Thursday, April 30, 2015

"The world rushes on. Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone."

Hymn: “Take Time to Be Holy” – William D. Longstaff (1822-1894)
Typical Tune: HOLINESS

It’s a hackneyed phrase, but “How’s the world treating you?” sounds kind of like a sad pick-up line in some shady drinking establishment – I would never refer to a bar in these hymnlines, you understand!

The world treat me mean. I sometimes identify with that African American sentiment from "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," but generally speaking, life is rushing by so quickly, I hardly notice if indeed I am being mistreated.

I am reminded of a time I got thrown overboard while white-water rafting in Colorado. In the midst of an eddy named “The Widow Maker,” I went flying far downstream in fairly shallow water, and when the rest of my raftees caught up with me and pulled me back into the boat, to my surprise, my knees had been banged up so badly on the rocks underneath me that they were bleeding! I had such a ‘rush’ in the rushing river that I didn’t even notice I was beat up by the experience!

This idea of spending time in secret with Jesus is a precious thought to me. I don’t need to announce it to my Sunday School class or at the office coffee pot; I don’t need to write about it on my blog. When I find sweet communion with Christ as I talk to him and he communicates with me – and it’s just the two of us – it is much too valuable an experience to go off bragging about it to those who might not have had a similar close encounter of the highest kind. Why do we want to gloat over our spiritual status, thinking of ourselves as superior because perhaps we are drawn closer to his side… or that he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own?

That Jesus statement about not casting your pearls before swine? I think it’s all about THIS kind of keeping your spiritual secrets close to the vest. Who wants their precious moments trampled underfoot by those who may doubt that I’ve had them… or who may find themselves jealous or left out because they have not?

I don’t spend nearly enough time in secret places of the Most High God… certainly not much time as indicated by this hymn-line. But when I do… oh my … how rich and full, how measureless and strong! And when they’re past, they are MY precious memories, shared possibly with only a few of my intimates.

Taking time out to be holy is not easy for all of us; jobs, family, commitments, church responsibilities limit our ability to be available to Christ. For sure, the world rushes on. Sometimes, we just have to call a ‘time out,’ move off the court/field and regroup – confer with the Coach in order to win in the game of life… in order to make the most of the life that he already won for us, by the way!

Some things about the faith were meant to be shared; others were meant to be cherished.

Originally Posted 08/22/2013

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"But while mortals rise and perish, God endures unchanging on."

Hymn: “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” – Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847)
Various Tunes: LAUDA ANIMA, ANDREWS (My favorite is ANDREWS!)

The unchanging nature of God is an attribute to which we should all rally in our worship, our adoration, our reliance… and ultimately, our evangelism. The very fact that the Bible teaches that all else may morph, our God is the great Non-Transformer!

Transformers are great time-consuming toys because you can play with them and change their shape, their function, their appearance, etc. The industry has spawned movies and Saturday morning cartoon series, books, comic books – all offering a fascination with constant change.

However, for me who lives in a world of constant flux, I am delighted that Jehovah is not like that – nor is his Son or his Spirit: these are constantly constant.

Mortals – that is those of us whom God has created and allowed to inhabit this globe – we are the ones with all the ups and downs; ours is a roller coaster existence. Just when we think we have made it to the top of our game, we seem to begin some desperate slide. It’s true with governments and empires as well as with our created race individually.

I love it when this hymn-line comes across the page… and past my lips. I am reminded that God is not only unchanging, but he is also durable. My God has staying power!

Endurance is a great thing in sports, in careers, in ministry, in life in general. Scripture (the book of Revelation in particular) teaches that those who endure to the end shall stand… shall remain standing! So endurance is a good thing for the saints of God. It is sort of like that ‘hang in there’ philosophy, but there is something more confident implied; with Martin Luther the enduring ones say, “Here I stand. I cannot recant.”

Things are probably going to change in my life today. This mortal may undergo several upsurges; there may be plunges involved. In the daily mouse-race, I may win, or I may fall down along the track – tripping on my own feet or being tripped by a fellow racer. There may be societal upheavals that alter my existence. Somewhere in the world, a thriving government may collapse. An unspeakable tragedy may occur. I may need to say today’s hymn-line to myself as a reminder.

