One-Armed Guitar Playing

This past week was one of many amazing sights, sounds, and experiences. I had the privilege of taking two 5th and 6th graders and their moms to Orlando to experience Group’s Week of Hope Preteen Week. They have an incredible program that partners with local organizations in each city in order to provide practical service needs in fields that deal directly with individuals. We served at Orlando Health and Rehabilitation Center, a place that held 425 residents that ranged from temporary rehab visits to long-term care. I cannot imagine myself working there as that kind of work is so far beyond my comfort zone, but the care, and gentle strength of each nurse and staff member inspired and impressed me.

My girls took time out of their summer to spend time with these residents. They read to them, sang with them, played games with them, baked cookies for them, and even sorted laundry for them. (Laundry day was the hardest for me just for the sheer number of clothes and people coming to claim them.) Regardless of the challenge or task, my two girls stepped up and did whatever was asked of them and did not complain once. To say I am proud of them would be an understatement, and to say their parents are proud of them would be even more of an understatement. I enjoyed watching the moms experience their child’s explosion of service, leadership, and worship. I call it an explosion, because for one student in particular, if you had told me she would be willing to lead 25 people in a devotion by herself before this trip, I would never have believed you.

We also took an afternoon to visit Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney.) The camp had given us an afternoon off where we could go and visit the local attractions after serving for half a day. We had a blast tasting international Cokes (including Beverley, yuck!) and ate a delicious meal at Portobello. The highlight of my afternoon (besides watching the students experience Disney, my first poutine, and the exquisite gelato) was watching Nicholas Marks perform on his classical guitar. I know you’re thinking, “Classical guitar was your highlight? NERD!” And, in some ways, you are right. However, just watch this guy and tell me you aren’t impressed. (Skip to 2:40 to see the one-handed technique.)

This man impressed all of us, and even got our two students to sit quietly and watch in utter fascination while listening to beautiful music. I could try to go into detail about his skill, but, really, it would be useless. His talent and skill was in sharp contrast to the muscular atrophy and lack of control we had seen in the residents up to that point. Here was a man in the prime of talent and skill, whereas I knew I would have to see Donna again the next day.

Donna was a resident at OHRC who was confined to a bed at all times, and who only had control of one hand. And, goodness, if she got hold of you with that hand, you knew it! But she had a sweet heart and an eye for Scrabble that was misleading. She managed to trounce several of us the first few days. Later on in the week, though we received something from her. I brought my guitar (which I play with only a smidgin of skill) in order to sing with/to the residents. Several of the students from the multiple crews with us decided to come along as well. As we traveled the halls, we landed in Donna’s room. Now, one more thing about Donna is that she has trouble speaking – everything sounds slurred and loose like soup going through a strainer. But when we struck the first chord and sung the first word of Amazing Grace, Donna’s face lit up and she began to sing, recognizably, along with us. Many of us there suddenly had allergy trouble and our eyes started watering, but to see that face singing as strongly as she could with her good arm wrapped around the hand of one of our adults seemed as amazing as a one-armed guitarist.

In that moment, that one arm, which still gave her fits, played our heart strings with the skill of Nicholas Marks. God was in that moment, reminding us that worship is so much more than skill, that love is so much more than demonstration.

Where in your life do you feel inadequate to the task? How can you let go of your insecurity and allow God to be present in your life? When do you celebrate God using your weakness at home?

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