September 28, 2017
Volume 9, Issue 2
God Saved The Best For Now
Sally and I got married for a second time in July as the main story in this issue will attest. In many ways it was even better than our first ceremony in 1987—and that was some humdinger of a hoedown.
This ceremony was modeled loosely on the first. The family dynamic was different of course. None of our four parents, who attended in 1987, were there. Sally's mom and dad had passed and my mom had died also. Only my father remained, but at 90 was too frail to travel. On the other hand, our three daughters, who were (thankfully) not there for the first ceremony were in attendance with full love and support at the second.
There were many highlights in both services. But it would be hard to top the portion in each ceremony where we had written a song for the other and actually sang it to our betrothed. In 1987 Sally wrote a beautiful ballad full of hope and love, From Now On
From now on hand in hand you and I
From now on we'll grow dreams that can fly
All my life I've stood alone
But in you I've found a home
And I know we'll both be safe inside His love
From now on
It was a gorgeous song. Unfortunately, I was barely present for it. As I confessed to Sally years later I was so terrified at the idea of singing my song to her—a song that was fraught with peril if it wasn't received as intended—that I could only hear the vague sentiments and lovely voice. But I could not hear Sally's wonderfully crafted lyrics, nor the fragile heart behind them.
I followed Sally with a tune that has now passed into O'Connor lore, It's Quite An Honor To Be An O'Connor
. My satiric arrow hit its mark. It was funny, outrageous and even ended on a heart-warming note. But it was nowhere near the timeless love song Sally had written and shared.The entire evening people were talking about my song—MY SONG—that had the shelf life of exactly one night. I don't remember anyone talking about From Now On
during dinner or dancing.
I have always felt bad about that.
Flash forward to our second ceremony in July. I was again singing after Sally and knew I would be terrified of humiliating myself—even though I had some major help from a world class artist, Jerry Lansdowne. This time I made one strong distinction in my mind. However nervous I was about singing, I was determined to be present, in real time, to hear the heart and soul Sally had prepared for me.
Her song, God Saved The Best For Now
, is in my mind another timeless classic she will hopefully record one day. As distracted as I was in my spirit, I'm grateful I was able to focus on the here and now. I heard every word, every note. I drank in every emotion on my not-so-young bride's face. And let me tell you without guile she is more beautiful today, buffeted by God's breath and filled with His Holy Spirit than she was as a younger woman 30 years ago.
As my song to Sally is posted elsewhere in this issue I did not want to let this opportunity pass. For those who were not in attendance please take a moment to listen to Sally's song. Her voice was choked with emotion, the recording was less than stellar, but the woman's heart for her God and her husband come through like a clarion call from the angels.
I'm so glad I was present for this one.
Click on the above picture to play video
“Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things;
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—Michael & Sally
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Catching Up . . .
by Sally Klein O'Connor
Well, it’s been a little while—and catching up (with apologies to Neil Sedaka) is hard to do. Sorry, my mind goes interesting places these days.
Our girls told me when I turned 60, which happened in April this year, I would be officially “old.” And there it is. Some creaking in the bones, stiffness in the joints, and other little reminders I was not so aware of before affirm I’m a lot past 40, and long past 18. One might think things would slow down a bit in deference to that reality, but they just seem to speed up—even as my ability to keep up is not quite what it used to be.
I wonder, even as God continues to open doors for our ministry that seemed locked and barred years before, if I will have enough voice or if what I share is relevant anymore. Yet despite all my wanderings and wonderings, God still chooses to use me in my strengths and more often in my weaknesses. And at the end of the day my heart fills with wonder and gratitude toward God who loves and believes in me in ways I cannot wrap my mind around still.
So, what follows below are three snapshots of God’s ongoing faithfulness to Michael and me, our family, and ministry.
In mid-November last year, after weeks of practicing and preparing for a very special live concert recording scheduled to take place on December 30th, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. Not convenient! For the weeks intervening between diagnosis and concert recording date I spent a lot of time intimately familiarizing myself with all the quirks of our couch, laying down at many different intervals of the day when I smacked into the uncompromising reduced limits of my bodily strength.
