Friday, September 26, 2014

“Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross but is blessed when we trust and obey.”

Hymn: “Trust and Obey” – John H. Sammis (1846-1919)

Grief, losses, frowns, crosses. All these are hard to bear… or to bear up under. At the time of their occurrence, nothing about any of them seems to be a blessing – not even close.

Trusting to the point of obedience gets us through these experiences and often brings us out on the other side with a realization that as rough as the time may have been, our lives were blessed by having passed through.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not eat you alive.” (Isaiah 43:2)

It’s that “passing through” that we’re dealing with here. In the midst of the waters and the fires, we cannot imagine that it will be well with us any time soon – if ever again. That Hee-Haw “gloom, despair and agony on me” song replaces our hymns of confidence.

A frown from someone can just about ruin your day. It is the lesser of the difficulties listed in this hymnline, but it is truly amazing how much affect a snarly dismissal has on our own attitude. On the other hand, a smile or a word of encouragement carries us a long way as we are “passing through” the more difficult times of grieving, losing and cross-bearing.

Davis Cooper (my Denver pastor) said that “trust and obey” pretty much sums up what we believers are called to do. I think he was right… as usual!

Trusting obedience brings a blessing… eventually!

Recording from The Hymn Club

Thursday, September 25, 2014

“Sing with blest anticipation.”

“Sing with blest anticipation.”
Hymn: “’Tis the Church Triumphant Singing” – John Kent (1766-1843)
Common Tune: AR HYD Y NOS

We talk a lot about “participatory” worship experiences: everybody jump in there and participate vigorously! What if we promoted “anticipatory” worship?

Have you ever thought about anticipation being a blessing? Well, it is. We have been blessed with the gift of anticipation... and we emphasize that during the Advent season.

Those who believe in the providence of God approach every aspect of life with a sense of expectation – expecting the hand of God to lead them through the day and the eye of God to be ever-watching, protecting, overseeing their every move… for their own good and the good of the kingdom.

Indeed, we anticipate the Kingdom which is yet to come, promised to us beyond this earthly journey; but if we only anticipate THAT reality, we miss out on the everyday provisions – those which surround us on THIS trek.

The next time you sing – corporately or alone – do it with a sincere hope of that which is yet to come your way… far in the future AND close at hand. It is that kind of anticipatory worship that truly keeps us going, confident that God is at work. Go ahead: “Sing with blest anticipation.”

This hymn tune played at the organ

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

“Here bring your wounded hearts. Here tell your anguish.”

“Here bring your wounded hearts. Here tell your anguish.”
Hymn: “Come, Ye Disconsolate” – Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

We’re familiar with the use of “county seat” – the “seat” of government – the place where local authority is exercised. We also use it as a synonym for the center – where some concept prevails – e.g. the “seat of learning.”

Today’s hymnline follows the admonition, “Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.” It is there that mercy-filled authority is exercised and wounded hearts and anguished lives are welcomed and dealt with. It’s a beautiful thought… a heart-warming image.

The church should be a mercy seat – a seat of mercy – a place where the concept prevails. To be all it is meant to be, the body of Christ must embrace the wounded, anguished masses one at a time… not to condemn them but to aid in their healing and restoration. The church’s ad campaign should include this hymnline… not as a church-growth gimmick, but as a sincere “all come.”

It has been said that the church is known as the only army which shoots their wounded. That image has to change. The merciful Christ demands it.

To quote Wayne Watson, the church needs to become the “Friend of a Wounded Heart.”

This Hymn Sung by the Men of Baylor’s A Cappella Choir

Wayne Watson Sings “Friend of a Wounded Heart”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“The church for you doth wait, her strength unequal to her task. Rise up, and make her great.”

Hymn: “Rise Up, O Men of God” - William P. Merrill (1867-1954)

“I can’t do this on my own.” “There’s more here to do than I can get done.” “My strength is unequal to my task.” We’ve all said something like this countless times in our lives. Some of us say to ourselves some variation on this every day of our lives.

