Tuesday, May 28, 2013

All Day Singing and Dinner on the Ground - Part 2

Dinner on the Grounds in Mississippi, 1970 - Sacred Harp singers discuss their faith and their music over dinner on the grounds at an all-day singing in rural Mississippi, from "They Sing of a Heaven," a 1972 a 1972 film by Jerry Stimpfle of the University of Mississippi.
Oh my goodness, watching this video brings back memories. Memories when time was not so pressed with activities as it is today. Memories of a day when the community I lived in was made up of farmers and independent business owners whose success depended upon the principles of community - caring for one another, and treating one another as you wanted to be treated. There existed a sense of interdependence that cultivated a culture of family within the community.
I am not naive enough to believe this was a Polyanna existence where there was no injustice or evil. I have heard my father tell of stories where he stepped beyond those barriers to help others held captive by such injustices. I have seen many instances where God's loving hand of protection took him in spiritual boldness where many would not have dared go. During this era of my early childhood, however, there was also a healthy tradition of folks gathering together to worship, to fellowship, to honor and nourish friendships, to rest from their labor and thank God for His blessing and provision. One such tradition was the all day singing and dinner on the ground.
I can remember my grandparents talking about how at the turn of the century, especially during horse and buggy days, all day services were common. Congregations often did not get to meet for church but once a month due to the distances traveled to worship. Each family would prepare a dinner, then after the morning service they would combine the food and spend the afternoon eating and singing. Dinner on the ground was not solely related to church. Gathering for food and fellowship outdoors was a common happening. Where today many of our family get togethers occur with a television running in the background - if at all - these meals were spread out and enjoyed in God's dining room...the great outdoors.

The dark-haired gentleman with a tie facing the camera is my Paw Paw, Arch Hood. The little boy to his right (your left) is my Dad, Frank Hood. The lady beside my Dad who is taking a bite of food is my Maw Maw, Winnie Hood. The gentleman sitting on the bench in front of the big pot of food with his back to the camera (second to the left) is my Uncle Lynn Hood, my Paw Paw's brother from whom I get my middle name. This picture was a community dinner and was taken in the mid 1930's. (Click on the picture for a larger view.)

I attended dinner on the ground at cemetary workings (yes, we ate amongst the dead), family reunions, and such, but my favorite memories of dinners on the ground, came from gatherings at the Bethel Baptist Church in Bold Springs, Texas. Both my mother and father's families attended church there. My grandfather Moore, with my grandmother by his side, pastored and ministered to the people of Bethel Baptist Church for well over 40 years. My dad's family attended there as long as I can remember and farther back than that. My momma and daddy grew up  in church together. They later dated and fell in love with a rich heritage together as a result of their time spent there. Granted, Momma was a little younger than Daddy. He had to go off to war to give her time to grow up, but he came back to fall in love with the beautiful, caring woman she had become and still is to this day.

Bethel Baptist Church, Bold Springs, TX

My grandparents, C.L. and Clara Moore

From left to right - Rev. C.L. Moore and Clara Moore, Momma and Daddy (Frank and Grace Hood) Winnie and Arch Hood.

As a result of all these factors, Bethel Baptist was the central gathering place we returned to as "home".  Homecoming Sunday was always a favorite. This is when many of the younger generations who had to venture out to make a living traveled back home to Bethel to be with their parents. It was an exciting time of worship, seeing old friends, and meeting new family members. The greetings were warm and joyous, and the food was to die for. Everything from chicken and dumplings,  chicken pot pies, beans and peas fresh from the garden, fried chicken and mashed potatoes, to homemade berry cobblers, cakes and pies. One of  the deacons used to get in so much trouble because he loved to sneak up and run his finger through icing while the ladies were getting everything prepared for lunch!
 After lunch, people from all over the community came out after their churches dismissed to visit and enjoy the Sunday afternoon singing. The church house rang out with those good old gospel songs from the heart, the harmony and words stirring your very soul. As a child with a full stomach, I would lay my head in my grandmother's lap and drift off to sleep listening to them sing while watching those old ceiling fans turn. It was an unmatched feeling of security, peace, continuity, and hope.

