Saturday, July 14, 2018

Over My Head, I Hear Music in the Air

On a recent morning during my “meditative” walk, the words to the oldies song kept going through my head:

Five, Six, Seven O'clock, Eight O'clock rock
Nine, Ten, Eleven O'clock, Twelve O'clock rock
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight.

It was annoying. I often listen to an oldies station while I am preparing and cleaning up after dinner. Apparently, this Bill Haley song was on while doing so the evening before my walk.

I listen to music a lot. I listen to different genres of music. If you are anything like me, the last song I hear after turning off my source of music keeps spinning in my mind as I go about my daily activities. Apparently, it even carries over from the night before. Not all songs that echo back and forth in my head are annoying. Many are life giving.

Swiss choir performing Haydn's "Creation"
The spiritual “over my head, I hear music in the air,” captures this phenomenon well. When an annoying song keeps calling for my attention, I deliberately change the station (in my mind) to a prayerful song. I have a whole repertoire of these to use, depending on the most recent music that has inspired me, moved me to tears, or encouraged me. One which I often use is a hymn by George Beverley Shea:

I love thy presence Lord, The place of secret prayer.
My soul communes with thee,  and gone is earthly care.
I love thy presence Lord, to me thou art made real
As when on Galilean hills, thy loving touch didst heal.

When I place these words and the accompanying music “over my head,” a sense of the beyond overcomes me and “I hear music in the air.” When I repeat this music over and over in my mind I feel like “there must be a God somewhere.”  

After repeating this music over and over again on my meditative walks, it often stays with me throughout the rest of the day. It keeps coming back to me to remind me of God’s continual presence. This becomes especially important when I am dealing with a sensitive or depressing issue that tends to lower my spirits. Unfortunately, this has become more and more necessary in the current political climate in which we live. It has also become more necessary as I get older and am faced with more health issues. I need to “hear music in the air,” so that I can be assured that “there must be a God somewhere.”

Paul admonishes us to “pray without ceasing.” For me, the music in the air that is over my head is praying without ceasing. This is why it is so important to change the interior channel if an annoying ditty keeps running through our minds, whether it is a catchy advertisement, or a recent song we’ve heard on the radio.

The third verse of Shea’s hymn expresses what occurs for me by hearing music in the air:

O burden bearer kind, with power all divine,
The fears that tear my heart, are gladly borne by thine,
And as I seek to live, a life of ceaseless prayer,
Let not this child of thine, forget to meet thee often there.

“Over my head, I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere!”

Do you hear "music in the air?"
What is your favorite meditative music?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Clymer: French, English, German or Swiss?

In 1730, a cousin of my ancestor Henrich Klemmer, arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Alexander and Ann. Interestingly, the captain of the English ship was William Clymer.

Ship Alexander and Ann
I have previously written about how the name Clemmer (What’s in a Name?) has various spellings and they have been used interchangeably over the years (Klymer, Kleiner, Klimmer, Clemmer, Clymer). In that post, I mentioned that the earliest known relative of this clan (my clan) was Thoman Klymer. My source only stated that he was born ca. 1554, but it didn’t state where. The only record available was that he got married to Adelheit Byekel in 1577 in Affoltern near Zürich. This is where my ancestor Valentine (Velty) Klemmer, great-grandson of Thoman and father of Henrich, was born in 1655.

Upon further research, I discovered that Thoman Klymer was born in Montbéliard, France, in 1554 (see link: Family lore has it that he was a Huguenot, a protestant in very Catholic France. By edict of the French king, Huguenots came under severe persecution, and for that reason our ancestor moved to Switzerland. How ironic that his grandson, Valentine, would become an Anabaptist and come under persecution in Switzerland (see First Person Account of Anabaptist Immigrant Henrich Clemmer), would flee to Friedelsheim in Germany and then on to the USA in 1717.

In the meantime, one of my siblings did a DNA test and discovered that along with the expected central European, 36% of our heritage comes from the British Isles. This led me to make a number of leaps in thought.

Although there are many variants of the name in Switzerland now, the name Klemmer (Klymer) is not of Swiss origin. Nor is it German. Our Klemmer relatives moved from Switzerland to Germany and there are still Klemmers living there. The origins in France are not clear. Klemmer (Klymer) sure doesn’t look or sound anything like a French name.

