In the summer of 1988, I toured as keyboardist with Celebrant Singers, a Christian music group out of California. We had a two-week intensive rehearsal camp before hitting the road, which, for our group, included traversing the US from Northern California to Southern Florida, then over to Guatemala, San Salvador and Belize, to Miami again, then back to the starting point in Visalia, California. Before the end of the camp, our director filled us in on the various things we could expect to encounter during our time together. One foreboding phrase he used still stands out over all the other wisdom he was imparting: “You will be reduced to your calling.” It soon became obvious he knew of what he spoke. We would cover thousands of miles in an old, curmudgeonly-air-conditioned bus (through the sweltering heat of the US southwest), hold over 100 concerts, setting up and tearing down our equipment for all of them, staying with different host families each night (some so eager to talk they couldn’t see we were asleep with our eyes open) , sleeping in strange arrangements, eating whatever was served each night (how many fried chicken dinners in a row can a body possibly show genuine gratitude for?), dealing with, um, digestive irregularities, seeing soldiers in one country ordering us out of our vans to verify, at gunpoint, our travel documents. The stand-out phrase rang more and more clearly as circumstances piled up. Everyone was a good sport rolling out of home base on day one. Day two and three, same. Somewhere about two weeks in, there could be discerned some fraying of goodwill. Long travel days began to get old (and hot!) Sleep deprivation was taking its toll, paving the way for snippy remarks and less-than-adorable attitudes. WWJD bracelets went missing. Smaller and smaller inconveniences loomed larger and larger. Smiles thinned, cheeriness shallowed, empathy went wanting. And our calling was the only thread still attached, and that, not by much. But the calling to this summer ministry, despite all that, was still there. Our high-energy intro each evening had these opening words: “A celebrant is one who celebrates and we celebrate, now, Jesus Christ!” Our tour’s theme song, ironically, was: ‘Still Standing.’ Over the years since, I’ve come to appreciate how closely this summer engagement relates to our collective journey to the Father’s heart as his Kingdom Ambassadors. We know his love runs deep. We know he is true and faithful. We know how the story ends. And yet. And yet! There come times when celebrating, when even standing, are severe tests. At those moments, all else has faded away and what we are left with is a smudged and battered ‘calling,’ a calling that still stands, a calling that knows nothing of quitting, a calling saturated in a love beautiful beyond description. The words of an old hymn come to mind here : “When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, our Father’s full giving has only begun.” And I’m good with that – my finale, his début. Oh, yeah! PD
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