From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Throughout our ministry my husband and I have always conducted services at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Twice a month I now do a music recital at a nursing home.  One of the most requested songs we get from the “old folks” is always the song “In the Garden.”  It has also been one of the most requested songs for funerals we have conducted.

As this older generation passes away, I think this song will soon be forgotten.  I can’t imagine the younger crowd playing this song with the guitars and drums so popular now.  In fact, I have to laugh as I think what kind of music will be played for the boomers when we reach nursing home age.  Certainly the music will go from “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”  Hopefully we hear some Motown and Beach Boys too.

But I digress….Back to the Song “In the Garden.”

Although I have played this song for years I must confess I often wonder what garden the writer had in mind when he wrote this song and who was the person speaking these words.

Since I started this series on the history behind old gospel songs, I did some research and discovered that the author clearly had a particular garden and a particular person in mind when he wrote this song.

In his own words:

“One day in April 1912….I drew my Bible toward me and it opened at my favorite book and chapter, John chapter twenty….It was though I was in a trance, as I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life when she knelt before her Lord and cried, “Rabboni”….As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head, bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came unto the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in and ran away….Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing there, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched, and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni”.

I’m not sure why the older generation loved this song so much.  Perhaps just the thought of walking with Jesus in a quiet restful garden was reassuring to those who lived through the  depression and World War II.  The thought of a loved one walking peacefully with Jesus after death was no doubt also a comfort.

There is a joke about this song I heard some years ago.

A little boy came home from church and had this conversation with his mother:

Boy:  Mom, in church today I learned what God’s name is.

Mother:  And what is his name?

Boy:  Andy

Mother:  Andy….who told you that?

Boy:  We sang a song “Andy walks with me and Andy talks with me.”

If you know the song, you understand the joke.

If you do not know the song, here it is.  Hope you enjoy both the old gospel song and the joke also.

 

The Story Behind the Song (It is No Secret)

Music is magic.

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand….Stevie Wonder

Music is the emotional life of most people….Leonard Cohen

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain….Bob Marley

I see the power of music every month as I play for the residents of a nursing home in my town.   Eyes that look so dull without emotion suddenly light up as they recognize a song from their childhood.  Bodies that were slumped in their chairs suddenly sit up as a song brings back memories of days gone by.  Faces that were so sad looking suddenly light up with a big smile as I play a song that was once their favorite.  Voices that were silent began to sing along as music works its magic.

As I research songs from the past to play each week it has been interesting to see the stories behind the songs.  Each Friday for a few weeks I thought I would share of these stories behind the songs that I have discovered.  Hope you enjoy.

This week’s story is about the writer of an old gospel song – It is No Secret.

The writer, Stuart Hamblen was a songwriter, cowboy singer and appeared in motion pictures with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne.  My parents loved Roy Roger and Dale Evans, his wife, and was a big fan of these movies.

His songs were recorded by many artists including Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.  Perhaps his best known song was This Old House that was recorded by Rosemary Clooney and was Song of the Year in 1954.

Part of the Hollywood scene, Hamblen’s wife tried to get him to attend the Billy Graham crusade held in Los Angeles in 1949.  At first he refused but then asked to meet personally with Graham.  During his conversation with Graham, he committed his life to Jesus Christ.

Shortly thereafter in a visit with his friend, John Wayne, he was asked about the change in his life.  He replied, “It’s no secret what God can do in a man’s life.”  Encouraged by John Wayne to write a song about that beautiful thought, Hamblen went home and began thinking about it.

When he heard the hall clock chime out the midnight hour, he was inspired with the words of the first verse.

“The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through”

Hamblen went on to complete the song which has been sung throughout all the small churches in town after town.

If you have not heard the song – or if you just would like to hear it again – here’s Elvis Presley’s version.

And on a personal note:  I truly have found

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

My Little Composer

Years ago my father sometimes held revivals in small churches in southern Illinois.  Many of the churches either had no piano player (this was before the era of drums and guitars in worship) or a very untalented player.  Since he felt music was important for sharing the gospel, he came up with a solution.

He would give his daughter piano lessons and she could go with him to play at these services.

I was excited to learn to play.  Unlike most piano students who start with music books like “John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano,” my book was an old hymnbook.

 

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The first song I learned to play was an OLD hymn called “When I See the Blood.”  It was written in the key of “C” with no sharps or flats and a good place to start for a beginner where I could just play on the “white” keys.

After 10 months of lessons I was quite adept at playing all the songs in the hymnbook.  My teacher said I was the best student she had ever had and she wanted to teach me classical music.  I was so excited as I started this course of study.

