A Message From 1874

Published October 27, 2018

It’s funny how practicing discipline can have unexpected good results. Thanks to Carolyn Kurtz, I joined a Facebook group where we set goals for ourselves each week and pay $.50 per failure if we do not do them.   

This goals group, then, is the only reason that I went to the organ Friday night to play a few hymns, because I had committed to playing four times in seven days and needed to play every day I had left. 

I would have gone to the couch instead, to nurse my aching shoulder and think about how many things or people needed our attention. 

I might have thought of the case we had talked about with church Tuesday night, a person whose “boyfriend” sells their groceries for drug money when the electric bill is not being paid.

I might have thought about how little time we have in our schedule to fit in the people who want to talk to us about Anabaptist beliefs, such as Mat of the 500 page document. 

I might have thought of my sister and her family who took in a newborn baby as a foster child recently. Before the baby arrived, she talked about being nervous because of recent litigation she’s heard against foster parents. After the baby arrived, she told me she hadn’t expected to feel so sad, that she was rocking a child who’s mother was recovering from childbirth without the baby.

I might have thought about the youth Marnell is counseling. Marnell is a gifted mentor. If anyone can reach this youth, it may be him. He may be standing between him and early death at the end of a firearm. But dealing with desperate people, particularly if it involves drugs, is a risky business.  If someone is being threatened by another dangerous person, what would stop that person from being dangerous? From breaking in, assaulting, killing?

Instead, I went to the organ and pushed back the cover.  I haven’t been playing it much, and I’m really just trying to decide if this might not be a good time to get rid of the organ because it takes up so much space.

Since I’m a mediocre musician at best, I stick with simple things like hymns. I flipped open the song book on my music rack and struck up the lively tune to which the book pages had turned. As I played, the words I learned in my childhood reverberated with the music, even though I wasn’t reading them exactly. 

Sowing in the morning, sowing for the master, sowing seeds of kindness. Waiting for the harvest. Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves.

Ah. So the problem of griefs and hardships in service is not new. This song? 1874, written by Knowles Shaw.  I didn’t think people had schedules in 1874, but apparently they did.  

I’m guessing Knowles Shaw wrote thousands of words which no one ever read or thought of, if he’s anything like me. Worse, he probably wrote thousands of words that people did read and never thought of again, if he’s anything like me. But this poem, unknown to him, dropped through the decades on to an organ in Elkhart, Indiana, and blessed an exhausted woman 144 years after it was written. That is the power of the written word. 

When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome… By and by the harvest, and the labor ended, we shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.

Standing between someone and an early death, or someone and a Christ-less grave, is not a new phenomenon, and it’s never been safe, or tear-free. Our team members here in Elkhart experience this often, but even being a normal parent can fit this criteria, unless a lot of people are lying to me. Being involved in people’s lives wasn’t convenient in 1874, and it’s not now. 

And often, there is loss sustained of some kind or another.  Sometimes, we go forth with weeping. 

But, the writer  is confident that when the labor is ended, we shall come rejoicing.  

I stepped away from the organ, renewed in spirit to serve the Lord, glad to be a writer, and grateful for Carolyn Kurtz’s idea.

12 thoughts on “A Message From 1874”

  1. Katrina, this gives me chills. The power of words runs on, and blesses me in northwestern ON because you shared your heart and your faith. Thank you! Remember: “there is a ‘doubtless’, Between the ‘weeps’ and ‘brings’.”

  2. I’m amazed by how often a hymn has the power to center my thoughts, and bring back into focus the things that are truly important. You said it so beautifully. Also, I really enjoy reading about the work you and Marnell and your team are doing in Elkhart. I took a class on Inner City Missions, taught by Clayton Shank, of the York, PA, mission, at SMBI years ago. God led my time of voluntary service in another direction than inner-city, but this type of work has a corner of my heart. Bless you both for your exhausting task of sharing His love with the hard-to-reach in the city!

  3. Finally got around to reading my weekend emails! Heaven’s blessings on all you Cornerstone Elkharters are doing!!!

  4. Finally got around to reading my weekend emails! 😉 Heaven’s blessings on all you Cornerstone Elkharters are doing!!!

  5. Katrina, if I wasn’t so tired I’d cry. You are such a sweetheart and your heart and honesty is what directed your name to my mind. I’ll give the Holy Spirit credit. Your pen becomes fluid in the hands of Jesus, who uses you to cause us to look into His face. Thank you!

  6. Linda Sprouffske

    Thank you Katrina! Reminds me of a quote by Kari Patterson: “Our days, our pains, our dreams, our bodies, our lives – offered up to God for the purpose of drawing near. Sacrifice material. All of life a sacred offering.” Hebrews 13:15-16. “Through Jesus then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips…”

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