Guest speakers get a bad wrap…

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our church is in the midst of a sermon series called “Voices”—a series of guests each Sunday speaking on their own respective topics.  I went into it with a blasé attitude, like “Okay, I guess the teaching pastors deserve a few weeks off…I’ll tolerate this for them.”

So far I’ve been blown away!  I wearily took a friend with me week 1. “It’s a guest speaker…just to warn you.”  But Bob Goff was amazing and exuded more energy in three minutes than I could muster in three days. {Proof.}

Week 2: The Tiller Family.  I had no idea who these people were and was half-expecting the Von Trap Family singers part 2 to share their story through pantomime and black lights. And maybe some hand puppets.

Fortunately, this was not the case.

Just one man came out. John Tiller came and shared the story behind his son’s disability… Their happy, healthy, Bible-verse quoting three year old fell from a second-story window suffering severe head trauma and brain injury.  I think everyone was captivated with the story, and with my professional background, I was especially entranced. The sermon, however, did not focus on Eli’s rehabilitation {spoiler alert: he survived!!}.

The overarching theme: we all have a vision for our lives. Expectations and dreams.  And when our story goes off script, we want to revolt.  To run or complain or cry foul to God.  But we’re in or we’re not.  We believe or we don’t. If we say we believe, commit to the Lord’s script, even if it’s not what we would write. “Burn the ships, there’s no going back.”  He told it without frills or fancies or drama—just plain Truth spoken by a man who’s life had gone way off his own script.  And how he now sees God’s work in everything, though he still struggles with the dreams he’ll not realize.

He wrapped it up by returning to Eli’s story, providing a brief description of his current state:  He’s now 12 years old.  He’s weak on his left side.  He speaks with a stutter.  He walks with a cane.  I was moved by the sermon, happy with the update…and now my brain began to wonder what I would order for brunch.

But then… Eli walked out.  With the help of his mother and his cane.

There was some fuss to adjust the microphone and then in the sweetest voice you can imagine, he proceeded to share how God had worked in his life through his recovery.

You could hear a pin drop in that theater.

And then he began to sing.  {As if I could handle that!}

He sang Chris Tomlin’s song, “I Will Rise…”

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

At this point, I lost full composure of myself—I’m not sure anyone could hear him singing anymore over my gulps for air. 

It was the realization that HE was the one fighting. HE was the one with the limp and the stutter.  And HE was the one singing, “It is well…”  I could write 20 blogs on my respect for parents of children with disabilities—how hard they fight, how they manage their time, their emotional strength… But look at this boy!  He’s the one with the real fight… Sometimes I just forgot.

I was so moved by God’s ability to work through this family and their ability to allow it and respond to it.  The video is below—if you have time, are sitting at your desk or cleaning out your inbox, it’s worth your time to watch or listen.  You will be blessed…

{And these are teasers meant to entice you to do so!}

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