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, December 31, 2017


          It is so hard to believe that another year is passing.  I think that the older one gets the faster time seems to fly.  The year 2017 might be one of those years you'd like to forget.  It has been filled with political intrigue, racial problems, terrorism, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and forrest fires, in addition to a multitude of personal challenges that we each have faced.  Will 2018 be any different?  Probably not, unless the Lord comes.  His return would make it the most memorable year in history and I pray daily for that to happen.  But no matter what does come our way, we do have the firm assurance that God will not forsake His children.  His eyes are upon us.  He sees all that we do. His arms are around us and they keep us safe and secure.  He knows where we are every hour of every day.  He even knows each of our thoughts.  And our loving Father provides joy with peace and life for His children.  But even though we are human and at times stray from His will, we are never out of His care.  These comforting truths are shared in this week's song choice.  And I am sharing them with you this week to encourage each of us as we start another year.  I know I need this encouragement and I am guessing that many of you do as well.  When we keep our eyes and thoughts on the problems of this world we can quickly become very discouraged and even depressed.  But we are just pilgrims here on this earth, just passing through.  Our real eternal home is just ahead and Jesus will lead us there.  If you have never accepted His free gift of salvation, why not start the new year with new life by accepting His free gift of forgiveness.  Then you, too, will have this blessed hope for the future. Now  I have had a very difficult time gathering any information about the writing of this song.  I have found numerous websites and sheet music which give credit for the writing to Dallas Holm, Phil Johnson, Mark Lowry and Amber Balltzglier or even a Michael Booth.  I know several of these have recorded it, but I don't know who is the actual author.  If you can clarify that for us, please leave a comment.  But no matter who penned the words, this would be a great song for each of us to carry with us into 2018.  Meditate upon the words and claim their truth during the coming year.

1.     The eyes of God are upon me,
He sees everything I do.
The arms of God are around me,
They keep me safe and secure.

And He knows where I am
Every hour of every day
He knows each thought I think
He knows each word that I might say.
And although there were times
I've stepped out of His will
I've never been out of His care.

2.     This changing world alarms me,
With war, with sin, with strife.
But my loving Father charms me,
With joy, with peace, and with life.

And He knows where I am
Every hour of every day
He knows each though I think
He knows each word that I might say.
And although there were times
I've stepped out of His will
I've never been out of His care.
I've never been out of His care.

Listen to it here.    LISTEN

Sunday, December 24, 2017


TIMELESS HYMNS #13 - A special feature in which every few weeks I choose a hymn that I have written about before, revise and update it, and share it once again because I think it has a powerful message for us.  This one was shared previously on December 21, 2008.

         Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of our annual trips to Bethlehem, PA, on Christmas Eve. I was in elementary school when my grandfather was pastor of a large church there.  Christmas was always celebrated with all of my grandparent's family gathered in their parsonage.  We would travel there on Christmas Eve and, as excited kids, we would always look to see who could first spot the lighted PP&L building in Allentown.  That tall building could be seen for miles and was a sign that we were almost there.  When we finally would arrive we would always find Grandma Wolf preparing hot chocolate and barbecue for the young people of the church who were out caroling.  They would gather afterwards in the parsonage basement to play ping pong and enjoy Grandma's food.  And so I have very special memories of Bethlehem at Christmas.  But the events at Bethlehem in the Holy Lands many centuries before are more memorable to everyone.  After a trip to that Bethlehem in 1868, Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was inspired by the view of the town from the hills of Palestine and he penned the words of that famous carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem".  According to the story, Brooks traveled on horseback between Jerusalem and Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.  "Before dark we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it, in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds ... Somewhere in those fields we rode through, the shepherds must have been. As we passed, the shepherds were still 'keeping watch over their flocks,' or leading them home to fold."  Brooks participated in the Christmas Eve service, writes hymnologist Albert Bailey, "conducted in ... Constantine's ancient basilica (326 A.D.), built over the traditional site of the Nativity, a cave. The service lasted from 10 pm to 3 am." This sequence of events provided the backdrop for Brooks' hymn which was originally written for children. The words remind us of that life changing event that happened that Christmas Eve.  And the miracle continues today ... "where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in."  The tune was written by Lewis H. Redner and he said that it came to him on Christmas Eve and was first sung the next day.  Within the beauty of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of God's promises from the prophet Micah: "Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the little towns of Judah, but from you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times." (Micah 5:2, GNB).   The last verse is a prayer.  In fact, it is such an awesome Christmas prayer that we sing it with evangelistic fervor:  "O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born to us today ...  O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel."  During this Christmas season rejoice in the truth and wonder of this amazing event that happened centuries ago.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel  

