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And yet another break from the book journey – but after talking with a friend this morning – I wrote the following…

Whispering Hope

My husband (my best friend) and I have been married more than 40 years, and like most couples that have been married that long – there have been times of great joy. There have been the births of babies and now grand-babies. There has been the excitement of baptisms, birthdays, holidays, vacations and the deep beauty and satisfaction of living on the farm – but still there have also been some very difficult times that required faith. There have been struggles – both financial and physical – as well as times of uncertainty. Almost all of our ancestors have “gone home” along with many dear church family and friends. I say all that to share a word for those who are facing some dark days.

When we had been married one year (almost to the day) – Joe suffered a detached retina. This was in the days where detached retinas required immobilization and very serious surgery. In Joe’s case the first surgery did not work… neither did the second surgery and all throughout he was required to lie flat on his back (no pillow) with both eyes taped shut. We were barely 22 years old… and terrified.

But through prayer (and we believe, a miracle) he was healed. There was some vision loss, but he was healed. And we praised God. (How it all transpired is a looong story! But if you’d like to know the whole story – I’d be happy to share it with you.)

When our first son was born, I simultaneously contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I went over two weeks without any treatment as the doctors could not figure out why my fever was spiking to 105°. The doctors were amazed that I lived… another miracle.

When that baby boy was 20 years old – he decided to take up bull riding… he subsequently ended up in the hospital, in ICU after having been stepped on. Joe and I were much older at this point than the scared 22 year olds… but we were still scared.

At one point we thought we were going to lose him and I prayed this prayer – I said, “Lord, You know how much we love this boy… and… I really would like to keep him, Lord, but he was Yours before he was mine.– and if it is Your will to take him home – then – Your will be done…” (He lived, and is now a daddy, himself!)

During his stay in the hospital I was there every day, and his dad was there every night. We live about 25 miles from the hospital and on every trip – to and from – I listened to a cassette titled “The Troublemaker” by Willie Nelson. It’s a collection of old gospel hymns (yeah I know… Willie Nelson? Lol)

One of the hymns that gave me strength for this trial was “Whispering Hope”. These are the lyrics:

Soft as the voice of an angel

Breathing a lesson unheard

Hope, with her gentle persuasion

Whispers a comforting word.

“Wait, till the darkness is over

Wait, till the tempest is done

Hope, for the sunshine tomorrow

After the darkness in gone.”

 

Chorus

Whispering hope,

Oh how welcome, Thy voice

Making my heart

In its sorrow, rejoice.

 

Verse 2 (“Hope” continues to speak)

“If, in the dusk of the twilight

Dimmed be the region afar

Will not the deepening darkness

Brighten the glittering 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.”

Chorus

Whispering hope,

Oh how welcome, Thy voice

Making my heart

In its sorrow, rejoice.

 

If you’re going through a difficult time now when it seems that the “dark midnight” will never end – find something – a song; a scripture; a dream – something to hold to, to carry you through.

When my husband was in the hospital for so long we saved the plastic silverware from every meal tray “for the day when we would go on picnics again”. Even writing this brings tears to my eyes. “Hope with her gentle persuasion, whispers a comforting word…”

 

I am praying for you today… even for those whom I do not know – those who are sitting in a hospital room, or ICU lounge, or hooked up to an IV for your chemo or making funeral arrangements… I lift you up today. May God bring you hope.

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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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