Even today as I write about these days gone by, I find it hard to do so without a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. My heart longs to return once more to this elusive place in time. I often find myself drawn to the church as I pass it on my way out to the farm. Many of the dear folks who were once a part of these memories have long departed this earth. Their distinct contributions and unique personalities from this historical moment in time are sorely missed. I often pull into the parking lot and close my eyes. All at once it seems I can smell the food, feel the hugs of friends and loved ones, and hear the echos of heartfelt gospel music...the very essence of all day singings and dinners on the ground.

To enjoy a sample of that beautiful music, click on this link:  Jesus Hold My Hand

Homecoming Bethel Baptist Church, Bold Springs, Texas
(Click on Pictures to Enlarge)



Changed - Post by Cindy Hester (Song by Rascal Flatts)

Driving down the road this afternoon I heard the song, "Changed" by Rascal Flatts. I don't know when it was released, but in God's perfect timing, I heard it today. The words so pierced my soul I had to pull over, close my eyes and breathe a prayer of thanksgiving. You see I have been wrestling with past mistakes and my human shortcomings of the present. I have had trouble understanding why or how God would possibly use a person like me.

In my past there have been deep regrets, serious mistakes, wrong turns, and deep scars. Basically satan tried his hardest to destroy anything good God had planned for my life. Sorrowfully, I opened the doors in less than ideal circumstances and allowed him to slither right in. Despite a loving background from the best parents a girl could ask for, as an adult I became frozen by fear and embittered with life because of choices that brought abuse, destruction, and lies. In the process, I moved farther from God and lost sight of my value in His eyes.

At one point, I thought satan had won. I was convinced I was truly alone. I was so enslaved and deceived, I simply lived in survival mode. I could see litttle hope for myself or my children. Satan is such a liar. I just didn't understand or know at that time that God's love was seeking me. People who loved and valued me faithfully cried out for God to rescue me from this horrible pit. He lovingly reached down, and over time, He opened the path to lead me out. It was not easy, and it was a long, hard fight to break the strongholds that had been placed on mind. My spirit had been crushed, but thank God, He is "...close to the brokenhearted and praise God He saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalms 34:18.

When I heard the words of this song, the past 20 years flashed through my mind in fast forward. It so amazed me how things have changed...how I've changed...no, how God is changing me. Praise God for his mercy. I wanted to fall to my knees in humble gratitude for His faithfulness. Without Him, without the prayers of family and friends, without grace, I don't want to think of where I would be. This is why I shout hallelujah and why I raise my hands to heaven in praise. I have so much to praise Him for.

So wherever you may be in your journey, I pray you know how much God cares for you. Discover the valuable person He created you to be. It doesn't matter what obstacles may have diverted your path, He loves you and wants you, just as you are. I am so thankful He loves me and that I'm changed.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that
freedom to their children." William Harvard

I just want to take a moment to thank our veterans and their families for the sacrifices made in order to preserve my freedom. May God bless you this Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

God be with the People of Moore, Oklahoma

Dear Lord,

Please be with the dear folks in Moore, Oklahoma. My heart is broken for their sorrow and loss. I feel so helpless to know what to do for them. I come to You, my omniscient Father, asking that you comfort all who have experienced loss. Meet their needs, dear Lord. Send those who carry your precious Holy Spirit to be Your arms to hold them close, Your hands to meet their needs, and Your feet to walk with them through this tradgedy.

You told us in Your word that in this world we would have trouble, but reminded that You have ultimately overcome this world. You promised to carry us through the heartache of this world. Thank You that we don't have to face life's trials all on our own...and thank You that you are preparing a place for those who simply believe in You, trust in You and accept the forgiving grace that became available to all on the cross. I love you, Father, and I thank You for what You are already doing, and for all that You have in store. In the name of Your precious Son, Jesus, Amen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

All Day Singing and Dinner on The Ground - Part I (by Cindy Hester)