My fixed, ageless, unalterable God will survive, persevere and prevail. He will live on while all else perishes around me. 

Can I get an “A-men”?

This Hymn Sung in Worship to the ANDREWS Tune



Originally Posted 08/19/2013

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"To thee, hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unweared praises be."

Hymn: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” – Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (384-413)
            Translated by John Mason Neale and Henry W. Baker
Music: DIVINUM MYSTERIUM

“Oh boy,” I hear you saying. “It’s time for an ancient plainsong! This hymn has no meter – no beat – no possibility for underscoring by a set-drummer! How can it still be relevant?”

I’ll remove my tongue from my cheek and deal with today’s hymn-line the same way I try to do with all the ones from your favorite hymns and gospel songs.

I managed to survive most of the worship wars during my music ministry. The congregations I served after the war broke out were pretty much committed to staying in the middle of the road; all were traditional in their worship style with some leanings toward the blended – which is so undefinable, I wish it had never been applied to worship! I had to fight a few battles along the way… minor skirmishes, you might say… but I escaped the ravages of war by which so many of my peers have been wounded and/or have had their ministries killed off.

I think this text penned within five hundred years of the birth of the Christian church speaks to this in a round-about way, saying that wherever our musical preferences may take us, our praises should be unwearied…fresh, not tired, energized, with sustained enthusiasm, done with vitality.

Some worshipers are ‘worn out’ by the singing of those old songs their grandmother enjoyed, with too many words and too much deep theology. Some of the rest of us are ‘worn down’ by trying to keep up with complicated rhythmic songs set to shallow texts projected on screens. Worn out and worn down are the opposite of energized unwearied. Lord, deliver us all!

I am quite sure that God never meant for us to create schisms over musical styles… quite definitely sure. And none of us truly knows what kind of music God prefers in our worship of his Son. What if Gregorian chant is the only one he will accept… or some very ancient Hebrew musical form of which we have no record? Or does he rock out with a driving beat and the screaming of somewhat sacred lyrics? Or is it only when the congregation holds a hymnal and follows the lead of the organ? Does that sound absurd to you? It certainly does to me!

God is listening to our heart-song – There’s within my heart a melody from a few days ago! And all of us have to find a congregation whose musical style allows our heart-song to come through with genuine authenticity… not forced, but free… unwearied.

It’s obvious from the title of my blog where I would fall in most of this if I had to take sides in the worship wars. I’ve tried really hard to keep my mouth shut and be accepting of all the extremes, while landing somewhere in the middle-- hopefully not ‘on the fence’ or waffling.  I’m pretty firm in where I stand, but I accept that the heart-song of others may require a different outward musical expression.

When you worship – whether it be with a stately hymn, un-metered chant, or high-powered amplified thanksgiving – don’t let the praise be overshadowed by the music.

Unwearied, vital, energized, fresh, un-encumbered praise of the Most High God. Let it be so!

Listen to an SATB a cappella setting
Listen to Houston’s The Sons of Orpheus – Fine men's a cappella group

Originally Posted 08/18/2013

The artwork is from the cover of a book on hymn singing; you can find more information and/or order the book at:
http://books.google.com/books/about/Unwearied_Praises.html?id=7D-xdhZ8SmEC

Monday, April 27, 2015

"In ev'ry trying hour, 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'm the artistic director for Waxahachie's Old Fashioned Singing Project, a local non-profit (www.WaxaOFS.com). One of the American brush-arbor gospel songs we sing is "Where Could I Go But to the Lord?" When we sing today's hymn-line in worship, I revert to my growing-up roots and am reminded of that old gospel song - because the message is basically the same.

In every trying hour, the cross of Christ seems to rise from the situation and become my sure and certain refuge, my never-failing tower. It's the place I turn to. After all, where else could I go? Why would I go anywhere else? If that refuge - that secure place - that safe room - is available to me, why should I keep trying to hide out in less-protected place?

In today's society, I'm offered many escape routes when life is going haywire on me - or when I am sinking deep in sin. Any of those which are not in the shadow of the cross are probably not best for me.

