Friday, November 22, 2013

For the Beauty of the Earth (Strength in Hymn)

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1864

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies. 
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.


For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight. 
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.


For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild. 
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.


For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

The Story Behind the Hymn: You can read the hymn and hear devotionals based on it here: "For the Beauty of the Earth" at Songs and Hymns.

Why I Picked It: This is a hymn we sang often in the mornings when I was home schooling my children.  I hope it has planted itself deep in their souls for a lifetime, and that they sing it to their own children.  I picked it this week because Thanksgiving is coming, and even though this is not so much an autumn harvest song, it is full of gratitude, of giving thanks. As I selected the pictures, which were taken over the past few years in different parts of the country, at first I paused to think, "Do they even go together?"  Usually, I post a set of pictures taken at one place on one day.  These are so disparate.  They didn't fit neatly into a single category: the tree silhouette from my morning walk in the neighborhood, the spontaneous sunset sky taken from the grocery store parking lot, the yellow water lily from Duke Gardens in North Carolina, my grandson playing in my front yard this summer, or the gourds from a farm in rural Maryland and the delicate butterfly in my mother's garden which brought hope to me after her death. But then I remember that's because God's blessings in our lives are so varied and his creativity is boundless.  Just thinking of the sheer number of plant and animal species on this globe astounds me, and then there's the ever changing nature and mystery of clouds, which hold a special place in my heart. (I know I am weird.)  The affection and nurture of my family, the curiosity and eagerness of my students, the kindness of friends from church or in our neighborhood -- these too bless my soul beyond measure. Nature, family, provision, insight...  So much God has given me!

Ideas to Do:  Let's take it beyond mere thoughts and beyond our own lives.  How can we respond in a way that brings good to our families, communities, and beyond? A few ideas, if I may?  We'll start easy and work up...

Deer outside Grandma's window
Bring the beauty of nature and nurture to those who are shut in. This includes those in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, or even those who are home-bound because of age or illness or pregnancy.  My grandmother lives in a memory care facility, and my family members make sure there is birdseed in the feeder and a salt lick for the deer so she can nature watch through the window from her easy chair. (See here.)  A bouquet of flowers, a handful of acorns, a potted plant, framed nature photos, a pretty book, a basket of fruit, a CD of soothing music like hymns? (A little mystic harmony can do wonders for the body and soul.) 

Go through the entire process of thanksgiving, putting grace into action. I talked with my students about this yesterday, as I did with a co-op class last year. We thought about who had blessed us recently, and wrote about how we could both express our gratitude and pass along the kindness. Read more here: Thankfulness: Observe, Appreciate, Express, Imitate.

Thanksgiving 2001, Indian & Chinese students from UCF
Invite an international student (or two, or ten...) to dinner for Thanksgiving.  Most of them never eat a meal in the home of an American family in the years they are here.  Contact the international student office at your local college. See: Our Thanksgiving Indians.  (Speaking also as the mother of a college student who is in Australia for several months -- yeah, that little girl in the red in the picture, who is now all grown up -- I am ever grateful for those who are showing hospitality to her!  I think she might also be organizing an American Thanksgiving meal for fellow exchange students at the University of Canberra, but I'm so glad she'll be home by Christmas!)

Homeless outreach in Orlando
Think of those who do not have the same blessings as you. What can you do?  In my last hymn post, I talked a little bit about the hungry.  This time, my heart is pulled to those who do not have the joy of human love, the support system of family and friends: orphans, abused or neglected children, those in the bondage of human trafficking, and the homeless.  How can your family become involved in foster care, adoption, mentoring, advocating, or homeless outreach?  So blessed that Julia (one of my adult daughters) along with her sweet husband and church friends, is organizing a homeless outreach this Sunday, as they do several times a year.  Read the posts that my friend and orphan advocate Cissy VanLue has written about adoption. Then there is my friend Jane Hursh, who is active in the fight against human trafficking and the restoration of those who have been victimized. You might not be able to spearhead your own ministry, as my friends have done, but you can sure jump on board and help!  What has God put in your heart?  If you can't answer that, take the time to sit quietly and ask.

Five of my daughters and I
Think about your own human connections.  What can you do to foster understanding and compassion in your sphere of family and friends?  Is there a relationship that needs to be repaired and strengthened, or one where too loose boundaries are damaging emotional health?  It may be that your own parenting style needs to be adjusted.  See Web Links about Parenting with Grace Instead of Authoritarian Legalism and Tender Compassion for Mothers. Holidays can sure bring extra tension to the table, so let's bring a full measure of grace and wisdom.  See Beating the Holiday Blues and Stress and Handling Family Issues and Visits During the Holidays. 

And here we thought we were just going to read a little hymn and see a few pretty pictures, huh?  :-)  I guess you never know what you'll get when you click on my blog! Speaking of that, I do encourage you to click on some of the links I have embedded here.  After all, you never know what you might find!  This is the 26th post in my Strength in Hymn series, and one of 19 in the Advocating for the Vulnerable category.  

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. Guess what!  I'm grateful for you who read my blog.  I'd love to hear your story and your ideas, so please leave a comment!

Lord of all, 
to Thee we raise,
This our hymn 
of grateful praise.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this hymn, Virginia. Your photography is always so beautiful. What a nice picture of you and your daughters. I only have three daughters so it is amazing to see someone with five. Do you have 5 sons, or are not all your daughters in the picture?

  2. Judith, my seven daughters are 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 12 and 8. My three sons are 16, 14, and 10.

  3. Dear Virginia
    Last night my husband mislaid something for which he searched for ages and some more. He was quite angry at himself for being so scatterbrained. Then I realized a thing we are all guilty of in different degrees. We quickly tell others to be patient with other's faults, by why are we not patient with ours? I wonder if it is because we don't like to be reminded of our brokenness. I think we should also look at ourselves and make sure that we are patient with ourselves as well!
    Blessings XX