Tag Archives: ” Wednesday night prayer meeting

Seeing with my ears

It’s mid-week at Jackson’s Journal, time for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Galileo Galilei and Leonardo DaVinci saw the abstract. Their minds and eyes saw three- and even four-dimensionally. I look at a house and I see the walls, the roof, the doors. Good old Leo looked at a house and saw those, too, but the walls, roof and doors was a transparent skin. Just look at his sketches. Same for Galileo. They both saw the studs, framing, cross beams – I can’t even think of all the segments and details that carpenters and architects design and build.

But G. Leo and Leo D. saw the design, each detail and processed the image in both the abstract and the concrete.

I so envy people who have that ability. I worked some years ago (briefly) as a surveyor’s apprentice. First of all, the guy was a math whiz, measured the azimuth of angles and saw much of the physical world with a Galileo/DaVinci mind.

So where’s all this going?

I’ve been gifted with the ability to hear – even smell – three-dimensionally. Yeah, I said “smell.” I can’t explain it, but many smells come to me as multiple parts, perhaps molecules, but aromas and odors also trigger vivid memories. One of my most annoying habits (if you’d ask Kelly) is that I often smell my food. I don’t just mean sniffing the air or taking a deep breath to draw in the fragrance of life around me. I mean slicing a piece of meat or digging a fork into green beans, lifting the morsel to my snout and smelling. Not every bite, not every morsel, but often enough that it borders on weird. It’s hard to explain.

My hearing, which Kelly claims is deficient when discerning the spoken human voice, is multi-dimensional. I hear harmonies all around. A couple of mornings  ago a redbird in the backyard was confidently singing and a trash truck a couple of blocks away must have been backing up, based on the “beep, beep” that sounded a perfect G to the redbird’s C. Without thinking, I found myself humming the E and then the low C.

A “C” chord.

Our youngest, Natasha, has this same gift. (Maybe part curse and blessing. It keeps my head full and occupied). Natasha and I often harmonize with very random sounds: the hum of a moving elevator, the “ding” of the elevator when it reaches the desired floor, just about anything mechanical. The weird thing is that we’ll add the appropriate notes simultaneously, without cue.

I don’t just hear a note or a sound. I hear a symphony. But I’m not equally gifted with the ability to put those sounds on paper.

You’re still asking, “Where’s all this going?”

In my earliest memories of sacred hymns, prayer meeting music (which was often a cappella) and instrumental music, I can’t remember not hearing and “seeing” every note and chord with my ears. Dad had a deep, resonating bass voice and incredible range. Mom had an operatic soprano voice. I think I was 9 or 10 and singing either bass or tenor (sometimes alto) without knowing it.

It’s what I hear. It’s really pretty cool.

I’ll bet Galileo and DaVinci would have envied me.

Here’s our Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting music. This is the Gaither Vocal Band, featuring David Phelps, singing “Worthy Is Your Name.”

A string quarter provides accompaniment. Very sweet. If you’re familiar with David Phelps, you’ll wonder – as I did – why he’s is such a low register. But keep listening.

I dare you not to stand or raise a hand to heaven at the 2:58 mark. Dude goes an octave higher. Very sweet.

I love searching YouTube for performances of my favorite hymns. I seem to always find a hidden gem. I’ve never heard of The Hastings College Choir and I’m stunned this video has barely over 13,000 views.

Beneath the Cross of Jesus features impeccable harmony and you’ll appreciate this performance even more if you’re a stickler for technical elements. You’ve just got to listen.

Finally, no harmony here, just a simple singer, Don Francisco, and simple lyrics. The selected photos are perfect. Make sure you’re volume is up. Prepare your heart for conviction.

Steeple Song is one of the most unique songs you’ll hear.

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Filed under Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

Unexpected moments of Light

It’s time for “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” when Jackson’s Journal undertakes a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

I’ve been asked to speak and sing “The Lord’s Prayer” at a memorial service for one of Kelly’s cousins, Delena Sholler, on April 21 in the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church in Belle. The location alone sends an unexpected wave of emotion through me, something I’ll explain at a later time, under different circumstances. Delena was living in Texas; I barely knew her. But my “adopted” in-law family called on me, as they often have, to memorialize and celebrate her life.