Proverbs 18:12 - "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and is safe." It is that place where I am safe and secure from all alarms.

Most of us can count on one hand - maybe on one finger - everything in our lives that are sure, certain and never-failing. I'll give you a moment to calculate that. When you've completed that assignment, I hope that the cross and One whose life was taken and freely given there are on your list - at the top of your list - maybe the only ones on your list!

A television-commercial-promoted product may claim to be 'all that,' but only that dear dying Lamb can truly live up to that kind of promise. He is my sure and certain, unassailable shelter in the time of storm - a tower to which I can run for safety, slam the door behind me and feel perfectly defended from whatever is chasing me. You've heard of being "out of harm's way"? This is it. Look no further.

Where could I go but to the Lord? Why should I? Why would I?

A Simple Singing of This Hymn


Originally posted 08/16/2013

Friday, April 24, 2015

“I am happy today, and the sun shines bright. The clouds have been rolled away.”




I know that as a kid growing up in First Baptist Church in Pigeon Forge, I never got the title or the recurring text of the refrain. I remember translating the word meaneth as something bad I did… as in, I was really mean today. I honestly thought we were singing “Who’s so ever mean as me!” Even when I could read, it took me a while to figure out what the hymn was about.

In the old King James Version of scripture, Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” McConnell was actually saying “Whosoever” refers to me. All those ‘-eth’ words in the KJV were just confusing – still are!

However, I got the opening line of this old toe-tapping favorite of the country church: I am happy today, and the sun shines bright. The clouds have been rolled away. That’s pretty straight-forward; even a little boy in the Beginner Department understood that much – and so does this long-time qualifier for AARP discounts!

Remember how that cloud lingered over Joe Btfsplk in the comic strip L’il Abner? He was for a time America’s iconic jinxed individual… with an unpronounceable last name! That guy could have used a good dose of today’s hymn-line!

Joe Btfsplk finally captured his cloud in a jar and for a short time had a pretty normal, happy life. I don’t recall his singing of this hymn-line, but he could have. For the first time in his comic-strip life, he was happy, he could see the sun, the cloud had disappeared.

I’m happy most days. How about you? I hope you are, too. However, when the clouds block out the sun – and I’m not speaking meteorologically here – perhaps we need to find a good Mason jar, capture the hovering cloud, and tighten the lid. (I suddenly had a flashback to chasing down lightning bugs – fireflies – when I was in the Beginner Department! Am I waxing nostalgic today, or what?!)

Cynthia Clawson – my very favorite hymn singer – recorded a song a few years ago on her River of Memories album on a text by Gloria Gaither. It has rung in my mind so many times when the clouds have overspread the sky and billows round me roll. Here is part of the text:

            It won’t rain always.
            The clouds will soon be gone
            The sun that they've been hiding
            Has been there all along.


Some of us are standing in the shadows when we should be stepping in the light.

Weather-wise, it is a beautiful unclouded day in Texas! I’m sitting here on the back porch typing on my laptop, enjoying the morning – and I am happy today, and the sun shines bright. The clouds have been rolled away.
 

Originally Posted 08/20/2015





Thursday, April 23, 2015

“O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet!”

Hymn: “This Is My Father’s World” – *Maltbie D. Babcock (1858-1901)
Common Tune: TERRA PATRIS

First, let me say that I love this hymn… I love singing it in worship and in private. It is so filled with hymn-lines that you’ll hear from this hymn several times if you follow these posts!

At our house, we watch way too much television (Non-watchers: do not send me condescending messages about this obvious addiction, and I’ll try not to send you emails about yours!) and read too many newspapers and magazines – so I am very much aware of the strongness of wrongness in our world.

We watch a lot of detective/mystery shows… especially from the BBC. I know those are made-up stories, but they are based in human nature – the dark side of carnality.

But the news media communicates the realities of evil: the rising head of wrong. I won’t begin making a list of all the human-instigated tragedies; you know them as well as I. You and I share the shock of “breaking news” stories, especially those which are human-upon-human. We shake our heads and ask, “What’s wrong with the world?” I wish I had a nickel for every time Carlita has said while watching the evening news, “That is just wrong!” I have no choice but to agree with her.

