Posted by: rcottrill | July 1, 2016

A Few More Years Shall Roll

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Leonminster, by George William Martin (b. _____, 1821; d. _____, 1881)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The hymn, A Few More Years Shall Roll, was written in 1842. (Some move this one year on, but 1842 seems most likely.) Dr. Bonar had it printed first in leaflet form, so his congregation could sing it on New Year’s Day of 1843. There are critics who don’t care for the hymn at all. To them its message is too depressing. But the author simply wanted to call the believer’s attention to what the Bible says about life’s brevity, and the need to prepare for eternity.

Time certainly seems to fly off on magic wings sometimes. Not so much when we’re caught in a rush hour traffic jam, or sitting in the dentist’s chair. But other times it does. A senior once said to me, “I’m over the hill, and gaining speed!”

When I was a boy, we used to have wonderful family Christmas parties, with aunts and uncles and cousins. Oh, the goodies we ate! Oh, the hilarious games we played! It was such a delight for a little boy that I cried when my parents said it was time to go home. But the good things of this life must come to an end, and that’s sort of depressing. We can take some encouragement in the fact that the trials and troubles we face have a time limit as well.

Jacob confesses, “Few and evil [unpleasant, full of sorrow] have been the days of the years of my life” (Gen. 47:9). Discouraging or not, the Bible often warns us of the shortness of our earthly lives, using a variety of images to make the point.

¤ “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,” says Job, “swifter than a runner” (Job 7:6; 9:25).

¤ “You have made my days as handbreadths,” David tells God, and “as a shadow” (Ps. 39:5; I Chron. 29:15).

¤ Our physical life is “a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

Which brings us to a hymn by Scottish pastor and hymn writer Horatius Bonar. It begins:

CH-1) A few more years shall roll,
A few more seasons come,
And we shall be with those that rest
Asleep within the tomb;
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that great day.

As far as I know, Dr. Bonar did not believe in what’s called “soul sleep”–that we’ll lie totally unconscious in the grave, until resurrection day. He was speaking, as Jesus does, of the physical body appearing as if it’s sleeping, when the person dies (cf. Jn. 11:11-13).

The Apostle Paul says that departing this life means being with Christ (Phil. 1:23)–that the one immediately gives way to the other. “We are confident, yes, well pleased,” he assures us, “rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Christian loved ones are with Christ in glory, and they’ll return with Him, when He comes for His church (I Thess. 4:14).

It’s interesting to see how Bonar worked on hymns–over six hundred of them in all. He kept a notebook in which he jotted ideas when they came to him, thoughts to be expanded on later. Regarding this one, his son found written in his father’s notebook: “A few more suns shall rise and set, a few more years shall come and go.”

See how that was turned into a proper rhyme, as part of the hymn:

CH-2) A few more suns shall set
O’er these dark hills of time,
And we shall be where suns are not
A far serener clime.
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that blest day.

Though it was not his purpose to write a hymn explicitly about heaven, we see a hint of it a number of times. In the above quotation, he’s speaking of the Bible’s statement that there is no need of sun or moon in the heavenly city, because the glory of God illuminates it. (cf. Rev. 21:23). Other stanzas say:

CH-3) A few more storms shall beat
On this wild rocky shore,
And we shall be where tempests cease,
And surges swell no more;
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that blest day.

CH-6) ’Tis but a little while,
And He shall come again
Who died that we might live, who lives
That we with Him may reign;
Then, O my Lord, prepare
My soul for that glad day.

The day when “tempests cease.” Surely not a depressing thought at all!

Questions:
1) What comes to mind when you consider the phrase, “a few more __________” before the end?

2) Since life is brief, and the time of its end usually uncertain, what must we do?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 29, 2016

The Unclouded Day

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Josiah Kelly Alwood (b. July 15, 1828; d. Jan. 13, 1909)
Music: Josiah Kelly Alwood

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This song was written around 1880. Mr. Alwood was a circuit-riding preacher in the American Midwest. Traveling on horseback through all kinds of weather and over all kinds of terrain, he visited small churches that otherwise would have no pastoral ministry. He was often gone from his home and family for many weeks at a time.

You can read about the inspiration for this song (perhaps the only one he wrote) on the Wordwise Hymns link. The song became a Top Ten Country hit in 1976, when Willie Nelson released it with the title of Uncloudy Day.

