Monday, November 27, 2017

"We too should be voicing our love and devotion."

Hymn: “Let All Things Now Living” – Katherine K. Davis* (1892-1980)

This Thanksgiving hymn many of us sang recently opens with “Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving to God the Creator triumphantly raise.” I actually like to sing this hymn all year long, not just during the last week of November, because it is one of those hymns that beautifully describes God in poetry that is well-constructed.

After listing many of God’s creative, sustaining, redeeming works, today’s hymnline continues: “We too should be voicing our love and devotion, with glad adoration a song let us raise.”

We voice lots of songs and expressions of our love for God, but here we are called on to declare our devotion – our promise, our pledge, our guarantee.

Olivia Newton John had a hit song in 1978 titled “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (from GREASE). Most of us can hum it and at least sing the ‘hook’. For Christ-followers, however, we lift up our commitment to him singing “Hopefully Devoted to You.”

I also like the phrase “with glad adoration” – not coerced or forced, but gladly offered up. I am personally delighted to sing great hymns and songs of the faith… the ones that express my adoration of him who created, re-creates, sustains and redeems me. I know I am not alone in that; otherwise, you would probably not be reading this blog.

This week, of all weeks, we SHOULD be voicing our love and devotion with glad adoration. Sometimes I encourage us to internalize concepts; this time, let’s verbalize them… voice them… even to strangers.

Hear This Hymn Sung

Hear Children’s Chime Choir Play This Hymn (directed by Jeff Reeves)

*PS – Katherine K. Davis was also a composer of wonderful church music and is best known for her Christmas Song “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

“Do not be discouraged. God is over all.”

Hymn: “Count Your Blessings” – Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922)

Frustration and discouragement are two of our most formidable foes, and they often work hand-in-hand. Many times, frustration causes us to expend too much physical energy trying to ‘fix’ what frustrates us; discouragement consumes our spiritual/mental reservoir.

Elijah was overcome by both when he told God, “I, only I am left” on your side. It’s the way Jonah felt as he sat beneath the worm-chewed vine. This is probably how the disciples felt when they needed to feed the five thousand. This is where many of us too often find ourselves.

This simple truth drawn from the last stanza of one of those gospel songs we trip through as if nothing is worth recalling – this truth that “God is over all” is one we are prone to forget, especially on the front-end of discouragement. Eventually – as though slapped up the side of the head – we believing-types will come around to the realization that God is in control, even in overwhelming, frustrating situations.

This does not free us up to do nothing. Instead, it frees us up to move ahead with the blessed assurance that God has it all under control, and we can ease up a little.

I had a minister friend in Denver who in response to his wife’s ranting-on in frustration would simply admonish her to “maintain.” It was his way of saying “chill out” or “keep your cool.” I have at many times brought that word to mind when trying to settle myself down because I fall prey to frustration and discouragement with the best of them!

Maintain your place under God’s canopy of oversight. There, may we all find the peace that passes understanding; and in that peace may we WITH God work through our frustrating discouragement.

A peppy little setting of this hymn!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"We ourselves are God's own field... wheat and tares together sown."

Hymn: “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” – Henry Alford (1810-1871)

This seems to me to be a great description of society… or the field of humanity owned by God himself. The good, the bad and the ugly coexisting.

Somehow, we wheat-types sometimes want to get rid of the tares-type – to set them aside as worthless outsiders… even people without hope. Jesus knew we were going to do this, so he told a parable in Matthew 13:24-30; this one is right on the heels of the Parable of the Sower which we know and understand better… although I’m never quite sure we understand everything Jesus was trying to communicate through these little stories!

"Farmer Sowing" - Charles Henry Granger
In this “Parable of the Weeds,” the hired hands want to go out and pull up the weeds (tares) from amongst the soon-producing wheat. The landowner who had planted the field says, Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.

I see this kind of thing happening all the time: it’s the us/them mentality. The righteous vs. the unrighteous. The lost vs. the saved. The good guys vs. the bad. Worst of all, I see this within the church.