We can – and do – become overcome with reports of evil lurking about us, splashed onto our flat-screens and across our sheets of un-bleached newsprint. When bad behavior tends to asphyxiate me, I have to breathe in once again the reality of my faith - to bring back to the top of my mind that this IS my Father’s world, dang it… he is still the Ruler thereof. How easy that is to forget.

He is also that by which goodness is measured… that kind of ruler! I only remember a few lines from my earliest French vocabulary exercises; in one of them, we held up a one-foot flat wooden strip saying, “Voici mon r├Ęgle.” Fifty years later in life, I need to say that more often: “Here is my ruler.” This is how I’m going to determine right from wrong. Better yet, “God is my Ruler.”

We humans have a tendency toward forgetfulness. We can only point out others’ sins when we are able to forget our own. When in the midst of great difficulty, we tend to forget the great promises of God. We basically forget whose we are. We are children of the King… the Ruler of the earth. After all, this IS my Father’s world.

As you move through today, don’t let evil get you down – don’t allow the Evil One to grab your attention away from the Good One – the Lord God himself.

Although the wrong may often seem so strong, let me never forget that God is still the Ruler.

Listen to Fernando Ortega Sing This Hymn

Originally Posted on 08/09/2013

*- Not one of our most familiar hymn writers, Babcock was American and a Presbyterian pastor, famous for his oratory and beautifully descriptive use of language and poetic devices in his sermons. This is his only hymn still in common use. It was published by his wife after his death, so he never heard it sung.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"There's within my heart a melody."


Hymn: "He Keeps Me Singing" or "There's within My Heart a Melody" -
      Words & Music by Luther B. Bridgers (1884-1948)
Tune: SWEETEST NAME

Most of my hymn-lines are not the first six words of the song at hand, but today's gonna be different. As a life-long church musician, it just seems like the thing to do - the place to start - and ultimately the place to end up!

You know the old song "With a Song in My Heart"? It's a 1929 song from the Rogers and Hart musical SPRING IS HERE. You don't know that Broadway show? Me either, but I do know this love song that has lived in spite of the musical's demise. Here are the lyrics to the refrain - the part you might vaguely recall:

     With a song in my heart I behold your adorable face.
     Just a song at the start, but it soon is a hymn to your grace.
     When the music swells, I'm touching your hand.
     It tells that you're standing near, and
     At the sound of your voice heaven opens its portals to me.
     Can I help but rejoice that a song such as ours came to be?
     But I always knew I would live life through
     With a song in my heart for you.

You should be saying "Ahhh" about now. "Isn't that a sweet little love song?" I am, however, struck by the use of some very church-y allusions... especially coming from a pretty rough-living Jewish text-writer. It IS interesting that later in today's hymn, Bridgers used the line "always looking on his smiling face," which sure hints at the first line from the above show tune! "He Keeps Me Singing" was first published in 1910, so I guess we know which came first!  

A year after he wrote this hymn, the Methodist evangelist from North Carolina was away doing a revival when his wife and three sons were killed in a house fire. Unlike Horatio Spafford who penned "It Is Well with My Soul" in response to the decimation of his family, these words came before tragedy. Like most of us, Bridges was thrown by his losses and spent some time out of the pulpit - spiritually regrouping. He later remarried and continued his passion for evangelism as a local-church pastor.

I don't usually revert to hymn stories, because that's not my purpose here. However, the man with a song in his heart for Christ who whispered Fear not, I am with thee... in all of life's ebb and flow, meant what he said; he was able to re-hear that song in his heart, even through and beyond tragic loss.

To quote another old gospel song: Singing I go along life's road for Jesus has lifted my load.

So many times in the midst of our great losses, a melody comes along to sustain us... and with the melody comes a set of words. We are revitalized not only by turning to the Word of God in scripture, but also by the word from God we find in great hymn texts. And the name of Jesus is sweet enough to pleasantly flavor our lives once again... filling our every longing, keeping us singing as we go!

May you have a song in your heart today... and all the rest of your days! I'm gonna try. Wanna join me?

