A Sacred Moment at the Shoe Store

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com  Va_State_Capitol

My last day of work at the Virginia House of Delegates, it was.  Yes, I had been coming up here to the capital in Richmond for 6 years. . . before, during and after the legislative sessions.  It was a ‘part of the year’ position, 4 to 6 months.  You had to be recommended by someone who already worked there in order to be invited to work there.  It was such a quirk that I ended up doing this since I am really almost apolitical.

As a volunteer patient representative wearing the characteristic pink jacket, I walked into a hospital room one day and nobody was in the bed.  A young woman was sitting at the table writing.  She looked up and identified herself as the patient.  We quickly had a nice conversation.

Then she said, “I think you could do my job, over at the House of Delegates.”  She explained a bit about it and said I could use her name as a recommendation if I wanted to go over there and inquire about it.  I was at the University Hospital which was very close to the capital.  Why not, I thought.  It wouldn’t hurt to check into it.

After I was hired, I was trained to do indexing.  One had to quickly read the bill and compose a summary for it after which it would be added to the index of all the bills that were in the pipeline.  Then, any citizen could look up any bill and see what it is about.

It was feast or famine.  During times of heavy work or ‘feast’ we were asked to agree at the outset that we would stay late into the night if necessary to get everything done before session the next day.  During famines we would have to be on hand and had to keep busy on our own.  I always brought my check book to balance, bills to pay or a book to read.   I have to laugh when I think that I learned to knit during one of these lulls at the Virginia House of Delegates.  There were about 7 or 8 of us in the indexing area, and we would discuss all kinds of things and got to know each other pretty well.   Sometimes I was invited to offer prayer before our special pot lucks or other little celebrations in the indexing room.

Then I moved down the hall and did enrolling and engrossing, that is, work the new amendment wording into the bills and then enroll it into law.  We proofread a lot with a partner, reading out loud long passages to each other to make sure it was exact, as passed by the House.

Then for a few years I went over and had my work area right inside the chamber.  We would make sure the bills were placed on the desks of the delegates, run back and forth, carrying bills, quite a long list of duties.  At the end of the session, I told my immediate superior that I wanted to stay long enough to finish a handbook of all the forms I had learned to use, and just in what sequence each of them should be used, so it would be easier for the next person who would follow me.  I finished it early in the afternoon of my last day, and my supervisor gave me a nice going away gift.

It was kind of a let down and I decided to go down the street a while where all the stores were before I retrieved the car and went on home.  It was kind of a subdued feeling I had, a little blue.  I felt a little out of my element there on the Clerk’s staff.  I had much more trust in God than I did in politics.  Most of the staff people and interns were totally turned on by the environment, the fact that we were invited to huge events sponsored by lobbyists, invited to the governor’s mansion, and met different well known politicians in the elevator.  I remember when I had my work spot right there in the House chamber, one of the women delegates slipped in there and shed a few tears out of sight of the other legislators when one of her encounters on the ‘floor’ was more than she could take.  There was still a lot of racial tension and stories that made the rounds for the gossip networks.  What did I accomplish being there, I thought.  What good did I do for eternal values?  I couldn’t point to much.

I passed the big shoe store with long aisles up and down.  So I stopped in.  In mid-afternoon nobody was in there.  The young African American clerk was at the front by the cash register and a friend apparently had stopped by and they were talking.  I lost myself looking at the hundreds of shoes displayed on the long aisles.

I was toward the back and all of a sudden I heard the words to a Psalm I had learned in grade school.  Our teacher had helped us memorize several of the Psalms and we spoke them for the PTA meeting as a speaking choir.  (Yes, this was a public school, but even then the teacher was very courageous in finding a way to instill valuable truths in her students.)  The shoe store clerk was quoting one of those songs as written by David the shepherd who composed many of the Psalms.  The young man wasn’t singing it, because we have no record of the ancient tunes.  He was almost preaching the words to his friend, very animated and inspired with his voice raised.

He didn’t know it but it was for me too that he was quoting this special passage that I had memorized long ago.  I stopped in my tracks and listened intently, the words rolling over me like a cool shower bringing comfort and a deep breath as I stood among the shoe boxes.  I knew it was a poignant reminder from Jesus himself, given to me as a gift that afternoon.

