She screeched the high notes, but we paid little attention to the voice because we were listening to the song. Friends of ours met Tammy at a Billy Graham crusade. As they got to know her story, they wondered where she might find a church family. I'm glad they thought of our congregation.
A few months after Tammy started attending, she asked if she could give her testimony. I invited her to meet with me to work on it. After several weeks I told Tammy that it felt as though she was ready, and we agreed on a Sunday evening when she would speak to her new friends. I'll never forget that night. Tammy told the people that she had been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. She gave us just a glimpse of the kinds of trauma she endured as a child.
All the way through her testimony, though, like a sweet refrain, Tammy reminded us that God promised to never leave nor forsake us. Even when the water is high, she said. Even when the fire is hot. I can still hear her voice, saying, "I'm a witness to God's promise to be with us - always." The more the people of our congregation knew Tammy, the more gracious and compassionate they became. She found a home with us.
Then, a couple of years later, I stood in the foyer with her when she asked to sing a solo, and she already had selected the song. So on a Sunday morning a few weeks later she sang about how God had made something beautiful out of her broken pieces. What a God moment! We saw the glory of God with our own eyes, and lived to tell about it! That scene remains seared in my memory: God's healing power embodied in a humble woman of faith. I've pondered that picture many times in the past ten years.
It almost seems irreverent to analyze it, but I'd like to understand more fully what happened that day, so let me think out loud. The whole thing started with God. God was at work even before Tammy recognized it. God's Word became a source of strength as she relived dreadful nightmares.
And God started restoring Tammy's soul - that's the part we got to see! There is no other way to explain it except that God was at work. Tammy talked about God's faithfulness and mercy. Sometimes she got stuck with her own pain, and it was pretty intense at times, but when she was in church she pointed to God's goodness. When the congregation heard Tammy's testimony in song, they started cheering for God. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving flooded the throne of grace. That morning there was worship in spirit and in truth!
Here's what I've decided. I'm going to look more intently for what God is doing in the world. And when I see evidence of God's grace, I'll thank the Lord out loud. Then I'm going to invite someone to get involved with me in what God is doing among us. These three steps, I'm beginning to see with greater clarity, fully encompass true worship.
Keith Schwanz is the assistant dean and lecturer in Church Music at Nazarene Theological Seminary.