Thursday, February 14, 2019

Singing Part 3: Submission

The Personeus-Cousart Family in Seward, Alaska, in 1963, the year I graduated from high school 
Perhaps growing up in a missionary family made me more aware of worldwide missions. My grandparents, pioneer missionaries to Alaska, were not the only missionaries in my family. Several of their brothers and sisters served in India, Chile, and Africa.

In school whenever I was required to read a biography, I chose a missionary biography. One that really touched my heart was the story of David Brainerd, who poured out his life ministering to Native Americans in New Jersey, New York, and eastern Pennsylvania in the 1740s, and died of consumption at the young age of 29 in the home of the well-known preacher of the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards.

I also read the biographies of William Carey, who became known as the Father of Modern Missions; Adoniram Judson, who translated the Bible into Burmese; Hudson Taylor, missionary to China; and the well-known David Livingstone, missionary to Africa.

The movie, Through Gates of Splendor, about the five missionaries martyred along the Amazon River in Ecuador, also stirred my heart. Jim Elliot, one of the men who was killed by the Auca Indians, had also been motivated by the ministry of David Brainerd.

As I began to sing more solos in church, the theme of Christian service flowed through many of the songs I chose: "My Task," "I'm His to Command," "I Will Serve Thee," "Make Me a Blessing," "Come and Tell Us of Jesus," and "Submission," an old gospel song with a powerful message, written by C. Austin Miles, Philadelphia pharmacist turned hymn writer. The lyrics of "Submission" really arrested my attention. (Click the title to listen to it on YouTube.)


1.     The path that I have trod,
Has brought me nearer God,
Though oft it led through sorrow's gates .
Though not the way I choose,
In my way I might lose
The joy that yet for me awaits

Chorus:
Not what I wish to be,
Nor where I wish to go,
For who am I that I should choose my way?
The Lord shall choose for me,
'Tis better far, I know,
So let him bid me go, or stay

2.     The cross that I must bear,
If I a crown would wear,
Is not the cross that I should take;
But since on me 'tis laid,
I'll take it unafraid,
And bear it for the Master's sake.  

3.    Submission to the will
Of him who guides me still
Is surety of His love revealed;
My soul shall rise above
This world in which I move,
I conquer only when I yield.

I had always wanted to go to a Christian college. During my freshman year at Seattle Pacific College (SPC), I attended a mission service. The speaker suggested that we should consider ourselves called to full-time Christian service unless the Lord definitely directed us otherwise. I had never heard it put that way before. I remember praying that night that if God wanted me to be a missionary, He would direct the circumstances of my life in that path.

A few months after I prayed that prayer, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Southcentral Alaska, where my parents were missionaries. Ninety-five percent of the industrial area of our town of Seward was destroyed.

I had planned to work in the shrimp cannery on the waterfront that coming summer to pay for my next year at SPC. But the cannery had been swept away in the tsunami. And the docks where my father worked as a longshoreman to supplement his meager ministry income was gone too. I could find no work that summer, so I had no money to return to SPC that fall. That's certainly wasn't part of my plans for my life!

Our graduation day in 1967
Then I learned that Ford Foundation had set up an Earthquake-Relatedness Scholarship. Since my father and I had lost employment due to the earthquake, I qualified. But it could be used only in colleges in Alaska. At that time, there were only two, one in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks. I chose the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

There, I met my husband. He was planning a career in the Army. After much prayer, I felt God wanted me to marry him.

After his tour in Vietnam, God began to move in his heart to go into full-time ministry in the Northeast. He resigned his commission, went to Bible school and seminary. In 1977, we came to New York to pioneer a new church in Gloversville. After 40 years of ministry in three churches in New York State, we are now retired from active pastoring. Our ministry now is to be encouragers in our local church.

The path by which God leads us may not always be the way we might choose for ourselves, but we've found that submission to the will of God is best. And He has blessed our lives beyond our expectations.




Friday, February 8, 2019

Singing Part 2: How Big Is God!

Aurora Borealis at Bear Lake, Alaska
Courtesy Google.com

Growing up in Alaska, I acquired a keen sense of the greatness of God as Creator at a very young age. Surrounded by magnificent evergreen-clad mountains that rose abruptly from the waters of the Inside Passage high into the sky, I would look around and see God's amazing creation every day.

I felt close to God as His creation hugged me every day while I walked to school or rode in the car.

