The haunting (some say spooky) clarinet of "Clarinut"
The beautiful altar at
Lord of Life Lutheran Church
Who's the old gray-haired guy
in the white sport coat?
Most of these were recorded several years ago; I will be adding newer versions and more hymns in the near future.
Why the hymns?
I was raised by a very devoted Christian mother and regularly attended the Evangelical United Brethren Church (since absorbed by the United Methodist Church, I think), Sunday School and all that. I still treasure the Bible given to me by the church upon graduation in 1956, and the Bible my mother's grandfather gave her for High School graduation in 1928.
I married young, after my first year of college to a Lutheran gal from Texas, and moved back to Indiana. After attending Adult Confirmation, I became a member of the local Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod church. I was a strong believer for years thereafter, and in fact, was an original member of a new Lutheran Missouri Synod church founded in Carmel, Indiana, when our prior LCMS church went with LCA (since merged into the ELCA) after the Seminex debacle in the mid 1970s. I remember that my main objections to LCA doctrine were the Lord’s Supper no longer had the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood, and scripture was not necessarily considered inerrant.
For some reason though, my church attendance tapered off starting in the mid 70's, and alcohol became my god (along with all its demi-gods) for a number of years. Probably due to my excessive drinking, I was separated around 1980, and moved to St. Louis in 1983. After continuing my tomcat ways for a while, I settled down with Pat, whom I am still with. She is Roman Catholic, a fantastic gal, and I thank God for her; I have gone to Mass with her on a number of occasions, as well as going to a Lutheran Church by myself - I think maybe 2 or 3 times in 30 years or so. These visits to Lutheran churches did nothing to inspire me however, maybe due to a style of worship somewhat alien to me (non-liturgical leaning with bands), and my perceived holier-than-thou attitude of the people. However, I never completely left the Christian Faith, even though that was not evident in my lifestyle. I still believed in Christ and carried a wooden cross in my pocket for years in the 90s and 2000s, occasionally giving one to someone that I thought could use it. I did this several times, and always felt good about it, and then would get another to replace it in my pocket and heart. I still carry a pocket cross, and wear a crucifix on a necklace chain.
Then, late in 2013, around early or mid November, something eerie happened. While I was noodling around on the clarinet, no sheet music to follow, just improv and playing various songs from memory, the clarinet started playing "In The Garden", "The Old Rugged Cross", and "Onward Christian Soldiers". Now I had not heard any of these hymns for over 30 years, yet I played the entire tunes with no sheet music. I enjoyed playing the songs, they brought back memories, and I didn't think too much of it; but after this occurred several times I wondered how and why it was happening. Around the same time, I found the Kris Kristofferson song, "Why Me Lord", on YouTube - why or how I came across it I have no idea as he was not a favorite of mine. In this video, Kris relates how he came to Jesus again, at an "altar call" - quite intriguing. With all of this going on, somehow my old mind started thinking - is God trying to get my attention?
Well, after mulling all of this around in my mind for a month or so, and with some trepidation, I started going to a Lutheran Church again the Sunday after Christmas. That day, and for several Sundays after that, I kind of slunk in and sat in the back row, sometimes with eyes tearing up and a quivering jaw throughout the service. But after paying close attention to the sermons, the Gospel message of Jesus atoning for my sins finally began to make sense to me again, so I moved up to hear better, and sat in the fourth row (my hearing is not good). It wasn't until Maundy Thursday that God's message of salvation by grace through faith registered in my thick skull, and I finally felt I could take Christ's body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Wow - what a sense of peace came over me after feeling the Lord’s forgiveness again after 30 some odd years.
Now I eagerly look forward to hearing God's Word on Sunday mornings. I had always tried to live an honest and upright life, but now I am more at peace and content since reacquainting myself with God's Word, and my salvation bought by Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. I truly believe that God wanted me to return to Him, and the Holy Spirit was guiding my fingers on the clarinet when I played the hymns.
Since then, I have not missed a Sunday (except when services were canceled on snow days, or streets were icy) and sometimes attend Saturday and Monday services at other LCMS churches. Bible class under the direction of our wonderful Pastor has given me a new appreciation of the Scriptures and the truth of the Word of God. I have also discovered Chapel services at Lutheran Hour Ministries which have become a very important to me; an extra mid-week dose of Gospel and fellowship.
Many wonderful things have entered my life since I rediscovered the living water of Jesus; my beautiful church home at Lord of Life and Pastor Below, my shepherd and friend; Pastor Sell at Our Savior, and all of the gracious Pastors I have came into contact with at Lutheran Hour Ministries. I am still in awe of everything that has happened, and have a hard time talking about it without tearing up a bit and my voice giving out.
For someone who had turned his back on God for many years, I can now say with certainty - I didn't know what I had lost until I found it!
He is risen; He is risen indeed; Hallelujah!
PS In fall of 2016 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer. I am so thankful that I returned to God and do not have to face this alone. I am continuing my life as normal with the help of the finest support group available to anyone - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Life with God is good!