Friday, July 20, 2018

The Bible Stands

By Haldor Lillenas

  The Bible stands like a rock undaunted
’Mid the raging storms of time;
Its pages burn with the truth eternal,
And they glow with a light sublime.


  The Bible stands though the hills may tumble,
It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble;
I will plant my feet on its firm foundation,
For the Bible stands.

  The Bible stands like a mountain tow’ring
Far above the works of men;
Its truth by none ever was refuted,
And destroy it they never can.


  The Bible stands and it will forever,
When the world has passed away;
By inspiration it has been given,
All its precepts I will obey.


  The Bible stands every test we give it,
For its Author is divine;
By grace alone I expect to live it,
And to prove and to make it mine.


Hymns on the subject of God's Word are relatively common, but often rightly focus on my heart attitude as I prepare to hear from God. This one is more unusual as it is unapologetically apologetic in tone. 
A hundred years ago, the attack on the truth of Jesus' written testimony was in full swing throughout higher education and the effects were trickling down to the lay people. Haldor Lillenas decided to take this issue head on with his martial-sounding hymn that doesn't pull any punches about who gets the last word on truth.
No one could put things more clearly than Lillenas does here, but I found the music reminded me more of a merry-go-round than a hymn for front-line biblical soldiers. My rendition is one I hope will soon find even more powerful covers as men take up the call to arms this 1923 hymn throws out to us!

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Joy of What Thou Art

As a teenager I would sometimes take a break from studying Bach and Beethoven to pull out a battered old hymnal and play through different hymns that caught my eye. My focus was usually on ones I didn't hear sung even in a strongly hymn-based worship environment.
Some hymns I could see were just same-old, same-old, but others had the most delicious lyrics that touched my heart- but when I went to play them the music felt flat or even was at cross-purposes to the words.
Then life got busy. I lived in a foreign country with my missionary husband for a few years, started a family, and was soon wrapped in an intense season of homeschooling, child bearing, and church ministry. I barely had time to sing the music I knew!
Over the past year, with the encouragement of my music pastor, I've been dusting off my love for music and worshipful singing. Our church already had added to its congregational repertoire a modern setting of a hymn with lyrics well over a hundred years old. Perhaps I could try my hand at resetting some of the words that had touched my heart so many years before so they could reach a new audience with differently tuned ears?

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting was one of the hymns that had stayed with me all this time. I started with  resetting it and took off from there. Whether the music does justice to the words and makes them stick in your heart is up to you, but I've found this creative journey both a delight and an experience of intense devotion.

Because I love the thought of restoring life to the works of those who have been in heaven for many years now, I have only chosen to rework lyrics that have entered the public domain. All the lyrics I use were written before 1923, sometimes hundreds of years before. The authors of these poems have been basking in the presence of Jesus for decades or centuries, while their words still speak to our experiences today.

I'm not usually the emotional one, but I've shed tears over many of these words, particularly When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and have felt my own heart laid bare at Jesus' feet.

My prayer is that this secret time of devotion and connection with both Jesus and the lyrics authors will flow out to embrace you and sweep your soul along in an experience of both worship and the connection we have with those who have gone before us.

My music technician told me this next song was his favorite. I have always appreciated the second verse with how it points to vibrancy Jesus gives to the natural world and it was a delight to give these sweetly powerful words a fresh tune perfect for taking a brisk walk to!

One of the poets I particularly wanted to compose for was Isaac Watts. He is well known as "The Father of English Hymnody" because of his work reintroducing musical worship and doctrine to the English speaking world. You can find more about his remarkable life on