The colorful neon displays of the Aurora Borealis on a clear, crackling winter night left me awestruck with their curtain-like shapes waving high in the sky. Then, of course, I had no comprehension of the science behind those constantly moving magnetized electrical currents in the magnetosphere and ionosphere that produced those ethereal sights. I just knew that God set them in motion.

Even the stars declared God's glory to me. The midnight blue expanse of sky stretched from peak to peak. With few city lights to fade them, the stars twinkled so close I could almost reach out and trace the constellations.  

In my early teens I heard a song that was made popular by the singing of George Beverly Shea in the worldwide crusades of Evangelist Billy Graham: "How Great Thou Art." That song spoke to me, and I began to sing it as a solo. Now, it may be one of the best known and well-loved hymns of all time.

Yellowstone Canyon
Courtesy Google.com
As a young adult, I visited Yellowstone National Park on a Sunday morning. Standing on the rim looking down into Yellowstone Canyon with the river flowing from its Lower Falls, I felt the breeze lift my hair. As I listened to birds twitter and the roar of the falls, I was reminded of the second verse of "How Great Thou Art," and I burst out singing all four verses at the top of my lungs across that vast canyon. That song still brings me to tears fifty years later.
Another song I learned when I was in high school and was first introduced to the theory of evolution was "How Big Is God." It was written by country-western singer and song-writer, Stuart Hamblen. His father was a preacher, but Stuart turned his back on Christianity. He became a hard-drinking, foul-talking cowboy actor. But his wife Suzie was a believer. When Billy Graham did a series of meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, Suzie encouraged Hamblen to attend. 

He did, and the message of the gospel so stirred his heart that he was unable to sleep that night, thinking about his sinful life, and where he was heading in the end. About four in the morning, he called the hotel where the Graham team was staying and asked to see Dr. Graham. He arrived at the hotel an hour later and made a decision to trust Christ as his Saviour.

The power of God changed Hamblen's life completely, and he became an effective ambassador for the Lord Jesus. He wrote many gospel songs, such as "It Is No Secret," "This Old House," and "Until Then.". Overwhelmed at what God had done, he wrote a song especially for Billy Graham’s soloist George Beverly Shea to sing, "How Big Is God." The chorus joyfully exclaims:

How big is God!
How big and wide His vast domain!
To try to tell these lips can only start;
He’s big enough to rule His mighty universe,
Yet, small enough to live within my heart.

And these songs became my testimony in response to the theory of evolution.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Singing--the Joy of My Life

Singing for church in 1965
Singing has been the joy of my life. It has also comforted me in the hard times. Although I am recognized now more for my writing, during my earlier years, I was known for my singing. I majored in vocal music in college.

My family is very musical, especially gifted in singing. In fact, my parents were at the piano in the church sanctuary preparing a special song for the worship service when my father proposed.

My maternal great-grandfather was playing the organ for church by the time he was nine. My mother's father played trombone even into his nineties. My mother's older brother could pick up an instrument and  play it in no time. As captain of a mission boat for many years, he led singing with his accordion and was also quite accomplished on the clarinet, though he had never taken lessons.

My mother had a lovely soprano voice, played the piano and violin, and wrote songs and cantatas, both the words and the lyrics. As a child, I loved to listen to her play the piano and sing hymns to wake us up from our Sunday afternoon naps so we could get ready to go to church that night. In spite of Parkinson's in her later years, she played the piano from her wheelchair until just a few weeks before she died at the age of 89.

My father's father, a basso perfundo (a deep bass), sang in a well-known madrigal group in Philadelphia, as well as in his Methodist church choir. My father, a boy soprano, sang in the prestigious Episcopal Boys Choir in Philadelphia until his voice changed to tenor. He is now 97 and still sings.

My husband and I got to know each other as we sang in the a capella concert choir, the Choir of the North, at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He sang bass and I, soprano. We have sung together throughout our married life. I have served as minister of music in the churches we pastored.

Playing the piano for church in Gloversville
My son and his family have excellent singing voices too. This past Christmas Eve in their home, the whole family sang the Christmas carols a capella in four-part harmony. We sounded like a well-rehearsed choir. All four of my grandsons have starred in the high school musicals and soloed in the choirs. They play guitars and piano.

Me on my first birthday
When I was a year old, my father was studying for the ministry at Eastern Bible Institute (EBI) in Green Lane, Pennsylvania, now the University at Valley Forge. My parents often took me to chapel services with them. My mother told me that whenever the students sang the hymns, I would listen to the words and then belt out each line so loudly that they had to wait for me to finish before they could sing the next line.

