Tag Archives: composing

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:

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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HymnServe.com – Life and Work

Time spent alone, brought unexpected rewards.hs-home-01

Down inside, I always knew I could do everything–have it all and do it all– if I just worked hard enough and longer than others if necessary.  This served me well enough through high school, then college.  I kept this philosophy after marriage and children.

But then the day came when I began to break down under the load.   The struggle was getting more intense.  Things were difficult at work.  Our boys were having to do too much on their own.  My husband was extremely busy too.  We were both climbing. . .climbing up on our separate poles of life.  Things finally came to a head and I felt that I needed to stop my too busy life.  I would give up my college teaching, my main work for 9 years of the past.  Leaving the bulk of it all behind I knew I was simply ‘going home.’  Back to the home to pay attention to my family and my husband.

It was surprising how the three of them kind of ‘came home’ too when I did.  Somehow there was a core there again, in our home.  This was a whole new page to my life, a very quiet page, and one where I had more time to read the scriptures and pray again.  So I found a listening ear during those quiet times.  It would be an audience of one, Jesus would hear.  Definitely I felt I was ‘put on the shelf.’  There was no need to follow a strict schedule, such a change from before.

Those devotional times became very special.  I would sing the Psalms.  Did you ever do that, just select a Psalm that spoke to you and begin making up a melody and singing it?  With music and teaching as the focus of my up until then, now I began to sit at the piano and sing little melodies and make up the words during my devotions.

One day, I was singing from the scripture the words “my times are in thy hands.”  These are words of comfort and oh how I needed comfort.  This time when I was singing, the most lovely words came out of my mouth.  I had the distinct feeling that I hadn’t formed them myself.  They just came out.  And they were beautiful.  Here they are:

      Consider the lily, does it toil or spin, or strain over clothes and food, Oh father you see even the sparrow that falls, and you know my name too.

 My times are in Thy hands, Lord, My times are in Thy hands, Thou wilt establish my work, Father, My times are in Thy hands.

When I heard the words, I burst into tears and lay my head down on the piano and wept.  The message in the words was a great comfort and I knew it was a gift to me from the Father above for that day and time in my life.  I gave up very meaningful work, but Jesus would establish my work for me now, a great promise for the future.   I said, “Lord, I hope my singing is acceptable to you, because You will be the only one hearing it.”  Then an unusual thing happened.  In my mind I heard immediately a sentence that was dropped there without the usual thought patterns that lead up to the next thought.  It was,  “You are becoming acceptable to me, and you’ll always be singing just for me.”

That was a long time ago, but I have held that in my heart ever since.  There have been various opportunities to sing when other people were around, but always I knew that my real audience was my Father in heaven.  Yes, I know He likes my singing.  He likes it when it is heartfelt and real.  If it pleases him, then everything else falls into place.

My CD was recorded a few years ago.  “There’s a New Song in the Morning” is the name of it and it is made up mainly of songs that I have written.  I never aspired to compose songs and even now I don’t think of myself as a song writer.  No, they were given to me by a loving Father above at a time when I needed them the most.  I intend to live life this way, allowing Him to ‘establish my work’ always, because. . . my times are in His hands.

– Elaine@hymnserve.com

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