As a church body, we need to admit this: our strength is unequal to our task. We rely completely on the power of Christ among us to guide us… yea, even pull us… toward the goal of worship, work and witness.

Because it is a sexist title, we sometimes avoid this hymn nowadays; in fact, it is omitted from several newer hymnals. However, when we do that, we are guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, missing some not-to-be- forgotten truths – like this one.

I’ve mentioned several times that we need to pay attention “to whom” the hymn is addressed. In this case, we are singing to ourselves… to our fellow believers – not just the men folk! In modern-speak, we would say it like this: “Somebody needs to step up. There is no way that individually we can accomplish all that the church needs to do.” That’s not nearly as poetic, but that IS what we sing when these words pass our lips.

In order for the church to fulfill her mission – to be “great” – rank-and-file everyday members must step up. There are gaps in every church – places waiting to be filled by people whose gifts “fit” the empty space. The church is WAITING for individuals to strengthen weakened or non-existent ministries. The world is waiting. Christ is waiting.

Will I be the one who will rise up, and make her great? Will you?

The Northern Lights Chorale Sings This Hymn

Monday, September 22, 2014

“He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin. He sets the prisoner free.”

Hymn: “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” – Charles Wesley (1792-1788)
Main Tune: AZMON

Why is it that those sins which were long-ago forgiven… canceled by the eraser of God… why do they continue to have power over us and haunt us? They lurk in the back of our subconscious memory and surface now and then to almost take us hostage? For some reason, we have not fully grasped the reality of forgiveness… even those of us who have known about it our entire lives, have heard multiple sermons and studies on the subject, and – best of all – have experienced it over and over for ourselves.

There’s a weird little verse in Isaiah’s woe-listing that says, “Woe unto them who draw iniquity with cords of vanity and sin as it were with a cart rope.” (5:18) I often quote it when called upon to say a particularly meaningful scripture passage; it gets great puzzled looks from everyone in the study circle! These are they who cannot let go of their sin; in their vanity, they drag it behind them as if attached to them by a rope. It’s a great picture of those of us who will not accept the gift of God’s forgiveness; it is too often a picture of ME!

Imprisoned by guilt? It’s time for a break-out.

Better yet, it is time to accept the Governor’s “pardon”! The One who governs the universe is concerned with your freedom. God wants to set you free… and his truth can do that! The truth is: you are forgiven of all you have submitted for absolution. Get over it. Let it go, let it go! Cut the tugging-rope you have too long dragged behind you. Walk away a freed man/woman.

Grab my hand. We’ll try to do this together.

This hymn text set to a delightful English tune

A lively updated version of this hymn by the Dave Crowder Band. If you enjoy contemporary worship songs, you’ll like this one!

Friday, September 19, 2014

“’Tis music in the sinner’s ear, ‘tis life and health and peace.”

Hymn: “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” – Charles Wesley (1792-1788)
Main Tune: AZMON

The name of Jesus, according to this Wesleyan hymnline is music in the sinner’s ear, and it is life, health and peace.

This hymnline seems to indicate that upon realizing the saving power of Christ, the one entering the kingdom hears the name of Jesus in an entirely different way. Where once they may have discounted him, scoffed at him, refused him, or (as with Paul) attacked Christ and his followers, NOW the very name of Jesus takes on a beauty which is almost like music.

In so many Broadway show tunes and pop music, when the performer describes falling in love, they often speak of it as hearing music from some far-off, distant place: “I hear music, and there’s no one there.”  And “Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony.” Long before any of those songs, Wesley’s take on this was that when someone realizes the height, depth, breadth and width of the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18), they have a similar reaction.

Fortunately for those of us who (though still sinners) have been redeemed, the beat goes on! When we hear the name of Jesus, we still warm at the thought – and we musicians hear music… usually a hymn, I would dare to say!

    Jesus, the name that calms my fears,
    that bids my sorrows cease.
    ‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears;
    ‘tis life and health and peace.

