Our history in hymns

I grew up in the church, part of a family of very faithful church attenders and volunteers.  I was raised in the Christian Reformed Church, which means that on Sundays we did church in the morning and then again at night.  I remember crawling up and down the green carpeted stairs of the church of my childhood, waiting for my Dad to get done preparing Sunday School material, it was my second home.

My Dad knew what a hard time I had holding still during the service and so on our way we’d always stop at the same gas station to get a couple rolls of Mentos to get us through church.  They’re pretty chewy so Mento bribery works well if you’re looking for a candy to quiet little mouths.  Of course it didn’t always work so I also remember my dad throwing me over his shoulder, ruffled bloomers hanging out for all to see, and spanking me in the church stairwell.

My Dad loved history, it was his major and always been my favorite topic.  I think schools do History an injustice by focusing on all the dates and details and students miss the big picture, and end up hating the class.  History should be taught with passion and umph!  This is our story, it’s the map we have to navigate the future, it’s how we got here, it’s full of murder and sex, it’s like the best movie ever made!  History fascinates me personal, and whatever you’re into, cars, sports, religion, there’s an interesting history that goes with it.

Hymns are part of church history and I’m so grateful that many current musicians are putting doing fresh recordings.  I’m fully aware that not all hymns have lyrics suitable for 21st century comeback.  When I was in Young Life our songbook contained the old hymn “bringing in the sheaves”   It’s made up mostly of farming language which we didn’t understand and found totally ridiculous.  We didn’t even know what a sheave was.  Songs like this would be hard pressed to make a comeback.

However, there are many hymns with relatable language that communicate the universal and timeless struggle to follow God in faith.  When I sing them I feel my life connect with the struggles of old.  Perhaps a woman in a bonnet in a field somewhere 100 years ago.  I feel her urgent need to connect to her God and emerge with faith and peace to sustain her through churning another batch of butter with 3 screaming kids tearing up her little house on the prairie. So maybe she sang: Be thou my vision… thou my best thought by day or by night, waking or sleeping thou presence my light.

She needed his presence to get her though, just like we do.

Or a man standing above the fresh grave of his wife and daughter, both of whom didn’t survive childbirth, his heart broken and his hands wringing, trying to outwardly express the  enormity of his inward grief.  Was he trying to believe that whatever my lot God has taught him to say it is well, it is well with my soul?  

I don’t know if those exact situations played out in the grand history of our faith but I can assure you that worship through song has been a soul outlet for centuries.  Today in my very modern church we took a moment to rest in God,  and the song “It is well” played softly in the background.  I found my soul release built-up tension.  It is well.  It was well in 1873 when a Father wrote this song as his ship sailed over the place where his daughters had drowned, and thanks to Jesus, it is still well with souls today.

Each person has a unique connection to their creator and will appreciate different music expressions of our faith journey.  I’m pretty open minded on this topic.  After all who am I to tell someone what words and music the should to worship and connect with God.  As for me, I like authentic music that uses raw reality to express the struggle of life and faith.  I love songs that speak to where I am and that come as prayers for where I long to be, old or new, authentic truth speaks.

However, I’ll always be a sucker for my childhood hymns, they’re a faithful part of my story, and that of my parents, grandparents and many generations who went before.

Here’s a very linkable list that you can use if you need to make your music library a little more hymn-ey.  All these links will take you directly to iTunes to preview and purchase them.  They are some of my favorites forever and amen.

My Old/New School Hymn Playlist

Be Thou my vision- Fernando Ortega
“Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision oh ruler of all”

Jesus Paid it all- Kristian Stanfill 
“I hear the Savior say, thy strength indeed is small, child of weakness watch and pray, find in me thine All in All.  Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe.” 

Before the Throne of God Above- Selah
“My name is graven on his hand, my name is written on his heart, I know that while in heaven he stands, no tongue can big me thence depart.” 

Because he lives- David Crowder Band
” Because he lives, I can face tomorrow, because he lives, all fear is gone, because I know he holds the future, and life it worth the living just because HE LIVES.”

It is Well- Todd Fields
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, God has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” 

Great is Thy Faithfulness- Chris Rice
“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings ALL MINE, with ten thousand beside.”

Come Thou Fount- David Crowder Band
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I LOVE.  Here’s my heart oh take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

How Great Thou Art- Carrie Underwood (the current version w the most soul)
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 savior God to Thee… How Great Thou Art… How Great Thou Art.

Before you go, with you share with me your favorite line from your favorite hymn?