Here is what I heard.

        Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

(Father God, this is the kind of person I have tried to be.)

        But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

(Do you remember, Jesus, the verse I typed up and put on the bulletin board above my desk? “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.”   And then one day someone had taken it down?)

        And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;  

(Lord, you are saying to me that maybe I don’t see any fruit from my life now, but in the right season, it will be there.) 

        his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 

(What a marvelous promise, Lord!  Thank you!)

       The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

(Thank you Father, God, that you have planted me on solid ground and my life won’t be waste material that would blow away in the wind.)

       Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

(Thank you for cleaning me up and allowing me a place in your congregation; that is where I most want to be.) 

       For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.  

(Thank you, God, that you loved the world so much that you gave your only begotten son and caused me to believe in Him and not perish but have everlasting life.)

Psalm 1

King James Version (KJV)

Here is a beautiful and contemporary rendition of Psalm 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0DVrTk80Ps

Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

When the Sparrow Sang at Church

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

Mother was always busy on Saturdays getting her Sunday School opening service ready.   This occurred about the first 20 minutes on Sunday Morning for the whole congregation but especially the children.  Afterward, everyone would proceed to their individual classes.  She would be highly focused, making posters with art pens and paints or something else to help illustrate the point she wanted to make.

One time she discovered a woman in the church who whistled beautifully and could make lovely bird calls.  A plan developed.  Next Sunday a soloist would sing the song “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” and the whistler would add beautiful bird sounds above her singing voice.   The whistler would be at a microphone back behind the platform out of sight.   A ‘sparrow’ created by Mother would be brought in to sit beside the soloist and appear to be the one whistling.

When the time came, Mother explained to the congregation that the sparrow itself was going to be heard from this morning at church.   While the soloist would sing, the sparrow would be accompanying her.

Mother covered me in a costume of crepe paper and dressed me up as a sparrow with wings and a bill and everything.  I could see out where they cut holes for my eyes.  I was perched on a little dolly.  Someone pulled me out across the platform beside the soloist.  When the whistling behind stage began, I moved my head as if the sparrow itself was doing the whistling.

The children were spellbound.  The adults already knew the words to that song and were were smiling at this unusual demonstration.  But they were also very moved at this beautiful musical reminder that, yes, our God is the one who sees us and knows us intimately. . . and loves us more than we can really comprehend, and we can rest assured he will take care of us at all times.

People outside of our area noted Mother’s opening services on Sunday mornings, because some years later, she was asked to repeat the sparrow event for the national Sunday School Convention in Springfield, Missouri.  Again I was dressed up as the sparrow, and again people responded, as they were reassured that we have a God who sees us, loves us, and watches over us.

A Hymn to Help

This song has helped so many people so many times.  It has been sung by the famous Ethel Waters and George Beverly Shea.  No doubt it has been hummed in many homes and remembered tearfully through many struggles.  It has backing in the scriptures and is stated so beautifully in Matthew 10 and Matthew 6.

     Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside     your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

     Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  

Mississippi Children’s Choir link below, singing “His Eye is On the Sparrow.”

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uatCU8QzdyA

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 Refrain:

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Image

 Here is a picture of our Mother today.

Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

Idyllic St. John’s on the Rappahannock

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com   card00558_fr

It was January, cold and even snowy in Virginia.

The phone call was from the Rector, Dr. Bailey.  They  needed help with the music on a Sunday and were going down the American Guild of Organists list of possible substitutes where my name was listed.  They were located in the town of Tappahannock, about an 60 miles or so from Richmond on the Rappahannock River.  Also, the Bishop was to visit them which made it doubly difficult with no organist.  It captured my attention and stirred my compassion.  I agreed literally to go the extra mile.

Rather than travel so much in bad weather, we decided that I would go on Saturday afternoon, work with the choir, and stay the night in the parish house.   Little did I know what a memorable experience it would be.

