2 Simple Outings (part 1)

Posted on January 27, 2011 by Jeff

It’s been a good week.

Not just good due to the absence of bad stuff happening… True, it has been a week without any car breakdowns, or kid sickness, or inter-personal drama, which helps because enough of those things can tend to produce a bad week.  But this week has been good on a deeper level.  It’s been a week that has been eye opening as well as fulfilling.  There was no great life altering experience or spiritual nirvana moment.  There wasn’t a lottery win or a celebrity encounter, invention patent or crowning achievement.  It’s been an eye opening and fulfilling week because of a couple fairly simple outings.

First.  On Wednesday, I had the privilege of helping a friend of mine with some music at a camp he was leading.  My friend is Scott Abbott.  Scott was born with Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a motorized wheelchair.  He and his wife Michelle run Special Touch Ministry for the state of Minnesota.  Special Touch Ministry is a ministry to those with Physical and Cognitive disabilities.

A few weeks ago, Scott emailed a bunch of his musician friends and asked if we would be willing to come up to the campground for a day, or the week and help with some music.  As I read that, I immediately knew this was something that I wanted to be a part of.  First, I knew that being a part of leading worship for the people of this camp would be a profoundly spiritual moment and a time when I knew God would speak deep things to me.  Second, because I know as life goes on and musical opportunities come and go, a night at Special Touch Camp one of those opportunities that I should always have time for, and one that I’ll never regret being a part of.

On Wednesday afternoon I loaded up my stuff and drove the 2.5 hour drive to Lake Geneva Bible Camp.  I got there in time for a sound check and a quick dinner in the cafeteria and then it was service time.  After the service I stayed for a few extra minutes to catch the first part of the talent show and then I was back in the car for the drive home and in bed by 1am.

Let me first say this:  My friend Scott and his wife Michelle are heroes.  Not just because of the great ministry they do, but because of how they live their lives.  Scott has to ask for help for everything.  He uses a headset mic to sing and if he needs to move it or adjust it at all, he has to have someone lift his arm up so he can use his hand to adjust it.  He can eat by grabbing food with one hand, lifting that hand with the other arm and hunching over.  His wife is a constant care-giver and helper.  I was amazed, and I only saw about 4 hours of their life.  After 4 hours, I’m back in my car, but this is the reality in which they live every minute.  Year after year.  Amazing. The courage, the patience, the commitment they show to each other is truly humbling.

I have in my mind what I refer to as a “Large Mansion List”.  People on that list are those who are serving God in very difficult circumstances… inner city churches, hostile country missionaries etc.  When I get to Heaven, the people on that list had better have much larger mansions than I, and I expect they will.  And if they don’t I may have to file a complaint.  That’s my Large Mansion List.  And Scott and Michelle Abbott are now on it.

Anyway, the evening service was wonderful. The reality is that for people with cognitive disabilities, expressing themselves in worship at their home church is often a distraction to others, so they are asked and encouraged to be quiet.  But here at Special Touch Camp they are free to worship, sing, dance and express their worship however they wanted to.  And as the music began many of them came up to the front and the singing, dancing, clapping, smiling, and spinning began.  I don’t know how else to describe it except to say it was truly a wonderful experience.

The best part was near the end of the worship service, Scott had everyone sing “How Great is our God” one last time without any of the musicians playing so we could hear all the voices.  Now it would be awesome if the story continued with something like this:  “And as the band got quiet I was amazed at how beautifully they all were singing.  Unbelievable harmonies and voices…”  The truth is that the singing was pretty bad.  Really bad.   But I have never… ever…  heard a more wonderful sound of worship.  I can’t imagine God smiling any wider at any other expression of worship.  Ever.  As I said, it was simply wonderful.

We ended by singing these words to a familiar song:  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.  In the light of His glory and grace.”   And it hit me…. I was in a room filled with people whose “Things of Earth” are rather daunting.  People like Scott with Muscular Dystrophy.  Other people with mental disabilities, who spend life hearing how they aren’t good enough to do things and aren’t usable by God.  Other people like Michelle Abbott who spend their life ceaselessly and graciously caring for a husband in a wheelchair.  As I heard that song being sung by that group of people, I thought about my “things of earth”, those things that I allow to frustrate me, or fill me with angst, or cause me to fear and lose faith.  The ‘bad circumstance’ things I encounter and fixate on.  Then I imagined writing all of those things down on a piece of paper and handing that list to anyone else in the room and asking what they thought of those things. In that room and in that moment, with that group of wonderful people joyfully worshipping their creator and God, I had a rapid reprioritization.

I left there being once again blown away at the bigness of our God and His Kingdom.  I realized how often I think I have the ‘order of things’ figured out only to have God say “yah, Jeff… um… not so much with your thinking that you know how it all works in My Kingdom.”  In Gods Kingdom, the last are first, and my half hearted, distracted, self-absorbed expressions of worship are the ones that are looked at as ‘weird’.

I now realize that this blog is getting long.  Too long for most blog readers out there.  If you wanted to read long things, you’d be reading a book right now.  So, this will be the end of part 1.  I’ll post part two soon.