Delena’s parents are John and Nina Tynes of Union. Kelly, Kishia and our new granddaughter Kianna were planning to visit Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nina today. They are Kianna’s Great-Great-Great Uncle and Aunt. And they are two of my favorite people. Uncle Johnny “gave Kelly away” at our wedding; I recently found a gospel song that Nina wrote and I arranged several years ago.

Remembering that shared history has given me a smile and also brought to mind Nina telling the most spine-tingling ghost stories I’ve ever heard. When I mentioned that to Kelly the other day, she held out her hand to stop me. “Nope, nope,” Kelly said, waving me off and shaking her head. I imagined that just the thought of Nina’s gift of vivid narration sent goosebumps pulsing up Kelly’s arms.

Nina and her sister, Neva, have seen their other three siblings enter eternity: Leroy Guinn, perhaps the most influential man during my early teen years; Nora Wallace, whom I was with when she breathed her last; and dear, sweet Grandma – Nola McDaniel – whom a dozen of us surrounded and serenaded into Heaven with quiet, sacred hymns just three and a half months ago.

Unexpected moments of Light. That’s what I’ve experience time and again with Kelly’s side of the family probably more than my own. The last words I’d use to describe that clan – especially the distant, great-great kinfolk – are pretentious and artificial. These folks are as real as they come. A loose cannon like me fits snugly into the fold.

I’m going to follow this theme of unexpected moments of Light for a few weeks. Last week there was no “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” at Jackson’s Journal, the first time we’ve missed in three months. I’ve shed the legalistic view that “going to church,” even in the virtual world of The Journal, is mandatory for keeping a place at the grown-up table in Heaven. What isn’t acceptable, though, is just going through the motions when it comes to worship and examining my heart, but I’m a pretty good motion-goer-througher. I think I’ve mentioned before I learned from the best.

But you know one of the incredibly cool things about God? It’s as if He decides, “I’m gonna rock your going through the motions routine – when you least expect it.”

That’s called Grace.

So here I was, searching for guitar chords for “The Lord’s Prayer,” and thinking that I’d find something on YouTube, say “here’s what I’ve got for us for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” and then we’d have a quick prayer and walk one block down the street (in Belle, Mo.) to Cecil’s for a frozen dairy treat.

What I found was The Martins singing their own version of The Lord’s Prayer. I clicked. I simply wanted to listen, grab the link, slap it on this page, say “Amen” and get on with setting my lineups for the too-many fantasy baseball teams that I’ve drafted. But wow, what a version. I love, love, love The Martins.

Instead, I went next to In the Presence of Jehovah, another Martins song.

An unexpected moment of Light. If this doesn’t launch you into full-fledged worship mode, then you haven’t got a pulse. This past Sunday Natasha texted me to say, “Visiting a church and a lady is singing ‘In the Presence of Jehovah’ for special music. Thinking of you.”

God was rocking the complacency that I’d allowed to creep in to my heart.

Finally, in observance of Lent and in preparation for Palm Sunday (Kianna is being dedicated) and then Resurrection Day (we also call it Easter) I offer what might be an overwhelming experience. An a cappella rendition of O Sacred Head (one of the more challenging bass lines there is), set to video from The Passion of the Christ.

Granted, this is a long blog entry. (Broke my own rule). And it will take 12 minutes or longer to hear all the songs – and the scenes in the video are unbearably graphic. The thoughts and emotions from this post’s music weren’t what you expected when you started reading.

But I’ll bet you, too, experienced unexpected moments of Light. You’ll let me know, right? 

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

“Then Sings My Soul …”

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Sometimes, the best sermons were the ones that didn’t happen. Often as the pastor a small church (I pastored three of them) I doubled as the music minister. (“Music minister” is fancy for “song leader.”) More than a few times when the music was just right and the harmony was so “on,” we might just skip the preachin’ part and sing a few more hymns.

One time Mt. Zion Baptist Church had a weekend (three-day) “singing revival.” I invited a different guest speaker for each night and told him he’d have 10 minutes to preach, but just about as long as he wanted for singing. And it just so happened that the preachers I invited had wives and/or families with incredible musical talent. At Beulah Baptist Church, once or twice a year we’d have a Sunday afternoon hymn sing following a carry-in lunch. I invited an entire Mennonite congregation from Chamois to join us once for an all a cappella hymn sing.

