I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known the faithfulness to all generations. Psalms 89:1
I really struggled with a name for this blog for a few months, it was an idea in my head for about a year to start a blog based on where I was in my walk with the Lord. It seemed that while thinking about how to sum up my thoughts as of late there was a recurring theme going on in my life. My Mother, who has dementia and is in a nursing home had gotten more confused and for the first time in my 43 years no longer knew who I was.
It was a day I will never forget, and it was not dramatic at all. Just silence and sadness…and no recognition in her beautiful face of me, her only daughter. The daughter she prayed to have for almost twenty years. Time and age are visceral proof that we live in a fallen state. How can anyone who claims there is no God not see the fall’s effect on humanity through mental illness disease, and aging… I think that God suffers this along with us, in fact there have been many times in life when I thought I could not take any more, He somehow reached in and softened the blow. I know He is in control, I read it in His word and I have also experienced sweet Peace in the midst of a tornado of emotions or calamity. I know His steady hand, and I trust it. There have been many doors closed to me as of late, but God, in his great mercy has seen fit to open many many more. I read this story a few years ago, and when searching for the title of this blog I stumbled upon it late one night. I stayed up reading it again and realized the hope and joy expressed in this story contained the title I was looking for, and they say so much more about my experiences right now than words that I write ever could. My Pastor had recently told us of the faith of the Hymn writer, Fanny J. Crosby and I found it no mere coincidence she is also included. Dear reader, please be encouraged and never ever lose hope in Christ!
Music from Broken Chords.
Excerpts from an essay written by Corrie Ten Boom not long after being released from Ravensbrook Concentration Camp in Germany, WWII. Corrie, her Father and Sister Betsie hid Jews during the Dutch invasion by Adolph Hitler. They were betrayed and ended up in Ravensbruck Concentration camp where Betsie died from starvation. Corrie was released by a clerical error and traveled the world sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During the war she lost her home, her Father, Sister, Brother and her Nephew to Prison and the Camps. Her family saved the lives of many Jews and along with Betsie’s help and a smuggled Bible, spread the Gospel inside Ravensbruck. Betsie had a vision that after the War Corrie would return to Germany and along with God’s help turn the old camps into places of Refuge. This is one of Corrie’s essays from her book “Tramp for the Lord”.
The Germans had lost face in defeat. Their homes had been destroyed and when they heard the enormity of Hitler’s crimes (which many Germans knew nothing about) they were filled with despair. As they returned to their Fatherland they felt they had nothing to live for.
Friends in Darmstadt helped me to rent a former concentration camp to use as a home for displaced persons. It was not big, but there was room for about one hundred sixty refugees and soon it was full with a long waiting list. I worked closely with the refugee program of the Lutheran Church in the Darmstadt camp. Barbed wire disappeared. Flowers, light-colored paint and God’s love in the hearts of the people changed a cruel camp into a refuge where people would find the way back to life again.
The Lutherans assisted with the children’s and women’s work. Pastor’s and members of different churches helped build homes. I was traveling and helping raise money for the work. The camp was crowded. Some rooms where jammed with several families. Noise and bedlam were everywhere as families, many without men because they had been killed in the war, tried to carry on the most basic forms of living. Often I would walk through the camp talking with the lonely, defeated people, trying to bring them hope and cheer.
One afternoon I spotted and elderly woman huddled in the corner of a big room. She was obviously new to the camp. She had been put in the big room along with three other families and told she could set up housekeeping in the corner. There she crouched, like a whipped child, her faded, worn dress pulled tightly around her frail, wasted body. I could sense she was distressed by the bedlam of all the crying children, but most of all defeated by life itself. I went to her, sat beside her on the floor, and asked who she was. I learned she had been a professor of music at the Dresden Conservatory before the war. Now she had nothing.
I asked her to tell me about her life, knowing that sometime it helps just to have someone willing to listen. She told me that a minister in a nearby town had given her permission to play his piano. She had also learned of several farmers’ children nearby who wanted to receive music lessons. But the minister’s home was miles away and the only way to get there was on foot. It all seemed so hopeless. “You were a professor of piano? ” I asked excitedly. “I am a great lover of Germany’s master musician, Johann Sebastian Bach.” For an instant her eyes lighted up. “Would you care to accompany me to the minister’s home”” She asked with great dignity. “I would be most happy to play for you.”
It was a great privilege, and even though we had to walk many miles, I sensed God was doing something special. She seated herself at the battered piano. I looked at the instrument. Even though it had been saved from the bombing it had not been protected from the rain. The strings were exposed through the warped frame and I could see they were rusted. Some were broken and curled around the others. The pedals had been broken off and the keyboard was almost entirely without ivory. If any of the notes played it would be a miracle. Looking up, the old woman said “What would you like me to play?”. Silently, I prayed, knowing that failure at this moment could crush her forever. Then, to my own amazement, I heard myself saying. “Would you please play the “Chromatic Phantasy” Of Bach?”
I was aghast. Why had I picked one of the most difficult of all piano pieces for this old woman to play on such a ruined instrument? Yet the moment I said it, I saw a light flicker behind her eyes and a slight, knowing smile played across her tired face. She nodded, and with great finesse, put her fingers on the broken keyboard. I could hardly believe my ears. From that damp, battered old piano flowed the beautiful music of Bach as her skilled fingers raced up and down the broken, chipped keys. Tears came to my eyes and ran down my cheeks as I though of wounded Germany, left with only the remnants of the past, still able to play beautiful music. Such a nation will survive to create again, I thought. As the notes of Bach faded from the air the words of an old Gospel song, written by the blind composer Fanny J. Crosby, came to mind:
Down in the human heart, crush’d by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
As we walked back to the former concentration camp my companion had a new spring in her step. “It has been many years since I played the “Chromatic Phantasy” she said. “Once I was a concert pianist and many of my pupils are now outstanding musicians. I had a beautiful house in Dresden that was destroyed by the bombs. I had to flee and was not able to take one thing with me.” “Oh no, you are wrong,” I said. “You took with you your most prized possession.” “ And what is that?” She asked, shocked. “Your music, For that which is in your heart can never be taken from you.” Then I told her of what I had learned in Ravensbruck, of Betsie’s vision, and that God’s love still stands when all else has fallen. “In the midst of the Concentration camp they took all we had, even made us stand naked for hours at a time without rest, but they could not take Jesus from my heart. Ask Jesus to come into your life, he will give you riches no man can take away from you!”
We returned to the camp in silence, but I knew the Holy Spirit was pricking her heart, reminding her of the things that man cannot snatch from us. Soon it was time for me to leave the camp and move on to other fields. The day I left she was sitting in that same corner of the room. A boy was playing his mouth organ, a baby was crying, there were sounds of shouts and of a hammer pounding against a wooden crate. The room was full of discord and dis-harmonic noises, but her eyes were closed and there was a faint smile on her face. I knew God had given her something no one could ever take away from her, ever again.