I love hymns. I grew up in a church that sang (and still does sing) straight out of the hymnal. The first time I was at a service where we sang off of words projected onto a wall I was so perplexed. There’s something about seeing the music and being able to read the pattern of the notes while you sing. And the weight of the hymnal in your hand.
So seeing friends’ hands in the air or clapping along with the beat the first time I went on an Intervarsity retreat was so strange. I felt uncomfortable and out of place. Where was my hymnal? You want me to read off a song sheet or off a projected image? I gradually got used to this type of worship, but I still cherish the times I worship at a place that uses a hymnal. Glancing at the year a song was written (words or music) usually brings me so much hope, knowing (sometimes) over a hundred years ago someone else had the same longings I did, or the same fears, or the same dreams. And the that the word of God can come alive across years, through music and words that so many others have sung.
I’ve been listening to a lot of contemporary worship music. This week I found the new Hillsong album, Empires, which is fantastic. Someone I follow on Instagram posted a photo with the lyrics and they tugged at my heart. The song is called Even When It Hurts (Praise Song), and it talks about worshipping even when we’re at the end of ourselves. I always feel like I’m at the end of myself. Whether because of circumstances, or because of my longing for The Kingdom. So this song hit my heart hard. And reminded me that even though I am at the end of myself, Jesus can take that, He can take it all. (Find lyrics here)
Contemporary worship is fantastic. It often feels more accessible to my genre preference, and the words, often, more relatable. But since moving my faith from my own accomplishments and achievements, and onto the Cross, I have been able to look at all worship songs differently, and hymns feel even deeper and wider than they did growing up. I have my string students learn hymns, and I often play them when I warm up.
This morning I decided to do a hymn, Softly and Tenderly, for my #NameThatTuneFriday, something I started on my social media. I first heard the hymn in a movie, Junebug, and the arrangement was fantastic. It’s a cappella and so moving. At first the melody is what catches my ear; that’s the musician in me. But then the words. The words are what grab my heart.
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!
Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?
Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.
Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.
The third verse in particular is standing out to me today: Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, Passing from you and from me; Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, Coming for you and for me. I started reading a book by Frances Chan and his wife, Lisa, You and Me Forever; I’ve only read the introduction and first chapter, and it’s already exploded my thoughts on what marriage is really about. The tagline sums it up: Marriage in the Light of Eternity. What does that even mean? Well, the Chan’s explain that marriage isn’t about each other, it’s about God, because ultimately, when a husband and wife, individually, center their life around God, and then push each other towards God, the marriage will work. And even beyond that, the goal of marriage is to prepare the other person to face God on the judgement day. How crazy is that? My friend Craig is probably one of the best examples that I’ve seen live this out. Definitely read about his story on his friend, John Gunter’s blog, and on Craig’s blog about her cancer as well.
What am I doing with my time? Am I spending my time and life with the end in mind? I’m always ‘re-prioritizing’ my time and ‘reorganizing’ how I do things, and focus to much on how I’m doing things instead of what I’m doing. I’m great at focusing on anything besides what’s important. It’s practically my second job. I have gotten better about using my time for things I value, and less time for things that I know don’t bring me joy, but it’s still a daily struggle. How do you spend your time? How are you spending your time with the end in mind? What do you do daily that brings you joy and helps you see that there’s so much more? How do you worship? Do you worship and sing even when it hurts and nothing makes sense? What has the Lord put on your heart?