"Musical Christmas Gift Answer To Prayers" - Jay Grelen
Somewhere along the way - garage sale, trash can, no one in the family remembers - Frances Davis lost her favorite Christmas recording.
That'll be an easy enough Christmas suprise, thought her husband Glen, when Frances told him of her loss early in their marriage, now going on 26 years. Glen, a romantic who writes songs for his wife, saw it as a grand quest with a happy ending.
The surprise was on Glen, a friend of mine from my days in Alabama.
The album, which was released in 1962, was long out of print. Telephone calls and catalog searches yielded nothing.
Glen, the father of a 22 year old Force Reconnaisance Marine who is in Iraq, is one of those guys who prays about everything. So he added to his prayer list Tennessee Ernie Ford's album, "The Star Carol."
Over the years, however, his dream of replacing the album dropped lower on the list.
On the last day of November, a Tuesday, Glen, as usual, was at the nursing home in Mobile, where he has been leading church services for two years.
As his friend Jack Skinner sang a hymn for the residents, Glen leaned against a grand piano, and his eyes fell on a familiar stack of old vinyl albums - Dean Martin, Andy Williams, the Andrews Sisters and other favorites of the retirement set.
Except this time, Glen noticed an album he never had seen in the stack.
His first thought was that he would return to the nursing home with a tape recorder.
His second thought was to change the topic of his sermon. He told the story of his search for the album and quoted Matthew 7:7: "Ask and ye shall receive." The literal meaning, Glen said, was "to keep on asking and ye shall keep on receiving."
After his sermon, the nurses handed him the answer to his prayer and wished him Merry Christmas. After years on the hunt, the album was his.
But there was this hitch. He didn't own a phonograph.
But there was a solution.
As you might guess about Glen, he saw the hand of Providence even at work in this. He once gave a turntable as a birthday gift to Jack, who, of course, immediately offered the use of it.
That night, Glen hid the record player behind the Christmas tree, turned out the lights except for the ones on the tree, made Frances close her eyes and sat her down in the living room. He turned on the player, set the needle on the record, and as it popped and crackled to life, he stood before his wife of 25 years with the album cover, Ernie Ford looking her right in the face.
She's not a screamer, he says, but more of a subdued squealer. "I think I got a kiss for the bargain," he says.
Glen, the minister that he is, is not one to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." He finds plenty of spiritual significance in all of this.
As he looked into the face of Tennessee Ernie Ford on the album cover at the nursing home that day, he says he was looking into the face of God, the original Christmas gift-giver.
Mobile Press Register; Saturday, December 25, 2004
Weekly Memory Verse
There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.