Tag Archives: prayer

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.

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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.

Job Interview in Texas

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

The interview for a new assignment went well for my husband Dan.

Now, they want him to come again and bring his wife for a second interview.  This was new territory for me and not a very comfortable one.  He had always done very well on his own with job interviews up until now.  What if I messed it up for him by saying the wrong thing or doing something stupid?

I began to mull over what to wear, how to think about this, and saying, Dear Lord, I need your help.  Very soon the day came when we headed for the airport, suitcases in hand, and were on our way to the second interview.

As we found our seats on the plane and got settled in, there was nothing else to prepare, only get quiet now, sit back, and enjoy the ride.  I was still hesitant about my role in this trip, but I noticed as my mind relaxed that there was a little tune repeating itself there without my taking notice.  What was the song playing about in my head, I thought.  Maybe this song had some significance for me for this moment.  To my great amazement, it was “Go Now in Peace,” the choir’s favorite benediction where I served as organist.

A Hymn to Help

My heart skipped a beat with the realization that my caring Father in heaven was bringing these words to my remembrance to help me now.  So I went over them slowly in my mind, taking a deep breath, closing my eyes and drinking them in.

       Go now in peace…never be afraid

       God will go with you each hour of every day

       Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true

       Know He will guide you in all you do

       Go now in love, and show you believe

       Reach out to others so all the world can see

       God will be there, watching from above

       Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.

       Amen, amen, amen.*

A new peace settled around me at that moment.  Maybe I can do this!  Yes, it gave me confidence for the days ahead.  As it turned out, the whole experience was somewhat effortless and quite enjoyable, supported by the realization that God would go with me and guide me in all that I was to do.

When the time was right and we knew we would be leaving Richmond, Virginia, and going on to Denton, Texas, I shared briefly in the choir room rehearsal before we went in for the service about how their favorite benediction had helped me.   During the weeks ahead, we shed tears, especially me, for I had really become bonded with the people at the church.

When my last Sunday there arrived, I had special satisfaction when I saw the sheet cake with the words “Go Now in Peace” because it meant that they remembered my small sharing moment that day in the choir room.  They also prepared a beautiful framed caligraphy of the words to the song, topped off with a bouquet of red roses on the organ.

The framed caligraphy of the words has hung on our wall ever since, right at our front door, so that everyone who goes from our home can see the words….Go now in peace.

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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.

*by Don Besig

HymnServe.com – Saturday at the White Castle

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com

What a welcome the weekend was. 

We were both exhausted and weary from the past week.  What made us go downtown by the capitol in Richmond so early on a Saturday morning, I don’t remember.  But there we were, having parked and walking around with some welcome free time to do whatever we wanted.   Then we saw the White Castle and said, “Let’s get some breakfast.”

We went in and sat on stools at two of the few counter places in the little cafe.  Nobody else was in there.  An older African American woman took our order.  She has gotten up so early this morning and is running the place by herself, I thought.   As she fried the bacon and carefully put the eggs on the griddle, we sat quietly and watched.

Above the sound of the blower above the griddle, I could faintly hear her humming.  I believe it was a hymn that was very familiar to me.  Whatever it was about the moment, it got my full attention, and she spoke to me a sermon that rivaled any Sunday sermon I ever heard.  It got right into my heart.  I marveled at her peace and contentment at her work.  It pointed up my own attitude so many times about ‘work.‘  It was compared to my lack of enthusiasm about the common everyday tasks of a mother and wife that were part of my life.   As she placed the plates in front of us and we began to eat, I felt humbled by her kind service to me.

That has been years ago now, but it is stamped in the memory, because it made me want to be more like her.  Lord, make me to be more thankful, grateful, content, and kinder in the work that you have given me to do.

– Elaine@hymnserve.com

Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com. Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniment 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.