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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.