This morning I woke up with chorus of The Battle Hymn of the Republic marching through my mind. Nothing to get your faith feet under you for a new day with a robust, wonderful chorus of: “Glory, glory, hallelujah…”
But tonight is a little harder. The old choc lab girl is in pain. Her head is down, and she has been whimpering since she she came in after our last walk. She has many tumors, and the vet warned me last fall that it might not be long before the pain would worsen. I upped her CBD chews and laid on the floor with her until she fell asleep. I cried, but I’m still praying that tomorrow she will wake me up by being her old bouncy self. (Her nickname has always been “Bouncer” since she shows her excitement by bouncing.) I really don’t want to think about losing another part of my life right now.
“I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.” v.2
Long ago, most of my early March days and nights were filled by participating in or watching our hometowns’ local talent show. Sponsored by the American Legion, it was filled with all the family and community elders that guided my life as a child; patriotic and sing-a-long songs that everyone in the audience knew; and friends and cousins every where – running up and down the darkened school’s hallways as we passed the time waiting for our parents to finish up.
“I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my condemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, “
Since God is marching on.” v3
No matter where we were in the building, we could always hear the finale begin. We would stop whatever game we had going and head for the auditorium – after all – parents weren’t so understanding in those days if we weren’t ready when they were. Some gathered their stuff and headed out to the cars. Others made their way to the back to finish up a conversation or two. I usually sat down to watch and listen.
Usually, my mother or Godmother would start it by singing a favorite patriotic song. Mom’s was always “God Bless America”. Then dad (who was the director for many years) would get the rest of the singers going with “It’s a Grand Ol’ Flag”, “America the Beautiful”, and finally – “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. It always changed from year-to-year, but that was the basic formula.
As opening night approached, Dad would sit down beside me, and we watched together. I loved those times. He would ask me what I thought and would tilt his head towards me as he listened.
His arm draped around the back of my shoulders, and one eye the stage or clock, so that he could talk to everyone before they left for the night.
One of the last performances he directed, he decided to drop the American flag behind the Chorus as they sang the last two verses of that last song without the usual chorus in between them. He had the small combo band that volunteered to play every year, drop out with only the drum playing a cadence.
And just like that – the atmosphere of that high school auditorium changed. The low hum of noise stopped. Kids rummaging around in the back grew silent. Dad sat a little straighter, focused entirely on seeing what was transpiring on stage.
Somehow – it almost felt as if I could hear the faithful feet of those who had marched so full of faith – for God – for country – as they sang this song long ago.
The gospel in the midst of the dark valley of war.
“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!
While God is marching on.” v.4-5
It was one of those rare times that I remember feeling Our Father’s presence outside of church. As the band rejoined the singers for the final chorus, I heard the kids in the back begin to sing along. Dad stood up, and I stood with him. I don’t remember noticing anyone else, but tears were definitely in my eyes and in those of my father. When the song ended, everyone was quiet as if holding their breath.
Jewish wisdom says that when we breathe in, we say the word “Yah” and when we breathe out, we say the word “Weh”. When feet march to His beat, we breathe a little deeper. We notice more than usual. We fill ourselves with that faith-filled, life-giving sustenance that only He can give.
I think tonight, I just might let my faith-filled feet march me back to sleep beside my puppy for awhile and sing myself to sleep with a little “Glory, glory, hallelujah…”
“for I AM GOD, and there is none lie me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ Is 46:9b-10