Midweek Musing - Church Singings, Homemade Ice Cream and Tomorrow's Promises
Our music director Dr. David Boyle has inspired me this month in our worship music to remember both church camp songs and old-fashioned hymn sings, complete with funeral home fans, that were often held on the church grounds.
At my Dad’s first church (Nazareth Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina) we held a full-day event like this before school resumed each fall. It consisted of a picnic on the grounds sponsored by the Presbyterian Women. A family softball game and activities like the three-legged race and watermelon-eating and watermelon-seed-spitting contests. In conjunction, the men of the church held a homemade ice cream contest with the deliciousness coming from those ice cream makers that most folks turned by hand while adding ice and rock salt. A few of the wiser menfolk had electric ice cream makers, but those of us who did not have such luxuries considered them cheaters and felt their ice cream should not be entered for judging—though we were glad to eat it!
The end of the evening consisted of an old-fashioned church singin’.
There were quartets and duets, soloists and instrumentalists, kids and adults, and of course congregational singing. It was outside in the church courtyard under the live oak trees. And as the night sky took over and stars peeked down the cicadas and crickets joined in with distant bullfrogs adding a low bass as part of the harmony.
One of my fondest memories is sitting in a metal folding chair and singing next to my grandmother (Mema) who sometimes came up from Elberton, Georgia for special events like this.
One of those songs from the singing I remember us all singing came to my mind this last week. It is a hymn entitled I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira F. Stanphill. As I remember it, different ensembles would sing the verses and we would all join in on the chorus.
When I looked up the hymn, I discovered it really wasn’t old. It was written in the 1950s by Stanphill. He wrote it upon losing his wife at a young age as a prayer of surrender to his Savior, recognizing there were circumstances he just didn't understand. After being published, it became famous through its use and recording by groups like the Gaither Family and The Cathedrals. The hymn was even used on occasion during Billy Graham’s Crusades. More recently Allison Krause did a marvelous rendition of it. (I will link a couple of these versions at the end of the musing.)
Now the story that made me remember this hymn was from a group of short stories about women overcoming societal barriers. The particular story I was reading was about Marguerite Higgins and her journalism work during the Korean War. What this article noted was that one cannot look back at reporting on that war and not be amazed by the work of Marguerite Higgins.
You see she was the only female war correspondent reporting on the war from the actual Korean Peninsula, and often she did so from the front lines. Such work by a woman—and in fact even her mere presence at the battlefront—caused a national sensation.
You see, back in the 1950s, many Americans were uncomfortable with women filling what were then considered strictly men's roles, such as news reporting, especially from War Zones. Thus, Higgins was forced to prove herself at every step of the difficult path she had chosen. Young, attractive, and very determined, she made waves wherever she went. Her struggle against gender bias captured the American public's attention while she was bravely and skillfully carrying out her journalistic duties, even winning a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Korea.
One story she recalled in her memoirs occurred on a bitterly cold winter’s day when she was interviewing a muddy Marine just returned from battle. As he opened a tin can of C–rations and began eating, Higgins said to the young man, “If I could give you anything in the world you wanted, what would you ask for?”
The Marine thought for a moment and then said, “Give me tomorrow.”
Like all of us, he wanted assurance and certainty.
But the truth is that no one can offer those gifts other than God. The Gospel of John reports that Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
Friends, part of the good news of our relationship with Jesus Christ is we need not fear about tomorrow, because although we do not know what the future may bring, we do know who will be with us in that future.
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow
Ira F. Stanphill
Verse 1 I don’t know about tomorrow; I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from its sunshine For its skies may turn to grey. I don’t worry o’er the future, For I know what Jesus said. And today I’ll walk beside Him, For He knows what lies ahead.
Chorus Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.
Verse 2 Every step is getting brighter As the golden stairs I climb; Every burden’s getting lighter, Every cloud is silver-lined. There the sun is always shining, There no tear will dim the eye; At the ending of the rainbow Where the mountains touch the sky.
Verse 3 I don’t know about tomorrow; It may bring me poverty. But the one who feeds the sparrow, Is the one who stands by me. And the pathway that be my portion May be through the flame or flood; But His presence goes before me And I’m covered with His blood.
https://youtu.be/xWLm3asMiGo The Gaither Vocal Band
https://youtu.be/C7BtGs1w6hA The Peterson’s
https://youtu.be/4GKNbmYOAow Allison Krause