Southern Gospel Times Feature Article

Lessons from the Heart - Mary Anne Oglesby Sutherly


It’s a question people always ask. "How was church today?"

My answer today has caused many tears to fall. My heart is happy and broken at the same time as I try to understand life. I just cannot wrap my mind around why the people I love have to suffer so much.

But today God gave me the answer. He is our redemption. When this world falls apart, when disease robs my sweet friends of their memory and dignity, He is their redemption and He always will be. We were made to serve the Lord. We were made to worship the Lord.

On the way to church I was trying to decide what song to sing. I was driving along listening to music waiting for the Lord to give me a clue. I felt Him say, “Sing song number eight.”

I began to argue, “Lord, I have not sang "When I Think About the Lord " in two years. I do not want to do it.”

Well, as usual I never win any argument I’ve had with the Lord. I knew I had to sing “song number eight.”

When I got to church, I asked the praise team would they help me. They looked at me like I had two heads, but reluctantly agreed. Some were grumbling but never the less they still were willing. All of them asking, “Why are we singing a song we barely know?”

I told them, “Because the Lord said so and He knows best.”

Steve Hurst got there and agreed with me. He didn’t understand why but knew it was the song. We did our sound check. It worked out well, but I have to admit I was wondering why we had to sing the song, too. The Lord spoke to me again, “Hush. Just wait and see why. I’ll show you.”

So that’s just what I did.

As church started my sweet Martha sat on the second row. She had come to church with two Bibles and was so proud to be there, smiling ear to ear. She was at peace. She was where she wanted to be. Second row, second seat. Second row, first seat was empty. The occupier of that seat, Martha’s husband, was now in heaven. It was hard for me to sing and look at Martha. Her heart so broken, and her journey with Alzheimer’s is bleak at best, but her Savior was about to step in.

When the track started she looked straight at me. Tears started to fall for both of us.
“When I think about the Lord.
How he saved me. How He raised me.
How He filled me with the Holy Ghost. How He healed me to the uttermost.
When I think about the Lord.
It makes me wanna shout,
“Hallelujah, thank You, Jesus."

Martha stood to her feet, hands in the air, tears running down her face and she started singing. I mean really singing. I melted. My heart was so full. Martha had her time with the Lord. His merciful heart gave Martha worship today. None of the dark journey was present. None of her sorrow was present. Only the joy He can give.

I want to close with this. Music was wonderful today, not because of me, but because of obedience to Him. God wanted me to sing that song for Martha. It had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with Martha. She came to church with a tangled brain from dementia and a grieving widow’s heart. She needed that song. Funny thing is that I needed it too. God knew that but I was too stubborn and wanted to do things my way. I wanted to sing the song I wanted to sing, but God in His mercy spoke to my heart. I’m so thankful I listened.

Lesson learned. For all of us who sing and work in ministry—we need to be very careful. When we murmur and complain He hears us. I could be in Martha’s shoes one day. Trying to hold on to life as I know and love. I could wake up one day and not even know where I was or who I was. Most of all I could be in a journey where I can't worship. Not able to attend church. But today I saw worship straight from the throne room. A tangled mind worshiping a Savior whom she accepted and He has promised He would never leave her.

By the way, she stood through the entire song twice. Yep, she had to have it today. Hmmm, we complain if we have to stand, but for Martha it was a privilege.

A good Sunday. Yes, it was. Good for me, and most of all, good for my sweet Martha.

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Mary Anne Oglesby Sutherly About Mary Anne Oglesby Sutherly
An Arkansas native, Mary Anne Oglesby lives in Nashville, TN, and is the founder of Veranda Ministries, a program dedicated to the well-being of the senior adult population. In addition to her nearly 20 years in senior care and health care industries, Mary Anne has spent a majority of her life singing Gospel music. She is a private vocal coach and staff member of the Steve Hurst School of Music.

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