The wildfires to the northwest of us, as I write, are destroying forests and threatening towns. Thousands of courageous fire fighters, with sophisticated equipment, have been brought in from other places, and the battle goes on. There have been successes and reverses, but overall, progress is being made. The one thing that would be of great help is a steady rain. But day by day we’ve checked the weather reports, gazed at the sky, and prayed, seemingly in vain.

A recent cooling of the temperature, and some showers here and there, have been welcomed, and we hope for more still. Not only will this help to control the fires, the moisture is much needed by farmers who are in the midst of planting. We have hope that even “a cloud, as small as a man’s hand” may be the forerunner of a sky full, and the herald of torrents, as it was in Elijah’s day (I Kgs. 18:44).

All of this to indicate that some clouds are welcome. Recently, I heard someone say they didn’t want rain on the week-end, that it would interfere with their plans for an outing. Really? Do you know what’s been going on? Would you begrudge people the survival of their homes and livelihood because you have to cancel a picnic? Sometimes clouds are wonderful!

The Bible has a lot to say about them–sometimes in a positive, and sometimes in a negative way. There is the value of rain, of course, as indicated above.

“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praises on the harp to our God, who covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains” (Ps. 147:7-8).

Then, there is the symbolic use of clouds. When God assures His people that He has forgiven them, He says, “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins” (Isa. 44:22). But clouds can also be a picture of coming judgment, as it was for Israel.

“That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zeph. 1:15).

But there is an interesting question to consider: Will there be clouds in heaven? At one point in his heavenly visions John sees the Lord Jesus Christ sitting on a cloud (Rev. 14:14). But overall it looks like heaven will be a place of brightness and clarity, not of gray and darkening skies, a place where the glory of the Lamb (Christ) is the light, to the extent that the sun and moon are unnecessary (Rev. 21:23).

Which brings us to a gospel song called The Unclouded Day. The author uses the clouds as a poetic imagery to describe heaven as “a home where no storm clouds rise.” Where, as the Bible puts it:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away: (Rev. 21:4).

In that sense, we can be sure there are no clouds in heaven! Nothing to dim our joy and blessing. “In [God’s] presence is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

Josiah Alwood’s song says:

CH-1) O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
O they tell me of a home far away;
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

O the land of cloudless day,
O the land of an unclouded day,
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

CH-3) O they tell me of the King in His beauty there,
And they tell me that mine eyes shall behold
Where He sits on the throne that is whiter than snow,
In the city that is made of gold.

CH-4) O they tell me that He smiles on His children there,
And His smile drives their sorrows all away;
And they tell me that no tears ever come again
In that lovely land of unclouded day.

Questions:
1) What are the clouds (troubles) in your life today that you know will be gone in heaven?

2) How do you find joy and peace in life, in the meantime?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 27, 2016

Precious Hiding Place

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Avis Marguerite Burgeson Christiansen (b. Oct. 11, 1895; d. Jan. 14, 1985)
Music: Wendell Phillips Loveless (b. Feb, 2, 1892; d. Oct. 3, 1987)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Wendell Loveless)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Avis, a lifelong resident of Chicago, was married to Ernest Christiansen, a vice president of Moody Bible Institute. Beginning in 1916, and for about sixty years afterward, Mrs. Christiansen produced hundreds of hymns that have blessed the Christian community. The Wordwise link focuses on Mr. Loveless, but it also provides links to Avis Christiansen.

In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, beginning a reign of terror and cruel abuse, particularly for the Jewish people there. But, throughout the land, the Dutch underground fought to frustrate the plans of the invaders, and Christians risked their lives to help the Jews.

One family that did lived in the town of Haarlem. Casper ten Boom had a watch repair shop, and above the shop was the family’s living quarters. There lived Casper (an elderly widower), and his daughters Corrie and Betsie. When they became burdened for the plight of the Jews, they sealed off a section of Corrie’s bedroom as a hidden compartment. It became known as “the hiding place,” from Psalm 119:114:

“You [God] are my hiding place [my secret, sheltered place].”

Over many months, there were always people concealed there–some were Jews, others were members of the Dutch underground. In addition, Corrie became a ringleader in the resistance, and sought out other courageous families willing to hide more. In spite of extreme danger to themselves, it’s estimated the ten Booms saved the lives of some 800 Jews during the war. When reminded of the fearsome danger, Casper declared, “It would be an honour to give my life for God’s ancient people.”

