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World's Most Unlikely Worship Band  

It may be the world’s most unlikely worship band. 

Can I tell you about it?

I’d showed up for a regular appointment at a local senior retirement center.  For several years, they’ve let me serve them as a speaker at their Christian worship service, held Wednesdays at 11:00am sharp. Except this time, the start time wasn’t as sharp.

The fact is, we were late. Our piano player and sound technician (a husband and wife couple) were delayed.  A lot.  Fortunately, there’s a guy who owns a nice Bose radio, and he played a CD of reverent piano solos while we waited. And waited.

The canned music was calming, but not the voice of the lady who coordinates the service.  She was on the phone desperately trying to track down the missing keyboard lady and her husband.  Me, I was going over my notes, as I always do when getting ready to speak, scanning my iPad—lost to the world. That’s when it happened.

The Bose radio began playing the strains of the iconic hymn, Amazing Grace.  At first I thought I heard humming.  I glanced up from my notes and then heard one voice singing.  Then another.  

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  Soon the whole room was alive with spontaneous singing.

I once was lost but now am found, ‘'twas blind but now I see.  This singing crowd, filled with wheelchairs and walkers, could not have been more sincere.  Or worshipful. They sang because they were gripped.  They sang because they’d connected. They sang because they couldn’t not sing.

Honestly, I was caught off guard by the lump in my throat. 

In a world of Chris Tomlin and Joel Houston and Hillsong United, these people reminded me that true worship doesn’t require projectors and screens and lights and guitars. 

True worship is a thing of the heart—with or without the official keyboard player.

 

 

 

 

 
Goodbye, House  

At first it didn’t really sink in that Monday night. 

It was the last meal, the last time Diana and I would be with my parents in the home I grew up in.  They’d lived there since the sixties.  That's a whole lot of memories.  I stole away for a moment and took one last walk around.

The Sumac bush was still there, all sprawled out by the front porch. There in the front yard, we kids played sixteen-inch softball, learned the basics of football, and tossed lawn Jarts.   Seemed as big as Wrigley Field back then.

Turning toward the east corner, I came to the tall skinny evergreen behind which I shared my first kiss.

The peonies on the side of the house were gone. I remember the summer Mom and I were weeding around them.  I seized the moment to fake a concern for snakes in the grass (hardly likely in northern Illinois).  Having ratcheted up Mom’s pulse rate, at an opportune moment, I tickled her feet with a long stick—a chuckle neither of us have gotten over.

I ambled through the backyard garden space where one summer I followed up on a resolution to grow a watermelon.  Faithfully, I watered the sprawling vine and harvested exactly one small excessively seedy watermelon.  Yet it was remarkably sweet.

Meandering around the property I came to the collapsible picnic table Dad made, still latched to the wall.  To this day, I’m not quite sure how he designed and built it.  How many summer suppers did we eat out there?  Eight of us. Together.  Meal after meal.

I’m happy that Mom and Dad have a new home.  But leaving the old place is sort of strange. Nostalgia aside, it’s a great reminder that ultimately, our home can never be here on earth. 

Jesus said to His followers—then and now—“I’m going to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.”

That’s where our real home is, and always has been. With Jesus.  Forever.    

 
Rules of Civility  

Do you have a code of personal conduct?  George Washington did.  The father of our country wrote down his ideas in a collection known as “110 Rules of Civility.”  Among my favorites:

  • Sleep not when others speak.
  • Be no flatterer.
  • Use no reproachful language against anyone; neither curse nor revile.
  • Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.
  • Before and after drinking, wipe your lips.  Breathe not then with too great a noise for it is an evil.
  • Bedew no man’s face with your spittle.
  • Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

Fascinated with George Washington, nine-year-old Joslynn decided to craft her own Rules for Civility during a recent sleepover at our house.  She spoke.  I typed.  Here are some Josie gems:

  • Tell other people about Jesus at dinner.  Also…everywhere.
  • If you are grounded, see if you can get out of it. Say, “I lost control of myself…I wasn’t thinking….or I forgot the calendar at the store.”
  • If you’re at your grandfather’s house, eat cookies and milk on his lap if he wants you to.
  • Don’t worry about your belly button.  It won’t pop off.
  • Don’t be on your phone all the time.
  • Read the Bible every day, like George Washington did.
  • Don’t let your imagination make a mess.  Keep it in your room.  

