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Living in Perfect Harmony: An Interview with Performer Lorri Hafer

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If you passed Lorri Hafer at the grocery store or the aisle at church, you probably wouldn’t guess her instrumental part in encouraging the whole word to sing. Her 1971 pop hit, "I’d Like To Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)," is still known around the world. Although her warm smile and contagious laugh definitely catch attention, her unassuming attitude doesn’t give hint of the wealth of talent deep within her 5′ 2" frame.

Born to Big Band Singer and Capitol Records recording artist, Mary Mayo, known for such hits at "Blue Moon," and Academy Award nominated composer, Al Ham, who penned the familiar State Farm jingle, "Like a good neighbor…", Lorri grew up surrounded by music. As a teenager, she was propelled into international notoriety as featured vocalist in The Hillside Singers, appearing on popular shows such as American Bandstand, singing the message the whole world longed for: peace and harmony.

What was it like to grow up as a child of well-respected and talented parents in the entertainment industry?

In many ways, it was like a dream. My parents seemed very devoted to each other and to me. I felt especially loved and knew I had priority in their lives. Even though they were private people, they welcomed musicians and celebrities into our home. So, it was very exciting.

As a child, I accompanied my parents almost everywhere, from concerts to recording sessions. One of my first memories is around the age of three or four years old. I remember dancing on the conductor’s platform in the Columbia recording studio on 30th St. in New York City, while dad recorded a Ray Conniff album. 

Also growing up, I was included in many of their projects, which gave me priceless experiences and opportunities as a performer. My parents tried to work together as a team and included me. Often, they would be composing or arranging music in the middle of the night, while I slept on the sofa, listening and feeling safe. It’s nice to think of those times.

Did your parents have certain expectations of you?

My parents seemed thrilled at my decision to follow in their footsteps. Music is something we shared as a family. However, as supportive as my parents were, unrealistic expectations and pressures came from people in the business. Individuals were concerned because I was overweight. They urged me to wear clothes and hairstyles which would make me appear slimmer. There is so much of this type of attitude in our business, which is really sad.

Did you feel pressured to succeed as a performer?

Of course, I wanted to do my best work, and I love performing. I didn’t so much feel a pressure to succeed, as I did to look right…and I wanted to be loved…to find the perfect person to share my life. Like most people, I desired to be loved, unconditionally. 

What type of spiritual environment did you grow up in? How did it affect you?

My parents practiced Christian Science and enrolled me in a Christian Science boarding school. They honored God in our house and relied on prayer for healing, but I didn’t know God as Friend and Savior until after high school. Even during high school, I studied other faiths.

What I was looking for were people who seemed committed to their faith. One who did impress me was my great uncle, an evangelist, who we visited several times a year in North Carolina. "Nunkie," as we affectionately called him, was different from anyone I had ever met. He demonstrated a relationship with God which seemed real. Whenever he talked about God, his words profoundly influenced me. And when he died the end of my junior year of college, I felt devastated. After his death, I began searching for His God.

While touring with The Hillside Singers, did you experience "perfect harmony" in your own life?

I thought I was, but there was a sense that something was missing in my life. We all knew the group wouldn’t last forever, so there was talk of going separate ways. Plus, there was always the pressure to come up with the next "hit." In addition, my dad managed the group and I recognized the pressures were hard on him. Our last concert played on the night of my 17th birthday. Vividly, I still remember sitting on stage, watching everyone tear down the equipment, wondering what did my future hold?

How did the break-up of the group affect you?

After The Hillside Singers split up, I was confused and scared. It was shattering to my identity, especially since it had been such a big part of my life. To get through the days following it, I cried. This feeling of not knowing who I really was intensified when I heard reports of a new group forming under our name. One I had not been invited to join.

How did you feel about Lorri, the performer? Did your glamorous look on the outside reflect the Lorri inside?

It occurred to me, more than a few times, how the music business is incredibly fickle. I doubted I would ever be able to measure up. At times, I would stand in front of a mirror at home, singing songs to build my own confidence up, such as "Being good isn’t good enough…. I’ll be the best or nothing at all," from Hallelujah Baby or "I’m the Greatest Star" from Funny Girl. After The Hillside Singers split up, I began wondering if I had the emotional stamina to make it in the business.

Shaken by Nunkie’s death, I auditioned for a spot at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England, never thinking I would be accepted. However, I was and spent most of the next year in London, studying both privately and at the Academy. Consequently, at the same time, my parent’s marriage began to fall apart. This, along with the loss of Nunkie,was overwhelming. Questions like, "If they could think about ending their marriage, how could I ever trust a relationship?" started to trouble me. I was completely shaken by the disorder and turned to drinking heavily and entered into a promiscuous lifestyle. It is only by God’s mercy and grace that I survived at all.

How did your life change?

