A Day of Birth

In recent years March 7 has become a day to remember for me. It is a day of birth:

March 7, 2008 – grandson Andrew was born. Andrew is daughter Weslee’s middle son and has the healthiest head of red hair and corresponding freckles you ever saw. He is one cute kid! Andrew is the biggest of her three and the most tender-hearted. He’s the one that will get up off the floor from watching TV or playing a video game to give me a hug and say “I love you, Papa” or in the middle of something else blurt out of nowhere, “I miss Honey!” Papa loves that not-so-little football lineman boy. Andrew’s special two-year-old friend Anna Kate’s funeral was last March 7, 2016.

March 7, 2010 – the day Celebrating Grace Hymnal was born. After four years of intense, rewarding, joy-filled work, we rolled out that book two consecutive nights at Atlanta’s Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church to a house full of church musicians. We sang the stars down, I’m telling you! I’ll never forget the sight of Tom and Julie McAfee trying to sing through the tears as we all belted out “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” That book was his dream and it had come to life before our eyes. In his remarks that opening night, Terry York reminded us that the main test of a hymnal is “Does it sing?” and that night did it ever. And it still does! I have had more than my fair share of high moments in music ministry through the years, but none higher than that those two nights.   


March 7, 2013 marks the birth of “Notes from Susie.” Honey’s first surgery just completed, standing in a hospital hall, I noticed my phone flooded with emails, texts, and voice messages. Overwhelmed trying to figure out how I could respond to it all, Weslee calmly said, “we start a Facebook page.” We did, she hosted, and what a blessing it was to Honey and me, both in the writing of messages and receiving responses from people we knew and some we didn’t know. By the grace and goodness of God, that informational vehicle morphed into an almost daily “relief valve” for Honey and me to vent our fears and gratitude, our faith and grief – frequently expressed and nurtured through words of timeless and time-honored hymns. And then came the book!

Here is a hymn in the Celebrating Grace Hymnal written to be sung at the beginning of a calendar new year. But March 7 seems to begin a sort of new year for me, so let’s sing it today. The tune is the one to which we sing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” (itself not a bad choice for an occasion as this.)

Great God, we sing your guiding hand
     by which supported still we stand;
     the opening year Your mercy shows;
     that mercy crowns it till its close.

By day, by night, at home, abroad,
     still we are guarded by our God;
     by His incessant bounty fed,
     by His unerring counsel led.

With grateful hearts the past we own;
     the future, all to us unknown,
     we to Your guardian care commit,
     and peaceful leave before Your feet.

In scenes exalted or depressed,
     You are our joy, You are our rest;
     Your goodness all our hopes shall raise,
     adored through all our changing days.

Words – Phillip Doddridge (based on Acts 26:22)

I doubt that hymn has made any list of Top 10. But it certainly is good fodder for straddling a pivotal occasion, seeing/celebrating what lies behind and striking out on yet another lap led by God’s guiding hand. 

Thanks be to God for March 7. Onward!

- Mark