My mom was wonderful.  I loved her dearly.  And, though she came from very humble beginnings….she grew into quite a proper lady.  Oh she loved fine things and fancy things and right things.  She was never uppity or anything like that, and she never would say something to embarrass you (on purpose). And, she never thought she was better than anyone else.  She was most willing to serve whomever, whenever a need arose.  She was instrumental in much of the missions history of our church.  She truly lived her Christianity. And she loved to sing!  She sang all the time.  No matter what she was doing, you would hear her break out in song.  She sang church music…hymns…and special songs.

But, it just bothered her when things were not done ‘correctly‘…meaning ‘in the way in which they should obviously (to anyone who knew anything) be done.  She may not tell them they were doing it wrong, but you can be sure she told her 2 daughters…so we could be sure we got it right!  And, once told, we were to do it correctly, too.  Because she said so.  And, she just so happened to be right!  And, we were always most obedient daughters!  🙂


And one of those ‘things that bothered her’ was when some music minister/song leader/ music director/ department director in assembly time would say,  “Turn to page 123  in your hymnal and let’s sing all 3 verses.”  What bothered her about this simple statement was that it was incorrect.   It would be correct to say, “Turn to hymn number 123 and let’s sing all 3 verses.”  Because the page numbers were not what we were going by…we were going by the hymn number….who knows what the page number was…but I am sure as can be that it was NOT the same as the hymn number!    See, even though most pages had only one number, on some pages there were two numbers and on some there may be 5!   To reassure myself before I posted this and brought disgrace to the family name by being wrong, I checked in my old copy of The Baptist Hymnal.   This hymnal was presented to me in 1964 (I was 11 years old).


As you can see, it says ‘Revival”, but we were not in the habit of presenting hymnals at revivals, as I recall.  Perhaps I invited people to sing in the choir, or some such thing.  I do remember that I took my own personal copy of The Baptist Hymnal, to church with me for a while…along with my Bible and offering envelope.  Then Mama found out I was doing that and she said I was acting boastful and that was not why I was given it.  So, I began to use it when I took piano lessons from Aunt Eunice.  Truth be told, the only reason I even wanted to take piano lessons was to play hymns and play for church.  I can still see Aunt Eunice Williams’ (my teacher and dear friend) handwriting all in this hymnal.  Quite a treasure to me.  (For those friends in SBC, the hymnal was also signed by Bill Buchanan and Rev. Sidney Sample.)  I did end up playing some here and there at church as I got older …for Sunday nights and Wednesday nights…and for choirs and VBS, but the piano talent in our family was given to my sister, Joy.  She is our church pianist at SBC and does such a beautiful job at it.  I love hearing her play.

And, this is the honest truth, I promise you!  I can remember my Pop leaning over to me when some song leader or music minister  would get the hymn number thing right and saying ,”He knows how to do it right!”  And I would “Shhh” him because he never learned to whisper….especially in church!  And still can’t! 🙂


Another thing that bothered Mom was pronunciation.  She was a stickler on that!  As I look back on it now… this was such a big deal to her.  In speaking and in singing.  But, I remember it more in the singing because…well, I don’t really know why.  It just made an impression on me as a child and I found myself stressing it to the children I’ve worked with in music through the years, and to my children.  I can hear her voice in my memory, even now, and I know every word will be perfect!

A perfect example is Silent Night.  It would ruffle her very last feather to hear someone sing “Si-lunt Night”…instead of “Si-lent Night”…pronouncing the short ‘e’, as it was meant to be.  And really, if you see the word ‘lent’…you don’t pronounce it ‘lunt’.  (Oh, you would never know she was displeased with your pronunciation…unless you were her daughter, or her husband..and perhaps her grandchildren…she held them to very high standards, as well.  But,if I were sitting by her in church, I could almost feel her cringe…ever so slightly.)  Same thing with ‘heaven’.  It is hea-ven…as in been…..not hea-vun!  Try ‘angel’…an-gel (gel)…not an-jul!    “When we’ve been there ten thou-sand  years”…not thou-sund.”  And, I could go on, but I won’t because I think you get what I’m saying.


Way back when we used to sings only hymns in the Baptist church, there were certain rules to follow.  This was way before we had the big screens at the front of the church with all the words on it.  Back in the old days, we would use our hymnals for the words.   If there were 4 verses in a song…we sang 1,2,and 4.  (Or just 1 and 4 if the song service had run long or there was a testimony or something.  You just didn’t cut in on the preacher’s time…he had to start by 11:30!)  I don’t know why it was done that way…but it must have been a Southern Baptist Convention rule.  Didn’t matter where you went to church, in town or out of town…that’s the way it was.  I  always wondered if the third verse just wasn’t as as good as the rest.  But, why would it be in the song if it wasn’t?  Now if there were three verses…we sang all 3.  Or occasionally 1 and 3…for the same reason as above!