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" Psalms 100:4
I count myself fortunate to have been born in 1961. Looking back I have gained an appreciation of what a threshold in time it truly was. I have memories which encompass the values, traditions, and practices prior to the technological advances of today. Many of those traditions and practices became extremely rare or extinct within a few short years of my childhood. The transition occurred in such a short period of time that even my younger brother who is 16 years younger than me did not have the opportunity to enjoy many of these experiences. Among other things, I remember the personal touches of local family-owned businesses lining main street. I remember my grandmother churning butter while singing on the front porch steps as my sister and I played in the yard, and I remember those good old Sundays spent singing all day with dinner on the ground.
 Downtown Livingston, Texas

While there have been many important advances for good in areas such as social equality, technology, and medicine, I feel we as a society have progressed in many areas while digressing in others. Businesses have become incorporated and less personal. Communication devices, while offering wonderful opportunities to be digitally connected, have somehow drawn us farther inside ourselves and often tend to inhibit personal, human connection. While great strides have been made toward human equality, values and morals have declined. We live in such a fast-paced, crazy time that I feel compelled to slow you down if for but a moment and share what I witnessed before crossing over that threshold into the modern world we enjoy today.
Before I talk about the Sunday singings with dinner on the ground, I want to tell you about another phenomenon still practiced in the early to late 1960's - the local singing schools. I have read that one of the main reasons for the early development of singing schools was to teach individuals to sing hymns so they could partake in congregational singing. It makes sense to reason that congregational singing became commonplace after the proliferation of Protestant churches. This is about the extent I know of the history behind them, but I can testify personally about how people took what they learned in these singing schools and enjoyed it to the fullest at the all day singing and dinner on the ground!
The Stamps-Baxter music company is a good example of a southern gospel music company well known for conducting singing schools, sponsoring Southern Gospel quartets, and publishing "convention" song books. They still hold a two week singing school at The Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville, Tennessee as a continuation of the tradition of convention-style southern gospel music (http://www.StampsBaxterSchool.com.)
Back in the day, however, people of the local community would gather together at a similar style singing school. There they learned to read music and sing harmony according to the "shaped note method" made popular in the various convention song books like those published by Stamps-Baxter.

 An example of the shaped note method of learning music.
My Maw Maw Hood would be totally confounded if she attended
a church where the notes were round. Shaped notes were how she read
 One such convention songbook was the Heavenly Highway hymnal. I don't know how many of you are acquainted with the Heavenly Highway Hymn book. Let me just say that here in the rural south, it ranks right up there just below the King James version of the Bible. Many song leaders have been accused of slipping away from God's ordained commandments when suggesting a different hymnal for the congregation. Katie bar the door if they suggest bringing praise songs into the worship service which are in no way a part of this sacred song book! What I found humorous in my reading was the fact that the schools were often conducted to teach the "new" songs published in this Heavenly Highway Hymnal.
Please understand, I mean no disrespect to any of you who hold this hymnal and its beautiful songs near and dear to your heart. I too love those good old southern gospel songs. I cut my teeth on many of them as a child while attending gospel singing schools with Momma and Daddy on Friday nights at some local church.

 Singing schools in the rural south were considered social events, and people from all over the community attended. The evening began with greetings and hugs and proceeded with learning, joyful laughter, and music. Daddy often led the opening song, and Momma would play the piano. If memory serves me right, an instructor would often be brought in for the music lesson portion of the evening. Regardless, I enjoyed these gatherings.

I so treasured the feeling of being surrounded by a church full of friends and family learning, laughing, singing, and praising the Lord together through this beautiful, comforting southern gospel style music. I could always tell when the school was coming to an end by the smell of coffee percolating in the church kitchen and the sound of dishes being arranged with assorted desserts baked by the ladies in attendance.
As for singing all day and dinner on the ground...stay tuned for my next writing. In the meantime, I would love to hear from any readers who may remember these days. You can post your memories here under "Comments", or post them on Facebook on my Cinderella's Corner Facebook page. You can also feel free to send them by email to hestercindy61@gmail.com. I always love hearing from my readers, especially when reminiscing about precious days gone by. Have a blessed week, and don't forget to be watching for my next post to read more!

