Early Friday morning, 33 people from two states gathered for a Special Gathering choir retreat. Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. People who are developmentally disabled compose the three choirs. This is part of the outreach of Special Gathering into the community; even though, our choir program is a small portion of what we do.
Our primary purpose for the weekend was to learn the Christmas music that the three choirs will perform in their local communities but God had a different objective. During Friday practice time, the Holy Spirit ministered to us in uniquely, pleasant ways. Choir members who had little interest in developing their voices for praising God were sitting on the edges of their seats, responding to the music and director. Those who love to sing and hungerly grasp all the solos were pressing other less-talented members to try to sing certain solo parts.
During one song, a quiet holiness fell as we sang. Our rehearsal became worship. Unexpectedly, four or five people started to cry because of the presence of the Lord. Together, we laughed and cried as we savored a precious moment as God decided to touch an entire group of people with his love and grace.
On Saturday, we had a short rehearsal and left for a day of playing at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness. By the afternoon, our fun was interrupted by concern for one of the members. Late Friday afternoon she had stepped off a curve wrong and twisted her ankle.
She never fell, limped or complained. She insisted that she was fine and in almost no pain. We had iced it, called her supervisory staff. We gave her over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medication approved by her staff. However, by Saturday evening as we traveled home, it was apparent that she was in severe pain.
Additionally, one of our van drivers got lost going home. We expected her to get home a bit before 10PM. She did not arrive until 11PM. When I got a phone call at 10:40 that she was late, I called parents to see if she had gotten stuck at one of their homes. She had not arrived. I got dressed; headed out to find her. As I was pulling out of the driveway, we got a phone call that she had arrived at one of the homes.
On Sunday, the lady with the twisted ankle had to be taken to the hospital. The doctors found that she had broken her foot. When staff called me, she was irate that I would allow her to walk on that broken foot for two days without taking her to get medical attention. This was the same staff person that I’d called three times to give a progress report regarding her condition. During those conversations, she had not told me that my member had extremely brittle bones because of a new medical condition; and she takes medication for the condition.
Additionally, when I returned home, languishing among my junk mail was a letter from the IRS. I am being audited by the IRS for the last three years. The audit is expected to take at least four hours. The last time I was audited, even though I had receipts and written proof for all my deductions, the auditor refused to look at them and she would not allow the deductions because the audit was taking too much of her time. It had cost us over a thousand dollars.
As a commissioned minister, I am self-employed. I save every receipt and form. I also prepare my own taxes, using Turbo-tax. Instructions from the IRS on how to prepare for this audit is a five page letter and represents a monumental task.
In contrast, on Sunday morning, a combined choir sang at a large local church. They were anointed and ministered the Lord in a marvelous way. As they sang, I sat aside my concerns for my member’s broken foot and the IRS and how the driver got lost. Quietly, the Lord reminded me of the reassuring calmness that always proceeds severe storms.
I was raised in Charleston, SC. Hurricanes were an annual event during my childhood. The 1950′s marked the lowcountry cities with the scars of wild wind and furious rain. However, after the weather forecast told us about the approaching storm, the neighborhood children would gather on our front walkway. Squatting on the hard, cool concrete, we marveled at the peace and stillness. While our parents frantically prepared our homes, we would sit quietly, experiencing the calm.
As interesting as the storms were, it was the calm that followed and proceeded each storm that captured my young imagination. Yesterday, the Lord reminded me of the calm that always attends an approaching storm. “You would be wise to not let the fury of the storm destroy the peace you feel before and after you are attacked by the enemy of your soul.”
How often I’ve been so caught up by the storm that I lose my perspective of a life lived in Christ. Joy and triumphant singing go before us each step of the way. Goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. We are wrapped with peace in the middle of the storm. Yet, I sit in the rocking chair of our soul and rehearse every moment of the last storm. I recount in my mind the wind and the rain. I speak to myself about the damage and the despair.
Yep, it appears that another storm period has invaded my life. But quietly God is saying, “This too shall pass.” In the meantime, God has touched a small group of mentally challenged folks and used them for his glory. Does life get much better than that? I don’t think so.