Saturday, February 9, 2019

All the Way My Savior Leads Me (Strength in Hymn)

"All the Way My Savior Leads Me"
Fanny Crosby

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

About This Hymn:

This hymn was written by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), who became blind when she was six weeks old due to a doctor's error. She wrote this hymn as a response of a curious incident of God’s providence. You can read more here: Fanny Crosby and the Story Behind the Song “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”. Fanny wrote several thousand hymns, many under pseudonyms. I remember reading her biography many years ago. She didn’t have an easy life. You can read more about her here:

Why I Chose This Hymn:

I had been musing lately on how God has led me through the nearly 43 years I have been a Christian believer. I have so many stories tucked away in my memory of odd little circumstances which set into motion long reaching ripple effects leading to huge changes in my direction. (More on that later.) So I muse and I’m amused.

Anyway, the title to this hymn came to mind during my ponderings, which is unusual since I didn’t even recognize the lyrics nor the melody when I looked it up on YouTube. (The video is at the bottom of this post.)

Reading the words “Jesus doeth all things well” at the end of the first stanza reminds me of the famous words, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” written by Julian of Norwich in her book Revelations of Divine Love. Julian was a medieval anchoress, a woman who chose to withdraw from public life to consecrate herself to a solitary life of prayer and devotion. She literally lived in a cell attached to a church, St. Julian’s, from which she took her name. I’m not planning to follow her footsteps in that, I assure you. However, I am preparing for some sort of ministry, the form of which I do not yet know. To that end, I am currently a student at Asbury Theological Seminary’s Orlando campus, and last semester I wrote a Primary Source Analysis (PSA) paper on Julian’s work for my Church History 1 class. You can read it here: Revelations of Divine Love.

The story of how I ended up at seminary is one example of God’s curious way of leading me. It involved:

  • a lifelong desire to be educated for ministry
  • a conversation with my mother about grad school several years ago before she passed away
  • a journal entry specifically mentioning Asbury Seminary even though I could not attend then
  • assorted family crises
  • ministry among other women in crisis
  • a lot of blogging about church abuse issues
  • the resulting FB friendship with a woman who blogs about the same topics on the opposite side of the country
  • that new friend’s Facebook post about the Christians for Biblical Equality conference she was attending in my city
  • a mutual FB friend (whom I had also not yet met in person) offering a scholarship so I could attend that conference
  • meeting several Methodist women at the CBE conference
  • my grandson’s rescheduled birthday party (the Sunday-morning-several-weeks-late timing of which caused me to visit a Methodist church’s early service since it was my late mother’s birthday and she had been born into a Methodist family and I had admired the Methodist women I had met at the CBE conference)
  • running into an old friend at that Methodist church (whom I had met when we worked for the same school years ago)
  • attending her Lectio Divina Bible study, and hearing her talk about her Inductive Bible Study class at seminary (a conversation which made me drool)
  • my 2018 "one word" Focus
  • and several key shifts in my own family circumstances.

And that’s just a tiny sample of the story. There is much more to it, but I don’t want to write a book here.  And all the way my Savior leads me. That much I know, even though I don’t always know what’s next on the agenda. Life is quite an adventure. I can trust God to be with me every step of the way. And then I look back and laugh.

Related links? Sure thing!

The Photos in this Post: 

The photos in this post are from my visit to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Washington, D.C. last fall. I had wanted to go back to the National Cathedral the last time I visited family in Maryland. (See my poem God of Joy, I See Thee for photos of my first visit in 2017.) My nephew Doug also loves the cathedral and offered to take me. When we were driving home, I found out he had plotted a surprise detour to see the monastery too. He knew I would enjoy it, and I certainly did! I love this kind of adventure. You can see more about that here: My Birthday Weekend in Maryland

Oh, all that for one hymn post! You never know what you're going to get when you read my blogs!


Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (Primary Source Analysis for Asbury Seminary)

Revelations of Divine Love

by Julian of Norwich 

This is one of my Church History assignments from last semester at Asbury Theological Seminary. For a Primary Source Analysis (PSA), a student must read the historical document, and then follow a series of writing prompts. Last semester, we had several options to choose as subjects for our two PSA projects, and I chose Athanasius's work On the Incarnation for my first, and Julian's Revelations of Divine Love for my second. This semester, for Church History 2, I am likely to choose Women’s Speaking Justified (1666) by Margaret Fell and Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians (1792) by William Carey.

