Friday, October 25, 2013

"Thou art giving and forgiving."

"Thou art giving and forgiving."

Hymn: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” – Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)

I love a good play on words. That’s probably why I like country music! One of my favorite turns-of-phrase is the title of one of my high school friend Stella Parton’s song “I’m Not That Good at Goodbye.”

In this hymnline from one of the truly great hymns of the Christian faith, the turn of phrase – the play on words – is not just clever: it is true. The One who is always giving in abundance is also constantly forgiving with similar lavishness! While Christ is in the business of providing for our good, he is at the same time erasing our not-so-good… our mistakes, our wrongs.

From the same generous hand comes both good gifts and forgiveness… provision and clemency… blessing and pardon.

This is a simple-yet-profound reality… one which seems too basic to even mention. It is that kind of truth about which we need to be reminded, because it can be so easily overlooked or – God forbid – forgotten.

Today, keep in mind that our Savior is constantly available to afford us blessing upon blessing… even the most basic provisions for our earthly existence. At the same time, when we mess up, he is standing by, ready to apply his merciful eraser. We don’t use the word ‘err’ much anymore, but we are consistently doing it! We continue to be errant children of God; and in his ‘mercy higher than the heavens, deeper than the deepest sea,’ the Head of the family is erasing our errors. Best of all, he is forgetting them! That still baffles me.

The next time you sing this hymn, add a measure with the words “and forgetting.” It’s four syllables, so it fits! Just add four notes to the Beethoven tune, then keep singing!

“Thou art giving and forgiving and forgetting, ever blessing, ever blessed.”

A Grand British Singing of This Hymn
at the BIG SING event

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"We turn from the world... to cast in our lot with the people of God."

Hymn: “The Master Hath Come” – Sarah Doudney (1841-1926)
Tune: ASH GROVE (Welsh Melody)

This hymn is all about Christ’s calling us to follow. It encourages us to follow under any and all circumstances: over mountains, through valleys, over dreary roads, through dangers and sorrows, doubts and temptations. In the end, we are reassured that it will be worth it when we rest in the light beside the still waters in the kingdom above.
This hymnline, however, is tucked away in the third (and usually final) stanza of Doudney’s hymn: “We turn from the world with its smiles and its scorning to cast in our lot with the people of God.”

This casting of one’s lot is a definitive decision. Although we may think of it as a roll of the dice, it is much less an act of leaving things to chance; in the case of such a spiritual commitment, it is quite the opposite.

To turn from the various faces of the world (smiles, snarls, etc.) to join “his own little band” of believers – this is what we promise as we sing this hymn. To relate this to sailing, we set our course in the opposite direction. We pull in all our resources and transfer them over in commitment to the church… the people of God – gathered and/or scattered.

I hate to use a poker analogy here, but we drag in all of the chips with which we have previously been taking chances, and invest those in the kingdom. Instead of casting our lot with those things which are temporary and not of the Spirit, we line ourselves up with the eternal life of the Spirit.

What happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay in Vegas; it’s a great slogan, but we all know better. However, what happens for the Kingdom stays with the Kingdom. It’s a much better place to cast your lot, don’t you think?

Hear This Hymn Played at the Organ

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Even when my heart is breaking, he, my comfort, helps my soul."

Hymn: “Jesus! What a Friend of Sinners” – J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918)
Typical Tune: HYRFYDOL

Try to wipe Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” out of your mind for a minute, and let’s deal with the reality of heartbreak, a dilemma in which we have all found ourselves – maybe many times. It’s that feeling that someone has taken each end of your emotional center and wrenched it against itself to the point that it seems to be broken. Always we think it has been damaged beyond repair. Some heartbreak is everlasting. but thankfully, most of the time it is short-lived… even momentary. Either way, for the one who is experiencing the sprain, the feeling is deep and genuine.

Sometimes this injury comes of our own doing; sometimes it is from outside. There are times that we cannot identify the true source or the break, but we know it is happening.

Even then – EVEN THEN Christ is our comfort, helping us bounce back, reviving our soul.

Heartbreak is a difficult thing to discuss with our fellow human confidants. It seems we turn quickly to the One who hears and understands us inside-out. I admit that I have rarely experienced an anguish of this kind that Christ did not come to my aid. Having a little talk with Jesus usually makes it right… at least bearable. It may not repair the relationship or mend the situation… but we DO feel a certain peace or comfort, and we are rewarded with strength for today and bright hope for the next conflict.

Hymns can do so much more for us than songs written for country music clubs. And lines like this one can resonate in our ears just when we need to be reminded that our Christ whose heart was broken more than once can identify with our own despair… and be our comfort.

Even when my heart is breaking… ahhhh. 

Hallelujah, what a promise! Hallelujah, what a hope! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

This Hymn by the Gaither Vocal Band

Wayne Watson’s “Friend of a Broken Heart”… in case you’re having that kind of day!



Monday, October 21, 2013

"Thou my best thought by day or by night."

Hymn: “Be Thou My Vision” – Ancient Irish

I have a dish-towel hanging by my bed – yes, I know those are meant to be in the kitchen, but it has embroidered on it a wonderful Psalm verse: “I will sleep in peace, for you, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (4:8) Because of its location, it is the last thing I see before I go to sleep and the first thing I see every morning.

"The Thinker" - Rodin
Thinking on God is a very positive exercise. In fact, Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Those ‘whatsoevers’ that we learned as a childhood memory verse are worth revisiting today.

Thinking on such optimistic attributes of Christ… and of the Christian life… can keep us from thinking on the negative, downer kinds of words that so often invade our thinking.

Simply centering our thought processes on the person of Christ may be difficult because we try to picture One we have never seen. But centering our attention on his characteristics can make that a less complicated way to implement his life into ours on a daily basis – by day and by night.

The list goes way beyond the eight listed in Philippians 4:8, so we are not limited to those. In fact, the list goes on almost infinitely.

Today, let the best things about Christ be the center of your thinking… all day long and into the night until you sleep in peace, kept safe by the One on whom you have thought.

Hear This Sung by 4 Him

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)