Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Little Help From My Friends

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 11, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

In the summer of 1967, The Beatles released their seminal album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album number one on its list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The album has sold more than 33 million copies, making it one of the best-selling albums in history. 

During the recording of the album, John and Paul wrote a song specifically for Ringo to sing. Drummer Ringo sang a song on most of The Beatles albums. The song they wrote was titled, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

After an all-night recording session, laying down the backing tracks for the song, an exhausted Ringo began to trudge up the stairs. Ringo was often very nervous when it came time to record his vocals, so his fellow Beatles hatched a plan. Ringo was almost at the top of the stairs when Paul called out, “where are you going, Ringo?” “Home, to bed,” Ringo replied. “Nah, let's do the vocal now,” Paul answered. Ringo looked to the others for support. “But I'm knackered,” he protested. But both John and George were taking Paul's side. “No, come on back here and do some singing for us,” John said. Reluctantly, Ringo took his place at the microphone.

Recording engineer Geoff Emerick recalls in his memoir, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles; “To the sleepy Beatles' delight, it only took Starr a few takes to nail most of his part. Perhaps the shock tactic of having him sing when he was least expecting it took the nervousness away, or perhaps it was just how supportive everyone was being. All three of his compatriots gathered around him, inches behind the microphone, silently conducting and cheering him on as he gamely tackled his vocal duties. It was a touching show of unity among the four Beatles.”

Since the release of the album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the song “With a Little Help from My Friends” has been a favorite. We all need a little help from our friends.

One day last week at about closing time a friend of mine stopped by the shop. He knew that my windshield warehouse had some problems. The roof had been leaking, and several of the rafters were rotten. He said, “let's repair those rafters if you have time.” I am not much of a carpenter, so I had been dreading the job. But with my friends help, that is with me mostly watching my friend and being his gopher; the job was soon completed.

My friend’s actions really lifted my spirits. It had been a tough week with many negative things happening. Parts weren’t delivered when they were supposed to. Twice I had received damaged, “new,” parts. I had a strange problem with the wiring to my heat pump at home that required more than one visit from the repairman. An acquaintance felt that they needed to criticize my writing. We all have problems in life, but we can get by with a little help from our friends.

I remembered the passage in Proverbs 18:24 (RSV) where King Soloman wrote, “there are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” No matter what we have to face in life, no matter how hard things get, we have a God who is always there for us. Jesus tells us in John 15:14,15 (NKJV) “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Jesus calls you His friend.

Joseph Scriven is not a household name. Chances are you have never heard of him. When he was 24 years old, he had an experience that changed his life. The night before he was to be married, his fiance drowned while he watched helplessly.

Many years later, Joseph was making a living as a country tutor who worked for some families in Ontario. Joseph met Eliza Roche while he was tutoring for some of her relatives. He asked Eliza to marry him, and she agreed. Shortly after their engagement Eliza fell ill with tuberculosis. She died in 1857, a few days before the date she and Joseph had set for their wedding. Fate had dealt Joseph Scriven another broken heart.

Around this time, Joseph learned that his mother was seriously ill. He didn't have the money to visit her back home in Ireland. When he wrote to her, he sent her a poem he had written as an encouragement. He called it "Pray Without Ceasing."

The first verse read, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Are his words familiar to you? You probably have heard them before.

Sometime later when he was ill, a friend who came to call on him happened to see the poem scribbled on scratch paper near the bed. The friend read it and asked Joseph if he had written the words. He replied, "The Lord and I did it between us."

Joseph never intended for the poem to be published, but it made its rounds as he gave copies to friends. Ira D. Sankey discovered the poem in 1875, just in time to include it in his well-known collection, Sankey's Gospel Hymns Number One. Later Sankey wrote, "The last hymn which went into the book became one of the first in favor."

Gentle Reader, you have a friend in Jesus. He is there to help you when you are going through difficult times. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

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