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Beauty and the Beast – A Timeless Take Two





April 12, 2017

The most magical week of myy life? It would have to be the time Disney Studios invited me to be their guest for a week. In 1981-1982, on the occasion of a joint venture between The Humanities Classic Film Series in Keene, Texas, and Walt Disney Films, I was given free rein at the entire Disney film archives. Name the film, a projectionist would set up a private film-showing for me. What a heady feeling that was! Talk about a boy locked up in a candy store!

My genial host was Art Stevens, who was then directing and filming The Fox and the Hound (he would later become Disney’s director of animation). Thanks to him, I was even shown the current state of The Fox and the Hound – part black and white sketches and already filmed cell-based animation. Stevens would later fly out to Texas and host one of the earliest premiers of the film for our series.

Serendipitously, on my last day there in Anaheim, the entire staff was invited to the auditorium to see the first glimpses into EPCOT (then half way between dream and reality).

After I descended from Mount Olympus to resume normal life in Texas, I spent many months writing and then publishing the film history of each of the Disney films chosen for the series attendees.

* * * * *

But the original animated Beauty and the Beast did not even exist back in 1981-82. It did not become reality until 1991, and almost immediately became a cult classic. As is clear in Ann Hornaday’s March 17, 2017 Washington Post review, “‘Beauty’ Remake Expands on the Magic”: “How indeed to take a cartoon loved to the point of obsession, flesh it out with actors who can’t be expected to live up to the two-dimensional protagonists of fans’ imaginations, and open it up to lived-in realism, without losing the pure fantasy of the original? How does a movie last forever, even as it’s deconstructed and reinvented over time.”

“The answer is: with a mixture of careful deliberation and boldness, both of which are on full display in this pleasingly all-out but reassuringly familiar take on story that might not have started with Disney’s movie but, for many, seemed to end there. Emma Watson delivers an alert, solemn turn as Belle, the French country girl with a penchant for reading and inventing. Although Dan Stevens—best known for his recurring role on ‘Downton Abbey’ –is heard more than seen, he lends the Beast just the right ratio of soul to raffish misanthropy.”

Joe Morgenstern, in his March 17, 2017 Wall Street Journal review titled, “‘Beauty’: Live Actors, Dead Wrong,” begins with this observation: “More is less in Disney’s live-action remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ –so much less that this crazily cluttered venture in industrial entertainment betrays the essence of what made the 1991 animated feature a beloved classic.”

Stephanie Zacharek’s lead for her March 27 review for Time reads, “Beauty and the Beast is wonderfully out of step with the times,” and continues with “The key to Bill Condon’s wondrous live-action musical . . . is that it’s not a movie of its time. It’s not even a movie of 1991, the year Disney released the animated film that provides its framework. In its going-for-broke exuberance and wedding-cake lavishness, this new Beauty most resembles the musicals of the mid-to-late 1960’s, like Carol Reed’s Oliver! And a new version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein made-for-TV Cinderella.”

Zacharek concluded with, “You could accuse Beauty and the Beast of being too generous in doling out sensory overload. But then, it did spring from a movie that featured a motherly singing teapot, Maurice Chevalier-esque candelabra and a persnickety clock who does everything by the rules…. The grand musical number, ‘Be Our Guest,’ in which all these characters–plus plates, silverware and more–bounce and jump and sing in majestically syncopated madness, is probably too much. But how about those napkins, undulating and writhing in the air like enthusiastic Martha Graham understudies? Somebody dreamed this up. The human mind is a miracle.”

“The human heart is too, and Beauty and the Beast doesn’t fail us on that score. It’s explicit about the unpredictability of love, the way it sneaks up on us unbidden. When Belle’s Beast looks at us with anguished eyes, he speaks a wordless truth about this most adult of all romantic fairytales.”

The movie made the cover of the March 4 Parade. The banner words surrounding images of the stars, Dan Stevens and Emma Watson: THE ENCHANTED WORLD OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST…” Inside the lavishly illustrated review is headlined with “A TALE AS OLD AS TIME,” and Lambeth Hochwald begins with these words: “There’s something about Beauty and the Beast and its story of true love and courage that’s made it beloved for generations, especially since Disney brought the 1700’s French fairy tale to the big screen as a sweepiing animated movie musical in 1991.”


