Bill had just finished running through his first worship song, sitting on a picnic table under a gazebo, when the invasion came.
Bearing lunch bags, three men and four women from a nearby building swarmed up the gazebo steps, scarcely glancing at Bill.
"Guess you didn't know you'd be seranaded during lunch, huh?" Bill joked as he good naturedly moved his guitar case out of the way and shifted to an adjacent bench so the group could eat together.
He might as well have been a dead cockroach, for all the attention they gave him. One woman nodded blankly at him, then started unwrapping a sandwich.
Bill worked through his favorites, quietly at first, fearing he might disturb the group. But by the time he got to "Days of Elijah" and "Blessed Be Your Name" he was loud enough that anyone would hear the Christian message.
Oblivious, the group talked about Judy's trip to Las Vegas and the male strippers she saw. They joked that someone named Mark had gotten falling down drunk at their Friday night bash. They cursed fluently when it came time to return to work.
Picking up their trash, they left without a word to Bill.
"Well," he thought. "What was I expecting? Applause?"
And a small voice inside him said, "Yeah, maybe."
Bill had been singing for the Lord for several years. He got started doing solos in a church choir and still remembered the rush of having people gush over him after each performance.
Funny where God had taken him since then.
The next church they attended had a team mentality -- no solos. Bill did harmonies in the background and nobody really singled him out as being good or bad. His ego absorbed the blow well enough and he found himself getting more involved in the prayer and share time with the team.
Stranger still was God's call on Bill to lead worship for a prison ministry. One of the rules of that gig was NO APPLAUSE from the inmates or team members. It was important, they said, that all glory go to God and that no one feel they were being paid in any way for their work.
Bill still remembered the first time he belted out Amazing Grace and finished to complete silence -- everyone was reverent, no doubt, but disturbingly quiet.
It was pretty clear what God was doing. He lured Bill into ministry through his love of music -- and love of applause. Now He was weaning him and replacing the pride with a reverence for the Lord.
Bill still kept his guitar in the trunk of his car. You never knew when it might come in handy. Just the other night, a small group at church had asked if he would lead worship for them.
He'd led them in "Give Me Jesus," then ended with "Your Grace is Enough."
And, all things considered, it really was.
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