The memory still makes my arms get all goose-bumpy. Mmmmm! Good stuff!

Yesterday’s post was a birthday greeting to our youngest daughter, Natasha. One of the songs I mentioned in my stream of consciousness was How Great Is Our God. It’s a song that seems to touch us both very deeply and in a way it’s our father-daughter spiritual song. I also mentioned that Natasha has been to Cameroon (Africa) and Fiji. Our oldest, Kishia, has also been to Africa (Ghana), and both girls have made mission trips to Mexico.

When your daughter is in Africa, you don’t really relax.

A few years ago when Natasha was in Cameroon, Kelly and I were out doing some shopping when my cell phone rang, and it was Natasha calling from 6,000 miles away. She couldn’t wait to get home to tell me: she’d learned to play guitar. Then she told me to listen — and she played How Great Is Our God.

Worship doesn’t always need preachin’. I stood in Wal-Mart listening on my cell phone as Natasha sang from two continents away. It was easily one of the most meaningful worship experiences of my life.

So take a few minutes, click the link here and worship with Hillsong and Darlene Zschech as they lead How Great Is Our God.

Some arrangements of that newer classic incorporate part of the old classic How Great Thou Art. I couldn’t find anything on the web that satisfactorily combined those songs, but I did find this slightly new, barbershop arrangement of How Great Thou Art. (Goosebump alert).

Finally, the best song services of yesteryear were the ones where the music minister asked for congregation favorites. So I’m taking requests for future Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings.

What’s your favorite hymn(s) or praise and worship chorus?

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Touched by an angel

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

I was once touched by an angel. It was June 11, 2004.

Did I lose you there? Let me back up a bit.

Some might say that I take the biggest risk of the week on Wednesday with Jackson’s Journal. I’m aware that Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting doesn’t appeal to everyone, although I usually do keep it “safe” with mostly nostalgic reminisces of my youth. Today will be different — much “heavier,” spiritually speaking. No tongue-in-cheek, eye-rolling descriptions of the parts of my faith journey that I now cling to.

Last Wednesday’s post, “Mountain-top moments,” was written with today’s post in mind. I’ve had mountain-top spiritual moments. And whatever the opposite of that is … I’ve been there, too. Back in March 2004 as I battled a period of extreme spiritual darkness, a friend suggested a very odd thing: Write myself a letter from God.

And so I sat on a chilly, wind-blown hill in the middle of nowhere, just minutes before sunset, with pen and paper in hand. What would God say to me?

“I love you.

You are My child.

Just let Me love you.

Nothing is too big for Me.

Just let Me love you.

You are My child.

I love you.”

I wrote those words as effortlessly as anything I’d ever written, as if moved by a force ‑ a presence ‑ much greater than myself. I shared that letter with no one.

Three months later, June 11, 2004, I was at the Crossover Christian Musical Festival at StoneRidge Amphitheater in Camdenton. With Sonic Flood singing “Here I Am to Worship,” scores of people transformed the front of the stage into an altar. The music continued, prayers were uttered, tears fell. But I felt like the only one hearing the song, with a silent, slow-motion sea of people around me.

And then someone touched my left shoulder.

I glanced behind me to see a young, short but stocky, 20-something man. His hand squeezed my shoulder. My ears were just inches from a booming speaker, yet the man’s soft, gentle voice was clear.

“I have a word from the Lord,” he said.

He spoke:

“I love you.

You are My child.

Just let Me love you.

Nothing is too big for Me.

Just let Me love you.

You are My child.

I love you.”

His hand slipped off my shoulder and I immediately turned around.

He was gone.

Take my hand now as we form a circle of grace. We’ll linger here a bit, overwhelmed by grace, as we listen to Here I Am to Worship. With apologies to Sonic Flood, this is Hillsong and Darlene Zschech performing.

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Mountain-top moments

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Are you sitting down? You might want to.

I’ll wait.

I’m actually an ordained Southern Baptist minister.

I’ll wait for you to pick yourself up off the floor. I told you it might be best to sit for that news.

