Welcome!  Hymns have been and continue to be a real source of inspiration to me.  My desire in this blog is to share special hymns with my readers hoping that the words will minister to them, especially in times of great personal need.  If one of these hymns ministers to you, please take time to leave a comment so that I know that my blog is helping others as much as it helps me. Sometimes I will also provide a link where you can go to hear the hymn played.  So, please join me here each week and sing along as we praise God together.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY


Psalm 23 is certainly one of the best known and loved passages in the entire Bible.  It is the first entire chapter that many memorize.  It is often used at funerals where it ministers so meaningfully to wounded spirits.  These tender words from David have been a source of comfort and encouragement to many over the centuries. For those who are God's children, this passage reminds us that He is our personal Shepherd who cares for us, watches over us, and preserves us. The Lord is my shepherd.  What more could I ever want.  The passage may also have been the basis for more more sacred music than any other scripture.  This week's hymn choice is a good example of this.  This popular paraphrase of Psalm 23 was actually co-authored in 1958 by two prominent Christian musicians, John W. Peterson (1921-2006) and Alfred B. Smith (1916-2001).  We've shared before in this blog that Peterson was a songwriter who had a major influence on evangelical Christian music in the 1950s through the 1970s. He wrote over 1000 songs, and 35 cantatas. Smith is often called the dean of Gospel music,. He was a composer, Gospel soloist, song leader, lecturer, an authority on church music, recording artist and music publisher.  Both have commented on the writing of this hymn.  According to Peterson, "One day while improvising at the piano in my Montrose, PA studio, ALbert B. Smith, with whom I was associated at the time, walked in.  For no particular reason that I can remember, we started to develop a new song.  I would come up with a thought, then Al.  In a short time "Surely Goodness and Mercy" was born.  I had never worked with another writer in such a manner to compose a song.  Later Al and I wrote two or three other numbers like that." Smith remembers more about the initial inspiration of the song and adds this humorous touch. "It was written after receiving a letter from one of the descendants of P.P. Bliss telling of Bliss' first country school teacher, Miss Murphy, whom he dearly loved. It told of her teaching the class. before they could read or write, to memorize the twenty third Psalm. When the part "Surely Goodness and Mercy"  was reached, little Phillip thought it said, "Surely good Miss Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life". This little incidence focused our thoughts on the phrase which became the heart and title of the song."  The hymn begins by reminding us that we were just pilgrims here, wandering in the night of sin, until Jesus, the kind Shepherd found us.  It reminds us then, as David had written centuries before, of all the amazing things the Shepherd has done for us and how He will safely lead us, His sheep, to our eternal home.  This week read or sing these words and reflect upon what Jesus has done for you and thank Him for being our Shepherd and caring for us all the days of our life.  Through His goodness and mercy we will someday dwell with Him in His House forever.  What an amazing prospect that is.


(1)    A pilgrim was I and a-wand'ring,
In the cold night of sin I did roam.
When Jesus, the kind Shepherd, found me,
And now I am on my way home.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever;
And I'll feast at the table spread for me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

(2)  He restoreth my soul when I'm weary;
He giveth me strength day by day.
He leads me beside the still waters;
He guards me each step of the way.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever;
And I'll feast at the table spread for me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

(3)  When I walk through the dark, lonesome valley,
My Savior will walk with me there;
And safely His great hand will lead me
To the mansions He's gone to prepare.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever;
And I'll feast at the table spread for me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

This week I am giving you three different versions to listen to.  
(1)  First you can listen to George Beverly Shea sing a verse with the crusade choir.  You can click to skip the ad after a few seconds.     LISTEN 1
(2)  Second, you can hear all the verses sung by a female vocalist after she shares some comments.   LISTEN 2
(3)  Finally, you can choose to listen to some children sing the entire song.   LISTEN 3

