Sometimes It Causes Me To Tremble

April 6, 2012 | 27 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,
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 | April 6, 2012 | 27 comments

27 Comments

  1. Sincerely, Jenni

    Les sounds like a wonderful person. I am sure he will be missed. God Bless him.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Jenni.

      Les was a kind, generous and loving man with a quick wit and a smile. Always a smile.

      And he lived his life in such a way that others would know what it means to love and follow the Lord. He didn’t do it a preachy way, but in a way that said: “I live what I believe.”

      That’s how I want to live, too.

      Reply
  2. Jeanne Damoff

    Beautiful, Jennifer. We do not sorrow as those without hope. What a glorious rehearsal. What a hushing glimpse. Thank you.

    Peace and comfort to you and your community as you miss your dear friend.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Jeanne. Your prayers are much appreciated. Les was a man deeply respected and loved throughout the area.

      Reply
  3. David Rupert

    I love this song. I remember hearing it in small black church in Mississipi as a 20-something. The old woman who sang it still resonates in my soul.

    Love your retelling of that farmer-saint

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      It is a hauntingly beautiful song. I can’t listen to it without tears.

      Reply
  4. Dawn @ Dawnings

    A beautiful, worshipful tribute to a friend, neighbor, brother.

    The photo? Exquisite.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Dawn.

      Empty egg, empty tomb.

      He is risen indeed. What sweet relief this truth brings.

      Reply
  5. Julia

    Stunning and lovely, Jennifer! Peace to you and your church family as you mourn the loss of that relationship and celebrate his entrance to glory.

    Reply
  6. Gramma T

    Beautifully written through the pen, but by the Spirit. With the assurance that we will hear him sing again we live and wait for that time.

    Reply
  7. Lindy

    This is why my husband will always be a pastor at a small church. It is the community and family that truly show you what faith is. May you be able to celebrate the life that he lived here, knowing where he is now!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Lindy … There really is something special about a small church. My present church reminds me so much of the small church of my childhood.

      We are family. Really…. It often seems like we’re having church in a living room, instead of a sanctuary. But it’s holy. It’s good. I want to kick my shoes off there. (And in fact, I often do.)

      Reply
  8. Kelly Sauer

    Sigh… There are no words for this.

    Reply
  9. Beth Herring

    oh, what a beautiful tribute to your friend. that is an amazing song with an amazing message that should make us all tremble!

    Reply
  10. Alisa Hope Wagner

    An amazing tribute to your dear friend! I love when Jesus is so visible in people’s lives! Thank you for sharing a little of his story with us.

    Reply
  11. S. Etole

    tears for someone I’ve never met … but will

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I love this. Thank you for saying it.

      Reply
  12. Linda

    I don’t know Les, but I know him by other names, other faces. Oh Jennifer, this is so moving. I am weeping tears of sadness, joy and hope. I long to leave a legacy like Les.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Linda … You are. You ARE. You are a woman who is leaving Jesus-footprints all over the place. xoxo

      Reply
  13. Tay

    What a powerful story of a wonderful life! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  14. deb

    I wish only to honour and live a little like Les, like these truly good and humble people .

    and I linked to that song for Good Friday.. it is one that my children hear often at school Mass and in our church, but I do so love the Johnny Cash and Mahalia Jackson version.

    Reply
  15. Sandra Heska King

    Our life here is just a rehearsal for that final curtain call, isn’t it. This is just beautiful, Jennifer. Can you just imagine his expression now?

    Reply
  16. Simply Darlene

    Oh miss Jennifer, this is some story… I didn’t know that song is actually a hymn. I have the Randy Travis version and it always causes such a fluttering of my heart.

    And regarding your brother in Christ, you have shared a fine and loving and godly tribute here; I am sorry for your loss.

    Blessings.

    Reply
  17. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Oh, my. Reading this has stolen my words. Almost all of them. I have only enough left to say,

    Thank you, dear sister. God bless you.

    Reply
  18. Lyli@3dLessons4Life

    Oh, my! God does have a way with timing. Doesn’t He? You truly have captured the beauty of this man’s soul — what a privilege it is to have men in your life who point you to the Savior with such love and sincerity!

    I have always loved that hymn. Thanks for reminding me of it — I also really love the poem by James Weldon Johnson on the crucifixion. Here is a copy I found online for your reading pleasure: http://www.jehovahlutheran.org/sermons/Sermon20100411.pdf

    Reply

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