Sometimes It Causes Me To Tremble

March 29, 2013 | 12 comments

It was a rehearsal, a Good Friday rehearsal, and the farmer at the front of the church gripped the microphone in work-worn hands.

“Test. Test. Test,” he spoke, words crackling.

At the piano keys, my mother-in-law played the song’s introduction. Our pastor turned up the volume. The farmer began to sing. And I — the lone spectator in a pew — leaned back to listen.

The rehearsal ended, and the pastor asked: “Do you want to sing the last verse or leave it at three?”

The farmer — a man who knows the pain of suffering, but the promise of a resurrection — said he needed to sing all four verses.

He needed to.

The farmer grew up in this church on the edge of this cornfield, and he watched it burn down one winter night when the firemen’s efforts were futile. He worked hard with others to see that this prairie church — as much a part of his life as his own skin — was rebuilt.

Yes, he knew pain. He’d lost his first wife. After he remarried, their farmhouse burned down, too — a home just one mile up from the church. He buried his mother in this church, and he was the one to dig her grave — and the graves of most everyone he loved from this holy house.

Yes, he knew pain. But he also knew an empty tomb. He knew what it meant to find beauty in ashes.

At the microphone, the farmer made his intentions clear. “We’ll sing the last verse,” he said. “The song isn’t complete without the fourth verse.”

He sang the words: “Were you there when God raised him from the grave?”


Good Friday came, and at the end of the service, the farmer stepped up to the microphone and opened the hymnal to page 92.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Ohhhhh …. sometimes, it causes me to tremble, 
tremble …” 

His silken notes lifted high, and I watched his face, and the way he closed his eyes tight, and raised his chin, and sang not to us — but to the Lord.

I saw it.

The farmer, named Les, wasn’t just singing the words; he was feeling them. They were drawn up from a deep well in the soul. Les wore the expression of a man who loved his Savior, in a more visible way than I’d ever seen on him before.

The song concluded, after he sang the fourth verse. And the congregation wiped tears from their cheeks and left the sanctuary in silence, heading out into the spring night and the perpetual promise of hope.


Five days later, on a Wednesday afternoon, the ambulance raced past the church and up the driveway of Les’ farm.  We saw it go by. Soon, a friend from church dialed. We could hear her cry on the other end of the line.

We sat in the pool of our shock. “What?” “How?” “Why?”

For Les, it was over. And, too, it had just begun.

A farmer died on the farm. And now Les lives in the reality of the fourth verse.

The rehearsal is over. His new life has begun.

In memory of our dear friend Les. Our loss is Heaven’s gain.

Reposting from the 2011 archives.

by | March 29, 2013 | 12 comments


  1. Dave Vander Laan

    Oh my – this is a beautiful tribute to your friend, Jennifer.

    We do need that fourth verse.The Resurrection & the hope it offers seems too good to be true.

    And that hope causes me to tremble in all the best ways.

  2. Floyd

    A wonderful tribute to a true man of God… Les saw his share of sorrow… now he sees and lives pure peace. That truth is enough to cause me to tremble, tremble, tremble…

  3. Stephanie

    Wow! This is beautiful. I hear our Savior’s love through these words. Be blessed this Easter weekend!

  4. Kim

    I love that hymn. We sang all four verses for a community choir on Palm Sunday.

  5. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Jennifer! Such a poignant, beautifully told tribute to such a godly man. Les was there, at the crucifixion and the grave, because we all are in a vicarious sense. But now Les is THERE!!!!! He is THERE, THERE with his risen Lord! Glory!

  6. S. Etole

    So wonderfully told. Blessings for this Resurrection Sunday.

  7. Pastor Rich Stevenson

    Even though I only knew Les for such a short time his memory is forever etched into mine. As I heard him sing, the only time I heard him sing, the love he had for His savior was never more evident than when that soft, beautiful voice of his sang with every fiber of his being and not a sound could be heard but his voice declaring the life his savior had given to him through His death and resurrection. I only wish that God would have granted me more time to see the faith that Les had in His Savior for God was giving me a glimpse of Himself through this wonderful child of the King. Sing it loud Les for Jesus because you are celebrating the life that God so promised you in your Savior Jesus Christ, the King of the creation.

  8. Jillie

    Oh Jennifer, this is beautifully written. I could ‘see’ Les up there at the front of the church, picture him with eyes closed, hear his voice as he sang. And his choice of song on that Good Friday, perhaps with that silent longing in his soul to see His Saviour, as we all do at times. And now, he’s with his crucified and risen Lord forever. No more pain. No more tears. Only Joy!
    (I believe this song, which evokes such emotion, is an old Negro Spiritual, if I’m not mistaken?)
    Have a blessed Easter, Jennifer.
    The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, just as He said.” Amen! He is Risen indeed!

  9. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you, Jennifer, for this heart-touching story. How fitting that soon after his humble yet passionate solo, he should be transported to heaven. Now Les sings with the angels!

  10. Mai Bateson

    Amazing tribute to a true friend and a brother in Christ. Beautifully written! 🙂 Very inspiring… Les is singing with the Lord now! 🙂

  11. Lorretta @Dancing On The Dash

    I’ll never forget the first time I heard that song sung…and I know that each time it’s sung… have to ask yourself the same question: were you…are you… there? This is a beautiful hallelujah.


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