Shortly after a few lessons in this new genre, my father felt learning classical music was money wasted.  He wanted someone to play in church.  Who needed to know how to play Bach or Beethoven?

Although I had no more lessons as a child, I continued to study on my own and took more lessons as an adult.

My music has been such a blessing to me – and I hope to others.

When I have experienced great “highs” and great “lows” in my life, music has been a release.  I can play lively show tunes or songs of praise in times of great joy.  When I have experienced times of distress or sorrow, music has also been a place of comfort.

Now I am enjoying one of the greatest joys of my musical experience.  My little granddaughter has a love for music and for the piano.  A few months ago I started giving her lessons.  Her parents say they never have to tell her practice – she loves to play and needs no prompting to play.

What is so sweet – last week she decided to become a composer.  She has a lot of stuffed animals she calls the wolf pack and she is writing a song for them.  “The Theme of the Wolf Pack.”  Not only is she writing the music – she also has words to go with the music.

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She is not quite ready to draw the lines and the actual notes so she has just written the letter of the note and has specified in some cases if it is the right or the left hand that plays the note.  She also has a repeat bar at the end so you can go back and play for the second verse she has yet to write.

It thrills this old grandma’s heart to be able to share this love of music and pass on a little of my own knowledge to the next generation.

Who knows?  Maybe some day she will write songs of worship for her generation to praise the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy The Moment!

Growing up I often heard my mother say that as you age time flies faster.  I always thought that was silly.  Time is time.  It does not move slower or faster.  A minute is 60 seconds, an hour is 60 minutes.  Same for everyone.

Now that my mother is gone and I am the old lady in the room, I totally understand what she meant.

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As we approach the end of 2019 it is hard for me to believe another year is almost gone.  It seems only yesterday my husband and I put our house in Illinois on the market and took a big step to move to Michigan.  At our age (71 and 79) starting over in a new town, a new state was a little scary.  After our house sold we loaded all our belongings in a truck and headed out for a new adventure.  And here we are already in our second year here.

Come spring I will be 72.  When I look in the mirror and see the old woman with grey hair and wrinkles I often wonder how she got there?  Where is that redhead with the smooth complexion?

My mother was a strong, active woman and I found it hard to keep up with her as a young adult.  The memory of the day I was walking with her and suddenly realized  I needed to slow down so she could keep up with me is still so strong.  Now I see my daughter doing the same with me.

It truly seems time is flying much faster as I approach old age.  (Notice I said approach.  I still refuse to believe I am old.)

Looking at life from the last stage I can say it has been a great ride.  I plan to enjoy these last years to the fullest.

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  • Life, if lived well, is long enough….Seneca
  • Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments….Rose Kennedy
  • The truth about motherhood is that the days drag on but the years fly past…ChildInsider
  • Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind….Nathaniel Hawthorn
  • Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today….Mother Teresa

As we head into the Christmas holidays, enjoy every moment.  Don’t spend time regretting what you may not have, but enjoy what this year, this moment gives you.

 

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Once Upon a Time

A memory just popped up on my Facebook page where I shared a conversation I had with my granddaughter four years ago.  So funny!  Still brings a smile.

Zoe:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus.

Me:  When Jesus was a little boy.  (Quickly interrupted by Zoe.)

Zoe:  No, Grandma, say “Once upon a time.”

Remembering Grandma

Grandma Sechrest was the only grandparent I was close to, the only one that expressed love and an interest in me.  I also related more to her because she was a red head, like me.  All my life I was told that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.   I never knew any of that side of the family.  I was told they were all “a bunch of Irish drunks.”  As I did research on my family history I discovered the Tates were not Irish but rather English.  So much for family legends.

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Grandma had a hard life, losing her husband while pregnant with her eleventh child.  He was shot by her oldest daughter’s husband, Wesley Smith.  I never was completely sure of the facts, but the two men had been arguing and Wesley had come into the yard at their house and shot Grandpa.  My father was only 14 at the time and I’m sure it caused a lot of emotional/mental damage.

Grandma was a big woman and pictures I have seen of her when she was younger indicate she was probably a big gal most of her adult life.  I have never seen a picture of her when she was young – but I always wondered what she looked like as a young girl.

She loved the fact that I also had red hair – the only grandchild that did.   As she grew older, she began to lose her eyesight to glaucoma.  When I came to visit, I  would stand in the doorway where the sun could shine on my red hair.  She also loved music and was proud that I played the piano.  I would always play the latest song I had learned on her old upright piano when we went to visit.

