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Today, another excerpt from my autobiography, I Love to Tell the Story.
Even Dr. Silver needed a break sometimes. Preaching every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night had to be a real drain, and so the church brought in musical guests for the occasional Sunday night program.
I loved these evenings, filled with new faces and songs both familiar and not. The altar call was replaced by a simple hymn of fellowship. We still had the offering, but instead of the regular kind, it was a Love Offering to help pay the musical guest’s expenses in traveling to our fair town. I stole a sideways glance at Dad, hoping he’d throw in a dollar or two for the poor guest, who I’d imagine thumbing for a ride back to wherever he or she hailed from.
I hardly ever looked at my watch during these services, because unless the musical guest was an irredeemably boring one, she almost always beat out another exposition of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae.
One musical guest was a Chinese lady who sang and played the piano. She was blind and deaf, kind of like a more talented version of Helen Keller. When she walked over to the piano and began “How Great Thou Art,” full of rolling arpeggios and trills that covered the entire keyboard, I was hooked. I played piano, and I could appreciate the years it had surely taken to do that, even with all one’s senses intact.
Then, she sang Mozart’s “Alleluia.” I crossed and uncrossed my legs. My nose was tingling. My eyes watered, and I had to swallow three or four times, because it was just so … beautiful that anyone could make music like that, whether or not she could see or hear or smell or taste or touch.
My favorite musical guests ever were the Murks. Just like Halley’s Comet, the Murk Family always returned with some regularity. The family consisted of the parents and their teenage children, Bill, Beverly, Brenda, Becky, and Barbara.
What did I not love about the Murks? They were beautiful, and the girls always wore cute mini dresses that I will admit to coveting. They also had shiny white go go boots and long, long blonde hair. The girls were like real-life Barbies, and Bill was like a Ken doll, blonde and buff. The analogy was perfect down to the smallest detail; there were four Barbies to the one lone Ken.
They sang beautifully, all in harmony, and just when I thought they couldn’t be any better, they’d each whip out a violin and play those too. I felt they were human perfection.
After the service, musical guests always offered tapes and records for sale at a table in the carport. Jill and I looked beseechingly at Dad. Could we please buy a record? As good frugal Germans, my parents weren’t in the habit of making frivolous purchases for us, but records of Christian musical guests were usually deemed a worthy indulgence.
So Jill and I sneaked around the hall after the service. I gripped a five dollar bill in my sweaty hand, careful not to lose it. We shyly approached the edge of the table, trying our best to avoid eye contact with the Murk family members manning the sales. They were gods, and if they should say something to me, I thought I would probably die right on the spot.
The record we chose was dependent on how much we liked the family’s outfits on the cover. I voted for the one where the girls all wore red mini skirts, white go go boots, and white coats with fur hoods. Jill preferred the one with the girls in powder blue maxi dresses.
Mom joined us and decided on an 8-track tape. We had just gotten a new Ethan Allen dry sink which housed a record player and an 8-track tape player behind its doors; it was a wondrous thing. Our entire collection of 8-track tapes would forever be Elvis’s Greatest Hits and the Murk Family’s “It’s a Wonderful Way to Live.”
Next Sunday night, I knew, we’d be back to hearing exhortations to the Colossians. But for tonight, I was happy to shove a wrinkled bill into Brenda Murk’s hand. She smiled at me with gleaming white teeth and handed me my 8-track tape.
“Enjoy,” she said.
It was kind of like a benediction.