Sadly, the family was eventually betrayed, and arrested. Casper died ten days afterward. Corrie and Betsie were moved from one concentration camp to another. While there, the two sisters showed the love of Christ, not only to other prisoners in the camp, but toward their captors as well. Using a Bible she had smuggled in, Corrie also taught the other women God’s Word, and many came to faith. Betsie eventually sickened and died, but Corrie survived and returned home in 1945. She went on to many years of active service for the Lord, until her death in 1983.

A number of times in the book of Psalms we read of the Lord Himself being a “hiding place,” a secure shelter for His people.

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah [Think of that!]” (Ps. 32:7).

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust” (Ps. 91:1-2).

The ten Boom’s home, the refuge God provided through concerned believers, was a physical one. But we can face other dangers too. We have a spiritual enemy as well, the devil, who is constantly “seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Though he has human beings in his camp who oppose the cause of Christ, he and his demon army are a spiritual danger from their schemes and temptations. We need God’s protection from them, as sheep do from a shepherd.

The Lord Jesus portrayed Himself as a shepherd, and His followers as sheep under His care. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (Jn. 10:14). He also spoke of Himself as “the door of the sheep [i.e. of the sheepfold]” (vs. 7). It pictures how the shepherd often posted himself at the entrance to the fold, defending the flock from thieves and animal predators.

In 1918 Avis Christiansen published a gospel song about God’s sheltering care. It says:

CH-1) I was straying when Christ found me
In the night so dark and cold;
Tenderly His arm went round me,
And He bore me to His fold.

Precious hiding place,
Precious hiding place,
In the shelter of His love;
Not a doubt or fear,
Since my Lord is near,
And I’m sheltered in His love.

CH-2) With His nail-scarred hand He brought me
To the shelter of His love;
Of His grace and will He taught me,
And of heav’nly rest above.

Questions:
1) In what way has the Lord protected you in recently days?

2) Can you think of other hymns that speak of the Lord’s shelter and protection?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Wendell Loveless)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 24, 2016

Others

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Charles D. Meigs (b. Sept. 20, 1846; d. May 13, 1920)
Music: Elizabeth McEwen Shields (b. _____, 1879; d. ________)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The hymn’s author was the son of famed obstetrician Charles Delucena Meigs. Dr. Meigs was an early advocate for surgeons washing their hands, believing that disease could be transmitted by a physician’s hands. The son took an active interest in the Sunday School. He was part owner of a publishing firm, but sold his interest in the business so he could give more time to Christian work.

There are many long words in the English language–words of five syllables and more. In the film, Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews sings a fun song using a word with thirty-four letters: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It is an actual word, referring to something extremely beautiful and good. But the longest English word of all is apparently this one:

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

That’s a forty-five letter monster identifying a lung disease that can be contracted from inhaling fine volcanic dust. What a big word! Fortunately for doctors, and for all of us, it is medically the same as silicosis!

But let’s look at it a bit differently. There are sometimes very short words that have a significance far beyond their size. They are big words in another sense.

Missionary to India, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) wrote a book with the short title If. It provides a penetrating and convicting look at Christian discipleship, and our tendency to personal pride and lack of love for others. For example she writes, “If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love, for a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” (That reminded me of a recent display of bad temper in the Canadian House of Commons!)

“If” is a big word. An even bigger one is “I.” And Miss Carmichael is actually speaking of how I, me and my can get in the way of our service for God. A self-centred life will be hindered in loving others, and also in honouring the Lord consistently. The person who is self-willed, self-seeking, and self-serving likely has spiritual “I trouble.”

The Bible gives us an example of that with a rich man the Lord spoke of in a parable (Lk. 12:16-21). In three verses he uses personal pronouns a dozen times, including four “I will’s.” But God called him a fool, saying all his grandiose plans would come to a crashing halt with his death–that very night. With no thought of using his wealth to bless others, his attitude was nothing like the love of Christ Amy Carmichael wrote about. The Saviour “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us” (Tit. 2:14).

Isaiah 14, verses 12-15 describe the self-serving sinful ambition that turned a powerful angel named Lucifer (literally, the Shining One) into a wicked spirit we call Satan.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isa. 14:12-14).

