Wednesday, February 15, 2017

“In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear; and safe is such confiding for nothing changes here.”

“In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear; and safe is such confiding for nothing changes here.”
Hymn: “In Heavenly Love Abiding” – Anna L. Waring (1823-1910)
Common Tune: NYLAND

With Valentine's Day fresh on our minds, I'm going to elaborate on one of my wife Carlita’s favorite hymns. It is a great text, one that deserves more exposure than it gets in most congregations. Grab a hymnal and plumb its depths, and see if you don’t agree.

Let me prose-ify this first line to get us started: “Because I am living in the love of heaven – that love best expressed by Christ himself – I don’t need to be afraid of changes that come my way, because I can know safety and security in the confidence that the love of God never changes.”

“Change” didn’t used to bother me the way it does now that I’m becoming more of an old fogy. I admit that I bristle at things being changed up… especially just for the sake of change. I’m pretty sure my new and improved toothpaste has only changed its packaging, by the way!

Maintaining confidence that Kingdom things – at least those initiated by God himself – are not about to morph into something else is an important way to look at my spiritual life. Worship styles may be modified, churches may relocate, church polity may be revised… but the Word of God and his loving-kindness and faithfulness are consistent; safe is such confiding.

Good life-partners provide us with that kind of safe confidence, demonstrating love and faithfulness at every turn. In solid unions, we find ourselves in heavenly love abiding.

Let’s not be so afraid of change itself. Let’s share the assurance that external variations cannot alter the unshakeable Kingdom in which we abide and which abides within us.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Saturday, February 4, 2017

"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)

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..."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

“And bids me at my Father’s throne make all my wants and wishes known.”

Hymn: “Sweet Hour of Prayer” – William Walford (1772-1850)

Have you ever noticed WHO is being addressed when you sing a hymn? Many… probably most… are addressed to God the Father, Son or Spirit. Others we sing to fellow believers (“Come, we that love the Lord,” e. g.). There’s also a group of gospel songs that we sing to those outside the faith; we evangelicals often use these for invitation hymns: “Only Trust Him,” “Are You Washed in the Blood?”, etc.

When we sing “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” we are not only singing ABOUT prayer; we are singing TO prayer. The entire text is addressed to the privilege we call prayer. Some hymnals capitalize the thee’s, thy’s, and thou’s, but they shouldn’t be… in my humble, uneditorial opinion.

Prayer often calls to US, reminding us to make better use of it. In the middle of worry and difficulty, I sometimes say, “What am I going to do?”, and prayer whispers, “Try me!” It bids me… lures me, motions for me to enter the presence of God with my wants and wishes.

There’s a great argument that there’s no reason to pray because God already knows what’s going on in my life, so why recap it. I don’t buy into that debate, and those who do have likely never experienced the warm blessing it is to pour out one’s deepest desires to the One who is most concerned about them.

If you can anthropomorphize prayer – assign a human face and body to it – imagine that she stands motioning for you to come make use of the privilege she affords. Almost siren-like, she calls you… not to a rocky demise but to a hopeful expression of what you need to get off your chest.

Got a problem you can’t solve? Got a hole in your resolve? According to the Cynthia Clawson song, “Bring it to Jesus” – responding to the bidding of prayer.

                                    An a cappella Congregational Singing of This Hymn

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"The healing of his seamless dress is by our beds of pain."

 Hymn: “Immortal Love, Forever Full” – John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

I’ve always pictured this hymnline as though Christ in his flowing white robe is hovering beside a hospital bed as nurses rush about trying to heal and bring comfort. I’m sure that is part of what John Greenleaf Whittier had in mind, but in the flow of the poem, the previous line says, “We search the lowest depths, for him no depths can drown.”

Pain is not always physical – it is not always attached to an organ or appendage. Pain is so often – maybe MORE often – mental and/or spiritual. The crowded press of life is too heavy upon us, and we fall prey to the downward spiral. Frequently hidden or camouflaged, cloaked behind an overwhelming talent, a grand smile or a hyper sense of humor, the hurt is no less excruciating than broken limbs or cancer-robbed tissue. The writhing on THAT bed is no easier to handle, because it is often considered a certain death bed.

Whatever the pain, Christ is at the ready - the hem of his garment still available to be pursued, grabbed and employed.

“We touch him in life’s throng and press, and we are whole again.”

                           Gordon Young’s Setting of This Text

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)