When The Heavens Cry With You….

My pastor is “dying”. I prefer the term transitioning to his permanent home.   He was sent home this morning, from the hospital with Hospice care. He was transported to one of the big hospitals on Thursday. This morning his wife and children heard the words I have heard before. “We’ve done all we can do”.

That very moment is when you start functioning in survival mode. You have arrangements to make. You have to make sure someone is there to care for them. Luckily, this is a family of a wife, 3 grown children and 5 grandchildren who are old enough to help out.

When he heard the news, he told them that he wanted to go home. So they went home. Last report, the nurse was with him where he resides getting him settled in.

We live in a small mountain community and we are a very small but loving congregation. We have been in constant contact for the past three weeks since he got severely ill.

He has been at our church for 23 years. He has driven 50 miles, three times a week to preach to us. He made numerous trips to the same hospital and others when things were going wrong in my world. He has been in my home when we were facing death to let my husband know that he was loved and cared for even when his own family would not come around.

When my husband died, he was right here in my home providing love and comfort.

After making sure my parents were okay after getting the news, I went for a long drive. I was alone and I could cry as hard as I wanted. It was raining buckets almost as if the heavens themselves could feel my pain.

I cry for his wife and his children knowing what they will be facing. I cried for our church, we have a heartache that unless you have felt it, you don’t understand. My tears are not for where he is going. He is heading to Heaven, where his heart and lungs will not be an issue. I cry out of selfishness. I will miss him.

He has been our spiritual leader, our burden bearer, our under shepherd taking care of  the flock. You have a tremendous amount of respect and love for him.

We are independent. We don’t have someone to come in and fill that spot, not that anyone could take his place.

So for now, we as a collective group try to carry on. We will have a fill in preacher tomorrow. We do what we have to do to cope. One lady went and rode with her husband in a dump truck so she would not  be alone. My mom carried beans to the can house to stay busy. I went for a long drive and had a good cry.  We all handle it differently.

My prayer for his is that his crossing be gentle. He has been a faithful servant.

My solace??? I can just imagine my husband looking at him when he crosses and saying “Well Preacher, what are you doing here?”



The Choir Leader……

Normally, when I write these posts, I don’t write them out before. I just sit down and start typing; whatever you all see is what is flowing through my fingers. This post however, was written out during church this morning. Maybe not the best time, but for some reason it was given to me then. It was suggested that I  set the scene as it were for the post. Choirs mean different things to different people. It was a good suggestion.

I go to an Independent Baptist Church in the rural, Southern United States.

We are a small congregation. We are not fancy. We are just plain folk. We don’t wear choir robes and none of us have had formal voice training.

The choir sits to the right of the pulpit on the raised platform. The church has burgundy carpet and set padding. The pulpit, communion table and pews are all made from light wood. The crosses in the stained glass windows light up when the sun shines through them just right.

Can you see it???

The reason I tell you this is because I want to talk about the choir.

I am the choir leader. There are a couple of things that make this problematic. We currently don’t have a piano player and I am an alto. Now, for those of you who do not know about Southern hymn singing, there are for basic parts written for these songs. Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.  The Alto sings the lower female parts and we are the queens of repeats.  One little boy once asked me how long I had been “a backup singer”. It took me a while to realize he was talking about how I sang the alto parts. In his eyes, I was backing them up.

We have had our struggles but we have made it work. When the pastor came and asked me to take on this role, I debated it. After all, I am just the back up singer. I have sang harmony for many years. The choir leader should sing the melody of the song. These people are looking at you for timing, for tempo, and for tune. I am an alto, I sing “off” the other people. I am the contrast.

How can I do this? I have to stand up in front of people and tell them what the opening song will be. I don’t like being up in front of people. Yet, I have to have people stand and sing, to make a joyful noise.

Then you look back and some appear pained to make the attempt. It can be defeating if you let it. So, I stand, announce the page and sing to the clock. If you don’t want to sing, I can’t make you, I can however not allow it to affect me.

As the rear ends hit the seats before the last note of the congregational song ends, I turn to the choir.

I announce the song and I see the look in their eyes, we may not have sang the song in a while or ever. They aren’t sure why I chose the song. There are times I don’t know why. I do know that if it is good or if it is bad, once we start out,  we are going there together.

As I prepare for the first note to leave my lips, I have heard the intro in my head. They are not sure where I am taking them but there is a level of trust. They know I am not leading them somewhere to leave them. I am going right along with them and if they struggle, I will kick it up a notch to keep them safe.

There are times I throw them a curve ball, they give me a distressed look and I look back, smile and nod and we take off.

Being the only alto, I from time to time have to let someone else take control. My job is to hold the note from the verse until they take off with the chorus then I add the repeats.

I can’t sing all the parts. That is why choirs exist. It is a group of people who sing together. Not everyone sings the same parts.

We all have our notes to sing. We all have different talents and abilities. There are certain songs that the kids like to sing. I lower my volume and let them sing loud, strong and joyfully.  These songs are their time to shine. They don’t need me drowning them out or killing their exuberance. Let them sing “Holding up the ladder” at the top of their lungs so loudly and so innocently that you can almost see the ladder.

You see, I was once that little girl who sang too loudly, who sang out of tune. I was the one who they told to sing more quietly (although I didn’t listen).

One of these little girls may be standing in that same spot one day. There have been many before me, I want to show them how to be a leader.