Hear this hymn Gaither-style.

Originally posted 08/17/2013

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Teach us all the art of speaking with the accent of your love."

Hymn: “Lord, Thy Church on Earth Is Seeking” – Hugh Sherlock (1905-1998)
            [Text copyright renewed in 1959 by Nazarene Publishing House]
Various Tunes

Those of you know me are aware that I have a distinct accent. It is at its core an east Tennessee accent; when I’m back home in Pigeon Forge, I sound just like everybody else. When I moved to Texas to attend the seminary, I added on some bits and pieces of Texas talk. I guess you could say I’m a hybrid. I lived in Denver for thirteen years but never picked up any new speech inflections – probably because most of the people who attended my church there were transplants from the south.

When I took an advanced French class in college, my professor said, “Monsieur Huff, I think that you must be from southern France!” It’s just one of my burdens, I guess. I’ve tried not to be ashamed of my heavy accent, but now and then I still am!

We pick up our vocal accent from our parents, our family, and the people we hang around; it's the same way with our spiritual accent.

I would hope that in spite of my flat vowels and my slurring from word to word, the people I encounter will realize that whether speaking about or acting out my faith, I’m communicating in an accent that is in keeping with that of the One who created speech and sound and music.

In this hymnline, we are asking the Great Teacher to help us with our accent -- like a speech therapist, maybe.

This should truly be our concerted prayer: that the world around us might realize whose we are by the accent with which we speak to them – and that the accent they hear and see is the one of our heavenly Father, the same way I picked up my earthly father’s accent… and that of everybody on both sides of my family.

"So, c’mon, y’all. Let’s us begin ta speak tha King’s English in way that’ll jist might ‘nigh make it obvious who we belong to… where we’re a comin’ frum and where we’re headed! Thar ain’t nothin’ ta be ashamed uv!" (Ask someone from Pigeon Forge to translate!)

Originally posted 07/26/2013

Monday, April 20, 2015

"My dearest treasure, the light of his smile."


Hymn: "Living for Jesus" - Thomas O. Chisholm (1866-1960)
Tune: LIVING

You know how they say that someone's smile will light up a room? We've all known people who are like that. We also cherish the smile of someone who is waiting for us beyond security in the baggage claim at the airport - someone whom we have not seen in a while. All of a sudden their smile communicates joy, and the receptors in our mind light up like crazy. Or when you came home for the first time from being away at college and your mom met you at the door with a bigger smile than you ever remember her mustering before. We treasure those moments.

Since we are created in God's image, we must have inherited from him the ability to smile! I think he smiled when he looked at his creation and said "It is good," and when he said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." He still smiles when one of US is creative and he finds what we've done to be good, when he says to himself, "That one over there is one of my children," when he sees one of us who has been away for a long time, and when he is pleased with us and our behavior.Hey, he's a loving God; I can't imagine his being dour!

We all want to live in ways that will make our loving Parent happy. Truth is that one of the reasons I stayed out of trouble (for the most part!) as a teenager was that I wanted to please my parents -- not so much that I feared what they might do if I didn't behave. I'm the same way with my heavenly Parent: I want to bring a smile to his face; and when I do, I treasure that moment, that possibility that he might be pleased with me.

I have that sense of God's smile at three times in particular: 1) when I am serving others from a pure motive, expecting no recognition or anything in return; 2) when I'm talking about him with others, discussing his Word and its implications to daily life; and 3) when I am sincerely going after God in worship -- especially when I sing. I'll take that one step further: especially when I sing hymns.

I think God enjoys being praised by his people-- that our authentic worship brings a smile to that glorious visage once revealed in the face of his Son Jesus who may well have been the all-time greatest smiler, showing extreme pleasure when his followers "got it."

Our assignment: to keep God smiling!

Listen to this hymn

Originally posted 07/12/2013

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream."

Hymn: “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” – Joseph Hart (1712-1768)
Tune: RESTORATION (from Walker’s Southern Harmony)

The title of Marcel Proust’s 3-volumne novel The Remembrance of Things Past is a pretty good place to start with this hymn-line. For some of us, it is the remembering of things long in our past that holds us back from coming as poor and needy sinners to accept all that Christ wants to give us and do for us. It’s our conscience* that causes us to linger yet another moment, avoiding eye contact with the One who forgives all and – if I understand biblical theology – forgets all.