Although I haven’t “practiced” my pulpit skills for more than 10 years now, I do try to practice my faith in home, work and play, because that’s who I am even though I no longer tread the pastoral waters.

I’ve been wondering what the 2012 Jodie would say to the 2001 fire-and-brimstone Jodie. Probably something like, “Wow, you talked a lot about grace. Ever try showing any?”

My sister, Kathy, and I “played house” when we were little tykes, and I’ve used that experience as an analogy when I’ve seen city councils, school boards and other official entities just kind of go through the motions when it’s painfully obvious they’re clueless. I’ve seen numerous public bodies “play” board of aldermen or board of education or even State Senate and House of Representatives.

And not only have I witnessed people “play church,” I’ve perfected that charade myself. I know what it is to go through the motions, to sing the hymns, to say the prayers, to give the right answers to Bible study questions and to give the appearance of a fine little Christian Baptist. I learned by example. My first pastor — my father — taught me the importance of image.

On the other hand, I’ve been to the mountain top, spiritually speaking. I’ve personally learned and experienced the reality — not just the doctrine — of grace, and I think I know when my beliefs and faith are real and when they are just empty motions and emotions.

I’ve had some Hank Busche moments. Hank is the fictional pastor of the Ashton Community Church, a seemingly insignificant and divided group of believers at the epicenter of Frank Peretti’s 1986  novel, “This Present Darkness.” The book begins with two very tall visitors — both seven feet tall — entering the town of Ashton. Eventually they come to the church where Pastor Busche is kneeling in prayer. Alone.

It’s quickly evident that the visitors are angels and the description of sulfur-breathing, demonic beasts unsuccessfully trying to enter the church is vivid and inspiring. The two visitors enter, locate Hank Busche and watch and listen to his heart-rending prayer. As they stand over the kneeling prayer warrior, the room fills with white light that reveals floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall angels, while sentries with flaming swords stood outside.

From “This Present Darkness”

“And now the two men were brilliantly white, their former clothing transfigured by garments that seemed to burn with intensity. Their faces were bronzed and glowing, their eyes shone like fire, and each man wore a glistening golden belt from which hung a flashing sword. They placed their hands upon the shoulders of the young man and then, like a gracefully spreading canopy, silken, shimmering, nearly transparent membranes began to unfurl from their backs and shoulders and rise to meet and overlap above their heads, gently undulating in a spiritual wind.

Together they ministered peace to their young charge, and his many tears began to subside.”

I love the picture those words paint. The story is fiction, but the description of angels comforting and protecting a prayer warrior is one I’m sure I would have witnessed many times throughout my life had my eyes been able to see the spiritual, angelic realm. Over time I’ll tell you about some of the prayer warriors I’ve known and some that I’ve created, including Edna Mae Ferguson, the spiritual matriarch of Faithful Servants Assembly. It’s the little church in my fictional town of Silverdale, Kentucky, the setting for Chasing The Devil. With apologies to Peretti, Devil shares a few similarities with This Present Darkness, although the angels are unseen.

Now, let’s do this right, and end with a couple of songs.

Victory In Jesus  a la Gaither Homecoming crowd. I gotta tell you, I love classic rock, I love anything a cappella, and I love 70s and 80s pop (apparently I stopped listening to “modern” music around 1988). But THIS is my kind of music. Try not to be put off by the sheer “whiteness” of the Gaither crowd and if watching Bill Gaither sing makes you chuckle (although I don’t think he’s in this video), keep this in mind: if you’ve ever been part of a group (writers, singers, cupcake-bakers, whatever) and knew everyone else was far more talented, but you loved it anyway, well … that’s sort of Bill Gaither. It’s kind of like being on the B team and suddenly the A team asks you to suit up.

I’m a Bill Gaither fan, what can I say? Besides, he’s written some of the all-time classics.

And now a sacred rendition of the sacred classic, Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone),  live performance by Chris Tomlin. (Make sure your volume is turned up).

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Filed under Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

Cave song

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

A memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey, centered on but not always about Wednesday night prayer meetings of my childhood and teen years.

 

Caves have impeccable acoustics.

