Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"With upright heart I give tender care and sympathy."

Hymn: “Dear Lord, Lead Me Day by Day” – Francisca Asuncion (1927-    )

[This is a re-run from 2017.]

You may not be familiar with this prayer hymn based on a Philippine folk song. It has appeared in more recent hymnals, but as fewer congregations refer to those pew books, it may well be overlooked. This hymn-line is, however, worth visiting.

Originally written as a children’s hymn, the refrain is simple, child-like… almost ‘cute’:
            Praise to God, Fount of love, praise from morn till set of sun,
            Praise at home, praise at church, praise to God ev’rywhere on earth.

Today’s hymn-line is the final one of the last stanza: With upright heart I give tender care and sympathy. I am attracted to this poetic sentence because we sometimes confuse the terms “caring for” and “taking care of.”

It is possible to take care of someone without truly caring about them. In other words, we may be in a position to help someone – to take care of their needs – and do it passively, perhaps out of duty… or even because we are paid to do so. Our attitude may be “Well, somebody has to do it!”

However, those who take care of someone while truly caring about them are wonderful examples of the way Christ taught us to serve others. These are those who connect with the person in need, have compassion on them, and who take care of the situation to the best of their ability.

For me, the best example of this may be at your local hospital: nurses. Having spent many hours in hospital rooms with both my parents, my wife, and friends and family members, I have observed some on the nursing staff who breeze in, tend to the needs of the patient, and quickly move on to the next. They do the job for which they are paid… and they do it with great proficiency.

On the other hand, we have all witnessed the nurse who treats the patient with great interest, who speaks to them with kindness, who truly cares for the person… not just their immediate health needs. These are the ones who (whether they realize it or not) are following that example of the Great Physician… the sympathizing Jesus.

To be this kind of caretaker, humility is required. Time is required. The ability to identify-with is required. Unhurried, sincere attention is given, and the result is more healing than the aforementioned laissez faire approach.

I saw this so much during my mother’s final visits to Fort Sanders Presbyterian Hospital in Knoxville. Those round-the-clock nurses truly cared about Hedy Huff; they liked her and enjoyed her; they went out of their way to be sure she was well cared for. I flew in from Denver and arrived at the hospital just a few minutes after my mother had died and was met as I stepped off the elevator by my daddy, other family members, Preacher Cope… and several weeping nurses. It was at that moment I realized the difference between “caring for” and “taking care of.”

If you ever have opportunity to sing this hymn, I hope you’ll remember this little blog post. And the next time you see someone giving care-full attention to the needs of another, thank them for it. Then go thou and do likewise!

Monday, November 11, 2019

"Stamp thine own image deep on my heart."

Hymn: "O to Be Like Thee"
Words: Thomas O. Chisolm (1866-1960)
Tune: RONDINELLA (also called CHRISTLIKE in some hymnals)

From the writer who gave us "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" comes this wonderful meditative prayer-hymn. It may not be terribly familiar to you, but it should become so. [I'm attaching a copy.] It is one of the most Christ-centered texts in all of hymnody and could be prayed morning by morning when the new mercies of Christ become evident.

The line I have chosen from this hymn is the last phrase of the refrain. What a tremendous request made of Christ: "Stamp thine own image deep on my heart." This follows the request for personal


Chisholm's descriptors for Jesus are simply profound as they are listed throughout the hymn:
  • Full of compassion
  • Loving
  • Forgiving
  • Tender 
  • Kind
  • Helper of helpless
  • Cheerer of fainting ones
  • Seeker of wanderers
  • Lowly in spirit
  • Holy 
  • Harmless (never heard THAT one before)
  • Patient
  • Brave
  • Meek
  • Endurer of cruelty
  • Wiling sufferer.
You can print that list out and put it in your Bible. Like I said, this is a Christ-centered text!

One other line I will highlight is this: "Gladly I'd forfeit all of earth's treasures, Jesus, thy perfect likeness to wear." This is another, maybe more poetic way to say, "I'd rather have Jesus than silver and gold."

Learn this hymn... at least the refrain... so you can sing it to yourself often. The prayer to be like Christ could be the turnaround point for us who might voice this kind of desperate cry to the Perfect One.

"O to be like thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as thou art!
Come in thy sweetness. Come in thy fullness.
Stamp thine own image deep on my heart."

Listen to This Hymn

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


This is not exactly a HYMN LINE, but it centers around a lot of hymns and gospel songs. This was my pastoral comments for my mother-in-law's memorial service this past Monday - Beddie Rene "Nonnie" Lowry.
This will not interest some of you, but for some of you it may be worth reading.

This world was not her home, she was just a’ passin’ through.
Her treasures were laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckoned her from heaven’s open door,
And she couldn’t be at home in this world anymore.

He the pearly gates has opened
So that she may enter in;
For he purchased her redemption
And forgave her all her sins.

Out of her bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus has come. Jesus has come.
Into great freedom, gladness and light.
Jesus has come.
Out of earth’s sorrow, into his balm;
Out of life’s storms and into God’s calm.
Out of distress to jubilant song.
Jesus has come.

It’s a little early for a Christmas carol, but all the stores are already fully decorated for the season… so I think it will be okay:

All ye, beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps… and slow.
Look!          Now the glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
Now (you can) rest beside the weary road… rest
And hear the angels sing.

