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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spontaneous Praise

Treasured friend,
Not long after Daddy’s move to heaven, Mom and I got a request we tried everything to turn down. But God was having none of our obstinance. The invitation was for us to become the new worship leaders of a congregation. That was something we’ve done before—something we love doing. Mom on the organ and piano, me on the violin, vocals and leading a small choir. With our caregiving task faithfully completed, it was the exact right time for us to take on this new mission. Even we knew that.
But it wasn’t the “what” that had us feeling ambivalent. It was the “where.” The request came from the congregation that meets at a senior citizen village a few miles down the road.
Now, we love seniors. In fact Mom is one. (Don’t tell her I admitted that for her!) But having just spent so many months beside Daddy in places where people are ill and dying, we didn’t feel emotionally ready to take on this challenge.
We agreed only to this much: “We’ll help you out until you find someone else.”
Yet Chaplain George insisted. “I don’t want someone else; I want you two.” His persistence won us over. Somewhere in those first few visits as fill-in temps, we realized that the folks in this congregation were our fellow worshippers with names and concerns we began to pray for – as they came to know and pray for us.
Many of the residents are independent and active—vibrant and energetic. Drawing them out and helping them participate in ministry has become our joy. Then again many aren’t independent or able-bodied. They need help adjusting their lap blankets or turning on their hearing devices or remembering to turn a page when they’re reading. Others are ill unto death—like Daddy was. So we sing with them songs they can carry into eternity, and we choose music to sooth their grieving loved ones at their memorial services.
Another part of our joy is hearing the choir that’s grown to 30 singers make a joyful noise as they sing old hymns of the faith no one else seems to be playing anymore. Our saddest moments come when choir members or other residents move on up to heaven.
Some days a resident touches our hearts in a special way. Like today. We played a prelude that combined a beloved hymn in medley with worship choruses. It had a finale tagged onto the end, and we leaned into it. The organ swelled, the violin sang.
Then in the silence that was supposed to hang after the last note, a voice rang out, clear and powerful: HAL-LE-LU-JAH! No stronger word of spontaneous praise was ever heard in any holiness church anywhere in the Bible belt. Funny thing, though. The voice belonged not to a strapping youth but to a man strapped into one of those tall specialty wheelchairs. He can’t move much; he often sits in the service slumped, with his eyes closed; and his speech, what there is of it, is not usually intelligible. But I assure you, not one person in the room missed a vowel or a consonant of his affirmation.
In his own way, this brother in the faith reminded Mom and me of just how much these fellow believers are supporting us through our grief. Surrounded by their challenges and their willingness to push through into praise and worship, we find ourselves drawn out, willing to connect again, grateful to be useful to Christ in this new season.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB

Blessings and prayers, Julie © 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com