There was a point in my life where I felt so filthy from my past sins. I knew if I didn’t find forgiveness and start anew, I would die. So while bathing in a tub full of water, trying to scrub away the sin, I met the Lord. I was faced with the reality of how outward scrubbing, couldn’t remove the dirty feeling inside of me. With soap scum floating around me, I cried out to God, who responded to the emptiness in my heart. He revealed to me how He is the only one who can transform a filthy vessel into one that is pure. As Paul states in 1 Timothy 1:15, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."

Outwardly, I doubt whether anyone could have guessed my spiritual condition, because I had learned how to be a good actress, but God knew and still loved me. How could I not respond to such compassion and tenderness? In a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, I now know unconditional love and forgiveness.

What happened? Did your music change?

I still love to bring back memories of the Big Band Days, with the love songs of people staying together and the belief of love at first sight. Even so, now I have a passion for worshiping God, one I never experienced before my conversion. Perhaps, I’m warming up for eternity?

Do you find that singing brings you fulfillment?

I always felt I had to sing, like it was my calling. Sometimes, when singing, people have responded positively. Other times, no one paid any attention, as if I wasn’t even present. With this mix of reactions, early on I decided to always sing to God. I believed He would never stop hearing me.

I know God is still listening, and there is a reason why I sing. Even when singing secular music, I perceive it as ministry. To some, it may sound strange, but God is seeking the lost and hurting people in the world, who respond to unconditional love. Singing is a way to reveal His unconditional love to them.

How do you feel the Christian community accepts you, since you come from a background of secular entertainment?

We have several friends who pastor and invite us to minister in their churches. Sometimes it is an outreach where we play secular love songs. At other times, we share a testimony. There are some groups who will not let us come because we still perform secular music. They tell us God wants to take us out of secular music; which, we are open to His leading, whether it is in the secular arena or ministry. Either area, God knows I am not ashamed of the Gospel. Each day, I ask God to set-up divine appointments for me. I have come to appreciate a God who is full of surprises. I don’t want to ever put Him in a box.

And most of the people I come into contact with would never set foot in a church. They are too afraid of the response they would receive from Christians. Before they will come, they need to firsthand experience unconditional love, with no prior agenda. It is essential I communicate to them how it is about a relationship and not religion.

Often, I am asked if I am religious. I tell them I am passionate about God. Once people start to comprehend the deep and perfect love of God, they want to come to Him. It is so amazing to know God will never walk away from a relationship. His commitment is forever. Also, people need to know they can come to God, warts and all, they don’t have to get cleaned up first. He is the one who cleanses us. It reminds me of when my own son sometimes comes home dirty. I don’t make him clean up before embracing him. How much more is God, the perfect Father, whose arms are always open

Have you found" perfect harmony"?

Now when I sing this song, I do have perfect harmony, received through knowing Jesus Christ. Also, I have an incredible peace, found only through a relationship with God. I tried to find it elsewhere, but failed, miserably.

Growing up, I thought I had a blessed life, now I know I do. My father said a prayer of salvation while watching a Billy Graham special. Mama accepted the Lord four days before she died. Daily, my heart is to share the perfect harmony God offers to a hurting world.

What are you currently up to?

I was recently the opening act for comedian Bob Newhart when he was in Tampa, and stay busy performing with my husband Mike and our son Paul on cruises and in concert throughout the U.S. and Europe. Although we mostly perform standards and jazz music from the Big Band era for listening and dancing, often we get to speak and share our testimonies on those cruises during the worship services onboard. We look forward to speaking and sharing wherever the Lord leads us. I’m also an "on air" personality" for the Music Of Your Life Radio network.

How can readers learn more about you?

For more information, readers can visit my website, or contact me by email.

Lkittlebio2Lynette is the associate editor of Ungrind. She’s married and the mother of four daughters and has lived in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and a few other places in-between. Lynette has a weakness for anything made out of denim, shoes in a variety of styles and colors, and clearance sales. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including Focus on the Family Magazine, Spiritled Woman, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Reader’s Digest, Brio, CCM, FamilyFun, Small Group Trader, and more! She’s also featured in the books: Disney’s FamilyFun: My Great Idea, Parent’s Magazine: The Best Advice I Ever Got, Small Minds With Big Hearts: God’s World From a Child’s Point of View, and The New Woman’s Day Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Every Occasion. Lynette has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and has written for Dr. Robert Schuller, Dr. D. James Kennedy, and Joyce Meyer. She also produced Dr. Kennedy’s daily radio broadcast the Kennedy Commentary.
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Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters and serves as associate editor of Ungrind. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including Focus on the Family Magazine, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, KirkCameron.com, Start Marriage Right, Growthrac, and more! She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University with experience in broadcast media and also serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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Living in Perfect Harmony: An Interview with Performer Lorri Hafer

by Lynette Kittle time to read: 9 min
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