Friday, August 31, 2018

“E’er to take, as from a father’s hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting.”

"Hands" - Painting by Kimberly VanDerBerg

Hymn: "Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment" - Caroline V. Sandell-Berg (1832-1903)

Archaic word alert: “E’er” is simply a contraction of “ever.” In this case, you can mentally substitute “always” or “consistently.” [I make no apology for poetic language, by the way!]

Earlier this morning I was sitting on our back porch - rocking, drinking coffee, reading -- taking in the fresh, small-town breeze – just waiting for the temperature to overcome me and send me back inside to the conditioned air. As I often do when I rock and think, I became overwhelmingly grateful for the moment-filled days that have one-by-one rushed past me in these sixty-eight years. I am not simply appreciative to some cosmic force or sequence of lucky breaks. I am thankful to the loving father-like God through whose fingers each moment has been sifted.

When I rock and think, I usually am reminding myself of those people who one by one God has handed to me along the way – some for very short periods… like a seminar, a retreat, a week at Ridgecrest/Glorieta… others for many years, even from my childhood. Were it not for all those faces which scroll across my memory-screen, the days would not have been nearly as happy or fulfilling. Instead of flying past (fleeting) as they have, my eighteen waking-hour segments would have trudged by, leaving me no reason to sit and rock and be grateful.

A contemporary singing of this hymn with hymnals in hand!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

"What God's almighty pow'r hath made, his gracious mercy keepeth."

Hymn: “Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above” – Johann J. Schutz (1640-1690)

It seems that our image of a strong, powerful public figure is one who takes control and keeps it, exerts his/her authority, flaunts their clout, commands allegiance. Get the picture? We rarely associate a person of might with an attitude of mercy; they seem mutually exclusive.

This hymnline reminds us that in spite of the fact that in his mighty power our God spoke all things into existence, he maintains his relationship with all he constructed, keeping it all safe in his merciful care. It is a much more true-to-scripture portrait of the worshiped One: strong, yet meek – tall, yet willing to stoop – in control, yet filled with concern.

We, his creation, are kept – protected, secured, embraced, nurtured, sustained – by the watchful, mercy-filled eye of our almighty, powerful Creator. What a way to live!

Congregational Singing of This Hymn

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

“Give our hearts to thine obedience, serve and love thee best of all.”

Delacroix - "Christ on the Sea of Galilee"
Hymn: “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult” – Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)
Typical Tune: GALILEE

Alexander was an Irish hymn writer. Her other long-standing hymns are “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” This one is about the call of Christ coming to us above the struggles and conflicts which might easily drown out his sweet voice saying “Christian, follow me,” and “Christian, love me more.”

The hymn-line I have chosen from many possibilities in this text is part of the final stanza as she pleads with Christ in his great mercy to be sure that we hear his call – that we might open our hearts to obey him, serve him, and love him more than we love anything or anyone else.

What strikes me is that her prayer – and ours as we sing it – is that we might hand over our hearts into the realm of full obedience to all his callings… those mentioned in the earlier stanzas and those yet to come in our pilgrimage of faith.

Thank you, long-gone Irish poet. May your words move us to hear fully, obey willingly, serve extensively, and love extravagantly.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Beyond the sacred page, I seek thee, Lord."

Hymn: "Break Thou the Bread of Life"- Mary A. Lathbury (1841-1913)

Somewhere along my spiritual journey I realized that God spoke to me beyond the sacred pages… that I could find him very much alive in nature… that I could see him in the lives of people around me and hear him in their words of encouragement and teaching. As long as what those people were doing and saying was in keeping with the teachings of that little zippered black book, I could be enriched and edified by human interaction.

The communicating faithful led me to think outside the book… beyond the sacred page. They widened my horizons and helped me turn some important corners in my pilgrimage of faith.

Lots of people write lots of books and are on lots of television and radio shows, producing lots of video series, etc. Most of them are doing that for the right reasons, I’m sure – and I’ve learned many things from them. But it’s the everyday genuine FOJ – follower of Jesus – whose life and comments continue to shape my walk.

When I sing this hymn-line, I visualize myself looking over the top edge of a page of my childhood Bible - beyond the zipper’s regular pattern - to see God. In other words, I hear him in other words… and see him in other faces.

Thankfully, beyond Revelation 22:21, I seek you and see you, Lord.

Monday, August 27, 2018

"Crowns become the Victor's brow."

Hymn: “Look, Ye Saints, the Sight Is Glorious” – Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)
“That dress is very becoming.” That’s probably an archaic phrase for some of you, but it was pretty common when I was younger; every now and then I’ll hear someone say that.

As an adjective, “becoming” is simply another word for appropriate, suitable… even pretty.

We find the word in scripture in the KJV, Psalm 93:5b: “Holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, forever.” Speaking of archaic! “Holiness becomes thy house, O Lord,” or “It is appropriate that your house be holy.”

This is not one of those hymns we sing a lot, so it may not be terribly familiar to you – some would likely call IT archaic as well.

When we DO have opportunity to sing this hymn-line, we’re actually saying, “That crown looks good on you, Jesus. It’s appropriate that the One who has conquered the grave should wear the crown of victory.”

If you keep up with the British royals, you know that William and Kate's son Prince George is in line to ascend the throne. After Elizabeth, Charles and William have completed their reigns, this regent will wear the crown. And for those who support the monarchy, it will be appropriate – or becoming – that he wear one of the many crowns on display at the Tower of London.

Our long-awaited King has already come. He didn’t have to wait in some long line of succession. When he returned to the palace of his Father, he took the throne, trading a crown of thorns for an everlasting crown of victory. It is becoming that he should sit upon the throne of glory and wear heaven’s crowns... and that no one is in line to take his place.

At the risk of sounding unbecoming, let me say, “Looking good, Jesus!”

Saturday, August 11, 2018

"Let every kindred, every tribe... to him all majesty ascribe."

Hymn: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” – This stanza by John Rippon (1751-1836)

I know it was politically incorrect, but as a child we sang “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” Even as a youngster, I learned from a simple song that we are all in this together, regardless of our race, our kinfolk, or our lineage. I’ve tried to maintain that attitude… and extending those groupings and moving the stakes out further until the tent can contain us all.

This hymnline conjures up for me another one of those mental pictures. In this one, I see a multi-colored throng of all the world’s people standing together in what in my mind at least looks like a huge city square; I would say it looks sort of like the plaza in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral, but I know somebody would be offended that I had a Catholic vision!  Anyway, all those people are singing at the top of their lungs, but their fortissimo-singing is very much under control. It’s not yelling; the sound is very, very musical. They are all lifting up their praise to the One who sits on the throne – although in this glimpse, I don’t see HIM; I just see and hear THEM!

For a brief moment during the singing of this great hymn, I am transported into that scene where I join the everlasting song… and I realize what a wonderful place it is… and will be. This is not something we have to wait for; we can stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow believers from every background, race, gender, lifestyle, and denomination to honor the One who loves us all and equally accepts our ascription of praise. So let’s.

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)