First of all, we had trouble even getting into a showing. And that was in spite of so many theaters devoting two or three of their screens to the film rather than the usual single-showings. It was reminiscent of the Golden Age of Family Films to see so many multi-generational families (grandparents, parents, children) coming in together.

We loved the film. The cast is great: Luke Evans as the detestable villain (without any redeeming qualities whatsoever); Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, is superb in his role; Dan Stevens we already knew well, having watched him break hearts around the world by his shocking premature death at the inception of Downton Abbey’s long run; Emma Watson gained a worldwide following due to her starring role as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies.

Both Stevens and Watson were nigh perfect in their portrayals of the Beast and Beauty. The voices were also most memorable; Josh Gad as the aide-de-camp to the loathsome villain; Ewan McGregor as the gilded candelabra [once Lumiere, the Prince’s valet]; Emma Thopson as housekeeper-turned-teapot; Audra Mcdonald as the opera diva who becomes an enormous wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha Raw as the saucy housemaid who got turned into a feather-duster; and Stanley Tucci plays a new character, a human turned into a harpsichord.

But unquestionably, Stevens and Watson steal the show. The essence of the show has to do with the Prince’s initial arrogance and total lack of kindness. In true fairy-tale tradition, he is turned into a repulsive Beast tied to a rose that loses its petals as the Beast deteriorates. Only true love can stop the inexerable process of petal-loss. But who could possibly fall in love with a beast?

No small thanks to Stevens and Watson, the miracle takes place. There are two moments in the film that more than made up for the price we paid for our tickets: The anguish in the Beast’s eyes as he realizes how preposterous it is to even imagine that a vision of beauty called Belle could possibly ever love him; and the second: that incredible moment following the Beast’s rescuing her from almost certain death in the ferocious wolf attack–when, somehow, some way, the cameras catch that all-too-rare glow in Belle’s eyes when she falls in love with the Beast. In my entire lifetime, I’ve seen it in a bride but once: even across the church, the love-light in the bride’s eyes almost blinded me. That glowing sense of wonder in a set of eyes I rarely see in children’s eyes any more. And when I have, invariably it’s in the eyes of homeschooled children whose parents have protected them from an increasingly amoral media. As for the intense love revealed in a bride’s eyes, I strongly suspect its scarcity today is directly tied to the high percentage of brides who have already been living with their grooms. Because of that sad reality in today’s hook-up generation, honeymoons don’t mean what they used to.

So, in summation, I urge each of you to see Beauty and the Beast, if possible in 3-D.

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David Wyss’s “The Swiss Family Robinson”





April 5, 2017

Book woodcut by Louis Rhead

Had it not been for the survival narrative of Alexander Selkirk, chances are Robinson Crusoe would never have been written and published.

Johann David Wyss was born in 1748 in Berne, Switzerland. In 1766, he became a military chaplain. Since Robinson Crusoe was the rage during that era, Wyss invented a somewhat similar tale of a Swiss family to amuse his four children. It wasn’t all fiction for it was based on a Russian sea-captain’s report of the discovery of a Swiss pastor and his family that had been shipwrecked on an island near New Guinea. After hearing the story told, Wyss wrote it down in narrative form, but shared it only with members of his own family.

Wyss’s son, Johann Rudolph Wyss, many years later, delivered the manuscript (slightly revised) to a publisher; the first part was published in 1812. For many years, most readers mistakenly assumed that Johann Rudolph Wyss was the writer, but in recent years the correct authorship has been attributed.

Cover illustration of Harper & Brothers Edition of 1909

But that was not the end of it. As the story was originally written, the Swiss family were discovered by a European sailing ship after ten years of being marooned on the island, and were then taken home to Switzerland. But after the first publication, the tale attracted the attention of the Baroness de Montolieu (1751-1832), a French woman of literary inclinations, who translated it into French. After reading the story, she suggested to Johann Rudolph that since the story ended too abruptly, it ought to be developed further. Since he was unable (or unwilling) to tackle that revision himself, he gave the Baroness permission to do so; it was then published in 1824 in French, and in 1826, in German.

Book woodcut by Louis Rhead

And from that point on, the revised edition has been taken to the hearts of millions of readers all over the world. William Dean Howells pointed out that part of the charm of the book for young readers is that the author tells something “fresh on every page. No day passes without its difficulty overcome, its danger escaped, its adventure happily ended. . . . Almost every animal that can be tamed, or that ought to be killed, is found in it; that every beautiful or eatable or companionable bird nests there; that every strange or familiar fruit and vegetable grows on the trees or under the ground.”