There’s a cave at Windermere Baptist Conference Center near Lake of the Ozarks. In September 1981, a group I was with from the Baptist Student Union in Warrensburg left a late Saturday night worship service as part of a weekend youth conference. Instead of heading back to our cabins – men and women had separate quarters, of course – we instead hung out on the grounds, somehow staying in the shadows and avoiding the slow, sweeping beam of a night watchman’s flashlight.

We were under direct orders – both from conference staff and our BSU director – that anyone not in bed with lights out at the stroke of midnight wouldn’t be allowed on future trips.

There were other, non-specific consequences, the type that 18- and 19-year-old Baptists flatly ignored.

There were about 15 in the group I was in, so we must have felt braver en masse. Just after midnight we dashed from the cover of a shadow into the cave. I wouldn’t say I was the ring-leader, but I was in front with one of our two flashlights. Someone in the back had the other flashlight.

I don’t remember the cave having much length, and as I recall it had a shallow spring that seeped from under a dead-end wall. When we reached that point, I switched off my flashlight. The girls screamed. (And probably some of the guys, too). Then the flashlight in the back went off.

I started the praise chorus, “Alleluia.” That was the first verse. Just “alleluia,” sung to very simple, harmonious chords. Second verse was “I will praise him, repeated eight times, following the same simple chords. Third verse was “He’s my Savior.”

Back in Warrensburg, I’d auditioned and was selected for “Testimony,” the BSU’s touring music group. I never was sure whether to sing bass or tenor – or just carry the melody. One of my group-mates, Elaine Black, had one of the most effortless soprano voices I’ve ever heard. She was somewhere in the group of singing Christian rebels that bathed the limestone cave walls and ceiling with rich harmony.

Gently powerful.

We finished the song, I think someone probably prayed – we’d have lost our Baptist cards if someone hadn’t prayed – and just as I flipped my flashlight back on, the applause of one person approached from the entrance.

The night watchman.

As he wiped tears from his eyes, he whispered, “You kids get to your bunks.” He thanked each of us as we walked past him, following his quiet order.

“Testimony” was a musical experience I had from the fall of 1981 to the spring of 1982, maybe eight or nine months. We sang in all corners of the state, visited every group member’s home church (mine was Faith Baptist in Belle, Mo.), and sang at every nursing home or veterans home in the western half of the state.

My hands-down, favorite piece we sang was a chorale, “Jesus My Lord, My Life, My All”  — a capella, of course. It was the most challenging piece in our repertoire, so naturally we worked on it the most. And we performed it exceptionally well. I loved the bass line and even though I haven’t sung that song in almost 30 years, the memory is crystal clear. We had quite a few upbeat songs and my group-mates teased me – kind-heartedly, of course – about my preference for more sacred, slower pieces, such as “Jesus My Lord …”

We sang at a nursing home – in Clinton, I think – and the scene, as it is in most nursing homes, was just sad and depressing. That particular performance was especially uncomfortable and awkward. You could say we just weren’t “feelin’ it.”

That changed when we sang “Jesus My Lord, My Life, My All.” As we sang the final measures, one old woman with a walker slowly made her way to the front. She stood in front of us, stepped away from her walker, and motioned to our director, Jon, to have all 10 of us kneel in a circle. In complete silence, she shuffled from person to person, placing her hands on each of our heads. Jon said she was praying. I didn’t hear it.

But I could feel it.

So I leave you with a treasure I found early this morning on YouTube: Jesus My Lord, My Life, My All.

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Filed under Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

A three-piece suit and wavy hair

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8 … Kianna, please don’t be late. 7, 6, 5, 4 … Four more days — and no more?

Kishia and Darnell so carefully planned our first grandbaby’s addition into their lives, timing this grand event to meet career, school and financial goals. With that regard, it’s “mission accomplished.” In more than one way, increasing the size of the Brown family was practically scripted.

Until now.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Kianna might not be following the script. She’s due on Sunday – four days from now. She’s in position, mom-to-be Kishia is beyond ready to be un-pregnant, and daddy Darnell needs his daughter to keep him company in that rocker.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

October 1981: Vocalist Jodie, organist Mrs. Irene Grossenheider.