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She loved flowers and before she lost her eyesight her yard and house were full of flowers.  There was always a row of elephant ears planted along the house on both sides and in front.  As she began to lose her eyesight, she gave up the flowers in her yard, but she had flowers in her house until she was totally blind.  For awhile, my mother would come over and water the few plants she kept in the house even though she could not see them.  Just knowing they were there seemed to make her feel better.  It was a sad day when she finally had them take the last plants away.  My dad loved flowers too and I have often thought I get my love of flowers from them.

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When Grandpa was killed, all but two of her eleven kids were still at home and she raised them alone.  My dad and some of his brothers would often catch a train, ride to Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska to work in the wheat fields.   They would be gone for weeks on end and Grandma would have no idea where they were until they returned home after finishing the harvest.

When Grandma was in her 60’s she married a retired Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Green.  He and my Dad often spent hours arguing about “once saved, always saved.”

If Grandma got upset about something, she would begin patting her foot.  The more upset she got, the faster she patted her foot.  We grand-kids knew when Grandma was patting her foot very rapidly it might be a good time to go outside to play because she was about to speak her mind to our Dad or one of the other adults there.

It was at Grandma’s house that I saw television for the first time.  She bought a very tiny TV and I would love to watch it when we visited Grandma.  I thought she must be very rich since she could afford a TV.

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Grandma’s house always smelled of garlic and cabbage.  She loved cabbage and it seemed that she almost always had a pot of cabbage cooking on the stove.  As she began to lose her eyesight she had her salt/sugar and spices lined up on the shelf in order so that she could still find the right spice for what she was fixing.  She made great chicken and dumplings (which she taught my mother to make) and, of course, corn beef and cabbage.

As I am now a great grandmother myself I find myself thinking more and more of my childhood days.  My red hair, my love of flowers, my love of garlic and cabbage  –  Grandma lives on in me.

I wonder – what will my grandchildren remember about me when I am just a memory?  My prayer is that their memories will be good ones like mine.

I Wonder Where Rosalie Is Today?

She was such a cute little girl.  A little afraid, but very curious, of the Americans who had moved into her neighborhood.

She began by peeping around the corner of the wall of our compound, trying to sneak a look at us while remaining hidden herself.

 

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Slowly she came out of hiding and let us see her pretty face.

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For several days she played this peek-a-boo game with us until finally she came with a friend and sat down outside our gate.

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My husband, our youngest daughter and I had moved into her neighborhood where we lived as we taught in a local Bible school and also in local churches throughout Iloilo City on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

Having white Americans as neighbors was quite a novelty.  Children in the neighborhood came to the gate every day to get a look at us.  We began talking to them and before long we developed friendships with all the children on our street.

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At first when we walked down our street, the little boys would call out to my husband, “Hello GI Joe.”   After repeating each day that his name was Paul, they finally called him by his name – but it came out with two syllables – Pa -ul.

Our daughter started a Kids Klub for the neighborhood children.  Saturday mornings our living room would turn into a classroom.  Jessica taught them songs, Bible stories and always had games and snacks for them.  They called her “Tita” or aunt and followed her each time she left our home.

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Rosalie was the youngest of five siblings.  Their mother was a widow and made her living by selling food in a makeshift hut on the side of the road.

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While we fell in love with all the children, we took a special interest in this family.

When it was time for us to return home, Rosalie’s mother wanted us to take Rosalie with us.  She envisioned a much better life for her youngest if she came to the United States with us.

We struggled with what would be the right decision.  It sounded good to provide this little girl with all the luxuries she would never have in Iloilo City.  Things like clean water, plenty of food, shoes and the many things we take for granted but would not be available to her in the Philippines.

But what would it do to her emotionally to be ripped from her home, her siblings and especially her mother?

Was it arrogance on our part to think that all the material things we could give her was worth more than family?

Yet how could we say no to giving her a life that would be much easier than the life she would have here in Iloilo City?

In the end, the legal requirements and the cost of adopting her and all the red tape involved proved more than we could do.

The day we left our neighborhood was very traumatic.  The children gathered early at our home and hung on to the jeepney as we drove slowly away.  They cried out, “Don’t go, don’t go.”

As I reflect back on that time, I do believe it would have been wrong to take her from her family – but I still wonder.

Did we do the right thing?

I wonder where she is today?

With today’s technological advances of Facebook and the internet we might have been able to maintain some contact.  But that was not possible then.

Still, I think of her and wonder if she remembers us.