Each time I leave our beautiful church I remember two Sundays when disaster was just around the corner. The first experience involved our daughters' family who was there for a visit. One of their children disappeared. Yes, he was lost, but in a short while, he was found and our joy overflowed into thankfulness. After that experience, I wrote a letter to our newspaper:
"There is a wonderful man in our town and we want to thank him for finding our lost grandson. Last Sunday after church three year old Tevin wandered away from us. Frantically we searched the building while his parents went outside to look for him. A man appeared on the sidewalk holding Tevin in his arms. He explained that this little boy was walking down Spring St. He stopped his truck, picked him up and decided it best to ask at the nearby church if anyone knew him. We engulfed that precious child with our hugs, and the man walked away before we could thank him."
My letter to the editor brought no response from the man who found Tevin. But we thanked God who was with us through a possible disaster and in a joyful reunion.
The following year, I suffered a near disaster as I left that very same church. I told my husband that I would be home in just a moment since I was talking with a friend. My "moment" must have been lengthy because everyone was gone when I walked toward the parking lot. I paused for the red light, and heard a horn blow. I could not see inside the car, but I decided it was someone I knew who was also late as they left the church.
I waved and crossed the street as the car turned right. The horn blew again and the car stopped. I walked over and opened the door. A man, who I did not know, leaned over toward the open door, and said, "Hi Cutie, you wanna get in?" His unkempt hair, beard, and dirty clothing immediately spoke another message to me. I must get away as quickly as possible.
I rushed to my car - the only one in the parking lot - praying that the man would not follow me. The prayer went something like this:
"O God, thank You that You are here. Protect me from any harmful consequences of my foolish actions. I am sorry that I opened the door to a strangers' car but I thought it was a friend. Dear Lord, please lead me home safely and quickly."
I continued to pray all the way home and I never said, "Amen" until I fell into the arms of my beloved husband. I was in tears as I related the possibility of a disaster.
Looking at both incidents on the two streets that surround my church, I see growing faith and trust. A church building is only the place where believers meet to worship God and to hear His word. The living truth of God must be in the heart of the believer as we walk out the doors into the world. We need the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).
If we focus on that promise, when we are confronted with disaster, we will not be defeated. We will be enabled to live a victorious life as an overcomer.
When disaster came to Thomas A. Dorsey, the composer of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," he was overcome with grief and declared he would not write music or sing again. But the Spirit of God intervened through a trusted friend and Dorsey wrote a masterpiece of music that has carried many a Christian through turmoil and fear:
"Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on help me stand.
I am tired, I am weak I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to your light.
Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on."
Who was this man who wrote these words under much distress and sorrow? As a young boy, he followed his father and mother to church. His father was the preacher, his mother, the organist. To study his life is to see an example of one of God's greatest promises in the Bible:
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6).
In his teens he was rebellious but when he moved to Chicago he was drawn to the great revivals of Billy Sunday. There he recommitted his life to the Lord.
When he married his childhood sweetheart, Nettie, they remained in Chicago so that he could be a music director. One night he was to travel to St. Louis to sing in a revival. His wife, who was expecting their first child, insisted he go to fulfill a long time commitment.
However that night, he received a telegram that brought tragic news. Nettie had gone into early labor and died giving birth to Thomas A. Dorsey, Jr. He returned to Chicago to be with his son but the baby died before he got there. Mother and son were buried in the same casket.
It was a grief from which Dorsey seemed unable to recover. But through prayer and support from his friends, he slowly began to regain perspective. It took months for him to even sit at his piano. But it was then that music flowed into his prayer, "Precious Lord, take my hand." It came from deep within his heart as he began the journey from disaster and grief to healing. Since those moments in 1932, millions of Christians have been touched by his hymn's majesty.
"Precious Lord, we see the evidence of your presence and healing power. Disasters can come quickly but we rest in the promise of your presence to redeem even the worst of experiences. Thank you for taking my grandsons' hand- and my hand- while you led us to safety. Thank you for healing the broken heart of Thomas Dorsey with a beautiful song of assurance. In Jesus' name, Amen"
Lucy Neeley Adams has always loved music. She began telling the story of hymns on Christian radio WWGM in Nashville, TN, in the '80s. She then wrote a newspaper column titled "Song Stories" for five years. During that time Lucy's book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions, was published by Abingdon Press in Nashville. Each of the 52 stories contained in the book is written in a devotional format, with the words of the hymn concluding each devotion.
Lucy, dubbed "The hymn lady," can be heard on the first Thursday of each month when she discusses hymn stories during a telephone interview with Michelle Mendoza of "Living Christian". The program is aired on station KCIS in Seattle, WA.
Lucy lives at Lake Junaluska, NC, with her minister husband, Woody. They have four children and fourteen grandchildren. She may be reached for comment at email@example.com. Visit her at 52hymns.com.