While I’m namedropping great authors, I’ll say that many of us are haunted by Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past instead of being comforted by the Holy Ghost of our present life. (I haven’t called the third person of the Trinity by that name in a while!)

We have fond dreams of getting our lives back together, of being worthy or ‘fit’ to be called one who belongs to the One. When tragedy strikes, and the television news reporters show up on the scene and ask about someone who has been gravely injured or maybe even died in the event, it seems that invariably somebody in the family or friend-circle says, “He/she was just about to get their life back together, and this had to happen.”

Too many of us are trying too hard to work it all out for ourselves, to pick up the broken pieces, to find the missing puzzle pieces that leave our lives incomplete. We dream of being good enough – even perfect – all the while knowing down deep inside that we cannot achieve this on our own… or in reality, with the help of other humans, however well-meaning… even if they’ve written many best-selling books or have been interviewed by Oprah and Dr. Phil.

If you fall into this category, I encourage you to drop those rattling chains of lifetime past and be a forward- thinking believer, bathing in the grace of God not cowering from his judgment. Dreaming of and racing toward perfection can impede – slow – our spiritual growth.

It would not be as easily sung to any tune I know, but this seems to be what the hymn-line is saying to me: “Don’t let the realization of guilt cause you to hang around and miss out on the forgiving grace of God. Stop your day-dreaming of what could have been, because that will keep you from doing what you can do now.”

Joseph Hart follows this hymn-line with another classic thought: “All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.”

Arise. Go to Jesus. Enjoy the bear-hug of his powerful arms. It’s okay to be needy!

Listen to This Hymn played on the dulcimer

* Footnote: While it typically means an awareness of right and wrong, one of the definitions of conscience is to the conscious of guilt.


Originally Posted 7/20/2013

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"They who trust him wholly, find him wholly true."

 Hymn: "Like a River Glorious" – Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879)
Typical Tune: WYE VALLEY

I happen to love Mendelssohn’s oratorio ELIJAH. I think I’ve done bits and pieces of it at every church I’ve served over the years and on two occasions presented a large portion of it in local churches with orchestra. [There are stories behind both of those, but I’ll save those for what everyone refers to as “The Book” of all my ministry escapades!]

The tenor solo sung by Obadiah in the oratorio had never resonated with me in any powerful way until I was involved in a staged production at the now-defunct Glorieta Baptist Conference Center in New Mexico. I will never forget when Forbes Woods came down the steps at center stage all decked out in full biblical regalia (fake beard and all) and looked straight into the eyes of all us space-filling singing/ dancing peons on stage and sang “If with all your hearts, ye truly seek me, ye shall ever surely find me. Thus saith our God.” If I were to use a somewhat antiquated phrase, I would say that I ‘came under conviction’ that he was singing directly to me. Fortunately, I did not run to him and make a public re-commitment of my life before we even got to the fire descending from heaven!

This hymn-line seems to echo that scripture from Deuteronomy: wholly seek, wholly find. In any worship time (personal or corporate), this principle seems to work.

I recall reading A.W. Tozer’s little book, The Pursuit of God and coming across the chapter titled, "Following Hard after God." All of a sudden I was transported back to New Mexico and realized that Tozer was talking about seeking God with all your heart in worship. I began to call it “whole-hearted worship” and encouraged my worship-leading groups and individuals to never give it their half-hearted effort, but to go after God as aggressively as they possibly could – not in order to find their place in the spotlight at center stage, but to find God – God and God alone (to quote another incredible tenor Steve Green!)

Sometimes I enter worship holey (shot full of holes from the previous week); and when I wholly give myself over to the holy presence of God, I find him wholly true to all he says he is.

Holey. Wholly.  Holy.

Listen to This Hymn

Originally Posted 7/18/2013

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear."