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider was old even to the old people at Faith Baptist Church in Belle, Mo., when I was in high school. She taught piano to hundreds and multiple generations of children. And as the church organist, she knew only one tempo: Hers.

On the rare occasion that I was the worship service song leader, I followed her, even though I used one arm to “conduct” and keep the beat, matching my arm and hand motions to the meter of the song. Mrs. Grossenheider told me she appreciated the way I led, but I think she mostly appreciated that I was really matching my arm movement to her organ-playing.

It was her beat – possibly multiple beats, especially if the hymn was written with a 6/8 time signature. She’d speed up, she’d slow down. She was in command. My youngest sis, Kathy, and I still share a chuckle about Mrs. Grossenheider’s style. It’s not a disrespectful chuckle, but something we remember with incredible fondness. And when you added my mother to the mix, the musical dynamics really ramped up – and not in the hymn notations.

Mom is a classical-trained vocalist and director. SHE would determine the beat and meter. Mix that attention to technical detail with an elderly organist who thought that SHE was setting the beat, and what resulted was Mom practically stomping a foot, looking Mrs. Grossenheider’s way to signal, “Follow ME.” But Mrs. Grossenheider followed herself. Where there was no retard (pronounced “ruh-tard,” meaning slowing or slackening in tempo), Mrs. Grossenheider threw one in, typically in the last few measures of the last stanza.

Those memories and nostalgic laughter came rushing back recently when I found a photo of me with Mrs. Grossenheider. Sure, my three-piece suit and permed hair are worth a laugh, but often it’s what we see on the periphery that gives any scene the most context. The photo shows the attendance and hymn boards. See? Proof of what I’ve said a few times in Jackson’s Journal about Sunday night attendance dropping off dramatically from Sunday morning. The Wednesday night crowd was even smaller.

Then my eye caught the board listing the hymns. I knew that hymn 41 was “To God be the Glory.” I’ll know that forever in the same way I’ll never forget the words to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song; the same way that “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme sometimes randomly turns on in my head. I pulled my Baptist Hymnal off the shelf to see the other hymns, and it was only fitting that hymn No. 434, “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” has a 6/8 time signature. I suddenly heard Mrs. Grossenheider play the final line of the chorus: “Wonderful is His name,” (slower) “We gladly serve Him,” (even slower) “His great” (verrrry slow) “love proclaim.”

I’m laughing, but please don’t misinterpret my emotion. I’m not poking fun, no more than I was making fun last Wednesday when I recounted Brother Keithley’s drawn-out prayer-starter, “Our Heavenly Father …” The hymns, the prayers, the strong if not rigid examples of faith and practice set by the elderly men and women helped keep me grounded. I am eternally grateful.

When I was 16, 17 years old, few parts of my life were predictable, but I found reliable structure inside the walls of Faith Baptist Church. Mrs. Grossenheider’s organ-playing and Bro. Keithley’s prayers were constant, consistent and predictable. I mean that in the most positive way possible.

Incidentally, the other hymns listed were #330, “Teach Me to Pray,” and #232, “I Am Praying For You.”

I had no idea why I had a picture taken with Mrs. Grossenheider until I turned the photo over to place it on the scanner. This is what’s written on the back:

“To Jodie who sang beautifully

Toleda and Terry Jett’s wedding

Oct. 25, 1981

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider, organist

Miss Kathy Jackson, pianist”

Sorry, but I have no recollection of singing or what I sang. I’m even more baffled that I sang at all, considering my sister was the pianist. She was Toleda (Backues) Jett’s classmate and her vocal skills were far superior to mine. But I was asked to sing?

Here’s our music for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting: an oldie and a more contemporary tune. “To God be the Glory” and Michael W. Smith’s “Agnus Dei.” The latter is a 10-minute video. Even a Southern Baptist might find himself raising his hands by about the three-minute mark.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #33

I haven’t been on my “A” game this week. Gee, I can’t think of anything that would steal my focus and keep me kinda anxious.

Oh, yeah: You.

Your Grammy said last night, “I can’t wait to see her little face!” Kianna, you have already brought infinite joy to your parents and grandparents.

Now hurry up and get here. Grandpa’s got some spoiling to do.