Listen to the music here.      LISTEN

Sunday, December 17, 2017


          There are many interesting stories about the writing of various Christmas carols, but the story behind this week's choice is a rather unique one.   "I Wonder As I Wander" is a Christmas hymn written by folklorist John Jacob Niles (1892-1980), based on a song fragment he heard while traveling in the southern Appalachians.  In 1933 Niles was walking around Murphy, North Carolina, when he noticed the police trying to evict some folks from the center of town.  Here, in his words, is how he remembered the incident.  "I Wonder As I Wander grew out of three lines of music sung for me by a girl who called herself Annie Morgan. ... The Morgan family, revivalists all, were about to be ejected by the police, after having camped in the town square for some little time, cooking, washing, hanging their wash from the Confederate monument and generally conducting themselves in such a way as to be classed a public nuisance. Preacher Morgan and his wife pled poverty. They had to hold one more meeting in order to buy enough gas to get out of town. It was then that Annie Morgan came out - a tousled, unwashed blond, and very lovely. She sang the first three lines of the verse of "I Wonder As I Wander".  At twenty-five cents a performance, I tried to get her to sing all the song. After eight tries, all of which are carefully recorded in my notes, I had only three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material, and a magnificent idea. With the writing of additional verses and the development of the original melodic material, "I Wonder As I Wander" came into being. I sang it for five years in my concerts before it caught on. Since then, it has been sung by soloists and choral groups wherever the English language is spoken and sung."  Niles's "folk composition" process caused confusion among singers and listeners, many of whom believed this song to be anonymous in origin. Niles undertook lawsuits to establish its authorship and demanded royalties of other performers of the song.  The words of this folk song are rather simple as they share the events of the first Christmas.  But it does raise an interesting question that we might also ponder.  Why would Jesus leave all the glory and riches of heaven to come to this earth to be born in a cow stall and then later pay the penalty for our sin?  The answer is profound.  It was simply the will and plan of God the Father and Jesus displayed great grace and mercy, being obedient even to His death.  Rejoice this Christmas season in the truth of this great gift given for each of us.

1.     I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

2.     When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

3.     If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

4.     I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Listen to it here.   LISTEN

Sunday, December 10, 2017


        This week we remembered the 76th anniversary of one of the worst days in United States history, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.  That day 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.  All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an antiaircraft training ship, one minelayer and 188 U.S. aircraft.  I was just learning to walk when that happened and probably most of my readers weren't even born yet, but we have heard about the horrors of that day.  Most of us have a more vivid memory of  the events of 9-11.  As I again read about that tragic day in 1941, I couldn't help but think of all the men and women who died and fought that day, as well as those who have risked and given their lives over many years to preserve our freedoms.  We should remember their sacrifices with hearts of thanksgiving.

          And with that in mind, as I prepared this week's blog I was led to choose "Eternal Father", alternately titled "The Navy Hymn".  I found this hymn interesting because it was written in an era when people were willing to recognize our dependence on Almighty God.  I am surprised that the Navy has not yet been challenged by some group of atheists for using a very religious song.  Today it wouldn't be considered politically correct.
         "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is a hymn traditionally associated with seafarers, particularly in the maritime armed services. Written in 1860, its author William Whiting was inspired by the dangers of the sea as described in Psalm 107. Whiting learned the true and terrifying power of those waves. A powerful storm blew in, so violent that the crew lost control of the vessel. During these desperate hours, as the waves roared over the decks, Whiting’s faith in God helped him to stay calm. When the storm subsided, the ship, badly damaged, limped back to port.  The experience had a galvanizing effect on Whiting. As one hymn historian put it, “Whiting was changed by this experience. He respected the power of the ocean nearly as much as he respected the God who made it and controls it.”
          It was popularized by the Royal Navy and the United States Navy in the late 19th century, and variations of it were soon adopted by many branches of the armed services in the United Kingdom and the United States. Accordingly, it is known by many names, variously referred to as the Hymn of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the Royal Navy Hymn, the United States Navy Hymn (or just The Navy Hymn), and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, "For Those in Peril on the Sea". The hymn has a long tradition in civilian maritime contexts as well, being regularly invoked by ship's chaplains and sung during services on ocean crossings.
          Reverend Whiting's ode "Eternal Father" drew inspiration from both the Old and New Testaments. His verses referenced familiar texts such as Matthew 8:26 ("He was asleep... Then he rose and rebuked the seas, and there was a great calm") and Psalm 65, ("who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations"). Whiting also cited as an impetus to the work his survival during a ferocious Mediterranean storm.  Rev. John B. Dykes wrote the music in 1861.  Rev. Dykes is also known for the composition of such popular hymns as "Nearer, My God, to Thee" and "Lead, Kindly Light." Dykes based the tune for "Eternal Father" on an earlier tune he had written entitled "Melita" (the ancient name for the Mediterrean island of Malta). Malta is associated with the biblical shipwreck of the Apostle Paul (Acts 28:1).
         In 1879, Lieutenant Commander Charles Jackson Train (later a Rear Admiral), then director of the Midshipmen's Choir, instituted the practice of singing the first verse of "Eternal Father" at the conclusion of the U.S. Naval Academy's Sunday Services. Because of this practice, "Eternal Father" became an integral part of Navy tradition, and gained increasing popularity among U.S. Navy personnel.   
         There exist a myriad of alternate verses to the hymn.  Certain verses have been changed in modern hymnals for various reasons. The first verse refers to God the Father's forbidding the waters to flood the earth as described in Psalm 104. The second verse refers to Jesus' miracles of stilling a storm and walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The third verse references the Holy Spirit's role in the creation of the earth in the Book of Genesis, while the final verse is a reference to Psalm 107.    What an amazing testimony of the work of the Trinity.  Reflect this week with gratitude for those who've served to gain and protect your freedoms, including our freedom to worship. And thank God for His omnipotence, omniscience and love.  
The original words of the 1861 version are:

