It was the slogan at the Christian radio station where I worked after seminary: “The joyful sound of praise.” That was long ago, but in recent years the words started bubbling up.
“What does it mean?” I asked the Holy Spirit.
It meant something: “The joyful sound of praise!” kept coming to me.
I now know, and the story begins with used furniture.
“Do you have someone who can deliver?” I asked at the thrift store.
The girl at the counter pulled out a slip of paper with the name “Keith Ellison.” Great!
I called and his price was steep, but if you’ve ever had furniture moved by “some guys” you know the disaster that can be. He was an older man, but the store had recommended him. Good hands, right?
My dad used to quote Archimedes: “Give me a fulcrum and a place to stand and I will move the world.” So I described the furniture and he assured me he had a dolly.
Keith arrived in a hat, purple shirt, and suspenders. His idea of a dolly was two pieces of wood on wheels. Somehow we managed to get the first piece inside. The second came in with several scars.
“I don’t think I did that,” he said.
Okay. Maybe I’d overlooked them.
The next piece took a bad fall resulting in a hole. Maybe not.
The final piece he dragged to the door on a blanket. I helped, singing words not as obvious as “Nobody know’d the trouble I seen.”
That’s when he stopped and looked at me. “You’re a singer!”
At that moment, amid a used-furniture delivery debacle, my life was about to change.
Keith isn’t a Christian. I showed him my column for that week, “It’s Never Too Late To Go Home.” He read it enthusiastically. What Keith lacks in Archimedean skill, he makes up for with his sweet nature. He ran to his truck and brought back his briefcase, deciding it was “show and tell” time.
Turns out, Keith Ellison is the singer, but not your average singing deliveryman. No, he’s a star. Two years ago, Keith bought a sound system and has performed over 500 concerts. He sings the oldies—across the nursing home circuit. Yes, he invited me to his next show and I trotted along like a groupie.
Last Sunday was the second one, at an upscale assisted-living facility. Seven residents came. My thought: It’s an audience. Do your thing!
But as his music drifted down the halls, the scene changed. One elderly resident after another padded forward, feet on the ground moving wheelchairs and walkers. They took determined baby steps. In the end, he’d drawn quite a crowd.
They sang along. One man wearing large black knee pads stood to dance. A worker joined in and they did the swing and then a waltz. Okay, yes, I cried. He was there for dementia, but I could imagine all the years he’d danced with his wife, the steps now impossible to forget.
After the show, Keith told me how much these people meant to him.
I said, “You have no idea what a ministry you are to them.”
It wasn’t just that these residents were out of their rooms, they were happily engaged in a live event with one another. And research has proved that music enhances cognitive ability. It lifts a sad mood. My mom believed music was magic.
And so I’m up on the 15th. They’re billing me as “A Gospel Sing-Along.”
Nervous? Oh, yes. Say prayers. My mom insisted on choir for 15 years and I had voice in seminary, but I’ve never performed alone. It’ll be a bit of a mess: forgotten words, missed entry points, flat notes. Still, I’m certain the Holy Spirit has been talking this up for years: “The joyful sound of praise!”
Can you know your future? There’s big business among fortune tellers—everyone wants to know what’s in store. Last Sunday, Dr. Archie Snedegar said in his sermon: “The Spirit knows where He wants you to go.”
He'll move in your heart as He’s moved in mine. He’ll show you. But here’s the thing: Are you praying for guidance? And are you listening?
Copyright © 2019 R.A. Mathews The Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist, and the author of “Reaching to God.” She may be reached at Letters@RAMathews.com