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(This is a rather long blog post – but one that has been on my heart a long time. God just now provided the words. Feel free to share if you feel the same.)

Why I Need to Hear Hymns

The phone rang early one morning and one of our sons had some disturbing news. My first reaction was, “I must tell Jesus!” So, I fell to my knees and began:

 

I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

I cannot bear my burdens alone.

I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

 

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress He kindly will help me

He ever loves and cares for His own.

 

I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

I cannot bear my burdens alone.

I must tell Jesus!

I must tell Jesus!

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

 

At the time of this writing, I am in my early 60’s. Hymns have been a part of my life for – well – more than 60 years! From “Jesus loves me, this I know” to the Bible school favorites, “Deep and Wide” and “Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man”:

 

Zacchaeus was a wee, little man,

And a wee, little man was he.

He climbed up in a sycamore tree

For the Lord he wanted to see.

 

And as the Savior came that way,

He looked up in the tree,

And He said,

“Zacchaeus! You come down from there!

For I’m going to your house today.

For I’m going to your house today.”

 

When I was going through a difficult season in my life with caring for ailing parents and in-laws; teenage sons in school and trying to keep my business running as well as food on the table and clean clothes in the drawer – it was one special hymn that encouraged me every day. I made two copies of the hymn on yellow legal pad paper. One went on the refrigerator (where it stayed for years – despite stains and discoloring!) And the other I kept folded in my billfold. There have been many nights that I sat in a hospital room, reading these words over and over.

 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say, than to you He has said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.

 

“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

 

When through the deep waters I call thee to go

The rivers of sorrow shall not thee overflow

For I will be with thee, thy trouble to bless

And sanctify to thee, thy deepest distress.

 

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie

My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design.

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

 

The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose

I will not, I will not desert to its foes.

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

 

 

Actually, it hasn’t been that long since I removed the faded, tear-stained, and worn sheet of paper from my billfold – but I know the words by heart now.

 

Another that sustained me during those years was, “When the Storms of Life are Raging”

 

When the storms of life are raging – stand by me.

When the storms of life are raging – stand by me.

When the world is tossing me,

Like a ship upon the sea,

Thou who rulest wind and water – stand by me…

 

In the midst of tribulation – stand by me.

In the midst of tribulation – stand by me.

When the hosts of hell assail

And my strength begins to fail

Thou Who never lost a battle – stand by me.

 

In the midst of faults and failures – stand by me.

In the midst of faults and failures – stand by me.

When I do the best I can

And my friends misunderstand

Thou Who knowest all about me – stand by me.

 

When I’m growing old and feeble – stand by me.

When I’m growing old and feeble – stand by me.

When my life becomes a burden

And I’m nearing chilly Jordan

O Thou Lily of the Valley – stand by me…

 

(My favorite version of this song is from the album “The Trouble Maker” by Willie Nelson – believe it or not!)

 

When I had my first experience with hospice, in the weeks before losing my mother, these words kept me going.

 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know, He holds the future

And life is worth the living – just because He lives.

 

And then one day, I’ll cross the river

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;

And then, as death gives way to victory

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!

 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know, He holds the future

And life is worth the living – just because He lives.

 

 

In the days after my Mother died, as my Daddy’s health was failing, and with a heart still breaking, I reluctantly attended a county-wide high school honors’ band concert in which our younger son was playing. One song on the program was titled, “An Unknown Hymn”… As O sat in that auditorium, barely listening to the music, I suddenly heard a tune that caused a flood of tears to my eyes, as my mind automatically added the words.

 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot

Thou has taught me to say

It is well… it is well… with my soul.

 

Though Satan should buffet

Though trials should come

Let this blest assurance control

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate

And hath shed His own blood for my soul

 

My sin (oh the bliss of this glorious thought!)

My sin – not in part – but in whole

Is nailed to the cross,

And I bear it no more

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! O my soul!

 

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend

Even so, it is well with my soul!

 

(Even writing these words, I feel tears fill my eyes once again…)

 

That night I cried out to God – “Oh God! It is well with my soul – but it still hurts!” And I “heard” in my spirit – “I didn’t say it would be easy… I said I would be with you…”

 

 

One of our sons suffered from nightmares for years. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve comforted him with:

 

Be not dismayed, what ere betide

God will take care of you.

Beneath His wings of love abide

God will take care of you.

 

Refrain:

God will take care of you

Through every day – o’er all the way

He will take care of you

God will take care of you…

 

Through days of toil when heart doth fail

God will take care of you.

When dangers fierce your path assail

God will take care of you.

 

Refrain:

 

No matter what may be the test

God will take care of you.

Lean, weary one, upon His breast

God will take care of you.

 

Refrain:

God will take care of you

Through every day – o’er all the way

He will take care of you

God will take care of you…

 

 

Later, when that same son lay in the hospital – in intensive care – the words “Whispering Hope” calmed me day after day after day through his recovery. (Again – Willie Nelson’s nasally version 🙂 )

 

Soft, as the voice of an angel

Breathing a lesson unheard

Hope, with her gentle persuasion

Whispers her comforting word:

“Wait, till the darkness is over,

Wait, till the tempest is done

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow

After the shower is gone”.

 

Refrain:

Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow, rejoice…

 

If, in the dusk of the twilight

Dim be the region afar.

Will not the deepening darkness

Brighten the glimmering star?

Then, when the night is upon us,

Why should the heart sink away?

When the dark midnight is over

Watch for the breaking of day.