1.     Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

2.     O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

3.     Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

4.     O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren's shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Listen to a very inspiring rendition here.  LISTEN

Sunday, December 3, 2017


TIMELESS HYMN #7 - Another revised and repeated blog of one of the great hymns of the faith - TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS - originally shared on January 1, 2009

          What are the most important things in your life?  Maybe one really only thinks about this question when faced with death or the loss of loved ones.  Then you realize how unimportant material things really are, especially when you need to need clean up an estate after a death.  Things that once seemed important now are things to be discarded, distributed, taxed, or sometimes even fought over.  Then you realize even more that the important things in life are relationships, especially those with your loved ones.  You now miss the chance to be with them, to share your joys and your sorrows, and to seek their advice.  We all need someone to be our friend ... someone who cares about us ... someone who cheers us ... someone who is always there ... someone who accepts us for who we are ... someone we can trust.  But even our loved ones can fail and disappoint us.  There is really only one friend who is always faithful, and that is Jesus. He alone should be all the world to us, our life, our joy and our all.  He can be our strength from day to day and our friend in trials sore.  Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909) was born in Pennsylvania.  He showed an early interest in music and had written several songs before even finishing high school.  As a young man, Thompson sent a package of four songs to a publisher, asking payment of $100 for the package of four.  The publisher responded with a counteroffer of $25, which Thompson declined. When he couldn't get what he considered to be a fair price for his music, Thompson decided to go into business for himself.  He quickly became successful, even founding his own publication company. Hebecame known as the millionaire "Bard of Ohio."  Even though he became quite rich, Thompson continued to live a life of service.  He supported various civic and religious activities generously.  He was also aware of the fact that small town people had very little exposure to good music, so he loaded a piano on a horse-drawn wagon and went through small Ohio towns giving concerts of his music.  Thompson was a Christian, and while attending a Dwight L. Moody evangelistic meeting, he decided to devote himself to writing and promoting Christian music.  While he wrote and published many hymns, in one of his most moving hymns, Thompson described what Jesus had meant in his life.  He wrote, "Jesus is all the world to me".  This song seems to express his own testimony in directing his talents to the service of the Lord. To see the purpose of our life in terms of acquisition and the accumulation of possessions is shortsighted. It fails to consider eternity and to prepare for it.  As the Lord Jesus said, "What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). Even the wealth of all the world is not worth the sacrifice of one's eternal soul.  As you consider the words of this song this week, honestly ask yourself if this is your true testimony.  Can you say, "I trust Him now, I'll trust Him when life's fleeting days shall end.  Beautiful life with such a Friend, beautiful life that has no end; Eternal life, eternal joy, He's my Friend."

1.     Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go, no other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad, He's my Friend.

2.     Jesus is all the world to me, my Friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and He gives them over and o'er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain, He sends the harvest's golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain, He's my Friend.

3.     Jesus is all the world to me, and true to Him I'll be;
O how could I this Friend deny, when He's so true to me?
Following Him I know I'm right, He watches o'er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night, He's my Friend.

4.     Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I'll trust Him when life's fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend, beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy, He's my Friend.

Listen to it here. Here are some choices for you.

A trio    LISTEN1
A solo    LISTEN2
A quartet    LISTEN3