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  • Writer's pictureKipper Ackerman

A Pocket Full of Crosses

I have been reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson for the past three months, over and over, and the message that continues to resonate from the pages is the idea of putting my dreams and visions for The Sounds of Grace on paper. The Sounds of Grace was organized after spending several months at Tuomey Healthcare System with my harp playing for patients at their bedside, in the recovery room, in waiting areas, and pre and post-operative areas of the hospital. I have been so blessed by the amount of support that our community and surrounding areas have shown and invested into our mission of bringing peace and healing through music. And, I have had an amazing time traveling from church to church and civic organizations to businesses while sharing how the Lord has begun working through my harp and through several other musicians who have also volunteered in local assisted living facilities. However, the idea of writing down my dreams and visions and sharing them with others is a scary concept to me. But, when Batterson’s words continued to speak to me, I slowly opened up an ear to listen.

In regards to listening, I have learned that the quiet time I have in my car, usually while driving to share The Sounds of Grace, is a beautiful time for me to hear God’s whispers. And, for the next few moments, I want to share with you how the whispers I heard were confirmed after meeting two strangers.

A few months ago, I was on my way to meet my new friend, Cindy Timmons, at the South Carolina Oncology Associates where I would be playing while she received her bi-monthly chemotherapy treatment. This was only the second time I had played at SCOA and it didn’t’ take long for me to quickly fall in love with the idea of sharing harp music while patients were receiving treatment. But, on this particular trip, as I was driving down Hwy 378, I was blessed to be in a very personal conversation with God about my dreams and visions for The Sounds of Grace. And, as Batterson shares with us in “The Circle Maker,” this was the day I began to “circle” those dreams and visions with prayer. After talking and praying with God, I felt led to share my dreams and visions with others, but I knew that it would be a long time before I was ready to share something so personal.

Once I arrived at SCOA, I signed off with my deep conversation with my Savior and I began to unload. I always take the elevator to the infusion floor, and wind myself to the area where Cindy’s doctors’ station can be found. In the area where I usually set up, I noticed there was a gentleman seated there next to his wife who was receiving treatment. He was focused on the book he had in his hands and he didn’t notice the eighty-two pound harp heading his way until I pulled up right beside him. As, I began to take the cover off and reveal the instrument, he looked at me with this stern, yet puzzled, look. At that time, I wasn’t sure as to the personality of the man I would be sitting next to for the next two to three hours. After a very long minute of his staring at the harp, he asked me, “Are you going to be playing that thing the entire time I’m sitting here?” Oh great! Where have you put me now, Lord? But, as soon as I answered him with a hesitant “yes”, he looked me in the eyes and responded with “good!” At that moment, I knew I would be in great hands with my up close and personal audience.

This couple had been married fifty years and I quickly learned that they knew the routine of sitting in the infusion treatment center well, as she has been fighting cancer off and on for over ten years. And, in between musical selections, I learned that he was a retired Baptist minister who had once worked as a campus minister at Carson Newman and spent quite a lot of time with choral and instrumental groups on tour. This extremely intelligent gentleman knew music and He knew His God. He was full of life and love, grace and mercy and I was immediately drawn to him. He didn’t hold back his thoughts at all. If I played something too fast, he would tell me to slow down. If he wanted to hear a particular hymn, he would ask. And, if he was getting up, he asked what he could bring me. Of course, when I am sitting in the presence of these heroes receiving treatment, I feel so honored that the Lord has sent me to share peace and healing through the strings of my harp. But, I often forget that He is using those same sounds to bring about peace and healing to their caregivers, too. And, little did I know, that my new friend had quite a struggle he was dealing with in addition to his wife’s cancer. And within the next hour, I learned that the beautiful woman lying in the recliner, hooked up to an I.V. with multiple bags dripping from above, was also a caregiver to her husband.

After I had played for close to thirty minutes, my new friend asked if I had a CD. I explained to him that they were in the process of being completed and that I would love to share one with him when they were ready. He also was curious as to what my husband did for a living and we had a great time talking about his job at the hospital. However, shortly after finishing up several more selections, he asked me a second time if I had a CD, and moments later a third time would follow. He asked me once more what my husband did for a living and then I caught his wife’s eye as she winked at me. When he stood up and excused himself, she informed me of his struggles with short term memory. She told me that was the reason he decided to retire and that he only preached on special occasions at the small church where he last served.

When he came back to his seat, I heard him rattling some change, or something of that nature, in his pocket before he sat down. He then continued to read his book as his wife worked on her crossword puzzle. Just as soon as I finished what I was playing and took my fingers off of my strings, he held out his hand and told me he wanted to talk with me for a minute. I walked over and had a seat next to him. And, just as boldly as he asked me if I was going to play the entire time they would be there, he looked me in the eyes and said he felt led to ask me what my “dreams and visions” were for the work the Lord had entrusted to me. He also informed me that the Lord wants us to share them with others. “Are you kidding me, God? You can’t mean you want me to share all of this with a complete stranger when I had just share it with You only a few hours earlier!” But wouldn’t you know it! Out of my mouth came the same words that I had just shared in the car with Him, but only now I was sharing with someone who I didn’t know at all. And, as soon as I was done, I could almost see my words floating around him in the air and I quickly wanted to retrieve them all and take them back. What had I just done?

I sat down at my harp and began to play in hopes of forgetting the fear I had just experienced. Trusting the direction I which I was led, I relaxed through the melodies of my harp and I was at peace. And, once at peace, the Lord reminded me that the man I had just shared my most personal dreams and visions with struggled with short term memory loss and would most likely not remember what I had shared with him until I shared them once again, if and when that time would come.

After his wife had finished her treatment and they were all packed up to leave, he came over to me and asked me to hold out my hand. He then reached into his pocket to pull out the contents of what he was rattling from time to time throughout the morning. Once he had all of it in his hand, he placed one of his hands underneath mine and then emptied all that was in his other hand into my own, and I then realized he had placed an entire pocket full of crosses into the palms of my hands. As tears began to fill my eyes, he lifted my chin and as I looked at him, he reminded me that he had given me his card and he would love for me to write him and share my dreams and visions with him so that he could be “circling” them in prayer with me. And, as he walked off with his wife, I closed my eyes and thanked my God of Grace and Mercy for all of the ugly times in my life that He had re-routed to bring me to that moment.

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