Dispatches

In the Very Presence of Greatness

You would think that standing in line with Elton John would have been Lt. Col. Lisa Smith's only brush with greatness. Yet, as she will tell you, she is in the presence of Ultimate Greatness every day.

There I was, standing in a long check-out line in a bookstore in the International Terminal of the London Heathrow Airport, when I heard a commotion rise up behind me. I was dressed in full Salvation Army uniform, as I had just finished a summer of ministry in the Ukraine and was in the middle of my trip back to Los Angeles. When I turned to look, it became very clear what all the excitement was about. Directly behind me in line stood pop music icon Elton John, waiting to pay for the very tall stack of magazines he held in his arms. 

As a child of the 70s who loves singing and playing the piano, I must admit I was star struck. I was overcome by the thought that I stood in the very presence of musical greatness, someone whose beautiful music had been a significant part of the soundtrack of my young life. He, on the other hand, clearly wanted the line, with only one clerk on duty, to move much faster, as crowds of fans and even a few paparazzi had begun to gather. 

I listened as Elton John graciously navigated all the attention while the line inched forward. Finally, it was my turn and I placed my two books on the counter to be rung up. I had meticulously counted out all my remaining British coins and I knew I had just enough to make my purchase. To my horror, as I pulled the coins from my pocket, one popped out from between my fingers and rolled far into the dark recesses underneath the large, immovable check-out counter, never to be seen again.

Panic! Now I was short of the money needed for my purchase! I frantically scanned the book store for one of my team members to help me out, but none could be found. I pretended to search my bag for more British coins that I knew I did not have, all while panicking about the impending embarrassment of having to leave my unpurchased items at the counter, when a calm voice from directly behind me spoke up, “How much does she need?”

“Fifty-five pence, sir,” the clerk replied.

“You can put it on my bill,” answered the gentlemen behind me.

Relief flooded into me as I glanced back and sheepishly muttered, “Thanks, Elton.”

I always smile when I remember my amazing, awkward, random-chance encounter with the great Elton John. I laugh at myself and how nervous and embarrassed I was, and then how completely surprised I was that he, of all people, would come to my aid!

While that experience is a fun memory, I must not forget that as God’s child, I have the opportunity to be in the presence of Ultimate Greatness every day. It happens every time I pray. Hebrews 4:16 instructs me to “approach the throne of grace with confidence,” so that I may “receive mercy and find grace to help” in my time of need. 

How wonderful to know that as a new creation, I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I can worship and commune with God in Spirit, friend to friend, at any moment. My times with God aren’t random or chance and I certainly don’t have to be intimidated or sheepish. God has made it known that He doesn’t just tolerate my presence, but actually celebrates and desires it! 

Revelation 3:20 gives a wonderful word picture of Jesus Himself standing at the door of my life, knocking, and asking me to allow Him access in order to spend time in fellowship and communion with me.

At any time I can enter into the throne room of the Almighty God and give Him my full attention through prayer and personal worship. He in turn welcomes me with open arms. 

Lt. Colonel Lisa Smith, program secretary for the Western Territory, lives in Torrance, CA, with her husband Kyle, a New Zealand Salvationist she met while doing relief work in post-war Rwanda in 1994. Their sons Landon and Brennan are both studying for their bachelor’s degree in New Zealand. 

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