I’d like to share a true story about four simple folk who never met nor knew of each other, yet their lives were used for one glorious purpose. I trust you will get a kick out of this story as well as catch a glimpse, or at least a tiny window crack into the mystery of how God works, God’s will and his desire for our lives.
I learned of this story when I was searching for the composer of the hymn, “God Leads His Dear Children Along”*. I mentioned this hymn at the conclusion of my last blog post. All I did was connect these four individuals – two men and two women, in a particular time frame, only to discover a remarkable story. Let me start with a short introduction to these four and then put them all together to get the whole picture.
The first man was George; he was a preacher (1903-?) and also a carpenter, which helped him make both ends meet. We call it “living by faith”. Financially, George’s family struggled, but somehow, he managed to build himself a small house. Sadly, while away preaching, local hooligans, who disliked his preaching, set fire and destroyed it. Not many have heard about George. There was no mention of this “Man of the Cloth” for his preaching and oratory. He did, however, love music and wrote a few Christian songs.
As for one of the ladies, we do not know much about her either – not even her name. It thrills me to no end to read these stories about people who are not “headline grabbers”. She did one noble thing, among many, I’m sure – she took an interest in a young immigrant child from Bergen, Norway. Since the poor child did not know English, she tutored him and also taught him to sing Hymns. One of the hymns was “God Leads His Dear Children Along”; an innovative method of teaching a new language! She led him to Jesus.
This brings me to the third person, the immigrant boy from Bergen, Born in 1895, he was just two when he landed in US. He took a special interest in Christian music. Guess where he got that from? Haldor Lillenas, that was his name, became the founder of a thriving music publishing company. You will see his name in many hymn books we use today. He was very interested, no wonder, in the song “God leads his dear children along”.
By now the clergyman/composer had died but his hymn had lived to become very popular. Lillenas determined to find out more about this composer. After an extensive search he found the location. A local gas attendant gave him further directions but warned it was a “poor locality”.
Who is the fourth person? She was a lady who organized and operated what one would call a place for the poor and “orphaned seniors.” What was her name? Surprise, surprise, her name was Mrs. George Young, the widow of the clergyman-carpenter-composer, whose famous hymn was used by the lady to teach both singing and english to a young immigrant from Norway, who later became the famous publisher of hymns now sung by Christians throughout the world, including you and me. Wow. Amazing!
There is a lot to learn from this simple story but for now I must limit to just two:
1. These four, like thousands of others around the world, may not appear as gifted celebrities, musicians, spiritual leaders etc. They served God in their everyday life; no “lime lighting”.
God is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). The Doxology, “Praise God from whom all Blessings flow” confirms it. While it is proper to “give credit where credit is due”, there are those who crave for it. St. James’ words are an effective antidote to curb this inordinate desire for popularity, superiority, class difference and collectively pride.
This reminds me of an old quote, this time not from Sanskrit but from my mother tongue Malayalam, inserted here specially for my readers in Kerala state, India, as well as my Malayalee sojourners abroad: “piriyenam arangil ninnuden sariyay kali cheytha nattuvan “. Translated into English: “the actor who played his part well should get away at once from the stage”. Don’t hang around for applause.
The early church was not immune to this, seeking praise for their favourites and party spirits, lifting man instead of the Maker. Paul reprimanded them (1 Corinthians 3:2-10). No wonder John the Forerunner was so aware of this human weakness that he scrupulously practiced the maxim “he must increase and I must decrease”.
2.God has a plan for our lives even if we do not see it. It is not until you look back and get the big picture that you clearly see God’s desires for us. Remember Cleopas and his friend walking away from Jerusalem to Emmaus? They did not recognize Jesus for sometime, till later their “hearts burned within”! Note, they two changed their life course and returned to Jerusalem (Luke 24:32).
Recall the words of Jesus to two, one a poor widow and her offering of two mites (Luke 21:1-4) and the other a lady who lavished costly ointment on Jesus (Mark 14:3-9)? It did not escape Jesus’ attention (always!); he praised them both. In the latter case Jesus added “she has done what she could; she is come aforehand to anoint my body“. The four in my story, did what they could. Simple?
God bless, Danny Paul
PS: This is my 100th post! It gives me an opportunity to thank my daughter and son-in-law- Vinitha and Joel Lawton. It was Joel’s prompting that encouraged me to start my blog and it is with their editing/technical support that each blog gets published. I thank God for their labour of love!
My sincere gratitude to the many who take time to share or tag my posts in their Facebook.
* “Stories behind the Hymns” by Warren Shiver, Google