A beautiful thing ensued. In the necessary absence of my usual busyness with all the basic household chores, Michael and Shannon very willingly and graciously stepped up to the plate, as my husband is fond of saying. More than that, they each in their own way truly cared for me. I didn’t recognize how much I needed their tenderness until I had no choice but to receive it from them.
Being a bit like my mom, I have certainly been the “I’ll-do-it-myself” type for most of my life. Mom certainly didn’t waste her breath when she ground into me the old adage, “If you want it done right you need to do it yourself.”
Michael MCs the Kulak's concert
Not surprisingly, I healed much more slowly than I wanted or expected. I fought to find my voice again in December and work my way through the songs. Michael and I debated whether to surrender the date and try again some other time, but there didn’t seem to be another ideal date coming up any time soon. Additionally, we had also tied an online fundraising campaign to the whole concert project at Kulak’s, and it was going to be broadcast live in different parts of the world, available for anyone online. As it turned out, many items were removed from our calendar during December, but the concert remained.
Kulak’s is a longstanding funky little concert club in North Hollywood, seating a maximum of 49 people on an eclectic collection of furniture, which includes all kinds of chairs, couches, stools, and even a bed. They have a great little set-up. For just $300 you can videotape a full 2-hour concert on their stage with several cameras arranged on tracks and a couple handled manually. This allows for several different camera angles, along with a professional sound and mixing system that includes a rough edit of your concert footage. Quite an amazing bargain in the promised land of Hollywood!
Behind the scenes at Kulak's
December 30th arrived right on schedule and I was still in the process of recovering, but my voice had returned, though not at full strength. I was still coughing, which was my biggest concern. One good coughing jag could completely decimate my still-fragile voice. When evening rolled around as I prepared the set with good friend and producer, Chad Watson (playing bass and mandolin) and John Krovozo on cello, the place quickly filled up with friends—all of whom continued to pray me through the evening. As I walked onstage I felt like I was stepping into a warm and fragrant bath.
Sally, John & Chad play their hearts out
As a singer it’s not easy to accept what you know is not your vocal best, especially when you are recording, but the evening was soaked in the love of the Lord. And His presence broke through all my concerns about being less-than. Some moments can never be re-captured, and this was one. So, when it came time to roll through the audio and video editing process I couldn’t ignore the beauty that exceeded all my imperfections. After all was said and done, I sat through the concert one last time before sending it off to the duplicators and was surprised to find how much it moved me.
In April this year the A Tour of Roses team went to Brussels, Belgium. Surprisingly Brussels was more challenging than any previous ATOR project. From the very start there were obstacles everyday we had to overcome as a team and individuals. Some of these were included in the reports sent back to our prayer partners, like the 82 steps up to our apartment with no elevator or how Randy got pickpocketed on Palm Sunday. Other things were more subtle like fatigue (felt like the jetlag never quite lifted), miscommunication and misunderstandings. All of these things were human enough in the natural realm, but the enemy also used them to wear down our strength and resolve. And yet, by God’s grace and through many people praying and interceding, we prevailed and overcame.
What follows are a few quick sketches of our time there from different team members…
Esther: Today was an exhausting day. First, Randy's situation (his wallet was taken) really shook us. Then, we couldn't find Sally, Jennifer, and the roses. We circled the market and didn't see anything. When we finally met up with Sally, she warned us that the enemy was trying to stop us. When we finally had the roses and keyboard at the edge of the market, it was amazing how doors opened. People were leaving the market to come and see us. We were surrounded with people as Sally led worship, and we passed out the roses. I had two men approach me and asked me why we were doing this. When I told them it was to share God's love with Brussels, the one man said "That's the best thing I've ever heard."
Yara offers a beautiful rose to a local man
Esther: In the red light district, it was amazing to share with the women... There were women in windows, but there were also "cafes" that operated as brothels. I was walking with Jennifer, and I saw 5 women sitting at a table in a cafe. I knocked on the door, and a woman opened the door like 3 inches and asked what I wanted. I said that I wanted to give her a rose because God loved her. She was hesitant, but she took a rose and said "For free?" When I confirmed that it was a free gift, she smiled and another woman at the table asked for a rose. There was a man at the door, blocking the entrance. When the other women asked for a rose too, he said that I could come in and opened the door. One woman approached me and said, "Why would you do this?" I said, "Because God loves you, and we wanted to give you this rose to bless you with his love today." You could see the hesitation leave their expressions. All of the women in the cafe accepted a rose and had huge smiles on their faces.
