Monthly Archives: May 2013

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.

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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.

– 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.