In this one brief stanza, the name of Jesus is said to calm our fears, tells our sorrows to go away, is like music to our ears, is our very life, keeps us healthy (heals), and brings with it a calming peace. The next stanza goes on to say that he breaks the power of cancelled sin, sets the prisoner free, and by his blood, makes the foulest clean. You go, Charles!

Need to be reminded of the presence of Christ in your life today? Sing a couple of meaningful hymnlines – maybe even these. Turn your fears and sorrows over to the One who can handle them. Bring music back to your silenced ears. Rediscover life embedded in his. Through his healing touch, become a more healthy follower. Find the peace that passes human understanding. Make your life a song. Have a nice day!

An arrangement of this hymn sung by the Choir from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

Thursday, September 18, 2014

“Silent lips now sing with gladness. Blinded eyes are filled with sight.”

Hymn: “Jesus, at Your Holy Table” – Tom Allen (1958-     )

Near the end of a fairly new communion hymn, we find this wonderfully descriptive line. In its context, I think it is referring to those who have achieved their eternal home, and THERE are healed of their inabilities to speak and/or see. However, standing alone, it could have a richer implication to those who in THIS life have received the miraculous intervention of the healing hand of Christ.

It is simply so well-put: “Silent lips now sing with gladness.” Imagine having spent all your days unable to phonate; by some holy inreach of your throat, you are suddenly not only able to speak, but you choose to sing! Better yet, your song is filled with gladness… maybe even thanksgiving. I suspect that most of you who read this blog-posting are the kind who WOULD break into song soon after discovering your voice!

“Blinded eyes are filled with sight.” We’ve seen it in movies and television shows: the gauze is unwrapped from about the head, the eye-lids flicker then squint – a person sees again or for the first time ever. The amount of light that floods in must be overwhelming at first, and as adjustments are made to their receptors, they are overwhelmed with all that they can immediately see: colors, shapes, faces. When the miracle is a complete restoration, they must be truly “filled with sight.”

Whether by the use of scalpel or under the hand of a praying believer, God works marvels for needy people – much as his Son (without aid of apparatus) did when he walked among the halt and lame, the blind and deaf, the depressed and ostracized.

Some will find completeness at the hand of Christ in the earthly life; others will stand healed in the heavenly Presence. Eventually, all of us will learn that Restoration is not just the name of a local company that brings out the best in our living quarters or a show on the History Channel.

Watch a woman’s reaction to hearing for the first time.

Watch a woman’s reaction to seeing for the first time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

“I own no other master. My heart shall be thy throne.”

Hymn: “Living for Jesus” – Thomas O. Chisolm (1866-1960)

In my History of American Music class, the chapter on Negro Spirituals is always one of my favorites because it sets us up for so many other chapters (blues, jazz, Motown… even rap!); but it is also one that I dread because we have to discuss the truth about slavery: that African Americans were actually owned by their masters, with all the horrible ramifications which too often accompanied that ownership.

This hymnline from the refrain of “Living for Jesus” turns that concept upside down; it says that we believers “own no other master” than Christ himself. We choose to allow Christ to be our never-cruel master. We don’t “own” him by the usual definition of the word (to have or hold as property or to have power or mastery over). Instead we are using the second definition from MERRIAM-WEBSTER: to acknowledge to be true, valid, or as claimed. We believe Jesus to be who he claimed to be, that he was truthful, and that he is the valid One to rule on the throne of our lives.

Some of you will find this interesting: one of the synonyms for “own” is “enjoy”! That could be a whole other hymnline discussion.

Who’s your Daddy? Who’s your Father? Who’s your Savior? We need to acknowledge who owns us and whom we own – believe to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God… to quote Peter’s confession.

Own Jesus as Master. Move off the throne and give Christ “his own rightful place” (to quote another hymn!) Then we can sing this hymnline with conviction.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

“From shades of night to plains of light… he lifted me.”