Randy, Sally & Heather at Maalbeek Station
Dave: When we were at Maalbeek (the train station that was bombed in March 2016), I was handing out roses, and I met a German family. The family asked why we were doing this. There was a guy there who knew English and German, and he translated for the family. I told them that we remember what happened here—we've had our own incidents in the states. We're praying for them, and we love Brussels. God loves Brussels. Then, a Belgian young man came and asked why. When I started telling him, he was so moved. He grabbed my hand, and he gave me a chest bump.
Jurgen: We also went to the Kasserne Dossin to pray and to worship. Over 20,000 Jews were collected here and shipped like animals to the killing places and concentration camps. 70,000 Jews lived in Belgium and only 1,200 survived the Holocaust. I never even heard of this place before and I was at a loss and shocked again and again how we, my people have done something that goes beyond the deepest hell. No wonder Jesus had to die on the cross in order to bring justice to all of our sins. His blood covers the deepest hell of my soul and the sins of my people and all people who reach out to him. Come Lord Jesus please come.
Felicia: After a quick lunch and back up almost 70 stairs, we grabbed more roses and set out to another area that is known for prostitution. Lois, a woman who ministers to the women in the area, knows a lot of the women by name. They were so excited to see her. It was amazing to see the relationships that they develop in this ministry. As she led us we were able to talk and pray for the women. We met Mariette who felt that prostitution was her only option. She said she was in a crisis and that this was all she could do. Valerie, who Lois suspected to be on drugs, said this was the only way to provide for her family. Eliza wanted prayer for healing in her chest/ lungs. Fatima said she did not want to be a prostitute anymore and was looking for a job. A gentleman named Jean-Pierre accepted a rose and was curious about what we were doing. He came over and began to say that he tries to love people but it is difficult. Sally sprang into action and began to speak with him while Lois translated. Jean-Pierre accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior! It was an amazing day.
ATOR Belgium Team: Free rose & free smiles
Yvette: Everyday we did something in Brussels. Everyday we served and spread the message of God and His love. Everyday something happened… It was beautiful. Everything, the highs and the lows it was beautiful because it was for Him! It was beautiful because He made it to be that way! God knew every single thing that was going to happen and who we were going to approach and He gave us all the grace that we needed. He gave me a new song everyday when the days were going to be a little harder than others. He took care of me, of all of us. I can't describe the mission trip… God is so good and I love Him. Jesus, my redeemer, my Lord, my Savior!! How I love you and oh how I see your love more than ever!
On Michael’s birthday this year, July 15, 2017, we celebrated 30 years of marriage by walking down the aisle again. It didn’t come easy and it wasn’t cheap. Michael and I have paid some serious dues over those years, unsure if we would even still be together when this benchmark anniversary rolled around.
Just ten years before Michael took me to out to a very nice Thai restaurant and asked if we could publicly renew our vows. I felt completely ambushed, taken off guard—and unfortunately, I was not where he was in hope and heart.
We were in the middle of what turned out to be a total of 13 years in therapy for our marriage with a very gifted Christian therapist, Charlotte Smith. While I knew somewhere down deep inside I still loved Michael, I couldn’t feel any of it for the life of me. It seemed so far away and long ago—another lifetime.
The bride and her bridesmaids
Michael and I had dated for 4 1/2 years. Two of those years we were passionate heathen. Writing songs together, watching M.A.S.H., eating macaroni and tuna casseroles, and all the intimacies of two people who were extremely broken and in need.
Then one night God intervened and everything changed. Many times I have looked back over my shoulder at who we were then, acknowledging without God in both our lives we would not have survived those early years of marriage. Too much baggage and ego on both sides. We also came from completely opposite ends of processing what happened in our lives growing up.
God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, sent us three daughters. Each brought their own particular—and sometimes peculiar—gifts into the mix of family, or as our good friend Pastor Paul said, “The O’Connor Vortex.” Each of them in their own particular way exposed all the weaknesses in us as parents and human beings.