I gathered music and an overnight bag and headed out Saturday afternoon on Highway 360.    It was a pleasant drive, but the approach to the little town kind of took my breath away.  As I took the bridge across the River, I could see the lovely church on the other side, traditional vertical siding of English Gothic style of the most picturesque of the Episcopal churches.  I drove up and went inside the church, and met the Rector, an older, dignified, man.  He introduced me to the choir, a small and faithful group ready to do whatever I said.  They were so o o o thankful that I came, and it made my time with them the most pleasant.

After a good workout and planning with the choir, I got familiar with the organ and practiced awhile until was time to go next door to the parish house.  It was cold outside, but they had a blazing fire going in the fireplace.  Mrs. Bailey was preparing supper.  She was like a lovely storybook character with her British accent, full of kindness, the lines in her face where smiles had occurred.  They both welcomed me to their cozy little house.    Then the Rector asked if I would like some sherry before the meal.   How unusual, I thought, that the minister would offer an alcoholic drink.  This all has to do with the way I was raised.  But I knew this was part of their best hospitality they were offering me, so we shared a glass of wine and had an easy conversation about things that we had in common.  When it was time to eat, we gathered around the fire and ate on folding trays, and the soup was delicious.  Everything about it was delightful and homey and surpassed my expectations.

When I went upstairs to the tiny comfortable room prepared for me, they had one last surprise.  Almost unnoticed, on the shelves full of interesting  books, was a miniature vase with little white flowers in it.  I touched them and they were real and this was January.  Later, Mrs. Bailey gave me the story.  They are snowdrops.  And they will come up through the snow!  They grow in the parish yard and around the big tree out there.

Everything went well the next day.  The Bishop was there, music was lovely, and everyone happy about the day, and no one would have known the challenge that preceded it.   How glad I was that I said yes!

A Hymn to Help

After that I became a somewhat permanent substitute.  They called again when they had a special challenge at the time of the Easter season.  That was when I learned more of the beautiful hymns from the Episcopal tradition that they loved.  I began to love them too.   Most memorable for me is the hymn  “I Bind Unto Myself Today,”  a hymn about getting close to our God.  I love the idea of binding myself closely together with the strong Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   There is a departure from the song toward the end which goes into another melody in a major key.  In it, I recognized Grandma Clark’s words as she used to pray for us.  She must have known this hymn from her earlier days, because she would pray protection over us asking that God be over us, under us, all around us, just like the words here.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

 Here is a nice rendition of this hymn by the Corpus Christi Male Chorale.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlZhCmMuGrQ

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St. John’s Episcopal Church in the town of Tappahannock is located in the heart of historic Tidewater area. Situated on the south side of the Rappahannock River, it was built in 1849 and is the only purely Gothic Revival structure in the County.

Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

Aunt Virginia’s Favorite Hymns

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com  photo

Aunt Virginia–so stylish and cool.

When I saw her shoes, I sure wanted some just like hers with the white straps coming up around the ankles.  When we managed to find a pair of shoes as much like hers as possible, Mother went along with it and got them for me.   Virginia had a refined sense of humor.  Very funny.  She used words that fired the imagination and the funny bone like when we were in a tiny town in Nebraska and couldn’t find the family reunion.  “We come all the way from Oregon, and now here we are ‘hurtling’ up and down Main Street trying to find it,” was the way she described it.

After I grew up, we would go by Portland any time we were close and would visit with her and Uncle Warren.  First we would peruse her exquisite antique shop attached to the house.  Her taste and knowledge was notable.  Uncle would work on the antiques in the room at the back of the elongated shop.  He could be a bit gruff with the customers–kind of the John Wayne type only much more handsome.  Therefore, Aunt Virginia stated that he is President of the Back Room and she is President of the Front.

One day when I was there with her, I saw a darling curved leg writing desk in the shop.   They were getting older, I mused.  How much longer would they have the shop?  Maybe I should buy a piece that Warren had worked on and Virginia had selected herself.  It would be memorable for me.  So, now as I write, I can look at the small desk and still love it as much as when I first saw it as I think of her.