The name Clymer is definitely of English origin, like the name of the captain of the ship I mentioned above. According to websites dealing with the Clymer name, they have moved all around the world, especially since the 17th and 18th Centuries. Could it be that at some point a Clymer moved from the British Isles to France, establishing the Clymer-Klymer-Klemmer-Clemmer name in Central Europe?

In my opinion, there is nothing more interesting than delving into one’s heritage.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

“Dioscidencia:” A Romance, a Call, and an Improbable Mission

In Spanish, when things come together in unexplainable, remarkable ways, believers call it a “Dioscidencia” (Godcidencia) instead of a coincidence. A Dioscidencia demonstrates the miraculous movement of the Spirit not unlike what a young couple from Colombia experienced.

Diana Cruz met Felipe Preciado during the orientation of volunteers in Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) International Visitors Exchange Program (IVEP). They were both Mennonites from Colombia, South America, but from different regions. Their furtive glances at each other ended up in a romance that was sustained during their year in separate localities in the United States. After that year in the IVEP program, they returned to Colombia and got married.

Diana, right, at EMU
I worked with Diana in the Spanish department at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. She was a Spanish language conversation assistant for our Spanish students. Felipe worked on a farm near Kidron, Ohio. During the course of their year in the USA, both of them felt drawn to the African IVEP colleagues whom they met.

Because of their successful year abroad, their faith commitment, their admiration for missionaries who had founded their respective congregations in Colombia, and because of their affinity to African colleagues from the IVEP program, they both sensed a call to be missionaries to Africa.

Little did they know how many obstacles they would face in making their dream come true. First off, the Mennonite Church in Colombia had few resources to launch such an expensive endeavor, so other sources of assistance had to be found. When Mennonite Mission Network (MMN) Latin American director came to visit Colombia, Diana and Felipe met with her to share their dream, and to see if MMN could help. She told them that traditionally MMN only helped Latino missionaries to go to other Latin American countries. That was not what they wanted to hear. Their dream was Africa.

Secondly, the process of sending mission workers from the USA involves a missionary support team and a number of other requirements that Diana and Felipe could not meet from Colombia. Special arrangements had to be made to consider their candidacy. Who would sponsor them? Who would support them?

Before she left as a bit of an afterthought, Linda took their picture. She promised that she would tell Steve Wiebe-Johnson, MMN’s Africa director, about their interest. Months went by with no word from MMN. They figured Linda probably hadn’t even told Steve about them. Diana and Felipe felt like their dream was going down in flames. Diana buckled down on her university studies and Felipe got a job as the first paid youth pastor in their church.

Just as they began making alternative plans for their future, word came from Steve that MMN had an assignment for them in Benin, West Africa. A Mennonite Church in Burgos, Spain, had begun a school project in Benin called “La Casa Grande.” They appealed to MMN for mission workers with skills in teaching and agriculture. These were exactly the skill sets that Diana and Felipe had.

The four connecting points on a world map
Everyone involved in the process recognized the phenomenal work of the Spirit to bring all of these elements together. A Spanish-speaking congregation in Spain inviting a Spanish-speaking couple from Colombia to be missionaries in a French-speaking African country with the aid of a mission agency in North America. Each partner contributed to the funding of this endeavor. Pesos from Colombia combined with Euros from Spain, Dollars from the USA and to CFA Francs in Benin to make God’s work possible. To make Diana and Felipe’s dream come true. Oh, and the picture that Linda originally took in Colombia as an afterthought, became the picture on their prayer card.

Diana and Felipe are doing a tour of the USA after which they will visit the sponsoring church in Burgos, Spain, then on to Benin to begin their three-year assignment. Their faces glow with excitement and gratitude for their improbable dream coming true. A Dioscidencia.
Diana and Felipe gathering with friends recently in Harrisonburg, VA
during their USA tour on the way to Benin

I am recounting the story they shared with us and other friends here in Harrisonburg, VA. I apologize in advance if I misrepresented any of the parts of their story. If you want to contribute to this remarkable ministry you can do so by sending a check to Mennonite Mission Network, PO Box 370, Elkhart, IN 46515, Benin ministry or connect online at