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August 28, 2011 / windlessly

Contributing a verse to the hymn of God’s chorus

It’s not often that you hear or experience something so profound and revealing that you feel the need to record it somewhere in your life, to make sure you don’t lose your grasp on it and so that you’ll always be able to come back to it later. This quiet Sunday morning was one of them. It was rainy and windy and gray outside, but in spite of the moody weather I was able to experience one of the most inspiring church services I’ve attended in a while. And the most interesting part was, there wasn’t even a sermon.

Instead, our senior pastor introduced our Corporate Worship Leader Chris Ames onstage, who then lead the service, giving us a simple message about sharing stories. He did it in a way that really grabbed our hearts, sharing his own story and pulling the people of our church together as we listened to his performance. Chris is a songwriter who had traveled extensively for more than 20 years before arriving here at Eastern Hills Bible Church, singing songs and telling stories about God’s impact on his life. He’s done this at places from churches, to colleges, to street corners, basements, military bases, camps, and any other place he can bring a guitar. And he’s good. There’s something about the way he speaks and moves, the way he leans forward, tilts his head slightly, and looks you right in the eye when he’s telling you a story. I could describe him with many words- charismatic, funny, likable, talented, passionate, quirky, entertaining, spiritual- but it still wouldn’t do him justice until you actually listen to him perform. And there was something else I realized as I was sitting there during the service, watching him onstage: the fact that he did all of this to spread the message of Jesus’ love. It’s something that is hard to describe fully, but for Chris today it felt like a source of energy and sentiment that was clearly tangible. I felt incredibly fortunate and lucky to be sitting in that seat- here was this incredible songwriter and performer that has been to a million places, and he’s performing right in front of me on the stage of my own church. Our own church- after all, he’s the one leading us in worship every Sunday morning.

And now he’s telling us stories about his life, his wife and two kids, sharing real moments he’s experienced with his family and the songs he wrote about them. It’s a powerful experience, combining music and the human voice: two of the most beautiful things on this Earth. And to think that God blessed Chris with both of them to share with us today! In the services before, Chris would always be encouraging us all to worship and sing, even to those who “can’t” sing or don’t consider themselves to be singers… Psalm 98:4 captures the importance of joyful worship beautifully.

The fact that he was performing live made it a lot more personal as well. The writer within me clicked with his stories and explanations of his songs. I never really considered song lyrics to be “writing” like I considered my essays or novels to be “writing.” But when I heard Chris’ lyrics and how honest and true they were, I had newfound respect for songwriters everywhere. Lyrics to a song aren’t that much different from a poem or short story, I realized. They are all born to capture a specific moment in life or a particular emotion. I know that’s what I do with my short stories- they always seem to be connected with something within my own life. And I could tell that’s what Chris does as well, using songs to tell and record his life story. The performances he puts on and the messages he shares… he explains that it’s like contributing his own verse to the hymn of God’s chorus.

Contributing a verse to the hymn of God’s chorus… I’m no songwriter, but I couldn’t help but feel inspired by that phrase. Because after all, we all have different talents and skills. Contributing a verse may be as simple as smiling at a stranger, being friendly to your neighbor, or being easy to talk to for someone who needs company. It could involve artwork, instrumental music, athletics, volunteer work, or simply interacting with other people. I’m still in awe at Chris’ talent. One of his stories that he shared was about adventure and war, the story of David and Goliath and the spirit of battle… and that just got my imagination firing off. If Christians (and God) are in a huge epic spiritual battle against those who persecute Christians (such as Satan), then us Christians should consider each other as teammates and fellow soldiers. And that brings a certain degree of pride to me every time I learn that someone famous or well-known is also Christian. It’s almost scary how talented and likable a performer like Chris is- but I’m sure glad he’s with us and able to represent all those who entrust their lives to God.

He sets a great example by using his gifts to tell stories about God’s grace in his life. But more importantly, he inspires other people, like me, to do the same. I can’t sing or play the guitar, but I can write. And I can share my own stories as well. It’s amazing what Chris can do in other people’s lives with nothing but his voice, his guitar, and an hour of time onstage. I just hope that trough this post I can do a little bit of the same.

(Check out the recording of Chris performance here– skip to 0:29:57)

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