Hymn: “In Loving-kindness Jesus Came” – Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932)

Remember those claw-machines in game arcades? You insert coins and manipulate a metal grabbing device to hopefully scoop up some high-quality trinket from the mass of plastic toys and stuffed animals. Once you had snagged an item, you carefully steered the claw toward a chute, released the grip, and you had accomplished the task. My grandsons still enjoy wasting money on these machines – which now require four quarters instead of a dime, by the way!

For some reason, that’s the image that came to mind when I started to write today’s hymnline. Not that I picture a silver claw grabbing me up; but the image of my being lifted out of one situation into another applies. The hymn actually says, "With tender hand, he lifted me.” That’s a much better picture of how this process works!

Christ lifts us from at least fifty shades of grey to endless hues of white.

Coming from the darkness to the light is a common theme in scripture and in song. In this case, the tender hand of Christ hovers above our darkened existence – perhaps at the bottom of the stack - and carefully scoops us up; and for the first time, we are exposed to light… the bright side of life. Once redeemed from the pile, we have no desire to return to a greying location.

Fallen back into the pile? Need a lift? Christ is still in the lifting business. Grab hold for dear life.

A simple singing of this hymn

Monday, September 15, 2014

“Thee will I cherish. Thee will I honor.”

“Thee will I cherish. Thee will I honor.”
Hymn: “Fairest Lord Jesus” – Anonymous

This is a hymn we all know, no matter what our denominational bent. It is one of the most beautifully crafted prayer hymns in any song book. Translated from German, we have no idea who penned the main stanzas.

This hymnline sounds almost like it’s part of someone’s wedding vows. The officiate says, “Do you __(insert name)__ take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife. To cherish and honor her from this day forward…” The groom whose name has been inserted responds, “I do.”

An aside: I actually heard a minister say “insert name” during a wedding years ago. I guess he grabbed his wedding book as he rushed into the sanctuary; I hope he refunded his fee! That’s one reason I always type out a new service every time I do one – partly to make it fresh and applicable to the couple, and partly in order not to call the groom “Insert Name!”

Meanwhile, back on track, as we sing this hymnline, we are renewing our vows to the Lord Christ – those commitments we made to him perhaps years ago are refreshed when we sing the first stanza of “Fairest Lord Jesus” and mean what we sing.

Repeat after me: “Jesus, I will always love you. I will never bring dishonor to you or your cause. So help me God.” I now pronounce you Savior and Disciple. You may now embrace the Bridegroom.

This hymn sung by a group of young men from Birmingham, Alabama

Friday, September 12, 2014

“To added affliction God addeth his mercy; to multiplied trials, his multiplied peace.”

Hymn: “He Giveth More Grace” – Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932)

“When the going gets tough, the tough go to their knees.” You may have heard that little pithy aphorism, and there is a good bit of truth therein.

There are times when it seems there is a ‘piling on’ of the difficulties of life. Gradually or suddenly we are under the weight of more problems than we can handle on our own. Some of us may be currently encumbered! Others of us may have recently come out from under a heaviness or can see one on the horizon.

This hymnline uses two mathematical terms: addition and multiplication. In ADDED affliction, God ADDS his mercy to the situation; when the trials are MULTIPLIED, he stands nearby, MULTIPLYING the peace that passes understanding. Although not mentioned, DIVISION is a part of this equation, as he is also DIVIDING (breaking down) the problems into manageable doses – or perhaps allowing only as many as we can bear. I suppose we could also say that SUBTRACTION is involved as God sometimes completely removes the difficulties.

There is so much hopeful truth in this hymnline which is followed by, “He giveth and giveth and giveth again!” I, for one, am glad that he does… and I am unanimous in that!

Larry Ford from one of the Gaither Homecomings

Thursday, September 11, 2014

“Where the bruised and lonely dwell, we shall show the Savior’s pity.”

