Monday, April 19, 2010

I touched history this weekend.

Charming and I took off (alone!) Friday evening for a short visit upstate. We spent Friday night with Charming's best buddy Mike and his wife, my dear-dear-dear friend Kaybeautiful.

Saturday morning, over coffee (and tea for Kaybeautiful), we looked over a bag of "stuff" that she had of her grandmother's. This bag of "stuff," she has had for all of her 31-year marriage, and it has come through moves from place to place, basement to attic, here to there, and Kay had never examined it. What surprising treasures it held!

We found a number of pamphlets called The Story of The Old Rugged Cross, referring to the song written in 1913 by Rev. George Bennard. A pastor of a little church in Pokagon, Michigan, invited him to preach a revival in January 1913. Rev. Bennard had written the first verse to his song earlier, but finished it at this time, and the church choir performed the song publicly for the first time there. Kay's grandmother was scheduled to sing that Sunday, but was home with a sick wee one. However, Grandma's two sisters and one of the sisters' husbands were among the five-member choir.

Kaybeautiful knew the story--she also grew up in this church. But to see the little pamphlet with photos of her aunts was so, so exciting. There were also a number of leaflets, year-by-year, of Old Rugged Cross Sunday, an annual commemoration. We also found a carbon-copy of a letter written by the pastor of the little church, telling how he and his wife paid for the first printing of the music.

This little incident reminded me of the concept of the human web, or six degrees of separation, the idea that any two people on earth can be connected by no more than five other people. I am three degrees from the writer of The Old Rugged Cross: me to Kaybeautiful, to her grandmother, to Rev. Bennard, who taught her to sing his song. And, if you know me (and I know you do!) you become four degrees.

Do you wonder how the song became popular? Evangelist Billy Sunday used it extensively in his crusades in the 1920's. Later, Billy Graham found the Lord under Sunday's ministry. Billy Sunday's home is a museum 35 miles from my home, at Winona Lake in Warsaw, Indiana. Winona Lake is home to Grace College, formerly Winona Lake College, where my grandfather graduated--another "human web."

A few years ago, my neighbor who lived in the teeny-tiny upstairs apartment next door, came to ask if she could serve dinner to an English missionary couple who were coming to visit, in our dining room. I told her I would be glad to make dinner. Even though it was out-of-season, I made a full Thanksgiving menu, complete with pumpkin pie. As we enjoyed our meal, the wife mentioned that her favorite books when she was a child were the Gene Stratton-Porter books. I told her that Mrs. Porter had owned a house just three doors down from us. So, after dinner, we knocked on our neighbor's door, and our missionary friends got the Grand Tour, complete with Random Historical Facts.

Think about it. You are a missionary to Africa, born in England, come to America for the very first time, and land by serendipity at a house for dinner that is three doors down from one your favorite author used to own? Bizarre.

As Charming says, "God is so bizarre." But, he also says, would you want to serve a God who wasn't? He fills our lives with ever-new, ever-connected things that show us He is in control. Nothing is by accident with Him. And He makes living fun.

Saturday we went to Charming's Mom's house, and visited with two of his sisters, a nephew, Kaybeautiful, and Violet. We looked at more of Kay's stuff, including letters to her grandmother dated 1907, and a packet of my father's WWII letters to my mother, that I had brought along to show Violet. Stepped back into mid-century, and further back to early-century, through real-life people with whom we are connected. No better way to spend a weekend!

To read a little more about The Old Rugged Cross, go here.

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