I’d read the book when I was young—it was just as much a delight to revisit it. Here are some of my random thoughts:

A powerful book. Very religious. Swiss castaway parents of four boys, somewhere in area of New Guinea several hundred years ago. Builds on the persona of Robinson Crusoe., In every chapter, family shows its inventiveness, versatility, ability to make do. Of course it helps mightily that they can keep returning to the wrecked ship and retrieve more of all the stuff on board (that was originally intended to help a new colony of settlers survive somewhere). Another castaway, Jenny, comes into the story at the very end of the book. To youth who are fascinated by inventiveness and creativity, this book ought to prove an excellent and unforgettable read.A great combination for any bookworm would be to read the trilogy in sequence: Robinson Crusoe, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, and The Swiss Family Robinson. By all means pick up an unabridged copy. My hardback copy of this 1909 Harper edition is lavishly illustrated by Louis Rhead. Besides the original (almost impossible to find) dust-jacket, this edition sports the same wonderful cover illustration tipped-in (hand-glued) on the front of the book. Pages: 602.


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March 29, 2017

It’s passing strange, isn’t it: That two of our holidays are equally central to the Christian Church—yet only one of them is accompanied by stories. That, of course, is Christmas. Untold thousands of stories have been written about Christmas—and such stories are read and cherished by millions every Christmas season. But can you even remember the last time you came across a book containing inspirational Easter stories?
Seventeen years ago, my only book of spiritually-based East stories (Easter in My Heart: Uplifting Stories of Redemption and Hope) was published by WaterBrook/Random House. It was anything but an easy book to put together. In fact, it appeared almost impossible. I tell the story of my dilemma in my introduction: “Rediscovering Easter”:

Scan0014 Easter                                     Frontispiece for the book “Easter in My Heart”
Once in a while, as the years passed, I’d consider editing a collection of stories having to do with that other great Christian high day, Easter. But I quickly reconsidered when I found that such stories were almost nonexistent — much, much rarer than Christmas stories!

Thus it was that when Dan Rich and his splendid team at WaterBrook asked if I was interested in putting together a collection of Easter stories, I didn’t think it was possible. So I temporized, and I tried to get them to accept a watered-down mix of stories having to do with Easter, springtime, turning points, new beginnings, and New Year themes. Providentially, they held their ground: No, what we want are Easter stories that incorporate spiritual values.

I said I’d see what I could do. First I checked Christian book stores. No such animal: “Easter stories? Never seen such a book! Ought to be a market for them, though.”

Time passed, and the deadline for manuscript submission was fast approaching. I began to get worried. Really worried. So I turned it over to the good Lord: “Father,” I prayed, “I believe it is Your will that I put together a collection of Easter stories; if that is true, will You please help me?” Right after I turned the matter over to Him, things began happening.

I never cease to be amazed by God’s incredible choreography. A number of years ago, when Christmas in My Heart was in its infancy, a friend of mine, the Reverend Dr. Darrell Richardson, called me up and told me he was in town for a convention, and had brought me a present. It turned out to be a large box of old (well over half a century) inspirational magazines, all filled with stories. As the years passed by, I looked into the box once, picked out a Christmas story or two, then forgot about it.

Now, on deadline for the Easter collection, I found myself on an apparently dead-end street. There were not nearly enough Christ-centered Easter stories to fill a book. Every morning I would again ask God for help. If it was really His will that such a collection be put together, would He please help me find such stories–and quickly! One morning, the conviction came: Find that box of old magazines! In due time, I found it, and then scanned through the entire collection. In the process, I found more great Easter stories than I had encountered in the entire course of my life! How incredible, and humbling, to realize that years ago, God knew the day was coming when those stories would be needed–and had them sent to me ahead of time! I no longer believe in coincidence: I have experienced too many such instances of divine scripting and choreography. But only recently did I find a biblical basis for that assumption (Psalm 139:1-5, 15-16), one of the most life-changing passages in all Scripture.

Strange, isn’t it, that such an Easter-story shortage should exist. Once upon a time, for a very short time, Christian writers wrote Easter stories for inspirational journals. Then, suddenly, no one wrote any more. Their inexplicable absence is not unique to just the story genre, as I learned while searching for Easter poetry and quotations. Apparently, there is an unspoken assumption that people aren’t at all interested in such things!

