Sunday, June 30, 2013

Before the Throne of God Above (Strength in Hymn)

 "Before the Throne of God Above"
Charitie L. Bancroft

 Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.

One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Welcome back to my Strength in Hymn series.  "Before the Throne of God Above" was written by Charitie L. Bancroft in 1863.   I appreciate the lyrics because I so often need to be reassured of God's love, and that my salvation does not depend on my efforts at righteousness but on his perfect sacrifice.  I do not need any human mediator to stand between God and me, because Jesus is more than sufficient. He is interceding for me in heaven, even when I doubt and despair. 

The hymn has been sung to various tunes, and recorded more recently by contemporary groups such as Selah to the tune by my friend Vikki Cook that was recorded by Sovereign Grace Music.  That's the version that is most familiar to me, since we sang it often when I was a member of a Sovereign Grace church, and even now in our mellow little Presbyterian congregation.  You can watch it on YouTube here: "Before the Throne of God Above"

This hymn is the favorite of my second cousin Jean, who also likes "How Deep the Father's Love" by Stuart Townend, as sung by Phillips, Craig, and Dean. The photos above were taken while walking in her neighborhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina while en route to see my family in Maryland. 

Though Jean is a distant relative, she is a close friend. This is funny, since while our mothers grew up near each other, Jean and I did not, and we still live several hundred miles apart. We hadn't even seen each other since our teenage years when we reconnected at a family reunion in Pennsylvania seven years ago and discovered our common faith in Christ. We talk frequently on the phone and visit each other whenever we can. She loves Jesus, faithfully encourages me to stay close to God in my trials, and prays for me more than anyone else does. 

Jean and her sister Marge bought a huge load of "road trip" food for us. Both of them have been so kind to my family for the past several years and I'm so delighted that Marge was able to join us for dinner. The picture of Marge, her mother Priscilla and me was taken a few years ago. You can read more about them here: My Scrapple Experiment (It’s More than Meat and Cornmeal to Me!) 

I love Jean's woodsy, hilly neighborhood!  My kids enjoyed skate boarding and rip sticking, catching fire flies and watching for deer and bunnies.  But I enjoyed the fellowship most of all.

Later note: Jean has since moved to Raleigh. Here is another hymn post with photos from a visit with her at nearby Lake Johnson: Take Us on the Quest of Beauty.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In the Garden (When the Caregiver Needs Care)

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

"In the Garden"
Charles Austin Miles (1912)

You can hear country singer Brad Paisley 
sing this old hymn here: In the Garden 


I asked my mom yesterday what her favorite hymn is.  First she started humming, "Oh How He Loves You and Me" and then my sister reminded her that she has said "In the Garden" is her favorite, too.  That one certainly goes with the flower pictures I snapped at her house.  Mom is an avid gardener and has created so much beauty for us to enjoy.  I think this hymn is also a good reminder to focus on our faith and God's help in our lives. I personally need to spend some more time alone with Jesus "in the garden" or anywhere else.  I often miss the spiritual intimacy that he provides.  He really cares and ministers to our hearts' deepest needs. 

Mom is still in the hospital with complications after back surgery two weeks ago.  She has been bouncing back and forth between hospitals and rehab facilities.  Thanks to a kind gift of airplane tickets from my Aunt Nancy,  I finally flew up this weekend to spend time with Mom and help out.  It is such a privilege.  That's one reason I wanted to give her the honor of choosing this week's hymn for my Strength in Hymn series.

My mother has always been a nurturer and caregiver of both plants and people.  Not only did she raise three children to adulthood, she also hosted some of her nieces and nephews during their college years.  Later, she was the primary caregiver for her elderly mother-in-law, mother, and father -- for years on end.  My grandmother finally moved to a nursing center last year.

And now Mom needs care herself!  Allowing others to take care of you after you are the one who has cared for others can be really tough.  Caregivers like to be up and doing, not down and needing.  Those of us who are close to caregivers need to make sure they are getting help for their tough job, whether it is a listening ear, or a good book, or a meal brought in, or an afternoon off.  Mom's pastor at New Hope Lutheran, Rev. John Sabetelli, visited yesterday and encouraged her to let others know what she needs.  He said he would let her fellow choir members know that she's still in the hospital.  Her therapist will be visiting today, too.

Mom has had a lot of family members visit in the hospital.  My dad's sister Camille, who lives in Denver, has been in town for other reasons, so it's been good to see her.

I also took the opportunity to go visit my Grandma Hess in her memory care nursing facility yesterday. I passed my intersection on the way to visit her, but providentially discovered a Christian bookstore at the next stoplight. I had just been wishing I knew where one was because I wanted to buy some little gifts for Mom and Grandma to encourage them.  

"He has made everything beautiful in its time."  Ecclesiastes 3:11. God sure made Grandma beautiful in her 98 years!

