Monday, July 29, 2013

Be Thou My Vision (Strength in Hymn)

“Be Thou My Vision”
Dallan Forgail (8th Century)

Be Thou my Vision, oh Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, 
O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.


Reading the words of this song makes me realize how much richer, more beautiful and less complicated life (and churches) would be if Jesus were everything to us, and fame and fortune were the "little deals" of life.  It reminds me of another hymn chorus: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus / Look full on his wonderful face / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of his glory and grace."

My father chose this ancient Irish hymn for my mother's memorial service this past Saturday, explaining, "I am a Celt."  Six of my seven daughters - Mary, Julia, Rachel, Joanna, Lydia and Naomi - sang it, along with Mom's cousin Ruth.  Dad cried as he heard them rehearse on his porch, and he cried again when they sang it at the church. The older five, now all adults, used to sing together in their matching jumpers in our living room for our visiting friends and family.  It's been so long since they sang together, but this was so perfect!  My cousin, Dr. Mary Lynne Bennett, played the piano for this song and some of the others in the  service.  It was all beautiful.  I'll try to post more videos in coming weeks of the music, the eulogies, the Scripture readings, and more.

Here is the video - what harmony!

We are on our way home to Florida and I am exhausted from being away from home for 35 of the past 45 days.  The pictures are flowers at the service.

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sweet Hour of Prayer (Strength in Hymn)

Sweet Hour of Prayer
William Walford, 1772-1850

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!

Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!

May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight:
This robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise
To seize the everlasting prize;
And shout, while passing through the air,
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”

A few weeks ago, while visiting my parents in Maryland, I asked my father what his favorite hymn was so I could use it for my Strength in Hymn series as I had "In the Garden" for my mother.  I should say that he is not a big hymn fan, but as he listed a few, he said there was one with a line about Mount Pisgah's lofty height that he liked.  He told me it was "Sweet Hour of Prayer."

In the intervening weeks, my sweet mother passed away and left a huge hole in all of our hearts.  I flew back up to Maryland this past weekend to be with my father, sister, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, nephew, grandmother, and aunt.  Today I went to the Christian bookstore near my grandmother's nursing home to find a guest book for the memorial service.  The sales lady there guessed correctly that it was for my mother, and stopped to pray with me with a gentle hand on mine. I also noticed in the back of the store a little prayer room with its own "wailing wall" where customers could fold up a little slip of paper with a prayer request and wedge it in.

I stayed an hour with Grandma, chatting about my memories of her homestead in Pennsylvania, and gazing at the deer and birds outside her window at the nursing home. The deer munched on leaves from the bushes, visited the salt lick my mother had set out, edged over quietly to drink from the puddle near the window, and then munched leaves from the bushes again before dashing away. 

And here I am tonight, reading afresh the lines surrounding the one with Mount Pisgah's lofty height.  I pray that "may I thy consolation share" because my mother has dropped her robe of flesh, took her flight, and risen to seize the everlasting prize. 

Yet even when I am not enduring a "a season of distress and grief" I still need the sweet hour of prayer.  It is so easy to pull away or at least drift away from that.  But he tenderly calls us to pray and bids us to seek his face.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. The deer and bird pictures were taken during my visit at the Light House nursing home in Ellicott City, Maryland. The butterfly pictures were taken the same day at my parents' home.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

For All the Faithful Women (Strength in Hymn)

For All the Faithful Women
Herman Stuempfle, Jr.

For all the faithful women who served in days of old
To you shall thanks be given, to all their story told. 
They served with strength and gladness in tasks your wisdom gave. 
To you their lives bore witness, proclaimed your power to save."

O God, for saints and servants, those named and those unknown
In whom through all the ages Your light of glory shone,
We offer glad thanksgiving and fervent prayer we raise
That faithful in Your service, our lives may sing Your praise.

We praise your name for Miriam, who sang triumphantly
While Pharaoh's vaunted army lay drowned beneath the sea.
As Israel marched to freedom, her chains of bondage gone,
So we may reach the kingdom your mighty arm has won.

To Hannah, praying childless, before the throne of grace,
You gave a son and called him to serve before your face.
Grant us her perseverance; Lord, teach us how to pray
And trust in your deliverance when darkness hides our way.