It had always concerned me down through the years that Virginia didn’t declare that she knew the Lord.  They didn’t attend church, didn’t speak about the Christian life.  I knew she idolized her older brother, Elmond, a dedicated minister and servant of Jesus.  She was raised by an alcoholic father, who at age 50 had a miraculous turnaround when he accepted Jesus and served as a minister until in his 80’s.  That was my Granddad Clark.

When our families would get together, we would always sing around the piano, and I noticed in those later years it became a habit that Aunt Virginia would request us to sing two songs.  The Wonder of It All, sung so well by George Beverly Shea, and I Believe in Miracles.  Cousin Loren had sung both of them many times in the past as solos.  So we would always sing those for her.  Now that I am writing this, I notice that the theme of both of them is the saving grace of Jesus.  This speaks to me even now.

When I heard that she was diagnosed with a life threatening illness, I hated it.  I didn’t want to face it, so I waited months without contacting her.  Then one day I knew I must call her and tell her how much she had meant to me.  I explained that why I didn’t call sooner was that I didn’t want to confront the fact that her life was threatened.  It was a good conversation.

After the two of them moved into assisted living, I flew out once again to Portland.   What a happy surprise when it turned out to be a mini-reunion with a little group of us cousins coming together to see her.  Very shortly after I got there, Aunt Virginia asked me something about being ready to go…regarding her last journey.  We had a short conversation.   Did she ask God for forgiveness for the wrongs she had committed in her life?  “Oh hundreds of times!” she responded.  Then I assured her that was all she needed to do.   It is so comforting to me now that we talked about this.

We had a wonderful time all of us together.  We had to go down to the large reception area by the piano and have our group sing.  Other residents gathered around and began to request hymns or other songs they would like to sing.  One more time we sang Aunt Virginia’s favorites for her.

Hymns That Help

The Wonder of It All   

There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

Refrain
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

There’s the wonder of springtime and harvest,
The sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is a wonder that’s only begun.

I Believe in Miracles

Creation shows the power of God
There’s glory all around
And those who see Him stand in awe
For miracles abound

Refrain
I believe in miracles
I’ve seen a soul set free
Miraculous the change in one
Redeemed through Calvary
I’ve seen the lily push its way
Up through the stubborn sod
I believe in miracles
For I believe in God.

I cannot doubt the work of God
It’s plain for all to see
The miracles that He has wrought
Should lead to Calvary

The love of God, oh power divine
‘Tis wonderful to see
The miracle of grace performed
Within the heart of me

At the funeral, we sang them again. . . for her and for ourselves, as we celebrated Aunt Virginia’s life.   I am reassured that Aunt Virginia made her last journey well, and we will see her again in our heavenly home.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSYzJZml_jA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHHbzPS6Hb8

– Elaine@hymnserve.com Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

My Catholic Experience

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com   hs-home-01

It was a venerable neighborhood Catholic church in Wichita and my first paid organ position after finishing college.  

For a person raised in the evangelical tradition, it was very much a new experience.  In my growing up years, we gave wide berth to anything Catholic.  There was a loud bell like the recess bell at school that would sound out and give me a start, signaling when the bread and wine was actually turning into the blood and body of Jesus.  The young director would roll his eyes when the priest was singing knowing how impossible it was for the choir to get the correct pitch from his singing and continue on through the liturgy.  There was a big drape hiding the statue of Jesus at the front during Lent, so that on Easter Morning it would be triumphantly removed.  This had to be good for the children to help dramatize our Lord’s resurrection, I thought.

Every Sunday the Latin was sung and the same words were used.  They would ask for mercy from God….  Kyrie eleison, (Lord have mercy), Christe eleison, (Christ have mercy). I had studied the parts of the Mass, the Kyrie, the Gloria, and all.   Even as the statues in the darkened church when no one else was around felt a bit spooky to me, neither had we put that much emphasis on asking for mercy from God in my growing up years.   However, this time at the Catholic church was to add an important dimension to my life experience.

The congregation was in the throes of transition at that time, changing from Latin to English for the Mass and learning new music…hymns.    The young choir director would rush downstairs on Sunday mornings before Mass began and lead the congregation in the hymn they would be singing that day.  They never sang hymns before…that was a Protestant thing.   The favorite new hymn and best standby for the congregation was Holy, Holy, Holy.  They sang it often.

