The Song Must Go On

I hope you will forgive the personal nature ofmy sharing this week. I first want to express my deep thanks to so many of you who prayed for my family and me during my hospitalization and for those who sent cards, emails, called, and came by the hospital to visit last week in Jackson.  The Lord was gracious and responsive to your prayers on my behalf.  It is always good to hear doctors use words like “miracle.”

Last Sunday night I participated in a Pastor Installation Service for a dear friend, Justin Wainscott who was being formally installed as Senior Pastor of a church that is very dear to my heart, First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee.  The two charges of the service were delivered by two men who I love and respect as much as any two men in Baptist life, Dr. Todd Brady and Dr. David Dockery.  I had been anticipating this glorious service for some time for a variety of reasons.

A late afternoon rehearsal with choir and instruments had a sense of reunion for me since I served the church as Minister of Music for nearly eight years back in the nineties.  Following a quick lineup in the choir room and pre-service prayer, the service began.  The first choir and orchestra anthem took place between the messages, the charge to the pastor by Dr. Brady and the charge to the church by Dr. Dockery.  As the anthem progressed I noted a growing numbness in my left hand and arm.  It was bothersome enough that I was slightly distracted from the music by the end of the anthem.  As I made my way to my chair I dropped music and Bible from that left hand.  I was able to pick the items up and settle into my chair, though I suspected something was wrong.  As I sat and listened to the beginning of Dr. Dockery’s message to the church I recognized my trouble was growing and I prayed not to become a distraction to others.  I remember thinking how glad I was that the next   anthem was Cindy Berry’s At the Name of Jesus, because it was a familiar anthem to me.  The hymn that followed was The Church’s One Foundation.  As the hymn began I struggled to maintain a sense of my own presence in the setting.

Thankfully there were church leaders and medical personnel who recognized something was very wrong.  They assisted me from the platform into the vestibule and longtime friend and choir member, Dr. Ron Kirkland, had already called for EMT from Jackson Madison County Hospital.  Though I lost consciousness soon after entering the ambulance, Ron’s presence with me on the short ride was deeply comforting as was the fading memory of the church being asked to pray.

The diagnosis was a stroke accompanied by a seizure.  I received excellent care from the neurologist and cardiologist who treated me.  The events were frightening enough to revisit thoughts I had two years ago after experiencing a stroke following surgery to implant a pacemaker.  Those thoughts have to do with facing my mortality and recognizing what a blessed gift every moment of every day is from our Lord.  The contemplation in this instance has taken on new directions, but one line of thinking and meditation was born in the very hymn the congregation was singing when this episode became full blown.  We did not make it to the final verses, but we were headed toward that expression of the Church’s destiny to complete her vision and to become the “Church vicotious” and the church “at rest.”  I admit I have prayed fervently that the Lord would allow me to continue here on earth to serve Him, to sing and participate in the Church’s song of worship and witness here.  I have prayed urgently that He might allow me to live more days with my family.  I have asked that I could spend more moments teaching the songs of faith to my grandchildren and share in more services of worship led by Tennessee church musicians bearing bold witness of the Gospel of Christ.  At the same time I am reminded how important it is that regardless of what happens with me, the song must go on!  In fact, that is a central reason for all of us to continue to sing, teach, and lead the songs of the Gospel.  Our Youth Project theme verse helps to place the principal in perspective:

“Let it be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.”

                                                                                                –Ps 102:18

 I sing for I cannot be silent,

Paul

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Leading Worship, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Uncategorized, Worship Reminders, Worship thoughts

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