My father's parents lived in Philadelphia. Whenever we had a chance, we drove down from EBI to visit them. Every Sunday morning, my grandfather would listen to the coast-to-coast radio broadcast of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour with Dr. Charles Fuller. Every broadcast began with the theme song Dr. Fuller had written,"Heavenly Sunshine." Soon, I was tripping around the house singing, "Heabenly sunshine, heabenly sunshine...."


Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine,
Flooding my soul with glory divine;
Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine,
Hallelujah! Jesus is mine!


As a brother and sister were added to my family, we children began singing a trio in Christmas programs. When I was in kindergarten,  Mother wrote a children's Christmas song for my brother,  sister, and me to sing, "I Wish I Could Have Been There."

I wish I could have been there those many years ago;
I wish I could have been there beside the manger low;
I would have seen the shepherds come to worship Christ their King;
But best of all I would have seen my Savior, Lord, and King.

Verse 2, same as above except for third line:
I would have seen the Wise Men come their offerings to bring.

Verse 3.
I know I couldn't be there those many years ago,
I know I couldn't be there beside the manger low,
But this I know that some day soon beside His throne I'll sing,
And best of all I'll get to see my Savior, Lord, and King!

                                         ©1991 AnnaMae Cousart 


At that time, my parents were operating a children's home in Juneau, Alaska. A young Eskimo woman and her baby lived in the home for a while. She taught us how to sing the chorus, "Into My Heart," in Eskimo. That song had special meaning to me because when I was 5, I asked Jesus to come into my heart.

When our church started a junior choir, I became its most faithful member. One junior choir song that sticks in my memory is "Prayer Is the Key:" "Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door..."

At the age of 9, I was asked to sing the hymn, "The Way of the Cross Leads Home," my first solo for the Sunday morning worship service. My mother had always felt like her voice had lost a certain quality after I was born. As I sang in church that morning, my father whispered to her, "There's your voice!"

By the time I was 11, I was singing trios with my parents and duets with my junior choir director, as well as solos. My mother began to coach me in singing. When my parents began to pastor churches, they often asked me to sing in services or fill in for my mother on the piano.

I have a 3 1/2 by 5 1/4 inch loose leaf notebook filled with typed words of the solos I sang from my teenage years on through my life. As I look through those songs today, It's like reading a diary of my life. I can still recall when I first sang each song and what it meant to me then. In my next few blog post, I will share some of those stories.

What hymn or song brings back a special memory to you?








Thursday, January 3, 2019

Scars and Goals

While looking through my files the other day, I came across something my husband, Bob, wrote 20 years ago. It was a beautiful, warm Wednesday in July, and he had taken a chair outside to sit under a tree near one corner of the building that housed the  church we pastored. As he meditated on the Scriptures, his eyes were drawn to the field full of a variety of wildflowers with a very large, symmetrical tree in the center.
April Fools Blizzard of 1997 Courtesy Google.com

His thoughts turned to the tree he was sitting under. Two years previously, it had been severely damaged in the April Fool's Blizzard of 1997. The snow was so wet and heavy that many power lines and trees throughout the Northeast U.S. had come down. Power companies from as far away as Virginia had come to help restore power. In fact, because of roads closed by the storm, my bivocational husband had been stranded for nearly of two days at the Christian radio station where he worked.

A major branch of the tree he was now sitting under had been torn off during that storm, leaving a gaping wound that went clear to the heart of its trunk. When the damaged part was removed, a third of the tree was gone.

Amazingly, when spring came that year, the tree flowered, but the raw wound was still obvious. Two years later, however, my husband would never have known that the tree had suffered such damage if he hadn't seen it himself. If he looked for it, though, he could find the huge scar on the trunk. The scar is enveloped in the beauty of its flowers and leaves.

In only a few days after the blizzard, our church experienced a major storm that nearly destroyed it. The damage to the congregation was considerable. Yet, it survived and became strong again.

Most people have scars in their lives too. Many live in a way that displays their open wounds to the world. People want to avoid them.

Others do not call attention to their wounds. Instead, they have allowed Christ to heal them so their scars become part of their inner beauty that points to the scars Jesus bears in His hands and feet for us. We can share the gospel to great effect by the way we reveal our scars.

Bob suggests that perhaps the purpose of our scars is to understand His scars. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 (NKJV):

"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings." .



Then in verses 12-14, Paul laid out the goal for our lives:

Courtesy Google.com
"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

That's my goal for this New Year: that my scars will help me understand how much He suffered for my salvation and that I will continue to press on to maturity in the faith, bringing others with me.