Since I was invited to join them downstairs for weekly coffee after Mass, I began to know the people more personally.  I observed what a struggle it was to make this transition, especially one dear gray-haired woman.  I felt a lot of compassion for them, and was very sympathetic with their decision to move toward the opposite spectrum of Christianity for the sake of more unity among us.  After all, if the early Christians had not written down the scriptures by hand at candlelight, preserved them, and kept the faith alive, I, myself, would never have known the story of Jesus.

One Sunday morning, the choir was singing one of their a capella parts of the Mass.  I was sitting over at the side there in the balcony.  As I listened to their singing, I felt something familiar in this unfamiliar surrounding.  The warmth of God’s Spirit just settled down right there all around me.  This was a big surprise to me.   I never expected to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit here in this place.  

So this was a big lesson for me.  God’s Spirit can flow here as I listen to the music of the liturgy.  This was the beginning of my peeking around the huge wall that I thought separated me from other denominations, only to find that there wasn’t a wall there at all.  God’s Spirit lights in many places, at the mall, driving in a car, anywhere.  It flies away just as easily, like a gentle dove.  It won’t stay where there is discord in the heart, preferring love, peace, joy, all those fruits of the Spirit.

After the Catholic Church, I went on to work in the Baptist, Methodist, Congregational Christian (Disciples of Christ), Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Christian Science, and others I may have left out.   It has all been to my benefit, for I know now that there are wonderful Christians implanted everywhere.  They are like yeast in bread, and are enmeshed amongst all types of humanity shining there for all the world to see, adding salt to a tasteless world.

The favorite first hymn of the dear Catholics in Wichita is highlighted here, Holy, Holy, Holy.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee

casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,

which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,

though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,

only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,

perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!

All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.

Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hj9No9UfW8

– Elaine@hymnserve.com Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

The Christian Athiest

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

Yes, I was in a tiff.

These things happen in life.  But very soon,  I realized that I was holding on to this perceived indignity and not wanting to give it up.

Ah. . . but then, the next morning was Sunday.   In the sermon the minister mentions the book The Christian Atheist and recommends it.  According to the author, Craig Groeschel, there are people who are Christians but act as atheists…ones who don’t believe the teachings of Jesus.  (I recognize myself there at times.)  We don’t live up to our own standards, and all of us Christians are hypocrites at some time or another.  This causes severe damage to others when they see our failures and they had expected so much more of us.

Lord please help me, help me.  I feel hopelessly unable to drop this resentment.

A Hymn to Help

Then the song came crowding into my mind, “Lord, Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace” by Olive Dungan  That is the prayer of Saint Francis.  I realize the huge block that I have at this time in being any kind of instrument of peace.  So I continued through the words in my mind:

Where there is hatred, let me sow Love,. . .  But I really don’t want to, Lord.

Where there is injury, pardon,. . . I need to pardon. You pardon Me constantly, Jesus.

Where there is doubt, faith,. . . Where is my faith in your Way, Lord?

Where there is distress, hope,. . . Hope.  This needs to be in my thinking.

Where there is darkness, light. . .  It’s heaviness and darkness now.

Where there is sadness, joy,. . . I am sad.

Oh divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console, . . .Yes, Lord, all I am thinking is me me me and my need to be consoled.

To be understood as to understand, . . . It is my ego, my pride, and my desire to control certain things that make me angry.  Shall I now put myself in the other person’s place and try to understand another point of view?  OK.  Think back.  This person is capable of a lot of thoughtful actions — remember? 

To be loved as to love,. . .  Shall I love right now rather than focusing on Me? 

For it is in giving that we receive, . . .  Well, I know that is true.  (I feel my heart softening.)

It is is pardoning that we are pardoned,. . . Oh Yes, important point!

It is in dying that we are BORN to eternal life! . . . Big sigh, uh huh.  

So it was this song that helped so much.  The words of the song served to remind me of what I wanted to say as I confessed my wrongs, along with points from the sermon I heard.  I don’t live up to my own standards, even though I want to.

