I squirmed in my seat, the room was crowded. I felt as if I were inside an interrogation room instead of my youth group homeroom.
“Well, we’ll need someone to replace Mandy if she can’t sing this week.” Mrs. Jay sighed. “It seems as if someone doesn’t want this benefit concert to happen.”
Ruben’s hand shot up in the air. “Then we gotta pray, Mrs. Jay.” His blue eyes glittered. “We can’t let this fail.”
“Yeah.” Courtney flicked her ponytail over one shoulder. “We’ve come too far and there’s too many people depending on this.”
“That’s so easy for all of you to say.” Sharon muttered. All eyes turned towards her. “I’m a little new at this prayer thing, right?” She stared down at her shoes. “How do you know when God’s really talking to you?”
“Good question.” Mrs. Jay smiled. “One I think has a thousand different answers. God speaks to us all in different ways all the time. Sometimes it’s clearer than others, or it’s just a feeling you can’t ignore.” Her smile softened. “Would you care to share anything?”
Sharon shrugged. “I don’t know that there’s anything to share.” Her gaze flickered up and then back to her shoes.
For a brief moment, I felt as if I were her. Why, well, I could think of several dozen reasons, absolutely none of them having anything to do with the fact that my older sister could fix this problem very quickly.
The room grew very quiet and I heard myself speaking. “I could ask my sister. She can sing.”
Now everyone was looking at me.
“No offense.” Mandy whispered hoarsely. “But can she really sing? I’d like my replacement to at least be-”
“Decent?” Sharon filled in. “I think that’s a good idea.” Her head bobbed. “I mean, it’s good that Kelsey’s sister can sing.”
I looked down at my shoes. They were scuffed. Neatly.
My stomach was churning and I began to rehearse possible conversations.
“Could you ask your sister?” Mrs. Jay stood, pen poised over her calendar.
“I’ll ask her.” I promised, doing exactly that the moment Jenna walked through the door.
Her face, plain enough as the Carlson Times, had her original answer written all over it. The moment I explained it was supposed to benefit the local homeless shelter for Thanksgiving, she sighed and asked what they wanted her to sing.
That turned out to be the biggest problem. Jenna sang with a contemporary rock band. She’d taken professional voice lessons years ago in her preteens, I knew she could sing, whether she’d do justice to “Amazing Grace”, remained to be heard.
The night of the concert, she appeared twenty minutes before stage time. I’d been doing my best to fend off the barrage of questions and exclamations, quite ready to explode when she finally turned up. “Where have you been?”
My generous spirit had dried up and I felt like a cranky old ghost. “It’s twenty minutes to stage and you haven’t even-”
“Jenna?” Sharon’s voice was a mere whisper as she stepped out of the shadows. “I knew you'd come.” She smiled.
Jenna offered a half-smile. “Guess your dream was right after all.” She cracked her neck. “Anyone have some lyric sheets or something? I haven’t had time to read the hymnal you dragged home.” She gave me an affectionate shove. “Work was killer tonight, but we had a great audience.”
Somehow I found the patience inside of me to explain the song-line up, highlight the hymns and keep everything running smoothly.
When the lights dimmed, Jenna stepped out, in front of the choir. There was something different in her face, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
She cleared her throat and the choir began to lead off. I watched as she closed her eyes, one hand wrapped tightly around the microphone, the other fisted beside her.
Her mouth opened and for a moment, no sound seemed to come out. And then I heard a soft, mellow voice. “Amazing grace, how sweet…”
By the time Jenna finished, she wasn’t the only one crying. For some reason, it had touched her soul. The years I’d spent trying to cajole her towards ‘religion’ was summed up in one single song in which I saw her heart and soul.
She invited the audience to sing with her and the music that filled the church-well, you’d have had to be there in person to understand this amazing experience.
Thank you, Father!
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