Tag Archive | shepherd

Trying to Remember a Song

Do you ever have one of those songs that keeps running through your mind, over and over and over again, but you can’t quite remember the whole song?

That’s happening to me right now. Actually, the song has been going through my mind for over a week, and I just can’t remember the whole thing. I’ve even spent loads of time on the Internet trying to google it without success.

Singing Xmas Tree 1964

Can you find me?

The song is a choral anthem that the church choir sang when I was in high school, about 1965 or ’66. It’s the only anthem that I specifically remember singing during the high school and college years I sang in the choir.

I just loved this one particular anthem! The words were Psalm 1, the King James Version, verbatim. It was hard to sing, at least to start singing it, because it started very loud and on a high note. It was written in the key of E-flat, and the first note for sopranos was the high E-flat.

The first part is:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Then it starts to get a little softer…

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And that’s as far as I remember the music. I’ve looked up the rest of the words of the Psalm in my King James Bible. I’m sure those are the words we sang, but I just can’t bring the rest of the music back into my mind. I remember that the mood changes at this point, to a very peaceful setting, which fits the words perfectly:

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Then the mood changes again. It becomes more restless:

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the  congregation of the righteous.

I can’t remember the tempo or dynamics of the ending. The last words of the Psalm are:

For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

I wish I could remember the rest of the music, but it’s just not coming back to me. I think what I liked so much about this anthem when the choir sang it fifty-plus years ago was how well the music matched the words. It was exciting to me. I felt we were communicating with God with our whole being as we sang the Psalm together. I felt it in my soul and my body – not just my mind.

5640851837_1fa5c61383_zMany years later I read a quote attributed to St. Augustine, “Whoever sings, prays twice.” That’s what was happening when we sang that anthem. We were not only expressing the words of the song to God, through the music we were sharing our feelings with God. That’s what’s so special about music. With music, our ability to communicate is not limited to our mere intellect. Our mind, soul, and body are all involved as we sing or play a musical instrument.

As you may recall from an earlier post on this blog, one of the reasons I stopped posting to my blog every week is that I wanted to work on some other projects and needed to free up some of my time to do so. One of my new projects is writing a devotional book focused on 365 of my favorite hymns. Over the past few months, I’ve been organizing my thoughts for this book and selecting the hymns to include. I think I’ll start the book with a chapter on The Psalms and how these songs have been sung historically as well as ways they are being sung today. (I’m sure that train of thought is what triggered Psalm 1 to start playing in my mind.)

The Bible encourages us in many places to sing to the Lord. And over the centuries, we have been prolific in our response. Thousands of hymns have their roots in one or more of the 150 Psalms included in the Bible. For example, the online resource hymnary.org (one of my new best friends) identified Psalm 23 as the source of 344 hymns. Psalm 23 is rich in imagery of God as our shepherd. Each hymn of the 344 hymns listed on this web directory built upon this imagery. Some of my favorites among these hymns are:

  • The Lord Is My Shepherd
  • The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll not Want
  • The King of Love My Shepherd Is
  • He Leadeth Me
  • Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
  • All the Way My Shepherd Leads Me
  • God Leads Us Along
  • God Will Take Care of You
  • O Love that Wilt not Let Me Go
  • Day By Day
  • Surely Goodness and Mercy
  • Lead Me, Guide Me

Each hymn can trigger a slightly different conversation with God, although they are all based on the same general image of God as our shepherd. Every one of these combinations of words and music enables us to “pray twice” to God – to pray with our mind, body, and soul. The most usual result of the prayerful conversations based on Psalm 23 is that our troubled soul is comforted, and that pleases God as much as it pleases us.

This newest writing project of mine is bigger than I thought it was going to be, but I love the digressions it’s leading me along – even if I experience a bit of frustration along the way. Whether I ever remember all the music of the Blessed Is the Man…”  anthem I sang with the church choir when I was in in high school, or not, I’ve been blessed by remembering one of my earliest and most dramatic experiences of “praying twice.”

bird singing 1O come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Psalm 95:1-2 – New King James Version

Owning My Name

MARIAN KORTH
Kindergarten picture

My name is Marian. I never had a nickname. That’s too bad, because I never liked my name. I first struggled with my name in kindergarten, as I described in my blog a couple weeks ago. My teacher, Miss Polly, tried to spell it with an “o” instead of an “a” and I knew she was wrong.  I survived the school system and I learned to live with my name, even if I didn’t like it. I sometimes wonder why my Mom and Dad gave me that name.

ELSIE the Cow

My Mom didn’t like her name either. Her first name was Elsie. Sometimes my friends and I teased her about being “Elsie, the cow” which was the marketing icon for Borden’s milk in the 1950’s. Mom didn’t like being called “Elsie,” but she hated her middle name, “Thelma May,” even more. Whenever she had to write her full name she used her first name, her maiden name, and her last name in order to avoid using her middle name. I don’t think I ever saw her first, middle, and last name in writing. That was a problem. It’s a long story, but I’ll give the short version here.

When my Mom was nearing the end of her life, she and my Dad came to Chicago to live with Mim and me so that we could take care of her. They lived with us for her last 6 weeks. When she died, we called a local funeral home to pick up her body and process the legal paperwork. The Cambridge funeral home then came to get her body and coordinated the visitation, funeral, and other final arrangements in Cambridge.

The man who came from the Chicago funeral home had to fill out all the legal paperwork. He asked me the questions and he wrote my answers on the form. Then he gave the form to me to review. I noticed that he had written my Mom’s middle name as “Thelma Mae” – with an “e” rather than a “y.” I thought about that a little, and tried to remember if I had ever seen her middle name written. I don’t think I had. So, I didn’t know if it ended with a “y” or an “e.” I decided not to change what he’d written on the form since I didn’t really know which spelling was correct. That’s unfortunate. The person who typed the official death certificate from this form changed “Elsie Thelma Mae Korth” to “Elsie Thelma MacKorth.” That’s the name that was officially filed with the State of Illinois Records Bureau in Springfield. What was involved in getting her name corrected (necessary to settle her estate) is a very long story for another day.

Names really are important, whether we like them, or not. In the women’s worship service in the county jail the chaplain instructs us to pray for the person on our right by name. If we don’t know the person’s name, we need to ask her before the prayer time begins. We pray for each other by going around the circle, each person praying for the person on her right. I’ll attest to the fact that when I hear the inmate on my left praying for me by name, her prayer resonates deeply within me. Then I have the honor of praying by name for the inmate sitting on my right. She can experience that same feeling of being blessed, of receiving a special blessing just for her. And so on around the circle, we all are blessed.

Using someone’s name is powerful. When someone calls me by name I assume that they know me, because they know my name. In the New Testament, Jesus is often described as “the good shepherd” who calls his sheep by name. In the Old Testament, God called Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and others – all by name. Even though I don’t particularly like the name, “Marian,” I think I’ll stick with it. That’s what all my friends, and even God, know me by.