It is easy to confess my wrongs to God, but what about the person with whom I had the disagreement.  That was surprisingly easy as well, after I had gotten myself turned around.  One couldn’t help but notice the fragile but subdued peace that settled down after my sorrowful confession.  It felt good.

out0123

If you want to listen to the song, there is an absolutely heavenly interpretation of it that I bought on iTunes some time ago sung by Annet Nakamoto.  It is worth far more than the 99 cents, but I don’t know how one would share it on a blog like this.    If you want to listen to a bit of it, the title is “Eternal Life” by Olive Dungan sung by Annet Nakamoto.

http://www.amazon.com/1-Pearls-Sacred-Music-Annet-Nakamoto/dp/B000FTKRYU/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1368110652&sr=1-1

This rendition I can share is excellent and sung by a guest of Diane Bish, the organist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo3mm7jPsLk

By the way, I have now read The Christian Atheist and it is a great read.  It is available on Amazon, but I got it from the public library.  The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist by Craig Groeschel (Author).

– Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

A Day Trip to Duke University

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

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This time I would go with Dan on his day trip from Richmond to Duke University. 

He would do his work and I would spend the day on my own.  So I put my nice big architecture book in the car.  In Durham, North Carolina, the campus has rich Gothic and Colonial examples and I would try to identify types of columns and recognize festoons, pediments and quoins.

It was one of those lovely spring days with brilliant white light all over everything.  Dan got out of the car and went on to find the right building for his meeting.  I just sat in the car with my book and began to study the beautiful building details right in my vision there.  To do something I had been wanting to do for a while…and on this beautiful campus…promised to be a perfect time for me.

Later, I locked up the car and went in search of the Duke University Chapel.  Someone had told me that there was an organ recital at noon every day.  As I turned a corner and arrived at large expanse at the center of the campus, I saw the chapel…   My eye scanned the beautiful gothic edifice up and up until I pinpointed the top of the tower way up there.  Fitting right in with the scene there was a young student sitting on the top of the brick wall playing his guitar and beautiful music was filling the air.  How delightful!  How could this be that I could have such a lovely day as this to break up the busy lives we lived in Richmond!  I was so thankful.

I wouldn’t be able to go in and sit down for the concert, because I had to be on the lookout for Dan since he didn’t know when he would be finished.  So I went up the many steps leading to the entrance door all the time listening to the dear young guitar player.  I hoped to hear the music of the organ, but not sure how.  I cracked the door open and sure enough I could hear that way.  If someone wanted to enter, I could open the door for them.  Standing there in the doorway, I spied an elderly man slowly making his way up the stairs, no doubt coming to hear the music.  Hmm…he has the look of an old  professor, with his tweedy jacket drooping a little on the shoulders, his white hair and beard.  He must come here every day.  As I opened the door for him,  he stopped and his eyes twinkled as they met mine.  “Are you the doorkeeper?” he said.

I smiled and answered, “yes,”  and he went on inside.

As the organist played, I thought, me… a doorkeeper.  Just like the song which says ‘I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of wickedness.’  How true that was for me too.   As I lingered there, I saw two little sparrows fluttering around in the exquisite carvings up on the wall above the door.  The song by Samuel Liddle based on the Psalm 84 was being played out right before my eyes.  How lovely are Thy dwellings, O Lord of Hosts!  (How do the words go?)

“My soul longeth yea fainteth for the house of the Lord.

My heart and my flesh cry out for the living word.

Even the sparrow hath found a house

Where she may lay her young, even Thine altars,

O Lord of Hosts, My strength and my God!”

Do you remember the ‘object lessons’ we had long ago in children’s church?  This felt like a real life object lesson presented that day by God himself.  I felt the glow of it all the way home and was anticipating looking up the entire Psalm to see how many parts of it were illustrated to me that day.

A Hymn to Help

Here is the Psalm:

       How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;  My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.   Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.  

       Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.   As they pass through the Valley of Baka, make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.  Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.  Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.  

       Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

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Members of the Duke family were devout Methodists. Although Duke Chapel is not a Methodist church, above the portal are sculptures of those who helped advance the American Methodist movement.

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– Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.