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Thursday, July 23, 2009

o ye of little faith, peace, be still

Recently I played my own arranged medley of hymns as a special musical number for sacrament meeting. This, in and of itself, is not strange, in fact, I have done such a thing in every ward I've been in since 2003.

What is strange is that I had only arranged the medley the night before because, unlike previous times, I had nothing to practice on. I recently sold my portable piano to pay my rent and I have regretted that ever since. Did DaVinci sell his art supplies or Mozart his harpsichord? I doubt it - but oh well.

Anyway, because of my lack of practice I was unsure I should perform. These second thoughts grew as I learned the theme of my music did not really fit the theme of the talks being given. Eventually, I thought,
O ye of little faith
- this is God's gift to you to play, now it's your gift to God to play for Him - peace, be still. I gave in and settled on the final thought that I would just play anyway because the music was fresh in mind.

I played a pioneer medley that included:

"The Spirit of God"
"Jesus, Lover of My Soul"
"Come, Come, Ye Saints"
Nearer, My God, To Thee"
Lead, Kindly Light"
and "Come Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing"

It was an interesting piece that was meant to tell the story of the pioneer trek from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley. I wanted to use hymns from their era that they probably sang along the way as prayers to God for mercy and praise.

As it turned out, I am so glad I played the medley that day because my friend was in the congregation who is the friend of a friend of the brother of one of the Twelve Apostles. That brother just happened to need a pianist at the last minute for a dinner party he was putting on that his brother, the Apostle, would be attending.

Somehow, someway my name was given to the brother and I agreed to play even though I don't read music nor am I great at playing classical, contemporary or jazz improv piano which was part of what he wanted. I am best at arranging hymn medleys and composing my own music - it took me until the day of the party to feel at least 75% confidant I would do alright.

The day came and I got dressed in my best suit, shirt and tie. I was picked up in a lovely and luxurious Mercedes-Benz car service which only made me fearful I would not meet his expectations since he was paying me - but I pressed on. I printed out my list of music I could play. Here's the list, besides some jazz improv I played, in no particular order:

"Love Changes Everything"
"A Whole New World"
"Over The Rainbow/Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
"The Rose"
"I Dreamed A Dream"
"Chariots Of Fire"
"Ode To Joy/Jurassic Park Theme"

"For The Beauty Of The Earth/Simple Gifts/
All Creature Of Our God And King"
"Jesus, Lover Of My Soul/Nearer, My God, To Thee/
Jesus The Very Thought Of Thee'
"Let Zion In Her Beauty Rise/Praise To The Lord, The Almighty"
"If I Could Hie To Kolob"
"O My Father/How Great Thou Art/Amazing Grace"
"The Spirit Of God/How Firm A Foundation"
"O Savior, Thou Who Wearest A Crown"
"God Speed The Right/Onward Christian Soldiers/Press Forward Saints"
"Because I Have Been Given Much/Lord, I Would Follow Thee/
A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief"
"Consider The Lilies/Come Thou Fount/Lead, Kindly Light"
"Abide With Me/Abide With Me 'Tis Eventide"

and my own composition, "Orion's Song"

It was a wonderful two hours of music that included the great company and compliments of the Apostle, his lovely wife, his brother's family, his guests and Zeke the dog who loves to jump up and say hi.

I share this with you because the few days before I played in church I asked God how I would pay August's rent without a job. I trusted God enough to ask in the first place because He's gotten me through this entire year; He has provided a way for me to survive as long as I have asked for His help - though knowing Him - He would eventually help me anyway because he loves me so much. Despite all the evidence of a great and generous god, I have a doubtful heart.

This piano gig thing came the night after I played in church and probably only because I played in church since I am not a professional pianist. The amazing thing is that it more than provided for my rent this coming month. This is further evidence that God is aware of my circumstance and is more than willing to lead me kindly to the light that is His love. All I have to pay is my faith, trust in Him and simple obedience to simple things He asks of me.

The next day I went on an overnight road trip to Atlanta. On the way down we hit a huge and ferocious thunderstorm that I truly thought would injure or kill us. I had prayed for safety when we started the trek, but when the storm hit so hard I was afraid that God didn't hear my prayer. I prayed to myself to the point of tears that God would make the rain stop and get us out of the storm safely. Within 30 seconds the storm had lifted up and within a minute or two we were completely safe - the rest of our roadtrip was made without any scares or safety problems.

Now I am reminded of the scripture story about the disciples in the boat with Christ during a huge storm.

"And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?
Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" ~ Matthew 8:23-27

I have always loved the lyrics written by Mary Ann Baker to the hymn, "Master, The Tempest Is Raging." Karen Lynn Davidson writes in her book, Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and The Messages, "This hymn first printed in 1874, asks us to play several roles as we sing it. In the first verse, our words are those of a fearful disciple in that boat on the Sea of Galilee; our panic rises as a growing tempest threatens to capsize us at any moment. In the second verse, the fear and despair are just as great, but these are figurative storms, "torrents of sin and of anguish." The third verse recognizes the peace that comes after Jesus has calmed the storm, whether it is a storm on Galilee or a storm within the heart. The same chorus follows each verse, and here we speak words of faith in the Savior's ability to calm the storm. The hymn's central phrase and message, "Peace, be still," is repeated four times in this chorus."

In some other words from Mary Ann Baker, "The Master's own voice stilled the tempest in my unsanctified heart and brought it to the calm of a deeper faith and a more perfect trust."

Last night I was told that the holiest war that one will ever fight is within the heart. I believe the greatest storm one will ever weather is found within the heart, as well. The heart is an amazing organ that plays many roles in one's life. One of my greatest missions in life is to let the spirit, peace and love dwell there, even in the midst of great storms.

In both the case of the need for rent money and the calming of a literal storm - I have learned in my heart the simple phrase,
"O ye of little faith, peace, be still."

You have been caught Jey Walking! (trusting in the Lord to lead the way)


Bravone said...

Sounds like some sweet experiences. I am happy for you Jey!

Ned said...

Beautiful entry, Jey. By the way, are you somehow connected to Gladys?

jey walker gladstone said...

Upon returning to New York City I also received a job interview for jetBlue Airways this Monday. Wish me luck.

Ned - I assume you mean Gladys Knight - my only connection is that I've eaten at her Atlanta restaurant, Fried Chicken & Waffles - yummmy! Oh and that we're both talented.

EJ said...

This was such a wonderful message, and timely for me. Thank you, Jey~

loradona said...

Jey, you are amazing, and I love how faith-promoting this story is. Thank you for sharing it.
Good luck with getting work. If all else fails, it sounds like you should advertise your mad piano skillz!

individually wrapped slices said...

Thats amazing Jey! Thanks for sharing.