Hymn: “Lord, Thy Church on Earth Is Seeking” – Hugh Sherlock (1905-1998)

Where do the bruised and lonely dwell? They are all around us. Perhaps they ARE us.

Many carry outward bruises – black-and-blue reminders of recent mistreatment or abuse. Others… probably many more… walk among us with an injured spirit, a pained heart, a gone-sour attitude. Though by all appearances these “have their act together,” in reality they are hurting so deeply they cannot express the depths of their despair.

Others are alone, even in a crowd. They have no one to turn to or rely upon. These often sit on crowded pews beside us on a weekly basis… or work at the neighboring desk or machine… or live just down the hall in our own homes. Some show this isolation in their eyes, while others mask their alone-ness well, decrying any need for a friend.

These and other hurting folks struggle alongside us wherever we find ourselves. When recognized by the prompting of the Spirit of Christ, it is up to us to show the pity of Christ in our dealings with them.

By definition, pity can mean a sadness because of another’s trouble or suffering; in other words, we have the capacity to “feel” for them. Mercy is a synonym for pity… especially when that mercy is put into action – when the mercy of Christ within us is expressed.

Whenever we come into contact with these bruised and lonely travelers – wherever we encounter the marginalized, downtrodden souls – let us take the time to express the Savior’s mercy to them… to pity them. We have a tendency to distance ourselves from “the least of these.” It is time we draw near to them, even as Christ has drawn near to us and we have drawn near to him.

Garrett Martin Plays Variations on the HOLY MANNA tune

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

“My sure and certain refuge, my never-failing tow’r.”

“My sure and certain refuge, my never-failing tow’r.”

Hymn: “I Saw the Cross of Jesus” – Frederick Whitfield (1829-1904)
Common Tune: WHITFIELD

I’ve probably already said this in one of my previous hymnline posts, but the attribute I look for most in my friendships is dependability. I want someone on whom I can depend, who will show up when they say they will, in whom there is no doubt of their faithfulness. Based on those parameters, Jesus would make a wonderful friend… and indeed he is!

We have three descriptive terms to label this Jesus Friend: sure, certain, and never-failing – and they basically mean the same thing.
•    I am sure of his commitment to me and my well-being. He is my sure foundation.
•    I am convinced that he is reliable. I am certain of this. He is my blessed assurance.
•    I have never found him to let me down… ever! He never failed me yet. He is my Mighty Fortress.

An old southern gospel hymn asks, “Where could I go but to the Lord?” I totally agree with the implied answer: “nowhere!” He is where I find protection, sanctuary, asylum. When I run to him, he always provides for me a hiding place, a haven of rest, a shelter in the time of storm. I can be certainly sure of his never-failing nature.

Want something today that you can count on? Find a friend in Jesus... the strong and mighty tower.

Hear Lloyd Larson’s setting of this text

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

“From the cross the radiance streaming adds new luster to the day.”

Hymn: “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” – John Bowring (1792-1872)

Ever have a nice piece of nice furniture that has simply lost its shine? The wooden surface seems dried up and drab? Needs some help? That’s what this hymnline is about: not furniture, of course – but lives!

On those days when life has lost its sheen, a focusing on the cross and the One who hung there may be the remedy. Looking up from what has dulled your day, surveying once again the wondrous cross – this may well bring a renewed luster to your day… to your life in general.

Those less-than-glossy furniture surfaces have most likely become that way due to neglect. We forget to polish them regularly and renew their gleam and expose the beauty of their grain. Unless they are beyond revival, most surfaces can be re-enlivened with a little elbow grease and a bottle of furniture polish.

I recall a television commercial from my growing-up years that featured a troop of kerchiefed ladies revitalizing the wooden pews of a church. [I think it was Murphy's Oil?] I’m sure I could apply this look-back-to-the-cross analogy to churches who have lost their brilliance… or have abandoned their first love!

There is no reason for any of us believers to continue in a lackluster life. We were meant to have life and have it more abundantly – with more shine than those who lack faith-based intentions. We need to go from satin finish to low gloss to high gloss! We need to have the glow of our salvation restored!