 Hymn: "Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment" - Caroline V. Sandell-Berg (1832-1903); translated from the German by A. L. Strong (1856-1934)
Tune: BLOTT EN DAG

This is one of my break-out hymns. It ministered to me at a time in my life when I thought I had hit rock-bottom. No encouraging words or pats on the back could shake me loose. But driving through the streets of Denver playing a cassette (yes, cassette) of Cynthia Clawson singing this hymn brought me to such tears that I had to pull over from the traffic and let it rinse me clean.

This hymn-line reminds me that we quite simply have to trust what God has given us, believing that his gifts were bestowed upon us in HIS wisdom for OUR purpose in HIS kingdom. Then we need to gird up our loins and get on with our lives without worry or fear. I've already admitted that I still fight with worry and fear, so I won't go there again. I will, however, say that when I accept that my God is the most-wise God, my fear levels are lowered considerably.

I was one of those ministers of music to whom God had not bestowed a glorious singing voice. In fact, although I felt a tugging (a calling) toward the ministry of music, I kept telling myself that I couldn't do that because all my music minister heroes were also great singers. Convinced that I should take it on anyway, I realized that I had some strong gifts for teaching and administration, and those were the backbone of my forty-plus years in that position. I couldn't fall back on my own, personal talent; I had to instead be sure I had everyone else ready. I found that I could coordinate most any event to almost seamless proportions! I trusted my Father's wise bestowment and went for it...rarely, if ever, singing a solo!

Later in the hymn, we sing, "E'er to take as from a father's hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting." We recognize that as our heavenly Father, Jehovah is handing out the blessings one by one at just the appropriate time to empower in our weakness. Life is going by at break-neck speed for most of us, and we often feel that nothing is going to rescue us as we perish underneath the load of everyday commitments -- at school, at work, with our family and friends... even at church!

The Father knows best. We have to keep reminding ourselves of that. And because he knows best, we have to trust his wisdom with as little worry and fear as possible. Today's phrase to repeat in uncertain moments: "Father, knows best. Father knows best. Father knows..."

Listen to This Hymn
Sung by a Ladies Mennonite Choir

Originally Posted 7/15/2013

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Fix in us thy humble dwelling."

"Fix in us thy humble dwelling."
Hymn: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” – Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Typical Tunes: BEECHER, HYFRYDOL, BLAENWERN

You probably don’t know that I was an art major when I first entered Carson Newman College in the fall of 1967. I had a decent ability to draw things.

When I was being artistic, after completing a section of a charcoal drawing or have worked in pastels, I took a can of spray fixative, shook it to hear that little ball bang against the can, and generously covered the possible-masterpiece so it would not smear if accidentally touched while I continued to work on it. The process is called “fixing” the artwork.

We are only three phrases into the singing of “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” when this hymn-line crosses our lips, and because it is so early-on in the hymn, it may not register in our brain what it is we are singing.  When I speak these words on the nine assigned pitches, I have a flashback to my art-major days… of being sure I am either outside or in a well-ventilated room in order not to inhale the fumes from the Krylon aerosol can. This was BEFORE people actually wanted to inhale fumes like these!

In the hymning of these words, I am asking God to cover me in such a way that my faith might not smear – or that the distinct lines of my belief system might not become indefinite or undefined.  That he might take up residence in my life in such a way that these cannot be disturbed.

Other hymns use the word “seal” to mean the same thing, (e.g. “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it…”) but I’m glad Wesley chose “fix” – a word with which this artsy person can identify!

Ever since we came to him in faith, God – the ultimate artist – has been drawing his nature across the sketch pad of our lives.  Everything he has inscribed there has given us the possibility to be more like him… more like his Son… more Christ-like. I, for one, do not want any of that to be messed up or smeared by anything or anyone who would like to make my Christian experience anything less than beautiful.

God is making a masterpiece within us. That’s not self- aggrandizing – that’s the truth! And we want to be sure that beauty is preserved… or fixed… unlikely to be damaged. That preservation is more likely to occur if Christ is allowed to take up full-time humble residence at the center of our lives.

“Fix” can mean to repair something that is broken or not working properly; but in this case, it means to keep it from needing to be repaired!



This Hynn Sung by St. Olaf Choir

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)