Lucifer was a cherub appointed to attend the throne of God (Ezek. 28:14-15), but he began to covet the throne for himself. We see in him the “I trouble” the rich man had. “I will be like the Most High,” he thought–the same sin with which he tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:1-6). “You will be like God,” he said. In effect, “You don’t need to obey God. Be your own god.”

Many years ago, there was a Salvation Army Convention. The founder, William Booth, was still living, but he was too frail and infirm to attend. Instead, he sent a telegram, to be read to those who had assembled. When an officer came down the aisle calling, “I have a message from General Booth!” a hush fell over the large crowd to listen. The message was a single word–another small word that’s big in its import. The word was “Others.” And that speaks to the good work of the Salvationists over many decades since, a loving concern they’ve shown for others.

In 1902, Charles Meigs published a hymn called simply Others. His hymn says:

CH-1) Lord, help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray
My prayer shall be for–Others.

Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others,
That I may live like Thee.

CH-4) And when my work on earth is done,
And my new work in heav’n’s begun,
May I forget the crown I’ve won,
While thinking still of–Others.

Questions:
1) What will our behaviour toward others be like if we each “esteem others better than [ourselves]” (Phil. 2:3; cf. Rom. 12:10)?

2) What instances of selfishness and self-centredness have you observed in your own life over the past week? And how will you correct this?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 22, 2016

My Times Are in Thy Hand

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: William Freeman Lloyd (b. Dec. 22, 1791; d. Apr. 22, 1853)
Music: Vigil (or Albans) arranged from a melody in the 1788 opera La Molinara (The Miller Girl), by Giovanni Paisiello (b. May 9, 1741; d. June 5, 1816)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Lloyd was involved in the work of the Sunday School, almost from its beginning. (He was born about ten years after Robert Raikes began this ministry, and Lloyd was attracted to it since boyhood. He taught in a Sunday School, and wrote many books and curriculum materials for this agency. He was later appointed as a secretary of the British Sunday School Union.

In 1851, Lloyd published a book of poems called Thoughts in Rhyme. In it was this little verse which sums up the faith behind the longer hymn we’re looking at:

Each future scene to God I leave,
Enough for me to know,
He can from every evil save,
And every good bestow.

The phrase “time and again,” meaning over and over, first appeared in the seventeenth century, with similar expressions, such as “time after time,” coming along later. They suggest a repetition that, if not an absolute certainty, is at least likely to occur.

Benjamin Franklin’s comment that, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” is not quite true. There are other things in our lives that happen repeatedly–both good and bad things. Birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated, there’s grocery shopping, colds and flu come along, babies are born and people die.

Solomon says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1). And the seasons roll by, year after year, as the Lord said they would (Gen. 8:22). In faith, we look to Him to give us the wisdom and strength to face them. Yet we’re aware that the effects and outcome of many circumstances are beyond our control. What then?

Simply this. When we commit ourselves to the Lord, in faith, we can be confident that all that happens to us is in His keeping. David speaks with assurance:

“My times [both the seasons of life, and my personal experiences] are in Your hand” (Ps. 31:15).

God is a spirit Being, of course (Jn. 4:24), without physical hands. But the Bible’s frequent reference to the hand imagery suggests His sovereign control of things.

Most often, in God’s Word, the expression is used of judgment and the punishment of sin (e.g. Deut. 2:15; Jud. 2:15). To be in the hand of the Lord in that sense is a fearful thing (Heb. 10:31). But, by the grace of God, being in His hand can do us good in so many ways. “The hand of the Lord is mighty” (Josh. 4:24)–mighty to save and keep us (Jn. 10:28-29). And the hand of the Lord guides in our experiences (Ezra 7:27-28).

It is by the hand of the Lord that exaltation and glory comes. He promises the nation of Israel: “You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isa. 62:3). He pledges to nurture and protect them too, by His almighty hand (Isa. 66:13-14). The affairs and governments of men are in the hand of the sovereign Lord, more broadly, as well. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1).

The hand of the Lord is also at work in our service for Him. It was by His hand that the prophets of Bible times received inspired revelations from Him (Ezek. 3:22). And, after the church was born at Pentecost, its ministry was carried on through the enabling hand of God. We read, for instance, “Some of them…spoke to the Hellenists [Grecian Jews], preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20-21).

There is a hymn based on Psalm 31:15, quoted above. William Freeman Lloyd wrote:

CH-1) My times are in Thy hand;
My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends, my soul I leave
Entirely to Thy care.