One never-to-be-forgotten day, I took stock of what the Lord had brought to me. Lo and behold, it was, I believe, as powerful a collection of short stories as I’ve ever been privileged to place between two covers! By now, I clearly realized that He was at work behind the scenes This was not merely another book–it was a divinely ordained one.

Now, I belatedly faced another problem: I had never written an Easter story before–was this going to be the first of my anthologies to be published without a story of my own? As the deadline neared, again I asked God–as I have so many times before–that if it were His will for a story of mine to be included, would He please help bring the right one to my mind? He did, and He continued to bless and guide my pen during the initial seventy-two-hour gestation period. The result is, “The Hollow Man.”

* * *

Scan0015-Hollow Man
Woodcut illustration for “The Hollow Man” story.

“The Hollow Man” is the only Easter romance I have ever written.
I’ll be most interested in your reactions to it.
The Lord gifted me with the story’s opening poetic lines:

Oh he was handsome, beautiful as a Greek god,
But he was empty: a hollow boom-booming drum;
Oh he could speak, could sway multitudes,
But inside, where his heart should have been,
There was only sawdust, straw,
And swirling, mocking winds.

                                                                          * * * * *
So it is that, on the occasion of this Easter season, I humbly urge each of you to prayerfully consider beginning a new tradition: weaving into your thoughts and devotions these Easter stories the Lord delivered to me long before the book was even proposed to me by WaterBrook.
This poor forsaken ugly duckling of a book I graced by wonderful woodcut illustrations inside but crippled by one of the poorest choices for a dust-jacket I have ever seen) has all but died on book-signing tables for seventeen years now. If indeed, in the Lord’s own timing, its time has at last come, order the book from us—and give the stories an opportunity to speak to your heart.
I’ll make it easy for you: Though this dust-jacketed hardback retailed for $13.99, you may order as may copies as you wish from us [they’re all pristine and new] at only $5.00 each, plus shipping. You’ll find it on our web page:

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“My Favorite Life-Changing Stories”

March 22, 2017

Just released is the fourth book in the My Favorite series of true inspirational stories—our 95th book (and 80th story anthology).

* * * * *

All my life I’ve been fascinated by life-changing epiphanies. Epiphanies that we rarely see coming or recognize when they are happening. Only in retrospect do we realize that if that moment, that day, had never happened, how different our lives would have been. Fictional epiphany stories are easy to find, but powerful true epiphany stories are much more difficult to track down. Indeed, it has taken me a lifetime to put this collection together.

Here is what you will find in this book:

Scan0013 - Life-Changing Stories


The Diverging Roads of Our Lives – Joseph Leininger Wheeler

A Voice for God – Jerome Hines

The Golden Moment – Author Unknown
Absent With Leave – Frederick Hall
Scars of Triumph – Barbara Bradford
On the Far Side of Failure – Arthur Gordon
The Stranger Within Thy Gates – Author Unknown
Out of Focus – Author Unknown

To Bleed Awhile . . . and Fight Again – Joseph Leininger Wheeler
A Temperamental Garden – Faith Harris Leech
Something to Carry Home – Author Unknown
Two Kinds of Tragedy – Author Unknown
When Success Hung in the Balances – A Father
Polly Hastings’ Valentine – Author Unknown

The First Settler’s Story – Will Carleton
The Girl Who Conquered Herself – Margaret Sangster
A Chance Encounter – May Oakley
What One Lie Did – Author Unknown
He’s Going to Die Anyway – Harley Larkin

The Countess and the Impossible – Author Unknown
Tit for Tat – Author Unknown
Poor Uncle Si – Author Unknown
Quiet Zone – Alma Mager Campbell
Elnathan’s Gold – Author Unknown
The Roadblock of Regret – Arthur Gordon

Praying the Solomonic Prayer – Joseph Leininger Wheeler

* * * * *

Published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2017.
Retail Price: $15.99
Sale Price: $12.00
Shipping: $6.00

You can reach us by email: – or you can go to our web page: and place your order there.

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My Favorite Hymn – Part Two

Part Two
March 15, 2017

Now for the rest of the responses to our survey:

Nelma’s favorite hymn is “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

Donald Thompson, from Carmichael, California, wrote:

My favorite hymn is : “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” The reason being that I love the tune and the message.