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Filed under Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

“And bless this service we’re about to endure”

Countdown to Kianna

Darnell and Kishia (Jackson) Brown’s tiny little human girl is due to arrive in 15, 14, 13, 12 … 11 days.

New mom Kishia reported yesterday that Kianna Allene Brown has run out of room to stretch. But, my daughter told me, “It’s not happening today. I just don’t ‘feel it.’ ”

So the countdown continues …

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

Have you ever known a prayer warrior? You know, the kind of spiritual giant who seemed to have a gift of prayer? My lifetime list of prayer warriors is headed by spiritual giants who were women, usually older and sometimes frail. I’m thinking of Faith Baptist Church prayer warriors Mary Peters, Viola Terwilliger and Jewel Smith. I’m not sure it’s right to think this way, but when they prayed, God shushed the heavenly host, leaned with his ear toward the prayer warrior, and listened a little more closely.

My mom has described her mother that way, and I count my mom, my wife and my daughters as prayer warriors. They have unleashed Light during the times when my life was most dark.

I’m thinking of Jewel Smith, wife of Virgil, both of them long since entered into Gloryland. One of the tasks of a preacher was to call on someone to pray to open the service, to bless the offering, to end the service. (The Manual of Proper Baptist Etiquette called for a minimum of three prayers). Sometimes the Sunday morning bulletin had those prayer duties already assigned, which inevitably led to awkward silence when the designated pray-er played hooky from church.

Hold on … sorry. We’ve gone too far in without a song. What was I thinking?

First up is a contemporary worship song, Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise.” (For reasons I can’t explain, I sing “I Will Rise” to Bella, our Brussels griffon, when I give her a bath. The song lasts just long enough for a little dog’s bath).

Now for an oldie, an incredible arrangement of “At the Cross,” performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Amen.

Wednesday night prayer meeting was different. There was no quota of prayers, but instead a “season of prayer,” where anyone who wanted to pray would simply take one person’s “Amen” as a cue to begin the next prayer. (Everybody knows I’m kidding about the Manual that I mentioned, right?) And there was no set lineup, as it were, for the many prayers that would be said, some with Shakespeare-esque quality and a liberal application of thees, thines and thous, and Brother Rufus Keathley’s legendary prayer starter, “Our Heavenly Father,” drawn out in a way that said, “There’s about to be some serious prayin’ so stop what you’re doing and pay attention.”

As I remember, you had to pay attention longer than at any other time when Bro. Keathley prayed. (What I would give to hear one of those prayers now.)

Sometimes the pastor got the round of prayers going; at other times he’d call on someone. If you were keeping track — and I always was, apparently, because I remember this stuff 40 years later — everyone knew that Virgil Smith didn’t pray out loud very often. If he was called on to pray, with something like, “Brother Virgil, would you please open us in prayer?,” he’d quietly clear his throat and say, “Jewel.”

And Jewel Smith didn’t pray gentle, little old lady prayers. Her prayers often had a storm-the-gates-of-hell edge to them, as if demons and angels were sparring at that very moment.

You never knew how someone would react when they were called on to pray. After all, you might catch them off guard, as if they’re expecting to bat clean-up or hit ninth, but suddenly they’re told, “You’re leading off.”

From 1987 to 1991 I was pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Gasconade County. Ours was a small congregation – 25 was a crowd — and it’s the church where everyone except my bride Kelly brought beanie-weanies for a carry-in dinner one Sunday.

Some things you never forget.

Rosemary Howard was one of those people you never forget. Quiet, unassuming, dutifully doting on her husband, Daniel, and son, Dale. She didn’t look like a prayer warrior and had an otherwise passive demeanor. But, man, could she pray!

But she rarely led off. One Sunday morning as we prepared to begin worship, I requested that Sister Rosemary open in prayer. The look on her face, though, relayed complete bewilderment. I’d caught her off-guard. She took a breath and quickly uttered: “Lord, please bless this service we’re about to endure. Amen.”

Endure?

After the service I kidded her about her choice of words, and she didn’t realize what she’d said. It was a sweet moment … One of those moments you never forget.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #26

The time is getting so close, Little Princess. I should probably be using this time to tell you a little bit about the people you’re going to meet. What? You want to know a little about Grandpa? Well …

I’m sort of weird. Sometimes. For instance, I’m a really picky eater, and I often smell my food before eating it. I mean up-close smell. Grab a cupcake from co-worker Catherine Martin. Smell it. Pour a bowl of cereal. Smell it. Mmmm! French fries! Smell ’em.