Grandma is another of those lifelong caregivers now needing care.  She wouldn't eat her dinner until the attendant promised to bring me a plate of the yummy chicken and mushroom potpie and green salad, too.  She's hospitable, even if she can't do it herself, and even if she can't remember my name when she hasn't seen me in several months.

Well, it's time to head back over to the hospital after a nice breakfast chat with my Dad.  I've got a heap of TLC (Tender Loving Care) for my Mom.  She deserves it!

Related posts:

Virginia Knowles

Please pray for us. My mother passed away last night, on Friday, July 19.  Six of my children and I had driven up there for two weeks and got back last Sunday.  Mom had been scheduled to be released from the hospital to home yesterday.  Instead, she was released from her body and went HOME to be with Jesus.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us (Strength in Hymn)

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,
Be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast promised to receive us,
Poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us,
Grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Let us early turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Let us early turn to Thee.

Early let us seek Thy favor,
Early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior,
With Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.

We sang this on Sunday morning at Lake Baldwin Church.
Listen to hymn and read hymn story: Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us

My little girl started swim lessons (again) at the YMCA on Monday.  I woke her up shortly before we were to leave, and she was clearly not ready for morning.  Eating a bowl or cereal and finding her clothes seemed more than she could handle, and we exchanged not a few cross words.  To top it off, the parking lots at the Y were full, so we had to drive around the block and leave our van at adjacent Phelps Park.  Hurry, hurry, hurry!  Turns out the lesson started 5 minutes later than I thought, and we got to the poolside before the teacher.  After her lesson, since we were already parked there, we decided to take advantage of the playground at Phelps Park.  

What a precious time to spend with just her, the "baby" of my ten children.  Sometimes she gets lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes she gets lost in grumpiness -- hers and mine and the other people who live at our house.  But all the time, I need to follow the example of the Gentle Shepherd, Jesus, and be kind and tender to her.

I overheard a woman at the park speaking harshly to a young child who didn't appear to be doing much of anything wrong.  I've done that before, yet hearing it from someone else's mouth and seeing it on her face is like looking in a mirror and seeing a big blemish.  Ouch!  Why do we do that?  Is it because we are such evil people?  Not necessarily.  Sure, we're a bit selfish and impatient, but I don't think most of us are trying to damage our children with unkind words and glares.  I think perhaps we haven't allowed ourselves to be led gently by Jesus.  We push, push, push ourselves beyond what is wise.   We don't get enough sleep, eat right, say "no" to cluttered schedules, or take care of our stresses and conflicts before they mushroom out of control.  We live life like it is all up to us, that we must control everything that happens to our children or else.  It must be just so, or we will be deemed as failures.  And while we push ourselves, we also push, push, push our children, often with disastrous results for all.  

Instead, we need our Good Shepherd to lead us as we lead our children.  Yes, we do need to lead our children intentionally and consistently.  This is my weak area, and I have so much to learn.  Grace does not mean just letting them do whatever they want.  We need to seek and restore them when they go astray.  We need to train them to stay on the right path.  Let's follow Jesus and do this thing right!

"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11

"As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."  1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care.

There is so much more I could say, but I will leave you with a list of links for more reading...

Articles about gentle parenting on my Come Weary Moms blog:
Tender Compassion for Mothers
Joyful Liberty!
Amazing Grace for Home School Moms audio
Child Discipline or Child Abuse?
Web Links about Parenting with Grace Instead of Authoritarian Legalism
Mothering by Faith and Grace
The Mom's Alphabet
The Thessalonians Prescription
Stop, Drop and Roll! (How to Deal with a Conflict!)
Setting Sensible Standards
Children: Life's Greatest Treasure

Reflections on Grace Based Parenting Book
Teaching Our Children to Walk With God by Shiela Catanzarite

Articles by Karen Campbell (That Mom)
The Sweet Life of a Homeschooling Mom Comes through the Law of Kindness 
The Fruits of Harsh Parenting
The Bible’s Pattern for Discipling our Children
Grace in Parenting Series
The "Yes" Face
Nurturing Our Children for the Glory of God

Articles by Sally Clarkson

First Time Obedience, Really?
Adversarial Parenting vs Advocate Parenting 
Advocate Parenting – Heartfelt Discipline
Holiness is Not Law-Keeping by Love-Keeping
The Mystery of Child Training: Where to Begin?

Articles on Mom Heart Blog:
He Gently Leads Those with Young by Misty Krasawski
Recharging with Nap Times by Jennie Nelson
Let the Children be Children by Deb Weakly

This post is a part of my Strength in Hymn series:
Fairest Lord Jesus 
Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me
I Dare Not Trust the Sweetest Frame? 
As a Tree Beside the Water 

Grace and peace,

Virginia Knowles

Sunday, June 9, 2013

As a Tree Beside the Water (Strength in Hymn)

"As a Tree Beside the Water"
Alfred Ackley, 1906

As a tree beside the water,
Has the Savior planted me;
All my fruit shall be in season,
I shall live eternally.