CH-2) My times are in Thy hand;
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee.

CH-4) My times are in Thy hand,
Jesus, the Crucified!
Those hands my cruel sins had pierced
Are now my guard and guide.

CH-6) My times are in Thy hand,
I’ll always trust in Thee;
And, after death, at Thy right hand
I shall forever be.

Questions:
1) What particular time or season, or personal experience, are you glad is in the hand of God?

2) Is there something that worries or frets you that you need to commit to His loving hand?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 20, 2016

My Heart Is Resting, O My God

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Anna Laetitia Waring (b. April 19, 1823; d. May 10, 1910)
Music: Pentatone, by Henry Walford Davies (b. Sept. 6,1869; d. Mar. 11, 1941)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: We know only a little about the Welsh-born Miss Waring. She mastered Hebrew as a young girl, and throughout her life studied the Psalms in their original language. She was actively involved in charity work, assisting in the Discharged Prisoners Society. And apparently she suffered greatly, but rejoice in God’s sustaining grace, writing:

Who would not suffer pain like mine
To be consoled like me?

She also wrote the lovely In Heavenly Love Abiding, as a meditation on the 23rd Psalm. The present hymn is unique in its deep exploration of God’s provision for a needy soul. It’s worth going to the Cyber Hymnal, reading it all, and thinking it through.

Some songs we hear seem to make no sense at all. One, written in 1943, made the pop charts with: “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey, / A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe!” It’s a good thing the “translation” is given in the song itself, or we’d never know that “Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. / A kid’ll eat ivy, too, wouldn’t you?”

Secular fun songs aside, we’ve been guilty of singing nonsense in church as well–intended or not! When I was a boy in Sunday School, we sang with enthusiasm: “Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, / Heavenly breezes blow; / Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, / Faces all aglow.” But it’s doubtful if anyone can adequately explain what that means. It certainly meant little to young children, other than a way to blow off steam with the actions accompanying the words.

It’s still going on. Religious rocker Rick Cua gave us: “I can, I will, I stand, / I do believe that I can, / I will use the power, / I can, I will, I am the warrior / And I’ll fight for you, / I can, I will.” But we look in vain through the entire song to see clearly who “you” is, what “the power” source is, or what “fight” he’s referring to. Is “you” Buddha? Or Mohammed? Or someone else?

It may be that biblically informed Christians can read into songs like that some semblance of God’s truth, but that’s no excuse for singing in riddles. The Bible warns, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (I Cor. 14:8). How different were the Levites in Nehemiah’s day, who “read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (Neh. 8:8).

I would ten times rather have a simple, and repetitious gospel song such as Elisha Hoffman’s 1893 offering I Must Tell Jesus, which says something important, and says it clearly–and often, than some obscure nonsense that tries to pass itself off as spiritual depth.

Having said that, however, there are songs that reach a deeper level. So much so that they cannot be sung meaningfully in church without explanation, and seem better suited to study in the believer’s personal devotions. But if God is an infinite Being far above ourselves, we’d expect to find some things in the Bible–and our hymnody–that challenge our most careful thought.

A comment on the exalted language of the Scriptures and of our hymns comes from a perhaps unexpected source. A 1990, Reader’s Digest published a speech by Prince Charles criticizing the modern tendency to bring God down to our level, to try to explain Him in more mundane terms. The prince said, “It should not be our task to express our worship (whether in word or song) in terms of the lowest common denominator. We exalt the separateness of God by unique expression reserved only for Him….Elevated is what God is.”

The song by hymn writer Anna Waring, called My Heart Is Resting, O My God, provides an example. With eleven eight-line stanzas, it is one of our longest, but every line is rich with meaning, and worthy of meditation. It reflects the words of Jeremiah that inspired it: “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lam. 3:24).

CH-1) My heart is resting, O my God–
I will give thanks and sing;
My heart is at the secret Source
Of every precious thing.
Now the frail vessel Thou hast made
No hand but Thine shall fill–
For waters of the earth have failed,
And I am thirsty still.

There have been various formats of the song. One uses the first three stanzas, and the eleventh. Another splits stanzas into four lines each. Still another uses a few stanzas and adds a refrain. The following, found in Hymnary.org, combines the last four lines of the third stanza with the last four lines of the second.

I have a heritage of joy,
That yet I must not see;
But the hand that bled to make it mine
Is keeping it for me.
And a new song is in my mouth,
To long-loved music set:
“Glory to Thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet.”

