Reverence & Applause Moments?
My best friend invited me to his church. But he didn’t go with me. His father had been thrown out of his car on a bridge (before seat belts and airbags) and was killed the night before. When I was walking in it smelled nicely fragrant. As I slid into a pew there was a padded bench by my knees. A man wearing a decorative robe was up on a stage with lots of candles and lit candelabras everywhere. Then I heard it. The softest, warmest women’s voices singing. From behind and above me. I had never heard anything like it. The closest I’d ever heard was when Grandma gave me a record from her deathbed. “Larry, I want you to play this record. Someday you’re gonna need it. Remember, you’ll always be thankful for it.” The song was Whispering Hope.
My Mom’s life had been really tough. Yet, or maybe because of that, she came up to Doug’s and my bedroom to pray with us. But this night was a special one. She brought a book with her. A Bible. She said “I’m going to read to you boys each night before we pray.” That was the night I first heard about Adam and Eve and the proverbial apple. At her funeral decades later I told that story and I remember looking at my sisters’ blank stares. Apparently they hadn’t experienced that personally. But all through life I’ve thought back to my Mom and Grandmother’s revered moments in my life.
When I turned 15 I worked on a small dairy farm and attended school on the Oregon coast. It was lonely at night sleeping in a basement room next to the wood furnace. When I awakened and prepared to catch the school bus I first built a roaring fire for the family. I only went upstairs for supper and to play when the kids wanted an older brother type. It wasn’t long before I missed my Mom and family 100 miles away in Portland. Seems like I only had three or four friends that Sophomore year. Looking back I can see what the next sacred moment was being planned by the Holy Spirit.
My loneliness deepened and one night I lay on my bed quietly balling my eyes out. Pondering quitting and using my next check to take the Greyhound home. But I just couldn’t do it to these folks. They needed a hired hand and had been so good to me. I fell asleep. A couple of nights passed and the glooms struck again. With tears flooding my eyes I found my mouth praying. I pleaded and bargained with God. I begged him to help me not feel so grossly alone. But I had a dilemma. I felt like I needed to attend a church but my mind ruffled through the choices. There were way too many to consider. It seemed impossible to decide. At that moment my pleading got very, very committed.
"Father, if you'll show me where to go, I pledge to you I’ll do so." That moment was not ignored by the Lord.
A couple of days afterwards my schoolmate Don said “Hey Larry, my girlfriend said her best girlfriend likes you and wants to get to know you. Do you like her?” Duh. What would you have said? He continued, “There’s a graduation party next Saturday evening and we’d like you to join us. She’ll even give us a ride. Both my girlfriend and I will be riding with her also.” He chuckled me into a “Yes.” Little did I know the same Lord to whom I poured out my oath was fast at work. Already.
The Graduation party turned out to be in a community church. I actually enjoyed it and timidly got to know the sweet graduate who drove the car. When she drove me back to the farmhouse we visited for a few moments. Then she asked if I’d like to visit her church one day.
The poet wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Better yet is our Savior’s explanation: “Jesus replied, “What I am telling you so earnestly is this: Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Men can only reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven; so don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again! Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit. We do not know on whom he will next bestow this life from heaven.” (John 3:5-8, TLB). From my tear stained mattress to being born again was now in the process.
Decades later, far far away I was helping a small church of about 225. An unusual thought danced in my brain. I had heard or read somewhere that it is possible to read the entire Bible in 72 hours. I asked the leaders if we could do it. So the planning set in. A calendar of 72 hours divided by 30-minute segments was prepared. It was set to run from Thursday at 6 PM to Sunday at 6 PM. We advertised it in the local paper and put signs on the outside. Surprisingly so many members signed up to read for 3 or 4 half-hours time slots; it wasn't long before all 72 hours of the calendar were full. Day and night. Three straight 24 hour periods God’s Word would be continuously read.
The County Sheriff showed up to start the Bible Reading at 6 PM Thursday. He sat on the stage and beginning in Genesis 1:1 his baritone voice microphoned throughout the auditorium. The local news reporter took photos which appeared in Friday’s News paper.
Over the all night shifts I napped on a pew and visited with the members and any visitors who arrived. Kim Varnal had just moved here from France and was impressed that a church would have such a wonderful idea. She wanted to read for an hour. I, very excitedly, gave her my next coming hour. Kim became a true friend and joined my
wife’s women's Bible Study group. Talk about the Holy Spirit’s planning, Kim came down with Cancer and left a gap in all our lives. But that Bible Reading in 72 hours gave us her friendship for Eternity!
On another night a family of 5 came in the early hours in the middle of the night. The dad asked if he could read and I gave him my last time slot. His wife and attentive young children watched alertly as he did so. After all these years I don’t recall any other visitors. But I do remember the most unbelievable moment of the full 72 hours. Let me set it up for you.
On Sunday morning we moved the Bible Reading from the microphoned table on the stage to a table in the fellowship hall in the back of the building while adult class and the preaching service happened in the auditorium. This would allow the most reverential
moment I’ve ever had in church. Ever. I prayed about how we could return the Bible reading to the miked table without stopping reading it. Then the Lord planted the idea in my heart.
The young mother who was reading during the time the minister was finishing said, “Oh, I’d be afraid...embarrassed I think.” We talked it over and just as the minister was concluding, the mom and I stood outside the auditorium doors. I swung the door open and she started to enter when loudly I said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Stand in Honor of the Word of God!” The entire audience all rose and I was so proud of the mom who read the Bible all the way to the stage, stepped up on the stage and sat behind the microphone and continued reading. The audience was instructed to either sit and hear the Word of God being read or move to the Lobby to visit.
Chills run down my back as I recall that event. It was the most reverent event I’ve ever witnessed in nearly 80 years.
Some years back a gospel song fit that event. Here it is:
Written by Michael W. Smith
For those of you who have never heard “Whispering Hope” here are the lyrics followed by Anne Murray singing it.
“Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion
Whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
After the shower is gone.
Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.
If, in the dusk of the twilight,
Dim be the region afar,
Will not the deepening darkness
Brighten the glimmering star?
Then when the night is upon us,
Why should the heart sink away?
When the dark midnight is over,
Watch for the breaking of day.
Hope, as an anchor so steadfast,
Rends the dark veil for the soul,
Whither the Master has entered,
Robbing the grave of its goal;
Come then, oh, come, glad fruition,
Come to my sad weary heart;
Come, O Thou blest hope of glory,
Never, oh, never depart.
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