Sunday, June 22, 2014

IF WE COULD SEE BEYOND TODAY


The older that I become the more that I have learned to thank the Lord daily for another day and ask for His strength and guidance for the new day.  I've also learned to thank Him that He knows my tomorrows and will provide the strength and grace for all that might happen then.  For we never know what a day may bring.  But He does.  I've often wondered if I would really want to know what lies ahead.  It might be good if it were something like a promotion, a special healing, a victory of some type or something good like that. It might even help explain  to us our present trials, especially if they had a good outcome.  But what if it were the knowledge of an unexpected sudden death of a family member or friend ... or an announcement of cancer ... or the loss of a job, income or savings ... or a rejection of some type ... or an accident?  Then we would worry and fret and probably fail to trust God fully for tomorrow. We would miss the blessings of today. This hymn reminds us "But God in love a veil doth throw across our way. We cannot see what lies before, And so we cling to Him the more."  And we do have God's promises that He will never leave us or forsake us and that He works all things together for good for those in His family.  And He has promised to prepare a place for us in heaven where there will be no more tears or sufferings and we will be with Him there eternally.  These truths are shared in Norman Clayton's (1902 - 1992) beautiful hymn.  A church organist for five decades, Clayton played the organ for Jack Wyrtzen's Word of Life rallies in New York City, and worked as a writer-editor for the Rodeheaver Company.  Clayton said that his usual practice was to write the music first before the words. He felt that it was vitally important that every song he wrote be biblically based.  He actually produced some 30 books of gospel songs and wrote many of the familiar songs and choruses that were sung in the last part of the last century. There is also some difference of opinion on whether Clayton wrote both the text and music for this hymn.  Some sources say that the words were written by an anonymous author and others, including hymnbooks say Clayton wrote both.  Now if he wrote the words to this song, I do not know what led him to write them. But, I can only imagine that he, like most of us, experienced events that just seemed to have no purpose.  And when that happens we can't help but wonder why.  Why would God allow our friend to be taken home so early in life?  Why would we be overtaken by such a dreaded disease at this point in our life?   Why would a loving God allow these worldwide events to happen?   And on and on we go with our questions.  And there are often no answers now.  But we know that God is in control and until that day when we understand His actions, we cling to Him the more and we trust and obey.  Maybe today you are perplexed and questioning God about events.  Be encouraged by the truth of this gospel song and rest in His grace and goodness this week.


(1)     If we could see beyond today
As God can see,
If all the clouds should roll away,
The shadows flee;
O'er present griefs we would not fret, 
Each sorrow we would soon forget,
For many joys are waiting yet
For you and me.

(2)     If we could know beyond today
As God doth know,
Why dearest treasures pass away,
And tears must flow;
And why the darkness leads to light,
Why dreary days will soon grow bright, 
Some day life's wrong will be made right,
Faith tells us so.

(3)    If we could see, if we could know
We often say,
But God in love a veil doth throw
Across our way.
We cannot see what lies before,
And so we cling to Him the more,
He leads us till this life is o'er,
Trust and obey.

Listen to it being sung here.    LISTEN

Sunday, June 15, 2014

GOD OF OUR FATHERS


Daniel Crane Roberts, the author of this hymn, was born on Long Island in New York and attended college in Ohio.  When the Civil War started he joined the Union Army as a member of the 84th Ohio Volunteers. Roberts was later ordained as an Episcopal deacon in 1865 and as a priest in 1866.  As the 35 year-old rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, a small rural church in Brandon, Vermont, Roberts wanted a new hymn for his congregation to celebrate the American Centennial in 1876. He wrote "God of Our Fathers" and his congregation sang it to a tune called "Russian Hymn".  Some years later, the Episcopal Church decided to publish a new hymnal and invited input.  Roberts submitted this hymn for consideration, but was so uncertain of its worth that he did so anonymously.  He was surprised when it was selected and published in 1892. He then provided his name. It was at the same time that the nation was preparing to celebrate the centennial of the United States Constitution.  George William Warren was one of the people involved in those preparations.  He became aware of this hymn because of his work on the hymnal project.  Based on his recommendation, the planners for the national celebration wanted to adopt the hymn for official use, but could not choose it with a tune called "Russian Hymn". They asked Warren to write a new tune, and he wrote the tune that we use with this hymn today, entitled "National Hymn."  Because of its use in that national celebration, the hymn became widely known, and as new hymnals were published, most of them included this hymn.  It has been widely sung now for more than a century.  The sad part of the story of this hymn is that the words, while certainly true, are no longer political correct in this age.  Many groups, with the help of leftist judges, are working hard to remove the truth of the leading and national blessing of God from both the present and the past.  But it is hard to deny the leading of God who has blessed this great country over the years.  Thankfully, over the years we have been blessed by many leaders who have sought the Lord's leading in their decisions.  And while sadly that appears to be no longer the case, the fourth verse should still express our prayer and hope for this land and its future.  "Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way, lead us from night to never ending day.  Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud and praise be ever Thine."


(1)    God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

(2)    Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

(3)    From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

(4)     Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

You can listen here to a great performance by the United States Marine Band.   LISTEN1

