Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

https://i1.wp.com/www.cyberhymnal.org/img/l/y/lyte_hf.jpg
Henry Francis Lyte

The other night, we were in church listening to the usual worship songs. It’s a non-denominational church, so it was light on the hymns and heavy on the more contemporary stuff, as you can imagine. I’ve made my peace with “worship music,” understanding that not everyone loves 300 year old hymns, and that’s ok. But the band began to play a song that I had never heard before, and the text and the melody immediately caught my attention. The melody was beautiful, simple, and so singable, but it was the text that really stood out.

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition! God and Heaven are still mine own.

Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, show Thy face and all is bright.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure; with Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, Abba, Father; I have set my heart on Thee:
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather, all must work for good to me.

Man may trouble and distress me, ’twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Take, my soul, thy full salvation; rise o’er sin, and fear, and care;
Joy to find in every station something still to do or bear:
Think what Spirit dwells within thee; what a Father’s smile is thine;
What a Savior died to win thee, child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?

Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Certain lines from the text stayed in my head all night and into the next day, when I finally had a moment to sit down and search for the author. Turns out, Henry Francis Lyte (who, I am ashamed to admit, I’ve never heard of!) also wrote the text for two other well-loved and often-sung hymns–Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven and Abide With Me.

If you have a moment, give these a listen.

For more info on Lyte, here are some sources.
Cyberhymnal
Poemhunter
Christianity

“My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”

I was reminded of this adaptation of the 23rd Psalm the other day and wanted to share. What a beautiful thing to remember.

(arranged by Mack Wilberg)

My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay;
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
–Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Songs for Holy Saturday

Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering…He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our inequities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds, we are healed.   Isaiah 53:4-5

 

Songs for Maundy Thursday

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“Troubled Water”

In keeping with the Chimes’ song of water today, it’s fitting to share this piece. I wish so badly that I could find a clearer recording of it, but even in this recording, you can easily hear the water themes. The piece alternates between the refrains of “Wade in the water” and “God’s gonna trouble the water,” at times imitating a babbling brook, rising and falling waves, and ending as a roaring, raging river.

There is not enough space here to devote to composer Margaret Bonds (1913-1972), but she was a true groundbreaker. As an African-American female, she defied the odds by pursuing classical training in an era where formal music education was available to neither African-Americans nor women. She is known for her collaborations with poet Langston Hughes and soprano Leontyne Price and for her compositions which blended the Negro spiritual with European compositional traditions.

I continue to pray for those who lack water, both physically and spiritually. May we all be used to help quench their thirsts.

More on Margaret Bonds:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/03/03/173276882/at-100-composer-margaret-bonds-remains-a-great-exception

http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/11598.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about

Thoughts and Songs for Ash Wednesday

To my surprise, I have really been looking forward to the season of Lent this year. I used to dread it, because it felt like a time where we all just felt guilty and mournful about what horrible people we all are, and why do we make Jesus suffer so, and aren’t we just the worst?

But this year feels different to me. This year, I am seeing Lent as a time to (quietly! contemplatively!) celebrate the deep, wide, vast, unfathomable love that Jesus has for us. This year, I am viewing Ash Wednesday as, yes, a time to reflect and repent, but also as a time to hit a spiritual reset button. It’s a chance to re-accept God’s grace and re-affirm our faith. It’s a chance to revise and renew, and that makes me excited!

We won’t be attending a service today, as Chris and I are sick, but that’s ok. God is here, among the diapers and dirty dishes. And whatever you’ve got going on today, He’s with you too.

My prayer for this season:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Psalm 51:10-12

Some songs for your worship:

Blessings and joy as we begin our Lenten journey!

Bishop Phillips Brooks

This week, the Episcopal Church remembered Bishop Phillips Brooks (1835-1893). A Harvard alum, Brooks began his ministry soon after his graduation from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1859. He was known for his kindness and humility, and in a time of social and economic uncertainty, he bravely spoke against slavery and encouraged his parishioners to conduct themselves with grace and compassion. Believing that parishioners prefer to be spoken to rather than preached at, he developed an open, conversational style of preaching. In 1891, he was elected Bishop of Massachusetts and passed away in 1893 due to complications from a cold. His funeral service included the hymns “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” and “For All the Saints.” 

Image

In addition to his role as well-loved pastor, he also is known as the lyricist of one of our best-known Christmas carols–“O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He spent most of 1865 traveling through the Middle East. He treasured his time there and seemed to have truly felt God’s presence during his travels. He wrote, “Christ is not merely the greatest, but the only presence that fills the landscape in Palestine.” On Christmas of 1865, he rode on horseback into Bethlehem. This experience inspired him to later write the poem “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and Lewis Redner, the organist at Holy Trinity, set it to music in 1868. We know the words well, but there is one verse that has been omitted from our hymnals. It reads,

Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child.
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild.
Where Charity stands watching, 
And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

In addition to this carol, Brooks wrote the text for four others–“Everywhere, Everywhere, Christmas Tonight,” “The Sky Can Still Remember,” “The Voice of the Christ Child,” and “Christmas Once is Christmas Still.”

None of these is as known and loved as “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” In fact, I was unable to even find recordings of them. (If you find one, would you share it with us in the comments?) However, even without music, the texts are lovely to read and ponder.

Had you heard of Bishop Brooks before this week? I’d love to learn more about him, so if you have any more resources, please share in the comments!

Further reading:
Brooks/Hymn Commentary
Brooks/Cyberhymnal
Brooks/Prayers
Brooks/Harvard Magazine
Brooks/Christianity.com

Twenty-Six Names

Jason Robert Brown is a popular American composer whose best-known works are the musicals The Last Five Years and Songs for a New World. Yesterday, he shared his most recent composition–a simple, three-minute song featuring the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. He wrote, “I will remember their names and I will sing them to a safer place.” You can listen here.

Songs for Today

Like many people today, I can’t stop thinking about the devastated families in Connecticut. Lord, have mercy.

The Lord is My Shepherd–Rutter
The Lord is my Shepherd
therefore can I lack nothing.
He shall feed me in a green pasture
and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
He shall convert my soul
and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil
for Thou art with me,
Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me against them that trouble me.
Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.
But Thy loving-kindness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

E’en So Lord Jesus, Quickly Come–Manz
Peace be to you and grace from Him
who freed us from our sin
who loved us all and shed His blood
that we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord
the Lord, Almighty God
who was and is and is to come
sing holy, holy Lord.

Rejoice in Heaven, all ye that dwell therein.
Rejoice on Earth, ye saints below.
For Christ is coming, is coming soon.
For Christ is coming soon.

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come
and night shall be no more.
They need no light, nor lamp, nor sun,
for Christ will be their all.