Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

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.

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 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.

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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.

HymnServe.com – That Day, 9-11

That day, 9-11, we drove to Columbus for one of Dan’s meetings.

As President of University of Toledo, he had to go to Columbus periodically to meet with the other state presidents in Ohio.  I was to drop him off and then do my own thing.  I was out at the parking meter, preparing to get in the car and drive away from the building he had entered for his meeting when the cell phone rang.  It was our son who called and said, “Have you heard?”  No, because we had traveled from Toledo to Columbus without the radio on.

He said, “We are at war!”

So I just walked to the nearest place where I could see a TV–a hotel lobby where a little group of people were gathered to watch.  It wasn’t long before Dan and all the others came back down without continuing the meeting and headed back to Toledo to deal with any campus issues that might threaten.

The 2nd morning after 9-11, there was an all campus memorial gathering outdoors for students and any and everyone who wanted to come.  As I parked and walked toward the large quad in the middle of the campus, I began to hear choral music wafting out over the sunshiny air.

A Hymn to Help

The music was breathtaking, and as I got closer the scene became surreal.  So many people had quietly gathered, but the University’s male chorus was truly inspired in singing an ancient modal hymn that had been selected by the director.  I thought I knew almost any hymn they could have sung, but not this one.

God be in my head…and in my understanding,

God be in mine eyes…and in my looking,

God be in my mouth…and in my speaking,

God be in my heart…and in my thinking,

God be at mine end…and in my departing.

If ever there was a moment when God’s Spirit settled down on a place, this was one of them.  I will never forget it.

Since that time, I have gone back periodically to listen to this hymn and learn it myself.  If you want to hear it as sung by Kings College, Cambridge, you can use this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qif2rfBmcTA

As a postscript to this story, it was the students of the University that held the day.  Administrators and faculty spoke during the convocation.  Then, the student body president and vice president came to the podium together to represent the students of the University.  They who had never experienced an attack by a foreign power on our homeland were crushed and frightened.

So the student body president, a devout young Catholic student, began his remarks.  Half way through he broke down so that he couldn’t continue.  The lovely young woman vice president began without a break to read his script for him.  Then when he regained his composure he began again.

He said, “I asked her beforehand to take over for me if I couldn’t finish.”  So he ended his speech.

Toledo has a high Arab population as does Detroit which is only over the border into Michigan from us.  When it came time for the Muslim student association president to make remarks, I could feel the tension rise in my own heart.  What would he say?  Would it be right?  He was a wonderfully handsome young student, and by the time he finished, he had said exactly all the things that I would have wanted him to say.

But here is the heart stopper.  Halfway through his speaking, the student body president stepped up beside him, put his hands on each of his shoulders and stood there until he finished the speech.  It signaled to all of us such an eloquent moment,. . . we are united, and we are standing together in this time of crisis.

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– Elaine@hymnserve.com

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

 

HymnServe.com – Grandma’s Singing

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

Grandma Burry would really sing. photo

During hymn singing at church, I can still hear her voice.   She participated wholeheartedly, not especially loud though, and sometimes her hand would move up and down in rhythm to the music and she might bounce a little up and down.  I can’t say her style was “Cool.”   No it was unpolished, unpretentious, unselfconscious,…..and sincere…real worship to her Lord and Savior.  Her singing is now a lovely memory for me.

She almost always had an apron on at home.  And she would sing and hum while she was working.  These songs undoubtedly strengthened her.  You see, she had been a widow with 7 children to raise alone and ran a restaurant in a tiny crossroads of a town in order to make enough to get by.

A Hymn to Help

Now as a grandmother myself, I can remember Grandma’s favorite hymn.  As I peruse the words and put myself into her mind, I can see why she loved it.  Contained in it was a lesson for all of us, her children, grandchildren and everyone else.   ‘Ere you left your room this morning, Did you think to pray? In the name of Christ our Savior, Did you sue for loving favor, As a shield today? 

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

When you met with great temptation
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

When your heart was filled with anger
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

When sore trials came upon you
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So when life seems dark and dreary
Don’t forget to pray.

– Elaine@hymnserve.com

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