To the diligent and thoughtful soul, that makes perfect sense.

Questions:
1) What are some simple (and perhaps repetitious) gospel songs that you find meaningful?

2) What are some deeper hymns that have been a blessing to you.

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 17, 2016

Lord, Lay Some Soul Upon My Heart

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: anonymous (see note below)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Sankey)
Hymnary.org

Note: Apparently the tune was written by Ira Sankey, the soloist and song leader for evangelist Dwight Moody. Most hymn books list the words as anonymous. A few attribute at least the first stanza to a Dr. Leon Tucker, of whom we know nothing. Hymnary.org gives the author as Frank Garlock (1930-___) on the basis of one hymnal, and in another place says it’s B. B. McKinney (1886-1952), or maybe Tucker–illustrative of the uncertainty!

Our hearts pump life-sustaining blood through our bodies day and night. We couldn’t get along without them. But there are people who are described as “heartless “in another sense. At the very least that speaks of someone who is unsympathetic and probably too self-centred. In the extreme, it describes a person who is callous, harsh, and cruel.

Consider the opposite. What do we mean when we say a person has put his whole heart into some activity or project? It describes an individual who is passionate and enthusiastic about what he’s doing. And it suggests the deliberate taking on of a burden or responsibility, with a willingness to pay the price necessary to succeed.

A heartfelt investment in service for God was symbolized by the attire of the Levitical high priest in the Old Testament. He wore a breastplate inset with precious stones, each representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel. “So Aaron [the first high priest] shall bear the names of the sons of Israel…over his heart, when he goes into the holy place [to commune with God]” (Exod. 28:29). On his two shoulders he also had stones set in gold, each engraved with the names of six of the tribes (vs. 11-12).

This is a beautiful picture, pointing to both the heart and the labour of service for the Lord. The one who was to represent the people before the Lord bore them on his heart, in loving concern, and carried them on his shoulders to support them in their need. That is what we want from today from our pastors, and other servants of the Lord at work in the church of Christ. It should be evident in every Christian’s life and service too. We should put our heart and strength into it!

There are other examples in the Bible of a full-hearted involvement. One is Moses’ instruction about what his hearers should do with the messages he passed on from the Lord: “You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart” (Deut. 11:18). That rings with a similar summons as the words of the psalmist in Psalm 119:

“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!…With my whole heart I have sought You!” (vs. 2, 10). “Your word have I hidden in my heart” (vs. 11).

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul speaks often of the heart in his epistles. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:23). And, in Christian service, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9).

But it was his passion, as a converted Jew, to see his own people won to Christ that especially moved him.

“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart, for…my brethren” (Rom. 9:1-3). “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1).

The enormity of his burden for them is reflected in his statement that, if it were possible, he was even willing to be cut off from Christ himself, if it would see them won to the Saviour (Rom. 9:3).

That heart concern for the salvation of others is reflected in a little song for which we do not know the author. The song says:

1) Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
And love that soul through me;
And may I faithfully do my part
To win that soul for Thee.

3) Lord, may I love, as You have loved
The souls of those I know;
And grant me power from heav’n above
Thy love for them to show.

Questions:
1) Is there someone in your life, or someone you have heard of for whose salvation you are burdened?

2) What are you doing about this burden of heart?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Sankey)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 15, 2016

I’ve Discovered the Way of Gladness

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Floyd W. Hawkins (b. Nov. 20, 1904; d. July 17, 2002)
Music: Floyd W. Hawkins

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Floyd Hawkins)
Hymnary.org

Note: Floyd Hawkins was a music editor with Lillinas Publishing Company. He also wrote about five hundred gospel songs of his own. He said, “While the grand old songs of past ages retain their beauty and meaning, we find that the Christian life affords endless inspiration for new songs.” One of these, written in 1937, he called I’ve Discovered the Way of Gladness.

Some years ago, my friend Dave–who’d been best man at my wedding–came to visit. We took part in a Sunday evening concert, and sang Mr. Hawkins’ song as a duet.

Glad. It’s a word I encountered this morning on a box of plastic food bags. The Clorox company markets a line of storage bags, plastic food wrap, and garbage bags, promoted in commercials by the white-haired Man from Glad. “Why take chances, get Glad!” says one slogan, and “Don’t get mad! Get Glad!”