Thursday, December 27, 2018

Change


Hurricane strength Taku winds on Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Alaska, January 2017.
Courtesy Google.com


When I was in third grade walking home one day, the Taku winds picked me up and set me down in a driveway that sloped down from the street. It was full of drifted snow that came above my waist. I struggled to get out and continued walking about four more blocks to my house.

In Alaska where I grew up, we often said, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." It might snow in May as it did the day we graduated from the University of Alaska. Or the Chinook wind might bring warm temperatures in the middle of January. As one old Tlingit man said to my grandparents, "If he don't rain, he snows." But the sun might break through at any moment.

Many people are like the weather--changeable, fickle, unpredictable. Even the most stable person changes.

Change is inevitable in this life, and we welcome it! Who of us would want to eat the same meal, no matter how delicious, every day?  Who would want to make the same mistake over and over? Thank God, we can learn and mature and become more and more like Christ.

As we approach a new year, one thing we can count on is change. We live in a world that is constantly changing. The America I knew as a child is gone. Sometimes I don't even recognize what we've become.

Some changes have been good. When I first started out writing church school curriculum on assignment in the seventies, I had to write to a strict line count with each line containing a required number of characters. I had to type and retype to get it right. And we had to use carbon paper to make copies. Now, I type once on the computer, edit, and print as many copies as I need. Twenty years ago, I didn't even know how to turn on a computer. Now, I use it, as well as the Internet and social media, with ease.

Cooking and cleaning is much simplified now, but life has become even more complex.

Morality is turned upside down. What I was taught is wrong, society now calls right, and right is now called wrong.

Unlike us, however, God, our Heavenly Father, the One who created the universe, including the stars and the planets and the vast galaxies, does not change. He is not fickle.

Courtesy Google.com
And His Word will not return to Him void. It will accomplish what He intends.

The Psalmist often declared that God was his rock and his refuge. Sometimes, we may feel anxious when we think about the future and the inevitable changes it will bring, but our God is a Rock that never changes.

People are afraid of the future. Many Americans dabble in astrology and spend millions of dollars on personal horoscopes each year to try to figure out their future.  But Christians need not be afraid. We know Who holds tomorrow.

 A line in one of my favorite hymns, Abide with Me, says, "Change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not, abide with me."

Is our trust in the God who never changes, or in the ever changing, unreliable culture of this present age?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Heaven's Grocery Store

Courtesy Google.com
This week, I received a Christmas card from a friend who included a poem she'd discovered among old family photos. Who wrote it she did not know. I thought you might enjoy it too.



HEAVEN'S GROCERY STORE

I was walking down life's highway a long time ago.
One day I saw a sign that read, Heaven's Grocery Store.

As I got a little closer, the door came open wide,
And when I came to myself, I was standing inside.

I saw a host of angels--they were standing everywhere;
One handed me a basket and said, "My child, shop with care."

First, I got some PATIENCE. LOVE was in the same row.
Farther down was UNDERSTANDING; you need that everywhere you go.

I got a box or two of WISDOM, a bag or two of FAITH;
I just couldn't miss the HOLY SPIRIT for He was all over the place.

I stopped to get some STRENGTH and COURAGE to help me run this race;
By then, my basket was getting full, but I remembered I needed GRACE.

I didn't forget SALVATION, for salvation, that was free;
So I tried to get enough of that to save both you and me.

Then I started up to the counter to pay my grocery bill,
For I thought I had everything to do my Master's will.

As I went up the aisle, I saw PRAYER, and I just had to put that in,
For I knew when I stepped outside, I would run right into sin.

PEACE and JOY were plentiful; they were on the last shelf.
SONGS and PRAISES were hanging near, so I just helped myself.

Then I said to the Angel, "Now, just how much do I owe?"
He just smiled and said, "Just take them everywhere you go."

Again, I smiled at him and said, "Really, how much do I owe?"
He smiled again and said, "My child, Jesus paid your bill a long time ago."

--Anonymous


As you do your Christmas shopping, think of the Great Gift of His Son God gave on that first Christmas so long ago and be sure to receive all He offers you. He paid the bill in full on Calvary.

Courtesy Google.com


















Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.



Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Christmas I Learned About My Heavenly Father

Instead of writing a new post this week, I'm sharing the guest blog post I wrote that went live Tuesday. Here is the link:

https://allbettsareoff.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/the-christmas-i-learned-about-my-heavenly-father-annalee-conti/ 

Hope you enjoy it!

Looking for Christmas presents? For inspirational reads, take a look at my books at www.annaleeconti.com/books.html