For Ruth, who left her homeland and ventured forth in faith,
Who pledged to serve and worship Naomi's God till death.
We praise you, God of Israel, and pray for hearts set free
To bind ourselves to others in love and loyalty.

We honor faithful Mary, fair maiden, full of grace.
She bore the Christ, our brother, who saved our human race.
May we, with her, surrender ourselves to your command
And lay upon your altar our gifts of heart and hand.

We sing of busy Martha, who toiled with pot and pan
While Mary sat in silence to hear the word again.
Christ, keep our hearts attentive, to truth that you declare,
And strengthen us for service when work becomes our prayer.

Recall the outcast woman with whom our Lord conversed,
Christ gave her living water to quench her deepest thirst.
Like her, our hearts are yearning, Christ offers us his word,
Then may our lips be burning to witness to our Lord.

We praise the other Mary, who came at Easter dawn,
And near the tomb did tarry, but found her Lord was gone.
As joyfully she saw him in resurrection light,
May we by faith behold him, the day who ends all night.

Lord, hear our praise of Dorcas, who served the sick and poor.
Her hands were cups of kindness, her heart an open door.
Send us, O Christ, your body, where people cry in pain,
And touch them with compassion to make them whole again.

For Eunice and for Lois, we sing our thanks and praise.
Young Timothy they nurtured and led him in your ways.
Raise up in ev'ry household true teachers of your word
Whose lives will bear clear witness to Christ, our risen Lord.

All praise to God the Father!  All praise to Christ the Son!
All praise the Holy Spirit, who binds the Church in one!
With saints who went before us, with saints who witness still,
We sing glad alleluias and strive to do Your will.

Sunday morning I went to the church down the street with my father.  Early in the service, he walked to the front to invite his fellow parishioners at New Hope Lutheran to the memorial service for my mother, who sang in the choir there.  We are planning much music, beloved hymns.  She loved to sing.  We will sing for her.

In the Sunday service one of the hymns we sang was "For All the Faithful Women." However, we only sang the first, seventh, and last verses.  So touching to see that the seventh verse is about Martha and Mary, and so were the Gospel reading and part of the sermon.  My mother's name is Mary.  She was the perfect blend of busy service and quiet friendship.  Dad has said so many times in the past few days that he didn't know how many people's lives she had touched until she had passed away.  She was a faithful woman, a saint, who served in days anew, not days of old.  Dad says we should repay her love by passing it on, following her example.

Later that afternoon, her pastor, John Sabatelli, arrived at my parents' home to discuss the memorial.  But we didn't just talk about the details of the service.  He wanted us to talk about my mother.  He listened well: about her love of music, flowers, birds, really all of nature, photography, stained glass, travel, and most of all, her family.  She was a faithful woman, a beloved woman.  She was, and always will be, my mother.

May all of the generations of women (and men) in our family be just as faithful.  The picture below (from my post Five Generationswas taken last October.  My mother Mary is in the back on the left, Grandma Hess in the front.  Mary, the oldest of my seven daughters, is holding her older son. I'm on the right holding her younger son.

Who has been a faithful woman in your life?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. #1: The photos in this post were taken at New Hope Lutheran on Sunday morning, with the exception of the one of Rev. Sabetelli, taken in the afternoon at the house, and the ones of my mother and family.

P.S. #2: You can see my photo tributes to my mother's life here:
P.S. #3:  If you are interested in the topic of women knowing and serving God, you will like these books by Carolyn Custis James:  When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference and Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women. The first of these specifically discusses the women named Mary in the Bible, and how they related to Jesus.  Women need to know their theology well, and even more, they need to know and love their Savior well.  We are not just wives and mothers.  We are daughters of the Heavenly Father.  We are not bound by gender.  We are empowered by our faith and the Holy Spirit.  See also Women's Voices Rising.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (Strength in Hymn)

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
William Williams, 1785

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim though this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more,
feed me till I want no more.


Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through;
strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer.
be thou still my Strength and Shield,
be thou still my Strength and Shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
bear me through the swelling current,
land me safe on Canaan's side;
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee,
I will ever give to thee. 

You can hear the hymn and read the story behind it here: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Now, a few more related, though seemingly random, notes...

