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 25, 2011


Please accept my wishes for a beautiful and memorable Christmas. For this week I decided to choose the beautiful simple message of Away In A Manger. According to Wikipedia, the online dictionary, "The song was first published with two verses in an Evangelical Lutheran Sunday School collection, Little Children's Book for Schools and Families (1885) where it simply bore the title "Away in a Manger" and was set to a tune called "St. Kilda," credited to J.E. Clark. For many years the text was credited to the German reformer Martin Luther. Research has shown, however, that this is nothing more than a fable. In the book Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses (1887) it bears the title "Luther's Cradle Hymn" and the note, "Composed by Martin Luther for his children, and still sung by German mothers to their little ones." A possible reason for the spurious attribution to Luther is that the 400th anniversary of his birth was in 1883. The words were either based on a poem written for this anniversary or were credited to Luther as a clever marketing gimmick.This song has never been found in Luther's works. The third stanza, "Be near me, Lord Jesus" was first printed in Gabriel's Vineyard Songs (1892), where it appeared with a tune by Charles H. Gabriel (simply marked "C"), thus these words are probably by Gabriel. Gabriel credited the entire text to Luther and gave it the title "Cradle Song." This verse is sometimes attributed to Dr. John McFarland, but since the popular story dates his contribution to 1904 (postdating the 1892 printing by 12 years), his contribution is highly questionable". But no matter who actually wrote it, it has been part of most Christmas celebrations for many years. And just a reminder, the Babe born in the manger was the same Son of God who later hung on the cross for the payment of mankind's sins. And if you have never accepted Him as your personal Savior, the message of Christmas has not yet changed your life. Accepting Him today would be the greatest Christmas gift.

(1) Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

(2) The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
'Til morning is nigh.

(3) Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there

Listen to it here. LISTEN

Sunday, December 18, 2011


One of the things I most appreciate about the Christmas season is the beautiful music that we hear during this time. One of my very favorites is "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing". It is one of more than 6,500 hymns written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. Written in 1739, it is generally thought to be one of Wesley's finest and John Julian, noted hymnologist, considered this one of the four most popular hymns in the English language. A sombre man, Wesley requested slow and solemn music for his lyrics and thus "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was sung to a different tune initially. Over a hundred years later, in 1840, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. English musician William H. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn's music to fit the lyrics of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" already written by Wesley. In its original version the text consisted of ten four-line stanzas. There have been many alterations made over the years to the words but the present version is still basically the product of Charles Wesley. The text is really a condensed course in biblical doctrine in poetic form. The first stanza tells of the angels appearing to the shepherds and the following verses teach such spiritual truths as the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the immoratality of the soul, the second birth and a concern for Christ like living. It is interesting to note that in 1627 the English Puritan parliament abolished the celebration of Christmas and all other "wordly festivals". During the remainder of the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth century there was a scarcity of carol hymns in England. So this hymn is one of the relatively few important carol hymns to have been written during this time. I have included the most commonly found verses below, although in practice today most just sing the first three, or variations of those three. So as part of your Christmas celebration, join in singing this great carol.

(1) Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

(2) Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

(3) Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

(4) Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman's conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Listen to it here. LISTEN

Sunday, December 11, 2011


As we enter the Christmas season, I've actually chosen a sad traditional carol for this week. Future weeks will feature some which are more joyful. I promise. When I was in fifth grade we were taught this week's choice. We sang it as part of our school-wide Christmas program. My how times have changed. Unfortunately, today it would not be politically correct to teach this and use it in an assembly. But that sad change is not the topic of this blog. Looking back I doubt that when I learned it that I really understood at all what is was speaking about. The background is from the scripture found in Matthew 2: 16-18, "Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more." So while we sing it at Christmas, it really relates to a time after the birth of Christ, a sad time when Herod ordered the death of all children who were two or under. What a tragic time for mothers. Mothers had carried their child in their womb for nine months, lived through the pain of child birth, and then nursed and raised their little son to the point where he was beginning to walk and talk. Then they were taken away and killed. The lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother's lament for her doomed child. But as sad as it is, it does remind us that God did miraculously protect His Son who later would be the lamb slain for the salvation of mankind. The "Coventry Carol" actually dates from the 16th century where it was performed in Coventry, England, as a play called "The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors". It is the only carol that has survived from this play. The oldest known text was written down by Robert Croo in 1534, and the oldest known printing of the melody dates from 1591. The carol is traditionally sung a cappella. Now maybe in the midst of the joyful Christmas season I should not have chosen this sad hymn. But it still is a part, though a sad part, of the Christmas season and the story of the miracle of Christmas.

