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