Example of the type of music learned and sung at the singing schools:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Gardening Yuppie Style

by Cindy Hester

This past weekend my family and I got together for our annual visit to the New Braunfels/Canyon Lake area. I have always enjoyed going places with my family. Everyone seems to relax and have fun away from the day to day duties and schedules. There are so many of us that there are always numerous activities to choose from, depending on age group and interest. However, one is not always exclusive of the other. My Mom still loves to pay putt putt golf, and my younger nephews have been known to enjoy educational trips to museums and rock gardens.

We can always be assured of two things during these trips - there is never a shortage of time spent reminiscing, or a shortage of time spent doubled over with laughter. I saw a sign at the old general store in Gruene that pretty much summed up much of the girls' experience. It said, "I laughed so hard that tears ran down my legs!" Okay, okay...too much information!

Somewhere along the way the subject of gardening came up. My brother-in-law, Frank, has been planting and harvesting a garden for several years now. My sister, Melody, is an outstanding cook and can whip those naturally delicious vegetables into the finest cuisine around. New potatoes, fresh green beans, squash, peas, tomatoes...I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. My little brother, Andy, also grew a beautiful, plentiful garden in his back yard this past summer that provided many good, healthful meals for his family.

 My brother-in-law, Frank, discing up his garden.

My brother, Andy's garden

Gardening was always a big part of our lives growing up. Many summer mornings were spent picking peas, beans, fresh tomatoes, watermelon, digging potatoes, and harvesting corn. After all of the picking, digging, and  harvesting, afternoons were spent under a big shade tree or on the front porch shelling peas, shucking corn, and snapping green beans. Evening chores turned to the blanching and canning process to preserve the fresh vegetables for freezing and storing.

Melody taking a break from pea shelling to give Mary a ride on her bike.
Momma's still shelling peas, and guess who's taking the picture?!

A pan full of Melody's good, fresh garden quash!

It was a lot of hard work, but my goodness how wonderful were the rewards of your labor. Nothing topped off a week at Gary Baptist Encampment like the anticipation of coming home to Momma's purple hull peas, cream style corn, hot, fresh cornbread, and garden fresh tomatoes. That was a little slice of heaven, especially after a week of camp food!

I can remember when I was a kid thinking that everyone grew gardens. It was just a natural part of our lives. Both sets of grandparents always had big gardens, and Momma and Daddy followed suit. I always loved the day Dad brought out the plow and hitched the horse up to it to begin tilling up the ground. It was a chore that often tested his resolve, mostly because every horse he owned seemed to test his patience when it came to plowing garden rows.

A picture I found online depicting the way Daddy plowed
a garden most of my younger years. He only used a single
horse to pull the plow.

To this day I love the smell of freshly tilled dirt. As a child I loved to run barefoot in the it as Momma followed along behind Daddy pulling roots and removing rocks preparing the soil for planting. I think we were supposed to be helping, but I seemed to get a little distracted back then...not much has changed! As much as I complained about what little work I was asked to do to help with the gardening, those were some of the best times ever as a family. The sense of accomplishment after harvesting, and cooking something you are responsible for planting and caring for is hard to match.

 My little great-neice, Addison, playing in the garden dirt much
like her Mimi and I did when we were little girls.

Charlie and I have decided it is time for us to try our hand at gardening now that we have grandbabies to pass this balanced sense of self-reliance with ultimate Godly dependence down to. So a couple of Saturdays ago, we planted our first garden together. We must be pretty good at this gardening thing too, because it only took us about 20 minutes! Okay, so we decided to start with only two vegetables - tomatoes and green onions. The main reason is that both can be eaten raw, and I am still working on my cooking skills (and I don't yet own a cast iron skillet...)

So our methods may be a little different, and we may be moving slowly in the direction of a true garden, but hey, baby steps! Someday we will have a huge garden full of turnip greens, squash, potatoes, beans, and peas but until then, it's gardening yuppie style for us!

"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." II Corinthians 9: 6

A Poem for Bear By Maw Maw Cindy My dear little Bear who sleeps soundly and tight So peaceful and trusting, your cares free...