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor Youngling for Whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever morn and day
For Thy parting neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

You can listen to it here. LISTEN

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Do you ever get discouraged as you read the daily newspaper and listen to the news on the radio or television? If you don't you are fortunate. At times it seems like the world around us is crumbling. And in one sense it is. The news is full of wars, riots, terrorism, economic downturns, storms, violence, congressional gridlock, political correctness, and anti-Christian decisions. Is anybody in charge? For the Christian, the answer to that is simple. Yes. This is our Father's world. He created it and He has a plan for the future. And in that knowledge we can rest no matter what happens around us. Often when I am troubled and concerned I find that a good walk clears my mind and recharges me. Such was probably the case with the author of this week's choice. Maltbie Davenport Babcock, a minister from New York took frequent walks along the Niagara Escarpment to enjoy the overlook's panoramic vista of upstate New York scenery and Lake Ontario. He would tell his wife that he was "going out to see the Father's world". Shortly after his death in 1901, at the age of 42, she published a compilation of Babcock's writings entitled Thoughts for Every-Day Living that contained the poem "My Father's World." The original poem contained sixteen stanzas of four lines each. The poem was set to music by Franklin L. Sheppard, who apparently did not want to call attention to himself and signed using his initials rearranged as "S.F.L." Most sources state that Sheppard adapted the music from a traditional English melody. In this week's hymn, we are reminded of one of the most basic truths, "This is my Father's world." Such simple words, yet how much we need to be reminded of them! In these details - "rocks and trees ... skies and seas", so masterfully created by God, we see a visual reminder that He still holds the world in his hands. As the hymn writer so aptly put it, "O let us not forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet."

(1) This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

(2) This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

(3) This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav'n be one.

(4) This is my Father's world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, "The Lord is in this place."
This is my Father's world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.

(5) This is my Father's world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father's world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

(6) This is my Father's world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father's world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate'er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

Listen to it being sung here. LISTEN

Sunday, November 27, 2011


The last few months have produced a number of storms around the country, but especially here in this part of Pennsylvania. Since August we have had severe storms, tornados, an earthquake, a tropical storm, a hurricane, flooding and an early snow storm in October. However, while those storms have produced much damage, they have come and gone quickly. But sometimes the storms of life that we face don't end that quickly and they often leave permanent scars and damage. None of us are exempt from today's economy, from serious health problems, from family troubles, and from other woes. For that reason I entitled our November hymn sing at Pinebrook as "Facing The Storms of Life". Following that sing I received an e-mail devotional from a friend concerning this week's hymn. It is a song that I haven't heard sung for many years but it was a favorite when I was growing up. The song is based on the story in Mark of Jesus and his disciples caught in a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee. But in the midst of the terror, "He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."The author, Mary Ann Baker. and her only brother suffered from the same respiratory disease that had taken their parents' lives He left their home in Chicago to find a warmer climate in the southern part of the United States. For a time he seemed to be improving, but then a sudden turn in his health came and he died almost immediately. Mary Ann and her sister were heartbroken. It only added to their deep grief that neither their own health nor their personal finances allowed them to claim their brother's body or to finance its return to Chicago for burial. Mary's trust in a loving God broke under the strain of her brother's death and her own diminished circumstances. "God does not care for me or mine," said Mary Ann. "This particular manifestation of what they call 'divine providence' is unworthy of a God of love." Have you ever thought the same thing? "I have always tried to believe on Christ and give the Master a consecrated life," she said, "but this is more than I can bear. What have I done to deserve this? What have I left undone that God should wreak His vengeance upon me in this way?" But as the days and the weeks went by, the God of life and love began to calm the winds and the waves of what this young woman called "her unsanctified heart." Her faith not only returned but it flourished, and she learned new things, things "too wonderful" to have known before her despair. Later, in 1874, as something of a personal testimonial and caring very much for the faith of others who would also be tried by personal despair, she wrote the words of the hymn we have all sung, "Master, the Tempest Is Raging." As you face your storms of life, remember that God does care about you and He alone can give you a peace that passeth understanding. I have experienced that, have you?

(1) Master, the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o'ershadow with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish? How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening a grave in the angry deep?
The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will, Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will, Peace, peace, be still!

(2) Master, with anguish of spirit, I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled, oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish sweep o'er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master
Oh, hasten, and take control.
The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will, Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will, Peace, peace, be still!

(3) Master, the terror is over, the elements sweetly rest;
Earth's sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven's within my breast;
Linger, O blessed Redeemer! Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.
The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will, Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will, Peace, peace, be still!