 

Refrain:

 

Hope, as an anchor so steadfast

Rends the dark veil for the soul

Whither the Master has entered

Robbing the grave of its goal.

Come then, oh come, glad fruition

Come to my sad weary heart.

Come, O Thou blest hope of glory

Never, oh, never depart!

 

Refrain:

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice.

Making my heart, in its sorrow, rejoice.

 

 

It’s a proven fact that we remember songs easier than prose. (Think of the number of jingles from commercials that you remember – even though the commercials may be years and years old!) Scripture chronicles many instances when events were recorded in song to help the people remember (Exodus 15; Numbers 21; Deuteronomy 31 and 32; Judges 5 and 2 Samuel 22 – just to name a few). And although we read out of many translations today – most people (at least people my age) can still recall scriptures memorized from the King James Version – particularly because of the poetical flow to the words.

 

 

The powerful words of hymns have sustained my faith through many difficult times in my life. I don’t know how I would have survived without them. Today, however, we seldom hear the hymns of the faith in our worship services. Most services are filed with “praise choruses”. And while it’s important to spend time in praise to God – still – there is little in those choruses to uphold us when times are really hard. But sadly, at other times, when hymns are incorporated into the service, it is often just the chorus or perhaps one verse. What great theological truth is missed for the sake of saving time.

 

We bemoan the fact that much of society (as well as many church members) are Biblically illiterate. May I suggest that we augment our teaching and preaching with the rich message that the hymns of the faith provide? Add drums and guitars to the arrangement if you feel it necessary – but please don’t neglect the teaching of those precious words. We can still sing praise choruses – but as for me – I really need to hear hymns… I need it for my soul.

 

 

 

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For your Lenten listening enjoyment The Great Mistrial

 

This CD will take you from the depths of the Garden of Gethsamane to the heights of the Ascension! Download it today!

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On this special day I want to share this song from our son’s new CD released today “The Great Mistrial” which traces the events of Jesus’s life from His arrest to His Ascension.

Enjoy!

http://johnny-newman.com/track/christ-the-lord-is-risen-today-crown-him-with-many-crowns

 

 

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I heard the cutest song the other day. You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLNBCYR0hG0

The song is so catchy that if you listen to it – you’ll be singing it all day!

 

The words go “Can He? Could He? Would He? Did He? CanHe/CouldHe/WouldHe/YES! Hecan/Hecould/Hewould/and He did! (Try singing that three times fast!)

 

Anyway… I thought of that song this morning as I was praying and thanking God for His hand of mercy yesterday as He saved me from having a wreck. I was distracted by vehicles in the oncoming lane and suddenly my head was jerked (just like Someone jerked it) back around facing forward just in time to see the car in front of me slowing to turn to the right! I slammed on my brakes and, Whew! Thank You, Lord!

 

As I was praying/thinking, I thought about God’s actual hand of mercy. Did I literally think His hand turned my head around? Well… I know He can because all things are possible for God. I know He could because He is Omnipresent and was there. I know He would because He loves and protects His children. But the question remains, do I believe that He actually did?

 

In all of our circumstances we believe that He can, He could, and He would intervene, but why is it so hard for us to believe that He does?

 

The more I thought and prayed and meditated on that concept, the more I came to realize that I had to surrender to the actuality that God DOES act on our behalf – even to the point of turning my head around just in time.

 

Now, do I think that the hand of God literally turned my head around?

 

Yes I do! CanHe/CouldHe/WouldHe/YES! Hecan/Hecould/Hewould/and…

I believe that He did!

 

 

Look for God’s hand to intervene in your life today and everyday. He can, you know

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I had a thought to post on and needed a link to share. When I went to it and listened, I found myself getting cold chills. http://johnny-newman.com/2010/05/28/newsletter-sent-come-thou-fount-2010-mix/

This is (in his words) “an edgy version” of this song. If you like “symphonic-rock” music, and love your Lord, you’ll love this!

Now… this is what I was originally going to share:

The piano player in our small country church can really “rip it”! (Katie [Woodby] Russell, for those who went to CHS.) Oftentimes for Prelude or Offeratory she will play some of those really old hymns – you know the ones – where you instantly remember the words from your childhood.

When we have visitors, inevitably I will hear someone say “Ohhh, I just love those old hymns!

Last Sunday we visited with our younger son and his wife at their church. It is a very contemporary church which does a great job in reaching college age (and older) people. Our son is part of the worship team and the music is very contemporary, and yes, they were (as Allison told me) “very undignified in our praise!’ There’s nothing wrong with that! And the sermon was very sound and relevant.

I found myself thinking, though, “I wish I could pour a ‘teacup’ of this into our church, and add a ‘teacup’ of ours to this!

I absolutely love the solid theology of the old hymns, but I also love the energy of the current “praise music”. My question is, “why can’t we have both?”

I have been “after” John to do more of this kind of orchestrating and arranging, but you know how it is… “I’m just the mother!” Don’t take that wrong – he is very respectful, but he just doesn’t seem to see a “need” for this type of music. From my vantage point, I do.

Listen to his rendering of “Come Thou Fount” and see if it doesn’t give you chills, too. Then, look him up on facebook, or send him an e-mail. As I said, I think there’s a real need for this type of music. It can reach both young and old!

If you need any arranging done – contact him, that’s what he does. (Oh, there are “music words” for the things that he does, but music isn’t my field, so I usually just nod and smile as he patiently explains them to me, but somehow it just doesn’t soak in! LOL)

Thank You, Lord, for pouring such a gift into our son. And thank You most of all that he knows Who to thank for the gift! Amen.

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