My wife, Andrea, and I have lived on the Lower East Side of New York for the last eight years - more or less. We've gone to the theater, the opera and concerts in Central Park. We've visited the major museums on a regular basis. Discovered a plethora of little, out of the way restaurants that are out of this world. Seldom have we trolled the dive bars where music is plentiful and excellent.
I thought we were pretty plugged into the city. We live in one of the most trendy sections of Manhattan - NoLita: North of Little Italy, where SoHo is spilling over into uncharted territory. Our sidewalks are packed with tourists every weekend and much of the 'normal' time.
But when God has a curveball aimed for your head, there ain't no duckin' and divin'.
Andrea has been down at her sister's place in New Jersey this week - cleaning out the storage space and the attic for a much-needed yard sale. Me, I'm trying to find story ideas in a desert of blank. At the end of the week, I'm looking for someplace to go ... something to get my mind off the things that are always on my mind.
Recently, The Times ran a story about all the blue grass music that is available in the city. I was looking through that article, searching for a place to fritter away my lonely Friday night. One of the spots was the RockWood Music Hall - two blocks from home!
So, after a dinner of Guiness and pizza at our local Spring Lounge, I wandered over to the RockWood Music Hall (yes, having told Andrea of my plans in advance) in search of some music, and no trouble.
Guess what? God was waiting for me.
The RockWood Music Hall is a little, hole-in-the-wall bar on Allen Street, just off Houston, two blocks from where we live. It's smaller than our apartment. I squeezed myself inside the packed confines. I wanted to hear some music. (I'm a dive rat from way back ... saw Dylan at the Cafe Wha in Greenwich Village in the mid-60's). And what do you think I heard?
The Zach Williams Band (http://www.zachwilliams.com) playing some great rock & roll (my opinion), story-driven songs ... about Christ and faith.
One song was about the stuggles Zach had when his wife fell off a horse and was diagnosed with several fractured vertebrae. How God saw them through. Another was about - somehow, with a great beat - the seven deadly sins.
I'm sitting there, on a bar stool, looking for rock & roll, and this guy is evangelizing (subtely) the ultra-cool of the LES.
What is going on here?
After the set, I asked the band's handler/manager: "Are you guys Christain?"
He looked at me as if I was from Mars.
"Well, God bless you."
Later, after the next band was playing, I got to talk to Zach on the sidewalk outside the RockWood Music Hall. He and his wife live in Brooklyn - Park Slope. The rest of the band are primarily from Canada, most of then non-believers. Zach says:
"Man, I've been praying for you. I've been asking God to send me a mentor, someone of maturity (read, old guy!) to help me. Help me with discernment. Tonight, this was a showcase for Warner Brothers. Last night, we did a showcase for Atlantic Records. Tomorrow night there's a guy flying in from Florida - a believer - who's tied in with (some record company). Can I call you?"
Ahhh, sure. (Gee, I just wanted to tell the guy how much I enjoyed his music). I just live around the corner, in The Bowery Mission.
"The Mission! I'm going to be doing a benefit for The Mission in July ... something on the river."
You have got to be kidding.
Kids With a Promise, one of the ministries of The Bowery Mission, has an annual fundraiser on the Fourth of July. The ministry charters a luxurious, very large, yacht and has a dinner cruise around Manhattan Island, ending up in the East River, right below the barges that are about to unleash one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in the country.
And these guys are going to be the music?
Ready for another curveball? My daughter works for Kids With A Promise, overseeing the minsitry to children in the inner city ... After School Programs and summer Day Camps. These are the kids that the July 4th cruise will benefit.
And here I stand, in the rain, on Allen Street on the Lower East Side of New York - outside the RockWood Music Hall, looking for good music - talking to a Christian troubadour who is trying to bring the saving grace of Jesus Christ to the "very together", very cool denizens of the LES.
And that's where I happened to drop in on the Friday night I'm lonely and looking for something fun that is not debauched.
Hello, God? Are you listening?
Absolutely, you knucklehead!
I can't tell you how awesome it was to walk out the door of the RockWood Music Hall, take Zach Williams by the hand, and share the power of Christ's love for all of us whackoos!
Miracles happen every day ... even in New York City.
Terry ... blown away at The Bowery Mission.