Listen to it here. LISTEN

Sunday, November 20, 2011


"I will thank you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High" (Psalm 9:1-2, New Living Translation). While this season draws our attention to giving thanks, our hearts should always be filled with praises and thanksgiving to the one who loves us and provides all that we need. I decided to go a slightly different direction this week and I have chosen a contemporary song which shares the message of this season. This praise chorus was made popular by Don Moen. However, it was really written by Henry Smith in 1978. Following the introduction of the song during a worship service at a church in Virginia, a military couple reintroduced it to a congregation in Germany. The song eventually caught the attention of executives at Integrity Music who copyrighted it in 1986. After being released, the song was brought to the attention of Smith, who contacted Integrity with authorship information. As of 2010, the song has been recorded by over 50 companies and published in songbooks around the world, having been translated into various other languages, including Russian, Afrikaans, and Swedish. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I am amazed to see how much of the scripture reminds us to give thanks. Maybe that is because the Lord knows that praise and thanksgiving don't normally flow easily from us. So often we just get bogged down with the cares of life and fail to see the many blessings that we have. It is often easier to complain and be critical. So this season be sure that your heart and voice are filled with thanksgiving. First make sure that you thank God for his Son and the blessings bestowed upon you. Then maybe you could make it a point to write a note to some people who have blessed you. Thank some folks who work behind the scenes and never get thanked publicly. Write a note to your children or your parents thanking them for what they mean to you. Send a gift anonymously to someone who has touched your life or is alone or is going through difficult times. And make sure that your actions sincerely demonstrate the thanks in your heart even as you work so hard to prepare the Thanksgiving meal, or entertain guests, or travel to visit others on Thursday. Make sure that you have a grateful heart. God is so good - all the time!

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks unto the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say, "I am strong"
Let the poor say, "I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us"


Give thanks, give thanks!

Listen to Don Moen sing it here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Over the years of writing this blog I have featured over 160 different hymns. I was surprised to realize that I have not yet chosen this one. It certainly is a favorite of so many people and was even once voted as America's favorite hymn. The writing of the hymn and its verses was actually influenced by two thunderstorms. A young minister's two-mile walk in the rain provided the original inspiration for "How Great Thou Art." The Reverend Carl Boberg of Monsteras, on the southeast coast of Sweden, was 25 years old when he wrote the lyrics of this song after trekking through a thunderstorm from a church meeting two miles away. It was first published in 1886, under the title "O Store Gud". Boberg wrote a poem, not meaning to write a hymn, but later heard it being sung to an old Swedish tune. More than forty years later, an English missionary, Stuart Hine, first heard the song in Russia. He and his young wife were missionaries to the Carpathian area of Russia, then a part of Czechoslovakia. There, they heard a very meaningful hymn that was a Russian translation of Carl Boberg's "O Store Gud" (O Great God). While ministering in the Carpathian Mountains, Hine found himself in the midst of a threatening storm. The thunder, as it rolled through the mountain range, was so awesome that it reminded Hine of the beautiful Russian hymn that had already become so dear to him. English verses began to form in his mind, verses that were suggested by portions of the Russian translation. He actually added the final verse. Although the hymn had its origin in Europe, in 1954 song leader Cliff Barrows was given a copy of the words and in 1955 he introduced the "new" hymn to an appreciative audience at Billy Graham's Toronto Crusade. There soloist Bev Shea, assisted by a large volunteer choir, first sang the stirring words. It still was not widely known until 1957, when the Billy Graham Crusade in New York City, with the singing of George Beverly Shea, launched it around the world. It was performed nearly a hundred times during those meetings and countless times ever since. I love the references in it to creation, to salvation and especially to the coming of Christ. What a triumphant final verse. One cannot sing this majestic hymn of praise and adoration without realizing anew the omnipotence of the Creator who did it all. Our heart must cry out, "How Great Thou Art"!

(1) O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

(2) When through the woords, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

(3) And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

(4) When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

You can listen to it sung by George Beverly Shea right here. LISTEN

Sunday, November 6, 2011


After the death of my father, I claimed several of his pictures. One was a picture of Jesus knocking at the door. That one had hung in our living room most of my life. Another was a pciture of Jesus with little children. I gave that one to him after he had served for many years as Sunday School superintendent. A third consisted of the words to this week's hymn choice. A note on the back of the picture explains that it had hung on the wall of the parsonage in Spring City about 1920, shortly after the poem was put to music in 1919.. I've hung this next to my bed where I can see the words each morning and again at night. It is a great reminder that God has not promised us an easy path. We will be subject to the storms of life, whether it be with our health, our job, our finances, our family members, or even our ministry. But God has promised us strength for the day and grace for the trials of life. This was the experience of the hymn writer, Annie Flint. She was adopted as a young girl and attended school in Trenton, New Jersey. She became a teacher but had to quit after only a few years when severe arthritis made her unable to walk. She was moved to the Clifton Springs Sanitarium and began writing poetry. Many of her verses were published on cards and in magazines. William M. Runyan put this poem to music. As you read the words and listen to the music you can't help but realize that the words were the personal experience of the writer. Have you found the same to be true in your life? Are you troubed today with a path that is so hard? Remember that God will provide strength, wisdom and peace as you trust Him. Just a personal comment - today is the 18th anniversary of my mother's death in a car accident. Our path was not strewn with flowers at that time. The path was hard. But God was there to provide the wisdom, strength and peace that we desperately needed. He will do the same for you. Trust Him!

(1) God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

(2) God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

(3) God hath not promised smooth road and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Listen to it being sung. LISTEN