It’s an interest word. The Old English word (glaed) meant bright and shining. This came to be applied to a person’s feelings. Gladness describes cheerfulness, joyfulness, pleasure and delight. Some form of the word is used one hundred and forty-eight times in our English Bibles.

Gladness of heart is to be our response to the blessings of God, and the privilege of having a personal relationship with Him. David says:

“I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Ps. 9:2). And, “Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, ‘The Lord be magnified!’” (Ps. 40:16).

To realize even a small measure of what the Lord has done for us and not be glad is, at its root, the sin of ingratitude. At one point, the Lord warned the Israelites of judgment to come, “because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything” (Deut. 28:47).

Even in the face of persecution Christians can find reason to be glad. The Lord Jesus put it this way:

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

This alerts us to the fact that the shining path of gladness the believer follows is not a path without thorns and pitfalls. The call to be a follower of Christ is not–or certainly should not be–an unrealistic, “Come to Jesus and all your troubles will be over.” We live in a world where there is often hostility toward dedicated Christians and their chosen life. In other words, in one sense, we’re asking for more trouble by declaring our allegiance to the Lord.

Where, then, is the advantage?

¤ In Christ is found a new purpose. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).

¤ Through Christ we gain a new perspective on life (Phil. 1:21; 3:7).

¤ We have new resources to live for Him (Phil. 4:13, 19).

¤ Walking with Christ we find a new companionship–“I am with you always,” Jesus said (Matt. 28:20)

¤ And we are assured of a new destiny in the home He is preparing for us (Jn. 14:2-3).

The song speaks of “the living way” (cf. Jn. 14:6; Heb. 10:19-20), and of Christ as “the living Word.” (cf. Jn. 1:1, 14). Preachers often contrast Christ, the living Word, with the written Word of God, except that it is said to be “living” too (Heb. 4:12). Speaking of the shining path of the Christian life, Floyd Hawkins song says:

1) Mankind is searching every day
In quest of something new;
But I have found “the living way,”
The path of pleasures true.

I’ve discovered the way of gladness,
I’ve discovered the way of joy,
I’ve discovered relief from sadness,
‘Tis a happiness without alloy;
I’ve discovered the fount of blessing,
I’ve discovered the Living Word.
‘Twas the greatest of all discoveries
When I found Jesus, my Lord.

Questions:
1) What is there about the Christian life that you are especially glad about today?

2) How can we have gladness, even in the face of suffering and persecution?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Floyd Hawkins)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 13, 2016

I’ve a Home Beyond the River

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org

Note: Hymn writer John Willard Peterson was the most prolific composer of sacred music in the latter half of the twentieth century. Many of those involved in choirs in evangelical churches, especially in the 60’s and 70’s can recall using some of Peterson’s music, especially his singable choir cantatas.

A movie was made of his life in 1976, called The Miracle Goes On (a title alluding to his gospel song It Took a Miracle). It not only told something of his life, but included a concert of some of his music. The story also came out in book form, and a vinyl recording.

Millions of dollars are spent each year in an attempt to make our homes as safe as possible. Fire alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, burglar alarms, security cameras, motion sensors on lighting, reinforced doors, weapons, locks, night watchmen, intimidating dog–with signs: “Guard Dog on Premises,” and a so-called safe room–all are part of the attempt to protect us and our property. But it’s still not enough to keep every destroyer from our doors.

As I write this, fire fighters are battling a raging wildfire in and around the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta. With the help of the military, many volunteers, and tonnes of equipment, the desperate work continues. More than eighty thousand people have been evacuated, and homes and businesses are being destroyed as billows of apocalyptic smoke rise heavenward, floating south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

With little rain in the forecast, and the area tinder dry, whether there will be anything left of the town when the fires are finally extinguished is an open question. Most evacuees fled with a few clothes and that’s all. Some already know their homes are gone. Others must wait to learn more, as it’s too dangerous to return while the fires are still burning. Already it’s being estimated that a rebuilding will eventually cost billions. And each individual and family has lost precious things that no insurance policy can replace.

For all who are involved, and for those watching from a distance, this disaster raises significant questions concerning our values. The late comedian George Carlin once said, “Home is where we put our stuff, while we’re out getting more stuff!” That can stand as a pretty good summary of materialism. But a fiery inferno engulfing our home can cause us to think hard about whether our “stuff” really counts for much.