This hymnline reminds us that we can return to the beginning-place of our faith: the Man on the cross. He has plenty of elbow grease available in his mighty, everlasting arms, and my bet is that he would be more than delighted to do a re-shine… and not just to our surface, but deep down where the real gleam may have disappeared.

His radiance adds luster – what a good thought to take with you through this day.

A congregational singing of this hymn (RATHBUN tune)

Monday, September 8, 2014

“Listen, heed, obey and serve him.”

Hymn: “Tell It Out with Gladness” – Georgia Harkness (1891-1974)
Common Tune: HYMN TO JOY

I love it when a short hymnline encapsulates so much in so few words… and all are easily understood the first time you sing them. Even though I truly enjoy the deeply meaningful texts that require some plumbing in order to grasp an insight, sometimes simple is good. Such profundity in six words, eight syllables.

Pay attention to the call of Christ in your life. Take it to heart. Do what you’re told to do. Be willing to carry through, even if that means taking on a more menial task. That’s what this hymnline calls us to do; Harkness just said it more succinctly!

The next line is a call to worship: “Kneel before him and adore.” Together, that’s a pretty pithy two lines of hymn-singing, don’t you think?

To quote a Quaker hymn, “’Tis a gift to be simple.”

Patrick Scott plays Al Travis’ setting of this hymn

Friday, September 5, 2014

“His own little band.”

Hymn: “The Master Hath Come” – Sarah Doudney (1841-1926)

If you are a guy, and you grew up in the sixties or seventies, and you liked music and thought you were going to be a star someday – you were probably a part of a garage band. I was. We were called the “Sonics,” and we actually played a couple of very short gigs around Pigeon Forge. Most of our playing was in Jimmy Barnes’ rec room… which, as I recall, had originally been a garage! We were the worst ever – no doubt about it.

Jesus had his own little band of twelve disciples and several other tag-alongs – groupies and roadies, I guess! However, they did not hole up in a stable and do covers of all the popular songs of their day. They WERE, however, “his own little band” of devotees… followers of him, his teachings and his example. They hung on to his every word, yet rarely “got it” when it came to understanding what he really meant. They did, however, assist him with his social ministry of feeding the thousands and healing the sick and lame.

Now, some two thousand years later, you and I are a part his band of brothers and sisters. We are bound to him with bands of love; he is, in fact, our blood brother. I am proud to be included in his marching band – moving forward in step with other believers, ever marching to Zion! His is also a Rock band: “On Christ the solid Rock I stand…” His ensemble is also a country band, speaking straight-forward truth to the common people. I guess we could also consider his band a Jazz group because he allows members to express themselves freely while sticking to the basic chord progressions!

The local community theater is rehearsing for their fall production of THE MUSIC MAN; one of my grandsons (Carson) is in the cast. Everyone in River City comes under the influence of Harold Hill, eventually coming to believe in themselves in ways that may be completely unrealistic… but they are better people for it, and the “trouble” in River City is not as great as it was at the beginning of the show.

We have been drawn to Christ. He has improved our attitude and our belief in ourselves. For the most part, trouble has taken a back seat to hope.

Suit up, friends. It’s about time to take the field. We need 77 of you to grab a trombone, 110 of you with cornets blaring, over a thousand reed-players and a few double-bell euphoniums. Your Drum Major is about take his little band to the fifty-yard line.

Now, aren’t you glad you joined this not-so-little band? Play on!

This hymn accompanied by a “little band”!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

“Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more.”

Hymn: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” – William Williams (1717-1791)

"I am the bread of life that has come down from heaven. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and those who believe in me will never be thirsty.” This “I Am” quote of Jesus from John 6:35 gives us the starting place for today’s hymnline.

