Let My Praises Be Heard!
IS YOURS A ‘PORTRAIT’ OF GRATITUDE?
I have a personal friend (presently 62 years old, an African-American friend). His name is Bill Johnson. I have regular contact with him, in more than one setting. I have known him for several years, probably nearly 10 years- Once a month, he and I partner to go to two different small nursing homes, where we conduct a short praise service. The ‘heart’ of these monthly services (where a handful of beautiful elderly ones meet) is music.
Bill is an accomplished musician- a musician who plays several musical instruments. His ‘specialty’ in musical expertise is the violin. I have never heard more beautiful music than the music of Bill’s violin. He makes his musical talent available to a large number of persons, in a variety of contexts. He plays in formal settings, and he also plays in very informal settings (such as when he plays gladly and joyously for the few elderly ones, each month).
I exalt in his musical skills every time I hear him play, but, more important than his musical expertise is his loving and humble and joyous and, yes, grateful spirit. Every time Bill plays, he plays for the glory of God, and for the edification of those around him. As you can imagine, there are scores of persons who speak highly of his playing (his skill and his talent).
Time after time, instead of even thanking his praising ‘fans’, Bill will immediately respond by saying, “Praise God. Give God all the glory, Without Him, I could not do anything!” Bill is a man who is full of Gratitude – a man who ascribes all the praise to his wonderful Lord! He never takes credit to himself, for his amazing accomplishments!
It is often said that “God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform! “It was through a great adversity that God opened the door of opportunity for Bill, to become an accomplished musician! When Bill was a rather small (grade school) child, a growth on his arm proved to be a cancerous growth!
This was shock enough to his parents, but that shock was multiplied when Bill’s doctor declared that, to keep the cancer from spreading, the arm would have to be amputated! A shock of all shocks, for a person of any age, but especially for a child!
Bill’s father refused to follow the prescription of the doctor. Instead, several believers in the child’s church, laid hands on the young Bill and they asked, obviously, for physical healing. Instead of removing the arm, the doctor made a large indentation in the arm, as a result of the less-severe surgery. Of course, the young child’s arm was greatly weakened as a result of the surgery.
Bill”s father and Bill’s physician agreed that something needed to be done, to strengthen the arm of Bill. Bill’s large family (siblings and other relatives) were quite musical. Perhaps it was this obvious reality that caused Bill’s father and Bill’s physician to come up with an idea!
They both believed that, if young Bill would take violin lessons, that the movement of the arms, involved in playing this delicate instrument, just might strengthen the muscles that were left very weak as a result of the cancer surgery.
The rest is history! Young Bill Johnson practiced diligently, not only to become proficient with the violin, but with several other instruments. Bill Johnson became a professor of music, and Bill Johnson, for decades, has played his violin before hundreds of persons (in many churches and in secular settings- and also before a handful of elderly folks). Bill Johnson cares not if he is playing before a large group or a tiny group – all he wants to do is to let his light shine for his Lord, whom he dearly loves and whom he serves.
He wants to be in ‘the shadow of the cross’! He is very careful not to draw attention to himself. He wants all the ‘focuses of his audience to be on Christ alone! Hidden from the applause of men, in order that he may exalt the name and the cause of Jesus Christ! That describes the life of Bill Johnson!
I know this to be true, for I have often seen him, and I have known Bill Johnson in various settings. He not only makes beautiful music with his instrument, but, more importantly, he makes beautiful music with his humble and generous and loving and prayerful and, yes, grateful life! As a grateful man, I know him to be a man who entrusts his entire life with the Spirit.
I have seen him during his ‘down times’ (adversity), and I have seen him during his ‘exuberant times’ joy and satisfaction). Amidst all these changes and chances of his life, I have seen Bill Johnson to be a man who remains steadfast in his faith, and who remains grateful to God for all God’s good gifts to him!
He has some health issues, he never had the joy of being married, he often ‘pinches pennies’ financially, he sometimes is misunderstood because of a few of his eccentric mannerisms, his pool of friends has sometimes become somewhat drained because of the relocation of his friends or because of the death of his friends, he sometimes has difficulty sleeping, as a minority person he has a few barriers to get over!
Yes, these are some of the ‘challenges’ that Bill Johnson has faced, and that, by God’s grace, he has had to learn to overcome. But, amidst his unique adversities, Bill Johnson remains steadfast in his loyalty to his God, and he continues to remain loving and joyous in his fellowship with his fellow believers!
In addition to his faithfulness to his Lord, and in addition to his maintained fellowship with his fellow men, Bill has been involved in intentional witnessing to non-believers (including his weekly witness to inmates in the county jail).
God has graciously given Bill Johnson the gift of music (violin), and wherever he goes, often the violin goes with him! Heavenly music that honors God and that blesses fellow human beings! Bill Johnson’s entire lifestyle is definitely the lifestyle of ‘Gratitude’!
He is grateful that God spared his arm from amputation. He is grateful that God providentially worked through his father and his doctor, to encourage him (require him?) to start playing the violin!
He is grateful for the talent that God gave to him. He is grateful for the countless opportunities that God has given to him, to bless the ears and the hearts and the souls of persons (far and wide), for many years! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude- these are among the ‘vivid colors’ that would be used to ‘paint the portrait’ of Bill Johnson! When I am around him, he influences me to be a more ‘grateful person’ (the kind of person that God is glad to bless!).