Hymn Meditations

“I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” text by Samuel Medley, 1738-1799.

The first line: “I know that my redeemer lives” is from Job 19:25  “For I know that my redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:”

What a wonderful thing to know. One could base a whole sermon on this one verse. Job didn’t think or surmise that he had a living redeemer, he knew it. 

 The second line: “What comfort this sweet sentence gives.” Amen to that.

 Every line of this hymn is full of comfort and assurance. Some of the lines resonate with me in a special way.

He lives to silence all my fears/ He lives to wipe away my tears.”

I am not usually a fearful person, but the idea of having eye surgery left me numb with dread. This gave me hope that I would be able to get through this trial, knowing that the Lord is with me through every step.


Pioneer Children Sang as They Walked

I remember singing this quite a lot as a child. As an adult I became friends with the daughter of the women who wrote the words and music to this song as well as “Book of Mormon Stories.” My friend’s mother,  Elizabeth Fetzer Bates’s, was blinded as an adult, and yet she continued to play piano and to compose music, asking her daughter to be her scribe. 

Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked
Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked,
They washed at streams and worked and played,
Sundays they camped and read and prayed.
Week after week they sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked.

Now when I think of those pioneer children singing as they walked, and walked, and walked, I think of it as a metaphor for a way to walk through any kind of adversity.

The handcart companies had it hard. My great great grandfather, Edmund Ellsworth, was captain of the first handcart company.He reported that some of the children walked all the way. It was a difficult journey, with food rations and other kinds of privations.

For me the idea of walking, and walking, and walking, and singing all the way no matter how difficult, is the best way of coping with life’s difficulties. Elizabeth Bates is one of my role models, as she kept walking and singing through life even after she found herself in a difficult situation.


For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliott S. Pierpount: 1835-1917)

By the age of ten, most of what I knew about life was in my own backyard. From cherry blossom tree to goldfish pond, my yard was my own small kingdom. There was a playhouse with the same white wood walls and green roof as the real house, a sand box, and an endless amount of vegetation to keep me interested. I explored with the usual passion of a young child who is experiencing nature for first time. Forty years later, that yard still feels like a part of me. I have driven by when I happen to be in Ann Arbor. The cherry tree and play house are long gone, but the house looks the same. I bonded with this home, so much so, that sometimes I feel that everything that happened to me since I moved away has been a dream.

For some reason, the six years I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan felt like forever. Perhaps that is because for children time seems to move so slowly. My ten years in California and sixteen in New Jersey went by much more quickly. The other places I have lived briefly—from New York to Georgia, fell like a brisk walk in the park.
It has been a very long time since I have looked at an old tree stump and thought it would make a great chair, or coaxed a caterpillar to take a walk on my arm. I no longer think of moss as a prop for my imaginary games or dissect pods to see what’s inside. What I do now is thank the Lord every day for this beautiful world, and that he has brought me back to Michigan. I feel like I am finally home.
It now occurs to me that my childhood fascination with flora and fauna provided a feeling of closeness to the Savior, the creator of the world. I never thought about it that way, did not intellectualize as I do now as an adult. As a child, everything was different, even how I felt about raking leaves. Much of my fun revolved around snow and ice; sledding down a small hills, ice skating at the park, the fascination of icicles. A cousin from Ohio loved coming to visit just to see the trees and hills. The beauty of nature was all around us, and in us, and part of who we were and are.  
For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies
This reminds me that we need to look upwards, not just down at our feet. The beauty is all around us, in the real as well as the imagined, in both physical and spiritual realms.

For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies

This is what we feel as small children, the love around us, not only from our families but from Jesus, who loves us so much.      
For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night
It is hard to remember this. As children, the hours spent doing boring things seem endless. As adults, the days pass by so quickly they can easily get lost. I try to begin each new day with a sense of the sacredness of our day on the earth. The second part of this verse says it all,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light.
My sudden, deep interest in growing things is more than the knowledge that in my current circumstances, planting things is a great deal easier and fun than the work I struggle to do every day. It is a way of creating beauty. After I am gone nobody is going to remember that I panted a certain maple tree here or a magnolia there. It is the act of creation, the sense of being the arms and hands and eyes of the creator I sow beauty wherever I can, doing my best to live my life to the fullest.

Lead Kindly Light

Now and then I have one of those light-bulb moments, when I understand a hymn in an entirely different way. I remember once singing  “Lead Kindly Light” as the closing hymn after three fine talks about repentance.
This hymn was written in 1933 by John Henry Newman, an Anglican Churchman who later became a Roman Catholic cardinal. He wrote it during a period of frustration and upset. It has become known as one of the great Christian hymns.
I have known and sung this hymn all my life, but it was not until recently that I realized what nice poetry it was. Also, I paid attention to the words, and suddenly they spoke to me in a new way. It is traditionally sung to a tune by John B. Dykes, and is one of those examples of a tune that fits the words like a glove.

Verse 1
Lead, kindly Light; amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet;
I do not ask to see
The distant scene
One step enough for me.
I love the idea of a “kindly” light. The word “Light” is capitalized, a clear reference to the Savior. In the context of repentance, the light of the Savior is the one think that can save us from the encircling gloom of sin.
“The night is dark, and I am far from home.”
This sounds like a child speaking. The author was far from home when he wrote this. Last Sunday I suddenly read a second meaning into this poem, “home” being my heavenly home. That’s one of the nice things about fine poetry; it can have multiple meanings depending on who is reading it, and what they are thinking about at the time.
“I do not ask to see/ The distant scene. One step enough for me.”
Newman was concerned with getting back home to England, and saw the” distant scene” as heaven. We live our mortal lives one step at a time, and that has to be enough.

Verse 2

 I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on!
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day, in spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will.
Remember not past years.
This is all about pride. At the time he wrote this, Newman’s travel plans were not working out the way he had hoped. I suppose that it was a learning experience for him to let the Lord be the one guiding his path. Of course pride is one of the things that leads us into sin, and keep us sinning. It is only when we humble ourselves that we are ready to seek forgiveness. This text reminded me that when we have gone through the repentance process, the past is no longer remembered.
Verse 3
So long thy pow’r hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn, those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since,
And lost awhile.
The third line sounds like something that Emily Brontë would have written.

I looked these words up on Dictionary.com
A moor is “a tract of open, peaty, wasteland, often overgrown with heath.”

A fen is  “low land covered wholly or partially with water; boggy land; a marsh.” 

A crag is  a steep, rugged rock; rough, broken, projecting part of a rock.”

A Torrent is “a stream of water flowing with great rapidity and violence.”
These are certainly apt metaphors for the ills and spills of life.




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