I shall not be moved,
I shall not be moved,
Anchored to the Rock of Ages,
I shall not be moved.

Though the tempest rage around me,
Through the storm my Lord I see,
Pointing upward to that haven,
Where my loved ones wait for me.

When by grief my heart is broken,
And the sunshine steals away,
Then His grace, in mercy given,
Changes darkness into day.

When at last I stand before Him,
Oh, what joy it will afford,
Just to see the sinner ransomed,
And behold my sovereign Lord.

I shall not be moved,
I shall not be moved,
Anchored to the Rock of Ages,
I shall not be moved.


“Blessed is the man 
who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree 
 planted by the waters,
which spreads out its roots by the river,
and will not fear when heat comes;
but its leaf will be green,
and will not be anxious
in the year of drought,
nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV

Historical note: Hymnist Alfred Ackley was a pastor who wrote 1,500 songs (religious and secular) in the early 1900's.  He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1914 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the same year my grandmother Dorothy Ransom Hess was born just near there.  She was a church organist for many decades, so I'll bet she played many of his hymns throughout the years.   Now 98 and a bit senile, she played "Love Lifted Me" in her nursing home for me last year.  See "Love Lifted Me" and a Few More Memories of MarylandI'm looking forward to seeing her again in two weeks, even though she probably won't remember who I am!   Grandma has been through a lot of storms in life and always seems to come out on top with a smile on her face.

Grandma and Mom
Right now, I would like to request prayer for her daughter, my mother Mary, who is recovering from back surgery.  She is still in a lot of pain, and still in the hospital many days after she was expected to be released.  My mother is someone who always nurtures others and helps them through their storms, so I'm hoping she will find physical healing and comfort really soon.

This post is the fourth in my Strength in Hymn series, which combines hymn texts, nature photography, and encouragement for those who wrestle with the implications of faith in God.  The other posts so far are:

Related hymns by Rev. Ackley include "What Would We Do Without the Clouds" and "My Mother."  You can also here the tune for "As a Tree Beside the Water."

Photographic note: The photos in this post were taken not at a real lake, but at a humongous puddle covering one end of the grassy parking area / soccer field at a local church where we were members for many years.  This happens every time there is a heavy rain, and we affectionately call it "Lake Metro."  My daughter and I waded in it the other day during Tropical Storm Andrea, and it was over a foot deep. The green below the ripples in the third photograph is grass.  These cypress trees are IN the water, not just beside it!  They are getting a great drink, courtesy of the storm!  If you like the photos in this post, you may also like Beside the Still Watersmy photographic rendition of Psalm 23.

Virginia Knowles

  • Still Saturday
  • The Sunday Community

    Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Fairest Lord Jesus (Strength in Hymn)

    "Fairest Lord Jesus"
    (Attributed to 17th century German Jesuits, 
    translated by Joseph Seiss)

    Fairest Lord Jesus
    Ruler of all nature
    Thou of God and man the Son
    Thee will I cherish
    Thee will I honor  
    Thou, my soul's glory joy, and crown.

    Fair are the meadows
    Fairer still the woodlands
    Robed in the blooming garb of spring: 
    Jesus is fairer,
    Jesus is purer
    Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

     Fair is the sunshine
    Fairer still the moonlight,
    And all the twinkling starry host: 
    Jesus shines brighter
    Jesus shines purer
    Than all the angels heaven can boast.

    Beautiful Savior! 
    Lord of all the nations! 
    Son of God and Son of Man! 
    Glory and honor, praise, adoration
    Now and forevermore be thine.

    In the past several years I've come to a keener appreciation for the beauty in nature.  When I am feeling disillusioned in my faith, I remember God as the wonderful Creator.  I am a bit of an artsy maverick and I love taking pictures in the great outdoors with my trusty little iPod camera, so the story of creation speaks to me powerfully. I am indebted to Bishop William Frey's book The Dance of Hope for reaffirming this many years ago in a passage on seeing God through the lenses of both creation and redemption. As he writes, "God begins to unleash in us the same power that brought the universe into being." The same Lord who created all of this amazing, glorious world makes all things new, and continues to work fresh redemption into our lives. And I think of Jesus. When the messiness of the Christian world gets to be a bit much, and remind myself of Who my life is all about: fairest Lord Jesus. People can make ugly mistakes. He does not. He makes pure beauty. He redeems and renews what has become spoiled. I can sing about that.

    Jesus shines purer. 
    He makes the woeful heart to sing.

    Virginia Knowles

    P.S. I have often sung this lovely hymn at home with my children, as well as at church.  To read the story behind this hymn, as well as hear it sung, click here.  To watch it on YouTube with nature scenes in Celtic style, click here.

    This post is the third in my Strength in Hymn series, which combines hymn texts, nature photography, and encouragement for those who wrestle with the implications of faith in God. The other two posts so far are: