June 7, 2012
Thursday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #228: Harmonizing God’s Way
I spoke with a bishop this week. No, I have not become psychologically attached to my chess pieces (and if I had, I’m more of a knight-whisperer than bishop-buddy). No, this was a bona fide, in-the-flesh, tallest-hat-ever, flowy-robed guy. But I’m getting ahead of myself. (This paragraph is called a teaser.)
You may recall how I used to play keyboard for the Catholic services here, until asked by my (prison church) elders not to do so, since some guys who were newer in their faith were “confused” by the fact that I was being kind to, of all people, the <GASP!> Catholics! As if we’re in Ireland. As if I give a care about all that divisive stuff. And here I find myself, just a few months later, being asked by the chaplain to help out with a big fill-the-chow-hall-the-bishop-will-be-here Catholic service.
I agreed immediately.
Last week, I was whisked off to the other compound to practice with a big group of guys in the other chapel. Our chapel clerk, introducing me to the main music guy for the Catholics, said: “Christopher plays piano really well. He had his own band!”
Really?!? I did? I have no idea why he said that. I never considered having a few brothers you sing with “my own band,” and I surely hope he never heard me playing with Jacob’s Fire, a group of over-talented old men who couldn’t write a normal-sounding song that was singable. I lasted through one concert before I couldn’t take any more of the alleged “pop-rock-blues-funk-fusion” masquerading as an earful of garbage.
Well, this unprovoked, untrue résumé by our chapel clerk prompted the Catholic guy—we’ll call him “Tim,” since that is his name—to open his sing hole and hemorrhage information about his musical past. My buddy, Tom, says 96% of what people claim they were or did in the past is not true. This statement is 100% true, especially in regard to Tim, who had bands too. (Bear with me, you non-musicites. This cringe-moment is just for the musicians.)
Me: “Wow! Really? What instrument do you play?”
Tim (possibly not his real name): “I sing lead and stuff.”
Tim (speaking out of his other sing hole): “And harmonies. When I sing harmonies I usually sing a half-step higher.”
Me: “Nice. I bet that sounds CRAY-Z!” I let the fact that “this would make any music he harmonized with sound hideous” slide on by. Unfortunately, Tim went on to prove in our practice that he’s great at singing a half-step off pitch, just as he claimed.
We pulled together a few songs—“Awesome God,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” etc.—and I declared it “good enough.” The event itself went awesomely, with more than 120 men in attendance. The bishop was personable and had an amazing ability to recall names of guys he’d just met earlier that morning.
We came to a part in the service where the men shared prayer requests, and many stood to share. One older guy could barely get the words out as he asked for prayer for his brother, who was just starting an aggressive medical treatment. Tears filled his eyes as he stood unsteadily at the back of the chow hall.
No one walks around in a Catholic service. I turned to Tim and said, “I’m going to the back.” He started to tell me not to, saw the look on my face, and said to go ahead.
I quickly made my way to the back and right up to the sad old man. Putting my arms around him, I cried on his neck as I prayed out loud for his brother’s healing, for his salvation or closer walk with God, and for miracles of all sorts in his life in the mighty Name of Jesus. The man thanked me as I turned and walked back to the front.
I’ve asked God to help me truly care for people as He does. The lost. The hurting. The sick. Sometimes it hits me so quickly that I can only respond in tears: the man whose 9-month-old son came to see him for the first time … and the camera in visiting was broken. The guy whose dad just died …
Show compassion through me, God! May I harmonize with You, even if it’s only a half-step above.