Saturday the Fourteenth may have been the actual day of my double-nickel birthday, but the observance commenced the day before and continued into the next day, Sunday. And this was thanks to church -- my "church family" of Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples).
First, I received a birthday card from church members Ray and Jackie Ashworth. They were the only ones to mail me a card. They'd also mailed me a Christmas card.
Late Friday afternoon I bussed over to the church and then drove the van from there to the downtown rallying point for homeless men seeking lodging thru "Room in the Inn". You see, it was the second Friday of the month and thus ECC's turn to host some fellows. Ten men boarded the van and back I drove to the church. We got treated to a delicious supper prepared in the church kitchen. I even supplied a small store-bought cake, iced like a birthday cake, on which I had stuck a little sign "borrowed" from a cupcake, that said "Happy Birthday". I cut it into ten rather small portions so each of our Guests could have two or three bites.
I also got out my guitar and practiced the song I would sing during the offering collection of Sunday Worship. I played a few other songs, out of Johann Anderson's "Songs" book. It displeased me that my voice clearly didn't sound in the best of shape! And when I gave the song one more practice Saturday morning before driving the ten men back to downtown, my voice sounded no better.
Sunday morning, my birthday now officially over & done with, I showed up early at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples), to have time for further practice. I tried some warm-up vocal exercises, then practiced the bass part for the anthem the entire choir would be singing, "Turn Back, O Man" (NOT the one from "Godspell"). I'm really a baritone singer, and this particular arrangement had a high bass, in effect a baritone below the tenor. It went as high as D above middle-C and then a few measures later E-flat above middle-C. Once again it distressed me that my voice wasn't in the fittest shape and I had difficult reaching those two highest notes. Then when I practice my offertory special, its highest note challenged me, too.
But not to worry! First, I had a cup and a half of hot coffee, black, and participated in a very, very good discussion in Sunday School class. Pastor Jay had us reading and discussing the lectionary readings for the day, such as Exodus 20:1-17 (the Ten Commandments) and Psalm 19 (David's praise of God for His Creation and His law/commandments).
When I left the class and entered into the choir's vocal warm-ups I judged that my voice felt and sounded better. And during Worship I had no difficulty singing any of the anthem, "Turn Back, O Man" (again, NOT the "Godspell" version). As usual following an anthem, I left the choir seating in the chancel, disrobed and donned my suitcoat. Then I went to the front of the church (i.e toward the main-entrance end of the sanctuary) and deposited my offering in a plate, and found a seat in a pew toward the front of seating. Jay had a great message in his sermon focusing on the Psalm reading, and I felt blessed.
When it was about time for the offertory, I went to a room off the chancel and got my guitar and readied to go out and sing and pick. For the call to offertory Gene and Cindy Lovelace did a dramatic rendition of the story of the widow's offering (Mark 12:41-44, etc.). Once they sat down in a front pew, yours truly walked out and told the congregation how yesterday was my 55th birthday and how when we will celebrate Christ's resurrection in a few Sundays it'll be 40 years of being a born-again Christian. Also, how much of that time has been devoted to following the Lord's callings to various ministries, and how the song I was about to share, "Here I Am, Lord", was thus very special to me. I invited them to join in singing the chorus on the third and final time.
Well, don't you know? During the second chorus I could hear a few folks singing along, and the final time nearly everybody was singing -- clearly and strongly! This was EXACTLY the effect I had wanted: solo on the verses and first chorus, a few additional voices on second chorus and many voices on the last chorus! Praise God!
And indeed, Lord, here I am, ready to go and do whatever You call me to be or do!
Oh, and to top it all off -- or, to finish in FINE fashion -- our closing song, post-benediction, was the first verse of "Be Thou My Vision". This wonderful Irish hymn is my favorite of all hymns, and has been since I became a Christian in '69. So, for me, it served as magnificent postlude to my singing "Here I Am, Lord".
. I the Lord of sea and sky I have heard My people's cry.
. All who dwell in dark and sin My hand will save.
. I who made the stars of night I will make their darkness bright
. Who will bear My light to them? Whom shall I send?
. Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
. I have heard You calling in the night.
. I will go, Lord, if You lead me.
. I will hold Your people in my heart.