Is it possible for Christ to feed us to the point of wanting no more of his nourishment? Can we gorge ourselves on the truth of who Christ until we say, “That’s all I can take?” Somehow, I don’t think so. Admittedly, I have never over-indulged at Christ’s table; I have snacked, selectively dined, taken the ‘pick and choose’ approach; I have rarely feasted on the Bread of heaven or over-imbibed from the fruit of the Vine.

I’ve over-done church before. I have gotten to the point that I’ve had all the committee meetings and the rehearsals I could bear. I’ve given myself in mission and outreach until I thought I had no more to give. I’ve been to the point I want nothing else to do with church folk.

But I have yet to be binge on the person of Jesus… so full of who he is and what he wants to teach me that I cry “uncle”!

Come to the table. Feast on Jesus until you have to loosen your belt! Devour every facet of his nature, and replicate that in your life. Then you can sing with great sincerity, “Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more.”

Isn’t it about time we get fed up with Jesus?

Listen to this hymn

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

“Kindle a flame of love and zeal within this heart of mine.”

Hymn: “Breathe on Me” –Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)
              adapted by B. B. McKinney

This Pentecost text calls on the Spirit of Christ to breathe its power into our hearts, illuminating our darknesses, harnessing our stubbornness, cleansing the dirtiness, and totally taking up residence.

This hymnline is almost a juxtaposition of two extremes. Somehow we can hardly imagine a zealot being also loving. It is one of the paradoxes of the faith: can one boldly stand for the faith and be totally compassionate at the same time?

Zeal has become associated with fanaticism. We equate zealots with abortion-clinic protestors, street-corner preachers who shout narrowness at the top of their lungs, or those who garner congregations to embarrass the faithful by blockading funerals of American soldiers. That is not zeal; that is radical extremism.

You and I are called to be fervent, consistent followers of the Lamb. Our zeal (deep commitment) must be energized by a kindhearted, unbridled love for our fellow travelers on this journey. Conversely, our compassion must draw its animation from our godly determination. Each sets fire to the other. We’re back to one of those cyclical paths which are so common in good theology.

As we sing this hymnline, we’re asking Christ to blow on the dwindling kindling… the twigs of love and zeal which have about lost their fire. Can you hear the answering wisps of God-breath? Can you feel the warming of God-fire? Will you be a compassionate zealot? Will I?

Blow, Spirit, blow.

Julie Huggins Littleton performing an arrangement of this hymn

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

“Always looking on his smiling face, that is why I shout and sing.”

“Always looking on his smiling face, that is why I shout and sing.”
Hymn: “He Keeps Me Singing” – Words & Music by Luther Bridgers (1884-1948)

Have you ever noticed how much difference a smiling face makes? We all know it is always better to smile than to scowl, but sometimes we Christians forget!

We were at the local Chili’s one Sunday after church. Our buzzer went off to let us know our table was ready. As we vacated the little bench we had occupied for several minutes, a gentleman – no, there was nothing gentle about this man – almost knocked us down taking our obviously much-coveted spot by the bar. I glanced in his direction and held back from saying what I wanted to say lest a Texas bar fight break out. He had the ultimate unhappy, mad-at-the-world look on his face. I admit, I didn’t give him a smile, but just kept following the hostess to our table.

I wondered to myself if that guy had probably been in church a while earlier, singing in the choir, taking up the offering, or (God forbid) standing in the pulpit!

All of that to say that we who represent Christ in the world should have a visage that matches his… that compassionate, pleasant look that we all seem to share with newborns and small children. It is often a look that we don’t share as often with our peers.

While feasting on the riches of his grace and resting beneath his sheltering wings, I keep my attention on his smiling face which gives me good reason to shout and sing. So says the song.

If you have seen the smiling face of Jesus, pass it along to someone else. Pay it forward. Make sure you don’t grab it and hold it for yourself, your children/spouse, or the people who accompany you to weekly worship. You may even have to smile at some guy who topples you in the waiting area of a local restaurant!

See Jesus’ smile? Share it regularly.

Sung straight-forward by Mennonites

Sung with a 40’s swing by Babbie Mason

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)