If we follow the Lord’s direction on this, we will leave the separating of wheat and tares (sheep and goats) up to him at the harvest time. Meanwhile, we yield fruit… period. That is our role. Pointing out and pulling up weeds is the role of the One who owns the field.

Although we sing this hymn at Thanksgiving (because of the title), the “harvest” allusions are to the final harvest – as in the Matthew passage above. That’s why the last stanza begins with “Even so, Lord, quickly come. Bring thy final harvest home. Gather now thy people in…” Together we thankful people come to say and sing “Maranatha!” Or for those of us who watch THE PRICE IS RIGHT, “Jesus Christ, come on down!”

Interestingly, “harvest home” is the name of an English festival celebrating the harvest; it is also a song they sing as they bring in the sheaves.

So it is good and right that as we sing this hymn, we should celebrate the harvest of terrestrial crops; at the same time, we anticipate the heavenly harvest yet to come when we will be gathered in, purified, and privileged to abide in his presence forever. Even so, Lord, quickly come.

This Hymn Sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Friday, November 17, 2017

"In music, Lord, I worship thee."

Hymn: “My Singing Is a Prayer” – Novella D. Preston Jordan (1901-1991)

This hymnline has probably been the theme of my entire existence… at least back as far as I can remember. I’ve always found God in music – especially sung music… music with words. I find him most commonly and most profoundly in hymn-singing. That should come as no surprise to those of you who know me well.

I’ve written several hymn and/or sacred anthem texts over the years with a modicum of success in having them published. At times, I’ve tried my hand at writing poems that were not sacred in nature – that did not express anything about my faith: love songs, patriotic songs, country songs – even an opera libretto. I couldn’t ever seem to make that work because my music – my words – seem to be set aside for worship.

When the USA team had a tiny shot at winning the World Cup in soccer, the frenzy flooded the airwaves and the print media. One thing I noticed was the incorporation of a rhythmic, highly-repetitive chant: “I be-lieve that we will win! I be-lieve that we will win!” Every sports bar in the country seemed to have taken up this “hymn” to the sport of futbol.

Historically, when a group shares a common belief, they take up a song to support it. That’s why countries have national anthems and patriotic songs – causes have a common song (e.g. “We Shall Overcome”) – and religions… all religions… incorporate some form of corporate musical expression into their gatherings.

As you might imagine, I was not caught up in the soccer eddy, but I am totally committed to expressing my Christian beliefs in song – chiefly the hymns of my faith. That’s why I do this blog; that’s why I created the Old Fashioned Singing Project; that’s why most every Sunday morning with book in hand, I’ll be somewhere singing… because “in music, Lord, I find you.”

Once again, I can’t find this one online for you to hear. It’s a great text and tune, but it’s under copyright with Broadman Press, so I can’t publish it here. You can read it at

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood?"

Hymn: “And Can It Be?” – Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

This is one of the most thrilling hymns. To quote Jennifer Lopez from AMERICAN IDOL, “I get goosies” (goose bumps) every time we hit the final statement: “Amazing love! How can it be that thou my God should die for me?”

But today, I want to deal with the opening hymnline – the first words of the hymn – which ask one of those ponderably profound questions. This is not one to trip over lightly and not notice the depth of what you are asking.

This word “interest” is key. It is not used here as a fascination or curiosity, as in “Isn’t the blood of Jesus just captivating?” Although that is true, HERE “interest” is more about apportionment… that we share in the atoning, life-giving flow. “Is it possible that I might share in the benefits of the Savior’s blood?” That’s more what is suggested here.

In the banking world, gaining interest is something we understand. When the interest rates go up on our investments, we are pleased to hear that. We believers are gaining interest in the investment made by the Father through his Son on the cross. (I understand so little about the financial world, I will not even try to carry this analogy any further! I’ll leave that to my banker bonus-son!)

The next line asks if Jesus died for me, even though I caused his pain. There is an implied answer to both questions: Yes! It is possible that you can gain an interest in the Savior’s blood. And yes! He died in your place even though your actions and attitudes may cause him excessive distress.

It is great if you find the cross interesting. It is even better if you own a share in its investment.

A sturdy congregational singing of this hymn

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)