Sunday, June 20, 2010

Worship unites us

Just about the time I think I have the feeling of being old licked, something comes up to remind me just how old I really am.

The worship team came together at 9:30 to practice one last time for the 10:45 service.  Since I'm never around during the week for the regular rehearsals, I always wonder about what is going to be new for me on Sunday mornings.  Jen just mentioned that we were doing a hymn and maybe I could play it, she was sure I knew it.  Ok, fine ... what is it.

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."

I slumped.  Oh, for heaven's sake.  The praise songs I did when I was in junior high and high school are now considered hymns?  It is definitely all over for me ... time to just crawl into my coffin and give up.

This weekend has been tough on me!  First I get mail telling me to renew my driver's license and stuck inside is a brochure on Safety Tips for Elderly Drivers.  Argh ... that one nearly destroyed me all by itself.  And now, my contemporary praise songs are considered hymns.  Oh yah - I'm old.

I refuse to do this gracefully, though.  I will fight you at every turn.  You don't get to call me old and get away with it, I promise!

After I moved past the insult ... and as we were singing the song, I had a wonderful memory come to me though, wrapped around that simple piece of music.

In the 70s, our church was actively involved in the Appalachian Service Project, a work camp that put groups into areas of Kentucky and Tennessee that were in the midst of terrible poverty.  One summer, Dad was the coordinator for the project and spent three months living there.  The whole family went down for a month and we were able to spend time with several families, growing close to them as we worked in their community, restoring homes.  Groups would come and go a week at a time, but the five of us stayed.

One evening, we were invited back into the holler for a "Sing."  This was a pretty big deal. No one went into that holler after dark - it was dangerous.  The families stood on their porches with rifles and shotguns, keeping outsiders out.  But, the invitation came to us and we were assured that we would be protected and safe.  So, we went, not knowing what to expect. 

These people lived off the little bit of land they could cultivate.  They had nearly nothing, but when they came together, they brought what they had and shared.  There was a meal and then everyone settled in for some good old-fashioned, gospel singing.  It was the tinniest country sound I'd ever heard, electric guitars and bass, a small drum set and even microphones were set up in the biggest house there - in fact, the one we had spent a lot of time working on.  We had pulled layers and layers of wallpaper off the walls, pulled out the newspapers that had been used as insulation, put in real insulation and wallboard, then painted.  It was as good a time as any for them to show off the home - and everyone came. 

They sang gospel songs that we had never heard, but we dug in and tried our best.  Since Dad was there, he talked a little bit, they read scripture and continued to sing.  That night, we sang "I Have Decided" and listening to those voices lift up in praise was just incredible.

I love nothing more than to sing songs of worship and praise ... it isn't very often that one sticks out in my memory as special, but that night was very special.  There truly was no "Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free ... but Christ was all and was in all." (Col. 3:11)  We came together from two different worlds and our focus was on worship.  We didn't know many of the same songs, but when we sang together, we all felt the unity of Christ.  It was a night we'll never forget.

Now, I will tell you that when we left - it was about 9:30 and quite dark in the mountains of Kentucky.  Some family members left with us to offer a little protection as we drove back down out of the mountain.  Mom and dad made the three of us kids lie down on the floor of the van ... just in case.  Yes, I remember that as well!!!

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