Water in the Wilderness

Near the end of the school year my students and I had a discussion about our summer plans. I let my students tell the class some things they were looking forward to doing this summer, and then I told them about my summer plans and how I was looking forward to singing with Oasis Chorale again. One student’s eyes lit up, but at the same time he looked a little puzzled as he told me, “Oasis is the name of my church!” I asked him if he knows what the word oasis actually means. Since he didn’t know, I gave a brief explanation and showed him why it’s a great name for both a church and a chorale. The dawning light of comprehension that came over his face is an example of one of the reasons I love teaching school.

I also love not teaching school during the summer, and Oasis Chorale has been one of the best things in my summer for the third year in a row now. Nothing is equal to the absolute joy of making beautiful music with a group of talented, committed, delightful people who love so many of the same things. How well I remember the odd sensation on my first tour with Oasis when, although I knew only a few of my fellow singers before, I had this distinct feeling of having come home.

This year we met in Kansas to rehearse and begin our tour. I fell in love with the big Kansas sky when I was a child playing with my Kansas cousins, and the place has an even bigger piece of my heart since my sister married a Kansas boy and moved out there. So I felt worlds colliding a bit (in a good sort of way) as I spent days rehearsing and recording with Oasis and also hung out with the relatives.

And then we were on the road, traveling through Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, giving concerts and meeting many wonderful people along the way. Here is a (far from exhaustive) list of some of my favorite small moments from tour:

–my surprise in unexpectedly meeting various friends and acquaintances at almost every one of our concerts, including cousins, former students, former fellow missionaries, and a classmate from Faith Builders (in other words, people from practically all my other lives)

–chocolate placed on the nightstand by a gracious hostess who was certainly an expert in hospitality

–the parrot in our audience at Penn Station in Illinois

–the hearty laughter one day in rehearsal when, just for fun, we tried singing “Come Let’s Rejoice” (a light, dancing, Renaissance piece) in the full, heavy style of “All Hail the Power”

–joining hands with all the Oasis ladies while singing “Walk Together Children”

–looking down at the city of St. Louis at night from the balcony of our twenty-second-floor hotel room

–singing “Not One Sparrow” under the dome of the old St. Louis courthouse where the Dred Scott court case took place

–many of us piling into one hotel room to hang out together and chow down on leftover Chipotle food after our concert in Topeka

–conversations while traveling on the bus

–the way the shifting sunlight played through the stained glass window at Eastminster Presbyterian in Wichita during our last concert

One of my favorite songs this year was “I Am the Lord,” a new composition by Lyle Stutzman, with text taken from Isaiah 43. A choir with a name like Oasis would be hard-pressed to find more fitting words to sing than these: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth.  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Of course a trip to Kansas necessitated spending a few days at my sister’s house after chorale tour was over, and I got to meet the two darling foster nephews for the first time. I don’t often spend much time with toddlers, and it is as exhausting as it is endearing. Also, one is forced to ponder the brokenness of a world where a fine Christian couple is unable to have children, but the drug addicts keep having babies and can’t take care of them. It’s a broken world where children are taken from their parents for their own safety. Yet shafts of sunlight sift through the brokenness as I see parents loving foster children as their own, even though they have no idea how long they may be able to keep them. This is water in the desert.

I came home to the ordinary luxuries of clean, wrinkle-free clothes, good water, and a familiar bed; and I counted only a few chigger bites. What trip to Kansas would be complete without bringing back a few chiggers as souvenirs?

Chorale tour has always been an oasis for my soul. For two weeks we get to play at being professional musicians, and then we go back to the classroom, the office, the cow barn, the construction site, or wherever our varied vocations take us. The stop at the oasis was rejuvenating, but the journey must continue. We can fill all the water jugs and take them with us though—water jugs filled with joyful memories and renewed resolve to live the kind of pure, Christ-centered life that this kind of music-making demands of us.




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