Primary Source Analysis:
Revelations of Divine Love 
by Julian of Norwich 


Revelations of Divine Love is Julian of Norwich’s expression of a series of 16 visions she received while she was deathly ill for several days at the age of 30. In the introduction, she explains her purpose in writing and the circumstances of her infirmity and complete healing, then briefly recaps the theological themes of each of her visions. These are mostly related to the Passion of Christ, the great love of God, and the spiritual bliss and peace experienced when believers are “grounded” and “oned” with God.

Julian first wrote a short version of her Revelations, but expanded it with additional meditations about 20 years later. There are no extant manuscripts for the earlier version, and the only complete ones for the later one date from the 17th century. Her longer book has 85 chapters, which are not evenly split between the 16 visions, as some were much more descriptive than others. The complete form of Revelations of Divine Love is considered one of the great Christian classics, and was the first female-authored English-language book still in print.

Historical/Theological Context

Julian of Norwich, born in 1342 in England, was a medieval anchoress, a woman who chose to withdraw from public life to consecrate herself to a solitary life of prayer and devotion. We don’t know her actual name, but St. Julian is name of the church where she lived as a recluse for most of her life. She was also known as Juliana. According to The Book of Margery Kempe, Julian was sought out as a spiritual counselor by those who visited her in her cell. Very little is known of Julian apart from what she has written in this book.

Julian was not the only female medieval mystic in Europe. Hildegard von Bingen of Germany, who preceded her by over a century, and Catherine of Siena, Italy, who lived at about the same time as Julian, also recorded extensive divine visions which have survived to modern times.

In English theology, Julian was a contemporary of reformer John Wycliffe. It is notable that he did not begin his English translation efforts until 1380, which would have been after Julian’s visions. Thus, she would not have had access to English Scripture, and would have had to have either known Latin or relied on the teachings of other clerics for her knowledge of the Bible.

Author’s Intention

Julian’s intention for recording her Shewings (as she called them) was to share her experience so that others could better understand divine love and thus draw closer to God in intimate communion. It does not appear that she had any interest in promoting herself by writing; her humility prevented her from overshadowing the glorious visions which magnified the God she loved so much. She refers to herself merely as “a simple creature unlettered.” She aimed to promote reverence and hope, as well as wholehearted devotion.

Central Themes

The passion of Christ: Julian vividly described her impressions of Jesus during the days surrounding his crucifixion, with special attention paid to physiological aspects such as sweating blood, shedding blood, becoming dehydrated, his skin changing color, and his side being riven open. This seems similar to the fascination that the Moravians later had with the physical wounds of Christ.
Of the brownness and blackness, the ruefulness and wastedness of this Image many marvel how it might be, since that He portrayed it with His blessed Face who is the fairness of heaven, flower of earth, and the fruit of the Maiden's womb. Then how might this Image be so darkening in colour and so far from fair?--I desire to tell like as I have understood by the grace of God.
Being “grounded” and “oned” with God: This concept is repeated throughout the book. “Grounded” refers to God being our foundation and source, while “oned” is being united in intimate communion with God.
For our Soul is so deep-grounded in God, and so endlessly treasured, that we may not come to the knowing thereof till we have first knowing of God, which is the Maker, to whom it is oned.
Spiritual bliss: The theme of bliss appears throughout the book. Julian assures her readers that this is what God wants for us, rather than living in shame or despair.
GLAD and joyous and sweet is the Blissful lovely Cheer of our Lord to our souls. For He [be]holdeth us ever, living in love-longing: and He willeth that our soul be in glad cheer to Him, to give Him His meed. And thus, I hope, with His grace He hath [drawn], and more shall draw, the Outer Cheer to the Inner Cheer, and make us all one with Him, and each of us with other, in true lasting joy that is Jesus.
Peace and Hope: Julian was confident that God would bring good out of every situation in life, because he is good, wise, and able. The last passage listed below contains the words for which Julian is most known, here italicized.
Thus saw I that God is our very Peace, and He is our sure Keeper when we are ourselves in unpeace, and He continually worketh to bring us into endless peace.
Behold and see! For by the same Might, Wisdom, and Goodness that I have done all this, by the same Might, Wisdom, and Goodness I shall make well all that is not well; and thou shalt see it.
And for the tender love that our good Lord hath to all that shall be saved, He comforteth readily and sweetly, signifying thus: It is sooth that sin is cause of all this pain; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner [of] thing shall be well.
On questioning about this, Julian is told that if God can bring about salvation after the sin of Adam, the worst that has ever happened, he can make all other things well, too.

