Story number three from my days of the Enid State School Chaplaincy. We had five worship services every Sunday. Each one was tailored to a certain population of the institution. Music was central to connecting these folks, whose sense of the holy was not about what they knew, but more about what they felt. God was less of an idea and more of an expression of heart. We worked hard at making all of the senses connect with worship, which often meant we used bubble machines, balloons and a collection of musical play-along gadgets like tambourines, bells, clackers, and drums. All of these were guided by the very capable music gifts of my associate Linda, who was a registered music therapist turned seminary student.
Each Sunday service would have a request time where the students could ask for their favorite songs, which Linda would play on the keyboard and the rest of the staff would sing along. Many of the songs still live in my memory. Perhaps my favorite was “If I were a Butterfly”— here is a sample:
If I were a butterfly I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings
If I were a bird in a tree I’d thank you Lord that I could sing
If I were a fish in the sea I’d wiggle my tail and giggle with glee
But I just thank you God for making me, me.
Chorus: You gave me a heart, you gave me a smile, you gave me Jesus and you made me your child. And I just thank you God for making me.
Sharing this song with a pew of kids in wheelchairs, with Cerebral Palsy, singing, squealing, and smiling while singing, has a way of “right-sizing” one.
One Sunday Jimmy was waving his hand wildly to make his request. “Black eyed peas by the river”. “What, say it again Jimmy”. “Black eyed peas by the river”! “I don’t know that song, sing it if you would— he took the stage. “Black eyed peas by the river…Black eyed peas by the river. Blacked eyed peas by the river in my soul”. “Oh I got it ‘I’ve got peace like a river’”. “Yep that’s what I said… black eyed peas by the river”.
Today we celebrate the 2nd Sunday of Advent. To say anything that does not sound like bogus crap (preacher pap) about Peace, at a time when peace seems like the stuff of Hallmark Cards, and whistling in the graveyard, is a challenge. What I know about peace is that it is not the absence of tension or conflicts. Rather, it is both The awareness and willingness to see beauty, truth, love, grace, hope, and joy while sitting at a table in Starbucks, stuck in traffic, or bracing for the latest ‘now this is just in…”.
I won’t give up my desire to live in hope and grow in peace… and to prove it I am going to eat ‘black eyed peas by the river’. Pictures to Follow!
Onward and Upward,