Here is a presentation by the Gathers after an advertisement.   LISTEN2

Sunday, June 8, 2014

HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU


God's marvelous grace is vital to the life of each believer.  It is by God's grace, God's Riches At Christ's Expense, that we are saved - it is the gift of God and not our own doing (Ephesians 2:8,9)  And it is through His grace that we are able to face each day and the challenges that are part of our journey on this earth.  And by His grace we experience the love, joy and peace that He freely provides for His children.  His grace is sufficient for our salvation and our daily lives.  And it is also by His grace that we will someday spend eternity with Him in our home in heaven which He is graciously preparing for us. His grace is sufficient for all that we face and need. Now all of us do face challenges of life here.  Even the Apostle Paul pleaded three times with the Lord that his thorn in the flesh would leave.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV), Paul writes "But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Thomas Mosie Lister sang in several gospel quartets in the 1940's, but he sang only a short time due to health reasons.  From that point on he concentrated on writing gospel music and primarily wrote for the top gospel groups of that day.  In her book "Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites", Lindsay Terry records an interview with Mosie Lister where he discusses the story behind "His Grace Is Sufficient For Me."  In that interview Lister said the song "… was literally a gift from God.  In the mid 1960's, I realized I had gone for an incredibly long time without writing a song that had real worth, that really meant something.  ... Though I sometimes worked on songs for several months, I never thought they were difficult to write.  I had never been through a dry spell like that before.  I  began to search my mind and my heart.  ...  One morning I was driving downtown to pick up my mail.  On the way I started thinking about how long it had been since I had written a song, and I just sincerely and honestly prayed to God about it.  I told Him that I felt that I might be at a place in my life where He was pointing me in another direction, away from writing music.  Yet I really loved it and felt that it was given to me from Him.  I told God that I was despondent over not writing anything in a long time, and that I just didn't understand the reasons for it.  I said, 'Right now I just give You whatever ability I have.  If You want me to go in another direction and leave writing, I'll do that, and I will be happy about it.  I just need to know what Your will is.  If you'll show me Your will, I'll do it.'  After returning home, I did what I had done very often in those days.  I took my guitar, sat down, and started strumming and humming to myself.  I found myself singing, 'Many times I'm tried and tested as I travel day by day … .'  I was on the second verse before it dawned on me what I was doing.  It occurred to me that this was a new song, and I hadn't written one in over a year.  I then thought of the verse in Scripture where Paul says, 'My Grace is sufficient for thee'.  That became the chorus of my song.  Since then, I've never doubted that I'm doing exactly what God wants me to do.  I feel that this song came along when I needed its message for my own heart."   Maybe the words of  Lister's song, written in 1965, are the message which you need this week.  For whatever challenge you are facing, His grace is sufficient for you - now and for the future.  Let the joy of that truth flood your soul and mind this week.

(1)     Many times I'm tried and tested 
As I travel day by day 
Oft I meet with pain and sorrow 
And there's trouble in the way. 
But I have a sweet assurance 
That my soul the Lord will lead 
And in Him there is strength for every need. 

O, His grace is sufficient for me. 
And His love is abundant and free. 
And what joy fills my soul, 
Just to know, just to know 
That His grace is sufficient for me. 

(2)     When the tempter brings confusion 
And I don't know what to do, 
On my knees I turn to Jesus 
For He'll always see me through 
Then despair is changed to victory. 
Every doubt just melts away 
And in Him there is hope for everyday.

O, His grace is sufficient for me. 
And His love is abundant and free. 
And what joy fills my soul, 
Just to know, just to know 
That His grace is sufficient for me. 

Listen to the Booth Brothers sing this song here.   LISTEN

Sunday, June 1, 2014

DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND


So much of our lives today are spent in frantic and hurried activity to keep up with our schedules which are packed full of work, meetings, family responsibilities and even ministry.  Today we need PDA's, or Smartphones, or Daytimers or calendars of various types just to keep track of all that we must do.  And often our relationships become limited, even that key relationship with the Lord.  How do we become so busy that we even crowd Him out?  He is the One who we need to put first in our busy lives.  He is the One who can assist us in our daily challenges with serenity and calm asurance.  And that is the reminder that we see when we consider the words of the prayer of this week's hymn choice. "Drop Thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease. Take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess, the beauty of Thy peace."  Now I must admit that I had some concern about sharing this hymn because these verses clearly reflect Quaker theology and practice in a very distinctive way.  They were penned by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), an American Quaker poet who began life as a farm-boy and shoemaker, and subsequently became a successful journalist, editor and poet.  Ironically, Whittier firmly believed that God was best worshipped in silent meditation. But he did allow the verses to be used in a hymn book published in 1884. In fact hymnal editors have collected and edited enough of his poems to make seventy-five hymns. In the United Kingdom, this hymn is usually sung to the tune "Repton" by C. Hubert H. Parry. In the US, the prevalent tune is "Rest" by Frederick Charles Maker.  All Christians can affirm the restfulness of being in God's presence, the place that quietness ought to occupy in worship, and the way that God's blessing comes to us in spite of our strivings – without taking these convictions in the direction of Quaker theology.  So as you meditate upon these words this week, decide to let our heavenly Father guide you and give you peace in this hectic world as you spend time with Him. "Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm."

(1)    Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

(2)    In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.

(3)    Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

(4)    Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

You can listen to it being sung by a male quartet here.  LISTEN 1
And here is a very old video of two verses being sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford.  LISTEN2