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Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’

by Rev. John H. Farmer
Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website>

A Heart and Earful

Have you ever been asked asked whether or not you might like to live part of your life over again? It is an amusing idea; however, it really holds little interest for me.

Without apology, I can truly say that I have lived a charmed existence. God has been so good to me that I don’t need to go through all the ups and downs another time.

One of my great blessings is that I have stored so many fine songs in my heart and head. These are not just songs, they are recordings (sight and sound) of many of God’s musical heralds that he has called home to heaven. In some cases he has called their musical talent on ahead leaving maturing bodies; they no longer perform in public.

Had I lived in a later period I might have missed a music ministry that is taking me into my antiquity… or, to live it over again I might not have been in the spiritual condition to have absorbed such blessings.

No. One time through and then to Heaven for this old white-haired, pink-flaky-skinned preacher. I am replaying the music in my ear as God prepares me to go on the journey of a lifetime, singing and listening my way into glory!

Frequently I will wake, or turn a corner, or look down the road and see and hear Miss Ethel Waters singing, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

Countless times I hear a hymn and think of Rudy Atwood’s nimble and blessed piano fingers. I never hear “How Great thou Art” that I don’t hear a young baritone George Beverly Shea and see Cliff Barrows grinning with Billy Graham heading for a salvation pulpit.

Once a saintly gal asked if I might sing an oldie? I tossed it aside as “maybe, possibly, I’ll see…” Then my Miss Gloria Jones pops down on the organ bench and asks, “Will you sing…?” It was the same title request (without mutual consultation). I pay attention when God sends multiple messages right before a worship experience. I dug around in my collection of stand-bys for  “If I Can Help Somebody.” After World War II it sailed the Atlantic back and forth becoming a favorite for many. I didn’t hear me singing it; I heard that scratchy old 78-rpm record playing on a wind-up RCA Victrola, in our former Richmond living room.  I even sang that oldie in Raleigh for the funeral of a friend’s dad: Travis H. Tomlinson, Sr.

Dad’s World War II ears also brought us British gal Dame Vera Lyn singing We’ll Meet Again and the White Cliffs of Dover. Vera Lynn will be 100 on Friday, March 17, 2017.

Gloria Lee Jones has been my ministry partner almost since my arrival at the Irvington Baptist Church. Sunday after Sunday she will play a tune about which God has been warming my heart throughout the week.  It is such a wonderful blessing to have so stalwart a partner.

Our choir always lifts a tune that blesses.

For too few years, Jimmy Andrews joined our team, taking all of us over many a high hurdle, many a Sunday. Jim drove over a hundred miles each way to spread the gospel through music weekly. Oh, how fortunate we were… until that is, his fingers felt “predestined” to leave us.

Years gone, when my ear would get slack, I’d ring the judge’s chambers and ask Miss Nancy to get his-honor to bring a ukulele friend to Church. Dick Foster and that stringed fellow sure could tell Bible stories in a humorous and yet, a powerful spiritual way. Every so often while Dick was singing I’d catch a memory of Arthur Godfrey lifting a Church tune on his radio show of old.

Music (played, hummed or sung) is the wing on which I find power to not only proclaim God’s Word, but it is the “Balm of Gilead that Heals the sin-sick Soul” for me.

Large and clear in my ear and heart is a three-hole 78-rpm on which my aunt Beulah Farmer Vaughan sang “Face to Face with Christ My Savior.” The Joseph W. Bliley Funeral Home recorded it years and years ago for a Sunday evening WRVA program. It was my grandmother Lida’s favorite hymn and sung by Lucille Motley and Maureen Garrett at her funeral at Bliley’s, Third & Marshall Streets.

I remember how my mother Josephine Wilkinson Whitton took many a listened-out 78 and dipped them in boiling water, grabbed them out and quick-molded them into trays and bowls. She would paint them black, red or green and place oriental decals on them. Having lacquered them, they became birthday and music-themed Christmas gifts for family and also neighbors along Frank Road in the days before shopping malls, before Walmart.

Are you old enough to remember little Leslie Uggums, pigtails aloft, singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands?” She’s a great-grand-mom now.

Do you remember when every radio and every early TV program offered a spiritual message, a prayer, or a hymn?

Pray tell me. What ear blessings will our present generations file away? How will the noise of today bring blessings of tomorrow? Aren’t we blessed to have lived in our own generation?

“God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.”

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staff
From the Rappahannock Record news team

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