Aha. I see those hands, as the Southern Baptist revival preachers used to say from the pulpit during the altar call or “invitation” as we called it back then when we sat on the small wooden pews with the large ceiling fans moving too slowly to stir the air in the Texas summer heat – even in a church as tiny as ours was in the 1950s when I was a child. The revival preacher would be shouting loud enough to keep everyone awake when he was preaching about the fire and brimstone hell would bring to all sinners who refused to repent that very night – who knew if you would make it until the next night of the week-long revival.
“Bow your heads. Close your eyes, and pray,” he would say as he grabbed for the white handkerchief in his suit pocket to wipe the sweat dripping from his forehead to the tip of his nose.
“Sister Selma, let’s have some music while everyone prays, ” the preacher nodded to Mama who would rise from her seat on the front pew next to Daddy to play the invitation hymn softly in the background on the piano. Uh oh, here we go for the Big Squeeze tonight, I thought, from my seat in a pew toward the middle of the church between my grandparents who had obediently bowed their heads and closed their eyes.
“Now with every head bowed and every eye closed, just raise your hand if you know you are a sinner bound for hell unless you get right with God tonight. That’s it. Just slip that hand on up right where you are without anyone looking. Yes, I see that hand.”
And so did I.
Because of course, I had to look. My head was kinda sorta bowed, but my eyes were not closed. I confess I wanted to know who was going to hell. I wanted to make sure all the people I loved weren’t raising their hands and I was always particularly focused on one of my uncles who was suspect. Luckily, his hand wasn’t raised, but tomorrow would be another night.
Pretty said to me last night she had enjoyed spending the year with me this week. We both laughed because the days don’t seem to fly by as fast for either of us as they usually do when she is out and about wheeling, dealing, surveying her antique empire. But then she redeemed herself by saying she thought the year had been one of our best in a long time. I agreed. I love having Pretty supervise my self isolation. We both consider our time together to be one of the few perks in the pandemic.
David asks God in his Old Testament hymn book (psalms 85, verse 6) to send a revival. “Will you not revive us again so that your people may rejoice in you?”
Bill and Gloria Gaither’s version is the one I remember in the revival services of my youth. “Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above…hallelujah, thine the glory. Hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, thine the glory. Revive us again.”
Today, Easter Sunday, I’m thinking about a revival of our hope for tomorrow for each of us, a resurrection of our faith in a future we can recognize, celebrate and rejoice in together across the entire world. Revive us again.