaged to the depth of my being.
Speaking of making prayer requests known, I have two requests to ask for prayer about:
- My next step – On Friday I am heading to Amsterdam until the 15th. I am planning to be in Rome by Aug 24. But between the two, I have no idea where to go. I was working on a plan but it has not yet come together as I pictured. Please pray for my steps to be guided and to be where I am supposed to be.
- My computer – I bought a laptop specifically for this trip in February or March. Two days ago, it quit all of a sudden and would not start up again. Now, the battery only lasts 20 minutes before it dies. I am not in a great location to take it anywhere for help. I am asking for a miraculous healing…yes, even for a computer!