Robert Hitt Neil Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Kairos leaders have fun singing praises

By Robert Hitt Neill

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The first weekend in May was kind of special for us: we spent the whole weekend over two hours from home with almost fifty other folks from all over the US of A, as Pogo used to say.

They came to Mississippi from as far away as New Jersey, California and Wisconsin, or as close as Tennessee, Louisiana, and Alabama, but we all had one thing in common: a concern for people who are in prison.  

All those folks also work (well, it ain’t really work, if we enjoy it that much!) in the Kairos International Prison Ministry, and they were all either former or future Leaders of Kairos or Kairos Outside weekends.

This Ministry requires that each leader has to go through Advanced Training to be instructed on how best to put yourself at God’s disposal to let Him conduct such a weekend of blessings through you. If you let it happen like that, the blessings just overflow!

Betsy had been appointed coordinator of the weekend, under God of course (we can still say that, right?), and I was there to do what she needed me to do, or else to hold down that rocking chair on the Camp Wesley Pines porch. Since God was in charge, I did a lot of rocking!

But occasionally (too occasionally!) they needed someone to lead the singing, and your Uncle Bob was drafted to do that.

It was good timing: our Calvary Choir had just finished our Spring Sing, and if anyone tells you that they have heard a better rendition of “Days of Elijah,” well, they just flat-out missed being at Calvary Baptist that night.  That was such a powerful, yet fun-to-sing event that…well, I told the Choir, “Y’all sang like you had striped britches on!”

For the month before that, I had led the music for CMCF Kairos No. 16, with seven guitar players, a keyboardist, and a harmonica player.

Talk about fun and praises! The way those guys belted out “Jesus is the Rock” and “Woke Up This Mornin’ with my Mind Stayed on Jesus,” sent shivers of joy up my spine.

I was remembering and replaying those two latest musical highlights of my life as I led those nationwide Kairos Leaders in “Lights of the City” and “Alleluia, He Is Coming” – couldn’t help it.  What a blessing!

And during the rest of the conference, several of those leaders sidled up and explained, “Hey, our song leaders don’t seem to have as much fun singing praises as you Mississippi folks: what about coming to my state with your accompanists and holding a Kairos Music Workshop?”

I’m not talking about funny “ha-ha.” I’m talking about just giving your whole self to the song, so that the power of the praises of the people whom you are waving your arms in front of goes swooshing right by you (and through you!) on the way to the Throne. That’s the fun part – getting to experience being in the middle of that type praise!  

One of my guitar players on No. 16 had the tragedy of his wife dying last summer, and this spring he shared with the Kairos Team that her tombstone had come in the week before. Of course, Alice’s name and dates of birth and death were carved on the stone, and Jesse’s name was on the other side.  

It would be customary for his date of birth to be carved under his name, and for the date of his death to be carved on later, after he has kicked the bucket. However, Jesse is anything but conventional (most guitar players are thataway!) and he told us that his interpretation of the Bible led him to believe that the End Times are close upon us. So, Jesse’s side of the gravestone says, “1954 – Rapture.”

I am not the Bible scholar that Jesse is, but I think I have a handle on what the Rapture will be like, if I’m around when it happens: It’s going to be like I’m leading the singing for such a great Choir or Congregation that their praises will simply carry me aloft with them, instead of swooshing by me on the way to the Throne.  

Suddenly, I’ll just be right there, looking for the Choir (striped britches or not) and God will say, “Relax, Neill, they’re right behind you.  And before y’all go walking down the Streets of Gold, how about leading them in ‘Lights of the City’ for Me, then ‘Days of Elijah.’ And this time, have some fun doing it, okay?”