Weatherford Democrat

November 30, 2012

COLUMN: Songs at midnight

John Paul Carter

— The 16th chapter of Acts tells the remarkable story of how Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi for preaching the gospel. After being beaten, they were thrown into a dungeon where they prayed and sang songs at midnight with amazing results.

During our recent trip to Ruidoso, I had one of those “songs at midnight” experiences. Suffering from food poisoning and arterial fibrillation, I unexpectedly landed in Providence Hospital in El Paso for an eight day stay. Some vacation — especially for Carole!

Nights in the hospital were the worst time for me. I would sleep for awhile and then have to stumble to the bathroom in the darkness. About the time I fell back to sleep the nurse would come in to check my vital signs, give me medicine, or draw blood. I’d cover up because I was cold, only to awaken drenched with sweat. In the wee hours of the night, sleep seemed almost impossible.

In desperation on the second night, I began to recite scripture verses in the darkness that I had memorized as a child — the 23rd Psalm and “God is love.” I was so addled that I had to think hard to get the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer in the proper order — even though we pray it aloud in worship every week. I managed to muddle through Romans 8 — “Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Surprisingly, the verse I remembered almost verbatim was 1 Corinthians 10:13: There hath no temptation (trial) taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted (tried) above that ye are able; but will with the temptation (trial) also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Because it came to my mind and tongue in the King James Version, I realized that it was coming from the deep past — well over 60 years. Rather amazing, when I have difficulty remembering things in the much more recent past!

Little did I or those who were my teachers realize when I memorized those verses so long ago (probably for some Sunday School contest) that they would bring comfort and encouragement to a miserable old man tossing and turning in a hospital room, far from home, in the middle of the night.

As the Psalmist once sang, “Thy word have I hid in my heart…” for just such an hour as this.

The famous dancer Fred Astaire once said, “Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.”

This Thanksgiving I suggested our gratitude include all those who started us young!

John Paul Carter’s “Notes from the Journey” appear in the Democrat on the second and fourth Fridays of each month (with an exception this week due to an early deadline last week). Carter is an ordained minister who attends Central Christian Church.