This weekend was the time of year that the church celebrates All-Saints Day – the day congregations around the world take time out to remember the lives of the saints who have gone before us, especially during the past year. Many churches spent a few minutes yesterday reading the names of those from their flock who had died during the past twelve months.

As I stood by Nonnie’s bed on Saturday morning with Carlita and Becky and heard her last earthly breath – I thought to myself: “How appropriate that THIS saint has joined the heavenly realm on All Saints Weekend.”  Amid the tears, inside my heart I sang to myself:

“For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed.
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia.

Thou was their Rock, their fortress and their might.
Thou Lord, their Captain in their well-fought fight,
Thou in the darkness drear, their one true Light. Alleluia”

Nonnie may not have known that hymn, but it was definitely about her – Nonnie was one of the saints. Her main commitment throughout her life was to Christ … no doubt about that. She was redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and a close-follower of that Redeeming Lamb.

Right next to wherever she was sitting, there was her Bible within easy reach… and I’m pretty sure she reached for it often. For the past year and a half at Covenant Place, Nonnie spent most of her waking hours sitting on the left-hand end of the same sturdy, well-built plaid burgundy Flex-Steel sofa she had occupied for years. On the center cushion within easy reach was her Bible.

Saint Beddie Rene grew up playing the piano, and her blond, out-of-tune Story and Clark studio piano was used regularly in her living room. She’d walk by, sit down and play a gospel song, and move on with the next chore at hand. That piano now belongs to Kimble… and we hope she will enjoy playing it as much as Nonnie did.

Three weeks ago, Nonnie sat down at the grand piano at Mayme’s house and played “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” It’s amazing how musical gifts seem to stay in our mind after other things disappear. It was, by the way, one of the hymns she had listed to be sung here today.

My point is that this beautiful saint – like this son-in-law – loved the great hymns and enjoyed playing them often as part of her on-going worship routine. The written Word of God and the songs of the faith nourished her life and made her the wonderful person described today in this service.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent hours about how Nonnie has been reunited with D’Daddy, with Lucy Mae, with baby Jennifer… and others.

Those of us who share her faith are promised that we will once again see HER… perhaps have a grilled cheese sandwich… but for sure we will SING with her as she plays.

We will sing on that beautiful shore
The melodious song of the blest.
And our spirits will sorrow no more,
Not a sigh for the blessing of rest.
          In the sweet by and by,
          We shall sing on that beautiful shore.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river. The beautiful, the beautiful river.
Gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

"And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia!"


Hymn: “For All the Saints” – William W. How (1823-1897)
Typical Tune: SINE NOMINE

Most of us would love to be brave of heart and strong of arm… like the biblical musician king, David.

I never saw the movie Braveheart. I am not into watch-the-exit-sign gore, and a friend of mine Steve Fullmer told me, “Do NOT see this movie, Rg. You’ll never make it through it.” So Carlita went to see it with our Denver dentist Wanda Dufrene. But I think of Mel Gibson running around in a kilt every time this hymn-line goes past!

This hymn-line is a reaction to having heard the “distant triumph song” of the saints who have gone before us into the realms of heaven… those who confessed their faith boldly for all the world to know… and who now rest from their labors.

If we could literally hear the songs of heaven ringing in our ears, I think our hearts would be strengthened, and we might more boldly, bravely stand up, stand up for Jesus as soldiers of the cross. The truth is I Can Only Imagine what that mighty chorus might be singing today, but I’m pretty sure a part of their repertoire is the great hymns of the faith, those they took with them to heaven, embedded deep within those brave hearts. “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty,” or “Crown Him with Many Crowns, the Lamb upon His Throne,” or “Great Is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father.”

These distant songs of triumph sung by the heroes of the faith who stand face to face with Christ my Savior – these are the songs that may enliven my day and enbraven me, even when my heart is breaking and my physical abilities may have waned.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength… soar like eagles… run without weariness… walk without feeling faint.” (from Isaiah 40:29, 31)

Listen up, y’all! Join in the triumph song! Let’s hear it!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

“In every change God faithful will remain.”

Hymn: “Be Still, My Soul” – Katharina von Schlegel (1752)
Tune: FINLANDIA (Sibelius)

Change is inevitable. Have you heard that before? During my lifetime there have been more major changes than probably at any other time in history – especially socially and technologically.

I think I’ve said this previously, but the dictionary when I was in college defined the entry “computer” as “one who computes.” And here I sit typing on one, adding to a blog on the internet. When I think about it, that does not compute!

Most of us believer-types value greatly the faithfulness of God. For me, it is the most-valued attribute. And having gone through a lot of changes in the past several years (I won’t bore you with the details!), I am more aware than ever that the faithfulness of my God has not wavered.

This faithfulness which we attach to the changeless-in-change Deity is also at work in the less monumental alterations – the fluctuations – those changes which are tiny, almost unnoticed in our everyday existence. While I am glad to know that God is there in the seismic modifications, I am increasingly cognizant of his unaltered presence in those undetected changes.

In EVERY change – small, medium, large, extra-large - God faithful will remain.

A Rich Unaccompanied Arrangement

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)