Many times, as displaced residents of the city are interviewed, we hear them say something like this: “My family is safe. That’s the most important thing to me.” With those we love around us, the value of the accumulated things of this world diminishes greatly.

The Lord Jesus warned about putting too much stock in what’s impossible to secure completely. He said:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).

To trust in Christ as our Saviour (Jn. 3:16), and have a heavenly home prepared for us by the Lord Himself (Jn. 14:2-3), a home safely beyond the moth and rust, thieves and fires of this world, that is a glorious assurance. To be a child of God, and joint-heir with Christ (Gal. 4:4-7) is to have an eternal inheritance that is immeasurable.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:3-4).

John Peterson wrote both words and music for a song speaking of the safety of our heavenly home.

1) O the blessed contemplation,
When with trouble here I sigh:
I’ve a home beyond the river,
That I’ll enter by and by.

I’ve a home beyond the river,
I’ve a mansion bright and fair;
I’ve a home beyond the river–
I will dwell with Jesus there.

4) Though the world is filled with sorrow,
And the teardrops often fall,
There will be but joy and gladness,
Safe inside the jasper wall.

Safe at home! What a blessed prospect for every believer!

Questions:
1) What is your greatest concern when it comes to living in safety these days?

2) How do you quiet your soul when worries in these things assault you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 10, 2016

Angel Voices Ever Singing

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Francis Pott (b. Dec. 29, 1832; d. Oct. 26, 1909)
Music: Angel Voices (or Monk), by Edwin George Monk (b. Dec. 13, 1819; d. Jan. 3, 1900)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Francis Pott was an English clergyman. He also wrote some hymns, and translated those of others, as well as serving as a hymn book editor.

Composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote a beautiful melody he called in German Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, meaning On Wings of Song.

Though Mendelssohn wrote it for the words of a secular love song, there’s a sense in which that phrase says something about the hymns of the church. When they serve their highest purpose, they bear the truths of Scripture on musical wings into the hearts and minds of the participants and hearers. They also lift our praises up to God on wings of sacred song.

We can sing these songs on our own, or in family gatherings, but hymn singing is also to be a major activity in the services of the local church. We’re told in the Word of God to “Sing out the honour of His name; make His praise glorious” (Ps. 66:2), and to “serve the Lord with gladness; [and] come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). We’re to teach and admonish one another with our songs, as well as singing to the Lord (Col. 3:16).

Notice the call, in Psalm 66:2 to “make His praise glorious.” The Hebrew word for glorious (kabod) describes something of great splendour, something that is abundant, rich, and reverent, befitting our glorious God. There’s a gospel song (Love Lifted Me, by James Rowe, that says:

“Love so mighty and so true
Merits my soul’s best songs.”

That’s an important point. Our glorious Lord is infinitely worthy of the best of our songs, sung to the best of our ability.

By these songs we pass on truth to one another, and from one generation to the next. This is why I believe it is important to teach the great hymns to our children, early on. The psalmist pledges, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 89:1). They should be known and loved by the whole family. Our songs can also be a witness to the unbelieving world. David says, “I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations” (Ps. 57:9).

Anglican bishop, J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) wrote:

“Good hymns are an immense blessing to the church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die.”

We know that singing God’s praises predates the creation of the present world, because the angels sang when it came into being. The Lord asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth….when the morning stars sang together?”–“morning stars” being poetic imagery for angels in the passage (Job 38:4, 7). We are also told that the angels, as well as the saints, will continue to sing songs of worship in the eternal heavenly kingdom (Rev. 5:8-10).

One of Francis Pott’s own hymns speaks of how we are privileged to share with the angels the joy of praising God in song.

CH-1) Angel voices, ever singing,
Round Thy throne of light,
Angel harps, forever ringing,
Rest not day or night;
Thousands only live to bless Thee,
And confess Thee Lord of might.

CH-2) Thou who art beyond the farthest
Mortal eye can scan,
Can it be that Thou regardest
Songs of sinful man?
Can we feel that Thou art near us
And wilt hear us? Yea, we can.

CH-4) Here, great God, today we offer
Of Thine own to Thee;
And for Thine acceptance proffer,
All unworthily,
Hearts and minds, and hands and voices,
In our choicest melody.

Questions:
1) What in your view would characterize “glorious praise”?

2) What would make a song unworthy of the praise of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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