February 1994. I was a second year student pastor at a church in West Tennessee, and it was time for our Valentine’s Banquet. Now if you’re not familiar with student ministry in the 90’s, there was a specific formula for Valentine’s Banquets, pulled right of the 1990 Student Pastor Handbook:
Motivational Speaker That May Or May Not Talk About True Love Waits
+ Contemporary Christian Singer That May Or May Not Be Wearing A Sweater Vest
÷ $5 Per Person Meal That May Or May Not Have Been Cooked By The Little Old Ladies In The Church
– Dorky Eighth Grade Boy Who Brings His Cousin As A Date And Spends The Evening Lighting His Napkin On Fire
x Bonus Balloon Entryway Arch In The Shape Of A Heart
= A Good Time Was Had By All.
There was only one problem with my formula: an unforeseen ice storm on Valentine’s weekend that shut down the city and postponed the entire event until the following weekend. The Little Old Ladies’ casseroles had to go in the freezer. The party rental place had to reschedule the balloon arch. And my awesome singing couple & their companion keyboard who were driving straight in from Nashville (Contemporary Christian Music Mecca) couldn’t make the new date.
So there I was, roughly four days away from my own personal post-Valentine’s Day Massacre, with zero entertainment for the social event of the year. It would be, in short, the death knell of my ministry. I was moping with some other student pastors, grieving openly at this obvious satanic assault on my event (the devil hates singers in sweater vests), and I asked them to pray. Pray like they never had before. Pray like Pentecostals. I needed them to name it and claim it, stab it and grab it, and ask God to deliver an entertainer. These were my exact words:
“I don’t care what they do. They can sing a few songs. They can tell a few jokes. They can play a flute with their nose, for all I care. I just need someone this Saturday night.”
That afternoon, a lady in our church called me. She knew our CCM couple had backed out, but her brother was a pastor in Memphis (just an hour down the road) and he was available to come and speak to our group. Was I interested?
Was I interested?!? Does a little old ladies’ casserole taste doubly bad after a week in the freezer? Of course I was interested!
And so Kevin showed up that Saturday. We’d never met, but all of my hopes were resting on him. And if I am lying about the following events, may your babies be born naked…
Kevin took to the stage. The first thing he did was sing a few songs (he was a pretty gifted musician). Then he proceeded to tell a few jokes (he had a spot-on imitation of bacon frying). And then…I swear to you this happened…he said, “I have a hidden talent that not many people know about…” and he pulled out a flute and began to play it with his nose.
There I sat, in First Baptist Church’s fellowship hall. Junior highers were giggling all around me, but my jaw was resting comfortably in my lap. I realized that I’d been praying to a God who really cares about the details. All of them. Was that Valentine’s Banquet a big deal on a universal scale? Not at all. But it was a big deal to me. And while God certainly doesn’t grant every prayer that I’ve ever prayed (nor should he), he granted that one…right down to the nose flute. The lady in the church didn’t know I’d asked for that. The guy on the stage didn’t know those words had come out of my mouth. The fellow student pastors who heard the request probably forgot about it an hour later. But God didn’t forget. He heard it. And in a very tiny detail at a very small Valentine’s banquet in a little town in West Tennessee, he proved his presence in a big way.
Where have you seen God at work in the details? Comment below.