As Promised...

It's time for me to write about the incredible experience it was to for one thing, meet Joni, but for yet another, to play my violin as part of her Night of Worship. It was truly an anointed evening. The Holy Spirit was present and clearly the message that was spoken all evening was 'To God Be the Glory'. The difference is, for someone who cannot move her arms and legs to live a life that speaks 'Praise the Lord' with everything she says and does: one word, life-changing!   I have only hesitated to write about this because it is difficult to put into words what I and everyone else who was there felt as we experienced God's presence together in that place.  It truly was one of the most amazing worship experiences I have ever been a part of.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a lifelong hero of mine... I read her autobiography when I was about ten years old, and from that point forward, I have followed her via her radio program, her positive messages, and most recently have lost track of her. When I saw she was coming to our church, I was no less than thrilled. And when I was asked to play that evening, my response was 'hold the phone!' No matter what I had on that evening, it was clear for Joni.

She was injured in a diving accident well before I was born, diving into shallow water. From that injury, she remained a quadriplegic and has been in a wheelchair for 45 years. Her story is so inspiring, because she has chosen to make her brokenness a blessing to so many people. She ministers to others with disability and special need, and shows them that they can more than survive. They can literally live a full and productive life that blesses others also. I tell you, when you are in the presence of Joni, you can't find an excuse or a complaint for anything. During her interaction with our pastor, during the concert, he asked her what it was about heaven she was most looking forward to. Most of us would think she would say 'Getting up out of this wheelchair and dancing a jig for Jesus'... or something similar. But what she said was this: 'I want a new heart.' One that does not criticize or complain, one that does not question His ways, one that loves God and others more. Wow.

When I first met Joni, she 'shook' my hand, although in reality, she feels nothing. She has learned to move her arms through use of her shoulder muscles, so her movements seem and feel normal. She is so much more interested in you than she is in you knowing about her. That amazed me... when there are others around her, it is all about the other people, and not about what she has to say. What if we all were so Jesus and others-focused and not so self-focused? What would that look like?

The concert itself was just an incredible outpouring of love for God and praise of Who He is, using the oldest and best hymns of the faith. Our choir and orchestra knocked it out of the park. The song I chose to play was 'Come Thou Fount'... no coincidence that this is Joni's favorite. God really connected my heart with hers that night, and I am excited to see what might unfold in the future. Her word of encouragement to all who heard was clear. No matter what circumstances you face, a life worth living is not based on circumstances at all... but rather a Person that makes life worth living.

One of the most special moments was afterwards when Joni signed my new copy of her autobiography with the tool she has trained to do so: her mouth. What an amazing sight! There are some pictures on my 'Pics and More' page if you would like to check them out.

The part of her autobiography that touched me the most as I just completed it again was this: her realization that if Jesus could die on the cross and change eternity without the movement of His arms and legs that were nailed there, she could live for him without moving her arms and legs either. And the realization for me is, if she can do so much for God without being able to move, how much does he want to accomplish through me? Lord, I am a willing vessel... take me, use me, and use me up for your glory! Amen.

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