Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Psalm 145:2 NIV
Not only was our family faithful to our Church of God services, but we also enjoyed going to revivals or meetings at other churches. Naturally, we got very excited when we heard that the Jack Shuler evangelistic team was going to be coming to our very city to hold a two-week city-wide revival in 1954. Jack Shuler was a preacher not unlike Billy Graham in the 40’s and 50’s, with about the same degree of popularity at that time, and we all wanted to go to the meetings. Dad was an usher, Mom sangin the choir, and I hid out in the balcony, trying to cover my 13-year-old head with a scarf since I had attempted to trim my own bangs. I had trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, and mymom had eventually had to take me to the beauty shop to get a very unbecoming “boy-cut” that made some girls actually look cute. I was not one of them.
My four-year-old brother Mike’s big day came on Saturday when the Jack Shuler’s evangelistic team had a kids’ rally. Mom and I took Mike, but we arrived too late to sit together. Mom, probably with precognition, sat alone and let me sit with Mike.
As part of the children’s service, and in order to have more audience participation, the leader-person played a holy version of “Name that Tune.” Wheezing out the first few notes of a chorus, the organist would pause and the audience would scream out the title. The child with the loudest voice would receive a prize. The songs were familiar to the 1950’s church crowd. They were songs like “I’ve Got the Joy,” “The
B-I-B-L-E,” and “Do, Lord.”
The section where Mike and I had found seats was center left. We tried very hard to get Mikey noticed by the myopic leader-person, but to no avail. Finally, the game was winding down, and we were getting desperate for a prize for the little fellow. This time the prize was going to be huge. It was a pair of roller skates. They probably even came with an actual key and did not have to be attached to your shoes by having your dad tighten them with pliers. All the people around us saw Mike’s eyes light up and wanted to help us.
Feverishly, our section began conniving. As soon as the notes would sound, they would point excitedly at cute little Mike as I fed him the correct answer. In our intense scheming, we did not listen to all of the directions. In the dimly lit auditorium the first six notes of a song were played on the organ. Instantly
I knew that the chorus was “Every Day with Jesus!” I whispered the answer to Mike while the sympathetic group of supportive strangers pointed to him and shouted, “Over here!”
Success at last! He was chosen to come to the stage. But as Mike and I approached the bright lights of the Civic Center stage, we learned the rules: The final grand prize of skates could be won only by a child who could sing the entire song. We were in trouble.
They pulled tiny Mikey into the spotlight. The man asked his name. He gave his real name and the correct song title. Then the man asked Mike to sing the song. The organ gave him a few bars for an introduction. “Every day with Jesus,” he sang and then stopped. A bewildered Mike began to look even smaller on the cavernous stage. I hung in the shadows, trying to hide my teenage angst and my nearly bald head as he began again.
“Every day with Jesus…” He paused. He began again.
“Every day with Jesus…” His voice trailed off, and I desperately wanted off the big stage.
“Let’s try that again,” encouraged the happy, yet merciless, man with the microphone.
“Every day with Jesus…”
I sent mental telepathy to him. “Come on, Mike, sing, ‘is sweeter than the day before.’” He didn’t get my message.
“I’m sorry, son, you had to sing the entire song to win the skates.” He sent us ignominiously and skate-less from the stage.
On the way back to our sympathetic group of supportive strangers, we passed by one lady who wouldn’t make eye contact with us. Gladys Coate covered her eyes with a bulletin, knowing that the “loser” might burst into tears if he saw his mother.
We left the Civic Center, having watched some big ol’ kid win the skates. But we didn’t go straight home. We had one more stop to make…to the toy store…to buy skates…proving once again that “Every day with Jesus IS sweeter than the day before.”