I have had many disappointments and failures in my life, and there have been times when I felt God had abandoned me. In times like these this great hymn has given me encouragement, and the assurance that He has not left me to serve alone. His love has never let me go. His own son thought He had forsaken Him, but was fully assured that this was not the case. Through my tears, and through my fears the words of the hymn: “I lay in dust life’s glory dead, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.” Even though there may be some undesirable things in our life that will never change, the hymn points us to the time when these pains and disappointments in our life will be no more.”

Lois Rowell Karlsberger of Ohio, wrote:

I am responding to Blog #8, Series #8 of February 15. What a wonderful request for favorite hymns and why they are meaningful!

I’ll be interested to have news of the responses. I am sure this request will be a blessing to your readers.

My response is attached. I do enjoy the blog!

* * * * *

“Under His Wings” was written in 1896 by William O Cushing—minister and poet—and set to music by Ira D. Sankey—gospel composer associated with evangelist Dwight L. Moody. The verses of this hymn and its refrain include quotations from two well-known passages of Scripture: The Ninety-first Psalm and the closing verse of Romans, Chapter 8. Together with its flowing and lyrical tune, this precious hymn has brought me comfort, assurance, and peace—from the time I first heard it sung in the northern California church of my childhood.

Closely linked with “Under His Wings” is a memory picture from long ago. On a dark morning in January 1956 at our home in Angwin, California, my father is reclining in his chair. Gravely ill, he has only a few days to live. My mother stands close behind him, holding his hand. Together they are reciting the Ninety-first Psalm, each helping the other to recall every verse.

A few years before, Dad had encouraged me, then in my early teens, to memorize this wonderful Psalm. “On a wakeful night,” he gently told me, “the words will quiet your mind and let you rest.” Now, looking back over these many years, I can truly say that his counsel was wise and faithful. And as I grow older, I cling ever closer to the beloved Psalm and the cherished hymn—taken together, a blessed affirmation of the eternal, unfailing love of our heavenly Father.

“He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.” Psalm 91:4.
“[Nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39.

Traci Reust wrote:

Since receiving your email last week I have been pondering the question about my favorite hymn. My life has been surrounded by hymns as I grew up in the church and currently sing the hymns in corporate and personal worship times. Then, the thought struck me to share the hymns which the Lord has used to minister to my soul at various times in my life. So, if you allow me, I would like to submit three hymns as my favorites.

First of all, “Jesus Paid it All” was the hymn which launched me on this believer’s journey. The straight forward message of the chorus – “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow” – reflects my basic understanding of accepting Christ as my Savior and Lord. My gratefulness of the saving act of Jesus Christ is truly summed up in the words of this hymn.

Next, “The Solid Rock” has been the hymn aiding me into mature growth in my walk with Christ. I really love how this hymn tells the entire gospel story in a few short stanzas – our hope is built on Jesus’ righteousness, we can rest on His unchanging grace, standing faultless before the throne dressed in His righteousness! And, I really appreciate the analogy in the title and chorus of Christ being our solid rock because life can sometimes feel like sinking sand!

Finally, “It Is Well With My Soul” reflects, for me, the struggles and challenges of life we all experience and the choices we can make about those hard times. Will I persevere in my faith even though sorrows roll? I especially love the line “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well with my soul.” In God’s Word I believe we are taught that life will offer struggles and challenges, yet we do not carry those burdens alone for Jesus bears it with us. Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Thank you for sharing one of your readers’ questions! This was a delightful exercise to recall how the Lord has used hymns in my life to teach me of His providential love and grace for me!

And, in conclusion, since Peter and Jill Grenfell asked Connie and me to weigh in on our favorite hymns too, we’ll do so.

Connie categorically declares that “How Great Thou Art” is her favorite hymn. Reason being, “that it feeds my soul!”

* * * * *

As for me, it would have to be an old hymn titled, “He Is Calling.” I first heard it sung out of that venerable horizontal hymn book titled Christ in Song. It was first copyrighted by F. E. Belden in London, in 1908. My edition was published by the Review & Herald Publishing Association. Containing almost a thousand hymns, it was subtitled “The Largest Gospel Song and Standard Tune Collection.”

If you ever wanted to acquire the most beloved hymns ever featured in one hymn book, this is the one for you. As a child, I loved, “Ring the Bells of Heaven,” “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life,” “Tell Me the Old, Old Story,” “Under His Wings,” “Seeking the Lost,” “Abide With Me,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Like a Little Candle.”

