Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Greatest version of a great song

Right now, Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill's great version of a great song, "How Great Thou Art", is going viral. More than 3 million hits in four days is impressive. Here's the YouTube clip, if you haven't seen it:

Who can deny her talent? And who can deny the guitar work of Vince Gill? They are extraordinary musicians, and I appreciate their artistry.

As good as this is, it is not the best version of this song I've ever heard.

Many years ago, I served as a drama coach with a group of teens from Michigan. One summer, I accompanied them on a trip to an area outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. They were there to run a two-part Vacation Bible School for a small church. In the mornings, young children came for teaching and games and crafts. In the afternoons, some of our teens would relax or go on sightseeing trips, but a few stayed behind with me and met with junior high students. Two older teen leaders taught, using a sketch from our drama ministry as a springboard.

This worked, but we ran into a scheduling problem. We wanted the whole group to go and see the Grand Canyon, but would have to leave before the junior high program ended. No one wanted any teen to miss the trip, so we invited the junior highers to come with us that day, and the teen leaders planned to share a lesson inside the park.

I don't remember the author of the sketch they selected for that day, but it was titled "Weeds.". In it, the main character (we'll call him Steve) is diligently removing weeds from the garden of his life, and has asked a garbage company to come and dispose of them. A man shows up to take a pile. Steve is delighted, but then the man hands a ticket to Steve. The weeds will come back to him as compost. This distresses Steve: he doesn't want this junk back. He wants to forget that these mistakes, these sins ever existed. The man tells Steve that's not how it works; that these weeds, transformed into compost, will now be of use to him and to God.

On the edge of the Grand Canyon, in front of a gathering crowd, two young men performed the sketch. I had directed them; I had watched the sketch many times, and yet I found (and find) this simple metaphor moving. I've made so many mistakes in my life. I've fallen short so many times, and yet when I return to God, He doesn't work around those things, but through them, for my growth and His glory. Was I trying to distract myself when I began to look around at the impromptu audience? Probably.

It's been years now, so I can't remember if the man I noticed was in a red or a pink shirt, but there he was, watching intently, hanging on the actors' words.

The teens finished the lesson; we saw other sights in the park. We ate. Someone told us the very best spot to view the sunset, so we decided to end our trip there. The area was full of people and the sky was glorious; breathtaking. We were awash in pink and orange. A voice began to sing "How Great Thou Art." Some of the people poked fun at the singing, but others joined in, including many of our teens and a group of students from Korea. I found myself looking around again, and again I saw the man in the red-hued shirt, now with tears streaming down his face, singing.

I doubt that in this lifetime, any version will ever move me more.

1 comment:

  1. Laura, this is a very touching story. Our daughter went to Alaska to help with a Vacation Bible School in a small church, so my memory of her experiences helps me understand your setting and plot line. How Great Thou Art is one of my favorite hymns. I will add it to my Favorite Music section of my Blogger complete profile page.