1. "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" is the English translation of the Welsh hymn "Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch" by William Williams, also known by its tune "Cwm Rhondda" by John Hughes. The song has quite a history, and was sung at the funeral of Princess Diana and the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics.  One English translation reads, "Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer."

2. The Welsh are certainly famous for their hymn singing!   They took it to new levels during the revivals over 100 years ago.  You can read more about the Welsh revival of 1904-1905 here:  In light of one of the themes of this blog, spiritual abuse and error, it is interesting to note that the Welsh revival had its own problems. The main player, Evan Rogers, had a nervous breakdown within two years, and some people blame the overbearing influence of a lady named Jessie Penn-Lewis.  See here and here.  Quite a cautionary tale.

3. My father loves Welsh music, whether it is hymns or the military anthem "Men of Harlech."  Last week, while visiting him in Maryland, I asked him why.  "The Davis brothers," he replied quickly.  Charlie, whose grandfather was a Welsh coal miner (?) was Dad's roommate in college in New York, and brought him home to Pennsylvania once in a while.  That's where he met Charlie's cousin Mary.  They've been married for 55 years.  Anyway, even though we are not Welsh ourselves, my dad knows a huge amount about Welsh history, language and surnames -- as well as about the migration of European peoples from one region to another.  He wants to go to the 150th anniversary celebration of the Welsh community in Brazil next year?  Hmmm.  As I think of this hymn, I am reminded how much God knows about where people have been, are now, and will go -- as both groups and individuals.  He knew where my dad would go to college and where he would meet my mom.

4. Charlie's niece Jean is a good friend to me.  I'm so glad our paths crossed again about seven years ago, another of God's divine "guide me" incidents in my life.  (See also here and here.) Jean lent me her GPS for two weeks while we were on vacation this past month. I used it many many times and often thought of God's more intimate guidance in our lives, so much better than an impersonal machine mounted on my dashboard.  Anyway, while I was at her house in North Carolina, we were talking about her Welsh and Irish heritage.  She mentioned that her Perry ancestors, who immigrated from Ireland, were actually Huguenots who fled France during the Catholic persecution.  I told her that my own ancestor Andre Lamoureux, also a Huguenot, rescued French refugees and took them to England and Ireland on his own ship.  I love the book The French Pilot by Allen Steele, which tells this story.  Wouldn't it be interesting if my ancestor rescued her ancestor from religious oppression?  Just another of those "God knows where we are going" stories, I think. Perhaps I will feature a Huguenot hymn in this series later? I understand they often sang the Psalms for comfort, most notably Psalm 68.

5. The pictures here are from my vacation photo posts Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park.

That's about all for now!  Be sure to check out all of the entries in this Strength in Hymn series!

Virginia Knowles

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (Strength in Hymn)

 "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"
by Charles Wesley

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit;
let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.


Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.


Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee, 
lost in wonder, love, and praise. 

What comfort this hymn brings!  His love is the centerpiece, and our worship is the only worthy response.  These are my favorite lines...

Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art.


Set our hearts at liberty.


Glory in thy perfect love.


Till we cast our crowns before thee, 
lost in wonder, love, and praise.


I am still in Maryland with six of my kids.  We missed church last week, and I think we'll be on the road next Sunday, so I wanted to be sure to go this week.  My mother is recovering in rehab from surgery, so I didn't go to the little Lutheran church down the street with her. Instead, I did a Google search on PCA churches in the area.  I was delighted to find Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, pastored by Dan Broadwater, who was my youth pastor for a short time when I was in high school.  (I had such a solid foundation in those years and I'm very grateful for it.)  I don't think I had seen him and his wife Kay since he performed my sister's wedding over 30 years ago!   They have faithfully ministered for all this time, and I was deeply touched by the simple gospel message of redemption and hope in a broken world.  I also really appreciated their genuine warmth and welcome toward me and my three youngest children when we visited this morning.

The building, built in 1907, used to be an Episcopal chapel.   I'm guessing that it used to be out in the country, but the suburbs grew up around it. 

The music was a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary songs, starting with the hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" (thus this week's Strength in Hymn selection) and moving on to more recent worship songs like "What Can I Do."

Virginia Knowles