But, as I said earlier, I loved “He Is Calling” [sometimes referred to as “There’s a Wideness”]. Long before I was old enough to think about the meaning much, I was enthralled by the refrain, especially when I heard bassos tackle the deep descent.

It was considerably later, though, when I realized why I really loved it most: It was because it reveals why it is that we love Jesus so much. Not doctrine. Not creed. Just Jesus.

Written by Faber, it is also often sung as an alto solo.

The first stanza has always appealed to me because, even when I was a small child, I personally related to the wideness of the sea. It was later in life before I understood “the kindness in his justice” — or as Victor Hugo put it in Les Miserables: “The Tear in the Eye of the Law.” Here are the lines:

1. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
    Like the wideness of the sea;
    There’s a kindness in his justice,
    Which is more than liberty.

2.  There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in his blood.

3. There’s no place where earthly sorrows,
    Are more felt than up in heav’n;
    There’s no place where earthly failings,
    Have such kindly judgment giv’n.

4. For the love of God is broader
    Than the measure of man’s mind;
    And the heart of the Eternal
    Is most wonderfully kind.

5. But we make his love too narrow,
    By false limits of our own;
    And we magnify his strictness
    With a zeal he will not own.

6. If our love were but more simple,
    We should take him at his word;
    And our lives would be all sunshine
    In the sweetness of our Lord.

(Sung after each stanza)

   He is calling, “Come to me”;
   Lord, I gladly follow thee!

Lines that create a mosaic of a God we can all relate to and love.

Now I ask of you: Read each line out loud, slowly,. All the while asking yourself: If this line captures the essence of our Lord . . . am I reflecting that kindness and love to all those I interact with each day? Kindness. Mercy. Wideness of His love and mercy. Do we make His love too narrow? Do we magnify [and distort] His strictness with a zeal our Lord would not condone?

If there was ever a hymn that internalizes the Didache (in Matthew 22:37-40), this would be it: The simplicity of the Gospel.

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My Favorite Hymn — What a Response!

March 8, 2017

When I floated the question into cyberspace on February 15, I had no idea that so many of our blog readers would weigh in on it.

We’ll start with Peter Grenfell of Oamaru, New Zealand, who started all this:

Greetings to you all. My favourite hymn is “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” My reason for this choice is I have always loved the sea and have throughout my life been fortunate to live in areas with a view of the sea. During my Compulsory Military Training in the Navy I was fortunate to attend a church service in the Chapel of St. Christopher H.M.N.Z.S. ‘Philomel.’ It was a Memorial Service for Leander. The service was one of the most dignified and personal that I have ever attended and the singing and worship has always stayed with me.

Marilyn Nelson of Walla Walla, Washington, wrote:

My favorite song is “Tears Are a Language God Understands” because of the message it contains. He understands when we feel like crying. . . . My favorite poem is “God Has Not Promised” which has also been put to music so I guess you would say it is my favorite song as well. It too is a source of encouragement when life is hard.

Barbara Sines, from Maryland, wrote:

I always read your weekly blog with interest and like your New Zealand friends pass them along to other friends. This has provoked some good discussions among our friends. Your invitation to name a favorite hymn had me thinking of which hymn among many I would offer.

Of course, several hymns immediately came to mind but two are meaningful to me. The first is an all time favorite, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” because it was one of the first hymns I learned to play on the piano and has remained with me since childhood. The second is “I’d Rather Have Jesus” because the words are so meaningful to me.

Hymns speak to me through their words and frequently are like sermons set to music. I am often moved to tears when singing them. At Spencerville Church where we attend church I will sometimes just stop and listen to the congregation sing. It is quite moving and humbling. Our church loves to sing! We have a wonderful well known music ministry and the organ lends itself to this atmosphere of congregational singing. Many hymns we learned in childhood at evening worship. I hope the next generations will learn to love the old hymns we know and love and listen to the words they speak to us.

Thanks for the invitation! I will be interested in reading your future blogs and responses you receive.

Linda Findley wrote:

It is a gospel song written by American songwriter C. Austin Miles (1868-1946). I think “In the Garden” is my favorite because of the mental image it creates in me. I picture walking with my Lord, Creator, and Savior through the great outdoors. He is my Mentor and Guide through life and I can come to Him with anything. I frequently use it as part of my morning worship.