The Motherhood of Both the Virgin Mary and Jesus: The entire Eleventh revelation is about Jesus showing his mother to Julian three times. She is also mentioned often in the other revelations. But then she also characterizes Jesus as a heavenly Mother in her extended comments after the first fourteen Revelations.
And in this sweet word [it was] as if He had said: I wot well that thou wouldst see my blessed Mother: for, after myself, she is the highest joy that I might shew thee, and most pleasance and worship to me; and most she is desired to be seen of my blessed creatures.
The Mother may lay the child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother, Jesus, He may homely lead us into His blessed breast, by His sweet open side, and shew therein part of the Godhead and the joys of Heaven, with spiritual sureness of endless bliss.
The all-encompassing love of God: As indicated by the books title, Divine Love is the main theme of the Revelations, and accordingly it appears throughout the book. It is fitting then, that Julian ends her final Revelation with these words:
And I saw full surely that ere God made us He loved us; which love was never slacked, nor ever shall be. And in this love He hath done all His works; and in this love He hath made all things profitable to us; and in this love our life is everlasting. In our making we had beginning; but the love wherein He made us was in Him from without beginning: in which love we have our beginning. And all this shall we see in God, without end.
Positive and Negative Features

I admire both Julian’s perception and her devotion to God, which are quite challenging to me in much different circumstances. I am most charmed by her tender (and often archaic) vocabulary, such as dearworthy, full lovely, mirth, bliss, weal, solace, love-longing, courteously, All-Wisdom, and Benedicite Domine. I love the metaphors and analogies she uses, such as being wrapped in God like clothing, or that “All-Thing” (everything) created is as insignificant as a hazelnut yet still deeply loved by its Creator. Her writing is both detailed and imaginative, which might have been enhanced as a result of her expansion of the manuscript in later years.

The main negative aspect I perceived is that her understanding of the doctrine of atonement seems to not align with the more classical views that I hold. Even her viewpoint on this resonates with me, though. She also believed in Purgatory, a doctrine I believe to be without Biblical merit. Some of her descriptions make me uncomfortable as well, but that is not necessarily a detriment.

Modern Application for the Church

Revelations of Divine Love has several applications for the modern church to consider, with various aspects most needed according to theological emphases of different movements.

The book’s theme of God’s love, as opposed to his wrath, might initially appeal to those in the church who prefer to focus on the more pleasant and positive aspects of the faith, especially those related to emotional fulfillment. To these believers, Julian’s treatises on the Passion of Christ, as well as her own lifestyle, would also be both instructive and corrective toward a more rigorous reverence, consecration, and service. Those who tend to be self-absorbed and consumed with grand success would do well to think on her ideas of the smallness of humankind in relation to their All-Being Creator.

On the other hand, that same rapturous description of the generous and warm love of God toward his creation might also serve to temper the legalistic tendencies of those in the modern church who see God only as wrathful and exacting. It is the compassion of Christ which enraptured and captured Julian’s heart, not a regimented checklist of doctrines and behaviors.

Related to that, but also distinct, is that many of Julian’s meditations feminize God’s characteristics. That, combined with her own medieval womanhood, could be quite refreshing to those who have experienced the more patriarchal edge of the modern church, where modern women still have no voice and where promoting masculinity and male privilege seem to be the operative priority.

It is interesting that Julian expanded her writing much later on. That is an indication that Christians can benefit from revisiting what God has shown them earlier, evaluating the central message, exploring the ideas further, and using that as a springboard for later ministry. This is perhaps part of what has made her work so enduring for well over 600 years.

To believers in every time period, Julian’s exhortations about being “grounded” and “oned” with God serve as a call to a much deeper and more beautiful communion between believers and their Creator. The 21st century church seems to be sadly lacking in authentic and transformative faith, settling instead for shallow caricatures of who Jesus is and what he wants to do in the life of his saints. May God grant revival to his people even now.


That assignment was for Church History 1.
Here is one I did for my Inductive Bible Study course.

Inductive Bible Study on Discipleship in Matthew 8-9 (Seminary Notes)

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