Yeah, weird.

I am also known to laugh out loud at the most random moments, sometimes in non-laughing circumstances. Maybe I’ll remember a “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy” as I’m going through the check-out at the grocery store, and I’ll laugh. And not just a little bit or a little chuckle. I might lose it.

What do you know? I’m laughing now. I’m just so excited, so happy. So anxious to see you.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

Vibrating pews and big-headed donkey angels

Countdown to Kianna: Twenty-one, 20, 19, 18 days … until delivery. Kelly told me tonight, “You know, Kianna won’t be born on the due date.” (That’s Feb. 19). And she’s probably right. I don’t think the countdown will get to “Minus 1.” If she takes after her mom and Grammy, she’ll be a little bit early. They are beyond punctual. On the other hand, I’m perpetually a little bit late.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

It’s Wednesday, which means “prayer meetin’,” but I’m actually mining golden memories for this post from Sunday night services.

First, let’s get started with a couple of songs. From the old Broadman hymnal we have “Lead Me Gently Home,” as sung by a Ugandan choir. They have such a great time singing this and it’s such a happy presentation. I laughed and sang along.

That was our oldie. Our modern worship tune for the day is Darlene Zschech singing “Worthy Is The Lamb.”  As always, even the Baptists with us today should feel free to raise their hands.

Now …

There’s some disagreement about the details – and I expect my mother might chime in after she reads this – but when I was 4 or 5 years old, I got left at church on a Sunday night. In my version, I was left for hours and woke up in pitch black darkness, terrified and alone. In my mom’s version – let me see if I can get this right – she thought I’d gone home with Dad (the pastor), but Dad knew I had stayed behind with Mom (the choir/music director) while Mom led youth choir practice.

We’ll come back to this long-running debate over who left me, how long I was left, and whether the trauma was responsible for me still having – to this very day – the heebie-jeebies inside a dark, empty church.

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Filed under Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

Singing all four verses … a capella

Time for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, but first a reminder that the Countdown to Kianna is at day 25. I’ll have a word for my first granddaughter in a few minutes. For now, it’s time to revisit one of the antiques in my storehouse of memories: Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.

I’ve mentioned previously that I developed somewhat of a fondness for Sunday night and Wednesday night church services — or at least I have fond memories. Those services were typically less structured, less rigid and not as formal as the Sunday morning service. We had printed bulletins on Sunday morning that listed which hymns to sing, who was “bringing the special,” and who was preaching, reading scripture and things like that.

But often on Sunday night and always on Wednesday night, the hymns weren’t pre-selected and listed. The music leader would ask for requests. The older folks naturally requested older hymns and, on the off-chance that the pianist wasn’t familiar with the song, we’d sing it a capella, assuming that at least one or two folks knew it well enough to get it started. Remarkably, those non-instrument numbers were typically on-key.

I think that’s where I learned to love dozens of old hymns. By the time I reached my mid-teens, I occasionally had the opportunity to lead the singing on a Sunday or Wednesday night. I preferred an a capella approach and was even known to break one of the oldest, unwritten rules of Baptistdom: Sing the first, second and last verse of the hymn. I’d say, “All four (or five) verses.”

I was a rebel even then. All four verses; no piano.

So we’ll wrap up Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting with a hymn — a capella, of course — and a more modern tune.

Sweet Hour of Prayer

The Potter’s Hand (Darlene Zschech and Hillsong. The audio and video are barely out of synch; be sure to turn up the volume. Enjoy.)

Grandpa’s message to Kianna, #12 …

You’ve got a rich musical heritage. Your mommy can sing beautifully, even though she won’t admit it. I can’t wait to hear your voice. Everyone in my family and on my side of the family plays one or more instruments. It’s been a while since we’ve had some brass.

In case you’re wondering, Grandpa really likes the sound of a French horn. But we also need a percussionist. How about a drum set?

I’m sure your daddy will let you set it up in his man cave. Right, Darnell?

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion