The principal I am trying to convey with my last post (July 17,2013) and the one you are now reading is something I have recently come to realize as I have looked back over my life of 73 years. I share this since I suspect it applies to most people. That is, during my lifetime I have had a number of what originally appeared to be individual, unrelated, isolated hopes. Most of them trivial (I hope the Yankees win the World Series) and some extremely serious (what I am going to do with my life). It is these serious hopes which I am writing about in the previous and present blog, under the title Sometime God Fulfills a Chain of Hopes – One Link At a Time. I have come to believe that when my hopes were and are in accordance with God’s will for me, God eventually, in his time and his way, has fulfilled or is fulfilling those hopes. Much of the time, in my younger days, I didn’t even realize that God was fulfilling my hopes. Now I’m sure that often, God was fulfilling those hopes, one link at a time, in a chain of hopes, before I even realized that some day I would have those God-given hopes.
In my last post I began by telling of the first link in a chain of related hopes which was formed in high school and fulfilled upon graduation, during 1957, at age 17. Then I went through the chain of related hopes which were fulfilled over the years, right up to and including the present. I won’t repeat all of that again in this post. Please take a look at my last post dated July 17, 2013. Now I’m writing about how, in my childhood and early teen years, God had also established and was fulfilling a chain of related hopes, one link at a time, before I even had those hopes. God used those those link to bring me to the point where I could be aware of and have those hopes I wrote about in my last post.
The one thing that those links which I am now writng about had in common with each other and what I wrote about in my last post was music. I vaguely remember spending part of most days in my pre-school years in my grandfather’s shop a few blocks from my house. He usually had the radio on, playing popular music of the day (early 1940s). That was probably the first link in my chain of music related hopes. The next link was forged probably when I was about six or seven years old. Somebody gave us an old RCA Victor wind-up Victrola (record player). My mother bought me a few records of children’s songs. I believe I still have a few of them. Then came the time when I really became interested in music. Specifically- cowboy music. That came partly from listening to the Gene Autry Melody Ranch show on the radio, and then watching old TV western movies at my grandparents’ house, starting around 1947.That’s about when I began hoping to be a cowboy when I grew up. It turned out that was never in God’s plan for me. A hope never fulfilled. But music was part of the plan. Some of those cowboys in the movies and on the radio, TV, and 78 records did a lot of singing. And some of them played the guitar. Around this time I also found radio station WAAT, which broadcast what we today call “country and western music”, from Newark, NJ.
All of this resulted in what I call the first intentional link in my music related chain of hopes. At this time I was probably about ten years old. My grandfather had this old guitar. I don’t know if he ever played it, but there it was. And one day he got it out and gave to me. My mother then signed me up for music lessons with an excellent private guitar teacher. Of course, my reason for taking the lessons was to be able to play cowboy songs like they did on TV. The problem was that while I learned to read music, how to play chords, and pick out the melody of silly little ditties like Bobby Shafto March and Polly Wolly Doodle, never once did I get to play Back in the Saddle, like Gene Autry did. However, there came a time when the church my family and I attended was holding a talent show. Anyone could participate if they wanted to sing or play an instrument. I decided I wanted to do that. Somehow had given me a music book of cowboy songs. On my own I had been practicing using this book. One of the songs was There’s a Rainbow on the Rio Colorado. So I got all dressed up in my cowboy clothes and my turn came to play and sing that song in the talent show. It was my first ever public performance, except for saying little written lines in children’s plays in school and church. This was a real performance. A true act of entertainment. All went well until I got to the last line of the chorus for the last time. Without any problem I sang the first part of the last line,“There’s a rainbow on the Rio Colorado”, and suddenly I couldn’t remember the last part of that last line. So what seemed to be minutes, but was really only a few seconds, I just stood there silently, and then suddenly it all came back to me – “and I know I’m going back to Texas soon”. As it turned out, I did get to Texas – not soon – but a couple of times about 25-30 years later to attend business related events, but I never again sang or played cowboy songs. But God wasn’t done developing those links in the chain of hope relating to music. A friend of the family had a violin they wanted to get rid of. You guessed it. My mother accepted it and signed me up for violin lessons at a new music store right around the corner from my house. They gave lessons. The good news was that I already knew how to read music, so I didn’t have to go through all that again. Also, the teacher was open to cowboy music. But the problem was that while the violin had a part in the cowboy bands, none of my favorite cowboy stars played one. So that lasted less than a year.
After that no one had any old instruments to give me, and my mother wasn’t signing me up for lessons anywhere. But once again, God was still not giving up on fulfilling those not yet formed hopes of the future, one link at a time. By now I was probably 12 years old. Now we had our own TV. I liked to watch the Arthur Godfrey Talent Show and the Wednesday night variety show. He also played the ukulele, which had a nice sound to it. Also, it only had four strings. About that time Ialso kept hearing this TVad for a ukulele. You could mail order one for just a few dollars. It came with an instruction book. You didn’t need to take lessons. Just read the instructions. And you would soon be able to play like Arthur Godfrey. So I convinced my mother to send in the few dollars to send for a ukulele. It soon came in the mail. Without going into details, I’ll just say that it was nothing but a useless toy. After a few tries, it became obvious that it could not be played, so it soon ended up in the garbage. As far as I was concerned, this was the last thing I would ever have to do with music of any kind, except play the radio.
Next year was 1953. I was 13 years old. About to enter high school. My mother told me I had to take the instrumental music class. I strongly objected, but today I know that God was using my mother to pursue the next link in my future chain of music related hopes. I had to learn to play another musical instrument, which could be rented through the school. I could choose any of th eavailable instruments, except drums. “Too noisy” she said. So I looked them all over and decided on the clarinet. It was the smallest of the instruments. It actually could be broken down into five pieces which fit into a carrying case not much bigger than a school book. It would be easy to carry back and forth from school.
As it turned out, this was the last of link in the chain of hopes that God kept fulfilling for me even before I had any serious music related hopes. From the moment I put that clarinet together and tried to play it, I found it to be challenging and fun. Even the lessons were fun. And right away I got to play in the school band. I got to learn about and play popular as well as classical music. I was introduced to radio station WNEW in New York, which not only played some popular music, but also jazz, which was a whole new thing to me. Eventually jazz became my favorite kind of music. Before long I decided to take private lessons, beyond what I was learning in school. That led to my wanting to also play saxophone, since jazz musicians usually played both of these instruments. My parents bought me a saxophone, which I also learned to play.
That brings us to where I began my last post. One of my hopes was to join the U.S. Navy when I graduated from high school in 1957. I also hoped to become a professional musician. The problem was, as I saw it at the time, that I couldn’t fulfill both of those hopes. I would have to decide to either join the Navy or try to become a professional musician. But God knew this wasn’t a problem. There was one more link in the chain of music related hopes to be fulfilled. Soon thereafter I learned that if I could pass the Navy audition right after I graduated from high school, I could enlist as a Navy musician, and after eight weeks of boot camp, attend the Navy School of Music in Washington DC and spend the rest of my enlistment paid to serve in the Navy as a professional musician. And that’s the way it was.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that all of the really important hopes God has fulfilled or is fulfilling in my life, have been preceded by God creating smaller links in a sometimes long chain of links of hopes fulfilled, even before I was conscious of having such hopes. This leads me to believe that there are still some hopes that I am not yet aware of, that God is, in his time and in his way, going to give me, and then make sure that they are fulfilled. As I said in closing my last post, you might want to think about some ways in which God has been fulfilling a chain of hopes in your life – one link at a time.
Grace and peace, Ray Gough