It’s fun looking at civility through the eyes of a nine-year-old, though sad that it has nearly become a cultural fossil.  But civility matters. To God.  To us. It’s the life blood of any society.  Is it any wonder, then, that our culture is suffering from issues of the heart?   For true civility, the Bible is the ultimate resource.

"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” 

 --Joshua 1:8

 
Signs in Ghana  

It’s the best part of traveling in West Africa: the signs on the local shops. Please note that the term, “shop,” may be a bit generous for much of what we’ve seen in Ghana.  Some of them are little more than rickety wooden roadside stalls.  But nearly all of them sport a creative (if not pretentious) name of some kind.  And a surprising number offer a Christian witness.

Just for our Thursday Thought readers, I jotted down a collection of some of the best. For example, there’s the “Power of Prayer Fast Food Shop.”  I wondered who’s the prayer for—the customers eating the food—or the workers serving it? 

If the soles on your shoes are worn out, you might consider a visit to the “God is Great Shoemaker Repair” store. 

We passed by a number of noteworthy electrical businesses:

  • Great King’s Electrical
  • Jesus I Know Electrical
  • Thank God Electrical Works.

Another memorable sign grouping was observed in the beauty and clothing sector.  We drove past:

  • The Lord is One Beauty Salon
  • Clap for Jesus Barbering Salon
  • Finger of God Fashions

But other skilled workers also showed up in shop signs like:

  • Hand of God Metal Works
  • Joyful Aluminum Works
  • To God Be The Glory Brakes, Bands and Clutches

Some of the shop names puzzled me, such as “By God’s Grace Bar and Catering Service” (how does God’s grace intersect with a serving of whiskey?).  And I wondered what exactly is sold in the “Amazing Grace Cold Store.”   Also, what is the merchandise selection like at “The Yes of Jesus Mini Mart?”  And if they happen to run out of a particular item, do they offer a “no” at the “Yes of Jesus Mini Mart?”

The taxis in Ghana are also typically plastered with names as well.  Among some of our favorites:

  • The Lord Provides
  • God’s Way
  • Take Side with Jehovah
  • That All May Be One
  • Man No Work—Man No Eat
  • No Food for Lazy Man
  • Heaven or Hell
  • Decent (as in, “How was your ride?”  Answer: “Decent”)
  • God is King

But the award for the best sign I saw in all of Ghana has to be this:

“Please give your life to Jesus.  For He is.”

If you’ve been looking for a sign from God—this is it!

From Ghana, with love,

- Jon

 
Ministry Hurts.  

Her name is Sandra. She has no mother.

Looking at her, you would not know this about Sandra.  She smiles easily.    Generously.  I met Sandra in West Africa at a Moody Radio Global Partners Training event.  She was one of the students attending courses in the Radio Production track that I help teach in Ghana.

One of the best features of a Global Partners Training event is the daily “One on One” time we build into the schedule. Anyone attending can sign up for a timeslot with any of the presenters to talk about anything they like (typically job or ministry related).

One afternoon, Sandra showed up.  Now, in our seminars, we give practical assignments that are worked on in class, attempting to apply specific principals from the lecture.

Earlier in the day, students were asked to write copy for a radio advertisement of their choosing.  The class was over and we were moving on to other things.  Not Sandra.

She wanted to read to me the radio commercial she had written.  Curiously, it was about a business she would like to launch that sells locally grown honey.  In Sandra’s commercial, she spoke eloquently about the effectiveness of honey to help regulate blood sugar. She told how honey is extremely helpful for anyone facing the challenges of diabetes.

Then Sandra dropped the bomb.  Her mother was dead.  From diabetes.   Sandra was just seventeen when it happened.  She has never gotten over it.  Given an opportunity to write about any product or service in the world, Sandra chose to focus on the one thing that might have helped her mother.  How telling. How touching. 

Honestly, I was crushed. Here is a young girl who needs her mom.  All of her life is ahead of her. Boys surround her (I noticed this at the conference).  She needs the input only a mother can give.  So I gave her the only thing a Dad could give: a word of encouragement and a prayer.

I told Sandra that she was going to go far in life, that she had a great smile.  I also told her that God had chosen a boy for her who loved Jesus and who would treat her well—and she should settle for nothing less.  Then we prayed.

I wished I could have done more.  Said more.  Prayed more. I wanted to fix the unfixable. It is times like that I am reminded—ministry sometimes hurts.  Badly.

Her name is Sandra.  She has no mother. 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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