Pastor Paul explains "The O'Connor Vortex"
During those years we used whatever we could find to tape up and glue ourselves back together again. But it all completely unraveled with Shannon's entrance into our world. We were undone and Charlotte was God-sent to help us process what had been, what was, and what might be. It was in the middle of those first few years of therapy, Michael courted me, asking me to marry him again. In that incredibly painful moment I could not find a “Yes” in me. I could not connect to the girl who wanted nothing more than to stand by his side in life and write songs together. And as much as it wounded Michael it haunted me long after.
Sometime before our 25th anniversary I asked Michael if he might want to renew vows with me now that I felt more ready. But he was still very hurt from my refusal and turned me down. I wondered if we would ever find each other again.
At our fundraising dinner for A Tour of Roses this year Michael surprised me. We had arranged to do a special segment of questions and answers about us as a couple, which our good friend, Greg Stanley hosted. It got pretty wild and woolly as Michael and Greg got the whole dinner crowd to sing the theme song to “Green Acres.” I was horrified. I thought I had passed into an alternate reality or was hallucinating. Soon after Michael bent down on one knee before me, in front of that same dinner crowd, and asked if I would marry him again. I was so grateful. It was truly an answer to prayer. This time the “Yes” was large in my heart!
At our initial wedding we each chose to write a song for each other. Michael encouraged us to keep it secret so it would be a special surprise during the ceremony. I wrote a love song. Michael did also, just not the way I anticipated. His lyrics to “It’s Quite An Honor To Be An O’Connor” are somewhat legendary among our friends. So, with history in mind, I naturally wondered what he had planned for this occasion. But Michael’s song took my breath away. With our dear friend, Jerry Lansdowne’s sweet and tender voice and playing, Michael shared his vows and “sang” his song to me…
Click on above picture to hear Michael's vows and song
A kiss to build a dream on . . .
As I look ahead to our special ATOR project to Bethlehem and Jericho, December 5-19, I have a ton of questions as to how it will all work out. How impossible it looks, and why there are only 4 of us on the team. But I am reminded in every scenario I have mentioned previously in this piece God has demonstrated His incredible faithfulness. Beyond my thoughts and expectations God has come through in every situation and brought beauty in unexpected ways, and sometimes in what seemed like barren places.
I suppose if I were called upon to sum up these three episodes it would be to say God is faithful through the ages. He is faithful when I am not. He will finish what He has started because He sees the end from the beginning and His vision is not bound by Time and Space. He lives in Eternity and His perspective is from that much higher place where He dwells throughout all the ages. I can trust His good purposes to prevail despite our deep and seemingly unending brokenness. And His glory will be seen and His goodness will triumph even when it appears otherwise in our Time and Space. So I am thankful to God for His amazingly good gifts in this season of our lives. And it gives me the courage and strength to trust Him for all that lies ahead.
May I have this dance for the rest of my life?
Improbable People Ministries
As we prepare for our December A Tour of Roses outreach we especially need your prayers. This will be our smallest team yet for one of the most intense projects we have undertaken. Not only are we planning to hand out roses on the streets of Bethlehem and Jericho, but we are putting together a very special women’s conference which we’ll present in both locations. Holy Land Missions has graciously offered their churches in Bethlehem and Jericho as venues for our Something Beautiful for Someone Beautiful conferences. The conference is free for the women in the community. It will probably take up most of their Saturday. We are planning on assembling gift bags for all the attendees, putting together a special lunch, and many other surprises that we hope will be received as blessings.
The challenges inherent in communication and culture are fairly sizeable. Strong feelings toward Americans and Jewish people are not easy to overcome, but we are trusting the Lord to "make a way where there is no way".
If any of you would like to receive the special prayer updates for this project as it unfolds, please email me here. And if the Lord leads you to help support this project financially, you can give through our website here.
Also, as reported above, we have just complete our very first DVD and it's called I Want To Make History With You. It's a 2 hour live concert video. It will be available soon. And we will let you know within the next week or so how to procure your very own copy. Meantime here is a sample track, the title song, from the DVD. To view please click the image below.
—Michael & Sally O'Connor