Holy, Holy, Holy

“And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” ~Revelation 4:8 (KJV)

Our family moved to North Miami Beach, FL in January 1967, just after I’d turned 13 in Dayton, Ohio.  Shortly prior to that, on September 2, 1965 I attended a revival at the Baptist church of  and by invitation from a neighborhood friend.  When the invitation was given I was crying almost hysterically and told the mother of my friend that I wanted to go to the front.  The mother said, “You can’t go to the front just to be going to the front.”  I don’t recall the conversation after that but, I went to the front or “walked the aisle” in the vernacular.  I can’t recall any of the sermon nor service; I do vividly recall why I “walked the aisle” and why I was crying so.  The only thing I “heard” was “Accept Jesus as your Savior or go to hell.”  I also tend to think that wasn’t how the invitation was given but it’s how I heard it.  I was literally terrified.  I had no knowledge of God’s love, why I would go to hell if I didn’t accept Jesus, but 12-year-0ld Czari almost flew to the front of the church.  I prayed with someone (I can’t recall any of that).  Why can’t I recall any more of the details of that night, given that I know the precise date?  I still have the little card I signed saying “I accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior” in the little white Bible my mother had gifted to me within that same time frame but prior to this night.

Whew!  Now I’m not going to hell!  Why was I so terrified of God?  All I can surmise, looking back, is that my father was an alcoholic and extremely physically abusive to my mother.  I’m talking throwing her down a flight of stairs, throwing a cup of hot coffee in her face and that’s just two incidents during 18 years.  Me, his only child.  Fortunately, I was only totally ignored by him but I was still terrified of him.  When he’d raise his voice I’d wet my pants, even well into elementary school.  My mother did the best she could to shield me from him.  Hearing that “God is your heavenly Father” wasn’t real comforting.  I grew up in a home filled with fear, but what happened there definitely could not be repeated to anyone, including my paternal grandparents.  When I met up with one of my elementary school friends years later when she and her family visited Disney World, she said she didn’t even know I had a father. 

I do recall approaching my mother with timidity (and “timid” was never a part of my personality) to tell her that I had accepted the Lord.  Her response, “I hope you’re satisfied with yourself.”  It was like a slap in the face; that I had done something horrible.  When I’ve related that incident to my mother since, she has no recollection of it and says she can only think she didn’t want me to tell my father.  Greeeaaattt start to my Christian walk, if indeed I truly was a Christian.

So, shortly after these experiences we land in North Miami Beach.  In Ohio I lived in a rather remote suburb; very nice but driving was required to go…everywhere; thus, until we moved I had no way to attend church.  In NMB, however, we lived in a city environment and I walked or rode my bike to so many places, one of which was a Methodist church.  I just longed to go to church, I had no concern of the denomination.  Considering that NMB was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, a church there at all was unusual.

Thus began my Christian education.  Each Sunday morning I dressed, carried my white/zipper covered Bible, and walked to church.  Most of the time my parents were still in bed.  I was baptized (the first time) in that church, attended membership classes, and became a member of the Methodist church, attending it until I left for college – Florida Southern College, a Methodist-supported private liberal arts college in Lakeland, FL which, at the time, was like leaving civilization and journeying into the “wilds” of Central FL, or so it was perceived by my best friends who were astonished that I would choose to go above the Broward County line.  I had been recruited to that college during my Junior year in high school since I was an honor student and a member of the Methodist church.

An especially precious memory was the church “processional” each Sunday morning.  The choir, dressed in choir robes, began at the back of the church and walked to the front while singing the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”  Since then I have attended all manner of church fellowships including an Assembly of God mega-church, visited a church of approximately 10 people in Daytona Beach regularly with a friend, as well as various Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Catholic churches with friends; Baptist churches of varying types; was the member of an Episcopalian church about 15 years ago (I must insert – this particular Episcopalian church was VERY different from the average, very socially liberal Episcopalian church in the U.S.; in fact, the Bishop of the Central Florida diocese at the time was the first within the Episcopalian hierarchy in America to submit a letter of protest to the ordination of the first openly gay Episcopalian Bishop; indeed, during the time I attended there was some discussion of our particular fellowship leaving the Episcopalian church), helped begin a Messianic fellowship, and am currently attending a small fellowship of the Calvary Church “denomination” that meets in a store front, but memories of that first Methodist church continue live within me.  “Holy, Holy, Holy” comes to mind quite often as it has this week.  I searched YouTube for a similar presentation and the following is the closest I’ve found, thus far.  My church was perhaps half the size of this one but we did have a center aisle and a wonderful pipe organ.  I am intrigued with the choir beginning at the front, processing up the aisle, and going to the side choir loft.

The last verse in this presentation sounds like angels with the soprano harmony.  Something I noticed while watching again and reading the words (that I know by heart), this line: though the eye made blind by sin thy glory may not see, was rendered in our church as though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see.  Basically the same thought but the first rendition explains why sinful man may not see God’s glory – the blinding by sin.  Hmmm…something to think upon for me.

 

The words:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert and art and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye made blind by sin thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea;
holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

The first verse is fairly straight-forward; to my 13-year-old, unchurched mind I tried to imagine “glassy seas” and “golden crowns” – and why would people throw crowns on a glass surface (I tend to the analytical).  How is a cherubim different than a seraphim?  I was probably still trying to puzzle those questions out while I sang the last two verses.

The feelings I experienced, however, were those of great awe and the sense that there was something special happening.   All these years later, now with a much better understanding of the majesty of God, an understanding of what salvation is and what exactly I’m saved “from,” and so many other concepts of a Christian life; but nothing will replace the initial wonderment of a young girl attending church each Sunday in North Miami Beach.  “Holy, Holy, Holy” remains one of my all-time favorite hymns.

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July 14, 2018

Broke my heart picturing your telling your Mom about your newfound faith…and her reaction. Just so sad….    🙁

@commonsensechristian Hi there! Thank you for your comment – I was always (and still am) very close to my mother so her reaction was so confusing.  I do recall being nervous when I told her.  The odd thing is, I have vague recollections of her taking me to the Community Church in our area when I was young as well as Vacation Bible school.  She talks about this on occasion now as well.  She presented my first Bible to me.  One thing that is part of her background:  she says she went to churches as a child that preached “fire and brimstone” and that scared her so she wanted to shield me from that.  Maybe because it was a Baptist church (where her parents went as a child) that she wanted to discourage me from returning.  But, the good news is that, although I went through some VERY rocky times in my walk with the Lord, He has drawn me so much closer in the last four years and I am finally truly learning of His love. 🙂