I left for the worship practice on Sunday morning thinking to myself that I wouldn't be an asset to the team at all. I had been in denial all week with a cold.
"Take a decongestant," said Paul.
"I swear by vitamin D," said Susan.
And Terry said, "Cold fx," does it for me."
I thanked them all politely but said that I expected my immune system to do its thing.
I believed that it would through streaming nose and tickle in throat. It let me down a bit. I have to admit my expectations were not met!
All this to say that by Sunday, my voice; never anything more than "nice" and not strong at its best; was squeaky. But I am nothing if not as steadfast as the Tin Soldier in the old fairy tale, so I went to the practice ready to bow out if not needed.
Frances, who leads our team, was there already. I was amazed really because she had just moved house on Friday and had also been unwell with a kidney stone. Added to that I discovered that during the move she had broken her toe!
She seemed to be coiled as tightly as a spring. She was...."intense" describes it well. Susan was there already and seemed much more laid back. Pastor Dave was telling a story, but Frances was cutting off his sentences and firing off instructions like bullets--focused on the sheaf of worship songs in her hand and figuring out the flow of the service. Fortunately Pastor Dave didn't seem to notice. He cheerfully carried on talking, not worried at all. But he wanted to be sure we knew that there was a special guest to fit in; Jack MacFadden, a local author and retired teacher, who was making a brief presentation.
It turned out that there had been a scheduling blip and our usual pianist, Esther, was teaching Sunday School that day, but there was no other pianist arranged.
Esther was now going to both play and teach, which meant delaying the children going down to Sunday School, and Esther was slightly (well more than slightly) in a flap about the whole thing as she had planned to be downstairs preparing for Sunday School, not upstairs practicing with the worship team.
All of us (except for Susan, I shouldn't lump her in!) were definitely below par!
I spotted Jack coming in with Paul as we were finishing our practice. I hadn't met him before but knew that he had founded the charity, "Coats for Kids," in nearby Bradford and since connecting with Paul, had been instrumental in many warm winter coats going north to the First Nations community Paul and our church care so passionately about: Mishkeegogamang. On Sunday Jack was at the church to make an announcement about an upcoming book fair, "Buy a Book--Share a Book," on October 13, when people would be encouraged to buy a book for Mish when they buy one for their children or grandchildren. As a writer and educator he is passionate about literacy.
So I wanted to meet this man. I went down to talk to him and in a few minutes of listening to him my regard only grew deeper. I felt that I was in the presence of a great man of great compassion, dignity and humility.
Someone pointed out that it was now 9 minutes past 11 and we hadn't started the service! Was it really that time already?? Frances got Susan's attention (she was in deep conversation at the back of the church) and one by one we all mounted the platform.
I felt self conscious, which I know you aren't supposed to be when leading worship. Our focus should be on God and not ourselves, but I couldn't help it. I felt insecure and inadequate and out of sync. I couldn't look at Jack, sitting patiently in the front row, ready for the time of his announcement; I looked everywhere else but at him!
Finally, our part of the service was over; the children were dismissed to Sunday School with Esther and Frances handed the service over to Pastor Dave who welcomed Jack.
Jack started by singing the praises of "the choir." That was us! He said he stood beside Paul and had to listen to him who didn't sing as beautifully as his wife. :) We all laughed and relaxed a little.
Paul left church to drive Jack home. Jack is recovering from a double hip replacement and isn't driving yet. I went with Susan to see Frances's beautiful new home in Mansfield after the service, so it was later in the afternoon when we saw each other again.
I told Paul what a pleasure it was to meet Jack and how I wished we had been at our best.
Paul said, "Do you know what Jack said to me? He said, 'It's the most uplifting church I've ever been in--from the singing of "the choir," to the welcome.'"
All I saw were all our rough edges. Jack saw "genuine."
It showed me again that no matter how weak we are, and maybe when we are at our weakest; God can use our offering in spite of ourselves!
Today's reading from My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, is titled, "The Conciousness of the Call." He ends with this:
If a man or woman is called of God, it does not matter how untoward circumstances are, every force that has been at work will tell for God's purpose in the end. If you agree with God's purpose He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.1 Corinthians 9:16Amen!