“Give Me Joy”
Oh give me a place where the angels sing and
Give me a place where prayers are to be said
And give me the birds that chirp and sing
And give me the trees where the birds live
And give me this place to worship the Lord
So I can be grateful for the things
That I adore.
Give us all joy.
These are the words to a song written by my seven year-old granddaughter Olivia while we were on vacation in North Carolina. She wrote it entirely by herself and I was so pleased to read it. What I admired most is that her mind is focused on such things as angels, prayers and worship and that she can envision those things being intertwined with places, with birds and with trees.
The lyrics are short and simple. “Give me a place” reminds me of many places where I have found God along the way. There was the night at Camp Wakon’Da-Ho where we set candles afloat on pieces of tree bark and sang as they floated on the pond. There was the spontaneous playing of James Taylor’s “You’ve God a Friend” at lunch during one week of camp when everyone got up and hugged everyone else. There was the night by the mess hall when a picture of Jesus was projected on a tulip poplar and I wrote some of my deepest thoughts on a piece of paper. Those words cemented my desire to serve this Jesus forever, somehow, some way.
There are the sanctuaries and chapels, indoor and outdoor, where I have worshipped and listened to God’s word, sung his hymns, eaten his bread and sipped from the cup. I have worshipped with 8,000 at General Assemblies. I was moved to tears when an opera singer sang “Were You There” during Holy Week at St. Peter’s Episcopal just down the street. There was the time when our mission team in Fort Thomas worshipped on the beach, a sea level, on Atlantic Beach, and the next day worshipped on the top of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern United States. I remember the powerful, roof raising worship we hosted for Churches Uniting in Christ, when people from six or more counties came and almost filled the sanctuary to celebrate Christian unity. I fondly remember the Sunday’s at Seventh Street Christian, with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
There were the mornings at Children’s Church in Somerset, when I was 19 and began this new ministry with the help of parents and others. There were the worship experiences during youth group in the chapel in Somerset. There was the baptistery at First Christian in Corbin and the evening Tim Smith and I were baptized. There are the times I have had the privilege to baptize and lately baptize Andrew, Tyler, Cora and Michael.
There was the night in a Louisiana bayou we celebrated communion on the porch of a house we worked on all week. At the end of communion we unveiled a stove and oven which the family desperately needed. The husband hugged the wife and said, what were the words which closed our worship that evening, “Honey, I told you things would get better for us.” We all wept, even the big rough football players we had with us.
Places. How important are they? Where were you baptized? Where did you have your first meaningful spiritual encounter? Where were you when you listened to God’s still small voice.
Once, not many days ago, I was sitting at a large dinner table in a house at the beach and my granddaughter brought me these words which touched me and brought delight to my soul.
I hope you have enjoyed them too.
Moving to the deeper places (with a seven year old),