♫ For there is no other way to be happy in Jesusssss, than to trust and obey ♫
The old standard hymns are still burned into my memory, permanently a part of me, ultimately a bit of what I am about. Mention a phrase from one of those hymns and my brain finishes it off.
♫ I surrender all, I surrender all, all to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all ♫
That one brings back memories of marathon last-man-standing altar calls sung with weak knees as our preacher beckoned all to come forward to accept Jesus in baptism, rededicate, join the church. When she wasn’t playing the piano, my mother would be gripping the pew in front of us tightly, praying under her breath something like “please, God, let somebody respond now” and not because she was concerned for lost souls. I surrender all took on a whole different meaning in those moments of survival.
♫ Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood wast shed for me ♫
This one was a favorite of a preacher our church, a small town Restoration movement Christian church, used in the brief tenure he spent in our pulpit. He was a former major league baseball player, saved from the clutches of alcohol, fancied himself a bit of a Billy Sunday, ambitious to the point of excess. Our church grew in number quickly during the time he spent at our church. I heard a lot of old time revival style preaching then, not only delivered by Pastor Prevatt, but also by the likes of the many revival preachers he brought in. I was baptized during one of those revivals, a night when a large man named Raldo Cook who had obviously participated in many potluck dinners delivered a sermon about coming to the feast, complete with a freshly cooked banquet meal laid out across a large table at the front of the church ‘sanctuary’ (I hate the term ‘sanctuary’ to this day). We sang ‘Just As I Am’ so many times during that period of our church, my early teen years, that my brain still goes numb when I think about the hymn.
Our quiet central Illinois farm town church experienced a bit of Bible belt leadership in those days. We even had a thirty minute television show each week called “Get All Excited”. I was on the show a few times, lending my musical skills on my trumpet as well as singing while my mother played her country honky tonk style piano (I still love hearing her play). One time I sang ‘I Wish We’d All Been Ready’ with the youth choir. Pastor Prevatt could pound a softball. Our church softball team was the talk of the county.
I could go on. Those old hymns hold dear memories for me. In a way, they were a way to place the gospel on my heart. No wonder God instructed us to teach our children, put his word in our hearts. The Jews of old carried the word of God on their person, called phylacteries, scriptures placed in small leather bags or boxes to be carried on their arm or forehead by a leather cord. God knows the way he put us together and knows that we need to memorize, to put his word in our heart, and carry that reminder there for when we really need him. That is a cool thought to me, not a scary one. Those hymns, no matter what memories may be attached to them, are the comfort and reminder to me that I often need. When those hymns come to mind, I remember Whose I am, where my heart lives.
And I remember my roots. I need that. So many stories, so many memories tied to those years growing up in that small town, in that traditional yet very alive church.
Thanks, Ned, for unwittingly providing the inspiration for today’s blog. Keep wearing your Neo black.