Jane Johnson wrote:

Can I have more than one? “Amazing Grace,” because I feel God’s love when I hear or sing it, especially when bagpipes are played. Next is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” and “Power in the Blood.” Can’t forget “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I’m stopping with 4 favorites. Thanks for asking. Enjoy your writing very much. Found one of your books in a thrift store and fell in love with your style. Thanks.

Elsi Dodge of Boulder, Colorado wrote:

“How Great Thou Art.”
Why do I love it?
Let me count the ways . . .

I love it because I can sing it, full volume, from the top of a mountain road, in a field of wildflowers, by a racing brook, or during a thunderstorm.

I love it because I can hum it or murmur the words when I’m driving in tricky circumstances, or parked at a rest area to catch my breath, or galumphing from campground to campground, looking for one with a site for me.

I love it because I sneaked it in at both my parents’ funerals—Mother’s because “It’s about nature, and she was a Scout, you know” and Daddy’s because “He was a Scout, too, and we sang it at Mother’s service two years ago.” It’s not in the hymnal at the non-Christian church they attended (because of those two last verses … you know, the ones about Jesus), but I happily printed out the words, and the entire congregation sang it!

I love it because I can pray it for hours when I’m in too much pain (physical or emotional) to sleep and need to be distracted: “O, Lord” … Almighty, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, Alpha and Omega—-“my God” … yes, You’re mine, and I’m Yours, so I’m safe, no matter how it feels right now!— “when I in awesome wonder” … yes, wonder … I wonder how You could love someone like me.

Kathleen Raffoul of Houston,Texas wrote:

I am Catholic and this song always makes me cry when I hear it at mass:
“On Eagles Wings.”
My friend who passed away several years ago had a lovely voice, and sang it often for the mass. It is a beautiful and inspiring song, and also reminds me of her, who was a very special person.

Michelle Swanson of Sturgeon, Missouri wrote:

Great idea to get folks thinking about grand music. Tough to choose a favorite hymn, there are so many great ones. My favorite is “Jesus Is Coming Again” (#213 in Adventist Hymnal). The first time that song impressed me was at campmeeting when I was seven. It was the Nebraska campmeeting theme song that year and they had four men playing the trumpets and I think the King’s Heralds were leading the song the evening I remember. Thrilling! I’ve always liked that hymn.

Ruth Newsome wrote:

It is very difficult to choose one favorite hymn from so many favorites, but for me, my one would have to be “How Firm a Foundation.” This was my Grandfather’s favorite and I came to know and love it through him. His marriage to my Grandmother was a second marriage. Previously, he had lost a wife, twin babies and another little girl to death (this was in the late 1800’s). He was left with two small boys, yet he never became bitter. I never heard him say that this hymn sustained him through all of the sorrow, but as I grew older, and I, too, began to rely on the comfort of its words, I figured out that the hope, assurance and security found in those words must have given him reasons to go on.

When I was in my first year of college, I had to take swimming and I, having never been around water, was scared to death. I would go to swimming class repeating in my head, “when through the deep waters, I cause you to go. . .”

Later in my life when facing cancer surgery, I relied on, “the soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose I’ll never, no never forsake.”

Now, I read the words of that grand old hymn and find hope, comfort and promise in every one of its verses.

I remember my grandfather and am forever grateful for him and his love of “How Firm a Foundation.”

JoAnne Lefever wrote:

Mine is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” This has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. I so much believe in prayer where we can take all our burdens and troubles; all our discouragements, trials, and temptations. He is a friend so forever faithful. It has all the exact words that speak to my heart and need. I love it more than all my other favorite hymns.

Julie Sobota of Conifer, Colorado wrote:

I was intrigued by your blog this morning and can’t wait to read about everyone’s favorite hymns. Mine is “I Surrender All.” Years ago at a church I attended in Texas, a very beloved pastor was driven out through a difficult time of disharmony in that congregation. I was a very new Christian at the time and I will never forget the Sabbath that pastor gave his final sermon about the importance of acceptance and forgiveness. With tears streaming down his face he led us in praising God through that beautiful hymn which teaches us to surrender our lives to Jesus. Whenever I hear it, whenever I sing it, I am once again reminded that the only way on this difficult journey is a surrender daily to our blessed Savior.

Thanks Dr. Joe for all you do!

To be continued in next week’s blog.