Then there were those few that were half page songs.  We rarely sang those, though.  They had the same amount of words, but by stacking them like they did, they could get two songs on one page.  (There’s that rule…2 hymn numbers on 1 page!)  I always felt like the printers of The Baptist Hymnal just threw those half page songs in as filler.  That’s just some Tonja logic…not necessarily true!


None of the rules about verses held true when we had revival services, however. Because that music evangelist would make you sing every. single. verse. of every. single. song.  And, some of them had 6 verses!  Of course, we didn’t sing a lot of hymns in the revival services, because there was all the special music.  He had to sing.  And, he and his wife had to sing.  And, if he had any children at all…regardless if they could sing or knew the words or could stand and hold the microphone…would sing, too.  Then the choir would sing twice.  That’s because he always met with them 30 minutes prior to the service to teach them their part.  He had the solo, however.   Either that or he had another solo after the choir finished and immediately prior to the sermon.

[I can remember some of the guest preachers or music evangelists showing up in big busses and they would live in the parking lot for the week.  I have no room to judge anyone, as I’ve had a few ‘moments’ myself,…but some of these guys were st-raaaan-ge.   They would show up in these flashy suits and poufed up hair…and that was back before men used styling products and hairspray!  It was unheard of in our little town.  There was even one who wore makeup…so I heard.  I was just a child, so I can’t say for sure.  However, I heard my Mom and some of the other ladies talking.  Dothan was just not a ‘poufed up hair and man make up’ kinda town.  I even remember whispers of talk about one of the men who wore a girdle!  Times do have a way of changing, though, don’t they?]

Really, friends, it was hard to get all the music into a service because…even though we were used to having perfectly lovely instrumental music played while the offering was being taken up…there had to be some time allotted for the selling of tapes…and later CDs, of all their albums…and the very special Christmas album…and the children’s album!   And, some of the evangelists had even felt called to branch out into books and t- shirts.  Their spiel generally took the whole offering time.  They would have one of everything up front with them and tell just a little bit about what made it special and what they were going through when they recorded it or wrote it, whichever the case may be.  And, how, in his humble opinion, you needed to have this in your possession so that you could continue to worship at home or in the car.  And, his wife would be in the vestibule after church.  Cash or checks made payable to the church. I can remember being ready to make a bee line to my Pop to ask for $10.00 to get a cassette…or a T-shirt.  And, he usually said “yes”.  Well…he said “yes” if he liked the music, too.  I got nothing from the guy who wore the make-up.  But, strangely, I did manage to end up with a cassette from the guy who traveled in a bus with his wife and 3 or 4 children.  They all lived and traveled together in that bus, too.  That was the first time I had ever heard of homeschooling.  The chlldren, as I remember, acted like little soldiers.  Which may have been why I was allowed one of their cassettes!

Back then the music minister would stay up on the podium while the preacher preached.  If it was especially hard hitting on a certain subject,  you could see the music minister furiously flipping through the hymnal to find the appropriate song to use during the invitation.  Of course, Amazing Grace was always the fall back song for the invitation time.



Is there any song, any where, that has touched as many people as this song?  People everywhere, even non Christians, know at least a portion of it.  Revival services tended to have fairly long invitation times, and it was during these invitations that I learned the words to all 4 verses printed in our hymnal at the time.  I only found out later that there were 2 more verses.  And, as I did some reading up on this song, I learned some interesting things about this hymn.

The tune to this song is a traditional melody…listed in our hymnal as ‘Early American Melody’.  Actually it was the melody of a song that was sung by slaves as they sailed to America in the hold of a sailing ship.  Turns out John Newton was a big time slave trader.  During one of his voyages, he was in a terrible storm and cried out to God to save him.  He promised God that he would serve Him, if He would save him.  He lived, but, he did not stop his slave trading at once.  He waited until he was forced to quit due to illness.   It was much later in his life, after he had become a Methodist minister, that he penned these words.  They were used as a chant in his services.  Later his words and ‘Early American Melody’ came together to be sung today as one of the most beloved of all hymns.  It is interesting to think of his life as you reread the words.  Most accounts state that he wrote this as his own life history.


Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

And, where is that last verse…
When we’ve been there ten thousand years.

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.

According to Wikipedia, it was added in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  A character in the book sang two of the original verses and she added this verse as the last.  Isn’t that interesting?  There is no mention of that in the hymnals.  Don’t know if there is in any new printings of it in recent years.


Church was a very important part of my life growing up, as it is now.  And, I’m sure some of the things I think happened one way could have just been the child in me…but these things I’ve written are all true in my heart and memory.  Isn’t it strange, sometimes, the things that stay in our minds and make an impression on our hearts?  I in no way am making fun of my church.  I love that Southside Baptist Church has been a part of my life since I was 10 years old.  The people in this church today, and those that have gone on to Glory, are the salt of the earth.  Who I am today is due in part to the countless adults who felt called to pour their lives into children…rowdy, ungrateful, disrespectful children.  But, the lessons took hold in so many of us who, like myself, have carried on the legacy that is a great church of God.  We who were taught, then taught ourselves.  We who were led, became leaders.  And, we who were served, serve even still.